With every change of season comes a host of different medical issues, and winter can be one of the worst. With colder temperatures, shorter days, and seasonal illnesses circulating, it is one of the harder seasons to keep fit and healthy. There are certain conditions which are known to worsen in the colder months and so it is important to be aware of them and how you can best prepare yourself to keep healthy throughout winter.
These conditions include:
- Circulatory disorders, such as claudication, Raynaud’s disease, and chilblains
- Ischaemic heart disease
- Hypothyroidism (if untreated)
- Osteoarthritis and any joint disorder to include rheumatoid arthritis
- Seasonal Affective disorder
- Allergic rhinitis
To reduce the increased risk associated with the above conditions, it is important to have a check up with your GP, ideally in the early Autumn before the Winter months. This will give you the best chance of getting ahead and allowing you to prepare for the coming season. But, if for whatever reason, you were unable to have a check up in Autumn, it is still beneficial to have a check up during the Winter months.
During a check up for asthma and COPD it’s advised to have a peak flow and lung function check. Asthma and COPD are worse in the dry, cold weather, so it is important to make sure you have plenty of your prescribed inhalers. It is best to be prepared rather than be taken unawares by an attack of wheezing. It is extremely important to see a doctor if you develop winter wheezing and are short of breath, especially during the night as this is when asthma and COPD attacks are most dangerous.
Circulatory disorders are worse in the cold weather as lower temperatures constrict blood vessels, increasing the likelihood of pain due to claudication (pain in the calves after walking a certain distance), Reynaud’s (discolouration of the fingertips due to constriction of the blood vessels) and chilblains (small, itchy, red patches on the skin). You can prepare for all of these conditions by obtaining prescriptions for treatment but most importantly, by keeping warm and preparing for the cold.
Ischaemic heart disease is also worse in the cold weather due to the effect of constricting blood vessels. It is important to have a cardiac check to include blood pressure, and if you suffer from angina, to ensure you have the medication to treat this painful condition which is likely to be much worse in the cold weather. Avoiding the extreme cold and wearing thermal clothing may also mitigate against the likelihood of a heart attack or myocardial infarction if you do suffer from Ischaemic heart disease.
If you suffer from Hypothyroidism, it is a good idea to have an annual blood test. Left untreated, hypothyroidism can cause increased sensitivity to cold, which can be particularly unpleasant in winter.
For those with arthritis of any kind, the best way to avoid pain and stiffness in the joints is to keep warm and keep the joints moving. Find more information on Arthritis in Winter here.
If your mood tends to be lower in the winter months, each year, you should have a check up with your GP to discuss Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). If you are diagnosed with SAD, consider CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) rather than medication if you can, and invest in a daylight lamp as these do help.
Allergic rhinitis is another ailment that tends to crop up a lot around winter time. This is diagnosed when you have a persistent nasal discharge. This can occur either as a result of pine or autumnal tree leaf mould, or due to house dust or mould which is often exacerbated by central heating. In this instance, nasal sprays and antihistamines are often required.
Finally, the Norovirus peaks in November until April. This is a really unpleasant vomiting virus which is picked up from contaminated surfaces or foods. To help avoid this nasty bug, always wash hands when handling food and make sure food is washed thoroughly before cooking or eating raw.
If you know or suspect that you might suffer from any of these conditions, please do visit your GP to help you keep prepared. Similarly, if anything new arises you should see your GP as soon as you can; the earlier a health condition is addressed, the easier it is to treat.
In general, an annual medical is a good way to give you a full-body overview of your health, as well as monitor the progression of any existing health conditions. A varied, balanced diet and regular exercise will also be crucial in keeping you generally fit and healthy throughout winter.
For more information on our GP Services.
Throughout the pandemic we have supported many industries trying to navigate business-as-usual alongside managing the potential risk of coronavirus in the workplace.
