Dr Tyrrell's Tips on Staying Healthy
As doctors we often think that people know what they need to know about staying fit and healthy, but I suspect this is not always the case. In this issue I thought it would be worth sharing some of the current evidence based advice we have around staying healthy. Tick all these off and you are doing pretty well!
Eat 5 portions of fruit or veg a day - a glass of fruit juice counts, but not squash. Fruit and veg are good for the heart and constitution and reduce the risk of bowel cancer, constipation and piles.
Drink 2 litres of water a day to prevent kidney stones developing and to maintain mental functioning. Aim for water coloured urine twice a day as an indicator of hydration status.
Stick to 2 portions of red meat a week - the saturated fats in red meat convert to cholesterol and can clog blood vessels in excess.
Eat oily fish such as salmon, sardines, trout or mackerel which all contain vitamins A&D with omega 3 fats which are good for the heart, brain and joints.
Salt intake should be no more than 6g (a teaspoon) per day for an adult and less for children, down to 2g per day for a 1 year old. Salt is found in many foods. Too much salt raises blood pressure.
Exercise for 40 minutes each day ensuring your heart rate increases and you sweat - taking the dog for a walk does not count if you sit on the park bench!
Warm up and warm down with stretching. The evidence of benefit is debatable, but psychologically it feels the right thing to do.
Go to bed early - on average we need 8 hours of sleep a night and the hours before midnight are worth twice those after midnight.
Keep caffeine intake to 2-3 cups a day. Tea, coffee, cola, energy drinks and chocolate all contains caffeine. More than this can lead to palpitations and sleep disturbance.
Don’t smoke - it smells and is the most unhealthy activity of all impacting on cancer risk, heart disease risk and mental functioning.
8 units of alcohol a week is healthy for the heart – the maximum recommended units for a woman is 14 units a week and for a man 21 units a week.
Learn to relax - consider Yoga or meditation if stress is taking hold. Exercise releases endorphins to help relax and elevate mood. Athletes often become addicted to these natural highs.
Share your fears and worries with friends or family – a problem shared is a problem halved. When listening it may not be necessary to offer advice, just allow the individual to talk and offload.
Get a flu jab especially if you have any long term illness that puts you at risk such as asthma, diabetes, COPD, heart disease.
If you are concerned about your joints consider taking cod liver oil and glucosamine (if you have gained no benefit in taking glucosamine after 3 months stop it as it is expensive).
In the winter months we can all become vitamin D deficient from lack of sunlight, so ensure your diet makes up for this - cod liver oil, oily fish and eggs are good sources.
Protect your hearing - when using machinery wear ear defence, when listening to music keep the volume down. Your ear cells do not regenerate so any damage you do now will last.
Protect your eyes when doing DIY, cycling, working in dusty conditions etc. A metal or wood splinter can do significant damage.
When walking wear comfortable, supportive shoes - flat soled shoes often look pretty but give no support and can create problems with the knee and hip joints and the back.
Visit the dentist at least annually if not every 6 months and if you have a dental problem see a dentist. GPs have been advised not to treat dental problems even with antibiotics.
Visit the optician at least every 2 years from an early age as they will detect and treat changes in eyesight but also monitor for glaucoma amd high blood pressure.
Check your testicles regularly - any lumps or bumps on the balls should be reviewed by a doctor. We see lots so don’t be embarrassed and over 95% are not cancer!
Consider a prostate check if aged over 50 – there is a blood test that can guide us to work out your risk.
Don't be afraid, ashamed or embarrassed to see a doctor we have seen it and heard it all before but men are notoriously bad at consulting doctors with their problems or concerns.
Have your smears. All women 25-65 will be invited usually every 3 years, but once over 50, every 5 years to age 65.
Examine your breasts regularly, it is normal to have lumpy breasts mid cycle, so getting to know your normal variations is helpful. Any unusual lumps need to be checked by your GP.
Report any abnormal vaginal bleeding after sex or between periods, this may be hormonal, but it is worth getting it checked.
Keep a well stocked first aid kit at home and use a pharmacy for minor illness and injury rather than clogging up surgery appointments or A&E please.
Good luck and I hope you all have a happy and healthy year ahead.