11th Apr 2013, 02:12 PM #71
Re: Health Bulletin
C-section choice more about hospital than patient: study
A high count of caesarian births has more to do with the character of the hospital than with the needs of the patients, according to a study by the Harvard School of Public Health. From hospital to hospital, the same woman would have a different chance of undergoing a C-section, say the researchers, who feel their US-based study has wide significance across developing economies too.
"There have been recent reports of increase in caesarian deliveries in India and it is important that systematic monitoring and standardised protocols are developed so that unnecessary caesarian deliveries are avoided," said S V Subramanian, professor of population health and geography at Harvard University.
The study, by researchers of Harvard SPH and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, was published online last month in PLOS ONE.
"Even after taking into account factors that put women at risk of having a C-section, such as age, and pre-existing health conditions, some hospitals still have higher rates of C-section delivery than others," said Subramanian, senior author of the study. "Put simply, for two women with a similar observed risk profile, one might have a C-section delivery and one might not, depending on which hospital they go to."
The study provides the strongest evidence yet that it's not just medical need that decides who has C-sections, but also something at the hospital level. "This is the first time that anyone has shown this problem exists in Massachusetts, which is widely considered to be one of the world's premier health care hubs," said co-author Mariana Arcaya, research scientist at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies.
C-sections can be a lifesaving procedure for an infant in distress, or when there are multiple births or other labour complications, but C-sections that are not medically necessary can put mothers and babies at avoidable risk of infection, extend hospital stays and recoveries, and increase health costs.
12th Apr 2013, 06:55 AM #72
Re: Health Bulletin
Scientists decode how brain organises everyday experiences
Our brain uses subconscious mental categories to sort through everyday experiences, a new study has found.
The brain knows it's time to cook when the stove is on, and the food and pots are out. When someone rushes away to calm a crying child, it knows cooking is over and it's time to be a parent. The brain processes and responds to these occurrences as distinct, unrelated events.
But it remains unclear exactly how the brain breaks such experiences into "events," or the related groups that help us mentally organise the day's many situations.
A dominant concept of event-perception known as prediction error says that our brain draws a line between the end of one event and the start of another when things take an unexpected turn (such as a suddenly distraught child).
Researchers led by Princeton University have challenged this idea and suggested that the brain may actually work from subconscious mental categories it creates based on how it considers people, objects and actions are related.
These details are sorted by temporal relationship, which means that the brain recognises that they tend to - or tend not to - pop up near one another at specific times, the researchers reported in the journal Nature Neuroscience.
A series of experiences that usually occur together (temporally related) form an event until a non-temporally related experience occurs and marks the start of a new event.
This dynamic, which the researchers call "shared temporal context," works very much like the object categories our minds use to organise objects, explained lead author Anna Schapiro, a doctoral student in Princeton's Department of Psychology.
"We're providing an account of how you come to treat a sequence of experiences as a coherent, meaningful event," Schapiro said.
"Events are like object categories. We associate robins and canaries because they share many attributes: They can fly, have feathers, and so on. These associations help us build a 'bird' category in our minds. Events are the same, except the attributes that help us form associations are temporal relationships."
12th Apr 2013, 07:02 AM #73
Re: Health Bulletin
Scientists 'see' pain in brain scans
In a provocative new study, scientists reported Wednesday that they were able to "see" pain on brain scans and, for the first time, measure its intensity and tell whether a drug was relieving it. Though the research is in its early stages, it opens the door to a host of possibilities.
Scans might be used someday to tell when pain is hurting a baby, someone with dementia or a paralyzed person unable to talk. They might lead to new, less addictive pain medicines. They might even help verify claims for disability.
"Many people suffer from chronic pain and they're not always believed. We see this as a way to confirm or corroborate pain if there is a doubt," said Tor Wager, a neuroscientist at the University of Colorado, Boulder.
He led the research, published in the New England Journal of Medicine. So far it is only on pain felt through the skin - heat applied to an arm. More study needs to be done on more common kinds of pain, such as headaches, bad backs and pain from disease.
Independent experts say the research shows a way to measure objectively what is now one of life's most subjective experiences.
Pain is the top reason people see a doctor, and there's no way to quantify how bad it is other than what they say. A big quest in neuroscience is to find tests or scans that can help diagnose ailments with mental and physical components such as pain, depression and PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder.
Although many studies have found brain areas that light up when pain is present, the new work is the first to develop a combined signature from all these signals that can be used to measure pain.
"This is very exciting work. They made a huge breakthrough in thinking about brain patterns," said Dr. David Shurtleff, acting deputy director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which helped sponsor the research. "We need a brain-based signature for pain. Self-report doesn't cut it. It's not reliable, it's not accurate."
12th Apr 2013, 01:49 PM #74
Re: Health Bulletin
Implanted 'bracelet' helps treat chronic heartburn
A tiny magnetic bracelet implanted at the base of the throat is greatly improving life for some people with chronic heartburn who need more help than medicine can give them.
It's a novel way to treat severe acid reflux, which plagues millions of Americans and can raise their risk for more serious health problems.
