The charity is adapting its support service to help industry members through this pandemic. We are providing regular updates for the industry and offering lots of useful information, advice and support links on issues that may be affecting you or your family members during COVID-19 such as:
Practical Support - Reducing personal debt, helpful advice for those who are worried about their and the person that they care for safety - Salary and more.
Employed and Self-employed support - Help and Guidance for employers who are looking to furlough employees or struggling with Covid-19 generally and more.
Mental Health support - Feeling the pressure to be productive? A useful toolkit to support your mental health during the pandemic, how to protect your mental health during the pandemic and more.
Housing support - The welfare team are supporting renters who need to write to their landlords in support for rent holidays and more.
Welfare benefit Support - If you are self-employed or lost your job because of COVID-19 consider applying for universal credit? And more.
Legal support – Advice for employees requiring legal support during the pandemic and more.
Self-Isolation - Guide for social distancing and more.
We all love our food and the comfort of our sofa but Coronary heart disease (CHD) is a major cause of death both in the UK and worldwide. Keeping fit and healthy has many positive benefits to your health and mental wellbeing and making some simple changes to what you eat and keeping active will help keep your cholesterol levels and your heart healthier. We’ll cover off some key topics around looking after yourself.
Heart and circulatory diseases is an umbrella term for all diseases of the heart and circulation. It includes everything from conditions that are inherited or that a person is born with, to those that are develop later, such as coronary heart disease, atrial fibrillation, heart failure, stroke and vascular dementia.
- There are around 7.4 million people living with heart and circulatory diseases in the UK - an ageing and growing population and improved survival rates from heart and circulatory events could see these numbers rise still further
- Around twice as many people are living with heart and circulatory diseases than with cancer and Alzheimer’s disease combined
- Heart and circulatory diseases cause more than a quarter (27 per cent) of all deaths in the UK; that's nearly 170,000 deaths each year - an average of 460 people each day or one death every three minutes
- Around 44,000 people under the age of 75 in the UK die from heart and circulatory diseases each year
- Since the BHF was established the annual number of deaths from heart and circulatory diseases in the UK has fallen by around a half
- In 1961, more than half of all deaths in the UK were attributed to heart and circulatory diseases (320,000 deaths).
What is coronary heart disease?
Over time, a fatty material called atheroma can build up inside your coronary arteries. This process is called atherosclerosis. Eventually, your arteries may become so narrow that they can't get enough oxygen rich blood to your heart. If a piece of atheroma breaks off, it can cause a blood clot form. This clot can block your coronary artery and cut off the supply of blood and oxygen to your heart muscle. This is known as a heart attack. Angina is the term used to describe the most common symptoms of CHD. These include chest pain, shortness of breath, pain travelling through the body, feeling faint and nausea.
There are several risk factors that can increase the risk of developing CHD. These include:
- high blood pressure
- high cholesterol
- being overweight
- not doing enough physical activity
Risk factors you can't control include family history, age and ethnic background. Living a healthy lifestyle can help lower your risk of developing CHD. There are lots of small and easy changes you can make. Learn how to reduce your risk.
Type 1 diabetes happens when your body cannot make insulin. This type most commonly affects children and young adults and is a result of your body’s immune system attacking the cells that produce insulin in the pancreas. 1 in 10 people with diabetes are Type 1.
Type 2 diabetes happens when your pancreas isn’t making enough insulin, or your body can no longer use the insulin it makes. Type 2 diabetes is much more common than Type 1 and tends to develop gradually as people get older – usually after the age of 40. But more and more people every year are being diagnosed at a much younger age.
Diabetes is closely linked with being overweight (especially if you carry weight around your middle), being physically inactive, or having a family history of Type 2 diabetes. Some ethnic groups have a much higher rate of diabetes - particularly people of South Asian and African Caribbean origin.
What are the signs and symptoms of Type 2 diabetes?
It's not always easy to tell if you have diabetes. Many people with Type 2 diabetes have no symptoms and don't know they have it, or symptoms can develop slowly or start out of the blue - it varies from person to person.
