Health Articles and News

(this shows articles from Health Sections in newspapers and magazines.  Disclaimer)


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As this page has lengthened considerably it will be best to search it using Edit, Find, Find next and so on.  It is also well worth looking for references to various health matter in the next page

Whilst another page deals with helpful links to do with Health this page is devoted mainly to articles which regularly appear in newspapers and magazines describing drugs and procedures, some of which are still under trial. Again, I wish to state quite categorically that I am in no way qualified medically and I am merely quoting things that I have found reported.  Nevertheless, behind the headlines, rapid progress is being made in areas such as pharmaceuticals, stem cells, genetics and the understanding of DNA and it would be unwise to ignore these developments, though it may be some time before they can be administered widely. The ideas come so rapidly it is just possible that your doctor is not aware of what is happening with regard to a particular condition. 

Diagnosis cartoon

Surprise, surprise. In a survey doctors overwhelmingly said that the increasing number of patients who self diagnose was "Not helpful" (BBC Report)

However, BOOTS have a general site at http://www.webmd.boots.com/

Links to newspaper Health sections :

Times     Mail (Tuesdays), SAGA,  Telegraph   Guardian   Express

Some of the following describe procedures (operations) or treatments which are not currently available on the National Health in the UK.  Some are dependent on unproved 'science' such as Homeopathy. I am not against anything that people feel help with their condition. Medicines have existed for hundreds of years which people swear by. The fact is that many aches and pains will go away given time and, if a placebo makes you feel better, why not ? A lot of it is in the mind. But the science of medicine does seem to be going ahead in leaps and bounds. This is helped along by the understanding of the genetic basis for much ill health but also by the vast profits that can be made by companies if they can develop that new 'cure all' drug. Thousands of millions are being spent on medical research. With luck a company can do very well.  Without it, and with a bad press, a company can be on its knees overnight.

The dangers of self diagnosis ! :  From Three Men in a Boat (1889) "THERE were four of us - George, and William (Harris), and myself,  and Montmorency (the dog).  We were sitting in my room, smoking, and talking about how bad we were - bad from a medical point of view I mean, of course. We were all feeling seedy, and we were getting quite nervous about it. Harris said he felt such extraordinary fits of giddiness come over him at times, that he hardly knew what he was doing; and then George said that HE had fits of giddiness too, and hardly knew what HE was doing. With me, it was my liver that was out of order. I knew it was my liver that was out of order, because I had just been reading a patent liver-pill circular, in which were detailed the various symptoms by which a man could tell when his liver was out of order. I had them all. It is a most extraordinary thing, but I never read a patent medicine advertisement without being impelled to the conclusion that I am suffering from the particular disease in its most virulent form. The diagnosis seems in every case to correspond exactly with all the sensations that I have ever felt".

Jan 2017. I think this invention holds out great hope for earlier diagnoses : http://www.medgadget.com/2016/12/ai-powered-breath-detector-diagnoses-17-different-disease.html

Another item gleaned from Medgadget : A parallized woman 'typing' at a remarkable rate (even without predictive text)

July 2014 Jan 2017 I wonder if anything happened as a result of this proposal:The Health Secretary has said that GPs will be rated according to how they treat patients over 60. Those not up to scratch will be give a red rating on the NHS Choices website. The Royal College of GPs has called this 'a blunt instrument'. And so it may be. The criteria for a red rating is the percentage of older patients who are sent off to hospital. One does wonder whether this move is more about taking pressure of the hospitals and A & E Departments rather than a concern for older people. After all, it may dissuade a GP from sending a patient to hospital, where this might be the best thing in the circumstances.  Many hospitals are essentially insolvent, Is this maybe the way of getting more for the NHS wage bill for doctors  earnings?  One does wonder. That NHS Choices site is very good with lots of information on conditions and medication but also forums where people discuss medical matters and their experiences. Excellent videos on things like exercise

OVERdiagnosis ?  The article suggests that over the last few years there has been an emphasis on earlier diagnosis of illness, rather than waiting until symptoms appear. While this may have saved lives in some cases, Dr D H Gilbert Welch (Dartmouth Institute of Health Policy, Virginia, USA) has written a book which suggests that in many cases people are being treated when they are, and may remain, perfectly healthy. This has led to unnecessary procedures and vastly increased medical drug use. Overdiagnosis is increasing as  international recommendations about such things as cholesterol, obesity and blood/sugar levels. More is being discovered by MRI and CT Scans - and now DNA testing, which suggest that almost everyone has abnormalities, even though they are untroubled by them and may continue in that way. There is even a suspicion that that breast cancer screening may be over diagnosing.
As an aside I do wonder if the medical profession and the pharmaceutical industry may have something to do with this, especially in the USA. No! I don't just WONDER. And there have been salesman for "Dr Good" and 'Snake Oil' in one form or another for thousands of years. It depends on WITCH doctor you believe.

OVERprescription ?  The article indicated "The problem is that GPs are judged according to the number of patients they put on tablets" ! Cases were quoted where one woman had 25 pills, patches and creams.  Another where reducing the number of drugs from 12 helped an old guy's health improve.  These included statins and things for stomach acid and nerve pain. Although it was recognised that people should not reduce their pill intake without consulting their doctor they could ask for a review. The doctor felt that people prescribed over 5 pills should at least have an annual review.

Mail 3rd July 2016 It is well known that the frequent use of antibiotics causes the resistance of bacteria and that there is serious concern that we are not developing them faster enough to win the race.. It is also well known that antibiotics have no effect on viruses.  They are useful (as the name implies) to fight bad bacteria.  But one of the problems is that they take a scatter gun approach and kill even the good bacteria which help us, es[especially with the digestion process. Th article pointed out when it was necessary to use antibiotics, and when not/  Doctors have been advised to try to reduce the number of such prescriptions and they are doing so.  Most of the advice was based on the LENGTH of time an infection continued and whether the temperature was above normal for more than a couple of days. Also children and the elderly should be monitored more closely, while fit adults often recover because their own immune system.

The latest news on Statins is that NICE, which is often slow to approve drugs, is now to authorise their widespread prescription, even for people who are not imminently like to have have cardiovascular disease (strokes/heart trouble) This means that 40% of adults over 60 may be offered them if changes of lifestyle are having no beneficial effect . Many doctors feel that this another case of overprescription

The latest new on this is the NICE, which is often slow to approve drugs, is now to authorise their widespread prescription, even for people who are not imminently like to have have cardiovascular disease (strokes/heart trouble) This means that 40% of adults over 60 may be offered them if changes of lifestyle are having no effect . Many doctors feel that this another case of overprescription

However : The ISABEL Diagnostic System http://www.isabelhealthcare.com/home/system_faq.  This is available mainly to medical practices for a fee.  It has proved very successful in suggesting possible illnesses based on the symptoms and a vast database of information.  As a Careers Advisor I was acutely aware that no human could possibly hold in his head all the various factors that could lead to a reasonable suggestion of an occupation.  The same applies to doctors and the sooner all doctors have this program at their fingertips the better !

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Blood tests are given for many things. That wise old bird Doctor Scurr (Daily Mail) suggests that, if taking your blood is difficult or painful make sure your arm is kept warm until the last moment. If it really proves to be difficult ask for a hospital appointment with a phlebotomist

TIREDNESS. A good article HERE on the excellent American AARP site about medications known to be the cause of tiredness. But, as ever, consult your doctor before stopping using medications.  

PAIN RELIEF I read an article on controlling pain.  So I searched this page for the word PAIN.  It appeared in practically every paragraph ! (as did the word HEART). Meanwhile aspirin  (read this link) is back in favour (see Bowel Cancer below) for pain relief, fever and, in regular small doses, as an anti-coagulant (blood thinner) to reduce the risk of stroke and heart attack. However, due to this effect, there is a greater tendency to bleeding, (one relative had to have over 8 pints transfused, he was bleeding internally so profusely) so other pain relief may be more suitable e.g. Ibuprofen and paracetemol.  Also, an Australian study found increased risk of AMD (age related macular degeneration) in patients regularly taking aspirin over long periods, although this may be because of other related causes. The latest concern is that the NSAID drugs can have potentially serious side effects. See the link for details

See an Objective non-profit Pain Clinic http://www.painclinic.org/

Acupuncture Mail Sept 2013 Many doctors now prescribe this for specific pain and the NHS will pay. The pain includes headaches/Migraine, Chronic back pain and osteoarthritis (Not rheumatoid)

Saga Magazine describes the relief one woman got when she (finally) got to a pain clinic. Her feeling was that the average GP doesn't have the expertise to help much. Although she had osteoarthritis from an injury when she was young the assessment that she had at the pain clinic and subsequent treatment has made lifelong pain bearable. Prof. McMahon points out that "There has been a fantastic improvement in our understanding of some chronic pain and how it should be treated.  Medical experts need to take advantage of this..."  In her case she had a cervical epidural - an injection of a steroid and anesthetic drug in the space just outside the covering of the spinal cord in her lower back, then facet joint injections in her lower spine and, later, surgery to remove bits of disk and bone impinging on nerves.  This was followed up with physiotherapy and hydrotherapy and a course of pain management centering on cognitive behavioral therapy. In other words she got "the works!"  But people vary and the treatment needs to be tailored to the individual.  Treatments include 'nerve root block' for shoulder pain and some forms of neuralgia and osteoarthritis.  Epidural injections can ease sciatica and help neck and upper back pain. The steroid and anesthetic injections for chronic spinal pain, hip and shoulder pain, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Radio frequency facet denervation may stop pain from spinal facet joints (neck, upper an lower back).  A minute electrode is placed near the facet joints and an electric current destroys the tiny sensory nerves that supply the joints.  Radio frequency treatment can be used to 'stun' the nerves affecting the inter vertebral disks. Drug delivery systems release pain relieving drugs from an implanted pump directly to the spinal cord or patches can be used to release anesthetics over time. Spinal cord stimulators can be surgically implanted, releasing low voltage pulsed electrical signals through the spinal cord.  In extreme cases brain implants can be used to switch on the body's natural pain killers. So next time you are in agony and the doctor tells you to 'take it easy for a while' ask him whether there is a pain clinic in your area ! 

After that essay from Saga.co.uk/health, everything else looks rather 'traditional'!

Mail The article describes a man who suffered severe, unrelenting pain following a stroke. Eventually he got relief as a result of the insertion of two electrodes in the part of the brain which register pain. These are activated by a control in his chest area, which he can control with a hand-held device.  The surgeon was Tipu Aziz, professor of neurosurgery, University of Oxford, who is one of the few who have performed this operation

So, what do the experts think about PAIN. Joint pain. Often due to forms of arthritis. It was suggested that Paracetemol and/or Ibuprofen three times a day can help, especially if taken at the right time i.e. try to leave the first dose until lunch time, one in the evening and one before going to bed. Sinus Pain As well as Paracetamol and Ibuprofen they suggested inhalation of steam with eucalyptus or Olbas oil and a spray such as Sterimar Microspray. There are also decongestants (Otrivine and Vicks Sinex). But you may need antibiotics as it is may be caused by a bacterial infection. But too many painkillers can create a dependence, then a pain as a result of withdrawal. Migraine For bad sufferers they suggested sumatriptan as Migraleve or Imigran (both expensive) but many people will get by if they immediately take something like Nurofen migraine tablets. Back pain. Recommended : Slow release pills such as Lloyds Long Lasting Ibuprofen or Nurofen Back Pain Slow release capsules. Hangover. NOT Aspirin or Ibuprofen. Rather effervescent or soluble paracetamol. Drink lots of water. In bad cases soluble/effervescent Co-codamol is suggested.

PAIN (31st Aug 2010 Mail)  Terrible statistics about pain. One in four suffer pain daily, 50% get pain several times a week, 75% several times a month. One in seven in permanent pain, A huge percentage said it affected their sleep. Main pains were back, neck, shoulder and knee.

Mail  Anti-depressants, such as Prozac may not work efficiently if they are taken in conjunction with pain killers, aspirin, ibuprofen or paracetemol. New York Rockefeller University.

Painkillers. People may be recommended to take Ibuprofen and Paracetemol alternately to get relief without overdosing.  A new pill, Nuromol, contains both drugs and is said to be fast acting.  Available from Boots

Painkillers such as the NSAIDs (such as Naproxen) can cause stomach bleeding if taken in quantities over longer periods. An article points out that this problem may be overcome if you are also prescribed a PPI (Proton Pump Inhibitor), which reduces stomach acid - the cause of the bleeding.

Pain Management  (Mail 15th Jan 08) IONSYS is a credit card sized device which can be attached to the arm or chest.  It delivers the painkiller fentanyl through the skin at the touch of a button by the patient  (Barts)

http://www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk/.  The first port of call:  The official Health Service website (in various languages) includes 

For additional links please click Here

Can you get help from the Internet.? Certainly it is a great resource and can be a lot more objective than getting a medical opinion.  And many people would prefer the anonymity of  'the net' when it comes to medical conditions. For a site which tries to diagnose your problem with questions see http://solver.ivillage.com/symptomsolver/

Medical advances come thick and fast : The following are extracted from newspapers and magazines and are subject to verification by the reader, who should consult their doctor in every instance :

I have decided to group these articles into Categories such as Heart etc, regardless of date order

AGING and GENERAL HEALTH

Prolonging life (cartoon)

End of life Care  (Mail )  This is a subject which has not appeared on this page but is something that concerns us all.  The Liverpool Care Pathway was, no doubt, well intentioned but got a bad press and now is, itself, terminally ill. The problem was that it was not discussed with patents or relatives and resulted in horror stories of withdrawal of medication and even food and water. A new scheme, known as Coordinate My Care (CMC) trains medics to help patients put together their own end-of-life care plan, was launched at The Royal Marsden in 2009. Trained GPs, nurses or consultants help patients put together their own plan, which is then recorded and transmitted to the GP, Ambulance Service and the Help Line. When a call is received regarding the patient these agencies will be aware of the patient's wishes. Let us hope this takes off. 

