HEALTH & FITNESS

Medical errors can endanger life
Dr R. Kumar
Some time back newspapers carried reports highlighting gross variations in the values of blood sugar analysed from the same sample by different clinical laboratories of Chandigarh. A physician at Panchkula was hauled for diagnosing an ailment that did not exist.

EYESIGHT
How to prevent sudden loss of vision
Dr Mahipal Sachdev
A patient reported the other day that three days before he had sudden loss of vision in left eye. The patient on examination revealed retinal artery block. Another patient had an acute attack of congestive glaucoma and reported to us after five days.

Health Notes
Olive oil may hinder cancer process
NEW YORK: People who use plenty of olive oil in their diets may be helping to prevent damage to body cells that can eventually lead to cancer, new research suggests.

  • Food is on our minds more than we think

  • First-borns get more quality time with parents

  • Fruits and vegetable consumption linked to cost

  • China forks out over 90 million dollars to avoid fat kids

  • Stem cells may be used to regenerate parts of teeth

  • Drink “cuts brain injury damage”, but…

Cure for alcoholics
Kathy Marks
LONDON: Australian scientists say they have found a way of eliminating alcoholic cravings using a drug that blocks the euphoric "high" associated with getting drunk. The research focused on cells in the hypothalamus region of the brain that produce orexin, a chemical linked to drink or drug-induced euphoria.

Longevity gene also good for memory
Washington: A gene variation that helps people live up to their 90s and beyond, also protects their memories and ability to think and learn new information, according to a new study. The gene variant alters the cholesterol particles in the blood, making them bigger than normal.





 

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Medical errors can endanger life
Dr R. Kumar

Some time back newspapers carried reports highlighting gross variations in the values of blood sugar analysed from the same sample by different clinical laboratories of Chandigarh. A physician at Panchkula was hauled for diagnosing an ailment that did not exist. A surgeon of the city was penalised for leaving behind a gauge piece in the abdomen of a patient while performing a caesarean section. A 39-year-old housewife suffering from cancer died due to the overdose of a toxic anti-cancer drug. The list is endless. These are medical errors.

A medical error is defined as the failure of a planned action to be completed as intended, or the use of a wrong plan to achieve an aim. An error may be an act of commission or an act of omission. An adverse event results in unintended harm to the patient by an act of commission or omission rather than by the underlying disease or condition of the patient. The Institute of Medicine, USA, in its report, “To Err Is Human: Building a Safer Health System”, identified six aims for quality improvement: health care should be safe, effective, patient-centred, timely, efficient and equitable.

No doubt, medication safety is a serious concern for both healthcare providers and patients.

Shockingly, medical errors account for more deaths than those caused by motor accidents, heart attacks, cancer or AIDS worldwide. It was reported in the Press that over 100,000 persons died and many more suffered harm due to medical errors in the USA, where there are strict regulations and a tough regulator like the FDA to supervise the health sector.

What can the hospitals do?

Indian hospitals, especially public hospitals, need to inculcate a sense of care and concern for the sick and have to learn how to be responsible to a human being who comes to them while in distress. The quacks of various hues and the mindset of the people that every old woman can advise correct treatment to a sick must become a thing of the past.

In the development of the delivery of safe care, emerging technologies need to be developed to improve safety. It is important to recognise/ monitor the ubiquitous nature of the use of prescription and OTC drugs and of complementary, alternative medications or home remedies. Most of the adults take at least one unnecessary medication (prescription or self-medication or OTC drug, vitamin /mineral, or herbal supplement).

What can you do?

1. Be an active member of your healthcare team.

2. Let your doctors know about every medicine you are taking.

3. Let your doctor know about any allergies you have had to medicines.

4. Make sure that you can read the doctor’s prescription. Don’t suggest injections.

5. Ask for information about your medicines in a language that you understand.

6. Buy only prescribed medicine from a drug store.

7. Ask your pharmacist for the best device to measure your liquid medicine. Also, ask questions about the frequency of its use.

8. Ask about the side-effects your medicine could cause.

9. Choose a hospital where many patients had undergone the surgery you need.

10. If you are in a hospital, ask health care workers to wash their hands.

11. At the time of being discharged from the hospital, let your doctor write the treatment plan.

12. Make sure that you and your surgeon agree on exactly what will be done.

13. Speak up if you have questions or concerns. Don’t be your own doctor.

14. Make sure that someone, such as your family doctor, is in charge of your care.

15. Let all doctors involved in your care have all health information about you.

16. Ask a family member or friend to be there with you and to be your advocate.

17. If you have a test, don’t assume that no news is good news, ask for the result.

18. Learn about the status of your condition from your doctor.

The writer, a Chandigarh -based eye specialist, has many medical books to his credit.

