Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Social climbing is good for you: Those who get on in life end up healthier

This is just a subset of the pervasive finding that higher social class people are healthier

It's good news for the Hyacinth Buckets of the world - social climbing is good for your health. Those who improve their status in life have a lower risk of heart attacks and strokes, according to a study.

Scientists from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, studied the backgrounds and medical records of 12,030 people born between 1926 and 1958. By looking at their parents’ jobs, the scientists worked out whether a person had climbed the social ladder, stayed the same or moved down.

The study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, showed that people who stayed in the more disadvantaged group were 42 per cent more likely to have high blood pressure – a condition linked to heart attacks and strokes – than those from wealthier backgrounds.

But those who did better than their parents cut this risk by a fifth, while people who went down the social ladder were more likely to have high blood pressure.

People who went down the social ladder by having worse jobs than their parents or being unemployed raised their chances of having high blood pressure. The condition– also known as hypertension - increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes by putting extra strain on the heart and blood vessels.

Around one in three adults in Briton have high blood pressure and it is strongly linked to being overweight, smoking, drinking excessively, not taking exercise and eating too much salt.

The authors concluded: 'In conclusion, this study shows a positive association between low parental socioeconomic status and risk of hypertension, indicating that effects of socioeconomic status on blood pressure start early in life.

'However, upward social mobility was associated with a decreased risk of hypertension, and the results indicated that those who experienced downward social mobility had an increased risk of hypertension. 'These findings suggest that the risk of hypertension associated with low parental social status could be modified by social status later in life.'


'Unstoppable' sex disease: New strain of gonorrhoea that resists all antibiotics could spread quickly

A sexual disease that is resistant to all drugs has been discovered by scientists. They warn the strain of super-gonorrhoea could spread very quickly unless better treatments are developed. Although only one case has been confirmed, experts fear many more may have gone unreported.

Until now gonorrhoea has been very easy to treat with antibiotics called cephalosporins. Patients usually need only a single pill or jab. But Swedish scientists who have analysed the new strain found in Japan believe that over the decades the disease has mutated to become resistant to current treatments.

Magnus Unemo, of the Research Laboratory for Pathogenic Neisseria in Orebro, described it as an alarming discovery. ‘Since antibiotics became the standard treatment for gonorrhoea in the 1940s, this bacterium has shown a remarkable capacity to develop resistance mechanisms to all drugs introduced to control it,’ he said.

‘While it is still too early to assess if this new strain has become widespread, the history of newly emergent resistance in the bacterium suggests that it may spread rapidly unless new drugs and effective treatment programs are developed.’

Dr David Livermore, of the Health Protection Agency, said that while antibiotics were still effective at treating gonorrhoea there were signs of growing resistance to them. ‘Our lab tests show that the bacteria are becoming less sensitive to these cephalosporins, with a few treatment failures reported,’ he added.

‘This means that we are having to change the type of cephalosporin that is used and to increase the dosage. ‘The worry is that we will see gonorrhoea becoming a much more difficult infection to treat over the next five years.

‘Prevention is better than cure, especially as cure becomes harder, and the most reliable way to protect against sexually transmitted infections – including resistant gonorrhoea – is to use a condom with all new and casual partners.’

The new strain of the sexually transmitted disease called H041 - was found in Japan and leaves doctors with no other option than to try untested medicines to combat it. Left untreated it can cause infertility in women and men and can be life threatening if it spreads to the blood and joints.

Some 16,700 Britons are infected with gonorrhoea every year and it is one of the most common STIs after chlamydia. The 16-24 age group accounts for almost half of all cases.

Rebecca Findlay, from the Family Planning Association, urged wider use of contraception. ‘Prevention is better than cure, especially as cure becomes harder,’ she said. ‘Prevention becomes more important because we know antibiotics won’t always work. ‘Gonorrhoea can affect people of all ages and everyone should be now focusing on looking after their sexual health.’

One of the problems with gonorrhoea is that its symptoms take time to become apparent. Around half of women and one in ten men will not be aware they have the disease for several months. In women, the infection can spread to the womb and ovaries and increase the risk of pelvic inflammatory disease.

The very painful condition has been linked to infertility and ectopic pregnancy, wherein the foetus develops outside the womb and cannot survive.

Men can also develop infections in the testes and prostate gland which can reduce their fertility.

Rates of sexually transmitted infections have increased over the past decade, although the number of cases has begun to level off. Experts have blamed increased promiscuity, particularly among the young.


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