More than 75% of e-cigarettes tested contain the chemical linked to ‘popcorn lung’

With e-cigarettes booming in popularity and being marketed as a healthier alternative to traditional smoking, scientists have been investigating the chemicals used in vaping in an attempt to identify any associated health risks.

Now a new study suggests that e-cigarettes may pose significant harm to vapers, having found that more than 75 percent of the e-cigarette varieties tested contained diacetyl – a flavouring chemical that’s previously been linked to the severe respiratory disease, bronchiolitis obliterans.

The debilitating lung condition became commonly known as ‘popcorn lung’ – or ‘popcorn worker’s lung’ – back in the early 2000s, when it first appeared in food industry workers who inhaled artificial butter flavouring in microwave popcorn processing facilities.

When airborne diacetyl is inhaled from the flavouring over a long period of time, the chemical can reduce air flow in the lungs by obstructing passageways calledbronchioles. The chemical is most dangerous to those who are exposed to it persistently in the workplace, although there has been at least one case involving a heavy consumer of microwave popcorn who consumed multiple bags of the food daily for over a decade.

“Recognition of the hazards associated with inhaling flavouring chemicals started with ‘popcorn lung’ over a decade ago,” said Joseph Allen, an exposure assessment expert at the Harvard University T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “However, diacetyl and other related flavouring chemicals are used in many other flavours beyond butter-flavoured popcorn, including fruit flavours, alcohol flavours, and, we learned in our study, candy flavoured e-cigarettes.”

With more than 7,000 varieties of flavoured e-cigarettes and e-juice (used in refillable vaping devices) on the market, it would be close to impossible to test them all. For this study, Allen and his team selected 51 types of flavoured e-cigarettes sold by nine different brands, picking flavours based on their potential appeal to children, teenagers, and young adults. Each product was inserted into a sealed chamber attached to a lab-built device that drew air through the e-cigarettes for 8 seconds at a time.

Analysis of the air stream revealed that diacetyl was present in 39 of the 51 flavours tested. When testing for the presence of acetoin and 2,3-pentanedione – two other flavouring compounds that potentially pose a respiratory hazard in the workplace – at least one of the three chemicals was detected in 47 of the 51 flavours tested.

The team includes a full list of the flavours found to contain diacetyl and/or the other chemicals in their paper, published in Environmental Health Perspectives, including Cherry Crush, Peach Schnapps, Vanilla Bean, and Grape Hookah.

The findings tell us more about the potential dangers of e-cigarettes, but they also highlight how we’re really only beginning to understand the health implications of this comparatively new drug choice. While the sample size in this study is comparatively small – just 51 flavours out of more than 7,000 on the market, and only representing products from nine brands  – It’s definitely something to think about if you choose to vape because you believe that you’re not harming your body.

“Since most of the health concerns about e-cigarettes have focused on nicotine, there is still much we do not know about e-cigarettes,” said one of the researchers, David Christiani. “In addition to containing varying levels of the addictive substance nicotine, they also contain other cancer-causing chemicals, such as formaldehyde, and as our study shows, flavouring chemicals that can cause lung damage.”

Study Says That Men Have The Better Sense Of Direction

The idea that men have a better sense of direction than women is one of the oldest gender cliches. But new research suggests that men really might employ better navigational strategies than women.

Previous studies — including many decades-old experiments on rats in mazes — have shown that men tend to outperform women on tasks requiring spatial awareness and way-finding. Now, the new findings offer a glimpse into why this is the case.

In a new study currently under review, neuroscientists at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, asked 18 male and 18 female participants to use 3D goggles and a joystick for one hour to orient themselves in a virtual maze game. Then, they were given 30 seconds for each of 45 various navigational tasks (for instance, finding a yellow car from different starting points). Meanwhile, the researchers measured their brain activity using fMRI.

“Men’s sense of direction was more effective,” Carl Pintzka, a Ph.D candidate in neuroscience at the university and the study’s lead author, said in a statement. “They quite simply got to their destination faster.”

The researchers found that men used cardinal directions more in their navigation. That means that men tended to use a “world-centered strategy,” going in the general direction of where something was located.

“World-centered strategy means the use of a cognitive map and cardinal directions to find your way,” Pintzka told The Huffington Post in an email. “Women on the other hand used a more egocentric strategy (self-centered), which means they relied more on a route of landmarks to get to the target.”

The world-centered strategy, which the men used, is more flexible since having a sense of direction is less dependent on the starting point. It’s likely that this is why the men ended up completing 50 percent more of the tasks than the women did.

The fMRI scans revealed a number of brain activity differences between the sexes. In men, the hippocampus — a brain region that helps us make sense of cardinal directions — was used more, and a larger hippocampus was associated with better navigational skills. Women relied more on the pre- and orbitofrontal cortex of the brain, which is involved in decision-making. Additionally, men had increased connectivity and synchronicity between important areas for navigation compared to women.

In a second study, which will be published on Feb. 1 in the journal Behavioral Brain Research, 21 women who were given testosterone and 21 women who were not given any hormones underwent the same navigational tasks. The results showed that the women who took testosterone didn’t perform any better, but they did use the hippocampus more when navigating, just like the men in the first experiment.

What does it all mean? Well, the gender differences have more to do with behavior and brain differences than hormones. 

“Our results demonstrate that testosterone had an enhancing effect on certain aspects of spatial cognition in healthy women, but that complex behaviors such as navigation, relying more on learned strategies, are not altered despite increased neuronal activity in relevant brain regions,” Pintzka told HuffPost. “These findings suggest that the male navigation advantage mainly reflects sex differences inbehavioral strategy.”

The researchers simply chalk up these differences to our evolutionary past.

“In ancient times, men were hunters and women were gatherers. Therefore, our brains probably evolved differently,” Pintzka said. “In simple terms, women are faster at finding things in the house, and men are faster at finding the house.”

Novel Chemical ‘Washes Away’ Alzheimer’s Plaque in Mice

Scientists in Korea have found a small molecule that, when added to the drinking water of mice bred to develop Alzheimer’s disease, washed away the protein plaques associated with the disease and improved the mice’s learning and memory functions.

The chemical, called EPPS — short for 4-(2-hydroxyethyl)-1- piperazinepropanesulphonic acid — posed no ill effect for the mice even at high doses. The scientists hope to conduct further studies to determine whether the EPPS is safe and effective for humans with Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, affecting more than 5 million Americans — a number projected to rise to 14 million by 2050, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth-most common cause of death in the United States and the condition costs the U.S. billions of dollars annually in treatment and care, the CDC says. The cause is unknown, although a small percentage of cases, particularly early-onset Alzheimer’s, appears to be genetic.

One of the early signs of Alzheimer’s disease is the buildup of fragments of proteins called amyloid beta, which stick together in plaquelike clumps in the brain. The current arsenal of Alzheimer’s medications tries to stop the formation of these plaques and slow the development of symptoms. But removing plaques after they form is difficult. [6 Foods That Are Good For Your Brain]

The Korean scientists, led by YoungSoo Kim of the Brain Science Institute at the Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) in Seoul, investigated the ability of EPPS to attach to amyloid-beta clumps and convert them into simpler, smaller molecules.

Through a series of experiments, they found that EPPS could break apart plaque in a living mammal. They also found the molecule could be added to drinking water yet still travel in the blood to the brain and cross the blood-brain barrier, which otherwise prevents foreign material from entering the brain. EPPS could penetrate the barrier because it is a relatively small molecule, Kim said.

The scientists found that doses between 30 and 100 milligrams per kilogram of body weight per day were effective in breaking up the amyloid beta. Further tests demonstrated that EPPS appears to have no toxic effects in mice up to 2,000 mg/kg per day.

While that may seem like a large cushion of safety, Kim said that more tests are needed to determine the precise toxicity, given how the drug might be administered to humans.

“[I]t is always better to lower drug dosage as much as possible for chronic disorders like Alzheimer’s disease,” Kim told Live Science. “Considering the possibility that patients need to take drugs for the rest of their lives, safety [testing] for long-term treatment has to be done.”

Scientists have debated whether amyloid-beta accumulation is a cause or an effect of Alzheimer’s disease symptoms. Kim said that because his group’s study showed that the mice’s learning and memory improved after the removal of the plaque, the research supports the view that amyloid-beta deposits are a direct driver of Alzheimer’s symptoms.

