The debate continues to rage on Vaping. Is it safe? Does it help reduce or even stop people smoking cigarettes?? Dr Vibhu Kaushal shares her perspective.
Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death worldwide. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), an estimated 17.7 million people died from cardiovascular diseases in 2015, representing a third of all global deaths.
Most of us think that if we do not smoke, do not carry extra baggage around the waist, we’ll keep our heart in good health. In a way, we are right, since smoking is a major cause of heart disease (estimated to account for about 20% of all cardiovascular death), and obesity is linked to several factors that increase the risk of coronary artery disease and stroke.
However, there are many other habits that can damage the heart – habits that are so mundane, they are often overlooked. Some habits are plainly obvious, such as eating too much fat, sugar and salt, not exercising, and neglecting regular health check-ups.
It is worth reviewing your everyday habits and learning how you can reduce your risks to prevent heart disease.
Get more sleep
A study showed that people who slept less than 6 hours each night were 79% more likely to develop coronary heart disease than those who slept up to 8 hours. Sleeping reduces blood pressure, and those who do not sleep enough are more likely to have hypertension. Experts also point out that the quality of sleep also matters. People who snore loudly are more likely to have sleep apnoea, a disorder in which breathing stops and starts repeatedly during sleep, and often without knowing it.
When we are stressed, our body secretes adrenaline and cortisol. This increases the rate and force of cardiac contractions and narrows the arteries – a dangerous combination for heart health. In addition to stress, anger and depression can also negatively affect the cardiovascular system. The antidote? Laughter. Interestingly, laughing relaxes and enlarges the arteries, thus promoting cardiovascular health. There is truth in the old saying ‘laughter is the best medicine’ after all.
Brush your teeth (please)
Research has shown that there is a link between gum disease and heart problems. There are two main types of gum disease: gingivitis, which causes red, painful, tender gums; and periodontitis, which leads to infected pockets of germy pus. Scientists believe that bacteria collected in the gums can cause inflammation in other parts of the body. Thus, poor oral hygiene can increase the likelihood of arteriosclerosis (stiffened arteries) and thrombosis (blood clot). So, brush your teeth at least twice a day and use a mouthwash. Your family and friends may even thank you for it.
Take a break from city life
It doesn’t require a stretch of the imagination to know that the pressing and fast living conditions in a big city can overwhelm your poor heart. But stress is not the only factor. In a study published in The Lancet, researchers looked at the long-term effects of air pollution on the heart’s arteries. Poor air quality leads to accelerated plaque build-up in arteries, leading to heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure. If living in a city is unavoidable, make sure to retreat into the countryside from time to time, even if it’s only for a day or two.
Research in Japan involving more than 500 adults has shown that people who are flexible tend to have more flexible arteries and therefore better regulation of their blood pressure. Flexibility is one of the main components of physical fitness, including cardiovascular fitness, muscular strength and endurance.
So perhaps it is not a bad idea to include yoga or Pilates in your exercise routine. This will have the added benefit of preventing exercise-induced injuries, back pain, and balance problems.
Break a sweat
While many chemical elements are essential for life, some such as arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury have no known beneficial effect in humans. These elements are confirmed or probable carcinogens, and they exhibit wide-ranging toxic effects on many bodily systems, including the cardiovascular system.
All people have some level of toxic metals in their bodies, circulating and accumulating with acute and chronic lifetime exposures. Research shows that sweating with heat or exercise may help to eliminate these toxic substances.
Sit less, move more
It can be argued that chairs are detrimental to our health. Indeed, ‘sitting is the new smoking’. According to the WHO, 60 to 85 per cent of people globally lead sedentary lifestyles (i.e. remaining seated for much of the day), making it one of the more serious yet inadequately addressed public health problems of our time. A sedentary lifestyle, along with smoking and poor diet and nutrition, is increasingly being adopted as the norm, which is resulting in the rapid rise of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, obesity and cancer. For every 30 minutes of sitting still, be sure to walk, stretch or jog on spot for 1 to 2 minutes.
