Blood-thinning drugs may reduce dementia risk in people with irregular heartbeats

 Medical, News  Comments Off on Blood-thinning drugs may reduce dementia risk in people with irregular heartbeats
Oct 302017

“Common blood thinning drugs halve the risk of dementia for patients who have an irregular heartbeat,” reports the Mail Online.

Researchers in Sweden used the country’s health registry data to assess whether people with a condition called atrial fibrillation were less likely to get dementia if they took drugs like warfarin.

Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a heart condition that causes an irregular and often abnormally fast heartbeat. This can make the blood more likely to clot, which can lead to a stroke.

Most people with AF are prescribed anticoagulant drugs, which reduce the blood’s ability to clot.

Anticoagulants are often referred to as “blood-thinning drugs”, but this is technically incorrect as they don’t affect the density of blood.

People with AF are also at more risk of dementia, probably because of a build-up of tiny clots in the small blood vessels of the brain.

This study showed people with AF who were prescribed anticoagulants within a month of diagnosis had a 29% lower risk of getting dementia, compared with those not given the prescription.

But because of the type of study, the researchers can’t prove that anticoagulants are the reason for the reduced risk.

Still, as the researchers point out, the possible reduction in dementia risk is another reason to keep taking anticoagulant drugs if you’re prescribed them.

You shouldn’t take anticoagulants if you’re not at risk of blood clots as they can increase your risk of bleeding.

Where did the story come from?

The study was carried out by researchers at Danderyds University Hospital in Stockholm, Sweden.

It was published in the peer-reviewed European Heart Journal on an open access basis, making it free to read online.

Among the UK media, only the Sun pointed out that the study can’t prove cause and effect. The Sun’s headline described anticoagulant treatment as a “2p Alzheimer’s buster”, which is unfortunate – the type of dementia likely to be most affected by blood clots is not Alzheimer’s disease, but vascular dementia.

All the media used the more impressive 48% risk reduction figure from the study, which came from looking at people who took the drugs for most of the time, compared with people who never took them.

The more usual scientific standard is to use an intention to treat analysis of the figures, which gives a risk reduction of 29%.

Finally, The Guardian’s headline could have made it clearer that any reported dementia risk reduction only applied to people diagnosed with atrial fibrillation and not the population at large.

What kind of research was this?

This retrospective cohort study used data from Swedish health registries.

This type of study can help researchers spot patterns and links between factors (in this case anticoagulant drugs and dementia) but can’t prove that one thing (the drugs) causes another (the lower dementia risk).

That’s because researchers can’t rule out the effect of confounding factors that may influence the results.

What did the research involve?

Researchers looked at the records of all patients diagnosed with AF in Sweden from 2006 to 2014, excluding those who already had dementia.

They looked at who was prescribed anticoagulants within 30 days of diagnosis and who was diagnosed with dementia during an average of around 3 years of follow-up.

After adjusting for confounding factors, they calculated the risk of stroke for people with or without anticoagulant prescriptions.

The researchers used a statistical technique called propensity scoring to try to even out confounding factors of why some people did and others didn’t take anticoagulants despite all having a diagnosis of AF.

This is a suitable step to take, as compliance problems (not taking medication as instructed) are a known issue in some AF patients. They say this allowed them to make matched comparisons between the groups.

They also tested anticoagulant use with unconnected outcomes like falls, flu, diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorders (COPD).

They said that if anticoagulants were linked to any of them, this would indicate there may be an underlying confounding factor they hadn’t accounted for.

This would mean they wouldn’t be confident making any association between anticoagulants and dementia risk.

What were the basic results?

The researchers found:

  • 26,210 of the 444,106 people in the study group got dementia – a rate of 1.73 dementia cases per 100 people each year
  • people who’d started anticoagulants shortly after AF diagnosis were 29% less likely to get dementia (hazard ratio [HR] 0.71, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.69 to 0.74)
  • there was no difference between rates of dementia when directly comparing older anticoagulants like warfarin with newer types, such as clopidogrel
  • people who had anticoagulant prescriptions 80% of the time were 48% less likely to get dementia than people who never had anticoagulant prescriptions (HR 0.52, 95% CI 0.5 to 0.55)
  • there was no association between anticoagulants and falls or flu

Anticoagulant use slightly increased the risk of diabetes and COPD, but as this association was in the opposite direction from that for dementia, the researchers remained confident in their results.

