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Aussies working in "priority occupations" eligible for cash increase

<p>Thousands of hard-working Aussies who work in certain areas are now eligible for new training and support payments of up to $10,000.</p> <p>The initiative comes to support Australians working in sectors with a high demand for skilled workers, and a commitment to clean energy.</p> <p>From July 1st, thousands of apprentices working in what the government deems as “priority occupations” are eligible for the $5,000 Australian Apprenticeship Training Support Payment. </p> <p>If those priority occupations also offer exposure and experience in “clean energy”, apprentices are instead eligible for the more lucrative New Energy Apprenticeship Support Payment of up to $10,000.</p> <p>The list of "priority occupations" is extensive and includes aged care workers, arborists, bakers, beauty therapists and many more. </p> <p>According to the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations (DEWR), the jobs are characterised by a strong current demand for skilled workers, and a strong demand expected in the future.</p> <p>The clean energy jobs also include many different professions, with agricultural and agritech technicians, automotive electricians, regular electricians, gas fitters, glaziers, joiners, plumbers and welders all included.</p> <p>The full list of priority jobs can be found on the <a href="https://www.dewr.gov.au/skills-support-individuals/resources/appendix-australian-apprenticeship-priority-list-1-january-2024" target="_blank" rel="noopener" data-link-type="article-inline">Department of Employment and Workplace Relations website.</a></p> <p>For the Australian Apprenticeship Training Support Payment, the $5000 payment comes in four instalments over two years, while the New Energy Apprentice Support Payment is paid out over the course of the apprenticeship — up to $5000 for part-time apprentices and up to $10,000 for full-time apprentices.</p> <p>It is hoped the payments will incentivise apprentices to remain on the career pathway.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock </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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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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Rise in insurance premiums set to devastate Aussies

<p>Australians struggling with the cost of living are set to be hit with another blow to their wallets as health insurance premiums rise. </p> <p>Coming into effect on April 1st, private health insurance premiums are set to rise by more than 3 per cent, in the biggest increase in five years.</p> <p>The federal government has approved an average industry premium rise of 3.03 per cent, which will impact 14 million Australians paying for private health cover. </p> <p>The 2024 increase is slightly higher than a rise of 2.9 per cent in 2023, and 2.7 per cent in 2022 and 2021.</p> <p>In 2019, premiums rose by 3.3 per cent, making the 2024 rise the biggest in five years. </p> <p>Health Minister Mark Butler said the rise was smaller than the increase in wages, the age pension and inflation.</p> <p>“I wasn’t prepared to just tick and flick the claims of health insurers, as the opposition asked me to do,” Butler said.</p> <p>“I asked insurers to go back and sharpen their pencils and put forward a more reasonable offer for the 15 million Australians with private health insurance.”</p> <p>“Private health insurers must ensure their members are getting value for money,” Butler said.</p> <p>“When costs rise, Australians want to know that higher premiums are contributing to system-wide improvements like higher wages for nurses and other health workers and ensuring that affordable services are available.”</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p>

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How long does back pain last? And how can learning about pain increase the chance of recovery?

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/sarah-wallwork-1361569">Sarah Wallwork</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-south-australia-1180">University of South Australia</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/lorimer-moseley-1552">Lorimer Moseley</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-south-australia-1180">University of South Australia</a></em></p> <p>Back pain is common. One in thirteen people have it right now and worldwide a staggering 619 million people will <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7186678/">have it this year</a>.</p> <p>Chronic pain, of which back pain is the most common, is the world’s <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7186678/">most disabling</a> health problem. Its economic impact <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92510/">dwarfs other health conditions</a>.</p> <p>If you get back pain, how long will it take to go away? We scoured the scientific literature to <a href="https://www.cmaj.ca/content/cmaj/196/2/E29.full.pdf">find out</a>. We found data on almost 20,000 people, from 95 different studies and split them into three groups:</p> <ul> <li>acute – those with back pain that started less than six weeks ago</li> <li>subacute – where it started between six and 12 weeks ago</li> <li>chronic – where it started between three months and one year ago.</li> </ul> <p>We found 70%–95% of people with acute back pain were likely to recover within six months. This dropped to 40%–70% for subacute back pain and to 12%–16% for chronic back pain.</p> <p>Clinical guidelines point to graded return to activity and pain education under the guidance of a health professional as the best ways to promote recovery. Yet these effective interventions are underfunded and hard to access.</p> <h2>More pain doesn’t mean a more serious injury</h2> <p>Most acute back pain episodes are <a href="https://www.racgp.org.au/getattachment/75af0cfd-6182-4328-ad23-04ad8618920f/attachment.aspx">not caused</a> by serious injury or disease.</p> <p>There are rare exceptions, which is why it’s wise to see your doctor or physio, who can check for signs and symptoms that warrant further investigation. But unless you have been in a significant accident or sustained a large blow, you are unlikely to have caused much damage to your spine.</p> <p>Even very minor back injuries can be brutally painful. This is, in part, because of how we are made. If you think of your spinal cord as a very precious asset (which it is), worthy of great protection (which it is), a bit like the crown jewels, then what would be the best way to keep it safe? Lots of protection and a highly sensitive alarm system.</p> <p>The spinal cord is protected by strong bones, thick ligaments, powerful muscles and a highly effective alarm system (your nervous system). This alarm system can trigger pain that is so unpleasant that you cannot possibly think of, let alone do, anything other than seek care or avoid movement.</p> <p>The messy truth is that when pain persists, the pain system becomes more sensitive, so a widening array of things contribute to pain. This pain system hypersensitivity is a result of neuroplasticity – your nervous system is becoming better at making pain.</p> <h2>Reduce your chance of lasting pain</h2> <p>Whether or not your pain resolves is not determined by the extent of injury to your back. We don’t know all the factors involved, but we do know there are things that you can do to reduce chronic back pain:</p> <ul> <li> <p>understand how pain really works. This will involve intentionally learning about modern pain science and care. It will be difficult but rewarding. It will help you work out what you can do to change your pain</p> </li> <li> <p>reduce your pain system sensitivity. With guidance, patience and persistence, you can learn how to gradually retrain your pain system back towards normal.</p> </li> </ul> <h2>How to reduce your pain sensitivity and learn about pain</h2> <p>Learning about “how pain works” provides the most sustainable <a href="https://www.bmj.com/content/376/bmj-2021-067718">improvements in chronic back pain</a>. Programs that combine pain education with graded brain and body exercises (gradual increases in movement) can reduce pain system sensitivity and help you return to the life you want.</p> <p>These programs have been in development for years, but high-quality clinical trials <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2794765">are now emerging</a> and it’s good news: they show most people with chronic back pain improve and many completely recover.</p> <p>But most clinicians aren’t equipped to deliver these effective programs – <a href="https://www.jpain.org/article/S1526-5900(23)00618-1/fulltext">good pain education</a> is not taught in most medical and health training degrees. Many patients still receive ineffective and often risky and expensive treatments, or keep seeking temporary pain relief, hoping for a cure.</p> <p>When health professionals don’t have adequate pain education training, they can deliver bad pain education, which leaves patients feeling like they’ve just <a href="https://www.jpain.org/article/S1526-5900(23)00618-1/fulltext">been told it’s all in their head</a>.</p> <p>Community-driven not-for-profit organisations such as <a href="https://www.painrevolution.org/">Pain Revolution</a> are training health professionals to be good pain educators and raising awareness among the general public about the modern science of pain and the best treatments. Pain Revolution has partnered with dozens of health services and community agencies to train more than <a href="https://www.painrevolution.org/find-a-lpe">80 local pain educators</a> and supported them to bring greater understanding and improved care to their colleagues and community.</p> <p>But a broader system-wide approach, with government, industry and philanthropic support, is needed to expand these programs and fund good pain education. To solve the massive problem of chronic back pain, effective interventions need to be part of standard care, not as a last resort after years of increasing pain, suffering and disability.<!-- 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/222513/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-wallwork-1361569">Sarah Wallwork</a>, Post-doctoral Researcher, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-south-australia-1180">University of South Australia</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/lorimer-moseley-1552">Lorimer Moseley</a>, Professor of Clinical Neurosciences and Foundation Chair in Physiotherapy, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-south-australia-1180">University of South Australia</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/how-long-does-back-pain-last-and-how-can-learning-about-pain-increase-the-chance-of-recovery-222513">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Real estate agency slammed for "greedy" rental increase

