Coronavirus: UK regulator approves Pfizer Covid vaccine for 12 to 15-year-olds - Godz
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Coronavirus: UK regulator approves Pfizer Covid vaccine for 12 to 15-year-olds

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The Pfizer Covid vaccine is safe and effective for children aged 12 to 15, the UK’s regulator ruled today.

It was approved for over-15s in December last year and it will now be allowed to be given to anyone over the age of 12 because the ‘benefits outweigh any risk’.

Ministers have asked the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) whether to give the jab to teenagers — the current rollout is set to stop at age 18 except for children with serious health conditions. 

The JCVI — which normally rules who should get a vaccine — is expected to tell No10 that jabbing children is a ‘political’ decision and will leave the ball in ministers’ court. 

Vaccinating children against the virus is a controversial issue because youngsters only have a tiny risk of getting seriously ill and their immunity would likely only protect older adults. 

More than 100 cross-party MPs and the World Health Organization have said the priority should be to get vaccine doses abroad to poorer countries where vulnerable people still haven’t been jabbed before giving them to low-risk children.

More than 6million under-17s have already been vaccinated in the US after it became the first country to approve the jab for children last month. 

While Pfizer’s trials have not seen any new side effects and very few serious ones, seven American teenage boys developed heart inflammation after second dose of and were taken to hospital. 

None were critically ill, and all were healthy enough to be sent home after two to six days in the hospital. Similar reports of young men suffering inflamed hearts have emerged in Israel, too.

But pressure to vaccinate children in the UK could build up in the coming months as it emerges the now-dominant Indian variant is spreading quickly among them and may be more likely to make them sick. 

Ministers might be forced to give youngsters a jab if they want to keep the super-infectious strain under control. 

The UK’s vaccine regulator today gave the green light for the Pfizer jab to be given to 12 to 15-year-olds (Pictured: A teenager is given the jab in Florida, US)

This afternoon Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: ‘The government has asked the JCVI to advise whether routine vaccination should be offered to those aged 12-17’

This afternoon Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: ‘Following a robust review of the evidence, the MHRA has concluded the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine meets its high standards, authorising use for those aged 12-15. 

‘The government has asked the JCVI to advise whether routine vaccination should be offered to those aged 12-17. ‘

Dr June Raine, chief of the the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said: ‘We have carefully reviewed clinical trial data in children aged 12 to 15 years and have concluded that the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine is safe and effective in this age group and that the benefits of this vaccine outweigh any risk.’

She added: ‘No extension to an authorisation would be approved unless the expected standards of safety, quality and effectiveness have been met.’

Pfizer’s clinical trial of around 2,000 teenagers found nobody given two doses tested positive for coronavirus, compared to 16 who were unvaccinated. The jab appears to work just as well as it does in adults, health chiefs said. 

The decision comes at a pivotal time in Britain’s outbreak as cases are back on the rise and there are fears the new Indian ‘Delta’ variant is going to spark a third wave.

Children’s role in fuelling the next surge is unlikely but they will have some of the highest infection rates because they aren’t vaccinated, which will allow the virus to keep circulating and increase the risk of spillover into high-risk older people.

DECISION ON CHILDREN’S JABS COULD FALL TO BORIS JOHNSON 

The decision on whether to vaccinate children could fall to Boris Johnson and his government ministers, instead of health chiefs and scientists, because it is ethically complicated. 

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) is expected to ‘come up with a menu of options’ for the Prime Minister but not to offer a definitive recommendation on jabs for those under the age of 18.   

Children aren’t yet given vaccines because their risk of getting serious Covid is so tiny and their immunity would likely only protect older adults, making it a complex issue – vaccinating against measles, for example, directly protects the child so is more clear-cut.

Ministers will be forced to decide whether the tiny risk of side effects in children is worth the benefit of protecting more adults and stifling the virus. 

 JCVI deputy chair Professor Anthony Harnden said on BBC Breakfast in May: ‘We do know that the majority of children do not have huge risk of complications, whether we vaccinate for educational purposes, whether we vaccinate to protect others in the population, these are the ethical issues, there are a lot of issues to think about.

‘It’s a complicated position to decide on the immunisation of children, of course, then there’s the wider global ethical argument about the use of vaccine in children when there are other people in the world that are at risk of not being vaccinated.

