Across The Capital
By Vanessa Taaffe
Vanessa Taaffe examines the latest lifestyle, fashion, health and fitness trends taking over the internet, social media, magazines, newspapers, screens and beyond. In this week’s episode, Vanessa explore Veganism and Vegan Diets with special guests, Fiona Oakes, Sarah Keogh and Ihsan Saffi.
Music by bensound.com.
By Paul Malik
Health Matters is a conversational Podcast on the issues appearing in the headlines with regards to public health services.
The podcast interviews healthcare professionals from Doctors, Dentists to Nurses.
This weeks Podcast interviews a GP trainee from Dundee, Dr Louise Bowie.
UK to follow example of Australia, where cigarettes must be sold in drab packets with graphic health warnings.
With the spate of recent asbestos scares across the UK, it comes as no surprise that the public is up in arms regarding the continued use of this material in public areas. There have been a number of incidents surrounding asbestos scares in Britain, and as our understanding of the diseases this mineral can cause grows, so does our need to instigate stricter measures.
Asbestos comes in three principle forms; brown white and blue asbestos. All three are still being manufactured despite strict measures being put in place to prevent workers being over-exposed.
Predominantly asbestos is mined from countries such as South Africa and Canada. Known for its high heat resistance and its ability to resist chemical and electrical damage, asbestos seemed perfect for insulation and plumbing when first commercialy use in the 19th Century.
However asbestos is now more commonly associated with lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis, as well as the shutting of schools, hospitals and public offices for its inevitable removal.
White asbestos was banned from use in public and work areas for a number of years now under the 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act.
Asbestosis is the scarring of the lungs caused by tiny asbestos fibers being inhaled, which can cause shortness of breath in the short term and has serious medical ramifications in the long-term.
Despite the recent press, the asbestos scare is not a new threat to public health. There have been numerous different campaigns to cut this material from our environments.
In Novemeber of 2009 Edinburgh Council was forced to pay £14, 000 in damages to workers that had been exposed to the dangerous chemical whilst refurbishing the Castlebrae Community High School. On this occasion, the council admitted to breaching health and safety guidelines by not including the asbestos in their risk assessment of anything likely to cause harm to workers.
In Swansea the company Ammanford were reprimanded for what was described as ‘the worst case of asbestos ever seen’ in March of this year. Again the company was fined for their negligence but often these fines are too late or are simply insignificant in comparison to the health risks workers were exposed to.
There are also problems involved in the removal of asbestos, as there must be a replacement source of fire insulation and protection available at the time. Many companies have been fined for the illegal removal of asbestos, such as in Enfield 2009. In this case the two businesses found responsible were handed hefty fines, far exceeding what they would have had to pay to remove the asbestos legally.
It has only taken two and a half years, but my father has finally been convinced to ditch the fags and get on a path to good health and longevity, well that’s the theory – isn’t it?
The health implications associated with smoking is something that has been present in my mind lately, particularly since the advent of the smoking ban in Britain. That, coupled with the frenzied shovelling, by numerous health organisations and charities via various media, of data, statistics, charts, percentages, graphs, diagrams and drawings of the substantial health risks posed by those who
smoke. It would appear that all smokers are destined to become sufferers of unforgiving health problems, getting worse throughout their lifetime – and who among us would wish to subject a loved one to even the least of these listed illnesses associated with smokers?
At the beginning of the year, Cancer Research set up a mobile unit on Glasgow’s bustling Buchanan Street, a street densely populated with shoppers and smokers, alike. The most surprising aspect was how little attention it received, compared with the vast number of people on the street. The colourful in-your-face banners, graphics and balloons were having little effect on passersby. Speaking to one of the charity’s representatives, he substantiated my initial thought: that most people did not want to hear anymore about facts and statistics related to the poor health of smokers. The people that were approaching the unit were – for the majority – concerned family members and friends; rather than the smokers themselves. It was then it occurred to me, that maybe the scare mongering and doom and gloom tactics employed by health organisations were actually having an adverse effect, and driving those who smoke to become more willingly ignorant of the risks. Ignorance is bliss after all.
Upon speaking to the representative that day, I realised that I was vicariously living the life of the smoker. I felt all the guilt of smoking without enjoying the nicotine buzz. I felt as equally consumed by the facts as I did confined by the effects. From that point I started to feel sorry for my Dad. Up until that point all I could think was how idiotic it was to smoke: sticking a lit tube filled with tobacco, tar and nicotine into your mouth drawing it in and watching the harmful smoke being blown back out.
