Quit smoking campaign Stoptober backs e-cigs for first time

Quit smoking campaign Stoptober backs e-cigs for first time

 Quit smoking campaign Stoptober backs e-cigs for first time

The Stoptober campaign runs from 1 October

The annual Stoptober campaign in England is embracing e-cigarettes for the first time – in a sign vaping is being seen as the key to getting people to quit.
Health experts have tended to shy away from explicitly promoting e-cigarettes.
But the government campaign during October will feature vaping in its TV adverts for the first time.
It comes after e-cigarettes proved the most popular tool for quitting during last year’s campaign.
Some 53% of people used them, helping push the numbers of people taking part in Stoptober since its launch in 2012 to over 1.5 million.

10 charts on how smoking ban changed UK

E-cigs ‘definitely’ safer than smoking
E-cigarettes are not yet officially prescribed on the NHS.
However, doctors and other health professionals are encouraged to advise smokers who want to use them that they are a better alternative to smoking.
New draft guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) does not list e-cigarettes as a recommendation to help people quit, but says patients should be told some smokers have found them helpful when they want to give up.
NICE advises that patients should be told that there “is currently little evidence on the long-term benefits or harms of these products”.

Graphic: What’s inside an E-cigarette?

 Quit smoking campaign Stoptober backs e-cigs for first time

But government experts behind the Stoptober campaign have been encouraged by newly released research suggesting record numbers of attempts to give up are proving successful.
University College London researchers found 20% of attempts were successful in the first six months of 2017, compared with an average of 16% over the previous 10 years.

Could vaping help smokers stub out cigarettes for good?

A successful attempt was judged to be one where the person had tried to stop smoking in the past year and was still abstaining at the time of the survey.
The biggest rise in successful attempts to quit was among people from poorer backgrounds, who have traditionally been the least likely to give up.


 Quit smoking campaign Stoptober backs e-cigs for first time
The Stoptober TV advert features a man in an allotment using an e-cigarette
The government’s deputy chief medical officer Prof Gina Radford said e-cigarettes were playing an important role and, as they had “95% less harmful products” in them than normal cigarettes, it was only right that they were promoted during Stoptober.
But there were a number of other factors that were proving effective in reducing smoking rates, including restrictions that have been brought in such as standardised packaging and bans on displays in shops.
Of the new draft guidance for health professionals, Prof Radford told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “What for the first time NICE is saying is we recognise that e-cigarettes are being used by people to help them quit.
Therefore, engage people in a discussion about how they are using them, encourage them to be using them only as part of a quit attemptÖ tell them clearly whilst they are much less harmful than tobacco cigarettes, they are not without all harm.

Is smoking being stubbed out?

  • 15.5%
  • Over 18s smoked in England in 2016
  • 26.8% Over 18s smoked in England in 2000
  • 1 in 5 Attempts to quit successful in early 2017
  • 5 “Stoptober” campaigns have been run
  • Over 1.5m have tried quit during them


Public Health England

Latest figures suggest just over 15% of people were smoking in 2016, down from 21% in 2007, when the smoking ban was introduced, and over 26% at the turn of the century.
As smoking has decreased, vaping has increased. About one in 20 people over 16 regularly uses e-cigarettes currently – a quarter of them are smokers or ex-smokers.
The battle against smoking is far from over – it is still the country’s biggest killer, causing 79,000 deaths a year.
For every death, another 20 smokers are suffering smoking-related disease.
Meanwhile, NHS Health Scotland has stated for the first time that e-cigarettes are “definitely” less harmful than smoking tobacco.

What’s the ultimate way to defy depression, disease and early death? Exercise

What’s the ultimate way to defy depression, disease and early death? Exercise

 What's the ultimate way to defy depression, disease and early death? Exercise

Are you sitting comfortably? Bad idea. Stand up and walk around the house. Leave your desk and jog down the office stairs. Even better – jog up the stairs. If it’s lunchtime, go and join a yoga class or head for the shops on foot. What’s to lose? You are going to feel better and live longer.