<p>Real estate agency Nelson Alexander has come under fire after increasing the weekly rent to one of their vacant properties on the day of the viewing. </p> <p>The property, located in the inner suburbs of Melbourne, had a scheduled viewing on Thursday and many hopeful tenants were keen to check it out. </p> <p>Unfortunately, their interest came at a cost, as the agency sent out a text just hours beforehand saying that they were increasing  the weekly rent from $600 to $650 due to "overwhelming" demand.</p> <p>Journalist Jacqueline Felgate shared the text on social media, and many branded the agency's move as  "greedy" and "disgraceful" and even accused them of perpetuating the rental crisis. </p> <p>The exact location of the property and the number of bedrooms it has <span style="font-family: -apple-system, BlinkMacSystemFont, 'Segoe UI', Roboto, Oxygen, Ubuntu, Cantarell, 'Open Sans', 'Helvetica Neue', sans-serif;">is unknown, and after receiving all the backlash, the ad has since been pulled. </span></p> <p><span style="font-family: -apple-system, BlinkMacSystemFont, 'Segoe UI', Roboto, Oxygen, Ubuntu, Cantarell, 'Open Sans', 'Helvetica Neue', sans-serif;">The real estate agency also apologised and said that </span>they "do not solicit or encourage any form of rental bidding".</p> <p>"Whilst the current issue at hand is not a breach of legislation, it fell short of our commitment to fair and transparent practices," the statement read.</p> <p>"We are deeply aware of the moral and social responsibility we have to our community during these challenging times."</p> <p>They also added that they are currently reviewing their processes to "ensure this doesn't ever happen again". </p> <p>It is unclear whether the property has been put back on the market and for what price. </p> <p><em style="box-sizing: inherit; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-size: 16px; vertical-align: baseline; color: #323338; font-family: Figtree, Roboto, 'Noto Sans Hebrew', 'Noto Kufi Arabic', 'Noto Sans JP', sans-serif; background-color: #ffffff; outline: none !important;">Images: Instagram</em></p>

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"You are the problem": Landlord slammed over rent increase just before Christmas

<p>An Australian landlord has been slammed online for deciding to raise the rent on one of her struggling tenants before Christmas. </p> <p>The landlord from WA took to social media to try to defend her decision to slap her tenant, who is a single mother, with a $100 rental increase at the start of the festive season. </p> <p>The woman, who owns four rental properties, explained that the increase comes from the growing market value in the suburb the tenant lives. </p> <p>"I decided to increase the rent by $100 a week for my tenant, who is a single mum with two kids, on the basis a reasonable rental increase would have been an extra $140 a week," she began in the video shared to her X account.</p> <p>"I recognise that she probably couldn't afford that. So I came to the conclusion that $100 would be a very good deal considering the suburb and it would be one of the cheaper rentals on the market."</p> <p>The tenant said that she is unable to afford the steep increase, especially in the weeks before Christmas, and would have to decide between affording her rent and feeding her young children. </p> <p>"So now I'm in a position. Do I subsidise the tenant's rent and cop it out of my own pocket... or do I tell this tenant she can't afford this particular suburb and she should look for somewhere more reasonable," the landlord said.</p> <p>"It's a really tough decision and one that I am not taking on lightly and just further evidence that this housing crisis is really impacting people financially."</p> <p>In the end, she decided to increase the tenant's rent. </p> <p>"I increased the tenant's rent by $100 per week after I did further research. The rent is still $30-$40 per under market value. Now I'm learning you can't mix emotions with business," she said. </p> <p>The landlord has been rinsed online, with many people calling out her callous actions in the festive season, dubbing her as "greedy" and contributing to nation's housing problem. </p> <p>"Jesus, I cannot imagine increasing a rent by $100 a week- that would ruin anyone, let alone a single mum. What are you thinking of? Have some ethics," one person said.</p> <p>"You and the real estate industry are the problem! Hiking the rent based on your real estate greed. If you recognise the social issues why do you add to the problem?" another person added.</p> <p>A third person chimed, "Is this satire? Surely you aren't this much of an awful human being."</p> <p>"I fully understand it's your property - however to increase rent just before Christmas is a little heartless and $100 a week increase is tall during a cost of living crisis," a fourth person said.</p> <p>Others jumped to defend the landlord, claiming owning rental property is a business and not a charity. </p> <p>One person commented, "Take the emotion out of it! It's an investment property not a charity! As harsh as that sounds it's the cost of being successful. But, perhaps leave it until after Christmas though as a goodwill gesture."</p> <p><em>Image credits: X / Instagram </em></p>

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Carer allowance and disability pension set to increase

<p>Over 936,000 Aussies are set to see a cash boost in the new year, as indexation to government payments takes effect from January. </p> <p>Australians receiving youth, student or carer support will receive a 6 per cent boost to their payments, as additional support to help them navigate the rising cost of living. </p> <p>“Australia’s social security system is a safety net that is continually strengthened and improved to support all vulnerable Australians,” Minister for Social Services Amanda Rishworth said.</p> <p>“Through regular indexation, our payments are adjusted in line with changes in the cost of living to retain their purchasing power.”</p> <p>For over 600,000 carers, the Carer Allowance is set to increase to  $153.50 a fortnight, while the Disability Support Pension for Australians under 21 will increase by $31.10 to $44.90 a fortnight. </p> <p>Youth Allowance payments are also set to increase between $22.40 and $45.60 a fortnight, while Austudy payments will increase by between $36.20 and $45.60. </p> <p>The new year increases are being set into motion after a $40 a fortnight increase to youth and student payment rates, which was effective from September 20. </p> <p>A complete list of the new payment increases can be found on the <a href="https://www.dss.gov.au/about-the-department/benefits-payments/previous-indexation-rates" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Department of Social Services website</a>.</p> <p><em>Image: Getty</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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Millions of Aussies set for a pension boost

<p>Millions of Australians are set to receive a generous cash increase when an imminent welfare payment indexation comes into effect. </p> <p>Those on age pension payments from Centrelink will see a boost to their payment from Tuesday. </p> <p>According to figures from the Department of Social Services, single pensioners will receive an increase of $32.70, taking their payments to $1096.70 a fortnight.</p> <p>Couples on the adult pension will have their fortnightly payments increase by $24.70 to $826.70.</p> <p>Those on Jobseeker will also receive a boost to their payments, as payments will increase by $56.10 a fortnight to $749.20 for single people aged 22 or more with no children, and by $57.30 a fortnight for those with children to $802.50.</p> <p>Single people aged 55 or over will also have payments increased to $802.50 after nine months.</p> <p>Partnered people on Jobseeker will get a $54.80 increase to $686 a fortnight. </p> <p>Centrelink recipients on rent assistance, youth allowance and Austudy payments will also receive a boost to their fortnightly payments. </p> <p>Despite the increases across many welfare recipient groups, the Australian Council of Social Services says the increases are not enough.</p> <p>ACOSS said people almost three quarters of people they had surveyed on income support were eating less or skipping meals as the ongoing cost of living criss worsens. </p> <p>Half of the respondents said the incoming increase would not help at all, prompting the ACOSS to call for income support to at least match the pension rate.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p>

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Shoppers lash out at Aldi for “ridiculous” price hikes

