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Are you able to become immune to coronavirus?

<p>As the number of people infected with coronavirus is more than 450,000, scientists are currently wrestling with questions that are left after people recover from the virus. Do people survive the infection become immune to the virus?</p> <p>The answer is luckily, yes but there are some significant unknowns with that as well.</p> <p>As growing immunity in the community is also the way the pandemic ends, scientists are working overtime to figure out what these significant unknowns are and how they’ll impact the larger community.</p> <p>It is currently unclear how long people who have been infected and beaten the virus are left with an immunity against it, with some medical professionals believing that there may be an immunity of at least one to two years.</p> <p>Florian Krammer, a microbiologist at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, says that even if people became reinfected, the second bout of coronavirus would likely be much milder than the first.</p> <p>“You probably would make a good immune response before you even become symptomatic again and might really blunt the course of the disease,” Dr. Krammer said to<span> </span><em><a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/25/health/coronavirus-immunity-antibodies.html" target="_blank">The New York Times</a>.</em></p> <p>Antibody tests are being used in Singapore, China and a handful of other countries. However, they are just making their way into the West. Antibody tests are the quickest way to assess immunity, as it’s a blood test that looks for protective antibodies in the blood of people who have recovered.</p> <p>“No matter who makes them, as long as they’re reliable, that’s a super nice tool,” Dr. Krammer said. Because this is a new coronavirus, the test should deliver “basically, a yes or no answer, like an H.I.V. test — you can figure out who was exposed and who wasn’t.”</p> <p>Dr Krammer’s tests pick up an antibody response as early as three days after symptoms emerge, but given people might not show symptoms for as long as 14 days after infection, it’s too late for the test to be useful as a diagnostic tool.</p> <p>Ultimately, it’s only with the tests that scientists are using that they will be able to say when enough of the population has become infected and therefore has made people immune.</p>

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Ibuprofen and COVID-19 symptoms: Here’s what you need to know

<p>There’s been some <a href="https://www.sciencealert.com/who-recommends-to-avoid-taking-ibuprofen-for-covid-19-symptoms">confusion recently</a> on whether we should or shouldn’t take ibuprofen to treat symptoms of COVID-19 – especially after the World Health Organisation (WHO) changed its stance. After initially recommending people avoid taking ibuprofen to treat symptoms of the new coronavirus disease, <a href="https://twitter.com/WHO/status/1240409217997189128">as of March 19</a> the WHO now does not recommend avoiding ibuprofen to treat COVID-19 symptoms.</p> <p>The confusion began after France’s Minister of Solidarity and Health <a href="https://twitter.com/olivierveran">Oliver Véran</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/olivierveran/status/1238776545398923264">announced on Twitter</a> that taking anti-inflammatory drugs (such as <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/ibuprofen">ibuprofen</a> or <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/nursing-and-health-professions/cortisone">cortisone</a>) could be a factor in worsening a COVID-19 infection. He recommended that paracetamol should be taken instead to treat the associated fever.</p> <p>At the moment, the NHS only recommends <a href="https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/self-isolation-advice/">taking paracetamol for COVID-19 symptoms</a>, even though it admits there is no strong evidence showing ibuprofen worsens symptoms. The BMJ also states that <a href="https://www.bmj.com/content/368/bmj.m1086">ibuprofen should be avoided</a> when managing COVID-19 symptoms.</p> <p><a href="https://bnf.nice.org.uk/drug/ibuprofen.html">Ibuprofen</a> is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (<a href="https://bnf.nice.org.uk/treatment-summary/non-steroidal-anti-inflammatory-drugs.html">NSAID</a>). <a href="https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/nsaids/">NSAIDs</a>, including ibuprofen, normally have three main uses: they help with inflammation, pain, and <a href="https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/fever-in-children/">fever</a>. People might also take them for inflammatory conditions such as <a href="https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/rheumatoid-arthritis/">arthritis</a> and for <a href="https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/ways-to-manage-chronic-pain/">pain</a>. However, <a href="https://www.nhs.uk/medicines/paracetamol-for-adults/">paracetamol</a> can also help treat pain and fever.</p> <p>Fever is a <a href="https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/accidents-first-aid-and-treatments/how-do-i-take-someones-temperature/">higher than normal body temperature</a>, and is <a href="https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/">one of the signs</a> of COVID-19, along with a persistent cough and shortness of breath. The body develops a fever as a defence mechanism, where the immune system produces a chain of molecules that tell the brain to make and keep more heat inside to fight the infection.</p> <p>While <a href="https://www.britannica.com/science/fever">getting fever</a> during an infection is part of the body’s defence mechanism, a serious rise in body temperature can be fatal and should be treated. Having fever is also uncomfortable because it often comes with shivering, headaches, nausea and stomach upsets. Taking an anti-inflammatory like ibuprofen or paracetamol will bring down a high temperature by lowering some of the fever molecules. However, doctors who <a href="https://www.bmj.com/content/347/bmj.f6041">compared the two</a> in 2013 suggested taking paracetamol over ibuprofen for normal chest infections because they found a small number of people’s illness got worse with ibuprofen.</p> <p><strong>Cause for concern?</strong></p> <p>Some of the reasons that there’s a concern taking ibuprofen will make COVID-19 symptoms worse comes from <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20724739">previous studies</a> that <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24997726?dopt=Abstract">have shown</a> people with <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/ppul.23041">other serious chest infections</a> (such as pneumonia) experienced worse symptoms and <a href="https://www.resmedjournal.com/article/S0954-6111(16)30326-2/fulltext">prolonged illness</a> after taking an NSAID, including ibuprofen.</p> <p>But it’s difficult to say if taking ibuprofen in these instances directly causes worse symptoms and prolonged illness, or if it’s because taking ibuprofen or other anti-inflammatories help manage pain, which may hide how serious the illness is and could stop people from asking for help earlier – delaying treatment. Or, it might be to do with ibuprofen’s anti-inflammatory effects. One <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0166354217307362?via%3Dihub">theory</a> is that anti-inflammatory medicines can interfere with some of the body’s immune response, although this is not proven for ibuprofen.</p> <p>However, two French studies <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28005149">warn doctors and pharmacists</a> not to give NSAIDs when they see signs of chest infections, and that NSAIDs shouldn’t be given when <a href="https://www.jpeds.com/article/S0022-3476(16)30233-5/fulltext">children are infected</a> with viruses. There’s no agreement on why ibuprofen could make chest infections worse, but both studies reported worse outcomes in patients who had taken a NSAID to treat their condition.</p> <p>A recent letter to The Lancet suggested that ibuprofen’s harm in COVID-19 is to do with its <a href="https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanres/article/PIIS2213-2600(20)30116-8/fulltext">effect on an enzyme</a> in the body called angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) – though this has yet to be proven. This caused additional worries for patients taking angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors or angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) for existing heart conditions. <a href="https://www.britishcardiovascularsociety.org/news/ACEi-or-ARB-and-COVID-19">Several</a> <a href="https://pccsuk.org/2020/en/page/home">leading</a> <a href="https://www.escardio.org/Councils/Council-on-Hypertension-(CHT)/News/position-statement-of-the-esc-council-on-hypertension-on-ace-inhibitors-and-ang">organisations</a> have rightly warned patients not to stop taking their regular medicines in light of unconfirmed theories.</p> <p>Because novel coronavirus is a new type of virus, there is currently no evidence proving that taking ibuprofen will be harmful or make COVID-19 symptoms worse. Research in this area is developing fast, but with so much <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/51929628">misinformation about COVID-19 and ibuprofen use</a>, the cautious approach is to avoid ibuprofen with COVID-19 if at all possible – especially for those with pre-existing health conditions. Anyone who thinks they might have COVID-19 can consider <a href="https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/self-isolation-advice/">using paracetamol instead</a> of ibuprofen for managing their fever, unless they’re told otherwise by their doctor or pharmacist.</p> <p>In the meantime, the UK’s Committee of Human Medicines and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) have been <a href="https://www.cas.mhra.gov.uk/ViewandAcknowledgment/ViewAlert.aspx?AlertID=103001">asked to review</a> all the evidence to understand ibuprofen’s impact on COVID-19 symptoms. Naturally, people already prescribed an anti-inflammatory drug for a health condition should ask their doctor’s opinion and not just stop their medication.</p> <p>It’s worth noting, however, that <a href="https://www.nhs.uk/medicines/ibuprofen-for-adults/">ibuprofen</a> and <a href="https://bnf.nice.org.uk/treatment-summary/non-steroidal-anti-inflammatory-drugs.html">NSAIDs</a> can trigger stomach ulcers and indigestion and might not be suitable for some people with heart disease, kidney and liver problems, and asthma, as well as people over 65, and those who drink more alcohol. These drugs should not be used in people with very high blood pressure, and women trying to get <a href="https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/pregnancy/can-i-take-ibuprofen-when-i-am-pregnant/">pregnant or already pregnant</a>.</p> <p><a href="https://www.nhs.uk/medicines/paracetamol-for-adults/">Paracetamol</a>, which can also treat pain and fever, may be preferred. Though it takes up to an hour to work, it’s safe to use for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, and can be taken with or without food. Some people need to take extra care with paracetamol and should speak with their doctor or pharmacist first, for example if they have liver or kidney problems.</p> <p>The usual dose of paracetamol for adults is one or two 500 milligram tablets up to four times in 24 hours, with at least four hours in between doses. Most people use a syrup to give paracetamol to <a href="https://www.nhs.uk/medicines/paracetamol-for-children/">children</a>. How much to give depends on your child’s age, but again paracetamol should only be given up to four times in 24 hours, with at least four hours between doses.</p> <p>Pharmacies have been running short of paracetamol and some shops have been <a href="https://www.pharmaceutical-journal.com/news-and-analysis/news/unprecedented-demand-for-otc-painkillers-as-covid-19-outbreak-spreads/20207830.article">rationing</a> sales. For those exhibiting symptoms, a box of 32 tablets should last for at least four days. At this time of crisis, it’s important people make sure they’re not stockpiling medicines unnecessarily and depriving others who are equally in need of paracetamol and other vital drugs.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/134064/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/parastou-donyai-126907">Parastou Donyai</a>, Professor and Director of Pharmacy Practice, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-reading-902">University of Reading</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/ibuprofen-and-covid-19-symptoms-heres-what-you-need-to-know-134064">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Coronavirus Australia: Why the rise in new cases is “good news”

