This site is intended for health professionals only

The looming heart disease ‘time bomb’ and how dogs sniff out low blood sugar

The Telegraph has a front-page splash today on what it describes as the ‘heart disease time-bomb’ based on a Government report warning that three in four adults are likely to have heart disease or diabetes by 2030 – and that the NHS won’t be able to cope.

The paper says current trends for diseases linked with obesity and people living longer, coupled with recent staff cuts, mean there will be a shortage of almost 50,000 nurses within three years and far more in 15 years’ time. Royal College of Nursing general secretary Dr Peter Carter said: ‘We are facing a major problem and the Government needs to accept this honest appraisal, and tackle the issues, rather than try to bury bad news.’

Over at the Daily Express the front-page news is about dogs using their acute sense of smell to detect low blood sugar levels for their diabetic owners, helping to prevent them suffering a hypoglycaemic attack. According to a study published in PLoS ONE, the dogs can be trained to raise the alarm by barking, pawing or even fetching a blood testing kit.

Lead researcher Dr Helena Rooney from University of Bristol vet school said: ‘Glycaemia-alert dogs placed with clients with diabetes afford significant improvements to owner wellbeing.’

And scientists have developed a blood test they say could identify people at risk of suicide, the Daily Mail reports. In a small study they found levels of the marker SAT1 were raised in patients with bipolar disorder who displayed a sudden shift to suicidal thoughts – as well as in patients who had completed suicide.

Study leader Dr Alexander Niculescu, from Indiana University, said: ‘There are people who will not reveal they are having suicidal thoughts when you ask them, who then commit it and there’s nothing you can do about it. We need better ways to identify, intervene and prevent these tragic cases.’

But Professor Michael Hotopf, from the Institute of Pyschiatry in London was sceptical. He said: ‘It’s one thing to find a biomarker which might be associated at a statistical level with suicidal behaviour. It’s quite another to use it to make any kind of prediction which has clinical utility.’