Cholesterol is a type of fat that is found in the blood and plays an important role in our bodies. However, high levels of cholesterol can lead to serious health issues, such as heart disease, stroke, and other cardiovascular problems. Unfortunately, cholesterol is often referred to as a “silent killer” as there are usually no symptoms and the first indication that something is wrong may be a heart attack. That’s why it’s important to have your cholesterol levels checked regularly.
Instant cholesterol testing only requires a short nurse appointment that provides you with both the test and the results during the same appointment. This type of testing makes it easy and convenient for people to understand their cholesterol levels and take steps to keep them under control.
Statistics from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) show that cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in the United Kingdom, accounting for around 26% of all deaths. The most common type of CVD is coronary heart disease, which is caused by a build-up of fatty deposits in the arteries leading to the heart. High cholesterol levels can contribute to the formation of these fatty deposits.
By knowing your cholesterol numbers through instant testing, you can understand your risk of developing CVD and take the necessary steps to keep your levels under control. NICE recommends that all adults in the UK should have their cholesterol levels checked at least once every five years, or more frequently if they are at increased risk of CVD. Those at increased risk include people with a family history of CVD, smokers, people with high blood pressure, and people with diabetes.
To keep your cholesterol levels under control, it is important to make changes to your diet. This includes eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins, and reducing your intake of saturated and trans fats. You should also aim to maintain a healthy weight and be physically active for at least 30 minutes a day.
If lifestyle changes are not enough, medication may be required. The most common type of cholesterol-lowering medication is statins, which work by reducing the production of cholesterol in the liver. Statins are widely used in the UK and are safe and effective.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has recently released updated guidelines on the use of statins, which now recommend that they can be considered for people at a lower risk threshold.
In conclusion, instant cholesterol testing provides an easy and convenient way to understand your cholesterol levels and take steps to keep them under control. Regular testing is important for everyone in the UK, especially those who are at increased risk of CVD. By knowing your numbers, making changes to your diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and being physically active, you can help keep your cholesterol levels in the healthy range and reduce your risk of developing serious health problems.
Related services available at Fleet Street Clinic:
Cutting back on alcohol can be a really effective way to improve your health, boost your energy, loose weight and save money.
In 2016, the Chief Medical Officers in the UK reduced the recommended amount of alcohol you should consume a week due to concerns about the risk of cancer. New research confirmed that even drinking a small amount of alcohol per week can cause an increase in risk of cancer.
From then onwards, it has been recommended that men and women have the same weekly intake of units per week. According to the UK low risk drinking guidelines, you should drink no more than 14 units a week, make sure you have several drink-free days, and never binge drink.
What does 14 units of alcohol look like?
Because alcoholic drinks come in different strengths and sizes, units are a way to tell how strong your drink is. 14 units is equivalent to six pints of average strength beer or six medium (175ml) glasses of average strength wine.
It’s safest for both men and women to drink no more than 14 units a week, spread over three or more days with several drink-free days, and no bingeing.
Your risk of death from long term illness, accident or injury, is increased if you ‘binge drink’ 1 or more times a week.
How long does alcohol stay in your body:
On average, it takes about one hour for your body to break down one unit of alcohol. However, this can vary, depending on:
- Your weight
- Whether you’re male or female
- Your age
- How quickly or slowly your body turns food into energy (your metabolism)
- How much food you have eaten
What are the consequences of drinking too much alcohol:
- Low mood/mood swings
- Liver problems
- Heart problems
- Cancers (mouth, tongue, throat, oesophagus)
- Weight gain
- Poor sleep
- Blood pressure instability
What are the benefits to cutting down on alcohol?
- waking up in a better mood
- being less tired and more energetic throughout the day
- healthier looking skin
- saving some money
- lower your blood pressure
- lower the risk of diseases including cancer, stroke, hypertension and liver disease
- lower your cholesterol levels
- your memory will improve
- better quality of sleep
- help with weight management*
* Did you know? Alcoholic drinks are high in calories, so cutting back on the amount you drink can really help to reduce your calorie intake.
According to our GP & Occupation Health Physician, Dr Claire Braham;
“When you drink alcohol, you lose around 4 times as much fluid as you drink.
It is therefore easy to understand why dehydrated often occurs. Dehydration symptoms are much like your classic hangover symptoms and will include headache, nausea and fatigue. These symptoms will become present when you are about 2-percent dehydrated, which is about when you start to feel thirst.
Avoiding alcohol means better hydration and sleep which will reduce hangovers and headaches, reduce tiredness, reduce sickness, increase your concentration and improve your overall control over emotions and behaviour. This leads to more productivity, better decision making and overall less accidents, regrets and more enjoyment.
It is not advised to drink more than 14 units a week, which is the equivalent of 6 pints of beer. That converts to 1,092 calories in total and would need 109 minutes of running to burn off those additional consumed calories. Abstinence is an easy way to avoid festivity weight gain.
Nowadays it is very easy to cut down or cut out alcohol. There is a wide variety of alcohol-free beer, wine, prosecco, gin, vodka, whisky and other spirits available on the market. These include some which are vegan and gluten-free as well as often free from sugar and artificial sweeteners. So you can still enjoy a ‘drink’, without the alcohol and high-sugar but with health benefits.”
