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High blood pressure: This type of berry could reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease

High blood pressure can endanger your life. It can lead to cardiovascular disease, increasing the risk of a heart attack and stroke. One type of berry has been shown to help get your health on track.

July 2020 has seen new research published in the scientific journal Complete Nutrition.

Leading Public Health nutritionist, Dr Emma Derbyshire, looked into the health properties of a certain berry.

“Berries are well documented for their health properties,” she began. “And Aronia berries have been gaining increased scientific interest in recent years.”

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Aronia berries

Also known as chokeberries, a 2015 review in the journal Food Technology and Biotechnology noted that previous research had found aronia to have the highest polyphenol content of 143 plants.

Polyphenols are micronutrients found in plant-based compounds that are linked to numerous health benefits.

Taking on board this information, Dr Derbyshire recognised that “the potential protective effects of polyphenol containing foods are well documented”.

Given the extremely high concentration of polyphenols in aronia berries, it was no surprise to Dr Derbyshire that they could reduce a person’s risk of “cardiovascular disease”.

Aronia berries have a number of proanthocyanidins, anthocyanins, flavonols, flavanols, phenolic acids, chlorogenic acids and quercetin derivatives.

Additionally, they contain vitamin C, folate, vitamin B1, B2, B6, niacin, pantothenic acid, vitamin K, bioactive and nutritional compounds ideal for health.

Dr Derbyshire continued: “By incorporating just five percent of aronia juice into a balanced diet can significantly improve inflammation and DNA repair mechanisms in the body.”

Delving into the research on aronia berries, Garcia-flores et al (2018) found that when triathletes drank 200 ml/day of aronia juice, they reported positive effects on the levels of inflammation.

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Researchers from the Department of Pharmacognosy and Molecular Basis of Phytotherapy, at the University of Warsaw, examined if aronia fruit extract could provide protection against atherosclerosis.

Atherosclerosis is when fatty materials are deposited on artery walls – heavily associated with cardiovascular disease.

The data revealed that aronia berry could “play a potential role in the prevention of coronary artery disease”.

This is because the aronia extract helped to relax the tissue, enabling improved blood flow.

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Coronary heart disease is one of the four main types of cardiovascular disease.

The other three are: strokes and mini strokes (transient ischaemic attacks), peripheral arterial disease, and aortic disease.

As well as high blood pressure, other risk factors for developing cardiovascular disease include smoking, high cholesterol, diabetes, inactivity and being overweight.

How to ingest aronia berries

People can eat fresh aronia berries, juiced aronia berries and use them as an ingredient in baked goods or other recipes.

In addition, aronia berries are available in supplement form. Tom Zivanovic, from Pharmavita, commented that “aronia berries are a game-changing staple”.

Realising the full potential aronia berries can have on a person’s health, Zivanovic created AroniaX Berry Shot.

“With all the discussions around immunity boosting and health on everyone’s radar, there’s never been a better time to up your polyphenol count.

“And AroniaX Berry Shot provides a month’s worth of polyphenols in a convenient series of one-a-day shots for a week.”

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Heart attack warning – the seven ‘unusual’ warning signs you may be missing

Heart attacks are serious medical emergencies that require immediate attention from a doctor. You could be at risk of a deadly heart attack – or myocardial infarction – if you develop any of these strange symptoms, it’s been claimed.

Heart attacks are caused by a lack of blood reaching the heart.

Without enough blood, the heart could become seriously damaged – and it may even be life-threatening.

A heart attack could also be a symptom of coronary heart disease, which is where fatty deposits build up in the arteries, which limits the amount of blood reaching the heart.

There are a number of signs that you should watch out for, as they could be caused by a deadly heart attack.

These symptoms are often described as ‘silent’ signs, because they may be easily ignored.

Dizziness, sudden fatigue or throat pain could all be the early signs of a myocardial infarction, warned Chemist 4 U founder, Shamir Patel.

You may also develop an unusual pain in your arm or in your stomach, and you may also start to sweat profusely.

Some patients could also develop swollen ankles or feet, as a result of an irregular heartbeat.

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“There are many ‘silent’ symptoms which may indicate a heart attack,” Patel told Express Health.

“These can be fatal if you’re not aware of the unusual types of concerns which could manifest to an attack.

“Of course, any form of chest discomfort is the most common sign of heart attack danger.

“If you’re experiencing any or more of these symptoms, seek medical advice immediately.”

