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A Major Study Says Longer Hours Increase A Higher Risk Of Stroke

The likely toll of long working hours is revealed in a major new study. In the study it shows that employees still at their desks into the evening run an increased risk of developing a stroke – and the longer the hours they put in, the higher the risk. The largest study conducted on the issue, carried out in three continents and led by scientists at University College London, found that those who work more than 55 hours a week have a 33% increased risk of stroke compared with those who work a 35- to 40-hour week. They also have a 13% increased risk of coronary heart disease.

The findings will confirm the assumptions of many that work a long-hours culture working well into the evening, with work also intruding into weekends, is harmful to health. The researchers, publishing their findings in the Lancet medical journal, say they cannot state categorically that long hours cause people to have strokes – but their study shows that there is a link, and it gets stronger as the hours people put in get longer.

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“Sudden death from overwork is often caused by stroke and is believed to result from a repetitive triggering of the stress response,” they write. “Behavioural mechanisms, such as physical inactivity, might also link long working hours and stroke; a hypothesis supported by evidence of an increased risk of incident stroke in individuals who sit for long periods at work.

“Physical inactivity can increase the risk of stroke through various biological mechanisms and heavy alcohol consumption – a risk factor for all types of stroke – might be a contributing factor because employees working long hours seem to be slightly more prone to risky drinking than are those who work standard hours.”

People who work long hours are also more likely to ignore the warning signs, they say – leading to possible delays in getting treatment. Mika Kivimäki, professor of epidemiology at UCL, and colleagues looked separately at heart disease and at stroke. For coronary heart disease, they pulled together 25 studies involving more than 600,000 men and women from Europe, the USA and Australia who were followed for an average of 8.5 years.

They then pooled and analysed the data that had been collected. This produced the finding of a 13% increase in the chances of a new diagnosis of heart disease or hospitalisation or death. For stroke, they analysed data from 17 studies involving nearly 530,000 men and women who were followed up for an average of 7.2 years. They found a 1.3 times higher risk of stroke in individuals working 55 hours or more, compared with those working a standard 35- to 40-hour week.

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E – Cigarettes are ‘95% less harmful than tobacco’

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An independent review on e-cigarette use has concluded that the devices are around 95% less dangerous than smoking tobacco products. Nearly all of those who use e-cigarettes are current smokers or former smokers using them as a cessation device. Despite this finding, the reviewers also state that around 45% of people are unaware that using e-cigarettes – also referred to as “vaping” – is less harmful than traditional smoking.

The review was commissioned by Public Health England, an agency of the UK’s Department of Health, and was led by Prof. Ann McNeill of King’s College London and Prof. Peter Hajek of Queen Mary University of London. According to their findings, e-cigarettes appear to be contributing toward falling rates of smoking among adults and young people.

“There is no evidence that e-cigarettes are undermining England’s falling smoking rates,” states Prof. McNeill. “Instead the evidence consistently finds that e-cigarettes are another tool for stopping smoking, and in my view, smokers should try vaping and vapers should stop smoking entirely.”

The researchers found that nearly all of the 2.6 million adults in Great Britain who report using e-cigarettes are either current smokers or ex-smokers, using the devices to help them stop smoking or prevent them from smoking again. Less than 1% of adults and young people who have never smoked are regular e-cigarette users. The researchers state that the evidence suggests e-cigarettes attract few people who have never smoked into regular use. The review draws attention to recent worldwide media headlines asserting that e-cigarette use is dangerous.

Prof. Hajek believes that smokers should give e-cigarettes a try:
“My reading of the evidence is that smokers who switch to vaping remove almost all the risks smoking poses to their health. Smokers differ in their needs and I would advise them not to give up on e-cigarettes if they do not like the first one they try. It may take some experimentation with different products and e-liquids to find the right one.”

Dr. Penny Woods, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, says that Public Health England are to be applauded for taking the lead in outlining the evidence currently available on e-cigarettes, and that e-cigarettes have a good record at helping smokers to quit.

“While smoking cessation services continue to be the most successful way to help people stop smoking, the highest successful quit rates are being seen among smokers who are also using e-cigarettes,” she states. “Providing health care professionals with accurate advice and information on their use is necessary if we are to unlock the full potential of e-cigarettes in helping people to kick their habit.”

The review also finds that smoking is most common among disadvantaged groups who tend to be more dependent on the habit. E-cigarettes could represent a wide-reaching low-cost intervention to reduce smoking rates in such advantaged groups, the researchers suggest, and consideration should be given to using the devices as part of a proactive strategy to encourage smoking cessation.

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A Web Programme On Hand Washing Can Help Reduce Infections

A study suggests that a web-based programme encouraging people to wash their hands more frequently could reduce the risk of catching and passing on infections. Researchers writing in The Lancet tested it on around 16,000 homes in the UK during the winter flu season.

They found a 14% reduction in general risk of infection and a 20% lower risk of catching flu in those who used it. This group also made less visits to their GP and needed fewer antibiotics. Most people wash their hands five or six times a day, but Prof Paul Little, from the University of Southampton, who led the research, said that if that could be increased to approximately 10 times a day it would have an important effect on reducing the spread of bugs and infections.

A new study by Michigan State University researchers found that only 5 percent of people who used the bathroom washed their hands long enough to kill the germs that can cause infections.
A new study by Michigan State University researchers found that only 5 percent of people who used the bathroom washed their hands long enough to kill the germs that can cause infections.

Previous research has shown that infections in adults could be prevented if they washed their hands more often and reduced their ‘viral load’. This would be of particular benefit to people who do not want to catch flu, such as those with heart or lung problems and the elderly.

The programme, titled PRIMIT, has four weekly sessions which explain the medical evidence behind washing your hand regularly. It encourages users to learn simple techniques to avoid catching and passing on viruses and to monitor their own hand-washing behaviour. Those using the programme in the study were followed for 16 weeks and asked to fill in a questionnaire afterwards.

Prof Little said that because most households now have access to the internet, the programme could be a good source of health information in a pandemic and help prevent the NHS from being overwhelmed. Commenting on the study, Prof Chris van Weel, from Radboud University in the Netherlands, said promoting the routine of washing your hands regularly was a good thing because it was cost-effective and had public health benefits too. “The investigators showed improved management of infections while using fewer antibiotics, which is in line with policies to counter the threat of population resistance to antibiotics.”