Beware of falling over too often

Injuries from falls are a common and serious problem for older people, with 30% of people over 65 years, and 50% of those over 80 falling at least once a year. Dealing with the consequences of falls costs the NHS a whopping £2.3 billion per year.

Man falling over

Those at particularly high risk of falling include people:

• With two or more risk factors (muscle weakness, poor balance, visual deficit, concentration problems, arthritis)
• taking more than three medicines
• affected by orthostatic hypotension – a sharp fall in blood pressure when moving to a standing position, often caused by medication, causing dizziness.

Falls can be caused by almost any drug that acts on the brain or the circulation, so if you, or an elderly relative you care for, are concerned ask your pharmacist if you can have a medicines use review. This is an NHS service your pharmacy offers which will look at what the medicine is for, how you are taking it, whether it is effective, and whether there are any side-effects.

If it is appropriate to reduce the number of medicines you are taking, or change the dosage your pharmacist will advise you to see your GP.

Short people at greater risk of coronary heart disease

The shorter you are, the more your risk of coronary heart disease, according to a study carried out at the University of Leicester.


Coronary heart disease is when the arteries supplying blood to the heart become narrowed due to a build up of plaque. If a blood clot forms over the plaque then the risk of heart attack is raised, as the artery can become completely blocked. Coronary heart disease is the most common cause of premature death worldwide.

The researchers looked at genetic data from almost 200,000 people with or without coronary heart disease. They found that every 2.5 inch change in height affects coronary heart disease risk by 13.5%. So, for example, a 5 ft person has a 32% higher risk of coronary heart disease compared with a 5 ft 6 inch person because of their smaller height.

The take home message from this is that you can avoid coronary heart disease in the first place by exercising properly and eating sensibly, stopping smoking and cutting down on the alcohol. Ask your pharmacist if you need any advice.

Gun-related hospitalisations maps to stock market performance

Before you start to worry, we are talking about the USA here, where a study published in The American Journal of Medicine suggests that the national incidence of gun-related hospital admissions in the US mirrors the performance of the national stock market.

Gun-related hospitalisations

About 88 people die every day in the US from firearm-related incidents, making guns the second leading cause of injury-related death in the nation after road accidents, so the figures are not insignificant.

Comparing hospital in-patient data with the Dow Jones Industrial Average – an overall indicator of the nation’s economic health – the study’s authors suggest that ‘economic perturbations’ may be a ‘root cause’ or at least an important predictor of firearm injuries.

It is, fortunately, a set of statistics the Department of Health is unlikely to use in planning for the next A&E crisis in the UK.

Find swallowing tablets difficult?

Scientists at the University of Huddersfield are pioneering the use of a special gel that can be used to give medicines to young children and the elderly – groups who often have difficulty swallowing pills and capsules.

Swallowing pill

The gel medicine is made from gellan gum, a natural compound that has been used in foodstuffs until now. It consists of microscopic gel particles which collectively are pourable and can be administered with a spoon. But in the stomach the gel solidifies. This means the drug is not released there, where it would have little effect or even irritate the stomach, but later in the intestine over the course of several hours.

The research is a response to the increasing demand for ‘age appropriate’ drugs. It is important because a major reason for people not taking their medicines properly is the dosage form – be it a tablet, liquid or cream. So if you are having trouble taking your medicines for this reason, speak to your pharmacist. They may be able to suggest an alternative approach.

Statistics, skirts sizes and breast cancer…

What will they measure next? There is a lot of evidence to link a high body mass index to an increased risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women. Another suggested risk factor is adult weight gain, usually associated with an increase in body fat.

Waist size

Now a research team at University College London has used the self-reported skirt size of 94,000 women, over a number of years, as a proxy measure for their change in weight over those years, and investigated how this has affected their risk of getting breast cancer.

The results show that, for women aged between 25 and postmenopausal age, an increase in skirt size by one unit every decade increased the risk of postmenopausal breast cancer by 33%. However, a decrease in skirt size was associated with lowering of risk.

Something to think about…

Could pharmacists reduce the pressure on GPs?

Pharmacists to the rescue!

Radical proposals to ease the pressures on family doctors have been proposed by the Royal College of General Practitioners and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society which could see a pharmacist in every GP surgery.


GPs and their teams are estimated to make 370 million patient consultations this year. This is 70 million more than five years ago, but as demand has risen the number of GPs in England has remained pretty much the same.

By contrast there is currently an over-supply of pharmacists, who train as clinicians for five years – only one year less than a doctor. The suggestion is that they could step in to treat patients directly at the surgery, particularly those with long term conditions and who are taking a number of different medicines.

Dr Maureen Baker, chair of the RCGP, says: “Waiting times for a GP appointment are now a national talking point. Yet we have a ‘hidden army’ of highly-trained pharmacists who could provide a solution.”

But this isn’t going to happen overnight. Your local community pharmacy will be your port of call to see a pharmacist for a while yet.

Condoms whatever your size…

Many men are fixated about the size of their penis, but have no idea whether it is bigger or smaller than average. Their partners are probably equally ignorant!

Now a team from King’s College London and South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust has reviewed size measurements of over 15,000 men aged 17 and older to produce some definitive figures.

Using standard procedures, all men had the length and circumference, or girth, of their penis measured while it was flaccid and erect.

The results reveal that the average length of a flaccid penis is 9.16cm and 13.12cm when erect. The average girth is 9.31 cm when flaccid and 11.66 cm when erect. There is a small correlation between height and erect penis length.
Your local community pharmacy will, of course, offer condoms for all sizes and, these days, a variety of tastes. Emergency contraception and other sexual health services can also be accessed by asking your pharmacist.

Keep a handle on what medicines you are taking

Going into hospital or moving to a care home can be pretty disruptive in the short term to your daily routine. To add to the problem, between 30-70% of patients have an error or unintentional change to their medicines when they move from one care setting to another.


Ensuring medicines are used safety is a continual challenge, since up to 8% of unplanned admissions to hospital are due to medication issues.

If you are one of those people who want to be an active participant in your own healthcare, you can do a lot to help ensure everyone knows the correct details about your medicines. This should include:

• details of the medicines you are currently taking and the dosage
• known drug allergies and any unexpected reactions to medicines or their ingredients
• details of relevant contacts (your GP, local pharmacy and family members or carers where appropriate)

You can ask your pharmacist help you put the list together and get them to update it if your medicines change.

This information should ideally be shared within 24 hours of changing location.