Thursday, 29 March 2007

Pensions and Partners, Japanese Style

I read an interesting article today about the baby boomer generation (aged about 60) in Japan. I know that this blog is mainly about health-related issues and so you may be wondering whether the article I read is relevant.

Well, read on and find out.

Pension rules in Japan are due to change in April. The new system will, for the first time, allow wives to claim up to half of their husbands' pensions if they divorce. Traditionally, many Japanese men have been absentee spouses, forcing women to take on most of the responsibility for raising the family.

This year more than 5 million Japanese workers are expected to retire. Experts think that this will put a strain on many marriages as previously absent husbands begin to spend more time at home with their wives.

One woman whose husband will be retiring soon is 59-year old, Yoshiko Yamauchi. She says:

"I am so used to not having my husband around the house I am so worried about his retirement, to be honest".

Another woman, Kinuko Ito agrees:

"If we get too involved with each other, it will become too stressful for both of us."

There is no doubt that stressful relationships and divorces can affect one's health.

To read more about the Japanese men and women of the baby boom generation go here.

Sunday, 25 March 2007

Smoking Ages Skin

Here's more evidence that smoking is not good for the body. The findings from a new study show that smoking ages skin across the body, not just on the face as was previously thought.

Maybe this will persuade some smokers to give up. More on the research here.

Friday, 23 March 2007

New Drug Rankings?

Some scientists have proposed a new classification of drugs according to the level of harm they cause the individual and society. Under the new system, alcohol and tobacco, which are legal drugs, are considered more harmful than cannabis and ecstasy.

The study may be seen by some people as a justification to use drugs that are low down on the "harm scale". Certainly, some readers of this news article about the proposed classification seem to be justifying the use of "less harmful" drugs.

I think the new "league table" plays down the health risks of all of the (legal and illegal) drugs on the scientists' list.

Wednesday, 21 March 2007

Why Women Need to Watch Their Blood Sugar Levels

A major European study has found a link between high blood sugar and pancreas, skin, womb and urinary tract cancers in women. The same study also links high blood sugar to an increased risk of breast cancer. More information in this article.

Diabetes causes high blood sugar but this can also be caused by eating too much sugary food. The research findings show women with high blood sugar levels have an increased cancer risk, even when they do not have diabetes.

Some diabetes experts have said that more work needs to be done to confirm these findings, but I don't think it would hurt to eat a healthy diet, especially if you are a woman. Blood sugar levels can be controlled by eating a balanced diet and maintaining a healthy weight.

At least 40% of cancers can be prevented by following a healthy lifestyle. Previous research has shown that people with type 2 diabetes have a higher risk of cancer.

People who are white and over 40, or black or South Asian and over 25, and has a family history of diabetes or are overweight should consider getting tested for diabetes.

Monday, 19 March 2007

Does Fast Food Slow Kids?

A new study suggests that an omega-3 fatty acid called EPA may help improve reading, concentration and memory in children.

Four overweight children aged between eight and 13 were given a supplement containing EPA for three months. At the end of this period, it was as if their brains "were the brains of children three years older," according to Imperial College researcher, Professor Basant Puri, quoted in this article.

Some experts have criticized the study saying it was not large enough and the results are inconclusive.

Until larger studies are carried out, I'm hedging my bets by giving my son a supplement containing omega-3 fatty acids, and I'm also ensuring he doesn't eat junk food.

Saturday, 17 March 2007

Is the "Kiss of Life" Necessary?

Giving someone I don't know well mouth-to-mouth ventilation has never appealed to me and so I was relieved to read in a news article that a Japanese study says this method of resuscitation is off-putting and unnecessary. The researchers say that chest compressions are just as good if not better. But the British Heart Foundation disagrees.

For many people the "yuk factor" in mouth-to-mouth breathing outweighs any altruistic considerations. That is, unfortunately, the case for me.

