Doctors raise blood pressure in patients

Doctors routinely record blood pressure levels that are significantly higher than levels recorded by nurses, the first thorough analysis of scientific data has revealed.A systematic review led by the University of Exeter Medical School, and supported by the National Institute for Health Research Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care in the South West Peninsula (NIHR PenCLAHRC), has discovered that recordings taken by doctors are significantly higher (by 7/4mmHg) than when the same patients are tested by nurses.Dr Christopher Clark, of the University of Exeter Medical School, said the findings, published in the British Journal of General Practice, should lead to changes in clinical practice. “Doctors should continue to measure blood pressure as part of the assessment of an ill patient or a routine check-up, but not where clinical decisions on blood pressure treatment depend on the outcome. The difference we noted is enough to tip some patients over the threshold for treatment for high blood pressure, and unnecessary medication can lead to unwanted side-effects. Some patients may be erroneously asked to continue to monitor their own blood pressure at home, which can build anxiety. These inappropriate measures could all be avoided by the simple measure of someone other than a doctor taking the blood pressure recording.””Researchers should also think carefully about how to account for this effect in studies that compare treatment by doctors and nurses. Some studies have concluded that nurses are better at treating hypertension, when in fact those findings could be down to this recording bias.”The phenomenon of doctors recording higher blood pressure is known as the “white coat effect,” and is thought to result from the patient’s physical response to being assessed by a doctor. It has previously been noted in a number of studies, but Dr Clark’s research is the first comprehensive analysis of available data to quantify this effect.The team examined the blood pressure levels of 1,019 individuals whose measurements had been taken by both doctors and nurses at the same visit. Dr Clark said: “Our results were pooled from different settings across ten countries, so we can be confident that they can be generalised to any healthcare environment where blood pressure is being measured. These results were all from research trials — our next task will be to examine data from GP surgeries.”Professor John Campbell, Professor of General Practice and Primary Care at the University of Exeter Medical School and a co-author on the study said: “This interesting study forms part of our portfolio of primary care research examining factors which might need to be considered when doctors and other healthcare professionals undertake assessments of patient’s risk of cardiovascular disease. Increasing doctor’s awareness of factors which might affect the accurate assessment of blood pressure is of great importance since this is one of the commonest clinical assessments undertaken, and one where important decisions regarding a patient health and well-being may follow.”The University of Exeter Primary Care Research Group is part of the Medical School’s Institute of Health Research. …

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Food packaging chemicals may be harmful to human health over long term

The synthetic chemicals used in the packaging, storage, and processing of foodstuffs might be harmful to human health over the long term, warn environmental scientists in a commentary in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.This is because most of these substances are not inert and can leach into the foods we eat, they say.Despite the fact that some of these chemicals are regulated, people who eat packaged or processed foods are likely to be chronically exposed to low levels of these substances throughout their lives, say the authors.And far too little is known about their long term impact, including at crucial stages of human development, such as in the womb, which is “surely not justified on scientific grounds,” the authors claim.They point out that lifelong exposure to food contact materials or FCMs — substances used in packaging, storage, processing, or preparation equipment — “is a cause for concern for several reasons.”These include the fact that known toxicants, such as formaldehyde, a cancer causing substance, are legally used in these materials. Formaldehyde is widely present, albeit at low levels, in plastic bottles used for fizzy drinks and melamine tableware.Secondly, other chemicals known to disrupt hormone production also crop up in FCMs, including bisphenol A, tributyltin, triclosan, and phthalates.”Whereas the science for some of these substances is being debated and policy makers struggle to satisfy the needs of stakeholders, consumers remain exposed to these chemicals daily, mostly unknowingly,” the authors point out.And, thirdly, the total number of known chemical substances used intentionally in FCMs exceeds 4000.Furthermore, potential cellular changes caused by FCMs, and in particular, those with the capacity to disrupt hormones, are not even being considered in routine toxicology analysis, which prompts the authors to suggest that this “casts serious doubts on the adequacy of chemical regulatory procedures.”They admit that establishing potential cause and effect as a result of lifelong and largely invisible exposure to FCMs will be no easy task, largely because there are no unexposed populations to compare with, and there are likely to be wide differences in exposure levels among individuals and across certain population groups.But some sort of population-based assessment and biomonitoring are urgently needed to tease out any potential links between food contact chemicals and chronic conditions like cancer, obesity, diabetes, neurological and inflammatory disorders, particularly given the known role of environmental pollutants, they argue.”Since most foods are packaged, and the entire population is likely to be exposed, it is of utmost importance that gaps in knowledge are reliably and rapidly filled,” they urge.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by BMJ-British Medical Journal. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Almost 13 million smoking deaths could be prevented in China by 2050

