Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

Can’t sleep? It may be because you DIDN’T react to stress

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

Study identifies behaviours that cause insomnia.

In a first-of-its-kind study, researchers at the American Academy of Sleep Medicine explored the pathway that leads to short-term insomnia disorder after stressful events.

According to the study, dangerous coping mechanisms that could lead to insomnia include disengaging without confronting the stressor, turning to drugs and alcohol, and using media as a means of distraction.

“Our study is among the first to show that it’s not the number of stressors, but your reaction to them that determines the likelihood of experiencing insomnia,” says lead author Vivek Pillai, PhD, research fellow at the Sleep Disorders & Research Center at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Michigan. “While a stressful event can lead to a bad night of sleep, it’s what you do in response to stress that can be the difference between a few bad nights and chronic insomnia.”

Nearly 3,000 subjects with no history of insomnia were interviewed about their coping mechanisms and asked to communicate their perception of the stressful situations in their lives.

One year later, those with short-term insomnia disorder were identified as having the corresponding, aforementioned reactions to stress, although researchers were also able to identify potential solutions to help circumvent insomnia during hard times.

“Though we may not be able to control external events, we can reduce their burden by staying away from certain maladaptive behaviors,” says Pillai.

According to researchers, mindfulness-based therapies seem able to help suppress the “mental chatter” that inhibits the onset of sleep.

“This study is an important reminder that stressful events and other major life changes often cause insomnia,” said American Academy of Sleep Medicine President Dr. Timothy Morgenthaler. “If you are feeling overwhelmed by events in your life, talk to your doctor about strategies to reduce your stress level and improve your sleep.”

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‘Dengue cases have reached endemic level’

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

PUTRAJAYA: The state of dengue in the country has reached an endemic level as the number of cases continued to rise, the Health Ministry said.

As at last Saturday, there have been 46,681 of such cases, which is a 246% increase from the pre­vious year in the same period.

The number of deaths have also been alarming as 87 people have died from the disease or a 222% increase in dengue deaths compared to the same period last year.

“There remains many breeding grounds (for aedes mosquitoes) especially in hotspot localities. Some 90% of the 93 hotspots nationwide are found in Selangor, with the Petaling district reporting a higher number of incidents,” Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam told a press conference yesterday.

Selangor has accounted for more than half of the dengue cases so far this year, recording 36 deaths from the 26,441 cases reported.

Other states listed among the top contributors of dengue cases included Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya (4,007 cases and seven deaths), Perak (2,956 cases, seven deaths), Kelantan (2,898 cases, four deaths), Johor (2,632 cases, 14 deaths) and Negri Sembilan (2,360, three deaths).

Dengue deaths were also recorded in Kedah and Malacca (four deaths respectively), Penang (three), two each in Sabah and Sarawak, and one in Terengganu.

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Reducing the pain of osteoarthritis

Monday, June 30th, 2014

Osteoarthritis is a common condition that usually affects us as we grow older.

Taking the first step: Obese people with OA experience a 25% reduction in symptoms just by losing 5% of body weight. — AFP

Taking the first step: Obese people with OA experience a 25% reduction in symptoms just by losing 5% of body weight. — AFP

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis. The term was coined by Dr John Kent Spender of England in 1889. It is also known as “degenerative joint disease”.

Over 60% of people over 65 have some form of arthritis. About 90% of adults are affected by the age of 40.

The commonest joints involved include the knees (41%), hands (30%) and hips (19%). It is currently understood to be a process rather than a disease that may be triggered by various constitutional and environmental factors.

The knee is one of the joints most prone to injury. The knee is the joint between the two longest bones of the body (the femur, which is the bone of the thigh, and the tibia, which is the bone of the lower leg).

It is more prone to injury because the entire weight of the body is transferred through the knee to the foot. About 13% of women and 10% of men aged 60 years and older have symptomatic knee OA.

Recent studies suggest that OA of the hand may predict the later development of OA in the hip or knee. It was found that those with hand OA were three times more likely to develop hip arthritis.

It was noted from the studies that OA of the hand also slightly increased the risk for knee OA.


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Scientists explain link between stress and heart attack

Saturday, June 28th, 2014

Doctors have long known that chronic stress leads to cardiovascular disease, but have not understood the mechanism.

Last weekend, scientists said that they may have unravelled how chronic stress leads to heart attack and stroke – by triggering overproduction of disease-fighting white blood cells which can be harmful in excess.

Surplus cells clump together on the inner walls of arteries, restricting blood flow and encouraging the formation of clots that block circulation or break off and travel to another part of the body.

White blood cells “are important to fight infection and healing, but if you have too many of them, or they are in the wrong place, they can be harmful,” said study co-author Matthias Nahrendorf of the Harvard Medical School in Boston.

