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Checkup Medical Column for October 28

AAP logoAAP 28/10/2016 By Sarah Wiedersehn

A weekly round-up of news affecting your health.

HEART LINK TO MENTAL ILLNESS

High resting heart rate and blood pressure among young men has been linked to psychiatric disorders later in life.

A study of more than one million Swedish men, published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, says men whose resting heart rate was higher than 82 beats per minute during their youth were 69 per cent more likely to later be diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder than men whose resting heart rate was lower than 62 bpm.

The risk for schizophrenia increased by 21 per cent and for anxiety disorders, 18 per cent.

Many mental health disorders have been found to be associated with abnormalities in heart function and blood pressure. Heart rate and blood pressure are regulated by the autonomic nervous system which controls the body's basic functions.

"These results are interesting, because they provide new information on the role of the autonomic nervous system in psychiatric disorders," explains University of Helsinki postdoctoral researcher Antti Latvala, who led the project.

Mr Latvala acknowledged, however, a great deal of further study on the connection is needed.

TRAFFIC NOISE RAISES BLOOD PRESSURE

Just the thought of sitting in peak-hour can make you feel ill but new research suggests traffic noise can actually make you sick.

A study published in the European Heart Journal has found exposure to chronic traffic noise increases a person's risk of developing high blood pressure.

The finding was part of a wider German study investigating the effects of both air pollution and traffic noise on a person's health.

The study followed more than 41,000 people living in five different countries for five to nine years.

People living in noisy streets, where there were average night time noise levels of 50 decibels, had a six per cent increased risk of developing hypertension compared to those living on quieter streets where average noise levels were 40 decibels during the night.

Lead researcher, Professor Barbara Hoffmann from the Centre for Health and Society at Heinrich-Heine-University of Dusseldorf, who led the analysis says the results are quite concerning.

"Exposure to traffic noise shares many of the same sources with air pollution and so has the potential to confound the estimates of the adverse effects of pollution on human health."

SWEET SPOT FOR PAIN RELIEF FOUND IN BRAIN

Scientists in the US say they have identified for the first time the region in the brain responsible for the placebo effect in pain relief.

It's hoped the discovery could result in the design of more personalised medicine for the millions of people with chronic pain.

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) technology, the scientists from Northwestern Medicine and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC) were able to identify a brain region within the mid frontal gyrus that responded when patients with chronic knee osteoarthritis ingested a placebo pill.

More than half the patients who took part in the study, published in journal PLOS Biology, had reported significant pain relief.

"Given the enormous societal toll of chronic pain, being able to predict placebo responders in a chronic pain population could both help the design of personalised medicine and enhance the success of clinical trials," said lead researcher, assistant professor Marwan Baliki.

STUDY OFFERS HOPE FOR BREATHLESSNESS

A national medication study is aiming to help thousands of Australians who struggle every day with shortness of breath.

The large-scale clinical study, led by Flinders University, is seeking more than 170 participants in South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia to measure benefits of using a regular low dose, extended release morphine capsule to relieve the debilitating effects of chronic breathlessness.

More than 300,000 Australians are affected by chronic refractory breathlessness, with about 75,000 of them housebound with extremely limited day-to-day activity.

Professor David Currow, who leads the Australian national Palliative Care Clinical Studies Collaborative, says finding ways to reduce chronic shortness of breath will help to reduce suffering across the country.

"As the population ages, more people will experience chronic breathlessness as a result of emphysema, heart failure and cancer," Prof Currow said.

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