China is home to about one third of the world’s smokers and reducing smoking in China could have an enormous public health impact, even on a global scale.Even though China raised the tax on tobacco products in 2009, this did not translate to higher retail prices for consumers and the only ban that has been enforced is on public transport. WHO went on to publish a report in 2011 which stated that there were multiple opportunities to improve tobacco control.Using a version of the SimSmoke Tobacco Control Policy model (a model of tobacco smoking prevalence and smoking-related deaths), populated with data from China, researchers from Spain, France and the US estimated the potential health impact of this programme in China from 2015 — 2050.Under current policies, a total of over 50 million deaths due to smoking were estimated from 2012 to 2050.Projecting the status quo scenario forward, the researchers estimate that active smoking in males would fall from 51.3% in 2015 to 46.5% by 2050 — and in females from 2.1% in 2015 to 1.3% in 2050In 2015, the estimated number of deaths from smoking was about one million (932,000 for males and 79,000 for females). In males, annual deaths were expected to peak at 1.5 million in 2040, but then drop to 1.4 million by 2050. In females, annual deaths from smoking were estimated to be 49,000 in 2040 and 42,000 by 2050.Relative to the status quo scenario, increasing cigarette taxes to 75% of the package price was estimated to reduce smoking prevalence by almost 10% for both males and females by 2015. By 2050, smoking prevalence showed a reduction of 13% for males and 12% for females. The researchers estimate that between 2015 and 2050, this tax would save approximately 3.5 million lives.Smoke-free air laws and a well enforced marketing ban also showed “potent and immediate” effects. Comprehensive smoke-free air laws were estimated to show a 9% reduction in smoking rates by 2015, increasing to about a 10% reduction in 2050, potentially averting around 3.4 million deaths. A comprehensive marketing ban would reduce smoking prevalence by about 4% and avert just over two million deaths by 2050.A high intensity tobacco control campaign would lead to a 2.5% relative decline in smoking rates by 2015 and prevent 1.1 million deaths due to smoking by 2050, while stronger health warnings were projected to yield a relative 2.3% reduction in smoking rates by 2050.The researchers estimate that complete implementation of the WHO framework “would lead to as much as a 34% relative reduction in male smoking prevalence by 2020, and a 41% reduction by 2050.” They say, despite the lag time expected between reductions in current smoking and declines in smoking attributable deaths, nearly half a million annual tobacco related deaths could be averted yearly by 2050.These estimates suggest that substantial health gains could be made, say the authors — a 40% relative reduction in smoking prevalence and almost 13 million smoking attributable deaths averted and more than 154 million life years gained by 2050 — by extending effective public health and clinical interventions to reduce active smoking. They add that these policies would be cost effective and say that “without the implementation of the complete set of stronger policies, the death and disability legacy of current smoking will endure for decades in China.”Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by BMJ-British Medical Journal. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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London’s bicycle sharing scheme has had positive overall health effect

London’s bicycle sharing scheme has had positive overall health effect, but benefits of cycling in central London are larger for men and older people. The authors say the potential benefits of cycling “may not currently apply to all groups in all settings.”Over 600 cities around the world have implemented bicycle sharing schemes, but there is very little published evidence on the health effects of such schemes.So researchers at the University of Cambridge, University College London and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine set out to estimate the health impacts of London’s cycle hire scheme on its users.Using registration and usage data collected from April 2011 to March 2012, they modeled the medium term health impacts of the scheme on male and female users of different ages, by estimating changes in physical activity, road traffic injury rates, and exposure to air pollution.The authors used a composite term to describe the impact of ill health and death, known as DALYs, or disability adjusted life years.From April 2011 to March 2012, 578,607 unique cycle hire users made a total of 7.4 million cycle hire trips and thereby generated 2.1 million hours of use.This equates to 12% of the estimated 61.2 million cycle trips made by adults each year that started or ended in the cycle hire zone, and 10% of the estimated 20.8 million hours of cycling duration.Results suggest that the scheme appears to have had a positive overall health effect, with these benefits reflecting reductions in diseases affected by physical inactivity.There was no evidence that cycling on a bicycle sharing scheme was more dangerous than own bicycle cycling; indeed, if anything there was a trend in the opposite direction, further boosting the benefits of the scheme to date. However because the London Cycle Hire scheme hasn’t been operating long enough to get a very precise estimate of the true injury rates on the scheme, the researchers also repeated their analyses using background injury rates for cycling in the hire zone (i.e. injury rates for all cycling, not specifically for cycle hire cycling).When using these background injury rates, the researchers found that the ratio of benefits to harms of cycling in central London vary markedly by age and sex.At older ages (45-59 years), the benefits of cycling were much larger than the harms. But in the youngest age group (15-29 years), the medium term benefits and harms of cycling in central London were both comparatively small and potentially negative.When the researchers analyzed the results by sex, they found smaller benefits among women, largely reflecting higher background fatal injury rates for female cyclists in central London. The authors stress that these results by age and sex relate to cycling in general in central London, not specifically to cycling on the hire bikes.”Our findings indicate that benefits of cycling in central London could be substantially increased both by increasing the share of trips made by older users and by reducing the risks of injury,” say the authors.They point to the Netherlands, where a comprehensive and well maintained system of cycle tracks, physically protected from fast motor traffic, “have helped to make cycling widespread at all ages and reduce the risks of injury.”Providing similar quality infrastructure in London “might help realize the substantial potential health benefits that cycling could offer at population level,” they conclude.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by BMJ-British Medical Journal. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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South African healthcare workers face greater risk for TB, HIV

