Brits – the fattest in Europe, says new survey

London: Brits are the fattest people in Europe, says a new survey by the European Union’s Statistical Office, Eurostat.

A quarter of women and a fifth of men in the UK are now so overweight that their health is at serious risk. Second and third place go to Germany and Malta.

British women head the EU league, with 23 per cent clinically obese, and men fare little better, with 22.3 per cent classified as obese behind only Malta.

The figures highlight the obesity timebomb of ageing diseases such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other diseases brought on by obesity.

German women have an obesity rate of 21.7 per cent and Maltese women 21.2 per cent. The thinnest women are in Italy, where fewer than 8 per cent are obese.

The highest rate of male obesity is in Malta, with 25.1 per cent obese. British men are second with a rate of 22.3 per cent, followed by Hungary and Germany. Romania has the best record on male obesity, with just 7.7 per cent obese.

Measured by calculating Body Mass Index – a mathematical formula relating height to weight – people are classified as obese if they weigh a fifth more than their ideal maximum weight.

The EU statisticians looked only at adult obesity, but previous studies have shown rates of child obesity are equally worrying. In Britain the figures have trebled in 20 years, with 10 per cent of six-year-olds and 17 per cent of 15-year-olds now obese.

Adult obesity rates have nearly quadrupled over the last 25 years, making Britain the second-fattest nation in the developed world, trailing behind only America.

Obesity causes 9,000 premature deaths a year and costs the NHS up to £1billion.

Being obese can take nine years of a person’s lifespan and raise the risk of a host of health problems including diabetes, heart disease, stroke, infertility and depression.

The risk of many cancers, including breast, colon, kidney and stomach cancer, are linked to weight.

Heart defect on increase in UK

London: A heart condition, known as artrial fibrillation, which causes an irregular heart beat is on the increase in the UK.

It is estimated that as many as 2 per cent of the population is affected and many may be unaware of it.

As a result experts at the Royal College of Physicians have produced new doctor guidelines so that sufferers can be detected earlier and treated before complications set in.

The condition is one of the most common to affect the heart but is an indicator of a future stroke. The symptoms may include fainting, shortness of breath and dizziness.

A heart monitor can confirm the condition and patients are treated with a blood-thinning drug such as Warfarin.

Weekly exercise sufficient for health

Oslo: It only takes one bout of exercise each week to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, according to new research from Norway.

One intense bout of exercise a week lowered the risk of death by 51 per cent in women and 39 per cent in men, in the study carried out by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology and St Olav’s Hospital in Trondheim.

The scientists also discovered that increasing the amount of exercise did not improve results.

The findings are the result of a 16-year study in which cardiologists investigated how the amount and intensity of exercise was linked to death in 27,143 men and 28,929 women.

At the end of the study period 10.8 per cent of the men, and 8.6 per cent of the women had died from heart disease or stroke. When the researchers looked at the subjects’ exercise history, they found that a single weekly bout of exercise of high intensity reduced the risk of cardiovascular death compared with those who reported no activity.

The researchers condluded that the results challenge the current recommendation that expenditure of at least 1,000 kcal per week is required to achieve exercise-induced protection.

Beta blockers raise diabetes risk, says new study

London: The range of drugs known as beta blockers which doctors may use to to treat high blood pressure increase the risk of diabetes, according to new research.

Diabetes increases the risk high risk of heart attacks, strokes and kidney disease. Patients on beta blockers are face a 50 per cent higher risk than with the latest drugs.

The National Institute for Clinical Excellence, the UK government body that approves drugs for public use said that doctors should use the newer ace inhibitors and calcium channel blockers should be the first choice treatment for the millions of Britons being treated for high blood pressure.

The results of a new clinical trial show beta blockers may hasten and, in some cases, induce diabetes.

Although many patients are being switched to newer drugs by their doctors when they go for a scheduled check-up, beta-blockers remain in wide use.

