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The strongest link

Say goodbye to your poor memory and boost your brainpower with oily fish and fresh veg, says Dr John Briffa

The Observer

Scientists have discovered a set of up to 10 genes that they believe may carry the secret of longevity. The genes, nicknamed "genetic booster rockets", allow their carriers to fight off cancer, heart disease and dementia, as well as the fatal bone-thinning condition osteoporosis. In all cases, the people in the study were not only very old, but also active, in good health and so able to enjoy the benefits of living much longer than most people.
Researchers now want to identify the chemicals the genes produce in order to synthesise them into drugs that could protect others from debilitating diseases.

Unhealthy Life North Of the Border
Government figures reveal that Scotland, once again, is the unhealthiest part of the UK. The annual survey of regional trends by the Office of National Statistics, which looks at health, wealth, education, and employment, paints a gloomy picture of life north of the border. Health differences between Scotland and the south of the UK are particularly marked among women.
While female mortality rates for heart disease in the South-east, South-west, London and Eastern NHS regions were all fewer than 170 deaths per 100,000 population, in Scotland, Northern Ireland and the North-West the rates were over 210 - more than 23% higher. Women in Scotland also have a 50.8% higher chance of getting lung cancer than the national average.

The traditional Scottish diet and the national aversion to exercise also show little sign of improvement. Scots spend the most money per person on drinks and confectionery, and cooked meat products such as pies and sausage rolls. Television viewing is also two hours above the national average - 31 hours a week for women and 28 hours for men. Overall, mortality rates in Scotland are 118% of the UK average, ranging from 94% in East Renfrewshire to 144% in Glasgow.


No foot in the grave
Life expectancy is rising so fast, says a new report, it could become common to live to 90 or 100. But will we be able to afford or enjoy such longevity? Richard Woods and David Smith report.
Children born in Britain this year can expect to live for 80 years, perhaps much longer. It is a life-span far greater than most women or men could hope for at the beginning of the previous century. Then a mere 50 years was the norm for women, by some estimates; for men, who tend to die younger, it was 48.
By the time a girl born this year is a grandmother, say in 2070, life expectancy for women in some countries will be close to 100, according to a study published in the journal Science last week. That will be the average. Some individuals will live to become far older, not because of medical science or genetic manipulation but simply because better, healthier living standards are delaying the ageing process.



Becky Callicoatte loves Lucy - and with good reason. She accidentally discovered several years ago that a good laugh immediately eased the enduring pain of her rheumatoid arthritis. Since then, she has used tapes of re-runs of I Love Lucy, The Odd Couple, Candid Camera and other television comedy shows, as well as a joke wherever she can pick one up, for pain relief.
Callicoatte, of Shreveport, La., is one of nine arthritis sufferers who have been trained as patient-partners in a new program created by the Arthritis Foundation and G.D. Searle & Co., the pharmaceuticals manufacturer, to teach other persons with the condition how to use cognitive pain management to help break the self-reinforcing cycle of chronic pain. Dr. William Fry, an emeritus professor of psychiatry at Stanford University Medical School and a pioneer researcher in the physiology of humour and laughter, says Callicoatte may have been doing a lot more than taking her mind off of her pain. A lot of the pain you experience with arthritis has to do with muscle spasm, Fry said. In response to pain in the connective tissue - in ligaments, cartilage and so forth - surrounding muscles try to pull away from that pain, to get away from it. This secondary level of pain is overlaid onto the initial arthritis pain, Fry said.
Laughter is a spasmodic process, he said. Muscles are contracting, relaxing, contracting, relaxing and so forth.
This tends to override other muscle spasms, Fry believes. When you are laughing, muscles that are not involved in the laughter activity usually go into a more flaccid state. The Searle-Arthritis Foundation program, entitled Taking Control of Arthritis Pain, is straightforward. Patients are told that pain often occurs in a cycle. People who hurt lose abilities and become depressed and stressed, which leads to more pain.
Although pain is a physical symptom, you can actually use the power of your mind to help manage it, a workbook used during the Taking Control sessions states. Then it lists techniques such as distraction, controlled muscle relaxation and guided imagery in which the patient concentrates on positive memories or pleasant experiences. New York Times: