Loading Jobs...

Your feet are the foundations of the body, yet they are often neglected over the years. This can negatively affect our balance, increase the risk of falling and on the extreme end of the scale prevent us from walking; all things that become more difficult as we age anyway. It’s important to look after your feet and to go to see a professional if you experience any pain or anything that feels out of the ordinary.

Health in Aging says that one in three people over the age of 65 has foot pain, stiffness, or aching feet. “Older people who are living in long-term care facilities tend to have even higher rates of foot problems. In the United States, up to 87% of people have painful feet at some time in their lives. Most of these problems derive from poorly fitting shoes, such as pointy-toed or high-heeled shoes.

“Older or obese people, women, and people with diabetes, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, or knee, hip, or back pain have much higher rates of foot problems. For women, pain in the toes and ball of the foot is much more common than in men, and it gets worse with age. However, pain in the heel tends to decrease as we get older.”

The good news is that a lot of these foot-related ailments that occur as we age are preventable. Here are some things you can do to keep your feet in tip-top shape as you get older:

1. Check your feet

We’ve all got used to checking the rest of our body for lumps and bumps, but how often do you check your feet? Make it part of your daily routine to inspect your feet for anything unusual. Check for dryness, discolouration, cuts and blisters. If anything looks like it could cause you concern – immediately or in the future – it’s a good idea to get a professional to look at it and give you some advice.

2. Practise good hygiene

You should wash your feet every day using warm soapy water, but avoid soaking them as this can destroy your skin’s natural oils. After washing make sure that you dry them thoroughly, as this can prevent infections such as athlete’s foot.

It’s also important to trim your toenails regularly and carefully, cutting straight across and not down at the edges as this can cause ingrown toenails.

3. Maintain a healthy weight

According to Harvard Health Publishing, being overweight affects your feet by putting greater force on them with each step. “It can also increase your risk of having a condition like arthritis in the feet and worsen pain from other foot problems. Being overweight can also harm foot health by putting you at higher risk for diabetes or poor blood circulation, which can lead to foot pain and loss of sensation in the feet.”

4. Wear the correct size of socks and shoes

Wearing ill-fitting shoes and socks can cause a number of health problems for your feet. Try new shoes on in the afternoon as our feet tend to swell during the day and make sure you change your socks daily to maintain good hygiene.

5. Stretch your feet

Stretching the tops and bottoms of your feet can help to ease foot pain. Stretching can also prevent a condition known as a shortened Achilles tendon.

The Verywell Health website says: “Tendons connect muscle to bone, and, if these are shortened due to water loss, you may end up with a more flat-footed gait since you will be less able to flex your ankle, mid-foot, and toes. This is especially true of the Achilles tendon which connects the calf muscle to the heel bone.

“Unless steps are taken to routinely stretch your Achilles tendon, you may be at greater risk of a tear or rupture if you overexert the tissues.”

6. Moisturise

Verywell Health adds: “Dry skin, especially on the soles of the feet, is a problem that may require a daily application of moisturiser to prevent cracking and infection. The gradual depletion collagen, exacerbated by the lack of consistent foot care, can lead to the formation of cracked heels and calluses.

“If left untreated, cracked skin around the heel can make it painful to walk or even stand.”

7. Get a foot “check-up”

Like going to the dentist, make visiting a podiatrist on a regular basis a habit. Such experts will be able to pick up any signs of foot problems that might cause you future bother far sooner than you might. They can offer treatment and advice to keep your feet at their best.

The word anxiety has become a real “buzzword” in recent years. As popularised by the Kardashian’s who describe not getting the perfect Met Gala dress as having “major anxiety”, it’s no wonder that we all seem to be a little confused when it comes to what the word means and whether we have legitimate reason to be anxious or not.

Anxiety is a mental disorder which can make everyday tasks seem overwhelming or impossible. The NHS explains that “anxiety is a feeling of unease, such as worry or fear, that can be mild or severe”. While everyone has feelings of anxiety at some point in their life, and this can be perfectly normal, they add that “some people find it hard to control their worries. Their feelings of anxiety are more constant and can often affect their daily lives”.

If when you feel anxious you have any psychological or physical symptoms of feeling restless or worried, have trouble concentrating or sleeping, or experience dizziness or heart palpitations, you may be suffering from a condition known as generalised anxiety disorder (GAD). “GAD is a long-term condition that causes you to feel anxious about a wide range of situations and issues, rather than one specific event. People with GAD feel anxious most days and often struggle to remember the last time they felt relaxed.”

