One in eight middle-aged UK adults is at risk of developing cirrhosis of the liver, liver failure and death because they have a potentially serious form of liver disease. The primary cause of this disease? Being overweight, according to new research. Scans of almost 3,000 people from the UK Biobank research project showed that 12% had inflamed, fatty livers. What’s particularly alarming is the silent nature of this disease epidemic, with symptoms often not presenting themselves until permanent damage has been done. However, the condition is reversible if caught in time. The good news is that a new type of MRI scan is showing lots of promise, offering a non-invasive way to evaluate the nature and severity of liver disease. Developed by Perspectum Diagnositics, a spin-off company from the University of Oxford, the new scan utilises smart health technology called LiverMultiScan. Dr Rajarshi Banerjee, CEO of Perspectum Diagnostics said: "LiverMultiScan is a great example of a smart health technology discovered and developed by UK clinicians and scientists with clear benefits for patients, the NHS, and taxpayers. Until now, needle biopsies have been the gold standard for assessing liver disease, but they are costly, invasive, painful and carry some health risks. Meanwhile, LiverMultiScan can be used in any MRI scanner, but it is not part of routine practice yet. David Breen, associate professor of radiology at University Hospital Southampton, said: "The scan gives a map of the entire liver as opposed to a needle-core biopsy which samples just one area and can be unpleasant. "It also allows us to re-scan patients over time and see if they improve."
People who regularly drink more than the UK’s recommended alcohol guidelines risk taking years off their lives, a major new report has found. According to the study of some 600,000 drinkers, having 10 to 15 alcoholic drinks every week could shorten a person's life by between one and two years. People who regularly consume more than 18 alcoholic drinks every week could lose four to five years of their lives. UK government guidelines, which were last updated in January 2016, recommend that both men and women should not drink more than 14 units of alcohol each week (equivalent to 6 pints of average strength beer). Previously, the guidelines advised 21 units for men and 14 units for women each week. The authors of the Lancet study say their findings support the UK government’s revised guidelines. Commenting on the study’s findings, Tim Chico, professor of cardiovascular medicine at the University of Sheffield, said: "This study makes clear that on balance there are no health benefits from drinking alcohol, which is usually the case when things sound too good to be true. "Although non-fatal heart attacks are less likely in people who drink, this benefit is swamped by the increased risk of other forms of heart disease including fatal heart attacks and stroke."
People who suffer brain injuries have an increased risk of developing dementia in later life, a new study has found. The large study of 2.8 million people found individuals who had at least one traumatic brain injury were 24% more likely to develop dementia than those who hadn’t. Interestingly, the risk was found to be greatest in people who had the brain injury while still in their 20s. These individuals were found to be 63% more likely to suffer from dementia in later life. However, despite the findings of the study, independent experts have said that other lifestyle factors, such as smoking and a lack of exercise, are actually more important. According to Dr Doug Brown, chief policy and research officer at Alzheimer's Society, these risk factors “are much easier for all of us to do something about". Nevertheless, the research does show a correlation between brain injuries and dementia. Jesse Fann, professor of psychiatry and behavioural sciences at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle, said: "Our analysis raises some very important issues, in particular that efforts to prevent traumatic brain injury, especially in younger people, may be inadequate considering the huge and growing burden of dementia and the prevalence of TBI worldwide." TBI is the term used to describe a concussion.
From Friday, drinks manufacturers in the UK will have to pay a levy on the high-sugar drinks they sell, following the implementation of the ground-breaking sugar tax in the country. While ministers and campaigners say the tax is already driving positive results, with many manufacturers cutting the amount of sugar in their drinks ahead of the change, others say it’s still too early to tell. Indeed, while Fanta, Ribena and Lucozade have cut the sugar content of their drinks, Coca-Cola hasn’t. The UK joins a small handful of countries, including France, Mexico and Norway, which have introduced similar taxes in an attempt to reduce sugar consumption. Manufacturers will need to pay the levy – equivalent to 24p per litre - on any of their drinks that contain more than 8g per 100ml. It is not yet known whether the costs will be passed on to consumers in the form of price increases. Drinks containing 5-8g of sugar per 100ml will be subject to a lower rate of tax of 18p per litre. Pure fruit juices that do not contain any added sugar will be exempt, as are drinks with high milk content (due to the beneficial calcium they contain). The new tax is expected to raise around £240 million a year, which will be invested in schools sports and breakfast clubs.
NHS England is in the process of introducing ‘one-stop cancer shops’ across the country, the aim of which is to afford quicker diagnoses for patients. At present, patients often face delays as they are sent for several tests to check for different forms of the illness. Despite cancer survival rates having increased over recent decades, patients who do not display obvious signs of cancer often face treatment delays. For example, individuals who have experienced unexplained weight loss, reduced appetite or abdominal pain can be referred several times for different tests, which delays valuable opportunities to begin treatment. The approach NHS England is now adopting was first introduced in Denmark and allows patients to undergo all the necessary tests under one roof. Cally Palmer, national director for cancer at NHS England, said: "Early diagnosis is crucial to saving lives and providing peace of mind for patients, which is why we are driving forward plans to revolutionise our approach to cancer in this country. "These new one-stop shops represent a real step change in the way people with unclear symptoms are identified, diagnosed and treated." The bottom line is that the rapid diagnosis and subsequent fast treatment of cancer is vital for saving lives. Initially, there will be 10 such centres spread across England at the following locations: Royal Free Hospital, London North Middlesex Hospital, London, University College Hospitals London Southend University Hospital Queens Hospital, Romford St James University Hospital, Leeds Airedale General Hospital, West Yorkshire University Hospital, South Manchester Royal Oldham Hospital, Greater Manchester Churchill Hospital, Oxford More centres will be added if the project is a success.
