Posts Tagged ‘heart disease’
May 31, 2012
Today is World No Tobacco Day, an annual opportunity to raise awareness of the negative effects that smoking can have on one’s health. The day itself in fact goes beyond this to educate people about the shortcomings of the tobacco industry.
This year we will be celebrating World No Tobacco Day on Thursday 31st May. The day is organised, coordinated and promoted by the World Health Organisation (WHO), who have chosen to focus this year’s campaign on the interference of the tobacco industry.
“The campaign will focus on the need to expose and counter the tobacco industry’s brazen and increasingly aggressive attempts to undermine global tobacco control efforts” describe the World Health Organisation of their Tobacco Free Initiative (TFI). The WHO seeks to monitor this industry through surveillance and regulation and have published a paper and global brief on the topic.
There has been a seismic shift in societal and cultural attitudes to smoking and the tobacco industry as a whole since the early 20s, back when it actually used to be considered beneficial to wellbeing.
Ultimately, smoking is a risk factor. The more frequently and the longer that someone smokes the higher their risk, the more likely, they are to experience associated health issues.
Since the introduction of the smoking ban the legal age to smoke has been raised from 16 to 18 years of age and more recently, tobacco and associated paraphernalia has been moved behind closed doors, so to speak, as it is now illegal to display these products for sale. However it is also important to consider that although there has been a significant reduction the amount of smoking. There is still a strong campaign regarding the risks of passive smoking, in particular the impact this can have on children.
Life Line Screening is thrilled that this year sees the 5-year celebration of the UK smoking ban. In 2010 the British Medical Journal (BMJ) reported on the short term impact of the smoke-free legislation in England, in terms of hospital admissions for myocardial infarction (heart attack). The research found that this resulted in 1200 less emergency admissions and 1600 less readmissions for a heart attack in the first year following the change in policy. The reduction was most significant among men and women over 60 years. This has also been widely assisted by improved support for those who wish to quit smoking.
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
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 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.
February 3, 2012
A recent study published by the British Medical Journal has found the number of fatal heart attacks has reduced by 50% over the past 10 years. Researchers from Oxford University found that the rate of heart attacks and subsequent death rate was most reduced among the middle-aged of the 80,000 men and women that took part.
Broader factors to impact this reduction include the significant advancement in medical technology. Better health services such as the National Service Framework for Coronary Heart Disease, coupled with a faster and more effective emergency response are improving the survival rate of those who experience a myocardial infarction and angina. Fewer cases of chronic heart conditions have also been attributed to the effort made by people to lead a healthier lifestyle, for example, eating a balanced diet, quitting smoking and leading a more active lifestyle.
However, despite the overall decreasing trend, the study found that these benefits are being countered by rising obesity and diabetes among the younger generations.
Significant events were also found to impact the frequency and severity of heart attacks, namely the financial crisis, whereby the reported number of fatal heart attacks in the London financial district jumped between 2007 and 2009.
Medical Director Professor Pete Weissberg of the British Heart Foundation noted that although some of these findings are encouraging, “the incidents of deaths from heart attacks still occur in high numbers” and as such, public awareness campaigns will be invaluable in encouraging further decline.
January 27, 2012
With the Christmas holiday a distant memory, your nose firmly back to the grindstone, and the inevitable January blues setting in, the first month of the year can often seem a little overwhelming.
It’s not uncommon to experience stress in your personal or working lives. However, what is important is that the stress is managed appropriately to avoid causing lasting harm to your health. The first step is understanding the cause of your stress, and making sure you don’t turn to unhealthy things to cope.
However, sometimes a little advice doesn’t go astray. Here are Life Line Screening’s 5 top tips for keeping stress levels in check:
Get enough sleep
Not too much, not too little, listen to your body and work out the optimum amount of sleep you need to feel well rested and be conscious of the fact that this might be longer during particularly stressful periods. As an average, 7.5 hours of sleep is what most people need to function on a normal level. Look at the time you need to get up in the morning, count back 7.5 hours and make sure you’re in bed by then.
It’s no new fact that exercise helps relieve stress. Exercise releases endorphins, making you generally happier, as well as improving circulation, which in turn strengthens your heart. Exercise is also a fantastic way to relieve stress with outdoor activities providing the added benefits of fresh air and time to clear the mind.
Research suggests that exercising in the morning is one of the greatest ways to start the day and to minimise stress. Not only does it get your endorphins flowing before you sit down at your computer for the day, but also helps deepen your sleep and allows you to fall asleep quicker, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
Get your 5-a-day
With so many bugs circulating over the winter period eating enough fruit and vegetables is the best way to ensure your body gets the nutrients it needs. As we mentioned in our top tips for fighting heart disease, fruit and veg, and omega 3 fatty foods help lower your risk of heart disease, and generally make you feel a little better than another packet of crisps.
However, specific foods that aid in de-stressing include bananas, which aid in the regulation of blood pressure; Broccoli, which contains folic acid, a great help in lowering stress levels and reducing irritability; Whole Grains, which help the body produce more serotonin; and a good old cup of tea. Apparently drinking 3 cups of Black Tea a day can help reduce Cortisol, a hormone linked with high stress levels.
One thing you need to take control of straight away is your mind. Taking control of the situation is essential in dealing with stress. It allows you to feel empowered, and is important in finding a solution to the problem. On the other side, another very important factor of dealing with stress is knowing when to let go and accepting the things you cannot change. At that point, you need to focus on the things within your control, and let go of the things that aren’t.
It’s no secret that the UK workforce is one of the most stressful, with employees often working much longer than their contracts dictate. However, it is very important to break away from this culture – whether it’s having a soak in the bath, getting stuck into a good novel or spending time with loved ones, make sure you find time to unwind and free up some “me time”.
Discuss your hours with your employer. Sometimes all it takes is a few simple questions, or a frank discussion to let them know that you’re drowning. Most of the time, they’re there to help, not judge, and a happy employee is more efficient and productive than a stressed employee.
January 25, 2012
When it comes to fighting heart disease, it seems that the one thing we thought we couldn’t change may now be alterable. That’s the latest from a recent Nature Genetics report which suggests that the risk of heart disease in later life could be heightened by a failure to switch off a specific gene at the right time during the gestation period.
The gene in question, Six1, is vital to embryonic development and works in tandem with a second gene, Ezh2, which is responsible for switching off genes, including Six1, when it is no longer needed.
By observing these two genes in mice, scientists from The Gladstone Institute in San Francisco found that by allowing Six1 to run longer than required during pregnancy encouraged heart defects in the offspring later on in life.
According to eGov Monitor, one of the scientists, Dr Paul Delgado-Olguin, said that the results showed that Six1 should only be active briefly in the embryonic stage. He said that the unhindered presence of Six1 “boosts the activity of other genes that shouldn’t be activated in heart muscle cells”, causing enlargement of the heart which eventually led to failure.
Although the research is very much in the early stages, it clearly offers some really positive implications for the future of preventing heart disease and is something we will certainly be keeping a close eye on.
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!