Breathing 'can cause heart attacks'

Breathing can cause heart attacks, scientists have warned, after increasing air pollution was linked to health problems.

Experts say evidence is mounting that a rise in pollution from traffic and industry could be linked to a increase in deaths from heart attacks. Heart disease is usually associated with genetic factors and lifestyles like smoking, poor diet and lack of exercise. However, research has begun in the new field of environmental cardiology which is examining the link between air pollution and heart disease.

Research in six US cities found that people died earlier - often from heart disease - when they lived in areas with high pollution levels. Another study of 250 metropolitan areas round the world found an increase in air pollution led to a sudden rise in heart attacks. And research in Salt Lake City in the US found that when a nearby steel mill shut down for months there was a drop in death rates of up to six per cent. Mortality rose to previous levels when the steel mill re-opened.

People who seem to be most susceptible to environmental pollutants are those who are already vulnerable, including the elderly and people with coronary artery disease. There is also some evidence that diabetics, women and people who are obese may be at greater risk. Researchers are now trying to find out which pollutants are harmful and how they damage the cardiovascular system. The study has dentified the worst air pollutants as ozone, nitrates, sulfates and metals.

It has found the risk of a heart attack particularly increases when people spend a lot of time in heavy traffic. Researcher Dr Aruni Bhatnagar, from Louisville University, found that pollution from smoke, including that from cigarettes or car exhausts, increased blood cholesterol levels and activated enzymes that cause plaque in blood vessels to rupture.

Source - Telegraph

Acupuncture: Guy of the needles

Gerad Kite is an acupuncturist with a list of famous patients as long as your arm. But be warned if you’re tempted to join them – after a few sessions with him life can change in all sorts of ways.

Gerad Kite looks like a sharply dressed businessman, jacket off in the aftermath of an important meeting. Once upon time, 20 years ago, when he was running his own successful travel company in San Francisco, that is what he was. 'I was only interested in making money at the time. I was very stressed. I was working too hard. I was drinking too much.’ A self-confessed sceptic when it came to all things 'alternative’, Kite found himself going along with a friend for a session of classical five-element acupuncture. The next day he shut down his business. He says it took him a long time to make the connection between the two events, but by then he was already training in so-called five element himself.

Today Kite, 48, runs arguably the most lauded acupuncture clinic in the country, tucked away above the boutiques of Bond Street in London. The majority of people who come to see him have been diagnosed with 'unexplained infertility’, which Kite says 'seems to be the health issue of our time’. But others – including many famous names – arrive with a wide range of problems, from depression to addiction to headaches to a vague feeling that 'something isn’t quite right’.

In fact, five element embraces such uncertainty in a way that Western medicine, with its rigorously systemic approach, is unable to. 'Five element came out of the Taoist tradition, which was based on how the Chinese related to nature, how they understood the link between what was happening in the outside world and the interior one. They were also interested in the uniqueness of the individual: the idea that if you are fulfilling your destiny, being true to who you are, you will stay well.’

These days in Britain it is traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) that is the more common form of acupuncture, but this was only brought in by the Communists. 'They looked at the existing system of medicine and thought, “We need an approach that is Westernized, where we look at distinct symptoms and have distinct remedies for those symptoms.” Basically, cause and effect.’

How does the five-element approach differ? 'We note a patient’s symptoms, but they don’t support our diagnosis , or determine how we set out to help. They are simply alarm bells of distress. Instead we are interested in how the person presents, in how they are – how they look physically, how they smell, how they sound, their emotional state. It is like the medieval idea of the “humours”. It is about sensing how a person is out of balance. The idea with five element was that you treat people in advance of them getting sick. When someone is properly sick it is often too late.’

Source - Telegraph

Why singing makes you happy

Singing is good for your health and won't damage your wealth.

Cock an ear in Britain today and you will realise that we are becoming a nation of warblers. More and more of us are stepping out of the shower and singing in public. Many start with karaoke and, if you are tempted, www.karaokeinfo.co.uk lists more than 1,000 venues where you can belt out your favourite number (the current most popular choice is Robbie Williams's Angels followed by Valerie and Dancing Queen).

Added incentive comes with the good news that karaoke – combined with moderate drinking – has the backing of mainstream medicos. "Drinking responsibly with a good friend makes you feel happy and healthy,'' says Japanese Professor Takeshi Tanigawa of Ehime University Graduate School of Medicine. "Singers use deep breathing, which is good for the nervous system. After singing, they usually receive applause. It is a good kind of social support, and helps in the face of adverse occasions or stressful events.''

Certainly, people seem to get a taste for it. The X Factor had 50,000 would-be stars audition for its second series, but that rocketed to 120,000 for its fifth. However, there's no need to expose yourself to a caustic Simon Cowell. You will get a more sympathetic hearing from the Natural Voice Practitioners' Network www.naturalvoice.net which has more than 250 members running choirs and singing groups across Britain – and they all maintain that singing is our birthright and should be accessible to all.

