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Feb 29
Sleeping pills may kill you early: Study
Taking sleeping pills frequently can increase the risk of premature death more than five-fold a new study has warned.

The study published in the British Medical Journal Open found that patients who even take fewer than 18 pills a year more likely to die early than those not on

The higher the dose the greater the risk. And those on higher doses also have an increased risk of cancer said the researchers at the Jackson Hole Centre for Preventive Medicine in Wyoming and the Scripps Clinic Viterbi Family Sleep Centre in California.

The commonly prescribed drugs that may raise such

risks included benzodiazepines newer sedative hypnotics zolpidem zopiclone and zaleplon and barbiturates and antihistamines.

However experts said worried patients should not stop taking the pills but talk to their doctors first the Daily Mail reported.

Feb 29
Untreated psychosis behind self inflicted blinding
The self-inflicted removal of one or both eyes, which has traditionally been attributed to sexual guilt, is, in fact, caused by untreated psychotic illness, such as schizophrenia, researchers have revealed.

This type of self-inflicted mutilating injury is fortunately very rare, the researchers noted, but over 50 cases have been published in medical journals over the past 50 years.

The phenomenon, which is variously referred to as oedipism, self enucleation or auto-enucleation, has been linked to sexual guilt - an association that stems from both classical Greek mythology and the Bible.

In Sophocles' tragedy, Oedipus the King (Oedipus Rex), it is prophesised that the protagonist will kill his father and sleep with his mother, and he ends up stabbing himself in both eyes.

This type of incestuous sexual attraction was popularised by the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud in the 19th century who attributed it to some of his patients, in what he described as the Oedipus complex.

A more persistent belief is that self enucleation is specifically associated with Christian religious guilt, as all the published cases have come from countries that were predominantly Christian, and some patients seem to have been influenced by a passage in the Gospel of Matthew.

This says: "And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee; for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell."

But the researchers, who have carried out two systematic reviews of published case reports of self enucleation and major self mutilation, conclude that self enucleation is invariably associated with psychotic illness, particularly untreated schizophrenia.

This is because the cases reported to date have come from a wide range of cultures, including China and Japan, and none described events remotely similar to Oedipus Rex.

And in almost every one, the patients held bizarre delusional beliefs about their eyes and had associated hallucinations, said the researchers.

"We concluded that cultural beliefs are not likely to be the cause of self enucleation because they are shared by a large number of people and cannot be a good explanation for the actions of the tiny minority who self enucleate," they wrote.

"In contrast, the rare and disturbing psychotic symptoms are a more plausible explanation for self enucleation than Oedipal conflicts or religious guilt," they stated.

The sexual guilt theory has persisted for as long as it has because the act of deliberate self blinding is so shocking and hard to comprehend, they suggested.

"Each case is disturbing and it is perhaps not surprising that doctors have sought to explain the patients' behaviour in the secure frameworks of their religious and cultural beliefs," they asserted.

"However, a more helpful way of understanding and responding to self enucleation is to recognise that it is a rare complication of severe psychosis that requires urgent medical attention," they concluded.

Feb 28
Sleeping pills twice a month = Death four times more likely
People who take sleeping pills twice a month are nearly four times more likely to die prematurely, a study has found. The researchers said the findings raised serious questions about the safety of sleeping tablets.

The hundreds of thousands of people who use the pills should consider therapies to tackle insomnia instead.

People taking higher doses of the commonly-prescribed temazepam pills, which were dispensed 2.8?million times in England in 2010, were six times more likely to die in the next two-and-a-half years.

People taking the drugs were also more likely to develop cancer. The study, published in the British Medical Journal Open, analysed 10,500 patients on a wide range of sleeping pills.

They compared them with people who were not using the drugs but had a similar way of life and health conditions.

For the drug zolpidem, which was prescribed 733,000 times in England in 2010, the risk of death was 5.7 times higher for those taking them most frequently. The drug zopiclone was prescribed

5.3?million times in England in 2010. It was included in the full analysis but not calculated separately.

The lead author, Dr Daniel Kripke, of the Scripps Clinic, wrote in the British Medical Journal Open: "The meagre benefits of hypnotics [sleeping pills], as critically reviewed by groups without financial interest, would not justify substantial risks. A consensus is developing that cognitive-behavioural therapy of chronic insomnia may be more successful than hypnotics."

Sleeping pills, known as hypnotics, are believed to increase depression and can impair driving skills.

The authors said their findings, together with similar findings in previous studies, should be used by authorities to reassess whether even modest doses of sleeping pills were safe.

Dr Trish Groves, the editor of the journal, said: "Although the authors have not been able to prove that sleeping pills cause premature death, their analyses have ruled out a wide range of other possible factors."

NHS guidelines say zolpidem should be used at the lowest possible dose for a maximum of up to four weeks.