They are still considered the best treatment for conditions such as angina, and
doctors have warned patients not to stop taking them without medical advice as
sudden withdrawal may trigger a heart attack.

The trial which was reported at the World Congress of Cardiology in Barcelona which exposed the diabetes risk was led by Professor Neil Poulter,
co-director of the International Centre for Circulatory Health at Imperial
College London.

He said that the chance of a patient with raised blood pressure developing diabetes can be cut by newer treatments, irrespective of the patient’s initial level of risk. Many cases of diabetes could be prevented if doctors avoid prescribing the older treatments to hypertensive patients unless they specifically require them.

Despite the warning experts point out that for the remaining beta-blocker patients, the benefits of the drugs in lowering blood pressure still massively outweigh the diabetes risk, so they should not suddenly stop taking them.

The study looked at 14,000 patients in the UK, Ireland and Scandinavia, half of
whom were taking the old combination of the betablocker Atenolol and a diuretic.
The others were prescribed a calcium channel blocker called amlodipine and the
ace-inhibitor perindopril, and in this group 34 per cent fewer patients
developed diabetes over three years.

The study suggests the aceinhibitor protects against the condition, while the
other drug is neutral. But the beta-blocker and diuretic combination actually
encourages diabetes.

BETA-BLOCKERS were introduced in the 1960s and were a mainstay of treatment
until the 1990s, when side effects such as reduced energy levels meant many
patients were switched to newer drugs.

Clinical trials over the last three years have suggested they are less effective
than newer versions. But they remain useful against angina and some other
conditions. Patients with these who also have high blood pressure may still get

They work by blocking the action of a chemical called noradrenaline, which helps
prepare the body for emergencies.
Noradrenaline speeds up the heart, making it pump more forcibly and pushing up
blood pressure as a result. The drugs block the binding of the chemical on
receptors on the heart, slowing down its action.

New ace-inhibitor drugs work by blocking a process which narrows blood vessels
and so increases pressure. Calcium channel blockers also avoid narrowing of the
arteries by stopping muscle cells contracting.

New clot-busting drug offers hope to stroke victims

London: Trials of a new clot-busting drug for stroke victims are taking place in the US and Canada.

If successful, the drug, by UK company Vernalis and codenamed V10153, could go into the final phase of clinical trials next year.

The drug contains a protein that activates when it comes into contact with a clot and breaks it up. It is thought that the drug will be particularly helpful to those who have ischemic strokes, the most common form of stroke triggered by a blood clot in the brain. It can be given up to nine hours after a stroke and still be viable, unlike most current medications.

Vernalis medical director Dr John Hutchison said that clotbusting drugs should be administered as quickly as possible after a stroke, but that it was often difficult to get a patient scanned and treated within three hours.

Dental disease revealed to be factor in stroke

Los Angeles: Dental disease is a risk factor in stroke, according to new research from the the University of California Los Angeles.

Researchers have discovered that the disease is more prevelant in people with blockages of the main blood vessels leading to the brain (carotid artery). These blockages, or atheromas, contain calcium and can be detected on dental panoramic radiographs.

The results came from a study to see if dental disease shown on a panoramic radiograph is greater among people with atheromas seen on their dental radiograph than among people without atheromas but matched for stroke risk factors (body mass, smoking history, need for medications to control hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, and diabetes).

The group with carotid atheromas seen on dental panoramic radiographs was found to have more dental disease, as determined by the number of teeth with decay, missing teeth, and the amount of bone loss around teeth, than the group without any radiographically detectable atheromas.

The results of this study, Does Dental Disease Influence Prevalence of Panographically Imaged Carotid Atheromas?, indicate that dental disease may play a role in the formation of carotid atheromas in patients already at risk for stroke. It was conducted by E. Chung, A.F. Friedlander, E.C. Sung, and N.R. Garrett, of the University of California-Los Angeles, USA, presented on July 1, 2006, at the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre, during the 84th General Session of the International Association for Dental Research.

