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Mednews

IMPORTANT NOTICE

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To look after your health and general well-being. You should make sure you are not missing some essential vitamins. To get the best information and the vitamins you need go to www.allvitamins.store

Sept 19th 2017

Eczema is a relatively common skin condition thought to affect around people across the UK. It is a condition whereby patches of skin become dry, inflamed and itchy which can lead to excessive scratching and open sores. Contact eczema can also become inflamed when in contact with a particular irritant or allergen.

Eczema can occur anywhere on the body, with the most commonly affected areas being the hands, knees and elbows. Sufferers often find the condition to be painful, embarrassing and infuriating. It can have a negative impact on both our physical and mental wellbeing and – despite eczema being so common – it is often still met with widespread ignorance.

While there is no specific cure for eczema, there are some simple things you can do to manage it and avoid flare-ups. We spoke to GP and cosmetic doctor Johanna Ward, who has partnered with skincare specialists at to provide some top tips.

Resisting the itch

Eczema varies between individuals, meaning that what may cause a reaction in one person might not necessarily have the same affect on another, and vice versa. However, no matter what aggravates your eczema, the best course of action is to abstain from itching. Dr Ward says: "Eczema is almost always itchy no matter where it occurs on the body and although it may be tempting to scratch affected areas of the skin, this should be avoided as much as possible. Sufferers can minimise damage or infection by keeping nails short and clean to minimise damage to the skin."

Another good way of managing your condition is to take note of the things that cause inflammation (otherwise known as 'triggers'). Once you have identified your triggers, you can begin to take steps to avoid them. Dr Ward suggests the following.

1. Fabrics

Certain materials, such as wool or nylon, can irritate the skin. This is because synthetic fabrics often don't provide enough 'breathability' for eczematous skin.

Solution: dress smart

No, we don't mean go everywhere in your ball gown or bow tie. Just be wary of what your clothes are made of. Cotton is probably the best fabric for people with an irritable skin condition, as it keeps the skin cool and has a soft texture.

2. Food

Some sufferers may find that their diet can massively influence the severity of their eczema. Indeed, several have proved that some foods - such as milk and eggs – may trigger eczema symptoms

Solution: know your body

The best weapon you have in these cases is knowing what foods cause problems and avoiding them. If you are unsure whether there is a correlation between your diet and your skin condition, keep a food log to monitor any potential trends.

3. Dry skin

In pretty much all eczema cases, dry skin is at the heart of a lot of the itchiness. Skin that is excessively dry will also crack, bleed or ooze, and this can be extremely painful.

Solution: moisturise

Setting up and sticking to a good skincare regime is essential for the management of eczema. Keeping your skin's moisture intact is one of the most effective treatments at hand, so be sure to find a suitable hydrator or emollient. It's always a good idea to use product that are designed specifically for eczema rather than general high street moisturisers.

4. Stress

It's a that stress can cause eczema to flare up. This happens because when you're tense your body tries to protect your skin by boosting inflammation.

Solution: find support

It'd be unrealistic to advise you to avoid stressful situations as life is always going to throw them at you. However, surrounding yourself with people who can offer support, help or advice can help you manage your stress. If it's your condition that's causing you to stress, then talking to other sufferers about their experiences can help.

5. The environment

Extreme changes in your environment, such as pollution levels and temperature spikes, can aggravate your skin.

Solution: keep cool

Although it may be tempting to turn up the heat in your home as the cold weather sets in, this can make symptoms worse as heat can inflame your condition. Try and make sure your body temperature remains regulated throughout the day.

For more information on Eczema, click or visit you GP.

Sept 16th 2017

Iron deficiency is the most common and widespread nutritional disorder in the world. Yet in the UK, 45% of people say they don't know enough about an iron deficiency or how to know if they are deficient. In fact, 40% say they don't know what their own iron levels are.

Here, the experts at Active Iron provide a roundup of seven signs you may have an iron deficiency plus four lifestyle choices that can rob you of iron – and some of them may surprise you!

1. You're exhausted

Iron is essential for moving oxygen around the body, so one of the first signs of iron deficiency is constant tiredness. Having normal iron levels is important for the the reduction of tiredness and fatigue.

2. Cold hands or feet

Believe it or not, cold hands and feet could be a sign of an iron deficiency as iron is needed by the body to generate heat.

3. You're pale

Iron deficiency see's red blood cell levels decline which can result in a visibly paler complexion. If your face, toes, fingertips, inside of your lips, your gums, and the inside of your bottom eyelids are less red than usual, low iron may be to blame.

4. You've got dry, brittle nails

Iron is necessary for healthy nail tissue growth. If you have noticed that your nails have ridges running down the length of them, or that they break or crack easily, it may be a sign that your iron levels are low.

5. Your tongue looks weird

If your tongue appears pale or smooth, it could be to lack of haemoglobin in the bloodstream which is a result of low iron levels

6. You get short of breath easily

Do you find that you are out of breath after climbing a flight of stairs or doing a low-key workout? Iron deficiency could be to blame.

7. You're losing your hair

Iron is one of the most important minerals for your hair and so if you find your barnet is looking a little lacklustre, or you notice you are losing more hair than usual, iron deficiency may be an underlying factor.

4 lifestyle choices that can rob you of iron...

1. You regularly give blood

Blood donation removes iron from the body and may cause or contribute to low iron levels. Ensuring that your diet contains foods rich in iron – such as meat and/or green leafy vegetables – will help to keep you feeling well during and after donation.

2. You exercise regularly

During exercise, your body uses extra iron to help deliver oxygen around the body. If you exercise vigorously you may need up to 30 per cent more daily iron than non-exercisers.

3. You drink a lot of tea

Research has shown that tea and coffee consumption may reduce iron absorption. Avoid drinking tea just before, after or with meals as this may reduce the absorption of iron from foods.

4. You're vegetarian

The body absorbs iron that comes from meat, poultry, and fish two to three times more efficiently than iron from plant based food. For this reason, people who follow a vegetarian diet are more likely to be deficient in iron.

AND finally, here are 3 reasons you could be at risk…

1. You have heavy periods

Women who lose a lot of blood during their monthly period are at higher risk of iron deficiency.

2. You're pregnant

During pregnancy, the females needs double the amount of iron that non-pregnant women. The body needs this iron to make more blood to supply oxygen to the baby. If sufficient iron stores are not in place, iron deficiency could occur.

3. You have coeliac disease

Iron deficiency is common among people who have undiagnosed coeliac disease as the body can't absorb iron very well from food. In untreated coeliac disease, the lining of the gut is damaged by eating gluten, which in turn can reduce the absorption of nutrients such as iron.

Talking to your doctor or pharmacist should be your first port of call. Maintaining a diet rich in iron is also recommended and for those with iron deficiency, taking an iron supplement may be needed to boost iron levels to a healthy level.

Also on Sept 13th 2017

The NHS has warned that we could be due the worst flu season in its history.

The prediction comes from Australia and New Zealand – who are just coming out their winter. Both countries have had a "heavy flu season" with many hospitals struggling to deal with demand.

NHS chief Simon Stevens said scientists would be re-examining the current flu vaccines amid fears that they may not hold off the particular strain of flu that is likely to cause the most problems this year. He said the H3 flu strain was likely to be the main threat.

Australia has reported 98,000 cases of flu this season – which is more than double the rate it was this time last year. Twice as many people have been hospitalised.  

Flu is especially common in winter and it's definitely not the same as a cold. The symptoms tend to come on more suddenly, be more severe and last for longer.

In the UK, free flu jabs are offered to all over 65s, pregnant women, young children, NHS staff and people with long-term conditions. Officials say that it's too early to say whether the situation in Australia and New Zealand has been caused by an ineffective vaccine or simply bad luck.

NetDoctor pharmacist Rita Ghelani says: "The World Health Organisation (WHO) assesses the strains of flu virus that are circulating in the northern hemisphere during the winter months and recommends three flu virus strains that should be contained in the vaccine for the following year. The strain of flu virus mutates every year, meaning your vaccine from last year won't protect you. This why you need to have your flu jab annually."

At the moment, scientists believe the current vaccine is a good match for the type of flu likely to cause misery in the UK this winter, but unfortunately the strain of flu can mutate as it spreads across the globe, rendering the jab less effective.

Should you get the flu jab?

The flu jab is the best protection we have against an illness that can be dangerous for young children, older people, pregnant women and those with an underlying health condition. It's never a guarantee you'll be fully protected against the virus, but if you do contract the illness, it's likely to be milder and shorter-lived than if you didn't get the jab.

It's best the get the vaccine in Autumn, from the beginning of October to early November, but you can still get it later in winter too. Ask your pharmacist for more information.

Sept 13th 2017

Pregnant women who go into labour prematurely should be offered intravenous antibiotics to prevent transmission of Group B Streptococcal (GBS) to their baby, according to updated guidance by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG).

The risks associated with GBS bacteria increase for babies born prematurely - the mortality rate from infection increases from 2-3% for babies born at term, to 20-30% for those born before 37 weeks.

For this reason, the RCOG guidelines now recommends all women who go into preterm labour receive intravenous antibiotics.

“We hope to reduce the number of early onset Group B Strep infections and neonatal deaths in babies born before 37 weeks,” said Professor Peter Brocklehurst, professor of women’s health at the University of Birmingham who co-authored of the guideline.

“Ensuring a consistent approach to care in all maternity units is vital to achieving the best outcomes for both mother and baby.”

The guidance also calls for all pregnant women to be provided with a leaflet containing “appropriate” information about GBS to support decision making and raise awareness of signs of the infection in babies, so it can be spotted early.

GBS is a bacteria that occurs naturally in the lower vaginal tract and is carried by about 150,000 pregnant women each year in the UK.

Most will suffer no ill effects, but in some cases they will pass the bacteria on to their baby during labour.

Women who go into preterm labour are at higher risk of passing GBS onto their baby - approximately one in 500 preterm babies will develop early onset GBS (which occurs in the first seven days of a baby’s life).

Incidence of early onset GBS appears to be rising in the UK, according to the RCOG, but with prompt treatment, 17 out of 20 diagnosed babies will fully recover.

However, two in 20 babies with GBS infection will recover with some level of disability, and one in 20 infected babies will die.

Aside from preterm birth, other risk factors for early onset GBS include having a previous baby affected by GBS, or prolonged rupture of membranes and a temperature of more than 38 degrees during labour.

The updated guidance also advises that women who were known carriers of GBS in a previous pregnancy can be offered a test at 35-37 weeks of pregnancy to see whether they are still a carrier, in order to reassess whether they still require antibiotics during labour.

In January 2016 a couple appealed for screening for GBS to be made available to all pregnant women, after their baby died from an infection that could have been prevented if caught early.

However, the revised guideline do not recommend universal screening for GBS, in line with recommendations made by the National Screening Committee (NSC).

It found that there is no clear evidence to show that routine testing would do more good than harm.

Speaking in February Dr Anne Mackie, director of programmes for the UK NSC, said: “At the moment there is no test that can distinguish between women whose babies would be affected by GBS at birth and those who would not.

The charity Group B Strep Support has welcomed the update to RCOG’s clinical guidance.

The charity’s chief executive Jane Plumb said it “represents a significant improvement in the procedure to prevent Group B Strep infection in newborn babies”.

“When fully implemented across the UK, we believe this change will make a real difference and we will see the rate of infections start to fall,” she said.

“We are delighted that the guideline recommends all pregnant women are provided with an information leaflet on GBS.

“Group B Strep Support has been working closely with the RCOG to develop this leaflet, which will significantly improve the quality and regularity of information on GBS.

“We are confident that this increased access to clear, concise information will play a vital role in raising awareness of GBS and empowering women to make informed decisions throughout their pregnancy and in the early days after birth.”

Signs And Symptoms Of Early-Onset Neonatal Infection

Parents and carers should seek urgent medical advice if they are concerned that their baby:

is showing abnormal behaviour (for example, is inconsolably crying or listlessness)

is unusually floppy

has developed difficulties with feeding or with tolerating feeds

has an abnormal temperature unexplained by environmental factors (lower than 36°C or higher than 38°C)

has rapid breathing

has a change in skin colour.

Sept 9th 2017

Researchers have identified a practical test that can be used to diagnose the early stages of Parkinson's disease, potentially paving the way for GPs to easily screen patients for the condition.

Having developed software that measures writing speed and pen pressure, scientists in Australia have found that simply drawing a spiral can provide an insight into whether or not someone is at risk from the debilitating condition – which causes shaking, muscle rigidity and, in later stages, brain damage – with 93% accuracy.

The study

The small sample was made up of 55 people – 27 of who had Parkinson's and 28 healthy controls. They were then asked to draw a spiral using the software, which had been installed onto a tablet computer.

The system measures both pen speed and pressure in one go as, generally speaking, patients suffering from Parkinson's disease struggle to maintain these two abilities as the condition develops. Poonam Zham, study researcher from RMIT University, said:

"Our aim was to develop an affordable and automated electronic system for early-stage diagnosis of Parkinson's disease, which could be easily used by a community doctor or nursing staff."

He added: "The system can automatically provide accurate Parkinson's diagnosis and could also be used to monitor the effect of treatment on the disease."

The spiral is considered by experts to be a sound test as, unlike with writing, the quality is less likely to be influenced by an individual's education.

Speaking to the BBC, David Dexter – deputy research director at Parkinson's UK – praised the new test for achieving a level of accuracy that previous diagnostic methods has not.

"[Inaccurate testing] can impact on the ability to select the right people for clinical research, which is essential to develop new and better treatments for Parkinson's. This new test could provide a more accurate assessment by measuring a wider range of features that may be affected by Parkinson's, such as co-ordination, pressure, speed and cognitive function."

Although at present it requires highly trained experts to interpret the sketches, it is hoped that the new tablet programme will make diagnosing the disease quick and easy for GPs. Study lead Professor Dinesh Kuman, from RMIT University in Melbourne, said:

"Pushing back the point at which treatment can start is critical because we know that by the time someone starts to experience tremors or rigidity, it may be too late."

Next, the team will need to recreate their study on a significantly larger sample of people before it can be considered for widespread use in GP surgeries.

The study was published in Frontiers of Neurology.

Sept 8th 2017

For some people, just imagining the pinching, aching, piercing abdominal pangs that come with their period is enough to make them want to assume the foetal position and sleep until it's over. If this is you, sure, you could pop a couple of Advil or Motrin, but is that actually going to do anything? Actually, it might, but the type of over-the-counter painkiller that you choose matters when you're treating period cramps.

If you want to make an informed decision, it's helpful to understand what causes period cramps in the first place: Chemicals called prostaglandins, which are created in a person's uterine lining, cause the muscles of the uterine wall to contract, and you feel a cramp, says Margaret Polaneczky, MD, FACOG, an Ob/Gyn at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medicine. Luckily, your first line of defence against period cramps is an over-the-counter medication, Dr. Polaneczky says. But not all OTC meds are created equal.

"Medications that interfere with prostaglandins-production or activity are the best treatments," Dr. Polaneczky says. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), for example, target and reduce the amount of prostaglandins that your body makes, which will make your cramps less severe, according to the American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecologists (ACOG). According to Dr. Polaneczky, Motrin, Advil, or Aleve will probably be effective for most people, but you might have to try a few different types of NSAIDs to find one that works for you. "You can switch to a different class and you might have more efficacy, because they all act on different spots in the prostaglandin-production pathways," she says.

And if you can't take NSAIDs (because they upset your stomach, for example), then acetaminophen can also help to decrease the pain, according to the Mayo Clinic. There are some OTC medications, such as Midol, that contain a combination of acetaminophen, caffeine, and antihistamines, Dr. Polaneczky says. "The idea is that caffeine is augmenting the pain relief activity of acetaminophen," she says. "And the antihistamines might somehow be acting on the calcium channels in the uterine muscles, which would prevent the cramps." So, the cocktail of substances might be more effective at treating some people's menstrual cramps than just a plain NSAID would.

So, when should you take a painkiller? Most people experience cramps right before their period starts, because that's when prostaglandins levels are highest, according to ACOG. It's best to start taking medication right when you experience symptoms, and you can continue taking it for up to three days, according to the Mayo Clinic. As you get your period, and the lining of your uterus sheds, the prostaglandins levels — and cramps — typically go away.

There are also a few ways that you can manage the pain without using medication, according to Dr. Polaneczky. "Exercise can certainly help, unless you're totally debilitated by your cramps," she says. Using a hot water bottle or getting a lower back massage certainly doesn't hurt, either.

If none of these treatments work, then the next step for you would be to figure out if you want to prevent your period, which is typically done using birth control pills. "Anything that suppresses ovulation will also help with cramps," Dr. Polaneczky says. Birth control pills (both combination pills and progesterone-only ones), IUDs, or injections tend to work well at preventing cramps, according to ACOG. And if you're already on the pill, you might want to consider skipping your inactive pills to prevent getting your period each month, she says.

Period cramps are no joke, and if you feel like yours are interfering with your daily life, then talk to your doctor. In the meantime, you may want to take an OTC painkiller and remember that this too shall pass.

Sept 7th 2017

When you have a poor sleeper, it can often seem as if every other child in the world is sleeping better than yours. In truth, babies and toddlers who go to sleep easily and sleep through the night are in a very small minority. Sleep is unpredictable in the early years, rather than following a constant, positive upwards trajectory, it frequently dips and gets worse. The sad reality, is that 'good sleep' (aka sleeping through the night reliably) often doesn't appear until the third year of life. No wonder then so many exhausted parents, trying to juggle the reality of infant sleep while living in the modern industrialised world (the two are at great odds with each other), turn to sleep training to try to fix their children.

The difficulty here is in this desire to fix something that isn't actually broken. Sleep training tends to punish babies and toddlers for problems that don't belong to them. They are left to cry, put down while they still need a hug, denied milk when they are hungry and ignored when they most need comfort. I don't actually believe any parent wants this for their children, yet their exhaustion leaves them with no other choice. Or so they think. There are in fact, many ways to gently improve infant sleep that don't involve any sleep training at all. Here are eight of them:

Sleep Friendly Lighting

A quick Google Image search for "baby nightlight" returns many beautifully designed, attractive lamps and light shows. 99% of these inhibit sleep. Many parents don't realise that lighting is a key influence on sleep. Light that is on the blue colour spectrum inhibits the hormone of sleep, melatonin, and tricks the body into thinking it is daytime and thus time to be awake. It isn't just obviously blue light that is an issue though. Most white light is actually very blue, especially energy-saving lightbulbs and halogen spotlights. So too is light that looks green, blue, purple and pink. Which coincidentally tend to be the colours used in most child night lights. Research has shown that for light to be non-inhibiting it needs to contain very low levels of blue light. Naturally, our ancestors would have lit their nights with fire and candles, both sitting on the red colour spectrum. We can replicate this effect by using red light at night. If you're not keen on red light (many toddlers associate red with monsters, or danger, and it is quite hard to read a bedtime story in red light) then consider investing in a Lumie Bedbug, a world first nightlight that features very low levels of blue light, while still producing a white/peach coloured glow. The Bedbug also features a special sunset mode, dimming gently over a period of 15 minutes, which is perfect for toddlers and older children. The cuteness of the little bug is a further winning feature, along with its sleep promoting properties.

The Bedroom Temperature

Our modern homes tend to be well insulated, retaining heat and saving us money on our fuel bills. Central heating quickly and efficiently heats our homes too. This can and does cause a problem with sleep. The optimal room temperature range for the best sleep is 15-18C, or 60-65F. Unlike most infant room thermometers indicate, 18C/65F isn't the best temperature for sleep - it's at the very top end of the optimal range! Trying to cool the bedroom to somewhere in this optimal range can really help sleep. If you have air-conditioning and are in a hot country, you're not going to get this low obviously, but turning the AC down a degree or two is worth thinking about. This doesn't mean the child should be cold at night. The aim is "warm body, cool room". More on this later!

The Bedroom Humidity

Temperature aside, air conditioning and central heating can cause trouble with sleep in another way. Playing havoc with room humidity. Anything that dries the sleeping environment can mean that the child wakes more for milk. Where an adult may take a glass of water to bed to place next to their bed, babies and toddlers tend to wake and cry for milk if they have a dry mouth. This doesn't mean that fixing the humidity will stop the child from needing to feed at night, far from it, but it will remove those extra humidity related feeds. This tends to be more of an issue for children who are mouth breathers, sleeping with their mouths open. The best humidity for sleep is around 30-50%. If you use air-conditioning or central heating, you may consider adding a humidifier to the room.

Bedding and Night Clothes

Remember in point three, we discussed "cool room, warm body"? This is where what you dress your child comes in. Sometimes adding an extra layer of clothing, such as a long sleeve vest, or upping the tog rating of a sleepsac can really help sleep. Generally speaking, in the optimal room temperature zone, you're looking at 2-3 togs. While sleepsacs can help to keep kids cozy, by avoiding loose blankets and duvets that fall off the bed (I don't recommend either under 4years), they can also inhibit sleep when the child rolls over and gets caught up in the huge amount of extra fabric around their legs. Some children also really hate having their feet covered by anything, unsurprisingly since we tend to sleep better with the ability to have our feet exposed. For this reason, I always recommend sleepsacs that have separate legs and uncovered feet.

Bedtime Music

If you sing your baby to sleep, or use a mobile, or stuffed animal that plays music for fifteen or twenty minutes at bedtime, you could be causing your child to wake more. Why? Babies and toddlers have very short sleep cycles, lasting for 40-60 minutes depending on age. At the end of this sleep cycle, one of three things may happen. 1. They move straight into a new sleep cycle, 2. They wake fully and need your help to start a new cycle, or 3. They rouse slightly, but not fully, and if all is well they start a new cycle independently. Number three is where it is important to consider any constants in the room. If a child goes to sleep with music, that music needs to be present ALL NIGHT. At the end of a sleep cycle, that slightly rousing child needs to hear the same sounds as when they went to sleep, if they don't, then the sharp change in environment may cause them to wake fully and need your help. Some companies try to get around this by designing noise and motion activated music players. These rarely work and I don't recommend them. Because they 'catch' the child too late, when they are already roused and moving/crying. They have already woken properly by the time the music cuts in again. If you sing your child to sleep, consider recording yourself and playing your recording on loop all night, or consider playing a special alpha music for children recording all night. Alpha music for children is recorded to resting pulse rate 60BPM and included elements of white noise, heartbeats and simple repetitive music. Pop the music on during the bedtime routine and turn it off the next morning. If you have an older child (2yrs plus), who sleeps through, but the issue is more getting them to sleep independently at the start of the night, then consider a children's meditation recording instead.

Bedroom Scent

This follows on from point five. The smell in the world that relaxes your child the most is the smell of you. If you could bottle your smell and spray it around your child's bedroom it would surely comfort them. Many people pop muslins in their tops to absorb their scent and then leave the muslin with the child, or one of their t-shirts or pyjama tops. This can work well for some, but some - most - need more. To get more, you need to condition a smell. ie. you need to take a scent and make it yours. The easiest and most effective way to do this is to select an aromatherapy oil that you like (and is safe to use around babies and children). Lavender and chamomile are particularly good for sleep, blended together. Pop some of this oil on as scent/perfume each day for a month or so and then diffuse it in an aromatherapy diffuser in the room your child sleeps in for an hour or two before bedtime. You can get some diffusers that double up as humidifiers and red night lights too, which are a good buy. Note, this is only recommended once your baby is at least 12 weeks of age, before this it's best to keep any scent that isn't you away.

A Consistent Bedtime Routine

Scientists unanimously agree. If there is one thing that has the biggest impact on child sleep, it is a consistent bedtime routine. While a similar bedtime each night is important for setting the child's circadian rhythm (body clock), what is more important is doing the same thing in the same order each and every night. For instance a bath, followed by a massage, followed by a story, followed by a breastfeed or bottle. Try to keep the bedtime routine calm and play free (it is preparing for sleep after all!), but before you start the bedtime routine, try to fit in at least 30 minutes of playtime, especially if you work or have more than one child. Taking time to reconnect before bedtime starts has a great positive impact on sleep. Bedtime itself is important, particularly for toddlers and older children. In western culture we seem to have an obsession with a 7pm bedtime, however research suggests that we're probably putting our children to bed too soon. A more biologically appropriate bedtime is around the 7:45-8:15pm zone (the time to aim for the child to be asleep, not to start the bedtime routine). Putting a child to bed before their body is chemically ready to sleep can result in bedtime resistance, more night waking and earlier mornings.

Bedtime Snacks

For older babies (well established on solids - ie eating three meals a day for a couple of months or more) and toddlers, introducing a bedtime snack can help sleep. Aim for the snack just before the bedtime routine starts, around an hour before the child goes to sleep. Bedtime snacks can not only fill up tummies that may be hungry, but they can also help from a chemical point of view. Incorporating a snack that contains tryptophan, an amino acid that influences the production of sleep hormones, is a great choice. Child friendly sources of tryptophan include cheese, eggs, nuts, seeds and wholemeal/wholewheat bread. My favourite bedtime snack is almond butter on wholewheat toast, with a few banana slices on top.

Following these eight tips may not magically encourage your child to sleep through the night, but hopefully they should have a positive impact, without the need to sleep train.

If you're interested in more gentle solutions to child sleep issues, check out my Gentle Sleep Book (for 0-5yrs) and Why Your Baby's Sleep Matters (specifically for 0-12mth breastfed babies). You can also learn more on my Facebook Page, where I run monthly sleep Q&A sessions.Sarah Ockwell-SmithMother of four, parenting author.

www.sarahockwell-smith.com

Sept 6th 2017 Three news Items

ADHD is being missed in girls because they tend not be as badly behaved as boys, new NHS guidance suggests.

The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (Nice) said girls and women are going undiagnosed because they were less likely to have “classic” symptoms of the disorder.

Around five per cent of school-age children are thought to suffer from ADHD - a condition which is commonly diagnosed as a result of restlessness and impulsive behaviour, often leading to disruption in the classroom.

Nice said girls tended to have symptoms which did not suggest hyperactivity - such as difficulties concentrating, forgetfulness and poor organisational skills - which were more likely to go un-noticed.

Dr Gillian Baird, professor of children's neurodisability at Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust and chairwoman of the Nice guideline committee, said that around half of all cases were likely to be going undiagnosed, with cases in girls more likely to be missed.

"Among the possibilities are that boys present with more obviously disruptive behaviour," she said.

The new guidance also calls on parents of children with ADHD not to put them on special diets, such as eliminating nuts, milk and wheat, or cut out artificial colours in a bid to improve behaviour.

Research funded by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) in 2002 also found that consuming some artificial food colourings and the preservative sodium benzoate could be linked to increased hyperactivity in some children.

But in the new guidance, Nice says doctors should not "advise elimination of artificial colouring and additives from the diet as a generally applicable treatment for children and young people with ADHD".

It said that parents who think there is a link between poor behaviour and diet should be advised to keep a diary, while a dietitian and mental health specialist should be involved before any restrictive diets - often known as “few food” diets are introduced.

Doctors should also not advise parents to routinely give their children fatty acid supplements, and parents should be told there is "no evidence about the long-term effectiveness or potential harms of a 'few food' diet for children with ADHD, and only limited evidence of short-term benefits".

The advice also suggests the drug ritalin should be routinely doled out to children diagnosed with ADHD- instead of saving it for a last resort when all else has failed.

The new guidance says medication such as ritalin should be offered to all children over the age of five if symptoms are having a “persistant significant impact” on their everyday life.

In the past decade, NHS prescriptions for the drug have more than doubled - with more than 1 million issued last year - even though drug treatment has not been indicated as a first-line treatment for children with ADHD.

Ritalin prescriptions have doubled in 10 yearsCredit: Alamy

Until now, Nice has said counselling or behavioural treatment should be tried first. The new advice says medication should be offered first, if “environmental modifications” - such as letting a child have breaks during lessons - have failed to have an impact.

But it says decisions to put children on medication should only be made after a visit to a specialist, contrasting with current advice which allows GPs to make a diagnosis.

The guidance follows a long controversy about the causes and treatment of ADHD. Last year 1.042m prescriptions were issued for drugs like ritalin, compared with 456,909 issued in 2006, NHS Digital figures show.

Sept 6th 2017

Migraine Awareness Week: ultimate guide to the condition that causes immense pain

Migraine affects one in seven people – that’s over eight million people in the UK alone – making it more prevalent than diabetes, epilepsy and asthma combined.

The World Health Organisation recognises it as one of the most disabling lifetime conditions, yet awareness and understanding is low.

To mark Migraine Awareness Week, check out our ultimate guide...

“Migraines often have other symptoms in addition to head pain,” says Dr Clare Morrison, GP at online doctor and pharmacy, MedExpress ( www.medexpress.co.uk ).

“These include nausea, pain behind an eye or ear and extra sensitivity to light or sound.”

Around 20-25% of people experience a migraine with aura (visual or sensory disturbances).

Causes

Experts now believe there is a genetic link that could make people more sensitive to migraine attacks, says Dr Riccardo Di Cuffa, Director and GP at Your Doctor www.your-doctor.co.uk . There are many triggers which contribute to a migraine.

“Migraine and stress are strongly connected,” he adds. “Anxiety, excitement and any form of tension can lead to a migraine attack.”

Other possible causes are too much caffeine, dehydration, skipping meals or eating high sugary foods.

Treatment

Aspirin or non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (such as ibuprofen) can relieve some of the pain.

For regular migraines that don’t respond to regular painkillers, your doctor may prescribe a triptan, which narrows the blood vessels in the head and also blocks the transmission of pain.

But it’s important to act fast, warns Dr Morrison. “The first 20 minutes are critical in order to prevent a migraine from spreading throughout the entire nervous system.

1. Keep a diary to identify triggers, says Dr John Janssen, consultant neurologist at Re:Cognition Health www.recognitionhealth.com . Record factors including the duration, medications that have and have not worked, severity of headache, menstrual cycle (if applicable), the location and type of pain, symptoms (vomiting, noise / light sensitivity) and the ability to perform tasks e.g. not being able to walk, work, restricted vision etc.

2. Review key lifestyle factors that may also be playing a part in the onset of a migraine including diet, alcohol, caffeine, dehydration and exercise. “Whilst there are no foods that have been scientifically proven to help cure or prevent migraines, it is advised to avoid the ‘C’ foods: coffee, carbonated drinks, Chianti (alcohol in general), citrus, cheese and chocolate,” explains Dr Janssen. The key thing is to stay hydrated.

3. Review your painkillers: Taking a lot of painkillers can paradoxically end up making the situation worse by causing medication overuse headache so consult your GP. They can check for abnormality of the nervous system, neck tension, blood pressure and eye examination to make sure there is no evidence of raised intracranial pressure. They will be able to review your diary and help with working out a pattern.

4. Eat at regular hours: “Women in particular going through the phases of the menstrual cycle or changes in their lives (pregnancy or menopause), seem to experience a higher recurrence of headaches and migraines. To balance your hormones eat at regular hours, include lots of protein and whole grains, and limit your sugar intake to prevent sugar highs and lows,” suggests Dr Marilyn Glenville, Nutritionist and women’s health expert ( www.marilynglenville.com ).

Sept 6th 2017

Babies who are breastfed are a lot less likely to suffer from asthma.

New research has unearthed that young asthma sufferers who are breastfed, are a massive 45% less likely to experience uncontrollable coughing and breathlessness.

The findings, published in the journal Pediatric Allergy and Immunology, suggest that this is as a result of the effect breastfeeding has on a person’s immune system.

Ireland has the fourth highest prevalence of asthma in the world with more than 470,000 people affected by the respiratory condition.

Researchers analysed 960 children aged between four and 12 years old who regularly use asthma medication.

Breastfeeding was determined via a questionnaire and it was found that sufferers who had been breastfed were 45% less likely to experience attacks.

‘Changes in the composition and activity of the gut microbiome in early life can influence the immune system and these changes might indirectly lead to changes in asthma later in life.

‘Further prospective research is warranted to confirm this association and to clarify the underlying mechanisms.’

Sept 3rd 2017

A panic attack is a sudden bout of extreme anxiety that can be brought on by a strong fear of something (phobia), a stressful situation, or an emotional upset. It reaches its peak intensity within 10 minutes or less and then starts to subside. The following symptoms are characteristic of panic attacks and may even be mistaken for signs of a heart attack.

Panic attack symptoms to know

With heart attacks, excruciating chest pain reaches maximum severity in just a few minutes and can radiate to other parts of the body. Pain caused by panic attacks is generally localized in one area. If you have a history of heart problems and experience these symptoms, treat them like they’re caused by a heart attack until a doctor proves otherwise. Here are some other signs of a panic attack that you should know.

Once you’ve recognized you or someone else is exhibiting clear signs of a panic attack, take the proper steps to calm the mind and body and stay away from actions that could make the situation worse.

In case of panic attack, do:

Remove the cause. Try to find out the cause of the person’s fear or anxiety and separate her from it. Either remove it from her or move her away from it.

Be firm. Try to calm the patient by talking firmly but kindly and calmly to him. Explain that he is having a panic attack and keep others away.

Encourage her to breathe calmly. Breathing more slowly will help to calm her and stop her hyperventilating. Take deep, slow breaths and encourage her to copy your breathing pattern.

Monitor the patient. Stay with him until he has recovered. If he has a history of panic attacks, advise him to seek help to learn how to control them.

In case of panic attack, don’t:

Restrain anyone who is having a panic attack. And never attempt to slap or hit the person to “snap her out of it.”

Ask him to rebreathe air from a paper bag. This can cause low blood oxygen levels. However, the person can try alternating taking 6-12 natural breaths with the bag covering the nose and mouth and breathing the same way without the bag. Never use a plastic bag.

Once the panic attack has passed and you’ve had time to recover, take some time to prepare for future stress-induced incidents. These tips for managing anxiety and panic disorder can help you better understand what you’re feeling, how you can cope, and how to prevent more attacks.

Aug 27th 2017

Eating a diet high in salt significantly increases the risk of heart failure, scientists have warned after a major 12-year study.

Speaking ahead of a presentation to the European Society of Cardiology in Barcelona, Professor Pekka Jousilahti of Finland’s National Institute for Health and Welfare, put it simply: “The heart does not like salt.”

According to the World Health Organisation, an estimated 2.5 million deaths a year could be prevented if people reduced their consumption of salt to its recommended level of 5g.

Most people eat well in excess of this, anything from 80 to 140 per cent more than they should, according to the WHO.

Prof Jousilahti said their study found that eating more than 13.7g a day of sodium chloride doubled the rate of heart failure.

“High salt intake markedly increases the risk of heart failure,” he said.

“This salt-related increase in heart failure risk was independent of blood pressure.

“People who consumed more than 13.7g of salt daily had a two times higher risk of heart failure compared to those consuming less than 6.8g.”

Experts are divided on how much salt people can or should eat. The NHS, for example, recommends no more than 6g a day, slightly above the WHO limit.

Prof Jousilahti said optimal daily salt intake was “probably even lower than 6.8g”, the lowest level they used in their study.

While humans do need salt, he said the physiological requirement was for about 2g or 3g a day.

“Studies in larger, pooled population cohorts are needed to make more detailed estimations of the increased heart failure risk associated with consuming salt,” he added.

“High salt intake is one of the major causes of high blood pressure and an independent risk factor for coronary heart disease (CHD) and stroke,” he said.

“In addition to CHD and stroke, heart failure is one of the major cardiovascular diseases in Europe and globally but the role of high salt intake in its development is unknown.”

The study followed 4,630 women and men aged 25 to 64 in Finland over 12 years. Samples of their urine were tested to gauge their salt intake.

The researchers divided the subjects into five groups based on their salt intake; the low-salt group consumed less than 6.8g a day and the highest had more than 13.7g a day.

Over the course of the study, 121 men and women developed new heart failure.

When the results were adjusted for age, sex, study year and area, the group consuming the most salt were 2.1 times more likely to develop heart failure and the group who ate the second highest amount of salt – between 10.96g and 13.7g – were 1.7 times more likely.

According to the WHO, consuming less than 5g a day “helps to reduce blood pressure and risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke and coronary heart attack”.

“The principal benefit of lowering salt intake is a corresponding reduction in high blood pressure,” it says.

Member states of the WHO have agreed to reduce the global population’s intake of salt by 30 per cent by 2025 because of the health benefits.

The NHS’s website says food with more than 1.5g of salt (the equivalent of 0.6g of sodium) per 100g should be considered high salt, while 0.3g (0.1g sodium) per 100g is considered low.

It warns that 75 per cent of salt in our diet comes from bread, breakfast cereals and ready meals – before any salt is added at the table.

“A diet that is high in salt can cause raised blood pressure, which currently affects more than one third of adults in the UK,” it says.

“High blood pressure often has no symptoms, and it is estimated that in England about one in every three people who have high blood pressure don’t know it. But if you have it, you are more likely to develop heart disease or have a stroke.

“Cutting down on salt lowers blood pressure, which means that your risk of having a stroke or developing heart disease is reduced.”

It includes a list of foods that are usually high in salt, such as anchovies, bacon, cheese, gravy granules, olives, pickles, prawns and soy sauce.

But the NHS site also warns pasta sauces, crisps, ready-made sandwiches, sausages and ketchup can have large amounts.

Even dissolvable vitamin supplements and painkillers can contain up to a gram of salt in each tablet.

Aug 25th 2017      Miserable baby?

Children who suffer from cow’s milk allergy could benefit from better treatment after a breakthrough in diagnosing the painful condition.

Experts hope new guidance for GPs will transform the experience of thousands of families unable to establish what is causing them to have a “miserable baby”.

The UK has one of the highest rates of child intolerance to cow’s milk in Europe, affecting about two per cent of infants up to the age of four.

About half have the non-IgE, or “delayed”, allergy strain. This is difficult to spot as its symptoms — eczema, reflux, colic and stomach problems — can be confused with other conditions.

This is in contrast to IgE milk allergy, which results in symptoms including hives and swelling within minutes of consuming milk, making it easier to diagnose.

Dr Adam Fox, consultant children’s allergist at Evelina London children’s hospital and senior author of the new guidelines, said: “Non-IgE milk allergy is typically not well recognised or managed.

“The iMAP [international milk allergy in primary care] guidance can help primary care physicians to correctly diagnose, manage and follow up patients, alleviating their symptoms.

“It explains which symptoms doctors should consider and the steps they should take if milk allergy is suspected.

“GPs may think that a patient can have an allergy test for milk but that only works for IgE milk allergy.”

He added the advice should have a big impact on children worldwide.

Dr Fox, also a reader in paediatric allergy at King’s College London, said: “Even though most infants grow out of milk allergy by age two or three, an early diagnosis means that instead of having a miserable baby their symptoms can be minimised which has a positive effect on the whole family.”

The advice is published in the journal Clinical and Translational Allergy.

Aug 24th 2017

We're all too busy typing on our keyboards and tapping away on our iPhones to stop and analyse our naked nails. This might make you want to, though. Amy Morris, a naturopathic nutritionist from Water for Health says that changes in the shape, condition and colour of your nails could indicate a range of health issues. Here's what she thinks they could be trying to tell you.

1.You're anxious

"It is estimated that about 20% of the population are frequent nail biters, but why? Anxiety can be a big cause of nail biting as it can distract you from the root of your anxiety. If you're guilty of it, try to be more conscious about when you bite your nails so you can identify your trigger and therefore deal with it appropriately. You could also invest in a stress ball or find another way to fidget when you get anxious that won't affect your nail health."

A good tip is to clip your nails as short as you can.

2.You're dehydrated

"Proper hydration is extremely important to nail health. If you are dehydrated it can result in brittle nails which chip and break easily. To ensure you're adequately hydrated, try to drink at least eight glasses of water each day. You can also make sure your diet is full of hydrating foods, these include celery, watermelon and cucumber."

3.You're ageing naturally

"Fingernails can become thicker, ridged and more brittle just through the ageing process, so don't worry, its natural. To help keep your nails looking as young as you feel, a good quality supplement which contains zinc could really help. I recommend O'HISA (£49.75), a unique, advanced supplement which contains a powerful combination of Omega 7 and 9, hyaluronic acid, B vitamins and minerals.".

4.You're a smoker

"Yellow-stained nails are one of the biggest tell-tale signs that you're a smoker or that you used to smoke. This is because the nicotine and tar found in cigarettes stains both the nail and surrounding nail bed – but that's not all. Smoking blocks oxygen to the fingernails which can also result in a yellow hue. Obviously the most important way to prevent further damage is to stop smoking; as the fingernails grow out, so will the stain. B12 supplements can also help to regain nail strength and regular manicures may also be able to 'buff' out the stains."

5.You're clumsy

"A lot of the time white discolouration in your nails can just mean that you've knocked them on something - which is very common. Usually they will grow out with the nail, however, if they don't start to disappear after a few weeks it could be an indication of something more serious, such as diabetes, so you might want to see your GP."

6.You're exhausted

"Surprisingly, lack of sleep can be reflected in your nail health. Weak and dull nails can be a sign that you are not getting the optimum eight hours of sleep per night. If you know you're not sleeping well then try to identify why that is; are you anxious about something? Do you drink too much caffeine? Once you've identified the problem you can start to find a solution."

7.You're overdoing the manicures

"If you're nails are feeling brittle and weak, ironically it could be a sign that you're getting your nails done too often, as frequent salon visits can result in over-exposure to water or chemicals such as acetone. To combat this, try to take a break from polish between manicures and invest in a good quality castor oil, like Castor Oil BP (£5.99). Unlike many others, this one contains castor oil in its purest forms and is also cold pressed, ensuring it retains the greatest concentration of nutrients from the raw castor bean. Massage the oil into your nails every night to ensure revitalised and stronger nails."

8.You may be anaemic

"If your nails are becoming concave and look scooped away from the finger, like a spoon, it could be a sign that you're not getting enough Iron. An easy fix for this is to make sure your diet contains lots of dark leafy green vegetables, nuts and seeds as well as a little organic red meat if you're not vegetarian. If this still doesn't help, then it might be worth speaking to your GP about iron supplementation."

9.You're fighting an infection

"If your nails aren't looking as healthy and shiny as usual it may mean that your body is starting to fight an infection. If you've got a cold coming on, your body may stop nourishing your nails as it's more important to use energy to fight the cold off instead."

10.You may have psoriasis

"Pitting or dimpling in your nails could be a sign that you have psoriasis or another skin condition. If this is the case, you would probably have other symptoms such as dry, itchy skin, so keep an eye out and see a doctor if you're concerned."

Aug 22nd 2017

Most of us at some point have taken a pill without water, either because we were in a rush, too lazy to get up from our desk, or there wasn’t a drink nearby. But here’s why it’s actually quite dangerous—even fatal.

Washing a pill down with water is important not only because it makes swallowing easier, but because it helps prevent the pill from getting stuck in your esophagus, which can cause much more than discomfort.

“Medications that are lodged in the esophagus are very likely to cause inflammation and irritation,” says Jennifer Caudle, DO, a board-certified family medicine physician and assistant professor in the department of Family Medicine at Rowan University-School of Osteopathic Medicine. “This can cause a number of symptoms from heartburn and chest pain to esophagitis, or even bleeding and holes.”

Since there are no pain nerves in parts of the esophagus, symptoms don’t always begin right away, which can make it difficult for you to know if a pill doesn’t make it all the way down. Some people experience chest pain or a feeling similar to heartburn, so they might just dismiss the sensation as a temporary discomfort.