In a previous article, it was stated that the WHO have classified processed meats as a Class I carcinogen. It turns out that these meats, which include bacon, sausages and pepperoni, also increase the chance of having cardiovascular problems. Processed meats not only have a lot of salt, which elevates our blood pressure but large amounts of saturated fat, which contribute to chronic inflammatory diseases.
International students can sometimes face problems seeking healthcare here in the United Kingdom and some are not even aware of help they can receive.
Medical Treatments For EU Students
Students from the EU that hold a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) are covered by the NHS which entitles them to free NHS treatment, but students outside the EU will have to seek alternatives.
If a Non-EEA student is studying on a course 6 months or more, they will have to pay an Immigration Health Surcharge that is part of their visa applications and cost £150 per year.
None EEA (European Economic Area) students that are studying on courses less than 6 months are not covered or entitled to free NHS treatment, therefore, private healthcare is the only option.
You can still get advice and treatment at a GP surgery as a temporary patient, but only receive primary care and must hold private medical insurance in order to be covered for medical treatment. You won’t be able to be referred to a specialist
Top 3 Ways Of Seeking Medical Treatments Or Advise For Non-EU And Non-EEA Students
These clinics provide treatment and advise for minor injuries and conditions. The term walk-in means that you can turn up on the same day and be seen, but with a wait time. Non-EU international students can visit these clinics for various health issues and medical advise.
Non-EU international students can visit their local pharmacy and seek medical advice for common conditions. The pharmacist can recommend medications and give general medical advise on common health issues.
Private healthcare is a great alternative and can be the best option for international students that cannot get free NHS treatment or register with a local GP. Non-EU or Non-EEA students can book an appointment with a Gogodoc GP receive consultation anywhere, even at their universities. We offer medical help, advise, and prescriptions. We can even refer you to a specialist if needed.
Whereas exposure to excessive levels of sunlight is detrimental to our health, moderate exposure can boost our physical and mental state. The aim is to enjoy the sun sensibly, to make enough vitamin D, while not increasing the risk of skin cancer.
Vitamin D is made in the skin with the help of sunlight, which is useful because there is very little found in typical dietary sources. To prevent deficiency of vitamin D, it is recommended to have 2-3 sun exposures per week. Each exposure should last 20-30 minutes and be to bare skin.
The following are some of the health benefits that exposure to sunlight can bring.
1) Improves the quality of sleep
Waking up in sync with the sun’s natural light switches off melatonin, a hormone made in your pineal gland, associated with sleep onset. This is the reason why you feel alert during your waking hours and tired at bedtime – and discombobulated when you cross time zones after a long-haul flight. It is, therefore, a good idea to open the curtains in the morning and avoid artificial light once the sun goes down.
People with irregular sleeping schedules often have trouble sleeping or feel tired during waking hours. Several studies have shown that chronic disruption of circadian rhythms can lead to weight gain, slower thinking, and other physiological and behavioural changes – analogous to the changes observed in people who experience shift work or jet lag.
2) Reduces risk of some cancers
Prolonged sun exposure increases the risk of skin cancer, but vitamin D is also known to be protective against several cancers, including of the colon, kidney and breast. In a study conducted by the US National Cancer Institute, it was found that high levels of sunlight were significantly associated with reduced mortality from breast and colon cancer. Similar effects were seen in the bladder, womb, oesophagus and stomach cancer.
3) Improves mood
Sunlight triggers the release of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps to regulate mood. It’s no surprise that spending time outdoors improves mood and relieves stress. Lack of sunlight exposure in some people can even trigger a type of depression known as a seasonal affective disorder, which is treated with light therapy.
4) Lowers blood pressure
Rates of hypertension tend to be higher in the winter and in countries farther from the equator, and a 2014 study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology provides a possible explanation: Exposure to sunlight causes nitric oxide in the skin to be absorbed into the bloodstream, which can help widen blood vessels and lower the pressure inside them.
