The top 5 causes of premature death

The top 5 causes of premature death
The top 5 causes of premature death

Thousands of people in England could avoid an early death from one of the five most common killers:


heart disease


lung disease

liver disease

A child born today should expect to live a longer, healthier life than ever before. Yet, a Government report, Living Well for Longer (PDF, 1.6Mb), blames the top five killers for more than 150,000 deaths a year among under-75s in England alone and the Department of Health estimates two-thirds of them are entirely avoidable.

This chart shows the premature death toll by illness. Heart disease and stroke are together referred to as cardiovascular disease.


Reduce your risk of cancer

More than one in three people will develop some form of cancer during their lifetime. Although there are more than 200 different types of cancer, lung, breast, prostate and bowel cancer account for more than half of cases.

According to Cancer Research UK, an unhealthy lifestyle is the root cause of about a third of all cancers.

Smoking causes almost all lung cancer. Poor diet has been linked to bowel cancer, pancreatic cancer and oesophageal cancer. And heavy drinking has been implicated in the development of breast cancer.

While healthy lifestyle changes can prevent many cases of cancer, screening aims to drive down cancer cases even further.

National programmes for breast cancer screening, cervical screening and bowel cancer screening help identify cancer at an early stage when it’s more treatable.

make sure you know the key symptoms of the main cancers

take up the offer of cancer screening. Find out more about the NHS screening programmes for breast cancer, cervical cancer and bowel cancer

lifestyle changes to reduce your risk of cancer

Prevent heart disease

Experts say most cases of premature death from heart disease are completely preventable.

Smoking, being overweight, having high blood pressure and/or high cholesterol, heavy drinking and physical inactivity are all key risk factors.

If you’re over 40, ask your GP about the NHS Health Check, a free five-yearly mid-life MOT to look for things like high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Exercise reduces your risk of heart attack by 30%. Try to do more exercise, especially aerobic exercise like walking, swimming and cycling. Find out how you can benefit from being more physically active, and try this 12-week exercise plan for beginners combining running and strength and flexibility workouts.

Carrying extra weight puts a strain on your heart. For help losing weight sign up to Change4Life’s healthy eating smart swaps campaigns and the NHS-approved 12-week weight loss plan.

Reduce your risk of stroke

Stroke is the third leading cause of death in England each year and the leading cause of disability.

More than 150,000 people have a stroke every year in the UK but, according to The Stroke Association, up to 10,000 of these could be prevented if more people were aware of the symptoms and sought out emergency treatment.

High blood pressure is the main cause of stroke. Almost one in three people in England have high blood pressure and nearly half of them aren’t receiving any treatment for the condition, says the British Heart Foundation.

watch out for the symptoms of stroke

a good way to reduce high blood pressure is to reduce your salt intake. Find out how to cut down on salt and read articles on how to have a healthy diet

Reduce your risk of lung disease

Respiratory disease covers a variety of conditions ranging from asthma to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) one of the most common causes of death.

COPD is almost completely avoidable. Most cases (around 85%) are caused by smoking. The other 15% of cases are triggered by exposure to fumes, chemicals and dusts at work or, very occasionally, because of a rare genetic tendency to develop COPD called alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency.

find out how the NHS can help you to stop smoking including how stop smoking advisers can help you quit and the benefits of stop smoking treatments

download this free NHS Smokefree app for daily tips and support

read how to stop smoking in pregnancy

Reduce your risk of liver disease

Liver disease is on the increase in England with a 20% increase in cases over the last decade. The disease develops silently and many people have no idea there’s anything wrong until they develop liver failure and it’s too late.

The three main causes of liver disease are heavy drinking, obesity and viral hepatitis (inflammation of the liver).

More than a third of men and over a quarter of women regularly exceed the recommended level of alcohol intake. Find out how to cut down.

Get Change4Life tips on how to take control of your drinking.

Use our BMI calculator to find out if you are a healthy weight and read articles on how to lose weight including the NHS-approved 12-week weight loss plan.

Have a hepatitis B vaccination if you’re at risk of infection.

5 great ways to lower cholesterol naturally!

5 great ways to lower cholesterol naturally!
5 great ways to lower cholesterol naturally!

High cholesterol is the bane of the developed world.  In the modern world we have more, better and much easier to prepare food than in previous centuries. But, this also means,  far too many of us now have the opportunity to overindulge.  (I’ll put my hands up here and say I’m one of those guilty of what I have to call greed).   The problem with this kind of eating is that it does have the tendency to raise our cholesterol levels.