New figures show that rates of tuberculosis (TB) in England are at their lowest level in 35 years, having fallen by a third in the last six years. According to data from Public Health England, tuberculosis rates have declined by 38% since 2012. In fact, there was a 9.3% decline in 2017 alone, highlighting how the country’s efforts to eradicate the disease are proving effective. Improved diagnosis, treatment and awareness are being credited for the decline. However, despite the fall, England still has one of the highest rates of TB in Western Europe, with 5,200 people affected in 2017. Dr Sarah Anderson, head of the National TB Office at Public Health England, said: "People often think that TB is a Victorian disease that is no longer a problem in England, but in fact it still affects over 5,000 people a year and there is still a lot to do until the target to eliminate TB is met.” TB is a bacterial infection that primarily affects a person’s lungs and it is spread through coughs and sneezes. But despite its infectious nature, it is actually quite difficult to catch. Nevertheless, it can be fatal if left untreated. Another issue is that TB is becoming resistant to some of the major drugs used to treat it, which is why the BCG vaccine that offers protection against TB is recommended for babies, children and adults alike who are at risk of catching the disease.
Ibuprofen is a drug that’s commonly used to treat things like headaches and muscular pain, but new research shows that it could also be effective in preventing Alzheimer’s disease. Publishing their findings in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, the research team, led by Dr. Patrick McGeer, CEO of Aurin Biotech in Canada, said ibuprofen could prevent the development of Alzheimer’s in individuals with high levels of Abeta 42. Abeta 42 is a peptide that’s present in saliva which people who are at risk of Alzheimer’s have higher levels of. Because Abeta 42 triggers an inflammatory response, the researchers say ibuprofen, a widely-used nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), could be used to halt the process. Furthermore, a simple saliva test would be enough to identify people who are at risk of developing Alzheimer’s. "What we've learned through our research," reports Dr. McGeer, "is that people who are at risk of developing Alzheimer's exhibit the same elevated Abeta 42 levels as people who already have it; moreover, they exhibit those elevated levels throughout their lifetime so, theoretically, they could get tested anytime." Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia, affecting around 5.7 million adults in the United States alone. However, this figure is predicted to rise to almost 14 million by 2050.
Are you partial to blueberry muffins? If you are, did you ever stop and think that just one could contain more than your entire recommended daily sugar allowance? According to an analysis in January by Action on Sugar and the Obesity Health Alliance, a single blueberry muffin can contain as much as eight teaspoons of sugar. The recommended daily intake for adults in the UK is just seven and it’s even less for children. The analysis highlights just how easy it is for people to exceed the recommended daily intake without even knowing it. For the analysis, Action on Sugar and the Obesity Health Alliance looked at 28 different muffins sold in a variety of locations, such as train stations and supermarkets. It found that 61% contained at least six teaspoons of sugar. Furthermore, muffins purchased at train station retailers had 19% more sugar per portion and were 32% bigger than those found in supermarkets. Caroline Cerny, from the Obesity Health Alliance, said: "We may think grabbing a blueberry muffin is a reasonably healthy option for a snack on the go compared to other cakes or a chocolate bar - yet the figures suggest otherwise. "There is huge variation in both the size of muffins and the sugar content, and with limited nutrition labelling, it's all too easy to eat a huge amount of sugar in just one serving."
While a low sperm count and problems with sperm quality are huge hurdles for couples who are trying to get pregnant, a new study shows that men with low sperm counts are also at increased risk of illness. The study of 5,177 men in Italy found that those with low sperm counts were 20% more likely to have more body fat, more "bad" cholesterol and higher blood pressure – all factors that increase the risk of developing diabetes, heart disease and stroke. They were also 12 times more likely to have low testosterone levels. Dr Alberto Ferlin, from the University of Bresci, who led the study, said: "Infertile men are likely to have important co-existing health problems or risk factors that can impair quality of life and shorten their lives. "Fertility evaluation gives men the unique opportunity for health assessment and disease prevention." The study’s authors say that men with low sperm counts should be actively checked for other potential health problems, which may have a greater chance of being rectified if treated earlier. However, the authors of the study stressed that their findings did not prove that low sperm counts cause metabolic problems, merely that the two are linked in some way.
Last month, we reported how scientists in the US had found superbug-killing antibiotics in soil. While that might have seemed an unlikely place to find something that has the potential to save countless lives, where scientists have now discovered powerful proteins capable of fighting superbugs is even stranger. Back in 2010, Australian scientists found that platypus milk contains a potent protein which is able to fight superbugs. As if Platypuses weren’t weird enough, what with their duck's beaks, venomous feet and the fact they’re mammals that lay eggs, their potentially beneficial milk only adds to their uniqueness. While it’s been years since scientists made the discovery, it’s only now that they understand why platypus milk is so good at fighting superbugs. Being monotremes, platypuses lay eggs and produce milk. However, they don’t have nipples and instead secrete milk through pores along their stomachs. It is this strange feeding system that is thought to give platypus milk its antibacterial properties, according to scientists. Dr Janet Newman, from Australia's national science agency CSIRO, said: “Platypus are such weird animals that it would make sense for them to have weird biochemistry.” While mammal milk is usually secreted via the animal’s nipples and remains sterile, platypus milk is decidedly dirtier. That’s why scientists think it contains unique antibacterial properties. Scientists hope the milk can be used to develop new antibiotics that can help fight superbugs.