Hardly a day goes by without a new piece of research flagging up the benefits to our physical and mental health of getting more active. On Tuesday, a study of 30,000 Norwegians by the brilliantly named Black Dog Institute in Australia found that even one or two hoursí exercise a week can help prevent depression. On Monday, the Wildlife Trust revealed that two-thirds of its volunteers, digging ditches and building bird tables in the open air, had better mental health within six weeks.

Getting off your backside and moving about, preferably a bit vigorously some of the time, will stave off heart disease, strokes, cancer and diabetes. It can keep your blood pressure steady and helps you sleep. You may not shed pounds, but it will help keep your weight stable. It can overcome anxiety and boost self-esteem. Older people who are active are less likely to have a hip fracture or a fall.

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We have the sitting disease. According to a report by Public Health England (PHE) in March, physical inactivity is one of the top 10 causes of disease and disability in England. It is responsible for one in six deaths in the UK, which is the same as smoking. It costs the UK an estimated £7.4bn a year.

If exercise was a pill, it would be the biggest blockbuster in the history of medicine.

We weren’t built to sit in front of a computer, a TV screen and a steering wheel. We were designed to be moving around.

It is what we were made to do. Everyone probably knows the basic point, but often we overlook it in our busy modern lives. We are hunter-gatherers. We were designed to be physically active all day long. Our bodies are still stuck in neolithic times, while our minds are in the 21st century.

Given our ancestors were chasing dinner all day long, you might think it follows that we need to be physically active the entire time we are awake, jogging on the spot at our standing desk. But, thankfully, Cavill says no. Long-term studies, following active and sedentary people until their deaths, have worked out that there is a dose-response curve.

The more exercise you do, the better it is – up to a certain level. A marathon runner or a triathlete is not doing much better for their health than somebody who is reasonably active. Half an hour a day is what they say now – or two for the price of one if you do vigorous exercise. Every vigorous minute is the equivalent of two moderately active minutes.

Dame Sally Davies, Englandís chief medical officer who practises before she preaches, goes for a jog twice a week ñ even though she says she doesnít much like it ñ in order to set an example. She advocates 150 minutes of physical activity a week, which is the equivalent of half an hour, five days a week. That can be walking or cycling. It should be enough to raise your heart rate, make you breathe faster and feel warmer. Vigorous activity is something that makes you out of breath.

Get up, stand up: including exercise in everyday life healthier than gym, says study

The fashion these days is not for gym membership but better lifestyles. Phone apps that tell us how many steps we have walked each day have been revelatory. An obsession, in some cases. Cycling and strolling, walking up escalators and shunning lifts, standing up every 20 or 30 minutes (there are those who set their phones or timers) are all healthy. But there is also the ‘forgotten recommendation’, says Cavill, which is a bit harder to incorporate into the way we live today. We should all be doing some load-bearing exercise. According to NHS Choices, adults should be doing exercises on two or more days a week ìthat work all the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms).

This is particularly important for women as they age, to avoid the weakening arm muscles and bone thinning that can lead to fractures. And we don’t routinely lift loads much any more. Internet shopping is bad for you. The answer is ‘anything you can think of that uses muscles’ – either that walk back from the local shops carrying bags of groceries or boring bicep curls and sit-ups, perhaps with weights. Or digging in the garden, or yoga.

Cavill thinks there may be a particular benefit from activities undertaken outdoors.  Conservation projects and ‘green gyms’ do well. It is back to the hunter-gatherer point. We were not made to live inside.

Load-bearing exercises such as press-ups are particularly important for women.

 What's the ultimate way to defy depression, disease and early death? Exercise

The word ‘exercise’ conjures for most of us ‘Lycra and exercise cycles’, and although that works for some people, for others it’s like saying: – Let’s go and climb Mount Everest tomorrow.’

PHE encourages brisk walking, gardening, dancing – anything physical, really.

Cavil doesn’t expect or even want everybody to get their 150 minutes a week by doing the same activity every day. That’s not the way we are. We are by nature promiscuous with our physical activity and thatís great. It will make a huge difference not only to how well you live, but how long you live. Whether you can get out of a chair on your own is one of the best predictors of premature mortality as you age.

