How Doctors Want to Die

Dr. Kendra Fleagle Gorlitsky recalls the anguish she used to feel performing CPR on elderly, terminally ill patients.

“I felt like I was beating up people at the end of their life,” she says.

It looks nothing like what people see on TV. In real life, ribs often break and few survive the ordeal.

Gorlitsky now teaches medicine at the University of Southern California and says these early clinical experiences have stayed with her.

“I would be doing the CPR with tears coming down sometimes, and saying, ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry, goodbye.’ Because I knew it very likely was not going to be successful. It just seemed a terrible way to end someone’s life.”

Gorlitsky wants something different for herself and for her loved ones. And most other doctors do too: A Stanford University study shows almost 90 percent of doctors would forgo resuscitation and aggressive treatment if facing a terminal illness. Continue reading

Sleeping posture could affect brain health, study shows

Sleeping on your side rather than your back or stomach might play a role in helping reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s and other neurological diseases, according to a new study.

Side sleeping opens a passage in the brain called the glymphatic pathway that dispels waste and other chemicals, say the researchers from Stony Brook University in the US.

“It is interesting that the lateral sleep position is already the most popular in human and most animals – even in the wild – and it appears that we have adapted the lateral sleep position to most efficiently clear our brain of the metabolic waste products that built up while we are awake,” says Dr Maiken Nedergaard of the University of Rochester.

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Spending half the day on your feet reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer, study says

Office workers should abandon their chairs for half their working day to reduce their risk of heart attacks, cancer, or diabetes, according to new guidance recommending people spend at least two hours – and preferably four – a day on their feet.

Bosses should provide desks which people can stand at, and allow workers to have regular breaks to walk around, according to the new study, commissioned by Public Health England (PHE) and the Active Working Community Interest Company.

And companies should warn their employees that: “prolonged sitting, aggregated from work and in leisure time, may significantly and independently increase the risk of cardiometabolic diseases and premature mortality,” says the expert guidance which is published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Office workers should spend at least two hours a day “standing and light activity (light walking) during working hours, eventually progressing to a total accumulation of 4 h,” recommends the first ever British guidance designed to curb the health risks of too much time sitting down.

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Adopting high fibre diet could dramatically cut risk of bowel cancer

Corn biscuits for breakfast; veggie dogs for lunch; okra, tomato and black-eyed peas for tea. It’s probably not a diet to tempt most Americans into shedding a few pounds.

But swapping westernised eating habits for the high-fibre diet of millions of people living in rural southern Africa could dramatically cut the risk of bowel cancer in the West, according to an innovative ‘diet swap’ study.

In research which saw 20 Americans switching diets with 20 South Africans living in rural Kwazulu, scientists saw dramatic effects on bowel cancer risk indicators after just two weeks.

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Paralysed man walks again after cell transplant

A paralysed man has been able to walk again after a pioneering therapy that involved transplanting cells from his nasal cavity into his spinal cord.

Darek Fidyka, who was paralysed from the chest down in a knife attack in 2010, can now walk using a frame.

The treatment, a world first, was carried out by surgeons in Poland in collaboration with scientists in London.

Details of the research are published in the journal Cell Transplantation.

BBC One’s Panorama programme had unique access to the project and spent a year charting the patient’s rehabilitation.

Darek Fidyka, 40, from Poland, was paralysed after being stabbed repeatedly in the back in the 2010 attack.

He said walking again – with the support of a frame – was “an incredible feeling”, adding: “When you can’t feel almost half your body, you are helpless, but when it starts coming back it’s like you were born again.”

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Bringing the Dead back to Life

A radical procedure that involves replacing a patient’s blood with cold salt water could retrieve people from the brink of death, says David Robson.

Rhee isn’t exaggerating. With Samuel Tisherman, at the University of Maryland, College Park, he has shown that it’s possible to keep bodies in ‘suspended animation’ for hours at a time. The procedure, so far tested on animals, is about as radical as any medical procedure comes: it involves draining the body of its blood and cooling it more than 20C below normal body temperature.

