Drink, drugs, couch potato lifestyles and overeating shorten our life

Change your lifestyle and stay out of the health centre, says Jackie Irvine.

By Bill Heaney

What kind of people are we at all?  This rhetorical question is usually followed by the shaking of heads and shrugging of shoulders.

And then simply carrying on with our dissolute lifestyles, which are sending too many of us to an early grave.

Did you know that West Dunbartonshire at 25 per cent of the population has the highest number of smokers in the country?

Accurate alcohol consumption data for West Dunbartonshire is difficult to obtain, principally because patients are economical with truth when they are asked about their drinking habits.  Only 15 per cent of people can answer honestly that they don’t drink at all.

Forty per cent of people aged over 60 do not take part in any physical activity and cycling and walking travel remains lower than the Scottish average by five per cent.

The local Health Board rates for overweight and obesity are lower than the Scottish average.  However being overweight and obese increases with age.

We are a nightmare on so many health, fitness and lifestyle issues that the relatively new Health and Social Care Partnership, which runs in tandem with West Dunbartonshire Council, has to have Quit your Way smoking cessation services.

And that’s not all.  Smoking is bad enough for your health, but then there’s drugs – substance misuse. The jakeys and the junkeys are always with us.

When we are not knocking it back, puffing away and taking drugs, too many of us are getting fat on carry outs and chilling out on the sofa.

Jackie Irvine, the Chief Social Worker based in Dumbarton, suggests we get the finger out.  And that we seek a cure, prevention, treatment and recovery via Community Planning West Dunbartonshire Alcohol and Drug Partnership co-ordinating and delivering through the Improvement Plan.

Rough sleepers gather for a drinking session on the Meadows in EdinburghEarly morning drinkers die sooner than other people. Picture by Bill Heaney

Her annual report, which makes grim reading, says the HSCP need to continue to promote positive health behaviour change as integral part of self care and self management.

In other words, they need to get people to start looking after themselves a lot better than they are doing at present.

This is a major challenge since when diabetes and cancer come into the picture, the HSCP needs to implement a Diet and Obesity Strategy, in particular addressing the obesity risk factors for cancer and type 2 diabetes.

So, who are they going to call?

Beth CulshawThe HSCP, which is headed up by Chief Officer Beth Culshaw, pictured right, needs to continue to work alongside West Dunbartonshire Leisure and Working 4U to support lifestyle changes.

But then there’s people’s mental health, much of it caused by misusing drugs.

According to GPs, the rate of depression in West Dunbartonshire (82.9 per 1000) is higher than the Scottish rate (73 per 1000).

There are locality differences with Clydebank having a higher rate than the Alexandria/Dumbarton area, a difference of 5.9.

Although suicide rates for West Dunbartonshire are lower than Scotland as a whole, suicide remains a significant issue here.

Alcohol hospital related stays are higher than the Scottish average and increasing, which is in contrast to the Scottish position.

Alcohol liver disease is increasing, but drink-related death rates are slowly decreasing.

But, and there is usually a but, this masks an increase in deaths in the 45 plus age group.

Drug related hospital stays are higher than average and follow the national trend with the largest number of deaths for males aged 35-44.

The HSCP is committed to try to deliver on areas of responsibility outlined in newly developed five-year Health Board Mental Health Improvement Plan.

It’s enough to give anyone a heart attack.

The snapshot extract from GP registers shows that the rate of heart disease (45.1 per 1000) is higher than the Scottish rate (39.8 per 1000).

It shows that the prevalence of stroke in Clydebank (27.8 per 1000) is higher than the Alexandria/Dumbarton rate (22.8 per 1000) with a difference of five per 1000. Hypertension prevalence is higher in Dumbarton/Alexandria locality than Clydebank.

Nationally, there is a predicted rapid growth in hypertension with a predicted accelerated growth in heart failure which is notably faster in males. “Without considerable changes in risk factors, such as smoking, diet and physical inactivity, the ageing population will result in a sizeable increase in cardiovascular disease,” says the report.

And then there is dementia where consideration needs to be given to preventing risk factors where there is a predicted rapid growth such as hypertension for males. The prevalence of dementia in West Dunbartonshire reflects the Scottish rate (8 per 1000 population). The Clydebank prevalence (9.2 per 1000 population) is higher than Dumbarton/Alexandria (7.1 per 1000 population).

Nationally, there is projected increase for individuals diagnosed with dementia (17% by 2020), with and projected accelerated growth in the 70+ age group.

The HSCP needs to continue to ensure that people’s dementia care needs are better anticipated so that fewer people are inappropriately admitted to hospital or long-term social care, Ms Irvine states..

Early diagnoses and a patient centred approach to self-care, self-management should be delivered in line with the Dementia Improvement Plan.

And the HSCP need to consider carers needs reflecting the national projected increase in dementia diagnosis. So far as diabetes is concerned, the prevalence of diabetes (type 1 and 2) is higher in West Dunbartonshire.

Ms Irvine, who was based at Hartfield Clinic in Dumbarton but has now left and taken up a new post in Edinburgh, said: “The Annual Report has been compiled with contributions from staff and managers across the service and reflects the commitment of the staff of the Health & Social Care Partnership.”


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