December 31, 2013

Health Roundup: Man flu is real, statins, new treatment for heart failure, questioning statins, religion and depression, sleep

'Man flu': the truth that women don't want to hear

New study suggests that men may actually suffer more when they have influenza because high levels of testosterone can weaken immune response.

First major breakthrough in heart failure for 20 years thanks to pregnancy hormone

A pregnancy hormone could provide the first breakthrough in 20 years for treating acute heart failure. Doctors found that Serelaxin, a synthetic version of the hormone relaxin, can slash the death rate for people with the condition.

The new treatment is based on relaxin — levels of this rise dramatically during pregnancy in order to reduce strain on the mother’s heart.
The amount of blood circulating in a woman’s body increases by between 20-50 per cent in order to transport oxygen to the fetus via the placenta.

However, this means her heart needs to work 30 per cent harder.  Relaxin helps by opening up the blood vessels and reducing blood pressure, taking excess strain off the heart; relaxin also boosts kidney function, removing waste products from the blood.

A six-month international study found that Serelaxin reduced heart failure death rates by a third (37 per cent) compared to conventional treatments such as ACE inhibitors.  Serelaxin appears to help the heart itself, unlike existing treatments which simply improve symptoms, says Martin Cowie, professor of cardiology at Imperial College London.  He was not involved in the research but believes the new drug could mark ‘a seismic shift’ in the treatment of acute heart failure.

Millions of patients may be on statins needlessly

A study published in the European Heart Journal suggests millions of patients put on statins may be being “over treated” - exposing them to potential side effects - while other patients who are more likely to suffer a heart attack are not being targeted.

Most patients are put on statins because they have high cholesterol, high blood pressure or other conditions such as diabetes. But the study of almost 7,000 adults found that the risk factors were not an accurate way of predicting the likelihood of a heart attack or a stroke. Scans to examine the build-up of calcium in the arteries were far better at identifying patients who would suffer a cardiac event, researchers found.

The US study found that 35 per cent of those who were assessed as “very high risk” using conventional screening tools actually had an extremely low chance of having a heart attack.  Meanwhile, 15 per cent of those who were told they had a very low chance of such an event in fact were at far higher risk, which was indicated by high levels of calcium in the arteries.
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Researchers said coronary artery calcium (CAC) screening should play a more prominent role in helping determine a person’s risk for heart attack and heart disease-related death, as well as the need for angioplasty or bypass surgery.

People who are religious or spiritual have 'thicker' brains which could protect them against depression

Parts of the brain’s outer layer, the cortex, were found to be thicker in people who were religious, than in those who were not.  U.S. researchers studied people with a family history of depression and found the thickening related to religion could offer protection against the condition.
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Dr Myrna Weissman, a professor of psychiatry and epidemiology at Columbia University, told Reuters Health.
‘The brain is an extraordinary organ. It not only controls, but is controlled by our moods.’

A lack of sleep 'damages the brain in a similar way to being hit on the head'

Going without sleep damages the brain in a similar way to being hit on the head.  Healthy young men deprived of just one night’s sleep experienced a spike in the same chemicals that result from an injury, researchers found. ...

Scientists say the findings back previous research showing the brain uses sleep to clean itself of toxic substances. Professor Christian Benedict, of Uppsala University, Sweden, said the molecules NSE and S-100B are not poisonous in themselves - but are biomarkers for brain damage.
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The average person now sleeps for seven hours a night, compared with almost nine a few decades ago.  Many scientists believe irregular sleeping patterns lead to illnesses, ranging from aches and pains to heart disease.  Less than eight hours’ sleep a night can lower IQ the next day, while working night shifts increases the risk of diabetes, ulcers and divorce
Posted by Jill Fallon at December 31, 2013 12:28 PM | Permalink