Bringing harmony to the hospital: music as therapy

Music has the potential to make everything better, doesn’t it? Arguably, this is so in any and all situations. In difficult circumstances, it can help us endure. Music can take the edge off the pain, in both body and mind. No wonder there is a keen interest in exploring its potential to help us in various healthcare settings and this has been the subject of many Cochrane reviews.  Continue reading

An evidence advent calendar!

It turns out that Cochrane’s for Christmas, not just for life, with evidence in the Cochrane Library on all manner of festive things from gold, frankincense and myrrh to stockings! Ok, some of the links are a bit tenuous, but we hope you’ll enjoy our advent calendar.

Owing to some trouble with the technology elves, we couldn’t make it interactive (boo!) but each day we’ll post some Cochrane evidence related to the day’s picture, below the calendar. If you think of any others, do share them via the comments box.

advent calendar

Continue reading

A mystery, missing evidence and some answers!

Contrary to what you might expect, you’ll have to wait until the end for the mystery, though in truth missing data and important questions that remain unanswered could also be labelled as that, and this is where I start.

My last blog was a round-up of new and updated reviews on asthma and I begin this one with another offering from the Cochrane Airways Group (do these people never take a day off?). It’s another tale of what we still don’t know, this time about a class of anti-inflammatory drugs called anti-leukotrines. For managing mild persistent asthma in children, low-dose inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) are recommended, but if symptoms aren’t well controlled with ICS then anti-leukotrines may be added. Almost ten years ago, a Cochrane review was published which pulled together the available evidence on the safety and effectiveness of this treatment for adults and children and found very little to go on, with just two small trials with children. Now a review has been published which looked for trials involving children (any age below 18) and finds we’re not much further on.

Continue reading

Getting people to exercise: what do we know about what works?

It’s not news that exercise is good for us, but exercise and health have grabbed the headlines again this week with the publication of new research in the BMJ which, according to the BBC, finds ‘exercise can be as good as pills’. For a nice summary of this research and a reminder that actually the data was patchy and the researchers warn that the findings should be interpreted with caution, read this blog by the Lifestyle Elf. Patchy data notwithstanding, we can agree that exercise is a Good Thing, but how can we get people to do it? Most adults are not active at the recommended level. A team at the Cochrane Heart Group has been busy pulling together the research on whether face-to-face interventions and remote and web 2.0 interventions can help promote physical activity (PA) and how they compare with each other and the results have just been published in three new reviews. Continue reading

Can the Mediterranean diet help us ward off heart disease? The latest evidence

Key message: Limited evidence suggests that a Mediterranean dietary pattern reduces some cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors. Existing evidence is promising but more trial evidence is needed to establish the role of the Mediterranean dietary pattern in preventing CVD in the general population and high-risk individuals.

Back in 1970s Britain, I grew up with a Mediterranean diet, thanks to my French step-father, though I didn’t always appreciate it. Strawberry Mivvis for my friends, something (everything?!) in olive oil for me. I particularly hated a concoction called tian, which combined courgettes, eggs and rice to produce something truly unpleasant, particularly when served cold. In 21st century Britain, Marseilles has come to Morrisons and many of us eat Med-style. We hear much conflicting advice about what we should and shouldn’t eat, the benefits of this over that, so I was interested in the latest Cochrane evidence on the so-called Mediterranean diet. Continue reading

What’s being served up in the Cochrane Library?

The reviews are flying into the Cochrane Library quicker than balls off Murray’s racquet this week and several aces have been served! Here’s my pick of the past fortnight.

It’s all strawberries and Pimms in SW19 but in WC1 the good folk of the Cochrane Heart Group are concentrating on garlic sandwiches and tea. Now I like a nice cuppa but a garlic sandwich? Even Jamie Oliver might balk at that, but the suggestion crops up in a new review on preventing cardiovascular disease (CVD) through providing fruit and vegetables to encourage people to eat more of them, or just advising them to do so. I asked heart doctor Harry Boardman to take a look. Continue reading

Screening for abnormal heart rhythms: can we protect more people from stroke?

It’s Action on Stroke Month here in the UK and the Stroke Association hope to raise awareness of stroke and particularly its emotional impact, through the many events taking place during May. They’ve also produced a really helpful guide to making information accessible for people with aphasia, which you can download from the link here. But what can be done to prevent people from having a stroke in the first place? Screening has moved in and out of favour for various conditions in recent years, but something that might be useful is to look for people with abnormal heart rhythms (atrial fibrilliation) that put them at higher risk of stroke and offer them treatment. Continue reading