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PostPosted: Wed Aug 01, 2012 5:26 am 
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TV addiction ups diabetes risk in elderly

Being glued to TV for four hours daily could boost the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, especially if you are aged 60 or above.

The study, led by Paul Gardiner from The University of Queensland School of Population Health, was one of the first to examine the effects of sedentary behaviour and TV watching on older men and women.

"Up until now, most research about sitting and watching TV has been focused on children, while older adults have potentially the most to gain from changing their behaviour," Gardiner said.

Researchers found that for each hour a person spends watching TV, his or her risk of developing metabolic syndrome increases. Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of cardiovascular disease predictors linked to the onset of type 2 diabetes, according to a Queensland statement.

Other lifestyle factors linked to metabolic syndrome include a lack of regular exercise, poor nutrition, high alcohol consumption and smoking.

Gardiner said even light activity such while watching TV can reduce the risk of developing metabolic syndrome.

"Reducing sedentary behaviour may be a feasible and practical way for older adults to improve their health and may be particularly important for those whose health or physical functioning limits their participation in moderate-intensity physical activity," he said.

Previous studies had shown that sedentary behaviour has a unique physiological effect on the body and that this was different from the effect of lack of exercise. ... 290929.cms

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 02, 2012 5:43 am 
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Tests take guesswork out of stroke recovery

A new set of tests can help predict whether an individual patient will recover the use of their hand and arm after a stroke, report New Zealand researchers.

Neuroscientist Professor Winston Byblow, from the University of Auckland, and colleagues, report their findings in the current issue of the journal Brain.

"This is the first demonstration that there is a combination of techniques that can be used to predict an individual patient's chance of recovery," says Byblow.

"Knowing the difference between who will make some recovery and who will make none is information that the therapists have been asking for a long time."

After a stroke interrupts blood supply to the brain, many people are left unable to use their hand and arm properly, with some limbs being completely paralysed.

But, says Byblow, it is very difficult to predict how well an individual will recover with the help of therapy, and who has been damaged beyond the point of no return.

"The very challenging part is you can examine two patients within days of their stroke and they can look exactly the same, but one will make a perfect recovery and one will make no recovery," he says.

"You can imagine the challenge that the therapist who is going to be working with that person is facing because they really don't know what to expect."

Predicting recovery

Building on research published in 2007, Byblow and colleagues have now developed a set of tests that can be used to predict the potential for recovery of a person who has just suffered a stroke, before they start rehabilitation.

Patients are first scored on how well they are able to perform a number of clinical tasks, such a reaching forward and grasping a glass of water. If their score is high, they are regarded as having a high potential for recovery.

A low score leads to a second test, which involves magnetic stimulation of the motor cortex to see if the nerves in the part of the brain that control the limbs are still working.

"If we see a twitch in the hand or the arm, that shows that those pathways are still functioning," says Byblow. "You would never know that just by looking at them."

A high score on this test means they have good potential for recovery. A low score leads to a third test, which involves using MRI to image the neural pathways and see how badly damaged they are.

The researchers have identified a cut-off point for degradation of the nerves that can determine if a particular individual, who has just suffered a stroke, has any chance of recovery at all.

Successful trial

In a trial of 40 stroke patients, the researchers found the set of tests could accurately predict recovery in the vast majority of patients, with a few doing better than expected. They are now carrying out a three-year trial.

Byblow says the aim is to maximise the extent of recovery for each individual patient, based on their own potential.

For example, if a person has no potential for recovering arm and hand movement, then a therapist could put more effort into rehabilitation of the ability to walk and talk.

"We think it will make a big difference in terms of people's satisfaction with their outcome because they'll have realistic expectations," says Byblow.

"It might also lead to better outcomes in terms of the level of function they achieve simply because they've been working on the right things from the word go."

Individualised rehabilitation

Rehabilitation researcher Professor Leeanne Carey of the stroke division of the Florey Neuroscience Institutes in Melbourne welcomes the research as an "important contribution".

"Knowledge of an individual's potential for recovery is critical to targeting stroke treatment to the individual and achieving the most optimal outcomes," she says.

"Individuals may require different rehabilitation strategies depending not only on parts of the brain affected by the stroke, but also remaining networks that may be accessed in therapy. Knowledge of viable brain networks helps provide this information for individualised stroke rehabilitation."

Professor Peter Schofield of Neuroscience Research Australia in Sydney also welcomes the research.