<p>A group of Aldi shoppers have lashed out at the supermarket chain after its series of "ridiculous" price hikes. </p> <p>Aldi, which consistently ranks as Australia's cheapest major supermarket, received some criticism this week after the store's popular skinless salmon fillets was hit with a $4 price increase seemingly overnight. </p> <p>“So explain to me, Aldi Australia, how do you justify a 28.5 per cent overnight increase on fresh salmon?” one outraged customer wrote on the Aldi Australia Facebook page.</p> <p>“This is outrageous. Last week, it was $13.99 for four pieces, this week $17.99. Guess where it stayed? On your shelf, NOT in my trolley.”</p> <p>The post triggered a wave of fury, with many threatening to abandon the German retailer and shop at competitor supermarkets. </p> <p>“Everything is so expensive at Aldi now might as well shop at Coles and Woolies,” one shopper wrote. </p> <p>“Well why did a can of baked beans price rise by nearly 50% and the same with small tins of tuna?? Ripping us off — not happy with the excessive price rises!! I think it my be time to shop elsewhere,” fumed a second.</p> <p>“Not impressed by Aldis price increases, a big frozen box of lasagne was $8.99 now $11.99, cheese was $8.99 now $11.99, whisky $34.99 now $36.99, cooking bacon $5.99 now $6.99. I can justify a small increase, but $3 … time to look around,” commented a third. </p> <p>The supermarket chain has responded to the criticism, acknowledging the price hikes, while insisting that they are committed to providing Aussies with great value products. </p> <p>“Aldi’s entire business model is oriented around saving customers money to ensure that we continue to lead as Australia’s lowest-price supermarket," an Aldi spokesperson said.</p> <p>"We always aim to cut unnecessary costs and pass these savings directly onto customers.</p> <p>“We know that the price of essential goods has never been more important to Australians, so we remain absolutely committed to delivering the best value for our customers while also supporting our supplier partners by maintaining fair pricing at all times," they concluded. </p> <p>Last month, Aldi ranked first as Australia’s favourite supermarket. </p> <p>It is the only brand to rank five stars for overall satisfaction, value for money, freshness of produce, quality of private label products and availability of deals/specials, according to the Canstar Blue <span style="font-family: -apple-system, BlinkMacSystemFont, 'Segoe UI', Roboto, Oxygen, Ubuntu, Cantarell, 'Open Sans', 'Helvetica Neue', sans-serif;">survey for its </span><span style="font-family: -apple-system, BlinkMacSystemFont, 'Segoe UI', Roboto, Oxygen, Ubuntu, Cantarell, 'Open Sans', 'Helvetica Neue', sans-serif;">annual Supermarket Satisfaction Ratings. </span></p> <p><em>Image: Getty</em></p>

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Don’t believe the hype. Menopausal women don’t all need to check – or increase – their testosterone levels

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/susan-davis-10376">Susan Davis</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/monash-university-1065">Monash University</a></em></p> <p>Ever heard “low testosterone” blamed for low mood, brain fog and loss of vitality? Despite all evidence to the contrary, social media influencers are increasingly promoting testosterone therapy as an elixir for women experiencing troubling symptoms of menopause.</p> <p>In a series of documentaries and <a href="https://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-11792553/Davina-McCall-effect-sparks-menopause-testosterone-treatment-rush-putting-women-risk.html">social media posts</a> about menopause in 2021 and 2022, British TV presenter Davina McCall promoted the use of testosterone therapy in addition to standard <a href="https://www.menopause.org.au/hp/information-sheets/combined-menopausal-hormone-therapy-mht">menopausal hormone therapy</a>. The “<a href="https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2023/02/17/davina-effect-fuels-surge-menopausal-women-using-testosterone/#:%7E:text=Chelsea%20Magazine%20Company-,'Davina%20effect'%20fuels%20surge%20in%20menopausal%20women%20using%20testosterone,NHS%20prescriptions%20for%20the%20hormone">Davina effect</a>” has helped fuel a <a href="https://pharmaceutical-journal.com/article/news/nhs-testosterone-prescribing-in-women-rises-ten-fold-in-seven-years#:%7E:text=The%20number%20of%20women%20in,The%20Pharmaceutical%20Journal%20has%20revealed">ten-fold increase</a> in prescribing of testosterone for women in the United Kingdom since 2015.</p> <p>Data isn’t available for Australia, but in my clinical practice, women are increasingly asking to have their testosterone level checked, and seeking testosterone to treat fatigue and brain fog.</p> <p>But while testosterone continues to be an important hormone before and after menopause, this doesn’t mean women should be having a blood test to get their testosterone levels checked – or taking testosterone therapy.</p> <h2>What does testosterone do?</h2> <p>Testosterone is an important hormone in women’s bodies, affecting the blood vessels, skin, muscle and bone, breast tissue and the brain. In both women and men, testosterone can act on its own or be converted into estrogen.</p> <p>Before menopause, testosterone is made in the ovaries, where it helps developing eggs grow and aids in estrogen production.</p> <p>The ovaries release both testosterone and estrogen into the bloodstream, and the levels of the two hormones in the blood peak around ovulation.</p> <p>Some of the testosterone measured in blood is also produced outside the ovaries, such as in fat, where it is made from “pre-hormones” secreted by the adrenal glands. This source of production of testosterone takes over after menopause.</p> <h2>Do we have more testosterone before menopause?</h2> <p>The claim is often made that pre-menopausal women have more testosterone in their bloodstream than estrogen, to justify the need for testosterone replacement after menopause.</p> <p>But, when sex hormones have been measured with precision, studies have shown this is not true. <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31390028/">Our research</a> found estrogen levels are higher than testosterone levels at all stages of the menstrual cycle.</p> <p>Blood testosterone levels <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31390028/">fall</a> by about 25% between the ages of 18 and 40 years in healthy women. The fall in testosterone coincides with the decline in eggs in the ovaries but whether this is a marker of the decline, a consequence, or a cause of the decline is not known.</p> <p>From around 40, the rate of decline slows and blood testosterone levels don’t change when <a href="https://www.menopause.org.au/hp/information-sheets/what-is-menopause">menopause</a> occurs naturally. Studies have not shown testosterone levels change meaningfully during the menopause transition.</p> <h2>Can blood tests detect ‘low testosterone’?</h2> <p>Some influencers claim to have a condition called “testosterone deficiency syndrome” or low levels of testosterone detected in blood tests.</p> <p>But there is no “normal” blood level below which a woman can be diagnosed as having “testosterone deficiency”. So there’s no such thing as having a testosterone deficiency or testosterone deficiency syndrome.</p> <p>This is also in part, because women have very low testosterone concentrations compared with men, and most commercial methods used to measure testosterone cannot separate normal from low levels in women with any certainty.</p> <p>Pre-menopausal women might also be told they have “low” testosterone if blood is drawn early in the menstrual cycle when it is normal for testosterone to be low. (However, it would only be clinically necessary to do this type of blood test to look for <em>high</em> testosterone, in someone with with excessive hair growth or severe acne, for example, not for <em>low</em> testosterone.)</p> <p>In post-menopausal women, much of the action of testosterone occurs in the tissues where it is made, after which testosterone is either converted to estrogen or broken down before it leaks back into the circulation. So blood testosterone concentrations are not a true reflection of tissue concentrations.</p> <p>Further complicating the picture is the enormous variability in the effects of testosterone. At a given blood level of testosterone, some women might have oily skin, acne, increased body hair growth or balding, while others will have no such effects.</p> <p>So, looking for a “low” blood testosterone in women is not helpful.</p> <h2>Can testosterone improve sexual desire? What about other conditions?</h2> <p>There is sound evidence that testosterone therapy may improve sexual desire in post-menopausal women who have developed low sexual desire that bothers them.</p> <p>This was <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13697137.2019.1637079">confirmed by</a> a <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31353194/">systematic review</a> of clinical trials comparing testosterone with a placebo or an alternative. These trials, all of which involved a treatment time of at least 12 weeks, showed testosterone therapy, overall, improved desire, arousal, orgasm and sexual satisfaction in post-menopausal women with low desire that caused them distress.</p> <p>Treatment is only indicated for women who want an improvement in sexual desire (after excluding other factors such as depression or medication side effects) and its success can only be determined by each woman’s personal self-reported response.</p> <p>But there is <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13697137.2019.1637079">not enough evidence</a> to show testosterone is beneficial for any other symptom or medical condition. The overall available data has shown no effect of testosterone on mood or cognition.</p> <p>As such, testosterone therapy <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13697137.2019.1637079">should not be used</a> to treat symptoms such as fatigue, low mood, muscle weakness and poor memory, or to prevent bone loss, dementia or breast cancer.</p> <p>However research continues to investigate these potential uses, including from my <a href="https://www.monash.edu/medicine/sphpm/units/womenshealth">research team</a>, which is investigating whether testosterone therapy can <a href="https://asbmr.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/jbmr.534">protect against bone density loss and muscle loss after menopause</a>.</p> <p><em>You can learn more about participating in one of our studies <a href="https://www.monash.edu/medicine/sphpm/units/womenshealth/join-a-study">here</a>.</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/209516/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/susan-davis-10376">Susan Davis</a>, Chair of Women's Health, <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/dont-believe-the-hype-menopausal-women-dont-all-need-to-check-or-increase-their-testosterone-levels-209516">original article</a></em>.</p>

