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News Archives, April 2005
Friday, 29 April 2005 12:20
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
Obesity linked to dementia
Middle aged people who are overweight or obese have an increased risk of dementia in later life, a study has found.

The British Medical Journal report found that being obese (having a body mass index of more than 30) in middle age made a person 74 per cent more likely to develop dementia in old age.

For overweight people (with a BMI of 25 to 29.9) the risk was 35 per cent greater than for those of a healthy weight (BMI between 18.6 and 24.9).

The study of more than 10,000 men and women over a thirty-year period was carried out by the US National Institute of Health.

Body mass index was shown to predict dementia most strongly among women.

Obese women were 200 per cent more likely to have dementia than women of normal weight, while obese men had only a 30 per cent increase in risk.

Ethnicity did not appear to affect the risk.

The authors predict that dementia incidence will increase five-fold in the near future due to the rising obesity levels combined with the aging population.

It was suspected that obesity might increase the risk of dementia by association with existing medical conditions already linked to dementia, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

However, results showed that the risk of dementia was increased by obesity independently of existing illnesses.

Researchers now believe that treatment of obesity in middle age could significantly reduce the risk of dementia in later life.

The study is published in the British Medical Journal.

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Friday, 29 April 2005 11:59
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
Cancer link to HRT alternative
Researchers have found that a popular alternative to conventional hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may increase the risk of cancer.

In The Million Women Study, a national study of women’s health undertaken by Cancer Research UK, those taking tibolone showed a higher incidence of endometrial cancer (cancer of the womb) than those on combined HRT.

However, the higher risk of breast cancer associated with combined HRT made it more risky overall.

HRT is used as a treatment for menopausal symptoms like headaches, insomnia and hot flushes. Different strengths and combinations of oestrogen and progesterone are used depending on the needs of the patient.

Previous studies have raised concerns over the higher risk of breast cancer, heart attack and stroke associated with long-term HRT.

Tibolone is used as an alternative to regular oestrogen as it is carries less of risk of breast cancer.

However, following Cancer Research UK’s latest findings, the Dutch pharmaceutical company Organon, that manufactures the drug under the brand name Livial, is discussing with regulators the best advice to give patients and doctors.

The team behind the research used data from questionnaires filled out by postmenopausal women attending mammograms, to compare rates of breast and womb cancers among those using no HRT, oestrogen-only HRT, combined HRT or tibolone, over a five year period.

Results showed around 6 in 1,000 women on tibolone developed cancer of the womb compared to between 2 and 3 in 1,000 on combined HRT. But when breast cancer rates were factored in, the risk was highest in women on the combined therapy.

Doctors stressed the cancer risks were very small and urged women not to be alarmed by the findings but to discuss their treatment with their doctor at the next visit.

The study is published in The Lancet medical journal.

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Friday, 29 April 2005 10:43
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
Rich-poor health gap widens
The health inequalities between Britain’s richest and poorest communities are at their widest since Victorian times, a report says.

Despite the Government’s intention to reduce the disparity, which widened throughout the 1980s and 1990s, new research has found that inequalities in life expectancy continued to grow in the early years of the 21st century.

The 10-year study showed life expectancy in the countries most prosperous areas rising at a greater pace than in the poorest areas.

Among men, the difference between the council with the lowest life expectancy (Glasgow City) and the one with the highest (East Dorset) had risen to 11 years, the biggest since Victorian times.

The report, published in the British Medical Journal, said that wealth disparities had been growing since the 1980s. The poorest 10 per cent of society now share 3 per cent of the nation’s income, while the richest tenth received more than a quarter.

Report co-author Danny Dorling said poverty was the factor most likely to have caused the health gap to widen.

He added that, based on latest income figures, we can expect to see the gap narrow slightly.

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Friday, 29 April 2005 10:39
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
Alcohol good for the brain
Professor Stefan Bren, at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, claims that alcohol is good for the brain.

He claims that a moderate intake over a long period sparks the growth of new nerve cells, so boosting memory.

He said: "It is possible that it leads to the formation of new brain cells, in the same way as with antidepressive drugs”.

The Campaign for Real Ale said: "A little alcohol is good for your body - so it's no surprise it's also good for your mind”.

But Prof Bren added “it could also lead to alcohol addiction”.

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Friday, 29 April 2005 10:22
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
Man dies after waiting an hour for ambulance
Michael Cowley, a haemophiliac died after waiting nearly an hour for an ambulance he suffered serious head injuries following a fall from his bicycle and lost consciousness an inquest has heard.

The Bristol inquest heard that Avon Ambulance Service was contacted three times by Mr Cowley’s friends and police after serious concerns about him grew.

Ambulance bosses who were struggling with a hectic surge of emergency cases that night 24th April 2004 categorised Mr Cowleys injuries to be "serious but not immediately life- threatening" and he was classed as a category B emergency.

As a result Mr Cowley died of his injuries four days later at Frenchay Hospital, Bristol.

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Friday, 29 April 2005 10:03
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
Stem-cell surgery restores sight
Sheraz Daya and his team from the Centre for Sight at the Queen Victoria Hospital, in East Grinstead, West Sussex, have successfully treated more than 20 people, in a new pioneering form of surgery; the surgery can restore the sight of patients by using stem cells to encourage damaged eyes to repair themselves.