‘So we need to think about all these issues, we probably will give the Government a range of options.’ 

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Public Health England data published yesterday showed that 10 to 19-year-olds had the highest infection rate in the last week of May, with 72 cases per 100,000 people and rising.

This was ahead of 52 per 100,000 in the next worst-affected group, people in their 20s, who had seen a 65 per cent surge in that week.

And separate figures show that the Indian variant is fuelling outbreaks in schools, with 97 clusters definitively triggered by the strain in the last month and potentially many more.

Although children are unlikely to get severely ill and die of coronavirus, how they are affected by long Covid still remains to be seen and it is possible they face long-term health effects that aren’t obvious when they first get infected.

Speaking about today’s approval, a Department of Health spokesperson said: ‘The government has asked the independent experts at the JCVI to advise whether routine vaccination should be offered to younger people aged 12 to 17.

‘We will be guided by the expert advisors and will update in due course.’

Professor Punir Mohammed, chair of the Commission on Human Medicines which conducted the review alongside the MHRA, added: ‘We have concluded that based on the data we have seen on the quality, effectiveness and safety of the vaccine, its benefits do outweigh any risk.

‘Over 2,000 children aged 12-15 years were studied as part of the randomised, placebo-controlled clinical trials. 

‘There were no cases of Covid-19 from seven days after the second dose in the vaccinated group, compared with 16 cases in the placebo group. 

‘In addition, data on neutralising antibodies showed the vaccine working at the same level as seen in adults aged 16-25 years. These are extremely positive results.’ 

Critics say vaccinating children is ethically dubious because pre-teens are at such a low risk of the virus and the jabs can cause uncomfortable side effects.

There are growing calls for the plan to be ditched and for doses to be shipped to poorer nations where elderly and vulnerable people are yet to be jabbed.

Ultimately, the UK wants to achieve herd immunity – when so many people are protected against a virus, either through vaccination or previous illness, that it peters out.

Scientists disagree on what the exact herd immunity threshold is but top US medical official Dr Anthony Fauci has previously suggested it could be as high as 90 per cent.

Pfizer’s vaccine was the first in the world to be approved for adults when the UK led the way by green-lighting it in December, and it is now the first jab to be approved for under-16s in Britain (stock image)

WHAT IS ‘HERD IMMUNITY’? 

Herd immunity is the indirect protection from an infectious disease that happens when a population is immune either through vaccination or immunity developed through previous infection.

Effectively, it means that once people have some form of immunity, it reduces the ability of a disease to spread among the population.

Therefore, someone who has antibodies either through previous infection or vaccines, acts as a ‘barrier’ to the virus.

If you have enough ‘barriers’ then the disease cannot effectively spread through a population.

But in the case of a new virus, such as with Covid-19, the virus can spread essentially without any barriers – which can lead to a pandemic.

The World Health Organisation says it supports achieving herd immunity through vaccination, not by allowing a disease to spread through any segment of the population.

But one expert told MailOnline that Covid-19 is here to stay and that the key is reaching a ‘herd immunity threshold’.

This keeps the virus at what is known as an endemic level – where a disease is regularly found among the population but is not harmful enough to impact on society.

Keeping Covid-19 within the herd immunity threshold, which can vary particularly in winter when diseases such as flu and coronavirus spread quickly, will mean it is kept at a ‘manageable level’, the expert added.

Research shows the current crop of Covid vaccines help by increasing the antibody response to the virus – therefore heavily reducing the risk that someone can be made seriously ill.

But data is not yet available about how effective the vaccinations are at preventing transmission.

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The UK government’s Chief Scientific Advisor Sir Patrick Vallance quoted a figure of 60 per cent back in March 2020 but scientists now believe it is much higher than that because the virus is more transmissible than previously thought.

Some argue that vaccinating children is the only way to achieve herd immunity, even if the threshold is lower than the 90 per cent touted by some. 

It comes after seven teenage boys in the US developed heart inflammation after second dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

An article on seven U.S. teen boys in several states, published online Friday in Pediatrics, is among the latest reports of young men getting heart inflammation after their second COVID-19 vaccination, though a link to the vaccine has not been proven.

The boys in the study, between the ages of 14 and 19, received Pfizer shots in April or May and developed chest pain within a few days. Heart imaging tests showed a type of heart muscle inflammation called myocarditis.

