Playing music as a child helps you stay sharp in old age

Endless hours of piano practice can be the bane of a child's life - but there might be an added benefit of sticking with it.

A study has found that learning a musical instrument as a child could keep you sharp into old age. Pensioners who had piano, flute, clarinet or other lessons as a youngster, did better on intelligence tests than others. And the longer they had played the instrument for, the better they did.

Skills that tend to deteriorate rapidly in conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease were particularly likely to be preserved, the American Psychological Association journal Neuropsychology reports.

University of Kansas researcher Brenda Hanna-Pladdy said: ‘Musical activity throughout life may serve as a challenging cognitive exercise, making your brain fitter and more capable of accommodating the challenges of ageing.'

Source - Daily Mail

Swearing can help relieve pain, study claims

Scientists from Keele University found that letting forth a volley of foul language can have a powerful painkilling effect, especially for people who do not normally use expletives.

To test the theory, student volunteers placed their hands in a bucket of ice cold water while swearing repeatedly. They then repeated the exercise but, instead of swearing, used a harmless phrase instead.

Researchers found that the students were able to keep their hands submerged in the icy water for longer when repeating the swear word - establishing a link between swearing and an increase in pain tolerance. They also found that the pain-numbing effect was four times more likely to work in the volunteers who did not normally use bad language.

The team believes the pain-lessening effect occurs because swearing triggers the ''fight or flight'' response.

Source - Telegraph

An apple a day keeps the doctor away

Last week, it was revealed that eating the equivalent of four apples a day can dramatically cut your cholesterol levels.

But that’s not the only incredible health boost the fruit can give you - as a new book by former family doctor DR PENNY STANWAY reveals...

One possible trigger for cramp is a lack of calcium, magnesium, potassium and vitamins B and C, all found in apples. Cider vinegar may also help, as its acidity boosts stomach acids, improving calcium and magnesium absorption.

Action: Mix 2tsp cider vinegar in a glass of water, three times a day. Or mix two 2bsp of vinegar in a cup of warm water, soak a face flannel in this mixture, then put the flannel over the sore muscle and cover with a thick towel.

The symptoms of asthma - wheezing, coughing and a tight chest - are caused by inflammation and over-sensitivity of the airways. Possible triggers include cold air, exercise, certain foods, infection, weather and allergies.

Source - Daily Mail

Ten years in a desk job 'doubles bowel cancer risk'

For the millions of us who sit in front of a computer all day at work, it's not good news.

New research shows spending ten years or more in a sedentary job almost doubles the risk of some types of bowel cancer. Worse still, researchers found even workers who regularly keep fit or go to the gym are still twice as likely to get a tumour. The findings, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, highlight the full dangers of modern working patterns, where large numbers of employees are desk bound for hours at a time.

The research also backs up earlier studies which showed men who sit down most of the day at their jobs are 30 per cent more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer than those with very active occupations.

More than 37,500 people a year in the UK are diagnosed with bowel cancer. The disease has a high mortality rate - around 16,000 a year - because many victims ignore early warning signs and only seek medical help once the cancer has advanced. Diets high in fat and red meat, as well as lack of exercise, are thought to be among the main risk factors.

But the latest study, by a team of experts at the University of Western Australia, show long periods of physical inactivity during the day could also be a major risk - even among those who exercise lots in their free time.

Source - Dialy Mail

One in three Britons claims to have an allergy

Childhood and adult allergies in Britain are rising dramatically every year. So just what’s making us itch and sneeze? We asked allergy expert DR ADRIAN MORRIS to keep a diary for a week. Here, in a revealing account, he sorts the genuine sufferers from the worried well.

Monday morning at my London clinic, and a flustered-looking woman in her 40s arrives complaining she is allergic to her new puppy.

Whenever she gets close to or even sees the dog, she says her chest tightens and she can’t breathe. She has no history of allergy and when I test her for dog allergy — with a blood test and a skin-prick test, where a small amount of each suspected allergen is placed on her skin and then punctured with a lancet — she is clear.

She does reveal she has a history of anxiety disorder, but when I suggest that the route of her symptoms could be psychological, she becomes angry and defensive and ends our session.

The following week, I receive a letter from her saying she went to an alternative practitioner subsequently, who told her she does have a dog allergy. She has got rid of the dog and feels much better. This is frustrating but not unusual: a number of patients I see have self-diagnosed an allergy mistakenly and then had it supposedly confirmed by an alternative practitioner.

Source - Daily Mail

Could a pill made from olive leaves help beat heart disease?

A pill made from the leaves of the olive tree could be a powerful weapon in the fight against heart disease, scientists say.

According to research, the olive pill is as effective as some prescription medicines at reducing high blood pressure. And it also appears to lower levels of harmful blood fats, called triglycerides, known to raise the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

In a study, patients who took the olive leaf pill for eight weeks saw a significant decline in blood pressure readings and triglyceride levels. If further studies confirm the powerful effects of olive leaf tablets, they could be used to help patients who struggle to take blood pressure drugs because of their side-effects.

