Archive for the ‘Risk Factors’ Category
April 25, 2012
“Men are behaving better and women are adopting male tendencies and behaviours”
– Prof David Leon, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
Findings of a recent study* into the life expectancy of 30 year olds in the UK and Wales have found the gap in life expectancy between women and men is closing. And if this trend continues men could catch up to women, with a shared life expectancy of the ripe age of 87 years by 2030.
Smoking has been identified as a key factor in the extended years among men. With nearly 80% of men smoking back in the 1920s, a statistic that has plummeted alongside the prevalence of heart disease since. Dissimilarly women picked up smoking later on, resulting in cases of lung cancer in women that continue to rise.
Life style has also been attributed to the comparative increase in men, who are now largely working in occupations that are considered ‘safe’, such as office jobs as opposed to the more hazardous like coal mining and tree felling.
The study of life expectancy looks across the current population of those that are 30 years of age, therefore the findings are not conclusive to the tenure of health between a girl and boy born today.
According to Professor David Leon, when we look beyond the UK, global gender differences can be categorised into 3 key subsets:
Those with widespread infectious disease – Such as Sub-Saharan Africa, where diseases that don’t discriminate by gender affect life expectancy ahead of the impact of lifestyle factors
Those where infectious disease is largely controlled – Such as Eastern Europe, where lifestyle factors result in a significant disparity by gender. An extreme case of this occurred in Russia during the 1990s when women were expected to live 13 years longer on average.
Those where infectious disease is largely controlled and a healthier lifestyle is being adopted – Such as the UK, where lifestyle factors are still a key determining factor, however significant improvement in cutting unhealthy habits and improved healthcare are leading to increased life expectancy population-wide. This is extending at a faster rate for men, catching up to the average age of women.
Studies such as this clearly highlight the importance of the lifestyle choices we all make and habits we adopt.
For support and advice on quitting smoking visit www.smokefree.nhs.uk,
*BBC News, “Men set to live as long as women, figures show”: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-17811732
April 18, 2012
Many of us research health, in one form or another. Yes, there are clinical experts and scientists who research for commercial purposes and academics and healthcare practitioners who research for educational purposes. But then there’s the vast majority of us who take it upon ourselves to keep an eye on our own health – whether that’s researching family history, self diagnosing, reading resources on the management of a long term health condition or simply looking for healthy meal ideas.
Key health services such as NHS Choices – the UK’s largest health website – and NHS Direct, offer a wealth of information on just about every aspect of health. However, navigating these vast resources can often result in confusion, or worse still, self – misdiagnosis. Therefore, before diving in, it is imperative that you are clear on the terminology at play when it comes to firstly, identifying causes, symptoms and treatments and secondly, understanding how these realistically relate to your own health circumstances – knowing a risk vs. a risk factor.
A risk vs. a risk factor
“A risk is the chance that something (usually something bad) will happen because of something else. For example, if you smoke a packet of cigarettes a day for 30 years, you have a 10 percent risk of dying from lung cancer.”
In contrast, “risk factors”, as defined by the World Health Organisation refer to; “…any attribute, characteristic or exposure of an individual that increases the likelihood of developing a disease or injury. Some examples of the more important risk factors are underweight, unsafe sex, high blood pressure, tobacco and alcohol consumption, and unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene.”
In short, where a “risk” is primarily about measuring the likelihood of a particular event happening, a “risk factor” refers to the specific contributing factor that increases this risk and likelihood of a negative event occurring. For example, risk factors for cardiovascular disease include smoking, poor diet and diabetes*. It sounds simple, but it’s the key to ensuring a realistic understanding of your health and ways to best manage it.
To learn more about the risks and risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease, visit the Life Line Screening website.
*NHS Choices: Risk factors for cardiovascular disease – http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/cardiovascular-disease/Pages/Risk-factors.aspx
March 30, 2012
Last week an important TEDx Talk by Noel Bailey Merz, Director of the Women’s Heart Centre and the Preventive and Rehabilitative Cardiac Center in the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute, featured on The Huffington Post highlighting the major threat that heart disease poses to women. She poignantly opened her talk with the statement that “One out of two of you women will be impacted by cardiovascular disease in your lifetime.”
A surprising statistic and one which Merz notes has so far gone largely unrecognised, due in part to the processes and research developed to diagnose and treat heart disease as well as its coverage. Where diseases such as breast cancer are readily discussed within the health industry and the media at large, heart disease is still often primarily associated with the male population. Whatever the reason for this lack of publicity, Merz is very clear that we should look to develop a similar level of advocacy and understanding around the impact of heart disease prevention for women as we do for breast cancer – “It’s not happening, and it’s time.”
