Wednesday, 30 May 2012

How to de-stress from your busy life

Our work and home lives seem to get busier and busier as the years roll by and too often we don't take the time to properly relax. However, in order to prevent stress and anxiety from affecting our health, a little time out is essential.
Top related searches:
  1. Yoga
  2. Spa day
  3. Weekend away
  4. Beat anxiety
  5. Acupuncture
  6. Aromatherapy
  7. Massage
  8. Meditation
  9. Meditate
  10. Reduce stress
While some find a hot bath or a walk in the countryside does the job, others struggle to shake off the stresses and strains of the day. If you haven't got time for a full meditation session or a tai chi class, here are some easy tips to help you chill out.

Be quiet, be comfortable
It might seem impossible but finding a quiet place where you can relax and where you won't be disturbed. Just as important is comfort so don the baggy jogging bottoms and find a comfy chair or cushion, or lie down either on the floor or the bed. If you are seated, allow your arms to lie comfortably on the arms of the chair and avoid crossing your legs. For those of you who prefer to lie down, rest your arms beside your body but a little bit away, with the palms facing upwards. Stretch out your legs and allow them to rest hip-width apart.

Deep breathing is the key to relaxation. In order to let those anxieties float away, focus on breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth. Take a long, slow breath in, then exhale slowly, counting from one to five. For some, visualising a calm, peaceful place will help those negative thoughts and anxieties to drift away, others may find it helps to visualise the stresses of the day physically floating away.

By gently tensing and then relaxing each part of your body, from head to toe, focusing on a feeling of warmth and heaviness, both your body and mind should respond by becoming calm and stress free.

Muscle relaxation
Relaxing the muscles is a great way to relieve stress. Simple stretching techniques are all that is needed to release some of the tension that has built up over the course of the day.

For example, for the face, push the eyebrows together into a frown, hold for a few seconds, then relax. For the neck, tilt the head forwards with the chin pushed towards the chest, then slowly lift. Pull your shoulders up into a shrug, then relax down, breathing deeply throughout. Your limbs will also benefit from muscle relaxation - try stretching your arms away from your body as if reaching, then relax. Similarly stretch your legs out and away, pull them back in towards your body and then relax. With each of these exercises, the stretch should be held for a few seconds for maximum benefit and ideally repeated two or three times.

When you have finished deep breathing and stretching, stay still for a few minutes with your eyes closed and make the most of that warm, relaxed feeling. Get up slowly when you feel calm and at ease.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Fee-free mortgages for small deposits

Good news for borrowers with only small deposits and Clydesdale and Yorkshire Banks waive fees.

When it comes to buying a house, mortgage fees are a prime example of an unexpected cost that can throw your whole budget out of sync.

After saving for a deposit, accounting for Stamp Duty and getting to grips with all your legal costs, the last thing you want to hear about is an arrangement fee on your hefty loan, especially if you're a first-time buyer already stretched to breaking point.

Arrangement or product fees can be painfully high and range from £400 to an eye-watering £2,000.

So if your finances don't have that sort of give, two new offers from Clydesdale and Yorkshire Banks could be of interest.

Clydesdale and Yorkshire Banks' fee-free offer
Last week Clydesdale and Yorkshire Banks unveiled two new fee-free mortgages, meaning first-time buyers can save a nice £599 when taking out one of their three-year fixed rate deals.

Even better the rates have been reduced and are available on mortgages which only require a small deposit.

So if you only have a 5% deposit, you can take advantage of a three-year fixed rate of 5.99% (reduced from 6.19%) with no fee to worry about.

Alternatively, for a slightly bigger 10% deposit, there is a three-year fixed on a lower rate of 4.99% (reduced from 5.49%) again without the fee.

Fee-free pitfalls
The lure of a fee-free deal is easy to understand - everyone wants to reduce the cost of buying a property wherever they can.

However, fee-free deals generally have a higher rate of interest compared to those with arrangement costs. That means that in the long term your mortgage costs you more, all for the sake of skipping a fee at the outset.

This premium is apparent when you look at two deals available from First Direct. This lender has a two-year fixed rate offer of 4.19% at 90% loan-to-value with arrangement fees of £999. But if you want to avoid that fee, your rate is hiked to 4.89% - an increase of 0.7%!

This means if you took out a loan of £150,000 over 25 years with the First Direct fee-charging deal, you could expect monthly mortgage payments of £807.58.

