Category Archives: Blogs

Anaemia

Dear Diana, after a recent medical check-up which included a blood test I was told I was anaemic. How can I help myself to rectify this? Patricia Carson West Yorkshire

Patricia, typical symptoms of anaemia are lack of energy, a rapid heartbeat and shortness of breath when exercising, or dizziness. Being told you are anaemic could indicate you don’t have enough haemoglobin in your blood or have fewer red blood cells than normal. Anaemia can occur if your body doesn’t have enough iron, a deficiency of which leads to the decreased production of red blood cells that carry oxygen around the body. Anaemia caused by iron deficiency can affect nails resulting in curvature and sometimes causing cracked corners of the mouth. Iron rich foods include red meats, fish, poultry, seafood and some plant sources.

Anaemia can also be the result of vitamin B12 or folate deficiency, with symptoms such as tingling in the feet and hands and unsteadiness when walking. Treatment depends on the cause of the deficiency but improving your diet may help treat and prevent recurrence. Vitamin B12 is found in meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, yeast extract (such as Marmite) and specially fortified foods.

The best sources of folate include green vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts and peas. If your body stores of vitamin B12 are depleted your doctor may prescribe vitamin B12 injections or tablets to restore normal levels.

Breakfast

Hi Diana, I lead such a busy life juggling my home, family and a career. Time is short in the mornings so I tend to skip breakfast, is missing breakfast such a sin! Sallie Aitkins Colchester.

Dear Sallie, speaking personally I cannot operate efficiently without my breakfast which refuels my body and kick starts my day. Every morning I have freshly squeezed orange juice, muesli, yogurt, plus assorted fresh fruit, containing vitamins to boost my immune system, antioxidants to fight cancer and disease, bananas (potassium), figs and prunes (lowers cholesterol and ensures regularity).
Some years ago a study failed to settle the debate on the importance of breakfast but concluded it seemed to be linked to health. Dr Betts, senior lecturer in nutrition, metabolism and statistics said “People who regularly eat breakfast tend to be slimmer and healthier, but these individuals also typically follow most other recommendations for a healthy lifestyle, so have more balanced diets and take more physical exercise.”

Missing breakfast would have a negative impact on my mood. It raises my blood sugar levels helping my brain and muscles function properly, and set me up for the day, providing my body with energy and aiding my concentration in order to tackle the day ahead. And, breakfast provides an opportunity to get together with family to help them prepare for their day. Why not give it a try; it’s never too late to break a habit!

Cholesterol

Hello Diana, I am in my late 50’s and following a recent health check-up was found to have a high level of cholesterol. Should I be concerned and how can I help myself lower my cholesterol level? Andrea Price….Swansea
Hello Andrea
Cholesterol, a fatty substance known as a lipid is mainly made by the liver, but can also be found in some foods. Cholesterol is carried in your blood by proteins which when combined are called lipoproteins. Cholesterol is vital for the normal functioning of the body but having an excessively high level of lipids in our blood (hyperlipidaemia) runs the risk of serious health conditions.
Evidence indicates high cholesterol can cause narrowing of the arteries (atherosclerosis), heart attack, stroke, transient ischaemic attack (TIA) “mini stroke” and (PAD) peripheral arterial disease. It also increases the risk of a blood clot anywhere in the body, and as blood cholesterol levels increase so does the risk of coronary heart disease.

To help reduce your cholesterol levels check out what you eat and keep your diet low in fatty foods. Swap foods containing saturated fat for lean meats, fish, fruit, vegetables and wholegrain cereals. Take regular exercise and if you smoke – give up! Lowering levels is important if you have diabetes, high blood pressure (hypertension), or a family history of stroke or heart disease
Your GP may prescribe cholesterol-lowering medication, such as statins which can have side effects, so discuss the benefits to ensure they outweigh any risks.
.

Avoiding colds and the power of supplements

“Atishoo atishoo we all fall down”. This winter has seen very many of us succumbing to the common cold and I was one of them, suffering sore throat, runny nose, sneezing, constant coughing and a wheezy chest. Colds are the most common infectious disease in humans, mainly caused by coronaviruses or rhinoviruses. There is no cure for the common cold but they usually clear up on their own within a week or two. Taking over-the-counter painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen can reduce fever and using decongestant sprays and tablets can relieve a blocked nose. We can also help ourselves by resting, sucking on menthol sweets, gargling salt water, drinking plenty of fluids and eating healthily.

Colds spread easily and we are contagious a few days before our symptoms begin and until all symptoms have gone, meaning we are infectious for around two weeks. The cold virus is picked up by touching something or someone contaminated with infected droplets, and then touching our mouth, nose or eyes. Or from inhaling virus droplets sneezed or coughed out by an infected person. Colds are common amongst groups of people such as families, schools and day care centres and sadly we can catch one cold after another because there are several different cold viruses.