Body

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“A little bit unfair”: Hard-working tradies blast age pension increase

<p dir="ltr">A group of tired tradies have rallied against the “unfair” decision to increase the age of eligibility for the age pension.</p> <p dir="ltr">The tradesmen, all in their 60s, simply said their bodies “can’t handle” working in manual labour until they’re 70, which may be in their future if the eligibility age continues to rise.</p> <p dir="ltr">The age to qualify for the pension was raised from 66 years and six months to 67 on July 1st with the move impacting any Australian born after December 31st, 1956.</p> <p dir="ltr">Experts predict the age could rise even further to 70 by the year 2050 with the news sparking backlash among hardworking Aussies.</p> <p dir="ltr">One man, a concreter in his mid-60s named Steve, said working the manual labour job was already taking a toll on his body and that the new retirement age was “unfair” on those working physically demanding jobs.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Now I'm starting to feel it more in my knees, I've got arthritis in my hands, I've had two back surgeries,” he told <em><a href="https://9now.nine.com.au/a-current-affair/australian-tradies-outraged-over-decision-to-raise-pension-age-to-67/5b5c6dda-c995-44ad-bb29-98c625e9d276" target="_blank" rel="noopener">A Current Affair</a></em>.</p> <p dir="ltr">“It does seem a little bit unfair that you have to work all your life.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Peter, who cuts down trees in the Gold Coast for a living, compared the raising of the pension age to the harsh realities of his job.</p> <p dir="ltr">“It's just like climbing a tree,” he said. “The injuries are just climbing all the time, it's getting harder, worse, sorer all the time.”</p> <p dir="ltr">He described what was happening as “very scary”.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Unfortunately I thought 65 would be a nice time to retire and get on a pension but now we are talking 67,” he said.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Is it going to go up to 68, 69, 70?”</p> <p dir="ltr">Macquarie University Professor Hanlin Shang believes the pension age will need to rise to 70 or government spending will spiral out of control.</p> <p dir="ltr">He and other researchers estimate that the retirement age will rise to 68 by 2030, 69 in 2036 and 70 by 2050.</p> <p dir="ltr">“As Australians live longer than before, it presents a challenge to the government to fund retirees through a pension scheme,” Professor Shang said.</p> <p dir="ltr">Despite these challenges, Peter said politicians don't understand the burden that working physical jobs has on older bodies.</p> <p dir="ltr">“It would be nice to be a politician sitting on a nice comfortable chair all day in an air conditioned room or office,” he said.</p> <p dir="ltr">“They need to come out and see what it's like to do some physical work. That would make them change their mind in trying to stretch this pension out to 67, 68, 69, 70.”</p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image credits: A Current Affair</em></p>

Retirement Income

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How to increase the value of your home in one weekend

<p>Increasing the value of your property pre-sale doesn’t have to require a team of professionals.</p> <p>Just one weekend dedicated to cleaning, refreshing, tidying and upgrading can put you in great stead for sales success.</p> <p>We asked the experts to reveal the best value-adding DIY projects to suit a short time frame and shoestring budget.</p> <p><strong>1. Refresh an old paint job</strong></p> <p>There is no easier way to boost a property’s value than a new paint job, which can range from a one-room refresh, to an extensive repaint of the entire home.</p> <p>For homeowners low on budget and time, focus on painting the main living areas with Dulux’s Wash&amp;Wear to disguise mismatched old paint, cracks and imperfections.</p> <p>“It’s great for interiors, especially in the matt finish. Even if the colours don’t entirely match, you can get away with it,” says Andrea Lucena-Orr, colour planning and communications manager at Dulux Australia.</p> <p>In terms of colour, white remains popular for appealing to a broad base of buyers.</p> <p>If painting an older property, opt for warmer whites such as Dulux Natural White or Antique White U.S.A ® Contemporary homes are more suited to cooler whites, with a grey or beige base, such as Dulux Lexicon ® or White on White.</p> <p><strong>2. Create a feature wall</strong></p> <p>Painting a feature wall can be a valuable method for creating a point of difference on a minimal timeframe. This might be a dark single shade in the main bedroom or a bold dual-colour wall.</p> <p>“Feature walls, nooks and colour-blocking with tape are all ways to add interest,” says Lucena-Orr.</p> <p>When selecting colours for a feature wall, look for shades that will complement the room’s existing furniture and décor items.</p> <p>“Try using colours to highlight an artwork, a piece of furniture, or tie into the bed linen,” Lucena-Orr says.</p> <p><strong>3. Tidy the exterior</strong></p> <p>If there is one area of the home you should focus on before a sale, it’s the exterior.</p> <p>While some homes will benefit from an entire façade repaint, updating this area can be achieved in a few quick jobs.</p> <p>Start by removing any cobwebs, cleaning the walls and filling in visible cracks. For added aesthetic appeal, paint some pots and place them near the front door, or spray paint a bench seat for the front porch.</p> <p>Painting the front door a colour such as cobalt or teal blue is another powerful tool for creating colour memories and attracting interest.</p> <p>“A teal door will help buyers remember the house. Even if buyers don’t like it, it’s quick and easy for them to change,” Lucena-Orr says.</p> <p><strong>4. Install storage shelves</strong></p> <p>Installing open shelves in the kitchen, bathroom, laundry and study is a simple way to integrate more storage into a property, which never goes unappreciated.</p> <p>“Installing hooks, rails or racks to your doors will spruce things up without being too dramatic or involve any structural changes,” says Bunnings category manager – decorator, Sharyn Petrzela.</p> <p>“Pull-out baskets and base-mount slide-out baskets are also a great way to add storage and can be installed in a day.”</p> <p><strong>5. Outsource odd jobs</strong></p> <p>Selling a home is stressful and time consuming. If budget allows, don’t be afraid to outsource tasks where you can.</p> <p>Websites such as Airtasker make it affordable to hire individuals for even the smallest household jobs, from removing weeds, to assembling furniture, collecting hard rubbish and hanging pictures.</p> <p>You might just want someone to focus on cleaning those detailed areas of the home such as the skirting boards, architraves, light fittings and door handles.</p> <p><strong>6. Add the finishing touches</strong></p> <p>If you can’t afford a professional property stylist to decorate your home pre-sale, try these expert tips.</p> <p>“As a stylist, I think having decorative items (vases, candle holders and similar) that have a colour theme and style that is carried through the house gives a sense of flow that makes a house feel like a whole, instead of a series of different rooms,” says Sophie Kost, director and lead designer of My Beautiful Abode.</p> <p>Even small updates like replacing the feather inserts in your couch cushions can have a big impact on the feeling of a home.</p> <p>Remember to declutter surfaces and remove personal possessions in this process, as this allows buyers to better imagine themselves in the space.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p>

Home Hints & Tips

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Crypto scams will increase over the holidays – here’s what you need to know to not fall victim