"Knowing who will best respond to treatment and rehab is important for getting the best outcome for each patient," he says. ... 558335.htm

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PostPosted: Sat Aug 04, 2012 5:34 am 
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Depression in kidney cancer patients associated with survival and inflammatory gene regulation

Research from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center has found that symptoms of depression in patients with newly diagnosed metastatic kidney cancer are associated with survival and inflammatory gene regulation may explain this link.

The study, published in the journal PLoS ONE, further explores the interplay between patient psychological condition, stress hormone regulation and the role of inflammatory gene expression. Although previous research indicates depression is connected with worse outcomes, questions remain about the specific factors involved.

"Our findings, and those of others, suggest that mental health and social well-being can affect biological processes, which influence cancer-related outcomes," said Lorenzo Cohen, Ph.D., professor in MD Anderson's Departments of General Oncology and Behavioral Science and director of the Integrative Medicine Program. "They also suggest that screening for mental health should be part of standard care because there are well accepted ways of helping people manage distress, even in the face of a life threatening illness.

"We were particularly interested in examining psychosocial factors as predictors of survival," Cohen continued. "Our findings indicate that we're now able to understand some of the possible biological pathways that explain the association between depression and survival."

Cohen, the lead author, and his colleagues examined 217 MD Anderson patients with newly diagnosed metastatic renal cell carcinoma from April 2000 - November 2005. At study entry, patients completed a number of questionnaires and provided blood samples.

The surveys measured depressive symptoms, general quality of life, social support, coping, religiosity and spirituality.
Participants also provided five saliva samples per day for three days to evaluate fluctuations of cortisol, the stress hormone that should be high in the morning and drop throughout the course of the day. Increased cortisol levels have been found in patients with depressive symptoms and are linked to cellular alterations, Cohen said.

At the time of analysis, 64 percent of patients were deceased and for those who died, the average time from diagnosis to death was 1.8 years. Overall, 23 percent of patients reported depressive symptoms within a clinical range (scores of 16 or higher) and this was associated with shorter survival time, even after controlling for disease-related risk factors. Similarly, a flattened cortisol slope from morning to evening was related to shorter survival time.

Signaling Pathways Unlock Clues

To determine whether the increased mortality risk associated with elevated depressive symptoms might stem from pro-inflammatory gene expression, whole-genome profiling was conducted on tissue samples from 15 patients with the highest depressive symptoms and 15 risk-matched patients with the lowest depressive symptom scores. ... ation.aspx

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 06, 2012 5:18 am 
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Chemo 'can backfire, boost cancer'

CANCER-BUSTING chemotherapy can cause damage to healthy cells which triggers them to secrete a protein that sustains tumour growth and resistance to further treatment, a study has found.

Researchers in the United States made the "completely unexpected" finding while seeking to explain why cancer cells are so resilient inside the human body when they are easy to kill in the lab.

They tested the effects of a type of chemotherapy on tissue collected from men with prostate cancer, and found "evidence of DNA damage" in healthy cells after treatment, the scientists wrote in Nature Medicine.

Chemotherapy works by inhibiting reproduction of fast-dividing cells such as those found in tumours.

The scientists found that healthy cells damaged by chemotherapy secreted more of a protein called WNT16B which boosts cancer cell survival.

"The increase in WNT16B was completely unexpected," study co-author Peter Nelson of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre in Seattle said.

The protein was taken up by tumour cells neighbouring the damaged cells.

"WNT16B, when secreted, would interact with nearby tumour cells and cause them to grow, invade, and importantly, resist subsequent therapy," Dr Nelson said.

In cancer treatment, tumours often respond well initially, followed by rapid regrowth and then resistance to further chemotherapy.

Rates of tumour cell reproduction have been shown to accelerate between treatments.

"Our results indicate that damage responses in benign cells ... may directly contribute to enhanced tumour growth kinetics," wrote the team.

The researchers said they confirmed their findings with breast and ovarian cancer tumours.

The result paves the way for research into new, improved treatment, said Dr Nelson.

"For example, an antibody to WNT16B, given with chemotherapy, may improve responses (kill more tumour cells)," he said in an email exchange.

"Alternatively, it may be possible to use smaller, less toxic doses of therapy." ... 6443525724

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 07, 2012 5:27 am 
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Chemo 'undermines itself' through rogue response

Chemotherapy can undermine itself by causing a rogue response in healthy cells, which could explain why people become resistant, a study suggests.