John Hardy, a neurology professor at the University College, London — who in November won a $3 million Breakthrough Prize for his earlier work, discovering the genetic mutations that cause amyloid beta to accumulate — said the new study was “indeed interesting,” but cautioned not to assume the same results would be seen in humans.

“It should be borne in mind that the cause of the behavioral problems in humans [is] largely [from] loss of nerve cells, and this does not happen in the mice models of the disease, so the improvement in the behavioral features in the mice may not be relevant to the human situation,” said Hardy, who was not involved in the research.

Also, a drug that works by breaking apart the amyloid clumps “would be required to be administered in very high doses,” Hardy told Live Science said.

Kim agreed with Hardy’s assessment. He added, however, that “there are about 10 to 15 years of amyloid accumulation before Alzheimer’s patients develop brain atrophy and cognitive deficits,” and that there is an opportunity during this time to slow or prevent irreversible damage.

“I strongly believe these drug candidates [based on EPPS] will halt the neurodegeneration and rescue patients from death,” Kim said.

A Skin Patch Of Ibuprofen Applies Medication Directly To Pain.

Ibuprofen patch

The University of Warwick in the United Kingdom and its spinoff company,Medherant, have created the first patch to deliver ibuprofen through the skin. The NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) is used for pain relief and fever reduction, and is used as an anti-inflammatory. You can find it in pills like Advil and Motrin today, but in the future, you might be taking it in a more direct manner.

The transparent patch is made of a specially developed polymer matrix, which is sticky enough to adhere to skin despite its high drug content (up to 30 percent of the patch’s weight). For up to 12 hours, the patch can deliver a high dose of the painkiller at a steady rate directly to the area that needs it. The ability to take ibuprofen this way could help those treating chronic conditions like back pain or arthritis, without risking the adverses heart and stroke side effects that come with high oral dosages.

There are currently topical ibuprofen gels available, but they can be difficult to apply at the correct dosage. And other patches sold for pain relief, like IcyHot use things like menthol to soothe pain, rather than NSAIDs.

“Many commercial patches surprisingly don’t contain any pain relief agents at all; they simply soothe the body by a warming effect. Our technology now means that we can for the first time produce patches that contain effective doses of active ingredients such as ibuprofen for which no patches currently exist,” University of Warwick research chemist David Haddleton said in the press release. Medherant is now looking at incorporating other types of medicine into the polymer patch technology. According to the researchers, the ibuprofen patch should make it to market in about two years.

Telerobotic Ultrasound May Revolutionize Telemedicine

Researchers are exploring whether telerobotic ultrasound can produce results comparable to those of manual examinations.

Researchers testing the efficacy of remote-controlled telerobotic ultrasound say the technology may have the potential to assess risk of heart attack or stroke and could play a critical role in reaching patients in rural and underserved areas around the globe.

The new technology—Tele Robotic Ultrasound for Distance Imaging, or TRUDI—allows an operator to perform ultrasound from any location with an Internet hookup. The ultrasound system is integrated into a robotic kiosk that the operator can manipulate into the proper position to complete an examination in just a few minutes.

Although still in the early stages of development, experts say the technology has vast potential for providing critical healthcare to resource-poor areas of the world—among other potential uses.

“Telerobotic ultrasound has the potential to revolutionize telemedicine by connecting the remote underserved areas of the world with a real-time imaging capability for diagnosis of acute diseases such as acute appendicitis and ectopic pregnancy,” said Vikram Dogra, M.D., director of ultrasound and professor of radiology and biomedical engineering at the University ofRochester, N.Y.

New York, Chicago Test Telerobotic Ultrasound

In a groundbreaking study, cardiovascular imaging specialists of Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York and Rush University Medical Center in Chicago are investigating whether remote-controlled robotic ultrasound examinations can produce results comparable to those of manual examinations.

“The operator can use video images of the patient environment, simulated patient views and our remote control software suite to enable proper probe positioning on the patient’s anatomy, all the while communicating with the patient directly through telepresence,” said Jeffrey S. Soble, M.D., a cardiologist at Rush, who developed the technology with biomedical engineer Sarah Doherty. “Additionally, a digital ultrasound machine with PC controls allows users to change depth and gain and the ultrasound mode from their remote locations.”

