The ups and downs of blood pressure
We all have our blood pressure checked at some stage in our lives, but do you know what is actually being measured. Your blood pressure is the strength with which your blood pushes on the sides of your arteries (main blood vessels) as it’s pumped around your body. If the pressure is too high or too low it could cause problems that require further investigation. It is recommended that all adults over the age of 40 have their blood pressure checked at least once every five years so that any emerging problems can be picked up and managed as early as possible. The NHS offers free health checks to adults in England aged 40-74. You would normally be invited to an appointment at your GP surgery or local clinic but you can also request a health check yourself.
What happens when your blood pressure is measured
Your health professional will use a device called a sphygmomanometer which has a cuff that is strapped to the upper arm. The cuff is pumped up with air to restrict blood flow. This feels like a firm squeeze and only lasts a few seconds. The air is then slowly let out and a stethoscope is used to listen to your pulse. Your blood pressure is recorded at two points as the blood starts to return to your arm.
What do the numbers mean
Blood pressure is measured in millimetres of mercury, or mmHg. Two measurements are taken. When your heart pushes blood out which is known as systolic pressure, and the pressure when your heart rests between beats, which is called diastolic pressure. Your blood pressure is read as two numbers, one after the other. For example if your systolic pressure is 120mmHg and your diastolic pressure is 80mmHg, it is said to be 120 over 80. Anything between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg is regarded as being in the normal range.
Risks of high or low blood pressure
Anything above 140/90 is considered to be high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. You may not notice any symptoms but for some people it could put them at an increased risk of developing serious issues such as heart attacks and strokes. This is why it’s important to be checked when you’re invited by your GP if over the age of 40. At the other end of the scale is low blood pressure. Also known as hypotension. It may not cause problems for many people but can result in dizziness, fainting, and in more serious cases, shock. Anything under 90/60mmHg can be regarded as low which can be caused by dehydration (particularly in the elderly), certain types of medication, blood loss, allergic reactions and a lack of nutrients which prevents your body from producing enough red blood cells.
How to keep a healthy heart
Normal blood pressure can vary between individuals. If your health professional thinks you are at risk of developing issues due to blood pressure being too high or too low, they may recommend changes to your lifestyle. This may include;
- Stopping smoking
- Cutting back on alcohol
- Taking regular exercise
- Eating a balanced diet including lots of fresh fruit and vegetables
- Reducing caffeine intake
- Eating less salt
- Losing weight
Your doctor will also ask questions about your background to find out if you are at a greater risk of heart disease or other illnesses. If your blood pressure is particularly high, or you are considered to be at a greater risk then they may also recommend medication to lower your blood pressure.
Where you can get tested
As well as here at The Chapel Surgery, you can also have your blood pressure checked at some local pharmacies. Some workplaces may also offer a blood pressure check. You can also buy monitors to use at home but make sure they are approved by the British Hypertension Society. They provide details of recommended monitors for home use. Bear in mind that your blood pressure fluctuates throughout the day so readings will vary and you will need to take measurements at different times. Some people find that visiting their GP can cause their blood pressure to rise so taking measurements at home as well can provide a good back-up. For further information about recommended monitors visit https://bihsoc.org/bp-monitors/for-home-use/
If you would like to visit a health professional outside of normal working hours, please visit East Berkshire Primary Care Out Of Hours at https://ebpcooh.org.uk/
A Healthy Childhood is a Happy Childhood
A healthy childhood is a happy childhood. There are a few simple steps you can take to help ensure children and young people are as healthy as possible.
The Benefits of Fresh Air
From playing on game consoles to looking at their mobile phones, children seem to be spending more and more time indoors. The increase in numbers of children spending a predominant amount of time inside has led to numerous studies being published highlighting the negative impact this is having on their health and development. Research has also discovered that there are many benefits to children playing outdoors, here are just some of the benefits:
It builds confidence. The way that children play in nature has a lot less structure than most types of indoor play. There are infinite ways to interact with outdoor environments, from the garden to the park to the local hiking trail or lake, and letting your child choose how they treat nature means they have the power to control their own actions.
