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Taking too many medications can pose health risks. Here’s how to avoid them

<div class="theconversation-article-body"><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/caroline-sirois-1524891">Caroline Sirois</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/universite-laval-1407">Université Laval</a></em></p> <p>When we see an older family member handling a bulky box of medications sorted by day of the week, we might stop and wonder, is it too much? How do all those pills interact?</p> <p>The fact is, as we get older we are more likely to develop different chronic illnesses that require us to take several different medications. This is known as polypharmacy. The concept applies to people taking five or more medications, but there are all sorts of <a href="https://doi.org/10.3390/pharmacy7030126">definitions with different thresholds</a> (for example, four, 10 or 15 medicines).</p> <p>I’m a pharmacist and pharmacoepidemiologist interested in polypharmacy and its impact on the population. The research I carry out with my team at the Faculty of Pharmacy at Université Laval focuses on the appropriate use of medication by older family members. We have published this <a href="https://doi.org/10.1093/ageing/afac244">study</a> on the perceptions of older adults, family carers and clinicians on the use of medication among persons over 65.</p> <h2>Polypharmacy among older adults</h2> <p>Polypharmacy is very common among older adults. In 2021, a quarter of persons over 65 in Canada were prescribed <a href="https://www.cihi.ca/en/drug-use-among-seniors-in-canada">more than ten different classes of medication</a>. In Québec, persons over 65 used an average of <a href="https://www.inspq.qc.ca/sites/default/files/publications/2679_portrait_polypharmacie_aines_quebecois.pdf">8.7 different drugs in 2016</a>, the latest year available for statistics.</p> <p>Is it a good idea to take so many drugs?</p> <p>According to <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/07334648211069553">our study</a>, the vast majority of seniors and family caregivers would be willing to stop taking one or more medications if the doctor said it was possible, even though most are satisfied with their treatments, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1093/ageing/afac244">have confidence in their doctors</a> and feel that their doctors are taking care of them to the best of their ability.</p> <p>In the majority of cases, medicine prescribers are helping the person they are treating. Medications have a positive impact on health and are essential in many cases. But while the treatment of individual illnesses is often adequate, the whole package can sometimes become problematic.</p> <h2>The risks of polypharmacy: 5 points to consider</h2> <p>When we evaluate cases of polypharmacy, we find that the quality of treatment is often compromised when many medications are being taken.</p> <ol> <li> <p>Drug interactions: polypharmacy increases the risk of drugs interacting, which can lead to undesirable effects or reduce the effectiveness of treatments.</p> </li> <li> <p>A drug that has a positive effect on one illness may have a negative effect on another: what should you do if someone has both illnesses?</p> </li> <li> <p>The greater the number of drugs taken, the greater the risk of undesirable effects: for adults over 65, for example, there is an increased risk of confusion or falls, which have significant consequences.</p> </li> <li> <p>The more medications a person takes, the more likely they are to take a <a href="https://www.doi.org/10.1093/fampra/cmz060">potentially inappropriate medication</a>. For seniors, these drugs generally carry more risks than benefits. For example, benzodiazepines, medicine for anxiety or sleep, are the <a href="https://www.inspq.qc.ca/sites/default/files/publications/2575_utilisation_medicaments_potentiellement_inappropries_aines.pdf">most frequently used class</a> of medications. We want to reduce their use as much as possible <a href="https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/substance-use/controlled-illegal-drugs/benzodiazepines.html">to avoid negative impacts</a> such as confusion and increased risk of falls and car accidents, not to mention the risk of dependence and death.</p> </li> <li> <p>Finally, polypharmacy is associated with various adverse health effects, such as an <a href="https://www.doi.org/10.1007/s41999-021-00479-3">increase in frailty, hospital admissions and emergency room visits</a>. However, studies conducted to date have not always succeeded in isolating the effects specific to polypharmacy. As polypharmacy is more common among people with multiple illnesses, these illnesses may also contribute to the observed risks.</p> </li> </ol> <p>Polypharmacy is also a combination of medicines. There are almost as many as there are people. The risks of these different combinations can vary. For example, the risks associated with a combination of five potentially inappropriate drugs would certainly be different from those associated with blood pressure medication and vitamin supplements.</p> <p>Polypharmacy is therefore complex. <a href="https://doi.org/10.1186/s12911-021-01583-x">Our studies attempt to use artificial intelligence</a> to manage this complexity and identify combinations associated with negative impacts. There is still a lot to learn about polypharmacy and its impact on health.</p> <h2>3 tips to avoid the risks associated with polypharmacy</h2> <p>What can we do as a patient, or as a caregiver?</p> <ol> <li> <p>Ask questions: when you or someone close to you is prescribed a new treatment, be curious. What are the benefits of the medication? What are the possible side effects? Does this fit in with my treatment goals and values? How long should this treatment last? Are there any circumstances in which discontinuing it should be considered ?</p> </li> <li> <p>Keep your medicines up to date: make sure they are all still useful. Are there still any benefits to taking them? Are there any side effects? Are there any drug interactions? Would another treatment be better? Should the dose be reduced?</p> </li> <li> <p>Think about de-prescribing: this is an increasingly common clinical practice that involves stopping or reducing the dose of an inappropriate drug after consulting a health-care professional. It is a shared decision-making process that involves the patient, their family and health-care professionals. The <a href="https://www.deprescribingnetwork.ca">Canadian Medication Appropriateness and Deprescribing Network</a> is a world leader in this practice. It has compiled a number of tools for patients and clinicians. You can find them on their website and subscribe to the newsletter.</p> </li> </ol> <h2>Benefits should outweigh the risks</h2> <p>Medications are very useful for staying healthy. It’s not uncommon for us to have to take more medications as we age, but this shouldn’t be seen as a foregone conclusion.</p> <p>Every medication we take must have direct or future benefits that outweigh the risks associated with them. As with many other issues, when it comes to polypharmacy, the saying, “everything in moderation,” frequently applies.<!-- 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;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/230612/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/caroline-sirois-1524891">Caroline Sirois</a>, Professor in Pharmacy, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/universite-laval-1407">Université Laval</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock </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/taking-too-many-medications-can-pose-health-risks-heres-how-to-avoid-them-230612">original article</a>.</em></p> </div>

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The hidden risks of buy now, pay later: What shoppers need to know

<div class="theconversation-article-body"><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/vivek-astvansh-1318943">Vivek Astvansh</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/mcgill-university-827">McGill University</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/chandan-kumar-behera-1479139">Chandan Kumar Behera</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/indian-institute-of-management-lucknow-6023">Indian Institute of Management Lucknow</a> </em><iframe style="width: 100%; height: 100px; border: none; position: relative; z-index: 1;" src="https://narrations.ad-auris.com/widget/the-conversation-canada/the-hidden-risks-of-buy-now-pay-later-what-shoppers-need-to-know" width="100%" height="400"></iframe></p> <p><a href="https://www.canada.ca/en/financial-consumer-agency/services/loans/buy-now-pay-later.html">Buy now, pay later</a> is a relatively new form of financial technology that allows consumers to purchase an item immediately and repay the balance at a later time in instalments.</p> <p>Unlike applying for a credit card, buy now, pay later <a href="https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=4591446">doesn’t require a credit check</a>. Instead, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1108/EJM-11-2021-0923">these programs use algorithms</a> to perform <a href="https://www.investopedia.com/terms/s/soft-inquiry.asp">“soft” credit checks</a> to determine <a href="https://theconversation.com/if-it-looks-like-debt-lets-treat-it-like-debt-buy-now-pay-later-schemes-need-firmer-regulation-in-nz-211820">a shopper’s eligibility</a>.</p> <p>This means buy now, pay later loans target <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/money/2022/jan/27/buy-now-pay-later-schemes-entice-consumers-spend-more">low-income, tech-savvy</a> <a href="https://www.cnbc.com/2022/10/27/gen-z-and-millennials-prefer-buy-now-pay-later-services.html">millennials and Gen Z shoppers</a> in an effort to <a href="https://libertystreeteconomics.newyorkfed.org/2023/09/who-uses-buy-now-pay-later/">supposedly improve financial inclusion</a> for these groups.</p> <p>However, the newness of buy now, pay later programs means existing <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/acfi.13100">consumer credit laws don’t cover it</a>. This lack of regulation puts shoppers at financial risk of accumulating higher levels of debt.</p> <h2>Credit cards versus buy now, pay later</h2> <p>There are three key differences between credit cards and buy now, pay later loans. First, while buy now, pay later loans are a line of credit like credit cards are, <a href="https://www.cnbc.com/2022/05/04/klarna-to-report-buy-now-pay-later-data-to-uk-credit-bureaus.html">they don’t impact credit reports</a>. Because of this, shoppers might be less cautious when using buy now, pay later services.</p> <p>Credit cards typically have annual interest rates ranging from <a href="https://www.bankrate.com/finance/credit-cards/what-is-credit-card-apr/#credit-card-apr-vs-credit-card-interest">15 to 26 per cent</a>. While most buy now, pay later loans have no interest, longer term loans have <a href="https://www.cbsnews.com/news/buy-now-pay-later-loans-interest-rate-fees-tips-what-to-know/">annual interest rates of about 37 per cent</a>.</p> <p>Shoppers are <a href="https://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/buy-now-pay-later-how-retails-hot-feature-hurts-lower-income-shoppers">at risk of overusing buy now, pay later programs</a> and accumulating more debt than they can manage. In addition, formal lenders, such as banks, currently have no way of knowing what buy now, pay later debt a person is carrying. The lender, therefore, likely incurs more risk than they are aware of.</p> <p>Second, credit cards typically provide <a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/1369118X.2022.2161830">an interest-free period</a>, after which <a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/03128962211032448">borrowers must pay interest</a>. In contrast, buy now, pay later users typically don’t have interest fees, but can incur <a href="https://doi.org/10.1108/IJBM-07-2022-0324">late fees for missed or late payments</a>.</p> <p>Falling behind on payment terms <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/andriacheng/2020/12/16/why-retailers-are-embracing-buy-now-pay-later-service-this-holiday-season/">can result in charges</a> that exceed <a href="https://stateline.org/2022/02/02/regulators-scrutinize-buy-now-pay-later-plans/">typical credit card interest rates</a>, causing more harm than interest payments. Low-income buy now, pay later users are <a href="https://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/buy-now-pay-later-how-retails-hot-feature-hurts-lower-income-shoppers">particularly vulnerable</a> to <a href="https://www.consumerfinance.gov/data-research/research-reports/consumer-use-of-buy-now-pay-later-insights-from-the-cfpb-making-ends-meet-survey/">using overdrafts to cover their buy now, pay later payments</a>.</p> <p>Third, people typically have just a few credit cards, making it easier to keep track of payments. Buy now, pay later users, on the other hand, usually engage with multiple buy now, pay later lenders through retailers. As a result, it’s difficult for them to keep track of all the buy now, pay later lenders and retailers they made purchases from.</p> <h2>What are the Canadian governments doing?</h2> <p>Canada classifies buy now, pay later as an unsecured instalment loan, which means lenders are subject to laws at the federal and provincial levels.</p> <p>Under federal law, there is an <a href="https://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1711291/000171129122000011/curo-20211231.htm">annual interest rate cap of 60 per cent</a>. Provincial laws require buy now, pay later lenders to disclose the cost of credit and extend consumer protection rights to buy now, pay later shoppers.</p> <p>At the provincial level, <a href="https://www.canada.ca/en/financial-consumer-agency/services/loans/buy-now-pay-later.html">specific laws come into play</a>. Manitoba, Alberta, Québec, and Ontario have passed laws that require lenders to be licensed before they offer these products and be subject to regulatory oversight.</p> <p>These laws regulate high-cost credit products that have annual rates of 32 per cent or higher. This means buy now, pay later services <em>should</em> fall under this category. However, I found no evidence of buy now, pay later lenders being licensed in Canada. This means either lenders are not aware they fall under these laws, or no one is enforcing them.</p> <p>This ambiguity over whether or not buy now, pay later lenders are subject to regulatory oversight could be a hindrance for banks like the <a href="https://financialpost.com/fp-finance/fintech/why-higher-interest-rates-threaten-the-buy-now-pay-later-bubble">Bank of Nova Scotia and the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce</a>, as it deters them from entering the buy now, pay later market despite its profitability.</p> <h2>Questions to ask before using buy now, pay later</h2> <p>Before signing up for a buy now, pay later loan, shoppers should consider the following six questions.</p> <p><strong>1. Payment structure.</strong> How much of the invoice amount needs to be paid upfront? The norm is typically 25 per cent. What is the number of remaining instalments? The answer to this is usually four. Lastly, what is the frequency of instalments? The norm is biweekly.</p> <p><strong>2. Sensitive information.</strong> Does the lender require you to provide information about your chequing account? This is sensitive information to give away and puts you at risk of data breaches. Most buy now, pay later lenders withdraw instalment amounts from chequing accounts or debit cards, potentially exposing shoppers to greater risks than credit cards.</p> <p><strong>3. Interest charges</strong> Does the buy now, pay later lender charge interest on instalment payments? The norm is no.</p> <p><strong>4. Late fees</strong> How much is the late fee, when does it apply and what is the maximum amount of the late fee? Typically, late fees don’t exceed $8 or one-quarter of the invoice amount. Late fees usually kick in if your scheduled payment remains unpaid after 10 days.</p> <p><strong>5. Data responsibility.</strong> Who is responsible for your data? Whether it’s the retailer, the buy now, pay later lender or a company whose cloud storage the provider may be using, you should know. In general, the buy now, pay later lender holds this responsibility.</p> <p><strong>6. Licensing.</strong> Is the buy now, pay later lender licensed to sell the loan? Usually, the <a href="https://dfpi.ca.gov/wp-content/uploads/sites/337/2020/03/afterpay-settlement.pdf">answer to this question is no</a>.</p> <h2>Buy now, pay later regulation</h2> <p>Two sets of laws and regulations should be implemented to address some of these issues. The first set of regulations focuses on how buy now, pay later lenders interact with consumers. These lenders should clearly communicate <a href="https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=4359956">all terms and conditions of their loans</a>, including late charges, interest charges and payment schedules, on their platforms to ensure shoppers are fully informed of their financial obligations.</p> <p>The Financial Conduct Authority in the United Kingdom recently issued guidelines allowing buy now, pay later lenders to <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/ca428bc8-65c3-49ed-8ba6-0d6f206098aa">terminate, suspend or restrict access to shopper accounts</a> for any reason without notice. Effective September 2024, New Zealand will require buy now, pay later lenders to <a href="https://theconversation.com/if-it-looks-like-debt-lets-treat-it-like-debt-buy-now-pay-later-schemes-need-firmer-regulation-in-nz-211820">check a shopper’s credit</a> before providing them a buy now, pay later loan.</p> <p>The second set of regulations defines the scope and boundaries of buy now, pay later lenders. On Dec. 9, 2022, California became the first American state to <a href="https://dfpi.ca.gov/2022/12/09/buy-now-pay-later-protect-yourself-before-you-check-out/">classify buy now, pay later as a loan</a>. Such classifications allowed California regulators to <a href="https://stateline.org/2022/02/02/regulators-scrutinize-buy-now-pay-later-plans/">question lenders about their transparency in disclosing the terms of their offerings</a>.</p> <p>The hope is that these laws and regulations will facilitate microlending and not impede the existence of buy now, pay later services, but rather make it safer and more secure for both lenders and users.<!-- 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;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/215421/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><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/vivek-astvansh-1318943"><em>Vivek Astvansh</em></a><em>, Associate Professor of Quantitative Marketing and Analytics, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/mcgill-university-827">McGill University</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/chandan-kumar-behera-1479139">Chandan Kumar Behera</a>, PhD Student in Marketing, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/indian-institute-of-management-lucknow-6023">Indian Institute of Management Lucknow</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock </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/the-hidden-risks-of-buy-now-pay-later-what-shoppers-need-to-know-215421">original article</a>.</em></p> </div>

