Home General Info & Awareness Health In The News [ 01/04/24 ]

Health In The News [ 01/04/24 ]

by InvisiblyMe

Here’s a look at some stories hitting the headlines recently, with health news including increasing brain sizes, NHS discontent, and the sad death of the man in the iron lung.

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Brain Size Is Increasing – Less Dementia Risk For Future Generations?

The size of the human brain appears to be very gradually increasing over time, and with that may come a reduced risk of dementia for the next generations.

Researchers at UC Davis Health used MRIs to study the brains thousands of Americans. With data going back 75 years as part of a “community-based study” that started in 1948, they were able to compare different measures. One of those was brain volume, which evidenced small increases each decade. 

Between those born in the 1930s and those born in the 1970s, inter cranial volume had increased appropriately 6.6%. Meanwhile, cortical surface area had increased nearly 15% and other structures, like grey matter and the hippocampus, had also shown increases. Unfortunately, some studies are suggesting that IQ has dropped in the current “Gen Z” generation, a trend perhaps explained largely by societal and technological changes.

It’s thought that the incidence of dementia and Alzheimers may be decreasing and that future generations may be less at risk with the increase in brain size and health. 

You can read more about the study into brain size increases here.

Satisfaction With The NHS Hits All Time Low

This may not come as a surprise to many living in the UK, but there’s increasing discontent about the National Health Service, hitting an all time low since survey records began in 1983. The British Social Attitudes Survey has found general public satisfaction has dropped to only 24%, meaning less than 1 in 4 people claimed to be happy with the NHS in 2023. This is a further 29 percentage points decrease since 2020.

The health service runs on around £160 billion funding a year but has been plagued with increasingly lengthy wait lists, GP appointment difficulties and ongoing strikes by medical professionals, to name but a few problems that are negatively affecting patients. 

Read more about the British Social Attitudes NHS Survey here.

Several British flags make a background, on top of which is a blue card with white text reading "NHS".

A Worrying Rise In Pancreatic Cancer Cases

While pancreatic cancer is still relatively rare, its incidence has seen marked increases. In the last 35 years, overall rates of pancreatic cancer have seen a 17% increase, with a 5 year survival rate of only 5%. But in women, the rate seems to have spiked without any substantiated explanation. In women under 25 in the UK, rates have increased by nearly 200% since the 1990s. 

While it was the fourth leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the US prior to 2020, it’s now the third leading cause. In the UK, around 8,800 people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer every year, with one person dying of the condition every hour. While survival rates for most other cancers have risen significantly over the years thanks scientific and technological advancements, pancreatic cancer seems to have been left behind. It’s thought that pancreatic cancer now has the worst survival outcome compared to the other 21 most common cancers.

Late diagnosis and low funding into research have not helped survival rates. Meanwhile, the modern diet, obesity and diabetes are thought to be some risk factors fuelling the increase, but they don’t explain the 70% of pancreatic cancer diagnoses that are not preventable. 

You can read more about rising pancreatic cancer cases here.

BMA Suggests NHS GPs May Take Industrial Action

The British Medical Association (BMA) has revealed how their members have “overwhelmingly” voted to reject recent changes to their contracts. 99.2% of over 19,000 GP and GP registrar respondents voted that they wouldn’t accept the deal proposed by the government. A government source has indicated that no further negotiations are going to be held, meaning the new NHS contract is being implemented regardless of the dissatisfaction of BMA members.

It’s thought that industrial action could be taken if this discontent and failure to comply to the new government charges continues. GPs choosing to go on strike later in the year would result in even greater difficulty for patients to access appointments and some GP practices may be forced into financial difficulty.

Read more about the potential for GP strikes here.

The “Man In The Iron Lung” Passes Away

Paul Alexander – famously known as the “man in the iron lung” – has passed away. He spent over 7 decades mostly inside an Iron Lung, a type of negative pressure ventilaor, the longest any person has been reliant on one. 

In 1952, at only 6 years old, Paul contracted Polio. While he survived this severe infection, Paul was left quadriplegic and unable to breathe following a tracheotomy. It was the iron lung he was soon encased in that kept him alive and helped him to breathe. 

Paul later learned a “frog breathing” technique so that he could spend some time out of the iron tube, allowing him to achieve a college degree, work towards Law School and become a lawyer, determined to live his life as much as he could. In 2023, he was memorialised in the Guinness World Records for being the person who’d lived the longest inside an iron lung. Paul passed away on March 11th 2024 age 78.

Read more about Paul Alexander’s life inside and outside the Iron Lung here.

NHS Taskforce To Investigate Alarming ADHD Diagnosis Increases

The NHS will be creating a new taskforce as a result of the alarming rise in the diagnosis of Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Rather than an increase in the disorder itself, there are concerns over incorrect diagnosis as a result of social factors, greater awareness and inadequate assessments.

