Love Your Heart With Fibre Rich Diet

Consuming food items rich in fibre, like fruits, vegetables and whole-grain products, especially as a young adult, is likely to confer a lifetime of protection against heart risk, researchers say.

A new study found that adults aged between 20 and 59 years with the highest fibre intake had a significantly lower estimated lifetime risk for heart disease compared to those with the lowest fibre intake.

This is the first known study to show the influence of fibre consumption on the lifetime risk for cardiovascular disease.

“It’s long been known that high-fibre diets can help people lose weight, lower cholesterol and improve hypertension,” said Donald M. Lloyd-Jones, study author and cardiologist at the Feinburg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, US.

“The results of this study make a lot of sense because weight, cholesterol and hypertension are major determinants of your long-term risk for cardiovascular disease,” he said, according to a Feinburg statement.

A high-fibre diet falls into the American Heart Association’s recommendation of 25 grams of dietary fibre or more a day.

Lloyd-Jones said you should strive to get this daily fibre intake from whole foods, not processed fibre bars, supplements and drinks.

“A processed food may be high in fibre, but it also tends to be pretty high in sodium and likely higher in calories than an apple, for example, which provides the same amount of fibre,” Lloyd-Jones said.

Study leader Hongyan Ning examined data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a nationally representative sample of about 11,000 adults.

The study was presented Wednesday at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions in Atlanta.


Relieve back pain, eat healthy – The choice is yours

Millions of people struggle through the agony of back pain every day. Many turn to pain relievers and other medicines to achieve relief so they can get through their day by day lives. What most do not realize is a few small changes to their daily schedule that can seriously improve their health and relieve this pain.

One easy change that can be made involves diet. Not only does being overweight affect your back and cause pain but what we eat can also have a massive impact. Healthy nourishment can play a big part in strengthening your back and overall physical health.

There are particular vitamins and nutrients that the human body needs to develop your muscles so they can support the spine. Without healthy eating, these muscles can deteriorate and may not perform, putting your back at risk to injury.

With the hectic life that most of us live, it is very easy to lose sight of nourishment and simply succumb to eating for convenience. Junk food is everywhere and even though it is cheap and convenient it does not supply our bodies with the correct nutrient elements that it needs to function properly.

The majority of these foods contain a lot of unhealthy carbohydrates which may cause a spike in blood sugar giving you a short burst of energy but leaving you hungry later on. Muscles need foods that will supply them with energy slowly and consistently over a period of time.

This is going to help the muscles perform correctly and you will be aware of the difference in everything from concentration to posture which can significantly increase the health of your back. Your diet should be high in complex carbohydrates and proteins.

Foods that are vital to make a regular part of your diet are fresh fruits and vegetables. Every type of nuts and legumes can help in promoting a healthy back. Other foods like Alaskan salmon, ginger, olive oil, and lean poultry are foods that work as an anti-inflammatory.

Another study indicates that cherries can also help to relive muscle pain and strain. The most important part of a good diet is to eat sensible foods at frequent intervals during the day. By eating smaller meals regularly, you can eliminate hunger fits which will help you make better choices and avoid the drive thru.

Crucial foods that you should limit in your diet are sugar, white bread, snacks, processed foods, fries and all kinds of fast foods. These foods could cause inflammation in the body. Other items like soda, caffeine and alcohol should only be consumed occasionally.

Having a majority of your diet composed from healthy whole foods can decrease inflammation through your body and help set you on your way to a health back. By making one or two changes in your diet and consistently selecting the proper foods you can help to improve the health of your back and overall physical condition. This could assist in alleviating agony and limit the pain relievers and other medications you want to take all though your day.

Anti-Anxiety Circuit in Brain Region Considered the Seat of Fear, Scientists Discover.

Stimulation of a distinct brain circuit that lies within a brain structure typically associated with fearfulness produces the opposite effect: Its activity, instead of triggering or increasing anxiety, counters it.