<p>Deputy Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly has said the dramatic rise in Australia’s COVID-19 cases is “good news”, for one particular reason.</p> <p>The potentially deadly disease has infected over 2300 Australians – most of them from NSW – and killed 11 people, forcing the Federal Government to take increasingly drastic measures in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus.</p> <p>While the increasing number of cases is “obviously worrying and we are concerned”, Professor Kelly said that “on one side, that is good news” because it means “we are finding the cases and they are still mostly coming from overseas”.</p> <p>He said that the majority of confirmed coronavirus cases have been mild, and only 197 people – or less than 10 per cent of those infected – “have been hospitalised because they are sick”.</p> <p>“We are not overwhelming the system,” said Professor Kelly.</p> <p>He says the huge influx in cases over the last few days was mainly because of the Ruby Princess cruise ship, which docked in Sydney last Thursday.</p> <p>Over 130 passengers from the ship have tested positive to COVID-19.</p> <p>The remainder of cases “are being found as part of the contact tracing exercise,” said Professor Kelly, praising the “fantastic work being done by the states and territories” to monitor the number of virus case numbers.</p> <p>The process is being used to help understand how COVID-19 is spread throughout communities by finding out who the infected person caught the disease from, and who they’ve been in contact with while infectious.</p> <p>Community transmission of the virus may be quite low in Australia, but Professor Kelly warned that if Aussies didn’t follow the new measures put in place by the government, we would continue to see a rise in cases.</p> <p>He said that on average, a person with an infectious disease will infect three other people.</p> <p>“Just imagine that – if we did not take any of the measures about social distancing and decreasing the mixing that we do on a daily basis, then one person with the disease not taking any of those social distancing or hygiene messages seriously will infect three people,” he said.</p> <p>“Every one of those three people if they do not take those messages seriously will infect another three people and so on.”</p> <p>Professor Kelly said implementing social distancing and decreasing the number of interactions between people is how Australia is going to flatten the curve.</p> <p>“All of these fit together to decrease the transmission from person-to-person of an infectious disease,” he said.</p> <p>“And if we do that, we will get on top of it.”</p>

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Why older people are at more risk from COVID-19

<p>The rapidly spreading coronavirus pandemic is taking a particularly harsh toll on older people.</p> <p><a href="https://doi.org/10.3855/jidc.12600">Data from the initial outbreak in China and then Italy</a> show that infected people under the age of 60 are at low – but not no – risk of dying from COVID-19. More recent data from the U.S. suggest that a <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6912e2.htm?s_cid=mm6912e2_w">higher rate of people in their 30s and 40s</a> have experienced severe illness and even death than previously thought. Curiously, <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/03/17/coronavirus-looks-different-kids-than-adults/">young children</a> do not appear to be at increased risk of serious COVID-19 complications, in contrast to what happens with other viruses, <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/flu/highrisk/children.htm">like the seasonal flu</a>.</p> <p>However, the statistics get <a href="https://doi.org/10.3855/jidc.12600">grimmer as the patients get older</a>. Whereas people in their 60s have a 0.4% chance of dying, people in their 70s have a 1.3% chance of dying, and people over 80 have a 3.6% chance of dying. While this may not sound like a high chance of death, during the current outbreak in Italy, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30627-9">83% of those who succumbed to COVID-19</a> infection were over the age of 60.</p> <p>The new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, is therefore a <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6912e2.htm">very serious pathogen for people over 60</a>. As it continues to spread, this older age group will continue to be at risk for serious disease and death.</p> <p>What is it that puts older people at increased risk from viruses like this? It’s primarily thought to be due to changes in the human immune system as we age.</p> <p><strong>Your body’s tools to fight off virus infections</strong></p> <p>As you go about your life, your body is constantly bombarded by pathogens – the bacteria, fungi and viruses that can make you sick. A human body is a great place for these organisms to grow and thrive, providing a nice warm environment with plenty of nutrients.</p> <p>That’s where your immune system comes in. It’s your body’s defense system against these kinds of invaders. Before you’re even born, your body starts producing specialized B-cells and T-cells – types of white blood cells that can recognize pathogens and help block their growth.</p> <p>During an infection, your B-cells can proliferate and produce antibodies that grab onto pathogens and block their ability to spread within your body. T-cells work by recognizing infected cells and killing them. Together they make up what scientists call your “adaptive” immune system.</p> <p>Maybe your physician has checked your white blood cell levels. That’s a measurement of whether you have more B-cells and T-cells in your blood than usual, presumably because they’re fighting infection.</p> <p>When you’re very young, you don’t have a lot of these B- or T-cells. It can be a challenge for your body to control infection because it’s simply not used to the job. As you mature, your adaptive immune system learns to recognize pathogens and handle these constant invasions, allowing you to fight off infection quickly and effectively.</p> <p>While white blood cells are powerful people protectors, they’re not enough on their own. Luckily, your immune system has another layer, what’s called your <a href="https://doi.org/10.1159/000453397">“innate” immune response</a>. Every cell has its own little immune system that allows it to directly respond to pathogens quicker than it takes to mobilize the adaptive response.</p> <p>The innate immune response is tuned to pounce on types of molecules that are commonly found on bacteria and viruses but not in human cells. When a cell detects these invader molecules, it triggers production of an antiviral interferon protein. Interferon triggers the infected cell to die, limiting infection.</p> <p>Another type of innate immune cell, called a monocyte, acts as a sort of cellular bouncer, getting rid of any infected cells it finds and signaling the adaptive immune response to shift into gear.</p> <p>The innate and adaptive immune systems can act together as a fine-tuned machine to detect and clear out pathogens.</p> <p><strong>Older immune systems are weaker</strong></p> <p>When a pathogen invades, the difference between illness and health is a race between how fast the pathogen can spread within you and how fast your immune response can react without causing too much collateral damage.</p> <p>As people age, their innate and adaptive immune responses change, shifting this balance.</p> <p><a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.humimm.2009.07.005">Monocytes from older individuals</a> <a href="https://doi.org/10.1093/infdis/jir048">produce less interferon</a> in response to viral infection. They have a harder time killing infected cells and signaling the adaptive immune response to get going.</p> <p>Low-grade chronic inflammation in individuals that commonly occurs during aging can also <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1749-6632.2000.tb06651.x">dull the ability of the innate and adaptive immune responses</a> to react to pathogens. It’s similar to becoming used to an annoying sound over time.</p> <p>As you age, the reduced “attention span” of your innate and adaptive immune responses make it harder for the body to respond to viral infection, giving the virus the upper hand. Viruses can take advantage of your immune system’s slow start and quickly overwhelm you, resulting in serious disease and death.</p> <p><strong>Social distancing is vital</strong></p> <p>Everyone, no matter their age, needs to protect themselves from infection, not just to keep themselves healthy but also to help protect the most vulnerable. Given the difficulty older individuals have in controlling viral infection, the best option is for these individuals to avoid becoming infected by viruses in the first place.</p> <p>This is where washing hands, avoiding touching your face, self-isolation and <a href="https://theconversation.com/social-distancing-what-it-is-and-why-its-the-best-tool-we-have-to-fight-the-coronavirus-133581">social distancing</a> all become important, <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/prevention.html">especially for COVID-19</a>.</p> <p>COVID-19 is caused by a respiratory virus, which can spread via tiny virus-containing droplets. Larger droplets fall to the ground quickly; very small droplets dry up. Mid-range droplets are of most concern because they can <a href="https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/741245_3">float in the air for a few feet</a> before drying. These droplets can be inhaled into the lungs.</p> <p>Keeping at least 6 feet away from other people helps significantly reduce your chance of being <a href="https://doi.org/10.1186/s12879-019-3707-y">infected by these aerosol droplets</a>. But there’s still the <a href="https://theconversation.com/viruses-live-on-doorknobs-and-phones-and-can-get-you-sick-smart-cleaning-and-good-habits-can-help-protect-you-133054">possibility for virus to contaminate surfaces</a> that infected people have touched or coughed on. Therefore, the best way to protect vulnerable older and immunocompromised people is to stay away from them until there is no longer a risk. By stopping the spread of SARS-CoV-2 throughout the whole population, we help protect those who have a harder time fighting infection.<!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/brian-geiss-998080">Brian Geiss</a>, Associate Professor of Microbiology, Immunology &amp; Pathology, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/colorado-state-university-1267">Colorado State University</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/older-people-are-at-more-risk-from-covid-19-because-of-how-the-immune-system-ages-133899">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Malaria and arthritis drugs touted as potential coronavirus “cure”

