Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

Trouble sleeping: a warning sign of suicide in older adults

Saturday, August 23rd, 2014

In a new study, people age 65 and older who reported trouble sleeping were more likely to commit suicide than those who slept well.

Doctors who treat patients with depression or a history of suicide attempts should consider sleep problems a further warning sign, experts say.

“The majority of individuals who die by suicide visit their doctor in the months preceding, and these are missed opportunities to enhance detection and intervene,” says lead author Rebecca A Bernert of the Stanford Mood Disorders Centre at Stanford University School of Medicine in California.

While having poor sleep does not necessarily bring of suicide tendencies, researchers believe that it could be an early warning to underlining depression. – Filepic

Sleep can stand alone as a risk factor for death by suicide, even when depression is accounted for, Bernert says, though sleep problems are common for many people who should not be alarmed by this news.

Of the 14,456 people researchers followed over 10 years, 20 died by suicide. The study team compared the answers those 20 people gave in a series of interviews to questions about symptoms of depression, and mental and physical functioning to the answers of 400 others similar in age, sex and location.

Those who went on to commit suicide tended to rate their sleep poorer at the start of the study than the comparison group, which was true even when researchers took symptoms of clinical depression into account.

With depression accounted for, poor sleep quality was associated with a 20% higher risk of death by suicide, Bernert explained. Since only 20 out of nearly 15,000 people in this study died by suicide, even with a 20 percent increase in risk the absolute chance of dying by suicide would still be less than two tenths of one percent.


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Antibiotics linked to risk of heart death, says study

Saturday, August 23rd, 2014

Danish researchers reported a link between a commonly used antibiotic and a risk of heart deaths, while observers urged caution in interpreting the results.

Be careful with your meds. Certain popular antibiotics may lead to heart problems, says new study. - Filepic

Be careful with your meds. Certain popular antibiotics may lead to heart problems, says new study. – Filepic

In a study published online by the British medical journal The BMJ, the team said clarithromycin use was associated with a 76% higher risk of cardiac death, compared to use of penicillin V.

“The absolute risk difference was 37 cardiac deaths per 1 million courses with clarithromycin,” reports the trio from the Statens Serum Institute’s epidemiology department in Copenhagen. The risk stopped when treatment ended.

Clarithromycin is prescribed to millions of people every year, to treat bacterial infections like pneumonia, bronchitis and some skin infections.

The team had analysed data from more than five million antibiotics courses given to Danish adults aged 40 to 74 in the period 1997 to 2011. Of the patients, just over 160,000 had received clarithromycin, 590,000 roxithromycin, and 4.4 million penicillin V.

Popular antibiotics may increase the risk of cardiac problems, says research. – Filepic

Clarithromycin and roxithromycin are macrolides or antibiotics that affect the electrical activity of the heart muscle and are thought to increase the risk of fatal heart rhythm problems, the researchers say. No increased in risk was observed with roxithromycin.

While the absolute increase in risk with clarithromycin was small, the team says, it was “one of the more commonly used antibiotics in many countries, and the total number of excess cardiac deaths may not be negligible”.

The researchers called for their findings to be confirmed in further studies, even as a host of other experts pointed out that the study did not warrant a halt to clarithromycin use.


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Alarm bells over Ebola outbreak

Monday, August 18th, 2014

Ebola is a deadly disease, with no approved cure. This raises various issues, and urgent steps must be taken to contain and fight it.

THE Ebola outbreak in several West African countries is cau­sing concern all over the world. That is easy to understand. Ebola is a deadly disease, more than half of those contracting it can die, there is so far no cure and it seems to be quite easily passed on from one person to another.

Almost 2,000 people are known to have been infected and more than a thousand have died, and even this is probably a significant under-estimate.

In the most affected countries, medical facilities are over-stretched, and supplies of personal protective equipment and disinfectants are inadequate and a crisis atmosphere has developed.

Also, more alarming is that many doctors, other medical personnel and social workers who have been helping the victims, have themselves come down with the disease.

According to one report, more than 170 health-related workers have been infected and some have died, including the leading doctor fighting the disease in Sierra Leone, and a Spanish priest running a fa­­ci­lity providing assistance to pa­­tients.

This news prompts us to really appreciate those medical and social workers who are prepared to take risks to live up to the best ideals of their noble professions.


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More mental health issues soon

Sunday, August 17th, 2014

PETALING JAYA: More Malaysians are expected to suffer mental health problems but treatment alone is insufficient to reduce this public health burden, according to the Health Ministry.

The ministry’s Mental Health Unit public health physician Dr Nurashikin Ibrahim said as the country became more urbanised, Malaysians were facing more job-related stress, and a high risk of developing psychosocial problems.

She said among children and adolescents, loneliness, parental discord, poor parenting style, parents’ mental health status and parent-child relationships could all contribute to their state of mental health.

“Generally, there has been an increasing burden of mental health problems over the past 10 years and it is expected to rise over the next 20 years unless measures are taken to address those issues,” Dr Nurashikin told The Star.

She said other factors that could also lead to poor mental health were poverty, homelessness, unsafe environments, peer pressure and unemployment.