None were critically ill, and all were healthy enough to be sent home after two to six days in the hospital. They are all ‘doing pretty well,’ according to Dr. Preeti Jaggi, an Emory University infectious disease specialist who co-authored the report.

She said more follow-up is needed to determine how the seven fare, but that it is likely the heart changes were temporary.

Only one of the seven boys in the Pediatrics report had evidence of a possible previous COVID-19 infection, and doctors determined none of them had a rare inflammatory condition linked with the coronavirus.

The cases echo reports from Israel in young men diagnosed after receiving Pfizer shots. 

Analysis of the jab rollout there found there had been 148 cases of myocarditis, the medical name for swelling in the heart, shortly after the patient had been vaccinated.

A total of 275 cases have been spotted so far out of around five million people given the Pfizer jab in Israel, which has had one of the world’s most successful jab rollouts. The remaining 127 are thought to have happened later so a link was unclear.

This was equivalent to just 0.005 per cent of recipients, or one in 20,000 people. 

For the 148 cases ‘probably’ linked to the jab, the rate was 0.003 per cent – although half of them had other underlying health problems.

Pfizer said it had not seen a higher rate of the condition during its clinical trials than would be expected in the general population.

Linking the illness to the vaccine is complicated because it often causes no symptoms and goes away on its own, and it can be caused by viral infection so coronavirus could cause it rather than the jab. 

Men aged 16 to 30 made up the vast majority of cases, Israel’s Health Ministry said, but 95 per cent of them had mild cases. Two patients in the group died. 

Israel is still pressing ahead with plans to vaccinate children aged 12 to 16, after its pandemic co-ordinator said the risk from the virus outweighed any concerns over the jab.

The warning is one of the first health concerns linked to the Pfizer vaccine, which was not caught up in the blood clot scare with the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson jabs because it works differently. 

Israeli health officials first raised concerns Pfizer’s jab could trigger heart problems in April after detecting 60 cases, mostly among young men.

The US-based Centres for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) launched an investigation into the issue last month.

But it said monitoring had not picked up a higher number of cases of the condition among those who had been vaccinated than would be expected normally.

The UK’s medical regulators have not raised any concerns about health issues among people who have had the jab.

And the European Medicines Agency (EMA) said last week it had not found higher rates of heart problems among those who got the jab compared to the general population, adding young men were particularly prone to the condition.

This post first appeared on Daily mail

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Men who suffer from erectile dysfunction see their love lives left ‘in tatters’

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Men who suffer problems between the sheets are seeing their sex lives left ‘in tatters’ because NHS doctors are barred from prescribing the latest drugs that target erectile dysfunction, experts warn.

Patients can be offered Viagra, but in the three decades since the famous blue pill was first trialled, medications that are far more effective have been developed.

One such treatment, a tablet called tadalafil, can be taken in a low daily dose. This dispenses with the need, as when using Viagra, to take a pill 30 minutes to an hour before intercourse, making things much more spontaneous.

Daily tadalafil – brand name Cialis – may even bring about long-lasting physical improvements, helping to address the nerve and blood circulation problems that cause erectile dysfunction in some cases.

When the drug was first launched in 2003 it was prohibitively expensive, compared with Viagra, leading the NHS spending watchdog, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), to instruct doctors not to offer it. 

FEELING BLUE: A Time magazine cover in the early days of Viagra in 1998

New medicines, under patent, usually have a higher price. After the patent expires – usually 20 years after it is first granted – other manufacturers can make so-called generic versions, driving down this cost.

US pharma giant Eli Lilly’s patent on Cialis ended in 2017, and today the NHS pays as little as 20p a day per patient for generic tadalafil. So why is it still so difficult for men to get it?

Part of the problem lies in the current NICE guidance, say experts. It instructs doctors that generic Viagra can be prescribed ‘without restriction’. And it does permit use of tadalafil in certain doses, for men with specific health problems.

Alongside the low-dose daily version, tadalafil is also available in a higher dose that can be taken 30 minutes before sex, much like Viagra.

NICE state that this high dose version is recommended for ‘most men’ who are eligible. The lower, daily dose should only be offered to ‘men who prefer spontaneous (rather than planned) sexual activities’. 

And, regardless, daily tadalafil remains prohibited by local prescribing groups in charge of GP spending – a situation described by one expert as nonsensical.

