Ultrasound may disrupt the balance centres of the inner ear

Ultrasound may disrupt the balance centres of the inner ear

Some people may be more sensitive to ultrasound

"Ultrasound in public places could be triggering sickness," the Daily Mail reports.

Ultrasounds are high frequency sound waves used by a wide range of devices, and are thought to be inaudible to most humans. 

A review has highlighted how many public places are now exposed to ultrasound, and there is a knowledge gap about what effect it has on our health.

What is the basis for these reports?

 

The news stories are based on a report by a scientist at the University of Southampton published in the peer-reviewed journal, Proceedings of the Royal Society.

The report comprises results from new investigations, as well as a narrative review focusing on the available evidence on ultrasound exposure and human health.

It has been made available on an open-access basis, so you can read the report for free online.

The author, Professor Timothy Leighton, said he recorded ultrasound in a number of public places, including a large library, a major railway station and a large swimming pool.

These places were chosen because people using them had reported a number of symptoms, including feeling sick, dizzy, tired, getting headaches and a feeling of pressure in the ears.

People have also reported getting vertigo, a combination of symptoms such as severe dizziness, loss of balance, feeling sick, being sick and headaches.

The report points out there is very little evidence to show the potential effects of ultrasound on people's health, and current guidelines are based on a few small studies from the 1960s.

These studies were done to assess the effect of ultrasound used in industry on workers' hearing, and did not consider wider issues such as public exposure.

Professor Leighton says the guidelines are not adequate to apply to ultrasound in public spaces, which people may be completely unaware of and affect large numbers of people for long periods of time.  

What is ultrasound?

 

Ultrasound is sound at very high frequencies, above those most people can hear – usually above 20kHz.

It can be generated by most activities – for example, rubbing our hands together generates ultrasound – but some technologies emit constant ultrasound at higher volumes.

Examples cited in the report include public address systems, which emit a constant high-frequency noise when left switched on, and automatic door sensors. Professor Leighton said he recorded high-frequency ultrasound in these places at between 63 and 94 decibels (dB).

Some guidelines use a cut-off of 65dB for exposure to ultrasound noise at work, although the guidelines vary considerably. There are also problems comparing how ultrasound was measured when the studies were carried out and how it is measured today.

Pest control systems, which are designed to deter animals that can hear ultrasound, are another example of devices that emit ultrasound.

So too is the Mosquito device, designed to deter young people from gathering in public places by emitting an unpleasant high-pitched noise most adults cannot hear. Industrial devices that emit ultrasound include ultrasonic cleaning baths.

And, perhaps most controversially, many law enforcement agencies now employ what are known as long range acoustic devices (LRAD) to control crowds.

These are essentially next-generation loud speakers that can deliver intense beams of sound over a large distance – usually warning messages that a crowd should disperse.

An LRAD was deployed by the Metropolitan Police during the 2012 London Olympics, but was never used.  

What is the evidence that ultrasound causes harm?

 

There is very little evidence on the effect of ultrasound on human health, either to show that it does or does not cause harm.

This report does not provide any new evidence about possible harms from ultrasound, either. It only shows some public places have volumes of ultrasound comparable to volumes covered in industrial guidelines.

We do know high-frequency ultrasound may damage people's hearing. The industrial guidelines were intended to avoid hearing damage at the lower frequencies we use for hearing speech.

These were based on the average hearing of a small group of men in their 40s. The effects on other groups – such as women, children or older people – may be different.

The study says: "Lack of research means that it is not possible to prove or disprove public health risk or discomfort."

All we know is some people exposed to ultrasound in industrial settings reported symptoms such as nausea, dizziness, headaches, tiredness and sensations of ear pressure.

We don't know whether the problems were caused by ultrasound or something else altogether. Most people exposed to ultrasound in public places are likely to be unaware of it.

Professor Leighton's report goes on to say: "There are no records of large numbers of complaints from the public, and this might be because only a small number are affected, or it might be because there has been no awareness of exposure and no route by which to complain."

We also don't know if there's a plausible way ultrasound could cause symptoms such as nausea, tiredness, dizziness and headaches.