<p>Pharmacists have been ordered to stop dispensing two drugs touted as potential “cures” for the new coronavirus.</p> <p>Australian pharmacies saw a major rush for old malaria drugs hydroxychloroquine – sold as Plaquenil – and chloroquine after US President Donald Trump touted the medications as a “game changer” in a press conference last week.</p> <p>The comment was based on a recent <a href="https://drive.google.com/file/d/186Bel9RqfsmEx55FDum4xY_IlWSHnGbj/view">patient trial of hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 conducted in Marseilles</a>, France, which reported “<a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/marybethpfeiffer/2020/03/18/science-works-to-use-old-cheap-drugs-to-attack-coronavirus--it-might-just-work/#481669275c49">encouraging</a>” early results.</p> <p>Pharmaceutical Society of Australia president Chris Freeman said the unprecedented demand for the drugs in pharmacies across Australia created a shortage for patients who actually needed them.</p> <p>The two medications are also used to treat rheumatoid arthritis.</p> <p>Freeman said despite “positive signals” from the trial, people should not “buy into the hype”.</p> <p>“I think the worst thing that could happen is people start using these medicines in the hope it will prevent the virus, and then relax on other measures to prevent [it],” Freeman told the <em><a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-03-23/malaria-drugs-labelled-early-coronavirus-covid19-cures-treatment/12081306">ABC</a></em>.</p> <p>Freeman has asked pharmacists to keep their supplies of hydroxychloroquine safe.</p> <p>“We’re calling all prescribers to stop prescribing these in the short term until we have some more evidence on whether these medicines are effective in these conditions and are safe to do so,” he said.</p> <p>The Australian Medical Association have also supported the pharmacists’ call for GPs and doctors to stop prescribing the drug.</p> <p>The trial, which studied 36 patients, found that 70 per cent of the hydroxychloroquine-treated group tested negative to the virus at day 6.</p> <p>Ying Zhang, a professor of microbiology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said the Marseilles study had “potentially interesting and justified” findings, but was limited by a small sample size and a <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/marybethpfeiffer/2020/03/22/one-patient-dodges-a-covid-bullet-is-she-a-harbinger-or-outlier/#8762c745b843">short treatment and follow-up duration</a>.</p> <p>Christian Perronne, a infectious diseases physician at Greater Paris University Hospitals, said the results were “very encouraging” but added: “I agree with authorities and colleagues that, before recommending this treatment on a large scale, this efficacy should be further studied on a bigger number of patients with a longer follow-up.”</p> <p>According to <em><a href="https://www.vox.com/2020/3/20/21188433/coronavirus-hydroxychloroquine-chloroquine-covid-19-treatment">Vox</a></em>, at least <a href="https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/results?cond=COvid-19&amp;term=hydroxychloroquine&amp;cntry=&amp;state=&amp;city=&amp;dist=">six clinical trials for hydroxychloroquine</a> are enrolling patients or in planning stages around the world.</p>

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New virus symptoms to watch out for

<div class="post_body_wrapper"> <div class="post_body"> <div class="body_text "> <p>Sudden loss of sense of smell or taste has been identified as a possible new coronavirus symptom by specialists in the UK.</p> <p>Patients experiencing the loss of smell or taste were discovered “in the absence of other symptoms”, said the British Association of Otorhinolarygology (ENT UK).</p> <p>The finding was based on strong evidence from coronavirus patients in China, Italy and South Korea who had the condition, known as anosmia, according to <a rel="noopener" href="https://www.9news.com.au/national/coronavirus-new-symptoms-of-loss-of-taste-smell/52838e66-e11a-4252-9b39-b01fb35d8cea" target="_blank"><em>9News</em></a>.</p> <p>"Evidence from other countries that the entry point for the coronavirus is often in the eyes, nose and throat areas,” ENT UK and the British Rhinological Society said in a joint statement.</p> <p>"We have also identified a new symptom (loss of sense of smell and taste) that may mean that people without other symptoms but with just the loss of this sense may have to self-isolate - again to reduce the spread of the virus."</p> <p>The statement also added that these patients may be the “hidden carriers” of the virus and do not meet current guidelines for testing or self isolation.</p> <p>Currently, the Australian Department of Health guidelines say that fever, cough, sore throat and shortness of breath should trigger self isolation.</p> </div> </div> </div>

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Coronavirus: How to keep your gut microbiome healthy to fight COVID-19

<p>These are unprecedented times. COVID-19 (the illness caused by the new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2) has <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/11/health/coronavirus-pandemic-who.html">officially been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation</a>. Many countries have sealed their borders and put the population under voluntary or enforced lockdown. Cultural and sporting events have been cancelled or postponed – including <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/51909518">Euro 2020</a> and the <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-51942898">Glastonbury festival</a> – pubs and restaurants are closing, and people are <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-51941987">panic buying staples such as toilet paper and pasta</a>. But although it can feel like the situation is out of control, there are still plenty of things you can do to protect your health and that of the people around you.</p> <p>First and foremost, follow national <a href="https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/">guidance for preventing COVID-19</a>: avoid spreading the virus and cut your chances of catching it by regularly washing your hands, avoiding touching your face and reducing social contact. This is particularly important for protecting at-risk groups including people with existing health conditions, the elderly and pregnant women.</p> <p>As well as protecting yourself from the virus on the outside, you can also build up your defences from the inside by strengthening your immune system. Many people, especially the young, develop only very mild disease. The immune system is complex and highly responsive to the world around us, so it’s not surprising that many factors affect its function. What’s important to know is that most of these factors are <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4302727/">not hard-coded in our genes</a> but are influenced by lifestyle and the world around us.</p> <p>One thing that you can control immediately is the health of the trillions of microbes living in your gut, collectively known as the microbiome. Recent research has shown that the gut microbiome plays an <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6104162/">essential role in the body’s immune response to infection</a> and in maintaining overall health. As well as mounting a response to infectious pathogens like coronavirus, a healthy gut microbiome also helps to prevent potentially dangerous immune over-reactions <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/03/11/science/how-coronavirus-hijacks-your-cells.html">that damage the lungs and other vital organs</a>. These excessive immune responses can cause respiratory failure and death. (This is also why we should talk about “supporting” rather than “boosting” the immune system, as an overactive immune response can be as risky as an underactive one.)</p> <p><strong>Healthy microbiome, healthy gut, healthy body</strong></p> <p>Rather than taking supplements that claim to “boost your immune system” with no good supporting evidence, the food you eat has a big impact on the range and type of microbes in the gut. A <a href="https://joinzoe.com/2019/07/23/improve-microbiome-diversity-gut-health">diverse microbiome is a healthy microbiome</a>, containing many different species that each play their part in immunity and health. Microbiome diversity <a href="https://journals.plos.org/plospathogens/article?id=10.1371/journal.ppat.1007727">declines as you get older</a>, which may help to explain some of the age-related changes we see in immune responses, so it’s even more necessary to maintain a healthy microbiome throughout life.</p> <p>The fine details of the interactions between the gut microbiome and the immune system are not fully understood. But there seems to be a link between the <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-019-12873-4">makeup of the microbiome and inflammation</a> – one of the hallmarks of the immune response. Gut bacteria produce many beneficial chemicals and also <a href="https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/12/181218123123.htm">activate vitamin A</a> in food, which helps to <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6162863/">regulate the immune system</a>.</p> <p><strong>Eat to feed your microbiome</strong></p> <p>The best way to increase microbiome diversity is by <a href="https://joinzoe.com/2019/08/20/how-to-eat-more-plants">eating a wide range of plant-based foods</a>, which are high in fibre, and limiting <a href="https://www.smh.com.au/national/boosting-immunity-can-help-your-body-battle-coronavirus-20200312-p549gc.html">ultra-processed</a> foods including junk food. Following a Mediterranean diet has also been shown to <a href="https://gut.bmj.com/content/early/2020/01/31/gutjnl-2019-319654">improve gut microbiome diversity and reduce inflammation</a>: eating plenty of fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and whole grains; healthy fats like high-quality extra virgin olive oil; and lean meat or fish. Avoid alcohol, salt, sweets and sugary drinks, and artificial sweeteners or other additives.</p> <p>If you are concerned about getting hold of fresh produce while self-isolating or quarantined, frozen fruit, berries and vegetables are <a href="https://www.insider.com/which-is-better-fresh-vs-frozen-vegetables-2018-6">just as healthy as their fresh counterparts</a> and will last much longer than the currently recommended two-week isolation period. Canned fruit, beans and pulses are another long-lasting option.</p> <p>You can also support your microbiome by regularly eating natural yoghurt and artisan cheeses, which contain live microbes (<a href="https://theconversation.com/the-science-behind-probiotics-and-choosing-one-that-works-132804">probiotics</a>). Another source of natural probiotics are bacteria and yeast-rich drinks like kefir (fermented milk) or kombucha (fermented tea). Fermented vegetable-based foods, such as Korean kimchi (and German sauerkraut) are another good option.</p> <p>Whether you’re shopping for yourself, your family or for elderly relatives or friends, choosing foods that support a healthy gut microbiome is much more important than stockpiling toilet paper. <a href="https://www.oxfordhealth.nhs.uk/news/coronavirus-and-your-mental-wellbeing/">Managing your mental health</a>, staying physically active and getting enough sleep will also help to keep your immune system in good shape. And don’t forget to wash your hands!</p> <p><span><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/tim-spector-105795"><em>Tim Spector</em></a><em>, Professor of Genetic Epidemiology, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/kings-college-london-1196">King's College London</a></em></span></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/coronavirus-how-to-keep-your-gut-microbiome-healthy-to-fight-covid-19-134158">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Do you know what coronavirus cough sounds like?