Now urologists are calling for a dramatic rethink of the treatment for erectile dysfunction, which affects one in five men.

Patients in the UK can be offered Viagra (above), but in the three decades since the famous blue pill was first trialled, medications that are far more effective have been developed

All erectile dysfunction drugs work by improving the blood flow to the penis

Common causes of the condition include diabetes, neurological illnesses and mental health problems such as anxiety and depression, while men with prostate cancer who have surgery to remove the gland are often left with some degree of erectile dysfunction. 

These groups are eligible for NHS help – but in the vast majority of cases, Viagra is the only option given.

All erectile dysfunction drugs work by improving the blood flow to the penis.

‘The problem is that the effect of Viagra isn’t long-lasting, which means you have to get your timing right,’ says Marc Lucky, consultant urologist and surgeon at Aintree University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.

‘You need to take it between 30 minutes to an hour before you have sex. If you wait too long after having the dose, the effect can be weaker or it might not work at all. Similarly, if you take it and don’t wait long enough before having sex, it won’t work and you’ll have to stop and wait.

‘It’s a very unnatural way to approach intimacy, and basically requires men to disclose to their partners that they need an erectile dysfunction drug.

‘This might be fine for some men in long-term relationships, but particularly for younger men it can be hugely embarrassing. Many try to keep it a secret – and this fuels myths and misunderstandings about the causes of erectile dysfunction, and the role drugs play in treatment.

‘Women often mistakenly believe that their partner takes Viagra because they’re not attracted to them – which isn’t the case.

‘Erectile dysfunction medication allows men to have erections, but they won’t happen if a man isn’t sexually aroused.’

Dr Geoff Hackett, a men’s health specialist at Good Hope Hospital, Birmingham, says Viagra often leads to ‘dysfunctional sex’.

He adds: ‘Many men feel like once they’ve taken the tablet, they have to make use of it. But what if their wife then has a headache and doesn’t want to?

‘Patients have also told me their doctor would only write them a prescription for one tablet a week, which both ups the pressure, and isn’t very encouraging.’

Brazilian football star Pelé raises awareness in a 2002 impotence campaign

Unlike Viagra, tadalafil can be taken in a low-dose daily tablet and stays in the system for up to 36 hours. There are few to no side effects and this regime allows men to have sex without worrying about timescales.

Mr Lucky adds: ‘I’ve had patients whose sex lives have been left in tatters, and some who were even suicidal after a relationship broke down due to problems with Viagra. Don’t get me wrong – it still has its place. We’ll offer it to patients, but the problem is, if it doesn’t suit them, we’ve got no other options.

‘It’s frustrating to know there’s a drug available that could help solve these problems but we are not allowed to prescribe it.’

One patient to have been affected is James, a teacher from Liverpool who didn’t want his full identity revealed. 

The 35-year-old, who has type 1 diabetes, suffered erectile dysfunction as a complication of his condition and was prescribed Viagra in 2019. 

But using the pills, he says, zapped his relationship with his fiancee of ‘all spontaneity’, resulting in the end of their two-year engagement.

‘It turned sex into a scheduled task, putting me under even more pressure to get it right,’ he says. ‘And most of the time it didn’t even work, which made me feel like I’d failed.’ After a year of trying different doses, the couple stopped even attempting sex.

James says his mood was ‘bleak, most of the time’ as he struggled to feel confident in every area of his life. He returned to his GP to ask for an alternative to Viagra and was referred to a private doctor, who was able to offer a prescription for daily tadalafil, costing about £100 a packet.

While the NHS can buy drugs in bulk for a lower cost, the so-called ‘list price’ charged to private patients for a single packet of tablets is far higher.

‘Within a few weeks our sex life completely went back to normal,’ says James. ‘We felt closer again and I just stopped thinking about my sex problems all the time, which made it happen naturally, like it should do. 

‘But I just couldn’t afford to keep getting it – spending more than £1,200 a year on pills just so I could have sex.’

A year later, the couple split up. ‘Maybe if I had stayed on the pills, and just kept paying, I’d still be getting married,’ he says, sadly.

According to official guidance set by NICE, GPs can offer the generic form of Viagra, called sildenafil, and also tadalafil, to men with erectile dysfunction.

