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July 18th 2018

Omega-3 supplements 'do not cut risk of early death and do little to protect heart'

Fish oil and omega-3 supplements offer little or no protection to the heart and may even lower levels of healthy cholesterol, a myth-busting major study has found.

The review looking at trial data from more than 100,000 people around the world also failed to show any evidence that the popular supplements reduce the risk of dying.

Millions of people take omega-3 in the belief that it helps prevent heart disease and early death. The fatty acids, mostly found in oily fish such as salmon and tuna, are known to benefit health when consumed in small amounts in food.

But controversy surrounds the burgeoning industry and hype surrounding omega-3 supplements, which are claimed to prevent a host of ills ranging from dementia and depression to heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis.

The new research looked specifically at evidence of their impact on rates of heart disease, stroke and death.

Scientists from the Cochrane organisation, a global network of experts dedicated to informing health policy, pooled findings from 79 randomised trials involving 112,059 participants.

The studies, conducted in North America, Europe, Australia and Asia, investigated the effect on the heart and arteries of taking omega-3 and fish oil supplements.

Combining results from many trials, known as "meta-analysis," can highlight trends that may previously have been hidden.

In this case the scientists found "high certainty evidence" that long-chain omega-3 fats had "no meaningful effect" on death risk. They also had "little or no" impact on the risk of heart attacks, strokes or heart irregularities.

However there was some evidence that the supplements reduced levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) - the "good" form of cholesterol known to protect arteries from damage.

Lead researcher Dr Lee Hooper, from the University of East Anglia, said: "We can be confident in the findings of this review which go against the popular belief that long-chain omega-3 supplements protect the heart.

"This large systematic review included information from many thousands of people over long periods. Despite all this information, we don't see protective effects.

"The review provides good evidence that taking long-chain omega 3 supplements does not benefit heart health or reduce our risk of stroke or death from any cause.

"The most trustworthy studies consistently showed little or no effect of long-chain omega-3 fats on cardiovascular health.

“On the other hand, while oily fish is a healthy food, it is unclear from the small number of trials whether eating more oily fish is protective of our hearts."

The findings are published in The Cochrane Library, the collection of databases maintained by the Cochrane organisation.

Dr Hooper said there was "moderate" evidence that one type of short-chain omega-3 fat found in plant oils and nuts, alphalinolenic acid (ALA), may provide a small degree of heart protection.

However he added: "The effect is very small - 143 people would need to increase their ALA intake to prevent one person developing arrhythmia (irregular heart beat).

“One thousand people would need to increase their ALA intake to prevent one person dying of coronary heart disease or experiencing a cardiovascular event."

Commenting on the results, cardiologist Professor Tim Chico, from the University of Sheffield, said: "This analysis of many studies shows clearly that omega-3 supplements do not reduce heart disease.

“Such supplements come with a significant cost, so my advice to anyone buying them in the hope that they reduce the risk of heart disease, I'd advise them to spend their money on vegetables instead."

Nutrition expert Dr Ian Johnson, from the Quadram Institute Bioscience, said: "The results show little or no evidence for important beneficial effects. Given the strong evidence from previous epidemiological studies this conclusion is somewhat surprising, but it needs to be taken seriously.

"Either the protective effects of oily fish consumption that are observed in populations are due to mechanisms that cannot be reproduced by relatively short-term interventions with purified omega-3 supplements, or perhaps they are caused by other unidentified environmental factors somehow linked to oily fish consumption."

July 16th 2018

How to spot age-related macular degeneration

Fifteen years ago, Lorna Blakeney thought she had a lump of mucus in her eye. “I was sitting reading a book after lunch and suddenly realised there was something in my left eye. I tried to blink and rub it away. I thought a night’s sleep would help. But in the morning, it was still there. I didn’t do anything about it for two weeks, which was stupid of me, especially as my daughter is an optometrist.”

Lorna’s daughter sent her mum straight to an ophthalmologist. “But it was too late. I was diagnosed with wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD); there was no treatment in those days and I was told there was an 82% chance that my other eye would go, too.”

Lorna’s daughter, Dr Sue Blakeney, is a clinical adviser at the College of Optometrists. She says that what happened to her mum is not uncommon. “Macular degeneration causes damage to the part of the retina responsible for central vision. It affects one eye first, so you often don’t notice it unless you close one eye at a time; you can be almost blind in one eye and not be aware of it.” Lorna is even more pithy: “You have two eyes – make sure you compare them. One is often stronger than the other, but if things change, get help.”

Ophthalmologist Pearse Keane of Moorfields eye hospital in London says that AMD is the most common cause of irreversible sight loss in the UK and Europe. “Every day in the UK alone, nearly 200 people develop the severe, blinding forms of AMD. There are two main forms of AMD – a ‘dry’ type and the ‘wet’ one. Wet AMD has nothing to do with watery eyes but is so-called because abnormal blood vessels grow under the centre of the retina (the nerve tissue that lines the back of the eye). These blood vessels leak fluid and bleed easily, and this can cause severe visual loss because it is such a sensitive area.”

Keane says that, until about 10 years ago, there was no effective treatment for the wet form of AMD, but now it can be treated with regular injections of drugs such as Eylea or Lucentis into the eye. They block the growth of new blood vessels and reduce the leakage of fluid from existing vessels. This improves sight substantially in about a third of patients and prevents further worsening of vision in about 95% of cases. However, the effects of the drugs last only one to two months, so people need frequent injections over long periods of time.

Andrew Lotery, a professor of ophthalmology at the University of Southampton, says everyone over 50 should at least be aware that if they have a loss of vision in one eye that is not corrected when they put on their glasses, then it could be rapidly developing wet AMD.

“You should be seen in hospital within a week because scarring develops if wet AMD is left untreated.” Optometrists and ophthalmic practitioners (doctors trained to examine eyes) can look for early signs of macular degeneration and will refer on urgently if they are concerned. In the past, diagnosis relied on a slit-lamp examination – a contact lens put on the eye and observed through a microscope looking for thickening of the retina – and a fluorescein angiogram (FA), which involves an injection into a vein in the arm to highlight blood vessels in the eye. But “FA makes lots of people sick and occasionally causes severe allergic reactions,” says Lotery.

Happily, there is an alternative now. “The initial diagnosis of wet AMD, and the need for follow-up treatments, is determined with a form of retinal imaging called optical coherence tomography (OCT),” says Keane. OCT is a relatively new form of medical imaging, having been around since 1991. It is analogous to ultrasound except that it measures the reflection of light waves, rather than sound. Most people with known retinal disease have an OCT scan at every hospital eye clinic appointment and get offered more injections into the eye if there are signs of “fluid”.

Lotery says the price of OCT machines are coming down all the time although they still cost around £50,000 each. There are also now handheld OCTs, which some believe will make detecting eye disease as “easy as scanning a barcode”, but Lotery urges caution: “Don’t rush out to buy one. You still need a trained health professional to interpret the results – it’s easy to misinterpret them.”

Machines are also being trained in diagnostic techniques. Google’s DeepMind has used data from thousands of OCT scans to develop an algorithm that can diagnose wet AMD at least as quickly and effectively as eye specialists can. A partnership with Moorfields and the NHS will shortly publish more detailed results.

AMD develops as the eye ages – and Blakeney says other risk factors include a family history of AMD, smoking, excessive exposure to UV light and, possibly, to screens. Maintaining a normal weight may be protective and there is probably a role for foods that contain dietary pigments, such as blueberries and peppers. “There is no good evidence that the general population should take supplements, but if you already have AMD in one eye, it may be advisable.”


Dry AMD is less severe than wet, progresses over years rather than months and causes more gradual loss of central vision. “Unfortunately, there is no effective treatment for dry AMD, although there are many clinical trials under way,” says Keane.

The exciting developments in diagnosis and treatment of wet AMD have come too late for Lorna Blakeney. She is one of the 360,000 people in the UK who are registered as blind or visually impaired. Six years after her initial diagnosis, Lorna noticed that the venetian blinds in her bathroom window looked wiggly in her remaining sighted eye. “This time, I had injections of the drug Lucentis into my eye. I thought it would be a magic bullet; it is for many, but it wasn’t for me. Gradually, I lost the sight in the eye and I’m now registered as severely sight impaired, with only a bit of peripheral vision left.”

“There is life after AMD. I manage pretty well, with every gadget known to man.” She uses software on her phone and a tablet with “speaking” icons, has voice recognition software to dictate emails, a talking watch, clock, kitchen scales, measuring jug and microwave. One gadget rests on the edge of a mug and beeps twice; once for the water and once for the milk, to make a perfect cup of tea without spillages. Another clips on to her glasses and scans and speaks the writing on food labels in the supermarket. Lorna says all these aids are enormously helpful, but they don’t come cheap and most are not subsidised.

“If I go out on my own, I have a symbol cane to let other people know that I can’t see them although I have enough peripheral vision that I can move around without bumping into things. Not being able to read is biggest nuisance. One very posh British restaurant we went to had the French ‘mesdames’ and ‘messieurs’ in pale grey letters on a pale-green sign. I didn’t stand a chance.”

July 14th 2018

Mums-to-be are swearing by this tip to cope with the heat during pregnancy

We're not used to this weather in rainy Manchester and the heat is certainly proving a challenge to those pregnant ladies out there.

After asking mums and mums-to-be to share their tips for keeping cool we've been inundated with suggestions.

From wearing wet socks to dipping your feet (or even your whole body) in a paddling pool, you've been giving women some great ideas to cool down as the temperatures soar.

But this one tip has proved more popular than most - and all it involves is some ice and a fan.

Whether you did it in a pregnancy years ago, or are expecting your first child, many of you have been telling us the benefits of putting ice - either cubes or a bottle - in front of a fan to fill the room with cool air. Oh and eating some ice cubes while you're at it.

One of the hundreds of women who commented on the post on the M.E.N's Facebook page was mum Sarah Ogden, sharing her experience of being pregnant - and VERY hot - when carrying her son.

She said: "I had my son in September 2006, that August was so warm. The best thing I did was freeze a bottle of water - just a two-litre empty pop bottle - then put it in front of a fan.

"It was nice freezing cold air being blown right at me, it was amazing."

Mum Gayle Waddell did the same. She said: "My eldest was a July baby so I can completely empathise.

"My biggest tip is sleeping (or working!) with a fan with a bowl of ice in front of it to keep cool. I just constantly ate ice cubes."

Janine Davies said she had 'scorching summer weather' in all four of her pregnancies. She too turned to ice.

She said: "I was heavily pregnant all through summer. The only thing that kept me cool was sucking ice cubes and constantly putting my wrist under cold water.

"It really helped, as did thin cotton clothing and sitting in the shade."

Other tips include constantly having wet hair, suggested by mum Helena Thomas, whose children were born in the summers of 2007 and 2013, and sleeping with a wet towel over you and the fan on, from Sam Louise.

Some of you pregnant ladies are playing it safe and staying out of the sun altogether, including Nicole Affleck, who said: "35+1 and the swelling of the hands and feet have got me today. I'm not going out at all, day in for me."

So if you know a mum-to-be who's suffering, send this their way. And if you have a tip to share then let us know in the comments

July 12th 2018

Here's how much sleep you have lost since heatwave started

This summer's heatwave has collectively cost Britons more than 471 million hours of sleep.

And according to a study, 42% of us have also slept with bedroom windows wide open during the last two weeks.

The study was carried out by a British mattress brand, in a bid to discover more about the UK’s sleeping habits during this unusual stretch of warm temperatures.

The poll found that most people have switched their duvet for something lighter for a more comfortable night’s rest and one in five have slept apart from their partner at least once to try and stay cool.

www.Ergoflex.co.uk asked a total of 2,133 about their sleep patterns since the June 25 when the heatwave really began.

The overwhelming majority, 88%, of the people taking part in the survey said that they had lost sleep due to the heatwave.

And when asked to estimate how much they had lost since the start of June, the average answer was revealed to be 45 minutes per night, per person; 10 hours and 30 minutes in total.

More than two fifths of the respondents taking part in the poll confessed that they had slept with their bedroom windows wide open for the majority of nights over the past two weeks, posing a risk to home security.

Steve Willis from www.Ergoflex.co.uk said: “As much as we all love the fact that we’re actually getting a proper summer for a change, there’s no hiding the fact that this country just isn’t cut out for lasting hot weather and it’s clear that our sleep suffers badly as a result.

“Not getting a good night’s sleep affects everything from your mood to your productivity, and even your appetite, so losing sleep over a sustained period like during the heatwave can be very problematic in our day-to-day lives.

"Switching to a lighter duvet, preparing the bedroom in advance by drawing curtains early, circulating air with a fan, and investing in a mattress that promotes airflow are good starting points for a more comfortable night during warm weather.

"By actively dealing with warmer nights we can get the sleep we need to actually enjoy these sunny days while they’re here, rather than suffering from sleep deprivation.”

July 11th 2018

Multivitamins and mineral supplements won't save you from heart disease deaths, finds study

Multivitamin and mineral supplements have no benefit in preventing heart attacks, strokes or cardiovascular disease, an analysis of more than 2 million participants has found.

A multibillion dollar industry, they often marketed with a wide array of health promoting claims.

But researchers from the University of Alabama who followed more than 2 million people from 18 trials of nutritional supplements, saw no evidence they could lower heart disease deaths.

Instead, they suggested much more effective steps people can take to improve their health without extra cost are discounted.

“It has been exceptionally difficult to convince people, including nutritional researchers, to acknowledge that multivitamin and mineral supplements don’t prevent cardiovascular diseases,” said the study’s lead Dr Joonseok Kim, an assistant professor of cardiology in the Department of Medicine.

“I hope our study findings help decrease the hype around multivitamin and mineral supplements and encourage people to use proven methods to reduce their risk of cardiovascular diseases – such as eating more fruits and vegetables, exercising and avoiding tobacco.”

The nutritional supplement industry will be worth more than £200bn globally by 2024, Dr Kim writes in the study published in the American Heart Association (AMA) journal,

But these products in countries like the UK and US do not require approval on safety or effectiveness grounds.

While manufacturers are barred from making specific claims about their products ability to prevent, cure or treat diseases, this does not extend to more general health claims.

Dr Kim added that examples of these types of supplements causing direct harm were “rare” but that people could be neglecting lifestyle or medical interventions of proven benefit if they thought vitamins were an easier option.

“Eat a healthy diet for a healthy heart and a long, healthy life,” said Dr Eduardo Sanchez, the AMA’s chief medical officer for, who was not a part of this study. “There’s just no substitute for a balanced, nutritious diet with more fruits and vegetables that limits excess calories, saturated fat, trans fat, sodium, sugar and dietary cholesterol.”


July 10th 2018

What is sepsis? Symptoms, tests and treatment - knowing these signs could save a life

As more cases of sepsis are being reported, here's what it is and how you can stay safe - know the symptoms as Corrie sheds light on the condition with Jack Webster storyline

Most people think flu-like symptoms are a sign they're coming down with a cold, but they can actually be far more serious.

Recognising sepsis blood poisoning in time for treatment could save someone's life, according to NHS Choices.

Without being treated quickly, sepsis can lead to multiple organ failure - and even death.

There have been multiple cases in the news of people who thought they had a common cold, or they were misdiagnosed actually having sepsis, a rare but serious complication arising from infection.

Jack Webster (Kyran Bowes) in Coronation Street was also struck down by Sepsis in the latest storyline shedding light on the condition.

While the boy has been fighting for his life, as dad, Kevin, looked on distraught fans were left wondering what Sepsis was.

So what is sepsis and how do you recognise it? Here's everything you need to know

Sepsis is a common and potentially life-threatening condition triggered by an infection.

The infection may have started anywhere in a sufferer’s body, and may be only in one part of the body or it may be widespread.

Sepsis can occur following chest or water infections, problems in the abdomen like burst ulcers, or simple skin injuries like cuts and bites.

If not treated quickly, sepsis can eventually lead to multiple organ failure and death.

Early symptoms of sepsis usually develop quickly and can include:

High temperature or fever,

·       Chills and shivering,

·       A sped-up heartbeat

·       Fast breathing

In some cases, symptoms of more severe sepsis or septic shock - when blood pressure drops to a dangerously low level - develop soon after.

These can include:

·       Feeling dizzy or faint,

·       Confusion or disorientation,

·       Nausea and vomiting,

·       Diarrhoea and cold,

·       Clammy and pale or mottled skin

·       See your GP immediately if you have recently had an infection or injury and you have possible early signs of sepsis.

·       Severe sepsis and septic shock are medical emergencies. If you think that you or someone in your care has one of these conditions, call 999 and ask for an ambulance.

Go straight to A&E or call 999 if your child has any of these symptoms:

·       looks mottled, bluish or pale

·       is very lethargic or difficult to wake

·       feels abnormally cold to touch

·       is breathing very fast

·       has a rash that does not fade when you press it

·       has a fit or convulsion


·       temperature over 38C in babies under three months

·       temperature over 39C in babies aged three to six months

·       any high temperature in a child who cannot be encouraged to show interest in anything

·       low temperature (below 36C – check three times in a 10-minute period)


·       finding it much harder to breathe than normal – looks like hard work

·       making "grunting" noises with every breath

·       can't say more than a few words at once (for older children who normally talk)

·       breathing that obviously "pauses"


·       not had a wee or wet nappy for 12 hours

Eating and drinking

·       new baby under one month old with no interest in feeding

·       not drinking for more than eight hours (when awake)

·       bile-stained (green), bloody or black vomit/sick


·       When do babies sleep through the night? Expert reveals surprising answer to the question every parent asks

Activity and body

·       soft spot on a baby's head is bulging

·       eyes look "sunken"

·       child cannot be encouraged to show interest in anything

·       baby is floppy

·       weak, "whining" or continuous crying in a younger child

·       older child who's confused

·       not responding or very irritable

·       stiff neck, especially when trying to look up and down

In older children and adults

Early symptoms of sepsis may include:

·       a high temperature (fever) or low body temperature

·       chills and shivering

·       a fast heartbeat

·       fast breathing

Symptoms of more serious sepsis can develop soon after.

·       feeling dizzy or faint

·       a change in mental state – such as confusion or disorientation

·       diarrhoea

·       nausea and vomiting

·       slurred speech

·       severe muscle pain

·       severe breathlessness

·       less urine production than normal – for example, not urinating for a day

·       cold, clammy and pale or mottled skin

·       loss of consciousness

·       Each year in the UK, there are 123,000 cases of sepsis a year in England. Around 37,000 people will die as a result of the condition.

·       Anyone can develop sepsis after an injury or minor infection, although some people are more vulnerable.

·       People most at risk of sepsis include those with a medical condition or receiving medical treatment that weakens their immune system, those who are already in hospital with a serious illness, those who are very young or very old or those who have just had surgery or who have wounds or injuries as a result of an accident.

If sepsis is detected early and has not yet affected vital organs, it may be possible to treat the infection at home with antibiotics. Most people who have sepsis detected at this stage will make a full recovery.

Some people with severe sepsis and most people with septic shock require admission to an intensive care unit (ICU), where the body’s organs can be supported while the infection is treated.

As a result of problems with vital organs, people with severe sepsis are likely to be very ill and the condition can be fatal.

However, if identified and treated quickly, sepsis is treatable and in most cases leads to full recovery with no lasting problems.

You may need to give a blood test. Other tests used include:

·       urine or stool samples

·       a wound culture – where a small sample of tissue, skin or fluid is taken from the affected area for testing

·       respiratory secretion testing – taking a sample of saliva, phlegm or mucus

·       blood pressure tests

·       imaging studies - like an X-ray


July 7th 2018

Flawed herpes testing leads to many false positives — and needless suffering

Herpes is a lifelong infection, but Lauren had it only for six tumultuous months. Or rather, she believed she did, after a request for sexually transmitted disease testing returned a positive result. But after weeks of Googling, chatting with members of online herpes forums, and reading scientific papers, she asked for a different test, which eventually confirmed her suspicion — her herpes diagnosis was wrong.

In the six months that passed between the tests, the mistake led her to keep a romance at bay and left her anxiously patrolling her health.“Every tingle I would get in my leg or any kind of itch down there would just set me off,” sending her into a new flurry of research, she said. “And that was just to try to calm my own anxiety, but it would only really make it worse.”

Genital herpes, predominantly caused by herpes simplex virus type 2, is a sexually transmitted disease that’s very common — 1 in 6 people aged 14 to 49 in the United States have HSV-2, and this number goes up with age. Most of these people, however, don’t have obvious symptoms and wouldn’t know they were carriers without blood tests.

But blood tests can be highly unreliable. The kind of test used to diagnose Lauren, an IgM test, has long been rejected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention but is still used by some clinicians. Meanwhile, the CDC and the US Preventive Services Task Force concur that the most widely available herpes test, called HerpeSelect, should not be used to screen asymptomatic people because of its high risk of false positives: Up to 1 in 2 positive tests could be false, according to the USPSTF’s most recent guidelines.

That high failure rate isn’t, however, always communicated to patients. Online forums abound with stories like Lauren’s, of people who request herpes tests alongside those of other STDs and are shellshocked by the results. Some doctors discourage the testing or simply don’t include it in a standard STD panel without having the conversation. But no data exists on herpes screening rates, according to Kimberly Workowski, lead author of the CDC’s STD treatment guidelines — so it’s difficult to say how many people could be living with the misdiagnosis.

Testing pitfalls

Next to the meandering waterways connecting Puget Sound to Seattle’s Lake Washington is the only laboratory in the world that offers to the public the Western blot, the gold standard test for herpes. The University of Washington Clinical Virology Laboratory provides the test to patients across the country, a practice it began over a decade ago when it realized the more common tests were prone to false positives.

The problem, said Christine Johnston, a physician and researcher at the lab, is “low-positive” results of antibodies to HSV-2. The cutoff for a positive result on the HerpeSelect test, manufactured by Quest Diagnostics, is 1.1. A 2005 studypublished in the journal BioMed Central Infectious Disease found that index values above 3.5 yielded over 90 percent accuracy — but scores between 1.1 and 3.5 had around a 50 percent chance of being wrong.

What’s more, scores falling just above the 1.1 cutoff had an almost 90 percent chance of being wrong.

When tests fall between 1.1 and 3.5, more testing is necessary, said Johnston. This recommendation is also noted in the 2015 CDC Sexually Transmitted Diseases Treatment Guidelines. But some patients will never be referred for a second test.

“I think most clinicians are unaware and perhaps labs don’t have this available and/or it is not straightforward to order,” Johnston said of second-step tests.

But while her facility’s Western blot is considered highly accurate, it is expensive and cumbersome to perform. Each test costs over $200 and the University of Washington is the only lab that provides it.

Other confirmatory tests also exist, for instance Biokit’s HSV-2 Rapid Test and Quest’s own HSV-2 IgG Inhibition assay. The latter, which adds only $4 to the price of the HerpeSelect test, performed well in a study conducted over a decade ago. Rick Pesano, the medical director for infectious disease at Quest, believes that with more awareness, the test could stand in for the Western blot. But the test was not mentioned in the USPSTF guidelines because it still has not been evaluated in asymptomatic individuals, according to Cindy Feltner, associate director of the RTI-UNC Evidence-based Practice Center, who helped prepare the science review for USPSTF.

“We need better diagnostic testing. That is where we are stuck at this point,” said Johnston. “We don’t have a good test that’s inexpensive, high throughput, and reliable.”

Finding out the hard way

No good data exist on how often patients with questionable positive results are actually re-tested. Until the 2015 update, CDC herpes testing guidelines had no mention of confirmatory testing for low-positive results, said Johnston. So patients often discovered the option not through their doctors, but through searching the web and reading online herpes forums.

That was the experience of Bryan, a 40-year-old man who lives in Indiana, who wrongly believed he had herpes for about two months in 2011. The misunderstanding actually put him at higher risk, he said: During those months he considered joining the hundreds of thousands of Americans on dating sites for herpes-positive people. Exclusively dating people with herpes would have increased his likelihood of contracting the virus.

The experience of YT, a 33-year-old mom who has suffered from frequent herpes symptoms over the last year, shows another side of the testing breakdown. She believes she was given HSV by a partner who didn’t realize herpes wasn’t included in his previous STD tests, she told STAT. Having herpes has caused her significant emotional trauma, and has driven her to permanently swear off dating. Had her partner known his true status, she wonders if her story would have been different.

These kinds of stories come out in anguished postings on internet forums and in dozens of confused calls to the UW lab each week, where research coordinator Matt Seymour says some desperate patients call over and over again, unable to get the answers they need from their doctors.

“People call and say, ‘I just don’t know what’s going on,’” he said. “We’ve almost become de facto counselors.”

In the absence of answers

Herpes tests aren’t the only ones with a risk of false positive results. False positives can occur for any test that diagnoses viral infection based on antibodies, i.e., your body’s immune reaction, rather than direct detection of the virus. For similar diagnostics like HIV and hepatitis C testing, protocols automatically call for a second test that directly detects the virus whenever an antibody test comes back positive, said Paul Swenson, laboratory director in the department of public health of King County, Washington. Herpes, however, is a particularly challenging infection to directly test for, because the virus spends most of its time hiding in nerves. Swab tests can sometimes detect the virus during outbreaks, but this isn’t an option for people without symptoms. Thus even the Western blot relies on antibodies, and may give indeterminate results to a small number of people.

But two steps of antibody testing are still more reliable than one step; today’s diagnostics for Lyme disease and syphilis are a two-step antibody testing approach, said Dr. Edward Hook, a medical epidemiologist specializing in STI screening and prevention at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, who questioned why such a standardized two-step approach hasn’t taken firm hold for herpes.

“Some research has shown that two-step testing … might improve the specificity — that is avoid false positive results for the blood test — which would be a great thing because these diagnoses create great anxiety and concern for people,” he said. In a commentary accompanying the USPSTF guidelines, Hook expressed disappointment that herpes testing had barely improved over the past decade.

“There is no perfect test but there are ways to reduce the inaccuracies and reduce the number of equivocal results and those are actively used in other diseases,” he said in an interview with STAT. “But they haven’t been used very aggressively for the purpose of herpes.”

In the absence of sure-fire test advances, education and a lessening stigma surrounding herpes might help, not only by reducing test-related confusion, but potentially by bringing discussion of the virus out into the mainstream, said Hook.

“There’s no major herpes advocacy group,” he said. “People call attention to diseases that they suffer from, but people with herpes don’t feel they can call attention to it. And that creates a lot of suffering.”


July 5th 2018

Staff praised for 'brilliance' as NHS turns 70

There are events taking place across the country, with NHS boss Simon Stevens giving "heartfelt" thanks to healthcare staff.

09:36, UK,
Chief executive Simon Stevens says the service's success is due to the "brilliance" of its 1.5 million doctors, nurses, ambulance staff, therapists, porters, caterers and others who, along with volunteers, make up the biggest care team in the world.

In a message recorded in an ambulance control room, Mr Stevens said: "It's a time of celebration, looking back over seven decades when we're all living a lot longer and healthier, more than 10 years extra.

"So, although this is our birthday, today our ambulance crews, here in the ambulance control room where I'm standing, our community nurses, our midwives welcoming new babies into the world, people who are going to be visiting their GP today...

"Staff are going to be doing what they do day in day out.

"And it's frankly because of the staff of the health service that the nation has just re-committed to the idea of a health service, there when you need us based on how sick you are - not whether you can afford us, a principle that has stood the test of time.

"On that basis, we should use this moment to say a heartfelt thank you to the million-and-a-half staff of the National Health Service for everything you do for all of us and for our families, day in, day out."

The day will see celebrations around the country, including thousands of Big 7Tea events to thank staff and raise awareness of NHS charities.

July 4th 2018

A Beautiful Mind: Brain Injury Turns Man Into Math Genius 

In 2002, two men savagely attacked Jason Padgett outside a karaoke bar, leaving him with a severe concussion and post-traumatic stress disorder. But the incident also turned Padgett into a mathematical genius who sees the world through the lens of geometry.

Padgett, a furniture salesman from Tacoma, Washington, who had very little interest in academics, developed the ability to visualize complex mathematical objects and physics concepts intuitively. The injury, while devastating, seems to have unlocked part of his brain that makes everything in his world appear to have a mathematical structure.

"I see shapes and angles everywhere in real life" — from the geometry of a rainbow, to the fractals in water spiraling down a drain, Padgett told Live Science. "It's just really beautiful." [Album: The World's Most Beautiful Equations]

Padgett, who just published a memoir with Maureen Seaberg called "Struck by Genius" (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014), is one of a rare set of individuals with acquired savant syndrome, in which a normal person develops prodigious abilities after a severe injury or disease. Other people have developed remarkable musical or artistic abilities, but few people have acquired mathematical faculties like Padgett's.

Now, researchers have figured out which parts of the man's brain were rejiggered to allow for such savant skills, and the findings suggest such skills may lie dormant in all human brains.

'Struck by genius'

Before the injury, Padgett was a self-described jock and partyer. He hadn't progressed beyond than pre-algebra in his math studies. "I cheated on everything, and I never cracked a book," he said.

But all that would change the night of his attack. Padgett recalls being knocked out for a split second and seeing a bright flash of light. Two guys started beating him, kicking him in the head as he tried to fight back. Later that night, doctors diagnosed Padgett with a severe concussion and a bleeding kidney, and sent him home with pain medications, he said.

Soon after the attack, Padgett suffered from PTSD and debilitating social anxiety. But at the same time, he noticed that everything looked different. He describes his vision as "discrete picture frames with a line connecting them, but still at real speed." If you think of vision as the brain taking pictures all the time and smoothing them into a video, it's as though Padgett sees the frames without the smoothing. In addition, "everything has a pixilated look," he said.

"I see this image in my mind's eye, now in 3-D, every time imagine how my hand moves through space-time."

With Padgett's new vision came an astounding mathematical drawing ability. He started sketching circles made of overlapping triangles, which helped him understand the concept of pi, the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter. There's no such thing as a perfect circle, he said, which he knows because he can always see the edges of a polygon that approximates the circle. [Gallery: See Padgett's Amazing Mathematical Drawings]

Padgett dislikes the concept of infinity, because he sees every shape as a finite construction of smaller and smaller units that approach what physicists refer to as the Planck length, thought to be the shortest measurable length.

After his injury, Padgett was drawing complex geometric shapes, but he didn't have the formal training to understand the equations they represented. One day, a physicist spotted him making these drawings in a mall, and urged him to pursue mathematical training. Now Padgett is a sophomore in college and an aspiring number theorist.

Padgett's remarkable abilities garnered the interest of neuroscientists who wanted to understand how he developed them.

Beautiful mind

Berit Brogaard, a philosophy professor now at the University of Miami, in Coral Gables, Florida, and her colleagues scanned Padgett's brain with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to understand how he acquired his savant skills and the synesthesia that allows him to perceive mathematical formulas as geometric figures. (Synesthesia is a phenomenon in which one sense bleeds into another.) [Top 10 Mysteries of the Mind]

"Acquired savant syndrome is very rare," Brogaard said, adding that only 15 to 25 cases have ever been described in medical studies.

Functional magnetic resonance imaging measures changes in blood flow and oxygen use throughout the brain. During scans of Padgett, the researchers showed the man real and nonsense mathematical formulas meant to conjure images in his mind.

The resulting scans showed significant activity in the left hemisphere of Padgett's brain, where mathematical skills have been shown to reside. His brain lit up most strongly in the left parietal cortex, an area behind the crown of the head that is known to integrate information from different senses. There was also some activation in parts of his temporal lobe (involved in visual memory, sensory processing and emotion) and frontal lobe (involved in executive function, planning and attention).

But the fMRI only showed what areas were active in Padgett's brain. In order to show these particular areas were causing the man's synesthesia, Brogaard's team used transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), which involves zapping the brain with a magnetic pulse that activates or inhibits a specific region. When they zapped the parts of Padgett's parietal cortex that had shown the greatest activity in the fMRI scans, it made his synesthesia fade or disappear, according to a study published in August 2013 in the journal Neurocase.

Brogaard showed, in another study, that when neurons die, they release brain-signaling chemicals that can increase brain activity in surrounding areas. The increased activity usually fades over time, but sometimes it results in structural changes that can cause brain-activity modifications to persist, Brogaard told Live Science.

Scientists don't know whether the changes in Padgett's brain are permanent, but if he had structural changes, it's more likely his abilities are here to stay, Brogaard said.

The savant in everyone

So do abilities like Padgett's lie dormant in everyone, waiting to be uncovered? Or was there something unique about Padgett's brain to begin with?

Most likely, there is something dormant in everyone that Padgett tapped into, Brogaard said. "It would be quite a coincidence if he were to have that particular special brain and then have an injury," she said. "And he's not the only [acquired savant]."

In addition to head injuries, mental disease has also been known to reveal latent abilities. And Brogaard and others have done studies that suggest zapping the brains of normal people using TMS can temporarily bring out unusual mathematical and artistic skills.

It's always possible that having savant skills may come with trade-offs. In Padgett's case, he developed fairly severe post-traumatic stress disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder, and he still finds it difficult to appear in public.

Yet Padgett wouldn't change his new abilities if he could. "It's so good, I can't even describe it," he said.


July 3rd 2018

FDA eyes safety standards at cosmetic companies

There isn’t much public information on how the cosmetic industry makes sure its products are safe — but the FDA is looking to change that. The agency is proposing a new study of safety practices and manufacturing standards in the U.S. cosmetic industry. Here's what you need to know: 

§ The U.S. cosmetic industry has been widely unregulated for close to a century. The Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938 essentially lets companies that produce makeup, hair products, and perfumes self-police their standards.

§ There's growing concern about bad reactions to products, along with questions about the possible long-term health risks of some chemicals used in cosmetics.

§ Lawmakers are also eyeing the issue. Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) introduced a bill earlier this year that would establish an independent review process for all ingredients used in personal care products in the U.S. The bill has been introduced in past legislative sessions, and it’s not clear yet whether it’ll gain the momentum this time around to pass.

Complications are common in patients with catheters

A new study finds that more than half of hospitalized patients who get a urinary catheter might experience a complication of some kind. Researchers combed through more than 2,000 charts and interviewed patients two weeks and a month after their catheters were removed. Roughly 10 percent of patients experienced an infection, and infections were more common among women. More than half of patients reported another kind of issue, such as pain after the catheter was taken out. One big takeaway, according to the authors: While hospitals and public health experts have made it a priority to prevent infections linked to catheters, there are other complications that also warrant their attention. ​

New details out on contaminated kratom investigation

The FDA has released new details into its monthslong investigation into kratom products contaminated with salmonella. The outbreak spurred a slew of recalls, including the FDA's first mandatory recall. By the end of May, there were 199 cases of salmonella infection in 41 states linked to kratom. Health officials collected kratom samples from sick patients to identify the types of salmonella involved, then compared those test results to CDC's database of salmonella strains. That turned up even more people who had consumed contaminated kratom. The FDA has wrapped up its investigation, but says anyone who consumes kratom still might be at risk of salmonella. 


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Inside STAT: Researchers hunt for new ways to prevent sepsis deaths



Ronnie Roberts believes that if he had known the signs of sepsis and pushed for his fiancee to be treated properly, she would still be alive. Sepsis — the body’s overwhelming response to a blood infection — kills more than 250,000 people each year in the U.S. But many doctors, nurses, and family members don’t recognize sepsis until it’s too late. Researchers across the country are pursuing different ideas to reduce deaths due to sepsis, including a new blood test that aims to quickly identify the bug triggering a patient’s infection, so that doctors can provide more targeted antibiotics. STAT contributor Karen Weintraub has the story here. ​

Texas officials investigate illnesses blamed on parasite 

Texas health officials are investigating 56 illnesses linked to the parasite Cyclospora that have cropped up since early May. The microscopic parasite — which can be found in tainted food or water — causes gastrointestinal issues that can last anywhere from a few days to a few months. The state health department says it's searching for a common source and is urging doctors to test patients for the parasite when appropriate. And since past illnesses have been linked to certain contaminated produce, health officials recommend thoroughly washing all fruits and veggies. 

Here's your annual reminder to stay healthy on July 4

It’s almost the holiday — and that means it’s time for your once-a-year reminder to stay safe while cooking out and celebrating with flammable objects. Fireworks injuries spike every year around the Fourth of July. The most common type of injury: thermal burns. For more on fireworks injuries, read this. And if you’re grilling meat tomorrow, watch this video on how to the reduce the risk that your barbecue is harboring any potentially harmful compounds produced when meat is hit with high temperatures from an open flame. Or, skip meat altogether and feast on fruits and vegetables — just don’t leave your potato salad in the sun too long. ​

What is kratom?

Kratom is a tropical tree (Mitragyna speciosa) native to Southeast Asia, with leaves that contain compounds that can have psychotropic (mind-altering) effects.

Kratom is not currently an illegal substance and has been easy to order on the internet. It is sometimes sold as a green powder in packets labeled "not for human consumption." It is also sometimes sold as an extract or gum.

Kratom sometimes goes by the following names:

·       Biak ·       Ketum ·       Kakuam ·       Ithang ·       Thom

How do people use kratom?

Most people take kratom as a pill, capsule, or extract. Some people chew kratom leaves or brew the dried or powdered leaves as a tea. Sometimes the leaves are smoked or eaten in food.

How does kratom affect the brain?

Kratom can cause effects similar to both opioids and stimulants. Two compounds in kratom leaves, mitragynine and 7-α-hydroxymitragynine, interact with opioid receptors in the brain, producing sedation, pleasure, and decreased pain, especially when users consume large amounts of the plant. Mitragynine also interacts with other receptor systems in the brain to produce stimulant effects. When kratom is taken in small amounts, users report increased energy, sociability, and alertness instead of sedation. However, kratom can also cause uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous side effects.

What are the health effects of kratom?

Reported health effects of kratom use include:

·       nausea ·       itching ·       sweating ·       dry mouth ·       constipation ·       increased urination ·       loss of appetite ·       seizures ·       hallucinations

Symptoms of psychosis have been reported in some users.

Can a person overdose on kratom?

Kratom by itself is not associated with fatal overdose, but some forms of the drug packaged as dietary supplements or dietary ingredients can be laced with other compounds that have caused deaths.

Is kratom addictive?

Like other drugs with opioid-like effects, kratom might cause dependence, which means users will feel physical withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking the drug. Some users have reported becoming addicted to kratom. Withdrawal symptoms include:

·       muscle aches ·       insomnia ·       irritability ·       hostility ·       aggression ·       emotional changes ·       runny nose ·       jerky movements

How is kratom addiction treated?

There are no specific medical treatments for kratom addiction. Some people seeking treatment have found behavioral therapy to be helpful. Scientists need more research to determine how effective this treatment option is.

Does kratom have value as a medicine?

In recent years, some people have used kratom as an herbal alternative to medical treatment in attempts to control withdrawal symptoms and cravings caused by addiction to opioids or to other addictive substances such as alcohol. There is no scientific evidence that kratom is effective or safe for this purpose.

Points to Remember

·       Kratom is a tropical tree native to Southeast Asia, with leaves that can have psychoactive effects. ·       Kratom is not currently illegal and has been easy to order on the internet. ·       Most people take kratom as a pill or capsule. Some people chew kratom leaves or brew the dried or powdered leaves as a tea. Sometimes the leaves are smoked or eaten in food. Two compounds in kratom leaves, mitragynine and 7-α-hydroxymitragynine, interact with opioid receptors in the brain, producing sedation, pleasure, and decreased pain. ·       Mitragynine can also interact with other receptor systems in the brain to produce stimulant effects. ·       Reported health effects of kratom use include nausea, sweating, seizures, and psychotic symptoms. ·       Commercial forms of kratom are sometimes laced with other compounds that have caused deaths. ·       Some users have reported becoming addicted to kratom. ·       Behavioral therapies and medications have not specifically been tested for treatment of kratom addiction.


June 29th 2018

Bad breath means millions dread talking to their colleagues

Almost one in five ‘can’t bear’ to talk to a colleague because of their bad oral odour.

Millions of workers admit they dread talking to a colleague – because of their bad breath, a study has found.

Researchers who polled 2,000 adults found 63 per cent have had to turn away from someone mid-conversation because they couldn’t stand the smell of their breath.

And almost one in five ‘can’t bear’ to talk to a colleague because of their bad oral odour.

But it’s not just work where we are at the mercy of other people’s bad breath with more than one in three even pulling back from a kiss with a date after being overwhelmed by the smell.

It also emerged almost half of Brits worry they suffer from bad breath themselves, with more than a third even having it highlighted by others.

The stats emerged in a study by UltraDex One Go, single-use liquid mouthwash sachets that freshen breath instantly when you are on the go.

Leading London dentist Dr Mervyn Druian said: “Bad breath can be extremely off-putting.

“Bad breath can be due to many factors but living a fast-paced, ‘on the go’ lifestyle often means eating on the hoof and drinking caffeine to stay awake.

“This all impacts on our breath, but there are things people can do to battle smelly breath instantly to banish odour and inhibit the harmful bacteria which can cause bad breath."

The study also found the average Brit will have to endure someone else’s bad breath at least 104 times a year – twice every week.

The most shameful bad breath odours are from cigarette breath, ‘morning mouth’, poor oral hygiene and perhaps unsurprisingly, lingering garlic breath.

A fishy tuna sandwich, spicy curry or cheesy breath also feature among the most hated bad odours.

Researchers also found those surveyed are most likely to worry their breath smells straight after drinking coffee or eating lunch.

One in twenty worry about having bad breath on the commute into work, while fifteen per cent start to worry after a long journey or flight.

And more than three quarters of adults admit having bad breath has ‘knocked their confidence’.

Regular teeth brushing is considered the best way to combat bad breath, but more than 90 per cent reckon the fresh feeling from brushing wears off within just five hours.

And although around 30 per cent carry mints or chewing gum as ‘emergency’ breath fresheners, using a mouthwash was considered a better way of achieving fresh, clean breath.

Researchers found it could be bad news if you suffer from bad breath though as just 15 per cent of people would tell their friend if they had the problem.

And more than one in three have offered someone gum or mints as a subtle way of trying to improve the smell of their breath.

London dentist Dr Mervyn Druian added: “Products like the handy UltraDex One Go Mouthwash that work instantly to eliminate bad breath for at least 12 hours will become indispensable.

“This, combined with a good oral hygiene routine, means there really is no need for people to have to suffer from bad breath or for that matter to have to endure it.”

Top 10 ways to combat bad breath:

1. Brushing teeth regularly

2. Using a mouthwash

3. Chewing gum

4. Flossing

5. Mints

6. Drinking water to moisten your mouth

7. Scraping your tongue

8. Avoiding foods with lingering odours

9. Eating something else to cover up the smell

10. Avoiding alcohol


June 28th 2018

What is Pots

When Tori Foles, wife of Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles, started having symptoms of dizziness, nausea and fatigue, one doctor told her she might have anxiety or depression. Another doctor thought she might have a viral infection. But it turned out that she had a mysterious condition that affects blood flow, called "postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome," or POTS.

"They told me I had a virus," Tori Foles told CNN. "But I had never heard of [a viral illness] where you are dizzy all the time. There were a lot of times I couldn't get out of bed," said Foles, who recently spoke at a meeting of Dysautonomia International, a nonprofit organization that focuses on POTS research and education. [10 Celebrities with Chronic Illnesses]

POTS is a disorder of the autonomic nervous system, the part of the nervous system that controls involuntary functions, such as heart rate, blood pressure and digestion.

The main feature of POTS is so-called orthostatic intolerance, or symptoms that occur when a person moves from lying down to standing up, according to the National Institutes of Health's Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD). In people with POTS, too little blood returns to their heart when they move from lying down to standing up, GARD says. In addition, their heart rate increases by more than 30 beats per minute within 10 minutes of standing, according to Dysautonomia International.

These circulatory problems lead to symptoms that can include lightheadedness, dizziness or fainting; heart palpitations; headaches; blurred vision; gastrointestinal symptoms, including nausea, bloating, constipation and diarrhea; shortness of breath; and tiredness.

An estimated 1 million to 3 million Americans have POTS, which most frequently affects women under age 35, according to GARD. But the condition can be difficult to diagnose; one study found that POTS patients see about seven doctors over four years, on average, before receiving a POTS diagnoses, CNN reported.

Many POTS patients are initially misdiagnosed with a mental health condition prior to their POTS diagnosis. One study in the United Kingdomfound that nearly 50 percent of POTS patients had previously been told they had a psychiatric disorder that was responsible for their symptoms. This may be partly because many people with POTS are young and healthy before their symptoms appear and because 80 percent of people with POTS are women, who are generally more likely to develop depression, according to CNN.

Indeed, Foles, who was diagnosed in 2013 at age 23, wrote on her blogthat she was frustrated when several doctors initially suspected her symptoms were due to anxiety or depression.

"I will never forget when [one doctor] looked at me in his office and said, 'You are young and healthy. You are in perfect condition. Have you looked into depression or anxiety?' I was so confused and so frustrated," Foles wrote. "There is nothing worse then [sic] someone telling you that you are perfectly healthy when you feel like your body is breaking down. Doctors need to be more educated on this illness and they need to look for it when a patient comes in complaining of these symptoms."

The cause of POTS is not known, but a person's symptoms may be triggered by certain events, such as a pregnancy, major surgery, trauma or viral illness, according to GARD.

There's no single treatment for POTS, but some people see improvement in their symptoms with lifestyle changes aimed at increasing blood pressure and blood volume. These lifestyle changes include adding extra salt to the diet, drinking more fluids and avoiding things that may make symptoms worse (such as alcohol and caffeine), GARD said. Certain medications may be prescribed, such as fludrocortisone (a steroid) or midodrine (a medication aimed at treating low blood pressure).

June 27th 2018

Third of workers fear being stigmatised in the workplace for health problems

A third of workers have lied about their reason for calling in sick, over fears of stigma in the workplace, a study has found.

Instead of telling the truth about health problems which mean they need the time off, employees would rather pretend they have a different complaint to their boss or work colleagues.

And long-term health conditions are deemed the ‘least valid’ reasons for not attending work, despite their often-devastating symptoms.

Only fifteen per cent of people said that Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis – the two most common forms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease – were acceptable reasons to call in sick.

Other often invisible long-term conditions, such as depression, anxiety and fatigue scored even lower.

But vomiting, flu and food poisoning were considered the most ‘legitimate’ reasons for taking a sick day.

The stats emerged in an independent OnePoll study of 1,000 employed adults, commissioned by national charity Crohn’s & Colitis UK.

It also found more than half of respondents who suffer a long-term health condition feel they have to downplay their condition at work.

Juliet Chambers, Communications Manager at Crohn's & Colitis UK says: “Living with any long-term condition is hard.

“Crohn’s and Colitis are a growing but hidden health crisis in UK workplaces – and people need better support and understanding to manage these conditions.

“Right now, too many people feel forced to downplay the severity of their illness at work because of stigma.

“What’s worse, the stress and anxiety experienced by employees calling in sick will only increase the already devastating symptoms of their disease.

“We need to break down this taboo in the workplace and help employers and colleagues understand the true impact of these hidden diseases.”

The research found 51 per cent of respondents feel their workplace does not provide a supportive environment for those dealing with long-term conditions.

Just under one in five workers feel ‘frustrated’ towards colleagues who are frequently off sick, and six per cent feel ‘angry’ towards these colleagues.

Sarah Brown, 34, works in a media agency in London and has Ulcerative Colitis.

She says: “Before I call in sick to work I get extremely anxious that my colleagues will judge me for taking more time off work.

“For this reason, I often downplay my Colitis as a stomach bug as I don’t want others to think my long-term condition will have an impact on how well I can do my job.”

Yvonne Tyree, 54, found the worry so bad that she is now self-employed: “Whilst in employment I often asked my GP to put something other than Crohn’s Disease on my sick note for fear of judgement that I was unable to do my job.”

Crohn’s & Colitis UK is the national charity leading the battle against Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis and fighting to achieve a better quality of life for the 300,000 people in the UK with these and other forms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease.

Their annual WALK IT events raise funds and vital awareness of Crohn’s and Colitis.

For more information and support please visit Crohn’s & Colitis UK - crohnsandcolitis.org.uk or phone their information line 0300 222 5700.

June 26th 2018

One in three women is experiencing severe reproductive health issues, including infertility or menopause

One in three women is experiencing severe reproductive health issues, including infertility, period pains or the menopause.

A government survey of 7,300 women has lifted the lid on the prevalence and impact of these problems for the first time. 

Many of those affected said they were reluctant to speak to their doctor or boss about their complaint for fear of being judged.

The survey of women over 16 found that 81 per cent had experienced a reproductive health issue in the past 12 months.

These ranged from struggling to conceive, heavy or irregular periods, debilitating menopausal symptoms or lack of sexual enjoyment.

A total of 31 per cent of these women said their problems were severe and often had a debilitating impact on day-to-day life

One woman spoke of how the menopause had left her feeling ‘worthless’ while another described it as a ‘frightful experience’.

Yet just 46 per cent of all women who had experienced any kind of reproductive health issue in the past year had sought medical advice. 

Public Health England (PHE) – which carried out the survey – said there was still a ‘stigma’ and ‘embarrassment’ surrounding these problems. 

Dr Sue Mann, a consultant in reproductive health from PHE said: ‘Women’s reproductive health concerns can fundamentally influence physical and mental well-being throughout their whole life course.

‘Our research has highlighted that while individual reproductive health issues and concerns change throughout a woman’s life, the feelings of stigmatisation and embarrassment were almost universal.’

The survey involved 7,367 women and is the first of its kind to cover all types of reproductive issues. 

It found that 42 per cent reported a lack of sexual enjoyment over the past 12 months.

Another 48 per cent said they had struggled with ‘menstrual issues’, including heavy or irregular periods. 

A further 25 per cent had experienced menopausal symptoms and 18 per cent had incontinence, most commonly following childbirth.

PHE, alongside the Department of Health and NHS England, have promised to prioritise reproductive health issues and ensure women seek help.

One woman went to her GP with severe menopausal symptoms including anxiety and depression only to be told it was normal.

Another younger patient who was struggling to conceive was advised by her GP that she should have started trying aged 22.

Dr Asha Kasliwal, president of the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare, said: ‘It is alarming and deeply concerning that almost a third of all women surveyed experiences serious reproductive health issues with many reluctant to seek help. 