<div class="post_body_wrapper"> <div class="post_body"> <div class="body_text "> <p>As cases of coronavirus continue to rise across the world, many are unsure what the respiratory condition sounds like.</p> <p>It presents with two key symptoms, which are a cough and a fever. As it’s broken out in the middle of cold and flu season, it can be difficult to tell if you’ve got the normal flu or coronavirus.</p> <p>Radio 2<span> </span>has shared audio clips of what the telltale dry cough sounds like.</p> <p>"The two main symptoms of coronavirus to look out for are a continuous dry cough and/or a fever,” said BBC’s Laura Foster.</p> <p>"If you're sneezing a lot, got a runny nose or a headache, you may be ill, but you've probably not got coronavirus.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr">A lot of people asking for the Coronavirus explainers we're making to be put on all media platforms. Good news is they are! This is the sort of information we should be sharing regularly to take the pressure off health systems. Plus my acting is hilarious. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/COVID2019?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#COVID2019</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/COVID19?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#COVID19</a> <a href="https://t.co/l304j6h1A1">https://t.co/l304j6h1A1</a></p> — Laura Foster (@misslfoster) <a href="https://twitter.com/misslfoster/status/1240615821438865408?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">March 19, 2020</a></blockquote> <p>"So how high a fever is a coronavirus one? And what exactly is a continuous dry cough?</p> <p>"Well, it's when you cough and there's no mucous or phlegm. There's basically no gooey substance in your tissue. And this is not the odd cough here or there. It has to be coughing regularly for no other reason, such as clearing your throat or smoking."</p> <p>"So how high a fever is a coronavirus fever? Well if you have one, you will know about it. Technically it's a body temperature of more than 37.8 degrees Celsius or 100 degrees Fahrenheit. But if you've not got a thermometer, basically you will feel hot, and your chest and back would be hot if someone touched you."</p> <p>Laura added: "If you have either of these symptoms, then you and everyone you live with needs to stay at home for two weeks.”</p> </div> </div> </div>

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Why we lose our hearing and vision as we age

<p>As the baby boomer generation begins to age, the prevalence of both eye and ear disease will rise exponentially, as there is a strong correlation between vision loss, hearing loss and ageing.</p> <p>The <a href="http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs282/en/">World Health Organisation estimates</a> that 285 million people worldwide are visually impaired, with 82% of people with blindness aged 50 and above. Australia alone will have 800,000 people aged 40 or over with low vision or hearing loss by 2020.</p> <p>As people age, they often experience a number of changes in their physical, mental and social health. Among these are eye and ear changes, and diseases that usually result in vision and hearing loss. Changes to our eyes and ears occur as a result of disease, genetic factors, “wear and tear” and environmental factors.</p> <p><strong>What happens in our eyes as we age?</strong></p> <p>There are a range of changes in our eyes that occur as a result of age. For example, over time the whites of the eyes, or “sclera”, undergo changes due to exposure to ultraviolet light.</p> <p>These changes include a yellowing or browning of the white of the eye due to fatty or cholesterol deposits in the conjunctiva – the mucous membrane that covers the eye – also related to ageing and exposure to ultraviolet light.</p> <p>Over time, changes also occur in the conjunctiva, such as a thinning of the membrane. This often results in dry eye, a condition caused mainly by reduced production of tears and reduced mucous from the conjunctiva.</p> <p>As we age, we often experience a decrease in the strength of our muscles. This is no different in the eye, and the muscles in our eyelids can become weaker over time. Reduced tone in the muscle that gives shape to our lens, as well as stiffening of the natural lens with age, causes presbyopia (inability to see near objects), necessitating the use of reading glasses.</p> <p>Eye disorders that commonly occur in older adults include:</p> <ul> <li> <p><strong>macular degeneration</strong>. This terms describes <a href="https://theconversation.com/explainer-what-is-age-related-macular-degeneration-59889">damage to the pigmented oval</a> in the centre of the retina resulting in decreased central vision and seeing fine detail. This happens as we age because of deposits of fine grains that build up in the retina.</p> </li> <li> <p><strong>Cataracts</strong>. This is a <a href="https://theconversation.com/explainer-what-are-cataracts-63699">clouding of the lens</a> that covers the eye. These are thought to be caused by breakdown and degradation of lens proteins, and are considered a part of the normal ageing of the lens.</p> </li> <li> <p><strong>Diabetic retinopathy</strong>. This is damage to the retina resulting from diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is age related and the duration and control of blood glucose levels often determine whether or not diabetic retinopathy does or does not develop.</p> </li> <li> <p><strong>Glaucoma</strong>. When <a href="https://theconversation.com/explainer-what-is-glaucoma-the-sneak-thief-of-sight-64807">glaucoma</a> occurs, the optic nerve is progressively damaged resulting in loss of the peripheral visual field.</p> </li> </ul> <p>Among older Australians, cataract is the most common eye disease and cause of visual impairment (over <a href="https://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/D1A5409787D800F2CA257C73007F12F3/%24File/eyehlth.pdf">70% of people in Australia</a> aged 80 years and over have cataracts), followed by age-related macular degeneration (occurring in <a href="http://www.aihw.gov.au/media-release-detail/?id=6442464587">3.1% of older people</a>).</p> <p><strong>What happens in our ears as we age?</strong></p> <p>As we get older, we experience changes all over our body, including the ears. Commonly, people’s ears (outer ears, that is) become bigger, earwax accumulates more easily and there is more cartilage in the external ear canal.</p> <p>There is also often a stiffening of the eardrum and <a href="https://www.nursingtimes.net/roles/older-people-nurses/exploring-the-anatomy-and-physiology-of-ageing-part-6-the-eye-and-ear/1840889.article">changes to the neural</a> (nerve) system.</p> <p>These changes contribute to older people suffering from hearing loss and central <a href="https://theconversation.com/is-your-child-having-trouble-learning-they-may-have-auditory-processing-disorder-62491">auditory processing disorders</a>, in which the ear cannot properly process sounds.</p> <p><strong>How these changes affect daily life</strong></p> <p>As a result of these numerous eye and ear changes and diseases, older people typically have vision and hearing problems that include sensitivity to light and difficulty visualising distant objects or reading print.</p> <p>Hearing problems include difficulty with perceiving and discriminating sounds (including speech), understanding speech (particularly in poor listening situations such as when there is high background noise or echo), and processing auditory information.</p> <p>These difficulties interfere with older adults’ everyday functioning and participation in activities. People with sensory loss may have difficulty performing independent activities of daily living such as bathing and shopping. This means they’re more at risk of problems with <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1448344/">mental health and social interaction</a>.</p> <p>One of the most disabling effects of vision and hearing loss is decreased ability to communicate with others. People with severe vision loss (low vision or legal blindness) have difficulty lip reading or perceiving non-verbal cues (such as facial expression or gestures).</p> <p>Those with hearing loss have communication difficulties including difficulty perceiving sounds or following a conversation. For people with loss of both senses, communication difficulties are much worse. They can’t adequately receive a verbal message and <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4030176/">frequently misunderstand conversation</a>.</p> <p><strong>Management of sensory loss</strong></p> <p>Management of sensory loss requires assessment by professionals (such as optometrists and audiologists) who will recommend the appropriate management plan that may include the use of a visual or hearing device.</p> <p>Speech pathologists also play a role, with programs including speech perception training or communication programs for clients and carers.</p> <p>Early identification and intervention can help those with vision and hearing loss so the effects of these sensory losses can be minimised, improving their quality of life.</p> <p><em>Acknowledgement: Dr Julian Sack (Ophthalmologist) for his input. </em><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/chyrisse-heine-313009">Chyrisse Heine</a>, Speech Pathologist/Audiologist Senior Lecturer, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/la-trobe-university-842">La Trobe University</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/why-we-lose-our-hearing-and-vision-as-we-age-67930">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Shopper shoves disabled woman to get last toilet paper roll

<div class="post_body_wrapper"> <div class="post_body"> <div class="body_text "> <p>A Perth woman in a wheelchair said that she was pushed by another shopper as she tried to reach for the last pack of toilet paper on a supermarket shelf.</p> <p>Jacqui Giles was about to pick up the final pack of toilet paper when she was shoved out of the way by another customer.</p> <p>"I reached down to go grab it, and she just pushed me and grabbed the toilet paper and went off," Ms Giles told<span> </span><a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://www.9news.com.au/" target="_blank">9News</a>.</p> <p>Giles said that her partner followed the woman to her car and saw evidence of toilet paper hoarding.</p> <p>"She had four 36-packs in her car," she said.</p> <p>Giles said the behaviour was "really selfish".</p> <p>"If someone did that to my grandparents I wouldn't be happy, or to anyone who needs it.</p> <p>"Some people could be quite sick and (have) bowel disease, and they really do need it."</p> <p>Luckily, she was able to buy a pack earlier in the day.</p> <p>Industry Minister Karen Andrews condemned panic buying behaviour.</p> <p>"Firstly - there is no need for people to continue to buy extensive amounts of toilet paper," she said.</p> <p>"We have adequate supplies of that in Australia, and quite frankly, people's usage is not likely to change.</p> <p>"So there is no need to panic buy that."</p> <p>Currently, there is no nationwide shortages of any major supermarket item, but people’s panic-buying makes it difficult to keep essentials on the shelves.</p> <p>"The issue that we are experiencing at the moment is getting the goods out of our distribution centres and on to the shelves.</p> <p>"The more panic buying that continues, the more difficult that is, which means that people will walk into stores and they will see shelves that are not fully stocked.</p> <p>"That is only a restocking issue. It is not a supply issue.</p> <p>"So if everyone goes back to their normal purchasing behaviour at a supermarket, there is no cause for alarm."</p> <p>A blind woman also reported having toilet paper stolen from her shopping trolley in Melbourne.</p> <p>"Because we cannot see, people are stealing from us," she told 9News.</p> <p>"Please consider other people who are disadvantaged because we can't get food because we don't have cars."</p> </div> </div> </div>