When does feeling anxious become a mental health problem?

Mind the mental health charity says that “anxiety can become a mental health problem if it impacts on your ability to live your life as fully as you want to. For example, it may be a problem for you if our feelings of anxiety are very strong or last for a long time, your fears or worries are out of proportion to the situation, you avoid situations that might cause you to feel anxious, your worries feel very distressing or are hard to control you regularly experience symptoms of anxiety, which could include panic attacks, or you find it hard to go about your everyday life or do things you enjoy”.

A panic attack, according to the NHS, “is when your body experiences a rush of intense mental and physical symptoms. It can come on very quickly and for no apparent reason”. This can be a very scary thing to experience and panic attacks can be very frightening and distressing. Most panic attacks last for between 5 and 20 minutes, however some have been known to last up to an hour. Some people have attacks once or twice a month, while others have them several times a week.

The NHS adds that “although panic attacks are frightening, they’re not dangerous. An attack won’t cause you any physical harm, and it’s unlikely that you’ll be admitted to hospital if you have one”. You might be experiencing a panic attack if your symptoms include feeling faint, sweating, chest pain, chills or a feeling of dread or a fear of dying. There are many other symptoms that people experience when having a panic attack, but those are just a few examples.

If you think you could have an anxiety disorder, which is making life more difficult that it should be, the best thing you can do is go to your GP as a starting point, explain your symptoms and get a diagnosis if required. Your GP can then point you in the direction of treatment options and support to help you cope with your anxiety.

The waiting list in the UK for mental health help and referrals is notoriously long (and growing), as resources and funding continues to be squeezed in a difficult economy. If you have been put on a waiting list to receive treatment for your anxiety disorder, you might want to seek out other self-help options while you wait.

Healthline offer some great suggestions on how to manage anxiety on your own:

Identify and learn to manage your triggers

Try to think about the circumstances that make you feel anxious. Maybe this could be drinking caffeine or alcohol, or maybe hanging out with a specific person in your life. When you know what triggers you then you can try to limit your exposure; if you can.

Keep your body and mind healthy

Exercise regularly, eat well, get enough sleep, and hang around with people who help you to feel calm.

Do a daily or routine meditation

Meditation, when done regularly, can help you to train your brain to dismiss anxious thoughts when they appear. If you find sitting still and concentrating difficult, try starting with yoga.

In the aftermath of the shocking suicide of Caroline Flack on February 15th 2020, the world has been forced to take a look at what they share online and the impact that could have on the mental health of other users. Obviously the scale of the online abuse and trolling towards Caroline was heightened due to her celebrity status, but lots of us are still subject to daily online abuse from “keyboard warriors” who seem to suffer no or little consequences for their actions.

An enquiry by Young Minds said that 38% of young people reported that social media has a negative impact on how they feel about themselves and that cyberbullying is “distinct and potent, particularly due to its potential to be relentless”. It found that young people thought social media companies’ current responses to cyberbullying were inadequate and that 83% of young people think that they should do more to tackle cyberbullying on their platforms.

Caroline’s story is tragic, and it is difficult to pin-point who or what is responsible for such an unnecessary loss of talent, but lots of people have taken to social media to blame a combination of harassment by the media centring on a story of an alleged assault by Caroline against her boyfriend at the time, and also the public’s response which was to hound her with messages of disgust online; some resorting to intense trolling.

An article published by the BBC explained that “trolls are people who leave intentionally provocative or offensive messages on the internet in order to get attention, cause trouble or upset someone”. In the article they spoke to Imran Ahmed, CEO of the Centre for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), who explained that there are two main types of troll:

“The first type of troll targets public figures with large social media followings in the hope that they respond. The trolls then have their hateful messages re-broadcast to a wider audience when the target of their trolling, or their followers, respond. The other type of trolls are people who exhibit a psychological trait known as ‘negative social potency’ – this means they enjoy causing harm to others.”

Although it’s common sense that negative comments directed at someone will make them feel bad about themselves, the anonymity of the internet means that the bullying can be relentless and more damaging to our mental health. According to Thrive Global, victims of cyberbullying are almost twice as likely to attempt suicide compared to their peers. They added that teen victims of cyberbullying are more depressed, irritable, and angry, and that cyberbullying affects 60 million working age Americans, or roughly 24% of the adult population.

