In our last blog, we explained why regular health check ups are a must. But if you haven’t had one for some time, you might not know what to expect. Don’t worry; we’re here to provide you with some of the common aspects of a physical examination (exam) so you know what to expect. Still not sure about the importance of regular medical check ups? According to one published in the American Journal of Medicine, inadequate physical examination is a significant source of medical errors and subsequent adverse effects. So what can you expect from a physical exam? Updated health history First and foremost, any good doctor will ask you about your health history. This will include any past problems, as well as new developments and changes. This is your opportunity to explain any concerns you may have and provide your physician with as much information as possible so they have as clear a picture as possible of your overall health. During this part of the physical exam, be prepared to answer questions relating to your lifestyle, like whether you smoke, how much alcohol you drink, the amount of exercise you get and possibly dietary habits. It’s important to be honest, as it’s only yourself you’re doing an injustice to if you’re not. Vital sign checks Another important part of any physical exam are the vital sign checks. These standard tests provide a benchmark of your health based on a set of recommended guidelines. Vital sign checks will involve taking your blood pressure (anything less than 120/90 is considered “normal”), measuring your heart rate (between 60 and 100 is considered “normal”), checking your respiratory rate (12 to 16 breaths per minute is “normal” for a healthy adult) and taking your temperature (“normal” body temperature can range between 97 F (36.1 C) and 99 F (37.2 C)). Visual and physical exams The final aspect of your physical exam will comprise a series of visual and physical tests, designed to look for signs of any potential problems or medical conditions. The visual exam will include examination of the following: - Head - Eyes - Ears - Nose - Chest - Abdomen - Musculoskeletal system, such as your hands and wrists - Nervous system/neurological functions, such as reflexes, balance and speech and walking The physical exam will comprise: - Touching, or “palpating,” parts of your body (like your abdomen) to feel for anything unusual - Checking your skin, hair, and nails - Checking your organ size and shape - A possible examination of your genitalia and rectum When was the last time you had a physical exam? If it’s been a while, maybe it’s time you considered having one. Look out for our blog next week on the additional laboratory and screening tests you can expect during a physical exam.
In our last blog, we explained why regular health check ups are a must. But if you haven’t had one for some time, you might not know what to expect. Don’t worry; we’re here to provide you with some of the common aspects of a physical examination (exam) so you know what to expect. Still not sure about the importance of regular medical check ups? According to one published in the American Journal of Medicine, inadequate physical examination is a significant source of medical errors and subsequent adverse effects. So what can you expect from a physical exam? Updated health history First and foremost, any good doctor will ask you about your health history. This will include any past problems, as well as new developments and changes. This is your opportunity to explain any concerns you may have and provide your physician with as much information as possible so they have as clear a picture as possible of your overall health. During this part of the physical exam, be prepared to answer questions relating to your lifestyle, like whether you smoke, how much alcohol you drink, the amount of exercise you get and possibly dietary habits. It’s important to be honest, as it’s only yourself you’re doing an injustice to if you’re not. Vital sign checks Another important part of any physical exam are the vital sign checks. These standard tests provide a benchmark of your health based on a set of recommended guidelines. Vital sign checks will involve taking your blood pressure (anything less than 120/90 is considered “normal”), measuring your heart rate (between 60 and 100 is considered “normal”), checking your respiratory rate (12 to 16 breaths per minute is “normal” for a healthy adult) and taking your temperature (“normal” body temperature can range between 97 F (36.1 C) and 99 F (37.2 C)). Visual and physical exams The final aspect of your physical exam will comprise a series of visual and physical tests, designed to look for signs of any potential problems or medical conditions. The visual exam will include examination of the following: Head Eyes Ears Nose Chest Abdomen Musculoskeletal system, such as your hands and wrists Nervous system/neurological functions, such as reflexes, balance and speech and walking The physical exam will comprise: Touching, or “palpating,” parts of your body (like your abdomen) to feel for anything unusual Checking your skin, hair, and nails Checking your organ size and shape A possible examination of your genitalia and rectum When was the last time you had a physical exam? If it’s been a while, maybe it’s time you considered having one. Look out for our blog next week on the additional laboratory and screening tests you can expect during a physical exam.
