Archive | Health & Fitness

Canada’s Youth Win Big With The Federal Budget

Posted on 31 March 2016 by admin

Sharon Wood, President and CEO, Kids Help Phone

Canada’s youth are the biggest winners from federal budget, but not in the way you’d expect. Buried deep inside the budget, well below the commendable financial commitments to First Nations, families and young children, is a potential game-changer for young people — plans to create the first ever Prime Minister’s Youth Council.

This is a momentous opportunity for Canada’s youth — but only if we get it right.

Young people in our country face significant challenges — high unemployment rates, barriers to education and job training, declining physical and mental health, a lack of affordable housing and social programs that often fail them. These problems are multiplied for aboriginal youth.

Canada’s young people face these huge challenges without a unified voice and without a clear plan to take them forward. It’s little wonder youth are often mistakenly characterized as being disengaged and disinterested.

Thankfully, there is widespread support in Canada to listen to youth voices more.

This February, a national Abacus Data survey commissioned by the National Youth Service Agencies (NYSA) — a self-formed group of youth-serving registered charities from across Canada — found that 69 per cent of Canadians support the creation of an advisory council. Their support is not surprising — 67 per cent of respondents also said that young people have too little influence on public policy.

The Prime Minister’s Youth Council offers an opportunity for youth to directly influence decisions at the highest level. It signals to young people in Canada that they do not face these challenges alone. For it to be effective, we need to carefully craft its priorities, its membership, its processes and its supports.

So first things first — who should be on the Youth Council? The first priority must be to involve some youth who do not yet have the right to vote. Engaging and involving young people early encourages them towards civic participation in adulthood and will begin to equip them with the tools they’ll need for their early adult years.

The Council must be diverse and socially inclusive, giving voice to all Canadian youth including the underrepresented populations that are frequently over-represented in every challenge facing youth. Young women, aboriginal youth, LGBTQ2S youth, and young people with lived-experiences of poverty and homelessness, care environments and mental health issues should all have a strong voice on the Youth Council.

What issues should the Youth Council prioritize? When asked in the Abacus Data survey, Canada’s youth aged 18-29 said that youth employment (66 per cent), post-secondary education and job training (63 per cent), mental health (55 per cent) and health care (50 per cent) were the issues the Council should focus on. The Prime Minister’s Office should consult widely with Canada’s youth, key ministerial staff and youth-serving agencies to make a comprehensive mandate and strategic action plan from the Council’s outset.

What supports will Youth Council members have? As a collection of Canada’s most prominent youth serving agencies, we know from experience that each young person is an individual, and each will react differently to their new role. It’s critical that Youth Council members receive ongoing emotional and professional support so they can manage the pressure and scrutiny of their new high-profile roles, such as access to support, media training, and skill-building opportunities.

Today we congratulate the Government for taking a bold and innovative step towards a brighter future for all young people in Canada. Let’s seize this opportunity to create a Youth Council that we can all be proud of.

National Youth Serving Agencies (NYSA) is a self-formed group of youth-serving registered charities from across Canada who reach 5.6 million children and youth. Group members include 4-H Canada, Best Buddies Canada, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada, Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada, Cadets Canada, Canadian Red Cross Society, The Duke of Edinburgh Awards, Frontier College, Girl Guides of Canada, Junior Achievement Canada, Kids Help Phone, Meal Exchange, National Association of Friendship Centres, National Youth in Care Network, Salvation Army, Pathways to Education, Save the Children, Scouts Canada, St. John Ambulance, The Navy League of Canada, The Students Commission of Canada, The United Nations Association in Canada, YMCA Canada, YOUCAN! and YWCA Canada.

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Effective moves to deal with flabby arms

Posted on 11 February 2016 by admin

Now you are one of those, one with the slender waist, yet are too embarrassed to get into a sleeveless outfit because you are embarrassed of your jiggly arms. It’s that upper arm flesh, which makes us think twice even when wearing short leaves. But you don’t have to live with those bat wings, sweat it out at the gym, or at home, and you are good to go.

But to get those well- sculpted arms, you need to work to reduce that flab from the back of your arms. For that, you need to include reg- ular cardio workouts such as swimming, running, brisk walking, cycling in your workout regime, eat a healthy, balanced diet, give up processed, sugary food (cakes, biscuits, bread) for lean protein and good fats (chicken, lentils and dairy products), which will help your body build more muscle, and get at least six hours of sleep.

Aside of giving you a leaner silhouette, building muscle in your upper arms and shoulders helps you stand taller, so your posture im- proves. Arm strength is good for performances in activities from swimming to yoga.

BICEP3 CURL3MORK3 THE BICEP3

Hold a weight in each hand and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.» The palms of your hands should be facing forwards.» Bend your elbows, bringing your lower arms up towards your shoulders.» Lower your arms slowly back and with control to the starting position.

REVER3E FLYE3 MORK3 THE DELTOID3

Stand with your knees slightly bent, a free weight in each hand.» Keeping your back flat, bend forward at the hips, lift both arms to the sides until they are parallel to the floor, squeezing your shoulder blades as you lift and main taining a slight bend in your elbows.» Count to one, then slow down. Do 10 reps.

