Why more people die in the winter

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Dec 182016

More than 23,000 elderly people died as a result of being too cold last winter in England and Wales.The year before the toll was 29,000, which is nearly 10 people aged 65 or older every hour.

Yet temperatures only dropped to 4C on average.

Latest figures for Scotland show the nation’s winter death toll was the lowest on record. Deaths fell by nearly 1,000, but still totalled 1,790.

Meanwhile, the coldest city in the world, Yakutsk in east Siberia, has no excess winter deaths, even though temperatures there can drop to minus 49C.

So why and how are so many people perishing in the UK from the cold?

The deaths in winter are not due to massive cold…It’s down to quite minor degrees of cold that people were getting every day
Expert Professor Bill Keatinge

Professor Bill Keatinge, an expert from Queen Mary University of London, has studied the issue extensively.

He said: “On the whole, the countries that have the mildest winters tend to have a higher mortality than countries with very cold winters.

“This is because the deaths in winter are not due to massive cold, with people being overwhelmed in their own houses and dying of extreme cold.

“It’s down to quite minor degrees of cold that people were getting every day.”

Prolonged exposure not big chill

He said very few of the deaths were caused by true hypothermia, where the core body temperature drops significantly.

“Most of them are due to strokes and heart attacks.

“This is because the blood becomes more liable to clot in people who are exposed to the cold.”


  • 24C – top range of comfort
  • 21C – recommended living room temperature
  • Less than 20C – death risk begins
  • 18C – recommended bedroom temperature
  • 16C – resistance to respiratory diseases weakened
  • 12C – more than two hours at this temperature raises blood pressure and increases heart attack and stroke risk
  • 5C – Significant risk of hypothermia

Source: West Midlands Public Health Observatory

When exposed to cold, the body contracts down the blood vessels in the skin to stop blood flowing to the skin and to prevent heat loss.

This means more of the blood circulates to central parts of the body, which overloads the heart and lungs with blood.

The body gets rid of fluid to reduce this load by excreting salt and water, but the net result is the blood becomes more concentrated and liable to clot.

The next biggest cold-related killer is respiratory infections such as flu.

But Professor Keatinge added: “Flu epidemics have been declining for over 30 years. The last really big one was in 1976.”

He said this was mainly down to recent flu viruses being less virulent rather than medical interventions such as annual flu jabs for the elderly.

“The fact that we now keep much warmer in winter and we are aware of the problem means that all the various causes of cold-related illness and death have declined,” he said.

Winter woollies

But he said people in the UK and places like Portugal, which also has a high rate of excess winter deaths, were still pretty poor at keeping warm in winter.

“People in the north of Finland take great precautions against cold. They keep their houses warmer in winter than we do, and they are much better equipped for outdoor cold.

“They have much better outdoor clothing. They take it very seriously.”

Although we are getting better at keeping our houses warm, Professor Keatinge said people in the UK often dress unsuitably for cold weather.

“There is no problem about being out in winter if you are suitably clothed and you are exercising and you stay warm.

People need to realise that cold can kill and they need to keep warm
Mr Patrick Sachon from the Met Office

“But if you wait for a bus and you assume a bus is going to come in five minutes and it doesn’t come for 45 minutes, and you are at a windy stop with no shelter and without adequate clothing you can get very cold indeed.

“Public transport is a menace from this point of view. It doesn’t have to be, but we tend not to have very well heated waiting rooms for trains and bus shelters that are not wind-proofed. That is probably a substantial source of problems,” he said.

Global warming

Studies show elderly people, and particularly those on low incomes, are at the greatest risk. There are a number of reasons why.

Those that succumb are not necessarily sick already, but older people’s blood vessels tend to have rougher linings than those of younger people, which makes them even more susceptible to clotting.

Even mild winters claim lives

Those on small pensions might struggle to keep their houses warmer and might have to rely on public transport or walk rather than use a car, for example.

Professor Keatinge also warned that global warming could make the situation worse rather than better.
“Global warming is making our winters milder and that could be dangerous. If people stop worrying about cold they get more careless about heating their homes and wearing warm clothing.”

‘Don’t be complacent’

Mr Patrick Sachon from the Met Office said winter deaths go up by about 1.4% for one degree drop in temperature below 18C.

“So it doesn’t have to be that cold to start to increase mortality,” he said.

“Our winters are much milder than in other countries. It rarely gets below minus five. Most winter days, the temperature usually gets above freezing and when it’s mild, it can be 13C.


  • If you take medicine for a health condition, make sure you have enough of it and keep it at hand
  • Wrap up warm
  • Keep active
  • Keep your bedroom at 18C
  • Keep your living room at 21C

“But even when it is relatively mild, if there is a strong wind that can make you cold and people are not prepared for that when they are out and about.

“In this country, people don’t think about what getting cold will do to them because it doesn’t kill them immediately.

“We don’t have well insulated houses and we have a culture that believes having a window open to let in lots of fresh air is good for us, even though it is not.

“What you should actually be doing is keeping your living room at 21C and your bedroom at 18C, which is quite warm by most people’s standards.”