In our last blog, we explained why regular health check ups are a must. But if you haven’t had one for some time, you might not know what to expect. Don’t worry; we’re here to provide you with some of the common aspects of a physical examination (exam) so you know what to expect. Still not sure about the importance of regular medical check ups? According to one published in the American Journal of Medicine, inadequate physical examination is a significant source of medical errors and subsequent adverse effects. So what can you expect from a physical exam? Updated health history First and foremost, any good doctor will ask you about your health history. This will include any past problems, as well as new developments and changes. This is your opportunity to explain any concerns you may have and provide your physician with as much information as possible so they have as clear a picture as possible of your overall health. During this part of the physical exam, be prepared to answer questions relating to your lifestyle, like whether you smoke, how much alcohol you drink, the amount of exercise you get and possibly dietary habits. It’s important to be honest, as it’s only yourself you’re doing an injustice to if you’re not. Vital sign checks Another important part of any physical exam are the vital sign checks. These standard tests provide a benchmark of your health based on a set of recommended guidelines. Vital sign checks will involve taking your blood pressure (anything less than 120/90 is considered “normal”), measuring your heart rate (between 60 and 100 is considered “normal”), checking your respiratory rate (12 to 16 breaths per minute is “normal” for a healthy adult) and taking your temperature (“normal” body temperature can range between 97 F (36.1 C) and 99 F (37.2 C)). Visual and physical exams The final aspect of your physical exam will comprise a series of visual and physical tests, designed to look for signs of any potential problems or medical conditions. The visual exam will include examination of the following: Head Eyes Ears Nose Chest Abdomen Musculoskeletal system, such as your hands and wrists Nervous system/neurological functions, such as reflexes, balance and speech and walking The physical exam will comprise: Touching, or “palpating,” parts of your body (like your abdomen) to feel for anything unusual Checking your skin, hair, and nails Checking your organ size and shape A possible examination of your genitalia and rectum When was the last time you had a physical exam? If it’s been a while, maybe it’s time you considered having one. Look out for our blog next week on the additional laboratory and screening tests you can expect during a physical exam. *Image by Hamilton Viana Viana from Pixabay
If you cut your finger, providing it's only a minor wound, one of the first things you'll reach for is an adhesive bandage. These simple yet effective medical dressings are found in most households around the world. But they have a couple of pitfalls: sometimes, they don't stick very well and oftentimes it hurts when they are removed. Now, researchers from Pennsylvania are looking to change this by developing an adhesive bandage that sticks well to skin – even hairy areas – and causes little pain when it is removed. To solve the problem, the researchers turned to the main ingredient in school glue. The problem with existing adhesive bandages is the ones that stick hard and fast are usually difficult to remove and can cause pain – especially if they are placed on sensitive skin. Other adhesive bandages are easier to remove but don't have the sticking power required to keep a wound closed, allowing to heal. Outlining their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers from the University of Pennsylvania, Lehigh University, and the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia say their new bandage has been developed using vinyl alcohol – a primary ingredient in the glue – and boric acid, a common and naturally occurring compound frequently used in antiseptics. The result is an adhesive bandage that can effectively hold wound closed, yet can be painlessly removed by soaking it in water for just 30 seconds. *Photo by Diana Polekhina on Unsplash
Sorry, wine lovers, but new research shows that you could be hitting your daily recommended sugar intake with just two glasses of your favorite tipple. The analysis of 30 bottles of wine by Alcohol Health Alliance UK, a coalition of more than 60 organisations working together to reduce the harm caused by alcohol, found that some bottles had up to 59g of sugar – more than a glazed doughnut! In the UK, winemakers are not legally required to put nutritional information on labels. The UK's NHS recommends that adults consume no more than 30g of "free sugars" per day, which includes sugar in fruit juices and smoothies, or sugar added to food or drink. Campaigners are calling for change, to better inform wine drinkers about how many calories and how much sugar they are consuming. The Alcohol Health Alliance UK analysis revealed it was possible for a person to hit the daily sugar limit for adults by drinking two medium-sized glasses of some wines. More telling was the discovery that lower-strength wines were among those containing the most sugar. So just because they have a lower alcohol content, it doesn't mean they are necessarily the healthier option. Next time you're in your local supermarket, have a look to see which wines have nutritional information and, if you can, opt for one that has a lower sugar content. Image by Vinotecarium from Pixabay
The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says nearly half of American adults are living with high blood pressure (hypertension). Left untreated, this hypertension can lead to serious cardiovascular conditions, such as heart attack, stroke and heart failure. Individuals with hypertension are often advised to reduce their salt intake, as doing so can help reduce blood pressure levels. Now, a group of researchers from Pennsylvania State University has decided to investigate the health effects of herbs and spices, particularly whether they can benefit people with hypertension. The researchers conducted a randomized, controlled trial to look at the effect of longer-term consumption of herbs and spices on risk factors for cardiovascular disease. They found that a higher level of herbs and spices in food reduced 24-hour blood pressure readings. The findings appear in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Speaking to Medical News Today, Prof. Penny Kris-Etherton, one of the lead authors of the study, said: “Indeed, the blood pressure-lowering effects of herbs and spices in an average Western diet were surprising to me. “We [already know] about the effects of many lifestyle factors, especially dietary factors, that can increase blood pressure — such as sodium, alcohol, and caffeine — and others that can decrease blood pressure, such as potassium, magnesium, and calcium, […] weight loss, physical activity, and some vitamins, including folate and vitamin D when intake is low, but the blood pressure-lowering effects of herbs and spices are new!” *Image by monicore from Pixabay
The widespread panic and uncertainty being caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic means sleep isn’t coming easy for many people right now. But good quality sleep is the bedrock of our lives, consuming about a third of our total time on this planet and dramatically influencing the other two-thirds. That’s why it’s so important that we all get enough good quality sleep on a regular basis. With that in mind, here are five tangible tips to promote better sleep at this difficult time: 1. Get into a routine By getting in sync with your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle, or circadian rhythm, you can significantly boost your chances of getting a good night’s sleep. If you get into a routine of sleeping and waking at the same times each day, you’ll feel more refreshed and energized than if you follow random patterns. 2. Exercise more In addition to the physical and mental health benefits, regular exercise also helps you sleep better. And while cardiovascular exercise, strength training and yoga are all great for helping you sleep – especially if you do them during the day and not just before bed. 3. Watch your diet For the best sleep, try and eat a balanced diet that contains vegetables, fresh fruits, whole grains, and low-fat proteins that are rich in B vitamins - like fish, poultry, meat, eggs, and dairy. 4. Consume less alcohol While some people rely on alcohol to help them fall asleep, studies show that alcohol does not improve sleep. In fact, it reduces rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is thought to be the most restorative kind. 5. Limit gadget use at night Blue light from TVs, smartphones, tablets and other gadgets plays havoc with your circadian rhythm and, as a result, the release of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin is suppressed. For the best night’s sleep, limit your use of gadgets and other visual devices to around one to two hours before bed.