Over time, however, pills that get stuck along their journey can break down and erode the delicate tissue of the esophagus, causing painful bleeding and hemorrhaging, or severe dehydration, all of which can become quite serious.

A study from the Turkish Journal of Gastroenterology found that almost any kind of drug can cause an ulcer in the esophagus, but according to Dr. Caudle, a few common medications can cause significant damage when they get stuck, including drugs to treat osteoporosis, antibiotics, and over-the-counter pain relievers. “Pain relieving medications such as Motrin and Advil are commonly taken without water, and that class of drugs can be notoriously problematic if they get lodged in the throat,” says Caudle.

A surgeon at Morristown Memorial Hospital in New Jersey tells the story of a teenage football player who would pop two Advil with no water before every game—and developed an esophagus that looked “like Swiss cheese” for all the holes the pills had burned. Vitamin C and iron supplements have also been found to be especially problematic.

To avoid dangerous complications when swallowing pills, it’s always best to wash them down with at least eight ounces of water, Caudle advises. She also recommends taking pills standing or sitting up, never lying down. This means you should avoid taking medication right before bed, or at least 15 minutes before bed, to allow the pill time to travel down the esophagus.

“It’s not to say that if you don’t drink anything, your pill will always get stuck,” says Caudle. “But the risk is higher if you don’t have a full glass of water.” Don’t miss the other over-the-counter medication mistakes you’re probably making.

More Aug 19th news

Prenatal exercise can have endless benefits for both mother and baby – when done correctly. At six months pregnant, Niki Rein - the founder and creative director of Barrecore, London's most leg-tremblingly arduous fitness studio - shares her definitive dos and don'ts of pregnancy workouts with Bazaar. Over to the pro...

The best way to exercise during pregnancy:

Do light to moderate exercise every day

"A 30-minute brisk walk is enough, but try to also do body-weight strength exercises at least two or three times per week."

Do listen to your body

"Each day is different and it's imperative to your health and that of your growing baby that you take breaks more often, and only do what feels right for you."

Do expect to maintain your fitness levels despite getting out of breath quicker

"Your body is working extra hard with extra weight and therefore maintaining strength if you are still exercising."

Do work the posterior chain

"As you gain weight on the front of your body, focused exercises on the back, glutes and hamstrings are key for good posture, better energy and avoiding back pain – a common pregnancy ailment."

Do pelvic floor exercises every day

"Your pelvic floor is constantly worked throughout your pregnancy and is stretched and often traumatised during labour. Make sure you are both fully releasing and fully lifting during your pelvic floor squeezes. A supple pelvic floor is just as important as a strong pelvic floor."

Do core and stability-based body weight exercises such as barre, yoga and pilates…

"…and watch how quickly you bounce back post baby! These three types of exercises keep your core engaged which is more likely to make your labour easier and recovery faster. Plus, they all focus on pelvic floor engagement – bonus."

What to avoid when exercising in pregnancy:

Don't do high-impact exercise after your first trimester

"The hormone relaxin is released during pregnancy which loosens joints and makes them less stable, so you are more likely to twist an ankle or lose your balance, causing other injuries when doing high-impact exercise."

Don't do contact or high-risk sports either

"Things like horse riding, football, boxing, mountain biking and scuba diving are all best avoided."

Don't overheat whilst exercising

"In the first trimester, your baby cannot regulate its body temperature, so it's important that you stay cool and hydrated. It's best not to overheat in the later stages of pregnancy too, despite the fact that you still may sweat."

Don't use heavy weights overhead in your third trimester

"At this stage, it just puts extra weight on your already stretched pelvic floor."

Don't expect to improve your fitness levels during pregnancy

"This is the time to maintain strength and fitness, not progress."

Don't think you are weak because you can't do everything you did before

"Growing a human is hard work and your body is already working out every moment of the day, not just during your exercise class. Give yourself a break!"

Aug 19th 2017

Kidney Stones look out

Some people shun roller coaster rides because they make them queasy but a bizarre study has shown there might be one health condition they can potentially treat.

Riding a 'moderate-intensity' roller coaster could help kidney stones pass, suggested a study published in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association last September.

When Michigan State University scientists heard about a patient who reportedly passed a stone for every three consecutive rides of the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad Roller Coaster at Disney World in Florida, they knew they had to investigate further.

So the researchers used a 3D printer to create an anatomical model of a kidney filled with urine and three differently sized kidney stones. They placed the device aboard a front seat on the same Disney World attraction, where over numerous rides it showed a stone passage rate of 16%. Riding on the back seat though, yielded a rate of 63%.

Kidney stones are solid crystals that grow in the kidneys when urine contained high levels of chemicals that don't get diluted. The only way to get rid of them without medical intervention is for them to passed out in urine. Ouch.

But the rollercoaster appears to dislodge the stones and help them exit more easily. Researcher Dr David Wartinger said:

"Preliminary study findings support the anecdotal evidence that a ride on a moderate-intensity roller coaster could benefit some patients with small kidney stones. Passing a kidney stone before it reaches an obstructive size can prevent surgeries and emergency room visits."

Aug 18th 2017

A landmark new treatment could offer new hope to children with deadly nut allergies.

Researchers in Australia claim to have made a “major step forward” with a new oral treatment which cured dozens of children of a peanut allergy for several years.

According to the scientists, it “provides the strongest evidence yet” that a cure for nut allergies may be possible.

The original trial gave a probiotic containing a peanut protein to children for a period of 18 months. The first batch of results, in 2013, found 82 per cent of children who received the immunotherapy were tolerant to peanuts.

Four years later, around 80 per cent of the children can still eat peanuts as part of their normal diet without a reaction – showing the treatment has a “long lasting effect”.

The trial was carried out at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Victoria.

Professor Mimi Tang, who pioneered the probiotic and peanut immunotherapy (PPOIT) treatment, said: “PPOIT was associated with long-lasting ability to tolerate peanut four years after stopping the treatment.

“These children had been eating peanut freely in their diet without having to follow any particular program of peanut intake in the years after treatment was completed.

“Over half were consuming moderate to large amounts of peanut on a regular basis, others were only eating peanut infrequently.

“The importance of this finding is that these children were able to eat peanuts like children who don’t have peanut allergy and still maintain their tolerant state, protected against reactions to peanut.

“We are now examining whether these beneficial effects of our novel treatment have also resulted in improved quality of life.”

She added: "It also suggests the exciting possibility that tolerance is a realistic target for treating food allergy. This is a major step forward in identifying an effective treatment to address the food allergy problem in Western societies.”

If the results are confirmed in a larger next-stage study, the breakthrough could spark a shift in the way peanut allergies are managed.

More Aug 15th 2017

A “Japanese fungus” which is resistant to drugs has spread to at least 55 hospitals across the UK, public health officials have warned.

NHS trusts have been ordered to carry out deep cleans of all affected areas after more than 200 patients were found to be infected or carrying the potentially fatal pathogen.

Infection experts are alarmed by the spread of the fungus, which has been likened to a “superbug”- because it has already proved resistant to the main three classes of drug treatment.

The fungus, called Candida auris, was first identified in Japan in 2009, in the ear canal of a 70-year-old woman. Since then it has spread rapidy around the globe, emerging in at least five continents, with the first UK case detected in 2013.

Healthy patients can usually fend off the fungus, though they may carry it. It is those with compromised immune systems who are most likely to contract a bloodstream infection, which can prove fatal, or cause major disabilities such as hearing loss.

New guidance from Public Health England (PHE) warns that as of last month, 20 separate NHS trusts and independent hospitals have detected more than 200 cases of patients colonised or infected with C.auris. In addition, more than 35 hospitals have identified patients found to be carrying the fungus following transfer from elsewhere, officials state.

The three largest outbreaks “have proved difficult to control, despite intensive infection prevention and control measures,” the guidance warns.

The Royal Brompton Hospital and Harefield NHS Foundation trust in London has been the worst affected, with the first and largest outbreak in Europe.

The infections led to the closure of its intensive care unit for two weeks last summer, more than a year after the start of an outbreak which went on to affect 50 patients.

High numbers of cases have also been seen at Kings College Hospital Foundation trust and Oxford University Hospitals Foundation trust, officials said, with all three outbreaks now declared over.

Global studies have found six in ten of those infected with the fungus die - though it has not been shown whether the infection has caused the deaths.

Officials said that so far, surveillance efforts in the worst-affected NHS trusts have not established any deaths as a result of the infection. The PHE guidance says the hospitals with signficant outbreaks have not shown an attributable rise in death rates. But the guidance also says it is “important to note” that these exercises did not provide comparable data on their normal mortality rates.

Hospitals and nursing homes have now been ordered to isolate any affected patients, and to carry out deep cleans of infected areas.

Dr Colin Brown, PHE consultant medical microbiologist said: “PHE continues to provide ongoing expert support and advice on infection control measures to limit the spread of Candida auris in healthcare settings.

“Our enhanced surveillance of this uncommon fungus shows that in the UK it has mostly been detected in colonised patients, with a quarter being clinical infections.”

The hospitals with the most cases of the fungus had not found it to be the cause of any deaths, he said.

“Control measures include screening patients for the fungus, isolating anyone affected, focusing on the importance of hand hygiene and deep cleaning all affected areas.

“If a member of the public comes into contact with a patient who is carrying, or is infected with Candida auris, they should be protected by regular hand washing as a precautionary measure,” he said.

Prof Hugh Pennington, emeritus professor of bacteriology at Aberdeen University, said such outbreaks were “incredibly bad news” for vulnerable patients, and a major challenge for NHS hospitals.

“This situation is a nightmare for intensive care units in particular,” he said. “The kind of patient that gets infected by this will normally already be immunosuppressed - whether that is because of chemotherapy, tumours, or deliberately suppressed for medical reasons,” he said. “On top of this, the drugs to treat this are heavily toxic, and the drug resistance means that all doctors can do is keep trying.” Meanwhile the invasive procedures in use in critical care settings - such as intubation - add to infection risks, he added.

Aug 15th 2017

The majority of doctors in England are unfamiliar with recommended levels of physical activity, with fewer than two-thirds confident about discussing the topic with their patients, researchers have revealed.

Set out in July 2011 by the Chief Medical Office, national guidelines recommend that adults aged between 19 and 64 undertake 75 minutes of intense activity or 150 minutes of moderate physical activity a week.

But in 2015-16 more than a quarter of adults in England were deemed “inactive”, undertaking physical activity for less than half an hour a week.

Now a nationwide study has revealed that 80% of GPs in England say they are unfamiliar with the national guidelines, and more than one in seven doctors say they are not confident raising the issue of physical activity with their patients.

“Many people have described [physical activity] as the most cost-effective drug we have, yet we are not implementing it properly,” said Justin Varney, co-author of the research from Public Health England (PHE). “This is as appropriate as having a conversation about smoking,” he added.

Published in the British Journal of General Practice by Varney and colleagues at PHE, the study was based on an online questionnaire open to GPs in England for a 10-day period during March 2016. Quotas were put in place to guard against all responses coming from one region.

Participants were asked six multiple choice questions, ranging from whether they were familiar with the national guidelines on physical activity to selecting medical conditions around which they would discuss physical activity with a patient.

The results, based on answers from 1,013 doctors, reveal that only 20% were familiar with the national guidelines, with 30% admitting that they had never heard of them at all.

Doctors’ familiarity with questionnaires used to gauge patients’ activity levels was similarly hit-and-miss. More than a quarter of doctors were unaware of any such questionnaires, while 55% said they did not use such tools. More than half of doctors said they had not had any training about encouraging patients to undertake physical activity.

Only 78% of doctors said they would discuss and recommend physical activity to overweight patients, while just 26% said they would bring it up with patients living with dementia or cognitive decline.

“Being physically active is a separate conversation from losing weight,” said Varney. “Whatever your weight, if you are more active than someone who is of the same weight and inactive you will be healthier.”

The study also found that only 61% of GPs said they were either very or somewhat confident about raising the issue of physical activity with patients, with 16% saying they were somewhat or very unconfident in broaching the topic.

While Varney admits that nurses and other healthcare administrators were excluded, and that doctors with a keener interest in physical activity might have been more likely to respond to the survey, he said the sample included GPs across the country of different ages and seniority.

The authors say physical activity needs a greater emphasis during medical training, while more needs to be done to increase GPs’ awareness of training initiatives. Both are areas which PHE, Sport England and other partners have developed programmes to address, said Varney.

Alice Smith, professor of lifestyle medicine at the University of Leicester who was not involved in the study, welcomed the research but described the findings as disappointing and worrying.

“Physical activity is a fundamental element of a healthy lifestyle, and more and more research is showing that it is effective in the prevention and management of chronic disease,” she said. “It is vital that GPs at the forefront of healthcare are aware of this and know how to help their patients gain the wide-ranging benefits of an appropriately active lifestyle.”

Gavin Terry, the Alzheimer’s Society’s policy manager, added that tailored exercise advice can be extremely beneficial for people with dementia.

“It’s crucial that GPs are aware of the benefits of exercise for their patients and are aware of what is available locally to enable them to continue to take part in physical activity after a dementia diagnosis,” he said.

But Helen Stokes-Lampard, the chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said that while it is important that GPs are up to date on physical activity guidelines and the tools that accompany them, 10-minute patient consultations are too short and are “stifling” the use of such measures.

“Ultimately, we need the pledges in NHS England’s GP Forward View – including £2.4bn a year for general practice and an extra 5,000 full-time equivalent GPs by 2020 – to be delivered in full and as a matter of urgency so that GPs can spend longer with our patients and inspire them to make improvements to their lifestyle,” she said.”

Aug 14th 2017 Autism and Ovarian cysts

Nearly one percent of the world’s population has autism spectrum disorder (ASD), the Autism Society reports, and thanks to a new study, experts have one more potential way to catch the disorder early. We already know about some signs and symptoms of autism, including trouble with verbal recognition and repetitive behaviour, but this study finds another warning sign in a common eye movement.

The study, appearing in the European Journal of Neuroscience, reports that physicians may be able to identify a sub-group of people with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) by measuring their rapid eye movements. Rapid eye movements occur when we shift our focus from one thing to another, and are a crucial part of functioning controlled by an area in our brain called the cerebellum. Those without ASD are able to make rapid eye movements without any issue, and can quickly shift their focus as needed, but those with ASD are said to have an altered cerebellum and are unable to make these movements as effectively.

“These findings build upon a growing field of research that show that eye movement could serve as a window into a part of the brain that plays a role in a number of neurological and development disorders, such as Autism,” John Foxe, PhD, director of the University of Rochester Medical Center Del Monte Neuroscience Institute and co-author of the study told EurekAlert.

For the testing, researchers looked at the eye movements of those with autism spectrum disorder, instructing them to follow a visual cue that appeared in various places on a screen. The testing was designed so that participants would overshoot their intended target, EurekAlert explains. For those without ASD, the brain would automatically correct rapid eye movements during repeated testing, but participants with ASD continually missed the visual cue, signaling that their brain’s sensory motor controls weren’t functioning properly.

According to researchers, the brains of individuals with ASD are often unable to correct the size of their rapid eye movements, and their continual miss of tracking the target signals possible cerebellum dysfunction. The testing also gives insight into the communication and social interaction issues often experienced with autism.

Based upon the findings, study co-author, Edward Freedman, PhD, an associate professor in the URMC Department of Neuroscience, believes that it’s possible, with additional rapid eye movement testing, that experts may be able to use this method as an early sign of ASD detection in the future. In the meantime, examining baby teeth is another potential way to diagnose autism spectrum disorders.

Related: Study Finds Scans May Detect Brain Abnormalities in Some Cases of Autism (provided by Wochit news)

Aug 14th 2017

For many women, being told they have an ovarian cyst might seem like grounds for concern. Quite aside from the word 'cyst', which can conjure up some unpleasant images, most people have heard of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), a hormonal condition with implications for health and fertility.

However, most of the time ovarian cysts are nothing to be worried about. Below, we run through five things you need to know, to separate the misconceptions from the reality.

1. Most cysts are normal, harmless and functional

"Ovaries are cystic structures – that's how they work," says Dr Karen Morton, a consultant gynaecologist and founder of Dr Morton's medical helpline. "The word 'cyst' is just a description for something containing fluid, so depending on what point in the menstrual cycle you're at, you'd find a cyst on the ovary of varying sizes."

In menstruating women, the ovaries are full of immature eggs, one of which comes to maturity every month. This happens over the space of about 14 days in a structure called a follicle, before being released for possible fertilisation.

Because the follicle is filled with fluid, it technically counts as a cyst. It will measure around 3cm across by the time it ruptures. Most of the time, the structure disappears without causing any symptoms.

"I am referred so many patients who went to the GP with stomach pain – they've been for a scan, and something measuring 3cm was seen on one of the ovaries. 99 times out of 100 it'll be a normal follicle," says Dr Morton.

2. Occasionally they can cause problems

Every now and again, the follicle fails to burst. While these cases normally resolve within a few weeks, once the cyst grows past a certain size it may place pressure on surrounding organs. This can cause discomfort or pain during sex.

As Dr Morton explains: "Often a lady will go to the doctor and have a scan that shows something like a follicle full of watery fluid, around 5cm diameter. It's just an egg that forgot to pop, so we call that a 'simple cyst'. They'll often go away on their own, and the lady will need a scan to check it's gone."

In other cases, the cyst arises not from the follicle itself, but from other types of cell. Of these, the two most common types are dermoid cysts and endometrial cysts.

As Morton explains: "The one that lots of people have heard of is a dermoid cyst, which is a bit revolting and contains hair and teeth and greasy stuff. Endometrial cysts, properly called 'endometriomas', often get called chocolate cysts. They occur in sufferers of endometriosis when they have womb lining on their ovary, so every time they have a period they're also bleeding into this cyst. This can be very painful."

3. The symptoms vary depending on the type of cyst

While many cysts are asymptomatic, others can lead to dull aches in your lower back, difficulty urinating,menstrual irregularities or gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea and vomiting. Most of the time, these symptoms will go away on their own, once the cyst resolves.

In the case of dermoid cysts, these are slow-growing structures that may not come to light until spotted on a routine scan. Occasionally, there may be complications such as torsion.

As Dr Morton explains: "You can have them for years with no problems, so it can come out of the blue in an emergency. Because they're very heavy, they can twist, blocking the blood supply and causing gut-wrenching pain. It's an emergency surgical procedure to get it untwisted."

Endometrial cysts are more likely to be spotted early, as they are related to endometriosis and cause painful periods. Untreated, this kind of cyst can lead to infertility, alongside chronic pelvic pain. A doctor may recommend medication or surgery.

4. They're most concerning after the menopause

While cysts in younger women are nearly always benign, after the menopause there is a higher chance of malignancy.

Dr Morton says: "Finding an ovarian cyst in an older woman requires very careful investigation as it is more likely to be an unpleasant malignant cyst. Women may go to the doctor with vague tummy symptoms – it can feel almost like indigestion – and this is why detection of ovarian cancer tends to be rather late. Because ladies aren't looking at their fertility, they don't think about gynaecological things so much."

If you are past the menopause, and are experiencing symptoms such as constant bloating or pelvic discomfort, it is important to see the doctor as soon as possible to rule out the possibility of ovarian cancer.

5. They're not to be confused with PCOS

As the name implies, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) does generally include lots of small cysts on the ovaries. However, it should be considered separately from ovarian cysts, as the cysts are not the only factor required for diagnosis.

In this case, the cysts are due to so-called 'follicular arrest', where the maturing egg fails to develop in full, and the woman doesn't ovulate.

As Dr Morton puts it: "Sometimes the ovaries are a bit lazy and they don't bring the egg to maturity, so the follicle gets to the size of a pea and it just stops growing. So a polycystic ovary is a tiny bit bigger than a normal ovary, and around its edge there are small pea-sized beads of fluid. However, PCOS is a very specific condition including all sorts of other chemistry problems. Small cysts don't mean very much unless they're part of a bigger picture."

Other signs of PCOS may include irregular periods, high levels of male hormones, or difficulty getting pregnant. However, because its symptoms and severity vary so much from person to person, it is difficult to pin it down to a single definition. It is not to be confused simply with cysts on the ovaries.

The important thing to remember is that not all ovarian cysts are made alike. And while they're generally nothing to be concerned about, your GP or gynaecologist should be able to put your mind at rest if you're worried.

Aug 3rd 2017

A landmark study suggests that scientists could soon edit out genetic mutations before diseased babies are born. The technique could eventually let doctors cut out inherited diseases from embryos before they go on to become a child.

That in turn opens the possibility that inherited diseases could be entirely wiped out, according to doctors. But experts have warned that urgent work is needed to answer the ethical and legal questions that surround the work.

Though the scientists only edited out mutations that could cause diseases, it modified the nuclear DNA that sits right at the heart of the cell that also influences personal characteristics such as intelligence, height, facial appearance and eye colour.

The breakthrough means that the "the possibility of germline genome editing has moved from future fantasy to the world of possibility, and the debate about its use, outside of fears about the safety of the technology, needs to run to catch up," said Professor Peter Braude from King's College London. Scientists warned that soon the public could demand such treatment – and that the world might not be ready.

“Families with genetic diseases have a strong drive to find cures," said Yalda Jamshidi, reader in genomic medicine at St George’s, University of London. "Whilst we are just beginning to understand the complexity of genetic disease, gene-editing will likely become acceptable when its potential benefits, both to individuals and to the broader society, exceeds its risks.”

The new research, published in Nature, marks the first time the powerful Crispr-Cas9 tool has been used to fix mutations. The US study destroyed the embryos after just a few days and the work remains at an experimental stage.

In the study, scientists fertilised donor eggs with sperm that included a gene that causes a type of heart failure. As the eggs were fertilised, they also applied the gene-editing tool, which works like a pair of very specific scissors and cuts away the defective parts of the gene.

When those problematic parts are cut away, the cells can repair themselves with the healthy versions and so get rid of the mutation that causes the disease. Some 42 out of 58 embryos were fixed so that they didn't carry the mutation – stopping a disease that usually has a 50 per cent chance of being passed on.

If those embryos had been allowed to develop into children, then they would no longer have carried the disease. That would stop them from being vulnerable to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy – and would save their children, too.

"Every generation on would carry this repair because we've removed the disease-causing gene variant from that family's lineage," said Dr Shoukhrat Mitalipov, from Oregon Health and Science University, who led the study.

"By using this technique, it's possible to reduce the burden of this inheritable disease on the family and eventually the human population."

The heart problem is just one of more than 10,000 conditions that are caused by an error in the gene. The same tool could be used to cut out those faults for all of those, and eventually could be used to target cancer mutations.

The work could lead to treatments that would be given to patients, once it becomes more efficient and safe. Using such a treatment on humans is illegal in both the US and the UK – but some experts expect that law will soon be changed, and that the legal and ethical frameworks need to catch up with the technology.

There is some suggestion that the editing work could take place in the UK. Though using the research as treatment is illegal there as well as the US, the regulatory barriers are much higher in America and look unlikely to be changed.

In the US, there are various regulations and restrictions on how embryos can be edited, including stipulations that such work can't take place with taxpayers' money. UK regulators are more relaxed and liberal about those restrictions, leading to suggestions that it could eventually become the home of such work in the west.

The UK has become the first country that allows mitochondrial replacement therapy, another treatment that opponents warn could allow for the creation of designer babies.

"UK researchers can apply for a licence to edit human embryos in research, but offering it as a treatment is currently illegal," said a spokesperson for the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HEFA), which would regulate any such experiments.

"Introducing new, controversial techniques is not just about developing the science - gene editing would need to offer new options to couples at risk of having a child with a genetic disease, beyond current treatments like embryo testing.

"Our experience of introducing mitochondrial donation in the UK shows that high-quality public discussion about the ethics of new treatments, expert scientific advice and a robust regulatory system are crucial when considering new treatments of this kind."

Doctors said that any change in the law would have to strictly keep such treatment to being used for medical reasons, and not for "designer babies" that have other characteristics edited out.

"It may be that some countries never permit germline genome editing because of moral and ethical concerns," said Professor Joyce Harper from University College London. "If the law in the UK was changed to allow genome editing, it would be highly regulated by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, as is PGD, to ensure it is only used for medical reasons.”

But that work has already received significant opposition.

Dr David King, director of the Human Genetics Alert, which opposes all tampering with the human genome, said: "If irresponsible scientists are not stopped, the world may soon be presented with a fait accompli of the first GM baby.

"We call on governments and international organisations to wake up and pass an immediate global ban on creating cloned or GM babies, before it is too late."

Professor Robin Lovell-Badge from the Francis Crick Institute said that the research only appears to work when the father is carrying the defective gene, and that it would not work for more sophisticated alterations. "The possibility of producing designer babies, which is unjustified in any case, is now even further away," he said.

July 29th 2017 repeat for information

Cold sore virus kills baby

August 11th 2016

John and Louise Wills had no idea how lethal a simple kiss to a baby could be before losing their child.

Baby Eibhlín was just 12 days when she died from the common cold sore virus –  and now they’ve called for increased awareness to prevent other parents suffering the same ordeal.

Sharing their story to highlight the hidden danger, they have created a website in Eibhlín’s memory and are asking the public to support and share.

‘We are sharing our story in Eibhlín’s memory so we can create awareness about the dangers of cold sores and new born babies. We want all parents, parents-to-be and any medical staff working with them to be made aware of the risks so no one else ever has to face what we have gone through,’ said John on RTÉ One.

Born in November 2015 by an emergency C-Section in The National Maternity Hospital, their baby Eibhlín weighed a healthy 7lb 11oz.

After birth she was sent to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit as a precautionary measure as she had become a little distressed prior to delivery but after five nights in hospital she came home.

Initially all appeared well and there was no cause for alarm until 11pm that night when her colour suddenly changed and she became listless.

John and Louise headed to Tallaght A&E where Eibhlín was immediately seen but was pronounced dead at 1:09am a week to the day since she had come home from hospital.

A post-mortem identified the cause of death as the Herpes Simplex Virus 1 (HSV-1) which is more commonly known as the Cold Sore Virus.  In Eibhlín’s case it was Disseminated Neonatal Herpes Simplex Virus 1, which incubates for a time and results in multiple organ failure but there are no symptoms until it is too late.

While this type of death is rare it is even rarer in Eibhlín’s case as 90% of these infections come from the mother. But Louise was found not to have carried the virus. 

‘Eibhlín contracted the virus postnatally and, although we may never know from whom or exactly when it happened, we know from tests that the virus was already in her system when she came home from the maternity hospital with us,’ Louise said.

Since Eibhlín’s death John and Louise have discovered that acquiring accurate statistics on new born babies with the cold sore virus in Ireland is difficult and are calling for the Minister for Health to make this more transparent.

As a legacy for Eibhlín, Louise said they now want to ensure the general public is aware how lethal a cold sore can be to a new born baby.

In order to create greater public and professional awareness and education John and Louise’s aims are as follows:

·        To provide an information leaflet with Eibhlín’s story and website details in the welcome packs issued to mothers-to-be in Ireland’s maternity hospitals

·        To ensure that Eibhlín’s story is mentioned in the ante natal classes

·        To place information posters in clinics

·        To remind visitors to mums and babies not to visit if they have a current cold sore

·        To provide more information to student midwives/ nurses/ healthcare workers 

·        To ensure consultants include Herpes Simplex Virus and Eibhlín’s story in lectures/ educational forums

·        To encourage GPs to discuss the virus with expectant mothers, and after the birth of their baby, to be mindful if they or close family and friends suffer from cold sores.

·        To place posters and/or leaflets in GP surgeries

They also aim to encourage maternity hospitals to include a specific infection protocol that applies to any staff member with active Herpes Simplex Virus working with new born babies and to ensure Infection Control sections of maternity hospital websites provide relevant information for patients and visitors.

 

July 29th 2017

Important life-saving message

1. Let’s say it’s 7.25pm and you’re going home (alone of course) after an unusually hard day on the job. 2. You’re really tired, upset and frustrated. 3 Suddenly you start experiencing severe pain in your chest that starts to drag out into your arm and up in to your jaw. You are only about five km from the hospital nearest your home. 4. Unfortunately you don’t know if you’ll be able to make it that far. 5. You have been trained in CPR, but the guy who taught the course did not tell you how to perform it on yourself. 6. HOW TO SURVIVE A HEART ATTACK WHEN ALONE? Since many people are alone when they suffer a heart attack without help, the person whose heart is beating improperly and who begins to feel faint, has only about 10 seconds left before losing consciousness. 7. However, these victims can help themselves by coughing repeatedly and very vigorously. A deep breath should be taken before each cough, and the cough must be deep and prolonged, as when producing sputum from deep inside the chest. A breath and a cough must be repeated about every two seconds without let-up until help arrives, or until the heart is felt to be beating normally again. 8. Deep breaths get oxygen into the lungs and coughing movements squeeze the heart and keep the blood circulating. The squeezing pressure on the heart also helps it regain normal rhythm. In this way, heart attack victims can get to a hospital. 9. Tell as many other people as possible about this. It could save their lives!! 10. A cardiologist says If everyone who gets this mail kindly sends it to 10 people, you can bet that we’ll save at least one life. 11. Rather than sending jokes, please... contribute by forwarding this mail which can save a person’s life. 12. If this message comes around you... more than once… please don’t get irritated... You should instead, be happy that you have many friends who care about you & keeps reminding you how to deal with a Heart attack.


July 29th 2017

A mum has shared a warning about the warm summer weather to parents, after her daughter wouldn’t wake up from a nap.

Jessica Abma, from the US, explained her daughter suffered severe heatstroke, despite not even being out in the sun, because her room was so hot.

The mum’s warning has been shared by nearly 50,000 people in two weeks since it was posted on 14 July.

“I expected a lot of horrible things to be said - and some have been - but I got far more that we’re thankful for,” Abma told HuffPost UK.

“Despite at first thinking I would be judged I’m glad I shared in the hope it will help another family.”

Abma shared a photo of her daughter on Facebook and called it the “scariest moment” she has ever had to experience.

Abma said her daughter, Anastasia, had taken herself off for a nap and she had no idea how hot the bedroom was until she went to wake her up.

She said Anastasia was soaked in sweat and had a red face.

This is severe heatstroke,” Abma wrote on Facebook. “There is nothing scarier than not being able to wake your baby up. This is clear proof a child doesn’t need to be in the sun to get heat stroke.

“It took us 20 minutes to wake her up, when ambulance came, they came with investigators because they didn’t know what to expect, as did I. This was proof how fast things change.”

“The ambulance arrived faster then I could have ever imagined and took her sugars, which were 1.2 (and should be above four),” Abma added. “They administered sucrose and in minutes she started crying clearly scared.

“No it is not my fault this happened to her but it is hard not to blame yourself, this is a lesson learned and hopefully other parents can take something from this and make sure you are checking the rooms in your house because they can be as dangerous as a hot car.

“Still I’m in shock and I can’t imagine what would have happened if I didn’t go check on her.”

Parents were thankful for the warning.

“How terrifying oh my goodness,” one person wrote. “I’m so glad she’s ok. I would not have known this either. Thanks for sharing Jenn to help another family from having this happen.”

Another wrote: “I’m so sorry this happened. I had heatstroke as a child, and it’s the worst feeling. Thank you for spreading the word about the dangers.”

July 8th 2017

As a kid Charles Rutherford drank milk to soothe the burning sensation after eating peanut butter. As an adult he complained to doctors for years about chest pains only to be told it was due to stress.

Three years ago, the now 59-year-old Rutherford was diagnosed with Barrett's Esophagus, when stomach acid damages and changes the composition of the lining of the esophagus. Untreated it can lead to esophageal cancer, which is often deadly.

Like many people, Rutherford, had no idea his acid reflux put him at risk for cancer.

The Esophageal Cancer Action Network, a national organization based in Baltimore, wants that to change. In its latest effort, the nonprofit group known as ECAN filed a citizen's petition Monday with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration asking the agency to require warnings about the cancer risk of acid reflux on the labels of such over-the-counter medications as Prilosec and Nexium.

Current labels on those drugs warn people to get their doctors' recommendation before taking the medicine. The labels also tell people not to take the medication long term. There is no mention of cancer risk.

"We want something that is much bolder and stronger than is on packaging now," said David Rosen, a lawyer who worked for the FDA for 15 years and is filing the petition on behalf of ECAN.

The petition states that "the warnings should include a stronger, bold and prominent statement that persistent heartburn can be a sign of increased risk of esophageal cancer and explain that drug products do not eliminate that risk."

The drug company AstraZeneca developed both Prilosec, which now is available as a generic called omeprazole, and Nexium.

"AstraZeneca is confident in the safety and efficacy of Nexium when used in accordance with the FDA approved label, which has been established through numerous clinical trials," said spokeswoman Michelle Meixell in an emailed statement that did not specifically address ECAN's request of the FDA.

Neither the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America Association nor Pfizer, which makes an over-the-counter version of Nexium, responded to requests for comment.

Auburn Bell, who teaches marketing at Loyola University Maryland, said that most companies wouldn't want a third party directing changes to their packaging.

"It opens it up for others to come in and say that you need this on a label or that on a label," Bell said. "If they say yes to one, will they have to say yes to everyone?"

ECAN's efforts are not intended to stop the use of over-the-counter drugs for treating reflux, Rosen said.

"I don't want to scare people from not buying the medications," Rosen said. "I want them to use it responsibly. If their symptoms persist they need to go see their doctor."

A spokeswoman for the FDA said the agency is reviewing the petition and will respond directly to ECAN.

ECAN members say that many people don't heed the current labels, taking too much of the medication or using it without consulting a doctor.

Sometimes the drugs work so well at relieving symptoms, such as bloating, coughing and irritated throat, that people believe they're fine and don't seek medical treatment. But that doesn't mean the cancer risk no longer exists. The cellular changes in many cases already have taken place and can lead to cancer.

"If you get rid of your symptoms you are not getting rid of your risk," said Mindy Mordecai, who started the esophageal cancer network after her husband died from the disease. "Many people who take over-the-counter medication have no idea that they're at risk."

Dr. Bruce D. Greenwald, a gastroenterologist and professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, said he supports the label change so that patients are better informed.

"People sometimes take something over the counter and it gets better and they think they have nothing to worry about," Greenwald said. "We want people aware that if the symptoms exists persistently you need to see your doctor."

Dr. Mark Noar, a Towson-based gastroenterologist also supports stronger labels. He said esophageal reflux is preventable if people are aware of the precautions they need to take.

The drugs "hide the continuing development of the disease," Noar said. "We have people walking around who think they are fine and they are at risk for cancer."

When people know they are at risk, they can get monitored regularly by their doctor, Noar said.

Paul Campbell, 72, was getting regular endoscopies, or scans of his esophagus, by Noar after suffering with acid reflux for years. As a result, his Barrett's Esophagus was caught and treated early. The diagnosis scared Campbell and his family, who worried he would die. But his most recent scans have come back cancer free.

"I am just glad I could get treated," he said.

To treat patients with persistent reflux, Noar uses a treatment called Stretta, which involves placing a tube down the patient's throat and then applying radio-frequency energy to the weak area between the esophagus and the stomach to thicken and strengthen the barrier. This treatment process prevents food and stomach acid from backing up into the esophagus.

Other surgical treatments include a procedure where a ring known as a LINX device is placed around the outside of the lower end of the esophagus. The ring stops stomach acid from backing up into the esophagus. Another procedure called fundoplication wraps the upper part of the stomach around the lower esophageal sphincter, to make it harder for acid to splash up.

A recent poll ECAN commissioned by research firm Ipsos found that 86 percent of Americans don't know that acid reflux disease can cause esophageal cancer. Only 14 percent of 1,000 people who took the survey were aware reflux could lead to cancer.

The group said that the cancer warnings are needed more than ever because the number of people with Barrett's Esophagus continues to increase. About three million Americans currently have the condition and more than half don't know it because there aren't a lot of symptoms.

Esophageal cancer is often only discovered when it has reached advanced stages, when treatment isn't as effective. Most people find they can no longer swallow because a mass is blocking the esophagus.

The FDA doesn't get many citizens petitions, maybe a couple a year, said Larry Stevens, a former FDA official who works for the FDA Group, a consulting firm of former agency employees.

Stevens said the agency would want documentation that the lack of warning is a public health problem. If it decided a warning label was worth pursuing, the agency would hold a hearing on the issue.

At the very least, ECAN gets their issue in front of the agency, he said.

"It will spark the FDA to look at the issue for sure and that may be what [ECAN] is really after, trying to bring the problem to the forefront," Stevens said.

june 20th 2017

It is the scourge of women the world over. Or at least in places where the temperature reaches 25C.

It’s hot, so obviously you’re wearing a dress, shorts or skirt and bare legs. But as you walk, friction between your thighs and the heat of the day results in the inevitable: the dreaded chafing.

Some people call it ‘chub rub,’ but if your thighs touch - which is the case for the majority of women - chafing is unavoidable.

It’s also incredibly painful. You’re often left with a rash which can cause discomfort every time you take a step for days. But what can you do? Wear tights all summer long? No thanks. 

Whilst various specialist products and undergarments have been created, there’s actually a much simpler solution: roll-on deodorant. It’s a life-changing trick.

Simply roll deodorant on to your inner thighs in the morning and hey presto, chafing be gone. 

It acts as a lubricant and is also delightfully soothing if you’ve already developed sore skin. Your thighs will simply glide past each other like a dolphin darting through the sea. 

It even works once the deodorant has dried.

You may need to reapply over the course of the day, but should be fine for a few hours at a time at least. “Roll-on deodorant is a total game-changer,” 25-year-old Londoner Martha told The Independent. “Chafing was honestly the bane of my life before I learned this trick. It's the best life hack I've ever experienced.” Some people swear by dry shampoo too. Farewell, chub rub. Hello, dolphin.

Jun 17th 2017

•Sharing a bed could encourage unhealthy sleeping patterns.

•'Helpful' sleep tips from partners often make insomnia worse

•Anxiety levels were shown to be higher in those sleeping with an insomniac partner

Are you one of the 60% of adults who shares a bed with a partner? Well, chances are it could be affecting your quality of sleep. A new study suggests that the majority of partners encourage behaviours that could actually promote insomnia in their bedmates, increasing anxiety levels and often making pre-existing conditions worse.

The study

In order to examine the relationship between people who suffer from insomnia – a largely individual condition that affects the sufferer's ability to sleep – and their partners, researchers gave questionnaires to 14 women and 17 men whose significant others were participating in a separate clinical trial for the condition. It was found that, whilst these people did not have sleep issues of their own, they often made adjustments in order to accommodate their loved one's insomnia – including amending their own sleep, work and leisure schedules.

Many partners also admitted to trying to be 'helpful' with regard to their bedmates' sleep problems, which – although appreciated by insomniacs – resulted in increased anxiety levels compared to partners who did not offer help. It was also concluded that such interventions were in vain, and generally went against sleep-hygiene guidelines. The study's abstract reads:

"Results show that 74% of partners encouraged an early bedtime or late wake time, which is in direct conflict with the principles of cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia (CBTI). 42% also encouraged doing other things in bed, such as reading or watching TV, and 35% encouraged naps, caffeine or reduced daytime activities."

Adding to this, lead author Alix Mellor said:

"It is possible that partners are unwittingly perpetuating insomnia symptoms in the patient with insomnia. It is therefore important for more data to be collected to determine whether insomnia treatments may better benefit patients and their partners by proactively assessing and addressing bed partner behaviours in treatment programs."

More on insomnia

It is thought that almost a third of the UK population suffers with insomnia, with around 30% claiming to be 'severely sleep deprived. Numerous studies have linked lack of sleep with poor mental and physical health – with a post on the Mental Health Foundation reading:

"Far from being a minor concern, poor sleep can have a major impact on our mental wellbeing and day to day lives, with sleep playing a vital role in our relationships, our mood and our ability to concentrate. New data included in our Sleep Matters report revealed that, in comparison to people who sleep well, people who suffer from insomnia are four times more likely to have relationship problems, three times more like to experience low mood, three times more likely to lack concentration during the day and twice as likely to suffer from energy deficiency."

Those with chronic insomnia are often treated with cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Patients are taught not to get into bed until they feel sleepy, to get up at the same time everyday, to use their bed only for sleep and sex and to avoid napping. Cutting out alcohol and exercising regularly is also advised.

June 7th 2017

Anxiety is an adrenaline-fuelled feeling that everyone will experience, to some extent, during his or her lifetime. For some, this feeling and its physical and mental manifestations will arise at naturally stressful times – before a big meeting at work, before a visit to the doctors or before embarking on a new challenge, for example. This is normal and can even be beneficial if it drives us to work harder or be more prepared.

For others, however, anxiety can be triggered by seemingly small, unimportant events or situations. They may not even be able to put a finger on what's ignited that feeling of unease and panic that, in turn, can induce headaches, feelings of exhaustion, limb discomfort, light-headedness and lack of appetite.

These are the people that don't have to accept such levels of anxiety as normal and should perhaps think about taking steps to over come them. If you recognise any of the following behavioural traits in yourself, read on to find out where you can seek advice…

6 signs your anxiety is taking over

1. Turning down social invitations

Of course it is ok to say no to dinner parties, lunch dates or social gatherings occasionally if you are feeling unwell, but if you regularly turn down opportunities to socialise because they make you feel nervous and anxious about their outcome, then your anxiety may have begun to take control.

The more you avoid the situations that cause anxiety, the tighter the anxiety will squeeze you. Although it may be hard and scary in the short term to face your fears and go to that party or weekend away, it will make you feel more empowered and in control in the long run.

2. You have trouble sleeping

Those nighttime hours, when all we long for is both mental and physical rest, are often the ones when our brains will try and conquer our worries and troubles. Our anxieties can invade our dreams, wake us up in the night and even completely stop us from drifting-off in the first place.

The more tired you feel during the day, the less likely you are to feel motivated to face your anxiety triggers.

3. Your moods are affecting your relationships

A cocktail of anxious feelings and exhaustion can make you feel grotty and grumpy. It's easy to get yourself in a state of self-pity which can feel, at times, like it will be never-ending. It's also easy to take these feelings out on those who are closest to us.

You may also find yourself feeling misunderstood and alone if your friends and family have never experienced anxiety before and can't understand your struggle.

But, a strong support network is crucial for our wellbeing so, if you feel your relationships shifting because of your anxiety, it's time to seek advice.

4. A change in your weight

Feeling anxious can often suppress appetite and cause weight loss. It can also, on the other hand, lead to comfort eating and cause weight gain. Both of these can have knock-on affects on our general health and wellbeing.

Sudden changes in weight can also signify a number of other health conditions and should always be assessed by your GP.

5. You have increasingly negative and potentially harmful thoughts

This is perhaps the most obvious but, especially if anxiety is a new sensation for you, you may need to take a step back and see if your thought processes and personality traits have changed over time.

If you are unhappy, always use negative terminology towards yourself, have feelings of worthlessness and, at the most extreme, urges to harm yourself, you should seek help immediately.

6. You no longer do the things that make you happy

Whether it's gardening, seeing friends, going to yoga, painting or simply reading a book, if you are doing less of these due to any of the above reasons, it's probably time to get back to your old self!

June 7th 2017

One in six heart attack deaths might have been prevented if the early warning signs had been spotted by doctors, new research suggests.

The study, published in the Lancet, has been called "concerning" by the British Heart Foundation.