He said this winter was likely to be another mild one in the UK, but he warned this was no reason for people to be complacent.

“We could still get a cold snap. People need to realise that cold can kill and they need to keep warm,” he warned.

Published on the BBC website at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/5372296.stm

 Posted by at 10:35 pm

Research into Long QT Syndrome

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Apr 032015

If you don’t know what Long QT syndrome is, then no point in reading any further!

PHSG has received a message from The Research House to enquire whether anyone who has Long QT Syndrome would be willing to participate in interviews for their research.

The content of the message is below  :

The Research House is conducting a nationwide market research study on Long QT Syndrome . We are inviting people who live with Long QT Syndrome to take part in a face-to-face interview on Monday 13th April or, alternatively, a telephone interview between Tuesday 14th April – Friday 17th April. As a token of appreciation, we are offering an honorarium of £105 for a face-to-face interview or £50 for a telephone interview. The aim of the research is to gain insight into patients’ and caregivers’ views with regards to Long QT Syndrome.

If you know any patients or carers of patients who may be interested in taking part in this study, I’d be grateful if you forwarded them my details. I have also attached a leaflet that you may use. As a token of appreciation, we are offering a referral fee of £30 per patient that you may be able to direct to us. Please be advised that we are not asking you to email us details of patients, rather we’re asking you to give them our details and should they be interested they can contact us directly (in accordance to the Pharmaceutical Market Research Code of Conduct).

We guarantee that this study will comply with all the relevant data protection and privacy laws and with the European Pharmaceutical Market Research Association’s Code of  Conduct. The highest standards of professional conduct will be upheld in the collection and the recording of any information  provided. Participants will remain anonymous and their responses will  be treated as confidential at all times. No one will attempt to sell or promote any products during or following  participation in this research.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards,

Farhana Uddin | Project Coordinator
The Research House, A Schlesinger Associates Company
124 Wigmore Street
London, W1U 3RY

(D) 44 (0) 20 7487 9188

(T) 44 (0) 20 7935 4979
(F) 44 (0) 20 7224 2494
recruitment@research-house.co.uk| www.research-house.co.uk

Exercises you should do every day

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Mar 282015

Weight training at 60: exercises you should do every day

step ups

Step ups

Forget a gentle walk. Older people should be using dumbbells and building muscle, according to a public health expert.

If you thought old age was a time for gentle walks and light stretching, think again. Experts are now saying that people in their 60s, 70s and 80s who lift weights and do daily resistance training will protect themselves from a range of ills brought on by ageing and could even prolong their lives.

Continue reading »

Are you affected by heart failure?

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Mar 262015
British Heart Foundation

British Heart Foundation

The BHF have asked whether anyone that has been affected by heart failure would be will to take part in a study.

The content of the message from Sindujah Manohar, who is Heart Support Groups Administrator for the BHF is below :

“We have been told of a new study from the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences who are looking for participants who have been affected by heart failure. The study will look into experiences of heart failure monitoring and the updating of an internet resource for other people affected by the condition and the health professionals who provide care for them. If you do not have heart failure yourself, please do pass this along to anyone who you think may be interested in participating. Please read below for more information from the lead researcher. Continue reading »

Taking a statin should always be a patients choice

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Nov 252014

Nearly everyone in America who is in their late sixties or older should consider taking a statin, according to a US cardiologist.

Writing in the Journal of the American Heart Association, the cardiologist argues that new prescribing guidelines in the United States mean that nearly everyone would be recommended the cholesterol lowering drug.

Following the publication of new national guidelines in November 2013, American doctors were advised to recommend a statin to people with a 7.5 per cent risk of a heart attack or stroke in the next 10 years.

In the UK, guidelines for the prescription of statins are different, with GPs being advised to offer them to people who have a 10 per cent chance of a heart attack or stroke in the next 10 years. Continue reading »

Tackling High Blood Pressure

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Nov 232014

The BHF joins health organisations to tackle the nation’s high blood pressure

Blood Pressure Test Strap

Blood Pressure Test Strap

The British Heart Foundation has joined forces with leading health organisations to improve the nation’s blood pressure levels and stop more lives being cut short by cardiovascular disease.

Around seven million people in the UK are unaware they have high blood pressure, increasing their risk of a potentially fatal heart attack or stroke.

Figures show reducing the nation’s blood pressure to within healthy limits could save the NHS £850 million in health and social care spend over 10 years.

The BHF has teamed up with Public Health England and other key health organisations to launch a new strategy aimed at improving the way we prevent, diagnose and treat high blood pressure.

Millions of people walking around with this ticking time bomb, unaware that they are at increased risk of a potentially fatal heart attack or stroke

Professor Peter Weissberg, our Medical Director, said: “High blood pressure produces no symptoms until it causes a heart attack or a stroke, yet it is easily detectible and easily treated.

“Despite this there are millions of people walking around with this ticking time bomb, unaware that they are at increased risk of a potentially fatal heart attack or stroke.