A large-scale survey of South African healthcare workers has revealed major gaps in workplace protection against tuberculosis, HIV and hepatitis, according to a University of British Columbia health researcher.Presenting findings today at the 2014 annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), Dr. Annalee Yassi says issues such as confidentiality, stigma, technological capacity and staff training need to be addressed while improving hospital resources and protocols.Preliminary results of the 2012 baseline survey of more than 1,000 healthcare workers in three hospitals show that more than 68 per cent of patient care staff had never been screened for TB; nearly 20 per cent were not vaccinated against hepatitis; and 55 per cent did not wear respiratory protection when needed. Despite South Africa’s high TB and HIV rates — 18 per cent of its adult population is HIV-positive — and risk of hepatitis transmission, recapping of used needles before disposal and washing and reusing of gloves were common, with more than 20 per cent surveyed reporting needlestick injury or unprotected exposure to bodily fluids.Yassi, who is helping South Africa implement occupational health guidelines developed by the World Health Organization (WHO), says healthcare workers in developing countries face greater health challenges while serving significantly more patients.”In addition to massive workloads, healthcare workers in developing countries are more likely to get sick from the workplace,” says Yassi, a professor in UBC’s School of Population and Public Health, noting that healthcare workers in South Africa are at three times the risk of contracting TB than other South Africans, and more than seven times more likely to be hospitalized for drug-resistant TB. A 2013 WHO estimate showed South Africans were almost 300 times more likely to contract TB than Americans.”Considerable progress is being made, including better standard operating procedures and screening,” says Yassi. “But there’s much more we can do to ensure a healthy workplace for the international health care workforce.”Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by University of British Columbia. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Prostate cancer advance could improve treatment options

Findings published today in the British Journal of Cancer, and funded by the Association for International Cancer Research (AICR), show how a genetic mutation in untreated patients is linked to aggressive cancer later in life. It was previously thought that the mutation only occurred in response to therapy.The research highlights why relapses could occur in some men following hormone therapy. And it could help identify those patients that will develop fatal prostate cancer much earlier for life-extending therapy.Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the UK, with more than 40,000 new cases diagnosed every year. Treatment options for patients diagnosed with early stage prostate cancer vary from “watchful waiting” to hormone-withdrawal therapy, radiotherapy or surgery.Additional tests for indicators of aggressive cancer are necessary to help categorise patients so that those with a low-risk of the disease spreading can avoid unnecessary treatment, and those diagnosed with a high-risk can be targeted for more aggressive first line therapy.Hormone-withdrawal therapy often results in a dramatic remission, however the disease invariably relapses with a resistant form of the cancer. A third of these are due to an increase in copy number of a particular gene called the ‘androgen receptor’. The gene is on the X-Chromosome and so there is normally only one copy of this gene present in men. Prostate cancer thrives on male hormones, and one way that they develop to grow better is to increase the number of copies of the androgen receptor gene. This also enables the cancer to resist therapy.Lead researchers Dr Jeremy Clark and Prof Colin Cooper from UEA’s school of Biological Sciences carried out the research at the Institute of Cancer Research, London, and at UEA.Dr Clark said: “By the age of 60, the majority of men will have signs of prostate cancer. However, only a small proportion of men will die of the disease. The question is — which of these cancers are dangerous and which are not? …

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Invasive ‘demon shrimp’ threaten British marine species

A species of shrimp, dubbed the ‘demon shrimp,’ which was previously unknown in British waters, are attacking and eating native shrimp and disrupting the food chain in some of our rivers and lakes. The problem is contributing to the cost of Invasive non-native species (INNS) to the British economy, which is estimated at a total annual cost of approximately 1.7 billion.Dr Alex Ford, a marine scientist from the University of Portsmouth, is investigating the problem with support from the Environment Agency. He said that demon shrimp, so called because of their larger size and aggressive behavior, are currently a more widespread threat than the ‘killer shrimp’ also known to have invaded British waters in 2010. The fear is that some of Britain’s native shrimp are in danger of being completely eradicated from some rivers and lakes, he added.”They are out-eating and out-competing our native shrimps and changing the species dynamic in our rivers and lakes. As soon as one species is depleted it can affect the whole food chain with potentially catastrophic results.”The demon shrimp originates from the region around the Black sea and Caspian sea (known as the Ponto-Caspian region) and found their way into British waters accidently, possibly through shipping in ballast water and are now infiltrating the country via navigable waterwaysDr Ford, from the University’s Institute of Marine Sciences, said: “One of the main reasons why invasive species are successful is the escape from predators, parasites and disease in their native habitats. We are looking at whether these demon shrimp carry ‘demon parasites,’ which could also affect our native species that won’t have any immunity. There is a very real bio-security threat of spreading disease and parasites in native populations without acquired resistance.”The Environment Agency considers the demon shrimp to be a big problem. Tim Johns from the Environment Agency said: “Invasive shrimps such as this species present a major threat to the ecology of our rivers and lakes and we have a real battle on our hands to control their spread.”Dr Ford and colleagues from the University’s Institute of Marine Sciences are now investigating which parasites the demon shrimp are vulnerable to. They are looking at whether they bring with them their own parasites and if they are able to acquire native British parasites, which may result in suppressing population growth over time.One of their findings indicates that a very large proportion of demon shrimp are ‘intersex’ — displaying male and female characteristics, which is caused by parasites which ‘feminize’ the host. Feminizing parasites exist in both British and foreign waters, but in the demon shrimp, the feminizing process has not been fully completed leaving them intersexual. …

