Drug Interactions a Serious Health Concern

We live in an age where medical and pharmaceutical research is something we take for granted. The medical procedures and medications we rely on to maintain and improve our health are often seen as safe, reliable and easy to obtain. Yet these advances in medical technology do not come without risks, especially when we take two or more types of drugs. The risk of drugs interacting with one another to cause negative, and potentially deadly, side effects is a very real one, and one that leads to a shockingly high number of deaths and injuries each year.Drug Interactions Deadlier Than Car CrashesAbout 34,000 people die every year as the result of automobile crashes, while more than 2 million people sustain injuries. Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration reports that , or ADRs, are responsible for killing nearly three times as many people as those killed in car crashes. The FDA reports that about 100,000 people die from ADRs each year, while another 2 million suffer serious complications.Drugs a Part of Modern LifeThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that about 82 percent of the population takes at least one type of medication, while nearly 30 percent take five or more types of drugs. These figures include both over-the-counter medications, as well as prescription drugs.The CDC also reports that about 700,000 people visit emergency rooms every year because of ADRs, while another 120,000 people have to be hospitalized. The extra expenses caused by ADRs account for an additional $3.5 billion in health care costs every year.A Growing, and Often Preventable, ProblemDrug companies are constantly developing new medications, while researchers are regularly discovering new uses for already existing drugs. The population is, as a whole, becoming much older, and older Americans are much more likely to regularly use both prescription and over-the-counter medications than younger people. When these factors are combined with the fact that physicians are more often prescribing medications as a preventative measure, and more people have access to prescription drug coverage, the trend lines are clear; adverse drug interactions will increase, and continue to do so, for the foreseeable future.Fortunately, there is at least one positive factor in all of this. …

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The science of champagne fizz: How many bubbles are in your bubbly?

The importance of fizz, more technically known as effervescence, in sparkling wines and champagnes is not to be underestimated — it contributes to the complete sensory experience of a glass, or flute, of fine bubbly. A scientist has now closely examined the factors that affect these bubbles, and he has come up with an estimate of just how many are in each glass. The report appears in ACS’ The Journal of Physical Chemistry B.Grard Liger-Belair notes that effervescence plays an important role in the look, taste, aroma and mouth feel of champagne and other sparkling wines. Wine journalists and bloggers often cite 15 million as the average number of bubbles fizzing in a single glass of champagne, based on some simple mathematics. Sounds impressive, but Liger-Belair suspected that the formula leading to this estimate oversimplified the matter. It didn’t take into account the fact that some of the dissolved carbon dioxide escapes from a glass without forming bubbles. Also, the size of the bubbles changes over time, and this could affect the final number. Liger-Belair wanted to set the record straight.Taking into consideration temperature, bubble dynamics and the tilt of a flute, Liger-Belair came up with a new way to calculate the number of bubbles in a glass of champagne. And the result is far lower than what has been cited. “One million bubbles seems to be a reasonable approximation for the whole number of bubbles likely to form if you resist drinking champagne from your flute,” he concludes. …

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New human trial shows stem cells are effective for failing hearts: Bone marrow-derived stem cells injected directly into heart muscle

Patients with severe ischemic heart disease and heart failure can benefit from a new treatment in which stem cells found in bone marrow are injected directly into the heart muscle, according to research presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 63rd Annual Scientific Session.”Our results show that this stem cell treatment is safe and it improves heart function when compared to placebo,” said Anders Bruun Mathiasen, M.D., research fellow in the Cardiac Catherization Lab at Rigshospitalet University Hospital Copenhagen, and lead investigator of the study. “This represents an exciting development that has the potential to benefit many people who suffer from this common and deadly disease.”Ischemic heart disease, also known as coronary artery disease, is the number one cause of death for both men and women in the United States. It results from a gradual buildup of plaque in the heart’s coronary arteries and can lead to chest pain, heart attack and heart failure.The study is the largest placebo-controlled double-blind randomized trial to treat patients with chronic ischemic heart failure by injecting a type of stem cell known as mesenchymal stromal cells directly into the heart muscle.Six months after treatment, patients who received stem cell injections had improved heart pump function compared to patients receiving a placebo. Treated patients showed an 8.2-milliliter decrease in the study’s primary endpoint, end systolic volume, which indicates the lowest volume of blood in the heart during the pumping cycle and is a key measure of the heart’s ability to pump effectively. The placebo group showed an increase of 6 milliliters in end systolic volume.The study included 59 patients with chronic ischemic heart disease and severe heart failure. Each patient first underwent a procedure to extract a small amount of bone marrow. Researchers then isolated from the marrow a small number of mesenchymal stromal cells and induced the cells to self-replicate. Patients then received an injection of either saline placebo or their own cultured mesenchymal stromal cells into the heart muscle through a catheter inserted in the groin.”Isolating and culturing the stem cells is a relatively straightforward process, and the procedure to inject the stem cells into the heart requires only local anesthesia, so it appears to be all-in-all a promising treatment for patients who have no other options,” Mathiasen said.Although there are other therapies available for patients with ischemic heart disease, these therapies do not help all patients and many patients continue to face fatigue, shortness of breath and accumulation of fluid in the lungs and legs.Previous studies have shown mesenchymal stromal cells can stimulate repair and regeneration in a variety of tissues, including heart muscle. Mathiasen said in the case of ischemic heart failure, the treatment likely works by facilitating the growth of new blood vessels and new heart muscle.The study also supports findings from previous, smaller studies, which showed reduced scar tissue in the hearts of patients who received the stem cell treatment, offering additional confirmation that the treatment stimulates the growth of new heart muscle cells.The researchers will continue to monitor the patients to assess their long-term outcomes.”We hope that the improvements in heart pump function will not only improve the patients’ symptoms but also will result in increased survival for these severely diseased patients,” Mathiasen said.A larger, Phase III clinical trial will be needed to move toward approval of this treatment as a more widely used therapy for ischemic heart failure.”Our results should offer sufficient evidence that a larger trial is indeed warranted as a next step,” Mathiasen said.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by American College of Cardiology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Carbohydrate digestion and obesity strongly linked