To test the theory that everyone has a voice, I approached Nikki Slade www.freetheinnervoice.com who believes that we should all be singing or chanting for the good of our health. She predicts singing will become as popular as yoga and – having done a class with her – I think she could be on to something.

Source - Telegraph

Why the clocks going forward is good for your health

From stronger bones to deeper sleep, there are lots of reasons why we feel better as the days get longer.

OK, so technically you may be losing an hour of sleep, but when the clocks go forward by one hour tomorrow you will be gaining so much more in terms of health. And it will require little or no effort on your part.

The extra daylight we all start to enjoy at this time of year has an extraordinary effect on our physical and mental health. There is growing evidence to suggest that we are all chronically deprived of vitamin D - the “sunshine vitamin”, which is absorbed through the skin from the sun's rays - because we don't get enough exposure to the sun.

The ultraviolet rays aren't strong enough to be of benefit during winter, and since we can store vitamin D in our bodies for only about two months, by this time of year we're running on empty. So by topping up our levels now, with a daily exposure of arms and face for 20 minutes between April and October, we could be preventing serious health problems.

Sunshine vitamin

Research from Bristol University last month suggested that pregnant women who had higher levels of vitamin D produced taller children with stronger bones. Researchers have also linked insufficient vitamin D to heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure, various forms of cancer, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, arthritis and infertility.

Heather Caswell, of the British Nutrition Foundation, in Central London, agrees that you can find vitamin D in food, but says that dietary sources aren't adequate. “Sunlight is the best source,” she says.

Source - Times

Eating oily fish once a week slashes prostate cancer risk

Fish oil may protect men against potentially deadly aggressive prostate cancer, a study suggests.

Researchers found that a high intake of omega-3 fatty acids, found in oily fish such as herring, salmon and mackerel, could reduce the risk of developing the disease by about 60 per cent. It also reversed the effect of an inherited gene which is known to increase the risk of aggressive prostate cancer. The study compared the diets of 466 men diagnosed with the disease and 478 healthy men.

It found men who ate 'dark' oily fish, rich in omega-3, one to three times per month had a 36 per cent lower risk of prostate cancer than those who never ate dark fish. Eating oily fish more than once a week had an even bigger protective effect, leading to a 57 per cent reduction in risk.
A similar trend was seen for different levels of shellfish intake. Shellfish also contains omega-3 fatty acids.

Omega-3 intake also had a major impact on the effect of a hazardous variant of the COX-2 gene, which promotes inflammation and is known to be linked to prostate cancer. Men with the variant have a more than five-fold increased risk of aggressive prostate cancer. But a high consumption of oily fish effectively wiped out this risk factor.

Study leader Professor John Witte, from the University of California in San Francisco, said: 'The COX-2 increased risk of disease was essentially reversed by increasing omega-3 fatty acid intake by a half a gram per day.'

Source - Daily Mail

Will your holiday flight poison you? The toxic fumes leaking onto planes and the people who have suffered their effects

Sitting in the cabin of the jumbo jet as it headed across the Atlantic, Emily Graeme and her family were looking forward to a fortnight in Florida. Little did they know that their holiday would be wrecked before the plane had even touched down.

'We were halfway through the flight when my six-year-old daughter complained of a funny smell and was then violently sick,' says Emily, 37. Over the next few days, other family members became ill. Emily suffered severe flu-like symptoms and breathing problems.

'I couldn't move. I was wheezing and had lots of crackling in my chest,' she says. 'It was just awful. I really thought something serious was wrong.' At first, she assumed the family was suffering from a virus. But when she arrived at the airport for the flight home her suspicions were roused.

'You can imagine my surprise when I realised other passengers had the same symptoms. I spoke to five, then ten, then 15 other people. I spoke to more than 40 in the end.'

Bemused, on her return home Emily consulted doctors. They told her she was not suffering from a virus or bacterial infection and ruled out food poisoning - the holidaymakers affected had been seated in different parts of the plane and had eaten different meals. Emily had eaten only bread.

So what was the mystery illness? Today, Emily, whose family continue to suffer ill health, is convinced she and her children had fallen victim to what is known as 'aerotoxic syndrome'. The phrase has been coined to describe the illness that results when the air that plane passengers breathe becomes contaminated with a cocktail of chemicals from the aircraft's engines.

Said to affect the body in much the same way that nerve gas does, the consequences of inhalation appear to be instant and long-lasting.

Source - Daily Mail

Anti-cancer benefits of fruit and veg are underlined

A diet high in fruit and vegetables, especially organically grown ones, may protect against cancer and heart disease and could be equivalent in this respect to taking a low dose of aspirin every day, scientists say.