You may have diabetes if you are:
- often very thirsty
- peeing more than usual, particularly at night
- often very tired
- losing weight unexpectedly
- having blurred vision
- having genital itching or regular episodes of thrush
- noticing that your cuts or wounds heal slowly
Don't ignore symptoms. Your doctor can diagnose you, help you manage your condition and stop things getting worse.
How can I reduce my risk of developing Type 2 diabetes?
You can greatly reduce your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by keeping a healthy weight and sticking to a healthy lifestyle.
Here are some steps you can take to reduce your risk:
- be more active
- eat a healthy, balanced diet
- manage your weight
- give up smoking
- be aware of your family history
A healthy lifestyle will make your heart healthier. Here are 10 things you can do to look after your heart:
1. Give up smoking
If you're a smoker, quit. It's the single best thing you can do for your heart health. Smoking is one of the main causes of coronary heart disease. A year after giving up, your risk of a heart attack falls to about half that of a smoker. You're more likely to stop smoking for good if you use NHS stop smoking services. Visit the Smokefree website or ask your GP for help with quitting.
2. Get active
Getting – and staying – active can reduce your risk of developing heart disease. It can also be a great mood booster and stress buster. Do 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week. One way to achieve this target is by doing 30 minutes of activity on 5 days a week. Fit it in where you can, such as by cycling to work.
3. Manage your weight
Being overweight can increase your risk of heart disease. Stick to a healthy, balanced diet low in fat and sugar, with plenty of fruit and vegetables, combined with regular physical activity.
4. Eat more fibre
Eat plenty of fibre to help lower your risk of heart disease – aim for at least 30g a day. Eat fibre from a variety of sources, such as wholemeal bread, bran, oats and wholegrain cereals, potatoes with their skins on, and plenty of fruit and veg.
5. Cut down on saturated fat
Eating too many foods that are high in saturated fat can raise the level of cholesterol in your blood. This increases your risk of heart disease. Choose leaner cuts of meat and lower fat dairy products like 1% fat milk over full-fat (or whole) milk.
6. Get your 5 a day
Eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables a day. They're a good source of fibre, vitamins and minerals. There are lots of tasty ways to get your 5 A Day, like adding chopped fruit to cereal or including vegetables in your pasta sauces and curries.
7. Cut down on salt
To maintain healthy blood pressure, avoid using salt at the table and try adding less to your cooking. Once you get used to the taste of food without added salt, you can cut it out completely. Watch out for high salt levels in ready-made foods. Most of the salt we eat is already in the foods we buy. Check the food labels – a food is high in salt if it has more than 1.5g salt (or 0.6g sodium) per 100g. Adults should eat less than 6g of salt a day in total – that's about 1 teaspoon.
8. Eat fish
Eat fish at least twice a week, including a portion of oily fish. Fish such as pilchards, sardines and salmon are a source of omega-3 fats, which may help protect against heart disease. Pregnant or breastfeeding women should not have more than 2 portions of oily fish a week.
9. Drink less alcohol
Do not forget that alcohol contains calories. Regularly drinking more than the NHS recommends can have a noticeable impact on your waistline. Try to keep to the recommended daily alcohol limits to reduce the risk of serious problems with your health, including risks to your heart health.
10. Read the food label
When shopping, it's a good idea to look at the label on food and drink packaging to see how many calories and how much fat, salt and sugar the product contains. Understanding what's in food and how it fits in with the rest of your diet will help you make healthier choices.
A healthy diet can help reduce your risk of developing coronary heart disease and stop you gaining weight, reducing your risk of diabetes and high blood pressure. Healthy eating can also help lower your cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of some cancers. Even if you already have a heart condition, a healthy diet can benefit your heart.
Everyone should aim for a well-balanced diet. Faddy crash diets may not provide the balance of nutrients you need. The best way to understand it is to think of foods in food groups.