New research indicates that obesity in the general population may be genetically linked to how our bodies digest carbohydrates.Published today in the journal Nature Genetics, the study investigated the relationship between body weight and a gene called AMY1, which is responsible for an enzyme present in our saliva known as salivary amylase. This enzyme is the first to be encountered by food when it enters the mouth, and it begins the process of starch digestion that then continues in the gut.People usually have two copies of each gene, but in some regions of our DNA there can be variability in the number of copies a person carries, which is known as copy number variation. The number of copies of AMY1 can be highly variable between people, and it is believed that higher numbers of copies of the salivary amylase gene have evolved in response to a shift towards diets containing more starch since prehistoric times.Researchers from Imperial College London, in collaboration with other international institutions, looked at the number of copies of the gene AMY1 present in the DNA of thousands of people from the UK, France, Sweden and Singapore. They found that people who carried a low number of copies of the salivary amylase gene were at greater risk of obesity.The chance of being obese for people with less than four copies of the AMY1 gene was approximately eight times higher than in those with more than nine copies of this gene. The researchers estimated that with every additional copy of the salivary amylase gene there was approximately a 20 per cent decrease in the odds of becoming obese.Professor Philippe Froguel, Chair in Genomic Medicine in the School of Public Health at Imperial College London, and one of the lead authors on the study, said: “I think this is an important discovery because it suggests that how we digest starch and how the end products from the digestion of complex carbohydrates behave in the gut could be important factors in the risk of obesity. Future research is needed to understand whether or not altering the digestion of starchy food might improve someone’s ability to lose weight, or prevent a person from becoming obese. We are also interested in whether there is a link between this genetic variation and people’s risk of other metabolic disorders such as diabetes, as people with a low number of copies of the salivary amylase gene may also be glucose intolerant.”Dr Mario Falchi, also from Imperial’s School of Public Health and first author of the study, said: “Previous genetic studies investigating obesity have tended to identify variations in genes that act in the brain and often result in differences in appetite, whereas our finding is related to how the body physically handles digestion of carbohydrates. We are now starting to develop a clearer picture of a combination of genetic factors affecting psychological and metabolic processes that contribute to people’s chances of becoming obese. This should ultimately help us to find better ways of tackling obesity.”Dr Julia El-Sayed Moustafa, another lead author from Imperial’s School of Public Health, said: “Previous studies have found rare genetic variations causing extreme forms of obesity, but because they occur in only a small number of people, they explained very little of the differences in body weight we see in the population. On the other hand, research on more common genetic variations that increase risk of obesity in the general population have so far generally found only a modest effect on obesity risk. …

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Daylight saving impacts timing of heart attacks

Still feeling the residual effects of springing ahead for daylight saving time? The hour of sleep lost — or gained — may play a bigger, perhaps more dangerous role in our body’s natural rhythm than we think. It seems moving the clock forward or backward may alter the timing of when heart attacks occur in the week following these time changes, according to research to be presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 63rd Annual Scientific Session.Data from the largest study of its kind in the U.S. reveal a 25 percent jump in the number of heart attacks occurring the Monday after we “spring forward” compared to other Mondays during the year — a trend that remained even after accounting for seasonal variations in these events. But the study showed the opposite effect is also true. Researchers found a 21 percent drop in the number of heart attacks on the Tuesday after returning to standard time in the fall when we gain an hour back.”What’s interesting is that the total number of heart attacks didn’t change the week after daylight saving time,” said Amneet Sandhu, M.D., cardiology fellow, University of Colorado in Denver, and lead investigator of the study. “But these events were much more frequent the Monday after the spring time change and then tapered off over the other days of the week. It may mean that people who are already vulnerable to heart disease may be at greater risk right after sudden time changes.”Heart attacks historically occur most often on Monday mornings. Sandhu explains that in looking at other “normal” Mondays, there is some variation in events, but it is not significant. However, when he and his team compared admissions from a database of non-federal Michigan hospitals the Monday before the start of daylight saving time and the Monday immediately after for four consecutive years, they found a consistent 34 percent increase in heart attacks from one week to the next (93 heart attacks the Monday before compared to 125 the week after the start of daylight saving time for the duration of the study.).Although researchers cannot say what might be driving the shift in heart attack timing after the start of daylight saving time, they have a theory.”Perhaps the reason we see more heart attacks on Monday mornings is a combination of factors, including the stress of starting a new work week and inherent changes in our sleep-wake cycle,” Sandhu said. …

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Monarch butterfly numbers could be at historic lows this year, study suggests