Do you know how much salt you consume on a daily basis? If you’re a fan of Chinese takeaway meals, it could be far more than you ever imagined, according to a campaign group. For their research, Action on Salt analysed more than 150 Chinese takeaway dishes from both restaurants and supermarkets. They found that most contained way too much salt – almost half the average person’s recommended daily amount of salt (6g) in some cases. When it comes to the saltiest meals, dishes like beef in black bean sauce topped the list. If a person adds a portion of egg fried rice, their salt intake could rise by as much as 5.3g in one meal. In fact, one portion of beef in black bean sauce and a side of vegetable noodles was found to contain as much salt as five Big Macs. While it’s vastly more difficult with Chinese takeaway food, Action on Salt recommends people check the nutritional information on supermarket bought food to see how much salt it contains. The campaign group says that many Chinese takeaway meals should carry health warnings because of the amount of salt they contain. Too much salt can lead to increased blood pressure, which can in turn increase a person’s risk of heart attack and stroke. Public Health England (PHE) has been encouraging the food industry to reduce the amount of salt found in food. Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist for PHE, said: "A loaf of bread has 40% less than it used to. "However, some products are still too high in salt and we know this can be reduced further. "We've been very clear with the food industry on the importance of meeting the 2017 salt targets. "We'll report on their progress this year and on any necessary advice to government on the next steps." So, the next time you reach to grab your favourite Chinese takeaway meal from the supermarket, just have a quick read of the nutritional information. What you discover might just make you choose something else instead.
Older individuals who do lots of exercise can prevent their immune systems from declining and protect themselves against infection, scientists say. For the research, scientists from King’s College London followed 125 long-distance cyclists, some of who were in their 80s. They found that some had the immune systems of much, much younger individuals. For example, Prof Norman Lazarus, 82, of King's College London, who co-authored the research and took part in it, was found to have the immune system of a 20-year-old. "If exercise was a pill, everyone would be taking it. It has wide-ranging benefits for the body, the mind, for our muscles and our immune system,” he said. Speaking about the research, Prof Janet Lord, director of the Institute of Inflammation and Ageing at the University of Birmingham and co-author, said people’s immune systems decline at a rate of about 2-3% a year from the age of 20. That’s why older individuals are more susceptible to infections, rheumatoid arthritis and, potentially, cancer. Because the cyclists were found to have the immune systems of much younger people, they have added protection against conditions that tend to affect older individuals. Furthermore, the researchers believe that physically active, older individuals respond better to vaccines, meaning they are also better protected against influenza. The good news is that you don’t need to be a competitive cyclist to reap the benefits. Just being more active and puffing yourself out from time to time can help.
As part of a new obesity drive, Public Health England is telling people in the UK to “get on a diet” and wants to cut portion sizes of some of the nation’s most popular foods. Pizzas, ready meals, takeaways and processed meat will all be targeted as part of the initiative to cut calorie consumption by 20% by 2024. In addition, the government agency has called on the food industry to start using healthier ingredients and encourage people to choose lower calorie foods. The drive to eat healthier will not only improve the health of the nation, but also reduce the burden on the NHS associated with obesity-related illnesses. Public Health England says the cost per year of obesity to the NHS is £6 billion. Combined with the sugar reduction programme that came into effect last year and the sugary drinks levy which comes into force next month, this new initiative will also help reduce the number of calories consumed by children in the UK. Talking about the new steps, Public Heath England chief executive Duncan Selbie said: "Britain needs to go on a diet. Children and adults routinely eat too many calories, and it's why so many are overweight or obese." Food manufacturers, supermarkets, takeaways and fast-food outlets have all been told they need to reduce the calories in the foods such as crisps and savoury snacks, cooking sauces and dressings, ready meals and takeaways, and food-to-go like sandwiches. If these companies do not listen to PHE, the agency said it would be willing to ask the government to legislate. Guidelines suggest that women eat no more than 2,000 calories a day, while men should limit themselves to 2,500.
Diabetes has long been split into two types: type 1 and type 2. But new research suggests it could actually be five different diseases and treatment could be tailored to tackle each form. Researchers in Sweden and Finland say the more complicated diabetes picture they’ve uncovered could lead to a new era of personalised medicine being ushered in. Affecting approximately one in 11 people around the world, diabetes doesn’t just play havoc with blood sugar levels, but also increases the risk of stroke, blindness, heart attack, kidney failure and limb amputation. Type 1 diabetes, which affects around 10% of sufferers in the UK, is a disease of the immune system that attacks the body’s insulin factories, leading to there being a shortage of the hormone to control blood sugar levels. Type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, is associated with poor lifestyle choices and obesity, which affect the way in which insulin works. For the study, the researchers analysed blood samples from 14,775 patients. They found that people could be separated into five distinct diabetes clusters. Talking to the BBC, Prof Leif Groop, one of the researchers, said: "This is extremely important, we're taking a real step towards precision medicine. "In the ideal scenario, this is applied at diagnosis and we target treatment better."
