Wednesday, 29 September 2010

I want to ride my bicycle

We were as amazed as anybody when super-kid Harrison Nicholson, only 10 years old, signed up to ride 50 miles for us this weekend in the Coventry bike ride.

Last year, Harrison cycled the 30 mile route for us and was heard to say at the finish line; “That was easy Mum, I want to do 50 miles next year!”

And this amazing lad is doing just that, surprising even his parents. Mum, Kylie, isn’t sure that she will be able to cycle anywhere near 50 miles so she is going half way with him - at which point his dad, John, will be taking over.

Harrison says, “I like riding my bike because I love the speed and the thrill of riding along the Canal. I love cycling with my Mum and Dad and try to cycle further with them every time – so this weekend will be fantastic.”

Harrison’s story has created loads of excitement – locals in Coventry will be able to catch him tonight on BBC Radio Coventry and Warwick, as well as on Mercia Radio tomorrow night.

Harrison really wants to cycle with kids his own age, so if you know anyone taking part who might like to do that, they will find Harrison at the registration flag before the start of the event this Sunday.

There are 17 kids taking part who are under 16, and the oldest participant is an amazing 70 years old –all ages and abilities are welcome! There is still time to enter and encourage Harrison and the other cyclists in this fantastic event.

If you want to join Harrison this year, visit our website. You can tailor-make your personal challenge by choosing between the 30 and 50 mile routes along the rural roads of

Warwickshire, taking in autumnal colours of the beautiful English countryside. Adults are £15 and children are £5 on the day and the ride starts at 9am this Sunday, 3rd October.

You can sponsor Harrison by visiting his Just Giving page.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

BHF blogger challenge: step forward fashionistas!

This month we have been encouraging you all to join the nation for the Big Donation - the UK’s biggest ever stock appeal.

To help raise awareness of the Big Donation and promote recyclable fashion, we organised a ‘bloggers fashion challenge’. We approached popular fashion bloggers and asked them to go into their local BHF Shop with a small donation of their own, and then set them the task of picking out a whole outfit, styling it into a successful ensemble and blogging about it to the world!

Three high profile fashionistas stepped up to the challenge and hunted their way through our rails and each produced some amazing vintage chic outfits. Check out their fantastic outfits by clicking on the links below:
We now want to set all our supporters a challenge!

Do you think you can pick out a better outfit? If so upload a picture to our Flickr group or email us the photo and tell us which BHF shop you got the outfit from!

We can’t wait to see what you come up with! So get shopping…and don’t forget to recycle your fashion and donate your unwanted bits and bobs while you’re there, you can find your nearest BHF shop on our map.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Andrew Lansley answers BHF question on future of heart nurses

In today’s live web chat with the Royal College of Nursing, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley answered our important question about the future of specialist heart nurses.

Via Twitter, we asked: Our specialist heart nurses prevent admissions & save money. How will long term savings be prioritised over short term cuts?

In his response, Andrew Lansley seemed to emphasise the important and “effective” work our heart nurses do. He also said the health service should recognise that our nurses could provide opportunities rather than extra costs in the face of the Government’s continuing drive to make savings.

But why did we ask the Health Secretary about the future of our nurses?

Over the years, specialist heart nurses have become a lifeline for those suffering from heart disease and patients and carers have come to trust them. Their expert clinical and emotional support helps people with cardiovascular disease regain control of their lives every single day.

For the last eight years we’ve trained and supported specialist heart nurses in NHS trusts up and down the country. We now support 426 nurses who provide invaluable care to more than 80,000 patients each year.

We know that tough decisions are going to have to be made in the current economic situation. But we’re worried that a short term view to savings might see cuts to specialist nurses and we think that would be a false economy. Our nurses keep people out of hospital, reducing the enormous burden heart disease puts on healthcare services.

Let’s talk about a specific example. As you read this around 720,000 people are living with heart failure and our nurses’ caring and expert help improves the lives of so many. Having heart failure can make everyday life a challenge for so many people as they require regular check-ups, need to manage complex medication regimes while many more experience disabling symptoms which leave them housebound.

And if you weren’t persuaded by the benefits to patients, then there’s a compelling business case as well. An independent evaluation in 2008 found Heart Failure Specialist Nurses saved around £1,826 per patient after the nurse’s salary had been deducted. That’s £8m in a single year. Our efforts helped cut hospital admissions by, on average, 35%. Why would we want to make cuts to a service which actually saves us money?

If specialist posts were put at risk as part of the Government’s latest efficiency drive, the quality of life for those suffering from heart disease would be greatly diminished, at a significant cost to the NHS.

Beatrice Brooke, Policy manager

Monday, 20 September 2010

Blood vessels don’t forget

Here BHF Professor, Mark Hanson, from University of Southampton gives us an insight into his research into blood pressure, and how we’re all a chip off the old block.

Blood vessels don’t forget

Like the plumbing in a house, our circulation is made up of a network of pipes. They deliver blood, oxygen and nutrients to every tissue in our bodies. However, unlike the rigid pipework in a house, our blood vessels are sensitive and responsive. They expand and contract to regulate our blood pressure and blood flow according to the needs of our bodies.

Our vessels control blood pressure day to day, month to month, keeping it surprisingly steady in each of us. But just like many other aspects of our bodies, people differ in their pressures and flows. So how do blood vessels know how to cope with our differences?