Try to eat:
- plenty of fruit and vegetables
- plenty of starchy foods such as bread, rice, potatoes and pasta. Choose wholegrain varieties wherever possible
- some milk and dairy products
- some meat, fish, eggs, beans and other non-dairy sources of protein
- only a small amount of foods and drinks high in fats and/or sugar.
Choose options that are lower in fat, salt and sugar whenever you can. A well-balanced diet should include at least 5 portions of fruit and veg a day. Try to vary the types of fruit and veg you eat. They can be fresh, frozen, dried or tinned. Pure unsweetened fruit juice, pulses and beans count as a portion, but they only make up a maximum of one of your five a day, however much you eat in one day. A portion is about a handful (80g or 3oz), for example: 4 broccoli florets, or 1 pear, or 3 heaped tablespoons of carrots, or 7-8 strawberries. To help look after your heart health it is important to make sure you choose the right type of fats.
So to help keep your heart healthy:
- Replace saturated fats with small amounts of mono and polyunsaturated fats
- Cut down on foods containing trans fats
- It's also important to remember that all fats and oils are high in calories, so even the unsaturated fats should only be used in small amounts.
Too much saturated fat can increase the amount of cholesterol in the blood, which can increase the risk of developing coronary heart disease. Unsaturated fats, which can be monounsaturated fats (for example olive oil, rapeseed oil, almonds, unsalted cashews and avocado) or polyunsaturated fats (including sunflower oil and vegetable oil, walnuts, sunflower seeds and oily fish) are a healthier choice. Eating too much salt can increase the risk of developing high blood pressure. Having high blood pressure increases the risk of developing coronary heart disease. If you drink alcohol, it's important to keep within the recommended guidelines - whether you drink every day, once or twice a week or just occasionally.
BHF Physical Activity Specialist Lisa Young offers tips on how we can make ourselves more active:
- Find an activity you enjoy and make it even more fun; listen to music while you do it or attend a class with a friend or family member.
- Everyday activity, such as walking or cycling to the shops or to work, is a great way to get your heart pumping. There is a greater chance of success if you build physical activity into your daily routine.
- If you enjoy walking, add some variety and push yourself further with Nordic walking poles. Using two poles while you walk gets your arms and core involved, making your physical activity more well-rounded. To challenge yourself even more, incorporate a small hill into the route of your walk, or try carrying small weights.
- Use tools to support you, such as the NHS Choices’ Couch to 5k plan. There are countless free apps available on mobile to motivate you to stay active.
- Set yourself a goal or challenge. Why not take part in a challenge? EIC have various challenges each year, or you could organise one yourself!
- Take advantage of the great outdoors – meet friends for a walk at your local park, or take your children or grandchildren for a kick-about.
- Encourage young children to be active through the games they play.
- Take the stairs instead of the lift or escalator, whenever possible.
All kinds of factors affect your risk from coronavirus. With coronavirus still in the UK, but some restrictions being eased, it’s normal to wonder how much you are at risk. We are still learning about the factors that affect your risk from coronavirus and some questions still don’t have answers. What we do know is that everyone is different, and your own level of risk is affected by many different interacting factors including age and existing health conditions. Risk is measured by looking at death rates in large groups of people – it doesn’t mean that everyone in high risk groups will live or die. In some cases the difference in risk may be relatively small. Even if you are in a group considered at high risk, that doesn’t tell us everything about your own individual risk.
Being obese is already linked to a large number of health problems, including heart and circulatory diseases. But regardless of whether or not you have other health issues, it seems that obesity increases your risk of dying from coronavirus.
We don’t fully understand why this is. Part of the reason may be that people who are obese are more likely to have other conditions such as diabetes and heart disease, which increase your risk of dying from Covid-19. But being obese does seem to have an additional damaging effect of its own. This could be because people who are very overweight are more likely to have breathing difficulties, for example because their lungs can contain less air and the muscles that support breathing are weaker. This can make them more likely to develop pneumonia, which is one of the serious complications of Covid-19 infection. Because the heart relies on the lungs to supply oxygen to the blood, breathing difficulties also mean the heart is under extra strain.
