Health CheckAuthor: BBC World Service
18 Aug 2018

Health Check

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Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

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    The Woman Who Can’t Remember Her Own Past

    Today’s programme focuses on the mind. A curious memory problem has emerged – where people don’t have amnesia, but can’t remember their own past. We hear from a woman with Severely Deficient Autobiographical Memory syndrome – she knows that events have happened but has no recollection of being there herself. We hear from the Canadian memory scientist who thinks it’s more common than we realise. When patients have treatment for a physical problem should healthcare professionals also focus on psychological care? We hear from a nurse supported a patient during her bladder cancer treatment. The intimate nature of the treatment triggered memories of childhood abuse – along with severe anxiety which she helped her to overcome. A scan of the brain could help to take the guesswork out of prescribing medication for psychosis. Anti-psychotic drugs can help alleviate hallucinations or delusions – but they only work for about three quarters of people with psychosis. New research uses a PET scan - to detect whether the dopamine system is overactive – a neurochemical which is associated with the brain’s “reward” system. And is yawning really as contagious as we think it is - or does it depend on who is doing the yawning? (Photo caption: Healthy brain, 3D magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan and wire-frame artwork. Credit: © Zephyr/Science Photo)

  • Posted on 15 Aug 2018

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    The Latest on the New Ebola Outbreak in Central Africa

    Just weeks after the outbreak of Ebola was declared over in the west of the Democratic Republic of Congo, a new outbreak has emerged in the east of the country. The World Health Organization has responded rapidly to the emergency – having learned lessons from the west Africa outbreak which killed more than 11,000 people. The WHO’s Deputy Director of Emergency Preparedness Peter Salama says the current outbreak will be much trickier to contain because of conflict in North Kivu province. Music can soothe or excite people – sending our hearts racing or slowing them down. Scientists in London wondered if music could also help control irregular heart rhythms known as arrhythmias. So patients with the condition have had their hearts monitored during a special live music performance. Runny nose, itchy eyes and uncontrollable sneezing are all symptoms of hayfever – an allergy to grass and tree pollen which affects up to one in five people in high income countries. Anti-histamine drugs can help but they don’t work for everyone. A new form of allergen immunotherapy – created from tiny fragments of the grasses that cause the reaction – may offer hope to people with hayfever. (Photo: Ebola vaccinations. Credit: JUNIOR D. KANNAH/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Posted on 08 Aug 2018

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    Does the Treatment for Cardiac Arrest Need to Change?

    An injection of adrenaline, or epinephrine as it is known in the US, is often given to boost chances of survival after a cardiac arrest. However, a recent study indicates the benefits of adrenaline are small and its use nearly doubles the chances of surviving with brain damage. Claudia speaks to Gavin Perkins, professor of Critical Care at Warwick Medical School, who was one of the team running the trial conducted with ambulance crews in the UK over several years. The results have just been published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Colombia now carries out over half a million cosmetic surgery procedures annually, and has become a popular destination for medical tourism due to its competitive prices and many excellent surgeons. Yet in recent years there has been a proliferation of illegal so-called ‘garage clinics’ and a growing number of cosmetic surgery-related deaths of both tourists and locals. A bill proposed in Congress to improve the safety of cosmetic procedures has just been rejected, however with the inauguration of a new president in August - whose party previously supported the bill - campaigners are not giving up hope. Theo Hessing reports for Health Check. Phubbing is a new word that has made it into Australian dictionaries, and it describes the practise of paying more attention to your phone than to the person you are with. After experiencing this himself with some close friends, the researcher Varoth Chotpitayasunondh decided to carry out research into the psychology of phubbing and its effects on social interactions. His study was recently published in the Journal of Applied Psychology. Image: Doctors giving CPR training in Mumbai, India. Credit: Getty Images.

  • Posted on 01 Aug 2018

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    Happy 40th Birthday To The First Test-Tube Baby

    The world’s first test-tube baby Louise Brown is celebrating her 40th birthday this week. Since the ground-breaking development of in vitro fertilisation which led to her birth, more than eight million babies have been born using this method. Eggs are extracted from a woman’s ovaries, fertilised with sperm in a lab and then an embryo is put back inside the woman’s womb. This week’s Health Check is devoted to this remarkable technology, with studio guest Ian Cooke, Emeritus professor at the University of Sheffield, who was the UK’s very first specialist in reproductive medicine. To find out how it all began, Professor Sally Sheard, medical historian at Liverpool University, looks back at the history of IVF, and the arrival in 1978 of the babies people never expected to see: Those conceived outside the human body in a test tube. In some countries there are attempts to provide fertility treatment at low cost. A few years ago Claudia travelled to Cape Town in South Africa to visit a clinic trying to keep costs to a minimum. They use lower doses of drugs to stimulate the ovaries and produce eggs, and also carry out fewer on-going blood tests of women’s hormone levels. The patients don’t pay to use the hospital or the lab, just for the medication. At the clinic in Tygerberg hospital, Claudia met programme director Dr Thabo Matsaseng, and one of his patients Nosiphiwo. She was ostracised by her family after years of trying, in vain, to have a baby. After having fertility treatment at a fraction of the usual price she ended up having twins and now says she is a completely different person. One of the advantages of methods using less stimulation and monitoring is a reduction in stress for those undergoing treatment. IVF can be gruelling physically and emotionally and often doesn’t work. Julia Leigh, who lives in Sydney, Australia, is an acclaimed Australian novelist and the author of a memoir called Avalanche. It’s a love story which recounts her personal experiences of having IVF, which sadly for her was ultimately unsuccessful. Photo: Nosiphiwo with her husband and IVF twins. Credit Claudia Hammond)

  • Posted on 25 Jul 2018

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    50 Years Since First Heart Transplant

    The first ever heart transplant took place in Cape Town in South Africa fifty years ago this week. That patient died after just 18 days – but today around five thousand people have heart transplants every year. A shortage of donor hearts means there is often a wait – and an artificial pump called an L-VAD can buy time. We hear from doctors and a patient about the advances in technology which have made the pumps easier to live with. The World Health Organization says that more than 200 million women – most in sub-Saharan Africa - are subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM). The girls who have their labia and clitoris cut away often have lifelong health problems as a result. FGM was banned in The Gambia two years ago – where 3 out of 4 girls have been cut. Our reporter Irene Caselli travelled to west Africa and heard how attitudes are slowly changing. Exercise helps to keep us healthy. But thinking that we do less than our friends can have a negative impact - and even shorten our lives. The American study analysed 21 years’ worth of data and could influence public health campaigns aimed at making us more active. (Photo: Getty Images)

  • Posted on 06 Dec 2017

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