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Silent heart attack symptoms

  • Nausea, heartburn and stomach pain – common in women
  • Faintness, dizziness and lightheadedness coupled with chest discomfort – it could mean your heart isn’t pumping as it should be
  • Pain spreading to your arm and radiating down the left side of your body
  • Sudden fatigue – suddenly feeling unusually fatigued and exhausted and being unable to complete slight tasks such as taking the stairs – especially within women
  • Throat pain, a persistent cough and increased snoring which is spreading up from the chest
  • Fever and sweating – a high fever and increased sweating with any of the other symptoms needs medical attention immediately
  • Swollen feet and ankles – an irregular heart beat and swelling to your feet and ankles is also an indication that your heart is under consistent strain

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The most common heart attack signs include severe chest pain and having a sudden feeling of anxiety.

But you can lower your risk of a heart attack by making some small diet or lifestyle changes.

Eating a healthy, balanced diet will lower your chances of fatty deposits in your arteries.

If you think you, or someone you know, may be having a heart attack, it’s crucial that you dial 999 straight away.

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Here’s What to Know About the COVID-19 Mortality Rate as Cases Climb

  • Many health experts are anticipating a growth in the mortality rate as a delayed consequence of the recent surge in new cases.
  • It takes time for symptoms and complications of the disease to progress to a potentially life threatening stage, in people who develop severe cases of it.
  • Medical professionals have also been honing their approaches to treating COVID-19, which might be helping to keep more patients alive.

The number of new COVID-19 cases reported in the United States continues to grow, particularly in the southern and western regions of the country.

Over the past 2 weeks, the national 7-day average of new daily cases has risen more than 60 percent, according to 91-DIVOC, a tracking site powered by data from the John Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering (JHU CSSE).

Over the same time period, the national mortality rate from COVID-19 has remained relatively stable, but that might be starting to change.

The country’s 7-day average of new daily deaths has started to creep up.

The 91-DIVOC plot of JHU CSSE data shows that it’s risen from about 580 deaths per day on Tuesday to 600 on Wednesday to 640 on Thursday.

Many health experts have been anticipating a growth in the mortality rate as a delayed consequence of the recent surge in new cases.

“The thing that I can’t actually know and I’m worried about is that this is simply the lag between the onset of infection and a sudden spike in the mortality,” Dr. Jerry Levine, chief medical officer at Chilton Medical Center in Pompton Plains, New Jersey, told Healthline.

“I hope not, I pray not, but I would not be surprised in the next 2 weeks if we begin seeing a spike in the number of patients that die,” he added.

Deaths lag behind infections

Multiple factors might help explain why the national mortality rate from COVID-19 has not risen as quickly as the new case rate.

Among other potential contributors, the lag that occurs between new infections, hospitalizations, and deaths might be playing a substantial role.

It takes time for symptoms and complications of the disease to progress to a potentially life threatening stage, in people who develop severe cases of it.

“What we found [in New York] is people would get infected, and somewhere around day 8 or 10 is when they would have that terrible inflammatory response, if they were going to have it,” Dr. Teresa Murray Amato, chair of emergency medicine at Long Island Jewish Forest Hills in Queens, New York, and director of geriatric emergency medicine at Northwell Health in Manhasset, New York, said.

“And then from that point on, it would take another couple of weeks until we would see whether they would get better or unfortunately pass away,” she said.

Other factors may also play a part

Time will help tell how much of a role the lag between new infections and deaths has been playing in curbing the national mortality rate.

It’s possible that the case fatality rate for COVID-19 has also declined.

In other words, a smaller portion of people who’ve recently tested positive for the virus might die from it, compared with the earliest days of the pandemic.

If that’s true, it might reflect changes in testing, demographic shifts in who’s been testing positive for the virus, advances in treatment, or other developments.

“Everything we talked about with COVID is very much a surmise, because it’s a new virus that up until 6 months ago never existed,” Amato said.

“It’s based on some facts, and it’s also based on surmising and looking at trends and sort of figuring out why things are happening,” she added.

Increased testing, younger patients

At the outset of the pandemic, limited testing capacity greatly restricted the number of people that health authorities could test for the virus. So they focused their efforts on people who were severely ill or deemed high risk.

Testing capacity has since increased, enabling authorities to detect and diagnose more mild cases of the virus than they did before.

The median age of people who are testing positive for the virus has also fallen in many counties and states, where adults under the age of 45 account for a large portion of new cases.

That might help explain why the national mortality rate has been slow to rise while new cases have spiked, since younger adults are much less likely than older adults to die from COVID-19.