Scientists from Imperial College London looked at heart attack hospital admissions and deaths in England between 2006 and 2010. They found 16% who died of a heart attack within 28 days of admission had not been diagnosed with heart problems – despite the person experiencing warning signs such as chest pain.

The problem

The researchers said symptoms such as fainting, shortness of breath and chest pain, were apparent up to a month before death in some patients. They believe doctors may have missed these symptoms which hinted at a possible future fatal heart attack because there was no obvious damage to the heart at the time.

Lead researcher Dr Perviz Asaria said: "Doctors are very good at treating heart attacks when they are the main cause of admission, but we don't do very well treating secondary heart attacks or at picking up subtle signs which might point to a heart attack death in the near future."

The British Heart Foundation view

Professor Jeremy Pearson, associate medical director at BHF, said: "This study shows that large numbers of people who die of a heart attack have visited hospital in the month before, but have not been diagnosed with heart disease."

"This failure to detect warning signs is concerning and these results should prompt doctors to be more vigilant, reducing the chance that symptoms are missed, ultimately saving more lives."

June 7th 2017

If you're one of the many unfortunate souls who suffers from hay fever (13 million in the UK alone, to be precise), you'll be aware that there's a lot of pollen in the air rn. Because it's more or less scientifically accurate to assume the pollen levels are directly proportionate to the amount of snot you've got running from your nose at any given time.

So if you're a said hay fever sufferer, you'll be accustomed to taking antihistamine tablets through the summer months like they're going out of fashion. But it turns out there's something you should know about taking antihistamine, especially if you're a driver: if you take a tablet before driving, you could end up with drug-driving charges held against you.

These allergy relief medicines are renowned for making you feel drowsy, but The Independent explains that they can also impact your vision, hearing and reaction time - all things which are obviously very dangerous when you're driving.

Some brands of the medication have such an impact on the body, it turns out, that police could be within their rights to arrest you if you have an accident and they deem you unfit to drive after carrying out roadside drugaliser tests. This is because certain antihistamines fall under the same law that bans you from driving if you have a substance such as cocaine or cannabis in your system, due to how much it can hinder your awareness.

If you're found guilty of being unfit to drive, you could be landed with a year-long driving ban, an unlimited fine, or even a prison sentence depending on how serious the circumstances are. The Independent notes that this criminal offence will stay on your driving licence for 11 years, which isn't ideal when it comes to insurance.

So yeah, it's a pretty big deal. But if you want to avoid finding yourself in any of the above eventualities, it's vital you check the label on your chosen antihistamine for any warnings about getting behind the wheel of a car after taking a tablet. If your medication does contain this kind of warning, follow its advice about the amount of time that must elapse before getting back in your vehicle.

June 3rd 2017

Epilepsy is a common condition affecting the brain, and almost one in every 100 people across all ages will have the condition. Irfan Malik, consultant neurosurgeon at the London Neurosurgery Partnership, part of The Harley Street Clinic, looks at some of the more obscure epilepsy symptoms to watch out for in children.

What is epilepsy?

Epilepsy is caused by a sudden burst of intense electrical activity in the brain. The resulting seizures can present themselves in various ways – it all depends on which part of the brain is affected. The most well-known type of epileptic seizure is the tonic-clonic, which affects the whole brain. It is probably the most noticeable form of epilepsy and is known as a generalised seizure. This is usually identified by involuntary jerking of the body and often results in the partial or total loss of consciousness or awareness.

Epilepsy also causes focal seizures which affect one particular part of the brain. The way these seizures present themselves can vary from person to person. This tends to be why diagnosis can be so tricky in children, as young people often present with a range of different symptoms. As a result, epilepsy in children is often picked up at a late stage.

What are the symptoms of focal seizures?

The brain is made up of four different lobes – the parietal, temporal, occipital and frontal. Each affects different aspects of your physical and mental function and, in turn, focal seizures located in one of these areas can result in rarer types of epileptic symptoms.

In most cases the following symptoms won't be cause for concern, but given the variation in how focal seizures can present it's important for parents and teachers to spot potential signs of epilepsy.

1. Absence

While children of all ages can have a tendency to stare off into the distance – or have short attention spans – in some young children this could be a symptom of Childhood Absence Epilepsy (CAE).

CAE syndrome triggers what are known as absence seizures. They usually last about 10 seconds and end abruptly, consisting of staring spells during where the child may not be aware or responsive. In many cases a child will then resume normal activity straight after the seizure and may not even be aware that it even happened, which can make it particularly hard to diagnose. Absence seizures can occur from anywhere between one to 100 times a day. If left undiagnosed they can go on to affect their performance at school, and cause tonic-clonic fits later on in life.

2. Deja-vu

Epilepsy located in the temporal lobes will affect your child's functions, including things such as feelings, emotions, thoughts, and experiences. An example of this is seizures that appear as feelings of Deja-vu, and a sense that what's happening has happened before. However in other cases some people can feel as if everything around them appears strange or foreign.

Epilepsy in the temporal part of the brain can also cause a strange taste in their mouth or to smell something that isn't there. These seizures can vary in intensity and quality, with some being so mild that your child barely even notices.

3. Strange sensations

The Parietal lobe is known as the "association cortex" as it is responsible for connecting meaning to the brain's functions, such as recognising sounds as words and what you see as visual images. Seizures in this part of the brain can result in strange sensations – known as sensory seizures – and can present in a number of ways. For example, some children often feel like a part of their body is missing, have difficulty understanding words, experience hallucinations and have feelings of numbness, heat, pressure or electricity. These can last anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes.

4. Hallucinations

Epilepsy occurring in the occipital lobe - as the name suggests – will affect your child's sight. This is usually hard to diagnose and tends to be rare. Symptoms can include seeing flashing lights or colours, patterns, or images that appear to repeat before the eyes. It can also affect vision, causing partial blindness.

5. Laughter

Perhaps one of the most surprising, signs of an epileptic seizure is laughter. Known as gelastic seizures – taken from the Greek word for laughter – this type of seizure will usually occur suddenly in your child, causing them to laugh, often hysterically for no obvious reason, and will seem completely out of place. It tends to be slightly more common in boys, however it's very rare, affecting one of every 1,000 children with epilepsy.

Confirming diagnosis

Usually there's nothing to worry about, however if you think your child might be exhibiting any symptoms of epilepsy then it's best to visit a specialist epilepsy centre to confirm a diagnosis. A consultant will conduct an investigation which will usually involve a mixture of tests such as blood tests, an MRI scan, and an electroencephalogram (EEG) - a procedure which detects electrical activity in your child's brain using small, flat metal discs (electrodes) attached to the scalp. Today, treatment is fairly straightforward and epilepsy can be managed with anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs) that help control seizures. Many children will even grow out of epilepsy as they get older.

Further information on epilepsy can be found at Epilepsy Action. The London Neurosurgery Partnership at The Harley Street Clinic can provide an initial assessment service and offers support for children and their families who are looking for an epilepsy diagnosis.

Related: Medical Marijuana Aids Some Kids With Epilepsy (Provided by Associated Press)

May 26th 2017

The top skin experts bust some myths about sunscreen so you can really keep skin safe this summer.

1. There's a difference between UVA and UVB

The sun doesn't just emit one kind of nasty radiation. Cosmetic doctor Liesel Holler told us, 'The sun emits ultraviolet radiation in the form of UVA and UVB. UVB are the burning rays that damage the superficial layers of the skin causing sunburn. These are the ones you can thank when you're in agony trying to put your bra strap on your bright red shoulders. They also play a key role in the development of skin cancer."

UVA rays penetrate your skin much deeper, causing skin ageing and DNA damage, which leads to skin cancer. "In the past, UVA was considered less harmful than UVB (which causes direct DNA damage), but today UVA is known to contribute to skin cancer via indirect DNA damage. Several studies suggest that the absence of UVA filters may be the cause of the higher incidence of melanoma found in sunscreen users compared to non-users."

2. So you need a 'broad spectrum' sunscreen

"SPF is a measure of how well a sunscreen will protect skin from those UVB rays," said Dr Dehaven, Clinical Director of iS Clinical. But SPF gives no indication of the level of all-important UVA protection. For that you need to look at the UVA star system, which should be on the back of your bottle. These stars (ranging from 0-5) will tell you the percentage of UVA radiation absorbed by your sunscreen. The British Association of Dermatologists states that a SPF30 sunscreen with UVA rating of 4-5 stars is considered a good standard of sun protection.

Zelens Daily Defence, £55 and Medik8, £33.

3. A higher factor doesn't always mean higher protection 

Always reach for factor one billion and feel smug? Think again. "Sunscreens with really high SPFs, such as SPF 75 or SPF 100, do not offer significantly greater protection than SPF 30 and mislead people into thinking they have more protection than they actually do. In fact, SPF30 blocks 97% of UVB rays and SPF50 blocks 98%," added Dr Dehaven.

4. Fake tan and SPF don't mix

If you've ever been tempted by those miraculous-sounding products that claim to fake tan while they protect, listen up. Abi Cleeve, managing director of suncare brand Ultrasun explains, "The primary ingredient in self tanning products is a chemical called Dihydroxyacetone (DHA). DHA works by creating a chemical reaction on your skin (which turns you that delightful shade of builder's brew)."

"DHA is such a strong chemical it attacks other chemicals it's formulated with. If you were to formulate a broad-spectrum sunscreen and put DHA in there, it would leave the factory and pass all tests. It would have its SPF and it would have its UVA but over two-three weeks that DHA would destroy the UVA protection."

"If you're marketing a product as a fake tan but you add an SPF, you don't even have to bother with the UVA because you're not marketing it as sun protection. It's being marketed as fake tan with an added benefit."

So what to do if you can't bear those first few days looking like Edward Cullen? Fake tan the night before, or a couple of days before your holiday. As long as you don't fake tan on the same day, your regular broad-spectrum sunscreen will work just fine.

iS Clinical, £60 and Bakel, £46.

5. 'Photostability' is a thing

If you didn't already feel like you were back in GCSE Chemistry, you will now. Photostability refers to a product's ability to not break down in the sun - so if something's photostable, it shouldn't break down. But that doesn't mean you only need to apply it once: "It still needs to be reapplied because there are other factors involved." That's Dr Marko Lens a plastic and reconstructive surgeon specialising in skin cancer telling me that your mum was always right.

So what are these other factors? "You swim, you shower, and you towel-dry, all of which remove your sunscreen." Yep, but what if you just lie, inert with a margarita in one hand? "You sweat".

Basically there is no getting away with it. You need to reapply every two hours, every 30 minutes if you're in hot, humid conditions (so Mexico, Hawaii, the Far East). And by the way…even if it says your sunscreen is 'water resistant' on the label, you have 40 minutes of protection once you're wet. You've been warned.

6. Spray sunscreens aren't always a good idea

With most of our childhood beach memories involving being plastered in gloopy white cream, spray sunscreens sound like a godsend. However, aerosol sunscreens contain a lot of alcohol, which, says Dr Marko "breaks down photostability and dries out your skin just when you need hydration most". Avoiding it altogether in sunscreen is almost impossible. Just steer clear of products that feature alcohol among the first few ingredients in the formula (unless it's a San Miguel bottle) and check the label when it comes to aerosols, gels and anything that claims to be 'cooling'.

Ultrasun, £24 and La Roche Posay, £15.50

7. Tan-optimising supplements might do more harm than good

Tan-boosting pills are often touted as pre-holiday cheat's way of ensuring a bronzed glow. "I don't see the point of increasing melanin production, which is actually a sign of skin damage. It doesn't make any sense to me", said Dr Marko, and if it doesn't make any sense to a man who has a phD in skin cancer and over 20 years of clinical experience, it's wise to avoid.

8. Yes, you can find a sunscreen that doesn't give you spots

Dermatologist Stephanie Williams feels your pain when it comes to SPF-induced breakouts. "It's not really the UV filter itself that causes spots, its more how the cream is formulated around the filter. Avoid creams that have a greasy texture and don't sink into your skin after a couple of minutes. A good starting point is any sunscreen that states 'oil free' on the bottle." So we guess using the same sunscreen for your body, as your face is a no, no? "I haven't found any body sunscreens that I would recommend to my patients on their face". Two sunscreens it is then.

Related: 13 Health Tweaks to Make in Your 30s to Stay Healthy for the Rest of Your Life

(Provided by Reader's Digest)

May 22nd 2017

Cambodia thought it had a handle on its scarcity of iodine, an element critical for humans (and one not made naturally by the body) to make thyroid hormone. The country had long struggled with the lack of iodine in its soil, which at one point in the late 1990s resulted in goiters in 17% of its population, per UNICEF. The solution: iodizing table salt, a cheap way to boost citizens' iodine intake. But as the New York Times reports, national efforts to iodize table salt started disintegrating in 2010, and in 2011 a major event happened more than 2,600 miles away that had unexpected consequences for the country's iodine deficiency dilemma: the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, which caused once-affordable iodine to spike in price globally and decimate specifically Cambodia's salt industry.

The iodizing initiative had already started to erode before 2011, as the government and salt producers let things fall through the cracks. After the tsunami, things worsened: There was already a dearth of iodine due to the 2008 recession, and the natural disaster in Japan, which produces about a third of the world's iodine, exacerbated it. Add cheaper, non-iodized Vietnamese salt in, as well as the fact that iodine was being scooped up by higher-paying parties such as pharmaceutical firms, and iodized salt in Cambodia fell by the wayside. Now suffering the effects: the country's kids, 2,300 of whom, when tested in 2014, showed a 30% drop of iodine levels in urine compared to 2011. Iodine Global Network Director Jonathan Gorstein tells the Times efforts must be taken anew to halt the deficiency and the "pattern in which success leads to backsliding." (Iodine deficiency in pregnancy can lower a baby's IQ.)

May 17th 2017

Leading audiologist Vincent Howard of Hearology is passionate about preventing hearing loss. He experienced hearing problems first-hand when, as a teenager, a rock concert left him with dramatic hearing loss and tinnitus.

Here he explains the ways you're inadvertently damaging your hearing:

1. You do DIY at the weekends

It's worth any DIY enthusiasts bearing in mind that even a hand held drill can reach 95 decibels. That's the same as a macerator or a large truck passing nearby. My advice is always wear ear plugs! It's not just prolonged exposure to noise that damages the ears – a one-off exposure can be just as bad.

2. You're a jet setter

If you fly frequently you'll know about the importance of drinking lots of water – resulting in numerous visits to the loo during the flight. I recently measured the vacuum flush noise level at 110dB with my handy, mobile decibel counter. So keep your headphones on when you visit the loo on the plane – looks odd, but saves your ears!

3. You love a night on the tiles

Clubbers should bear in mind that the average nightclub plays music at 120 decibels. Dance next to the bass woofer and you're looking at 125 decibels (and remember that the decibel scale increases exponentially). Without ear plugs, you could find yourself with some kind of hearing damage after only four minutes inside the club – every three-decibel-point increase halves your safe exposure time.

4. You're a biker

Motorcyclists carefully protect every single part of the body – but often neglect their ears. The helmet is designed to protect your head so even though it covers your ears does very little to conserve hearing. Long rides with sustained high revs will definitely damage your hearing so ear plugs are essential.

5. You're a hairdresser

Working at a hair salon does not sound like a hazardous job. But did you know that hairdryers can reach 95dB? There's an assumption that ear plugs drown out all the noise so if worn you won't be able to converse with clients – but that's not the case. You can get cool-looking hearing protection with a voice filter that excludes the damaging sounds but permits human voice frequencies.

6. You can't face commuting without coffee

I often get my portable decibel counter out while waiting for my morning coffee after my early morning commute. The screeching milk frother can exceed 90dB. While I appreciate my coffee greatly – it's really not worth risking hearing loss – especially when you can look after yourself so easily with hearing protection.

7. You play in an orchestra

Are you a classical musician? Then your hearing is probably in more danger than you realise – because hearing damage is not confined to loud rock music. For example, if you play the viola, you might think that your ears are safe – but you also sit right in the firing line of the brass section, which can peak at 140dB in some pieces (about the volume of a jet engine).

Anything above 80dB is harmful to the ears, because at this point the intensity of the sound is sufficient to damage the hair cells that are intricately arranged around the inner ear.

These hair cells turn sound waves into electrical impulses that the brain can process so you can 'hear'. Damage these hair cells at your peril – they don't grow back. I recommend that all musicians, conductors and DJs wear hearing protection.

Related: Hearing Loss May Double In U.S. By 2060 (Provided by Wochit News)

May 17th 2017

Catching the flu raises your risk of having a heart attack by 17 times, new research from scientists suggests.

Those who suffer a bout of the virus or other serious respiratory infection like bronchitis or pneumonia have a much higher risk of cardiac arrest for one week following the illness.

The risk is still higher than average for a month after the infection, researchers in Australia found.

The new insight comes from a study of more than 500 heart attack patients at a hospital in Sydney during the winter. More than a fifth had suffered a serious infection in the past month and 17 per cent in the past week.

Head researcher Professor Geoffrey Tofler, from the University of Sydney, said: “The data showed that the increased risk of a heart attack isn't necessarily just at the beginning of respiratory symptoms, it peaks in the first seven days and gradually reduces but remains elevated for one month.”

Milder upper respiratory tract infections, like strep throat and sinusitis, also raised the heart attack risk by 13 times.

May16th 2017

A team of researchers believe testosterone is the reason why females are much more prone to develop asthma after puberty than males.

In a new study on mice, scientists found that testosterone, the male sex hormone, blocks the development of an immune cell that triggers allergic asthma. This type of asthma, also known as allergy-induced asthma, is when a person’s allergy to something, such as pollen or food, causes asthma symptoms.

“While boys are more susceptible than girls to develop asthma, there is a switch after puberty, and then women are more susceptible and develop more severe asthma than men,” study author Cyril Seillet explains in the video below. “So we wondered if the hormones could actually modulate the immune system and explain why there is a switch in susceptibility.”

The research, published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, states that certain immune cells associated with asthma were found less frequently in males than females. The researchers found that the immune cells ‘sensed’ testosterone, which caused them to stop multiplying.

The allergy-inducing immune cells, called innate lymphoid cells, live in the lungs, skin, and other organs. The cells produce proteins that can cause lung inflammation due to allergic asthma triggers, such as dust mites or pet hair.

Study author Gabrielle Belz notes more research needs to be done, but she believes this finding could lead to more effective treatments for the condition.

“Current treatments for severe asthma, such as steroids, are very broad based and can have significant side effects,” Belz said in a news release. “This discovery provides use with a potential new way of treating asthma, by targeting cells that are directly contributing to the development of allergic asthma.”

Furthermore Belz notes how using a hormonal-based method of prevention or treatment has proven to be successful in treating other diseases, such as breast cancer.

About 25 million people in the United States have asthma, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. The most common type is allergic asthma.

Some of the common triggers are cockroaches, dust mites, mold, pets, and pollen. If you have allergic asthma and one of those allergens enters your airways, your immune system reacts by causing the muscles in your airways to tighten, inflame, and become blocked with mucus. Symptoms may include coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, quick breaths, and a tight chest.

Treatment of allergy-induced asthma involves avoiding known allergens, using various drug therapies, and creating an action plan to execute in the case of a severe attack. Asthma attacks can pose particular danger to pregnant women and their unborn children, since neither are receiving sufficient oxygen during an attack. The menstrual cycle and menopause may also affect the ability to breath among women with asthma.

May 11th 2017

SAN FRANCISCO — Tech company developer conferences always feature a wacky demo or three. But at Build 2017 in Seattle Wednesday, Microsoft went for the waterworks at the conclusion of CEO Satya Nadella's keynote address: it showcased a prototype watch that eliminated the arm shaking that often plagues those suffering from the neurological disease Parkinson's.

After a speech that both heralded and warned about coming leaps in technological power, Nadella screened a video that told the story of two British Microsoft researchers, Haiyan Zhang and Nicolas Villa, who decided to launch an independent project to create a tremor-eliminating device for a BBC documentary, The Big Life Fix.

Working with graphic designer and Parkinson's sufferer Emma Lawton, 32, the researchers developed a watch — which they named Emma — that, according to Microsoft, "vibrates in a distinctive pattern to disrupt the feedback loop between brain and hand."

The video showed Lawton trying to draw a square with her shaky right hand, and then again, wearing Emma. erupts in tears as she calls her mother to say this is the first time she's been able to write her name in ages.

May 10th 2017

Stripes are ubiquitous in modern life, from City shirts and barcodes, to Venetian blinds and zebra crossings

But a new study suggests they might be making us ill.

Scientists in the Netherlands and the US have discovered that for some people, simply looking at vertical lines, either on a static image, or in real life, can trigger a neural loop of activity in the brain.

In severe cases it can lead to epilepsy, but researchers think it might also be responsible for migraines.

Around one in seven people suffer migraines in Britain and the cause if often unknown. But the study authors believe that stripes in clothing, buildings or public artworks could be triggering disabling headaches, particularly in people who are already sensitive to light.

They suggest decking, radiators, escalators, repetitive brickwork and even the stripes on awnings or deckchairs could set off attacks, seizures, or just a vague feeling of unease.

"Our findings imply that in designing buildings, it may be important to avoid the types of visual patterns that can activate this circuit and cause discomfort, migraines, or seizures," said Dr Dora Hermes of the University Medical Center (UMC) Utrecht in the Netherlands.

"Even perfectly healthy people may feel modest discomfort from the images that are most likely to trigger seizures in photosensitive epilepsy."

It is well-known that flickering or bright lights can trigger epileptic seizures or migraines. In one incident in 1997, one episode of a Pokemon cartoon resulted in 685 people in Japan suffering seizures. Similarly an advert for the London 2012 Olympics, which showed a diver in a rippling multi-coloured swimming pool, had to be altered after it sparked epileptic fits.

They suggest decking, radiators, escalators, repetitive brickwork and even the stripes on awnings or deckchairs could set off attacks, seizures, or just a vague feeling of unease.

"Our findings imply that in designing buildings, it may be important to avoid the types of visual patterns that can activate this circuit and cause discomfort, migraines, or seizures," said Dr Dora Hermes of the University Medical Center (UMC) Utrecht in the Netherlands.

"Even perfectly healthy people may feel modest discomfort from the images that are most likely to trigger seizures in photosensitive epilepsy."

It is well-known that flickering or bright lights can trigger epileptic seizures or migraines. In one incident in 1997, one episode of a Pokemon cartoon resulted in 685 people in Japan suffering seizures. Similarly an advert for the London 2012 Olympics, which showed a diver in a rippling multi-coloured swimming pool, had to be altered after it sparked epileptic fits.

Jonathan Winawer at New York University added: “Radiator grills can be provocative, and are in fact sometimes covered by patients with pattern-sensitive epilepsy. “

Around 500,000 people suffer from epilepsy in Britain, which can be caused by brain damage at birth, a severe blow to the head, a stroke, an infection of the brain such as meningitis or very occasionally, a brain tumour.

However in around six in 10 cases doctors do not know the cause. Some types last for a short time, while others can last for the whole of your life. It is usually treated with medication. The research was published in the journal Current Biology.

May 10th 2017

With every passing year our brains tend to get a little less sharp, because like every other organ in the body, our brain ages over time.

This decreases memory performance and cognitive ability, meaning it takes that little bit longer to do the crossword.

But now scientists have discovered that cannabis is capable of reversing this process in the brains of mice, seeing them regress to the cerebral state of two-month-old animals.

Professor Andreas Zimmer, said: “The treatment completely reversed the loss of performance in the old animals. It looked as though the THC treatment turned back the molecular clock.”

A low dose treatment (at non-intoxicating levels) was given to the older rodents, at twelve and eighteen-months-old, which is old given their life span relative to humans.

And this treatment saw their grey matter effectively made ‘younger’ again.

The researchers at the University of Bonn and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem administered a small quantity of THC, the active ingredient in the hemp plant over a period of time.

They then tested learning capacity and memory performance in the animals – including, orientation skills and found that capabilities had increased.

Whereas mice who were only given a placebo, displayed natural age-dependent learning and memory losses.

They also discovered that the brain ages much faster when mice do not possess any functional receptors for THC, proteins to which the substances dock.

The next step is a clinical trial in humans, with the hope that these findings could be used to treat dementia in the future.

The health benefits of cannabis are still disputed, back in November, a study found that cannabis users are twice as likely to suffer from “Broken Heart Syndrome”, a rare condition which mimics heart attack symptoms.

The syndrome, also known as stress cardiomyopathy, is a sudden, usually temporary weakening of the heart muscle.

May 7th 2017

A team of researchers believe they’re one step closer to figuring out what triggers eczema, a group of painful skin conditions.

In a paper, published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, scientists discuss how a key skin protein barrier called filaggrin acts on other proteins, which ultimately drives the development of eczema.

Their findings have lead them to identify possible targets for future medications that treat the cause of the disorder, rather than its symptoms.

Research from several years ago by scientists at the University of Dundee found that a lack of filaggrin in the skin leads to a different skin condition known as ichthyosis vulgaris, which is strongly linked to atopic eczema.

“We have shown for the first time that loss of the filaggrin protein alone is sufficient to alter key proteins and pathways involved in triggering eczema,” said lead investigator of the study Nick Reynolds, in a press release. “This research reinforces the importance of filaggrin deficiency leading to problems with the barrier function in the skin and predisposing someone to eczema.”

To mimic the skin observed in patients with atopic eczema, the researchers created a human model system in the laboratory. They used molecular techniques on the model to make the outermost layer of the skin filaggrin-deficient.

They then studied a number of regulatory mechanisms affected by the protein, which control various functions, such as stress responses.

“This latest research from Newcastle is crucial as it expands on our knowledge of how filaggrin impacts on other proteins and pathways in the skin, which in turn trigger the disease,” said Nina Goad of the British Association of Dermatologists. “This type of research allows scientists to develop treatments that target the actual root cause of the disease, rather than just managing its symptoms. Given the level of suffering eczema causes, this is a pivotal piece of research.”

The term eczema refers to a group of conditions that cause inflamed, irritated skin. The most common type is atopic eczema. It’s a chronic condition that most often begins before age five, and tends to come and go, causing inflammation. Symptoms vary widely from person to person, but can include severe itching, red to brownish-gray patches of skin, raised bumps, and scaly skin.

Many people with the condition need to try various treatments to figure out what works best for their specific symptoms. There are different types of medications available that help control itching and inflammation, help repair skin, and fight infection. There’s also therapies such as wet dressing, light therapy, stress treatments, and behavior modification or biofeedback to help reduce habitual scratching. To reduce itching and soothe inflamed skin, Mayo Clinic recommends an extensive list of self-care measures, such as taking a bleach bath, moisturizing your skin at least twice a day, wearing smooth-textured cotton clothing, and using a humidifier.

May 7th 2017

The man sporting a giant purple bottom adorned with a swinging horse tail is chanting to the beat of the drummers, his blue-painted face sweating copiously. Children delightedly race around the colourful clown. All except Ismail, 13, who watches from the ground, twisting his head to follow the dance. A man with a megaphone is yelling something, but it can’t be heard in the melee. Then a group of blue-caped women emerge from the crowd, clutching cheap market stall lunchboxes, to begin the real business of the day.

This is the “flag-off” in Ungogo, Kano state. The party marks the first of four days of intense work by an army of volunteers, mostly young mothers, who will go door to door across Nigeria. Some will pass through thousands of twisting warrens of slums fanning out into the red-orange, mud-built hamlets and reed-thatched huts. Others will visit the crumbling concrete city blocks, slipping drops of polio vaccine into as many of the 30 million Nigerian children under five as they can find.

Their capes bear the slogan: “Lafiyar al’ummarmu hakkin kowa da kowa ne” – “The health of the child is the responsibility of all.” The lunchboxes are filled with ice and polio vaccine. They have marker pens to dab on the finger of each treated child and chalk to mark every house wall they visit, marking which child was vaccinated and when. No one is to be missed out.

Ismail has mixed feelings as he watches, his useless legs tucked under him in the dust. He contracted polio aged two. “I blame my parents,” he says, “for not having me vaccinated, it makes me angry with them. I don’t feel so glad to see this today, I feel sad.”

Polio is a plague on the poor, a paralysing, disabling brute of a virus, it deforms the limbs and wastes the muscles. Children under five are most at risk and places with poor sanitation are favoured feeding grounds for the virus, which spreads through infected faeces. For every one person paralysed by polio, another 200 will be contagious.

Even in countries like the UK, where it has long been wiped out, sewers are regularly tested to ensure that polio does not sneak back into the population. Only three host countries remain: Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Nigeria was on track to be declared polio-free in 2017. But just as it was ready to celebrate, the disease returned.

The stumbling block here is not a lack of effort. The drive to vaccinate by Nigeria, with help from Unicef, which has been behind this mass mobilisation, has been heroic. The problem is Boko Haram.

This fearsome insurgency group holds a great swath of territory in north-east Nigeria, where it attempts to impose an extreme form of Islamic law and a hatred of the west. Violent and insular, Boko Haram also tries to seal people in its territory and keep vaccination teams, seen as a western influence, out. It is to this area that polio has returned, and the fear is that those fleeing their violence could bring the virus back into the wider country. The two polio cases discovered in August were children displaced from Maiduguri, capital of Boko Haram’s stronghold, Borno state.

Boko Haram is now weaker, but the poverty, propaganda and fear that brought them into being remain strong. The memory of the murder of two Kano vaccination teams four years ago is still fresh. “I was soaked in blood,” said Abbas Ibrahim Musa, in the village of Kauyen Alu. “It was a Friday, at 8.30 am. I was preparing the vaccines. I heard a gunshot and raised my head and saw a man in the door holding a gun. I fell to the floor and heard ‘bang, bang’. Then ‘shoot them, shoot them’. There was the smell of petrol and they started to burn the place. I had bodies on top of me. Providence decreed I didn’t die that day. Three people died and three were injured. One had just finished her studies, one a bus conductor with one child and a pregnant wife. One sold vegetables.”

Meanwhile, in a nearby village, other gunmen were slaughtering eight women, another team of volunteers. Three days before, a radio show had run an item in which an imam repeated allegations that the polio vaccine was a western plot to sterilise Muslims.

“I can say this,” said Musa. “Without Boko Haram polio would be a thing of the past. Some say health is not the problem; security is. They are linked. If we hear one child in Maiduguri has polio, then that means there are 200. So what if there are 10 children there? And very many children are coming out of the conflict zone. We don’t know, so we have to work harder. We persuade people by educating them. You make them understand. We have reduced the non-compliance rate here now to almost zero. I tell our workers ‘your names are written in gold’.”

But with some religious leaders sharing the distrust, what should have been a celebration of a disease eradicated is now a renewed struggle to finish a job that should have been over. Since the outbreak in Boko Haram-controlled territory, northern Nigeria has been in emergency mode. Teams of vaccinators are out almost constantly. “I almost cried,” said Rhoda Samson, “but not to finish the job is not acceptable.”

At this her husband, Ali Zaki, returns home, angry at the invasion of his house: “I believe God will provide; this is what we are taught.” But he is no match for Samson: “You think God doesn’t make the medicines? You want your children to have polio? To never play? Does Allah want that? What kind of man are you?”A supervisor in the mobilisation teams, Samson is thorough, checking every move her teams make. They visit a woman whose five-day-old baby still has no name. The chalk on the wall outside shows a list of visits here. “Seven times they have said no,” said Samson as her team coo over the baby. “Bamaso,” said the mother, Amina Ali. “We don’t want. My husband says vaccine is not food, why do the government not give us food? He refused and has not offended God.”

When Zaki grudgingly agrees, the vaccine is quickly slipped into the baby’s mouth and the women clatter off, congratulating the couple. “They’ve a lot of reasons for refusing. We have some who don’t want drugs at all, some who say they won’t because they want something in return, some hear the stories,” said Samson. “The security situation is a problem. People are suspicious, they hear vaccinations make infertility. But we are bringing the numbers of non-compliants down; we will not stop.”

And they are not just fighting polio – they are creating a network and collecting data in a way never before done in Nigeria. A network of trained, community-based health workers, it’s a structure already being used to deliver other healthcare.

Senior state and government officials have recognised the value of this, gracing the polio flag-offs. In their elegant robes and themed hats, and long, often less elegant political speeches, their presence stresses to everyone in the fidgeting crowds of locals that something important is happening here. It is the kind of message that could reverse the damage done by Boko Haram, says Dr Kabiru Ibrahim Getso, Kano’s health commissioner. “Kano used to be a hub of polio cases, now it’s best practice. The last case was 2014 and this did not happen by accident. The teams are headed by the governor himself, it’s high profile This is how we do it. We go into the field every day, every day the volunteers are out there. Then we can use these structures to develop an entire primary healthcare system.”

Displaced people are especially targeted in this campaign. Abule Abdullah has hosted seven families – seven mothers and 33 children – in her home in Katsina state. One of her current guests is Aisha Idris, 40, recently arrived from Maiduguri.

“Boko Haram forced us to come here. The insurgency has stopped everything, the hospitals, the schools, everything is shut down,” she said. “My husband was killed at his Islamic reading group by a stray bullet from the fighting. My child was sick and so I came here with my children. I have to live with no roof over our heads but they have all been vaccinated now.” At the bus stations, and the state and national border crossings, the lunchbox-toting teams are there. Peering into cars, lifting the cloaks of women perched on motorbikes to find the babies strapped to their fronts and backs. Squeezing in the little vials of vaccine.

“If they say no, then we tell them they can go back,” said superintendent of immigration, Charles Tashllani, imposing order on Nigeria’s border with Niger in Katsina. Here, late in the evening, the Polio Emergency Operations committee reviews the campaign’s first day, which has seen 3,661 teams immunise 28,882 underfives. The detail is such that eight missing marker pens are on the agenda, as is the sacking of two town announcers who did not inform people about the programme.

“We look at every single child, everyone counts to us. I’m dealing with human beings. But we do have the iceberg phenomenon: many inaccessible, remote areas where we do not always know what is going on.

“People not feeling that polio is a threat to them, that is a big worry for a resurgence. But the biggest threat to health is Boko Haram. When we learned we had Borno refugees here in Katsina we were worried; they melt into the communities. It is potentially dangerous.”

The legacy of polio can be seen everywhere in Nigeria. Aminu Ahmen el-Wada lives with Hadza, his wife of 28 years, and those of their nine children who still live at home. One of life’s cheerful souls, he is enormously proud of the length of their marriage. “The trick is when I am the problem, I say sorry, when she is the problem, she says sorry,” says Wada.

The couple both skim along the floor using wooden handles Wada designed and carved to protect their hands – when your legs are withered from polio and are folded tiny and useless below your torso, your arms are the limbs that propel you. “I went to school until I became too heavy for my parents to carry me there,” said Wada. “So I taught myself to make hand-operated cycles, first for myself, then for others.” He now employs 20 people, 15 polio survivors. “Otherwise we would be beggars. This is because in Africa nobody can help you if you are disabled. But my father told me: ‘Disabled is in the body, not in the mind or in the heart,’ and this is what I believe.”

His smile falters only when he introduces Ummar, 14. His son contracted polio during a hiatus in the immunisation programme. “It was horrible. But the place behind our house is where people defecate. This is what happens.”

Wada began the Polio Survivors Group, which supports the vaccination drives. “I tell people: ‘Look at me. Do you want your child to end up like this? To never play football?’” Although he acknowledges the irony in that he also coaches a polio survivors’ para-football team. “But they would rather play for Arsenal,” he grins.

In his open-air workshop by the side of a main road in Fagge, the air smells poisonous as the men who would otherwise be beggars weld, cut and paint, making the three-wheeled, arm-operated cycles that give a certain freedom of movement. “This is the small size, for age five, then they can move up, age teenage, age adult,” he says. “One day I would like it that we make no more because polio is eradicated. Then we will make playground equipment instead, slides for happier children.”

He fires up his beaming smile: “Years ago in Nigeria we had leprosy, smallpox. We chased them all away. Now the last one is polio.”

April 27th 2017

There are plenty of old wives' tales and misconceptions about childbirth - the most enduring of which being that women in labour need to push.

But a new midwife-led programme is working to dispel this myth by encouraging women to slow down during delivery and consider alternative positions.

Designed by staff at Medway Foundation Trust in Kent, the protocol has reduced cases of traumatic tearing from seven per cent to just one per cent of patients, and successfully cut unintentional damage caused to the body during delivery by 85 per cent in some maternity wards.

It was initially created in response to a call for action by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and the Royal College of Midwives following an disturbing upsurge in severe perineal tearing affecting nearly 14,000 women in 2013 to 2014.

Nine in ten women suffer some form of tearing during childbirth and in more serious cases this can even lead to incontinence and lifelong nerve problems.

It’s something that Dot Smith, head of midwifery at Medway Foundation, blames on the misconception that women in labour need to push.

“When we saw 22 cases of third-degree tears in a month, we said, ‘‘This is not good enough,” she told the Daily Mail.

Instead, the new guidelines encourage women to try alternative positions such as standing, leaning or giving birth on their knees and coaches women to breathe through contractions in place of pushing.

Midwives are also discouraged from pulling out the baby during delivery and instead supporting the baby’s weight as it emerges to reduce pressure on the perineum.

With impressive results so far, the new programme has been so successful the results have been published in the European Journal Of Obstetrics & Gynaecology And Reproductive Biology and plans are in motion to roll it out nationally.

April 22nd 2017

Commuters who swap their car or bus pass for a bike could cut their risk of developing heart disease and cancer by almost half, new research suggests – but campaigners have warned there is still an “urgent need” to improve road conditions for cyclists.

Cycling to work is linked to a lower risk of developing cancer by 45 per cent and cardiovascular disease by 46 per cent, according to a study of a quarter of a million people.

Walking to work also brought health benefits, the University of Glasgow researchers found, but not to the same degree as cycling.

The 264,337 participants were asked how they travelled to work on a typical day. Their health was monitored for five years and the results adjusted for variables such as sex, age, existing illness, smoking and diet.

Overall, people who cycled to work were found to have a 41 per cent lower risk of premature death from any cause, compared to those who drove or took public transport.

The scientists said: “The findings, if causal, suggest population health may be improved by policies that increase active commuting, particularly cycling.”

These policies could include “the creation of cycle lanes, cycle hire or purchase schemes, and better provision for cycles on public transport,” they wrote in theBritish Medical Journal (BMJ).

Walking to work was associated with a 27 per cent lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease and a 36 per cent lower risk of dying from it – but did not appear to be linked to a lower risk of cancer or early death from any cause.

“Mixed” commuting, including both active and non-active modes of transport, was also associated with some health benefits, but only if the active part of the journey involved cycling.

“A shift from car to more active modes of travel will also decrease traffic in congested city centres and help reduce air pollution, with further benefits for health,” added Professor Lars Bo Andersen, from the Western Norwegian University of Applied Sciences.

In an editorial, Professor Andersen said switching to cycling or walking could save lives and reduce the cost to the NHS of cardiovascular disease, currently estimated at £15bn a year.

Jason Torrance of cycling charity Sustrans told The Independent cycling to work was “a proven way for people to improve their health, to help their local economies and to improve their productivity at work”.

“There’s an urgent need to improve road conditions for cyclists and transforming local roads and streets into places that people feel safe and want to be,” he said.

“Some cities are taking a leading role in doing that, like London and Manchester, which are doing some fantastic things. But more needs to be done.”

Experts behind the study said the lower benefits seen for walking compared to cycling could be down to several factors.

These include the fact cyclists covered longer distances in their commutes than the walkers, cycling is a higher intensity exercise and cyclists were generally more fit.

The people taking part in the research were aged 53 on average at the start of the study. Some 2,430 people died during the study period, with 496 deaths related to cardiovascular disease, which covers all diseases of the heart and circulation, and 1,126 deaths from cancer.

Overall, 3,748 people developed cancer over the five years, and 1,110 had an event related to cardiovascular disease, such as a heart attack or stroke.

April 19th 2017

At 23 years old, I fell fast and hard for an outgoing, charismatic man. When we began dating, he made me feel special, beautiful, and loved. I decided that any negative aspect of our relationship didn't matter because he loved me so much - there was a reasonable explanation for all of it. So when he proposed to me after almost a year of dating, I was overjoyed. I found a guy who wanted to commit his life to me. We were going to build a future together.

Six months into our engagement, that image of our life crumbled to pieces. My fiancé decided that he didn't want to marry me anymore, and it felt like a tragedy. I dreaded telling my friends and family; I was devastated. But their reactions to my news were not what I expected at all. One friend broke into tears. Another told me she was proud of me. My family felt guilty that they had let the relationship progress as much as it did.

They were relieved that my engagement to this man was over.

Everyone had been scared for me, and I didn't get why. I was confused. This was the worst thing that had ever happened to me, wasn't it? But then, loved ones started telling me of times when they wish they had said something to me. Times when my fiancé would put me down or yell at me in public. And as more people stepped forward and told me that ending this relationship was a good thing (including this guy's own close friends), I came to a horrifying realization.

I was emotionally abused, and I could not admit to myself that it was happening at the time.

There were glimmers of problems from the beginning of our relationship, but I made the choice to ignore them. He would say little things to me or shout for a moment, but I brushed it off. It didn't become bad until we moved in together a month after our engagement.

My friends only saw what was happening in front of them, but behind closed doors it was even worse.

The first memory I have of definitive emotional abuse was an evening just a week or two after we moved into our apartment. We were sitting at the bar below our place having a drink when I noticed that he was getting Snapchats from a girl he nicknamed Kate Upton in his phone. I had mentioned to him once before that this made me uncomfortable, so when I saw that she had popped up once again, I questioned him about it. And he became furious with me.

He immediately stomped up the stairs to our apartment, and I quickly followed behind. He was livid. He told me I was ridiculous and jealous for questioning if he would be inappropriately interacting with another girl. And I felt terrible that I would ever question him - we were getting married, after all.

But the more I cried and apologized, the more he screamed at me.

I began to have a panic attack and I melted down to the ground, curled up in a ball in the hallway. But instead of stopping the yelling, he stood over me and continued to scream. I started hyperventilating. He told me I was faking it and I was pathetic. After he finished the shouting, he walked away from me. We were silent for about 20 minutes, then we got into bed and went to sleep. The next morning, he said he was sorry, but I needed to calm down with my emotions. So in the end, I was the one apologizing for what transpired the night before.

This was not a one-time thing. There were many more fights like this. And in the end I was always the one made to feel guilty. How dare I ever question him - he proposed to me. How could I do that to him? I was disgusted with myself for doubting him on a regular basis. I told myself that it was my anxiety making me paranoid.

But the screaming wasn't the only problem. This man would criticize me, put me down, and make me feel small constantly. If he didn't like something I was wearing, he would make sure I knew it. He told me I wasn't very funny and he didn't get why my friends laughed at me. He would constantly belittle me for being clumsy. I was afraid to spill something in front of him.

Another problem entirely was his lack of respect for people close to him. I watched him yell at his family on a regular basis over the tiniest things. He started off being incredibly close with my parents (they even helped him pick out my engagement ring), but as soon as we started planning the wedding, everything changed.

I started gaining weight. I became very quiet at work. I saw less of my friends. I felt bad about myself, but I didn't understand why. Wedding planning was not fun; I found it stressful. Like always, I told myself it was all in my head.

He had a lot of opinions about how he envisioned our wedding should be, and if my parents or I had a differing opinion, he was angry about it. We weren't putting a dime of our own money into the big day, so I felt weird about his resentment toward any ideas other than his own. When I tried to tell him that, he would tell me I was wrong. "Don't you love me because I have a lot of opinions?" he would say.