DUMBELL ARM CIRCLE3 MORK3 THE 3HOULDER3, BACK, BICEP3 AND TRICEP3

Sit tall in a chair or stand with feet shoulder width apart and knees slightly bent. Hold a weight in each hand and ex- tend your arms straight out in front of you, chest height, slightly wider than your » Bring your arms slightly for- ward, upward, and then back- ward, making 12 inch circles with your arms.

» Repeat the circle movement twelve times and then reverse the motion by going backward, upward, and the forward. Repeat that motion 10 times.

DUMBELL 3KULLCRU3HER3 MORK3 THE TRICEP3

Lying on your back on a bench, extend your arms overhead with a free weight in each hand » Bend your el- bows so your forearms are parallel to the floor. Slowly lengthen both arms at once, ex tending as high as you can. Count to one, then slow down. Do 10 reps.

DIP3 MORK3 THE TRICEP3

Sit on a chair or bench. With your arms straightened, place your hands on the chair bench next to your butt.» Ex- tend your legs straight out in front of you. Now, lift your bottom off the bench. This is your starting position.

 

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The race to find ‘biomarkers’ that can predict dementia

Posted on 26 November 2015 by admin

In a laboratory on the south side of town one August afternoon, a man names animals as he paces down a walkway: Aardvark. Bear. Camel. Dog. Giraffe. That same afternoon in a lab on the north side of town, a graduate student is poring over data generated by a rare seven-tesla MRI. The brain imaging machine is the most powerful of its kind in Canada, and one of fewer than 60 in the world.

The south-side lab belongs to Manuel Montero Odasso, a geriatrician who studies gait and mobility. The north-side lab belongs to Robert Bartha, a physicist who works with cutting-edge imaging technology. But both researchers — and countless others around the world — are in pursuit of the same thing: dementia “biomarkers,” bodily clues that could predict the existence of the brain disorder years before its worst symptoms take hold.

That two scientists in the same city could be taking such divergent approaches speaks to the sheer challenge involved. Dementia affects nearly 50 million people worldwide, yet there is no single positive-or-negative test for it, only a combination of exams that support a diagnosis.

Biomarker research could provide more certainty for patients. But it could also bring more grief: should doctors tell patients their minds will one day unravel if there is no treatment? Decades of drug trials have failed to cure the disease.

“If tomorrow I could diagnose someone with Alzheimer’s disease five years before they got the symptoms, that would be a huge victory for us in terms of diagnosis. But the bottom line is we don’t have an effective treatment,” says Bartha.

Yet many researchers also believe that the best hope for a dementia drug is to intervene before memory problems become apparent. By the time symptoms are obvious, the brain is already ravaged. To peer inside the brain earlier — figuratively or literally — we need biomarkers.

“Maybe if you give (treatment) before the symptoms are full blown and the brain is already deteriorated, you’ll be able to postpone the disease significantly or change the course altogether,” says Bartha. “So having that biomarker that identifies people early is critical to defining new drugs and evaluating whether or not they’re going to be effective.”

Tim Costello, the 72-year-old man listing animals as he walks, is part of a study led by Montero Odasso that has been running since 2007 at London’s Parkwood Institute, involving 150 participants. The subjects, who have mild cognitive impairment — a diagnosis that sometimes leads to full-blown Alzheimer’s and sometimes doesn’t — return to the lab every six months to repeat the same series of tests.

They walk down a sensor-filled pathway as they undertake a series of cognitively demanding tasks. They count backwards from 100 by ones, and then by sevens. They list as many animals as they can. They balance on a platform. A computer records tiny variances in their gait and balance.

Normal adults slow down if they attempt cognitively demanding tasks while walking. But Montero Odasso has found that patients with cognitive impairment slow down more, and their gait becomes more uneven. If a simple walking test could predict who among the cognitively impaired will advance to more serious dementia, it would have immediate benefits — especially because other targets for biomarker research, such as spinal fluid, are invasive or expensive to obtain.

With gait analysis, “You can do it any time, anyplace,” says Montero Odasso, who is also a clinician-scientist at Western University.

The research also raises fascinating questions about our species, since bipedalism and brain expansion were both crucial adaptations in the evolution of Homo sapiens. In fact, many believe they were linked: that walking upright was necessary to develop bigger, more sophisticated brains. Other mammals, such as cats, can walk in a straight line even without a functioning cortex. But in humans, important aspects of cognition like attention and memory share the same brain circuits that control gait and navigation.

In Bartha’s lab at Western University’s Robarts Research Institute, multiple experiments are underway. But perhaps the most exciting is a collaboration among biophysicists, cell biologists, chemists and others at the multidisciplinary institute: the team is trying to develop injectable chemical tracers that would cling to early imbalances in the dementia-damaged brain and light up under an MRI scan.

 “They would kind of hunt out and stick to pathological changes associated with Alzheimer’s disease,” says Bartha. “It’s not something we’re actually doing in people yet — we’re still in the animal phase of testing — but it’s really a neat idea, and I think that’s the big future for imaging.”

Researchers already use a type of imager known as PET to scan for abnormal brain proteins linked to dementia, but in the context of clinical trials and other research — not as a diagnostic tool. PET systems are also rare, requiring long waits.