But now I felt something vastly different – empathy. My Dad was being labelled and subjected to harsh campaigns – not only about the implications of smoking but also of the real damages caused by passive smoking – and being reminded on a daily basis to feel guilty about the one poor decision he had made in his life. Perhaps I empathised even more so because some of the adverse health warnings were no longer just a warning they were materialising in front of us all: high blood pressure, flaking paling skin tone, deep wrinkles and sagging skin. As if the actuality of the situation isn’t reminder enough to him of the effects of smoking here was the media shovelling depressing reminders.
I spoke with an elderly couple, the wife in which had religiously smoked at least 20, sometimes up to 25, cigarettes at a cost of roughly £6.99 every day (£10.64 if an additional 10 pack was needed); putting that into context it is a whopping £216.69 every 31days and a eye-watering £2,544.36 a year. The cost each year was the driving factor in this case for giving up.
The woman decided to join a smokers help group, set up by the NHS. Every week she attended where she was breathalysed to test for any carbon monoxide. If the levels were that of a non-smoker, she was given patches to help with cravings. It was essentially for her a Weight Watchers for those wanting to quit smoking, a support network with others sharing a common goal. This helped greatly along with support from her family she has successfully ditched the cigarettes for just over 18 months now. And as a reward from all the money she saved, which her husband secretly saved away each week, the couple enjoyed a two week all inclusive cruise, and came home with savings towards next year’s holiday. It illustrated the power of positivity, there was no need to be constantly reminded of the health risks associated with smoking, the savings was influential enough to encourage her to quit.
Up until recently, I had persistently reminded my Dad of all the painful and life threatening effects: 80 cancerous chemicals in one cigarette; the poisonous cyanide, ammonia and carbon monoxide and being inhaled; the 5 million premature deaths caused each year; and the fact that no single disease is expected to make as big a claim on the life of millions as smoking does every year. All the guilt-tripping was to no avail; as he still stood, relentlessly, outside our family home with cigarette lit each day and night, all the time knowing how big a risk each single cigarette posed to his health.
I realised that unless I made positive change and supported the idea of cigarette alternatives and physically helped him that he would never quit. Having looked through my Dad’s draw of quit smoking aids: patches, chewing gum and mints, it was clear that these were to give the illusion that he wanted to stop. And so, my first trip was to the supermarket to buy the electronic cigarette.
Having taken 48 hours to decide whether he was ‘fit’ to take part in my ‘experiment’, he finally agreed. So I have asked him to keep a diary, day-to-day, of how the successful the electronic cigarette is in helping him ditch the cigarettes.
Each single electronic cigarette contains in it the equivalent of 30 cigarettes. It works by giving the smoker the nicotine hit they crave, but contains none of tar or tobacco regular cigarettes hold. One of the obvious benefits of this type of alternative is that I know no matter where my Dad chooses to smoke the e-cigarette no one else has to have their health compromised either. The electronic cigarette gives of no smell or smoke, which means he is now permitted to smoke inside.
I understand this method doesn’t exactly kick the habit, but it is, for my Dad and my family, a step in the right direction.
Although it is only day three, I can report positive change; and he is feeling a little warmer as he is no longer being put outside into the harsh October temperatures to ‘enjoy’ a quick puff. To keep up to date with my Dad’s ‘From fags to riches’ diary click here.
The latest figures released by Heart UK show that those living in the east – in Lothian, Fife and Tayside – have the lowest rate of coronary heart disease (CHD) in Scotland.
However, this does not exempt the fact that Scotland has among one of the highest rate of coronary heart disease in Europe.
The snapshot of Scotland’s health illustrates a significant east-west divide, with the chance of dying from heart problems in Ayrshire, Lanarkshire and Greater Glasgow strikingly higher than eastern counterparts, Tayside, Lothian and Fife.
The figures revealed that 71.39 people per 100,000 died from heart disease, in Ayrshire; compared with 45.33 people per head of the population in Fife.
The reasons for this are complex and varied. Naveed Sattar, professor of metabolic medicine at the University of Glasgow, sights that the levels of stress that people are experiencing during this tough economic time could play a significant role, as well as lifestyle and poor diet.
“For many complex reasons, individuals from poorer areas, particularly younger men, are generally less enthusiastic about engaging with the health profession and, therefore, far fewer have had their risk factors measured.
“The real future goals are to stop youngsters engaging in smoking in the first place, as well as an urgent need to improve early dietary behaviour to stem the well-documented but alarming rise in obesity levels, particularly in poorer parts of society.”
Today, the charity Heart UK is launching a campaign to persuade Scots to cut their chance of heart disease by leading healthier lifestyles.
However, members of the public, do not appear to be worried about their chance of being diagnosed with heart disease.
James White, from Glasgow, said: “There is enough to worry about without thinking about the chances of heart disease. We play the hand we’re dealt, everyone is struggling at the moment but we have just got to get on with it”.
He is not alone in point of view, research sponsored by MSD, revealed that 70 per cent of those surveyed were not worried about their hearts.