New research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association shows that waist-to-hip ratio is a better heart attack predictor than body mass index (BMI), with so-called “apple shape” women at greater risk than their male counterparts. According to the research from the George Institute for Global Health, waist-to-hip ratio is an 18% better heart attack predictor than BMI in women and 6% in men. However, the research also found that BMI was linked to heart disease risk in both sexes. For the research, the team from the George Institute in Oxford interviewed nearly 500,000 UK adults aged 40 to 69. They found women who had bigger waists relative to their hips are at more risk of heart attacks than men with similar body shapes. Speaking about the findings of the research, Ashleigh Doggett, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: "Considering the large amount of UK participants, this is a very interesting study which highlights that obesity remains a risk factor for heart attacks in both men and women. "Interestingly, it suggests that those of us who are 'apple' as opposed to 'pear' shape, especially women, may be at higher risk of a heart attack.” The researchers say their findings suggest the differences in the way men and women store fat may affect their risk of heart disease. While more research is needed, these findings do support the notion that being “apple shape” (having proportionally more fat around the abdomen) is more hazardous for your health than being “pear shape” (having proportionally more fat stored around the hips. The full findings of the research can be found in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
By the time they reach middle age, seven in 10 UK millennials (people born between the early 1980s and mid-90s) will be too fat, health experts say. In fact, millennials are on course to be the fattest generation ever since records began. In comparison, only about half of the so-called “baby boomer” generation (those born just after the Second World War) were fat at middle age. It’s a worrying revelation, especially as being fat as an adult is linked to an increased risk of developing 13 different types of cancer, according to Cancer Research UK who conducted the research. The charity said only 15% of the UK population are aware that being fat puts them at increased risk of breast, bowel and kidney cancer. Even more sobering is the fact Britain is now the most obese country in Western Europe and its obesity rates are rising faster than any other developed nation. In 1993, obesity prevalence was 15%, but that figure had almost doubled risen to 27% in 2015. Professor Linda Bauld from Cancer Research UK said: "Extra body fat doesn't just sit there; it sends messages around the body that can cause damage to cells. "This damage can build up over time and increase the risk of cancer in the same way that damage from smoking causes cancer.”
Do you know how many calories you consume on a daily basis? If you had to estimate, how accurate do you think you would be? An analysis of Office of National Statistics data shows that one-third of people in the UK underestimate how many calories they are eating. The research shows that British men eat more than 3,000 calories a day, but claim to only eat 2,000, while women say they eat around 1,500, when, in fact, it’s closer to 2,500. The NHS says the recommended daily calorie allowance for people who want to maintain their weight is 2,500 for men and 2,000 for women. So why the discrepancy? It’s actually a pitfall that hampers many diet-related surveys. Many people simply forget to list everything they’ve eaten, while others deliberately underestimate because they know they are part of a poll. Public Health England guidelines state that people should be looking to consume around 400 calories for breakfast, 600 for lunch and then 600 for dinner, which leaves some extra for drinks and snacks throughout the day. Eating out is one of the hardest factors for people trying to count calories. That’s because restaurants rarely list calorie information and portion sizes vary from establishment to establishment. The bottom line is that unless you are specifically counting calories, chances are you’re underestimating your daily consumption. Why not give it a try – estimate how many calories you’re consuming and then make a conscious effort to count them, you might just be surprised at the difference.
Using cleaning products regularly can be as bad for your lungs as smoking 20 cigarettes a day, a new study has found. Tracking people with an average age of 34 over a 20-year period, scientists at Norway’s University of Bergen found that women who regularly used cleaning products had lung function decline equivalent to those who smoked 20 cigarettes a day. For the study, the researchers measured the lung function of participants by testing the amount of air they were able to forcibly breathe out. They then examined the results alongside surveys answered by the study participants. They found that women who regularly used cleaning products had noticeably decreased lung capacities, as well as increased rates of asthma. Prof Cecile Svanes, who led the team from Bergen, said: "We feared that such chemicals, by steadily causing a little damage to the airways day after day, year after year, might accelerate the rate of lung function decline that occurs with age". So what should you be using instead of cleaning products? According to the scientists, microfiber cloths and water should be “enough for most purposes”, while keeping your home ventilated and using liquid cleaners, not sprays, could also help lessen the impact of cleaning products.
Scientists in the United States have found a new family of antibiotics living in soil and early tests show they could be effective in killing several bacterial diseases that have become resistant to existing antibiotic treatments. The compounds, called malacidins, have been shown to kill the superbug MRSA, which is caused by a type of staph bacteria that has become resistant to many of the traditional antibiotics used to treat such infections. Experts say the finding holds a huge amount of promise in the global fight against antibiotic-resistant bacteria. At present, they are estimated to kill around 700,000 people every year. Discovering new antibiotics in soil isn’t actually that rare. At any one time dirt is teeming with millions of different micro-organisms which produce an abundance of potentially therapeutic compounds, including new antibiotics. A team at New York's Rockefeller University, led by Dr Sean Brady, has been busy unearthing them using a gene sequencing technique to analyse soil samples taken from all over the US. The team had a hunch that malacidins might be important when they found them in many of the soil samples they analysed. Despite the potentially ground-breaking importance of the discovery, Dr Brady stressed there’s still a long way to go, saying: "It is impossible to say when, or even if, an early stage antibiotic discovery like the malacidins will proceed to the clinic. It is a long, arduous road from the initial discovery of an antibiotic to a clinically used entity."
You should never ignore back pain because it could be a sign of pancreatic cancer. That’s the frank warning from charity Pancreatic Cancer UK. While pancreatic cancer often doesn’t show any symptoms in its early stages, some signs may begin to show as the disease progresses. One of the earliest signs of the disease is abdominal and/or back pain. The pain usually starts as a general feeling of discomfort in the stomach area. This then spreads to a person’s back and while it may come and go at first, it often becomes constant over time. “It can be worse when lying down, and sitting forward can sometimes make it feel better. It may be worse after eating. The tummy area may also feel tender,” said the charity. Other symptoms of pancreatic cancer include indigestion and unexplained weight loss. People with pancreatic cancer also develop jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes) and may experience difficulty swallowing, vomiting and a change in bowel habits. Anyone experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above should see their doctor without delay. While the exact cause of pancreatic cancer still isn’t known, the disease does appear to mainly affect people over 75 years old. Experts say that people can lower their risk of developing it by reducing their consumption of alcohol and red meat. [Related reading: Prostate cancer deaths outnumber those from breast cancer for first time in UK]
The food you eat could influence the growth rate and spread of cancer, a new study has found. According to scientists at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute, breast tumours in mice struggled to grow without the dietary nutrient asparagine, which is found in asparagus, poultry, seafood and many other foods. When mice with an aggressive form of breast cancer were placed on a low-asparagine diet or given drugs to block the amino acid, their tumours struggled to spread. Scientists hope to be able to take advantage of cancer’s so-called culinary addictions in the future and develop new treatments based on certain foods. Prof Charles Swanton, Cancer Research UK's chief clinician, said: "Interestingly, the drug L-asparaginase is used to treat acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, which is dependent on asparagine. "It's possible that in future, this drug could be repurposed to help treat breast cancer patients." But before you ban asparagus from your home, be aware that more research is needed, including trials in humans. Also, because asparagine is present in so many foods, it is almost impossible to avoid. Baroness Delyth Morgan, the chief executive at Breast Cancer Now, said people should not drastically alter their diets as a result of this research. "We don't recommend patients totally exclude any specific food group from their diet without speaking to their doctors,” she said.
