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Health24.com | WATCH: The weirdest things that humans do

We human beings are a pretty strange bunch. On the one hand, we’re the most intelligent species on planet Earth.

On the other, we behave completely differently to the rest of the animal kingdom.

But what things do we do that nothing else does? What makes the human race so unique?

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Health24.com | Why more patients are surviving an aneurysm

New treatments mean aneurysms are no longer an automatic death sentence, specialists say.

Aneurysms are a weakening or bulging of blood vessels that can rupture and become life-threatening. They can occur anywhere in the body, but are most common in the brain, or in the main blood vessels that lead to the heart, legs and arms.

Fixing problem from inside

Aneurysms used to carry a high probability of death, but many can now be treated before they pose a serious threat.

“If detected early, there are new interventions like a minimally invasive catheter-based procedure to treat the condition,” said Dr Ali Azizzadeh. He is director of vascular surgery at Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Doctors used to have to fix a blood vessel by hand, which meant open surgery and the risks that go along with it. “Today, we can fix the problem from the inside, without always having to open up the patient,” Azizzadeh said in a hospital news release.

Roxanne Hanks, 61, of Simi Valley, California, is living proof of that progress.

“I was healthy, I exercised and still worked full-time,” she said in the release. “But I often felt lightheaded and short of breath from minor exertion, like walking a flight of stairs. I was insistent that my doctors keep searching for the answer.”

After months of tests and doctor visits, she was diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm and sought treatment at Smidt Heart Institute.

Early detection key

Hanks’ case was complex. First, she needed open heart surgery to repair the front part of her aorta. Two months later, she had her final, minimally invasive surgery.

Hanks said she is “back to work, back to exercising and living a fulfilling, great life.”

Early detection is key to successful treatment of an aneurysm, Azizzadeh said. If you have unexplained pain, coupled with any risk factor, it’s important to talk to your doctor and mention aneurysms, he advised.

Risk factors include family history, smoking, high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol. Some aneurysms can cause pain, but most cause no symptoms.

Thoracic (chest-area) aortic aneurysms affect about 15 000 Americans each year and are the 13th leading cause of death, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

“Listen to your body,” Hanks said. “I knew something was wrong, but I kept searching and ultimately ended up with the best doctors and care team who saved my life.”

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Health24.com | There is a new remedy for body odour on the horizon

Danish researchers have sniffed out a potential new weapon to fight armpit odour.

It’s zinc oxide, or ZnO. The strategy was inspired by hospital wound care. Because putting zinc oxide on open surgical wounds reduces corynebacteria and the bad smell they create, researchers thought it might also make an effective deodorant.

Not yet available

The study authors said their small, early trial with 30 healthy volunteers stopped stink cold. That’s because zinc oxide kills the two types of bacteria that cause underarm odour – Corynebacterium spp. and Staphylococcus spp.

“Even though it contained no fragrance like conventional deodorants, the participants could identify that it had neutralised any bad odour under the arm where it was applied,” said lead researcher Dr Magnus Agren, of the Copenhagen Wound Healing Center at Bispebjerg Hospital, in Denmark.

But don’t breathe easy just yet: This fragrance-free deodorant isn’t yet available, though Colgate-Palmolive, who makes it and paid for the trial, hopes to bring it to market.

The findings were scheduled for presentation at a meeting of the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Promotes healing

For the 13-day study, 30 men and women volunteered to try zinc oxide. They were randomly assigned to have zinc oxide in one armpit and a placebo in the other.

The researchers took samples of the study participants’ underarm bacteria and caused small wounds in the area. Participants were asked if they detected a difference in scent between their left and right armpit and, if so, which smelled better.

Compared with placebo, levels of odour-causing bacteria were significantly lower with zinc oxide, the findings showed. It also reduced the redness caused by the wounds and promoted healing, the investigators noted in a meeting news release.

Research presented at meetings is typically considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

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Health24.com | Supplemental steroids, testosterone may lower men’s sperm counts

Men who abuse hormones such as testosterone or steroids for bodybuilding can have declines in sperm and testosterone production, researchers say.

