Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Would Depression Raise Stroke Risk?

When the blood flow to the brain is blocked, stroke would occur. It is one of the leading causes of death and permanent disability globally. It usually happens to elderly people but it can strike anyone including young people, children and even babies too.

Being a state of feeling sad, depression can affect thoughts, feelings and ability to function in everyday’s life. A number of factors including stress, difficult life events, side effects of medications, and unpleasant environmental factors can trigger depression. Depression can occur at any age. It is estimated that almost 10 percent of American adults (aged 18 and above) experience some sort of depression every year.

There are not many debates on the argument that people who had strokes are likely to have depression, as previous studies had shown. But it appears that experts have yet to have consensus on whether depression would lead to stroke.

For example, researchers from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) pointed out in the July/August 2000 issue of Psychosomatic Medicine that people experiencing symptoms of depression are at an increased risk of getting stroke. The 20-year study found that people with high levels of depression symptoms were 73 percent more likely to have stroke, while those with moderate levels of depression symptoms were 25 percent more likely to develop stroke.

On the other hand, a large study, published on March 3, 2008 in the journal Neurology, reported that depression does not appear to increase the risk of stroke, and it is the high degree of psychological distress seemed to raise the risk.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge studied more than 20,000 people aged between 41 and 80 over a period of 8 and half years to discover if there is a link between depression and stroke.

600 people in the study suffered a stroke, 28 percent of which were fatal. But the researchers could not find any significant link between depression and stroke, after they factored for known risk factors like family history, high blood pressure, obesity and smoking. Instead, they identified psychological distress as the culprit. The most distressed people had a 40 percent higher chance of getting a stroke. The findings were similar for both men and women.

Distress occurs when an individual could not cope with stress. It can be marked by anxiety and problems with emotional control.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Why Are Urban Migrants Likely To Be Obese and Diabetics?

Diabetes is closely linked to obesity, which is a result of increased consumption of saturated fats and sugar coupled with reduced physical activities. Both diabetes and obesity, if not treated and managed appropriately, can lead to development of many other complications including heart disease, hypertension, high cholesterol and stroke.

India, with the second largest population in the world, is experiencing diabetes epidemic, just like the rest of the world. Between 1984 and 2004, the number of diabetics has increased in the urban areas of India from 5 percent to 15 percent.

Being an essential part of the economic development, urbanization will naturally attract more people to migrate from rural areas to cities. Such movement would induce changes in diet and behavior for those migrants.

According to the findings of a large study published during April 2010 in “PLoS Medicine”, migrants moving from villages to cities to work are at a higher risk of becoming obese and developing diabetes, compared to their siblings who remain in the villages.

Researchers from the South Asia Network for Chronic Disease in New Delhi, India found that half of the migrants had gained about 14 pounds (6 to 7 kilos) of weight by the tenth year of their relocation. The increase was dramatic and some migrants even gained much more than that.

The study surveyed migrant workers from 4 factories in the north, central and south India, their siblings who were left behind in villages and the non-migrant urban workers. All participants had to answer questions regarding their diet and physical activity, and their blood sugar and body mass index (BMI) were also measured.

The results showed that migrants and the urban workers were 3 to 4 times more likely to be obese and more than 2 times more likely to be diabetics than people remained in the villages. Meanwhile, the migrants and urban workers were almost twice more likely to develop hypertension (high blood pressure) and have higher blood sugar than the villagers. Similar patterns of obesity and diabetes could also be found in women.

Evidence gathered from the study indicated the migrants, who had more money to spend on food, tend to eat more of everything (especially fat) than people in rural areas with other nutrients remained similar. The culprit behind the weight gain was not the Western foods but the ordinary everyday Indian foods.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Why Small Country Can Have Big Health Problems?

Qatar, with a population of merely 1.6 million, is definitely a small country. But on the other hand, it is a very wealthy country. Its capita gross domestic product ranks second in the world and it has the third-largest proven reserves of natural gas.

The privileged and luxury lifestyle supported by the wealth also creates serious health problems related to obesity, diabetes and genetic disorder for Qatar, together with its neighbors like Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

Despite of being small, Qatar is among the greatest prevalence of obesity, diabetes and genetic disorders in the world. Figures provided by the International Association for the Study of Obesity indicated that Qatar has the sixth largest number of obese in the world and has a highest rate of obesity among boy in the Middle East and North African region. Qatar also has the fifth largest number of diabetics for the age ranges 20 to 79, according to the International Diabetes Federation.

As predicted the Qatari health experts, 73 percent of Qatari women and 69 percent of the men would qualify as obese within the next 5 years (from 2010). Obesity can lead to development of diabetes, and many other medical ailments including heart disease, hypertension (high blood pressure) and stroke.

Despite all the challenges faced, Qatar has directed their attention to the treatment of diseases instead of focusing on prevention. Such peculiar course of action could only be explained by the Qatari lifestyle and tradition.

For instance, if one has taken lunch and then visit a friend. Very often, the friend will still bring many foods to the table. If one does not eat, the friend would consider it as an insult. In other word, people cannot get together without eating together.

It is understood that a typical Qatari student would skip breakfast, and then eat a snack and lunch at school. When the student returns home, they would be given another lunch, usually heavy meal consisting of rice and lamb. Later in the afternoon, the student will have snack on cake and tea. In the night, they eat dinner, often fast food that is delivered. Attitude can be the other challenge. For the majority of Qatari, there is nothing wrong to be obese.

As regards birth defects (genetic disorder), health experts blame it to consanguineous marriages (marrying within families), a social tradition that the Qatari is determined to hold.