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Wed, 14th January 2015

You don't have to be fat, sport a beer belly, snore or sleep on the back to be a member of the exclusive club. The club of "Sleep Apnea", ceasing to breathe and partially waking at night.

The figure continues to climb, as more and more are diagnosed. Many are slim, young and attractive but the tell-tale issue is there - not enough room for air to get into the respiratory system. If the air channels are narrow, this worsens at night and leads to the condition. Most have heard the name, but rarely suspect they could be at risk.

End result of this means that after breathing out, there is often a pause before the next inhalation. During this brief time, oxygen saturation of the blood drops dramatically. It does not rise until the next breath and the vital oxygen supply to the vital centres of the brain suffer.

Little by little impairment takes place. If undiagnosed and untreated this increases. It sounds farcical, but cardiovascular damage, often irreversible, can occur. It gradually leads to arterial narrowing causing angina (chest pain from inadequate oxygen to the heart). Then hypertension or elevated blood pressure. Mental impairment is an earlier symptom. This often occurs in the form of daytime drowsiness. Which means increased risks of accidents, at home, when driving or at work, worse if operating machinery and manual skills.

Apnoea may last several seconds, followed by a long guttural gasp as the next breath starts. During this time also, the body partially awakens and may occur several times an hour, or even hundreds of times a night. Added together, it drastically reduces the amount of quality sleep, again leading to negative symptoms next day.

This is readily measurable at a sleep disorders clinic. Remedy is use of a CPAP mask which fits over the nose and a gentle stream of air flows keeping the airways open, and guaranteeing plenty of oxygen to the brain. Symptoms can magically vanish. Mental acuity improves, and a multitude of symptoms, many unknown, vanish. The person invariably feels much better, more energetic, more mentally alert. The outcome is very positive, the benefits often enormous. Talk to your GP, whether you are fat or thin, a snorer or not, if you're not as mentally nimble or tire easily.



My eight year old daughter has a gap between the front teeth. The dentist suggests I do not panic, that it may become less obvious when older teeth grow.


This often occurs, and time frequently heals many dental issues. Keep in touch with your dentist as other interventions, especially in teenage years, may be needed. Orthodontal care can often help adult teeth look so much better.

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I am glad I live now and not years ago when longevity was much less.


Today, at birth a person can expect to live into their eighties in relatively good health. Japan heads the list, but Australia is near the top. 150 years ago, median age of death in London was 23 years, mainly because many perished either at childbirth or in the first 18-24 months. Public health improvements have been the main reason, not necessarily medications. Improved housing, better nutrition has lessened risks of disease, such as tuberculosis and diarrhea, still major killers in non industrialised countries.

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Is it likely that serious diseases such as HIV and hepatitis will cease to be serious killer diseases?


The answer must be "Yes". Scarlet fever was once a notorious killer, but is now rarely seen and unlikely to cause illness or death. Many claim TB is now not so virulent as it was 200 years ago, although still serious but curable. The virulence of helicobacter, the germ causing stomach ulcers, has also varied enormously over time.

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I suffered lower pelvic pains, and an ultrasound indicated cysts in the ovary. Can this lead to cancer?


Cysts in the ovaries are common, are little fluid filled sacs which can burst spontaneously, cause pain, but often vanish. Others may gradually enlarge. They are readily detected on ultrasound. Risks of cancer are slim. It is the solid tumor that causes problems and develop into cancer. Just the same, any ovarian disease must be managed by the doctor.

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I developed a sore throat, visited the doctor who would not prescribe antibiotics even though I requested them like my friends often do.


Most sore throats are caused by simple viral infections, or perhaps allergies. Antibiotics are usually of no value, and in fact may cause abdominal fullness, bloating and diarrhea by killing off the "good bugs" in the gut system. Gargling the throat with warm salty water, drinking lots of water, taking paracetamol to reduce pain or discomfort is usually adequate. Some claim zinc lozenges may help.

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This health advice is general in nature. You are advised to seek medical attention from your doctor or health care provider for your own specific symptoms and circumstances.



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