Author Archives: miabolton

Cold homes lead to extra Winter deaths


Cold homes are triggering heart attacks and strokes in older people.

An Age Uk report says living in a cold home is a ‘major factor’ in winter deaths. There are around 8,000 extra deaths for every one degree drop in average temperature. It has been found that death rates in Britain are higher than Scandinavia, which has colder winters – but better insulation.

High energy prices and badly insulated homes will lead to the loss of thousands of lives and seriously effect pensioners health this winter, warns a new report.

It shows cold homes are costing the NHS £1.36 billion every year in hospital and primary care as older people struggle with respiratory problems, stroke and heart attacks triggered by the cold.

Around 27,000 excess winter deaths are expected this year, including avoidable fatalities among older people, says the charity Age UK.

The report says superior building standards in countries like Finland and Sweden which insist on insulation and double glazing mean they have warmer homes than in the UK, which has a milder climate.

Older people living in cold homes are at higher risk of death and illnesses such as arthritis and rheumatism, with the risks going up as temperatures plummet.

Millions of older people are having to choose between staying warm and high priced energy bills they can afford.

Michelle Mitchell, charity director general at Age UK told the Daily Mail: ‘It’s an absolute scandal that tens of thousands of older people will become ill or die this winter because they are unable to keep warm.

‘Not only is this resulting in an incalculable human cost but the NHS is spending more than a billion pounds on treating the casualties of cold every year.’

Video courtesy of Age UK


NHS tips on preventing cold and flu


Picture courtesy of Loke Seng

Vitamin C has no real benefit when it comes to fighting cold and flu

The NHS have put together a list of tops tips to help you avoid getting struck with cold or flu this winter.

Vitamin C

When it comes to flu, one person in three believes that taking vitamin C can cure the flu virus. In 2007, the authors of a review of 30 trials involving 11,000 people concluded that, “regular ingestion of vitamin C has no effect on common cold incidence in the ordinary population”. A daily dose of vitamin C did slightly reduce the length and severity of colds.

“Studies found that vitamin C offers a very, very limited benefit,” says Dr Joshivice-chair of the Royal College of GPs. “I wouldn’t recommend it.”

The root, seeds and other parts of echinacea plants are used in herbal remedies that many people believe protect them against colds. There have been several studies into echinacea’s effect, but no firm conclusions.

A review of trials involving echinacea showed that, compared with people who didn’t take echinacea, those who did were about 30% less likely to get a cold. However, the studies had varying results and used different preparations of echinacea. It’s not known how these compare with the echinacea in shops.

This review also showed that echinacea did not reduce the length of a cold when taken on its own.

There is some evidence that taking zinc lozenges, syrup or tablets may reduce how long a cold lasts.

A 2011 Cochrane review of studies into zinc and the common cold suggests that taking zinc supplements within a day of the symptoms starting will speed up recovery from a cold and lessen the severity of symptoms. Long-term use of zinc isn’t recommended as it could cause side effects such as vomiting and diarrhoea. More research is required to find out the recommended dose.

There has also been research into nasal sprays containing zinc. “Some people believe that the zinc lines the mucosa [the lining of the nose] and stops a cold virus attaching itself to the nose lining,” says Dr Joshi. “Unfortunately, this has been found to be no more effective than a placebo.”

Getting cold or wet
The only thing that can cause a cold or flu is a cold or flu virus. Getting cold or wet won’t give you a cold. However, if you are already carrying the virus in your nose, it might allow symptoms to develop.

A study at the Common Cold Centre in Cardiff found that people who chilled their feet in cold water for 20 minutes were twice as likely to develop a cold as those who didn’t chill their feet.

The authors suggest that this is because some people carry cold viruses without having symptoms. Getting chilled causes blood vessels in the nose to constrict, affecting the defences in the nose and making it easier for the virus to replicate.

“Getting a cold from going out in the cold or after washing your hair is a myth,” says Dr Joshi. “Colds are common. If the virus is already there and then you go out with wet hair and develop symptoms, it’s common to think that is what caused it.”