'Contraception, abortion, menstrual health, menopause and other issues have for too long being de-prioritised in the health system.’

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said: ‘Even though in the modern day we don’t expect there to be social stigmas around women’s health matters, unfortunately stigma does still exist and it is concerning that many women do not seek help for conditions which can often be very serious.’

June 24th 2018

Easy sleep hacks for your best night's shut eye

Do you lie in bed unable to sleep? Are you exhausted and unable to concentrate all day? Everyone knows such nights. But what can you do if it happens often? How much sleep do we need?

Most people do best on seven hours a night. But the quality of sleep is more important than the quantity.

When it gets dark, our body releases the sleep hormone melatonin to initiate sleep. Supported by the growth hormone BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) and other hormones, our brain recovers mainly during the first four hours of the night. It stores memories and the body rids itself of accumulated toxins. Melatonin frees the cells from aggressive oxygen radicals. Preventing our bodies from going into this deep-sleep phase can cause serious damage.

In the second part of the sleep — the dream phase — our brain processes the day. Interconnections form between nerve cells and the brain regenerates.

So what can you do to get a good night’s sleep? It is important to develop a regular sleep pattern. Go to bed and get up at the same time. If you can’t get enough sleep during the week, recover at the weekend. Take a 20-minute power nap during the day if you work at night. 

An optimal room temperature is 17– 22°C. Drink alcohol moderately as it inhibits the release of the BDNF hormone. You won’t recover.

Do not eat too much protein before going to bed or drink coffee too late, and do not work late on your computer or watch TV for too long — light inhibits the release of melatonin. Most importantly: go to bed with happy thoughts.

June 20th 2018

This Is the Single Best Cure for Insomnia


We’ve all been there: after a long day of work, we get in bed exhausted. However, despite our desire to fall asleep, we simply can’t. Insomnia has its claws in us. We stare at the ceiling. Suddenly, it’s time to get up for the day. Between demands at work and home, it’s hard to get enough sleep. Even worse, the stress that comes along with thinking about all the things we have to do in a day can make things even worse. According to the CDC, 35 percent of adults in the United States are skimping on sleep tonight.

Worse yet, Gallup research reveals that our time spent sleeping has been steadily declining for 70 years. While just three percent of adults reported sleeping less than five hours a night in 1942, that number had shot up to 14 percent by 2013. So, what’s an exhausted individual to do?

If you want to beat those insomniac tendencies and enjoy the best sleep of your life—and assuming you’re doing all of the most common tactics that aren’t working—try sitting down to journal for five minutes before bed. Better yet, write down all the things you have to accomplish in the next few days.

While it may sound counterintuitive, research shows that creating a to-do list can make it much easier to get some shut-eye. In fact, according to a study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, study subjects who wrote out the things they had to do in the following days in specific detail actually fell asleep significantly faster than those who wrote out the things they’d accomplished the day prior. And once you’re well-rested, start incorporating the 29 Best Body Clock Hacks to Maximize Your Day into your routine and every day will be off to a brighter start.


June 19th 2018

Joanna Lumley Is Speaking Out to End This Seriously Neglected Disease

It's the leading infectious cause of blindness in the world — but you likely haven't heard of it.

Actress and human rights activist Joanna Lumley is raising her voice to put an end to a hidden and neglected disease that, although many of us have never heard of it, is actually the leading infectious cause of blindness in the world. 

It’s called trachoma, and it puts more than 190 million people at risk of blindness in 41 countries, according to the World Health Organisation . It’s responsible for the blindness or visual impairment of around 1.9 million people worldwide. 

But, vitally, it’s completely preventable and countries around the world are successfully eliminating it. What we need now is for the whole world to put some muscle behind stamping it out for good.

Take action: No Woman Should Suffer From Diseases We Know How to Treat or Prevent

And that’s where Joanna Lumley comes in — using her public profile to raise awareness of this debilitating disease.

When Lumley first saw an advert about trachoma in a newspaper 20 years ago, she wrote in an article for the Telegraph , “it stopped me in my tracks.” 

“I remember being shocked at how cheap it can be to stop trachoma in its early stages and that the condition is completely preventable altogether,” wrote Lumley, an ambassador for Sightsavers , an NGO that works against avoidable blindness. 

“The infection is spread by flies and, I think perhaps most tragically, by human touch, meaning that mothers wiping the faces of their children might accidentally pass the infection to them and vice versa,” she added. 

Read more: These 7 Countries Eliminated a Neglected Tropical Disease in 

— and More Will Follow in 2018These diseases are deadly and debilitating. But they are also entirely preventable.

Right now, 1.5 billion of the world’s poorest and most marginalised people are facing the devastating threat of a group of diseases that you’ve probably never heard of.

They’re known as neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) — and they’re a group of chronic infections found in tropical and sub-tropical areas. 

They can be fatal, or they can cause serious and debilitating illness and, crucially, they’re diseases of poverty. Affected adults can’t go to work, affected children can’t go to school, and these diseases only serve to continue the cycle of poverty. 

Take action: No One Should Suffer From Diseases We Know How to Treat or Prevent

What’s more, because affected people are often unable to participate fully in community life, these diseases are often surrounded by social stigma. 

But, vitally, these diseases are entirely preventable and the drugs required to do this are freely donated by pharmaceutical companies. They are easy to administer and are safe — we already know how to stop them.

In 2017, seven countries around the world successfully eliminated an NTD — an incredible step on the path to worldwide elimination. 

Each of the seven countries eliminated either trachoma or lymphatic filariasis — otherwise known as elephantiasis.

Read more: The Most Dangerous Diseases You've Never Heard Of

Lymphatic filariasis (LF) is a parasitic infection transmitted to people by infected mosquitoes. It targets the body’s lymphatic system, and can cause severe disfigurement, pain, and disability. Sufferers often lose their livelihoods, and experience knock-on psychological effects such as depression or anxiety. 

As of October, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), LF threatens 856 million people in 52 countries worldwide.

Trachoma, meanwhile, is an eye disease caused by bacterial infection. And it’s the leading infectious cause of blindness worldwide. 

Infection can be spread through contact with discharge from the eyes and nose of an infected person — particularly young children — or through flies which have been in contact with the eyes or nose of an infected person. 

Read more: This 2-Month-Old Girl Is Living Proof That We're Winning the Fight Against Polio

Repeated infection can cause the inside of the eyelid to become so scarred it turns inwards, forcing the eyelashes to rub against the eyeball, scarring the eyeball and potentially causing blindness. 

As of July 2017, according to WHO , trachoma was a public health problem in 41 countries, and is responsible for the blindness or visual impairment of about 1.9 million people.

But these seven countries have successfully proven that these horrific diseases can be beaten, with the right political and financial will. 

1. Cambodia

In September, Cambodia successfully eliminated trachoma — which has been a recognised problem in the country since the 1990s. 

In 2000, a series of trachoma rapid assessments were carried out in Cambodia, followed by a rollout of control activities across the country — including provision of surgery, treatment of communities, and health education. Improvements in living standards, water supply, sanitation, and hygiene also contributed to the landmark achievement. 

Read more: Global Citizen Live Is Coming to London — and You Can Be There. Here's How

2. Laos

In September, Laos also successfully eliminated trachoma — which has haunted the country since the 1970s, and was particularly common among young children. 

“By eliminating this disease, our children can now grow up safe from this painful and potentially blinding infection,” said Dr Bounkong Syhavong, Lao People’s Democratic Republic’s Minister of Health.

As with Cambodia, the measures included screening and treatment services across the country, as well as improvements in living standards and hygiene. 

3. Thailand

In September, Thailand officially eliminated lymphatic filariasis — which had once been so serious in the country it was endemic in 11 provinces. 

The final push against the disease came in 2001, with the launch of the National Programme for Elimination of Lymphatic Filariasis. The programme championed surveying cases, and providing timely preventative chemotherapy to at-risk populations. 

Citizens in affected provinces were also vital in the effort, taking annual doses of medication even if they showed no symptoms of disease.

Read more: Why Global Citizen Live in London Is a Big Deal for Gender Equality, Health, Nutrition, Education, and More

4. Tonga

In July, Tonga also bid farewell to lymphatic filariasis after decades of dedicated efforts to stop transmission of the disease. 

LF has a long history in Tonga — even Captain Cook noticed common swelling among people in Tonga in the 1770s — and in the 1950s the prevalence rate was close to 50%. 

Mass drug administration helped bring that down significantly — but only a series of further efforts, including strong financial support, and the commitment of affected communities, in recent years helped achieve the elimination target. 

5. Mexico

In April, Mexico became the first country in the Americas to officially eliminate trachoma, and the third in the world — after Oman and Morocco — in what WHO described as an “historic moment.” 

In Mexico, the disease was endemic in 246 communities in five municipalities in the state of Chiapas, affecting over 140,000 people. But a series of interventions launched in 2004 helped put an end to it — including surgery for advanced cases, antibiotics, facial cleanliness, and environmental improvement to reduce transmission. 

Read more: WTF Is Polio? 17 Facts About the Disease That We're This Close to Eradicating

6. Togo

The first country in sub-Saharan Africa to eliminate lymphatic filariasis was Togo, in April. 

For the past 15 years, Togo has carried out a sustained campaign in all districts and areas affected. Then, in 2010, it moved in a 5-year surveillance phase until elimination was officially validated by WHO in 2015. 

7. The Marshall Islands

In March, the Marshall Islands was the first country of the year to successfully eliminate an NTD — ridding itself of lymphatic filariasis.

It was described as “an enormously important achievement” for the health of its citizens, by WHO . 

These inspirational steps were sparked by the World Health Assembly (WHA) launching targeted global focus against these diseases. 

In 1997, the WHA called for the elimination of lymphatic filariasis as a public health problem; and in 1998, it passed a resolution targeting trachoma for elimination as a public health problem.

And the very good news is that even more countries are set to follow in 2018. Already this year, both in March, Egypt has eliminated lymphatic filariasis, and Kenya has eliminated Guinea-worm disease — which is caused by a parasitic worm and can lead to severe pain as the worm travels through the person’s body. When it emerges (normally through the feet) it causes blisters, ulcers, and fever, nausea, and vomiting. 

Read more: How We Can Be the Generation to End Extreme Poverty

But, as proved in 2017, when the world comes together to fight these issues in a united, targeted way, we can beat them. 

So watch this space. 

Global Citizen campaigns to achieve the UN’s Global Goals, which include action on global health and well-being. You can join us by taking actionhere to call on world leaders to work together to bring an end to the 10 NTDs. And, by taking action, you can earn free tickets to Global Citizen Live when it comes to London on April 17 , to see Emeli Sandé, Professor Green, Naughty Boy, Gabrielle Aplin, and more, live. 


late June 16th 2018

Home Office U-turn as medicinal cannabis oil returned to epileptic boy

The Home Office has released the medicinal cannabis oil it confiscated from Billy Caldwell’s family, who used it to treat his severe epilepsy. 

The government backdown came shortly after the 12-year-old’s mother, Charlotte, said she was confident the Home Office would grant a special licence so her son could be treated with the anti-epileptic cannabis medicine.

Sajid Javid said on Saturday he had used an exceptional power as home secretary to urgently issue a licence for Billy to be treated with cannabis oil.

“This is a very complex situation, but our immediate priority is making sure Billy receives the most effective treatment possible in a safe way,” he said.

“We have been in close contact with Billy’s medical team overnight and my decision is based on the advice of senior clinicians who have made clear this is a medical emergency.

“The policing minister met with the family on Monday and since then has been working to reach an urgent solution.”

The Home Office had been under intense pressure to allow Billy to be prescribed the medicine that had kept his seizures at bay for around 300 days before his doctor was forced to stop the prescriptions.

Billy had two seizures on Friday night after opiate-based medicines failed to control his condition, and was taken to Chelsea and Westminster hospital by ambulance.

Before the confiscated oil was returned,

his mother said: “The Home Office and myself and our team have been working extremely hard together throughout the night to make this happen, which is truly amazing.

“But there can only be one conclusion here: that my little boy, my beautiful sweet little boy, who has a life-threatening form of epilepsy, and one seizure can kill him, he needs his medicine back today.

“There’s a lot of bureaucracy around it and we’re working towards obviously getting his medicine and just it’s one step at a time. But we’re confident that the Home Office is working with us and that we’re going to get this done.”

The decision to allow Billy to be prescribed the treatment, is the first time that cannabis oil containing THC, the psychoactive component, has been prescribed in the UK since it was made illegal in 1971.

We need to change the law. Treating #CannabisMedicine oils for epilepsy like recreational street cannabis is criminalising patients and fuelling a dangerous black market. #MedicalCannabis@VoltefaceHub@BBCNews@SkyNewshttps://t.co/EMRaopHKdD

— George Freeman MP (@GeorgeFreemanMP) June 16, 2018

The six-month cache of anti-epileptic medicine taken from, and now returned to, the family was understood to have been held at the Home Office.

A doctor in Northern Ireland had prescribed cannabis oil for Billy last year, when it became clear it was the only effective treatment. It was the first time a child had been issued the substance on the NHS.

However, the Home Office ordered him to stop prescribing the medicine as it was “unlawful to possess Schedule 1 drugs”.

This prompted the Caldwells to go to Canada to obtain the medicine.

When they returned with six months’ worth of anti-epileptic cannabis oil, it was confiscated and they were told by a minister that it would not be returned.

The Home Office then recommended three neurologists who could help manage Billy’s transition off cannabis oil, but none subsequently saw him. Caldwell said one of the experts told her they did not have the time, another was on holiday, and the third did not return her calls.

June 16th 2018

Epileptic boy 'in life-threatening state' after cannabis oil seized

Billy Caldwell, the 12-year-old boy who had his anti-epileptic medicine confiscated by the Home Office this week, has been admitted to hospital, with his mother saying his condition is life-threatening.

“Billy has had back-to-back seizures today,” his mother, Charlotte Caldwell, said on Friday. “On his medication, which included the vital but banned THC component, he was seizure-free for more than 300 days.”

On Friday afternoon, Billy was taken to Chelsea and Westminster hospital in west London in an ambulance after experiencing seizures.

Caldwell said doctors in Canada and Northern Ireland familiar with the case had described her son’s situation as life-threatening. She said the Home Office would be held accountable if her son died.

Billy had been placed on CBD oil, along with opiate-based medication, after he was forced to stop taking cannabis oil, but he failed to respond positively to the treatment and his health deteriorated as his seizures gradually resumed.

Speaking from hospital on Friday evening, Caldwell told Sky News: “[Billy’s] out of the seizure but I cannot administer any more rescue medicine for him at home. He’s been admitted and they’re keeping him in hospital simply because Billy’s seizures are life-threatening ... one seizure can kill him.

“I’m just absolutely devastated that we’re back now where we were nearly two years ago before medicinal cannabis ... I would appeal to the Home Office if they have any compassion. Please bring the medicine to Billy because this is the only way we’re going to stop his seizures.”

Earlier on Friday, Caldwell criticised the government for effectively forcing them to leave the UK.

“No mother should be made to flee the country to keep their child alive,” said Caldwell. She and Billy have spent about four of the past 12 years abroad because cannabis oil is illegal in the UK.

On Monday they had six months’ worth of anti-epileptic medicine confiscated by customs agents when they arrived at Heathrow from Toronto. Caldwell was invited to meet the Home Office minister Nick Hurd, who told her that it would not be returned, despite her pleas.

“It has to be the most frightening situation that a mother could ever be put in,” Caldwell told the Guardian, describing how she and Billy had been forced to leave their home, friends and family in order to access the potentially life-saving medicine.

“He’s undergone countless administrations of anti-epileptic pharmaceutical drugs which have never worked and have upset his entire system,” Caldwell said. “The side-effects left him so depleted that he couldn’t even lift his head or pick up a toy.”

The anti-epilepsy drugs prescribed by the NHS often cause uncontrollable tremors, hair loss, swollen gums and rashes, among other adverse effects. Feeling that she had no choice but to seek treatment for her child abroad, Caldwell found a doctor in the US in September 2007 who “saved Billy’s life” by weaning him off anti-epileptic pharmaceutical drugs, which she says were aggravating his seizures.

The doctor also placed him on a ketogenic diet – a high-fat, low-carbohydrate food plan – that helped his seizures to rapidly subside.

Eight years later, in June 2016, the seizures returned. They travelled to California again in September that year, until their money ran out eight months later and they came back to their home in Northern Ireland.

In March 2017 they walked 150 miles in eight days, from their home to the hospital, to demonstrate the incredible improvement in Billy’s condition after the cannabis treatment.

A doctor in Northern Ireland prescribed him the oil, since it was clear it was the only effective treatment. This was the first time a child had ever been issued the substance on the NHS.

In October 2016, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency issued an opinion that products containing cannabidiol (CBD) used for medical purposes are medicine. However, medicines containing THC, the psychoactive constituent of cannabis that gets users high, remain illegal in its raw form.

The government’s current position is that THC has no recognised medicinal or legitimate uses beyond potential research.

Although some children with epilepsy respond positively to CBD, the conditions of others, such as Billy, respond only to THC-derived products. And there is growing evidence of the benefits of prescribing medicinal cannabis.

After about 300 days without a seizure, the Home Office recently ordered the doctor to stop prescribing the oil, prompting Caldwell to seek treatment in Canada, which is preparing to legalise cannabis.

The case has shone a light on a drug policy that critics see as outdated and has provoked widespread demands for urgent reform, as well as calls for an exception to be made for Billy until legislation can be considered.

Caldwell said she doubted whether she or Hurd would be arrested if the minister decided to “do the right thing” and allow Billy to have his anti-epileptic medication. 

“Surely common sense should prevail,” she said, pointing to the public support for the legalisation of medical cannabis, and the fact that police in some parts of the country had deprioritised cannabis offences.

“To me, this is not an illegal or controlled substance, this is my little boy’s medicine. Even if you drank six months’ worth of this medicine, you wouldn’t get high because the THC content is so low.”

There are around 63,400 children with epilepsy in the UK and a third of those do not respond to the medication prescribed by the NHS. Some 1,150 people died of epilepsy-related causes in 2009.

Billy, who also has severe autism, cannot talk and requires 24/7 care, enjoys riding his pony Paddy, often goes swimming and attends a special needs school.

Asked how Billy had handled a week of intense media attention, Caldwell said he had been “a wee bit out of sorts” and that “he knows that something is going on”.

On Tuesday morning, however, he had his first seizure in almost a year.

On the same day, a group of pro-reform Tory MPs said that medicinal cannabis could be on sale within a year. But this could be too late for Billy. “The fear that Billy will die without his medication has been my overriding emotion this week,” says Caldwell. “I think that fear is keeping me going.”

June 15th 2018

Spilt milk: are the breastfeeding wars finally over?

‘Absolutely, breastfeeding is best for babies and for mothers,” says Gill Walton, chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives. We were talking yesterday, just after news broke of a major development in the territory of infant feeding. “But anybody supporting women needs to give them support to bottle feed safely, if that’s what they decide to do.”

This support for mothers who bottle feed has been hailed as the end of a battle that has raged for at least a decade, the Treaty of Versailles in a postpartum wrangle in which the breastfeeding side was considered so righteous that it didn’t even have to acknowledge the other one.

Walton’s position sounds so straightforward, so obvious: why would you ever not want to support bottle or mixed feeding women, given that they represent over 60% of the population? Yet the orthodoxy that breast is best had become so established that the answer to those women for whom breast was, in fact, worst, was always: you need more support.

It would take a woman with first-hand experience of painful or ungenerative milk production to really give voice to how undermining and unjust this “support” mantra was, but I’ve heard it done – so have you, probably – and they use some pretty fruity language. It really isn’t the case that all women can breastfeed perfectly well, if only they have enough health visitors. Clare Byam-Cook, a nurse and midwife turned guru, is the Madonna of old-school breastfeeding experts, and she always had this as a backstop: if it’s really not working, stop doing it.

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But since the start of this century, pragmatists have been increasingly drowned out in favour of a 00s absolutism that affected all kinds of areas of parenting (principally, motherhood): a mother who would accept second-best was barely even a mother. Breastfeeding was the frontier issue in a burgeoning culture where intense risk aversion was a sign of perfect parenting. It covered alcohol in pregnancy, soft cheese, stress; at one point, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists put out advice to pregnant women not to sit on new furniture. Breastfeeding was its purest iteration, partly because everyone could see it and judge it; partly because it was a chance to legitimately instruct women to subsume themselves utterly to their child’s welfare; and partly because the science was apparently so settled. Breastfed babies were less likely to get gastroenteritis, less likely to get ear infections and eczema, less likely to become obese, both mothers and babies were less likely to get cancer, and they would have a higher IQ (typically, the uptick was six points, with some wild studies claiming far more). Advice from the Department of Health, spinning out from that of the World Health Organization (WHO), was to breastfeed exclusively for the first six months, or, to put that in baby language for the new mum: “Don’t rush to mush”.

The problem, in the first instance, was that, for all the certainty with which it was discussed, the science was never actually that settled. A lot of the WHO evidence was taken from studies of women where a clean water supply wasn’t assured, or they couldn’t necessarily afford adequate formula. Bottle feeding was always, therefore, going to be difficult, if not impossible. Comically, one of the reasons that was given in favour of breastfeeding was that it prevented the return of menstruation, and therefore acted as a contraceptive This is comical, a) because it’s not very reliable and you actually can get pregnant while you’re breastfeeding, and b) because a woman in Keswick does not need to breastfeed in order to prevent a pregnancy. It’s like telling a population in South Korea to clean a wound with ash to ward off infection: ash might be better than no ash, but not if you’ve got Germolene.

The gastric effect was pretty well established (although the much-quoted interventionist study in Dundee was extremely small), and its mechanism known and understood – it hinges on a specific agent found only in human milk, secretory immunoglobulin, or SIgA. Critically, though, as the American academic Joan B Wolf, author of Is Breast Best?, summarised: “The majority of studies have demonstrated that there’s a relationship between breastfeeding and better health. But whether this relationship is causal has never been established.” No study has ever been able to disaggregate the act of breastfeeding from the decision to breastfeed – which is to say, the milk itself from thekind of mother who chooses to feed her child breastmilk. So it would be unwise to discount the possibility that what we were seeing was not the magic properties of “liquid gold” (as my midwife used to call it) but the health benefits of being born into one social environment over another.

The fury, if you ever pointed this out, was truly bizarre, and it is for this reason, I think, that the RCM and many other bodies have until now steered carefully along a course almost entirely dominated by the breastfeeding enthusiasts (or lactivists, if you prefer). Writing anything about evidence bases, much like writing anything about economics, always invites a fair amount of sneering (“Why, oh why, does this journalist think she could ever understand this material which only I understand”) but this is, funnily enough, the only time I have ever been physically threatened: I covered some of that evidential insufficiency – which is explicitly accepted by the American Academy of Paediatrics – and shortly afterwards chaired an event for the RCM. The then chief executive, who was actually brilliant, although we disagreed about breastfeeding, warned me that some people were intending to protest, and maybe throw things. What kind of things? Oh, nothing serious. Maybe an egg. On the one hand, I was actually breastfeeding at the time, so was always covered in stuff. But on the other, I had just had a baby. I really didn’t want anyone throwing eggs at me.

Spleen tends to attach to cases that are not as strong as they claim. The underlying issue was class-based: breastfeeding, the middle-class choice, gave middle-class parenting a superior status that would otherwise have been difficult to assert. In fact, during this period, the non-middle-class parent was under constant and strange attack: when the coalition government came in, the First Three Years became a key policy area, with improbable and unpleasant assertions about what non-U parents were like. They fed their babies formula, then they left them all day strapped into a buggy, pointed at awall; they didn’t give them the right vocabulary because they weren’t interested in talking to them. Bottles became a key signifier of parental neglect, and I always wondered why the women who couldn’t breastfeed didn’t kick up more of a fuss about this, since the alternative was to bottle feed your baby with a sense of shame. But parenting is a great leveller, and some people don’t want to be level.

The Centre for Parenting Culture Studies, at Kent University, did fascinating work on this and many of those other trigger issues, culminating in Charlotte Faircloth’s PhD thesis, Full-term breastfeeding: Nature, morality and feminism in London and Paris: “Everything had become very heated, moralised. How you feed your kids is no longer a personal decision. There’s this idea that you can breastfeed your way out of poverty. It all got a bit out of hand.”

There were dissenting voices, interestingly from French rather than Anglo-Saxon feminism: Élisabeth Badinter caused an incredibly strange controversy in the early 2010s, when she said: “If, 24 hours a day, the women is reduced to her role as a nursing animal, the father is completely put aside.” This was a red rag to the feminism that says women should be making their own decisions when they become mothers, and shouldn’t be worrying about what their partners think: but in fact, a women’s rights framing – in which the woman is “liberated” from her sexual identity, in order to be ruthlessly policed in her maternal one – isn’t very feminist either. At its simplest, Badinter’s message was: “There are women for whom breastfeeding is a true pleasure. It’s very good for them and very good for the baby. But to breastfeed a baby if the mother herself doesn’t like it? It’s a catastrophe. The decision to breastfeed is an intimate and private decision. No one should be able to interfere.”

And that is where the RCM has also landed. “It’s part of a wider campaign we’ve got about trusting women,” Walton explains. “There has been an increase in mental health problems following childbirth, and while we can’t ascribe that to the previous breastfeeding advice, we do know that there are lots of women feeling guilty, made to feel guilty by their friends and their families. We’re saying, once they’ve made their choice, trust them. Actually, what you need to get right is to feed your baby and love it.”

This has been a culture war, and quite an exhausting one, where nothing meant exactly what it said: the pro-breastfeeding line originated with second-wave feminism, asserting a woman’s choice to feed with her baby as she saw fit, without medical or corporate interference. That liberation became an oppression; if it’s the only thing you’re allowed to choose, that’s not a choice. It fed into a set of ideas that located the source of childhood disadvantage not in hardship but in their parents’ sub-optimal behaviour, so that poverty would indicate, literally, that if you weren’t a bad person then probably your mother was. And this political notion was mediated not just through women’s bodies but through our actual t*ts. It was faintly chilling for all women, mothers or not. It would be wonderful if the RCM’s humane, good sense intervention marked the end of it.

June 14th 2018

Too much or too little sleep can damage your health, study finds

When a person is suffering from sleep deprivation, indulging in a lengthy lie in at the weekend may seem like a logical course of action to catch up on some zzzs.

However, doing so could prove extremely detrimental for your health.

A recent study published in the journal BMC Public Health has found that having both too much or too little sleep could lead to a variety of health conditions, such as high blood pressure or elevated cholesterol levels.

The team who conducted the research, from the Seoul National University College of Medicine, analysed the data of 133,608 Korean men and women aged between 40 and 69 years old.

The information was originally gathered as part of a HEXA (The Health Examinees) study, which collected the data over the course of nine years from 2004.

The 44,930 men and 88,678 women were placed into four sleep categories: less than six hours sleep, between six and eight hours sleep, between eight and ten hours sleep and more than ten hours sleep.

The results of the study stated that the men who slept for less than six hours a night were more likely to develop metabolic syndrome than those who managed to hit the hay for eight hours.

Metabolic syndrome refers to a number of conditions, including increased blood sugar levels, high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure and additional fat around the waist area.

Furthermore, both the men and women who regularly had less than six hours sleep also had a greater chance of having a larger waist circumference.

While some may assume that the participants who slept for more than 10 hours sleep a night were better off, the research proved the contrary.

Both men and women in that particular category also had a greater likelihood of developing metabolic syndrome, while the women were more likely to have excess fat around the waist.

“This is the largest study examining a dose-response association between sleep duration and metabolic syndrome and its components separately for men and women,” said Claire E. Kim, lead author of the study.

“We observed a potential gender difference between sleep duration and metabolic syndrome, with an association between metabolic syndrome and long sleep in women and metabolic syndrome and short sleep in men.”

The authors of the study have noted that their research is solely observational and therefore cannot draw definite conclusions about cause and effect.

June 11th 2018

Your tea towels can cause food poisoning, study suggests

Repeated use of tea towels in the kitchen could be putting families at risk of food poisoning, according to new research.

Bacterial build-up was measured on 100 towels over the course of a month during an experiment by scientists at the University of Mauritius.

Researchers found bacteria growth on 49 towels, with more than a third testing positive for coliforms, the group of species of which E. coli is a member.

The study found E. coli was more likely to develop on towels that had been left to sit damp, while coliforms and S. aureus bacteria were detected at significantly higher rates in households with non-vegetarian diets.

It also found tea towels in the homes of larger families and those of a lower socio-economic background had higher rates of bacteria growth.

“Our study demonstrates that the family composition and hygienic practices in the kitchen affected the microbial load of kitchen towels,” said Dr Susheela Biranjia-Hurdoyal, of the University of Mauritius. "We also found that diet, type of use and moist kitchen towels could be very important in promoting the growth of potential pathogens responsible for food poisoning.”

Researchers said the presence of E. coli on several towels in the study is likely to have come from faecal contamination, suggesting unhygienic practices in the kitchen are widespread.

In total, 37 per cent of towels used in the experiment grew coliforms, 37 per cent tested positive for Enterococcus bacteria and 14 per cent developed Staphylococcus aureus.

Scientists concluded using disposable, single-use paper towels for kitchen tasks was a more hygienic option.

“The data indicated that unhygienic practices while handling non-vegetarian food could be common in the kitchen,” Dr Biranjia-Hurdoyal added.

“Humid towels and multipurpose usage of kitchen towels should be discouraged. Bigger families with children and elderly members should be especially vigilant to hygiene in the kitchen.”

Coliform bacteria can cause a wide range of conditions in humans, from stomach cramps, fever and vomiting to more serious conditions such as pneumonia and respiratory illnesses.

Staphylococcus aureus can lead to life-threatening conditions such as meningitis, bacteremia and toxic shock syndrome.

June 6th 2018

Green tea may help reduce the risk of heart attacks

A substance found in green tea could help scientists find new ways to reduce the risk of heart attacks, research suggests, although experts say that doesn’t mean you should rush to put the kettle on.

The study found that a molecule in green tea, known as EGCG, can bind to a protein that is found in plaques linked to coronary artery disease and, under certain circumstances, make it more soluble.

While experts say the latest discovery could open up new possibilities for developing molecules to tackle deposits within blood vessels which contribute to coronary artery disease, they say it is far from clear that drinking green tea will help with the condition.

“If you drink normal quantities of green tea it will probably be unlikely to have an effect,” said Prof David Middleton, a co-author of the study from the University of Lancaster. “What we are saying is that we need to look at this molecule more carefully and figure out ways we can either adapt it to make it more [available to the body when taken] or ways of delivering it to the plaques.”

EGCG has previously been shown to affect the architecture of proteins that make up the plaques linked to Alzheimers disease.

Writing in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, researchers at the University of Leeds and Lancaster University describe how they sought to explore the effect of green tea on apoA-I: a protein that is a key component of so-called “good cholesterol” HDL, but which also has a dark side.

“A certain amount of the protein exists by itself and this seems to be the case particularly as we get older,” said Middleton, adding that in certain circumstances the protein can misfold and form fine fibres which build up in plaques within arteries. Middleton adds that it is thought the addition of the fibres makes the plaques more likely to break up into chunks, thereby increasing the risk of heart attacks and stroke

The team began by brewing up green tea using a microwave – a point that might raise the eyebrows of tea connoisseurs – and after careful analysis found EGCG from the tea bound to fine fibres of the protein.

Moreover, the EGCG appeared to break down the fine fibres of the protein into smaller, circular forms which were soluble, provided the fibres originally formed in the presence of a substance similar to that found between cells in the body.

The study was met with caution by experts who noted that having a balanced diet, not smoking and other aspects of lifestyle are key ways that individuals can lower their risk of coronary artery disease.

“[This latest] research is very early on,” said Prof Naveed Sattar of the University of Glasgow. “We’ve been here before with novel agents in foods and drinks which may lessen some health risks but, to date, few things have led to any real advances. So, my advice would be not to rush to [drink] green tea for now.”

Dr James Brown, a senior lecturer in biology and biomedical science at Aston University was also cautious, pointing out that “it is not the same as drinking green tea and seeing that have an effect in the body.”

He added that the body breaks down the components of green tea, and it is not clear how much EGCG would end up in the blood. “They haven’t taken a mouse or a human that has evidence of these [plaques], given them green tea or EGCG and then seen a reduction in those.”


May 30th 2018

Scientists create the first 3D-printed human corneas

Newcastle University researchers have devised a groundbreaking experimental technique that could help millions on the corneal transplant waiting list. By using a simple 3D bio-printer, Professor of Tissue Engineering Che Connon and his team of scientists were able to combine healthy corneal stem cells with collagen and alginate (a type of sugar sometimes used in tissue regeneration) to create 'bio-ink' -- a printable solution that enabled them to reproduce the shape of a human cornea in just 10 minutes.

The cornea has a significant role in helping us focus and barricading our eyes against dirt and bacteria. However, since it's located on the outermost layer of the eye, it's also pretty vulnerable to injury. Worldwide, approximately 10 million people risk corneal blindness due to infectious disorders like trachoma, but there's a dearth of readily available transplants. Because Connon's 3D-printed corneas utilize stem cells, corneal replicas could potentially provide a limitless supply of much-needed transplants.

"Our unique gel - a combination of alginate and collagen - keeps the stem cells alive whilst producing a material which is stiff enough to hold its shape but soft enough to be squeezed out the nozzle of a 3D printer," Connon said.

Before printing the corneal replicas, researchers scanned patients' eyes to ascertain the necessary dimensions and coordinates. While it's likely patients will have to wait "several years" before these 3D-printed corneas are available in an official capacity, they still represent incredible hope for those with more severe corneal-related impairments. 

May 28th 2018


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.

May 21st 2018

People with large waistlines have lower levels of vitamin D, study finds

Obese people who carry excess fat around their midriffs have lower vitamin D levels, new research suggests.

Liver fat is also associated with reduced levels of the sunshine supplement in overweight men, but not women, the study found.

It is unclear if a lack of vitamin D contributes to abdominal-fat storage or if obesity reduces the vitamin's levels.

Previous research suggests the supplement lowers people's risk of developing conditions such as arthritis, asthma and type 1 diabetes due to its anti-inflammatory and immune-strengthening effects.

Around 26 per cent of adults in the UK are obese, which puts them at risk of heart disease, stroke and premature death.

'Individuals with larger waistlines are at risk of deficiency'

Lead author Dr Rachida Rafiq, from the VU University, Amsterdam, said: 'The strong relationship between increasing amounts of abdominal fat and lower levels of vitamin D suggests that individuals with larger waistlines are at a greater risk of developing deficiency, and should consider having their vitamin D levels checked. 

'Due to the observational nature of this study, we cannot draw a conclusion on the direction or cause of the association between obesity and vitamin D levels. 

'However, this strong association may point to a possible role for vitamin D in abdominal fat storage and function.' 

The researchers plan to investigate the role of vitamin D in obesity. 

How the research was carried out 

The researchers analysed abdominal and overall body fat in people aged 45-to-65 who took part in a previous obesity study.

The participants' vitamin D levels were also assessed. 

Findings from the study were presented at the European Society of Endocrinology annual conference in Barcelona.

Vitamin D is an 'inexpensive solution' to heart drugs 

This comes after research released last January suggested vitamin D is an 'inexpensive solution' to drugs.

Scientists discovered the sunshine supplement repairs and prevents damage to the heart caused by diabetes and high blood pressure.

Vitamin D stimulates the production of nitric acid, which is involved in regulating blood flow and preventing the formation of blood clots, according to the first study of its kind.

It also reduces 'internal stress' in the cardiovascular system, which could avoid heart-related incidents, the research adds.

Study author Dr Tadeusz Malinski, from Ohio University, said: 'There are not many, if any, known systems which can be used to restore cardiovascular cells which are already damaged, and vitamin D can do it.

'This is a very inexpensive solution to repair the cardiovascular system. We don't have to develop a new drug. We already have it.' 

May 16th 2018

UK scientists believe they may have found a way to combat the common cold.

Rather than attacking the virus itself, which comes in hundreds of versions, the treatment targets the human host.

It blocks a key protein in the body’s cells that cold viruses normally hijack to self-replicate and spread.

This should stop any cold virus in its tracks if given early enough, lab studies suggest. Safety trials in people could start within two years.

The Imperial College London researchers are working on making a form of the drug that can be inhaled, to reduce the chance of side-effects.

In the lab, it worked within minutes of being applied to human lung cells, targeting a human protein called NMT, Nature Chemistry journal reports.

All strains of cold virus need this human protein to make new copies of themselves.

Researcher Prof Ed Tate said: “The idea is that we could give it to someone when they first become infected and it would stop the virus being able to replicate and spread.

“Even if the cold has taken hold, it still might help lessen the symptoms.

“This could be really helpful for people with health conditions like asthma, who can get quite ill when they catch a cold.”

He said targeting the host rather than the infection was “a bit radical” but made sense because the viral target was such a tricky one.

Cold viruses are not only plentiful and diverse, they also evolve rapidly, meaning they can quickly develop resistance to drugs.

The test drug completely blocked several strains of cold virus without appearing to harm the human cells in the lab. Further studies are needed to make sure it is not toxic in the body though.

Dr Peter Barlow of the British Society for Immunology said: “While this study was conducted entirely in vitro – using cells to model Rhinovirus infection in the laboratory – it shows great promise in terms of eventually developing a drug treatment to combat the effects of this virus in patients.”

Fighting a cold

Colds spread very easily from person to person. And the viruses that cause the infections can live on hands and surfaces for 24 hours.

Painkillers and cold remedies might help ease the symptoms. But currently there is nothing that will halt the infection.

You can catch a cold by:

  • inhaling tiny droplets of fluid that contain the cold virus – these are launched into the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes
  • touching an object or surface contaminated by infected droplets and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes
  • touching the skin of someone who has the infected droplets on their skin and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes

Symptoms – a runny or blocked nose, sneezing and sore throat – usually come on quickly and peak after a couple of days. Most people will feel better after a week or so. But a mild cough can persist for a few weeks.


May 15th 2018

Ginger reduces serious vomiting in gastroenteritis and 'could save lives', finds clinical trial

Ginger could help save lives after scientists found it works as a powerful treatment against vomiting bugs that are a cause of dehydration and death in the developing world.

The findings of a clinical trial into the root and store cupboard stalwart’s antiemetic effects in children with serious gastroenteritis found ginger could lower both the severity and frequency of vomiting.

The researchers found that children between one and 10 years old with serious gastroenteritis cut their number of vomiting episodes by 20 per cent, when compared with a placebo supplement.

Among those in school, they found the number of children having sick days off was 28 per cent lower in the group receiving ginger.

Dr Roberto Berni Canani, associate professor of paediatrics from the University of Napoli, Italy who led the research said the findings could “potentially save lives” across

the globe, as well as lower the pressure on health systems.

Gastroenteritis is an inflammation of the stomach and intestines caused by highly infectious bacteria, including salmonella and rotavirus in food and water; viruses, such as the norovirus vomiting bug; or parasite species.

Vomiting and diarrhoea make it impossible for patients to absorb or keep down food, drink or oral medication to treat their infection.

This can be serious in already vulnerable patients, such as young children or frail older people.

Globally, acute gastroenteritis kills 1.34 million children each year, which equates to approximately 15 per cent of all childhood deaths.

“Acute gastroenteritis is still one of the biggest causes of death in children living in developing countries,” Dr Berni Canani told The Independent, and dehydration is its “most frequent and dangerous complication”.

While dehydration can be managed with rehydration drinks, vomiting limits the use of this strategy. “Ginger could be very helpful in this,” Dr Berni Canani added.

“We anticipate that the results will have a great impact on future clinical practice and the advice given to parents in the treatment of acute gastroenteritis and could potentially save lives across Europe and the globe.”

In Europe, mortality rates are low, but it causes 87,000 hospital admissions a year and 700,000 outpatient visits – norovirus in the UK also adds to the NHS bed shortages because affected wards have to be closed for cleaning.

Ginger is known to have anti-inflammatory properties and it may be this that is producing the antiemetic effect.

Dr Berni Canani said his team’s next steps would be to look at whether ginger can be effective in children without acute gastroenteritis, where home remedies treatment could also lower the need for a GP visit.

The findings are being presented at the annual meeting of the European Society of Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition (ESPGHAN) and have yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal.

The clinical trial included 140 children from Naples and was run “double blind”, with neither patients nor doctors aware of whether the children were receiving ginger or a placebo.

They were given the ginger extract in drops, though there was no taste difference, but Dr Berni Canani told The Independent: “Fresh root or dried ginger could contain the same active ingredients [and] can be used to flavour foods and drinks.”

Previous studies in pregnant women with morning sickness or patients undergoing chemotherapy have also found evidence of ginger’s ability to reduce vomiting.


May 14th 2018

Pediatricians are concerned about climate change, and here's why

Doctors have long raised alarm about the potential health risks of climate change, but it turns out that children are particularly vulnerable.

Children are estimated to bear 88% of the burden of disease related to climate change, according to a paper published Tuesday in the journal Pediatrics.

The new paper highlights some studies on the implications of climate change for children's health and then calls for the world to better prepare for these health risks, not just in the future but in the present.

"We already have seen the impacts," said Dr. Kevin Chan, chairman of pediatrics at Memorial University and head of child health at Eastern Health in Canada, who co-authored the paper.

Chan pointed to Hurricanes KatrinaHarvey and Irma as examples of climate change-related weather events that have affected children's health, along with extreme heat waves and emerging infectious pathogens such as the Zika virus.

'We grossly underestimated' Zika, expert says 01:10

During pregnancy, Zika infection can cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly, a condition in which a baby's head is smaller than expected and the brain has not developed properly. There is no treatment for microcephaly that can return a child's head to a healthy size or shape.

Alerts of an outbreak of Zika, spread mostly by mosquitoes, emerged in 2015 and continued through 2016. Some studies suggest that increased climate instability has contributed to the emergence and spread of mosquito-borne infections like Zika.

"Absolutely, that was one that disproportionately affected children," Chan said of Zika.

"The basic message is that climate change is occurring, and I think it disproportionately affects the most vulnerable populations, and that includes children," he said.


Tick- and mosquito-borne diseases more than triple, since 2004, in the US

In the new paper, Chan and co-author Dr. Rebecca Pass Philipsborn, a member of the pediatrics faculty at the Emory University School of Medicine, cited a separate study that found that deaths due to diarrhea, malaria and nutritional deficiencies among children younger than 5 accounted for 38%, 65% and 48% of all global deaths, respectively, in 2015.

That study was published in The Lancet in 2016. The new study reports that those causes of death can be climate-sensitive.

For instance, certain changes in climate can make it more suitable for the transmission of malaria, a mosquito-borne disease caused by a parasite transmitted through the bite of infected mosquitoes.


Is there a link between climate change and diabetes?

Similarly, climbing temperatures have been tied to an increased incidence of waterborne bacterial infections that cause diarrhea. When compared with a future without climate change, an estimated 48,000 additional deaths due to diarrheal illness are projected among children younger than 15 by 2030, according to the World Health Organization.

As for nutritional deficiencies, about 95,000 additional deaths due to childhood undernutrition are projected for 2030, according to the WHO. Extremely high seasonal temperatures and extreme weather events could damage crops, impacting the food supply and thus childhood nutrition.

In their paper, Chan and Philipsborn also referenced studies on children's vulnerability to extreme heat, droughts and air pollution.

A separate report, published last year by the Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health, mapped how those climate change-related events and others threaten the health of people across the United States -- and those threats can vary by region.

Dr. Mona Sarfaty, executive director of the Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Healthand director of the program on climate and health at George Mason University's Center for Climate Change Communication, said the the sources for the new Pediatrics paper are credible and well-known to experts on climate change and health.

"The danger to children is real and is already witnessed by physicians in the US," said Sarfaty, who was not involved in the paper.

"Children suffer more heat impacts because they spend more time outside. They are more vulnerable to the heat-related increases in air pollution that come from fossil fuel exhaust, because their lungs are still developing. Outdoor play also makes them more prey to insect vectors carrying dangerous infections," she said. "The doctors in our societies are seeing these problems today, and they will undoubtedly get worse if we don't decisively address climate change."

Though the new paper highlights the current body of research on climate change and children's health, Chan said that more research could help physicians better understand and prepare for the health impacts of climate change.

"Specifically, what we wanted to highlight was, there's very little research and evidence around children," Chan said.

"A lot of the research is very, very broad and tends to look more at adult populations. I don't think they factor in the specific impacts on children themselves, and I think more research is needed in that arena," he said. "We really need more efforts into addressing climate change to protect our children."

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In 2015, the American Academy of Pediatrics published an updated policy statement on global climate change and children's health, calling for health facilities to reduce their carbon and environmental footprints and for politicians to promote energy efficiency, among other recommendations.

"Climate change is a rising public health threat to all children in this country and around the world," former academy President Dr. Sandra G. Hassink said in a news release at the time.

"Pediatricians have a unique and powerful voice in this conversation due to their knowledge of child health and disease and their role in ensuring the health of current and future children," she said.

May 13th 2018

Menstrual migraines: Everything you need to know

It had been happening every two weeks, like clockwork, for five months.

The worst attacks involved sharp, blinding pain that seared up the back of my head, along with nausea, fatigue, and light sensitivity. It would go on for hours; sometimes the only solution was sleep.

Migraines and other migraine-related symptoms plagued me daily. The more mild episodes were less painful, but still frustratingly stubborn: migraines arriving in the form of aching sinus headaches not cured by any over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever or decongestant.

Then, for two weeks, I would have virtually no symptoms - until it started all over again.

After several months, I finally opened up my calendar, determined to figure out what was triggering them. As I scrutinised the dates of my migraine episodes, I started to connect the dots. Why did I have symptoms every day for those particular weeks in December, and then not again until January? And why did that pattern repeat itself every month?

That’s when it clicked: My period was the trigger.

My husband and I practice fertility awareness for our family planning needs, so I know the ins and outs of my cycle like the back of my hand. Whenever my period started, so did the migraines; whenever I ovulated, they disappeared. I talked to my doctor, who agreed that my migraines weren’t random - they were menstrual.

What are menstrual migraines?

Migraines triggered by hormone fluctuations in a woman’s monthly cycle are considered menstrually-related migraines (MRM), which the National Institutes of Health classifies as any migraine episode that occurs up to two days before the onset of a period and three days after, for at least two out of three periods.

“Some studies have identified that about 70 percent of women with migraine have MRM, while others have shown more conservative numbers of 40 to 50 percent,” says Jelena Pavlovic, attending neurologist and assistant professor at New York’s Montefiore Health System. “But menstrual migraine is often underreported and underdiagnosed because, in many women, the attacks often start prior to the onset of bleeding and/or do not last the whole menstrual period.”

Why does menstruation have the power to trigger migraines in so many women? Blame oestrogen.

“Menstrual migraine is commonly thought to be ‘triggered’ by the late-luteal phase [or premenstrual] drop in oestrogen,” says Pavlovic. 

"Identifying my migraines as menstrually-related was the most valuable thing I’ve done"

Since my migraines start with menstruation but continue for nearly two weeks, there are likely other common triggers causing me to experience migraines during a time when I’m particularly susceptible to them (oestrogen levels surge around ovulation, which likely explains why I find relief at that point in my cycle).

But menstruation remains my initial trigger - which means it has also been the key to figuring out how best to treat my migraines. 

Slideshow: 10 things that mess with your period (Health.com)

Menstrual migraine treatments

There are no specific treatment options identified solely for MRM, but a combination of traditional migraine treatments, alternative therapies, and hormone-related strategies can be effective. 

OTC or prescribed NSAIDs, like ibuprofen and naproxen, can be a first line of defence in treating migraines, though they may not quite do the trick. A 2013 review of clinical trials showed that the effectiveness of naproxen often depends on the severity of the migraines and whether it’s being used in conjunction with other medications.

Triptans are a type of drug that work to reduce the swelling of blood vessels in the head, are one of the more popular prescription medication options for migraines.

“A long-acting triptan may be used preventively, beginning about a day before the expected onset of symptoms and continuing for the usual length of symptoms,” says Pavlovic. “For this method to work it is important that a patient have a regular menstrual cycle and keep a good headache diary, so she can calculate when her migraines are likely to start and can make a plan to avoid other triggers.”  

For women who don’t find much relief with non-hormone treatments, transdermal estradiol (like in an 0estrogen patch) can help. Since MRM is linked to low levels of oestrogen, raising those levels around the time that patients normally experience migraines is a potential solution.

Video: Bizarre things that happen to your body on your period (Wochit News)

“[Transdermal estradiol] can be applied for a week, starting about five to seven days premenstrually and continuing through the second day of bleeding,” says Pavlovic. Again, this method is preventative, so it helps to be able to track and predict your menstruation. 

It's no coincidence that some OTC painkillers for migraines include a combination of aspirin, acetaminophen and caffeine - according to the Cleveland Clinic, the stimulant is sometimes used as a treatment for migraines, though it can also contribute to migraines and cause rebound headaches.

Holly Lucille, a private-practice naturopathic physician and educator, says caffeine works on multiple levels to assist with migraines: “It’s often considered a taxi that moves pain-relief ingredients quickly through the bloodstream, but it’s actually a pain-reliever in its own right.”

However, a 2016 study in The Journal of Headache and Pain suggests that the discontinuation of caffeine intake gives migraine sufferers better results. Pavlovic agrees. "In those who have frequent headaches, daily caffeine intake can worsen them and lead to more headaches,” she says. “They are advised to limit, if not completely cut out, caffeine from their diet." 



Magnesium is pretty widely accepted as a potential remedy.“Magnesium may be in short supply in those who suffer from migraines, acting as a co-conspirator with hormone fluctuations in causing the condition,” says Lucille.

"Magnesium has been used primarily as a preventive agent for menstrual migraine," adds Pavlovic. The American Migraine Foundation also acknowledges that magnesium is a reliable preventative strategy with an “excellent safety profile.” (Just remember to consult a doctor before taking any dietary supplements.)

'I'm still figuring out what works for my migraines'

It’s been more than a year of trial and error so far.