Immune System (Mail ) The article described how some people's immune system may be older or younger than their chronological age.  Various factors can affect this, including your genes, general health during your life, amount of sleep (not too much or too little) whether you exercise and things like excessive stress. As a general guide they suggest around 7.5 hours sleep, moderate exercise, a varied diet, including things that include trace elements of selenium and zinc (such as beef, sardines, probiotic yoghurt, pine nuts, mangoes, pomegranates, olive oil) Generally, our immune system becomes less effective as we age, so we are less able to fight off infections, healing is slower etc.Even vaccines and antibiotics become less effective. Research is ongoing into how to restore the Thymus gland and boost T-cell production, both of which are vital to the immune system.

Another diet for longer life.  Pomegranates contain chemicals which are turned into a compound called Urolithin A. When worms were give it they lived 50% longer and elderly mice could run 42 % faster. Perhaps Usain Bolt has it in his tea ?   

Mail 1st December 2015  Live to 120 ? Experiments with animals using a pill for diabetics (Metaformin) increased their active lives.  The US. Food and Drug Administration has now approved it for trials with humans. It works by boosting the number of oxygen molecules released into a cell, which appears to boost their ability to survive..

A report quoted by Margaret McCartney, a Glasgow GP, has stated that the advice to drink 2.5 pints of water a day (suggested by the NHS site) is entirely wrong, unnecessary and potentially harmful. It is said NOT to curb appetite and, because of the dilution of salt in the blood can even result in a swelling of the brain (hyponatraemia), which has, in the past, proved fatal. But the increase in the sales of bottled water to 2 billion litres a year may be as a result of advertising than real need.

For all you men whose 'Sixpack' has turned to a Firkin and can't DIY, take heart from a recent Tesco survey and keep smiling !  

Tesco survey

The powers that be have finally come out with a statement that many people, especially expectant mothers, children and over 65s do not get enough vitamin D, especially during the winter and in places that do not get so much sunshine.  They recommend that a Vitamin D supplement is taken. I have never done supplements or extra vitamins and I feel sure it is an industry which has grown enormously.  But if the authorities come up with this recommendation I suppose we had better join in.

BMI stands for Body Mass Index and is an approximate measure of one's obesity. The figure is generated by dividing your metric weight by the square of your metric height. An average for a woman would be 19 to 25.8 and for a man, 20 to 26.4.  I just scrape in there.  

Beta Blockers  Another multi-purpose medicine. It can be prescribed for a variety of conditions such as high BP, angina, arrhythmia, and now a variety of cancers.  The drugs block the transmission of certain nerve impulses, stopping stress hormones such as adrenaline from stimulating cells by "sitting "on their receptors.  But they can (like so many of these things) have side effects

CLEAN EATING is the latest, fashionable 'cult' phrase. An article (Mail Feb 2016) decries the efforts of writers to claim that theirs is the best diet.  We have been through calorie counting, dairy free, gluten free, salt free, sugar free, processed free, lactose intolerance, organic, detox, almond milk, coconut oil, meat free and now half teenage girls are said to be lacking in iron and many lacking in calcium,. Now we are into Clean Eating, as though our bodies are not arranged to detoxify our systems naturally. That is what the liver is for.  It took a million years to develop and now the fashionable health gurus thing they can help it on its way.  What a presumption !

COFFEE Forget all you have been told about coffee, scientists the world over have found that drinking lots of coffee reduced memory loss and has also been shown to reduce the risks of cancer including  mouth, esophagus, brain, prostate and uterus.  Other beneficial effects were found on Parkinsons, heart disease and lung function e.g. asthma.These results were all scientifically based and involve large, lengthy studies.

MILK Forget the previous myth.  If you drink a pint a day you reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, a range of cancers and osteoporosis. In a study of 37,000 women it was found that those with the highest intake of dairy products had a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes.  However, MEN (NOT women) who were taking calcium supplements to strengthen bones had an increased risk of heart trouble.

Scientists from Oxford, Cambridge and Harvard, amongst others, examined the links between eating saturated fat and heart disease. Despite looking at the results of nearly 80 studies involving more than a half million people they were unable to find convincing evidence that eating saturated fats leads to greater risk of heart disease. In fact, when they looked at blood results, they found that higher levels of some saturated fats, in particular a type of saturated fat you get in milk and dairy products called margaric acid, were associated with a lower risk of heart disease.

We get Vitamin D (good for bones and immune system) from sunlight.  In the UK it might be as well to get a supplement in the winter (i.e. from October to April!)

The Cancer Research organisation reported a study on a large number of people in the 50 - 79 age bracket .  It showed that 1) not smoking 2) keeping physically active (defined as having an active job or doing more than 30 minutes of exercise a day) 3) having a moderate alcohol intake (1-14 units a week) and 4) eating at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day (as measured by the amount of vitamin C in their blood) resulted in them living around 14 years longer !  This did not take into account the other risks of obesity and sunbathing.

Research at Texas University showed that  the antifungal drug Thiabendazole has the potential to offer an inexpensive cancer therapy alternative as it inhibits the growth of blood vessels. As the drug is approved for use with humans they hope to conduct tests quite soon.  

I had a call from the medical practice for an annual MOT. I had to take a urine sample to the hospital and they tested a blood sample.  Both appeared clear but I felt that the whole procedure was very perfunctory.  For instance the blood and urine samples were not tested for PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) despite the fact that I have had to have a prostate op. (non malignant) and have asked for further checks now and again.  Neither did the tests include a simple test for cancer of the colon, which is a major killer of oldies. This test can be requested if you are over 60. The doctor took my blood pressure but didn't weigh me, give me an idea of my fat level or any advice on my bulging waistline.  My weight is stable; the only problem is the distribution ! I insisted on another blood test and my PSA was OK.  I was right to ask. Many Urologists support the idea of regular checks for over 50s, especially if there is any history of the disease in the family.  Early detection can lead to successful surgery.  Too late and your prospects are not good.

The patient had a slight injury during a kick boxing session. She finished up with a clot in the lung, potentially fatal. The symptoms were missed by an X-ray at no less than St Thomas's, London. She had to have spell in hospital and was given Warfarin.  However, a new anticoagulant drug, Rivaroxaban (how do they think them up?) has just been approved and should mean that people do not have to attend the regular checkups normal for patients on Warfarin.

DVT after ops. Experts from Oxford University found the likelihood of a patient needing hospital treatment for a blood clot was 70 times higher than the norm for six weeks after the operation.  Read more  HERE: Do they supply you with stockings to wear AFTER your operation. I wasn't told to. But DVT-related problems cause 25,000 deaths in English hospitals every year, more than five times as many as from superbugs such as MRSA. The figure is more than the number of deaths in the UK from breast cancer, Aids and traffic accidents combined.

Muscle repair. Tests were carried out at the University of California with men of various ages. The men had one of their legs immobilised in a cast for two weeks.  Then tissue samples were taken.  After the cast was removed they exercised with weights then further tissue samples were taken.  Not surprisingly the younger men were found to have four times more regenerative stem cells than those of older participants.  In older patients muscles became inflamed and scarred (so beware !). It was found that, in older men, a key protein (mitogen-activated protein kinase) which is needed to allow muscle stem cell recovery, was absent. . When this protein was added to the samples the tissue began to repair.  It is thought that this protein, which turns the gene on or off may be a key to drug development (to prevent muscles from switching off stem cells). Meanwhile, it is important that people keep active as long as possible to keep the system working.  

Researchers say that taking a brisk walk for 20 minutes a day halves the risk of early death.  They studied 3000 men aged 70 to 92 over 20 years. During the period, for every 100 who died in the lowest fitness group only 46 died from the highest fitness group.  In fact the risk of early death reduced by 10% for each 2 minute incremental increase in exercise time. (Does this mean that if I managed 22 minutes a day I will live for ever ?)

Elixir of Life I rather stupidly bought that right-wing rag, the Express, because of a report of a pill that would extend life by 20 years (pity the poor pension schemes!) I can only assume they couldn't find anything else to say on that day and had to keep circulation numbers up somehow.  It turned out that it worked on mice providing they were kept in a germ free environment.  But as it destroyed their immune system they (and you) would die even quicker out here with the rest of us ! Codswallop again !

Harvard Medical School scientists have found the gene that is responsible for the aging process. They said it may be possible to reverse many aspects of aging. This discovery came just in time for people to enjoy a long life with no money !

Stem Cell Research seems to hold out the hope of a 'magic bullet' as it has been shown that it is possible to 'reprogram' the DNA of adult skin cells into embryonic stem cells, capable of being transformed into ANY type of human tissue.  This is not some science fiction. Already the technique has been shown (experimentally) to restore sight and produce things such as heart valves.  Even the regrowth of brain cells does not appear to be beyond the scope of this amazing technology. The post Bush era may see some dramatic developments.  Barak Obama has not the same misgivings about such research.

Lycopene, the antioxidant found in the skin of tomatoes is said to REDUCE WRINKLES, protect against OSTEOPOROSIS, LUNG, BREAST and PROSTATE cancer and help fight the scarring of the womb caused by ENDOMETRIOSIS. Apart from the possibility of turning your skin orange if intake is too high there is no known disadvantage of eating more tomatoes, tomato soup, tomato sauce.  Lycopene is more easily transported through the blood if the tomatoes are cooked (Mail 13th November 2008)

Foods for a longer life (Mail 19th October 08) Prof. Gary Williams (Leeds Uni) suggests apples, blackberries, black tea, cereal bran, cherries, cherry tomatoes, coffee, cranberries, dark chocolate, green tea, oranges, peaches, plums, raspberries, red grapes, red onions, spinach, strawberries. He is keen on those because they contain polyphenols, known for their antioxidant properties, said to reduce heart disease and cancer

Live to 125 ?! (Mail 30th Aug 08) Scientists claim that gene test on mice have enabled them to live - healthily and without tumours - 45% longer. And the same genes are found in humans. (Unfortunately it doesn't also add an iota to the world's resources so you would starve to death instead ! - Ed.)

The exercise pill Not yet on the market but the couch potato's dream, a couple of drugs which fools muscles into thinking you have worked out long and hard, are being trialled. GW1516 and AICAR are said to confer the benefits of fitness without the need for exercise. Pull the other one ? No, researcher Prof Ronald Evans (Salk Institute), said to be a world-leading biologist said "We have exercise in a pill".

A Health map of the UK (Mail 22nd July) shows significant differences in life expectancy, clearly affected by lifestyle and wealth. Shortest life expectancy (men) was 69 in Glasgow, (Women) 78 years in Liverpool. This compares with Kensington and Chelsea with men at 82 and women at 86, so a massive difference, especially for men. There were significant differences in obesity in very young children from 16% in Hackney, to Teasdale (4.86%) One remarkable statistic was a 15% of kids in Ryedale were obese and only 5.29% in South Lakeland, both in Cumbria ! In fact children's obesity was scattered. But why, at 134, were there twice as many prostate cancer cases in Dorset than in North East London ? Perhaps that one is demographic, with a big difference in age levels of the populations in question. North East, as expected, is the home to the big smokers and drinkers (with three times as many binge drinkers than in some other parts of the goody-goody South East). But despite the North East's smoking, drinking and eating habits (they don't care for fruit and veg). it did not show up significantly in the health charts. But, far from being a nation regularly claiming 'sickies' the worst was Glasgow at only 4 days per year off work. Interesting.

Fish oil pills Mail 13th Nov 2012 Professor Tom Saunders declares that, while they do no harm there is no evidence that daily fish oil capsules (one of the most popular supplements) will have any effect on arthritis, heart, alzheimer's, level of cholesterol, longevity or a baby's brain power.  However, he does recommend fish twice a week, one of which should be 'oily' e.g. salmon, herring, trout, mackerel and sardines, though don't overdo it ! 

Vitamin Pills (Mail May 08 ) Whilst a normal diet will give you all the vitamins you need, so supplements are generally a waste of money.  Excess is excreted through urine. The jury is still out as to whether they might do harm but a doctor in Holland reckons that 500 Mg of Vitamin C taken for 50 days after someone has fallen and fractured their wrist reduced the incidence of 'regional pain syndrome' five fold

Vitamin Pills (Mail 16th April) A front page headline no less asks " Can Vitamins do you harm ?"  A respected group of international scientists reviewed 67 studies  involving a quarter of a million people and decided that beta-carotene, Vitamins A and E seem to increase mortality.  Vitamin A was the worst at a 16% increase in mortality, while the others showed lesser increases. Vitamin C and Selenium did not show any effect on mortality but further research was required.  The vitamin industry refuted the claims or said they were biased.

A government Pensions Advisor is telling insurance companies to revise their ideas on longevity.  He indicated that a man of 65 is likely to live to 86. And the pension funds are in a bad enough state on their current calculations - mainly, I suspect, because their financial wizards are pretty bad at second guessing the trends in the stock market.

Healthy Living Boston Brigham Women's Hospital have deduced that if a 70 year old eats well, exercises and does not smoke they have a good chance of living to 90.

