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Archive for the ‘Health & Safety’ Category

ORMDL3. Does that mean anything to you? Perhaps only a set of letters and a figure. That’s all. Idem for me too. Not for scientists though. It seems to be the culprit. It’s a gene found in a more significant amount in the blood cells of children with asthma than in those without. This higher level of ORMDL3 could increase the risk of having asthma by about 70%.

That’s what a group of researchers from Imperial College London, along with others from UK, France, Germany, USA and Austria, have concluded after a study carried out on more than 2000 children.

Childhood asthma is a common chronic disease. 10% of children in the UK are currently affected. It’s a tough time indeed, for the children as it is for the parents. Therapies have hitherto been limited to attenuating the episodes of asthma, without significant progress into its cure.

Deep probe has yet to be effected into the exact causes of asthma. It is not well understood how ORMLD3 exacerbates the risk of asthmatic conditions in children. But the combination of genetic and environmental factors provides a definite clue.

The researchers compared the genetic makeup of childhood asthmatic and non-asthmatic patients. They probed into the mutational behavior of the nucleotides, the building blocks of genes making up the DNA (Deoxyribonucleic acid – a self-replicating material present in nearly all living organisms carrying the genetic information). Mutations were observed and the researchers unveiled those specific to childhood asthma.

The new findings will, it is hoped, pave the way for the development of new therapies. For further information see links below:

More about the gene linked with childhood asthma.

What is asthma?

How can I treat my asthma?

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Let us stop a moment in remembrance of the millions of anonymous, voluntary and unpaid people who donate their blood to save lives and to improve the health of others around the world. Let us recognize their efforts for a good cause. Let us thank them from the bottom of our heart for their altruism on the occasion of the World Blood Donor Day celebrated on June 14 every year.

Giving blood is saving life. Blood is never in excess. Someone somewhere needs some blood to remain alive. The importance of regular blood donation can never be overemphasized. A regular and timely supply of safe blood is vital for victims of accidents, women giving births and others requiring urgent surgical care.

There’s no race, no creed, no color, neither rich nor poor. Shortage of safe blood accounts for more than half a million deaths every year among women as a result of complications leading to severe bleeding during delivery. Although 99% of maternal deaths occur in developing countries with about 34% in Africa, 31% in Asia and more than 21% in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Countries around the world will focus on the theme for this year: Safe Blood for Safe Motherhoodto highlight the life-saving role of safe blood donation transfusion in maternal and perinatal care”. The celebrations are sponsored by four international organizations working to promote voluntary blood donation:

– World Health Organization
– International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
International Federation of Blood Donor Organizations
– International Society of Blood Transfusion

Blood donation campaigns are on. Don’t forget that little drop, it can save a life.

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Do you smoke? If you are a smoker, do you know that you don’t have the right to endanger the health of non-smokers? Are you current on the latest initiatives or legal provisions in your country?

I was a casual smoker at one time. I used to take a few puffs from my friends during outings and fun times. Like many hard smokers, I didn’t pay heed to the harmful effects tobacco smoke can have on my health. The only thing I realised and I hated the most is the bad breath that came out; stinky mouth. How disgusting when you have to approach your partner or your mate or anyone who doesn’t smoke.

As I had started to experience unstable blood pressure I decided for a check up in 1998. I was shocked when the doctor asked me if I was a heavy smoker. Reason? The echocardiography revealed dark spots; well this is what he told me. He didn’t trust my word when I insisted that I smoked only on rare occasions; not even one cigarette in a week. If I had dark spots what would be the case with regular smokers? I felt so much remorse that I stopped tobacco consumption for good. No first hand smoking at all. I’m not so sure whether it applies for passive smoking as we are all somehow exposed to smoke in the environment.

Tobacco is known to be the second major cause of death in the world. It is responsible for about five million deaths each year. It accounts for numerous diseases, disability, and malnutrition, loss of productivity, increased health care costs and serious economic problems. In a report in 1994 it was estimated that the use of tobacco caused an annual global net loss of USD 200,000 millions. The current pattern in smoking is expected to result in some 10 million deaths each year by the year 2020.