According to The Sun “online bullying has grown by 88% in just five years, with thousands of children and teenagers being targeted”. They added that in October 2016, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) introduced new laws that could see those who create “derogatory hashtags” or post “humiliating” Photoshopped images jailed. “Inciting people to harass others online, known as virtual mobbing, is among the offences included in the guidance. Baiting – when someone is humiliated online by being branded sexually promiscuous – is also mentioned in the guidance.

“The CPS also announced the launch of a hate crime consultation, issuing a series of public policy statements centred on combating crimes against disabled people, as well as racial, religious, homophobic and transphobic hate crime.”

Although not all of us have experienced trolling, many have, and it can have devastating consequences. So how can you protect your mental health when dealing with trolls? Harley Therapy offer some tips on how to do this:

• ‘Don’t feed the trolls’ is a popular phrase used online. Meaning ‘ignore them and they’ll go away’.
• Many websites and social media platforms have options for reporting abusive behaviour. It’s OK to use these or to report serious attacks to the police if necessary.
• Accept how you feel. It’s not nice being trolled and it’s understandable to feel angry or upset. Putting pressure on yourself to shrug off unpleasant comments may make you feel worse in the long run. Once you’ve accepted what’s happened, it’ll be easier to put the incident out of your mind because it’s not worthy of your attention any longer.
• Many trolls are trying to get a reaction because they are unhappy. It doesn’t excuse their behaviour, but it may help you to see that their comments are more about themselves than they are about you.
• If you have a blog, Facebook page or other public space to share your thoughts, you can use privacy controls to help you choose who can and can’t see your content. You can also switch off comment options and make it so that only certain people can send you messages.

The coronavirus is spreading, both across our news channels and the country of China at a rate far quicker than any of us would like to hear. The UK’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said that the new coronavirus “will be with us for at least some months to come”, according to the BBC, and that the number of new cases worldwide was “doubling every five days”. There have so far been more than 17,000 confirmed cases of the virus in China and sadly approximately 425 people have died there.

The Independent have reported that British officials are continuing attempts to trace 239 people who flew to the UK from Wuhan, the city at the centre of the outbreak, before travel restrictions came into force. “Some 94 UK nationals have been evacuated from the city to Britain and are now undergoing 14 days in quarantine at Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral.”

According to the NHS, the coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is a new respiratory illness that has not previously been seen in humans, and although the risk of getting the illness in the UK is low, it’s a good idea to be aware of its symptoms and how to prevent it spreading. The symptoms usually include a cough, a high temperature and difficulty breathing. They add that “because it’s a new illness, we do not know exactly how coronavirus spreads from person to person, but similar viruses spread by cough droplets”.

The biggest concern for preventing the spread of the illness is for travellers returning from Wuhan and Hubei Province in the last 14 days. If you have, stay indoors and avoid contact with other people. Call NHS 111 to tell them of your recent travel to the city. The NHS add that “if you get a cough, a high temperature, or you feel short of breath, continue to follow this advice. Do not leave your house without getting advice from a doctor”. Those in Northern Ireland should call their GP.

If you’ve returned from other areas of China (but not Hong Kong or Macao) in the last 14 days, and get a cough or fever, or you feel short of breath, again, stay indoors and avoid contact with other people and call NHS 111 to tell them of your recent travel to China. Follow this advice even if your symptoms are mild. The UK Government says that generally the coronavirus can cause more severe symptoms in people with weakened immune systems, older people, and those with long-term conditions like diabetes, cancer and chronic lung disease.

Sky News have reported that a UK-wide campaign has been launched offering the public advice on how to stop the spread of the deadly coronavirus. The public have been told to always carry a tissue to catch coughs and sneezes and bin it after use and to wash hands with soap and water or use sanitiser gel; in addition to the information above on what to do if you have visited China recently.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has advised against all travel to Hubei Province due to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, according to an article in the Standard. They add that some airlines, including British Airways, have suspended flights to and from mainland China. “Other commercial airlines are still operating, but it may become harder over the coming weeks for those who wish to leave China to do so.”

What happens if you have already booked a trip to China in the next few weeks? If you decide to cancel your trip, normal policy would apply according to your insurance and chosen airline guidelines in terms of being refunded or rearranging your trip. Sadly, airlines are not obliged to refund tickets whatever the Foreign Office advice, but in past emergencies they have offered some flexibility.

If you have a holiday booked for a neighbouring country to China, the best thing to do is to keep an eye out for the Government’s advice and news on whether the illness has been contained or has spread to these countries and what to do in both scenarios.

As it stands there is no specific treatment for coronavirus, however, the UK Government has donated £20 million towards producing a vaccine to treat sufferers, which aims to fast-track the process to within six to eight months.