Healthy Habits An 11 year study of 20,000 over-45 men and women  by Cambridge University concluded that life expectancy of people who tick all the healthy boxes, compared with those who don't, is as much as 14 year greater.  The boxes are the usual ones : No smoking, moderate drinking, five portions of fruit and veg and at least a half hour's exercise per day (whether in work or in leisure time)

Aging  Scientists have demonstrated that, in rats, two genes are crucial to a long and healthy life.  It was discovered that when they were on a low caloried diet the two genes (SIRT3 and SIRT4) worked harder, producing stronger mitochondria,  and that as a consequence they had the ability to hold back the aging process.  If this could be done in humans, preferably without starving them (!) they would, on average, live longer and healthier.  

MuesliA study recommended Tesco Everyday value muesli over other more expensive and well know makes.  Apart from price (5p per serving) it did not contain such a large element of sugar (7.8g) or saturated fat. If it was boring they suggested you add fresh fruit, nuts and seeds. Some muesli had from 3 to 5 times as much sugar. I prefer Aldi Muesli. Lots of real nuts and fruit!.

Healthy Living  Don't get up before 7.30. Get up at a regular time and don't lie in late. Eat breakfast - porridge suggested for its slow energy release. Apply sun screen (Factor 15) even on 'cloudy bright' days. Take a break from the computer screen now and then. Eat an orange or red fruit daily, preferably with spinach (!) which quadruples the body's absorption of Vitamin C. Eat a light lunch e.g. beans on toast. Take a siesta (probably the main reason continentals have better heart health than us). Snack on diet yogurts, not biscuits.  Exercise between 5 and 7 pm (swimming suggested) Have a light dinner, lots of veg., less carbohydrate and protein and eat slowly, so you feel full before you have overeaten. Switch off the TV long before going to bed. Get around seven hours sleep. And routine is the key.  

Elixir of Life ?  The dream of the Pharos ? Researchers at Marie Curie University, Paris, are working on mitochondrial cells, the deterioration of which is largely responsible for the aging process. This gene therapy could also lead to rectifying inherited traits due to defects in mitochondrial DNA. So, rather than just leading to an overpopulated world, they may be the key to curing some of the distressing illnesses from which people suffer while they are alive.

Aging and speed of walking (New York Times) In a University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine nine year study in which people's gait speed was measured, 77 percent of those people described as slow had died, 50 percent of those considered medium and 27 percent of those considered fast.  Sounds logical. If you are about to drop off you will not be sprinting to the post box.

Testosterone Deficiency Syndrome (TDS). (Express 19th June 2007) This is not just a matter of a low drive and energy but related problems can include an increase the chances of  Type 2 diabetes, central obesity, insulin resistance, high blood pressure and abnormal cholesterol levels. Symptoms include decreased libido, loss of strength/endurance, loss of height (!), feeling grumpy. Although many/most of these symptoms increase with age it might be worth getting things checked out.  It can be treated painlessly by implants, injections, patches or tablets but mostly by a gel.

The patient had been unable to work for several years due to various symptoms, including obesity and diabetes. After a series of injections and gel treatment he lost 4 stone and got his life (and job) back. HRT in the form of testosterone has now become a more accepted treatment where a blood sample has shown the patient's testosterone is below 10 millimols per millilitre of blood Brain/nervous System Epilepsy 2016 In what may be a major development for some patients with epilepsy researchers at Mayo Clinic have shown that continuous electrical stimulation of the brain’s cortex can reduce the frequency of seizures, and in some cases their intensity and duration. The study, published in Neurology relied on applying an electrode grid to the brain, essentially the same type that is commonly used to pinpoint the source of seizures, but to use them to send an electric current to the brain. Thirteen patients with drug-resistant focal epilepsy for whom surgery would not be appropriate had temporary electrodes applied. Once they showed a positive response to the electric therapy, the electrode array was replaced with a more permanent device. Of the thirteenpatients had improved outcomes in both the intensity of their seizures and their life satisfaction. Majority also had a more than 50% decline in seizures compared to before therapy and six of the people had no disabling seizures at all
Dementia. I will never forget the video showing how a 90 year old was energised when the care workers found his love for music and provided him with an iPad full of his favourite songs. See HERE There is a Charity in the UK which promotes this method  by providing the Silver Song Music Box to residential homes.  I wonder whether providing the patient with a tablet containing a slide show of photos of the people they know or knew as well as the music might entertain them for many hours. Cerebrovascular disease<: Furring of the carotid arteries in the neck can result in symptoms such as balance problems and saying or writing the wrong words (my iPad must have that problem). A scan can confirm this. Doctor Scurr said the usual things about lowering cholesterol - give up smoking, reduce weight, get exercise and you will probably be put on statins.  However, recent research on older people on statins found that the fact that they lived longer (statistically), this was NOT due to lower cholesterol but some other unknown factor.

SAD the appropriately abbreviated Seasonal Affective Disorder http://www.sada.org.uk/  is aggravated by lack of exposure to sunlight during the dark winter months. It can cause depression, sleep problems, lethargy. overeating, loss of concentration,  loss of libido and mood changes. There is even a less distressing version, being called SAD Lite. With our ever lengthening winters it is not surprising that more people are fed up.

A very thorough and helpful page ion SAD at https://www.nestmaven.com/sleep/seasonal-affective-disorder/

Brain damage is a major cause of death. With a traumatic injury to the brain (in an accident or blow to the head) the brain may expand inside the rigid skull, causing further damage.  As there is no effective drug treatment trials are being held in many countries, using the female hormone progesterone.  The drug is extracted from yams and has no feminising effects.  The treatment must be given within 8 hours of the injury, which can be a challenge

NARCOLEPSY  http://www.narcolepsy.org.uk/  Sudden attacks of sleepiness.  Recently, in children, this has been suspected as being caused by the swine flu drug, Pandemrix, which is being withdrawn

Migraine  (Daily Mail March 8th 2016 Dr Martin Scurr. I have always considered Dr Scurr to be one of the most knowledgeable reliable medical writers and was surprised to see his name on a small piece at the bottom of his usual Tuesday page.  In it he admitted to be a life long sufferer of migraine. He had, of course, tried most things.  This time he was 'giving a try' to 100mg of Co-enzyme Q10 plus riboflavin B2 (400mg a day). Neither require a prescription. But, over a long period could cost quite a lot. The Co-enzyme alone would cost £19 for a ten day supply. Headache (Mail) Migraine (see below), A multitude of causes: Perfume, onions, garlic, bright lights, flashing lights, aerosols,  coughing, sneezing, anxiety, hairdressing, lack of sleep, warm weather, sex (more men than women!), hot showers, smoking and ham sandwiches! The reasons are given in the article but I am not going to go into them here.

Anti-depressants such as Prozac may not work efficiently if they are taken in conjunction with pain killers, aspirin, ibuprofen or paracetemol. (New York Rockefeller University). Research at the University of Hull also pointed to the conclusion that there was little evidence to support the prescription of anti-depressants in all but the most severely depressed.

Bipolar Disorder Mail This condition results in massive mood swings from Manic (the highs) to extreme depression. It has become fashionable owing to so-called 'role models' (Robbie Williams, Stephen Fry, Mel Gibson) declaring that they are sufferers. Suddenly people who suffer mood swings (and who doesn't, or didn't, when young ?) are actually wanting to put a label on this, resulting in requests for cures (usually drugs). They may also find that the diagnosis follows them around (like an unwanted tattoo) for the rest of their lives. There are people who have become "wannabe bipolars" because it is thought to be glamorous and necessary for creativity. See also HERE That is not to underestimate this serious problem. Most people are treated by therapies and anti-depressants but see, also, the next paragraph

ECT : Electroconvulsive Treatment. This controversial treatment, where an electrical current is sent through the brain, appeared to work for the patient, who had a Bipolar condition - see last para. When drugs had little effect she went through a course of EC Treatment and eventually came through her problem to the extent where she was able to restart her studies and even get a Phd. Surprisingly, while you may not be able to get certain drugs on the NHS, ECT is approved by NICE and appears to be returning to favour.

Mobile Phones  The jury is STILL out as to whether the use of mobile phones can cause damage to the brain.  It is true that all mobile phones and even cordless phones fire out non ionising radiation when in use. It is known that children absorb more radiation than adults due to their cranium/brain structure (and the fact that they spend many hours with phones glued to their ears !) Bear in mind that the phone is emitting waves whenever it is on, as do cordless phones and any wi-fi equipment. So we are all being subjected to this most of the time.

SLEEP. A Dutch study found that wearing socks in bed helped people fall asleep 27% faster. Socks help dilate the blood vessels in the feet, warming you up.  This prompts a signal to the brain telling it you are ready to fall asleep

Travel Sickness  Mail. Generally caused by the brain receiving conflicting signals about the body's movement or balance. What to do. There are various tablets or patches. The latter (e.g. hyocine) which can be on prescription, can last much longer but can cause drowsiness.  Another suggestion is ginger, - even biscuits.  Try to aim for the centre of a boat or by the wings of a 'plane. Deep breathing may help, or keeping your eyes closed. Do your kids/grandchildren get sick in a car ? My experience is that those in the back do if you take bends in the road to fast.  Try to ease round corners and get the most sicky one in the front seat (preferably with a bowl!).
Stammer. A drug (Pagoclone) has been found to reduce excessive nerve-cell activity associated with anxiety. During trials on people with anxiety problems it was noticed that those with stammers found their symptoms reduced.  Unfortunately this only lasted while they took the drug.

Sleep and Jetlag A common problem especially with flights from East to West. The body gets out of sync with daylight. Sleep is induced by the natural increase in melatonin in the body. We have ten times as much in our blood when we are asleep. The article recommended the use of melatonin in tablet form. But also to avoid daylight when you arrive (from the East) and to expose yourself to sunlight in the afternoon. Going West it is better to stay up longer and go to bed at nightfall.

INSOMNIA Please see the website of a good friend at www.circlecity.co.uk.  The author suffers from OSA severe (Obstructive Sleep Apnoea) but the site deals with insomnia generally but also has pages devoted to many aspects of computing plus a long list of amusing photographs and cartoons
The writer tried Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), which helped a lot. Unfortunately not readily available on the NHS. Another postcode lottery and likely to cost around £850 for a series. It is a very individual process, which tries to discover the pattern and reasons. But, in this case, the recommendation "Do it, Plan it or Forget it" helped. If it has to be attended to, get up and do it.  If it is a question of doing something the following day, write it down. If there is nothing that can be done try to forget it. So one should try to categorise what thoughts are keeping you awake.

Obstructive Sleep Apnoea. A Brazilian clinic is holding trials where people with ASA are given a low salt diet and diuretics as it is possible that lower salt may improve the condition.  However, the Sleep Research Centre in Loughborough commented that many people get by by being propped up on pillows and this may be a less disturbing way than using diuretics , which would mean more frequent visits to the toilet in the night, thus resulting in more frequent sleep disturbance, which is one of the problems with OSA.
Good article HERE indicating that TV, phone and computer screens are no help

Mail 16th June 2015Another suggestion to take your mind of things (which is often a cause of sleeplessness) is to concentrate on the story line of a book or film - but nothing closely related to your life or what you are planning to do.

Mail October 2014 Some people find the traditional CPAP (Constant Pressure) mask uncomfortable. There is a new generation of CPAP machines which are lighter and quieter. The Philips Nuance mask and the Nasal AireII do not use a full head gear

Insomnia (Mail 21st Dec 2012)  A study of people using sleeping pills, with 50% using a placebo, showed that half the impact is due to the placebo effect, although this may, in part be due to the help and attention that the volunteers received during trials.  

Insomnia pill  A new pill, Intermezzo, contains a quarter of Zolpidem and is said to be fast acting, for those people who can't get back to sleep after waking in the night (to go for a pee?) It has been approved for use in the USA. Not yet here.

Insomnia. Wakefulness is commonplace for older people.  The article suggests that the body clock is controlled by daylight and, in particular, sunlight. And older people may not be getting enough.  Their eyes also absorb less blue light. This results in an increase in Melatonin, the sleep inducing hormone  Their body clock is disturbed (as in jetlag) and they find that they are dozing in the daytime instead of at night. The Rensselaer Institute in New York has developed a pair of glasses with a blue light emitting bulb running across the top of the frame. It does not affect their normal view. But tests showed that wearers produced less melatonin, so keeping them more wakeful during the day. Further tests are being carried out before the glasses become available in the UK.

Depression CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) is a form of psychiatric help for people suffering from depression, which centres on building up people's self confidence (rather than the Freudian methods of looking into the past). It is approved by government, who have promised more cash to train more people in this area of psychiatry. See HERE

Tranquilisers The drugs Valium, Xanax, Ativan, Serax and Librium have been prescribed for years for anxiety, depression, insomnia. In 2010 there were 10 million prescriptions. Unfortunately these drug cause dependency (addiction) in some people and, with doctors being advised to cut down on these drugs many people are experiencing withdrawal symptoms. This can include dizziness and pain, especially if they are taken off the drug too quickly. It is vital the the reduction of these drugs should be gradual and in close consultation with the GP and that the patient should have psychiatric and social support

Symptoms of Stroke. This is being widely publicised : STROKE: Remember the 1st three letters....S.T.R.
STROKE IDENTIFICATION:
A neurologist says that if he can get to a stroke victim within 3 hours he can totally reverse the effects of a stroke...totally. He said the trick was getting a stroke recognized, diagnosed, and then getting the patient medically cared for within 3 hours.
Remember the '3' steps, STR . Read and Learn!

