Our Strength Lies in Our Humanity

Five unhealthiest places in Britain revealed – find out how your neighbourhood compares

Five unhealthiest places in Britain revealed – find out how your neighbourhood compares sevenMaps7/Shutterstock Health policy tends to focus on tackling individual behaviour or improving healthcare delivery, such as funding more GPs, developing new treatments, and encouraging healthy lifestyles. But these approaches are costly, difficult to implement, unfeasible and often ineffective. An increasing body of research suggests that our health is not only shaped by who we are and how…

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We need to talk about suicide in the military

We need to talk about suicide in the military Shutterstock In 1916, a young British private in northern France wrote home to his parents explaining his decision to take his own life. A survivor of the early days of the Somme, considered one of the most brutal battles of World War I, Robert Andrew Purvis apologised to his family before praising his commanding officers and offering the remainder of his…

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Period pain: don’t let it stop you exercising

Period pain: don’t let it stop you exercising Jacob Lund/Shutterstock Girls and women experiencing period pain often avoid physical activity, but our latest study suggests that doing exercise might actually provide pain relief. Period pain affects around 90% of women. It can interfere with daily life by limiting activity – and is a common reason for being absent from school or work. During the menstrual period, the womb contracts to…

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You are what you eat – why the future of nutrition is personal

You are what you eat – why the future of nutrition is personal metamorworks/Shutterstock Humans are complicated, and there are many things that influence our health. There are things we can’t change, like our age or genetic makeup, and the things we can, such as our choice of food and drink. There are also the trillions of bacteria that live in our guts – collectively known as the microbiome –…

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Diving into cold water can be deadly – here’s how to survive it

Diving into cold water can be deadly – here’s how to survive it S. Pytel/Shutterstock Many will have read the news story about the sad death of Cameron Gosling who died from cold water shock after jumping into the River Wear on a hot summer’s day. Sadly, Cameron’s death is not an isolated case. About 400 people die annually in the UK as a result of being immersed in cold water – more than die from cycling accidents or fire. Most of the casualties are males under 30 years of age, and most are reported to be good swimmers. In the 1980s, Frank Golden and I coined the term “cold shock” for the initial physiological responses evoked by being immersed in cold water. At the time, most scientists, the media…

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Bipolar treatment can be improved – by focusing less on antidepressants and more on lithium

Bipolar treatment can be improved – by focusing less on antidepressants and more on lithium Shutterstock Bipolar disorder is a serious condition of mood and behaviour that affects one in 50 people globally. Sufferers swing between episodes of mania (feeling high and overactive) and depression (feeling low, lethargic and hopeless). Sadly, it is estimated that as many as one in ten people with bipolar disorder will die by suicide. In our recent research we used NHS data on more than 23,000 patients in Scotland to assess trends in treating bipolar disorder between 2009 and 2016. Our work was concerned with two main areas: the use of antidepressants and the use of lithium. Antidepressants are effective for moderate to severe depression and probably work by increasing the transmission of neurotransmitters such…

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Drugs to treat chronic pain in children – perhaps the most understudied area of medicine

Drugs to treat chronic pain in children – perhaps the most understudied area of medicine GOLFX/Shutterstock Drugs are typically the first resort for treating pain, and it’s easy to find lots of evidence for what works and what doesn’t in adults. Not all painkillers work for all adults, and there are certainly no silver bullets, but we have hundreds of high-quality clinical trials on which to build research. It’s not just adults who experience pain, though. For one in four children, pain is more than bumps and scrapes; it lasts longer than three months and is often disabling. It’s hard not to be moved by the thought of a child in constant pain, so you might think that in 2019 we would have a similar evidence base for treating chronic…

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New genetic study links chronic pain to depression, BMI, schizophrenia, arthritis and PTSD

New genetic study links chronic pain to depression, BMI, schizophrenia, arthritis and PTSD Shutterstock Around one third of the world’s adult population, including 25m Britons, will experience chronic pain during their lifetime. Chronic pain is defined as acute pain from injury or surgery that persists beyond the healing period – a feature of many medical conditions. Often the intensity of chronic pain does not necessarily match the degree of tissue damage, as can be seen with arthritis. It can even be caused by very mild trauma, such as a needle stick injury. We do not fully understand why some people develop chronic pain and others don’t, or how acute pain becomes chronic over time, but it is thought that there is a genetic contribution to chronic pain. This lack of…

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Alzheimer’s disease not linked to type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure – new study

Alzheimer’s disease not linked to type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure – new study 80's child/Shutterstock If you want to reduce your risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease, there is no end of advice on the internet telling you how to do it: keep your blood pressure and blood sugar in check, lose weight, exercise more, avoid getting type 2 diabetes. Of course, doing these things is good for your general health, but our latest study shows they probably do nothing to reduce your risk of getting Alzheimer’s. Around 50m people suffer from dementia, and that number is expected to triple in the next three decades. The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s. People with this disease have a build-up of two proteins in the brain (beta-amyloid and tau),…

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Saving children’s teeth in Sudan – without anaesthetic or drills

Saving children’s teeth in Sudan – without anaesthetic or drills A child about to have his rotten tooth capped at the author's clinic in Khartoum, Sudan. Author provided Tooth decay is the most common chronic dental disease in the world. It affects 60-90% of children around the world, according to the World Dental Federation. It is 20 times more common than diabetes and five times more common than asthma. If left untreated, it can cause pain and abscesses and may require root treatment or even extraction. This can traumatise children for life. The usual way to treat tooth decay is to drill out the rot and then cover the tooth with a thin stainless steel cap. This is considered the gold standard treatment, but it requires a local anaesthetic, lots…

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