He stopped visiting my family with me. When I mentioned my parents, he would make snide remarks about them. I stopped talking about them altogether because it made me uncomfortable. My family loved me so much, and all they were trying to do was give us a dream wedding.

I loved this guy so much that I didn't care how I was feeling on the inside. I would do anything for him, and he knew that. So when he told me he was unhappy in our relationship, I asked him what I could do to fix that. All he could say was that he didn't know.

Eventually he told me that proposing to me was a mistake, but he wanted me to stay with him to see if we could work things out. More specifically, if I could fix all the things that were "wrong with me." And I did stay for a while. I so desperately wanted him to wake up and realize that no woman would love him the way I did. But he went about every day like things were normal, and I woke up every morning with dread, unsure of my future.

I asked him what was going on with our relationship a couple times, and each time it would result in an intense fight where we would part ways and stay with our families for a night or two. He told me I was impossible to talk to because I was too emotional.

After a weekend without hearing from him, I texted him asking if we could meet at the apartment and talk. His response - "Why?" I told him we needed to figure out what was going on, and he told me it wasn't a good thing for him personally to talk to me. We ended things.

I said I was moving out, so he went through everything I owned and put it in the middle of the family room. "I hope I made it a little easier for you," he said. While I sat at my parents' house (my new temporary home) and cried for a week straight, I received texts and calls from all over town - people told me he was out drinking most nights with his friends. They were confused by his actions. It hurt.

He blocked me and my friends from every social media platform. But that didn't stop the awful screenshots of his tweets bragging about going out and joking about needing a wingman. Even his friends were not loyal to him because they knew he turned me into a shell of the person I used to be.

A week later, on top of everything I had just gone through, I learned that he was not faithful to me. He was sending all sorts of photos of his penis to another girl before we were even engaged. Several people who knew about the exchanges informed me, even providing physical proof that the "other girl" admitted to all of it.

When I confronted him and his parents about his infidelity (bravest thing I've ever done, by the way), he pulled me to the side and asked me why I was trying to ruin his life. "We're done, Macy," he shouted at me. "You're trying to cause drama."

But I wasn't trying to cause drama. For the first time in my life, I was standing up to him. He had made me feel so guilty for questioning him all this time. And that feeling in the pit of my stomach was right all along. After trying to protect him and our relationship for a year and a half of my life, I was done. I missed who I used to be. I missed being happy. I realized that I had dedicated a huge period of my life trying to make sure I didn't make someone mad, and I was exhausted.

Why am I telling you this story? Because I know there are other people out there like me. People who lose themselves in the name of love, even if that love isn't healthy. Nobody deserves to be screamed at. Nobody deserves to be berated. I didn't understand that before, but I certainly know it now.

I was so scared to write about my experience, but now I feel empowered by it. I wanted to protect my former fiancé because a part of me still loves him, but I'm finished doing that now. I am trying to remind myself that yes, I am smart, funny, and strong. I didn't feel like I was any of those things for a long time. I'm having a hard time telling myself that now, but I will believe it again soon.

If you feel like you're being emotionally abused, trust your gut. Don't make excuses for it like I did. Learn from me. Talk to someone you trust. You may feel like you can't live without your partner, but you can. It will hurt. I'm still hurting every single day. But little by little, you will find yourself again. You won't believe you lived the way you did because of how happy you are now. And you will be stronger for it.

6 Things All Couples Should Do In Their First Year of Marriage

(Provided by PureWow)

April17th 2017

The last time you took a good look at your tongue was probably after eating a piece of coloured hard candy or taking a photo with your tongue out à la 2013 Miley Cyrus.

Tongues are kind of weird when you think hard about them; they're hunks of muscular flesh in the middle of your mouth. In traditional Chinese medicine, how your tongue looks is a pretty big deal, and some doctors say they can diagnose an issue just by looking at the patterns and colors on it. Medical doctors and dentists can also tell a lot about your health by looking at your mouth and tongue (they don't make you say "ah" for nothing). So, if you notice your tongue is a little white, what does that mean?

That's probably tongue plaque, says Fariba Younai, DDS, professor of clinical dentistry at UCLA School of Dentistry. Your tongue naturally cleans itself and renews the cells on the surface to get rid of bacteria, dead cells, and debris, Dr. Younai says. But when someone has tongue plaque, that renewal doesn't happen and your tongue gets covered in a white film.

"This can happen with age, dry mouth, tobacco and alcohol use, and also with fever or illness," she says. While it's not necessarily a sign that you have a dirty mouth, you can get rid of tongue plaque by scraping your tongue and using mouthwash, she says. In other words, it's really no big deal. "Tongue plaque can cause bad breath, but, in itself, it is not considered a serious condition," she says.

There are a few other conditions that can cause white spots on your tongue, Dr. Younai says. If you see separate white spots on your tongue, it could be a sign of a superficial fungal infection, an inflammatory condition, or even early signs of tongue cancer, she says. You really shouldn't freak if you have a white spot on your tongue, but it's best if you contact your dentist or doctor so they can take a look and see if it's anything to be worried about. If you've been on antibiotics for a while, according to the Mayo Clinic, it's also possible that you could get a yeast infection in your mouth that turns your tongue white.

A healthy tongue should be pink and covered with small, uniform papillae (or bumps), according to the Cleveland Clinic. When you're brushing your teeth, it's a good idea to brush your tongue to get rid of any bacteria that might be lingering on the surface. A tongue scraper also does the same thing and is a handy tool to have. Your dentist can show you how to do this if you're not sure — and yeah, you probably should make a dentist appointment if you haven't been in a while.

April 15th 2017

The toxic chemicals used to fireproof couches and mattresses are causing a surge in thyroid cancer, according to US experts.

Terry Edge worked for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy but quit last year after his proposals to restrict all flame retardants were met with rejection.

He said: ‘Flame retardants are causing thousands of cancers and other illnesses, with children particularly vulnerable.’

Despite the fact that the chemicals have been restricted, experts in the field insist that it’s not enough.

In Britain, thyroid cancer cases have risen by 74% in the last decade and US researchers are laying the blame squarely on the rising rates of flame retardants.

Scientists from Duke University analysed household dust and blood samples taken from people with thyroid cancer and found they had a high exposure to flame retardants called polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs).

Despite being banned in 2004, they still remain in the homes of people who bought them before that year.

The patients were also found to have higher levels of TCEP – a flame retardant banned 16 years ago – and both are linked to cancer as they interfere with hormones.

DecaBDE, the most widely used of the PBDE chemicals, is not banned but highly restricted.

Dr Heather Stapleton, whose work will be presented at the International Symposium on Fire Retardants in York, told the Sunday Times:

‘The chemicals are released as household dust and enter our bodies on our food and hands, with the highest levels in children.’

Health issues relating to brominated flame retardants include learning problems, low sperm counts and difficulties in conception and have been used in couches, mattresses and carpets.

April 14th 2017

Holding in your pee could significantly damage your bladder over time.

During a night of drinking after throwing back a few beers, we "break the seal," or follow our urge to pee. Once we open the floodgates, our bladder control weakens, as we run back and forth between the bar and the bathroom for the feel-good release. One too many bathroom breaks later, we try to hold in our pee, but science suggests this could significantly damage our bladder over time.

In TED-Ed's video, "Is it bad to hold your pee?" host Heba Shaheed explains that resisting the urge to urinate can weaken our pelvic floor muscles that work to keep our bladder sealed, until we're ready to go. The external urethral sphincter, one of the pelvic floor muscles, provides support to the urethra and bladder neck. This muscle, along with others, prevents bladder leakage that could otherwise occur from the pressure of coughing, sneezing, laughing, or jumping.

How Pee Travels Through The Body

Surrounding the bladder are several organs that make up the urinary system, including two kidneys, two ureters, two urethral sphincters, and a urethra. Urine trickles down from the kidney, funneling it down into the two muscular tubes known as the ureters. The ureters are responsible for carrying the urine downward into the bladder.

The detrusor muscle, the wall of tissue in the bladder, relaxes the bladder, allowing it to inflate like a balloon. Therefore, when the bladder gets full, the detrusor contracts, and the internal urethral sphincter automatically and involuntarily opens, leading to the release of urine.

Typically, we should urinate at least four to six times a day, but what happens when we have to force ourselves to cinch it in?

Holding In Your Pee

Once the urine enters the urethra, it stops short at the external urethral sphincter, similar to a tap. When we delay urine, we keep the sphincter closed; we voluntarily open the flood gates when we release it. Stretch receptors inside the layers of the detrusor muscles send signals along our nerves to the sacral region of the spinal cord, triggering a reflex signal to travel back to the bladder. This increases the bladder's pressure, so we know it's filling up, causing the internal urethral sphincter to open simultaneously, known as the micturition reflex.

The brain can tell if it's a good time to urinate by sending another signal to contract the external urethral sphincter. We get the urge to pee when there's about 150 to 200 milliliters inside the bladder; 400 to 500 milliliters will make us feel very uncomfortable. Although the bladder can keep stretching; above 1,000 milliliters it can burst.

In rare cases, the bladder can rupture painfully requiring surgery to fix it. However, under normal circumstances, the decision to pee stops the brain's signal to the external urethral sphincter, causing it to relax, and the bladder to empty.

The Verdict

Holding in pee for too long, forcing the urine out too fast, or urinating without proper physical support (i.e., squatting), can weaken or overwork the pelvic floor muscles overtime. This can lead to an overactive pelvic floor, bladder pain, urgency or urinary incontinence.

Frequent trips from the bar and bathroom after breaking the seal doesn't sound like a bad alternative after all.

April 14th 2017

Young dieters following “clean eating” regimes that cut out dairy produce face developing osteoporosis in later life, a charity has warned.

A National Osteoporosis Society (NOS) survey found four in 10 young adults have tried the fashionable diets that often involve avoiding dairy, gluten, grain and sugar, while more than fifth had severely restricted their intake of milk and cheese.

Fuelled by social media, the clean eating trend has surged in popularity in recent years, with some advocates achieving celebrity status with hundreds of thousands of followers.

 

— NOS (@OsteoporosisSoc) April 12, 2017

However the charity warned that restrictive diets among younger generations will lead to widespread health issues in later life, including osteoporosis which causes bones to become brittle and break.

Charity adviser Professor Susan Lanham-New told the Daily Telegraph: “By the time we get into our late twenties it is too late to reverse the damage caused by nutrient deficiencies.

“Without urgent action being taken to encourage young adults to incorporate all food groups into their diets and avoid clean eating regimes, we are facing a future where broken bones will become the norm.

“Osteoporosis is a painful and debilitating condition and young adults have just one chance to build strong bones.”

The NOS surveyed more than 2,000 adults and found 70% of those aged 18 to 35 were on or had been on a diet and 18 to 24-year-olds were most likely to have tried clean eating.

The diets often focus on avoiding processed foods and eating raw, unrefined produce. Dairy foods are a source of calcium, an essential nutrient for the health and strength of bones.

The NOS campaign, A Message to My Younger Self, is being supported by nutrition expert and skincare guru Liz Earle.

She said: “When I was growing up, my meals weren’t photographed and shared on social media. The pressure young women are under to match what their idols on Instagram are eating is really high.”

April 11th 2017

Cheer up tips

All of us have down days, especially at this time of year when the cold and dark can exacerbate a bad mood, but you needn't muddle through feeling rubbish (or reach for the family pack of Dairy Milk...)

Science has shown that a few simple tweaks can work wonders, making you feel instantly happier.

Easy to do and affordable, why not try these six proven tips next time you feel like you woke up on the wrong side of the bed?

1. Have a clementine

We can't move for clementines in the run-up to Christmas, and that's no bad thing if you're feeling grumpy. According to a study on the effects of fragrance on emotions published in Chemical Sciences, the smell of this citrus fruit is one of the most mood-enhancing around.

Someone pass us the fruit bowl.

2. Get moving

Yes, we know you only feel like watching TV with a glass of wine, but research has shown that doing some exercise WILL help more. We've all heard that 'endorphins make you happy' and it's true – research by the British Journal of Sports Medicine revealed that doing just 20 minutes of physical activity could impact mood. Time to try a high intensity workout?

3. Clear up a bit

While slumping on the sofa may seem like a more favourable option when you're feeling down, having a quick tidy up could work wonders. According to research by the University of California, women had higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol when they described their environment as messy. You'll be surprised by how much you can get done (and dusted) in 15 minutes, and will probably feel extremely pleased with yourself afterwards.

4. Listen to an upbeat song

Misery doesn't love company – when it comes music, at least. Rather than wallowing in your poor mood by listening to depressing or angsty songs on your iPhone, research says a happy tune is the way forward. According to a 2013 study published in the Journal of Positive Psychology, people who listened to upbeat music had better moods and happiness levels in as little as two weeks. (*Googles Pharrell's 'Happy').

5. Get outside

Your nan was right: getting some fresh air really will do you good. Simply making an effort to get out in the daylight can have a positive effect on mood, research has suggested. A study published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology revealed that people felt more positive in bright light, while getting some sunshine will make your brain produce more of the feel-good hormone serotonin.

6. Look at some old photos

Just flicking through a few of your old Facebook albums could give you an instant lift, according to researchers at the Open University. Viewing personal photos was shown to make people feel happier than even eating chocolate or watching TV.

 

April 11th 2017

Panic Attacks

Honesty is always the best policy, especially when it comes to mental health issues.

In "Humans of New York" Colombia series, one girl gets very real about dealing with anxiety and panic attacks.

“I was the best student in my high school. I put so much pressure on myself," she said. "I never failed a class. But I got sick during 10th grade and I started to fall behind. That’s when the panic attacks began."

She goes on to describe what a panic attack feels like:

"One day the teacher handed me my grade report, and I couldn’t breathe. My heart was beating very fast. I felt disconnected. I saw people trying to talk to me but I couldn’t hear them. Eventually I passed out and woke up in the infirmary," she shared.

It was then that the attacks started happening almost daily, and they haven't stopped.

"Last year I started college. And I can’t be the best student here no matter how hard I try," she said. "Everyone is so talented. My panic attacks got so bad that I had to cancel my first semester."

However, now she is facing her anxiety head-on, and things are getting better.

"I used to try to hide it. I would log off social media. I wouldn’t answer calls. I thought that if nobody knew, it didn’t exist," she said. "But the more I talk about my problem, the more I realise that other people experience similar things. So I’m trying to express it more. I had a great teacher who told me: ‘Instead of letting anxiety keep you from doing your art, let it be the thing that motivates your art.’”

You can see the whole gorgeous post below:

“I was the best student in my high school. I put so much pressure on myself. I never failed a class. But I got sick during 10th grade and I started to fall behind. That’s when the panic attacks began. One day the teacher handed me my grade report, and I couldn’t breathe. My heart was beating very fast. I felt disconnected. I saw people trying to talk to me but I couldn’t hear them. Eventually I passed out and woke up in the infirmary. The attacks were almost daily after that. Last year I started college. And I can’t be the best student here no matter how hard I try. Everyone is so talented. My panic attacks got so bad that I had to cancel my first semester. But now I’m working on acknowledging my anxiety. I used to try to hide it. I would log off social media. I wouldn’t answer calls. I thought that if nobody knew, it didn’t exist. But the more I talk about my problem, the more I realize that other people experience similar things. So I’m trying to express it more. I had a great teacher who told me: ‘Instead of letting anxiety keep you from doing your art, let it be the thing that motivates your art.’” (Bogotá, Colombia)

April 10th 2017

Brain food

Your diet affects your mental health in a significant way and your brain is probably the best and the worst gadget you will ever own.

It runs 24 hours, obeys every command and even swears for you and scolds itself when it doesn't! But the same gadget that does your every bidding can also turn on you and wreck your life if you aren't careful. Mental health is not just treating yourself but also this gadget right. As all gadgets, this one too runs on fuel. It obviously misbehaves when the fuel is bad quality or not adequate. Just FYI we are talking about food as fuel for your brain.

Recent studies have shown how much food impacts your mood, physical well-being and ultimately mental health. Research has shown that the risk of depression increases about 80% when you compare teens with the lowest-quality diet to those who eat a higher-quality, whole-foods diet. The risk of attention-deficit disorder (ADD) doubles.

Felice Jacka, President of the International Society for Nutritional Psychiatry Research remarks "A healthy diet is protective and an unhealthy diet is a risk factor for depression and anxiety.” There is also interest in the possible role food allergies may play in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, she says.

But why does food affect your brain this drastically? Here's breaking it down for you.

1. What is Serotonin and how it affects your brain

 You feel queasy when you are nervous because that's your brain affecting your gut similarly your gut affects your brain.

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep and appetite, mediate moods, and inhibit pain. About 95% of your serotonin is produced in your gut and your gastrointestinal tract is lined with a hundred million nerve cells or neurons. It makes sense that the inner workings of your digestive system don’t just help you digest food, but also guide your emotions

2. The "Good" Bacteria

The function of these neurons and the production of neurotransmitters like serotonin is influenced by the billions of “good” bacteria that make up your intestinal microbiome. These bacteria protect the lining of your intestines and ensure they provide a strong barrier against toxins and “bad” bacteria. They limit inflammation and improve how you absorb nutrients from your food. They also activate neural pathways that travel directly between the gut and the brain.

So a bad diet can affect the way your Bacteria and neutrons function ultimately affecting the way your brain functions.

3. Your diet is crucial for brain development</h2>

Roxanne Sukol, MD, preventive medicine specialist at Cleveland Clinic's Wellness Institute says "When we eat real food that nourishes us, it becomes the protein-building blocks, enzymes, brain tissue, and neurotransmitters that transfer information and signals between various parts of the brain and body.

4. Your diet puts the brain into grow mode

Certain nutrients and dietary patterns are linked to changes in a brain protein that helps increase connections between brain cells. A diet rich in nutrients like omega-3s and zinc boosts levels of this substance.

On the other hand, a diet high in saturated fats and refined sugars has a very potent negative impact on brain proteins. Some research hints that a high-sugar diet worsens schizophrenia symptoms, too.

5. Stay away from "Trick food"

Some foods are perfect at temporarily promoting the neurotransmitter that we lack and, as we crave and then consume them, they ‘trick’ us into feeling better, for a while.

Substances like chocolate, coffee or sugar-rich products encourage the brain to down-regulate. Down-regulation is the brain’s instinctive mechanism for achieving homeostasis -- a balanced state with the perfect amount of neurotransmitters.

When an excess of substance leads to a flood in neurotransmitters (for example, adrenaline triggered by a strong coffee), the brain’s receptors respond by ‘closing down’ until the excess is metabolised away. This can create a vicious circle. The brain down-regulates in response to certain substances, which in turn prompt the individual to increase their intake of those substances to get the release of the neurotransmitter that their brain is lacking. This is one reason why people sometimes crave certain products.

Diet hence plays a major role when it comes to one's mental health. You can check out how what you eat is affecting your mental health and how you can improve your mental health by eating healthy right here!

Remember to mind the stomach as much as you mind the mind!

April 9th 2017

Killers

Water might seem like the least harmful substance on the planet, but drinking too much of it can kill.

So can too much or too little of a number of other things most of us take for granted, from caffeine to the stuff you use to clean your bathroom.

To calculate how much of each of these items would be dangerous enough to kill, we've used a standard measure of toxicity known as LD50, the individual dose it would take to kill half the animals it was tested on.

This amount can vary pretty significantly depending on someone's health, gender, and medical history. The potentially deadly dosages in the slides that follow were calculated for the average 196-pound American male.

Coffee

Coffee's great for making you feel more alert and boosting your attention span, and at low doses, it's perfectly safe.

But at high concentrations, caffeine can cause insomnia, dizziness, vomiting, headaches, and heart problems , and too much in one sitting can be deadly.

The risk of overdoing it is highest for pure powdered caffeine. A single tablespoon of this stuff — the equivalent of about 120 cups of coffee — can kill. During the summer of 2014, two young men died in separate incidents after each drank mixtures of pure powdered caffeine and water

Water

Water regulates the shape of the cells inside our bodies — too much of it, and they puff up like balloons; too little, and they shrink.

An excess of water in and around our cells is called water intoxication, or hyponatremia. Drinking too much water, something athletes can do accidentally while training, can cause it. A 2005 study of 2002 Boston Marathon runners, for example, found that about 1/6th of the runners they studied had a mild form of the condition, with symptoms ranging from nausea to vomiting.

But an extreme case of water intoxication takes its worst toll on the brain, where our tightly-packed neurons have little room to accommodate the extra water. A variety of neurological problems can result, from headaches to confusion, seizures, and, in rare untreated cases, death.

One of the most well-known cases of water intoxication happened in 2007, when 28-year-old Californian Jennifer Strange downed six litres of water in under three hours as part of a radio station contest. Strange died a few hours later.

Salt

Just as you can overdo it with water, you can also overdo it with its antidote — salt.

The delicate balance of water and salt (or sodium) in and around our cells is what keeps them happy. When there's too little sodium (too much water), the cells swell up. When there's too much sodium (too little water), on the other hand, they shrink.

This condition is known as hypernatremia. Its milder symptoms include fatigue and weakness, but if the condition worsens it can lead to seizures, a coma and, in rare cases, death.

Tylenol

Each year, roughly 460 Americans die overdosing on acetaminophen, the main pain-killing ingredient in Tylenol.

About 150 of those deaths are accidental, ProPublica estimates, making acetaminophen more deadly than all other over-the-counter pain relievers combined.

The deadly dose is about 35,600 milligrams, according to the FDA, or about 71 extra-strength pills.

Drink

You know drinking can blur your vision, slur your speech, mess with your memory, and make you slower to react. But those same effects can be deadly if we drink too much too quickly.

Between 2006 and 2012, some 88,000 Americans died from excessive alcohol consumption. Many of these deaths were caused by alcohol poisoning, a glut of alcohol in the bloodstream which can cause the areas of the brain that control the functions that keep our bodies running — like our breathing and consciousness — to shut down.

Alcohol poisoning typically happens during a binge, when someone drinks a large amount of alcohol over a short period. For the average person, about 13 shots in the span of a few hours would be enough to kill, but the number varies widely depending on size, gender, and a variety of other factors.

Chocolate bars

Although it tastes delicious to us, chocolate contains enough of the toxic chemical theobromine to kill a small animal (that's why you can't feed it to pets).

The same ingredient can kill people too, but because we metabolise it so much better than cats or dogs, we'd have to eat far more of it to have any serious health effects.

In people, a potentially deadly dose of theobromine would be about 1,000 milligrams per kilogram, or the equivalent of about 85 full-sized chocolate bars. For cats, though, it’s just a fifth of that amount — so just a few small pieces of the candy could be dangerous.

Apples

Apples are delicious, and hardly deadly.

But their seeds contain trace amounts of a sugar-cyanide compound that turns into the potentially lethal toxin hydrogen cyanide when it's processed in the body.

It's estimated that apple seeds average around 700 milligrams of hydrogen cyanide per kilogram of dry weight, and about 1.5 milligrams of cyanide per kilogram of body weight can kill. That means you'd have to chew up and swallow about a half a cup of apple seeds in one sitting, or about 19-24 whole apples, to put yourself at risk.

Symptoms of mild cyanide poisoning include confusion, dizziness, headache, and vomiting. Bigger doses can lead to problems breathing and kidney failure and, in rare cases and if left untreated, death.

If you're planning on noshing on a lot of apples at some point in the future (and you're a little paranoid about the idea of poisoning), swallow the seeds whole. They're more likely to pass through your digestive system unharmed this way.

Choking is the 8th leading cause of accidental injury deaths among people of all ages and a leading cause of injury deaths among children , especially those under four.

On average, an American child will die every 5 days from choking on food, according to the Nationwide Children's Hospital, and hot dogs are the main culprit.

"If you were to design the perfect plug for a child’s airway, you couldn’t do much better than a hot dog,” director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital Gary Smith told Science Daily . “It will wedge itself in tightly and completely block the airway, causing the child to die within minutes because of lack of oxygen.”

A 2008 study found that the top 10 foods that are the most likely to cause choking in young children are hot dogs, peanuts, carrots, boned chicken, candy, meat, popcorn, fish with bones, sunflower seeds, and apples.

To avoid most of these hazards, de-bone chicken and fish, cut up hot dogs and apples into small pieces before giving them to kids, and avoid giving small children candy, peanuts, carrots, and sunflower seeds.

10. The flu

Thousands of people die as a result of the flu every year. About 90% of these deaths occur in people over 65, but young people are also especially vulnerable to the virus, particularly those younger than 6 months.

In 2006, more than 50,000 Americans died as due to complications from the virus, and an estimated 20,000 children younger than 5 are hospitalized due to the flu every year.

While some groups lack easy access to the vaccine or are ineligible for vaccination — infants are too young to get it and it is less effective in those with compromised immune systems, like certain cancer patients — others simply fail to get their yearly shot. You can help protect the most vulnerable groups by getting vaccinated yourself.

11. Using Windex and bleach to clean at the same time

If you ever think you need bleach for a tough job, be sure not to mix it with anything else while you’re cleaning. The combination can produce dangerous, toxic gases . In small, confined places (like the bathroom) it’s easy to accidentally inhale too much.

Mixing bleach and ammonia (an ingredient found in some types of Windex and other glass cleaners) is a major no-no. This mixture forms chloramine vapor, a toxic gas that can burn your lungs , and enough of it can also form hydrazine, a dangerous liquid that can explode.

And never use straight bleach to clean. Use this handy chart from the CDC to find out the right mix of water and bleach for the job.

12 the Sun

Between 2006 and 2010, about 2,000 Americans died of what the CDC has called “weather-related causes” — storms, floods, exposure to extreme heat and cold . A large chunk of them (nearly a third) were the result of too much of a good thing: Excess natural heat, heat stroke, sun stroke, or some combination of the three.

While too much heat can kill on its own, excess sun exposure can also worsen pre-existing health problems like heart and respiratory diseases. Anyone on psychotropic medications, like Abilify or Risperdone, for example, is at particular risk for heat stroke because these drugs interfere with the body’s natural mechanism of regulating its temperature.

13. ...or a similarly large amount of crushed cherry, peach, apricot, or plum pits

Apples aren't the only fruit with seeds that contain similar chemical precursors to hydrogen cyanide — cherries, peaches, apricots, and plums have toxic pits, too.

Still, you'd have to mash up and swallow a pretty high number of whole pits to put yourself in harm's way.

14. This Japanese delicacy

Puffer fish is a pricey delicacy in Japan, but if it's not prepared carefully, it can kill.

The puffer fish is extremely poisonous — their livers, ovaries, and skins contain tetrodotoxin, a neurotoxin that can paralyse its victims. If these organs aren't removed properly, consumers of the tasy fish can fall ill and, in rare cases, die. In March, five Japanese men were accidentally sickened after their pufferfish meal was found to have contained some of the fishes' livers.

Before chefs are allowed to legally serve puffer fish, they must undergo several years of strict training and pass a licensing exam that includes tests designed to ensure they can properly distinguish the toxic parts of the fish from the harmless ones.

April 7th 2017

Giant Steps For Humankind

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic successfully used intense physical therapy and electrical stimulation on the spinal cord to help a patient stand, intentionally move his paralyzed legs, and make step-like motions. These were the first movements the patient had experienced in his legs in three years.

26-year-old Jered Chinnock injured his spinal cord at the sixth thoracic vertebrae three years ago. He could not move or feel anything lower than the middle of his back, and was diagnosed with a motor complete spinal cord injury.

At the outset of the study, Chinnock underwent 22 weeks of physical therapy with three training sessions per week. His training goal was to prepare his muscles so they would be strong enough to attempt the physical tasks while his spinal cord was being stimulated.

Next, the team implanted an electrode below the injured area in the epidural space, close to the spinal cord, and a computer-controlled device just under the patient’s abdominal skin. The FDA gave permission to the Mayo Clinic for this off-label use of the device, which controls the transmission of an electrical current to the spinal cord, which in turn allowed the patient to create movement in his muscles.

After a recovery period, Chinnock resumed his physical therapy sessions with the stimulation settings for the device adjusted to enable his muscle movements. Within the first two weeks, he was able to intentionally move his legs and make step-like motions while lying supported, on his side. He was also able to stand independently using support bars. The intentional movement indicates that his brain is once again able to signal his spinal cord successfully.

“We’re really excited, because our results went beyond our expectations,” says neurosurgeon Kendall Lee, the study’s principal investigator. “These are initial findings, but the patient is continuing to make progress.”

A Long Road Ahead

For Jered Chinnock, the results are something to get used to. “It definitely feels like science fiction,” he said. “The first day they turned it on, it was almost mind-blowing because it was, like, right away I was able to move my toes, and it was something I haven’t seen in a while, you know.”

As amazing as the experiment is, it’s still early work. Although the data seems to indicate that epidural stimulation therapy may work for people with discomplete spinal cord injuries, current classification of such injuries is vague. It includes only general information about the status of the injury and omits characterizations of specific descending or ascending spinal pathways. This reflects the limitations on our current diagnostic approaches.

More research is needed to determine how researchers and physicians can identify which pathways are still transmitting residual descending and ascending—albeit subfunctional—signals in patients with these types of injuries. In addition, the extent to which neural substrates underlie the phenomenon of discomplete SCI and contribute to EES-enabled functional recovery has yet to be determined. However, these results have clarified those long-term research goals, and prove that this technique is very promising.

 

April 7th 2017

Help with Sleeping

For most people as they age, the nightly routine of trying to nod off then waking up far too early will be a familiar one.

You might have put it down to an annoying side-effect of ageing and assumed you need less sleep.

Older people do need as much shut-eye as the young but changes to the brain stop them from achieving deep, refreshing sleep.

While you may never slumber like a teenager again, here’s how to get more kip as you get older.

Empty your bladder

As we age, we produce less of an anti-diuretic hormone that stops the kidneys making as much urine.

As a result we may develop nocturia, the need to go to the loo several times during the night.

Avoid drinking fluids two hours before bedtime and use the double-voiding technique. “It means emptying the bladder twice by urinating a second time 10 to 15 minutes after the first time,” says Prof Merlin Thomas, author of Understanding Type 2 Diabetes.

Cutting back on salt to no more than 8g a day also reduces loo visits, Japanese researchers found.

See sunlight

“Older adults produce less melatonin (the sleep hormone), so anything you can do to increase its natural production will help,” says sleep expert Christabel Majendie ( www.naturalmat.co.uk ).

“Melatonin at night is produced after light exposure in the day so getting out in bright sunlight can increase melatonin concentration. For adults over 55, melatonin can be prescribed from your doctor. Light therapy may also help.”

Calm your mind

Soothing night-time rituals like taking a bath can relax your body – but you also need to calm your mind. If you’re still pretty flexible try some yoga before bed.

Lie on the floor bringing your legs and buttocks up against the wall. This pose calms the mind. Or close your eyes and look up to your “third eye” – the point between your eyebrows. This slows active brainwaves to more relaxed ones.

Say no to sleeping pills

The side-effects of some sleeping pills – drowsiness the next day, confusion, constipation and urinary retention – can be serious for seniors.

Opt for a natural sleeping remedy instead – try Kalms Night, £4.89 from pharmacies, which contains Valerian Root, a herbal aid known for its sedative effect which won’t leave you with drowsy side-effects.

Exercise between 4-7pm

Moderate exercise can help you sleep, says Prof Paul Gringras, adviser for Leesa mattresses ( www.leesa.co.uk ) “It’s one of the best ‘sleep-medicines’ around. But like all medicines, there is a right and wrong way to use it.

“The timing can make a big difference. Exercise in the morning is unlikely to help, and exercise too close to bedtime is likely to cause problems. Try taking 20-30 minutes of exercise moderate for you, between 4pm and 7pm.” Walking or gardening will do.

Copy cavemen

“The cave principle is to keep the bedroom cool, quiet and dark,” says Prof Gringras.

“Try to aim for a temperature that’s thermally neutral so your body doesn’t shiver or sweat to keep warm or cool – 18.5C – 20C is ideal.

“It’s worth thinking about your feet. Good blood flow contributes to warm feet, which helps sleep, so wear thermal socks if your feet feel the chill.”

Go cherry picking

“Cherries contain melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate our sleep patterns,” says nutritionist Anita Bean.

“Researchers found drinking cherry juice 30 minutes after waking and 30 minutes before the evening meal boosted sleep by 84 minutes and improved sleep quality in people with insomnia.”

Snore… no more

Snoring can become more common as we age, partly because the muscle tone in the throat decreases, making it more prone to vibration as we breathe, but there are exercises that help.

“Using your toothbrush, scrub away at the centre and sides of your tongue for three minutes a day,” says Dr Chris Idzikowski, author of Sound Asleep. “The action triggers the gagging reflex, which has the effect of tensing and releasing your throat muscles and tongue to help strengthen them.”

Or try Solusnore lozenges, £9.95 for 15, available online at www.healthy2u.co.uk – active ingredients include vitamins E and B5, aloe vera and pectin, which lubricates the soft tissue of the throat.

Blackout blinds aren’t just for kids

Light inhibits the night-time secretion of melatonin so the bedroom needs to be dark.

“About 20% of light gets through eyelids so, unless you have no problems sleeping in a lighter room, you need to keep your bedroom as dark as you can,” says Sammy Margo, author of The Good Sleep Guide.

Invest in good quality lined curtains or blackout blinds.

Be anti-social media

A study by bedmaker Silentnight found 15% of 50-64 year olds admitted to waking up to check social media. “It’s proven the blue light from phones and tablets wakes up the brain,” says Silentnight’s sleep expert Dr Nerina Ramlakhan. “So social media checks are a recipe for disaster.”

Avoid temptation by leaving gadgets out of the bedroom.

Keep a cool head

The hot flushes and night sweats of the menopause can sabotage sleep. The Sealy Cooltech Gel Pillow (£39.99, sleeppeople.com ) has a refreshing gel layer held behind an airmesh wall that helps prevent overheating, while delivering support.

Feeling restless?

Restless Legs Syndrome causes a “crawling” feeling, giving you the urge to move your legs for relief.

It’s more common in older people. Around 30% of sufferers have low levels of magnesium, which regulates muscle relaxationand contraction.

Top up levels with dark green leafy vegetables, wholegrains, and dried fruits. Or spritz Magnesium Oil Goodnight Spray from Better You (£12.69 Holland & Barrett and health stores) onto your body.

April 6th 2017

Studies link tattoos to skin cancer

Tattoos are more popular than ever. Roughly half of millennials have one, as do 36% of Gen Xers, according to a recent Harris poll. The number of Americans with at least one tattoo has jumped 50% in the past four years.

This explosion in popularity has led some health experts to take a closer look at the practice. What they've found so far raises questions-and some concerns.

A study published this year found that tattoos may interfere with the way your skin sweats. Compared to non-tattooed skin, inked skin excretes about 50% less sweat, says study coauthor Maurie Luetkemeier, a professor of physiology at Alma College in Michigan. We also found the sodium in sweat was more concentrated when released from tattooed skin, he says. When your glands produce sweat, the skin tends to reabsorb sodium and other electrolytes from that perspiration before it breaks free. His findings indicate that tattoos may partially block this reabsorption.

This doesn't matter much if you have a single tattoo, or even a few. But if you have extensive coverage-especially on your back, arms or other areas densely populated by sweat glands-tattoos could interfere with the skin's ability to cool your body and hold onto important nutrients. You look at someone in the military, where tattoos are very prevalent, and if they're exposed to high heat and a heavy workload, there could be thermoregulatory problems, Luetkemeier says.

All of this is, he adds, is very much speculative at this point. But other research has linked tattoos with different health issues.

While exceptionally rare, there are reports linking tattoos to melanoma, says Cormac Joyce, a plastic surgeon at University Hospital Galway in Ireland. In a case study he published in 2015, Joyce writes about a 33-year-old man with an elaborate, multi-coloured chest tattoo. Malignant melanoma had turned up only in the areas of the tattoo that were filled in with red ink.

In that particular case, the culprit probably wasn't the red ink. Joyce says the man likely had an existing melanoma that his tattoo artist hit with his red ink needle. The artist may have then seeded other portions of the man's skin with malignant cells, he says. That's reassuring news if you have a red tattoo, but probably scary if you're at risk for melanoma. Joyce says spreading malignancy via this sort of skin seeding is rare, but is certainly possible in the setting of tattooing.

Other case studies link tattoos to skin cancer. The process of tattooing involves the integration of metallic salts and organic dyes into the dermal layer of the skin, Joyce says. The resulting low-grade, chronic inflammation that can result from this could stimulate malignant transformation.

Tattoo inks are mostly unregulated, and blood-borne diseases have reportedly been spread by tainted ink. In 2012, the FDA linked a multi-state bacterial outbreak to contaminated tattoo inks. An investigation detailed in the New England Journal of Medicine found the contamination could have occurred at various points in the ink-production process-meaning that tattoo parlors probably weren't to blame. Tattoo inks are considered to be cosmetics, the report's authors write. As a result, inks are allowed into the marketplace without much oversight, and the FDA and other public safety organisations only step in when something bad happens.

Metals used in tattoo inks may also cause skin reactions. A study from Denmark in 2011 found that 10% of unopened tattoo ink bottles tested were contaminated with bacteria. Regulation of ink is long overdue, Joyce says.

The FDA is conducting research to improve its knowledge of tattoo inks and the ingredients used in them and to look more closely at their different components, an FDA spokesperson told TIME in an email. The agency is also evaluating methods for the microbiological testing of tattoo inks as a result of microbial contamination of several tattoo inks that have resulted in voluntary recalls.

The risks associated with tattoos-if there are any-are not entirely known. But as more and more people opt for ink, greater scientific scrutiny is needed.

April 5th 2017

Marmite

Anika Smith, PhD student in York's Department of Psychology and first author of the study, said that the effects of Marmite consumption took around eight weeks to wear off after participants stopped the study, suggesting that dietary changes could potentially have long-term effects on brain function.

She explains: "This is a really promising first example of how dietary interventions can alter cortical processes, and a great starting point for exploring whether a more refined version of this technique could have some medical or therapeutic applications in the future. Of course, further research is needed to confirm and investigate this, but the study is an excellent basis for this."

Dr Daniel Baker, Lecturer in the Department of Psychology and senior author of the paper, highlights that, although GABA is involved in various diseases, no therapeutic recommendations can be made based on the results. "Individuals with a medical condition should always seek treatment from their GP," he added in a press release.

On whether this study could pave the way for the prevention of dementia, Dr Laura Phipps of Alzheimer's Research UK says: "Marmite contains high levels of vitamin B12, and while deficiency in this vitamin can cause memory problems, this study does not tell us whether Marmite could be beneficial for our memory or affect the onset of dementia. The interesting outcome of this study of young people is the suggestion that particular foods may influence brain activity but we don't know if or how this could translate into long-term benefits against particular brain diseases."

The study is published today in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.

11 Things That Can Drain Your Brain Power

Eating Marmite every day can help keep your brain healthy, a study suggests.

Love it or hate it, researchers believe the yeast extract helps boost levels of an important neurotransmitter which stops brain cells from becoming overexcited.

In the University of York study, volunteers who ate a teaspoon of Marmite every day for a month showed a 30% decrease in their brain's response to visual patterns compared to those who ate peanut butter instead.

Scientists believe that the Marmite, which is rich in vitamin B12, boosted their levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) - the neurotransmitter which "regulates the delicate balance of activity needed to maintain a healthy brain".

Past studies have concluded that GABA may help to dampen feelings of fear and anxiety, which often arise when neurons are overstimulated.

Abnormal levels of GABA have also been associated with epileptic seizures, opening up the possibility that Marmite could have beneficial effects for people who suffer with certain neurological disorders.

Anika Smith, a PhD student involved in the study, said: "As the effects of Marmite consumption took around eight weeks to wear off after participants stopped the study, this suggests that dietary changes could potentially have long-term effects on brain function."

The research team's next study will involve giving volunteers a course of vitamin B12 tablets, or a placebo, to try and figure out whether this is the ingredient responsible for the increase of GABA in the brain.

Their work has been published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.

4/4/17

Whether you realize it or not, you are already at your best - right now, just as you are.

When we’re young, we’re extremely receptive to varying cultural perceptions of what it means to be “the best.” The fastest, the smartest, the richest, the nicest. The skinniest, the most athletic, the hottest, the most desirable. And sometimes, without realizing it, these perceptions creep into our psyche about who we become (or don’t become) as adults.

As a kid, I felt like I wasn’t the best because I was bigger than everyone else. I went on my first diet at age 7, and I always had a hard time finding clothes that fit when I shopped at the same stores as my friends. The fitting room was like a torture chamber: even if I found clothes to try on, they never fit my body.

Finding clothes that fit was such a challenge that I begged my mom to make my dress for homecoming during my sophomore year of high school, rather than subject myself to the agony of fitting room fails. The dress was bright fuchsia satin under a layer of sheer black fabric with beading. We went to a consignment store and found a fuchsia mohair coat to go over it. I still have that coat to this day.

When I became a female athlete in high school and college, I finally felt like my size was an asset. It felt like I had found my place in the world. When I got accepted to the United States Naval Academy to become a varsity rower and midshipman, those feelings intensified and my confidence surged.

As a midshipman, I trained and worked with a nutritionist, which pushed my athletic performance to new levels. I was more confident in my body than ever before. I was proud of my height, my muscular frame and, mostly, what my body was able to do as a result of my ongoing training.

But everything changed when I injured my back rowing. Badly. I underwent two major surgeries before graduating. When I was commissioned as an Ensign after graduation, I was declared “unfit for worldwide deployment” and was medically discharged. I went from feeling like the best to feeling like an utter failure.

I resented my body for what had happened. To make matters worse, after my surgeries I spent months rehabilitating and trying to get back into shape. My body had changed, I’d put on weight, and I didn’t recognize myself anymore. My whole identity for years had revolved around being a top female athlete, and I had to completely reframe my approach to exercise and how I was treating my body.

My fashion sense was all over the place during this phase of my life. I went from being in great shape and wearing a uniform almost every day to being overweight and having my pick of virtually any outfit under the sun, which resulted in many “what not to wear” moments. But I was having fun with fashion, and it all played a role in getting to know myself and my body once again.

Slowly, I began to see myself and my body differently. My weight continued to fluctuate, and my relationship with food was still a constant source of stress and shame. I started and stopped many fitness programs, as I had a tendency to push my body too hard and re-injure myself. This went on for almost a decade.

I continued to hold myself and my body to really high standards. I wanted to have “the best” body possible, and I was putting myself and my body through hell to get there. But a few nights before my wedding, I was lying in the bathtub, feeling terrible about my body when I had an epiphany: I made the choice, from that moment on, to stop obsessing over my body’s imperfections and what it could or couldn’t do for me in the gym. I learned to approach exercise as an expression of my love for my body, rather than as a way to punish or drastically change myself.

Three months after my wedding, I signed a modeling contract with TRUE Model Management in New York. Now, I’m a successful plus-size model, blogger and social influencer. The choice to accept my body transformed my life. Literally.

I stopped striving to be someone else’s definition of “the best” and chose to focus inward, on becoming the best version of myself. I stopped worrying about my dress size. I stopped letting the clothes I couldn’t wear because of my size be a source of shame. I stopped putting my body through hell with dieting and extreme exercise. I started to take the best possible care of my whole self.