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Drop in crime rates are less where Wal-Mart builds, study shows

Communities across the United States experienced an unprecedented decline in crime in the 1990s. But for counties where Wal-Mart built stores, the decline wasn’t nearly as dramatic.”The crime decline was stunted in counties where Wal-Mart expanded in the 1990s,” says Scott Wolfe, assistant professor of criminology and criminal justice at the University of South Carolina and lead author of a new study. “If the corporation built a new store, there were 17 additional property crimes and 2 additional violent crimes for every 10,000 persons in a county.”The study, titled “Rolling back prices and raising crime rates? The Wal-Mart effect on crime in the United States,” released last month in the British Journal of Criminology, was co-authored with David Pyrooz, assistant professor of criminal justice and criminology at Sam Houston State University.Wolfe says the commonly known “Wal-Mart effect” is the company’s overwhelming influence on numerous economic and social factors in communities, including jobs, poverty rates and retail prices.The study was not intended to criticize Wal-Mart, he says. Instead, it attempted to answer the unexplored question of whether Wal-Mart could equate with either more or less crime.”There have been dozens of studies on the ‘Wal-Mart effect’ showing the company impacts numerous outcomes closely related to crime. Our objective was to determine if the Wal-Mart effect extended to understanding crime rates during arguably one of the most pivotal historical periods in the study of crime,” Wolfe says.Wolfe and Pyrooz based the study on 3,109 U.S. counties. They focused on Wal-Mart’s expansion in the 1990s, a time of dynamic growth for the company and falling crime rates nationally. During that decade Wal-Mart expanded in 767 of those counties.”There are reasons why Wal-Mart ranks among the most successful commercial enterprises in U.S. history,” Wolfe says. …

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Medics speak of time assisting in the typhoon-hit Philippines

Medics from Manchester Academic Health Science Centre (MAHSC) have spoken about their role treating the injured following the typhoon that hit the Philippines in what they believe was the UK’s first joint civilian and military humanitarian response effort. The model, which saw part of the team board HMS Daring, helped treat hundreds of people cut off on remote islands by the typhoon which struck last November.Professor Redmond, Professor of International Emergency Medicine at The University of Manchester’s Humanitarian Conflict Response Institute (HCRI), led a 12-strong British team of staff, including surgeons, doctors and A&E nurses who were mobilised to the region by the Department for International Development.Half the team assisted at a hospital in Tacloban while the remainder — including Dr Amy Hughes, from the University, and nurse Karen Livingstone, from the University Hospital of South Manchester — both part of MAHSC joined the navy and travelled to remote islands by ship and helicopter.Professor Redmond, speaking on the three-month anniversary of the typhoon (8 February), said: “To our knowledge it is the first time there has been a joint civilian and military humanitarian response from the UK and it worked really well. The Navy could get us to the islands that nobody else could get to. We went to some of the smaller islands on the ship then accessed the even smaller islands by helicopter and speed boats. Some of the islands had no jetties so we had to wade waist high in the water carrying all the medical kit above our heads.”Professor Redmond, who runs the UK’s International Emergency Trauma Register (UKIETR) said the disaster led to a mixture of medical needs.”There were high winds and damage from the typhoon, storm surges, elements of which were similar to areas hit by tsunamis, and building collapses with elements similar to what you’d get in an earthquake. So we needed a very flexible team allocated drawn from a range of specialisms,” he explained.”The surgical specialists went to work in the field hospital in Tacloban while the remaining team visited remote islands. It was very moving when we flew over the first island in the helicopter, they’d seen helicopters before but no one had landed. They had written help in the sand and everyone ran out of their homes waving towels to bring us in.”Once the medics arrived at each island they worked with community leadership groups, known as barangays, and their captains who let the team know what type of medical assistance was needed and the numbers of casualties. Clinics were then put in place which we ran from dawn to dusk.The main injuries on the islands were wounds which had not been treated and had become infected, chest infections and diarrhea which were all treated.The islands had also suffered from collapsed buildings and many schools were damaged or destroyed. Fishing boats were washed far in land. …

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Europe’s oldest footprints uncovered on English coast

