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Politics, Brexit and economics are the topics which have dominated the headlines in recent months. However, important as these issues may be, arguably there is nothing more important than our health.

Health Threats Facing Britons

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the top health threats facing Britons this year, and what we can do to address them.

Obesity

Recent figures for the UK Parliament show that over one quarter of English adults, 28.7% in fact, are obese.

Recent figures for the UK Parliament show that over one quarter of English adults, 28.7% in fact, are obese. This is in addition to another 35.6% of adults who are overweight. Officially, adults are considered to be overweight is they have a BMI (body mass index) between 25 and 30, and those with a BMI over 30 are considered obese. Perhaps most significantly, obesity rates have increased alarmingly in recent decades, and this trend is set to continue.

Obesity is a significant health concern because it is linked to a large number of conditions and diseases, some of them deadly. Obesity greatly increase the risk of contracting diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers. In addition, obesity during pregnancy can lead to short and long term health risks for the baby.

In the UK, obesity is tied strongly to demographics. Generally, older age groups are more likely to be overweight or obese, though childhood obesity is also a growing problem. Additionally, those living in more deprived areas are more likely to be obese than those in wealthier districts. Obesity can be a complex picture, but the two main causal factors are poor diet and lack of exercise.

Increased sedentary lifestyles in the UK in recent decades, combined with diets that are higher in saturated fat, processed foods, salt and sugar than ever, are the primary reasons for the rise of obesity. The best way to address this epidemic is through the promotion of healthy eating habits and more active lifestyles.

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Sexually Transmitted Infections

Nearly half a million Britons are diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection (STI) every year, and the numbers of cases has risen in recent years. However, these statistics don’t tell the whole story. Figures suggest that hundreds of thousands of people in the UK are likely suffering from undiagnosed STI’s. This may include a number of different infections, but particularly chlamydia which is completely asymptomatic in around half of all male sufferers and three quarters of female cases.

So why are there so many Britons with undiagnosed STI’s in this age of modern medicine, where testing is easily accessible, and treatment simple and painless, especially when detected early? Complacency is likely to be a major reason. Stigma may very well be another: we simply do not talk enough about STI’s meaning this remains a taboo subject even today, and many people are reluctant to raise the issue with their doctor, meaning they neither receive diagnosis nor treatment. Not only can this lead to major health complications in the long term, but it also means that sufferers may spread the infection to others.

A good way to get around this stigma and make sure people feel comfortable to seek testing and treatment is through dedicated sexual health or GUM clinics, such as the specialty GUM clinic in Birmingham. These clinic specialise in the dedication, treatment, and prevention of STI’s in a dedicate and confidential space, making people more likely to seek out these services.

Corona Virus

Originating in China, the coronavirus is a new threat which has the potential to present extreme and deadly risks in many parts of the world, including the UK. This deadly virus has now been responsible for at least 17 deaths, mostly in China. With the first case recently reported in the US, fears are growing that this highly infectious virus could spread globally, and fast. Other cases have been reported in Asian countries, including Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea.

Symptoms of the disease include respiratory problems such as coughing and sneezing, as well as fever and shortness of breath. In severe cases, this can progress to pneumonia, kidney failure and even death.

One of the reasons why this virus has such a great potential to spread is that it has such a long incubation period. Because sufferers may take up to a week between getting infected and showing symptoms, they may have no idea they are sick, travelling and spreading the infection in the meantime.

On January 22, the Department of Health announced that it would be monitoring flights from relevant parts of China to London Heathrow, and taking extra precautionary measures to stop the spread of the virus to the UK. Globally, scientists are working on a vaccine for the virus, but this is predicted to take at least a few months, meaning that infections could spread rapidly in the meantime.