Knowledge is Immunity at its Best

People with Type 2 Diabetes are always in danger of an early death if their sugar level is not properly contained. I suffer from this awful predicament and although I have never experienced a heart problem so far, I’m always curious to find out how to ensure that my heart will see me through the next few years without any serious complications.

So you can imagine my interest in reading that a high dose of statins slashes the risk of a heart attack by up to 30% compared with normal strength tablets, a major study has found. American researchers say there is a substantial opportunity to prevent more deaths through wider use of stronger pills.

Most patients on statins take a dose of between 5 and 40 mg per day depending on the type of tablet. But the US study which involved 500,000 adults looked at patients who had been taking doses of up to 80 mg daily. Doctors are reluctant to prescribe the strongest pills unless patients have a very high risk of heart attack and strokes because the side effects are more severe.

These commonly include muscle tissue damage – and tenderness and soreness – and there is some evidence that statins harm the kidneys. Researchers from Stanford University in California looked at 509,766 adults who were given statins to treat a common type of heart disease. Known as atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease or ASCVD, it is caused by the blood vessels becoming clogged with fatty deposits.

Some 30% of the group were classified as being on high intensity statin-therapy, 46% on moderate doses and the remainder on low intensity levels. The high intensity group were found to be 20% less likely to die in a year than those on the moderate dose.

Compared with the low dose group they had 29% less risk of dying within a year. Dr Paul Heidenreich whose study is published in the journal JAMA Cardiology, said ‘These findings suggest there is a substantial opportunity for improvement in the secondary prevention of ASCVD through optimisation of intensity of statin therapy.’

An estimated 6 million adults in Britain are thought to be taking statins to prevent heart attacks and strokes. The drugs cost less than 6p per day and work by reducing the level of cholesterol in the blood. Cholesterol causes fatty deposits to build up in blood vessels. But there has been widespread controversy over statin safety with some experts claiming that the risks outweigh the benefits.

Common side effects include severe muscle pain, Type 2 Diabetes, kidney damage, liver failures and even death. The Stanford University study classified high intensity statins as being between 40 and 80 mg of atorvastatin, 20-40 mg of rosuvastatin or 80 mg of simvastatin.

Professor Jeremy Pearson associate medical director of the British Heart Foundation said: ‘Heart disease is incurable. We have no way of reversing the furring of the arteries that can lead to a deadly heart attack or stroke.

‘But decades of this research, much of it funded by the British Heart Foundation, showed that statins can help save lives by slowing the progression of the disease. This last study shows that more intensive statin treatment reduces death rates further than low intensity or no treatment in people with cardiovascular disease. While the research confirms the greater benefits of more intensive treatment, decisions on dosage require conversation between patients and their doctor.’

A major study in the Lancet this year said that statins prevented 80,000 heart attacks and strokes a year in the UK, and claimed the benefits by far outweigh the risks. But the confusion intensified a week later when a rival medical journal, the BMJ, insisted the pills were not as safe as that research had claimed.

As I said at the outset, it is always prudent to be well-informed about health matters, especially with the onset of old age and being classified as a Type 2 diabetic. Knowledge in these matters enables you to conform to a healthy regime and avoid excesses, particularly in what you eat.

Lack of Sleep is a Health Hazard

Since research has become a very important factor in the prevention of ill-health, people in general are living longer and maintaining a more active life than ever before.

It is incredible that scientists have discovered that just one night of sleep deprivation is enough to cause strain on the heart, forcing it to work around 10% harder the next day, a study has found.

People who work in fire and emergency medical services and other high-stress jobs are often called upon to work twenty-four-hour shifts with little opportunity to sleep.

While it is known that extreme fatigue can affect many physical cognitive and emotional processes, the study is the first to examine how working a twenty-four-hour  shift affects heart function.

‘For the first time we have shown that short-term sleep deprivation in the context of twenty-four-hour shifts can lead to a significant increase in cardiac contractility, blood pressure and heart rate,’ said Dr Daniel Kuetting, the author of the study from the University of Bonn in Germany.

For the study, twenty healthy radiologists, including nineteen men and one woman, with a mean age of 31.6 years, were recruited and their hearts checked before and after a twenty-four-hour shift with an average of three hours of sleep.

Following sleep deprivation the participants showed significant increases in the strain on the heart, with the organ having to work around 10% harder than usual.

‘As people continue to work longer hours or work at more than one job to make ends meet, it is critical to investigate the detrimental effects of too much work and not enough sleep,’ said Dr Kuetting.

