Here it is, your heart

The British Heart Foundation has launched a new advertising campaign that features an amazing real-time simulation of a beating heart.

The campaign confronts viewers with the perhaps gory but nevertheless fascinating reality of the most vital of vital organs, and challenges them to think about heart and circulatory disease – Britain’s biggest killer.

British Heart Foundation Director of Policy and Communications, Betty McBride, said, “We wanted to confront people with the reality of what a working heart looks like. This is a rare chance for people to see in incredible detail how it works. We expect people to react in lots of different ways – whether it’s amazed, squeamish or disturbed. It’s vital that we get people to take time to think about their heart health.”

The Virtual Heart Simulator was developed in a collaboration between specialists at The Heart Hospital in London and design agency Glassworks. The British Heart Foundation boasts that this fantastic video represents “the biggest technical advancement since Leonardo da Vinci sketched the heart 500 years ago.”

The campaign advertises the guidance and advice that the British Heart Foundation provides, not least through its Heart Helpline, where cardiac nurses and information officers are on hand 9am-10pm, seven days a week, to provide free confidential information on heart health issues.

The campaign website also features a helpful A-Z of the heart, which explains in plain english cardiology terms such as ‘supraventricular tachycardia’ and ‘cardiomyopathy’.

  • You can call the Heart Helpline on 0300 333 1 333, or alternatively peruse the British Heart Foundation website www.bhf.org.uk for stacks of information on heart health
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British Heart Foundation petition against cigarette machines

The British Heart Foundation has launched a petition to ban the sale of cigarettes from vending machines in the UK. The charity hopes that banishing cigarette vending machines will reduce the number of under 18s who take up smoking.

In the UK you need to be at least 18 years old to buy cigarettes from a shop and, technically, this old to get cigarettes from a vending machine. Vending machines aren’t manned, however, making it easier for under 18s to circumvent this rule and get their hands on cigarettes. 66% of adult smokers started when they were under age, so stopping people from taking up smoking as teenagers is crucial to prevent a livelong addition to cigarettes.

According to the BHF, 6% of children aged 11-15 are regular smokers and as many as one in six of these teenagers buy their cigarettes from cigarette vending machines. A 2007 study reporting on test purchases by young people found that teenagers were able to buy cigarettes from vending machines on more than four in ten occasions, with a number of councils reporting a 100% successful purchase rate. Using vending machines was the most successful way for young people to get hold of cigarettes – almost twice as successful as other ways tested such as purchasing cigarettes from a newsagent, off licence or petrol station kiosk.

Smoking is a leading risk factor for heart disease – of the 114,000 smokers who die as a result of smoking each year in the UK, one in four die from cardiovascular disease. Measures to help people quit smoking, or stop them from smoking in the first place, are thus a key part of the BHF’s strategy.

  • You can help put cigarette vending machines out of order for good by signing the BHF petition here.
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November 14th is World Diabetes Day

Tomorrow the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) is leading World Diabetes Day, the primary global awareness campaign of the diabetes world.

World Diabetes Day is celebrated annually November 14th, the birthday of Frederick Banting, who in 1922, along with Charles Best, conceived the idea that led to the discovery of insulin.

The theme for this year and for 2007 is ‘Diabetes in Children and Adolescents’. The incidence of type 1 diabetes in children is increasing at a rate of 3% each year and is increasing fastest in preschool children (a rate of 5% per year). Type 2 diabetes has been reported in children as young as 8 years old. Over half of all children with diabetes develop complications – such as heart disease and blindness – within 15 years.

The World Diabetes Day 2007-2008 campaign aims to:
• Increase the number of children supported by the IDF Life for Child Program, a international aid endeavor that provides life-saving medication to children with diabetes in developing countries.
• Raise awareness of the warning signs of diabetes.
• Encourage initiatives to reduce diabetic ketoacidosis.
• Promote healthy lifestyles to help prevent type 2 diabetes in children.

One of the key events of is the lighting of buildings and monuments in blue – the colour of the diabetes circle. In 2008, the aim is to encourage a total of 500 monuments and iconic buildings to light up to mark World Diabetes Day. The owners of the London Eye have already pledged to light up their monument; the Sears Tower in Chicago, Niagara Falls on the US/Canada border and the Alamo in Texas are also going blue. You can see pictures of buildings that were lit up in 2007 on the IDF Flickr page.

The global diabetes community is organizing a range of activities, including radio and television programmes, public information meetings, poster and leaflet campaigns, newspaper and magazine articles, events for kids, and walks, runs, and bicycle races.

Members of the public encouraged to show their support of diabetes awareness by lighting blue World Diabetes candles; a percentage of the sales of these candles will go to support children with diabetes on the Life for a Child Program.

The World Diabetes Day website includes lists of activities in various cities worldwide, so check it out and get involved!

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Diabetes gonna get you

About 10 days ago Diabetes UK launched their biggest ever UK public awareness campaign – Beware the silent assassin. I first got wind of the campaign when I spotted this arresting poster at Old Street tube station in east London.

The campaign has been launched on the back of research by Mori showing that people tend to underestimate the severity of the complications associated with diabetes; for example, only 29% of adults are aware of the link between diabetes and heart disease, and only 46% appreciate that diabetes shortens life expectancy. Diabetes UK says, “This research tells us that the public see diabetes as rather mild and easily managed – something of an inconvenience rather than the serious condition it can be.”

In addition, an estimated 500,000 people in the UK have the condition but are not aware of it, so are at risk of being diagnosed too late to prevent the complications of diabetes. “Dealing with the diabetes time-bomb is a matter of urgency if we want to prevent millions of people from facing a grim future of ill-health,” said Douglas Smallwood, Chief Executive of Diabetes UK.

The ‘hard-hitting campaign’ launched by the charity aims to spook the public into realizing that diabetes is serious condition that can potentially cause heart disease, stroke, amputations, kidney failure and blindness.

The images, which will appear on outdoor posters as well as in newspapers and magazines, feature an ominous ghostly figure – the specter of undiagnosed diabetes presumably – pouncing on unsuspecting members of the public. The ads also include secondary warning messages such as:
– Diabetes causes more deaths than breast and prostate cancer combined.
– The death certificate will say heart attack. It was really diabetes.
– Diabetes causes heart disease, stroke, amputations, kidney failure and blindness.
So far so portentous.

The campaign also encourages people at risk of developing type 2 diabetes, i.e. the overweight, to make changes in their lifestyle to avoid a future of chronic disease. As the blurb states, “With early diagnosis and by leading a healthier lifestyle and improving diabetes control, the risk of developing these serious complications can be minimised. “

The adverts refer readers to a microsite developed especially for the campaign, which has quizzes to help users establish their risk of developing diabetes and gives information and support on managing the condition.

I personally feel that these adverts suggest that diabetes could to strike you dead on the spot – assassinate you – the way heart disease might, but is this really the case? On the other hand, a campaign educating our increasingly overweight population that diabetes is a serious and mostly preventable disease is certainly needed, and it is quite likely that striking adverts such as these will get people thinking more seriously about their health.

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