<p>Each year, as the festive season arrives, we must also keep an eye out for potential scammers trying to ruin the fun. This is because scammers become more active <a href="https://www.scamwatch.gov.au/scam-statistics?scamid=all&amp;date=2021" target="_blank" rel="noopener">during the holidays</a>, targeting us while we have our guard down.</p> <p>So far in 2022, Australians have lost around <a href="https://www.scamwatch.gov.au/scam-statistics?scamid=all&amp;date=2022" target="_blank" rel="noopener">half a billion dollars to scams</a>, which is already significantly more than had been lost by this time last year. The majority of these losses – <a href="https://www.scamwatch.gov.au/scam-statistics?scamid=26&amp;date=2022" target="_blank" rel="noopener">around $300 million</a> – have involved investment or cryptocurrency scams.</p> <figure class="align-center zoomable"><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/494108/original/file-20221108-14-vbvqlj.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=1000&amp;fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/494108/original/file-20221108-14-vbvqlj.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px" srcset="https://images.theconversation.com/files/494108/original/file-20221108-14-vbvqlj.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=370&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/494108/original/file-20221108-14-vbvqlj.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=370&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/494108/original/file-20221108-14-vbvqlj.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=370&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/494108/original/file-20221108-14-vbvqlj.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=465&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/494108/original/file-20221108-14-vbvqlj.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=465&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/494108/original/file-20221108-14-vbvqlj.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=465&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 2262w" alt="A chart showing a steady rise of crypto scams, with a spike in April 2022" /></a><figcaption><span class="caption">Investment scams 2019-2022.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">scamwatch.gov.au</span></span></figcaption></figure> <p>Researchers from <a href="https://cybercentre.org.au/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Deakin University’s Centre for Cyber Security Research and Innovation</a> had a opportunity to interview recent victims of these scams. Here is what we found.</p> <p><strong>Anyone can fall for a scam</strong></p> <blockquote> <p>I was shocked and could not accept that this happened to me although I was very careful […] I was numb for a couple of minutes as it was a large amount of money. – (26-year-old female office manager from South Australia)</p> </blockquote> <p>These scams have become highly sophisticated and criminals have become less discriminating about whom they target. This is reflected in recent victim demographics, showing a wide variety of backgrounds, a more even distribution across several age groups, and an almost even split on gender.</p> <figure class="align-center zoomable"><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/494408/original/file-20221109-21-4mauh4.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=1000&amp;fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/494408/original/file-20221109-21-4mauh4.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px" srcset="https://images.theconversation.com/files/494408/original/file-20221109-21-4mauh4.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=343&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/494408/original/file-20221109-21-4mauh4.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=343&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/494408/original/file-20221109-21-4mauh4.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=343&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/494408/original/file-20221109-21-4mauh4.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=431&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/494408/original/file-20221109-21-4mauh4.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=431&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/494408/original/file-20221109-21-4mauh4.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=431&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 2262w" alt="A bar chart showing most age groups are almost equally targeted" /></a><figcaption><span class="caption">Age groups of scam victims.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">scamwatch.gov.au</span></span></figcaption></figure> <figure class="align-center "><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/494409/original/file-20221109-24-24ku3v.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px" srcset="https://images.theconversation.com/files/494409/original/file-20221109-24-24ku3v.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=367&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/494409/original/file-20221109-24-24ku3v.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=367&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/494409/original/file-20221109-24-24ku3v.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=367&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/494409/original/file-20221109-24-24ku3v.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=461&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/494409/original/file-20221109-24-24ku3v.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=461&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/494409/original/file-20221109-24-24ku3v.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=461&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 2262w" alt="A radial chart showing female scam victims comprise 49%, male 48% and gender X the rest" /><figcaption><span class="caption">Gender distribution for reported scams.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">scamwatch.gov.au</span></span></figcaption></figure> <p>So, how can you spot these scams and where can you get help if you have fallen victim?</p> <p><strong>If it sounds too good to be true, it might just be a scam</strong></p> <blockquote> <p>I was dumbfounded, to say that ground shattered under my feet would be an understatement, it will take me a very long time to recover from it, financially and mentally. – (36-year-old female, legal practitioner from Victoria)</p> </blockquote> <p>Most crypto scams involve getting the victim to buy and send cryptocurrency to the perpetrator’s account for what appears to be a legitimate investment opportunity.</p> <p>Cryptocurrency is the currency of choice for this type of crime, because it’s unregulated, untraceable and transactions cannot be reversed.</p> <p>Victims of such scams are targeted using a number of different methods, which include:</p> <p><strong>Investment scams:</strong> scammers pretend to be investment managers claiming high returns on crypto investments. They get the victim to transfer over funds and escape with them.</p> <p><strong>“Pump and dump”:</strong> scammers usually hype up a new cryptocurrency or an <a href="https://www.kaspersky.com/resource-center/preemptive-safety/how-to-avoid-nft-scams" target="_blank" rel="noopener">NFT project</a> and artificially increase its value. Once enough victims invest, the scammers sell their stake, leaving the victims with worthless cryptocurrency or NFT.</p> <p><strong>Romance scams:</strong> involves scammers using dating platforms, social media or direct messaging to engage with you, gain your trust and pitch an amazing investment opportunity promising high returns, or ask for cryptocurrency to cover medical or travel expenses.</p> <p><strong>Phishing scams:</strong> an old but still effective scam involving malicious emails or messages with links to fake websites promising huge returns on investment or just outright stealing credentials to access users’ digital currency wallets.</p> <p><strong>Ponzi schemes:</strong> a type of investment scam where the scammers use cryptocurrency gathered from multiple victims to repay high interest to some of them; when victims invest more funds, the scammers escape with all the investments.</p> <p><strong>Mining scams:</strong> scammers try and convince victims to buy cryptocurrency to use in mining more of it, while in reality there is no mining happening – the scammers just make transfers that look like returns on the investment. Over time, the victim invests more, and the scammers keep taking it all.</p> <p>Although methods evolve and change, the telltale signs of a potential scam remain relatively similar:</p> <ul> <li>very high returns with promises of little or no risk</li> <li>proprietary or secretive strategies to gain an advantage</li> <li>lack of liquidity, requiring a minimum accumulation amount before funds are released.</li> </ul> <p><strong>Where to seek help if you’ve been scammed</strong></p> <blockquote> <p>I felt helpless, I didn’t know what to do, who to reach out to, I was too embarrassed and just kept blaming myself. – (72-year-old male, accountant from Victoria)</p> </blockquote> <p>If you think you have fallen victim to one of these scams, here is what you need to do next:</p> <ul> <li> <p>inform the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) <a href="https://www.scamwatch.gov.au/report-a-scam" target="_blank" rel="noopener">here</a> or reach out to relevant authorities <a href="https://www.scamwatch.gov.au/get-help/where-to-get-help" target="_blank" rel="noopener">as per advice on the ScamWatch website</a></p> </li> <li> <p>reach out to your friends and family members and inform them of the scam; they can also be a source of help and support during such times</p> </li> <li> <p>as these events can have a psychological impact, it’s recommended you talk to your GP, a health professional, or someone you trust</p> </li> <li> <p>you can also reach out to counselling services such as <a href="http://www.lifeline.org.au/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">LifeLine</a>, <a href="https://www.beyondblue.org.au/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">beyond blue</a>, <a href="http://www.suicidecallbackservice.org.au/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Sucide Call Back Service</a>, <a href="http://www.mensline.org.au/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Mens Line</a>, and <a href="https://www.scamwatch.gov.au/get-help/where-to-get-help" target="_blank" rel="noopener">more</a> for help and support.</p> </li> </ul> <p>If you ever find yourself in a difficult situation, please remember help and support is available.</p> <p>Finally, to prevent yourself becoming the next statistic over the holiday period, keep in mind the following advice:<!-- 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/194064/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> <ul> <li>don’t share your personal details with people online or over a call</li> <li>don’t invest in something you don’t understand</li> <li>if in doubt, talk to an expert or search online for resources yourself (don’t believe any links the scammers send you).</li> </ul> <p><em>Writen by Ashish Nanda, Jeb Webb, Jongkil Jay Jeong, Mohammed Reza Nosouhi, and Syed Wajid Ali Shah. Republished with permission from <a href="https://theconversation.com/crypto-scams-will-increase-over-the-holidays-heres-what-you-need-to-know-to-not-fall-victim-194064" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Conversation</a>.</em></p> <p style="box-sizing: border-box; margin-top: 0px; margin-bottom: 0px; color: #212529; font-family: -apple-system, BlinkMacSystemFont, 'Segoe UI', Roboto, 'Helvetica Neue', Arial, sans-serif, 'Apple Color Emoji', 'Segoe UI Emoji', 'Segoe UI Symbol', 'Noto Color Emoji'; font-size: 16px; background-color: #ffffff;"><em style="box-sizing: border-box;">Image: Getty Images</em></p>

Money & Banking

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Does picking your nose really increase your risk of dementia?

