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Written by Dr Tom Nolan for Doctify

After the positive mood I had last month, I’m feeling a little down. All the latest research is making me a little bit sad: if only we could help the lonely and get the Chinese to eat more fruit. If only Stoke had more parks.

The secret to being more active

Are you looking for someone else to blame for the fact that you don’t walk as much as you’d like to? Blame your town planner, then move to Wellington in New Zealand. A study in the Lancet shows that the walkability of your local neighbourhood (i.e. how easy it is to get from one place to another) and having more parks nearby are associated with people being more active. People in more densely populated areas and close to more public transport are also more active. The people of Wellington were found to be the most active of the 14 cities studied, getting 50 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a day, compared to just 37 minutes a day for the good people of Stoke-on-Trent.

An apple a day…

I didn’t know until now that the Chinese eat very little fruit. Perhaps I hadn’t given it enough thought. Researchers in Oxford have. They went to China and found half a million people to take part in a study to examine the link between eating fruit and having a heart attack and stroke. Only 18% of participants ate any fruit on a daily basis. They were 40% less likely to die from a heart attack or stroke than those in the study who never ate fruit. So, it’s true: an apple a day keeps the (heart) doctor away (by 40% (if you live in China)).

The difference between a hug and a stroke

Having a stroke can be devastating. Feeling lonely and being socially isolated isn’t much fun either. It seems that the two are linked. Researchers looked through data from 23 studies and found that poor social relationships were associated with a 30% increase in the risk of stroke. The authors call for money to be spent to reduce social isolation and loneliness as a way of reducing the number of strokes. It’s strange that we live in a society that needs to find other reasons to help people who are lonely, rather than just wanting to help them because they’re lonely.

Antibiotics and meningitis

People who have had four or more courses of antibiotics in the previous year are twice as likely to get meningitis. So does taking too many antibiotics put you at risk of meningitis? Not necessarily. Research in the British Journal of General Practice this month looked back at over 7000 cases of meningitis on GP records to see how many times antibiotics had been prescribed before they got meningitis. This type of research can find connections between things (like taking antibiotics before getting meningitis) but can’t tell you whether one thing causes another. So, whilst it’s possible that too many antibiotics can make you susceptible to meningitis, it might just be that people who get lots of other infections also get meningitis.


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