Women who attended religious services more than once per week had a 33 per cent lower risk of death during the 16 years of follow-up compared with women who never attended. Photograph: iStockphoto

Harvard study shows beneficial effects for women of attending religious services

The World Health Organisation endorses the use of traditional herbal remedies. Photograph: iStockphoto

The very ‘naturalness’ of herbal medicines reinforces the idea that they are safe

One of the best ways to treat, and indeed prevent, sarcopenia is exercise. Photograph: Getty Images/iStockphoto

If we are physically inactive, we can lose up to 5 per cent of our muscle mass per decade after age 30

Opiates are compounds found naturally in the opium poppy plant Papaver somniferum.

US opioid sales quadrupled from 1999-2010, but there can serious side effects even when taken as directed

Test tubes with blood samples from patients who have been tested for Zika  at the maternity ward of the Hospital Escuela in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Photograph:  Reuters/Jorge Cabrera

Medical matters: There is currently no medication or vaccine that can prevent the virus

The amygdala is a tiny structure buried deep in the limbic part of our brains. It fires the body’s stress system and gets it to flood the body with adrenaline. Illustration: Thinkstock

Medical matters: Dr Harry Barry’s book contains much to put our busy brains to rest

If the pressure from a blood clot on the brain cannot be relieved by a surgical procedure then the person may die.

Blood clots can interfere with the respiratory centre in the brain, writes Dr Muiris Houston

“I have been thinking about the Proclamation from the perspective of the health of the nation.”  Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Visionaries would focus on local care and try to embed health as a social movement

Medical Matters: house calls by doctors give extra insight into the patient’s condition

Impaired function: Enough alcohol  to affect your driving  could be present the morning after an evening session of drinking three pints of beer or three double whiskeys. Photograph: Thinkstock

Several variables, including pace of drinking, weight and gender, affect alcohol absorption

Turning clocks ahead an hour in the spring or turning them back again in the autumn is associated with a temporary increased incidence of stroke. Photograph: iStockphoto

An increased stroke risk around daylight saving time changes probably relate to interrupted sleep patterns

 Leigh Bagnell, a patient with cystic fibrosis who received Ireland’s first ex-vivo lung perfusion transplantation at the Mater hospital. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Mater hospital team breaks new ground with innovative surgical process

Dr Conrad Murray, who was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter, at his trial in 2011 in connection with the death of pop star Michael Jackson in Los Angeles. Photograph: Kevork Djansezian/Reuters/Pool

Medical Matters: Were blurred professional boundaries a factor in the deaths of Elvis and Michael Jackson?

While side effects from medication are rarely due to prescribing errors, most are a known risk that will affect a very small proportion of those prescribed the treatment. Photograph: Thinkstock

Medical Matters: Sir William Osler certainly wouldn’t be impressed with the current trend to overdiagnose and overtreat

In all cases the injuries occurred during the tackle phase of play. Photograph: Thinkstock/Getty Images

Type of hip fracture associated with violent trauma found in players at Tallaght hospital

The most common use for ECT is in the treatment of severe depression, for which it is a safe and effective treatment. Photograph: Thinkstock

Medical matters: Change to Mental Health Act will make ‘little difference in practice’

Money is no longer the real issue – it’s how and where we spend it

Susie Long’s activism,  and that of her family since her death, hastened the introduction of the BowelScreen programme.   Photograph: Mark Condren

Late campaigner raised awareness of bowel cancer and failings in the health system

To administer the T-cell therapy doctors remove immune cells from patients, tag them with “receptor” molecules that target a specific cancer, and infuse the cells back into the body

While promising, the breakthrough requires trials on a far greater scale

When we entered our internship, we were told to treat our patients in ways that we didn’t think were humane.

The 1980s rules of my hero for medical students are still relevant today

WHO chief Margaret Chan giving a press conference on Monday in Geneva after an emergency committee debate on whether the Zika virus outbreak should be considered a global health emergency. Photograph: AFP/Fabrice Coffrini

Pregnant women are being advised not to travel to 20 American countries

A scientific review of medication use found that adolescence is associated with poorer illness management and a peak in non-adherence

Sticking to plan can be difficult for young people due to possible weight gain and stigma

While it can be argued that most web browsing reveals little personal health detail, it’s a different ball game when data is aggregated.

We seem relaxed about devices that openly share fitness information online

 Invented in 2003 by Chinese scientist Hon Lik, the electronic cigarette delivers nicotine through an aerosol of propylene glycol and glycerin, rather than via the combustion products of dried tobacco leaves. Photograph: Regis Duvignau/Reuters

Some bodies claim vaping is 95 per cent less dangerous than smoking

Results suggest that using the term “bloodcurdling” to describe feeling extreme fear is justified, say the researchers.