Studies have shown that smoke contains some 4000 toxic chemicals. These affect not only the smoker but also non-smokers who live in the surrounding by a phenomenon known as secondhand smoking or passive smoking. Secondhand smoke is other people’s tobacco smoke. It can cause serious damage to the human body, like blood clotting, increased risk of lung cancer and heart disease. The risk of such diseases is the same in smokers and secondhand smokers. Secondhand smoking occurs mainly in enclosed environments, in rooms, offices, bars, restaurants, casinos, vehicles and other such places where people smoke.

Secondhand smoke stays in the environment for long and is most of the time invisible and odourless. In a room it may be present after two and half hours even if you open the windows. In a car it’s even worse as all the smoke is concentrated in a small area.

Scared? Well, there’s every reason to be. But we can do something about it, together. Although most smokers would argue it’s not easy to quit smoking. If you can choose to smoke at your own risk and peril, you have no right to put other people’s health at risk. Non-smokers have the right to a smoke-free environment.

That’s why the United Kingdom will be introducing a law “to protect employees and the public from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke”. As from 1 July this year, therefore, smoking in all “enclosed” and “substantially enclosed” public places and workplaces will be prohibited by law. The law aims at a smoke-free environment.

Enclosed premises would include those having a ceiling or roof and fully enclosed except for doors, windows or passageways. Substantially enclosed premises would be those with a ceiling or roof but having an opening in the walls that is less than half the total area of the walls.

So you won’t be allowed to smoke in a public transport and work vehicles carrying more than one person. Smoking signs will have to be displayed in all smoke-free premises and vehicles. Indoor smoking areas including staff smoking rooms will be forbidden; and anyone willing to smoke will have to go outside. There will be a legal responsibility on managers to prevent people from smoking in smoke-free premises and vehicles. It will be a criminal offence if you don’t comply with the requirements of the law and you’ll be liable to fixed penalties or maximum fines upon conviction.

What better initiative than the upcoming UK legislation to crack down on smokers in the context of World No-Tobacco Day to be celebrated on 31 May with the theme: “Smoke-free environments”.

In Mauritius the campaign has started on 23 May and will last until 7 June to sensitize people on the ill-effects of smoking and the need to promote a smoke-free environment. TV spots, forums, radio talks, poster competitions and regional workshops are scheduled during that period.

But it’s all a question of personal choice and conscience. If each of us could contribute in bringing a halt to tobacco smoking, the world would be a healthier place to live.

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Migraine?

I didn’t go to work today. I had to take a sick leave. I woke up with a severe headache. The pain was on the right side of the head; typical of a migraine. I’ve been having it since quite a few years now. Sometimes it’s really hectic.

The symptoms vary from nausea, anorexia, photophobia, phonophobia and unrest.

I’ve tried to take pain killers but that doesn’t work for me. What relieves me really is a nap. Sometimes I need a long sleep until mid-day, and when I wake up it’s completely gone. I feel relaxed. The episode usually starts during the early hours of the morning and may last until mid-day. On rare occasions it may persist for the whole day.

Today it was mild. Even then I decided to stay at home as I didn’t want to be at the office in a mood that would distract my fellow colleagues.

As I write it’s 3.00 pm and I’m OK and wish to say “Hi” to all of you, my readers and supporters. Any of you ever had such a feeling? Any experiences? I’d like to hear about it. Just talking about it and sharing experiences heals, they say.

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Yesterday I couldn’t make it to my blog. I came back very late. It was 10.30 pm and I was exhausted. I had a long day’s work. On Thursdays I usually do consultancy for a private enterprise after my normal work. After a quick bath, a coffee sip and a light snack I rushed to Quatre Bornes. It’s about 15 minutes’ drive from where I live. I had to be at the Gold Crest Hotel by seven to attend a talk on hepatitis awareness in the context of World Safety Day which is celebrated on 28 April every year for quite some years now. It was organized by a pharmaceutical company in collaboration with the Institution of Occupational Safety & Health Management (Mauritius) of which I am a member.

I really didn’t feel like approaching my computer after a copious and relatively late dinner served following the presentation made by three eminent doctors in the field of virology and occupational health.

So what did I learn? I must confess that I had a very superficial view of hepatitis. I took it for granted, like any other disease that infects, affects and then leaves after a certain period. But it’s more than that, as I learnt that it can be a deadly disease.

