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Sep 30
Too much sitting bad news for office workers
New Australian research shows that no matter how physically active you are, your chances of dying before your time are increased by sitting for long periods.

And the more you sit, the greater the risk.

Those reporting the highest amount of daily sitting had a 48 per cent increased risk of premature death compared with those who sat for less than four hours a day, the research found.

This was independent of how much time they spent on physical activity.

The finding has come from the 45 and Up Study, which included more than 200,000 men and women in New South Wales in what researchers claim is the longest ongoing study in the Southern Hemisphere.

The study was set up to study healthy aging, and is managed by the Sax Institute in collaboration with the Cancer Council, the National Heart Foundation and NSW health agencies.

The Sax Institute is a coalition of 35 universities, public health and health service research groups.

Study co-author Professor Adrian Bauman, from the University of Sydney's school of public health, said the findings had important implications for public health programmes.

"They show that physical activity, while important, is no 'get out of jail free' card," he said.

Prof Bauman said programmes of the future might need to focus specifically on reducing prolonged periods of sitting as well as boosting the amount of exercise people undertook.

Earlier findings from the study had shown strong links between sedentary time and obesity.

But until now there had been limited evidence about the impact of sitting time on mortality risk.

Further work will be continued in a five-year follow-up study of 265,000 people enrolled in the research programme.

Sep 29
Begin heart health at home
Today is the World Heart Day. World Heart Day was created in 2000 to inform people around the globe that heart disease and stroke are the world's leading cause of death, claiming 17.1 million lives each year.

The World Heart Federation is trying to spread the news that at least 80% of premature deaths from heart disease and stroke could be avoided if the main risk factors, tobacco, unhealthy diet and physical inactivity, are controlled.

World Heart Day used to be celebrated on the last Sunday of September, but as of this year, World Heart Day will always take place on the 29th day of September.

The theme for this year's observance of World Heart Day is "One World, One Home, One heart".

One World

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) causes 29 per cent of all deaths globally each year, making it the world's number one killer. Global leaders have recognised the urgency to prioritise prevention and control of CVD together with other non-communicable diseases (NCDs), which include cancers, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes by holding the first ever United Nations high-level meeting on NCDs in September.

However, it is important that efforts to fight CVD do not rest only with policy makers and global leaders. Individuals throughout the world can also reduce the CVD burden, by learning about the risk factors and taking vital steps to reduce their own and their family's risk. As a hub for family activities, and as a focal point in everyone's life, the household is the perfect place to start taking action to improve heart health.

That is why this year the World Heart Day focuses on homes. By adapting a few household behaviours, people all over the world can have longer and better lives through the prevention and control of heart disease and stroke.

One Home

After two years of focusing on heart health in the workplace, this year the World Heart Federation calls on individuals to reduce their own and their family's risk of heart disease and stroke. WHF asks people to take charge of their home's heart health by taking steps such as choosing healthy food options, increasing physical activity, and saying no to tobacco.

This year, on World Heart Day, WHF and its members challenge you to take charge of your family's heart health and become your home's advocate for heart-healthy living.

Tobacco causes one-fifth of CVD worldwide. The risk of coronary heart disease can be cut by half one year by quitting smoking. By banning tobacco from your home, you can improve your own and your children's heart health. Starting the� day with a piece of fruit or preparing your own lunch at home ensures healthy options are taken to work or school. Families should limit the amount of time spent in front of the TV. Instead, organise outdoor activities such as cycling or hiking trips, or simply playing in the garden. Whenever possible, take bicycle or walk from home to your destination instead of using the car.

One Heart

Every year, 17.1 million lives are claimed by the global burden of cardiovascular disease, with 82 per cent of deaths occurring in low-and middle-income countries. This excessive number of deaths is particularly saddening, since through steps such as eating a healthy diet, regular physical activity and avoiding tobacco, the majority of these deaths could be prevented.

However, not all heart events are preventable. It is therefore important to know what action to take should a heart attack or ischaemic stroke occur in your home. Over 70 per cent of all cardiac and breathing emergencies occur in the home when a family member is present and available to help a victim.

