Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

Stroke risk may reflect in inability to stand on one leg

Saturday, December 20th, 2014

WASHINGTON: Struggling to stand on one leg for less than 20 seconds is linked to a higher risk of stroke, small blood vessel damage in the brain and reduced cognitive function, Press Trust of India (PTI) reports citing a study.

“Our study found the ability to balance on one leg is an important test for brain health,” said Yasuharu Tabara, lead study author and associate professor from the Centre for Genomic Medicine at Kyoto University Graduate School of Medicine in Kyoto, Japan.

“Individuals showing poor balance on one leg should receive increased attention as this may indicate an increased risk for brain disease and cognitive decline,” Tabara said.

The study involved 841 women and 546 men with an average age of 67.

To measure one-leg standing time, participants stood with their eyes open and raised one leg.

The maximum time for keeping the leg raised was 60 seconds. Participants performed this examination twice and the better results were used in the study analysis.

Cerebral small vessel disease was evaluated using brain magnetic resonance imaging.

Researchers found that the inability to balance on one leg for longer than 20 seconds was associated with cerebral small vessel disease – small infarctions without symptoms such as lacunar infarction and microbleeds.

The study revealed 34.5 percent of those with more than two lacunar infarction lesions had trouble balancing as did 16 percent of those with one lacunar infarction lesion.

Thirty percent of participants with more than two microbleed lesions and 15.3 percent with one microbleed lesion had also trouble balancing.

Overall, those with cerebral diseases were older, had high blood pressure and had thicker carotid arteries than those who did not have cerebral small vessel disease.

However, after adjustment for these covariates, participants with more microbleeds and lacunar infarctions in the brain had shorter times standing on one leg.

Short one-legged standing times were also independently linked with lower cognitive scores.


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1,691 with HIV in Sabah

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014

KOTA KINABALU: A total of 1,982 HIV cases, 734 AIDS cases and 291 deaths due to the disease have been recorded in Sabah between 1991 and September, 2014.

A joint statement released by the State Health Department and City Hall in conjunction with the Sabah Level World AIDS Day celebration held here yesterday mentioned that there were some 1,691 people living with HIV in Sabah.

During the first nine months of this year (January to September), 191 new cases of HIV infection were reported in Sabah. Based on this figure, it is expected that Sabah will have 255 new cases of HIV infection by the end of 2014.

The rate of new HIV infection in Sabah is expected to be 7.32 for every 100,000 people in Sabah.

Hence, the government, particularly the Sabah Health Department, is hoping for the cooperation for all parties to ensure efforts towards prevention is implemented thoroughly.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Haji Aman urged people who are at risk of getting HIV were yesterday urged to go for a test and treatment which are provided free at all government clinics and hospitals in Sabah.

He said that the government provided various tests and screening for HIV, including pre-marriage test, HIV tests for pregnant mothers and suspected HIV patients at all government clinics and hospitals for free.

“The government is committed to ensure all efforts towards its prevention are implemented at all levels of the community,” he said in his speech for the launch of the Sabah State-level World AIDS Day held at the Kompleks Pentadbiran Kerajaan Persekutuan Sabah auditorium near here

Musa, in his speech delivered by Rural Development Minister Datuk Radin Malleh, also mentioned that the theme for this year’s World AIDS Day celebration ‘Getting to Zero’ coincided with the effort to address and eradicate HIV/AIDS.

He stressed that the issue required the participation of all levels of the community and not merely left on the shoulders of governments alone. He added that just as important were the roles played by infected individuals, their families and people at risk in the war against the disease.

Meanwhile, Mayor Datuk Abidin Madingkir said that the Kota Kinabalu City Hall had undertaken a pilot project ‘Kota Kinabalu Towards Zero HIV in 2020′.

Kota Kinabalu is the third city to launch its Zero HIV project, he said. The other two cities in the country to launch the project are Melaka and Kuantan.