“In terms of getting this out to people, they wouldn’t have to wait a year or two for a scan. MRI is much more accessible, and it’s much cheaper than PET,” says Bartha. MRI is also a more flexible tool. “We can take really nice pictures, but we can also look at how the brain is functioning; we can do a memory test while someone is in the scanner.”

Montero Odasso and Bartha both see their own approach as the future. But they do not see themselves in competition: in fact, the participants in Montero Odasso’s trial undergo MRIs in Bartha’s lab, and both lead teams in the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging, a massive research network that aims to promote collaboration among top scientists and lead to transformative results.

Biomarkers: where else are researchers looking?

 Saliva: University of Alberta research presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in July showed that in a small sample of diseased and non-diseased patients, those with dementia had different patterns of certain substances that are the byproducts of metabolism. The evidence is very preliminary, but presents a tantalizing opportunity if it can be validated, because saliva is so easy to obtain.

 Cerebrospinal fluid: Research has suggested that those with dementia have different levels of amyloid and tau, two abnormal proteins linked to Alzheimer’s, in their cerebrospinal fluid, the clear fluid that protects the brain and spinal cord. Other proteins indicative of damage to the brain’s synapses, such as one called neurogranin, are also being probed.

 Blood: Researchers are also investigating whether abnormal levels of proteins can be detected in blood — a bodily fluid that is much easier to obtain and much more cost-effective, but still more invasive than other techniques.

 Eye: Researchers with the Ontario Neurodegenerative Disease Research Initiative are investigating eye movement as a potential biomarker, since some patterns, such as jumping between objects passing by a car window, are linked to the brain’s frontal lobe, where early damage occurs in Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases. The researchers are also examining how nerve fibres and blood vessels change over time in the eyes of dementia patients. Research elsewhere has suggested that amyloid and tau can be detected in dementia sufferer’s eye lenses.

 Brain: Since dementia is a neurodegenerative disorder, naturally, researchers are investigating many different biomarkers in the brain, including the presence of inflammation, evidence of altered proteins and simple brain size.

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Be safe from gastroenteritis

Posted on 22 July 2015 by admin

Gastroenteritis

WITH monsoon upon us, health experts say that gastroenteritis is a common ailment that is affecting hundreds of people in the city. One of the most common symptoms of gastro is vomiting and diarrhoea, which causes severe weakness and discomfort.

Other symptoms include painful cramps in the stomach, bodyache, fever, waves of nausea and giddiness due to dehydration.

If you suffer from some of these symptoms or notice a family member suffering from them, it is best to get checked by a doctor to rule out any ailments. Senior citizens and children are more susceptible to dehydration, so it is important that they stay adequately hydrated.

General Physician Dr Manjusha Agarwal says that while street food can be very tempting during this weather, it is best to prepare tasty snacks in your own kitchen to keep temptations at bay. “Use only boiled, bottled or purified water.

Avoid water and ice that is not made from the above kind of water. Don’t drink beverages made other than from treated boiled water and do not add ice, even if they are not chilled to your liking. Avoid juices, buttermilk, lemon juice, etc, from street vendors. One must even avoid fruits, which have been pre-cut or peeled and kept in the open. It is strongly recommended to be careful about leafy vegetables like cabbage, spinach, fenugreek etc.

Presence of mud, dirt and worms make them all highly infectious. Fruits like pears, peaches, plums, papayas and bananas should be thoroughly washed before consuming.”

She continues, “Maintaining simple hygiene practices such as frequent hand washing especially before meals helps prevent communicable diseases. Have a balanced and protein rich diet — don’t forget to include antioxidant rich foods such as green tea, fresh fruits and assorted nuts to fight against infections and have strong immunity.”

In a nutshell There could be several causes of gastroenteritis.

These include:

- Consuming contaminated food or water.

- Following unhealthy hygiene habits or coming in contact with someone who already has the virus.

- Since the disease is often referred to as a foodborne disease, it is best to avoid eating out during this season.

- Make sure you boil all drinking water and keep the kitchen area clean and dry.

- Cook all food items thoroughly — don’t leave anything undercooked.

- Don’t keep cut fruits and vegetables open for a long time. Consume them soon after cutting.

- It is also advisable to maintain good hygiene habits — wash your hands every time after visiting the washroom.

- Use a hand sanitiser while travelling.

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Screen Addiction Is Taking a Toll on Children

Posted on 10 July 2015 by admin

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Excessive use of computer games among young people in China appears to be taking an alarming turn and may have particular relevance for American parents whose children spend many hours a day focused on electronic screens. The documentary “Web Junkie,” to be shown next Monday on PBS, highlights the tragic effects on teenagers who become hooked on video games, playing for dozens of hours at a time often without breaks to eat, sleep or even use the bathroom. Many come to view the real world as fake.

Chinese doctors consider this phenomenon a clinical disorder and have established rehabilitation centers where afflicted youngsters are confined for months of sometimes draconian therapy, completely isolated from all media, the effectiveness of which remains to be demonstrated.

While Internet addiction is not yet considered a clinical diagnosis here, there’s no question that American youths are plugged in and tuned out of “live” action for many more hours of the day than experts consider healthy for normal development. And it starts early, often with preverbal toddlers handed their parents’ cellphones and tablets to entertain themselves when they should be observing the world around them and interacting with their caregivers.

