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17/Jun/2019

Veganuary is the ‘Hot Topic’ of the month, stirring emotions around animal cruelty, healthy living and giving the instagrammers endless opportunities of self-promotion through photographs of even more green meals to share with the world. But, putting political and animal rights views aside is being vegan actually healthy and are there any proven health benefits to being vegan?

‘Going vegan’ means removing any animal-based products from your lifestyle. A dietary vegan would avoid the use of animal products in their diet e.g. meat, fish, dairy, animal fats, gelatin, honey.  A strict vegan would also avoid other animal products such as wool, leather, feathers, furs, some soaps, wax and even vegetables that have been grown in animal manure.

 

How to eat a balanced vegan diet

We are well aware of the health benefits of a balanced diet and have many times seen the Food Standards Agency ‘Eatwell plate’ showing us the composition of the ideal diet, so if we remove large food groups such as meat and dairy, are we really getting the nutrients we need?

It is possible to eat a balanced vegan diet. Looking at the ‘Eatwell Plate’ you will have to make adaptations to the pink, protein section. Vegans cannot get their protein quota from meat, fish or eggs so need to rely on beans and pulses instead. Milk and dairy foods are not eaten by vegans but there are now a wide range of dairy alternatives, that are readily available in all supermarkets. Some dairy alternatives can be higher in sugar and fats though, so it’s important to try to look out for those that are low in sugar and low in fat.

It can be more difficult to get all the vitamins and minerals you mean with a vegan diet, but of you plan it carefully or also take supplements you can be sure to get all that you need. Common deficiencies are calcium, iron and vitamin B12 and Omega 3.

Good Calcium sources Good Iron sources
·         fortified unsweetened soya, rice and oat drinks

·         calcium-set tofu

·         sesame seeds and tahini

·         pulses

·         bread (in the UK, calcium is added to bread by law)

·         dried fruit, such as raisins, prunes, figs and dried apricots

·         pulses

·         wholemeal bread and flour

·         breakfast cereals fortified with iron

·         dark green leafy vegetables e.g watercress, broccoli

·         nuts

·         dried fruits, such as apricots, prunes and figs

 

Good Omega-3 fatty acid sources Good Vitamin B12 sources
·         flaxseed (linseed) oil

·         rapeseed oil

·         soya oil and soya-based foods, such as tofu

·         walnuts

·         breakfast cereals fortified with B12

·         unsweetened soya drinks fortified with vitamin B12

·         yeast extract, e.g. Marmite, fortified with vitamin B12

If you are vegan but do not eat many of these particular foods, you may benefit from vitamins and supplements.

 

Are there any health benefits of being vegan?

Cutting out meat and meat products doesn’t automatically make you healthier, although a vegan diet is often lower in saturated fat and cholesterol.  High consumption of red meat – particularly meat high in saturated fats – has long been associated with increased cholesterol, heart disease and some cancers, and therefore a diet without these meats can have a health benefit, however it is vital that a vegan diet is balanced, and nutrients taken from meat and dairy are replaced with alternatives.

With obesity being such a health risk for our society, it raises the question… Are vegans at lower risk of obesity? Studies have shown that vegans may have a lower BMI to meat eating populations. Often people who are vegan are more aware of what they are eating and therefore making healthier choices. Vegans do not eat dairy and meat products which can often be higher in fat and so this may contribute to maintaining a healthy weight. It is important to be aware that you can have a balanced diet vegan diet in the same way you can have a balanced non-vegan diet – The key is about balance.

Veganuary.com have lots of fresh and tasty recipes to excite your taste buds.

Even if you don’t think being vegan is a long-term choice for you, taking part in Veganuary may just kick start a healthy year and make you more conscious of the foods you are eating and ensure that your plate is always balanced.

 


17/Jun/2019

Fall Prevention Awareness Week – September 24th – 30th 2018

Nothing in life is more inevitable than the fact that one day we will all be old or in need.  When we think of those at falls risk we visualise very frail elderly relatives shuffling around their homes on their own but the reality is that falls impact a much wider population.  30% of all people older than 65 and 50% of all people older than 80 have a fall at least once a year.1

Falls are estimated to cost the NHS over £2.3 billion each year.1 Not only do falls cause pain, immobility and distress to the patient but they also impact on that person’s carer and wider family, which very often are other vulnerable or elderly people.

So, who is at risk?