The earliest human footprints outside of Africa have been uncovered, on the English coast, by a team of scientists led by Queen Mary University of London, the British Museum and the Natural History Museum.Up to five people left the series of footprints in mud on the bank of an ancient river estuary over 800,000 years ago at Happisburgh in northeast Norfolk.Dr Simon Lewis from Queen Mary’s School of Geography has been helping to piece together the geological puzzle surrounding the discovery — made in May 2013 — which is evidence of the first known humans in northern Europe.Dr Lewis’s research into the geology of the site has provided vital information on the sediments in which the prints were found. “My role is to work out the sequence of deposits at the site and how they were laid down. This means I can provide a geological context for the archaeological evidence of human occupation at the site.”The importance of the Happisburgh footprints is highlighted by the rarity of footprints surviving elsewhere. Only those at Laetoli in Tanzania at about 3.5 million years and at Ileret and Koobi Fora in Kenya at about 1.5 million years are older.A lecturer in physical geography, and co-director of the Happisburgh project (http://www.ahobproject.org/), Dr Lewis added that the chance of encountering footprints such as this was extremely rare; they survived environmental change and the passage of time.Timing was also crucial as “their location was revealed just at a moment when researchers were there to see it” during a geophysical survey. “Just two weeks later the tide would have eroded the footprints away.””At first we weren’t sure what we were seeing,” explains Dr Nick Ashton of the British Museum “but as we removed any remaining beach sand and sponged off the seawater, it was clear that the hollows resembled prints, and that we needed to record the surface as quickly as possible.”Over the next two weeks researchers used photogrammetry, a technique that can stitch together digital photographs to create a permanent record and 3D images of the surface. It was the analysis of these images that confirmed that the elongated hollows were indeed ancient human footprints.In some cases the heel, arch and even toes could be identified, equating to modern shoes of up to UK size 8. While it is not possible to tell what the makers of these footprints were doing at the time, analysis has suggested that the prints were made from a mix of adults and children.Their discovery offers researchers an insight into the migration of pre-historic people hundreds of thousands of years ago when Britain was linked by land to continental Europe.At this time, deer, bison, mammoth, hippo and rhino grazed the river valley at Happisburgh. The land provided a rich array of resources for the early humans with edible plant tubers, seaweed and shellfish nearby, while the grazing herds would have provided meat through hunting or scavenging.During the past 10 years the sediments at Happisburgh have revealed a series of sites with stone tools and fossil bones; this discovery is from the same deposits.The findings are published in the science journal PLOS ONE.The work at Happisburgh forms part of a new major exhibition at the Natural History Museum Britain: One Million Years of the Human Story opening on February 13.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by Queen Mary University of London. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Clearer labels needed on drugs containing animal products

Dr Kinesh Patel and Dr Kate Tatham say most medications prescribed in primary care contain animal derived products and it is unclear whether they are suitable for vegetarians.They call for improved labeling, similar to those on food, to help inform doctors, pharmacists and patients about the content of medicines. And they stress that concerned patients should not stop taking their medication without consulting their doctor first.Specific dietary preferences regarding animal products in food are common in the general population. Influences such as religion, culture, economic status, environmental concern, food intolerances, and personal preferences all play a part in the foods that people choose to consume.Yet many patients and doctors are unaware that commonly prescribed drugs contain animal products — and simply reading the list of ingredients will not make it clear whether the product meets the patient’s dietary preferences.Problem ingredients include lactose (often extracted using bovine rennet), gelatine (sourced from cows, pigs and occasionally fish) and magnesium stearate (traditionally sourced from cows, pigs and sheep) although some manufacturers now use vegetarian alternatives.Last year a campaign to vaccinate children in Scotland against influenza was halted because of concern in the Muslim community about pork gelatine within the vaccine.Even though the absolute levels of animal products in many medications are likely to be minimal, the authors say doctors need to consider this when prescribing “to avoid non-adherence, which is a major healthcare concern.”To ascertain the scale of the problem, they identified the 100 most commonly prescribed drugs in UK primary care in January 2013. Of these, 73 contained one or more of lactose, gelatine, or magnesium stearate. But they found that information on the origins of the contents was difficult to obtain, unclear, inconsistently reported, and sometimes incorrect.”Our data suggest that it is likely that patients are unwittingly ingesting medications containing animal products with neither prescriber nor dispenser aware,” they write.They call for improved drug labeling, mirroring those standards advised for food. However, they acknowledge it is unlikely that any labeling standard could address all dietary requirements, “and the ultimate solution would be to eliminate animal derived products where possible from medications.”They point out that lactose is already produced by some manufacturers without using rennet, magnesium stearate can be made chemically without animal ingredients and vegetarian capsules to replace gelatine are already available.”Although vegetarian friendly ingredients may be more expensive than those produced by traditional processes, the costs would diminish as production expanded and they would limit the exposure of patients to products they find unacceptable,” they conclude.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by BMJ-British Medical Journal. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Hot weather deaths projected to rise 257 percent in UK by 2050s, experts warn