They also found that people prescribed anticoagulants were likely to be younger and healthier.

Apart from not taking anticoagulants, the factors most closely linked to chances of getting dementia were older age, Parkinson’s disease and alcohol abuse.

How did the researchers interpret the results?

The researchers said their results “strongly suggest that oral anticoagulation treatment protects against dementia in atrial fibrillation” and that “early initiation of anticoagulant treatment in patients with AF could be of value” to prevent dementia.


If you’ve been diagnosed with AF and prescribed anticoagulant treatments such as warfarin or clopidogrel, we already know they protect you against having a stroke. This study suggests they may also help protect you against dementia.

Cutting the risk of dementia for people who have a raised risk from AF would be an exciting step forward.

Unfortunately, we can’t tell from this study whether the protection against dementia was down to the anticoagulants because of the possible effect of unmeasured confounding factors.

Usually, we’d want to see a randomised controlled trial (RCT) to follow this study to find out if anticoagulant drugs really do have that effect.

But because people with AF are usually prescribed anticoagulants to reduce their risk of stroke, it wouldn’t be ethical to do an RCT, as it would leave people unprotected against stroke when a known preventative treatment is available.

Because of the difficulties of carrying out a proper trial, we’ll need to see more studies of the kind done here, in different populations, to see whether the results hold true.

It would be useful if future studies have clearer information about which confounding factors are being taken into account.

There are a few things we don’t know from this study.

  • The researchers were unable to differentiate between types of AF. Some people have just 1 episode of AF that doesn’t return or goes away with treatment, while others have persistent AF that happens all the time. The type of AF may affect both dementia risk and whether you’re prescribed anticoagulants.
  • We also don’t know which types of dementia people were diagnosed with. AF may be more strongly linked to vascular dementia than Alzheimer’s disease. But we don’t know for sure which type of dementia might be helped by taking anticoagulants.

You can reduce your risk of vascular dementia by avoiding conditions such as type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, which can be triggered by smoking and obesity.

When it comes to dementia prevention, it’s often the case that what’s good for the heart is also good for the brain.

Published by the NHS on 25/10/17

NHS England takes new measures to prevent heart disease

 Health, News  Comments Off on NHS England takes new measures to prevent heart disease
Aug 222017

Millions of people will be offered checks for high blood pressure, high cholesterol and atrial fibrillation at GPs surgeries and local pharmacies, as part of an NHS England drive to cut heart disease deaths.

Woman taking blood pressure and heart rate with monitor

Our Associate Medical Director has welcomed the move, saying that improved detection of these conditions will prevent countless heart attacks and strokes, and help reduce the pressure on the NHS.

Risk factors for heart disease

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) causes more than a quarter (26 per cent) of all deaths in the UK. However, some of the major risk factors for CVD are significantly underdiagnosed, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and atrial fibrillation (AF) – a type of abnormal heart rhythm.

Nearly 30 per cent of adults in the UK have high blood pressure and it is estimated 7 million adults remain undiagnosed. Similarly, around one third of people with AF are not yet diagnosed, increasing their risk of a potentially fatal stroke. This equates to around 500,000 people across the UK.

A donut chart showing that there are 9.5 million people in the UK who have been diagnosed with high blood pressure and up to 7 million who are undiagnosed

Simple checks

The scheme, called the NHS Right-Care Cardiovascular Disease Prevention Pathway, aims to identify people with heart disease risk factors by doing simple checks at GP surgeries and pharmacies. It will also take steps to ensure that people who have previously been diagnosed with high blood pressure or high cholesterol are on the appropriate medication.

So far, the scheme has been rolled out at 84 of the 209 clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in England, with plans to introduce it at the remaining CCGs within the next two years.