Part of the answer is that they learn on the job. What teaches them? It turns out to be growing up – our life in the womb before we are born, and then our early years as infants and young children.

As our bodies grow, so do our blood vessels. And as they grow they are exposed to many things - diet, hormones, stress, and more. Many of these things come from the mother, in signals which cross the placenta or in her milk. This is why a healthy lifestyle and diet is so important during pregnancy and childhood.

The settings our blood vessels learn affect how they respond to the challenges of our lives later – what we eat, how much we exercise, whether we smoke or drink too much alcohol, and so on. As we get older, these settings have a great influence on whether we remain healthy or get cardiovascular disease, and explain partly why the risk of disease varies between individuals.

We’re beginning to understand how the memory of our early lives is stored in our blood vessels. What happens in the womb doesn’t change the DNA we inherit from our parents, but it does appear to affect the way DNA works in the lining and muscular walls of our blood vessels. These changes are called epigenetic processes.

Our new knowledge about epigenetics holds out hope for future prevention of cardiovascular disease. Epigenetic changes occur in early life, so by measuring them we may be able to tell how large the risk of disease will be in a person many years later. Or we might be able to devise new treatments, personalised to each of us, and monitor how well they work.

Epigenetic ‘marks’ on our DNA are like memories of our early lives which stay with us for years – our blood vessels don’t forget.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Watch out for secret salt

Eating healthily isn’t supposed to be difficult, and when you are trying really hard to do the right thing it’s frustrating to find that your ‘healthy option‘has thrown you a curve ball. But that’s what a survey in the news a couple of weeks ago seemed to suggest with its findings showing that some salads were saltier than a burger.

Salt is a tricky one because it’s not always so easy to tell how much a product contains, if any - it looks the same whether there is salt in it or not. And because most of us adults are eating more than our recommended maximum daily amount of salt, which is 6g (about a teaspoon), we are often so used to the taste of it that we’re more likely to notice when it’s not there than when it is. So whereas we may be more alert to the fat or sugar in foods, it’s easy to forget about salt.

This is a problem, because over time, eating too much salt is linked to increased blood pressure. That’s why we believe it’s really important to have clear information on the front of food packaging. Traffic light colours and the words high, medium or low would mean that at a glance you can see what a product is like health-wise. When these two elements are combined with Guideline Daily Amount (GDA) information it’s the ideal combination to provide us with the information we need to make a real choice. At least then we know what we are getting into!

If you battling to understand food labels in your local shop, we have useful tips to help you get to grips with them.

But of course, the report shouldn’t put you off packaged salads entirely - they can be a healthy choice. Encouragingly the survey highlighted that a number of the companies had reformulated their products to reduce their salt content since 2005, which can only be a good thing. If some of the worst offenders also start to follow suit then it will be a real achievement.

For now though, the best way to really know what’s in the food you’re eating (and also to save money) is to make it yourself. Even the most reluctant cook can make a salad, but don’t get stuck in a lettuce, tomato, cucumber rut. Take a look at our recipe finder to add a bit of variety and try our flaked cherry tomato pasta salad or chicken rice salad – four green lights for both of them. Hearty, healthy and tasty - and without a salt cellar in sight!

Our free Heart Healthy Recipe Finder is available as an iPhone app, which even allows you to search for recipes suitable for people with high blood pressure or high cholesterol. You can also access it online through our free Heart Matters service.

Monday, 13 September 2010

What do my numbers really mean?

What do my numbers really mean?

I have my blood pressure checked fairly regularly. Generally, as long as my doctor doesn’t look worried by the digits he types into my medical records, I’m happy.

Sometimes I might ask what the reading is: “blah blah over blah” he replies cheerily. I nod my head and smile, none the wiser.

I’m familiar with the style of blood pressure readings, and know that there’s a big number ‘over’ a small number, but I wanted to find out what those numbers really mean…

Put simply, blood pressure is the pressure of blood in your arteries - the tubes that carry your blood from your heart to your brain and the rest of your body. You need a certain amount of pressure to get the blood around your body.

Your heart pumps in a regular rhythm squeezing oxygen-rich blood out of the big main artery – the aorta – which divides and branches into smaller and smaller vessels, nourishing every organ and tissue in the body.

The pressure of blood flowing through your arteries varies according to whether the heart is pumping or relaxing. Each time your heart pumps it contracts and blood is squeezed out, it creates a surge of pressure in the arteries. It’s this peak in pressure against the inside walls of your arteries that gives the top reading, which in medical terms is called your ‘systolic’ pressure.

After each beat/pump of your heart it has to relax to refill with blood, and the pressure of blood in your arteries falls, and this is the bottom reading. This is called your ‘diastolic’ pressure.

So, taking these two measurements give a reading of how much pressure your blood places on the inside walls of your arteries. This is blood pressure.

You should have your blood pressure measured so that you know what your target is. If you don’t have heart or circulatory disease, diabetes or kidney disease your target is to have a blood pressure below 140/85mmHg. (mmHg stands for millimetres of mercury, which are the units that are used to measure blood pressure).

However, if you have heart or circulatory disease – including being told you have coronary heart disease, angina, heart attack or stroke, have diabetes or kidney disease then your blood pressure should be below 130/80mmHg.

Ideally though your blood pressure would be quite well below these levels.

Know Your Numbers week starts today. We’ve got lots of booklets and info online about the ways to help your maintain a healthy blood pressure.