As we continue to tackle the virus outbreak and take steps to reduce its momentum, widespread sharing of health advice has become commonplace. But if there is one thing the current coronavirus pandemic has highlighted, it is that there is so much misinformation out there. Let’s look at a few examples and see why they aren’t just false, but also potentially dangerous: Bogus health claim 1: Drinking alcohol kills coronavirus While alcohol-based hand gels and sprays can remove the new coronavirus from hands, drinking alcohol (any kind) will have no positive impact, and could actually cause serious damage to your health. Whenever you hear any advice about alcohol and coronavirus, it is referring to the kind that helps clean your hands. Bogus health claim 2: There are licensed drugs for treating COVID-19 Just because President Trump has spoken on several occasions about hydroxychloroquine as a potential treatment for COVID-19, it doesn’t make it a licensed or even recommended treatment. In fact, there is still no proof that hydroxychloroquine helps prevent or cure COVID-19, and misusing it could cause serious side effects. Bogus health claim 3: You can check if you have COVID-19 by holding your breath The only way to determine if you have COVID-19 is to undergo a laboratory test. Being able to hold your breath for 10 seconds or more without coughing or feeling discomfort will not prove anything. You can read about more coronavirus myths on the World Health Organization website.
The new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, that causes COVID-19 has meant that many people are staying at home as much as possible, only venturing out to exercise, seek medical assistance and buy essential grocery items. But while you can reduce your risk of infection while you are out of your house by regularly washing your hands, observing social distancing and remembering to clean your cellphone, something many people forget to clean is the groceries they return home with. Now there’s a good chance that the products you have bought have been handled by other people before you put them in your basket or trolley. They may have even been sneezed or coughed on. And when you consider that the new coronavirus is stable for anything from several hours to a few days in aerosols and on certain surfaces, there is a risk every time you bring groceries home. So what can you do to minimize the risk that your groceries pose? Here are a few pointers: Touch only the items you intend to buy Wipe down the basket or trolley you’re going to use with disinfectant wipes Wash your hands or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer when you’re done shopping Wipe cans and food boxes before storing them Throw away any disposable packaging Thoroughly wash any tables or countertops that came into contact with your groceries Wash your hands again [Related reading: Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) advice for the public]
The current coronavirus pandemic is a tragedy and has totally consumed all media outlets. But with so much information being shared about this deadly virus, it can be difficult to discern what precautions you and your loved ones should be taking at this difficult time. The advice from the World Health Organization (WHO) right now is simple: Wash your hands frequently - For at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water. In the absence of soap and warm water, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Maintain social distancing – Stay at least 1 meter (3 feet) away from other people, especially anyone who is coughing or sneezing. Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth – If contaminated, your hands can transfer the virus into your body via your eyes, nose and mouth. Practice respiratory hygiene – Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue whenever you sneeze, and dispose of the tissue immediately afterwards. If you develop any symptoms associated with COVID-19, seek medical care ASAP – If you develop a fever, cough and/or difficulty breathing, seek medical attention immediately. Stay informed and up to date – Keep abreast of the latest coronavirus developments to ensure you are always up to date with the latest information and precautions to take. Finally, please follow any quarantine or lock down guidelines issued by your government. Breaking the virus’ chain will be one of the biggest keys to defeating it. Stay safe, everyone...
A new study has revealed five bad health habits which, if avoided, could help you live significantly longer. While the habits themselves are nothing we haven’t heard before, the findings of the study are important as they highlight just how much of an impact the five factors can have on lifespan. So if you want to live years longer, avoid these five behaviours: smoking, not exercising, being overweight, drinking too much alcohol and eating an unhealthy diet. Specifically, the study found that women aged 50 who avoided all five risk factors lived 14 years longer than women who did not. Among men, the difference in lifespan was 12 years. Publishing the study findings in the BMJ, senior author Dr. Frank Hu, who chairs the department of nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said: “We found that following a healthy lifestyle can substantially extend the years a person lives disease-free.” Importantly, the results held true even after adjusting the data for age, ethnicity, family medical history and other potentially influential factors – emphasising that everyone stands to benefit from avoiding these five unhealthy habits. Finally, the research also revealed that the five habits had a positive impact for people diagnosed with a disease during the study period. For example, individuals who developed cancer lived an additional 23 years if they adopted four of the five healthy practices. In contrast, among those who didn't change, half only survived an additional 11 years. The same patterns were witnessed for both heart disease and diabetes.
People who take daily blood pressure medication should take it just before bedtime to get the most out of it, researchers say. Writing in the European Heart Journal, the researchers say that while it may sound like a very simple tip, it’s one that could save lives. The reason why taking such medication at bedtime is more beneficial is because our body clocks alter the way our bodies respond to it. At night, our blood pressure is typically lower than it is during the day. However, if for some reason our blood pressure does not dip and remains consistently high, our chances of having a stroke or heart attack significantly increase. The study found that patients who took their daily blood pressure medication before bedtime had significantly lower average blood pressure both at night and during the day than those who took their medication in the morning. Their blood pressure also dipped more at night. Lead researcher Prof Ramon Hermida, from the University of Vigo in Spain, said doctors should consider recommending their patients take their daily blood pressure medication at night going forward – especially as it’s “totally cost-free. It might save a lot of lives. “Current guidelines on the treatment of hypertension do not recommend any preferred treatment time. Morning ingestion has been the most common recommendation by physicians based on the misleading goal of reducing morning blood pressure levels. “The results of this study show that patients who routinely take their anti-hypertensive medication at bedtime, as opposed to when they wake up, have better-controlled blood pressure and, most importantly, a significantly decreased risk of death or illness from heart and blood vessel problems.” The next step is to determine whether the findings of the study apply to different brands of blood pressure medication. Lifestyle factors that have an impact on blood pressure: Smoking Drinking too much alcohol Being overweight Not doing enough exercise Eating too much salt
Drinking red wine (in moderation) could be good for your gut, according to researchers from the UK. The team from King’s College London says red wine contains compounds that help increase the number of different types of bacteria that live in the gut. The micronutrients, known as polyphenols, are more abundant in red wine vs. beer, cider and white wine, and act as fuel for microbes living inside the bowel. Polyphenols are found in many fruits and vegetables, including the grapes used to make red wine. The researchers say even just one glass of red wine a fortnight can make a difference, but warn that their findings should not be used as an excuse to binge drink. Publishing its research in the journal Gastroenterology, the team said the “friendly” bugs in our gut help keep us healthy. Even small changes in our gut microbiota – the community of bugs that live there – can make us more susceptible to conditions like obesity, heart disease and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. The gut microbiota of people who drink red wine was found to be more diverse than that of those who do not drink wine. Furthermore, the more wed wine consumed, the greater the levels of diversity – although it’s important to note that nobody involved in the trial was a heavy drinker. Speaking about the findings of their research, Dr Caroline Le Roy said: “If you must choose one alcoholic drink today, red wine is the one to pick as it seems to potentially exert a beneficial effect on you and your gut microbes, which in turn may also help weight and risk of heart disease.”