Identifying covid-positive individuals as well as outbreaks is essential, but it is also important not to underestimate the peace of mind testing brings to employees who may be anxious about catching covid-19 in the work environment, especially those who have been in close contact with someone at work who has subsequently tested positive.
The creative arts industry has been particularly impacted by closures, and given the close-contact nature of the theatre and performing arts sector, outbreaks do occur. The speed at which those infected can be identified can make all the difference between a show going ahead or being cancelled.
We have supported Kenny Wax Productions for the last 2 years with crisis management and routine testing using our ultra-rapid covid-19 rt-PCR testing service.
Here’s how we supported the production of MAGIC GOES WRONG during their Christmas crisis:
At 15:18 on New Year’s Day (a Saturday), we received a text to say that the entire cast of MAGIC GOES WRONG was heading straight to Fleet Street, following a positive result from one of their actresses. The only way the evening performance could go ahead was to determine whether covid-19 had spread throughout their cast, or not.
We understood the urgency of this situation and quickly and calmly took samples from a cast of 21 against the clock. We ran them through our lab at the same time, which can be quite a challenge. Since we knew that there would not be enough time to re-run samples, this needed to be done with special care. For us to be able to give Kenny the “thumbs up” to go ahead with the evening show, it was imperative we got things right the first time.
One of the best things about our NeuMoDx lab equipment is that we can load each sample as soon as it is taken, rather than waiting for the complete batch. We started running samples immediately, the last of them had finished running by 18:10, when we were able to assure Kenny that it was safe for the cast to go on with the show.
We were able to go from initial text enquiry to sample-taking and final, confirmed results for the entire cast in just over 3 hours.
Kenny Wax, the Producer of MAGIC GOES WRONG explains:
“Our West End hit MAGIC GOES WRONG had managed to avoid shutdown. However, an actress who had been feeling a little unwell leading up to New Year and continuously tested negative on lateral flows, finally came through with a positive test on Saturday morning 31st December. Hearing this news, the rest of the cast became very anxious about continuing performances until they were confident that covid had not spread throughout the company.
As Producer of the show, I was made aware of this information at 1.45pm. There was due to be a matinee at 2.30pm and an evening show at 7:30pm. We had no other option than to cancel the matinee but in an attempt to save the evening performance (a Saturday Night), at very short notice we attempted to get the whole company of 21 people PCR tested in the afternoon. To achieve almost the impossible everyone set off for the Fleet Street Clinic and by 6.10pm, we received the good news that the rest of the company had tested negative on the PCR and we were able to continue with the evening performance and the following two
shows on the Sunday. This not only saved us another financial blow due to cancellations at the box office, but we were able to provide entertainment to 1,500 customers across those three performances.
Dr Dawood’s staff at the Fleet Street Clinic are always polite, friendly and efficient. They fully understood the nuances of working with a West End theatre production company on a very tight deadline. I am very grateful for their continuing support and cannot recommend them highly enough.”
Weight loss has become a thriving industry and we’re bombarded constantly with unhealthy FAD diets, weight loss programmes, influencers selling teas and pills all promising to help us lose weight. Many of these are promoting quick fixes which are not advised by doctors or dieticians. It can be really hard to know what information to trust. To help navigate the sea of information (and misinformation!) surrounding weight loss, we have asked one of our GPs, Dr Belinda Griffiths, and our dietitian, Ruth Kander, their advice on how to lose weight safely and successfully.
Firstly, it is important to note that weight loss should be consistent and gradual as it can be dangerous to lose too much weight too quickly. Dr Griffiths suggests that “a safe weight loss is 1-2 lbs or 0.5-1kg per week… Greater weight loss than this per week can lead to malnutrition, exhaustion, increased risk of gout and gallstones.” There is also an increased risk of developing an unhealthy relationship with food which, in extreme circumstances, could lead to eating disorders.
Ruth added, “Losing weight gradually and at a healthy rate is key.” Remember, it’s all about consistency! Perseverance will amount to healthy lifestyle changes which will allow you to achieve your weight loss goal.
