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Health Bulletin


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  1. #1151
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Blink enough to keep away dry eye

    Dry eye is a common condition without a cure and if you are one of those suffering from the burning, gritty condition that can impair vision and damage the cornea, check if you are blinking your eyes enough.

    With computer simulations that map the way tears move across the surface of the eye, researchers discovered that when your eyes are open, the tears get thin right along the edge of the eye.

    Using the software programme Overture, researchers recreated the flow of tears on the surface of an open eye, moving from the upper corner and draining through the ducts at the opposite corner.

    "One thing we were able to find is that when your eyes are open, the tears get thin right along the edge of the eye, and that is referred to as the 'black line'," said Kara Maki, an assistant professor at Rochester Institute of Technology in the US.

    The tears, Maki explained, climb up the eyelid and join a column of fluid that travels along the lids.

    Lower pressure sucks the fluid into the meniscus and away from the centre, creating the black line and dry spots in the tear film that can compromise vision and irritate the cornea.

    "We confirmed that blinking is necessary to stop this thinning from happening. Every time you blink, the tear film gets repainted on the front of your eye," Maki noted.

    It is important to have smooth tear film for optical quality, she explained.

    Women are predominantly afflicted with dry eye condition due to hormonal changes associated with menopause.

    A cure for dry eye could be in sight with better understanding of the basic dynamics of the tear film.

    The study appeared in the journal Physics of Fluids.


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  2. #1152
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Eat grapes daily for eye health

    Apart from other health benefits, do you know that grapes can work in multiple ways to promote your eye health?

    This is what research suggests, adding that regular grape consumption may play a role in eye health by protecting the retina from deterioration.

    "In mice, the grape-enriched diet provided substantial protection of retinal function which is very exciting," said lead author Abigail Hackam from University of Miami, Florida.

    Grapes promote eye health from signaling changes at the cellular level to directly countering oxidative stress, he added.

    The researchers investigated whether a diet supplemented with grapes could protect the photoreceptors in mice with retinal degeneration.

    The retina is the part of the eye that contains the cells that respond to light, known as photoreceptors.

    Mice were either fed a grape-supplemented diet corresponding to three servings of grapes per day for humans or one of two control diets.

    The results showed that retinal function was significantly protected in the mice consuming the grape-enriched diet.

    They also exhibited thicker retinas.

    Grape consumption also protected retinal function in an oxidative stress model of degeneration.

    Further analysis revealed that the grape diet resulted in lower levels of inflammatory proteins and higher amounts of protective proteins in the retinas.

    The findings were presented at the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology conference in Orlando, Florida recently.


  3. #1153
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Blonde or brunette? A 1-letter change in DNA decides it

    Researchers have discovered that a single-letter change in the genetic code is enough to generate blond hair in humans. A handful of genes determine hair colour in humans. However, the precise molecular basis of the trait remains poorly understood.

    "This particular genetic variation in humans is associated with blond hair, but it isn't associated with eye colour or other pigmentation traits," says David Kingsley, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) investigator at Stanford University who led the study. "The specificity of the switch shows exactly how independent colour changes can be encoded to produce specific traits in humans."

    Interestingly , the discovery didn't come from studying humans but actually a fish. For more than a decade, Kingsley has studied the three-spined stickleback, a small fish whose marine ancestors began to colonize lakes and streams at the end of the last Ice Age. By studying how sticklebacks have adapted to habitats around the world, Kingsley is uncovering evidence of the molecular changes that drive evolution.


  4. #1154
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Immunotherapy may beat cancer

    Aricca Wallace knew she was nearly out of time. For over three years, she had suffered cramping and irregular bleeding, which her doctor thought was a side effect of her birth control implant, known as an intrauterine device, or IUD.

    Her pap smears were normal so no one suspected cancer. Except it was cancer, and by the time the 34-year-old mother of two had the IUD removed and was finally diagnosed, her tumours had reached stage three and the disease was spreading through the lymph nodes in her abdomen and chest.

