Harsh parenting can harm kids’ mental health


CHILDREN WHOSE PARENTS discipline them harshly are more likely to develop lasting mental health problems, finds a study published in the journal Epidemiology and Psychiatric Sciences.

Hostile parenting involves frequent yelling and physical punishment as well as punishing children depending on the parent’s mood and damaging their self esteem.

The study included 7,507 Irish children whose mental health was assessed at ages three, five and nine. The researchers studied both internalising symptoms such as anxiety and social withdrawal and externalising symptoms such as impulsivity, aggression and hyperactivity. About 10 per cent of the children fell into a high-risk group for poor mental health. Children who experienced hostile parenting at age three were 1.5 times more likely to be in that group by age nine. Girls and children with single parents were also more likely to be in the high-risk group.

“The fact that one in 10 children was in the high-risk category is a concern and we ought to be aware of the part parenting may play in that,” the study author said. “We are not for a moment suggesting that parents should not set firm boundaries for their children’s behaviour, but it is difficult to justify frequent harsh discipline, given the implications for mental health.”

Risk of heart attack increases after flu


PEOPLE ARE SIX times more likely to have a heart attack the week after getting the flu compared with the year before or after, according to a Dutch study presented at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases.

The researchers analysed test results from 16 labs, covering nearly 40 per cent of the Dutch population, along with death and hospital records. Of the 26,221 confirmed flu cases, 401 people suffered a heart attack within one year before or after an infection (some had multiple heart attacks; the total number was 419). Of the 419, 34.7 per cent died from any cause within a year of their flu diagnosis. Twenty five heart attack cases occurred in the first seven days after flu diagnosis, 217 in the year before and 177 in the year after.

Based on the findings, people were 6.16 times more likely to have a heart attack in the week following a flu diagnosis.

The influenza virus can increase blood clotting, which, along with inflammation triggered by the body’s immune response, could contribute to arterial plaque ruptures that can lead to a heart attack, the researchers explained.

The results emphasise the importance of getting vaccination to prevent influenza infection and for physicians and flu patients to be aware of heart attack symptoms.

Did You Know?

For those 70 and older, the risk for heart disease, stroke and heart failure dropped by 14 per cent for every 500 steps walked each day

Study presented at the American Heart Association's Epidemiology, Prevention, Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health Conference

Prostate cancer treatment can wait

DELAYING TREATMENT FOR localised prostate cancer does not increase mortality risk, according to a British study published in The New England Journal of Medicine. Long-term survival rates were similar whether patients chose active monitoring, radiotherapy or surgery.

The study findings are reassuring for men who would like to avoid the incontinence and sexual problems associated with surgery and radiotherapy. As many as 1,643 men between 50 and 69, who were diagnosed with localised prostate cancer, were randomly assigned three major treatment options—active monitoring, radical prostatectomy or radical radiotherapy.

During an average followup of 15 years, the researchers analysed mortality rates, cancer progression and the impact of treatment on quality of life. Survival rate was nearly 97 per cent, regardless of the treatment.

Although men in the active monitoring group were more likely to see their cancer spread and went on to receive active treatment, that did not translate into increased risk of death—24.4 per cent of these men stayed alive and did not need any invasive treatment.

Overall quality of life, in terms of general mental and physical health, was similar across all three groups. But the negative effects of radiotherapy and surgery on urinary, bowel and sexual function persisted for up to 12 years.

“It’s clear that, unlike many other cancers, a diagnosis of prostate cancer should not be a cause for panic or rushed decision making,” the lead researcher said. “Patients and clinicians can and should take their time to weigh the benefits and possible harms of different treatments in the knowledge that this will not adversely affect their survival.”

Delaying surgery after breast cancer diagnosis affects survival


DELAYING SURGERY BY more than eight weeks after breast cancer diagnosis is associated with worse overall survival, according to a US study published in the journal JAMA Surgery.

To examine the association between time from diagnosis to surgery and overall survival, the researchers analysed data from 3,73,334 women diagnosed with stage I to III breast cancer who underwent surgery as the first line of treatment. Women who had chemotherapy before surgery were not included.

Nearly 90 per cent of the women had surgery within eight weeks of diagnosis. During five years of followup, no link was seen between the time from diagnosis to surgery and overall survival until nine weeks after diagnosis.

Compared with women who had surgery within four weeks of diagnosis, those who waited for nine or more weeks were more likely to die within five years.

The longer the time to surgery, the worse survival outcomes were.

“Based on our findings, we recommend surgery before eight weeks from breast cancer diagnosis,” the researchers concluded.

Did You Know?

Eating a handful of nuts/seeds (about 30gm) every day is associated with a 20 to 25 per cent lower risk of cardiovascular disease

Food & Nutrition Research

No health benefits to drinking alcohol


A CANADIAN STUDY published in JAMA Network Open questions the popular belief that a daily beer or glass of wine could reduce the risk of heart disease.

Instead, the study found that moderate alcohol consumption was not associated with protection against heart disease or death from all causes.

Alcohol use has been linked to at least 22 specific causes of death, including some cancers, liver disease, stroke, heart disease and premature death as well as deaths from accidents, homicides and suicides.

To examine the relationship between alcohol use and death, the researchers evaluated 107 studies that included nearly 50 lakh people.

The notion that alcohol is good for your health is based on studies that are flawed. For example, many studies tend to place former drinkers in the same group as lifetime abstainers. But many former drinkers would have quit drinking because they have health problems and including them with abstainers could skew the results.