That’s the finding in a paper by Stanford University School of Medicine researchers to be published online March 9 in Nature. In the study, Karl Deisseroth, MD, PhD, and his colleagues employed a mouse model to show that stimulating activity exclusively in this circuit enhances animals’ willingness to take risks, while inhibiting its activity renders them more risk-averse. This discovery could lead to new treatments for anxiety disorders, said Deisseroth, an associate professor of bioengineering and of psychiatry and behavioral science.

The investigators were able to pinpoint this particular circuit only by working with a state-of-the-art technology called optogenetics, pioneered by Deisseroth at Stanford, which allows brain scientists to tease apart the complex circuits that compose the brain so these can be studied one by one.

“Anxiety is a poorly understood but common psychiatric disease,” said Deisseroth, who is also a practicing psychiatrist. More than one in four people, in the course of their lives, experience bouts of anxiety symptoms sufficiently enduring and intense to be classified as a full-blown psychiatric disorder. In addition, anxiety is a significant contributing factor in other major psychiatric disorders from depression to alcohol dependence, Deisseroth said.

Most current anti-anxiety medications work by suppressing activity in the brain circuitry that generates anxiety or increases anxiety levels. Many of these drugs are not very effective, and those that are have significant side effects such as addiction or respiratory suppression, Deisseroth said. “The discovery of a novel circuit whose action is to reduce anxiety, rather than increase it, could point to an entire strategy of anti-anxiety treatment,” he added.

Ironically, the anti-anxiety circuit is nestled within a brain structure, the amygdala, long known to be associated with fear. Generally, stimulating nervous activity in the amygdala is best known to heighten anxiety. So the anti-anxiety circuit probably would have been difficult if not impossible to locate had it not been for optogenetics, a new technology in which nerve cells in living animals are rendered photosensitive so that action in these cells can be turned on or off by different wavelengths of light. The technique allows researchers to selectively photosensitize particular sets of nerve cells. Moreover, by delivering pulses of light via optical fibers to specific brain areas, scientists can target not only particular nerve-cell types but also particular cell-to-cell connections or nervous pathways leading from one brain region to another. The fiber-optic hookup is both flexible and pain-free, so experimental animals’ actual behavior as well as their brain activity can be monitored.

In contrast, older research approaches involve probing brain areas with electrodes to stimulate nerve cell firing. But an electrode stimulates not only all the nerve cells that happen to be in the neighborhood but even fibers that are just passing through on the way to somewhere else. Thus, any effect from stimulating the newly discovered anti-anxiety circuit would have been swamped by the anxiety-increasing effects of the dominant surrounding circuitry.

In December 2010, the journal Nature Methods bestowed its “Method of the Year” title on optogenetics.

In the new Nature study, the researchers photosensitized a set of fibers projecting from cells in one nervous “switchboard” to another one within the amygdala. By carefully positioning their light-delivery system, they were able to selectively target this projection, so that it alone was activated when light was pulsed into the mice’s brains. Doing so led instantaneously to dramatic changes in the animals’ behavior.

“The mice suddenly became much more comfortable in situations they would ordinarily perceive as dangerous and, therefore, be quite anxious in,” said Deisseroth. For example, rodents ordinarily try to avoid wide-open spaces such as fields, because such places leave them exposed to predators. But in a standard setup simulating both open and covered areas, the mice’s willingness to explore the open areas increased profoundly as soon as light was pulsed into the novel brain circuit. Pulsing that same circuit with a different, inhibitory frequency of light produced the opposite result: the mice instantly became more anxious. “They just hunkered down” in the relatively secluded areas of the test scenario, Deisseroth said.

Standard laboratory gauges of electrical activity in specific areas of the mice’s amygdalas confirmed that the novel circuit’s activation tracked the animals’ increased risk-taking propensity.

