Why do we find chips so irresistible?

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This time last week, I was sat on a local beach blissfully warm and loving the weather. I was pondering whether to get an ice cream, until I caught a whiff of the food of a stranger walking by. While the man in question was eagerly eyeing up his heavenly-smelling chip shop stash, I looked on with envy.

Before I knew it I had hot-footed it to the counter and was lovingly coating my freshly-cooked chips in oodles of vinegar. Thoughts of having an ice cream had vanished. As enjoyable as those lovely chips were, why were they suddenly so irresistible? Did the sea air make them seem all that more delectable?

Well…the overwhelming reason is because chips trigger cravings in the brain, according to new research. US researchers found foods with processed carbohydrates such as chips and white bread, trigger heightened levels of activity in the areas of our brain that are associated with rewards and cravings. Aha, that’s why.

Researchers at the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Centre at Boston Children’s Hospital believe the findings of the study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, could now be used to help overweight people stop overeating by avoiding those sorts of foods.

How do you keep your processed carbs cravings in check? For me, chip shop chips are a very occasional treat. I think they taste better that way too…

Would you know what to do in an emergency?

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If someone suddenly became ill and went into cardiac arrest, would you know what to do next? For many of us, the answer is no. Around 60,000 people have a cardiac arrest outside of hospital every year in the UK. The sad reality is, less than 10% go onto survive. Yet, if a bystander is able to start CPR, this can double a person’s chances of survival.

Lifesaver is the fantastic, free resource from The Resuscitation Council that could help to save many, many lives. It acts as a crisis simulator, using live action and real-life scenarios that rely on your interactive moves and quick action to show what to do in an emergency and how to use CPR.

You really do learn as you go. If you do it wrong, you will be shown what you need to do instead. You also use your keypad to start CPR and it tells you if you need to go faster or slower. Do it right and you can make a real difference to your online victim’s life. It’s very clever stuff and is quite a thrilling experience too.

It’s available for computers and as an iPad app, iPhone app, Android tablet app and Android phone app.

Did I mention it’s free? Please download and learn – you never know when you might need this knowledge.

Why clenching your fists may boost your memory

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We all have days where our memory retention skills could do with a boost, whatever our age. US researchers feel the answer may lie (quite literally) in our own hands.

Scientists at the Montclair State University have found clenching the right hand for 90 seconds helps with memory formation, while the same movement in the left hand improves memory recall. In the experiment, 50 students were given a list of words to remember and found they performed better when using fist clenches. The researchers feel the fist clenching movements activate specific brain regions that are associated with memory processing. Further research will continue.

If you’re rubbish at remembering names or always forget at least one thing you want to pick up from the supermarket (like me), it’s certainly worth a try…

Image courtesy of Free Digital Photos

Is your dairy intolerance self-diagnosed?

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If you answered yes to the above, you could be at risk of nutritional deficiency, warns Allergy UK.

New research from Alpro has revealed 44% of people that class themselves as dairy intolerant are relying on the internet and general guess work to self-diagnose. 72% of those suffering from dairy intolerance symptoms have removed all sources of dairy from their diet, the main source of calcium in the UK. A further 25% have cut out some dairy food groups. Gut problems including stomach pain, bloating and diarrhoea were cited as the most common reasons for cutting out dairy: eczema and nasal/sinus congestion were listed fourth and fifth.

Calcium is essential for the development and maintenance of healthy bones and teeth; it also regulates muscle contractions including the heartbeat. Calcium is particularly vital for women as low levels can increase your risk of osteoporosis. It’s found in foods including milk, cheese, butter, yoghurt, green leafy vegetables such as kale, broccoli and cabbage, dried fruits such as apricots, tofu and sesame seeds.  

Over half of the people surveyed felt there was not enough advice out there for dairy intolerance sufferers. They would like to see more information on calcium, recipes, suitable dairy swaps and ideas for eating out. A huge 75% said they would prefer to be diagnosed by a face-to-face consultation.

If you are concerned you may have symptoms that indicate dairy intolerance, Allergy UK advises: “to help identify whether a food is a cause of symptoms, a food/symptoms diary can help to identify a pattern. We would always recommend taking the diary to your GP or allergy specialist who can diagnose what may be causing the symptoms or refer you to a dietitian.”

Whether you are dairy intolerant or a dairy lover, make sure you maintain a good calcium intake in your diet…

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos

Get heart healthy (and watch the salt)

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As it’s National Heart Month and I seem to be writing an awful lot about salt at the moment, I thought it was high time I whipped up a timely blog post on the topic.

Every day, 26 million of us are eating too much salt and as 75% of the salt we eat is already added to a variety of manufactured foods: we may be eating more than we realise.

The top salty food culprits are: cheese, certain breakfast cereals, processed meat (ham, bacon), stock cubes, sauces, gravy granules, bread, bread products, salted nuts and potato-based snacks.

A diet high in salt can cause high blood pressure (hypertension), which often has no symptoms. Hypertension affects one in three adults in the UK. If you have high blood pressure, this can increase the risk of stroke and heart problems developing.

Making small changes can help to lower blood pressure. Instead of adding salt when preparing meals, add flavour to food using herbs, spices, wine, vinegar, garlic, onion, lemon and lime juice. Reducing the number of processed foods and ready meals you eat will also help.

Image courtesy of Free Digital Photos

Brighten up on Blue Monday

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If you want to avoid feeling too down in the dumps on Blue Monday (Monday 21st January), wear bright clothes, Mental Health Research UK advises.