Doctors say a bystander can recognize a stroke by asking three simple questions:

If the tongue is 'crooked', or if it goes to one side or the other, that is also an indication of a stroke.

EmboTrap II Clot Retriever for Acute Ischemic Stroke Cleared for use in Europe. Brain clots causing stroke may be removed by use of a clot trap. It is a tiny mesh which is inserted in the vein to capture and retrieve the clot

August 2014 (BBC) A pilot study suggests an experimental treatment that involves infusing stem cells into the brain may boost recovery after stroke. Recipients have been able to get back to walking much better

Stroke The patient was young but the stroke affected her left side very badly with her left hand in a claw, which she couldn't use safely. Eventually she was treated with Botox, which relaxed the muscles in her arm and reduced the pain.  She needs the treatment every 6 months but now feels well enough to have returned to study

Stroke. For people whose walking is affected by stroke an FES (Functional Electrical stimulation) device may help. They may suffer from dropped foot. The device is worn below the knee or on the ankle. A simple version uses adhesive electrical conduction pads on the skin over the nerve. These are connected to a stimulator unit by wires (or wirelessly).  A pressure switch is placed in the heel of the shoe. As you lift your foot the pressure is relieved and this switches on the electrical stimulation.  When you put your foot down it stops. They have to be removed at night. Most are worn for a few months and, in addition to assisting the gait, help to strengthen the muscles.

Stroke Other Symptoms While many people know the above symptoms of stroke, some stroke victims may have something akin to inner ear infection, as they cause dizziness, lack of balance and nausea. This may result in an incorrect diagnosis and a waste of valuable time before the correct treatment is applied (often rapid blood thinning treatment to attempt to clear the blockage in the brain)

A Stroke Detecting Cap is described (Mail March 19 2013). This cap contains electrodes which enable continuous EEC detection and can warn nurses or relatives of the possible onset of another stroke by.sounding an alarm. It is expected to be on the market within two years and will be relatively inexpensive.  

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Hormone Replacement Therapy (Mail 20th Sept 08 and BBC Feb 2015) Various type and applied by tablet, patches, implants or cream. has fallen from an all time high of over 2 million patients to 1 million as the result of research findings suggesting higher risks of breast cancer, heart disease and strokes (contrary to previous research suggesting fewer heart troubles). That research was overturned by further studies suggesting that risks were only higher for older women taking the drug. The International Menopause Society have recently issued a review suggesting that it is safe and effective for women from 50 - 59. Dr Stephenson, HRT expert at Brompton said that these health scares had been a disaster for women's health and warned the the NHS faces a rise in fractures and heart disease as a result of the reduction in prescriptions for HRT.  The 2015 report insists there is a greater risk of Ovarian cancer but that careful consideration must be given in the case of women where the menopause is especially debilitating

MRS (Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy) is being used to study brain tissue without having to open the skull. US researchers even watched the growth of brain cells (and I always thought they just died and weren't replaced)

Multiple Scelerosis  A promising BBC article by a doctor who was affected at the age of 21. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-39256584

Mail 28th May 2014 A new treatment for Multiple Sclerosis not only stops the disease from advancing but may help patients recover from disability..Remarkable results for the drug alemtuzumab mean it has been approved for use on the NHS and is now available in England. It is particularly effective in the early stages. See more HERE:

Mail 26th Aug 08 Multiple Sclerosis The patient's immune system attacks their body resulting in increasing immobility. The normal treatment is with steroids and Interferon. One untried medication is called Low-Dose Naltrexone (LDN), "which briefly obstructs the effects of endorphins. This increases the production of endorphins, stimulating the immune system and reducing the activity of MS". As no company is presently considering it worthwhile to gamble the millions required to test the drug it is not available on a normal prescription. But the drug is also used to help alcoholics, so it may be obtained "off label", where a drug is licensed for one condition but used for another. In the case highlighted in the Mail the patient bought it on private prescription from a doctor he was directed to by the LDN Research Trust 0871 989 96 66. It was not enormously expensive at £15 - £24 a month. In his case it has got him back on his feet out of a wheel chair.

Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP) (Mail 12/08/08) A terminal illness. A brain disease: Symptoms: Falling backwards or sideways, difficulty swallowing, speaking; muscular pains. Unfortunately there is no known cure, only palliative care.
Synaesthesia (Mail)A surprising number of people have crossed brain connections so that one sense automatically triggers another. e.g. Someone who finds that words bring a taste to their mouths. So, hearing a name or a word automatically results in a taste.

Alzheimers
The many articles on this disease have been brought together. More hope for aducanumab. But, again years away.  I really think papers just publishes these stories to sell copy
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2016/09/01/alzheimers-new-drug-that-halts-mental-decline-is-best-news-for-d/     It is a shame, as it gives suferers and their relatives hope, then dashes it

Dr Martin Scur, the newspaper's regular doctor says that, at 70, he is putting himself on Statins (Pravastin) even though his blood pressure is normal. Although there can be some side effects, on balance he feels that it is worthwhile as a dementia preventative, especially as there is a family history of it. The latest new on this is the NICE, which is often slow to approve drugs, is now to authorise their widespread prescription, even for people who are not imminently like to have have cardiovascular disease (strokes/heart trouble) This means that 40% of adults over 60 may be offered them if changes of lifestyle are having no effect . Many doctors feel that this another case of overprescription

People over 65 who have a severe vitamin D deficiency have double the risk of developing dementia, a study has suggested. You get Vitamin D from some foods but also sunlight.  However older skin is not as receptive. Did they study areas where sunlight is rare I wonder ?

Dementia  A doctor describes the symptoms she suffered before Alzheimer's was confirmed.  These included not recognising people she had worked with for years, as well as hallucinations: hearing a baby cry, seeing people who were not there and even smelling things that were not in the room. She gave up her practice and when she had the problem confirmed was put on Aricept. This arrested the disease to some extent and she wrote the article and still uses email. She even has a website to help people at www.gloriousopportunity.org  Really interesting. I couldn't stick to a script like that.  Maybe....

Lifestyle appears to be a contributory factor. This includes smoking. lack of exercise, obesity, high blood pressure and even studying (education). Also mild brain injuries through work, contact sports or military service appeared to increase the percentage of those affected.

2017. Another couple of drugs, Trazodone and DBM are already in use by humans, is being suggested as a way to slow degenerative brain diseases, including Alzheimers, Parkinson's and Huntingdon's. They are being tested in the lab at this stage.
Dr Doug Brown, from the Alzheimer's Society, said: "We're excited by the potential of these findings, from this well conducted and robust study. As one of the drugs is already available as a treatment for depression, the time taken to get from the lab to the pharmacy could be dramatically reduced. Dr David Dexter, from Parkinson's UK, said: "This is a very robust and important study. "If these studies were replicated in human clinical trials, both trazodone and DBM could represent a major step forward."

Mail 2nd Sept 2016 Aducanumab, is again being touted as the way to stop the development of the plaques, which are now widely accepted as being the growths in the brain which are impeding the retention of memory.  Once again they are not holding out the hope of a cure for those already affected.  The search for something that will actually reduce the plaques goes on

Mail  28July 2016 A new drug called LMTX, developed in Aberdeen University, is being trialled and appears to slow the progression and even appeared to reverse the decline in some cases.. It is said to dissolve tangles of protein called 'tau'. It is being backed by a small company called TauRx. Prof. Wischik (Aberdeen) hopes his trial results will enable him to apply for a drug license. It is not yet available on the NHS. But, as the alternative drugs being used interfered with LMTX, the sample has been quite small so far. Some research has been carried out with patients having high doses of Vitamin B.  This appeared to slow the process - with improvements in memory among some of those taking part.  But the research was not widespread enough to be conclusive. Early detection of potential Alzheimers by routine tests may be possible in 40 year olds. But would anyone want to know, unless treatment was available (which it isn't).  And would this have implications for life insurance? Common infections double the rate of decline, according to research funded by the Alzheimers Society. It is thought that the known connection between 'inflammatory of the brain and Alzheimers' may be exacerbated by other infections and they recommend that Alzheimers patients should be treated urgently for any infection and that it is possible that anti inflammatory drugs such as Aspirin and Ibuprofen could be used to fight Alzheimers. The Observer. A drug commonly used to control epilepsy, (Sodium Valporate, called Epilim)  has been found to stimulate the body's natural defences against Alzheimers by boosting the production of an enzyme which prevents the build up of proteins in brain cells. These proteins, or plaques, trigger the onset of Alzheimers. The hope is that, because the medication is already approved for epilepsy the time scale for approval for Alzheimers will be shortened. Prof Tony Turner, Leeds University Institute of Molecular and Cellular biology.

And the search goes on :  Past suggestions:.....

  • Dozens of drugs are under trial. Flurizan is now finishing trials. PRX-03140 from Epix Pharmaceuticals (5 years) enabled one patient to speak sentences again.
  • Patients at Addenbrookes are using a Sensecam.  Worn around their neck, it takes pictures every 30 seconds and is used as a prompt for memory.
  • (Mail) Curcumin, a key ingredient in curry, is said to be good for the memory. It has been shown to protect nerve cells, making it potentially useful in cases of Alzheimers and Parkinsons. South Asian populations have low rates of Alzheimers. (mind you they often have shorter lifespans).
  • (Mail) Amyloid plaques are found in the brains of people with Alzheimers. They cannot be spotted by brain scans but it has been discovered that they can be found using an eye scan.
  • It is thought that babies umbilical cord blood could hold the secret of a powerful new treatment for Alzheimers.  Tests on mice showed stem cells from cord blood can significantly reduce damage to the brain.  Recently a number of companies have set up cord blood banks for parents in the UK anxious to store babies' stem cells for treatment for future illnesses.  Stem cell blood is normally discarded with the placenta, after birth.
  • A cup of coffee a day could keep Alzheimer's disease at bay, research suggests. Scientists have shown a daily dose of caffeine helps protect the brain from the harmful effects of cholesterol, which is linked to the disease.The most common cause of dementia, Doctors can do little to stop the disease from taking its devastating course, so techniques which delay its development could be of major benefit. Researchers from the University of North Dakota in the U.S. looked at the effect of caffeine on the blood-brain barrier, a natural mechanism which prevents harmful substances passing from the blood into the brain. Previous studies have suggested that high levels of cholesterol - present in fatty foods - cause leaks in the barrier. This leads to the destruction of brain cells seen in Alzheimer's. In this study, rabbits fed a cholesterol-rich diet were given 3mg of caffeine a day, the equivalent of a daily cup of coffee for an average-sized person. After 12 weeks, a number of tests showed that the blood-brain barrier was significantly more intact in rabbits receiving the caffeine. Professor Jonathan Geiger, a pharmacologist and one of the authors of the study, said: "Caffeine appears to block several of the disruptive-effects of cholesterol that make the blood-brain barrier leaky
  • Novelist Terry Pratchett Alzheimers has contributed $1,000,000 to the fight against the disease, blaming the NHS for denying sufferers the drug Aricept.  NICE has advised against the free supply of Aricept, Reminyl and Exelon, except for those with severe symptoms.  Although the cost is only around £2.50 a day NICE maintains that is is not cost effective in the early stages, a decision upheld in the High Court.  
  • Scientists at UCLA are doing human trials using the B3 Vitamin nicotinamide, which they believe will improve the memory abilities of patients with mild to moderate forms of the problem 
  • British scientists  (King's College, London) say they are close to developing a blood test to spot early signs of Alzheimer's disease. They identified a series of proteins that are present (in higher quantities) in those with the problem, which were not present in a control group. The advantage of this is that early diagnosis would enable more effective treatment with drugs which are being developed to stave off the symptoms. 
  • Scientists at University of Minnesota are developing a 60 second test for common brain diseases such as Alzheimer's, schizophrenia and multiple sclerosis.  The scan uses magnetoencepholography to analyse magnetic fields in the brain.  The research was welcomed by the Alzheimer's Society.
  • Parkinsons

    People with mild to moderate Parkinsons Disease were found to have improved motor function, mood, fitness and thinking abilities if they took a brisk walk (daily ?)
    A report on TV http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-15639440 as a result of a study of twins in the USA showed a significant increase in Parkinsons in people who had been exposed to trichloroethylene (TCE). This chemical has been banned for use in certain products (and foods) for many years, but is still found in solvents, certain household products and drycleaning. It was also used in certain agricultural practices.  Elements have leached into groundwater supplies. The delay in the onset of the disease may be as much as 40 years.


    Deep Brain Stimulation has been found to be beneficial to Parkinson's patients (along with the usual medication).  A trial have been going on for some time.  See the NHS article at  http://www.nhs.uk/news/2010/04april/pages/parkinsons-brain-probe-trialled.aspx In one case published in my local paper a patient who had been confined to a wheel chair is now playing table tennis ! The article stresses that the fitting of a 'Brain Pacemaker' may not be suitable for all patients and there are the risks associated with all invasive surgery.


    Early diagnosis of Parkinsons has been found possible by detecting a Parkinson's 'voice', using a computer program. Speech is affected because of deterioration in the muscles of the neck and mouth,  giving sufferers a husky voice.  Early diagnosis would enable treatments to begin, preventing loss of nerve cells in the area of the brain which controls movement.


    Research at Northwestern University in Chicago suggests that loss of smell may be a warning sign of the onset of Parkinsons, which could help determine when drug treatment should begin.