Zaleplon should be used only at the lowest dose and for a maximum of up to two weeks, while temazepam should be taken for a maximum of four weeks. Nina Barnett, a Royal Pharmaceutical Society spokesman on medicines for older persons, said: "This is an important study and although it is unlikely radically to change prescribing in the immediate term, it should raise awareness.

"Patients should not stop taking any prescribed medicines straight away. If you are concerned discuss this with your pharmacist or doctor about other ways of getting help with sleep problems."

Malcolm Lader, professor of clinical psychopharmacology at the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London, said people should not panic as a result of the findings and stop their medication.

Prof Lader said more work was needed on the research.

"I agree that these drugs do have problems but I find some of these results quite difficult to accept," he said.

"The main one is that with 18 doses a year you have three times the mortality - that's quite incredible because you would have people dropping like flies."

A spokesman for the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency said, "Hypnotics should be used to treat insomnia only when it is severe and use should be restricted to short-term.

"We will consider the results of this latest study and whether it has any implications for current prescribing guidance."

Feb 28
Bad breath chemical can help create liver cells, says study
A chemical that causes bad breath can be used to convert dental stem cells into human liver cells, a finding which scientists say could help repair the key organ if damaged.

Researchers at the Nippon Dental University in Japan found that Hydrogen sulphide- the gas famed for generating the stench in stink bombs, flatulence and bad breath- can be harnessed to create liver cells which could prove a valuable treatment for patients. According to the scientists, small amounts of hydrogen sulphide are made by the body. It is also produced by bacteria and is toxic in large quantities.

The scientists found that the gas increased the purity and proportion of the stem cells.which were converted to liver cells when used alongside other chemicals.

"High purity means there are less 'wrong cells' that are being differentiated to other tissues, or remaining as stem cells," lead researcher Dr Ken Yaegaki said.

One of the concerns with dental pulp as a source of stem cells is the number that can be harvested. However, the study, which appeared in the Journal of Breath Research, did not say how many cells were actually produced.

Prof Chris Mason, a specialist in regenerative medicine at University College London, said, "It would be interesting to see how hydrogen sulphide works with other cells types."

Feb 27
Zero-polio status for 4 years
As the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared India polio-free, the Odisha Government on Sunday claimed that it has achieved zero-polio status for fours year on the trot.

Marking the pulse polio immunisation drive, Health Minister Prasanna Acharya said although the State has achieved the zero-polio status for four consecutive years, maintaining it during the years to come is a challenge. He urged families to take their children below five years for polio drop administration.

Acharya kicked off the immunisation drive from the health centre at Unit III. The drive will be conducted across 30 districts in 18,684 centres. The State Government targets to cover 46,56,254 children under the immunisation drive during the three-day period.

Last year, 46,05,670 children below five years were administered polio drops. For this year, the Health department and its allied agencies have deployed 37,368 squads comprising 74,737 workers and 3,737 supervisors.

Feb 27
Overeating may cause memory loss too
Overeating has been linked to a host of health hazards like high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke. Conditions such as memory loss, dementia and even Alzheimer's may also be added to the list soon, according to a new study.

Preliminary findings of a study on ageing conducted by the Mayo Clinic indicate that overeating may greatly increase the risk of memory loss for elderly people.

The results found a correlation between caloric intake in the elderly and the onset of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) -- the stage between normal age-related memory loss and early Alzheimer's disease.

In 2006, the Mayo Clinic chose a random sample of 1,233 people in Minnesota, aged between 70 and 89 years, with none previously diagnosed with dementia.

They asked the participants to fill out a questionnaire describing their diets over the previous year. On the basis of their answers, the researchers grouped the participants into three categories: those whose daily caloric consumption was between 600 and 1,526 calories; between 1,526 and 2,143; and between 2,143 and 6,000.

Each participant then underwent a series of MRI brain scans and cognitive tests. Correlating caloric intake with test performance, the researchers found the odds of having MCI more than doubled for those in the highest calorie-consuming group compared with those in the lowest calorie group.

"With MCI, the person is not demented. But when you test them on certain memory tests they do poorly as compared to their age-, education- and sex-matched peers," study author Yonas Geda was quoted as saying by Scientific American.

Feb 25
How eating oranges and grapefruit can cut the risk of a stroke by their anti-inflammatory properties
Eating oranges and grapefruit could cut your risk of stroke, claim researchers.

Both the whole fruit and breakfast juices appear to protect against having a 'brain attack', probably due to their high content of a certain type of antioxidant.

A new study looked at citrus fruit for the first time, rather than a range of fruit and vegetables which have been linked to stroke protection.

The study involved thousands of women taking part in the ongoing Nurses' Health Study in the US, but experts believe the benefits may also apply to men.

Every year in the UK, approximately 120,000 people have a stroke and 20-30 per cent die within a month, while 300,000 people are living with disabilities as a result.

A research team based at Norwich Medical School in the University of East Anglia investigated the strength of protection from flavonoids, a class of antioxidant compounds present in fruits, vegetables, dark chocolate and red wine.