“It is simply unacceptable that so many avoidable heart attacks and strokes are occurring when the solution is so simple.

“The British Heart Foundation is strongly behind Public Health England’s new action plan. By identifying people with high blood pressure and treating them we will have an enormous impact on the future health of our nation.”

Article reproduced from the British Heart Foundation

Diabetes and Heart Disease

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Nov 182014

control diabetesIf you have diabetes, you are more likely to develop coronary heart disease than someone without diabetes.

Diabetes causes high levels of glucose in your blood.  This can affect the walls of your arteries, and make them more likely to develop fatty deposits (atheroma).

If atheroma builds up in your coronary arteries (the arteries that supply oxygen-rich blood to your heart) you will develop coronary heart disease, which can cause heart attack and angina.

Types of diabetes

Type one diabetes occurs when your body cannot make insulin. This type usually affects children and young adults.

Type two diabetes occurs when your body can’t produce enough insulin or the insulin doesn’t work properly. Type two diabetes is more common and tends to develop gradually as people get older – usually after the age of 40. It’s closely linked with:

  • being overweight
  • being physically inactive
  • a family history of diabetes.

Some ethnic groups have a much higher rate of diabetes – particularly people of African Caribbean and South Asian origin.

What can I do to reduce my risk of developing diabetes?

You can greatly reduce your risk of developing diabetes by controlling your weight and doing regular physical activity.  The great news is that doing these things will also make you less likely to develop other cardiovascular diseases such as coronary heart disease and stroke – as well as being great for your general mental and physical wellbeing.

How can I protect my heart if I already have diabetes?

If you have diabetes, it’s very important to make sure that you control your blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol to help reduce your risk of coronary heart disease and other cardiovascular diseases.

To do this you can:

  • do more physical activity
  • eat a healthy, balanced diet
  • control your weight, and
  • give up smoking.

If you are diagnosed with diabetes, you may also need to take  a cholesterol-lowering medicine such as statins to help protect your heart.

Article reproduced from the British Heart Foundation at http://www.bhf.org.uk/heart-health/conditions/diabetes.aspx

Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA) Screening Clinics

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Jul 152014


Are you male, over the age of 65 and have not yet had a AAA Scan?

If so, please contact the Dorset and Wiltshire AAA Screening programme on 01722 336262 ext 2640 or 2539

Email : AAAscreening@salisbury.nhs.uk

Please have your NHS number available.

Please note we deliver clinics across Dorset and Wiltshire


The aorta is the main blood vessel that supplies blood to your body.  In some men, aged 65 and above, the wall of the aorta in the abdomen can become weak and start to expand and form what is called an abdominal aortic aneurysm.  A simple test called an ultrasound scan will identify if there is an aneurysm. This can be done at a number of GP surgeries and community hospital locations across Wiltshire and Dorset. If you are interested please contact the Dorset and Wiltshire Screening programme on the details above to book an appointment and discuss any queries that you may have.

Please note that if you are male and under the age of 65 you will automatically be invited for a scan during the year that you turn 65.

A copy of the original issued document can be viewed by clicking here.

The full-fat diet – why it’s not as unhealthy as you think

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Jul 142014

The following article by Michael Mosley was published in The Times on 2nd July 2014 :

Full-Fat DietI saw a study the other day that found that eating yoghurt would help you lose weight. Not surprising, because yoghurt is high in calcium and protein, which keeps you fuller for longer. What was surprising about this study, however, which involved following 8,516 men and women for more than two years, was that the yoghurt had to be full fat to work. Eating low-fat yoghurt didn’t make any difference.

Ever since I was a medical student, several decades ago, I have been convinced that fat is the enemy. Saturated fat, I’ve assured friends and family, will clog your arteries as surely as pouring lard down them. Because it is so energy-dense, eating fat will also, inevitably, mean you pile on the pounds.

Recently, however, I’ve changed my mind. Study after study has failed to find a convincing link between saturated fat and heart disease. As a nation we’re eating less fat but getting fatter. Research has shown that low-fat diets rarely work, that cholesterol is a poor predictor of heart disease and that eating the right kind of fat can be both good for the heart and for slimming. Instead attention has turned to sugar, with obesity experts last week urging people to cut back on fruit juice and sugary drinks. Continue reading »

Research Study on Heart Failure

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Jun 152014

Sindujah Manohar, Administrator of Heart Support Groups in the British Heart Foundation, has sent information on a new opportunity relating to a research study in Oxford that may be of interest to members of PHSG. The specific study is looking into two main symptoms of heart failure – breathlessness and fatigue. Dr Helen Walthall is the Lead Researcher for this study and the information that she has provided is given below:

“If you have been told you have heart failure by either a nurse or a doctor we would like your help. Oxford Brookes University and Oxford University have been working with patients who have heart failure to develop a questionnaire about two main symptoms – breathlessness and fatigue. These symptoms are very common in heart failure and patients have felt health care workers do not really understand how these symptoms are for them and the direct impact they have on everyday life. We have interviewed 25 patients and have written the questionnaire using patients own words. Continue reading »