“The age group seems to be more people in their 20s and 30s,” Amato said, “which we know from what happened in New York, seem to have better outcomes than their older counterparts.”

Improved treatment

Medical professionals have also been honing their approaches to treating COVID-19, which might be helping to keep more patients alive.

“We’ve learned a lot during the first wave of what not to do and what to do,” Levine told Healthline, “which I hope would reduce mortality.”

For example, last month, researchers from the RECOVERY trial reported that the use of a steroid known as dexamethasone was linked to lower rates of death in people with severe respiratory complications from COVID-19.

Healthcare providers have also gained insight into when it’s helpful to intubate patients, how patients should be positioned in their beds, and which patients are at high risk of complications.

Hospitalizations starting to rise

Although advances in testing and treatment might be helping to slow the national mortality rate, COVID-19 continues to have devastating effects.

COVID-19-related hospitalizations have begun to rise at a national level,
driven by recent increases in some of the states where new cases have been
surging. Death rates in some of those states have also been climbing.

In Florida for example, the 7-day average of new daily cases is up nearly 130 percent from 2 weeks ago. The 7-day average of new hospitalizations is up by nearly 68 percent — while the average daily death rate is up by almost 50 percent.

Even when patients with severe cases of COVID-19 do survive, they’re still
at risk of potentially disabling complications, such as blood clots
in the lungs and stroke.

Some community members are at particularly high risk of severe complications — including older adults, people with underlying health conditions such as diabetes.

Ongoing vigilance needed

To help protect vulnerable community members and prevent serious illness and death from COVID-19, Amato urges people to take steps to limit the spread of the virus.

“People still need to be vigilant, and even if the death rate seems like it’s going down, still wear the mask, do the social distancing, try to protect the more vulnerable populations,” she advised.

Levine also emphasizes the importance of remaining cautious, practicing social or physical distancing, and wearing face masks in public.

“I would just really stress that people have to take this seriously,” he said. They “have to do what they need to do to try to push this down and prevent new infections.”

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Hoping for a safe bet by gambling online? Now that IS high stakes

DR MAX THE MIND DOCTOR: Hoping for a safe bet by gambling online? Now that IS high stakes

For my patient Tanya*, it started innocently enough. Off work after an operation, she was bored and killing time online when she clicked on a pop-up advert for a betting site.

‘It seemed like fun,’ she told me. ‘The advert had women just like me in it. It was just a laugh.’

And at first it was fun. Then it became a daily treat to break up the monotony, Then it began turning into something sinister.

‘It started to really control me. It was actually scary,’ she said.

I am increasingly worried that during lockdown many more will have fallen victim to online gambling, writes Dr Max Pemberton (file photo)

Before long, gambling online dominated her every waking hour. The outcome is as predictable as it is sad. She lost her job, got into debt and was evicted from the flat she rented.

It took a further two years and a spell of homelessness before she sought treatment for her addiction and turned things around. But it left her with shattered self-confidence and ongoing anxiety.

Tanya’s story is far from unique. But I am increasingly worried that during lockdown — confined to the home with no work, no structure and isolated from friends and family — many more will have fallen victim to online gambling. Initially finding some sort of solace, their habit starts careering out of control.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Gambling-related Harm recently called for a ban on all betting adverts in order to curb the devastation this addiction causes.

This week, the House of Lords Gambling Industry Committee called for stake limits, a slowdown of online play and a ban on gambling advertising around sports.

It’s about time. We’ve heard a lot about alcohol use increasing during the lockdown, but I’m seeing patients for whom the legacy of lockdown is a gambling addiction.

Now, I don’t buy into the ‘disease model of addiction’, which holds an individual is entirely helpless in the face of their craving.

I believe that, while addiction may have complex psychological dimensions, ultimately — unlike other diseases — we are in control of our behaviour.

As bets are placed the brain releases the neurotransmitter dopamine, which creates euphoric feelings — exactly what happens when someone takes cocaine (file photo)

Having said that, vulnerable people need to be protected. They’re up against a multi-billion-pound industry and so the dice, if you’ll excuse the pun, is loaded against them.

MPs have said the Gambling Commission, charged with regulating the industry, has ‘failed to adequately protect consumers’ as business moved online. From a clinical perspective, gambling addiction is a fascinating, albeit tragic, phenomenon. People mistakenly believe it’s the winning that keeps gamblers hooked. It’s more complicated than that.

There are several elements that make it addictive, based on the way it ‘fires up’ the reward pathways in our brain, even if a gambler isn’t rewarded by a win.