Washing hands helps avoid transmitting viruses and not touching our nose and eyes stops us getting infected because cold and flu viruses can enter our body through our eyes and noses.
Many people believe vitamin C, zinc, Echinacea and garlic supplements reduce the risk of getting a cold. However in 2013 an updated review of studies into vitamin C concluded “regular ingestion of vitamin C had no effect on the common cold, and research has found no evidence that it prevents colds” Dr Hasmukh Joshi, vice-chair of the Royal College of GPs says a daily dose of vitamin C did slightly reduce the length and severity of colds. A review of trials on Echinacea found it was not shown to provide benefit in treating colds overall, but it was possible there was a weak benefit from some Echinacea products. However, there is some evidence that zinc (in lozenges, tablets or syrup) may reduce the duration of a cold. A 2013 Cochrane review suggests taking zinc supplements within 24 hours of symptoms starting speeds up recovery from a cold and lessens the severity of symptoms in healthy people. Getting chilly or wet doesn’t cause a cold.

Maintaining strong bones

Hello Diana, I am in my late 50’s and anxious to keep my body strong and healthy. What natural ways do you recommend to help me maintain good bones and prevent the thinning bone disease osteoporosis?  Melonie Neville Plymouth

 Hi Melanie,

Osteoporosis is a silent insidious bone disease linked to hormonal changes and the menopause in women. It affects 1 – 3 older women, but also 1 – 12 men after the age of 60 leading to possible fractures of the wrists, hips and spine, backache and loss of height.  Osteoporosis can be prevented in many cases and is not “just getting old” as was previously assumed! Smoking increases the risk, as does a deficiency of calcium and vitamin D. Calcium is essential for the development and maintenance of strong teeth and bones.  Rich sources of calcium are milk, cheese, yoghurt and other dairy produce, and also fish such as sardine and pilchards.  Importantly for vegetarians, leafy green vegetables including spinach, kale and broccoli, and nuts, dried fruit, dates, prunes, raisins and figs, kidney beans, lentils and baked beans are alternate sources of calcium.

A regular intake of calcium throughout our lifetime together with vitamin D will help prevent osteoporosis. Vitamin D helps regulate the way our bodies use the calcium and ensures our bones remain strong. It is obtained by the action of sunlight on our skin (a recommended 15 mins a day), or taken alternatively as a daily capsule of cod liver oil or prescribed calcium plus vitamin D tablet.

Keep fit over 50

It’s all common sense really, fitness is about being able to do the things we want to do, when we want to do them, and for as long as we want to.  So being fit should be a necessity of life, not just an option and we should learn to look after our health, because as the years go by good health will help us enjoy today’s increase in longevity. The medical and physical benefits of keeping fit are improved circulation, digestion and a stronger heart. Exercise builds strong muscles and bones, increases our flexibility and co-ordination, and combined with a well-balanced diet, exercise helps control weight and improves shape. By making the best of ourselves we will experience a sense of well-being, feel relaxed and be more confident in our lives. 

Our individual level of fitness will depend on our personal lifestyle and the interest and commitment we have to looking after our health.   And the good news is that for those people who get it right, there may be a decrease of some physical ability in their 60, others later, and some, not at all!   Many individuals enter advanced old age still performing at the level of younger adults. Just half an hour of moderate physical activity five times a week can help, and significantly improve our health and wellbeing.  Fitness work-outs, brisk

Walking, dancing, gardening and other sports that make us feel warm and slightly out of breath are the most beneficial.  The trick is to do an activity that gives you pleasure and you will soon discover that being active actually boosts your energy levels. When we exercise, the body releases chemicals called endorphins which give us a ‘ feel-good ’ factor, as the circulation gets going, improving our heart and lung efficiency. Being fit and more active helps us feel better, improves both our mood and our brain function, how we think and feel.

Being active can also reduce our risk of many common health problems, such as heart disease, stroke, depression and, best news of all, dementia. Of course there may be some bodily changes with age, but good habits will benefit us as the years roll past.  So take the time to make the effort, and enjoy many more years of active life.  “If you don’t use it, you may lose it” applies to both body and mind!

Painful ears

Hello Diana, my problem has to do with my ears.  I have uncomfortable itching in my right ear with inflammation, redness and some pain which gets worse when I eat. What do you advise?  Veronica Palmer Skipton

Veronica, your earache may simply be due to your ear canal being blocked or it could be an infection of the middle ear (acute otitis media) which causes inflammation and a build-up of fluid behind the eardrum. Don’t poke anything into your ear canal – not even a cotton bud. Most ear infections clear up within three to five days, so paracetamol or ibuprofen could be used to relieve discomfort. If the pain gets worse when you chew, press on the “tag” in front of the ear, or wiggle your earlobe.  

Most middle ear infections occur through a cold, leading to a build-up of mucus in the middle ear, which causes the Eustachian tube (running from middle ear to back of  nose) to become swollen or blocked. Mucus can’t drain away, making it easy for an infection to spread into the middle ear. Usually these infections develop quickly and resolve in a few days, but just sometimes a hole may develop in the eardrum (perforated eardrum) and pus may run out of the ear easing the pain. If the middle ear becomes filled with fluid a loss of hearing could be a sign of glue ear. See your GP and get hearing checked if you are concerned.