It’s widely accepted that eating more fruits and vegetables is beneficial to a person’s health. But now a new study has firmly and scientifically concluded that eating foods that are rich in flavonoids (like fruits and vegetables) could stave off disease and extend life. According to research by a group of scientists from Edith Cowan University, Australia, people who eat 500mg of flavonoids every day have the lowest risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease-related deaths. So how much do you need to eat to reap these benefits? Well, the scientists say it is important to get the flavonoids from a variety of sources. They say someone can achieve the 500mg of total flavonoids by consuming one cup of tea, one apple, one orange, 100g of blueberries and 100g of broccoli. Interestingly, the study of more than 50,000 adults found that the benefits of consuming 500mg of flavonoids daily were most pronounced in people who smoke and drink more than two alcoholic beverages every day. However, the scientists were quick to point out that consuming flavonoids does not enough to undo the harmful effects of smoking and high alcohol consumption. The study also found that consuming more than 500mg of flavonoids daily was not associated with any additional benefits. The paper appears in the journal Natural Communications.
Even though it’s widely accepted that moderate alcohol consumption can be part of a healthy lifestyle, a new study suggests that people who abstain from drinking have the highest levels of wellbeing. And it’s women who stand to benefit the most from giving up the booze. According to the study, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ), men and women who have abstained from drinking alcohol their whole lives had the highest levels of mental wellbeing at the start of the 5-year study. And for females who moderately consumed alcohol (fewer than seven alcoholic drinks per week), quitting was linked with a boost in mental health. Speaking about the findings of the study, Co-author Dr Michael Ni, a brain scientist at the University of Hong Kong, said: “Global alcohol consumption is expected to continue to increase unless effective strategies are employed. Our findings suggest caution in recommendations that moderate drinking could improve health-related quality of life. “Instead, quitting drinking may be associated with a more favourable change in mental wellbeing, approaching the level of lifetime abstainers.”
Previous claims that one or two alcoholic drinks a day doesn’t do any harm and could actually be protective are now in significant jeopardy following the publication of a large genetic study in The Lancet. According to the UK and Chinese researchers who followed 500,000 Chinese people over a 10-year period, the findings of the study are the best evidence yet on the direct effects of alcohol. While the negative health implications of heavy drinking are understood, the impact of consuming small amounts of alcohol on a regular basis has remained unclear. The researchers, from the University of Oxford, Peking University and the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, found that: drinking one to two alcoholic drinks every day increased stroke risk by 10-15% drinking four alcoholic drinks every day increased stroke risk by 35% For the purposes of the study, one drink was defined as either: a small glass of wine a bottle of beer a single measure of spirits In other words, even light-to-moderate drinking can increase blood pressure and a person’s chances of having a stroke. Prof David Spiegelhalter, from the University of Cambridge, said drinking alcohol on a daily basis gives the “opposite effect of taking a statin” (drugs that are used to lower cholesterol levels). The bottom line, according to Prof Richard Peto, professor of medical statistics and epidemiology at the University of Oxford, is the “claims that wine and beer have magical protective effects is not borne out”.
The inevitable abundance of food and alcohol you consumed over the festive period has probably left you feeling as though you need to detox a little now the New Year is here. One of the simplest ways to do this is by choosing to not drink alcohol for the entire month of January. Started by UK-based charity Alcohol Change UK, Dry January, as it is known, has become something of a widespread phenomenon, with an estimated 4.2 million people in the UK alone expected to participate this year. Taking part is easy. All you have to do is not drink any alcoholic drinks throughout the month of January. If you’ve curbed your drinking already this month, well done! If you haven’t, it’s not too late to start. Here are some of the health benefits of quitting alcohol for at least a month: Save money (alcoholic drinks can be expensive) Improve your general health (you can potentially lower your blood pressure and cholesterol) Promote weight loss (alcoholic drinks contain plenty of calories) Sleep better (alcohol is not your best friend when you want a good night’s sleep) Improve your long-term relationship with alcohol (prove to yourself that you don’t need it and don’t have to rely on it going forward) Are you up for the Dry January challenge? It’s only for a month and the potential health benefits speak for themselves.