Money & Banking

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Want to reduce your dementia risk? Eat these 4 foods, says new study

<p>If you are what you eat, this might make you hungrier for foods that are bright in every sense. Research has shown that living, vibrant foods can slow down aging at a cellular level; while fruit and vegetables in particular have been associated with lower incidence of cognitive decline as individuals age.</p> <p>However, research has been relatively lacking on just how much of these brain-healthy foods you really need and which fruit and vegetables are best for the job.</p> <p>In collaboration with public health experts at Harvard University, medical researchers at China’s Zhejiang University School of Medicine conducted a meta-analysis that’s slated to be published in the June 2024 issue of <em>The Journal of Nutrition, Health, and Aging</em>. They combined data from two large-scale population-representative studies that analysed the diets and cognitive function of more than 10,000 participants ages 55 and older from China and the US.</p> <h2>What daily diets revealed</h2> <p>The data included diet questionnaires that honed in on the average of participants’ total daily intake of several different types of foods, including fruit and vegetables, and also broke them down into sub-types like green leafy vegetables and berries. Over a period of five years, the participants also took part in activities designed to assess their cognitive function and the average rate of cognitive decline.</p> <p>Overall, participants who included the most fruit and vegetables in their daily diets performed best on the brain tests and maintained those results over time. This suggested that both fruit and vegetables had protective elements that slowed cognitive decline.</p> <h2>Vegetables that help protect cognition</h2> <p>Interestingly, certain types of vegetables appeared to be more beneficial than others—say the researchers: “Our findings support the potential beneficial roles of VF, especially cruciferous vegetables, green leafy vegetables, and red and yellow vegetables, in maintaining cognitive function and slowing cognitive decline in middle-aged and older adults.”</p> <p>The researchers pointed to several reasons these particular vegetables might have shown a substantial impact, including anti-inflammatory and antioxidation nutrients like flavonoids and various vitamins or even gut improvements that have been shown to help improve or protect cognition.</p> <p>While beans didn’t figure prominently in both studies, they showed a protective element in the US study, so they are also worth keeping on your plate. (Beans are also thought to be one of the top foods for longevity.)</p> <h2>Fruit that pack a punch</h2> <p>As for fruit, while some didn’t show as much of a protective effect across the board, berries and apples are two examples of fruit that experts have previously said provide major polyphenol and antioxidant effect.</p> <p>Participants whose brains maintained performance were shown to have eaten three or more servings of vegetables and two or more servings of fruit per day. This is on par with the five servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit recommended we eat every day.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock</em></p> <p><em>This article originally appeared on <a href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/healthsmart/want-to-reduce-your-dementia-risk-eat-these-4-foods-says-new-study" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Reader's Digest</a>. </em></p>

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Study finds new link for increased risk of Alzheimer’s

<p>A new study has found that people suffering from anxiety disorders could be more likely to develop Alzheimer's disease. </p> <p>The study, which was published by brain researchers The Florey, analysed data from 2443 older Australians from Melbourne and Perth, who are part of a cohort for dementia research.</p> <p>Study leads Dr Yijun Pan and Dr Liang Jin found that anxiety and other neurological disorders are linked to an increased likelihood of developing Alzheimer's disease.  </p> <p>"People with anxiety and neurological disorders are 1.5 and 2.5 times more likely to have Alzheimer's disease," Dr Pan said.</p> <p>"For people with anxiety, males have higher odds than females of developing Alzheimer's disease."</p> <p>They also found a few other medical conditions which were linked to a decreased risk of Alzheimer's, including arthritis, cancer, gastric complaints, and high cholesterol. </p> <p>The study leads said that the p53 protein - which causes neuron dysfunction and cell death in Alzheimer's patients - loses its function when someone has cancer, which could possibly explain the link between the two conditions. </p> <p>"We need further research to understand whether these diseases interfere with the evolution of Alzheimer's or whether there might be other reasons," Dr Pan said.</p> <p>"The medications or treatments used for these diseases may possibly contribute to this observation."</p> <p>The study however, did not find a link between  Alzheimer's and depression, falls or strokes. </p> <p>"This is the first study to assess 20 comorbidity associations with cognitive impairment using a single Australian dataset, which allowed us to fully consider how these conditions affect the likelihood of developing Alzheimer's disease," Dr Pan said. </p> <p>"We also studied whether age, gender, smoking, education, alcohol consumption, and the APOE gene – believed to be connected to Alzheimer's - affects these associations.</p> <p>"Our study indicates a new opportunity for biologists to study the links between these 20 conditions with Alzheimer's disease.</p> <p>"This work also provides valuable epidemiological evidence to clinicians, which may help them to evaluate one's risk of developing Alzheimer's disease."</p> <p><em>Image: Nine</em></p>

Caring

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Menopause can bring increased cholesterol levels and other heart risks. Here’s why and what to do about it

<div class="theconversation-article-body"> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/treasure-mcguire-135225">Treasure McGuire</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-queensland-805">The University of Queensland</a></em></p> <p>Menopause is a natural biological process that marks the end of a woman’s reproductive years, typically between 45 and 55. As women approach or experience menopause, common “change of life” <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9244939/">concerns</a> include hot flushes, sweats and mood swings, brain fog and fatigue.</p> <p>But many women may not be aware of the <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32705886/">long-term effects</a> of menopause on the heart and blood vessels that make up the cardiovascular system. Heart disease accounts for <a href="http://world-heart-federation.org/what-we-do/women-cvd/">35% of deaths</a> in women each year – more than all cancers combined.</p> <p>What should women – and their doctors – know about these risks?</p> <h2>Hormones protect hearts – until they don’t</h2> <p>As early as 1976, the <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/970770/">Framingham Heart Study</a> reported more than twice the rates of cardiovascular events in postmenopausal than pre-menopausal women of the same age. Early menopause (younger than age 40) also <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25331207/">increases heart risk</a>.</p> <p>Before menopause, women tend to be protected by their circulating hormones: oestrogen, to a lesser extent progesterone and low levels of testosterone.</p> <p>These sex hormones help to relax and dilate blood vessels, reduce inflammation and <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10503403/">improve lipid (cholesterol) levels</a>. From the mid-40s, a decline in these hormone levels can <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10362825/">contribute to unfavourable changes</a> in cholesterol levels, blood pressure and weight gain – all risk factors for heart disease.</p> <h2>4 ways hormone changes impact heart risk</h2> <p><strong>1. Dyslipidaemia</strong>– Menopause often involves <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/38002671/">atherogenic changes</a> – an unhealthy imbalance of lipids in the blood, with higher levels of total cholesterol, triglycerides, and low-density lipoprotein (LDL-C), dubbed the “bad” cholesterol. There are also reduced levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL-C) – the “good” cholesterol that helps remove LDL-C from blood. These changes are a <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10503403/">major risk factor for heart attack or stroke</a>.</p> <p><strong>2. Hypertension</strong> – Declines in oestrogen and progesterone levels during menopause contribute to narrowing of the large blood vessels on the heart’s surface, arterial stiffness and <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35722103/">raise blood pressure</a>.</p> <p><strong>3. Weight gain</strong> – Females are born with one to two million eggs, which develop in follicles. By the time they <a href="https://www.thewomens.org.au/health-information/fertility-information/getting-pregnant/ovulation-and-conception">stop ovulating</a> in midlife, fewer than 1,000 remain. This depletion progressively changes fat distribution and storage, from the hips to the waist and abdomen. Increased waist circumference (greater than 80–88 cm) has been <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18359190/">reported to contribute to heart risk</a> – though it is <a href="https://theconversation.com/good-news-midlife-health-is-about-more-than-a-waist-measurement-heres-why-226019">not the only factor to consider</a>.</p> <p><strong>4. Comorbidities</strong> – Changes in body composition, sex hormone decline, increased food consumption, weight gain and sedentary lifestyles impair the body’s ability to effectively use insulin. This <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11133069/">increases the risk</a> of developing metabolic syndromes such as type 2 diabetes.</p> <p>While risk factors apply to both genders, hypertension, smoking, obesity and type 2 diabetes confer a greater relative risk for heart disease in women.</p> <h2>So, what can women do?</h2> <p>Every woman has a different level of baseline cardiovascular and metabolic risk pre-menopause. This is based on their genetics and family history, diet, and lifestyle. But all women can <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8351755/">reduce their post-menopause heart risk with</a>:</p> <ul> <li>regular moderate intensity exercise such as brisk walking, pushing a lawn mower, riding a bike or water aerobics for 30 minutes, four or five times every week</li> <li>a healthy heart diet with smaller portion sizes (try using a smaller plate or bowl) and more low-calorie, nutrient-rich foods such as vegetables, fruit and whole grains</li> <li>plant sterols (unrefined vegetable oil spreads, nuts, seeds and grains) each day. A review of 14 clinical trials found plant sterols, at doses of at least 2 grams a day, produced an average reduction in serum LDL-C (bad cholesterol) of about 9–14%. This could reduce the risk of heart disease by <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10731187/">25% in two years</a></li> <li>less unhealthy (saturated or trans) fats and more low-fat protein sources (lean meat, poultry, fish – especially oily fish high in omega-3 fatty acids), legumes and low-fat dairy</li> <li>less high-calorie, high-sodium foods such as processed or fast foods</li> <li>a reduction or cessation of smoking (nicotine or cannabis) and alcohol</li> <li>weight-gain management or prevention.</li> </ul> <h2>What about hormone therapy medications?</h2> <p>Hormone therapy remains the most effective means of <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15495039/">managing hot flushes and night sweats</a> and is beneficial for <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18418063/">slowing the loss of bone mineral density</a>.</p> <p>The decision to recommend oestrogen alone or a combination of oestrogen plus progesterone hormone therapy depends on whether a woman has had a hysterectomy or not. The choice also depends on whether the hormone therapy benefit outweighs the woman’s disease risks. Where symptoms are bothersome, hormone therapy has <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33841322/">favourable or neutral effects on coronary heart disease risk</a> and medication risks are low for healthy women younger than 60 or within ten years of menopause.</p> <p>Depending on the level of stroke or heart risk and the response to lifestyle strategies, some women may also require medication management to <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8351755/">control high blood pressure or elevated cholesterol levels</a>. Up until the early 2000s, women were underrepresented in most outcome trials with lipid-lowering medicines.</p> <p>The <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25579834/">Cholesterol Treatment Trialists’ Collaboration</a> analysed 27 clinical trials of statins (medications commonly prescribed to lower cholesterol) with a total of 174,000 participants, of whom 27% were women. Statins were about as effective in women and men who had similar risk of heart disease in preventing events such as stroke and heart attack.</p> <p>Every woman approaching menopause should ask their GP for a 20-minute <a href="https://www.health.gov.au/news/heart-health">Heart Health Check</a> to help better understand their risk of a heart attack or stroke and get tailored strategies to reduce it.<!-- 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/treasure-mcguire-135225">Treasure McGuire</a>, Assistant Director of Pharmacy, Mater Health SEQ in conjoint appointment as Associate Professor of Pharmacology, Bond University and as Associate Professor (Clinical), <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-queensland-805">The University of Queensland</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock</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/menopause-can-bring-increased-cholesterol-levels-and-other-heart-risks-heres-why-and-what-to-do-about-it-228010">original article</a>.</em></p> </div>

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Air travel exposes you to radiation – how much health risk comes with it?