By now you should be asking yourself (unless you already know about it) what the hell hepatitis is. Ho does it affect people? Are we all at risk? What are the symptoms? Can it be prevented? Don’t worry folks; I’ll give you a feed back of the talk, if you can follow me. Just bear with me.

Well, hepatitis is an inflammatory disease of the liver, caused by a virus. Different kinds of the virus cause different types of hepatitis, namely hepatitis A, B, C, D, E. The most common are hepatitis A and B. They are different diseases caused by different viruses and different modes of transmission, although they are both characterized by the development of what is known as jaundice if the condition persists. But hepatitis B is more dangerous and may even develop into liver cancer. I couldn’t imagine it’s 100 times more infectious than the Human Immune-deficiency Virus (HIV).

The main mode of transmission of hepatitis A is by the fecal-oral route from an infected person. It may be excreted in the saliva. It is also spread through blood (for example by contaminated blood transfusion) or by the use of contaminated syringes and needles. If you drink or swim in water contaminated by fecal matter, or consume contaminated food which has been handled by an unaware infected food handler with poor hygiene, or eat raw food like salads, cold meat and fruit handled by unwashed (contaminated) hands, then you may be at risk. Don’t take shellfish for granted. If they’ve been harvested from dirty water they may be contaminated and put you at risk.

Hepatitis B is transmitted in practically the same way as HIV; by personal contact with an infected person, sexual contact or contact with infected body fluids or contaminated blood, by use of infected syringes or needles. Beware if you are fond of acupuncture, body piercing or tattooing. Whereas HIV is not transmitted through bites, hepatitis B is. If you are bitten by an infected person, you may get infected too. Skin conditions like abrasions, eczema and bites have also been found to be common routes of transmission.

You may also be at risk of hepatitis if you work in sewage plants or emergency services, or if you are a health care worker, day care centre worker, doctor, nurse, dentist, food handler or you work in a food handling industry or prison. Dialysis patients and frequent travelers are also prone, reports have shown.

If you’ve been infected you’ll feel feverish, nauseated, unwell, and experience lack of appetite and abdominal discomfort. Jaundice may develop some days later. The virus is very resistant and able to survive in water and food from about 12 weeks to about 10 months.

The most effective preventive measure is vaccination, although safe and good hygiene practices are essential in curbing the spread.

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A healthier heart

Today I had an appointment for the routine health check-up. There’s nothing serious, thank God, except the high blood pressure, which I manage to keep under control with the daily intake of Atenolol 100 mg. Usually the blood pressure is OK in the morning and the evening, especially when I’m at home. But at the health centre during mid-day it wasn’t. It never is whenever I attend the health centre.

“Stressed?” asked the nurse.

“No… why?” I stared at her.

“It’s 140/90”.

“So?”

“…”

I knew that’s why I wasn’t worried. Sometimes it’s even higher. Last time, three months ago, it was 150/100. My problem, I am told, is not so much the systolic pressure; it’s the diastole that’s usually abnormally high.

Today’s visit reminded me also of the diets and the physical exercise which I often skip. I may be regular over one week, and just pass on it the next. And you know I can’t leave my keyboard. Anyway, to keep up with the physical exercise which the doctor advised I resumed the evening walk.

It’s normally recommended to have a half hour walk every day, which, it is said, reduces the risk of a heart attack by some 30 per cent. I don’t know whether it’s a coincidence, but I read about it (this evening itself after the walk) in an article in the Reader’s Digest Asia of this month, “10 Steps to a healthy heart” by a certain Dr Michael F. Roizen. The article goes further in recommending that one should do whatever it takes to get their blood pressure down to 115/75. Means I got to do something about it.

But I walked longer than the half hour; and I always do more. I actually did it for exactly, yes exactly one hour. I didn’t time it. I mean I didn’t do it in the sense of a “course contre la montre” (race against time). Well, I noted the time instinctively when I left and then again when I came back home, my departure point. It was 6.13 pm. Amazing. And I walked six to seven kilometers. Almost. As if I was out to catch up with the backlogs.

Anyway, if you are interested to read the article and know more about ways to have a healthier heart follow the link here.  You may have to login first. Registration is free.

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