It promotes creativity and imagination. This unstructured style of play also allows children to interact meaningfully with their surroundings. They can think more freely, design their own activities, and approach the world in inventive ways.
Sunshine provides Vitamin D! Children need vitamin D for bone growth and development. So do babies developing in the womb. Vitamin D helps us absorb calcium. Serious vitamin D deficiency in children can cause rickets, delayed motor development, muscle weakness, aches and pains, and fractures.
It provides different stimulation. Nature may seem less stimulating than a video game, but in reality, it activates more senses. You can see, hear, smell, and touch outdoor environments. As the young spend less and less of their lives in natural surroundings, their senses narrow, this reduces the richness of human experience.
It makes them think. From an environmental perspective nature creates a unique sense of wonder for children that no other environment can provide. The phenomena that occur naturally in gardens and parks everyday make children ask questions about the earth and the life that it supports.
It reduces stress and fatigue. In natural environments, we practice an effortless type of attention known as soft fascination that creates feelings of pleasure. Unlike the urban environment that drains our senses and causes fatigue.
The Benefits of Vaccinations
Immunisation is one of the great scientific advances that has changed the world as we know it. It is an affordable and effective means of protecting not just individuals but whole communities from debilitating diseases.
Many childhood diseases can spread very quickly and have serious consequences. Vaccination is one of the key ways of reducing the incidence of infectious diseases.
Immunisation is the process whereby an individual’s immune system becomes protected against an infection. The purpose of immunisation is to prevent people from acquiring infectious diseases and to protect them against the associated short and longer-term complications of the disease.
Vaccine refers to the material used for immunisation, while vaccination refers to the act of giving a vaccine to a person. Vaccines work by stimulating the body’s defence mechanisms against an infection. These defence mechanisms are collectively referred to as the immune system.
Vaccines mimic and sometimes improve on the body’s protective response. Helping the immune system detect and destroy the infection when it is encountered in the future without development of significant symptoms or complications.
The Benefits of Healthy Eating
A healthy, balanced diet is vital for your child, especially as it provides them with essential nutrients needed for their continued growth and development. Yet with so much conflicting information regarding food and health it can be confusing for many parents when trying to understand what your child needs and why they need it.
Making sure your child has a balanced diet means much more than eating fruit and vegetables for every meal. It involves encouraging them to have a healthy relationship with food! For example, making sure they don’t eat food for the sake of it and knowing that binging on junk food won’t make them feel good. Understanding and using the word ‘moderation’ early on will be sure to teach your child fantastic eating habits, which will stay with them for life.
Other ways a healthy diet can be achieved is by making child-appropriate portion sizes. Aim for three balanced meals a day with up to two healthy snacks.
The Benefits of a Good Sleep Routine
Studies have shown that kids who regularly get an adequate amount of sleep have improved attention, behaviour, learning, memory, and overall mental and physical health. Not getting enough sleep can lead to:
- irritability, increased stress, forgetfulness, difficulties with learning and low motivation. Over time, it can contribute to anxiety and depression.
- Sleep time guidelines depend on a child’s age. Every child is different, so take time to figure out what works best for your child.
- If your child’s sleep routine is disrupted, return them to a healthy sleep schedule as soon as possible.
- See your doctor if you have concerns about your child’s sleep patterns. Sleep is a very important part of your child’s mental and physical health. It allows your child’s mind and body to rest and recover.
When it comes to a healthy lifestyle, the role of parents is the same no matter the size of their children. A healthy weight for kids is about much more than numbers. It is about healthy behaviours, such as enjoying a variety of foods and activities for strength, flexibility and aerobic capacity.
For more information on how young people can stay healthy visit the Frimley Healthier Together website
The month to think pink for Breast Cancer Awareness
October is breast cancer awareness month; a time to get out the pink ribbons, bunting and raise some money for breast cancer charities. It’s an international campaign which started in 1985 to raise awareness of breast cancer and to promote the importance of screening (tests to detect the disease). Now every October, breast cancer charities and organisations come together to increase awareness of breast cancer and raise funds for research into its cause, prevention, diagnosis, treatment and cure.
Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in the UK with 150 women diagnosed every day, which is around 55,000 a year. But it’s not just women who are affected – 390 men are also diagnosed with breast cancer each year. 1 in 7 women in the UK will develop breast cancer in their lives and it is more common in older women. The good news is that two thirds of women diagnosed now survive 20 years or more due to advances in awareness, early detection and treatment.
Breast cancer and its symptoms
Breast cancer develops in the breast tissue when abnormal cells grow and divide in an uncontrolled way. This eventually forms a growth known as a tumour. The first symptom most people notice may be a lump or thickening in their breast or armpit. You may notice changes in the shape or size of your breast, or dimpling or redness of the skin. Your nipple may change position, or may discharge fluid. If you experience any of these symptoms it is important that you book an appointment with your doctor. Early diagnosis can save lives.
It is important to get to know the shape, size and feel of your breasts so you can identify any changes quickly. This is known as being breast aware. Your breasts may change at different times of the month but if you know what’s normal for you, you will be able to notice any changes and make an appointment to see your GP who will be able to make a referral to the breast clinic if necessary.
How to check
It is often recommended to check your breasts when you are in the shower or bath, smoothing your hand over the breast and surrounding areas above and into your armpits. It is normal for breasts to feel lumpier around the time of your period and if this occurs in both breasts, with both feeling softer again after menstruation then this is normally ok. Lumps that persist, or one breast lumpier than the other should be checked by your GP. Any discharge (when not breastfeeding), puckering of the skin or redness should be checked without delay.
National screening programme
Women aged 50 to 70 are invited once every three years to have a mammogram – a screening test to check for breast cancer. This is part of the UK’s national breast screening programme and uses X-rays to detect the presence of cancer before it causes any symptoms. Two million people are screened every year. Mammograms detecting cancer in about 9 out of every 1000 women who are checked. Early detection and treatment leads to better outcomes as the cancers are often smaller and require less treatment. Many cancers develop between mammograms so it is still important to check yourself in between.
What happens at a Mammogram?
If you find a lump and are referred by your GP. You may be invited to a mammogram as part of the screening programme. You will have an appointment that will last up to 30 minutes. The mammogram itself only takes a few minutes with a total of four X-rays taken, two on each breast. They are carried out by specialists called mammographers who will help you through the process. The results are sent to you in the post. If your mammogram has shown an abnormality you will be referred to a specialist breast clinic for further tests.
Causes of breast cancer
The reasons why breast cancer develops in some people and not others are not fully understood. Age is known to play a factor. 80% of cases diagnosed are in those over 50. Genetic mutations which are inherited (passed down from one generation to the next) can lead to close relatives developing breast cancer. Lifestyle factors can also influence the risk of developing breast cancer. Being overweight after the menopause can lead to an increase in the hormone oestrogen in the body which is thought to be a risk factor. Drinking alcohol, even small amounts on a regular basis is thought to increase the risk.
Remember to regularly check your breasts and if you notice anything unusual book an appointment with your GP straight away.
This year’s annual flu shot will offer protection against four of the influenza viruses expected to be in circulation this flu season. High-dose flu vaccines will be available for adults aged 50 and older.
Influenza is a respiratory infection that can cause serious complications, particularly in young children, older adults and people with certain medical conditions. Getting an influenza vaccine — though not 100% effective — is the best way to prevent the misery of the flu and its complications.
It can be serious for many people and can make you feel really poorly. If you’re not sure whether to get the flu vaccination or why you should get the flu jab again this year, perhaps the benefits will help change your mind.
Getting the flu vaccine:
- Gives the best protection against flu
- Protects you against this year’s strain of flu
- Means if you do get the flu after you’ve been vaccinated your symptoms will be milder
- Helps protect those around you who may not be able to get the jab
- Lowers the risk of serious complications for those who are more prone to catching flu
- Will prevent you from being seriously ill if you also get coronavirus at the same time
NHS flu jabs are available in England, Wales & Scotland. The eligible groups vary in each country, so it is best to check if you are eligible.
