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Health Check


The BBC World Service's weekly round up of global health stories and topical issues in medicine.

The BBC World Service's weekly round up of global health stories and topical issues in medicine.
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The BBC World Service's weekly round up of global health stories and topical issues in medicine.




Could a recreational drug help to treat alcoholism?

Scientists hope that a recreational drug could help to treat people with alcohol dependence. In the UK, MDMA - the active ingredient of the class-A drug ecstasy – has been given to a handful of alcoholics who have undergone a full detox, as part of psychotherapy sessions. The researchers hope it will help to make people more receptive to therapy, increasing their chances of recovery. City traders who can detect their own heartbeat may make better use of their instinct when making quick...


The obesity paradox

It is well known that being overweight or obese puts a person at a higher risk of stroke, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and many other conditions. But new research suggests that if a person does have a stroke, they are more likely to survive it if they are overweight. This adds evidence to what is known as the obesity paradox; namely that obesity puts you at risk, but might protect you in certain circumstances. Claudia speaks to the study author Dr Zuolu Liu, Vascular...


Why are women slow to get treatment for heart attacks?

New research from Poland has found that women take longer than men to ask for help when they have had a heart attack, and ambulance staff are slower to suspect that women might have had a heart attack in the first place. Young women in particular were delayed in getting treatment. Dr Marek Gierlotka, head of the Cardiology Department at the University of Opole in Poland, was lead author of the research, which was presented this week at the Acute Cardiovascular Care 2019, a European Society...


Is expired medication safe to use?

It is generally recommended that once medication is out of date, it should be taken to a pharmacist, as after this time it might not be effective, and possibly has even degraded to a state where it is harmful. However a new study has discovered that a batch of drugs taken to the Antarctic via the Tropics, stored and then brought all the way back to the UK for testing, was still fine up to four years after the expiry dates. Dr Emma Browne, Consultant in Emergency Medicine, became interested...


A New Blood Test For Measuring Pain

If you are in pain a doctor might ask you how bad it is on a scale of one to ten. It is subjective and up until now there has been no objective way of measuring how much pain a person experiences. A team at Indiana University School of Medicine has now developed a blood test which can not only assess pain, but will be able to predict whose pain might get worse in the coming months. The researchers are hopeful that one day they might even be able to use the blood test to look at molecular...


Does Being Congenitally Blind Protect Against Schizophrenia?

To date there have been no cases of schizophrenia in people who are cortically blind from birth or in the first few years of life. Cortical blindness is the total or partial loss of vision caused by damage to the primary visual cortex. This idea that being blind is somehow protective against developing the mental illness schizophrenia has been around since the 1950s, but up until now has not been studied in a large population. Vera Morgan, Professor of Psychiatric Epidemiology at the...


Do You Use Your Phone in the Night?

Epidemiologists at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark have been investigating whether phones in the bedroom might affect people’s health by keeping them awake, waking them up or affecting the quality of their sleep. Inspired by the BBC Loneliness Experiment, they turned to Radio Denmark to help gather their data. They had a fantastic response and 25,000 Radio Denmark listeners took part in the SleepSmart study. Naja Hulvej Rod, professor of Stress Epidemiology at the University of...


Is Slimness in the Genes?

Sadaf Farooqi, Professor of Metabolism and Medicine at the University of Cambridge, has been a pioneer in the genetics of obesity for more than twenty years, discovering more than a hundred common genetic variants as well as twenty single genes which can make people put on weight from early childhood. Twin studies have shown that about 40% of the variation in a person’s weight is influenced by their genes. And now she has discovered something brand new; why thin, but healthy people have...


Happy Birthday to the WHO Surgical Safety Checklist!

Health Check has been following the progress of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Surgical Safety checklist since 2006 and it’s now the 10th anniversary of the first big evaluation of it. The Surgical Checklist is a list that surgical staff go through right at the start of an operation to make sure they are operating on the right person, in the right way, with the right staff and the right equipment. They also check whether the patient has any allergies, whether they have been given the...