The treatment loses effectiveness for a significant number of patients with secondary cancers.

Writing in Nature Medicine, US experts said chemo causes wound-healing cells around tumours to make a protein that helps the cancer resist treatment.

A UK expert said the next step would be to find a way to block this effect.

Around 90% of patients with solid cancers, such as breast, prostate, lung and colon, that spread - metastatic disease - develop resistance to chemotherapy.

Treatment is usually given at intervals, so that the body is not overwhelmed by its toxicity.

But that allows time for tumour cells to recover and develop resistance.

In this study, by researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle looked at fibroblast cells, which normally play a critical role in wound healing and the production of collagen, the main component of connective tissue such as tendons.

But chemotherapy causes DNA damage that causes the fibroblasts to produce up to 30 times more of a protein called WNT16B than they should.

The protein fuels cancer cells to grow and invade surrounding tissue - and to resist chemotherapy.

Success v failure

It was already known that the protein was involved in the development of cancers - but not in treatment resistance.

The researchers hope their findings will help find a way to stop this response, and improve the effectiveness of therapy.

Peter Nelson, who led the research, said: "Cancer therapies are increasingly evolving to be very specific, targeting key molecular engines that drive the cancer rather than more generic vulnerabilities, such as damaging DNA.

"Our findings indicate that the tumour microenvironment also can influence the success or failure of these more precise therapies."

Prof Fran Balkwill, a Cancer Research UK expert on the microenvironment around tumours, said: "This work fits with other research showing that cancer treatments don't just affect cancer cells, but can also target cells in and around tumours.

"Sometimes this can be good - for instance, chemotherapy can stimulate surrounding healthy immune cells to attack tumours.

"But this work confirms that healthy cells surrounding the tumour can also help the tumour to become resistant to treatment.

"The next step is to find ways to target these resistance mechanisms to help make chemotherapy more effective."

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 09, 2012 6:00 am 
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Survivor of rare syndrome gives voice to a silent struggle

TWO days after regaining consciousness from a massive stroke, Richard Marsh watched helplessly from his hospital bed as doctors asked his wife, Lili, whether they should turn off his life-support machine.

Marsh, a former police officer and teacher, had strong views on that suggestion. The 60-year-old did not want to die. He was determined to walk out of the intensive care unit, and he wanted everyone to know it.

But Marsh could not tell anyone. The doctors believed he was in a persistent vegetative state, devoid of consciousness and physical feeling. Nothing could have been further from the truth. Marsh was aware, alert and able to feel every touch to his body.

''I had full cognitive and physical awareness,'' he said. ''But an almost complete paralysis of nearly all the voluntary muscles in my body.''

The first sign that Marsh was recovering was twitching in his fingers, which spread through his hand and arm. He described the feeling of accomplishment at being able to scratch his nose again. But it is still a mystery why he recovered when the vast majority of locked-in syndrome victims do not.

''They don't know why I recovered because they don't know why I had locked-in in the first place or what really to do about it. Lots of the doctors and medical experts I saw didn't even know what locked-in was. If they did know anything, it was usually because they'd had a paragraph about it during their medical training. No one really knew anything.''

Marsh has never spoken publicly about his experience before. But in an exclusive interview, he gave a rare and detailed insight into what it is like to be ''locked in''.

''All I could do when I woke up in ICU was blink my eyes,'' he said. ''I was on life-support with a breathing machine, with tubes and wires on every part of my body, and a breathing tube down my throat. I was in a severe locked in-state for some time. Things looked pretty dire.

''My brain protected me - it didn't let me grasp the seriousness of the situation. It's weird, but I can remember never feeling scared … The doctors would just stand at the foot of the bed and just talk like I wasn't in the room. I just wanted to holler: 'Hey people, I'm still here!'''

Locked-in syndrome affects about 1 per cent of people who have a stroke. There is no treatment or cure, and it is extremely rare for patients to recover any significant motor functions. About 90 per cent die within four months of its onset.

Marsh had his stroke on May 20, 2009. Astonishingly, four months and nine days later, he walked out of his long-term care facility. He has recovered 95 per cent of his functions; he goes to the gym every day, cooks for his family and, last month, bought a bicycle, which he rides around Napa Valley in California, where he lives.

But he still weeps when he remembers watching his wife tell the doctors they could not turn off his life-support machine.

''The doctors had just finished telling Lili that I had a 2 per cent chance of survival and if I should survive, I would be a vegetable,'' he said. ''I could hear the conversation and in my mind I was screaming 'No!'''

