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Medical News & Updates
Mar 30
Smoking linked to psychiatric illness
Experts have said that smoking could be a sign of psychiatric illness.

They added that doctors should routinely consider referring people, who smoke to mental health services, in case they need treatment, the Independent reported.
The controversial recommendation from the charity British Lung Foundation has come in response to a major report, Smoking and Mental Health, published this week by the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Psychiatrists with the Faculty of Public Health.

The report said that almost one in three cigarettes smoked in Britain now is smoked by someone who is suffering from a mental disorder.

The reason the report gave is that smoking rates have more than halved over the past 50 years, but the decline has not happened equally in all parts of society.

According to the report, of the ten million smokers in Britain, up to 3 million have a mental disorder and up to 2 million have been prescribed a psychoactive drug in the past year and approaching 1 million have longstanding [mental] disease.

While smoking rates have fallen dramatically, from 56 percent in men and 42 percent in women in the early 1960s to 21 percent in both sexes today, they have hardly changed among people with mental disorders and remain at over 40 percent.

Professor Stephen Spiro , deputy chair of the British Lung Foundation, said that persuading people with mental disorders to give up smoking was a major challenge but so was identifying smokers who could need psychiatric treatment.

Mar 30
Eating more fiber could reduce risk of first-time stroke
Eating more fiber can decrease your risk of first-time stroke, a new study suggests.

Dietary fiber is the part of the plant that the body doesn`t absorb during digestion. Fiber can be soluble, which means it dissolves in water, or insoluble.

Previous research has shown that dietary fiber may help reduce risk factors for stroke, including high blood pressure and high blood levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) "bad" cholesterol.

In the study, researchers found that each seven-gram increase in total daily fiber intake was associated with a 7 percent decrease in first-time stroke risk.

One serving of whole wheat pasta, plus two servings of fruits or vegetables, provides about 7 grams of fiber, researchers said.

"Greater intake of fiber-rich foods - such as whole-grains, fruits, vegetables and nuts - are important for everyone, and especially for those with stroke risk factors like being overweight, smoking and having high blood pressure," Diane Threapleton, M.Sc., and Ph.D. candidate at the University of Leeds` School of Food Science and Nutrition in Leeds, United Kingdom said.

Researchers analyzed eight studies published between 1990-2012. Studies reported on all types of stroke with four specifically examining the risk of ischemic stroke, which occurs when a clot blocks a blood vessel to the brain.

Three assessed hemorrhagic stroke, which occurs when a blood vessel bleeds into the brain or on its surface.

Findings from the observational studies were combined and accounted for other stroke risk factors like age and smoking.
The study is published in the American Heart Association journal Stroke.

Mar 29
New foot-and-mouth vaccine could pave way for polio treatment
In a major breakthrough, British scientists claim to have developed a synthetic vaccine for foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) - a fatal viral disease that is considered a severe plague for animal farming due to its highly infectious nature.

The much easier and safer technology used in the development of the livestock vaccination might also be applied to make improved human vaccines to protect against similar viruses, including polio.

What comes as a breakthrough is the fact that the new technology eliminates the need to use potentially dangerous live virus to immunise animals.

So far, vaccines made of live viruses were used to treat the highly infectious disease, which requires the expensive cold chain to ensure that no pathogens escape, making the production highly expensive and risky.

In contrast to standard FMD livestock vaccines, the new product is made from synthetic empty protein shells containing no infectious viral genome, scientists reported in the journal PLOS Pathogens on Wednesday.

This means the vaccine can be produced without expensive bio-security and does not need to be kept refrigerated - overcoming one of the major hurdles in administering vaccines in the developing world.

Worldwide, between 3 billion and 4 billion doses of FMD vaccine are administered every year but there are shortages in many parts of Asia and Africa were the disease is a serious problem.

Current standard vaccines are based on 50-year-old technology, although US biotech company GenVec last year won US approval for a new one.

The purely synthetic British vaccine has so far been tested in small-scale cattle trials and found to be effective. The vaccine, however, will not be available commercially for between six to eight years.

The breakthrough is the result of a seven-year, 6 million pound collaboration between publicly funded researchers at the Pirbright Institute, Diamond Light Source and Oxford and Reading universities.

Mar 29
New research finds genetic markers for cancer
A groundbreaking worldwide research led by British scientists has found more than 80 genes which help determine from birth whether or not someone will develop cancer during their life.


The study conducted by 1,000 experts is the largest to look for faulty DNA that drives certain cancers and raises the prospects of more effective screening programmes for prostate, breast and ovarian cancer within five years.

"It can help us identify exactly what is driving different types of cancer, which could enable us to develop new therapeutic approaches," said Dr Harpal Kumar, the chief executive of Cancer Research UK , which part-funded the research alongside the UK-based Wellcome Trust.

"This groundbreaking international work highlights how complex cancer is," Kumar added.