<div class="theconversation-article-body"> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/timothy-j-jorgensen-239253">Timothy J. Jorgensen</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/georgetown-university-1239">Georgetown University</a></em></p> <p>In 2017, <a href="http://www.independent.ie/business/world/18-million-miles-and-counting-the-globes-top-business-traveller-35666790.html">business traveler Tom Stuker</a> was hailed as the world’s most frequent flyer, logging 18,000,000 miles of air travel on United Airlines over 14 years.</p> <p>That’s a lot of time up in the air. If Stuker’s traveling behaviors are typical of other business flyers, he may have eaten 6,500 <a href="http://www.airliners.net/forum/viewtopic.php?t=689041">inflight meals</a>, drunk 5,250 <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1708-8305.2009.00339.x">alcoholic beverages</a>, watched thousands of <a href="http://www.iata.org/publications/store/Pages/global-passenger-survey.aspx">inflight movies</a> and made around 10,000 visits to <a href="http://blog.thetravelinsider.info/2012/11/how-many-restrooms-are-enough-on-a-plane.html">airplane toilets</a>.</p> <p>He would also have accumulated a radiation dose equivalent to about 1,000 <a href="https://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=safety-xray">chest x-rays</a>. But what kind of health risk does all that radiation actually pose?</p> <h2>Cosmic rays coming at you</h2> <p>You might guess that a frequent flyer’s radiation dose is coming from the airport security checkpoints, with their whole-body scanners and baggage x-ray machines, but you’d be wrong. The <a href="http://www.aapm.org/publicgeneral/AirportScannersPressRelease.asp">radiation doses to passengers from these security procedures</a> are trivial.</p> <p>The major source of radiation exposure from air travel comes from the flight itself. This is because at high altitude the <a href="http://www.altitude.org/why_less_oxygen.php">air gets thinner</a>. The farther you go from the Earth’s surface, the fewer molecules of gas there are per volume of space. Thinner air thus means fewer molecules to deflect incoming <a href="http://www.space.com/32644-cosmic-rays.html">cosmic rays</a> – radiation from outer space. With less <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/earth/atmosphere_and_climate/atmosphere">atmospheric shielding</a>, there is more exposure to radiation.</p> <p>The most extreme situation is for astronauts who travel entirely outside of the Earth’s atmosphere and enjoy none of its protective shielding. Consequently, they receive high radiation doses. In fact, it is the accumulation of radiation dose that is the limiting factor for the maximum length of manned space flights. Too long in space and <a href="https://www.nasa.gov/hrp/bodyinspace">astronauts risk cataracts, cancer and potential heart ailments</a> when they get back home.</p> <p>Indeed, it’s the radiation dose problem that is a major spoiler for <a href="http://www.space.com/34210-elon-musk-unveils-spacex-mars-colony-ship.html">Elon Musk’s goal of inhabiting Mars</a>. An extended stay on Mars, with its <a href="http://www.space.com/16903-mars-atmosphere-climate-weather.html">extremely thin atmosphere</a>, would be lethal due to the high radiation doses, notwithstanding Matt Damon’s successful Mars colonization in the movie <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ej3ioOneTy8">“The Martian</a>.”</p> <h2>Radiation risks of ultra frequent flying</h2> <p>What would be Stuker’s cumulative radiation dose and what are his health risks?</p> <p>It depends entirely on how much time he has spent in the air. Assuming an <a href="http://hypertextbook.com/facts/2002/JobyJosekutty.shtml">average flight speed</a> (550 mph), Stuker’s 18,000,000 miles would translate into 32,727 hours (3.7 years) of flight time. The radiation dose rate at typical <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/travel-truths/why-do-planes-fly-so-high-feet/">commercial airline flight altitude</a> (35,000 feet) is about <a href="https://hps.org/publicinformation/ate/faqs/commercialflights.html">0.003 millisieverts per hour</a>. (As I explain in my book <a href="http://press.princeton.edu/titles/10691.html">“Strange Glow: The Story of Radiation</a>,” a millisievert or mSv is a unit of radiation dose that can be used to estimate cancer risk.) By multiplying the dose rate by the hours of flight time, we can see that Stuker has earned himself about 100 mSv of radiation dose, in addition to a lot of free airline tickets. But what does that mean for his health?</p> <p>The primary health threat at this dose level is an increased risk of some type of cancer later in life. Studies of atomic bomb victims, nuclear workers and medical radiation patients have <a href="https://doi.org/10.17226/11340">allowed scientists to estimate the cancer risk</a> for any particular radiation dose.</p> <p>All else being equal and assuming that low doses have risk levels proportionate to high doses, then an overall cancer risk rate of <a href="http://www.imagewisely.org/imaging-modalities/computed-tomography/medical-physicists/articles/how-to-understand-and-communicate-radiation-risk">0.005 percent per mSv</a> is a reasonable and commonly used estimate. Thus, Stuker’s 100-mSv dose would increase his lifetime risk of contracting a potentially fatal cancer by about 0.5 percent.</p> <h2>Contextualizing the risk</h2> <p>The question then becomes whether that’s a high level of risk. Your own feeling might depend on how you see your background cancer risk.</p> <p>Most people <a href="http://www.who.int/whr/2002/chapter3/en/index4.html">underestimate their personal risk of dying from cancer</a>. Although the exact number is debatable, it’s fair to say that <a href="https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-basics/lifetime-probability-of-developing-or-dying-from-cancer.html">about 25 percent of men ultimately contract a potentially fatal cancer</a>. Stuker’s 0.5 percent cancer risk from radiation should be added to his baseline risk – so it would go from 25 percent to 25.5 percent. A cancer risk increase of that size is too small to actually measure in any scientific way, so it must remain a theoretical increase in risk.</p> <p>A 0.5 percent increase in risk is the same as one chance in 200 of getting cancer. In other words, if 200 male travelers logged 18,000,000 miles of air travel, like Stuker did, we might expect just one of them to contract a cancer thanks to his flight time. The other 199 travelers would suffer no health effects. So the chances that Stuker is the specific 18-million-mile traveler who would be so unlucky is quite small.</p> <p>Stuker was logging more air hours per year (greater than 2,000) than most pilots typically log (<a href="http://work.chron.com/duty-limitations-faa-pilot-17646.html">under 1,000</a>). So these airline workers would have risk levels proportionately lower than Stuker’s. But what about you?</p> <p>If you want to know your personal cancer risk from flying, estimate all of your commercial airline miles over the years. Assuming that the values and parameters for speed, radiation dose and risk stated above for Stuker are also true for you, dividing your total miles by 3,700,000,000 will give your approximate odds of getting cancer from your flying time.</p> <p>For example, let’s pretend that you have a mathematically convenient 370,000 total flying miles. That would mean 370,000 miles divided by 3,700,000,000, which comes out to be 1/10,000 odds of contracting cancer (or a 0.01 percent increase in risk). Most people do not fly 370,000 miles (equal to 150 flights from Los Angeles to New York) within their lifetimes. So for the average flyer, the increased risk is far less than 0.01 percent.</p> <p>To make your exercise complete, make a list of all the benefits that you’ve derived from your air travel over your lifetime (job opportunities, vacation travel, family visits and so on) and go back and look at your increased cancer risk again. If you think your benefits have been meager compared to your elevated cancer risk, maybe its time to rethink flying. But for many people today, flying is a necessity of life, and the small elevated cancer risk is worth the price.<!-- 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;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/78790/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/timothy-j-jorgensen-239253">Timothy J. Jorgensen</a>, Director of the Health Physics and Radiation Protection Graduate Program and Professor of Radiation Medicine, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/georgetown-university-1239">Georgetown University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock</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/air-travel-exposes-you-to-radiation-how-much-health-risk-comes-with-it-78790">original article</a>.</em></p> </div>

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Could not getting enough sleep increase your risk of type 2 diabetes?

<div class="theconversation-article-body"> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/giuliana-murfet-1517219">Giuliana Murfet</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-technology-sydney-936">University of Technology Sydney</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/shanshan-lin-1005236">ShanShan Lin</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-technology-sydney-936"><em>University of Technology Sydney</em></a></em></p> <p>Not getting enough sleep is a common affliction in the modern age. If you don’t always get as many hours of shut-eye as you’d like, perhaps you were concerned by news of a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2815684">recent study</a> that found people who sleep less than six hours a night are at higher risk of type 2 diabetes.</p> <p>So what can we make of these findings? It turns out the relationship between sleep and diabetes is complex.</p> <h2>The study</h2> <p>Researchers analysed data from the <a href="https://www.ukbiobank.ac.uk/">UK Biobank</a>, a large biomedical database which serves as a global resource for health and medical research. They looked at information from 247,867 adults, following their health outcomes for more than a decade.</p> <p>The researchers wanted to understand the associations between sleep duration and type 2 diabetes, and whether a healthy diet reduced the effects of short sleep on diabetes risk.</p> <p>As part of their involvement in the UK Biobank, participants had been asked roughly how much sleep they get in 24 hours. Seven to eight hours was the average and considered normal sleep. Short sleep duration was broken up into three categories: mild (six hours), moderate (five hours) and extreme (three to four hours). The researchers analysed sleep data alongside information about people’s diets.</p> <p>Some 3.2% of participants were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes during the follow-up period. Although healthy eating habits were associated with a lower overall risk of diabetes, when people ate healthily but slept less than six hours a day, their risk of type 2 diabetes increased compared to people in the normal sleep category.</p> <p>The researchers found sleep duration of five hours was linked with a 16% higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes, while the risk for people who slept three to four hours was 41% higher, compared to people who slept seven to eight hours.</p> <p>One limitation is the study defined a healthy diet based on the number of servings of fruit, vegetables, red meat and fish a person consumed over a day or a week. In doing so, it didn’t consider how dietary patterns such as time-restricted eating or the Mediterranean diet may modify the risk of diabetes among those who slept less.</p> <p>Also, information on participants’ sleep quantity and diet was only captured at recruitment and may have changed over the course of the study. The authors acknowledge these limitations.</p> <h2>Why might short sleep increase diabetes risk?</h2> <p>In people with <a href="https://www.diabetesaustralia.com.au/about-diabetes/type-2-diabetes/">type 2 diabetes</a>, the body becomes resistant to the effects of a hormone called insulin, and slowly loses the capacity to produce enough of it in the pancreas. Insulin is important because it regulates glucose (sugar) in our blood that comes from the food we eat by helping move it to cells throughout the body.</p> <p>We don’t know the precise reasons why people who sleep less may be at higher risk of type 2 diabetes. But <a href="https://doi.org/10.7759/cureus.23501">previous research</a> has shown sleep-deprived people often have increased <a href="https://doi.org/10.1186/1476-511X-9-125">inflammatory markers</a> and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s00125-015-3500-4">free fatty acids</a> in their blood, which <a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s11892-018-1055-8">impair insulin sensitivity</a>, leading to <a href="https://doi.org/10.7759/cureus.23501">insulin resistance</a>. This means the body struggles to use insulin properly to regulate blood glucose levels, and therefore increases the risk of type 2 diabetes.</p> <p>Further, people who don’t sleep enough, as well as people who sleep in irregular patterns (such as shift workers), experience disruptions to their body’s natural rhythm, known as the <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5995632/">circadian rhythm</a>.</p> <p>This can interfere with the release of hormones like <a href="https://doi.org/10.1210/edrv.18.5.0317">cortisol, glucagon and growth hormones</a>. These hormones are released through the day to meet the body’s changing energy needs, and normally keep blood glucose levels nicely balanced. If they’re compromised, this may reduce the body’s ability to handle glucose as the day progresses.</p> <p>These factors, and <a href="https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/sciadv.aar8590">others</a>, may contribute to the increased risk of type 2 diabetes seen among people sleeping less than six hours.</p> <p>While this study primarily focused on people who sleep eight hours or less, it’s possible longer sleepers may also face an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.</p> <p>Research has previously shown a U-shaped correlation between sleep duration and type 2 diabetes risk. A <a href="https://doi.org/10.2337/dc14-2073">review</a> of multiple studies found getting between seven to eight hours of sleep daily was associated with the lowest risk. When people got less than seven hours sleep, or more than eight hours, the risk began to increase.</p> <p>The reason sleeping longer is associated with increased risk of type 2 diabetes may be linked to <a href="https://doi.org/10.2337/dc15-0186">weight gain</a>, which is also correlated with longer sleep. Likewise, people who don’t sleep enough are more likely to be <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sleh.2017.07.013">overweight or obese</a>.</p> <h2>Good sleep, healthy diet</h2> <p>Getting enough sleep is an important part of a healthy lifestyle and may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.</p> <p>Based on this study and other evidence, it seems that when it comes to diabetes risk, seven to eight hours of sleep may be the sweet spot. However, other factors could influence the relationship between sleep duration and diabetes risk, such as individual differences in sleep quality and lifestyle.</p> <p>While this study’s findings question whether a healthy diet can mitigate the effects of a lack of sleep on diabetes risk, a wide range of evidence points to the benefits of <a href="https://www.who.int/initiatives/behealthy/healthy-diet">healthy eating</a> for overall health.</p> <p>The <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2815684">authors of the study</a> acknowledge it’s not always possible to get enough sleep, and suggest doing <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33137489/">high-intensity interval exercise</a> during the day may offset some of the potential effects of short sleep on diabetes risk.</p> <p>In fact, exercise <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jshs.2023.03.001">at any intensity</a> can improve blood glucose levels.<!-- 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;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/225179/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/giuliana-murfet-1517219">Giuliana Murfet</a>, Casual Academic, Faculty of Health, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-technology-sydney-936">University of Technology Sydney</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/shanshan-lin-1005236">ShanShan Lin</a>, Senior Lecturer, School of Public Health, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-technology-sydney-936">University of Technology Sydney</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</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/could-not-getting-enough-sleep-increase-your-risk-of-type-2-diabetes-225179">original article</a>.</em></p> </div>

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Millions of phones at risk of being cut off from calling triple-0

<p>Over a million Aussies may be unable to contact triple-0 as two major telcos cut their 3G networks. </p> <p>Telstra's network will be closed on June 30 this year followed by Optus, which will shut their 3G network in September.</p> <p>While most late model phones are now serviced by either 4G or 5G networks, there are many devices that still rely on 3G. </p> <p>Approximately 113,000 Telstra customers have not upgraded their 3G handsets, while Optus have not disclosed a figure.</p> <p>The greater concerns lie for older 4G-enabled handsets that may not be able to call triple-0 once the 3G networks are switched off, because of the way those phones are configured.</p> <p>In March, Communications Minister Michelle Rowland was informed that 740,000 Australians were in that category.  </p> <p>A month later, that figure was revised to over a million. </p> <p>"I welcome the industry’s first report to government but am concerned around their disclosure of around one million potentially impacted consumers,” the minister said. </p> <p>“I am considering the detail provided and next steps, and the government will have more to say about the 3G switchover soon.”</p> <p>She also said that they were open to delaying the switchover  "if warranted in the public interest”.</p> <p>“Options exist under law for the government to consider proposals to delay the planned switchover, subject to consultation and procedural processes,” she said.</p> <p>Telstra has informed customers about what to do if they are affected, and how they could check. </p> <p>“If your mobile device doesn’t have Voice over LTE (VoLTE) technology, even if it uses 4G data, it will not be able to make voice calls on our network after 30 June 2024,” they informed their customers. </p> <p>“Not all VoLTE enabled devices support emergency VoLTE calling, meaning they will not be able to make an emergency call to triple-0 once 3G closes." </p> <p>“Without taking the recommended action you won’t be able to connect to a network after 30 June 2024,” they warned. </p> <p>Customers who are worried that they might be impacted, are encouraged to text 3 to the number 3498, so that the telco can inform the customer on their connection status.</p> <p>Optus have also encouraged customers to contact them if they think they may be affected. </p> <p><em>Image: Getty</em></p>

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Considering taking a weight-loss drug like Ozempic? Here are some potential risks and benefits