You will qualify for a free NHS flu jab in England and Wales if you:
- Are over 50 (including those who will turn 50 by 31st March 2022)
- Live with someone who’s at high risk of coronavirus (on the NHS Shielded patient list)
- Are pregnant
- Have certain long-term health conditions (e.g. diabetes, asthma, a heart condition or a neurological condition such as Parkinson’s disease)
- Are a frontline health or social care worker
- Are in a long-stay residential care home
- Are a carer (you may be receiving carers allowance, or be the main carer for someone elderly or disabled)
- Have a learning disability
- Are severely overweight
Flu can be serious, and each year causes thousands of people to go to hospital and hundreds of deaths. If you have a heart or circulatory condition, or if you’re older, you’re more at risk of becoming seriously ill from flu, even if you currently feel well. If you have already had a heart attack, getting the flu puts you at greater risk of having another heart attack.
With coronavirus still circulating, it’s vital to get the flu jab to reduce your risk of getting both illnesses at once, which could make you even more unwell. Getting the flu jab is also one of the best things you can do to help the NHS. More people getting the jab means fewer people who will need treatment for flu at a time when hospitals could struggle if coronavirus cases rise again.
In every UK nation the flu programme has been expanded this year, to offer free flu jabs for more people.
The flu vaccine is different for adults and children. See the links below for more information on the flu vaccine programme:
Smear tests - have you had yours?
Every year, around 3200 women in the UK are diagnosed with cervical cancer and 850 individuals will die from the disease. Worldwide, there are more than 570,000 cases and 311,000 deaths each year, making it the fourth most common cancer in women (according to the World Health Organisation or WHO). However, when detected early and managed effectively, cervical cancer is one of the most successfully treatable forms of cancer, so it is important to make sure that you attend your smear test when invited. The WHO plans to eliminate cervical cancer within a generation through screening and prevention which will make it the first cancer to be eradicated.
What is cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer is caused by a change in cells on the cervix - which is the opening to the womb from the vagina. The changes are caused by a group of viruses known as HPV or human papillomaviruses. HPV can be present on the skin, mouth and genitalia and not cause any problems, but in some people, certain types of HPV known as ‘high risk’ types can cause changes to the cells of the cervix which may go on to cause cancer. HPV is easy to catch and can be passed on through any skin to skin contact of the genital area, also through vaginal, oral and anal sex so it’s important to always use a condom during sex. HPV is very common, there are no symptoms so you will not know if you have it, but it can be detected through the cervical screening programme (smear test) and helps prevent cancer developing.
National screening programme
A smear test is part of the national cervical screening programme which is offered to ladies and trans-genders in the highest risk age groups which includes those aged 25 to 64. The smear test is not a test for cancer but will check the health of your cervix and helps to prevent cancer by detecting the presence of HPV. The test is usually carried out at your local GP surgery by a female doctor or nurse so make sure you are registered. You will be invited by letter once every three years if you are aged 25 to 49 and then once every five years for those aged up to 64.
What will happen during the appointment?
The test is very straightforward, taking about ten minutes for the appointment during which your healthcare professional will explain the process. You will lie down, and they will insert a small, rounded tool called a speculum to see your cervix and will use a small, soft brush to take a sample of cells. These cells will be sent off to a laboratory to be tested for HPV and to identify any abnormal cells and you will be notified of the result. Occasionally you may experience some light spotting, or bleeding after the test which should go away after a few hours. You may feel apprehensive about having a smear test, and if that is the case, the nurse or other health professional can help guide you through the process and provide advice to help you feel more comfortable.
How important is it that I attend my smear test when invited?
Screening (or smear tests) is one of the best ways to prevent cervical cancer from developing. It is your choice as to whether or not you wish to attend when you are invited, however early detection of HPV and potentially abnormal cells on your cervix can lead to early treatment, preventing cancer developing and could save your life. Cancers are graded in four stages with stage one being early and stage four being advanced; for cervical cancer, the rate of survival for stage one cancers is 95%, reducing to 15% for those diagnosed at stage four.
What happens if my smear test is abnormal?