The research, led by scientists at the University of Cambridge and the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) in London, compared the DNA of 200,000 people, half of them with cancer and half without, to unravel an individual`s inherited risk of the diseases.
"We`re on the verge of being able to use our knowledge of these genetic variations to develop tests that could complement breast cancer screening and take us a step closer to having an effective prostate cancer screening programme," said study author Prof Doug Easton.

Although about 60 per cent of the genetic risk factors for all three cancer types remain unexplained, the findings are a significant step forward in the understanding of the inherited causes of the condition.

In the case of prostate cancer, 16 of the 23 newly identified markers applied specifically to the most aggressive types of the disease, offering a wider scope on the best for of treatment.

"These results are the single biggest leap forward in finding the genetic causes of prostate cancer yet made. They allow us, for the first time, to identify men who have a very high risk of developing prostate cancer. If we can show from further studies that such men benefit from regular screening, we could have a big impact on the number of people dying from the disease," said Prof Ros Eeles of the ICR.

Mar 26
Holi special: Easy tips to protect your skin, hair
Holi, the festival of colours is just round the corner. People make most of the festival by playing with colours, water guns, water filled balloons, etc. But this vibrant festival can also cause damage to your skin and hair. Here are few tips to make your Holi safe and joyful:


- Make sure that you apply a good sunscreen or moisturizer before or after you play with colours.

- Use vaseline, olive oil, coconut oil, mustard oil on your face and body.

- Oil your hair with coconut, olive or castor oil. Doing so will protect your hair from damage by harmful chemicals. It will also make it easier to remove while washing off colours.

- You can also cover your head with a thick scarf to protect your hair from being soaked in colour.

- Protect your lips by using a good lip gloss/lip balm.

- Paint your nail- both in fingers and toes with transparent nail polish (preferably red or pink colours) to protect your nails from harsh effects of colours.

- If you are prone to rashes or allergies, consult a dermatologist whether you need to take preventive measures for your skin.

- Before stepping out to play with colours, you should use a toner to close your skin pores and to reduce the chances of damage on your skin.

- You can protect your skin by wearing long sleeves and full length bottoms.

- Never sit in sunlight after playing with colours as it will make difficult to remove as well as harm your skin.

- Try using natural colours such as henna, turmeric, marigold flowers, tomatoes and tea leaves for a safe and skin-friendly Holi.

- Always clean your face with a cleansing milk or lotion with a cotton wool after playing with colours. Never wash your face with harsh soaps, especially when it is wet, doing so can damage your skin causing further dryness.

- You can also massage your face and body with til oil to remove colours.

- Rinse your hair with plenty of water to wash off colours. Use mild and herbal shampoo to avoid further damage. You can also add lemon juice to a mug and use it as a last rinse to restore cid-alkaline balance of the scalp.

- You can also apply a hair pack- one good option is a mixture of henna powder, lemon juice and curd. You can apply this on your hair and wash off after an hour.

- Ensure that your eyes are well protected with glasses at all times. Eyes are extremely vulnerable during Holi due to the use of harmful chemicals in colours.

- Do not take bath immediately after the play since taking frequent baths and washing your face and hair repeatedly will ruin your skin as well as your scalp. Do it much later after the celebration is over.

So, here's wishing you all a happy and safe holi.

Mar 26
Cause for Down syndrome found
Extra chromosome inherited in Down syndrome-chromosome 21-alters brain and body development, a study has found.

Researchers at Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute (Sanford-Burnham) have new evidence that points to a protein called sorting nexin 27, or SNX27.

SNX27 production is inhibited by a molecule encoded on chromosome 21.

The study shows that SNX27 is reduced in human Down syndrome brains.

The extra copy of chromosome 21 means a person with Down syndrome produces less SNX27 protein, which in turn disrupts brain function.

What`s more, the researchers showed that restoring SNX27 in Down syndrome mice improves cognitive function and behavior.

"In the brain, SNX27 keeps certain receptors on the cell surface-receptors that are necessary for neurons to fire properly," Huaxi Xu, Ph.D., professor in Sanford-Burnham`s Del E. Webb Neuroscience, Aging and Stem Cell Research Center and senior author of the study, said.

"So, in Down syndrome, we believe lack of SNX27 is at least partly to blame for developmental and cognitive defects," Xu said.

The study is published in the journal Nature Medicine.

Mar 25
Psychological acupuncture helps reduce food cravings, lose weight
A bit of psychological acupuncture might help you to reduce your food cravings and lose weight, according to a Gold Coast-based Bond University researcher.

Clinical psychologist Dr Peta Stapleto's new weight-loss method uses needle-free stimulation of pressure points..

Known scientifically as Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), or psychological acupuncture, the practice involves tapping pressure points on the body while a person concentrates on not giving in to temptation.

Dr Stapleton said food and weight issues were usually "deeply emotional and rarely physiological".

"Many current weight loss programs don`t place emphasis on the psychological element of addictive behaviour. In fact, the more time that elapses between the end of a diet and the follow-up, the more weight is regained," the paper quoted her as saying.

Dr Stapleton said initial trials of psychological acupuncture had proven promising, with 40 volunteers last year losing an average of 2kg each.

