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New pregnancy test for Down’s, legal highs ‘baffling NHS’ and the benefits of a booze-free month

A round-up of the morning’s health news headlines

The NHS is set to offer pregnant women a new, less invasive test for Down’s syndrome in their baby, The Times reports this morning.

The National Screening Committee will recommend the test – which detects foetal DNA in the mother’s blood – next month, the paper says.

The ever-increasing number of legal highs with many different names and contents is leaving NHS paramedics at a loss as to how to respond when people fall ill as a result of taking them, the BBC reports.

Apparently staff are playing ‘catch-up’ as they face a surge in the number of people getting sick from the products.

Advance paramedic Sarah Harrison said: ‘We have no drugs that counteract the effects of the substances that people are taking, and that’s what’s causing a lot of the problems.

‘A lot of the time we are not aware what substance they have taken and what combination, or even what the substance is because they come with different names and different street names.’

Having a month off alcohol can reduce your risk of illness in later life, scientists say.

Researchers monitored 102 relatively healthy men and women in their 40s taking part in the Government’s ‘dry January’ campaign, all of whom usually drank more than recommended levels.

After four weeks their ‘liver stiffness’ had been cut by 12.5%, and their insulin resistance had come down by 28%, The Telegraph reports.

Professor Kevin Moore, a liver specialist who co-authored the study, said: ‘These subjects were probably average drinkers - they drank in excess of the guidelines. We studied them before and after the dry months. 

‘There was certainly substantial improvement in various parameters of the liver. The other parameters, blood pressure, cholesterol, how well the subjects slept were also substantial.’

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