I know that a large glass of water followed by a cup of caffeinated coffee first thing in the morning does wonders to stave off many of my symptoms. If a migraine develops anyway, I take a triptan; if I wake up with one already in progress, a painkiller containing caffeine is the fastest and most reliable option.

I’ve also started taking a daily dose of chelated magnesium, though I’ve struggled to find an effective amount that doesn’t upset my stomach.

But ultimately, identifying my migraines as menstrually-related was the most valuable thing I’ve done. I’m not at the mercy of my migraines as much as I was before: I know what’s causing them, when they’ll start, and (thankfully) when they’ll end.

For a condition where prevention remains one of the most useful treatment strategies, that knowledge is power.


May 11th 2018

Thymus: Facts, Function & Diseases

By Alina Bradford, Live Science Contributor

Though the thymus is a little-known organ in the body, it does some very important things. It is part of the lymphatic system, along with the tonsils, adenoids and spleen, and it's also part of the endocrine system. 


The thymus produces progenitor cells, which mature into T-cells (thymus-derived cells). The body uses T-cells help destroy infected or cancerous cells. T-cells created by the thymus also help other organs in the immune system grow properly. 

These cells are so vital, they are often donated to those in need. "It (the thymus) is the primary donor of cells for the lymphatic system, much as bone marrow is the cell donor for the cardiovascular system," according to a paper, "The Thymus: A Forgotten, But Very Important Organ," published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM).

Size & shape

The thymus is located just below the breast bone. It is relatively large in infants and grows until puberty. In adulthood, it starts to slowly shrink and become replaced by fat, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. It can weigh only 5 grams in elderly adults.

As it grows smaller, it seems the organ becomes less important. "Removal of the organ in the adult has little effect, but when the thymus is removed in the newborn, T-cells in the blood and lymphoid tissue are depleted, and failure of the immune system causes a gradual, fatal wasting disease," according to Encyclopedia Britannica.

The thymus gets its name from its silhouette. It is shaped much like a thyme leaf, a common cooking herb. It has two separate lobes divided by a central medulla and a peripheral cortex and is formed with lymphocytes and reticular cells. The reticular cells form a mesh that is filled with lymphocytes.

Diseases & conditions

The most common thymus diseases are myasthenia gravis (MG), pure red cell aplasia (PRCA) and hypogammaglobulinemia, according to the NLM. 

Myasthenia gravis occurs when the thymus is abnormally large and produces antibodies that block or destroy the muscles' receptor sites. This causes the muscles to become weak and easily tired. 

Medications may be prescribed that help the communication between nerves and muscles, such as pyridostigmine (Mestinon). Corticosteroids like prednisone or immunosuppressants, such as azathioprine (Imuran), mycophenolate mofetil (CellCept), cyclosporine (Sandimmune, Neoral), methotrexate (Trexall) or tacrolimus (Prograf), may be used to inhibit the immune system. Your doctor may also prescribe other medications that alter your immune system, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Pure red cell aplasia is thought to be caused commonly by the patient's own immune cells attacking blood-forming stem cells. This can happen when the thymus has a tumor, according to The Aplastic Anemia and MDS International Foundation. Blood transfusions to increase red blood cell levels, corticosteroids and immunosuppressive therapy can all be treatments for this condition.

Hypogammaglobulinemia is a disorder where the body doesn't produce enough antibodies. Infants with this condition typically grow out of it without medical intervention. 

Thymus cancer is a disease in the thymus, rather than one caused by the thymus, like the previous examples. Symptoms may include shortness of breath, cough (which may bring up bloody sputum), chest pain, trouble swallowing, loss of appetite and weight loss, headaches, swelling of head face or neck, a bluish color to the skin and dizziness, according to the American Cancer Society. Thymus cancer is treated with surgery, radiation therapy or chemotherapy. This cancer is typically malignant in about 35 percent of cases.

Additional resources

·       National Institutes of Health: Treatment of hypogammaglobulinemia in adults- A scoring system to guide decisions on immunoglobulin replacement

·       Canadian Cancer Society: Thymus Cancer

·       U.S. National Library of Medicine: Sonographic study of the thymus in infants and children


May 10th 2018

Macular Degeneration: Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatments

By Maureen Salamon, MyHealthNewsDaily Contributor

More than 10 million Americans suffer the potentially disabling effects of macular degeneration, an eye disease that is a leading cause of vision loss in people over age 50, according to the American Macular Degeneration Foundation.

The condition, which blurs central vision, is also called age-related macular degeneration (AMD) because it is associated with growing older, according to the National Eye Institute (NEI). Central vision is needed for driving, reading and recognizing faces and colors, among other tasks.

Macular degeneration is deterioration in the central area of the retina, called the macula, said Dr. Mark Fromer, an ophthalmologist and retina specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital, in New York City.

The macula is a structure responsible for sharp, central vision, and is located in the center of the retina, the inside back layer of the eyeball that converts light and images into electrical signals that are sent to the brain. AMD can occur in one or both eyes.


AMD typically develops gradually and isn't painful, so early symptoms can be mistaken for normal age-related vision changes. In others, the disease progresses more quickly, and may lead to vision loss in one or both eyes. According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms include:

·       Straight lines or faces appearing wavy

·       Doorways seeming crooked

·       Objects appearing smaller or farther away

·       Increasing difficulty adapting to low light levels

·       Decreasing color intensity or brightness

·       Difficulty recognizing faces

·       Increasing vision haziness

·       Blurry or blind spots in central vision

"If a patient notices any distortion in one eye, he or she should see an ophthalmologist immediately," Fromer told Live Science.

Causes & complications

The exact causes of AMD aren't known, but the risk of developing it increases with age, and certain physical conditions and lifestyle choices increase the odds of developing it. According to the NEI, these risk factors include:

·       Family history

·       Smoking

·       Obesity

·       High blood pressure

·       High cholesterol

·       Being Caucasian

·       Being female

·       Diet low in fruits and vegetables

There are two types of AMD: wet and dry.

Dry AMD is the most common form of AMD, and occurs when light-sensitive cells in the macula gradually deteriorate. Yellow deposits behind the retina called drusen dislodge the macula from its usual spot, and their size and number often indicate how severe dry AMD has become. Most people develop very small drusen as they age, but when drusen are numerous or large, dry AMD is usually more advanced, according to the NEI. Changes in the pigment of the retina can also be a sign of the disease. 

Wet AMD (also called neovascular AMD) is relatively rare, occurring in only about 15 percent of all cases, according to the NEI. It develops when abnormal blood vessels grow underneath the retina and leak blood and fluid, causing swelling and damage to the macula. Wet AMD is more serious than dry AMD, and can trigger rapid vision loss. 

AMD has three stages, partially defined by the size and number of drusen beneath the retina. In early-stage AMD, patients have medium-sized drusen, and usually no vision loss. In intermediate AMD, patients have large drusen, pigment changes in the retina, or both, and most people don't experience any vision loss. Late AMD patients have drusen and vision loss, and develop either dry or wet AMD. 

Diagnosis & tests

AMD is suspected in people over 60 who experience recent changes in the center of their field of vision.

Several tests can help confirm the diagnosis, including:

·       Visual acuity test: An eye chart is used to measure the patient's distance vision.

·       Dilated eye exam: The patient's pupils are dilated with eye drops so the optic nerve and retina can be examined using a special magnifying lens, according to the Mayo Clinic. Sometimes a mottled effect is observed, which indicates the presence of drusen.

·       Amsler grid: Patients look at this grid, which resembles a checkerboard with a black dot in the center. If straight lines appear wavy or some lines appear to be missing, AMD is more likely.

·       Angiogram: A special camera takes pictures of the eye after colored dye is injected into an arm vein, which then travels to blood vessels in the eye. AMD may be present if images show blood vessel or retinal irregularities.

·       Tomography: Retinal thinning or thickening associated with AMD can be viewed with this non-invasive imaging test, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Treatments & medication

While a cure for AMD does not yet exist, various treatments are available depending on the type of the disease.

The progression of dry AMD from intermediate to advanced may be slowed by taking a daily high-dose combination of antioxidant vitamins and zinc, according to a study conducted by the NEI. The formulation includes:

·       500 mg of vitamin C

·       400 IU of vitamin E

·       15 mg of beta carotene (often labeled as equivalent to 25,000 IU of vitamin A)

·       80 mg of zinc (as zinc oxide)

·       2 mg of copper (as cupric oxide)

Another NEI study found that replacing beta-carotene with a 5-to-1 mixture of the vitamins lutein and zeaxanthin may help further reduce the risk of developing late AMD, and don't carry the same risk of lung cancer in smokers that beta-carotene can cause.

Wet AMD has three main treatments, not all of which are appropriate for every patient. They include:

·       Laser surgery, which destroys leaky blood vessels behind the retina

·       Injections into the eye with a drug that blocks a growth factor stimulating abnormal blood vessel development

·       Photodynamic therapy, which includes the injection of a light-activated drug into the bloodstream. After the injection, a light is shined into the eye for 90 seconds, causing the drug to destroy new blood vessel growth, according to the NEI.

Several lifestyle changes can help AMD patients cope better with resulting vision loss, according to the Mayo Clinic. These include using magnifying lenses and glasses; adjusting computer font size and brightness level; using adaptive appliances such as clocks and telephones with extra-large numbers; and brightening room light levels.

Additional reporting by Tanya Lewis, Staff Writer

Additional resources

·       For more information about macular degeneration, visit the National Eye Institute website.

·       To learn more about dry AMD and wet AMD, see the Mayo Clinic website.

·       To find out about common eye disorders, including macular degeneration, see the CDC website.


May 6th 2018

Parents want the HPV vaccine for their sons – new research

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a sexually transmitted infection that causes diseases that affect both men and women. In the UK, girls are vaccinated against HPV but boys are not.

There are more than 100 types of HPV. Two of the low risk types (six and 11) cause more than 90% of genital warts. Other high risk types of HPV (especially 16 and 18) can cause cervical, vulval, vaginal, head, neck and throat, anal and penile cancers. While the incidence of cervical cancer in the UK has fallen since the 1990s, thanks to the NHS cervical screening programme, the incidence of those cancers that affect both men and women is on the rise.

More than 80% of sexually active people will be exposed to HPV in their lifetime. Genital HPV infection is spread during sexual intercourse and skin-to-skin contact of the genital areas. Wearing a condom reduces the risk of infection but does not provide complete protection. Once a person has been infected, their immune system will fight the virus and, in most cases, the virus will have no ill effects. But, for some people, the virus will progress to cause warts or cancer.

Since 2008, 12- and 13-year-old girls in most of the UK (11 to 13 in Scotland) have been offered the chance to be vaccinated against HPV via a school-based programme. In a phased rollout from April 2018, men aged 45 or younger who have sex with men will be offered the HPV vaccination in England at sexual health clinics and HIV clinics, bringing England in line with the rest of the UK. But boys are not likely to be offered the HPV vaccine any time soon.

Too little, too late

One rationale for not vaccinating boys is that if enough girls are vaccinated (currently, around 85% of girls have the necessary two doses in England), this provides “herd immunity” to men, meaning that if women don’t have the virus, men will not be able to catch it either.

The main problem with the herd immunity argument, when it is girls rather than boys who are vaccinated, is that it doesn’t provide protection for men who have sex with men, or for men who have sex with unvaccinated women – for example, women from countries without a vaccination programme, or women who are too old to have been eligible for the vaccination.

Men who have sex with men are particularly vulnerable to HPV-related anal cancer. Although they can now opt to have the vaccination, it is too little, too late.

The HPV vaccination is most effective when it is given before exposure to the virus (before sexual activity starts), and also when it is given before puberty, when immune systems are able to provide a stronger antibody response.

Gender-neutral vaccination has wide support among the medical community with professional organisations such as the British Dental Association and The Faculty of Public Health favouring vaccination for both boys and girls.

Survey results

It is not just professionals who want to see the vaccination extended to boys. A recent Wellcome-funded survey of 186 parents of teenage boys in North Staffordshire that we conducted found that many of the parents were not aware of the health consequences of HPV for men. The research, published in PLOS ONE, revealed that once they were provided with this information, however, most parents wanted the vaccine to be available to their sons.

Several countries vaccinate both girls and boys against HPV, including the US, Canada, Austria, Australia and New Zealand. It is unacceptable, as society strives for equality in so many areas, that the UK should not extend the protection afforded by the HPV vaccination to boys as well as girls.


May 5th 2018

Many of us are considering the effects of consuming too much sugar on our long-term health. 

One such effect is increasing our risk of type 2 diabetes, which is now at epidemic proportions, with no signs of slowing down.

Millions of people may have type 2 diabetes but don't know they have it, health officials warn.

Yet few of us know the devastating effects that type 2 diabetes can have on our bodies and our lives including blindness, increased risk of heart attack and foot problems.

And what only a tiny proportion of us know is that type 2 diabetes can seriously affect our sex lives.

A survey carried out by CuraLin Diabetic Supplement on 2,022 Brits found a lack of awareness of some of the more serious consequences of type 2 diabetes – including its effects in the bedroom. Eighty percent of people questioned did not know that type 2 diabetes could lead to erectile dysfunction.

This happens because high blood sugar causes damage to the nerves and blood vessels, decreasing sensitivity and making it more difficult for a man to get an erection. High blood pressure and heart disease, which often accompany diabetes, can also contribute to the problem.

Type 2 diabetes may affect women's sexual function too because the damage it causes to blood vessels can affect blood supply to the vagina and clitoris, causing dryness and reduced arousal along with nerve damage. Both can affect sensitivity, meaning reduced pleasure and difficulty reaching orgasm.

Now, if you're having problems in the bedroom, this doesn't mean you have diabetes. But if you also have other risk factors, such as being overweight, or regularly indulging in sugary foods, it could be worth seeing a doctor to get a check up.

The CuraLin survey also found that over half the people questioned didn't know that type 2 diabetes could lead to heart disease (62 percent), blindness (53 percent) or loss of limbs (54 percent) – all potential consequences of long-term uncontrolled blood sugar.

What are we doing about it?

Lack of awareness aside, the research also found that once diagnosed, Type 2 diabetes sufferers aren't doing enough to manage their disease.

CuraLin's survey revealed that 25 percent of sufferers are not exercising for even 30 minutes a day, despite medical and government advice. Plus, although 75 percent were aware there are natural supplements that could lower blood sugar levels or reverse the condition, only a mere 21 percent take them.

Can we prevent or reverse the effects of type 2 diabetes?

London GP Dr Wendy Denning, emphasises that there is plenty that those suffering with the condition can do to help themselves. 

'There are ways that people can reverse and manage the disease through exercise, diet, sleep and natural supplements,' says Dr Denning. 

'These approaches can be used in conjunction with the medication that your doctor prescribes, which can be reduced as blood sugar decreases.'

5 steps to managing your blood sugar

A healthy diet is key to managing your blood sugar, whether you have type 2 diabetes, or simply think you could be eating too much sugar or refined foods. If you are concerned about the risks, here are five steps you can take to get back in control.

1. Processed foods out, whole foods in

Most processed foods contain refined carbohydrates or added sugars that can quickly spike your blood sugar. Switch away from white breads, pastries and sugary breakfast cereals and move towards whole grains, pulses, vegetables and whole fruit. Aim to prepare meals with fresh ingredients wherever you can.

2. Swap out the sugary snacks and drinks

Go for whole fruits, nuts or seeds, natural yogurt with berries, carrot sticks with hummus, or some nut butter or cream cheese on an oatcake. All of these will help to balance blood sugar by breaking down and releasing their sugars slowly into the blood. Fruit juices are counted as 'sugary drinks' too and should only be an occasional treat.

3. Ramp up the vegetables and protein 

Aim for low-starch vegetables such as green veg or salad vegetables to make up half your plate at each meal. Their fibre helps to keep you fuller for longer and will balance out your blood sugar. They are also low in calories – bonus. (This doesn't include potatoes however, as they're higher in starch.)

A good source of protein with every meal is super-important, too. Protein helps to keep you feeling full and slows down the release of carbohydrates and sugars in the meal. Good sources include lean meats, fish, eggs, natural dairy products such as feta cheese, nuts and seeds – one of these should make up around a quarter of your meal.

Then, the remaining quarter can be a good source of slow-releasing carbohydrates such as brown rice, sweet potato, wholegrain pasta or oatcakes.

4. Be a label detective 

If you are buying pre-packaged foods, watch out for hidden sugars. They can be in everything from cereals, to breads, to sauces, to ready meals, to tinned foods. And they can be under numerous names: glucose, dextrose, honey, syrups and malt are just some of them. Generally, over five grams per hundred grams (five percent) of sugar is considered a high sugar product, so check the levels on the label.

5. Go easy on the booze 

Alcohol can play havoc with your blood sugar too. Long-term drinking can encourage both weight gain and insulin resistance, both of which increase your risk of diabetes. And if you're concerned about sugar sabotaging your sex life, alcohol will only make things worse! Stick to the recommended maximum 14 units a week… or cut it out altogether.

In addition… exercise and a good night's sleep are vital to managing blood sugar and reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes.

May 2nd 2018

Five signs your carbohydrate intake is too low

There’s a scientific reason why many of us naturally gravitate towards delicious foods that are high in carbohydrates.

However, some actively avoid the food group, falsely believing that doing so will benefit their wellbeing.

On the contrary, having too low an intake of carbohydrates can lead to a number of side effects, as outlined by an expert.

Australian dietitian and nutritionist Susie Burrell recently shared the signs that you should look out for if consuming a lower level of carbohydrates than recommended on her website Shape Me.

While including too many carbohydrates in your diet can lead to weight gain, consuming too few can also have its drawbacks.

Here are the signs that you should look out for that your carbohydrate intake is not substantial enough:

You’re not losing weight

A common misconception about carbohydrates is that the less you eat, the more likely you are to lose weight.

However, carbohydrates are necessary in order to sustain your metabolism efficiently.

“If you are consuming less than 80g of total carbs each day but doing a lot of exercise, your carbs will be too low to actually metabolise body fat and your metabolic rate will slow down over time,” Burrell explained.

Burrell suggests adding a piece of fruit, bread or half a cup of whole grains to a meal eaten straight after exercise in order to increase your intake and support your metabolic system.

You feel fatigued

Feeling tired could be a key sign that you’re not including enough carbohydrates in your diet.

Burrell explained that this could be due to an alteration in your blood glucose levels.

“Fluctuating blood glucose levels can result in headaches, and inability to concentrate and a general feeling of lethargy,” she said.

While many may associate eating carbohydrates with feeling sluggish, avoiding them can also reportedly have the same effect.

Sugar cravings

When your body is craving something in particular, this could indicate that you have a deficiency.

This is why after eating a large meal you may still crave sweet treats if your plate of food didn’t contain a beneficial balance of nutrients.

“Regular cravings after a meal may be a sign that your meal does not contain a balance of carbs and proteins that you need for fullness and satisfaction which can result in extreme feelings of hunger,” Burrell said.

“Fluctuating blood glucose levels can also leave you feeling extremely hungry even when you have eaten only an hour or two previously as the body identifies that you have not taken adequate amounts of carbohydrate on board.”

Digestive issues

Foods that are high in carbohydrates are rich sources of dietary fibre, which helps the contents of your gut move along smoothly.

Therefore, eating less carbohydrates than usual can cause you to become constipated, which is never a comfortable state of being.

“When your gut has been used to you consuming these foods regularly, and suddenly finds that it is no longer receiving significant amounts of wheat-based fibres it can significantly impact the total amount of bulk moving through the gut and cause significant reductions in transit time, or the time waste moves through the digestive tract,” Burrell said.

Bad breath

Many may not be aware that a low-carb diet can impact on the smell of your breath.

“When our carbohydrate intake drops below a certain level, the body will make ketones, which is an alternate fuel source for the liver and the brain made from fat stores,” Burrell explained.

“Ketones have a very distinct smell, some of which will be secreted through saliva if you are in ketosis.”

Ketosis is a metabolic state that occurs when your body doesn’t have enough carbohydrates to burn energy.


May 1st 2018

Contact Lens Precautions: Common Mistakes That Can Hurt Your Eyes

Contact lenses can be a blessing in terms of convenience and even aesthetic purposes. While they may seem small and harmless, your contacts require specific care and hygiene routines to avoid a range of problems starting with mild irritation and ending with vision-threatening conditions.

Your eyes are one of the most delicate and sensitive parts of your body after all. Here are five common mistakes you should avoid when using contact lenses:

1. Do not go swimming while wearing them

Wearing your contacts while swimming can irritate your eyes at best. In one of the worst-case scenarios, it may lead to an eye infection which can eventually lead to the development of a corneal ulcer. This can threaten your vision and even cause blindness, requiring a cornea transplant in some cases.

This risk is not just limited to swimming pools either.

"There is a risk of eye infection from bacteria in swimming pool water, hot tubs, lakes and the ocean," statesthe Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It is also recommended that lenses are removed before taking a shower.

2. Do not compromise on storage and cleaning 

Never use anything besides your contact lens disinfecting solution to clean your lenses whenever you remove them. That means no saliva and definitely, no water should be used. Ensure that the contacts are stored in the case with the contact lens solution, and don't forget to change the case every three months at the least. 

Also, avoid the practice of topping off i.e. adding fresh solution to the used solution in your case. Even if it appears clean, the used solution may contain bacteria which will come into direct contact with your eyes and cause a possible infection. 

3. Do not fall asleep while wearing them

Sleeping while wearing your contacts can lead to oxygen deprivation. "It's like having a plastic bag over your head when you sleep," said Dr. Rebecca Taylor, an ophthalmologist in private practice in Nashville, Tennessee. "It's not ideal for oxygen exchange."

Studies have suggested that even occasional overnight use of contacts can significantly increase the risk of corneal inflammation. If you accidentally fall asleep, Dr. Beeran Meghpara, an eye surgeon at Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia recommends removing the lenses as soon as you wake up and wearing glasses to allow your eyes to breathe.

4. Do not put them in after wearing makeup 

For those who wear products such as eyeliner and mascara, remember to put your lenses in before applying makeup and taking them out before removing makeup. This will avoid the possibility of trapping makeup in the lenses. 

In terms of types, waterproof and oil-based makeup are not recommended for contact wearers. There is a risk that the makeup may bind itself to the lenses. And since oil-based products are required for removing waterproof makeup, both types may ultimately cause blurring of vision.

5. Do not wear them when you are sick

Lenses should not be worn if you are suffering from a cold or flu. This particularly applies to sicknesses that affect the eyes by causing redness or puffiness. 

The reason is that your immune system is weakened when you are sick and this can increase the chances of an eye infection, explained Dr. Weslie Hamada, associate director of Professional Affairs at Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, Inc. 


April 30th 2018

The distressing condition that causes children's teeth to rot and crumble

Each day in England, on average, 141 children enter hospital to have rotten teeth removed, usually under general anaesthetic. They may get a day or so off school, but learning phonics and counting in threes is like a trip to Disneyland in comparison with surgery. Dentists say the rot is preventable in 90% of cases, with dietary habits the obvious culprit. But far more befuddling to modern dentistry is what lies behind the decay in those for whom it isn’t preventable.

Many of these children have what is known, uncatchily, as molar-incisor hypomineralisation (MIH), a condition first recognised in the 80s. It means that the outer enamel on certain teeth does not form properly. Some dentists are reporting a rise in the number of cases they’re seeing, but the condition is still poorly understood. Stephen Fayle, a spokesman for the British Society of Paediatric Dentistry (BSPD), regularly sees the condition in his role as a hospital-based consultant in children’s dentistry in Leeds. He says the data available in the UK suggests that 10% of children are affected. “It’s a considerable, commonly presenting condition,” he says.

When it strikes, MIH affects the first four adult molars, which break through at about six years of age. The condition varies in severity, often with just one tooth affected. But at the most extreme end of the spectrum, a tooth will start crumbling soon after it has erupted. Mild cases will merely incur a slight discoloration. The British Dental Association’s scientific adviser Damien Walmsley says: “The enamel is thinner and softer, and more prone to being dissolved away. The surface allows bacteria to hide in the defects, which means these teeth are more prone to decay.” Fluoride treatments, along with strict brushing and dietary regimes, are the only way to save them.

However, as any veteran of the bedtime routine will testify, precision tooth-cleaning inside a six-year-old’s mouth is challenging – especially if they have this condition, which, like bad decay, renders affected teeth extremely sensitive. Dental examinations can be unbearable. “They’re only six or seven and have a limited ability to explain what they’re feeling,” says Fayle. “They just don’t like it, and that tends to make them more phobic.”

Even after much academic study, researchers are little the wiser about what causes MIH. Pollution has been suggested, and links have been drawn with, Fayle says, “problems around birth, breathing problems when children have been little, viral infections such as chickenpox. But none of these factors have come out as strongly or very strongly associated with a child having the condition.” However, it is believed that the primary cause is environmental rather than genetic. These molars are formed at birth and undergo a hardening process over the next two or three years; a process Fayle likens to “constructing a sponge and then pumping concrete into it. Something goes wrong, we believe, in those first two years, when that concrete is being pumped in.”

Dietary deficiencies are unlikely to trigger MIH because you would expect to see a symmetrical effect, whereas this condition has seemingly random coverage. “You can have a tooth on one side that’s perfectly all right and the same tooth on the other side, which developed at exactly the same time, is crumbly.” Even in those with all four affected, one or two will be much worse than the others.

There is an impression, says Fayle, that MIH is a modern disease, but evidence of it has been found in 200- to 300-year-old skeletons. Scandinavian and German researchers have tracked children born in consecutive years, and, rather than charting a steady rise, prevalence goes up and down. “It’s bizarre,” says Fayle. “The worst years had more than twice as many cases as the best years. Nobody can explain that, but it’s almost as if there’s something in the background changing that is making children more susceptible to getting this. It’s a baffling mystery.”

Occasionally, white or yellowish marks also appear on the front adult teeth, but except for rare cases, these only pose a cosmetic problem which, if affecting the child’s wellbeing, can be masked. If a crumbly molar must be removed, all is not lost. “If you get the timing right,” says Fayle, “the second adult molar and wisdom teeth waiting in the gums will usually shunt forwards and take its place.”

But MIH or no MIH, what can parents do to stop the rot? The BSPD is running a “Dental Check by One” campaign, encouraging a dentist visit to check the first teeth as soon as they arrive and ensure parents get the right advice in good time. Dentists believe bad habits start when babies are weaned (12% of children in England have decay at three years). “One of the classic things that parents will do is let children take bottles of milk or juice to bed at night.” At three in the morning, most parents would do anything to get a child back to sleep, but, he says, “once you’ve established that pattern of behaviour, it’s really damaging for the teeth”.

Similarly, letting toddlers carry bottles of juice around all day “is like throwing a bit of petrol on the fire, keeping the decay process going”. Switching to cups instead of bottles and limiting juice to mealtimes helps avoid this. Snacking should be minimised, too, with sweet treats reserved for pudding rather than between meals. “Even things such as crisps that appear to be savoury,” warns Fayle, “stick around your teeth and an enzyme in saliva breaks the starch down to sugar.”

Checking toothpaste has the recommended fluoride levels is also encouraged. For under threes that’s 1000ppm (parts per million), rising to 1350-1500ppm after that. “And the advice now is to spit and not rinse,” says Fayle. By leaving fluoride in your mouth at bedtime, he says, “you’re protecting your teeth and helping them to repair all night”.

Children under three always need an adult to brush for them, but depending on their development, they can start having a go themselves after that. However, it needs to be supervised by the adult up to about age seven, says Fayle.

An exhibition at the Wellcome Collection, Teeth, which opens in London next month, will demonstrate that oral health (just like overall health) has long been a socioeconomic issue. Clare Jones, a lecturer in the history of medicine at the University of Kent, helped put together the exhibition and says: “The north/south divide seems to be particularly stark. In 2012/2013, in north-west England, 33% of five-year-olds had tooth decay, whereas only 20% did in the south-east.” However, her research also highlights how far we have come. “One hundred years earlier, in 1913,” says Jones, “these figures were 80% of children in the north and 60% in the more affluent home counties.”

April 29th 2018

Our local warrior Alfie Evans, sadly died yesterday. May he rest in peace.

Our message to his mother.

You gave him the greatest gift of all. He knew he was loved

April 27th 2018

'Dry drowning' is in the news - here's what you need to know

Ah, summer. The time of year we get to kick back, relax by the pool… and have the media scare us with tales of kids who drown when they’re not even in the water.

This week, a 4-year-old girl from Florida nearly died after having a physical reaction several days after inhaling pool water. Thankfully, the girl's mother remembered a widely publicized news story from last summer in which a 4-year-old boy from Texas died from dry drowning and took her daughter to urgent care — a move that likely saved her life.

But what is dry drowning and how concerned should parents be about it this summer?

To start with, “dry drowning” is not an accepted medical term.

“Readers will find many other terms relating to drowning, such as near drowning, dry drowning, wet drowning and secondary drowning, which are no longer endorsed by medical experts,” Dr. Marc Taub, the director of the emergency department at Saddleback Memorial Medical Center in Laguna Hills, California, tells SheKnows. “Although use of these terms is discouraged, they do bring attention to the potential for serious organ damage or death to occur later after the incident.”

What people refer to as dry drowning is really the delayed inflammatory response to water entering the lungs, Dr. Robert Liou, a pulmonologist at Memorial Medical Center and Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital in Long Beach, California, said.

So here’s what happens: When people swallow water into their lungs, it can cause the vocal cord to close even though the natural response is coughing. Coughing against a closed vocal cord can sometimes lead to inflammation in the lungs, Liou says, causing the lungs to fill up with fluid over the next few days.

“Think of it like the swelling and redness that comes up after a minor paper cut,” he adds.

The buildup of fluid in the lungs can cause the patient to essentially suffocate, Liou explains, because the lungs will not be able to get oxygen into the body because of the swelling.

To complicate matters, there is another condition called secondary drowning, which people frequently refer to as dry drowning according to Liou. That happens when people swallow a lot of water into their lungs, but not enough that would cause them to drown immediately.

“The salt content of pool water/ocean water is usually not to the same as the salt content in the lungs,” Liou explains. “Swallowing a significant amount of salt water/pool water into the lungs could cause a water shift inside the lungs, leading to the lungs being flooded with water due to the difference in salt contents between the lungs and salt/pool water.”

If this happens, oxygen wouldn’t be able to get into the body, leading to respiratory failure and sometimes death, he notes.

Symptoms & treatment

According to Liou, the symptoms of dry drowning include chest tightness, chest pain, shortness of breath, coughing and feeling tired. They typically start to appear between a few hours to 24 hours after the initial exposure to taking in water — although they have been reported up to 10 days after the incident.

“While frightening to consider the possibility of delayed complications, it’s reassuring to know that patients who develop serious problems will generally show warning signs,” Taub notes.

In fact, according to the International Surf Lifesaving Association website, “… there has never been a case published in the medical literature of a patient initially without symptoms who later deteriorates and dies. People who have drowned and have minimal symptoms will either get better or worse within two to three hours.”

“The key is to watch for symptoms and seek medical attention early before things get worse,” Taub adds

If you recognize the symptoms of dry drowning, you should see a health care professional immediately or call 911 if the person is in distress.

And how is dry drowning treated?

“Stabilization of the airway and breathing is the first step,” Liou explains. “In moderate cases, patients may need to be admitted and given oxygen. In severe cases, the patients may need to be placed on a breathing machine until the inflammation and pulmonary edema (water in lungs) resolves.” 

Even though it has been in the news a lot recently, dry drowning and secondary drowning are actually really rare, accounting for about 1 percent of drowning deaths, Liou says.

April 26th 2018

According to figures from Public Health England (PHE), most Brits aren’t getting enough fibre from their diets.

Findings from the latest National Diet and Nutrition Survey reveal that the average Brit consumes 18g of fibre each day, however, this is significantly below the recommended intake of 30g.

So, where are we going wrong? And why does it matter?


Vegan protein from nuts and seeds better for heart health than meat

Fibre is a crucial component to any diet: aiding digestion, preventing constipation and lowering your risk of heart disease, according to the NHS.

It's also associated with a lower risk of stroke, type two diabetes and bowel cancer.

Plus, eating fibre-rich foods can make us feel fuller between meals and could therefore be conducive to sustainable weight loss.

Despite its importance, there are myriad misconceptions surrounding fibre, from how much we need to where we can get it from.

According to Healthista, these are some of the most common myths:

Fibre is best-sourced from cereals and beans

When you hear the word ‘fibre’, the first thing to spring to mind might well be a bowl of dry cereal or breakfast biscuits, items that are often lauded in advertising campaigns for their supposedly high fibre content.

However, such treats are often also loaded up with sugar, subsequently reducing their nutritional value.

Healthier alternatives of fibre-rich foods include whole grains, such as oats and barley, nuts and complex carbohydrates like sweet potato.

It’s tough to ensure children are getting enough

According to the NHS, children between the ages of 11 and 16 need approximately 20g of fibre per day - which is slightly more than what the average British adult consumes.

Given that fibre is typically high in healthier foods that aren’t usually favoured by children, many parents may struggle to ensure their kids are getting enough.

However, there are a number of child-friendly snacks that parents can provide, Singh suggests, such as carrot sticks and wholemeal pitta bread.

There’s only one type of fibre

The terms soluble and insoluble fibre might sound familiar, but what do they actually mean?

While soluble fibre is available in oats, beans and lentils, its insoluble counterpart is available in wheat bran, whole grains and certain vegetables. The former may lower the risk of heart disease while the latter enables food to pass more quickly through the intestines.


Five commonly believed protein myths debunked

Both are of equal importance in terms of supporting the digestive system, however, you don’t needto worry too much about which one you’re consuming as fibre-rich foods will typically contain both.

All fruits and vegetables are good sources of fibre

While all fruits and vegetables contain fibre, some boast a higher content than others.

According to Singh, the best sources include broccoli, peas and kiwi fruits.

Leaving the skin on some produce can also boost fibre content, he added, which can easily be done for root vegetables, cucumbers and radishes.

You’re already eating enough

As the aforementioned data shows, a lot of Brits aren’t getting as much fibre as they should be.

Some easy ways to rectify this, as suggested by Dr Ranj Singh, could be by making a few food swaps.

Switching from cashews to almonds could add 1g to your daily fibre intake, says Singh, while choosing grapes instead of strawberries could almost double your fibre levels.

Other suggestions made by the TV doctor include going from cereal to overnight oats; raisins to dates and apple sticks to carrots.


April 25th 2018

Apioneering prostate treatment which means tens of thousands of men could be spared major surgery has been given the green light.

NHS watchdogs have approved the new technique to treat one of the most common medical complaints facing older men.

Around half of men over the age of 50 suffer from an enlarged prostate, which can reduce bladder capacity, causing repeated night-time trips to the lavatory.

Mild symptoms can be controlled by drugs, but they can cause side-effects such as loss of libido.

Every year, around 45,000 men undergo surgery to treat an enlarged prostate.

But this requires a general anaesthetic, several days in hospital and can damage sexual function and fertility.

The availability of this procedure could make a real difference to the lives of men up and down the countryProfessor Kevin Harris

The new technique, which can be done as a day case, uses tiny plastic beads to block the blood supply and shrink the enlarged gland.

Until now, it was only available as part of research trials.

Now the National Institute for Care and Excellence (Nice) has approved the treatment – called prostate artery embolization – for routine use, after considering its safety and effectiveness.

Surgeons said they hoped it would be available across the country within two years.

Dr Nigel Hacking, who led a study into the effectiveness of the treatment, said it would act as a “bridge” between drugs and surgery, bringing help to tens of thousands of men suffering distressing problems on a daily basis.

He said: “Around half of men over the age of 50 will suffer from an enlarged prostate – and around half of them could benefit from treatment. By the time you get to the age of 80, around 80 per cent of men will suffer from this, so we are talking about a lot of men.”

Traditional surgery cuts away part of the prostate gland, in order to reduce pressure on the bladder.

The new procedure involves injecting hundreds of small plastic beads into a blood vessel in the groin.

Using a thin tube, medics direct the beads towards the prostate and block its blood supply so that it shrinks, alleviating pressure on the bladder.

Experts said the new technique means patients could avoid the risks of a general anaesthetic, surgery or a long stay in hospital, as well as inducing less anxiety in patients.

The procedure is likely to cost the NHS around £2,500 per patient, in line with the costs of surgery, with possible savings from shorter hospital stays.

Professor Kevin Harris, clinical director from Nice’s interventional procedures programme, said the procedure could transform lives, particularly for those not suitable for current forms of treatment.

This is good news for tens of thousands of men who can now have the choice of this therapy alongside drugs or surgeryDr Nigel Hacking

He said: “The advantage of this is you don’t need a general anaesthetic or a spinal anaesthetic. It means treatment is available for men who aren’t fit enough for surgery or for an anaesthetic, it means not having bits of your prostate chipped away, and the risk of bleeding and indeed the risk of an anaesthetic.

“The availability of this procedure could make a real difference to the lives of men up and down the country.”

Currently the treatment is only available at 18 NHS centres, as part of research trials.

Dr Hacking, a consultant interventional radiologist at University Hospital Southampton, said he hoped the go-ahead from Nice would see it offered at around 50 centres within two years.

“This is good news for tens of thousands of men who can now have the choice of this therapy alongside drugs or surgery,” he said.

“Results from the study show prostate artery embolization can help large numbers of men suffering with the symptoms of an enlarged prostate.

“It is a particularly good option for men who are not yet ready to undergo more invasive prostate surgery. Maintaining sexual function and fertility is one of its main strengths,” he added.


April 24th 2018

Coffee in pregnancy ‘raises risk of an overweight child’

Women who drink just two cups of coffee a day while pregnant risk their children being overweight, a study has found.

Babies exposed to moderate or high levels of caffeine in the womb have a higher chance of being overweight in early childhood, the research says.

The findings call into question NHS guidelines which say expectant mothers can safely consume up to two cups of coffee a day.

Researchers looked at the link between caffeine intake during pregnancy and the weights of children up to the age of eight.

Studying 51,000 mother and infant pairs in Norway between 2002 and 2008, they measured the expectant mothers’ daily intake of caffeine – found in chocolate, tea and many soft drinks as well as coffee – at 22 weeks of pregnancy.

More than four in ten were classed as having an average caffeine intake, consuming the equivalent of up to two cups of coffee a day, while 7 per cent were classed as high intake (up to three cups) and 3 per cent were considered to have a ‘very high’ intake (three or more cups). Just under half of the mothers-to-be were classified as low caffeine intake, consuming the equivalent of half a cup of coffee.

Their children’s weight and height were then measured at six weeks old, at three, six, eight, 12 and 18 months old, and then at two years and every year up to age eight. Those whose mothers had been classed as average caffeine consumers were 15 per cent more likely to be heavier – but not taller – than those whose mothers avoided caffeine, the researchers found. This correlation grew to 30 per cent among the children of high caffeine consumers, and 66 per cent among the children of very high consumers, according to the study in medical journal BMJ Open.

Children of very high caffeine consumers weighed up to three ounces more between three and 12 months, rising to a pound more at age eight.

But Professor Jean Golding, of the University of Bristol, said: ‘It will be important to determine whether any effects of high maternal caffeine intake are apparent at later ages, or … confined to the pre-puberty ages.’

How a tipple can make PMS worse 

The cramps, mood swings and bloating are enough to make any woman reach for a glass of wine. But if you have ever been tempted to soothe premenstrual syndrome (PMS) with a tipple, you may want to think again.

Drinking even moderate amounts of alcohol has been linked to an increased risk of getting symptoms.

At least one in five cases of PMS in Europe could be the result of alcohol intake, which researchers believe could alter hormone levels during the monthly cycle. It is known female hormone oestrogen has an effect on pain levels. British and Spanish researchers found women who regularly consumed one unit a day – less than a 175ml glass of wine – were nearly 50 per cent more likely to suffer symptoms than those who do not drink at all. This rose to 79 per cent in those who drank a couple of small glasses a day.

Professor Hazel Inskip, of the University of Southampton, said: ‘If you have PMS, it might be worth cutting down the alcohol to see if it has an effect.’ The study, published in BMJ Open, examined data from 19 studies involving 47,000 participants. 


April 23rd 2018

Crohn's disease: What are the symptoms and is there a cure?

After seeing the toll that Crohn’s disease has taken on Dynamo, forcing the magician to put his career temporarily on hold, interest surrounding the incurable illness has surged, but what exactly is it?

A form of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), Crohn’s is a chronic condition that causes inflammation in the digestive system, leaving sufferers with myriad symptoms that can severely inhibit their daily lives if not treated with the right medications.

According to Crohn’s and Colitis UK, there are at least 300,000 Britons diagnosed with an IBD - another common form is Ulcerative Colitis - and while symptoms are treatable, there are currently no known cures.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms vary but can include diarrhoea, extreme fatigue and severe pain. They usually begin in childhood or early adulthood, according to the NHS.

In some cases, such as Dynamo’s, medications for Crohn’s can cause additional side effects, such as weight gain and arthritis.

So long as symptoms are controlled with appropriate medications, living with Crohn’s can be manageable.

However, symptoms can flare-up at sporadic intervals which can subsequently affect your work and social life.

How is it treated?

While the illness is currently incurable, it is often treated via medications designed to reduce inflammation in the digestive system, such as steroids.


— Dynamo (@Dynamomagician) March 26, 2018

Sometimes surgical action is necessary to remove a small part of the digestive system.

What is the cause?

The exact cause of Crohn’s is currently unknown, however, medical professionals speculate that contraction might have something to do with genetics or a defect in the immune system.

In terms of lifestyle choices, the NHS website states that smoking might also have a role to play, however, there is no evidence to suggest that a specific diet can cause the condition.

How is it diagnosed?

If you are experiencing symptoms such as prolonged diarrhoea, frequent stomach aches and unexpected weight loss, you are strongly advised to see a GP, who will be able to conduct tests to check for Crohn’s.

However, due to symptoms being similar to a plethora of other medical conditions, diagnosis for Crohn’s can be difficult and often delayed.

Therefore, suspected sufferers who visit their GP may also be referred to a gastroenterologist who may then conduct a number of additional specialist tests such as an MRI scan, a colonoscopy and/or a biopsy - in which small pieces of the bowel are removed and subsequently examined.

April 21st 2018

A daily shower isn't necessary, experts say

Bathing every day could increase people's risk of infections, experts warn.

Showering excessively can reduce skin hydration, causing it to become dry and cracked, which allows germs to enter, according to infectious-disease expert Dr Elaine Larson from Columbia University.

She adds most people bathe in the belief it will reduce their risk of illness, however, it actually does little more than remove body odour.

Dr C Brandon Mitchell, assistant professor of dermatology at George Washington University, adds washing strips the skin of its natural oils, which can disrupt 'good' bacteria that supports people's immune systems.

According to Dr Mitchell, bathing just once or twice a week is usually sufficient for most, adding: 'A daily shower isn’t necessary.' 

'Most people over-bathe' 

Dr Mitchell told TIME: 'Your body is naturally a well-oiled machine. I think most people over-bathe.'

He urges people who wish to shower daily to only do so if their skin feels healthy and hydrated.

Dr Mitchell also recommends people do not lather their entire bodies with soap but just focus on smelly areas, such as their armpits or feet.

He even adds those with dry hair only need to wash it every few weeks, while people with scalp issues, like dandruff, may benefit from shampooing a couple of times a week.

Dr Larson says people should focus on washing their hands frequently, as well as cleaning their clothes, which collect dead skin cells, to reduce their risk of illness. 

Cleaning destroys 'good' bacteria that support immune systems 

A study released in January last year suggested over-cleaning can damage the healthy bacteria, viruses and other 'bugs' that live in and on people's bodies.

Researchers from the University of Utah analysed the residents of a remote village in the Amazon. 

Results suggest such people have 'the highest diversity of bacteria and genetic functions ever reported in a human group'.

The scientists concluded westerners are overly clean, which affects their populations of microbes.

They did not comment on how often people should be bathing. 

April 20th 2018

MS in 2018

I’m pretty sure most of you won’t have given it much thought when you got out of bed this morning. You were confident that your feet would feel the floor, your legs would take the weight of your body as you stood up and the room would stay still as you moved. You felt assured that your hands would feel the cup and be strong enough to lift the kettle to make your morning cuppa and you knew you would have the energy to carry out your plans for the day. No worries.

But what if it wasn’t like that? What if every morning when you woke up you didn’t know how your body would behave? Which bits would work? Which bits you could trust? Whether you would be able to see clearly or move safely? Whether there would be pain or numbness? And whether you would have the energy to have a shower never mind anything else? This is how life with multiple sclerosis (MS) can be. Unpredictable!

MS is a neurological condition where the body’s immune system attacks the outer lining of the nerves (myelin). The damage causes disruption to the messages getting through from the brain (picture an electrical cable with damage to the plastic casing so you can see the bare wires and the current misfires). The disruption to the message getting through causes a whole host of symptoms; numbness, pain, muscle spasms, vision issues, problems with balance and fatigue to name but a few. There are different types too. Relapsing Remitting (RR) is the most common one, where you have periods of new or worsening symptoms followed by times where they get better, but after each relapse you never quite get back to as good as you were before. There are also progressive types where there are no remissions. Secondary Progressive (SP) can develop after 10-15 years of Relapsing Remitting and Primary Progressive is a progressive form with no periods of remission from the outset. And even within those categories everyone’s experience of MS is different. The list of symptoms associated with MS is huge (well the nervous system does a lot of important stuff!) and fortunately no one has them all, but each person will have a unique combination of symptoms to them. There are an ever increasing array of treatment options available for RRMS, but less so for the progressive types.

I’ve had MS for over 20 years. It started in my early 20s as RRMS and became SPMS about three years ago. It began with a tremor in my right hand, a numb left foot and being tired more than usual, but I’d recently left university, moved to London and started a new job so I thought I was bound to be a bit run down. The odd sensations came and went along with patches of pins and needles and numbness. In fact I did start to wonder if I was imagining it! Then I had pain and change in vision in one eye and that seemed to be a game changer. A referral to hospital and tests eventually confirmed it was MS, but it took a couple of years to finally get a diagnosis. Back in those days there were no treatments. Some drugs had been approved, but the government’s regulator, NICE, said they were too expensive. Eventually they were made available and I started treatment and it did seem to help reduce the relapse rate but the side effects were horrible and then it stopped working. By the time new drugs were approved my MS type had changed and I was no longer eligible for these treatments.

So now every day is unpredictable. I’m never quite sure how my body is going to behave. Sometimes the numbness covers great swathes of my body, other times it might just be a foot or a hand. Fatigue is a constant, unwelcome companion; it can be managed to a certain extent but it can come on suddenly and without warning. It’s not just being tired, it’s like the worst hangover and the worst jet lag rolled into one, meaning that even thinking is hard work, never mind moving! Pain is a relatively new symptom for me, but it is neuropathic (nerve) pain, which means it does not respond to ordinary painkillers and the painkillers available have horrible side effects, so I have been reluctant to try them so far.

To manage my condition I have adapted my life to accommodate my limitations. I walk with a stick outside and use a mobility scooter for longer distances. I had to leave my previous job but now do some voluntary work, which I can adapt according to my needs. It’s not quite how I envisaged my life as a forty something woman but I had to swallow my pride, and if these adaptations mean I can do more, especially as a mum, then it’s worth it.


April 19th 2018

'Why I'm dreading this week's sunny weather'

Last week I woke up and there were small splatters of dried blood on my sheets, the tip of my third finger on my left hand was raw and there was dried blood under my fingernails. I’d scratched my hands to pieces in my sleep.

I’ve had eczema since I was a baby. I was in and out of the doctors when I was young and tried all the various creams, ointments and emollients but to little avail.

I hated the process of putting cream on every day and to be honest, I wasn’t very good at it. My doctor told me it was likely I would grow out of it when I became an adult, but it is yet to happen.

I get patches all over my hands, the backs of my knees, in my elbows and occasionally other spots, including my face.

It’s partly why the news that a heatwave would be coming this week filled me with dread. Don’t get me wrong, I love the sun, blue skies and finally the feel of spring in the air. What I hate is the warmth, the heat; the need to put on my summer clothes or overheat like a scabby car.

I have all the usual body hang-ups that women tend to have when living in a patriarchal society with particular beauty standards. Are my thighs too big? Does my tummy stick out too far? Is my hair glossy enough? But my eczema particularly gets to me.

When a flare-up is at its worst my skin is flaky, red raw, sometimes it oozes. It bleeds, makes it hard to bend my fingers, it hurts. It’s 'ugly'. The last thing I want to do is throw on a pair of shorts or a sleeveless top and bask in the sunlight. I hide my hands under tables, in my pockets or by clutching my phone. I wear black tights until the last possible moment and then swap to loose skirts that fall just below my knees.

As an adult I’ve tried a lot of things to try and shift it. Coconut oil, E45, Nivea, hydrocortisone creams, steroid creams. I’ve cut out some dairy products – but not for long, as it didn’t make a difference for me. I’ve tried slathering my hands in creams that do work – Aveeno is good for me when I’m not flaring and at the moment I’m trialling Child’s Farm moisturiser, which has had rave reviews – and wearing cotton gloves over the top to bed.

I long for smooth, silky skin. Like the women in the adverts for overpriced and overgendered razors. I’d love to grow my nails long and not have to worry about shredding my hands to ribbons in my sleep. I’d love to wear short shorts, show off my thighs and not worry whether people are looking at my sore knees, wondering what’s wrong with my skin.

I’d love to have a go at fake tan, get it streaky and have that be the reason I don’t want to get my legs out. I’d love to hold my boyfriend’s hand for more than 10 seconds before the sting of our slightly clammy hands hurts a little bit too much.

I’m trying new prescription creams after visiting the doctor this week again for my skin. I’m hoping against hope it’ll start to clear up in time for the sunny weather. If it does, I’ll be the one running around London, shorts on, nails done, longing for everyone to see.


April 18th 2018

Breakthrough migraine drug works where other treatments have failed

A new migraine treatment, the first for 20 years, could halve the number of debilitating attacks suffered by patients who have exhausted all other treatments.

Last year a major clinical trial showed weekly injections of the drug, erenumab, resulted in sufferers having three to four fewer “migraine days” per month.