In its 2013 policy statement on “Children, Adolescents, and the Media,” the American Academy of Pediatrics cited these shocking statistics from a Kaiser Family Foundation study in 2010: “The average 8- to 10-year-old spends nearly eight hours a day with a variety of different media, and older children and teenagers spend more than 11 hours per day.” Television, long a popular “babysitter,” remains the dominant medium, but computers, tablets and cellphones are gradually taking over.

“Many parents seem to have few rules about use of media by their children and adolescents,” the academy stated, and two-thirds of those questioned in the Kaiser study said their parents had no rules about how much time the youngsters spent with media.

Parents, grateful for ways to calm disruptive children and keep them from interrupting their own screen activities, seem to be unaware of the potential harm from so much time spent in the virtual world.

“We’re throwing screens at children all day long, giving them distractions rather than teaching them how to self-soothe, to calm themselves down,” said Catherine Steiner-Adair, a Harvard-affiliated clinical psychologist and author of the best-selling book “The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age.”

Before age 2, children should not be exposed to any electronic media, the pediatrics academy maintains, because “a child’s brain develops rapidly during these first years, and young children learn best by interacting with people, not screens.” Older children and teenagers should spend no more than one or two hours a day with entertainment media, preferably with high-quality content, and spend more free time playing outdoors, reading, doing hobbies and “using their imaginations in free play,” the academy recommends.

Heavy use of electronic media can have significant negative effects on children’s behavior, health and school performance. Those who watch a lot of simulated violence, common in many popular video games, can become immune to it, more inclined to act violently themselves and less likely to behave empathetically, said Dimitri A. Christakis of the Seattle Children’s Research Institute.

In preparing an honors thesis at the University of Rhode Island, Kristina E. Hatch asked children about their favorite video games. A fourth-grader cited “Call of Duty: Black Ops,” because “there’s zombies in it, and you get to kill them with guns and there’s violence … I like blood and violence.”

Teenagers who spend a lot of time playing violent video games or watching violent shows on television have been found to be more aggressive and more likely to fight with their peers and argue with their teachers, according to a study in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence.

Schoolwork can suffer when media time infringes on reading and studying. And the sedentary nature of most electronic involvement — along with televised ads for high-calorie fare — can foster the unhealthy weights already epidemic among the nation’s youth.

Two of my grandsons, ages 10 and 13, seem destined to suffer some of the negative effects of video-game overuse. The 10-year-old gets up half an hour earlier on school days to play computer games, and he and his brother stay plugged into their hand-held devices on the ride to and from school. “There’s no conversation anymore,” said their grandfather, who often picks them up. When the family dines out, the boys use their devices before the meal arrives and as soon as they finish eating.

“If kids are allowed to play ‘Candy Crush’ on the way to school, the car ride will be quiet, but that’s not what kids need,” Dr. Steiner-Adair said in an interview. “They need time to daydream, deal with anxieties, process their thoughts and share them with parents, who can provide reassurance.”

Technology is a poor substitute for personal interaction.

Out in public, Dr. Steiner-Adair added, “children have to know that life is fine off the screen. It’s interesting and good to be curious about other people, to learn how to listen. It teaches them social and emotional intelligence, which is critical for success in life.”

Children who are heavy users of electronics may become adept at multitasking, but they can lose the ability to focus on what is most important, a trait critical to the deep thought and problem solving needed for many jobs and other endeavors later in life.

Texting looms as the next national epidemic, with half of teenagers sending 50 or more text messages a day and those aged 13 through 17 averaging 3,364 texts a month, Amanda Lenhart of the Pew Research Center found in a 2012 study. An earlier Pew study found that teenagers send an average of 34 texts a night after they get into bed, adding to the sleep deprivation so common and harmful to them. And as Ms. Hatch pointed out, “as children have more of their communication through electronic media, and less of it face to face, they begin to feel more lonely and depressed.”

There can be physical consequences, too. Children can develop pain in their fingers and wrists, narrowed blood vessels in their eyes (the long-term consequences of which are unknown), and neck and back pain from being slumped over their phones, tablets and computers.

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How to Protect Your Skin From the Sun This Summer

Posted on 26 June 2015 by admin

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What have been the recent changes in sunscreen protection?

There are two major changes in Canadian sun protection taking effect this summer. They’re part of a new Health Canada legislation that passed late last year. These changes are going to start happening this summer and will apply to new products. However, you may still see some products in the store, like last year’s stock in example, that aren’t following these rules.

The first major change is the UVA circle, which is the new seal of protection. This is possibly the most important piece of news in sun protection.

UVB rays cause sun burns and represent 5 per cent of the harmful UV rays which come from the sun. Meanwhile, UVA rays cause skin cancer and aging, and represent 95 per cent of the harmful UV rays that come from the sun. SPF is only a measure of UVB protection and doesn’t imply anything about UVA at all.

Since SPF is only referring to protection from UVB rays causing sunburns, Health Canada wanted a way to let people know how well sunscreens on the market can protect from UVA rays.