It is so important to be active – and yet none of the experts any longer thinks it is enough just to tell people that. As with unhealthy eating and drinking too much, we enjoy sitting about too much to want to stop. To make us move, physical activity has to be almost impossible to avoid. A ban on cars is not likely any time soon. But efforts are under way to steer us towards shanksís pony instead by redesigning our towns and cities. Or, more realistically, tweaking them when the opportunity arises. That means, for instance, painting cycle routes on roads where it isnít feasible to put in a protected lane.

In March, a report by PHE opened with the gloomy news that half of all women and one in three men are still damaging their health by sitting around. The decline in activity seen since the 1960s will put increasing pressure on strained health and social care, and the quality of life for individuals and communities, unless addressed. It was an update on a report called Everybody Active, Every Day, which came out in October 2014. It takes years to shift peopleís habits, it reflected, but the efforts in two years had seen a 1% increase in the numbers of people doing their 150 minutes a week – or half a million people in England enjoying better health and wellbeing.

Like cutting down on junk food, it has been recognised that we need some help – that the environment around us, full of cars and snacks, elevators and sugary drinks, is a part of the problem that governments not only could but should do something about, from ensuring we have green spaces to walk in to prioritising pedestrians and cyclists when it comes to designing new traffic systems.

Varney, another researcher has just been working with the World Health Organization on a new global action plan for physical activity. It’s about what member states can do to make it easier for their people. At the end of the day, people make decisions in their lives based on what is easiest, most effective and most efficient, or what gives them most joy. If you go out of your front door and there is no place to walk or it’s not safely lit, you are not going to do it.

Varney is hugely enthusiastic. He talks about increasing sports and physical activity in schools and ensuring doctors and nurses get taught about the importance of physical activity – and that it is part of their exams so they revise.

It is a huge undertaking to change our culture to make us more active, even though it will make us all healthier and happier. These initiatives are not drops in the ocean.  He prefers to think of them as a bunch of pebbles. You throw them into a pond so that the ripples become a wave and the waves change the shoreline.

They get it right in Amsterdam and in Copenhagen, of course, where everybody seems to be born on two wheels, and apparently also in Finland. ìThere is a strong exercise culture, perhaps rooted in cross-country skiing and outdoor exploration. They do Nordic walking in the summer. Legally and policy-wise, they have pushed it for years. Someone told him the Finns are very obedient. If the government tells them to exercise, they exercise.

The British are not usually characterised that way. But if we all understood that happiness and health is just a light jog away, maybe we would vote with our feet.

How much exercise should we be doing?

One minute of vigorous activity is worth two of moderate effort.

 What's the ultimate way to defy depression, disease and early death? Exercise

The key to a healthy body and mind is a combination of aerobic and strength exercises several times a week, explains Dr David Broom, a senior lecturer in physical activity and health at Sheffield Hallam University. Variety is the spice of life and we should be doing a different range of physical activity so we donít get bored. It is also about reducing sedentary behaviour and getting up and moving around every 20 minutes.

0 to five-year-olds

Babies and toddlers need to be active throughout the day, every day, to enable them to develop gross motor skills and physical literacy. This can involve a variety of movements:

  •  Reaching and grasping, pulling and pushing
  • Lying on their stomach and lifting their body up, also known as ‘tummy time’
  •  Toddlers should be active for at least three hours a day with a mixture of light play, such as walking and moving around, and energetic play, such as running or climbing

Five to 18-year-olds

Developing bone strength is crucial for young people, as they reach their maximum bone density between the age of 18 and 20.

  • Youngsters should be moderately or vigorously active for at least an hour a day, and on three days a week this should involve strengthening activities such as skipping, jumping, running and gymnastics
  • Moderate aerobic activities could include walking, riding a scooter, skateboarding or cycling
  • Vigorous activities include running, swimming, martial arts, rugby and dance

19 to 64-year-olds

The main focus in this age group is aerobic activity to reduce the risk of disease and premature death, and strength training to support ‘activities of daily living’ such as carrying heavy shopping bags.