Among the culprits suspected of fuelling the rise are the likes of celebrities like Sheridan Smith and Katie Price, self-diagnosis and social media. Experts are also concerned that private clinics are over-diagnosing ADHD and that powerful drugs are being over-prescribed as a result. Many patients are feeling pushed towards private clinics due to lengthy NHS wait lists.

Despite the rise in adults and children receiving an ADHD diagnosis, patients can actually be waiting up to a decade for that diagnosis and help their symptoms. A multi-disciplinary process is required for an adequate assessment to rule out other issues that could be going on, not just ADHD.

Around 230,000 patients are on medication for ADHD, twice the amount who were medicated 6 years ago. There has been a five-fold increase in treatment since 2015 in those aged between 25 and 39. 

Initial reviews have unveiled problems around service access being a “postcode lottery” in the UK, capacity issues and medication shortages. Some are concerned that the Taskforce may instead lead to a greater increase of patients “coming forward for a diagnosis”, which will put greater pressure on services. 

Consultant Psychiatric Professor Sir Simon Wessely has stated  : “‘It’s unlikely that a change on that scale is simply due to better recognition or help-seeking, and it suggests that there’s a degree of diagnostic creep going on, or re-evaluation of feelings, symptoms, emotions.”

Read more about the new NHS ADHD Taskforce here.

FDA Approval For Unique Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension Drug

The FDA has given approval to a first of its kind, potentially life-saving drug for a condition called pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH). Given as an injection, this drug could help the estimated 500 to 1000 Americans affected by PAH each year.

Merck is the manufacturer of “Winrevair”, a biological drug designed to reduce the overproduction of proteins that grow and thicken blood vessels. With narrowing vessels, the heart has to work harder to get blood to the lungs and the extra effort can reduce heart function, creating a dangerous cycle for those already living with heart failure.

There’s no cure for PAH and current treatment is about managing and buying time. It’s hoped that Winrevair may help symptoms and prevent further thickening of blood vessels. Further research and clinical trial data in humans is required, but the FDA has acted quickly as PAH is a “ticking time bomb” for patients with the life-limiting disease.

You can read more about PAH and Winrevair here.

A close up of a person in blue surgical scrubs and gloved hands holding a syringe with a large needle. A vial of medication sits on a table as though the doctor is going to give the injection.
A black scroll divider.

Have you seen any interesting health news hitting the headlines recently?

Caz  ♥

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Kymber Hawke April 1, 2024 - 5:25 pm

There is a lot to take in here. All I want is for healthcare to improve for everyone.

I didn’t know Paul Alexander died. I can’t even imagine being in an iron lung that long. It’s admirable that he still went through school, and even law school!

It’s nice reading an article from you, Caz. Happy Monday. xoxo

Comedy Plus April 1, 2024 - 5:45 pm

So many people that are sick and some folks find it difficult to find good and prompt healthcare. Not right.

Have a fabulous day and week. ♥

Nancy Homlitas April 1, 2024 - 9:07 pm

Your findings about the increasing size of the brain but-ironically-the dropping IQ numbers was quite interesting. The increase in pancreatic cancer and ADHD is also very concerning. Your reporting of health news is impressive. Thank you for sharing this information. 🙂

Cindy Georgakas April 1, 2024 - 10:20 pm

Fascinating and not surprising Caz. Thanks for sharing this wonderful information. You do an amazing job dispensing and synthesizing all of this! Thank you!

Animalcouriers April 2, 2024 - 10:35 am

Hugely interesting stats on brain size and health. Very worrying on pancreatic cancer though 🙁

Despite Pain April 2, 2024 - 11:34 am

Some really interesting updates here, Caz. Let’s hope it’s true that future generations might be less at risk of dementia. It’s such a horrible illness. But weird that younger people have a lower IQ. Technology might be brilliant but it is maybe lessening brain power.

It’s worrying that pancreatic cancer is on the rise. It seems to be one of the most aggressive types of cancer.

Oh gosh, poor man. I can’t begin to imagine having to live in an iron lung for such a long time. I mean, it’s amazing that it kept him alive for so long, but I just can’t imagine what life must have been like.

Oh, the NHS. It’s beyond breaking point. Well and truly broken. It’s been destroyed over the years by lack of funding and I really don’t know if it’s fixable. Has it gone beyond that? It’s quite frightening to be honest. We rely on the NHS but it’s no longer dependable or fit for purpose.

Great post Caz. Hope you’re doing ok.