5) Improves pregnancy and fertility
Reduced vitamin D levels during pregnancy have been shown to be associated with complications such as gestational diabetes and preeclampsia. Babies are also more likely to be born underweight. Of course, it takes two to be infertile. Male fertility may also get a boost from sunshine. A 2008 Australian study found that one-third of 794 men visiting an infertility clinic had a vitamin D deficiency. When this was corrected with sunshine and supplementation, there was a 75% drop in ‘sperm fragmentation’ and the men were more successful at conceiving with their partners.
6) Can help with some skin disorders
Sunlight can improve several skin complaints, such as psoriasis, eczema and acne. Indeed, eczema and psoriasis are sometimes treated with UV light (phototherapy). However, sunlight can aggravate other skin conditions, particularly rosacea.
7) Enhances the immune system
In a 2016 study published in the journal Scientific Reports, researchers found that low levels of blue light and UVA light, found in sun rays, boosts the activity of T lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell that can fight infection.
8) Improves the musculoskeletal system
It is common knowledge that vitamin D is important for healthy bones by helping the body absorb calcium. In a 2013 large Danish study, researchers found that having a history of skin cancer was linked to a lower risk of hip fractures. This may be because those who developed skin cancer also had prolonged sun exposure.
Vitamin D is also important to muscle health, and people with low levels are more likely to experience muscle cramps and joint pain.
9) Improves memory
In a 2018 study published in the journal Cell, researchers exposed a group of mice to UVB rays. This mock-sunlight increased levels of glutamate, a neurotransmitter involved in learning and memory processes. The UVB-exposed mice showed significant improvement in the object recognition tests and motor skills compared to the control mice. Although this effect was shown in mice, it could also be the same for humans.
10) Helps you shed fat
By getting sufficient sunlight between 8am and noon will help synchronise your circadian rhythm, optimising the metabolism and preventing excess weight gain. Serotonin not only improves our mood, but it also suppresses our appetite. It’s no surprise if you prefer lighter meals during warmer weather.
One last thing
There are of course risks associated with sunlight. Prolonged exposure causes damage to the epidermis and to other parts of the skin such as the supporting elastic tissue in the dermis. This damage is known as actinic (solar) elastosis, and gives the skin a baggy, wrinkled appearance.
A significant risk factor for malignant melanoma is sunburn, especially during childhood. Chronic sun damage does not appear to be a risk factor for malignant melanoma but it is for basal cell and squamous carcinoma, and lentigo maligna melanoma.
To summarise, try to have 2-3 sun exposures per week, but avoid the sun when it is strong; and when you think you’re exceeding the recommended limit, cover up, or use high-factor sunscreen.
Still having dinner according to your grandmother’s advice of ‘meat and two veg’? How very 2017 of you.
According to Mintel’s Meat-Free Foods UK Market Report, more than one in four Britons are now favouring a vegetarian lifestyle.
Vegetarians have many reasons for not eating meat, including concern for animal welfare, health benefits, and reduced environmental damage. Here are some of the benefits of leaving meat off your plate.
Are humans meant to eat meat?
The dietary status of the human species is that of an ‘unspecialised frugivore’ – an animal specialised for nuts, grains, seeds, fruit and vegetables, but can handle ‘unspecialised’ food sources too. Biochemistry, comparative anatomy and genetics do not support the contention that human digestive tract is specialised for meat-eating. ‘But we have canines!’ is the all-too-common quickfire rhetoric.
Our pathetic, short and blunt canines may be useful to take a bite out of an apple. But try lunging for the throat of a cow and see if they are of any use then.
Due to limited resources our ancestors became habituated to eating meat, and through evolution our gut can handle it to some degree. But it is not the case that we are specialised for meat eating or need it in our diet to be healthy. In fact, the opposite is the case.
The WHO report
A wealth of research indicates that vegetarians have reduced incidences of diseases, and overall greater longevity. In support of this, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has classified processed meats as a Group 1 carcinogen. Tobacco smoking and asbestos are classified in the same category. As stated on their website, ‘this classification is based on sufficient evidence … that eating processed meat causes colorectal cancer’.