Stem cell hope for stroke victims

New York: scientists may have discovered a new way to use stem cells to make the brain repair itself after a stroke, which brings much hope for stroke victims.

The research, by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke in Maryland, was published on Sunday in Nature magazine.

Rats, whose brains had been starved of oxygen to simulate having a stroke, were studied by scientists. By stimulating a brain receptor known as “notch,” researchers were able to promote new stem cell growth in the brains of the rats, thus partially reversing the effect of the stroke simulation.

The discovery will raise hopes for new treatments for stroke, using the body’s own stem cells to aid healing.

Other treatments using embryonic stem cells have been restricted because implanted cells come under attack from the body’s immune system.

The researchers wrote: “New cell therapies based on embryonic stem (ES) cells are supported by work in animal models of human disease.

They are difficult to implement, however, because it is hard to grow tissue-specific precursors in the laboratory and it is difficult to deliver them to diffuse disease sites in the body without stimulating an immune response.”

Job loss in 50s doubles risk of heart attack

Yale: A new study from the US reveals that people who lose their jobs in their 50s double the risk of heart attack or stroke.

Researchers at Yale University looked at more than 4,000 US workers aged between 51 and 61, who were still in employment in 1992. They later reviewed the statistics for those who had heart attacks and strokes over the next ten years and how many had lost their jobs.

The authors said their findings held true even after adjusting for risk factors such as smoking, obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes.

Dr William Gallo, from the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, said: ‘We found that workers over 50 years of age who experience involuntary job loss are at increased risk for both subsequent heart attack and stroke relative to individuals who continue to work.

‘The magnitudes of association are substantial, with job-losers having over twice the risk compared with workers who remain employed.

‘For many individuals, late career job-loss is an exceptionally stressful experience with the potential for provoking numerous undesirable outcomes.’ The authors conclude that doctors should be aware of physical effects where the ‘true costs of unemployment exceed the obvious economic costs’.

Writing in Occupational and Environmental Medicine from the British Medical Journal, they said: ‘ Physicians who treat individuals who lose jobs as they approach retirement should therefore consider the loss of employment, with its associated anxiety.’

Vitamin D deficiency linked to stroke

A shortage of vitamin D may be linked to an increased risk of stroke, according to research published in the journal Stroke.

Stroke patients often suffer a number of vitamin D deficiency-related symptoms such as a lowering of bone mineral density, changes in calcium homeostasis, and an increase in hip fractures. Vitamin D deficiency has already been associated with stroke and hip fractures.

The researchers measured vitamin D serum levels, every 2 months for 1 year, in 44 patients admitted to an acute stroke unit with those of 96 healthyelderly subjects. The stroke patients included in the study had not previously suffered from a stroke.

It was discovered that 77 percent of the stroke patients were deficient in vitamin D throughout the year. The researchers suggested that this deficiency may have preceded the occurrence of stroke.

According to the researchers, “Vitamin D is a potential risk marker for stroke, and the role of vitamin D repletion in enhancing musculoskeletal health after stroke needs to be explored.”

New drug and aspirin cuts risk of heart attack, says new research

London: A new drug combination of aspirin and a bloodthinning agent called Plavix, could save the lives of thousands of heart attack victims each year, say researchers.

The combination reduced the combined risk of death, a stroke or a repeat attack by nine per cent, compared with ‘dummy’ treatment, in a study of 46,000 people.It costs an extra £1 a day per patient and increases survival rates and helps patients live longer. The results are reported in the medical journal The Lancet.

They believe it should be routinely considered for suspected heart attacks. The drug is licensed in the UK to prevent blood clots, but not as a heart attack treatment.

It is the world’s second-largest study of emergency heart attack treatment and was carried out by researchers from the UK’s Oxford University and China.