We are often told that being overweight increases our risk of cancer. In fact, in the UK, obesity is the biggest preventable cause of cancer after smoking, according to Cancer Research UK. But why does being overweight increase a person’s likelihood of developing cancer? A group of scientists say they now know. The team from Trinity College Dublin say the reason overweight people are at greater risk of developing cancer is because a certain cell in the body that’s used to destroy cancer gets clogged with fat and stops working as a result. Publishing their findings in the Nature Immunology journal, the team said they were able to show that the body’s natural cancer-fighting cells get clogged by fat. They are hopeful that new drug treatments can be developed that will reverse the effects and restore the cancer-killing ability of said cells. Until then, though, the best advice remains to stay a healthy weight, stop smoking and cut down on alcohol. Speaking about the findings of the research, Dr Leo Carlin, from the Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute, said: “Although we know that obesity increases the risk of 13 different types of cancer, we still don't fully understand the mechanisms underlying the link. “This study reveals how fat molecules prevent immune cells from properly positioning their tumour-killing machinery, and provides new avenues to investigate treatments.” [Related reading: Major study finds eating processed meat raises risk of breast cancer]
The physical health problems associated with diabetes are well understood and publicised. For example, diabetics have an increased risk of developing cancer, kidney disorders and cardiovascular disease. But what about the mental impact of living with diabetes? It’s not something that gets a lot of attention, but the findings of a new study could see it thrust under the spotlight. That’s because the study by researchers from Finland found a worrying connection between diabetes and the risk of someone dying by suicide or alcoholism. According to the study, diabetics are more than 10 times more likely to die as a result of alcoholism – predominantly cirrhosis of the liver – and 110% more likely to commit suicide than the general population. The highest risk was seen among diabetes patients who rely on regular insulin injections to avoid serious health complications. Professor Leo Niskanen, of the University of Helsinki, who led the study, said diabetes patients who have to monitor their glucose levels and administer insulin frequently suffer tremendous mental strain. “This strain combined with the anxiety of developing serious complications like heart or kidney disease may also take their toll on psychological well-being,” he said. Is it time we started talking about the mental health implications of living with diabetes? [Related reading: Type-2 diabetes could actually be detected up to 20 years in advance, researchers say]
A large-scale study has found that just 45 minutes of physical exercise three to five times a week can improve mental wellbeing. [Related reading: People who abstain from alcohol in middle age may have higher risk of dementia] According to the US study of 1.2 million people, people who exercised regularly had fewer “bad days” a month than their non-exercising counterparts. Furthermore, while activities such as cycling, aerobics and team sports had the greatest positive impact, all types of physical activity, including things like doing household chores and looking after kids, were found to improve mental health. Moreover, people who had previously been diagnosed with a mental health condition like depression were found to afford the greatest benefits. The optimal routine identified by the researchers was being physically active for 30 to 60 minutes every second day. More interesting is the researchers’ finding that too much exercise can have a negative impact. Dr Adam Chekroud, study author and assistant professor of psychiatry at Yale University, said: "Previously, people have believed that the more exercise you do, the better your mental health, but our study suggests that this is not the case. "Doing exercise more than 23 times a month, or exercising for longer than 90-minute sessions is associated with worse mental health." The findings of the study are published in The Lancet Psychiatry Journal.
Alcohol and the amount people drink is the frequent focus of medical studies. However, studying alcohol consumption often results in mixed findings. For example, while drinking too much alcohol can result in liver disease and high blood pressure, other studies have shown that a glass of beer or wine a day can help people live longer. [Related reading: Drinking alcohol while breastfeeding: new study shows possible child cognitive development impact] Now a new study suggests people who abstain from alcohol in middle age may have a heightened risk of dementia later in life. The long-term study, which tracked the health of more than 9,000 civil servants in London, found that middle-aged people who drank over the recommended alcohol limit each week and those who abstained completely were more likely to develop dementia. Specifically, abstinence in midlife was associated with a 45% greater risk of developing dementia compare to people who drank between one and 14 units of alcohol per week. But before you reach for a glass of wine, it should be noted that early life alcohol consumption was not taken into account for the study. People who are teetotal in midlife may have a history of heavy alcohol consumption in their younger years. Indeed, Dr Sara Imarisio, the head of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “As this study only looked at people’s drinking in midlife, we don’t know about their drinking habits earlier in adulthood, and it is possible that this may contribute to their later life dementia risk.” The results of the study were recently published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).
Some new mothers drink alcohol while they are breastfeeding and think nothing of it. But a new study by the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests they could be impacting their baby’s cognitive abilities. Specifically, the study found that children who were exposed to alcohol through their mothers’ breast milk didn’t perform as well on reasoning tests at ages 6 and 7 as their peers who weren’t exposed to any alcohol. For the study, researchers analysed data on 5,107 infants from Growing Up in Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children. Mothers were asked about their alcohol and tobacco use while breastfeeding, with the ultimate aim being to see if either affected children’s cognitive development. Not only were the test scores of children exposed to alcohol lower, they were lowest for those whose mothers drank the most. However, the researchers found no link between smoking while breastfeeding and test scores. While the researchers were not able to measure the cognitive reductions in a child once they reached 10 or 11, Louse Gibson, a co-author of the study, said that “doesn’t mean that the child has grown out of it, or that the effects of the mother’s alcohol consumption aren’t there anymore.” [Recommended reading: Bottle feeding is a woman’s right, midwives advised]
Are you a night owl or a morning person? A new study suggests that it could make a big difference to your health and it’s not good news for late risers. According to the paper authored by Dr Kristen Knutson and Professor Malcolm von Schantz, of Northwestern University (Chicago) and the University of Surrey (UK) respectively, night owls have an increased risk of early death, psychological disorders and respiratory illness than people who are, so to speak, up with the lark. The paper backs up previous research that suggests people who regularly go to bed late are more likely to suffer ill health. Over a six-year period, night owls were found to have a 10% greater risk of death than larks, according to the paper. This finding held true even after adjusting for expected health problems in people who go to bed late, such as metabolic dysfunction and heart disease. Using data extracted from the UK Biobank, a data store containing medical and genetic information relating to some 500,000 people aged 40 to 69 from across the UK, the researchers were able to determine the effect a lack of sleep has on individuals. While night owls often make up for their lack of sleep during the week by staying in bed longer at weekends – referred to as “social jet lag” - it is seemingly not enough to combat the potential health problems they face. Commenting on the findings of the research, Dr Knutson said that “night owls trying to live in a morning lark world may have health consequences for their bodies. They shouldn’t be forced to get up for an 8am shift. Make work shifts match people’s chronotypes. Some people may be better suited to night shifts.” Being a night owl was also associated with psychological stress, lack of sleep, lack of exercise, eating at the wrong time, and drug or alcohol use. So, if you're someone who regularly goes to bed late and doesn't get enough sleep during the week, maybe it's time to change your habits.