Since the unexpected death of my wife last February, sleep has become rather difficult. I toss and turn endlessly in order to induce an hour or two of sleep but then wake up rather tired and unable to go to sleep again. Nights become a nightmare in general and I dread the notion of going to bed, unless I feel exhausted and even then a good night’s sleep without interruption is not easy to achieve.

This study will certainly alert me to the danger of not sleeping enough and alert others who read my blog, to the importance of ensuring a good night’s sleep. Bravado in claiming to sleep less hours, rather than remain in a full cognitive state, is no longer on my agenda.

 

 

A Shameful Decision

Donald Trump appears determined to cause controversy either for the sake of it or to prove to the public the lengths to which he will go to assert his power.

His administration was under fire last Saturday after it blocked the appointment of a former Palestinian prime minister to a senior UN role seemingly because he’s a Palestinian.

Salam Fayyad, a western-educated technocrat, won plaudits from Israeli leaders and from the Bush administration for his reform efforts in the late 2000s. The 65-year-old had been tipped to become the new UN special representative in Libya.
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But Nikki Haley, the new US ambassador to the UN, objected to his appointment saying: ‘For too long the UN has been unfairly biased in favour of the Palestinian authority’.

Dan Shapiro, Barack Obama’s ambassador to Israel, called the decision ‘stunningly dumb’.

Martin Indyk, a former US special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian issues, called it one ‘of the most anti-Israeli decisions Trump could have made’.

Such decisions will only show Trump to be more of a screwball president whose whims are unlikely to give his office the respect and aura it deserves. I simply dread what he will do next.

A Great Bollywood Star

Amy Jackson is a big star in India. The 24-year-old British actress is Bollywood’s most stunning foreign resident, currently working on her twelfth film, much to the delight of her league of fans who can’t resist her sultry looks and her most imposing sex appeal.

 

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Jackson was born on the Isle of Man to British parents. The family returned to their parents’ home of Woolton, Liverpool two years after Jackson’s birth so that her father, who works as a producer for BBC Radio Merseyside, could continue his media career.

Jackson attended St Edward’s College, gaining 10 GCSEs and then went to sixth form to study English language, English literature, and Philosophy and Ethics.

After winning the Miss Teen Liverpool and Miss Teen Great Britain pageants, she won the title of Miss Teen World in 2009. Jackson has won 18 prizes including a modelling contract in the US on a $50,000 scholarship. She won Miss Liverpool in 2010.

She participated in Miss England competition in 2010 but lost out to Jessica Linley in the final. Jackson signed a second modelling contract with Boss Model Management and now models all over Europe.

In 2010 Indian film producers spotted Jackson on Miss Teen World’s website and invited her to audition for the Tamil period drama film, Madrasapattinam.
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Despite having no previous acting experience she was cast as the female lead gaining praise for her performance. The rest is history. She never stopped and is highly regarded for her acting ability and her devouringly mesmerising looks that are simply electrifying as these photos show.

A touch of eastern magnetism, she never fails to entice whoever she meets and her screen presence in Bollywood films is now so well established as to make her one of the big stars of the Indian continent. May she continues to entice and prosper.
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DOWN MEMORY LANE TWELVE

Quartet’s emphasis on publishing works of fiction and non-fiction by foreign writers, a number of them from the Middle East, remained central to its personality as an independent publishing house. The following examples are again taken at random of the titles we published during the last years of the 1990s.

A Witkiewicz Reader, edited, translated and with an introduction by Daniel Gerould. Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz, who wrote under the pen name Witkacy, had come to be regarded as the outstanding dramatist of modern Polish theatre. He committed suicide after the Russian invasion of Poland in 1939 and his work was in eclipse till the liberalization of the Communist regime in 1956. Then it was rediscovered and played a leading part in freeing the arts from ‘socialist realism’. Professor Gerould’s anthology gave the first overview of his work in English, including play texts, extracts from novels, philosophical and aesthetic essays, together with reproductions of his drawings and paintings.
The Compassion Protocol by Hervé Guibert, translated by James Kirkup. Guibert had died in 1991 from an AIDS-related illness, the suffering of which found its way into his novels, a series of three that began with ‘To the Friend Who Did Not Save My Life’ and ended with ‘The Man in the Red Hat’. The Compassion Protocol (the second in the sequence) told, he wrote, ‘of my astonishment, my rage and the grief of a man of thirty-five on whom is grafted the body of an old man. But the happiness of remission makes an inroad into the unhappiness.’ Quartet published the complete trilogy.