On the third day after his stroke, a doctor peered at him and uttered the longed-for words: ''You know, I think he might still be there.''

The moment that doctor discovered Marsh could communicate through blinking was one of profound relief for Marsh and his family, although his prognosis remained critical. ''You're at the mercy of other people to care for your every need, and that's incredibly frustrating, but I never lost my alertness,'' he said. ''I was completely aware of everything going on around me and to me, right from the very start, unless when they had me medicated.''

The success of the 2007 film The Diving Bell and the Butterfly brought awareness of locked-in syndrome to the public, but Marsh says information on it is scarce to non-existent.

He is co-writing a book he hopes will inspire and provide information to victims of locked-in syndrome and their families.

''It's a terrible, terrible place to be but there's always hope,'' he said. ''You've got to have hope.'' ... z22zF2SaFm

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 17, 2012 5:30 am 
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Chemotherapy 'won't harm the baby': Cancer treatment during pregnancy is safe, says study

Pregnant women who develop cancer can have chemotherapy without endangering their unborn child, say researchers.

A study suggests that women who received treatment for cancer during pregnancy had no greater risk of giving to children with birth defects or other health issues.

Hundreds of pregnant women diagnosed with cancer each year face the agonising decision of what to do next.

Some even opt for an abortion, especially if they are in the early stages of pregnancy and the cancer is very aggressive, while others refuse treatment until after the baby is born.

But researchers in Germany say there is no need to interrupt the pregnancy in any way, delay treatment or use less powerful drugs because there is little evidence the baby will be affected.

In a study of more than 400 women from across Europe who were diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer while pregnant, almost half underwent chemotherapy during pregnancy.

The study assessed whether the newborn babies of the 197 treated women suffered any ill effects that could be attributable to the cancer drugs.

Babies whose mothers had undergone chemotherapy while pregnant had, on average, a lower birth weight than those whose mothers had not had chemotherapy, says a report in The Lancet Oncology journal.

There were few other noticeable differences between the groups.

Babies exposed to chemotherapy while in the womb appeared to have no higher risk of birth defects, no lower scores of wellbeing at birth, no more frequent blood disorders or alopecia than those whose mothers did not receive chemotherapy while pregnant.

Around one in 2,000 pregnancies is affected by cancer, a rate that is increasing by 2.5 per cent a year as women have children later in life.

Professor Sibylle Loibl, of the German Breast Group which led the study, said 'If our findings are confirmed by other studies, breast cancer during pregnancy could be treated as it is in non-pregnant women without putting foetal and maternal outcomes at substantially increased risk.'

The number of chemotherapy cycles received during pregnancy did not appear to affect the babies' birth weight, leading the authors to suggest that the lower birth weight is not clinically meaningful.

Prof Loibl said 'In the general population, about 10-15 per cent of infants are born preterm, but in our study, 50 per cent of women with breast cancer delivered preterm, with 23 per cent delivering before the 35th week of gestation.

'More complications were reported in the group of infants exposed to chemotherapy than in the group not exposed to chemotherapy.

'However, most complications were reported in babies who were delivered prematurely, irrespective of exposure to chemotherapy.

'Our findings emphasise the importance of prioritising a full-term delivery in women who undergo chemotherapy while pregnant.'

Professor Loibl added 'Illness and mortality in newborn babies is directly related to gestational age at delivery. This is an important clinical message because the decision to deliver the foetus preterm is often taken without medical indication.

'Our work suggests that treating patients with breast cancer while pregnant is possible, and there is no need to interrupt the pregnancy or receive inferior therapy.'

A collection of studies published earlier this year concluded that chemotherapy after the first trimester (12 weeks) does not harm the unborn child. ... z23jswYY2O

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 21, 2012 5:39 am 
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Misconceptions surround depression

Depressed people should just pull themselves together, put on a brave face and drown their sorrows in a stiff drink.

These are some of the misconceptions that continue to surround depression, a survey by the depression initiate beyondblue has found.

beyondblue CEO Kate Carnell AO says despite improvements in raising awareness, a recent Depression Monitor survey in NSW showed many people were still misinformed about depression and how they could help someone suffering from the illness.

'It seems that many people still don't know depression is an illness which needs and responds to treatment, and still don't know how to help themselves or someone else who may be struggling,' she said in a statement.

'This indicates we need to work harder to make people more aware of the signs and symptoms of depression.'