Deisseroth said he believes his team’s findings in mice will apply to humans as well. “We know that the amygdala is structured similarly in mice and humans,” he said. And just over a year ago a Stanford team led by Deisseroth’s associate, Amit Etkin, MD, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral science, used functional imaging techniques to show that human beings suffering from generalized anxiety disorder had altered connectivity in the same brain regions within the amygdala that Deisseroth’s group has implicated optogenetically in mice.

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the National Science Foundation, NARSAD, a Samsung Scholarship, and the McKnight, Woo, Snyder, and Yu foundations. Kay Tye, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher in the Deisseroth laboratory, and Rohit Prakash, Sung-Yon Kim and Lief Fenno, all graduate students in that lab, shared first authorship. Other co-authors are graduate student Logan Grosenick, undergraduate student Hosniya Zarabi, postdoctoral researcher Kimberly Thompson, PhD, and research associates Viviana Gradinaru and Charu Ramakrishnan, all of the Deisseroth lab.


UK: 3-year-old alcoholic treated in hospital

Everyone knows the towns and cities in the United Kingdom grapple with marauding gangs of drunken thugs in the evenings, and that under-age drinking has become an endemic problem in the land of Her Majesty. But a three-year-old treated in hospital for alcoholism?

The incident happened in central England, in the Midlands where it has been revealed that this is not a one-off incident, although the child is thought to be the country’s youngest alcoholic. Latest data reveals that the Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust admitted over 70 children aged between thirteen and sixteen years of age for emergency treatment for conditions related to alcohol abuse, while a further 106 children in the same age group were treated for alcoholism at hospitals in Birmingham, Solihull and Sutton Coldfield.

The question that arises is, where were the parents? The main point that arises is, this is not just a British disease, but seems endemic in most societies in European and North American countries.

What has happened to parenting, not just in the UK but across many cities in these countries? How many accident and emergency units in hospitals have to deal with constant streams of children being wheeled in, in alcoholic comas, being scraped off the floors of discotheques with just twelve years of age?

Where are the parents when these children are binge drinking cheap alco-pops before they leave home so they can get drunk quickly and spend less money when they go out? What has happened to our societies, in which for a start the alcohol is available to them, secondly the parents appear not to be exercising control and thirdly, young children are behaving like those in their late teens in their older peer groups?



Napping Sets You Smarter, Scientists.

A good night’s sleep is crucial to storing knowledge learned earlier in the day — that much was known. Now, a new study finds that getting shut-eye before you learn is important, too.

Volunteers who took a 100-minute nap before launching into an evening memorization task scored an average of 20 percentage points higher on the memory test compared with people who did the memorization without snoozing first.

“It really seems to be the first evidence that we’re aware of that indicates a proactive benefit of sleep,” study co-author Matthew Walker, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of California, Berkeley, told LiveScience.

“It’s not simply enough to sleep after learning,” Walker said. “It turns out you also need to sleep before learning.”

Refreshing naps

Earlier research has found that dreams boost learning, with one study suggesting a 90-minute napmay help lock in long-term memories. But Walker’s research, published this week in the journal Current Biology, finds that another phase of sleep, called nonrapid eye movement (NREM) is most closely linked to the learning boost provided by a nap.

Walker and his colleagues recruited 44 volunteers — 27 women and 17 men — to come to the sleep lab at noon. First, the volunteers were given a task in which they had to memorize 100 names and faces. Then they were tested for how well they recalled the face-name matches.

Next, the researchers tucked half of the volunteers in for a nap between 2 p.m. and 3:40 p.m. The scientists measured the napping volunteers’ brain waves as they slept. The other group of participants stayed awake and did daily activities as they normally would. At 6 p.m., both groups memorized another set of 100 faces and names and were tested on their memory. (The experiment was set up so nappers had more than an hour to shake off any remaining fuzziness before the test, Walker said.)