For further detail of how alcohol can have a negative impact on your health, head to drinkaware.co.uk for more information and advice on drinking.
If you have concerns about the amount of alcohol you are drinking or about your health you should speak to a GP. You can book an appointment online.
More information on our GP service can be found here.
Ageing is an inevitable part of living. As we age, many physical and psychological changes affect our overall health and these vary from person to person.
The general myth is that as you age, you become more fragile and that this is unavoidable. This is most certainly not the case. There are always things we can do to help keep healthy in our older years and these changes can slow down or even prevent certain health conditions from developing.
The term “fragile” is defined as not “strong or sturdy; delicate and vulnerable” and is most often used to describe older ladies. One particular age-related health issue that supports this description would be osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is a degenerative disease that weakens and thins the bones which makes them fragile and more likely to break and is becoming increasingly common. It is much more prevalent in women than men due to the menopause directly affecting hormone balances and this directly affects bone density. It is important to prevent osteoporosis as we age as 75% of fractures due to osteoporosis occur in people aged 65 and over.
There are several things you can do to help prevent osteoporosis:
1) Do regular, weight bearing physical activity.
The lack of regular exercise will result in loss of bone and muscle, so adults who are inactive are more likely to have a hip fracture than those who are more active. Adults should aim to do at least two and a half hours of moderate-intensity exercise every week. Weight bearing and resistance training are a particularly great way of improving bone density and helping to prevent osteoporosis.
2) Eat plenty of calcium and Vitamin D containing foods.
Your diet is very important and the nutrients we get from the food we consume will affect how strong our body is. Eat plenty of dairy, seeds, eggs, oily fish, protein, fruit and vegetables. Additionally, try to get at least 15-minutes of sun exposure per day to increase your Vitamin D intake. As we know in the UK, such sun exposure is not always possible during the winter months and, if this is the case, taking a daily Vitamin D supplement is advised.
3) Maintain a healthy weight.
As you get older, you start to lose lean body mass like muscle and bone density and this can start to happen yearly from the age of 30. Being underweight weakens your bones so it is important to keep your weight in a healthy range. A good indication, although not exact, is your BMI. For most adults, a healthy BMI range is between 18.5 and 24.9, so try not to let your BMI fall below 19.
Those who suffer from eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia are at a higher risk of fragility due to the conditions causing further bone density loss. This can happen to anorexic and bulimic sufferers of all ages.
Older people should aim to consume a varied diet, consisting of enough calories for maintaining a healthy weight.
4) Limit your consumption of alcohol.
We’d recommend that you drink no more than a maximum of 2 units of alcohol per day. Any more than this has been demonstrated to increase the risk of bone fracture. Alcohol abuse has detrimental effects on bone health and increases a person’s risk of developing osteoporosis.
5) Stop smoking and definitely don’t start!
Smoking is a known risk factor for osteoporosis as it increases bone mass loss. In fact, smoking doubles the risk of hip fracture.
Generally, being healthy is the key to avoiding fragility and in particular preventing osteoporosis as we age. Having an annual health medical can highlight any areas of concern. They can monitor the progression of any pre-existing health issues, as well as detect arising conditions in the early stages. You can book your annual medical online
In addition to making healthy lifestyle choices, it is also important to book a doctor’s appointment should you notice any changes to your health. The sooner a health concern is addressed, the easier it is to treat. You can book a GP appointment online.
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.
Bowel Cancer in the UK
The beginning of April marked the start of Bowel Cancer Awareness month. Bowel cancer is very treatable and one of the most common cancers in the UK.
40,000 cases are diagnosed every year. 1 in every 20 people will develop bowel cancer in their life time.
Symptoms of bowel cancer are often ones that you may find difficult to talk about or explain to your doctor. Nobody enjoys an uncomfortable conversation, especially when it comes to being candidly honest about something so private but the earlier it’s diagnosed, the greater the chance of survival is. It’s difficult, but let’s talk about it.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS?
- Bleeding from your bottom and/or blood in your bowel movements
- A change in your bowel habits that lasts three weeks or longer
- Sudden and unexplained weight loss
- Extreme tiredness for no obvious reason
- A pain or a lump in your stomach
AM I AT RISK OF BOWEL CANCER?
Currently we do not know what causes this cancer. We have been able to identify some factors that can increase your risk of getting the disease:
- Aged over 50
- A strong family history of bowel cancer
- Being overweight or obese
- Lack of exercise and being inactive
- Longstanding inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis
HOW CAN I HELP PREVENT BOWEL CANCER?
There is no way to 100% prevent bowel cancer unfortunately. Things like family history, you cannot change.
However, there are some ways you can help yourself as recommended by the NHS.
- Improve your diet – eat less processed foods and red meat, eat more fish and fibre
- It is recommended that adults exercise for at least 2.5 hours a week
- Making sure you are a ‘healthy’ weight
- Stop smoking
- Cut down on alcohol
You can read all about these tips here on the NHS website.
GET SCREENED FOR BOWEL CANCER
If you are concerned about possible symptoms and are not eligible for NHS screening (aged between 60 – 74 and registered with a GP), you can make an appointment to speak with one of our experienced GPs (male or female GP’s).