Health headlines explained

Tuesday 6th May

Seven-a-day fruit and veg 'saves lives' - BBC

What’s the problem?

We’ve all heard the government’s advice about getting five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. However, new research out this month has suggested that we need seven portions a day to cut the risk of cancer or heart disease.

What you need to know

Only 30% of us currently manage the five-a-day target set by the government, so new guidelines to eat seven portions may seem a difficult task. However, there is strong evidence showing that eating plenty of fruit and vegetables is good for your health. This particular study suggested that your risk of dying from any cause was decreased by 42% if you eat seven or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Even if this is not proven by other research, upping your veg intake is a good idea.

A portion of fruit or veg is around 80g. To get the most from your diet, try to have a variety of types and colours - that way, you’ll get a wide range of nutrients and benefits. Don’t rely on fruit juices to provide your five-a-day - eating the whole fruit is much better. And unfortunately, potatoes don’t count.

Additional information

The Guardian
BBC

Study suggests link between fall in salt intake and drop in heart attack deaths - The Guardian

What’s the problem?

Research claims that a drop in the number of deaths from stroke and heart attacks has been a result of a reduction in the amount of salt we eat. But some are claiming that whilst there’s a likely correlation, this study doesn’t demonstrate conclusive proof that less salt has resulted in fewer deaths.

What you need to know

Between 2003 and 2011, the average daily intake of salt per person fell from 9.5g a day to 8.1g. In the same period, stroke deaths fell from 134 to 78 per 100,000 population, and deaths from coronary heart disease dropped from 232 to 139 per 100,000 population.

This is good news: stroke and coronary heart disease are two of the biggest causes of death in the UK. We don’t know whether salt reduction is the main reason for the drop - but we do know that cutting down how much salt we eat will benefit our health. Eating too much doesn’t just increase your risk of heart disease and stroke; it can also exacerbate symptoms of asthma, diabetes, Ménière's disease or Alzheimer’s. Find out more about why you should reduce your salt intake.

Reducing salt consumption is just one thing you can do to decrease your chance of coronary disease and stroke. A balanced diet, not smoking and regular exercise are all important. Find out more.

Additional information

The Guardian
The Independent
NHS

Bowel cancer screening uptake 'must improve' - BBC

What’s the problem?

The bowel cancer screening programme was introduced in 2006 for those aged between 60 and 74. Since then, 58% of the target group has taken part. This is much lower than the rates for breast cancer screening (72%) and cervical cancer screening (78%).

What you need to know

In Britain, around 1 in 20 people will develop bowel cancer in their lives - it’s the third most common cancer in the UK and causes 16,000 deaths each year.

Regular bowel cancer screening has been shown to reduce your risk of dying from the disease by 16%. The screening programme detects polyps - non-cancerous growths that can grow into cancer. This helps with early detection, often before there are any symptoms - and when treatment is the most effective. To date, the programme has identified 7,000 cancers and led to 40,000 patients having polyps removed.

If you are in the target group and have received your screening kit, it’s important to use it. If you know someone who has been sent one, but may not have used it, remind them. Or, if you have any unusual symptoms (whether you’re in the target group or not), visit your GP. The earlier you go, the better chances of successful treatment if there is a problem.

Find out more about bowel cancer screening, and about bowel cancer.

This article has been brought to you using public health information freely available online (click on links in the article for more information). benenden health has not provided any direct medical advice within this article. Please consult the sources provided if you would like further information or support.

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