<p>No matter your age, we all pick our nose.</p> <p>However, if gripping headlines around the world are a sign, this habit could increase your risk of Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia.</p> <p>One international news report <a href="https://www.the-sun.com/health/6565520/common-habit-increase-risk-alzheimers-dementia/">said</a>:</p> <blockquote> <p>‘SCARY EVIDENCE’ How a common habit could increase your risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia</p> </blockquote> <p>Another <a href="https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/health/alzheimers-disease-risk-increased-picking-28378042">ran with</a>:</p> <blockquote> <p>Alzheimer’s disease risk increased by picking your nose and plucking hair, warns study</p> </blockquote> <p>An Australian news article <a href="https://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/could-picking-your-nose-lead-to-dementia-australian-researchers-are-digging-into-it/rn7xqef2w">couldn’t resist a pun</a>:</p> <blockquote> <p>Could picking your nose lead to dementia? Australian researchers are digging into it.</p> </blockquote> <p>Yet if we look at the research study behind these news reports, we may not need to be so concerned. The evidence connecting nose picking with the risk of dementia is still rather inconclusive.</p> <p><strong>What prompted these headlines?</strong></p> <p>Queensland researchers published <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-022-06749-9">their study</a> back in February 2022 in the journal Scientific Reports.</p> <p>However, the results were not widely reported in the media until about eight months later, following a <a href="https://news.griffith.edu.au/2022/10/28/new-research-suggests-nose-picking-could-increase-risk-for-alzheimers-and-dementia/">media release</a> from Griffith University in late October.</p> <p>The media release had a similar headline to the multiple news articles that followed:</p> <blockquote> <p>New research suggests nose picking could increase risk for Alzheimer’s and dementia</p> </blockquote> <p>The media release clearly stated the research was conducted in mice, not humans. But it did quote a researcher who described the evidence as “potentially scary” for humans too.</p> <p><strong>What the study did</strong></p> <p>The researchers wanted to learn more about the role of <em>Chlamydia pneumoniae</em> bacteria and Alzheimer’s disease.</p> <p>These bacteria have been found in brains of people with Alzheimer’s, although <a href="https://academic.oup.com/femspd/article/48/3/355/506227?login=true">the studies</a> were completed more than <a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s004300050071">15 years ago</a>.</p> <p>This bacteria species can cause respiratory infections such as pneumonia. It’s not to be confused with the chlamydia species that causes sexually transmitted infections (that’s <em>C. trachomatis</em>).</p> <p>The researchers were interested in where <em>C. pneumoniae</em> went, how quickly it travelled from the nose to the brain, and whether the bacteria would create a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease found in brain tissue, the amyloid β protein.</p> <p>So they conducted a small study in mice.</p> <figure class="align-center zoomable"><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/493175/original/file-20221103-22-znvia5.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=1000&amp;fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/493175/original/file-20221103-22-znvia5.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px" srcset="https://images.theconversation.com/files/493175/original/file-20221103-22-znvia5.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=432&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/493175/original/file-20221103-22-znvia5.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=432&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/493175/original/file-20221103-22-znvia5.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=432&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/493175/original/file-20221103-22-znvia5.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=543&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/493175/original/file-20221103-22-znvia5.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=543&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/493175/original/file-20221103-22-znvia5.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=543&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 2262w" alt="White mouse in open cage with raised nose" /></a><figcaption><span class="caption">The study, which was conducted in mice, didn’t mention nose picking.</span> <span class="attribution"><a class="source" href="https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/funny-curious-white-rat-looking-out-402796495">Shutterstock</a></span></figcaption></figure> <p>The researchers injected <em>C. pneumoniae</em> into the noses of some mice and compared their results to other mice that received a dose of salty water instead.</p> <p>They then waited one, three, seven or 28 days before euthanising the animals and examined what was going on in their brains.</p> <p><strong>What the study found</strong></p> <p>Not surprisingly, the researchers detected more bacteria in the part of the brain closest to the nose in mice that received the infectious dose. This was the olfactory brain region (involved in the sense of smell).</p> <p>Mice that had the bacteria injected into their noses also had clusters of the amyloid β protein around the bacteria.</p> <p>Mice that didn’t receive the dose <em>also</em> had the protein present in their brains, but it was more spread out. The researchers didn’t compare which mice had more or less of the protein.</p> <p>Finally, the researchers found that gene profiles related to Alzheimer’s disease were more abundant in mice 28 days after infection compared with seven days after infection.</p> <p><strong>How should we interpret the results?</strong></p> <p>The study doesn’t actually mention nose-picking or plucking nose hairs. But the media release quoted one of the researchers <a href="https://news.griffith.edu.au/2022/10/28/new-research-suggests-nose-picking-could-increase-risk-for-alzheimers-and-dementia/">saying</a> this was not a good idea as this could damage the nose:</p> <blockquote> <p>If you damage the lining of the nose, you can increase how many bacteria can go up into your brain.</p> </blockquote> <p>The media release suggested you could protect your nose (by not picking) and so lower your risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Again, this was not mentioned in the study itself.</p> <p>At best the study results suggest infection with <em>C. pneuomoniae</em> can spread rapidly to the brain – in mice.</p> <p>Until we have more definitive, robust studies in humans, I’d say the link between nose picking and dementia risk remains low. <strong>– Joyce Siette</strong></p> <hr /> <p><strong>Blind peer review</strong></p> <p>Nose picking is a life-long common human practice. <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7852253/">Nine in ten people</a> admit doing it.</p> <p>By the age of 20, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6345537/">some 50% of people</a> have evidence of <em>C. pneumoniae</em> in their blood. That rises to 80% in people aged 60-70.</p> <p>But are these factors connected? Does one cause the other?</p> <p>The study behind these media reports raises some interesting points about <em>C. pneumoniae</em> in the nasal cavity and its association with deposits of amyloid β protein (plaques) in the brain of mice – not humans.</p> <p>We cannot assume what happens in mice also applies to humans, for a number of reasons.</p> <p>While <em>C. pneumoniae</em> bacteria may be <a href="https://academic.oup.com/femspd/article/48/3/355/506227?login=true">more common</a> in people with late-onset Alzheimer’s disease, association with the hallmark amyloid plaques in the mouse study does not necessarily mean one causes the other.</p> <p>The mice were also euthanised at a maximum of 28 days after exposure, long before they had time to develop any resultant disease. This is not likely anyway, because mice do not naturally get Alzheimer’s.</p> <p>Even though mice can accumulate the plaques associated with Alzheimer’s, they <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-018-07484-w#:%7E:text=Alzheimer's%20is%20marked%20by%20cognitive,not%20occur%20naturally%20in%20mice">do not display</a> the memory problems seen in people.</p> <p>Some researchers have also argued that amyloid β protein deposits in animals are different to humans, and therefore <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2813509/">might not be suitable</a> for comparison.</p> <p>So what’s the verdict?</p> <p>Looking into risk factors for developing Alzheimer’s is worthwhile.</p> <p>But to suggest picking your nose, which introduces <em>C. pneumoniae</em> into the body, may raise the risk of Alzheimer’s in humans – based on this study – is overreach. <strong>– Mark Patrick Taylor</strong><!-- 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/193463/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>Writen by Joyce Siette. Republished with permission from <a href="https://theconversation.com/does-picking-your-nose-really-increase-your-risk-of-dementia-193463" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Conversation</a>.</em></p> <p><em><span style="font-family: PlusJakartaSans, -apple-system, BlinkMacSystemFont, 'Segoe UI', Roboto, Oxygen, Cantarell, 'Helvetica Neue', Ubuntu, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; white-space: pre;">Image: <a href="https://www.pexels.com/photo/man-in-blue-denim-button-up-shirt-picking-nose-4584166/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Ketut Subiyanto (Pexels)</a>, CC BY-SA</span></em></p>