<p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/lauren-ball-14718">Lauren Ball</a>, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-queensland-805">The University of Queensland</a></em> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/emily-burch-438717">Emily Burch</a>, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/southern-cross-university-1160">Southern Cross University</a></em></p> <p>After weight-loss drugs like Ozempic exploded onto the market, celebrities and social media influencers were quick to spruik their benefits, leading to their rapid rise in use. In the last three months of 2022, clinicians in the United States alone wrote <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2023/09/27/ozempic-prescriptions-data-analysis/">more than nine million prescriptions</a> for these drugs.</p> <p>As they’ve grown in popularity, we’ve also heard more about the potential side effects – from common gastrointestinal discomforts, to more serious mental health concerns.</p> <p>But what does the science say about how well Ozempic and Wegovy (which are both brand names of the drug semaglutide) work for weight loss? And what are the potential side effects? Here’s what to consider if you or a loved one are thinking of taking the drug.</p> <h2>Potential benefits</h2> <p><strong>1) It’s likely to help you lose weight</strong></p> <p>The largest, well-conducted <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33567185/">research study</a> of semaglutide was from United Kingdom in 2021. Some 1,961 people who were classified as “overweight” or “obese” were randomly assigned to have either semaglutide or a placebo and followed for 68 weeks (about 1.3 years). All participants also had free access to advice about healthy eating and physical activity.</p> <p>The study found those taking semaglutide lost weight – significantly more than people who had the placebo (-14.9% of their body weight compared with -2.4% of body weight).</p> <p>In another <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9486455/">study</a> in the United States, one health-care clinic gave 408 people weekly injections of semaglutide. Over the first three months, those included in the final analysis (175 people) lost an average of 6.7kg. Over the first six months, they lost an average of 12.3kg.</p> <p>Large weight losses have been found in a more <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41591-022-02026-4">recent trial</a> of semaglutide, suggesting weight loss is a very likely outcome of ongoing use of the medication.</p> <p><strong>2) It may reduce your chronic disease risk factors</strong></p> <p>When people in the overweight or obese weight categories lose <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1550413116300535">at least 5%</a> of their body weight, physiological changes often occur beyond a change in weight or shape. This <a href="https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/research-context-obesity-metabolic-health">might include</a> lowered cholesterol levels, lowered blood pressure and lowered blood glucose levels, which all reduce the risk of chronic diseases.</p> <p>In one of the semaglutide <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9486455/">trials</a>, most people (87.3%) lost at least 5% of their body weight. Although most of the large studies of semaglutide excluded people with metabolic health conditions such as type 2 diabetes, metabolic health gains were <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33567185/">observed</a>, including lowered blood pressure, blood glucose levels and fasting blood lipid (fat) levels.</p> <p>In the UK <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33567185/">study</a> from 2021, people taking semaglutide had greater improvements in physical capabilities and risk factors for heart disease and diabetes, including reductions in waist circumference, markers of inflammation, blood pressure and blood glucose levels.</p> <p><strong>3) It might improve your quality of life, emotional wellbeing or sense of achievement</strong></p> <p>The original trial of semaglutide did not focus on this bundle of benefits, but further follow-ups show additional benefits associated with the medication. Compared to the placebo, people taking semaglutide saw significant <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00325481.2022.2150006">improvements</a> in their physical functioning and perceptions of their general health, social functioning and mental health.</p> <p>Anecdotally (not based on scientific research), people using semaglutide, such as <a href="https://people.com/oprah-winfrey-reveals-weight-loss-medication-exclusive-8414552">Oprah Winfrey</a>, report a reclaiming or turning point of their life, social situation and body image.</p> <h2>What about the risks?</h2> <p><strong>1) You may experience gastrointestinal symptoms</strong></p> <p>In the <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9486455/">US clinical trial</a>, nearly half (48.6%) of people taking semaglutide reported experiencing adverse effects. Nausea and vomiting were the most frequently experienced (36.6%) followed by diarrhea (8.6%), fatigue (6.3%) and constipation (5.7%).</p> <p>In the UK study, nausea and diarrhoea were also commonly reported.</p> <p>In <a href="https://www.nejm.org/doi/10.1056/NEJMoa2032183?url_ver=Z39.88-2003&amp;rfr_id=ori:rid:crossref.org&amp;rfr_dat=cr_pub%20%200pubmed">another trial</a>, many participants (74.2%) using semaglutide reported gastrointestinal symptoms. However, nearly half (47.9%) using the placebo also reported gastrointestinal symptoms, indicating that symptoms may be similar to those experienced during normal daily living.</p> <p>Most gastrointestinal symptoms were mild to moderate in severity, and resolved for most people without the need to stop participating in the study.</p> <p><strong>2) You might feel fatigued</strong></p> <p>Fatigue was the second most common side effect for participants in the US <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9486455/">clinical trial</a>, affecting 6.3% of participants.</p> <p><strong>3) You might be among the minority who don’t tolerate the drug</strong></p> <p>Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has <a href="https://www.tga.gov.au/news/safety-alerts/compounding-safety-information-semaglutide-products">approved</a> Ozempic as safe to use, for the treatment of type 2 diabetes but it has not yet been approved for weight loss. The TGA has also <a href="https://www.tga.gov.au/resources/prescription-medicines-registrations/wegovy-novo-nordisk-pharmaceuticals-pty-ltd">approved Wegovy</a> (a higher dose of semagtlutide) for weight loss, however it’s not yet available in Australia.</p> <p>In the US <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9486455/">clinical trial</a>, no unexpected safety issues were reported. However, five patients (2.9%) had to stop taking the medication because they could not tolerate the adverse effects. Fifteen (8.6%) had to either reduce the dose or remain on the same dose to avoid the adverse effects.</p> <p>In <a href="https://www.nejm.org/doi/10.1056/NEJMoa2032183?url_ver=Z39.88-2003&amp;rfr_id=ori:rid:crossref.org&amp;rfr_dat=cr_pub%20%200pubmed">other studies</a>, some patients stopped the trial due to gastrointestinal symptoms being so severe they could not tolerate continuing.</p> <p>More severe safety concerns reported in <a href="https://www.nejm.org/doi/10.1056/NEJMoa2032183?url_ver=Z39.88-2003&amp;rfr_id=ori:rid:crossref.org&amp;rfr_dat=cr_pub%20%200pubmed">studies</a> include gallbladder-related disorders (mostly cholelithiasis, also known as gallstones) in 34 patients (2.6%) and mild acute pancreatitis in three patients (0.2%). All people recovered during the trial period.</p> <p>A 2024 European <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11096-023-01694-7">study</a> analysed psychiatric adverse events associated with semaglutide, liraglutide and tirzepatide (which work in a similar way to semaglutide). Between January 2021 and May 2023, the drug database recorded 481 psychiatric events (about 1.2% of the total reported) associated with these drugs. About half of these events were reported as depression, followed by anxiety (39%) and suicidal ideation (19.6%). Nine deaths and 11 life-threatening outcomes were reported during the study period.</p> <p>Due to the severity and fatal outcomes of some of these reports, <a href="https://www.fda.gov/drugs/drug-safety-and-availability/update-fdas-ongoing-evaluation-reports-suicidal-thoughts-or-actions-patients-taking-certain-type">the US Food and Drug Administration</a> investigated further but did not find evidence that use of these medicines caused suicidal thoughts or actions.</p> <p><strong>4) It might be difficult to access</strong></p> <p>Despite being considered safe, the TGA has <a href="https://www.tga.gov.au/safety/shortages/medicine-shortage-alerts/update-prescribers-advised-not-start-new-patients-ozempic#:%7E:text=Ozempic%27s%20TGA%2Dapproved%20indication%20is,consult%20the%20appropriate%20prescribing%20guidelines.">warned</a> significant Ozempic access barriers are likely to continue throughout 2024.</p> <p>To manage the shortage, pharmacists are instructed to give preference to people with type 2 diabetes who are seeking the medication.</p> <p><strong>5) You might not always get clear information from vested interests</strong></p> <p>Given the popularity of Ozempic and Wegovy, health organisations such as the World Obesity Federation have expressed <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2023/mar/12/orchestrated-pr-campaign-how-skinny-jab-drug-firm-sought-to-shape-obesity-debate">concern</a> about the medication’s marketing, PR and strong <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2023/jan/06/tga-investigates-influencers-after-diabetes-drug-ozempic-promoted-as-weight-loss-treatment">social media presence</a>.</p> <p>Some journalists have <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2023/mar/12/orchestrated-pr-campaign-how-skinny-jab-drug-firm-sought-to-shape-obesity-debate">raised conflict of interest concerns</a> about the relationship between some obesity researchers and Novo Nordrisk, Ozempic and Wegovy’s manufacturer. The worry is that researchers might be influenced by their relationship with Novo Nordrisk to produce study results that are more favourable to the medications.</p> <h2>Bottom line</h2> <p>Ozempic is a medication that should be used in conjunction with your health care provider. But remember, weight is only one aspect of your health and wellbeing. It’s important to take a holistic view of your health and prioritise eating well, moving more and getting enough sleep.</p> <hr /> <p><em>Read the other articles in The Conversation’s <a href="https://theconversation.com/au/topics/ozempic-132745">Ozempic series</a> here.</em><!-- 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;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/219312/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/lauren-ball-14718">Lauren Ball</a>, Professor of Community Health and Wellbeing, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-queensland-805">The University of Queensland</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/emily-burch-438717">Emily Burch</a>, Lecturer, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/southern-cross-university-1160">Southern Cross University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</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/considering-taking-a-weight-loss-drug-like-ozempic-here-are-some-potential-risks-and-benefits-219312">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Alzheimer’s may have once spread from person to person, but the risk of that happening today is incredibly low

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/steve-macfarlane-4722">Steve Macfarlane</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/monash-university-1065">Monash University</a></em></p> <p>An article published this week in the prestigious journal <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41591-023-02729-2">Nature Medicine</a> documents what is believed to be the first evidence that Alzheimer’s disease can be transmitted from person to person.</p> <p>The finding arose from long-term follow up of patients who received human growth hormone (hGH) that was taken from brain tissue of deceased donors.</p> <p>Preparations of donated hGH were used in medicine to treat a variety of conditions from 1959 onwards – including in Australia from the mid 60s.</p> <p>The practice stopped in 1985 when it was discovered around 200 patients worldwide who had received these donations went on to develop <a href="https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/epidemiology/epidemiology-fact-sheets/creutzfeldt-jakob-disease-cjd/">Creuztfeldt-Jakob disease</a> (CJD), which causes a rapidly progressive dementia. This is an otherwise extremely rare condition, affecting roughly one person in a million.</p> <h2>What’s CJD got to do with Alzehimer’s?</h2> <p>CJD is caused by prions: infective particles that are neither bacterial or viral, but consist of abnormally folded proteins that can be transmitted from cell to cell.</p> <p>Other prion diseases include kuru, a dementia seen in New Guinea tribespeople caused by eating human tissue, scrapie (a disease of sheep) and variant CJD or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, otherwise known as mad cow disease. This raised <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Kingdom_BSE_outbreak">public health concerns</a> over the eating of beef products in the United Kingdom in the 1980s.</p> <h2>Human growth hormone used to come from donated organs</h2> <p>Human growth hormone (hGH) is produced in the brain by the pituitary gland. Treatments were originally prepared from purified human pituitary tissue.</p> <p>But because the amount of hGH contained in a single gland is extremely small, any single dose given to any one patient could contain material from around <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/00000563.htm">16,000 donated glands</a>.</p> <p>An average course of hGH treatment lasts around four years, so the chances of receiving contaminated material – even for a very rare condition such as CJD – became quite high for such people.</p> <p>hGH is now manufactured synthetically in a laboratory, rather than from human tissue. So this particular mode of CJD transmission is no longer a risk.</p> <h2>What are the latest findings about Alzheimer’s disease?</h2> <p>The Nature Medicine paper provides the first evidence that transmission of Alzheimer’s disease can occur via human-to-human transmission.</p> <p>The authors examined the outcomes of people who received donated hGH until 1985. They found five such recipients had developed early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.</p> <p>They considered other explanations for the findings but concluded donated hGH was the likely cause.</p> <p>Given Alzheimer’s disease is a much more common illness than CJD, the authors presume those who received donated hGH before 1985 may be at higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.</p> <p>Alzheimer’s disease is caused by presence of two abnormally folded proteins: amyloid and tau. There is <a href="https://actaneurocomms.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s40478-017-0488-7">increasing evidence</a> these proteins spread in the brain in a <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8086126/">similar way to prion diseases</a>. So the mode of transmission the authors propose is certainly plausible.</p> <p>However, given the amyloid protein deposits in the brain <a href="https://www.nia.nih.gov/news/estimates-amyloid-onset-may-predict-alzheimers-progression">at least 20 years</a> before clinical Alzheimer’s disease develops, there is likely to be a considerable time lag before cases that might arise from the receipt of donated hGH become evident.</p> <h2>When was this process used in Australia?</h2> <p>In Australia, donated pituitary material <a href="https://www.health.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/2022/07/the-cjd-review-final-report.pdf">was used</a> from 1967 to 1985 to treat people with short stature and infertility.</p> <p><a href="https://www.health.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/2022/07/the-cjd-review-final-report.pdf">More than 2,000 people</a> received such treatment. Four developed CJD, the last case identified in 1991. All four cases were likely linked to a single contaminated batch.</p> <p>The risks of any other cases of CJD developing now in pituitary material recipients, so long after the occurrence of the last identified case in Australia, are <a href="https://www.mja.com.au/journal/2010/193/6/iatrogenic-creutzfeldt-jakob-disease-australia-time-amend-infection-control">considered to be</a> incredibly small.</p> <p>Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease (defined as occurring before the age of 65) is uncommon, accounting for <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4356853/">around 5%</a> of all cases. Below the age of 50 it’s rare and likely to have a genetic contribution.</p> <h2>The risk is very low – and you can’t ‘catch’ it like a virus</h2> <p>The Nature Medicine paper identified five cases which were diagnosed in people aged 38 to 55. This is more than could be expected by chance, but still very low in comparison to the total number of patients treated worldwide.</p> <p>Although the long “incubation period” of Alzheimer’s disease may mean more similar cases may be identified in the future, the absolute risk remains very low. The main scientific interest of the article lies in the fact it’s first to demonstrate that Alzheimer’s disease can be transmitted from person to person in a similar way to prion diseases, rather than in any public health risk.</p> <p>The authors were keen to emphasise, as I will, that Alzheimer’s cannot be contracted via contact with or providing care to people with Alzheimer’s disease.<!-- 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;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/222374/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><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/steve-macfarlane-4722"><em>Steve Macfarlane</em></a><em>, Head of Clinical Services, Dementia Support Australia, &amp; Associate Professor of Psychiatry, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/monash-university-1065">Monash University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </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/alzheimers-may-have-once-spread-from-person-to-person-but-the-risk-of-that-happening-today-is-incredibly-low-222374">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Millions of high-risk Australians aren’t getting vaccinated. A policy reset could save lives

