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Health Bulletin


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  1. #1721
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Depression patients find more outlets now

    When Bollywood actress Deepika Padukone recently admitted to suffering from bouts of depression early last year, it reflected a changing perception towards the disease itself. As people become a little more willing to open up and seek medical intervention for depression, they find newer avenues other than hospitals or psychiatric clinics to reach out and express themselves.

    Like online platforms. Healtheminds, a tele-counselling company founded by Dr Sunita Maheshwari and Ankita Puri, gets 70-80 hits a day. "We have 38 counsellors and psychiatrists on our panel round the clock," says Dr Sunita. About 20% of the callers are from the US, she adds. Cases of depression range from those due to post traumatic disorder like accident, career dilemma, work pressure and relationship problems.

    "Sometimes stigma prevents people from going to a hospital. People sitting at home can connect to us and talk to our panelists," says Ankita, adding, "In the US, the stigma is slowly vanishing and people talk about it. It's not the same in India. If it's bottled up, it becomes more difficult to handle and can lead to suicidal tendencies."

    Then there's White Swan Foundation, a startup dealing with mental health. "We believe in spreading awareness. Our website is available in Kannada, English, Bengali and shortly in all Indian languages. We plan public outreach programmes too," says Manoj Chandran, CEO of the foundation. The website lets you tell your story or that of others suffering from mental illness and opens a forum so that it connects with others.

    Even hospitals are becoming more receptive. Nimhans, the city's premier mental health centre, has started giving appointments online, to curb the time taken for waiting in hospital.

    Doctors say the dismissive attitude in society and inability to recognize signs of depression often lead patients to seek medical intervention only when their condition becomes unmanageable.

    "Even when persons suffering from depression explain their condition to a close relative or a parent, they are told there is nothing to worry," says Dr A Jagadish, a psychiatrist. It is a curable disease that requires timely treatment, he adds.

    No single factor can possibly explain depression. It is a combination of factors that are genetic, neurochemical, biological, environmental and experiential in nature, say psychiatrists. The average duration of a depressive episode is 8-12 months and medication should be given for this period otherwise the chances of relapse are high, say doctors.





    Yoga as remedy

    "Depression is not unusual, it's like tooth ache. Compared to what it was a decade ago, we now see youngsters seeking therapy for depression and willing to take help from experts. In Nimhans, we also have yoga as a remedy for depression. One in five patients opts for it. People walk in and talk about their problems," says Dr B N Gangadhar, professor of psychiatry and programme director, Advanced Centre for Yoga in Nimhans.



    How to avoid depression

    * Participate in social activities, public gatherings

    * Change the working environment, if you feel depressed

    * Avoid overuse of psychosomatic drugs, beverages, alcohol and tobacco


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  2. #1722
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    'Idiosyncratic' brain patterns in autism discovered

    Scientists have discovered unique synchronisation patterns in brains of individuals with autism, a finding that may lead to early diagnosis and treatment of the disorder.

    The study led by scientists at the Weizmann Institute and Carnegie Mellon University found that brains of those with the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) display unique synchronisation patterns each in its own, individual way.

    "Identifying brain profiles that differ from the pattern observed in typically developing individuals is crucial not only in that it allows researchers to begin to understand the differences that arise in ASD but, in this case, it opens up the possibility that there are many altered brain profiles all of which fall under the umbrella of 'autism' or 'autisms,'" said Marlene Behrmann, the George A and Helen Dunham Cowan Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at Carnegie Mellon and co-director of the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition.

    To investigate the issue of connectivity in ASD, the researchers analysed data obtained from functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies conducted while the participants were at rest.

    "Resting-state brain studies are important because that is when patterns emerge spontaneously, allowing us to see how various brain areas naturally connect and synchronise their activity," said Avital Hahamy, a PhD student in Weizmann's Neurobiology Department.

    In a careful comparison of the details of these intricate synchronisation patterns, the scientists discovered an intriguing difference between the control and ASD groups: the control participants' brains had substantially similar connectivity profiles across different individuals, while those with ASD showed a remarkably different phenomenon.

    Those with autism tended to display much more unique patterns - each in its own, individual way.

    Researchers said the synchronisation patterns seen in the control group were "conformist" relative to those in the ASD group, which they termed "idiosyncratic."

    Differences between the synchronisation patterns in the autism and control groups could be explained by the way individuals in the two groups interact and communicate with their environment.

    "From a young age, the average, typical person's brain networks get molded by intensive interaction with people and the mutual environmental factors," Hahamy said.

    "Such shared experiences could tend to make the synchronization patterns in the control group's resting brains more similar to each other.

