Pint of Science Part2: Getting Healthy: Never Too Late to Save Yourself

In the name of science… we drank beer at the Rusty Bike on the final night of the Pint of Science Festival. As the title suggests, the evening’s theme was getting healthy – although I have to say, the irony of this health conscious focus in a pub filled with scholars and members of the public did not go unnoticed. 

This time there were only two presentations on the importance of physical activity.

The event kicked off with Dr David Strain – one of the more eventful and engaging public speakers I have seen in quite some time – talking about the importance of reducing the risk of diabetes (important to note that we are talking about Type II diabetes here). What jumped out of this talk was the message that diabetes isn’t something new and definitely not something to be ashamed off. The stigma around diabetes is very damaging indeed, although often linked to obesity and physical inactivity. This is not a chronic disease of the “fat and lazy.” In fact, the precursor to diabetes, before 3 generations ago, meant that you were more likely to survive a famine, or long periods of low sustenance. People who were able to put on weight quickly were actually, in terms of survival of the fittest: the fittest. But then, evil emerged, and McDonalds set up shop everywhere! Making diabetes – problematic. Of course, the blame is not with McDonalds, but the booming food industry meant that food is now available – and aggressively marketed – 24/7, everywhere. This means that we are no longer low on food for longer periods of time and this predisposition to put on weight quickly is now a health problem. Increasing our physical activity, by engaging in moderate exercise significantly reduces the risk of Type II diabetes and is even able to reduce complications in those with diabetes.

Diabetes is reaching epidemic proportions, with, globally, a new diagnosis every 5 seconds and it can also be the cause of many medical complications. However, a lot can be done to reduce risks, but only in partnership with doctors, nurses, the person with diabetes and members of their family. We will talk about how to reduce your risk of developing diabetes and how to reduce the risk of developing complications in those with diabetes. But we are just not active enough!

Consultation time with the patient is very limited and doctors try to convey a message in short time, whilst patients are trying to decipher what the message really is. It is important to find the most effective way of spending that doctor-patient time, to ensure the message comes across, and plans of action are developed.

The second presentation was introduced by members of the Sports and Health Sciences department. Following on from the first talk, the importance of increasing our physical activity (or more like reducing our inactivity) was highlighted as a way of reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases (CVD). Most interestingly they found that childhood inactivity is a huge predictor of CVD and their collective experiments found that a single bout of brief, high-intensity exercise can improve control of blood sugar and fat, as well as lower blood pressure. Children have to be active every single day for a MINIMUM of 60 minutes, as unlikely as it sounds, children are just NOT meeting even these minimal required physical activity guidelines – for girls less than 1% meets these guidelines. They used new measures to examine the benefits of exercise and found that the thickness of our bloodvessel is a great predictor of CVD. High-intensity physical activity actually has an influence on the bloodvessel wall, reducing the risk of CVD at a later point in life.

Again, just like the day before, I left feeling intrigued, intellectually stimulated, and with more questions than I came in! ah … the life of an academic.

If you want to read up on the previous evening’s event, just pop over to Tempted, sugar-coated, and emotional !?!


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