Professor Leighton speculated symptoms could be caused by confusion in the brain, which perceives vibration from the eardrum, but does not get signals from the nerve that transmits sound.

He pointed out a similar confusion in the brain caused by disconnection between signals from balance receptors in the ear and what the eye can see, which is thought to be the cause of travel sickness, a condition with similar symptoms.  

How does this report affect you?

 

The report does not provide new evidence that ultrasound in public places causes harm to human health.

Its main message is that as technologically generated ultrasound is becoming more common in public places, we should be carrying out more research into its effects on our health.

The study also calls for the existing guidelines on ultrasound and health to be completely revised, based on new research. Due to the ubiquitous nature of ultrasound in the modern environment, these calls seem prudent. 

Possibly a useful first step in terms of research would be to carry out a double blind randomised controlled trial involving people who think they are sensitive to ultrasound.

We could then see if their reported symptoms correspond to ultrasound exposure, or whether they also occur when they are exposed to other noise frequencies or no sound at all

Exercise counters brain shrinkage in Parkinson’s disease

Exercise counters brain shrinkage in Parkinson’s disease

By protecting the brain from shrinkage, aerobic exercise may slow the progression of Parkinsons disease, a progressive disorder of the nervous system, says a neurologist.In an editorial published online in the journal JAMA Neurology, neurologist J Eric Ahlskog from Mayo Clinic in Minnesota recommends that modern physical therapy practices should incorporate aerobic exercise training and encourage fitness for patients with Parkinson’s disease.

Aerobic exercise means vigorous exercise, which makes you hot, sweaty and tired, Ahlskog explained.

This could include activity such as walking briskly or using an elliptical machine.

That does not mean stretching or balance exercises are not helpful, Ahlskog noted. Those types of exercises help with Parkinson’s symptoms, such as rigid muscles, slowed movement or impaired posture and balance.

But to help fight the progression of Parkinson’s disease, including dementia — one of the most feared long-term outcomes of the disease, aerobic exercise enhances factors that potentially have a protective effect on the brain, Ahlskog noted.

For instance, aerobic exercise liberates trophic factors — small proteins in the brain that behave like fertiliser does when applied to your lawn, he said citing scientific studies.

Exercise helps maintain brain connections and counters brain shrinkage from Parkinson’s disease as well as from brain ageing, Ahlskog noted.

Child stunting declines, but still high, data show

Child stunting declines, but still high, data show

Indian states have seen some improvements in child nutrition over the last decade, the first official data in over a decade shows, but over one in three children is still stunted, and over one in five underweight.

As of 2005-6, India had 62 million stunted children, accounting for a third of the world’s burden of stunting. India’s official source of nutrition data – key to measure stunting, wasting and other indicators of acute malnutrition – is the National Family Health Survey whose fourth round was conducted in 2014-15 after delays and disagreements that took ten years to resolve. As a result, India has had no official data on whether its high economic growth since 2005-6 improved nutritional outcomes.

‘37% children under age 5 stunted’

The new NFHS-4 data for 15 states shows that 37 per cent of children under the age of five in these states is stunted, a fall of just five percentage points in a decade. Bihar and Madhya Pradesh are the worst off, with 48 and 42 per cent respectively of children stunted. The proportion of underweight children has reduced equally slowly, from 39 per cent to 34 per cent, with Bihar and Madhya Pradesh the worst off again.

The one success has been in the area of child wasting (low weight for height). The states for which data is available have more than halved their proportion of wasted children in the last decade, from 48 per cent to 22 per cent, the new data shows. The proportions of adult men and women with below normal Body Mass Index have also declined.

Health ministry officials cautioned that the data released so far covers only half the country and does not include high-performing states in the north-east, Kerala and Maharashtra. “It’s hard to paint a cross-state story because what’s important to look at is what’s happening on the ground in states,” Purnima Menon, Senior Research Fellow in the International Food Policy Research Institute’s Poverty, Health and Nutrition Division, agreed. In states which started at low levels, an accelerated trend is good news; “But yes, the levels are still very high. For states like Bihar with a multi-million birth cohort, these are troubling numbers,” Dr. Menon said.