Risk factors are separated into intrinsic factors, those which are inherent to the person and extrinsic, those which are related to the environment. Intrinsic factors include old age, chronic conditions such as diabetes, dementia and arthritis, previous falls and poor vision or balance. There is very little that can be done about many of the intrinsic factors; good medicine management, correct sight wear and regular testing will all improve someone’s risk of a fall. The extrinsic factors can often be much easier to manage. They include lack of handrails, dim lighting, obstacles or trip hazards and slippery or uneven surfaces. However, is it that simple for a person at falls risk to get handrails fitted or improve the lighting in their home? We all have that odd job that we need to complete at home but very few of us get around to doing it. And how receptive are people at receiving the advice and acting on it. Research suggests many at risk believe it doesn’t apply to them yet or that falling is a part of getting older. Often advice about hazard perception is considered patronising and assumes the person is senile.

The challenge is bigger than first anticipated. So how do we really reduce the risk?

  1. One of the main elements that must be tacked to reduce the risks associate with falls is balance and exercise. This advice is well received by patients and is most effective when incorporated into every day activity or routines. As well as Tai Chi, Otago and LiFE there are a number of tailored exercise programmes that people can follow which if all over 65’s followed would prevent 7,000 unnecessary deaths a year – from hip fractures alone.1
  2. Medication review and regular check-ups are vital for reducing risk. Any recent falls should be recorded and the nature and cause discussed. Medication which cause drowsiness, dizziness, low blood pressure or blurred vision should be identified and if possible taken at a time of day that has the least impact.
  3. Regular sight and hearing tests are simple or organise can both reduce the risk of falls as well as ensuring people can keep their independence and aren’t missing vital information oral and aural.
  4. Those with a good support network of family are friends are also less at risk as they can share their concerns and ask for help when it is needed. People who are more isolated will take partake in more risky behaviours as they try to manage on their own.
  5. The final and most obvious activity that reduces risk is to safe check the home. Removing uneven flooring, rugs and trip hazards and fixing hand rails. Good footwear is also essential to ensure a steady footing.

If these 5 elements were tackled the impact would be substantial not only on the wellbeing of those over 65 but also the cost savings for the NHS through reducing the 4 million hospital bed stays each year in England alone. As healthcare professionals, it is our responsibility to educate those at risk of falls and move our attention to prevention rather than treatment.

References

  1. Age concern – Stop falling
  2. NICE Clinical guideline [CG161]
  3. Age concern- Don’t mention the F-word – 2012

17/Jun/2019

May 14th – 20th is Sun Awareness Week. And, although I can barely think to type over the sound of rain on the conservatory roof, it’s best to be ready for when the warmer weather finally makes an appearance!  When 86% of skin cancers are preventable it’s ludicrous that we don’ take this advice more seriously!1

Protection from the sun isn’t rocket science. Here we dispel some common myths:

It’s not even that sunny, so I don’t need to wear a sunscreen.

It doesn’t have to be a cloudless sky with scorching temperatures for our skin to be exposed to the UV light. Even on a bright but cloudy day you can still get burnt, especially when on holiday and nearer the equator where the sun’s rays are hotter.

I like to sit in the shade, so I don’t need to wear sun protection.

Most people believe that the shade will protect their skin but there are many different types of shade. The shade cast from a building for example will be ‘good’ shade providing much more protection than the dappled shade from a tree. Even sun parasols do not provide 100% UV protection, the fabrics let in a percentage of the UV rays. Even when you are sat in the shade you should still wear UV protection, and don’t forget that you may have to walk to your chosen shady spot and your skin will be exposed until you reach it.

I always wear my baseball cap, I know my head is protected.

Baseball caps provide a good protection to the top of the head and some protection to the face, but they provide no protection to the neck or ears. You are much better to choose a wide brimmed hat that will protect the ears and neck as well as head and face. A brim that angles downwards is the most effective. This is particularly important for children when they are out in the sun.

I applied my sun screen this morning, so I’m covered.

Some sunscreens now claim to only need to be applied once throughout the day, while others describe themselves as longer lasting or waterproof. Any sweating, swimming and changes in clothes or rubbing of a bag across shoulders will remove some of the UV protection. It is best to reapply your sunscreen every 2-3 hours and again after swimming or sweating to be sure you are protected

I packed a full bottle of sun lotion, me and my family are all prepared.

People often do not apply anywhere near enough to cover their skin fully. If you are applying enough you might get through a full 200mL bottle in as few as 6 full body applications. Bear this in mind when purchasing your sunscreen and stock up to ensure the whole family are protected. Also, you can’t assume you will all need the same protection. Children and people with fair skin will need a higher protection than those with a more olive or darker skin.

 

Thought you knew all there was to know about sun protection? These are very common misconceptions that a large proportion of people believe to be true. Now you know the facts don’t take a chance with your skin. Wear protection, find shade and cover up.