But there was some good news, she said.

While 63 per cent of survey respondents or their family members had experienced depression, 85 per cent of them had sought professional help.

The results of the survey will be discussed at a meeting of the beyondblue Board of beyondblue in Sydney on Tuesday.

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 27, 2012 5:16 am 
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Cancer and heart drugs top TGA approvals

CANCER and heart disease patients have benefited from the greatest number of new drug treatments approved by Australia's drug regulator in the past decade, a report shows.

There were 795 new medications approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration in the 10 years to 2011, with the highest number of new drugs approved for cancer.

The Medicines Milestones report found 115 cancer drugs were approved by the TGA between 2002 and 2011, while 82 medicines for heart diseases were given the green light.

Vaccines accounted for the third highest number of approvals with 57 new immunisations available for use in Australia over the 10-year period.

These included National Immunisation Program vaccines such as whooping cough and measles, mumps and rubella while injections for cervical cancer and influenza were also endorsed.

Only six new treatments for depression were approved, despite the condition being the most frequently managed mental health problem in 2008/09, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

Depression is the only mental health issue that has been nominated as a National Health Priority focus area.

Most of the almost 60 mental health drugs approved in the period were for a variety of other conditions including anxiety, addictive disorders and dementia-related illnesses.

The report said there were about 60 drugs for depression in the final stages of clinical trials worldwide.

Thirty-three new arthritis treatments were accredited and 27 additional treatments for diabetes were approved over the past decade.

"This has meant real improvements for people living with these all too common conditions," said Dr Brendan Shaw from the Australian Medicines Industry, which commissioned the report.

"While many of the new medicines will help large numbers of people, there were also treatments for much rarer conditions, including Niemann-Pick disease Type-C, Pompes and Fabrys diseases," he said.

There are currently more than 3,000 medicines and vaccines in development worldwide, including 800 to treat various types of cancer and 250 targeting cardiovascular disease.

The report said the industry would probably focus on developing improved treatments for dementia-related diseases, which are expected to increase along with the ageing population, and conditions associated with obesity, such as Type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and heart disease.

There are also about 145 vaccines in the pipeline, including a number for HIV/AIDS. ... 6458174176

PostPosted: Sun Sep 02, 2012 7:13 am 
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Prevent diabetes diet

Food is the biggest weapon you have in fighting diabetes and other insulin-related disorders.

Type 2 diabetes and other insulin-related health disorders such as metabolic syndrome are the biggest global health epidemic of our time. What we eat is the most important factor in preventing them.

When your diet is full of empty calories and an abundance of quickly absorbed sugars and refined carbohydrates, your cells slowly become resistant or numb to the effects of insulin.

This six-week program uses food as medicine to regulate your metabolism, blood sugar and insulin levels.

How it works

Eat food that improves your genes To turn off the genes that lead to diabetes and turn on the genes that lead to health, the key is the type of food you eat ñ plant-based whole foods rich in nutrients. This type of diet will also regulate your hormones, improve digestion and metabolism and keep your stress levels down.

Eat food with a low glycaemic index (GI) Low-GI foods don't spike blood sugar and insulin.

Spend two weeks preparing Measure your height, weight, waist size, blood pressure, body mass index (BMI) and waist-to-height ratio before you start. It is also recommended that you get tested for other biochemical imbalances. The results may require you to take supplements or make dietary changes. Tools for measuring and tracking your health are available at

Clean toxic foods out of your kitchen and stock it with the foods that create health.

One week before the program begins, cut out all sugar, flour products, highly processed carbs and stimulants such as caffeine, alcohol and sedatives.

Recommended foods

Slow-burning, low-GI vegetables These should be the basis of your diet. These include broccoli, asparagus, spinach, silverbeet, kale, cabbage, bok choy and cauliflower. Aim for five serves a day.

Garlic and onions Eat them every day if you can. They lower cholesterol and blood pressure, contain antioxidants and are anti-inflammatories.

Heathy animal products These include omega-3-rich fish such as wild salmon and sardines; mercury-free fish, prawns and scallops; omega-3 or free-range eggs; and (organic if possible) grass-fed poultry.

Seaweed Kombu, nori, hijiki and wakame are all extraordinarily high in minerals, protein and healing compounds.

Green tea It contains anti-inflammatory, detoxifying and antioxidant phytonutrients. The small amount of caffeine is usually well tolerated by most.

Whole soy products These include tempeh, tofu and miso.