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/peter-breadon-1348098">Peter Breadon</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/grattan-institute-1168">Grattan Institute</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/ingrid-burfurd-1295906">Ingrid Burfurd</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/grattan-institute-1168">Grattan Institute</a></em></p> <p>Each year, vaccines prevent thousands of deaths and hospitalisations in Australia.</p> <p>But millions of high-risk older Australians <a href="https://grattan.edu.au/report/a-fair-shot-ensuring-all-australians-can-get-the-vaccines-they-need/">aren’t getting</a> recommended vaccinations against COVID, the flu, pneumococcal disease and shingles.</p> <p>Some people are more likely to miss out, such as migrant communities and those in rural areas and poorer suburbs.</p> <p>As our new <a href="https://grattan.edu.au/report/a-fair-shot-ensuring-all-australians-can-get-the-vaccines-they-need/">Grattan report shows</a>, a policy reset to encourage more Australians to get vaccinated could save lives and help ease the pressure on our struggling hospitals.</p> <h2>Adult vaccines reduce the risk of serious illness</h2> <p>Vaccines slash the risk of <a href="https://www.ncirs.org.au/sites/default/files/2021-03/Influenza-fact-sheet_31%20March%202021_Final.pdf">hospitalisation</a> and serious illness, <a href="https://ncirs.org.au/recent-covid-19-vaccination-highly-effective-against-death-caused-sars-cov-2-infection-older">often by more than half</a>.</p> <p>COVID has already caused more than <a href="https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/health/causes-death/provisional-mortality-statistics/latest-release">3,000 deaths in Australia this year</a>. On average, the flu kills about <a href="https://www.doherty.edu.au/news-events/news/statement-on-the-doherty-institute-modelling">600 people a year</a>, although a bad flu season, like 2017, can mean <a href="https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/by%20Subject/3303.0%7E2017%7EMain%20Features%7EAustralia's%20leading%20causes%20of%20death,%202017%7E2">several thousand deaths</a>. And pneumococcal disease may also kill <a href="https://www.aihw.gov.au/getmedia/49809836-8ead-4da5-81c4-352fa64df75b/aihw-phe-263.pdf?inline=true">hundreds</a> of people a year. Shingles is rarely fatal, but can be extremely painful and cause <a href="https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/shingles#complications">long-term nerve damage</a>.</p> <p>Even before COVID, vaccine-preventable diseases caused tens of thousands of potentially preventable hospitalisations each year – more than <a href="https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/primary-health-care/disparities-in-potentially-preventable-hospitalisa/data">80,000 in 2018</a>.</p> <p>Vaccines offered in Australia have been tested for safety and efficacy and have been found to be <a href="https://www.health.gov.au/topics/immunisation/about-immunisation/vaccine-safety#:%7E:text=serious%20side%20effects.-,Vaccine%20safety%20monitoring,approved%20for%20use%20in%20Australia.">very safe</a> for people who are <a href="https://www.health.gov.au/topics/immunisation/when-to-get-vaccinated/national-immunisation-program-schedule">recommended to get them</a>.</p> <h2>Too many high-risk people are missing out</h2> <p>Our <a href="https://grattan.edu.au/report/roundabouts-overpasses-carparks-hauling-the-federal-government-back-to-its-proper-role-in-transport-projects">report</a> shows that before winter this year, only 60% of high-risk Australians were vaccinated against the flu.</p> <p>Only 38% had a COVID vaccination in the last six months. Compared to a year earlier, two million more high-risk people went into winter without a recent COVID vaccination.</p> <p>Vaccination rates have fallen further since. Just over one-quarter (<a href="https://www.health.gov.au/sites/default/files/2023-11/covid-19-vaccine-rollout-update-10-november-2023.pdf">27%</a>) of people over 75 have been vaccinated in the last six months. That leaves more than 1.3 million without a recent COVID vaccination.</p> <p>Uptake is also low for other vaccines. Among Australians in their 70s, <a href="https://ncirs.org.au/sites/default/files/2022-12/Coverage%20report%202021%20SUMMARY%20FINAL.pdf">less than half</a> are vaccinated against shingles and only one in five are vaccinated against pneumococcal disease.</p> <p>These vaccination rates aren’t just low – they’re also unfair. The likelihood that someone is vaccinated changes depending on where they live, where they were born, what language they speak at home, and how much they earn.</p> <p>For example, at the start of winter this year, the COVID vaccination rate for high-risk Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults was only 25%. This makes them about one-third less likely to have been vaccinated against COVID in the previous six months, compared to the average high-risk Australian.</p> <p>For more than 750,000 high-risk adults who do not speak English at home, the COVID vaccination rate is below 20% – about half the level of the average high-risk adult.</p> <p>Within this group, 250,000 adults aren’t proficient in English. They were 58% less likely to be vaccinated for COVID in the previous six months, compared to the average high-risk person.</p> <p>High-risk adults who speak English at home have a flu vaccination rate of 62%. But for people from 29 other language groups, who aren’t proficient in English, the rate is less than 31%. These 39,000 people have half the vaccination rate of people who speak English at home.</p> <p>These vaccination gaps contribute to the differences in people’s health. Australians born overseas don’t just have much lower rates of COVID vaccination, they also have much higher rates of death from COVID.</p> <p>Where people live also affects vaccination rates. High-risk people living in remote and very remote areas are less likely to be vaccinated, and even within capital cities there are big differences between different areas.</p> <h2>We need to set ambitious targets</h2> <p>Australia needs a vaccination reset. A new National Vaccination Agreement between the federal and state governments should include ambitious but achievable targets for adult vaccines.</p> <p>This can build on the success of targets for childhood and adolescent vaccination, setting targets for overall uptake and for communities that are falling behind.</p> <p>The federal government should ask the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) to advise on vaccination targets for COVID, flu, pneumococcal and shingles for all high-risk older adults.</p> <h2>Different solutions for different barriers</h2> <p>Barriers to vaccination range from the trivial to the profound. A new national vaccination strategy needs to dismantle high and low barriers alike.</p> <p>First, to increase overall uptake, vaccination should be easier, and easier to understand.</p> <p>The federal government should introduce vaccination “surges”, especially in the lead-up to winter, as <a href="https://www.who.int/europe/news/item/09-10-2023-vulnerable--vaccinate.-protecting-the-unprotected-from-covid-19-and-influenza">countries in Europe</a> do.</p> <p>During surges, high-risk people should be able to get vaccinated even if they have had a recent infection or injection. This will make the rules simpler and make vaccination in aged care easier.</p> <p>Surges should be reinforced with advertising explaining who should get vaccinated and why. High-risk people should get SMS reminders.</p> <p>Second, targeted policies are needed for the many people who are happy to use mainstream primary care services, but who don’t get vaccinated – for example, due to <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-can-governments-communicate-with-multicultural-australians-about-covid-vaccines-its-not-as-simple-as-having-a-poster-in-their-language-156097">language barriers</a>, or living in <a href="https://theconversation.com/over-half-of-eligible-aged-care-residents-are-yet-to-receive-their-covid-booster-and-winter-is-coming-205403">aged care</a>.</p> <p><a href="https://www.health.gov.au/our-work/phn/what-PHNs-are">Primary Health Networks</a> should get funding to coordinate initiatives such as vaccination events in aged care and disability care homes, workforce training to support culturally appropriate care, and provision of interpreters.</p> <p>Third, tailored programs are needed to reach <a href="https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/australias-health/health-promotion">people who are not comfortable or able to access mainstream health care</a>, who have the most complex barriers to vaccination – for example, distrust of the health system or poverty.</p> <p>These communities are all very different, so one-size-fits-all programs don’t work. The pandemic showed that vaccination programs can succeed when they are designed and delivered with the communities they are trying to reach. Examples are “<a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36366401/">community champions</a>” who challenge misinformation, or health services organising vaccination events where communities work, gather or <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/aug/11/hundreds-queue-for-hours-and-some-camp-overnight-at-pop-up-vaccine-clinic-in-sydneys-lakemba">worship</a>.</p> <p>These programs should get ongoing funding, but also be accountable for achieving results.</p> <p>Adult vaccines are the missing piece in Australia’s whole-of-life vaccination strategy. For the health and safety of the most vulnerable members of our community, we need to close the vaccination gap. <!-- 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;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/217915/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><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/peter-breadon-1348098"><em>Peter Breadon</em></a><em>, Program Director, Health and Aged Care, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/grattan-institute-1168">Grattan Institute</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/ingrid-burfurd-1295906">Ingrid Burfurd</a>, Senior Associate, Health Program, Grattan Institute, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/grattan-institute-1168">Grattan Institute</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock</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/millions-of-high-risk-australians-arent-getting-vaccinated-a-policy-reset-could-save-lives-217915">original article</a>.</em></p>

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How 22 minutes of exercise a day could reduce the health risks from sitting too long

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/matthew-ahmadi-1241767">Matthew Ahmadi</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/emmanuel-stamatakis-161783">Emmanuel Stamatakis</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a></em></p> <p>People in developed countries spend an average of <a href="https://doi.org/10.1136/bjsports-2022-106568">nine to ten hours</a> a day sitting. Whether it’s spending time in front of a computer, stuck in traffic, or unwinding in front of the TV, our lives have become increasingly sedentary.</p> <p>This is concerning because prolonged time spent sitting is <a href="https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/54/24/1451?s=09&amp;int_source=trendmd&amp;int_medium=cpc&amp;int_campaign=usage-042019">linked to a number of health issues</a> including obesity, heart disease, and certain types of cancers. These health issues can contribute to earlier death.</p> <p>But a <a href="https://doi.org/10.1136/bjsports-2022-106568">new study</a> suggests that for people over 50, getting just 22 minutes of exercise a day can lower the increased risk of premature death from a highly sedentary lifestyle.</p> <h2>What the researchers did</h2> <p>The team combined data from two studies from Norway, one from Sweden and one from the United States. The studies included about 12,000 people aged 50 or older who wore wearable devices to track how active and sedentary they were during their daily routines.</p> <p>Participants were followed up for at least two years (the median was 5.2 years) during the study period, which spanned 2003-2020.</p> <p>Analyses took several lifestyle and health factors into account, such as education, alcohol intake, smoking status, and previous history of heart disease, cancer and diabetes. All this data was linked to national death registries.</p> <h2>A 22 minute threshold</h2> <p>A total of 805 participants died during follow up. The researchers found people who were sedentary for more than 12 hours a day had the highest risk of death (a 38% higher risk than people who were sedentary for eight hours).</p> <p>However, this was only observed in those who did less than 22 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity daily. So for people who did more than 22 minutes of exercise, there was no longer a significantly heightened risk – that is, the risk became generally similar to those who were sedentary for eight hours.</p> <p>Higher daily duration of physical activity was consistently associated with lower risk of death, regardless of total sedentary time. For example, the team reported an additional ten minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day could lower mortality risk by up to 15% for people who were sedentary less than 10.5 hours a day. For those considered highly sedentary (10.5 hours a day or more), an additional ten minutes lowered mortality risk by up to 35%.</p> <h2>The study had some limitations</h2> <p>The team couldn’t assess how changes in physical activity or sedentary time over several months or years may affect risk of death. And the study included only participants aged 50 and above, making results less applicable to younger age groups.</p> <p>Further, cultural and lifestyle differences between countries may have influenced how data between studies was measured and analysed.</p> <p>Ultimately, because this study was observational, we can’t draw conclusions on cause and effect with certainty. But the results of this research align with a growing body of evidence exploring the relationship between physical activity, sedentary time, and death.</p> <h2>It’s positive news</h2> <p>Research has previously suggested <a href="https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/54/24/1499">physical activity may offset</a> health risks associated with <a href="https://www.jacc.org/doi/abs/10.1016/j.jacc.2019.02.031">high sedentary time</a>.</p> <p>The good news is, even short bouts of exercise can have these positive effects. In this study, the 22 minutes wasn’t necessarily done all at once. It was a total of the physical activity someone did in a day, and would have included incidental exercise (activity that’s part of a daily routine, such as climbing the stairs).</p> <p>Several studies using wearable devices have found short bursts of high-intensity everyday activities such as stair climbing or energetic outdoor home maintenance activities such as mowing the lawn or cleaning the windows can lower <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41591-022-02100-x">mortality</a>, <a href="https://academic.oup.com/eurheartj/article/43/46/4801/6771381">heart disease</a> and <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamaoncology/fullarticle/2807734">cancer</a> risk.</p> <p>A recent study using wearable devices found moderate to vigorous bouts of activity <a href="https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanpub/article/PIIS2468-2667(23)00183-4/fulltext">lasting three to five minutes</a> provide similar benefits to bouts longer than ten minutes when it comes to stroke and heart attack risk.</p> <p>Several other studies have found <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/2596007">being active just on the weekend</a> provides similar health benefits as <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/2794038">being active throughout the week</a>.</p> <p>Research has also shown the benefits of <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamaneurology/fullarticle/2795819">physical activity</a> and <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/2809418">reducing sedentary time</a> extend to cognitive health.</p> <p>Routines such as desk jobs can foster a sedentary lifestyle that may be difficult to shift. But mixing short bursts of activity into our day can make a significant difference towards improving our health and longevity.</p> <p>Whether it’s a brisk walk during lunch, taking the stairs, or even a short at-home workout, this study is yet another to suggest that every minute counts.<!-- 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;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/216259/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/matthew-ahmadi-1241767">Matthew Ahmadi</a>, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Faculty of Medicine and Health, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/emmanuel-stamatakis-161783">Emmanuel Stamatakis</a>, Professor of Physical Activity, Lifestyle, and Population Health, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </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/how-22-minutes-of-exercise-a-day-could-reduce-the-health-risks-from-sitting-too-long-216259">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Do stress and depression increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease? Here’s why there might be a link