Whether you know it or not, you too are already at your best. And once you realize that, the world around you will recognize it as well. Once you love yourself, you’ll become unstoppable.

April 3rd 2017

Are you tired all the time?

You're often so tired you struggle to get through the day and by bedtime you're exhausted. Doctors call it 'TATT' – tired all the time. If that sounds like you, read on to discover seven medical issues that could be to blame.

1. Low mood and depression 

Depression doesn't just make you feel low – it can cause a range of physical symptoms, including headaches, general aches and pains, and chronic tiredness. 

'Low mood and depression is one of the leading causes of fatigue,' says Dr Marieke Reddingius, a GP in East Sussex.

'Emotional exhaustion can often present itself as physical feelings of tiredness. Even though you're tired, staying active can help to lift your mood.'

If you've been extremely tired for weeks and feel sad or hopeless, or have lost interest in the things you once enjoyed, it's worth seeing your GP. 

'Some people see their doctor because they feel low or tearful, but for others, tiredness can be the main presenting symptom of depression,' says Dr Reddingius

2. Anxiety or stress 

Anxiety is another common cause of tiredness, particularly if worries are preventing you from falling asleep at night or causing you to wake early.

'When you perceive danger, your body reacts by going into 'flight or fight' mode – your heart rate increases and adrenaline is released, helping you to flee or fight the threat. You don't have to be facing a sabre-tooth tiger – the response can just as easily be triggered by worrying about work,' says Dr Reddingius.

'When you're chronically anxious, your body is in a permanent cycle of adrenaline rush/adrenaline crash, leading to feelings of exhaustion.'

3. Iron deficiency 

Iron deficiency anaemia is one of the most common medical causes of tiredness, particularly in women who have heavy periods. Other symptoms can include heavy-feeling muscles, heart palpitations and shortness of breath. 'Iron is needed to make haemoglobin, the substance that makes blood red and carries oxygen around the body. Even if you're not anaemic, low iron can cause you to feel lacking in energy,' says Dr Reddingius. 

Your doctor can test for iron deficiency with a simple blood test. Taking iron supplements and eating iron-rich foods may help. Good choices include lean meat, liver, shellfish, eggs, brown rice, pulses, beans, nuts, seeds, dried fruit and iron-fortified cereals or bread.

Dr Reddingius advises not to drink tea for 30 minutes before or after eating. 'It prevents your body from taking the iron from your food. If you eat/drink something that contains vitamin C, it helps with the uptake of iron.'

4. Vitamin B12 deficiency 

A lack of vitamin B12 can also cause you to feel tired. Other symptoms of B12 deficiency include pins and needles, muscle weakness, disturbed vision, a sore and red tongue, mouth ulcers, memory problems and depression. 

Eating more meat, fish, eggs, dairy products and yeast extract like Marmite may help, although diet is not commonly to blame. As Dr Reddingius explains:

'In most cases it is caused by pernicious anaemia – where your immune system attacks healthy cells in your stomach, preventing your body from absorbing vitamin B12 from the food you eat. Certain medication, such as anticonvulsants and proton pump inhibitors, can also affect how much of these vitamins your body absorbs. 

'However, not all people with low B12 will have anaemia, and tiredness can be the only presenting symptom. Vitamin B12 deficiency can be diagnosed with a blood test and treated with injections. If you're concerned, see your GP as soon as possible, as certain problems caused by the condition can be irreversible if left untreated.'

5. Vitamin D deficiency 

You know that Vitamin D is important for healthy bones and teeth, but you might be surprised to know that research has linked a lack of the vitamin with a host of issues, including heart disease, depression, and chronic fatigue syndrome. 

'Although we get some vitamin D from our diet, in foods such as oily fish, eggs and fortified cereals, the body needs exposure to sunlight in order to produce sufficient quantities,' says Dr Reddingius.

'Get into the sun for at least 20 minutes every day if you can. If that's not possible, in the winter months for example, consider taking a supplement. Combine a vitamin D supplement with calcium, and it will also help to keep your bones strong.'

6. Post-viral fatigue 

Post-viral fatigue syndrome can occur after a viral infection, such as the flu or glandular fever. Symptoms may include chronic tiredness, muscle pain, weight loss, vomiting, diarrhoea, a fever or chills, chest pain and shortness of breath.

'The symptoms of PVFS are not uncommon, particularly following a significant illness. While the effects can be debilitating, PVFS generally gets better slowly over time. While you need to pace yourself, try to stay as active as possible,' advises Dr Reddingius.

'In extreme cases, post-viral fatigue can turn into chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) or myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME – a long term debilitating form of fatigue).' 

7. Glandular fever 

Glandular fever is a common viral infection that typically affects teenagers and young adults. Symptoms include fatigue, fever, a severe sore throat and swollen glands in the neck. 

Dr Reddingius says: 'It's caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), which is found in the saliva of infected people and can be spread through kissing, exposure to coughs and sneezes and sharing eating and drinking utensils.

'Although symptoms are unpleasant they usually clear up within three to four weeks, but occasionally the fatigue can last for several more months.'

April 3rd 2017

Depression 

One in four people will experience a mental health problem each year, according to support charity Mind.

It’s important to know how to spot the symptoms if you are struggling to cope, and how to distinguish depression from other mental-health issues.

Here’s a guide to how to tell if you are suffering from depression and how to get the help you need.

I feel down at the moment, am I depressed?

Most of us feel down from time to time, but mental health experts say you may be depressed if you feel low for more than two weeks.

Head of information at mental health charity Mind, Stephen Buckley, told the M.E.N: “If you’re feeling low for a couple of weeks or more without much change in mood, or such feelings return over and over again, this could be a sign of depression. Depression is a low mood that lasts for a long time, and affects your everyday life.”

What are typical symptoms of depression?</h3>

There are a few different signs and symptoms of depression. These include persistent sadness or low mood, and/or loss of interests or pleasure. Other symptoms include fatigue or low energy, disturbed sleep, poor concentration or indecisiveness. People might also experience low self-confidence, poor or increased appetite, suicidal thoughts or acts, agitation or slowing of movements, guilt or self-blame.

A system called the ICD-10 is used as a reference point by psychologists to diagnose depression among patients. Research suggests that patients must experience at least four of the above symptoms to be categorised as mildly depressed. Anyone who experiences five or six symptoms is considered moderately depressed, and anyone with seven or more is considered severely depressed.

How do I know how bad my depression is?

How people experience depression can differ greatly. In its mildest form, depression can mean just being in low spirits. It doesn’t stop you leading your normal life but makes everything harder to do and seem less worthwhile. At its most severe, depression can be life-threatening because it can make you feel suicidal or simply give up the will to live.

Stephen added: “Symptoms of mental health problems may vary from person to person, but there are some common signs to look out for.

“For example, someone with depression might feel restless, low-spirited, numb or helpless, sleep too much or too little, not eat properly, withdraw from contact with friends or family, or even – in some cases – think about suicide.”

What shall I do if I feel depressed?

It’s important to seek help if you think you may be depressed. Reach out to people close to you, speak to a friend of family member, or go to your local GP, who can talk you through the support available. It may be they recommend therapy or medication. Stephen said: “Speaking to your GP might seem daunting, but it’s the first step to getting the help and support that’s right for you.”

You can also contact your local IAPT branch, a free talking therapy service provided by the NHS.

March 31st 2017  Turmeric

A rising star in the spice aisle, turmeric has developed a following among holistic wellness practitioners and the health conscious crowd.

But its safety is being questioned following the death of a San Diego woman who received a turmeric treatment intravenously, reports NBC News.

Jade Erick died March 16 after turning to the Indian spice as a treatment for eczema. The San Diego Medical Examiner’s Office ruled her death an accident.

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NIH) explains that turmeric has long been used in Ayurvedic medicine for breathing problems, pain, fatigue and rheumatism.

Today, many now consume the spice to help with inflammation, arthritis, stomach, skin and liver problems as well as cancer.

A type of chemical named curcuminoid present in turmeric is thought to be the reason for its health benefits, especially with inflammation-related diseases.

However, the NIH says this claim is not supported by strong studies. The organization does say that research indicates curcuminoids could reduce heart attacks in bypass patients after surgery, help with osteoarthritis pain (as well as ibuprofen) and decrease skin irritation.

On WebMD, only three conditions (osteoarthritis, high cholesterol and itching) are listed as possibly being helped by turmeric. More than 30 ailments allegedly helped by turmeric are deemed ineffective.

While generally viewed as safe, too much turmeric (as with anything) can have its dangers. WebMD cites an instance of one person who experienced abnormal heart rhythms after taking more than 1,500 mg of turmeric twice a day.

Certain medical conditions, like gallbladder problems or diabetes, can be exacerbated by the spice, and mixing it with other medications is not advisable. The safety of administering turmeric through an IV aren’t well known as the practice is less common.

Mark Stengler, a naturopathic doctor who offers turmeric orally, told NBC News, “It hasn’t been well studied. It’s more theoretical, so it’s more investigational.”

March 30th 2017

Morning after pill warning

New guidelines that have emerged about the morning after pill has revealed some pretty important information about the emergency contraception. New guidance that's been released by the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Health Care (FSRH) advises that women need to be made aware that their weight can have an impact on the effectiveness of the oral emergency contraception.

While there had always been speculation about whether a woman's weight might effect how well the morning after pill would work in terms of preventing pregnancy following unprotected sex, it's only now following the new guidance that the information has been made clearer. And what's baffling is that the weight at which the contraception reportedly has a reduced effect is not heavy at all.

What weight could it lose effectiveness at?

The new guidance states that the effectiveness of oral emergency contraception could be reduced if a woman weighs over 70 kg (which is approximately 11 stone). That affects over half of British women who weigh over that amount, and will significantly impact the options open to them

There are two types of oral emergency contraception available at present, along with the IUD (the coil): there's Levonelle, which contains a hormone called Levonorgestrel, and EllaOne which contains Ulipristal Acetate, just in case you wanted that level of hormonal info.

But it turns out that hormones aren't the only difference between the two: one actually has a reduced effect at a lower weight than the other. The producers of ellaOne have confirmed that their morning after pill continues to work even in women who weigh more than 70kg in comparison to Levonelle, which appears to have reduced effect in women weighing more than that.

Clare Newins, Women’s Health Marketing Manager UK & Ireland at HRA Pharma said: “ellaOne continues to be the most effective oral option for most women at the standard dose (30mg single tablet) regardless of their weight or BMI.”

Of course, the FSRH does maintain that the most effective method of emergency pregnancy prevention - more so than either of the morning after pills - is the intrauterine device, also known as the coil. However, this isn't always as readily available as the oral emergency contraceptives are because they require insertion by trained medical experts. And as we all know, the point of emergency contraceptives is that they are implemented urgently.

So if you can gather one thing from this news, it's that you need to be aware of which emergency contraception will work best for you - whether that's considering getting the coil, or working out which morning after pill would work best for you. The most beneficial advice is probably to make sure you've explored these options before having unprotected sex and potentially opening yourself up to a pregnancy you might not want.

 

March 30th 2017

Mental health is no longer shrouded in the silence it once was, but we still have a long way to go before talking about depression becomes as commonplace as talking about flu.

New research from Heads Together - the mental health campaign spearheaded by The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry - found that nearly half of us (46%) have had a conversation about mental health over the past three months.

To highlight the benefits of talking about mental health and convince the remaining 54% of the population to open up, Heads Together has launched a series of videos where people share their most memorable experience of talking about mental health.

The films feature people from all walks of life - including famous faces Professor Green, Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff, Ruby Wax, Mark Austin and Alastair Campbell - as they discuss topics ranging from anxiety, alcoholism and depression through to loneliness, trauma and bereavement.

The research uncovered that men are still less likely to talk about mental health than women, with 54% of women having had a conversation about it recently compared to 37% of men.

In one of the films, Stephen Manderson, better known by his stage name Professor Green, tells former England cricket player Freddie Flintoff that he’s experienced anxiety since childhood, but only addressed it recently.

He explains that his father took his own life when the singer was 24 years old, but Manderson didn’t open up about it until taking part in a BBC documentary years later.

In the documentary, he and his grandmother met to discuss his father’s death for the first time and Manderson “broke down” on camera.

“I was petrified. It scared me that people were going to see me at my most vulnerable, in a way that I don’t often see myself,” Manderson says in the Heads Together film.

“But that conversation changed everything because from that point everything was out in the open and I was able to then talk to my friends about it.”

As well as celebrities telling their stories, everyday people also appear in the films to share how it felt to open up about mental health.

Dan Farnworth, an emergency medical technician for the Northwest ambulance service, explains how a couple of years ago, he had a traumatic experience on the job and started having flashbacks and nightmares.

He was later diagnosed with PTSD and confided in colleague Rich Morton.

In the film, Farnworth attributes that conversation to helping him overcome his symptoms.

“That text message was the first day of the rest of my life,” he says.

“It was the power of that conversation that changed everything.”

The new survey, of more than 5,000 people, found that of those that have had a conversation about mental health, six in 10 have spoken with a family member and a similar number have had a conversation with a friend.

Broadcaster Mark Austin appears in the film series alongside his daughter Maddy, whose teenage battle with anorexia left her close to death.

Their film highlights that mental health issues do not just affect the individual diagnosed, but also the people around them. Maddy says it was that realisation that led to her accepting treatment.

“It wasn’t just me it was affecting, it was everyone. When I did start opening up to you and everyone else around me, I decided that I really wanted to get better and I wanted to live a life where I felt worthy of living,” she tells her father.

Mark adds: “From my point of view, it was realising it was a serious mental health issue and that we had to treat it as a serious mental health issue, and that’s why now we are talking about it.”

It’s clear an increasing number of us are having conversations about mental health issues - and that’s having a hugely positive impact on many.

But with only 2% of those who’ve spoken about mental health turning to someone from HR at their workplace, we still have some way to go before the stigma attached to mental health issues is destroyed.

In a joint statement, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry said: “Since we launched Heads Together last May, we have seen time and time again that shattering stigma on mental health starts with simple conversations.

“When you realise that mental health problems affect your friends, neighbours, children and spouses, the walls of judgement and prejudice around these issues begin to fall. And we all know that you cannot resolve a mental health issue by staying silent.

“Attitudes to mental health are at a tipping point. We hope these films show people how simple conversations can change the direction of an entire life. Please share them with your friends and families and join us in a national conversation on mental health in the weeks ahead.”

Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind, which is one of the Heads Together charity partners, said: “It is truly groundbreaking to see so many people, from all walks of life, sharing their mental health experiences on film in the hope of inspiring others to strike up their own conversation.

“These films have the power to spark life-changing and, in some cases, life-saving conversations. We hope that there will be a snowball effect with more and more people seeing the benefits of speaking out and supporting each other.”

March 29th 2017

A restless nation. More than a third of American adults don’t get enough ZZZs, shortening our tempers, wrecking our decision-making ability, and increasing our anxiety and raising our chances of heart disease. And while lots of things keep people up at night, one common problem is simply noise: sirens, delivery trucks, late-night revelers, overprotective dogs, Dad snoring down the hall, you name it.

There are many ways to block it all out, whether it’s wearing earplugs or running a fan or a white-noise machine. But Christopher Calisi, CEO of Waltham’s Cambridge Sound Management, thinks he has a better way for you to shush those sounds.

His 18-year-old company, whose sound-masking systems are often used to increase employees’ power to concentrate and sense of privacy in companies with open floor plans, is moving into the consumer market. Cambridge Sound’s equipment essentially makes noise to block noise. It fills your ears with unobtrusive sound waves, so that noises coming from farther away on similar frequencies — especially people talking — don’t get in (white-noise machines or fans produce sounds across a wider spectrum). This has a hushing effect without being super loud. One survey indicates that 5 percent of Americans already use a sound-conditioning device in their bedrooms. Between getting people to switch and luring converts, Calisi saw a potential market in the billions.

Several challenges loomed. Companies that use Cambridge Sound’s technology often put its speakers, which are a bit smaller than coffee mugs, in the ceiling. But for consumers, the product would have to be easy to install. Ideally it would also be portable, so it could come along on trips that involved noisy hotel rooms.

After a year and a half of development, Cambridge Sound came up with a small sound-masking machine that looks like a thicker version of an outlet wall plate (it has holes for plugs, so you don’t lose outlets). The $299 Nightingale Smart Home Sleep System began shipping in March. The units are meant to be plugged into two different walls in a bedroom to create a “sound blanket” across the entire room. Inside, the devices have sound emitters as well as Wi-Fi- and Bluetooth-connected electronics, so you can manage them from a smartphone or tablet app, Google Home, or Amazon’s Alexa service. You can also use a smart-home service called If This Then That to set alerts.

Like its nocturnal eponym, the Nightingale sleep system can make many different sounds. There are settings for rooms with hardwood floors and other solid surfaces, as well as for rooms with carpeting and drapes. There also are frequencies meant to counteract snoring (in an adjacent bedroom) and to stop tinnitus sufferers from hearing a ringing in their ears.

In my street-facing bedroom, the static-like hiss from the Nightingales provided a mild background noise that nonetheless muffled sounds from the road. You can instead choose a few nature sounds, though I’m amazed people can fall asleep to a loon call.

Calisi says that getting the customizable sound-masking hardware into a compact package and making it link to online services like Alexa made for “the most complex product I’ve ever built” in 30 years of working in technology. He also knew much of the competition (white-noise apps for phones, holding a pillow over your head) was free. So Cambridge Sound ran a Kickstarter campaign to gauge interest in the product. More than 500 people ponied up deposits totaling just over $100,000. That has Calisi dreaming about putting a lot of people to sleep.

NIGHTINGALE

Dimensions: 4.3 inches high by 2.7 inches wide by 1.7 inches thick (unplugged)

Connectivity: Controlled by a smartphone or tablet running iOS and, later this spring, Android; links with Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home, to let you use voice commands

Options: 15 variations on ambient sound and five natural sounds (think crickets chirping); the $299 system includes a pair of units, which can also work as night lights

March 29th 2017

Measles Danger

The World Health Organization warned Tuesday of large measles outbreaks in countries where immunisation has dropped, after more than 500 cases of the highly contagious disease were reported across Europe in January.

"With steady progress towards elimination over the past two years, it is of particular concern that measles cases are climbing in Europe," the agency's regional director for Europe, Zsuzsanna Jakab, said in a statement.

"Today's travel patterns put no person or country beyond the reach of the measles virus," she said.

The respiratory disease, characterised by high fever and small red spots, usually triggers only mild symptoms, but it remains one of the leading causes of death among young children globally.

Severe complications can occur, however, leading to miscarriage in pregnant women, brain swelling or the risk of death by pneumonia.

The virus is spread by coughing and sneezing, and by close contact with infected individuals.

France, Germany, Italy, Romania, Poland, Switzerland and Ukraine were the most affected, accounting for 474 of the 559 cases reported for January.

In these countries, national vaccination levels against the virus are below the 95 percent threshold considered necessary for protecting the entire population.

Preliminary figures for February indicate that the number of new infections is rising sharply, the WHO said.

The figures cover the agency's entire European region, covering 53 countries including Israel, Kazakhstan and Russia.

"I urge all endemic countries to take urgent measures to stop transmission of measles within their borders, and all countries that have already achieved this to keep up their guard and sustain high immunisation coverage," Jakab said.

"Outbreaks will continue in Europe, as elsewhere, until every country reaches the level of immunisation needed to fully protect their populations," she added.

Currently, the largest outbreaks are occurring in Italy and Romania.

The number of measles cases in Italy has tripled this year, largely because parents are not getting children vaccinated because of fears of a link between the combined measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccination shot and autism, the health ministry said last week.

Several major studies, however, have shown no evidence of such a link.

In Romania, a measles outbreak has killed 17 children and infected thousands more since September, the result of both poverty and an anti-vaccination movement, local media reported Saturday.

In poor countries, many people do not have access to the $1 vaccine (94 euro cents), but the WHO has pointed out that children in affluent countries have a greater risk of infection because of scepticism about immunisation.

March 28th 2017

When everything is flowing smoothly, life is good. And I'm not just talking good hair days or a flawless presentation at work. Your digestive tract counts too. But when it's out of whack, it could affect the scale.

"Gastrointestinal and digestive issues can definitely have a large effect on the way we eat and how our bodies absorb and digest foods, causing us to gain or lose weight," says Dr Kenneth Brown, a gastroenterologist.

 

"Most digestive problems tend to cause weight loss from poor absorption of food, but there are a few situations in which our intestinal health can contribute to weight gain."

If the number on the scale is rising and you really aren't sure why, one of these six common digestive issues could be the culprit:

1. Acid reflux

Also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), this causes a painful burning sensation, or heartburn, in the lower chest when stomach acid rises back up into your esophagus. And for people who suffer from it, the term "comfort food" takes on a whole new meaning because the act of eating can actually help reduce pain.

 

"Eating provides temporary relief because both the food you're eating, and the saliva from actually chewing that food, neutralises acid," explains Brown.

The only problem? Once the food's been digested, all the symptoms - bloating, nausea, hiccups that won't disappear - tend to come back, and they're usually more aggressive because of rebound acid production. But because people want help, Brown says a lot of people tend to get sucked into a dangerous cycle of overeating that leads to weight gain.

The fix: While plenty of online sources say home remedies like apple cider vinegar or aloe vera can help, Brown says there's no scientific evidence to support those notions. Instead, he recommends taking an over-the-counter medication, such as omeprazoleor ranitidine (your doctor can help you choose which is best for you), which don't have weight gain as a common side effect.

2. Ulcers

These uncomfortable sores also known as duodenal ulcers usually develop in the lining of the stomach or small intestine, and it's usually because of too much acid production. And just like with GERD, eating food can improve the painful symptoms - including bloat and constant nausea - because it temporarily coats the ulcer with a protective lining and neutralises the stomach acid, explains Dr Su Sachar, a gastroenterologist who specialises in bariatrics, wellness, and optimal health. And, to restate the obvious, if you're eating more frequently, those excess calories can lead to weight gain.

The fix: To banish ulcers, see your doctor about the best remedy for you, which might involve an acid-blocking medication (aka an anti-acid). And stop taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs - or NSAID pain relievers - like ibuprofen or aspirin, as they could cause internal bleeding and be life-threatening to those with ulcers. Instead, opt for paracetamol when you need help with pain management.

3. Constipation

When you're feeling stopped up, that weighed-down feeling you get could be weight gain. But there's good news: Your body isn't actually absorbing more calories, says Brown, so it's not true weight gain so much as it is extra faecal matter, which is what could be adding a few pounds to the scale. Not to mention that constipation itself doesn't exactly give us the motivation to hit the gym and crush a workout. Rather, it's way more likely that you're feeling sluggish and heavy … and the couch is calling your name.

The fix: To stay, err, regular, Brown suggests sticking to a balanced diet of whole foods that have at least 25 to 30 grams of fibre per day, staying well-hydrated (try to drink one to two litres of water per day), and exercise regularly.

4. Bacteria overgrowth

Bear with me - this one isn't quite as gross as it sounds. Basically, your bowel contains both good and bad bacteria, and research shows that the good kind plays a crucial role in your overall health by reducing inflammation and keeping your weight in check.

The problem occurs when the amount of bacteria increases, or when the type of bacteria gets thrown off-balance (for optimal health, it's best to think of it like a seesaw - best when the good and bad is totally balanced). When that happens, what's known as small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) can occur, and it can cause weight gain in two ways, says Brown.

First, the bacteria could produce methane gas, which "slows down the overall function of the small intestine, allowing the intestinal villi - small, finger-like projections in the lining of your intestine - to absorb more calories per bite," he explains.

In other words, the exact opposite of what you want to happen. Second, SIBO can slow down metabolism and affect your insulin and leptin resistance, both of which help regulate hunger and satiety. As a result, you're likely to crave carbs and probably won't feel full after eating, even if it's a fully satisfying meal, says Sachar.

The fix: To avoid SIBO, Brown suggests avoiding antibiotics unless absolutely needed. Or consider trying a probiotic to get your back on track.

5. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

The term IBS gets tossed around a lot these days, as "it's the most commonly diagnosed GI condition, and it often overlaps with other digestive problems like food sensitivities, a leaky gut, and an imbalance of good and bad bacteria," says Sachar. And like constipation (a symptom of IBS), it can cause bloat and chronic inflammation, which, once again, could lead to weight gain.

The fix: For people who are diagnosed with IBS, it's about getting to the root of the problem. Your doctor can work with you to build up the good bacteria you need with probiotics, and add digestive enzymes to help break down food so it's not just sitting around in your gut causing inflammation, explains Sachar. Brown says it could be helpful to try a gluten-free or low gas-producing diet, like FODMAP, as it can help reduce bloating and help get any unnecessary weight gain under control.

6. Crohn's Disease or Ulcerative Colitis

While a smaller appetite and excessive weight loss are common symptoms of both Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis (both of which are incurable chronic inflammatory conditions), the exact opposite can happen as soon as someone gets put on a treatment that involves steroids - which is usually the first step in trying to find a medication that works for you, says Sachar. "Steroids tend to increase your cravings for carbs and cause you to hold on to more water and feel bloated," says Sachar. "An oral steroid like Prednisone can also cause your body fat to redistribute itself, so instead of it being in your stomach or glutes, it could move to the face or neck."

Fortunately, it's usually not too tough to lose the weight once you're off steroids. That usually happens as soon as a flare-up - or the reappearance of symptoms like diarrhea, constipation, rectal bleeding, and fever - subside and symptoms are better under control.

The fix: First of all, your overall health is more important than a few pounds on the scale, so following your doctor's orders is imperative. But some doctors do shy away from steroid use, like Brown, as he knows the side effects can be less than desirable. Every patient responds differently to medication, though, so talk with your own physician to see what works best for you.

March 23rd 2017

For college students, new parents and employees dogged by deadlines, the all-nighter is nothing new. But going without sleep leaves you basically drunk, putting you at the equivalent of a .1% blood alcohol content as you drive to work, make decisions and interact with others.

“The first thing that goes is your ability to think," said Joseph Ojile, M.D., a board member with the National Sleep Foundation. Judgement, memory and concentration all suffer impairment by the body's 17th hour without sleep, he said.

“We know at 17 hours, you're at .08% blood alcohol level," he said, the legal standard for drunk driving. "At 24 hours, you’re at 0.1%."

Coordination deteriorates as well in those intervening hours, said Ojile, a professor at Saint Louis University School of Medicine. Irritability sets in, too. Pain becomes more acute and the immune system suffers, he said, leaving the body more open to infection.

"Here’s the worst part about the lack of judgement," Ojile said. "The person is unaware of their impairment. How scary is that? ‘I’m fine, I’ll just drive home. I’ll do my work at the nuclear plant, no problem. Or fly the plane, no problem.’"

It's not entirely clear how the effects worsen past 24 hours, Ojile said, other than they do. The brain starts shutting down in trance-like microsleeps, 15- to 30-second spells that occur without the person noticing. Eventually, not sleeping results in death.

"It could range in people, but it could be a week or two weeks," he said. "If you want to kill someone eventually, you just keep them up."

And if the above effects seem dramatic compared to your all-nighter experiences, remember you're not remembering clearly.

Drowsy driving caused 72,000 crashes and 800 deaths from 2009 to 2013, according to a report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Nearly one-third of all drivers admitted to driving drowsy within the previous month in a 2015 AAA poll.

If you find yourself on the road and short on sleep, don't think you can simply chug a cup of coffee and hit the road. It takes an hour for caffeine to kick in, Ojile said, so pull over for a bit and take break. You could use the rest.

March 21st 2017

The problem with baby teeth

The number of tooth extractions in hospital for children aged four and under has risen by almost a quarter in the last decade, new figures show.

Data from the Faculty of Dental Surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons shows there were 9,206 extractions for this age group in 2015-16 - a 24% increase on figures from 2006-07.

Some 47 of these extractions were for babies under the age of one.

Professor Nigel Hunt, dean of the Faculty of Dental Surgery, described the figures as "shocking".

He said: "It's almost certain that the majority of these extractions will be down to tooth decay caused by too much sugar in diets.

"Removal of teeth, especially in hospital under general anaesthetic, is not to be taken lightly.

"There tends to be an attitude of 'oh, they are only baby teeth' but in actual fact how teeth are looked after in childhood impacts oral health in adulthood.

"Baby teeth set the pattern for adult teeth, including tooth decay."

Dr Nicole Sturzenbaum, who runs a child-only clinic in West London, told Sky News dental decay in children is "not improving at all".

She said: "It's heartbreaking, the children suffer and the parents are devastated - nobody wants their children to go through treatment, extractions, fillings or crowns.

"We just had a child of 10 months old already having decay, and there are lots of under-fours with multiple caries and lesions in the mouth."

Dr Sturzenbaum believes many people do not understand which foods are bad for dental decay.

She said: "Lots of parents think smoothies and juices are healthy, but unfortunately they're full of sugar.

"You have all these sugary snacks like muesli bars, fruit bars and dried fruits. They're all popular but they're all sticky and full of sugar."

Meanwhile, Professor Hunt says the answer is three-fold.

He said: "Firstly, we've got to reduce sugar consumption and make increasing awareness of the dangers sugar has on a child's oral health.

"Secondly, we must improve access to dentists and lastly, make sure children are taken for their first dental check by the age of one."

March 20th 2017

Ginger has been used as a medical aid for centuries. It contains over 100 different chemical components, the most effective being Gingerol – a highly potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent, according to Dr. Axe.

If you are in pain, just eat some ginger. Ginger helps reduce pain, decrease inflammation and inhibit bacteria such as protozoa and Salmonella.

It has also been proven to cure morning sickness and prevent indigestion and nausea. In some cases it relieves seasickness and motion sickness as well.

Support your digestive system, boost your immunity, heal your ulcers and fight off cancer with this flexible ingredient. It can be consumed in many forms; tea, beer, ale and cooking.

The Benefits of Ginger That You Didn’t Know About

1. It has anti-inflammatory effects- Ginger is an anti-inflammatory that has been used as a valuable tool for pain relief, according to Dr. Mercola. He explains that according to a study it has been “found to be as effective as ibuprofen in relieving pain from menstrual cramps in women.” It also helps with migraine, muscle and joint pain.

2. May protect against cancer- Research has shown that ginger has the ability to shrink tumours; it’s even more effective than many cancer drugs, according to Natural Society.

3. It’s great for your gut health- Ginger helps with digestion, reduces nausea and may even help reduce stomach infections. It helps relax the muscles in your gut lining, which in turn helps food move through your system and relieves irritable bowel syndrome symptoms – gas, bloating, cramps, constipation etc.

4. Boosts immune system- Ginger is a strong antioxidant that has been shown to naturally boost the immune system. It contains tons of vitamins, some of which include magnesium, iron, zinc and calcium. Ginger helps kill cold viruses and has been said to combat chills and fever.

5. Can treat morning sickness and nausea- During the first few months of pregnancy, women tend to experience morning sickness – nausea, vomiting. Ginger has been shown to help soothe the stomach and relieve nausea symptoms. Tip: Add a slice of raw ginger to tea or water.

6. Helps with arthritis- There are numerous health benefits of ginger, one of which is its incredible pain reducing properties. It also helps reduce inflammation in people with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. How should you consume ginger for arthritis? According to the Arthritis Foundation, “powder, extract, tincture, capsules and oils, up to 2 g in three divided doses per day or up to 4 cups of tea daily. In studies, 255 mg of Eurovita Extract 77 (equivalent to 3,000 mg dried ginger) twice daily.”

7. It’s a great detox- Ginger root has been shown to relax the intestinal tract and eliminate intestinal gas. It has the ability to help detox your body and remove unwanted toxins.

Health foods with big beauty benefits

March 15th 2017

Some people have accused cell phones of causing cancer with their radiation (even though they very likely do not) but in one family's case, a cell phone is actually credited with discovering a cancer diagnosis.

After snapping what turned out to be a lifesaving photo of his then-14-month-old son, a dad noticed that one of the baby's eyes looked very different than the other. After an internet search, baby Jaxson was on his way to the doctor. Within a month, he had been diagnosed with cancer and was beginning chemotherapy.

We can only imagine how scary it must have been to go from cell phone photo to cancer treatment so quickly but when Owen Scrivens noticed the white spot in his son's eye, he decided to do some research and discovered retinoblastoma.

"There’d been nothing else wrong, although after we noticed the eye color he started to develop a bit of a squint," Scrivens told Metro.co.uk. "I looked through some old photos and you actually can see the point where it changes in late November."

After treatment, the family reports that the tumour has already shrunk to a third of the size, though it will never go away completely. The hope is that it will end up as a small, benign mass that will be monitored throughout Jaxson's life.

Scrivens says that Jaxson is sick for a few days following chemo, but that he bounces back quickly. "His sight is alright – they can’t do a proper eye test but from what they’ve found, he’s missing a bit of tunnel vision," Scrivens explains.

So often Googling medical concerns leads down rabbit holes full of worst case scenarios, but in this case, Scrivens' decision to see what the internet had to say very well may have saved his son's life. Thanks to a combination of cell phones and web searching, Jaxson's cancer was caught early. Thank goodness for modern technology!

March 14th 2017

140-pound (10 stone) tumour. 

Mary Clancey said she was resigned to being a plump old lady. Over 15 years she kept getting bigger despite dieting. But with her health deteriorating, her son persuaded her to go to the hospital.

What doctors found astounded them: A cyst in one of her ovaries had grown into a 140-pound (10 stone) tumour. Doctors at Lehigh Valley Health Network in Allentown removed the cancerous, Stage 1 mass in a five-hour operation Nov. 10.

Going in, Clancey weighed 365 pounds (about 26 lbs) . After five hours in surgery, she lost 180 pounds of tumour and tissue, about half her weight, the doctors said.

"You can't imagine in your wildest dreams something that huge," she told Philadelphia TV station NBC10.

As she was gaining weight, Clancey, 71, of St. Clair, Pennsylvania, said doctors told her just to watch what she ate. At just over 5 feet tall, she said she felt destined to become "a short round, fat little old lady."

The tumour didn't really cause her pain. "It just made itself comfortable in there," she said.

But by the time she went to the hospital, it had become difficult for her to walk and even stand.

Dr. Richard Boulay, who performed the operation, said the mass was so big it didn't even fit in the picture taken by a CT scan.

"It was slowly killing her," Bouley said Thursday during a news conference at the hospital.

To help in the removal of the tumour, a second table had to be moved next to the one on which Clancey was lying so the mass could be rolled out without it rupturing, The Morning Call reported.

Made up predominantly of water, the tumour was "slippery and nasty," Boulay said.

After nearly a month in recovery, Clancey is back home, working to regain her balance as a lighter woman.

She weighs less than 150 pounds and said she feels great. Doctors said tests show she is cancer-free and does not need further treatment, The Call reported.

March 10th 2017

It strengthens the bond between mother and baby, sustains life and boosts immunity but breast-feeding isn’t always easy.

But, there’s one common, alarming complication that even the most fervent enthusiasts are susceptible to; Mastitis.

Never heard of it? You’re not alone because despite the condition affecting up to 20 per cent of breast-feeders a year, Mastitis is rarely spoken about but one mother is on a mission to change that.

Lindsey Bliss, a birth doula and mother of six from New York has breastfeed all of her biological children, including two sets of twins but had never experienced the side-effect until nursing her youngest child.

Taking to Instagram, Bliss shared an intimate photo of herself breast-feeding her newborn, with her breast visibly inflamed in red.

“When a good boob goes bad — AGAIN!” she wrote in her caption. “I literally wanted Dan to bring me to the ER last night due to the most EPIC engorged boob, full body shakes, and a crushing headache. On the mend today from my bed. Why does this keep happening?”

Despite her training as a director at Carriage House Birth, an organisation that fosters community among birth doulas and postpartum care providers, Bliss wasn’t prepared for the impact Mastitis would have on her entire body.

 In addition to her swollen breast, she also experienced milk-duct discharge, body shakes and uncontrollable teeth chattering.

 “It literally feels like someone kicked me in the breast,” she told Cosmopolitan.

“No one really warns you about how powerful mastitis is. Your boob can cause a full body shut down.”

So what causes Mastitis?

Often occurring in the first three months of breast-feeding, Mastitis can be the result of a blocked milk duct, bacteria build-up, stress and fatigue, missed feedings or pressure from an ill-fitting bra.

If Mastitis happens to you, emptying the affected breast can help and continuing to feed your baby won’t cause them any harm.

For the pain, you can take an anti-inflammatory or apply a warm, wet cloth for 15 to 20 minutes a few times a day.

 However, if your symptoms persist for more than 12 to 24 hours, you should arrange to see your doctor.

March 6th

A new study has discovered eating large amounts of unprocessed meat creates a greater risk of getting an inflammatory bowel condition.

Analysing information about the diets of more than 46,000 men in the US, researchers discovered 764 developed the condition, called diverticulitis, over a period of 26 years.

The study also found those who ate the highest amounts of red meat had a 58 per cent higher chance of getting the disease compared to those who consumed the least.

Writing in the journal Gut, the scientists said: “We found that intake of red meat, particularly unprocessed red meat, was associated with an increased risk of diverticulitis.

“Substitution of unprocessed red meat with poultry or fish may reduce the risk of diverticulitis.

"Our findings may provide practical dietary guidance for patients at risk of diverticulitis, a common disease of huge economic and clinical burden.

“The mechanisms underlying the observed associations require further investigation.”

Diverticulitis, according to the NHS website, produces small bulges or pockets in the lining of the intestine.

This can, in turn, cause lower abdominal pain and make people feel bloated.

This less serious form is known as diverticulosis and some people do not have any symptoms.

Full-blown diverticulitis can result in severe abdominal pain, especially on the left side, a fever and diarrhoea or frequent bowel movements.

The NHS suggests a high-fibre diet “can often ease symptoms” of the milder form of the disease while antibiotics can be used to treat the more serious version.

“People aged 50-70 who eat a high-fibre diet (25g a day) have a 40 per cent lower chance of admission to hospital with complications of diverticular disease – compared to others in their age range with the lowest amount of dietary fibre,” the website adds.

However Dr Carrie Ruxton, of the UK's Meat Advisory Panel, told the Independent: “This is yet another exercise where a large observational study is milked to produce statistical links between diet and reported disease 25 years later.

"It is highly unlikely that the results represent a real causal link between red meat and diverticulitis, particularly as the association was not seen in processed meat, which tends to be higher in fat and salt than fresh red meat.

"Indeed, the authors themselves noted that 'pathways through which red meat consumption may influence risk of diverticulitis are yet to be established'.

“The best way to lower the risk of diverticulitis and diverticular disease is to boost fibre intakes significantly to 30g per day, as recommended by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition.

"Current intakes in the UK are less than 20g. Lean red meat, around five times a week in modest amounts, can be a nutritious part of a high-fibre diet”.

March 5th 2017

Have you ever felt stuffed after a meal, but still ordered dessert? Or reached for cookies in the office kitchen just because they were there? Sugar cravings are notoriously hard to resist, and it can feel impossible to escape.

Maybe you’ve heard that sugar is even more addictive than cocaine. A classic study in the journal PLoS ONE found that 94 percent of rats chose artificially sweetened water over cocaine. While it might be a stretch to say a daily candy break is as dangerous as a drug problem in humans, sugar does fire up dopamine and light up your brain’s pleasure systems, just like drugs do.

Our bodies need carbohydrates to function, so it’s natural that our bodies would crave it in sugar form, says Vera Tarman, MD, author of Food Junkies: The Truth About Food Addiction and medical director of Renascent Rehab, Canada’s largest drug and alcohol treatment center. Nutritious fruits and vegetables contain sugar, but those small doses are totally healthy. The problem is, processed foods contain concentrated amounts of that natural sweetener. 'You’re looking at something that has a high amount of a substance that will overpower what we normally should eat,' says Dr. Tarman. 'It becomes more than pleasurable—it becomes addictive.' It’s like how South Americans chewed coca plant leaves for centuries, but the plant wasn’t a problem until its concentrated version, cocaine, hit the market, she says.

When your sweet tooth goes from a mere craving to an obsession, you might be hooked on sugar, says Dr. Tarman. The signs look similar to a drug addiction, she says: thinking about food more than anything else, feeling unable to stop even when you’re stuffed, or hiding food so no one knows you have it. Sugar can also become a problem when you’re just eating it out of habit, says registered dietitian nutritionist Tamara Melton, MS, RD, LD, spokesperson for the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 'People feel like they need to have something sweet, especially after a meal, and are very distracted by it,' she says. 'They don’t feel like they’ve finished eating until they’ve had a dessert.'

Even if you’re at a healthy weight, all that sugar can cause major health problems. Not only can it lead to heart problems, but you might experience headaches, bloating, and energy crashes, says Melton. 'People have this general well-being of feeling better because they’re not experiencing those huge highs and lows in blood sugar,' she says. 'It’s more constant, so they feel better.' (Find out the sneaky things that can change your blood sugar levels.)

Going cold turkey with added sugar might be your best bet if you want long-term results because whittling down slowly might make you crave those sweets even more, says Dr. Tarman. 'If you have a little bit, you’re just going to want more of it,' she says. She warns that the first five days will be hard, potentially with intense cravings, irritability, and sleeplessness. By week two, though, any physical withdrawal symptoms will go away, and by week three you won’t even miss the sugar, she says.

Start by removing all sugary foods, including sneaky sources like fat-free salad dressings, jarred sauces, and flavored yogurt. Get your whole family on board so you’re not tempted by their snack foods—and neither are they. 'If you’re taking in too much sugar, it’s likely the rest of the family is too,' says Melton. When a craving hits, get that oral satisfaction with gum or tea, she suggests. Try painting your nails after dinner to keep yourself from rifling through the cupboards for dessert. 

At work, stick around for the beginning of celebrations like birthdays, but excuse yourself as the cake is cut to avoid temptation. If you like running out with your coworkers for a sugary coffee drink or sweet snack, ask if they’d like to go for a walk instead. 'You want to spend time bonding or taking a break,' says Melton. 'Replace it with a healthy activity.'

In addition to social eating, emotions play a big role in sugar cravings. Promise yourself five minutes to let the craving pass while you distract yourself. During that time, do something fun to release any sadness or boredom. 'Do something that’s pleasurable, because that’s what people are seeking when they want the sugar,' says Melton. Call a friend to vent about a stressful day, or listen to your favorite music.

If you feel your willpower dwindling, remind yourself why you chose to cut out sugar in the first place, whether it’s because you wanted to have more energy or lose weight. 'Take a picture of what that represents and keep it on your phone,' says Melton. You could also reach out to a friend who’s on board with your sugar-free diet for some moral support.

Cutting added sugar out (or even down) might sound impossible and, quite frankly, miserable, but Dr. Tarman assures that you won’t miss it. After a few weeks, your taste buds will adjust, and the sweet things you love now won’t be as appetizing. 'If you don’t have a Froot Loop, the apple tastes great,' she says. 'Freedom tastes great—freedom from obsession.'

Feb 23rd 2017

A mother in the US has made the heartbreaking decision to carry her terminally ill baby so that she can donate her daughter's organs. Keri and Royce Young, from Oklahoma, found out that their baby has anencephaly and is terminal. 

The birth defect means that their baby Eva, which means 'life' in Hebrew, will be born without a fully developed brain. Keri has decided to continue the pregnancy to full term so that her baby can "grow strong and give life to multiple people through organ donation".