The latest study looked at patients who were the most difficult to treat and have tried as many as four different types of preventative treatments to control their attacks.

Participants had nine migraines a month, on average, but after receiving the drug more than a third saw this number fall by half.

The drug works by targeting and blocking a pain-signalling molecule in the brain called calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP).

The success of erenumab, one of the first therapies designed to tackle migraines rather than being repurposed from an existing treatment, could be a lifeline for the 8.5 million migraine sufferers in the UK in future.

An estimated 200,000 people a day experience the neurological attacks, which can cause blinding headaches, nausea and even visual hallucinations, and cost the UK economy £2bn a year through absences.

“The people we included in our study were considered more difficult to treat, meaning that up to four other preventative treatments hadn’t worked for them,” said the trial leader Dr Uwe Reuter, from Charite-University Medicine Berlin in Germany.

“Our study found that erenumab reduced the average number of monthly migraine headaches by more than 50 per cent for nearly a third of study participants.

“That reduction in migraine headache frequency can greatly improve a person’s quality of life.”

Episodic migraine sufferers can experience as many as 14 attacks a month lasting from four hours to three days.

For the Phase III trial, 246 migraine sufferers were given injections of erenumab or a dummy placebo drug once a month for three months.

Of the participants, 39 per cent had been treated unsuccessfully with two other medications, 38 per cent with three medications and 23 per cent with four medications.

The findings, presented on Tuesday at the American Academy of Neurology Annual Meeting 2018, were only from a three month trial but add to evidence that the drug can help patients without other options.

This could help make the case for it one day being funded on the NHS, however erenumab, marketed by the global drug company Novartis under the brand name Aimovig, is not yet licensed for use in the UK.

Dr Mark Toms, chief scientific officer at Novartis UK, said: “There has been no real advancement in migraine treatment for the past 20 years and we’re proud to be breaking new ground in neurology for the millions of people in the UK living with the painful and disruptive symptoms of migraine.

“Whilst these data further reinforce erenumab’s efficacy and safety profile it also highlights the clear unmet need that exists for targeted migraine prophylactic treatment and we are committed to working closely with the relevant regulatory bodies to make erenumab available to those that need it as soon as possible.”


April 16th 2018

How controlling your gut bacteria could help you avoid a host of illnesses

Ever had a funny feeling in your stomach that tells you something is wrong? Or butterflies in your tummy when nervous? What about that bout of indigestion after snacking on cheese before bedtime?

Your digestive system churns out all sorts of signals, many of them not very welcome.

But they could hold the secret to a healthier life. And one day, as medical science advances, the contents of your gut could save your life.

The 10 trillion or so micro-organisms living there work hard to digest food, control the immune system, produce vitamins and protect you from disease-causing bacteria.

Now experts have developed a DIY test which examines the bacteria in your faeces – known as microbiome – and can predict diseases you are at risk of.

After your poo is analysed it rates conditions you are at risk of on a scale of low, moderate, average, increased and high.

The results mean you can improve or change your diet and lifestyle to ward of diseases.

To see what it was all about I tried out the Listen to Your Gut microbiome test by genetic specialists Atlas Biomed.

I just sent my sample off to their laboratory and two months later I had my results.

Even though my body mass index is in the normal range, the test showed that I was at increased risk of Type 2 diabetes, so it was time to stop skipping proper meals for late-night chocolate and rubbish snacks.

It also revealed I have an average risk of the bowel conditions ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s.

But it also picked up a moderate chance of hardening of the arteries – a condition which runs in the family. It turns out I’m also lacking most of the B vitamins and Vitamin K.

This was all good information and a useful wake-up call to start eating more healthily. But how can they tell all that from a simple poo sample?

Scientists have discovered that the microbiome plays such a key role in our health – protecting us from inflammation and bacteria which cause infectious diseases – that it is now considered a separate organ. Feed it the right food and it will flourish, guarding us against illness.

As experts investigate this new field, they have found the tiny organisms in our gut influence everything from mood to weight.

The microbes affect how we feel by controlling the amount of energy extracted from food and how much our blood sugar rises after eating.

It’s been found that having high levels of the bacteria called Christensenellaceae is associated with being slim.

Certain other strains of bacteria have been linked to disorders such as asthma, eczema, cancer and even Parkinson’s disease.

In the not-too-distant future, faecal transplants from healthy donors could become commonplace. Scientists in the Netherlands last year found that a healthy gut can protect you from nearly all age-related diseases including strokes, dementia and heart disease.

So does analysing our microbiome provide us with a crystal ball when it comes to health?

“It’s different than that,” according to Sergey Musienko of Atlas Biomed, which carried out my test. “It’s accurate because it’s based on science.

“We’ve come to understand how important microbiome are for our body to work, and to keep it healthy we have to consume the right fibres.

“When we analyse a sample we look at the DNA of the bacteria that lives inside it.

“Specific types of bacteria are linked to specific conditions and we can identify them using the scientific knowledge we have.

“We compare the composition of your bacteria with the known types of people who suffer from certain conditions and that is how we are able to say how close on the way to a disease you are.”

One British scientist is leading the UK in the exploration of gut microbiome.

Tim Spector, a leading expert and professor of genetic epidemiology at Kin’gs College in London, says that one day bacteria could be manipulated to overcome illnesses such as irritable bowel syndrome and even obesity.

The good news is we can change the make-up of our microbiome simply by improving our diets.

I was advised to boost my gut flora and ward off Crohn’s disease by eating more dietary fibre and foods such as flaxseed, bananas, figs, chick-peas, lentils, tomatoes, apricots and porridge.

Feeding our gut with essential vitamins and minerals ensures our bodies can fight inflammation and sickness.

It appears you are not just what you eat – but also what you excrete.

How to do the test

It’s not pretty, I’m afraid. The sealed box from genetic specialist firm Atlas Biomed dropped through my letterbox. Inside were full instructions, several pieces of robust, thick paper, a spatula and a large test tube.

First I had to deposit a poo sample in a paper contraption placed over the toilet. Then I had to scoop up a small amount of the sample with the spatula and get it in the test tube without getting any on my hands.

To be fair, gloves were provided but I didn’t read the full instructions before proceeding. And by the time I realised I needed more information they’d fallen off the bathroom cabinet on to the floor and my hands were, ahem, full.

Finally I had to mix the sample with the liquid already in the tube and pack it back in the box ready for posting.

It can take up to two months for the results to come back but it’s well worth the wait.

Keep your gut healthy

Eat more fibre. It not only nourishes your microbes but makes them more diverse which can keep you slim. Swap processed foods with “added fibre” for fruits, vegetables and whole grains instead.

Go for foods which contain prebiotics, the non-digestible part of foods. Plants like garlic and leeks and fruit like bananas (not too ripe) are packed with prebiotics which boost gut flora.

Fertilise your microbiome with probiotic food, which contain live beneficial bacteria. Yoghurt, kefir, miso and sauerkraut are all fermented foods which help your flora. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine reported that people who eat yoghurt regularly lost weight.

Starve your stomach of sugar: Scientists believe bad bacteria feed off sugar. When you get too many calories from sugar you starve your microbes of good stuff. Try nuts or an apple instead.

Get moving: People who exercise have more diverse microbes. A study of Irish rugby players showed they had higher levels of a bacteria called Akkermansiaceae which has been linked to lower obesity rates.

April 10th 2018

This is exactly how much water you need to drink in a day

Although you may prefer wine, water makes up roughly 60 percent of your body, where it seriously pulls its weight: it helps transport nutrients to your cells, moves waste out of your body, and plays an important role in respiration and energy metabolism, according to the National Academy of Sciences's Institute of Medicine. 

The thing is, you lose liquid when you breathe, go to the bathroom, and sweat – bad news if you don't replace it.

'Dehydration is damaging to our tissues and decreases our blood volume, which can reduce blood flow to vital organs,' says Dr Irwin Rosenberg, M.D., Senior Scientist at Tufts University's Neuroscience and Aging Laboratory. It's why even mild dehydration can trigger headaches, darken urine, and cause mouth dryness, says Melissa Majumdar, a registered dietitian at the Center for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery with Brigham Health and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Drink too little – or too much – and you can throw off your body's concentration of electrolytes, a mix of minerals such as sodium that enable nerves to send messages throughout the body for proper functioning, according to MedlinePlus.

Good news: it's not hard to get your hydration levels just right:

How to Calculate Your Daily Fluid Needs

Most adult women need 11 cups of fluid per day, while most men require about 15 cups – but it largely depends on your body weight and activity levels, says Majumdar.

If you want to get technical, she says you can estimate how many fluid ounces to drink each day by multiplying your body weight in pounds by .5 or, if you plan to exercise or spend time in extreme heat or cold, use .66. Remember: there are 8 fluid ounces in one cup.

When to Step Up Your Hydration Game

Climate and altitude can affect how much fluid you need, according to the Institute of Medicine: in the heat, your body loses more water and electrolytes through sweating, which evaporates to keep you cool. And in cold temperatures or at high altitudes, you lose extra water every time you exhale. To prevent dehydration in these scenarios, Majumdar recommends keeping a water bottle on hand at all times, and refill it regularly. 'The best way to hydrate is to sip small amounts consistently throughout the day so your body can absorb the water more efficiently,' she says.

Sickness can also affect your body's fluid balance: Your body expels a lot of water when you vomit or have diarrhoea, according to the Centers for Disease Control. To recover, they recommend sipping on broth or a sports drink, which, unlike water, contains restorative electrolytes.

How to Tell Whether You're Drinking Enough

You don't need to count cups – just listen to your body: 'Our systems are built to tell us when we're thirsty,' Dr. Rosenberg says. The first sign you're behind on fluid intake is a decrease in saliva, which kicks in when you're two cups short of being hydrated and leads to dryness in the mouth, according to Majumdar. Drinking that much fluid can bring you back to baseline, she says.

To check whether you're sipping enough throughout the day, glance in the toilet after you pee, suggests Dr. Rosenberg. 'If it's light yellow it means you're hydrated and your system is working well,' he says You don't need to count cups but look out for dark urine, which means your body is so short on water that it's holding on to what it's got.

Which Liquids Count?

If you can't stand the taste of plain old water, which is ideal since it contains no added sugars, according to Majumdar, milk, plus sugar-free options like fruit-infused or carbonated water can count toward your hydration goals.

Despite myths you might have heard, caffeinated drinks are just like other fluids: they only increase your urge to pee without causing your body to release extra fluids, Majumdar says – meaning coffee and tea work as well as water.

While cow's milk and unsweetened alternatives can also hydrate you, OD-ing on flavoured milk alternatives, regular soda, and fruit juice, which can be high in sugar, can increase your risk of developing type-2 diabetes, heart disease, kidney diseases, non-alcoholic liver disease, not to mention tooth decay and cavities, according to the Centers for Disease Control – so it's best to sip them in moderation.

The same goes for alcohol: although there's evidence that beer can be as beneficial as sports drinks after exercise, alcohol generally inhibits the release of a hormone that helps you retain water, so you expel more liquid than you've consumed when you imbibe, according to research featured in the medical journal, Alcohol Health and Research World. 

Yes, You Can Eat Your Water, Too

Water from food is absorbed by the gastrointestinal tract – just like the water you drink, according to the Institute of Medicine – one reason why the average person get about 20 percent of the fluid they consume from foods, according to Majumdar.

Fruits and veggies, like melon, strawberries, cabbage, celery, and spinach, are particularly hydrating thanks to their high water content – but even pasta and ice cream contain enough water to quench your thirst, according to the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference.

When to Worry About Over-Hydrating

While dehydration is way more common than ODing, drinking too much water can dilute the blood and trigger hyponatremia, or abnormally low sodium levels. This can cause nausea and vomiting, headaches, fatigue, muscle weakness, and cramping, and, in extreme cases, a seizure or coma, according to the Mayo Clinic. In a majority of cases, Majumdar says, this only affects endurance athletes such as marathoners who rehydrate with water (no electrolytes) – but the solve is pretty simple. 'If you're working out for more than an hour, drink a sports drink, which helps you retain water and keep your sodium levels up,' she says. Otherwise, no worries – unless you really, really wish your water was wine.

April 9th 2018

Insomnia diaries: 'When alarm goes off I feel like crying'

“I never feel that refreshed feeling you want out of a night’s sleep. I can’t even remember what that feels like,” says Sophie Eggleton, from Surrey. “Often I’m already awake when the alarm goes off, and it only serves as a reminder that I’ve managed to get through another night without falling asleep, and it’s now time to crawl out of bed and shower.”

Having suffered sleepless nights for more than a decade, Sophie is among the 10% of the population who suffer from chronic insomnia, while around 30% of us will experience insomnia for a shorter period at some point in our lives. 

According to psychologist Dr Vikki Powel, a Counselling Directory member, while we all have periods of poor or disturbed sleep, insomnia refers to regular difficulty with getting to sleep, which can include waking after initially falling asleep. “For a clinical diagnosis of insomnia, individuals typically experience these symptoms three times a week, and for six months or more,” she tells HuffPost UK. “A brief period of sleep difficulty can be a very normal response to a particularly distressing - or exciting - period or event in your life. But insomnia is when your body does not return to normal after this period, or events that disturb sleep pattern are prolonged.”

At its worst, insomnia can be debilitating, causing extreme fatigue and preventing sufferers from completing basic daily activities, which often leads to distress. For Sophie, this includes memory loss, such as forgetting people’s names. “There’s also been plenty of times I’ve worn clothes inside out and strangers on the tube have let me know,” she says. “I’ve put my debit card pin code into microwave. I’m always extremely clumsy and dropping things which always drives partners and family members mad - they often mutter ’what’s the matter with you?’ as I spill, trip over, drop and crash things.”


The causes of insomnia can vary from stress and anxiety, noise, an uncomfortable bed, shift work, caffeine, an underlying health condition or a combination of factors. In fact, Dr Powel says one of the most frustrating things about insomnia for many sufferers is that they struggle to pin point the cause. This is the case for Sophie, who doesn’t know exactly what started her sleepless nights, but noticed they worsened during a period of stress.

“It was a combination of all the negative and worrisome voices in my head, heart palpitations as a result of anxiety, and bad IBS, that would ensure I would get very little, if any sleep,” she says.

As a freelance presenter, blogger and YouTuber, Sophie is often juggling multiple work commitments, which can be challenging when she’s experiencing extreme tiredness. She “beats herself up” when she feels she hasn’t completed a job to the best of her ability. 

“This week has been one of those weeks where I’ve felt completely hopeless about my situation, and have been on the verge of tears the whole time. When you’re tired your ability to cope crumbles, and then you feel angry at yourself for being such an emotional wreck. It’s an endless domino effect,” she says. “I hate letting other people down, or giving them the impression I can’t cope.”

Almara Abgarian, 25, experiences insomnia “off and on” and, like Sophie, says it has affected her work life in the past. “When I worked the usual nine to five life and the insomnia was very bad, I’d stay up until 3-4am. When the alarm went off at 6am, I felt like crying. I’ve always been a motivated person and worked a lot of jobs with long hours, but I don’t function very well on no sleep. I was exhausted and cranky,” she explains. 

Now, Almara, from London, works as a freelance journalist and PR consultant and the flexibility of being her own boss has taken some of the pressure off from sleeping. However, she still has periods of troubled sleep, which she believes are linked to the anxiety she feels about not getting sleep. “It’s a vicious circle,” she explains. “I feel anger with myself about not being able to sleep. I remember one night back in 2015, my ex-boyfriend had to calm me down in the middle of the night because I was so exhausted and sleep-deprived, I couldn’t stop crying.”

When her insomnia was at its worst, Almara felt nauseous because of the lack of sleep and as a result, wasn’t able to eat properly because she “just wasn’t in the mood for food”. Almara admits she wasn’t “pleasant to be around” during this time, which is something Louise Waters, from Brighton, can relate to.

The 51-year-old, who runs a PR consultancy, has never been a heavy sleeper, but started suffering with insomnia when she was expecting twins 14 years ago. “Once they were born, my sleep was so disrupted I’ve never been able to sleep properly since,” she says. “I wake up most mornings at around 3am and lie awake for at least an hour - sometimes longer- before being able to go back to sleep. My poor family can sometimes get the brunt of it as I can be really irritable for no good reason.”

Louise is yet to find a method that consistently helps her insomnia, but says reading a read a book until she drops off again sometimes helps. Meanwhile Almara finds wearing earplugs at night and making time to go to the gym in the evening helps. For Sophie, meditation coupled with lavender pillow sprays can sometimes ease the stress and anxiety she believes are the root cause of her insomnia. 

For those struggling with insomnia, Dr Vikki Powel shares these tips:

Accept that we all have individual variations in our sleep need and sleep drive – tune in to yours, are you better sleeping early or later, how much do you need to feel restored?

Know that it is a normal pattern of sleep to wake briefly four-five times in the night, typically after the repeating pattern of light sleep, deeper sleep, REM sleep. This cycle repeats approximately every 90 minutes.

Reduce stimulation from screen time, food, alcohol and caffeine. Exercise regularly and develop a robust ‘wind down’ routine for the hour before trying to sleep.

Increase conditions for good sleep (often referred to as sleep hygiene) – these include having bedroom that is dark enough (get black out blinds), warm enough but not overly warm, protected from outside noises and buying sufficient pillows. This can extend to managing disturbance factors from partners, i.e. ear plugs or an eye mask if partner snores or reads.

Increase your relaxation, which can be helped through mindfulness, meditation, gentle music, and diaphragm breathing.

Allow yourself time before starting ‘wind down’ to write a list of worries or actions that may otherwise play on your mind. 

Focus on sleep quality vs quantity.

If your insomnia is no longer attributable to a trigger event (which can range from a long-haul flight to a traumatic life event), seek help from a sleep specialist. 

or go here to find a natural remedy


April 1st 2018

Three cups of coffee a day clears out your arteries, study finds

Three cups of coffee a day clears out your arteries and could help beat heart disease, according to a new study.

Scientists at the University of Sao Paulo took dietary information and Coronary Artery Calcium (CAC) readings from more than 4,400 study participants, nearly all of whom drank coffee .

They found those who drank larger amounts of coffee had a lower CAC reading - meaning they had less calcium deposits in their arteries allowing for better blood flow.

However, researchers suggested to limit the intake to three cups a day because any more can be harmful.

“Other studies have already shown that excessive consumption of this beverage may not bring health benefits,” the study author, Andreia Miranda, said. “In our research, we found that habitual consumption of more than three cups a day of coffee decreased odds of coronary calcification.”

The study was published in Journal of the American Heart Association.

It’s not known yet why coffee is so good for the heart, although scientists believe the antioxidant plant compounds in coffee may be responsible for some of the benefits.

For example, decaffeinated coffee has a similar impact to the standard version, suggesting the caffeine is not responsible for health benefits.

The European Food Safety Agency suggests adults should not have more than 400mg of caffeine a day - roughly about four cups of coffee.

Officials have warned that those who flout the limits run the risk of a host of health problems, from anxiety to heart failure. Meanwhile, the NHS has warned that drinking too much caffeine can lead to miscarriages and birth defects.

March 27th 2018

Alert for parents to look out for scarlet fever after disease hits 50-year high

Scarlet fever has reached its highest rates in half a century.

There have been 11,981 cases of the bacterial infection in the past 24 weeks – compared with an average 4,480 during the same period for the past five years.

Parents are being urged to consult their GP if their child has symptoms including a pink-red rash, a sore throat , headache and fever.

The majority of cases, 89%, have been reported in under-10s.

Dr Theresa Lamagni, of Public Health England, said: “Whilst current rates are nowhere near those seen in the early 1900s, the magnitude of the recent upsurge is greater than any documented in the last century.”

Experts said the once deadly illness is not usually serious if treated.

The last time rates were this high was 1967, with 19,305 for the year.

Scarlet fever is typically spread by coughing and sneezing. Cases have been rising since 2014.

The reason is not known but experts have blamed a fall in living standards for some.

March 26th 2018

Six types of stomach pains and what they could mean

Whether you're dealing with a casual case of indigestion or you're suffering with something a bit more serious, tummy pains offer an insight into what's going on inside our bodies and should never be ignored - no matter how manageable. 

Here, we look at six of the most common stomach issues with the help of Dr Luke Powles, lead physician at Bupa Health Clinics.

Complaint: Pain in the upper abdominal area

What to do: Pain in the upper abdominal area is usually related to issues with acids in the diet, so antacids should help and eventually the pain should pass, Dr Powles says.

When to worry: If the pains persist, it could be linked to more serious conditions in the stomach, heart, lungs, aorta and other organs. 'If it doesn't settle down after a few days, or if antacids don't seem to work, see a doctor,' Dr Powles recommends.

Complaint: Bloating and gas alongside tummy pains

What to do: Bloating is an extremely common complaint when it comes to tummy pains and it could be linked to something you're eating. 'Certain foods can cause pain, discomfort or a bloated feeling,' confirms Dr Powles. 'Avoid rich, fatty foods and see if that helps.'

When to worry: If you're struggling to find the culprit, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) could be to blame. It's best to see your GP, who may put you on a FODMAP diet to help identify potential triggers.

Complaint: Pain in the upper abdominal area and chest after eating

What to do: Finished your dinner only to be left with pain and discomfort in the abdomen and chest? It's happened to the best of us, and is most likely to be caused by the speed at which we're scoffing our food. 'People can get this if they've eaten too quickly or if they've eaten something that's greasy and heavy, especially if they aren't used to those kinds of foods,' explains Dr Powles.

Digestive issues such as this can often be resolved with over-the-counter remedies which you can ask your pharmacist for advice on.

When to worry: This food coma feeling, although common, can also be confused with a food intolerance or IBS. 'It's a good idea to keep a food diary to spot any patterns, or groups of foods that affect you,' advises Dr Powles. Take this food diary with you when you go to see your GP so that you can identify the cause together.

Complaint: Pain in the lower abdominal area

What to do: Lower abdominal pain is incredibly common, and for women it is often linked to the menstrual cycle. If you suffer from period pains particularly badly, Dr Powles has a few ways to help relieve the pain (aside from painkillers).'Gentle exercises like walking or swimming may help, or putting a hot water bottle on your stomach,' he says.

When to worry: That being said, do keep a watchful eye out for severe pain in the lower abdominal area if it comes on quickly. 'This could be a symptom of appendicitis, so keep medical advice immediately,' Dr Powles urges. The pain will usually begin in the middle of the abdomen, however, and may come and go initially. 'Within a few hours, the pain typically travels to the lower right-hand side and becomes constant and severe.'

Complaint: Abdominal cramping

What to do: Again, abdominal cramping can more often than not be something that comes alongside your period.

When to worry: If you're experiencing these kind of pains throughout the month, rather than just in the days leading up to your period, then it's best to get fibroids, pelvic inflammatory disease, endometriosis or adenomyosis ruled out by a health professional. 'These often require medical treatment, so it's best to see a doctor sooner rather than later,' adds Dr Powles. 

Complaint: Wind, bloating and diarrhoea alongside tummy pains

What to do: Abdominal pains that come hand in hand with excessive wing, bloating and diarrhoea can often present themselves along with itching and skin rashes, and can be a symptom of intolerance. 'There are no specific tests for food intolerances, so it's important to keep a food diary if you think you have this issue,' Dr Powles advises.

When to worry: If you experience these discomforts frequently, it's well worth taking a look at what food and drink you're regularly consuming. 'Cut down on caffeinated drinks including tea and coffee and reduce how much alcohol you drink,' recommends Dr Powles. 'Quitting smoking, losing weight if you're overweight, not skipping meals, trying to stay upright during the day and having your head more raised at night can help,' he adds.

'Minimise your intake of rich, fatty foods and try not to have too much spice.'

March 25th 2018

Key symptom of old age reversed 'surprisingly easily', study finds

The loss of muscle mass and fitness in old age may be reversible by providing the body with a key molecule it needs to rebuild blood vessels, scientists have found.

The arteries and capillaries which transport oxygen and nutrients around the body are not replaced as quickly when we’re older and this leads muscles to tire more quickly. Eventually they start to atrophy from under use.

But new research showed this process was “surprisingly easy to reverse” in elderly mice by supplementing a key ingredient which helps maintain and rebuild the inner lining of blood vessels.

It resulted in a new tangle of blood-carrying capillaries which reversed muscle loss and saw the endurance of the creatures improve by as much as 80 per cent.

Researchers from Australian and US universities, including Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) were part of the team that conducted the study.

A treatment to restore fitness and combat frailty in old age would be a major step towards living longer, healthier lives as it would mean older people could stay active and independent and reduce the risk of them ending up in hospital.

While there's no guarantee the same effect would occur in humans, the findings were so impressive that the group have already begun clinical trials looking at whether the results can be replicated.

“We’ll have to see if this plays out in people, but you may actually be able to rescue muscle mass in an aging population by this kind of intervention,” said one of the study’s senior authors, Leonard Guarente a Professor of Biology at MIT.

“There’s a lot of crosstalk between muscle and bone, so losing muscle mass ultimately can lead to loss of bone, osteoporosis, and frailty, which is a major problem in aging.”

The research published in the journal Cell explains that researchers looked at the cells which make up the inner lining of blood vessels in mammals.

One of the key components is a member of a family of protein molecules called surtuins.

These have been dubbed “longevity proteins” in other studies looking at their impact in aging. The researchers began by deleting the area of the genetic code in mice which allows them to manufacture one type, sirtuin one.

They found that at six months old these mice had a much less extensive network of blood-carrying capillaries, and about half the fitness, when compared to mice that were still able to produce it.

After seeing the effect of the absence of sirtuin one, they decided to see whether the reverse would hold true if they boosted its levels in older mice.

“In normal aging, the number of blood vessels goes down, so you lose the capacity to deliver nutrients and oxygen to tissues like muscle, and that contributes to decline,” said Guarente.

The team focused on an enzyme, NAD, which activates sirtuin one but its production slows down with age and it begins to break down more quickly in the body as well.

To create NAD the body needs another substance, nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN).

Eighteen-month-old mice - a rodent “old age” equivalent to mid-fifties in humans - were given NMN for two months and saw their network of capillaries restored to levels seen in young mice.

This led to an increase in endurance, measured by the length of time they could keep running on a treadmill, of 56 to 80 per cent.

“In this study, we show that a decrease in NAD [in the inner lining of the blood vessels] is a primary reason why our ability to exercise and receive its benefits diminish as we age,” the study says.

They now think that NAD-boosting chemicals can counteract this decline and allow the body to keep remodelling blood vessels.

Adding that even at 32 months – roughly the equivalent of a human in their eighties – capillary loss was “surprisingly easy to reverse”, the first time such an effect has been shown.

“The approach stimulates blood vessel growth and boosts stamina and endurance in mice and sets the stage for therapies in humans to address the spectrum of diseases that arise from vascular aging,” said fellow senior investigator David Sinclair a professor in the Department of Genetics at Harvard Medical School.

March 24th 2018

Stem cell transplant trial has 'miraculous' effects on multiple sclerosis sufferers

Doctors are hailing a new stem cell treatment for the degenerative disease multiple sclerosis, after trials showed it to reboot patients' immune systems, halting the disease.

Patients said the results were ‘a miracle’ and had seen them return to normal life after the disease left them in a wheelchair or unable to read.

Around 100,000 people in the UK have multiple sclerosis, a condition where the immune system attacks the nerves of the brain and spinal cord causing problems with vision, movement, and balance.

Early results from a clinical trial run from four international centres show that wiping out the patients’ immune systems with chemotherapy, and restoring them with the new stem cell treatment, appears to halt the disease and improve symptoms.

“We are thrilled with the results – they are a game-changer for patients with drug-resistant and disabling multiple sclerosis,” Professor John Snowden, director of blood and bone marrow transplantation at Sheffield’s Royal Hallamshire Hospital which led the UK part of the trial, told the BBC.

Independent experts also welcomed the trial, and called on the NHS to ensure everyone who could benefit from stem cell transplantation can access it.

The treatment, called haematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT), was trialled in a group of 100 patients with relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis – the most common form of the disease.

This type of MS usually strikes in a patient’s 20s or 30s, with new symptoms appearing (relapsing) followed by a period of remission where symptoms may improve or remain stable for months, or longer.

Some patients do not respond to drug treatments intended to slow the disease and these relapses become more common.

In the trial, 110 patients who had two periods of relapse in the past year were registered at hospitals in Sheffield and Chicago, as well as Sao Paolo in Brazil and Uppsala in Sweden.

All patients underwent chemotherapy to wipe out their defective immune cells, then half were given a boost of stem cells taken from their blood and bone marrow while the rest underwent conventional drug therapies.

In the trial’s first year only one patient in the stem cell group experienced a relapse in their symptoms, compared to 39 in the drug group.

The patients were followed up with after three years, on average, the stem cell transplant only failed in three of the 52 original patients (six per cent) compared with a failure rate of 60 per cent in the drug group.

Those patients who continued to deteriorate were allowed to switch to the stem cell treatments. Around 30 did, and their condition also improved.

Two years ago Louise Willetts’ MS had become extremely severe. She was in a wheelchair and struggling to read, and had given up on her family and career ambitions.

“It does feel like a miracle. I almost have to pinch myself and think ‘Is this real l? Is it really gone, is it ever going to come back?'” she told the BBC in an interview.

Since she became one of the trial participants at Royal Hallamshire Hospital, Louise is symptom-free and there is no sign of the disease attacking her brain.

“It feels like my diagnosis was just a bad dream because I have just gone back to how I was before I got diagnosed,” she said.

The results were presented at the Annual Meeting of the European Society for Blood and Bone Marrow Transplantation on Sunday, but they have yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal.

However, scientists said the reported results were more impressive than anything seen in previous trials.

Professor Basil Sharrack who was also part of the Sheffield team, said: “Almost all patients receiving HSCT showed no signs of their disease being active a year on from having the treatment.

“More importantly, their level of disability improved significantly.”

Dr Susan Kohlhaas, director of research at the Multiple Sclerosis Society, said the next step was to compare this stem cell transplant with less drastic treatments and to make it available to as many people who could benefit as possible.

“The trial results are important and show this area needs further research.

“While HSCT appears to be effective for some people with MS, it remains a high-risk treatment that won’t be right for everyone.

“HSCT will soon be recognised as an established treatment in England. And when that happens our priority will be making sure those who could benefit can actually get it.

“We’ve seen life-changing results for some people and having that opportunity can’t depend on your postcode.” 

March 20th 2018

Woman claims psoriasis was cured by £4 baby moisturiser 'miracle cream'

The internet is going wild over a £4 moisturiser that is reported to 'cure' skin problems such as eczema and psoriasis. Child’s Farm moisturiser, which is on sale at high street stores including Boots and Asda, has been declared a "miracle cream" after Facebook users reported it helped treat both adults and children suffering from the painful skin conditions. 

Laura Gray, who has psoriasis, posted about her experiences, saying: "Needed to share this with you all. I suffer from psoriasis, have done for years. I get it all up my arms, neck and chest and up until yesterday only hydrocortisone cream would get rid of it, but it’s really harsh and only pharmacists can give it you. Yesterday my Mam told me try this baby moisturiser, I’m not joking 24 hours later my psoriasis is gone. Anyone suffering with psoriasis or eczema you need to try this."

The cream is available on the high street

Another user, 23-year-old Paige Sweeney, reported that she saw a dramatic difference in daughter Evie-Rae’s eczema after using the bargain cream. She said: "I've tried everything in an attempt to help Evie-Rae. She has had eczema since she was born, then when she was five weeks old she was diagnosed with a milk allergy. Her eczema was so painful that she didn't sleep through the night until she was two. She was constantly scratching and bleeding."

She added: "I saw the moisturising cream on the shelf in Boots and decided to give it a go. Within a matter of days I could see her skin starting to clear up. I couldn't believe it. The NHS could save a fortune if they put it on prescription." Paige included before and after shots of her daughter’s skin, and the post was shared a huge 40,000 times.

Psoriasis and eczema are both long-term conditions with no know cures, and can cause sufferers intense pain and discomfort. However, topical creams can help control the symptoms. The company's dermatologist Dr Jennifer Crawley told The Mirror: "With conditions like eczema, regularly moisturising is crucial. The condition dries out the skin, causing it to crack and become painful; a gentle moisturiser soothes and hydrates the irritated skin and allows it to heal."

March 19th 2018

Why babies move in the womb, according to science

 For many mothers, the sensation of your baby moving is a landmark moment, but while most accept it as a normal part of pregnancy, there’s still come confusion as to why it happens.

But now researchers have finally discovered the reason babies move so much in the womb - and it's not just to keep you awake at night.

According to a new study published in the journal Development, scientists at Trinity College Dublin, in Ireland, found that babies move around because they are trying to develop strong bones and joints.

Depending on where the cells are, movement directs them to either form bone or cartilage. 

The researchers also revealed that if babies don't move often enough in the womb, it could lead to them having brittle bones or abnormal joint development. This is because just like all humans, babies need their joints to be covered in “smooth, lubricated” cartilage so they can bend properly.

“Our new findings show that in the absence of embryonic movement the cells that should form articular cartilage receive incorrect molecular signals, where one type of signal is lost while another inappropriate signal is activated in its place,” said Paula Murphy, a professor of zoology at Trinity College Dublin who co-led the study.

“In short, the cells receive the signal that says 'make bone' when they should receive the signal that says 'make cartilage'.”

What’s more, the NHS states that feeling your baby move during pregnancy is good indicator that they are developing well.

If you are concerned that there has been a reduction in your baby’s movements the NHS advises that you contact your doctor and midwife as soon as possible.

March 16th 2018

How a district in Mali won the battle against child mortality

Home to a large number of migrants and an even larger number of babies, Yirimadio is a heaving, ramshackle district on the outskirts of Bamako. Only a decade ago, it was a commune, much like any other on the Malian capital’s periphery. Now, though, it is the unexpected scene of a pioneering healthcare scheme. Child mortality rates here have dropped to the point where they are now the lowest in sub-Saharan Africa – an achievement that may all be down to knocking on doors.

The premise of the scheme, which launched in 2008, is simple: community health workers spend at least two hours, six days a week searching for patients door-to-door, providing free care to whoever needs it. Mali has long struggled to contain preventable infectious diseases such as malaria, pneumonia and diarrhoea. Consequently, the country has the world’s sixth highest under-five child mortality rate, estimated at 115 deaths for every 1,000 births according to the most recent figures available. But by turning conventional healthcare on its head – sending health providers to patients at no cost, instead of requiring them to seek out fee-paying medical attention – Yirimadio achieved a spectacular turnaround. Between 2008 and 2015, the child mortality rate dropped from 154 deaths to seven for every 1,000 live births.

Experts have called the scheme – the findings from which were published this week in BMJ Global Health – extraordinary. They say it offers “very strong evidence” that universal healthcare can be both cost-effective and widely accessible. 

“These results are really very impressive,” said Robert Yates, project director at the Centre on Global Health Security. “This is a part of the world where, generally, access to adequate healthcare is very difficult because of distances, costs and poor quality of services. But by removing user fees, providing free services, and going the extra mile by going into communities and treating sick children, the [scheme] has made primary health care extremely accessible.

“It just shows that when poor communities get good, free healthcare, it goes a long way to improving mortality rates. Put simply: kids don’t die.”

At an average cost of $8 (£5.70) a person annually, the price of the intervention is well within what governments in the region are already spending on healthcare, say the report’s authors, who believe that rolling it out more widely could lead to increased child survival rates elsewhere.

Dr Ari Johnson, who co-founded Muso and co-authored the study, said the scheme’s success proved that “these goals aren’t lofty aspirations or unfeasible: they’re imminently achievable”.

“These results are unprecedented. They are extraordinary,” said Johnson. “But that’s not what we want. We want these results to become boring and normal. That’s the real challenge.”

Communities participated in the initiative during a hugely challenging period in Mali that brought a coup d’etat, al-Qaida occupation in the north, and the west African Ebola outbreak. “Amid global efforts for universal health coverage and child survival, these findings reset the goalposts for what be achieved, in even the most challenging settings,” said Johnson.

Muso is leading a separate trial in rural Mali, under which communities will either be randomly served door-to-door by medical professionals, or required to take themselves to a community health centre.

“That trial will address a number of questions and limitations that we can’t [currently] address,” said Johnson. “It’s incredibly important that this study be followed up to try to replicate the findings and find further examples.”

In the meantime, Yates is hopeful that other governments will take note of the recent findings and commit to achieving similar results. 

“Lessons like this are so applicable in other countries in the region: take Nigeria for example, that’s got a GDP per capita of $2,200,” he said. “It spends 0.9% of its budget on healthcare, but if it spent 2% on healthcare it could get these results. This is very strong evidence for what works. I would argue everyone in global health knows this, and what is lacking in countries across the world is the political commitment to make this happen.”

March 15th 2018

Let’s End This Deadly Disease!


In 1988, polio affected 350,000 children every single year - including in Europe. This horrific disease can cause irreversible paralysis, and kill in its worst forms. It is a brutal condition that mostly affects children who have not yet reached their fifth birthday.

Now, the disease is 99% eradicated, with only 22 cases recorded in 2017. This is a remarkable feat of human progress.

Experts believe we could end this deadly disease - but only if political leaders step up. To protect every child, governments need to commit vital funding to support healthcare workers like Gulnaz, who treks door-to-door in extreme heat to immunise newborn babies. Her country, Pakistan, is one of only three in the world where children still contract polio regularly.

“Every time I empty a vaccine vial I feel energised – it means 18 children have just been protected from a lifetime of disability.” - Gulnaz, volunteer healthcare worker, Pakistan.

In April, leaders from 53 Commonwealth countries will meet in London - including Gulnaz’s own Prime Minister, and the Nigerian government, where the disease also still exists. But this fight is not theirs alone.

It is unacceptable for any child to die or become crippled simply because of where they are born. Call on Commonwealth nations to commit to end polio for good.

March 14th 2018

Brit scientists create world's first anti-flu pill 'which could save millions for cash-strapped NHS'

Scientists in Britain have created the world’s first flu vaccine in pill form.

The breakthrough could save the NHS millions as it is the first synthetic vaccine, so it does not have to be kept in the fridge.

Researchers also hope it would boost uptake for people with limited access to a GP or nurse.

Study leader Prof Andrew Sewell, of the School of Medicine at Cardiff University, said oral vaccines were “great news for people with a fear of needles”.

He added: “They can also be much easier to store and transport, making them far more suitable for use in remote locations.”

Vaccines usually introduce a harmless form of a germ into our bodies.

These stimulate immune cells, which remember the germ – often proteins – and launch a stronger attack if it returns.

Researchers created a “mirror image” of such proteins, triggering the same immune response.

Oral vaccines are rare as they are usually digested, so protection is lost.

Refrigerating biological vaccines accounts for most of the cost of transporting them.

The next step for the study, in Journal of Clinical Investigation, is to test the vaccine on humans.

Dr Gino Martini, of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, said: “A pill-based vaccine can only have a positive impact on the number of patients receiving the vaccine.”

In Europe, less than a third of older people had flu jabs this year.

March 10th 2018

Cycling keeps your immune system young, study finds

Cycling can hold back the effects of ageing and rejuvenate the immune system, a study has found. 

Scientists carried out tests on 125 amateur cyclists aged 55 to 79 and compared them with healthy adults from a wide age group who did not exercise regularly.

The findings, outlined in two papers in the journal Aging Cell, showed that the cyclists preserved muscle mass and strength with age while maintaining stable levels of body fat and cholesterol. In men, testosterone levels remained high. 

More surprisingly, the anti-ageing effects of cycling appeared to extend to the immune system.

An organ called the thymus, which makes immune cells called T-cells, normally starts to shrink from the age of 20. But the thymuses of older cyclists were found to be generating as many T-cells as those of young people.

Prof Janet Lord, director of the Institute of Inflammation and Ageing at the University of Birmingham, said: “Hippocrates in 400BC said that exercise is man’s best medicine, but his message has been lost over time and we are an increasingly sedentary society.

“However, importantly, our findings debunk the assumption that ageing automatically makes us more frail. Our research means we now have strong evidence that encouraging people to commit to regular exercise throughout their lives is a viable solution to the problem that we are living longer but not healthier.”

Male cyclists taking part in the study had to be able to cycle 100km in under 6.5 hours, while women had to cover 60km in 5.5 hours.

The non-exercising group consisted of 75 healthy people aged 57 to 80 and 55 young adults aged 20 to 36.

Many other studies have also shown the remarkable health benefits of cycling. A study published in the BMJ last April found that regular cycling cut the risk of death from all causes by more than 40%, and cut the risk of cancer and heart disease by 45%.

Experts also believe cycling boosts riders’ mental health, with multiple studies finding that those who commute by bicycle are happier and less prone to depression than those who use any other form of transport.

A recent report from cycling and walking charity Sustrans also found that cycling does not just benefit an individual’s health but that of society as a whole, estimating that if Britain were to reach government targets for walking and cycling, the country would save about £9.3bn and reduce deaths from air pollution by more than 13,000 over the next decade.

Prof Stephen Harridge, director of the Centre of Human & Aerospace Physiological Sciences at King’s College London, said: “The findings emphasise the fact that the cyclists do not exercise because they are healthy, but that they are healthy because they have been exercising for such a large proportion of their lives.

“Their bodies have been allowed to age optimally, free from the problems usually caused by inactivity. Remove the activity and their health would likely deteriorate.”

March 3rd 2018

Menstrual cramps are almost as painful as heart attacks, doctors claim

Doctors have finally gotten around to announcing what women have been saying from basically the beginning of time: menstrual cramps are really, really painful. 

In fact, period pains can even be almost as painful as a heart attack. 

Women know that periods can feel like someone punching you on the stomach while simultaneously forcing you to watch the saddest parts of Bambi, but explaining that agony to men can feel equally frustrating. 

But now John Guillebaud, a Professor of reproductive health at University College London, has spoken up. He told Quartz that dysmenorrhea, or painful menstruation, has been described by sufferers as: almost as bad as having a heart attack. 

Period pain this bad interferes with the daily life of around one in five women, but too many doctors dismiss of symptoms and recommend an over-the-counter painkiller even though ibuprofen often just won't cut it. 

Endometriosis, the second cause of period pain after dysmenorrhea, is estimated to affect round one in ten ovulating women.

It causes cells similar to those found in the lining of the womb to grow elsewhere in the body and can cause a host of symptoms: painful periods, fatigue, bowel and bladder problems, and even infertility.

On average, it takes a woman seven and a half years to be diagnosed with endometriosis due to a worrying lack of research and awareness, and treatment options remain limited. Likewise, the cause of dysmenorrhea is still not fully understood. 

Researcher Dr Annalise Weckesser told The Independent that a culture of silence has resulted in the condition being neglected by the medical establishment.

There is a long history of not taking menstrual pain seriously and even writing it off as women’s hysteria. We don’t talk about menstrual health, young girls' knowledge aboutmenstrual health is poor.

Our medical professionals are not separate from that so what is an average experience of menstruation, what is typical and what is atypical?That permeates up into the nurses and the GPs and that’s why you get young women being written off.

March 2nd 2018

The hacking cough that's sweeping the nation and what you can do to get rid of it - because medicines are useless

As a coughing virus sweeps Britain, new research reveals common medicines are useless.

So what can soothe that bothersome bark?

Thousands of us are suffering a nasty cough virus which simply refuses to go away. I stops us from falling asleep at night, it wakes us up early, and it annoys the wary people sat around us at work.

And for some it could turn into a more serious lung infection.

All of which makes recent revelations that over-the-counter cough medicines are virtually useless far from welcome.

Researchers from the American Chemical Society claim cough syrups work little better than a placebo, while other popular remedies such as echinacea, vitamin C and zinc are not likely to help either.

How to get rid of a cold: Tried and tested remedies for feeling better

At best cough suppressants can leave you drowsy and give you a better night’s sleep, claim the scientists.

But their report concluded there’s little or no evidence that the heavily marketed active ingredients – including the DXM (dextromethorphan) often found in ‘night time’ formulations – do anything to ease the cough. So what can we do about it?

Why do we cough?

Prof Ron Eccles, director of the Common Cold Centre at Cardiff University says: “Coughing does actually have an important purpose. It’s a safety reflex, your body’s way of keeping unwanted stuff from getting into your lungs.

However, post-virus inflammation of the airways means this debilitating symptom can linger long after the initial infection has gone.”

But there are some simple tricks experts say will bring you some relief by soothing your irritated airways.

Water is your friend

·       Drink plenty of fluids: Keeping hydrated helps thin out the excess mucus and reduces your cough reflex. Drinking liquids also helps keep mucus membranes moist. This is particularly helpful in winter when houses tend to be hot and dry.

·       Add moisture to the air: Dry air can be irritating, so a humidifier will also help ease congestion.

·       The downside is that if you don’t clean humidifiers thoroughly after every use they can become breeding grounds for fungus and mould which they then pump into the air, exacerbating coughs further.

·       Bowls of water or damp towels placed on a radiator make for a safe, cheap alternative to plug-in humidifiers.

·       Have a steamy shower: The heat can loosen secretions in your nose which can ease a cough.

·       Try putting a few drops of eucalyptus or menthol oil on the shower wall (but never directly onto your skin) to boost the effect. Sucking cough sweets can help, says the American Chemical Society. They stimulate the production of saliva which soothes your irritated throat.

But any boiled sweets will have the same effect

·       Sipping hot drinks: A warm cuppa combines the steam effect for thinning mucus with throat-soothing effects. Many people particularly swear by honey and fresh lemon in hot water.

·       Keep a glass of water handy, day and night: Sipping water can help thwart a coughing fit, and the sooner you can stop one the better. Continually coughing irritates your airways further, making your cough last longer.

Cough-proof your home

·       Sleep with extra pillows: When it comes to a night-time cough, gravity is the enemy. All the mucus you would normally swallow during the day flows back and irritates your throat as you lie down.

·       Keep the air inside your home irritant-free: Air fresheners and scented candles may seem harmless, but for some people they can cause sinus irritation which produces extra mucus that leads to even more coughing.

·       The worst irritant in the air is smoke, so avoid cigarettes and any areas where there are smokers.

·       Stay inside in the warm as much as possible: Cold air can exacerbate a cough. So if you have a cold or other respiratory infection avoid being outside for too long.

But any boiled sweets will have the same effect

·       Sipping hot drinks: A warm cuppa combines the steam effect for thinning mucus with throat-soothing effects. Many people particularly swear by honey and fresh lemon in hot water.

·       Keep a glass of water handy, day and night: Sipping water can help thwart a coughing fit, and the sooner you can stop one the better. Continually coughing irritates your airways further, making your cough last longer.

Cough-proof your home

·       Sleep with extra pillows: When it comes to a night-time cough, gravity is the enemy. All the mucus you would normally swallow during the day flows back and irritates your throat as you lie down.

·       Keep the air inside your home irritant-free: Air fresheners and scented candles may seem harmless, but for some people they can cause sinus irritation which produces extra mucus that leads to even more coughing.

·       The worst irritant in the air is smoke, so avoid cigarettes and any areas where there are smokers.

·       Stay inside in the warm as much as possible: Cold air can exacerbate a cough. So if you have a cold or other respiratory infection avoid being outside for too long.

·       Treat it : If it’s occasional, a simple over-the-counter indigestion treatment will reduce the production of stomach acid. If it’s frequent, see your GP.

·       Whooping cough

·       Symptom : Uncontrollable coughing fits, which may produce a ‘whoop’ sound.

·       Cause : This highly contagious disease has been on the rise again in recent years. A vaccine is given to babies and pregnant women.

·       Treat it : Babies and young children are at the highest risk of severe complications and if they do succumb need close monitoring and often antibiotics.

·       Medication cough

·       Symptom : A dry, niggling cough, often worse at night

·       Cause : ACE inhibitors, a common drug used to control high blood pressure, can cause a chronic cough in up to 20 percent of patients.

·       Treat it : If you think your cough coincided with starting medication, talk to your GP about alternatives.

·       Worrying new cough

·       Symptom : A new cough lasting longer than three weeks – especially in smokers.

·       Also look out for – coughing up blood, breathlessness, weight loss, tiredness or chest pain.

·       Cause : Anyone experiencing any of the above symptoms needs to get to talk to their GP immediately as they could indicate lung cancer – the third most common cancer in the UK.

·       Smoking accounts for 90% of cases.

·       Treat it : Once picked up by X-ray, treatment can involve a combination of surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.


First on Feb 28th 2018

These are the common questions everybody asks when they have a cold

Having a cold is never fun. What starts as a telltale tickle in the back of your throat can turn into several weeks' worth of debilitating symptoms that can spread through your family like wildfire. 

"Symptoms typically start two or three days after you've been exposed to a cold virus, of which there are many,'"says GP Dr Emma Pooley from BMI The Park Hospital in Nottingham. "Typical symptoms are a sore throat, blocked or runny nose, a cough and sneezing."

If you or other members of your family are suffering with the symptoms of a cold, there are simple steps you can take to look after yourselves at home without a trip to your GP. The new 'Stay Well' campaign from the NHS is urging more people - especially parents with young children - to use their pharmacy first in a move which could help free up GP time for sicker patients and help save the NHS around £850 million each year. Dr Pooley adds:

"Ask your pharmacist for advice on the best cold remedies to help relieve your symptoms – they won't help you get better faster but will help you feel more comfortable as you recover."

Colds: What you need to know

1. Can I go to the gym when I have a cold?

"When you have a cold, your immune system is already activated to fight the infection, so doing strenuous exercise puts your body under additional stress," says Dr Pooley. "In my opinion, it's better to rest until you feel able to work out properly again, otherwise you run the risk of prolonging your illness and sabotaging your training sessions further. Listen to your body. If you feel tired, are having trouble breathing and generally are lacking in energy, it's probably better to give the gym a miss."

A gentle walk in the fresh air is fine, as long as you feel up to it, says Dr Edward Gaynor from Bupa. "You can't catch a cold by being cold but you should certainly wrap up warm if you do go out," he continues. "It's generally not wise to do anything more strenuous – you'll already be dehydrated, tired and achy, and may be having problems breathing. Exercise will make all of those symptoms worse."

