Are you missing out on a night’s worth of sleep every week?

People are under-sleeping by an average of almost an hour every night – losing an entire night’s sleep over the course of a week, warns The Royal Society for Public Health.

Are you missing out?

An RSPH poll shows that people feel getting enough sleep is the second most important activity for optimising their health, ahead of eating five fruit and vegetables a day, undertaking enough physical activity, and sticking to alcohol guidelines. The poll of 2,000 adults also reveals:

• average sleep time is 6.8 hours, below the average 7.7 hours people feel they need
• more than half (54%) have felt stressed as a result of poor sleep.

Experts are now calling for the introduction of national sleep guidance time – ‘a slumber number’ – to help inform people about the critical importance of sleep to wellbeing.

The RSPH says we need to wake up to the benefits of sleep. There is a wealth of evidence that lack of sleep is damaging to your health and is associated with a range of diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart attack and depression.


Make the link between alcohol and cancer

Almost 90 per cent of people in England still don’t associate drinking alcohol with an increased risk of cancer, according to Cancer Research UK.

Alcohol consumption is linked to an increased risk of cancer

Drinking alcohol is linked to an increased risk of seven different cancers – liver, breast, bowel, mouth, throat, oesophageal and laryngeal – but when people were asked: “Which, if any, health conditions do you think can result from drinking too much alcohol?” only 13 per cent mentioned cancer.

The survey also highlighted a lack of understanding of the link between drinking alcohol and the risk of developing certain types of cancer. While, when prompted, 80 per cent said they thought alcohol caused liver cancer, only 18 per cent were aware of the link with breast cancer. In fact alcohol causes 3,200 breast cancer cases each year compared to only 400 cases of liver cancer.

The new alcohol guidelines which came out in January make clear that there is no level of drinking which can be considered ‘safe’ from risks. So be sensible!

NHS 100,000 Genomes project takes another step…

It may be hard to imagine our beleaguered NHS as a ‘world leader’ in anything, but it is… The revolutionary 100,000 Genomes Project, launched in 2012, could transform diagnosis and treatment for patients with cancer and rare diseases and drive forward improvements in the emerging field of genomic medicine.

DNA: the future of medicine

There are now 13 NHS Genomic Medicine Centres (GMCs) across the country. Around 70,000 people will be involved in the Project, which includes some patients with cancer and rare diseases. They will enable scientists to learn more about specific conditions, identifying potential genetic causes and transforming the way diagnosis and treatment can take place in the future.

After patient DNA samples are collected, they are sent securely to be sequenced. Genomics England then analyses the data. Results will be sent back to the NHS for clinical action. The number of whole genomes sequenced to date is published each month on the Genomics England website.

This is the way medicine is heading in the 21st century!

New cases of dementia in the UK fall by 20% over two decades

The UK has seen a 20% fall in the incidence of dementia over the past two decades, according to research by the University of Cambridge. However, the study suggests that the dramatic change has been observed mainly in men.

Some good news on the dementia front

While the media has suggested that the number of people with dementia is set to mushroom as the population ages, several recent studies have suggested the picture is more complex. Measures which improve health such smoking reduction and attention to diet and exercise may be driving a reduction in risk.

The researchers found that the incidence of dementia – the proportion of people developing dementia in a given period – across two decades has dropped by 20%. These findings suggest that in the UK there are fewer than 210,000 new cases per year compared to an anticipated 250,000 new cases based on previous levels.

It is not clear why rates among men have declined faster than those among women, though it is possible that it is related to the drop in smoking and vascular health improving in men.