Research such as this really serves to demonstrate how important it is to understand the risk factors and symptoms associated with cardiovascular disease and act accordingly through basic lifestyle changes and proactive management of your own health, for example by attending preventive screenings. Developments in national healthcare delivery, such as the dialogue around the ‘Health lives, health people’ NHS whitepaper are also beginning to reflect this call for personal health management.
For more information on the symptoms, risk factors and preventive health screening services available for those with cardiovascular conditions – please visit our Life Line Screening UK Health Screening Services page.
March 8, 2012
There are 53,000 deaths in the UK each year due to stroke* and many more who are affected and have to live with a significantly reduced quality of life.
A key cause of a stroke is atrial fibrillation (AF) a condition that is associated with a fast and irregular heart beat. Many will develop AF during the course of their life and those over 65 years are more prone**. In a bid to tackle the significant number of people affected by a stroke, doctors and experts alike are calling for an urgent screening programme to be put in place. Those with atrial fibrillation do not always display obvious symptoms and therefore goes untreated despite the fact that it can often be tackled effectively with blood thinning medication***.
Multiple screenings are fundamental to the proposed strategy, though even simple screenings such as routinely checking heart beat patterns and heading to the Doctors if an irregular heart beat is suspected, could saves many lives. It is important for each of us to be aware and recognise the warning signs of stroke in order to take action accordingly. F.A.S.T. is an easy-to-remember acronym from the NHS on what to look out for and what to do if you suspect that someone is having a stroke.
Face. Has their face fallen on one side? Can they smile?
Arms. Can they raise both arms and keep them there?
Speech. Is their speech slurred?
Time. Time to call 999 if you see any single one of these signs
Strokes affect people from all walks of life, both men and women from varied cultures and now increasingly, a younger population of people need to consider their lifestyle.
Recently former England footballer Jimmy Greaves suffered a mini-stroke and we’re really pleased to hear that Jimmy is making a swift recovery, commenting that he was “fit as a butcher’s dog”, just weeks after the stroke and resulting operation****.
To read personal stories about some of those that Life Line Screening has helped in the past, please visit our testimonials page. Or, find out more about healthy living by visiting the Life Line Screening UK blog and meeting our team.
*The Stroke Association: Facts and figures about stroke http://www.stroke.org.uk/media_centre/facts_and_figures/index.html
**Herald Scotland: Simple screening that could save many lives
***Mail Online: Doctors call for urgent stroke screening programme in bid to prevent 2,000 deaths a year
****The Daily Mail: Jimmy Greaves in health scare after suffering a stroke and undergoing neck operation
February 23, 2012
According to the Members of the European Parliament (MEP) Heart Group cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the main cause of death and disability in women in Europe, accounting for nearly half of all deaths.* This clearly demonstrates that women and men alike need to be better informed of the risks to their cardiovascular health.
Furthermore, the British Heart Foundation highlights that heart disease kills 1 in 3 women, the same number as for men. **
However, women may need to pay attention to a different set of physical symptoms. For example, as reported in a recent FoxNews.com article, many women experience angina as heartburn and are often less likely to see a doctor.*** This is particularly true of symptoms that are not recognised as stereotypical.
Symptoms can include:
- chest pain or discomfort, which may spread to the arms, neck, jaw, stomach or back
- a persistent dull pain, ache or ‘heavy’ feeling in your chest or discomfort which feels like indigestion but makes you feel generally unwell
- feeling sweaty, breathless, dizzy or generally unwell as well as pain or discomfort in your chest.
Women also tend to experience heart attacks later in life, typically 10 years later than men. With menopause increasing the risk factors and the likelihood of stress impacting cardiac health, so it’s valuable to be additionally aware during this time.
The important thing to note is that people experience different symptoms. So learn to recognise key indicators, listen to your body and seek medical advice if you feel unwell. Take a proactive approach to your wellbeing and book your health screening with Life Line Screening UK today.
*Read more information at the MEP Heart Group site at: http://www.mepheartgroup.eu/
**Read more information at the British Heart Foundation website at: http://www.bhf.org.uk/heart-health/conditions/women-and-heart-disease.aspx
***Read the FoxNews.com article in its entirety at: http://www.foxnews.com/health/2012/02/10/why-women-may-not-even-know-theyre-having-heart-attack/?test=chol#ixzz1mZ0e43WE
February 15, 2012
A large study recently published in The New England Journal of Medicine has found that risk factors experienced at 40 are a significant indicator of the likelihood of suffering with a severe heart condition later in life.