    Available NOW. A skin patch called Neupro delivers the medication in a consistent way until it is time for the next pill to control the symptoms of Parkinsons


    Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania believe that a protein found in yeast could stop the death of dopamine-producing cells. Dopamine acts as a 'signal agent' between parts of the brain involved in movement and coordination.


    Research in Singapore and India is showing that drinking black tea slows down or delays the onset of Parkinsons disease


    New Parkinsons Drug. A drug, which is already used to help patients with stroke or hypertension, Isradipine, has been found in tests at the NorthWest University, Chicago, to slow or stop the progress of Parkinson's disease by blocking calcium, which can have an effect on the production of Dopamine neurons in the brain. The British Parkinsons Disease Society expressed caution, saying that it was too early to state with confidence etc..... 

    Harvard Medical School.  Injecting human stem cells into the brains of 25 monkeys resulted in all of them making a dramatic recovery from Parkinson's, although the effect wore off after about two months.  Nevertheless, the researchers were hopeful that a similar treatment on humans could be effective.

    End of section on neurological diseases

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    Viagra and Deafness Men who take Viagra have been warned they may DOUBLE their risk of hearing loss. High doses of the drug have been shown to damage hearing in mice, but until now only a few anecdotal cases had been described in humans. Now a new U.S study has confirmed the link. The study, based on a national sample of American men over 40, found that slightly more than one in six of those who did not take Viagra-like drugs were deaf or hard of hearing. Among those who took pills for erectile dysfunction, however, almost one in three had hearing loss. This was not seen in men who used tadalafil (Cialis) or vardenafil (Levitra).

    Erectile Dysfunction may be helped by the use of drugs such as Viagra, Cialis and Levitra . But sometimes the don't. It is thought that a restricted artery may be the cause of the problem. Trials are taking place in the UK and the USA by inserting a stent into the artery that supplies blood to the penis.  

    It is possible that medication might cause the problem.  This is particularly the case if the drugs cause drowsiness or lower blood pressure,  So things like antidepressants, antiinflamatories,codeine, morphine. But often it is cause by psychological factors or pressure to perform.
    An alternative to drugs is a penile implant, with a small pump under the skin of the scrotum.  However, the £4,500 cost is seldom borne by the NHS.  It is another postcode lottery

    Sex is good for you According to research, sex in later life, particularly in older men can help with increased longevity, better heart function and the production of the feel-good hormone. It also suggests "use it or lose it" i.e. those who don't have a regular sex habit are more likely to suffer from erectile dysfunction and, possibly, prostate cancer.

    Severe Hand Tremor.  A few people have hand tremors, which they have had all their lives. Some of these find that it seriously affects what they do.  This is usually caused by abnormal electrical activity in the thalamus in the brain. There is a treatment which can stop this tremor.  Electrodes are inserted in the thalamus and they are connected to a battery which is implanted in the chest area. This blocks the electrical activity and the shaking immediately. But 'essential tremor' is much more common that other more serious forms.  It is not life shortening. Some people have been helped by beta blockers, which interfere with the transmission of faulty impulses from the brain.  Beta blockers are unsuitable for asthmatics. 

    Restless Leg syndrome (Mail 27th May 08) This may be increased in the users of anti depressant pills.  The drug Reboxetine was not one that was implicated

    Restless Leg Syndrome (Mail 30th March 2010) One of the more recently 'discovered' problems, which pharm companies have publicised. GSK developed Ropinirole to treat the condition and by 2008 the NHS was dispensing it to the tune of £28 million ! There is concern that a side effect may be some Compulsive Behaviour Disorders.

    Older people need less sleep (Laterlife.com Aug 08). Researchers at Harvard Medical School compared people between the ages of 60 and 72 with people ages between 18 and 32 years. It showed the older group generally required 7.5 hours sleep a night compared with 9 hours for the younger group. Interestingly, the research also showed that any sleep debt in the older group was not made up the following day. The researchers said this dispelled the conventional belief that older people sleep little but often. So it seems older people still benefit from a proper night's sleep, but most do not need quite as much sleep as their younger counterparts.

    Migraine Some people suffer from persistent migraine aura, with flashing or coloured lights or blind spots. One patient had this for may years, and after failing to respond to the usual drugs was put on pregabalin (anti epilepsy) and nortryptyline (anti depressant) which reduced the aura from constant to monthly. I get a minor form of this (without the headache) but it goes quickly if I lie down and close my eyes for 15 minutes

    Migraine An article about a woman afflicted with a form of Migraine describes a form that does not involve the usual pain but does involve other distressing symptoms such as 'face blindness', (see below) couldn't recognise people she knew or even their car.  It starts with an 'aura', dizziness, blind spots, flashing lights and the "Alice in Wonderland" symptom, where the room seems too large or someone seems very small. She has had all kinds of things prescribed without success.  The best thing she was able to do was to sleep it off immediately.

    Migraine Gene ? A study by the Wellcome, Trust Sanger Institute (Cambridge) found a genetic flaw that appeared to build up glutamate to build up in the junctions between brain cells

    Migraine. Some migraine is caused by an interaction between the 'frown muscle' (corrugator muscle) and the trigeminal nerve. A test can be made using Botox to paralyze this muscle.  If this prevents the migraine there is a good chance that surgery to remove this muscle will be a cure. Private treatment at this stage with an overnight stay in the surgery in Harley Street. www.migrainesurgery.co.uk

    Migraine. A new patch, known as NP101 is expected to give the most benefits to migraine sufferers. This would benefit the many of those who also have associated nausea, making it difficult to take the widely prescribed Triptans  (by tablet or inhaler) that act upon the brain's chemical serotonin. The patch is quite large and contains electrodes to force the drug into the blood stream.  It is still undergoing trials in the States.
    There is a helpful book :"50 things You Can Do Today to Manage Migraine" by Wendy Green (£4.99)

    Migraine. The cause is (amazingly) still a mystery but some patients taking clot busting drug, Clopidogrel, have miraculously recovered from recurrence.  A trial with 286 patients is now under way

    Menstrual Migraine. Some women suffer severe and long lasting migraine around their period time. This is usually due to a drop of oestrogen at that time. Hormonal treatments often help, so they should consult their doctor as the medication (e.g. HRT, the type of pill etc) will depend upon their age and other factors.

    Migraine  A patient who had suffered daily, debilitating, migraine attack for years had them reduced to twice a month as a result of nerve block injections (behind the ear) at the Royal United Hospital, Bath.  They have to be repeated every few months.  They cost the NHS £6 per injection .

    Stammer  It has been noticed that some people who stammer get started (speaking) when others are talking. Some patients, who have not been helped by speech therapy, have been 'cured' by the fitting of a special hearing aid, which echoes their own voice.  Unfortunately this is not available on the NHS and they are expensive see  www.stammeringcentre.org 

    Restless Leg Syndrome RLS sufferers experience tingling or pricking sensation and an overwhelming urge to move their legs rapidly, usually in the evening or at night. In a trial at the WAlter Reed U.S.Army Medical Center, Columbia , nine patients were given a 'cuff' worn around the lower leg.  This has small pockets which sequentially inflate and deflate, improving blood flow.  Of the 9 patients 3 saw the problem disappear, while the remaining six all noted improvements, meaning they could sleep better.

    Memory Loss Microsoft in Cambridge, UK has developed a small digital camera, which can be worn by people with short term memories. It takes a wide angle low resolution picture every 30 seconds throughout the day. The images are downloaded to a PC and can be played back as a 10 frames per second movie, showing the day's events in a few minutes. This could help people with early stage Alzheimer's

    Brain Aneurysm (Mail 8th Jan) An aneurysm is a swelling in a weakened artery wall.  It can develop anywhere in the body.  Many of us are walking around with these without realising but if they burst they cause a haemorrhage. There is a weak point where the arteries feed the brain as they have to travel across the fluid filled space around the brain. A haemorrhage in this area is very serious and can cause paralysis. severe headaches, unconsciousness, loss of speech etc. Until recently this would have been dealt with by brain surgery. A less invasive and safer method is by placing titanium coils in the aneurysm by feeding these up to the bran from arteries in the groin. These effectively block the artery. The procedure is risky but not as risky as doing nothing. Smoking is said to be a major cause of this problem

    Face Blindness (Prosopagnosia) is said to be a fairly common condition for which there is no treatment. People who suffer from it have difficulty recognising people they should know. They tend to overcome it by various strategies. One woman even used to dress her children in distinctive clothing. Others tend to greet anyone who appears to know them, regardless. Apart from the embarrassment that this can cause, it is socially isolating and people tend to withdraw from groups in order to avoid the situation. Contact : Dr Brad Duchaine at University College of London, who is an expert at http://www.faceblind.org/links/index.html.  If you meet him he wont be surprised if you don't recognise him the second time.  

    Epilepsy Mail 1st Jan 2008. An electrical implant (near the brain) is being trialled with 240 adults in 20 centres in the USA (ref. University of Oregon). The patients have epilepsy which is not being effectively controlled by drugs. The device detects the increased electrical activity present when an epileptic fit is beginning and responds with electrical pulses to the site in the brain where epilepsy is stimulated.  This appears to 'reset' the malfunctioning area.

    Obsessive-compulsive Disorder. (OCD) (Express 19th June 2007) Compulsive, repetitive behaviour e.g. repeated hand washing, excessive and repeated use of cleaning fluids, obsessions (thoughts) about germs. If the OCD sufferer is unable to perform the ritual it can cause them great distress. The article suggests a plan of action to counter the obsession and also suggests a visit to www.ocdaction.org.uk (0845 226 3110) A later article mentions the form where no physical actions are seen but the patient repeatedly  (and irrationally) turns over thoughts of what they have done or might do or say.

    Schizophrenia (Sunday Express 24th June 2007) Schizophrenia and manic depression could be caused by a lack of sugar in the brain. And a new drug that enhances the brain's use of sugar could provide hope for the victims of these and other serious mental illnesses. Professor Sabine Bahn, director of the Cambridge Centre for Neuro≠psychiatric Research, said the treatment could help millions, even those suffering from Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. Professor Bahn's team analysed the brains of more than 250 people with symptoms of serious mental illness and found they had problems using ≠glucose efficiently. They found further evidence that the brain's ability to use glucose might be impaired in those with mental health problems, even at the earliest stages of the disease. This led them to suspect lack of sugar may be the root cause of mental illness. Prompt treatment is necessary.

    Several studies have linked insufficient glucose levels in the brain to neurological problems and further work shows people with schizophrenia are five times more likely to suffer from diabetes, a disease in which the body cannot process sugar properly. Of the link between mental illness and diabetes, Professor Bahn said: One affects the body and one effects the brain, maybe sometimes the problem can affect both. The new drugs, which will go on trial in August, will be a modification of drugs already used to treat diabetics.

    THE BIG C

    Bowel Cancer A new technique has been developed by Prof. Robin Kennedy at St Mark's Hospital, Harrow, whereby cancerous and pre-cancerous polyps are laparoscopically (keyhole surgery) stapled off from the intestine and then removed, thus avoiding open surgery, where a part of the intestine is removed (colectomy), This is a quicker operation with a faster recovery time and with fewer possible side effects.

    COFFEE Forget all you have been told about coffee, scientists the world over have found that drinking lots of coffee reduced memory loss and has also been shown to reduce the risks of cancer including  mouth, oesophagus, brain, prostate and uterus.  Other beneficial effects were found on Parkinsons, heart disease and lung function e.g. asthma  These results were all scientifically based and involve large, lengthy studies.

    Pancreatic Cancer  (2016) A recent trial on 732 patients - in hospitals in the UK, Sweden, France and Germany - compared the standard chemotherapy drug gemcitabine against a combination of gemcitabine and capecitabine. The results were very encouraging in treating this most difficult disease. It increased longer term survival rates from aroun 19% to 29%

    Layla is a little girl who has survived from severe leukemia because of a comparatively untested therapy. It is called T cell immunotherapy. T cells in the blood fight infections.  Her cells were modified to hunt down and destroy cancer and reintroduced to her blood stream. . She is still alive.

    March 2016  Several paper were headlining new progress in the fight against all cancers, using genetics to help the immune system fight them. See GUARDIAN

    Mail 2nd June 2015 Girls between 12 and 15 are offered a vaccine to prevent cervical cancer. This can be caused by the Human papillomavirus (HPV). Recently there have been concerns that this vaccine has had some serious side effects. But currently no studies about the side effects have been started.

    Telegraph April 2015  Trained Alsation dogs in Italy have detected Prostate Cancer in men with 98% accuracy.
    Medical Detection Dogs, a charity which is based in Milton Keynes, trains specialist canines to detect the odour of human disease, including Breast Cancer.

    They also train Medical Alert Assistance dogs to help people with life-threatening health conditions go about their daily lives.

    The charity announced last year that it was to carry out trials on whether dogs could detect breast cancer in women.

    The procedure involves women breathing into a tube which is then sniffed by a specially trained dog.

    Researchers in Toronto have used Sound Waves to destroy a benign but painful tumour in bone. It was non invasive and allowed more rapid recuperation than open surger or even laser treatment.

    Lung cancer is the biggest killer in the UK. Next week at the America Society of Clinical Oncology they will announce that new immunology drugs such as NIVOLUMAB has had outstanding result with patients with advanced lung cancer. One man, where the disease had spread to liver, bones, adrenal glands and brain was found free of the disease!  That really does sound miraculous. They do not work for everyone but the drugs enable the immune system to "see" and attack the tumours, which are otherwise invisible. The drugs were initially used to fight skin cancer.                        