The PC-based ultrasound system is manufactured by Telemed Ultrasound Medical Systems.

Dr. Soble and Doherty are co-founders of TeleHealthRobotics in Chicago. The pair developed a prototype that can perform cardiovascular and neck ultrasound.

For a new two-part study, Partho P. Sengupta, M.D., an associate professor of medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine, and colleagues at Mount Sinai will use the TRUDI platform to perform carotid ultrasound from their New York City facility on patients in Chicago, comparing results with standard ultrasound examinations performed on the patients by Chicago sonographers at Rush University Medical Center.

“In the first cohort, volunteers will receive two manual ultrasound carotid artery acquisitions and two telerobotic acquisitions. We aim to show non-inferiority, or equivalency, between acquisition types,” said researcher Rami Doukky, M.D., professor of medicine and radiology at Chicago’s Rush Medical College.

For the second group, researchers will compare manual and telerobotic ultrasound acquisition for detection of carotid atherosclerotic plaque, a common warning sign of heart attack and stroke. If successful, the technology could provide a safe, convenient risk assessment for high-risk patients who might not otherwise have access to ultrasound, and allow for earlier therapeutic intervention.

“If proven cost-effective, we could potentially use this technology at regular intervals to provide personal risk assessment,” Dr. Sengupta said.

Although there is a learning curve associated with the telerobotic platform, Dr. Sengupta demonstrated that experienced sonographers can achieve proficiency quickly.

In a study published in the August 2015 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology: Cardiovascular Imaging Dr. Sengupta and colleagues at the German Heart Center in Munich compared the performance of an early ultrasound trainee with that of an advanced sonographer on the telerobotic platform. Results indicated that while both operators became proficient with the technology, the professional sonographer adapted to the new situation faster than the early trainee. Results show that clinical experience with ultrasound is useful for telerobotic acquisition even as TeleHealthRobotics incorporates sensing and image recognition mechanisms for semi-automation of the exam. An advanced sonographer was able to complete a telerobotic carotid ultrasound exam on a healthy volunteer in four minutes.

Technology Could Cut Wait Times for Diagnosis

The technology may also reduce wait times for patients at high risk of heart attack or stroke, according to Dr. Sengupta’s research. He collaborated with researchers in Sweden to analyze how a robot-assisted echocardiogram test affected waiting times for a diagnosis in heart failure patients from rural communities.

Average wait times were reduced from nearly four months to less than one month in patients receiving remote consultation, while patient wait times for a specialty consultation were reduced from 86 to 12 days. Results showed that 95 percent of the remote-consult patients considered it to be a superior strategy.

“Patients with heart failure often have to wait for days or weeks to see a specialist,” Dr. Sengupta said. “In this randomized trial, diagnosis time was substantially reduced with the robotic ultrasound system.”

The research shows promise for a safe, inexpensive technology that does not expose patients to radiation. In the future, patients could potentially undergo robotic ultrasound examinations similar to the automated blood pressure readings now available at pharmacies, Dr. Sengupta said.

“This would enable us to perform carotid artery screening without having a dedicated technologist at every machine,” Dr. Doukky added.

Potential for Cardiac Procedures and Beyond

Telerobotic ultrasound also may have a role in advanced cardiac procedures such as transcutaneous valve replacements. The remotely controlled robotic kiosk would enable physicians to perform ultrasound on the chest surface instead of down the throat, eliminating the need for general anesthesia and enabling the technologist to remain at a distance from the exam room, avoiding exposure to radiation from the X-rays required for the procedure.

Though the new study focuses on carotid artery imaging, the robotic approach has the potential to be used on other parts of the body, researchers said.

“A fetal ultrasound expert might not be available in a rural community, but with telerobotic ultrasound, those experts will be available anywhere in the world with an Internet hookup,” Dr. Sengupta said.

“The technology is poised to reduce the overall maternal mortality by providing access to antenatal care in developing countries,” he said. “Telerobotic ultrasound will revolutionize the practice of diagnostic ultrasound across the globe.”


