Health Tips

The Importance of Sleep

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Sleep is essential for our physical health.

Ongoing sleep deficiency is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke.

If you’re having sleep problems, read on….

DO YOU?….

🔹find it hard to go to sleep?

🔹wake up several times during the night?

🔹lie awake at night?

🔹still feel tired after waking?

If you do, you may have insomnia  – a common sleep problem that affects a staggering 1 in 3 people in the UK.

A normal sleep is considered 7-9 hours, but almost 50% of Britons get less than 6 hours.

These are the COMMON CAUSES of poor sleep….

🔹stress, anxiety, depression

🔹noise

🔹room the wrong temperature

🔹an uncomfortable bed

🔹alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, drugs

🔹eating a heavy meal too late in the evening

🔹shift work or jet lag

🔹not winding down before bed

Do any of these apply to you? Try these sleep ‘Do’s and Don’ts’ and see if they help

SLEEP DO’s….

1 – Routine – try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day to programme your internal body clock into a set routine

2 – Relax – at least 1 hour before bed take a bath or read a book. Get into a routine of doing this as the body will respond to the cue of ‘getting ready for bed’ No devices!

3 – Reduce  – noise and light in your bedroom where possible, If necessary wear ear plugs and an eye mask. If reading, try to use a relaxing bedside light, nothing too bright.

4 – Regular exercise – during the day though, not in the evening as the increase in body temperature and stimulation can keep you awake

5 – Review your bed – is your mattress/pillow comfortable?

6 – Relieve your bladder before bed to avoid being woken up in the middle of the night!

SLEEP DONT’s….

1 –Don’t smoke, drink alcohol or drink caffeine 6 hours before bed – all of these are stimulants

2 –Don’t eat a big meal late at night

3 –Don’t exercise at least 4 hours before bed

4 –Don’t use devices (laptop/phone) or watch the TV just before bed – the bright light stimulates the brain keeping you awake (there is now a Night Shift setting on your iPhone which can help reduce the blue light if you struggle with the electronic detox time!)

5 –Don’t start an emotional/stressed conversation just before bed – it will wind you up and stimulate the brain

6 –Don’t stay in bed lying awake worrying about sleeping – if after 20minutes you’re still awake, get up, walk around and do something relaxing or boring/non-engaging until you feel tired.

7 –Don’t worry that you haven’t slept – more often than not, you will have slept a little without you realising

HOW TO WIND DOWN!

Here are my hopefully handy tips to try and help you switch off that brain and relax!

🔹Try a warm bath (not too hot) with some lavender bath oil in it, turn down the lighting and listen to some relaxing music – bliss!!

🔹Write a ‘to do list’ if you have a lot on your mind – this helps organise your thoughts  and clears your mind of distractions – this is an essential for me!

🔹Try some relaxation exercises such as yoga, stretches, or breathing exercises

🔹Meditation apps  may help clear the mind -ensure to reduce stimulation from TV’s/laptops prior to attempting this though – you need to be in a relaxing environment with no distractions ideally

🔹Reading a book or magazine or listening to some relaxing music can help relax the mind too – as long as the book isn’t too engaging or stimulating!

🔹Try a relaxing night time caffeine free tea (those containing chamomile, lavender flower, valerian root and lemon balm can help relax and those containing liquorice root, peppermint or fennel help to improve digestion prior to sleep)

🔹If you are a worrier – try writing down what it is that you’re worried about, the things that stress you out and possible solutions of how to tackle these stressors – but make sure this is at least 1 hour before going to bed though. Follow this with a period of relaxation (reading, warm bath, meditation or reading) and it may help clear your mind.

MAKE YOUR BEDROOM SLEEP-FRIENDLY!

This may seem really simple but getting this right can make all the difference….

🔹keep your bedroom just for sleeping – try not to do work in there as you will associate it with work and stress

🔹keep it tidy and clutter free – it should be a nice relaxing environment to be in!

🔹try to keep it at the optimum temperature for good sleep (between 18-24 degrees C)

🔹try and reduce light with black out blinds or well fitted curtains – if difficult, find a good fitting eye mask. Consider covering up bright lights from TV’s and devices.

🔹have a piece of paper and pen by your bed so that if you worry about something or thing or something you need to do, you can write it down immediately and off load your brain

NB: Do go and see your GP if:

-your poor sleep is interfering in your day to day life

-you still can’t sleep despite following the above do’s and don’ts

-your poor sleep has been going on for months

-your poor sleep may be related to your mood/stress/anxiety

 

I hope you find this useful. Happy sleeping!

xxxx

‘Eat the Rainbow’

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You might hear people saying this, but what does it actually mean?!

As a GP, I only have 10 minutes with each patient to discuss often pretty complex problems, and when it comes to talking about healthy eating, I often run so late because I just want to chat for England about it!!

However, this concept of ‘eating the rainbow’ I find, is a lovely way of explaining to people how to eat well (and it makes your plate look so much more appealing too!)

Eating the rainbow essentially means eating as many different colourful fruit and veg as you can in your day to ensure you’re getting a wide variety/diverse number of phytochemicals (antioxidants) and nutrients which are known to have many disease preventing properties.

Health benefits:

More variety in your fruit and veg intake has been associated with;

  • A lower risk of  heart disease
  • A lower risk of some cancers
  • A lower risk of high blood pressure
  • A lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes

What the different colours mean:

🍆Blue foods (blueberries, red cabbage, aubergine) are rich in anthocyanins thought to be particularly heart healthy.