According to the NHS evidence strongly indicates that high cholesterol can increase the risk of:

narrowing of the arteries (atherosclerosis)

heart attack


transient ischaemic attack (TIA) – often known as a “mini stroke”

peripheral arterial disease (PAD)

So I think we can all agree that we need a few ideas of reducing our cholesterol levels.

So I thought I would share the following five tips which you can use to help reduce your cholesterol with our recourse to medication.

a) Yes indeed I know healthcare professionals sound like a broken record on the subject of drink.  But it is important to cut down (if you do drink) to cut a glass or two a day.  Oh and make sure that you have a few drink free days each week including weekends.

b) Smoking tobacco. If you still smoke please please do give up.  Please check out a previous blog post with a few tips to help you quit.

c) Now I know that many pixels have died in the cause of lecturing us about taking more exercise.  But it also has numerous other benefits as this article shows!

d) Chronic stress can impact on your cholesterol levels.  To have a look at these great ideas for reducing stress in your life.

e) Foods fortified with plant sterols and stanols. Foods which contain sterols and stanols include corn, coconut, olive and sunflower oils, beans, corn, peanut butter, almonds, oranges, apples, and avocados.  A great way of getting down your cholesterol.


If you do have any concerns about your cholesterol levels please do speak with a medical professional as they are best able to advise on your best course of action!

And if you do have any other tips for reducing cholesterol please do share them in the comment section at the bottom of this blog post.

Air embolism – what are the signs and symptoms of the bends

Air embulism and the bends
Air embolism and the bends


An air or gas embolism is a bubble that becomes trapped in a blood vessel and blocks it. This can lead to many different symptoms depending on where the blockage occurs. It’s one of the leading causes of death among divers.

An air or gas embolism can happen when a scuba diver surfaces too quickly from any depth. This can cause air to escape into the blood vessels from the lungs (pulmonary barotrauma) or bubbles of nitrogen to form in the blood vessels (decompression illness, or “the bends”).

An embolism can develop in an artery or vein. When an air bubble travels along an artery, it moves through a system of blood vessels that gradually become narrower. At some point, the bubble may block a small artery and cut off the blood supply to a particular area of the body.

Bubbles in the veins travel around the body and can cause breathing difficulties when they reach the lungs.

How serious is it?

The seriousness of the blockage depends on which part of the body the affected blood vessel supplies blood to and the size of the air bubble. For example, an air embolism in:

  • the arteries to the brain can cause immediate loss of consciousness and may lead to seizures (fits) or a stroke – it can also cause confusion, dizziness and slurred speech
  • the coronary arteries (which lead to the heart) may cause a heart attack or an abnormal heart rhythm
  • a blood vessel to the lungs may cause a pulmonary embolism

These conditions are very serious and can be fatal, particularly if an air embolism is not recognised and treated promptly.

Even with treatment, some people who survive are left with permanent brain damage, although this is very rare.

Warning signs

Divers should always be carefully monitored by their colleagues and supervisors so any air or gas embolism can be immediately identified and treated.

Signs and symptoms of an air embolism can include:

  • joint or muscle pains
  • low blood pressure, which may cause dizziness
  • an irregular heartbeat
  • breathlessness and fast breathing
  • blurred vision
  • chest pain
  • strong feelings of anxiety and itching of the skin
  • a faint blue tone to the skin (cyanosis)
  • bloody froth from the mouth
  • paralysis or weakness, possibly of one or more limbs
  • seizures (fits)
  • loss of consciousness

If a scuba diver develops these symptoms within 10 to 20 minutes of surfacing, they probably have an air embolism and should be given 100% oxygen and transferred to hospital as soon as possible, preferably one with a recompression chamber.

Treating air embolisms

If a diver develops an air embolism, the only effective treatment is immediate recompression treatment in a special pressurised room called a hyperbaric chamber.

The diver should be given 100% oxygen and laid horizontally until they reach the hyperbaric chamber.

Recompression treatment involves lying in a hyperbaric chamber, usually for several hours, and breathing a mixture of gases and oxygen under pressure. The high pressure can restore normal blood flow and oxygen to the body’s tissues and reduce the size of the air bubbles in the body.

In cases of decompression sickness, the pressure forces the bubbles of nitrogen to dissolve back into the bloodstream.