In its guidance, it suggests tadalafil daily tablets may be considered for men who ‘prefer spontaneous rather than planned sexual activity’.

When health chiefs first evaluated tadalafil, under the brand name Cialis, it cost more than £50 per patient for a month’s supply. 

Now, in its generic form, it is roughly ten times cheaper. But critically, in NICE’s guidance it suggests generic sildenafil ‘has the lowest acquisition cost’.

This alone, says Mr Lucky, deters GPs from offering tadalafil. ‘In many doctors’ minds, tadalafil is an expensive drug so they won’t offer it,’ he says. ‘In fact, both sildenafil and tadalafil cost the NHS the same, about 20p per dose. 

‘As men don’t necessarily take sildenafil every day, just as and when they need it, there is a cost difference, but it’s fairly marginal.’

Local health authorities also make their own rules about which pills can be routinely prescribed, and many prohibit tadalafil due to cost and as it has not been proven to be more effective than Viagra. Experts say this is in urgent need of updating.

‘The current NHS rules on tadalafil are nonsensical,’ says Professor Roger Kirby, president of The Royal Society of Medicine and a retired urologist who was involved in the original UK research and approval of Viagra in the 1990s.

Prof Kirby, who is in his early 70s, had his prostate removed in 2013 after being diagnosed with prostate cancer and now takes daily tadalafil.

‘We know it’s a better drug,’ he says. ‘Most middle-aged men will take a few tablets a day, maybe a statin or something for blood pressure. 

‘Tadalafil can be added to that, and it becomes a normal part of life. You don’t have to think about it.

‘When I first started taking it, I also took a dose of Viagra as and when I needed it. But now I don’t need this.

‘We’re not sure why, as the studies haven’t been done, but we think, at least in the case of men who’ve got erectile dysfunction after prostate surgery, that the daily dose regime might help recovery of the blood supply and nerves, leading to a long-term physiological improvement.’

Urologists have written several letters to NICE, urging it to reconsider the restrictions and encourage local heath chiefs to promote the use of tadalafil, but so far it has failed to act.

There was a similar reluctance to offer Viagra widely: the drug was licensed in the UK in the late 1990s but was only available privately until 2014 when it was approved for prescribing by the NHS. 

Dr Hackett says that despite its prevalence, there is still a stigma around taking Viagra, particularly in younger men: ‘Many of my patients tell me that women are instantly put off when they say they are taking Viagra. Some say they are even laughed at.

‘For men who already struggle with confidence issues, this can be really traumatising.’

All the experts agree that taking tadalafil offers men a feeling of normality.

Mr Lucky adds: ‘Considering so much of erectile dysfunction is psychological, this alone can help them rebuild their confidence and get past the issue.’

While erectile dysfunction drugs increase blood flow to the penis, there is also evidence that tadalafil helps increase it in the limbs of people with severe type 2 diabetes, who can be at risk of losing their legs or feet due to dangerously low blood flow.

Tadalafil is also available on the NHS to treat other conditions, including pulmonary hypertension – high blood pressure in the part of the heart that supplies the lungs. ‘It really is an incredibly powerful drug,’ said Dr Hackett. 

‘There are just so many benefits to taking it.’

Another man with erectile dysfunction to have benefited is 54-year-old Daryl Tompkins, from Birmingham, who describes the treatment, which he pays for privately, as life-changing.

Daryl, who has type 2 diabetes, was convinced his 25-year marriage would end after spending three years on ever-increasing doses of Viagra.

‘Even the highest dose didn’t work,’ says Daryl, a research assistant who has struggled with erectile dysfunction since 2011. Before then, Daryl and his wife Sunita had an active sex life, enjoying intimate moments at least twice a week. 

Gradually, following his diabetes diagnosis, this dwindled to roughly once every two weeks – and usually, he says, these were only ‘attempts’.

‘I was given only four Viagra pills to last me a week, so if I took them and we didn’t have sex, we both felt like failures and like we’d wasted a chance, which piled on the pressure for both of us,’ he says.

‘And because it wasn’t working, Sunita became convinced the real problem was that I’d lost interest in her. She became self-conscious when it came to intimacy, which wasn’t like her.’

Daryl went to see Dr Hackett privately, who prescribed a daily dose of tadalafil. After three months, Daryl says he felt like a completely different person.

