Body & Fitness

Great news from the world of medicine

It never ceases to amaze me how much scientists now know about the way our bodies work and the breakthroughs they’re constantly coming up with to help improve our health. Here’s some research that may soon make a difference to the way we treat certain medical problems.

Can hypnosis help dementia patients?

Being hypnotised may be able to help people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.A study carried out at the University of Liverpool in England found that patients who underwent regular hypnosis sessions had improved memory and concentration. They were also more inclined to socialise and less likely to become depressed. The researchers compared a group of dementia patients who were hypnotised with another group that discussed news and current affairs. Those in the hypnosis group were able to stay more focused and were better able to remember things.

Can champagne prevent a stroke?

A glass of bubbles may cut your chances of having a stroke or heart attack. It’s thought it could have the same benefits as red wine, which is known to reduce the risk of heart disease. Both red wine and champagne contain compounds called phenols, which act as antioxidants, helping to keep arteries clear of fatty deposits caused by high levels of bad cholesterol. These fatty deposits can result in atherosclerosis, a condition that causes the arteries to harden and become narrower, restricting the flow of blood. If blood can’t get through, you could have a heart attack or stroke. Researchers at the University of Reading in the UK are looking into how champagne affects cholesterol.

Can cycling conquer migranes?

The humble bicycle could be the latest tool in the battle against migraines. Swedish scientists have found that regular cycling may reduce the number of migraines people get by up to 90%. They asked a group of migraine sufferers to ride an exercycle three times a week over three months. At the end of the trial, they found most of the participants noticed they were getting fewer migraines and those they did have felt less intense. They were also able to take fewer drugs. The researchers believe these changes are thanks to the fact that exercise releases endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers. oany migraine sufferers avoid physical activity because they worry it may trigger a pounding head, but this trial suggests that making exercise a regular part of your routine could reduce migraines. Past research has shown walking and swimming might also help because as well as releasing endorphins, they are low-impact and don’t involve any pounding of your body.

Can caffeine combat pain?

I know people who joke that they drink so much coffee, they might as well just have caffeine pumped straight into their veins. Now doctors are investigating whether doing just that will help treat pain. In a trial in Korea, researchers are giving intravenous caffeine to cancer patients to see if it makes any difference to their pain levels. It is administered along with traditional drugs in the hope that it may be able to boost their pain-killing effects. It’s thought the caffeine will help patients in two ways. First, it contains substances that act as painkillers in their own right. Plus it is a stimulant that may be able to counteract the side effects of some drugs, such as drowsiness and confusion. Meanwhile, scientists in the US are looking into whether or not caffeine can reduce the headaches that are often a side effect of having a lumbar puncture.

Can this cancer test save women’s lives?

An extremely efficient new blood test has been developed across the ditch that could save the lives of thousands of women by detecting ovarian cancer in its early stages. The ovPlex test, developed in Melbourne, works by looking for signs of five chemicals that are released by ovarian tumour cells as they grow. Research so far has shown that when all five chemicals are detected in the blood, there is a very good chance cancer cells are forming on the ovaries. The makers say the test is 98% efficient in diagnosing cancer, compared with the currently used test, which has about 60% diagnostic efficiency. Early detection is crucial in ovarian cancer, which is known as “the silent killer” because there often aren’t any obvious signs until the disease is well-advanced. Tumours tend to grow slowly and it can be five years before a woman notices symptoms and seeks medical help. It’s hoped the ovPlex test can catch tumours when they are small and haven’t spread. This increases the chances of surviving the disease.

Can horse’s milk help colitis?

Horse milk is not the sort of thing we tend to keep in our fridges but maybe we should. Scientists in Germany are testing it as a possible treatment for inflammatory bowel problems, such as ulcerative colitis. This research follows on from an earlier study that found mare’s milk helped to clear up eczema symptoms. That same study also found that patients had higher levels of “good” bacteria in their gut, which is thought to have an anti inflammatory effect and also boost the immune system. In the latest trial, patients with bowel problems were given either mare’s milk or a placebo every day for two months. Those who had the milk reported less abdominal pain and needed less medication. The researchers don’t yet know exactly what is in the milk that makes it beneficial, but they are trying to find out.

Can Kiwifruit control your blood pressure?

You’ve heard the saying about an apple a day keeping the doctor away? Now it is thought that three kiwifruit a day could have a similar effect. Norwegian researchers at the University of oslo are carrying out a trial that involves patients with slightly raised blood pressure eating three kiwifruit a day. The patients are being monitored to see if the fruit lowers their blood pressure. Previous trials suggest the popular fruit may be able to do this, possibly because it contains potassium, which is known to play a part in regulating blood pressure. Kiwifruit are also a rich source of the antioxidant lutein, which can help to fight disease.

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