Researchers conducted a meta-analysis of data from the Cardiovascular Lifetime Risk Pooling Project of over 250,000 men and women across multiple populations at the ages of 45, 55, 65 and 75 years. The study’s lead author Dr. Jarett Berry, assistant professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Centre stated that “What determines your heart disease risk when you are 70 or 80 is what your risk factors are when you’re 40.”
Key risk factors highlighted by the study include; blood pressure, cholesterol level and diabetes which when experienced during your 40’s leads to an increased risk of fatal heart disease, heart attacks, and a fatal stroke in later life. An ‘optimal risk-factor profile’ was tested and participants were identified as being at significantly lower risk of these health conditions.
Optimal Risk-Factor Profile:
- Total cholesterol level – Less than 180 mg per decilitre [4.7 mmol per litre]
- Blood pressure – Less than 120 mm Hg systolic and 80 mm Hg diastolic
- Non-smoking status
- Non-diabetic status
Of key importance is that whilst many may have a relatively low middle-age risk, their life time risk is still dangerously high. Though the current, lower risk may lead to a false sense of security that one’s health is suitable and the urgency of reducing risk factors such as alcohol consumption, smoking and a sedentary lifestyle is diffused.
Common risk assessments, such as a physical or screening typically reflect the level of risk for tested conditions over the following five to ten years. Therefore, it’s important to make the necessary lifestyle changes to lower risk factors as early on in life as possible and regularly review your status of health.
Find out more about the health screenings we offer with Life Line Screening UK, how to book and advice on healthy living at our blog.
January 25, 2012
Life Line Screening has come across a couple of interesting articles with some good advice about atrial fibrillation and the merits of keeping your toilet seat closed! Read on and if you find anything when searching the web be sure to share it with us on Facebook.
Atrial Fibrillation: 90% not getting the right anticoagulant treatments
The Los Angeles Times came to Life Line Screening UK’s attention recently with a report stating that heart attack survival rate has improved dramatically in recent years – however the older you get the more at risk you are for atrial fibrillation (Afib). More importantly, while Afib can be managed, 90% are not getting needed anticoagulants to prevent stroke or they are not being administered at appropriate levels.
This has led to new Afib recommendations, in the US at least, that include tools for doctors and patients to weigh their risks and benefits of taking needed drugs as well as making lifestyle habits that could lower the risk of stroke – which is caused by Afib in 30% of the stroke cases of adults 80 and over.
A Life Line tip: keep the toilet seat down!
Researchers from Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust found that flushing hospital toilets with the lid up can spread life-threatening diseases. Closing the lid before you flush can help stop the spread of the winter vomiting bug (norovirus).
Even 90 minutes after flushing the deadly bacteria was still found on surfaces. Even “control” toothbrushes that were removed from the restroom during the flush by researchers contained bacteria. As the article points out, though, this was also a part of a 2004 episode of Myth Busters that concluded that the health risk is unimportant.
Dr. William Schaffner, Chair of Preventive Medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center finds the research quite interesting, however. This is because it seems to be linked with the number and severity of C. difficile infections. As such, Dr. Schaffner concludes that you really should remember to lower the lid before you flushing and to always wash your hands.
You may want to also keep your toothbrush at far away from the toilet as possible. Some suggest at least 6 feet!
January 20, 2012
Life Line Screening – The Truth Behind Aspirin
“An apple a day, keeps the dentist away” – simple advice that used to be offered to those looking to prevent tooth decay. However, in a day and age where people are paying greater attention to their health it seems that the humble fruit will no longer cut it. Instead, we are seeing more and more people turning to multivitamins and medication as a means of not only maintaining their current wellbeing, but more importantly, preventing future health conditions. And aspirin is no exception.
Aspirin no longer ‘wonder drug’
Previously hailed as a “wonder drug”, medical experts once encouraged healthy adults over the age of 45 to take a dose of aspirin every day as a means of reducing the risk of heart disease, a stroke and even some cancers. However it seems that the benefits of this, often self medicated, measure may not be quite as clear cut as once thought…
According a group of medical researchers at St George’s, University of London, taking aspirin as a preventive measure is actually causing much more harm than good in healthy people. In the study of 100,000 healthy people, it was found that although aspirin reduced the risk of a non-fatal heart attack by 20%, the risk of a fatal heart attack, stroke or cancer was not lowered. And more crucially, the risk of death from internal bleeding was increased by 30%.