It’s always a difficult transition when a parent becomes too old or too unwell to look after the themselves in the way that they have been used to, and a child has to intervene and step in to pursue a parent-like role ensuring they remain safe. Perhaps they have developed a form of dementia, or have significant heart concerns, there comes a time in most elderly people’s lives where they have to access whether it is safe for them to drive or whether that decision has to be made for them.

Age UK explains that some health issues can affect an older person’s reaction time, reflexes and other aspects of driving, such as:

• Medication: some medications can slow down reaction time or cause sleepiness.
• Eyesight or vision problems: poor eyesight can affect the ability to see clearly front-on or from the sides.
• Hearing loss: they may not be able to hear a car horn or siren.
• Mobility problems or pain: they may have difficulty or be slower pulling the handbrake, using the footbrake or moving their heads to check their side vision.
• Memory problems: they may get lost, confused or disorientated if they are in an unfamiliar area.

It can be difficult to approach the subject with a parent you are concerned, as driving gives people a freedom that is not the same if you have to rely on someone else to give you lifts everywhere. Stopping driving can be a sign that the parent is not coping as well as they thought they were and this trapped-like feeling can result in low moods and depression if they are unable to get out and interact with others. According to the Campaign to End Loneliness, half a million older people go at least five or six days a week without seeing or speaking to anyone at all and over half (51%) of all people aged 75 and over live alone.

The RAC Foundation says that there are 191 people over the age of 100 with a licence and among 4,018,900 people aged over 70 with full UK driving licences. There is currently no requirement for drivers over 70 need to retake their driving test, however, according to Arnold Clark drivers need to reapply for their licence at the age of 70 and every three years thereafter.

“There is no requirement to take a test but applicants must declare that they are fit and healthy to drive and their eyesight meets the minimum requirements for driving via self assessment. A medical examination is only required if those over 70 want to drive a medium-sized goods vehicle or minibus.”

So if the responsibility lies with the elderly person to be honest about there ability to continue to drive safely, should we ever intervene for fear of them getting in an accident and harming themselves or another person?

Age UK says that ultimately it’s the older person’s decision (or the DVLA’s) to stop driving. “But if you feel that their driving ability is affecting their safety, or they’re putting other people in danger, then you have a responsibility to talk to them about it.

“Encourage the person to think about whether they’re putting themselves and others at risk which might help them consider whether their driving is a concern. They might be grateful that you’ve broached the topic with them, and find comfort knowing that they have support to find a way forward.

“If the person agrees to stop driving, be conscious that it can be difficult for them to accept and adjust to life without a car. Find ways to help them through this transition as they may feel a sense of loss and have practical issues regarding getting around now they’re no longer driving.”

According to Market Watch, here are some common warning signs that it is time to talk to your parents about their ability to continue driving:

• If there is confusion between the gas and brake pedals or if there is difficulty in working them. If they lift their legs to move from the gas to the brakes instead of keeping a heel on the floor and pressing with their toes. This can be a sign of waning leg strength.
• If they appear to ignore or miss traffic signals especially stop signs.
• When the traffic stream is moving slowly, see if they tend to honk or pass other drivers. This can be an indication that they have a tough time keeping pace with fast-changing conditions.
• If you notice they are weaving or straddling lanes. Not signalling when changing lanes or checking mirrors and blind spots is especially dangerous.
• Any type of cognitive decline could lead to becoming disoriented and getting lost easily.

What happens if your parent is incredibly stubborn and refuses to stop driving even after your conversation with them?

Age UK says that “if you’re seriously concerned about an older person’s driving, you should write in confidence to the DVLA. They may then follow up with the local police. Think carefully about how this would affect your relationship with the person and whether there is another way for you to get them to think about giving up.”

After the general election there is a mixture of tensions living in the air within the UK. On December 12th it was announced that the Conservative party had won 364 seats to deliver a huge House of Commons majority, meaning Prime Minister Boris Johnson would return to his position of power in Number 10. Whether you’re happy about the result or not, it does leave a lot of uncertainty around issues such as what will happen with Brexit and arguably most concerning…is the NHS going to stick around?

The Labour Party based a lot of their campaigning around “saving” the NHS from privatisation to ensure that everyone in the UK remains entitled to free or subsidised healthcare; whether that was true or not. With an increasingly ageing population, this uncertainty is concerning for all of us.