New figures show that for the first time ever the number of men dying from prostate cancer in the UK has overtaken female deaths from breast cancer. While lung and bowel cancer remain the top cancer killers, prostate cancer is now third, according to figures released by Prostate Cancer UK. In 2015, 11,819 men died from prostate cancer, compared to 11,442 women from breast cancer – a reality that Prostate Cancer UK says is due to advances in diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer. The charity says that the UK’s aging population is one of the reasons why more men are developing and dying from prostate cancer. Angela Culhane, chief executive of Prostate Cancer UK, said prostate cancer survival rates could be increased by developing better diagnostic tests and using them to form a nationwide screening programme. At present, there is no single, reliable test for prostate cancer. Also, men with the disease can live for decades without showing any symptoms. Those most at risk are men with male relatives who have had the disease, black men and men aged over 50. Ms Culhane said: “It's incredibly encouraging to see the tremendous progress that has been made in breast cancer over recent years. “The good news is that many of these developments could be applied to prostate cancer and we're confident that with the right funding, we can dramatically reduce deaths within the next decade.” You can find out more about prostate cancer treatment with us here at France Surgery by visiting the oncology section of our website and selecting the prostate cancer link.
Alzheimer’s disease is characterised by progressive memory loss and the deterioration of other cognitive functions. It is thought to affect around 5.4 million adults worldwide and, at present, there is no cure. As a result, treatment focuses on managing the symptoms and helping sufferers lead better lives. However, a new brain implant could help people affected by Alzheimer's to live independently for longer. A recent clinical trial at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Centre in Columbus investigated how deep brain stimulation (DBS) therapy can help Alzheimer's patients. It involves implanting very thin electrical wires into the brain's frontal lobes and sending electrical signals, which are regulated by a device in the person’s chest, to stimulate the relevant brain networks. Following the treatment, one long-term dementia patient, LaVonne, 85, can cook meals, dress herself and organise outings. Speaking about the study, Dr Douglas Scharre, from the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Centre, said: "By stimulating this region of the brain, the Alzheimer's subjects' cognitive and daily functional abilities as a whole declined more slowly than Alzheimer's patients' in a matched comparison group not being treated with [deep brain stimulation]." Further research will now be conducted to see whether the DBS therapy can be used in less invasive, non-surgical ways.
Just one cigarette a day can increase a person’s risk of heart disease and stroke, a study has found, dispelling the myth that cutting back, not quitting altogether, can eliminate health issues. The study found that just one cigarette a day can increase a person’s chances of heart disease by about 50% and chances of a stroke by 30% than people who have never smoked. The bottom line is that there is no safe level of smoking when it comes to heart disease and stroke. Cardiovascular disease, not cancer, remains the greatest mortality risk for smokers, accounting for approximately 48% of smoking-related premature deaths. And while the number of people who smoke in the UK has been falling, the percentage of people smoking one to five cigarettes a day has been steadily rising, researchers said. However, cutting down on cigarettes is always a good start and people who do so are more likely to quit in the long-run. Prof Allan Hackshaw from the UCL Cancer Institute at University College London, who led the study, said: "There's been a trend in quite a few countries for heavy smokers to cut down, thinking that's perfectly fine, which is the case for things like cancer. "But for these two common disorders, which they're probably more likely to get than cancer, it's not the case. They've got to stop completely." For the study, the researchers at UCL analysed data from 141 separate smoking-related studies and published their findings in the BMJ.
Developing a universal blood test for cancer has been one of the biggest goals in medicine ever and now scientists at John Hopkins University have taken a huge step towards achieving it. The team have trialled a test that can detect eight common forms of cancer, with the ultimate goal being to develop an annual test that can catch cancers early and save lives. While more work is needed, experts in the UK have described the breakthrough as “enormously exciting”. The test works by picking up on tiny traces of mutated DNA and proteins released into a person’s bloodstream by tumours. The CancerSEEK test, as it is known, looks for mutations in 16 genes and eight different proteins released by tumours. In a trial involving 1,005 patients with cancers in the stomach, liver, ovary, pancreas, colon, oesophagus, lung or breast, which had not yet spread to other tissues, the test was able to successfully detect 70% of the cancers. The test is particularly exciting as it was able to detect some cancers that currently have no early detection screening programmes. Pancreatic cancer is one area where the test could really make a big difference. At present, four in five pancreatic cancer patients die within the year they are diagnosed. That’s because the disease emits so few symptoms and sufferers are often diagnosed too late. The CancerSEEK test will now be trialled on individuals who have not been diagnosed with cancer. This will be the real measure of its effectiveness and usefulness.
