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Health Bulletin


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  1. #1711
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Other side of woman’s heart: Power to predict illness

    There's something special about a woman's heart —and we aren't talking love.

    Cardiologists say women's hearts are wired differently from that of men so that they get enough warning signals before she is diagnosed with a heart problem. If diagnosed early, these signals can help women prevent serious ailments.

    Senior interventional cardiologist at G S Heart Clinic, Dr G Sengottuvelu says women often display non-specific symptoms while they have heart problems unlike men who have typical symptoms like severe chest pain and throbbing pain travelling up the left arm.

    'Women may have symptoms like palpitation, sweat spells, fatigue, nausea and breathlessness. But these symptoms are often under-diagnosed as they could be triggered by a number of things and not necessarily by a heart attack," he said. The doctor pointed out that more than 70% of women get such warning signals almost a week ahead of a heart attack.

    According to a study by the National Institute of Health, the leading cause of death in women is heart disease, because it is not diagnosed. "Women are twice as likely to die within the first few weeks of a heart attack," said consultant cardiologist Dr Joy Thomas of Frontier Lifeline Hospitals.

    While hormonal changes in women before menopause protect them from cardiovascular diseases, after menopause, they are at a higher risk, regardless of age.

    Two factors make a woman's heart different from a man's: The coronary arteries in women are much smaller and they do not develop collateral channels unlike men when they develop heart problems.

    "When women develop abdominal pain or fatigue, it is often attributed to stress or hormonal changes, and not to a heart attack. This results in a late diagnosis of heart problems," said Dr Thomas.

    Dr Sengottuvelu warned that an electrocardiogram, used to measure electrical activity in the heart might not detect the problem in women due to their genetic make up. "Alternative tests, such as the nuclear stress test, are not reliable as breast tissue can disrupt the image of the heart during a test. This can cause delay in diagnosis," he said.

    "Heart problems are treated aggressively in men. But women don't approach a doctor when they experience these symptoms. It is important for women to undergo check-ups so that these problems can be detected and treated early, " said consultant cardiologist and electro-physiologist of Apollo Hospitals Dr A M Karthigesan.


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  2. #1712
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Scientists come up with findings on beneficial effects of metformin

    Scientists of the CSIR-Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (IICT) and CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) here have come up with certain findings when they investigated Metformin's role in Atheroscelrosis.

    Metformin, a widely used anti-diabetic drug all over the world, is the first-line drug of choice to manage Type 2 diabetes especially in obese and overweight people and even those with normal kidney function. Metformin primarily controls blood glucose levels by inhibiting the glucose production by the liver. Recently, metformin has been shown to slow the aging process and increase the life span.

    The scientists found that metformin effectively inhibited the angiotensin-II- induced atherosclerotic disease process when administered to Apolipoprotein (Apo) E knockout mice. Atherosclerosis is a vascular disease in which plaque (made up of calcium, cholesterol and fat) builds-up inside the arteries and thereby hampers the oxygen-rich blood flow to different organs of the body and it may cause serious problems including heart attack and stroke.

    It was found that metformin greatly inhibited the monocyte-to-macrophage differentiation and the associated inflammatory processes during monocyte differentiation via affecting STAT3 phosporylation.

    Enhanced monocyte/macrophage infiltration is considered to be one of the major factors responsible for exacerbating the progression of atherosclerosis by causing the release of inflammatory cytokines and proliferation of smooth muscle cells. All these result in the narrowing of arteries, ultimately leading to the decreased blood flow.

    Metformin treatment significantly decreased the macrophage levels around the sub-endothelial space in the aorta of mice. Also, metformin administration resulted in the inhibition of plaque formation and aortic aneurysms (localized balloon-like bulge in the wall of the artery) in mice.

    The beneficial effects of metformin were further extended by the observations showing that it has significantly elevated the HDL levels and decreasing the LDL and triglyceride levels. It is likely that the anti-atherosclerotic effects of metformin are in part mediated by perturbing monocyte-to-macrophage differentiation during angiotensin-II-mediated atherosclerosis. The results of this study were recently published in the journal 'Diabetes', a prestigious journal of the American Diabetes Association.