Reducing variations in care

Dr Mike Knapton, Associate Medical Director at the BHF, said: “Early detection of high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation or high cholesterol will ensure more people get the right treatments to prevent heart attacks and stroke.

“The NHS is good at doing this in some areas of the country but not all. If we can get the NHS to detect and treat atrial fibrillation, high blood pressure and high cholesterol better, we will reduce the burden of disease on individuals, their families and the NHS.

“The Right Care programme is providing the NHS with the support and resources it needs to reduce the unacceptable variations in care across the country, ultimately to improve outcomes for patients.”

Continually improving care

Our work with the NHS has been central to identifying best case practice for improving the diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular conditions, including high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation and genetically high cholesterol.

We are now working with the NHS to run pilot schemes aimed at finding more effective ways of diagnosing high blood pressure in the community, which could help inform future guidelines issued through initiatives like NHS Rightcare to CCGs.

Published by the BHF on 14/08/17

 Posted by at 11:12 pm

There’s no such thing as ‘fat but fit’, doctors told

 There’s no such thing as ‘fat but fit’, doctors told  Health, News  Comments Off on There’s no such thing as ‘fat but fit’, doctors told
Aug 162017

The mantra “fat but fit” is a myth that doctors should no longer perpetuate, scientists have said.

Research involving more than 500,000 people across Europe suggests that carrying too much weight is a cardiovascular problem in its own right and doctors should recognise it as such.

Nearly two thirds of adults in Britain are overweight or obese. About a third of them show no obvious sign of ill health, such as high blood pressure or insulin resistance, leading some experts to call them “metabolically healthy”.

Adele, the singer, has previously said that she would only lose weight if it affected her health or her sex life

Advocates of the theory include the singer Adele, who said that she “would lose weight only if it affected my health or sex life, which it doesn’t”, to the UK medical regulator, which tells GPs there is no need to instruct people to diet or exercise more unless they exhibit serious warning signs.

An international team of researchers has found, however, that overweight people face a greater chance of developing coronary heart disease (CHD), which kills 73,000 people a year in Britain, more than any other condition.

The researchers tracked 366,000 women and 153,000 men between the ages of 35 and 70 in ten European countries, including the UK, for an average of just over 12 years.

During that period there were 7,637 cases of CHD. After stripping out other risk factors such as smoking, diet and exercise, the overweight but ostensibly healthy people were still 26 per cent more likely to have developed the disease than those of normal weight.

Camille Lassale, who led the study while at Imperial College London but who is now based at University College London, called on the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) to overhaul its guidance. She said: “Regardless of the measurements of blood pressure, blood glucose or cholesterol and so on, if you have a patient who is overweight or obese it is always wise to tell them to lose weight. It’s particularly relevant here because the UK has a greater prevalence of overweight [people] and obesity than other European countries.”

The study, which is published in the European Heart Journal, also shows that even though the “fat but fit” did not necessarily meet the clinical criteria for health problems such as high cholesterol or triglycerides, they still had higher concentrations of these chemicals than people of normal weight. This led Dr Lassale and her colleagues to believe that the effects of being overweight catch up with most people eventually. “We think what happens is when you classify these people as metabolically healthy obese they are on their way to developing metabolic abnormalities,” she said.

Metin Avkiran, professor of molecular cardiology at King’s College London and associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, which funded part of the research, said: “This study conclusively shows that being obese increases a person’s risk of developing heart disease, even if they are otherwise healthy.”

A spokesman for Nice said it regularly reviewed its guidance in the light of the latest scientific evidence.

•Only one in five GPs is familiar with the national guidelines on how much exercise people should do, according to a study in the British Journal of General Practice. The poll of 1,000 family doctors also found that only two fifths had made use of the 2011 recommendations for physical activity, which state that adults need at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise a week.