Monarch butterflies may be named for their large size and majestic beauty, but once again their numbers are anything but king-sized — in fact, 2014 may go down as one of the worst years ever for the colorful insects, says a Texas A&M Monarch watcher who is proposing a national effort to help feed Monarchs.Craig Wilson, a senior research associate in the Center for Mathematics and Science Education and a longtime butterfly enthusiast, says reports coming from Mexico where the Monarchs have their overwintering grounds show their numbers are significantly down yet again — so much so that this year might be one of the lowest yet for the butterfly.It’s been a disturbing trend that has been going for most of the past decade, he points out. This year, Monarchs face a triple whammy: a lingering drought, unusually cold winter temperatures and lack of milkweed, their primary food source.Citing figures from the Mexican government and the World Wildlife Fund, Wilson says, “In 1996, the Monarch breeding grounds in Mexico covered about 45 acres, and so far this year, it looks like only about 1.65 acres. That means fewer Monarchs will likely reach Texas to lay eggs, perhaps the lowest numbers ever of returning butterflies.”Wilson says the colder-than-usual winter, which set record lows in many parts of Texas and even Mexico, has had a chilling effect on Monarchs.”Unfortunately, the harsh and lingering cold conditions mean that the milkweed plants that Monarch caterpillars must have to live have yet to start growing, and these are the only plants on which they can lay eggs to provide food for their caterpillars,” he adds.Wilson says that last fall, the number of Monarchs that were netted and tagged in the College Station area was one-fifth the number tagged in 2012.The dry conditions during the past decade and changing farming practices are hampering the growth of milkweed, the only type of plant the Monarch caterpillars will digest as the multiple generational migration heads north.Texas also has had dozens of wildfires in the past few years that have hampered milkweed growth, and even though there are more than 30 types of milkweed in the state, the numbers are not there to sustain the Monarchs as they start their 2,000-mile migration trip to Canada. Increased use of pesticides is also adversely affecting milkweed production in a huge way, he notes.”The severe drought in Texas and much of the Southwest continues to wreak havoc with the number of Monarchs,” Wilson explains, adding that the wintering sites in the Mexican state of Michoacn are at near-historic lows.”The conditions have been dry both here and in Mexico in recent years. It takes four generations of the insects to make it all of the way up to Canada, and because of lack of milkweed along the way, a lot of them just don’t make it.”But if people want to help, they can pick up some milkweed plants right now at local farmer’s cooperative stores,” he says, “and this would be a small but helpful step to aid in their migration journey and to raise awareness of the plight.”Wilson says there has to be a national effort to save Monarchs or their declining numbers will reach the critical stage.”We need a national priority of planting milkweed to assure that this magical migration of Monarchs will continue for future generations,” he says.”If we could get several states to collaborate, we might be able to promote a program where the north-south interstates were planted with milkweed, such as Lady Bird Johnson’s program to plant native seeds along Texas highways 35-40 years ago. This would provide a ‘feeding’ corridor right up to Canada for the Monarchs.”Wilson is currently adding a variety of milkweed plants to the existing Cynthia Woods Mitchell Garden on the Texas A&M campus. He recommends the following sites for Monarch followers: Journey North, Texas Monarch Watch and Monarch Watch.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by Texas A&M University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Widow of Cyclist to Sue Over Pothole Death

Home » No Win No Fee » Latest Personal Injury News » 2014 » 3 » Widow of Cyclist to Sue Over Pothole DeathWidow of Cyclist to Sue Over Pothole DeathThe widow of a man who died after hitting a pothole while on a charity bike ride has revealed her intention to sue a local council responsible for the road’s upkeep.Martyn Uzzell, 51, from Clevedon, was on a charity bike ride from Land’s End to John O’Groats when he began travelling along the A65 in Giggleswick, North Yorkshire. Although he had managed to make good time up until that point, Mr Uzzell, who was travelling with two friends, accidentally hit a pothole on a road.This sent him off balance and he veered to the other side of the road where he hit another car, which killed him instantly. The driver of the other vehicle involved in the accident has not been blamed and it is believed it would not have been possible for him to avoid the cyclist, reports the BBC.Magistrates Court hearingEarlier this month, a Skipton Magistrates’ Court hearing concluded that Mr Uzzell died from head injuries resulting from a road traffic collision. However, coroner Rob Turnbull also recorded that there was “no doubt whatsoever that the condition of the road on that occasion was the cause”.Prior to the bicycle accident, a police officer travelling along the A65 told the local council there was a pothole in the road, but the message was not passed on to the proper authorities and was not acted upon.Furthermore, the A65 had been inspected by the council and before Mr Uzzell was killed, it was noted that there was a “defect” along the road that needed to be fixed within 30 days.However, despite claims that North Yorkshire County Council did not do enough to keep road users safe, a review by the Crown Prosecution Service has concluded that no charges of corporate manslaughter should be brought.”Totally preventable”Speaking to reporters, Kate Uzzell, Martyn’s widow, said, “I’m very angry because it was totally preventable. They had been warned, they had inspected and they still did nothing, it’s just appalling.”[Taking civil Court action was] not what I wanted to do, [but] I wanted there to be a prosecution and for them to stand up and be counted for what they didn’t do.”It is unclear when Mrs Uzzell’s lawsuit will be heard by a civil Court, but any compensation settlement arranged to finalise the case is likely to be above six figures, so serious are the allegations in question.Pothole compensationPotholes remain a common source of grievance for many drivers and cyclists and while cases like Mr Uzzell’s are rare, councils are increasingly being forced to pay compensation to those injured in accidents caused by poor road maintenance.A Freedom of Information request published last year showed that there was a 79 per cent increase in the number of compensation claims submitted compared to 2012.Breakdown service Britannia Rescue found that almost one in ten drivers in the UK suffered car damage as a result of a pothole, although only a minority sustained injuries from their accident.By Chris StevensonOr Call freephone 0800 884 0321SHARE THIS