India has also failed to make progress on reducing anaemia. The proportion of anaemic children aged 6 to 59 months fell just five percentage points to 61% in 2014, and over half of women aged 15-49 are still anaemic. Of all men aged 15-49, a quarter are suffering from anaemia, as was in 2004. Haryana has the highest proportion of anaemic children (72 per cent) and women (63 per cent) while in Bihar and Meghalaya, one in three men are anaemic, the highest in the country.

India has not made much headway in reducing anaemia in the last 30-40 years, Dr. Menon said, but anaemia was proving to be a global public health challenge, she added.

A smaller sample survey commissioned in 2012-13 and conducted with Unicef – the Rapid Survey on Children – was also released only in 2015. It showed a ten percentage point decline in the proportion of children under the age of five who were stunted (shorter than expected for their ages) and a 13 percentage point decline in the proportion of children who were underweight (lower weights than expected for their age).

Now, type more to cut-down blood pressure

Now, type more to cut-down blood pressure

 

 

If you are often nabbed by your parents for text messaging, then you must make them read this article as a new study has revealed that typing could help reduce blood pressure.

Researchers from University of Oxford have found that the high blood pressure is a common condition that can be managed successfully with tablets.

To prove the research, health workers used mobile phones linked to blood pressure measuring devices to collect health information about patients and text messaging was managed automatically using an affordable system developed by Oxford's Institute of Biomedical Engineering.

Professor Lionel Tarassenko from Oxford's Institute of Biomedical Engineering said that there was a great potential for mobile phone technology to help with the management of chronic diseases world-wide through automated messaging to the right person at the right time.

He added, through this study, that they have demonstrated that how this could be done in an area where large numbers of people are at risk because of uncontrolled blood pressure.

 

The study is published in the journal Circulation.

Anxiety can affect your walking direction

Anxiety can affect your walking direction

A new research has found that people, who experience anxiety and inhibition, have more activity in the right side of their brain which makes them to walk in a leftward trajectory.

Lead researcher Dr. Mario Weick at the University of Kent has for the first time linked the activation of the brain's two hemispheres with lateral shifts in people's walking trajectories.

In a study aimed at establishing why individuals display a tendency to allocate attention unequally across space, people were blindfolded and asked to walk in a straight line across a room towards a previously seen target.

The researchers found evidence that blindfolded individuals who displayed inhibition or anxiety were prone to walk to the left, indicating greater activation in the right hemisphere of the brain.

The research indicated that the brain's two hemispheres are associated with different motivational systems. These relate on the right side to inhibition and on the left to approach.

The findings may have implications for the treatment of unilateral neglect, which is a condition caused by a lack of awareness of one side of space. In particular, individuals suffering from right-sided neglect may benefit from interventions to reduce anxiety.

The study is published in the journal Cognition

Colouring books provide users with stress instead of lowering stress Level

Colouring-Book

Colouring books provide users with stress instead of lowering stress Level

Were you one of many adults to get a “stress-reducing” colouring book this holiday season? Think twice before you sharpen your pencils, experts warn. Studies have found adult colouring books that promise to lower your stress levels are actually doing the opposite.

In a clinical study run over the course of three days, it was found that participants’ stress levels increased by 40 per cent while they were colouring.

“Colouring just isn’t healthy for adults. That’s why most adults aren’t artists, it’s a risky lifestyle full of unknowns and stressors,” said Dr. Renee Lynch, the leading researcher for the study.

The study revealed that all participants experienced a significant increase in their production of adrenaline, cortisol and norepinephrine, the three major stress hormones.

Dr. Lynch said that the stress increases she saw in the participants of the study were unhealthy. “When the body releases these hormones, it can be harmful, especially when you’re trying to relax,” she said.

“I can’t justify sitting down for three hours to colour a tiger,” said Matthew Razzle, a 27-year-old accountant. Razzle said that the thought of even picking up a coloured pencil puts him in a cold sweat.

“When I colour, I just get nervous. All the lines on the page seem so small and I get the shakes,” said Razzle. “Colouring doesn’t de-stress me. The thought of even looking at a picture makes me sick.”

