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3 Key Medical News Stories: 16th May 2019

Pregnancy

Welcome to this week’s medical news round up! In our latest edition, we bring you the healthcare topics that have been under the microscope over the past week, just in time for your med school applications. 

Joining us this week: cardiovascular disease, body image and new screening.

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Cardiovascular Disease

Deaths from cardiovascular diseases in those under 75 are on the rise for the first time in 50 years.

Latest UK figures show that in 2017, 42 384 deaths occurred due to cardiovascular disease, compared to 41 042 in 2014.

This rise in statistics may be due to growing rates of other diseases that increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Conditions such as high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes and high cholesterol are all large risk factors. Latest news reports that 19 million adults in the UK have high blood pressure and that one in four are obese. Additionally, over the last five years the UK has seen an 18% increase in diabetes diagnoses.

Despite much improved and successful prevention programmes, cardiovascular disease remains one of the leading causes of death in the UK.

What can we learn from this?

Historically, the approach to prevention of heart disease in the UK has been very successful, with figures showing a 25% fall in premature cardiovascular death rates between 2007 and 2012.

However, this trend is beginning to see a reversal, with more people dying from cardiovascular disease before their 75th birthday.

As so many factors contribute to heart and circulatory disease, this could be due to a number of reasons. The rise in diabetes, obesity, and high cholesterol are just some that could heavily influence a person’s risk of disease.

Question to think about: Think about a health intervention/campaign that you have seen recently. Explain whether you think it is effective and why.

Read: Primary Care Pressures

Body Image

Body image concerns linked to depression and suicidal thoughts.

A recent poll of UK adults found a third were anxious about their bodies and an eighth experienced suicidal thoughts. This indicates that millions of adults are struggling with severe body image issues.

Women, particularly young women, show the highest rate of distress. However, one in five of those over 55 also felt anxious due to their body image.

Many expressed feelings of disgust or shame when it came to their bodies, and actively avoided behaviours or situations that made them feel worse about their body.

In keeping with the seriousness of this issue, body image is a main theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness week.

What can we learn from this?

Body image refers to how you perceive yourself when you look in the mirror or in your mind’s eye; including what you believe about your appearance and how you feel about your body.  

Body image begins to develop at young ages. Many people identify social media as a very influential platform, with continuous, subliminal and literal messages about the ‘perfect’ look.

Recently, there has been a welcome rise in ‘body positivity’ on social media, which includes a wide variety of people spreading messages about positive body image and learning to love your body.

Question to think about: What do you think are the pros and cons of social media in regards to mental health?

Read: NHS Hot Topics – Mental Health

New Screening

80 hospitals to offer Group-B strep screening for pregnant women.

Recent medical news reports that one in five pregnant women carry group-B streptococcus, a potentially life-threatening infection for newborn babies and a risk factor for miscarriage.

Currently, only “high risk” women receive testing for the infection. A new pilot study will be testing two new methods of screening for all women. One involves taking a sample in 35-37 weeks of pregnancy and sending the culture to labs. The other is a bedside test that gives immediate results and has scope for use during labour.

It is hoped that this study will prove that screening is effective and therefore that more women can receive appropriate treatment to prevent miscarriage or newborn complications.

What can we learn from this?

Each year up to 500 babies are born with a group-B strep infection in the UK. Although most recover with treatment, it can result in serious complications such as pneumonia, meningitis and sepsis.

Effective screening aims to identify more women who require antibiotics, ultimately preventing the consequences of group-B strep.

On the other side, experts are concerned that routine testing may lead to overuse of antibiotics. This is particularly topical as there is also a growing concern surrounding antimicrobial resistance.

Question to think about: What are the current major issues surrounding antibiotic resistance?

Read: NHS Hot Topics – Antibiotic Resistance

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