The first major finding, Walker said, was that learning ability degrades as the day wears on. Volunteers who didn’t nap did about 12 percent worse on the evening test than they did on the morning test. (Walker presented preliminary findings of this effect at a conference in February 2010.) But shut-eye not only reversed those effects, it provided a memory boost: Napping test-takers did about 10 percent better on the evening test than they did on the morning test. In all, the difference in scores between nappers and non-nappers was about 20 percent, Walker said.

Secondly, the brain-wave monitoring turned up a likely culprit for the memory upgrade: a short, synchronized burst of electrical activity called a sleep spindle. These sleep spindles last about one second and can occur 1,000 times per night during NREM sleep. People who had more of these spindles, especially people who had more over a frontal area of the brain called the prefrontal cortex, showed the most refreshment in learning capacity after their nap, Walker said.

Uploading memories

Walker and his colleagues suspect that the sleep spindles are working to transfer information from the hippocampus, a small area deep in your brain where memories are made, to the prefrontal cortex, which serves as long-term storage. That frees up the hippocampus to make new memories, Walker said.

“It’s almost like clearing out your informational inbox of your e-mail so you can start to receive new e-mails the next day,” he said.

NREM sleep and sleep spindle frequency change throughout a person’s life span, Walker said. Older people, for example, have a decline in sleep spindles, suggesting that sleep disruption could be one reason for the memory loss prevalent in old age. The volunteers in the current study were young, but the researchers hope to investigate the effect of sleep spindles on learning in older adults, Walker said.

The research also draws attention to the importance of sleep, Walker said. Sleep spindles happen more frequently later in the night, precisely the time people cut short when they rise early for work and school, Walker said.

“Somewhere between infancy and early adulthood, we abandon the notion that sleep is useful,” Walker said. That needs to change, he said: “Sleep is doing something very active for things like learning and memory. I think for us as a society to stop thinking of sleep as a luxury rather than a biological necessity is going to be wise.”



Lap Band Obesity Surgery Going Best.

Lap-band adjustable gastric banding is the latest entrant that’s been approved by the FDA in 2001 in the sphere of surgical treatment for morbid obesity.

This blubber surgery is a non-permanent weight loss treatmentthat has become a favourite option for people suffering from clinically severe obesity. It is also called gastric banding, involves creating a smaller stomach chamber. Unlike gastric bypass, this operation is easily reversible, a distinct advantage for prospective patients concerned about the doable side effects of bariatric surgery.
The good thing about this operation is that it does not involve any slicing or stapling of the stomach. In addition, it can be adjusted to the patient’s need after surgery without any operation. For patients requiring more nutrition, like pregnant women, they can have their bands loosened. For patients who are not adequately benefitting can have their gastric bands tightened. Lap Band blubber surgery is the only adjustable surgical treatment acquirable in the United Says as of now.

The device used is prefabricated out of Silastic, a type of plastic that does not react with internal body tissues. An inflatable tube is located inside the band; when inflated with an injection of saline solution, the tube provides adjustable gastric banding. The reservoir used for injecting solution is implanted under the skin during gastric Lap Band blubber surgery. A bariatric surgeon can adjust the tube at a later date by injecting or removing saline solution.
As with any medical procedure, Lap Band blubber surgery results vary from patient to patient and depend on several factors. Two of the major benefits of this band surgery are 1)successful, safe, and effective weight loss and 2)freedom from many obesity-related health problems.
Other benefits that are specific to gastric surgery includes: minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery, stomach remains intact, no stomach stapling, normal intestinal function, adjustable gastric band, fully reversible procedure, relatively short recovery. Risks and complications of band surgery might include: stomach surround deterioration, formation of ulcers, vomiting, heartburn, gas bloat, and difficulty in swallowing.
Like gastric bypass surgery, it reduces the size of the stomach and grants patients to feel full after consuming very tiny food. Bariatric surgeons generally like the this procedure as it involves less anguish and a shorter recovery period.
Still, Lap Band blubber surgery, is not absolutely without risk even though it is considered the safest of surgeries for obesity. The device might require repair and time consuming additional minor operations, and weight loss is very dependent on longterm follow-up visits. Plus, certain foods might never be well tolerated by patients.
Obesity is a serious problem, whatever age you are, and whatever stage you are in your life. For this reason it is important that blubber is not ignored but addressed as soon as doable so that people can enjoy their life for the full with as few physical ailments as possible.