Feb 25
India may be taken off polio endemic nations list
India is hoping to be taken off the list of polio endemic nations with mounting evidence to show that the transmission of the virus is at an all time low.

For the first time since November 2010, most of the environmental samples tested to know if the polio virus is circulating in the air, have been found to be negative.

When asked about the move, former president of Rotary International Rajendra Saboo told PTI, "Yes, it is possible. Things look positive and the signals are favourable too."

He said, "The process of putting India off the list is on. The WHO is the certifying body. Its monitoring board is making assessment of our progress and the process is nearing an end. Results are expected to be favourable to India."

Rotary International has been involved with the polio eradication initiative worldwide, especially in India.

Saboo said India can be put off the list of endemic nations for polio, "as we can see from the sewage samples collected that there is no polio virus in the air".

A health ministry official said, "a few samples remain to be tested. But so far majority of the samples tested from sewage disposal sites of four migration hubs of the country have been found to be negative. This is a very encouraging sign, a proxy indicator that we are well on track to eradicate polio."

Health Ministry officials said they were hoping for the WHO to assess the mounting positive evidence and come out with their report accordingly, hoping that the WHO's certification may help India move out of the endemic nation list soon.

Sources said the announcement may well be made at the two -day Polio Summit where the World Health Organisations' assistant director-general for polio, emergencies Dr Bruce Aylward will be present.

Feb 24
Now, a gel to repair tissue damaged by heart attacks!
Researchers claim to have developed a new injectable hydrogel which they say could be used to repair tissue damaged by heart attacks.

A team at the University of California, led by Karen Christman, hopes to bring the gel to clinical trials within the next year, the latest edition of `Journal of the American College of Cardiology` reported.

Therapies like the hydrogel would be a welcome development, Christman explained, since there are an estimated 785,000 new heart attack cases in the US each year, with no established treatment for repairing the resulting damage to cardiac tissue.

The hydrogel is made from cardiac connective tissue that is stripped of heart muscle cells through a cleansing process, freeze-dried and milled into powder form, and then liquefied into a fluid that can be easily injected into the heart.

Once it hits body temperature, the liquid turns into a semi-solid, porous gel that encourages cells to repopulate areas of damaged cardiac tissue and to preserve heart function, according to Christman.

The hydrogel forms a scaffold to repair the tissue and possibly provides biochemical signals that prevent further deterioration in the surrounding tissues.

"It helps to promote a positive remodelling-type response, not a pro-inflammatory one in the damaged heart," Christman said in a release by the university.

What`s more, the researchers` experiments show that the gel also can be injected through a catheter, a method that is minimally invasive and does not require surgery or general anaesthesia.

The gel has been found to improve heart function in pigs with cardiac damage, which brings this potential therapy one step closer to humans, Christman said.

Feb 24
Antipsychotics death risk charted in dementia patients
Some antipsychotic medication may increase the risk of death in patients with dementia more than others, according to US research.

The drugs have a powerful sedative effect so are often used when dementia patients become aggressive or distressed.

Experts said better alternatives were needed to antipsychotics.

A study in 2009, suggested 180,000 people with dementia were taking antipsychotic medication in the UK and said the drugs resulted in 1,800 additional deaths.
Data differences

Researchers at Harvard Medical School followed 75,445 people in nursing homes who had dementia and were prescribed antipsychotics.

The researchers said some drugs were associated with more than twice the risk of death than risperidone, another antipsychotic which was used as a benchmark to compare the other drugs.

The study concluded: "The data suggest that the risk of mortality with these drugs is generally increased with higher doses and seems to be highest for haloperidol and least for quetiapine."

However, the way the study was conducted meant it could not say definitively that certain drugs actually caused more deaths, merely that there was a link between the two.

The Department of Health said antipsychotic use was "resulting in as many as 1,800 unnecessary deaths per year. This is simply unacceptable."

"That's why reducing the level of antipsychotics prescribing for people with dementia by two-thirds is one the key priorities in the National Dementia Strategy."

The Dementia Action Alliance - which includes the Alzheimer's Society, Age UK and the Department of Health - has called for all prescriptions for antipsychotics to be reviewed by the end of March 2012.

Dr Chris Fox, who researches dementia at the University of East Anglia, said: "This study provides an interesting insight into the differential harm of these medicines.

"More work is needed on alternatives to these medicines in dementia with behavioural problems.

"In addition, there is a need to consider duration of use in more acute situations such as severe distress. Is six or 12-week use safe in people with dementia?"

Alzheimer's Research UK's chief executive Rebecca Wood said the risks of antipsychotics were "well-established" yet "progress has been frustratingly slow" in reducing their use.

She said the drugs "should only be used for people with dementia where there is no alternative for dealing with challenging behaviour".

Dr Anne Corbett, research manager at Alzheimer's Society, said: "For a minority of people with dementia antipsychotics should be used, but then only for up to 12 weeks, and under the correct circumstances. For the majority, they do far more harm than good."

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