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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 September 20, 2018

      How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

      How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

      Being in a hurry all the time drains your energy. Your work and routine life make you feel overwhelmed. Getting caught up in things beyond your control stresses you out…

      If you’d like to stay calm and cool in stressful situations, put the following 8 steps into practice:

      1. Breathe

      The next time you’re faced with a stressful situation that makes you want to hurry, stop what you’re doing for one minute and perform the following steps:

      • Take five deep breaths in and out (your belly should come forward with each inhale).
      • Imagine all that stress leaving your body with each exhale.
      • Smile. Fake it if you have to. It’s pretty hard to stay grumpy with a goofy grin on your face.

      Feel free to repeat the above steps every few hours at work or home if you need to.

      2. Loosen up

      After your breathing session, perform a quick body scan to identify any areas that are tight or tense. Clenched jaw? Rounded shoulders? Anything else that isn’t at ease?

      Gently touch or massage any of your body parts that are under tension to encourage total relaxation. It might help to imagine you’re in a place that calms you: a beach, hot tub, or nature trail, for example.

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      3. Chew slowly

      Slow down at the dinner table if you want to learn to be patient and lose weight. Shoveling your food down as fast as you can is a surefire way to eat more than you need to (and find yourself with a bellyache).

      Be a mindful eater who pays attention to the taste, texture, and aroma of every dish. Chew slowly while you try to guess all of the ingredients that were used to prepare your dish.

      Chewing slowly will also reduce those dreadful late-night cravings that sneak up on you after work.

      4. Let go

      Cliche as it sounds, it’s very effective.

      The thing that seems like the end of the world right now?

      It’s not. Promise.

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      Stressing and worrying about the situation you’re in won’t do any good because you’re already in it, so just let it go.

      Letting go isn’t easy, so here’s a guide to help you:

      21 Things To Do When You Find It Hard To Let Go

      5. Enjoy the journey

      Focusing on the end result can quickly become exhausting. Chasing a bold, audacious goal that’s going to require a lot of time and patience? Split it into several mini-goals so you’ll have several causes for celebration.

      Stop focusing on the negative thoughts. Giving yourself consistent positive feedback will help you grow patience, stay encouraged, and find more joy in the process of achieving your goals.

      6. Look at the big picture

      The next time you find your stress level skyrocketing, take a deep breath, and ask yourself:

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      Will this matter to me…

      • Next week?
      • Next month?
      • Next year?
      • In 10 years?

      Hint: No, it won’t.

      I bet most of the stuff that stresses you wouldn’t matter the next week, maybe not even the next day.

      Stop agonizing over things you can’t control because you’re only hurting yourself.

      7. Stop demanding perfection of yourself

      You’re not perfect and that’s okay. Show me a person who claims to be perfect and I’ll show you a dirty liar.

      Demanding perfection of yourself (or anybody else) will only stress you out because it just isn’t possible.

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      8. Practice patience every day

      Below are a few easy ways you can practice patience every day, increasing your ability to remain calm and cool in times of stress:

      • The next time you go to the grocery store, get in the longest line.
      • Instead of going through the drive-thru at your bank, go inside.
      • Take a long walk through a secluded park or trail.

      Final thoughts

      Staying calm in stressful situations is possible, all you need is some daily practice.

      Taking deep breaths and eat mindfully are some simple ways to train your brain to be more patient. But changing the way you think of a situation and staying positive are most important in keeping cool whenever you feel overwhelmed and stressful.

      Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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