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What is COVID-19 antibody testing (and why is it useful?)

28/05/2020

There have been numerous reports recently about how both the European Union and the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have now approved certain COVID-19 antibody tests. But what are these tests for and are they useful in the overall fight against the pandemic? An antibody test basically checks your blood for antibodies. These are made when your body fights an infection, like if you had COVID-19. The test isn’t actually looking for the infection itself, rather signs that your body has built a defense against it i.e. you had the infection and your body responded accordingly. One of the valuable outcomes of antibody tests is that they help us ascertain just how many people have potentially had the new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). This helps build a fuller picture of the virus’ spread, as well as calculate how many people there are out there who could still potentially get it. Such information could help in the development of strategies to safeguard communities and possibly allow for more freedom of movement. Antibody tests could also help identify individuals who have had COVID-19 and whose blood could be used to help those fighting the disease. [Related reading: Losing sleep over the COVID-19 outbreak? These 5 tips will help]

Losing sleep over the COVID-19 outbreak? These 5 tips will help

26/05/2020

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.

Irregular sleep patterns linked to increased risk of cardiovascular disease

05/03/2020

It’s a well-known fact that sleep is of utmost importance to health. Specifically, it’s been shown that a lack of high-quality sleep negatively impacts our resilience, productivity and performance. Furthermore, long-term chronic sleep deprivation is linked to high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack, heart failure and stroke. Now, new research suggests that irregular sleeping patterns may contribute to the risk of cardiovascular problems. The study was carried out by researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA, who analysed data from 1,992 patients in their 60s and 70s with no cardiovascular problems at baseline. They found that those who had the most irregular sleep patterns (defined as 2 hours or more difference in sleep duration each night) had a twofold plus increased risk of cardiovascular disease than patients with one hour or less difference in sleep duration. Importantly, even after adjusting for other risk factors, patients with irregular sleep patterns remained at significant risk of cardiovascular events. Publishing their findings in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, the researchers said: “Our study indicates that healthy sleep isn’t just about quantity but also about variability and that this can have an important effect on heart health.” Do you get enough sleep each night? Is your sleeping pattern pretty irregular? If not, you could be increasing your risk of cardiovascular disease. Remember, getting enough high-quality sleep is extremely important and beneficial to your health.

Term ‘painkillers’ should be banned, says UK government adviser

10/02/2020

A government adviser in the UK is calling for the term ‘painkiller’ to be dropped as it is inaccurate and can lead to people have unrealistic expectations about the drugs the medications they take. According to Professor Jamie Coleman, who is part of a working group analysing the use of opioid medication for the government in England, the term ‘painkiller’ should be replaced by the term ‘pain reliever’. Professor Coleman said he is also in favour of ending the over-the-counter sale of low-dose codeine drugs in pharmacies, which he says can lead to people becoming dependent on prescription drugs, even addicted. He said even in low doses, such medication can cause serious side effects, including vomiting and nausea. Meanwhile, research suggests that just one in 10 people taking strong painkillers for long-term pain actually experience any benefits. Professor Coleman says the key to combatting people misusing opioid medication, such as codeine and morphine, is to make it prescription-only, as well as encourage a cultural shift away from GPs prescribing such drugs for long-term pain control. A report released last year by Public Health England (PHE) warned that people were getting hooked on opioids, anti-depressants and sleeping tablets. The same research revealed that more than 5 million people are given opioids every year, with 1.2 million taking them for at least 12 months. The bottom line, according to Professor Coleman, is that there is no such thing as ‘painkillers’ and that opioids just mask symptoms.

Sleep apnoea likely caused by fatty tongues

14/01/2020

Sleep apnoea is a disorder that causes some individuals to experience pauses in their breathing while they are sleeping, resulting in them gasping for breath. Said pauses can last anywhere from a few seconds right up to a few minutes. But while sleep apnoea can be alleviated with certain measures, including wearing oral appliances at bedtime, its exact cause has remained open to debate. Now, a new study has revealed that having a fatty tongue could play a part. According to the research by a team from the Perelman School of Medicine in Philadelphia, larger, fattier tongues – which are more common among obese individuals – could be a main driver of sleep apnoea. That’s why when overweight and obese people shed the pounds, including fat in their tongues, any sleep apnoea they’ve been experiencing also tends to improve. “You talk, eat and breathe with your tongue - so why is fat deposited there?" said study author Dr Richard Schwab, of Perelman School of Medicine. “It's not clear why - it could be genetic or environmental - but the less fat there is, the less likely the tongue is to collapse during sleep.” The researchers now plan to discover which low-fat diets (if any) are particularly good at reducing fat in the tongue.