Wednesday, 14 March 2007

Mummy, Please Stop It Now

To mark No Smoking Day a survey was carried out among 500 smoking mothers. Almost half of them said their children had asked them to quit -of course this does not include the children who are too young to speak. And nearly all of the mothers said they were concerned about the effects of their smoking on their children's health.

So why don't they stop smoking? I don't understand why a mother would place her nicotine addiction over her child's health, not to mention her own health (women who smoke have a higher risk of cervical cancer and osteoporosis). And why a pregnant woman would even think of smoking is beyond me.

I find the results of the survey interesting. There's more information about it in this article.

Tuesday, 13 March 2007

Trudi's Story

Not long ago, I got on a train and noticed a man smoking a cigarette even though smoking is clearly prohibited on trains in the UK. Not wanting to inhale his noxious fumes, I walked down the aisle and moved into another carriage. Smoking, active or passive, isn't for me.

But many people continue to smoke even when they know they are risking their health. I wonder whether they would be moved by Trudi Endersby's story, which I read in a recent news article.

Aged 43, Trudi is dying from lung cancer and will be leaving behind two daughters aged 20 and 11. The older daughter, Kirsti, is a former smoker (well done, Kirsti!) and she says nothing is more difficult than planning Trudi's funeral and preparing her little sister for their mother's impending death.

I am impressed by the family's willingness to share their pain with the public in a TV anti-smoking campaign, with the hope that doing so may encourage some smokers to quit. I've known people who refused to stop smoking despite losing a family member to smoking-related cancer. Now that to me is incomprehensible, to say the least. I hope that Trudi's story inspires some smokers to make a life-changing decision.

Monday, 12 March 2007

Obesity in Pregnancy

A new study reported in this article says that obese mothers-to-be need more NHS (National Health Service) care than pregnant women of a healthy weight. Obese pregnant women need closer monitoring and special equipment and are at risk of complications such as pre-eclampsia.

In an earlier post on this blog, I wrote about the connection between weight and pre-eclampsia, revealed by a research, and I posted this link on Mumsnet, a UK-based website for mothers. A couple of women responded by questioning the research I had cited, and a few others went as far as making false and malicious accusations against me that had nothing to do with the research. I asked the owners of the website to delete the defamatory responses but they refused to do so, saying it was all about freedom of expression. Long story short, I have stopped visiting Mumsnet and I would not recommend the site to any mother who is seeking a forum for mature and reasonable people. But I digress.

There have been suggestions that regular weighing of pregnant women be re-introduced at antenatal checks in the UK to help reduce the health risks facing obese mothers-to-be. I think it's more important that more women are made aware of the health benefits of maintaining a healthy weight before conception.

Saturday, 3 March 2007

Food Traffic Lights

In a previous post, I talked about food "traffic light" labelling and GDA (guideline daily amounts) labelling. Netmums, a UK parenting site carried out a survey in which 80% of those who responded said they preferred traffic light labelling to the GDA system. More about the survey in this article.

In the traffic light system, foods are labelled red, amber or green. Many of the parents who took part in the Netmums survey said they didn't have the time to work out what the percentage figures used in the GDA meant. During shopping trips accompanied by their children, these parents want to be able to choose what foods to buy based on the traffic light labels.

As a mother of a young child, I can understand this. Shopping for groceries with a young child in tow sure has its challenges, and anything that simplifies the shopping experience is often appreciated by parents.

Still, I wouldn't want to rely on the traffic light labels alone as a yardstick for working out the nutritional content of a particular food item. I'd want to have a bit more knowledge than that about good nutrition. I think the GDA system is complicated for many people and misleading. And I don't think the GDA system is likely to change customer behaviour like Tesco insists it will. Many people just don't have the time or the inclination to decipher the GDA information.

I think the real reason Tesco does not want to use the traffic light system is its fear that people will not buy food items with red labels. But that isn't likely. Just look at the number of people who buy and smoke cigarettes despite the health warning on the packs.