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/yen-ying-lim-355185">Yen Ying Lim</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/monash-university-1065">Monash University</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/ivana-chan-1477100">Ivana Chan</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/monash-university-1065">Monash University</a></em></p> <p>Dementia affects more than <a href="https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/dementia">55 million people</a> around the world. A number of factors can increase a person’s risk of developing dementia, <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.14283/jpad.2023.119">including</a> high blood pressure, poor sleep, and physical inactivity. Meanwhile, keeping cognitively, physically, and socially active, and limiting alcohol consumption, can <a href="https://www.thelancet.com/article/S0140-6736(20)30367-6/fulltext">reduce the risk</a>.</p> <p>Recently, a <a href="https://alzres.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13195-023-01308-4">large Swedish study</a> observed that chronic stress and depression were linked to a higher risk of developing <a href="https://alz-journals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/alz.12638">Alzheimer’s disease</a>, the most common form of dementia. The researchers found people with a history of both chronic stress and depression had an even greater risk of the disease.</p> <p>Globally, around <a href="https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/depression">280 million people</a> have depression, while roughly <a href="https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/anxiety-disorders">300 million people</a> experience anxiety. With so many people facing mental health challenges at some stage in their lives, what can we make of this apparent link?</p> <h2>What the study did and found</h2> <p>This study examined the health-care records of more than 1.3 million people in Sweden aged between 18 and 65. Researchers looked at people diagnosed with chronic stress (technically chronic stress-induced exhaustion disorder), depression, or both, between 2012 and 2013. They compared them with people not diagnosed with chronic stress or depression in the same period.</p> <p>Participants were then followed between 2014 and 2022 to determine whether they received a diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment or dementia, in particular Alzheimer’s disease. <a href="https://alz-journals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1016/j.jalz.2016.07.151">Mild cognitive impairment</a> is often seen as the precursor to dementia, although not everyone who has mild cognitive impairment will progress to dementia.</p> <p>During the study period, people with a history of either chronic stress or depression were around twice as likely to be diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer’s disease. Notably, people with both chronic stress and depression were up to four times more likely to be diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer’s disease.</p> <h2>Important considerations</h2> <p>In interpreting the results of this study, there are some key things to consider. First, the diagnosis of <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9438479/">chronic stress-induced exhaustion disorder</a> is unique to the Swedish medical system. It is characterised by at least six months of intensive stress without adequate recovery. Symptoms include exhaustion, sleep disturbance and concentration difficulties, with a considerable reduction in ability to function. Mild stress may not have the same effect on dementia risk.</p> <p>Second, the number of people diagnosed with dementia in this study (the absolute risk) was very low. Of the 1.3 million people studied, 4,346 were diagnosed with chronic stress, 40,101 with depression, and 1,898 with both. Of these, the number who went on to develop Alzheimer’s disease was 14 (0.32%), 148 (0.37%) and 9 (0.47%) respectively.</p> <p>These small numbers may be due to a relatively young age profile. When the study began in 2012–2013, the average age of participants was around 40. This means the average age in 2022 was around 50. Dementia is typically diagnosed in <a href="https://www.health.gov.au/topics/dementia/about-dementia">people aged over 65</a> and diagnosis <a href="https://karger.com/dem/article-abstract/34/5-6/292/99009/Overdiagnosis-of-Dementia-in-Young-Patients-A?redirectedFrom=fulltext">in younger ages</a> may be less reliable.</p> <p>Finally, it’s possible that in some cases stress and depressive symptoms may reflect an awareness of an already declining memory ability, rather than these symptoms constituting a risk factor in themselves.</p> <p>This last consideration speaks to a broader point: the study is observational. This means it can’t tell us one thing caused the other – only that there is an association.</p> <h2>What does other evidence say?</h2> <p><a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.14283/jpad.2023.119">Many studies</a> indicate that significant symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress are related to higher dementia risk. However, the nature of this relationship is unclear. For example, are depressive and anxiety symptoms a risk factor for dementia, or are they consequences of a declining cognition? It’s likely to be a bit of both.</p> <p>High <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32082139/">depressive and anxiety symptoms</a> are commonly reported in people with mild cognitive impairment. However, studies in middle-aged or younger adults suggest they’re important dementia risk factors too.</p> <p>For example, similar to the Swedish study, other <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0165032719323031">studies</a> have suggested people with a history of depression are twice as likely to develop dementia than those without this history. In addition, in middle-aged adults, high anxiety symptoms are associated with <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34648818/">poorer cognitive function</a> and <a href="https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/8/4/e019399">greater dementia risk</a> in later life.</p> <h2>Why the link?</h2> <p>There are several potential pathways through which stress, anxiety and depression could increase the risk of dementia.</p> <p>Animal studies suggest cortisol (a hormone produced when we’re stressed) can increase risk of Alzheimer’s disease by causing the accumulation of key proteins, <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34159699/">amyloid and tau</a>, in the brain. The accumulation of these proteins can result in increased <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/1422-0067/23/18/10572">brain inflammation</a>, which affects the brain’s nerves and supporting cells, and can ultimately lead to brain volume loss and memory decline.</p> <p>Another potential pathway is through <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1087079217300114?via%3Dihub">impaired sleep</a>. Sleep disturbances are common in people with chronic stress and depression. Similarly, people with Alzheimer’s disease commonly report sleep disturbances. Even in people with <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34668959/">early Alzheimer’s disease</a>, disturbed sleep is related to poorer memory performance. Animal studies suggest poor sleep can also enhance accumulation of <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31408876/">amyloid and tau</a>.</p> <p>We still have a lot to learn about why this link might exist. But evidence-based strategies which target chronic stress, anxiety and depression may also play a role in reducing the risk of dementia.<!-- 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;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/215065/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><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/yen-ying-lim-355185"><em>Yen Ying Lim</em></a><em>, Associate Professor, Turner Institute for Brain and Mental Health, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/monash-university-1065">Monash University</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/ivana-chan-1477100">Ivana Chan</a>, PhD candidate, clinical psychology, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/monash-university-1065">Monash University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</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/do-stress-and-depression-increase-the-risk-of-alzheimers-disease-heres-why-there-might-be-a-link-215065">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Is it okay to kiss your pet? The risk of animal-borne diseases is small, but real

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/sarah-mclean-1351935">Sarah McLean</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/swinburne-university-of-technology-767">Swinburne University of Technology</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/enzo-palombo-249510">Enzo Palombo</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/swinburne-university-of-technology-767">Swinburne University of Technology</a></em></p> <p>Our relationship with pets has changed drastically in recent decades. Pet ownership is at an all-time high, with <a href="https://animalmedicinesaustralia.org.au/media-release/more-than-two-thirds-of-australian-households-now-own-a-pet/">a recent survey</a> finding 69% of Australian households have at least one pet. We spend an estimated A$33 billion every year on caring for our fur babies.</p> <p>While owning a pet is linked to numerous <a href="https://www.onehealth.org/blog/10-mental-physical-health-benefits-of-having-pets">mental and physical health benefits</a>, our pets can also harbour infectious diseases that can sometimes be passed on to us. For most people, the risk is low.</p> <p>But some, such as pregnant people and those with weakened immune systems, are at <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/specific-groups/high-risk/index.html">greater risk</a> of getting sick from animals. So, it’s important to know the risks and take necessary precautions to prevent infections.</p> <h2>What diseases can pets carry?</h2> <p>Infectious diseases that move from animals to humans are called zoonotic diseases or <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/onehealth/basics/zoonotic-diseases.html">zoonoses</a>. More than <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3668296/#B18">70 pathogens</a> of companion animals are known to be transmissible to people.</p> <p>Sometimes, a pet that has a zoonotic pathogen may look sick. But often there may be no visible symptoms, making it easier for you to catch it, because you don’t suspect your pet of harbouring germs.</p> <p>Zoonoses can be transmitted directly from pets to humans, such as through contact with saliva, bodily fluids and faeces, or indirectly, such as through contact with contaminated bedding, soil, food or water.</p> <p>Studies suggest <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4500695/">the prevalence of pet-associated zoonoses is low</a>. However, the true number of infections is likely <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/17/11/3789">underestimated</a> since many zoonoses are not “<a href="https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/notification-of-illness-and-disease">notifiable</a>”, or may have multiple exposure pathways or generic symptoms.</p> <p>Dogs and cats are major reservoirs of zoonotic infections (meaning the pathogens naturally live in their population) caused by viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites. <a href="https://www.who.int/data/gho/data/themes/topics/rabies">In endemic regions in Africa and Asia</a>, dogs are the main source of rabies which is transmitted through saliva.</p> <p>Dogs also commonly carry <em>Capnocytophaga</em> bacteria <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/capnocytophaga/index.html">in their mouths and saliva</a>, which can be transmitted to people through close contact or bites. The vast majority of people won’t get sick, but these bacteria can occasionally cause infections in people with weakened immune systems, <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/capnocytophaga/signs-symptoms/index.html">resulting</a> in severe illness and sometimes death. Just last week, such a death <a href="https://thewest.com.au/news/wa/tracy-ridout-perth-mum-dies-11-days-after-rare-bacterial-infection-from-minor-dog-bite-c-11748887">was reported in Western Australia</a>.</p> <p>Cat-associated zoonoses include a number of illnesses spread by the faecal-oral route, such as giardiasis, campylobacteriosis, salmonellosis and toxoplasmosis. This means it’s especially important to wash your hands or use gloves whenever handling your cat’s litter tray.</p> <p>Cats can also sometimes transmit infections through bites and scratches, including the aptly named <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/diseases/cat-scratch.html#:%7E:text=Cat%20scratch%20disease%20(CSD)%20is,the%20surface%20of%20the%20skin.">cat scratch disease</a>, which is caused by the bacterium <em>Bartonella henselae</em>.</p> <p>Both dogs and cats are also reservoirs for <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10122942/">methicillin-resistant bacterium <em>Staphylococcus aureus</em></a> (MRSA), with close contact with pets identified as an important risk factor for zoonotic transmission.</p> <h2>Birds, turtles and fish can also transmit disease</h2> <p>But it’s not just dogs and cats that can spread diseases to humans. Pet birds can occasionally transmit <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/pneumonia/atypical/psittacosis/">psittacosis</a>, a bacterial infection which causes pneumonia. Contact with <a href="https://www.fda.gov/animal-veterinary/animal-health-literacy/pet-turtles-source-germs">pet turtles</a> has been linked to <em>Salmonella</em> infections in humans, particularly in young children. Even pet fish have been linked to a <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/pets/fish.html">range of bacterial infections</a> in humans, including vibriosis, mycobacteriosis and salmonellosis.</p> <p>Close contact with animals – and some behaviours in particular – increase the risk of zoonotic transmission. <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19398275/">A study from the Netherlands</a> found half of owners allowed pets to lick their faces, and 18% allowed dogs to share their bed. (Sharing a bed increases the duration of exposure to pathogens carried by pets.) The same study found 45% of cat owners allowed their cat to jump onto the kitchen sink.</p> <p>Kissing pets has also been linked to occasional zoonotic infections in pet owners. <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3298380/">In one case</a>, a woman in Japan developed meningitis due to <em>Pasteurella multicoda</em> infection, after regularly kissing her dog’s face. These bacteria are often found in the oral cavities of dogs and cats.</p> <p>Young children are also more likely to engage in behaviours which increase their risk of <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/specific-groups/high-risk/children.html?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Fhealthypets%2Fspecific-groups%2Fchildren.html">getting sick</a> from animal-borne diseases – such as putting their hands in their mouth after touching pets. Children are also less likely to wash their hands properly after handling pets.</p> <p>Although anybody who comes into contact with a zoonotic pathogen via their pet can become sick, certain people are more likely to suffer from serious illness. These people include the young, old, pregnant and immunosuppressed.</p> <p>For example, while most people infected with the toxoplasmosis parasite will experience only mild illness, it can be life-threatening or <a href="https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/pregnancy/what-are-the-risks-of-toxoplasmosis-during-pregnancy/">cause birth defects in foetuses</a>.</p> <h2>What should I do if I’m worried about catching a disease from my pet?</h2> <p>There are a number of good hygiene and pet husbandry practices that can reduce your risk of becoming sick. These include:</p> <ul> <li>washing your hands after playing with your pet and after handling their bedding, toys, or cleaning up faeces</li> <li>not allowing your pets to lick your face or open wounds</li> <li>supervising young children when they are playing with pets and when washing their hands after playing with pets</li> <li>wearing gloves when changing litter trays or cleaning aquariums</li> <li>wetting bird cage surfaces when cleaning to minimise aerosols</li> <li>keeping pets out of the kitchen (especially cats who can jump onto food preparation surfaces)</li> <li>keeping up to date with preventative veterinary care, including vaccinations and worm and tick treatments</li> <li>seeking veterinary care if you think your pet is unwell.</li> </ul> <p>It is especially important for those who are at a higher risk of illness to take precautions to reduce their exposure to zoonotic pathogens. And if you’re thinking about getting a pet, ask your vet which type of animal would best suit your personal circumstances.<!-- 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;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/210898/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/sarah-mclean-1351935">Sarah McLean</a>, Lecturer in environmental health, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/swinburne-university-of-technology-767">Swinburne University of Technology</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/enzo-palombo-249510">Enzo Palombo</a>, Professor of Microbiology, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/swinburne-university-of-technology-767">Swinburne University of Technology</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty </em><em>Images </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/is-it-okay-to-kiss-your-pet-the-risk-of-animal-borne-diseases-is-small-but-real-210898">original article</a>.</em></p>

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New bushfire map reveals areas of greater risk to homes

<p>Australia is rapidly transitioning to drier conditions after a three-year spell of wet weather. And with this shift comes a significantly heightened risk of spring bushfires, potentially leading to an earlier onset of the fire danger period across the eastern coast of the country.</p> <p>The offical <a href="https://www.afac.com.au/auxiliary/publications/newsletter/article/seasonal-bushfire-outlook-spring-2023" target="_blank" rel="noopener">bushfire outlook for spring 2023</a>, released by the country's fire chiefs, underscores the increased vulnerability of substantial areas in the Northern Territory, Queensland, New South Wales, and to a lesser extent, Victoria and South Australia.</p> <p>The prevailing concern revolves around the emergence of fast-spreading grassfires, fuelled by the remarkable growth spurred by three years of relatively moist La Niña conditions. Another alarming aspect is the potential threat to bushland that remained untouched by the devastating Black Summer fires in 2019 and 2020.</p> <p>Rob Rogers, Commissioner of the NSW Rural Fire Service, has conceded that the approaching fire season will be a challenging one. He anticipates an above-average fire threat for the spring season from the Queensland border down to areas south of Sydney, including the Blue Mountains. Some regions within the state are covered in dense, one-metre-tall grass that is ripe for ignition.</p> <p>Rogers also emphasised in a press conference that “There’s also a strip along the coast both in the north and in the far south coast in Bega — areas that didn’t burn in 2019-2020. All of those areas we’re quite concerned about... <span style="font-family: -apple-system, BlinkMacSystemFont, 'Segoe UI', Roboto, Oxygen, Ubuntu, Cantarell, 'Open Sans', 'Helvetica Neue', sans-serif;">While it’s correct that we’re not as dry as we were in 2019-2020, some areas in the north and the south, on the coastal areas, are already staring to experience drought conditions.”</span><span style="font-family: -apple-system, BlinkMacSystemFont, 'Segoe UI', Roboto, Oxygen, Ubuntu, Cantarell, 'Open Sans', 'Helvetica Neue', sans-serif;"> </span></p> <p>These same conditions are echoed in Queensland, where the fire risk extends from the NSW border northwards towards Cairns and across the western regions. The Northern Territory and southern areas of Darwin have also not been spared from the elevated threat due to the vigorous growth of invasive gamba grass, fuelled by years of abundant rainfall.</p> <p>Greg Leach, Commissioner of Queensland Fire and Emergency Services, cautions that the state is grappling with high fuel loads amplified by below-average rainfall over the past six months. He stresses the importance of developing a comprehensive bushfire plan.</p> <p>In the Northern Territory, authorities express confidence in the protective buffer created by early-season controlled burns in regions south of Darwin and north of Katherine. However, Deputy Chief Commissioner Stephen Sewell bluntly advises against relying solely on rural or remote assistance, emphasising the need for every individual in the territory to have a survival strategy.</p> <p>Victorians are bracing for a warmer and drier spring than usual, heightening the risk of fires and possibly prompting an earlier commencement of the danger period. Gippsland and the Mallee region face particular concern due to their rapid desiccation.</p> <p>The Bureau of Meteorology predicts drier and warmer conditions nationwide in spring, with a possibility of unusual warmth in most areas and exceptionally dry conditions in parts of southern and eastern Australia. Naomi Benger from the bureau warns that these conditions could rapidly parch vegetation, potentially escalating fire dangers in a short span.</p> <p>Despite the country not being as parched as it was prior to the devastating Black Summer fires, authorities stress that we don't need those exact conditions for a genuine and imminent danger to exist. The resounding call to all of Australia is to get ready.</p> <p>“We need the community to do their part and make sure they plan for their survival, knowing whether they are going to stay and defend, or whether they are going to leave. And if they are going to leave, where are they going to go? Make sure all members of your family understand that,” Rogers concluded.</p> <p><em>Image: AFAC</em></p>