Smartphones ‘are going to die out within five years’ Ericsson report predicts.

Smartphones ‘are going to die out within five years’, report predicts
Smartphones ‘will die out within five years’

Most of us spend every waking hour stapled to our smartphones – but that could be about to change.

A report by Swedish telecoms experts Ericsson suggests smartphones could be about to die out – in the next five years.

The report, which quizzed 100,000 people in Sweden and 39 other countries, found that many people believe smartphones are ‘over’.

Instead, we’ll speak to ‘artificially intelligent’ helpers without needing a screen, according to the people polled by the telecoms giant.

Many tech gurus predict that wearable gadgets such as Apple Watch will slowly start to replace smartphones – although few experts would expect the change to be THIS rapid.

A smartphone in the hand, it’s really not that practical,’ said Rebecka Cedering Ångström from Ericsson ConsumerLab.

‘For example, not when one is driving a car or cooking. And there are many situations where display screens are not so good. Therefore, one in two think that smartphones will belong to the past within five years,”

‘Things just go so fast now from the idea to the mass market. We have not studied the technology, this is just what consumers think.’

Why are People With Blood Type 0 So Special?

People with this blood type played important roles in any society, from ancient times even to this day. Blood type 0 is the primal blood type of our ancestors who were cunning, aggressive predators. It is often believed that their uniqueness comes from the fact that our ancestors were hunters who had to observe and accurately evaluate the environment to be able to survive. People with blood type O possess amazing qualities, such as energy and ability to stay focused, power, features needed for leadership, productivity and proactivity. Their genetic inheritance offers them the opportunity to be a strong, productive, to have a long life and to be optimistic. Japanese associate this blood type with a certain type of personality. People with the blood type 0 are most often described as committed, organized, focused, responsible, conscientious and practical. They are believed to be better logicians and to be able to orient better. Nevertheless, unhealthy habits or elevated stress levels, poor diet, lack of exercise, are making them more sensitive to adverse metabolic effects, including insulin resistance, low activity of the thyroid gland and obesity. If under stress, they may become angry, hyperactive and impulsive. Stress can be caused by excessive anger and hyperactivity. People with this blood type are predisposed to certain diseases, such as ulcers and thyroid dysfunction. They have higher levels of stomach acid than other blood types, often resulting in stomach irritation and stomach ulcers. Also, members of the blood group 0 often have low levels of thyroid hormone and inadequate iodine, a chemical element whose sole purpose is to regulate the thyroid hormones. This causes many side effects such as obesity, fluid retention and fatigue. If you are also part of this group, this article will provide important tips to enhance your everyday life and health: Consume all meals, even snacks, sitting at the table. Always chew slowly and be relaxed. Be sure to avoid caffeine and alcohol. Caffeine can be particularly harmful because of raising the adrenaline and noradrenaline levels, which are already high in people with this blood type. In order to relax your entire body, exercising is critical. Blood type 0 members need to be physically active more than any other blood type, in order to maintain health and emotional stability. Regular physical activity is required three to four times a week. If you have excess weight, you need to exercise. For best results, aerobic exercises need to be done for thirty to forty five minutes at least four times a week. To avoid impulsive reactions, set clear goals, whether they are annual, monthly, weekly or daily and plan everything in time. If overly tired, depressed or bored, you are more vulnerable to destructive behavior, including impulsivity, seeking excitement, gambling and risk-taking.

Why are People With Blood Type 0 So Special

Increased CO2 in the atmosphere has altered photosynthesis of plants over the 20th century

Increased CO2 in the atmosphere has altered photosynthesis of plants over the 20th century
By monitoring plant metabolism retrospectively, the Umeå-based research group has quantified how much increased atmospheric CO2 levels have contributed to plants’ ability to capture the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. 

Researchers at Umeå University and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences have discovered that increasing levels of CO2 in the atmosphere have shifted photosynthetic metabolism in plants over the 20th century. This is the first study worldwide that deduces biochemical regulation of plant metabolism from historical specimens. The findings are now published in the leading journal PNAS and will have an impact on new models of future CO2 concentration in the atmosphere.