Participants were treated for severe heart attacks – where the artery was completely blocked – with low-dose aspirin to disperse clots. Half were given Plavix, made by the drug company Sanofi Aventis. The others were given a placebo pill.

The drug reduced the total risk of deaths, repeat heart attacks and stroke by nine per cent when compared with placebo. It cut the risk of death alone by seven per cent.

Patients given Plavix had a 14 per cent drop in repeat heart attacks, without any increase in life-threatening bleeding.

Paracetamol danger warns new research

Boston: Women who take the painkiller paracetamol, have higher blood pressure which may lead to stroke, according to new US research.

Although older women are more at risk, those suffering from arthritic pain are more likely to suffer, says the Nurses Health Study, which found women taking more than 500mg of paracetamol a day for five years were twice as likely to develop high blood pressure.

Those aged 50 and over were at slightly higher risk than those who were younger. Doctors say the findings may also apply to men.

Paracetamol is the world’s most widely-used painkiller. Most patients using it regularly take two 500mg tablets daily.

Dr John Philip Forman, of Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, said taking ibuprofen, another overthe- counter painkiller, also carried higher risks of hypertension.

He said: ‘In our study, women who took 500mg or more of paracetamol per day, on average, were about twice as likely to develop high blood pressure as women who did not use it.’

Dr Gary Williams, a rheumatologist from Scripps Clinic in La Jolla, California, said doctors were already under pressure to switch arthritic patients from prescription drugs called coxibs to safer alternatives to avoid possible heart problems.

But Dr Geoffrey Brandon, of the Paracetamol Information Centre, said that although the study showed an association between paracetamol and hypertension, there was no reason for women to stop taking the painkiller based on the findings. :

Painkiller link to stroke, say US researchers

Boston: Paracetamol, the world’s most popular painkiller, can make some women vulnerable to strokes, US doctors have discovered.

Those who take paracetamol regular double the risk of developing high blood pressure, making them vulnerable to strokes, according to research carried out by
the Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. They also discovered that ibuprofen, another over-the- counter painkiller, also carried higher risks of hypertension.

The study, published in the journal Hypertension, shows that women of all ages are at risk. But older women who may be using the over-the-counter medicine to help relieve arthritic pain are most susceptible.

The findings pose a dilemma for arthritis sufferers, many of whom have been told to switch to over-the-counter medicines because of fears of heart problems linked to some prescription drugs. Most patients using it regularly take two 500mg tablets daily.

Although the study only involved women, experts believe the findings may also apply to men.

But Dr Geoffrey Brandon, of the Paracetamol Information Centre, warned that there was no reason for women to stop taking paracetamol based on the findings because the study did not demonstrate cause and effect.

Winter illnesses increase risk of heart attack

London: New research reveals that the risk of heart attack and stroke increases as a result of winter infections.

The joint study sponsored by the British Heart Foundation, the Medical Research Council and the Wellcome Trust discovered thatbronchitis can increase the risk of a heart attack by five times.The risk of having a stroke also trebles within the first few days of falling ill, according to researchers.

They found that the increased danger was caused not just by chest illnesses but other infections such as cystitis.

They believe inflammation may have something to do with it – either by helping to form the plaques that block arteries or by contributing to their rupture and causing heart attacks or strokes.

Around 300,000 people have heart attacks in Britain each year, 117,000 of them fatal. Every year more than 130,000 people in England and Wales suffer a stroke.

The latest study, published today in the New England Journal of Medicine, confirms that common infections play a part in triggering acute heart and circulatory problems.

The researchers examined the medical records of more than 40,000 people and discovered that the risk of heart attack was five times higher than normal in the first three days after a respiratory tract infection such as bronchitis or pneumonia.

The risk of stroke was found to be three times higher during the same period. The same applied to urinary tract infections such as cystitis.

However, in the following weeks after illness the risk of having a heart attack or stroke gradually decreased.
Professor Patrick Vallance, a researcher on the project at University College London, said: ‘The work shows that the timing of a heart attack is not random.’