After recompression, pressure is reduced gradually to allow the gases to leave the body without worsening the problem, similar to surfacing slowly from a dive. Treatment might be continued for several days depending on the severity of symptoms.

Preventing an air embolism while diving

The following advice can help reduce your risk of developing an air or gas embolism when diving.

  • Limit the depth and duration of your dives.
  • Come up to the surface slowly and always perform safety stops to allow any air in your tissues and blood vessels to escape safely. Use a dive computer or dive tables, and don’t dive again if you have broken these rules until you have had a suitable time at the surface.
  • Don’t dive with a cold, cough or chest infection.
  • Avoid rigorous exercise before, during and after a dive.
  • Make sure you’re well hydrated before diving.
  • If planning several dives, leave adequate surface intervals between dives to allow the nitrogen to leave your body.
  • After diving, wait for 24 hours before flying or going to a higher altitude.

If in doubt, contact a dive professional or doctor, who can provide further advice.

Other causes of air embolisms

Air embolisms also occur during surgery or other medical procedures, but this is rare.

In hospitals and health centres, care should be taken to prevent this. For example:

  • before injections, air should be removed from syringes and intravenous lines
  • catheters or other tubes inserted into the body should be inserted and removed using a technique that minimises the possibility of air getting into the blood vessels
  • patients should be closely monitored to help ensure air bubbles don’t form in blood vessels during surgery

Air embolisms resulting from surgery, anaesthesia or other medical procedures can be difficult to treat. Treatment is usually needed to support the heart, blood vessels and lungs.

For example, fluids may be used to treat a fall in blood pressure and oxygen may be given to reduce levels of other gases in the blood vessels

Be Aware of Early Warning Signs of a Stroke


Have you or a loved one ever had a stroke? It can be a frightening thing to experience. Strokes are the leading cause of death and the risk of permanent disability for many in the United States. When it comes to your health and well-being, it is important to be aware of signs of a potential danger. There are ways to prevent a negative outcome and even death. Being aware of the factors that lead to a stroke as well as preventative measures is very important to keep in mind.

The Side Effects & Risks

Not only are strokes the leading cause of death for thousands of patients each year, they can also lead to permanent brain damage. The major cause of strokes is clogging of an artery in the brain, low blood pressure, and blood clots. The risk factors include cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, alcohol abuse, and heart disease. Unhealthy habits and even stress can affect the immune system leaving room for sickness and disease.

It is important to be aware of the signs of a stroke so that you can be prepared to take immediate action if needed. As a patient, you have the right to be informed and have a level of control over your health to prevent a stroke that can have potential permanent adverse effects on your health and future, especially in the case of a delayed medical diagnoses. Seeking legal advice along with medical assistance can prove to be beneficial and even preventative.

Physical Signs of a Stroke

The following are early warning signs of a stroke:

Numbness of the face or arm. The loss of voluntary movement or sensations is a sure sign of a stroke. Usually these are followed by heart palpitations. It is important to be aware of these signs in order to take immediate action.

Confusion. If a person finds themselves unable to process thoughts or speak coherently this could be a sign of a serious problem. It can be accompanied by a slurring of words and even foaming at the mouth. Make sure to ask them questions to see if they respond back to you. If they are unable to respond clearly or coherently it is a clear sign that the person is in need of immediate help.

Blurred vision. An inability to see clearly or even losing focus in one eye can be a sign of an issue. If the person complains of vision impairment, it can be a sure sign that they are in danger of experiencing a potentially life-altering stroke.

Trouble with walking or balance. If a person seems off balance or suddenly loses their step, it could be a signs of an impending stroke. If you notice irregularity in your movement it is important to seek the advice of a physician. Don’t wait to seek a medical checkup.

Be well-informed about your medical condition and ask your physician key questions about your health. One can never go wrong with preventative measures that add to their quality of life and prevent potential life-threatening disease. Often heart conditions will lead patients to make life-changing decisions like changing their eating habits, exercising or walking regularly, and cutting healthy habits from their lives.

It is important to be an active participant in your health and well-being. Take control of your health! Be well informed.

First Aid – what to do when a stroke occurs

The next in this week’s series of blog post on first aid looks at strokes.

When have covered some of this area before so you might be interested in our previous posts which you can find here.

What to do when someone has a stroke

What to do when someone has a stroke [Infographic] by the team at imperative training