In most plants, the uptake of CO2 through is reduced by a side reaction called photorespiration. The research group has now found that the CO2 increase in the atmosphere over the 20th century has shifted the balance between photosynthesis and photorespiration toward photosynthesis. This shift has so far contributed to the global vegetation’s ability to dampen climate change by absorbing a third of human-caused CO2 emissions. The photorespiration pathway is known to increase with temperature, which means that temperature and CO2 effects predictably oppose one another. This implies that the CO2 -driven metabolic shift will be counteracted by future temperature increases.

Vegetation’s ability to capture CO2 from the atmosphere through photosynthesis is not only a decisive factor for the global CO2 balance but also in predicting future climate change and crop productivity. By monitoring retrospectively using historic plant samples, this research group has quantified how much increased atmospheric CO2 levels during the 20th century have contributed to plants’ ability to capture the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.

“Until recently, studying how plants respond to increases in CO2 on decadal to centennial time scales has relied on simulations based on short-term experiments, because methods to detect long-term metabolic changes were not available. By reconstructing past metabolic shifts in response to environmental changes, we lay the foundation for better modelling of future plant performance,” says Jürgen Schleucher, professor at the Department of Medical Biochemistry and Biophysics at Umeå University, who led the study.

“We now have data showing the effect of CO2 on the level of metabolic fluxes in plants over decades back in time,” says postdoc Ina Ehlers, who performed most measurements for this first empirical study on shifts in plant metabolism driven by long-term environmental changes. The study was funded by the Swedish Research Council and equipment provided by the Kempe Foundation and the Knut and Alice Wallenberg foundation.

The researchers from Umeå University and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, led by Jürgen Schleucher, observed shifted photosynthetic metabolism in both wild plant species as well as crops.

“We suspected that photorespiration was stealing away a portion of photosynthesis. Now we know it was leaving fingerprints,” says John Marshall, professor of Tree Physiology and co-author of the study. Due to the fundamental biochemical origin of the observed shift, the same change should have occurred in most global vegetation.

The study analysed several different C3 plants, i.e. plants which collectively account for the majority of global photosynthesis, and of calories for human nutrition. In historic beet sugar samples that grew at different times between 1890 and 2012, the researchers observed a change in metabolic fluxes, which can fully be explained as CO2-driven shift, without a noticeable influence of cultivars, changes in agricultural practices or by plant breeding.

“The peat moss species that showed the same metabolic shift occurs widely over the northern hemisphere and is highly important for the CO2 capture of boreal peat soils,” adds Mats Nilsson, professor in Biogeochemistry and collaborator in the study.

The researchers developed a new methodology, using NMR spectroscopy at the Umeå University’s core facility “NMR for Life”, to compare the metabolism in century-old herbarium specimens with new plants. By studying intramolecular isotope patterns of glucose in formed during photosynthesis, the researchers discovered that changes in isotope patterns are linked to changes in metabolic fluxes depending on the different CO2 levels. The method was first calibrated in greenhouse experiments and then used to compare historic and modern plant samples. The researchers were thus able to track changes in metabolism over centuries.

10 Early Warning Signs of Parkinson’s Disease

How to tell if you or someone you love might have Parkinson’s

It can be hard to tell if you have Parkinson’s disease.

Here are the 10 signs you might have the disease. No single one of these signs means that you should worry. But if you have more than one symptom you should make an appointment to talk to your doctor.

Tremor or Shaking

Have you noticed a slight shaking or tremor in your finger, thumb, hand, chin or lip? Does your leg shake when you sit down or relax? Twitching or shaking of limbs is a common early sign of Parkinson’s disease.

What is normal?

Shaking can be normal after lots of exercise or if you have been injured. Shaking could also be caused by a medicine you take.

Small Handwriting

Has your handwriting suddenly gotten much smaller than in it was in the past? You may notice the way you write words on a page has changed, such as letter sizes are smaller and the words are crowded together. A sudden change in handwriting is often a sign of Parkinson’s disease.

What is normal?

Sometimes writing can change as you get older, if you have stiff hands or fingers or poor vision, but this happens over time and not suddenly.

Loss of Smell

Have you noticed you no longer smell certain foods very well? If you seem to have more trouble smelling foods like bananas, dill pickles or licorice, you should ask your doctor about Parkinson’s disease.

