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"Health Advice"

 

Allergies

Wheezing, weepy eyes, a streaming nose, itchy skin, rashes - all are signs that something disagrees with you. Allergies occur when our body has a bad reaction to a food or an outside substance such as pollen. Allergies are widespread - Allergy UK estimates that around 21 million adults suffer from an allergy in the UK and the figure continues to rise. Fortunately, there are plenty of remedies to alleviate many symptoms associated with an allergy.


Can fish oils help allergies?

 Omega 3 fats found in fish oil may be protective against allergies. Fish oils appear to reduce inflammation and many allergies involve inflammation - for example asthma involves inflammation of the airways. In the past century, Western diets have seen an increase in consumption of meat and vegetable oils (omega-6 fatty acids) compared with fish and flax oils (omega-3 fatty acids) which may go some way to explain why allergies are on the rise. In a study from Harvard Medical School using lab mice, omega-3 fatty acids were shown to dampen the development of airway inflammation. Other studies have linked increased levels of omega-3 fatty acids with lower asthma prevalence in people. A good reason indeed for a fish supper.

Why dust is bad for allergies and how to tame your dust?

Dust consists of a many things, including dust mites, dust mite faeces, fungi and their spores, human skin scales and bits of dead insects such as cockroaches. The fungi, insects and mites can all cause allergic responses. If you are frequently exposed to dust mite faeces it can trigger an immune response causing asthma or allergy, and because dust particles are tiny they can navigate deep into the lungs causing other health problems. To ‘tame your dust’ remove your shoes when you come into your home. The Japanese do this and they subsequently have less dust in their houses. Also vacuum thoroughly and declutter as it’s easier to clean if there are less obstacles.  

 Blood Pressure

Most of us have had our blood pressure taken by our GP or nurse - but what exactly is ‘blood pressure’? Blood pressure measures how hard our blood presses against the walls of our arteries as it travels around our body. If it presses too strongly then our blood pressure is too high putting us at risk of heart disease and strokes. If it presses too gently then our blood pressure will be low and may make us feel light-headed. Read on to find out how to keep your blood pressure in check.

Does high blood pressure increase my risk of dying early?

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has clear guidelines on hypertension (high blood pressure). Health providers are told to monitor patients whose blood pressure is recorded at 140/90 mmHG or higher. If you fall into this category you’ll be offered something called ambulatory blood pressure monitoring (ABPM) which will measure your blood pressure readings over 24 hours to give a more accurate reading. The same guidance explains that each 2 mmHG rise in systolic blood pressure (the top reading) is associated with a 7% increase of death from heart disease and a 10% increase in risk of death from stroke. Good reasons indeed to take blood pressure seriously.

Radio waves may help lower blood pressure

If you have high blood pressure that has not responded well to medication you may want to keep tabs on the Symplicity HTN-2 study. The name may not be catchy but the results are interesting. The study is testing lowering blood pressure by directing short bursts of radio waves at nerves surrounding the kidneys. The results so far, of this ongoing study, published in the American Heart Association journal ‘Circulation’ suggest that ‘renal denervation’ (as it’s called) does appear to reduce drug-resistant high blood pressure. What’s more the treatment does not appear to damage the kidneys or cause any long-term damage.

Baby & Children

Raising children brings joy and responsibility in equal measure. For all the good times there will be hurdles with most youngsters succumbing to at least one or more childhood illnessduring their early years. Here’s a roundup of the most common predicaments along with tips and advice.

Big babies aren’t healthier babies

It used to be thought that big bouncing babies were healthy but new research reveals that it’s better for babies to grow at a steady rather than rapid rate in their first few months of life. A study published in the British Medical Journal reveals that babies who put on weight very quickly have six times the risk of being obese in the future. The message from experts is simple: if your baby is the right weight and height for its age then there is no need to wake him or her for extra feeds nor to urge formula-fed babies to always finish their bottle.

Do fish oil supplements make kids smarter?

If new findings are to be believed, it would seem foods and supplements rich in omega-3 fatty acids (found in oily fish) can help boost intelligence. Scientists from New York University found that supplementing pregnant women and newborns with foods rich in Omega-3 boosted children’s IQ by more than 3.5 points. The experts believe the fatty acids help raise intelligence by providing the building blocks for nerve development that the body cannot produce on its own.

