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More Than 50% Of Us Are Infected With This, Which Affects Our Brains

More Than 50% Of Us Are Infected With This, Which Affects Our Brains

Toxoplasmosis is an infection that not many people have heard of, but the CDC estimates that every year, around 60 million Americans get infected with the Toxoplasma gondii parasite, one of the most common in the world. And according to a study published in the BMC Infectious Diseases journal, this disease can have an affect on the brain and slow down a person’s reaction times, putting them at a much higher risk of automobile accidents. And since, according to the researchers, this infection can occur in 20-60% of the population, this problem is good to be aware of, especially for those who spend time behind the wheel.

What is Toxoplasmosis?

According to the Mayo Clinic, toxoplasmosis is a parasitic infection which happens when a human comes into contact with the Toxoplasma gondii parasite. When this parasite gets into the body, it forms cysts in various parts of the body, including the muscles, heart and brain. In healthy people, the immune system can keep these parasites in check and many times, they do not get any symptoms or even realize that they have a problem. However, if a person’s immune system weakens, they can experience a variety of symptoms from the mild (flu-like symptoms like body aches, headaches, fevers and swollen lymph nodes) to the severe (seizures, lack of coordination and confusion).

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toxoplasma_lifecycle_bam1

    Most often people contract this infection through contact with cat feces (such as when cleaning out a litter box), eating undercooked or contaminated meat (especially pork, venison or lamb) or using utensils that have come into contact with it or consuming raw milk or products made from it. In short, it is not a difficult infection to acquire.

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    What The Study Found

    This study, published in the BMC Infectious Disease journal, noted that toxoplasmosis is a fairly frequent infection and that, because many people do not have symptoms from it, they are not aware that there is a problem. Since one of the symptoms of this infection is a delayed reaction time, people who have this condition are more at risk for automobile accidents. In order to look at this relationship – and factors that can mitigate it– the scientists looked at male patients in the Central Military Hospital in Prague for three years in a row, testing them for toxoplasmosis as well as for the presence of a particular protein called RhD. This material was then compared with records of automobile accidents to look for a relationship.

    Toxoplasma_gondii_tissue_cyst_in_mouse_brain
      Toxoplasma gondii tissue cyst in mouse brain

      What they found at the end of the study was that patients with toxoplasmosis (who did not have the RhD protein) had a rate of traffic accidents of 16.7%. That is six times the rate of patients without toxoplasmosis or who had the protein, which appears to have a protective effect against the neurological problems that come from this infection.

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      With such high rates of infection, this seems like bad news for drivers across the country. However, the good news is that, once diagnosed, patients with toxoplasmosis can be treated with a combination of sulfadiazine and pyrimethamine. There are also a variety of ways that patients can prevent this infection from happening to the begin with.

      How To Prevent Toxoplasmosis

      According to the Mayo Clinic, there are plenty of ways to prevent contracting this infection to begin with. These include:

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      • Keeping cats healthy and wearing gloves when cleaning out the litter box or getting someone else to clean it if you have a weak immune system
      • Not eating meat that is undercooked, especially lamb, pork or venison
      • Washing utensils/surfaces in the kitchen thoroughly, especially when they have been in contact with raw meat
      • Not drinking raw milk or consuming products made from raw milk (this can also be a source of toxoplasmosis)
      • Washing fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating them

      So, overall there’s good news and bad news. The bad news is that toxoplasmosis infection can infect 20-60% of the population at any given time — and since this infection can slow down a person’s reaction time, this puts toxoplasmosis patients (and other drivers on the road) at a greater risk for accidents. The good news, however, is that this infection is easily treatable with drugs and can also be prevented with simple precautions and lifestyle changes.

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      Brian Wu

      Health Writer, Author

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      Last Updated on March 25, 2020

      How to Live Longer? 21 Ways to Live a Long Life

      How to Live Longer? 21 Ways to Live a Long Life

      When it comes to living long, genes aren’t everything. Research has revealed a number of simple lifestyle changes you can make that could help to extend your life, and some of them may surprise you.

      So, how to live longer? Here are 21 ways to help you live a long life

      1. Exercise

      It’s no secret that physical activity is good for you. Exercise helps you maintain a healthy body weight and lowers your blood pressure, both of which contribute to heart health and a reduced risk of heart disease–the top worldwide cause of death.

      2. Drink in Moderation

      I know you’re probably picturing a glass of red wine right now, but recent research suggests that indulging in one to three glasses of any type of alcohol every day may help to increase longevity.[1] Studies have found that heavy drinkers as well as abstainers seem to have a higher risk of early mortality than moderate drinkers.

      3. Reduce Stress in Your Life

      Stress causes your body to release a hormone called cortisol. At high levels, this hormone can increase blood pressure and cause storage of abdominal fat, both of which can lead to an increased risk of heart disease.

      4. Watch Less Television

      A 2008 study found that people who watch six hours of television per day will likely die an average of 4.8 years earlier than those who don’t.[2] It also found that, after the age of 25, every hour of television watched decreases life expectancy by 22 minutes.

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      Television promotes inactivity and disengagement from the world, both of which can shorten your lifespan.

      5. Eat Less Red Meat

      Red meat consumption is linked to an increased risk of heart disease and cancer.[3] Swapping out your steaks for healthy proteins, like fish, may help to increase longevity.

      If you can’t stand the idea of a steak-free life, reducing your consumption to less than two to three servings a week can still incur health benefits.

