smiles, statins, aspirin & learning more effectively….
Smells like a smile? This was the intriguing headline. Apparently when we are happy we release happiness chemicals which can be picked up by the people around us (the same is true for when we are not happy). This is known as chemosignalling and apparently we can become emotionally synchronised with those around us. How fabulous is that? I wonder if that means that if we are happy we attract happy people? What do you think?
Last month the Daily Telegraph came out with another damming report on statins (what have I been telling you for ages?!). This is from a group of doctors – cardiologists, pharmaceutical professors and a director of clincal research in ER no less! – who all state that patients should be told the truth about them. That for people who are generally healthy with no history of heart attack or stroke the drugs have limited benefits and the risks outweigh these benefits. 10% of patients suffer side effects and less than 1% is saved by taking the drug. These doctors have recommended that instead of prescribing statins doctors would be better off advising on lifestyle changes. They also state that doctors should pay more attention to individual preferences rather than relying on treatment targets. Currently NICE recommend GPs to consider statins if they think that a patient has a 20% risk of developing cardiovascular disease within 10 years!! Good grief – with those recommendations we’ll all be on them!!
And more bad news for the humble aspirin. On top of research earlier this year that showed that taking aspirin daily can increase the risk of bowel cancer dramatically if you have a certain genetic makeup (one in 25 people will have this apparently) new research has shown that patients with heart failure, have had a heart attack or the GP considers might be at risk or one (and so has recommended daily doses) could do more harm than good by taking aspirin. The first major trial of its kind in a hospital in Copenhagen has shown that there is no benefit from taking the aspirin. It also showed that taking aspirin daily increased the risk of internal bleeds, especially if the person suffered from ischaemic heart disease. In light of this NICE has changed its recommendations to GPs – especially those patients suffering from atrial fibrillation who are at increased risk of a stroke. So if you are on aspirin I would recommend a visit to the GP for a drug assessment.
Want to learn how to learn more effectively? There is a very interesting book “Intelligence in the Flesh” by Guy Claxton who has said that neuroscientists are missing out an a vital link by focusing solely on what goes on in our brains. They should be looking more closely at the link between the brain and the body as our tissues and organs play a much bigger role than we think. (I think I mentioned several newsletters ago that there is some idea that the stomach has a brain and that this brain is far more important that the one in our head!) One of the bits I liked was that he likened our head brain to a chatroom where information is shared and not a control room (guess that would be the stromach brain then?!). The upshot of it is that the more active we are the better we learn – even when that learning is sedentary. One of the reasons behind this is that if we are inactive we find it more difficult to stay still when we need to and concentrate! It seems that looking after our body’s muscles beefs up our brains
Well, that’s it for today. Do let me know if you have any thoughts on any of the above.