The truth is that none of us can really predict what the future will be, but it is probably worth looking into what the options are, whatever outcome should arise. So here we are going to answer the question: Should we be investing in health insurance here in the UK post general election, and if so, how do we do this?

Firstly, what is health insurance? According to the Money Advice Service, although most UK residents are entitled to free healthcare from the NHS (at the moment at least),”health insurance pays all – or some – of your medical bills if you’re treated privately. It gives you a choice in the level of care you get and how and when it is provided.” Like all different types of insurance, the cover you get from your health insurance depends on the policy you buy, so it’s good to do your research if you’re thinking about it. “

Basic private medical insurance usually picks up the costs of most in-patient treatments (tests and surgery) and day-care surgery.” Money Advice Service explains that usually health insurance won’t cover private treatment for organ transplants, pre-existing medical conditions, normal pregnancy and childbirth costs, cosmetic surgery to improve your appearance, injuries relating to dangerous sports or arising from war or war-like hostilities, and chronic illnesses such as HIV/AIDs-related illnesses, diabetes, epilepsy, hypertension and related illnesses. “You might be able to choose a policy which covers mental health, depression and sports injuries but these aren’t always covered.”

The main issue with getting health insurance and subbing all your medical expenses yourself without the help of the NHS is obviously the costs. In an article on the The Telegraph, Dan Hutson of comparethemarket.com said: “Typically speaking, health insurance premiums tend to increase by around 3-5% per year, partly because of the increasing cost of treatment, and partly because people are living for longer.” According to the Money Advice Service, “a typical family premium – covering two adults in their 40s and two children under 10 – can vary from £700 to £1,800 per year”.

The cost of private health insurance tends to go up most years, and can go up even further if you make a claim. Even something as simple as moving house can affect the charges. However, going private means that you will have instant access to health care, which is good as relying on the NHS could mean waiting a very long time for treatment, especially in the current climate. You will also have access to a wider range of resources, including private hospitals and ongoing recovery treatments such as physiotherapy.

Aside from insurance, Virgin Money recommend that, if you can, you should “self-insure” by putting cash into a contingency fund for medical use. “The average hip or knee replacement costs £10,000, a cataract operation £2,400 and an MRI body scan £460. If you don’t spend your fund, you haven’t lost it (unlike premiums for a policy you haven’t claimed on). However, your fund needs to be accessible and not invested for growth.” Obviously, if you have the money to do this, this is great, but most of us don’t so would have to rely on the NHS or insurance.

We don’t know what will happen to the NHS. It might continue to go downhill and eventually become fully privatised like the USA, or maybe even just partially privatised. Perhaps it will stay the same for many years. Before making financial decisions or investing in health insurance, it’s always a good idea to do research, or even talk to a financial adviser.

Money Saving Expert suggests firstly beginning with comparison websites to find a good price on health insurance. “The easiest place to find out roughly what you can get, and whether it is affordable, is to use a comparison website. It can be a really quick and easy way to check whether the company you like is too expensive, and what is out there.”

To go even further, they also advice contacting a broker for more options and specialist advice. “If you’re not sure which policy to get, or have conditions making it difficult to find the right one, contact a broker for a more thorough search. It does take a bit longer but they will be able to give you a much more bespoke quotation and clearly explain the exclusions connected to your policy. They also often have connections with various insurers and might be able to offer you a deal.”

Brokers get paid commission by the insurer, so if you are charged a fee (which must be disclosed upfront), weigh up if that is the best or your only option. “You can find a broker via the Association of Medical Insurers and Intermediaries, which is a trade association for independent medical insurance advisers and has a list of members to choose from.”

Mobility is the ability to move or be moved freely and easily. It’s common knowledge that as we age we lose mobility – as we lose muscle mass, strength and bone density – but did you consider that sitting at a desk all day could also affect your mobility just as much as ageing does?

You might find that each time you get up from your desk it gets a little more difficult to do so, and this could be a sign that you need to work on your mobility. Losing mobility can negatively affect your balance, can result in chronic pain and risk of falls, alongside a long list of other physical and mental health problems.

What exactly is mobility in relation to our bodies? Shape.com explains that mobility is your ability to move a muscle or muscle group through a range of motion in the joint socket with control, and in order to move a muscle with control, you need strength. Mobility is dependent on our flexibility, strength, coordination and body awareness.

Shape.com adds that “connecting your breath with your movement is also thought to have a huge effect on how efficiently you move”, and a great way to do this is by practising yoga or breathing exercises. In most parts of the UK, you can also find mobility-specific classes, such as those offered through Wickham’s Movement Vault, or you could stream some online.