The buzz of the expectation is incredibly intoxicating. Indeed, the neuroscience shows that gambling addiction involves many of the same neurological pathways as drug addiction.

As bets are placed the brain releases the neurotransmitter dopamine, which creates euphoric feelings — exactly what happens when someone takes cocaine.

We’ve heard a lot about alcohol use increasing during the lockdown, but I’m seeing patients for whom the legacy of lockdown is a gambling addiction, says Dr Max Pemberton (file photo)

The mind also plays a role in perpetuating the addiction by falling into ‘cognitive errors’ — false beliefs or incorrect thinking patterns. The ‘gambler’s fallacy’ is the mistaken belief that if an event happens repeatedly, a different event is imminent.

It’s this which keeps gamblers hooked. With each loss, they become more convinced a win is inevitable, fuelling their behaviour.

Interestingly, many gambling addicts report feeling hopeless about other aspects of their lives. By gambling they are giving themselves hope. That’s why they keep going back for more.

In the past, psychologists viewed gambling as a compulsion rather than an addiction. It was motivated by the need to relieve anxiety rather than a craving for pleasure. We now know that it’s more akin to addiction, yet we still don’t treat it accordingly.

While drugs and other substances that cause addiction are tightly regulated, or outlawed, gambling gets a free pass.

It makes no sense that it’s treated in such a lax fashion, given the devastation not only to the individual, but the loved ones dependent on them.

Yes we must ban online gambling adverts. But I’d go even further. Just as we’ve done with cigarettes, we should ban all gambling adverts altogether.

While people should be free to choose to gamble if they want, we cannot allow the vulnerable to be psychologically and cynically manipulated by the multinational gambling companies for profit.

*Names have been changed.

Insight is vital, a degree is not!

In a bid to meet Boris Johnson’s pledge for 20,000 new police officers, fast-tracking for graduates and enrolling officers in ‘on-the-job’ degrees have been ditched. This has been met with accusations that the police force is being ‘dumbed down’.

I disagree. Police officers should not be required to have a degree. The idea that those with one are somehow better equipped for policing is a fallacy.

The same principle was applied to nursing. But when it comes to working with people, there are some things you can’t learn from a textbook. Care, compassion, how to de-escalate a situation, and so on, are all vital skills for working on the front line.

In a bid to meet Boris Johnson’s pledge for 20,000 new police officers, fast-tracking for graduates and enrolling officers in ‘on-the-job’ degrees have been ditched (file photo)

This over-professionalising of vocational jobs hasn’t resulted in better recruits, just people saddled with more debt who go ‘by the book’ rather than using their initiative or practical experience.

I once worked with an elderly Irish nurse in A&E. She didn’t have a degree, but what she didn’t know about medicine wasn’t worth knowing.

I remember watching her calm a rowdy group of drunk lads on a stag do, before consoling a family whose daughter had just died.

To think her insight is deemed of less value because she doesn’t have a certificate is ludicrous.

While some people are celebrating the end of lockdown (and a return to normality of sorts), others are anxious — including the nation’s Domestic Goddess, Nigella. She has, she said, become ‘utterly content with desocialisation’.

There’s no doubt there were — and still are — many people who felt lonely. But the past few months has given us respite from the constant merry-go-round of socialising.

As we emerge from lockdown, perhaps the take-home message isn’t that we like our own company, but rather we need to be more selective about the company we keep.

Once again I am bowled over by the kindness and generosity shown by our readers for the Mail Force charity, which is doing so much to help those working in the NHS. 

The charity announced this week that it has now bought a staggering £10 million worth of personal protective equipment (PPE) for front-line workers. As one of those workers, I just want to say an enormous thank you to everyone who’s donated.

We’re all truly grateful — and your continued support means the world to us.

Panto deserves to take centre stage 

Actor John Barrowman has gone to war with snobby theatre critics for mocking Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden’s plans to save pantomimes as part of the government’s arts bailout.

John Barrowman, above, has gone to war with snobby theatre critics for mocking Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden’s plans to save pantomimes

He told them to ‘p*** off’. Quite right! I loathe this elitist view of what theatre should be. I love a pantomime.

In fact, every year for ten years, as a youngster, I took part in our local amateur pantomime to raise money for Thames Valley Hospice.

I’ve gone to at least one panto every year since. They are not only a staple of the regional theatre calendar, providing vital revenue, but a wonderful introduction to the dramatic arts for children, too.