“My kids love colouring, but I don’t,” said Evie Stacks, a 36-year-old mother of two who participated in the study. Stacks said that she can no longer bear to sit at a craft table when her kids are drawing. Stacks said her heart rate “soars” at the thought of having to sit and colour with her children.

Dr. Lynch said that the symptoms displayed by Razzle and Stacks — sweating, shaking, nausea and increased heart rate -— are all indicators of stress brought on by colouring.

Elizabeth Tyre, a 39-year-old lawyer, said that she was given a Paris-themed colouring book to complete during the study. “I still lie awake at night thinking about those stupid little cobblestone streets,” said Stacks.

Elliot Lightlake, a 25-year-old student in the business management program at Ryerson University had to leave the retreat suddenly when he collapsed while colouring a butterfly. Police say he suffered an art attack.

“They were taking him out on the stretcher and he just kept screaming that the butterflies were getting him,” said Tyre. “It was scary. It made me realize what colouring can do to people and how bad it can get.”

“We ended up burning all of the colouring books on the third day,” said Dr. Lynch. “They just couldn’t handle it anymore. It had to be done.”

Tyre said she was the first to throw her book in the fire. “[I] just sent that thing right back to hell where it came from,” said Tyre.

Dr. Lynch recommends that adults who own colouring books also purge them in a burning pit of hellfire. By doing so, “the stress will burn away too.”

Study Links Stress During Male Adolescence To Diabetes

Study Links Stress During Male Adolescence To Diabetes

Type 2 Diabetes

Adolescence is one of the most stressful parts of life, especially for guys who have to go through so much pressure. But aside from the psychological stress they are receiving due to the massive changes happening to them, a recent study revealed that those who have higher levels of stress during their late adolescence period are most likely to develop type 2 diabetes.

A team of American and Swedish researchers from different universities and organizations have recently concluded a study regarding possible links between low stress resilience among teenage guys and different diseases. The team of researchers looked at the data of over 1,534,425 18-year-old military recruits in Sweden from the year 1969-1997.

The participants have to make sure that they do not have diabetes during the onset of the research. After that, they went through a standardized stress resilience that the team constructed. The participants were then given a follow-up period, which lasted from 1987-2012.

According to Dr. Casey Crump, from the department of medicine at Stanford University in California, together with the fellow study authors, when their observation period ended, they were able to discover that over 34,000 men have already been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. The researchers compared the data of those who have high resilience to stress to those who have low.

They have found out that those can handle stress much better is 51 percent less likely to develop type 2 diabetes. They also explained that people with low resistance to stress can acquire diabetes due to many factors and bad habits such as frequent smoking, eating unhealthy foods and not exercising. Dr. Crump stated that their study showcased that chronic stress, especially in teenagers, can play a key role in raising the blood sugar levels of a person that can lead to type 2 diabetes.

However, all the study authors suggested that more studies are still needed to identify other possible underlying factors that can help them educate people so they will not get the disease.

Karnataka closes its heart to foreigners, wastes organs

Karnataka closes its heart to foreigners, wastes organs

Karnataka closes its heart to foreigners, wastes organs (Getty Images)

law in the organ transplant rules framed by the Zonal Coordination Committee of Karnataka for Organ Transplantation (ZCCK) has resulted in as many as 47 hearts and over 100 lungs going waste in 2015.

Unlike other states in the country, the nodal agency in Karnataka, the Zonal Coordination Committee of Karnataka for Organ Transplantation (ZCCK) does not allow registration of foreign nationals as recipients. Doctors say due to this, a large number of donor hearts are wasted. The number of potentially transplantable hearts unused in 2015 was 47.

Doctors are upset with the nodal agency for organ transplant has turned a blind eye to this wastage, despite The Human Organ Act (THOA), a central Act of the Union health ministry, allowing registration of foreign nationals for cadaver organ transplantation. "Karnataka is the only state which does not allow registration of foreign nationals for cadaver organ transplant.Shockingly , this is a ZCCK regulation," pointed out renowned cardio surgeon Dr Devi Shetty.

Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat and even Delhi allow registration of foreign nationals. In all other states, when all categories of recipients are exhausted, the rule mandates that the organ be donated to a foreigner, so it doesn't go waste. "Here in Karnataka, we just dump it because the rules do not permit it," he said. Officials at ZCCK admitted that hearts were indeed being wasted and the nodal agency was in the process of trying to rectify it."The central law permits cadaver organ donations to foreigners.

The kidney racket of the 1990s is fresh in our minds. We fear a scam because when foreigners are involved, it may become a trade. We don't want hearts to go waste but we need to tread carefully," sources said.

Doctors, however, don't buy the government's argument. "How are other states managing it? If the argument is the fear of trading, it should be a factor in other states too.The law is clear on this. The law mandates that organs be transplanted to foreign nationals as a last resort, to prevent wastage of organs. So what is the fear?" asked another organ transplant specialist.

ZCCK said they have been receiving representations from hospitals to revoke its "informal" decision of not allowing foreign donors, after the kidney racket rocked Karnataka. Intriguingly, ZCCK, which admitted that hearts were going waste, said no foreigner had come forward to register here so far.

 

Wider Eligibility for Heart Transplantation in New Guidelines

Wider Eligibility for Heart Transplantation in New Guidelines

The 2016 International Society for Heart Lung Transplantation (ISHLT) listing criteria for heart transplantation updates the criteria issued in 2006, adds recommendations for patients who were previously deemed ineligible, and even touches on marijuana use[1].

The new guidelines, led by writing committee chair Dr Mandeep M Mehra (Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, MA), were published online January 7, 2016 in the Journal of Heart and Lung Transplantation.

"In the past 10 years, much has changed" when assessing whether a patient is a candidate for a heart transplant, Mehra told heartwire from Medscape. More patients qualify now.

For example, "mechanical circulatory support with left ventricular assist devices [LVADs] is allowing us to assess patients . . . with what used to be considered relative contraindications," Mehra noted. Patients with treatable low-grade cancer or some very frail patients may benefit from an LVAD, which could be used as a bridge until they become suitable heart-transplant candidates.

The upper age and weight cutoffs have been relaxed. "Carefully selected patients >70 years of age may be considered for cardiac transplantation," according to the guidelines. "Dick Cheney was transplanted [when he was] past the age of 70," Mehra observed, adding that frailty may be a better measure of outcome than chronological age.

The report recommends that patients lose enough weight to have a body-mass index (BMI) below 35 (as opposed to below 30) before they are listed for a heart transplant. Nevertheless, "the average person gains anywhere from 12 to 30 pounds in the first year after transplantation," so adverse effects such as sleep apnea, arthritis, or infections are magnified in obese patients, Mehra said.

Listing for a heart transplant should not be based solely on heart-failure survival scores, since these scores have inherent limitations, the report warns.

Infections, Amyloidosis, and Congenital Heart Disease

Mehra drew to attention to three report sections on infections, amyloidosis, and congenital heart disease. "[Clinicians] should not automatically eliminate patients with HIV or hepatitis C" from being listed for a heart transplant, he said. The guidelines discuss measures that centers that perform these transplants in these patients need to take.

Patients with Chagas disease may be eligible for a heart transplant, but they are also prone to recurrence of this disease. "A growing number of Hispanic patients in the United States have been exposed to Chagas disease," Mehra observed. "Thus, all centers should develop protocols for screening of candidates and surveillance after transplantation for reactivation of the disease," the guidelines advise.

"The old dictum used to be that if you transplant a patient with amyloidosis, it is likely that the amyloidosis will recur," Mehra noted. But now the guidelines describe how carefully selected patients with transthyretin-related (TTR), amyloid-light-chain (AL), or familial-TTR cardiac amyloidosis may be candidates for a heart transplant.

Adults who had congenital heart disease and now have failing surgical repairs, such as "a patient who has a normal functioning heart but develops gastrointestinal or even lung problems as a result of a failing Fontan [procedure]" may be suitable candidates for a heart transplant, Mehra said.