    "From these observations, it appears that metformin may have protective effects in regressing cardiovascular abnormalities not only in diabetic people, but also in non-diabetic people suffering from vascular disorders. In this context, clinicians may have to take closer look on these beneficial effects of metformin and see whether such a correlation exists in patients who are on metformin prescription," the study said.

    The lead authors of this study are Dr. Srigiridhar Kotamraju, Senior Scientist, CSIR-Indian Institute of Chemical Technology, and his team involving Sathish Vasamsetti, Santosh Karnewar and Koteswararao Kanugula and Dr. Jarald Mahesh Kumar and Avinash Raj from CCMB.


  3. #1713
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Oily fish may not prevent heart disease: Study

    Often we have heard that eating oily fish is good for the heart. However, researchers have now questioned the validity of oily fish being a part of a heart healthy diet.

    This guideline is partially based on the landmark 1970s study from Bang and Dyerberg that connected the low incidence of coronary artery disease (CAD) among the Eskimos of Greenland to their diet, rich in whale and seal blubber.

    This study is still widely acknowledged today when recommending the dietary addition of fish oil supplements (like omega-3 fatty acids) or oily fish to help avoid cardiovascular problems.

    Now, researchers have found that Eskimos actually suffered from CAD at the same rate as their Caucasian counterparts, which indicates that there is insufficient evidence to back Bang and Dyerberg's claims.

    Using 40 years of new information and research, a team of investigators set out to re-examine Bang and Dyerberg's study of Greenland Eskimos and CAD.

    The new review of information found that Bang and Dyerberg failed to actually investigate the cardiovascular health of the Eskimo population, meaning that the cardioprotective effects of their diet are unsubstantiated.

    The new study also showed that Bang and Dyerberg relied mainly on annual reports produced by the Chief Medical Officer of Greenland to ascertain CAD deaths in the region.

    The study, which was conducted in 2014, also identified a number of reasons that those records were likely insufficient, mainly that the rural and inaccessible nature of Greenland made it difficult for accurate records to be kept and that many people had inadequate access to medical personnel to report cardiovascular problems or heart attacks.

    In fact, researchers found that concerns about the validity of Greenland's death certificates have been raised by a number of different reports and that at the time, more than 30 per cent of the population lived in remote outposts where no medical officer was stationed.

    This meant that 20 percent of the death certificates were completed without a doctor having examined the body.

    The data collected through this new investigation shows that Eskimos do have very high rates of mortality due to cerebrovascular events (strokes).

    The study was published in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology.


  4. #1714
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Pills to adjust night-shift workers' body clock

    What if a pill could help adjust your internal body clock to night shifts or jet lag the way it works during the day to eliminate various health risks, including cancer?

    This may be possible, says a team of Australian researchers, with the administration of glucocorticoid tablets, a class of hormones used as powerful anti-inflammatory compounds to treat various diseases.

    "This new scientific discovery opens the door to innovative therapies that could act on the different parts of the circadian system so that these rhythms can be adjusted to inverted sleep schedules," said Diane B Boivin, director of the centre for study and treatment of circadian rhythms at the Douglas Mental Health University Institute.

    For this, the team studied the rhythmic expression of clock genes in white blood cells to see how they adjusted in response to glucocorticoids.

    The researchers analysed 16 healthy volunteers who were studied in temporal isolation chambers.

    The results showed, for the first time, that the peripheral biological clocks located in white blood cells can be synchronised through the administration of glucocorticoid tablets.

    "These cells are involved in our body's reaction to attacks from many pathogens. This study suggests that biological rhythms may play a role in controlling immune function in night-shift workers," added co-author Marc Cuesta, post-doctoral fellow.

    Physiological changes over the course of a day are regulated by a circadian system comprised of a central clock located deep within the centre of the brain and multiple clocks located in different parts of the body.

    Since humans are fundamentally diurnal creatures, staying awake at night can significantly disrupt all of the body's internal biological clocks.

