Treat the Cause, not the Symptoms

statins and exercise

A quick scan of the news this morning reveals a worrying trend in the UK that shows no sign of being treated or reversed.  The first article concerned the potential increase in the use of statins used in the reduction of the likelihood of heart disease and of strokes.  These medicines do this by curbing the production of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol in the liver.  High rates of LDL are potentially dangerous as they can lead to hardening and narrowing of the arteries, known as atherosclerosis, which increases the risks of strokes and heart attacks.  Doctors use a risk calculator called QRisk2 to work out a person’s chance of having a stroke or heart attack to decide if they should be given statins – the calculation factors include age, weight and smoking.  If someone has a 10-year QRisk2 score of 20%, then in a crowd of 100 people like them, on average, 20 people would get cardiovascular disease over the next 10 years.

At the present time, in England & Wales (I can’t find stats for Scotland), some 7 million people are being prescribed statins.  Using this study, an extra 5 million people would be added to this list.  At the present time, it is estimated that this costs the NHS around £450 million from its cash strapped budget.  Adding the extra 5 million to this list will obviously nearly double this bill.  This is a cycling blog isn’t it?  Yes, and the crucial part of all this is that the QRisk factor is largely based on lifestyle i.e. if you are sedentary, overweight and smoke, you are much more likely to have high levels of LDL and therefore be at greater risk of heart disease and stroke.  Now, this isn’t true for everyone, as some folk will have a high LDL count despite being racing snakes; this is where statins are usefully prescribed.  So, how do we convince people that a healthier lifestyle is better for all of us?  That £800 million could be usefully spent elsewhere in the NHS but I would suggest that if even half of it was put into infrastructure projects to encourage a healthier lifestyle then we really could see a difference and here comes the next news article which just sums up this crazy downward spiral we are in.

Dumfries Ice Bowl car park swimming pool bid revived

A Scottish town’s leisure centre is closing for 17 months for renovations – great news, a refurbished leisure centre and pool.  So, quite sensibly an application has been made to put a temporary pool outside the Ice Bowl to enable the good people of Dumfries to carry on exercising and their children can learn skills which could save theirs’ and others’ lives.  What have the council committee done in response to this excellent community minded proposal?  They rejected it due to concerns traffic plans could not be managed or enforced. So, all those sedentary, overweight people having a sly fag in their cars don’t get delayed when driving one mile to the superstore to buy food high in cholesterol raising potential.  I despair, although I wish them good luck with their second attempt at changing the council’s car “driven” philosophy.