Posts Tagged ‘risk factors’
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 2, 2012
When it comes to exercising, Government Guidelines recommend that the “average healthy individual” should partake in 30 minutes of moderate cardio vascular activity 3-5 times per week however; it seems that there may be a rather radical alternative.
The research, carried out in a number of countries including the UK* and highlighted by Dr Michael Mosley on the BBC News site**, found that three minute stints of intense exercise or “high intensity training” was enough to demonstrate significant changes in a number of important health indices.
In order to test the validity of these findings and more specifically, investigate the benefits in relation to two personal health issues, diabetes and heightened aerobic fitness, Dr Mosley embarked on a four week High Intensity Training (HIT) plan, overseen by Jamie Timmons, Professor of Ageing Biology at Birmingham University.
The process itself was very simple:
“It’s actually very simple. You get on an exercise bike, warm up by doing gentle cycling for a couple of minutes, then go flat out for 20 seconds.
A couple of minutes to catch your breath, then another 20 seconds at full throttle. Another couple of minutes gentle cycling, then a final 20 seconds going hell for leather. And that’s it” (via BBC News**)
By doing these short spurts of exercise, it is believed that we are using far more of our muscle tissue than “classic aerobic” exercise – 80% vs. 20-40% for jogging or walking briskly**. However, despite this, the results from Dr Mosley’s investigation were mixed, with a 24% improvement in insulin sensitivity but no improvements to aerobic exercise.
But why was that the case?
Although HIT has a number of proven health benefits, it appears that there is a caveat to the rule – your genetic makeup. Based on a recent international study***, it was found that following four hours of HIT exercise for 20 weeks, a number of individuals showed no real improvement (“ non responders”) whereas 15% of participants made huge strides (“super responders”) – a discrepancy that Dr Mosley highlighted could be traced back to a small number of genes.
Therefore, it’s clear that people respond to exercise differently – and whilst high intensity training may prove beneficial for some, it may not for others. Focusing on activities that you enjoy and make you feel good will be a great place to start, whether it’s walking the dog or running the London marathon.
For understanding the benefits of exercise on your health and advice on how to stay fit, check out Life Line Screening’s tips by clicking on the picture in this post.
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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.