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Not all mental health apps are helpful. Experts explain the risks, and how to choose one wisely

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/jeannie-marie-paterson-6367">Jeannie Marie Paterson</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-melbourne-722">The University of Melbourne</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/nicholas-t-van-dam-389879">Nicholas T. Van Dam</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-melbourne-722">The University of Melbourne</a>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/piers-gooding-207492">Piers Gooding</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-melbourne-722">The University of Melbourne</a></em></p> <p>There are thousands of mental health apps available on the app market, offering services including meditation, mood tracking and counselling, among others. You would think such “health” and “wellbeing” apps – which often present as solutions for conditions such as <a href="https://www.headspace.com/">anxiety</a> and <a href="https://www.calm.com">sleeplessness</a> – would have been rigorously tested and verified. But this isn’t necessarily the case.</p> <p>In fact, many may be taking your money and data in return for a service that does nothing for your mental health – at least, not in a way that’s backed by scientific evidence.</p> <h2>Bringing AI to mental health apps</h2> <p>Although some mental health apps connect users with a <a href="https://www.betterhelp.com/get-started/?go=true&amp;utm_source=AdWords&amp;utm_medium=Search_PPC_c&amp;utm_term=betterhelp+australia_e&amp;utm_content=133525856790&amp;network=g&amp;placement=&amp;target=&amp;matchtype=e&amp;utm_campaign=15228709182&amp;ad_type=text&amp;adposition=&amp;kwd_id=kwd-401317619253&amp;gclid=Cj0KCQjwoeemBhCfARIsADR2QCtfZHNw8mqpBe7cLfLtZBD-JZ5xvAmDCfol8npbAAH3ALJGYvpngtoaAtFlEALw_wcB¬_found=1&amp;gor=start">registered therapist</a>, most provide a fully automated service that bypasses the human element. This means they’re not subject to the same standards of care and confidentiality as a registered mental health professional. Some aren’t even designed by mental health professionals.</p> <p>These apps also increasingly claim to be incorporating artificial intelligence into their design to make personalised recommendations (such as for meditation or mindfulness) to users. However, they give little detail about this process. It’s possible the recommendations are based on a user’s previous activities, similar to Netflix’s <a href="https://help.netflix.com/en/node/100639">recommendation algorithm</a>.</p> <p>Some apps such as <a href="https://legal.wysa.io/privacy-policy#aiChatbot">Wysa</a>, <a href="https://www.youper.ai/">Youper</a> and <a href="https://woebothealth.com/">Woebot</a> use AI-driven chatbots to deliver support, or even established therapeutic interventions such as cognitive behavioural therapy. But these apps usually don’t reveal what kinds of algorithms they use.</p> <p>It’s likely most of these AI chatbots use <a href="https://www.techtarget.com/searchenterpriseai/feature/How-to-choose-between-a-rules-based-vs-machine-learning-system">rules-based systems</a> that respond to users in accordance with predetermined rules (rather than learning on the go as adaptive models do). These rules would ideally prevent the unexpected (and often <a href="https://www.vice.com/en/article/pkadgm/man-dies-by-suicide-after-talking-with-ai-chatbot-widow-says">harmful and inappropriate</a>) outputs AI chatbots have become known for – but there’s no guarantee.</p> <p>The use of AI in this context comes with risks of biased, discriminatory or completely inapplicable information being provided to users. And these risks haven’t been adequately investigated.</p> <h2>Misleading marketing and a lack of supporting evidence</h2> <p>Mental health apps might be able to provide certain benefits to users <em>if</em> they are well designed and properly vetted and deployed. But even then they can’t be considered a substitute for professional therapy targeted towards conditions such as anxiety or depression.</p> <p>The <a href="https://theconversation.com/pixels-are-not-people-mental-health-apps-are-increasingly-popular-but-human-connection-is-still-key-192247">clinical value</a> of automated mental health and mindfulness apps is <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1077722918300233?casa_token=lwm1E6FhcG0AAAAA:saV7szbZl4DqbvmZiomLG9yMWi_4-zbmy3QCtQzVEQr957QX1E7Aiqkm5BcEntR0mVFgfDVo">still being assessed</a>. Evidence of their efficacy is generally <a href="https://journals.plos.org/digitalhealth/article?id=10.1371/journal.pdig.0000002">lacking</a>.</p> <p>Some apps make ambitious claims regarding their effectiveness and refer to studies that supposedly support their benefits. In many cases these claims are based on less-than-robust findings. For instance, they may be based on:</p> <ul> <li><a href="https://sensa.health/">user testimonials</a></li> <li>short-term studies with narrow <a href="https://www.wired.co.uk/article/mental-health-chatbots">or homogeneous cohorts</a></li> <li><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9533203/">studies involving</a> researchers or funding from the very group <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/apr/13/chatbots-robot-therapists-youth-mental-health-crisis">promoting the app</a></li> <li>or evidence of the benefits of a <a href="https://www.headspace.com/meditation/anxiety">practice delivered face to face</a> (rather than via an app).</li> </ul> <p>Moreover, any claims about reducing symptoms of poor mental health aren’t carried through in contract terms. The fine print will typically state the app does not claim to provide any physical, therapeutic or medical benefit (along with a host of other disclaimers). In other words, it isn’t obliged to successfully provide the service it promotes.</p> <p>For some users, mental health apps may even cause harm, and lead to increases in the very <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34074221/">symptoms</a> people so often use them to address. The may happen, in part, as a result of creating more awareness of problems, without providing the tools needed to address them.</p> <p>In the case of most mental health apps, research on their effectiveness won’t have considered <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9505389/">individual differences</a> such as socioeconomic status, age and other factors that can influence engagement. Most apps also will not indicate whether they’re an inclusive space for marginalised people, such as those from culturally and linguistically diverse, LGBTQ+ or neurodiverse communities.</p> <h2>Inadequate privacy protections</h2> <p>Mental health apps are subject to standard consumer protection and privacy laws. While data protection and <a href="https://cybersecuritycrc.org.au/sites/default/files/2021-07/2915_cscrc_casestudies_mentalhealthapps_1.pdf">cybersecurity</a> practices vary between apps, an investigation by research foundation Mozilla <a href="https://foundation.mozilla.org/en/privacynotincluded/articles/are-mental-health-apps-better-or-worse-at-privacy-in-2023">concluded that</a> most rank poorly.</p> <p>For example, the mindfulness app <a href="https://www.headspace.com/privacy-policy">Headspace</a> collects data about users from a <a href="https://foundation.mozilla.org/en/privacynotincluded/headspace/">range of sources</a>, and uses those data to advertise to users. Chatbot-based apps also commonly repurpose conversations to predict <a href="https://legal.wysa.io/privacy-policy">users’ moods</a>, and use anonymised user data to train the language models <a href="https://www.youper.ai/policy/privacy-policy">underpinning the bots</a>.</p> <p>Many apps share so-called <a href="https://theconversation.com/popular-fertility-apps-are-engaging-in-widespread-misuse-of-data-including-on-sex-periods-and-pregnancy-202127">anonymised</a> data with <a href="https://www.wysa.com/">third parties</a>, such as <a href="https://www.headspace.com/privacy-policy">employers</a>, that sponsor their use. Re-identification of <a href="https://www.unimelb.edu.au/newsroom/news/2017/december/research-reveals-de-identified-patient-data-can-be-re-identified">these data</a> can be relatively easy in some cases.</p> <p>Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) doesn’t require most mental health and wellbeing apps to go through the same testing and monitoring as other medical products. In most cases, they are lightly regulated as <a href="https://www.tga.gov.au/how-we-regulate/manufacturing/medical-devices/manufacturer-guidance-specific-types-medical-devices/regulation-software-based-medical-devices">health and lifestyle</a> products or tools for <a href="https://www.tga.gov.au/sites/default/files/digital-mental-health-software-based-medical-devices.pdf">managing mental health</a> that are excluded from TGA regulations (provided they meet certain criteria).</p> <h2>How can you choose an app?</h2> <p>Although consumers can access third-party rankings for various mental health apps, these often focus on just a few elements, such as <a href="https://onemindpsyberguide.org/apps/">usability</a> or <a href="https://foundation.mozilla.org/en/privacynotincluded/categories/mental-health-apps/">privacy</a>. Different guides may also be inconsistent with each other.</p> <p>Nonetheless, there are some steps you can take to figure out whether a particular mental health or mindfulness app might be useful for you.</p> <ol> <li> <p>consult your doctor, as they may have a better understanding of the efficacy of particular apps and/or how they might benefit you as an individual</p> </li> <li> <p>check whether a mental health professional or trusted institution was involved in developing the app</p> </li> <li> <p>check if the app has been rated by a third party, and compare different ratings</p> </li> <li> <p>make use of free trials, but be careful of them shifting to paid subscriptions, and be wary about trials that require payment information upfront</p> </li> <li> <p>stop using the app if you experience any adverse effects.</p> </li> </ol> <p>Overall, and most importantly, remember that an app is never a substitute for real help from a human professional.<!-- 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;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/211513/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/jeannie-marie-paterson-6367">Jeannie Marie Paterson</a>, Professor of Law, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-melbourne-722">The University of Melbourne</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/nicholas-t-van-dam-389879">Nicholas T. Van Dam</a>, Associate Professor, School of Psychological Sciences, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-melbourne-722">The University of Melbourne</a>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/piers-gooding-207492">Piers Gooding</a>, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Disability Research Initiative, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-melbourne-722">The University of Melbourne</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock</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/not-all-mental-health-apps-are-helpful-experts-explain-the-risks-and-how-to-choose-one-wisely-211513">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Climb the stairs, lug the shopping, chase the kids. Incidental vigorous activity linked to lower cancer risks

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/emmanuel-stamatakis-161783">Emmanuel Stamatakis</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/matthew-ahmadi-1241767">Matthew Ahmadi</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a></em></p> <p>Many people know exercise reduces the risk of <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/2521826">cancers</a>, including liver, lung, breast and kidney. But structured exercise is time-consuming, requires significant commitment and often financial outlay or travel to a gym. These practicalities can make it infeasible for <a href="https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/42/11/901">most adults</a>.</p> <p>There is <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41591-022-02100-x">very little research</a> on the potential of incidental physical activity for reducing the risk of cancer. Incidental activities can include doing errands on foot, work-related activity or housework as part of daily routines. As such they do not require an extra time commitment, special equipment or any particular practical arrangements.</p> <p>In our <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamaoncology/fullarticle/2807734">study</a> out today, we explored the health potential of brief bursts of vigorous physical activities embedded into daily life. These could be short power walks to get to the bus or tram stop, stair climbing, carrying heavy shopping, active housework or energetic play with children.</p> <h2>How was the study done?</h2> <p>Our <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamaoncology/fullarticle/2807734">new study</a> included 22,398 <a href="https://www.ukbiobank.ac.uk/">UK Biobank</a> participants who had never been diagnosed with cancer before and did not do any structured exercise in their leisure time. Around 55% of participants were female, with an average age of 62. Participants wore wrist activity trackers for a week. Such trackers monitor activity levels continuously and with a high level of detail throughout the day, allowing us to calculate how hard and exactly for how long people in the study were moving.</p> <p>Participants’ activity and other information was then linked to future cancer registrations and other cancer-related health records for the next 6.7 years. This meant we could estimate the overall risk of cancer by different levels of what we call “<a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33108651/">vigorous intermittent lifestyle physical activity</a>”, the incidental bursts of activity in everyday life. We also analysed separately a group of <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/2521826">13 cancer sites in the body</a> with more established links to exercise, such such as breast, lung, liver, and bowel cancers.</p> <p>Our analyses took into account other factors that influence cancer risk, such as age, smoking, diet, and alcohol habits.</p> <h2>What we found out</h2> <p>Even though study participants were not doing any structured exercise, about 94% recorded short bursts of <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33108651/">vigorous activity</a>. Some 92% of all bouts were done in very short bursts lasting up to one minute.</p> <p>A minimum of around 3.5 minutes each day was associated with a 17–18% reduction in total cancer risk compared with not doing any such activity.</p> <p>Half the participants did at least 4.5 minutes a day, associated with a 20–21% reduction in total cancer risk.</p> <p>For cancers such as breast, lung and bowel cancers, which we know are impacted by the amount of exercise people do, the results were stronger and the risk reduction sharper. For example, a minimum of 3.5 minutes per a day of vigorous incidental activity reduced the risk of these cancers by 28–29%. At 4.5 minutes a day, these risks were reduced by 31–32%.</p> <p>For both total cancer and those known to be linked to exercise, the results clearly show the benefits of doing day-to-day activities with gusto that makes you huff and puff.</p> <h2>Our study had its limits</h2> <p>The study is observational, meaning we looked at a group of people and their outcomes retrospectively and did not test new interventions. That means it cannot directly explore cause and effect with certainty.</p> <p>However, we took several statistical measures to minimise the possibility those with the lowest levels of activity were not the unhealthiest, and hence the most likely to get cancer – a phenomenon called “<a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/computer-science/reverse-causation">reverse causation</a>”.</p> <p>Our study can’t explain the biological mechanisms of how vigorous intensity activity may reduce cancer risk. Previous <a href="https://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Fulltext/2017/02000/Brief_Intense_Stair_Climbing_Improves.10.aspx">early-stage trials</a> show this type of activity leads to rapid improvements in heart and lung fitness.</p> <p>And higher fitness is linked to lower <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0002934320300097">insulin resistance</a> and lower <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0735109704017036">chronic inflammation</a>. High levels of these are risk <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0735109704017036">factors for cancer</a>.</p> <p>There is very little research on incidental physical activity and cancer in general, because most of the scientific evidence on lifestyle health behaviours and cancer is based on questionnaires. This method doesn’t capture short bursts of activity and is very inaccurate for measuring the incidental activities of daily life.</p> <p>So the field of vigorous intensity activity and cancer risk is at its infancy, despite some <a href="https://academic.oup.com/eurheartj/article/43/46/4801/6771381">very promising</a> recent findings that vigorous activity in short bouts across the week could cut health risks. In another recent study of ours, we found benefits from daily <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41591-022-02100-x%22%22">vigorous intermittent lifestyle activity</a> on the risk of death overall and death from cancer or cardiovascular causes.</p> <h2>In a nutshell: get moving in your daily routine</h2> <p>Our study found 3 to 4 minutes of vigorous incidental activity each day is linked with decreased cancer risk. This is a very small amount of activity compared to <a href="https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/54/24/1451">current recommendations</a> of 150–300 minutes of moderate intensity or 75–150 minutes of vigorous intensity activity a week.</p> <p>Vigorous incidental physical activity is a promising avenue for cancer prevention among people unable or unmotivated to exercise in their leisure time.</p> <p>Our study also highlights the potential of technology. These results are just a glimpse how wearables combined with machine learning – which our study used to identify brief bursts of vigorous activity – can reveal health benefits of unexplored aspects of our lives. The future potential impact of such technologies to prevent cancer and possibly a <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41591-022-02100-x">host of other</a> conditions could be very large.<!-- 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;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/210288/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><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/emmanuel-stamatakis-161783"><em>Emmanuel Stamatakis</em></a><em>, Professor of Physical Activity, Lifestyle, and Population Health, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/matthew-ahmadi-1241767">Matthew Ahmadi</a>, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock</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/climb-the-stairs-lug-the-shopping-chase-the-kids-incidental-vigorous-activity-linked-to-lower-cancer-risks-210288">original article</a>.</em></p>