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Gene family that suppresses prostate cancer discovered

Cornell researchers report they have discovered direct genetic evidence that a family of genes, called MicroRNA-34 (miR-34), are bona fide tumor suppressors.The study is published in the journal Cell Reports, March 13.Previous research at Cornell and elsewhere has shown that another gene, called p53, acts to positively regulate miR-34. Mutations of p53 have been implicated in half of all cancers. Interestingly, miR-34 is also frequently silenced by mechanisms other than p53 in many cancers, including those with p53 mutations.The researchers showed in mice how interplay between genes p53 and miR-34 jointly inhibits another cancer-causing gene called MET. In absence of p53 and miR-34, MET overexpresses a receptor protein and promotes unregulated cell growth and metastasis.This is the first time this mechanism has been demonstrated in a mouse model, said Alexander Nikitin, a professor of pathology in Cornell’s Department of Biomedical Sciences and the paper’s senior author. Chieh-Yang Cheng, a graduate student in Nikitin’s lab, is the paper’s first author.In a 2011 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences paper, Nikitin and colleagues showed that p53 and miR-34 jointly regulate MET in cell culture but it remained unknown if the same mechanism works in a mouse model of cancer (a special strain of mice used to study human disease).The findings suggest that drug therapies that target and suppress MET could be especially successful in cancers where both p53 and miR-34 are deficient.The researchers used mice bred to develop prostate cancer, then inactivated the p53 gene by itself, or miR-34 by itself, or both together, but only in epithelium tissue of the prostate, as global silencing of these genes may have produced misleading results.When miR-34 genes alone were silenced in the mice, the mice developed cancer free. When p53 was silenced by itself, there were signs of precancerous lesions early in development, but no cancer by 15 months of age. When miR-34 and p53 genes were both silenced together, the researchers observed full prostate cancer in the mice.The findings revealed that “miR-34 can be a tumor-suppressor gene, but it has to work together with p53,” Nikitin said.In mice that had both miR-34 and p53 silenced concurrently, cancerous lesions formed in a proximal part of the prostrate ducts, in a compartment known to contain prostate stem cells. The early lesions that developed when p53 was silenced alone occurred in a distal part of the ducts, away from the compartment where the stem cell pool is located. This suggested there was another mechanism involved when p53 and miR-34 were jointly silenced.Also, the number of stem cells in mice with both p53 and miR-34 silenced increased substantially compared with control mice or mice with only miR-34 or p53 independently silenced.”These results indicated that together [miR-34 and p53] regulate the prostate stem cell compartments,” said Nikitin.This is significant, as cancer frequently develops when stem cells become unregulated and grow uncontrollably, he said.Researchers further found that p53 and miR-34 affect stem cell growth by regulating MET expression. In absence of p53 and miR-34, MET is overexpressed, which leads to uncontrolled growth of prostate stem cells and high levels of cancer in these mice.Future work will further examine the role of p53/miR-34/MET genes in stem cell growth and cancer. …

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Are you smarter than a 5-year-old? Preschoolers can do algebra

Millions of high school and college algebra students are united in a shared agony over solving for x and y, and for those to whom the answers don’t come easily, it gets worse: Most preschoolers and kindergarteners can do some algebra before even entering a math class.In a just-published study in the journal Developmental Science, lead author and post-doctoral fellow Melissa Kibbe and Lisa Feigenson, associate professor of psychological and brain sciences at Johns Hopkins University’s Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, find that most preschoolers and kindergarteners, or children between 4 and 6, can do basic algebra naturally.”These very young children, some of whom are just learning to count, and few of whom have even gone to school yet, are doing basic algebra and with little effort,” Kibbe said. “They do it by using what we call their ‘Approximate Number System:’ their gut-level, inborn sense of quantity and number.”The “Approximate Number System,” or ANS, is also called “number sense,” and describes humans’ and animals’ ability to quickly size up the quantity of objects in their everyday environments. Humans and a host of other animals are born with this ability and it’s probably an evolutionary adaptation to help human and animal ancestors survive in the wild, scientists say.Previous research has revealed some interesting facts about number sense, including that adolescents with better math abilities also had superior number sense when they were preschoolers, and that number sense peaks at age 35.Kibbe, working in Feigenson’s lab, wondered whether preschool-age children could harness that intuitive mathematical ability to solve for a hidden variable, or in other words, to do something akin to basic algebra before they ever received formal classroom mathematics instruction. The answer was “yes,” at least when the algebra problem was acted out by two furry stuffed animals — Gator and Cheetah — using “magic cups” filled with objects like buttons, plastic doll shoes and pennies.In the study, children sat down individually with an examiner who introduced them to the two characters, each of whom had a cup filled with an unknown quantity of items. Children were told that each character’s cup would “magically” add more items to a pile of objects already sitting on a table. But children were not allowed to see the number of objects in either cup: they only saw the pile before it was added to, and after, so they had to infer approximately how many objects Gator’s cup and Cheetah’s cup contained.At the end, the examiner pretended that she had mixed up the cups, and asked the children — after showing them what was in one of the cups — to help her figure out whose cup it was. The majority of the children knew whose cup it was, a finding that revealed for the researchers that the pint-sized participants had been solving for a missing quantity, which is the essence of doing basic algebra.”What was in the cup was the x and y variable, and children nailed it,” said Feigenson, director of Johns Hopkins Laboratory for Child Development. “Gator’s cup was the x variable and Cheetah’s cup was the y variable. We found out that young children are very, very good at this. It appears that they are harnessing their gut level number sense to solve this task.”If this kind of basic algebraic reasoning is so simple and natural for 4, 5 and 6-year-olds, the question remains why it is so difficult for teens and others.”One possibility is that formal algebra relies on memorized rules and symbols that seem to trip many people up,” Feigenson said. …