  • The minimum recommended exercise length is 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity a week (brisk walking, water aerobics, tennis doubles) or 75 minutes of vigorous activity (running, hockey, uphill cycling), or a mixture of both.
  •  Moderate or vigorous activity should be complemented with strength exercises at least twice a week, such as heavy gardening, lifting weights or yoga
  • The more activity you do and the higher the intensity, the greater the benefit


Activities to improve balance, coordination and flexibility are extremely important for older adults so they are able to avoid falls and maintain a good quality of life.

  •  Older adults are also advised to exercise moderately for at least 150 minutes a week, or do 75 minutesí vigorous activity
  • Weight-bearing activities are more significant at this age so people are able, for example, to get out of a chair unaided and live independently
  •  There are no restrictions on the types of activities older people should do, and they should continue to do the exercise or sport they enjoy

regular ibuprofen inhibits muscle growth, finds study

regular ibuprofen inhibits muscle growth, finds study

regular ibuprofen inhibits muscle growth, finds study

Whether you’re looking to bulk up or burn fat, lifting weights is a great way to reach your fitness goals.

But according to a new study, a common drug could be preventing people doing so.

Swedish researchers have found that regularly taking anti-inflammatory drugs (like ibuprofen) can inhibit muscle growth.

The one thing you should be doing in the gym if you want to lose fat
The study, looked into the effects of ibuprofen on the skeletal muscles of young, healthy adults engaging in weight training.

Participants – all of whom were aged between 18 and 35 – were randomly split into two groups.

Half were told to take a relatively high dose of ibuprofen (1,200 mg, which is a normal 24-hour dose) and the others a lower dose of aspirin (75 mg) every day for eight weeks.

At the same time, the participants took part in weight-training exercises specifically designed to work the thighs two to three times a week.


30 min workout for your lunchbreak

After the eight weeks were up, the researchers measured certain variables including muscle growth, muscle strength and anti-inflammatory markers in the muscles.

They found that the muscles of those in the low dose aspirin group had increased in size twice as much as those who’d taken the ibuprofen.

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They also found that muscle strength was harmed by high doses of ibuprofen but not to the same extent as growth.

The results are extremely interesting since the use of anti-inflammatory drugs is so globally widespread, not least amongst elite athletes and recreationally active individuals.

Lundberg adds that they chose to study the effect of ibuprofen as it is the most well-studied anti-inflammatory drug on the market, but they believe that high doses of all types of over-the-counter non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs will have similar effects.

A mid-life crisis can halve the risk of a stroke

A mid-life crisis can halve the risk of a stroke

 A mid-life crisis can halve the risk of a stroke

Middle-aged men who throw themselves into fitness can halve their risk of strokes, research suggests. Scientists said those with sedentary lifestyles had been able to transform their heart health in just seven years – protecting them three decades later.

Norwegian scientists tested the fitness of 1,400 men who were in their 40s and 50s at the start of the trial.

Most became less active as middle age set in, but one in three upped their efforts.

When they compared the group who boosted their fitness the levels the most with those who saw the greatest decline, they found startling differences.

Some of the best results were achieved among those who started out as couch potatoes.

The group with the biggest increase were 56 per cent less likely than the group which slowed down the most to suffer a stroke in later life.


Overall, one in eight had a stroke in the following 28 years, the study by the University of Oslo found.

Last week health officials warned of an ìinactivity epidemicî with four in 10 adults failing to do even one 10 minute brisk walk a month.

They are particularly concerned about adults aged between 40 and 60, where poor lifestyles can have the greatest impact.

It means more than six million are putting themselves at increased risk of illness.

But today researchers say it is “never too late” to make radical changes.

The men who increased [their fitness levels] the most were not fit at all, they went from low levels and moved up.

It’s a really big risk reduction.

Couch potato

 A mid-life crisis can halve the risk of a stroke
Couch potato lifestyles are pushing Britain to an early grave

Their efforts to take themselves in hand involved regular exercise, such as walking or cycling, rather than epic feats.

These men were just getting themselves together. They weren’t marathon runners, or anything like that.