Worlds of Difference by Georges-Arthur Goldschmidt, translated by James Kirkup, with an introduction by Peter Handke. This novel, called ‘an undeserved present to German literature’ by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, told a story of a small Jewish boy taken out of Nazi Germany to be hidden in a remote orphanage in the French Alps. As he grows he is conscious of his exclusion as a Jew and his isolation as a German, finding the French language a struggle and suffering torment and persecution from the other boys. His salvation lies in developing an ability to distance himself from physical pain, achieving a transference into a ‘secret realm’ where his innermost thoughts are freed.

The Book of Hrabal by Péter Esterházy, translated by Judith Sollosy. Conceived as a tribute to the great Czech writer Bohumil Hrabal (author of Closely Observed Trains), this fantastical novel has two angels in the background, who shadow the household of the author and his wife Anna in the guise of secret policemen. The angels communicate with God by walkie-talkie, their mission being to prevent the abortion of Anna’s fourth child. Anna – a blues-singing housewife – addresses the story of all that comes about to Hrabal himself.

The Man Who Came to a Village by Héctor Tizón, translated by Miriam Frank. In a tale told with biblical simplicity, an escaped convict fleeing into the Argentine mountains arrives at a remote village where the inhabitants greet him as their long-awaited priest and saviour. His protestations are ignored and he finds himself installed as their chosen leader, engaging in philosophical discussions but disturbed by his own ambiguous identity. The scenario unexpectedly shifts with the arrival of a group to oversee the villagers in building a road to connect them with the outside world, heralding a total change in their traditions. This was the first of Tizón’s novels to be translated into English.
Diary, Volume III: 1961–1966 by Witold Gombrowicz, edited by Jan Kott, translated by Lillian Vallee. This completed the ambition of Quartet to publish all three volumes of Gombrowicz’s Diary, widely considered to be a masterpiece of Polish and European literature, standing even above his novels and plays. Through the

Diary, wrote Czesław Miłosz in the New York Times, could be discovered ‘a great writer whose complex and multilayered thought belongs to the heart of our labyrinthine century’. Kirkus Reviews called it his ‘great unscrolling of spleen, playfulness, opposition, brilliance and subversion’.

The Island of Animals by Denys Johnson-Davies, illustrated by Sabiha Khemir. A fable by a foremost Arabic scholar, adapted from a tenth century text from Basra, to expound on man’s responsibilities towards his fellow creatures, man having been chosen by God as the sole creature answerable at death for his actions in life. The Islamic teaching is that man has been created by God to share with every other creature the bounties of the earth. As a verse in the Qur’an stated: ‘And there is no animal in the earth nor bird that flies with its two wings which are not of communities like yourselves.’

The First Century after Beatrice by Amin Maalouf, translated by Dorothy S. Blair. Another fable, in the form a novel, that looked apprehensively beyond the end of the twentieth century to the growing divide between North and South. It centred on an investigation by a French entomologist and a journalist companion into the disturbing fact that female births were becoming increasingly rare for no apparent reason.

Girls of Alexandria by Edwar al-Kharrat, translated by Frances Liardet. Doris Lessing called the writing of Edwar al-Kharrat, a Coptic Christian by birth, more ‘Proust than Durrell’. His evocation of Alexandria in the 1930s and 1940s, through the stories of nine girls in nine chapters, placed them at the centre of a vibrant mosaic of family, schooldays, adolescence, wartime. The writing created captivating impressions of the streets and shorelines, the loves and scandals, of those who lived in the old city. Only through language, said the author, through the jumbled word-images thrown together in the bottomless rag-bag of your mind, could you travel to Alexandria.

Prince of Shadows by Antonio Muñoz Molina, translated by Peter Bush. Some twenty years after the end of the Spanish Civil War, a republican exile is ordered to return to Madrid to seek out and liquidate a man suspected of colluding with the police in betraying members of the antiFranco resistance. With his victim in hiding, a theme of déjà vu begins to spread around him like a net as he hunts him down, reprising events from a similar killing years before, till it seems his control over his destiny is passing out of his own hands into those of a mysterious police inspector, the ‘prince of shadows’.