Published in The Times on 15/08/17

 Posted by at 10:38 pm

Wimborne town councillor Henry Bartlett dies

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Mar 062017
Henry Bartlett pictured in 2014 when he received an award for his work with Diabetes UK

Henry Bartlett pictured in 2014 when he received an award for his work with Diabetes UK

Tributes have been paid to Wimborne town councillor Henry Bartlett who has died at the age of 76.

A former pupil of Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School he lived in the Wimborne area all his life and was very involved in the community. He married Heather in Wimborne Minster Church 53 years ago.

Henry ran his own building and decorating business and more recently ran a newsagency in the rural area north of the town.

He was chairman of the Vale of Allen Parish Council from 1987-1993 and a member of East Dorset District Council from 1985-1999.

He was elected to Wimborne Town Council in 2010.

The Mayor of Wimborne, Councillor Sue Cook said: “Henry was a much respected councillor for many years across East Dorset. Not only did I value him as a Wimborne Minster town councillor, but as a good and wise friend to myself and to my husband Robin. Although in latter months, his health was deteriorating, he still involved himself in the many organisations with which he was connected. Robin and I attended a dinner with him and Heather on 21st January to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Royal Air Force Cadets 1069 (Flight Refuelling Wimborne) Squadron, which was very dear to his heart. I have such happy memories of the last evening spent in his company.”

Len Pearce who has been a friend of Henry for over 50 years said: “He has contributed a great deal to both the youth and adults of the town and the surrounding area.”

Henry influenced many young people with training for Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, Ten Tors and the Four Day Marches at Nijmegen in Holland. He also worked with Homewatch and organised fortnightly walks for the Poole Heart Support Group. He was very involved with the West Dorset branch of Diabetes UK, a diabetes UK volunteer and a recent chairman of Wimborne Diabetes UK.

He was also a patient representative member of both Dorset Primary Care Trust and the Clinical Commissioning Group.

Heather said: “I have been overwhelmed with the response from people from all over the county. I have received so many kind messages.

“He was a gentleman and always had time for people.”

As well as Heather, Henry leaves two sons.

His funeral is to be held at 1.30pm on 17th March at Poole Crematorium.

Article by Marilyn Barber, published in the Stour and Avon Magazine.


 Posted by at 4:19 pm

Have your say on health changes at Poole drop in session

 Health, News  Comments Off on Have your say on health changes at Poole drop in session
Jan 042017

People living in and around Poole are being invited to an event to give their views on proposed changes to healthcare in Dorset.

The event is part of the ongoing public consultation on proposals that have been developed as part of the Clinical Services Review, a major review into healthcare in Dorset.

The Clinical Services Review was launched as a response to major challenges which the NHS faces in Dorset. This includes a growing population, a workforce shortage, increased demand and a potential funding gap of £158m a year by 2020.

The event will take place at St Mary’s Longfleet Church Centre on Thursday 19 January. There is no need to book a place and anyone wanting to attend is welcome to drop in at any time between 2pm and 8pm.

Staff from the local healthcare community will be on hand to answer questions and direct people to how they can make their views known. Copies of the consultation document – Improving Dorset’s healthcare – and questionnaire will be available to take away.

Anyone who is unable to attend the event can still have their say by picking up a consultation document and questionnaire locally. Copies are available from a range of places including GP practices and hospitals. A full list of where copies can be collected from is available at along with links to an online version of both the consultation document and questionnaire.

People without internet access can call 01202 541946 to find out where they can pick up a copy locally or request a copy through the post.

There are lots of events happening throughout the consultation and everyone is welcome to attend them.

For the latest information visit or follow us on social media or

The public consultation runs up to 28 February 2017.

Further information

Members of the local media are welcome to attend the sessions. Please notify our Communications team prior to event. All interview requests should be directed to the Communications team.

 Posted by at 5:50 pm

Older People’s Forum in Poole

 News, Social  Comments Off on Older People’s Forum in Poole
Apr 172016
Older People's Forum poster

Older People’s Forum poster

Are you a Poole resident aged 55 or over?

Are you interested in local issues?

If so, this is an opportunity to have your voice heard and get involved in an independent over 55’s forum.