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Things people say about exercise that aren’t true

<p>It can be hard to include exercise in our busy lives, despite the best of intentions. There are a lot of reasons people don’t exercise, and a lot of misconceptions about exercise. Here are nine common misconceptions about exercise and what research actually tells us.</p> <p><strong>1.</strong> <strong>I was fit once, so I don’t need to exercise</strong> Unfortunately, the health benefits of exercise won’t last if you don’t sustain your exercise regime. A significant reduction or drop out can cause a <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10999420">marked loss of initial benefits, such as cardiovascular fitness and endurance</a>. Consistency is the key. Mix it up and keep it interesting as maintaining high levels of physical activity throughout your life is associated with the best health outcomes.</p> <p><strong>2. Being on your feet all day doesn’t have the same benefit as exercise</strong> Being on your feet, moving around all days means you have a <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0828282X15016499?via%3Dihub">high level of physical activity</a>. This is health enhancing. To optimise health benefits, increase your level of exercise – enough to cause you to sweat a little – to <a href="https://health.gov/paguidelines/second-edition/pdf/Physical_Activity_Guidelines_2nd_edition.pdf">at least 150 minutes a week</a>, where possible.</p> <p><strong>3.</strong> <strong>Exercise needs to be ten minutes or longer, otherwise it’s a waste of time</strong> The good news is that <a href="https://health.gov/paguidelines/second-edition/pdf/Physical_Activity_Guidelines_2nd_edition.pdf">recent guidelines</a> have eliminated the need for physical activity to be delivered in bouts of at least ten minutes. There is no minimum threshold for health benefits, so carry out active daily chores, such as carrying heavy shopping bags and vigorous house or garden work, to improve your health.</p> <p>Try to do exercise “<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24817675">snacks</a>”, for example three to five short (half a minute to two minutes) bouts of activity spread across the day, such as climbing a few flights of stairs at a <a href="https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/53/18/1137#DC1">high enough intensity</a> to make you a bit out of breath.</p> <p><strong>4.</strong> <strong>I have a chronic disease, so I should avoid exercise</strong> This is not the case. Being more active will benefit a range of chronic conditions, including cancer, heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Be as active as your condition allows, aiming for <a href="https://health.gov/paguidelines/second-edition/pdf/Physical_Activity_Guidelines_2nd_edition.pdf">150 minutes a week of moderate activity</a> if possible. If you have complex health needs, seek medical clearance from a doctor before you start a new exercise regime and get exercise advice from a physiotherapist or other exercise professional.</p> <p><strong>5. I’m too old to exercise</strong> This is not true. <a href="https://www.ukactive.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Reimagining_Ageing.pdf">Evidence shows</a> that ageing alone is not a cause of major problems until you are in your mid-90s. And strength, power and muscle mass <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24030238">can be increased</a>, even at this advanced age. Ideally, include aerobic exercise, balance training and muscle strengthening <a href="https://health.gov/paguidelines/second-edition/pdf/Physical_Activity_Guidelines_2nd_edition.pdf">if you are 65 years or older</a>.</p> <p><strong>6. Exercise will make me thin</strong> Not necessarily. Combine calorific restriction with physical activity for more successful weight loss and remember: <a href="https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/49/15/967#ref-7">you cannot outrun a bad diet</a>. People who have substantial weight loss goals (over 5% of body weight) and people trying to keep a significant amount of weight off may need to do <a href="https://health.gov/paguidelines/second-edition/pdf/Physical_Activity_Guidelines_2nd_edition.pdf">more than 300 minutes a week of moderate-intensity activity</a> to achieve their goal. Include resistance work to build lean body mass.</p> <p><strong>7.</strong> <strong>I run once a week, but that’s not enough</strong> Rest assured that any amount of running, even once a week, results in important health benefits. If you don’t have much time to exercise, even as little as 50 minutes of running once a week at a pace slower than 6mph (9.65km/h) has been shown to result in a decrease in the risk of premature death. Higher levels of running <a href="https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/early/2019/09/25/bjsports-2018-100493">do not necessarily improve the mortality benefits</a>.</p> <p><strong>8.</strong> <strong>I’m pregnant, so I need to take it easy</strong> Moderate-intensity physical activity is <a href="https://health.gov/paguidelines/second-edition/pdf/Physical_Activity_Guidelines_2nd_edition.pdf">safe for pregnant women</a> who are generally healthy and <a href="https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/49/21/1377">poses no risk to the wellbeing of the foetus</a>. Physical activity <a href="https://health.gov/paguidelines/second-edition/pdf/Physical_Activity_Guidelines_2nd_edition.pdf">decreases the risk of excessive weight gain and gestational diabetes during pregnancy</a>.</p> <p><strong>9. I’m not feeling well, I shouldn’t exercise</strong> If you have a fever, are acutely unwell or are experiencing high levels of pain or exhaustion, don’t exercise. In most other cases, being physically active is safe, but listen to your body and decrease your exercise load if you need to. And if you can, get dressed and moving as soon as possible to avoid “<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28558567">PJ paralysis</a>”.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/128249/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/julie-broderick-646556">Julie Broderick</a>, Assistant Professor, Physiotherapy, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/trinity-college-dublin-701">Trinity College Dublin</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="http://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/things-people-say-about-exercise-that-arent-true-128249">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Why you get shorter as you age

<p>While you may be aware that a loss of vision, hearing and memory is a sign of ageing, something that is perhaps not so noticeable is a reduction in height. This apparent shrinking is due to several factors relating to changes in bone, muscles, joints and other tissues in your body. While a certain amount of height loss is a normal part of ageing and unlikely to be associated with any health problems, significant height loss may indicate underlying issues. Understanding what happens to your body as you age is important so you can counteract some of the negative effects of ageing.</p> <p>As early as your thirties, age-related muscle loss, known scientifically as <a href="https://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/guide/sarcopenia-with-aging">sarcopenia</a>, can mean you lose muscle mass at a rate of 3-5% each decade. Of particular concern are those muscles in your torso, which are primarily responsible for keeping you in an upright position. A reduction in their ability to maintain your posture can make you look stooped and hence shorter.</p> <p>Another reason for height loss as you age is your bone health. Bone is an extremely complex connective tissue that can adapt its size and shape in response to mechanical loads. This enables your bone to remodel itself throughout your life.</p> <p>In your younger years, you go through a growth stage, depositing bone so rapidly that 90% of your peak bone mass is reached in your late teens. This growth is consolidated in your mid-twenties when peak mass is reached.</p> <p>Around the age of 35-40, you begin to <a href="https://pure.solent.ac.uk/admin/files/11166593/Hawkey_2011_Osteoporosis_JST_Vol4_Issue1_1_.pdf">lose more bone than is generated</a>. Eventually, this loss of bone leads to a condition known as osteoporosis, which is characterised by low bone mass and increased bone fragility. Combined, these factors result in a <a href="https://www.who.int/chp/topics/Osteoporosis.pdf">greater risk of fracture</a>. While the hips and forearms are common sites for the disease, it is most common in the vertebrae (spine) where it has a negative impact on stature.</p> <p>Also located in the spine and responsible for maintaining your posture are the vertebral discs. These gel-like cushions sit between the vertebrae and act as shock absorbers, helping to keep the back flexible.</p> <p>When we are young these discs, which are about 80% water, are strong and supple. As you age, the discs gradually compress and flatten. Consequently, the spaces between the vertebrae are reduced. A similar effect is seen in the arches of the foot as you age when the ligaments begin to degenerate. This leads to flat arches, causing you to walk with a more flat-footed style.</p> <p><strong>Keep your stature</strong></p> <p>While most height loss is determined by your genes, there are some lifestyle factors you can follow to help maintain your height and, perhaps more importantly, reduce the effects that ageing has on your health and wellbeing.</p> <p>Regular exercise, especially activities that incorporate some form of weight-bearing, are good for generating bone. While you are never too old to receive some benefit from exercise, research has shown that developing strong bones in the teenage years (when most peak-bone mass is established) offers some protection as you enter older age. This kind of exercise inherently benefits muscle growth too, and so has the potential to protect against both osteoporosis and sarcopenia.</p> <p>While a healthy balanced diet is essential for general health, foods high in vitamin D and calcium, including almonds, broccoli and kale, also contribute to bone health. Not smoking or drinking alcohol and limiting caffeine consumption also helps.</p> <p>While a bit of shrinking is a normal part of ageing, it can suggest more serious issues. Ensuring that you maximise bone health and wellbeing throughout your life is vitally important.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/132826/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/adam-hawkey-939209">Adam Hawkey</a>, Associate Professor, School of Sport, Health and Social Sciences, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/solent-university-1523">Solent University</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="http://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/why-you-get-shorter-as-you-age-132826">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Tracy Grimshaw steps down from hosting A Current Affair amid coronavirus scare

