Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The ban on public smoking in Britain has coincided with a fall in heart attack rates of about 10%

This sounds like a lot of self-satisfied nonsense to me. Rates of smoking have been dropping for decades. How do we know that this drop was caused by the ban on public smoking? And if passive smoking gives you heart attacks, how come the non-smoking wives of male smokers have a normal life expectancy? This is just do-gooder rubbish

Researchers commissioned by the Department of Health have found a far sharper fall than they had expected in the number of heart attacks in England in the year after the ban was imposed in July 2007.

In Scotland, where the ban was introduced a year earlier, heart attack rates have fallen by about 14% because of the ban, separate research has shown. Similar results are expected in Wales where a third study is still under way.

The success of the smoking ban is emerging as one of the most significant improvements in public health that Britain has seen, even measured by heart attack rates alone.

The early results of the study of England will increase calls for an extension of the ban. Ministers have already commissioned research into the possibility of banning smoking in cars, where children are at their most exposed. There have also been suggestions that parents could be banned from smoking at home in front of children. In time, the ban should bring more benefits through reductions in cancers caused by smoking and chronic pulmonary disease.

“We always knew a public smoking ban would bring rapid health benefits, but we have been amazed by just how big and how rapid they are,” said John Britton, director of the UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies at Nottingham University.

About 9.4m British adults smoke; each year 114,000 die of smoking-related diseases. The ability of cigarette smoke to trigger heart attacks, even in non-smokers after just brief exposures, is less well known than its role in lung disease. About 275,000 people suffer heart attacks in Britain each year, of whom about 146,000 die.

Ellen Mason, a senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: “Exposure to cigarette smoke induces rapid changes in blood chemistry, making it much more prone to clotting. In someone who has narrowed or damaged coronary arteries, smoke exposure can tip the balance and cause a heart attack.”

The research into heart attack rates in England is being led by Anna Gilmore of Bath University. “There is already overwhelming evidence that reducing people’s exposure to cigarette smoke reduces hospital admissions due to heart attacks,” she said. Gilmore’s research is incomplete and she emphasises the final results for England will not be published for several months. However, the results for Scotland, where public smoking was banned earlier, have shown the benefits.

Jill Pell, public health professor at Glasgow University, and her colleagues found that after the ban the number of people admitted to nine Scottish hospitals because of a heart attack fell 14% among smokers, 19% among former smokers, and 21% for those who had never smoked. Once other factors had been taken into account, this translated into a decrease of about 14% because of the ban.

Last week the EuroHeart conference in Brussels heard of similar results in western Europe after smoking bans. France had a 15% drop in emergency admissions for heart attacks after a year, while both Italy and Ireland had an 11% reduction.


Study detects signs of autism in first weeks

Since physical attributes are almost entirely genetically inherited, this is not exactly surprising

A WORLD-FIRST study on siblings of children with autism is showing that signs associated with the behavioural disorder appear in babies in their first weeks of life. The Flinders University research is the first of its kind to study the behaviour of infants who have an increased risk of developing autism from as young as 10 days, and to revisit the children every second month until they are 18 months old.

The ability to diagnose children with an Autistic Spectrum Disorder within the first months could lead to significant improvements in a child's quality of life, because it would enable parents to seek early intervention therapies for their children and to circumvent the formation of specific behavioural patterns.

Study co-ordinator Danielle Robson told The Australian preliminary results were showing children in an at-risk group - with an older sibling with an ASD including Asperger's syndrome - were developing different behavioural patterns to children from families with no history of autism. "Many of the at-risk infants are showing early patterns of behaviour that's consistent with autism even if they don't go on to develop autism," Ms Robson said yesterday. "Even if they didn't develop autism, their development is different to infants with no family history of autism and what it should be, suggesting there may be a broader spectrum of the disorder among family members."

The plight of parents with autistic children was highlighted last week when national rugby league star Mat Rogers and his wife Chloe Maxwell revealed that their son Max had been diagnosed with the behavioural disorder. The family has been working with a therapist four hours a day and they have noticed the three-year-old now engages with them.

Autism affects up to 16 children per 10,000, with wider spectrum disorders affecting up to 60 children per 10,000. The assessments measured a wide range of developmental areas, including traits associated with autism such as responding to people, sensory perceptions and pictures. During her assessments, Ms Robson used toys, pictures, noises and other items to gauge the child's attention and watch how they responded.

Differences between the groups included noticeable autism-related behaviours such as their ability to pay attention, respond to their own name, early language development and cognitive abilities, temperament and sensory processing. As well as using four internationally recognised behavioural measures to identify ASDs, Ms Robson and Flinders University psychologist Robyn Young created an early detection tool to assess traits thought to develop atypically in autistic infants from birth. Autistic traits are not generally detected in children until they are at least three years old, and many not until school.

Ms Robson said early detection enabled parents to seek intervention therapy for the child as soon as possible, which could significantly alter the formation of behaviour patterns. "Early intervention seems to improve their prognosis; there's anecdotal evidence that starting intervention early can lead to better outcomes," she said. Early intervention involves behaviour-modifying therapy, such as working repetitively with children to improve their understanding of verbal instructions, play skills and teaching children how to respond to others.

Of the 39 children assessed, including 15 not at risk, Ms Robson was able to tell the parents of three children there were definite signs of an ASD before their first birthday. "Three of those families started doing some behaviour modifications and all of those children at 18 months old didn't have autism," she said.

The aim of the study is to investigate whether autism could be detected at a younger age than with present diagnoses.


Report: FDA backs Gardasil for young men

Federal health advisers say Merck's vaccine Gardasil, which already is used to prevent cervical cancer in women, should also be approved to stop genital warts in men. A Food and Drug Administration panel voted unanimously with one abstention that the vaccine is effective for blocking the human papilloma virus, or HPV, in males ages 9 to 26. The panel voted 7-1 that the vaccine is safe for those patients. The FDA is not required to follow the group's guidance, though it usually does.

HPV causes warts and certain rare cancers of the genitals in both men and women. While an approval decision could theoretically double the market for Gardasil, analysts don't expect much use in males because genital warts usually clear up by themselves.


1 comment:

John A said...

"... found that after the ban the number of people admitted to nine Scottish hospitals because of a heart attack fell 14% among smokers, 19% among former smokers, and 21% for those who had never smoked. Once other factors had been taken into account, this translated into a decrease of about 14% because of the ban."

Lessee... 21% fewer admissions among the 80% non-smokers, 19% per cent among those who quit [say 6% of total population?], 14% fewer among the 20% smokers, adjust for "factors", result - 14% fewer among the 100% population...

I wonder what those factors were? Especially since, despite what looks like funny stuff in the calculations, the shown result was that smokers and non-smokers end up with the same rate of hospital admission for heart trouble?