An important aspect of improving mobility is stretching, and the key to becoming more mobile is to do a little bit of stretching every day. The Healthline explains that static stretching, or holding one position for an extended period, might be one way to improve mobility, but “according to a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, it appears that dynamic stretching, or stretching while moving through a movement, is better than static stretching as part of a warmup.

“Just 10 minutes of dynamic warmup activities prior to a workout is linked to improvements in shuttle run time, medicine ball throw distance, and jump distance”, if those things are important to you.

If you’re new to mobility movements, here are a few simple exercises you could try:

1. Stand on one leg

Wellbeingcoaches.com says that “this is a daily exercise that is easy to do. Stand on one leg at a time for one minute each. Slowly increase the time. Try to balance with your eyes closed or without holding onto anything”. You might need to work yourself up to balancing without holding onto something.

2. Stand on your toes

The website also explains that to do this move: “Stand on your toes for a count of 10, and then, rock back on your heels for a count of 10. This is such a simple exercise, and it works very well to improve your balance. Think about other times and places during the day when you can take 20 seconds to do it.”

3. Move your hips

Wellbeingcoaches.com adds that “this is another exercise that you can do while you’re on the phone or watching television. Stand up and move your hips in a big circle to the left, and then to the right without moving your shoulders or feet. Repeat in both directions five times.”

4. Posterior step with overhead reach

Stand tall with feet hip-width apart. Take a small step back with arms stretched overhead and core braced. Touch the floor with the lunging heel. Push back with the posterior foot and return to start position.

5. Squat to overhead reach with a twist

Squat down and swing the arms down and back. Return to the standing position with arms stretched overhead while rotating the upper body to one side. Repeat on the other side.

6. Lunges

Step forward and bend knees, keep front shin vertical. Do not let knee travel forward of toes. Maintain upright torso and alternate legs rep by rep.

It’s important before attempting any of the exercises suggested above that you consult your doctor. Dynamic stretches may not be appropriate for everyone, especially the elderly, those with previous injuries or joint replacements.

Christmas is around the corner, which means that most of us soon will be indulging on too many mince pies and too many Baileys. While that sounds like most of our ideas of heaven, if drawn out over the whole month of December – or “the Festive” season – our bodies can begin to struggle to cope with the calories and units of alcohol consumed.

Last year, The Drinks Business predicted that in Christmas 2018 the average Briton would consume an average of 26 units per day, with the nation collectively expected to drink almost six billions units of alcohol between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day that year.

They explained that that equated to “an average of 156 units each over the course of six days – nearly 10 times more than the average 16 units consumed on a regular night out.” They said that overall, the great British public were expected to consume as much as 5.7bn units of alcohol over that festive break.

So if that was last year, what’s in store for Christmas 2019? A lot more alcohol…probably.

If we are braced and ready for a lot of binge drinking shortly, what measures can we take to ensure we stay safe and healthy this Christmas, and how much exactly should we be drinking at this time of year?

Just because it’s Christmas doesn’t mean the risk to the body when consuming alcohol is any different. When drinking alcohol in vast quantities, this can have some devastating effects both in the short and long term.

Appropriately for Christmas time, The NHS explains that “binge drinking usually refers to drinking lots of alcohol in a short space of time or drinking to get drunk”. In the UK, the NHS adds that binge drinking is drinking more than 8 units of alcohol in a single session for men and 6 units of alcohol in a single session for women. “Six units is 2 pints of 5% strength beer or 2 large (250ml) glasses of 12% wine, for example. However, this is not an exact definition for binge drinking that applies to everyone, as tolerance to alcohol can vary from person to person.”

The NHS adds that “drinking too much, too quickly on a single occasion can increase your risk of accidents resulting in injury, causing death in some cases, misjudging risky situations and losing self-control, like having unprotected sex”.

Drink Aware says that getting drunk can affect both your physical and mental health. “In extreme cases, you could die. Overdosing on alcohol can stop you breathing or stop your heart, or you could choke on your vomit. Binge drinking can affect your mood and your memory and, in the longer term, can lead to serious mental health problems.” According to NI Direct, if you’re hungover you can feel anxious and low. “Some people may feel down over Christmas and drinking can make this worse.”