They have their roots in the old English Mummers’ plays — folk plays — and are a rich part of our cultural heritage. Moreover, they can provide an important psychological insight for children, offering complex moral dilemmas and demonstrating the triumph of good over evil in a light-hearted way.

Ibsen isn’t for everyone. Sometimes we all need a bit of Widow Twankey in our lives. Oh, yes we do!

Dr Max prescribes…

Man Manuals from Men’s Health Forum

We’re often told that men don’t do enough to look after their health. Statistics show that one in five men dies before the age of 65, they have worse health outcomes compared to women — and they die, on average, 3.5 years sooner.

But the Men’s Health Forum was set up to address this inequality and improve health. Its Man Manuals — which are presented like a car handbook — provide useful, no nonsense guides in an accessible format, and cover everything from beating stress to improving diet (mens healthforum.org.uk/man-manuals).  

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Concerned About Your Kid’s Social Development? Getting a Dog Can Help

  • Kids everywhere are missing out on social opportunities because of the pandemic.
  • This can affect their social development and also contribute to increased behavioral problems.
  • Previous research has highlighted the benefits of pet ownership for older children, which include increased responsibility and empathy.
  • New research suggests even toddlers can benefit from pet ownership with improved social development skills.
  • Adopting a dog may be one way parents can help their kids mitigate the negative social development effects of physical distancing.

Social isolation and physical distancing have become necessary measures for eliminating the spread of COVID-19 and preserving as many lives as possible.

Following those guidelines hasn’t proven easy, though, with adults and children alike facing loneliness as they aim to keep a distance from those they love.

Experts have voiced concerns that prolonged physical distancing measures could have a negative impact on social development for kids.

But new research points to a possible way to address those concerns: getting your kids a dog.

The pandemic’s effect on our social and emotional health

COVID-19 has completely changed the way we interact with each other and live our lives.

Plenty of adults are feeling the weight of that, and most parents recognize the impact our current global situation is having on their children as well.

Mayra Mendez, PhD, LMFT, is a licensed psychotherapist and program coordinator for intellectual and developmental disabilities and mental health services at Providence Saint John’s Child and Family Development Center in Santa Monica, California.

She says that while children are naturally more resilient than adults, they’re still struggling right now — and how that manifests may vary from child to child.

“Societal trauma may impact children by heightening their sense of uncertainty, confusion, ambiguity, and worry,” Mendez explained. “Children may show signs of emotional and mental health impact by increasing questions reflecting feelings of fear and distress.”

Mendez says parents may be noticing increased behavioral problems as well.

This might include outbursts, irritability, poor sleep behavior, and difficulty concentrating and problem-solving.

And younger children may exhibit increased intensity and insecure feelings. They may express this by clinging more and resisting time alone.

Beyond all that, childhood is a prime time for social development. There are reasons for concerns about how physical distancing measures will affect that.

“Some potentially negative implications of long-term social distancing for children could be that it results in limited educational and mental stimulation due to narrow and diminished availability of enriching social interactions,” Mendez said.

While virtual methods allow for some interaction, it’s not the same as in-person engagement.

It’s through playing together that children learn important social concepts like sharing, taking turns, problem-solving, and understanding nonverbal communication cues.

The benefits of pet ownership

That’s where the latest research comes in.

Published in the July issue of Pediatric Research, the study examined 1,646 families to determine whether having a dog helped toddlers with social development.

The results were extremely positive. The researchers found that parents in dog-owning families were 30 percent less likely to report conduct and peer problems with their toddlers in comparison to families that don’t own dogs.

“The powerful message delivered in the research referenced in the article is that pet ownership supports and enhances social-emotional competence in children as young as toddlers,” Mendez said.

“Interactions with pets are as powerful in building relational skills and bonding as the interactions young children have with their parents,” she said.

But it isn’t just owning a dog that helps. It’s also how often the children engage in the care of that dog.

The researchers found that kids who helped their parents walk the family dog at least once a week and played with the dog at least three times a week exhibited greater benefits in social development than those who didn’t.

This makes a lot of sense, says Lisa Pion-Berlin, PhD, ACHT, ACSW, president and CEO of Parents Anonymous Inc.

“In caring for and loving a pet, all family members thrive and feel better through this personal connection: unconditional love,” Pion-Berlin explained. “Even teaching children how to care for an animal creates an emotional connection and enhances our purpose to give to others.”

Pet ownership has benefits for older children, too

While this particular research focused on toddlers, previous studies have found older children in dog-owning families benefit from increased responsibility, positive identity, empathy, and trust.