January as a whole can be a month when many of us feel pretty miserable, yet researchers claim that the third Monday of January is the most depressing day of the year. This is due to bad weather, reduced daylight, debt, the need for Christmas detox and poor motivation.

MHRUK hopes to brighten up Britain with its campaign, Blooming Monday. The charity aims to raise awareness of depression and seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and hopes to encourage people participating in brightening up their attire for the day to donate £2 to MHRUK to fund research into treatments.

If you’re wearing bright colours on Monday and want to make a voluntary difference, you can donate £2 to MHRUK by texting BLOO22 to 70070.

Image courtesy of Free Digital Photos

Warm up this winter with a little nostalgia

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As someone that always feels the cold, new research that looks at how nostalgia can help us to feel physically warmer has really piqued my interest.

Studies conducted by the University of Southampton discovered a link between nostalgic feelings and our perception of temperature. Volunteers reported feeling warmer when they were asked to reflect on sentimental memories or music that made them feel nostalgic. The studies also found that volunteers were able to withstand putting their hand in ice-cold water for longer when they focused on a nostalgic memory or event from their past.

Dr Tim Wildschut, a senior lecturer at the university and co-author of the study, said: “Nostalgia is experienced frequently and virtually by everyone and we know that it can maintain psychological comfort. Our study has shown that nostalgia serves a homeostatic function allowing the mental stimulation of previously enjoyed states, including states of bodily comfort, in this case making us feel warmer or increasing our tolerance of cold.” 

I’m prescribing myself a regular dose of my favourite and much-loved Christmas films to help forget how chilly it’s becoming. I’m feeling a little warmer already…

 

Men’s Health: Ask Your Pharmacist

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Male readers, this year’s Ask Your Pharmacist Week (5th-12th November) is all about you.

The aim is to help you feel more at ease walking into a pharmacy and chatting about your health and making better use of the free professional help that is available. Ask about anything that is concerning you, from health worries, information on medication side effects or insight on long-term medical conditions. You can also ask for tips and advice on general health and wellbeing such as boosting immunity, cutting down on smoking or improving sexual health.

Leicestershire-based Mistry’s Pharmacy also offers an online pharmacy facility which is used by people across the UK. Typical men’s health issues they advise on include product recommendations for sports injuries, muscle strains and enquiries on sexual health matters such as erectile dysfunction, which requires GP-prescribed medication.

“No matter how trivial or embarrassing your concern, pharmacy teams are well-trained to offer confidential advice,” says Sanjay, one of the pharmacist’s at Mistry’s. “Pharmacists are very approachable and can guide you through any problem you may have, ensuring you leave with the right advice or product you need. There is no need to suffer alone – it’s imperative to get professional advice as soon as possible, don’t let a nagging problem get worse.”

Go on, just ask…

 

Image courtesy of Free Digital Photos

Natural wrinkle wonder: watercress

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If you thought watercress was simply an accompaniment to liven up an egg mayonnaise sandwich or to add some colour to your plate, think again. New research suggests watercress can not only improve your skin health, leading to fewer blemishes and less visible pores, it can also reduce the spread of wrinkles.

The Watercress Alliance asked a group of female volunteers to eat 80g of watercress every day for four weeks and make no other changes to their diet. The women had their faces photographed before and after using a special complexion-analysing system. 

90% experienced a difference in their skin and over 70% reported a change in the texture of their skin and a remarkable improvement in their wrinkles. Half of the women experienced reduced red and blotchy areas and 81% noticed their pores had become less noticeable.

Watercress is packed with antioxidants such as vitamins C, A and E, lutein, carotene, calcium and iron.

What’s more, watercress is currently in season and is readily available – hooray!

 

Image courtesy of Think Vegetables

Ladies: let’s talk common concerns (down there)

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For many women, going to the doctors can be an embarrassing prospect – especially if the problem you have is of a somewhat intimate nature. It’s no surprise then that a recent study found a quarter of British women have turned to the internet for advice on treatments rather than seeking medical opinion.

Whilst the internet is good for most things, when it comes to your health, the web can sometimes be more of a hindrance. By self-medicating you may join the one in ten women who end up with unpleasant side effects as a result of a misdiagnosis. Below are three of the most common concerns women tend to encounter with advice on what to do if they affect you.

Cystitis

Probably one of the most well known women’s health issues, cystitis affects approximately half of all women in the UK. Whilst there are no blanket symptoms, most women will suffer with pain when urinating, a strong smelling and dark coloured urine and an urge to urinate frequently. Cystitis can also lead to vaginal irritation which is where remedies such as Canesten will come in handy. Ensure you drink plenty of water and urinate regularly as this will also help to effectively prevent this issue.

Bladder Weakness

Due to its highly sensitive nature, thousands of women just assume bladder weakness is something that is just part of normal life and something they have to put up with – it isn’t! There are products and remedies that will make suffering with this a breeze such as Tena pads. It is also important to note that reaching for your normal sanitary products just won’t do the trick. This is because urine is thinner and comes out in larger quantities – you need something that will be able to cope with this.

Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)

This is sometimes mistaken for thrush and so many women will simply reach for a thrush treatment though this won’t effectively combat the symptoms of BV. When a woman is suffering from BV, her discharge will be clear and fishy smelling. Though antibiotics are the best remedy for this problem, products such as Balance Activ Vaginal Gel will also help to relieve some of the discomfort and neutralise the odour of discharge.

Don’t suffer in silence, get help today with some of life’s more intimate problems!

Please note: this is a guest blog post from Mistry’s Pharmacy

 

Image courtesy of Free Digital Photos