<p>Tracy Grimshaw took a day off hosting <em>A Current Affair </em>after news emerged that Rita Wilson, who has been diagnosed with coronavirus, used her dressing room earlier this week.</p> <p>Karl Stefanovic took over hosting duties on the current affairs program Thursday evening after Grimshaw decided to step back as a precaution.</p> <p>According to Nine, Grimshaw’s immune system is not fully recovered after a recent surgery.</p> <p>Wilson visited the <em>Today Extra </em>set with husband Tom Hanks on Monday. The couple were diagnosed with COVID-19 while in Australia and are in isolation at a Gold Coast hospital.</p> <p>Channel Nine presenters David Campbell and Belinda Russell, who interviewed the pair, <a rel="noopener" href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/12/channel-nine-presenters-tested-for-coronavirus-following-rita-wilson-interview" target="_blank">are being tested for coronavirus</a>.</p> <p>Campbell told 2GB Wilson did not show any symptoms during her visit to the network’s Sydney studios.</p> <p>“She was cautious. She actually made a joke coming into the studios, saying we shouldn’t shake hands, we should bump elbows. So we bumped elbows,” he said.</p> <p>A Nine spokesperson said in a statement: “Our actions are in line with the guidelines set out by the Government and Health Authorities. Those who were in prolonged contact with Ms Wilson have been tested and are self-isolating for 14 days.”</p>

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7 science-based strategies to cope with coronavirus anxiety

<p>As the SARS-CoV-2 virus continues its global spread and the number of diagnosed COVID-19 cases continues to increase, anxiety related to the outbreak is on the rise too.</p> <p><a href="https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=jlev7ekAAAAJ&amp;hl=en&amp;oi=ao">As a psychologist</a>, I am seeing this in my practice already. Although feeling anxiety in response to a threat <a href="https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-295X.105.2.325">is a normal human reaction</a>, sustained high anxiety can undermine constructive responses to the crisis. People who already suffer from anxiety and related disorders are especially likely to have a hard time during the coronavirus crisis.</p> <p>The following suggestions, based on psychological science, can help you deal with coronavirus anxiety.</p> <p><strong>1. Practice tolerating uncertainty</strong></p> <p>Intolerance of uncertainty, which has been <a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/16506073.2018.1476580">increasing in the U.S.</a>, makes people <a href="https://doi.org/10.1586/ern.12.82">vulnerable to anxiety</a>. A <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/bjhp.12058">study during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic</a> showed that people who had a harder time accepting the uncertainty of the situation were more likely to experience elevated anxiety.</p> <p>The solution is to learn to gradually face uncertainty in daily life by easing back on certainty-seeking behaviors.</p> <p>Start small: Don’t text your friend immediately the next time you need an answer to a question. Go on a hike without checking the weather beforehand. As you build your tolerance-of-uncertainty muscle, you can work to reduce the number of times a day you consult the internet for updates on the outbreak.</p> <p><strong>2. Tackle the anxiety paradox</strong></p> <p><a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.beth.2014.07.001">Anxiety rises</a> proportionally to how much one tries to get rid of it. Or as Carl Jung put it, “<a href="https://www.routledge.com/C-G-Jung-The-Basics/Williams/p/book/9781138195448">What you resist persists</a>.”</p> <p>Struggling against anxiety can take many forms. People might try to distract themselves by drinking, eating or watching Netflix more than usual. They might repeatedly seek reassurance from friends, family or health experts. Or they might obsessively check news streams, hoping to calm their fears. Although these behaviors can help momentarily, they can <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2850.2010.01213.x">make anxiety worse</a> in the long run. Avoiding the experience of anxiety almost always backfires.</p> <p>Instead, allow your anxious thoughts, feelings and physical sensations to wash over you, accepting anxiety as an integral part of human experience. When waves of coronavirus anxiety show up, notice and <a href="https://www.newharbinger.com/mindfulness-based-stress-reduction-workbook-second-edition">describe the experience</a> to yourself or others <a href="https://www.uclahealth.org/marc/body.cfm?id=22&amp;iirf_redirect=1">without judgment</a>. Resist the urge to escape or calm your fears by obsessively reading virus updates. Paradoxically, facing anxiety in the moment will lead to less anxiety over time.</p> <p><strong>3. Transcend existential anxiety</strong></p> <p>Health threats trigger the fear that underlies all fears: <a href="https://wwnorton.com/books/9780393350876">fear of death</a>. When faced with reminders of one’s own mortality, people might become consumed with health anxiety and hyperfocused on any signs of illness.</p> <p>Try connecting to your life’s purpose and sources of meaning, be it spirituality, relationships, or pursuit of a cause. Embark on something important that you’ve been putting off for years and take responsibility for how you live your life. Focusing on or discovering <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/smi.1095">the “why” of life</a> can go a long way in helping you deal with unavoidable anxiety.</p> <p><strong>4. Don’t underestimate human resiliency</strong></p> <p>Many people fear how they will manage if the virus shows up in town, at work or at school. They worry how they would cope with a quarantine, a daycare closure or a lost paycheck. Human minds are good at predicting the worst.</p> <p>But research shows that people tend to <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/j.0963-7214.2005.00355.x">overestimate how badly they’ll be affected</a> by negative events and <a href="http://bit.ly/3cFFkIk">underestimate how well they’ll cope with</a> and adjust to difficult situations.</p> <p>Be mindful that you are more resilient than you think. It can help attenuate your anxiety.</p> <p><strong>5. Don’t get sucked into overestimating the threat</strong></p> <p>Coronavirus can be dangerous, with an estimated <a href="https://doi.org/10.1056/NEJMoa2002032">1.4%</a> to <a href="https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2020.2648">2.3%</a> death rate. So everyone should be serious about taking all the <a href="https://theconversation.com/what-really-works-to-keep-coronavirus-away-4-questions-answered-by-a-public-health-professional-132959">reasonable precautions against infection</a>.</p> <p>But people also should realize that humans tend to <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/1539-6924.00276">exaggerate the danger of unfamiliar threats</a> compared to ones they already know, like seasonal flu or car accidents. Constant incendiary media coverage <a href="https://doi.org/10.1093/eurpub/ckp061">contributes to the sense of danger</a>, which leads to heightened fear and further <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8721.2006.00461.x">escalation of perceived danger</a>.</p> <p>To reduce anxiety, I recommend limiting your exposure to coronavirus news to no more than 30 minutes per day. And remember that we become more anxious when faced with situations that have no clear precedent. Anxiety, in turn, makes everything seem more dire.</p> <p><strong>6. Strengthen self-care</strong></p> <p>During these anxiety-provoking times, it’s important to remember the tried-and-true anxiety prevention and reduction strategies. Get <a href="https://doi.org/10.5665/sleep.2810">adequate sleep</a>, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amepre.2019.05.012">exercise regularly</a>, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.brat.2017.12.002">practice mindfulness</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/anxiety-and-depression-why-doctors-are-prescribing-gardening-rather-than-drugs-121841">spend time in nature</a> and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-244X-8-41">employ relaxation techniques</a> when stressed.</p> <p>Prioritizing these behaviors during the coronavirus crisis can go a long way toward increasing your psychological well being and <a href="https://theconversation.com/a-strong-immune-system-helps-ward-off-colds-and-flus-but-its-not-the-only-factor-99512">bolstering your immune system</a>.</p> <p><strong>7. Seek professional help if you need it</strong></p> <p>People who are vulnerable to anxiety and related disorders might find the coronavirus epidemic <a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s10608-015-9701-9">particularly overwhelming</a>. Consequently, they might experience anxiety symptoms that interfere with work, maintaining close relationships, socializing or taking care of themselves and others.</p> <p>If this applies to you, please get professional help from your doctor or a mental health professional. <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psc.2010.04.002">Cognitive behavioral therapy</a> and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/msj.20041">certain medications</a> can successfully treat anxiety problems.</p> <p>Although you might feel helpless during this stressful time, following these strategies can help keep anxiety from becoming a problem in its own right and enable you to make it through the epidemic more effectively.<!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><span><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/jelena-kecmanovic-472294"><em>Jelena Kecmanovic</em></a><em>, Adjunct Professor of Psychology, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/georgetown-university-1239">Georgetown University</a></em></span></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="http://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/7-science-based-strategies-to-cope-with-coronavirus-anxiety-133207">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Public health expert warns coronavirus “could infect 60 per cent of world’s population”

