Dec 22nd

Latest figures confirm flu season has started - News Release from Public Health England

By Mary B
‘At risk’ groups urged to get vaccinated now’
Latest figures from Public Health England (PHE) indicate that flu is now circulating in the community. Increases have been seen in both children and adults across a range of indicators, including GP consultations.
Following PHE advice, the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) has this week issued guidance to all GPs on the use of antiviral drugs for the management of people presenting with flu-like illness in England, who are at higher risk of developing complications. Although flu is starting to circulate, flu levels currently remain relatively low.
Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davies said: “The NHS is well prepared for the flu season, and although flu levels remain relatively low, we are starting to see increases.
“Prevention is better than cure, and the increase in flu activity means it is even more important to get your flu jab if you are in an at-risk group. If you have not already had it, call your GP as soon as possible. I am very grateful to GPs for the work they are already doing to vaccinate people, and I know they will continue to strive for higher uptake.”
Dr Richard Pebody, head of seasonal flu surveillance at PHE, said: “We are starting to see increases in flu activity in both children and adults, indicating the start of this year’s flu season.
“People in ‘at risk’ groups can get the vaccine for free as they are at much greater risk of becoming seriously unwell if they catch flu, and sadly many end up in hospital. This includes people with health conditions, even those that are well managed, such as asthma, diabetes, heart, lung, liver or renal diseases, those with weakened immune systems, as well as older people and pregnant women.”
The latest vaccine uptake figures show some positive signs with 70.6% of people aged 65 and over vaccinated. However, only 47.1% in those aged under 65 with a health condition have been vaccinated and 41.6% of pregnant women. In addition, 34.8% of all 2 year olds, 37.3% of all 3 year olds and 29.3 % of all 4 year olds have been vaccinated with the nasal spray vaccine as part of the childhood flu immunisation programme. PHE also encourages healthcare workers and carers who could pass the infection to vulnerable people to also get vaccinated.
Dr Pebody, added: “Although unpleasant, for most healthy people, flu is a self-limiting illness. Symptoms include sudden onset of fever, cough as well as sore throat, aching muscles and joints. The best advice for treating flu in healthy people is to stay at home, rest, drink plenty of fluids and take pain relievers such as paracetamol. Children under 16 should not take any medicines containing aspirin. People in at risk groups who develop symptoms consistent with flu, or if anyone’s symptoms persist or become more severe, they should seek medical advice.
“Maintaining good cough and hand hygiene, such as covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough and sneeze, disposing of the tissue as soon as possible and cleaning your hands as soon you can are important actions that can help prevent the spread of germs and reduce the risk of transmission.
“Every season we remain vigilant and assess the flu situation as more information becomes available from our various surveillance systems, and from the different virus samples we receive from across the UK.”
Dec 5th

Ethical Business

By Colin L
I've just finished watching "The Success and Price of Capitalism" on YouTube
"Not Business As Usual is a provocative look at capitalism and its unintended price of success. The film tracks the changing landscape of business with the rising tide of conscious capitalism through the stories of local entrepreneurs who have found innovative ways to bring humanity back into business."
It's about Canadian/USA ethical businesses and if you have the time (1hr) I recommend it.
Dec 1st

Attitude is everything

By Colin L

The way you choose to interpret your experiences determines the way you live your life.

There is an old parable about a boy who was so discouraged by his experiences in school he told his grandfather he wanted to quit. His grandfather filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Soon the pots came to a boil. In the first, he placed carrots, in the second he placed eggs and the last he placed ground coffee beans. He let them sit and boil, without saying a word. In about twenty minutes he turned off the burners. He fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. He pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then he ladled the coffee out into a cup. Turning to the boy, he asked, "Tell me, what do you see?" "Carrots, eggs, and coffee," the boy replied.

Then he asked the boy to feel the carrots, which he did and noted that they were soft and mushy. His grandfather then asked him to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, the boy observed the hard-boiled egg. Finally, he asked the boy to sip the coffee. He smiled as he tasted the coffee with its rich aroma. The boy asked, "I don't understand. What does this mean, if anything?"

His grandfather laughed and explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity--boiling water--but each had reacted differently. "Which are you?" the grandfather asked. "When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity, becomes soft and loses strength? Are you the egg that appears not to change but whose heart is hardened? Or are you the coffee bean that changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain. When the water gets hot, it releases the fragrance and flavor. If you are like the coffee bean, when things are at their worst, your very attitude will change your environment for the better, making it sweet and palatable."

The moral of the parable is that it is not the experience that matters. What matters is how you interpret and react to the experience. We are each given a set of experiences in life. The experiences are neutral. They have no meaning. It is how we interpret the experiences that give them meaning. Your interpretations of your experiences shape your beliefs and theories about the world which, in turn, influence the way you live your life. The grandfather’s lesson is that when you can’t change your circumstances, you change yourself.

