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Torbay urged to do more to prevent killer disease

Thursday, 11 January 2024 15:15

By local democracy reporter, Guy Henderson

Image: Reza Mehrad/Unsplash

Health report shows stark figures

Torbay’s director of public health has urged the local community to do more to combat one of the bay’s biggest killers.

Dr Lincoln Sargeant used his latest annual report on the bay’s health to target cardiovascular disease, and said it was important to underline key advice on smoking, diet and exercise.

But, he added: “Sometimes these messages do not necessarily come best from the director of public health. They come best from local communities.”

His report says cardiovascular disease remains one of the biggest causes of premature death and disability in the bay, with an impact worsened by the covid pandemic.

In Torbay, one in four deaths of people aged from 50 to 74 is caused by heart disease, and rates of cardiovascular disease are higher than the national average. Twice as many men as women are admitted to hospital as a result.

Deprivation is a major factor, with the bay having some of the most deprived areas in the UK according to government figures.

In Torbay over the last 10 years, people in the most deprived fifth of the population have been more than six times more likely to die prematurely from coronary heart disease than those in the least deprived.

“Given that we know how to diagnose and prevent it, why does it persist as a cause of premature death and disability for so many in our community?” he asked.

“If we make some key changes it can reduce some of the burden of ill health. Torbay has a relatively high proportion of working age people who have some level of disability, and that has some knock-on effects in terms of our economy.

“Even if we can delay these events it makes a great difference.”

Dr Sargeant said it was worrying that each generation forgets the basic health messages. Children see their parents smoking, for instance, and go on to take up smoking themselves.

They only see it as a problem when they try to give up, and realise that they have become addicted.

He said the basics are stopping smoking, reducing drinking and paying attention to diet and physical activity. People should cut down on eating red meat and processed food, and eat more fruit and vegetables.

Reducing body weight, he said, would bring ‘tangible benefits’.

“We have probably become tired of talking about the basics, because to some extent they are so obvious,” he added.

“But if you smoke, there is a good chance that you will die from a smoke-related cause. We don’t say that enough.

“These messages do come best through local communities. How can we galvanise some of that community approach to land some of these messages in new and innovative ways?”

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