Not enough sleep could harm bone health in older women

21/11/2019

Older women who sleep for 5 hours a night or less are more likely to have lower bone mineral density (BMD) and osteoporosis, a new study has found. Conducted by a team from the University at Buffalo, NY, the study involved 11,084 postmenopausal women, all of who were participants in the Women's Health Initiative. It found that poor sleep may negatively affect bone health. Specifically, the team found that compared with women who got more sleep, those who reported getting only up to 5 hours of sleep per night had significantly lower values in four measures of BMD: the whole body, the hip, the neck, and the spine. The lower BMD measures of the group getting less sleep were the equivalent of them being one year older than their peers in the more sleep group. Now one explanation for why these results were seen is due to how our bodies remove old bone tissue and replace it with new bone tissue, a process known as bone remodeling. “If you are sleeping less, one possible explanation is that bone remodeling isn't happening properly,” said lead study author Heather M. Ochs-Balcom, Ph.D., an associate professor of epidemiology and environmental health at the University at Buffalo School of Public Health and Health Professions. The full findings of the study are published in a paper in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research.

Ear ‘tickling’ could prevent age-related diseases

01/08/2019

New research suggests that tickling the ear with a small electric current could help rebalance the body’s nervous system in people over-55 and help them age more healthily. The therapy works by stimulating the vagus nerve, the longest of the nerves that connect the brain with other parts of the body such as the heart, lungs and gut. The vagus nerve is usually difficult to access and usually requires surgical intervention so that electric stimuli can be delivered. However, one small branch of the vagus nerve reaches a part of the outer ear and that’s where the researchers from the Universities of Leeds and Glasgow — both in the United Kingdom – stimulated it from. Patients who received the electric stimuli for 15 minutes a day over a 14-day period noted improvements in body, sleep and mood. As we age, our body’s nervous system gradually becomes out of balance and the sympathetic branch begins to dominate. This makes us more prone to diseases, such as hypertension and heart problems, as well as anxiety and depression. The researchers found that the electric ear tickling therapy – named so because that’s how it feels – helped rebalance the body’s nervous system by increasing parasympathetic activity and decreasing sympathetic activity. People with the greatest imbalance at the start of the trial showed the biggest improvement at the end.

Study finds eating later in the day promotes obesity

26/03/2019

As obesity rates across the world continue to rise, understanding exactly why we put on weight has never been more important. That’s why the findings of a new study, which looked at whether there is an association between when we eat and how much weight we gain, could be very significant. Presenting their findings at the ENDO 2019 conference, which took place in New Orleans, the scientists from the University of Colorado in Denver said there is a link between eating later in the day and having a higher BMI, as well as more body fat. For the study, 31 adults who were either overweight or obese and had an average age of 36 years were closely monitored to assess their sleep, levels of activity, and diet. Interestingly, the study also showed that the participants who ate later in the day still had an average of 7 hours sleep each night, suggesting that lack of sleep may not promote obesity after all. Speaking about the findings of the study, Dr. Adnin Zaman, lead author, said “These findings support our overall study, which will look at whether restricting the eating window to earlier on in the day will lower obesity risk.”

The sleep disorder that puts people at ‘very high risk’ of Parkinson’s

12/03/2019

Parkinson’s disease is a condition that causes parts of a person’s brain to progressively deteriorate over many years, causing the most recognizable symptom: involuntary shaking of particular parts of the body. It is still not fully known what causes Parkinson’s, but researchers have identified several risk factors, including a person's age and sex, as well as some genetic factors. However, a team of researchers from McGill University in Montreal, Canada has potentially uncovered a new predictor of risk: rapid eye movement (REM) sleep behavior disorder (RBD). Most people, during the REM phase of sleep, enter a state of paralysis and cannot move, preventing them from physically acting out a dream they might be having. People with RBD, though, are able to act out dreams without knowing – which can lead to them injuring themselves or other people they share a bed with. Detailing their findings recently in Brain: A Journal of Neurology, the researchers say that 73.5% of the 1,280 people with REM sleep behavior disorder went on to develop Parkinson’s disease. As lead author Dr. Ron Postuma and colleagues explain, REM sleep behavior disorder could be a strong predictor of Parkinson’s, which may allow people with the sleeping disorder to be offered experimental Parkinson’s therapies in the future to prevent the disease developing. [Recommended reading: Long weekend lie-ins do not make up for sleep loss during the week – study]

Long weekend lie-ins do not make up for sleep loss during the week - study

05/03/2019

We all know how important sleep is for our health. But did you know that sleeping poorly during the week and trying to make up for it at weekends does not reverse the damage chronic sleep loss does? According to new research, the findings of which appear in Current Biology, long weekend lie-ins are not enough to undo the damage that sleep loss during the week causes. As one of the study authors, Kenneth Wright, from the University of Colorado Boulder, points out: “The key take-home message from this study is that ad libitum weekend recovery or catch-up sleep does not appear to be an effective countermeasure strategy to reverse sleep-loss-induced disruptions of metabolism.” For the study, researchers recruited 36 young and healthy individuals. Said individuals were then split into three groups: one that got 5 hours' sleep per night both during the week and at weekends; one that got 5 hours' sleep per night during the week, followed by unrestricted sleep at the weekend and then another 2 nights of 5 hours' sleep; and a control group that got up to 9 hours’ sleep every night during both the week and the weekend. All study participants who had restricted sleep during the week gained weight because they tended to snack after dinner. Moreover, even after recharging over the weekend, individuals who went back to restricted sleep during the week continued their after-dinner snacking habit and gained weight. Furthermore, participants who had restricted sleep every night also had lower insulin sensitivity – a marker of poorer than average health. So if you’re in the habit of not sleeping much during the week and trying to make up for it at weekends, you could be detrimentally impacting your health.