Smear tests can prevent 75% of cervical cancers, yet young women in Britain are avoiding having them done because they are too embarrassed, a survey suggests. According to the Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust survey of 2,017 British women, one-third delay having a smear test because they are too embarrassed. Of those women, 38% are concerned about smell, 35% are embarrassed about their body shape and 34% about the appearance of their vulva. A third of women surveyed also admitted they wouldn’t go for a smear test if they hadn’t waxed or shaved their bikini area. Worryingly, one in six (16%) women would rather miss a smear test appointment than a gym class and one in seven (14%) a waxing appointment. Robert Music, of Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust, said: "Please don't let unhappiness or uncertainty about your body stop you from attending what could be a life-saving test. "Nurses are professionals who carry out millions of tests every year, they can play a big part in ensuring women are comfortable." Every year, five million women in the UK are invited for a cervical smear test. One in four do not attend, despite cervical cancer being the most common type of cancer in women under 35. In fact, approximately 5,000 women’s lives are saved by cervical screening in the UK each year – a reality that highlights just how important these tests are. In Britain alone each year, a total of 220,000 women are diagnosed with cervical abnormalities, which can be a sign of the existence of pre-cancerous cells.
Have you ever been in a public place or maybe even a business setting and needed to sneeze? While it can be embarrassing, you should never try and stifle the urge to sneeze because it could end up causing you serious harm. Medics in Leicester, UK, recently treated a man who had ruptured his throat after trying to stifle a sneeze by clamping his mouth and nose shut with his hand. While it’s a pretty rare occurrence, experts have warned people to always allow their sneezes to come out naturally, while remembering to catch them in a tissue to prevent the spread of germs. Following the incident, the man said he immediately experienced a popping sensation in his neck and then had trouble swallowing and speaking, as well as a lot of pain. Over the next seven days, the man had to be fed through a tube while the tissues in his neck healed. He’s now made a full recovery, but his case highlights how a seemingly simple action can have a big impact on your health. Doctors from the ear, nose, throat (ENT) department at Leicester Royal Infirmary, said: "Halting a sneeze via blocking nostrils and mouth is a dangerous manoeuvre and should be avoided." The British Medical Journal (BMJ) has even published a report on the incident, which outlines how halting a sneeze can even lead to “rupture of cerebral aneurysm”. So the next time you need to sneeze and want to halt it, don’t, as it could really harm your health.
Whether cycling has a negative impact on a man’s sexual health and/or urinary function has been the subject of several studies over the years. But now new research suggests that the sexual and urinary health of cyclists is comparable to that of runners and swimmers, and that the benefits of cycling “far outweigh the risks.” According to the authors of the new research, previous studies that looked at how cycling affects men’s sexual and urinary health lacked comparison groups. Benjamin Breyer, lead investigator from the University of California-San Francisco's urology department, said: "Cycling provides tremendous cardiovascular benefits and is low impact on joints. "The health benefits enjoyed by cyclists who ride safely will far out weight health risks." However, the study did show that cyclists had a greater chance of experiencing genital numbness, but that this could be significantly reduced by standing up while cycling for more than 20% of the time. The researchers are now interested in planning future work that looks at whether genital numbness is a possible predictor for future health problems.
French President Emmanuel Macron has just wrapped up his first official state visit to China – an event that experts say highlights his commitment to cementing positive relations between Beijing and Europe. One of the key messages conveyed during the French President’s visit related to the enormous possibilities and opportunities that exist for cooperation between China and Europe. Macron said that he is ready to work to “get the Europe-China relationship into the 21st Century” and will visit the country at least once every year while he is still the President of France. China’s president, Xi Jinping, said the two countries will look to deepen their “strategic cooperation,” a vision that was underlined by the fact the two countries signed a number of major trade deals during Macron’s visit, that included fields such as food, aerospace, online retailing and nuclear power. Macron also met with Alibaba founder Jack Ma, as well as a number of other officials from Chinese and French companies. He offered to open France to Chinese investment in exchange for greater access to China's markets for French companies. Talking about trade relations between the two countries, Alicia Garcia-Herrero, chief economist for Asia Pacific at French bank Natixis, said Chinese consumers have a growing hunger for what France has to offer.
We’ve reported before how singing in community groups can help people recover from mental illness. Now, new research suggests singing may also be beneficial for mothers suffering with post-natal depression. According to the study, which was published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, women with post-natal depression who took part in group singing sessions with their babies experienced a much quicker improvement in their symptoms than their counterparts who did not. Post-natal depression is thought to affect one in eight new mothers and early recovery is believed to be crucial for limiting its effects on both mother and baby. The study highlights how singing can be a more effective treatment for post-natal depression than creative play sessions and typical post-natal care – which usually includes family support, antidepressants and/or mindfulness. Speaking about the findings of the research, Principal investigator Dr Rosie Perkins said: "Post-natal depression is debilitating for mothers and their families, yet our research indicates that for some women something as accessible as singing with their baby could help to speed up recovery at one of the most vulnerable times of their lives."
While many people will be using the start of the New Year to kick-start certain lifestyle changes in an attempt to become “healthier”, there are some who might think it’s too late based on their age. However, a new study has revealed that it’s often not too late for many who want to improve their fitness. In fact, with exercise, even individuals who are into their late middle age can reduce or even reverse the risk of heart failure caused by years of sedentary living. But there’s a slight catch – it requires at least two years of aerobic exercise four to five days a week. According to the study, which was published in the journal Circulation, individuals aged 45-64 who followed an aerobic exercise routine for two years showed an 18% improvement in their maximum oxygen intake while exercising and a more than 25% improvement in "plasticity" in the left ventricular muscle of the heart, compared to their counterparts who didn’t follow such an exercise regime. The take-home message of the research is that exercise needs to be part of a person’s daily routine, like teeth brushing. Dr Richard Siow, vice-dean for the faculty of life sciences and medicine at King's College London, said: "I think that's a very important take-home message for those of us who may have a doom and gloom view there's nothing we can do about it. Yes there is, we can start by getting off the couch to have a more active lifestyle."