Once the injury is fixed, blood is pumped once again through the veins, and the body is slowly warmed back up. “As the blood is pumped in, the body turns pink right away,” says Rhee. At a certain temperature, the heart flickers into life of its own accord. “It’s quite curious, at 30C the heart will beat once, as if out of nowhere, then again – then as it gets even warmer it picks up all by itself.” Astonishingly, the animals in their experiments show very few ill-effects once they’ve woken up. “They’d be groggy for a little bit but back to normal the day after,” says Tisherman. Continue reading

Equation can “predict momentary happiness”

It has long been known that happiness depends on many different life circumstances.

Now scientists have developed a mathematical equation that can predict momentary delight.

They found that participants were happiest when they performed better than expected during a risk-reward task.

Brain scans also revealed that happiness scores correlated with areas known to be important for well-being.

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Stress and Heart Attack link explained

Scientists said Sunday they may have unravelled how chronic stress leads to heart attack and stroke: triggering overproduction of disease-fighting white blood cells which can be harmful in excess.

Surplus cells clump together on the inner walls of arteries, restricting blood flow and encouraging the formation of clots that block circulation or break off and travel to another part of the body.

White blood cells “are important to fight infection and healing, but if you have too many of them, or they are in the wrong place, they can be harmful,” said study co-author Matthias Nahrendorf of the Harvard Medical School in Boston.

Doctors have long known that chronic stress leads to cardiovascular disease, but have not understood the mechanism. Continue reading

‘Bonding hormone’ oxytocin has anti-aging qualities

The hormone known for creating soothing sensations during pleasant social and physical interactions might one day be used to maintain and repair aging muscles, according to a study conducted at the University of California at Berkeley.

Researchers say oxytocin, which is released during breastfeeding, sex, and even a warm hug, could become a viable treatment for age-related muscle wasting or sarcopenia.

Associated with social and romantic attachements, oxytocin increases libido and is thought to create social, familial and romantic bonds.

“This is the hormone that makes your heart melt when you see kittens, puppies and human babies,” said principal investigator Irina Conboy, associate professor of bioengineering and a member of the Berkeley Stem Cell Center and of the California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences (QB3). “There is an ongoing joke among my research team that we’re all happy, friendly and trusting because oxytocin permeates the lab.” Continue reading

The Generous Marriage

An article by Tara Parker-Pope

From tribesmen to billionaire philanthropists, the social value of generosity is already well known. But new research suggests it also matters much more intimately than we imagined, even down to our most personal relationships.

Researchers from the University of Virginia’s National Marriage Project recently studied the role of generosity in the marriages of 2,870 men and women. Generosity was defined as “the virtue of giving good things to one’s spouse freely and abundantly” — like simply making them coffee in the morning — and researchers quizzed men and women on how often they behaved generously toward their partners. How often did they express affection? How willing were they to forgive?

The responses went right to the core of their unions. Men and women with the highest scores on the generosity scale were far more likely to report that they were “very happy” in their marriages. The benefits of generosity were particularly pronounced among couples with children. Among the parents who posted above-average scores for marital generosity, about 50 percent reported being “very happy” together. Among those with lower generosity scores, only about 14 percent claimed to be “very happy,” according to the latest “State of Our Unions” report from the National Marriage Project.

While sexual intimacy, commitment and communication are important, the focus on generosity adds a new dimension to our understanding of marital success. Though this conclusion may seem fairly self-evident, it’s not always easy to be generous to a romantic partner. The noted marriage researcher John Gottman has found that successful couples say or do at least five positive things for each negative interaction with their partner — not an easy feat.

“In marriage we are expected to do our fair share when it comes to housework, child care and being faithful, but generosity is going above and beyond the ordinary expectations with small acts of service and making an extra effort to be affectionate,” explains the University of Virginia’s W. Bradford Wilcox, who led the research. “Living that spirit of generosity in a marriage does foster a virtuous cycle that leads to both spouses on average being happier in the marriage.”

Social scientists are now wondering if this virtuous cycle extends to children too. In a study of 3-year-old twins, Israeli researchers have identified a genetic predisposition toward generosity that may be further influenced by a parent’s behavior. Preliminary findings suggest that children with more-engaged parents are more likely to be generous toward others, which may bode well for their future relationships — and their parents’ too.

“We see meaningful differences in parents’ behaviors,” said Ariel Knafo, the principal investigator and a psychologist at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. “In the long run we’d like to be able to see whether it’s children’s generosity that also makes parents more kind or the other way around. Probably it’s both.”