May 2, 2020 by Community Manager 0 Comments

COVID-19, NHS and the UK – How our healthcare system is battling the pandemic

Month 4 into the COVID-19 pandemic and here’s a quick look at how the NHS, and several other bodies, are tackling the novel virus.

Harnessing the Power of Data

The NSHX – the health service’s digital innovation unit, has teamed up with several Tech Giants (including Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Palantir, and Faculty AI) to analyze data around COVID-19 patients and tests. The analysis will help follow the progression of the virus, track hotspots, and efficiently manage the use of resources like ventilators and test kits.

Contact-Tracing App

The NHSX is also developing a smartphone app that works over Bluetooth. The app will work to keep track of who has COVID-like symptoms, and who they might have come into contact with, and dispense isolation advice based on that. The app is being tested at the RAF facility in North Yorkshire and is expected to be available to the general public sometime in May.

Drive-Through Testing

Drive-through testing is being administered in several areas in southern England (and expanding), mostly targeting healthcare service members. Though the UK is still not where it should be with tests and testing kits, this aims to bridge the gap somewhat.

Vaccine Trials

Oxford University has just begun human trials for a possible vaccine for COVID-19 / Coronavirus. Over a thousand people are expected to take part in this trial where they test if a healthy individual could be made immune to the deadly and contagious Coronavirus.

Even as the NHS (and other auxiliary services) battle the pandemic to help keep us safe, they advise that our general health should not be neglected. Going to a hospital to receive necessary medical care (even if non-COVID related) is a valid reason to step out of the house. Talk to a GP to understand if it’s necessary for you. Our general practice doctors at Gogodoc are available for online video consultations through the week and can see a patient from the comfort of your home in as little as one hour (visit the website or download the Gogodoc app to book an appointment).

We will get through this together. But until then, Stay Home, and Stay Safe.

Book an appointment today!

April 29, 2020 by Community Manager 0 Comments

COVID-19 Updates from WHO and NHS

With the deluge of news around the COVID-19 pandemic, it can be difficult to discern the real from the fake, the recent from the outdated. Here is a quick summary of updates from the two trusted sources leading the fight – the World Health Organisation and the NHS. 

WHO’s situation report shows that the COVID-19 illness has taken over quite a few lives – as of April 28, 2020 the coronavirus has affected over 2.8 million people and claimed over 198,000 lives. In the UK, the highly contagious illness has taken over 21,000 lives with daily reports continuing to document new cases and deaths.

Amid the debate and controversy on the UK’s testing targets and the availability of test kits, we also learned that there are now drive-through test centers for healthcare and allied workers. And that the NHS is partnering with several companies in the IT and digital sectors to collect, collate, and analyze information on COVID-19 and be able to diligently and efficiently use resources. A soon-to-be-released contact-tracing app may be able to tell us if we have come into contact with someone that has developed COVID-19 symptoms. A vaccine trial is also underway at Oxford University though it will be a while before we are able to ascertain its effectiveness.

The NHS has also updated its advice for those that think they may have the coronavirus – in order to not inundate the 111 phone line, NHS has created a 111 online service where people can answer a questionnaire about their symptoms – this will serve as a first-line triage and additional advice is offered based on the answers. For those with symptoms, NHS recommends self-isolating for at least 7 days, and for those that have come in contact with someone that has symptoms, they recommend a 14-day isolation period to see if any symptoms develop.

Regardless of the updates around us, it is important to continue to practice social distancing rules, stay indoors, sanitize our hands and common surfaces frequently, and remember to take care of our general health. For any questions related to your health, talk to your GP. Or reach out to us at Gogodoc – an online-video consultation appointment can be booked in as early as an hour and our NHS-certified GPs can offer you expert medical advice on what to do, all over a video consult so you don’t have to leave your house. Now more than ever, be aware, and stay safe.

Book an appointment today!

April 29, 2020 by Community Manager 0 Comments

The CO in COVID – heart-warming stories from around the world

In times of crises, like the one we are in right now, it is easy to get bogged down by all the negative numbers and news. But this is also a time when we can see humanity and solidarity in action – and we’re not just talking about medical staff – general practice doctors, surgeons, emergency responders,nurses, support staff and the like. We’re talking about ordinary people making extraordinary contributions to society during this time – here are 5 stories from around the world to warm your heart and bring back your faith in humanity.