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Dropped your toast? Five-second food rule exists, new research suggests

Food picked up just a few seconds after being dropped is less likely to contain bacteria than if it is left for longer periods of time, according to the findings of research carried out at Aston University’s School of Life and Health Sciences.The findings suggest there may be some scientific basis to the ‘5 second rule’ — the urban myth about it being fine to eat food that has only had contact with the floor for five seconds or less. Although people have long followed the 5 second rule, until now it was unclear whether it actually helped.The study, undertaken by final year Biology students and led by Anthony Hilton, Professor of Microbiology at Aston University, monitored the transfer of the common bacteria Escherichia coli (E. coli) and Staphylococcus aureus from a variety of indoor floor types (carpet, laminate and tiled surfaces) to toast, pasta, biscuit and a sticky sweet when contact was made from 3 to 30 seconds.The results showed that:Time is a significant factor in the transfer of bacteria from a floor surface to a piece of food; and The type of flooring the food has been dropped on has an effect, with bacteria least likely to transfer from carpeted surfaces and most likely to transfer from laminate or tiled surfaces to moist foods making contact for more than 5 seconds. Professor Hilton said: “Consuming food dropped on the floor still carries an infection risk as it very much depends on which bacteria are present on the floor at the time; however the findings of this study will bring some light relief to those who have been employing the five-second rule for years, despite a general consensus that it is purely a myth. We have found evidence that transfer from indoor flooring surfaces is incredibly poor with carpet actually posing the lowest risk of bacterial transfer onto dropped food.The Aston team also carried out a survey of the number of people who employ the five-second rule. The survey showed that:87% of people surveyed said they would eat food dropped on the floor, or already have done so 55% of those that would, or have, eaten food dropped in the floor are women 81% of the women who would eat food from the floor would follow the 5 second rule Professor Hilton added: “Our study showed surprisingly that a large majority of people are happy to consume dropped food, with women the most likely to do so. But they are also more likely to follow the 5 second rule, which our research has shown to be much more than an old wives tail.”Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by Aston University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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How seeing the same GP helps your health

Patients are more likely to raise a health problem with a doctor they’ve seen over time and have built-up a relationship with, new research has revealed. The insight comes as an increasing number of patients struggle to see the same GP.Researchers from the University of Bristol will share their findings with health practitioners and researchers at the South West Society for Academic Primary Care (SW SAPC) meeting today.Seeing the same GP is thought to be important in ensuring quality of patient care, as the doctor will have better knowledge of the patient’s history, medications, and health-related behaviors and attitudes.However, a quarter of patients find it difficult to see the doctor of their choice most of the time due to a combination of factors. Namely, a reduction in doctors’ working hours, an increase in part-time working, a focus on access and rapid appointments in the 2004 GP contract, and organisational changes in out-of-hours care.Previous studies have quantified the numbers and types of problems that are raised in GP consultations, but there is little evidence about the effect of increasing depth of patient-doctor relationships on the content of these interactions.To shed light on this, researchers collected data from 22 practices in the Bristol area, recording consultations between 190 patients and 30 GPs.Researchers then looked at whether consultation length and the number of problems and issues raised were affected by patient-doctor continuity.Analysis showed that almost a third of patients had a ‘deep’ relationship with their GP, which in turn encouraged them to raise 0.5 more problems (a topic requiring a GP to make a decision or diagnosis) and 0.9 more issues (the number of topics raised within each problem, such as symptoms) during each consultation.This may mean many more problems and issues are addressed over the course of several visits.Dr Matthew Ridd, from Bristol University’s School of Social and Community Medicine, was part of the research team and said: “Participants mostly reported a strong relationship with their GP, built-up over time. There was evidence that patients raised more problems and issues with GPs that they felt they had a deep relationship with.”This could be because patients feel more comfortable raising additional issues with a GP they feel they know well, or because more issues can be addressed within the time available as the GP knows the patient and their medical history.”This research study is the first of its kind to show how seeing the same doctor can positively affect consultations.”The study also found that the type of problem or issue raised was not related to the depth of the relationship between the patient and their doctor, except that behavioural problems or issues were less likely to be raised when a deep relationship existed.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by University of Bristol. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Coral fish biodiversity loss: Humankind could be responsible

