Fertility dampners


Women who work long hours or regularly lift heavy items at work may have difficulty conceiving, according to a Harvard study published in the journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine.

The study followed 1,739 women, of average age 33 years, who were trying to conceive. The women answered questions about their work schedule and physical labour. More than 30 per cent of the women worked more than eight hours daily and 40 per cent lifted heavy loads up to five times each day.

The study found that 16 per cent of them failed to get pregnant within 12 months, while 5 per cent were not able to conceive even after two years.

Working more than 40 hours a week delayed pregnancy by 20 per cent compared to working between 21 and 40 hours a week. Moving or lifting more than 9 kilos several times a day delayed pregnancy by about 50 per cent compared to not lifting heavy objects.

The association between heavy lifting and a longer delay to a successful pregnancy was more pronounced among overweight or obese women.


Fat-loss diet

Low fat or low carb? US scientists may have an answer to the ongoing diet debate. A study in the journal Cell Metabolism suggests that cutting fat intake may lead to greater body fat loss.

For the study, 19 obese adults were confined to a metabolic ward for a couple of two-week periods. The first five days of each stay, the participants followed a balanced diet. The next six days, their calorie intake was reduced by 30 per cent either by restricting carbs or fat. This was followed by a two-four week break. During their next stay, the participants did the same thing again except that they switched diets during the restricted period. The participants also exercised on a treadmill for an hour each day during their stay.

Restricting calories by cutting fat led to a loss of 89 grams of body fat daily compared with 53 grams of fat loss a day from restricting carbs for an overall loss of 463 grams of fat on average during the low-fat diet and 245 grams of body fat during the low-carb diet.

The study shows that “restricting dietary fat can lead to greater body fat loss than carb restriction, even though a low-carb diet reduces insulin and increases fat burning”.

But experts, including the lead researcher, agree that the best diet is the one you can stick to long-term.

Did You Know
Parents’ non-standard work schedules that feature hours outside 8am to 4pm and vary weekly or rotate can impair children's development: toddlers whose mothers work such hours have poor sensory perception, memory, learning, problem solving, verbal communication and expressive language; preschoolers whose mothers work non-standard hours may suffer from depression, anxiety, withdrawal and aggression; and teens whose parents work night shifts are more likely to be depressed and engage in risky behaviours such as smoking, alcohol use and sexual activity.
Economic Policy Institute


Music therapy

A study published in the journal The Lancet shows that music can help people cope better with post-operative recovery.

British researchers reviewed data from 72 studies that included nearly 7,000 patients. Listening to music before, during or after surgery significantly reduced patients' pain and anxiety and their need for pain medicines, and increased their satisfaction with the entire procedure.

While listening to music at any time was beneficial, the effect was strongest for those who did so before their surgery. Patients who selected their own music reported greater pain reductions and reduced use of painkillers.

Did You Know
Couples who shared child care responsibilities equally were more satisfied with both their sex lives and overall relationship whereas couples were least content when the woman did most of the childcare. Surprisingly, both partners were equally content when men did a greater share of childcare.
Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association


Pages that purify

A book is not just your window to the world, it can also provide clean drinking water to the 780 million people who have no access to it.

The pages of the 'drinkable book' can be used to filter drinking water and has proved effective in field trials conducted in South Africa, Ghana and Bangladesh. The paper successfully removed more than 99 per cent of bacteria.

The pages of the book are coated with silver nitrate particles that function as filter and kill bacteria such as cholera and typhoid in the water as it passes through. The pages also carry information on the importance of filtering drinking water besides filtering instructions.

The trial findings were presented at the 250th national meeting of the American Chemical Society. The drinkable book has been developed and tested by Dr Teri Dankovich who is currently a researcher at the Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

Just tear out a paper from the book and pour water into it and you get clean drinking water. More than 90 per cent of the samples tested had no bacteria after it was filtered. The process even worked with sewage water.

Almost 100 litres of water or one month's supply of water for one person can be filtered using just one page and one book can be used to filter one person's four year’s supply of water.

With 3.4 million people dying from water-related diseases each year, this technology could revolutionise water purification and prevent many of these deaths.


Headaches during pregnancy

Aches and pains are an integral part of pregnancy. But a severe headache during the second or third trimester should not be ignored, especially if the pregnant woman has high blood pressure and no history of headache. It could be a sign of preeclampsia or other pregnancy related complications which can put both the mother and the baby at risk.

“Those patients should be referred immediately for neuroimaging and monitoring for preeclampsia," according to a study published in the journal Neurology.

The study focused on 140 pregnant women of an average age of 29 who had headache and were referred for neurological consultation. Most of the headaches were migraines. But among the 49 patients with secondary headache, 51 per cent had pregnancy-related high blood pressure, including 38 per cent with preeclampsia.

