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Why social distancing is crucial for reducing the spread of COVID-19


With SARS-CoV-2 spreading rapidly across the globe and causing more and more cases of COVID-19, governments everywhere are urging their citizens to observe social distancing. But why is this simple measure so effective in halting the spread of the virus? One of the biggest problems with the new coronavirus is that some people are completely asymptomatic i.e. they exhibit no obvious symptoms, or have very mild symptoms only. However, these individuals can still pass the virus on to other people, further fuelling its spread. That’s why social distancing – even for people who aren’t exhibiting symptoms – is so important. Just look at the image that accompanies this post (Credit: Dr Robin Thompson/ University of Oxford). By staying at least 2 metres away from other people, a carrier of the virus can reduce the number of people affected in total by 33%. So instead of over 1,000 new cases after six weeks, the number is just 127. With social distancing, the transmission of the virus is significantly reduced, which in turn reduces the burden on already overstretched healthcare services. The bottom line is that by keeping our distance from each other, we can break the chain of the virus. In simple terms, avoid any mass gatherings, such as weddings, concerts or even a busy train/bus. You should also try and maintain at least 2 metres distance from the people around you when out in public. Finally, reduce your social activities as much as possible. It’s not going to be forever, but your cooperation now could make a monumental difference in the long run.

Being married is ‘good for your health’


A study of nearly a million UK adults has found that being married appears to be good for your health, boosting your chances of survival if you have a major heart risk factor, like high cholesterol. All of the individuals involved in the study had high blood pressure, cholesterol or diabetes and the researchers discovered the ones who were married fared much better than those who were single. Dr Paul Carter and colleagues from Aston Medical School presented the findings of their study at the British Cardiovascular Society conference. They believe that having something special in your life is what’s important, rather than simply being married. At the end of their 14-year ACALM study, the researchers found that married men and women in their 50s, 60s and 70s with high cholesterol had a 16% greater chance of being alive than their single counterparts. Dr Carter said: "We need to unpick the underlying reasons a bit more, but it appears there's something about being married that is protective, not only in patients with heart disease but also those with heart disease risk factors. "We're not saying that everyone should get married though. "We need to replicate the positive effects of marriage and use friends, family and social support networks in the same way." Dr Mike Knapton, of the British Heart Foundation, said: "The take-home message is that our social interactions, as well as medical risk factors such as high blood pressure, are important determinants of both our health and wellbeing. "Whether you are married or not, if you have any of the main risk factors for heart disease, then you can call upon loved ones to help you to manage them."

New study finds being happy can break your heart


A new study from Switzerland suggests that chest pains and breathlessness caused by emotional stress do not only occur as a result of being angry, fearful or grief stricken and also happen when we are happy. It's a discovery that has led many to question the "broken heart syndrome" moniker that is often associated with takotsubo cardiomyopathy. Characterised by shortness of breath and difficulty breathing, takotsubo cardiomyopathy occurs when the heart's left ventricle changes shape and can sometimes be fatal. The Swiss research, which was conducted by the University Hospital Zurich, found that while three-quarters of cases are caused by stress, around one in 20 is caused by joy. Luckily, the condition is normally only temporary and people tend to be generally fine afterwards. The study of 1,750 individuals found that takotsubo cardiomyopathy was caused by an array of different occasions, including a birthday party; a son's wedding; becoming a grandmother; meeting a friend after 50 years and winning a casino jackpot. Dr Jelena Ghadri, who was involved in the study, said: "We have shown that the triggers for takotsubo syndrome can be more varied than previously thought. "A takotsubo syndrome patient is no longer the classic 'broken-hearted' patient, and the disease can be preceded by positive emotions too." Don't worry too much though. The medical director of the British Heart Foundation, Prof Peter Weissberg, said: "Takotsubo syndrome is a rare event" and in only a very few cases is it triggered by a sudden happiness.