‘It was almost like we’d just got married again,’ he adds. ‘I’ve noticed other benefits too – my blood pressure is lower and I have bags more energy to go out and exercise, which I wasn’t interested in before. 

‘In fact, I didn’t have much interest in anything. But these drugs changed that. They’ve changed everything.’

This post first appeared on Daily mail

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Pill for diabetics could also protect against heart failure

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A pill that tackles high blood sugar in type 2 diabetics might also protect against heart failure.

The medication, empagliflozin, is thought to stimulate the heart, making it more efficient and leading to ‘significant improvements’ in function after just three months, according to a study funded by the British Heart Foundation.

Patients involved in the trial also lost weight and saw improvements in their blood pressure.

Type 2 diabetes, triggered by genetics, an inactive lifestyle and excess body fat, affects roughly three million Britons, with millions more thought to be undiagnosed.

Although there is a range of treatments for the condition, patients are still more likely to develop a raft of heart problems due to the damage that raised blood sugar causes inside arteries and veins.

Type 2 diabetics have two to three times the normal risk of heart and circulatory problems, and a third die from cardiovascular events such as heart attacks.

A pill that tackles high blood sugar in type 2 diabetics might also protect against heart failure. Pictured: Stock image

Experts had previously noted that diabetics on empagliflozin, which forces the body to expel excess sugar in the urine so it doesn’t build up in the blood, were less likely to develop these conditions.

Major trials subsequently showed that the drug – along with similar medication dapagliflozin – taken alongside other drugs could improve symptoms in people living with heart failure.

This condition, which affects one million Britons, occurs when the heart becomes too weak or stiff and is unable to pump blood effectively round the body. Although the outlook is improving, at present one in five patients with heart failure dies within a year of diagnosis.

Those living with heart failure suffer debilitating symptoms, including extreme breathlessness and crushing fatigue that sees them regularly hospitalised. Heart failure causes roughly 86,000 emergency hospital admissions each year, and for many the only way out is a heart transplant.

But it is now becoming clear that empagliflozin could help prevent diabetes patients from developing heart failure in the first place.

In the latest study, researchers at the University of Leeds recruited 18 type 2 diabetes patients to take the drug and monitored them over 12 weeks. 

None of the patients had heart failure, but at the start of the study all were found to have lower-than-normal heart energy levels and weaker heart contractions.

WEIRD SCIENCE: Cancer that grows under your nails  

Did you know that cancer can grow in your nail bed? 

Nail melanoma, or acral lentiginous melanoma, is one of the rarest forms of skin cancer, accounting for less than five per cent of melanomas – the deadliest form of skin cancer.

The disease appears as a new, singular dark streak under the nail bed, a bit like a line drawn with a felt-tip pen. It most commonly occurs on the thumb of the dominant hand, or the big toe.

The risk of developing the disease increases with excess sun exposure but experts say genetics and family history is much more likely to drive it.

Some US doctors have suggested over-use of UV lamps in nail salons could increase the risk.

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Cardiologist Dr Sharmaine Thirunavukarasu, who led the study, said: ‘In most patients, [by the end of the trial] we saw a significant improvement in the heart’s energy levels, and also improvements in the amount of blood being pumped by their heart.’ 

The researchers believe this is because the drug has a direct effect on the heart muscle, making it stronger.

Dr Thirunavukarasu added: ‘We also saw patients lose weight, their blood pressure came down and generally they told us they had more energy and felt better. 

‘Although we didn’t formally look at quality of life in this study, you could see in the way they carried themselves – they looked happier.

‘Seeing their health improve seemed to inspire them to eat more healthily and exercise more.

‘We know these drugs work wonders if you already have advanced disease, but to have something that protects patients against ever developing it is hugely positive.’

One of the patients on the trial was quiz champion Barry Simmons. The 72-year-old, who regularly features on the television show Eggheads, was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes 12 years ago.

Barry, a retired IT consultant who has two grown-up children and lives in Leeds with wife Janet, 69, said: ‘Since I was diagnosed I have seen my blood sugar levels spike, and at times this has been difficult to control, despite taking medication and exercise.

‘It was incredible to see the difference this new medication made – and I was absolutely amazed when I was told that the blood flow to my heart had improved by 18 per cent in just three months.

‘My blood sugar levels improved, my blood pressure reduced and, along with regular exercise, I lost half a stone.