Dry January: What is it and what are some of the health benefits?

10/01/2019

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.

Early risers less likely to develop breast cancer, finds study

08/11/2018

Women who are larks, otherwise known as “morning people”, have a lower risk of developing breast cancer, a study has revealed. While the exact reason why remains unknown, the team of researchers from the University of Bristol in the UK say their findings are important and add to the growing understanding of how sleep affects our health. A person’s body clock (also known as their circadian rhythm) regulates when a person feels sleepy or awake over a 24-hour period. So-called morning people wake up earlier, peak earlier in the day and feel sleepy earlier in the evening. In contrast, “evening people” (night owls) get up later, peak later in the day and go to sleep later in the evening. Using a data analysis technique called Mendelian randomisation, the researchers looked at DNA snippets of more than 400,000 women. They discovered that women who were larks were less likely to have breast cancer than their night owl peers. Speaking about the findings of the research, Dr Rebecca Richmond, a researcher from the University of Bristol, told the BBC: “The findings are potentially very important because sleep is ubiquitous and easily modified. “Previous research has looked at the impact of shift work, but this is showing there may be a risk factor for all women.” Nevertheless, many questions still remain. For example, more research now needs to be conducted to see whether the body clock itself is directly impacting a person’s risk of developing cancer, or if factors like night owls breaking their natural circadian rhythm to accommodate jobs is having an impact. [Related reading: Major study finds eating processed meat raises risk of breast cancer]

Less screen time linked to better cognitive performance

02/10/2018

Tablets, mobile phones and other handheld devices are extremely popular among children (and their parents). The former get visual stimulation, while the latter get some peace and quiet. But how does screen use affect a child’s cognitive ability? Well, according to a new study by researchers at Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute, less screen time results in better cognition. Specifically, children aged eight to 11 who used screens for fun for more than two hours every day performed more poorly in cognition tests than their counterparts who got less screen time. Moreover, the researchers found that less screen time, nine to 11 hours of sleep every night and at least one hour of physical activity led to even better results. Nevertheless, less than two hours screen time each day was the factor linked with the best performance results. Speaking about the findings of the study, Dr Jeremy Walsh, from the CHEO Research Institute, said: “Based on our findings, paediatricians, parents, educators, and policymakers should promote limiting recreational screen time and prioritising healthy sleep routines throughout childhood and adolescence.” The study, which looked at data from 4,500 children aged 8-11 from 20 locations across the U.S., is published in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health journal.

Babies given solid foods sleep better, study suggests

10/07/2018

Babies who are fed solid food in addition to breast milk from the age of three months sleep better than those who are solely breastfed, a new study has revealed. Publishing their findings in JAMA Pediatrics, the authors of the study noted the following: “The World Health Organisation recommends exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months. However, 75% of British mothers introduce solids before 5 months and 26% report infant waking at night as influencing this decision.” Experts say women should still heed WHO’s advice, but that the guidelines are currently under review. For the study, the researchers from King's College London, and St George's, University of London, split 1,303 three-month-old infant into two groups: one that was solely breastfed and one that also had solid foods incorporated from the age of three months. The babies’ parents were then surveyed to see if the addition of solid foods had made a difference to the sleep patterns of the infants and the mothers’ quality of life. The parents of the babies who were given solid foods from three months reported that their children slept longer, woke less frequently and had far fewer serious sleep problems. Prof Gideon Lack from King's College, London, said: "The results of this research support the widely held parental view that early introduction of solids improves sleep. "While the official guidance is that starting solid foods won't make babies more likely to sleep through the night, this study suggests that this advice needs to be re-examined in light of the evidence we have gathered." [Related reading: Bottle feeding is a woman’s right, midwives advised]

Travellers risking fines and even imprisonment by taking medications abroad

14/06/2018

How often do you pack to go on holiday and include some prescribed medicines in your luggage? While it might not seem like a big deal, you could actually be breaking the law in the country you’re visiting and that’s why the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is advising British citizens to check the rules ahead of time. Even painkillers that are commonly prescribed in the UK are classed as “controlled drugs” in some countries, which means holidaymakers could unwittingly find themselves in hot water abroad. In Japan, for example, some common cold remedies are banned, while certain types of sleeping pills require a special licence in Singapore.   The FCO warned that travellers could be slapped with a fine or even imprisoned if they break the rules. With nearly half of the UK population currently taking prescribed medication, millions of individuals could potentially fall foul of foreign laws. In China and Costa Rica, visitors are required to show an accompanying doctor’s letter with any medication they bring, while in Indonesia, codeine, sleeping pills and treatments for ADHD are illegal. The FCO recommends that travellers check destinations on its own website’s travel advice pages or the Department of Health’s TravelHealthPro website.

Night owls face more health risks than early risers

15/05/2018

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.

