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May 31
Prolonged use of painkillers could raise heart attack risk
A group of most commonly used drugs known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can increase long-term users` heart-attack risk by more than a third, a study has shown.

In the study, the researchers analysed 639 random drug trials and assembled information on more than 350,000 patients, and found that for every 1,000 arthritis sufferers, the rate of people who suffered a "major vascular event" like heart attack, stroke or death increased from 8 per 1,000 to 11 per 1,000 with long-term, high-dose use of common NSAIDs, the Independent reported.

These drugs have also been linked to illnesses like stomach ulcers.

A new generation of NSAID painkillers known as coxibs were introduced, which had a lesser risk of stomach pains, but they were widely linked to an increase in heart attacks, leading to public concern and withdrawal of the popular drug Vioxx from shelves in 2004.

The study`s authors believe that high-dose treatments with older NSAIDs could be as big a risk factor for heart attacks like Vioxx.

They said that all NSAIDs double the risk of heart-failure and produce a two- to four-times increased risk of gastrointestinal complications.

The study has been published in The Lancet medical journal.

May 31
Nordic diet lowers cholesterol level
A healthy Nordic diet lowers cholesterol levels, which thereby cuts the risk of cardiovascular disease, a new study has found.

There was also decreased inflammation associated with pre- diabetes.

"The subjects who ate a Nordic diet had lower levels of harmful LDL cholesterol and higher levels of `good` HDL cholesterol. The amount of harmful fat particles in the blood also declined," Lieselotte Cloetens, a biomedical nutrition researcher at Lund University, said.

The "healthy Nordic diet" used in the study contains local produce such as berries, root vegetables, legumes, and cabbage.

Nuts, game, poultry and fish are also included, as well as whole grains, rapeseed oil and low-fat dairy products.

May 30
SARS-like new virus `threat to the entire world`: WHO
The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified a new virus, similar to the dreaded Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) virus, and has termed it as a `threat to the entire world`.

The SARS-like virus termed as MERS has killed 24 people so far, with more than half of 44 people diagnosed with the disease, the New York Daily News reports.
Terming the virus as a threat, WHO Director-General, Dr. Margaret Chan, said that her greatest and immediate concern is that the new coronavirus is emerging faster than people`s understanding of its magnitude, adding that the virus cannot be managed or kept to itself by any single affected country.

Stating that WHO does not have necessary information about the virus like its origin and its mode of infection, Chan said that until the organization is capable of answering these questions, they cannot prevent the ever-spreading virus.

The report said that while the coronavirus causes the common cold, the new coronavirus, or MERS, has killed more than half of those who have been diagnosed with it.

Meanwhile, the report said that Dutch scientists have taken the unusual step of patenting the killer virus in an unusual move that might complicate finding a vaccine,.

However, the move has angered the WHO, according to Chan, who said that doing so is impeding the search for treatment, adding that WHO cannot allow making deals between scientists because of their personal wishes to take out intellectual property and publish in scientific journals.

But, the Dutch researchers said that they patented the virus in order to spark drug companies` interest in developing a vaccine and denied that they had kept the virus from anyone.

According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the symptoms of the virus includes fever, cough and shortness of breath.

Cases have so far been confirmed in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Tunisia, Germany, France and the United Kingdom.

May 30
Make sure your next mobile isn`t a health hazard
When Gaurav asked for a mobile phone, with all his classmates showing off their smartphones, his mother was unwilling to spend too much on something she believed was only good for making calls. She bought him a smartphone from a lesser known brand, for just upwards of Rs.4,000. But, did she consider how safe it was?

One key aspect of mobile phone safety that most people are unaware of is its SAR or Specific Absorption Rate value. It is a measure of the amount of energy absorbed by the body when exposed to radio frequency (RF) electromagnetic waves such as those emitted by mobile phones.
SAR is expressed in units of watts per kilogram (W/kg). The lower the SAR value the safer the phone is.

Each mobile phone emits radio waves while connecting to the mobile towers, which itself also emits these waves. A part of the energy of these waves is absorbed by the body tissue, and this amount is depicted by the SAR value.

While Gaurav and his mother were elated with his new smartphone, which functioned better than even a branded one costing upwards of Rs.10,000, a chance remark by a friend on the SAR value got them thinking. A close check of the phone showed it had no information on the radio waves being emitted by the mobile set.

Though the effects of radio frequency exposure on human health are still inconclusive, a higher SAR value can mean a potential health hazard. Since mobile phones have become widespread only in the past decade, their effects on human health in the long term are yet to be determined. Even the disappearance of the sparrows is widely believed to have been caused by radio waves emitted by mobile phone towers.

The World Health Organisation urged limits on mobile use last year, calling them a Class B carcinogen, or a cancer causing agent.

Currently, the SAR value limit in India is set at 1.60 W/kg in 1g tissue mass.