References

Cancer Research UK – http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/health-professional/cancer-statistics/statistics-by-cancer-type/skin-cancer 


17/Jun/2019

Sleep is precious, it sets you up for the day ahead and allows you to make clear choices. Even a slight disruption to your usual routine can leave you foggy headed and irritable. Depending on the reason for your lack of sleep there may be something you can do about it. If the lighter mornings are waking you earlier than you would like, put up some black out blinds and voila, problem solved. Perhaps your bed is not as comfy as it used to be, invest in a new mattress and suddenly you’re sleeping like a baby again. But for some the problem as easily fixed, it’s their partner!

Snoring affects about half of us at some point in our lives. Habitual snoring is more common in men than women and as many as 40% of men and 27% of women snore regularly.1 Just because snoring is something that we have probably all experienced doesn’t make it any less disruptive.

23rd-27th April 2018 is national Stop Snoring Week. The theme this year is ‘Can new technology help the nation stop snoring?’ So, we are taking the opportunity to look at some of the treatment options out there to see if there is a solution that works.

The general guidance to snorers is to try avoid sleeping on your back, you might find using cushions may help to keep you on your side or even attaching a tennis ball to the back of your pyjamas, so if you roll on your back in your sleep, you will find it uncomfortable and quickly revert to sleeping on your side! There is an increased likelihood of snoring in people who are overweight and those who drink alcohol. If this relates to you, then you could try avoiding alcohol and work on maintaining a healthy weight to see if that improves the symptoms.

Here’s a novel idea… your mobile phone can be used to help you understand the extent of your snoring. Maybe you are relying on your partner telling you how loud you are, and you think they are exaggerating. There are a number of apps now available to ‘record the snore’. This can help you build a picture to establish if you snore all the time or only on occasion, such as after a few drinks. The recordings can be useful to provide your doctor with a sleep history if you visit them about treatment options.

Snoring sprays and strips are widely available from pharmacies and online retailers, they have varying results for people, partly because they don’t work for all snore types. You can take this online test to help you to establish what type of snorer you are – http://www.britishsnoring.co.uk/itests/

If you chose to visit your GP, then they are likely to try to establish if you are just a noisy sleeper or if there is something more sinister going on such as sleep apnoea which is where the wall of the throat relaxes while you are sleeping and disrupts normal breathing resulting in a snore. Your recordings or partner may be able to fill in some of the blanks for you at this appointment. Once they have established the cause they may recommend nasal dilators to hold open your nostrils, a chin strap to keep your mouth closed or device to make you breathe through your nose or bring your tongue forward.

If getting the phone app does nothing more than make you understand that you really do snore, then this is at least the first step to doing something about it. Let stop snoring week be the push you need to try to change your sleeping habits.

References

  1. Sleep Education – http://www.sleepeducation.org/essentials-in-sleep/snoring/overview-and-facts
  2. NHS conditions – https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/snoring/

17/Jun/2019

March is national bed month! Hurrah! A lie in for everybody! And… now it’s time to wake up and remember you have to go to work. But it is national bed month, so, if ever there was a good time to review your sleeping habits now is the time.

National Bed Month is supported by The Sleep Council and aims to remind everyone of the positive health benefits to a good night’s sleep.  We all know we feel better after a full undisturbed 8 hours but what can it actually do for your health. Here are our top tips for getting a good night’s sleep.

  • Re-asses your bed. If its older than you, it’s probably time to get a new one! In all honesty it is recommended that you change your bed every 8 years but if you are finding your bed uncomfortable before this time it may be that you need to try out a different mattress. Over time the support your mattress gives you will decrease.

 

  • Puff up your pillow! Now we know how often we should change our mattress, what about the pillow? The advice is, that depending on your cleaning habits, your pillow should be changed at least every 3 years but for some as often as 6 monthly! It might sound excessive but if you’re not comfortable then you’re less likely to get a good night’s sleep.

 

  • Turn off technology! We live in a world of instant access to information and instant connection to others. Watching tv, tablets and your phone before bed stimulates the mind when you should be winding down. It is good practice to turn off all technology a hour before you plan to go to sleep to help your mind wind down.

 

  • Don’t be tempted by a night cap. If you are struggling to sleep it can be tempting to turn to alcohol to help you sleep. Although alcohol may make you drowsy, helping you to drop off, you will often find you wake unrested or wake in the night because you will not be getting quality sleep.

 

  • The evidence to support the theory eating cheese causes nightmares is limited however what you eat can affect your sleep. Try to avoid caffeine containing foods and drinks before bed and avoid highly fatty or highly spiced foods which can be difficult to digest.

 

If you have taken all the good advice and are still struggling with insomnia, consider keeping a sleep diary and book an appointment to talk to your GP. Sleeping tablets are not the magic bullet and should not be relied upon but can be useful for short periods of time.

For more great advice check out the Sleep Council website – https://sleepcouncil.org.uk/


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