A call for a change in palliative care

Abstract: A radical rethink is necessary around the provision of palliative care. In a world riven by intense religious protectionism, political disunion and cultural variance, it's hard to imagine a perception or opinion that is shared by all humans. But there is something: an aversion to pain and the fear of death. Yet this is the calling for those providing palliative care, a currently specialised area of medicine that, it seems, requires profound debate, if not for ourselves, then for the sake of our parents. Palliative care is something of a mystery because its meaning is enwrapped in misinterpretation. For most laypersons familiar with the term it refers to that care given to those diagnosed with a life-threatening disease, mainly cancer, and who are at the end of their life. It is something provided by hospices and other organisations when doctors have declared there is nothing

Getting to the heart of atrial fibrillation

Abstract: The sidelining of a top rugby player has thrown the spotlight on a common, often fatal, heart condition... If the sudden withdrawal of Tendai 'The Beast' Mtawarira from the Springbok squad has had any benefits, it's the drawing of attention to a relatively common, and sometimes devastating, heart condition; and one that could be a growing concern for other rugby forwards. Mtawarira's withdrawal was something of a double blow for Springbok supporters, not only because of his prominence in the team; but also because of why he was withdrawn. The official announcement was that he had experienced mild heart palpitations. It's fair to wonder how a man of such physical strength could be sidelined by something that sounds seemingly inconsequential. The reality, according to Dr Vash Mungal-Singh, the CEO of Heart and Stroke Foundation SA, is that what Mtawarira was diagnosed with - atrial

An emotional view of the smart brain

Abstract: Emotional Intelligence - the key to a healthy business, or a 'pop psychology' fad?... Dig around in the field of human resource management and training, and sooner or later you'll come across the terms emotional intelligence or 'EQ'. Claims presented by devotees of emotional intelligence (EI), especially in the business environment, are wide and encompassing: it can predict job performance, improve job performance, develop happier workers, produce better leaders, drive entrepreneurship, possibly even help companies beat the recession. Briefly: it holds the key to success in business. That may be well in theory; but in the results-driven reality of business, investing in EI is dogged by uncertainty: what exactly is EI? And what is EQ? Is it truly a 'new' powerful HR tool, or is it just another pop psychology toy? "Within psychology", according to Dr Despina Learmonth, a lecturer in Health Psychology at

The volatile chemistry of the business brain

Abstract: Think your staff think rationally? Think again. They're held hostage to chemistry... It's alluring to believe that we are the masters of our thinking, especially in a business environment; but hidden away in bits and pieces of our bodies are chemicals and bursts of electrical activity that hold our reasoning hostage. Towards the end of 2011 when Britain was still immersed in navel-gazing over the riots that had left its capital in flames, I was attached to the science desk of the Financial Times in London. One day I approached the editor with an idea that there were similarities between mob behaviour and the actions of market traders. He seemed bemused that I should even suggest that the responsible and calculative thinking that underpinned the world's financial capital could in any way mirror that of the rampant youths who had trashed and burned

The humble potato – villain or victim?

Abstract: Does the potato hold a clue to obesity in South Africa?... Outside of a daily dose of aspirin, few things we pop into our mouths have vacillated so much in their fortunes as the humble potato. One minute it's a staple food source packed with goodness, the other it's nothing more than a lump of carbohydrates heralding all sorts of maladies. In South Africa, a recent event in the media reinvigorated the debate. Tim Noakes, the Professor of Sports Science at UCT, appeared on Carte Blanche passionately presenting the benefits of a high-protein low-carbohydrate diet. More importantly, he suggested that guidelines recommending carbohydrates should form the basis of a healthy diet could in fact be behind the high levels of obesity and other lifestyle health problems that are evident in South Africa. He has since emphasised a point made in the interview that his