More exercise could be the key to quitting smoking

02/01/2018

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.

Smell associated with Parkinson's could lead to new diagnostic test

19/12/2017

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.

Risk of stillbirth is double in women who sleep on their backs

21/11/2017

A study of more than 1,000 women in the UK has found the risk of having a stillbirth is doubled if expectant mothers sleep on their backs during the third trimester of their pregnancies. For the study, the researchers analysed 291 pregnancies that ended in stillbirth and 735 that resulted in a live birth. Their findings were published Monday in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. Echoing findings from smaller studies conducted in New Zealand and Australia, the recent study found that women sleeping on their backs had 2.3 times the risk of stillbirth. Interestingly, according to the researchers, the position women fall asleep in is most important and pregnant mothers should not worry if they are on their backs when they awake. Approximately one in 225 pregnancies in the UK ends in stillbirth. The study authors estimate that about 130 babies' lives a year could be saved if women followed the advice to sleep on their sides instead of their backs. Prof. Alexander Heazell, clinical director at the Tommy's Stillbirth Research Centre at St Mary's Hospital in Manchester, who led the research, said women in the third trimester of their pregnancies should sleep on their side for any episode of sleep, including daytime naps. While researchers can’t say for certain why the risk of stillbirth is increased when women go to sleep on their backs, there is a lot of data that suggests it’s due to the combined weight of the baby and womb putting pressure on blood vessels. This can lead to blood and oxygen being restricted to the baby.

Just a few nights of bad sleep can impact your mental health

02/11/2017

The benefits of a full night’s sleep are well known. Insomniacs across the world will tell you what sleep deprivation can do to your mind and body. But now it seems that just a few nights of bad sleep could impact your mental health too. A team of scientists from the University of Oxford in the UK ran a small experiment using four volunteers who normally sleep just fine. The volunteers were fitted with monitors to track their sleep. For the first three nights of the study, they were allowed to sleep normally. For the next three nights, their sleep was restricted to just four hours per night. Each day of the study, the volunteers filled out questionnaires about how they were feeling and kept video diaries. Three out of the four volunteers said the experience was unpleasant, while one said he was largely unaffected. However, tests showed that his mood was significantly impacted, with positive emotions falling and negative emotions rising. Doctoral student Sarah Reeve, one of the scientists who ran the experiment, was surprised by how quickly the volunteers’ moods changed. "There were increases in anxiety, depression and stress, also increases in paranoia and feelings of mistrust about other people", she said. "Given that this happened after only three nights of sleep deprivation, that is pretty impressive."

Children with TVs in their bedrooms have an increased risk of obesity

06/06/2017

Children who have TVs in their bedrooms are more likely to be overweight than those who don’t, according to new research. Published in the International Journal of Obesity, the study by scientists from University College London analysed data from more than 12,000 children in the UK. They found that girls in particular were more likely to put on weight the longer they spent watching TV. The scientists found more than 50% of the children had TVs in their bedrooms at the age of seven. Interestingly, girls who had TVs in their bedrooms at the age of seven were 30% more likely to be overweight by the time they were 11, compared to kids who did not have TVs in their bedrooms. For boys, the risk was slightly less at 20%. While the link between TVs and being overweight isn’t fully known, the researchers believe it is due to the children getting less sleep and snacking while they are in front of their TVs. Researcher Dr Anja Heilmann said: "Our study shows there is clear link between having a TV in the bedroom as a young child and being overweight a few years later." The scientists behind the research are now calling for more studies to see if similar patterns exist with laptops and mobile phones.

Toddlers who use touchscreen devices sleep less

17/04/2017

Toddlers who regularly use touchscreen devices, such as smartphones and tablets, don't sleep as well as their counterparts who don't, according to new research. The study in Scientific Reports shows that every hour a toddler spends playing with a touchscreen device each day shortens their sleep by almost 16 minutes. Conducted by Birkbeck, University of London and King’s College London, the study questioned 715 parents, with kids under three years old, about their children's touchscreen device usage and sleep patterns. It found that 75% of toddlers used a touchscreen device on a daily basis and slept for nearly 16 minutes less for every hour of use as a result. While the study isn't definitive, it does suggest that playing with touchscreen devices could be linked with possible sleep problems. However, the study also found that toddlers who play with smartphones and tablets have accelerated development of their fine motor skills. Speaking about the findings of the study, Dr Tim Smith, one of the researchers involved told the BBC: "It isn't a massive amount when you're sleeping 10-12 hours a day in total, but every minute matters in young development because of the benefits of sleep." His advice is not to ban toddlers from playing with touchscreen devices altogether, but to limit the amount of time they spend on them instead - the same as a lot of parents do with time spent in front of the TV.