Having high blood pressure and no previous history of headache were the two prominent indicators of having not just primary headaches. Women with headache plus high blood pressure were 17 times more likely to have some other condition, mostly preeclampsia. The risk was five-fold higher for women without a previous history of headache. Other warning signs include fever and seizures.

“Headaches during pregnancy are quite common, but it is not always easy to distinguish between a recurring, preexisting migraine condition and a headache caused by a pregnancy complication. Our study suggests that physicians should pay close attention when a pregnant woman presents with a severe headache, especially if she has elevated blood pressure or lack of past headache history,” the study author suggested.

Did You Know
Cancer patients who are religious/spiritual report better physical health, greater ability to perform their daily tasks, social wellbeing and fewer physical symptoms of cancer and treatment as well as less anxiety, depression or distress.


Focus on the game

Could a video game be the answer to your cravings?

According to psychologists at Plymouth University and Queensland University of Technology, playing Tetris—a tile-laying game—for just three minutes can reduce our cravings for drugs, food, cigarettes, alcohol and activities such as sex and sleeping.

The study in the journal Addictive Behaviors was based on 31 students, aged 18-27, who were asked seven times a day via text message to report any feelings of cravings. They also reported cravings independently of the prompts. They rated their cravings on a scale of 0-100. Half of the group were asked to play Tetris on an iPod for three minutes, before reporting their craving levels again.

Most commonly craved things were food and non-alcoholic drinks followed by substances such as coffee, cigarettes, wine and beer. Around 16 per cent of the cravings were for activities such as sleeping, socialising, playing video games and sexual activity.

Playing Tetris for just 3 minutes decreased cravings from 70 per cent to 56 per cent. The impact was consistent across the week and on all types of cravings even though the game was played 40 times on average. “This finding is potentially important because an intervention that worked solely because it was novel and unusual would have diminishing benefits over time as participants became familiar with it. We think the Tetris effect happens because craving involves imagining the experience of consuming a particular substance or indulging in a particular activity. Playing a visually interesting game like Tetris occupies the mental processes that support that imagery; it is hard to imagine something vividly and play Tetris at the same time,” the lead researchers commented.


Multiple benefits

For the first time, a diabetes drug has shown to be effective in reducing heart attacks, strokes and deaths from cardiovascular causes.

Empagliflozin—a once a day pill taken in the morning—is manufactured by Eli Lilly and Boehringer Ingelheim and was approved by the FDA last year. It belongs to a newer class of diabetes drugs called SGLT-2 inhibitors which block the reabsorption of glucose in the kidney, increase glucose excretion and lower overall blood glucose levels.

A clinical trial involving more than 7,000 patients from 42 countries with type 2 diabetes and a high risk for cardiovascular events found that there were considerably fewer cardiovascular deaths, non-fatal heart attacks or non-fatal strokes in patients who took empagliflozin in combination with standard treatments compared to those who took a placebo with standard treatments. Standard treatments included other diabetes drugs and cardiovascular drugs, including drugs for high blood pressure and high cholesterol. The patients were followed for an average of 3.1 years. The most common side effects were dehydration, urinary tract infections and yeast infections.

Empagliflozin is not for people with type 1 diabetes or for people with diabetic ketoacidosis.

“Approximately 50 per cent of deaths in people with type 2 diabetes worldwide are caused by cardiovascular disease. Reducing cardiovascular risk is an essential component of diabetes management," said Prof Hans-Juergen Woerle, global vice president medicine, Boehringer Ingelheim.

The study findings will be presented at the 51st European Association for the Study of Diabetes Annual Meeting in Sweden in September.

The findings suggest that empagliflozin may be a game changer in the treatment of type 2 diabetes.


Creating ears

Eight-year-old Elijah Bell was born without outer ears, a rare birth defect called bilateral artesia microtia that affects about 1 in 50,000 people.

Elijah's inner and middle ear developed normally, but without an opening the sounds couldn’t pass through. He has been using a bone-anchored hearing aid since he was 3½ months old that helped him hear.

Elijah's journey with Dr Ananth Murthy, director of plastic and reconstructive surgery at Akron's Children's Hospital in Ohio in the US, started three years ago. So far he has had five surgeries.

“By the time you are 6 to 8 years old, your ears are pretty much full grown. Doing the surgeries at that age allows these kids to start their school careers with normal ears,” said Murthy.

Murthy used cartilage from Elijah’s own rib cage to craft the ears and attached them to his head. First he worked on the right ears and then on the left.