“Pets are great mental health promoters of all ages,” Mendez said. “They are used as therapy tools as pets help people relax, laugh, play, and de-stress. Pets stimulate happy feelings, positive thoughts, and instill hope and trust.”

While the pandemic has forced so many to take a step back from their social relationships, pets offer an opportunity for kids of all ages to get outside, practice responsibility, and experience and share empathy and love with the animal in their care.

Pets can be a powerful, positive influence on kids’ social development in many ways

The research gives parents plenty of reasons to consider dog ownership during the pandemic, but Mendez says there are truly countless benefits to having a pet for kids during less stressful times as well:

  • Children learn and practice responsibility.
  • They learn selflessness.
  • Having a pet promotes empathy and capacity of caring for another life.
  • Interacting with pets reinforces global developmental skills for children.
  • Pets help children think and problem-solve through interacting and playing.
  • The process of teaching the pet tricks and positive behavior provides children with opportunity to practice clear, accurate, and meaningful communication skills.
  • Having a pet to interact with also helps children with stress management.
  • Playing with a pet releases tension, allows for the opportunity to engage in companionship, and builds capacity for reciprocity and give-and-take.
  • Pets promote physical and active exchanges and play.
  • Playing with pets increases agility and motor competence.

Beyond all that, Mendez added, “Studies have shown that children who have pets maintain better mood stability, emotional regulation, and overall better health.”

Things to consider before adopting a dog

With shelters having to close or limit staff across the country, Pion-Berlin says there are a lot of dogs and cats in need of homes right now. But she encourages parents to still thoroughly think this decision through.

“First, sit down and make this a family decision, and recognize that kids of all ages may say they will do the work to care for a pet but, in reality, parents have to ultimately take responsibility for the care of any animal,” Pion-Berlin said.

In considering that, Pion-Berlin encourages parents to ask themselves the following questions:

  • Do you have the time?
  • What benefits do you see for all your children?
  • Can your family afford the costs (food, medical, etc.) of caring for a pet?

If you’re thinking about getting a puppy or kitten, she says it’s important to consider the additional responsibilities of training.

“Also realize everyone gets attached to a pet, and they may get sick or die at one point, which will impact your family,” Pion-Berlin says. “That is life, but given the age of your children and the age of the pet, exploring this issue as adults is important.”

The pandemic isn’t ending anytime soon, but pet ownership may be one way to add some joy to these difficult days.

And while your kids benefit socially, you may just find you benefit from those canine cuddles and kisses as well.


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A nighttime whey protein snack increases morning blood sugar level in healthy people

Consuming protein at night increases blood sugar level in the morning for healthy people, according to new research presented this week at The Physiological Society’s virtual early career conference called Future Physiology 2020.

Having high blood sugar levels after eating is linked to health problems, such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity. Previous research has shown that a snack a few hours before a meal can help control blood sugar levels, which may partly explain why the first thing we eat each day (i.e., breakfast) tends to increase blood sugars more than other later meals.

This study investigated whether waking up at night to consume some protein might keep blood sugars lower the next morning. Surprisingly, the blood sugar response to breakfast was higher when participants had consumed protein rather than plain water at 4 a.m.

These unexpected findings may be informative for people trying to improve their control of blood sugar levels.

One explanation for the result is that the body does not expect or need much food to be consumed during the night and so the protein itself was turned into sugar. This may result in the body having more carbohydrate already available upon waking such that the energy in the breakfast can less easily be used or stored, so it builds up more in the blood.

The researchers at the University of Bath studied 15 healthy young men and women (eight females and seven males). The participants were awakened at 4 a.m. to drink 300 ml of a water solution, either with or without 63 grams of whey protein.

They then went back to sleep, and at 9 a.m., were provided with a standard amount of porridge for breakfast, with blood samples collected for two hours afterwards to check the blood glucose response.

The participants then returned to the lab to do the same again a week or so later, but were provided with the other drink at night (4 a.m.) so that the researchers could compare the glucose response to the same breakfast in the same person and see the effects of the night-time protein.

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Electronic health records fail to detect many medication errors

(HealthDay)—There is wide variation in the safety performance of electronic health record (EHR) systems used in U.S. hospitals, according to a study recently published in JAMA Network Open.