Don’t underestimate diet
Both Dr Griffiths and Ruth agree that diet is the most important factor when it comes to weight loss. As Ruth explains; “having a healthy balanced diet that is lower in calories than our body uses is a good way to start the weight loss journey. If we don’t reduce calorie intake, one won’t lose weight:.” – this is known as being in a calorie deficit. The amount of calories that will result in weight loss will vary from person to person and depend on the amount of exercise the individual does. In order to lose weight, you will need to burn more calories than are consumed and therefore restricting your calorie intake is the simplest way of losing weight.
Foods to focus on
Ruth recommends that “people should focus on a variety of foods when trying to lose weight”. While Dr Griffiths suggests, “focusing on a range of lean proteins (including meat and fish), vegetables, high fibre foods (such as quinoa, bran flakes etc) and fruit in moderation”. Vegetarians can substitute in lentils, nuts, beans and tofu instead of meat and fish. In general, high calorie foods such as fried food, cakes, biscuits, chocolate and sugary drinks should be avoided.
Let’s get physical!
Although weight loss is still achievable without much exercise, incorporating exercise into your lifestyle will not only aid weight loss, but will generally improve your overall health. Any exercise is better than none whether it be tennis, swimming, or even walking, “whatever you are capable of, just do it!” is Dr Griffiths advice. Ideally, a combination of exercise is best for weight loss – this includes cardio / fat burning and resistance or weight training. Get those steps in! An easy way to incorporate more exercise into your daily routine is by aiming to walk at least 10,000 steps per day. This easy change can make a big difference and remember, as Dr Griffiths says “the more exercise you do, the greater calories are burned” – it’s as simple as that!
Don’t forget about NEAT movements!
NEAT (or Non-exercise activity thermogenesis) movement refers to the physical movement we do day-to-day that isn’t necessarily planned exercise and “encompasses the energy that we expend by simply living”.This includes the calories we burn breathing, eating, sleeping etc. Dr Griffiths suggests that “you can increase NEAT movement easily in your everyday life by making simple changes such as taking the stairs rather than the lift, by standing rather than sitting, by walking instead of taking the train/ bus/ tube or even by carrying bags rather than having items delivered”. It all adds up! These simple swaps will increase the number of calories you burn and help facilitate weight loss.
What to do when you plateau
The first stint of weight loss can make it seem a little too easy as you tend to lose weight more easily in the beginning, but a common issue lots of people face is when weight loss reaches a plateau. This is where you stop losing weight to the same extent you were before, or stop losing weight for a period of time. This can feel disheartening and more often than not, people tend to give up at this stage. Dr Griffiths states at this point “it is a case of persevering with calorie restriction and regular exercise and gradually weight loss will resume.” If it doesn’t, Ruth suggests “ looking at what you’re eating to see if anything has slipped”. She states “maybe you’re not taking into consideration extra calories here and there” but they all add up. See if there are any areas of your diet where you could be a little stricter, or consider starting or upping your exercise.
Sleep and Stress
A good night’s sleep and keeping your stress levels down will be your friend when it comes to weight loss. “In order to lose weight, you need to be in the correct frame of mind and life circumstances” says Ruth. Research has shown that you tend to eat more and make poorer food choices, including seeking comfort food, when you are sleep deprived. This is because not getting enough sleep “disrupts the hormones in your brain (Leptin and Ghrelin) that control appetite” says Dr Griffiths.
Stress can also play a part in weight loss as Dr Griffiths explains that “stress increases cortisol levels which increases gastric acid output and makes you feel anxious and hungry”. Ruth adds “there is also a theory that being stressed can limit weight loss in terms of hormonal activity in the hypothalamic-pituitary axis which can lead to the release of hormones that can limit weight loss”. Keeping it simple, “to lose weight, good sleep and minimal stress would be ideal”.