- See more at:


Nov 30th

Meditation and Depression Study

By Colin L

Study: Meditation as effective as psychotherapy for depression

By Ocean Malandra     Nov 28, 2014 in Health
Stockholm - Group meditation classes improve depression and anxiety just as well as expensive private therapy sessions, according to a brand new study.
For the first time ever, a study conducted at Lund University in Sweden tested the effects of mindfulness based group meditation classes head-to-head against traditional psychotherapy on a group of clinically depressed patients. The results are remarkable. Meditation has been found in many studies to have positive effects on psychological stress and well being, including being able to improve both anxiety and depression, but never has it been compared directly to individual psychological therapy. Until now, that is. The researchers at Lund University divided a group of clinically depressed patients into two groups and gave one private cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and the other group mindfulness-based group therapy on a daily basis for eight weeks. There was no statistical difference between the two treatments. “The study’s results indicate that group mindfulness treatment, conducted by certified instructors in primary health care, is as effective a treatment method as individual CBT for treating depression and anxiety”, said Jan Sundquist, the professor that ran the study. “This means that group mindfulness treatment should be considered as an alternative to individual psychotherapy." He continued. A global crisis of epidemic proportions, depression is the leading cause of disability in the world. Private counseling and psychotherapy is often expensive, however, placing such therapies out of reach for many of those that suffer. The USA spends over $100 billion a year on mental health treatment, for example. Meditation, on the other hand, is entirely cost-free and can be practiced on one's own time. This places its curative power to reverse depression and anxiety right in an individual's own hands.
Nov 29th


By Chrystie M
I have just been reading about everyone's back pain, so many that I have turned to a Blog.
I have been suffering with my legs.  About 2 months ago, I would say, my legs swelled up, were purple and shiny.  I finally went to Google and asked if any of my medication might be having side effects between each other, and would you believe it, but one tablet I have, had something saying that this should not be taken with Bendrofluazide (can't spell it, neither a lot of people!) I didn't dare tell the doctor or the pharmacist what I had found, whether they might think these things were happening.  Both almost ignored me, but a week later I found it had been taken off my prescription. The legs stopped swelling.
For ages I have been creaming my legs, going for walks every day, etc etc, and even tonight I was creaming my legs in the middle of the night!  My legs are beginning to swell again, and are very blotchy, which I have had for so long I don't even think about it.  But last night I felt this enough was enough.  I was intending to go to the doctor, but as it is Sunday I went on Google, put the 4 tablets I take for Angina, and found quite a lot of interesting read. Masses, but from all of it I have written down 'swollen ankles' 'redness of skin' severe skin reaction reactions' 'inflammation of blood vessels'
It also says that if you take 'Ibuprofen, dichlofenac and prednisolne they can reduce the BP lowering effects.
I suppose I will really have to take this to the doctor, and really they don't have the time to research all these things, so perhaps he may listen to me.

Nov 27th

My back problems!

By Ann R
I realise that I sound like a walking disaster but thought I would write on here so that you could all keep up with what has been happening as so many of you have been kind enough to wish me well.
Last year I was on my way to visit a friend in Hertfordshire and had to change trains in Paddington. Stupidly, as I was going onto the down escalator to the tube, I tried to pull my suitcase behind me.  It got stuck and knocked me off balance and I sat down sharply, catching my back on the metal step behind me.
I managed to get up again before the escalator reached the bottom and a guard came over to ask if I was alright.  He stayed with me a few minutes until I assured him that I was ready to continue with my journey.
By the time I got to my destination I was in agony and the following day I went to the A&E in Stevenage, I was eventually examined and told that it was muscular, given some painkillers and sent on my way.  After two days I had to ask my friend if he would take me home as it wasn't fair on him for me to be moping around.
The day after arriving back here I went to A&E in Hereford, only to be told the same thing and a different course of painkillers.
By now I was finding out that painkillers do not agree with me!
Eventually I went to my GP and she told me that it might take a year to clear up and she was right, although I have felt the occasional twinge every now and then.
So, last weekend, like an idiot I decided to trim one of my toe nails and as I reached over I felt my back go.  Each day it has got steadily worse so off I went to the doctor yesterday, advised to see a physiotherapist but that would not be until mid January.
Well, I took the bull by the horns today.  I seized up completely when I woke up this morning and was really worried, so then it dawned on me that the lady who lives in the flat above me has a son who lives in the city and is a physio, so I went up to see her.  Luckily he was calling in to see her today, so he popped in to see me about 2.30.  He asked me loads of questions and then said that he had a spare appointment at 4.40 if I wanted to go to his practice.  That suited me fine.  I honestly couldn't wait until mid Jan for the NHS one.  So, when I saw him again I had to bend sideways, backwards and forwards - I even managed to touch my toes although he could tell that my back was very tense.  I then had a massage, followed by exercise and then pulling my leg (physically, not jokingly lol).  I now have a lumbar cushion as well to support my back, as my settee slopes back quite a bit.
I have another appointment next week, so I am really glad that I made that decision, it might cost a bit but it will be worth it.
We are always wise after the event, but this has been a lesson well and truly learned the hard way. 
Nov 19th

Holidays & High Cholesterol

By Mary B

Holidays & High Cholesterol

It may worry some travellers with high cholesterol that they're not going to enjoy their time away or alternatively, they'll go off the rails and make matters worse. Understandable, but with a little planning, there is no reason why high cholesterol should put a damper on your holiday.