The number of annual excess deaths caused by hot weather in England and Wales is projected to surge by 257% by the middle of the century, as a result of climate change and population growth, concludes research published online in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.The elderly (75+) will be most at risk, particularly in the South and the Midlands, the findings suggest.The research team, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and Public Health England, used time-series regression analysis to chart historic (1993-2006) fluctuations in weather patterns and death rates to characterise the associations between temperature and mortality, by region and by age group.They then applied these to projected population increases and local climate to estimate the future number of deaths likely to be caused by temperature — hot and cold — for the 2020s, 2050s, and 2080s.They based their calculations on the projected daily average temperatures for 2000-09, 2020-29, 2050-59 and 2080-89, derived from the British Atmospheric Data Centre (BADC), and population growth estimates from the Office of National Statistics.The calculations indicated a significantly increased risk of deaths associated with temperature across all regions of the UK, with the elderly most at risk.The number of hot weather days is projected to rise steeply, tripling in frequency by the mid 2080s, while the number of cold days is expected to fall, but at a less dramatic pace.At the national level, the death rate increases by just over 2% for every 1ᵒC rise in temperature above the heat threshold, with a corresponding 2% increase in the death rate for every 1ᵒC fall in temperature below the cold threshold.In the absence of any adaptive measures, excess deaths related to heat would be expected to rise by 257% by the 2050s, from an annual baseline of 2000, while those related to the cold would be expected to fall by 2% as a result of milder winters, from a current toll of around 41,000, but will still remain significant.Those aged 85 and over will be most at risk, partly as a result of population growth — projected to reach 89 million by the mid 2080s — and the increasing proportion of elderly in the population, say the authors.Regional variations are likely to persist: London and the Midlands are the regions most vulnerable to the impact of heat, while Wales, the North West, Eastern England and the South are most vulnerable to the impact of cold.Rising fuel costs may make it harder to adapt to extremes of temperature, while increased reliance on active cooling systems could simply end up driving up energy consumption and worsening the impact of climate change, say the authors.Better and more sustainable options might instead include shading, thermal insulation, choice of construction materials implemented at the design stage of urban developments, suggest the authors.While the death toll from cold weather temperatures will remain higher than that caused by hot temperatures, the authors warn that health protection from hot weather will become increasingly necessary — and vital for the very old.”As the contribution of population growth and aging on future temperature related health burdens will be large, the health protection of the elderly will be important,” warn the authors, recalling the social changes that have led to many elderly living on their own — a contributory factor to the high death toll in France in the 2003 heatwave.

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Pacific Meso Center’s Meet the Expert Series Presents ADAO President and Co-Founder, Linda Reinstein

On Wednesday, July 17, 2013,Linda Reinstein, Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) President/CEO and Co-Founder, will be presentingBan Asbestos Struggle: From our Homes to the Hill, at 11am PDT as part of Pacific Meso Center’s (PMC) “Meet the Expert” Series.After Linda’s husband Alan was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma in 2003, she fought back by becoming one of the most influential voices in the ban asbestos movement. In 2004, Linda co-founded ADAO to raise awareness about the dangers of asbestos and unite patients and families who have been affected by asbestos-related disease. Today ADAO is the largest independent asbestos victims’ organization based in the United States, with over 20,000 individuals eager to live in a world without asbestos.Linda has frequently served as a U.S. Congressional …

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Dr. David Nutt on Alcohol

Rebutting industry myths.A couple of years ago, the European Alcohol Policy Alliance, known as EuroCare, put together a brochure addressing the common messages the liquor industry attempts to drive home through its heavy spending on advertising. The messages are not just designed to sell product, but also to influence alcohol policy at the political level. According to EuroCare, the “industry”—the alcohol and tobacco companies—“has traditionally worked closely together, sharing information and concerns about regulation. They have used similar arguments to defend their products in order to prevent or delay restrictions being placed on them.”I wrote a blog post on EuroCare’s list of alcohol untruths called “7 Myths the Alcohol Industry Wants You to Believe.” Here they are:Message 1: Consuming alcohol is normal, common, healthy, …

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Carbon cycle models underestimate indirect role of animals

