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Breaking the pain barrier: safe ways to manage chronic agony

Apr 2nd, 2017 by

Long-term pain is estimated to affect up to 28 million people in the UK, but with the safety of commonly used painkillers under scrutiny, what other measures are effective?

The writer and runner Haruki Murakami says: “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” But many of the estimated 28 million people in the UK who live with long-term, chronic pain, would beg to differ. Elderly people with back and knee pain become increasingly housebound, withdrawn and socially isolated. Daily nerve pain, headaches or muscle aches lead to depression, unemployment and fractured relationships. And now a study has questioned the safety of commonly used painkillers – diclofenac and ibuprofen – after finding an increased risk of cardiac arrest among users. So just what are you supposed to do if you are in pain?

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What’s the best age to become a mother?

Apr 2nd, 2017 by

Studies suggest older mothers benefit by being more emotionally mature and financially stable. But there are health risks with waiting longer to have kids. So what’s the best balance?

What’s the best age to become a mum? Between 20 and 35, according to the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. During these 15 years, it’s easier to conceive, and you are less likely to have high blood pressure, a miscarriage or require a caesarian section – need I go on? You’re also more likely to cope with sleep deprivation and have enough energy to win the mum’s race at sports day.

But what’s the best age to start bringing up a child? According to research at Aarhus University in Denmark, it may be a bit older – mid-30s upwards. In a study of 4,741 Danish mothers, being older was associated with raising children with fewer behavioural, social and emotional difficulties at ages seven and 11. In Denmark, the average age for having children is 30.9, and the proportion of babies born to mothers over the age of 40 has quadrupled since 1985. Data from the Office for National Statistics says that the average age of women having children in England and Wales was 30.3 years, with rates in older women rising since the mid-1970s.

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Cycle freight: why the bike is good for moving more than people

Apr 2nd, 2017 by

Better infrastructure for transporting people by bike is great. But cycle freight could free up roads and transform cities and towns too

The plastic bike basket I bought online was billed as “large”, but even so I was amazed when it arrived. This was a behemoth – a cavernous, black box into which you could as easily fit a decent-sized dog as a bag of shopping.

Fitted to my new commuter bike, the initial effect was comical. But such worries were soon forgotten given how astonishingly useful it proved.

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Too many cyclists are injured and killed on UK’s roads | Letters

Apr 2nd, 2017 by

Your correspondent (Letters, 25 March) says 50 cyclists are killed or seriously injured every year in the UK when the actual figure is over 3,300. Having diminished the tragedy faced by thousands of people, he uses the opportunity to condemn cyclists’ behaviour, judge people’s choice of cycle model and accuse them of feeling “entitled to the road”. We all have a duty of care on the roads, and a right to use them, but the Department for Transport’s statistics on cyclist, and indeed pedestrian, casualties show that the prime source of danger lies with heavier vehicles. Peter Walker’s case (Heading for a fall, G2, 22 March) for reducing that danger, and improving the nation’s health, is commendable.
Tom Bogdanowicz
Senior policy and development officer, London Cycling Campaign

• Join the debate – email guardian.letters@theguardian.com

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Fell race tests even the spectators

Apr 2nd, 2017 by

Dent Fell, west Cumbria Runners in the Jarrett’s Jaunt race have little time to appreciate the fell’s panoramic views of the Solway Firth

By hump-backed Wath Brow bridge, weary fell runners step gingerly down slippery banking into the icy waters of the river Ehen, swollen by overnight rain. Ah, the blessed relief as they rub and knead their calves with fingers and thumbs, jabbing deep into the muscles, soothing aches caused by scaling fellsides so steep they sometimes needed hands to help.

Related: Cumbria’s iron man

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‘I always come back from Chianti a kilo or two heavier’

Apr 2nd, 2017 by

Colin O’Brien, author of a new book about the Giro d’Italia, celebrates the Tuscan region’s enduring legacy of cycling heroes and simple-but-superb food, as well as its working class roots

There’s nothing I look forward to more each year than the Giro d’Italia – with the possible exception of Christmas dinner at home in Dublin. It heralds the arrival of summer. The weather in May is still capricious, but once you see the pink of the maglia rosa you know long, sun-drenched days are not far off.

This year is the 100th edition of the cycle race, so it’s going to be pretty special. It ingrains itself into everyday life in a way few cultural events can. One of this year’s stages departs from the village of Ponte a Ema near Florence, birthplace of the great Gino Bartali, three-time winner of the Giro.

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Uber for bikes: how ‘dockless’ cycles flooded China – and are heading overseas

Apr 2nd, 2017 by

New cycle-share firms in China allow you to simply drop your bike wherever you want. They have caused colourful chaos – and world cities could be next

On a 30ft-wide screen in Hangzhou’s public bike share office, the counter ticks up relentlessly: 278,812 … 278,847 … 278,883 … Another 40 cycle rentals every couple of seconds. The system will easily top 350,000 before this bitterly cold winter day is out.

On the left of the giant screen, the world’s 15 biggest public bike shares are ranked. Thirteen of them are in China. (Paris is No 5 with 21,000 bikes, and London No 12, with 16,500). Hangzhou – an hour west of Shanghai by bullet train – is slightly larger than London by population, but its share system is five times the size. It comfortably tops the table with 84,100 cycles, almost twice as many as its nearest rival.

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Interplanetary running – a 10k with a science spin

Apr 2nd, 2017 by

At the Run the Solar System 10k, runners started at the Sun and ran out to Neptune, passing planets at distances relative to their real positions. It was fun and surprisingly satisfying

The minds of Nasa engineers and sci-fi writers have spent decades dreaming up ways of crossing the vastness of outer space: ion thrusters, warp drives, gravitational slingshots, the Infinite Improbability Drive and dozens more. The list is already so long that it seems unlikely humanity needs to add to it any time soon. But as of 2017, there’s a new kid on the block: running. And this new addition was launched with enthusiasm recently at the Olympic Park in London, when 600 of us crossed the start line of the Run the Solar System 10k race.

It’s a brilliantly simple idea. You start at the Sun, and the race takes you outwards through the solar system, passing the planets at appropriate distances as you go. The race ends at the planet Neptune, 2.7bn miles out (or 10km along the race course).

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Picture of the day: Get off the road

Apr 2nd, 2017 by

Longing picturing yourself bounding across Lake District trails with the grace of a mountain goat? Trail running brand inov-8 has launched a competition in which seven winners could scoop a five day trip to the Lake District. They’ll learn trips and tricks about trail running, and test new gear, as well as taking part in the classic nine mile Skiddaw Fell Race. Enter at inov-8.com/GetAGrip

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NHS ‘waving white flag’ as it axes 18-week waiting time operation target

Apr 2nd, 2017 by

New plan abandons target for hospitals to carry out 92% of non-urgent operations within 18 weeks and cuts surgery of ‘limited clinical value’

Patients will face longer delays for operations after the NHS decided to shelve one of its most important waiting time targets as part of its ambitious survival plan, which will also result in hundreds of thousands of people being denied surgery.

Simon Stevens, NHS England’s chief executive, has announced that the NHS is significantly relaxing the requirement on hospitals to treat, within 18 weeks, 92% of all patients in England who are waiting for a hip or knee replacement, cataract removal, hernia repair or other non-urgent operation.

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