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EYESIGHT
How to prevent sudden loss of vision
Dr Mahipal Sachdev

A patient reported the other day that three days before he had sudden loss of vision in left eye. The patient on examination revealed retinal artery block. Another patient had an acute attack of congestive glaucoma and reported to us after five days. These are a few cases where I find myself helpless, as we can treat these patients only if they report to us as fast as possible. Visually, we cannot help patients if they come late.

One should be aware of the emergencies which are sight-threatening. There are different conditions which cause sudden loss of vision. They can be associated with pain or without pain.

Usually, painful loss of vision is reported to doctors early because of the pain. This makes easier for us to initiate the treatment. The cases with painless loss of vision need more awareness, as they also, if diagnosed and treated in time, help us to save your vision.

The common causes of sudden painless loss of vision are:

  • Retinal artery occlusion
  • Retinal vein occlusion
  • Vitreous haemorrhage.
  • Retinal detachment.
  • Methyl alcohol amblyopia

The common causes for painful loss of vision are:

  • Acute congestive glaucoma.
  • Optic neuritis / retro bulbar neuritis
  • Acute iridocyclitis.
  • Mechanical / chemical injuries to the eyeball.

Many of these conditions like artery or vein occlusion are common with those having systemic illness - diabetes, hypertension and hypercholesterolemia. Such things may happen with them anytime. The venous blocks are common in early mornings. The patient wakes up to find loss of vision of one of the eyes. They should report to the doctor as soon as possible.

The patients may get symptoms like a shower of black floaters in the case of vitreous hemorrhage or flashes of light in the case of retinal detachment. Even when these symptoms happen, one should report to the doctor and this can prevent major problems like detachment from happening.

Acute loss of vision is common with optic nerve inflammation called optic neuritis or toxicity by methyl alcohol. In optic neuritis the patient usually gets pain behind the eye. The patient will also have defective color vision and will see colors faded.

The consumption of adulterated alcohol which contains methyl alcohol is toxic and causes irreversible damage to the optic nerve. The patient gets nausea, vomiting, giddiness and loss of consciousness. The vision is affected and the patient will get contracted visual fields to a total loss of vision.

If one finds blurred vision, he should close one eye at a time and compare the vision of the two eyes. If gross difference is present then one should get the eyes checked. The patient should not wait at home, hoping the vision will improve of its own.

The total loss of vision or gross blurring of vision is an emergency. One should get the eyes examined by an eye-specialist.

The writer is Chairman and Medical Director, Centre for Sight, New Delhi. Email: msachdev@bol.net.in 

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Health Notes
Olive oil may hinder cancer process

NEW YORK: People who use plenty of olive oil in their diets may be helping to prevent damage to body cells that can eventually lead to cancer, new research suggests.

In a study of 182 European men, researchers found evidence that olive oil can reduce oxidative damage to cells’ genetic material, a process that can initiate cancer development.

They say the findings may help explain why rates of several cancers are higher in Northern Europe than in Southern Europe, where olive oil is a dietary staple.

They also support advice to replace saturated fats from foods like meat and butter with vegetable fats, particularly olive oil, said study co-author, Dr Henrik E Poulsen, of Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark.

He and his colleagues report the findings in The FASEB Journal, a publication of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.

The study included healthy men between the ages of 20 and 60 from five European countries. For two weeks, the men consumed a quarter cup of olive oil throughout each day. At the end of the study, they showed an average 13 per cent reduction in a substance called 8oxodG, which is a marker of oxidative damage to cells’ DNA. — Reuters

Food is on our minds more than we think

Washington: People estimate that, on an average, they make about 15 food- and beverage-related decisions each day. But the truth is that they make more than 15 times more than 200 such decisions.

Commenting on his new study, Brian Wansink, the John S. Dyson Professor of Marketing and of Applied Economics at Cornell, observed, “So many food decisions are made on mindless autopilot.” The problem with making so many more food decisions than we are aware of, he said, is that “each of these small decisions is a point where a person can be unknowingly influenced by environmental cues.”

When Wansink and Jeffery Sobal, Cornell professor of nutritional sciences, asked 139 university staff and students to estimate how many decisions they make about food each day, the average response was 15.

However, when the volunteers then answered specific questions about when, what, how much and where they ate and who made decisions about meals, snacks and beverages, the researchers found that the staffers and students actually made an average of 221 food-related decisions each day.

The study is published in the January issue of Environment and Behaviour. — ANI

First-borns get more quality time with parents

Washington: First-born children get more quality time with parents than subsequent children, a Cornell study shows.

Using data from the American Time Use Survey, Joseph Price, a graduate student in economics at Cornell, has found that a first-born child receives 20-30 more minutes of quality time each day with a parent than a second-born child of the same age from a similar family.

The study showed that in two-child families, the first-born child receives about 20 more minutes of quality father-time and 25 more minutes of quality mother-time daily at ages 4 through 13 than the second-born child does at the same ages.

