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How Alzheimer's disease could be prevented through healthier lifestyles and other health stories

A round-up of the morning’s health news headlines on Monday 14 July.

Over the weekend, The Guardian revealed how a little-known loophole in the data protection act means that the home office has been using ‘non-clinical’ information from medical records to track down illegal immigrants.

NHS records for more than 6,900 people were accessed under the exemption, which allows officials to see where people have accessed the health system but not details of their conditions or treatment.

Ruth Grove-White, policy director of the Migrants’ Rights Network, told the Guardian: ‘NHS staff are already under pressure and the last thing we need is for them to be forced to act as immigration officers as well,’

She added that the findings were ‘disturbing’ and said there could be a public health consequence to discouraging people from visiting their GP or hospital.

As many as a third of Alzheimers cases could be prevented by leading a healthier lifestyle, meaning 200,000 fewer cases in the UK by 2050, according to a new study in the Lancet Neurology.

The BBC reports that a Cambridge based team used population data to identify the seven greatest risk factors, including: diabetes, mid-life hypertension, mid-life obesity, physical inactivity, depression, smoking and low-educational attainment.

Professor Carol Brayne, from the Institute of Public Health at the University of Cambridge, said: ‘Although there is no single way to treat dementia, we may be able to take steps to reduce our risk of developing dementia at older ages.’

And finally, The Independent reports that medical trainees are not receiving enough training to adequately meet the ‘complex needs’ of older patients, with some undergraduates receiving just 55 hours training over five years.

A report by Nottingham University hospital researchers polled British medical schools and found a ‘consummate mismatch’ between the proportion of time doctors would spend with elderly patients, and the amount of training devoted to their care.

The report’s author, Dr Adam Gordon, said ‘inadequate communication, poor recognition of problems and by difficulties around communication around end of life, resuscitation and dementia’ caused major problems in the health service and this was a consequence of the lack of training.

The main reason, he said, was “a consequence of the fact that doctors are not receiving the right sort of training at the right sort of intensity”.

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