Around 27% of adults in the UK are obese (defined as having a BMI over 30). It’s less clear how much being overweight (a BMI of 25-30) affects your level of risk from coronavirus, although any increase in risk is likely to be smaller. More than a third (35%) of adults in the UK are overweight.
Figures covering England, Wales and Northern Ireland from the Intensive Care National Audit Research Centre suggest that at least two thirds of people who have fallen seriously ill with coronavirus were overweight or obese.
A recent study (not yet reviewed by other scientists) of 16,749 UK patients in hospital with Covid-19 found that obesity was linked to a higher risk of dying (around a 37% increase in risk of death). That study took into account factors such as age, sex and other health issues. The OpenSAFELY collaborative also found increasing risk of death in relation to how obese people were.
Early figures, this time from Shenzhen in China, found that being overweight was associated with an 86% higher, and obesity with a 142% higher, risk of developing severe pneumonia among patients with Covid-19, compared with patients of normal weight. This was only based on 383 patients, although it did make allowances for other factors that could have affected the results.
What can I do to reduce my risk?
There’s never been a better time to start losing weight, and anything you can do to reduce your weight is likely to help manage your risk. Aside from coronavirus, losing weight if you’re overweight will help reduce your risk of heart problems, of many cancers, and will reduce strain on your joints – so you can feel better and do more of the things you want to do. If you’re trying to lose weight, do it in a heart-healthy way that you can stick to. Crash diets don’t last, and you need a healthy balanced diet in order to keep your immune system working properly, which will help you fight off Covid-19 and other infections.
- Improve your fitness in safe, convenient and enjoyable way with My Step Challenge
- Check out these tips on how to lose weight and keep it off
- Read these tips on staying healthy when you're stuck at home
Reversing diabetes is a term that usually refers to a significant long-term improvement in insulin sensitivity in people with type 2 diabetes. People with type 2 diabetes that are able to get their HbA1c below 42 mmol/mol (6%) without taking diabetes medication are said to have reversed or resolved their diabetes. This also known as putting diabetes into remission. Loss of body weight can be particularly beneficial in helping to reverse the progression of diabetes. With time and dedication, type 2 diabetes can be reversed and the results can be very rewarding, with less tiredness and better all-round health. If you think you need to come off your diabetes medication, ensure you speak to your healthcare team before doing so.
The most common cause of type 2 diabetes is obesity-related, which generally follows a vicious cycle pattern:
- Diet high in calories - particularly if high in refined carbohydrates
- Insulin levels in the bloodstream rise to cope with the high- and quick-acting carb intake
- Weight is gained around the belly (central or truncal obesity)
- Consistently high insulin levels lead to the body’s cells becoming resistant to insulin and commonly lead to weight gain
- High insulin levels also increase weight gain
- Insulin resistance leads to an increase in blood sugar levels, particularly after meals
- The pancreas produces more insulin to cope with rising blood sugar levels
- High sugar levels lead to feelings of lethargy and high insulin levels lead to increased hunger
- Hunger often leads to overeating and lethargy, with less physical activity being taken
- Overeating, less activity and high insulin levels all lead to further weight gain and more insulin resistance
- Consistently high demand on the pancreas to produce extra insulin leads to damage of the pancreas’ insulin-producing beta cells
- Beta cell damage results in the body struggling to produce enough insulin, and steeper rises in blood sugar levels leads to more recognisable symptoms of diabetes, symptoms of diabetes, such as thirst and a frequent need to urinate
To reverse diabetes, you need to be able to break this cycle by taking the strain off your insulin-producing cells. Research indicates that effective ways to reverse diabetes include low-carb diets, very low calorie diets, exercise and Bariatric surgery
During half term in February last year, Shane and Emma took their daughters, Eva and Mya, to Great Yarmouth for a holiday. At the time, Shane had just started a new job with an electrical distributor and the family had been caring for Shane’s father who had been suffering with a terminal illness for 9 months. It took a few months of saving, but the family needed a something to look forward to. In the weeks leading up to the holiday, Shane had begun to feel unwell, feeling very tired and breathless, but he had just taken a new job which saw him working long hours and travelling a lot and so he put it down to that. However, when the breathlessness and tiredness became worse, he visited his doctor and was referred for a chest x-ray. To make things even worse, for reasons that he still not sure of, his employment was terminated just before the end of his probationary period. This was just 2 days before Mya's 6th birthday and just 3 weeks before their holiday. They were so upset and stressed out about finances, especially with the holiday and the costs of a birthday, but not only did Mya have a great 6th birthday party, but they’d budgeted carefully so they could still go on holiday.
