Weekly Health Watch: back pain and coffee

This week: autism, back pain, snorers and coffee.

By Donna Fleming
Health Watch:
• Babies who weigh 4kg or more at birth are 60% more likely to develop autism, according to research at Manchester University in the UK. The study also found low-weight babies had a greater risk. A poorly functioning placenta may lead to abnormalities in body and brain growth.
• Snorers who sleep for more than nine hours a night are twice as likely to develop bowel cancer than snorers who get seven hours. A Harvard Medical School study found a link between long periods of sleep and colorectal cancer, especially among people who are overweight or who snore. There is thought to be an association between sleep duration, sleep quality and risk of colorectal cancer.
Will your bag give you back pain?
Shoulder bags are better than some others on the back because the weight is carried close to the body and there’s less strain on the arms, says Dr Tom Margham, a GP and spokesperson for charity Arthritis Research UK. But be sure to swap the side you’re carrying it on regularly.
“If you look at someone wearing a shoulder bag, you’ll notice they tend to scrunch up their shoulders on one side and then overly stretch out on the other side to counteract the weight. This causes an imbalance in the load on the spine, and people who regularly use these bags might find this irritates the nerves through the spine and neck, causing pain and stiffness.”
He also advises using shoulder bags with wide straps to distribute the weight across the shoulder. A narrow strap can increase pressure on muscles, nerves and blood vessels.
Take a break from coffee:
When to take a break: Six hours before bed. Caffeine takes about four hours to eliminate half of it from your body. After eight hours, 75% is gone. If you drink three cups of filter coffee before midday (about 100mg caffeine per cup) you’ll have 35mg to 40mg of caffeine in your system at midnight, says Sian Porter of the British Dietetic Association. The effect varies according to metabolism, size and how much you drink regularly. Too much can interfere with sleep and lead to dependency, says Porter.
In moderation, caffeine seems to have benefits, including protecting against breast cancer.

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