What to look for: Sunscreens that meet health Canada’s minimum standard of UVA protection will be allowed to display a new logo on their packaging. It looks like the image below. Canadians need to look for the circle.

The second major change is the new limit on SPF.

While there’s a significant difference between SPF levels of SPF 30 and SPF 60, once you
go above SPF 60, there’s a minimal difference in the level of protection that you’re getting.

Reason for the change: Health Canada wants to stop the misconceptions that lead to under-use of sunscreens with excessively high SPF. For example a common misconception is the idea that “SPF 100 is 100 per cent protection from the sun.”

It’s not, in fact no sunscreen is truly 100 per cent protection but once you’re at SPF 50, you’re about as close as you’ll get. This misconception causes people to under-apply thinking they’re more protected than they are. Or perhaps worse, not bother to re-apply.

What to look for: From now on the new cap on SPF will be 50. If a sunscreen has a higher SPF value than that it will be labelled as SPF 50+. This should keep things safe and easy to understand for Canadians.

Who should be using sunscreen?

Everyone should be using sunscreen, but especially children as their skin is more fragile and susceptible to sun damage. More importantly, if you get a serious sun burn before the age of 16, your chances of suffering from skin cancer later in life (increases).

If you have been using self tanner are you safe from the sun?

If you want a your skin to have a golden, “sun-kissed” glow, self-tanners are a much safer way to achieve this look, rather than actually tanning in the sun. Just keep in mind that self-tanners often don’t contain much (if any) SPF or UVA protection. So if you’re going outside in the sun, you’ll still need a high protection sunscreen.

How to get the most out of your sunscreen protection?

Ensure that you’re applying 30 ml (which is the equivalent of the size of a golf ball) for your whole body when you’re out in the sun.

Ensure you apply your sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside. It takes about this long to bind to your skin. However, if you use a mineral sunscreen, it can be applied right before you go out under the sun and you won’t need to wait 30 minutes.

Sunscreen only lasts for two hours. Make sure you re-apply if you’re going to be out in the sun longer. Keep in mind that it takes 30 minutes for your sunscreen before it starts working, so that implies to re-apply every 1.5 hours to be safe.

Any other tips?

Even if you’re using waterproof sunscreen, make sure you re-apply after you towel off.

I will be using these tips to keep my skin safe and happy this summer. Your suggestions are always welcome, as I continue on my journey to enjoy life to the fullest. Let’s have the very best 2015!

 

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Monkey malaria in humans on the rise

Posted on 13 June 2015 by admin

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Plasmodium knowlesi, previously thought to only affect macaques, caused 66 per cent of Malaysia’s malaria cases last yea

In the spring of 1965, a lone American set off for the jungles of Malaysia, sleeping by day and working by night. The official story is that “B.W.” was a surveyor with the U.S. army; it’s believed, however, that he was actually a CIA spy, dispatched to the Malaysian hilltops to eavesdrop on communists.

It remains unclear what B.W. accomplished in that jungle. But according to the medical literature, he definitely picked up something strange: a mean case of monkey malaria.

Two weeks after leaving Malaysia, B.W. landed in a Maryland hospital with a diagnosis of Plasmodium knowlesi, a form of malaria previously thought to only infect macaques.

He became the first person in recorded history to catchmonkey malaria in the wild, but he would not be the last. Today, five decades after B.W. came down with a fever, thousands of P. knowlesi cases have been reported across Southeast Asia, in every country but Laos. The vast majority have occurred in Malaysia, where the monkey parasite is now the leading cause of human malaria, and government officials recently announced that P. knowlesi caused 66 per cent of the country’s 3,923 malaria cases last year.

Once written off as a monkey problem, scientists now consider P. knowlesi to be the “fifth human malaria.” But even as the human toll ticks upward, the mystery around this strange disease lingers.

“It’s surprising how little we do know about P. knowlesi,” said Jonathan Cox, a medical geographer with the London School of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, who is spearheading a project studying the disease’s emergence. “I don’t think it’s going to cause a pandemic or anything. But we don’t know enough about the risk factors to know exactly what we’re dealing with yet.”

Even the CIA agent’s case was considered a fluke, with investigations at the time concluding it was a freak occurrence.

“The 1965 case was probably considered a curiousity,” said Dr. Christopher Plowe, a malaria expert with the University of Maryland. “We had no clue P. knowlesi was significant to human health.”

But then came the husband-and-wife team of Balbir Singh and Janet Cox-Singh, both malaria researchers who moved to Malaysian Borneo, where they started a lab at the University of Malaysia Sarawak.

Prior to leaving, Singh asked a World Health Organization colleague if there was anything interesting about malaria in Malaysia that he should investigate. “He said, ‘Look out for P. malariae,” Singh recalled.

  1. malariaeis one of the rarer forms of human malaria. But as the country made greater strides in fighting malaria — reducing its annual caseload from 60,000 in 1995 to less than 4,000 last year — it became increasingly clear that there was something odd about Malaysia’sP. malariae cases.

For one, patients were getting really sick, sometimes even dying — unusual for P. malariae, which is thought to cause milder disease. So Singh travelled by boat up the Rajang river to visit a hospital in the remote region of Malaysia where cases were clustering, bringing a handful of patient blood samples back to his lab.