Nuts The best are almonds, walnuts, macadamias, hazelnuts and pecans. Stick with 10 to 12 nuts once or twice a day.

Seeds Pumpkin, sunflower and sesame seeds are all high in fibre, protein, vitamins and minerals.

Gluten-free wholegrains Eat up to half a cup a day of brown, black and red rice, quinoa, amaranth or buckwheat.

Beans or legumes They are rich in protein and filled with fibre, minerals and vitamins that help balance blood sugar.

Berries Blueberries, cherries, blackberries and raspberries are filled with phytonutrients.

Apple, pears and stone fruit They are healthy and full of fibre and healing chemicals. Limit to one to two pieces a day.

Foods to limit

Lean, organic, grass-fed lamb or beef Eat no more than 100 to 150 grams of red meat no more than once or twice a week. Trim all visible fat before cooking.

Starchy, high-GI cooked vegetables These include peas, potatoes, corn and beetroot. Starchy vegetables raise blood sugar more quickly, so they should be consumed in smaller quantities.

High-sugar fruit Melons, grapes and pineapple should be limited to half a cup once a week.

Dark chocolate Eat no more than 60 grams a day. Ideally, you should save this for after the first six weeks.

Foods to avoid

Added sugars This includes organic cane juice, honey, agave, maple syrup and stevia.

Dried fruit They have a high GI load.

All flour products (even gluten-free) They drive insulin sky high.

All processed food This includes all trans fats and high-fructose corn syrup.

All gluten and dairy These are the major inflammatory foods in our diet. After six weeks, you can reintroduce them and see how they affect your blood sugar and how you feel.

Size it up

Portion size does matter.

When you put food on your plate, it should be split like this:
•On half of your plate, put low-starch vegetables. (You can refill this part as much as you want.)
•On one quarter of your plate, put some protein (fish, chicken, eggs, prawns, meat, nuts or beans). On the other quarter, add either 50g of wholegrains (ideally brown rice or quinoa) or 50g of starchy vegetables such as sweet potato or butternut pumpkin.

Prevent Diabetes meal ideas

•Nut Shake with Gluten-Free Almond Milk and Berries*.
•Poached egg with sautÈed tomato and spinach.
•Scrambled tofu and vegetables (100g scrambled tofu plus onion, grated carrot and spinach).

•Chicken, vegetable and brown rice soup.
•Grilled salmon with white bean and corn salad and grilled spring?vegetables.
•Chicken and Black Bean Wrapped in Kale Leaves with Avocado and Salsa*.

•Sauteed prawns with garlic, red onion, grape tomatoes, basil and spinach leaves with polenta.
•Coconut Curry Chicken and Vegetables over Brown Rice*.
•Salad of brown rice, chickpeas and diced vegetables (such as capsicum, carrot, celery, cherry tomatoes, spring onion) with balsamic vinaigrette.

•1 sliced apple with 60g raw almond butter.
•Handful of walnuts, almonds, pumpkin and sunflower seeds.
•Poached Pears and Cashew Cream*. ... diet,19427

PostPosted: Sat Sep 08, 2012 5:36 am 
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Medicine a mystery to two in three, says Medibank Private study

NEARLY two in three people are incapable of understanding their doctor's instructions, their medication regime or the relationship between lifestyle factors and their health - and it is killing them, a study by Australia's largest health fund Medibank Private has found.

Low health literacy was associated with "higher mortality, increased hospitalisation and higher health care costs", the study found.

Medibank Private's national medical director Dr Rosheen Azam says fixing the problem could help keep health fund premiums' rises under control and save lives.

She says an example of the problem is that only one in five people with diabetes knows how to do a proper foot examination to check for cuts or inflammation that could become infected, requiring hospitalisation or even amputation.

Heart Foundation clinical director Dr Rob Grenfell says that two years after a heart attack, one in three patients stop taking their anti-cholesterol medicines and between a third and a half stop taking their blood pressure tablets. Many went on to have a second heart attack.

"At the moment, 40 per cent of people with high blood pressure don't know it causes heart disease," he said.

"If they don't know we're trying to stop them having a heart attack then they don't have the motivation to use their medicine."

Every heart attack avoided saved the health system between $12,000 and $15,000, Grenfell said.

The National Prescribing Service research has found 57 per cent of Australians had made a mistake with their medicines in the last 12 months; one in five had taken an out-of-date or expired medicine; just under half had missed a dose of their medicine and one in four had taken medicine without food which was meant to be taken with food.