However, when it came to those patients who were at risk or had a history of cardiovascular problems, taking aspirin did appear to offer benefits:
Natasha Stewart, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: “Aspirin can help reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke among those with known heart disease, and this group of people should continue to take aspirin as prescribed by their doctor.
“Our advice is that people who don’t have symptomatic or diagnosed heart disease shouldn’t take aspirin because the risk of internal bleeding may outweigh the benefits. (Via BBC News)
Updated guidelines and further information are due later this year however; in the meantime, making some simple lifestyle changes will offer a safe alternative to lowering your risk of illness in the long-run. Life Line Screening also recommends you discuss your health regularly with your own health professional.
January 18, 2012
With the delectable delights of Christmas fading out of everyday life and New Year’s Resolutions becoming a hot topic for discussion, January is often seen as a time for lifestyle change and more specifically, diets. But Life Line Screening says before you start piling your trolleys high with “low fat” soup or “light” biscuits and crisps, there are a few diet myths to be aware of first.
According to the British Heart Foundation’s dietician, Victoria Taylor, when it comes to substituting standard food for a “low fat” or “light” version there are a number of product labelling pitfalls that consumers need to recognise in order to ensure that the food they are purchasing is actually a healthy alternative in the long-run.
For example, just because a product states that it is low in fat on the label it doesn’t necessarily follow that it is also lower in calories, salt or sugar. And actually, you may well find that some manufacturers will increase levels of salt and sugar in order to maintain the flavour.
Furthermore, when a product is defined as “light” – what is that really telling us about its nutritional value? The term “light” essentially refers to a product that is 30% lower in one nutrient – be it fat or calories, however, if the standard product is very calorific to begin with, how healthy can its “light” equivalent actually be?
It’s clearly a bit of a grey area, but one which we really need to get our heads around if we want to stay healthy in the long-term and prevent ill health such as heart disease, high blood pressure or diabetes.
What’s your approach to healthy eating? Let us know!
September 30, 2011
As you age your risk of developing heart disease increases and if a family member is affected your risks are even greater. In England in 2007, heart disease led to nearly 159,000 deaths (accounting for nearly 34% of all deaths in England). Most premature deaths from heart diease – that is, among people aged less than 75 – are preventable.
Whilst you can’t change your genetic makeup, there are lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your risk of developing heart disease.
Here we have our 5 Top Tips for Fighting Heart Disease
1/. Don’t smoke! Smoking is probably the greatest single risk to your health of all modifiable risk factors. Smoking clogs your arteries, reduces the level of oxygenation in the blood, raises blood pressure and thickens the blood making it more likely to clot. Even if you have smoked for numerous years, stopping smoking now can be followed by a rapid decline in your risk from heart disease.
2/. Eat a balanced and healthy diet. A poor diet is another top risk factor. Foods high in saturated fat can lead to build up of fatty plaques in your arteries. Foods high in salt can raise your blood pressure. Make sure you eat at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables each day – the brighter the better! Fruit and vegetables are high in carotenoids, which have antioxidant properties to protect cells from harmful free radicals. Swap the beef steak for a salmon or tuna steak high in good omega 3 fatty acids which increase the level of “good” HDL cholesterol in your blood.
3/. Exercise! You don’t have to train like you’re entering a marathon but even moderate exercise on a regular basis has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease. If you’re not used to doing much exercise start of slowly and incorporate it into your daily routing and work your way up to 30 minutes a day. Instead catching the bus or taking the car into town, walk! Even if you only walk in and catch the bus back home it’s better catching the bus both ways.
4/. Keep your weight in check. Sometimes easier said than done but obesity is a principle cause of heart attacks all over the world. The strain put on your heart in an effort to get blood to all the extra cells in the body is too much for it to sustain over a long period of time. The heavier you are the more likely you are to have high blood pressure, which again increases the strain on the heart and on the walls of your arteries.
5/. Keep reading articles. The more you are able to learn about the risks and possible symptoms, where there are any, associated with heart disease the better equipped you will be to act on them. For example, chest pains, irregular heart beat and breathlessness can be symptomatic of angina. The more you become aware of what to look out for the more rest assured you can be.
Check back next week for more on Top Superfoods and don’t forget to subscribe to the newsletter via the link above.