    "I was told by a specialist that there wasn't any chemo that could kill it," Wallace said. "And that I'd be gone in a year." That was in February 2012. A few months later, Wallace's doctor told her about an immunotherapy trial at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center, a research hospital outside the US capital. Wallace enrolled. Doctors removed one of her tumours and collected some of the immune cells that were surrounding it. They selected specific T-cells that would attack human papillomavirus.

    Some 70% of cervical cancers are caused by HPV types 16 and 18.

    The idea behind HPV-targeted adoptive T-cell therapy is to boost the body's immune response to HPV in the tumours. Wallace first endured a weeklong regimen of strong chemotherapy to knock out her immune system. Then the infusion aimed to rebuild her defences with over 100bn of her lab-grown T-cells targeting tumours. She got two doses of aldesleukin, to help immune cells grow. The treatment can lead to side effects like bleeding, vomiting, low blood pressure, fluid retention, confusion, fever and infection.

    Her tumours grew steadily smaller. Four months after the infusion, all the tumours were gone.

    On May 29, Wallace visited the NIH Clinical Center again for scans, which showed no disease, marking 22 months since the start of her treatment. "It is a miracle, honestly," said Wallace, now 37.

    Immunotherapy is a promising field that has shown some early successes against the deadly skin cancer melanoma and a handful of other cancers. Wallace is the first person with cervical cancer on whom this novel approach has worked. A second US woman has also seen her metastatic cervical cancer disappear completely and is still disease-free one year later.

    But they are just two of nine patients in total. A third woman responded for a short time, but then her cancer returned. The treatment did not help the other six women in the study.

    "With only nine patients, we can't even say with any reliability how well it works," said Christian Hinrichs, assistant clinical investigator at the National Cancer Institute. "All we know is that it can work," she said.


  5. #1155
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Speaking two languages keeps brain's aging at bay

    If you speak more languages than one, it is good not only for your social image but also for the health of your brain, a research said.

    Bilingualism has a positive effect on cognition later in life.

    Individuals, who speak two or more languages, even those who acquired the second language in adulthood, may slow down cognitive decline from aging, the research found.

    "Our study is the first to examine whether learning a second language impacts cognitive performance later in life while controlling for childhood intelligence," said lead author Thomas Bak from University of Edinburgh.

    Bilingualism is thought to improve cognition and delay dementia in older adults.

    While prior research has investigated the impact of learning more languages than one, ruling out "reverse causality" has proven difficult.

    "The crucial question is whether people improve their cognitive functions through learning new languages or whether those with better baseline cognitive functions are more likely to become bilingual," Bak asked.

    For the current study, researchers relied on data of 835 native speakers of English who were born and living in Edinburgh, Scotland.

    Some 262 participants reported to be able to communicate in at least one language other than English.

    "The findings indicate that those who spoke two or more languages had significantly better cognitive abilities," the researchers added.

    The strongest effects were seen in general intelligence and reading. The effects were present in those who acquired their second language early as well as late.

    "These findings are of considerable practical relevance. Millions of people around the world acquire their second language later in life. Our study shows that bilingualism, even when acquired in adulthood, may benefit the aging brain," Bak concluded.

    The study was published in the journal Annals of Neurology.


  6. #1156
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    High cholesterol levels at heart of TN's problems

    At least three-fourths of the country's population has abnormal levels of cholesterol or triglycerides - a condition called dyslipidemia - that increases risks of cardiovascular diseases, according to a study commissioned by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).

    In the past two years, there has been an alarming increase in the incidence of heart diseases in India.

    According to government statistics one-fourth of all deaths among people in the 25-69 years age group is due to cardiovascular diseases. Studies have shown that Indians are affected by heart diseases at a much younger age when compared to the people in the west.

    While there have been data on risk factors such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension and lifestyle habits such as poor diet, smoking and alcohol, scientists have analyzed the results of the phase 1 of ICMR-India Diabetes Study to find the prevelance of another risk factor, dyslipidemia. The results were published this month in open access journal, Plos One.

