Unhealthy Britain – the NHS lags behind Europe

New research suggests the UK is lagging behind progress being made by similar countries on many indicators for ill health.

Health data over 20 years was compared with figures from 18 other countries in the research published in the Lancet. Although average life expectancy has risen by four years since 1990, it says the UK needs to increase its strategies for tackling preventable problems such as heart disease and stroke.

We are living longer but not in good health

UK Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has said he has a plan to address the lag. The team of experts from the UK and the University of Washington in Seattle said the UK had a high burden of smoking-related illnesses, and greater priority should be given to reducing lung disease.

There must be extra focus on Smoking, Alzheimer’s Disease and Snoring.

There was also a large rise in the number of recorded deaths related to Alzheimer’s Disease. Snoring and sleep apnoea is also overlooked as a serious contributor to poor health as we age.

Many deaths happen because the NHS is not good enough at preventing people getting sick or because the treatment given does not rival that seen elsewhere in Europe, says Mr Hunt who is responsible for health policy in England.

He says up to 30,000 lives a year could be saved if England performed as well as its European neighbours.

Mr Hunt has announced plans to cut the death toll caused by the UK’s five avoidable big killers – cancer, heart, stroke, respiratory and liver disease.

The big five avoidable killers

  • Heart disease
  • Cancer
  • Stroke
  • Lung disease
  • Liver disease

He wants more people to go for regular health checks to spot diseases earlier and he is calling for better joining up of NHS services so that patients don’t get lost in the system.

In the 20 years from 1990 to 2010 that The Lancet study examined, average life expectancy increased by 4.2 years in the UK to 79.9 years. But the premature death rate had hardly changed in the UK for both men and women aged 20-54.

Among the leading causes were heart disease, cancers and chronic lung disease.

These are linked to avoidable risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure, snoring and obesity, which are still all too common in the UK, say Chris Murray, from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, University of Washington, USA, and colleagues who carried out the analysis of global data. But progress is being made on conditions like diabetes, where the UK appears to be ahead of many of its European neighbours and other high-income countries like the US and Canada.

Prof Murray says the UK also faces fresh challenges, like its growing burden of disability from alcohol use, the rapid growth of snoring and sleep apnoea due to lifestyle, and a 137% rise in deaths linked to Alzheimer’s disease.

He and his team also acknowledged that making firm conclusions based on data from different countries was inherently problematic – not all record the same information and each has its own unique issues and policies that made interpretation and comparison difficult.

Leading UK health risk factors

  • Tobacco smoke (including second-hand smoke)
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Too little exercise
  • Alcohol use
  • Poor diet

Many of these can be identified through heavy snoring and are closely related to these factors – something that can be easily taken in hand.

Recent figures from the Office for National Statistics suggested people in the UK were living in good health for longer.

But the UK still measures up poorly compared with other countries – it ranked 12 out of the 19 countries in the Lancet study.

Britons have 68.6 years of healthy life, whereas people in the top-ranked country, Spain, have 70.9 years of healthy life on average.

Public Health England, a new division of the Department of Health that will come into being in April 2013 along with the NHS organisational reforms, called the report a wake-up call.

How many healthy years will you live?

 

Rank Country HealthyYears LifeSpan
1 Spain 70.9 81.4
2 Italy 70.2 81.5
3 Australia 70.1 81.5
4 Sweden 69.6 81.4
5 Canada 69.6 80.6
6 France 69.5 80.9
7 Austria 69.1 80.6
8 Netherlands 69.1 80.6
9 Germany 69 80.2
10 Ireland 68.9 79.9
11 Greece 68.7 79.6
12 UK 68.6 79.9
13 Portugal 68.6 79.4
14 Belgium 68.5 79.5
15 Luxembourg 68.4 80.2
16 Norway 68 80.8
17 USA 67.9 78.2
18 Denmark 67.9 78.9
19 Finland 67.3 80.1

By John Redfern


Sleep is the Cornerstone to Good Health – So You Must Stop Snoring

Part Two

Getting good quality sleep every night is imperative to both good physical and mental health. It is often said that restful sleep is the glue that keeps us functioning normally as human beings.

In this article, Sleep and Physical Health, I will describe the four specific consequences of sleep and physical health and my accompanying article will deal with four specific consequences of Sleep and Mental Health.