Fruit and vegetables are known to have high levels of salicylates, which are also the active anti-inflammatory ingredient of aspirin. Vegetarians meanwhile are known to have low rates of cancer, as well as having higher levels of salicylates in their bodies. The conventionally grown fruit and vegetables treated with pesticides that are found on many supermarket shelves have lower levels of salicylates than those grown organically.

A review of the possible link between cancer prevention and this substance found in aspirin, published in the medical journal The Lancet, says many herbs and spices are also especially rich in salicylates. This could explain international differences in cancer rates, the study said. The salicylates in fruit and vegetables may in fact play a bigger role in protecting against cancer than the antioxidants on which research has focused until now, the researchers say.

Professor Peter Elwood, of the University of Cardiff's school of medicine, who led the review, said: "I think this is a very exciting area that should be researched in considerable depth.

Source - Independent

Steaming hot tea linked to cancer

Drinking steaming hot tea has been linked with an increased risk of oesophageal (food tube) cancer, Iranian scientists have found.

The British Medical Journal study found that drinking black tea at temperatures of 70C or higher increased the risk. Experts said the finding could explain the increased oesophageal cancer risk in some non-Western populations. Adding milk, as most tea drinkers in Western countries do, cools the drink enough to eliminate the risk. The oesophagus is the muscular tube that carries food from the throat to the stomach.

Oesophagus cancers kill more than 500,000 people worldwide each year and oesophageal squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) is the most common type. Tobacco and alcohol are the main factors linked to the development of oesophageal cancers in Europe and America.

But it has not been clear why other populations around the world have high rates of the disease although there has been a theory that regularly drinking very hot drinks damages the lining of the gullet.

Source - BBC

Eczema cases have risen 40 per cent in the past four years

The number of eczema cases rose by more than 40 per cent in four years, a study revealed yesterday.

It found 5.8million people in England were affected by the condition in 2005 - an increase of 42 per cent from 2001. And it warned the figures are expected to rise even further.

Professor Aziz Sheikh, of Edinburgh University, who led the research, said: 'Eczema is one of the most chronic conditions to affect the English population. What's quite striking is the very high proportion of people who are getting eczema - it's an incredibly common disorder. Why eczema is important is that increasingly we think it is a herald condition for individuals to go on to develop other allergic conditions, such as asthma and allergic rhinitis.'

Environmental factors, including the 'frequency of bathing and use of soaps and detergents', may have contributed to the rise, along with better awareness and diagnosis, he added.

Source - Daily Mail

Headaches? Dental problems? Like millions, you may be a secret teeth grinder

Jackie Burchill had always been fastidious about looking after her teeth, visiting the dentist every six months as well as being meticulous about brushing and flossing.

Yet despite this, the 69-year-old IT specialist from Shrewsbury, Shropshire, had endured years of dental problems including toothache and snapped, chipped or loose teeth. The final straw came when she lost a tooth when chewing on a lettuce leaf. With her dentist of 25 years unable to pinpoint the problem, she decided to move to a different practice.

Her new dentist had to replace six of her teeth with implants, as well as fitting ten crowns. He also identified the cause of all her dental woes: teeth grinding.

'I knew I was a teeth grinder because I would wake myself up doing it at times,' Burchill says. 'I'd mentioned it to my dentist, but he never made the link with my dental problems. I've spent a fortune getting my teeth in some kind of shape and now wear a mouthguard every night.'

Teeth grinding - or bruxism - is an extremely common problem, with as many as 10 per cent of the population suffering from it at some time. Although it affects most people at night, it can also occur throughout the day. No one knows exactly what triggers bruxism. One theory is that it is caused by bite problems (called malocclusion) - when the teeth are poorly aligned or don't come together when you close your jaw.

Source - Daily Mail

Music therapy 'restores vision'

Listening to pleasant music could help restore impaired vision in stroke patients, UK research suggests.

Up to 60% of stroke patients develop impaired visual awareness - a condition known as "visual neglect". They lose the ability to track objects in their visual field on the side opposite to where their brain has been damaged by the stroke.

The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences study suggests music can help ease the problem. It is caused by damage to areas of the brain critical for the integration of vision, attention and action - not the areas responsible for sight.

In extreme cases, patients with visual neglect may eat only the food on the right side of their plate, or shave only half of their face. The latest study looked at three patients who had lost awareness of half of their field of vision. They completed tasks under three conditions: while listening to music they liked, music they did not like, and in silence.

All three patients could identify coloured shapes and red lights in their depleted side of vision much more accurately while they were listening to music of their choice.

Source - BBC

Red meat increases mortality

People who eat the most red meat and the most processed meat have the highest overall risk of death from all causes, including heart disease and cancer, U.S. researchers reported on Monday.