What is normal?

Your sense of smell can be changed by a cold, flu or a stuffy nose, but it should come back after you are better.

Trouble Sleeping

Do you thrash around in bed or kick and punch while you are deeply asleep? You might notice that you started falling out of bed while asleep. Sometimes, your spouse will notice, or will want to move to another bed. Sudden movements during sleep may be a sign of Parkinson’s disease.

What is normal?

It is normal for everyone to have a night when they ‘toss and turn’ instead of sleeping.

Trouble Moving or Walking

Do you feel stiff in your body, arms or legs? Sometimes stiffness goes away as you move. If it does not, it can be a sign of Parkinson’s disease. You might notice that your arms don’t swing when you walk, or maybe other people have said you look stiff. An early sign might be stiffness or pain in your shoulder or hips. People sometimes say their feet seem ‘stuck to the floor.’

What is normal?

If you have injured your arm or shoulder, you may not be able to use it as well until it is healed, or another illness like arthritis might cause the same symptom.


Do you have trouble moving your bowels without straining every day? Straining to move your bowels can be an early sign of Parkinson’s disease and you should talk to your doctor.

What is normal?

If you do not have enough water or fiber in your body, it can cause problems in the bathroom. Also some medicine will cause constipation. If there is no other reason such as diet or medicine that would cause you to have trouble moving your bowels, you should speak with your doctor.

A Soft or Low Voice

Have other people told you that your voice is very soft when you speak in a normal tone, or that you sound hoarse? If there has been a change in your voice you should see your doctor about whether it could be Parkinson’s disease. Sometimes you might think other people are losing their hearing, when really you are speaking more softly.

What is normal?

A chest cold or other virus can cause your voice to sound different, but you should go back to sounding the same when you get over your cough or cold.

Masked Face

Have you been told that you have a serious, depressed or mad look on your face more often, even when you are not in a bad mood? This serious-looking face is called masking. Also, if you or other people notice that you have a blank stare or do not blink your eyes very often, you should ask your doctor about Parkinson’s disease.

What is normal?

Some medicines can cause you to have the same type of serious or staring look, but you would go back to the way you were after you stopped the medication.

Dizziness or Fainting

Do you notice that you often feel dizzy when you stand up out of a chair? Feeling dizzy or fainting can be signs of low blood pressure and can be linked to Parkinson’s disease.

What is normal?

Everyone has had a time when they stood up and felt dizzy, but if it happens on a regular basis you should see your doctor.

Stooping or Hunching Over

Are you not standing up as straight as you used to? If you or your family or friends notice that you seem to be stooping, leaning or slouching when you stand, it could be a sign of Parkinson’s disease.

What is normal?

If you have pain from an injury or if you are sick, it might cause you to stand crookedly. Also, a problem with your bones can make you hunch over.

What you can do if you have Parkinson’s disease

  • Work with your doctor to create a plan to stay healthy. This might include the following:
    • A referral to a neurologist, a doctor who specializes in the brain
    • Care from an occupational therapist, physical therapist or speech therapist
    • Meeting with a medical social worker to talk about how Parkinson’s will affect your life
  • Start a regular exercise program to delay further symptoms.
  • Talk with family and friends who can provide you with the support you need.

Is ecstasy really that dangerous? All your questions answered.

After two ecstasy deaths at the Stereosonic festivals, it’s imperative that we get our facts straight about the drug, or more young people will die, say two leading experts on drug use and policy

Ecstasy tablets
‘Why do people with everything to live for take drugs like ecstasy?’

The recent tragic deaths of two young people after taking ecstasy at the Stereosonic music events in Sydney and Adelaide prompted much media comment. Unfortunately, much of it was misinformed.

Unless we can agree on the basic issues and realistic options, sadly more young people will continue to die. Ecstasy is very different from and a much less dangerous drug than “ice”, the subject of prime minister Malcolm Turnbull’s announcement of a National Ice Action Plan on Sunday.

1. Why do young people with everything to live for take drugs like ecstasy?

For many young people, taking ecstasy is a very enjoyable experience, particularly at dance and music events. These young people consider ecstasy is a better, gentler and more social drug than alcohol, especially in dance music settings. Indeed, ecstasy is not associated with violence while alcohol is often linked to aggression and anti-social behavior.