There is no treatment for HPV and many infections clear up after two years, however you will be monitored more regularly for any abnormal cell changes. If any changes are found, you will be referred for a colposcopy which is similar to a smear test but is carried out in a hospital clinic and a microscope with a light is used to look at your cervix. The appointment takes about 20 minutes and may involve a biopsy - a small sample of tissue taken for examination in a laboratory. You may also be offered treatment immediately to remove abnormal cells or in some cases you may wait until the results of the biopsy are known. There is a risk that abnormal cells may become cancerous so removing the cells prevents cancer developing. This is why smear tests are so important as they help detect risks and prevent cancer developing.
Musculoskeletal (MSK) clinics - Managing muscle, bone and joint pain
What are musculoskeletal (MSK) problems?
MSK clinics help people who experience muscle, bone or joint pain and cover a large range of conditions caused by illness, injury or age. Musculoskeletal refers to areas of the body that include muscles, bones, joints and connecting tissues (ligaments and tendons that connect muscles to each other and to bones). Conditions that are managed by musculoskeletal services may include arthritis (inflammation of the joints), osteoporosis (weakening of the bones normally seen with increasing age), sprains, strains, dislocations and other issues that may be caused by overuse of muscles and joints such as lower back pain due to manual lifting. People of all ages can be affected but conditions are more commonly associated with an increase in age.
What to look out for
As conditions are so wide-ranging you can experience a spectrum of different symptoms which may include general aching and stiffness in the joints or burning sensations in the muscles. Your muscles may feel tired (referred to as muscle fatigue) or you may notice muscle twitches and pain that gets worse when you move - MSK conditions often feel better with rest.
What you should do if you experience pain
Many people experiencing pain can be slow to seek help due to issues not appearing to be life-threatening or urgent. However, swift access to treatment can help to manage situations and prevent them from getting worse; helping to avoid taking time off work or having periods of time with reduced mobility. Problems account for approximately 30% of GP appointments - with lower back and neck pain amongst the highest causes of years lost to disability in the UK. If you experience pain, your first port of call is your GP who will assess you and may refer you to the relevant musculoskeletal services for further tests and treatment. MSK pain can often be worse at night, interfering with sleep so if you find you need to visit a healthcare expert at this time you can find details of the East Berkshire Out Of Hours clinics at https://ebpcooh.org.uk/
What happens in a musculoskeletal assessment
When you visit your GP or healthcare professional, they will ask questions about your lifestyle and medical history to identify any potential causes that may have an impact on your MSK system. This may be linked to your job or lifestyle if you perform lots of tasks that involve lifting items or standing for long periods of time. Your health professional will also palpate (assess by touch) the affected part for swelling, tenderness and heat. They will look at the muscle texture and see if there are any tense muscles or trigger points. Your nerves and tendons (tissues that attach muscle to bone), will also be tested for sensation, strength and response.
Once you have been assessed your healthcare professional may refer you for blood tests, X-rays or scans such as MRI or CT scans to have a more in-depth look at what may be causing the pain. Depending on the cause of pain you may be referred to occupational therapy (to assess ways you live and work), physiotherapy, acupuncture or steroid injections to manage pain and inflammation along with pain relief.
You can often take steps to manage your own condition at home and may be recommended to apply hot and cold compresses to ease swelling, pain and inflammation, particularly if the condition has been caused by an injury. Advice may include taking over-the-counter pain relief such as paracetamol or ibuprofen which also helps reduce inflammation. You may be provided with a series of exercises to perform to improve flexibility with regular stretching or to strengthen muscles. Some MSK pain can also be improved with stress-relieving techniques such as yoga and meditation.
Prevention: better than cure
Looking after yourself well with regular exercise including warming up and cooling down, supported with good nutrition can help maintain strong bones and joints and help prevent MSK pain. Also make sure you have good posture, particularly when sitting or standing for long periods of time and practice correct lifting techniques if needing to lift a heavy load - avoid bending the back but make sure it stays straight and you use the legs if the lift cannot be avoided. Limit repetitive movement and stretch muscles out regularly. It’s also wise to avoid smoking if you experience joint or muscle pain as this can cause inflammation.
