Your Friday 5: The week in health

March 17, 2017 Mike Francis

How are you? Are you in splendid fettle? Excellent! Then we’re ready to review some of the things that recently caught our attention here at To Your Health headquarters.

Even serious researchers need marketing

If someone told you a new study has shown that getting good sleep is good for your health and well-being, you might yawn. (Ha!) But if the news is topped by a headline like “Better sleep feels like winning the lottery,” that’s an invitation to read on. And, in fact, that’s the way the University of Warwick described the work of its research team. The original paper, published in the journal Sleep, was called “Changes in Sleep Duration, Quality, and Medication Use Are Prospectively Associated With Health and Well-being: Analysis of the UK Household Longitudinal Study.” It was the genius of the university’s writers to highlight this memorable analogy: Improving the quality of your sleep leads to mental and physical health benefits comparable to someone who’s won a jackpot of around 200,000 British pounds (or about $247,000).

Maybe we should talk more about mumps

After the United States embarked on a mumps vaccination program in 1967, cases of mumps declined by 99 percent, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But the disease, which is characterized by fever, head and muscle aches, loss of appetite and swelling of the salivary glands, has been on something of a comeback. CDC officials counted 5,311 cases last year – up from just 229 in 2012. Officials say the best way to prevent the disease is to be vaccinated. A one-dose vaccine is 78 percent effective in staving off the disease, the CDC says, while two doses are 88 percent effective. In some concentrated outbreaks, health officials have given three doses.

Vitamin C can target and kill cancer stem cells

Scientists from the University of Salford in Manchester, England, say they’re excited to see how effective vitamin C can be at stopping the growth of cancer cells. They tested the ways a variety of natural substances can be used to attack cancer stem cells. Vitamin C proved to be up to 10 times more effective than drugs such as 2-DG, they said. Michael Lisanti, M.D., professor of translational medicine at Salford, was enthusiastic: “Vitamin C is cheap, natural, non-toxic and readily available so to have it as a potential weapon in the fight against cancer would be a significant step,” he said. For further reading on how to eat and live well through cancer, check out the guide published by Oregon Providence Cancer Center. 

Heart-stopping findings on ibuprofen

From Denmark comes a report that commonly available non-steroidal painkillers, including ibuprofen, which is sold over the counter, seem to raise the risk of cardiac arrest by 31 percent or more. “Allowing these drugs to be purchased without a prescription, and without any advice or restrictions, sends a message to the public that they must be safe,” said author Professor Gunnar H. Gislason of Copenhagen University Hospital. “I don’t think these drugs should be sold in supermarkets or petrol stations where there is no professional advice on how to use them. Over-the-counter (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) should only be available at pharmacies, in limited quantities, and in low doses.”

Here’s some rewarding news about your brain’s reward center

And we do mean rewarding: Three British scientists won the 1 million-euro Brain Prize for their study of the way the neurons of the chemical dopamine – described by one of the winners as “small devils in our brains” – operate in the brain’s reward center. This is where your brain compares rewards, trade-offs and costs for all the decisions you make, from “Which dish shall I order?” to “Should I marry this person?” The good news resulting from their work is that it suggests it’s possible to rewire the brain in ways that encourage people to make better choices, such as avoiding problem gambling.

What’s on your mind? What caught your eye?

(Either eye, it doesn’t matter to us.) Let us know by leaving a comment below.

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