    Beating Bowel Cancer More people are urged to come forward. Public Health, England are to make it a priority to increase screening rates. Figures show that uptake among the eligible 60 to 74-year-old age group was 58% in 2012-15. This is a cancer which is deadly if not caught early..Precancerous polyps can be detected and removed.

    Mail 4th March 2016 A study in Harvard has discovered that people who take aspirin over a long period of time are less likely to suffer from cancers, in particular bowel cancer which may be reduced by as much as 19%. It was also said to reduce the incidence of pancreatic and esophageal cancers. Even a quarter of a tablet daily was said to do the trick but they still recommended consulting your GP.

    Patients for whom extensive chemotherapy was failing were treated with Brentuximab and some went into remission. This was sufficient to allow them to have bone marrow transplants (immunotherapy) to revive their immune system. The treatment is very expensive and, although approved may be reserved for patients where chemo has been tried. There are other advances in immunotherapy, which may assist the white blood (T) cells to attack cancers. Previously these cells, which save us from viruses, have switched off on the face of cancer.

    It is known that trained dogs are able to detect which people have cancer.  Scientists are now developing electronic sniffers which will be able to do this from a breath test, helping to give an earlier diagnosis, .

    Another experimental approach to the prevention of certain type of breast cancer is by an injection which shuts down the gene which certain women carry. Although it has only been successfully used on mice, the technique is said to be exciting.

    A trial of a revolutionary treatment for breast cancer has been started. In itself, killing the cancer with a laser is less invasive than surgery.  But those undergoing the treatment are currently having to agree to mastectomy and the other treatments, while the balance of the treatment is being considered.  It involves th use of drugs to prevent lengthy light sensitivity that can be a problem after intensive laser therapy.

    Cancer Research UK report that the Sanger Institute has discovered the genome signature/pattern of what is behind the mutation which causes many cancers. The well known ones are smoking and UV radiation. But further studies will help us understand what prompts the cells to multiply as they do.

    CANCER  Spotting cancer early is vital.  See www.cancerresearch.org.uk  for guidance..  One of the commonest cancers is skin cancer  Some are much worse than others, though all should be treated. To recognise the types see http://www.cbsnews.com/2300-204_162-10006772.html?tag=page

    Melanoma  June 16  NICE have rapidly approved the use of Ipilimumab and nivolumab combination of drugs stop the cancers hiding and allow the immune system to attack.tumours. This has proved especially effective against aggressive melanomas.

    The use of Bisphosphonates in patients to prevent loss of bone mass is being found to also help prevent the spread of Breast Cancers to the bones

    Breast reconstruction after breast cancer or preventative surgery. The article described the experience of a woman who had mastectomy. Women who inherit the BRCA1 gene have a greater risk of dying from breast or ovarian cancer. The story of Angelina Jolie's double mastectomy has brought this to the public notice. These days many patients have reconstructive surgery at the same time as the operation and this can give better and more natural results. Providing no cancer is detected in the skin or nipple these may be used along with implanted tissue (usually from pig or cow). Otherwise skin may have to be taken from other parts of the body.

    Liver cancer in breast cancer patients. A breast cancer patient, whose cancer had affected her liver, was given the opportunity of surgery, with some success. A great deal of the liver was removed but regrew. Doctors said that they would only consider this operation in certain cases with a reasonable chance. This woman was able to return to work. She is still on herceptin but not chemo.

    CANCER TREATMENT Side effects. The patient had frequent diarrhoea after being treated for bowel cancer. He had what is termed PRD (Pelvic Radiation Disease) and it appears to be commonplace after radiation treatment of the pelvic area. His oncologist was not interested as he had no further cancer. Most doctors assume Crohn's, Colitis or IBS. The report said there is only one clinic for PRD and that is at the Royal Marsden (Dr Andreyev) And yet a high proportion also have problems with urination. There is a Pelvic Radiation Disease Association at www.prda.org.uk

     A mass-screening programme for 50- to 70-year-olds could cut the risk of stomach bleeds experts have said. About a third of this group carry the bacterium Helicobacter pylori, which makes stomach bleeds three times more likely - and antibiotics will eradicate it. Professor Jack Cuzick told BBC's Newsnight screening would make the choice to take aspirin to help protect against cancer a "no-brainer". He said the test is easy to do and eradication only takes five days. Research has shown taking low-doses of aspirin can cut the risk of cancer. "Bleeding is the only major setback. "It's trying to identify those who are infected that matters," said Prof Cuzick, an epidemiologist at the University of London and president of the International Society on Cancer Prevention. Aspirin is also used as a blood thinner, which can help the heart.

    Bowel Cancer. New research in the UK (called CAPP2) has shown, conclusively, that people who have regularly used aspirin are MUCH less likely to suffer from bowel cancer.  They say that people whose family have a history of this form of cancer (Lynch syndrome) should consult their doctor about this. Aspirin is also thought to reduce the risk of other related cancers.  But there is a trade off if one takes larger doses as, being an well-known anti-coagulant, there can be a risk of bleeding and stomach ulcers.

    An extensive study has revealed a slight increase in brain tumours and Leukemia in people who have undergone extensive CT scans in childhood.  The CT Scan is still an x-ray based technique where the area is scanned from various points. Although radiation levels are now much lower than hitherto, there is still a slight risk, though this is normally outweighed by the benefit

    Another drug which may be given within two years holds out hope for helping the immune system break down a wide variety of cancers. The antibody disguises a protein (CD47) which is found in cancers, allowing the immune system to attack the cancer.

    PROSTATE. One of the commonest cancers in older men

    Skin Cancer

    n.b.  The suns rays come in two styles : UVA and UVB.  Easier to remeber that UVB rays are the ones the Burn. UCA rays are the ones that Age skin (and are more likely to cause skin cancer) .  That is why exposed areas of skin tend to age quicker than clothed ones.  However, UVA rays, like radio waves, get through most things. So they carry on doing damage even when it is cloudy and even when you are inside! One article even indicated you should wear sunscreen INDOORS as well as OUTDOORS ! Perhaps they were selling sun cream.

    It is important to wear sun protection (especially children and people with fair skin) but some expensive sun creams have been found to be lacking (not up to what it says on the'tin'

    Basal Cell Carcinoma These usually show up as a dried, slightly scabby area of skin which refuses to go away unless treated. They may be the result of sun damage.  They are normally removed by surgery with a local anaesthetic. Small ones may be frozen off. But the surgery usually leaves a scar, which might be on the face.  In my case it was under my arm pit (sun damage there?) and itches aggravatingly. I was told there was a 30% chance of a return. The latest (preferable) treatment is by laser, which leaves no scar.  It is called photodynamic therapy and involves a drug (a cream) which makes the pre-cancerous cells sensitive to light.  This is followed by the laser treatment and a second session a week later. You may be given pain killers and a local anaesthetic, as it can be an uncomfortable (burning) sensation (as long as ten minutes). The treatment has also been used on lip and mouth. BCCs have been described like an iceberg, with a lot more there under the visible part. Unfortunately the laser treatment is not generally available under the NHS and costs around £1400. But for people who wish to avoid the scarring of surgery this may be worth it. The treatment is not suitable for melanomas.
    BCCs and Bowen's carcinomas are a type of skin cancer but unlike other forms of cancer, such as melanoma, they do not spread around the body and, providing they are treated and the site is watched in case of a re-occurrence, they are not dangerous like other forms.  

    Malignant Melanoma or skin cancer is often the result of severe sunburn as a child. It can be a killer despite surgery and treatment. It is very important to prevent anyone, especially children from becoming sunburnt, either by covering up or using a sun block cream. 

    Prof. Sam Shuster, Emeritus Professor of Dermatology, Newcastle on Tyne, expresses grave doubts about the melanoma scare stories.  He says that the research is flawed  and that many melanomas have been misdiagnosed and were basal cell or squamous non malignant carcinomas. Melanoma is serious but the benefits of sunshine are also known, not only for its benefit by creating vitamin D (good for bone strength) but also for its anti depressant effect.  Most people feel better when the sky is blue. It is not a good idea to get sunburnt but, he says, the causes of melanoma are still unknown.  Sunshine causes moles to increase, especially in fair people, and also causes wrinkles to appear earlier but as far as an increase in the death rate from melanoma he says that is not so.  

    Scientists are now saying that the number of moles a person has is an even greater factor in whether they will develop melanoma than the amount of time spent in the sun . And the number of moles someone develops is related to their genetic make up. Out of 9,500 people who develop melanoma per annum (in the UK) 1500 die from it. People should

    A new drug, Nivolumab, applied by injection, has been shown to give patients suffering from Melanoma (skin cancer), a chance to live much longer.  It is a class of drug called animmunotherapy, which teaches the body's immune system to attack cancer cells. Whilst it is not yet approved by the authorities it may be given under the Early Access to Medicines Scheme, where the cost is borne by pharmaceutical companies. The drug may also be effective against Lung Cancer.

    Australian Professor Frazer (who developed the cervical cancer vaccine) has developed a new vaccine that, in animal testing, has been proven to be effective in preventing skin cancer. Human trials are set to start next year, and the scientist predicts that the vaccine could be released within five to ten years, and would likely be given to children between the ages of 10 and 12 to block them from getting skin cancer in their later years. He says that one in 20 of the cancers that people get is caused by papillomavirus and that same virus that causes cervical cancer is at the root of melanoma

    End of section on Melanoma

    ************

    Bowel Cancer

    Cancer Research UK has announced that there is hard evidence that a one-off screening procedure could prevent a third of bowel cancers and reduce death rates by nearly half. This is more than the reduction from breast cancer screening, so ought to be a priority.

    There is, already, supposed to be a bowel cancer screening program.  From 2007 the NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme offered screening every two years to all men and women aged 60 to 69. People over 70 can request a screening kit by calling a freephone helpline 0800 707 60 60. The Cancer Reform Strategy stated that the NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme would be extending the age range for screening from April 2010 to invite men and women up to their 75th birthday. (after that you are written off ?).

    Bowel cancer. Patient was discovered to have this when she went for a colonoscope after sending in a suspect stool sample.  She had further checks to make sure it had not spread and a biopsy but the good news was that it was caught early enough to have the section removed by laproscopic (keyhole) surgery, resulting in four tiny scars and a return home within days.  This is less likely if patients are overweight or have had previous surgery in this area. To move part of the guts out of the way a tilted operation table is used.  A 'harmonic'scalpel is used to seal off blood vessels and remove a section of colon, which is then stapled together.

    Bowel Cancer Mail 23rd December. Self test kits are to be distributed to older people... in Scotland 50 - 75, in England between 60 and 75 (no plans for Wales). The kits are used to detect the amount of blood in stools. Samples are then sent in for analysis. Bowel cancer is the second most common.  Early diagnosis can result in 80% recovery. As a 77 year old I must assume I am not worth the bother.

    Research has shown that women who were taking Beta Blockers were 71% less risk of the cancer spreading.

    Cyberknife A new and expensive radiotherapy treatment may become more common in future. Briefly it is equipment which can pinpoint cancers more accurately, allowing many doses from many angles.  This reduces collateral damage and the number of treatments required. 

    NICE has had the unenviable task of deciding whether to authorise payment for two cancer relieving drugs.  Avastin, (Bevacizumab) which can prolong the life of bowel cancer patents and Nexavar for liver patients have been ruled out for now. Avastin could still be obtained privately.

    In a variation on PDT (below), on trial in the University College of London, a photosensitiser drug is injected into cancer cells in the neck or breast . When a laser light is direct to the tumour the cancer cells rupture allowing the anti cancer drug bleomycin to get in and destroy the cells from inside.

    Cancer treatment by PDT (Photodynamic Therapy). It is now possible to treat a wide range of cancers using a combination of a drug and laser light. This treatment has been approved by NICE but is still not widely used, even though it is less damaging and cheaper that chemo and radio therapies. Other countries are training people more rapidly than we are - indeed they are being training in the UK. A study of PDT will not report until the Spring of 2010. Meanwhile each case has to be approved by individual health authorities. See www.killingcancer.co.uk for a video appeal by David Frost and the rest of the site showing the support for the method and an appeal for funds. 

    PDT is being used at the Mandi Rix Clinic, University College Hospital, London. It relies on tumour killing drugs being activated by light.  It can be used externally (e.g. on a skin cancer) or internally, via endoscopes for non invasive surgery OR diagnosis. Apart from the less traumatic procedures the cost of operations is a quarter of the traditional ones. Currently diagnostic results are still being checked with traditional biopsies but it seems likely that PFT clinics will become more widespread, particularly for the treatment of cancers of the throat, head and legs.

    Men are more likely to get and to die of cancer than women.  There are numerous reasons for this such as their unwillingness to visit a doctor and lifestyle differences such as smoking, drinking and obesity (the writer has obviously not seen many overweight women!). The percentage differences were quite dramatic.  With things like bladder, liver, oesophageal and stomach cancers the greater risk was well over 100 percent in each case. In almost every case men were at greater risk of the cancers and of dying from them. The writer felt that, apart form their reluctance to recognise and seek help for problems, male cancers did not get the same attention politically and socially. So less funding was given to research (by governments and charities)

    Alcohol and Cancer. The Wold Cancer Research Fund states that a pint of beer or large glass of wine or double vodka or gin (i.e. 2 units) can increase your chances of liver and bowel cancer by a fifth. 

