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Column 31st March 2021

Improving heart health?

In the Herald last week there was a summary of how the pandemic has hit the Vale and South Oxfordshire.

It showed that 4985 people had tested positive in the Vale of the White Horse and 199 people had died within 28 days of a positive test. That’s a death rate of 3.99 per cent across the Vale.

The figures for South Oxfordshire give a death rate of 2.25 per cent.

When looking at “excess” deaths, there has been a 14 per cent increase in mortality in the Vale but only a 5 per cent increase in South Oxfordshire.

We’re all within the Oxfordshire health system so why is the Vale so much worse than South Oxfordshire?

The average age is slightly higher in South Oxfordshire which has 2,500 more people over the age of 65 so age doesn’t explain it.

The Vale also has a lower percentage of clinically vulnerable people (3.03 percent versus 3.29 percent) so that doesn’t explain it either.

We also have a much lower percentage of people with long term musculoskeletal problems (14.4 per cent versus 16.9 percent).

The only figures I can find in public health data which show the Vale being significantly worse than South Oxfordshire are deaths from coronary heart disease where the percentages are 78.8 and 72.4.

All other causes of death (based on 2013-2017 data) are roughly comparable.

So we need to make our hearts healthier and that means making ourselves healthier.

Apparently many risk factors are dictated by lifestyle and behaviours so it’s all down to us.

58.4 per cent of us are classified as overweight (52.1 per cent in South Oxfordshire) and these figures date from before the pandemic so I’m sure they would be higher now.

Slightly more of us were physically active than in South Oxfordshire and less of us suffered from alcohol related problems.

Diet is part of the problem, we’re eating too much refined food and not enough things like whole grains.

Before writing this I didn’t know what ‘whole grains’ were but now I know that they include barley, brown rice, buckwheat, bulgur (cracked wheat), millet, oatmeal and whole-wheat bread, pasta or cereal.

So my porridge and brown rice are a start!

Newbury Street Patient Group are hosting a Zoom session on ‘Healthy Hearts and Minds’ on 15th April at 8pm. So they should be able to tell us more. See the Practice website or Facebook for the Zoom link.


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