Health round-up

Posted on: 15 November 2013 by 50connect editorial

50connect looks behind the headlines looking at the news stories that impact YOU.

Mediterranean dietGive yourself a dose of the Mediterranean lifestyle

Go on a Mediterranean diet in middle age for a long and healthy life. Or so says a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. It showed that people who stick to Mediterranean-style diet in midlife have a 40 per cent greater chance of surviving past the age of 70 with no physical or cognitive impairment. That certainly sounds like injecting some much needed life into our years.

“There has been a lot of research looking at the effect of the Mediterranean diet on reducing disease risk (including diabetes, cancer, heart disease and dementia) in later life and this current study not only contributes to this body of evidence but highlights the importance of making dietary changes that are long-term to promote healthy ageing,” says Robert Hobson, Head of Nutrition for Healthspan.

“Our typical Western diet is high in animal fats, processed foods and low in fruits and vegetables,” Robert adds. “A reflection of this diet and poor lifestyle factors is the fact that cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of premature death in the UK.  Adopting a healthy lifestyle in general will reduce the risk of chronic disease in later life of which a balanced diet plays a key role.” 

The Mediterranean diet is rich in fruits, vegetables and wholegrain cereals, contains plenty of fish and poultry and limited red meat as well as using mono-unsaturated oils (such as those found in olive oil and nuts) as the main source of fat. In the UK, it is recommended that we eat omega-rich oily fish each week and reduce our saturated fat intake to help protect against heart disease.  It is also known that eating a diet rich in fibre can help to lower cholesterol (which is heart protective) and will probably help to protect against certain cancers such as those of the bowel. The Mediterranean diet offers all of these components so it makes sense that it would protect against diseases of ageing.

Rob summarises: “The difficulty however is not adopting this way of eating but encouraging people to maintain these dietary habits in the long term so they can reap the benefits later on in life.  The researchers of this latest study felt that by providing evidence that this way of eating may help to maintain physical, cognitive and mental health with ageing may provide a more powerful incentive for dietary change than simply prolonging life or avoiding any single chronic disease.”

Rob Hobson

For further nutrition visit Rob Hobson at and his articles on Nutrition Expert 




Check your pill habitTime to check your pill habit

A recent survey suggests that as many as six out of 10 of us regularly use over-the-counter painkillers to deal with our aches and pains. But now a report from health watchdog NICE suggests that we might be causing ourselves harm because of the side effects of such medications. Are we putting our health at risk with our pill habits?

“Many people do not realise the potential risk of over-using over-the-counter painkillers,” says GP and medical nutritionist, Dr Sarah Brewer. “Long-term use of paracetamol or NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) has been linked with liver and kidney problems, heart attacks, strokes and gastric problems. You can also experience ‘rebound pain’, such as headaches, when regular use is stopped.”

So should we give them up completely? “These types of drugs should be used at the lowest effective dose for the shortest possible time,” says Dr Brewer. And there are alternatives to pills for when pain hits. “I usually recommend using a topical treatment for localised pain, such as muscle aches or strains and ligament sprains. There is good evidence that applying ibuprofen topically is effective and avoids the problems associated with taking it orally.”

For those who want to avoid over-the-counter painkillers all together, there are some natural alternative.  “Natural supplements such as glucosamine, chondroitin, omega-3 fish oils or topical celadrin cream are possible choices,” suggests Dr Brewer. Plus, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, exercise and a healthy diet can be more effective than painkillers at easing discomfort and increasing mobility. Good to keep in mind next time pain strikes,

Dr Sarah Brewer

Dr Sarah Brewer, GP, Registered Nutritionist and author of Eat Well, Stay Well




Over 50s suffering increased stressHalf of over 50s suffering with stress

Research carried out by health insurers, Bupa has found that our stress levels are reaching higher and higher. And it’s not getting any better as we get older. Of those surveyed, the over 50 age group reported the highest incidence of increased stress levels. The reasons? Money worries are what affect most of us, with work and family life not far behind in the list of the most common causes.  Stress appears to be most prevalent amongst the 45-54 years old age group, 50 per cent of whom claim to be stressed, but more common amongst younger than older adults. Women are also found to be more stressed than men, scoring 49 per cent compared to 39 per cent.

Dr Martin Baggaley, medical director at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, has commented on the survey, saying:

“This research shows stress is extremely common in this country. While low-level and irregular bouts of stress can be beneficial and manageable, it’s concerning to see that so many people are experiencing sustained and relentless stress.  

We can’t live without a little bit of stress - it’s what gets us out of bed in the mornings and keeps us motivated. What matters is whether you can cope with the particular level of stress that you, as an individual, face. If stress becomes too much for you then it can feel extremely unpleasant and take its toll on your health. 

By stress, most people mean psychological pressures. But mind and body are intricately linked, and a hint of stress is enough to trigger the pituitary, thyroid and adrenal glands into action. Adrenaline surges round the body, releasing sugar and getting your heart beating faster, steroids flood out to protect the body against physical onslaught, and thyroid hormone is released to get the body ready to run. Like a car with the accelerator pedal jammed down, a stressed body revs its way through precious reserves.

A report issued by Champneys Health Spa showed that half of us rarely, if ever, take the time to take care of our overall wellbeing, with 1 in 10 of us prioritising the wellbeing of others rather than our own. So perhaps it is time to make ourselves a priority and put an end to increasing stress.

Louise Day continues, “I’d advise anyone concerned with their physical health to get checked out by their doctor and if there isn’t a medical reason for their symptoms, to then look closely at how they manage their wellbeing. One thing which surprised me about the Wellbeing Report results was that looking after our work life takes precedence over our love life, our social life and our personal development.  To find out more visit

Louise Day

Louise Day, Wellbeing Director at Champneys

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