<p>A leading public health expert who spearheaded the fight against SARS has issued a warning, saying that close to 60 per cent of the world’s population could become infected by the coronavirus.</p> <p>Professor Gabriel Leung, chair of public health medicine at Hong Kong University, is an expert on coronavirus epidemics and played a key role during the SARS outbreak in 2002 and 2003.</p> <p>Sitting down with<span> </span><em>60 Minutes</em><span> </span>on Sunday, he said that COVID-19 is “certainly more infective (than SARS), and it’s also very difficult to try to control it”.</p> <p>“The big unknown now is really how big is the iceberg,” he said.</p> <p>There have now been over 106,000 confirmed cases around the world and close to 3,600 deaths since the outbreak began in December, with a mortality rate of around 3.4 per cent.</p> <p>“I don’t know, but I’m suspecting that (there are many more people infected),” he said.</p> <p>“Everybody is susceptible. If you assume that everybody randomly mix with each other, then eventually you will see 40, 50, 60 per cent of the population get infected.”</p> <p>At current mortality rates for COVID-19, that could mean between 45 and 60 million deaths worldwide – in the first wave alone.</p> <p>“We have to prepare for that possibility that there is a second wave,” he said.</p> <p>In Australia, a third person died due to the virus in a hospital overnight, with authorities reporting the total number of cases sitting at 79 as of Sunday evening.</p> <p>Professor Leung said it was likely there were many more undetected cases.</p> <p>“For every death you would expect to see 80 to 100 cases,” he said.</p> <p>“So if you start seeing deaths first before you start picking up large numbers of cases the only conclusion that one can reasonably and scientifically draw is that you hadn’t been testing nearly early enough or extensively enough. Unless you go and test, you’re not going to find.”</p> <p>He said it didn’t appear that any country had been “completely successful at 100 per cent containment and driving back into the wild”.</p> <p>“There is now an emergency going on and what we must do is very rigorous infection control,” he said.</p> <p>“Now is the time to really pull out all the stops, put everything you got into it to fight it. We have to give it the whole-of-government approach. Give it all you got, throw everything at it quick and early and hard. That will buy you sufficient time and if you’re extremely lucky, you might even be able to contain it.”</p>

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No joking matter: Prince William's coronavirus quip on Ireland trip

<p>Prince William has joked about spreading coronavirus with his wife Kate as they make their way through Ireland.</p> <p>As he met emergency workers at a reception hosted by Britain’s Ambassador to Ireland Robin Barnett, he joked about the panic surrounding the disease.</p> <p>I bet everyone’s like ‘I’ve got coronavirus, I’m dying’, and you’re like ‘No, you’ve just got a cough’, he joked to Joe Mooney, an advance paramedic with the National Ambulance Service.</p> <p>“Does it seem quite dramatic about coronavirus at the moment? Is it being a little bit hyped up do you think in the media?”</p> <p>As the two continued talking, the Duke of Cambridge later grimaced with mock horror and explained his part in spreading the disease.</p> <p>“By the way, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are spreading coronavirus, sorry.</p> <p>“We’re keeping an eye on that, so do tell us if we need to stop.”</p> <div class="embed-responsive embed-responsive-16by9"><iframe class="embed-responsive-item" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/N58eu-qM1aA"></iframe></div> <div class="embed-responsive embed-responsive-16by9"> <div class="post_body_wrapper"> <div class="post_body"> <div class="body_text "> <p>A royal insider told<span> </span><em><a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/11094200/prince-william-jokes-coronavirus-ireland-trip/" target="_blank">The Sun</a><span> </span></em>that the couple are following guidelines from Public Health England and the Department of Health, which means “business as usual” for now.</p> <p>“This is a discussion we have been having and everything we are doing should continue as usual,” said the insider.</p> <p>During the event, Prince William also joked that he never thought he’d see his grandmother the Queen in a pub.</p> <p>"We are retracing the footsteps of my grandmother, who was shown how to pour the perfect pint here in 2011,” he told the crowd.</p> <p>"Ladies and Gentlemen let me tell you it is not often that I find myself following the Queen to a pub!”</p> <p>The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are on their first official visit to Ireland, nine years after the Queen became the first British monarch to visit the country since its independence.</p> </div> </div> </div> </div>

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Why do I sweat so much?

<p>If you’re hot and sticky even before your daily commute, you might ask why you sweat so much.</p> <p>Sweating is usually the body’s way of stopping you overheating. But for some people, sweating becomes a problem. Either they sweat for no obvious reason or (as <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2019/11/prince-andrew-says-he-once-didnt-sweat-is-that-possible/602227/">Prince Andrew admitted last year</a>) not at all.</p> <p>So why do some people sweat more than others? And what can you do about excess sweating?</p> <p><strong>Remind me again, why do we sweat?</strong></p> <p>Humans need to regulate their internal body temperature to keep it constant, even when the environmental temperature rises, perhaps on a hot day, sitting in a hot-tub or running for the bus.</p> <p>That’s because a rise in internal body temperature can lead to our organs overheating, fatigue, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.</p> <p>Preventing severe heat gain requires a careful balance between the heat our body produces (from everyday metabolism), heat from the environment and the heat our body loses.</p> <p>Our bodies are well-designed for this. We have special temperature sensors in our skin and central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) that send signals to the body’s thermostat in the brain to alert it to increases in body temperature.</p> <p>The body’s largest organ, the skin, is also designed to remove heat from the body. The most noticeable way is losing heat via evaporating sweat.</p> <p><strong>How does sweating cool us down?</strong></p> <p>When our skin or core body temperature rises sufficiently, the thermostat in the brain sends impulses via our central nervous system to increase blood flow to the skin. The thermostat also activates the sweat glands.</p> <p>Our sweat glands release droplets onto our skin that become vapour when the blood flowing through the skin passes underneath.</p> <p>As the sweat vaporises, energy (in the form of heat) passes into the environment, cooling the blood. This cooled blood gets circulated back to the heart and brain, and cools our core body temperature.</p> <p>This is why a day in the sun can feel so draining. Your body is working much harder and using much more energy to keep you cool.</p> <p>By preventing our organs from overheating, sweat not only keeps us healthy, it also allows us to enjoy (or tolerate) the hot Australian summer.</p> <p>So it’s important to stay hydrated on a hot day so your body can produce and replace the volume of sweat necessary to keep you cool.</p> <p><strong>OK, but why do I sweat so much?</strong></p> <p>You might find yourself sweating more or less than usual for a number of reasons, other than it being a hot day.</p> <p><strong>Exercise</strong></p> <p>Exercise improves our ability to produce sweat and keep cool. People who exercise regularly (particularly in the heat) can <a href="https://journals.physiology.org/doi/full/10.1152/japplphysiol.00495.2010">produce more sweat</a> during exercise. This helps our bodies perform longer, with less physiological strain.</p> <p>So many of the Australian Olympic athletes will undergo a period of heat acclimatisation in the lead up to Tokyo 2020.</p> <p><strong>Stress</strong></p> <p>Ever notice you become sweaty when you are stressed? A different type of sweat gland, the <a href="https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hyperhidrosis/multimedia/sweat-glands/img-20007980">apocrine sweat glands</a>, are associated with hair follicles and often respond to <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31128655">emotional stress</a>.</p> <p>This type of sweat combines with bacteria on your skin and causes body odour.</p> <p><strong>Menopause</strong></p> <p><a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0025619611618119?via%3Dihub">Up to 75% of women</a> experience acute bouts of excessive sweating during menopause, called a hot flush.</p> <p>The <a href="https://physoc.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1113/JP271456">amount of sweat</a> produced during a two to three minute hot flush can be similar to the amount produced during exercise.</p> <p>Most people think hot flushes are caused by increases in core body temperature. But <a href="https://journals.lww.com/menopausejournal/fulltext/2019/09000/Is_core_temperature_the_trigger_of_a_menopausal.12.aspx">our research</a> suggests this might not be the case.</p> <p><strong>Drinking alcohol</strong></p> <p>Having a couple of drinks with friends may also <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0741832905001503?via%3Dihub">increase the sweat response</a>. Alcohol raises your heart rate and causes the blood vessels in your skin to relax and widen. This increases skin redness and your sweat rate, which can actually lead to decreases in body temperature.</p> <p><strong>So, what can I do about it?</strong></p> <p>Excessive sweating (<a href="https://www1.racgp.org.au/newsgp/clinical/what-is-hyperhidrosis">hyperhidrosis</a>) can happen in unusual situations such as in a cooler climate or with seemingly no cause.</p> <p>Although it can be embarrassing and uncomfortable, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4012678/">there are ways to treat it</a>, which you can discuss with your doctor.</p> <p>One option is to use an antiperspirant with aluminium or topical aluminium salts, which blocks the sweat glands from releasing sweat onto the skin.</p> <p>A longer-term option may be <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19222249">injecting Botulinum toxin</a> (commonly known as Botox) into the skin. This paralyses the injected area (such as the armpits, hands and feet) and prevents the activation of sweat glands.</p> <p>Other options include using low frequency electrical stimulation (<a href="https://dermnetnz.org/topics/iontophoresis/">iontophoresis</a>), prescription drugs and although controversial, surgery.</p> <p>For menopausal women, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27163520">we have shown</a> closely supervised exercise training can improve temperature regulation, leading to fewer and less severe hot flushes.</p> <p>This training involved 16 weeks of supervised, progressive moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, such as treadmill and cycling exercise, for up to one hour for three to five days a week.</p> <p><strong>In a nutshell</strong></p> <p>In the end, sweating is usually our body’s natural way to protect us from overheating. But if excess sweating is a problem, see your doctor who will outline which treatment options are best for you.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/131135/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><em><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: http://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></em></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/tom-bailey-682494">Tom Bailey</a>, Research Fellow, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-queensland-805">The University of Queensland</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/faith-pizzey-954823">Faith Pizzey</a>, PhD Student in Cerebrovascular Physiology, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-queensland-805">The University of Queensland</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="http://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/why-do-i-sweat-so-much-131135">original article</a>.</em></p>

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What are the health benefits of tai chi?