James V Viscosi April 2, 2024 - 3:47 pm

Interesting about the increase in brain size. I wish I could say that I saw evidence that people were getting smarter. Bad news about pancreatic cancer, though. Of all the cancers you don’t want to get, that’s pretty much at the top of the list. I hope that the government is able to sort out the issues with the NHS because I can’t believe it would be better to end up with a patchwork of private insurances and all the skyrocketing costs that we have here in the U.S. …

The Oceanside Animals April 2, 2024 - 4:44 pm

Charlee: “We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, we animals get better care than humans do sometimes!”

Darnell April 2, 2024 - 6:42 pm

I blame technology for the decrease in IQs. Our brains have become lazy. Phones do everything for us now. Don’t have the answer? Ask your phone. Why go to a library? Thanks for the news Caz.

Blanca April 2, 2024 - 7:08 pm

Such an interesting post! Thank you so much for sharing, Caz!

c.a. post April 2, 2024 - 9:38 pm

The value of increasing brain size can only be appreciated if the extra neurons get USED!
Before we start implementing Artificial Intelligence, we need to figure out how to do something about Natural Stupidity!😂
If they don’t use their brains they won’t live any longer than us old geezers.
❤️&🙏 always, c.a.

Carol Corrigan April 3, 2024 - 5:55 pm

Unfortunately, satisfaction with our NHS is low but most people aren’t aware of where the money is going – the government is ploughing more and more money into private healthcare services, running down our NHS so that people get so fed up that they’ll plump for private care. If anyone’s interested, please follow EveryDoctor on FB and @everydoctor on Twitter (now X) See whole areas throughout the UK where private services are being run with our money!

Liz April 4, 2024 - 8:02 pm

A very interesting post. The brain showing to get larger over time is very interesting and if future generations are less at risk of dementia, then that is very good.

Yes. The NHS news is of no surprise and we all know who to blame on that. Trouble is, it’s the front line staff bearing the blunt and not them in the Government.

I can’t imagine being in an Iron Lung that long. But he did well to achieve what he did, considering his circumstances.

Carolyn Page April 4, 2024 - 9:47 pm

Interesting stats, Caz; particularly in regard the brain. Perhaps the old adage – if you don’t use it you’ll lose it – applies here. I am always surprised by the number of folk who don’t remember phone numbers; even their own. Such a simple issue and yet one that I believe corresponds to even greater anomalies in regard brain support and health. As for the brain size increasing, this could be due to the overall body size increase over the same period. Scientific studies suggest that the differences in nutrition, food distribution, health care and hygiene practices over the last century account for people in general being taller, fatter, and living longer.
Good to hear from you, Caz,

da-AL April 9, 2024 - 7:16 am

these are all fascinating!

Ellie Thompson April 13, 2024 - 3:54 pm

Another helpful, excellent and informative post, Caz. There’s so much to take in, but some topics hit me more than others. The fact that our brain size is increasing will hopefully mean less dementia. I’ve known too many people who are completely lost within themselves with dementia. It’s tragic. My daughter’s mother-in-law had dementia that developed very quickly to the point that she had to go into a care home a few weeks ago. She seems to be settling in but keeps talking about wanting to go home. However, when they speak to her about home, she remembers her childhood home and does not recall the one she just left. So sad. So, if there’s less dementia in the future, that will be a wonderful thing.

I didn’t know that Paul Alexander had died, either. I can’t even begin to think how it must have felt to be trapped in an iron lung for your whole life. What a brave man.

Regarding the fact that the IQ levels of younger people are reducing, technology, as good as it is, is responsible for this. Children have phones at such an early age now. My younger grandchildren, 11 and 9, have their own phones and even when they stay with me, it isn’t easy to prise them off of them to do something more practical and not an online game, video, YouTube, etc. They get totally absorbed in their phones (as does my 44-year-old son!) It’s very worrying as I feel their worlds are shrinking into these devices rather than taking in the beauty of the world or even spending quality time with their friends and relatives.

As for the NHS, that’s frightening. I’ve been on the receiving end, as I’m sure you have, too, of not being able to get an NHS hospital appointment for longer than a year. The same goes for people with non-life threatening conditions waiting two years for a new knee or hip when they’re in constant pain. People here now can’t get an NHS dentist at all, and not everyone can afford private dentistry. I could go on more about the NHS, but I know you understand and know all about that already, and I’m afraid I’m waffling on.

I’ll get off of my soapbox now! 😉

Much love to you, Caz. I hope your health issues aren’t too difficult to cope with at the moment. I know you got through an awful lot. I wish you well, too. Xxxx 🥰💕

Carol Corrigan June 8, 2024 - 1:21 pm

I loved this article Caz, particularly the bit about Paul bein in the iron lung for that length of time. I can’t imagine 🙁


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