He said that the aim of the project was to strengthen the implementation of HIV/AIDS preventive and control activities within Kota Kinabalu.
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Many Malaysians are marrying too early, warns UN

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014

KUALA LUMPUR: Far too many Malaysians are married too early in life, compromising not only their health but also their chances of development in a productive labour force.

United Nations resident coordinator in Malaysia Michelle Gyles-McDonnough said the “too early” marriages usually involved young people below 18 years of age.

“The 2010 population census indicated that about 80,000 married women in the country were aged between 15 and 19 years, while the corresponding number of young married men was 70,000.

“Far too many young people are married very early, putting their mental and physical health at risk because they have to shoulder the commitments of marriage,” she told reporters after launching the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) State of the World Population 2014 report here yesterday.

The report highlighted that there were 1.8 billion young people aged between 10 and 24 worldwide, most of whom were based in developing countries.

However, it noted that child marriages were among several challenges these countries, including Malaysia, had to manage if they were to drive socio-economic growth.


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Try to avoid contact with killer weed at all costs, says doc

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014

PETALING JAYA: Individuals should exercise care with the Parthenium hysterophorus as the weed has asthma and eczema-causing properties.

“If they come into contact with the weed and begin feeling itchy or short of breath, they should immediately take an antihistamine to counter any allergic reaction,” advised Malaysian Medical Association president Dr H. Krishnakumar.

“And be sure to wash your hands or the relevant body parts which had come into contact with the plant,” he added.

Hypersensitive individuals who frequently experience rashes or hayfever should exercise caution when going outdoors by wearing long-sleeved garments.

Dr Krishnakumar said that if severe allergic reactions – such as throat swelling and low blood pressure – were experienced, the victim should go to the hospital immediately.

“Don’t delay. The reaction might cause your airways to become blocked,” he said in outlining some worst case scenarios.

There are over 50 Department of Agriculture officials monitoring P. hysterophorusinfestation in Malaysia, which is believed to have spread due to the import of animals from affected countries.

Its visual similarity to ulam raja has also hastened the spread, with landscaping companies using it for decorations.


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Education vital for malaria eradication

Sunday, November 30th, 2014

KOTA KINABALU: University Malaysia Sabah (UMS) Social Science Faculty Professor Dr Kntayya Mariappan who participated in the internationally collaborated malaria study programme tagged ‘MONKEYBAR’ Mid-Project Workshop on from Nov 25 to 28 at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital here, called for more follow-up action and programmes following the successful conclusion of the event.

“It is very important that awareness of the monkey malaria or P. knowlesi is to be disseminate especially among the affected population in Kudat and Banggi island so that they are educated on how to take preventive action to protect themselves against the disease,” he told Daily Express of the important role that social scientists as agents of change could help the local community.

Dr Kntayya said, depending on the availability of funds, he would encourage some of his students to consider doing research on the subject as part of their course.

The professor attended the workshop with eight other professors and academicians from UMS – Professors Chua Tock Hing, Dr Paul Porodong, Dr Gaim James Lunkapis, Dr Sylvia Daim, Dr Sophia Lau Tiek Ying, Nor Afizah Nuin, Benny Obrain and Hanns Ng.

Dr Kntayya said it is imperative that monkeys should not be vilified and victimised as a result of P. knowlesi prevention education and awareness.

“Conservationists would not want monkeys, some are kept as pets of humans, to be killed wantonly just because of the fear of P. knowlesi malaria, as now it has been established and understood that monkeys through mosquito vectors could spread the disease to humans,” he said.

“To control and eradicate this malaria disease, education is crucial and this is where social scientists with the pertinent knowledge, can play an important role towards this goal,” he stressed.

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Undiagnosed eye disease can cause blindness

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

KOTA KINABALU: Overlooked symptoms of eye disease and eye complications can cause blindness if left undiagnosed for a long time, said the Head of Ophthalmology Department Queen Elizabeth Hospital One (QEH1).