Researchers at an Oxford hospital have developed an Artificial Intelligence (AI) system that can accurately diagnose heart and lung scans. The new AI could lead to more people being diagnosed earlier and prevent patients being sent home when they are still at risk of having a heart attack. It’s though the system will save the NHS billions of pounds by enabling various diseases to be detected much earlier. The heart disease technology will be available to NHS hospitals for free this summer. Currently, cardiologists use a person’s heartbeat to tell if there is a problem. However, even the most experienced doctors get it wrong in one in five cases. This leads to a patient being sent home when they are still at risk of a heart attack or undergoing an unnecessary operation. The AI system can pick up details on the scans that doctors cannot see, resulting in a more accurate diagnosis. So far, the system has been tested in clinical trials and the results aren’t expected to appear in a peer-reviewed journal until later this year. However, one of the system’s developers has said the data shows it greatly outperformed his fellow specialists. The government's healthcare tsar, Sir John Bell, has indicated that AI could "save the NHS". "There is about £2.2bn spent on pathology services in the NHS. You may be able to reduce that by 50%. AI may be the thing that saves the NHS," he said.
It’s January 2 and for many people that means it’s time to start thinking about those New Year’s resolutions. The inevitable over-indulgence during the festive period will have triggered many of us to consider eating more healthily and exercising more this year, while others will be looking to give up smoking. The problem is that nicotine is a very addictive drug and many people struggle to give up cigarettes easily. But new research shows how exercising may reduce tobacco withdrawal symptoms. So, if you’re planning to try and quit, exercise could be the answer. Irritability, trouble sleeping and even depression are all withdrawal symptoms associated with giving up smoking. However, it’s been shown that exercise can reduce nicotine withdrawal symptoms. In fact, some older studies have discovered that even 10 minutes of exercise can immediately reduce the effects of tobacco cravings. A team from St George's, University of London, led by Dr. Alexis Bailey, a senior lecturer in neuropharmacology, found that mice addicted to nicotine who undertook two or 24 hours a day wheel running displayed a significant reduction of withdrawal symptom severity compared with the sedentary group. Furthermore, in the group of mice that exercised, researchers were able to see an increase in the activity of alpha7 nicotinic acetylcholine, a type of nicotine brain receptor. Most startling of all was the fact just two hours of exercise daily had as much effect on relieving the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal as exercising continuously for 24 hours. SO, if you really want to crack your smoking habit and give up this year, maybe more exercise could be the key to your success.
Many people know that hours spent on electronic devices isn’t good for their children’s waistlines, but new research now suggests it’s not doing their eyes any good either. A study published in the journal PLOS One says school-aged children who spend seven hours or more a week staring at computers or mobile phones are at higher risk of myopia, or nearsightedness. Myopia has become an increasing problem across the world in recent years, with rates in the United States and Europe at double the level they were 50 years ago. In East Asia, Singapore, Taiwan and South Korea, myopia rates have reached epidemic levels, with 90% of 18-year-olds now short-sighted. One of the reasons for this worrying trend is the amount of time children are spending in front of screens nowadays. However, it’s not the actual screens themselves that are the problem, but rather the fact that the kids using them are predominantly spending their time indoors, not outdoors. Sunlight plays an important role in protecting vision as a child’s eye is maturing. It prevents the eye from stretching too long and reduces the likelihood of the child becoming short-sighted. According to Dr. Christopher Starr, an ophthamologist at Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York City, “It's really about limiting the time and encouraging them to get outside in the sun. No screen protector is going to make any real difference." Furthermore, while sitting too close to a television will not damage a child’s eye, it could be a sign they are suffering from myopia.
Being part of a community singing group makes people feel valued, increases their confidence and can help them recover from a mental illness, new research suggests. According to the study conducted by the University of East Anglia (UEA) in the UK, individuals involved in free weekly singing workshops found benefits to mood and social skills. The researchers also found that the Sing Your Heart Out (SYHO) project, which was started by Tracy Morefield more than 10 years ago in a psychiatric hospital, had even stopped some people from relapsing. The SYHO initiative is aimed at individuals with mental health conditions, as well as the general public, and regularly attracts hundreds of people to four weekly sing-alongs. Researchers from UEA's Norwich Medical School said a study of 20 SYHO group members over six months found singing and mixing socially had helped those who had suffered with serious mental health issues to function better in day-to-day life. Lead researcher prof Tom Shakespeare described it as a “low-commitment, low-cost tool for mental health recovery within the community”. He said: “We found that singing as part of a group contributes to people’s recovery from mental health problems. “We heard the participants calling the initiative a life saver and that it saved their sanity. Others said they simply wouldn’t be here without it, they wouldn’t have managed – so we quickly began to see the massive impact it was having.” The research team are now encouraging other areas to consider running community singing groups.
Have you ever turned to Dr Google when you’ve been feeling under the weather? If you have, you’re not alone. Nowadays, tons of people research symptoms they’re experiencing on the world’s largest search engine. But while many of these searches confirm that the searcher is suffering from a common cold, others can see a simple sore throat query spiral off into diagnosing all sorts of rare conditions. It’s a reality that makes Googling health conditions both convenient and potentially terrifying. As the year draws to a close, the team at Google Trends has released information on the most popular heath questions people in the UK asked the search engine in 2017. Topping the list is the rather generic “why do I feel sick?” search. That’s followed by “why am I always tired?” and “what is cancer?” Have you ever heard of lupus? It seems many people have and want to know more about it, as “what is lupus?” is fourth on the list. This could be because pop icon Selena Gomez was diagnosed with lupus in 2015 and underwent surgery for the condition over the summer. Lupus is an autoimmune disease that causes sufferers to feel fatigued, have swollen or painful joints, and skin irritation or rashes. Because lupus is an autoimmune disease it is not contagious. More information about lupus, including warning signs, can be found on the NHS website. The final question completing the top five is “what is sepsis?” Sepsis is a life-threatening condition that can be triggered by an infection and leads to the body attacking its own organs and tissues. Sepsis can be treated with antibiotics if it is caught early enough and hasn’t already damaged any vital organs. More information about sepsis, including warning signs, can be found on the NHS website.