 

USA – A high school student in Santa Barbara, California – Daniel Goldberg – set up a website called Zoomers to Boomers to collect orders and deliver groceries to older, at-risk people in his area that could not leave their houses to shop. His effort has since sparked numerous other initiatives and examples of the young helping the old. 

 

Italy – Italian Tenor Andrew Bocelli performed asolo concert from an empty Duomo Cathedral for Easter. The concert was live-streamed to millions of people, bringing some hope and positivity to those in lockdown.

 

UK – Captain Tom Moore, a 99-year old veteran, aimed to complete 100 laps in his garden before turning 100. His goal? Raise £1000 for NHS Charities together. Over a million people have contributed to his efforts and his current fundraising stands at £23 million. Yes, million!

 

Sweden – Princess Sofia of Sweden traded her tiara for scrubs and volunteered at a Stockholm hospital, assisting in non-medical duties like disinfecting and cleaning.

 

Brazil – Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro got a makeover and was lit up in a medical uniform last weekend to show appreciation and respect for our frontline heroes – the healthcare professionals.

 

At Gogodoc, we have our own healthcare heroes helping with the pandemic – every General Practice doctor in our roster is available for online doctor consultation services. Appointments for video consultations with our GPs are easy to book (check out our website for the appointment form), private, and safe in these social-distancing times. Find a general practice doctor near you and get an appointment in as little as one hour!

Book an appointment today!

October 6, 2019 by Community Manager 2 Comments

Vaping lung injuries top 1,000 cases as deaths rise to 18

Health officials are amplifying their recommendation that people refrain from using e-cigarettes or vaping, particularly products containing THC

 

At least 18 deaths and more than 1,000 cases of a mysterious lung illness have been linked with vaping by US health authorities.

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said cases were up a quarter from last week.

The symptoms of those afflicted include chest pain, fatigue and shortness of breath, but doctors have been unable to establish what is causing the illness.

Dr Anne Schuchat from the CDC said the outbreak was expected to continue.

“I cannot stress enough the seriousness of these injuries. This is a critical issue. We need to take steps to prevent additional cases,” Dr Schuchat said.

Vaping-related injuries have been confirmed in 48 states, with deaths in 15 of those. The average age of those who died is nearly 50. The youngest victim was in their 20s and the oldest was in their 70s.

CDC officials are intensifying their recommendation that people refrain from using e-cigarettes or vaping, especially products containing THC.

Mysterious illnesses aside, many have accused e-cigarette manufacturers of exposing young people to addictive nicotine and luring them toward smoking. Advocates of the vaping ban also cite research on nicotine’s harmful effects on youth brain development.

E-cigarette makers have lobbied aggressively against new regulations and argue that their products can help smokers quit while giving those addicted to nicotine a safer option than smoking tobacco. They say they’re working to address underage vaping and warn that an outright ban could just replace regulated sales with a black market.

The CDC agrees that e-cigarettes can help smokers who substitute them for regular tobacco products, and health professionals believe vaping to be safer than traditional smoking, which kills 8 million people per year, according to the World Health Organisation.

The debate over vaping regulations has split the public health community, as some point to harm reduction for smokers while others emphasise the threat to youth. England’s public health agency cites estimates that the practice is 95 percent less harmful than smoking.

But given that the FDA has yet to vet vaping products, experts caution that the long-term consequences of using e-cigarettes remain unclear.

Whatever your predilection, it doesn’t require much thought to figure out that inhaling clouds of smoke into one’s lungs is not a good idea.

Human lungs have evolved to inhale air and deliver oxygen around the body. Every time we inhale something that is not air, we are insulting our lungs – and we’ll have to face the consequences of that.

 

If you would like to quit smoking, you’re more likely to succeed with the right support. Using your willpower is important but you’ll increase your chances of success if you get some additional help. Contact your GP, pharmacist or your local stop smoking service for more information.

July 31, 2019 by Community Manager 0 Comments

High levels of oestrogen in the womb linked to autism

The discovery adds further evidence to support the prenatal sex steroid theory of autism first proposed 20 years ago.

 

The sex ratio in autism diagnoses shows that males are three times more likely to develop autism. The male-biased prevalence, together with the finding that autistic girls have a higher mutational load than autistic boys, suggests mechanisms of sexual differentiation in the development of this condition. Several recent findings support this hypothesis.

 

A team of scientists at the University of Cambridge and the State Serum Institute in Denmark tested the amniotic fluid of boys with and without autism (n = 98 and n = 177 respectively) from the Danish Historic Birth Cohort.

 

Levels of prenatal oestriol, oestradiol, oestrone and oestrone sulphate were significantly elevated, on average, in the 98 foetuses who later developed autism, compared to the 177 foetuses who did not. Interestingly, high levels of prenatal oestrogens were more predictive of autism development than were high levels of prenatal androgens (such as testosterone). Contrary to popular belief that associates oestrogens with feminisation, prenatal oestrogens have effects on brain growth and masculinise the brain in many mammals.

 

Genetics is a well-established primary cause for autism development, however the authors conclude that prenatal oestrogenic excess may interact with genetic predisposition to affect neurodevelopment.

 

It is not known whether these elevated hormones come from the mother, the baby or the placenta. The next step should be to study all these possible sources and how they interact during pregnancy.

 

Of note, the team cautioned that these findings cannot and should not be used to screen for autism. ‘We are interested in understanding autism, not preventing it’, added Professor Baron-Cohen, the lead author of the study.

 

In summary, scientists demonstrated that prenatal oestrogens are elevated in boys who later developed autism. This supports their previous finding of elevated prenatal steroidogenesis in the same cohort, together adding weight to the prenatal steroid theory of autism. Further, high levels of prenatal oestradiol contribute to a greater degree to autism likelihood than other prenatal sex steroids, including testosterone.

 

As I ended my previous article on the cause of autism, whether it be genetics or environment, the aetiological basis is likely to be during foetal development. Thus, a person with autism is born with autism.

June 13, 2019 by Community Manager 0 Comments

Red meat intake linked with higher risk of death in study of 81,469 adults

Increased red meat intake — especially processed red meat — is tied to increased risk of death over 8 years, according to results today in the British Medical Journal.

Results also suggested that substituting red meat with healthier alternatives, such as whole grains or vegetables, may lower the risk for death.

 

Making sense of the beef with red meat

This long-term study provides further evidence that reducing red meat intake while eating other protein foods or more whole grains and vegetables may reduce risk of premature death.

Red meat, especially processed meat, contains saturated fat, high levels of sodium, preservatives, and potential carcinogens that can contribute to health problems.

Eating red meat has been tied to increased risk for chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer. Processed red meat, like hot dogs and bacon, has been linked to an even larger number of health problems, as well as increased risk for death.

 

Study details

The authors of the study analysed data from two prospective US cohort studies: the Nurses’ Health Study (53,553 women) and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (27,916 men). Participants were free from cardiovascular disease or cancer at baseline.

An important factor in the study is that the researchers looked at the change in consumption over time, rather than actual intake of red meat.

After adjusting for age, race, smoking, alcohol consumption, and several other factors, including baseline red meat consumption, the researchers found that increasing total red meat consumption by up to 3.5 servings per week over 8 years was linked to 10% higher risk for death compared with no change in red meat consumption.

When they distinguished between processed and unprocessed red meat, they found a similar trend, with the risk associated with processed meat higher than that for unprocessed meat. Specifically, increased consumption of processed red meat by up to 3.5 servings per week was tied to 13% increased risk for death, whereas the same increase in unprocessed red meat consumption was tied to 9% increased risk for death.

Results were similar regardless of age, physical activity level, diet quality, smoking, and alcohol consumption. Results were also similar with 4- and 12-year changes in consumption.

Risk for death decreased when one serving per day of red meat was replaced with one serving per day of nuts, whole grains, vegetables without legumes, dairy, eggs, and legumes.

 

Consistent with previous data

During the past decade, much has been written on diet and the association with cancer risk. A number of studies have found varying associations between the consumption of red meat and cancer.

In a recent study, published this year in the International Journal of Epidemiology, authors found that consuming a moderate amount of red or processed meat is associated with an increased risk of developing colorectal cancer.

According to their findings, an average of 76 grams of red meat or processed meat a day, which is in line with current government recommendations from the United Kingdom, was associated with a 20% higher chance of developing colorectal cancer as compared to consuming only about 21 grams a day.

The primary dataset used in this study is the UK Biobank cohort, comprised of almost 500,000 participants.

The American Institute for Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research Fund published several reports during the past 10 years or so on the effect of diet, nutrition, and/or physical activity on risk for several cancer types.