2. Can I drink alcohol when I have a cold?

"Alcohol disrupts sleep, which is essential for your body to make a full recovery, and is also best avoided with some over-the-counter (OTC) cold remedies," says Dr Pooley. "My overall opinion would be that it's best not to drink alcohol when you have a cold. Instead, eat healthy food, drink lots of fluids and rest. If you want a dash of whiskey in your hot toddy, it's not the end of the world but you'll probably recover quicker without it." Dr Gaynor agrees.

"My view is that when I have a cold I don't want to do anything that might prolong it, and alcohol will do that, so I'd avoid it for that reason."

3. Can I really take time off work with a cold?

"People do feel guilty about taking time off work with 'just' a cold, but you're unlikely to be productive if you're tired and don't feel well, plus you're likely to be highly contagious in the early stage," says Dr Gaynor. "If you can rest, do."

"My advice here is to use your common sense," says Dr Pooley. "If you're running a high temperature, feel exhausted and can barely get out of bed, you're probably in no fit state to go to work. If, however, you're past the sneezing and coughing phase and feel well enough to go in, follow best practice in terms of hygiene advice: cough or sneeze into a tissue rather than your hand, and cough into the crook of your elbow to prevent germs from spreading from your hands to other surfaces.

"Get a gel hand sanitiser, wash your hands often and thoroughly and use disposable paper towels to dry then with. Remember, though, that you'll recover faster if you rest properly, and there's less risk of your cold developing into something nasty like a chest infection if you take the time you need. You don't want to go back only to find yourself floored by the next virus doing the rounds two weeks later."

4. Is it irresponsible to go to a party/children's party with a cold?

"Don't go to a party or children's party if you're still coughing and sneezing," says Dr Pooley. "You'll still be infectious at this stage so stay away, especially if very little babies will be there. If you're over the worst and the cold is at the final stages it's probably OK, but check with the parent first."

5. When is a cold actually flu?

"Flu is caused by a completely different virus to those that cause colds," says Dr Pooley. "The culprit is the influenza virus – strains A and B specifically. Flu is a much more serious illness that can have you bed-bound for several days with a high temperature (38C+), chills, headache, a runny nose and muscles aches and pains.

Flu symptoms come on quickly (colds take longer to develop) so if you sense it's more than a cold, you can see your GP for prescription drugs that help to reduce the severity of the symptoms - but these are only effective if taken within 48 hours of initial symptoms coming on."

Dr Gaynor agrees that flu needs to be taken seriously. "It can make you feel awful," he says. "If you have an underlying illness, are over 65 or suspect a child under three years old has flu, get medical advice. Otherwise, talk to your pharmacist about the best medicine to take to help reduce the symptoms while you recover. Don't forget to see if you're eligible for the flu jab – see NHS Choices for the current criteria."

Also on Feb 28th 2018

Parents who kiss kids on lips before baby teeth develop may spread harmful bacteria

A dentist has advised that parents should refrain from kissing their children on the lips, particularly before their baby teeth have developed, as they could spread harmful bacteria to their young ones. 

The debate over whether it’s appropriate for parents to kiss their children on the lips is a constant source of conversation.

While many argue that there’s nothing wrong with parents showing their affection in this manner, there are supposedly certain health risks that parents need to become more aware of.

Baby teeth are particularly susceptible to infection, as they don’t have the strength to withstand the damaging effect of bacteria. 

“Baby teeth have a different type of enamel and dentine to adult teeth,” Dr Richard Marques, of Wimpole Street Dental in London, explained to The Independent.

“The enamel is much thinner on baby teeth. It is not as strong as adult enamel so is more likely to decay.”

The transfer of saliva between individuals can always increase the likelihood of spreading illness.

However, parents need to be especially wary with their young children.

“Saliva transfer from parent to child is a risk as this can spread bacteria (such as streptococcus mutans) from adult to child,” said Dr Marques.

“This bacteria can cause decay of baby teeth.

“It can even affect the soft tissues and gums before the baby teeth have developed!”

There are a variety of afflictions that can be spread from mouth-mouth contact, including the cold or flu and viruses such as cold sores, which are caused by the herpes simplex virus-1 (HSV-1). 

Dr Marques suggests that parents refrain from sharing cutlery with their children, blowing on their food or kissing them on the lips.

There are a number of things parents can do to ensure the optimal dental health of their children.

These include not keeping all of your toothbrushes in one container, making sure your child doesn’t swallow the toothpaste, reducing their sugar intake and taking them for regular dentists checks.

“Take your child to the dentist regularly (they can go to the dentist as early as six months when the first tooth comes through),” Dr Marques advised. 

“By age two to three they should be attending the dentist every six months to check for cavities (and check how well their teeth are developing!).

“Prevention is the key. We would rather help children to not get cavities in the first place!"

Feb 26th 2018

Five ways to avoid becoming a victim of prescription drugs errors

A study has revealed that mistakes in the writing or dispensing of medicine can cost up to 22,000 people their lives every year. Here’s how to avoid being one of them

Up to 22,000 people could be dying in England every year as a result of mistakes in the writing or dispensing of prescriptions, according to new research. In a speech last week, the health and social services secretary, Jeremy Hunt, demanded fresh measures to tackle the problem, which was identified in a government study carried out at York, Manchester and Sheffield universities.

Hunt to crack down on NHS drug errors linked to up to 22,000 deaths

Researchers found that 270m such mistakes occur annually. While the vast majority cause no harm, more than 700 deaths a year are definitively linked to prescription errors, which could be implicated in the deaths of as many as 22,303 more people. They may have taken the wrong drugs or the wrong dose – or been forced to wait too long for their prescription.

Dr Helen Stokes-Lampard, the chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners,told the Guardian that “medication mistakes can and occasionally do happen”. She places the blame in part on the “intense” workplace pressure on NHS doctors, saying: “The long-lasting solution to this is a properly funded NHS with enough staff to deliver safe patient care.”

Whether or not Hunt heeds that warning, there are steps that patients can take themselves to mitigate the danger of a dodgy prescription, says Mike Hewitson, a Dorset-based pharmacist who sits on the board of the National Pharmacy Association. “The last line of defence against errors is always the patient,” he says.

 Get to know your pharmacist

The first step to safe medication is building a relationship with your local pharmacy team. Patients who regularly get their drugs from different pharmacies are considered to be at higher risk, says Hewitson, “because their pharmacists don’t have the opportunity to see how they use their medication and to spot when that medication changes”.

 Educate yourself

Today, most prescriptions are delivered electronically, but ask your pharmacist about them, particularly if your drugs or the side-effects seem different to normal. “We’d rather have 100 people asking questions than for one to take the wrong medicine,” Hewitson says.

Don’t trust the internet

 All pharmacists have at least five years of medical training, which is five years more than Dr Google. “The internet is a great tool,” says Hewitson, “but if it’s used incorrectly it can be harmful.” It’s far safer to seek face-to-face advice from a qualified medical professional and to buy your drugs in person than to do either online.

Don’t hoard old drugs

 Many people hoard old medicines, says Hewitson. That is a mistake. “They were prescribed antibiotics six years ago and they get what they think are similar symptoms, so they start taking old medicines, which can be dangerous.” 

Don’t worry

The new study sounds scary, Hewitson admits. But it shouldn’t be. “When you are dealing with a billion prescription items every year, even the lowest error rates will lead to some quite big numbers,” he says. “The first thing I would say is not to panic. Overall, the system is very safe.”

Feb 19th 2018

What causes kidney stones and how to get rid of them

Passing a kidney stone is one of the most painful things you can do - apart from childbirth.

Now a new study published this week in Mayo Clinic Proceedings suggests that they’re becoming more common.

Part of the increase is down to the way doctors monitor stones - they used a CT scan rarely before, but the rise in the technology meant they found the stones easier.

It's not all down to the tests though.

Kidney stones can develop in anyone - and in one or both kidneys, but what actually causes them?

They're quite common, with about three in 20 men and up to two in 20 women developing them at some point.

Most often people aged 30 to 60 are affected by them.


Kidney stones, medically known as nephrolithiasis, cause severe pain, also known as renal colic.

Small stones can go undetected - but they can be passed out when you wee, according to the NHS . It's fairly common for a stone to block part of the urinary system.

If you're suffering from a blockage you'll have severe pain in the abdomen or groin - it can also sometimes cause a urinary tract infection (UTI).

Half the people who have had kidney stones will experience them again within five years of having them.

Look out for:

Ache in your lower back, sometimes in the groin - men can have a pain in their testicles and scrotum

Periods of intense pain in the back or side of your abdomen

Feeling restless and unable to lie still


Needing to urinate more

Pain when you urinate

Blood in your urine

What causes kidney stones?

Waste products in the blood can occasionally form crystals that collect inside the kidney.

Over time they build up and form hard stone-like lumps.

If you don't drink enough fluids it's more likely to happen. If you're taking some types of medication or if you have a condition that raises levels of certain substances in your urine it can also raise the risk.

The rise in kidney stones - mostly calcium stones - is also down to a change in diet. Stones are helped along by diets high in fat, sugar and salt.

Race also played a factor in the findings. Nearly 90 per cent of kidney stones happen in white people.

How to get rid of them

Smaller stones will pass when you go to the toilet in your urine.

Larger stones may need breaking up. Doctors use an ultrasound or laser energy to do this, but sometimes keyhole surgery is needed to remove the very large stones.

What to eat?

If your stone is caused by too much calcium you need to reduce the amount of oxalates in your diet.

They prevent calcium being absorbed into your body.

How to avoid them

Drink plenty of water everyday. A good test is to check if your urine is diluted (clear) to prevent waste products forming into kidney stones.

Types of Stones

Calcium Stones

They if there's too much calcium in the urine. They're usually either large and smooth or spiky and rough.

Struvite Stones

Often caused by infections and most commonly occur after a urinary tract infection.

More common in women than men.

Uric acid stones

They can form if there's a large amount of acid in your urine. If you have a high-protein diet or a condition like gout.

Cystine stones

Rarest type of kidney stone. It's caused by an inherited condition called cystinuria.

Feb 16th 2018

New test to quickly identify pneumonia could save thousands of lives a year

British scientists have developed a quick test which could help save some of the 30,000 people killed by pneumonia each year.

The test allows doctors to return results identifying bacteria in infected lungs within a minute on intensive care wards where every second counts.

Currently patients are pumped full of strong antibiotics as a precaution while fluid tests are carried out which take days.

Pneumonia is the UK’s sixth biggest killer but the new medical imaging technology will enable to identify it and other bacteria deep inside patients’ lungs.

As soon as a patient is put on to a ventilator they are extremely susceptible to infection which can often kill the elderly and frail who arrived in hospital with a different complaint.

Globally around 20 million patients are rushed in to intensive care needing ventilators each year.

Up to one-third are suspected to have serious lung infections.

The 60-second test called Proteus was unveiled at the annual conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Austin, Texas, today.

Prof Kev Dhaliwal, of the University of Edinburgh, said: “Our team is making rapid progress in bringing together many technologies to help us develop entirely new approaches to diagnose and treat disease at the bedside.”

If rolled out, the test, funded by the UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), will be used on the estimated 136,000 Brits admitted to intensive care wards each year and put on a breathing ventilator.

Doctors currently diagnose infections using X-rays, which are imprecise and tests on fluid samples extracted from patients’ lungs, which are slow.

Scientists have designed chemical probes that can be sprayed into patients’ lungs, which light up when they attach to specific types of infectious bacteria.

This fluorescence is detected using fibre-optic tubes that are small enough to travel deep inside the lungs.

The team is currently testing the chemical probes in clinical trials on patients with a chronic lung condition called bronchiectasis.

The test should allow doctors to quickly administer the right treatment instead of the blanket use of antibiotics, which are growing resistant.

Researchers from the Universities of Edinburgh and Bath and Heriot-Watt University developed the test.

Feb 15th 2018

The first flu you ever had is secretly shaping how you respond to infections

The year you were born might predict how you’ll respond to this year’s flu—and how well you’d fair in a flu pandemic. 

A phenomenon known as imprinting might be responsible for an unusual pattern in the ages of people going to the hospital with the flu. Imprinting here refers to how our immune response to the flu is shaped by our medical history.

Specifically, the first flu virus a person catches shapes their immune response to other strains encountered later in life. The strain to which we lose our flu virginity, as it were, affects how we react to all the subsequent strains we meet. “The first strain you meet has a special status,” said James O. Lloyd-Smith, a researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles. 

Dr. Dan Jernigan, director of the influenza division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, suggested in late January that imprinting might explain why baby boomers are being particularly hard hit this flu season. 

Typically, the hospitalization rate for children under the age of four and adults between 50 and 64 years old are about the same. Not this year. Instead, "baby boomers have higher [hospitalization] rates than their grandchildren right now," Jernigan noted. 

Usually the imprinting phenomenon protects us by helping the immune system react more quickly to new virus strains. If the hemagglutinin—a protein on the surface of the virus—is similar to the hemagglutinin encountered in prior strains, then the immune system may produce antibodies to the new virus just upon detecting that protein resemblance. 

But the flu changes each year. And one major change in 1968 may help explain why baby boomers are at a disadvantage now. 

The problem stems from the strain of flu virus to which those boomers first succumbed. Everyone who is currently at least 50 years old was born before 1968. And the 1968 flu pandemic was the first time in decades that a virus with a particular kind of protein on its surface called H3 spread throughout the United States. That means that anyone who is 50 years of age or older this flu season was born too early to be imprinted with an H3 strain of the virus. 

But the H3N2 strain is responsible for many of the flu cases in the United States this year. This year, the typical boomer immune system is relatively less prepared to fight back than those of younger people, who had a chance of being imprinted with an H3 flu strain. 

Hemagglutinin proteins separate into two major groups. One group includes the H1 and H2 and H5 proteins, among others, and the other includes H3 and H7. For many people, H1N1 and H3N2 may sound familiar; these are the strains that are often found in North America.

Scientists have found a clear link between flu susceptibility and bird flu viruses; that connection has been easier to trace because humans aren't regularly exposed to them. In a 2016 paper, Lloyd-Smith and his colleague, University of Arizona researcher Michael Worobey, showed that the type of flu virus to which a person was exposed first influenced his or her immune system's response to these bird flu strains, which often include H5 and H7 proteins.

Teasing out the potential impact of imprinting on seasonal flu, however, can be difficult. Specific data can be difficult to find about the severity of a flu case, the strain of flu involved, and the year the person was born. To parse the connection, Worobey has turned to Arizona health records, which have some information noting both the strain of flu a person was infected with and what year that person was born. 

But some experts already suspect a link. “If I had to bet, I’d say imprinting is involved during this season,” said Scott Hensley, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania. “But it’s just too early to know.” (Hensley is actively working on research projects to figure that out.) 

This year’s flu strain is a nasty one, everyone says. But will that be true for flu seasons to come? Again, the flu of 1968 has something to say about that. Currently H3N2 is dangerous for older people, but it wasn't always so scary. “It actually started back in 1968 being described as usually mild in older people,” Worobey noted. Those infections may have been milder because the 50-or-older demographic at that time had been imprinted with an H3 virus that circulated before the 1918 pandemic. 

It’s tempting to think that birth year alone could help people make health decisions. For example, if H3 viruses are prevalent in a given year, then people over 50 might have even more of a reason to have the flu vaccine. 

But it’s not that simple. Since 1977, both H3 and H1 viruses have circulated. That means it’s anyone’s guess which strain a millennial may have been infected with first. Scientists are looking for a way to detect an imprint within a person’s immune cells, but currently there’s no test to tell which virus a person may have been exposed to first.

Feb 14th 2018

Sharon Stone's story proves that stroke doesn't just affect the elderly

Sharon Stone has opened up about the terrifying stroke she suffered at the age of 43, revealing she had to learn to talk, walk and write again following the ordeal. The actress said the health scare, which she experienced in 2001, changed her life "forever".

Discussing her favourite television shows with the Radio Times, Sharon said a documentary called My Beautiful Broken Brain struck a chord due to her own experience and she could relate to the story. "In 2001, I had a stroke and a nine-day brain haemorrhage that changed my life forever," she said. "I had a five per cent chance of surviving."

The 59-year-old said she lost almost all function in her left side, and it took years to learn basic skills again. "When I came home after the stroke, I could barely walk. My hip was unstable. I couldn't see out of my left eye and I couldn't hear out of my left ear," Sharon explained. "I couldn't write my name for almost three years. I couldn't get my arm to listen to my mind, so I had to learn to read and write again. I had to learn to speak again. It took years for the feeling to come back to my left leg, but it finally came back."

The average age of people in England who have a stroke for the first time has fallen, new figures released at the beginning of February show. Public Health England data shows that the average age dropped from 71 to 68 for men, and from 75 to 73 for women between 2007 and 2016. Over the same period, the proportion of first-time strokes suffered by 40 to 69-year-olds rose from 33 per cent to 38 per cent. PHE has urged people to be more aware of the symptoms of a stroke and said the data shows they don't just affect the elderly – as Sharon's story proves.

Feb 13th 2018

Four subtle symptoms of depression you need to know about

Despite how common depression is, it can easily be ignored or misdiagnosed, which is harmful because when left unchecked, the mood disorder can be debilitating.

Depression manifests itself in many different ways that are subjective to each sufferer, and while you may know the physical symptoms, there are a few common psychological signs you should never ignore. According to Dr. Rafael Euba, a consultant psychiatrist from The London Psychiatry Centre, the following are a few signs to look out for.

Loss of Interest

An inability to enjoy the things you once found pleasure in, coupled with a loss of interest in your usual social activities, such as spending time with friends, is one of the major signals that you're withdrawing into yourself.

Fatigue and Sleeplessness

Whether or not you're conscious of it, the weight of thoughts and worries on your mind can lead to sleeplessness and insomnia, because you're unable to switch off.

Severe Mental Reactions

While you may be experiencing indifference and a sense of joylessness, you might find that your reaction to negative news produces a heightened reaction that may lead to increasingly emotional reactions or preoccupations with the issue.

Persistent Pessimism

Although feelings of hopelessness, irritability, and sadness are all part of the human experience, the key to spotting them as a symptom of a deeper issue is in realizing when they go on abnormally longer than usual, for weeks or several days

Feb 9th 2018

How to avoid dry lips when it's cold outside

Dry, cracked lips are a sure-fire sign that winter is in full swing, and sometimes it can seem that no amount of chapstick can help. Well-hydrated lips look pink and full - a reflection of the fact that there is sufficient moisture within the covering layer of skin to keep the cells plumped up and avoid the appearance of surface cracks and fissures.

Compared to skin, our lips have a much thinner layer of cells called keratinocytes, making our lips especially vulnerable to dehydration. They also lack a layer of cells called the stratum corneum. The stratum corneum is present in skin and contains fatty molecules such as ceramides which help to protect against water loss. It is estimated that the rate of water loss occurs THREE times faster from the lips than from other areas of the skin.

One of the best ways of avoiding dry lips is to help ensure that any lost moisture is replaced. Moisture loss is reduced by applying an emollient. Application of emollients will also help to protect the lips from drying environmental irritants, such as extremes of temperature and wind. 

How do harsh environments dry the lips?

Harsh environments (cold weather!) provoke a local inflammatory response in the lips. This inflammation promotes moisture loss and leads to cell damage in the lips. In turn this makes the lips look scaly and fissured. Scaling and redness may also extend to the skin above and below the lips. One of the best ways to prevent this is to create an artificial barrier with an emollient preparation. This helps to protect our lips and well-hydrated lips are less vulnerable to harsh environments. 

What role does lip hydration play in preventing cold sores?</h3>

Cold sores erupt when the normally dormant herpes virus is reawakened. Harsh environmental conditions such as extremes of temperature or wind can dehydrate/damage the lips and UV light has been demonstrated to lead to reactivation of the virus from its dormant state. Well-hydrated lips are less likely to have fissures and cracks and therefore are more resilient to environmental factors that can exacerbate cold sores. 

Why is it especially important to maintain lip moisture during winter?

During winter time we are exposed to extremes of temperature and windy conditions. Such conditions have the potential to cause inflammation and loss of moisture from lips. For cold sore sufferers, this can also make them less troublesome and encourage faster healing. 

How do seasonal changes affect the appearance and health of lips?

Our lips have an increased propensity to become inflamed, dry and chapped in extremes of temperature or high light intensity. This can lead to reactivation of a dormant cold sore virus. Seasonal variation in weather can bring about lip inflammation, dehydration and sun damage. It is important to counteract these changes with regular application of a lip therapy, such as Prevasore, and careful use of SPF products.

Feb 5th 2018

Parents are being warned to look out for symptoms of scarlet fever as the number of cases reaches the highest levels since the 1960s. 

Public Health England has announced that the number of people becoming infected has increased rapidly over the last few weeks and has doubled since the start of 2018.

In fact, data shows that there were 735 cases of scarlet fever in England and Wales in the week ending January 28 alone, making it the biggest seven-day outbreak since April 2017.

Some 17,350 cases have already been recorded this year, with the final amount due to be calculated next week. 

“Whilst current rates are nowhere near those seen in the early 1900s, the magnitude of the recent upsurge is greater than any documented in the last century,” said Dr Theresa Lamagni, from Public Health England.

"We are strongly urging people with symptoms of scarlet fever, which include a sore throat, headache and fever accompanied by a characteristic rash, to consult their GP."

What is scarlet fever?

Also known as scarlatina, scarlet fever is an infection caused by Streptococcus pyogenes bacteria, which are found on the skin and in the throat.

While it is most common in young children it can affect people of any age, the NHS reports.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of scarlet fever develop within a week of being infected and include a sore throat, headache, high temperature, swollen glands in the neck and being sick.

This can then be followed by a rash that’s made up of pink-red blotches, feel like sandpaper and are brightest in body folds likes armpits or elbows. It will turn white if you press a glass on it. 

While the rash doesn’t typically spread to the face, the cheeks can turn very red and look similar to sunburn. 

Finally, a white coating may form on the tongue which peels away after a few days, leaving it red and swollen. This is also known as “strawberry tongue.”

What should you do if you think you or your child has it?

If you suspect that you or you child may have scarlet fever you should see your GP or call NHS 111 as soon as possible. 

The usual treatment is with antibiotic tablets (or liquid for young children) to help reduce the length of time the infection is contagious, speed up recovery and reduce the risk of any further problems.

Feb 4th 2018

Wearable tech gives hope to sufferers of brain injuries

Dean Walsh is 32 and for the past five years he hasn't been able to walk, eat or even speak.

It is the result of a brain injury sustained when he was involved in a car accident near his hometown of Leeton in southern New South Wales.

Kristal Ashcroft has been Dean's carer since the day he was released from hospital following the crash in 2012. She is one of 10 carers who provide constant care for him.

"It's hard not knowing what he wants, you know, because you want to give that better quality of life as best you can," Ms Ashcroft said.

But now a wearable device called a NeuroNode has offered Dean's family and carers a glimmer of hope that communication does not have to be impossible.

The NeuroNode sits on Dean's skin and records an electrical impulse when he attempts to move a muscle and shares that with a tablet.

It means that when Dean is asked a question, he can attempt to move a muscle to indicate 'yes', which will then be conveyed as a beep through the tablet.

His dad, Brian Walsh, has been astounded with the results.

"It might not be much to some people but to us it's absolutely huge," Mr Walsh said. "It's enormous.

"It's not what he had before but it's good."

Mr Walsh was so impressed with the NeuroNode, he paid $34,000 out of his own pocket to donate two of the devices to Liverpool and Westmead hospitals.

"If we could just help one or two people, that'd be enough for me," he said.

"But I believe the device is capable of helping more than just one or two people."

Dr Mary-Clare Waugh, a rehabilitation specialist from Westmead Children's Hospital, said she was thrilled by the possibilities the NeuroNode offered patients.

"This is really exciting, to be able to use something as new and as advanced in technology as this, and it's so small as well," Dr Waugh said.

"To be able to communicate with children coming out of a coma, following their brain injury, or allowing children who have severe cerebral palsy to be able to talk to us [is incredible].

"I'm hoping it will make a huge difference to the children we're caring for."

The NeuroNode is the work of inventor Peter Ford, who is the founder of Control Bionics. It's been tested on physicist Steven Hawking and is being used to help US war veterans who have trouble communicating.

"We don't rely on the movement of the muscle," Mr Ford explained.

"We rely on the electrical signal inside the muscle, and it becomes so much easier to make a signal.

"They see the possibility of their life changing."

It may just be a simple beep but for Mr Walsh it makes all the difference.

"You've got to accept that Dean's not coming back to work at the farm anymore but this is a device that can help out heaps."

Feb 3rd 2018

'The holy grail': Simple BLOOD TEST could detect Alzheimer's disease before symptoms appear

Results showed that the test was accurate 90 per cent of the time.

In what is being described as the ‘holy grail of Alzheimer’s research’, scientists have developed a blood test that can detect the build-up of toxic proteins linked to dementia . 

Researchers from the National Centre for Geriatrics and Gerontology in Japan developed the test, which detects amyloid-beta levels in the blood, indicative of levels in the brain.

The team hopes the test could one day be used to treat patients with dementia before symptoms occur.

In the study, the researchers tested the method on 373 people, including healthy people, those with memory loss and people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

While there are currently brain scans available that can detect amyloid-beta levels, these are expensive and impractical.

The researchers hope their blood test could offer a cheaper and easier alternative in the near future - although they highlight that further trials are needed.

Dr Doug Brown, Chief Policy and Research Officer at Alzheimer’s Society, said: “A blood test is much quicker and cheaper than a brain scan or spinal tap, so this could be a useful tool for researchers to identify people at risk of Alzheimer’s for further investigation.”

Professor Paul Morgan, an immunology expert from Cardiff University , described the findings as the ‘holy grail’ of Alzheimer’s research.

He said: “The availability of such markers would facilitate early diagnosis, allow early intervention and perhaps provide a means of demonstrating response to intervention.”

Feb 2nd 2018

Migraines linked to heart problems, claims study

Suffering with migraines could be a sign of underlying heart problems, a 19-year investigation involving more than half a million people has suggested.

Cardiovascular problems including heart attacks, stroke, blood clots and irregular heart rates are all linked to migraine, according to the research published in the British Medical Journal.

The researchers found that people who suffer from migraines were more likely to have a heart attack than those with no major headache symptoms - 25 per 1,000 compared with 17 per 1,000.

45 in 1,000 migraine sufferers also experienced a common form of stroke, 20 more than those who don’t get migraines.

And the number of strokes related to haemorrhages was higher in the migraine-suffering cohort (11 compared with six), while 13 compared with 11 suffered peripheral artery disease.

Danish and American researchers collected data from patients between 1995 and 2013. Of the people assessed, over 51,000 had been diagnosed with migraines and more than 510,000 hadn’t.

Researchers found that the average age someone was diagnosed with a migraine was 35 and 71 per cent were women.

“In this nationwide cohort study, migraine was associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease,” researchers said.

“This suggests that migraine should be considered a potent and persistent risk factor for most cardiovascular diseases in both men and women.”

But as the study was observational, no firm conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect.

Migraines are more severe than normal headaches. They regularly involve nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and noise, low energy and an intense, throbbing headache.

For some people they last just a few hours but for others they can last up to three days.

Each year more than 8.5 million people in the UK are thought to experience a migraine, more than the number affected by asthma, diabetes and epilepsy combined.

Jan 30th 2018

Why are people so vulnerable to this year’s flu epidemic?

While it’s nothing out of the ordinary for the common cold to spread far and wide, during the past few months the flu epidemic has reached new levels of severity. 

Public Health England’s most recent weekly national influenza report includes 205 new confirmed cases of influenza being cared for in intensive care units and high dependency units.

There have been 1,283 new admissions and 155 confirmed deaths since October last year.

So, why does the flu appear to be so much worse this year than ever before?

“Recent statistics have shown that the number of people being hospitalised and dying has increased over recent months,” Dr Andrew Thornber, chief medical officer for the Now Healthcare Group tells The Independent. 

“This can be attributed to a number of factors, including new strains of influenza and an ever-growing population.”

People are encouraged to have the flu jab every year to safeguard themselves against new variations of the virus.

“There has been an increase in the number of people being admitted to hospital in comparison to last year due to the change in the strains of flu which are around,” explains Marvin Munzu, Jakemans expert.

“Flu is ranked in strains A to C, A being the most severe. 

“Originally the A strain of the flu tended to affect vulnerable people. However, more recently cases show the A strain making healthier individuals ill.”

Usually, those most likely to suffer from the flu fall into the “high-risk” category.

“The flu can affect anyone, but the most susceptible include those with weakened immune systems or chronic medical conditions such as HIV/Aids, asthma and chronic heart or lung disease,” says Dr Thornber. 

Flu is very infectious and spread by germs from coughs and sneezes. To reduce the risk of spreading flu use tissues when you cough or sneeze, bin used tissues and wash your hands often. Catch it. Bin it. Kill it.

 “The elderly, pregnant women, babies and young children are also more susceptible.”

The Aussie flu, an influenza A virus strain otherwise known as H3N2, has recently been hitting the headlines.

This year’s flu jab is only 20 per cent effective against the H3N2 strain, due to the fact that the virus mutates at such a rapid pace.

In 2015, researchers from Harvard concluded that your first exposure to the flu can affect the way in which your body responds to further infection later in life.

“A person’s first infection with the influenza virus likely stimulates the production of key antibodies that then shape later immune responses to different season influenza strains,” they stated.

Medical experts have advised maintaining basic hygienic habits to prevent the spread of seasonal flu, such as covering your cough and washing your hands.

However, Professor John Oxford PhD, scientific director of Oxford Media Medicine, believes a superior treatment for the flu may become available in the near future.

“An important discovery from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute was identification of a human gene called IFITM3 which can control the degree of illness or even death in people infected with flu,” he said.

“That could allow doctors to give enhanced treatment quickly to people who have been hospitalised.

“Meanwhile, we need to invest in science expertise for a so-called ‘universal flu vaccine’ which could give a broad protection in all age groups."

Jan 29th 2018

The STI you've probably never heard of before

In this day and age, talk of STIs isn't quite the taboo subject that it used to be. Okay, so you're not going to chat about gonorrhoea with your gran over Sunday lunch, but there is far more education, advice and help out there than there's ever been.

However, while you may feel clued up on knowing your chlamydia from your herpes, there may be one STI that you've never actually heard of.

And the frightening thing is, up to half of men and women have no symptoms whatsoever and, out of those that do, many will end up thinking its something else. 

Trichomoniasis is caused by a parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis (TV) and it's usually spread by having unprotected sex or by sharing unwashed sex toys.

According to NHS UK, the Parasite mainly infects the vagina and urethra in women. In men, the STI commonly infects the urethra, but it can also infect the head of the penis or the prostate gland.

So what symptoms can you expect? Well, here's the tricky bit. As mentioned above, only 50 per cent of people will actually experience symptoms and, if some do appear, they're similar symptoms to infections such as chlamydia and gonorrhoea.

But, if you're a woman, the NHS says to look out for vaginal discharge that may be thick, thin or frothy and yellow-green in colour, or that has an unpleasant smell, along with soreness, swelling and itching around the vagina.

Bizarrely, sometimes the inner thighs also become itchy too and it can be painful to have a wee or while having sex.

Symptoms in men include pain during urination or ejaculation, needing to wee more frequently than usual. It can also cause a thin white discharge from the penis and soreness, swelling and redness around the head of the penis or foreskin.

If you think you might be suffering from Trichomoniasis, or any other STI for that matter, it's best to get yourself down to your GP or sexual health clinic ASAP. If Trichomoniasis is diagnosed following a swab, the good news is it can be treated with a course of the antibiotic metronidazole.

Pregnant women should be extra cautious, however, as being infected with Trichomoniasis while expecting can cause the baby to be born prematurely or have a low birth weight.

Jan 28th 2018

Common back pain myths you need to stop believing

Back pain is one of the leading causes of disability worldwide, supposedly affecting as many as one in ten people.

However, the exact causes of lower back pain are not always clear, and it's not uncommon for osteopaths, physiotherapists, chiropractors and even GPs to come up with some pretty 'out-there' hypotheses as to why someone may be suffering. Having said that, there are a few myths that floating around that really need to be busted. Here, our osteopath Anna Roberts takes a closer look...

Myth 1: It's your posture

Bad posture has been drilled into society as being a terrible thing. Many modern interventions always seem to be focused on correcting posture such as desk-based assessments. But the link between posture and pain really isn't clear-cut.

In fact, posture shouldn't be about being straight or slumped. Instead, it should be more about our ability to change and move into a variety of positions easily. Lots of research has looked into the pressures through our spines and discs during particular positions, however the key is that these pressures will always change depending on how we move.

Furthermore, our skeleton is extremely robust. Your posture is not going to change overnight and be a sudden reason to cause pain; it requires a lot of force to do this.

Myth 2: Pilates will cure you

Pilates has been a gold-standard in treating low back pain... or so it seems. However, it is now debatable whether the science behind Pilates is actually benefiting the back.

Pilates teaches the principle of targeting core muscles to stabilise the spine in a neutral position during movement of limbs and the trunk. But this form of isolation may be the reason some individuals get more back pain following Pilates exercise.

It's because pain is processed within our nervous system and the brain. Feeding more information through particular body parts that are already a bit grumpy can cause more sensitivity and actually increase your pain. The key is to keep the back moving during all exercise to avoid this. Whole body movement is a good distraction to the nervous system, so a Vinyasa flow yoga class might be a more comfortable option if Pilates isn't helping. 

Myth 3: You just need to strengthen your core</h3>

'Core stability' in the fitness and clinical worlds is a fashionable thing. It is believed that by strengthening your 'core' you can relieve your back pain.

But research has now questioned the suggestion of having 'core muscles'. The idea that core muscles stabilise particular parts of the spine doesn't seem to make sense if you're moving, because muscle groups will change their activity according to any task the person is performing. 'Stabilising' muscles become 'movement producing muscles' as soon as you move, which we should be aiming to do as much as possible!

There is also debate about the meaning behind the word 'core' itself. It seems to mostly relate to the abdominals - and strengthening these will supposedly help support the back. It is based on the traditional thought of having muscles that directly work opposite one another. Unfortunately, it just doesn't exist like this. There are lots of people who don't actively exercise to strengthen their abdominals and don't have back pain. It would be more beneficial to focus on whole body strength in larger movements that like a variety of pushing, pulling, jumping, lunging and squatting (the back is in the centre of the body so it will respond to any movement led by the legs and arms anyway).

Myth 4: You need a scan

Some people think that having a scan (MRI, X-ray) will show the cause of their pain. Whilst it is important following a serious injury like bone fracture or ligament tearing, it might not always be necessary.

In fact, the problem with having a scan is that it most likely will always show something. A famous study in the clinical world was one in 2015, which took X-ray imaging of individuals from 20-80 years old. Results showed common findings of arthritis, disc problems and 'pinching' nerve roots among all ages. The 'ta-dah' thing about this study was that the participants did not have back pain. It shows that injury doesn't always have to be the cause of our pain. In fact, pain is so complex and is determined based upon a host of other factors, like situation/context, memory, level of stress and even general health. So don't insist on getting under the scanner just yet, you might not ever need to. 

Myth 5: Acupuncture is all you need</h3>

Passive treatment might include massage, manipulation and mobilisation or acupuncture. Basically, if you are lying on a couch and having someone do some treatment on you. I often have patients who arrive expecting they are going to be getting only this; in truth this is a very small part of the consultation. While this may feel nice and help relieve your pain for a day or two, this type of management won't sort out your problem for good. In fact, even if you have it every single day, it is unlikely to change anything structurally or physiologically on its own.

But active treatment (when you are doing something physically like exercise) isn't necessarily better. The truth is that having a healthy mix between both of these types of treatment seems to be shown the most effective in research. It is also very subjective to the individual and a good therapist should tailor their treatment approach to the patient they have in front of them. I know some patients who hate manual therapy!

The NICE guidelines recently took acupuncture out of the list of effective management to low back pain; however I still have patients who swear by it. The key is the timing and the application of treatment. The more a patient is interested in their rehabilitation, the faster and the better their recovery!

Jan 27th 2018

Heavy periods could soon be a thing of the past, thanks to new research

Heavy periods could become a thing of the past, scientists say, after research identifies the possible cause of excessive menstrual bleeding. It is hoped that the discovery will pave the way for new treatment, offering hope to the one in three women who currently suffer at the hands of their cycle.

The study

A team at the University of Edinburgh studied the womb lining (known as the endometrium), which is shed during menstruation. Heavy bleeding occurs when the wound-like surface that is left behind by the endometrium does not heal, or heals slowly.

It was found that lowered levels of oxygen (known as hypoxia) stimulated the production of a protein called HIF-1, which drives the repair of the endometrium and in turn limits blood loss. As such, it was concluded that women with heavy periods had reduced levels of HIF-1 when compared to women who experience 'normal' levels of blood loss during menstruation.

Tests were then conducted on mice using a drug designed to boost HIF-W levels. This led to improved tissue repair and reduced blood loss. Dr Jackie Maybin, Clinical Lecturer in Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Edinburgh's Medical Research Council Centre for Reproductive Health, who led the study, said:

"Our findings reveal for the first time that HIF-1 and reduced levels of oxygen in the womb are required during a period to optimise repair of the womb lining… Excitingly, increasing levels of the HIF-1 protein in mice shows real promise as a novel, non-hormonal medical treatment."

Heavy bleeding can be debilitating for the sufferer, causing a lot of pain and often leading to severe anaemia. However, current treatments are quite limited - most of which are hormone-based and prevent pregnancy. In some cases, women suffering extreme menstrual blood loss by have to undergo a hysterectomy.

It is perhaps no surprise, then, that the possibility of a therapy that can successfully reduce blood loss without any restrictive side-effects has been welcomed with open arms. Commenting on the findings, a spokesperson for Wellbeing of Women, said:

"Wellbeing of Women is delighted to have supported this work, which has led to the breakthrough discovery of causes of the condition so treatments might now be developed. These findings give hope to women who have suffered in silence with the condition for too long."

The study, published in Nature Communications, was primarily funded by Wellcome with support from the Medical Research Council, the Academy of Medical Sciences and Wellbeing of Women.

Jan 26th 2018

Taking this one supplement could help ease painful IBS symptoms

People suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) could benefit from upping their vitamin D intake to help ease painful symptoms, according to new research.

Scientists from the University of Sheffield reviewed numerous studies and found a high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency among IBS sufferers.

IBS is a common condition that affects the digestive system, and can cause unpleasant symptoms such as stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhoea and constipation.

While the team – whose work was published today (25 January) in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition – believe more research is needed, their findings suggest that vitamin D supplements may help ease those symptoms. Lead study author Dr Bernard Corfe, said in a release:

"The study provides an insight into the condition and, importantly, a new way to try to manage it. It is evident from the findings that all people with IBS should have their vitamin D levels tested and a large majority of them would benefit from supplements."

He added:

"IBS is a poorly understood condition which impacts severely on the quality of life of sufferers. There is no single known cause and likewise no single known cure."

Our bodies can make vitamin D when sunlight hits our skin outdoors, which means we should be able to get the vitamin D we need from sunlight from late March to the end of September. But during the gloomy autumn and winter months, our experts advise all adults to consider taking 10mcg of vitamin D daily.

It's also worth noting that vitamin D is found in a small number of foods, including oily fish, red meat, liver, egg yolks and fortified foods, including some breakfast cereals.

Speak to your GP before taking supplements if you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome.

Jan 25th 2018

What is Asperger's Syndrome? The signs and symptoms you need to know about

Asperger's syndrome is a type of autism, and is a condition which affects a person's social interaction, interests and behaviour.

As with all autism conditions, Asperger's is a spectrum condition, and will affect different people in different ways.

This means that different people with the condition will have different levels of need and require different amounts of support.

It is not yet know what causes a person to develop Asperger's, but it is thought there is a genetic element to the condition.

What are the signs of Asperger's?

People who have Asperger's and other conditions on the autism spectrum often have problems with social communication and interaction.

People with Asperger's often have good language skills, in contrast to those with other autism disorders, but they still find it hard to understand the expectations of others within conversations.

The National Autistic Society says people with the condition have difficulty understanding non-verbal language like gestures, and have a very literal understanding of language. They may find it difficult to understand facial expressions, tone of voice, jokes and sarcasm as well as abstract concepts.

This means at times they may appear insensitive, or appear to behave in a way thought to be socially inappropriate.

Many people with Asperger's also develop a highly specific interest in a very particular subject or activity. This could be separate from any interest in the wider subject - such as collecting the serial numbers of trains without having a wider interest in trains themselves.

They may also experience sensitivity to things like sounds, smells or lights. They may find background sounds which other people block out are loud or distracting.

Another key symptom is repetitive movements, such as flapping hands, rocking back and forth, or flicking fingers.

Those with Asperger's also often favour familiar routine, and may find change upsetting.

How is Asperger's Syndrome diagnosed?

A GP can refer those who may have the condition to appropriate specialists, such as psychiatrists, psychologists, and speech and language therapists.

The specialist can then carry out a detailed look at the symptoms, including an assessment of development, health and behaviour.

How is Asperger's Syndrome treated?

There is no known 'cure' for autism conditions, including Asperger's. However strategies have been developed to help people cope with the condition and its impact on their life. The National Autistic Society has information about many of them.

Programmes may focus on improving the individual's social and communication skills, or encouraging them to take part in social activities with others.

Treatment may also focus on dealing with secondary difficulties that those with Asperger's face - such as anxiety and depression which can result from difficulty with social interactions.

Jan 24th 2018

Bacteria could cause women to give birth prematurely, study finds

Pregnant women who are most at risk of giving birth prematurely could be identified by the microbes found in their reproductive tract, a study has discovered. 

A team from Imperial College London carried out a study in which they collected swab samples from 250 pregnant women and further samples from 87 women who had suffered premature membrane ruptures.

The scientists came to the conclusion that subtle changes to the vaginal bacteria could lead to premature birth before the 37th week of pregnancy.

Out of the 250 pregnant participants, 27 gave birth early. 

Dr David MacIntyre, the lead scientist from Imperial College London, explained the significance of their findings.

“This study is one of the first to show that around almost half of pregnant women may have an unbalanced vaginal microbiota before premature rupture, providing further evidence of the role of bacteria in some cases of premature births,” he said.

“Crucially, our findings identify two different groups of women with premature rupture - one group which targeted antibiotics may be beneficial and the other in which this same treatment may actually be detrimental.”

Previous research has deduced that the bacteria found in the vagina becomes less diverse during pregnancy, with an increase of the Lactobacillus species noted.

However, when levels of Lactobacillus bacteria drop and levels of other types of bacteria rise, this can lead to an expectant mother going into labour earlier than expected.

Lactobacillus bacteria can usually be found in the digestive system, the urinary system and the genital system of the human body.

These changes in the vaginal bacteria could also pose a health risk to mothers and their babies, with newborns potentially facing the danger of experiencing sepsis.

The study conducted by Imperial College London and published in the journal BMC Medicine could give doctors the tools they need to provide pregnant women with the specific antibiotic treatment that they need. 

“Our results suggest that a more personalised approach targeting only those women likely to benefit from antibiotics may prove more beneficial than the current ‘one treatment fits all’ approach,” says Dr Richard Brown, co-author of the study.

Professor Siobhan Quenby from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists further emphasised this point, stating: “More research is needed to determine the link between vaginal bacteria and preterm birth, and if so, changes may be made to the recommended treatment of preterm pre-labour rupture of membranes which is currently the same for all women.

“There is now the exciting possibility of a future where women are tested and given the best antibiotic for them as an individual."

Jan 19th 2018

A simple household ingredient could help women avoid emergency C-sections

Each year, thousands of women in the UK are forced to deliver their babies through emergency C-section. 

But this number could be significantly reduced with the help of a simple household ingredient, according to a leading expert on labour outcomes.

In a new interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme , Professor Susan Wray from the University of Liverpool explains how bicarbonate of soda can help reduce C-section risk.

Last year, Professor Wray conducted a study which tested bicarbonate of soda’s effect on C-section risk. 

The study involved women with a clinical diagnosis of a failure to progress with natural labour.

Half the women were given standard treatment - a drug called oxytocin that is shown to help cause contractions.

The other half were given a drink containing bicarbonate, and then after an hour, the oxytocin treatment.

Speaking in the interview, Professor Wray said: “The outcome was really amazing. We were able to significantly increase the number of women having a spontaneous vaginal delivery and avoiding the emergency c-section.

“And not by just a few percent, but by around 17 to 20 percent.”

The bicarbonate - which is alkaline - works by neutralising levels of amniotic fluid lactate, an acidic chemical that builds up and prevents women from going into labour.

While you might think that getting your hands on such an ingredient would be difficult, Professor Wray stressed that the bicarbonates used in the study can easily be bought in supermarkets.

She added: “In the corner shop you can simply buy this as an antacid.”

Jan 18th 2018

Why it's so important to know the symptoms of sepsis

Imagine a condition that causes between 20 and 30 million deaths worldwide each year. A disease that affects over 100,000 people annually in the UK, of which 37,000 will die. That's more than breast and bowel cancer put together. However, many people have not heard of it, and even fewer understand what it is.

The condition is called sepsis and it's the reason many adults, children and families, including the family of William Mead, are grieving for their loved ones. William was only one year old when sepsis claimed his life back in 2014. An enquiry into his death has revealed a number of learning points: primarily that awareness of sepsis needs to be improved. That sounds simple enough, so why are we failing? 

Sepsis is incredibly hard to spot

Diagnosing sepsis isn't clear-cut, so it's no surprise there are instances where it may not get picked up quickly. Sepsis can be the result of any infection, and children get all sorts of these. It could start as a simple urine, chest or skin infection and when it comes to children, the symptoms of serious and non-serious infections can be the same.

Although we understand the process of how sepsis damages the body, we don't fully understand why it happens. Sometimes, it's because the germ that causes the infection is more likely to overpower the immune system (such as meningococcal sepsis). Sometimes, it's because the person is particularly vulnerable (e.g. very young babies, or people with immune system problems). However, for the most part it's unpredictable and that's very difficult to deal with.

That's precisely where training to spot the sick child is vital, and why the NHS needs to make sure those that deal with unwell children are suitably qualified. Being aware of what to look out for and when is extremely important, and that was one of the failings in William's case. 

Do I need to worry about sepsis in my children?

Even though the report from Williams tragic death serves as a wake-up call for both the public and professionals, it's important to put it into context. It's a terrifying thought for parents, but the reality is that the vast majority of infections we see in children in the community will not turn into life-threatening sepsis. It's worth noting that there are some conditions that are MORE likely to turn in to sepsis - these include bacterial infections like meningococcus in any age, or Group B streptococcus in babies.

It's difficult to specify red flags as there is no one specific sign for sepsis, but if you child has an infection (or may have an infection) and is getting worse, then they should be checked. Especially if they are increasingly lethargic, have pale of mottled skin, are passing less and less urine, or are working harder to breathe.

One other thing that we could all do is to make sure we use antibiotics properly. The misuse could lead to some becoming ineffective and therefore infections that turn into sepsis may be harder to treat.

What do I do if I suspect sepsis?

Research has shown that recognising and treating sepsis quickly can lead to better outcomes. People who have signs of sepsis need to get to hospital as soon as possible. Read more about how to spot sepsis here:

So, if you or someone you know has an infection and things are getting worse, it's important to speak to a healthcare professional to see if the diagnosis or treatment needs to be changed.

We still have some way to go to beat sepsis, but fortunately things are getting better. The UK Sepsis Trust is working hard to make sure that awareness amongst NHS professionals is improved and systems are put in place to pick it up sooner and treat it properly. They have also lobbied the government to take this issue seriously and ensure all levels of the NHS do better, and I wholeheartedly agree.

But the responsibility lies with all of us. As parents, we must make sure our children are as healthy as possible, be aware of what to look out for when they have an infection, and make sure they are immunised to prevent some of the diseases that can cause sepsis.

Jan 11th 2018

Strain of 'Japanese' flu spreading across Britain

An extremely contagious strain of ‘Japanese’ flu which particularly affects children has hit the UK.

The virus has already hit Ireland and now doctors in the UK are already encouraging parents to have their kids vaccinated against Yamagata flu .

Free jabs, which also protect against Aussie flu , are being offered to children aged two to eight in Britain.

The ‘Japanese’ flu strain is said to be more contagious but less severe than the H3N2 ‘Aussie’ flu also sweeping the country.

Young children are being vaccinated for free because they are what experts call ‘super shedders’, meaning they excrete more of the virus because their immune systems cannot distinguish between what makes them ill and what will kill them.

As a result, children produce a stronger ‘transmission’ of the flu, reports the Manchester Evening News .

In 2009, for example, this led to a spike in the swine flu epidemic when young pupils returned to school.

If your children are outside this ‘danger’ age range you don’t need to pay to get them vaccinated, says Graham Munslow, clinical screening and immunisation manager for the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership.

He added: “If we increase immunisation in younger children we are indirectly protecting the rest of the population. So the emphasis is to increase the uptake in children who are offered it by their GP or at school.”

This, he argues, will protect the spread to adults.

Protection against both the Aussie strain and Yamagata, which was first identified in Japan, are included in the flu jab offered free to all two and three-year-olds by GPs and by schools for children from reception to year four.

This is set to be extended to older schoolchildren aged up to 18 in future years.

Unlike H3N2, protection against Yamagata is not included in the vaccine for over-65s or vulnerable patients, such as those with diabetes or respiratory disease.

Yamagata is a category ‘B’ strain of flu. Complications are less common and most people will recover within a week.

This means it’s less serious than Aussie strain, which is a category ‘A’.

Mr Munslow added: “Yamagata is not in the vaccination for the elderly population so we could well start to see it in other age groups.

"It’s relatively mild but there can be more serious cases. We are really pushing vaccines because flu season lasts until the end of March which means we have three more months’ worth of cases.

“There’s plenty of time to get the vaccine and there’s no problem with the supply of the vaccine.”

He said the country had been ‘lucky’ in recent years when it comes to flu, adding: “What we are seeing is a normal flu season. We’ve had quiet seasons for the last five years - this is more of a return to what we were used to but because of the recent quiet years it looks sinister.”

The arrival of flu season comes as NHS England urged hospitals to defer pre-planned operations and routine outpatient appointments until the end of the month.