Even after 12 months down the track, the food cravings had not returned, she said.

Dr Stapleton said that the volunteers were able to apply these techniques to other areas of personal behaviour such as stress relaxation or to addictive cravings like cigarette smoking.

Dr Stapleton has already released three academic papers from the original trials and presented them to national and international conferences.

She wants these skills to be added into mainstream dietary and weight loss programs.

Dr Stapleton is further looking for trial participants, aged 18 and older, who are overweight, with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of more than 25, or obese (with a BMI of 30 or more) and who have frequent food cravings.

Mar 25
Foods that may help fight inflammation revealed
One way to fight inflammation, which is the body`s normal response to injury, is with food, says experts.

Lauren Whitt, Ph.D., UAB Employee Wellness director and adjunct professor of personal health said that the inflammation process has one goal: to respond immediately to detect and destroy the toxic material in damaged tissues before it can spread throughout the body.
She said that the trouble with inflammation occurs when the defence system gets out-of-control and begins to destroy healthy tissue, causing more damage than the original issue.

According to the National Council on Strength and Fitness Obesity has even been found to cause inflammation, and it can lead to the development of cardiovascular and metabolic disease. But weight loss is related to reduction of inflammation.

Whitt said that she encourage people to focus on eating foods that are high in fiber.

Anti-inflammatory foods to try:

Citrus fruits - Vitamin C and Vitamin E are essential antioxidants

Dark, leafy greens - High in Vitamin K

Tomatoes - The fruit`s red pigment, lycopene, is a potent antioxidant

Wild-caught salmon - Contains a rich concentration of omega-3 fatty acids

Whitt added that eating anti-inflammatory foods should not be viewed as daunting.

She said that eating to minimize inflammation doesn`t have to be an overwhelming task as one can easily incorporating leafy greens into a salad at lunch, or add a piece of whole fruit to the breakfast.

In addition, Whitt said to consume more foods straight from the farm, as well as fewer processed and fried foods. Doing so may reduce the need for some medications.

Mar 23
Too much salt led to 2.3 million heart-related deaths worldwide last year
Excessive salt consumption contributed to 2.3 million deaths from heart attacks, strokes and other heart-related diseases throughout the world in 2010, researchers have claimed.

The fatality represents 15 percent of all deaths due to these causes.

The researchers analyzed 247 surveys of adult sodium intake, stratified by age, gender, region and country between 1990 and 2010 as part of the 2010 Global Burden of Diseases Study.

Next, they determined how the amount of sodium people were consuming was affecting their risk of cardiovascular disease, by performing a meta-analysis of 107 randomized, prospective trials that measured how sodium affects blood pressure, and a meta-analysis of how these differences in blood pressure relate to the risk of developing cardiovascular disease compared with consuming no more than 1,000 mg per day of sodium, which the researchers defined as an optimal amount of sodium for adults.

Cardiovascular disease includes all diseases of the heart and blood vessels, including stroke.

Nearly 1 million of these deaths - 40 percent of the total-were premature, occurring in people 69 years of age and younger. Sixty percent of the deaths occurred in men and 40 percent were in women.

Heart attacks caused 42 percent of the deaths and strokes 41 percent. The remainder resulted from other types of cardiovascular disease.

Eighty-four percent of these deaths due to eating too much sodium were in low and middle-income countries, rather than high-income countries.
"National and global public health measures, such as comprehensive sodium reduction programs, could potentially save millions of lives," Dariush Mozaffarian, M.D., Dr.P.H., lead author of the study and co-director of the Program in Cardiovascular Epidemiology and associate professor of medicine and epidemiology at Brigham and Women`s Hospital, Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health, said.

Mar 23
Energy drinks may increase blood pressure and disturb heart rhythm
Consumption of energy drinks might impact cardiac health by increasing blood pressure and disturbing heart rhythm, researchers have claimed.

They analyzed data from seven previously published observational and interventional studies to determine how consuming energy drinks might impact heart health.

In the first part of the pooled analysis, they examined the QT interval -describes a segment of the heart`s rhythm on an electrocardiogram; when prolonged, it can cause serious irregular heartbeats or sudden cardiac death - of 93 people who had just consumed one to three cans of energy drinks.

They found that the QT interval was 10 milliseconds longer for those who had consumed the energy drinks.

"Doctors are generally concerned if patients experience an additional 30 milliseconds in their QT interval from baseline," Sachin A. Shah, Pharm.D., lead researcher and assistant professor at University of the Pacific in Stockton, California said.

They also found that the systolic blood pressure, the top number in a blood pressure reading, increased an average of 3.5 points in a pool of 132 participants.

"Patients with high blood pressures or long QT syndrome should use caution and judgment before consuming an energy drink," Shah said.

"Since energy drinks also contain caffeine, people who do not normally drink much caffeine might have an exaggerated increase in blood pressure."

The pooled studies included healthy, young patients 18-45 years old.
"People with health concerns or those who are older might have more heart-related side effects from energy drinks," Shah added.