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CHECKUP MEDICAL COLUMN FOR OCT 14

AAP logoAAP 13/10/2016

A weekly round-up of news affecting your health.

DRINK UP

The popular idea that drinking eight glasses of water a day is ideal for your health has been challenged by scientists at Monash University.

They've identified for the first time a mechanism in the brain that stops us from drinking too much, which can be potentially fatal.

The scientists found that a "swallowing inhibition"' is activated by the brain after enough water has been consumed, which helps the body maintain the ideal volume of water it needs.

Their research, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that drinking according to your thirst, rather than a specified amount of water, is better for you.

"If we just do what our body demands us to we'll probably get it right," Associate Professor Farrell said.

TAKING THE GUESSWORK OUT OF DEPRESSION

Combining brain scans with patient information about trauma they suffered early in life can help predict whether anti-depressants will help people overcome depression, a study shows.

A team of researchers at the Westmead Institute for Medical Research in Sydney gave MRI scans to 80 patients and quizzed them about whether they suffered stresses including neglect, abuse, and illness in childhood.

During the scans, they were shown images of happy faces and fearful faces that triggered brain circuits known as amygdala, which help evaluate and generate emotions.

Previous research has shown that people are more likely to have depression if their amygdala is impaired. People exposed to stress early on in life can also suffer damage to those brain circuits and their ability to moderate emotion responses

The latest study found that those who were exposed to a high level of early life stress were most likely to recover with antidepressants if their amygdala was reactive to the happy faces.

""We can now predict who is likely to recover on antidepressants in a way that takes into account their life history," said Stanford University professor Leanne Williams, who led the study.

The findings were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academies of Science.

MELANOMA FEARS

A psychological support service has been found to help alleviate common fears shared by people who have had melanomas that the potentially deadly skin cancer will return.

A trial of 164 patients showed that the number of people who had those fears halved when given three telephone-based support sessions with psychologists.

Those that took part reported lower stress levels and increased knowledge about melanoma, compared to patients who received their usual care.

"As doctors, we often don't respond to the psychological needs of patients as well as we should, and that's an unfortunate reality. This type of work will hopefully change the way clinicians holistically look at their patients," said Professor Scott Menzies, deputy director of the Sydney Melanoma Diagnostic Centre.

The research by the University of NSW, the University of Sydney and Melanoma Institute Australia was published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS FOR DIABETES

Scientists at the University of Sydney are looking into whether two common over-the-counter diet supplements can help prevent type 2 diabetes.

They are investigating whether Nuvexa, a corn-fibre based supplement used by people to manage their weight, and GINST15, whose main ingredient is ginseng, can help stop the onset of diabetes in 400 trial participants.

The study will examine whether the supplements have a positive impact on cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

"If proven to be effective, these supplements will offer a low cost and safe option for the prevention of type 2 diabetes without having to intervene with pharmaceutical or traditional medicine," said lead researcher Dr Nick Fuller.

STROKE AWARENESS

Blood clots in the brain are one of the most common causes of strokes, but many patients aren't getting the most effective treatments, according to the Stroke Foundation.

Executive director of stroke services Toni Aslett says Australians have more than 50,000 strokes each year, with ischaemic strokes caused by blood clots accounting for 80 per cent of cases.

However only seven per cent of ischaemic stroke patients are being treated with standard clot busting medication and even fewer have clot removal surgery, she said.

Ms Aslett says all levels of government should do more to ensure there is better recognition and treatment of strokes caused by deadly blood clots.

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