It happens when a weak muscle doesn't close after swallowing as it should. That lets stomach juices splash back into the throat. Drugs like Nexium and Prilosec reduce acid. But they don't fix the underlying problem, called GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease.
Rodd Foster had it so bad he used to sleep sitting up to keep his dinner down. Tricia Carr worried she would develop complications like the one that killed her mother.
Both Californians got help from the new device, approved a year ago by the federal Food and Drug Administration and also sold in Europe.
The treatment was "life-changing," said Foster, a 61-year-old plumbing contractor from Canyon Country, Calif. "It's been 30 years since I've been able to eat normally and now I can eat anything anytime."
The Linx device, made by Torax Medical Inc., of St. Paul, Minn., is a ring of titanium beads with magnets inside. Doctors place it around the weak muscle at the base of the esophagus in a half-hour operation using a scope and "keyhole" incisions in the belly. The ring reinforces the weak muscle to keep it closed, yet is flexible and expands to let food pass when someone swallows. The ring comes in multiple sizes; it is about a half-inch in diameter and expands to about 1.5 inches. People don't feel it once it is implanted.
The device costs $5,000; the operation can run $12,000 to $20,000 depending on hospital charges, said Dr. John Lipham, a surgeon who offers it at the University of Southern California and at Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian in Newport Beach. Many insurers cover it for patients who are not helped enough by antacid medicines.
12th Apr 2013, 01:51 PM #75
Re: Health Bulletin
Raw fruit may not be linked to lower blood pressure
People who eat more raw fruits or drink juice do not necessarily have lower blood pressure, according to a new study that goes against previous evidence.
Larger, more rigorous studies have found that eating more fruits and vegetables does lower blood pressure over time, but the specific role of fruit remained unknown, lead author Dr. Linda Oude-Griep told Reuters Health in an email.
Based on the new results, it is unclear if eating more fruit will influence blood pressure, said Oude-Griep, of the Imperial College London School of Public Health.
Oude-Griep and her coauthors analysed data from a study of 4,680 middle aged men and women randomly selected from Japan, China, US and UK.
Participants recalled what they had eaten the previous day two days in a row, having blood pressure measurements taken as well, then repeated the process three weeks later. Their blood pressures averaged at or just below 120/80, the safe cutoff point according to the Centers for Disease Control, but people with higher measurements were included.
The researchers calculated each person's fruit and fruit juice consumption as grams per 1000 calories of food eaten.
People in the U.S. ate the least raw fruit, averaging 52 grams, equivalent to half an apple, per 1000 calories, compared to 68 grams in China, the country with highest consumption. Fruit juice was not commonly consumed in the Asian countries; in the U.S., the average was 46 grams, or less than a cup.
For the group as a whole, there was no association between fruit and blood pressure. When the researchers considered Japan and China alone, blood pressure actually increased with more fruit, but the change was almost imperceptible.
But the study was small and only looked at one group of people at one point in time, so the results have limitations and the door is open for more research, Oude-Griep said.
13th Apr 2013, 11:18 AM #76
Re: Health Bulletin
People with apple-shaped bodies at risk of kidney disease
High blood pressure in the kidneys of people with apple-shaped bodies may put them at an increased risk of developing kidney disease later in life, according to a new study.
The study published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (JASN) suggests that these individuals may benefit from treatments that reduce kidney blood pressure.
People with "apple-shaped" bodies - when fat is concentrated mostly in the abdominal area - are more likely than those with "pear-shaped" bodies to develop kidney disease.
To study the issue, Arjan Kwakernaak, from University Medical Center Groningen, in The Netherlands and his colleagues looked for links between waist-to-hip ratio, which reflects central body fat distribution, and kidney measures in 315 healthy individuals with an average body mass index of 24.9 kg per square metre.
Higher waist-to-hip ratios were associated with lower kidney function, lower kidney blood flow, and higher blood pressure within the kidneys.
"We found that apple-shaped persons - even if totally healthy and with a normal blood pressure - have an elevated blood pressure in their kidneys. When they are also overweight or obese, this is even worse," said Kwakernaak.
This suggests that elevated blood pressure in the kidneys of individuals with apple-shaped bodies may be responsible for their increased risk of developing kidney disease later in life.
Previous studies have shown that high blood pressure in the kidneys can be treated through salt restriction or with drugs that block what is known as the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system.
13th Apr 2013, 11:31 AM #77
Re: Health Bulletin
Brain finds new music rewarding: study
Listening to new music activates the brain region linked to expectations of reward, according to a new study.
The study, conducted at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital – The Neuro, McGill University reveals what happens in our brain when we decide to purchase a piece of music after hearing it for the first time.
Participants in the study listened to 60 previously unheard music excerpts while undergoing functional resonance imaging (fMRI) scanning. "When people listen to a piece of music they have never heard before, activity in one brain region can reliably and consistently predict whether they will like or buy it, this is the nucleus accumbens which is involved in forming expectations that may be rewarding," said lead investigator Dr Valorie Salimpoor.