    "It is possible that in ASD, as interactions with the environment are disrupted, each one develops a more uniquely individualistic brain organisation pattern," Hahamy said.

    The study is published in the journal Nature Neuroscience.


  3. #1723
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    India tops malnutrition chart in south Asia

    Severe acute malnutrition should be recognized as a medical emergency with one million children under five dying in India due to malnutrition related causes, say activists. A new study in Baran, Rajasthan and Burhanpur in Madhya Pradesh has found that preventable deaths continue to hit children in the poorest areas of the country.

    According to UNICEF, every year 1 million children under five die due to malnutrition related causes in India. The statistics are alarming, and far above the emergency threshold for acute malnutrition (as per WHO classification of the severity of malnutrition).

    ACF India and Fight Hunger Foundation on Tuesday announced the launch of the Generational Nutrition Program. Speaking about the program ACF India deputy country director Rajiv Tandon said that there was an urgent need to recognize severe acute malnutrition as a medical emergency. He also stressed on the need for policies to tackle malnutrition and adequate budgets for implementation.

    The ACF report says that the number of children affected in India is higher than all the south Asian countries with high burden of wasting or acute malnutrition.

    "Within India, scheduled tribes (28%), scheduled castes (21%) and other backward castes (20%) and rural communities (21%) have a high burden of acute malnutrition," the report said.

    These reports throw light on the malnutrition situation in the two districts analyzing the infant mortality rates and child deaths due to conditions which are preventable.





    In Madhya Pradesh, according to NFHS 3, 40% children were stunted down from [NFHS 2 - 49%], 60% underweight up from [NFHS 2 - 54%] and 33% wasted [NFHS 2 - 20%]. "The rise in these nutritional indicators in the state is worrisome and it is essential that strategies for addressing this are adopted on a war footing,'' the report says.

    Regarding Rajasthan the report said that according to NFHS-3, 20% of children under five are wasted, an increase from 11.7% in NFHS-2, 24% are stunted as opposed to (52% in NFHS-2) and 44% are underweight (50.6% in NFHS-2). The NFHS-3 data also shows that children under five belonging to scheduled tribes in Rajasthan have the highest prevalence of severe acute malnutrition.


  4. #1724
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Drinking half a pint of beer daily may fight heart failure

    Drinking half a pint of beer a day may lower your risk of developing heart failure, a new large-scale study has claimed.

    The study of nearly 15,000 men and women found that drinking up to seven drinks a week in early to middle age is associated with a 20 per cent lower risk of men developing heart failure in the future when compared to teetotallers.

    A more modest 16 per cent reduced risk for women was also observed, researchers said.

    Dr Scott Solomon, Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Senior Physician at Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, Dr Alexandra Goncalves, a research fellow at Brigham and Women's Hospital, and colleagues analysed data from 14,629 people aged between 45-64 years.

    They had been recruited to the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study between 1987 and 1989 in four communities in the US.

    Researchers followed the participants to the end of 2011 and questioned them about their alcohol consumption at the start and at each of the three subsequent visits made at three-yearly intervals.

    They defined a drink as one that contains 14g of alcohol, equivalent to approximately one small (125ml) glass of wine, just over half a pint or a third of a litre of beer, and less than one shot of liquor such as whisky or vodka.

    The study participants were divided into six categories: abstainers (people who recorded having drunk no alcohol at every visit by the researchers), former drinkers, people who drank up to seven drinks a week, or between 7-14 drinks, 14-21 drinks, or 21 or more drinks a week.

    During the follow-up period 1,271 men and 1,237 women developed heart failure. The lowest rate of heart failures occurred in those drinking up to 7 drinks per week and the highest rate was seen among former drinkers.

    Researchers found that men who consumed up to seven drinks a week had a 20 per cent reduced risk of developing heart failure compared to abstainers, while the risk was reduced by 16 per cent in women consuming the same amount.

    Former drinkers had the highest risk of developing heart failure - a 19 per cent and 17 per cent increased risk among men and women respectively compared to abstainers.

    Among both men and women consuming the most amount of alcohol (14 or more drinks a week), the risk of heart failure was not significantly different compared to the risk for abstainers.

    When researchers looked at death from any cause, for those consuming 21 or more drinks, the number of deaths from any cause increased by 47 per cent for men and 89 per cent for women.

    "These findings suggest that drinking alcohol in moderation does not contribute to an increased risk of heart failure and may even be protective," Solomon said.

    "No level of alcohol intake was associated with a higher risk of heart failure. However, heavy alcohol use is certainly a risk factor for deaths from any cause," he said.

    The study is published in the European Heart Journal.


  5. #1725
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Spot tell-tale signs of suicide

    If your child has a crush in school, make sure you maintain her privacy even if you're discussing it with other parents.