But on the comparable fee-free option, at 4.89% your repayments rocket to £867.30 a month, almost £60 a month more. Over 25 years, that's an extra £18,000!

The true cost of a mortgage
Most lenders will give you the option of paying the fee upfront or to add it to the amount borrowed.

The latter sounds harmless considering the sheer size of what you are borrowing already. What's a few extra hundred pounds when you are already borrowing hundreds of thousands of pounds?

But attaching this cost onto the total amount you borrow means you will be paying interest on the fee for the whole term of the loan, adding to the cost both monthly and overall.

So, if we take the First Direct example again, with its fee of £999, interest rate of 4.19% and term of 25 years. You would end up paying back over £1,000 in interest just on the fee.

Mortgage advice
Fee or no fee you should consider the short term and long term of what you can afford by doing a few quick calculations yourself.

You can also talk to our mortgage brokers, free of charge, for some helpful advice if you are stuck wondering which deal is best for you.

Top 20 fee-free mortgages

Two-year fixed
Two-year fixed
Two-year fixed
Two-year fixed
Two-year fixed
First Direct*
Two-year fixed
Two-year fixed
Three-year fixed
Three-year fixed
Three-year fixed
Three-year fixed
Five-year fixed
Five-year fixed
First Direct*
Five-year fixed
Lifetime tracker
2.59% (base rate + 2.09%)
First Direct*
Lifetime tracker
3.19% (base rate + 2.69%)
Lifetime Tracker
3.29% (base rate + 2.79%)
First Direct*
Lifetime tracker
3.49% (base rate + 2.99%)
Lifetime tracker
3.69% (base rate + 3.19%)
Lifetime tracker
4.59% (base rate + 4.09%)

*Product only available to current account holders

Table correct as of 21/05/2012
This article aims to give information, not advice. Always do your own research and/or seek out advice from an FSA-regulated broker, before acting on anything contained in this article.

Finally, we tend to only give the initial rate of a deal in our articles, but any deal which lasts for a shorter period than your mortgage term may revert to the lender's standard variable rate or a tracker rate when the deal ends. Before you take out a deal, you should always try to find out from your lender what its standard variable rate is and how it will be determined in the future.

Make sure you take all this information into account when comparing different deals.

Your home or property may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgage

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Groundbreaking Brain Injection For Parkinson's Disease Brings Fresh Hope To Sufferers (WATCH)

A brand new form of ‘gene therapy’ for Parkinson’s disease has excited experts today, after it was revealed that it could revolutionise the way the neurodegenerative disease is treated.
Researchers from the Cambridge Centre for Brain Repair have created a groundbreaking ‘one shot injection’ called ProSavin, which helps transport the nerve-controlling chemical (dopamine) to the brain.
Parkinson’s disease is caused when the brain stops producing the chemical dopamine, which in turn damages nerve cells, prompting the onset of symptoms.
These include hand and limb tremors, rigidity and slowness of movement.
The new breakthrough treatment is designed to continue a healthy flow of dopamine into the brain by mimicking “stripped-down” viruses that trick and ‘reprogramme’ brain cells into producing the chemical.
The ProSavin treatment is injected into the striatum (the part of the brain that controls motor movement). Scientists are hoping this treatment could potentially stop, or improve, the symptoms of Parkinson’s.
Dr Philip Buttery from the study told Sky News: "It seems to be having an overall beneficial effect in smoothing out people's days, probably allowing a slight dose reduction in medication and in some patients a better sleep pattern and a better quality of life for all."
Despite the positive findings, the study is still in its early stages and will need further investigation as the treatment has only been tested on 15 people so far.
Scientists are hoping the treatment will be available within the next five years. Although gene therapy has taken place in the US before, this is the first time dopamine has been produced in the brain.
Dr Kieran Breen, director of research and Innovation at Parkingson's Uk told HuffPost Lifestyle: "Gene therapies hold great promise for people with Parkinson's in the future, as they could mean an end to the daily regime of drugs that most people with the condition currently face.

"In addition to ProSavin, there are three other gene therapy trials underway at the moment. So far all the therapies appear to be safe - now the challenge is to see whether they are more effective than the medications we already have for Parkinson's.

"Parkinson's UK is currently funding £750,000 worth of cutting-edge gene therapy research in the UK, which we believe could take these treatments to the next level.”