Fire in Casabindo by Héctor Tizón, translated by Miriam Frank. After a battle in 1875 on the puna, the tableland of the High Andes of Argentina, a mortally wounded one-eyed combatant sets out on a quest to track down his assailant and kill him so his own soul may be freed and find peace. With the story told in powerful, economical prose, the hero wanders in search, flashbacks mingling with present encounters and moments of delirium in a vividly realized book. Tizón was not of the magic- realist school but he wrote from the heart of the Latin American tradition.

My Golden Road from Samarkand by Jascha Golowanjuk, translated by Henning Koch. In Samarkand the childhood of a ten-year-old boy from a bourgeois background comes to an end as the Bolshevik terror spreads across Russia from Moscow. His family have to flee in disguise to try to reach the Caspian Sea, plagued by treacherous guides, predatory bandits and Bolshevik double agents ready to betray them. Golowanjuk had settled in Sweden in 1929 and become a popular author known affectionately as the ‘foreign bird of Swedish literature’.

Oedipus on the Road by Henry Bachau, translated by Anne-Marie Glasheen. A mythic and lyrical prose poem by a leading Belgian poet, novelist and playwright that tells the story of the blinded King Oedipus as he takes the road from Thebes to Colonus. His companions are his fourteenyear-old daughter Antigone and Clios, the shepherd bandit who joins them. Their adventures through a beautiful, ancient land set many trials for them in their journey towards self-knowledge, in which they are called on to become, by turn, beggars, singers, labourers, storytellers and sculptors. It was a profoundly realized imaginative treatment of themes that have fascinated over centuries.

The Fallen by Juan Marsé, translated by Helen Lane. In the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, a gang of street children gathers in a disused air-raid shelter in Barcelona, a city still suffering for its anti-fascist past. Between them they swap and embroider stories that build up into a Goyaesque fresco of corrupted lives. Using the children’s half-imagined, half-real scenarios, telling of secret sexual and political tortures, renegades and assassination attempts, Marsé recreates the sordid, violent world of Barcelona in the wake of General Franco’s victory.

Mazurka for Two Dead Men by Camilo José Cela, translated by Patricia Haugaard. A novel by the Nobel Prize winner that was claimed to be a culmination of his literary art. It takes place in a backward Galician village community during 1936 to 1939, the years of the Spanish Civil War, starting with an abduction and killing and ending with the vengeance of the dead man’s brother. In between are woven several narrative voices, including that of the dead man’s widow. Varying themes and moods, touching on the comic and the grotesque, build like a musical composition. The music of a blind accordion player from the local brothel sounds at the start of the action and again at the end.

The Chrysalis by Aïcha Lemsine, translated by Dorothy S. Blair. The ‘chrysalis’ of the title is the set of rigid traditions and attitudes binding family and married life in the Maghreb, where the principle of male dominance is fiercely defended by the tribal matriarchs. The story, by an Algerian prize-winning author, traces the story of two generations of Algerian women, a barren wife and her stepdaughter, and the long fight to win through to social independence.

The Ogre’s Embrace by Rachid Mimouni, translated by Shirley Eber. The Nouvel Observateur had called Mimouni, ‘The Voltaire of Algiers . . . one of the great discoveries of French-Algerian literature of recent years.’ Figaro said he was ‘one of the best Algerian contemporary writers . . . comparable to Kafka and Camus’. The book consisted of seven texts telling of the impact the absurd bureaucracies of the country had on the lives of some of its individual public servants and citizens, from a postal worker to a park keeper to a station master, for instance. There was no escape from those in power for anyone. Mimouni observed it all with a witty eye and a laconic response.

Give the Brain a Much-Needed Rest

How to keep an active brain, especially in old age, has always been the concern of many of us who led a busy life throughout most of our working days. Cryptic crosswords and fiendish puzzles are known to keep the mind sharp but scientists have now found a far less testing way of exercising the brain.

An hour’s siesta can prevent your brain from ageing by five years when it comes to memory and thinking. According to the study, a 60 minute sleep was the optimum amount of time, with a shorter or longer period not producing the same results.

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Scientists analysed 3,000 Chinese people over the age of 65, 60% of whom said that they had a siesta after lunch ranging between 30 and 90 minutes with an average of 63 minutes. They were asked a series of simple questions about dates and seasons. After submitting their responses, the pensioners were given a basic maths problem and asked to memorise words and copy single geometric figures.

The study, which was carried out by the Health in Aging Foundation and published in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society, concluded that people who took an hour long nap after lunch performed better in mental tests than the people who did not nap. Those who slept for about an hour also did better than people who took shorter or longer rests.  People who took no naps, short naps or longer naps experienced decreases in their mental ability that were between four and six times greater than people who took hour-long naps.