Their most recent study, published in 2017, found that consuming red meat and processed meat may increase the risk for colorectal cancer, as may drinking two or more alcoholic beverages per day. On the flip side, eating whole grains daily and ramping up activity levels can reduce the risk.

 

Conclusion

It is becoming increasingly clear that replacing meat with healthy plant based foods, such as vegetables or whole grains, can improve longevity.

But the health benefits of keeping meat of the menu is only one side of the issue. For conscience-stricken individuals, it is the colossal death and destruction caused by animal agriculture that makes meat unpalatable.

March 11, 2019 by Community Manager 0 Comments

Danish study shows MMR vaccine does not cause autism

A new large-scale Danish study concluded that the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine does not increase the risk of autism, even in susceptible children. Once again, no links are found.

 

The study that sparked the storm

Andrew Wakefield’s famous study, published in 1998, first described a link between autism and the MMR vaccine. A flurry of fear among the public has since found no rest.

However, the evidence of that study is poor and circumstantial at best. There is no attempt made to show a proven mechanism of how the vaccination process could or did lead to the degeneration of behaviour observed. While there is undoubtedly a trend in their data, the authors are vastly overstating the likelihood that this could be a true causal association.

Importantly, this study does not include controls, such as patients with autism that were not vaccinated, neither does it suggest that this type of even-handed study should be done. It appears that the authors have ‘chosen’ a set of patients with autism to reach a presupposed conclusion. This is clear bias and should be accounted for.

Further, the paper was soon retracted as Wakefield was found guilty of fabricating data and violating ethical protocols. The confidence of the authors in their conclusions is thus unjustified.

Despite there being no convincing evidence that the MMR vaccine causes autism, there is an underground faction of concerned parents who believe that it does. One reason for this may be that ∼50,000 children per month, in Britain alone, receive the MMR vaccine between ages 1 and 2 years. This is at a time when autism typically presents. Thus, coincidental associations are inevitable.

 

The data are in, again

A new large study yet again found no association between the MMR vaccine and autism.

The researchers followed 657,461 Danish children born between 1999 and 2010 and compared autism rates in those who had received the MMR vaccine against those who did not.

In emphatic language they write, ‘The study strongly supports that MMR vaccination does not increase the risk for autism, [and] does not trigger autism in susceptible children’.

In further analyses, they also looked for links between vaccinations other than MMR and autism; again, they found none.

One of the study’s main strengths is the large number of individuals included in the analysis. As the authors write, the study’s size allowed them to conclude that ‘even minute increases in autism risk after MMR vaccination are unlikely’.

 

So, what causes autism? 

The aetiological basis of autism is predominantly genetic, and the apparent rise in diagnosis has more to do with increased awareness of the condition and changes in the diagnostic criteria. Nevertheless, while mutations in some genes are strongly implicated in autism, most associated variants confer modest increases in risk.

These genetic variants of small effect sizes can have a significant impact when present in certain combinations, or even lower the threshold of one acquiring the condition with exposure to environmental risk factors.

The answer to what causes autism is unlikely to reside solely in genetics. Recent studies suggest that environmental factors can cause autism, but this is most likely to occur in utero (during pregnancy). This is important because some parents are concerned that things such as high pollution or vaccines cause autism postpartum.

Regardless, the heritability of autism is estimated to be more than 90%. This means that more than 90% of the cause of autism is due to genetics.

 

Conclusion

With the continued generation of high-quality empirical evidence, the fears surrounding vaccines might, one day, be eradicated once and for all.

The bottom line is that whatever the cause of autism may be – genetic or environmental – it is likely to take effect during foetal development. Thus, a person with autism is born with autism.

February 22, 2019 by Community Manager 0 Comments

Teenagers are at risk using cannabis, experts warn

Researchers from UK and Canada carried out a systematic review and meta-analysis that measured cannabis use during adolescence, and evaluated the risk of depression, anxiety, and suicidality during young adulthood.

Among a cohort of 23,317 individuals, adolescent cannabis consumption was associated with a 37% increased risk of developing depression later in life.

The authors note that these findings should act as a warning to families and inform public health policy and governments to apply preventive strategies to cannabis use among youth.

 

The risks of cannabis

This study, published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, is the first to quantify the actual risk in this way.

Among the increased risks of depression, the authors also investigated whether there was an association with anxiety and suicide attempts.