    Various Cancers (Mail 3rd March 09) Recent research by an Institute in the USA found that calcium intake was helpful in the reduction in the risk of a number of cancers.  They recommended yoghurt

    Cholesterol Pill concern. A commonly prescribed cholesterol reduction pill - Inegy - is used to reduce the production of Cholesterol by the liver, thus decreasing the absorption of cholesterol in the intestine, lowering the risk of blocked arteries and heart attacks.  A five year study in the USA has suggested  a link between its use and an increase incidence of cancers.  The American FDA will review the situation within 3 months.  Meanwhile, the British Heart Foundation has indicated that no-one should stop taking such drugs without consulting their doctor.

    Mail 7th Aug 08 NICE have said that the drugs Sutent, Avastin, Nexavar and Torisel are not  (at £32,000 per patient p.a.) 'cost effective' in the treatment of kidney cancer. They only approve Interferon, to which 25% of patients do not respond.

    Sufferers of Laron Dwarfism, who lack a hormone called Insulin-like Growth Factor (I1GF1), are very small but they appear to be immune from cancer. Too much of this hormone can lead to a wide range of cancers.  It is thought that they also avoid the damage to their DNA that is the result of aging that normal people suffer. This is being studied in the search for a cure for cancer.

    A new drug could offer hope to kidney cancer patients. Sutent is said to be the first new treatment for advanced forms of the disease in 30 years.  In a trial patients typically had their lives extended to 26 months and, in 11 cases, patients went into remission. The drawback is the £2000 a month cost, which NICE will have to consider before its approval for the NHS. Pfizer is offering the first month of treatment free.

    A study published in the Lancet Oncology has shown that people with gum disease have a 14% greater risk of cancer. With some types of cancer the likelihood was 50% greater.

    A tiny implant in the cancer can be used to assess the precise amount of radiation being received by the tumour (Purdue University)

    Breast Cancer

    Numerous articles have been brought together under this heading. News of the approval of the injection of Herceptin (taking a couple of minutes) rather than an intravenous drip taking 90 minutes. The ease with which the drug can be administered could mean it being offered more locally and conveniently for the sufferer.

    1. There are more myths about the causes of breast cancer than most illnesses. (Mail 10th Aug 2010) lists them as Weak (House cleaning products, antiperspirants, stress, trauma (damage), underwired bras and night work)  There was Strong evidence for drinking, smoking, the pill, weight gain, HRT and not breast feeding.

    2. TV news says that Danish women who got breast cancer after working nights extensively (and had no genetic tendency to the disease) have received compensation from their government.  Although I am delighted for them it does set quite a precedent.  I worked nights for a year in the USA (and two more in the RAF). What possible diseases can I attribute to this (agreeably) unhealthy life style ? And who would be to blame ? There are many night workers these days.  A whole new 'can o' worms'.

    3. (Mail June 1st 2008). In a trial with 66 patients with aggressive breast cancer in a number of countries a new anti cancer drug, Pertuzumab, when used in connection with Herceptin, has achieved tumour stabilisation or reduction in 50% of the cases.  The drug is not yet licensed for general use in the UK.

    4. (Telegraph 13 Mar 08). Scientists at Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory, California, have discovered that the presence of the SATB1 gene is significant in the role of spreading breast cancers. By removing the gene from metastatic cells not only abolishes cell spread and tumour growth but returns the cancer cells to normal appearance. The aim now is to develop a delivery system for SATB1 inhibitors to the breast cancer cells.

    5. (Mail April 17 08) An experimental drug - Lapatinib  (Tyverb)- has been used on patients who have the most aggressive breast cancer - HER2 - It targets the stem cells produced by the tumour. Dr Rodriguez of Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, reported that it reduced tumour sized significantly after 6 weeks treatment.  The drug is awaiting EEC and NICE approval (Readers Digest Sept 08 Page 52 says available now)

    6. (Mail 14th Dec 07) By the end of next year it is hoped that blood test will be available to detect breast cancer even before symptoms show

    7. (Mail 28/08) Researchers at Duke University, USA have turned fat compounds into microscopic smart bombs, which seek and destroy tumours without damaging healthy tissue.  The fat globules contain the sort of drugs used in chemotherapy and are injected into the bloodstream. They are released by the use of a microwave gun concentrated on the tumour, which melts the fat, concentrating the effect of the drugs on the tumour, rather than the conventional treatment. Researchers expect that the same technique will be possible for the treatment of other cancers.

    Mail 8th April 2014 Dr Margaret McCartney stated that an extensive study (250,000) of women who self-checked their breasts for lumps and those who did not did not show any difference in the percentage who died of breast cancer. She did say that women should be 'breast aware' and see a doctor if they noticed any abnormalities.  The same paper mentioned that a study in Sweden noted that women with breast cancer had a better survival rate if they had a natural or supplement intake of Vitamin C. In fact a 22% lower risk of death was noted from the studies

    Chemotherapy.  In experiments with mice at the University of Southern California, those which were starved for a couple of days before being treated with chemotherapy fared MUCH better than those which were on a normal diet.  It is thought that this could point to a way in which humans might be less affected by chemotherapy

    Cancer.  Doctors at St Bartholomew's are carrying out trials with injections of stem cells taken from donor blood (not bone marrow). This is said to allow lower doses of chemotherapy for patients who are may be too weak to withstand this treatment.

    Ovarian cancer. A vaccine for this has produced "encouraging" results in preliminary trials, US scientists say. The vaccine is designed to enhance the body's own immune response to the cancer, said the Roswell Park Cancer Institute, based in Buffalo, New York. Details of the study appear in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. They are confident that the vaccine will eventually be widely available.  The vaccine contains an ovarian cancer protein fragment coupled with a molecule known to induce immune response. It targets a protein produced in a high proportion of ovarian cancer cells, but not in healthy cells.

    Ovarian cancer. A new chemotherapy treatment is being trialled at Barts.  It involves using intraperiatoneal treatment whereby a catheter is inserted the abdominal cavity to enable more concentrated treatment than the normal intravenous method. Although the side effects will be the same it is hoped that the survival rate will be higher.

    Cancer. A study published by the British Medical Journal shows that women who have taken the contraceptive pill are significantly LESS likely to get ovarian and bowel cancer, though they had a slightly greater chance of getting cervical cancer if they took it for more than 8 years, although this might be the result of other factors. The study did not come to any conclusions as to why the hormonal medication had this effect or why HRT, another hormonal drug, but taken by menopausal women, was implicated in increased ovarian cancers.

    Cancer. New Scientist - Dr Zheng Cui of Wake Forest University School of Medicine has been given the go ahead to inject cancer patients with immune cells from other people (called granulocytes). These appear to fight cancers in mice. The work has also involved test tube cases involving human cancer cells. However, Dr Cui has found a great deal of variation in the cancer fighting ability of granulocytes from different people.  And their 'quality 'appears to vary at different times of the year and depending what stress they were under. Although the research is considered to be a very exciting development more tests have to be carried out before there are positive conclusions. One professor pointed out the danger that foreign immune cells might pose to the recipients system.  

    Oestrogen only HRT (Daily Mail 20th, Express 21st June 2007) has recently been shown to increase the chances of cancer of the womb.  However, it has also been shown to greatly reduce the formation of calcium in blood vessels. It is therefore being recommended only for women who have had a hysterectomy.

    DEAFNESS  See my own page HERE All articles have been transferred to that page 

    DIABETES

    Two main Types.  Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed under the age of 30. It usually requires regular injections of insulin to stabilise the condition. Type 2 usually occurs in middle aged or older (and fatter) patients and is treated by reducing carbohydrate intake (starch and sugar) and taking drugs which help their system to handle sugar more efficiently.  However, it is no less serious than Type 1 and not managing the condition properly can result in kidney damage, blindness and a higher risk of heart disease.and stroke. It is essential that they follow the prescribed regime.
    A growing problem : An estimated 2.35 million people in England suffer from diabetes. By 2010 it is predicted there will be 2.5 million, 9 per cent of which will be due to an increase in obesity. The life expectancy of someone with Type1 diabetes is reduced by at least 15 years.   In Type 2 diabetes, which is preventable in two thirds of people who have it, life expectancy is reduced by up to ten years.   It is estimated that about 90 per cent of people with diabetes have Type1. People from minority ethnic communities have up to a six times higher than average risk of developing the condition. Source: Department of Health

    A new painless simple way to do sugar testing and read the results on a mobile phone.
    I was shocked to read that in some countries, e.g. Dubai, the percentage of adults with diabetes is around 40%.  In fact the rate is increasing dramatically all over the world, especially in countries which are 'catching up' with standards of living e.g. China.  Who would have believed in times of old that the world would suffer from eating too much ? (obesity is a major factor of type 2). The cost of treating this condition - where treatment is available - is growing dramatically. It is now beginning to be considered that href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bariatric_surgery">Bariatric may be cheaper for the NHS and in other countries.
    A new booklet (2016)  from Diabetes.org.uk is entitled "100 things I wish I had known about living with Diabetes"

    13th March 2016  Fantastic news for Diabetics. NICE have approved the use of a device for administering insulin without injection. The device can be stuck to an arm or stomach and supplies the insulin when needed via a cannula into a vein. The device is programmed via a hand held controller the size of a smart phone. It calibrates the blood sugar level so that precise amounts of the drug are administered.  It even takes account of activity levels  It wirelessly communicates with an on line app which keeps a log of treatment which can be viewed by patients or doctors.

    The patient was 43 and went to the doctor because of rapid weight loss, thirst, lethargy and having to get up in the night to pass water. He was diagnosed as having Type II Diabetes.  But, despite medication his blood sugar level remained very high and we was then diagnosed as having Type I, which is much more serious and means he has to inject himself with insulin. The cause of Type 1 varies but it can strike more quickly than Type II. It is usually an autoimmune defect and can be associated with other autoimmune problems such as rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis and vitiligo. Viruses and even physical and mental stress can be triggers.

    May 2014 A BBC report says eating just breakfast and lunch (instead of more meals per day, may cut Type 2 Diabetes http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-27422547

    In Type 1 Diabetes the pancreas stops producing the insulin needed to control the sugar/glucose level in the blood stream.  In Type 2 it just does not produce enough.
    Prof. Taylor of Medicine and Metabolism, Newcastle University studied the rapid reduction in glucose levels in people who had a gastric bypass and decided that drastic fasting reduced the fat levels in the liver and pancreas, which were the cause of diabetes.  The patient in the article, a Type 2 diabetic, reversed his diabetes after an eleven day minimal diet. It is recommended that you consult your doctor before taking on this challenge !

    Diabetes and Obesity. A new technique called Satisphere involves the insertion of a chain of balloons into the duodenum via the mouth to make the person feel full. The operation is said to take just five minutes and can be retrieved equally quickly.  Not only does it reduce the craving for food but also reduces the amount of insulin released into the bloodstream, so reducing Type 2 Diabetes. Sounds too good and simple to be true and there is nothing showing on the net  (or in the article) as to who is doing this and where.

    Experts fear thousands of the three million diabetes sufferers are misdiagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Read more HERE Blood sugar can vary throughout the day and stress and a meal can temporarily increase it. Always demand at least two initial tests.

    One of the great dangers as a result of diabetes is the loss of feeling lower limbs. Ulceration and damage must be treated to prevent deterioration and the possibility of amputation. A battery operated device from Diabetica Solutions uses infra red light to measure the temperature of places on the legs and feet which are inflamed, alerting patients to a problem before it shows to the naked eye.  See https://www.temptouch.com/how-it-works.html.  It is $99 or about £70 + delivery  

    Venous Leg Ulcers Now being treated more successfully with a spray, which contains a small sample of the patient's own skin. This only takes 30 minutes and has resulted in healing of some long standing ulcers. Even someone with type 3 diabetes who had lost his toes is now able to get about. The product, called RegenerCell, was trialled at Addenbrookes Hospital, Cambridge and has enabled some people, who were confined to home, to get out again, even going on holiday. It is especially useful for the reduction of pain suffered by patients with VLUs

    In a study of 37,000 women it was found that those with the highest intake of dairy products had a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes

    A sign of type 2 diabetes is feeling sleepy after a normal sized meal because the pancreas may produce too much insulin. The instant energy you should get from the food is not available. US researchers say this could be a lack of the mineral Chromium, which many Type 2 diabetics lack.  

    Diabetes Testing (Readers Digest : A Gerard Cotes - Texas University - is developing a wrist watch that tests for sugar level without having to get a blood sample. A sheath of fluorescent particles, smaller than a human hair, is injected into the wrist. It changes colour in response to deviations in the blood-sugar level and the wrist watch is designed to gove a digital readout. Development is expected to take three years

    A pill for diabetes ?
    People with diabetes may soon be able to take a pill to control the disease instead of needing several daily insulin injections. A British company will report at a conference in the US today that it has developed a form of insulin that can be taken by mouth, which it believes will provide better control of symptoms. Oral insulin has been a dream for many years, and several companies have tried to develop it. The problem is that insulin is a protein and the stomach is perfectly adapted to digest proteins, breaking them up into smaller fragments. Diabetology, a small research and development company, has spent many years trying to get around the problem. It has apparently achieved success by enclosing the insulin in a capsule that resists stomach acids and passes intact into the small intestine. There it dissolves, releasing a mixture of insulin and other materials that enhance the absorption of the insulin through the intestinal wall. The insulin is then transported to the liver, where it creates a store that can be drawn on by the body. This more closely approximates the behaviour of the pancreas, the source of insulin in healthy people, releasing insulin as it is needed. The capsule form is also much more easily administered to young children, who can struggle with needles and the more recent innovation of inhaled insulin. The results to be presented today at the American Diabetes Association meeting in Chicago come from a small trial of 16 patients with type 2 diabetes, the commoner type that usually develops in middle age, carried out at Cardiff University by a team led by Professor David Owens. They are expected to show that the oral dose taken twice daily before breakfast and before dinner, controlled glucose levels successfully in the patients treated. The results will be presented by Dr Steve Luzio, also from Cardiff.