    The results left doctors distressed, says the study's national coordinator Dr V Mohan. "We found dyslipidemia in people at a very young age. We must start early screening and promote healthy lifestyle to prevent dyslipidemia and heart diseases," he said. When dyslipidemia is effectively treated, it can reduce morbidity and mortality, he said.

    The study in 2,042 people across Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Chandigarh showed that four out of five people (79%) in urban and ru ral areas had at least one abnormality in lipid parameters. More than one in ten persons people (13%) had high cholesterol levels, and more than one in five (29.5%) had high levels of triglycerides. To make it worse, 72.3% had low levels of good cholesterol and 11.8% had high levels of bad cholesterol. HDL or good cholesterol is universally low across the country.

    "Low HDL by itself an a risk for heart diseases. The only way to increase it is to exercise," said Dr Mohan. The researchers also observed regional differences in the statistics. For instance, cholesterol levels were high among people living in Tamil Nadu, but triglycerides were high among people living in Chandigarh.

    The study group found hypercholesterolemia in 18.3% of TN population, and hypertriglyceridemia in 38.6% of people in Chandigarh.

    Cholesterol levels were higher among people living in urban areas but there was no difference in the levels of triglycerides between people in cities and rural areas. "Obesity and hypertension had strong links today slipidemia," said diabetologist Dr R M Anjana, who was a part of the study.

    The study's investigator from Maharastra Dr Shashank Joshi said that this was one of the first studies to report on dyslipidemia patterns in India. Researchers admit that the study has its limitations as lipid profile was taken in only one in five people screened for diabetes. "We don't have data on lipid lowering therapy and no analysis was done on lipoproteins or genetic polymorphisms. We may need such studies in future. For now, we know risk factors for cardiovascular disease are high. And we need intervention," said Dr Mohan.


  7. #1157
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Anti-diabetic drug may slow aging

    Metformin, the world's most widely used anti-diabetic drug, may slow aging and increase lifespan, a new study suggests.

    Researchers at the University of Leuven, Belgium decoded the mechanism behind metformin's age-slowing effects: the drug causes an increase in the number of toxic oxygen molecules released in the cell and this, surprisingly, increases cell robustness and longevity in the long term.

    "As long as the amount of harmful oxygen molecules released in the cell remains small, it has a positive long-term effect on the cell. Cells use the reactive oxygen particles to their advantage before they can do any damage," said doctoral researcher Wouter De Haes.

    "Metformin causes a slight increase in the number of harmful oxygen molecules. We found that this makes cells stronger and extends their healthy lifespan," he added.

    The researchers studied metformin's mechanism in the tiny roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans, an ideal species for studying aging because it has a lifespan of only three weeks.


  8. #1158
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Boon for breast cancer survivors: A nipple tattoo

    A tattoo parlour here has become a mecca for an unlikely crowd: women with breast cancer. Little Vinnie's Tattoos offers designs ranging from swordfish and skulls to intricate Japanese-style art. But women who have undergone treatment for breast cancer do not typically come for traditional ink. They flock here seeking one thing - a three-dimensional nipple tattoo by the owner, Vinnie Myers.

    "Nobody really talks about the areola and nipple area, but it's so important," says Kimberly Winters, 44, a human resources benefits administrator from Wooster, Ohio, who underwent a mastectomy and reconstruction of her left breast two years ago. This spring Winters travelled nearly 644km to Finksburg seeking a realistic nipple tattoo from Myers.

    Over 5,000 women have travelled from as far away as India to have their reconstructed breasts tattooed by Myers. After a woman undergoes a mastectomy and breast reconstruction, the new breast is a blank canvas.

    While the operation can recreate the size and shape of the patient's natural breast by using her own body tissue or implants, the darker, sensitive skin of the nipple and areola is usually removed entirely. Skin grafts can recreate the look of the original nipple, but the procedure isn't popular because "most patients don't want to have another surgery and another scar," says Dr Leo Keegan, an assistant clinical professor of surgery at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Many doctors and patients choose a tattooed rendition of a nipple.

