If you’ve been following our research and updates on swine flu, and it’s relevance to those of our many thousands of readers with an interest in heart disease, our last update on swine flu and heart disease was posted on July 20th 2009. We’re issuing this latest update as we feel there are significant developments that now need to be reported.
Because Swine Flu or any other type of Influenza virus places extra strain on the body, we’ve been especially concerned to warn our readers that prevention really is better than attempting to deal with the illness, especially if you are unfortunate enough to also suffer from a heart complaint.
How to avoid getting Swine Flu
The UK government’s advice is ‘catch it – bin it – kill it’ – and refers to using a disposable tissue (catching the virus) when sneezing or coughing in public, then quickly disposing of the tissue (bin it) and hence killing the virus by preventing it from easily spreading.
Because the common cold and flu viruses are so resilient, the best defence is avoidance of coming into contact with the virus. The main attack method of the swine flu virus is by getting into the body via the nose, mouth or eyes. The best chance of avoiding this is by avoiding public places where you may be exposed to airborn particles containing the virus as a result of a sneeze or a cough from an affected individual. Secondly, because the virus can survive on hard surfaces such as door handles, it is essential that you wash your hands frequently with soap and water whenever you come into contact with these surfaces in public, or at home if another member of your family has been diagnosed.
Cases of swine flu are rocketing again this Autumn
During the intervening period through the summer months, the spread of the Swine Flu virus has been much reduced, as expected. But with the advent of late autumn, moving into winter in the northern hemisphere, and the reduction in average temperatures we are starting to see the predicted rise (or second wave) in the number of diagnosed cases of the virus.
During the last week of October, the number of confirmed swine flu cases in the United Kingdom has increased by over fifty percent in just one week, reaching nearly 80,000 !
Over half a million people have now contracted the swine flu virus in the UK since the start of the current flu pandemic in the early part of 2009, and there have been 137 deaths from the illness during this period. Although this figure is relatively small, representing just over 2 people dying per 10,000 confirmed cases, there must surely be many heart disease sufferers who may not have died after contracting the virus, but whose condition has suffered as a result of the additional strain placed on their heart disease condition by the swine flu illness. This may translate into unknown future premature deaths from heart attacks, heart failure and strokes, but is impossible to calculate.
More swine flu patients are now requiring intensive care
Another worrying statistic is that the percentage of swine flu victims requiring intensive care has risen substantially, according to the UK government’s chief medical officer – Sir Liam Donaldson. There are currently over 750 people hospitalised in the UK with swine flu, but 20% of these patients are in intensive care, and this is following the pattern established in Australia and the southern hemisphere during their winter.
So, although the level of infection is approaching the 100,000 new weekly cases maximum established in July 2009, the number of serious cases has far exceeded that level reached in July.
Swine Flu Vaccine is now available !
A new swine flu vaccine has been developed by drugs giant Glaxo SmithKline, and is now starting to become available at doctors surgeries in the UK. The initial batch is to be targetted at high risk patients, and the UK government plans to immunise all high risk patients by the middle of December.
We urge all our readers who have any problems with their heart health or immune system to contact their physician to enquire when they can obtain a vaccination against swine flu, as it is not clear whether there will be an automatic system of contacting vulnerable patients, including those with heart conditions.
What are Varicose Veins?
A Varicose Vein is a common type of Varicosity that usually affects surface veins rather than deep veins. Usually a non-serious condition, they are localised, visible, irregular bulging veins that are most frequently found in the calves and legs, because standing and walking puts extra pressure on the veins in the lower body, although they can be found elsewhere in the body. They can be quite long and are usually dark blue or purple in colour which causes them to stand out against the surrounding skin.
Who is likely to suffer from them?
A swollen vein can often be a painful and debilitating complaint. This is a medical problem that is suffered by millions of (usually) older people worldwide.
Women tend to be more affected than men, with approximately 30% of women developing varicose veins in their lifetime, compared to 15% of men, and they can cause particular embarrassment to women due their often unsightly appearance.
What causes Varicose Veins?
Veins are used to carry blood on it’s return journey to the heart after it has been pumped around the body. Blood pressure is high in the arteries, but very low in the veins as the force of the heartbeat is almost spent by the time it reaches the extremities of the body. Consequently blood flow through the veins is slow, and also has to work against gravity, from the lower legs back to the heart. In order to accomplish this, the veins are equipped with a series of one-way valves that prevent blood from leaking downwards through gravity, as the natural flow of blood continues upwards, under slight pressure. When these valves become faulty it can cause the stagnation of the blood flow and lead to the condition developing. There are also additional factors that may affect the formation and extent of varicose vein appearance :-
- Low oxygen content in the blood
- Low blood glucose levels
- Poor bodily nutrition
- Accumulation of metabolic toxins normally cleared by strong blood flow
- Genetic susceptibility
What are the symptoms of Varicose veins?
The symptoms of varicosity can be both visible, and sensory – accompanied by fatigue and pain – usually in the form of an ache. Varicose veins are swollen and enlarged veins which are usually a blue or dark purple. They may also be lumpy, bulging or twisted in appearance.
What Treatments are available?
There are four main treatments that are currently available for varicose veins treatment. These are :-
- Conservative therapy through support stockings
- A clotting injection to close off the affected veins
- Surgical treatment known as ‘stripping’
- Laser Vein Treatment, or Endovenous Laser Treatment (EVLT™)
The simplest treatment is to wear support stockings that assist with blood flow, and diversion of blood into deep veins where blood flow is improved. This can produce very effective results.
Where the use of a support stocking has not been effective, a localised injection of a special blood clotting compound may be used to seal off the affected veins to prevent any worsening of the condition.
Surgical removal of varicose veins may be recommended where previous treatments have proved to be ineffective. This procedure involves an operation carried out under a general anaesthetic to tie of both ends of the affected vein, via surgical incisions at either end, and physically remove it. This process is known as ‘stripping’.
The latest treatment is known as Endovenous Laser Treatment (EVLT™), and is a less invasive method of treating varicose veins, involving a simple laser vein treatment procedure that can be carried out in less than an hour and under local anaesthetic.