Learn the signs and symptoms of a heart attack or stroke. Warning signs of heart attack include:

Chest discomfort, including squeezing or pain in the centre of the chest between the breasts or behind the breastbone.

Discomfort or pain spreading to other areas of the upper body such as one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.

Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort. Other signs include: unexplained weakness or fatigue, anxiety or unusual nervousness, indigestion or gas-like pain, breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea, vomiting, light-headedness and collapse.

Sep 27
The 'best Friend Effect' on Stress
According to the lead author of the study, Ryan Adams, an assistant professor of paediatrics at the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Centre, it is not any friend who can do the trick of relieving stressful times, but it is the magic of being with a best friend.

During the study, the saliva samples of kids were evaluated for levels of stress hormone cortisol. The hormone cortisol is released as a response to stress.

The study showed that just being in the company of a best friend, more than anyone else, seemed to cushion the stressful or negative experience and this resulted in reduced production of cortisol. Levels of cortisol seemed to rise when no friend was close by.

This study conducted on children could have similar implications on the experiences of adults too.

Sep 26
Brain Wiring Continues Into Young Adulthood
New medical research tends to confirm that the human brain does not stop developing in adolescence, but continues well into our 20s, according to investigators at the University of Alberta.

"This is the first long-range study, using a type of imaging that looks at brain wiring, to show that in the white matter there are still structural changes happening during young adulthood," said researcher Catherine Lebel, Ph.D. "The white matter is the wiring of the brain; it connects different regions to facilitate cognitive abilities. So the connections are strengthening as we age in young adulthood."

The findings are published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

In the study, researchers scanned the brains of 103 healthy people between the ages of five and 32 with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Each study subject was scanned at least twice, with a total of 221 scans being conducted overall.

Researchers determined that parts of the brain continue to develop post-adolescence within individual subjects. Specifically, the research revealed that young adult brains were continuing to develop wiring to the frontal lobe - areas responsible for complex cognitive tasks such as behavioral inhibition, high-level functioning and attention.

In the article, the researchers hypothesize that the continued wiring occurs because of the abundance of new life experiences that occur during young adulthood, such as pursuing post-secondary education, starting a career, forging independence and new social and family relationships.

Among the relatively young sample, researchers discovered that in some people, several brain tracts showed reductions in white matter integrity over time - a characteristic of brain degradation.

The researchers speculate that this brain scan observation may represent early stages of psychiatric disorders as these disorders typically develop in adolescence or young adulthood.

As such, the researchers believe further study is warranted to provide a better understanding of the relationship between psychiatric disorders and brain structure.

"What's interesting is a lot of psychiatric illness and other disorders emerge during adolescence, so some of the thought might be if certain tracts start to degenerate too soon, it may not be responsible for these disorders, but it may be one of the factors that makes someone more susceptible to developing these disorders," said co-author Christian Beaulieu, Ph.D.

Sep 24
Excessive nutrition killing more people than hunger
Almost one billion people around the globe go to bed hungry every night, but it is "excess nutrition" that kills more, according to world's largest humanitarian organisation IFRC.

"At least one billion people are undernourished while a staggering 1.5 billion people are overweight, including an increasing number in low and middle income countries," World Disasters Report-2011 by International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies stated.

"Excess nutrition kills 2.4 million annually, more than hunger," Jagan Chapagain, IFRC Asia Pacific director, said while releasing the report here today.

"The number of obese is increasing in India and China, home to nearly half the world's hungry people, other south east Asian countries. One of the reasons is increasing FDI and over-dependency on ready made or fast food," he said but maintained that there is no country specific data on the issue.

The IFRC argues that National Food Security Bill will not alone be sufficient to wipe out hunger from India and suggested a holistic approach to secure livelihood for poor and sufficient food grains production for achieving the goal.

"Food alone will not be the answer.... government needs to plan for providing livelihood to poor families and produce more food in sustainable manner," Mihoko Tamamura, World Food Programme director (India), said.