And other questions on the lighter side of health matters - what is a condominium?

Hangover symptoms are due to a combination of dehydration; the toxic byproducts produced by the liver when it processes alcohol; and a drop in blood sugar levels. Photograph: Getty

Medical matters: The perennial search for a hangover continues

Eating nine brussel sprouts provides our daily vitamin C requirement

Army personnel and locals work in Ballinasloe, Co Galway, to hold back rapidly rising waters in the wake of Storm Desmond. Photograph: Hany Marzouk

Storm Desmond signals winds of change

Guidelines can promote ‘tick-box’ medicine that does nothing for holistic patient care

Research into the effects of weight-loss suggests that losing about 9 pounds could reduce systolic blood pressure by 4.5 mm Hg

It may be difficult, but getting to a lower rate has major benefits – and can often be done naturally

Those who may have been affected would have donated blood in the last 18 months. Photograph: Getty Images

Irish Blood Transfusion Service say some blood donors may have had low blood count

The comedian’s wife, Susan Schneider, recently announced that as part of Williams’s autopsy the coroner found signs of Lewy body dementia (LBD); she added that doctors who analysed the report told her it was one of the most severe cases of the disease they had seen

With no cure for LBD, treatment centres on managing the variety of symptoms, says Muiris Houston

The results of the groundbreaking SPRINT trial will change blood pressure (BP) treatment goals for thousands of Irish people.

Groundbreaking trial challenges decades-old BP target , writes Dr Muiris Houston

A trial has found that patients whose systolic BP was kept below 120 mmHg had their risk for heart attack, heart failure or stroke reduced by 24 per cent, and their risk of death lowered by 27 per cent.

Study finds if BP kept below 120 mmHg, risk for heart attack, stroke falls 24 per cent

Gardasil vaccination: more than 644,000 girls in Ireland have been inoculated. Photograph: Joe Raedle/Getty

A court case has sparked worry about the safety of the human papilloma virus vaccine. How does it work, and how effective is it? (...)

Most people will experience at least one diagnostic error, defined as an inaccurate or delayed diagnosis, in their lifetime. Photograph: Everett Kennedy Brown/EPA

There will always be known unknowns in the diagnostic process

Doctors are shocked by the late recurrence of the Ebola virus and rapid deterioration of  Scottish nurse Pauline Cafferkey. Photograph: Reuters

Nurse’s relapse and an alarming study show that Ebola has not gone away

Parents should stop asking for antibiotics and send the kids outside to play

The oral contraceptive has some less obvious roles than preventing pregnancy, such as in the treatment of acne, severe premenstrua(...)

The medical world has not been above contributing to redhead myths. Photograph: Getty Images

Redheads produce more adrenaline than non-redheads, according to new book

“Clinical physicians completing their residencies [postgraduate training] should be formally trained in commercial airline emergency medicine. This should involve real-time emergency simulations and repeated certification of the handling of basic medical equipment,”

A medic’s decision could cost an airline a lot of money and possibly strand hundreds of passengers in some out-of-the-way corner (...)

The latest research does nothing to change the established view that Alzheimer’s cannot be transmitted from person to person. File photograph: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Absolutely no evidence an infectious agent causes this form of dementia

Listening to music before, during, or after a surgical procedure is beneficial to patients and can reduce pain and anxiety signifi(...)

Breast cancer cells. Photograph: Science Photo Library

US oncology research claims a particular form of the disease is being over-treated

Researchers at Galway university hospital followed up 118 morbidly obese patients after gastric bypass surgery and found long-term health benefits.  File photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

Average excess weight loss experienced in Irish research was 55% after two years

Study tested 23 symptom checkers and found one-third of cases correctly diagnosed, says Muiris Houston

Research shows efficacy in certain people may be linked to genetics, says Muiris Houston

All pets are a theoretical risk, with bites, scratches, saliva and contact with faeces among the common routes of infection

A woman walks past South Korean policemen wearing face masks in Seoul, South Korea. Photograph: Getty

There are scientific reasons why the ’flu-like virus is ‘super-spreading’, but cultural factors such as ‘doctor shopping’ are at p(...)

The Hiqa review into the deaths of five babies in the maternity unit at the Midland Regional Hospital, Portlaoise, uncovered multiple examples of poor oversight and a failure to take action by the HSE. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Hiqa found evidence of neglect by HSE managers in how they dealt with clearly documented problems at Portlaoise

Swedish scientists have developed a system that means we can assess our risk of dying by answering a few questions online. But w(...)

