The number of people with diabetes in the UK is almost 1.8 million and this is continuing to rise, according to recent figures. But only about half of these are currently diagnosed. It is obviously essential to ensure that these people are diagnosed as early as possible and then managed appropriately to ensure they receive the best possible care to minimise long-term complications. In this article, we review how to diagnose diabetes accurately, based on good practice recommended in standard two of the National Service Framework (NSF) for Diabetes. What should we be measuring in people who present with the classic symptoms and in those who do not to ensure an accurate diagnosis of diabetes?
Some fat is essential for maintaining good health, in order to provide essential fatty acids and the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Essential fatty acids can only be derived from foods because they cannot be synthesised by the body. However, the hard truth is that essential fatty acids represent only a very small amount of total energy needs and most people still consume too much fat. How much fat should we be eating? What is the difference between different types of fats and what advice should we be giving patients about fats to reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease?
Stroke is common, affecting around one in four people over the age of 45 at some time in their lives. Increasing age is a major risk factor for stroke, so the numbers of people suffering a stroke will increase with the ageing population. Primary care teams have a central role in providing effective secondary prevention, but because patients often fall between primary and secondary care, things may be missed. Taking a systematic approach to assessing risk factors, such as blood pressure, and treating them effectively can significantly reduce further stroke risk.
Rehabilitation after a myocardial infarction (MI) includes all aspects of a patient's life – medical, physical and social. Sexual functioning is an important part of most people's lives. Fears about whether having sexual intercourse could trigger another heart attack is the question many post-MI patients want to ask but embarrassment may stop them. Giving accurate information about sex after an MI is just as much a part of patient education as telling them about cholesterol and blood pressure and can go a long way to helping recovery and preventing further problems such as sexual dysfunction.
An increasing number of patients are prescribed statins because of the growing evidence that they can dramatically reduce cardiovascular events. However, the withdrawal of one statin – cerivastatin – some time ago may have made some patients concerned about their safety. What should we be telling patients about the benefits of statins, how long they should take them for and whether there are any risks with these widely used agents?
For people with long-term conditions, self-care can have as much, if not more, influence on their health than prescribed medication and treatment. Yet, in many cases, healthcare professionals become frustrated when attempts to improve peoples' self-care behaviours prove unsuccessful. This article looks at some of the reasons why it can be difficult to encourage people with diabetes or cardiovascular disease to look after themselves effectively; what types of practice can help us to increase people's success in managing long-term conditions; and how we can incorporate empowering techniques in our day-to-day consultations.
Patients with diabetes are at high risk of cardiovascular disease and aspirin is an important part of prevention strategies. Although it is effective and relatively well-tolerated, studies have shown that many patients with diabetes are not taking aspirin. In this article, we review why aspirin should be considered in patients with diabetes, the benefits it might achieve and areas where caution is required.
Most people with hypertension are diagnosed and managed on the basis of blood pressure (BP) measurements taken by healthcare professionals in the surgery. Although clinic readings remain the accepted method of measuring and monitoring BP, they are widely acknowledged to be prone to inaccuracies, such as the infamous 'white coat effect' that can lead to artificially high readings. In addition, the relatively small number of readings generally taken in the clinic offers only a 'snapshot' look at BP levels that may not reflect real values.
There is increasing evidence that the use of self BP measurement – with patients monitoring their own BP at home – may provide some advantages over BP measurement in the clinic or surgery. These include potentially more accurate readings and average values that are more reproducible and reliable than traditional clinic measurements. In this article we look at the evidence for the use of home BP monitoring and the accuracy of home monitors.
The management of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in primary care has been transformed in recent years, particularly with extensive use of statins in secondary prevention. But what about the less high-tech approach of getting patients to eat more healthily? Dietary advice has traditionally been offered primarily to those needing to lose weight or lower their lipid levels. But more recently, systematic reviews have shown good evidence that dietary changes can reduce mortality and morbidity in addition to modifying some risk factors in patients with coronary heart disease. Evidence to date suggests similar benefits of healthier eating are likely in primary prevention. In this new series – Food for Thought – we sort the wheat from the chaff when it comes to dietary advice for patients with cardiovascular disease. This article will focus on the benefits of oily fish, with the good news that simply increasing oily fish intake achieves major benefits.