Jan 9th 2018

Health bosses warn deadly 'French flu' is on the way to the UK

The spread of the dangerous ' Aussie flu ' has been well-documented but the worst could be yet to come.

Health bosses are warning about a horrendous 'French flu ' epidemic could be heading across the Channel.

The killer virus, which has already claimed 30 lives, sparked warnings to NHS workers to get flu jabs.

The warnings emerged as the so-called French flu reached epidemic levels, the Coventry Telegraph reports.

It's estimated that there are 527 cases of French flu per 100,000 inhabitants in the country.

In the last three weeks of December, 704,000 people in France went to their GP.

Cases reported between Christmas and New Year affected people from the age of just three months to 93 years. Males accounted for 46% of these cases.

According to the Sunday Telegraph, NHS trusts are failing to get medical workers to have flu jabs amid the warnings that the French epidemic could spread to Britain.

The paper reports: “It comes amid a deepening NHS winter crisis, with 24 hospital trusts declaring ‘black alerts’ last week, as pressures threatened to overwhelm them, and thousands of patients stuck in ambulances outside hospitals as flu rates soar.”

It has been reported that around one quarter of NHS staff will contract flu during an average winter period.

The Sunday Telegraph reports that figures suggest around half will not show symptoms, which means they could remain in work and spread infections.

Warnings come after a study by Imperial College London which found every 10 per cent increase in NHS vaccination rates was linked with a 10 per cent fall in sickness absence.

Aussie flu has now spread to every area of the UK, with Dorchester and the City of London the last two places to report cases of people with "influenza like illness".

More than 1600 cases of Aussie flu alone have been reported so far, but the actual total is feared to be far higher.

Seventeen patients were admitted to intensive care, as the latest influenza report confirms the virus is spreading faster.

New flu cases were being reported in previously untouched areas including the Brecon Beacons, Dartford and Telford this weekend.

The worst-hit areas include Portsmouth, Plymouth, Northern Ireland, Dundee, Doncaster, Chelmsford, Northampton and Canterbury, according to the map.

In Northern Ireland, churches have banned handshakes to prevent the spread of the virus.

Health experts have called this one of the worst flu seasons in half a century and urged hospitals to be prepared for an epidemic thanks to the H3N2 strain, known as Aussie flu.

The flu kills an average of 8000 people every year in the UK, but there are fears the toll could be much higher this season.

There are fears Britain could see an epidemic like the one currently being experienced in France.

The flu has killed more than 30 people there and put 11,500 others in hospital.

British mum-of-three has told how her horrific Aussie flu symptoms left her bedbound over Christmas.

Natalie Shand, 39, initially thought she was vomiting because she had been drinking Prosecco at a dinner party the night before.

But her symptoms worsened and she was struck with diarrhoea, pain all over her body and severe fatigue.

She said: "I was bedbound for six days in total. Then I was OK for two weeks and then by December 23 it knocked me off my feet again for hours at a time.

"I had it for five weeks. The fatigue has floored me."

How to protect yourself

The flu vaccine is the best protection we have, although because flu strains change, it needs to be done every year.

The flu jab is offered free to adults at risk, over-65s, pregnant women and children at risk aged six months to two years old, and a spray is offered to children up to four.

People can prevent the virus from spreading by washing their hands regularly, covering their mouth and nose with tissues or a sleeve when they cough or sneeze, and cleaning surfaces they suspect are infected.

Wearing winter gloves on public transport will also help prevent the spread of germs.

And if you do get the flu?

Rest, sleep, keeping warm, taking paracetamol or ibuprofen and drinking lots of water are all recommended.

GPs do not prescribe antibiotics as they will not relieve symptoms or help recovery.

Seek medical advice from a pharmacist, but you are encouraged not to call 999 or go to A&E unless you develop sudden chest pain, have trouble breathing or start coughing blood.

Patients are advised to only go to their GP if their symptoms fail to improve after seven days, they are a child, over-65, pregnant or have a long-term medical condition or weakened immune system.

Jan 8th 2018

Eating fry-ups during pregnancy can boost babies' intelligence, research indicates

Eating a full English breakfast during pregnancy could increase a babies' IQ, new research has found.

The study, published in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, revealed that mothers who consumed eggs and bacon during the last three months of their term performed better in tests.

This, it says, is because both foods are rich in a nutrient called choline, which despite being vital during pregnancy, most women do not consume enough of.

The link between increased levels of choline and higher IQ has previously been made in mice but has now also been proven in humans.

Dividing 26 participants into two groups, half the women received 480 mg/day of choline, slightly more than the adequate intake level of 450 mg/day, and the other 930 mg.

Researchers then tested information processing speed and visuospatial memory at four, seven, 10 and 13 months of age, the Mirror reports.

They recorded how long each baby took to look towards an image on the periphery of a computer screen, a measure of the time it takes for a cue to produce a motor response.

The test has been shown to correlate with IQ in childhood.

As a result of the findings, Professor Marie Caudill, of Cornell University in New York, has said the recommended daily guidelines on how much choline humans should consume should be boosted, adding “this single nutrients has lifelong benefits.”

However, if the thought of consuming a fry-up doesn’t appeal due to morning sickness, it’s important to note that choline is also found in fish, chicken, milk, legumes, nuts and broccoli.

Jan 6th 2018

A strain of flu not included in this year's jab is spreading (but you can prevent it)

A strain of flu that isn’t included in this year’s main flu vaccine is spreading, according to Public Health England (PHE).

There are many different strains of the influenza virus and, each year, vaccines are designed to target those believed to be the most of risk to the population.

This year, the main vaccine is designed to protect against three strains of flu (including the Australian flu, which has already caused fatalities in Ireland) however it does not protect against a strain of the virus called influenza B/Yamagata - which is now spreading.

In a letter to GPs, which has been seen by HuffPost UK, PHE warned about the strain, which has been detected in a number of hospitals and care homes across the south west.

The standard (trivalent, meaning three strain) vaccine given to most people in the UK protects against the following strains of influenza: 

:: A/H1N1 – the strain of flu that caused the swine flu pandemic in 2009.

:: A/H3N2 – a strain of flu that mainly affects the elderly and people with risk factors like a long term health condition (also known as Australian flu).

:: Influenza B – a strain of flu that particularly affects children. In 2017/18 the vaccine will contain B/Brisbane/60/2008-like virus.

There is also a vaccine - called a quadrivalent influenza vaccine - which is given to people in high risk groups, such as children, elderly people, those who are pregnant or who have asthma. This vaccine protects against the three strains listed above as well as a strain called B/Phuket.

In its latest flu report, PHE said B/Yamagata viruses were ‘antigenically similar to B/Phuket’, so the quadrivalent virus can better protect against it.

That said, a spokesperson for PHE previously told HuffPost UK the typical effectiveness of the flu vaccine is in the range of 40-60% - meaning some people can still get flu, despite having the jab.

Symptoms of flu

Flu symptoms often come on quickly with sufferers experiencing a fever, a dry chesty cough, tiredness, the chills, joint pain or aching muscles. Much of the time it will make them too unwell to do anything.

Other symptoms include: diarrhoea, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, a sore throat, a blocked or runny nose, sneezing, loss of appetite and difficulty sleeping. 


In a letter to GPs in the south west, PHE wrote: “Surveillance for week 51 shows a large increase in laboratory reports of both Influenza A and B, but particularly B.

“As most adults will have been vaccinated in general practice using trivalent rather than quadrivalent vaccine, it is possible that cases of flu will be seen amongst individuals, both staff and patients, who have accepted this vaccination.”

An analysis by the health body found that 21 out of 25 cases of influenza B were caused by B/Yamagata. The other four cases were caused by a strain called B/Victoria (similar to B/Brisbane, which this year’s vaccine protects against).

While B/Yamagata isn’t as severe as Australian flu (A/H3N2), there are worries that an outbreak of this strain of flu could put increasing pressure on the NHS.

Doctors and nurses who have had this year’s standard flu jab can still catch this particular strain of flu, which could increase staff absences at a time when waiting rooms are filling up.

In week 51 of 2017 (Christmas week), the overall influenza-like illness GP consultation rate was 18.9 per 100,000 in England. The week before that it was less - 11.4 per 100,000 people.

PHE confirmed in its letter that “a number of hospitals and care homes across the south west have already been affected by localised outbreaks and increased demand”.

So what should you do if you’ve had this year’s jab and are worried about catching this strain?

Professor Paul Cosford, Medical Director for Public Health England, told HuffPost UK: “The vaccine remains the best defence against the virus. It is not too late to get vaccinated and we urge all who are eligible, especially those in at-risk groups that include people aged 65 years or over, pregnant women, and those with certain chronic conditions, to take up the offer of the vaccine.”

Dr Richard Pebody, Acting Head of Respiratory Diseases department at Public Health England, advises to: 

:: Practice good hand hygiene - for example washing your hands with soap and warm water before preparing and eating food.

:: For those who are suffering symptoms of flu, carry tissues and use them to catch coughs or sneezes. Bin the tissues after using them, wash your hands regularly with soap and warm water, and frequently clean surfaces like computer keyboards, telephones and other regularly used objects.

:: Avoid having unnecessary contact with other people if you or they are presenting symptoms of flu.

Advice for people with flu

People concerned about flu-like symptoms should stay at home. PHE emphasises that patients should seek advice from a local pharmacist before contacting their GP.

Patients can contact their GP, or call NHS 111, to seek further advice. People with flu should get plenty of rest, keep warm, take paracetamol or ibuprofen to lower their temperature and treat aches and pains, and drink lots of water to avoid dehydration.

For most healthy people, recovering from flu can take roughly a week. However, for those that are more vulnerable, it can be more severe and it is important to be aware of this and seek help when needed. 

Dr Steve Iley, medical director for Bupa UK, told HuffPost UK: “If you experience sudden chest pains, difficulty breathing or coughing up blood, you should call 999 to seek immediate help.”

Jan 2nd 2018

These 11 life hacks will boost your health and your mood in 2018

Tired of too-strict diet and exercise regimes that fail before February? Our easy but effective lifestyle tweaks will keep you healthy all year…

Don’t ban booze

Dry January is great in theory, but there’s no real health gain if you abstain for a month only to go back to drinking just as heavily for the rest of the year.

Also, January can be a tough, cold month when banning things outright will just make you feel miserable.

A healthier, longer term goal is to simply drink a bit less, every week. Aim to stick to the official Government guidelines which recommend no more than 14 units each week.

Integrate exercise into your life

One reason why many people stop going to the gym or ditch a new fitness plan is because they see exercise as an “add-on” – something they only do when they can find the time.

Research shows extra activity is much more likely to become a habit if you find ways to simply incorporate it into your daily routine. Walk the kids to school or cycle to work and use your lunch hour for a brisk walk to run errands.

Make breakfast a happy meal

Choose a brekkie that’s scientifically shown to lift your mood and boost your health: “Poached eggs on granary toast is the perfect mood-lifting combination,” advises nutritionist Linda Foster.

The high protein hit will also keep you feeling fuller for longer and therefore less likely to snack on sugary treats mid-morning.

Diary in down time

A little pressure every now and again is part of life, but when stress becomes chronic, it can increase your risk of sleep problems, depression and heart disease.

“Long work hours, not switching off and lack of time with family and friends can exacerbate stress,” says Dr Meg Arroll, psychologist for Healthspan. “But all too often relaxation is seen only as an indulgence.”

Make this the year you prioritise down time – be that yoga classes, weekends away or walks in the park.

Designate every day a D-day

Sunlight is the body’s main source of vitamin D, and deficiency can increase your risk of depression and catching colds and flu.

With up to 50% of Britons deficient in this nutrient, the Government now recommends we take a daily vitamin D supplement of 10mcg over the winter. Try Better You DLUX1000 (£6.95, from Betteryou.com)

Reconnect with old friends

Reconnecting with old pals could be good for your health. Research suggests people with strong social ties live longer than those who don’t. In fact, a lack of social bonds can damage your health as much as excessive drinking and smoking according to a large review study by Brigham Young University in the USA.

Spoil yourself rotten

You don’t have to make January a month of denial. Be extra nice to yourself instead. Book a massage, a meal out or just plan a special movie night in with your family.

Treating yourself releases happy hormones in the brain that can lower blood pressure and help boost immunity.

Go to sleep – and wake up – at the same time

Many of us worry about getting enough sleep and carefully count how many hours we’re managing each night. But while this is important, some sleep experts say we’d be better off focusing on a consistent sleep/wake schedule.

Our bodies thrive on routine and going to bed at roughly the same time every night will help you get to sleep faster – and wake refreshed.

Drink a bit more water

There’s no doubt being hydrated is good for our energy levels and can improve concentration and even prevent headaches. And the good news is that many experts no longer think we need to drink eight glasses of water a day, and advise just drinking enough fluid to ensure your pee is light straw-coloured rather than dark and concentrated.

“Drinking one glass of water before each meal is a great start and will also help prevent overeating,” advises Linda.

Book that holiday

Why not take advantage of all those “early bird” deals and book yourself a holiday? Just choosing where to stay and looking at pictures of sunny beaches will help you forget about the misery of January.

In fact, psychologists have found that just looking forward to your holiday boosts your current mood by releasing feel-good brain chemicals.

Have a social media-free day each week

Ever found yourself feeling miserable because everyone on Facebook or Instagram seems to be having better holidays/romance/life than you?

A growing body of research has found a link between excessive use of these sites and depression, with the University of Houston putting this down to us worrying that others are doing better than us.

Try and give yourself one day a week away from social media.

Dec 30th 2017

Despite the cultural cliche that PMS-ing women need ice cream and other sugary cravings to cope with their period pain and mood swings, it’s actually not a pint of rocky road that will help put some pep in your step during your period. So we spoke with experts to see what foods they recommend noshing during your period.

Instead of grabbing for the nearest trans fat, munch on these expert-approved foods to rev up your energy.

Iron-rich foods

Did you know that iron deficiency is reported as being the most common nutritional deficiency in the U.S.? And that women, especially those with heavy periods, are most at risk? That’s because bleeding reduces the amount of iron in our bodies, so it’s important to eat iron-rich foods when you’re menstruating to avoid anemia, a condition that can cause extreme fatigue and loss of energy.

'Many women tend to have low iron levels anyway, so adding your menstrual cycle on top of that is just a terrible combination,' San Antonio-based certified nutrition coach and personal trainer Hope Pedraza told HelloGiggles. 'When it’s that time of the month, try eating foods high in iron like legumes, organic meat, wild fish, dark leafy greens, nuts and seeds, which are all great sources of iron.'

Pedraza also pointed out that many foods rich in iron also contain high levels of magnesium, a nutrient that has been shown to reduce PSM and other period symptoms.


When it comes to eating during your period, salmon and other fatty fishes are basically a super food. Nutritionist Claire Martin RD explained to HelloGiggles, 'Fish, especially salmon or cod, are high in omega 3 and healthy fatty acids which can help reduce period related inflammation, improve blood sugar and regulate your hormones. Studies show that women who regularly consume fish or take fish oil supplements experience less menstrual pain. Fish is [also a] great source of iron, vitamin b12, and magnesium, and a healthy protein source.'

Related: Eight reasons you’re spotting between periods (Provided by Health.com)

Dark chocolate

When your body and hormones are feeling out of whack, chocolate is a girl’s best friend, says wellness expert Caleb Backe of Maple Holistics. However, skip candy bars filled with refined sugar and opt for some dark chocolate instead.

'This healthy alternative is a loaded with antioxidants and is proven to lower levels of cortisol, the brain’s major stress hormone,' Backe told HelloGiggles.

Pro-tip: Dip strawberries in dark chocolate for an indulgent (but still relatively healthy!) treat.


Okay, okay, water is not a food per se. But San Diego-based nutritionist Adalise Jacob recommends upping your water intake during your period to help ward off bloating and the low-energy blahs:

'During our menstrual cycles, many women experience water retention and subsequently bloating,' Jacob explained to HelloGiggles. 'It sounds counterintuitive, but drinking more water can help ease bloating and cramps during your period because it pushes the water through your system and out via urine. You’ll also feel more energised if you are hydrated.'

And also, this little item on cells

Never mind 3D-printing organs -- the real dream is to make the tissue itself bend to your will, and UCSF scientists have managed just that. They've discovered that they can 'hack' special cells that help fold tissue (mesenchymal cells) to create 3D shapes out of live tissue. The trick is to lay out these cells in specific patterns that "tug" on other cells' extracellular matrix fibers. You can create surprisingly diverse items, ranging from simple bowls and ripples to decidedly unnatural items like cubes and coils.

There's plenty of work to be done. The researchers want to combine their shape forming work with other discoveries into tissue patterning, and they need to understand how cells change in response to this folding.

The practical implications are already evident, though. This could lead to lab-made organs that are designed to exact specifications using the natural processes of the cells themselves. You could also see soft robots created largely from living material rather than inert substances like rubber. It's a tad creepy (imagine robots that can grow), but it could also dramatically expand what's possible in medicine and machinery.

Dec 29th 2017

Four sleeping habits that are hindering your fitness success

Getting into a consistent fitness routine can be tough, especially when you don't make changes to your overall lifestyle. Although you don't have to completely overhaul how you live, changing certain habits that seemingly have nothing to do with your workouts can drastically ease your journey to becoming a bolder, fitter version of yourself. 

There are myriad reasons getting better rest can benefit your health and wellness, and if you're on a quest to live a fitter lifestyle, it may just be the key to keeping you consistent. Read on for four sleep habits you might not know are standing in the way of your success.

Snoozing Through Mornings

You don't have to be a bona fide morning person to hack your way into enjoying the benefits of early rises. One of the best ways to make sure you don't snooze your way through your scheduled a.m. workouts is to get a good night's sleep because it lessens the dread and grogginess of an early start.

Not Having a Routine

Not sticking to a good sleep schedule leaves you susceptible to excess fatigue and a disrupted sleeping pattern because it doesn't allow your circadian rhythm to regulate itself. Aside from tiredness and lack of motivation, your internal body clock also controls the release of certain hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, which can affect everything from energy levels to mood.

Not Sleeping Enough

Sleep isn't just a time to rest your weary bones; it's also essential for uninterrupted mental rest and muscle repair, which respectively allow you to face all goals - fitness and otherwise - with a relaxed and motivated attitude and see results and gains from all your hard work.

Spending Weekends in Bed

There's nothing wrong with having a lie-in, but if you've developed social jet lag and wait for the weekend to catch up on sleep, you run the risk of derailing your workout schedule. Sleeping in too late on weekends to recover from late nights during the week gives you less time in the day to be productive and can force you to throw weekend workouts by the wayside in favour of spending what's left of the day enjoying more leisurely activities.

Dec 21st 2017 Keep Mum and Dad Warm

In winter time, it can be difficult to stay warm, especially for the elderly who often suffer from the cold and inactivity more than younger people. However, with nearly 120,000 Britons dying as a result of the cold weather over the past four years, it is vital that you help the elderly stay warm in winter and encourage mobility where possible.

Grainne McCarthy, Clinical Lead at Elder, an online platform providing high quality live-in care across the UK, provides her best tips.

1. Moving around

Even if your elderly relatives are at home and can't really do much exercise, they shouldn't sit still and get cold.

"They should aim to move around every hour at least, whether it is to get a cup of tea or a snack, or even better – doing some house chores if possible. Doing housework will help them stay active and warm, while also preparing the home for Christmas."

2. Dressing warm

Whether the elderly are staying at home or going outside for a walk it is important that they are dressed properly.

"Outdoor clothes should allow for a thermal layer underneath, such as a top or leggings, while the outerwear should be lightweight and wind and waterproof. Additionally, while the core might be warm it is the extremities like hands and feet that get very cold, so make sure they always have warm gloves, socks, hats and scarves to stay warm."

3. Warm feet

As mentioned above, the extremities get colder in the winter and this is especially true for the feet.

"When it comes to keeping your elderly relative warm in the cold months, make sure that when they are seating down that their feet are elevated, as the floor will be colder than the room temperature, unless they are heated. Choose their footwear wisely, so that the outdoor shoes will prevent them from slipping on ice, whereas indoor shoes don't cause them to trip."

4. Getting involved

Another way of helping the elderly to stay warm and active during the winter is to get them involved in their local community as much as possible.

"If they are able to, encourage them to help out at a local soup kitchen, provide some treats for a bake sale, or organise a charity event. Active volunteering opportunities will help them stay warm and active, while also expanding their social circle."

5. Keeping the mind active

In the winter, it can be more difficult for the elderly to stick with their social engagements, especially if the roads are slippery or the cold is particularly biting.

"This is a good opportunity to keep their mind sharp in their free time – find an activity that they enjoy and suggest that they do it for at least an hour each day. This will keep their mind sharp and prevent them from boredom."

6. Eating well

A great part of staying warm and active in the winter is making sure that your loved one is sticking to a good and healthy diet. 

"Eating plenty of fruit and vegetables in the day will keep their energy levels up, allowing them to keep moving throughout the day. Similarly, eating at least one hot meal a day and drinking plenty of fluids are equally as important."

Tip: adding a dash of ginger to tea will help to improve the blood circulation and promote warmth.

7. Maintenance

As it can get very cold in winter, you should make sure that your elderly friend or loved one's home is properly functional. 

"This involves servicing the heating system on a yearly basis to make sure that everything is in working order, keeping all ventilation in good working order, especially if there are gas or wood heaters. You should also make sure that they know the location of the water switches and can turn them easily, in case the pipes freeze."

Last but not least, make sure that their home is fitted with a fire alarm.

Dec 19th 2017

Want an all-natural way to lift your mood, improve your memory, and protect your brain against age-related cognitive decline?

Get moving.

A wealth of recent research, including a new study published this month, suggests that any type of exercise that raises your heart rate and gets you moving and sweating for a sustained period of time -- known as aerobic exercise -- has a significant, beneficial impact on the brain.

'Aerobic exercise is the key for your head, just as it is for your heart,' said an article in the Harvard Medical School blog 'Mind and Mood.'

Most research suggests that the best type of aerobic exercise for your mind is anything you can do regularly and consistently for 30-45 minutes at a time. But the latest study suggests that any kind of workout -- whether it's for 5 minutes or 45 -- can have beneficial impacts on mental health.

The new study, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, is the largest long-term study of its kind to look at the link between exercise and mental health, with a special focus on depression.

The researchers studied close to 34,000 Norwegian adults over 11 years and had them report how often they exercised each week, how intense it was, and how depressed or anxious they felt. The results suggested that as little as one hour of exercise each week helped shield people against depressive episodes. Notably, that exercise did not need to be aerobic -- even participants who got moving without becoming breathless (perhaps with an activity like a long, moderately-paced walk) were significantly less likely to report symptoms of depression compared with those who did no exercise.

Plenty of other research has revealed a powerful connection between mental and physical fitness across varying levels of intensity. Some benefits - like a lift in mood - can emerge as soon as a few minutes into a sweaty endeavour, while others -- like improved memory -- might take several weeks to crop up.

A pilot study in people with severe depression, for example, found that just 30 minutes of treadmill walking for 10 consecutive days was 'sufficient to produce a clinically relevant and statistically significant reduction in depression.' Aerobic workouts appear to help reduce levels of the body's natural stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, according to a recent study in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science.

In older people, the best way to protect against age-related brain decline seems to be aerobic workouts. A study published in May found that in adults aged 60-88, walking for 30 minutes four days a week for 12 weeks appeared to strengthen connectivity in a region of the brain where weakened connections have been linked with memory loss. And a study in older women who displayed symptoms of dementia found that sweaty, heart-pumping exercise was linked with an increase in the size of the hippocampus, a brain area involved in learning and memory.

Several studies even suggest that aerobic workouts provide the best protection against other types of cognitive decline, too. A study involving hundreds of breast cancer survivors concluded that such exercise seemed to reduce the symptoms of 'chemo brain,' a commonly reported side effect of cancer treatment that involves memory loss and difficulty focusing.

'The message for cancer patients and survivors is, get active!' Diane Ehlers, the lead author of that study and a professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, said in a statement.

The best overall health results -- mental and physical -- for people over 50 appear to come from a combination of aerobic workouts and resistance training (strengthening work like weights or squats). That type of workout plan could be anything from high-intensity interval training, like the 7-minute workout, to dynamic flow yoga, which intersperses strength-building poses with heart-pumping dance-like moves.

Researchers still aren't sure why exercise appears to provide so many benefits to our brain and body. One factor could be increased blood flow, since aerobic work pumps fresh energy and oxygen to the brain.

Regardless of the cause, Joe Northey, an exercise scientist at the University of Canberra, said his research suggests that anyone in good health over age 50 should do 45 minutes to an hour of aerobic exercise 'on as many days of the week as feasible.'

That's probably good advice for all ages.

Dec 17th 2017

Taking a brisk walk for at least 10 minutes every day can reduce your chances of an early death. But many adults aren't managing this once a month, let alone seven times a week. Our busy, modern lives are making it difficult for many to find the time for exercise.

But that's a big problem. It's estimated that inactivity contributes to one in six deaths in the UK.

Findings from Public Health England show people in the UK are 20% less active now than they were in the 1960s and walk on average 15 miles less a year than two decades ago.

So the organisation has launched its One You physical activity campaign to encourage adults to build 10 minutes continuous brisk walking into their day as a simple way to improve their health.

The 'Active 10' app has been developed to show how much brisk walking a person is doing each day and how to incorporate more of it into their lives.

What a 10 minute walk can do

Taking at least one brisk 10 minute walk a day has been shown to reduce the risk of early death by 15%. This can lead to health benefits including a lowered risk of type 2 diabetes (by 40%), heart disease (by 35%), dementia (by 30%) and some cancers (by 20%).

The free app combines walking intensity and time, rather than just distance or steps and is the first of its kind. It helps people gradually introduce more activity into their daily routine, with goal setting advice and motivational tips. It has already helped 50,000 adults get more active.

Dr Jenny Harries, Deputy Medical Director at PHE, said: 'I know first hand that juggling the priorities of everyday life often means exercise takes a back seat. Walking to the shops instead of driving or going for a brisk 10 minute walk on your lunch break each day can add many healthy years to your life.

'The Active 10 app is a free and easy way to help anyone build more brisk walking into their daily routine.'

Dec 16th 2017 too much exercise?

With January fast approaching and people starting to formulate ideas for their new year’s resolutions, many will overindulge over Christmas with the plan that 2018 will be the year they finally start exercising.

Most of us are worried about doing too little, getting flabby and sedentary, but is there such a thing as too much exercise?

According to research carried out in 2012 by a team led by cardiologist Dr James O’Keefe, physical activity is like medical treatment in that it can be detrimental if overdone. Dr O'Keefe said:

"As great as exercise is, it’s like a powerful drug. More is better up to a certain dose, but after that there is a point of diminishing returns, and it may actually detract from health and even your longevity."

How much is too much?

It should be stated, first and foremost, that research has shown those that exercise regularly benefit in a number of ways, not least living on average seven years longer than those who don't.

Extreme athletes, however, can take things too far and that excessive activity can actually have a toxic effect. Experts say 30 to 60 minutes of exercise a day is ample and runners should aim for about 10 to 15 miles a week - enough to achieve a runner's high.

Should you be worried about exercising too much?

Personal trainer Daniel Harrod told indy100 that for the vast majority of people this should not be an issue:

"Lingering soreness, frequent 'flu-like' illness, increased lethargy, decreased gym performance, and severe exhaustion usually indicates you're exercising too much."

Most people shouldn't be concerned about over-training though since "under-recovering" is more of an issue. Your body can actually handle an extreme amount of work - if you recover properly. Harrod suggests that for every intense training session completed, there should be an equally intense focus on rest and recovery methods. Following this golden rule should be enough to prevent any negative repercussions.

What is an extreme workout and why is it dangerous?

A marathon is a good example of an extreme workout. While engaged in such a pursuit, the heart has to pump fives times the amount of blood it would while a person is resting. This can cause short-term changes in the heart and large arteries but things will return to normal within a week without additional training. More extreme exercise within this timeframe, however, may cause heart scarring that might lead to irregular heartbeats.

How can you avoid overdoing it?

The benefits of exercise for both the heart and the body simply do not require extreme measures. Depending on the activity, anything between 15 minutes and an hour a day of exercise, several times a week, will produce results. If you pursue small but manageable amounts of excursion, everyone's a winner.

Dec 14th 2017 First

More than a quarter of young women are now suffering from mental illness , a national health survey shows.

NHS Digital revealed rising levels of mental ill health across both sexes and almost all groups in its Health Survey for England.

Women aged 16 to 24 fared worst, with 28% providing detailed answers which suggest probable mental ill health.

Experts have blamed social media and body-image pressures for rising numbers of people turning up at A&E in crisis.

It comes as campaigners call for more resources to be devoted to mental health services.

The so-called GHQ-12 questionnaire asks participants about their general levels of happiness, depression, anxiety, sleep disturbance and self-confidence.

The proportion of adults recording probable mental ill health increased from 15% in 2012 to 19% in 2016.

In 2012, the survey suggested 21% of women aged 16 to 24 were mentally ill – up to 28% in 2016.

Gillian Prior, editor of the Health Survey for England, said: “The proportion of people with probable mental ill health has risen since 2012, particularly among young men and women. This evidence gives further support to the widespread concern about the mental health of young people.”

In 2012, 9% of men in both the 16-24 and 25-34 age brackets had probable mental ill health. This has increased to 16% and 18% respectively in 2016.

'Crisis as the pressure hits youngsters'


We are facing a mental health crisis for children and young people.

Teens face pressures including stress at school, bullying, body issues and the added burden of the 24/7 online world.

Girls may also be affected by early sexualisation, and the feeling that their life needs to be as flawless as pictures in news feeds.

It takes a lot of courage for a young person to reach out for help, but too often it’s not available. That’s why there needs to be sufficient funding as well as a focus on wellbeing in schools.

- Parents worried about a young person, under 25, can call the YoungMinds Parents’ Helpline on 0808 802 5544 or visit website youngminds.org.uk/take20

Dec 14th 2017 Also today

Huntington’s disease is an inherited illness thought to affect around one in every 10,000 people.

The condition, caused by a faulty gene in a person’s DNA, affects the network of nerve tissues in the brain and spinal cord that coordinate the body’s movement, learning, thinking and emotions.

The disease is progressive and there’s no cure, but that doesn’t mean life stops after diagnosis. “Living with it means having to adapt to change, taking one day at a time,” according to the Huntington’s Disease Association (HDA).


Most people with the disease will develop problems between 30 and 55 years of age and symptoms can sometimes be confused with other illnesses, such as Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s.

Early signs of Huntington’s include personality changes, mood swings and unusual behaviour - although these are sometimes overlooked or attributed to something else.

According to the NHS, other key signs include:

: Movement problems such as small but uncontrollable movements of the face or jerking, flicking or fidgety movements of the limbs and body.

:: Feeding problems, which can occur as a result of the loss of control over movement.

:: Communication problems such as struggling to put thoughts into words and slurring speech.

:: Psychiatric problems such as depression. A few people may also develop obsessive behaviours and schizophrenic-like problems, according to the NHS.

:: Sexual problems including loss of interest in sex.

Cath Stanley, chief executive of HDA, told HuffPost UK that there’s “a lack of knowledge from health and social care professionals about the disease because it’s rare” and there’s “little knowledge of symptoms and how to treat them” - so awareness is key.


As previously mentioned, Huntington’s is a hereditary disease caused by a fault in a person’s DNA.

The error is found in the huntingtin gene that tells the body to produce the huntingtin protein. Normally this protein is vital for the development of the brain, however the DNA error tells the protein to attack brain cells rather than encourage their growth.


If you present with some of the symptoms outlined above, you might want to speak to your GP for further tests. Equally, if Huntington’s disease runs in your family, you may choose to be tested pre-emptively.

Diagnosis for Huntington’s will often involve a physical examination and cognitive assessment, according to Stanley. This might involve testing a person’s thinking, eye movements, balance and movement.

They may also be required to have a genetic test (blood test). This can help doctors determine whether a person has inherited a faulty gene.

If they have, they’ll develop Huntington’s disease, but it’s not possible to work out at what age. The NHS says most people have roughly 40 years of a normal healthy life before the condition develops.


There’s no cure for Huntington’s disease, however a new clinical trial has proven promising for patients. A drug directly injected into patients’ spinal fluid was found to lower the levels of the huntingtins protein which attacks the nervous system.

Professor Tabrizi, director of the UCL Huntington’s Disease Centre, said: “The results of this trial are of ground-breaking importance for Huntington’s disease patients and families.”

The drug will undergo larger clinical trials before being made available to the public. In the meantime, there are other treatment options for Huntington’s comprising both lifestyle changes and medicines.

The NHS recommends therapies including speech and language therapy for people struggling with communication. It also notes that regular exercise is important for both physical and mental health.

Medication may also be prescribed to ease symptoms. Mood stabilisers can help treat irritability or mood swings; while antidepressants can help improve mood swings and treat depression. Medication may also be prescribed to suppress involuntary movements.

Dec 13th 2017

Loneliness combined with cold weather could prove “lethal” for thousands this winter, England’s top nurse has warned.

Professor Jane Cummings, chief nursing officer for the NHS in England, said loneliness and isolation pose a threat to both physical and mental health for people of all ages, not just the elderly.

She said the issue can have a major impact on already stretched NHS services, especially over the winter months when cold weather poses a threat to many vulnerable groups.

Evidence shows that being alone and feeling isolated increases the risk of premature death by around a third and is as damaging to health as not exercising.

One in three people who report loneliness have long-term health conditions, which make them more vulnerable to the effects of cold weather.

Heart attacks increase almost immediately after a cold weather snap and account for 40% of excess winter deaths. Hospitals also see a rise in the admission of stroke patients five days after the cold weather begins, while admissions for respiratory problems go up 12 days after the temperature drops.

Three quarters of GPs say they see up to five people a day who have come in mainly because they are lonely.

The number of hospital admissions is also linked to colder weather circulating viral infections, including flu. Older people who may be frail, or who have existing health conditions, are particularly at risk. Half of people aged 75 and over live alone, around two million people, and many say they go days or even weeks with no social interaction at all.

Research also suggests lonely people have a 64% increased chance of developing clinical dementia and are more prone to depression, whilst a third of people with dementia said they had lost contact with friends.

While we usually associate loneliness with old age, people of all ages can be affected. For example, a third of new mums claim to be lonely and eight out of 10 carers have felt lonely or isolated looking after loved ones.

Related: These heart attack symptoms could mean the difference between life and death (provided by Active Times)

Prof Cummings said: “Loneliness has a devastating and life-threatening impact on people of all ages. For vulnerable groups, social isolation combined with the health dangers of colder weather, is a lethal combination.

“NHS staff see firsthand the consequences of loneliness, from dealing with life-threatening and serious illness to offering a lifeline to those to simply wanting a see a friendly face.

“We can all take steps to alleviate loneliness by looking out for family, friends and neighbours. These simple acts of companionship could be life-saving.”

Her plea comes as the NHS calls on people to offer simple acts of companionship as part of its ‘Stay Well This Winter’ campaign to promote good health and protect vulnerable people over the winter months.

Independent research for the campaign shows 56% of people aged 18 to 74 would like to visit their elderly relatives, friends or neighbours more often, with 42% claiming it will be part of their New Year’s resolutions.

The poll also found 41% of people aged 70 to 80 feel that it’s helpful to have someone to help them with everyday activities, to stay well over the winter months, such as help with getting the weekly supermarket shop done (56%), help with picking up prescription medicines (48%) and help with getting to the pharmacist or doctor (43%).

A recent campaign from the Jo Cox Foundation drew attention to the plight of millions of lonely people in the UK, ahead of its Commission on Loneliness report.

Seema Kennedy MP and Rachel Reeves MP, co-chairs of the Jo Cox Loneliness Commission, said: “The evidence of the impact of loneliness on people’s health and wellbeing is now overwhelming and we are delighted that NHS England are today supporting the need for all of us to look at what we can do to minimise it.

“Loneliness is no longer just a personal misfortune but has grown into a social epidemic. If we can tackle it effectively we can make Britain not just a happier but also a healthier country in which to live.”

Related: There's Something Even More Dangerous For Your Health Than Obesity: Loneliness (provided by Wochit News)

Dec 8th 2017

There’s nothing quite like scratching an itch for pleasurable relief – even if it usually makes it worse!

Here’s our guide to what could be causing that annoying niggle – and how to zap it...

Itchy scalp

Most likely: Dandruff

This common dry skin condition causes white or grey flakes of skin to appear on the scalp and in the hair, says Dr Ross Perry, GP and cosmetics doctor at Cosmedics Skin Clinics ( cosmedics.co.uk )

Try using an anti-dandruff shampoo containing ingredients such as zinc pyrithione, salicylic acid, selenium sulphide, ketoconazole or coal tar.

Could be: Head lice

“If you have young children, there’s a good chance this is the cause of family members scratching their heads,” says Dr Perry. Comb hair with a detection comb, section by section, while it’s wet and covered in conditioner to help the lice and their eggs (nits) slide out. Then treat with an over-the-counter treatment.

Alternatively, it could be a fungal infection like ringworm. And dry skin conditions, such as eczema and psoriasis, can cause inflammation and patchy hair loss. See your GP.

Itchy eyes

Most likely: An allergy

“Allergic conjunctivitis is the most common cause of itchy eyes and normally affects both of them,” explains Dr Zubair Ahmed, founder of MedicSpot ( medicspot.co.uk ).

“It occurs when your body releases too much histamine in response to an otherwise harmless substance such as pollen, house dust or mould and is easily treated with antihistamine eyedrops.”

Could be: Conjunctivitis

Inflammation or infection of the conjunctiva – the thin layer of tissue that covers the front of the eye – can cause itchy, red and watery eyes, says Dr Ahmed. “Your eye may be itchy, gritty and red with a discharge which might make your eyelashes stick together.

“Cleaning the affected eye a few times a day with cooled boiled water and cotton wool normally helps resolve symptoms with no medical treatment needed. However, you may need antibiotic eye drops depending on the severity of your symptoms.”

Alternatively, the problem could be blepharitis. “This is an inflammation, often due to an infection, that leads to swelling, burning and itching of the eyelids,” explains Dr Ahmed.

“This can become a chronic condition so you need to clean the eyes hygienically (see conjunctivitis) – and may also need antibiotics. If you start having pain in your eyes or notice a decrease in your vision, seek medical attention so that serious conditions can be excluded.”

Itchy hands and fingers

Most likely: Contact dermatitis

“This is a type of eczema caused by excessive hand-washing, housework or chemicals,” says Dr Clare Morrison, GP at online doctor and pharmacy, MedExpress ( medexpress.co.uk ).

“Itching is accompanied by redness, cracks and, sometimes, blisters. It’s common in those who get their hands wet frequently, such as hairdressers, nurses and cleaners.”

If it’s not possible to avoid the offending trigger, wear rubber gloves with thin cotton gloves inside, she advises, as rubber gloves alone can lead to sweating, which may aggravate the problem further.

“Fragrance-free emollients (moisturisers) can help and if all else fails use a gentle steroid cream for no longer than a week at a time.” (Don’t use this on broken or infected skin).

Could be: Scabies

This is a highly contagious skin condition caused when tiny mites (Sarcoptes scabiei) burrow into your skin. It’s spread by skin-to-skin contact or by sharing infected clothing or towels.

Scabies mites like warm places – skin folds, between fingers, under fingernails – but the rash and itchiness can spread all over the body. See a pharmacist for over-the-counter creams and ointments, and wash bed linen, towels and nightwear at a high temperature.

Another cause could be psoriasis (look out for silvery scales and skin thickening). Fungal infections and allergies to the metal in jewellery are other causes of itchy hands.

Itching in pregnancy

“This is very common in pregnancy , as hormonal changes make the skin more sensitive and the enlarging abdomen causes the skin to stretch and rub against clothing,” explains Dr Morrison.

“Occasionally, itching can be a sign of a condition called obstetric cholestasis – particularly in the last trimester.

“This occurs when bile acids from the liver end up in the blood. As well as generalised itching, there will usually be other signs, such as pale stools, dark urine and jaundice. If this is suspected, your GP will monitor it with blood tests.”

The condition disappears once the baby is born, so inducing labour early may be recommended.

Itchy feet

Most likely: Athlete’s foot

This itchy fungal infection often occurs between the toes but can appear on any part of the foot, says podiatrist Emma Steven-son, of The College of Podiatry. The persistent flaking, red skin occurs if your feet are regularly in damp, warm conditions, so it’s common in runners.

“Try once-only anti-fungal remedies,” she advises. “And to prevent re-infection, wash your feet daily, and thoroughly dry the skin between the toes.”

Could be: Diabetes

Itching of the feet, legs or ankles is a common complaint in people with diabetes caused by too high blood sugar levels. See your GP for investigation.

Itchy skin

Also known as pruritus, this is an irritating and uncontrollable sensation that makes you want to scratch to relieve the feeling. Itchiness can be generalised (all over the body) or localised to one area.

“The possible causes are varied and will depend upon whether itchiness is accompanied by a rash,” says Dr Perry.

Most likely: Eczema

“Longstanding chronic skin conditions that trigger itchiness include eczema, psoriasis and seborrhoeic dermatitis, and these account for around 80% of cases,” explains Dr Perry. See your GP for an accurate diagnosis and use the prescribed moisturisers as instructed. Severe cases should be referred to a dermatologist.

Could be: Acute (short-term) cause

“Anything from infections (chickenpox, ringworm etc) and parasites (threadworms, bedbugs ) to insect bites and allergic reactions (prickly heat, soaps, perfume or nickel), says Dr Perry.

“Ask a pharmacist for advice on over-the-counter treatments,” he advises, adding: “Causes of itchy skin with no rash could be due to food sensitivity or a reaction to medication, or a problem with the liver, gall bladder or thyroid.

“If the itching persists, see your GP for investigation.”

Itching during the menopause

“During the menopause , levels of the hormone oestrogen fall, causing the skin to produce less oil and lose elasticity. This can lead to itching,” says Dr Morrison.

“Eat more omega-3 fatty acids, found in oily fish, and also walnuts,eggs and flaxseed oil. Shower instead of soaking in a hot bath to avoid drying out the skin, and apply a non-fragranced moisturiser.”


Dec 7th 2017 New Treatment

Her chronic pain was a medical mystery. Was it an unexplained condition?

Leslie Levine’s searing pains started the day after Thanksgiving in 2006. They began in her toes, which turned strangely dark. Then the agony crept upward. “It felt like my legs were being dipped in boiling oil 24/7,” she said.

The emergency room and a series of doctors could do little but scratch their heads and offer her painkillers.

“I was living on oxycodone and very grateful for it,” Levine said, then Harvard University’s chief patent attorney. But it wasn’t enough. “By January, I was on disability, because I was in such pain and could hardly walk.”

Her internet search for answers led her to Dr. Anne Louise Oaklander, a neurologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, who was then developing a hypothesis about inexplicable pain disorders like Levine’s: What if they were caused by an overactive immune system?

Oaklander treated Levine as if that were the case and the pain—thankfully—disappeared within five days. “I didn’t know how I was going to live with that level of pain,” Levine said, adding that it returns every time she stops treatment.

Now, Oaklander has published a series of 55 case reports including Levine’s, suggesting

that a number of people who suffer pain or other neurologic symptoms—which may have been diagnosed as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, mental illness, or a host of other problems—might really have an unnamed autoimmune condition instead that researchers are just now discovering (PDF).

What seems to be the case is that a condition similar to an existing one, small-fiber polyneuropathy, which exhibits similar pain symptoms and is caused by diabetes, chemotherapy, or toxins. Oaklander’s research suggests that the variant condition is actually an autoimmune problem that is only now being explained.

Although it’s too soon to say how many people might be affected by what’s been described as “small-fiber polyneuropathy,” nearly 50 million Americans complain of regular or chronic pain. If even a fraction of them could be effectively treated with autoimmune therapies rather than high-dose painkillers, they may get better relief without risking an opioid addiction, said Oaklander, who is also an associate professor of neurology, at Harvard Medical School.

“This is not just some rare, esoteric disease that Harvard eggheads are investigating,” she said. “It is common. People—including kids and teens—are sick, but they don’t know what they have and their doctors don’t know, either.”

Small-fiber polyneuropathy, in which nerves misfire, is common among people with

diabetes or who have been treated with chemotherapy. But in roughly half the patients who suffer the same pain, numbness, or itching, there isn’t any obvious cause.

The same tiny nerves also line the gut, Oaklander said, so people with this condition can have gastrointestinal symptoms, such as nausea or vomiting when they try to eat—which often gets misdiagnosed as an eating disorder. Even fainting when standing up or difficulty getting out of bed can be caused by damage to these small nerve cells, she said.

In Oaklander’s study, 55 mostly female patients all had objective measures of damage to small-fiber peripheral nerve cells and no diabetes or other known cause of neuropathy.

All were treated with intravenous immunoglobulin or IVIg, a therapy effectively used against other autoimmune-related nerve conditions. The case review showed that 77 percent of the patients responded to IVIg, with their pain dropping on average from 6.3 to 5.2 on a 10-point scale. Their internal organ function also improved.

It’s still too soon to declare that Oaklander’s discovered a new condition, and certainly no one recommends starting autoimmune treatment for anyone with unexplained pains.

But Marinos Dalakas, director of the Neuromuscular Division at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, says her results are convincing enough to encourage him to test some of his pain patients for markers of autoimmune disease. If he found such signs, Dalakas said he would try them for three months on a treatment like IVIg to see if their symptoms improve.

To definitively prove that IVIg is effective for appropriately selected patients, someone would have to conduct two, large, expensive clinical trials, likely to take 5-10 years. Oaklander has already applied to the National Institutes of Health for a research grant to prepare for one such trial.

Still, to have advanced the science this far was “courageous,” one colleague said.

“It takes great courage to persist, to believe in your data, and to press on in the face of skeptics,” Stephen Hauser, chairman of the neurology department at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine, told The Daily Beast. “I think the world is beginning to catch up to Anne Louise.”

Before changing his own medical practice, Hauser said he would want to see the results of a large, blinded trial, and confirmation that IVIg or another autoimmune treatment offers pain patients a significant improvement in their quality of life.

“I do think these patients represent a huge problem for the medical community for which better treatments are sorely needed,” Hauser added.

IVIg, which has side effects like nausea, headaches, and flu-like symptoms, must be delivered via infusion. And it’s pricey—costing $10,000 per monthly dose—because each dose contains purified proteins from 5,000-8,000 blood donors who have been screened for infectious diseases, Hauser said.

The therapy works, Oaklander said, because “it bamboozles the immune system,” overwhelming it with harmless proteins to distract it from attacking the nerves.

If an autoimmune condition lingers untreated, continued attacks can leave permanent nerve damage, Oaklander said. “It’s really important that doctors recognize when neuropathy is autoimmune and dampen down the attack as soon as possible.” But that hadn’t previously been recommended.

She periodically dials back her patients’ IVIg to see if their nerves have healed enough to stop treatment. About 16 percent of the patients in the case review were able to wean off their IVIg without their symptoms returning. “If you can protect the nerves for a period and let them regrow, the autoimmune attack may die down,” she said.

Oaklander said she hopes her new paper, published in the journal Therapeutic Advances in Neurological Disorders, will give patients some ammunition when they ask their insurance company to pay for autoimmune therapy.

Levine’s insurance company refused to pay for IVIg treatments for four years, insisting

she take much cheaper steroids, instead. But the steroids didn’t help nearly as much and their side effects would land her in the hospital every few months, Levine said. Finally, realizing that IVIg would be cheaper, her insurer let her back on the treatments two years ago—and she’s been side-effect free since.

“I just had my monthly treatment this morning,” Levine, who now runs a support group for people with neuropathy, said. “It’s changed my life.”

Dec 4th 2017

The state of Florida may declare pornography a public health crisis because of the myriad health and brain problems it causes.

Rep. Ross Spano, who represents House District 59, introduced a resolution acknowledging “pornography is creating a public health crisis and contributing to the hypersexualization of children and teens

If the resolution passes, the declaration that pornography is a public health crisis will mean the government “acknowledges the need for education, prevention, research, and policy change to protect the citizens of this state.”

Twenty-seven percent of young adults between the ages of 25 and 30 viewed pornography before the onset of puberty, the resolution says.

“Pornography has potential detrimental effects on the user, including, but not limited to, mental and physical illnesses; difficulty forming or maintaining intimate relationships; unhealthy brain development and cognitive function; deviant, problematic, or dangerous sexual behaviors; and addiction,” it adds.

“A child who views pornography is at a higher risk of developing low self-esteem, an eating disorder, and a desire to engage in dangerous sexual behavior,” the resolution explains.

Spano’s resolution also notes that pornography objectifies women and fuels the sex trafficking industry.

Pornography “normalizes violence and the abuse of women and children, and depicts rape and abuse as harmless, thereby increasing the demand for sex trafficking, prostitution, and child pornography.”

“Recent research indicates that pornography is potentially biologically addictive, resulting in the user consuming increasingly more shocking material to satisfy the addiction,” it notes.

A new documentary called Over 18 explores how the pornography industry has changed thanks to the Internet, and how easy it is for children to stumble across porn and become addicted to it.

The story of Joseph, who was first exposed to pornography at age nine while in third grade, backs up the resolution’s assertion about users consuming “increasingly more shocking material to satisfy the addiction.”

So do the experiences of countless others.

Joseph’s exposure to extremely violent pornography showing the abuse of women means his parents have had to tell him real sex isn’t like that.

“Most parents don’t have to talk to their kids about orgies,” his mom laments in the documentary.

“Pornography has a detrimental effect on families and is linked to a reluctance to enter into marriage, dissatisfaction in marriage, and marital infidelity,” the Florida resolution says.

This, too, is backed up by a large body of research showing porn use damages intimacy, fuels isolation, and hurts relationships.

Kay Warren, the wife of evangelical pastor Rick Warren, revealed in her book Sacred Privilege: Your Life and Ministry as a Pastor’s Wife her own struggle with pornography addiction and how it nearly destroyed her marriage.

Secular celebrities like Chris Rock and Russell Brand have all also publicly acknowledged the harms of pornography. Rock said it contributed to the ruin of his marriage.