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UK family at risk of deportation for being "too old"

<p>A family from the UK are at risk of being deported from Australia, after the immigration policy deemed them "too old" to stay. </p> <p>In 2015, Parents Glenn, 57, and Sheena Tunnicliff, 50, moved from the UK to Perth to start a new life with their two young daughters, Tazmin and Molly.</p> <p>The family settled in the city's north, where Glenn started working as a plasterer and Sheena opened a Helloworld franchise, where she employed three others. </p> <p>Their daughters are now starting their own careers, as Tazmin, 21, has started working as a nurse and Molly, 18, is studying Australian Sign Language (ASLAN). </p> <p>Despite living, studying and working in Australia for almost a decade, the entire family is now being faced with the reality of being deported back to their home country. </p> <p>Glenn and Sheena were ordered to leave the country by August 4th after they were unable to secure permanent residency due to various visa and job changes over the years. </p> <p>Permanent residency has an age limit of 45, meaning now, neither parent qualifies. </p> <p>“We don’t want to go back to the UK. We’ve made a life here,” Sheena previously told <em><a href="https://www.9news.com.au/national/visa-exclusive-immigration-australia-perth-family-face-being-sent-back-to-uk-despite-in-demand-job/2d59c8eb-e720-48bc-8d74-7be5a883ebf4?ocid=Social-9News" target="_self" data-tgev="event119" data-tgev-container="bodylink" data-tgev-order="2d59c8eb-e720-48bc-8d74-7be5a883ebf4" data-tgev-label="national" data-tgev-metric="ev">Nine News</a></em>. </p> <p>“Now we are over that magic figure of 45 there is no route to PR for us. Australia classes us as too old [but] we are the ones with the experience and training.”</p> <p>Since moving to Australia, the family has spent over $80,000 in visas, and will now have to fork out more for a "temporary Band-Aid fix" hat will extend their visas until July 2024. </p> <p>However, the family are planning to relocate to New Zealand, where the age cut-off for permanent residency is 55, meaning Sheena would be eligible.</p> <p>Bizarrely, after five years across the Tasman, the Tunnicliffs could become New Zealand citizens which would allow them to return to Australia to live. </p> <p>“We’d take all our skills and we’d go to New Zealand,” Sheena said. </p> <p>“It’s crazy. Australia’s lost all our skills. In five years time we could walk back into Australia.” </p> <p><em>Image credits: Facebook</em></p>

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More than a game: Crosswords and puzzles may reduce dementia risk

<p>Playing games, doing crosswords, writing letters or learning something new are all associated with reduced dementia risk in older adults, according to a large, long-term study.</p> <p>A team of Melbourne and US-based researchers study tracked 10,318 older Australians over a period of ten years (2010 to 2020), collecting detailed information on the types of leisure activities they engaged in, along with regular health checks and cognitive assessments.</p> <p>The study is <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2807256" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">published</a> in <em>JAMA Network Open.</em></p> <p>Paper co-author Dr Joanne Ryan from Monash University says “the findings show that engaging in mentally stimulating activities can help preserve cognitive function and may help delay the onset of dementia.”</p> <p>“We know the importance of physical activity. We need to think about helping to keep our mind stimulated as well.”</p> <p><iframe title="Why do Women Live Longer than Men? And What About Gender Diverse People?" src="https://omny.fm/shows/huh-science-explained/why-do-women-live-longer-than-men-and-what-about-g/embed?in_playlist=podcast&amp;style=Cover" width="100%" height="180" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <p>Adult literacy activities such as writing, using a computer or taking education classes were associated with an 11% lower risk of dementia, the study found. </p> <p>Active mental health activities such as playing games or doing puzzles were associated with a 9% lower risk.</p> <p>Creative activities like craft or woodwork and passive mental activities (reading books, watching television or listening to the radio) also reduced risks but to a lesser extent.</p> <p>Meanwhile, social activities were not associated with dementia risk. Ryan says this was a “little bit unexpected”. But she says it’s possible one of the reasons is those who volunteered to participate in the study were broadly already socially engaged. </p> <p>The median age of those participating in the study was 73.8 years. Around 2% of the cohort participating in the study developed dementia, Ryan says. </p> <p>Dementia risk varies depending on age and health status of individuals, she says.</p> <p>For instance, “we know that the risk of dementia actually increases exponentially as you get then over 80 years and over 90 years,” she says.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <div id="contributors"> <p><em><a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/health/body-and-mind/more-than-a-game-crosswords-and-puzzles-may-reduce-dementia-risk/">This article</a> was originally published on <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com">Cosmos Magazine</a> and was written by <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/contributor/petra-stock">Petra Stock</a>. </em></p> </div>

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Does artificial sweetener aspartame really cause cancer? What the WHO listing means for your diet soft drink habit

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/evangeline-mantzioris-153250">Evangeline Mantzioris</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-south-australia-1180">University of South Australia</a></em></p> <p>The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is the specialised cancer agency of the World Health Organization, has declared aspartame may be a <a href="https://www.who.int/news/item/14-07-2023-aspartame-hazard-and-risk-assessment-results-released">possible carcinogenic hazard to humans</a>.</p> <p>Another branch of the WHO, the Joint WHO and Food and Agriculture Organization’s Expert Committee on Food Additives has assessed the risk and developed recommendations on how much aspartame is safe to consume. They have recommended the acceptable daily intake be 0 to 40mg per kilo of body weight, as we currently have <a href="https://www.foodstandards.gov.au/consumer/additives/aspartame/Pages/default.aspx">in Australia</a>.</p> <p>A hazard is different to a risk. The hazard rating means it’s an agent that is capable of causing cancer; a risk measures the likelihood it could cause cancer.</p> <p>So what does this hazard assessment mean for you?</p> <h2>Firstly, what is aspartame?</h2> <p><a href="https://www.foodstandards.gov.au/consumer/additives/aspartame/Pages/default.aspx">Aspartame is an artificial sweetener</a> that is 200 times sweeter than sugar, but without any kilojoules.</p> <p>It’s used in a <a href="https://www.foodstandards.gov.au/consumer/additives/aspartame/Pages/default.aspx">variety of products</a> including carbonated drinks such as Coke Zero, Diet Coke, Pepsi Max and some home brand offerings. You can identify aspartame in drinks and foods by looking for additive number 951.</p> <p>Food products such as yogurt and confectionery may also contain aspartame, but it’s not stable at warm temperatures and thus not used in baked goods.</p> <p>Commercial names of aspartame include Equal, Nutrasweet, Canderel and Sugar Twin. In Australia the acceptable daily intake is 40mg per kilo of body weight per day, which is about 60 sachets.</p> <p><a href="https://www.fda.gov/food/food-additives-petitions/aspartame-and-other-sweeteners-food#:%7E:text=How%20many%20packets%20can%20a,based%20on%20its%20sweetness%20intensity%3F&amp;text=Notes%20About%20the%20Chart%3A,50%20mg%2Fkg%20bw%2Fd">In America</a> the acceptable daily intake has been set at 75 sachets.</p> <h2>What evidence have they used to come to this conclusion?</h2> <p><a href="https://www.who.int/news/item/14-07-2023-aspartame-hazard-and-risk-assessment-results-released">IARC looked closely</a> at the <a href="https://cdn.who.int/media/docs/default-source/nutrition-and-food-safety/july-13-final-summary-of-findings-aspartame.pdf?sfvrsn=a531e2c1_5&amp;download=true">evidence base</a> from around the world – using data from observational studies, experimental studies and animal studies.</p> <p>They found there was some limited evidence in human studies linking aspartame and cancer (specifically liver cancer) and limited evidence from animal studies as well.</p> <p>They also considered the biological mechanism studies which showed how cancer may develop from the consumption of aspartame. Usually these are lab-based studies which show exactly how exposure to the agent may lead to a cancer. In this case they found there was limited evidence for how aspartame might cause cancer.</p> <p>There were only three human studies that looked at cancer and aspartame intake. These large observational studies used the intake of soft drinks as an indicator of aspartame intake.</p> <p>All three found a positive association between artificially sweetened beverages and liver cancer in either all of the population they were studying or sub-groups within them. But these studies could not rule out other factors that may have been responsible for the findings.</p> <p>A study <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6284800/">conducted in Europe</a> followed 475,000 people for 11 years and found that each additional serve of diet soft drink consumed per week was linked to a 6% increased risk of liver cancer. However the scientists did conclude that due to the rarity of liver cancer they still had small numbers of people in the study.</p> <p><a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35728406/">In a study from the US</a>, increased risk of liver cancer was seen in people with diabetes who drank more than two or more cans of a diet soda a week.</p> <p>The <a href="https://aacrjournals.org/cebp/article/31/10/1907/709398/Sugar-and-Artificially-Sweetened-Beverages-and">third study</a>, also from the US, found an increase in liver cancer risk in men who never smoked and drank two or more artificially sweetened drinks a day.</p> <p>From this they have decided to declare aspartame as a Group 2b “possible carcinogen”. But they have also said more and better research is needed to further understand the relationship between aspartame and cancer.</p> <p>IARC has four categories (groupings) available for potential substances (or as they are referred to by IARC, “agents”) that may cause cancer.</p> <h2>What does each grouping mean?</h2> <p><strong>Group 1 Carcinogenic to humans:</strong> an agent in this group is carcinogenic, which means there is convincing evidence from human studies and we know precisely <em>how</em> it causes cancer. There are 126 agents in this group, including tobacco smoking, alcohol, processed meat, radiation and ionising radiation.</p> <p><strong>Group 2a Probably carcinogenic to humans:</strong> there are positive associations between the agent and cancer in humans, but there may still be other explanations for the association which were not fully examined in the studies. There are 95 agents in this group, including red meat, DDT insecticide and night shift work.</p> <p><strong>Group 2b Possibly carcinogenic in humans:</strong> this means limited evidence of causing cancer in humans, but sufficient evidence from animal studies, or the mechanism of how the agent may be carcinogenic is well understood. This basically means the current evidence indicates an agent may possibly be carcinogenic, but more scientific evidence from better conducted studies is needed. There are now <a href="https://monographs.iarc.who.int/agents-classified-by-the-iarc/">323</a> agents in this group, including aloe vera (whole leaf extract), ginkgo biloba and lead.</p> <p><strong>Group 3 Not classifiable as a carcinogen:</strong> there’s not enough evidence from humans or animals, and there is limited mechanistic evidence of how it may be a carcinogen. There are 500 agents in this group.</p> <h2>So do I have to give up my diet soft drink habit?</h2> <p>For a 70kg person you would need to consume about 14 cans (over 5 litres) of soft drink sweetened with aspartame a day to reach the acceptable daily intake.</p> <p>But we need to remember there may also be aspartame added in other foods consumed. So this is an unrealistic amount to consume, but not impossible.</p> <p>We also need to consider all the evidence on aspartame together. The foods we typically see aspartame in are processed or ultra-processed, which have recently also been <a href="https://theconversation.com/ultra-processed-foods-are-trashing-our-health-and-the-planet-180115">shown to be detrimental to health</a>.</p> <p>And artificial sweeteners (including aspartame) <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2892765/#!po=59.3750">can make people crave more sugar</a>, making them want to eat more food, potentially causing them to gain more weight.</p> <p>All together, this indicates we should be more careful about the amount of artificial sweeteners we consume, since they <a href="https://theconversation.com/the-who-says-we-shouldnt-bother-with-artificial-sweeteners-for-weight-loss-or-health-is-sugar-better-205827">do not provide any health benefits</a>, and have possible adverse effects.</p> <p>But overall, from this evidence, drinking the occasional or even daily can of a diet drink is safe and probably not a cancer risk.</p> <hr /> <p><em>Correction: this article originally stated each serve of soft drink in a study was linked to a 6% increased risk of liver cancer, however it was each additional serve per week. This has been amended.<!-- 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;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/208844/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 --></em></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/evangeline-mantzioris-153250">Evangeline Mantzioris</a>, Program Director of Nutrition and Food Sciences, Accredited Practising Dietitian, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-south-australia-1180">University of South Australia</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </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/does-artificial-sweetener-aspartame-really-cause-cancer-what-the-who-listing-means-for-your-diet-soft-drink-habit-208844">original article</a>.</em></p>

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