"What makes music so emotionally powerful is the creation of expectations. Activity in the nucleus accumbens is an indicator that expectations were met or surpassed, and in our study we found that the more activity we see in this brain area while people are listening to music, the more money they are willing to spend," Salimpoor said.
The second important finding is that the nucleus accumbens doesn't work alone, but interacts with the auditory cortex, an area of the brain that stores information about the sounds and music we have been exposed to.
The more a given piece was rewarding, the greater the cross-talk between these regions. Similar interactions were also seen between the nucleus accumbens and other brain areas, involved in high-level sequencing, complex pattern recognition and areas involved in assigning emotional and reward value to stimuli.
In other words, the brain assigns value to music through the interaction of ancient dopaminergic reward circuitry, involved in reinforcing behaviours that are absolutely necessary for our survival such as eating and sex, with some of the most evolved regions of the brain, involved in advanced cognitive processes that are unique to humans.
14th Apr 2013, 02:39 PM #78
Re: Health Bulletin
Some lung cancers linked to common virus
A common virus known to cause cervical and head and neck cancers may also trigger some cases of lung cancer, according to new research led by an Indian-origin scientist.
The study by Fox Chase Cancer Center in US examined tissue samples from lung cancer patients and found that nearly 6 per cent showed signs they may have been driven by a strain of human papilloma virus (HPV) known to cause cancer.
If HPV indeed plays a role in lung cancer in some patients, the next step is to better understand those tumours so they can be treated more effectively. "The ultimate goal is to determine if we can target our therapies to the specific characteristics of these tumours," said study author Ranee Mehra, attending physician in medical oncology at Fox Chase.
Studies from Asia have shown that lung tumours are frequently infected with HPV. The pattern makes sense, explained Mehra - the lungs are located near the head and neck region, which is known to be at risk of tumours upon exposure to some strains of HPV.
To investigate, she and her colleagues examined 36 tissue samples from people diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer who had never smoked, part of the Fox Chase Cancer Center Biosample Repository.
The reason they chose non-smokers, Mehra explained, is that smoking is a major cause of lung cancer - but in non-smokers, the explanation is often less obvious.
The researchers found that 4 out of 36 samples had signs of infection from two strains of HPV known to cause cancer, 16 and 18. Looking more closely at the two samples infected by HPV 16, Mehra and her team saw signs the virus had integrated into the tumour's DNA - which is even more suggestive that the infection caused the tumour.
Although this suggests that HPV drives lung cancer in less than 6 per cent of non-smoker patients, making it a relatively rare occurrence, lung cancer is very common, Mehra noted - killing more than 1 million people every year.
15th Apr 2013, 12:22 PM #79
Re: Health Bulletin
Want to curb your hunger pangs? Try skipping a rope
Aerobic exercise that involves vertical movements of the body such as rope-skipping can curb feelings of hunger and fatty food cravings, a study has found.
The researchers set to find out whether the " gut disturbance" that happens during exercise that moves the centre of mass up and down would change levels of hormones like ghrelin more than other exercise. Ghrelin is a hormone released when we're hungry. The researchers asked 15 men to either skip rope for 30 minutes or ride a stationary bicycle, or rest on separate days.
The men reported feeling less hungry when they were jumping rope, compared with when they were cycling , at 25 minutes into the exercise sessions.
15th Apr 2013, 12:48 PM #80
Re: Health Bulletin
Meditation can increase your body temperature
Feeling cold? Try meditation! Meditation can make you feel warmer, a new study conducted in Tibet suggests, which found the core body temperature can be controlled by the brain.
Researchers led by Associate Professor Maria Kozhevnikov from the Department of Psychology at the National University of Singapore (NUS) Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences showed, for the first time, that it is possible for core body temperature to be controlled by the brain.
The scientists found that core body temperature increases can be achieved using certain meditation techniques (g-tummo) which could help in boosting immunity to fight infectious diseases or immunodeficiency.
Published in science journal PLOS ONE, the study documented reliable core body temperature increases for the first time in Tibetan nuns practising g-tummo meditation.
The g-tummo meditative practise controls "inner energy" and is considered by Tibetan practitioners as one of the most sacred spiritual practises in the region, researchers said.
Monasteries maintaining g-tummo traditions are very rare and are mostly located in the remote areas of eastern Tibet.
The researchers collected data during the unique ceremony in Tibet, where nuns were able to raise their core body temperature and dry up wet sheets wrapped around their bodies in the cold Himalayan weather (-25 degree Celsius) while meditating.
Using electroencephalography (EEG) recordings and temperature measures, the team observed increases in core body temperature up to 38.3 degree Celsius.
A second study was conducted with Western participants who used a breathing technique of the g-tummo meditative practise and they were also able to increase their core body temperature, within limits.
The findings showed that specific aspects of the meditation techniques can be used by non-meditators to regulate their body temperature through breathing and mental imagery.
The techniques could potentially allow practitioners to adapt to and function in cold environments, improve resistance to infections, boost cognitive performance by speeding up response time and reduce performance problems associated with decreased body temperature.