Last, the guidelines note that little is known about how marijuana use may affect a heart transplant. "Whether candidates on medical marijuana or those who obtain it through other legal means should receive organ transplantation is at best an issue for which no clear direction exists," according to the guidelines. Heavy use could impair patients' cognitive ability, which could lead to nonadherence to medication, and there have been isolated reports of fungal infections.

Mehra has previously reported consulting for research with Thoratec, Heartware, St Jude Medical, Boston Scientific, Medtronic, Johnson & Johnson, Teva, and Stealth Biopeptides. Disclosures for the coauthors are recorded in the ISHLT office.

Food guidelines say eat eggs, restrict added sugars

food guidelines say eat eggs, restrict added sugars

Newly released guidelines from the United States Department of Agriculture are lengthy and may be hard to digest for those who are not health professionals.

However, Beaumont health experts helped to boil things down to basics — and eggs are OK.

Consumer-based 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines can be found online at www.choosemyplate.gov. USDA information more geared toward health care professionals is available online at www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015.

The big takeaway item is this: Less than 10 percent of your caloric intake should be from added sugar. This equates to one can of regular soda.

“Sugar is strongly associated with diabetes and obesity, which are strong risk factors for cardiovascular disease, ” said Dr. Wendy Miller, director of Nutrition and Preventive Medicine at Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak.

She said that it’s best to talk to your health care professional to determine what your caloric intake should be.

Shannon Szeles, clinical dietitian for Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak, noted that research has shown that artificial sweeteners, although they are not considered as added sugar, don’t send a trigger to the brain to satisfy the craving for something sweet. She suggested eating healthier versions of something sweet, such as fruit or a small portion of dark chocolate, to satisfy a sweet tooth.

“Added sugar is any sugar that doesn’t occur naturally,” Szeles said.   White and brown sugar are considered added sugars.

Miller said that research shows that eating sugar often makes us crave more sugar and makes us hungrier.

Also, the new guidelines de-emphasize cholesterol intake and focus on restricting saturated fats. Also watch salt intake, which should be less than 2,300 milligrams a day.   “A can of food or frozen entree can contain between 400 and 600 milligrams of sodium,” Miller said.

“Read food labels and restrict portion sizes,” Szeles added.

Eggheads rejoice.

The new dietary guidelines re-embrace eggs, which Szeles said are a great source of protein, contain plenty of vitamins and minerals in the yolk, are low in calories, filling, versatile and inexpensive.

However, those with weakened immune systems should avoid eating their eggs poached or sunny-side up, unless the eggs have been pasteurized, Szeles said.

Instead of stressing ”super foods,” as past dietary guidelines have, the new guidelines include three healthy diets:

• The Healthy American Diet is based on the types and serving sizes of foods that Americans typically consume and emphasizes nutrition, portion size and calorie count.

• The Healthy Mediterranean-Style Diet is based on food groups associated with that part of the world and includes more fruits and seafood and less dairy products than the typical American diet.

• The Healthy Vegetarian Diet makes plant-based substitutes for traditional proteins (red meat and poultry). Examples of plant-based substitutes include soy products, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains and dairy.

Szeles said these diets can be found at the www.health.gov/dietaryguide lines/2015 website under appendices 3, 4, and 5. It may be easier to have a health care professional explain them.

She noted that the www.choose myplate.gov website explains portion sizes, makes things easier to understand “and gives you a good structure of what to aim for in a diet.” 

Another easy rule to remember is to “eat a rainbow of colors,” Szeles said.

She offered support for those attempting to entice picky eaters to try healthier options.

“It may take as little as eight exposures or as many as 15-20 exposures for a child, and sometimes an adult, to truly know if they like something,” Szeles said. “So don’t give up. You want to at least provide the option.”

Miller said the guidelines broaden the focus to include healthy lifestyle habits and address the importance of daily exercise. They offer a number of options rather than a one-size-fits-all path to wellness.

“Everybody has a role in encouraging healthy eating,” she said. 

She pointed out that this could mean bringing healthy food to share in the workplace or other gatherings, and encouraging everyone to get regular physical activity.

“We all need to take responsibility,” Miller said.