    Drugs already exist that can lower glucose levels, but they have side-effects. As type 2 diabetes develops, patients eventually have to move on to injected insulin, a transition many are very reluctant to make. As a result, control of the disease suffers and the long-term risks are increased. Glen Travers, the executive chairman of Diabetology, said that he hoped the product would remove this inhibition and enable better control of the disease to be achieved, without the increased risk of heart attack that has been linked to the widely used diabetes drug rosiglitazone. The details of Dr Luzio's presentation cannot be released until he has made it, but are expected to show that oral doses achieved the desired changes in glucose metabolism, showed a rise in insulin levels in the body that lasted a long time, and revealed no safety concerns. Additionally, it does not lead to short-term spikes of high insulin in the circulation, unlike insulin injections, potentially reducing the risk of side-effects.

    Several studies have linked insufficient glucose levels in the brain to neurological problems and further work shows people with schizophrenia are five times more likely to suffer from diabetes, a disease in which the body cannot process sugar properly. Of the link between mental illness and diabetes, Professor Bahn said One affects the body and one effects the brain, maybe sometimes the problem can affect both. The new drugs, which will go on trial in August, will be a modification of drugs already used to treat diabetics.

    DIET AND OBESITY
    Rather than patients undergoing the drastic surgery to restrict the stomach's capacity one company has found a way to make the obese feel 'satiated' by part filling their stomach with balloon(s) !  The video HERE shows the 'non invasive', application, which as been approved in the USA.

    Whether one should eat red meat has become a popular topic. But let us be clear, while chicken is considered to be white meat whereas beef, lamb, pork and even goose are classified as red..  Whilst the World Health Organisation stirred up a storm by classifying bacon and sausages as 'carcinogenic to humans' (a cancer agent) and red meat as possibly carcinogenic, one must look at the research in detail. One study was said the show the just two portions of red meat a week could increase ones chance of bowel cancer by a fifth. But that only increased the risk from an average 6% to 7%. As against this the experts say that the benefits of eating red meat are many, including brain development. There are many other nutritional benefits, although the article suggests the avoidance of fatty meats and healthier cooking methods.

    See also a new technique (Satisphere) under Diabetes, above.

    Repatha is part of a new class of drugs that block a substance that interferes with the liver's ability to remove bad cholesterol. In clinical trials, it reduced the levels of bad LDL cholesterol by 55 per cent. It is expected to be available to NHS patients within the year.

    Coffee/ Caffeine. The recommended 'dose' of caffeine is a mere 200mg per day, although 400mg is considered safe and even beneficial.  However, when one considers that a mug of tea or instant coffee contain around 75mg it is easy to exceed even the higher figure.  And, if one realises that a large Americano at Starbucks will contain as much as 300mg, it is easy to see how the limits are soon reached, especially with the incessant rise of coffee shops. Coffee addiction, or probably more correctly termed 'dependency', can result in headaches or depression if the drink is not available, usually, the withdrawal symptoms only last a few days.A surprising article, supported by Cardiologist Naseem Malhotra, suggested that a high carb, low fat diet was NOT conducive to weight loss and that even double cream and bacon did not increase the amount of  fat acquired. Carbohydrates appear to increase the amount of insulin in the blood and this is what produces more fat in the blood. Hyperthyroidism The thyroid gland, in the front of the neck, controls many functions. Excess thyroid hormone can flood the appetite centre of the brain, creating a craving for carbohydrates. So, if you have an unusual craving for cake, pizza and bread, better get a blood test (before you go ballooning) Dieting with Food Abstinence Lighter Life (www.lighterlife.com) An article in a local paper (NOT and advert) described a woman whose BMI had reached 38.9 (mobidly obese) and who had to wear a CPAP mask at night to help her breathing. Previous diets had failed and she was considering having an operation when she tried this method (four LighterLife packets a day, nothing else) with considerable success. Denise Welch did a series of youtube videos, showing her progress  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=17bRtqC2acA  They have a useful BMI (Body Mass Index )calculator at http://www.lighterlife.com/bmi-calculator/

    Magnesium deficiency> can result in lack of energy and constipation as well as numerous other side-effects such as bone density loss and depression.  It is best taken in food such as spinach, white fish, yoghurt, cashews. But it can be bought in pill form over the counter. This may have a hydrating effect to lots of water is recommended.

    Interesting : : ttp://www.blood-pressure-monitoring.org/high-blood-pressure-questions.htm

    Is weight gain inevitable ? As you get older your metabolism DOES slow, meaning that you burn fewer calories when at rest. So one needs more exercise to burn off fat. Medication can be linked to weight gain and there is a long list of culprits (pills for migraine, antidepressants, high blood pressure and diabetes). Check with your GP. Fat in the lower half especially can be due to lymphatic drainage problems. The article said 'no real cure'. Bloating may be due to a food intolerance e.g. wheat, milk, eggs. Experiment without some foods for a while. Keep a record. See a dietitian.  In later life both men and women experience a drop in progesterone. More dominant oestrogen increases fat levels. Puffy face can be due to an underactive thyroid gland, especially in women. It can be detected by a blood test and counteracted. And how about a genetic link ?  Well, the scientists say some people have that gene and it might account for a difference of half a stone. Those people have to work hard at the usual cures : eat less, exercise more.

    A study of 700 British schoolgirls found almost 70% were deficient in iodine because they were not drinking enough milk (thanks again Maggie). If low in iodine during pregnancy this can stunt the intelligence of offspring. Thinks : they used to add iodine to salt, didn't they ?  Salt ?  It seems totally absent  from most foods these days

    Still in its early stages but new drugs, based on monoclonal antibodies, may be more effective than Statins in reducing LDL, the type of cholesterol which remains in the blood stream instead  of returning to the liver for disposal.

     Diet tip: Tomatoes help protect against cancers but much more lypocene is absorbed if they are eaten with fats.  So, tuck into a cheese and tomato sandwich.

    Pharyngeal Pouch. This is a pouch which can form in the throat and can collect food, which may be regurgitated or cause bad breath. Worse still food may be breathed into the lungs, causing infection. Choking is also a worrying symptom. These days this is usually tackled by endoscopic stapling via the mouth and is normally successful

    Pills and weight gain: Many pills are associated with weight gain. Possible gains are suggested for Steroids (7%), Some diabetes drugs (6 - 10lbs), Beta blockers (10 - 20 lbs), anti depressants (1 - 45lbs), cancer drugs (29lbs). Though in many cases not taking the drugs is worse than the weight gain, there may be alternatives which are less fattening.

    EGGS are back in favour. Although they contain cholesterol a study showed that eating two a day had no effect on the cholesterol levels of a group of obese people - but stay away from saturated fats.

    MILK In a study of 37,000 women it was found that those with the highest intake of dairy products had a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes.  If you drink a pint a day you reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, a range of cancers and osteoporosis.  Milk got yet another boost when research showed that it was a more natural way too boost calcium, while taking calcium tablets flooded the bloodstream with it and was more like to cause calcification on the veins. I suspect they mean full milk, not that watered down version they call skimmed.

    Visceral Fat  Research with a group of obese people showed (by MRI Scan) that when they undertook a 12 week diet and exercise course the major fat loss was from their internal fat. This not only resulted in them having more energy but also feeling better in themselves.  Visceral fat is described as 'toxic'

    Underactive Thyroid: An article described a woman who went up to 18 stone for no apparent reason. Dieting didn't help.  She was eventually diagnosed as having an underactive thyroid, which slowed down her metabolism. It can be caused by an immune system problem or the result off certain prescription drugs.  Other symptoms include thinning hair, feeling tired and cold and heavy and irregular periods. She was treated with Levothyroxine but had reduce her weight by the usual methods of diet and exercise, which took some years.

    Bloating. May be due to too much wind or constipation. We produce about 4 pints of it a day and pass it out by burping or passing wind (around 14 times a day is quite normal). You may swallow air by chewing gum, eating, smoking, drinking or even because of loose dentures. Some foods produce more gas (e.g. bran, beans, cabbage, sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, rice, pasta, potatoes, beer, fizzy drinks  - onions?) Some people also have an intolerance to milk or wheat products.

    Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Peter Whorwell, a specialist, says people suffering from this (stomach cramps, diaorhea, constipation) should study their individual diet as the general advice, to eat more fibre and fruit, may make their symptoms worse. They may have to revert to white flour products and avoid bran, wholemeal bread and digestive biscuits.  But some may be able to tolerated the fibre in fruit and vegetables, which are still recommended as healthy for most people.
    (IBS) One in five Britons apparently suffer from this. A Canadian study over a long period showed that more people were helped by taking Peppermint Oil than drugs

    IBS The article suggests hypnotherapy. This can mean weekly sessions for three months, when patients are given sessions how to take control over their gut. I can well believe that this might help as we all know that the mind and the bowels are closely connected and that certain life situations, such as fear, can have an immediate effect.

    Diet Myths  The Principal Dietitian at St Georges Hospital, Tooting says :
    Myth1. Eating late at night puts on weight.
    Myth2. Don't exercise after eating 
    Myth3. Guinness is a good source of iron during pregnancy ( it contains a quarter of that in a single egg yolk !)
    Myth4. Vitamin C stops you getting colds and flu.
    Myth5. Coffee is a diuretic. 
    Myth6 Milk creates more mucus (when you have a cold etc)
    Myth7. You should drink two litres of water a day. The article gives scientific explanations why they are not true.

    Artificial Sweeteners. Scientists at Liverpool University studied the process in the small intestine and found that specific cells detect sugar and that these release hormones necessary for its passage through the lining of the gut and into the blood, where it is either burned off or converted into fat.  But the artificial sweeteners did the same, priming the gut to absorb real sugars from your normal diet.

    The Mediterranean diet is supposed to be behind the fact they they do not suffer the high rate of heart disease  and strokes that we do. So, scientists in Cambridge are developing the tomato pill (called Ateronon). Lypocene, found in the skins of ripe tomatoes is supposed to help reduce fatty deposits in the arteries.  Each pill contains the equivalent of 3 kilos of tomatoes ! Further tests are being held. (to ensure people don't finish up tomato colour?)Eat Fruit. Better to eat a variety of fruits. Surprising : Cooking tomatoes (or canned) increases their cancer fighting lypocene anti-oxidant. Bananas contain potassium which reduces salt, said to be bad for you. Grapefruit fight obesity but also fight Hepatitis C. Grapes contain resveratrol, which is an anti cancer compound. Strawberries reduce blood pressure: Frozen fruit is better than tired old fresh fruit. But watch out if you are on prescription drugs says the NHS http://www.nhs.uk/news/2012/11November/Pages/Prescription-pills-and-grapefruit-a-deadly-mix.aspx

    Crohn's disease  Bowel transplant.  Hitherto with limited success, the article described a successful operation a year ago. The patient was relying on being fed by tube into his vein 16 hours a day but had a 15 hour operation in John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford. It then equired 3 months in hospital, mainly to prevent infection due to a weak immune system caused by anti rejection drugs.

    Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis
      A worldwide study is being undertaken in the use of a drug : Mongersen or GED-0301 which appears to give relief for these problemsCrohn's disease is an autoimmune disease, in which the body's immune system attacks the gastrointestinal tract, causing inflammation. Difficult to treat.  Some people have surgery, others try diet, using probiotics, fish oil and aloe vera juice. Tends to cause diarrhoea and sometimes, bleeding. The diarrhoea can be sudden, so there is a need to have easy access to toilets.. See also the National Association for Colitis and Crohn's Disease 0845 130 2233

    Crohn's disease A Mail article described a lady with this condition.  Doctors ignored her complaints or (incorrectly) diagnosed IBS.  Crohn's is fairly uncommon so doctors may not recognise the problem. Tests are difficult but should include colonoscopy and faecal analysis. There is no cure but control may be possible to some extent e.g. immunosuppressant drugs and steroids.

    Haemorrhoids ( Piles ) 30th June 2009 (Mail) There are several surgical treatments but the writer managed to reduce hers by healthier living. NEVER getting constipated or sitting on the loo straining, doing pelvic floor exercises, drinking more water and eating more fruit and veg.  One correspondent in the Mail said that Sudocrem, a nappy cream, had helped.

    Haemorrhoids Really painful piles used to be operated on by cutting them away.  This can be very painful and not always a permanent cure. Surgeons now prefer a non-invasive treatment under local anaesthetic, called THD. An ultrasound device is used to locate the arteries which supply the piles. The device also has a needle which is used to close off the arteries, starving the piles of blood, so they shrink. See also HERE

    Familial hypercholesterolaemiaSome people suffer from inherited very high cholesterol levels, despite being on statins. They are much more likely to suffer from furred arteries and their consequencies. The next drug tried is Ezetimibe (Ezetrol). But if these fail to control the LDL levels they may be offered Repatha, which is under trial. Another drug, Praluent (which is appled using an inectible pen) is not yeat approved by NICE,

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