Make sure you've renewed all your prescriptions and take more than you'll need, in case your stay is extended. If flying, keep your meds in your hand luggage in case your checked bag goes missing. It might be worth bringing extra prescriptions from your GP – just in case. And remember to take them! If you have a smartphone or tablet, set alarms to remind you.

Travel Insurance

Don't risk not declaring all pre-existing conditions to your insurance company, as it's virtually guaranteed that you won't be covered if something happens that's related to one of these conditions.


Prepare some tasty but healthy treats for the journey. If you're taking a road trip, then bring a cool/ice box along with bottles of water, fruit, carrot sticks, fat-free yoghurts, etc. Because of the restrictions at airports, you'll have to make do with buying ready-made items once you've gone through security but most of the outlets sell fruit. Once you're on the plane, avoid the plethora of sweet and fatty snacks, in favour of those you bought from an airport concession.

Self-catering vs Dining Out

Having your own kitchen to prepare meals will make life far easier. You can still go out for meals but at least this way you'll be able to have healthy breakfasts and make packed lunches. When you do dine out, choose lots of fresh fruit and veg, or salads with no dressing. Opt for wholegrain over refined carbohydrates, whenever possible. You can enjoy a glass or two of wine but keep it sensible. Desserts aren't out of the question, but perhaps share one?

Keep Active

Even if you're having a beach holiday, it's still important to keep active. You can swim, or take a walk in the early hours before it gets too hot. You could rent bikes or take the stairs instead of the lift. If possible, try not to drive everywhere.

By following these simple guidelines, there is absolutely no reason why those with high cholesterol can't enjoy their holidays just as much as anyone else.


A guest blog provided on behalf of Able2Travel 

Oct 6th

Good news from Virgin Atlantic for those with dementia

By Mary B
Virgin Atlantic have just announced that they are working with the Purple Angel Association to give employees a greater understanding about dementia and how best help any passengers with the condition.

Specially made videos and fact sheets are being designed and will shortly be available to staff members via their intranet and in training sessions.

Established in 2013 by Norman McNamara who himself has early onset dementia, the Purple Angel has rapidly become a globally recognised logo with nearly 200 volunteer Ambassadors worldwide. Local and National businesses encourage employees to recognise that customers with dementia may have particular needs and how to help them. Displaying a Purple Angel sign indicates to customers that staff have an understanding which helps to reduce stigma and isolation.
Aug 20th

Getting Out More - a guest blog from MobilitySmart

By Mary B

Getting Out More: Taking Those First Steps


For anyone that struggles to get around as easily as they used to, getting out of the house comes with two immediate types of barrier: the physical and the emotional.

First, you have to be in the right mind-set. You need to feel safe and confident, not afraid of what’s beyond the door of your home. Second, you need to be prepared physically for whatever activity you’re doing. Here, we address three ‘emotional’ and three ‘physical’ barriers, with information about how to push them aside so that you can get out more!

Fear – Emotional

Stepping beyond your front door can seem like a scary prospect if you’re used to the comfort of home or are feeling unsure about your ability to cope with physical activity. To counteract the fear, plan a short circular walking route that brings you back to your front door. You’ll never be far from home!

Lack of Motivation – Emotional

Sometimes, the prospect of home can seem just a little too inviting! If you’re finding it hard to get motivated, set yourself small goals such as a slow five-minute walk or a half-hour picnic in the park. You might even consider buying modern technology, such as an activity monitor wristband, that will count up your steps and give you a goal to work towards each day.

Loneliness – Emotional

If you’re out and about on your own, you might find that you feel lonely or vulnerable. Invite a friend or family member to meet you for a walk or to share your shopping trip with you, so that you’ve got support and someone to talk to. If you’re going out alone and don’t want or have a companion, it can also help to invest in a cheap MP3 player that can be loaded with your favourite music to provide a welcome distraction. It’s worth only wearing an earphone in one ear, so that you can stay aware of what’s going on around you.

Lack of Stability – Physical

Feeling unsteady on your feet? Make sure that you wear comfortable, well-fitting shoes. Power wheelchairs and mobility scooters can also be used if you’re finding that walking is becoming too difficult.