The National Cancer Institute study is one of the largest to look at the highly controversial and emotive issue of whether eating meat is indeed bad for health.

Even when other factors were accounted for -- eating fresh fruits and vegetables, smoking, exercise, obesity -- the heaviest meat-eaters were more likely to die over the next 10 years than the people who ate the least amount of meat.

"Red and processed meat intakes were associated with modest increases in total mortality, cancer mortality, and cardiovascular disease mortality," Sinha and colleagues wrote in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Full story here

Maggot therapy hope 'premature'

Maggots may not have the miracle healing properties that have been claimed, a UK study suggests.

Researchers comparing maggots with a standard "hydrogel" in treating leg ulcers found little difference. Recent excitement over using maggots to speed up healing and even reduce MRSA infections in leg ulcers seems to have been premature, they said. The British Medical Journal study is the first to compare maggots with standard treatment.

Leg ulcers can be very difficult to treat and after use of high-compression bandages only about half are healed within 16 weeks. One common treatment is to use a water-based gel to keep the wound moist and promote the natural healing process. Maggots, or larval therapy, are another option - but it can be more tricky to place them in the wound and they have to be specially ordered which takes a few days.

The theory has been that maggots are effective because they "clean out" dead tissue - a process called debridement - stimulating healing and getting rid of bugs such as MRSA in the process. But although larval therapy is being used more and more, it has only been tested in one randomised controlled trial of 12 patients, the team said.

Source - BBC

Fresh mushrooms 'slashes breast cancer risk'

Eating a daily portion of mushrooms could slash the risk of breast cancer by up to two-thirds, according to new research.

Scientists found women consuming a third of an ounce of fresh mushrooms every day were 64 per cent less likely to develop a tumour. Dried mushrooms had a slightly less protective effect, reducing the risk by around half.

The study, carried out in China, also showed women who combined a mushroom diet with regular consumption of green tea saw an even greater benefit. The risk among women in this group was reduced by almost 90 per cent.

Researchers say the latest findings, published in the International Journal of Cancer, do not prove eating mushrooms will stop cancer and more studies are needed to confirm the results. But laboratory tests on animals do show the fungi have anti-tumour properties and can stimulate the immune system's defences.

Source - Daily Mail

Can sitting in a 'salt cave' stop sinus problems? Eastern Europe's wonder cure has now come to Britain

Here's a sensation I have never had before - and certainly not during a medical treatment: I feel like a fishmonger. I am dressed in a crisp white overall, my hair is tucked away inside a hygienic hair net, and every time I breathe in, a distinct whiff of the ocean enters my lungs.

But it's not fish around me - it's salt. Everywhere. On the floor, on the walls, in the air. I am sitting in this country's first fully functioning 'salt cave'. And I'm here in an effort to cure my allergy.

I suffer from allergic rhinitis. It's not a life-threatening condition, but it is a life-irritating one. It is like having hay fever all year round. At its worst (when I was in my teens), I would sneeze 20 or 30 times non-stop, my nose would run all day and I'd be blocked up as if I had a bad cold. Though the symptoms 25 years later are much less severe, I'll often find myself sneezing in the evenings and sniffing in bed as I try to get to sleep.

My rhinitis - an inflammation of the lining of the nasal passage - also makes me snore. And every morning I cough for a few minutes to dislodge the mucus that has collected at the back of my throat overnight. Lovely.

After so many years, I am used to all this and it doesn't bother me too much. But my wife, who has endured a mere eight years of the bedtime sniffing and snorting, is rather less enamoured of it. So when things are particularly bad, I take an antihistamine tablet, which eases the symptoms. But might there be a drug-free treatment that could cure me? That's the alluring claim made by Sofia Benke, a glamorous Hungarian who has just opened the Salt Cave in South London.

In Eastern Europe, people with respiratory problems have long sought relief in salt caves - either real or artificial. Benke's 'cave' has been created in the back room of a converted church. (Before she created her white, bright clinic, the space had been used for meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous and for kindergarten groups.) You thought salt was bad for you? Not here, it's not.

Benke, who had been working as an international recruitment consultant in the City of London, opened the cave in January after she began suffering from respiratory problems herself.

Source - Daily Mail

Science proves acupuncture is sound medicine

Acupuncture works – but it does so thanks to orthodox scientific principles and not because of the centuries-old Chinese philosophy on which it is based, a leading acupuncturist has said – on the day the British medical establishment adopted the technique.

Adrian White, editor-in-chief of the journal Acupuncture In Medicine, said the principles of acupuncture were firmly grounded in science. "You don't need Chinese philosophy either to make it work or to practise it."