David C. Classen, M.D., from the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, and colleagues used data from the National Quality Forum Health IT Safety Measure EHR computerized physician order entry safety test administered by the Leapfrog Group (2009 to 2018) to assess EHR safety performance in U.S. adult hospitals. The Health IT Safety Measure test used simulated medication orders known to have either injured or killed patients to assess how well hospital EHR systems can identify medication errors associated with potential harm.

The researchers found that during the 10-year study period, mean overall test scores increased from 53.9 to 65.6 percent. For the categories representing basic clinical decision support, the mean hospital score increased from 69.8 to 85.6 percent. The mean score also increased for advanced clinical decision support categories (29.6 to 46.1 percent). Test performance varied by EHR vendor.

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Fast-spreading mutation helps common flu subtype escape immune response

Strains of a common subtype of influenza virus, H3N2, have almost universally acquired a mutation that effectively blocks antibodies from binding to a key viral protein, according to a study from researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

The results have implications for flu vaccine design, according to the researchers. Current flu vaccines, which are “seasonal vaccines” designed to protect against recently circulating flu strains, induce antibody responses mostly against a different viral protein called hemagglutinin.

The new mutation, described in the study published online June 29 in PLOS Pathogens, was first detected in the 2014-2015 flu season in some H3N2 flu strains, and evidently is so good at boosting flu’s ability to spread that it is now present in virtually all circulating H3N2 strains. Recent flu seasons, in which H3N2 strains have featured prominently, have been relatively severe compared to historical averages.

The mutation alters a viral protein called neuraminidase, and the researchers found in their study that this alteration paradoxically reduces the ability of flu virus to replicate in a type of human nasal cell that it normally infects. However, the researchers also found evidence that the mutation more than compensates for this deficit by setting up a physical barrier that hinders antibodies from binding to neuraminidase.

“These findings tell us that flu vaccines focusing on the hemagglutinin protein are leaving the virus openings to evolve and evade other types of immunity,” says study senior author Andrew Pekosz, Ph.D., professor and vice chair of the Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology at the Bloomberg School.

Every year, influenza viruses sicken millions of people around the world, killing several hundred thousands. The diversity of flu strains and their ability to mutate rapidly—two strains infecting the same host can even swap genes—have made flu viruses an especially difficult target for vaccine designers. Although scientists are working towards a universal vaccine that will protect long-term against most flu variants, current flu vaccines are designed to protect against only a short list of recently circulating strains. Any mutation that occurs in these circulating strains and appears to improve their ability to spread is naturally of interest to flu virologists.

The goal of the study was to understand better the workings of the new H3N2 mutation. Scientists have known that it alters the flu virus’s neuraminidase protein in a way that provides an attachment point, close to neuraminidase’s active site, for a sugar-like molecule called a glycan. But how the presence of a glycan at that location on the neuraminidase protein improves the virus’s ability to infect hosts and spread hasn’t been clear.

Pekosz and first author Harrison Powell, Ph.D., a graduate student in his laboratory at the time of the study, compared the growth, in laboratory cells, of typical H3N2 strains that have the glycan-attachment mutation to the growth of the same flu strains without the mutation. They found that the mutant versions grew markedly more slowly in human cells from the lining of the nasal passages—a cell type that a flu virus would initially infect.

The researchers found the likely reason for this slower growth: the glycan-attracting mutation hinders the activity of neuraminidase. The protein is known to serve as a crucial flu enzyme whose functions include clearing a path for the virus through airway mucus, and enhancing the release of new virus particles from infected cells.

It wasn’t entirely unexpected that the addition of a moderately bulky glycan molecule near the enzyme’s active site would have this effect. But it left unexplained how that would benefit the virus.

The scientists solved the mystery by showing that the glycan blocks antibodies that would otherwise bind to or near the active site of the neuraminidase enzyme.

Neuraminidase, especially its active site, is considered one of the most important targets for the immune response to a flu infection. It is also the target of flu drugs such as Tamiflu (oseltamivir). Thus it makes sense that a mutation protecting that target confers a net benefit to the virus, even if it means that the neuraminidase enzyme itself works less efficiently.

The finding highlights the potential for flu viruses to evade therapies, seasonal vaccines, and the ordinary immune response, Pekosz says, and points to the need for targeting multiple sites on the virus to reduce the chance that single mutations can confer such resistance.

The researchers have been following up their findings with studies of how the new mutation affects the severity of flu, how it has spread so rapidly among H3N2 strains, and how these altered flu strains have adapted with further mutations.

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Mom and baby share ‘good bacteria’ through breast milk

A new study by researchers at the University of British Columbia and the University of Manitoba has found that bacteria are shared and possibly transferred from a mother’s milk to her infant’s gut, and that breastfeeding directly at the breast best supports this process.