I have conducted an honest review of all Hoodia weight loss products which claim to give nearly miraculous weight loss results for dieters worldwide.


Stay Social, Stay Healthy

With no offense to my husband or the rest of my family, I really don’t think that I could make it through the day — much less have weathered all the ups and downs of the last three decades or so — without my friends.

Whether it’s comparing child-rearing notes with Puffin, gossiping over coffee with Hannah and Maggie, hashing out long-term goals with my power-walk partner Sara, parsing last night’s festivities with Stacie or commiserating with Janet about a major setback, each of these women helps keep me balanced and sane.

My inner circle has been there for me in countless ways over the years, and I’ve always tried to reciprocate with as much time, support and love as possible.

Not that I ever need an excuse for a girls’ night out, but research suggests that good friends may actually be great medicine: Strong social ties may help stave off memory loss as you age; reduce stress; boost immunity; help you lose weight and keep it off; and buffer against depression, among other health benefits. There’s also a strong longevity link, says Carl Latkin, a professor of social and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health: “If you have supportive relationships, you’re going to live longer.”

In fact, a 2010 review of nearly 150 studies that was published in PLoS Medicine found that people with strong social ties had a 50 percent better chance of survival, regardless of age, sex, health status and cause of death, than those with weaker ties. This conclusion was based on information about more than 300,000 individuals who were followed for an average of 7.5 years. According to the researchers, the health risk of having few connections was akin to smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and more dangerous than being obese or not exercising in terms of shaving years off your life.

And numerous studies have shown that friends may affect your health even more than family members: The 2005 Australian Longitudinal Study of Aging found that close relationships with children and other relatives had little impact on longevity, while people with the most friends tended to outlive those with the fewest by 22 percent.

Close comrades seem to be a valuable advantage when it comes to battling specific medical conditions such as heart disease and obesity. A study of 2,230 breast cancer patients in China published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology last month found that social quality of life – including the strength of friendships — was the most important predictor of both cancer recurrence and survival. “It’s very exciting, because we believe social quality of life is modifiable — it’s something that we can change,” says the study’s lead author, Meira Epplein, an assistant professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

Still, experts stress that it remains unclear exactly why the buddy system seems to convey benefits. “If you have a larger social network, is it material resources like those people taking you to the doctor and making sure you take your medication? Does that make a difference?” asks Latkin. “Or does having a confidant result in some emotional or psychological process that might increase well-being and reduce depression? In other words, are friends protecting you from bad things or promoting good things?”

Much has been made of the remarkable power and influence of female friendships in particular. (See: “Fried Green Tomatoes, ” “Thelma and Louise,” “Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood.”) But both sexes seem to benefit by having close confidants, says Latkin. “It used to be thought that men had larger social networks while women had more intimate networks, but . . . that’s not necessarily a tried-and-true statement anymore,” he says. If men manage to gather similar emotion support around them, they’ll likely experience the same benefits.

A 1993 study of 736 middle-aged Swedish men, for instance, makes that point: It found that having a strong social network seemed to significantly decrease the risk of heart attack and fatal coronary heart disease.

Even so, as anyone with a wide social network can probably tell you, chums aren’t always a positive thing. “There are downsides … like if you have a lot of network members who are requesting support and demanding resources from you, which can be highly stressful,” says Latkin. He adds that having people in your friendship network with whom you have conflicts or whom you can’t stand tends to overcome the positive effects of true friendship within that group. And sometimes the behavior of good pals can cause problems: A 2007 study suggested that if your friends gain too much weight, you’re more likely to do so, too.