    Over the long term, this can lead to a high incidence of various health problems, such as metabolic or cardiovascular problems or even certain types of cancer.

    The previous work of Boivin and her team showed that exposing workers to bright light at night tor adjusting work schedules can improve the synchronisation of the central biological clock to their work schedule.

    The new study was published in The FASEB Journal.


  5. #1715
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Free diabetes consultation programme for elderly people launched in Chennai

    MV Hospital for Diabetes in Chennai on Sunday launched a programme to provide free consultation for elderly people at their doorsteps.

    Launching the 'Diabetes Care in the Elderly Programme,' Dr Vijay Viswanathan, head and chief diabetologist, MV Hospital for Diabetes, said hospital staff members would conduct a door-to-door survey to identify diabetics patients aged above 65 years.

    "This is an extension of our North Chennai diabetes control programme where we covered over 10,000 people testing them for diabetes with a simple blood sugar test at their doorsteps. This initiative is meant to create awareness. Elderly people will be advised on the treatment options available and will be directed to the nearest hospital," he said.

    The programme was launched at an event organized to mark ten years of collaboration between Prof M Viswanathan Diabetes Research Centre and World Health Organization (WHO).

    Speaking on the occasion, health secretary Dr J Radhakrishnan said research should be conducted to sensitize people on non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

    "We neglect ourselves and develop NCDs unless we are forewarned. NCD is a silent killer and is not acknowledged as it is happening in a diffused manner. This is where researchers should work together," the health secretary said.


  6. #1716
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Poor sleep leads to alcohol and drug addiction

    Sleep difficulties and hours of sleep can predict a number of specific problems, including binge drinking, driving under the influence and risky sexual behaviour, shows a study.

    The association between poor sleep and substance use has also been found in younger population.

    "Among normal adults, sleep difficulties and insomnia have predicted onset of alcohol use one year later, and increased risk of any illicit drug use disorder and nicotine dependence 3.5 years later," said Maria M. Wong, professor and director of experimental training at Idaho State University.

    For their study, Wong and her co-authors analysed data collected from 6,504 adolescents (52 percent girls, 48 percent boys) participating in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health.

    They used sleep difficulties to predict substance-related problems at a subsequent wave, while controlling for substance-related problems at the previous wave.

    The consequences of sleep difficulty and sleep insufficiency when added to use of alcohol or other substances can impact both medical and behavioural areas.

    "This study has added to the existing literature by establishing the relationship between two sleep variables - sleep difficulties and hours of sleep - and the odds of serious alcohol- and drug-related problems in a nationally representative sample," Wong pointed out.

    "This paper is important in that it advances our understanding of the relation of sleep to substance use problems to include not only problems sleeping, that is, trouble falling asleep and/or staying asleep, but also insufficient sleep, addressed here as hours of sleep," concluded Tim Roehrs from Henry Ford Hospital.

    The results of the study will be published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.


  7. #1717
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Even 9-year-olds are taking drugs: Report

    Published close on the heels of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's call to fight drug abuse and focus on ex-addicts' rehabilitation, a special report by Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights has highlighted how children as young as nine years are falling victim to substance abuse.

    Titled 'mental health care of children', the DCPCR special report is a first-of-its-kind compilation by the government of data drawn from various studies and surveys on mental health problems. It delivers a broad framework to effectively address the mental health needs of children in distress. Abuse of drugs is increasing among children in India while the age of onset is decreasing, says the report.

    Users mostly begin the habit with consumption of licit or authorized substances such as tobacco and alcohol, also known as 'gateway substances'. DCPCR notes "use of substances is high in some categories of population such as street children". "Substance use rates of 40-80% are reported in various small scale studies on street children carried out in various cities-Delhi, Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Kolkata, Mumbai-and railway platforms from Delhi to Bhopal in the last 10-15 years," the report states. Most street children using substances are school dropouts "who usually work up to eight hours a day to support their drug habit".

    Data from National Family Health Survey 2006 reports alcohol use among young people-11% boys and 1% girls (aged 15-19 years)-in the general population. Adolescents constitute only 5% of substance users seeking treatment as most do so only after about five years of drug use. There is lack of availability of systematic national statistics on substance use among children and adolescents save a few brief reports on local and regional use, the DCPCR report says.