Diabetes

Diabetes is a common life-long condition affecting over 3 million people in the UK. If you have diabetes your body is unable to respond to or else can’t produce the hormone insulin. Insulin is produced by the pancreas and allows glucose (blood sugar) to enter the body’s cells to be used for fuel (energy). If you have diabetes you may need insulin injections or other treatments to prevent glucose levels in your bloodstream from becoming too high.

How will diabetes be treated in the future?

Many people with type 1 diabetes rely on insulin pump therapy to keep their blood glucose levels safe. To do this they must frequently check the sensor and adjust the pump’s output. If glucose levels get too high they risk future complications such as blindness and kidney failure. If glucose levels drop too low they risk hypoglycemia (causing confusion and loss of consciousness). In the future, conventional insulin pumps are likely to be replaced with the artificial pancreas - this is an automated system that simulates the normal pancreas by continuously adapting insulin delivery based on changes in glucose levels. In trials, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, the artificial pancreas improved glucose control by 15% and significantly reduces the risk of hypoglycemia compared to conventional pumps.

What is the association between waist size and diabetes?

A recent Ipsos MORI survey, commissioned by Diabetes UK and Bupa, found that 63% or people had no idea that having a large waist increases your risk of Type 2 diabetes. Diabetes UK defines a large waist as 31.5 inches or over for women and 35 inches and over for men. According to the charity, having a waist size of 31.5 inches or over for women; 35 inches or over for Asian men and 37 inches or over for white and black men, increases the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes significantly. It’s a good reason to get out your tape measure. If you don’t like what it reveals then take action. Cardiovascular exercise and strength training can help you burn off excess fat around your middle.

Do probiotics work?

Probiotics is the term for ‘friendly bacteria’ found in some fermented products. The two main types of bacteria thought to have health benefits include strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. The notion is that probiotics work by repopulating the gut with good bacteria to help fight off pathogens and toxins. Many people believe probiotics can help conditions ranging from irritable bowel syndrome to food allergies. Research results are mixed, but in a recent, well-respected study, probiotics were found to reduce the duration of diarrhoea by 25 hours.

Do beans really make you fart?

The short answer is ‘yes’. Beans contain fibre and sugar that our bodies find hard to digest. When food isn’t broken down in the stomach and small intestine it ends up undigested in our bowels where hungry bacteria gobble it up producing smelly gasses as they do so. Most of the gas is absorbed into our bloodstreams but the rest is released as flatulence. You can reduce the chances of this happening by cooking beans for longer or letting them sit and then cooking them again in fresh water.

Emotional Health

A little bit of stress is a good thing - it keeps us alert and motivates us to perform well. But all too often the trials of life can get to us. Our distress may be obvious for all to see or it may be hidden, known only to us. Either way, good emotional health is something that we should all strive for and that we all deserve.

Can we sing our way to happiness?

There is growing evidence that belting out a song can lower stress levels. Swedish scientists recently found that singing triggers the release of happy hormones such as oxytocin which boosts mood and lowers stress and blood pressure. And in a study from the UK, experts discovered that men and women with mental health issues who sang regularly in a choir benefitted emotionally. In fact, some participants who had been clinically depressed, were no longer depressed eight months after singing with the choir. Reason indeed for singing in the shower.

Does the herbal remedy St. John's wort treat depression?

St John’s wort is a plant with star-shaped yellow flowers that is commonly thought to help alleviate the symptoms of depression. In a German study, when St John’s wort was tested against a common anti-depressant, more people were found to improve using the herbal remedy than the anti-depressant drug. However, not all studies have reached the same conclusion - some have found that it’s no more effective than a placebo - and the remedy is not currently supported by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).

Cold & Flu

Colds and flu are infectious illnesses caused by different groups of viruses. Flu tends to be more severe and longer lasting than a cold but both cause coughing, sneezing, tiredness and a whole raft of unpleasant symptoms that will have you reaching for warm drinks, wads of tissues and lots of sympathy.

 Does catching a 'chill' give you a cold?

In an experiment from the Common Cold Centre in Cardiff, students who chilled their feet in cold water for 20 minutes, had twice as many colds over the next 5 days than their ‘non-chilled’ peers. So why was this? The researchers concluded that the people who got colds already had the virus in their noses but were not experiencing symptoms. The chilling of their feet caused the blood vessels in their noses to constrict preventing the defences in their noses from fighting off the infection. So cold weather will not give you a cold’ but may hasten a cold to develop if you’re already harbouring one. In other words your mum was partially right when she told you to ‘wrap up warm’.

Can the herbal remedy Echinacea help?