Posting a photo of her baby scan on Facebook, Keri wrote: "This is our daughter's perfect heart. She has perfect feet and perfect hands. She has perfect kidneys, perfect lungs and a perfect liver. Sadly, she doesn't have a perfect brain. We found out recently she has anencephaly and is terminal."

The brave mother went on to say that for the next 20 weeks, until her May due date, she will "feel her kick, have the hiccups and we'll be able to hear her perfect heart beating all while knowing we'll only get a few short hours with her when she's born".

Keri has received an outpouring of support from people all over the world, and has been keeping her Facebook followers updated with her pregnancy. Earlier this month, she had a 4D scan of baby Eva. "It was so, so amazing," wrote Keri. "She has chubby cheeks and long fingers and toes. I've been feeling more pregnant than 27 weeks and sure enough, we're officially over the normal range in fluid. Basically all this means is I'm about to get real big."

She also described the tear-jerking moment a shop assistant asked about the sex of her baby. Keri, who has a son Harrison with her husband, wrote: "Yesterday I had to purchase some new maternity clothes so I knew it was coming. I tried to talk about Harrison's pregnancy as much as I could but she finally asked, "Do you know what you're having?" "Yes, a little girl." "Oh how exciting, now you'll have one of each!" By the grace of God I kept it together and didn't cry. Did I have a small panic attack when I got to my car? Absolutely. But overall, it wasn't the worst experience and I'm proud of myself for not breaking down in the store. This morning however, I can't say the same."

Her husband Royce has been praising his wife for her bravery. Royce reminisced on the moment doctors told the couple that their baby was terminal. He wrote: "I thought back to the moment where we found out Eva wasn't perfect, and how literally 30 seconds after our doctor told us our baby doesn't have a brain, somehow through full body ugly crying, Keri looked up and asked, "If I carry her full term, can we donate her organs?" I remember our doctor putting her hand on Keri's shoulder and saying, "Oh honey, that's so brave of you to say." Like, how nice of you, but come on. Keri meant it.

"There I was, crestfallen and heartbroken, but I momentarily got lifted out of the moment and just stood in awe of her. I was a spectator to my own life, watching a superhero find her superpowers. In literally the worst moment of her life, finding out her baby was going to die, it took her less than a minute to think of someone else and how her selflessness could help. It's one of the most powerful things I've ever experienced. In the eight years we've been married (and 15 years together) I've had a lot of moments stop me in my tracks where I thought, "this woman I'm married to, lucky me." But this one was different. It hit me that not only am I married to my very best friend, but to a truly remarkable, special human being."

Feb 21st 2017

Sara Hoffman was just 37 when she had a terrifying incident while trapped on a plane en route to her wedding in Mexico. Read her story and find out what she wants all women to know about taking care of their hearts.

On April 13, 2015, I was on a non-stop flight from Seattle to Cancun, heading to my destination wedding in Mexico. (My husband, Court, and I got engaged in February 2014 and had been planning the sunny beach wedding for a little over a year.)

About four hours into the flight we got up to go to the bathroom. As we walked down the aisle to go back to our seats, I started having a very intense burning in the upper part of my chest. My left arm started aching and it felt like I had vice grips on my jaw. A heart attack crossed my mind because I was experiencing the symptoms you often hear about. But I was young and healthy and I wasn't worried about my heart. I told myself, "Don't go to the worst case scenario - you're on an aeroplane."

I told my husband to get my mom who was on the flight too. She used to work in the medical field so she instantly got a flight attendant after I told her my symptoms. My mom said, "I think you need to see if there's a doctor on the plane." Amazingly, there was a cardiologist on board.

He asked the flight attendant to give me aspirin and nitroglycerin pills (apparently they keep both of these on planes ) and put me on oxygen. He tried to take my blood pressure but was having a hard time hearing it. He called into a medical centre on the ground as he monitored me.

After about 20 minutes, I could hear the staff and doctor start to talk about where we were in the flight path. We had just started flying over the Gulf. The attendant said, "If we're going to land, we need to turn the plane around right now." The flight attendant looked at me and waited for an answer. I responded: "You need to land the plane. I know something is wrong."

We made an emergency landing in Louisiana. I knew people were going to think I was just having a panic attack; everyone saw me getting on the plane with my wedding dress. And I didn't look like someone who was having a serious health problem. I figured people were going to make the assumption that nothing is wrong and that I was a bride having the worst case of cold feet ever. But something in my gut said that this was serious.

I was wheeled off the plane and into a waiting ambulance on the runway. We were about seven minutes from the hospital in Kenner, LA. Once there, I was taken into the ER and there were probably 10 to 15 people in the room, taking my clothes off, hooking me up to monitors and taking blood. It was chaos.

At that point, no one had said, you're having a heart attack. I didn't fully realise how bad the situation was until the cardiologist came in and said, "I need you to sign a consent form for an angioplasty."

I panicked and asked "what for?" He said, "You're having a heart attack." Hearing someone confirm my worst fear was incredibly intense.

Within 15 minutes of being in the ER, I was taken into the cath lab. I had an angioplasty and a stent put into my left anterior descending artery, which is also known as the widow-maker. My heart stopped twice during the procedure so I had to be defibrillated. (The doctor told us later that if we hadn't landed, I would have died on the plane that day.)

After we were in Louisiana for two days post-procedure, the doctor said my heart was pumping better and stronger than it was before the incident. My artery was 100% blocked or pretty close to it, so now, there was no reason not to continue on to our wedding. I definitely thought "Should we just cancel the whole thing?" but the doctors didn't say that was necessary.

Next, we flew from Louisiana to Houston. I was not feeling well in Houston and asked for a medic in the airport. He checked my vitals and didn't see anything wrong. As we were about to get on the plane again to fly from Houston to Cancun, we stood at the gate and I thought, "I don't know if I can get on the plane." I didn't want to feel trapped on the plane again. But we eventually boarded and made it to Mexico.

We were there for five days. I was extremely nauseous the whole time and barely ate. I was lightheaded and short of breath. On my wedding day, I did the best I could. I danced with my husband for the first dance but I couldn't enjoy the reception the way I would if I was healthy. On the other hand, I felt so lucky just to be alive that it didn't really matter.

I was happy to get to walk down the aisle and to get married in front of our friends and family. I tried to really enjoy the day and be present, especially given what happened. Everyone says that your wedding day goes by in such a flash. Prior to walking down the aisle, I took a breath and soaked it all in. We had about 50 people at the wedding and everyone knew about the heart attack. (Our guests were told to wait to get on their flights to Mexico until they'd heard from us to say that we were cleared to fly.)

We ended up not going on our honeymoon and came home about five days early because I didn't feel well. The day after we got home, I was back in the hospital for three more days. I had lost 12 pounds since the heart attack and was experiencing congestive heart failure and really bad side effects from my medications.

After a number of much-needed medication adjustments - the doctors said treatment was going to be trial and error since I was young and female and not a "typical" heart attack patient - I started feeling better. I wasn't lightheaded and had more energy.

I then started a six-month stint in cardiac rehab. Two months into rehab, I was running on the treadmill and getting back to being active. I never would have done that on my own. In the beginning, I was angry about my situation. The first day I walked into cardiac rehab, everyone was over 60. I was in tears thinking "How did I end up here?" I realised that all the good choices I made ahead of time were why I was able to recover so quickly.

Now, I go to the gym and swim and do weights. I see a lot more muscle tone in my body that I didn't have before. My husband and I don't eat out very often. We shop the perimeter of the store, focusing on fresh fruit and whole grains and nothing out of a box or can. I actually feel a lot stronger than I did before my heart attack.

When I look at wedding pictures, I feel a mix of emotions. Part of me thinks of it fondly because I got married! But I also relive the story in my head and how sick I felt. You have this image in your head of your wedding day. You picture getting your hair done with your girlfriends and drinking champagne. (I was so nauseous that I wanted to throw up during my hair styling.) I feel some disappointment because I didn't get to have the wedding I spent a year planning.

After a heart attack, everything changes. I have a chronic health condition now. It's not a disease that was cured. It's something I think about every day. I'll be on multiple medications for the rest of my life.

But, more importantly, I also feel like I was given a second chance at life. I'm trying to embrace that fact and be thankful for what I do have. And here's what I want all women to know:

Speak up for yourself

So many women have symptoms and are too embarrassed to go to the ER if it turns out nothing is wrong. Well, I asked someone to land an entire aeroplane for me not knowing if something was really wrong. It's your life and you have one chance at it. If you're wrong, you're wrong, and the ER sends you home. But what if you're right? You have to trust your instincts.

Understand your family history

Before my heart attack, I wasn't worried about heart disease. I do have a family history (my dad had a heart attack at 36 and my grandfather had one at 40), but I thought I was in the clear. I'd run a marathon and many half marathons. I ate healthy. I didn't smoke. I was a vegetarian. I thought all my healthy choices would counteract the family history. It's so important to schedule a well-woman visit and discuss what family history means for your risk (don't just check the box on the form!). I know now that genetics are really powerful and I volunteer as an advocate for the American Heart Association's You're the Cure initiative.

 

Feb 19th 2017

When it comes to vitamins and minerals, more is always better, right?

Not exactly. While it may be enticing to reach for that vitamin-C packed drink when feeling under the weather, your body can't actually process it all. And a balanced diet typically carries enough B, C, and E vitamins to keep your body running smoothly.

But there is growing evidence that there could be one vitamin worth getting with the help of supplements: vitamin D.

Though how much of this vitamin the body is actually able to use is still up for debate, it's difficult to get much vitamin D from food. Especially if a person is deficient in vitamin D, a supplement can help get to the recommended daily amount.

Technically, two different vitamins — D2, which mainly comes from supplements and food, and D3, which comes from the sun — the fat-soluble vitamin D works in our bodies to help build up bone strength. It's also used by our muscles for movement and by our immune system to fight infections.

Studies have found that people who consistently took vitamin D supplements lived longer, on average, than those who did not take them. Other studies suggest vitamin D is also helpful in protecting bone health.

And now, even more evidence suggests it could help prevent acute respiratory tract infections, which include things like colds, the flu and sinus infections. A meta-analysis released Wednesday in The BMJ reviewed 25 randomized controlled trials that looked at whether the risk of contracting one of these infections decreased among those who took vitamin D supplements.

It found that for those taking supplements either daily or weekly, the risk of getting at least one acute respiratory tract infection was reduced. That was especially the case in people who were deficient in vitamin D.

"What we found is that those with the lowest vitamin D levels experienced the greatest benefit from supplementation," Dr. Adrian Martineau, study author and a professor of respiratory infection and immunity at Queen Mary University of London, told NPR. Their risk of infection decreased by half.

How to get more vitamin D

Exposure to the sun helps us produce vitamin D, but it's also found in fatty fish like salmon and tuna. There are small amounts of the vitamin in beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks as well.

Since vitamin D is not found in too many foods, it's often added to milk, breakfast cereal, and orange juice.

There is a debate about whether supplements are the right choice for everyone, but it does seem that those who are deficient could stand to benefit from adding a supplement to their existing diet.

The suggested daily dose of vitamin D for most healthy adults is 600 IU (the measurement tool for fat-soluble vitamins), of which a serving of milk has about 25% of the daily amount. TheNational Institutes of Health recommends 600 IU per day (or 15 mcg).

Just don't go too far. Vitamin D overuse — anything above that 4,000 IU/day limit, or almost seven times the recommended daily amount — has been linked with symptoms like vomiting, constipation, weakness, and weight loss, and it's almost always because of overused supplements. Luckily, your body knows how to regulate how much vitamin D it makes, so you won't get too high a dose from sitting in the sun.

Feb 17th 2017

Virsaviya is just like any other seven-year-old-girl - she likes dancing, drawing and ponies.

But as this incredible footage shows, the brave girl was born with an extraordinary condition which means her heart is outside her chest.

The little girl suffers from thoraco-abdominal syndrome or Pantalogy of Cantrell - a condition that occurs in less than 1 in a million births.

Speaking to the BBC, she said: "This is my heart. I'm the only one that has this."

Virsaviya's heart can be visibly seen beating underneath her rib cage with only a thin layer of skin to protect it.

She adds: "When I'm getting dressed, I put soft clothes on to not hurt my heart.

"I walk around, I jump, I fly, I run, I'm not supposed to run but I love running."

When Virsaviya was born in Russia, doctors warned mum Dari Borun to prepare for the worst.

She said: "Doctors told me Virsaviya had a really rare condition. But they said she won't survive. When I saw the first time how her heart was beating, of course to me it was something special.

"It meant that Virsaviya's alive and she can breathe and she can live."

Dari moved her from Russia to the US in the hope she could have surgery but she was told that Virsaviya wasn't strong enough because of problems with her blood pressure.

She added: "We came from Russia to the US but when doctors checked her they said they could not help her. I was really upset about that because they kept telling me she will die soon.

 

"It's not easy for Virsaviya to live with her heart on the outside because it's really fragile. She has to be careful as of course she can fall and it can be really dangerous - she can die from that."

Now the family have moved to Hollywood in the hope that medications can bring her blood pressure down enough to operate.

"I like to draw Jesus, ponies and angels," said Virsaviya.

"I don't go to the school and I don't go to the ballet but I want to do it at home.

"My heart is right here.

"It's outside of my chest and I really love my mom , she's always touching my heart because she likes it."

Virsaviya's heart, about the size of a fist, has always been outside of her chest since birth.

She is expected to require several very complicated operations .

The cheerful and talented child who loves dolphins, dogs, horses and Beyonce has had her entire life documented on her mother's instagram account.

Feb 17th 2017

Pancreatic cancer will claim an increasing number of lives over the next decade and overtake breast cancer to become the fourth most deadly form of the disease overall, a charity has warned.

It is often difficult to diagnose pancreatic cancer early enough to stop it from spreading, because the symptoms are so vague.

A lack of new diagnosis methods means that by 2026, 11,279 people are predicted to die every year from the disease – a 28 per cent rise on the 8,817 in 2014, said Pancreatic Cancer UK.

The only live-saving treatment available for pancreatic cancer is an operation to remove the tumour.

However, in 92 per cent of cases, the cancer is not caught early enough for surgery, meaning it has the lowest survival rate of all cancers.

The signs of pancreatic cancer, sometimes called the 'silent killer', may come and go at first.

 These are the most common symptoms.

Jaundice

Anyone with jaundice – yellow skin and whites of the eyes – should see their GP straight away. People who develop jaundice may also feel itchy and notice pale faeces and dark urine.

The yellow pigmentation is caused by a build-up of a substance called bilirubin.

It can also be caused by non-cancerous conditions such as hepatitis and gallstones, but should always be taken seriously and everyone over 40 with the condition is referred to a specialist for testing.

Abdominal pain

The pancreas is a large gland buried deep inside the body and a common symptom of pancreatic cancer is pain the tummy area, which can come and go and spread to the back.

The pain is often worse when lying down or after eating.

Unexplained weight loss and loss of appetite

Sudden, unintentional weight loss can be the sign of a serious illness like pancreatic cancer, although it can also take place after a stressful event.

Weight loss can take place because the pancreas plays an important role in the digestive system, which can be disrupted by the cancer, so food is not properly absorbed by the body.

Indigestion

Indigestion is a symptom of pancreatic cancer but has many other causes and isn’t usually linked to the disease – making it more difficult for doctors to diagnose.

Changes to bowel habits

Because digestion is affected by pancreatic cancer, the body can stop breaking down fat in food, which is then excreted in large amounts.

This can make stools large, pale and oily, with a particularly disgusting smell. They can also be difficult to flush down the toilet.

Diarrhoea and constipation can also be caused by the disease.

Difficulty swallowing

Another symptom that can be caused by other health problems, some people with pancreatic cancer find it difficult to swallow and may find themselves coughing, choking or feeling as if food is stuck in their throat.

Nausea

Pancreatic cancer can make you vomit and feel sick.

Recently diagnosed diabetes

The pancreas produces a hormone called insulin, which helps control blood sugar levels, but cancer can interrupt this process.

Diabetes occurs when a person’s blood sugar levels become too high. This can be caused by a lack of insulin, so it is recommended that GPs refer patients over 60 who have lost weight and have recently been diagnosed with diabetes for a scan.

Feb 14th 2017

Scarlet fever cases are soaring across the country, according to reports.

Public Health England says it is aware of the rise in cases, which have primarily been seen across the North West.

But doctors are urging mums and dads across Britain to be vigilant as cases rise.

Dr Theresa Lamagni, Public Health England head of streptococcal infection surveillance, said: “We can expect to see increasing numbers of cases of scarlet fever as the season progresses over the course of the winter and spring.

“Given the high number of patients reported to have scarlet fever last season, we are keeping a very close eye on national and local notifications.

“Individuals should be mindful of the symptoms of scarlet fever, which include a sore throat, headache and fever with a sand papery, fine, pink rash developing within one to two days of first symptoms.

“If you or your child develops any of these symptoms you should contact your GP.

“NHS Choices also provides helpful information on symptoms of infection including photographs of the rash.

“Whilst scarlet fever is not usually a severe illness it should be treated with antibiotics to reduce the risk of further complications and to minimise the risk of spread of the infection to others.

“Children or adults diagnosed with scarlet fever are advised to stay at home until at least 24 hours after the start of antibiotic treatment to avoid spreading the infection to others.”

After catching the illness it usually takes two to five days for symptoms to appear.

Scarlet fever is a notifiable disease which means doctors have to tell Public Health England about all the cases they see.

Scarlet fever: What to look for

Scarlet fever is an extremely contagious bacterial illness that mainly affects children, and causes a distinctive pink-red rash.

Initial symptoms usually include a sore throat, headache and a high temperature, flushed cheeks and a swollen tongue.

A day or two later the characteristic rash appears.

It usually occurs on the chest and stomach before spreading to other areas of the body, such as the ears and neck.

The rash feels like sandpaper to touch and it may be itchy.

The condition is treated with antibiotics.

Feb 12th 2017

Here are some things parasites will do to survive.

The hairworm makes infected crickets commit suicide in water so it can find a mate. Parasitic barnacles invade the bodies of crabs, sterilize them, and then trick them into caring for baby parasitic barnacles. Toxo makes rats so fearless that they run straight to cats, whose feces spread the parasite.

In other words, parasites sometimes possess not just the bodies of their hosts. They seem to possess their minds.

Malaria, which sickens more than 200 million people a year, seems to have some mind-altering powers over mosquitoes, too. The parasites that causes malaria, which belong to the genus Plasmodium, spread to humans through mosquito bites. A handful of studies have foundthat female mosquitoes infected with a certain stage of the parasite are more eager for blood. And conversely, humans infected with malaria seem to emanate signals that attract more mosquitoes.

A new study in Science actually illuminates how the parasite in human blood draws mosquitoes, manipulating the bugs into flying malaria-dispersal machines.

The discovery came by accident. Ingrid Faye, a molecular biologist at Stockholm University, was curious about a particular molecule made by malaria parasites called HMBPP. She wanted to drill into the details of how HMBPP affects mosquito immune systems, but her team ended up noticing some behavior too odd to ignore: The mosquitos—specifically, the species Anopheles gambiaethey were studying—would go crazy for human blood with HMBPP. “The difference it made was just astounding,” says Faye. When given a choice between normal human blood and that either laced with the HMBPP or infected with malaria parasites, almost all the mosquitoes went for the latter two.

Feb 8th 2017

Human trials are set to take place for a “reversible” male contraceptive injection.

The contraceptive, called Vasalgel, works by inserting gel into the tube which sperm travels down, known as the vas deferens. This gel then forms a blockage so sperm cannot pass.

If a man wishes to restore fertility, whether after months or years, the gel is then flushed out of the tube.

The contraceptive has just been trialled on monkeys who were allowed to mate freely for two years. No infants were conceived during this time.

“We were impressed that this alternative worked in every single monkey, even though this was our first time trying it,” said Dr Angela Colagross-Schouten, lead veterinarian on the monkey trials.

Men currently have two options when it comes to contraceptives - condoms, or a more permanent option, a vasectomy.

Vasalgel promises to act as a temporary but longer-term measure.

Scientists at the Parsemus Foundation in California are now beginning trials on men to see if the high success rates translate to humans.

The company behind the idea, the Parsemus Foundation, has had to rely on crowd funding for the research to take place. This is due to the fact that “long-term [contraceptive] methods aren’t a big money-maker” and for large pharmaceutical companies, it’s a lot more “profitable to sell pills to men’s partners every month”.

As a result, Vasalgel is being developed as a social venture with a focus on affordable pricing and wide availability.

Genevieve Edwards, director of policy at Marie Stopes UK, said the development of the contraceptive is “potentially very interesting”.

“I’d imagine this might be popular with couples in a relationship with shared views on fertility, or men who don’t currently want to risk a pregnancy but might want children in the future,” she told The Telegraph.

“You’d have to watch out for a return to fertility though to avoid unwanted pregnancy, and of course, condoms are the only way to prevent STIs.”

Feb 5th 2017

Nine benefits of eating orange peel

While eating an orange peel might not seem very appetizing or appealing, it actually doesn't taste that bad. You quickly get use to the thickness and texture of the hard peel.

Here are some of the incredible health benefits!

1. Lowers High Blood Pressure and Cholesterol

Orange peels, white pulp, and pith are full of hesperidin, a flavonoid that's been shown to have these benefits.

Elzbieta Kurowska, Ph.D., vice president of research at KGK Synergize in Ontario, Canada, has found in her studies that polymethoxylated flavones (PMFs) in orange peels are more likely to lower cholesterol than many prescription drugs.

2. Anti-Allergetic

The peel has something in it that prevents histamine from being released. Histamines are a chemical that causes allergic reactions. Orange peel's prevention of its release makes them a potentially anti-allergic food that will help that sneezing and runny nose from allergies.

3. Anti-Inflammatory</h2>

Orange peels have similar properties to the anti-inflammatory drug, indomethacin.

4. Improves Oral Health

It whitens teeth and reduces sensitivity. The citrus also acts as a natural breath freshener.

5. Boosts Immune System

The high concentration of Vitamin C and Vitamin A will strengthen your immune system and keep a cold, cough, and flu far far away.

6. Anti-Cancer Activity</h2>

According to research published in the journal BioMed Research International:

"Due to their broad range of pharmacological properties, citrus flavonoids have gained increased attention. Accumulative in vitro and in vivo studies indicate protective effects of polymethoxyflavones (PMFs) against the occurrence of cancer.

PMFs inhibit carcinogenesis by mechanisms like blocking the metastasis cascade, inhibition of cancer cell mobility in circulatory systems, proapoptosis, and antiangiogenesis."

7. Protects Respiratory System

Eating foods that contain beta-cryptoxanthin are proven to lower your chances for lung cancer significantly. Orange peels and oranges are both known to contain a lot of this.

The George Mateljan Foundation wrote on their blog about the benefits of orange saying that: "A study published in the September 2003 issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention reviewed dietary and lifestyle data collected from over 60,000 adults in Shanghai, China. Those eating the most crytpoxanthin-rich foods showed a 27% reduction in lung cancer risk.

When current smokers were evaluated, those who were also in the group consuming the most cryptoxanthin-rich foods were found to have a 37% lower risk of lung cancer compared to smokers who ate the least of these health-protective foods."

Find more info about this blog here.

8. Improves Digestive System</h2>

The peels contain lots of fiber and non-soluble polysaccharides which help food move through your intestines better and digestion to work smoothly.

Read more about it here.

9. Helps with Weight Loss

It is low in calories and a great fiber to put in smoothies or to cut up and eat as a snack.

Feb 3rd 2017

A 26-year-old married dad-of-two died after a tooth infection spread to his lungs.

Vadim Kondratyuk Anatoliyevich, a truck driver from California, began to feel pain when driving from California to New York.

After seeking dental help in Oklahoma, his infected tooth was cleaned and he was proscribed antibiotics for the infection.

At first, the treatment seemed to work and he reached his destination in New York feeling much better, but as he set out on the return trip to California, the side of his face became swollen.

In the early hours of Monday morning, Kondratyuk was pronounced dead in a Utah hospital, where doctors found that his tooth infection had spread to his lungs.

His wife Nataliya made it to his bedside just in time.

He is survived by his two daughters, Vanessa, 2, and Maya, 11 months.

 

‘The doctor said tonight is the night he’s gonna die, because we did everything we can and nothing seems to work,’ Nataliya told the station Fox40. ‘It’s just the bacteria and the infection keeps growing to his lungs and they can’t clean it out.’

‘I know he’s in heaven. He’s a happy person right now. He’s gonna be my angel for the rest of my life and he’s gonna help me through this whole time without a dad and without a husband.’

‘Due to the severity of the infection the antibiotics were not strong enough to fight the infection and his heart eventually gave up. His heart beat for the last time on the morning of January 30, with his wife by his side,’ his GoFundMe  page reads.

Feb 2nd 2017

The global spread of bird flu and the number of viral strains currently circulating and causing infections have reached unprecedented levels, raising the risk of a potential human outbreak, according to disease experts.

Multiple outbreaks have been reported in poultry farms and wild flocks across Europe, Africa and Asia in the past three months. While most involve strains that are currently low risk for human health, the sheer number of different types, and their presence in so many parts of the world at the same time, increases the risk of viruses mixing and mutating - and possibly jumping to people.

"This is a fundamental change in the natural history of influenza viruses," Michael Osterholm, an infectious disease specialist at University of Minnesota, said of the proliferation of bird flu in terms of geography and strains - a situation he described as "unprecedented".

Global health officials are worried another strain could make a jump into humans, like H5N1 did in the late 1990s. It has since caused hundreds of human infections and deaths, but has not acquired the ability to transmit easily from person to person.

The greatest fear is that a deadly strain of avian flu could then mutate into a pandemic form that can be passed easily between people - something that has not yet been seen.

While avian flu has been a prominent public health issue since the 1990s, ongoing outbreaks have never been so widely spread around the world - something infectious disease experts put down to greater resilience of strains currently circulating, rather than improved detection or reporting.

While there would normally be around two or three bird flu strains recorded in birds at any one time, now there are at least half a dozen, including H5N1, H5N2, H5N8 and H7N8.

The Organization for Animal Health (OIE) says the concurrent outbreaks in birds in recent months are "a global public health concern", and the World Health Organization's director-general warned this week the world "cannot afford to miss the early signals" of a possible human flu pandemic.

The precise reasons for the unusually large number and sustained nature of bird outbreaks in recent months, and the proliferation of strains, is unclear - although such developments compound the global spreading process.

Bird flu is usually spread through flocks through direct contact with an infected bird. But Osterholm said wild birds could be "shedding" more of the virus in droppings and other secretions, increasing infection risks. He added that there now appears to be "aerosol transmission from one infected barn to others, in some cases many miles away".

Ian MacKay, a virologist at Australia's University of Queensland, said the current proliferation of strains means that "by definition, there is an increased risk" to humans.

"You've got more exposures, to more farmers, more often, and in greater numbers, in more parts of the world - so there has to be an increased risk of spillover human cases," he told Reuters.

Feb 1st 2017

takeontinnitus

It can be a buzzing, a ringing, whistling or even a chirping – but whatever the sound in your ear, there’s a good chance tinnitus drives you bonkers.

It’s estimated that six million Brits live with the condition and it can affect people of any age.

Yet, new research by the British Tinnitus Association (BTA) shows 53% of sufferers were unhappy with the advice given at their first doctor’s appointment, with most saying their GP was “dismissive”, “unsympathetic” or “didn’t have enough knowledge”.

To coincide with Tinnitus Awareness Week starting on Monday, the BTA has released new guidelines for GPs to help improve support.

“There is a knowledge gap within the medical community about the impact tinnitus can have and many patients don’t feel listened to or supported enough,” says David Stockdale, BTA’s chief executive.

“ GPs have been telling us they want more support to help them provide tinnitus patients with the best care.

“Our new guidance has been designed with this in mind, providing them with practical advice, information and signposting to resources that are currently available.“

Here’s what you need to know:

What is tinnitus?

“Tinnitus is the sensation of hearing sounds in your ears or head but no external cause,” explains Gemma Twitchen, senior audiologist at Action on Hearing Loss.

“The sounds vary, from a hiss, whistle, whirr, ring or buzz to segments of music. The pitch can be high or low and the duration can vary from a few seconds at a time to continuous noise.”

Objective tinnitus – which is much rarer than the subjective tinnitus that affects most sufferers – can actually be heard by somebody examining the patient.

What causes it?

“The exact cause isn’t understood – though it’s often due to a problem in the hearing pathway and can be associated with hearing loss,” says Gemma.

Prolonged exposure to loud sounds is the most common cause of tinnitus because it causes permanent damage to the sound-sensitive cells of the cochlea, a spiral-shaped organ in the inner ear – so carpenters, pilots, rock musicians and street repair workers are among those at risk.

Tinnitus can also be a side effect of ear or head injuries, ear diseases or infections, and can be triggered or exacerbated by emotional trauma, illness or stress.

Evidence suggests that tinnitus is linked to depression, which can worsen the perception of the condition. It can also be a reaction to certain medication and is cited as a potential side effect for about 200 prescription and non-prescription drugs.

What should I do?

“It’s crucial to see your GP,” advises Gemma. “They can check if there is an underlying cause, such as a build-up of wax or an infection and, if necessary, refer you to either an ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) specialist or an audiologist for further tests.”

If hearing loss is detected, hearing aids can also help with tinnitus, says Gemma.

How can I manage it?</h3>

“There is no cure – but there are several therapies available to help you manage your tinnitus,” explains Gemma.

Jan 31st 2017

IN BRIEF

·       An antibiotic resistant bacteria, CSE, is rapidly spreading through hospitals across the United States, infecting 9,000 and killing 600 people per year.

·       The spread of the superbug is difficult to track as individuals who contract it and spread it are often asymptomatic.

STEALTHILY SPREADING

Researchers have found evidence that drug-resistant superbugs, which have been labeled “nightmare bacteria,” are spreading faster and more stealthily inside US hospitals than previously thought.

In the US, the bacteria, known as carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE), infect roughly 9,300 people per year and kill around 600. And now researchers think they might spread from person to person asymptomatically – which explains why doctors are often unable to detect it.

“While the typical focus has been on treating sick patients with CRE-related infections, our new findings suggest that CRE is spreading beyond the obvious cases of disease,” said William Hanag from the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health.

“We need to look harder for this unobserved transmission within our communities and healthcare facilities if we want to stamp it out.”

CRE are a class of drug-resistant bacteria that are even able to withstand carbapenems – last-resort drugs that are administered after all other antibiotics fail.

Enterobacteriaceae are a large family of bacteria that include bugs such as SalmonellaE. coli, and Shigella –all of which are common causes of food poisoning and stomach bugs.

When they’re not drug-resistant, these bacteria can easily be treated by antibiotics, but antibiotic resistance has increasingly been spread within the family.

The bacteria are known to thrive in hospitals and long-term care facilities, where they evolve and pass genes back and forth over time, eventually becoming deadly CSE superbugs that drugs cannot treat, and earning the researchers’ title of “nightmare bacteria.”

An official report last week showed that a US woman has already died from one superbug – an antibiotic-resistant strain of pneumonia (not a type of CSE), which was resistant to all available antibiotics in the US.

 “RIOT OF DIVERSITY”

Now, Hanage and his colleagues have discovered that CSE superbugs, at least, might be spreading at a much faster rate than expected, and are starting to avoid our normal ‘surveillance’ methods by spreading asymptomatically.

“You know the phrase ‘Shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted?’ The horse has not only bolted, the horse has had a lot of ponies, and they’re eating all our carrots,” Hanage told Helen Branswell at Stat News.

To figure out how rapidly CRE was diversifying and spreading, the team analyzed over 250 samples from hospitalized patients in three different Boston-based facilities and one in California.

When finished, they found that CRE populations were way more diverse than previously thought, meaning that drug-resistant genes had spread more rapidly and easily between the strains than expected.

The team called it a “riot of diversity.”

Sometimes the species they found didn’t even carry the genes known to suppress carbapenems, but were still able to survive them, suggesting that they’ve found new ways to avoid these antibiotics that we don’t even know about yet.

“There are many different ways in which they can be resistant,” Hanage told Stat News.

To make things worse, the team wasn’t able to see a clear pattern of transmission for these CRE strains – the resistance seemed to be spreading even without any obvious cases of illness or infection.

“The best way to stop CRE making people sick is to prevent transmission in the first place,” Hanage said.

“If it is right that we are missing a lot of transmission, then only focusing on cases of disease is like playing Whack-a-Mole; we can be sure the bacteria will pop up again somewhere else.”

The team hypothesizes that these transmissions might be happening from person to person asymptomatically, though they will need to carry out further studies to verify this is the case.

The research has been published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

 

Jan 27th 2017

The global spread of bird flu and the number of viral strains currently circulating and causing infections have reached unprecedented levels, raising the risk of a potential human outbreak, according to disease experts.

Multiple outbreaks have been reported in poultry farms and wild flocks across Europe, Africa and Asia in the past three months. While most involve strains that are currently low risk for human health, the sheer number of different types, and their presence in so many parts of the world at the same time, increases the risk of viruses mixing and mutating - and possibly jumping to people.

"This is a fundamental change in the natural history of influenza viruses," Michael Osterholm, an infectious disease specialist at University of Minnesota, said of the proliferation of bird flu in terms of geography and strains - a situation he described as "unprecedented".

Global health officials are worried another strain could make a jump into humans, like H5N1 did in the late 1990s. It has since caused hundreds of human infections and deaths, but has not acquired the ability to transmit easily from person to person.

The greatest fear is that a deadly strain of avian flu could then mutate into a pandemic form that can be passed easily between people - something that has not yet been seen.

While avian flu has been a prominent public health issue since the 1990s, ongoing outbreaks have never been so widely spread around the world - something infectious disease experts put down to greater resilience of strains currently circulating, rather than improved detection or reporting.

While there would normally be around two or three bird flu strains recorded in birds at any one time, now there are at least half a dozen, including H5N1, H5N2, H5N8 and H7N8.

The Organization for Animal Health (OIE) says the concurrent outbreaks in birds in recent months are "a global public health concern", and the World Health Organization's director-general warned this week the world "cannot afford to miss the early signals" of a possible human flu pandemic.

The precise reasons for the unusually large number and sustained nature of bird outbreaks in recent months, and the proliferation of strains, is unclear - although such developments compound the global spreading process.

Bird flu is usually spread through flocks through direct contact with an infected bird. But Osterholm said wild birds could be "shedding" more of the virus in droppings and other secretions, increasing infection risks. He added that there now appears to be "aerosol transmission from one infected barn to others, in some cases many miles away".

Ian MacKay, a virologist at Australia's University of Queensland, said the current proliferation of strains means that "by definition, there is an increased risk" to humans.

"You've got more exposures, to more farmers, more often, and in greater numbers, in more parts of the world - so there has to be an increased risk of spillover human cases," he told Reuters.

Jan 24th 2017

'Mental Viagra’ is on the horizon after scientists discovered that a hormone which surges during puberty can activate lust signals in the brain.

The hormone kisspeptin essentially switches on the desire to reproduce and is linked to feeling sexy, romantic and turned on. It is thought to be responsible for the voracious sexual appetite of young people.

Now scientists at Imperial College London have found that an injection of kisspeptin can trigger chemicals in the brain which occur when people feel amorous and aroused.

They believe that pills containing the hormone could one day be used to treat sexual problems which are psychological – rather than physical. 

It could even help couples recapture the spark in a failing relationship.

Asked whether kisspeptin could be used as ‘mental Viagra ’, lead author Professor Waljit Dhillo, said: “Yes, exactly like that.

"Most of the research and treatment methods for infertility to date have focused on the biological factors that may make it difficult for a couple to conceive naturally.

“These of course play a huge part in reproduction, but the role that the brain and emotional processing play in this process is also very important, and only partially understood.”

Kisspeptin is a naturally occurring hormone that stimulates the release of other reproductive hormones inside the body, and kicks off puberty. 

In the study 29 healthy heterosexual young men were given injections of the hormone and asked to look at pictures of sexual and romantic pictures or couples, as well as control images which contained no people.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans showed enhanced activity in regions of the brain linked to sexual arousal and romance. The same effect did not occur when the volunteers viewed the non-sexy images.

The scientists believe that kisspeptin boosts brain circuits associated with sex and love, triggering reward centres and increasing desire.

The study participants using kisspeptin also reported a reduction in negative mood in a post-scan questionnaires so the team is also hoping to investigate whether the hormone could be used for treating depression.

Dr Alexander Comninos, first author of the study from the Department of Medicine at Imperial, said: “Our study shows that kisspeptin boosts sexual and romantic brain activity as well as decreasing negative mood.

“This raises the interesting possibility that kisspeptin may have uses in treating psychosexual disorders and depression which are major health problems which often occur together, but further studies would be needed to investigate this."

It could also be used to help sexual offenders by allowing them to feel lust without needing such graphic triggers.

“Ultimately, we are keen to look into whether kisspeptin could be an effective treatment for psychosexual disorders, and potentially help countless couples who struggle to conceive,” added Prof Dhillo.

“So far we have only done this on study on healthy young men, without sexual problems so we need to see if could be repeated on those with disorders. But we did find that those people who had lower pleasure ratings to begin with gained the biggest effect.

“This hormone is in all of us, so we know that is safe, and maybe one day there will be a tablet that people could take to boost this effect. This started out as a crazy idea and we did the experiment to see if it would work, and we have the first indication that it might.”

The team, whose findings are reported in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, now plans to study the effects of kisspeptin in a larger group including women as well as men.

Jan 19th 2016

Experts have warned members of the public to not be “martyrs” if they experience sepsis symptoms this winter.</h4>

While many have been told to keep away from doctor’s surgeries if they have coughs and colds, there are concerns that those with sepsis may also stay away and not seek the potentially life-saving help they need. 

Scientists at Cardiff University’s Systems Immunity Research Institute (SIRU) said people need to be educated on the symptoms of sepsis, to ensure they seek crucial treatment. 

Every year in the UK there are 150,000 cases of sepsis, which result in a staggering 44,000 deaths. This is more than bowel, breast and prostate cancer combined.

What is sepsis?

Sepsis is a rare but serious complication of an infection. It is caused by the way the body responds to germs getting into the body. 

It can occur following chest or water infections, problems in the abdomen like burst ulcers, or simple skin injuries like cuts and bites, according to The Sepsis Trust. 

Without quick treatment, sepsis can lead to shock, multiple organ failure and even death.

Symptoms

Sepsis can initially be confused with other ailments such as flu, gastroenteritis or a chest infection. Early symptoms include:

:: A high temperature (fever) or low body temperature

:: Chills and shivering

:: Fast heartbeat

:: Fast breathing

People should seek medical help urgently if they develop any of the following:

:: Slurred speech

:: Extreme shivering or muscle pain

:: Unable to pass urine (in a day)

:: Severe breathlessness

:: Mottled or discoloured skin 

Dr Tom Connor, a microbiologist for SIRU and honouree consultant with Public Health Wales, said people should be particularly vigilant of symptoms such as dizziness or shortness of breath. 

Treatment

With sepsis, early detection is vital. If it hasn’t yet affected a person’s organs, it may be possible to treat with antibiotics at home. 

Dr Jane Fenton May, vice chairwoman of the Royal College of GPs in Wales, said people should monitor symptoms and seek advice if they are worried.

“It is a difficult call,” she told the BBC. “It is best to get advice rather than rock up to casualty, you may just end up sitting in a waiting room and deteriorating there.”

A person should seek urgent medical advice if they have recently had an infection or injury and are showing possible early signs of sepsis.

If a person is experiencing any of the more severe symptoms, such as slurred speech or severe breathlessness, they should go straight to A&E or call 999. 

At this point, most people will be admitted to hospital and may even need to be sent to an intensive care unit. 

Because of problems with vital organs, people with severe sepsis are likely to be very ill and the condition can be fatal, according to NHS Choices.

Jan 16th 2017

A young model whose life has been torn apart by Crohn's disease has spoken out about her ordeal in a bid to stop others suffering as much as she has.

Sadie Roberts, 23, has lost her health, social life, job, financial security and BMW car due to the debilitating illness.

Diagnosed in December 2015 and causing chronic inflammation of the digestive system, Sadie first suffered symptoms back in 2013 - when she was 20 - and battled through a frightening period of time without a diagnosis.

Meanwhile, her weight plummeted from 8st 7lb to 6st 9lbs, The Derby Telegraph reports.

She said the disease has "turned my life upside down".

"I lost a stone in one month," said Sadie, from Heanor.

"I can't work at the moment, rarely go out and have such a poor immune system - I have to be very careful.

"Without my family, I don't know how I would have got through this.

"Before my illness took hold, I was a fun, outgoing young girl who enjoyed modelling. I'd been signed by a few agencies and had pictures published in a tattoo magazine.

"Since my diagnosis and treatment, I've put on endless weight due to being on steroids for over a year.

"I had major surgery in May 2016, have to inject myself weekly with drugs to combat the condition and go for weekly blood tests. My long hair has also had to be cut short as the steroids made it start to fall out."

Thankfully, Sadie, a former pupil at Heanor Gate Science College, has been supported throughout her ordeal by her family.

I live with my mum, Alison Roberts, and brother, Callum Roberts. I have two older sisters, Danielle Roberts and Ellis Cooper. They've all helped me by taking me to hospital and sitting with me whilst I've received hours of treatment. They've supported me financially and been there when I've felt very low and helpless - and that has happened a lot.

"My symptoms first started in 2013 with pain in my lower abdomen. The pain was excruciating and I immediately sought out my doctor. However, the pain was put down to stress and anxiety.

"But it continued and I started to lose weight rapidly. I couldn't control the weight loss. Even when I ate more, the weight just fell off. I returned to the doctor and we all were struggling to pinpoint exactly what was going on.

"My time off work started to increase. I felt so isolated from my old life and we just didn't know why.

"After two years of being in and out of the doctors' surgery, losing more and more weight and feeling like I was never going to get answers, I was finally diagnosed with Crohn's disease after a second colonoscopy.

"By now, my weight was down to 6st 9lbs pounds. I felt both relieved and distraught about my diagnosis. I was relieved that I could finally put a name to the disease and start to fight it - but I was distraught because I knew that, at 22 years of age, my life had got a lot harder and more complicated."

Crohn's disease is an inflammation of the digestive system.

Symptoms vary depending on which part of the digestive system is inflamed but include blood in faeces, tiredness and fatigue, unintended weight loss, joint swelling and abdomen pain.

"I've experienced all these symptoms," said Sadie. "Crohn's can be frustrating in another sense because it's an 'invisible' illness and it takes a great deal of understanding from those around you to get what you are going through.

"It's mentally draining, too, when you feel you can't go out and have to cancel plans at the last minute because of a flare up.

"It takes a great deal of patience from friends and family. You feel like you're letting them down a lot because you're missing out on events such as parties or gatherings. I'm lucky enough to have an amazing support network of friends and family."

One of the hardest things for Sadie to come to terms with is the fact that she has to contend with her illness for life.

"It's a chronic disease which means its lifelong. There is no cure at the moment but different drug treatments and surgeries can help sufferers live more comfortably and may prevent or lessen the amount of flare ups they have.

"I had surgery five months after my diagnosis which involved removing the stricture from my small intestine and my ileum. I was in hospital for five days, which was longer than expected due to an allergic reaction to morphine.