    "And no emotionally charged words, don't be critical or make derogatory comments-that'll help children suffering from stress and a sense of hopelessness," said Dr Mahesh R Gowda, consultant psychiatrist, Spandana Health Care. Dr Gowda deals with cases of virtual relationships where the boy and girl may not even talk to each other in school, but interact on social networking sites and have a soft corner for each other.

    "What's missing in bringing up children is basic survival skills, to feel that it's ok to make a mistake. Each child is different and not all can be treated in one way. Both parents and teachers should anticipate the repercussions of their conversation with teenagers," he said. He gets 7-8 cases of adolescent relationship issues a month.

    Managing teenagers extremely sensitive to reprimand is a skill schools are trying to learn fast.

    Many have professional counsellors who interact with parents, teachers and students on a variety of subjects. "Earlier, there was stigma attached to going to counselors. But that's changing. We see at least five children every day with relationship issues," said Subhadra Gupta, senior counsellor, DPS South.

    "Children get into relationships to fill a gap — they need somebody to listen. Peer pressure is a factor too," said Uma Revanath, who works with Little Flower Public School. While some schools talk to their high school students and rope in their parents too, others leave it all to the parents.

    A parent, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: "There is no better counsellor than a child's parents. It's important to talk to the child the day you notice a change in behaviour."


  6. #1726
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    10 new antibodies found against cancer

    Researchers from Aarhus University in Denmark are reported to have developed 10 new antibodies that can be used in the battle against cancer.

    These antibodies work by inhibiting the body's blood vessel formation close to the tumour which is, thereby, cut off from oxygen and nutrient supply.

    In lab tests over mice, the team have succeeded in using these antibodies to stop the development of malignant tumours.

    "The antibodies we have found prevent a cancer tumour from growing. They appear to work perfectly in the laboratory," said associate professor Peter Kristensen.

    The new antibodies are easier to extract and they also appear to be more effective because they hit other - and possibly stronger - signal molecules from the cancer cells.

    "We have got a large library of antibodies that can supplement the body's own fight against disease. The major engineering challenge is identifying the ones that are relevant regarding the specific purpose," Kristensen explained.

    The antibodies neutralise the effects of signal substances released by carcinoma cells to get blood vessels to replicate, thus cutting off the blood supply to the tumour.

    A cancer tumour deprived of oxygen and nutrients becomes dormant and is, thereby, made harmless.

    The researchers will now work on gaining a more in-depth understanding of the 10 antibodies.


  7. #1727
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Blame your taste bud for your obesity

    A new study claims that health awareness campaigns fail to help obesity cases as people still make their eating choices based on just taste, and tend to avoid healthy food due to same.

    Study's authors Robert Mai and Stefan Hoffmann of Kiel University, Germany, said that despite a recent trend toward healthy eating behaviors, many consumers still tend to over-consume unhealthy foods because of two facts that work in combination.

    Unhealthy is widely associated with being tasty, and taste is the main driver of food decisions. There is little research on the conflict between healthiness and tastiness.

    Study participants were given a variety of yogurts that differed in sugar and fat quantity. Even when they were given better information about the ingredients, this was not a sufficient to encourage choosing the healthier yogurt. The strategy was especially ineffective for those eaters who needed it most, because the least health-conscious eaters were also the least likely to take any new health information into consideration.

    Even though some health-conscious eaters modified their behavior slightly when given better information on the product, both the informed and uninformed unhealthy eaters expressed firm opinions that the less healthy yogurts were tastier. It was this tastiness factor that, in the end, drove the decision-making for both healthy and unhealthy eaters, and it could not be overcome simply by raising health consciousness.

    The authors concluded that "policy planners must instead find ways to make healthy foods more appealing, by improving the actual taste as well as the packaging and marketing, and by investing in social campaigns which work on consumer's emotions and encourage a sense that healthy eating is 'cool' and prestigious. Overall, a holistic approach is urgently needed to find mutually beneficial strategies to combat the world's alarming obesity epidemic."

    The study is published in the Journal of Public Policy and Marketing.


  8. #1728
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    ‘Green’ food key even before pregnancy: Doctors

    It may make you grimace, but 'green' food rich in folic acid can help mothers avoid pre-term births and check disorders like autism in fetuses.

    While many expectant mothers are told about the importance of eating food rich in folic acid during pregnancy, few are aware it is as important while planning a pregnancy, say doctors.