Mind

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Cold homes increase the risk of severe mental health problems – new study

<p>Concerns about <a href="https://theconversation.com/energy-crisis-the-uk-is-still-heading-for-widespread-fuel-poverty-despite-the-governments-price-cap-190290" target="_blank" rel="noopener">fuel poverty</a> and people not being able to heat their homes adequately are not new in the UK, but these worries have been <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2022/oct/26/warm-banks-open-wolverhampton-cost-of-living-crisis" target="_blank" rel="noopener">heightened</a> by significant increases in energy costs and the <a href="https://theconversation.com/the-cost-of-living-crisis-has-been-many-years-in-the-making-but-politicians-on-both-sides-ignore-this-189483" target="_blank" rel="noopener">cost-of-living crisis</a>. And as winter approaches, things are about to get a lot worse.</p> <p>Despite a relatively mild climate, the UK has higher levels of excess winter deaths – deaths associated with cold weather – than <a href="https://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0140673614621140" target="_blank" rel="noopener">many colder countries</a>. This greater exposure to cold, despite milder weather, is related to poor housing quality, the high cost of heating homes and poverty.</p> <p>We know quite a lot about how living in a home that you can’t keep warm enough affects your physical health. Colder temperatures <a href="https://www.instituteofhealthequity.org/resources-reports/the-health-impacts-of-cold-homes-and-fuel-poverty/the-health-impacts-of-cold-homes-and-fuel-poverty.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">suppress the immune system</a>, for example. But we know relatively little about the effects on mental health. <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2022.115461" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Our new research</a> shows that living in a cold home is a significant mental health risk.</p> <p>Living in a cold home can affect your mental health in several ways. For many, heating costs are a source of stress and financial strain. Not being able to keep your home and family comfortably warm reduces feelings of control and autonomy over your environment. People who are unable to heat their home often adopt coping mechanisms that <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2524.2005.00558.x" target="_blank" rel="noopener">limit socialising</a> – for example, not inviting friends over and going to bed early to keep warm. And many people are just worn down by the drudgery of a whole winter of being uncomfortably cold.</p> <p>Using <a href="https://www.understandingsociety.ac.uk/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">data</a> from a large representative sample of adults in the UK, we followed people over many years and tracked the effect of being unable to keep your home warm on mental health.</p> <p>When people’s homes became cold, their risk of severe mental distress significantly increased. For people who previously had no mental health problems, the odds of severe mental distress doubled when they had a cold home, while for those who had some (but not severe) mental health symptoms, the risk tripled (see chart below). We found these effects even after taking into account many other factors associated with mental health, including income.</p> <p><strong>Odds of reporting severe mental distress following transition into cold housing compared to those who remained in warm homes</strong></p> <figure class="align-center "><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/492381/original/file-20221028-61968-sxkqgr.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px" srcset="https://images.theconversation.com/files/492381/original/file-20221028-61968-sxkqgr.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=483&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/492381/original/file-20221028-61968-sxkqgr.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=483&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/492381/original/file-20221028-61968-sxkqgr.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=483&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/492381/original/file-20221028-61968-sxkqgr.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=607&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/492381/original/file-20221028-61968-sxkqgr.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=607&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/492381/original/file-20221028-61968-sxkqgr.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=607&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 2262w" alt="" /><figcaption><span class="attribution"><span class="source">author provided</span></span></figcaption></figure> <p>Sadly, the risk of living in a cold home differs greatly across the UK population. Lone parents and people who are unemployed or long-term sick are much more likely to live in cold homes. There is also significant inequality across ethnic groups – more than 12% of black people live in cold homes compared with under 6% of white British people, for example. Those who rent rather than own their home are also far more likely to live in cold homes, for social renters this is despite the, on average, <a href="https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1088447/EHS_Housing_quality_and_condition_report_2020.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">higher quality and</a><a href="https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1091144/Energy_Report_2020_revised.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">efficiency</a> of social rented homes.</p> <p>Putting on another jumper won’t be enough to get many in the UK through the coming winter. And mental health distress is just one consequence. Cold homes cause issues with significant personal and societal costs – from individual health effects to the increased pressure on the NHS, as well as broader economic loss due to missed work. Rishi Sunak’s new government needs to help people live in adequately warm homes this winter. But how?</p> <p>The older age of housing in the UK is <a href="http://www.instituteofhealthequity.org/projects/the-health-impacts-of-cold-homes-and-fuel-poverty" target="_blank" rel="noopener">heavily implicated</a> in the UK’s high levels of cold. Support for energy efficiency improvements is therefore a possible means of reducing cold homes. This will also mean tackling the so-called “split incentive” in the private rented sector, which houses a significant proportion of households. The split incentive refers to the challenge of the benefits of improvements not being experienced by the property owners but by tenants, reducing the incentive for owners to invest. This results in poorer quality and more expensive homes for renters.</p> <p><strong>Heat or eat? Most can’t afford either</strong></p> <p>The high proportion of cold homes in the social housing sector – despite having the best average energy efficiency due to insulation and building types (flats) – shows that energy efficiency improvements alone will not eliminate cold. <a href="https://www.resolutionfoundation.org/publications/the-living-standards-outlook-2022/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Incomes in the UK are falling</a>. Benefit levels are <a href="https://theconversation.com/raising-benefits-in-line-with-earnings-will-make-the-poor-worse-off-heres-why-192880" target="_blank" rel="noopener">painfully low</a> and worsened by policies including the benefit cap, two-child limit and sanctions. Years of cuts and <a href="https://www.jrf.org.uk/file/59072/download?token=acsEgZp7&amp;filetype=briefing" target="_blank" rel="noopener">below inflation rises</a> mean that the term “heat or eat”, used to describe difficult spending decisions for low-income households, is now out of date, as <a href="https://www.jrf.org.uk/file/59191/download?token=PCFIM8W9&amp;filetype=briefing" target="_blank" rel="noopener">many can afford neither</a>.</p> <p>The combination of low household incomes with surging energy costs has created devastating pressure on household budgets. While the energy cap has limited energy cost increases below the worst estimates, energy bills have still <a href="https://theconversation.com/energy-crisis-the-uk-is-still-heading-for-widespread-fuel-poverty-despite-the-governments-price-cap-190290" target="_blank" rel="noopener">more than doubled in the past year</a>. And prepayment meters mean that those the with the least end up paying the most.</p> <p>There are, therefore, many areas for potential government intervention, and clear evidence that failing to intervene will cause harm to health.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/193125/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>Writen by Amy Clair. Republished with permission from <a href="https://theconversation.com/cold-homes-increase-the-risk-of-severe-mental-health-problems-new-study-193125" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Conversation</a>.</em></p> <p><em>Image: Getty Images</em></p>

Real Estate

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Home and Away catfisher has jail sentence increased

<p dir="ltr">A woman who posed as <em>Home and Away</em> actor Lincoln Lewis to catfish online victims and stalk multiple women has had her prison sentence increased after losing her appeal.</p> <p dir="ltr">Lydia Abdelmalek, 32, was sentenced to four years imprisonment at the County Court of Victoria earlier this week, an increase of one year and four months on the original sentence handed down around three years ago.</p> <p dir="ltr">Judge Claire Quin said she regarded Lydia’s offences as a “very serious example of stalking” and material she had received from the victims demonstrated the “cruel, brutal and ongoing impact” it had on them and their families.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Despite the content of some of the material being reflective of a fictional soap opera, it was not fantasy. It was real and impacted real people,” Judge Quin said.</p> <p dir="ltr">“What may begin as lighthearted can quickly escalate and have significant consequences for the psychological wellbeing of those to whom the ruse is directed.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“It was persistent and malicious.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Judge Quin also noted that Abdelmalek showed no remorse for her crimes, even after one of her victims took her own life. </p> <p dir="ltr">Abdelmalek used various online personas over several years, including former <em>Home and Away</em> actor Lincoln Lewis and British soap star Danny Mac, to catfish and stalk people online from 2011.</p> <p dir="ltr">Judge Quin suggested Abdelmalek’s offending may have been driven by a “number of complex personality factors”.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Her behaviour has been driven by a wish to seek relational intimacy and wish fulfilment on a background of perceived inadequacy,” she said.</p> <p dir="ltr">She was sentenced to two years and eight months in prison in the Heidelberg Magistrates Court back in June 2019.</p> <p dir="ltr">She was later released on bail after she appealed the conviction but failed to overturn the six counts of stalking earlier this year.</p> <p> </p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image credits: County Court of Victoria</em></p>