His remarks, at a reception to mark the first venture into the world of alternative medicine by the BMJ Group, publishers of the British Medical Journal, ruffled feathers in the traditional acupuncture world.

The BMJ Group is taking over publication of Acupuncture In Medicine. It aims to build up an evidence base for acupuncture treatment and to help doctors practise it. Dr White, a clinical research fellow at the University of Plymouth and trained acupuncturist, said the public and doctors had a distorted view of acupuncture which had hindered its acceptance in medicine and its wider use in pain control after surgery, and in conditions ranging from nausea to arthritis.

"One of the major problems facing medical acupuncture is preconceived notions. The perception is that acupuncture is all about chi and meridians. In the past, it was easy for scientists to dismiss acupuncture as highly implausible when its workings were couched in these terms. But it becomes very plausible when explained in terms of neurophysiology. Unfortunately, the scientific approach just isn't as sexy."

Scientific evidence had been building for 30 years showing that acupuncture stimulated the nerves in the brain and spinal cord, releasing "feel good" chemicals such opioids and serotonin.

Research also showed that needles placed outside of the traditional meridians also had an impact. Studies comparing needles placed according to traditional teaching and those placed randomly have shown similar effects. "Points don't have any magical properties. They are simply convenient locations to needle," Dr White said.

The mystery of Chinese philosophy in which acupuncture was shrouded acted as a deterrent to doctors. "They can easily learn to practise acupuncture safely and effectively after a short foundation course," he said.

Paul Robin, the chairman of the Acupuncture Society, which combines traditional and medical approaches, said: "Dr White is talking about a very limited form of acupuncture and trying to justify it scientifically. It is not the whole story. Using meridians to place the needles is very useful. The Chinese have mapped them out and they are linked to body organs, sometimes by nerves and sometimes by energy movements."

Source - Independent

Can a change in the weather really alter your health?

Like many people, I often feel grumpy when it is windy - without really understanding why. Of course, really strong gales can be dangerous, but my morale always seems to suffer a noticeable dent whenever there's the merest hint of a storm.

In fact, human moods, and probably those of many other animals, seem to be profoundly, and often rather mysteriously, affected by what's happening outside. We often talk of feeling 'under the weather' when the air is hot, still and humid. Grey skies often bring grey moods, driving rain is usually depressing and sunshine almost always lifts the spirits. The reasons why aren't always obvious. The psychological and physiological impacts of freezing temperatures, driving rain and long, dark days seem clear enough.

But less so are the subtle effects on our bodies and minds of more intangible meteorological phenomena, such as changes in air pressure and minute alterations in light levels and temperature. These effects lie on the borderline of science because they are very hard to quantify. Indeed, many doctors dismiss as mere anecdote and folklore the claims of those who, say, insist their headaches are as accurate a way of measuring the air pressure as any barometer.

So the news this week that scientists have found a definite link between temperature, pressure and the pain suffered by migraine sufferers will have many people saying 'I told you so'. Publishing in the journal Neurology, Professor Kenneth Mukamal and colleagues report a statistically significant link between high air temperatures, low pressures and the onset of severe migraine headaches.

Source - Daily Mail

Salt is 'natural mood-booster'

Scientists suggest we may add extra salt to our food because it boosts our mood, even though we know too much is bad for us.

University of Iowa researchers writing in Psychology and Behavior say salt may act as a natural antidepressant. Tests on rats found those with a salt deficiency shied away from activities they normally enjoyed - a sign of depression. But experts warn eating too much salt is linked to high blood pressure.

The body needs sodium - which along with chloride makes up salt - to function, but having too much and raising blood pressure is linked to an increased risk of stroke and heart attack. The UK's Food Standards Agency says the average adult should eat no more than 6g of salt a day.

Intake is falling, but last year the average was 8.6g. Around three-quarters of the salt we eat comes in pre-prepared foods. The findings are published as the FSA renewed its advice for people to eat more healthily. It backed an independent panel of experts warning that celebrity chefs were promoting high-fat recipes, and contributing to the obesity crisis.

Source - BBC

Breathe easy - and take control over your asthma

Asthma can occur at any age and, if left untreated, can cause attacks of coughing, wheezing, tightness in the chest and breathlessness. Symptoms are often worse at night and with exercise but their severity and duration are highly unpredictable.

However, many asthmatics go on to successful careers in sport. Olympian Rebecca Adlington is asthmatic, as are runners Paula Radcliffe and Sebastian Coe and cyclist Bradley Wiggins.

Here we show how you can relieve any attacks by varying your breathing and by altering your diet.

Breath control

We tend to take breathing for granted because it happens with little effort. However, the way you breathe can affect your asthma. In particular, overbreathing - where more air is taken in than needed - can lead to breathlessness and muscle spasms.

