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BBC World Service - Health Check

Health Check

Health issues and medical breakthroughs from around the world.

Health Check

  • Daily Aspirin: Not for Healthy Elderly
    Some older people take a daily low-dose aspirin on the advice of their doctor, if they’ve had a heart attack or stroke, to reduce their risk of having another one. And some otherwise healthy older people copy them. But a new study this week shows that the drug increases the risk of internal bleeding – commonly in the brain or stomach. Anyone worried about taking aspirin should talk to their doctor before stopping taking it. The “zero tolerance” policy in the United States saw some 2,300 migrant children separated from their parents on the American border. Around five hundred still haven’t been reunited with their families. We hear from Canadian doctors, recalling their country’s practice for 100 years - of removing indigenous children from their families. So what lessons has Canada learned about the impact of separation on children’s health and well-being? Although they originated in the Middle East, hookah pipes or shisha are increasing in popularity in places such as the US. Many believe it’s less harmful than smoking than cigarettes, but new research on 18-34 year old hookah smokers has found that even a single session can cause stiffening of the walls of the arteries. (Photo credit: Getty Images)

  • Europe Gets a Health Check
    Europe has had its own health check this week – and the citizens of its 53 countries are living longer. But unhealthy lifestyles fuelled by smoking, drinking and too little exercise are causing a rise in cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer. Cycling helps to keep Danish people healthy – and Estonia is considering following the UK by creating a sugar tax. The World Health Organization hopes more targets will further improve the health of Europeans. If you have drunk too much coffee your hands might shake. But for some people trembling hands make it difficult to eat, drink or write. An engineer from Chile hopes his new invention will help the one in twenty people over the age of 40 whose hands shake because of essential tremor. So-called super-recognisers are people who never forget a face. They can recall people they’ve seen - even briefly - many years ago. It’s been reported that such skills helped police in the UK to identify suspects in the recent Skripal poisoning case. At the British Science Festival a psychologist from Bournemouth University said that the abilities of super recognisers’ might have been over stated – and more testing is needed pinpoint how they remember faces. (Photo: Cigarettes and alcohol. Credit: Getty Images)

  • More Problems for Zika Babies
    The Zika epidemic which spread across Latin America in 2015/16 prompted the Brazilian government to advise women to delay getting pregnant – because of the link with babies born with heads smaller than usual – or microcephaly - after their mothers were infected. The number Zika cases has dropped dramatically – but now a new study in the United States highlights that some affected children in places like Puerto Rico have continued to develop problems with their brains and eyesight. Peggy Honein from America’s CDC says that the Zika story is certainly not over for those families. BBC Brazil’s correspondent Julia Carneiro has been to meet families in Recife, the Brazilian city which saw the highest number of cases. Many of the mothers are now caring alone for their children who have problems with swallowing, epilepsy and cannot walk. A cyclist attempting to break the world record for the fastest cycle across Europe is about to begin his quest – supported by a team from the University of Derby’s Human Performance Unit in the UK. They’re hoping to create a “how-to” guide for wannabe record breakers – including how to reach peak fitness in body and mind. (Photo: Ana Katrielle, with her mother Ana Paula who contracted Zika virus during her pregnancy, and her older brother Copyright: Fernando Cavalcanti)

  • How to Spot a Deadly Bleed on the Brain
    Only 10-20% of strokes are caused by a ruptured blood vessel – instead of a blood clot – but this type is deadly, causing 40% of stroke deaths. A brain scan is used to tell which type of stroke a patient has had – and treatment is given to those with clots. There is currently no treatment for patients with a bleed on the brain – but now researchers in Edinburgh have worked out a simple checklist to predict which patients will recover – and which need close monitoring in case they bleed again. The main cause of strokes where there is a bleed is uncontrolled high blood pressure or hypertension. It can be treated, but that requires regular monitoring and sometimes extra medication needs to be added if the initial tablets aren’t bringing it down. New Australian research carried out in Sri Lanka has shown that a low-dose triple pill is more effective at lowering blood pressure than the current approach. Cramp is that agonising, sudden searing pain in a muscle – which often appears when you’re playing sport or even just lying in bed. A BBC World Service listener has asked us to find out what’s behind it – and what helps, so we sent our reporter in Sydney, Australia to find out. (Photo: Getty Images) Presented by Claudia Hammond.

  • Genetic Link: Disrupted Sleep and Bipolar Disorder
    Researchers in Glasgow have used data from the large UK Biobank to identify a genetic link between people with disrupted body clocks and mood disorders like bipolar disorder. They believe that identifying genes associated with disrupted circadian rhythms could help to pinpoint which patients might benefit from bright light therapy, which is commonly used in countries like Italy. Every year in Bangladesh 15,000 children die by drowning. It is the commonest cause of death in children under 4 which gets worse during the current monsoon season when there is a lot of flooding. We hear about new initiatives such as creches have proved successful in Barisal, southern Bangladesh, which has the highest drowning rates in the country. If you’ve had a bad day at work, do you get the support you need from your partner? Researchers in Canada gave diaries to men and women in the Netherlands – and found that women gave emotional support regardless of how much stress they were under, unlike their male counterparts. Asking your partner whether they’d like to talk about their stressful day might be a good idea – to see if they need emotional support or just want to be left alone. (Photo: Getty Images)