Individuals who routinely drink more than one alcoholic beverage every day have an overabundance of bad bacteria and less good bacteria in their mouths, a new study has found. Compared to their non-drinking peers, drinkers have less good, such as Lactobacillales that help protect your gums, and more bad bacteria, such as certain Actinomyces, Bacteroidales, and Neisseria species that can lead to gum disease, heart problems and even some cancers. [Related reading: Regular excess drinking found to shorten life expectancy] Publishing their findings in the science journal Microbiome, the study authors said the acids found in alcoholic drinks could make the oral environment hostile for certain bacteria to grow, hence the lower number of so-called good bacteria. For the study, a group of more than 1,000 individuals had their saliva tested. The group included 270 non-drinkers, 614 moderate drinkers and 160 heavy drinkers. The results show that the drinkers had more Bacteroidales, Actinomyces and Neisseria species of bacteria, all potentially harmful, as well as fewer Lactobacillales, a family of bacteria associated with a reduction of gum inflammation. Talking about the findings of the study, Jiyoung Ahn, the study's senior investigator and an epidemiologist at the NYU School of Medicine, said: "heavy alcohol intake is a known risk factor for multiple chronic diseases, including cancers (head and neck, esophagus, colon and breast), liver disease and cardiovascular diseases."
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."
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]
A new large-scale study has found that using aspirin long-term could slash the chances of developing gastrointestinal cancer. Of all the gastrointestinal cancers, which include pancreatic cancer, liver cancer, oesophageal cancer, stomach (or gastric) cancer and small intestine cancer, colorectal cancer is the most common in the western world. While there are a number of lifestyle changes people can make to reduce their risk of developing cancer, including avoiding tobacco, limiting their alcohol consumption, eating healthier and exercising more, an increasing number of studies suggest the use of aspiring could also help. For this latest study, Prof. Kelvin Tsoi, of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and his team set out to investigate the effect of aspirin use on gastrointestinal cancers. Over a 10-year period, the team of scientists examined over 600,000 participants and analysed how aspirin use affected their chances of developing gastrointestinal cancer. They found that aspirin users were 47% less likely to have liver and oesophageal cancer, 38% less likely to have stomach cancer, 34% less likely to have pancreatic cancer and 24% less likely to have colorectal cancer. In addition, aspirin use also significantly reduced the risk of leukaemia, lung cancer and prostate cancer.
A study by Public Health England looking at the heart health of the nation has found that thousands of men face early death at the hands of a heart attack or stroke. In fact, according to the analysis of 1.2 million people, one in 10 British men has a heart age that’s a decade older than their actual age. Heart disease is the main cause of death among men and the second among women. Public Health England says that 7,400 people will die from heart disease or stroke this month alone. However, most of these deaths are preventable and Public Health England says that just a few small lifestyle changes can have a positive impact. One of the suggestions made was for over 50s to get their blood pressure regularly checked as high blood pressure can be an early sign of a potentially life-threatening condition. Public Health England’s head of cardiovascular disease, Jamie Waterall, urged people not to only start considering their heart health later in life. "Addressing our risk of heart disease and stroke should not be left until we are older", he said. How to improve your heart health: Give up smoking Get active Manage your weight Eat more fibre Eat five portions of fruit and vegetables per day Cut down on saturated fat Cut down on salt Drink less alcohol
Are you partial to energy drinks mixed with alcohol on a night out? New research from Canada might make you change your drinking habit, as it reveals the dangers linked to this risky combination. According to the Canadian researchers, the caffeine found in many popular energy drinks, such as Red Bull and Monster, can make people feel wide awake and lead to them drinking more. This can lead to a greater risk of accidents or injuries. In addition, medics say energy drinks and alcohol cause disrupted sleep and a raised heart rate. Independent UK-based charity Drinkaware says that mixing alcohol and energy drinks can lead to people being "wide awake drunk" - a combination of the stimulating effects of caffeine and the brain-slowing effects of alcohol. The Canadian researchers analysed 13 different studies conducted between 1981 and 2016, and found that a link existed between drinking alcohol mixed with energy drinks and an increased risk of fights, falls and accidents. Audra Roemer, study author and doctoral student in clinical psychology at the University of Victoria, said: "Usually when you're drinking alcohol, you eventually get tired and you go home. "Energy drinks mask that, so people may underestimate how intoxicated they are, end up staying out later, consume more alcohol, and engage in risky behaviour and more hazardous drinking practices."
A new type of breast cancer treatment could help up to 10,000 women in the UK, according to scientists. Historically, biological therapies have been used to help fight rare, inherited genetic errors which can lead to cancer, such as the BRCA one actress Angelina Jolie carries. However, a new study has found that such therapies could also help women diagnosed with breast cancer who do not have these genetic errors. The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute study suggests that such therapies could be effective in one in five breast cancers (20%). For comparison, the number of women who develop cancer and have faulty BRCA genes is 1 to 5%. For the study, the researchers analysed the genetic make-up of breast cancer in 560 different patients. They found that a significant proportion had "mutational signatures" that were very similar to faulty BRCA. Therefore, given the close similarities, these cancers could also potentially be treated with biological therapies. Clinical trials are now being called for to confirm the researchers' theory. Baroness Delyth Morgan, from Breast Cancer Now, said the initial results were "a revelation". "We hope it could now lead to a watershed moment for the use of mutational signatures in treating the disease," she said. Regular exercise, a healthy diet, avoiding cigarettes, limiting alcohol intake and maintaining a healthy weight can all help to reduce a woman's lifetime risk of developing breast cancer.