There was an increased risk of anxiety developing in young adulthood, but this was not considered statistically significant.

However, teenagers who used cannabis were three times more likely to try to kill themselves. The association between cannabis and suicidal behaviour has also been reported in previous studies.

Short term side effects of cannabis use range from anxiety and paranoia to problems with attention, memory and coordination. This explains why stoned drivers are twice as likely to crash their cars as nonusers.

Mental health problems are one of the greatest long-term effect concerns. Daily users have a doubled risk of developing schizophrenia in their lives compared to the general population, though the risk of other less serious mental health issues is even greater. Other issues include adverse birth outcomes during use in pregnancy and increased prevalence of respiratory diseases such as chronic bronchitis.

 

Cause and correlation

This study does not definitively prove that cannabis use causes depression and suicidal ideation. At best, one can only conclude that there is a strong correlation.

This is because of the impact cannabis has on the developing brain.

The adolescent brain is still under development and psychotropic drugs used during this time may disturb neurodevelopment, especially of the frontal cortex and limbic system.

To definitively confirm causation, studies would have to be conducted on young people, which of course is deemed unethical.

However, it doesn’t require a stretch of the imagination to postulate a causative link between a powerful mind-altering drug and mental health issues.

 

Conclusion

The cannabis leaf has become the symbol of the supposed sovereignty over the self, and propaganda runs rampant on social media to portray it as an astonishing wonder drug. There is thus an urgent need to implement better drug use prevention programs and interventions aimed at educating adolescents to resist peer pressure on drug consumption.

January 28, 2019 by Community Manager 0 Comments

Eating more fibre and whole grains lowers risk of death and disease, major study finds

Observational studies and clinical trials conducted over nearly 40 years reveal the health benefits of eating at least 25g or more of dietary fibre a day, according to research commissioned by the World Health Organization.

 

People who had higher intakes of dietary fibre and whole grains had lower rates of chronic diseases, such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes, compared to those with diets low in fibre and whole grains.

 

Main findings

Current UK guidelines recommend that people eat 30g a day, yet only 9 per cent of British adults meet the target. Fibre consumption is even worse in the US, with the average adult eating just 15g of fibre a day.

 

Higher fibre diets were associated with a 15 to 31 percent reduction in the risk of death and disease. That meant 13 fewer deaths and six fewer cases of coronary heart disease, per 1,000 participants in the studies.

 

People with diets high in whole grains saw similar benefits, with up to 33 percent reduction in risk, translating to 26 fewer deaths and seven fewer cases of coronary heart disease.

 

The study, published in The Lancet, one of the most prestigious and oldest medical journals, suggests eating at least 25 to 29 grams of dietary fibre per day to achieve these health benefits. Higher intakes could produce more benefits; however, the authors note that consuming copious amounts of it could have ill-effects for people with low iron or mineral levels.

 

The research consisted of analysing 185 observational studies and 58 clinical trials that were conducted over nearly 40 years.

 

The importance

This landmark study is important and timely because the Internet is a wasteland of deranged dietary advice. Quack ‘doctors’, self-proclaimed nutritionists, and – excuse my French – broscience baloney have infiltrated forums, social media and YouTube. In particular, there is a growing trend advocating the carnivore diet. This consists of consuming only animal foods. No fruits. No vegetables. But all the burgers, steaks and pork chops you want, which are often eaten raw by enthusiasts.

 

This dangerous and stupid dietary advice is gaining popularity, despite it being diametrically opposed to the robust, high quality empirical evidence that continues to emerge in the scientific literature.

 

Supporting evidence

For instance, another recent study, also published in The Lancet, showed that Tsimane people (forager-horticulturalist population of the Bolivian Amazon) have the lowest reported levels of vascular ageing of all populations yet studied. It turns out that their diet is largely carbohydrate-based (72%) and includes high fibre foods such as rice, plantain, corn, nuts and fruits. Protein constitutes only 14% of their diet, and they consume very low levels of fat. So much for the carnivore diet.

 

Conclusion

In summary, recent studies confirm that fibre and whole grain intakes are vitally important for longer term health. If your current diet is low in fibre, increase it gradually to help avoid bowel upset.

September 27, 2018 by Community Manager 0 Comments

How Accurate Is The ECG Function In The Apple Watch 4?

The new Apple Watch 4 comes with several features, but the one that’s received the most attention is its ability to perform an electrocardiogram (ECG).