Literal biodiversity reservoirs, coral reefs and associated ecosystems are in grave danger from natural and human-made disturbances. The latest World Resources Institute assessment is alarming with 75% of coral reefs reported as endangered worldwide, a figure that may reach 100% by 2050. The numbers are concerning, particularly as coral reefs provide sustenance and economic benefits for many developing countries and fish biodiversity on coral reefs partly determines the biomass available for human consumption.A Multi-Facetted BiodiversityWhile phylogenetic diversity in communities is acknowledged for its vital heritage value, illustrating, as it does, a “part” of the tree of life, ecosystem functional diversity has long been overlooked in impact studies. An ecosystem’s richness is also measured both in taxonomic biodiversity terms (number of different species) as well as by the number of lineages or functions performed by many ecosystem goods and services.*There have not as yet been any studies into the impact of human activity on coral fish community taxonomic, functional and phylogenetic taxonomic diversity loss.Functional and Phylogenetic Diversity Loss RevealedAfter sampling 1553 fish communities through underwater surveys in 17 Pacific countries, researchers assessed the taxonomic, functional and phylogenetic diversity levels of a group of species fished along a human density gradient ranging from 1.3 to 1705 persons per sq. km of reef.The social and environmental data were collected under the PROCFish and CoFish projects co-ordinated by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community and funded by the European Union.The results showed a sharp drop in functional and phylogenetic diversity levels, particularly above 20 people per sq. km of reef, while species richness was barely affected along the gradient.When human population density reached 1700 persons per sq. km of reef, the impact on functional and phylogenetic diversity levels (-46 % and -36 %, respectively) was greater than on species richness (-12 %).A Tree of Life that Needs ProtectingThe research shows that species numbers are a poor indicator of anthropogenic pressure, while two other biodiversity components are far more heavily affected by human density. These components make up the tree of life, i.e. the diversity of biological traits and phylogenetic lineages that are essential for coral systems to function.The researchers emphasised how important it was to conserve all the components of biodiversity. They also recommended using trait and lineage diversity as reliable and sensitive indicators of damage to species communities.*Some reef fish species play key roles in ecosystem functions: regulating competition between algae and coral colonies; and creating areas that are conducive to recruiting coral larvae by bio-erosion, etc.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by Institut de Recherche pour le Dveloppement (IRD). …

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Climate change: No warming hiatus for extreme hot temperatures

Extremely hot temperatures over land have dramatically and unequivocally increased in number and area despite claims that the rise in global average temperatures has slowed over the past 10 to 20 years during what some public commentators have called a global warming hiatus period.Scientists from UNSW’s ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science and international colleagues made the finding when they focused their research on the rise of temperatures at the extreme end of the spectrum where impacts are felt the most.”It quickly became clear, the ‘hiatus’ in global average temperatures did not stop the rise in the number, intensity and area of extremely hot days,” said one of the paper’s authors, Dr Lisa Alexander.”Our research has found a steep upward tendency in the temperatures and number of extremely hot days over land and the area they impact, despite the complete absence of a strong El Nio since 1998.”The researchers examined the extreme end of the temperature spectrum because this is where global warming impacts are expected to occur first and are most clearly felt. As Australians saw this summer and the last, extreme temperatures in inhabited areas have powerful impacts on our society.The observations also showed that extremely hot events are now affecting, on average, more than twice the area when compared to similar events 30 years ago.To get their results, which are published today in the journal Nature Climate Change, the researchers examined hot days starting from 1979. Temperatures of every day throughout the year were compared against temperatures on that exact same calendar day from 1979-2012. The hottest 10 per cent of all days over that period were classified as hot temperature extremes.Globally, on average, regions normally expect around 36.5 extremely hot days in a year. The observations showed that during the period from 1997-2012, regions that experienced 10, 30 or 50 extremely hot days above this average saw the greatest upward trends in extreme hot days over time and the area they impacted.The consistently upward trend persisted right through the “hiatus” period from 1998-2012.”Our analysis shows there has been no pause in the increase of warmest daily extremes over land and the most extreme of the extreme conditions are showing the largest change,” said Dr Markus Donat.”Another interesting aspect of our research was that those regions that normally saw 50 or more excessive hot days in a year saw the greatest increases in land area impact and the frequency of hot days. In short, the hottest extremes got hotter and the events happened more often.”While global annual average near-surface temperatures are a widely used measure of climate change, this latest research reinforces that they do not account for all aspects of the climate system.A stagnation in the increase of global annual mean temperatures, over a relatively short period of 10 to 20 years, does not imply that global warming has stopped. Other measures, such as extreme temperatures, ocean heat content and the disappearance of land-based ice all show continuous changes that are consistent with a warming world.”It is important when we take global warming into account, that we use measures that are useful in determining the impacts on our society,” said Professor Sonia Seneviratne from ETH Zurich, who led the study while on sabbatical at the ARC Centre.”Global average temperatures are a useful measurement for researchers but it is at the extremes where we will most likely find those impacts that directly affect all of our lives. Clearly, we are seeing more heat extremes over land more often as a result of enhanced greenhouse gas warming.”Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by University of New South Wales. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Seed-filled buoys may help restore diverse sea meadows in San Francisco Bay