Night-time toilet trips linked to salt intake - study

28/03/2017

Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night with an urge to go to the toilet? A new study from Japan suggests that it could be linked with the amount of salt you consume. For the study, researchers from Nagasaki University analysed more than 300 volunteers. They found that a reduced salt intake caused people to urinate less in the middle of the night. The problem - called nocturia - is thought to mainly affect people over the age of 60. It disrupts sleep and can have a significant impact on people's lives. Presenting their findings at the European Society of Urology congress in London, the researchers said that a sensible diet could help to improve the symptoms of nocturia. During the study, patients with a high salt intake were advised to cut back. Instead of needing the toilet more than twice a night their trips dropped to just one. As a result, their quality of life also improved. To add extra weight to the study's findings, 98 volunteers were asked to eat more salt than normal. They found they went to the toilet more often at night time. Study author Dr Matsuo Tomohiro said that while larger studies were needed to confirm the link, the results could still offer help for older people. "This work holds out the possibility that a simply dietary modification might significantly improve the quality of life for many people," he said.

Mixing alcohol and energy drinks can lead to people being 'wide awake drunk'

22/03/2017

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."

Arthritic Knees? Surgery Could be the Answer

03/11/2016

Many people have arthritis in their knees and the pain they experience makes walking even short distances a massive struggle. Furthermore, the pain can also occur even when they're not walking, which can make getting a good night's sleep almost impossible. And while some individuals get relief in the form of cortisone shots, lubricant shots and physical therapy, many others do not. It gets to the point, quite simply, where their knees need replacing. For people who have severe bone-on-bone arthritis and have tried and failed to relieve it using non-surgical methods, there's only one next step to take: knee-replacement surgery. The bottom line is that despite them offering some relief, techniques like bracing and PRP injections or stem-cell injections are unlikely to provide benefits in the long-term. The good news is that the technology used for knee-replacement surgery has come on leaps and bounds in recent years, and this has enabled less-invasive techniques to be utilised. In addition, surgeons are able to achieve better knee alignments and the knee implants themselves have a greater lifespan. When the pain becomes no longer bearable, most people turn to surgery for the answer. In our experience, the vast majority of knee-replacement surgery patients have significant pain relief and better function post-surgery. The key to recovery lies in the patient's motivation to work with their physiotherapist and their determination to regain both motion and strength in their knee(s). To find out how France Surgery can assist you with knee-replacement surgery in France, contact us today.

A Quick Guide to Cataract Surgery

27/10/2016

A cataract is a clouding of the eye's normally clear lens which can lead to diminished vision. And while the condition more commonly affects older individuals, people of all ages can get them. The good news, though, is that cataract surgery is a common procedure nowadays and statistics show that there is a high success rate of healthy vision post-surgery. In fact, uncomplicated cataract surgery can take just 10 minutes in some instances and patients can find themselves going home as quickly as 30 minutes after the procedure has been completed. Of course, as with most types of surgery, you'll need a friend or relative to help take you home afterwards as you'll be unable to drive. You'll also need to put drops in your eyes to prevent infection and may be advised to wear an eye shield to protect it while you sleep. Post-surgery patients are also told to avoid strenuous activities and not put their heads below their waistlines until the eye is completely healed. This takes around 8 weeks or so, after which time you'll be able to live a normal life once more - except with the benefit of rejuvenated vision. You can find out more about cataract surgery and see the clinics France Surgery utilises that specialise in the procedure here.

Daytime Naps Could Be Warning Sign for Type-2 Diabetes

15/09/2016

Long naps of more than an hour during the day could be a warning sign for type-2 diabetes, according to a new study by Japanese researchers. The link was discovered by the researchers at the University of Tokyo while analysing observational studies involving more than 300,000 people. Their findings will be presented at a meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes in Munich. Specifically, their research found that people who napped for more than an hour during the day had a 45% greater risk of type-2 diabetes than those who didn't take daytime naps. Interestingly, no link was found with naps of less than 40 minutes. UK experts have said that individuals with undiagnosed diabetes and other long-term illnesses often feel tired during the day. However, they also said there is no evidence at present to suggest that napping during the day increases a person's risk of developing diabetes. One possible explanation is that sleep deprivation, caused by busy work schedules and/or social commitments, potentially leads to increased appetite, which in turn could increase the risk of type-2 diabetes. Commenting on the researchers' findings, Naveed Sattar, a professor of metabolic medicine at the University of Glasgow, said: "It's likely that risk factors which lead to diabetes also cause napping. This could include slightly high sugar levels, meaning napping may be an early warning sign of diabetes."