So we can safely say that as a normal person you are able to improve your fitness by putting in the effort and that will protect you.

The group whose midlife fitness increased the most on average saw a 22 per cent improvement in exercise tests.

Their chances of having a stroke were almost the same as those of men who had been fit all their lives.


Middle-aged told to walk faster

Middle-aged told to walk faster

 Middle-aged told to walk faster

Get off the bus early … and other ways to get walking

Middle-aged people are being urged to walk faster to help stay healthy, amid concern high levels of inactivity may be harming their health.

Officials at Public Health England said the amount of activity people did started to tail off from the age of 40.

They are urging those between the ages of 40 and 60 to start doing regular brisk walks.

Just 10 minutes a day could have a major impact, reducing the risk of early death by 15%, they say.

But PHE estimates four out of every 10 40- to 60-year-olds do not even manage a brisk 10-minute walk each month.

Inactivity in middle age
Adults in England 40-60 years old

  • 41% – Do not manage one brisk 10 min walk per month
  • 1 in 6 – Deaths linked to inactivity
  • 15% Reduction in risk of early death from at least one brisk 10 min walk per day
  • 20% Less active than we were in the 1960s
  • 15 miles Less walked a year on average than two decades ago

Public Health England

To help, the government agency is promoting a free app – Active 10 – which can monitor the amount of brisk walking an individual does and provide tips on how to incorporate more into the daily routine.

Juggling priorities of everyday life often means exercise takes a back seat. But walking to the shops instead of driving, or going for a brisk 10-minute walk on your lunch break each day, can add many healthy years to your life.

How walking transformed our lives

Maureen has now started leading organised walks

Maureen has now started leading organised walks

Maureen Ejimofor, 44, started taking regular walks three years ago in a bid to improve her health.

At the time, she weighed 18 stone and wanted to make a change. Within seven months, she had lost nearly five stone.

She joined a local organised walking group in Kent and loved it so much she ended up becoming a walk leader in charge of taking groups of people out at the weekend.

She has been using the Active 10 app and encourages others to do the same, describing it as “really useful” in persuading users to get a “burst” of brisk walking into their day.

Another walking fan is Liam Quigley, who has just turned 60.

“My parents used to take us out walking all the time,” he says.

But unfortunately as he got older, he got a taste for the finer things in life, so he used to drink quite a bit, eat some of the wrong stuff.  He actually put a lot of weight on.

He likes walking, and he decided to do something about it.

Mr Quigley joined Stockport Walkers and now takes 10-mile hikes.

Since he joined, he’s lost two stone. It’s had a good effect on him.

GPs are also being encouraged to get their patients walking faster – defined as a walk of at least 3mph that leaves you breathing faster and increases your heart rate.

Every GP should talk to their patients about the benefits of brisk walking and recommend the Active 10 app. PHE is focusing on those in middle age, because of the drop in activity levels.

It is recommended that people do 150 minutes of activity a week, but nearly half of those aged 40 to 60 fail to achieve that and one in five does less than 30 minutes.

While a daily 10-minute brisk walk will not get them to the recommended level, it will be enough to start making a difference to high blood pressure, diabetes, weight issues, depression and anxiety and musculoskeletal problems such as lower back pain.

PHE also hopes by getting this age group active it will have a knock-on effect among those who have children.

‘A pedometer saved my life’: How I became fit in my 60s

‘A pedometer saved my life’: How I became fit in my 60s

 'A pedometer saved my life': How I became fit in my 60s

Graham Ward was 60 when he was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

It came after decades of eating and drinking too much in a high-stress, sedentary job: “It was an explosion waiting to happen,” he said.

For Graham, whose wife had become increasingly disabled through multiple sclerosis, the diagnosis was a wake-up call.

He needed to be able to help her – and he need to be around for longer.

Graham is not alone in his diagnosis.

Public Health England estimates that 42% of 45- to 64-year-olds have a long-term health condition such as diabetes or heart disease.

This week, it urged middle-aged people to walk more often and more briskly.
10 minutes a day

It is encouraging those between the ages of 40 and 60 to start doing regular brisk walks of just 10 minutes a day.