For the Internet generation, it’s also worth noting that “it’s both the density and quality of social relationships that make a real difference in people’s lives,” says psychologist David Shern, president and chief executive of Mental Health America, a nonprofit advocacy organization based in Alexandria.

“Simply having 1,000 friends on Facebook is much less important than having a few friends with whom have a very high-quality, mutually supportive relationship with integrity — meaning that you can count on people to be straight with you, and … to rely on when you find yourself in need.”

But why wait until you’re in need, given how beneficial a little friendly face time can be? I, for one, am planning my next girls’ night out right now.



Robots Do More Prostate Cancer Surgery

Hospitals that buy surgical robots end up performing more prostate cancer operations, suggesting that technology has become a driving force behind decisions about men’s cancer care, new research shows.

The study, published in the journal Medical Care, is the latest report to suggest that how men are treated for prostate cancer appears to be influenced by a variety of factors, including the technology and marketing goals of hospitals and doctors, rather than scientific evidence on benefits and risks.

For men facing prostate cancer, the findings add more uncertainty to an already confusing array of choices for treatment, with little evidence to guide them about whether one is better than another. Current options include surgery to remove the prostate gland, performed with or without the assistance of robots, as well as radiation and hormone therapies. And because prostate cancer is often slow-growing, active surveillance without treatment is also an option for many men.

The new study, conducted by researchers at New York University and other institutions, tracked surgical robot purchases at 554 hospitals, along with the treatment given to more than 30,000 men given a prostate cancer diagnosis from 2001 to 2005.

According to the study, when a hospital acquires surgical robots, men in that region are more likely to have surgery to treat prostate cancer than before the technology was acquired. Buying a robot led to an average increase of 29 operations a year per hospital. Meanwhile, hospitals that didn’t invest in robots performed an average of five fewer operations annually. Although large hospitals may perform hundreds of such operations a year, many of the local and regional hospitals in the study see no more than 100 to 150 cases a year, the study authors said.

One reason for the increase in operations in hospitals that own a surgical robot may be that the technology helps a hospital lure potential surgical patients away from the competition. But the data also suggest that once a hospital obtains a robot, patients who might be candidates for nonsurgical options are more likely to be steered toward robotic surgery instead.

“This may be the medical embodiment of the phrase, ‘If you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail,’”said the lead study author, Dr. Danil V. Makarov, assistant professor of urology at New York University’s Langone Medical Center. “If you have the technology, it will get used.’’

Researchers note that over all, the number of operations declined slightly during the study period, possibly reflecting a plateau in cancer cases or a shift to other treatments. But when the data were examined at the hospital and regional levels, the researchers found that the purchase of a robot was associated with a pronounced change in treatment trends.

The findings are concerning because surgical removal of the prostate, called radical prostatectomy, can result in a number of complications, including incontinence and impotence. Robotic surgery typically costs about $2,000 more than regular surgery, but it’s not clear whether its outcomes are better, worse or the same as traditional surgery, or how it compares to other treatments or even doing nothing at all.

Some research suggests the robotic procedure reduces hospital stays and blood loss, compared with regular surgery, but studies have also shown that robotic surgery offered no added benefit or worse results. In addition, when the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality in 2008 compared the effectiveness and risks of eight prostate cancer treatments, including surgery, radioactive implants and active surveillance, no single treatment strategy emerged as superior.

But that hasn’t stopped hospitals from conducting intense marketing campaigns that imply surgery using the high-tech robot gives prostate cancer patients a better result.

Surgical robots are expensive. A surgical robot used for prostate cancer costs $1 million to $2.25 million, according to the N.Y.U. study. In addition, hospitals spend $140,000 annually for a service contract and $1,500 to $2,000 per patient on disposable instruments.

“If you’re a hospital and you get a robot, clearly you want to use it,’’ said Dr. David Penson, a study co-author and director of the Center for Surgical Quality and Outcomes Research at Vanderbilt University. “There are some real pressures here that have nothing to do with science,” he said. “We have this interplay of patients’ fascination with technology coupled with business interests on the part of the hospital and device makers, pushing people to try a new technology perhaps before it’s been fully tested.’’ He said he performs traditional prostate cancer surgery, though his practice offers robotic surgery as well.