Orlando Weekly mocked Spano for trying to address the problems created by pornography rather than the state’s law allowing minors to get married. The outlet also reported that in January, Spano’s twitter account “liked” a pornographic tweet.

“With a thorough examination of my accounts, it will be easy to see that this is not my doing,” said Spano. He said “rectified the problem” and is “looking into how it occurred in the first place.”

But “I don’t believe any of this takes the focus off of the fact that there is a direct correlation between pornography and a host of societal problems, including human trafficking, exploitation of children, sex slavery, and domestic violence,” he concluded.

Spano recently announced he is running for Florida Attorney General.

Utah has already declared pornography a “public health hazard.”


Dec 2nd 2017 Norovirus

Whilst sickness is never convenient, Christmas is arguably the worst time to be taking to your bed – despite also being the time of year when illness is most easily spread.

An increase of travel, physical touching and eating all play a part in spreading festive germs, whether that's colds, flu or the dreaded norovirus.

Norovirus (sometimes referred to as the 'winter vomiting bug') is one of the most common stomach bugs in the UK, affecting between 600,000 and one million people each year. Common symptoms include a sudden feeling of sickness followed by projectile vomiting and severe diarrhea, with other flu-like signs such as headaches and limb pains also playing a part.

The number of norovirus cases is thought to be on the rise this Christmas (9% higher than the average seen at this stage in the previous five winters, say reports), it's important to know what to do if the bug strikes your family. We spoke to Dr Roger Henderson for some tips:

What is norovirus?

Norovirus is a viral infection that has pretty much always been with us, in the same way as flu.

"The difference is that it tends to be seasonal – occurring mainly in autumn and winter – because the number of other general viruses (coughs, colds etcetera) that increase at this time also help to spread the existing norovirus pool," says Dr Roger. "It is highly contagious, so if you have one or two people with norovirus they will potentially expose that to 10 or 20 people and so very quickly it can go exponential, meaning that within a matter of weeks you can have a significant norovirus spread."

Who is most affected?

The virus is spread very easily through close contact with an infected person, contact with a contaminated surface or objects or eating contaminated food. While anyone can contract the virus, Dr Roger says some are more at risk than others:

"The most at risk are the very young and very old because of the potential dehydration the virus can cause. The relatively small body size of babies and toddlers means that they can dehydrate far quicker than an adult and, while rarely fatal, it can sometimes mean hospital admission for young children for rehydration purposes."

At the other end of the spectrum, elderly people are also at increased risk due to the significant impact that dehydration can have on their physical and cognitive abilities.

"Elderly people are actually slightly more of a problem when it comes to Norovirus, especially if they have pre-existing issues, such as kidney problems, diabetes, cardiac disease. Significant dehydration can have a really big impact – especially with kidney problems. They can get very dehydrated very quickly, get confused, fall, develop UTIs… It can affect them really badly."

Those with an impaired immune system – such as people undergoing chemotherapy treatment – are also at an increased risk from norovirus.

How long does it last?

Figures from Public Health England show instances of the winter vomiting bug to be up by 45% in 2016 compared to the same time last year. In order to prevent the spreading of the virus, Dr Roger says it's important that you let it run its course before returning to your usual routine.

"The average amount of time that norovirus lasts in the UK is 1.2 days from exposure to presentation of symptoms, 24-72 hours to clear then 48 hours after symptoms have subsided before you can view yourself 'clear'. The mistake that people often make is going back to work or similar the day after symptoms have subsided, when they could still have the virus."

It's vitally important that you do not visit the hospital or your GP with norovirus unless you feel it is an emergency, as there is nothing they can do for you and it encourages the spread of infection. The BBC reports that, in hospitals, there have been 100 outbreaks of the bug. At the beginning of December, senior doctors voiced fears that norovirus would be "the straw that breaks the camel's back" for NHS services that are already under heavy strain this Christmas.

What should you do?

Where possible, the best course of action to take with norovirus is simply to 'ride it out' at home. Here are some top tips for managing the bug:

Stay hydrated. This is the most important course of action as you need to replace the fluids your body loses through vomiting and diarrhoea. Dioralyte provides fast and effective treatment of fluid and electrolyte loss, so make sure you stock up before the holidays.

Little and often is the key. Sip any fluids rather than drinking a lot all at once. This will help keep your stomach settled.

Avoid caffeine, as it can irritate the gut and exacerbate symptoms. The same goes for alcohol – but it's highly unlikely that you'll want any!

Avoid rich, stodgy and highly spiced food. Christmas pudding is not a good idea, but well cooked lean white meat is absiolutely fine. Again, little and often is key, and do not eat until you feel ready.

Paracetamol can be taken to help relieve headaches or other pains.

If you have an elderly relative who has become very confused or you are worried about them then do take them to a doctor. With children, if they have persistent vomiting or diarrhea for 24 hours that will not settle, get very quiet and drowsy, are irritable all the time or start showing signs of a rash, then you should seek medical help. Generally speaking, any child under the age of five who contracts a sickness bug should be seen by a GP.

Nov 30th 2017

Migraines are far more than headaches and can be debilitating to those who suffer them regularly, but that could be set to change.

A new drug has been found to reduce the frequency and severity of migraine attacks, cutting the duration of migraines by 50% for half of sufferers.

The drug, called Erenumab, was administered to more than 900 sufferers via a monthly injection in the latest trial, with positive results.

Principal investigator Peter Goadsby, from King’s College Hospital, London, said the trial represents “an incredibly important step forward for migraine understanding and migraine treatment”.

According to the Migraine Trust, migraine is the “third most common disease in the world”, with one in seven people experiencing regular migraines.

Those experiencing a migraine will usually feel a thumping or pulsing pressure in their head, which is often accompanied by oversensitivity to light and noise. An attack can also cause symptoms of nausea or vomiting.

During the trial, patients were either injected with the new drug Erenumab, or a placebo.

The exact cause of migraine is still unknown but scientists believe the pain and sensitivity to light associated with the condition is linked to a chemical in the brain called calcitonin gene-related peptide, or CGRP.

Erenumab works by blocking the CGRP receptor in the brain.

Over the six-month trial, patients receiving Erenumab, who had an average of eight migraines per month at the start of the trial, reported having an average of five migraines per month following the treatment.

Migraines can last from anything between a few hours and several days, but 50% of patients receiving Erenumab in the trial reported the duration of their migraines being reduced by half.

Those receiving the drug reported migraines having a reduced impact on their everyday lives, being able to better complete activities such as getting ready for the day, doing household chores or activities requiring concentration.

Vas Narasimhan, global head of drug development and chief medical officer for Novartis, who make Erenumab, said the results of the study “add to the evidence for the significant, consistent benefits of Erenumab seen across the spectrum of chronic and episodic migraine, including patients who failed on previous preventive treatments”.

“People with migraine are missing out due to this debilitating neurological disease and are in need of safe, tolerable and effective preventive treatments,” he added.

“We are committed to bringing this much-needed treatment option to patients as soon as possible.”

According to The Telegraph, Novartis has now applied for a European Medicines Agency (EMA) license for the medication, in the hopes of making it available in the UK from next year.

Commenting on the findings, Simon Evans, chief executive of the charity Migraine Action, said in a statement: “Migraine is too often trivialised as just a headache when, in reality, it can be a debilitating, chronic condition that can destroy lives.

“The effects can last for hours, even days in many cases. An option that can prevent migraine and that is well tolerated is therefore sorely needed, and we hope that this marks the start of real change in how this condition is treated and perceived.”

The results of the trial are published in the New England Journal of Medicine.


Nov 29th 2017

Vaginal mesh operations should be banned, says NICE

he health watchdog NICE is to recommend that vaginal mesh operations should be banned from treating organ prolapse in England, the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire show has learned.

Draft guidelines from NICE say the implants should only be used for research - and not routine operations.

Some implants can cut into the vagina and women have been left in permanent pain, unable to walk, work or have sex.

One expert said it is highly likely the NHS will take up the recommendation.

However, the organisation is not compelled to act on findings it receives from NICE.

Both NHS England and NICE declined to comment.

'Life-changing consequences'

In the documents - to be published after consultation in December - NICE said there were "serious but well-recognised safety concerns" and that "evidence of long-term efficacy [for implants treating organ prolapse] is inadequate in quality and quantity".

It added that "when complications occur, these can be serious and have life-changing consequences", but said "most commentaries received from patients reported satisfaction with the procedure".

One woman, Margie Maguire, 41 - told the Victoria Derbyshire programme she cannot have any more children or walk unaided because of the damage caused by the mesh.

"I have chronic pelvic pain on a daily basis and I'm on nine different medications when I have a pain attack.

"These can last from two to six hours at a time and is like having a heart attack," she said.

Kate Langley told the programme in April she had been admitted to hospital 53 times to try to end the pain, but - like many women - the mesh was so near the nerve it could not be fully removed.

She has been left with nerve damage and in permanent pain by the implants, giving up her business as a childminder because the pain was so intense.

The surgeon who first examined her, she explained, "could see the [mesh] tape had come through my vagina - protruding through".

The plastic meshes are made of polypropylene - the same material used to make certain drinks bottles - and manufactured by many different companies.

They are used to support organs such as the vagina, uterus, bowel, bladder or urethra which have prolapsed after childbirth.

The University of Oxford's Prof Carl Heneghan, an expert in the subject, said the draft guidelines were an admission that health services had "got this wrong" - calling the use of mesh a "catastrophe".

He described the draft guidelines as a "backdoor ban" on implants that would effectively end their use.

But he said it had come too late.

"Seven years I have been watching this emerge - it is absolutely farcical how bad it is. Either they're burying their heads in the sand or they don't know what they're doing."

He called for a registry to be created for everyone who had been treated with the implants so that their effects could be fully understood.

In April, the BBC learned more than 800 UK women are taking legal actionagainst the NHS and the makers of vaginal mesh implants.

The NICE documents suggest "randomised controlled trial data showed no added benefit of using mesh compared with native tissue repair".

Between April 2007 and March 2015, more than 92,000 women had vaginal mesh implants in England, according to NHS data from the Hospital Episodes Statistics.

About one in 11 women has experienced problems, the data suggests.

The use of vaginal mesh to treat urinary incontinence is not mentioned in the draft NICE guidelines.

In Scotland, former Scottish Health Secretary Alex Neil requested a suspension of mesh implants by the NHS in 2014, but figures obtained by the BBC in December 2016 showed hundreds of operations have been performed since.

A number of Scottish health boards have stopped using mesh implants altogether.

The mesh is also used routinely in hernia repair despite concerns it is leaving many patients in chronic pain.


Nov 27th 2017

Two major cities, Leeds and Liverpool, have reported cases of the highly-contagious viral infection, and Manchester may be next.

Measles is a highly contagious disease that can be prevented by having the vaccination, offered by the NHS as a single measles, mumps, and rubella shot. According to the NHS, who tweeted about the outbreaks in Leeds and Liverpool, the “infectious viral illness is easily spread and can lead to complications.”

Although the virus is now uncommon in the UK due to the effectiveness of the vaccination, anyone can get measles if they haven’t been vaccinated or they haven’t had the virus before. And people with measles are infectious from when the symptoms develop until about four days after the rash first appears.

According to the NHS, measles starts with cold-like symptoms that develop about 10 days after becoming infected. These symptoms are then followed by the measles rash. For most people, the illness lasts around 7 to 10 days in total, but serious health complications including death are possible, so the NHS suggests staying home and calling your GP or NHS for further advice if you or your child have any of the following symptoms or know you have come in contact with someone with measles.

Spots in the mouth are one of the biggest signs of measles, and usually develop a day or two before the rash appears. Although not everyone with measles has these spots, if someone has them in addition to the other symptoms listed above or in addition to the rash, it is highly likely they have the virus.

The measles rash appears around 2 to 4 days after the initial symptoms and normally fades after about a week.

The rash is made up of small red-brown, flat or slightly raised spots that may join together into larger blotchy patches and usually appears on the head or neck before spreading outwards to the rest of the body. The rash may be slightly itchy for some people and can look similar to other childhood conditions, such as slapped cheek syndrome, roseola, or rubella.

The NHS suggests you should contact your GP as soon as possible if you suspect you or your child has measles and it is better to phone before your visit, as your GP surgery may need to make arrangements to reduce the risk of spreading the infection to others.

Mostly just unpleasant, the measles virus will usually pass in 7 to 10 days without causing any further problems. However, measles can lead to serious and potentially life-threatening complications in some people. These can include infections of the lungs (pneumonia) and brain (encephalitis), and blindness.

If you are infected with measles, there are several things you can do to help relieve your symptoms and reduce the risk of spreading the infection including: taking paracetamol or ibuprofen to relieve fever, aches and pains, drinking plenty of water, closing the curtains to help reduce light sensitivity, and staying home from school or work for at least four days from when the rash first appears.

If you have not received the MMR vaccine, the NHS suggests contacting your GP, as adults and older children can be vaccinated at any age if they have not been fully vaccinated before.

Nov 26th 2017

Global Warming Might Be Especially Dangerous for Pregnant Women

Scientists are concerned that heat waves could be linked to more premature births and stillbirths.

At 12:13 p.m. Pacific Standard Time on September 1, 2017, the San Francisco Bay Area National Weather Service office issued an urgent weather message: “Dangerously hot conditions to begin the Labor Day weekend.” The heat wave set a new record temperature of 106 degrees Fahrenheit in downtown San Francisco, handily beating the previous record of 103 degrees set in 2000.

“Hot temperatures will create a dangerous situation in which heat illnesses are likely,” the message read, advising all San Franciscans to drink plenty of fluids, seek out air-conditioning, and check up on relatives and neighbors. The advisory also warned of heat-related illnesses—particularly for the elderly, children, and sick people—as well as pets and livestock.

Some scientists think another group should be added to the list: pregnant women.

A handful of researchers in the United States, Canada, and elsewhere are methodically accumulating evidence suggesting that higher temperatures could be linked to a higher risk of premature births, stillbirths, or other negative pregnancy outcomes. The findings in each case, while compelling, still raise as many questions as they seem to answer, and all the researchers say that much more work needs to be done. But they also suggest that enough evidence has already surfaced to warrant increased scrutiny—particularly as global warming is expected to drive average temperatures ever upward over coming decades.

“In the future,” said Rupa Basu, chief of air and climate epidemiology at the California Environmental Protection Agency, “this is going to be a growing public-health concern.”

A decade ago, Basu noticed something odd in the scientific literature documenting the health risks of air pollution—a much clearer and well-established relationship. She knew that past research, including some of her own, had shown a link between air pollution and negative pregnancy outcomes, but while the literature alluded to a seasonal pattern, none of the studies controlled for temperature. “I said that some of this must be due to temperature,” Basu recalled, “but we don’t have any data to support that.”

Stillbirth risk was 10.4 percent higher with a 10-degree Fahrenheit apparent-temperature increase.

Basu first started to explore the effects of temperature on premature births. Using birth-certificate data from California’s Office of Vital Records, she matched more than 58,000 preterm births occurring during the warm months from 1999 through 2006 with climate data from the state Irrigation-Management Information System and U.S. EPA Air-Quality System. She also pulled air-pollution data from the California Air-Resources Board to assess whether levels of ozone, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, or smokelike particles were confounding or changing the relationship between temperature and premature births.

For her analysis, Basu used a case-crossover design in which every woman who delivered prematurely served as her own control for comparison. The design eliminates some variables, such as age, that are associated with risk for negative outcomes in pregnancy and could potentially skew the results if different women were compared to one another. She compared temperatures from a few days in the week before the delivery with temperatures on other nearby days, to see if premature births were more likely to happen on or after hotter days.

The results were startling. Her research suggested that an increase of 10 degrees Fahrenheit in weekly average “apparent” temperatures—a combination of heat and humidity—corresponded to an 8.6 percent increase in premature births. That association was independent of air pollution.

Later, she turned her attention to stillbirths, doing a similar temperature analysis with a state registry of fetal death certificates. In March of 2016, Basu published the results from analyzing more than 8,500 stillbirths that occurred during a decade of California’s warm seasons: Stillbirth risk was 10.4 percent higher with a 10-degree Fahrenheit apparent-temperature increase.

After her research on premature birth, the stillbirth results were “pretty much on par with what I was expecting,” Basu said. “I would be shocked if there wasn’t an association.”

These findings have been echoed independently elsewhere. Looking at records of more than 5,000 stillbirths in Quebec over 30 years, Nathalie Auger of Quebec’s institute for public health found that with higher temperatures, stillbirth risk increased continuously for certain categories of stillbirths. For those considered full-term, happening after 37 weeks of pregnancy, the odds of stillbirth were 16 percent higher at 28 degrees Celsius (82 degrees Fahrenheit) compared to 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit). The increase in odds of stillbirths between those two temperatures was 19 percent for stillbirths where the cause was marked in the registry as unknown, and 46 percent for those attributed to maternal complications.

“It’s much higher than we would have thought.”

Auger and her colleagues hypothesized that higher temperatures could have played a role in those stillbirths with unknown causes, which made up about a quarter of the total. Temperature “is not normally something you would look for” in investigating the cause of a stillbirth to try to prevent a mother from losing another child in the same way, Auger said. “It’s an undiscovered possible cause of stillbirth.”

Pauline Mendola, an epidemiologist at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, along with Sandie Ha, until recently a postdoc at the institute, analyzed medical records on nearly 1,000 stillbirths that occurred between 2002 and 2008 in 15 different U.S. hospital-referral regions from Los Angeles to Miami to Massachusetts. They found that a 1 degree Celsius temperature increase corresponded to a 6 percent increase in stillbirth risk, or about four more stillbirths per 10,000 births.

In addition to their case-crossover study, the group examined the effects of chronic exposure to heat through the whole course of a pregnancy, and were surprised to find the odds of stillbirth were 3.7 times greater when women experienced temperatures that were in the top 10 percent of the range for their location.

“It’s much higher than we would have thought,” Mendola said. “To see something with an odds ratio of three to four—that’s pretty striking.”

Compared to the base rate of stillbirths in the United States—about 24,000 per year in the most recent data—they calculated that the risk increase from heat exposure during pregnancy they observed would translate to about 1,000 additional stillbirths in any given year.

“We were like, ‘wow,’” Ha said. “I think that the prolonged exposure to extreme temperature is actually more important than we thought before.”

“We’re challenged in our ability to do good work on these questions of rare outcomes and the environment.”

The cumulative evidence has been enough for these and other researchers to suggest that previous research on heat vulnerability, which mainly focused on cardiovascular problems in the elderly, didn’t capture the full spectrum of potential threats to public health from rising temperatures.

Pregnant women “have traditionally fallen outside of our conception of who is vulnerable to heat,” said Sabrina McCormick, a sociologist at George Washington University, whose research includes how people respond to climate change—heat in particular. “We need to really change that conception.”

* * *

For all of the compelling research, of course, lots of unanswered questions and important caveats remain. In each study, for example, researchers weren’t looking at the temperatures individual women were experiencing before stillbirths and don’t know how much time women may have spent outside or, more importantly, inside—perhaps with air-conditioning. It would be ideal to have women carry a temperature monitor, said Ha, or assemble a large cohort of women to follow and collect all the potentially interesting variables, said Basu. But such studies would be very expensive to run, and take a long time to get results.

“We’re challenged in our ability to do good work on these questions of rare [health] outcomes and the environment,” Mendola said, because it’s not easy to gather enough cases, with enough detail, to do so. Her study with Ha drew its clinical data on about 1,000 stillbirths from the medical records of nearly 230,000 women giving birth that the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development collected to study risk factors for caesarean deliveries. The birth or death certificates that other studies relied on give only limited information.

Compared to factors like maternal complications, the effect of an environmental exposure on stillbirth risk is small, Ha said, so teasing it out of all the potential confounders is difficult. Some factors that could influence stillbirth risk are closely correlated to temperature, such as air-pollution levels and season of conception, said Tim Bruckner, a public-health researcher at the University of California, Irvine, who has studied the effects of exposure to cold temperatures on birth outcomes in Sweden. “That makes it hard to attribute a causal effect of the birth outcome to temperature.”

“We should be warning pregnant women about the risks of heat.”

Ha and Mendola have also done research on the effects of air pollution on stillbirth, and did control for it as well as season of conception in their temperature study. The effects of air pollution and temperature appear to be independent of one another, Mendola said, “to the extent that the math works.”

But Gary Loy, an obstetrician at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago and advisor to a regional Pediatric Environmental-Health Specialty Unit who was not involved with the temperature- and pregnancy-outcomes research, issued a note of caution. “The strength of association is always in question,” he said, “because there are so many confounders and biases and potential influences.”

Even so, Loy added that, based on what’s been uncovered on temperature and pregnancy thus far, “I think it’s settled there’s an association.” He said, “I don’t think there’s any question.”

Perhaps the biggest caveat is that so far, all the research has been based on observational data. “Epidemiological studies in general have their difficulties,” Loy said. “They’re generally hypothesis-generating studies rather than confirmatory studies.” These studies can show associations but not prove one thing caused the other to happen—a major hurdle for research on the harms of being exposed to various aspects of the environment.

A key question to answer, then, if it’s suspected that outside temperature can impact a child in the womb: What’s the biological explanation for how that could happen?

As of yet, the necessary research to answer that question hasn’t been done, though there are “lots of plausible ties,” Mendola said. Pregnant women, for example, are less able to regulate the temperature of their bodies, which was one reason it made sense to Basu to study the effects of temperature on pregnancy in the first place. Stress from a rising body temperature could also trigger an inflammatory response that constricts a pregnant woman’s blood vessels, making it harder for blood carrying oxygen and other essentials to get to the placenta and putting the baby at risk, Loy said.

“We’ll be seeing more and more of this evidence.”

The dehydration that accompanies overheating could also play a role, as it decreases the amount of amniotic fluid in the womb, which is associated with fetal death. And there may even be temperature-sensitive proteins in the blood vessels of the placenta and fetus that cause the vessels to get wider, dropping blood pressure and threatening blood supply to the fetus through another theoretical mechanism, said Eric Benner, a neonatologist at Duke University.

McCormick also wonders if there is a window of time within pregnancy when a baby in utero is particularly vulnerable to heat, and if a prolonged exposure to warm temperatures throughout pregnancy—or an extreme but short heat wave—is more hazardous. Does temperature have to rise beyond a threshold? If so, what is it?

Even repeating the same types of studies that have already been done, with new datasets, would be valuable, the researchers suggest. “Really, some of the grunt work of replication is needed right now,” Bruckner said. “It’s not so flashy.”

Basu and others, including Ha, who has taken a new position at the University of California, Merced, see enough intriguing evidence to continue their research. “We’ll be seeing more and more of this evidence,” Basu said. “It’s just not there quite yet.”

Nonetheless, McCormick would like to see pregnant women included in public-health advisories about heat that currently target the elderly. “I do think that we have enough research at this point to be concerned about pregnant women as a vulnerable population,” she said. “We should be warning pregnant women about the risks of heat.” Unlike other sources of risk for stillbirth, heat is something pregnant women can try to avoid or combat, such as by spending time in air-conditioning and staying hydrated, the researchers say.

“It’s pretty much everybody in this population is exposed,” Basu said. “It has the ability to really affect a lot of people.”


Nov 25th 2017   Too much TV?

Most parents with small children will appreciate the small amount of quiet time an episode of Peppa Pig or the film Frozen can bring to their day. And while there's nothing wrong with a bit of screen time, new research suggests this should be capped at 90 minutes in order to reduce the risk of obesity in later years.

The study – published in the journal Paediatrica – claims there's a strong link between obesity and prolonged exposure in younger years to TVs, computers and smart devices.

Toddlers, on average, watch an hour of television a day, according the research - a statistic that jumps to around 7.25 hours aged 9. The experts from European Academy of Paediatrics and the European Childhood Obesity Group say childhood obesity has increased by an "alarming rate" and that parents should aim to understand the health impact of social media and screen use on their children.

As such, they advise limiting use of smartphones, TVs and laptops to 90 minutes per day for children under 4, report the Telegraph. But what else do the experts recommend?

Children shouldn't have TVs in their bedrooms

Televisions should be turned off during ad breaks

Refrain from using iPads, smartphones or television as a "babysitting or calming" technique

Parents should reduce their own consumption of television and social media

As well as the duration of screen time, the study highlighted how late-night television and social media consumption affects the sleep quality of younger people.

In a press release, senior author Dr. Adamos Hadjipanayis from the European Academy of Paediatrics said:

"Parents should limit TV viewing and the use of computers and similar devices to no more than 1.5 hours a day and only if the child is older than four years of age. Moreover, paediatricians should Inform parents about the general risk that mass media use poses to their children's cognitive and physical development."

Nov 20th 2017

The parents of a stillborn baby have released a picture of their son to help highlight new research that shows pregnant women can halve the risk of stillbirth simply by going to sleep in the correct position.

Hayley and Adam Powsney, from Bury, Greater Manchester, hope that the image of baby Joshua will help draw attention to the findings and underline the heartache that stillbirth brings.

"He died in the delivery process," Mrs Powsney told Sky News. "That changes you completely as a person."

She added: "From the moment they told me there was nothing more they could do my world just collapsed. I had my baby in my arms and he didn't cry. There's nothing that can prepare you for that."

In the largest study to examine maternal sleep and stillbirth, scientists assessed more than 1,000 pregnant women.

Stillbirth is 15 times more common than cot death and Britain has one of the worst records in the developed world.

Researchers say the results of the latest study could potentially save 100,000 babies a year if the risk was eliminated internationally.

The work was carried out by Tommy's Stillbirth Research Centre in Manchester.

The centre's clinical director, Professor Alex Heazell, said: "Around 11 babies are stillborn every day in the UK.

"Stillbirth is devastating with long-lasting effects on bereaved parents. Parents want to know why their baby has died, whether it might happen again if they try for another baby and what they can do to avoid further stillbirth."

A public health campaign has been launched to accompany the publication of the results.

The "Sleep on Side" campaign aims to educate women about the risk of going to sleep on their back in late pregnancy. It includes a video showing how a mother-to-be should lie when nodding off. The advice applies to sleep in the third trimester (after 28 weeks) including:

:: Going to sleep at night

:: Returning to sleep after night awakenings

:: Daytime naps

As the going-to-sleep position is the one held longest during the night, women shouldn't be worried if they wake up on their back but should simply roll over onto their side.

Although researchers can't say for certain why the risk is increased, there are several theories.

In the third trimester, when the woman is lying on her back, the combined weight of baby and uterus (womb) puts pressure on the main blood vessels that supply the uterus, and this can restrict blood flow/oxygen to the baby.

Other possible explanations include disturbed breathing during sleep, which is worse when a woman sleeps on her back and in overweight or obese women, who also have an increased risk of stillbirth.

The advice is being supported by the Powsneys, who went on to have two healthy babies.

"We want Joshua's life to mean something," said Mr Powsney.

"Our oldest child is now two-and-a-half. We're going to explain to her that she had an older brother. If we can help Tommy's Research Centre his life will mean something."

Nov 18th 2017

A simple snacking choice could help reduce your risk of developing heart disease, new research has shown.

Yep, according to a team at Harvard University, eating a handful of nuts just twice a week could cut your risk by almost a quarter, The Telegraph reports.

After studying over 200,000 people for over 30 years, the team concluded that those who ate a range of nuts, including almonds, walnuts and pistachios, two or more times a week were 23 per cent less likely to develop coronary heart disease and 15 per cent less likely to get cardiovascular disease.

Study author Dr Marta Guasch-Ferre said in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology: 'Our findings support recommendations of increasing the intake of a variety of nuts, as part of healthy dietary patterns, to reduce the risk of chronic disease in the general populations.'

After reviewing the results of the study, Dr Emilio Ros from the Hospital Clinic in Barcelona added that further investigations were needed but concluded: 'Raw nuts, if possible unpeeled and otherwise unprocessed, may be considered as natural health capsules that can be easily incorporated into any heart-protective diet to further cardiovascular well-being and promote healthy ageing.'

However, commenting on the findings, British Heart Association spokesperson Professor Jeremy Pearson told The Telegraph: 'It is important people distinguish between plain and flavoured nuts when planning a healthy diet.

'This study focused on the intake of raw, often unprocessed nuts, which are very different to roasted and salted nuts that often come higher in salt and sugar.'

But, considering that heart disease remains the biggest killer in the UK, with 160,000 Brits dying from it every year, we're sure you'll agree this is well worth noting.


Nov 15th 2017

THE BABY WAS still in diapers when the first blister appeared, ballooning red and angry from his pale, newborn skin. Soon, they became a regular feature on the map of his body, along with deep creases in his face when he howled out in pain. A doctor told the parents his LAMB3 gene had a glitch—his body wasn’t making enough of a protein to anchor the outer layer of his skin to the inner ones.

For seven years they kept the blisters at bay. But by summer of 2015, the wounds were winning—and the boy had lost 60 percent of his skin.

In June, the child arrived at the burn unit of the Ruhr University Children’s Hospital in Bochum, Germany, hot with fever and septic from a strain of staph. His doctors began pumping him full of antibiotics and painkillers, bathing him in iodine, and dressing the wounds with ointments. Nothing worked. The father gave his son skin from his own body. It didn’t take. After five weeks in the intensive care unit, the boy was dying. But there was one more thing left to try. A genetic experiment never attempted before.

The doctors snipped out a tiny square of the boy’s skin and shipped it to a laboratory in Modena, Italy. Scientists there used a virus to inject a functioning LAMB3 gene into all the cells that made up that patch of skin, including some stem cells. Then they grew them and grew them and grew them until there were enough to seed onto nine square feet of gauze and protein gel. An adult-sized skin suit would take about 22 square feet, but for a kid, it was more than enough.

In October, the Italians sent the new skin back to Germany, and the boy’s doctors carefully laid them into areas they’d scoured of any dead or infected flesh, first to his arms and legs. When another batch arrived in November they did his chest and back. In January they touched up any spots they’d missed. Seven and a half months after he was admitted, the boy walked out the hospital doors, wound-free—the recipient of the largest-ever infusion of transgenic stem cells. A few weeks later he returned to elementary school. Today, the boy spends his free time playing soccer and bruising like a normal kid. His new skin has never seen a blister.

Also On Nov 14th 2017

In the last 20 years the number of cases of diabetes in the UK has doubled undoubtedly due to the surge in obesity causing the rise of type 2 diabetes. But there is still plenty of misinformation out there and too many patients still seem to be in the dark when it comes to the truth about the condition. So on World Diabetes Day, here are things I wish my patients would stop believing:

1. It's ok, type 2 diabetes is the 'mild' one

This is very far from the truth. Both types of diabetes are incredibly serious. Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes both cause the body to be unable to process sugar properly. They arise in different but both can shorten life expectancy and cause life-changing, distressing complications. Type 2 diabetes is a significant risk factor for other diseases such as heart disease and stroke, and therefore accounts for many deaths in the UK each year.

2. Diabetes is JUST about blood sugar

Yes, it's true that both types of diabetes involve sugar control and treating that to avoid dangerous changes in the blood. But diabetes is a disease that affects far more than just blood sugar. Type 2 diabetes causes severe damage to the eyes, the kidneys and the nerves leading to loss of sensation in the feet and even loss of limbs. Because of the effects on the small blood vessels within the body, Type 2 has a vast spectrum of effects from erectile dysfunction to dementia and it is still the leading cause of blindness in the UK.

3. Type 2 diabetes only happens to 'fat' people

This is not actually the case. When you look at figures for type 2 diabetes only around 85% of cases will be overweight which means there are a fair few people developing it who are in fact slim. Not all overweight people develop type 2 diabetes and there are other risk factors people should know. Family history, ethnicity and being over 45 are all risk factors and you are also at risk if you have a sedentary lifestyle or suffered with diabetes during pregnancy.

4. Type 2 diabetes is the late-onset one

We used to talk about diabetes in terms of "late-onset" as type 2 certainly seemed to be a disease that people developed in older age. Sadly this is no longer the case and as the childhood obesity crisis grows, so do the number of young type 2 diabetics.

5. Type 2 diabetes only happens to people who eat lots of sweets

Type 2 diabetes develops in people who are overweight or who have the other risk factors such as Asian origin or family history. It doesn't matter whether obesity is from sweet foods, savoury foods or a lack of exercise - any way it developed is still a risk factor for the condition.

6. Type 2 diabetes is the diet-controlled one

This is partially true but dangerous in terms of belittling the severity of the condition. It can be true that the earlier stages of type 2 diabetes can be well managed, and dare I say even reversed, by excellent diet control. A low GI diet can stabilize blood sugar changes and control the condition very well. However, strict diet control is not easy and takes a lot of willpower, education and motivation. Most type 2 diabetics will need medication: not injecting insulin but tablets to control blood sugar. This is no easy ride: the tablets come with side effects and complications of their own.

Related: Less Sleep Linked to Type 2 Diabetes in Children (provided by Wochit News)

Nov 14th 2017

I've worked with many people in different end-of-life and palliative care settings, from 10-year-old children to a woman who lived well into her 98th year. My aim as an end-of-life doula is to create an environment where the sorts of questions that no one has felt able to ask are broached and discussed.

No matter what someone is asking, the most important thing is that they are heard. That their pain and anguish, their hopes and dreams, their worries and their fears are all given a voice. When a person at the end of their life is talking, the greatest gift we can give them is to listen. Here are the most common questions I'm asked, and how I respond.

1. Am I going to die?

The end of life is not the time for euphemisms or skirting around difficult truths. It's the time for honest, open communication, for compassion, empathy and reassurance. It's this that allows a person to choose what to do next, and brings a degree of control. Honesty affords someone the chance to live out their days on their own terms. Of course, I could say 'Yes, we're all going to die someday' to anyone who asked.

Armed with a life-limiting diagnosis, however, this affirmation takes on a whole different meaning. In some cases, a patient will not actually hear the words 'You are dying' from their doctor. To a layman, medical jargon is a confusing whirl of alien terms that mask the reality of the situation. Nobody wants to be the one to tell someone they're dying and no one wants those words to be said to them, but it's necessary and it's true.'You're dying' sounds brutally blunt, but it allows the person to comprehend and process that their life is ending.

2. When am I going to die?

This is an impossible question to answer. Every illness is different, every person is different. Life-limiting illness is unpredictable. There are no definite answers and it's essential to admit this and be honest.

3. How much pain will I be in? Is it going to hurt?

Pain medication in both palliative and end-of-life care is excellent, but it can often take time and some trial and error to find what works for each individual. There will probably be some pain, I tell people, but we'll do all we can to minimise it.

Effective pain management is always made easier when there's good communication between patient and carer. Listening is probably the most important skill the medical team can have. Listening to what has been said - and to what has not.

4. Why me?

The dying often ask the unanswerable. But they are important questions to ask aloud. They need to be given a voice. They must be heard even though they cannot be answered. Disease can manifest and develop at random or be as a result of lifestyle. Yet telling a life-long smoker that they're dying because of the choices they've made is not necessary or helpful. And it certainly doesn't change the outcome or make anyone feel any better.

A woman I worked with had started smoking in her early teens. At 87 she was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. She'd often ask 'Why is this happening to me?' and then without pausing, tell me 'I know why'. I didn't need to say anything. I just needed to be there to listen.

5. What will happen after I die?

Belief is so personal and individual. Try to hold onto what belief you have, the belief you've always had, I say. It is human nature to query and to question, and wavering is entirely normal. No matter what they hold onto or let go of, the only important part is finding peace in the here and now. Today is what counts.

6. Do I need to do anything?

People often ask if there's anything that they 'need' to do. I always ask them if they feel there are things that they 'want' to do. In many ways, at end-of-life, there's nothing that needs to be done. Dying isn't a time of doing - it's a time of letting go.

7. Will everyone else be OK?

The dying want to know their loved ones will cope with their death and their absence. Parents want to be reassured their children will be looked after. They want to know they'll be missed, but not so much that life cannot continue. Who is going to feed my cat or walk my dog? I offer comfort by helping find solutions and just by hearing their concerns. I strive to bring the family together to talk through worries, facilitating honest conversations to find resolutions and ease minds.

8. Am I a burden?

There is often concern around being a burden, but also concern that their needs will be met. They need to know they'll be looked after with dignity and respect. They want reassurance, peace and calm. And they want to know they are safe.

9. Do I have time for one last…?

Will I be able to go swimming again? Can I see the sea and paddle in the ocean? Often people long for 'one last'. Others just want to sleep in their own bed with all the familiar sounds and smells of home. I will always do all I can do fulfil someone's 'lasts'. Sometimes it's just enough to plan it. Knowing that you're able to, allowed to even, is enough. Being given 'permission' to control what you want to do, and indeed what you will do, at life's end is incredibly important.

10. Can I make amends?

Regrets and the desire to make amends often come up. Regret for all the things they didn't do, rather than things they did. I just listen.

11. Can I still be me?

They ask if they're still lovable. If they're still sexy. They still want to have sex: to love and be loved. They ask if it's possible to maintain intimate relationships. They want to feel like themselves and be seen as their normal old selves. I've lost count of the number of times I've been told 'I just want to be treated like I'm me,' or 'I'm me, I'm not my disease.'

Also Nov 2nd 2017

Those who suffer from long-term gum disease are 70% more likely to develop dementia, researchers have found.

According to The Times, scientists believe that inflammation caused by years of mouth problems could eventually damage the brain.

Although researchers could not prove that gum disease is a direct cause of Alzheimer's, they did say that thorough tooth-brushing could be advised to ward off dementia if the link was confirmed by further research.

The study, conducted in Taiwan, looked at 28,000 people, comparing those who had a recent diagnosis of chronic periodontitis with those who didn't over a 10-year period.

There was a marked increase in the occurrence of Alzheimer's in those who had long term gum disease; these individuals were 70% more likely to develop the condition.

James Pickett, head of research at the Alzheimer's Society, told The Times:

"Although at first if does not seem obvious that gum disease could be linked to brain health, it is plausible that an immune reaction triggered by the gum disease could make its way to the brain and contribute to the development of dementia."

However, he told people with long term gum disease not to panic, adding that while a 70% increase "sounds like a big risk, only about one in 100 people with gum disease went on to develop dementia, showing that this figure is not necessarily a cause for alarm".

Nov 2nd 2017

Frequently needing the toilet in the middle of the night is a condition that affects more than half of 50s, leading to fatigue, irritability and a groggy feeling in the morning.

But scientists believe they have found a solution, and it could be as simple as a slight dietary tweak.

Japanese researchers discovered that lowering salt intake can significantly reduce excessive night time toilet trips, a condition which is also known as nocturia.

When 223 volunteers were asked to cut their salt by 25 per cent, from 10.7g to 8g a day, their average night time toilet expeditions fell from an average of 2.3 trips to 1.4 times.

In contrast, when 98 subjects increased their intake from 9.9 to 11g they found that their need to urinate increased from 2.3 times/night to 2.7 times/night.

Needing to go to the toiled less frequently improved the quality of life for the study participants Credit: Getty

The NHS recommends that adults only eat 6g of salt each day, which suggests that keeping to the limit could bring more benefits than lowering blood pressure.

“This is the first study to measure how salt intake affects the frequency of going to the bathroom,” said lead author Dr Matsuo Tomohiro, of Nagasaki University.

“Night time urination is a real problem for many people, especially as they get older.

“This work holds out the possibility that a simply dietary modification might significantly improve the quality of life for many people”.

This reduction in the need to go to the bathroom at night also caused a marked improvement in the quality of life of the participants.

Salt can only be disposed from the body when it is dissolved, so the more people eat the more urine needs to be expelled to get rid of it. Salty foods also make people more thirsty, so the double impact of salt and more liquid increases the need to urinate, particularly at night.

Most people still eat one third more than the maximum recommended intake which leads to higher blood pressure, putting strain on the heart, arteries, kidneys and brain and eventually leading to heart attacks, strokes, dementia and kidney disease.

Reducing daily salt intake from 8g to the recommended 6g per day could prevent 14,000 deaths a year, a saving to the NHS of around £3 billion, experts have calculated.

The new research which is being presented at the European Association of Urology (EAU) conference in London, suggests that cutting salt could have even wider health implications.

Professor Marcus Drake of Bristol University, the Working Group Lead for the EAU Guidelines Office Initiative on Nocturia, said: “This is an important aspect of how patients potentially can help themselves to reduce the impact of frequent urination.

“The body becomes less efficient at dealing with salt as we get older or in ill health; so we can end up accumulating salt, leading to rather unstable urine production, particularly during the night.

“There is a high salt load in modern foods and fizzy drinks - the surplus is disposed of in the urine, and that can be done more overnight than when awake.

“Research generally focuses on reducing the amount of water a patient drinks, and the salt intake is generally not considered.

“Here we have a useful study showing how we need to consider all influences to get the best chance of improving the symptom”.

A separate study being presented at the same conference found that treating the condition sleep apnea, which is often associated with loud snoring, can also prevent the need to urinate during the night.

Around four per cent of people suffer sleep apnea, a disorder characterized by pauses in breathing or periods of shallow breathing during sleep.

Dr Sajjad Rahnama’i from the Maastricht university Medical Centre, The Netherlands, studied 256 patients who were given a special mask to help them breathe more easily in the night.

After starting to use the mask, nearly two thirds of patients reported a reduction in the need to urinate at night.

Oct 12th 2017


Researchers from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in the U.K. and their collaborators have developed what could potentially be a tabula rasa, or clean slate, for stem cells, which could allow any type of cells to grow and develop. This breakthrough study is published today in the journal Nature, and it shows how researchers, for the first time, created what’s known as Expanded Potential Stem Cells (EPSCs) in mice.

Prior to this breakthrough, stem cell lines existed in two basic types — embryonic stem cells (ES) and induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS). In theory, both stem cell lines can grow to a good number of cell types, and previous research has shown them to be the most effective in doing so. However, ES and iPS have limitations: they aren’t capable of growing into every type of cell, as they’re already limited to only particular cell lines right at the onset. On the other hand, EPSCs are able to form whatever type of cell because they possess features similar to that of the very first cells of their source organism’s embryo. In the case of this study, it was mice. The team is confident, however, that they can develop similar EPSCs from humans as well as other mammals.

To develop the mice EPSCs, the researchers cultured mice cells from their earliest stage of development — i.e., when the fertilized egg has divided into only 4 to 8 cells, each still able to grow into any cell type. In contrast, ES cells are usually taken from around the 100-cell stage in development. Additionally, the researchers developed mouse ES and iPS cells into this new condition and grow EPSCs from them. In short, they were able to turn back the development clock to the earliest type of cell.


Already, scientists have been able to achieve quite a lot using available ES and iPS cells. They’re now able to turn skin cells into motor neuronstreat baldness, and even slow aging in mice using stem cells. Indeed, the potential of stem cells in regenerative medicine is currently unprecedented. The new study’s EPSCs can push even further. Accordingly, these EPSCs are the first stem cells able to produce all three types of blastocyst stem cells — differentiated cells from a fertilized egg — which expands their potential for development.

“This is a fantastic achievement, by working with the very earliest cells, this study has created stem cell lines that can form both embryonic and all the extra-embryonic cells. The methods and insights from this study in mice could be used to help establish cultures of similar stem cells from other mammalian species, including those where no ES or iPS cell lines are available yet,” study co-author Hiro Nakauchi of Stanford University explained in a press release.


Oct 11th 2017

Katie* had her first panic attack when she was 12 years old. She was frightened and had no idea what was happening to her.

“She felt as though she may die,” explained her dad, Tom Grinsted, from Suffolk. “She could not understand what was happening.

“As a parent it is frightening to see your child so highly stressed. You don’t have a handbook. You can only go by your own gut feeling.”

Over the last four years Katie has suffered panic attacks sporadically. She is never sure when one will be triggered and they can catch her off guard when she is in school or out with friends.

Katie’s experience is far from unique - around one in 50 teenagers experience panic attacks, according to Anxiety UK. So what can parents do to help?

Panic attacks are caused by underlying anxiety, Emma Saddleton, parents’ helpline operations manager at Young Minds told HuffPost UK - and anxiety is the single most common problem the charity hears about in their 14,000 calls to their helpline every year.

“Anxiety is massive,” said Saddleton. “In teenagers, this feeling can often present itself in panic attacks.”

Why might your child be having a panic attack?

When your child is in a state of distress it is only natural for parents to want to get to the root of the problem, but with panic attacks it may not always be possible to identify a set list of triggers.

This is the case for Katie.

“They range from her feeling crushed at a music concert or having an attack over getting the school bus in the morning,” her father explained.

“The hardest thing is that she can never tell you what it is that has triggered the attack. At the time she gets very distressed.”

Polly Waite, associate professor of clinical psychology at Reading University and Anxiety UK supporter, explained every person who suffers panic attacks must be treated as an individual.

“Panic attacks can often be in response to a situation or trigger that the person is afraid of, such as having to perform in front of others, being away from home or doing an exam,” she said.

“However, sometimes panic attacks can occur out of the blue with no identifiable trigger, perhaps related to having a bodily sensation (e.g. a pain in the chest, feeling lightheaded after doing exercise) or having a particular thought.”

What are the symptoms of a panic attack?

Grinsted said his daughter’s panic attacks begin with her struggling to breathe and starting to hyperventilate - symptoms which increase her distress.

Panic attacks in children and young people involve an abrupt onset of intense fear or discomfort that reaches a peak within minutes, said Waite.

A young person will experience physical signs of a panic attack: They are likely to hyperventilate, experience breathlessness, chest pains, and have pins and needles.

Dr Camilla Rosan, programme lead for families, children and young people at the Mental Health Foundation said some other physical symptoms to look out for include feeling sick, sweating, shaking and a racing and pounding heart.

Mentally, children are likely to feel out of control and panicky, and will find it hard to string a sentence together or articulate how they feel.

“Your child will have that overall sense of ‘I don’t know what is happening’,” Saddleton explained.

“Young people will be scared as they are out of control of the situation and feel as if it won’t get better.

“It will often feel, for the child, as if it is coming out of nowhere, because it can happen at any time.”

What should parents do if their child is having a panic attack?

Do not dismiss their feelings.

Rosan said parents should remember the young person is feeling a sense of uncontrollable fear that they may not understand the reasons for, adding: “Try not to dismiss it even if it feels irrational to you.

“Acknowledge how scary things feel for them and remind them this will pass, remind them that though scary, it is the body’s normal and natural response. This can help them to know they’re safe and what they’re experiencing is understood.”

Stay calm.

Saddleton said seeing a child having an attack will be frightening for parents, but it’s important to try and mask your worries, as kids of all ages will soak up the anxiety of adults around them.

“Talk in a soothing manner,” she said. “Say: ‘Darling, everything is going to be okay’.

“Talk to them, but don’t expect them to talk back. Tell them to listen to your voice, hold their hand, and keep explaining that it will pass.”

After four years of helping his daughter weather panic attacks, Grinsted said he is now able to remain calm when one occurs.

“I talk in a a calm, soothing manner but forcefully to try and get the message of safety across to her,” he said.

Practise breathing exercises.

“Do some breathing exercises with your child,” Saddleton advised. “Say to them: ‘Just breathe in and out with me’, then breathe in for five, and out for five. Do this for several minutes while you sit with them.”

This is something Grinsted does with Katie.

“I have always hugged my daughter, accentuated my breathing and got her to mirror my breathing,” he explained. “Sometimes breathing at her pace to begin with and then slowing down.

“My theory is that while you may not be able to convince her brain, her body will feel the calmness in my body and begin to slow down. ”

The ‘Calm’ app can help with this, suggested Dr Rosen. It has a free function that can help you to relax and regulate breathing by following a dot as it passes on the screen.

Consider emergency services.

If it is the first time it has happened and you are unsure whether or not it is a panic attack, Rosan advises that you can call 111 and talk a nurse through the symptoms you are seeing.

Saddleton said for the majority of panic attacks, the emergency services aren’t needed but it’s important to make an assessment as a parent as to whether this is the case.

If the attack is not subsiding after 20-30 minutes, this may be an option.

Always look into aftercare.

“Aftercare is extremely important,” said Saddleton. “Go to the GP later that day or in the week and recognise there may be a larger problem.

“Really, the issue isn’t the panic attack, which is just a momentary manifestation, it’s about the anxiety underlying the panic attack.

“The longer term issues are what need to be looked at and discussed with professionals.”

Initially Katie did not want her father to let anyone else know she was having panic attacks.

“She was worried the teachers would look unfavourably upon her”, Grinstead explained.

But, after some convincing he was able to get her professional help and she tried hypnotherapy.

Speak to your child about how they’re feeling.

After your child has had a panic attack, it’s important to pick a time to talk to them when they are calm, happy and in control about how they’re feeling.

“Make sure you tell them you are not angry or ashamed, let them know you are proud of them for their bravery and resilience at such a tough time and ask them what you can do to support them,” Saddleton said.

“Set the scene so they know their parents are supportive and recognise how difficult it was for them.

“You don’t have to talk directly about the panic attack, ask them generally how they are feeling about school and aspects of their lives to see if anything may have prompted the panic attack.”

Monitor whether the attacks are regular.

Rosan said: “If the panic attacks happen more than once and are causing the young person concern and distress, it may be that they have Panic Disorder.

“Fortunately, persistent panic attacks often respond very well to interventions such as cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), which should be available through local child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS). In the first instance, it is important to take your child to the GP to decide together the best course of action.”

Confide in the school.

Mark Rees, ambassador for No Panic, a charity providing support to those with anxiety disorders, said it is important to speak to the school about your child and their panic attacks.

“A member of staff may need to get more information on how they can help the child and what to do if a panic attacks occurs during school hours,” he said.

“It is important to agree on a strategy to deal with panic attacks within the school system. It is not advantageous to require the parent to come into school for each panic attack as it creates a reliance that could be problematic.

“Teaching the staff around the child, and the child themselves, how to deal with panic attack is the best way to deal with it.

“During the contact with the school, all of this needs to be agreed upon and measurers put in place.”

Oct 9th 2017

Coffee is a morning constant for many, as reliable as the sunrise or the tides. However, when it’s removed from the equation entirely, you don’t just suffer due to routine alteration. You suffer chemically. According to Health, the side effects can be pretty noticeable and jarring.