Oct. 16, 2013 — Animal populations can have a far more significant impact on carbon storage and exchange in regional ecosystems than is typically recognized by global carbon models, according to a new paper authored by researchers at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES).In fact, in some regions the magnitude of carbon uptake or release due to the effects of specific animal species or groups of animals — such as the pine beetles devouring forests in western North America — can rival the impact of fossil fuel emissions for the same region, according to the paper published in the journal Ecosystems.While models typically take into account how plants and microbes affect the carbon cycle, they often underestimate how much animals can indirectly alter the absorption, release, or transport of carbon within an ecosystem, says Oswald Schmitz, the Oastler Professor of Population and Community Ecology at F&ES and lead author of the paper. Historically, the role of animals has been largely underplayed since animal species are not distributed globally and because the total biomass of animals is vastly lower than the plants that they rely upon, and therefore contribute little carbon in the way of respiration.”What these sorts of analyses have not paid attention to is what we call the indirect multiplier effects,” Schmitz says. “And these indirect effects can be quite huge — and disproportionate to the biomass of the species that are instigating the change.”In the paper, “Animating the Carbon Cycle,” a team of 15 authors from 12 universities, research organizations and government agencies cites numerous cases where animals have triggered profound impacts on the carbon cycle at local and regional levels.In one case, an unprecedented loss of trees triggered by the pine beetle outbreak in western North America has decreased the net carbon balance on a scale comparable to British Columbia’s current fossil fuel emissions.And in East Africa, scientists found that a decline in wildebeest populations in the Serengeti-Mara grassland-savanna system decades ago allowed organic matter to accumulate, which eventually led to about 80 percent of the ecosystem to burn annually, releasing carbon from the plants and the soil, before populations recovered in recent years.”These are examples where the animals’ largest effects are not direct ones,” Schmitz says. “But because of their presence they mitigate or mediate ecosystem processes that then can have these ramifying effects.””We hope this article will inspire scientists and managers to include animals when thinking of local and regional carbon budgets,” said Peter Raymond, a professor of ecosystem ecology at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.According to the authors, a more proper assessment of such phenomena could provide insights into management schemes that could help mitigate the threat of climate change.For example, in the Arctic, where about 500 gigatons of carbon is stored in permafrost, large grazing mammals like caribou and muskoxen can help maintain the grasslands that have a high albedo and thus reflect more solar energy. In addition, by trampling the ground these herds can actually help reduce the rate of permafrost thaw, researchers say.”It’s almost an argument for rewilding places to make sure that the natural balance of predators and prey are there,” Schmitz says. “We’re not saying that managing animals will offset these carbon emissions. What we’re trying to say is the numbers are of a scale where it is worthwhile to start thinking about how animals could be managed to accomplish that.”

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Pacific humpback whale abundance higher in British Columbia

Sep. 11, 2013 — Humpback whale populations are on the rise in the coastal fjords of British Columbia, doubling in size from 2004 to 2011, according to results published September 18 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Erin Ashe from the Sea Mammal Research Unit at the University of St. Andrews and colleagues from other institutions.Share This:Researchers estimated abundance of Pacific humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) using photo-identification surveillance of identifiable adults. They found that the number of humpback whales in the region increased each year, and doubled from 2004 to 2011, resulting in a total of 137 whales in 2011. The survey was conducted year-round, but abundance was estimated only during the summer months of July to September, when the migrating whale population is largest.The survey focused on summer feeding regions in the coastal fjords that serve as a pit stop for whales to refuel between migrations. Migrating whales can travel as far as Hawaii or Japan and go several months without feeding. Whatever the whales are doing seems to be working.The authors estimated that survivorship, the average probability of an adult whale surviving from one year to the next is among the highest reported anywhere for this species. During this critical refueling stage in these waters, the whales are more vulnerable to environmental stressors, such as those potentially created by increasing tourism and industrial development in the region.Share this story on Facebook, Twitter, and Google:Other social bookmarking and sharing tools:|Story Source: The above story is based on materials provided by Public Library of Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above. …

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Tattoos reduce chances of getting a job

Sep. 4, 2013 — Having a tattoo can reduce your chance of getting a job, but it depends on where the tattoo is, what it depicts and if the job involves dealing with customers, new research says.Dr Andrew R. Timming told the British Sociological Association conference on work, employment and society in Warwick today that employers were prone to view tattoos negatively. Dr Timming, of the School of Management at the University of St Andrews, said he had spoken to 15 managers involved in hiring staff about their reaction to interview candidates with visible tattoos. The managers worked for organisations including a hotel, bank, city council, prison, university and bookseller.”Most respondents agreed that visible tattoos are a stigma,” Dr Timming told the conference. One woman manager told him that “they make a person look dirty.” Another male manager told him “subconsciously that would stop me from employing them.” Another male manager said “tattoos are the first thing they [fellow recruiters] talk about when the person has gone out of the door.”The managers were concerned about what their organisations’ customers might think, said Dr Timming. “Hiring managers realise that, ultimately, it does not matter what they think of tattoos — what really matters, instead, is how customers might perceive employees with visible tattoos.”Respondents expressed concern that visibly tattooed workers may be perceived by customers to be ‘abhorrent’, ‘repugnant’, ‘unsavoury’ and ‘untidy’. It was surmised that customers might project a negative service experience based on stereotypes that tattooed people are thugs and druggies.”One woman manager told him: “We all judge people on first impressions and what we sum up is quite quick. When they [customers] walk in the door and see that there’s a receptionist with guns or knives tattooed, or ‘hate’ tattooed, I think that is something that would be uncomfortable.”Dr Timming said: “The one qualification to this argument is there are certain industries in which tattoos may be a desirable characteristic in a job interview. For example, an HR manager at a prison noted that tattoos on guards can be ‘something to talk about’ and ‘an in’ that you need to make a connection with the prisoners.”The negative attitude to tattoos did not extend to ones that could be easily concealed by clothing. …

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Childhood adversity linked to higher risk of early death