One in five middle-aged people is physically inactive, engaging in less than 30 minutes of exercise a week.

To help, the government agency is promoting a free app – Active 10 – which can monitor the amount of brisk walking an individual does and provide tips on how to incorporate more of it into the daily routine.

 'A pedometer saved my life': How I became fit in my 60s When he was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 2015, Graham, pictured here with his wife, weighed 18 stone

When Graham was diagnosed as a diabetic, he realised he needed to make changes: His clothes were getting tighter, and he was hearing how being overweight could affect his life and health in other ways.

Diabetes has been linked to other issues such as heart disease, stroke and kidney disease, causing a reduction in one’s life expectancy.

He said beforehand he had managed to turn a blind eye to this.

When someone is in front of you telling you it’s you, there’s nowhere to hide. They’re not talking about the other millions of people out there. Graham’s doctor suggested he should join a local walking group in Stockport.

He started and he was a bit nervous. With a couple of hills, it was more walking than he’d been doing. He was talked into the 1.9 mile walk by the group leader. After the first time, he overcame all those fears.

He invested in a pair of new shoes and gradually increased his walks to reach five miles.

Over a period of months, Graham graduated from walking three kilometres to eight kilometres

It was a very quick improvement, once you realise after the first one or two that you don’t become immediately breathless and that you can walk further from home than you thought. He moved on from walking with that group, to walking by himself, walking further distances and the pounds started falling off of him.”

He used a pedometer to make sure he was reaching the recommended 10,000 steps a day.

Now he does about 15,000 steps and has lost 50lb.

His trousers were falling off of him. He had to throw away all the clothes he owned.

Graham said the benefits were not only physical.

He’s fitter, healthier, more confident. When you start walking you see things in your area that you haven’t seen before, such as discovering canal towpaths.

His advice to others is not to be “disappointed if it doesn’t happen in the first few weeks”.

Now, he and his wife diet and swim together.

When he’s playing with my grandchildren now, it’s them that get tired before he does.

Playing brain games ‘of little benefit’, say experts

Playing brain games ‘of little benefit’, say experts

Playing brain games 'of little benefit', say experts

Brain training games may not provide the benefits to brain health they claim to, according to experts.

Instead, a report from the Global Council on Brain Health recommends that people engage in stimulating activities such as learning a musical instrument, designing a quilt or gardening.

It said the younger a person started these activities, the better their brain function would be as they aged.

Age UK said it was never too late to learn something new.

The council – which is a collaboration of international scientists, health professionals and policy experts – has produced a report on the best ways to stimulate the brain and reduce cognitive decline.

It said that although many people thought playing online games, such as puzzles and mind games, designed to improve brain health was important, the evidence regarding the benefits was “weak to non-existent”.

If people play a ‘brain game’, they may get better at that game, but improvements in game performance have not yet been shown to convincingly result in improvements in people’s daily cognitive abilities. For example, there was no evidence that playing sudoku would help you manage your finances any better.

Tai chi and photography

The report recommends seeking out new activities that challenge the way you think and are socially engaging, while leading a healthy lifestyle.

Examples include:

  • practising tai chi
  • researching your family tree
  • photography classes
  • cooking
  • gardening
  • learning new technologies
  • creative writing
  • art projects
  • volunteering

James Goodwin, chief scientist at Age UK, which helped set up the Global Council on Brain Health, said brain decline was not inevitable.

There are plenty of activities that we can start today that can provide benefits for brain health, if they are new to you and require your concentrated attention. They may even be activities that you do regularly in your life, such as playing with grandchildren, gardening or playing cards. Even though it’s never too late to learn something new, the overwhelming message from this report is that you shouldn’t wait until later life to try to maintain your brain health.

New wonder drug hailed as biggest breakthrough in fight against heart attacks and cancer

New wonder drug hailed as biggest breakthrough in fight against heart attacks and cancer

 New wonder drug hailed as biggest breakthrough in fight against heart attacks and cancer


A new class of drugs which could prevent thousands of heart attacks and deaths from cancer has been hailed as the biggest breakthrough since statins.