Doctors have long known that chronic stress leads to cardiovascular disease, but have not understood the mechanism. To find the link, Nahrendorf and a team studied 29 medical residents working in an intensive care unit.

Their work environment is considered a model for chronic stress exposure given the fast pace and heavy responsibility they carry for life-and-death decisions.

Comparing blood samples taken during work hours and off duty, as well as the results of stress perception questionnaires, the researchers found a link between stress and the immune system.

Particularly, they noticed stress activate bone marrow stem cells, which in turn triggered overproduction of white blood cells, also called leukocytes.

White blood cells, crucial in wound healing and fighting off infection, can turn against their host, with devastating consequences for people with diseases like atherosclerosis – a thickening of artery walls caused by a plaque buildup.

AFP Relaxnews.

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A fit mind: How to prevent serious ARCD

Saturday, June 28th, 2014

Regular activity, like walking, will help maintain good blood pressure and prevent diabetes, two conditions closely associated with ARCD.

Regular activity, like walking, will help maintain good blood pressure and prevent diabetes, two conditions closely associated with ARCD.

When there’s no cure, prevention is as good as gold.

Age Related Cognitive Decline (ARCD), has received much more study in the past decade, because the world’s population of folks over 50 is literally booming.

Nearly everyone who reaches the half-century mark suffers from some degree of ARCD.

It can be as mild as “Why did I come in this room?” or “Where did I put my keys?” Or it can be more serious, turning into a pre-dementia state by age 65.

A few drugs have been developed that can lower the degree of mental decline or even help delay some of the symptoms, but there is no current cure.

There are, however, numerous methods of prevention. If you value your brain, it’s important to start protecting it.

No matter how old you are, here’s information that’s been learned from hundreds of scientific studies.

First, know that your brain uses a huge amount of energy, a disproportionate amount compared to other parts of your body.

To repeat an old cliche, it takes energy to make energy. You’ve certainly heard that exercise increases blood circulation, improves the heart and respiratory systems, and helps work off fat. All four of those exercise benefits help prevent or lessen the symptoms of ARCD.

Studies have shown that people who get little activity or who are obese suffer more from mental decline as they age than those who are fit and active. Personal habits also affect the onset of symptoms. One big discovery is that chronic brain inflammation is a big marker for the condition.

Chronic low-level brain inflammation can be caused by such habits as cigarette smoking, eating a non-nutritious diet dependent on fast or processed foods, poor sleep patterns and obesity. In fact, brain inflammation is now believed to be associated with the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.


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‘Dengue risk high for kids and elderly’

Friday, June 27th, 2014

KUALA LUMPUR: The elderly and the very young tend to face higher risks of mortality from dengue as they generally have a lower level of tolerance of infections, said Universiti Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC) director Prof Datuk Dr Ikram Ismail.

“When the elderly and the young children suffer from fluid (plasma) leakage and dehydration, their bodies do not compensate well. They take a longer time to recover.

“Their risk of death is higher but we try to give them the support they need to recover,” he said, noting that the number of dengue patients admitted to the hospital had risen by four times compared to a week ago.

UMMC had 10 to 15 dengue patients in its hospital at any one time but it has since increased to between 54 and 60 patients just over a week ago.

On Wednesday, the World Health Organisation Collaborating Centre for Arbovirus Research and Reference at Universiti Malaya director Prof Dr Sazaly Abu Bakar said the Aedes mosquito was more active during the warmer months, and people should protect themselves by putting mesh screens over doors and windows and use mosquito repellents.

Hospital Kuala Lumpur (HKL) director Datuk Dr Zaininah Mohd Zain said they had 120 patients warded for suspected dengue yesterday and 60 were confirmed.

She said the number of dengue notifications (suspected dengue cases) since June 7 had increased from 336 to 494 on June 14 and to 627 as of June 26.

by Loh Foon Fong.

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Diabetes: Sugar in the eyes

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

Diabetic eye disease is a result of damage to the small blood vessels that nourish the eyes.

MY mother has suffered from diabetes for over 20 years. Recently, her doctor says that her eyes have developed some problems related to her diabetes. How can the eyes develop problems from diabetes? I always thought diabetes was a disease affecting blood sugar levels.

Diabetes mellitus is indeed a disease that results in high blood sugar.

It is this high blood sugar that produces a lot of complications everywhere in your body if it is untreated and uncontrolled.

If you have too much sugar in your blood, this can damage the small blood vessels that nourish your eye, among other organs.

This damage leads to a lot of leakage into the surrounding areas, and also blockage – at first partial, and then even complete. As more and more blood vessels get blocked, the blood supply to your retina – which is the “projection screen” of your eye – is affected. This eventually leads to loss of vision.

Danger point: The most advanced stage of diabetic retinopathy, the advanced proliferative stage, when the new blood vessels rupture, causing further scar formations. The scar tissues can then pull the retina away from its normal position at the back of the eye.