Pain can often improve with the correct treatment so it is important you seek help from your GP or MSK clinic to ensure conditions can be managed. For further information or to book an appointment please visit the Chapel Medical Centre in Slough at https://www.chapelmedicalcentreslough.nhs.uk/appointments
The Menopause – making it a positive time of life
Hot flushes…night sweats….weight fluctuation…These are the more well known symptoms associated with the menopause. Did you know there are more than 30 different symptoms that affect women as they experience this phase of their lives? Some of these are well known but others are less talked about. Many women may not know that issues they experience are related to the menopause or “the change” as it has come to be commonly known.
Fall in hormone levels
Changes in the female body are caused by ovaries producing less of the female sex hormones oestrogen and progesterone. These hormones are involved in bodily processes that control appetite, sex drive, mood, bone strength and even heart health. The fall in oestrogen leads to monthly periods becoming irregular and eggs no longer being produced every month. Many women experience mood swings, headaches, decreased libido, hot sweats and disturbed sleep. Joint pain, digestive problems, gum problems, itchy skin, dizzy spells, allergies, anxiety and depression are less well known symptoms. The list goes on and many women may not know that they are experiencing symptoms related to the menopause, or how to live well throughout this phase of life.
The three phases
Menopause is a natural part of ageing that begins most frequently in the late 40s and early 50s but can start around the age of 40. The time of onset is largely down to genetics but lifestyle can also influence the timing. A healthy lifestyle with lots of regular exercise, a nutritious diet and lack of smoking can delay the onset by one to three years. There are three phases;
- perimenopause when the body begins the transition and periods become irregular,
- menopause which is indicated by 12 months without a period,
- postmenopause which is two to three years after the menopause when symptoms begin to subside.
These timings are only guidelines and for some the whole transition can take up to eight years. Bear in mind that after one year of no periods, bleeding is not normal so make sure you tell your GP if this occurs.
Many women may approach this stage of their lives with trepidation. Not knowing what to expect, how it will affect them, or what they can do about it. Mentally, it can be a huge barrier to overcome as menstruation becomes a thing of the past and reproductive years cease to exist. The menopause is different for each individual. However, good nutrition, regular exercise and a generally healthy lifestyle have been known to lessen the symptoms experienced.
A good starting point is to kick any old unhealthy habits such as smoking, drinking too much alcohol and caffeine. These lifestyle changes, along with eating lots of fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, fish, dairy products and taking regular exercise can help to manage symptoms and boost health.
Mood swings, low mood and anxiety can be helped by good self care including plenty of rest, yoga, meditation or tai chi. Regular exercise such as daily walks in the fresh air can help to support positive mental health. Other treatments are also available where symptoms have an impact on quality of life. Cognitive behavioural therapy or CBT – a talking therapy that can improve low mood and feelings of anxiety. Speak to your GP who is able to refer to CBT or recommend other medication if required.
The menopause is often associated with hot flushes and night sweats. Wearing light clothing, keeping the bedroom cool and taking a cool shower can help to ease these symptoms. Again taking regular exercise and avoiding triggers such as caffeine, spicy food, smoking and excessive alcohol.
Many women try herbal or natural remedies to alleviate symptoms. Your GP will be able to advise if you are considering taking these.
Hormone Replacement Therapy – HRT
The main treatment prescribed by GPs to manage symptoms of the menopause is Hormone Replacement Therapy, or HRT. In order to protect the lining of the womb progesterone is given and replaces oestrogen that is missing. HRT helps to reduce symptoms such as hot flushes, mood swings and joint pains. It can also help to prevent thinning of the bones (osteoporosis) which is common after the menopause.
However HRT isn’t for everyone. It can’t be taken if women have experienced certain types of cancer, blood clots, liver disease or strokes. Risk factors need to be discussed with a doctor or nurse before going ahead with HRT.
Menopause is a phase that all women will experience. It can be supported positively with good self-care and a healthy lifestyle. Any symptoms that impact on quality of life should be discussed with your GP.
For more information on the menopause, its symptoms and treatment visit: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/menopause/
COVID-19 Walk in Vaccination Service
The NHS COVID-19 Vaccination centre at Salt Hill is now running a walk in service for anyone over the age of 18 living in the Slough area.
No appointment is necessary, simply turn up Monday to Friday between 5pm and 8pm.
Pfizer and Astrazeneca vaccine are available.
Salt Hill Activity Centre