France Surgery confirmed as finalist at 2016 IMTJ awards

26/04/2016

Last year, at the International Medical Travel Journal's (IMTJ) annual awards ceremony, France Surgery was named ‘Medical Travel Agency of the Year 2015’. It was a huge honour for us and fantastic recognition for all the hard work we've been doing over the years to help people benefit from the world-class healthcare facilities in France. And now it's with great pleasure that we can announce that France Surgery has once again been nominated for an award at the IMTJ's awards dinner and ceremony on May 24th 2016 in Madrid. This year, France Surgery is being recognised for its unique recovery offer and that has seen us become finalists in the 'Best Marketing Initiative' category. Introducing... De-Light concept at the Sofitel Quiberon Diététique.                Image credit: Sofitel Quiberon Diététique- © Eric Cuvillier et STramier Nestled opposite Belle-Ile-en-Mer Island in beautiful Brittany, Sofitel Quiberon Diététique features a unique combination of treatments delivered in a pioneering Thalassotherapy Institute, which is world-renowned for its specialised gourmet diet cuisine. Being the only five-star hotel in France totally dedicated to slimming, this resort offers treatment programs for every type of weight loss project, combining a large range of expertise, innovative treatments and state-of-the-art techniques. At Le Delight restaurant, Head Chef Patrick Jarno, the expert of diet gastronomy, creates sensory, gourmet, yet light dishes. Working with a team of dietitians, he has spent over 30 years proving that healthy eating can be truly delicious and satisfying. Surrounded by care and attention, you will discover a totally unique approach: the 5Ps of slimming: The Pleasure of a sensory and gourmet gastronomy Personalised support The Preventive and curative properties of seawater Predictive care through tests and check-ups in order to better take care of your vitality, sleep and beauty A Participative stay to take control of your weight loss and overall health Wait no more and join us for a wonderful voyage to a peaceful peninsula; hugged by wild beaches and the Atlantic Ocean, where you can detox and tone your body with personalised treatments and support.

The Health Benefits of Honey

17/11/2015

Honey is one of the sweetest and most natural food products there is. It’s made by bees through a process of regurgitation and evaporation, then stored as a primary food source in wax honeycombs within the beehive. This is usually from where it is harvested for human consumption. But whether you’re a huge fan of honey, or will happily pass it up, there’s no denying the strong association it has long held with health benefits. First up, there’s the fact that many health experts believe that consuming honey instead of sugar results in a more gradual rise in blood sugar levels, which in turn helps to regulate your hunger levels. Honey is also recommended as a natural cough remedy by both the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the American Academy of Paediatrics. In fact, a 2007 study by Penn State College of Medicine found that honey consumption led to reduced night time coughing and improved sleep quality for children suffering with upper respiratory tract infections. If you suffer with heartburn, you may already know about honey’s effectiveness as a treatment. Experts believe its viscose nature enable it to coat the upper gastroesophageal tract, preventing stomach acid from rising. Lastly, there are honey’s antibacterial properties. It contains the protein defensin-1, which can actually kill bacteria. Furthermore, unpasteurised, raw honey can actually be used as a topical agent on open wounds because of its antibacterial qualities, but should never be used in place of a topical solution prescribed by a doctor.

You Could Soon be Able to Sleep at the Palace of Versailles

15/09/2015

The French government body that manages the Palace of Versailles is inviting private companies to bid for the right to create and run a hotel for 60 years in three of the 17th century mansions. Interested parties must place their bids before September 14 to stand a chance of running a hotel in the Grand Contrôle, the Petit Contrôle or the Pavillon. Access to the hotel will need to be facilitated by roads outside the estate and not all rooms will lead out into the palace grounds. Those that do, however, will afford guests beautiful views of the Versailles gardens and maybe even the palace itself. Repairs to the roof and walls alone are estimated at between €4-7 million, so potential investors will need to be prepared to part with very large sums of money. Apparently, though, according to the Journal du Dimanche, leading hotel chain AccorHotels has expressed an interest. A source close to the Versailles managing body said the plan was part of a policy from the culture ministry "to renovate and add value to historic monuments' spaces and installing economic activities". One of the buildings was actually the French finance ministry under King Louis XV, up until the French revolution in 1789. The Palace of Versailles is France’s third most visited tourist attraction, with over seven million people visiting it every year. If the project is a success, you could soon be spending the night there and feeling what it’s like to sleep as a French king for the night.   Photo credit: Telegraph.com

Endoscopic Carpal Tunnel Surgery

23/01/2015

ENDOSCOPIC CARPAL TUNNEL SURGERY The carpal tunnel syndrome is extremely common (5 per 1000 in the U.S.) It corresponds to the compression of the median nerve in the carpal tunnel. The carpal tunnel is an anatomical region located in the palm of the hand between the carpal bones and the flexor carpi. This tunnel contains nine flexor tendons and median nerve. The carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the synovial tissue surrounding the tendon becomes thickened. It takes more space in the canal and the median nerve is compressed. In most cases, no cause is found for this compression. More rarely, it can be a compression-related trauma, endocrine causes (pregnancy, thyroid disease, diabetes ...) due to a rheumatic (rheumatoid arthritis, amyloidosis). In some cases, this syndrome can be recognised as an occupational disease linked to repetitive flexion-extension. SYMPTOMS AND CLINICAL REVIEW The clinical picture is dominated by the presence of paresthesia (tingling, numbness, electric shock, feeling dead fingers) in the thumb, index and middle fingers predominantly at night or early morning. Usually the patient wakes up and shakes his hand to remove the symptoms. May be associated, pain radiating into the hand of the forearm. In some case patients complain of dropping objects, or having difficulty by opening the bottle tops or doors. TREATMENT The treatment is medical or surgical. It depends on the severity of clinical disease and electromyography. Medical treatment consists of putting a wrist splint at night associated with analgesic treatment in case of pain. It is possible, to infiltrate the hydrocortisone the carpal tunnel which has the effect of relieving symptoms or wait several weeks before surgery. Surgical treatment cures carpal tunnel syndrome. It consists of tunnel opening by cutting the anterior annular ligament and thus decreasing the pressure inside the tunnel. The operation is performed on an outpatient basis (the patient does not sleep in the hospital), under local anaesthesia or locoregional (general anaesthesia is used only if the patient wishes). The procedure is done through a short incision in the palm of the hand (2 cm) or endoscopically (using a camera) with a 1 cm incision in the wrist. There is no significant difference between the two techniques. Probably, the recovery of hand function is faster with the endoscopic technique.