Results of the 2011 National Health and Morbidity Survey showed that 12% of Malaysians aged between 18 and 60, suffered from mental health problems.

The survey also showed that the prevalence of depression and anxiety disorders among adults was 1.8% and 1.7% respectively.

According to the World Health Organisation, depression is expected to be the leading cause of disability by 2020.

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WHO declares Ebola an international health emergency

Sunday, August 10th, 2014

LONDON/LAGOS (Reuters) - The world’s worst outbreak of Ebola that has killed nearly 1,000 people in West Africa represents an international health emergency and could continue spreading for months, the World Health Organization said on Friday.

Nigeria became the third African nation, after Sierra Leone and Liberia, to declare a national emergency on Friday as the region’s healthcare systems struggle to cope with the advance of one of the deadliest diseases known to man.

“The outbreak is moving faster than we can control it,” WHO Director-General Margaret Chan told reporters on a telephone briefing from her Geneva headquarters.

The U.N. agency said all states where Ebola had passed from one person to another should declare a national emergency. It called the outbreak “particularly serious” but said there should be no general ban on international travel or trade.

“The declaration … will galvanise the attention of leaders of all countries at the top level. It cannot be done by the ministries of health alone,” Chan said.

In Nigeria, which has confirmed seven cases of Ebola since a man fell sick on arrival from Liberia, President Goodluck Jonathan declared a national state of emergency and approved 1.9 billion naira (£6.97 million) of emergency funds to combat the virus.

The WHO has been accused of failing to respond fast enough to the outbreak, which it said on May 18 could be declared over by May 22. It has since become more conservative in its predictions, said head of health security, Keiji Fukuda.


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What is EBOLA?

Saturday, August 9th, 2014

It’s a virus that attacks a person blood system:

Ebola is what scientists call a haemorraghic fever – it operates by making its victims bleed from almost anywhere on their body.
Usually victims bleed to death.

Ebola is highly contagious;

Being transmitted via contact with body fluids such as blood, sweat, saliva, semen or other body discharges.

Ebola is however NOT AN AIRBORNE VIRUS!


About 90% of people that catch Ebola will die from it.
It’s one of the deadliest diseases in the world, killing in just a few weeks.

Untreatable (no cure)

Ebola has no known treatment or cure.
Victims are usually treated for symptoms with the faint hope that they recover.

How Do I Know Someone has Ebola?

•Joint & Muscle pains
•Stomach Pain
•Lack of Appetite

Protect Yourself:

•Wash Your Hands with Soap. Do this a lot. You can also use a good hand sanitizer. Avoid unnecessary physical contact with people.

■ Restrict yourself to food you prepared yourself.

■ Disinfect Your Surroundings

The virus cannot survive disinfectants,heat, direct sunlight,detergents and soaps.

Clean up!:

•Fumigate If you have Pests.
•Rodents can be carriers of Ebola.
•Fumigate your environment & dispose off the carcasses properly!
•Dead bodies CAN still transmit Ebola.
•Don’t touch them without protective gear or better yet avoid them altogether.

Protect Yourself:

•Use protective gear if you must care or go near someone you suspect has Ebola.


•Report any suspicious symptoms in yourself or anyone else IMMEDIATELY.

Do not delay!

Educate Everyone:

•Tell your neighbours, colleagues and domestic staff (anyone really). Basically you’re safer when everyone is educated.

by Dr Bustari Eddie

Curry for high blood pressure?

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

Indian researchers have found that curry spices lower hypertension in rats.- AFP

Indian researchers have found that curry spices lower hypertension in rats.- AFP

Indian medical researchers say they have successfully tested a blend of curry spices that lower blood pressure in lab rats, raising hopes for a natural and affordable drug to treat the chronic disease.

Dr S. Thanikachalam, a cardiology expert who headed the research, said his team had tested a mixture of ginger, cardamom, cumin and pepper – common ingredients in Indian kitchens – along with white lotus petals and others on the rodents.

“We saw tremendous positive changes in rats induced with high blood pressure during our laboratory experiments,” said Dr Thanikachalam, who heads the department of cardiology at Sri Ramachandra University in the southern city of Chennai.

“The drug was very effective in reducing the blood pressure and bringing down oxidative stress in rats,” he told AFP.

The study said the spices were successful at reducing renovascular hypertension, a secondary form of high blood pressure caused by a narrowing of the arteries in the kidneys.

Indians are genetically predisposed to hypertension, with one in four people in cities suffering from the disorder, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Hypertension is mostly treated with modern pharmaceuticals, but high costs and the possibility of side effects deter many from taking daily medication.

The latest research is not the first time a curry ingredient has been associated with healthy benefits.

AFP Relaxnews.

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Changing to a healthier lifestyle is great for your heart

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

Adopt a healthy lifestyle and the heart forgives indiscretions.

Moderation in adulthood may reverse the risk of coronary artery disease, regardless of lifestyle 'sins' during youth. - AFP

Moderation in adulthood may reverse the risk of coronary artery disease, regardless of lifestyle ’sins’ during youth. – AFP

The 30s and 40s are the ages at which it’s time to lose that “eat right, exercise, die anyway” mentality, put down the cigarette, and get moving: Recent research says even the natural progression of coronary artery disease can be reversed, regardless of lifestyle sins of the past.