A pearl net filled with seedpods, tethered by a rope anchored in the coastal mud but swaying with the tide, could be an especially effective way to restore disappearing marine meadows of eelgrass, according to a new study.The resulting crop of eelgrass grown by SF State researchers is as genetically diverse as the natural eelgrass beds from which the seeds were harvested, said Sarah Cohen, an associate professor of biology at the Romberg Tiburon Center. As eelgrass meadows are threatened by a number of human activities, restoration plans that maintain diversity are more likely to succeed, she noted.The emphasis on genetic diversity is a relatively new concern in ecosystem restoration projects, where there has been an understandable urgency to move plants and animals back into an area as quickly as possible. “It’s taken a little longer for people to say, ‘we need to know who we’re moving,'” Cohen said, “and to explore how successful different genotypes are in different settings, so we can more strategically design the movement of individuals for restoration.”Eelgrass restoration projects are challenging because it’s not easy to plant seedlings under the water, and seeds scattered over a large area could be washed away from the restoration site. Instead, RTC researchers tested the Buoy Deployed Seeding (BuDS) restoration technique. They first harvested eelgrass seedpods from several eelgrass beds in San Francisco Bay, then suspended the pods within floating nets over experimental tanks (called mesocosms) supplied with Bay water and with or without sediment from the original eelgrass areas. As the seeds inside each pod ripened, a few at a time, they dropped out of the nets and began to grow within the tanks.The researchers then examined “genetic fingerprints” called microsatellites from the plants to measure the genetic diversity in each new crop. Genetic diversity can be measured in a number of ways, by looking at the number of different variants in a gene in a population, for instance, or by examining how these variants are mixed in an individual.Based on these measurements and others, the new crops were nearly as genetically diverse as their parent grass beds, Cohen and colleagues found. “These offspring impressively maintained the genetic diversity and distinctiveness of their source beds in their new mesocosm environments at the RTC-SFSU lab,” said Cohen.”I think it’s impressive how well it worked for a relatively small scale design,” she added, “and that’s one of the things we wanted to point out in the paper, since a lot of eelgrass restoration projects are so small, up to a few acres.”Sea grass meadows are a key marine environment under siege. In their healthy state, they stabilize coastal sediment and provide a huge nursery for a variety of algae, fish, shellfish and birds. But a variety of human influences, from bridge building to runoff pollution to smothering loads of sediment, have threatened these grass beds globally.They’re often overlooked and misunderstood, Cohen said. …

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Does more stress equal more headaches?

A new study provides evidence for what many people who experience headache have long suspected — having more stress in your life leads to more headaches. The study released today will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 66th Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, April 26 to May 3, 2014.For the study, 5,159 people age 21 to 71 in the general population were surveyed about their stress levels and headaches four times a year for two years. Participants stated how many headaches they had per month and rated their stress level on a scale of zero to 100.A total of 31 percent of the participants had tension-type headache, 14 percent had migraine, 11 percent had migraine combined with tension-type headache and for 17 percent the headache type was not classified. Those with tension-type headache rated their stress at an average of 52 out of 100. For migraine, it was 62 out of 100 and 59 for those with migraine and tension-type headache.For each type of headache, an increase in stress was associated with an increase in the number of headaches per month. For those with tension headache, an increase of 10 points on the stress scale was associated with a 6.3-percent increase in the number of headache days per month. For migraine, the number of headache days per month went up by 4.3 percent, and 4 percent for those with migraine and tension headache. The results were adjusted to account for factors that could affect the number of headaches, such as drinking, smoking and frequent use of headache drugs.”These results show that this is a problem for everyone who suffers from headaches and emphasize the importance of stress management approaches for people with migraine and those who treat them,” said study author Sara H. Schramm, MD, of University Hospital of University Duisburg-Essen in Germany. “The results add weight to the concept that stress can be a factor contributing to the onset of headache disorders, that it accelerates the progression to chronic headache, exacerbates headache episodes, and that the headache experience itself can serve as a stressor.”The study was supported by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by American Academy of Neurology (AAN). …

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Vitamin D provides relief for those with chronic hives, study shows

A study by researchers at the University of Nebraska Medical Center shows vitamin D as an add-on therapy could provide some relief for chronic hives, a condition with no cure and few treatment options. An allergic skin condition, chronic hives create red, itchy welts on the skin and sometimes swelling. They can occur daily and last longer than six weeks, even years.Jill Poole, M.D., associate professor in the UNMC Department of Internal Medicine, was principal investigator of a study in the Feb. 7 edition of the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. The two-year study looked at the role of over-the-counter vitamin D3 as a supplemental treatment for chronic hives.Over 12 weeks, 38 study participants daily took a triple-drug combination of allergy medications (one prescription and two over-the-counter drugs) and one vitamin D3, an over-the-counter supplement. Half of the patient’s took 600 IUs of vitamin D3 and the other half took 4000 IUs.Researchers found after just one week, the severity of patients’ symptoms decreased by 33 percent for both groups. But at the end of three months, the group taking 4000 IUs of vitamin D3 had a further 40 percent decrease in severity of their hives. The low vitamin D3 treatment group had no further improvement after the first week.”We consider the results in patients a significant improvement,” Dr. Poole said. “This higher dosing of readily available vitamin D3 shows promise without adverse effects. …

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First large-scale study of stock market volatility, mental disorders