Friday, 11 May 2012

Botox migraine jab set to be offered on NHS, says NICE

               Botox is more commonly used for cosmetic reasons

The anti-wrinkle drug Botox could soon be offered to patients with chronic migraines by the NHS in England and Wales, according to the medicines watchdog.
It is thought 700,000 people in the UK have chronic migraine.
Final draft guidelines by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommend Botox when other drugs have failed.
The Migraine Trust said it welcomed the decision.
Migraines are extreme headaches that often come with nausea and being very sensitive to light or sound. To have chronic migraines, a patient must have headaches on at least 15 days a month, eight of which have to be migraines.
NHS funding?
Botox was approved as a treatment for chronic migraine in the UK in 2010, and NICE is now considering whether the NHS should fund it.
In February, it said there was insufficient evidence and asked the manufacturer, Allergan, to provide more proof.
Now it believes that Botox should be used in some patients.
Prof Carole Longson, the director of the health technology evaluation centre at NICE, said: "Chronic migraines are extremely debilitating and can significantly affect a person's quality of life.
"We are pleased that the committee has been able to recommend Botox as a preventative therapy for those adults whose headaches have not improved despite trying at least three other medications and whose headaches are not caused by medication overuse."
The final guidelines are expected in June.
NICE estimated the cost to the NHS would be £349.40 for every 12-week cycle of treatment.
'Safe and effective'
Exactly how the neurotoxin prevents migraines is unknown. It may work by blocking pain signals or relaxing muscles.

Migraine symptoms

  • Severe headache
  • Visual disturbances such as spots or flashing lights
  • Sensitivity to light, noise, or smells
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Tingling sensations, pins and needles, and weakness or numbness in the limbs
Wendy Thomas, the chief executive of The Migraine Trust, welcomed the recommendation by NICE.
She said: "Chronic migraine is a disabling condition and in many cases ruins people's lives.
"For patients who suffer from this condition, Botox may offer a safe and effective preventative treatment option to help them manage their migraine and improve their quality of life."
Dr Fayyaz Ahmed, chair of British Association for the Study of Headache, said: "The headache experts with first-hand experience in treating chronic migraine know how debilitating the condition can be for some patients, and Botox can be a life changing treatment.
"We are pleased that NICE has recommended Botox for those who have failed to respond to first-line treatments."
Dr Fayyaz Ahmed chair of British Association for the Study of Headache says the treatment has benefited some patients.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Stem cell shield 'could protect cancer patients'

                                     The trial is being conducted on patients with brain cancer

It may be possible to use "stem cell shielding" to protect the body from the damaging effects of chemotherapy, early results from a US trial suggest.
Chemotherapy drugs try to kill rapidly dividing cancer cells, but they can also affect other healthy tissues such as bone marrow.
A study, in Science Translational Medicine, used genetically modified stem cells to protect the bone marrow.
Cancer Research UK said it was a "completely new approach".
The body constantly churns out new blood cells in the hollow spaces inside bone. However, bone marrow is incredibly susceptible to chemotherapy.
The treatment results in fewer white blood cells being produced, which increases the risk of infection, and fewer red blood cells, which leads to shortness of breath and tiredness.
Researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, in Seattle, said these effects were "a major barrier" to using chemotherapy and often meant the treatment had to be stopped, delayed or reduced.
'Protective shields'
They have tried to protect the bone marrow in three patients with a type of brain cancer, glioblastoma.
One of the researchers, Dr Jennifer Adair, said: "This therapy is analogous to firing at both tumour cells and bone marrow cells, but giving the bone marrow cells protective shields while the tumour cells are unshielded."
Bone marrow was taken from the patients and stem cells, which produce blood, were isolated. A virus was then used to infect the cells with a gene which protected the cells against a chemotherapy drug. The cells were then put back into the patient.
The lead author of the report, Prof Hans-Peter Kiem, said: "We found that patients were able to tolerate the chemotherapy better, and without negative side effects, after transplantation of the gene-modified stem cells than patients in previous studies who received the same type of chemotherapy without a transplant of gene-modified stem cells."
The researchers said the three patients had all lived longer than the average survival time of 12 months for the cancer. They said one patient was still alive 34 months after treatment.
Cancer Research UK scientist Prof Susan Short said: "This is a very interesting study and a completely new approach to protecting normal cells during cancer treatment.
"It needs to be tested in more patients but it may mean that we can use temozolomide [a chemotherapy drug] for more brain tumour patients than we previously thought.
"This approach could also be a model for other situations where the bone marrow is affected by cancer treatment."