Using what was then-considered novel gene sequencing technology, Singh quickly realized why these cases were so weird. They weren’t P. malariae at all; they were P. knowlesi.

“Initially, we thought it was just one or two cases,” said Singh. “But what we found out was that virtually everything that’s been identified as P. malariae has been P. knowlesi.”

Singh has since identified more than 1,200 cases and he now believes that P. malariaeisn’t endemic to Malaysia at all. He explains that previous cases were probably misdiagnosed because the two malarias look so similar under the microscope.

For Singh, there are many important questions to answer still when it comes to P. knowlesi, including why, exactly, cases seem to be on the rise. His worst-case scenario is that P. knowlesi (still believed to be sporadically jumping from monkey to human) will evolve to start spreading human-to-human — a development that could pave the way for monkey malaria to spread beyond Southeast Asia and regions where macaques are prevalent.

Of the five human malarias, P. knowlesi is still a lower priority, accounting for a tiny proportion of the total human misery caused by this disease. But scientists know fully well that infectious diseases are always ready to send up new surprises.

“We can too often, as researchers, slip into a way of thinking that ‘Malaria is this’ or ‘Malaria is that,’” said David Conway, a malaria researcher at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine who also studies P. knowlesi. “But that can change — and it has changed.”

Why are cases of monkey malaria on the rise?

Here are four theories for what might be driving the uptick:

Better detection

Scientists suspect Plasmodium knowlesi has long been infecting people — only now we have the tools to detect it. Under the microscope, the parasite looks near-identical toPlasmodium malariae but thanks to a technology called PCR, scientists can now accurately diagnose monkey malaria. And as the old adage goes: “The more you look, the more you will find.”

Deforestation

Malaysia is undergoing massive deforestation, primarily due to an expansion of palm oil plantations. This means macaques (the natural “host” for the P. knowlesi parasite) are being driven from their habitats and spreading closer to human populations. Meanwhile, human population expansion is bringing people into jungles — and therefore closer to macaques and the mosquitoes that bite them.

Mosquito behaviour

The mosquitoes that transmit monkey malaria belong to the Anopheles leucosphyrusgroup, a forest-dwelling insect that likes to feed outdoors and bite at night. They prefer feeding on macaques but perhaps they’ve recently developed a taste for humans; another theory is that a new mosquito species has entered the mix. “Some mosquito vectors are quite open-minded,” said David Conway with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. “Mosquito populations can shift.”

Parasite mutation

Scientists still have a lot to learn about the P. knowlesi parasite and a recent study revealed that humans were actually being infected by two subtypes of the parasite, each specific to a species of macaque. So what might happen if mosquitoes were simultaneously infected by both P. knowlesi subtypes? “Potentially you could get hybridization,” said Jonathan Cox with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. “And that might change how pathogenic this parasite is.”

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Effective moves to deal with flabby arms

Posted on 08 February 2015 by admin

O you are one of those, one with the slender waist, yet are too embarrassed to get into a sleeveless outfit because you are embarrassed of your jiggly arms. It’s that upper arm flesh, which makes us think twice even when wearing short leaves. But you don’t have to live with those bat wings, sweat it out at the gym, or at home, and you are good to go.

But to get those wellsculpted arms, you need to work to reduce that flab from the back of your arms. For that, you need to include regular cardio workouts such as swimming, running, brisk walking, cycling in your workout regime, eat a healthy, balanced diet, give up processed, sugary food (cakes, biscuits, bread) for lean protein and good fats (chicken, lentils and dairy products), which will help your body build more muscle, and get at least six hours of sleep.

Aside of giving you a leaner silhouette, building muscle in your upper arms and shoulders helps you stand taller, so your posture improves. Arm strength is good for performances in activities from swimming to yoga.

BICEPS CURLSWORKS THE BICEPS

Hold a weight in each hand and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.

» The palms of your hands should be facing forwards.

» Bend your elbows, bringing your lower arms up towards your shoulders.

» Lower your arms slowly back and with control to the starting position.

REVERSE FLYES WORKS THE DELTOIDS

Stand with your knees slightly bent, a free weight in each hand.» Keeping your back flat, bend forward at the hips, lift both arms to the sides until they are parallel to the floor, squeezing your shoulder blades as you lift and main taining a slight bend in your elbows.» Count to one, then slow down. Do 10 reps.

DUMBELL ARM CIRCLES WORKS THE SHOULDERS, BACK, BICEPS AND TRICEPS

Sit tall in a chair or stand with feet shoulder width apart and knees slightly bent. Hold a weight in each hand and extend your arms straight out in front of you, chest height, slightly wider than your

» Bring your arms slightly forward, upward, and then backward, making 12 inch circles with your arms.

» Repeat the circle movement twelve times and then reverse the motion by going backward, upward, and the forward. Repeat that motion 10 times.

DUMBELL SKULLCRUSHERS WORKS THE TRICEPS

Lying on your back on a bench, extend your arms overhead with a free weight in each hand » Bend your el-

bows so your forearms are parallel to the floor. Slowly lengthen both arms at once, ex tending as high as you can. Count to one, then slow down. Do 10 reps.

DIPS WORKS THE TRICEPS

Sit on a chair or bench. With your arms straightened, place your hands on the chair bench next to your butt.