This leads to an aggregate difference of about 3,000 hours between the times spent with each child. — ANI

Fruits and vegetable consumption linked to cost

Washington: New research from the University of Alabama at Birmingham says that cost may not be the most important variable in whether households have fruits and vegetables available for consumption. In findings published in the online version of the American Journal of Public Health, the UAB researchers determined that most households did have a variety of fruits and vegetables available, with less expensive choices being far more prevalent than expensive items.

“There is a perception that the cost of fruits and vegetables is a barrier to their consumption, particularly in lower-income families,” said Jamy Ard, Assistant Professor of nutrition sciences at UAB and the study’s lead author. “Our study of homes with school children showed that fruits and vegetables, particularly lower-cost varieties, were widely available.”

Ard says another common assumption — that African -American families were less likely to have fruits and vegetables than whites due to higher cost — is also not the case.

“We found that the availability of fruits and vegetables was remarkably consistent in both white and African -American households,” — ANI

China forks out over 90 million dollars to avoid fat kids

Beijing: The Chinese government has forked out over $ 90 million in the current fiscal to avoid obese children, and appears determined to keep its school and college students healthy.

China’s Education Minister Zhou Ji was quoted by the China Daily as saying that the Beijing Municipal Government alone has invested over 700 million Yuan (around 87.5 million U.S. dollars) to renovate 300 school playgrounds in the capital.

The government, he said, has also purchased 20 million yuan (2.5 million U.S. dollars) worth of body-building facilities for 681 rural primary schools and invested six million yuan (around 750,000 U.S. dollars) to build constitution test machines on various campuses.

Concerned over the declining physical condition of its youngsters, Chinese educational authorities are giving physical education more importance than other spheres of education. — ANI

Stem cells may be used to regenerate parts of teeth

Washington: Researchers at the USC School of Dentistry have successfully regenerated tooth root, and supporting periodontal ligaments to restore tooth function in an animal model.

Dr Songtao Shi and his colleagues utilised stem cells harvested from the extracted wisdom teeth of adults for creating sufficient root and ligament structure to support a crown restoration.

They claim that the resulting tooth restoration closely resembles the original tooth in function and strength.

The technique relies on stem cells harvested from the root apical papilla, which is responsible for the development of a tooth’s root and periodontal ligament.

In their previous studies, Shi and collaborator Stan Gronthos at the National Institute of Health had utilised dental pulp stem cells. He says that he found the new technique to be superior. — ANI

Drink “cuts brain injury damage”, but…

London: Having low levels of alcohol in the blood may protect the brain from the effects of a head injury, a study says.

The University of Toronto team found head injury patients who had drunk low amounts were 24 per cent less likely to die than those who had not had any alcohol.

They said alcohol might one day be used as part of emergency treatment for some head injury patients.

But they said the study, which appears in the journal Archives of Surgery, should not encourage people to drink.

Overall, people are still at much greater risk of dying if they drive while intoxicated. — ANI

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Cure for alcoholics
Kathy Marks

LONDON: Australian scientists say they have found a way of eliminating alcoholic cravings using a drug that blocks the euphoric "high" associated with getting drunk.

The research focused on cells in the hypothalamus region of the brain that produce orexin, a chemical linked to drink or drug-induced euphoria. Scientists at Melbourne's Howard Florey Institute made a compound that blocked orexin's effects, and gave it to rats that had already been turned into alcoholics.

The head of the team, Dr Andrew Lawrence, said the results were remarkable. "In one experiment, rats that had alcohol freely available stopped drinking it after receiving the orexin blocker," he said.

Dr Lawrence informed that alcoholics could also be prevented from relapsing. Rats that had gone through a detox programme and were then given the blocking drug did not resume their addiction when "reintroduced to an environment which they had been conditioned to associate with alcohol use".

He said: "Orexin reinforces the euphoria felt when drinking alcohol so, if a drug can be developed to block the orexin system in humans, we should be able to stop an alcoholic's craving for alcohol." — The Independent

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Longevity gene also good for memory

Washington: A gene variation that helps people live up to their 90s and beyond, also protects their memories and ability to think and learn new information, according to a new study.

The gene variant alters the cholesterol particles in the blood, making them bigger than normal. Researchers believe that smaller particles can more easily lodge themselves in blood vessel linings, leading to the fatty buildup that can cause heart attacks and strokes.

The study examined 158 people of Ashkenazi, or Eastern European, Jewish descent, who were 95 years old or older. Those who had the gene variant were twice as likely to have good brain function compared to those who did not have the gene variant. The researchers also validated these findings in a group of 124 Ashkenazi Jews who were between age 75 and 85 and found similar results.

“It’s possible that this gene variant also protects against the development of Alzheimer’s disease,” said study author Nir Barzilai, the director of the Institute for Aging Research at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, NY. — ANI

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