Dr. Makarov, who is trained to perform both the traditional and robotic procedures, added that while financial incentives are likely to play a role in which treatments are promoted, patients also often want the newest technological advance, and hospitals are simply responding to that demand.

A study published last year in The Journal of Clinical Oncology tracked the treatment of 11,892 men given a prostate cancer diagnosis. About half the men opted for surgery. Among the remaining men, 14 percent were given hormone therapy; 13 percent were given radioactive seed implants; 12 percent had external-beam radiation; 5 percent had cryoablation, which destroys prostate tissue through freezing; and about 7 percent selected active surveillance, in which the cancer is closely monitored for changes, but no treatment is given.

The researchers found that treatment patterns varied markedly across the clinical sites studied, and those differences could not be explained by measurable factors like severity of disease or patient age.

In addition, recent reports, including an investigation of Medicare billing by The Wall Street Journal and the nonprofit Center for Public Integrity, also suggest that financial incentives to doctors and radiology groups are driving patients to a new form of radiation therapy called intensity modulated radiotherapy, or I.M.R.T. Patients are often referred to I.M.R.T. treatment centers by doctors who have a financial stake in the practice.

“For patients, there are a lot of choices in prostate cancer,’’ said Dr. Makarov. “Knowing that technology can influence both what they want and what their physician may advise them should make them a little more skeptical and maybe make them ask a few more questions.’’

Seasonal Flu

Updated figures on this winter’s flu situation released today show that the number of reported cases of people with ‘flu-like symptoms continues to fall.

The figures show that:

  • there have been 40.7 GP consultations per 100,000 in England and Wales. This compares with 66.5 last week and 124 four weeks ago;
  • 247 critical care beds are occupied with people with ‘flu-like symptoms – around 7.1 per cent of capacity. This compares with 418 last week and 850 at its peak; and
  • 72.2 per cent of over 65s and 49.1 per cent of under 65s in at risk groups have been vaccinated (71.7 and 48 per cent last week).
  • The HPA have verified a total of 338 deaths in the UK since the flu season began in October last year.

The vast majority of the new deaths reported today 84 did not occur in the past week, there are other reported deaths that have yet to be verified as to there cause.

Professor Dame Sally Davies, Interim Chief Medical Officer said:

“I am cautiously pleased with the decline in cases again this week. But winter isn’t over yet and we still all need to be on our guard against flu. That means catching our germs in a tissue, throwing it in a bin and washing our hands regularly – catch it, bin it, kill it.

“It isn’t too late for people in an at risk group to be vaccinated and I would urge people to contact their GP or practice nurse to make an appointment.

“Any GP who has seen demand exceed supply has been able to order extra vaccine from manufacturers and from our central stock of the Pandemrix vaccine.

“I would like to thank everyone working in the NHS for their hard work and dedication so far this winter. It’s been a tough winter, the NHS has been under pressure but, thanks to the detailed planning that was put in place in advance, it has coped fantastically well.”

Further Information

  1. The full Health protection Agency update can be found at the link below.
  2. So far this year, 72.2 per cent of over 65s and 49.1 per cent of under 65s in at risk groups have been vaccinated – more than this time in 2008/09.
  3. At its most busy so far this winter, 850 critical care beds were occupied by patients with ‘flu-like symptoms. This was around 23 per cent of critical care capacity. Because of the good preparations the NHS had put in place for this winter, local NHS organisations were able to increase critical care beds where necessary.
  4. The number of ‘Extra Corporeal Membrane Oxygenation’ (ECMO) beds (specialist treatment which helps patients with acute reversible respiratory failure by providing oxygen directly into their bloodstreams) available for adults is at 25, one of the highest numbers per population in the world.