That gut feeling is all too common and we can help

Constipation is a condition which provides a source for much toilet humour. But be careful where you direct your wit: constipation is believed to affect one in seven adults in the UK, and your joke might hit closer to home than intended.

The causes of constipation can be broadly split into ‘functional’, such as blockages and obstructions, and ‘neurogenic’, brought on by conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease or spinal cord injury. Many medicines also have constipation as a side-effect.

If you have occasional problems, a visit to your local pharmacy may provide a solution. Reviewing your diet and using a bulking agent, such as ispaghula husk, taken with plenty of water, might help move things along.

But if you have two or more of the following symptoms for over three months, then it’s best to make a visit to your GP. Symptoms to watch for are: straining when on the loo, lumpy or hard stools, a feeling of incomplete evacuation, or of blockage.

Find out more here:


It pays to be straight…

A PhD study carried out in three pubs by students from Bristol University looked the effect of straight and curved glasses on beer consumption in three pubs over two weekends. And guess what?

Excessive alcohol drinking is a major public health concern and anything that can help control alcohol intake attracts interest – even a PhD study carried out in three pubs by students from Bristol University.

They studied the effect of straight and curved glasses on beer consumption in three pubs over two weekends. The pubs using straight-sided glasses reported lower takings, indicating less consumption. This was consistent with previous laboratory findings that showed participants drunk at a slower rate from straight glasses.

They also found that people given beer in a glass showing measurements of a quarter, half and three quarters had slower drinking times (10.3 mins) compared to the non-marked group (9.1 mins).

With a pint of beer (4.0%) providing 2.3 units of alcohol and 183 calories, anything that encourages moderation helps… Remember men should not regularly exceed 3-4 units a day, and women 2-3 units. Your pharmacist can give you more advice if you need it.

Experiencing PMS? Your pharmacist can help

More than 150 symptoms are associated with premenstrual syndrome: the number and type vary from person to person, and often from month to month. It’s difficult to diagnose PMS because in hinges on timing, with symptoms usually occurring during the same phase of the menstrual cycle, from one to 14 days before menstruation.

Unfortunately there is no lab test to help with a clear diagnosis, but the National Association for Premenstrual Syndrome suggests that a chat with your sympathetic pharmacist or GP can prove helpful.

For women who want to take a more pro-active approach, then it’s worth knowing that a healthier lifestyle, improved nutrition and regular exercise may relieve mild to moderate PMS. Complementary medicines, such as agnus castus 20-40 mg a day, red clover isoflavones 40-80 mg a day, or St John’s wort may also help. But some complementary medicines can conflict with other medicines, so make sure you get advice from your pharmacist first.

More information is available on the National Association for Premenstrual Syndrome website

The c-card scheme. Free condoms for young people.

The Family Planning Association estimates treatment of sexually transmitted infections such chlamydia, gonorrhoea and syphilis cost the NHS approximately £620 million in 2014….

Be safe. Be sure. Carry a condom.

…which might be why the health watchdog NICE is urging local councils to increase the availability of condoms to people most at risk of sexually transmitted infections. Condom distribution schemes are a cheap and effective way to tackle rising STI rates.

Approximately 435,000 sexually transmitted infections were diagnosed in England in 2015, including 200,000 cases of chlamydia. Whilst chlamydia rates have fallen, rates of syphilis and gonorrhoea have risen by 76% and 53% respectively between 2012 and 2015.

Condom schemes for young people up to age 25 that include advice, support and information are available through many pharmacies, so check out your local pharmacy if you are not sure.

The most common scheme for young people in the England is the C-card scheme, where young people are given cards for their wallets, like an organ donor card, entitling them to free condoms.

Education on the cards for adults with diabetes

If you have diabetes you could end up going back to the classroom. Health watchdog NICE has recommended that adults with type 1 diabetes should be offered education classes to help them manage their condition.

Do you need educating about Type 1 diabetes?

The classes should be offered when patients are diagnosed and cover diet advice, weight loss for adults who are overweight, exercise and information about medicines.

Adults with type 1 diabetes should also have structured education between 6 months and year after diagnosis once they have an agreed treatment regime. These classes should cover checking blood glucose levels, using insulin and advice about having a healthy lifestyle.

Of all adults with diabetes, 10% have type 1 and they have to take insulin, so getting the right balance in their treatment routine to suit their individual circumstances and daily life can take a while.

Around 3.5 million people in the UK have been diagnosed with diabetes. The condition is complex and has a large impact on people’s lives. Helping people to understand and self-manage their diabetes is vital.

If you can’t wait for the classroom education, you can always ask your pharmacist for advice.

Doctors more likely to miss heart attacks in women

Women have a 50% higher chance than men of receiving the wrong initial diagnosis following a heart attack, according to a study by the University of Leeds.

Why are women more likely to be misdiagnosed?
Why are women more likely to be misdiagnosed?