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

'One in six cancers worldwide are caused by infection'

                                         Infection with human papillomavirus can cause cervical cancer

One in six cancers - two million a year globally - are caused by largely treatable or preventable infections, new estimates suggest.
The Lancet Infectious Diseases review, which looked at incidence rates for 27 cancers in 184 countries, found four main infections are responsible.
These four - human papillomaviruses, Helicobacter pylori and hepatitis B and C viruses - account for 1.9m cases of cervical, gut and liver cancers.
Most cases are in the developing world.
The team from the International Agency for Research on Cancer in France says more efforts are needed to tackle these avoidable cases and recognise cancer as a communicable disease.
The proportion of cancers related to infection is about three times higher in parts of the developing world, such as east Asia, than in developed countries like the UK - 22.9% versus 7.4%, respectively.
Nearly a third of cases occur in people younger than 50 years.
Among women, cancer of the cervix accounted for about half of the infection-related cancers. In men, more than 80% were liver and gastric cancers.
Drs Catherine de Martel and Martyn Plummer, who led the research, said: "Infections with certain viruses, bacteria, and parasites are some of the biggest and preventable causes of cancer worldwide
"Application of existing public-health methods for infection prevention, such as vaccination, safer injection practice, or antimicrobial treatments, could have a substantial effect on the future burden of cancer worldwide."
Vaccines are available to protect against human papillomavirus (HPV) - which is linked to cancer of the cervix - and hepatitis B virus - an established cause of liver cancer.
And experts know that stomach cancer can be avoided by clearing the bacterial infection H. pylori from the gut using a course of antibiotics.
Commenting on the work, Dr Goodarz Danaei from Harvard School of Public Medicine in Boston, the US, said: "Since effective and relatively low-cost vaccines for HPV and HBV are available, increasing coverage should be a priority for health systems in high-burden countries."
Jessica Harris of Cancer Research UK said: "It's important that authorities worldwide make every effort to reduce the number of infection-related cancers, especially when many of these infections can be prevented. In the UK, infections are thought to be responsible for 3% of cancers, or around 9,700 cases each year.
"Vaccination against HPV, which causes cervical cancer, should go a long way towards reducing rates of this disease in the UK. But it's important that uptake of the vaccination remains high. At a global level, if the vaccine were available in more countries, many thousands more cases could be prevented."

Saturday, 5 May 2012

'Free' solar panels may cost a fortune

There are mounting concerns over solar panels which have been installed for 'free' and could make the property hard to sell and impossible to remortgage. The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors alerted homeowners about this back in October, and as the mortgage market has continued to tighten, they are renewing their warnings.

So what's the problem?

The problem

The issue here is where solar panels are installed for 'free'. In fact they are installed on long leases, which means the installation firm owns the space above the roof space for roughly 25 years. The homeowner can use energy generated from the panels (a saving of about £180 a year) and the installation company can sell the rest back to the national grid under the feed-in tariff.

Some mortgage companies are happy with this arrangement, but for others, it breaches their mortgage terms and conditions. This has two potentially nightmarish results.


First is that you could struggle when it comes to remortgaging. David Dalby, RICS Director, says: "While we wholeheartedly support the use and production of green energy, it is important that consumers are aware of the potential dangers before entering into these agreements."

"Leasing roof space can generate much-needed additional income for households. However, anybody considering it should consult their mortgage provider and seek legal advice beforehand. The terms of the lease may not be acceptable to all lenders, so some homeowners could find themselves in the extremely difficult position of being tied to a long-term lease, yet in violation of the terms of their mortgage."


The second problem, which has featured in a number of reports this week, is that it could be off-putting for buyers, who are concerned that they may not get a mortgage. Some surveyors are drawing attention to this when a buyer does their survey, and buyers are backing off.

Sellers do have some options. In some instances there is a buy-out clause, which enables them to regain ownership of the area above the roof space. However, they will have to spend over £10,000 in many cases to buy themselves out of the deal.

Other deals have no such clause. In the worst case it may stop your home selling. Alternatively, you can pay to have the panels removed and to compensate the company for their loss of income. Even in the best case scenario it could mean taking a serious cut in price in order to tempt a buyer to take on a property with this sort of drawback.

RICS recommends:

  • Always obtain your mortgage lender's consent and seek legal advice on the terms of any agreement before entering into a contract
  • If looking to sell your property within the duration of any lease, be aware that the lease may have to be taken on by a future buyer, whether they want it or not. This could affect saleability.
  • If consumers sign the agreement outside of the company's premises, there is a seven day 'cooling off' period allowing the contract to be cancelled