The chest x-ray was done just 2 weeks before they were due to go on holiday. At this point, Shane was starting to become very unwell and so went to the local hospital's Urgent Care Centre where the doctor suggested that he needed an ECG and blood tests, and he should wait for the appointment to come through. Emma suggested cancelling the holiday, but as the girls were so excited about it, he said that they'd still go but he would take it easy. While in Great Yarmouth Shane became bedridden and too breathless to take part in any activities. Shane and Emma kept calling the doctor for his chest x-ray results as he was feeling more and more unwell. On day 5 of the holiday, Shane’s doctor rang to tell him that he had fluid on his lungs, and he should take it easy. He said Shane should go for a CT scan as soon as he got home from the holiday. Shane informed him that the breathlessness has gotten much worse and he’d swollen up so badly that he could barely get his trousers on. The doctor just told him to take it steady.
Just 24 hours later, Shane was struggling to breathe and so at 4am on the Thursday of their holiday, Emma called 999 and he was rushed to hospital in Great Yarmouth where it was discovered that he had Dilated Cardiomyopathy and was just minutes from having a heart attack. Shane was in severe heart failure and had developed 2 blood clots in his heart. He spent the first 48 hours in a critical condition and a further 5 days on an Acute Cardiac Unit. The doctors have tried to find a cause for it, but he doesn't drink or smoke and leads a fairly healthy lifestyle. They think it may be genetic and so now they have the added worry that one, or both, of their daughters may have this condition too. As a final blow, Shane was due to start a new job a few days after their holiday, but given his heart condition and ever-changing medication at the time, he was unfit for work for the foreseeable future.
Shane was needing to attend hospital appointments most weeks, some of which could be up to 70 miles away, meaning having a car was essential. The family were able to cover the costs of their priority bills, such as rent, utility bills and tax but without Shane working full time, additional outgoings such as travel costs, hospital parking costs, school trips, school uniforms and shoes, vets’ bills and unexpected payments like car repairs were not accounted for, and so the family struggled to find the money for their weekly food shop.
Although they would have preferred not to, they sold clothing, toys, electrical items and other things in order to afford their weekly bills. Financially they were sinking, and even though Shane has been advised by his heart failure nurse that he was unfit to return to work, the stress of their financial situation had tempted him back in to the workplace but it was at that point he and Emma got in touch with the EIC.
The EIC were able to support the family by providing a food voucher to help with the cost of their weekly shop for a couple of weeks, paying for Eva and Mya’s school uniforms and shoes for the next academic year and topping up the girls’ school dinner cards. The family were about to replace their carpets prior to Shane’s ill health, as theirs were old and worn out. Shane’s EIC Case Worker applied to another charity, League of the Helping Hand, who very kindly granted the funds to pay for a new carpet for the family which made their home a lot more comfortable, as they were spending a great deal of time at home now. When Shane’s health started to improve and he felt well enough, the EIC also organised a day out for the family to Magna Science Adventure Centre in Rotherham, booked their train tickets and sent some fun activities for the girls to do on the journey. The day out was enjoyed by all!
Shane’s health has now improved, and the family are now in a better financial position. Shane was offered a new job and they relocated to a new town and everything is looking up – Emma has a new job too and the girls love their new school. The EIC are so pleased to have been able to help this lovely family and we wish them all the best with their fresh start.