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Health Check


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  • Are people with asthma who exercise healthier?
    As Omicron spreads across the US, Claudia Hammond is joined by Professor Matt Fox from Boston University to discuss the latest Covid-19 news, including President Biden’s pledge to make high-quality masks available across the country. Wheezing and feeling breathless is a fact of life for the 262 million people around the world who have asthma. Some worry that exercise will worsen their asthma symptoms. But UK researchers say that evidence shows that all people with asthma can exercise safely – even if that’s just walking across a room. Lung specialist Andrew Wilson says that the risks are low as long as the symptoms are controlled with medication. Health psychologist Leanne Tyson recommends setting small goals and regular rewards to help keep up the habit. Asthma patient Bill Day, who’s in his 50s, says now that his asthma is under control, he can swim two miles a day to keep fit and healthy. Yellow and green boxes on social media feeds mean that your friends have been sucked into the world of Wordle, the increasingly popular free online word game. Guessing a new five-letter word every day sounds simple, but Catherine Loveday, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Westminster, explains just how much work the brain does to help solve the puzzle. Presenter: Claudia Hammond Producer: Paula McGrath and Samara Linton (Picture: A young jogger using an asthma inhaler on the beach. Photo credit: Westend61/Getty Images.)
  • Omicron set to infect half of Europe
    Tabitha Mwangi, programme manager at Cambridge Africa at Cambridge University, joins Claudia to discuss the latest on the rapid spread of Omicron across Europe and the factors behind the waves of Covid-19 infections in Kenya. In light of the controversy surrounding Novak Djokovic’s participation in the Australian Open Tennis tournament, Dr Maggie Wearmouth explains the rare instances where people can be medically exempt from having a Covid vaccination. Also, what do the lung scans of Covid-19 patients tell us about how the virus gets around the body, and should we be washing our mouths as well as our hands? Dr Graham Lloyd-Jones, a radiologist from the UK, shares his theory. A new South African study shows how women living with HIV are able to keep healthy – but as they get older, they often develop high blood pressure and diabetes. Tabitha says that there are “missed opportunities” when they come into contact with health services where their weight and overall health could be monitored and advice shared. And Claudia finds out how we can make buildings better for people who process their experiences of the world differently. We hear from Jill Corbyn and architect Jean Hewitt. Presenter: Claudia Hammond Producer: Paula McGrath (Picture: A crowd of people wearing face masks to stop the spread of Covid-19 walk in Preciados Street, Madrid, on 28 December 2021. Photo credit: Marcos del Mazo/LightRocket/Getty Images.)
  • Home working versus the office
    As millions of us have had to stay away from our workplaces during the pandemic, Claudia Hammond explores the psychology of working from home versus the office. Some people have loved not having to commute and quietly beavering away at home, but others have missed the buzz of the office, found balancing family and work at home very difficult with lack of space or limited internet access. So in the future when Covid is less of a worry what does the evidence tell us about where it’s best to work? Presenter: Claudia Hammond Producer: Erika Wright (Picture: Father working from home with his son sitting next to him. Photo credit: Marko Geber/Getty Images.)
  • Do our pets care about us?
    In the past philosophers and scientists have argued about the nature of animal minds: Darwin thought they differed from us only by degree but Descartes believed they were merely machines made of flesh. Anthro-zoologist from the University of Sussex Dr Karen Hiestand wants to find out if our pets really care about us so she filmed owners pretending to be hurt to monitor the reactions of their dogs and cats. Mental health campaigner Marion Janner says her life was saved numerous times by her support dog Buddy. We hear about the central role animals play in Marion’s life and how she coped when Buddy died last year. On a walk in the park, we hear how a Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy called Polly helped her owner Sam to come to terms with the death of her previous dog Margo. And Diane James from the Blue Cross for Pets charity explains how they offer telephone and online support to anyone who’s experienced pet loss. Cats have had a bit of an image problem but Karen Hiestand says their apparent aloofness and accusations of laziness arise because we forget that they are solitary creatures, descended from wildcats. Presenter: Claudia Hammond Producer: Paula McGrath (Picture: A young girl enjoying the company of a cat at home. Photo credit: d3sign/Getty Images.)
  • New research on the Omicron variant
    New research on the Omicron variant unpicked by James Gallagher, BBC health and science correspondent. Plus many people listen to music for hours every day, and often near bedtime in the hope of a good night’s sleep. But if you can’t get the tune out of your head could this be counter-productive? In new research, neuropsychologist Michael Scullin of Baylor University has looked at the rarely studied effect of these so called earworms. And could fish oils one day be used to treat some forms of severe depression? Claudia hears from Alessandra Borsini of King’s College London who has been examining the impact of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in the lab and has followed up with a promising trial on severely depressed patients. Plus James Gallagher explains that despite there being no evidence 5G mobile networks are harmful many types of necklaces and accessories claiming to "protect" people from 5G have hit the market. Now the Dutch authority for nuclear safety and radiation protection warns that with long term use such anti-5G products themselves could be harmful due to radioactive concerns. Presenter: Claudia Hammond Producer: Erika Wright (Picture: Omicron variant (B.1.1.529): Immunofluorescence staining of uninfected and infected Vero E6 cells. Photo credit: Microbiology HKU/BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images.)

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