Some of the more common symptoms of caffeine withdrawal stem from the inherent perks of your Central Perk Venti Redeye. You’ll feel lethargic, sluggish, less cognitively aware, and physically delayed because caffeine plays a key role in kickstarting your energy metabolism for the day and upping your motor function.

But the symptoms extend beyond that. Headaches and blood pressures dips are one of the most common and easily measured changes that go along with caffeine withdrawal. But the downsides don’t subside there. In some extreme cases, as documented by a Johns Hopkins University review, people have experienced flu-like symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, muscle pain, and muscle stiffness. These are the signs that you actually have the flu.

“You’re basically going through withdrawal. While you can’t become addicted to caffeine in the same sense as people become addicted to drugs, your body can become dependent on it,” says Michael J. Kuhar, Ph.D., a professor of neuropharmacology at Emory University, via Health. 'And since it takes about 24 hours for caffeine to completely leave your system, it makes sense that you wake up craving it.'

In the review, researchers found that the body can experience caffeine withdrawal even if your daily consumption is on the lower end of the spectrum, just 100 mg per day. According to the Mayo Clinic, an average eight-ounce serving of coffee has between 95 and 165 mg of caffeine. The FDA recommends that healthy adults don’t exceed 400 mg of caffeine each day.

The withdrawal symptoms usually come on 12-24 hours after caffeine abstinence, will peak around 20-51 hours after your last caffeine consumption, and can last anywhere from two to nine days.

If you have a solid handle on your caffeine consumption, then keep on pounding joe in moderation.

Oct 7th 2017 3rd post

Potassium is to your body what your smartphone is to your everyday life: this essential mineral does dozens of vital jobs, and you’d literally die without it. New research has revealed yet another one of those jobs is keeping your arteries nice and supple.

For a study published in the journal JCI Insights, investigators from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) fed specially bred mice diets with varying levels of potassium.

Those mice on low-potassium diets later proved to have a significant increase in “vascular calcification” — aka hardening of the arteries. Their aortas, the artery flowing out of the heart, showed particularly increased stiffness.

Conversely, mice on high-potassium diets had less vascular calcification and decreased stiffness in their aortas.

In humans, stiff arteries translate to a higher risk of heart disease (which is the leading cause of death in Australia).

“The findings have important translational potential, since they demonstrate the benefit of adequate potassium supplementation on prevention of vascular calcification in atherosclerosis-prone mice, and the adverse effect of low potassium intake,” study co-author Dr Paul Sanders, a UAB professor, in a statement.

In everyday language, that means increasing the amount of potassium you get from your diet will reduce your odds of heart disease.

Luckily, potassium isn’t too hard to come by — UAB highlighted potassium-rich foods including bananas, avocados, baked potato, spinach, milk and artichokes.

Another of potassium's vital roles is managing blood pressure by counterbalancing sodium, which is thought to contribute to hypertension.

Interestingly, there’s a reason humans have insatiable, irresistible cravings for sodium-rich salty foods, but have no corresponding craving for potassium. (Literally no-one ever lusted after a banana’s potassium tang.)

According to the University of Southern California, it’s because humans’ ancestors ate diets high in potassium (lots of fruit, roots, vegetables, beans and grains) but high in sodium. So we evolved to desire sodium, but not potassium — despite both being equally important for good health.

Oct 7th 2017 2nd post

Using inhalers to deliver steroids (to deal with lung conditions) has long been associated with impairing the immune system’s ability to fight lung infections.

Earlier this year, a study specifically tied inhaler use by young asthma patients under 35 years of age to an increased risk of pneumonia. Now, a brand new study suggests that inhaler use by older asthma and COPD patients could raise the risk of another serious lung infection—a type of tuberculosis that is notoriously difficult to treat and resistant to a number of common antibiotics.

The study, which was published in the academic journal, the European Respiratory Journal, was led by Sarah Brode, PhD, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Toronto, Canada.

Using existing data collected on 417,494 people aged 66 and older in Ontario, Canada, Dr. Brode’s team discovered that people who had been prescribed inhaled corticosteroids for the treatment of either asthma or COPD experienced 2,966 cases of nontuberculous myocobacteria (NTB).

The association was particularly strong in patients who were using the corticosteroid fluticasone, an ingredient in the allergy medication, Flonase. The risk seemed to be lower for patients using the corticosteroid, budesonide.

All told, the chances of contracting NTB were twice as high for elderly people who were using inhalers; the longer they used the inhaler, the greater their risk. Since NBT can be debilitating—and even fatal—Dr. Brode and her team of researchers believe that the time is ripe for clinicians to reconsider the use of inhalers in some patients—particularly older patients with COPD.

“Steroid inhalers are critical treatments for managing asthma symptoms,” Dr. Brode told EurekAlert, but “they are less important in the management of COPD.”

She suggests that inhalers may not actually be the best treatment for COPD patients, particularly those that have already had an inhaler-related infection and may be more prone to them. Dr. Brode hopes that clinicians will use the information from the study to reconsider the potential benefits versus harms associated with the use of steroid inhalers.

Patients who are currently using an inhaler should discuss the benefits and risks with their clinicians. In the meantime, Dr. Brode and her colleagues are continuing to study the same group of patients to determine what treatments might work best for those diagnosed with NTB.

Oct 7th 2017

Drinking black tea may promote weight loss and speed up your metabolism, a new study claims.

Published in the European Journal of Nutrition, researchers found that black tea stimulates the production of good bacteria in the gut and changes our energy metabolism in the liver via gut metabolites.

The University of California team gathered their data through a series of experiments conducted on mice.

They cited both black and green tea as being beneficial in promoting weight loss, as both lower the amount of gut bacteria that is typically associated with obesity while increasing the type of bacteria that is credited for creating lean body mass.

Researchers divided the mice into four groups and put them on four different diets:

Low-fat, high-sugar

High-fat, high-sugar

High-fat, high-sugar and green tea extract

High-fat, high-sugar and black tea extract

Their weight loss was measured over a period of four weeks and the scientists found that by the end of the study, the mice who were given black or green tea extract had lost the same amount of weight as the mice that were placed on the low-fat diet.

However, the mice on the black tea extract diet also showed an increase in Pseudobutyrivibrio, a bacterium which specifically targets the metabolism.

Whilst numerous studies have hailed the health benefits of green tea, this new study is one of the first to unveil the benefits of polyphenols found in black tea.

These compounds stimulate the production of short-chain fatty acids in the gut, which the study explains has been proven to boost one’s metabolic rate.

“It was known that green tea polyphenols are more effective and offer more health benefits than black tea polyphenols since green tea chemicals are absorbed into the blood and tissue,” explained Susanne Henning, lead author of the study and a human nutrition professor at UCLA.

“Our new findings suggest that black tea, through a specific mechanism through the gut microbiome, may also contribute to good health and weight loss in humans.

“For black tea lovers, there may be a new reason to keep drinking it,” she concluded.

Oct 5th 2017 Dementia,

Small mistakes while carrying out everyday tasks, such as making a cup of tea, could be an early sign of dementia, according to new research.

From having to check several times that the teabag is in your cup or going to the fridge to fetch the milk when it's already out on the counter could signal that the brain's processing ability is declining, the Mail Online reports.

While the majority of people carry out tasks more inefficiently as they get older, experts are saying that making lots of small mistakes could be a sign that that someone has a higher risk of developing dementia in the future.

Researchers from Temple University in the US asked 90 people, 40 of who had dementia, to carry out everyday tasks, including wrapping a present and making themselves a breakfast of jam on toast with coffee, in a laboratory.

Volunteers were observed while they carried out the task and then asked to describe how they would do the task in question, and put pictures of each step in the correct order.

They identified two types of processing failure – missing out vital steps and problems sorting steps into the right order – which could signal cognitive problems, such as dementia.

'Early on, we can look at very subtle errors called "micorerrors",' wrote study co-author Dr Tania Giovannetti in the latest edition of the Journal of Neuropsychology.

'When we compare healthy agers to young people, there are more microerrors in healthy older adults than young adults, and they're associated with memory problems and cognitive changes.

'Healthy agers reach out to objects inefficiently, they touch them when they don't need to, they make all these extra little actions.

'We think that might be the beginning of a problem. If you have more of those, then you are more vulnerable to decline in future.'

Speaking about the study, Dr Laura Phipps, of Alzheimer's Research UK, told the Mail Online: 'There are over 30 steps involved in making a cup of tea so while it may seem like an everyday task to many of us, it can be an uphill struggle for someone with dementia.

'Relatives of people with dementia often speak of small "warning signs" many years before a diagnosis.

'We all make small mistakes in our daily lives, and while these might become more common with age, this isn't necessarily a sign of a problem. Anyone with concerns about their memory or their ability to carry out day-to-day tasks, should speak to their GP.'

Also on Oct 4th 2017

Some food manufacturers have increased the amount of salt in their pesto sauces despite an ongoing health campaign to cut levels in grocery products, a survey has found.

Two Sacla products – Italia Organic Vegetarian Pesto No.5 Basil and Italia Pesto No.1 Classic Basil – are 30% saltier than seawater and contain two and a half times for salt per 100g than peanuts, Consensus Action on Salt and Health (Cash) said.

It also found salt levels in both products have increased since they were last surveyed in 2009, and now contain more than 1.5g of salt per serving – more than a McDonald’s hamburger.

None of the branded pestos included in the wider survey carried the Department of Health’s recommended colour-coded front of pack nutrition label to help consumers “despite some of these products being the worst offenders when it comes to salt”, Cash said.

Napolina Green Pesto with Basil, Gino D’Acampo Pesto alla Genovese Basil Pesto and Truly Italian Genovese Basil Pesto all contained between 2g and 2.5g of salt per 100g, while Tesco Reduced Fat Red Pesto, Aldi’s Specially Selected Italian Pesto Genovese and Italian Pesto Rosso, Jamie Oliver Green Pesto and Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference Pesto Alla Genovese all contained less than 1g of salt per 100g.

Cash noted pesto was a popular choice among parents, particularly for children’s pasta dishes, but warned it could increase a child’s risk of developing high blood pressure, strokes and heart attacks later in life.

Pesto is also high in saturated fats, with almost half of those surveyed (44%) potentially receiving a red label for saturates on front of pack labelling.

Cash called on Public Health England (PHE) to “act tough” on the food industry, raising concerns that some manufacturers are failing to meet the 2017 salt reduction targets with less than three months to go.

Graham MacGregor, Cash chairman and professor of cardiovascular medicine at Queen Mary University of London, said: “The UK was leading the world in salt reduction, but so far PHE is doing little to ensure that the 2017 salt targets are met, and has not confirmed that they are setting new targets to be achieved by 2020.

“This is a national scandal as we know we can save thousands of people from unnecessary strokes and heart attacks if population salt intake is reduced, and furthermore, it is the most cost effective health policy.”

A Sacla spokeswoman said: “We work hard to make authentic Italian products which are good quality, safe to eat and should be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet.”

PHE chief nutritionist Dr Alison Tedstone said: “Many popular foods can contain a surprising amount of salt. We’ve been very clear with the food industry on the importance of reducing salt and meeting the 2017 salt targets.

“Although consumption has reduced by 11%, industry cannot be complacent and PHE will report on their progress next year.”

Pesto-lovers might want to rethink their love affair with the popular pasta sauce - or at least be more mindful of what they’re buying.

A new survey has revealed that a number of pesto sauces contain far higher amounts of salt than others, with some containing 3.3g salt per 100g - “that’s 30% saltier than seawater” according to Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH).

The health campaign group said some manufacturers had even increased the salt content in pesto sauces, despite salt reduction targets being set by Public Health England (PHE).

In light of the findings, it called on PHE to crack down on salty foods.

Sonia Pombo, nutritionist and campaign manager at CASH, branded salt the “forgotten killer”. She said reducing the nation’s salt intake is “the biggest and most successful public health preventive measure made to date”.

CASH, which is based at Queen Mary University of London, used the FoodSwitch UK app to analyse the salt content of 75 pesto sauces and found nearly 40% of products surveyed exceeded the average salt target for pesto sauces.

It called out two Sacla products - Italia Organic Vegetarian Pesto No.5 Basil and Italia Pesto No.1 Classic Basil - for containing “an alarming 3.3g salt per 100g” and added that salt levels in both of these products have actually increased since a similar survey in 2009.

Adults should eat no more than 6g of salt a day. Meanwhile children aged 1-3 should have no more than 2g per day, those aged 4-6 should not exceed 3g of salt per day and 7-10-year-olds should limit salt intake to 5g per day.

CASH called on PHE to “act tough” on the food industry following concerns that certain food manufacturers are failing to meet the 2017 Salt Reduction Targets - the deadline of which is in December.

In response, Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England, said: “Many popular foods can contain a surprising amount of salt.

“We’ve been very clear with the food industry on the importance of reducing salt and meeting the 2017 salt targets. Although consumption has reduced by 11%, industry cannot be complacent and PHE will report on their progress next year.”

CASH added that none of the branded pesto products surveyed featured the Department of Health’s recommended colour-coded front-of-pack nutrition label, making it even more difficult for people to determine just how much salt they’re eating.

Sarah Alderton, assistant nutritionist at CASH, advised people to switch from a high to lower salt option and, in cases where labelling is unclear, consider having pesto in smaller portions, less frequently, or trying other pasta sauces lower in salt and fat.

Professor Graham MacGregor, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at Queen Mary University of London and Chairman of CASH, called the survey’s findings a “national scandal”.

“We know we can save thousands of people from unnecessary strokes and heart attacks if population salt intake is reduced, and furthermore, it is the most cost effective health policy,” he added.

In response to the survey, a spokesperson for Sacla told HuffPost UK: “We work hard to make authentic Italian products which are good quality, safe to eat and should be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet.”

Data shows that, overall, salt consumption has fallen in the past decade. According to statistics from PHE, adults cut their average salt consumption by 0.9 grams per day from 2005 to 2014.

HuffPost UK has reached out to the other pesto manufacturers listed and is waiting to hear back.

Oct 4th 2017 Asthma attacks

Taking Vitamin D pills slashes the number of casualty visits or hospital admissions for severe asthma attacks in half, a new study found.

The sunshine nutrient made by the skin in sunlight also reduced by nearly a third the number of asthmatics needing steroids after suffering breathing difficulties.

It adds further evidence the nutrient also found in oily fish such as salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel and fresh tuna, red meat, liver, egg yolks and fortified foods such as most fat spreads and some breakfast cereals boosted the body's defences.

The incurable long-term condition affects around 5.4 million Britons - one in every 12 adults and one in every 11 children.

It kills three people every day, but two in three asthma deaths are preventable.

The attacks are commonly triggered by viral upper respiratory infections.

Scientists believe the vitamin protects against such attacks by boosting immune responses to respiratory viruses and dampening down harmful airway inflammation.

The study by Queen Mary University of London analysed the individual data from 955 participants in seven randomised controlled trials, which tested the use of vitamin D supplements.

Vitamin D supplementation resulted in a 30 per cent reduction in the rate of asthma attacks requiring treatment with steroid tablets or injections - from 0.43 events per person per year to 0.30.

It also reduced by 50 per cent the risk of experiencing at least one asthma attack requiring a visit to casualty or being admitted from six per cent of people experiencing such an event to three per cent.

Vitamin D supplementation was also found to be safe at the doses administered and no instances of excessively high calcium levels or renal stones were seen.

Serious adverse events were evenly distributed between participants taking vitamin D and those on placebo.

Lead researcher Professor Adrian Martineau said: "These results add to the ever growing body of evidence that vitamin D can support immune function as well as bone health.

"On average, three people in the UK die from asthma attacks every day.

"Vitamin D is safe to take and relatively inexpensive so supplementation represents a potentially cost-effective strategy to reduce this problem."

And because it looked at so many individuals, the researchers could see the extent to which different groups respond to vitamin D supplementation, in more detail than previous studies.

In particular, vitamin D supplementation was found to have a strong and statistically-significant protective effect in participants who had low vitamin D levels to start with.

They saw a 55 per cent reduction in the rate of asthma attacks requiring treatment with steroid tablets or injections - from 0.42 events per person per year to 0.19.

Because of the relatively small numbers of patients within sub-groups, researchers cautioned they did not find definitive evidence to show that effects of vitamin D supplementation differ according to baseline vitamin D status.

First author Dr David Jolliffe said: "Our results are largely based on data from adults with mild to moderate asthma: children and adults with severe asthma were relatively under-represented in the dataset, so our findings cannot necessarily be generalised to these patient groups at this stage.

"Further clinical trials are on-going internationally, and we hope to include data from them in a future analysis to determine whether the promise of today's results is confirmed in an even larger and more diverse group of patients."

Professor Hywel Williams, Director of the National Institute for Health Research Health Technology Assessment Programme said: "The results of this NIHR-funded study brings together evidence from several other studies from over the world and is an important contribution to reducing uncertainties on whether Vitamin D is helpful for asthma - a common condition that impacts on many thousands of people worldwide."

Oct 3rd 2017

Healing takes time. We can predict a rough estimate on how long it may take for an injury to heal based upon which tissue is involved. For example, bone fractures and minor muscle injuries typically heal a lot faster (weeks to months) compared to a tendon or ligament (months to year). This is because of their rich blood supply which means the tissue healing process can get well underway. Ever heard people say that it is better to break a bone than a ligament? There is your answer.

Although, it isn't as simple as a quick fix. Somebody's ability to heal is influenced by a whole host of other factors – each of which can impact the body's capacity to heal effectively. Here are a few ways you can help yourself for a speedy recovery.

1. Your immune system is overworked 

The better our immune system is, the better its ability to act effectively. The process of tissue healing is complex, with different immune cells being involved in different stages of tissue healing and repair. I'll spare you the nitty gritty details but essentially, our immune response is what physically starts the initial tissue repairing part.

If your immune system is tackling a cold or an underlying bug, this could cause a delay in its response to injury healing. Giving your immune system that extra boost will certainly speed up your healing time. Dark green leafy vegetables and colourful berries are great immune boosters.

2. You're not making healthy choices

If I compared a patient who has good general health, exercises often, eats a nutritious diet and gets plenty of sleep versus an individual prescribed multiple medications, is less active with little nutrition quality and minimal sleep, I can almost be certain that the former will be the one to speed through their recovery. Your body is a representation of your general health and physical wellbeing so it's to no surprise that there is a correlation with tissue healing time.

Correlations have been shown between decreased healing potential and alcoholism, obesity and smoking. Some systemic health conditions, for example history of cancer or autoimmune disease, may also contribute to slightly longer healing times. Despite ageing being a natural process, it is fair to say that as we get older, the systems in our body can be a little less efficient. Don't let these reasons stop you from trying to improve your general health; it is never too late to start!

3. You're having sleepless nights

Surely a thorough, deep sleep is essential for optimum healing? The answer is yes. Body tissues need the chance to recover. When we sleep, the brain triggers necessary hormones for repair processes and we also produce more immune white blood cells. Having less than seven hours sleep has shown to increase the risk of developing a cold by a third and lead to fewer blood vessels, essential for recovery. Another study showed in the athletic population, a minimum of eight hours sleep can prevent risk of injury. With this in mind, increasing your hours of sleep could be your answer to a faster recovery.

4. You're besotted with your sofa

With so many known benefits, including reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, better response from the immune system and reduced pain sensitivity, exercise is a vital part of your rehabilitation.

Don't be afraid to get the heart-beat going; you can do whatever activity or exercise you find comfortable from swimming to running. Or perhaps gentle yoga/stretch can make you feel good. As long as movement is comfortable and pain-free, you are pretty much good to go. The level of exercise will be relevant to the injury, so get some help from a rehabilitation specialist if you need some further guidance. Fitter people recover faster!

5. You're stressed out

Stress seems to crop up all the time in health articles, so it must be for a good reason. High levels of stress can delay your healing because chemicals released during a stressful response hinder immune action. It can also directly affect your pain levels, increasing your sensitivity as an individual. We are made to tolerate certain levels of stress, but excess stress can have negative health benefits. So don't be surprised if those busy few weeks leading up to that important deadline hinders your injury healing.

6. You're lacking valuable nutrients 

Getting the right nutrients to assist tissue healing and repair is essential; in fact there is enough information on this topic for it to have its own article. Protein is instantly in demand when we have an injury for the repair process, with animal protein providing the highest quality source. Other good alternatives include fish, eggs, full milk and Greek yogurt. Oily fish also provides excellent anti-inflammatory properties as a source of omega-3.

Zinc aids in tissue growth as well as being a good immune fighter; it is also found in most cells throughout the body. Organ meats are the richest sources of zinc followed by nuts, seeds and chicken. Increasing your intake of root vegetables provide a high source of Vitamin A, a vitamin excellent in boosting the immune system. Another vitamin essential for recovery is Vitamin C, which aids in tissue repair and helps absorption of calcium for cartilage and bone health. High source of Vitamin C can be found in tomato, kiwi, peppers, broccoli and citrus fruits.

So as you can see, our favourite refined carbohydrates (bread, rice, pasta), sugary treats and caffeine don't provide much by means of tissue healing nutrition. However there is no need to fully cut these out, just perhaps save them for weekend treats.

Oct 1st 2017

The number of people who suffer from headaches is, well, mind-numbing. The World Health Organization estimates that 50% of adults has a headache at least once every year, and 30% of those individuals also experience migraines. Even worse: The number of triggers that can actually cause annoying head pain.

If you suffer from migraines - intense, throbbing headaches often accompanied by nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light - you know to avoid red wine, MSG and stress. But there are some unusual suspects that are less expected.

"Most people recognize that not getting enough sleep and hormonal changes can provoke headaches," says Dr. Elizabeth W. Loder, chief of the Neurology Department's Division of Headache and Pain at Brigham and Women's Faulkner Hospital in Boston. "But often they are not aware that high altitudes, diving or even thyroid problems can cause aches too."

Here are few more surprising culprits that might be making your head throb.

1. Sniffing specific scents 

Another migraine on date night? Those "Not tonight, honey" moments might be due to your special-occasion perfume. "Chemical molecules in perfumes can activate the trigeminal nerve endings to release pain signals in the brain," says Adelene E. Jann, M.D., a neurologist at NYU's Langone Medical Center

Figure out lifestyle triggers like fragrances by keeping a diary. "Track your migraines, the foods you ate before onset, the scents you smelled, activities and environmental changes that may have been related," Dr. Jann says.

2. Going on the Pill 

Changes in estrogen impact inflammation, stress and blood sugar, all of which are linked to migraines. "Menopause and the Pill can rapidly lower estrogen," says ob-gyn Prudence Hall, M.D. "And estrogen levels rise during pregnancy."

Switch to nonhormonal birth control; if your doctor agrees, try bioidentical hormones for menopausal migraines. Your best bet while pregnant? Non-drug TLC - most painkillers are not recommended, though your M.D. may prescribe one.

3. Having an orgasm

Yeah, sorry. Strenuous activity like sex and intense orgasms can cause neck and back muscle tension, which can set off a migraine. Orgasm also involves the activation of nerves in the central nervous system, which can have the same effect.

Build up your arousal slowly, and ask your doctor about a daily preventive medicine and other treatment options that may help protect against migraines caused by moments of bliss.

4. Skipping breakfast too often

Make sure you grab a bite before you go: In a recent study of 1,200 migraine sufferers, researchers found that fasting or missing a meal was the second-most common trigger of headaches in men and the third-most common trigger in women.

5. Suffering through bad weather

Rainy weather may get blamed a lot, but other types of weather also contribute to migraines for more than half of sufferers, shares Lee Peterlin, Director of Headache Research at Johns Hopkins Headache Center in Baltimore. Temperature spikes, in fact, even land some people in the emergency room. A study in the journal Neurology reports that for every 40-degree crawl upward, the risk of a headache intense enough to cause a trip to the hospital also rises more than 7%. Thunderstorms don't help either. Researchers aren't yet sure why, but a study published in Cephalagia found people were 28% more likely to come down with a migraine on days when lightning struck near their homes.

6. Springing forward - or falling back

Daily "cluster headaches" can be set off by adjusting the hour for daylight savings time or by traveling through time zones - and can last for up to seven weeks. Why? Blame the resulting changes in your circadian rhythm.

7. Indulging in some really stinky cheese

Yep, believe it or not, an estimated 25% of all migraine headaches are caused by tyramine, a substance in protein. So if looking for a food fix for migraines, consider eliminating these high-tyramine cheeses first: English Stilton, blue cheese, sharp cheddar, Danish blue, mozzarella, Swiss Gruyere, feta, Parmesan and Gorgonzola. Other offenders? Bacon, ham, hot dogs, avocado and bananas.

8. Popping an aspirin

Ironic, isn't it? "The single biggest, unrecognized cause of headache is probably medication or pain-killer overuse," says Peter J. Goadsby, professor of neurology at Kings College London and University of California, San Francisco, where he heads up the Headache Center. How? Because people who take painkillers 10 days or more a month are primed for a "rebound headache," adds Goadsby. "The headache returns when the drugs wear off."

9. Inheriting something from Mom (or Dad)

No, seriously. According to the Migraine Research Foundation, if one parent suffers from migraines, there is a 40% chance a child will suffer them as well. Both parents? The likelihood rockets to 90%.

10. Switching up your routine

If you're not consistently sleeping, exercising and eating at the same time, you could be contributing to the pain. "Regularity is very helpful at keeping headaches at bay," explains Goadsby, who adds that scientists haven't yet determined the exact reason why. For now, just trust us - and stick to a schedule.

11. Not hugging your family enough

Sure, we admit this one is a stretch. But a recent study of chronic headache sufferers showed a marked improvement after they were given a dose of oxytocin, the "cuddle hormone." If more physical contact can ease your head and heart woes, then it's worth a try, right?

12. Zoning out in front of the TV after a long day

"Relaxation after stress is a classic headache trigger for people who are susceptible to migraines," Loder reveals. Known as a "let down" headache, the phenomenon was the subject of a 2014 study. In it, researchers found that during the first six hours of reduced stress, migraine sufferers' risk of headache was a whopping five times higher.

Beat the stress before it happens by practicing a little meditation. This four-minute video will help calm you down in no time:

Sept 28th 2017

A blood test that detects a heart attack more quickly could speed up diagnosis and save the NHS millions every year.

Developed by a team from King's College London, the new test is quicker than the current one and can rapidly rule out a heart attack in more people. It means the test could reassure patients in A&E departments and free up bed space in UK hospitals.

It's estimated over two thirds of people who go to A&E complaining of chest pain have not had a heart attack. But all receive two tests: an ECG and a blood test to measure the levels of a substance called troponin to check the heart for damage.

The new test uses similar technology to the troponin test but analyses the level of a different protein – one called cardiac myosin-binding protein C (cMyC). Levels of this substance increase more rapidly after a heart attack than troponin, meaning the test can rule out a heart attack in a higher proportion of patients straight away.

Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, medical director at the British Heart Foundation pointed out that big heart attacks are often easy to diagnose with ECG but smaller heart attacks, which are more common, are more challenging to confirm.

"These initial results with the cMyC test look very promising for patients, who could be more quickly diagnosed and treated or reassured and sent home. This test could also allow hospitals to save hundreds of thousands of pounds by freeing up valuable hospital beds. However further research is necessary before it can be recommended as a replacement for the troponin test."

Dr Tom Kaier, one of the lead researchers at St Thomas' Hospital, London said:

"It is important for both patients and doctors to work out early who has had a heart attack and who hasn't. We often see patients in hospital who have to stay for further tests as a result of a mildly abnormal blood test – this is stressful and often unnecessary.

"Our research shows that the new test has the potential to reassure many thousands more patients with a single test, improving their experience and freeing up valuable hospital beds in A&E departments and wards across the country."

The researchers say they hope to see the new test rolled out in hospitals in the next 5 years.

Sept 27th 2017

Awareness about Lyme Disease is (very) slowly starting to creep on to the agenda. Now, the experts at the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) have issued warnings about UK areas, namely the south of England and Scottish Highlands, which are particularly high risk regions.

High risk tick areas include the Scottish Highlands, the New Forest, the South Downs, Exmoor, the Lake District, and the North York Moors. Ticks are also common in Wiltshire, Berkshire, Surrey, West Sussex and Norfolk. The health body also reiterate that infection can happen outside of these areas, too.

NICE also warned that data about Lyme Disease is incomplete and have called for a large study in to the disease within the UK. It also suggests that the number of cases each year (around 2,000-3,000) are underestimated because doctors and hospital clinicians are not required to report the number of cases they diagnose.

According to New Scientist, Saul Faust from the University of Southampton who worked on NICE's guidelines said:

"Lyme disease may be difficult to diagnose as people can have common and unspecific symptoms, like a headache or fever, and they may not notice or remember a tick bite... Our draft guidance will give GPs and hospital doctors clear advice on how to diagnose if they think Lyme disease is a possibility."

The condition is caused by a spirochaetal bacteria. According to Lyme Disease UK: "It is endemic in many parts of the United Kingdom, particularly in woodland or heath-land areas as well as urban parks and gardens." The support networks says that symptoms can start with the characteristic bull's-eye rash, "but the rash can also be atypical and more irregular." It adds: "The initial symptoms of Lyme disease include flu-like symptoms, perhaps with a fever, sore muscles, photo-phobia, and a stiff neck."

Unfortunately there is no gold-standard test for Lyme Disease. Use insect repellent and wear long-sleeved tops and trousers tucked into socks if you're walking in an area known for ticks. Carry a tick removal device and use the correct technique to remove ticks.

If you notice a 'bulls-eye' rash or experience flu-like symptoms after an insect bite, see your GP straight away.

Also on September 26th, 2017

Victims of the contaminated blood scandal in the 1970s and 80s have won the right to launch a High Court action for damages.

A High Court official said it was “appropriate” to immediately issue a group litigation order allowing a potential 500 claimants – surviving victims of contamination and the families of the deceased – to join together to claim compensation.

The official, Senior Master Fontaine, made the order despite opposition from lawyers acting for the Department of Health who argued the application was “premature”.

The case concerns imported blood-clotting products derived from blood plasma which caused haemophiliacs and others to be infected with HIV and hepatitis in the 1970s and 80s and has so far led to the deaths of at least 2,400 NHS patients.

Earlier this year Theresa May and Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, promised a “wide-ranging” public inquiry into the scandal.

26.9.17   Yoga

Yoga can help quiet the mind, alleviating the worries and stress that plague our day-to-day lives. But the benefits can also extend to more serious psychological issues.

In the U.S., nearly 1 in 5, or roughly 43 million Americans, suffer from a mental illness, including conditions like depression, anxiety, or schizophrenia. These individuals often experience difficulty getting the health care that they need, and available medications don't always provide satisfactory effects. For this and other reasons, many individuals coping with mental health issues seek alternative approaches to healing, including yoga.

Dorena Rode, a physiologist at UC Davis, has found help in yoga for her own mental health issues. "I understand the complexity of these situations and their devastating effects because I have overcome addiction, depression and [post traumatic stress disorder] in my own life. I practice yoga daily, teach others and have done so for decade," she tells  Newsweek.

Rode explains the results of yoga increase in a dose-dependent manner. The more you do, the greater the health benefits.

"I recommend people practice everyday for at least 15 minutes. A minimum of 3 to 5 times a week will still offer great benefit. If a person is under medical care, the appropriate level of practice for a person's health condition should be made with their care provider," says Rode.

A growing body of research suggests yoga does provide mental health benefits, from alleviating depression to PTSD


Yoga has been studied as an effective treatment for some types of depression. A series of studies from the Netherlands found yoga provided some benefit for people with chronic depression. In the first study, men and women who suffered from depression for an average of 11 years experienced a reduction in depression, anxiety, stress, and rumination after they took weekly 2.5-hour classes for nine weeks in conjunction with therapy and antidepressants. In the second study, depressed college students who practiced mindful yoga for 30 minutes with their instructor and then at home for eight days with an instructional video experienced a greater reduction in symptoms, even two months after, compared to another relaxation treatment.

Yoga offers the opportunity to release stress and tension by helping you shift your focus to the present and "connect to all of your holistic bodies, mind, body and soul," says Dr. Jodi Ashbrook, a teacher, author, and yoga instructor.

"By letting go of whatever negative energy is pulling you away from that intention, you can shift your perception that is typically feeling out of control to your ability to stay present and positive in the moment only to boost your mood," Ashbrook tells  Newsweek.


Yoga may also help ease symptoms of anxiety and depression. A 2016 study conducted at the University of Pennsylvania found people with major depressive disorder (MDD) who do not fully respond to medication, saw a decrease in depression and anxiety after practicing Sudarshan Kriya yoga (a cyclical controlled breathing practice), while those who took meds but did not practice yoga saw no changes.

Erin Wiley, a clinical psychotherapist in Ohio, believes yoga helps calm the nervous system of patients with anxiety. "It teaches clients that they have control of their stress reaction, gives them a coping skill for when they are overwhelmed, gives them experience in practicing calming down which is helpful for times of distress," Wiley tells  Newsweek .

Eating Disorders</h2>

Yoga therapy can help patients with eating disorders change their attitude about their bodies. In a pilot study, researchers found those who participated in a yoga class designed to target eating disorder symptoms experienced a significantly lower negative effect before meals compared to the group that did not practice yoga. Those who had practiced yoga also reported feeling calm and in tune with their internal drives.

According to Wiley, yoga "helps clients see their bodies as something they are working with rather than against, reminds clients that they have control and ownership over their bodies, helps clients see their bodies as assets, helps clients feel stronger."

Psychiatric Disorders

A yoga therapy program could help as an accompaniment to the standard treatment of psychiatric disorders. A pilot study in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found an eight-week yoga therapy program, which included postures, breathing exercises, and relaxation, led to schizophrenic patients showing a vast improvement in symptoms and a decrease in negative thoughts. Overall, it was found to bring significant symptomatic improvements and enhance their quality of life.

"Many centers treating people suffering from psychosis and schizophrenia have organized yoga classes in their centers for the patients. These class are well received by the patients," says Wiley.


Yoga is known to benefit the mind and body, which means it can potentially help with PTSD. A study in the Journal of Traumatic Stress found yoga improved the lives of women with PTSD when they took a 12-session, Kripalu-based (the philosophy that you should practice just as how you should live your life), “trauma-sensitive” yoga intervention (either once per week for 12-weeks or twice per week for 6-weeks). The researchers noted classes included both asana (movement) and breath exercises.

Wiley believes this approach can help patients learn the how to calm themselves down when distressed. "This leads to lower incidence of drug and alcohol abuse, or other self-medicating behaviors," she says.


Polycystic ovary syndrome (more commonly known as PCOS), is a hormone disorder which can affect women in a number of ways. It can impact skin, hair growth, fertility, and periods.

But with an estimated 1 in every 5 women suffering from the condition - and many women not even realising it - how can you work out whether your irregular periods actually mean you have PCOS, or if they're just a bit here, there and everywhere for any other reason?

We asked Dr. Alex García-Faura, Scientific Director at Institut Marquès what you should look out for if you're concerned you might have polycystic ovaries.

1. Your periods are consistently irregular

It's one thing having the odd period which comes a day or two late, or not at all, but when they're consistently late or a no-show, that might suggest PCOS is to blame. "A lot of women will experience irregular periods throughout their lifetime," says Dr García-Faura. "In many cases this will not be a symptom of PCOS as irregular periods can be caused by a number of factors including - fluctuating hormones (particularly during the teenage and premenopause years), weight gain/weight loss, stress, over-exercising, or contraceptive medication."

But "if you are missing your period month on month, or it’s arriving at inconsistent times each month, then this could be a sign of PCOS," advises the expert, who adds: "If you are concerned about why your period is irregular, for any reason, then you should seek advice from your GP."

2. Your flow changes from heavy to light

"Many people assume an ‘irregular period’ is when a period arrives late or is early," says the doctor, adding: "However, an ‘irregular period’ also encompasses lots of other factors, such as a very heavy or light menstrual flow, an absent period, an inconsistent cycle, extreme cramping, bloating or nausea."

He goes on: "The reason menstrual irregularities are often associated with PCOS is because women with the condition have a hormonal imbalance which affects ovulation, and therefore menstruation. Everyone with PCOS will have very different experiences of menstruation, so it’s important to be aware of the inconsistencies you might be experiencing month on month."

3. If you do have a period, the symptoms are painful

"PCOS is caused by immature follicles which grow on the ovaries and subsequently cause an imbalance of hormones. This hormone imbalance can make periods very painful, causing cramping and bloating," explains Dr García-Faura. While he goes on to note that endometriosis is the condition which is usually associated with painful periods, he does note that women with PCOS can also experience "uncomfortable and unpleasant menstruation".

4. You're struggling to get pregnant

The reason people with PCOS often get irregular periods is because they're an "indicator of an underlying fertility problem," says the doctor. "As PCOS is related to a hormone imbalance that affects ovulation, women with the condition can often find it difficult to conceive," he says. If this is the case, Dr García-Faura advises to "visit a fertility specialist who can provide advice and support."

5. You've got other unusual symptoms

It's not just irregular periods that are a key indicator you might have PCOS. Others, the doctor notes, can include "weight gain, hair loss on the head, excessive hair growth on the rest of the body, and acne".

He explains: "These symptoms are caused by the hormonal imbalances PCOS sufferers’ experience. Again, whilst these symptoms can also be indicative of other conditions, if you are experiencing irregular periods alongside one the above, it may be a sign of PCOS."

If you are at all concerned about your symptoms, it's advisable to seek medical advice.

Also on Sept 24th 2017

The history of strength training has been around for decades, however schools of thought still believe it may be harmful for you (although this is changing for the better as science gets more advanced.) Contrary to the belief that weight training is bad for you, there are many benefits in which you could reap from following a well-structured and applied resistance-training plan. Below are 10 reasons why weight training is amazing for you:

1. Increased Cognitive Function -

Strength training has shown to boost your cognitive function. This is largely down to the fact that training with challenging loads enhances the neuromuscular system (all your muscles in your body and the nerves serving them) to be efficient, which translates on to the way our muscular system functions. As we age, cognitive function becomes susceptible to degeneration and so utilising strength training throughout your years will do wonders to offset diseases such as Alzheimer's and dementia.

2. Increased Functional Strength -

Increasing your capacity to get daily activities and tasks done is something strength training can help you with. Developing the ability to pick things up, put them down, push and pull them is exactly what strength training should be about. If done correctly, these primal movement patterns can be enhanced with strength training. It can make your life easier as you become accustomed to being stronger for life's daily tasks.

3. Better Body Composition -

Strength training is a perfect tool to torch body fat and builds lean muscle. The combination of stimulating and growing active metabolic tissue and working energy systems, which burn a vast amount of calories, is a perfect recipe for body composition goals. Strength training worked in this fashion using challenging loads over moderate rep ranges will not only burn fat during your workout but also up to 72 hours after.

4. Increased Metabolism -

As a result of enhancing body composition and developing muscle mass through strength training, an increased metabolic rate is also associated. This is similar to putting a bigger engine in a car, more petrol required. If you're like me and you love your food then this benefit is good news. Eat more without putting on fat. WIN- WIN!

5. Anti-aging -

As mentioned in my previous article, strength training has numerous benefits in reducing the ageing process. Strength training is by far the best remedy for reducing aging and it trumps any cosmetic surgery or supplement.

6. Increased Pain Relief -

Utilising strength training in a smartly formatted training program can do wonders for your posture and function. What this does in turn is reduce the amount of pain that is associated with dysfunctional joints and muscles seen with poor postures. Have a professional assess your current posture and devise a training plan that not only increases your fitness abilities but also rehabilitates your posture. Lets face it, a stronger body is a more functional one and a more functional body is less likely to be riddled with pain.

7. Increased Immunity -

More muscle mass and a better firing neuromuscular system points towards us having a stronger immune system. Strength training does not only make you stronger physically, but it enhances your physiology making it more robust. This ties in with point 5. As we age we leak strength, cognitive function and immunity, so keeping our bodies strong from the inside out is an important component to a healthy, longer lasting body.

8. Strength Training Supplements Cardio Vascular Training -

Keeping the heart healthy is of our upmost importance and so working your ticker during some form of cardio vascular training is very beneficial. Strength training on the other hand complements CV, helping us stay strong enough to deal with various activities. Running for example is a popular form of CV training but many find it difficult as joints hurt and lower backs twinge. Strength training can help us deal with these sorts of impact injuries and this leads me on to point 9.

9. Incredible For Sports Performance -

Strength training is incredible for sports performance and that's why many, if not all athletes have some form of strength and conditioning coach and program to follow. Strength training allows us to develop our force outputs and so we can translate this to our sporting tasks. For example, developing a squat in the gym can translate into increased jumping and sprinting performance. This is because it enables us to begin to generate more force into the ground. Moreover, because strength training makes us more robust, it should reduce the chances of injury significantly.

10. Gender Friendly -

Strength training is for everyone. It can be seen as very male dominated but this really is untrue. Females will see tremendous benefits when taking part in strength training. Thankfully now, the stigma of weight training being just for men is fading and a rise of female influencers promoting a strong and healthy attitude towards body image and weights is growing. Gaining a large amount of muscle mass and looking bigger is often a worry for most women. However, females will not build a large amount of muscle due to their hormonal balance but will see great physical benefits when taking part in strength training activities.

Sept 24th 2017 homeopathy

A scientific organisation intended to influence EU policy has called for tougher regulations of alternative medicine, branding homeopathy “nonsense” and warning the “promotion and use of homeopathic products risks significant harms”.

The statement was made by the European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC), an umbrella organisation representing 29 national academies in Europe, including the Royal Society in the UK.

Supporters of homeopathy and herbal medicine include Prince Charles, while Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, are among MPs to have signed motions in favour of it. Celebrities who are reportedly fans of the treatment include Usain Bolt, Paul McCartney, Jennifer Aniston Hilary Clinton, David Beckham and supermodel Cindy Crawford.

The council did not mince its words in its condemnation of homeopathy, which works on the principles that “like cures like” and that water can have memory.

In a 12-page statement, the group summarised extensive scientific research and concluded that homeopathy is scientifically implausible and produces nothing more than a placebo effect in patients.

“EASAC is publishing this statement to reinforce and reiterate this extensive and well-founded critique,” it wrote.

The EASAC said homeopathic remedies can be dangerous because they may delay patients from receiving conventional medical treatment.

The body recommended that EU states set up regulations to quash what it claims are misleading advertisements by homeopaths, remove homeopathic treatments from public health provision, and require that homeopathic product labels clearly identify ingredients and their amounts.

Homeopathy uses vastly diluted amounts of a substance that causes symptoms in the hope of curing a person.

The treatment has grown in popularity in the western world, with the homeopathy industry valued at around €1 billion in the EU in 2015 with an annual growth rate of around 6 per cent.

It is based on ideas developed in the 1790s by a German doctor called Samuel Hahnermann. NHS England says there is “no good quality evidence” that homeopathy is effective.

In spite of its belief there is no evidence it works, two NHS hospitals and a number of GP practices currently offer homeopathy. However, Simon Stevens, NHS England’s chief executive, called for this availability to end in June calling homeopathy “at best a placebo and a misuse of scarce NHS funds”.

In the past year, the NHS spent just over £90,000 of its approximately £123bn budget on homeopathy. Some who would like to see the option of aromatherapy retained have pointed out this represents just 0.009 per cent of the budget.

The plans to cut the funding for homeopathy and other treatments including herbal remedies are at the centre of a formal public consultation aiming to save the health service at least £250m a year.

Homeopathic remedies are taken by people hoping to treat a wide variety of disorders including anxiety and asthma.

Prince Charles once said of the treatment: “It is rooted in ancient traditions that intuitively understood the need to maintain balance and harmony with our minds, bodies and the natural world.”

In 2010, when he kept a much lower profile as a Labour backbencher, Jeremy Corbyn said on Twitter he believes “that homeo-meds work for some people and that it complements ‘conventional’ meds. They both come from organic matter.”

A House of Commons Science and Technology Committee report on homeopathy found that homeopathic remedies perform no better than placebos, and that the principles on which homeopathy is based are “scientifically implausible”.

The EASAC made a wider point about alternative medicine in general, calling for “parity of assessment” with conventional medicine.

Last year, the US Federal Trade Commission announced it would start enforcing tough standards on homeopathic product labels, including making sure that the labels clearly state that there is no scientific evidence that the products work.

Sept 23rd 2017 Eczema

In the UK, one in five children and one in 12 adults have eczema, but despite the common nature of the skin condition, it can leave sufferers feeling self-conscious.

Blogging about his experience of living with eczema on HuffPost UK, youth activist Liam Beattie said: “Eczema may on appearance appear to be nothing more than physical damage, [but] it has a real effect on people’s mental health and overall wellbeing.

“Growing up I fought endless battles to overcome the insecurities I had over my appearance. It wasn’t just that I didn’t want others to see me, I would go as far to avoid looking at myself in mirrors in shops.”

This National Eczema Week, charities around the UK are raising awareness of the condition so that sufferers like Beattie feel less ostracised and others better understand the condition.

So whether you have eczema and want to learn more, or you’ve spotted a friend or colleague with sore skin, here’s what you need to know.

What is eczema?

Eczema is a non-contagious dry skin condition where symptoms and severity differ from person to person.

While there are several different types of eczema, atopic eczema (also known as atopic dermatitis) is by far the most common.

“Atopic eczema is an inflammatory condition of the skin characterised by dryness and itching. It can affect both men and women equally and usually presents in the first weeks or months of life,” Dr Anjali Mahto, consultant dermatologist and British Skin Foundation spokesperson told HuffPost UK.

“In simple terms, the skin barrier in patients with atopic eczema doesn’t work very well, which means irritants can enter the skin causing inflammation and dryness of the skin.”

According to the NHS, other types of less common eczema include:What causes atopic eczema?

Dr Mahto explained that the cause of eczema is still not fully understood, but it tends to run in families and often develops alongside other conditions, such as asthma and hay fever.

“Eczema cannot be ‘caught’ from other people. Everyday life is filled with triggers that can make eczema, or the associated itching, worse, so care should be taken to minimise or avoid exposure to them,” she said.

“Some of the main culprits include heat, dust, soap and detergent. Being unwell (such as having a cold), infections, stress and dryness of the skin can all cause flare ups.”

The NHS advises that women may find their symptoms get worse in the days before their period or during pregnancy while others report that their symptoms get worse when the air is dry, such as in the winter months when we’re exposed to central heating.

According to Dr Mahto, in a small percentage of cases eczema can also be linked to diet and it is therefore worth keeping an eye out for any patterns in your diet that seem to be linked with flare ups.

“Potential culprits include dairy products, chocolate, eggs, peanuts, citrus fruits and colourings,” she said.

What foods can help atopic eczema?

Dietician Dr Sarah Schenker, who works with the eczema cream brand Cetraben, said that including adequate intakes of vitamin D within your diet can help ease eczema symptoms.

“This can be found in oily fish which provides vitamin D and also ensures a good intake of omega 3 fats. Probiotics and prebiotics may also help manage eczema, they can be taken either as a food supplement or from increasing food sources in the diet, such as live yogurts, wholegrains and green leafy veg,” she said.

Dr Schenker added that eating foods in vitamin C is essential for healthy skin, particularly if you’re prone to conditions such as eczema.

“One of its [vitamin C’s] most important roles in the body is in the production of collagen, a protein needed for wound healing,” she explained.

“It is also an important nutrient for the immune system which fights off invading bacteria and viruses and protects against disease. Healthy skin is dependent on good immunity.”

Some forums also suggest cutting back on alcohol can be central to improving eczema symptoms as drinking alcohol dehydrates the body and therefore dries out the skin, potentially increasing uncomfortable cracks and itching.

What treatments are available for atopic eczema?

Your GP may be able to help you to identify triggers that make your eczema worse, meaning these can then be avoided as much as possible.

However, Dr Mahto said you may still need to use an emollient, which can come as a lotion, cream or ointment, in order to ease symptoms of dryness and itching.

“Speak with your doctor or dermatologist who will help find the best emollient for you and your skin. It’s often a case of trial and error to see which works best for each patient,” she said.

“In more severe cases topical steroids, antibiotics and antiseptics, topical immunosuppressants or UV light treatment can be used to treat eczema.”

Dr Mahto added that while emollients will help to keep skin moisturised, you should also be sure to use fragrance-free soaps, which can often make symptoms worse.

“Don’t wash more frequently than necessary and wear non-irritating fabrics such as cotton,” she said.

“Most importantly try not to scratch as broken skin can let bacteria in, which can cause infection.”

If living with eczema is affecting your mental health, speak to your GP who may refer you for CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy), or speak to one of the mental health charities.

Sept 22nd 2017

Household chores such as vacuuming or floor scrubbing provide enough exercise to protect the heart and extend life, a study has shown.

Scientists found that 30 minutes of activity per day, or 150 minutes per week, reduced the risk of death from any cause by 28% and rates of heart disease by a fifth.

But it was not necessary to run, swim or work out in the gym, said the researchers writing in The Lancet journal.

Of the more than 130,000 people from 17 countries who took part in the international study, fewer than 3% who achieved high levels of activity did so through leisure pursuits.

In contrast, almost 40% of highly active participants benefited from commuting, having a physical job or domestic chores.

Lead investigator Dr Scott Lear, from McMaster University in Canada, said: “By including low and middle-income countries in this study, we were able to determine the benefit of activities such as active commuting, having an active job or even doing housework.”

He added: “Going to the gym is great, but we only have so much time we can spend there. If we can walk to work, or at lunchtime, that will help too.”

The Pure (Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology) study found that if everyone was active for at least 150 minutes per week, 8% of global deaths over seven years would be prevented.

It also showed there appeared to be no ceiling to the health benefits of taking exercise.

People who did more than 750 minutes of brisk walking per week reduced their risk of death by 36%.

Professor Metin Avkiran, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation (BHF), said: “In an age where we’re living increasingly busy but often sedentary lives in the west, weaving physical activity into our daily routines has never been more important, not only to improve our physical health but also overall well-being.

“Increased physical activity could have an even greater beneficial impact in lower income countries, due to its low cost and the high incidence of heart disease in those countries.”

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.


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).


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.


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


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'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 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.


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.


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.


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 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


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.


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


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.”

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.

For earlier medical news see the medical home page


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