<p><a href="https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-health-benefits-of-tai-chi">Tai chi</a> is growing in popularity.</p> <p>It has been practised for years in China – often by big groups in parks. Tai chi or “taiji” is a form of qi gong, an umbrella term for ancient Chinese traditional practices of <a href="https://www.amazon.co.uk/Eternal-Spring-Taijiquan-Cultivation-Happiness/dp/1848190034">self-cultivation and energy preservation</a>. And it is different to the martial art form known as “Tai Chi Chuan” or “Taijiquan”. Tai chi is a “mind-body exercise”. You do slow, gentle, and fluid movements with your body. While doing this you focus on the movements and your breathing and forget about the stresses of life.</p> <p>Anyone can do tai chi. It is suitable and safe for people of all ages and abilities – though may need to be adapted for certain people or if you have a medical condition.</p> <p><strong>Tai Chi research</strong></p> <p>A lot of claims have been made about the benefits of tai chi.</p> <p>Studies have found, for example, that tai chi improves <a href="https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD004963.pub3/full?highlightAbstract=withdrawn%257Cexercise%257Cexercis%257Cbalance%257Cbalanc">balance</a> and <a href="https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD012424.pub2/full?highlightAbstract=fall%257Cwithdrawn">prevents falls</a>, a key issue for older people as falls can result in hip fracture and a fear of going outside independently.</p> <p>Research has also suggested that tai chi may be good for reducing pain, for example in people with <a href="https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD004849.pub2/full">rheumatoid arthritis</a>. And that it may also help to prevent <a href="https://www.cochrane.org/CD010366/VASC_tai-chi-to-prevent-cardiovascular-disease">cardiovascular disease</a>, be effective in <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5758591/">coronary disease rehabilitation</a>, and help ease breathing difficulties in people with a <a href="https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD009953.pub2/full">long-term lung problem</a>.</p> <p>In addition, it has been suggested that tai chi can improve mental health by reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%252Fs12529-013-9351-9">and enhancing general stress management</a>. Research has also suggested it could help to improve <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0965229914001010?via%253Dihub">how well you feel physically and mentally</a>.</p> <p>Despite these reported benefits, however, a lot of the above research on tai chi has been of <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4962385/">poor quality</a>, with unclear or a high risk of bias in results because of the way the studies were carried out – for example, not making sure people are randomly assigned to a tai chi or control group. This is important, as there needs to be no difference between people in the two groups other than doing tai chi or not. Without such controls, it is hard for researchers to draw accurate conclusions. So while current studies suggest it is possible that tai chi offers health benefits, more evidence is needed to truly say if this is the case.</p> <p><strong>Tai chi and dementia</strong></p> <p>Tai chi has also been touted as a possible method for helping to prevent dementia or for slowing down the progression of the disease. Studies, for example, have shown that it can enhance <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4055508/">cognitive</a> <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/jgs.15714">functioning</a>, such as better performance on tests for speed to understand and respond to information, attention, and memory for current tasks.</p> <p>And tai chi is also considered to have the potential to delay the deterioration in <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4055508/">cognitive</a> <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/jgs.15714">functioning</a> associated with dementia. Indeed, a study from 2015 found that people who did aerobic exercise or a mind-body exercise like tai chi were less likely to have dementia <a href="https://www.jamda.com/article/S1525-8610(15)00491-0/fulltext">six years later</a>.</p> <p>I recently led a team to <a href="http://www.bournemouth.ac.uk/tai-chi">study the benefits of tai chi</a> for people with dementia. The people in our study were able to learn tai chi and <a href="http://eprints.bournemouth.ac.uk/32386/">enjoyed the sessions</a> – research shows that finding a form of physical activity that <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0277953616301733?via%253Dihub">you enjoy</a> increases the likelihood of you starting and <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/338630390_A_Meta-Analysis_of_Self-Determination_Theory-Informed_Intervention_Studies_in_the_Health_Domain_Effects_on_Motivation_Health_Behavior_Physical_and_Psychological_Health">maintaining</a> a <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/17437190903229462">physically active lifestyle</a>. We also found that tai chi had strong potential to <a href="http://www.bournemouth.ac.uk/tai-chi">reduce falls</a> and sustain a good quality of life in older people with dementia.</p> <p>We avoided the risks of bias in earlier studies by conducting a gold-standard study (a randomised controlled trial). Though it was a small study to determine if it’s worthwhile to invest in a larger more expensive randomised controlled trial. So we hope to conduct another study in the future to confirm our results in a larger study.</p> <p>Though, as yet, the evidence does not strongly support one particular idea for why tai chi may improve brain health and only a few studies have been done with people who have dementia, there are several <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4055508/">theories</a> as to why tai chi may improve brain health. For example, tai chi involves learning and remembering new movements. It requires sustained attention and multitasking. Its relaxing aspect is like mindfulness or “moving meditation”. The aerobic exercise aspect could also enhance the efficiency and flexibility of neural connections in the brain. But it is not yet known if tai chi is better for improving these aspects over other types of exercise and mindful activities.</p> <p>What is clear though, is that tai chi is to be encouraged, as it is safe, easy to learn, enjoyable and has a lot of potential to bring <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4962385/">holistic health benefits</a>. What’s needed now is more high quality research that will allow firm conclusions to be drawn as to how much it improves our overall health.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/130630/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: http://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/samuel-nyman-950689">Samuel Nyman</a>, Interim Deputy Head of Research, Department of Medical Science and Public Health, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/bournemouth-university-1215">Bournemouth University</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="http://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/tai-chi-health-benefits-what-the-research-says-130630">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Why obesity is more common than you think

<p>The World Health Organization has <a href="https://www.who.int/nutrition/topics/obesity/en/">described</a> obesity as a global epidemic and one of today’s “most blatantly visible yet neglected public health problems”. In the last few years <a href="https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1614362">reports</a> on the rise of this life-threatening condition among children and adults across the globe have been <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29029897">alarming</a>.</p> <p>A total of 107.7 million children and 603.7 million adults were considered to be obese in 2015. But now our <a href="https://www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/96/11/17-205948/en/">research</a> shows that obesity is even more common than these reports suggest, and that in many countries most people are now living with obesity.</p> <p>Obesity is a disease in which the amount of body fat is too high – high enough to harm health. It can increase the risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart problems, stroke and some cancers. But measuring body fatness accurately is difficult – and so most scientific studies and national surveys do not measure it, but use instead the weight-to-height <a href="https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/lifestyle/what-is-the-body-mass-index-bmi/">body mass index</a> (BMI) as a simple proxy for body fatness.</p> <p>But the issue here is that the BMI can be a misleading proxy for high body fatness in both children and adults – and even more so in particular ethnic groups. This means that many people with apparently healthy BMI will actually be living with high body fatness without being aware of it, and so be at risk of the serious health consequences without realising it. Our research aimed to assess how problematic BMI is when used as a proxy for high body fatness in African children.</p> <p><strong>The problem with body-mass index</strong></p> <p>A high BMI or BMI-for-age – in children and adolescents BMI has to be adjusted for age because it increases with growth and maturation – is usually taken to represent high body fatness. The problem is that while almost all <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20125098">adults</a> and <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24961794">children</a> who have a high BMI will have a high level of body fat, many people with an apparently healthy BMI will also have a high level of body fat.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><iframe width="440" height="260" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/mjR6KRMPQGw?wmode=transparent&amp;start=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe></p> <p>It is well known that BMI misclassifies the body fatness of athletes, bodybuilders and sportsmen and women, because a high muscle mass produces a high BMI. Only a small proportion of the population are athletic though, and the far more common problem with BMI is that it misclassifies body fatness of this much larger, non-athletic portion of the population – but in the opposite direction, meaning it downplays its extent.</p> <p>The extent of the misclassifying of body fatness by BMI matters. Most studies which have measured both body fatness and BMI have taken place in Europe and North America – and in these studies the prevalence of high body fatness has been as much as two to three times greater than the prevalence of high BMI. In <a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0033308">one example</a> 26% of US adults were obese according to their BMI, while 64% of the same adults were obese according to a more accurate measure which images the amount of fat in the body directly using X-rays.</p> <p><strong>Obesity and ethnicity</strong></p> <p>The problem of underestimating obesity is even worse in some population groups. The extent to which the BMI misclassifies the body fatness of people <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27383689">depends on their ethnicity</a>. It is well established, but not well known, that BMI misclassifies children and adults in south and east Asia even more than Europeans.</p> <p>There is emerging evidence that this problem extends to using BMI in other population groups too. In our <a href="https://www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/96/11/17-205948/en/">recent study</a> of children living in eight cities across Africa from Windhoek in the south to Tunis in the north, we found that 9% were obese according to their BMI-for-age, but 29% had high body fat according to a <a href="https://humanhealth.iaea.org/HHW/Nutrition/BodyComposition/RefsBodyComp/TBW_2015.pdf">stable isotope technique</a> designed for measuring body fatness.</p> <p>By underestimating the prevalence of obesity because of reliance on BMI in clinics, research studies and national health surveys, we also underestimate the need for action to prevent and treat obesity. To use our African study as an example, the case for action at a 29% prevalence of obesity is much stronger than at a prevalence of 9%. Obesity is far more common than it seems, and it requires much greater effort and more urgent attention than it is currently receiving.</p> <p>As we enter a new decade it is time for national resolutions that are more ambitious. The main drivers of the global obesity epidemic are well known: excessive fat and sugar intake, lack of sleep, too much screen time, insufficient physical activity. We need global measures across all age groups to address these elements and we need them now.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/131341/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: http://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/john-j-reilly-679057">John J Reilly</a>, Professor of Physical Activity and Public Health Science, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-strathclyde-1287">University of Strathclyde </a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="http://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/obesity-is-more-common-than-you-think-heres-why-131341">original article</a>.</em></p>

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