Echinacea is a daisy like purple flower originally used by native Americans to treat coughs, colds and sore throats. It’s now commonly used as a herbal remedy to do the same job -but does this ancient remedy really work? There are lots of studies on this and some imply that Echinacea does help prevent infection by boosting the immune system, but the findings are mixed. That said, in 2012 researchers who carried out the largest ever clinical study of Echinacea did prove that Echinacea can reduce the duration of a cold, even if it can’t stop you from catching one in the first place.

Hair Loss

Thinning or diminishing hair is seldom welcome and can cause a great deal of distress. While the condition is more common in men (affecting around half of all men by the age of 50) it can also occur in women. There are many different types of hair loss - some are permanent and some just temporary. There are also many treatments and remedies to make losing your hair more manageable.

Could my chest hair be transplanted onto my head?

As strange as this sounds - there is a technique for transplanting body hair onto the scalp. So yes this is feasible. However, it is currently, more common to transplant hair from the back and side of the scalp rather than using chest hair. To transplant either head or body hair a method called FUHT (follicular unit hair transplant) is used.This involves removing the hair from the donor area and transplanting the whole follicle (not just the visible hair) to its new site. Using body hair is a relatively new technique and it tends to be used in addition to using scalp hair rather than instead of this. That said, a recent study from India, described body hair as a ‘valuable alternative’ hair source.

I have read baldness is associated with heart disease - is this true?

Newspapers recently published a report based on research from the University of Tokyo linking baldness with a higher risk of heart disease among younger men (under 55 years of age). Obviously this caused some alarm. So just what did the scientists find? Well the good news is that they found no link between a receding hairline and heart disease. However, they did conclude that baldness on the crown of the head was associated with an increased risk although they couldn't explain why. It would seem more research is needed. Unfortunately, you cannot protect yourself against balding but you can reduce your risk of heart disease by making lifestyle changes such as: giving up smoking, losing weight (if too heavy), exercising more and eating healthily.

Heart Health

Good heart health is vital for a long and healthy life. Keeping our blood pressure in check and our cholesterol levels low is an essential part of that. There are many products that can help with that, along with the will to make wise dietary and lifestyle choices.

Where are you most likely to survive a heart attack?

A few years ago, a study appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine revealing that you were more likely to survive a heart attack in a casino or airport than in a hospital. The reason for this was due to more rapid defibrillation (the use of a life-saving machine to shock the heart into beating normally again). This may still be the case, although in the UK the British Heart Foundation has distributed more than 6,000 defibrillators for use in the community.

Do vegetarians suffer less from heart disease?

According to a recent study from the University of Oxford, hospitalisation or death from heart disease is 32% lower in vegetarians than people who eat meat and fish. The findings, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, tracked nearly 45,000 volunteers from England and Scotland between the 1990s and 2009. Overall the vegetarians had lower blood pressures and cholesterol levels than the meat-eaters, which is thought to be the main reason behind their reduced risk of heart disease. Even if you’re not ready to ditch your Sunday roast, the findings do reinforce the idea that diet is central to the prevention of heart disease.

Joints & Mobility

Our musculoskeletal system is made up of bones, muscles, and joints — along with tendons, ligaments, and cartilage. Keeping this system healthy is vital to remain mobile into old age. Broken bones, hip fractures and other mishaps can rob people of their independence which is why good bone health is critical.

Can yoga help back pain?

Yoga is a cost-effective way of treating people with recurrent lower back pain, according to the UK’s largest ever study looking at the benefits of yoga. Researchers from The University of York found that people with back pain who took part in a yoga programme took just four days off work for back pain compared to their non-yoga-doing peers who took 12 days off with back ache. Reason indeed to perfect that half lotus.

Calcium is essential for good bone health - but do we need supplements?

Our bones and teeth contain calcium but each day we lose calcium through sweat, urination and faeces and our bodies cannot produce new calcium. The only way we can get this is by eating calcium-rich foods or taking supplements. There had been concern that calcium supplements increased the risk of cardiovascular disease, but a panel of experts met recently in Washington to review this and concluded that supplements were safe. That said, supplements should only be used to make up any shortfall in your diet. Women aged 19-50 and men up to 71 need 1,000 milligrams of calcium daily, rising to 1,200 milligrams for women over 50 and men 71 plus. Calcium is found in dairy products and green vegetables, while some juices, cereals, breads and bottled water have calcium added. To absorb calcium you also need vitamin D which you can get from sunlight, from eating fatty fish like salmon and by taking supplements.

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