Dr Sheena Alexander said diseases such as Glaucoma, Diabetic Retinopathy and Cataracts can go undiagnosed for a long time and by the time it is, it’s too late to save the person’s vision.

Information from the internet explains that Glaucoma is a disease that is caused by damage in the optic nerves, abnormally high pressure inside the eye (intraocular pressure) usually, but not always, causes this damage, which may cause gradual loss of vision.

Meanwhile Diabetic Retinopathy is an eye disease caused by changes in the blood vessels of the retina.

In some people with diabetic retinopathy, blood vessels may swell and leak fluids.

In others, abnormal blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina. The retina is the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye.

People with this disease may not notice changes to their vision but over time, diabetic retinopathy can get worse and cause vision loss. It usually affects both eyes.

The disease known as Cataracts is a clouding of the eye’s natural lens – which lies behind the iris and the pupils – is a common cause of vision loss in people over the age of 40. In short, Cataracts usually show with age.

Dr Sheena, also the organising chairperson of the Eye Screening Drive programme at the QEH1 yesterday, said the hospital is hoping to spread more awareness among the public of the importance of eye screenings.

“The eye screening drive programme was held to encourage the public to identify the causes of preventable blindness, eye diseases. This is to ensure patients can get treatment at an early stage to avoid blindness,” she said.

To prevent blindness, we have to diagnose it before the patients develop symptoms of decreased vision.

In a survey which was conducted 10-20 years ago, Dr Sheena said the blindness rate was high but with the availability of better healthcare nowadays, she is positive that the number of patients going blind has decreased.

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Many not aware they have diabetes

Saturday, November 15th, 2014

PUTRAJAYA: BASED on statistics from the National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS), 50 per cent of Malaysians who have diabetes are not aware of their condition.

Malaysian Diabetes Association council member Prof Datuk Dr Wan Mohamad Wan Bebakar said the survey also discovered that children as young as four were prone to the disease if their eating patterns and lifestyles were not controlled.

Diabetes, he said, was a silent disease that could lead to complications if left untreated and more than 2.6 million Malaysians were suffering from it.

“From this figure, five per cent or 130,000 diabetic patients are between 18 and 30 years old.

“The number of young diabetic patients is increasing and the number will continue to rise if changes to lifestyle are not made,” he said after attending the Diabcare Malaysia 2013 workshop that was held in conjunction with World Diabetes Day.

Dr Wan Mohamad said most Malaysians only realised they were diabetic when they sought treatment after a heart attack, which was one of the complications arising from the disease.

“Diabetes is not only a disease, but a silent threat as it can trigger a host of problems related to the eyes, kidneys and heart.”

He said as early prevention was better than cure and Malaysians should get medical check-ups for diabetes, especially if there was a history of diabetes in their families.


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Tobacco, health and trade rules

Monday, October 27th, 2014

Malaysia is taking the lead on two fronts to prevent the use of trade and investment agreements from blocking anti-smoking measures, but will these initiatives succeed?

SMOKING cigarettes is the number one preventable cause of death. Six million people die each year from tobacco use and this number will rise to eight million by 2030, most of them in developing countries.

Almost 200 countries signed the World Health Organisation’s Tobacco Control Convention and are obliged to take measures to curb tobacco use.

But the industry has hit back. A big tobacco company, Philip Morris, has taken Uruguay and Australia to tribunals under bilateral investment treaties, claiming billions of dollars in compensation for the two countries’ measures to have big warning signs and small or no brand logos on cigarette packets.

Under trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), companies can similarly sue governments, claiming loss of profits resulting from policy measures. At the World Trade Organisation, cases are also being taken against countries for their tobacco control measures.

Now for the good news. Many governments are fighting back against the Big Tobacco onslaught, with Malaysia taking a lead role on two important fronts: the Tobacco Control Convention and the TPPA.