Borough of Poole, the Office of the Police Crime Commissioner, the Poole Well-being Collaborative and some of Poole’s residents are looking for members to help start up a new forum.

Come to the drop in event being held on 28th April and find out more!

The event will tell you:

  • information about the forum.
  • about projects and aims for the group.
  • how you can be involved.
  • how you can vote on a name for the group.

The forum will be run independently by older people, for older people.

Over 55’s Forum Open Day – Thursday 28 April 2016

Drop in any time between 10am and 4pm

The Spire, High Street, Poole BH15 1DF

For more information

email or phone 01202 261060.

Refreshments will be provided.

We want your views about ideas for health and care in Poole

 Health, News  Comments Off on We want your views about ideas for health and care in Poole
Apr 032016

The NHS in Dorset is asking local people to give their views on health care in the county.


Click on poster for a larger image

Here is the content of a message from Frances Aviss of Dorset CCG (Clinical Commissioning Group) :

I was wondering if you could circulate some information for me to members of Poole Heart Support Group?

In response to the need to co-design integrated community services with local people we are hosting a series of 9 public engagement events (supported by a virtual/online engagement opportunity) in late March and early April 2016. The Poole event is on the evening of Thursday 7 April at Parkstone Grammar School.

The initial focus at each event will be on the importance of us learning from people’s lived-experience, exploring their views of health and care services in their particular area of Dorset.

We will then briefly introduce the need to change how health and care services are provided and what is being done about this.

The main focus of the evening will be to seek views on emerging ideas/proposals (based on national and local need) around integrated community services and community vanguard proposals.

We plan to do this through an interactive ‘walk-through’ – where information on emerging ideas is displayed on clear accessible posters on a series of display boards.

Staff will be on hand to answer questions and people will be invited to capture their views on the posters – reflecting on what they feel is good/positive about the ideas/proposals and what they feel should be given consideration/any concerns they might have.

Further information on the events along with promotional materials and details of how to register are available on our website and I have attached the Poole flyer (see poster on this page)

With very best wishes and many thanks
Frances Aviss

 Posted by at 10:24 am

Thank you letter from Lewis-Manning Hospice

 News  Comments Off on Thank you letter from Lewis-Manning Hospice
Nov 082015

Louise Jones, Community Relationship Fundraiser for the Lewis-Manning Hospice gave a presentation of the hospice to PHSG members at the November Chat Stop on 3rd November.

PHSG gave a donation of £50 to the hospice, and Louise sent a thank you letter to us, which can be read by following this link.

As Louise writes in her letter :

“Once again thank you for your donation, we are so grateful. If any of your members would like to come and have a look around the hospice we have three open days coming up. They don’t need to book, can just turn up Monday 9th November 4.30-7pm, Saturday 14th November 10-2pm and Thursday 19th November 4-6.30pm. If you could pass this information onto the group I’d be most appreciative.”

Sep 132015

The following article was published in the Huffington Post, on a US study of blood pressure. Thanks to PHSG member Clive Morris for forwarding this information –

Blood pressure

Blood pressure monitoring

A landmark study on blood pressure management set to conclude in 2017 has shown such significant results that the National Institutes of Health is announcing its findings today, reported the New York Times.

The study found that reducing systolic blood pressure down to 120 mm Hg, as opposed to the traditionally recommended 140 mm Hg, resulted in dramatically reduced rates of heart attack, heart failure and stroke. Called the Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial, or SPRINT, the study involved more than 9,300 racially diverse participants aged 50 or over.

Systolic blood pressure measures the pressure in the arteries during a heartbeat and is the larger of the two numbers typically used to measure overall blood pressure. The smaller number — diastolic blood pressure — measures pressure in the arteries between heartbeats. Treating high blood pressure requires more focus on systolic blood pressure because it has strong associations with health conditions like the hardening of the arteries, heart disease and vascular disease.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, affects one in three Americans and can lead to heart disease, stroke and kidney failure; systolic hypertension is the most common type. In the past, clinical guidelines recommend that a systolic blood pressure of less than 140 mm Hg is a good target for healthy adults, while 130 mm Hg is recommended for those with kidney disease or diabetes.