More research needed into widely prescribed stomach ulcer drug

Lead was used for pipework and watertanks before the 1970s in many homes. Lead from these pipes leeches into water with contamination levels of up to 80 times the legal limit found in drinking water in parts of Dublin. File photograph: Juri Samsonov/Getty/iStockPhoto

Long-term exposure can damage reproductive and nervous systems

Inhaling nitrous oxide is popular among young adults, but what are the dangers?

The review, commissioned by the International Agency for Research in Cancer, the World Health Organisation’s specialised cancer agency, also concluded there were benefits in screening older women aged 70 to 74.  Photograph: Rui Vieira/PA Wire

Study on women aged 50 to 69 years bolsters the case for national screening programmes

Patients should check what impact the trial will have on their treatment plan and follow-up care. Photograph: Thinkstock

After a diagnosis it can be daunting to decide whether or not to take part

MDMA can reduce the pumping efficiency of the heart, which is of particular concern during periods of increased physical activity

Heart failure may occur in susceptible individuals even after taking single dose

‘There are clear messages from this damning report.’ Above, Hiqa chief executive Phelim Quinn at the publication of the patient safety investigation report into services at Midland Regional Hospital. Photograph: Dave Meehan

Government must consider temporary closure of Midland Regional Hospital

Inequality and inequity continue to be part of Irish healthcare. Most of it is not intentional.

Patient advocacy has been the subject of attacks from vested interests

Medical jargon is something some readers will perhaps be overly familiar with. If you are a patient, or a patient’s relative, you (...)

Many on waiting lists have gallbladder problems or hernias that need surgery

Patients with major diseases may be spared the worst deficiencies of our health system. Those with lower-level illnesses, such as (...)

The ‘doctor knows best’ approach is outdated, but seeking consent is still challenging, says Muiris Houston

After an extensive review of 1,800 scientific papers, it found “there are no health conditions for which there is reliable evidence that homeopathy is effective”

The ‘treatment’ can delay people from seeking more effective medicinces, says Muiris Houston

New study by researchers at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute

The concept of harm by overdiagnosis hasn’t really hit home, says Muiris Houston

Balanced, rice-based diet and affordable healthcare help Japan’s population to live longer

At best, the study found an association between coffee-drinking and lower coronary calcium scores. This is long way from proving causation, a more difficult challenge that would require a randomised forward-looking study

Moderation in all things, with healthy scepticism about new studies, is best approach

Gerry Feeney  in Beaumont hospital on December 19th last. The complaint focuses on a failure to offer Mr Feeney the most basic of nursing care

Muiris Houston: Failure of basic care should be taken as seriously as medical problems

One of the keys to successful treatment is to start the anti-virals within 48 hours of the first symptoms appearing

The best hope is that the vaccine will mean the severity of the infection will be somewhat ameliorated, and it may help people avo(...)

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar says he is  in favour of ending the 30-year-old ban on gay men donating blood. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Lifetime ban should be replaced with a one-year deferral

Cooling of newborn infants with moderate to severe hypoxic brain damage reduces the risk of death and of long-term neurological disability. Photograph: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

Head cooling is designed to prevent the further death of brain cells

 Rather than feel bad on the weeks you don’t manage 150 minutes, be positive about any 20 minutes of moderate exercise you do get. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times

Dr Muiris Houston writes about the recent report saying we should do 20 minutes a day

The most common oral signs of diabetes are gingivitis (gum disease) and periodontal disease

There are various oral features that can be detected during a routine dental examination that might suggest undiagnosed diabetes (...)

Four broad ways to die: sudden death; the long, slow death of dementia; the up-and-down death of organ failure; and death from cancer where you “go down, usually in weeks”.

It has been suggested we should ‘stop wasting billions to cure cancer’ because terminal cancer is the best way to die

With the perennial hospital beds crisis reaching a crescendo, what can make a difference?

How about some moderate exercise starting this week? Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Muiris Houston outlines some less punitive approaches to good health in 2015

It is routine practice for the person to be admitted to the Central Mental Hospital in Dundrum for assessment

Psychiatrists' risk assessments are not an exact science

Although prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers affecting men in Ireland, it is very treatable if caught in time and v(...)

Various factors can contribute to a hospital’s misdiagnosis of miscarriage

Freddie Wood, president of the Medical Council. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

The president of the Medical Council, Freddie Wood, talks to Muiris Houston about maintaining public and patient trust by acting (...)

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