‘When I was diagnosed with diabetes I was 15st 10 lb – which was pretty overweight. I’m now 11st 8 lb. More than anything else, I just feel a lot better. It’s wonderful.’

This post first appeared on Daily mail

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Twelve adventurous staycations to make you happy, fit and healthy

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A one-mile swim challenge before a moonlit float

Glide through the cool, open waters of Ullswater on a wild swim, just one of several bracing activities laid on at the Lake District’s Another Place hotel. 

You’ll be guided by endurance swimmer Colin Hill, who helps guests of all abilities through a range of aquatic activities. 

You can challenge yourself to a one-mile cross-lake expedition during the day, then enjoy a leisurely float under the Moon in the evening, before retiring to the on-site library. 

Accommodation comes courtesy of a Georgian townhouse-turned hotel, and food from one of two contemporary restaurants.

From £220 per night. Guided swimming sessions from £35. another.place/active

Glide through the cool, open waters of Ullswater on a wild swim, just one of several bracing activities laid on at the Lake District’s Another Place hotel

You’ll be guided by endurance swimmer Colin Hill, who helps guests of all abilities through a range of aquatic activities

Bathe in the forest with a treehouse for a bed

Forest bathing, a Japanese relaxation practice known as shinrin-yoku – focusing on wildlife around you and breathing deeply to distract from ruminating thoughts – has been shown in studies to halt the production of stress hormones, reducing blood pressure and lowering the heart rate.

And what better way of trying it out than taking lodgings inside a treehouse, nestled within one of England’s largest forests?

Country estate The Tawny offers luxury treehouses looking out on to the forestry of the Staffordshire countryside, and which come with an outdoor spa bath. 

A short walk down one of the walking trails is a hidden thatched cottage, where guests can enjoy one of many spa treatments, including body wraps and mud masks.

Treehouses from £1,040 for a two-night stay. Sleeps four. thetawny.co.uk

Country estate The Tawny offers luxury treehouses looking out on to the forestry of the Staffordshire countryside, and which come with an outdoor spa bath

Blitz the lockdown bulge in seven days

Desperate to lose the lockdown bulge but can’t stand the thought of another sweaty gym? 

Let an expert team of nutritionists, yoga teachers and former professional athletes take care of it on a seven-night stay at The Body Retreat in Dorset, run exclusively by women for women. 

You’ll join a small group and be set at least five hours of intensive activities a day to help you shift the weight for good. 

There are personalised meal plans, nutrition education and follow-up sessions to help you maintain weight loss goals.

From £2,175, all-inclusive. thebodyretreat.co.uk

Britons could enjoy a seven-night stay at The Body Retreat in Dorset, run exclusively by women for women

Zip-line through a Scottish forest

From mountain-biking to paddle-boarding and zip-lining, there are 60 activities on offer at the sprawling Perthshire resort, Crieff Hydro. 

Some are available very near to the hotel and self-catering cottages – in the heart of an enchanting forest – while others are a short drive away. 

The team will arrange everything for you, including a spot at the free childcare facilities on site.

From £442 for a self-catering two-night stay. Activities priced from roughly £30. crieffhydro.com

Join the hipsters, get into mindful pottery

Studies show that hands-on hobbies such as pottery-making, knitting and baking can distract from anxious thoughts and increase feelings of relaxation. 

Half an hour from London is the ultimate retreat for creatives: a short stay at Birch is jam-packed with activities, from candle-making to learning how to master trendy sourdough bread, all of which are said to elicit calming effects similar to mindfulness meditation. 

The generous-sized pool, swanky restaurants and on-site co-working spaces are just one of the many reasons Birch is popular with London’s 30-something hipster set.

From £450 for a two-night stay with breakfast. Some activities free. birchcommunity.com

From mountain-biking to paddle-boarding and zip-lining, there are 60 activities on offer at the sprawling Perthshire resort, Crieff Hydro

Couples therapy for yoga bunnies 

For active couples looking to relight their fire after a year of being locked in together, Green Farm, in the Kent countryside, offers weekend yoga and Pilates retreats, which combine daily exercise classes with couples therapy, supported by a trained counsellor, as well as couples massages. 

The working farm also offers a host of other yoga and Pilates retreats for solo visitors.