Legal

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Being stressed out before you get COVID increases your chances of long COVID. Here’s why

<p>Stress is part and parcel of modern life. When we’re on the verge of a new challenge or a significant event, we can experience stress mixed with excitement and a sense of challenge. This form of “good” stress, or <a href="https://www.verywellmind.com/what-you-need-to-know-about-eustress-3145109" target="_blank" rel="noopener">eustress</a>, is important for growth, development, and achievement.</p> <p>However, prolonged stress and overwhelming or traumatic events can negatively impact our health. These forms of “bad” stress – or distress – can make us sick, depressed, anxious and over the long term, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3341916/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">increase our risk</a> of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, dementia and even <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6877941" target="_blank" rel="noopener">cancer</a>.</p> <p>Distress can also affect our ability to <a href="https://medlineplus.gov/postcovidconditionslongcovid.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">fully recover</a> from COVID. Ongoing symptoms for a month or more is referred to as long COVID. Those affected can experience fatigue, brain fog, shortness of breath, loss of taste and smell, difficulty sleeping, anxiety and/or depression. For some, these symptoms can last for many months or even years, making it impossible to return to pre-COVID life.</p> <p>In a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/fullarticle/2796097" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Harvard University study</a> published last month, people suffering psychological distress in the lead up to their COVID infection had a greater chance of experiencing long COVID. The researchers found those with two types of distress (depression, probable anxiety, perceived stress, worry about COVID, and loneliness) had an almost 50% greater risk of long COVID than other participants.</p> <p>So how might distress impact the body’s ability to fight infection?</p> <p><strong>First, we need to look at inflammation</strong></p> <p><a href="https://stories.uq.edu.au/imb/the-edge/inflammation/what-is-inflammation/index.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Inflammation</a> is the body’s way of responding to an infection or injury.</p> <p>When the <a href="https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000821.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener">immune system</a> encounters a virus, for example, it launches an attack to neutralise infected cells and store a memory of that virus so it can respond faster and more effectively the next time.</p> <p>Many things can cause inflammation, including bacteria and viruses, injuries, toxins and chronic stress.</p> <p>The body has many different responses to inflammation, including redness, heat, swelling and pain. Some inflammatory responses can occur silently within the body, without any of these typical symptoms. At other times, inflammation can mobilise energy resources to cause exhaustion and fever.</p> <p>During inflammation, immune cells release substances known as inflammatory mediators. These chemical messengers cause small blood vessels to become wider (dilate), allowing more blood to reach injured or infected tissue to help with the healing process.</p> <p>This process can also irritate nerves and cause pain signals to be sent to the brain.</p> <p><strong>What does distress have to do with inflammation?</strong></p> <p>In the short term, stress <a href="https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2021/01/feeling-stressed" target="_blank" rel="noopener">causes</a> the release of hormones that suppress inflammation, ensuring the body has enough energy resources available to respond an immediate threat.</p> <p>However, when experienced over an extended period of time, stress itself can cause low grade “silent” inflammation. Chronic distress and related mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression, are all associated with elevated levels of inflammatory mediators. In fact, the repeated exposure to mild, unpredictable stress is enough to elicit an inflammatory response.</p> <figure class="align-center "><em><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/490261/original/file-20221018-15212-eoxhg1.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px" srcset="https://images.theconversation.com/files/490261/original/file-20221018-15212-eoxhg1.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=400&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/490261/original/file-20221018-15212-eoxhg1.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=400&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/490261/original/file-20221018-15212-eoxhg1.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=400&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/490261/original/file-20221018-15212-eoxhg1.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=503&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/490261/original/file-20221018-15212-eoxhg1.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=503&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/490261/original/file-20221018-15212-eoxhg1.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=503&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 2262w" alt="Fatigued woman rests her head against a wall" /></em><figcaption><em><span class="caption">Repeated exposure to stress can produce an inflammatory response.</span> <span class="attribution"><a class="source" href="https://unsplash.com/photos/pV_ixbLn4QU" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Stacey Garrielle Koenitz Rozells/Unsplash</a></span></em></figcaption></figure> <p>Pre-clinical (lab-based) <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/mp2013155" target="_blank" rel="noopener">studies</a> have shown chronic mild stress can cause depression-like behaviour by promoting inflammation, including activating immune cells in the brain (microglia). When anti-inflammatories were given during the mild stress exposure they prevented depression-like behaviour. However if given after the event, the anti-inflammatories were ineffective.</p> <p>When inflammation is ongoing, such as with extended periods of distress, the immune system changes the way it responds by reprogramming the immune cells. Effectively, it switches to “low surveillance mode”. In this way, it remains active throughout the body, but downgrades its responsiveness to new threats.</p> <p>Because of this, the response may be slower and less effective. Consequently, the process of recovery can take longer. For a virus like COVID, it’s possible that prior exposure to distress may similarly impair the body’s ability to fight the infection and increase the risk of long COVID.</p> <p><strong>How might distress affect recovery from COVID?</strong></p> <p>There is still much to learn about how COVID infection affects the body and how psychological factors can impact clinical outcomes in the short and long term.</p> <p>COVID has far-reaching effects across multiple body systems, affecting the lungs and heart to the greatest degree, and increasing the risk of blood clotting and stroke.</p> <p>Because the virus resides within human cells, an immune system switched to “low surveillance mode” as a result of psychological distress may miss early opportunities to destroy infected tissues. The virus can then gain an advantage over the defence (immune) system.</p> <p>Conversely, distress can suppress the early response, tipping the balance in favour of the invader.</p> <figure class="align-center "><em><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/490269/original/file-20221018-23-yyoxhq.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px" srcset="https://images.theconversation.com/files/490269/original/file-20221018-23-yyoxhq.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=411&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/490269/original/file-20221018-23-yyoxhq.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=411&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/490269/original/file-20221018-23-yyoxhq.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=411&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/490269/original/file-20221018-23-yyoxhq.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=516&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/490269/original/file-20221018-23-yyoxhq.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=516&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/490269/original/file-20221018-23-yyoxhq.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=516&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 2262w" alt="Man sits on a ledge over a busy street" /></em><figcaption><span class="caption"><em>An immune system already switched to low surveillance mode might miss early opportunities to destroy the virus.</em></span><em> <span class="attribution"><a class="source" href="https://unsplash.com/photos/kFVmYjK6hZ8" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Whoislimos/Unsplash</a></span></em></figcaption></figure> <p><strong>So what can we do about it?</strong></p> <p>Vaccines work by helping to train the immune system to find the target sooner, giving the immune system the advantage.</p> <p>Behavioural interventions that improve the ability to cope with stress <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9075982/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">decrease inflammation</a> and may help to enhance the immune response to COVID.</p> <p>It’s also important to be aware that exposure to COVID <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0889159120316068" target="_blank" rel="noopener">increases the risk</a> of depression, anxiety or other mental health conditions. Knowledge of this two-directional link is the first critical step to improving clinical outcomes.</p> <p>A lifestyle medicine approach that helps to reduce levels of distress and address mental health symptoms has important downstream benefits for physical health. This is likely to not only be the result of direct effects on the immune system itself, but also through related <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/15598276221084250" target="_blank" rel="noopener">improvements in health behaviours</a> such as diet, exercise and/or sleep.</p> <p>Further research is needed to better understand the impact of distress on the immune system, mental health and COVID outcomes, and to highlight ways to intervene to prevent long COVID and support recovery.</p> <p><!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><em>Written by </em><em>Susannah Tye.</em><em> Republished with permission of <a href="https://theconversation.com/being-stressed-out-before-you-get-covid-increases-your-chances-of-long-covid-heres-why-190649" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Conversation</a>. <img src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/190649/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /></em></p> <p><em>Image: Getty Images</em></p>

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