Falling stock prices lead to increased hospitalizations for mental disorders, according to new research published today in the journal Health Policy and Planning.Researchers assessed the relationship between stock price movements and mental disorders using data on daily hospitalizations for mental disorders in Taiwan over 4,000 days between 1998 and 2009. They found that a 1000-point fall in the Taiwan Stock Exchange Capitalisation Weighted Stock Index (TAIEX) coincided with a 4.71% daily increase in hospitalizations for mental disorders.A downward daily change in stock price index coincided with significantly increased hospitalizations for mental disorders — when the stock price index decreased by 1% in a single day there was a 0.36% increase in hospitalizations for mental disorders on that same day. The researchers also found that falls in stock price index on consecutive days were associated with a 0.32% daily increase in mental disorders hospitalizations — when the stock price index falls consecutively for 5 days there was a 1.6% increase in the number of mental disorder hospitalizations on the fifth day.These effects were found to be significant for both genders, with daily and consecutive changes in stock price index having a greater impact on men’s mental health. Low stock price index and daily change in stock price index had a significant effect on hospitalizations for the 35-54 age groups while consecutive change affected the 45-54 age groups.The research, led by Dr Chung-Liang Lin at Dong Hwa University and Dr Chin-Shyan Chen and Dr Tsai-Ching Liu at Taipei University, is the first of its kind to investigate a potential relationship between stock market volatility and nationwide prevalence of mental disorders. The results suggest that the mental health of middle-aged males may be critically influenced by the stock market — when the stock price index is low, hospitalizations for mental illness are relatively high.Previous research has suggested that mental disorders are more likely to affect disadvantaged members of society, with financial hardship having a negative impact on psychological health. The global financial crisis led to a decline in wealth for many and subsequent research has looked at the links between national economic conditions and the general health of the public. Data have also shown that economic recession has an exacerbating effect on the use of mental health services and decline in reported happiness. Most research on economic recession looks at involuntary job loss; few studies have looked at the effects of a fluctuating stock market on population health outcomes.The researchers used stock market movements as a proxy for changes in economic conditions and assessed the relationship with mental disorders using data from the National Health Insurance Research Dataset published by the National Health Research Institute of Taiwan.Dr Lin, Assistant Professor of Economics, said: “The stock market became the most watched indicator for much of the economic recession. Drops in the value of stocks can, and often do, announce a reduction in wealth and the multiplication of business failures with consequential pay cuts or layoffs. Indeed, it is reasonable enough for people to have dire fears about the future, and those fears are heavily reinforced by media coverage. …

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Drifting herbicides produce uncertain effects

Farmers should take extra precautions so drifting herbicides do not create unintended consequences on neighboring fields and farms, according to agricultural researchers.The researchers found a range of effects — positive, neutral and negative — when they sprayed the herbicide dicamba on old fields — ones that are no longer used for cultivation — and on field edges, according to J. Franklin Egan, research ecologist, USDA-Agricultural Research Service. He said the effects should be similar for a related compound, 2,4-D.”The general consensus is that the effects of the increased use of these herbicides are going to be variable,” said Egan. “But, given that there is really so much uncertainty, we think that taking precautions to prevent herbicide drift is the right way to go.”Farmers are expected to use dicamba and 2,4-D on their fields more often in the near future because biotechnology companies are introducing crops genetically modified to resist those chemicals. From past experience, 2,4-D and dicamba are the herbicides most frequently involved in herbicide-drift accidents, according to the researchers.Because the herbicides typically target broadleaf plants, such as wildflowers, they are not as harmful to grasses, Egan said. In the study, the researchers found grasses eventually dominated the field edge test site that was once a mix of broadleaf plants and grass. The old field site showed little response to the herbicide treatments.Herbicide drift was also associated with the declines of three species of herbivores, including pea aphids, spotted alfalfa aphids and potato leaf hoppers, and an increase in a pest called clover root curculio, Egan said. The researchers found more crickets, which are considered beneficial because they eat weed seeds, in the field edge site.The researchers, who report their findings in the current issue of Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment, did not see a drop in the number of pollinators, such as bees, in the fields. However, the relatively small size of the research fields limited the researchers’ ability to measure the effect on pollinators, according to Egan.”That may be because pollinators are very mobile and the spatial scale of our experiment may not be big enough to show any effects,” Egan said.Farmers can cut down on herbicide drift by taking a few precautions, according to Egan. They can spray low-volatility herbicide blends, which are less likely to turn to vapors, and use a nozzle design on the sprayer that produces larger droplets that do not easily drift in the wind.Egan also recommended that farmers follow application restrictions printed on herbicide labels and try to spray on less windy days when possible.The tests were conducted on two farms in Pennsylvania. …

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‘Neighbor-plants’ determine insects’ feeding choices

Insects are choosier than you might think: whether or not they end up feeding on a particular plant depends on much more than just the species to which that plant belongs. The quality of the individual plant is an important factor as well. As is the variety of other plants growing around it. But what, ultimately, makes an insect choose one plant over another?It’s a question ecologists have struggled with for decades, and the answer could have a major impact on attempts to use insects for controlling crops or attacking outbreak species such as ragwort. Ragwort (Jacobaea vulgaris) is native to the Netherlands but its abundance in areas such as ex-arable fields can make it a pest, as it is toxic to horses and farmers can’t use fields where it grows for hay.In her PhD thesis, Olga Kostenko uses ragwort as an example to show that the ‘neighborhood’ in which a plant grows is more important for insects in the end than how the plant tastes. If, for instance, ragwort plants grow in a plant community with many tall neighbors, insects will not even notice them. Consequently, the effectiveness of using insects to control such plants is limited.Field experimentsBut before she could weigh the importance of these factors, Kostenko first had to do some pioneering research into plant quality in particular. Most knowledge about the role of plant quality so far had been based on controlled laboratory experiments. Whether it would still be as important a factor under natural conditions was unknown.Kostenko took up the challenge, planting no fewer than 1750 plants on ex-arable fields at Mossel (Ede, the Netherlands), with remarkable results. Not only did she find that plant quality wasn’t the most important factor, she also discovered that the way the plants tasted to insects was actually affected by the neighborhood in which they grew.And not just the present neighborhood: even plants and insects that inhabited the same spot in the past had an effect on the chemical composition of the next generation of plants. …

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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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