Learning to breathe properly can reduce the incidence and severity of asthma attacks. And, when you have an attack, breathing exercises can help to calm you.


The Buteyko method

Developed by Russian doctor Professor Konstantin Buteyko in the Fifties, this method involves breathing exercises and relaxation techniques.

Buteyko suggested that overbreathing leads to respiratory problems because it causes you to lose large amounts of carbon dioxide, the waste acidic gas produced by cells. As a result, your blood becomes too alkaline and the airways constrict to help prevent further loss of carbon dioxide. The end result is you struggle to breathe.

Buteyko's theory is supported by the recent finding that asthmatics have significantly lower resting levels of carbon dioxide than normal. Research shows that low levels of carbon dioxide can trigger the smooth muscles of the airways to constrict, while raised levels of carbon dioxide make them dilate. This seems to apply only to those with asthma.

Source - Daily Mail

For better exam results simply have a drink of water

The key to exam success could be as simple - and as cheap - as a glass of water.

Children who have a drink of water before sitting tests fare up to a third better, researchers have found. The reason why isn't clear, but it could be that information flows more smoothly between brain cells when they are well hydrated.

In one of the first studies of its kind, researchers from the University of East London looked at the effects of water on the performance of almost 60 boys and girls aged between seven and nine.

Half were given a 250ml glass of water to drink, and 20 minutes later, both groups were subjected to a battery of tests. One test, designed to assess visual attention and memory, involved spotting the differences between two cartoons. The water-drinkers scored 34 per cent better, the research journal Appetite reports.

They also did 23 per cent better on a more difficult version of the test and 11 per cent better on a third task that required them to cross out specified letters from a sequence. In tests designed to assess short term memory there were no differences between the two groups. Researcher Dr Caroline Edmonds said: 'Children who had a drink of water performed significantly better on a number of tasks. Our findings suggest that consuming water benefits cognitive performance in children.'

Source - Daily Mail

Can anti-perspirants harm women's breasts? New study links deodorants to breast lumps

Carol Bailey was excitedly preparing for a romantic holiday with her boyfriend when she suddenly discovered, to her horror, a series of small, but growing, lumps which appeared in her armpits over the space of a few days.

Convinced she had a fast-spreading form of breast cancer, she rushed to her GP. The lumps were removed and taken away for laboratory analysis. Although the doctor had assured her that cancer tumours could not appear that fast, Carol was not convinced. She spent the whole of her two-week break oblivious to the sunshine and scenery around the couple's holiday cottage on the Cornish coast. 'I was just desperate to get home and get the results of the tests,' she said. 'I couldn't really think about anything else. I was absolutely terrified that I had cancer and was going to die.'

Thankfully, she did not have breast cancer, but she was suffering from something that was in some ways almost as sinister.

Although 45,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year, many hundreds of thousands more, like Carol, go through the agony of investigation of lumps in the breast and underarm which turn out not to be cancerous at all. The cause and origin of these lumps or cysts is not understood and there are no official records of the number of women affected, so it is impossible to tell if the problem is getting worse.

Source - Daily Mail


Anger 'increases risk of a fatal heart attack'

Staying healthy is a juggling act that could drive anyone mad. But getting angry will only make things worse.

Scientists said last night that healthy people who lose their temper are 19 per cent more likely to die of a heart attack than those who keep their emotions under control. And in those who already have heart disease the risk of dying from their condition rises to 24 per cent. The British study found that the association was much greater in men than women, possibly related to stress in daily life.

Experts said the NHS could consider sending those with anger problems on behavioural management classes to reduce deaths from coronary heart disease. Study leader Dr Yoichi Chida, of University College of London's public health department-said there was a 'harmful association of anger and hostility' with coronary problems.

Source - Daily Mail

Can diet really improve the symptoms of autism? Read this family's story and decide

Simone Sewell still shudders at the memory of the moment she was told her two-year-old daughter, Sienna, was autistic.

She and her husband, Geoff, sat in shock as the paediatrician spelt out the bleak future that awaited their first-born. 'The doctor said Sienna would never fall in love, marry or have an independent life,' recalls Simone. 'With no hope of a cure, we were more or less told to live with it.' Yet three years on and this grim future seems unlikely, given the great improvements in Sienna's behaviour. Indeed, her parents believe Sienna, now five, is on her way to being cured.

It's a staggering claim, not least because mainstream medicine insists autism - which affects nearly 600,000 UK children and adults - is a life-long condition. Yet Simone offers countless anecdotes as proof of her daughter's improvement. 'For instance, like many autistic children, Sienna always hated noise, people and busy places,' says Simone.

'She would scream, have a tantrum or cry because she was so overwhelmed. Now I can go shopping to a supermarket with Sienna holding one hand, and her sister Olivia, who is three, holding my other without worrying whether Sienna will stay by my side or create a scene. This is how I know she is getting better.'