Scientists last night said the discovery ushered in ‘a new era of therapeutics’ which work in an entirely different way to conventional treatment.

As well as cutting the risk of a heart attack by one quarter, the drugs halved the chances of dying from cancer and protected against gout and arthritis.

Cholesterol-busting statins are given to millions of adults deemed to be at risk of heart disease.

But half of heart attacks occur in people who do not have high cholesterol at all.

Now scientists have found that reducing inflammation in the body can protect against a host of conditions – with a ìreally dramatic effectî on cancer deaths.

The drug canakinumab, given by injection every three months – cut repeat heart attacks by one quarter. Statins cut the risk by around 15 per cent.

Experts said the findings have ìfar-reachingî implications for the 200,000 people a year in Britain who suffer a heart attack.
Statins are given to millions of adults deemed to be at risk of heart disease

And they called for urgent trials to further examine the impact of the medication on cancer.

Professor Paul Ridker of Harvard Medical School, presenting his findings at the European Society of Cardiology congress in Barcelona yesterday, said it opens up a ‘third front’ in the war on heart disease.

The landmark study tracked 10,000 heart attack victims who were given canakinumab, a drug which targets inflammation.

Typically, around a quarter of survivors will go on to have another event within five years, despite taking statins.

Novartis headquarters

The four-year study found those given the new treatment saw a 24 per cent reduction in heart attacks and 17 per cent fall in angina, while those on the highest dose saw cancer deaths fall by 51 per cent.

Speaking at the worldís biggest gathering of heart experts, Harvard scientists said the approach promises to ‘usher in a new era’ of treatment.

Show more

These findings represent the end game of more than two decades of research, stemming from a critical observation: Half of heart attacks occur in people who do not have high cholesterol.

For the first time, the researchers have been able to definitively show that lowering inflammation independent of cholesterol reduces cardiovascular risk.

The findings had ‘far-reaching implications,’ opening up a new generation of treatment. In their lifetime, they’ve gotten to see three broad eras of preventative cardiology. In the first, they recognized the importance of diet, exercise and smoking cessation. In the second, they saw the tremendous value of lipid-lowering drugs such as statins. Now, they’re cracking the door open on the third era.

The findings were presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress in Barcelona and published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Inflammation is one of the body’s natural responses to infection or injury. But it also plays a major role in causing heart attacks and strokes.

The findings are said to have ‘far-reaching implications’

Experts said high levels of inflammation were associated with a variety of conditions linked to ageing, including cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and gout – all of which reduced among patients put on the treatment.

The new treatment – which works by blocking part of the immune system called interleukin-1 – currently costs around £40,000 annually to treat a patient with the drug, compared to just £20 for statins.

But experts say the price would come down if widely adopted. And they said the cost would be offset by the millions of pounds saved from not having to perform heart bypasses and other major forms of surgery. Leading British medics last night hailed the findings as ‘exciting and incredibly important’.

The drug is likely to be given to patients alongside statins – in a ‘twin attack’ against cholesterol and inflammation. You need lots of bricks to build a wall – this is another brick in the wall. Nearly 200,000 people are hospitalised due to heart attacks every year in the UK.

Cholesterol-lowering drugs like statins are given to these people to reduce their risk of another heart attack and this undoubtedly saves lives. But we know that lowering cholesterol alone is not always enough. These exciting and long-awaited trial results finally confirm that ongoing inflammation contributes to risk of heart disease, and could help save lives.

The findings suggest that existing anti-inflammatory drugs, such as canakinumab, could be given along with cholesterol-lowering drugs to treat survivors and further reduce their risk of another heart attack.

Novartis, the company which produces the drug, said they now intend to apply for a licence for the treatment for heart attack victims, and to embark on a new phase III trial about the use of the drugs to protect against cancer.


‘Fat but fit’ still risk heart disease

‘Fat but fit’ still risk heart disease

 'Fat but fit' still risk heart disease

People who are overweight or obese are at increased risk of heart disease even if they appear medically healthy, experts are warning.

The work, in the European Heart Journal, is further evidence against the idea people can be “fat but fit”.