Elijah’s fourth surgery involved using skin graft from Elijah's thigh to create space between his ears and his head. During his final surgery, Murthy created “the detailed hills and valleys of what ears look like”.

Murthy called it “an artistic procedure.”

Did You Know
Voters prefer political candidates—both men and women—with deeper voices because they associate it with strength, greater physical prowess, competence and integrity.

New combo for survival

According to a study published in the journal Cancer, ovarian cancer patients who took certain blood pressure medications had longer overall survival. Survival was greatest among cancer patients who took non-selective beta-blockers.

The researchers compared survival among 1,425 ovarian cancer patients who took beta-blockers during chemotherapy and those who did not. Among the 269 patients who received beta-blockers, 76 patients received non-selective beta-blockers.

The average survival for patients who took any beta-blocker was 47.8 months versus 42 months for non-users. Among patient who used beta-blockers, the median survival for those who took the non-selective kind was 94.9 months vs 38 months for those who took other kinds.

According to the researchers, the drugs block the effects of stress hormone that may be involved in the growth and spread of ovarian tumours.

According to an accompanying editorial, “this study lays the groundwork for insightful investigation into repurposing cardiovascular medications to cancer therapeutics.”


Stroke risk

In today's cutthroat competition, people are working longer and longer hours to move up the office hierarchy. But all those long hours come at a price. It may increase your risk of stroke and coronary heart disease.

For the study in the journal The Lancet, British researchers analysed data from 25 studies involving more than 6,03,838 men and women who were followed up for an average of 8.5 years.

People working 55 hours or more have a 13 per cent higher risk for developing coronary heart disease compared to those working the normal 35-40 hours a week, even after accounting for risk factors such as age, gender and socioeconomic status.

Another analysis of 17 studies involving 5,28,908 men and women who were followed up for an average of 7.2 years found that the risk of stroke was 33 per cent higher for people who worked 55 hours or more per week compared to those who worked normal hours.

The risk of stroke rose with the amount of hours worked—working 41-48 hours a week increased the risk of stroke by 10 per cent, while working between 49-54 hours a week increased the risk by 27 per cent.

The elevated risk remained even after accounting for risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, alcohol consumption and physical activity and there were “no differences between men and women, or between older people and younger ones, or those with higher or lower socioeconomic status”.

The study authors speculate that physical inactivity due to prolonged sitting and alcohol consumption combined with job strain which can trigger the stress response may be contributing to the elevated stroke risk.

“These findings suggest that more attention should be paid to the management of vascular risk factors in individuals who work long hours,” the study concluded.


Use contacts with care

Contact lens usage is gaining popularity, but do we use it the right way?

According to a survey by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) nearly 99 per cent of contact lens users engage in at least one behaviour known to increase their risk of eye infections including wearing contact lens while sleeping, showering or swimming; keeping their contact lenses or cases for longer than recommended; adding new solution to the existing solution without emptying the case first; and rinsing or storing the lenses in tap water.

These behaviours can increase the risk of eye infections by five times or more. Almost a third of the people surveyed had to consult a doctor for red or painful eyes triggered by poor hygiene practices.

Exposure of contact lenses to tap water increases the risk of infection because microorganisms living in water can be transferred to the eye.

The CDC provided the following tips to keep your eyes healthy:
* Wash your hands with soap and water, and dry them before touching contact lenses.
* Remove contacts before sleeping, showering or swimming.
* Keep all water away from contact lenses.
* Rub and rinse contacts in disinfecting solutions each time you remove them.
* After each use, rub and rinse the contact lens case with solution, dry the case with a clean tissue and store it upside down with the caps off.
* Don't add fresh solution to old solution.
* Replace contact lens cases at least once every three months, and carry a pair of backup glasses in case you have to remove your contact lenses.

“Good vision contributes to overall well-being and independence for people of all ages, so it is important not to cut corners on healthy contact lens wear and care,” said CDC medical epidemiologist Dr Jennifer Cope.

The study was published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.


Fresh better than frozen

Women who opt for frozen eggs during in vitro fertilisation are less likely to give birth than women who use fresh eggs.

For the study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers analysed data from 11,148 egg donation cycles, including 2,227 that used frozen eggs, done in 380 fertility centres in the US.

Live birth rates with the use of fresh eggs was 50 per cent for each completed IVF cycle compared to 43 per cent with frozen eggs.

For each embryo transfer, live birth rates were 56 per cent with the use of fresh eggs and 47 per cent with the use of frozen eggs.

According to the study author, the discrepancy could be because recipients of frozen eggs usually get fewer eggs for a treatment than recipients of fresh eggs. It is also possible that the quality of frozen eggs could be diminished during freezing and thawing.


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