Paediatric ENT

20/08/2014

PAEDIATRIC ENT Is your child in need of ENT surgery? If so, France Surgery could be the healthcare partner that you’ve been looking for. Read on to find out more about the range of ENT procedures available in France – all of which are of the highest-quality, affordably priced and have little to no waiting times. France Surgery can help facilitate the following paediatric procedures: Adenoidectomy An adenoidectomy is a surgical procedure that is performed to remove the adenoids, which are a mass of lymphoid tissue situated where the back of the nose meets the throat. The adenoids can become enlarged and infected which can lead to obstructed breathing and sleep apnea. Tonsillectomy Similar in nature to an adenoidectomy, a tonsillectomy is performed to remove a child’s tonsils. Like the adenoids, the tonsils are part of the lymphoid tissue located at the back of the throat. A child may experience bouts of tonsillitis, which leads to enlarged and painful tonsils that often need antibiotic treatment. However, your child’s doctor may recommend a tonsillectomy if these infections are frequent. Grommet Insertion Children suffering from glue ear may need grommets inserted to resolve the condition. A grommet is a small tube which is inserted into the child’s ear through a cut in the eardrum and is designed to drain away fluid and maintain air pressure. The procedure itself only takes around 15 minutes, so your child should be able to go home the very same day. Cysts and congenital fistulas of the face and neck Some children are born with cysts and/or fistulas on their faces and/or necks. Congenital fistulas are small holes that are usually located in front of the ear or on the neck. Cysts are swollen areas situated in the middle or side of the neck. Both cysts and fistulas can lead to problems with infection and surgery is often required to prevent further complications going forward. Choanal Atresia Choanal atresia is a condition whereby the back of the nasal passage is blocked by bone or soft tissue. It is present at birth and can either be unilateral (just one side) or bilateral (both sides). Surgery is inevitably needed to open the nasal passage, thus allowing the child to breathe easier. Cleft Palate Children born with cleft palates are particularly susceptible to middle ear infections and so corrective surgery is often necessary. This usually consists of inserting tubes into the child’s ear to drain excess fluid and reduce the risk of infection. Our surgical partners are part of the Cleft Palate Competence Centre of Toulouse. Ear Surgery We can facilitate a number of different ear surgeries for your child here in France, including: Surgery for chronic otitis Middle ear implants and bone-anchored hearing aids Surgery for congenitally prominent ears (otoplasty) Functional and reparative surgery of ear malformations Many of the procedures outlined above can be undergone on an outpatient basis, so contact us today for more detailed information on a particular surgery. When it comes to the health of your children, you can never be too careful. They may be suffering with conditions that need urgent attention and the long waiting times in some healthcare systems are not an option. Furthermore, you want to be sure that the medical professionals responsible for your children’s welfare are world-class and operating within a high-quality healthcare system. For these reasons, you should look no further than France and the excellent level of healthcare that it offers – even to international patients. Let France Surgery facilitate your child’s ENT surgery today.

What every patient needs to know about a Thyroidectomy

13/08/2014

A thyroidectomy is a surgical procedure used to remove all or just a part of the thyroid gland which is located at the base of your neck.  Why is a thyroidectomy used? A doctor may decide that your thyroid should be removed for the following reasons: Hyperthyroidism – a condition where the thyroid gland is overactive. If this cannot be controlled effectively with medication a thyroidectomy will be a possible solution Goitre – an enlarged thyroid gland A cyst or benign lump on the thyroid gland Cancer of the thyroid gland What happens during the procedure? Prior to a thyroidectomy, you will be given anaesthetic. This will usually be a general anaesthetic in order to put you to sleep. The surgeon will then make a cut into your lower neck and remove all or part of the thyroid gland. Your neck will then be closed using stitches which will need to be removed, or dissolvable stitches which will gradually disappear. How much scarring will there be? The cut will usually be made where you naturally have folds in your neck in order to ensure the scar is hidden as much as possible. What is the recovery time? Full recovery time can be a few weeks, however once you are home it is possible to carry on with non-strenuous daily activities. Photo Credit: © p6m5 - Fotolia.com