Danger point: The most advanced stage of diabetic retinopathy, the advanced proliferative stage, when the new blood vessels rupture, causing further scar formations. The scar tissues can then pull the retina away from its normal position at the back of the eye.

In addition, due to the lack of oxygen and blood supply, your eye attempts to compensate by growing new blood vessels. Unfortunately, these new blood vessels are not properly developed and they leak easily, further obscuring vision.

The resultant scar tissue formation also doesn’t help matters.

This sounds like a whole lot of bad things happening to the eye! Is the retina the only part of the eye affected by diabetes?

No. Diabetes can also cause complications in the lens of the eye, leading to swelling in that area. It can also result in the early development of cataracts.

Additionally, diabetes can also increase the risk of glaucoma – a disease in which the fluid pressure inside your eye is increased, leading to nerve damage and loss of vision. In fact, a person with diabetes is twice as likely to get glaucoma compared to other people.

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Too much ‘Vomit’

Sunday, June 8th, 2014

MEDICAL TREATMENT: Screening all aspects of a patient is essential in making a proper diagnosis.

ONE of the first lessons a medical student learns is the importance of taking a thorough history of the patient. My professors often stress that most diseases can be diagnosed with comprehensive history-taking, thorough clinical examination and a few basic medical tests.

This old adage in medicine has actually been proven — a study published in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine showed that combining history, physical and basic tests led to a correct diagnosis in three out of four patients, indicating that more sophisticated tests should not be done as a routine.

The increasingly ubiquitous use of modern technology in medicine is a double-edged sword.

While there is no denying that we have been able to diagnose and treat more diseases as a result of technological advancements, there is a downside to this ever-changing landscape — diagnostic tools can sometimes be too sensitive.

We increasingly identify “abnormalities” that were hitherto unknown or come across disease stages that are less severe and would not normally cause patients any harm if left untreated.

by Dr Helmy Haja Mydin

Read more @Too much ‘Vomit’ – Columnist – New Straits Times

Ramadan is more than just spiritual cleanliness

Friday, June 6th, 2014

A TURNING POINT: With the fasting month around the corner, we need to be mindful of healthy eating habits

THERE are examples of where we can go in terms of great maintenance culture and high aesthetics in all aspects of public and private environments, spaces and facilities.

In our national culture, there are clean kampung houses and toilets, 5-star hotels, fast-food franchise system, and clean rest and recreation areas along our modern highways.

Typically, kampung houses remain clean. However, fast-food outlets are a letdown, especially because of abysmally poor management and maintenance of toilets and sinks and disposal bins.

There is then no real and sustained transfer of best practices of maintenance system and culture. Poor local culture and practices and lackadaisical management overrides the system and takes over from so-called best practices.

Large cities in neighbouring countries allow the underside of highways to be used for parking lorries, for unclean hawkers, or even as homeless shelters.

Such sights and practices are beginning to take root in our cities which are relatively small. Certainly, supervisors at the site level are uninspired. Perhaps leadership at the top is uninspiring and sometimes clueless regarding the possible high standards.

What will happen when our cities teem with millions of dwellers but with current limited imagination and mindsets of high culture maintenance and aesthetics?

The fasting month is coming and authorities are proudly talking about sites and licences for temporary food vendors at pasar Ramadan.

However, is there no raising of standards, demanding health certificates, ensuring the availability of clean water and hygienic services?

Steroid-laced food back on shelves

Saturday, May 24th, 2014

IPOH: Food products containing steroids are creeping back into the market and are especially popular among rural folk.

State pharmaceutical enforcement branch chief Ahmad Nozrin Taharin said peddlers of such illegal products usually target rural folk and Felda settlers, who are unaware of the ill effects of steroids on their health, including renal failure.

“We once nabbed a culprit as he went from shop to shop with a van full of food products that purportedly had healing properties.

“Rural folk have no idea that these food products are bad for them, which is why we are trying to reach out to them,” Ahmad Nozrin told reporters during a dialogue here yesterday.

According to Ahmad Nozrin, there had been a reduction in unregulated food products containing steroids, but they were making a comeback.

He said there was also high demand for food products with purported slimming effects, skin whitening effects, as well as those containing sexual stimulants besides steroids-based food products.

“Women want to be slim and to have fair skin while men want to increase their libido.

“It is a lucrative business for the distributors. In fact, it is better than smuggling drugs because there is no death penalty involved.

“It is only a mere RM25,000 fine for individuals who get caught and RM50,000 fine for companies,” he said, adding that such products were manufactured locally as well as smuggled from neighbouring countries.

Ahmad Nozrin also warned consumers against taking tranexamic acid injections in their quest to achieve fairer skin.

by Chan Li Leen.

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