Moreover, red meat is classified as Group 2A, which means it’s ‘probably carcinogenic to humans’. My gut feeling is that it is only a matter of time that additional evidence will confirm this positive association.
Put it this way: if you had a choice between a meal that is proven to be protective against cancer (e.g. a wholefood, plant-based meal) and one that is ‘probably carcinogenic’ (e.g. a meal that contains red meat), which one would you choose?
Nevertheless, there are other health risks that are associated with meat eating such as coronary heart disease and diabetes, to which we now turn.
Backed up by research
In a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the authors state that ‘Vegetarians had a 32% lower risk of [ischaemic heart disease] than did nonvegetarians’. And a study published in Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism showed that vegetarians had an overall 18% lower cancer incidence. Moreover, the largest study to examine the effects of different sources of dietary protein found that a high intake of proteins from animal sources – particularly processed and unprocessed red meats – was associated with all-cause and cardiovascular mortality, whereas high plant protein intake had an inverse effect. The authors note that, ‘substitution of plant protein for animal protein … was associated with lower mortality, suggesting the importance of protein source’.
To be fair, a limitation of some epidemiological studies is that they do not consider the food source and the quality of the meat. However, in a study published by JAMA Internal Medicine, 73,308 participants were analysed and were controlled for important demographic, lifestyle and food confounders. They found that even a modest amount of red meat, regardless of the source, led to an increased rate of mortality. Whereas vegetarian dietary patterns were associated with reduced all-cause mortality and increased longevity.
In a study published in American Journal of Epidemiology, researchers found that a higher intake of red meat and poultry is associated with significantly increased risk of developing diabetes. Further, in a 2017 Sweden study, it was found that beef, pork and poultry are associated with colorectal cancer, which is considered one of the most common forms of cancer in the Western world. In fact, heart disease and cancer are the biggest killers on the planet, both of which have been directly linked to meat consumption.
Aside from the health issues, rearing livestock for food is highly inefficient and wasteful. Every year over 56 billion animals are slaughtered by humans, not to mention sea creatures whose deaths are so great they are only tallied in tonnes. The crops fed to industrially-reared animals worldwide could feed an extra four billion people on the planet.
Let us not forget the devastating effect of the meat industry has on the environment. A staggering 51% of global greenhouse-gas emissions are caused by animal agriculture, according to a report published by the Worldwatch Institute. Grass fed, and ‘humanely slaughtered’ (an oxymoron) is even more unsustainable.
Humans have been facultative meat eaters for a long time, but recent research suggests that a diet with minimal meat is much more healthful. And we certainly do not need meat nutritionally in our day and age.
But the health benefits of keeping meat of the menu is only one side of the argument. For many, it is the ethical implications that make meat indigestible.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has decided to classify and recognise non stop gaming as a real disorder for prevention, and treatment.
A gaming disorder is similar to Internet Gaming Disorder which is a diagnosed condition by The International Classification of Diseases (ICD).
The person with the disorder has trouble breaking from the habit, putting gaming first above activities and may even develop negative behaviours.
If you have the disorder, what symptoms should you look out for?
Signs and symptoms
According to WHO, in order for the person to be diagnosed they must show the following:
• Lack of interest in personal, family, social
• Very limited interest in educational, occupational or other important areas
• Increasing the priority given to gaming over other activities
• A negative change in behaviour that leads to damaging consequences
• Lack of interest in daily activities
Should you be concerned?
Studies state that not everyone who games should be concerned.
The WHO has suggested that people who partake in gaming should keep track of the amount of time they spend on the activity. Only a small proportion of people who engage in the activity will develop the disorder in their lifetime.
To be sure, monitor the time spent gaming, as well as any changes in physical or psychological health. Any social functioning or any disruptions to daily schedules should be enough to raise an alarm.
For more information on gaming disorder, read here: http://www.who.int/features/qa/gaming-disorder/en/