Junxin Li, lead author of the study, said: ‘These people also experienced about the same decline in their mental abilities that a five-year increase in age would be expected to cause.

‘Cognitive functions were significantly associated with napping. Between groups, comparisons showed that moderate nappers had better overall cognition than non-nappers or extended nappers.

‘Non-nappers also had significantly poorer cognition than short nappers.’

‘In multiple-regression analysis, moderate napping was significantly associated with better cognition than non- and extended napping after controlling four demographic characteristics: body mass index, depression, instrumental activities of daily living and social activities, and night-time sleep duration.’

Dr Li added, ‘A cross-sectional association was found between moderate post-lunch napping and better cognition in Chinese older adults. Longitudinal studies with objective napping measures are needed to further test this hypothesis.’

David Reynolds, chief scientific officer at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: ‘This study adds to the growing evidence that sleep has a beneficial impact on learning and memory and it’s positive to see that this holds true in a study of older adults. Sleep disturbances are common in Alzheimer’s and while these are studies investigating the role of sleep in the disease, the study has not looked at whether afternoon naps may protect against Alzheimer’s or other dementias. It’s important for future research to delve deeper into the science behind sleep and cognition to shed light on those sleep patterns that may hold the most benefits for our brain health as we age.’

Last year scientists found that a long afternoon nap could help boost the brain power of men and that women benefited from longer nightsleep. Researchers from the Max Planck Institute in Munich believe that the differences between how sleep affects the sexes could be because of the way men’s and women’s brains are structured as well as how hormonal changes affect the body during the day.

Well, I believe that as you grow older you still need an eight hour sleep if possible, especially if during the day your work entails a lot of brain activities which can be gruellingly tiring. As for an afternoon siesta, I wish I had the time to enjoy its beneficial impact. I will nevertheless try to snatch a nap or two over the weekend and perhaps then I will become addicted to its immeasurable health windfall.

 

 

 

IN VINO VERITAS

Rape is a heinous act and should never be treated lightly. However, it has become a common accusation by female students at University when they are usually in a state of having had too much to drink and then engaging in having sex with a fellow student. A leading female barrister has now sensibly warned male students not to risk having sex with girls who have been drinking heavily for fear they could end up being accused of rape.

Cathy McCuloch, a lawyer who specialises in sexual offence cases said young men must be educated to understand the danger of indulging in the casual drinking and sex culture prevalent in British universities. She said: ‘Even if they have not given the woman the alcohol – if they have watched them take their own alcohol, if that woman appears to be drunk they must not go there.’

Her comments came after one of her clients was informed that a rape case against him was being dropped. Alaister Cooke, 23, who was in the third year of a geophysics degree at Durham University, had been accused of raping a fellow student. He was the third student at Durham in a year to be prosecuted for rape, but none of the cases resulted in a conviction.

Last January, Louis Richardson, 22, of Jersey, the Secretary of the Durham Union Debating Society, faced similar allegations from two students but was cleared following a trial. And in July, George Worral, 22, of Cromer, Norfolk, called for anonymity for men accused of rape after he was cleared of another charge of rape involving a female student at Durham.

Mr Cooke had been accused of raping a student following a party at which she had got drunk on rum punch. He insisted that the sex had been consensual but the prosecution claimed the woman had been too drunk to consent to sex and Mr Cooke was charged with rape. In December, a jury failed to reach a verdict and he had been expected to face a retrial. But the CPS said it would not proceed with the retrial. Prosecutor Paul Classy said the complainant agreed with the Crown’s decision. He said: ‘The Crown have had the opportunity to consider whether to try the remaining counts and this has been done. We therefore offer no further evidence on these outstanding counts. The complainant has been consulted. She does agree with the decision made by the Crown after full consultation.’

After the decision, Ms McCulloch said more needed to be done to educate young men about consent. She said: ‘What happened to Alaister Cooke is every young man’s nightmare and we need a campaign to educate them. Young men need to learn that if a young woman presents as drunk but gives all the signs as they see it, of consenting, she can still say later that she was not fit to consent.’

This I believe to be good advice, for drunks are not necessarily in full control of their actions and are therefore likely to retract any so called consent, especially when sexual congress has taken place.

In any event, I personally think that sexual activity when inebriated loses its magic and is certainly neither worth the risk nor the climax it produces. What I call ‘second-rate orgasm’, not gratifying rapture.