🥦Green foods (kale, broccoli, spinach, brussel sprouts) rich in isothiocyanates may have anti-cancer properties

🍅Red foods (tomatoes, red pepper, watermelon) are rich in lycopene, known to help protect the heart against heart attacks and may also be associated with reducing some cancers.

🥕Orange foods (carrots, orange pepper, mangoes) – rich in betcarotene are good for eye, skin and bone health.

Each different colour provides various health benefits as you can see, and no one colour is superior over the other.

So the best advice I can give people in the short space of time I have, is to get a good balance of colours for overall health! 
Check out my recipes for some healthy meal ideas full of lots of colourful veg!

xxxx

Plant-Based Diets

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You may have heard about Plant-Based Diets but what are they, why are we all talking about them and what’s so good about them?!

A healthy, plant-based diet aims to maximize consumption of nutrient-dense plant foods while minimizing processed foods, oils, and animal products (including dairy products and eggs).

What you want to have MORE of:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Beans and legumes (lentils, peas, chickpeas)
  • Seeds
  • Nuts
  • Whole grains

What you want to LIMIT:

  • Animal products (including dairy)
  • Added fats and oils
  • Refined, processed carbohydrates.

 

Eating a variety of these healthy  whole foods have been shown to have amazing health benefits.

Health benefits:

1 – To help reduce the number of medications a person takes (for potentially preventable diseases)

2 – To help lower a person’s body weight

3- To help decrease the risk of cancer

4- To help reduce their risk of death from ischemic heart disease

5- To help prevent and treat type 2 diabetes.

Try starting to cut down on your meat and dairy products and slowly increase the number and variety of different fruits and veg.  Aim to be getting 20 different fruits and veg into your diet a week.

Go and check out my recipes for lots of healthy meal ideas, packed full of different veg!

xxxx

Neck exercises

Do you suffer from tension in your neck?

If you do, don’t worry, it’s a very common complaint and I see it a lot as a GP.

Unfortunately our day to day lives don’t promote a good posture.

Sitting at a computer screen all day, driving in the car, sitting on the sofa reading or  watching television; all of these things can contribute to poor posture and therefore neck tension.

In this video, I have shown you some simple ways to help alleviate neck tension.

Always warm your neck/top of back up before doing any stretches. I have a wheat bag which I heat up in the microwave, but you can just as easily use a hot water bottle. Just make sure it’s not too hot!  Place it around the back of your neck for approximately 20 minutes. A warm bath works just as well and helps relax you too.

Make sure the stretches are gentle and ensure to keep your shoulders relaxed throughout. I find relaxed breathing in and out during the stretches helps (and allows you time to be mindful which will help alleviate stress as well!)

  1. 10-20 minutes of heat
  2. 10x shoulder rolls
  3. 10x chin retractions – make sure you keep your head straight and don’t tip it up or down – you should get a nice double chin!
  4. Forward neck stretch – hold each stretch for 10 seconds and repeat 5 times
  5. Side neck stretch – hold each stretch for 10 seconds and repeat 5 times on each side
  6. Diagonal neck stretch – hold each stretch for 10 seconds and repeat 5 times

 

Ideally I would advise you doing this once a day, when you have at least 30 minutes to spare and can relax. You can however think about doing the shoulder rolls and chin retractions when you’re at work, on the bus or sat watching the television, as they’re a great way to improve your neck posture.

I hope this helps

xxxx

NB: Make sure you go and  see your GP if your neck tension is not getting better, worsening or associated with;

  • pins and needles or numbness in your arms or your hands
  • waking you up at night
  • unexplained dizziness
  • interruption of your day to day life
  • headaches (which are not resolving)
  • an injury

xxxx

 

Back Exercises

Suffer with low back pain?

Try these simple exercises and stretches to help relieve it.

After moving house last week I found my lower back was aching so I did these stretches for a few days and it’s thankfully back to normal!

This is also great as a simple warm up, cool down or relaxing stretch session!

Give it a go!

1-forward bend/spinal roll x3

2-side stretches x2 each side

3-triangle pose x2 each side

4-back bend x2

5-spine rotation x2 each side

6-seated spinal twist x2 each side

7-knee rolls side to side x10

8-lying crossover stretch x2 each side (ideally with more space than I have!)

9-circular knee rolls on back

10-cobra stretch x5

 

Remember if you do have back pain make sure you see your GP if it’s getting worse, not getting better with simple stretches or if it’s interfering with your day to day life.

xxxx

Stretching

A wonderful stretch session for you all! Whether it’s to wake you up or relax you, it’s a lovely contrast to the high intensity workouts done in the week.

Stretching is an excellent way of improving flexibility, increasing the range of movement in the joints, reducing muscle tightness by increasing muscle length and as a form of relaxation for both the body and mind.

Make sure it’s slow and relaxed (this is obviously sped up). Keep your breathing relaxed and never stretch into pain. Reach the point of stretch and hold it there. It doesn’t matter if you’re flexible or inflexible, just enjoy it!

Hold each stretch for 10-15 seconds.

1- shoulder rolls x5 each way

2- side stretch to both sides

3- roll down (ensure to lead with your head and go down each vertebrae at a time)

4- triangle pose

5- sumo squat into hamstring stretch

6- hip flexor stretch with back bend (on both sides)

7- hip flexor stretch with twist (on both sides)

8- quadricep stretch (on both sides)

9- gluteal stretch in lying

10- gluteal stretch in sitting

11- gluteal stretch lay out

12- seated hamstring stretch

Happy stretching!

xxxx