1. Sleep and Memory – Researchers have found that not getting enough sleep distracts the brain from focusing and being able to retain information. According to accepted authorities there are three parts to “making memories” – the acquisition phase, the consolidation phase, and the recall phase. While the acquisition phase and the recall phase happen while we are awake, it is believe that sleep is required for the consolidation phase of forming memories, or in other words, making facts or episodic-type memories stick. So, keeping late hours and “cramming” for a test as a student may not be the best strategy to performing well with recall. Better to make sure that a restful night of sleep is had before that big test.

2. Sleep and Learning – Similar to sleep and memory, it’s very difficult to learn new facts, ideas, or concepts without having first gotten adequate sleep. An interesting study was done with bees to illustrate the lack of ability to learn appropriately when not getting enough sleep. The bees’ sleep was interfered with, which caused them real difficulty in remembering experiences they had learned a day previous. It is widely accepted that this is the same with humans.

3. Sleep and Moods – All of us have experience the temper and bad mood of someone who has “woken up on the wrong side of the bed”. Lack of sleep causes irritability, and disorientation. Not getting enough sleep can cause individuals to become quite emotional. Sleep deprivation is tied to depression as well. In fact, those who are repeatedly awakened during the R.E.M. sleep state can become very angry. Extended periods of sleep deprivation can even cause hallucinations or delusions and even death in extreme cases, when it was used as part of certain types of ‘cross questioning’. It just makes sense that getting enough sleep can mitigate some of the stresses we face on a daily basis, and help to keep emotions and moods on a more even keel.

4. Sleep and Creativity and Imagination – Having good quality sleep on a consistent basis does lend itself to better creativity and imagination. The phrase “sleep on it” is actually very sound advice. During sleep our subconscious can go to work to help us solve problems. Often dreams can provide insight that we hadn’t considered during waking hours. Dreams are often the product of our imaginations, wrapped together with portions of true experience. There is an interesting BBC article covering notable examples of “dream discoveries”. Get your sleep and create something wonderful! Look out for it soon in our March Newsletter – 5 Dream Discoveries.

Some of the reasons for sleep are plain common sense, while others have yet to be discovered. For now though, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that getting 7-8 hours of sleep per night (for adults) is the best recipe for good, sustainable health and longevity.

As we know of course, most disturbed nights are caused by someone snoring – both partners actually having a disturbed night, but for different reasons. This is so easy to prevent and with little cost. A range of NHS approved remedies from SleepPro, such as their high quality but inexpensive mouthpieces will soon solve the problem. They have a record of working well, do it quickly and are a low cost solution that is readily and quickly available without prescription.

However make sure that you keep in touch with your GP or local Clinic because they’ll give you good advice on how to stop snoring and check out if it’s caused you any health problems.
By John Redfern


SNORERS ARE MORE AT RISK OF HEART ATTACK THAN SMOKERS OR THE OBESE

• STOP PRESS •

A major study has found that moderate snorers were at 4.8 times greater risk of death from heart attacks and far from just being an inconvenience, amusing, or a nuisance, snoring could be the important early warning of serious life-threatening health problems.

The research study from the USA, where they lead the world in research on sleep disorders, conclusively shows that snoring can cause a thickening of the arteries; a condition that leads on to brain haemorrhages, strokes and heart attacks. It very clearly showed that Snorers are more likely to have thickening or abnormalities in the carotid artery that supplies the brain with oxygenated blood.

Around a quarter of women and four in ten men are frequent snorers, although nearly half of us snore occasionally. Though it can interfere with our sleep – and that of our partners – it was not thought to cause any long-term health problems until recently.

American researchers claim the condition is as serious as having high blood pressure and urge snorers to seek medical advice.

After filling in detailed questionnaires about their snoring habits they were then given ultrasound scans to look at the thickness of their carotid artery and the evidence was conclusive. It was found that the inner layers of the artery walls were far thicker among the snorers than the other adults. It is thought that the thickening of the artery may be caused by the constant vibrations of the snoring which results in inflammation.

Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, who led the research said: ‘Our study adds to the growing body of evidence suggesting isolated snoring may not be as benign as first suspected. Their recommendation is as follows:
‘Instead of kicking your snoring bed partner out of the room or spending sleepless nights elbowing them, seek out medical treatment for the snorer.

We are hoping to change the thinking so patients can get the early treatment they need, before more serious health issues arise. Snoring is more than a bedtime annoyance and it shouldn’t be ignored.’

By John Redfern