This progress has been achieved at a cost - the couple have invested £100,000 in behavioural and dietary therapies, and Geoff, who was in the pop opera group Amici Forever, has given up his singing career to help with Sienna.

Source - Daily Mail

How changes in weather can give you a headache

Did you get a headache at the weekend? If so, scientists think they know why – it was the weather.

A rise in temperature or a fall in barometric pressure, which often accompanies a thunderstorm, may trigger a headache or migraine. After a cold spell last week the temperature rose to 13.8C in London on Saturday, more than 5C warmer than on Thursday – explaining why some people found themselves in pain. Headache sufferers have long suspected that changes in weather can trigger an attack.

Now they have scientific backing for their claims from one of the largest studies of the link. Researchers who monitored 7,000 patients with headaches serious enough to make them seek treatment at a hospital A&E department found the main trigger was a rise in temperature in the previous 24 hours.

The risk of a severe headache rose by 7.5 per cent for every 5C rise in temperature. Falls in barometric pressure in the previous 48 to 72 hours also had an effect, though to a lesser extent. But other effects such as humidity and air pollution had no impact, the findings revealed.

The results of the study, by scientists at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre in Boston, in the United States, help put a piece of clinical folklore on an evidential base. But they do not explain the link, or what mechanism may lie behind it.

Kenneth Mukamal, who led the study published in Neurology, said: "Our results are consistent with the idea that severe headaches can be triggered by external factors. These findings tell us that the environment around us does affect our health and, in terms of headaches, may be impacting many, many people.

Source - Independent

Oily fish dementia boosts queried

A UK study has cast doubt on claims that eating oily fish can protect against dementia in old age.

Data from a trial of more than 800 older people initially showed that those who eat plenty of oily fish seem to have better cognitive function. But factors such as education and mood explained most of the link. Researchers need to clarify what, if any, benefits fish oil has on the ageing brain, they wrote in the Journal of Nutrition, Health and Ageing.

In recent years, there has been increasing interest in diet as a way of preventing dementia. Much focus has been on omega 3 fatty acids found in oily fish, such as salmon and mackerel. And there are biological reasons, backed by tests in the laboratory, why in theory, these fatty acids would be neuroprotective.

The latest study found a significant association between eating a couple of portions of fish a week and better scores on tests of cognitive function. But when the researchers, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, took into account education and psychological health the association almost disappeared.


Source - BBC

Prince Charles detox 'quackery'

Prince Charles has been accused of exploiting the public in times of hardship by launching what a leading scientist calls a "dodgy" detox mix.

Edzard Ernst, the UK's first professor of complementary medicine, said the Duchy Originals detox tincture was based on "outright quackery". There was no scientific evidence to show that detox products work, he said. Duchy Originals says the product is a "natural aid to digestion and supports the body's elimination processes".

But Professor Ernst of Peninsula Medical School said Prince Charles and his advisers appeared to be deliberately ignoring science, preferring "to rely on 'make-believe' and superstition". He added: "Prince Charles thus financially exploits a gullible public in a time of financial hardship."

Marketed as Duchy Herbals' Detox Tincture, the artichoke and dandelion mix is described as "a food supplement to help eliminate toxins and aid digestion". It costs £10 for a 50ml bottle.

Andrew Baker, the head of Duchy Originals, said the tincture "is not – and has never been described as – a medicine, remedy or cure for any disease. "There is no "quackery", no "make believe" and no "superstition" in any of the Duchy Originals herbal tinctures. We find it unfortunate that Professor Ernst should chase sensationalist headlines in this way rather than concentrating on accuracy and objectivity."

Vitamin C a 'gout preventer'

Men who get plenty of vitamin C may boost their resilience to the painful joint disease gout, work suggests.

In the 20-year study of nearly 47,000 men, daily supplements of the vitamin found in sprouts, peppers and oranges appeared to cut gout risk. The US researchers believe vitamin C has a dual action - easing inflammation and lowering uric acid levels in the body that go awry in gout. The findings are published in Archives of Internal Medicine.

Experts warned that the news should not be taken to mean that it was fine to lead an unhealthy lifestyle and pop a vitamin pill to counteract this. There are a number of risk factors for gout, including taking certain medications, drinking too much alcohol, being overweight and eating an unhealthy diet high in meat. Although the condition is more associated with Victorian times, the numbers with gout have been increasing over the last 30 years and currently about 1.5% of the UK population has the condition.

In the study, 1,317 of the men, who were all health professionals, developed gout. Compared with men who did not take vitamin C supplements, those who took 1,000mg to 1,499mg per day had a 34% lower risk of gout and those who took 1,500mg per day had a 45% lower risk. This was irrespective of other gout risk factors such as diet and alcohol use. Lead researcher Dr Hyon Choi, of Boston University School of Medicine, said there were good reasons to believe that vitamin C was having a beneficial effect on the men.