Until now, the only way to diagnose Parkinson’s disease was by observing symptoms. This has been the case since James Parkinson first established it as a medical condition back in 1817. However, scientists are on the verge of discovering what causes a certain smell associated with sufferers of Parkinson’s, which could lead to the first diagnostic test for the disease going forward. The breakthrough came after a lady named Joy Milne noticed that her husband’s smell changed six years before he was diagnosed with the disease. She only linked the odour to Parkinson’s after visiting the charity Parkinson’s UK and meeting other sufferers. Remarkably, Joy was able to detect the disease under scientific conditions, a feat that astonished doctors. Now, a team of researchers from Manchester University in the UK has found distinctive molecules that are concentrated on the skin of Parkinson's patients. There is currently no cure for Parkinson’s disease - which can lead to people struggling to walk, speak and sleep - and it is thought to affect one in 500 people in the UK. During the scientific tests, Joy even picked out a T-shirt worn by an individual in the control group (non-Parkinson’s sufferers) and said the person had the distinctive Parkinson’s smell. Three months later, Joy was informed that the individual had indeed been diagnosed with Parkinson’s.
A study conducted in Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire in the UK has found that offering new mothers financial incentives in the form of shopping vouchers boosts breastfeeding rates. For the study, more than 10,000 mothers were offered up to £200 in shopping vouchers as an incentive to breastfeed. The vouchers could be used to buy food, household items, toys, clothes, books or DVDs in supermarkets and other shops. Breastfeeding levels are among the lowest in the world, with just 12% of new mothers in some areas feeding their six to eight week-old babies this way. However, with the voucher incentive scheme, breastfeeding rates in the areas involved rose by 6%. The women were given vouchers worth £120 if they signed declaration forms stating their babies had been breastfeed for the first six weeks of their lives. The mothers received a further £80 of vouchers if they were still breastfeeding after six months. Principal investigator Dr Clare Relton, from the University of Sheffield’s School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR), said: “Our scheme offered vouchers to mothers as a way of acknowledging the value of breastfeeding to babies and mothers and the work involved in breastfeeding. “The trial found a significant increase in breastfeeding rates in areas where the scheme was offered. “It seems that the voucher scheme helped mothers to breastfeed for longer. Mothers reported they felt rewarded for breastfeeding.” NHS guidelines say that babies should be exclusively breastfeed for at least the first six months of their lives. Babies that are breastfed have fewer health problems in their younger years and are less likely to develop conditions such as diabetes when they are older. The five-year trial was funded by research councils, medical charities and Public Health England.
A pioneering breakthrough in the treatment of Huntington’s disease has seen the defect that causes it corrected for the first time. According to the research team from University College London, there is a real possibility that the deadly neurodegenerative disease could be stopped going forward. The team of scientists injected an experimental drug into spinal fluid which reduced the levels of toxic proteins in the brain. Experts are hailing the groundbreaking procedure as the potentially the biggest breakthrough in neurodegenerative diseases for 50 years. Huntington’s disease is a particularly devastating illness that is passed down through families. Some sufferers have likened it to having Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and motor neurone disease all at the same time. A genetic error causes the protein huntingtin – which is vital for brain development – to instead kill brain cells. The unstoppable degradation of brain cells in Huntington's patients leaves them in permanent decline and affects their movement, behaviour, memory and ability to think clearly. Huntington’s blights families and generally hits people while they are in their prime – 30s and 40s. Patients tend to die around 10-20 years after symptoms first appear. The revolutionary drug therapy works by effectively silencing the effects of the mutant huntingtin gene and preventing the harmful protein from ever being built. Professor Sarah Tabrizi, the lead researcher and director of University College London’s Huntington’s Disease Centre, said: “For the first time a drug has lowered the level of the toxic disease-causing protein in the nervous system, and the drug was safe and well-tolerated. This is probably the most significant moment in the history of Huntington’s since the gene [was isolated].”
A “watershed” trial involving almost 300 people has seen nearly half the participants reverse their type 2 diabetes in just five months. Trial participants followed a low-calorie diet of soups and shakes for up to five months, which led to massive weight loss. One participant, Isobel Murray, 65, who had weighed 15 stone, lost over four stone (25kg) and now no longer needs diabetes pills. "I've got my life back," she says. Prior to the trial, Isobel’s blood sugar levels were too high and her diabetes medication was being increased on a regular basis. So, she went on to the all-liquid diet for 17 weeks and gave up both cooking and shopping. She didn’t even eat meals with her husband during the trial. Following the trial, 46% of participants were in remission a year later and 86% who lost 15kg (2st 5lb) or more put their type 2 diabetes into remission. Just 4% went into remission with the other best treatments currently used. Speaking about the results of the trial, Prof Mike Lean, from Glasgow University, said: "It's hugely exciting. We now have clear evidence that weight loss of 10-15kg is enough to turn this disease (diabetes) around.” The charity Diabetes UK says the trial is a landmark and has the potential to help millions of patients. The findings of the trial, which was conducted by the universities of Newcastle and Glasgow in the UK, were published in The Lancet and presented at the International Diabetes Federation.