Sep. 4, 2013 — Traumatic childhood experiences are linked to an increased risk of early death, according to new research using data from the 1958 National Child Development Study.The research, led by the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM), in collaboration with the ESRC International Centre for Lifecourse Studies in Society and Health at UCL, found that men and women who had suffered adversity in childhood were more likely to die before age of 50 than those who had not.The researchers compared premature death rates among more than 15,000 people to their experiences of adversity at ages 7, 11 and 16. This included spending time in care, suffering from neglect, parental separation or having a family member in prison.For women, the likelihood of dying before age 50 increased with the amount of adversity they had suffered in childhood. Women who had suffered one negative experience by age 16 were 66 per cent more likely to die before the age of 50 than those who had not faced any adversity. Women who had two or more adverse experiences in childhood had an 80 per cent increased risk of premature death.Men who had suffered two or more traumatic events in childhood were 57 per cent more likely to die by the time they were 50 than those who had not experienced any adversity growing up.The association between childhood adversity and premature death remained even after taking into account factors such as education level and social class, alcohol and tobacco use, and psychological problems in early adulthood.The researchers note that some causes of death in early adult life are related to mental stress, such as suicide or addiction to alcohol or drugs. However, they also suggest that children who suffer severe stress may experience imbalances in their hormone and immune systems that impact on their physical development and later health.For the first time in any study, the longitudinal nature of the data made it possible to link the risk of early death to experiences of adversity that have been recorded during childhood, rather than relying on adult recollections of early life experiences.Professor Mel Bartley, one of the UCL authors of the study, says: “Our Centre has been collaborating with public health researchers at INSERM to enable them to use unique British birth cohort data to test their ideas.”This work on early psychological trauma and premature death adds a whole new dimension to public health. It shows that if we are going to ensure better health in the population the work needs to begin early in life to support children experiencing severe adversities. Many people have suspected this but until now we have not had such high quality evidence from such a large cohort of people.”

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Language and tool-making skills evolved at the same time

Sep. 3, 2013 — Research by the University of Liverpool has found that the same brain activity is used for language production and making complex tools, supporting the theory that they evolved at the same time.Researchers from the University tested the brain activity of 10 expert stone tool makers (flint knappers) as they undertook a stone tool-making task and a standard language test.Brain blood flow activity measuredThey measured the brain blood flow activity of the participants as they performed both tasks using functional Transcranial Doppler Ultrasound (fTCD), commonly used in clinical settings to test patients’ language functions after brain damage or before surgery.The researchers found that brain patterns for both tasks correlated, suggesting that they both use the same area of the brain. Language and stone tool-making are considered to be unique features of humankind that evolved over millions of years.Darwin was the first to suggest that tool-use and language may have co-evolved, because they both depend on complex planning and the coordination of actions but until now there has been little evidence to support this.Dr Georg Meyer, from the University Department of Experimental Psychology, said: “This is the first study of the brain to compare complex stone tool-making directly with language.Tool use and language co-evolved”Our study found correlated blood-flow patterns in the first 10 seconds of undertaking both tasks. This suggests that both tasks depend on common brain areas and is consistent with theories that tool-use and language co-evolved and share common processing networks in the brain.”Dr Natalie Uomini from the University’s Department of Archaeology, Classics & Egyptology, said: “Nobody has been able to measure brain activity in real time while making a stone tool. This is a first for both archaeology and psychology.”The research was supported by the Leverhulme Trust, the Economic and Social Research Council and the British Academy. It is published in PLOS ONE.

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Conspiracy theories may put children’s health at risk

Aug. 27, 2013 — A belief in conspiracy theories may influence parents’ intentions to have their children vaccinated against diseases such as measles. That is the conclusion of research being presented today, 28 August 2013, by Daniel Jolley and Karen Douglas at the Annual Conference of the British Psychological Society’s Social Psychology Section in Exeter.Share This:Jolley and Douglas asked a sample of 89 parents about their views on anti-vaccine conspiracy theories and then asked participants to indicate their intention to have a fictional child vaccinated. They found that stronger belief in anti-vaccine conspiracy theories was associated with less intention to have the child vaccinated.In a second study of 188 participants, Jolley and Douglas exposed participants to information concerning anti-vaccine conspiracy theories. It was found that reading this material reduced participants’ intention to have a fictional child vaccinated, relative to participants who were given refuting information, or those in a control condition.Daniel Jolley said: “The recent outbreak of measles in the UK illustrates the importance of vaccination. Our studies demonstrate that anti-vaccine conspiracy theories may present a barrier to vaccine uptake.”Dr Douglas added: “Our findings point to the potentially detrimental consequences of anti-vaccine conspiracy theories. It is easy to treat belief in conspiracy theories lightly, but our studies show that wariness about conspiracy theories may be warranted.”Share this story on Facebook, Twitter, and Google:Other social bookmarking and sharing tools:|Story Source: The above story is based on materials provided by British Psychological Society (BPS), via AlphaGalileo. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above. Need to cite this story in your essay, paper, or report? …

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