France World Heritage Site: The Fortified City of Carcassonne

03/07/2014

France has 37 UNESCO World Heritage Sites scattered throughout the country. From cities to beaches, mountains to canals. No trip to France would be complete without visiting one of these cultural sites. The Fortified City of Carcassonne is one such place. Located in the department of Aude, Languedoc-Roussillon Region, this city was given UNESCO World Heritage status in 1997 and is proud to be the number one tourist draw to France after the Tour Eiffel. Carcassonne is the picture perfect example of a medieval town - with its huge defences surrounding the stunning castle and nearby buildings, narrow cobbled streets and its stunning Gothic cathedral. In fact this fortified city is reported to have been the inspiration behind Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. It’s been home to Romans and Visigoths, but it wasn’t until the late 12th Century when it really thrived under the affluent Trencavel family where it played a major role in cross-border trade with Spain. That was until the Treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659, where Roussillon was restored to France and trading dried up. Inevitably the city became neglected. Money was thin and the walls of the Citadel were crumbling, until renowned architect Viollet-le-Duc started restoration work in the 1800’s. The castle and citadel shone once more. The region, and its millions of tourists, have Viollet-le-Duc to thank for being able to visit this beautiful fortified city in all its glory. Photo credits: Flickr

Bariatric

05/06/2014

What is weight loss surgery about? Obesity is a chronic disease. It can lead to difficulties in everyday life. It may also be affecting your general health and cause diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, sleep apnoea ... Obesity surgery, often referred to as bariatric surgery, has been developed to help you lose weight permanently and control the diseases caused by obesity. However, to have surgery is an important decision and should only be made once all alternatives have been assessed. The Hospitals and clinics that are partners with France SURGERY are all recognised European Centres of Excellence in bariatric surgery by the EAC-BS European Accreditation Council for Bariatric Surgery.

Bariatric (fr)

17/04/2014

What is weight loss surgery about ? Obesity is a chronic disease. It can lead to difficulties in everyday life. It may also be affecting your general health and cause diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, sleep apnoea ... Obesity surgery, often referred to as bariatric surgery, has been developed to help you lose weight permanently and control the diseases caused by obesity. However, to have surgery is an important decision and should only be made once all alternatives have been assessed. The Hospitals and clinics that are partners with France SURGERY are all recognised European Centres of Excellence in bariatric surgery by the EAC-BS European Accreditation Council for Bariatric Surgery.

Reasons to choose a healthier lifestyle

08/04/2014

There are many reasons why you should opt to lead a healthy life. Not just for your own benefit, but for that of those around you. In today’s modern life, a combination of lack of time and processed foods are all too commonplace, making it ‘acceptable’ to take the easy road when it comes to your health. But at what cost? The stats say it all - a recent UK Think Tank survey states that the number of overweight and obese adults in the developing world has almost quadrupled to around one billion since 1980. But it’s not too late to start leading a healthier lifestyle. By putting simple steps in place, you and your family can enjoy a long and healthy life together. Top 5 reasons to choose a healthier lifestyle: 1. To be able to fight infections more easily. By eating a healthy balanced diet your body is getting the full range of nutrients it needs to build a solid defence against harmful bacteria. 2. To have reduced body fat. Eating a healthy balanced diet regularly throughout the day will mean your body is continually getting the right proportion of carbs, fats and protein. This in turn ensures your metabolism runs efficiently without the need to store fat – which can occur through dieting or missed meals – so your body fat levels remain normal. 3. To have more energy. As a result of eating a balanced diet and maintaining normal body fat your energy levels will soar. Your body’s internal organs are being given the correct nutrients to function at an optimum level which in turn keeps you alert, active and energised. 4. To sleep better. When your body remains active and alert throughout the day it will naturally need time to recharge at night, so you get a great night’s sleep! 5. To have reduced stress. A combination of a balanced diet, eating regularly, reducing your body fat and having increased energy levels, will calm the body and mind to reduce stress. Photo credit: © kikkerdirk - Fotolia.com

Facts about Anaesthesia

23/01/2014

If you are contemplating surgery then you will most likely be having some form of anaesthesia and so knowing the facts will help you to make an informed choice and understand what will happen. Anaesthesia simply means ‘loss of sensation’, which is what anaesthetic medications are designed to achieve. A mixture of medications are combined to either put a patient to sleep or numb the pain in a specific area so that surgery can be carried out without the patient experiencing any pain. General anaesthetic This is the term used to refer to the type of anaesthetic that makes a patient completely unconscious so that they are not aware of the procedure and so will feel no pain. This type of anaesthetic is administered via injection or gas which puts the patient to sleep and is used for serious, complex or lengthy procedures. Regional/local anaesthetic This type of anaesthetic is used for minor surgery or procedures where the patient does not need to be unconscious but do need to feel no pain. This anaesthetic is given for a specific area of the body and is only intended to numb that area. There are different types of regional anaesthetic: epidural – type of regional anaesthetic that is used to numb the lower half of the body and is usually used during labour and childbirth spinal – regional anaesthetic that is used to give total numbness that lasts approximately three hours Possible side effects As with any medical procedure there are potential side effects that can affect people who have anaesthetic. Whilst these side effects are not usually serious they can make it uncomfortable to have anaesthetic. They do not often last for a long period of time. The side effects can include: feeling nauseous vomiting feeling faint or dizzy headache feeling cold and shivery aches and pains Photo credit: © dmitrimaruta - Fotolia.com

Tips to staying healthy over Christmas

24/12/2013

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

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