The Healthline explains that binge drinking can also negatively affect your heart, kidneys, lungs and pancreas. If you’re only drinking over Christmas, you don’t need to worry about this too much, but it’s worth knowing that the long-term effects of consistent binge drinking are more likely to lead to long-term damage. Their website says that “one recent study by researchers at the University of California at San Francisco found that 21 binge drinking sessions over seven weeks was enough to cause symptoms of early-stage liver disease in mice.”

The answer to the question “how much should you drink over Christmas” isn’t that straight forward. Sure we can look at the NHS’s recommendations for how many units to consume, but that isn’t realistic. Most of us overindulge over Christmas, and once a year that is fine to do and should be enjoyed.

If you’re concerned about the excess, here are a couple of tips to help make sure this indulgence is as safe and healthy as can be.

In a Q&A with Alcohol Change UK’s Director for Wales, published on their website, they suggest that over Christmas “it may be wise to lay off the booze until later in the day. Think about how you’re feeling and whether you want a pause, and don’t let people top you up just because they’re drinking.

“Taking some time off can also help remind you that you don’t need alcohol to have fun, and give you some practice saying no, which will come in handy when you don’t fancy a drink in future.”

The NHS advise that if you want to reduce your health risks when drinking, drink more slowly, drink with food, alternate with water or non-alcoholic drinks and plan ahead to avoid problems, such as making sure you can get home safely or having people you trust with you.

Drink aware say that if you’re worried about your long-term drinking habits beyond Christmas, contact your GP. They will be able to suggest ways to help you cut down your drinking, and can also refer you for counselling or support services. You can also call Drinkline, the national alcohol helpline, on 0300 123 1110. It’s free and confidential.

A few years ago you might not have even heard of what a vegan diet was, but nowadays veganism is infiltrating our news, social media feeds and shopping aisles daily. You might’ve even considered a vegan diet yourself for its supposed positive health, ethical and environmental benefits.

Although it is easier than ever to go vegan – with more access to vegan products and an internet full of tips and recipe ideas than ever before – there are some people who might struggle with the transition of going vegan, and these are those with eating disorders, those with autism, the malnourished and older populations; to name a handful.

Older populations sometimes struggle with getting out to the shops to buy ingredients and also with cooking for themselves, which might make it difficult to go vegan for them. There is also the problem of malnutrition within older populations and the risks of osteoporosis, which we know dairy products can help protect against thanks to the calcium in them.

That isn’t to say that all older people cannot attempt to go vegan, however, should they want to. A report commissioned by The Telegraph showed that more over-60s than ever before are ditching meat and dairy to go vegan. In fact, a new documentary on Netflix called The Gamechangers interviewed Arnold Schwarzenegger, who at 72 has now adopted a new plant based diet. Previous research from The Vegan Society in 2016 found that close to half of all vegans (42%) were in the 15-34 age category and only 14% were aged 65 and over, but that seems to be shifting slowly.

Older people might consider going vegan to improve their health, as age is well known to make it deteriorate. An article published on Livestrong said that “on average, vegetarians of consume less saturated fat, salt, protein and overall fewer calories than those who eat meat, and according to the American Heart Association, the plant-based diet is generally healthier, regardless of age. Vegetarians not only pile more fibre and fresh vegetables on their plates, but also have a lower incidence of diabetes, obesity, heart disease and high blood pressure—conditions that often plague older people.”

If you are considering going vegan as an older person, the NHS have some healthy eating guidelines which may be helpful.

For a healthy vegan diet, they suggest:

• Eating at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day
• Basing meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates (choose wholegrain where possible)
• Having some dairy alternatives, such as soya drinks and yoghurts (choose lower fat and lower sugar options)
• Eating some beans, pulses and other proteins
• Choosing unsaturated oils and spreads, and eat in small amounts
• Drinking plenty of fluids (the government recommends 6 to 8 cups or glasses a day)

If you do not plan your diet properly, you could miss out on essential nutrients, such as calcium, iron and vitamin B12.

The NHS goes on to say that good sources of calcium for vegans include:

• green, leafy vegetables – such as broccoli, cabbage and okra, but not spinach
• fortified unsweetened soya, rice and oat drinks
• calcium-set tofu
• sesame seeds and tahini
• pulses
• brown and white bread (in the UK, calcium is added to white and brown flour by law)
• dried fruit, such as raisins, prunes, figs and dried apricots

A vegan diet can be high in iron, according to the NHS, although iron from plant-based food is absorbed by the body less well than iron from meat.