    "Folic acid is important to support development of a baby's brain and spinal cord. Most often, even before the mother is aware of being pregnant, the brain and spinal cord are in the process of forming," said fertility expert Dr Geetha Haripriya. "We recommend 5mg of folic acid supplements a couple of months before the pregnancy, and to continue it into gestation," she said

    Folic acid, a type of Vitamin B, is responsible for cell growth and development. It becomes more important for women before, and in the early stages of pregnancy. Its significance was highlighted at the ongoing All-India Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Chennai Trade Centre.

    "Folic acid supplementation prevents congenital heart defect, cleft palate, autism and low birth weight," said International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics honorary secretary Dr Gian Carlo Di Renzo during a talk on the best practice advices on maternal fetal medicine on Friday. "This is especially important now, considering how increasingly toxic chemicals are harming our ability to reproduce and causing long term reproductive and developmental problems," he said.

    While daily intake of supplements will help, doctors recommend folic acid-rich food like spinach, greens, broccoli, sprouts and lettuce. "In India, a lot of vitamins are lost in cooking. A salad with these greens would be ideal," said Dr Geetha. This can also check chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension, obesity, mental health problems and cardiovascular disease in babies.

    Experts said studies had shown that low birth weight rates were lowest where mothers had taken folates before becoming pregnant, compared to cases where they had used the supplements during pregnancy.


  9. #1729
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Genetic links found to size of brain structures

    In a significant finding, an international team of scientists has discovered five genetic variants that influence the size of structures within the human brain.

    Nearly 300 researchers analysed genetic data and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans from 30,717 individuals from around the world.

    They evaluated genetic data from seven subcortical brain regions and intracranial volume from MRI scans.

    This is the largest analysis of brain structure and genetics ever done.

    "Through a large-scale, international data sharing and data-analysis-sharing effort, we were able to actually successfully identify genetic effects on the hippocampus, putamen and other brain regions that no one had ever successfully identified genetics effects on before," said Jessica Turner, associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at Georgia State University.

    Their goal was to determine how common genetic variants affect the structure of these seven subcortical brain regions, which are associated with memory, movement, learning and motivation.

    Changes in these brain areas can lead to abnormal behaviour and predisposition to disease.

    Previous research showed that the brain's structure was strongly shaped by genetic influences. Identifying genetic variants could provide insight into the causes for variation in human brain development and help to determine how dysfunction in the brain occurs.

    "Those are brain regions that we know are involved in various psychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders. In trying to figure out the genetics that make them either larger or smaller, it could have great benefits for understanding mechanisms of these disorders," Turner concluded.

    Their findings were published in the journal Nature.


  10. #1730
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Gynaecologists admit to providing Caesarean sections on demand

    How many doctors would agree to a caesarean-section on demand? When the question was posed to a hall full of gynaecologists in the city on Sunday, several hands shot up, some hesitantly. The reason for caving in vary, but many of them admitted to not counselling expectant mothers and their families to reconsider their decision.

    "Ideally, doctors should have at least two or three counselling sessions with the women, explaining to them the risks of C-section against normal delivery. Most doctors don't have the time and usually reduce the counselling to a single sitting," said Dr Rohit Bhatt, former president of federation of obstetrics and gynecologist societies of India. He said sometimes doctors are also not firm with an expectant mother demanding a C-section as she would just move on to another practitioner. "These are women who are persistent and strictly follow what their astrologers tell them and want their babies born on a certain day, at a particular time. It is not easy to convince them," said Dr Bhatt.

    Dr Bhatt was among a panel of doctors from across the country and abroad who congregated at the All-India Congress of Obstetrics and Gynaecology in the city on Sunday to debate on the dramatic increase in caesarean sections and ways to check them.

    While doctors at the meet were divided on the situations that call for using the scalpel, saying it is often a fine line, all of them agreed that the expectant mothers and their families have to be counselled and told about the risks involved, following which the families should be allowed to take a decision. "A woman should have autonomy over her body. We, as doctors, should sit and explain to them about the risks involved and what is best for the woman and her baby and leave it to them to decide," said Dr Narendra Malhotra of Malhotra Nursing and Maternity Home, Agra, who was among the panelists.

    According to statistics, 9% of all births in India are C-section. But in Tamil Nadu, which boasts of quality maternal healthcare, one in three women who gave birth in 2013 had gone under the surgical knife. The number of caesarean deliveries in private hospitals in the state had gone up by 12% since 2010, while government hospitals showed only a marginal rise during the same period.

    "This only means we are needlessly exposing women and infants to surgical risks. But we can't blame it entirely on doctors. We are usually in a spot when the mothers request us to opt for C-section, sometimes when the labour is prolonged," said Dr Malhotra. Doctors also contested that mothers these days aren't as healthy as before, thereby warranting a C-section. "But, yes, again, it's the mother's choice. As doctors, we have to guide them the right way," he said.


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