Reduced Carrying Ability – Physical

A shopping trip is a fantastic small goal if you’re looking for something to do. Unfortunately, some people are deterred by the prospect of struggling home with their shopping. Get a shopping basket (or bag) on wheels and you can drag it along behind you, which is much easier than carrying a traditional shopping bag.

Aches and Pains – Physical

As you age, you’ll find that your body can’t take the same amount of activity as it used to. Your joints, in particular, will hurt. There’s nothing wrong with this, but it’s a sign not to push too hard. Stop for regular breaks, make use of park benches and consider planning a route with plenty of coffee shops along it! Also make sure that you stick to main roads so that you can find a taxi easily if you need a ride back home.

The key to a successful trip is forward-planning – map out a route, make sure that it has rest stops, take a companion or your favourite music, wear suitable clothing and footwear and make sure that you don’t allow those niggling doubts to stop you from leaving your house. Once you’re out and about, you’ll quickly find that your confidence increases and that you can keep your independence for longer.

MobilitySmart is a UK based online and high street retailer of reliable mobility products such mobility scooters. for more information you can visit their website at


Aug 18th

Guest Blog from Hearing Direct

By Mary B

Hearing loss resulting from the general ageing process is one of the most common forms of sensory impairment to affect the over 60s. If left unmanaged, it can lead to reduced quality of life, and in recent years it has been linked to the progression of dementia in several reputable studies. (1) According to hearing charity Action On Hearing Loss, there are more than 10 million people in the UK with some form of hearing loss, or one in six of the population. 6.3 million of which are of retirement age (65+).  On average it takes ten years for individuals to address their hearing loss. It is the purpose of this piece to explain how age-related hearing loss occurs and how to go about managing its effects.

How Age Related Hearing Loss Happens

As the body matures, sensory abilities can naturally diminish. It is often a gradual process over many years, until it reaches a point where it is unmistakably noticeable (to the individual as well as others around them) and begins to impact on daily life. Hearing loss due to aging, in many cases, can be traced back to a person’s late 40s, though it is far more commonly encountered in the over 60s. Our inner ear holds a vast number of tiny receptors that are referred to as hair cells. These hair cells are responsible for capturing information contained within sound waves and begin the process of converting these stimuli into nerve signals to send to the brain via the hearing nerve. As the body matures, some hair cells may be damaged and their functioning impaired in some way.  Often those hair cells who are responsible for dealing with the higher frequencies are affected first, and the individual will not be able to hear over as  wide a range as before and not be as sensitive to softer volumes as before. Hair cells cannot regrow or repair themselves, so any loss of hearing is effectively permanent.

There are a number of different factors that determine the extent or degree of the loss of hearing. These can include:

·         Family history of hearing loss – it is thought to be hereditary

·         Smoking for many years – studies conclude that smokers are more like to develop age related hearing loss 

·         Medical conditions and certain medicines

·         Prolonged exposure to high levels of noise


Links To The Progression Of Dementia

In recent years, several (2) studies have drawn a link between hearing loss that is left unattended and the acceleration of dementia. Researchers believe that the overwhelming stress on the brain to process sound with hearing loss and the additional effort it takes, may leave individuals more vulnerable to develop dementia.  They have also speculated further that if hearing loss causes individuals to withdraw from social contact, this in itself could increase the risk of dementia; as social isolation is a known risk factor for dementia and other cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s.


Symptoms Of Age Related Hearing Loss

Because age related hearing loss usually occurs very gradually individuals may not experience all these symptoms, and will experience them in varying degrees. 

·         Frequently asking people to repeat themselves

·         Difficulty hearing people around you, feeling that they are mumbling

·         Certain sounds seeming overly loud, others overly mumbled

·         Problems hearing in noisy areas

·         Problems telling apart certain sounds such as "s" or "th"

·         More difficulty understanding people with higher-pitched voices

·         Ringing in the ears


Managing The Condition


Although there is no medical cure to overturn age related hearing loss, there are means to manage the condition and improve on the impaired hearing. Any concern about hearing should be addressed by attending a hearing test. Basic tests can be conducted at your local GP practice, though a hearing assessment at your local audiologist will be diagnostic and provide a complete picture of your current hearing ability. The most common diagnostic hearing test performed is a ‘pure-tone audiogram’ which will measure your hearing abilities across a wide range of tones or frequencies and allow comparison to that normal hearing. It will also help to confirm the cause of any measured hearing loss.


‘Treatment’ for hearing loss usually focuses on amplifying sounds in daily life. Various amplification devices in the form of amplified phones and mobiles, hearing aids in 6 common types, TV aids and others are available privately and from the NHS (hearing aids only). It is important to address hearing loss concerns to avoid becoming socially isolated. 


Bio: Article by Joan McKechnie, BSc Hons Audiology & Speech Pathology. Joan works for Hampshire based  Joan is HCPC Registered (Health Care Professions Council).





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