Good sources of iron for vegans are:

• pulses
• wholemeal bread and flour
• breakfast cereals fortified with iron
• dark green, leafy vegetables, such as watercress, broccoli and spring greens
• nuts
• dried fruits, such as apricots, prunes and figs

The NHS adds that the body needs vitamin B12 to maintain healthy blood and a healthy nervous system. “It’s only found naturally in foods from animal sources. Sources for vegans are therefore limited and a vitamin B12 supplement may be needed.”

Sources of vitamin B12 for vegans include:

• breakfast cereals fortified with B12
• unsweetened soya drinks fortified with vitamin B12
• yeast extract, such as Marmite, which is fortified with vitamin B12

If you are thinking of changing your diet, it’s important to consult a doctor or medical professional first to see if you are suitable for a vegan diet, especially if you are over 60.

We all know what cancer is, and the unfortunate likelihood is that we all probably know someone who has been touched by cancer. But with the enormous amount of different variations of cancer, it can be overwhelming to know how to show your support or even spot the signs of the each individual strain of the disease. The important thing is to start somewhere and with education, and a good place to start could be this November with Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month.

The month of November is dedicated to pancreatic awareness, having evolved from a Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Week originating in the United States. Now the awareness month spreads worldwide, and brings together different charities and individuals who want to make a difference.

According to pancreatic.org, pancreatic cancer is the “third leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States surpassing breast cancer and it is expected to become the 2nd by 2020, surpassing colon cancer. Every day more than 1,250 people worldwide will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. In nearly every country, pancreatic cancer is the only major cancer with a single-digit five-year survival rate of 9%. While death rates decline for other cancers, they are increasing for pancreatic cancer. Survival rates have not improved substantially for the past 40 years.”

So what exactly is pancreatic cancer?

Webmd explains that pancreatic cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancerous) cells form in the tissues of the pancreas. “The pancreas is a gland located behind the stomach and in front of the spine. The pancreas produces digestive juices and hormones that regulate blood sugar. Cells called exocrine pancreas cells produce the digestive juices, while cells called endocrine pancreas cells produce the hormones. The majority of pancreatic cancers start in the exocrine cells.”

Symptoms of pancreatic cancer can include jaundice, pain in the upper or middle abdomen and back, unexplained weight loss, loss of appetite, fatigue and/or depression. Your risk of developing pancreatic cancer can increase with smoking, chronic pancreatitis, inherited conditions, familial pancreatic cancer syndromes, long-standing diabetes and obesity.

The NHS says that in about 1 in 10 cases, pancreatic cancer is inherited. “Certain genes also increase your chances of getting pancreatitis, which in turn increases your risk of developing cancer of the pancreas. If you have two or more close relatives who have had pancreatic cancer or you have an inherited disease, such as Lynch or Peutz-Jeghers syndrome, your doctor may recommend regular check-ups as you may be at increased risk of pancreatic cancer.”

How can you get a diagnosis for pancreatic cancer?

The NHS further adds that your GP should be your first port of call, so if you are experiencing any symptoms that have you worried, it’s advisable to book an appointment. Your GP will first ask about your general health and carry out a physical examination. They may examine your stomach for lumps and to see whether your liver is enlarged. They’ll also check your skin and eyes for signs of jaundice and may request a sample of your urine and a blood test. If your GP suspects pancreatic cancer, you’ll usually be referred to a specialist at a hospital for further investigation.

How is pancreatic cancer treated?

Sadly this type of cancer is difficult to treat as because it rarely causes symptoms early on, meaning it’s often not detected early enough.

The NHS explains that if you have been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, your treatment will depend on the type and location of your cancer and how far it’s advanced, also known as its stage. The three main treatments for pancreatic cancer are surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

How can you show your support during Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month?

Pancreatic cancer is daunting, but there are things you can do to show your support and make a difference during the month of November. Your support can help fund vital research, provide specialist support and campaign for change.

Pancreaticcancer.org suggest that you could try doing their ‘Challenge 24’. They explain that in the UK, 24 people die from pancreatic cancer every day. “You can help change this shocking statistic by taking on Challenge 24 this November. Walk, run or ride 24 miles in November for a day, a week or a month.”

Another idea for supporting Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month is to bring your friends and family together for a Bake Off and raise money for a good cause. Actually, you can support Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month in any way you can think of. Every penny really does count and your support will make a difference and save lives, so be creative, host a karaoke party or even have a bingo night.

Lastly, during Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month you could go to the extreme of shaving, dyeing or waxing your hair or even dressing purple (less extreme) as a way to raise vital awareness of pancreatic cancer. Even the smallest of gestures can go a long way to improving the lives of those with pancreatic cancer.