The research, published today in Cell Host & Microbe, found that certain bacteria, including Streptococcus and Veillonella, co-occur in mothers’ milk and their infants’ stool, and this co-occurrence is higher when infants nurse directly at the breast.

“Our study confirms that breast milk is a major driver of infant gut microbiota development,” said the study’s senior co-author Dr. Stuart Turvey, a professor in UBC’s department of pediatrics and investigator at BC Children’s Hospital. “We found that breastfeeding exclusivity and duration was strongly associated with a baby’s overall gut microbiota composition and that breast milk bacteria shape a baby’s gut microbiome to a similar degree as other known modifiers of the gut microbiota such as birth mode—meaning a cesarean-section or vaginal delivery.”

According to the researchers, this is the first study to evaluate the association of multiple breast milk feeding practices (mode, exclusivity, and duration), milk bacteria, and milk components with infant gut microbiota composition at multiple time points in a baby’s first year.

The researchers analyzed the microbiome of infants’ stool and their mothers’ breastmilk using 16S rRNA sequencing, a technique used to identify, classify and determine the abundance of microbes.

The 1,249 mother-baby pairs involved in the research are participating in the CHILD Cohort Study (CHILD), a world-leading birth cohort study in maternal, newborn and child health research. The findings build upon previous CHILD research that showed pumping breast milk is associated with differences in both milk microbiota composition and infant health.

“Uniquely, our study showed that while breast milk and the infant gut have distinct microbiota compositions, there are a few commonly shared bacteria that were more prevalent and abundant in breast milk of mothers who only nursed directly at the breast, while other bacteria showed dose-dependent associations with exclusive breastfeeding,” said the study’s senior co-author Brett Finlay, professor in the departments of biochemistry and molecular biology, and microbiology and immunology at UBC.

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Sleep: How to fall asleep quicker

Getting a good night’s sleep is as important as eating a balanced diet and staying active. The average adult needs between seven to nine hours of sleep. Any less, and you’ll find yourself feeling tired constantly during the day. Don’t worry, the NHS has a long list of tips on getting enough sleep.

How to fall asleep quicker

Set a bed-time

Bed-times aren’t just for little children, sleeping at a regular time can benefit adults too.

If you sleep at a similar time every night, your brain and internal body clock will be programmed to feel sleepy at this time.

You need between six and nine hours of sleep every night, so work out what time you need to wake up and set a schedule.

You should try and wake up at the same time every day, if possible.

Even if you feel like you need a lie in, this can disrupt your sleep routine and make it more difficult to sleep the following night.

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Wind down

Stop staring at screens until the moment you want to be asleep. You need to wind down before bed.

A warm but not hot bath will help your body to reach a temperature that is ideal for rest, and cause you to drift off soon after you slip into bed.

Stressful thoughts keeping you awake? Write a to-do list for the next day to organise your thoughts.

This will clear your mind of any distractions and let you relax in peace without worrying you will forget something.

Switch off Netflix and pick up a good book, or listen to a radio or a podcast.

These will all relax your mind by distracting it from all the worries you have.

Create a relaxing environment

Move around your room so that it is a relaxing environment.

According to the NHS, there’s a strong association in peoples minds between sleep and the bedroom, but certain things can weaken that association.

This includes TVs, gadgets, bright lights, noise, and an uncomfortable bed. Get rid of all these things.

Keep your room dark, quiet, tidy, and at a temperature between 18C and 24C.

No curtains? It’s time to fit some or get some blinds to keep the light out.

If you live on a noisy street, perhaps invest in double glazing or earplugs.

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Diet

What you consume affects your ability to sleep easily.

Cut down on caffeine – this means tea, coffee and energy drinks – in the evenings.

Caffeine consumed at any time of day will interrupt your sleep and prevents deep sleep.

Swap these beverages out for a warm, milky drink or a herbal tea.

Overeating or drinking too much alcohol is another insomnia culprit.

While alcohol or a big warm meal might make you feel sleepy initially, it may disrupt your sleep later on in the night.

Exercise

Exercising doesn’t just tire you out immediately after, a workout regime will help you to sleep.

Moderate and regular exercise, such as swimming or walking a few times a week, will help to relieve some tension built up over the day.

Don’t do a sweaty exercise routine before bed though, as this will keep you awake.

Stick to light yoga stretches just before bed to relax your muscles if you can’t sit still.

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