"I had to choose between a low end device from a well-known brand and a premium budget device from a lesser known local phone brand," said Delhi University student Vipin. "I chose to go with the better known brand as the SAR value of the local phone appeared to be fairly high."

International mobile phone brands give the SAR value on their phone information menu as well as the official website.

A phone stating a higher SAR value need not mean that it is always more unsafe to use as the phone operates on highest value only when connecting a call. Otherwise it operates on low SAR values.

India is planning to become strict in regulating the amount of radio waves that mobile handsets emit from Sep 1, 2013, and will make it mandatory for phone companies to display the SAR value.

Indian Cellular Association president Pankaj Mohindroo told IANS that from Sep 1 it will become mandatory for all handsets to display the SAR value and only phones adhering to the lower emission rates will be allowed.

"The phone brands that do not adhere to the norm will be rejected," Mohindroo said.

Telecom consultant Mahesh Uppal said the decision to display the SAR level is a "good idea". "It is unfair for consumers to have to choose between affordability and health and any effort to protect consumers is very important," Uppal, of Com First (India) Pvt Ltd. told.

May 29
Money 'biggest incentive to lose weight'
Money is the most effective motivator when it comes to weight loss, according to a study.

Mayo Clinic researchers conducted a comparison between study groups in which one group was offered incentives while the other was not,

In the study, 62 percent participants from the incentivized group compared to only 26 of the non-incentivized group completed the study.

The group with incentives lost an average of 9.08 pounds versus 2.34 pounds in the other group.

May 29
Stroke patients show signs of recovery after injection of stem cells
In a small clinical trial at Glasgow`s Southern General Hospital, five seriously disabled stroke patients have shown small signs of recovery following the injection of stem cells into their brain.

Prof Keith Muir, of Glasgow University, who is treating them, said he is "surprised" by the mild to moderate improvements in the five patients.

But he noted that it is too soon to tell whether the effect is due to the treatment they are receiving.

The five stroke patients are among nine patients in their 60s, 70s and 80s who are taking part in the clinical trial to assess the safety of the procedure which involves injecting stem cells into the damaged brain part.

It is one of the first trials in the world to test the use of stem cells in patients.

Results to be presented at the European Stroke Conference in London on Tuesday show that there have been no adverse effects on the patients so far and there have been improvements to more than half participating in the trial.

All the patients involved in the trial had their strokes between six months and five years before they received the treatment.

The recovery of any one of them - let alone five - was not expected, according to Prof Muir, who is in charge of the trial.

He told an English news website that they`ve seen people who now have the ability to move their fingers where they have had several years of complete paralysis.

"We have seen some people that have been able to walk around their house whereas previously they had been dependent on assistance and we have had improvements that have enabled people to recognise what is happening around them," he added.

These improvements have made it easier for the patients to do day-to-day tasks such as dressing themselves, walking and being more independent.

The results so far pave the way for a so-called phase two trial later this year, which will be desirable to determine whether any improvement is due to the treatment.

May 28
Prolonged sitting could shorten our lives, say experts
Emerging studies have found that prolonged sitting increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, slows metabolism and even shortens our lives.

A University of Sydney study has found that adults who sat 11 or more hours a day had a 40 percent increased risk of dying in the next three years compared with those who sat for fewer than four hours a day.

"That morning walk or trip to the gym is still necessary, but it`s also important to avoid prolonged sitting," the paper quoted study author Dr. Hidde van der Ploeg, of the University of Sydney`s School of Public Health, as saying in a statement.

According to him, their results suggest the time people spend sitting at home, work and in traffic should be reduced by standing or walking more.

For adults, van der Ploeg suggests a moderate intensity activity, such as walking, for at least 30 minutes in the morning.


A similar report was published by The British Journal of Sports Medicine last fall, which highlighted a link between prolonged sitting and health.

The report looked at Australian adults in 2008, and concluded that those who watch TV an average of six hours a day will live 4.8 years fewer than those who don`t.

While taking into consideration age, diet and exercise habits, the study found that those with the "highest sedentary behavior" had the greatest risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes and dying prematurely.

It means adults older than 25 who watch a single hour of TV will see their life expectancy shorten by 21.8 minutes.

But a single cigarette reduces life expectancy by about 11 minutes, the study said.

"Sitting is the new smoking," said Dr. Anup Kanodia of Ohio State University`s Wexner Medical Center.

Experts say sitting down could be worse because you`re not burning nearly as many calories as if you were standing, plus a typical day of sitting suppresses the production of a molecule called lipoprotein lipase, which would otherwise metabolize fats and sugars.

May 28
Pesticides, solvents may up Parkinson`s risk
Exposure to pesticides, or bug and weed killers, and solvents is likely associated with a higher risk of developing Parkinson`s disease, a large analysis of more than 100 studies from around the world has revealed.

The research was also conducted by Gianni Pezzoli, MD, with the Parkinson Institute - ICP, Milan.