2. What is ecstasy?

When most people buy ecstasy they hope to purchase MDMA, a psychoactive drug with weak stimulant and hallucinogenic effects. MDMA was used in the 70s and 80s as an adjunct to psychotherapy before being classified as dangerous after recreational use of the drug increased.

3. Is MDMA really a dangerous drug?

While all drug use, recreational or otherwise, can cause harm, pure MDMA is one of the least dangerous drugs known. Indeed, it is much less dangerous than drugs like alcohol, tobacco or cannabis. MDMA is rarely habit-forming. The vast majority of people only take MDMA in the context of dancing or partying. MDMA fatalities do occur but are extremely rare in comparison with the hundreds of thousands of doses taken every year in Australia. Professor David Nutt, a distinguished expert, was sacked from an official UK position for estimating in 2009 that the risk of death was greater from horse riding than from taking ecstasy.

4. But three people have died after taking ecstasy in Sydney this year. How can MDMA be called “a relatively safe drug”?

People have died after taking what they thought or were told was MDMA. But was it really MDMA? Because MDMA cannot be obtained legally, the black market manufactures the drug with unknown quality controls and expertise. Sometimes dangerous variants to MDMA (PMA or PMMA) contaminate the sold product – and these contaminants really are dangerous.

5. Are people “stupid” taking pills assumed to be MDMA when they might not be? Isn’t this, as a senior NSW policeman said, “just playing Russian roulette”?

No, people taking ecstasy are not taking stupid risks and they are definitely not playing Russian roulette – which carries a one in six chance of dying. But even when taking “street” ecstasy the chances of serious harm are still small, despite the inherent risks of consuming a black market product. There are about a dozen ecstasy deaths per year in Australia though every week tens of thousands of Australians take the drug. One of the reasons so many people keep taking ecstasy is that they know from their own experience and that of their peers that there is a very high chance that they will have an enjoyable experience and only a tiny chance that they will end up in hospital or die.

Governments have no greater chance of stopping people taking ecstasy because of the rare death than they would stopping people driving because of the rare road crash death.

6. Some commentators advocate a “cultural change” so that ecstasy taking would stop thereby providing a solution to the recent spate of deaths. Will this ever happen?

No it won’t. Ecstasy is here to stay.

People will continue to use drugs like ecstasy much like they continue to use alcohol. We have more chance of “nudging” people to less risky behaviours if the drug is even partly regulated.

If Australians were willing for our country to become a police state like Singapore, it is possible that the use of ecstasy would decline considerably. Otherwise, where there is a demand, there will always be a supply.

7. What about cigarette smoking? Haven’t we seen a cultural shift with fewer people now starting to smoke than ever before?

Yes, we have. But that’s after considerable credible scientific evidence that smoking really is very dangerous. Here the Russian roulette analogy does apply: about 50% of smokers will die from a tobacco-related illness. And nicotine is also much more habit-forming than MDMA.

8. If MDMA is not as dangerous as claimed, why aren’t we finding other useful things to use it for other than recreation?

We are. There is some evidence that MDMA may be useful for treating people with post-traumatic stress disorder. Current trials in the USA use MDMA to treat veterans with PTSD from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Getting official approval for medical research using MDMA has been impossible until recently.

9. Why don’t we regulate MDMA manufacture and distribute it in nightclubs and dance festivals under close supervision?

Good question. Professor David Penington, former vice chancellor of Melbourne University, recommended regulating MDMA in 2012.

On the one hand, authorities justify their (ineffective) crackdowns on ecstasy by arguing that because MDMA is manufactured and distributed by the black market it must be terribly dangerous. On the other hand, when confronted with advocacy to regulate MDMA manufacture and distribution, the same authorities tie themselves in knots trying to argue all drugs (except alcohol and tobacco) are too dangerous to even consider regulating any new drugs.

10. What should we do now?

Australia should scrap saturation policing with sniffer dogs at youth music dance events and follow the Europeans: we should allow drug checking and evaluate the benefits and costs.

It won’t eliminate all risks, but will almost certainly reduce them.