The researchers studied health data on more than half a million people in 10 European countries, including the UK.

Normal blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels were no assurance of good heart health among obese people.

After a follow-up period of more than 12 years, 7,637 of the people in the study had developed heart disease.

Weight appeared to be a risk factor.

In the study, people who were overweight or obese but had healthy blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol readings were about 28% more likely to develop heart disease than individuals with similar readings and a healthy bodyweight.

Being fat and “metabolically unhealthy” – having high blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar – was riskier still.

Are you a healthy weight for your height?

The researchers at Imperial College London and the University of Cambridge say the findings are a reminder that carrying too much fat can store up health problems for the future. There is no longer this concept of healthy obese. If anything, this new study shows that people with excess weight who might be classed as ‘healthy’ haven’t yet developed an unhealthy metabolic profile.

That comes later in the timeline, then they have an event, such as a heart attack.

According to the researchers, the excess weight itself may not be increasing the risk of heart disease directly, but rather over time through mechanisms such as increased blood pressure and high glucose.

The take-home message here is that maintaining a healthy body weight is a key step towards maintaining a healthy heart.

Who should take statins?

Who should take statins?

 Who should take statins?

Should you be taking statins? Research from Harvard University suggests “almost all” men over 60 and women over 75 should be doing so in order to help prevent heart attack and stroke.

But the Royal College of GPs has raised the alarm saying this could lead to some older people being prescribed the drug unnecessarily. It is not clear that every 60-year-old man or 75-year-old woman is going to benefit from statin therapy.

What are statins?

Statins are a group of drugs designed to lower harmful cholesterol in the blood. Having too much low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in the blood can lead to a build-up of fatty plaque in the arteries. This so-called “bad cholesterol” can cause blockages and lead to heart disease and stroke.

Statins are tablets taken once a day, and, once prescribed, will usually be taken for life.

The NHS says a review of scientific studies suggests one in 50 people who takes statins for five years, will avoid a “serious event” like a heart attack. In contrast, only one in 10,000 people taking statins will experience a “potentially dangerous” side-effect.

And they are cheap – a commonly prescribed statin, atorvastatin, taken daily costs about £2 a month per person, according to a study in the medical journal, the Lancet.

What did the research say?

New guidelines for England published in 2014 recommended statins be prescribed to anyone with a one-in-10 chance or higher of developing cardiovascular disease in the next 10 years.

A team of scientists at Harvard looked at how many of the population in England should therefore be eligible for the drug.

The recommendations from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) significantly increased the number of people eligible for statins.

Previous advice from the body, which provides national guidelines on health and care, said that only those with a higher than one-in-five chance of developing heart disease should be given them.

The Harvard research, published in the British Journal of General Practice, found that the updated guidance meant almost all men over the age of 60, and almost all women over the age of 75, would be considered high risk and therefore be eligible to be given statins, regardless of whether they had any other risk factors.

This is because age is one of the main factors when it comes to estimating risk of disease.

How many people should be taking statins?

The researchers estimated that, according to the guidelines, 11.8 million (37%) adults in England, aged 30-84, would be eligible for statin therapy. This would mean each GP treating almost 200 extra patients with statins.

Of these, they found more than half were not already taking the drug. But the sample of the population the researchers used was taken from a survey from 2011, before the guidelines came into place.

The researchers weren’t looking at the uptake of the 2014 guidelines, but estimating what they meant for how many people would be eligible for the drug.

The study acknowledges it is unlikely that all eligible adults will receive statins. But the guidelines recommend that someone falling into the high-risk category should be having “an informed risk-benefit discussion” with their doctor, the authors point out.

A spokesman from the Royal College of GPs echoes this, saying that the NICE guidelines are, “guidelines, not tramlines, and GPs will take these into account along with any other physical, psychological and social factors potentially affecting the patient’s health – as well as patient choice.”

Many patients don’t want to take statins, he adds, and some people who would be eligible under NICE guidelines won’t visit their GP at all.

There were 67 million individual prescriptions in 2015-16, according to the NHS, but the health service does not collect data on how many individuals received the medicine.