Dr Sarah Jarvis
My Weekly’s favourite GP from TV and radio writes for you
As a doctor, much of my job is prescribing tablets. Often they are needed, but I’d rather not dole them out when they aren’t. So many conditions are preventable, and I’d much rather work with my patients to help them make lifestyle changes to keep them healthy.
So what can you do this New Year to make your doctor, and your body, happy? Know your numbers. If you haven’t had your blood pressure checked for 5 years, you could be at risk of a heart attack or stroke. If you have a home monitor, great – but be aware it’s averages that count. The odd high reading (over 135/85 at home) is fine, but if it stays that high, see your GP. Pharmacy friendly. GPs are advised not to prescribe medicines routinely available from pharmacists. These
DO YOU MAKE A POINT OF WINDING DOWN? MORE AND MORE PEOPLE ARE TURNING TO MINDFULNESS, YOGA OR RELAXATION EXERCISES – THEY REALLY WORK!
include simple pain-killers and anti-inflammatory gels, cough and cold mixtures, some eye drops, omega-3 fish oils and homeopathic treatments. So don’t spend hours in the waiting room to be told to see your pharmacist instead! They’re experts in medicines and will be happy to advise on many minor ailments. Say no to salt. On average, we eat a third more salt than we should. Public Health England says if we all cut salt by 1 gram a day, we could save over 4,000 early deaths a year. The majority of our salt comes from hidden sources in pre-prepared foods, and cooking from scratch helps you control your intake. Cut down slowly; your tastebuds will change in weeks. If you do want salt flavour, Lo-Salt® make a reduced sodium alternative (it’s the sodium that raises blood pressure).
Stub it out. We’ve done so well – in 1974, almost half of UK adults smoked. Today, it’s 1 in 6. It’s never too late for your health to quit; the NHS is there to help. Be alcohol aware. As well as helping your liver, keeping alcohol intake down cuts your risk of cancer, dementia and depression. The Chief Medical Officer recommends sticking below 14 units a week for men and women, over several days with a few alcohol-free days a week. A pint of normal strength beer, a 175ml glass of wine or a double pub measure of spirit all have 2 units. Say yes to screening. The NHS offers screening for three main reasons: ■ To detect conditions early, so they’re more treatable – like bowel and breast cancer ■ To pick up risk factors such as abdominal aortic aneurysm (swelling of the largest blood vessel in the body), high blood pressure or high cholesterol, so they can be treated before they cause catastrophe ■ To prevent cancer. Cervical and bowel scope screening let doctors treat potentially cancerous changes before “full” cancer develops. Yet half of people invited for bowel screening don’t take up the invitation and cervical screening rates continue to fall. If in doubt, please speak to your doctor rather than ignore the invitation – it may save your life! Cut (refined) carbs. All carbs make your blood sugar rise, both sugary and starchy (bread, flour, pasta, potatoes etc). New studies show sugary drinks may be particularly harmful. Focus on wholegrain alternatives, including beans, pulses and lentils. Veg out. I spend a lot of time telling people what they shouldn’t do. But here’s something I’m happy for you to do – eat veg and fruit! Fresh, frozen, canned – it all counts. Leaf through My Weekly for new recipes. Next week: Are You Ever Too Old For A Smear Test?
BEING MORE PHYSICALLY ACTIVE CAN STRENGTHEN BONES AND CUT FALLS, HEART DISEASE AND EVEN DEPRESSION. STEP OUT FOR HEALTH. IN 1974, ALMOST HALF OF UK ADULTS SMOKED. TODAY, IT’S 1 IN 6’’
Make your doctor happy!