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Monthly Archives: December 2011

Thousand of Unnecessary Deaths from Diabetes

Up to 24,000 people die unnecessarily in England every year from Diabetes, because they are not controlling their condition properly.

A report in December 2011 from the UK National Health Service (NHS) Information Centre suggests that most of these deaths could be prevented if patients took their medication, kept to a healthy diet and had regular health checks.

The highest rate of mortality is among young women with Diabetes, with women in the 18 to 24 age group more than nine times as likely to die as other young women of the same age. Young men in the same age range are more than four times as likely to die.

Part of every day life for the more than two million people in the United Kingdom is checking their blood sugar levels, and regulating their insulin level. If this not controlled properly, it can lead to potentially fatal complications.

However many people are simply not careful enough to regulate their diet and perform these vital regular diagnostic checks on their condition, and so many thousands are dying from resultant complications such as heart failure, or kidney failure.

Experts say that regular health checks, a healthy diet and the correct medication could prevent many of these deaths. According to Simon O’Neill from Diabetes UK, “over 60% of people with type 1 Diabetes, and over half of those with type 2 Diabetes don’t access all the care that they should get, so if we’re not actually monitoring for conditions that can lead to death, then we’re not going to be picking it up early and treating it effectively”.

The department of Health in the United Kingdom say that the National Health Service should be able to deliver co-ordinated care to keep patients out of hospital.

Case Study – Aortic Abdominal Aneurysm detected before it killed him

About Aortic Aneurysms

An aneurysm is the term given to a blood vessel that swells and becomes enlarged until it bursts.

Whilst these can occur in all the different parts of the body, they are especially dangerous when they develop in the Aorta, (the largest artery in the body, responsible for carrying all the blood that is pumped out of the heart via its many different branches) as the large loss of blood that results is frequently fatal.

In fact Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms (AAA) are the fourth largest killer of males aged over 65 years in the United Kingdom – with an estimated six thousand annual fatalaties from the condition.

Worryingly, the condition has no warning signs or symptoms, and is often only diagnosed after the event, during the post mortem of the sufferer.


What are the Risk Factors for Aortic Aneurysm ?

The AAA can develop when the wall of the artery loses it’s elasticity, and becomes more hard and brittle. It can also stretch naturally with age.

However there are also avoidable lifestyle factors, such as having high cholesterol, smoking and being overweight or obese that all contribute to the development of the condition. These cause inflammation of the artery through fatty deposits, and can increase the chances of developing a bulge.


Screening Programme

Our case study patient, a male UK resident, is in his early seventies, and had never heard of the condition, until he happened upon an article about it in the media. Realising that he was in the target age group, he decided to enrol for a special screening program that is being run by the UK National Health Service.

The test consists of a short appointment for an ultrasound scan – approximately 15 minutes, to detect the condition, and in this case, the results very probably saved his life, as the scan detected that he had a large two and a half inch bulge in his own Aorta.

A month later he had life-saving surgery to reinforce the damaged section of the artery. This was done by opening up the Aorta and inserting a synthetic piece of tubing, then stitching the Aorta back in place around the tube.

After a couple of months recuperation he is now back to normal health, and able to lead a normal lifestyle with the threat of the Aneurysm removed.

The screening programme has already identified more than one hundred and thirty patients with similar sized Aortic bulges, any of which could have burst if they remained undetected.


Take Away Information

  • There are no warning signs or symptoms of imminent Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm
  • If you are aged over 65 and male – you’re in the first risk category
  • If you’re overweight, obese or a smoker, you’re in the second risk category
  • If you’re in either of the above risk categories, you should get checked out by a doctor – it could save your life


How going to the Dentist could be bad for your heart health

Although not exactly an enjoyable experience that most of would look forward to, how often do you stop and wonder if it could actually be harmful to your heart, or even fatal ?

We all have many different kinds of bacteria living inside our mouths, and under normal circumstances, and with good oral hygiene these usually pose little threat to our heart, or general health. However, when we have surgical dental work done, some of these resident bacteria may find their way through the incision into the bloodstream.

Whilst this in itself it not usually a problem for most people, as the these bacteria are usually killed off by the body’s own defence system, for some it can be the trigger for a heart condition known as Endocarditis.



What is Endocarditis ?

This is an inflammatory heart condition that affects the inner lining of the heart (known as the Endocardium)

Who is at risk ?

People most at risk of developing dental related Endocarditis are those who have existing damaged or leaking heart valves. For reasons not entirely understood, the oral bacteria tend to be attracted to, and cluster around the site of the leaking or damaged valve. Other groups of high risk people are those who have previously had replacement heart valves fitted, and those with congenital heart disease.


Can the condition be fatal ?

The build up of bacteria around the heart valve can cause it to malfunction, (in addition to the infection of the Endocardium). In some cases the heart valve will actually be prevented from opening and closing properly due to the ‘crust’ of bacterial matter around the edge of the valve, and this is the most dangerous part of the condition, and it can be fatal.


Secondary bacterial infection

A secondary problem is that part of the bacterial ‘crust’ can break away from the heart valve, due to the force of the flow of blood, and travel round the body in the bloodstream. This can cause secondary infections in other organs such as the liver, kidneys and even the brain.


Precautionary measures prior to dental surgery

People in the high risk groups should already be aware (from their doctor) of the potential risk of Endocarditis. If you have any questions regarding this condition, you should always seek qualified medical advice from your doctor before you contemplate having any invasive dental work performed.

The usual medical advice for at-risk dental patients is to take anti-biotic medication approximately one hour prior to the scheduled surgery. This should kill any stray oral bacteria before they can reach a heart valve. However the United Kingdom ‘National Institute for Clinical Excellence’ (NICE) seems to cast doubt whether pre-surgery anti-biotic treatment is effective at preventing Endocarditis.


The condition is relatively rare

Although there may be a small minority of people who do not know they are in one of the ‘at-risk’ groups, this condition is relatively rare. In the united Kingdom, the number of diagnosed cases has fallen by 80% in the past 65 years, thanks largely due to improved heart related diagnostic equipment and procedures. However there are still over 200 deaths each year in the United Kingdom, so it is well worth educating yourself about the condition.