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Science
BUILDING A HEALTHIER BRITAIN
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Richard Hannaford examines the research behind medical advice.
Tuesdays 9.00-9.30pm 1 - 22 Nov 2005 Rpt Wednesday 4.30-5.00pm

Since the 1950s doctors have continuously researched people's health and lifestyle. Richard Hannaford examines the results of these epidemiological studies: some have given simple answers and saved hundreds of thousands of lives, while the results of others are confusing and highly controversial.

Richard Hannaford
Richard Hannaford

1. Diabetes

Early research in the 1990s suggested that babies born with a lower birth weight were at increased risk of developing diabetes in later life. This work has now moved on to show that the weight you put on after birth is more crucial.

How effective is physical exercise on the rate of developing diabetes, and just how much exercise do you need to do in order to protect yourself?

Richard Hannaford follows the population studies that have found the answers to these and other questions about the emergence of this condition.

Listen again Listen again to Programme 1
Teeth

2. Fluoride

Adding fluoride to the water supply has always been a polarised debate. Some think it will prevent tooth decay while others say its safety has not been proven.

Its not a new argument, 50 years of fluoridation studies are available but recently public health officials of both Scotland and England have revisited the issue.

The difference is that Scotland has decided against increasing the amount of fluoride in the water, while in England the Strategic Health Authorities can, after consultation, request that Water Companies add fluoride to an agreed level.

Richard Hannaford asks whether science can ever solve this controversy.

Listen again Listen again to Programme 2
Elderly couple kissing

3. Dementia

Many of us feel that as we grow older, memory loss and dementia are inevitable.

With people living longer nowadays this could well be true, yet few large population studies have been done to study whether the problem is getting worse. Dementia is a difficult condition to research as many different factors are responsible for its development.

Some people can put their dementia down to a specific head injury, others might have vascular problems like stroke or heart disease that could account for their symptoms and yet no two cases are the same.

Richard Hannaford goes in search of what we do know about dementia and what we need to find out in order to provide better services for our ageing population.

Listen again Listen again to Programme 3
Silhouettes

4. Schizophrenia

One person in a hundred suffers from schizophrenia and among some groups, especially migrants; the incidence appears to be even higher. Schizophrenia still carries a stigma and many sufferers refuse to accept that they have the condition.

Over the last two decades, psychiatrists have standardised the diagnosis of schizophrenia to include a range of symptoms like delusions and hallucinations. But doctors are still at a loss to explain what actually causes the disease.

Is there a genetic influence? Why do women typically present with schizophrenia ten years after men? And why are young black men more than six times likely to be diagnosed with the condition?

Richard Hannaford follows the population studies that have highlighted these anomalies and thrown up interesting theories about the cause of this disease.

Listen again Listen again to Programme 4
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