Source - BBC

TV linked to higher asthma risk

Children who watch television for more than two hours a day have twice the risk of developing asthma, British researchers reported today.

Asthma affects more than 300 million people worldwide and is the most common children's chronic illness. Symptoms include wheezing, shortness of breath, coughing and chest tightness. A study published in the journal Thorax may help link asthma, estimated to account for one in 250 deaths globally each year, to obesity and lack of exercise, experts said.

"There has been a recent suggestion that breathing patterns associated with sedentary behavior could lead to developmental changes in the lungs and wheezing illnesses in children," Andrea Sherriff of the University of Glasgow and colleagues wrote.

Sherriff and colleagues studied more than 3,000 children from birth until nearly the age of 12. The parents were questioned annually on wheezing symptoms among their children and whether a doctor had diagnosed asthma as they grew up. The researchers also analyzed how much television the children watched. They did not consider video games or personal computers, which were not as common in the mid 1990s when the children were growing up, the researchers added. The study found that 6 percent of children at around age 12 who had no symptoms of the disease growing up had asthma.

But children who watched television for more than two hours daily were almost twice as likely to have been diagnosed with the condition as those who watched less.


Source - Independent

Grow your own drugs: a medicine cabinet in your garden

On one bitterly cold day recently James Wong found himself walking home in a light coat. He's an optimist, he explains. But just to make sure he didn't get a cold, when he got home he made his granny's chicken soup, using echinacea root, goji berries and extreme quantities of ginger, chillies and garlic.

“Well, I didn't get a cold,” he says. “It's something I make all the time. In Asia you don't have a big thick dividing line between food and medicine. That soup would be eaten as dinner even if you weren't feeling under the weather.”

Wong's recipe for his Immune System Booster is in his book, Grow Your Own Drugs, a set of instructions for plant-based remedies and beauty products that accompanies the eponymous BBC Two series starting tonight. The title may seem provocative but Wong is an engaging geek (the geek bit is his word) with a mission: he wants people in the West to start looking at plants not as soft furnishings but as chemical factories that are the source of elixirs for everything from insomnia to cystitis and head lice.

Before you dismiss the idea of natural healthcare as flaky, he points out that many plants contain the same active ingredients as over-the-counter drugs. Aspirin, though now synthetic, was originally derived from sal acetic acid which is found in willow, meadowsweet and the shrub spirea. Morphine-based painkillers are based on opium from poppies, and the contraceptive pill was originally isolated from the Mexican wild yam. The World Health Organisation estimates that 80 per cent of the world's population relies on plant-based medicine as its key form of healthcare.


Source - Times

How doodling could help you boost your brainpower

It seems those of us who covered our school books with scribbles may not have had an entirely wasted education.

For doodling may actually be good for the brain, scientists claim. Far from being a sign of inattention, it is thought to focus the mind and stop daydreaming, allowing people to persevere with dull tasks.

Researcher Jackie Andrade, who conducted a study into the habit, said: 'This study suggests that in everyday life doodling may be something we do because it helps keep us on track with a boring tasks, rather than being an unnecessary distraction that we should try to resist.'

Professor Andrade, of Plymouth University, asked 40 men and women to listen to a tedious telephone message about plans for a party. It included names of guests, as well as names of people who would not attend, place names and other irrelevant material. None of the participants was told they were to be tested to see how much they remembered afterwards.


Source - Daily Mail

Good news for tea lovers: Drinking two cups a day can 'help ward off ovarian cancer'

Drinking tea can cut the risk of ovarian cancer by up to a third, researchers have said.

A study found women drinking at least two cups a day of black tea had a 30 per cent drop in risk. It is thought antioxidant compounds found in tea – catechins and theanins – contribute to improved blood vessel function. The study was carried out in the U.S. with 414 women, half of whom had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

The findings were released in the International Journal of Gynaecological Cancer before the start of ovarian cancer month in March. This aims to raise awareness of the disease, of which there are more than 6,600 new cases in the UK each year.

About 4,400 women die each year from the illness, which claims the lives of more than 85 per cent of patients when found at a late stage. But detection in the early stages means 95 per cent of sufferers will survive.

Dr Catherine Hood, from the industry-backed Tea Advisory Panel, said an earlier Swedish study involving over 61,000 women made similar findings. It showed those who drank two or more cups of tea daily had a 46 per cent lower risk of the disease compared with those who never or seldom drank tea.

Alex Ford, chief executive of The Eve Appeal, which supports patients with gynaecological cancers, said women should be aware of the signs of ovarian cancer, especially those over 50.


Source - Daily Mail