A round-up of the latest health news
Moderate drinking cuts risk of Alzheimer's - study
Light to moderate social drinking, a glass or two of wine or beer a day, can reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, according to American researchers.
After analysing more than 140 studies dating back to 1977 and involving more than 365,000 people, scientists at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine found that moderate drinkers were 23 percent less likely to develop forms of dementia and cognitive impairment.
Moderate drinking is defined as a maximum of two drinks per day for men and one drink for women.
“It is well accepted that a glass of wine is good for your heart and reduces coronary artery and cardiovascular diseases,” said Edward J. Neafsey, a co-author of the study.
The findings show the moderate alcohol consumption has same effect on the brain.
Wine was more beneficial than beer or spirits, according to the findings published in the journal Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment. But the researchers said most studies in the analysis did not distinguish between the different types of alcohol.
But heavy drinking, three to five drinks a day, was associated with a higher risk of dementia.
Neafsey does not recommend non-drinkers to suddenly start drinking, and for people who do drink to enjoy their alcohol in moderation. Exercise, education and a Mediterranean diet can also reduce the risks of developing dementia.
“The key words here are light to moderate drinking,” he said. “The enjoyment of a good meal with friends and glass of wine is a traditional human pleasure that most people enjoy.” - Reuters
Flu vaccine could help sleep disorder sufferers
The sleep condition narcolepsy could be prevented with a flu vaccine, researchers have discovered.
Scientists in China have found those vulnerable to the condition, which causes sufferers to fall asleep unexpectedly, can be protected by a mild flu vaccine. Their research came after the European Medicines Agency recommended banning the use of Pandemrix, a widely used flu vaccine, in children under 20 because of its links with narcolepsy.
The China study has now linked the disorder to flu infection in susceptible individuals and found that use of a flu vaccine other than Pandemrix may protect them. The research looked at 900 patients diagnosed with narcolepsy and found the condition was seasonal, with a peak incidence five to seven months after the peak incidence of flu. Although the study does not prove that flu causes narcolepsy, it shows a strong correlation.
Emmanuel Mignot from Stanford University, California, said: “It is very possible that being vaccinated with a mild vaccine...blocks you from getting a big infection that could increase your risk of narcolepsy.”
Further research was needed, Dr Mignot said. - Jeremy Laurance Health Editor, The Independent
Living alone after heart attack tied to death risk
New York - Living alone after a heart attack is associated with a higher risk of death over the next four years, while a lack of support at home was also linked to a lower quality of life just one year after the attack, according to a study.
While the risk of death one year after a heart attack was about the same among people who lived alone and those who lived with others, after four years the risk of death was about 35 percent higher for people living by themselves, the study in the American Journal of Cardiology said.
“Social support should be an important consideration after a heart attack,” said Emily Bucholz, lead research for the study and a student at the Yale School of Medicine.
“Special consideration should be given to ensure patients who live alone receive adequate social support from family, friends and neighbours to improve recovery.”
In addition to a lack of social support, people living alone may not have the assistance they need to exercise, take their medications or coordinate the logistics of attending doctor's appointments.
Caregivers can reduce the risks that may come with living alone by providing extra support or follow-up care for people who recently had a heart attack, Hayes said.
Heart attack patients who may lack social support need to be proactive in seeking connections among people in their community, workplace or place of worship.
“These things are not going to come to them, so they should seek it out. But people also shouldn't think they're doomed if they are living alone.” - Reuters
Diabetes threat from two slices of bacon a day
Just two rashers of bacon a day can increase the risk of diabetes by more than 50 percent, scientists claim.
Eating a single sausage, small burger or a few slices of salami every day drastically raises the chances of developing the illness.
Research has found that just 100g of red meat every day - or half a normal size steak - increases the likelihood of type 2 diabetes by a fifth.
But they found that processed meat, including products made from mince and cold meats such as ham and salami, had a far greater effect.
Just 50g a day, the equivalent of two slices of bacon, one sausage or one small burger, increases the risk by more than 50 percent.
At least 2.5million Britons suffer from type 2 diabetes, the form linked to obesity, and experts suspect a further million have the condition but have not yet been diagnosed.
It occurs when their body does not produce enough of the hormone insulin to control its blood sugar levels.
Symptoms of type 2 diabetes include feeling very thirsty, needing to go to the toilet and constant tiredness.
Researchers at Harvard University looked at the health records and diets of more than 440,000 men and women spanning a period of between 14 and 28 years.
The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that people who ate 100g of red meat a day were 19 percent more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
And those who had 50g of processed meat every day - one sausage or frankfurter or two slices of bacon - increased their risk by 51 percent.
But the scientists found that those who normally eat one portion of red meat a day could lower their risk by a fifth if they ate other proteins including nuts, low fat cheese or brown rice instead.