Every year, there are 190,000 medicine-related hospital admissions. It was not just failure to understand the importance of medication that was the problem, but 40 per cent of smokers continued to smoke after they had had a heart attack, Dr Grenfell said.

Dr Azam said patients who did not understand medical instructions often felt stigmatised - and the health fund had found that its phone health coaching services helped to reduce this. ... 6467744951

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A million commit suicide each year: WHO

ONE million people die by their own hand each year, accounting for more deaths than wars and murders put together, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said.

"Data from the WHO indicate that approximately one million people worldwide die by suicide each year. This corresponds to one death by suicide every 40 seconds," the organisation said in a report launched ahead of the World Suicide Prevention Day on Monday.

And while the number of deaths by suicide is staggering, the number of attempts each year is 20 times higher, the WHO said, pointing out that five per cent of people in the world try to kill themselves at least once during their lifetime.

And the problem is getting worse, the organisation said, insisting that "given the magnitude of the public health problem of suicidal behaviours", urgent action was needed.

"As suicide is largely preventable, it is imperative that governments, through their health, social and other relevant sectors, invest human and financial resources in suicide prevention," the report said.

According to Dr Shekhar Saxena, who headed the team behind the report, suicide rates have risen sharply in some parts of the world in recent years, with some countries seeing their rates jump by as much as 60 per cent.

"Although suicide continues to remain a serious problem in high income countries, it is the low and middle income countries that bear the larger part of the global suicide burden," the report said, adding: "It is also these countries that are relatively less equipped to prevent suicide".

The highest documented suicide rates can be found in Eastern European countries like Lithuania and Russia, while they are lowest in Latin America, WHO said.

The United States, Western European countries and Asia fell in the middle of the range, the report showed, but stressed that statistics are not available for many countries in Africa and South-East Asia.

Globally, suicide is meanwhile the second cause of death worldwide among 15-19 year-olds, with at least 100,000 adolescents killing themselves each year, according to the study.

Among adults, the suicide rate is highest among those aged 75 and older, the WHO said, pointing out that "elderly people are likely to have higher suicide intent and use more lethal methods than younger people, and they are less likely to survive the physical consequences of an attempt".

The report also showed that men were three times more likely to commit suicide, but that three times as many women as men attempted to kill themselves.

"The disparity in suicide rates has been partly explained by the use of more lethal means and the experience of more aggression and higher intent to die, when suicidal, in men than women," it explained. ... 6467906649

PostPosted: Sat Sep 15, 2012 3:07 am 
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Cancer Survivors Prefer to Stay With Cancer Doctors: Study

THURSDAY, Sept. 13 (HealthDay News) -- Even after cancer patients beat their disease, many still grapple with health issues related to their treatments, including cardiovascular and bone problems. But, survivors often say it's unclear which doctor to turn to for follow-up care.

A new study of 18 prostate and 24 breast cancer survivors suggests the majority would prefer to continue seeing their oncologists when health issues crop up, because they aren't confident their primary care physicians are equipped to address their post-cancer health needs.

Study author Dr. Shawna Hudson, an associate professor of family medicine and community health at The Cancer Institute of New Jersey, said the finds are concerning.

"For early stage cancer survivors, we expect your primary care physician is going to play a stronger role in follow-up after cancer treatment," said Hudson.

She said statistics show almost one-third of 36.6 million annual office visits made for cancer care are at primary care doctors' offices, and it's expected that number will increase by 2020, when a shortage of cancer specialists is predicted.

The patients in the study were all diagnosed in the early stage of their disease and had finished treatment two or more years before participating in the research, which was published online Sept. 10 and in the September/October print issue of the Annals of Family Medicine.

The participants, whose median age was 64 and three-quarters of whom were women, answered questions during an in-depth telephone interview. Fifty-two percent said they preferred to visit their cancer specialist for follow-up medical care, while 79 percent believed that cancer follow-up care requires a specialist's knowledge of cancer that primary care physicians do not possess. One-third did think there could be a role for their primary care doctors, as long as they were kept in the communication loop with oncologists.

One survivor quoted in the study said he would love to see a survivor plan be part of his treatment plan, so "everybody would be on the same page."

"Patients need a very clear road map about what to do," said Hudson.

Almost 70 percent of survivors have conditions that require a comprehensive approach to their care, including cardiovascular disease, kidney issues, diabetes and fertility-related problems, many related to chemotherapy and radiation treatments, Hudson explained.