The current analysis found that occasional or moderate drinkers did not have a reduced risk of death compared with lifetime abstainers.

People who had around three drinks daily had a slightly increased risk of death, while those who had more than four drinks a day had a 35 per cent higher risk of death than occasional drinkers.

The risk was even greater for women and at even lower levels. Women who had more than four drinks daily had a 61 per cent increased risk of death.

Widowhood more deadly for men


ACCORDING TO A Danish study published in PLOS One, men are much more likely to die within a year of losing a spouse. The researchers followed 9,24,958 Danish citizens 65 and older, of whom 55.4 per cent were women.

During six years of followup, 77,722 individuals lost a spouse. On average, survivors were between 77 and 79 when their spouse died; 6.4 per cent of the men lost their spouse, compared with 10 per cent of the women.

The increased risk of death was highest in the first year after bereavement. Overall, men who became widowed between 65 and 69 were 70 per cent more likely to die in the year that followed compared with similarly aged men who did not lose a spouse. However, among widowed women, the risk was only 27 per cent in the first year, and normalised after that. Women who lost a spouse after the age of 70 did not have a higher risk of dying.

The study also found that health care expenditure for the surviving spouse increased following bereavement and it was higher in men.

Did You Know?

Following a Mediterranean diet, which includes food like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, seafood, beans and nuts, may help reduce the risk of dementia by about 25 per cent, independent of genetic predisposition

BMC Medicine

Statin alternative reduces heart attack risk


STATINS ARE COMMON cholesterol-lowering drugs that are routinely prescribed for people with elevated LDL cholesterol. They are highly effective and also prevent heart attacks and strokes. But up to 29 per cent of people cannot or will not take the drugs due to side effects like muscle pain, headaches or weakness.

A new US study published in The New England Journal of Medicine suggests that a different kind of cholesterol lowering drug called bempedoic acid may be more tolerable and provide moderate protection against heart attack and stroke.

The study included 13,970 patients from 32 countries who had high cholesterol and had, or were at high risk for, cardiovascular disease.

None of the participants could tolerate statins. They were randomly assigned to take 180mg of bempedoic acid or a placebo daily and were followed for an average of over three years. Taking bempedoic acid reduced the combined risk of cardiovascular death, heart attack, stroke, or coronary revascularisations (procedure to open blocked arteries) by 13 per cent.

When analysed separately, the drug lowered LDL cholesterol by 21 per cent and reduced the risk of heart attack by 23 per cent.

“Until now, there have not been any drugs designed specifically for statin-intolerant patients,” the study’s lead author said. “While statins remain the cornerstone of risk reduction in patients with elevated LDL cholesterol, this is a major step forward for a population who need statins but suffer troublesome side-effects.”

Spinal cord stimulation may help with diabetic neuropathy

SPINAL CORD STIMULATION could provide significant relief to people with painful diabetic neuropathy, according to a study presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s annual meeting.

About a quarter of people with diabetes may develop diabetic neuropathy, a type of nerve damage that can cause significant pain and numbness, typically in their hands and feet. “Diabetic neuropathy often results in poor quality of life, depression, anxiety and impaired sleep, and the available medications can be ineffective for many people or cause side effects that people can't tolerate,” the study author explained.

As many as 216 people with diabetic neuropathy symptoms for at least one year, who were not responding to medication, were included in the study. Half of them received spinal cord stimulation plus regular treatment for six months, while the other half received only regular treatment.

Spinal cord stimulation involves implanting a device under the skin that blocks pain signals to the brain. At six months, those who received stimulation had a 76 per cent reduction in their pain and a 62 per cent improvement in their motor function, sensation and reflexes. On the other hand, people in the control group had a 2 per cent increase in pain and a 3 per cent improvement in function.

People had the option to switch treatments after six months—93 per cent of those in the medication-only group opted for an implant. After two years, the implant group reported 80 per cent reduction in pain and 66 per cent improvement in motor function, sensation and reflexes. Five people had their devices removed due to infection.

“This study demonstrates that high-frequency stimulation provides long-term pain relief with acceptable safety,” the study author concluded.

Did You Know?

Dog owners who share a bed with their pet are more likely to have sleep apnoea and other sleep disorders, and wake up feeling unrested. Those who share a bed with their cats are more likely to snore and have leg jerks, and have trouble falling and staying asleep

Human-Animal Interactions

New nasal spray for migraine


THE US FDA has approved a new nasal spray for the acute treatment of migraine in adults. Pfizer’s nasal spray, zavegepant (zavzpret), will provide patients with a fast-acting alternative to oral medications to treat severe headaches.

The approval was based on the results of a phase three clinical trial published in the journal Lancet Neurology, which showed that those who took the medication saw pain relief in as little as 15 minutes and were more likely to return to normal function within 30 minutes to two hours.

The trial included 1,269 patients who were randomised to receive a single 10mg dose of either zavegepant or a placebo—24 per cent of those who used the spray reported pain relief within two hours compared with 15 per cent of those who took a placebo. And 40 per cent were free of their worst symptoms within two hours compared with about 31 per cent of those on a placebo.

The nasal spray was well tolerated. Side effects included an altered sense of taste, nasal discomfort and nausea.

Zavzpret blocks the release of calcitonin gene-related peptides, a type of protein that is elevated during a migraine. Unlike many of the older drugs for migraine, the new spray is also safer for people at risk of heart attack or stroke.