"Due to this association, there was also a link between farming or country living and developing Parkinson`s in some of the studies," said study author Emanuele Cereda, MD, PhD, with the IRCCS University Hospital San Matteo Foundation in Pavia, Italy.

For the analysis, researchers reviewed 104 studies that looked at exposure to weed, fungus, rodent or bug killers, and solvents and the risk of developing Parkinson`s disease. Studies that evaluated the proximity of exposure, such as country living, work occupation and well water drinking were also included.

The research found that exposure to bug or weed killers and solvents increased the risk of developing Parkinson`s disease by 33 to 80 percent. In controlled studies, exposure to the weed killer paraquat or the fungicides maneb and mancozeb was associated with two times the risk of developing the disease.

"We didn`t study whether the type of exposure, such as whether the compound was inhaled or absorbed through the skin and the method of application, such as spraying or mixing, affected Parkinson`s risk," said Cereda.

"However, our study suggests that the risk increases in a dose response manner as the length of exposure to these chemicals increases," the researcher added.

The research appears in the May 28, 2013, print issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

May 17
Sugar-sweetened beverages linked to increased kidney stone risk
Brigham and Women`s Hospital has found that some beverages may be more helpful than others when it comes to preventing recurrent kidney stones.

The researchers report that the consumption of sugar sweetened soda and punch is associated with a higher risk of stone formation.

"Our study found that the relation between fluid intake and kidney stones may be dependent on the type of beverage consumed," explained Gary Curhan, MD, ScD, a physician in the Channing Division of Network Medicine at BWH and senior author of this study.

"We found that higher consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks was associated with a higher incidence of kidney stones," Curhan asserted.

The researchers analyzed data from three ongoing cohorts, the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study (HPFS), and both the Nurses` Health Study I (NHS I) and II (NHS II). The total analysis involved 194,095 participants over a median follow-up of more than 8 years.

They found that participants who consumed one or more sugar-sweetened cola servings per day had a 23 percent higher risk of developing kidney stones compared with those participants consuming less than one serving per week.

This was true for consuming sugar-sweetened non cola as well, such as punch. They also found that some beverages, such as coffee, tea and orange juice, were associated with a lower risk of stone formation.

"Our prospective study confirms that some beverages are associated with a lower risk of kidney stone formation, whereas others are associated with a higher risk," explained Pietro Manuel Ferraro, MD, a physician at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart of Rome and corresponding author of this study.

"Although higher total fluid intake reduces the risk of stone formation, this information about individual beverages may be useful for general practitioners seeking to implement strategies to reduce stone formation in their patients," Ferraro suggested.

The study was published online in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (CJASN).

May 17
Dark skin equally vulnerable to skin cancer
The myth that fair-skinned people are at higher risk of skin cancer and other problems associated with too much exposure to the sun than dark skinned is no more correct.

Dark-skinned people are also vulnerable to skin cancer and harmful effects of UV rays emitted by the sun, and indoor tanning beds, according to experts.

During the current National Melanoma/Skin Cancer Awareness Month, people of all ethnic backgrounds are encouraged to learn about their skin cancer risks and the benefits of sun safety.

"Darker skin has more pigment-making cells, which provide some inherent protection against UV rays, but not enough," said Adam Friedman, MD, director of dermatologic research, Division of Dermatology, Montefiore Medical Center.

"This unique biological difference means harmful effects of UV exposure occur more slowly in people of colour, but UV rays are still damaging and can cause cosmetic problems and serious conditions like skin cancer," Friedman said.

While skin cancer is rarer in people of colour, but it does occur and can be extremely serious when diagnosis is delayed, he says.

For example, melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer, is 20 times more common in whites than in African Americans, but people with darker skin are at greater risk of late diagnosis with advanced, thicker melanomas and lower survival rates.

"I`ve had patients tell me they don`t use sunscreen because they don`t like the white residue that`s left behind.

New sunscreens combine multiple sun-blocking agents in cosmetically appealing formulations that work together, providing a better sunscreen formula that can blend well into any skin type," said Dr. Friedman.

People often say they avoid sunscreen because it prevents them from getting vitamin D from the sun, which they believe is the best source.

While vitamin D is very important, getting it from harmful UV radiation is not the way to go. Remaining vigilant about sun exposure is a must, especially during peak hours between 10 am and 2 pm, he said.

"Sunscreen alone is not enough to protect you from skin cancer. Sunscreen ingredients become ineffective over time, so make sure the products are current," he added.

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer and accounts for nearly half of all cancer diagnoses in the United States.

Although risk levels vary among skin types, preventive measures can significantly minimise sun damage and the potential for skin cancer to develop.

"We need to raise awareness about skin cancer risk for people of colour. When detected early, skin cancer is highly curable, so the more you know, the better. The potential health benefits of protecting the skin are immeasurable," Friedman said.