    The procedure is performed by a breast surgeon with only a few hours of tattoo training. The result is usually a passing resemblance to the real thing - a one-dimensional, reddish, pink or brown circle inked onto the tip of the breast.

    Myers originally specialized in colourful, one-of-a-kind tattoos. But at a party in 2001, he struck up a conversation with a woman who worked with a plastic surgeon. "She told me they were having problems tattooing their breast cancer patients and asked me if I would come in and help correct some of them," Myers said.

    After a few jobs, he recognized the need for trained tattoo artists to be involved in breast reconstructions.


  9. #1159
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Doctors at Pondy hospital close hole in heart without surgery

    A team of doctors at the Indira Gandhi Government General Hospital and Postgraduate Institute (IGGGH & PGI), with the help of doctors from Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research (Jipmer), successfully closed a hole in the heart of a 41-year-old woman without performing a surgery.

    This is the first time that such a sophisticated technique (catheter-based procedure) has been performed at the IGGGH & PGI. Hitherto the condition was treated only by performing an open heart surgery.

    The woman, who approached the hospital with complaints of breathlessness and chest pain, was born with a hole in the heart. After finding that the hole was located at the central part of the heart and was small in size, the doctors decided to adopt a catheter-based procedure to close the hole rather than opting for the conventional open heart surgery.

    Accordingly, the doctors inserted a catheter (a long, thin, flexible and hollow tube) into a large vein through a small incision made in the inner thigh. The tube was then advanced into the heart. A device made of nickel-titanium metal alloy was guided into the heart and implanted permanently closing the hole in the heart wall.

    The patient, who responded to the treatment, stayed at the hospital only for a week. She recovered soon and resumed normal activities. The procedure, which was done free of cost at the government hospital, costs more than Rs 1 lakh at private hospitals.

    The IGGGH & PGI is one of the few government hospitals in the country that extends advanced treatment for palpitations (fast beating of heart).


  10. #1160
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Teenagers knock on counsellors' doors with doubts on sexuality

    Vinita, 14, was repulsed every time a boy smiled at her or complimented her. To make matters worse, she was attracted to her best friend, a girl.

    The teen was confused about her sexual orientation, but didn't know how to ask for professional help. So she feigned lack of attention in class and requested her parents to take her to a psychologist to whom she finally spoke out about "the real problem."

    Psychologists in the city are seeing a rise in the number of confused teens coming to them with questions about their sexual orientation. Medical experts are busy counselling children stepping into their adolescence about their sexuality and what is normal and what is not.

    Psychologist and Banyan volunteer Dr Mini Rao says she sees at least 10 teenagers a year at least six of them girls. Most of them she says, are going through a phase, and are not homosexual.

    "Adolescence is a very vulnerable age where the kid's head is messed up with all sorts of emotions. Coming to terms with one's sexual orientation can take some time. Thinking sexually about both the same sexes is quite common as teens sort through their emerging sexual feelings. In 90% of the cases, this is just a passing phase," said the doctor.

    Some teens may experiment with sexual experiences, including those with members of the same sex, as they want to explore their orientation.

    This often happens when they are studying in an all girls or all boys school. "They get attracted to who they are very close to, like a best friend. But these experiences do not mean that a teen is gay. For many of them these experiences are simply part of growing up," she added.

    Adolescent psychologist Dr S Yamuna said that most kids of 10 - 14 years get worried when they are attracted to people of the same sex as they are afraid of being branded 'abnormal.' She explained that it takes time for many people to understand who they are and who they're becoming.

    "During that age children have a natural aversion to their opposite sex and do not socialize with them. So sometimes they develop attraction towards friends of their own sex. Some people might go beyond just thinking about it and experiment with it, but in majority of cases, it is a very temporary feeling," she said.

    The doctor pointed out that parents often forget that they were teens once and expect their wards to behave with utmost responsibility. "Children make up excuses to their parents to consult with us and open up to us with a bit of prodding. The relationship between a parent and a child would be very healthy if parents could be sounding boards," she said.


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