Source - Daily Mail

Eating oily fish while pregnant 'cuts chances of post-natal depression'

Eating fish during pregnancy could cut a woman's odds of developing post-natal depression.

Research suggests that omega-3 fatty acids, which are particularly abundant in oily fish such as salmon, protect against the baby blues. Stocks built up during pregnancy appear to give a woman's mental health a boost months later.

Post-natal depression affects up to 13 per cent of new mothers – and lasts more than a year in severe cases, even with counselling and medication. However, too much oily fish in pregnancy can be bad for the baby’s development, so experts say it is important that mothers-to-be strike a balance when trying to boost their levels of omega-3.

Source - Daily Mail

Optical illusion can cut pain of arthritis sufferers by appearing to 'stretch' aching fingers

Scientists have discovered they can reduce the pain of severely arthritic patients by treating them with - an optical illusion.

Computer-generated image technology can trick sufferers into feeling less pain in their joints by pretending to 'stretch' their fingers. Patients place their hands inside a box containing a camera and watch as a real-time image of their hands is projected in front of them. The image is then manipulated to make it look like their fingers are being stretched and then shrunk.

Researchers found the experimental drug-free treatment halved the pain of arthritis patients in 85 per cent of cases. Some patients even said they experienced no pain at all after undergoing the treatment. The breakthrough treatment was discovered by accident during an open-day for families at Nottingham University.

Manuka honey 'could help fight superbugs'

Manuka honey could be used to combat some of the most hard-to-treat infections that are resistant to powerful antibiotics, scientists say.

Lab experiments show it can clear bacteria found in festering wounds and contaminated hospital surfaces. It works by breaking down the defences bacteria use against antibiotics, making it useful in treating superbug infections such as MRSA. The results were presented at a Society for General Microbiology meeting.

Professor Rose Cooper from the University of Wales Institute Cardiff found a variety of honey from bees foraging on manuka trees in New Zealand proved effective.

Source - BBC

The best natural sources of Vitamin D

Most of our Vitamin D comes from sunlight on our skin – it forms under the skin in reaction to light.

While the best source is summer sunlight, Vitamin D is also found in a small number of foods. These include:

Cod liver oil
1,360 units per standard serving

360 units

345 units

Tuna fish
200 units

250 units

98 units

60 units

40 units

20 units (per egg)

Beef liver
15 units

Swiss cheese
12 units

Adults are recommended to consume 400 units of Vitamin D a day.

Source: US Food and Drug Administration.

Source - Telegraph

How Vitamin D may combat eye disease in women

An eye disease that causes partial blindness may be prevented in women by taking vitamin D supplements.

Taking the vitamin could ward off vision loss from age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in women younger than 75, research has shown. Higher levels of Vitamin D were associated with a significant decreased risk of AMD, a condition which is caused by progressive damage to the centre of the retina at the back of the eye. AMD affects about 2 per cent of people over the age of 50 in developed countries and more than 230,000 sufferers in the UK are thought to be partially blind because of the disease.

The data of 1,313 women who took part in a large-scale investigation of the disease was examined by researchers in the US. They found that in women younger than 75, both vitamin D blood levels and consumption of the vitamin from food sources and supplements were linked to a reduced risk of early AMD.

Source - Daily Mail

How do you make a bunch of nine-year-olds improve their grades?

Lying down in a circle may seem like a rather unusual way to run a lesson, but teachers say meditation and yoga has helped hundreds of primary school pupils to improve their grades.

The nine to 11-year-olds are taught to 'channel their energy' once a week in a class that focuses on relaxation and breathing techniques

During the one hour sessions pupils from across Essex are also taught a series of beginner yoga positions designed to improve their mental health and well-being. Teachers involved in the trial scheme have reported significant improvements in the concentration and grades of their pupils as a result of the classes.

Source - Daily Mail

Organic food could make you fat

It is the preferred fare of millions of health-conscious Britons. But eating organic food could make you fat, experts have warned.

A study has shown that people tend to assume that organic foods - particularly snacks - contain fewer calories that their conventionally-produced counterparts, so buy and eat more. For those for whom buying organic is a treat, this is unlikely to have any major consequences. But people who decide to ‘go organic’, could soon find themselves piling on the pounds.

The warning comes from American researchers who investigated whether the sight of an organic label was enough to imbue a food with a range of desirable attributes. Almost 150 shoppers were asked to taste what they thought were conventionally and organically-produced chocolate biscuits, yoghurts and crisps. In fact, all of the products were organic but some had just been deliberately mis-labelled.

Source - Daily Mail

How blueberries can slash body's fat cells by up to three-quarters

Slimmers should start snacking on blueberries, as they slash the number of fat cells in the body by up to three-quarters, say scientists.

Researchers found the fruit can break down existing fat cells and prevent new ones from forming, making them a potentially powerful weapon in the fight against rising obesity.