      6. Don’t Smoke

      This isn’t exactly a revelation. As you probably well know, smoking significantly increases your risk of cancer.

      7. Socialize

      Studies suggest that having social relationships promotes longevity.[4] Although scientists are unsure of the reasons behind this, they speculate that socializing leads to increased self esteem as well as peer pressure to maintain health.

      8. Eat Foods Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids

      Omega-3 fatty acids decrease the risk of heart disease[5] and perhaps even Alzheimer’s disease.[6] Salmon and walnuts are two of the best sources of Omega-3s.

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      9. Be Optimistic

      Studies suggest that optimists are at a lower risk for heart disease and, generally, live longer than pessimists.[7] Researchers speculate that optimists have a healthier approach to life in general–exercising more, socializing, and actively seeking out medical advice. Thus, their risk of early mortality is lower.

      10. Own a Pet

      Having a furry-friend leads to decreased stress, increased immunity, and a lessened risk of heart disease.[8] Depending on the type of pet, they can also motivate you to be more active.

      11. Drink Coffee

      Studies have found a link between coffee consumption and longer life.[9] Although the reasons for this aren’t entirely clear, coffee’s high levels of antioxidants may play a role. Remember, though, drowning your cup of joe in sugar and whipped cream could counter whatever health benefits it may hold.

      12. Eat Less

      Japan has the longest average lifespan in the world, and the longest lived of the Japanese–the natives of the Ryukyu Islands–stop eating when they’re 80% full. Limiting your calorie intake means lower overall stress on the body.

      13. Meditate

      Meditation leads to stress reduction and lowered blood pressure.[10] Research suggests that it could also increase the activity of an enzyme associated with longevity.[11]

      Taking as little as 15 minutes a day to find your zen can have significant health benefits, and may even extend your life.

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      How to meditate? Here’re 8 Meditation Techniques for Complete Beginners

      14. Maintain a Healthy Weight

      Being overweight puts stress on your cardiovascular system, increasing your risk of heart disease.[12] It may also increase the risk of cancer.[13] Maintaining a healthy weight is important for heart health and living a long and healthy life.

      15. Laugh Often

      Laughter reduces the levels of stress hormones, like cortisol, in your body. High levels of these hormones can weaken your immune system.

      16. Don’t Spend Too Much Time in the Sun

      Too much time in the sun can lead to an increased risk of skin cancer. However, sun exposure is an excellent way to increase levels of vitamin D, so soaking up a few rays–perhaps for around 15 minutes a day–can be healthy. The key is moderation.

      17. Cook Your Own Food

      When you eat at restaurants, you surrender control over your diet. Even salads tend to have a large number of additives, from sugar to saturated fats. Eating at home will enable you to monitor your food intake and ensure a healthy diet.

      Take a look at these 14 Healthy Easy Recipes for People on the Go and start to cook your own food.

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      18. Eat Mushrooms

      Mushrooms are a central ingredient in Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s GOMBS disease fighting diet. They boost the immune system and may even reduce the risk of cancer.[14]

      19. Floss

      Flossing helps to stave off gum disease, which is linked to an increased risk of cancer.[15]

      20. Eat Foods Rich in Antioxidants

      Antioxidants fight against the harmful effects of free-radicals, toxins which can cause cell damage and an increased risk of disease when they accumulate in the body. Berries, green tea and broccoli are three excellent sources of antioxidants.

      Find out more antiosidants-rich foods here: 13 Delicious Antioxidant Foods That Are Great for Your Health

      21. Have Sex

      Getting down and dirty two to three times a week can have significant health benefits. Sex burns calories, decreases stress, improves sleep, and may even protect against heart disease.[16] It’s an easy and effective way to get exercise–so love long and prosper!

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      Featured photo credit: Sweethearts/Patrick via flickr.com

      Reference

      [1] Wiley Online Library: Late‐Life Alcohol Consumption and 20‐Year Mortality
      [2] BMJ Journals: Television viewing time and reduced life expectancy: a life table analysis
      [3] Arch Intern Med.: Red Meat Consumption and Mortality
      [4] PLOS Medicine: Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review
      [5] JAMA: Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acid Intake and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease in Women
      [6] NCBI: Effects of Omega‐3 Fatty Acids on Cognitive Function with Aging, Dementia, and Neurological Diseases: Summary
      [7] Mayo Clinic Proc: Prediction of all-cause mortality by the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory Optimism-Pessimism Scale scores: study of a college sample during a 40-year follow-up period.
      [8] Med Hypotheses.: Pet ownership protects against the risks and consequences of coronary heart disease.
      [9] The New England Journal of Medicine: Association of Coffee Drinking with Total and Cause-Specific Mortality
      [10] American Journal of Hypertension: Blood Pressure Response to Transcendental Meditation: A Meta-analysis
      [11] Science Direct: Intensive meditation training, immune cell telomerase activity, and psychological mediators
      [12] JAMA: The Disease Burden Associated With Overweight and Obesity
      [13] JAMA: The Disease Burden Associated With Overweight and Obesity
      [14] African Journal of Biotechnology: Anti-cancer effect of polysaccharides isolated from higher basidiomycetes mushrooms
      [15] Science Direct: Periodontal disease, tooth loss, and cancer risk in male health professionals: a prospective cohort study
      [16] AHA Journals: Sexual Activity and Cardiovascular Disease

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