Trying to lose weight can seem complicated, confusing and difficult, but when you really break it down, the ingredients to losing weight successfully are actually very straightforward. If you stick to these simple rules and you are patient and consistent, the weight will come off and you will achieve your goals.
If you feel that you are doing everything right and you still aren’t losing weight, or are even putting weight on, there could be something else causing this. You may have an undiagnosed underlying medical condition and we’d advise you to visit your GP to make sure everything is well.
Arthritis is a common condition that causes pain and inflammation in joints. It is not a single disease but an informal way of referring to joint pain or joint disease. There are more than 100 types of arthritis and related conditions. There are thought to be 10 million people with some form of arthritis in the UK. It is the most common cause of disability in the UK and can affect people of all ages but it does occur more frequently as people get older.
Common arthritis joint symptoms include swelling, pain, stiffness and decreased range of motion. Symptoms can range dramatically from person to person, with some experiencing mild symptoms with occasional flare ups to those who experience constant debilitating pain everyday. The sad truth is that there is no cure for arthritis, so it is all about pain management and how to best reduce flare ups.
The impact of the weather on the symptoms of arthritis has been debated for many years and people tend to report more arthritis flare-ups in the winter, but the reason why is not specifically known.
Quite often sufferers will state that their symptoms get worse when the weather is damp and cold and some state they are able to tell when the weather is about to change based on their arteritis symptoms worsening.
Even if there is currently nothing to support this scientifically, this doesn’t remove the pain felt by sufferers and so rather than comment on where this is true or not, let’s look at ways to reduce flare ups in winter.
Our top 4 tips:
1. Stay warm
When the temperature drops both inside and outside, dress warmly. Make sure all arthritis prone areas are kept warm.
2. Stay hydrated
Drink plenty of water throughout the day. Even mild dehydration might make you more sensitive to pain.
3. Take warm baths
A warm bath or visiting a heated swimming pool will ease joint pain and comfort you. If you visit a heated swimming pool, gentle exercise will also help your mobility.
4. Stay active
It is now clear that active people experience less joint pain than those who are sedentary. If you are experiencing an arthritic flare then reduce your usual activity (but don’t stop altogether) and use simple anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen if it is safe for you to do so.
If you are feeling sad at the start of the year, don’t worry, you are not alone.
Although it comes around every year, we always seem to be caught off-guard by what has now commonly become known as “The January Blues”.
The January blues is another name for situational depression and is associated with the way we think and feel. Around this time of year, the weather is cold and gloomy, the days are shorter and the nights are longer, plus you may be experiencing post-Christmas exhaustion, debt and perhaps even dread going back to work.
Symptoms of the January blues are things such as low mood and sadness, lack of motivation, tiredness and low energy. These are all normal feelings, if temporary.
Most likely, your negative mood will be brought on by the anticlimax of reality after the exciting events of December & the New Year. Ever heard that old phrase, “don’t cry because it has ended, but smile because it happened”? Find comfort in knowing that you are absolutely not alone in feeling blue in January. In fact, many people in the UK feel especially down in January but the good news is that the January Blues are temporary and typically only last a couple of weeks. You don’t need to take any medication as your thoughts and feelings should naturally return to normal.
If it doesn’t and you are experiencing prolonged or worsening thoughts and feelings, you may actually have Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD, which is different. SAD is clinical depression caused by a person’s biology. It is much longer-lasting, sometimes months on end and likely to occur every year in winter. You should see a doctor to discuss your symptoms as if you have SAD, a range of treatments are available to assist recovery. More information on SAD can be found here.
Remember, please be kind to yourself and know that you’re not alone.
For more information on our GP Services.
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We no longer offer hypnotherapy at Fleet Street Clinic.
In 2021 we stopped providing hypnotherapy as a service to our patients. We do still offer other supporting services, which may be of interest and suitable for your needs:
If you are unsure, please contact us and we can assist you further.
For an overview of all other services available at Fleet Street Clinic, click here.