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Children with pet dogs more active

Scientists from St George’s, University of London, have suggested that owning a dog could help reduce the risk of childhood obesity.

A study of 78 inner-city primary schools in England found children in homes with dogs were more active than those without.

The researchers found that children in dog-owning families took part in more physical exercise and were less sedentary.

But researchers are still not sure whether this is a case of more active families being more likely to own a dog — or if owning a dog makes an otherwise sedentary family more active.

“It’s a bit of a chicken and egg question. Long-term studies are needed to answer it, but it may be a bit of both,” said Christopher Owen, senior lecturer in epidemiology at St George’s.

The study measured levels of activity, such as the number of steps walked and time spent in light or moderate to vigorous physical activity, using a sample of more than 2,000 nine and 10-year-old children.

About one in 10 of these families, in London, Birmingham and Leicester, lived in a household with a dog.

It found a consistent picture for both boys and girls, on weekdays and weekends, that children in dog-owning families had a higher level of physical activity.

Staying away from work for long time worsens health

An Australian study has revealed that the longer someone stays away from work, the worse their health becomes.

The report presented by the Australasian Faculty of Occupational and Environmental Medicine said the biggest health risk posed by workplace injuries is not returning to work quickly enough. The tendency towards a sedentary lifestyle after a workplace injury, and the loss of identity and social status produced by long-term worklessness, massively increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, lung cancer and suicide.

The risks associated with not working were higher than working in the most dangerous construction or forestry occupations and were equivalent to smoking multiple packets of cigarettes daily, contributing to elevated mortality rates.

“Not working for long periods is one of the greatest known risks to public health,” said Dr Robin Chase. “It reduces life expectancy to a greater extent than cardiovascular disease. Suicide among young men out of work for more than six months increases 40-fold. It increases six-fold among the population more generally.”

Misdiagnosis greatest threat to patient safety

A senior UK doctor has warned that diagnostic errors are the central cause of avoidable harm to patients in hospitals.

Gordon Caldwell, Worthing Hospital, Western Sussex, argued that doctors need better facilities and sufficient time to make a correct diagnosis. When a patient is admitted to hospital, the team of doctors formulate a “working diagnosis”, he explained.

At this point, the diagnosis is uncertain but the patient is treated as if the working diagnosis is correct. “If over the next few days the patient gets better, the working diagnosis is confirmed and becomes the diagnosis,” he said.

However, if the patient does not improve, “we think again and consider whether the working diagnosis was wrong”.

He warned: “The time taken to reach the correct diagnosis may critically impact on the patient’s chances of survival. Over my career, I have seen many errors in the working diagnosis causing harm and even death to patients.”

Thigh-high surgical stockings best in fight against DVT

Replacing knee-high socks with thigh-high surgical stockings while treating patients in hospital can reduce life-threatening clots.

Scientists at the University of Edinburgh concluded that knee-high stockings are less efficient to protect stroke patients against deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a life-threatening form of blood clot that can travel up to the heart and lungs.

The Clots (Clots in Legs Or Stockings after Stroke) research found that the clot rate in stroke patients was higher among those fitted with the shorter rather than longer stockings.

The study involved more than 3,000 patients recovering from strokes from 112 hospitals in nine countries and found that stroke patients fitted with below-the-knee stockings were 30 per cent prone to develop DVT in comparison with patients fitted with thigh-length stockings.

“Although we have shown in previous work that thigh-length stockings are not very effective in reducing the risk of DVT after a stroke, we believe that the results of this trial may have important implications for the millions of patients undergoing surgery each year,” said Martin Dennis, professor of stroke medicine.

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