Sep 24
Akshay Kumar Becomes Ambassador For Heart Patients
Bollywood super star Akshay Kumar has been named as the ambassador of a Mumbai-based hospital with the aim to back up kids and old persons suffering from heart disease.

The 'Khiladi Kumar' is currently the 'Goodheart Ambassador' for Asian Heart Institute (AHI) to support the cause of more than one million infants born globally with congenital heart problems, mostly from economically depressed segments, and senior citizens fighting to eke out their second innings on meager resources.

AHI Vice-Chairman and Managing Director Ramakant Panda made this declaration.

"AHI has launched 'Asian Seva' to provide economical but expert cardiac treatment, surgery and medical care to the two most important segments of our society -- children and old citizens," Panda said.

The advantages under 'Asian Seva' can be gained by kids under 12 years and oldsters above 65 years of age.

Introducing the 'Asian Seva' on Thursday evening, Akshay stated, "This team, 'Messiahs of Heart', believes in giving back to society and the least we can do is support them in their noble endeavor."

Akshay said that when Ramakant Panda approached him with the offer to be the ambassador, "he left me with no reason to refuse".

The 'Asian Seva' will also team up energetically with the Retail Drugs and Chemists Association and pharmacists, numbering more than 1,000 in Mumbai.

"This segment plays an important role as many people don't come to us first. They go to the chemist and buy medicines to get back on their feet. This is the kind of trust people pose in them," Panda remarked.

Panda also rolled out a 24-hour helpline number 126126 for heart disease sufferers.

Sep 22
Death Toll in Himalayan Quake Reaches 100
Rescue workers are battling damaged roads and landslides to reach areas struck by Sunday's Himalayan earthquake that killed at least 100 people.

The 6.9-magnitude quake was centered in the Indian state of Sikkim and caused damage and fatalities across northeastern India, Nepal and the Chinese region of Tibet.

Sikkim officials said Wednesday there was still no contact with a number of villages in the quake zone and that the death toll my rise further.

A company building a hydroelectric plant in northern Sikkim said at least 17 of its workers had been killed in landslides triggered by the earthquake. Many workers were still unaccounted for.

Army officials say at least 45 tourists, including several foreigners, were rescued by helicopter Wednesday after being stranded in the popular mountain resort of Lachung.

Nepalese authorities reported at least seven quake-related deaths, while China's official Xinhua news agency said at least seven people were killed in southern Tibet.

Eighteen others were killed in the Indian states of West Bengal and Bihar.

Multiple landslides, fog and heavy rain had prevented many rescue workers from reaching the impact zone. Rescue efforts were in full effect Wednesday after more than 5,000 army troops blasted though rockfalls to clear a major highway leading to Mangan, a town near the epicenter.

Sep 21
New bird flu outbreak reported in India
Authorities in eastern India will start culling chickens and destroying eggs to contain a new outbreak of H5 bird flu, the government said in a statement on Tuesday, as a mutant strain of the virus is spreading elsewhere in Asia.

Surveillance was stepped up in West Bengal, a state severely hit by bird flu outbreaks in the past.

The federal government is pushing local authorities to ban the movement of poultry and its products, and restricting access to the affected area after samples tested positive for H5, a government statement said.

"It has been decided to immediately commence the culling of birds and destruction of eggs and feed material to control further spread of the disease," it said.

Last month, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned of a possible resurgence of bird flu and said a mutant strain of the H5N1 virus was spreading in Asia and beyond.

It was not immediately clear if the latest outbreak in India was related to the new Asian strain.

Virologists warn there is no vaccine against the H5N1 strain recently found in China and Vietnam that could potentially carry risks for humans and called for closer monitoring of the disease in poultry and wild birds to stop it spreading.

Bird flu first broke out in India in 2006 and millions of chickens and ducks have been culled since to contain the virus, but it has resurfaced from time to time.

India did not give further details about the exact strain of flu found in the latest outbreak West Bengal.