The team treated the patients by growing cells, mainly from dead donors, in their laboratory and then transplanting them on to the patients' eyes. The procedure involves taking stem cells, which occur naturally in the eye, and developing them into sheets of cells in the laboratory. These are then transplanted on to the surface of the eye where they are held in place by an amniotic membrane, which dissolves away as the sheet fuses to the eye.

Sheraz Daya and his team, who have spent five years perfecting the technique, said that doctors had been astonished at how the cells appeared to trigger the eye’s natural regeneration of its damaged surface.

Mr Daya said: “The technique not only works, but there was no donor tissue there. That is what really blew our minds. The cells appeared to have been shed from the eye and replaced by the patient’s own, much more hardy, cells”.

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Friday, 29 April 2005 09:35
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
Garlic supplements cut the fat
In laboratory tests scientists claim that Garlic supplements can dramatically reduce the build-up of fatty deposits in the arteries. In the tests the scientists showed the formation of early deposits, "nanoplaques", was cut by up to 40 per cent. And the size of existing nanoplaques was also reduced by 20% after exposure to the supplement Kwai garlic.

Their findings were presented at an American Heart Association meeting held in Washington DC.

Professor Gunter Siegel, from the University of Medicine in Berlin, who led the study, said: "Of course, the results on nanoplaque build-up have to be confirmed in a clinical trial.

"A positive outcome of such a study would complement the already existing clinical studies and not only give hope to the millions of men and women especially at risk for cardiovascular disease because they have high cholesterol or blood pressure, or because they are overweight, smoke or engage in low physical activity, but also benefit those with only normal concerns about general cardiovascular health.

"We expect this research to further garlic's role as significant in helping medical professionals develop effective natural therapies for reducing cardiovascular risk”.

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Thursday, 28 April 2005 21:06
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
Nurses could take action over increase in pension age
Nurses have reacted angrily to proposals to increase the pension age from 60 to 65.

When the General Election was announced, the Government said it would start from scratch in its pension negotiations with public service workers.

Delegates at the Royal College of Nursing’s annual conference made it clear they would not accept an increase and 96 per cent voted in favour of some form of industrial action should all other measures fail.

Action is not likely to lead to nurses walking out of wards but could see them abandoning paperwork and unpaid overtime.

The RCN said it did not believe that most nurses wanted to or were able to work beyond 60 years-of-age because of the emotionally and physically demanding nature of the job.

The nurses’ body urged the NHS to instead concentrate on supporting older nurses so that more may choose to work beyond the current retirement age.

Earlier this week it was reported that the NHS was facing a nurse recruitment crisis and the RCN believes increasing the pension age to 65 will worsen the problem.

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Thursday, 28 April 2005 12:32
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
Lords to rule on legality of “designer babies”
The House of Lords will soon rule on the rights of parents to have “designer babies” to help the treatment of sick siblings.

A previous court ruling, banning the use of fertility treatment to save the life of a terminally ill boy, was overturned by an Appeal Court in 2003.

Campaigners say the Lords must now ban the practice again.

The case centres on Zain Hashmi, six, from Leeds, who suffers from a potentially fatal blood disorder known as beta thalassmaemia major.

His body does not produce sufficient red blood cells meaning he has to undergo blood transfusions every month and be drip fed drugs for 12 hours a day to stay alive.

Medical advancements mean doctors can now identify embryos with perfect tissue matches for a transplant operation.

This would have allowed the Hashmis to use cells from the new babies’ umbilical cord to help treat Zain.

Bur, tragically, Mrs Hashmi has had a series of miscarriages.

The campaigning group, Comment on Reproductive Ethics (CORE) have said that the concept of hand picking “designer babies” was against the law.

CORE asked the House of Lords to examine the legality of the practice under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990.

Founder Josephine Quintavalle said that Parliament must revise the act if the country wants to go down the road of deliberately designed babies.

If the appeal, heard last month, succeeds, it would stop the practice of tissue typing embryos to produce compatible siblings.

Mrs Hashmi said that she backed regulation to ensure that the technology was not abused, but stressed that she was just trying to give her son a healthy and prolonged life.

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Thursday, 28 April 2005 11:33
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
Research casts doubt on vitamin bone treatment
Taking calcium and vitamin D supplements may not help prevent fractures in elderly people, a study suggests.

Research was conducted into the effects of calcium and vitamin D in strengthening bones and preventing breakages in falls.

Scientists from Aberdeen and York examined 5292 people over 70 years of age with osteoporosis who had already had a fracture.

Supplements of calcium and vitamin D are commonly taken to protect bones but the results of the study showed that they in fact may not prevent fractures.

The subjects of the research were divided into four groups. One was given calcium supplements, the second vitamin D, the third a mixture of the two, and the fourth a placebo.

The groups were then monitored for between two and five years during which 698 experienced a fracture.

However, the incidence of fracture did not vary significantly between the groups, suggesting that supplements do not notably protect or strengthen people’s bones.

Professor Adrian Grant, who led the study, said the research provided no evidence that calcium and vitamin D played a role in the treatment of osteoporosis and the prevention of broken bones.

However, experts have warned that the patients in the study were younger than those in research which had previously shown calcium and vitamin D to be beneficial, and this may have affected the results.

The results are published in the medical journal The Lancet medical.

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