Chronic conditions

Margaret McCartney

An interesting paper from the Annals of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology – Use of herbal remedies and adherence to inhaled corticosteroids among inner-city asthmatic patients

People with bad asthma who took herbal remedies were more likely not to take their prescribed medication (not surprisingly) and have worse symptoms.

So is this just a case of people who don’t like conventional medication trying to find something alternative and as good, and failing to find it? That seems a reasonable explanation.

But could it be that the herbal medicines are in some way making asthma worse? It is worth considering, especially as many people will say that even if they don’t work “they won’t do any harm”. By making people think that herbal medicines work, they may end up not taking medicines which are of benefit.

Margaret McCartney

Part of UK NHS development has been to make some nurses specialists in their area. Some aspects of this are not new – if you keep people learning and involved in a certain area – diabetes, say, or asthma – they are going to get very familiar with management of that particular condition.

The NHS and Department of Health, though, have moved things further yet – for example, by allowing nurses to prescribe any medicine after a few weeks training. Not everyone has “done the course” however, or wants to sign their name – which means that phone calls are not unusual from, say, the pain nurse, the respiratory nurse, or the terminal care nurse asking for a patient to be given whatever drug.

By Rebecca Knight

What are you doing to keep your mind sharp and supple as you age? Eating a diet chock-full of blueberries and beans and other antioxidant-rich foods? Meditating? Playing a game of chess, or doing a crossword puzzle every day?
 
Two new reports show that perhaps the best way to keep your brain young is to exercise. The reports, which appear in the latest issue of Archives of Neurology, one of the JAMA/Archives journals, find that those who do moderate physical activity in mid life or later appear to reduce their risk of mild cognitive impairment. A six-month high-intensity aerobic exercise programme may also improve cognitive function in people who already have the condition.
 

Margaret McCartney

Dr Ann McPherson saw the need for DIPEx – now called Healthtalkonline- not from the doctors’ chair, but from the patient point of view. “Basically, 15 years ago I had breast cancer and although I’d been a GP for a long time, what I wanted was not to hear glamorous or extraordinary stories – you know, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro or whatever – but just the great variety of ways in which people dealt with things. I got talking to Dr Andrew Herxheimer – and he had just had a new knee. Well he was also a doctor, and knew a great deal about medicine and the way the body worked – but he wanted human stories as well. You want to know how other people with this are doing. And we thought – how can we get this working? How can we do this?”

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Margaret McCartney is a Glasgow-based GP and FT Weekend columnist. She started writing for the Life and Arts section in 2005 and moved to the magazine in 2008. She also has her own blog: www.margaretmccartney.com/blog

Clive Cookson has been a science journalist for the whole of his working life. He joined the FT in 1987. Clive, the FT's science editor, picks out the research that everyone should know about. He also discusses key policy issues, from R&D funding to science education.

Andrew Jack is pharmaceuticals correspondent, covering the industry and public health issues. He has been a journalist with the FT for 19 years, based in London, Paris and Moscow

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