"Follow-up care is not just about making sure your cancer's not back. It's about making sure you monitor and get care for problems like cardiovascular issues and bone density issues that might happen because of some of your cancer treatments. It's the health prevention piece that's usually done in primary care," Hudson said.

Dr. Catherine Broome, an associate professor of medicine and a medical oncologist at Georgetown University's Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, said while the study is small, it does raise important issues.

"As a medical community in general, we've struggled with this question about follow-up care for a number of years. Economics and health care reimbursements are beginning to play a role in how we're asked to manage these patients," Broome said.

"I personally do like to try and follow my patients much longer than the first few years. When I see them, I may be a bit more focused on some of those things that might be overlooked by a primary care physician, like an early-stage breast cancer patient who got chemo and may be cured but who might experience long-term effects such as thyroid abnormalities," said Broome. "The subtle signs might be more obvious to us."

The LIVESTRONG Survivorship Center of Excellence, at the University of Pennsylvania's Abramson Cancer Center in Philadelphia, helps patients navigate the transition from cancer patient to cancer survivor. Survivors can visit the center if they want to develop a health care plan, or if they have specific medical concerns.

The center is staffed by experienced nurse practitioners, said director Dr. Linda Jacobs. "At our survivorship program here, we see a variety of patients under all different circumstances."

Patients who aren't comfortable asking their oncologists questions about fatigue, sleep issues or sexual function can come to the survivorship program for symptom-management help, said Jacobs. She and colleagues can refer them to nutritionists, physical therapists, cardiologists and endocrinologists, among other specialists. ... tors-study

PostPosted: Wed Sep 19, 2012 5:12 am 
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'Legal blood doping': a juice to help beet your best

British athlete David Weir's haul of four Paralympic gold medals was powered by a secret ingredient that is completely legal, scientifically proven to improve sporting performance, and has even been referred to as "legal blood doping". What could this revolutionary aid be? Beta vulgaris - the simple beetroot.

Weir's admission that he gulped down a slug of the plant's juice during the marathon - rugby player Ben Foden and marathon runner Helen Davies are also fans - follows studies that suggest the "super root" can help more average athletes, too.

Rich in potassium, antioxidants and folic acid, beetroot was found to lower blood pressure back in 2008, by scientists at Barts and the London School of Medicine. In 2009, a University of Exeter study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that drinking 500ml of beetroot juice before exercise improved stamina. A second Exeter study last year found that cyclists could shave seconds off their time - similar benefits were found for runners in a US study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in April.

"Legal doping" ... beetroot juice.

The reason for beetroot's winning ways, says Professor Andy Jones, from the sport and health sciences department at Exeter, is nitrate, a nutrient found in soil that helps build protein. This converts into nitrite in the body and then into nitric oxide, which has a "double whammy" effect: it widens blood vessels, increasing blood flow; and it reduces the oxygen needed by muscles, enabling them to work more efficiently.

"We found this works most effectively in high-intensity exercise, typically races that last up to 30 minutes," says Prof Jones (who tweets under the name @AndyBeetroot). He says your average runner might feel the benefits of beetroot more than elite athletes whose muscles are already efficient.

However, those eager to achieve a new personal best would need to eat four or five beetroot to make a difference. Pickled or boiled beetroot is of limited value, unless you drink the water it is boiled in. A similar problem exists with supplements, with eight to 10 capsules needed daily.

Which is why experts say the best way to get the benefits is to drink the juice. "Shots" containing 7cl of concentrated juice, and 0.4g of nitrate, have been developed as a sports drink and for use in studies, by the James White drinks company in Ipswich. Managing director Lawrence Mallinson, who supplied shots to Team GB, says that beetroot juice now accounts for half of the firm's £5 million ($7.75 million) turnover.

You would need to drink about 500ml (half a litre) of ordinary strength juice to get the same nitrate levels. Consuming this amount of beetroot juice has no side-effects, says Prof Jones - other than turning your urine pink.

The benefits may go beyond track and field, according to Ben Benjamin, professor of medicine at Torbay Hospital. He says that, though more research is needed, 500ml of ordinary-strength juice daily could mean that frail, elderly people could get out of a chair without feeling breathless, or walk upstairs by themselves.

Prof Jones agrees: "This is one of the sports nutrition stories of the decade. It transcends performance - we can use it to improve health." ... z26qltX0Dy

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