He said the finding was important because it showed showed a surge in risk following a range of infections – not just chest infections, as might be expected.

Dr Liam Smeeth from the MRC, lead researcher on the project, said ‘This knowledge will open up new avenues for research and discovery.

‘Armed with the information we have found, we can begin to develop new strategies to reduce the occurrence of heart attacks and strokes.’

The BHF advised people to protect their hearts this winter by staying warm, eating a good diet, having a flu jab and being alert for unusual symptoms.

The researchers also investigated whether vaccinations, including flu and tetanus jabs, increased the risk of heart attacks or strokes. They found no increased risk associated with the vaccines, confirming their safety record.


Strokes affects thousands of people each year – 16 per cent of all women are likely to die of a stroke compared with 8 per cent of men. They can occur at any age without warning and can be devastating. Although it is more like to effect men it is more likely to kill a woman because they are usually older when it occurs.

A stroke happens when the blood supply to the brain is disrupted. Although a stroke can kill and leave parts of the brain permanently dead some cells may only be damaged temporarily. Ten per cent of stroke survivors recover almost completely and 25 per cent recover with minor impairments and 50 per cent experience moderate to severe impairments and require special care in the long term. Fifteen per cent die shortly after the stroke. Most people who recover from stroke are put on a lifetime programme of aspirin-derived drugs, which thin the blood and lower the risk of clots forming.

There are two main categories: ischemic and haemorrhagic. The most common form of stroke is ischemic – 80% – and caused by lack of blood supply to part of the brain. They are most commonly caused by atherosclerosis, a build-up of plaque in the arteries. One form of ischemic strokes is thrombotic, which occurs when a blood clot blocks blood flow to the brain. A less frequent form is embolic, when a tiny blood clot breaks loose from an artery and is swept into smaller vessels in the brain, where the clot lodges. Ischemic strokes usually occur in older people because of damaging lifestyle – smoking, heavy drinking, lack of exercise, an unhealthy diet or diabetes.

Twenty per cent of strokes are known as haemorrhagic which are usually genetic or unexplained ( as in the case of actress Sharon Stone) and occur when an artery in the brain leaks or ruptures and damages surrounding tissue. The most common cause of haemorrhagic stroke is high blood pressure, which can weaken blood vessel walls. Another cause is leakage from an aneurysm, a weak spot in an artery wall. A sudden, unexplained severe headache may be a warning sign of an aneurysm.

Although they are most common in people over the age of 60, people are generally at higher risk if they have high blood pressure, diabetes, atherosclerosis, angina, abnormal heartbeats or have had heart attacks. Those who smoke, drink excessively and don’t exercise can increase their risk by up to 40 per cent. Symptoms can vary but usually include a sudden numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body. Other indications are confusion, difficulty speaking, blurred vision, dizziness, a severe headache and nausea, fever and vomiting. In a severe stroke, the patient experiences loss of consciousness.

There are a number of treatments including drugs depending on the state of health of the individual. Thrombolytics: These help re-establish cerebral circulation by dissolving clots. Neuroprotectives: These drugs minimise the chain reaction of chemical and electrical processes which cause further cell death after a stroke and are in clinical trials. Oxygenated Flurocarbon Nutrient Emulsion (OFNE) Therapy: Oxygen and nutrients are directly to the brain through the cerebral spinal fluid. Neuroperfusion: Although still in trial stages this procedure can alter the way the circulatory system works in the area affected by the stroke. It uses the healthy veins to deliver oxygenated blood to the brain tissue.

Rehabilitation begins a day or two following the stoke. The aim is to improve function so that the stroke survivor can become as independent as possible and any basic skills that the stroke has taken away, such as eating, and walking, can be relearned. Usually a team of physiotherapists, speech and occupational therapists work with the patient to aid recovery.

More information at The Stroke Association