» Extend your legs straight out in front of you. Now, lift your bottom off the bench. This is your starting posi tion.

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Heart and Stroke Foundation urges limits to sugar intake

Posted on 17 September 2014 by admin

The Heart and Stroke Foundation is calling on the federal government to set limits on the amount of sugar manufacturers can add to their products and on consumers to avoid sugar-sweetened beverages.

Mounting research has linked even moderate amounts of sugar consumption to heart disease, diabetes, stroke and other major health problems. The average Canadian consumes more than 13 per cent of their daily calories in the form of sugars added to food and beverages.

The new evidence is what prompted the Heart and Stroke Foundation to issue a series of recommendations, including a call for Canadians to reduce their total consumption of so-called “free” sugars to no more than 10 per cent of daily calories, with the ideal benchmark being 5 per cent of daily calories. Free sugars refers to all sugar added to food, as well as syrups, honey and fruit juices. Earlier this year, the World Health Organization issued the same recommendations.

The report is adding to the growing pressure on Ottawa to step up and do more.

After months of mounting calls to establish a national sugar-consumption guideline, the federal government in July proposed the creation of a 100-gram-a-day limit as a way to help people control how much sweet stuff they consume. Health experts criticized the limit for being far too high and failing to distinguish between sugars naturally found in fruit, milk and other healthy fare and sugars added to cereal, pop, yogurt and other products.

For instance, under the proposed limit, a person could drink two 355-millilitre cans of Coca-Cola every day and still be under the recommended sugar threshold. And the focus on total, rather than added, sugars may mislead consumers into thinking they should limit natural sources of sugar, such as whole fruit, which would be a mistake, according to Manuel Arango, the foundation’s director of health policy.

The federal government’s proposal offers a key advantage to food makers selling sugary products, says Yoni Freedhoff, an obesity and nutrition expert based in Ottawa. Under the proposed rule, food manufacturers will be required to express the sugar content of their products as a per cent of the total daily recommended intake.

Using the Heart and Stroke and WHO recommendation of limiting added sugar to 5 per cent of daily calories, a can of Coca-Cola would account for much more than 100 per cent of the limit. But if the daily guideline is 100 grams, the makers of Coca-Cola can say one 355-millilitre can of pop only accounts for 42 per cent of a person’s recommended daily sugar consumption.

“[The federal government is] addressing sugar in a manner that is extremely friendly to the food industry,” Dr. Freedhoff said. “It really is a half-assed approach to dealing with sugar.”

Health Minister Rona Ambrose has said it’s important to look at reducing overall sugar consumption, and that’s why the government won’t focus on added versus naturally occurring.

William Yan, director of the bureau of nutritional sciences in Health Canada’s food directorate, said the department has received numerous comments questioning what the per-cent daily value will look like with the new sugar guidelines. But he added that consumers shouldn’t be using the per-cent daily value as a nutritional guide. It’s supposed to simply communicate how much sugar is in a product. He added that the department will carefully consider the foundation’s recommendations before it finalizes its proposals on sugar.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation is urging the federal government to reconsider its position and take a tougher stand by adopting its and the WHO’s recommended sugar limits. It’s also asking the food industry to consider the evidence linking sugar to chronic disease and reformulate products to have reduced sugar content.

Stephanie Baxter, senior director of communications with the Canadian Beverage Institute, said the industry would look to the federal government rather than the Heart and Stroke Foundation on the issue of sugar because it “has the research behind it.” She added that the industry also sells products that have no sugar or reduced amounts.

Concerns over sugar reached a boiling point in February, when the Journal of the American Medical Association published a study that found people who get 25 per cent or more of their daily calories from sugar are three times more likely to die from heart disease. People who consume 10 to 25 per cent of their daily calories in the form of sugar face a 30-per-cent increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

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Fall Allergies

Posted on 10 September 2014 by admin

What Causes Fall Allergies?

Ragweed is the biggest allergy trigger in the fall. Though the yellow-flowering weed usually starts releasing pollen in August, it can last into September and October. About three-quarters of people who are allergic to spring plants are also allergic to ragweed.

Ragweed pollen loves to get around. Even if it doesn’t grow where you live, it can still travel for hundreds of miles on the wind. For some people who are allergic to ragweed, foods like bananas, melon, zucchini, and certain other fruits and vegetables can also cause symptoms.

Mold is another fall trigger. You may think of mold growing in your basement or bathroom – damp areas in the house – but mold spores also love wet spots outside. Piles of damp leaves are ideal breeding grounds for mold.

Don’t forget dust mites. While they are common during the humid summer months, they can get stirred into the air the first time you turn on your heat in the fall. Dust mites can trigger sneezes, wheezes, and runny noses.

Going back to school can also trigger allergies in kids because mold and dust mites are common in schools.

What Are the Symptoms?

  • Runny nose
  • Watery eyes
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Itchy eyes and nose
  • Dark circles under the eyes

How Are Fall Allergies Diagnosed?

Your doctor or allergist can help find out exactly what’s causing your watery, itchy eyes and runny nose. He’ll talk to you about your medical history and symptoms, and may recommend a skin test.