To see if hitting a target of 120 mm Hg would be more beneficial, SPRINT researchers randomly divided the participants into two groups: a control group who took medication to achieve 140 mm Hg, and an intervention group who took medication to achieve 120 mm Hg.

Over the course of three years, the researchers found that rates of heart attack, heart failure and stroke for the 120 mm Hg group were down by almost a third of the numbers of the control group. Their risk of death was also reduced by almost one quarter.

“Our results provide important evidence that treating blood pressure to a lower goal in older or high-risk patients can be beneficial and yield better health results overall,” said Dr. Lawrence Fine, chief of the clinical applications and prevention branch at NHLBI, in a statement. “But patients should talk to their doctor to determine whether this lower goal is best for their individual care.”

On average, it took two medications for the control group to achieve 140 mm Hg, while it took an average of three medications for the intervention group to achieve 120 mm Hg. Non-medical ways to achieve lower blood pressure include weight loss, exercise, a healthy diet and a diet low in sodium.

“We are delighted to have achieved this important milestone in the study in advance of the expected closure date for the SPRINT trial,” said Dr. Gary H. Gibbons, director of NIH’s National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, in a statement, “and look forward to quickly communicating the results to help inform patient care and the future development of evidence-based clinical guidelines.”

Source: Blood Pressure Should Be Much Lower, According To Landmark Study

Sep 122015
 A new test that looks for tumour protein in urine could mean many men will no longer need invasive surgery Photo: Alamy

A new test that looks for tumour protein in urine could mean many men will no longer need invasive surgery Photo: Alamy

A cheap test which can gauge the size of prostate cancer tumours has the potential to save thousands of lives each year, scientists believe.

A £10 urine test for prostate cancer, which not only picks up the disease but also reveals the size of tumours so that doctors know whether to operate, could be available within 18 months.

Around 40,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year and more than 10,000 will die, many because the disease is not picked up early enough.

The new test, which works like a pregnancy test, is twice as reliable as current blood test and would allow patients to find out in minutes whether they had cancer based on the levels of EN2 in their urine – a protein which is produced by tumours.

Crucially, the amount of protein in the urine is directly link to the size of a tumour so doctors would no longer need to carry out invasive biopsies or embarrassing rectal examinations.

Prostate cancer grows very slowly it is not always life threatening. But because current tests can only spot if a tumour is present, not how big it is, many men are subjected to needless surgery and radiotherapy which can lead to impotence and incontinence.

Under the new system a tumour under the size of a pea would be left and monitored every three to four years.

The team are hoping that screening will be brought in for men over 55 in the same way that women are routinely screened for breast and cervical cancer. They believe it could save thousands of lives each year,

The test was devised by Professor Richard Morgan, now at the University of Bradford, and Professor Hardev Pandha, of the University of Surrey.

Speaking at the British Science Festival in Bradford, Prof Morgan said: “The thing about prostate cancer is that it is not absolutely necessary to detect it at its earliest stages, when treatment is not needed.

“The problem with the current tests is it cannot distinguish between a small tumour that won’t cause much harm and something more serious. So men have needless treatment.

“With this test we can avoid biopsies and only treat when it is absolutely necessary.

“The EN2 protein is usually silent in normal cells but is present in increasing amounts as tumours grow. So it not only gives a marker for prostate cancer but we can screen for men who are most at risk.”

The current blood test used by doctors to check for prostate cancer measures levels of protein called prostate specific antigen, or PSA, but it is wrong more often than it is right.

In trials of 77,000 men over five years the new test detected about 90 per cent of prostate cancers, making it more than twice as accurate as the PSA test.

The new test is currently being developed by Randox Laboratories and will need to be approved by regulators before it could be used in the NHS.


Sign the campaign petition for making prostate cancer screening mandatory at National Prostate Cancer Screening for the UK

Source: Prostate cancer test which detects tumour size could save thousands of lives – Telegraph