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Success for the NHS organ donation campaign, proof that healthy lifestyle translates to long life, and seal of approval for a new dementia therapy

A round-up of the morning’s health news headlines on Wednesday 9 July.

There are hopeful signs for British attitudes to organ donation, as the BBC reports the number of organ transplants carried out in the UK in 2012-13 rose by 10% on the previous year – the eighth successive rise.

NHS blood and transplant data shows that 4,655 transplants were carried out in 2013/14, after a major push to lower rates of family members blocking organ donation – currently at 40% - of loved ones on the donor list.

The Government has set an ambition for getting 50% of the population on the donor list by 2020, but Sally Johnson, of NHS Blood and Transplant, urged donors to discuss their wishes with loved ones, as ‘families often have to consider donation in their darkest hour.’

Researchers at the University of Zurich have unveiled a new ‘lifestyle calculator’ that allows 65 and 75 year olds to assess their chances of living for another decade, the Telegraph reports.

The Swiss study of over 16,000 people adjusted for four factors: smoking, exercise, alcohol use and fruit consumption. The results showed that pensioners who lead healthy lifestyles are as likely to survive for a further decade as those ten years younger who smoke, drink and eat unhealthily.

The study’s lead author, Eva Martin-Diener, said: ‘The effect of each individual factor on life expectancy is relatively high. A healthy lifestyle can help you stay ten years’ younger.’

And there’s comfort for dementia sufferers in the form of Paro, a robotic baby seal who can ‘learn’ its own name and to repeat the behaviours that will encourage a handler to stroke it. Two such seals are currently being used in a Sheffield dementia unit to help manage patients’ distress and disturbed behaviour.

The technology doesn’t come cheap - each seal costs £4,000, which includes a day’s training for its handlers. But the Guardian reports that healthcare professionals who use the seal with their patients say that it comforts them as well as providing an outlet for social interaction.

Sarah O’Neill, the daughter of one such patient, said: ‘When you see someone in such a distressing state, it is horrible for you and it is horrible for them. But if anything can just stop that for a moment and make him smile, or laugh, then brilliant.’

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