"A week after being discharged, my mum had to take me to A&E with chronic stomach pain. I was admitted and had treatment for more complications. None of my relatives have Crohn's so it's been a huge learning curve for us.

"Crohn's has changed my life massively. I feel like a completely different person now. I've had to grow up fast and accept that sometimes I can't control my daily life due to this disease.

"I have lost some friends because of my illness and people no longer invite me out. I've lost my social life and have become a bit of a recluse because I fear when I go out I'll need the loo quickly and, if I can't access one fast enough, I could have an accident in public. For me, this is very frightening and causes anxiety.

"In terms of my career, I had to leave my job as a shop manager because of my disease. I was struggling to get through shifts and stand for long periods without feeling pain in my abdomen. I kept needing time off and felt I owed it to my employer to leave and get myself better.

"My modelling career has also come to a sudden halt. I don't like to think it's over, just a slight detour. Eventually, when I'm in a healthier place, I hope to pursue my ambitions.

"Crohn's has taken my social life, my ability to make plans at the drop of a hat, my confidence and financial stability but I won't let it take my hopes and dreams."

One thing Sadie is determined to do is raise awareness, however.

"Crohn's is a disease that isn't particularly well known. That may be because of the unpleasantness of talking about the digestive system and the stigma which may surround it, especially for young people.

"But people should never feel ashamed of talking openly about this awful disease. I don't want people to suffer in silence because the only thing worse than having this debilitating disease is dealing with it alone.

"If by talking about my experiences it helps someone recognise their symptoms quicker and get an early diagnosis, or helps the friends and family of sufferers be more understanding, then it'll all feel worth it.

"My future at the moment is uncertain, which is something I've had to get used to. I hope to go back to work and start some kind of recovery.

"I'm due to have another colonoscopy soon which may explain why I'm still in great pain.

"Hopefully, I'm now on the path to recovery but I'm still struggling to adjust. I've received a lot of scrutiny over my weight gain due to my steroids, something that's beyond my control and the comments I've received have hurt me.

"I suppose a disease like this doesn't just have one layer to it, it ripples through your life and effects everything from your daily plans to your future goals.

"That's so important to me. Everyone is battling something in their lives and we should all be more understanding towards each other.

"Crohn's is a disease that isn't particularly well known. That may be because of the unpleasantness of talking about the digestive system and the stigma which may surround it, especially for young people.

"But people should never feel ashamed of talking openly about this awful disease. I don't want people to suffer in silence because the only thing worse than having this debilitating disease is dealing with it alone.

"If by talking about my experiences it helps someone recognise their symptoms quicker and get an early diagnosis, or helps the friends and family of sufferers be more understanding, then it'll all feel worth it.

"My future at the moment is uncertain, which is something I've had to get used to. I hope to go back to work and start some kind of recovery.

"I'm due to have another colonoscopy soon which may explain why I'm still in great pain.

"Hopefully, I'm now on the path to recovery but I'm still struggling to adjust. I've received a lot of scrutiny over my weight gain due to my steroids, something that's beyond my control and the comments I've received have hurt me.

"I suppose a disease like this doesn't just have one layer to it, it ripples through your life and effects everything from your daily plans to your future goals.

"I've gone from being a size 6 to a size 12/14 and it seems to be the main focus to some people rather than my actual health and recovery journey.

"I've lost all my confidence in going out to find a boyfriend. I'm hoping to find someone who understands what I'm going through and will support me through it all.

"I may need more surgery or more drug treatments but, whatever it is, I will fight this illness with everything I've got and urge all other sufferers to do the same. I just want sufferers to know that they're not alone. Together, we will beat this life-altering disease."

What is Crohn's disease, what causes it and are many young people are affected?</h4>

Crohn's disease causes inflammation of the digestive tract or gut and can affect any part of the gut, from the mouth all the way down to the anus. In most cases the lower part of the small intestine - the ileum - is affected. Symptoms, include intestinal ulcers, fatigue, inflammation, discomfort, pain and diarrhea.

Experts are unsure what causes Crohn's disease but they do know that the immune system of people with Crohn's reacts abnormally - it treats good bacteria, foods and other substances that are good for them as foreign, unwanted substances. During the attack, white blood cells build up in the lining of the gut triggering inflammation which leads to ulcerations and bowel injury

It is estimated that more than 115,000 people have Crohn's disease in the UK and around 146,000 have ulcerative colitis. Around one in four of those diagnosed are children or adolescents.

Jan 2nd 2017

A cannabis ingredient is set to be classed as medicine in the UK.

The Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said cannabis-based ingredient cannabidiol - also known as CBD - is an effective medicine in calming people down.

It has been used by patients such as five-year-old Jayla Bostock, who has brain damage and suffers regular seizures.

Mum Louise turned to CBD after reading about studies in the US where it dramatically reduced the number of fits suffered by children.

She has seen her daughter's hospital visits reduced but also been previously left frustrated by authorities questioning its legality.

She said: "They try and criminalise it if you even mention cannabis, but when you are dealing with people who are going to die, how can anyone not give it to these people who have no hope?"

The MHRA said it had initially looked at CBD because a number of manufacturing companies had been making "overt medicinal claims" about products.

Gerald Heddel, director of inspection and enforcement at the agency, told Sky News: "The change really came about with us offering an opinion that CBD is in fact a medicine, and that opinion was based on the fact that we noted that people were making some quite stark claims about serious diseases that could be treated with CBD."

Most people in the UK have previously obtained supplies online in an unregulated and potentially unsafe market, but the decision means manufacturers will now need to demonstrate their CBD products meet safety, quality and effectiveness standards.

2nd Jan 2017

Digestive Disorders: What You Need to Know

Digestive disorders encompass a wide array of conditions that affect the gastrointestinal tract. These disorders vary in severity, from minor annoyance (such as mild heartburn) to potentially life-threatening illness (such as a perforated ulcer).

Here are seven common digestive disorders to be aware of:

1. GERD

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter relaxes at the wrong times, allowing acid from the stomach to enter the esophagus. One possible cause of GERD is a hiatal hernia, a protrusion of this same sphincter and the upper portion of the stomach into the chest cavity.

2. Gastritis and Gastric Ulcers

Gastritis (inflammation of the stomach lining) and gastric ulcers (breaks or open sores in this lining) are most commonly caused by infections or the use of certain medications.

3. Duodenal Ulcers

Ulcers can also occur in the duodenum when stones that form in the gallbladder keep bile out.

4. Crohn’s Disease

Chrohn’s Disease is an inflammatory disorder that primarily affects the small intestine; it may also damage the large intestine and any other part of the digestive system.

5. Ulcerative Colitis

This inflammatory disease affects only the large intestine. Diarrhea occurs when waste products move through the large intestine too quickly; constipation results when this movement is too slow.

6. Diverticulitis

Diverticula (small pouches) can bulge outward through weak spots in the wall of the large intestine in a condition called diverticulosis. Infection or inflammation of these diverticula is called diverticulitis.

7. Hemorrhoids

These are clusters of swollen veins, and are thought to result from increased pressure in the veins of the rectum and/or anus.

Dec 31st 2016

ill Gates has warned the world would be “vulnerable” to a quick-spreading deadly flu outbreak.

The billionaire philanthropist said the Ebola and Zika outbreaks exposed weaknesses in the ability to swiftly tackle health crises.

Mr Gates, whose foundation has pumped billions of pounds into vaccines and improving health systems in developing countries, said the development of new drugs can also be improved.

 

— NHS England-MidsEast (@NHSEnglandMidE) December 29, 2016

He told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “When we’ve seen Ebola or even now Zika, we realise we still haven’t done enough.

“Our ability to create new drugs and vaccines quickly where we have an emerging disease, our emergency response system where we get people in and try and stop these epidemics – we don’t have a strong enough system.”

He said countries are grappling with how to ensure that regulatory, liability and organisational boundaries do not slow down the response to health crises.

 

— NHS Choices (@NHSChoices) December 27, 2016

He said: “So I cross my fingers all the time that some epidemic like a big flu doesn’t come along in the next 10 years.

“I do think we’ll have much better medical tools, much better response, but we are a bit vulnerable right now if something that spread very quickly, like a flu that was quite fatal.

“That would be a tragedy, and new approaches should allow us to reduce that risk a lot.”

 

— NELFT (@NELFT) December 19, 2016

The Microsoft founder said greater global cooperation is needed in the development of new drugs and the deployment of health teams to tackle outbreaks.

If wealthy countries fail to step up and tackle these health problems deadly epidemics will spread across the world, he warned.

Mr Gates said: “So it’s not just the humanitarian goal here, it’s strong self-interest that we want global health security.”

 

— NHS Glos CCG (@GlosCCG) December 29, 2016

He also defended the World Health Organisation, which came in for heavy criticism for what was perceived as its slow response to the Ebola crisis.

“The cooperation that we’ve seen, I think, needs to intensify – it’s the only way that global problems like epidemics will get solved,” Mr Gates said.

“And so although people are negative on WHO, the message to take away from that is not that that kind of multilateral cooperative effort is doomed and the money is not well spent.

“Rather, we actually need to broaden their capacity, we need to rededicate ourselves to this global cooperation.”

 

— NHS flu fighter (@NHSflufighter) December 28, 2016

He also warned that the over-use of antibiotics and the growth of antimicrobial resistance has endangered everybody’s health.

Moves to stop using antibiotics on farm animals alone are not enough and countries must look at how they treat people too, Mr Gates said.

England’s chief medical officer, Dame Sally Davies, rated the NHS’s preparedness for a major flu outbreak at “seven or eight”, but warned the economy and social care sectors would also face major challenges.

She said: “But it’s not just the NHS, the NHS looks after sick patients, it’s how would our social care system cope with people who weren’t ill enough to be in hospital but need extra support?

 

— Pete Bee (@SystonCFR) December 22, 2016

“It’s how would our economy cope if a large proportion are too ill to work where we have a just-in-time ordering policy for delivery of food, petrol, whatever?”

She said Britain is “very well prepared” with stockpiles and an agreement to buy flu vaccine if a pandemic breaks out.

Although Dame Sally said it would take at least six months for the right vaccine to be found and given to the public.

Also

Norovirus cases are at a five year high, piling further pressure on stretched hospitals during the busy winter period, new figures show.

Data from Public Health England (PHE) shows reports of the bug had reached 2,435 this season - 12 per cent more than the average for the same period over the last five years.

The figure is also 71 per cent higher than the same period last year, although last winter saw unusually low levels of norovirus.

In the week ending on Christmas Day, the outbreaks of vomiting and diarrhoea resulted in more bed closures than during the same period last year - rising from an average of 559 beds closed per day to 699.

Hospitals reported 20 outbreaks of norovirus in the first two weeks of December - 17 of which led to bay or ward closures and 13 of which were confirmed as the bug.

In total so far this season, there have been 163 hospital outbreaks reported.

"Exactly when the peak in activity occurs will be different each winter but levels seen so far this year are not unexpected compared with the previous five years."Nick Phin, deputy director of the National Infection Service at Public Health England, said: "Norovirus is a common cause of illness during winter.

The number of laboratory reports of the bug rotavirus this season is 1,136, which is also 3 per cent higher than the average for the period from 2003 to 2013.

NHS England also released figures showing there were 291,808 calls to the NHS 111 service in the week ending on Christmas Day as temperatures plummet and a cold weather alert is issued.

This was nearly 9 per cent fewer than the number of calls to the helpline in the same week last year.

Of calls answered, 93.2 per cent were answered within 60 seconds and 1.5 per cent of patients abandoned their calls after waiting 30 seconds.

A spokesperson for NHS England said: “The NHS’s tried and tested plans are currently managing the ongoing pressures of this winter. Going into the New Year holiday weekend, the public can play their part by avoiding going to A&E unless it is an emergency and using local pharmacy and NHS 111 for medical advice.”

Dec 31st 2016

What is a heart attack?

Carrie Fisher died Tuesday following a weekend in which her health was the topic of several major news stories. For most doctors following this story, the details of the case reflected only one thing: No one seemed to know what a heart attack actually is.

The first reports were that Fisher had a “heart attack” after becoming unresponsive on a flight to Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Fire Department, which continued the CPR that had been initiated on board and then transported her to the hospital, stated that she had in gone into “cardiac arrest” but had later regained a heartbeat. UCLA Medical Center described the problem as a “cardiac episode.” Family members finally said that even they had no idea what was going on; the cause of Fisher’s illness was simply not known, though she was eventually described as “stable” by Sunday. (“Stable” may sound comforting, but it is medically meaningless—I’m stable, but so are many patients who are on breathing machines in ICUs.)

Many outlets are now reporting that Fisher died following “a massive heart attack.” This was the language family spokesman Simon Halls used when speaking to the New York Times, but when asked for more details, he declined to elaborate.

What was the final cause of death? Heart attack? Cardiac arrest? Heart failure? Cardiac episode? These may sound like similar events. They’re not. (That last one, “cardiac episode,” doesn’t really have any medical meaning at all.)

Heart attacks, cardiac arrest, and heart failure are in fact markedly different entities. Heart attacks, or “myocardial infarctions,” refer to any irreversible cell death to the muscle of the heart. Heart attacks are caused either by the rupturing of small areas of hardened arteries (atherosclerotic plaques), which then travel to smaller vessels and cut off blood supply to the heart muscle itself, or by an imbalance between the supply and demand of oxygen to the heart. (Heart attacks caused by medical procedures are considered separately.)

In a mild heart attack, a small amount of tissue dies. If the area of cell death is small enough, the heart may continue to contract at nearly 100 percent of its previous ability, and the person may not even notice the event. But once a heart attack is large enough, the patient will notice. In a massive heart attack, enough tissue can die to make the heart lose the ability to pump enough blood out to sustain life. Patients usually show up to emergency departments complaining of sudden chest pain that radiates to their arms, neck, face, and sometimes their backs. Less well-known symptoms, such as shortness of breath, are quite common as well. Patients having heart attacks typically appear to be in significant discomfort, but they can usually describe their symptoms, because they tend to be awake, alert, and asking for medicine (we start with aspirin, which has a known benefit in heart attacks).

Heart attacks are rarely diagnosed outside of hospitals. In addition to the clinical symptoms, diagnosing one requires an electrocardiogram and blood testing. (This would be hard if not impossible to do on a plane; for example, the EKG functions on commercially available automated defibrillators do not provide enough information to diagnose heart attacks.)

The short-term mortality rate of a patient admitted to the hospital after a heart attack is relatively low at around 5 percent. The sooner the vessels of the heart can be reopened—usually with a combination of medications and cardiac stents—the more heart tissue survives. Frequently, people survive heart attacks but experience a decrease in exercise tolerance because part of their hearts can no longer squeeze—suddenly, a few steps may feel like a marathon.

On the other hand, cardiac arrest is not a cause of death—essentially, it is death. It’s what happens when the heart stops beating entirely or stops beating well enough to create a blood pressure high enough for a detectable pulse. Patients who show up to emergency departments in cardiac arrest cannot describe their symptoms because they are unconscious and are undergoing life-sustaining chest compressions. The line between cardiac arrest and death is very thin: When patients arrive at emergency departments in cardiac arrest, we often think of them as having “arrived dead.” We then attempt to revive them using all appropriate measures. By definition, anyone who has ever died has suffered cardiac arrest.

Cardiac arrest is what happens when the heart stops beating entirely or stops beating well enough.

Cardiac arrest is uniformly fatal without immediate intervention. Even with our best efforts—and despite its depiction on television and in movies—patients who suffer cardiac arrest outside of a hospital setting have less than a 15 percent rate of survival. Fewer survive to hospital discharge, and fewer still resume neurologically intact lives after such events. And for many, the only thing worse than suffering cardiac arrest would be to survive it—often, those who do have already experienced brain death or persist in a vegetative state.*

Cardiac arrest has many causes, from blood clots in the lungs to a collapsed lung compressing the heart so much that it can’t maintain its normal cycle. The most survivable causes of cardiac arrest are electrical problems of the heart, some of which are indeed caused by heart attacks. Some of these cause what we call “shockable rhythms.” These rhythms, ventricular tachycardia and ventricular fibrillation, have a real chance of responding to jolts of electricity known as defibrillation. Other rhythms, such as asystole (“flat-lining”), do not respond to shocks (again, contrary to television and movies). In fact, most causes of cardiac arrest are not amenable to defibrillation. Unless an immediate cause is obvious (such as a massive electrolyte imbalance in patients on chronic kidney dialysis), even heroic efforts to bring these patients back to life are usually in vain.

Then there’s heart failure—which, we were told, was the cause of death for George Michael. Heart failure is when the efficiency of the pumping heart has been reduced. Every time our heart pumps, it pushes blood out to the rest of the body. When the muscle of the heart loses its ability to pump blood at maximal efficiency, we call it heart failure. As a result, less blood and oxygen reaches other parts of the body. This can cause a kind of liquid traffic jam: If blood isn’t moving forward with each pump, it often ends up backing up in the veins that return blood to the heart. This leads to fluid in the lungs or in other parts of the body, often the lower legs. As heart failure progresses, pumping efficiency becomes so poor that the body’s metabolic demands are no longer met, and blood supply is too low to continue many of the activities we take for granted.

This can happen slowly over time, as a result of chronic elevated blood pressure or high cholesterol or due to drug and alcohol use, among other causes. Alternatively, heart failure can develop suddenly as a result of—you guessed it—a heart attack. It’s possible for a moderate to severe heart attack to kill enough heart muscle that the pump loses its efficiency almost immediately. Most forms of heart failure, however, are chronic. Patients slowly lose exercise tolerance, and eventually any stress on the heart at all can become life-threatening. Heart failure is diagnosed by a cardiac ultrasound that assesses how well the heart is pumping, and treatments include medications to decrease the amount of fluid in the body and others that may help the heart pump more efficiently and even repair itself from past damage. The prognosis can vary greatly, depending on the severity and other risk factors. Some patients have a five-year mortality rate of well under 5 percent, while others may have more than 75 percent of dying in that time frame.

Dec 24th 

My baby boy was perfect. The delivery had been gruelling, but afterwards, I was euphoric. I had a healthy son with my blue eyes and strawberry-blond hair.

As the first few months of new motherhood passed, however, I became increasingly worried about my brain. My thoughts began to take on a life of their own, separate from my emotions. Normally, emotion and thought are linked — or at least, related — but I was having moments where my thoughts were taking off from my experience, uncontrolled. Whenever it happened, I’d imagine a roller-coaster car hurtling off the tracks. I’d be nursing my son and suddenly think, “I should put him down, walk out and never come back,” and see the bright blue and yellow cart flying through the air.

I tried to brush this off at first. I was an exhausted single mom under a lot of stress. But the thoughts increased in frequency and urgency. My brain was talking to itself, my thoughts louder and louder, more insistent. "Leave him on the ground and walk away and never come back." "Stay away from stairs — what if you let him fall down the stairs?"

One day I was walking to the mailbox with my baby wrapped in his blanket, his tiny face tucked into my neck, when I thought, “Slap his cheeks. Slap him really hard and see what happens.” I ran back into the house in my hurry to get my son away from myself. I laid him down in his swing slowly, watching every move I made. I was his mother, and I felt like his worst enemy.

I was terrified that someone would take my baby from me if I told them what I was thinking. I was terrified that someone wouldn’t take him away and I would hurt him.

Was I going insane? What other explanation could there be for this? How could a sane person calmly and regularly think about hurting their baby?

I finally decided that I had to tell someone what was happening and I found a therapist. Her response was nothing I could have imagined. It never once occurred to me that she might not immediately want to remove my son from my care. Instead, she gave a label to what I was experiencing: intrusive thoughts.

Intrusive thoughts are associated with OCD by the National Institute of Mental Health, and they also spring to life with postpartum OCD, which is a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder that occurs after birthing a baby. In the beloved and influential website Postpartum Progress, Jenna Hatfield wrote a harrowing account of what it’s like to live in the stream of intrusive thoughts about your baby.

It’s hard, even all these years later, for me to read Hatfield’s honest description. I vividly recall the shame and fear, self-hatred and sadness that I felt when this was happening to me.

During that first visit, my therapist assured me that I would get better, the thoughts would stop and that I was a good mother, and this did not mean I did not love or want my son. It was like Christmas Day a hundred times over. I will never forget the relief and joy that flooded through me. Almost immediately, the thoughts began to retreat. Many believe that by trying to suppress intrusive thoughts, you actually make them worse. I found that to be true. Shame and silence almost engulfed me. By talking about these thoughts, I began to break free.

Editor's note: We recommend Postpartum Progress for anyone who's experiencing any form of postpartum emotional difficulty. There are tons of resources and help available on the site, including support forums, lists of services and mental health providers and answers to questions you might have. If you're experiencing intrusive thoughts unrelated to postpartum, The National Alliance on Mental Illness has information and resources that can help you, including a phone or text helpline. Help is available. You are not alone.

 

Dec 9th 2016

Junk food advertising is to be banned across all children’s media – including online and social – in a landmark decision to help tackle childhood obesity.

The new rules will ban the advertising of food or drink high in fat, salt or sugar (HFSS) across all non-broadcast media targeted at under-16s from July next year, the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) said.

The changes bring media such as print, cinema and, crucially, online and social media, into line with television, where strict regulation prohibits the advertising of unhealthy food to children.

They ban ads that directly or indirectly promote an HFSS product from appearing in children’s media or other media where children make up more than 25% of the audience.

Food and Drink Federation director general Ian Wright said the group “fully supported” the new rules.

“UK food and drink companies have a high compliance rate with advertising rules. Our job now is to work with the Advertising Standards Agency, Advertising Association and other partners to make sure advertisers understand how to meet these new requirements which represent a major shift in the UK advertising regime.”

A Government spokesman said: “”This is an important step given children are increasingly turning to digital channels of communication. It complements our world-leading plan to reduce childhood obesity, backed by the Soft Drinks Industry Levy and Public Health England’s sugar reduction programme. We are making real progress in this area, but there is still more to be done.”

Jenny Rosborough, campaign manager at Action on Sugar, said: “We know that advertising influences children’s food preferences.

“However, we need to see bans on advertising go further, as they currently do not manage exposure to these adverts during popular family programmes such as the X Factor or Britain’s Got Talent. Levels of obesity and type 2 diabetes are worryingly high and everyone has a role to play.”

The new restrictions also apply to TV-like content online, such as on video-sharing platforms or ‘advergames’, if they are directed at or likely to appeal particularly to children.

A ban on companies using promotions, licensed characters or celebrities popular with children in ads for HFSS food or drink will be partly lifted for the advertising of healthier options.

The “significant” change would help protect the health and wellbeing of children and lead to a major reduction in the number of ads for HFSS food and drinks they see, said the organisation, which is responsible for writing and maintaining the UK advertising codes.

Ofcom’s latest figures show that young people aged between five and 15 now spend about 15 hours each week online, overtaking the time they spend watching a TV set.

CAP chairman James Best said: “Childhood obesity is a serious and complex issue and one that we’re determined to play our part in tackling. These restrictions will significantly reduce the number of ads for high, fat, salt or sugar products seen by children.

“Our tough new rules are a clear demonstration that the ad industry is willing and ready to act on its responsibilities and puts the protection of children at the heart of its work.”

Dec 7th 2016

IF SAMMY JO Wilkinson had a spirit animal, it would be Marty McFly. For the past four years, the 51 year-old California resident has been using stem cell therapy to beat her secondary progressive multiple sclerosis back into remission. Gone is the paralysis to the left side of her face and the numbness in her fingers. In February, she walked for the first time in years. “I’m living in a future that everybody will have some day,” says Wilkinson, who co-founded the patient’s rights group Patients for Stem Cells. “We’re trying to tell everybody the solution is here now, we just need a logical way to bring this to patients sooner rather than later.”

According to Congress, that logical way is the 21st Century Cures Act, a labyrinthine bill that would make the most significant changes in decades to how medical treatments are tested and brought to market. Politicians are working overtime to pass it before the new year—it’s the number one priority for the lame duck session, passing the House on November 30 and advancing through the Senate last night. Final passage is expected to follow later this week.

In some ways, the legislation lives up to its name: It includes ambitious goals to advance biomedical science, and will inject $4.8 billion into a long-stagnating National Institute of Health budget. But attached to those promises is a roadmap for abandoning the gold standard of medicine in favor of an expedited “middle path” for drugs, medical devices, and regenerative therapies. Critics say it’s deregulation in sheep’s clothing—and worry that both science and patients are going to suffer.

Whether you applaud or decry the legislation, it’s almost certain to pass and be signed into law, if not by President Obama, then by the incoming administration. Which means regenerative medicine is headed for prime time. Welcome to the era of “inject and see.”

Medicine’s Wild West

In 2012, Wilkinson flew to Houston to receive her first stem cell treatment at Celltex Therapeutics. Technicians there extracted adult stem cells from her fat tissue, then cultured them for 13 days, allowing the population to expand before injecting the cells back into Wilkinson. The effects, she says, were immediate. She had less pain, more energy. But a few months later, the US Food and Drug Administration ruled that Celltex was violating a 2006 rule change that allowed the FDA to regulate expanded cell populations as drugs.They would need to get agency approval before being used in treatments.

These actions became the most visible confrontation in a bitter, decade-long battle between regulators and patients regarding the legality of regenerative therapies. While some companies, like Celltex, moved their operations to Mexico to skirt regulations, other small clinics with lower profiles rushed to fill the void. The FDA has been slow to investigate the proliferation of these clinics and the therapies they market. Today there are close to 600 businesses in America selling stem cell solutions for everything from deafness to Alzheimer’s and autism, all without FDA approval, according to a study published in February by Paul Knoepfler and Leigh Turner.

Turner, who is a bioethicist at the University of Minnesota, was surprised by the scale of exploitative behavior he found. “Anyone can buy a domain name and create a website and make grandiose therapeutic claims that have no basis in reality whatsoever,” he says. The situation has prompted scientists and policy wonks to dub stem cell clinics “medicine’s wild west.” The 21st Century Cures Act will change that—not by reining in unproven, unregulated treatments, but by providing a direct path to medical acceptance. Under the act, the FDA would have the authority to grant accelerated approval for regenerative medicines, skipping straight from animal models and safety trials, over efficacy testing in humans, to post-market review. The new laws would also compel the FDA to update its regulations for such products.

That, Turner says, could be a disaster for traditional stem cell research. “If you legitimize these therapies and allow businesses to commercialize them, then it becomes difficult to recruit individuals for actual phase 3 clinical trials,” he says. Clinical trials have guidelines about who can and can’t participate—these inclusion/exclusion criteria helps to produce reliable results. People who go onto the marketplace and get an unapproved therapy won’t be able to participate because their inclusion criteria becomes compromised. “They’ll be lost to science,” says Turner.

The Dark Echo

Knoepfler, who is a stem cell researcher at UC Davis, is worried about an even more troubling outcome: What happens once people get hurt by these therapies, either physically or financially? Phase 3 studies typically include a much larger number of participants to enable statistical assessment of clinical benefit and detection of any unusual risks not discovered in smaller studies. Eschewing this step places those risks and uncertainties squarely on the shoulders of paying patients. Because treatments aren’t covered by public or private insurers, patients can spend a fortune in their quest for a cure (Wilkinson has spent $90,000 out of pocket). Or worse, develop a tumorgo blind, or have a stroke and die.

“I think we’re going to hear a lot more about that in the next few years,” says Knoepfler. Which is unfortunate timing, since that’s when he expects real, rigorously tested therapies to be coming online. Stem cell treatments that help diabetics grow new insulin-making pancreatic cellshalt the progression of ALS, and strengthen cardiac muscle cells in people suffering from heart failureare just some of the therapies advancing steadily down the full clinical trial pathway. “There’s real hope, he says. “And my worry is that the dark echo of the clinics will negatively impact the perception of the whole stem cell arena.”

But people like Wilkinson don’t have that kind of time. “Facebook is more like an obituary page some days, and I’m just tired of watching my friends die,” she says. Her organization was instrumental in getting a record number of comments during the FDA’s public hearings on draft guidances for stem cell therapies in September. She says she’s not paid by Celltex or anyone else to be a voice for the technology, and really just wants the FDA to stop telling her what she can and can’t do with her own cells.

Not so fast

While patients and regenerative medicine investors celebrate and researchers raise alarms, top FDA officials are holding their ground. In an article published in the New England Journal of Medicine last Wednesday, FDA Commissioner Robert Califf expressed skepticism about the safety and efficacy of stem cell treatments. “The current excitement over the potential for stem cell therapy to improve patient outcomes even cure disease is understandable,” he wrote. “However, to ensure that this emerging field fulfills its potential promise to patients, we must first understand its risk and benefits and develop therapeutic approaches based on sound science.”

The timing of the article suggests the FDA won’t be wielding its authority to accelerate approvals any time soon. Won’t, or perhaps can’t. The 21st Century Cures Act doesn’t exactly spell out how it will provide the necessary resources to implement all that it asks of the agency. Currently, strict conflict of interest rules and a draconian hiring process hinders the agency’s ability to attract top talent. “The FDA has had a hiring shortage problem for over a decade,” says David Gortler, a former FDA senior medical officer. He says there are small ways to speed up the review process here and there, but nothing on the scale people are imagining. “Mark my words. Nothing will happen,” he says.

If so, the agency will be living up to its reputation as a creaking thorn in the side of forward progress. But according to Turner, the FDA is just a convenient scapegoat. The real thorn is simply the reality of being human. ‘We’re trying to develop truly safe and efficacious cell based therapies for what throughout human history have been intractable diseases,” he says. “Human biology is the challenge, not bureaucratic inertia.”

And not even a plutonium-charged Delorean can change that.

Dec 7th 2016

A regulator has ordered two pharmaceutical firms to pay a record penalty, accusing them of overcharging the NHS through a 2,600% overnight drug price hike.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said it had imposed a £84.2m fine on the manufacturer Pfizer and a £5.2m fine on distributor Flynn Pharma.

It declared each "broke competition law by charging excessive and unfair prices" in the UK for phenytoin sodium capsules, an anti-epilepsy drug, used by 48,000 patients who could not switch to alternative medication for fear it would trigger seizures.

US firm Pfizer, best-known as the maker of Viagra, told Sky News it disputed the findings.

The regulator's investigation found prices were raised by up to 2,600% after the drug, once known as Epanitin, was "deliberately" de-branded in September 2012 when Stevenage-based Flynn bought the UK distribution rights from Pfizer.

It meant that because the drug was now generic, it was no longer the subject of price regulation.

The CMA said the amount the NHS was charged for 100mg packs of the drug rocketed from £2.83 to £67.50, before coming down to £54 from May 2014.

It meant, the watchdog said, that NHS expenditure on phenytoin sodium capsules rose from about £2m a year in 2012 to about £50m in 2013.

"The prices of the drug in the UK have also been many times higher than Pfizer's prices for the same drug in any other European country," the statement said.

Philip Marsden, chairman of the case decision group for the CMA's investigation, said: "This is the highest fine the CMA has imposed and it sends out a clear message to the sector that we are determined to crack down on such behaviour and to protect customers, including the NHS, and taxpayers from being exploited."

Pfizer said it would appeal "all aspects" of the ruling. Its statement said: "In this transaction, and in all of our business operations, we approached this divestment with integrity, and believe it fully complies with established competition law.

"Phenytoin capsules were a loss making product for Pfizer and the Flynn transaction represented an opportunity to secure ongoing supply of an important medicine for patients with epilepsy, while maintaining continuity of manufacture.

"When Flynn launched its product, the company set a price that was between 25 and 40% less than the price of the equivalent medicine from another supplier to the NHS which had long been regulated, and appeared to be acceptable to, the Department of Health."

Both firms have been given up to four months by the CMA to reduce their prices, to ensure there is no risk to the supply of the drug to patients who rely on it.

They are not the first to face similar action.

GlaxoSmithKline was among firms hit with a £45m penalty in February after a "pay-to-delay" scandal surrounding blockbuster anti-depressant drug Seroxat.

Nov 15th 2016

You can buy antibiotics without a prescription at pharmacies - alongside stalls selling fruit and rice. Industrial farms in the region feed the drug to fish. The result: an invasion of drug-resistant superbugs.

BANGKOK • In a softly-lit suite of Bangkok's Praram 9 Hospital, Mr Songchai (not his real name) slowly scrawls out his thoughts on paper. Five months in coma have left him with throat muscles so weak he needs a breathing tube, which reduces his words to hollow rasps. Just months ago, his heart was straining to pump blood through a body under attack by a strain of severe and drug-resistant bacteria.

"The doctor told my wife to be prepared for my death," says Mr Songchai, who spoke to The Straits Times on condition of anonymity.

To save his life, doctors gave him the strongest antibiotic available. It helped him pull through, but also destroyed his kidneys. The 66-year-old retired marketing director now has to undergo thrice-weekly dialysis for the rest of his life.

Mr Songchai is lucky. An average of two people die every hour from multidrug-resistant bacterial infections in Thailand, according to a landmark study funded by the kingdom's health ministry and Britain's Wellcome Trust, and published in September.

The study used micromicrobiology databases, hospital admission databases and the national death registry to estimate that multidrug-resistant bacterial infections killed 19,122 people in Thailand in 2010.  Thailand's population is 68 million.

A customer examining her recently purchased medical products outside a pharmacy near Bangkok's Victory Monument. The name of the shop is "Doctor Medicine". ST PHOTOS: TAN HUI YEE

The death rate is high compared to the United States or Europe. In the US, there were 23,000 deaths in a 316 million population in 2013; and 25,000 deaths a year in the European Union - from a 500 million population in 2007, according to the study's senior author, Dr Direk Limmathurotsakul of Mahidol University in Thailand.

The problem is not confined to these countries. Some call it the "silent tsunami": The improper use of antibiotics for humans and livestock around the world is leading to the proliferation of increasingly drug-resistant microorganisms, creating new strains of "superbugs" that can be defeated only by "last resort" medicine with toxic side effects.

Mr Songchai (not his real name) is trying to regain full use of his limbs after waking up from a five-month coma. The Thai was infected with a drug- resistant bacteria.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) warns that "improvements in global health over recent decades are under threat". The microorganisms that cause tuberculosis, malaria, urinary tract infections, pneumonia and food poisoning, for example, are becoming increasingly resistant to a wide range of medicines.

"Some cases of tuberculosis and gonorrhoea are now resistant even to antibiotics of the last resort," the WHO said last year.

The problem is particularly stark in Thailand. "(People) feel they can buy stronger and stronger antibiotics," said Dr Direk.

"They feel the problem is confined to them. They don't understand second-hand antibiotic resistance, that it can (affect) friends and family and other people in the hospital."

AMOXICILLIN FOR SORE THROAT

Many developing countries with poor healthcare systems allow antibiotics to be sold without a prescription. In middle-income Thailand, which draws medical tourists from all over the world, antibiotics are freely available in pharmacies and even convenience stores.

The Thai capital is dotted with pharmacies dispensing drugs. Indeed, a particularly popular hub can be found by Victory Monument, a bustling traffic circle in central Bangkok.

There, anyone can easily buy drugs for high blood pressure, diabetes and a whole range of other ailments, alongside guava or chicken rice touted by hawkers crammed by the storefronts. Runners armed with wads of baht and printed photographs of medicine they are tasked to buy jostle for attention at the busiest stores alongside buyers from Myanmar, Cambodia and even Singapore.

Standing on the other side of one of the counters is Ms Nattiya Apisittinantakul, a 25-year-old pharmacist. At the request of The Straits Times, she fishes out a selection of the antibiotics on sale, ranging from generic blue-green capsules of amoxicillin to brand-name ones like Pfizer's Zithromax. Some Thais buy the medicine because the wait to see a doctor is too long, she says. Others bring empty boxes of drugs previously prescribed to them. Many are familiar with amoxicillin.

"If they had a sore throat yesterday, they would come in and say 'I want amoxi'," says Ms Nattiya in exasperation. "Even if I explain that they don't need it, they wouldn't believe it. Or they would say, 'I want to buy it to keep it in my house'."

Many also ask for the smallest available packs of amoxicillin - a 30-baht (S$ 1.20) strip of 10 generic capsules - and need to be persuaded to buy another strip to make it a full course of antibiotics. Taking an inadequate amount of antibiotics can create drug-resistant bacteria.

Some directly request Norfloxacin, which can be used to treat travellers' diarrhoea. "They don't even say they have diarrhoea anymore," Ms Nattiya laments. "They ask, do you have 'norflox'?"

IT'S IN YOUR MEAT TOO

Antibiotics used on livestock is another concern. Drug-resistant bacteria spreads through direct contact between humans and farm animals, ingested meat or the environment.

In many large industrial farms, where cramped conditions allow diseases to spread fast, antibiotics are often used on healthy animals to prevent rather than treat illnesses.

Farmed seafood from the region in particular has been getting red-flagged. Vietnam's Department of Animal Health, for example, found this year that most of the 139 catfish farms it surveyed in the Mekong delta region were using antibiotics. According to a report in Tuoi Tre News portal, one of the antibiotics detected included colistin, which can damage kidneys.

Over the past two years, the US Food and Drug Administration has put several peninsular Malaysian shrimp producers on its "import alert" list for using nitrofurans, a banned antibiotic.

In June this year, one Thai firm, Narong Seafood, was placed on the same US alert list after drug residue was found in its shrimp.

According to Thailand's National Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance Centre website, the kingdom uses about 10 billion baht worth of antibiotics every year. It is unclear how much is used on animals.

Thailand's Food and Drug Administration as well as the Department of Livestock Development did not respond to requests for interviews.

While farmers in Thailand are banned from using antibiotics as growth promoters, experts say there are still information gaps on how and where the drugs are used on farms. This is something the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) is working with the Thai government to fix, along with raising awareness of the problem.

Dr Wantanee Kalpravidh, an FAO regional manager, thinks the stringent standards set by countries importing Thailand's farmed products motivate companies to rein in antibiotic use. But cutting back on its use may not save money, since farms need to vaccinate the animals and put up biosafety barriers to protect the animals from disease.

She suggests governments consider dangling incentives before conscientious farmers. "Can the government recognise this as corporate social responsibility and reduce their tax?" she said.

After all, the benefits from reducing indiscriminate use of antibiotics extend to the larger society, and go beyond borders.

It will help lower healthcare costs, for one thing. At Bangkok's public Ramathibodi Hospital, staff have to wear a 12-baht, one-time-use protection gown every time they approach a patient infected with a superbug.  Staff in one intensive care ward with 20 of these patients go through 10,000 such gowns a month, reveals the hospital's deputy director Kumthorn Malathum.

In conjunction with World Antibiotics Awareness Week starting on Nov 14, the hospital will set up information booths to educate patients about proper use of antibiotics. "People don't often see the long-term effects caused by superbugs," says Dr Kumthorn. "People think patients just die quickly and the (treatment) cost is low. But infection caused by superbugs also affects your long-term quality of life."

Mr Songchai's troubles began earlier this year, when he fell while going down the stairs at home.

His knees hurt so much he resorted to taking an over-the-counter muscle relaxant three times a day, on top of a cocktail of four to five drugs for diabetes, high blood pressure and other ailments.

The combination of drugs proved too much for his kidneys, so he had to undergo temporary dialysis. It was during the treatment that he was felled by the drug-resistant superbug.

The avid golf and billiards player is now reduced to watching such tournaments on television at home.

He scribbles glumly on a piece of paper: "Don't use (antibiotics) by yourself. Ask the doctor first."

Nov 15th

What causes varicose veins?

 It’s a misconception that varicose veins are a problem confined to the baby boomer generation. In fact today, doctors are regularly treating young, fit, healthy people in their 40s, 30s and even 20s with the condition.

 And contrary to popular opinion, the veins aren’t caused by sitting with your legs crossed for too long, or standing up for hours on end.

 "There is one main fundamental cause for varicose veins," says The Private Clinic's Consultant Vascular and Endovascular Surgeon, Mr Constantinos Kyriakides. "And that’s genetics. In more than 80 per cent of cases, varicose veins occur in people because they are already genetically predisposed to them.”

 Varicose veins are formed when the walls of the veins become stretched and lose their elasticity, causing the valves to weaken.

 If the valves don't function properly, this can cause the blood to leak and flow backwards. If this happens, the blood will collect in the veins, which will become swollen and enlarged. Pregnancy can act as a trigger, as hormonal changes in the body can cause the vein walls to relax, making them prone to leaking.

 “Pregnancy can cause these veins to appear sooner than they otherwise might have done,” says Mr Kyriakides. “As can obesity, though to a much lesser extent.”

 I ticked all three of these boxes: genetics, pregnancy and weight gain. Varicose veins run in my family and in each of my pregnancies I managed to put on over four stone in weight. After my babies were born the weight came off, but these horrid, lumpy veins remained in my legs.

 I felt so self-conscious about them I no longer wanted to wear the clothes I loved. I felt that I had the legs of an 80-year-old woman 40 ears too early. My son’s friends would unashamedly ask what was wrong with them. I began to look into treatment options.

 Can varicose veins be removed by the NHS?

 There is a postcode lottery at play if you wish to get your varicose veins treated on the NHS. In many areas, the criteria is extremely strict and treatment will only be given if your health is seriously at risk.

 Mr Kyriakides, who also works as a Consultant Vascular Surgeon for the NHS at Barts, explains: “For varicose veins there’s a huge discrepancy between how Clinical.

Commissioning Groups [doctors’ surgeries] view this condition across the country. Some will only fund treatment for varicose veins if they meet three strict criteria:

 "1: The patient has an active leg ulcer caused by varicose veins.

 2: The patient has experienced internal bleeding from the varicose veins that was severe enough for them to attend hospital (a potentially life threatening condition).

 3: The patient has experienced three or more episodes of thrombosis – a painful condition that runs the risk of becoming deep vein thrombosis.”

 Other CCGs will allow a patient to be treated if the veins are painful or causing the patient discomfort.

 I just wanted mine removed because I felt self-conscious.

Judging by the illustration in the article the treatment appear to work.

 Oct 30th 2016

Alzheimer’s disease

·       Five million people, in the US alone, could be significantly helped by a new drug to treat Alzheimer's Disease.

·       There have been many recent breakthroughs in the study and treatment of nuerodegenerative disorders. From medication to gene therapy, new solutions are continually popping up to instill greater hope.

TARGETING INFLAMMATION

New developments and research into treating Alzheimer’s disease are always welcome. Researchers from the Department of General Anesthesiology at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine have developed a drug that promises an improved treatment. The drug is called NTRX-07, and is the feature of a study conducted in mice and presented at the ANESTHESIOLOGY® 2016 annual meeting.

“This drug may reduce inflammation in the brain, which is linked to Alzheimer’s disease,” says lead researcher Mohamed Naguib of Cleveland Clinic. Alzheimer’s is known to produce abnormal brain inflammation due to the unusual development of protein clumps (amyloid plaques) and tangled bundles of brain fibers that cause to neuron damage. The new drug prevents this inflammation from occurring, and preserves neurons and regenerative brain cells.

“NTRX-07 uses a different mechanism than many other Alzheimer’s drugs currently available, as it targets the cause of the disease, not just the symptoms,” Naguib explains.

RESTORING MEMORY AND LIVES

During tests on mice bred to show neurodegenerative issues similar to Alzheimer’s, NTRX-07 showed memory-restoring abilities. They saw how inflammation affected the microglia cells in the brain — the immune cells that usually remove amyloid plaques (protein clumps) in the brain.