Malaysian non-governmental org­anisations such as the Ma­laysian Council for Tobacco Control and the Bantah coalition have linked up with government health and trade authorities to forge a position to exclude tobacco control measures from all the TPPA’s disciplines.

The Malaysian initiative won it bouquets from international health groups and theNew York Times published an editorial urging the United States to support it. Even attorneys-general of many states in the United States supported it.

However, reports indicate that the Malaysian position is not acceptable to the United States. The tobacco lobby is fighting hard and the United States is proposing a weaker kind of exclusion, which health groups view as inadequate.

Last week, Malaysia led a move at the Tobacco Control Convention’s Conference to thwart the tobacco industry’s use of trade and investment agreements to block anti-smoking measures.


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Substance in broccoli improves autism symptoms, says study

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

A dose of a chemical found in broccoli and other vegetables may improve the behavioural and social symptoms of autism in young men, according to a new study.

But for now, people would have to eat a possibly unrealistic amount of broccoli and other vegetables to reach the dose of the molecule – known as sulphoraphane – used in the new study, says the lead researcher.

In the study, those who were given sulphoraphane, found in cruciferous vegetables, were found to have improved in behaviour, social interaction and calmness, says expert. — Filepic

“The extract product we used is not on the market,” says Dr Andrew W. Zimmerman. “There are other things like it but in different forms.”

Sulphoraphane is found in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage, but more so in the raw vegetables than cooked. Previous studies have found that it inhibits some bacterial growth and may slow the growth of some cancers.

For the new study, the researchers divided young men with moderate to severe autism spectrum disorder into two groups. One group received varying daily doses of broccoli sprout extract. The others received an inert placebo capsule.

The researchers and caregivers, who did not know which men received extract and which received placebo, regularly rated the young men’s behaviour and social interaction after the trial began. They also rated the participants a month after the trial ended. The men were rated on irritability, tiredness, repetitive movements, hyperactivity, communication, motivation and mannerisms.

The average scores on both scales were better from four weeks onward for the young men assigned to sulphoraphane compared to those in the placebo group, Zimmerman and colleagues reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Sulphoraphane may not work for everyone, but for those who do there was a noticeable improvement, says expert. — Filepic

Of the 26 young men given sulphoraphane, 17 were judged to have improved in behaviour, social interaction and calmness by caregivers and staff. There was little change among those in the placebo group.



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Exercise protects the brain against depression

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

Well-conditioned muscles make it easier for the body to purge a harmful protein associated with depression, a new study suggests.

“If you consistently exercise and your muscle is conditioned and adapted to physical exercise, then you acquire the ability to express a class of enzymes that can detoxify chemicals that accumulate during stress and that will be harmful for you,” says senior study author Dr Jorge Ruas of the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm.

Exercise creates enzymes in the body that breaks down depression-causing proteins. – Filepic

The body metabolises this substance, kynurenine, from tryptophan, a process that is activated by stress and by inflammatory factors, Dr Ruas and his team explain in their report, published in Cell. Studies have linked high levels of kynurenine – which readily crosses the blood-brain barrier – to depression, suicide and schizophrenia.

Their new study was done in skeletal muscle-PGC-1alpha1 transgenic mice, which were genetically modified to express high levels of this protein in their muscles, mimicking the effects of aerobic muscle conditioning. The researchers subjected these mice, as well as a control group of wild-type mice, to five weeks of mild stress. The normal mice developed signs of depression, but the PGC-1alpha1 mice didn’t.

In addition to higher levels of kynurenine in their blood, the transgenic mice also had higher levels of KAT enzymes, which convert kynurenine into kynurenic acid, a more easily metabolised form that can’t cross the blood-brain barrier.

When the researchers directly administered kynurenine to the PGC-1alpha1 mice, their blood levels of the substance did not increase, because the KAT enzymes were able to break it down so quickly. However, giving kynurenine to the wild-type mice increased their blood levels of the chemical, and also caused depressive symptoms.



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