From £1,350 for two. See greenfarmkent.co.uk or email team@greenfarmkent.co.uk to make a booking

For active couples looking to relight their fire after a year of being locked in together, Green Farm, in the Kent countryside, offers weekend yoga and Pilates retreats

Ramble in the Dales… with a physio on hand

Explore the boundless beauty of the Yorkshire Dales with physiotherapist and seasoned rambler Dave Jelley. 

He guides guests through a series of trails along the breathtaking countryside, suitable for walking or running. 

Self-catering accommodation is included – choose from cottages, garden rooms or a treehouse – and the team delivers a hearty breakfast of granola, fresh fruit and bread to your door every morning. Expert Jelley can deal with sore muscles.

From £100 for a two-night stay. jelleylegs.co.uk

Go climbing and caving in Cumbria 

Caving has become increasingly popular with British thrill-seekers in the past few years, with communities dedicated to the discovery of underground caves popping up all over the country.

Cumbrian resort Gamara arranges half-day trips to the mystical caves and waterfalls in nearby Ingleton, where guests are joined by professionals to point beginners in the right direction. Rock climbing and abseiling are also on offer. 

And the delightful hotel is set in the heart of the hiking hotspot Borrowdale Fells, making it an ideal base for all kinds of outdoor adventures.

From £268 for a two-night stay with breakfast. Activities priced on request. glaramara.co.uk

Pamper yourself with a spa bath… in bath

Who needs to fly to Europe to soak in natural, health-boosting thermal springs? Head to Britain’s only natural thermal spa in Bath. 

According to legend it was discovered by an ancient British prince who believed that the waters – containing 42 different minerals – cured him of the skin disease leprosy.

Some have suggested that the waters, which can reach a temperature of 33.5C, ease patches of eczema and acne, while others say it reduces joint pain associated with arthritis.

The scientific consensus on the physical benefits isn’t quite there yet but the full weekend experience, courtesy of the Royal Bath Hotel, is undoubtedly good for a weary mind.

From £224 for a two-night stay including breakfast and dinner, including visit to Bath’s Thermae Spa, and use of the spa facilities. royalhotelbath.co.uk

Wean yourself off tech with a digital detox

Data released last week by Ofcom showed that adults have spent more time online than ever before since last March – at least three hours daily, on average, which is more than citizens of Spain, Germany and France.

Experts have drawn links between the surge in browsing time, particularly time spent on social media, and the spike in anxiety problems reported during the pandemic lockdown.

You can try pulling the plug at one of the UK’s most decadent hotels, the Mandarin Oriental, which offers a Digital Wellness Escape package, including a 90-minute massage.

This targets the tendons in the neck and shoulders that can be sprained when staring at devices. 

Alongside this, guests can enjoy the tranquil colour therapy room and book a one-to-one yoga class with a personal instructor.

From £520 per night. The Digital Wellness Escape massage costs £225 per person. mandarinoriental.com

The canal barge with an on-board spa

Water babies will love this luxury spa experience, with aromatherapy massages given on board a canal boat moored next to the Monkey Island Estate Hotel in Bray, on the River Thames.

The swanky barge boasts three indulgent treatment rooms for massages and facials, as well as a stylish bar offering a range of herbal teas that are made from locally grown produce.

Guests staying at the Grade I listed hotel – which is on its own beautifully landscaped private island – get exclusive access to the barge, and can enjoy other activities on the water, including stand-up paddle boarding, windsurfing and cold-water swimming.

From £275 per night. Sixty- minute treatments on the floating spa start at £100. monkeyislandestate.co.uk

A two-and-a-half-hour ferry ride from Penzance takes you to a natural paradise, featuring more than 20,000 exotic plants. Pictured: Tresco Island resort on the Isles of Scilly

Stay in the UK’s biggest tropical garden

For those who have spent the past year stuck in the smog of the city, missing out on the wealth of health benefits associated with nature, the perfect antidote comes in the form of the UK’s most exuberant garden – at the Tresco Island resort on the Isles of Scilly.

A two-and-a-half-hour ferry ride from Penzance takes you to a natural paradise, featuring more than 20,000 exotic plants. 

When guests aren’t marvelling at the colourful collection, they can take a bird-watching tour and admire the influx of puffins, guillemots, cormorants – and purple herons.

From £245 per night. tresco.co.uk

This post first appeared on Daily mail

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