There is now widespread evidence that red meat drastically increases the likelihood of major health problems including heart disease, strokes and some types of cancer.
The Department of Health has issued guidelines saying adults should eat no more than 500g of red meat a week. This amounts to three sausages, one small steak, one quarter-pounder and three slices of lamb.
Until now, however, there was little evidence that relatively small amounts of processed red meat could increase the chance of diabetes. - Daily Mail
The heart protection hormone
The sex hormone oestrogen protects women from heart attacks and may explain why they are far less likely to be struck down than men, scientists claim.
They have discovered that the naturally-occurring chemical helps stop blood cells sticking to the walls of arteries and forming blockages.
Researchers think this may explain why women are more likely to suffer heart attacks after the menopause, when oestrogen levels decline.
Around one in five men in Britain die from a heart attack, compared with just one in seven women.
But the risk increases after the menopause when they are just as likely to be struck down as men. The researchers warn that their findings do not necessarily mean that oestrogen could ever be used in drugs to prevent heart disease as the hormone is known to increase the risk of certain types of cancer.
Dr Suchita Nadkarni, from the University of London, said: “Our results suggest that oestrogen helps maintain the delicate balance between fighting infections and protecting arteries from damage that can lead to cardiovascular disease.
“Understanding how the body fights heart disease naturally is vital for developing new treatments.” - Daily Mail
Music therapy may ease anxiety in cancer patients
New York - Music therapy may help lower anxiety and improve moods in people with cancer, although it's not clear what treatment - listening to pre-recorded CDs during hospital visits, or sessions with a music therapist - helps most, a study said.
An analysis of 30 past studies, published in the Cochrane Library, looked at the effect of music therapy or music listening in close to 2,000 cancer patients.
Compared to patients who only received standard cancer treatment, the combined data from the studies, reviewed by creative arts therapist Joke Bradt from Drexel University in Philadelphia, suggested that patients who also had music treatment rated their anxiety and pain lower, and had higher mood scores.
In addition, their heart rates were lower by about four beats per minute, on average.
“Music interventions may have beneficial effects on anxiety, pain, mood and quality of life in people with cancer,” wrote Bradt and her colleagues.
“Furthermore, music may have a small effect on heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood pressure.”
There was no effect, however, on how patients rated their depression or fatigue - probably because most of the studies only tested the effect of listening to music in the hospital for a single session, and didn't give patients much choice about what type of music they listened to, Bradt said.
“If someone's really depressed, one music listening session is not going to reverse that,” she told Reuters Health.
Music therapist Debra Burns, from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, said therapists especially can help patients relax during stressful treatments and think through their tension.
“We can use the different music interventions to target the in-the-moment-symptoms - pain, anxiety. But we can also look at longer-term interventions” such as improving communication with family members, added Burns, who was not involved in the study.
In addition, therapists can adapt treatment as they need to according to the patient's needs, she said, adding that further research may be needed to see what type of music works best, and at what stage of the treatment.
Burns said there were other, intangible benefits.
“We cannot forget that making music is a lot of fun as well,” she added. - Reuters
No evidence aspirin boosts IVF success: study
New York - Women undergoing in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) are often told that a daily aspirin will help boost the odds of success, but a research review has found no evidence that it works.
The review, reported in the Cochrane Library, combined the results of 13 international studies and discovered that a low daily dose of aspirin had no clear effect on an either an IVF pregnancy or birth rates.
Three of the studies looked at birth rates. Of 525 women who used aspirin during their IVF treatment cycle, 108 gave birth. But of 528 women not given aspirin, 119 gave birth.
“Couples undergoing IVF often feel so desperate that they are prepared to try anything that may improve their chances of conceiving,” said Charalambos Siristatidis, of the University of Athens in Greece, who led the research.
“But given the current evidence, there is still no basis to recommend that women take aspirin to help them become pregnant,” he said in a statement. . - Reuters
Shift work may have little impact on pregnancy
New York - Some studies have suggested that working the night shift may raise a pregnant woman's risks of preterm delivery or having an underweight baby, but a review says that if those effects exist, they are likely to be small.
After looking at 23 studies involving thousands of women, researchers led by Matteo Bonzini of the University of Insubria in Italy found that overall, shift work was not strongly linked to the risk of preterm delivery versus a standard nine-to-five job.
Women working night or rotating shifts did have a slightly higher chance of having a baby who was small for gestational age, but the evidence was not strong enough to make “confident conclusions,” the researchers reported in the journal BJOG.
“On balance, the evidence currently available about the investigated birth outcomes does not make a compelling case for mandatory restrictions on shift-working in pregnancy,” they wrote.
In theory, irregular work hours could affect a woman's reproductive function by throwing off the body's natural clock and disrupting normal hormone activity. . - Reuters