There are two main types of heart attack, although both result in serious damage to the heart muscle:

• STEMI, when there is a total blockage of the main artery that pumps oxygenated blood around the body.

• NSTEMI, which is more common, is a partial blockage of one or more arteries.

This research found that women who had a final diagnosis of STEMI had a 59% greater chance of a misdiagnosis compared with men. Women who had a final diagnosis of NSTEMI had a 41% greater chance of a misdiagnosis when compared with men.

This is not helpful, because receiving a quick diagnosis and getting the correct treatment after a heart attack is important in ensuring the best possible recovery.

Both men and women who were misdiagnosed had about a 70% increased risk of death after 30 days compared with those who had received a consistent diagnosis.

The British Heart Foundation, which part-funded the research, is urging people to be more aware of the signs and symptoms of a heart attack, to avoid mistakes being made in diagnosis.

Are your children getting their jabs?

Millions of children are at risk of contracting potentially lethal diseases as some vaccination rates in England have been falling for the past two years, the health watchdog NICE has warned.

Are your children getting their jabs?

In some areas of the country, although fewer than 1 in 5 children are unvaccinated against diseases such as polio and diphtheria, experts have warned that unless uptake rates improve there is a risk of these diseases making a comeback.

Last year only a quarter of local authorities met World Health Organization targets to vaccinate 95% of children against measles, mumps and rubella.

Around 3 million children and young people may have missed a mumps, measles and rubella (MMR) vaccine. ‘With so many children open to exposure we are at risk of a serious outbreak,’ warns NICE.

Remember, vaccinations don’t just protect the people receiving them – vaccination also protects all of us by eliminating infections from the country. So make sure your children get theirs.

New devices revolutionising stroke care

New devices called stent retrievers have revolutionised the treatment of some stroke patients, according to experts.
Eighty-seven percent of strokes are ischaemic, meaning they are caused by clots that block blood flow to a portion of the brain. In some patients stent retrievers can be used to remove such clots.

Eighty-seven percent of strokes are ischaemic.

A stent retriever is a self-expanding mesh tube attached to a wire, which is guided through a thin tube called a catheter. The surgeon inserts the catheter in an artery in the groin and guides it through various blood vessels all the way up to the brain.

Once the stent retriever reaches the blockage, the surgeon ‘deploys’ it. The device pushes the gelatinous blood clot against the wall of the blood vessel, immediately restoring blood flow. The stent retriever then is used to grab the clot, which is pulled out when the surgeon removes the catheter. Clever…

A clot-busting drug called tPA can restore blood flow and limit stroke damage if it is given within 4.5 hours of the onset of the stroke and the clot is small enough. But in many patients, tPA either would not be safe to take, or would not be sufficient by itself to restore blood flow.

The cost of diabetes….

You might be shocked to know that around 22,000 people with diabetes die early every year. Type 2 diabetes is a major contributor to kidney failure, heart attack, and stroke, and there are currently some 5 million people in England at high risk of developing the disease.

Around 22,000 people with diabetes die early every year.

As well as the human cost, Type 2 diabetes treatment currently accounts for just under 9% of the annual NHS budget – that’s a whopping £8.8 billion a year!

Since the disease is largely preventable through lifestyle changes – having a healthy diet, maintaining a proper weight and getting enough exercise – the NHS Diabetes Prevention programme is primed to target these issues as it is rolled out.

If you live in one of the areas below you could be among the first to benefit from a referral that will give you tailored help to reduce your risk of Type 2 diabetes:

Newham West London Oldham East Midlands
Camden Sefton Leeds Worcestershire
Cheshire/Wirral Cumbria Dudley St Helens
Lincolnshire East and North Herts Bury Berkshire
Norfolk and Norwich Rochdale Southwark Essex
The South East Birmingham Derbyshire Herefordshire
Cambridge Peterborough Co Durham Sheffield

It’s a big programme – serious stuff!

Look out for the next ‘Be Clear on Cancer’ campaign

Look out for the next ‘Be Clear on Cancer’ public health campaign, which is running from July through to October. The campaign aims to alert people to respiratory symptoms that may indicate lung cancer, and is aimed particularly at those aged 50 and over.

The campaign alerts people to respiratory symptoms of lung cancer.

Key messages are:

• ‘If you get out of breath doing things you used to be able to do, tell your doctor’

• ‘If you’ve had a cough for three weeks or more, tell your doctor’.

Early diagnosis of any type of cancer means treatment can be commenced earlier, and greatly increases your chance of survival. It also reduces the downstream burden on the NHS in treating someone with more advances disease, so a real win-win!

And in case you doubt whether these campaigns are effective, the first national lung cancer campaign in 2012 saw an increase of 32% in urgent referrals for suspected lung cancer in the campaign months, compared with the same period in the previous year.

A persistent cough can sometimes be a side effect of some medicines, so if you are not sure, check with your pharmacist before seeing your GP.