These microglia cells have surface receptors called CB2, which causes the anti-inflammatory response when activated. NTRX-07 targets CB2 receptors, decreasing inflammation and stops further brain tissue damage.

NTRX-07 also improved memory performance and other cognitive skills, particularly through the production of a protein called SOX2. This protein helps new brain cells develop and protects the brain of those already affected by Alzheimer’s.

Though not yet definitive, NTRX-07 can help around 44 million people in the world — more than five million in the US alone — said to have Alzheimer’s. The research has received a $1.7 million investment from the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation, plus another $700,000 from the Alzheimer’s Association. Development of the drug for human clinical trials are set to begin in 2017

 

Oct 29th 2016

A worrying story

 Erin Olivera waited weeks for doctors to tell her why her youngest son was paralyzed.

Ten-month-old Lucian had started crawling oddly — his left leg dragging behind his right — and soon was unable to lift his head, following Erin only with his eyes.

She took him to a hospital in Los Angeles, but doctors there didn't know how to treat what they saw.

Lucian's legs felt soft as jelly and he couldn't move them. His breathing became rapid. The left side of his smile drooped as his muscles weakened.

Physicians ran test after test, and Erin began spending her nights on a hospital room couch. After Lucian fell asleep, during her only minutes alone between working and visiting her three other kids, she cried.

A terrifying reality was taking hold: Doctors wouldn't be able to give her a diagnosis for her paralyzed child.

"How can I make a decision for him when I don't even know what's wrong?" she said. "What can I do to help him?"

So one morning in July of 2012, Erin lifted Lucian out of his hospital bed, his body limp and heavy. She rested his cheek on her shoulder, the way he liked to be held since he'd become weak.

Erin returned home to Ventura County with a child she thought might never learn to walk.

In the years since, hundreds of children across the country have shown up at hospitals unable to move their arms or legs. Dozens of kids have become paralyzed in the past few months alone.

They suffer from a mysterious illness that continues to alarm and puzzle scientists. This kind of sudden and devastating paralysis hasn't been widespread since the days of polio. Lucian, one of the disease's earliest victims, set off a hunt among doctors to discover its cause.

———

Before Lucian got sick, he liked to sit on the floor in the kitchen of his home in Moorpark, his small hands pressed against the glass door to the backyard as he tried to stand. He'd roll around, babbling at the dogs outside.

The child Erin brought home from the hospital didn't have enough strength to crawl and couldn't always sit up on his own.

On his first birthday, three weeks after he came home, Erin and her husband, Israel, propped Lucian up with pillows in a high chair. He giggled as he smeared red frosting on his bare chest and in his blonde hair.

After the kids went to bed in the evenings, Erin and Israel would whisper about Lou-Lou, as they called him. When Erin was pregnant, the couple had decided Lucian would be their last child. They wanted to save money, perhaps take a family vacation. Erin would focus on graduating from nursing school.

Now the future felt upended by questions about their youngest son — whether he'd ever be able to drive a car, get married, have kids.

They took him to more doctors, but that failed to bring a diagnosis, let alone a treatment.

Through months of physical therapy, Lucian eventually regained strength in most of his limbs, but still couldn't move his left leg at all. When he crawled, it dragged behind.

Desperate, Erin resorted to endless internet searches looking for clues about her son's condition.

Then one day, she came across an article online about a dozen paralyzed kids. She immediately thought of Lucian.

The article mentioned Dr. Keith Van Haren, a Stanford University child neurologist who had diagnosed many of the other cases.

She called him.

———

Around the time Lucian first got sick in 2012, Van Haren was flummoxed by a young girl who'd just shown up at his clinic at Stanford.

The 3-year-old had been at home recovering from a bad cold when she suddenly couldn't move her arm. Weeks later, it still hung from her body like dead weight, flopping wildly when she walked.

The paralysis struck Van Haren as unusual.

Doctors had been treating her for an autoimmune disease, as if her body were wrongly attacking its own cells. But if that were the case, her arm wouldn't be so limp nor would the paralysis be so limited to one spot; Van Haren would expect other parts of her body also to be somewhat weak.

This, Van Haren thought, looked more like the most infamous cause of paralysis: polio. But it was eradicated so long ago in the United States that most doctors here have never seen a case.

"We know about it through history books," said Van Haren, then just two years out of training.

The girl had been vaccinated against polio. Van Haren didn't know what to tell her parents.

When he contacted California's health department about the odd case, he learned that scientists there had already developed a hunch.

A handful of physicians had seen patients with similar symptoms and asked Dr. Carol Glaser to test them for polio.

"I thought, 'Well that's crazy. We don't have polio here," said Glaser, then head of the encephalitis and special investigations section at the California Department of Public Health.

Glaser quickly determined the patients weren't suffering from polio. She also tested for pathogens that can sometimes cause such paralysis, including West Nile virus. All negative.

Then she decided to check for other viruses in the same family as poliovirus, known as enterovirus. And in some of the paralyzed patients, she found a possible culprit: enterovirus D-68.

Enterovirus D-68 was incredibly rare, almost never seen after it was first discovered in 1962 in four California children who had pneumonia. Though a cousin of poliovirus, it was only supposed to cause a runny nose and cough.

Van Haren had never heard of it.

Glaser asked Van Haren to consult for the health department, and together they watched for more paralysis cases. Their findings were preliminary, but what if they were accurate? What if there were an outbreak?

———

In the middle of the night, Erin sped past crop fields and cattle ranches on the 5 Freeway, headed north to Stanford. Israel sat next to her in the passenger seat, Lucian asleep in the back.

Erin had found some peace from visiting a polio survivors group at a senior center. The survivors, who reminded her of Lucian, told her they'd lived full, happy lives. Don't limit us, they'd said.

Still, Erin showed up for a 10 a.m. appointment with Van Haren hoping for a chance of full recovery.

"What happened to your forehead?" asked Lucian, as Van Haren entered the exam room.

Van Haren explained to Lucian, now 2 years old, that he had a birthmark.

"Does it cause you pain?" Lucian asked.

Van Haren said it didn't, and told Erin and Israel that the question bothered him. Erin thought her son had insulted the doctor.

But Van Haren explained that he was sorry that that was Lucian's first question. That meant, he said, that Lucian knew pain.

Van Haren began to examine Lucian's leg.

It was 2014, two years since Van Haren first treated the young girl with the paralyzed arm.

By now Van Haren, who himself had small children, had grown accustomed to identifying the unique paralysis and relaying the tragic verdict.

One, two, three or four limbs paralyzed. Sudden onset. No cognitive changes.

Lucian fit the bill.

Within minutes, Van Haren delivered the diagnosis: poliolike paralysis likely caused by enterovirus D-68.

Erin's nose turned red like it does when she tears up.

Van Haren told her there were other children like Lucian, and that doctors were learning more about the disease every day.

He said Lucian should continue physical therapy, but there was no cure. Chances were Lucian would never move his left leg.

As they headed back home, Erin, who was driving, waited for Lucian to fall asleep in the backseat. Then she started to cry.

———

After Erin and Israel returned home with Lucian's diagnosis, the mystery paralysis began to spread.

In late summer of 2014, enterovirus D-68 started sending kids struggling to breathe to emergency rooms around the country. News reports called it a rare, cold-causing virus, a danger to children with asthma.

But then an 11-year-old boy in Texas with a seemingly normal fever lost the ability to walk and move his right arm.

A 17-year-old girl in California experienced severe neck pain at her birthday party and ended up in the hospital, paralyzed from the neck down.

In Oregon, a 13-year-old boy's diaphragm stopped working, so he needed a ventilator to breathe. He was completely paralyzed, able only to wiggle his toes and his right hand.

Whatever was happening to these children was "pretty much, literally, exactly, what polio did," said Dr. Jean-Baptiste Le Pichon, a child neurologist who treated four such patients in 2014 at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo.

Glaser watched from California as the numbers of paralyzed kids grew. She became horrified that her theory about enterovirus D-68 might be correct.

That October, Van Haren spoke at a national meeting of child neurologists. He asked 300 specialists how many of them had seen these kinds of paralysis cases in the past few months.

"More than half the hands in the room went up," he recalled.

Doctors coined a name for the phenomenon: acute flaccid myelitis. "Acute flaccid" for the sudden and total paralysis and "myelitis" for an injury to part of the spinal cord involved in muscle movement, called the gray matter.

Between August 2014 and January 2015, 120 children in 34 states were diagnosed with acute flaccid myelitis, according to federal health officials. The median patient age was 7.

Erin hoped the new cases would lead to a cure for her son.

But doctors say that though the disabled children can regain strength in some limbs, there's usually also some paralysis that cannot be reversed — just like with polio.

Scientists think a virus travels to the spinal cord and damages motor function there, irreversibly.

———

Holding the red handles of his walker, Lucian, 5, jumped up and down and told his brother Nikolas to put on his shoes faster. Kids shout, skee balls thump, arcade games cha-ching.

The boys stood on either side of Erin, pulling at her skirt as she talked to the cashier at Chuck E. Cheese's. "We need tokens! We need tokens!" they chanted.

A year apart in age, Nikolas and Lucian share the same round, bright eyes and blondish hair. Sometimes they try to pass for twins.

Four years after being hospitalized, Lucian wears braces on both legs — the one on his left leg decorated with Spider-Man designs, the right with skulls. When he uses his wheeled walker, he steps with his right leg, pulling his left behind him. His left leg is still completely paralyzed.

Israel stopped working so he could take care of Lucian. Erin often works 64 hours a week as a hospital psychiatric nurse so the couple can pay their bills.

Erin and Israel abandoned their 10-year plan, as well as dreams of buying their oldest son a car when he turned 16, or a vacation home. Their priorities have instead become much more short-sighted.

Over the summer, the biggest one was kindergarten.

They knew Lucian would do fine academically, he often seemed precociously intuitive and observant.

But would he use a walker or a wheelchair? Would he be in special needs classes? Would they be able to potty-train him on time? Would he need an aide in the classroom? And the most agonizing: would he fit in?

Erin had seen Lucian sitting alone at playgrounds, watching other kids run around. Erin and Israel stayed up at night worrying about how to deal with bullies, joking about "who's going to bail which one of us out of jail first," she said.

Lucian is too young to fully grasp his disability. He knows he can't run or walk on his own, and that makes him unlike other kids. And when he meets new people, he squints his eyes as if he's trying to read their face, to understand them — how they'll react to him.

But if you ask Lucian why he uses a walker, he'll blame his older sister, who fell on and fractured his leg two years ago. His parents have repeatedly told him that isn't why he's paralyzed, but he doesn't seem to hear.

That half-understanding sometimes protects Lucian from the pain of his injury's permanence. But it also means each day could bring a new reckoning of his life's limitations.

A few months ago, Lucian asked his parents for an injection. "It'll fix my leg and it'll be like Niko's," he said, using his pet name for Nikolas.

Erin told Lucian what she had many times before: his disability is permanent, there's no miracle treatment. His leg would get stronger over time, with exercise, but it would never be like his brother's.

Lucian angrily pursed his lips and his eyebrows tensed. He went silent.

———

Between June and August this year, another 30 kids nationwide became paralyzed, and scientists still don't know why.

Dr. Manisha Patel, who heads the acute flaccid myelitis team for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the agency is concerned by the increase and its resemblance to 2014. Experts think case numbers for September and October will be even higher.

But there's not much public health officials can do because the paralyzed children officially remain a medical mystery.

Many suspect enterovirus D-68 — which gave hundreds of people a severe cold in 2014 — also caused the paralysis outbreak that year. Some of the paralyzed kids had enterovirus D-68 in their system, and researchers have found that injecting mice with enterovirus D-68 paralyzes them.

But to confirm the link, doctors need to find enterovirus D-68 in the paralyzed children's cerebrospinal fluid, to show that the virus traveled to the spinal cord and created the injury there — which they haven't yet.

And physicians are still baffled that no one had noticed the possible risk of paralysis before.

Some think there hadn't ever been enough cases of enterovirus D-68 to unmask the horrifying side effect; only 26 people tested positive for the virus in 36 years. Another possibility is that enterovirus D-68 recently mutated to become more likely to paralyze those infected.

For now, experts say that enterovirus D-68 isn't enough of a threat to make a vaccine and that many people now have immunity to the virus from the 2014 outbreak. Plus, it will probably mutate again, rendering a vaccine that protects against the current strain useless.

"You kind of hold your breath and hope it doesn't get worse," Van Haren said.

———

Lucian had been too excited about his first day of kindergarten to eat his Cheerios in the morning, instead unzipping his backpack and removing folders and papers.

But walking from the minivan to the school — a taxing process of pulling his left leg with the right, today with the added weight of his bag and lunchbox — had tired him by 8 a.m.

In his new classroom, Lucian sat cross-legged at the edge of a colorful rug, his walker to his left. When his teacher took attendance, he turned around to grin at Israel, sitting in the back.

Israel got permission from the school to stay with Lucian on his first day, unsure if the boy would be able to manage on his own. When Erin left an hour prior, Lucian called after her, his eyes wide with panic.

Lucian's teacher, Taylor Severn, began to teach the class a game: the kids dance to music and freeze when she shakes a tambourine.

"I'm going to stand up with my walker," Lucian announced to the class.

The song started and Lucian gripped the handles of his walker, happily shaking his body and kicking his legs. He froze. He danced.

When Severn turned off the music, the students plopped to the floor.

Lucian pushed his walker back. He bent over and put his palms on the rug to slowly lower himself. He pulled his left leg over the right so he was sitting cross-legged. He clasped his hands together and fixed his eyes on his teacher.

At 10 a.m. recess, Israel decided to go home earlier than he'd planned, since Lucian seemed to be doing OK.

He watched his son pull a toy out of a bin on the yard, extending his arm as he tried to land a tethered ball into a cup. Kids around him hula-hooped and took turns on tricycles.

A boy asked Lucian about his walker, and he pointed to his left leg and sheepishly explained that his sister fell on it when they were playing.

Israel walked over to Lucian, who was now at a lunch table eating a rice krispie treat.

He kissed his son and headed to his car.

Lucian, talking to the girl across from him, didn't turn around to watch him leave.

Oct19th

It's a common piece of advice – drink six to eight glasses of water, or fluid, every day.

The suggestion has been around for some time and appears on the NHS website.

But while drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated is important, experts are warning that consuming too much might actually been damaging to our health.

Apparently, drinking excess liquid, especially when we're not thirsty, could even kill us.

A new study says that drinking too much activates a "protective swallowing inhibition" in the brain.

And can cause people to suffer from water intoxication.

The danger is down to sodium levels in the blood. Too much water can lead to hyponatremia, which is when vital levels of sodium in your bloodstream become abnormally low.

Hyponatremia can lead to lethargy, nausea, convulsions and, in the worst instances, may even lead to a coma, or even death.

Researcher Dr Michael Farrell, from Monash University in Melbourne and who worked on the research, said: "If we just do what our body demands us to we'll probably get it right - just drink according to thirst rather than an elaborate schedule.

"Here for the first time we found effort-full swallowing after drinking excess water which meant they were having to overcome some sort of resistance.

"This was compatible with our notion that the swallowing reflex becomes inhibited once enough water has been drunk.

"There have been cases when athletes in marathons were told to load up with water and died, in certain circumstances, because they slavishly followed these recommendations and drank far in excess of need."

For the study, Dr Farrell and his colleagues asked people to rate the amount of effort needed to swallow water under two different conditions.

Participants drank immediately after exercising – when they were thirsty – and then later in the day when they didn't feel as if they needed a drink.

Imaging software was used to measure activity in the brain thereafter.

People showed signs of considerable effort when drinking seemingly unnecessarily, and scans showed the brain was affected more then too.

It's then that the brain tells us to override the desire to have a drink – and when "swallowing inhibition can occur."

And it's then when salt levels can be impacted, and hazards might come about.

Despite this, Dr Farrell stressed that staying hydrated and drinking plenty of water every day is important. But you might not want to force liquid down.

The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Oct 13th

Breast cancer checkup

You'll be more likely to know if these symptoms could suggest a problem if you're actually familiar with what your breasts usually look and feel like, so don't be shy. Inspect your breasts regularly; a few days after your period if you still have one, or around the same day of every month if you don't. During your monthly self-exam, look at your nipples and breast skin, and gently squeeze your breasts and the tissue around the breast for lumps. About 20 percent of the time, breast cancers are found by physical examination rather than by mammography, reports BreastCancer.org, so don't overlook this important self-care tool. And remember to examine the area of your armpit as well. Breastcancer.org recommends checking from your collarbone to the top of your abdomen, and from your armpit to your cleavage. Speaking of mammography, follow your doctor's recommendations on how often to get a mammogram. This technology can be essential in detecting cancers that both do and don't produce lumps.

Oct 13th

HAITI -- The interim president of Haiti has played down the international aid response to Hurricane Matthew.

 Jocelerme Privert says some promised aid has yet to materialise and the devastated country is most funding its own recovery.

 He says the priority is acting quickly to stem the spike of cholera. “We need to feed the people in shelters, we need to give them water to drink. We must give them medication to prevent the spread of cholera.”

Many without water and electricity

Many people in Haiti are still without water and electricity, despite efforts by the authorities to repair basic services.

The National Civil Protection headquarters in Port-au-Prince has raised the official nationwide death toll to 473.

But local officials fear the actual number is far greater.

Fears of a cholera spike

A cluster of more than 200 cases of cholera have been reported in Haiti since Hurricane Matthew.

An estimated 150 suspected cases have been reported in the department of Grande’Anse.

50 have been recorded in the South department.

The WHO says this is a “sharp increase in figures”.

 WHO sending doses of vaccine

The World Health Organisation (WHO) is sending one million doses of cholera vaccine to Haiti.

It is aimed at preventing further transmission of the disease in the Caribbean country.

The peak period for tranmission is from November to January during the rainy season.

 What about those already affected?

They need treatment.

However, a quarter of the health centres in Haiti’s hard-hit southern region have been destroyed or seriously damaged, according to the WHO.

Cholera

Cholera causes severe diarrhea and can kill within hours if it goes untreated.

It is spread through contaminated water and has a short incubation period, which leads to rapid outbreaks.

What is cholera and how can it be treated? Find out more here

Hurricane Matthew


Southwestern Haiti was smashed by the Category 4 hurricane on October the 4th.

It barreled through the southern coast of the poor island nationa, killing an estimated 1,000 people and displacing hundreds of thousands.

Farmers in southern rural areas have been the most acutely hit.

Six years ago, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake leveled much of Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince.

Reconstruction is still ongoing. Disillusionment about the involvement of the international community in the rebuilding effort still runs high.

“The top priority clearly for those people affected by the hurricane is to give them access to safe water. That is the only way we can control cholera,” – Dominique Legros, WHO cholera expert.

Oct 7th 2016

A four-year-old boy has been admitted to hospital after he was given holistic medicine to ‘cure’ his autism, doctors have warned.

Doctors writing in the British Medical Journal have appealed to parents of autistic children to avoid the potentially dangerous treatments and urged them that rather than ‘curing’ autism, such medication could put children at risk of serious harm.

Doctors Catriona Boyd and Abdul Moodambail say they treated the child, who has not been named, after he was admitted to hospital with vomiting, constipation and weight loss. After doctors examined him they found him to be suffering from hypercalcaemia, an abnormally high level of calcium in the blood, as well as a high level of vitamin D.

Days after he was admitted to hospital, his mother admitted a naturopath had told her to give the boy holistic supplements to treat his autism, including camel milk and silver. The doctors wrote: “Several days into his admission his mother disclosed that for a number of months he had been taking 12 different holistic supplements recommended to the family by a naturopath to help with his autism.

“These supplements included vitamin D, calcium magnesium citrate, cod liver oil, camel milk, silver… epsom bath salts and sodium chloride.”

The doctors said the child responded well to medical treatment and has since recovered. Police are now reportedly investigating the naturopath.

They warn: “There is a general belief that complementary therapies are ‘natural’ and therefore cannot cause harm, but there are many reported cases of complications, including fatalities, and probably many others which are not reported to medical practitioners or recognised as being attributable to complementary and alternative therapies.”

They added that doctors should make a routine habit of asking patients if they have taken alternative therapies in a bid to identify them early on and better inform treatment and recovery. “We probably underestimate the use of [them] but studies suggest that it is particularly prevalent in cases such as autism where there are limited conventional medical treatment options and advice regarding complementary therapies is not regulated.”

A 2007 study of autistic children in the US found that 74 per cent of children were taking alternative medicine. Researchers found parents of autistic children were more likely to choose such treatment over mainstream medication due to their belief alternative therapy is more ‘hands-on’ and gives greater consideration to emotional aspects of children’s wellbeing.

However, it is believed that most parents will not willingly disclose the treatment to the medical staff, with 66 per cent not sharing the information with doctors.

Oct 1st 2016

Mental health experts are warning of the risks of the increasingly popular “clean eating” dietary trend, which is leaving a growing number of teenagers very thin and even at risk of dying when taken to extremes.

One nutritionist said she had been contacted by a girl as young as 12 and people had got in touch on social media saying they wanted to be healthier, giving details of their existing diets.

Rhiannon Lambert, a registered associate nutritionist in Harley Street, London, has encountered people who obsess over where food comes from and some clients who will not drink water from a tap, because they normally stick to a brand of bottled water.

“They develop particular habits, or won’t eat food when walking, because they think that food can only be processed when they’re sitting down,” she said. “All this interferes with general life and becomes an obsession.”

The extreme form of this is a psychological condition known as orthorexia nervosa, the Californian doctor Steven Bratman has said. Experts have described it as a “fixation with righteous eating”.

Clean eating is promoted by some food bloggers, who are increasingly felt by a number

of medical experts to be having a negative impact on certain vulnerable young people.

“Young people lose sleep over this and cannot afford the lifestyle needed to maintain it,” Lambert said. “Health bloggers can be unqualified and offer dangerous advice. Not all of them want to impose their lifestyle on others, but lots of them do and they often give advice on clean eating with no scientific backing.

“The books come along, the products come along and these people are now role models whose every word will inspire impressionable young people. I have clients who think they have to be vegan to be successful.”

There are no official figures for the number of children and young people following a clean eating regime, because orthorexia is not recognised as a clinical diagnosis. But psychologists and nutritionists have reported a recent surge in the phenomenon among younger clients, especially girls, and believe that it is gaining in popularity.

The eating disorders charity Beat told the Guardian that it had recently seen a rise in the number of calls to its helpline from young people who have experienced problems as a result of following the trend.

Ursula Philpot, a dietitian at the British Dietetic Association, said a fixation with eating healthily had been a noticeable route into eating disorders for vulnerable individuals in the past couple of years.

She identified social media and the rise of healthy food trends and blogs as key drivers of the trend, but said it is difficult to blame them completely. “If it wasn’t health bloggers, then it could be something else that becomes the inroad, but it seems to be the route in now,” she said.

Orthorexia affects girls more than boys, although boys are much more affected than previously, she added.

The range of foods that people worry about eating has changed, Philpot said. “At the top of most people’s lists [of bad foods] is gluten and dairy. When you talk to young people more, you find out about their stringent rules – some will worry all day about eating a biscuit,” she said.

The condition starts out as an innocent attempt to eat more healthily, but those who experience it become fixated on food quality and purity, according to experts.

A Beat spokeswoman said: “We are concerned by the rising trend of ‘clean eating’ and the impact it could have on young people vulnerable to the development of an eating disorder. We are aware that contacts to our helpline are raising issues around orthorexia and clean eating.”

There may be several reasons for someone to take up clean eating, the spokeswoman said.

“Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses and their causes are many and complex. Research is telling us that they may be more biologically based than we previously thought, but social and environmental factors will also play a part in their development,” she said.

“Orthorexia does not have a clinical diagnosis and it would be for clinicians to determine whether it should, which may be helpful, because then it would have a clear clinical pathway of treatment.

“There is a view that it may be more closely connected to OCD due to the nature of the illness, although it does also share behavioural traits with anorexia. Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.”

Deanne Jade, the founder of the National Centre for Eating Disorders, a counselling network, has also seen an increase in orthorexia. “A lot of younger people don’t think they need therapy and that the solution to bulimia and anorexia is to eat clean, but this can become an obsession and there’s now more pressure than ever to be healthy.

“There are too many messages in the media and especially social media. What worries me is that a lot of people promoting these ideas have no knowledge of nutrition.

“I don’t know what the solution is, but a lot of the time getting people to recover from an eating disorder means getting them to relax their ideas about clean eating.”

Sept 29th 2016

Taking common painkillers like ibuprofen raises the risk of being admitted to hospital for heart failure for a fortnight, the biggest ever study has shown.

Researchers at the University of Milano-Bicocca in Italy found some non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) double the risk of heart problems.

And even common drugs, like ibuprofen increase the chance of being admitted to hospital by 18 per cent for 14 days after swallowing.

The authors say that it is now so easy to buy drugs in supermarkets that many people think medication is harmless but it could be dangerous for people with underlying heart conditions.

“This study offers further evidence that the most frequently used individual traditional painkillers are associated with an increased risk of hospital admission for heart failure. Moreover, the risk seems to vary between drugs and according to the dose,” said lead author Dr Giovanni Corrao.

The findings are based on almost 10 million painkiller users from Britain, the Netherlands, Italy and Germany.

The researchers found that the magnitude of risk varied between individual drugs and increased substantially at high doses.

Heart failure is caused by a wide range of conditions, including high blood pressure, heart attacks, alcohol, and obesity.

British experts said it was unlikely that painkillers could cause problems in people with healthy hearts, but they may unmask heart failure due to these other causes.

Helen Williams, consultant pharmacist for cardiovascular disease at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, said: “The study reinforces the need to carefully weigh up the risks and benefits of using NSAIDs. Measures to help reduce risk include using medicines with a lower risk of cardiovascular problems, minimising the prescribed dose to the lowest dose that is effective and where possible, limiting the length of time the patient takes the medicine.

“People regularly purchasing NSAIDs over the counter, such as ibuprofen, should seek advice from their pharmacist or doctor. “

Prof Peter Weissberg, medical director at the British Heart Foundation, added: “Since heart and joint problems often coexist, particularly in the elderly, this study serves as a reminder to doctors to consider carefully how they prescribe NSAIDs, and to patients that they should only take the lowest effective dose for the shortest possible time.

“They should discuss their treatment with their GP if they have any concerns.”

The research was published in the BMJ.

Sept 28th 2016

Scientists may have just discovered a cure for people who have experienced baldness due to severe hair loss conditions.

The drug ruxolitinib has been found to restore hair growth in 75% of patients with alopecia areata, the second most common form of hair loss.

Currently there are no known treatments that can completely restore hair. 

Alopecia areata can occur at any age and affects men and women equally.

The autoimmune disease attacks the hair follicles, often resulting in hair loss on the scalp. Some patients also experience facial and body hair loss.

In its first small clinical trial, a drug called ruxolitinib was found to restore hair growth in the majority of patients.

The 12 patients who took part in the trial were given 20 mg of oral ruxolitinib, twice a day, for three to six months.

Incredibly, three quarters of them experienced hair growth.

By the end of treatment, average hair regrowth among patients was 92%.

“Although our study was small, it provides crucial evidence that JAK inhibitors may constitute the first effective treatment for people with alopecia areata,” said Dr Julian Mackay-Wiggan, associate professor and director of the clinical research unit in dermatology at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC).

“This is encouraging news for patients who are coping with the physical and emotional effects of this disfiguring autoimmune disease.”

After treatment with the drug has stopped, one third of those who had experience regrowth suffered significant hair loss once more - although hair loss did not reach pre-treatment levels.

“Our findings suggest that initial treatment induces a high rate of disease remissions in patients with moderate to severe alopecia areata but maintenance therapy may be needed,” said Dr Mackay-Wiggan.

“While larger, randomised trials are needed to confirm the safety and efficacy of ruxolitinib in people with moderate to severe alopecia areata, our initial results are very encouraging.”

Angela Christiano from Columbia University Medical Center hailed the findings as “astounding”.

Sept 16th 2016

The death of a Chinese actress from cancer has reignited the debate over alternative therapies after she initially shunned chemotherapy treatment for traditional Chinese medicine.

Xu Ting, 26, was diagnosed with lymphoma in July and decided not to undergo chemotherapy because she feared it would be too painful or even speed up her death.

She said she wanted to "enjoy every day happily", adding: "I don’t want chemotherapy to torture me until I have no beauty or talent left."

Instead, she chose traditional Chinese medicine, including cupping, acupuncture and gua sha - a skin scraping therapy.

She documented her treatment on China's Sina Weibo social media site, sharing photos of her cupping and scraping treatments.

By mid-August, Xu Ting's sister said her treatment had failed and she had decided to try chemotherapy and accused the traditional Chinese medicine "master" of being a "fraud".

However, her immune system had become weakened and she died on 7 September.

Her death has renewed debate over alternative medicine and the hashtag #XuTing'sDeathAndChineseMedicine began trending on Sina Weibo.

However, some have argued that traditional Chinese medicine cannot be blamed for her death.

"Some people say that traditional Chinese medicine can’t cure cancer, so therefore traditional Chinese medicine is a sham. This kind of logic is ridiculous," a journalist for the Beijing Evening News wrote, according to a translation from The Nanfang.

"There are many cancer patients who still pass away after receiving chemotherapy. Will these same people also say that western medicine is a sham?"

Others argued she should have taken both forms of treatment, using the chemotherapy to target her tumour and alternative medicine to help alleviate her symptoms. 

Sep 9th 2016

Statins are safe and effective but their potential side-effects have been exaggerated by unreliable studies, according to a major medical review.

The cholesterol-reducing tablets, the most prescribed drugs in the UK, have been the subject of years of controversy and conflicting reports.

It is thought that around six million people take them every day but that hundreds of thousands have stopped the life-saving treatment because of fears over how safe they are.

A review of the available evidence on statins, published in The Lancet medical journal, has found that the risks of a negative reaction are far outweighed by the benefits.

Too much weight has been placed upon unreliable evidence from observational studies, while the results from randomised drugs trials, which are reliable, have not been properly acknowledged, the study stated.

The report has been released in a bid to avert an MMR-style public health scare, when there was a significant decline in the uptake of the vaccine after a report, which has since been completely discredited, linked it to autism.

Dr Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet, said: "We saw in a very painful way the consequences of publishing a paper which had a huge impact on the confidence in a safe and effective vaccine.

"We have learnt lessons from that episode and those lessons need to be widely propagated - they are lessons for all journals, all scientists."

He added: "This is the first time that all of the evidence has been brought together on both safety and benefits into a single publication.

"So this is a one-stop shop of the evidence on safety and benefits of statins. There has been nowhere where you can get all of that information in a single place."

The review found that side-effects can include developing muscle pain, diabetes or a haemorrhagic stroke, but suggestions that statins cause other conditions, such as memory loss, cataracts, kidney injury, liver disease, sleep disturbance, aggression or erectile dysfunction, are not accurate.

Oxford University's Professor Rory Collins, one of the authors of the review, said misleading claims about harmful side-effects was causing a "serious cost to public health".

He added: "Our review shows that the numbers of people who avoid heart attacks and strokes by taking statin therapy are very much larger than the numbers who have side-effects with it.

"In addition, whereas most of the side-effects can be reversed with no residual effects by stopping the statin, the effects of a heart attack or stroke not being prevented are irreversible and can be devastating."

Aug 16th 2016

Plaque busting nanoparticles

Nano fighters

Careening through the bloodstream, a single nanoparticle is dwarfed by red blood cells whizzing by that are 100 times larger. But when specially designed nanoparticles bump into an atherosclerotic plaque — a fatty clog narrowing a blood vessel — the tiny particles can play an outsized role. They can cling to the plaque and begin to break it down, clearing the path for those big blood cells to flow more easily and calming the angry inflammation in the vicinity.

By finding and busting apart plaques in the arteries, nanoparticles may offer a new, non-surgical way to reduce a patient’s risk for heart attack and stroke.

Nanoparticles measure less than 100 nanometers across — a thousandth the thickness of a dollar bill. Despite being tiny, they can be engineered to haul a mix of molecules — such as tags that make them stick to a plaque, drugs that block inflammation or dyes that let scientists track their movements. Over the last two decades, scientists have exploited these strategies to fight cancer, designing nanoparticles that deliver drugs (SN Online: 1/3/14) or dyes for imaging deep into the core of a tumor. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a few dozen cancer-focused nanomedicines.

Now researchers have begun engineering nanoparticles to target cardiovascular disease, which kills even more people each year than cancer. Nanosized compounds have been built that can sweep into clogged arteries to shrink the plaques that threaten to block blood flow. Some nanoparticles home in on the plaques by binding to immune cells in the area, some do so by mimicking natural cholesterol molecules and others search for collagen exposed in damaged vessel walls. Once at the location of a plaque, either the nanoparticles themselves or a piggybacked drug can do the cleanup work.

The aim of all these approaches is to prevent strokes and heart attacks in people with cardiovascular disease, either before surgery becomes necessary or after surgery to prevent a second event. Today, cardiovascular nanoparticles are still far from pharmacy shelves. Most have not reached safety testing in patients. But in mice, rats and pigs, nanodrugs have slowed the growth of the plaques that build up on vessel walls, and in some cases have been able to shrink or clear them.

“I think the effect we can have with these nanoparticles on cardiovascular disease is even more pronounced and direct than what we’ve seen in cancer,” says Prabhas Moghe, a biomedical engineer at Rutgers University in Piscataway, N.J.

Biological blockades

Every minute, more than a gallon of blood pumps through the human heart, pushing through miles of blood vessels to deliver oxygen and nutrients to organs and extremities. In a healthy person, the trip is as smooth as a drive on a freshly paved highway. But in the more than 10 percent of U.S. adults who have cardiovascular disease, the route might be more like a pothole-filled road squeezed by Jersey barriers.

Waxy globs, or plaques, of fat and cholesterol line the blood vessels, thickening and hardening the walls, impeding blood flow. As fat builds up inside the vessels, it also leaks into the vessel walls, swelling them and signaling the body to send immune cells to the area. The congregation of immune cells aggravates the blockage, the way emergency vehicles surrounding the site of a multi-car pileup further slow traffic on a highway.

“The inflammation and the accumulation of fat in the walls of the blood vessel sort of feed off each other and exacerbate each other,” Moghe says.

If the plaques grow large enough, or pieces chip off and travel to smaller vessels, they can block a vessel. If oxygen-filled blood can’t reach the brain or heart, a stroke or heart attack results.

The drugs most often prescribed to prevent or treat atherosclerosis — plaque buildup on the inner walls of the arteries — are statins (SN: 5/5/12, p. 30). This highly successful and effective class of drugs, available since 1987, slows the growth of the fatty plaques by lowering the amount of cholesterol circulating in the blood. But taking statins is akin to limiting the number of cars on a damaged road rather than repairing potholes, some argue. And the drugs can boost a person’s risk of diabetes and liver damage. In many cases, patients don’t begin taking statins until they already have severe atherosclerosis, and the drugs do little to reverse the buildup of plaques that already exist.

“Heart disease is still the number one killer in the U.S.,” says endocrinologist and biochemist Ira Tabas of Columbia University Medical Center. Drug-carrying nanoparticles that can shrink existing atherosclerotic plaques and eliminate the accompanying inflammation could change that, Tabas and others say.

Going places 

To treat atherosclerotic plaques with nanoparticles, researchers have devised a variety of ways to send circulating particles directly to the fatty clogs. In each approach below, a molecule that’s part of the nanoparticle binds to a molecule in or near the plaques.

Macrophage magnet

To make nanoparticles congregate at the dangerous plaques, researchers need to identify something that makes the blockage stand out from the rest of the body. The crowds of immune cells near plaques act as a signpost that a plaque exists.

Many of the immune cells involved in atherosclerosis are macrophages, white blood cells that gulp pathogens, dead cells or debris in the body. At the site of a plaque, macrophages become swollen with fats and transform into what are called “foam cells” because of their foamy appearance. As they digest fats, foam cells send out chemical signals to recruit more inflammation-causing cells and molecules to the area. Because they’re so intimately involved in the formation of plaques, macrophages and foam cells are a prime target for nanoparticles.

Moghe’s group has designed nanoparticles that bind to molecules on the surface of macrophages, preventing them from gobbling fats and becoming foam cells. The researchers made the nanoparticles specifically target a subtype of macrophage that’s involved in atherosclerosis, not the macro-phages that might respond to other injuries in the body. When nanoparticles were injected into mice with narrowed arteries, the blockages decreased by 37 percent, Moghe’s group reported last year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Others are using cholesterol-like molecules as nanoparticle taxis to carry drugs to plaques and subdue the immune reaction. Statins aim to lower the form of cholesterol called low-density lipoprotein, which earned the name “bad cholesterol” for accumulating in plaques. High-density lipoprotein, or “good cholesterol,” shuttles LDL away from these clogs to the liver, where it can be broken down. HDL also prevents macro-phages from turning into foam cells and producing inflammatory molecules. So Shanta Dhar, a chemist at the University of Georgia in Athens, developed nanoparticles that mimic HDL. She presented the work in March in San Diego at a meeting of the American Chemical Society.

“HDL is our body’s natural cholesterol-removing nanomaterial,” she says. In animal tests, the HDL-based nanoparticle can bind to free-floating macro-phages circulating in the blood, just as HDL does, and follow them to a plaque, she explains. The nanoparticles can also bind to macrophages already glommed on to a plaque, and, mimicking the activities of natural HDL, carry the cells away.

Plaque buster

Willem Mulder, a nanomedicine researcher at the University of Amsterdam and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, has also designed HDL-mimicking nanoparticles. His particles deliver statins that make a beeline for macrophages and plaques, letting him administer the drug at lower-than-usual doses. He was inspired by earlier studies that showed how extremely high doses of statins, given to mice, could lower LDL levels while also packing anti-inflammatory properties. Of course, in humans, such high doses would probably cause liver or kidney damage. Mulder’s solution: tack the statins to a nanoparticle to send them, missile-like, to the plaques. That way, a low dose of the drug could achieve the high concentration needed at the site of the atherosclerosis.

“We’re exploiting the inherent targeting properties of HDL,” he says. “And it works well with statins, which are small molecules.”

In 2014 in Nature Communications, Mulder’s group reported that plaque-filled arteries in mice given the nanoparticlewere 16 percent more open than arteries in mice with no treatment, and 12 percent more open than in mice given a systemic statin. More work is needed

Cold sore virus kills baby

August 11th 2016

John and Louise Wills had no idea how lethal a simple kiss to a baby could be before losing their child.

Baby Eibhlín was just 12 days when she died from the common cold sore virus –  and now they’ve called for increased awareness to prevent other parents suffering the same ordeal.

Sharing their story to highlight the hidden danger, they have created a website in Eibhlín’s memory and are asking the public to support and share.

‘We are sharing our story in Eibhlín’s memory so we can create awareness about the dangers of cold sores and new born babies. We want all parents, parents-to-be and any medical staff working with them to be made aware of the risks so no one else ever has to face what we have gone through,’ said John on RTÉ One.

Born in November 2015 by an emergency C-Section in The National Maternity Hospital, their baby Eibhlín weighed a healthy 7lb 11oz.

After birth she was sent to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit as a precautionary measure as she had become a little distressed prior to delivery but after five nights in hospital she came home.

Initially all appeared well and there was no cause for alarm until 11pm that night when her colour suddenly changed and she became listless.

John and Louise headed to Tallaght A&E where Eibhlín was immediately seen but was pronounced dead at 1:09am a week to the day since she had come home from hospital.

A post-mortem identified the cause of death as the Herpes Simplex Virus 1 (HSV-1) which is more commonly known as the Cold Sore Virus.  In Eibhlín’s case it was Disseminated Neonatal Herpes Simplex Virus 1, which incubates for a time and results in multiple organ failure but there are no symptoms until it is too late.

While this type of death is rare it is even rarer in Eibhlín’s case as 90% of these infections come from the mother. But Louise was found not to have carried the virus. 

‘Eibhlín contracted the virus postnatally and, although we may never know from whom or exactly when it happened, we know from tests that the virus was already in her system when she came home from the maternity hospital with us,’ Louise said.

Since Eibhlín’s death John and Louise have discovered that acquiring accurate statistics on new born babies with the cold sore virus in Ireland is difficult and are calling for the Minister for Health to make this more transparent.

As a legacy for Eibhlín, Louise said they now want to ensure the general public is aware how lethal a cold sore can be to a new born baby.

In order to create greater public and professional awareness and education John and Louise’s aims are as follows:

  • To provide an information leaflet with Eibhlín’s story and website details in the welcome packs issued to mothers-to-be in Ireland’s maternity hospitals
  • To ensure that Eibhlín’s story is mentioned in the ante natal classes
  • To place information posters in clinics
  • To remind visitors to mums and babies not to visit if they have a current cold sore
  • To provide more information to student midwives/ nurses/ healthcare workers 
  • To ensure consultants include Herpes Simplex Virus and Eibhlín’s story in lectures/ educational forums
  • To encourage GPs to discuss the virus with expectant mothers, and after the birth of their baby, to be mindful if they or close family and friends suffer from cold sores.
  • To place posters and/or leaflets in GP surgeries

They also aim to encourage maternity hospitals to include a specific infection protocol that applies to any staff member with active Herpes Simplex Virus working with new born babies and to ensure Infection Control sections of maternity hospital websites provide relevant information for patients and visitors.

 July 30th 2016

Let’s be Group B Strep awarePosted by  on Thursday, July 14, 2016 · Leave a Comment  It’s Group B Strep Awareness month and we’re helping to raise awareness of group B Strep infection.What is Group B Strep?Group B Streptococcus (GBS) is normal bacterium most commonly found in the intestines. It is usually harmless.Why do we need to raise awareness?GBS bacteria can quickly spread through a newborn baby’s body. This can lead to serious infections such as sepsis and meningitis.We’re joining Group B Strep Support (GBSS) to raise as much awareness as we can so that babies do not suffer long term damage as a result of GBS infection, as well as supporting families affected.As with many illnesses, early diagnosis and treatment of GBS infection is vital.Symptoms of GBS infectionThere are two types of GBS disease: early and late-onset. Early onset infection usually occurs in the first six days of life and typically presents as septicaemia with pneumonia. Late-onset GBS disease, which usually presents as GBS meningitis, occurs after around six days.The symptoms of early onset strep B infection include:gruntinglethargyirritabilitypoor feedingvery high or low heart ratelow blood pressurelow blood sugarabnormal temperatureabnormal breathing rates with blueness of the skin due to lack of oxygenThe symptoms of late onset strep B infection include:Being irritable with high pitched or whimpering cry, or moaningBlank, staring or trance-like expressionFloppyMay dislike being handledTurns away from bright lightInvoluntary stiff body or jerking movementsPale, blotchy skinMost babies diagnosed with GBS infection can be treated with antibiotics and will not experience long term damage.  For some babies however, there can be permanent injury such as brain damage or amputation.  This can be as a result of a delay in diagnosis and/or treatment.If a baby shows signs consistent with early or late GBS infection, call your doctor immediately. If your doctor isn’t available, go straight to your nearest A&E Department.  Early diagnosis and treatment are vital.Can GBS infection be prevented?Group B Strep carriage can be tested for, but it is not routinely tested for on the NHS. If GBS is detected during the current pregnancy, you should be offered antibiotics in labour to prevent infection developing in the baby. The GBSS website has lots of helpful information about GBS and risk factors in pregnancy – 


For earlier medical news see the medical home page

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