    Curiosity is the main reason behind starting substance use followed by peer pressure and depression and stress, hence early identification is critical. There is a dearth of guidelines for school authorities for handling drug use among adolescents. "Substance use disorders are common among school-going children. The most common reaction of schools: denial, informing parents, punishment, suspension from school and, in some cases, counselling or referral for treatment," it is stated.

    It is suggested that schools must ensure there is no substance use in and around their premises. No student should be allowed to leave during school hours. The child should be guided to avail counselling and treatment.

    Explaining that the DCPCR report is an attempt to address the varying mental health care needs of children facing challenges including substance abuse, physical and sexual abuse and disability, the Commission's chairperson Arun Mathur said, "The report has analyzed the mental health problems of children in different settings besides the roles of the family, professional services and other caregivers." To put together this report, a DCPCR committee chaired by Dr Sarita Sarangi drew upon the expertise of renowned specialists from AIIMS, IHBAS, RML, the state's women and child development department and voluntary organization specializing in mental health, Manas Foundation.


  8. #1718
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Why blindness is so blinding

    A new study has recently revealed that surgery cannot entirely undo the brain rewiring caused by long term blindness.

    Recent scientific advances have meant that eyesight can be partially restored to those who previously would have been blind for life.

    However, scientists at the University of Montreal and the University of Trento have discovered that the rewiring of the senses that occurs in the brains of the long-term blind means that visual restoration may never be complete.

    Scientists know that in cases of untreatable blindness, the occipital cortex that is the posterior part of the brain that is normally devoted to vision becomes responsive to sound and touch in order to compensate for the loss of vision.

    Giulia Dormal said that on one hand, the findings revealed that the visual cortex maintains a certain degree of plasticity that is the capacity to change as a function of experience, in an adult person with low vision since early life.

    On the other, they discovered that several months after the surgery, the visual cortex had not regained full normal functioning, he further added.

    The study suggested that eye surgery can lead to a positive outcome even when performed in adulthood after a life-time of profound blindness. There is however an important caveat.

    Giulia Dormal said that the recovery observed in the visual cortex, which was highlighted by a decrease in auditory-driven responses and by an increase in both visually-driven responses and grey matter density with time, was not total.

    Indeed, auditory-driven responses were still evidenced in certain regions of the visual cortex even 7 months after surgery, and these responses overlapped with visually-driven responses. This overlap may be the reason some aspects of vision, despite having improved with time, still remained below normal range 7 months after surgery, Dormal further added.


  9. #1719
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Pizzas take a toll on kids’ health, shows new study

    Go ahead, give your kids pizza. Just maybe not so much of it. A new study found that American kids take in more calories, fat and salt on days they eat pizza. That's not necessarily because it's worse than a burger. It has a lot to do with the way pizza lends itself to snacking - and overindulging.

    When pizza was on the menu, kids ages 2 to 11 years consumed 84 more calories and 134 more milligrams of sodium than on days they didn't eat the food, while teens took in an extra 230 calories and 484 milligrams of sodium, research published on Monday showed.

    About 20% of kids eat pizza on any given day, and it's their second-highest source of calories behind desserts, authors said. So parents should try to avoid giving pizza as a snack. And if it's served as a meal, it should be made with healthier ingredients in a bid to limit the number of slices consumed, Powell said.

    "This is not saying don't eat pizza," said Powell, a professor of health policy and administration at the University of Illinois at Chicago. "It's an opportunity for us to make some small changes because it's such a prevalent item in children's diets."

    US pizza purveyors say they're on board with that. Domino's Pizza Inc (DPZ) has introduced slices for school lunch programmes made with whole white wheat crust and lower fat, company spokesman Tim McIntyre said in an e-mail.

    Pizza Hut has introduced new products, like the low-calorie Skinny Slice. "We believe that every item on the Pizza Hut menu can be part of a balanced diet," said Doug Terfehr, a spokesman for the chain owned by Yum! Brands Inc.