A new study has found the typical "social business diet", which consists heavily of red meats, sweet drinks, processed snacks and alcohol, has a detrimental effect on a person's heart. Unfortunately, it's a sign of the times that many individuals do not have, or at least don't think they have, enough time to sit down and eat a healthy meal. Instead, many people rely on grab-and-go food items that can be eaten on the road. However, according to a team of researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, eating habits such as these up the risks of atherosclerosis - a slow, but steady clogging of one's arteries. In fact, eating out, snacking on the go, and excessive alcohol consumption is more unhealthy than the so-called Western diet. "This business diet is really very bad," said Dr. Valentin Fuster, a cardiology professor from Icahn. "It hits the arteries hard, and strongly contributes to cardiovascular disease risk, the world's number one killer," he added. The American Heart Association says that cardiovascular disease accounts for more than 17 million deaths across the world each year. Atherosclerosis occurs when plaque builds up in a person's arteries, and can raise their risk of blood clots, heart attacks, heart disease and stroke. If people want to lower their risk of cardiovascular problems in the future, they should minimise their consumption of red meat, sweets and alocohol, and increase their intake of vegetables, fruits, low-fat dairy products, whole grains, fish and nuts.
For someone with high blood pressure, drinking alcohol - even just small amounts - can impact how the lower left chamber of the heart functions, according to a new study from Italy. Researchers found that if a person has high blood pressure, even consuming as little as an ounce of alcohol a day can affect the chamber of the heart that pumps blood to the rest of the body. Lead researcher Dr. Leonardo Sechi said: "Because even moderate alcohol consumption increases occurrence of early functional cardiac changes in patients with [high blood pressure], reduction of use of alcoholic beverages might be beneficial for prevention of cardiac complications in these patients." At present, the cause of this heart damage remains unknown, and further studies will be needed to uncover the exact cause-and-effect relationship, said Sechi. A staggering one-third of US adults have high blood pressure (also referred to as hypertension) today, and it accounts for approximately 1,000 deaths per day in the country. The researchers discovered that the study participants who consumed the most alcohol had thicker left ventricular walls, which stiffened the chamber making it function less effectively. Basically, the more people drank the more difficulty their hearts had filling with blood in between each heartbeat. It should be noted that until the results are published in a peer-reviewed journal, they should be considered preliminary.
Every year, tens of thousands of breast cancer cases diagnosed in the US and Europe are linked to alcohol consumption. Moreover, alcohol has also frequently been linked to an increased risk of cancer recurrence in women with early-stage breast cancer. But now a new study has found that a direct link exists between alcohol, estrogen and a cancer-causing gene. Researchers from the University of Houston in Texas, led by cancer biologist Chin-Yo Lin, say that despite breast cancer being one of the most common causes of cancer deaths for women and alcohol consumption already identified as a modifiable risk factor, 50% of women with the disease still drink some alcoholic beverages. Lin's team discovered that alcohol promotes the expression of a cancer-causing gene called BRAF. Furthermore, it mimic and enhances the effects of estrogen, which increases the risk of developing breast cancer. Finally, the team also found that alcohol weakened the ability of cancer drug tamoxifen to suppress cancer cell growth. "Alcohol consumption is prevalent among women in the US and is a risk factor for breast cancer. Our research shows alcohol enhances the actions of estrogen in driving the growth of breast cancer cells and diminishes the effects of the cancer drug tamoxifen on blocking estrogen by increasing the levels of a cancer-causing gene called BRAF," said Lin. The team's findings were published in the journal PLOS One.
The UK Department of Health has published new guidelines regarding the consumption of alcohol and they make for sobering reading if you’re fond of a regular daily tipple. According to the tough new guidelines, which are based on the findings of worldwide research, any amount of alcohol can increase a person’s risk of cancer and, as a result, men and women who drink regularly should consume no more than 14 units a week. That’s roughly equivalent to six pints of average-strength beer or seven glasses of wine. The advice for pregnant women is simple: no alcohol at all until after baby has been born. Furthermore, if people drink, they should do so moderately over three or more days and have some days that are totally alcohol-free. The guidelines also state that people shouldn’t “save up” their units and drink them all over a short space of time, like a weekend. Heavy drinking sessions, it says, increase the risk of accidents and injury. Talking about the revised guidelines, Dame Sally Davies, chief medical officer for England, said: "Drinking any level of alcohol regularly carries a health risk for anyone, but if men and women limit their intake to no more than 14 units a week, it keeps the risk of illness like cancer and liver disease low." The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) in the UK says that alcohol contributes to over 60 medical conditions, including some cancers, stroke and heart disease. It is thought that approximately one in 20 of all new cancer diagnoses in the UK are linked to a person’s alcohol consumption.
Is whether you’ll get cancer predominantly determined by bad luck, or do environmental factors play a significant part also? That’s the question that a new study by a team of researchers from the Stony Brook Cancer Centre in New York, the results of which were published in the journal Nature, set out to answer. The team used four approaches to conclude that only 10-30% of cancers are simply down to “luck” and that environmental factors have an overwhelming affect. Cancer is caused by one of the body’s own stem cells going rogue and dividing out of control. This can be caused by natural factors, but the team discovered that extrinsic factors, such as smoking and being exposed to UV radiation, play a bigger part than many people think. Experts have said that the team’s analysis is “pretty convincing” and highlights the relative importance of extrinsic factors. Talking about the findings of the study, Dr Emma Smith, from Cancer Research UK, said: "While healthy habits like not smoking, keeping a healthy weight, eating a healthy diet and cutting back on alcohol are not a guarantee against cancer, they do dramatically reduce the risk of developing the disease." While a person who smokes is not necessarily guaranteed to get cancer, by doing so they are stacking the odds against them. An element of chance will always be involved, but people can reduce their own risk by eliminating some of these extrinsic factors from their lives.