“It’s not too late,” says Bonnie Spring, lead investigator of the study and a professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School Of Medicine in Chicago. “You’re not doomed if you’ve hit young adulthood and acquired some bad habits. You can still make a change and it will have a benefit for your heart.”

The study examined 5,000 adults who had participated in the “Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults” (CARDIA) study 20 years before, when they were between the ages of 18 and 30. Researchers from Northwestern Medicine assessed the lifestyle and coronary artery calcification levels of the former CARDIA participants, now between the ages of 38 and 50.

Healthy lifestyle was considered as not being obese or overweight, exercising regularly, not smoking and sticking to a healthy diet with a low alcohol intake. At the beginning of the CARDIA study, all five of these principles applied to less than 10% of participants. Twenty years later, 25% of them had added at least one of the aforementioned healthy behaviours.

Researchers concluded that each addition of a healthy behaviour was linked with reduced detectable coronary artery calcification and reduced thickness of the two innermost layers of arterial walls, both critical factors in evaluating cardiac health.

According to Spring, many healthcare professionals believe patients are unable to change their behaviour, and others believe the damage caused by smoking and other bad habits is irreversible. “Clearly, that’s incorrect,” says Spring. “Adulthood is not too late for healthy behaviour changes to help the heart.”

AFP Relaxnews.

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Memory of a fish: Omega-3 fatty acid in fish oil is brain food

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

A team of hospital researchers in Rhode Island, United States, have concluded that regular doses of fish oil could reduce brain atrophy and help seniors maintain cognitive function.

The findings, published in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia, offer hope for the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease (AD).

“The field is currently engaged in numerous studies to find better treatments for people suffering with AD,” says principal investigator and pharmacist Dr Lori Daiello of the Alzheimer’s Disease and Memory Disorders Centre at Rhode Island Hospital. “However, researching ways to prevent AD or slow cognitive decline in normal ageing is of utmost importance.”

In the study, a total of 819 older adults participated, undergoing MRI scans and neuropsychological testing every six months. Testing methods included the Alzheimer’s Disease Assessment Scale (ADAS-cog) and the Mini Mental State Exam (MMSE).

Among the participants, 229 were cognitively normal, 397 had been diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment, and 193 had been diagnosed with AD. For those who had not been diagnosed with dementia before joining the study, fish oil supplement use was associated with increased cognitive preservation, according to results of the aforementioned tests.

“Additionally, serial brain imaging conducted during this study showed that the participants with normal cognition who reported taking fish oil supplements demonstrated less brain shrinkage in key neurological areas, compared to those who did not use the supplements,” Dr Daiello said.

The omega-3 fatty acid found in fish oil is well-known for its health benefits, most commonly associated with dermatological, articular and cardiovascular health. In terms of cognition, it turns out omega-3 supplementation could be good for people of all ages, according to another recent study that involved healthy young adults.

AFP Relaxnews.

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The truth about caffeine and pregnancy

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

Should a baby bump stand in your way of enjoying a daily cup of coffee?

Pregnancy is a mixture of joy, anticipation, and a long list of do’s and don’ts for many women. This list often involves food, beverages and medications that are deemed harmful to the unborn child – some proven, others not. While many doctors would advise pregnant women to avoid alcohol due to evidence that heavy drinking can cause birth defects, their views on other drinks such as coffee are less consistent.

It was once thought that pregnant women should avoid drinks with high caffeine content such as coffee, soda and energy drinks because it was shown in some studies that this may increase the risk of miscarriage. However, this changed in 2010 when the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) issued a position statement that says moderate caffeine consumption (less than 200mg a day) does not appear to be a major contributing factor in miscarriage or preterm birth.

“The relationship of caffeine and growth restriction remains undetermined,” says the ACOG, who reaffirmed their statement last year.

Caffeine Facts

One of the reasons why caffeine raises concerns is its ability to cross the placenta and reach the baby. “Although you may be able to handle the amounts of caffeine you feed your body, your baby cannot,” says the American Pregnancy Association in their web page on caffeine intake during pregnancy. “Your baby’s metabolism is still maturing and cannot fully metabolise the caffeine,” the association says.

Although caffeine is most commonly associated with coffee, there are other drinks and foods that contain caffeine, including sodas, energy drinks, tea, chocolate, and other foods that contain these ingredients. The caffeine content may differ – an 8-ounce (237ml) cup of instant coffee contains up to 100mg of caffeine, while the same amount of brewed or filtered coffee can contain up to 140mg and 200mg of caffeine (see table).

Teas and sodas generally have less caffeine content, but these can add up. Some of these beverages also have decaffeinated options, but many of these options contain at least 1% to 2% of their original caffeine content.

Safety In Moderation

Besides its enticing aroma and taste, the benefits to drinking coffee range from the boost of energy it gives to the various nutrients it contains. When taken in moderation, caffeine can improve performance in tasks that involve working memory and reaction time. It could also facilitate learning in classes, where information is presented in a passive manner.

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