With a skin test, the doctor places a tiny amount of the allergen on your skin — usually on your back or forearm — and then pricks or scratches the skin underneath. If you’re allergic to it, you’ll get a small, raised bump that itches like a mosquito bite.

Sometimes a blood test may be used to diagnose allergies.

How Can I Treat My Allergies?

There are many medications you can use:

  • Steroid nasal sprays – reduce inflammation in your nose
  • Antihistamines – help stop sneezing, sniffling, and itching
  • Decongestants – help clear mucus out of your nose
  • Antihistamine eye drops
  • Immunotherapy in the form of allergy shots or oral tablets or drops
  • Stay indoors with the doors and windows closed when pollen is at its peak (usually in the mornings). Check pollen counts in your area.
  • Before you turn on your heat for the first time, clean your heating vents and change the filter. Bits of mold and other allergens can get trapped in the vents over the summer and will fill the air as soon as you start the furnace.
  • Use a HEPA filter in your heating system to remove pollen, mold, and other particles from the air.
  • Use a humidifier if you need to, to keep your air at between 35% and 50% humidity.
  • Wear a mask when you rake leaves so you don’t breathe in mold spores.

Tips to Manage Symptoms

Hospitals to query patients on race, sexual orientation

Hospitals are filled with sensitive information about what ails us, but a new series of questions being rolled out in parts of Toronto aims to drill deeper into personal lives, asking patients about their race, sexual orientation and how much money they make.

The large-scale demographic data collection appears to be a first in Canadian hospitals, calling on patients to reveal whether they were born in Canada and what language they prefer to speak. Whether they have a mental illness or abuse alcohol and drugs. Whether they’re heterosexual, gay or consider themselves “two-spirit.” Whether they make less than $30,000 or more than $150,000, or somewhere in-between.

Proponents of the voluntary survey say it’s designed to help health-care planners address inequities and language barriers and improve disease-prevention programs in one of the country’s most diverse and densely populated health regions. It’s also meant to fill an information vacuum created by the federal government’s elimination of the long-form census, said Camille Orridge, chief executive of the Toronto Central Local Health Integration Network.

But as the information-gathering project expands, some patients and physicians are raising concerns, questioning whether the survey is too invasive.

The data will help “ensure we’re planning for all populations,” Ms. Orridge said. “Capturing data at the start of the patients’ journey will … help us plan for the patients’ needs.”

George Vincent, an orthopedic surgeon at St. Joseph’s Health Centre, doesn’t think it’s appropriate to ask patients such personal demographic questions while they’re waiting for hospital treatment. He worries patients will feel obligated to answer. Or they might think their doctor ordered the survey and their responses could somehow negatively affect their care.

“That’s not the forum to be asking people about their sexual persuasion and the amount of money they have in the bank,” said Dr. Vincent, who suggests the questionnaire be mailed to patients instead. “They’re focusing on a vulnerable part of someone’s care, which I think is totally inappropriate.”

The provincially funded Toronto Central health region last year directed its 17 hospitals to begin asking eight demographic questions that stemmed from a pilot study involving two hospitals, Toronto Public Health and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. That project is now being expanded.

At St. Joseph’s, demographic data have been collected at presurgery registration since last October. Starting Tuesday, the questionnaire will be given to more patients – in the ambulatory care centre and at the fracture and eye clinics.

The expansion is at the request of Toronto Central, which asked St. Joseph’s and its other hospitals, including Mount Sinai, Sunnybrook and St. Michael’s, to broaden their survey efforts to capture 60 per cent of patients by the end of March, 2015. The data program was reviewed by health ethicists.

Other health regions are studying Toronto Central’s experience. Collecting socio-demographic data in hospitals occurs in the United States and United Kingdom, but it’s relatively new in Canada. Toronto Central began examining the idea in 2009.

Marylin Kanee, director of human rights and health equity at Mount Sinai, said properly training staff is key to ensuring patients feel comfortable with the survey and understand the information will be used to improve medical care. Researchers will not be given names of patients. Responses will be aggregated and analyzed to detect differences in health outcomes connected to variables such as race, language and poverty.

“This is information that will help us to tailor the care that we provide to our patients,” Ms. Kanee said. “It will give us information about who are patients are and it will help us to really understand where the inequities are.”

At St. Michael’s Hospital, Fok-Han Leung has experienced the benefits of having greater demographic information at his fingertips. Data collection was tested at the hospital’s family medicine outpatient clinic, with responses gathered on tablets. The information was then instantly linked to a patient’s file.

Seeing a patient’s income, for example, helped inform Dr. Leung’s prescription decisions. In some cases, a shorter medication supply and monitoring the drug’s effectiveness was more prudent than a costly 90-day prescription.

“It can sometimes help with diagnosis, but it very much helps with [care] management,” Dr. Leung said.

Patient participation in Toronto Central’s questionnaire has been strong so far: 85 per cent. At St. Joseph’s, Mike Heenan, vice-president responsible for quality and patient experience, said he’s heard from a few staff opposed to the hospital participating in the project. But he notes 95 per cent of 14,954 presurgery patients have answered the questionnaire, while only eight have registered concerns.

“We have not had anything that has caused us concern or has made us think we might want to pause this project,” Mr. Heenan said.

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