If you’re a lover of spicy food then we’ve got some good news for you. A new study suggests that your favourite spicy dishes may actually help lower your risk of death from certain conditions. Published in The BMJ, the observational study found that individuals who regularly consume spicy foods were at lower risk of death from cancer, ischemic heart disease and respiratory disease. The study focussed on 487,275 individuals in China aged between 30 and 79 who underwent regular health assessments. Between 2004 and 2008 the study participants were asked to complete a questionnaire about their general health and eating habits in regard to spicy foods, red meat, vegetables and alcohol. One of the researchers’ observations was that the individuals who consumed spicy foods three to seven days a week were 14% less likely to have died than those who didn’t. Furthermore, frequent consumption cut the risk of death from cancer, ischemic heart disease and respiratory disease, particularly among the female participants. Nita G. Forouhi, from the Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge in the UK, says that further research is definitely justified. "Should people eat spicy food? It is too early to say, but the debate and the research interest are certainly hotting up," she said. So the next time you’re tucking into a dish that’s making your mouth burn and causing sweat to run down your face, remember that it could be helping to extend your life.
Millions of people around the world enjoy a cup of coffee as part of their morning routine. But now, thanks to a new study, coffee drinkers can add “reduces your risk of liver cancer” to their list of health benefits associated with their favourite morning tipple. During the study, scientists from the World Cancer Research Fund International's Continuous Update Project (CUP) worked in partnership with the American Institute for Cancer Research. They analysed 24,500 cases of liver cancer – a disease that is on the rise in America – and found that coffee drinkers were 29% less likely to contract liver cancer. It’s still not known exactly why coffee helps, but liver cancer now joins Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's disease on the list of afflictions whose risk is reduced through java consumption. In addition to the coffee findings, the study revealed that drinking alcohol and being obese increase the risk of liver cancer. It was also specifically noted that people who consume more than three alcoholic drinks per day had a dramatically higher chance of contracting liver cancer. Stephen Hursting, a researcher at the University of North Carolina, said: “This is the first time there's been such a clear signal from a rigorous, systematic review on the links between obesity increasing risk of liver cancer and coffee decreasing risk.” According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the U.S., 69% of Americans are currently overweight or obese. France Surgery can help facilitate a range of bariatric procedures, which are not only performed in world-class medical facilities, but also highly affordable.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 30% of total premature deaths around the world are the result of cardiovascular diseases – making them the leading cause of death today. However, a recent report by the French Directorate for Research, Studies and the Evaluation of Statistics (DREES) shows that France is ahead of its EU neighbours in terms of cardiovascular health. Deaths from strokes – one of the most common types of cardiovascular disease – fell by an incredible 30% in France between the year 2000 and 2010. With statistics like these in mind, is it not hard to think of anywhere else to go for surgery? But should it come as any surprise that French citizens are enjoying better cardiovascular health than the rest of Europe? After all, we’ve already told you about some revolutionary health-improving initiatives, such as the public smoking bans in Paris playgrounds and the more recent plans to ban older and more polluting vehicles from the nation’s capital. France is often considered as a country where individuals drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes almost out of habit. However, by 2009, France had fallen in the ‘who drinks the most alcohol stakes’ to fifth place. A similar trend has been witnessed when it comes to tobacco, with a sharp downturn being reported by French researchers between 2012 and 2013. So, if you’re considering a medical procedure abroad, France Surgery could be just the people you’ve been looking for.
With summer almost upon us, and many parts of Europe already experiencing beautiful warm weather, it’s important to remember that your body is more likely to use the important nutrients it stores to remain at optimum health. So follow this brief guide to make sure you feel at your best during the summer months: 1. Drink plenty of water. This is particularly important if you’re in an extreme hot climate at any point. Avoid sugary drinks and alcohol as these will only make you dehydrate which can lead to loss of strength and stamina, and in severe cases it can affect your kidney function resulting in painful kidney stones. 2. Eat raw foods. Summertime brings an abundance of superb fresh produce ready to pick from the tree or ground – or buy from the super market! But wherever you get it, make your mealtimes as colourful as possible. And the less you cook this fresh produce, the better it is foryour health. Your body will take all the goodness and nutrients on offer to help revitalise and energise you. 3. Get active outdoors. Ditch the gym membership and get outdoors to enjoy the fresh air and vitamin D. Both will invigorate your body and help clear your mind from your everyday stresses and worries. Of course, if you are unwell during this time and need a consultation or treatment, contact ourInternational Patient Services team who are on hand to make your medical plan easier. Photo credit: © vinzoun - Fotolia.com
Christmas is a time of over-indulgence where people eat, drink and generally be merry. Of course there is nothing wrong with this but if you choose not to look after yourself this Christmas then your New Year might not get off to a very healthy start. Follow these tips to ensure you have fun but stay healthy this Christmas: Drink enough water – remaining hydrated is key to staying healthy. If you choose to drink alcohol over Christmas then keeping your water levels up is particularly important. Get enough sleep – 7-8 hours of sleep is generally the recommended amount. Even if you are enjoying the party season make sure you catch up on your sleep the next day to remain fresh and healthy. Relax – most people have some time off work over Christmas so use it to relax and de-stress so that you can return to work feeling rejuvenated and ready to take on the new year. Watch what you eat – Christmas can appear to be about sweets, chocolate and puddings but remember to eat your fair share of fruit and pile up the vegetables on your Christmas dinner so you can make sure you don’t leave your body feeling sluggish. Photo credit: Flickr