    "Moderating pizza consumption should become our goal to reduce obesity in US," William Dietz, the study's author said.


  10. #1720
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Indian scientists design morphine replacement for pain therapy

    In a breakthrough that could impact the blurring realms of pain and pleasure, Indian scientists have designed a potential morphine replacement, sans the side effects of addiction, but loaded with pain-killing power.

    For nearly four millennia, morphine and its cousin compounds (opioids) have ruled the roost in terms of their extraordinary prowess to dull pain (analgesics).

    Morphine (sulphate) is a by-product of opium which is extracted from poppy plants. India grows poppy under licence in three states - Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.

    It is sheer irony that India is the world's largest legal exporter of morphine sulphate when stringent laws and regulations aimed to curb its misuse in the country limits access to only 0.4 percent of the population in need, i.e. a million people with cancer and an unknown number of people with other incurable and disabling diseases.

    Morphine works by binding to the opioid category of receptors in the brain and is a boon for pain therapy. It is considered the drug of choice for treatment of chronic pain - due to burns, terminal pain or cancer-related pain.

    It is also included in the WHO 'Model List of Essential Medicines'.

    Morphine comes in different forms, such as short-acting liquids or tablets, and long-acting (sustained-release) tablets or capsules.

    However, it can be a bane too, given its potential for addiction and abuse.

    "Its pain relieving property is very high because of its strong binding to the opioid receptor but it also has a high risk for abuse. It has addiction property like heroin but not as strong. In addition, it may cause breathing problems," Surajit Sinha, associate professor in the organic chemistry department at the Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science in Kolkata, told IANS.

    The solution, Sinha said, is to tweak compounds and create a substitute that is structurally as distinct from morphine as chalk and cheese but at the same time clings to the specific brain receptors for effective non-addictive pain therapy.

    Sinha and his team considered a plant-derived compound called ibogaine, popular in African folk medicine and known for its anti-addictive properties and pain-killing effects, but notorious for its psychedelic (hallucinogenic) reaction.

    It is illegal in countries like Norway and strictly regulated in the US.

    "We synthesised an ibogaine analogue in our laboratory from scratch and saw that when mice was treated with 40 mg/kg dose of the new substance, it could provide pain relief for more than 50 minutes.

    "When treated with morphine at a dose of 10 mg/kg, duration was 45 minutes, which is lesser than the novel substance," said Sinha.

    The screening was done in collaboration with Sumantra Das's lab in the neurobiology department at the CSIR-Indian Institute of Chemical Biology in Jadavpur.

    The study can be read online in the September edition of the Bio-organic and Medicinal Chemistry journal.

    The researchers have applied for patent and are now working towards lowering the dose and studying other properties, including effects in the nervous system.

    "For the first phase of the study, we can say the analogue is safe, indigenous and comes without the psychedelic properties. It is also completely different from morphine structurally," said Sinha.

    He said there have been important discoveries in this area, particularly in the US, but a morphine replacement without side-effects still eludes drug developers.

    The larger picture, according to Sinha, lies in augmenting pain therapy and palliative care in India.

    M.R. Rajagopal, a leading palliative care expert, said major barriers to access to opioids are complicated regulations and problems related to attitude and knowledge regarding pain relief and opioids among professionals and the public.

    "Any invention like that would be a godsend," said Rajagopal, chairman of Pallium India in Thiruvananthapuram, told IANS via email and over telephone.

    Rajagopal spearheaded the procedure leading to the Amendment of Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act of India in 2014, which will help ease access to morphine-based drugs through uniform regulation across states for giving out licences to manufacture morphine-based drugs.

    "A common state rule will be announced by the central government. But it has not been done yet. It is a procedural delay. Once they announce the rules, the rules will be simpler - only if the states implement it.

    "Changing the law alone is not going to make a big difference unless it is implemented," said Rajagopal, who is also the director of the WHO's Collaborating Centre for Training and Policy on Access to Pain Relief.

    Currently, 13 states in India and one union territory have simplified regulations, but opioid availability has improved only in a few of these states, he said.


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