Blueberries, which have already been lauded as a superfood for their ability to help prevent heart disease and Type-2 diabetes, contain high levels of polyphenols – groups of chemicals with potential health benefits. Tests revealed polyphenols can cut the number of fat cells in the body by 73 per cent with a large dose and 27 per cent with the smallest dose, the American Society for Nutrition’s Experimental Biology 2011 meeting heard.

Source - Daily Mail

Meditation 'better than morphine' at easing pain

Meditation can be better than morphine at easing pain.

A study has found 80 minutes of meditation training can quickly and effectively quell pain - and do it better than some of the most powerful drugs.

For the study, 15 healthy people who had never meditated before attended four, 20-minute classes to learn a technique called focus attention. The training showed them how to concentrate on their breathing and let go of distracting thoughts and emotions.

They also underwent a series of brain scans, as a heated probe was pressed against their leg, gradually raising the skin temperature to a painful 32C (120F). Meditation greatly reduced the amount of pain they said they were in and its unpleasantness, the Journal of Neuroscience reports.

The scans taken after meditation training showed a calming of brain regions involved in creating the feeling of where and how intense a painful stimulus is. And during meditation, this important pain-processing region appeared to be switched off completely.

The research, from the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Centre in North Carolina, also showed that meditation increased brain activity in areas thought to be key to coping with pain.

Source - Daily Mail

Tangerines 'a tonic for your heart'

We all know how an apple a day is supposed to keep the doctor away – now it seems the same is true for tangerines.

According to research, eating the fruit could protect against heart attacks, diabetes and stroke as well as staving off obesity. Nobiletin, a pigment found in tangerine peel, is ten times more potent than a similar one derived from grapefruit.

Researchers from the University of Western Ontario, in Canada, fed two groups of mice a diet high in fats and simple sugars, reports the journal Diabetes.

The first group became obese and showed signs related to metabolic syndrome – elevated cholesterol and triglycerides, high blood levels of insulin and glucose and a fatty liver – all of which increase the risk of diabetes and heart disease. However the second group, which had Nobiletin added to its food, gained a normal amount of weight and showed no rise in cholesterol, insulin or glucose.

Source - Daily Mail

Eating three bananas a day could 'slash the risk of a stroke'

Eating three bananas cuts your risk of a stroke, scientists say.

A banana for breakfast, one for lunch and one in the evening would provide enough potassium to reduce the chances of suffering a blood clot on the brain by around 21 per cent. The findings, by British and Italian researchers, suggest thousands of strokes could be prevented by the consumption of other potassium-rich foods such as spinach, nuts, milk, fish and lentils.

Although some previous studies have suggested bananas could be important for controlling blood pressure and preventing strokes, results have not always been consistent.

In the latest research, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, scientists analysed data from eleven different studies - dating back to the mid-Sixties - and pooled the results to get an overall outcome.

Source - Daily Mail

Could carrots and sweet potatoes help fight breast cancer?

A nutrient in carrots and sweet potatoes may prove to be a vital weapon against breast cancer in early stages of the disease, research suggests.

Retinoic acid, a vitamin A derivative, also rejuvenates the skin and a weak version of it is used in anti-wrinkle face creams. The chemical affects cell growth, proliferation and survival. So far, studies of its potential as a cancer therapy have proved inconclusive.

Now a new laboratory study has shown that retinoic acid reverses early changes in cells that lead to breast cancer. However, it is ineffective once a certain stage of cancer development has been passed.

Source - Daily Mail

Drinking coffee with a high-fat meal 'can raise blood sugar to harmful levels'

Drinking coffee after a high-fat meal can raise your blood sugar to potentially harmful levels, a study has found.

Not only are blood sugar levels increased after a fatty meal, but the rise doubles if the meal is followed by caffeinated coffee, researchers discovered. The study used a specially prepared drink containing molecules of fat, known as lipids, enabling researchers to mimic what happens to the body when fat is ingested.

Healthy men drank about one gram of the fat beverage for every kilo of body weight. Six hours later they were given a sugar drink. Typically when sugar is ingested, the body produces insulin, which takes the sugar out of the blood and distributes it to muscles.

But the researchers, from the University of Guelph in Canada, found fat affected the body’s ability to do this. Blood sugar levels were 32 per cent higher than they were when the men had not ingested the fat cocktail.

Source - Daily Mail

Foxgloves could help lower the risk of prostate cancer by a quarter

A traditional remedy made from foxgloves can lower the risk of prostate cancer by a quarter, scientists claim.

The drug digoxin is already used to treat congestive heart failure and abnormal heart rhythms. Now researchers say it could help to combat prostate cancer by stopping the growth of the disease, according to the Cancer Discovery journal.

Scientists from the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore found digoxin lowered the risk of prostate cancer by 24 per cent among the 47,000 men tested. But they warn the results do not prove digoxin, whose side-effects include nausea, headaches and male breast enlargement, prevents the disease.

Professor Elizabeth Platz said: 'We realised that combining our laboratory and epidemiologic approaches could reduce the possibility that results on the candidate drugs might be due to chance. Adding the epidemiology study to the drug screen step provided an assessment of the drug's potential activity in people.'

Source - Daily Mail