The good news: these changes seem to reverse once men stop hormone overuse.

Effect on men’s reproductive function

While the use of non-prescribed male hormones (androgens) has surged in many wealthy countries, there has been little research into their effect on men’s reproductive function, including sperm production, testosterone and fertility, according to lead researcher Nandini Shankara Narayana. She’s an endocrinologist at the University of Sydney and Concord Repatriation General Hospital in Australia.

The study of 93 men included 41 who were currently using testosterone or steroids; 31 who had used them three or more months before the study; and 21 healthy men who exercised regularly and did not use androgens.

Compared with men who had stopped using the hormones or who had never taken them, current users had significantly smaller testicles, on average, and lower sperm output, the study found.

Current users also had lower levels of luteinizing hormone, which is involved in testosterone production, and of follicle-stimulating hormone, which is involved in sperm production, the findings showed.

Little prognostic info available

Former users did not differ from men who had never taken the supplements in terms of sperm production and hormone levels, indicating complete recovery, according to the study presented Monday at the Endocrine Society’s annual meeting, in New Orleans.

On average, luteinizing hormone levels recovered within nine months after men stopped taking the supplements. Sperm output returned to normal in about 14 months and follicle-stimulating hormone levels normalized in nearly 19 months, the findings showed.

“These results will help endocrinologists involved in care of men who are using typically non-prescribed, high doses of androgens for bodybuilding, a practice that is increasingly recognised but for which virtually no prognostic information has been available to support medical care during recovery from androgen abuse,” Shankara Narayana said in an Endocrine Society news release.

Research presented at medical meetings should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

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Health24.com | Just a little more exercise can add years to your life

No matter your fitness level, adding just a little more exercise may prolong your life, new research suggests.

“People think they have to start going to the gym and exercising hard to get fitter,” said researcher Elin Ekblom-Bak, from the Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences in Stockholm.

“But it doesn’t have to be that complicated. For most people, just being more active in daily life – taking the stairs, exiting the metro station early, cycling to work – is enough to benefit health since levels are so low to start with,” she said. “The more you do, the better.”

Ekblom-Bak and her colleagues looked at more than 316 000 adults in Sweden, aged 18 to 74, whose heart-lung (cardiorespiratory) fitness was assessed between 1995 and 2015.

Participants rode a stationary cycle to determine the maximum amount of oxygen the heart and lungs can provide the muscles during exercise, a measure called VO2 max.

Overall, the risk of all-cause death and death from cardiovascular events such as heart attack and stroke fell 2.8% to 3.2% for each millilitre increase in VO2 max. The benefits of increased activity were seen in men and women, in all age groups, and at all fitness levels.

The study is to be presented at a European Society of Cardiology meeting, in Lisbon, Portugal. Such research is considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

A public health priority

“It is particularly important to note that an increase in fitness was beneficial, regardless of the starting point,” Ekblom-Bak said in a meeting news release. “This suggests that people with lower levels of cardiorespiratory fitness have the most to gain from boosting their fitness.”

She said the findings are “more motivational than just telling people they need to do better. People in the lower range of VO2 max will reduce their risk even more [9%] while those at the upper end of VO2 max will reduce their risk by 1%,” she said.

Improving fitness should be a public health priority and doctors should assess patients’ fitness during health screening, according to Ekblom-Bak.

“Our previous research has shown that fitness levels in the general population have dropped by 10% in the last 25 years,” she noted.

“In 2016-2017, almost every second man and woman had a low fitness level, so this is a huge problem,” Ekblom-Bak added. “Poor fitness is as detrimental as smoking, obesity and diabetes, even in otherwise healthy adults, yet unlike these other risk factors it is not routinely measured.”

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Health24.com | WATCH: How long does it take you to fall asleep?

Sleep disorders expert

Dr Alison Bentley is a general practitioner who has consulted in sleep medicine and sleep disorders, in both adults and children of all ages, for almost 30 years. She also researches and publishes on a number of sleep-related topics both in formal research journals and lay publications including as editor of Sleep Matters, an educational newsletter on sleep disorders for doctors.