Sep 20
Bi-directional relation between schizophrenia and epilepsy confirmed
Researchers have confirmed that a bi-directional relation between schizophrenia and epilepsy exists claiming that patients with epilepsy are nearly 8 times more likely to develop schizophrenia and those with schizophrenia were close to 6 times more likely to develop epilepsy.

Using the data from the Taiwan National Health Insurance database, the team identified 5195 patients with schizophrenia and 11527 patients with epilepsy who were diagnosed between 1999 and 2008 and the patient groups were compared to age and sex-matched controls.

The analysis of the patients also included the incidence and risk of developing epilepsy in the schizophrenia patient group and schizophrenia in the epilepsy cohort.

The findings of the study show that the incidence of epilepsy was higher in the schizophrenia patient group at 6.99 per 1,000 person-years compared to 1.19 in the non-schizophrenia control, whereas the incidence of schizophrenia was 3.53 per 1,000 person-years for patient with epilepsy compared to 0.46 in the non-epilepsy group.

Researchers also reported that schizophrenia incidence was slightly higher in men with epilepsy than in women with the disease.

"Our research results show a strong bidirectional relation between schizophrenia and epilepsy," I-Ching Chou, lead author said.

"This relationship may be due to common pathogenesis in these diseases such as genetic susceptibility and environmental factors, but further investigation of the pathological mechanisms are needed," Chou added.

The study has been published in Epilepsia, a journal of the International League Against Epilepsy (ILAE).

Sep 19
25 dead in Sikkim quake, rescue efforts hit
At least 25 people have lost their lives and over 100 injured after a 6.8 magnitude earthquake hit Sikkim on Sunday evening. Authorities fear the toll could rise further. The exact extent of damages is yet to be assessed as relief and rescue is yet to reach affected areas.

Out of the 25 dead, 16 are from Sikkim, two from Bihar and five in West Bengal. Two Army personnel are also reported to have been killed in the quake in North Sikkim.

Army vehicles including a bus that went missing have been found and all personnel are safe. In all 50 Army columns have been deployed to help in the relief and rescue operations. Several cookhouses have been set up to provide food to those whose houses have been damaged.

The Bagdogra airbase has been made the centre of all operations.

The armed forces have deployed teams for relief and rescue activity; the Centre is also sending in emergency teams. But heavy rains, intermittent power cut, and loss of mobile phone connectivity are hampering rescue operations.

The 6.8 magnitude earthquake rocked Sikkim at 6.10 pm on Sunday. Mangan, 54 km from Gangtok, was the epicentre of the quake that left a trail of death and massive damages in its wake. The tremors were felt West Bengal, Bihar, Orissa, North East and Nepal.

The quake has cut off Sikkim. The national highway has been closed after heavy rains followed by landslides and there are reports of people being trapped. Army units have been sent to all the areas that have been hit by the quake.

The Centre has also rushed in teams of the National Disaster Response Force. They have been flown in from Delhi and Kolkata to Bagdora from where they proceeded by road.

Rescue operations underway

Rescue operations began within hours of the quake striking. Army columns in small teams have been deployed across Sikkim to provide humanitarian assistance. These columns comprise medical teams with first aid kits as well as engineers. Four-hundred personnel from the National Disaster Relief Force have reached Bagdogra from where they will move by road.

Thirty columns from the 33 Corps in Siliguri are also engaged in rescue activity. Bihar has sent 160 personnel to help in the relief efforts. The BSF rescue team and the dog squad have also been pressed into service.

Indo-Tibetan Border Police personnel rescued 200 civilians including 22 tourists. All of them have taken refuge at the Pegong camp. An IAF team carrying supplies is on its way.

Bihar, Gujarat offer assistance

Bihar and Bengal have sent rescue teams to Sikkim while Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi has also offered assistance.

"When the earthquake happened I too felt the termor. Our departments are on the job, we are gathering information," said Bihar Chief Minis Nitish Kumar.

"On behalf of the people of Gujarat I convey my condolences. Such a situation demands cooperation from all. The Gujarat government is ready to extend support to all those who have been affected," said Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.