So what does work?
The flu vaccine can prevent you from catching flu. Apart from that, the best way to protect yourself from colds and flu is to have a healthy lifestyle.

“Eat a healthy diet, take regular exercise and drink plenty of warm drinks in the winter months,” says Dr Joshi. “The important thing to remember is that most people are going to catch a cold in winter anyway, because there is no effective cure for cold viruses.”

Washing your hands
Cold and flu viruses can be passed through tiny droplets of mucus that are sneezed or coughed out into the air by an infected person, and breathed in by another person. If an infected person sneezes into their hand, and then touches an object (such as a doorknob, or railing on a train) the virus can pass from the object to the next person who touches it. By washing your hands, you will be getting rid of any viruses you’ve picked up on them.

Avoid touching your nose and eyes
Cold and flu viruses can enter your body through the eyes and nose. If you have any infected droplets on your hands, and you touch your eyes or nose, you can pass the virus into your system. By not touching your nose and eyes, you’ll reduce your chances of catching a virus.

Need to stock up on cold and flu remedies? Here is a map of pharmacies in and around Preston.

Click here for more NHS advice about staying healthy this winter.

Healthy eating: Winter warmer vegetable soup


With winter well and truly upon us we need all the energy we can get.Resist the urge for a Friday night take-away and instead opt for something equally as tasty but packed full of vegetables. This vegetable soup is perfect for those cold winter nights in front of the TV, and quick to make too.

½ tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion, sliced
2 small carrots, sliced
2 potatoes, chopped•3 sticks of celery, sliced
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
80g green beans
1½ tbsp tomato purée
1 leek, sliced
A handful of frozen peas
2 handfuls of dried pasta
1 litre of boiling water
pepper to taste

1. Chop all vegetables into small cube sized pieces.

2. Heat the oil in a pan, add onions, carrots, leeks and celery and fry until sizzling. Reduce the heat and then cover and cook gently for five minutes. Stir if needed.

3. Add the tin of tomatoes, water, tomato purée, beans and frozen peas. Raise the heat to maximum. Bring to the boil and add the pasta, herbs and pepper.

4. Simmer for 15 minutes or until the pasta is cooked. Stir the soup frequently to ensure the pasta doesn’t stick to the pan.

President Obama’s health care plans


The American election is over and Obama will continue in his presidency for another 4 years. So, what is he doing for American health care?

According to his website,President Obama is:

Ending insurance company abuses

  • The Affordable Care Act is holding insurance companies accountable, putting an end to the worst abuses, such as capping or dropping your coverage when you get sick.
Courtesy of Pete Souza, The Obama-Biden Transition Project

President Obama has won the USA election

In March 2010, President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act, this put in place comprehensive reforms that improve access to affordable  health care for all Americans and protect people from abusive insurance  company practices. The law allows all Americans to make their own health insurance choices while also guaranteeing access to care for the countries most vulnerable people. The Act provides ways to bring down health costs and improve the quality of care. Young adults under the age of 26 are also allowed to be kept under their parents insurance policies.

Strengthening Medicare

  • The Affordable Care Act is helping people with Medicare save on the care they need to stay healthy—from free preventive services to lower costs on prescription drugs and monthly premiums.

Putting women in control of their health

  • President Obama is putting an end to the health insurance company practice of charging women more than men for the same coverage.

Since the health care law passed, more than 20 million American women have received preventive care without co-pays.  Meaning affordable access to birth control, cancer screenings, and smear tests.  The law ends discrimination based on “pre-existing conditions,” such as breast cancer and pregnancy. It also guarantees that insurance companies will no longer be allowed to charge women higher rates than men.

According to , Obama has recently required an employer’s health insurer to provide birth control coverage without co-pay.  Considering the fact that American women spend up to $600 dollars a year on birth control, and over a third of the female voters have found it difficult to afford birth control at some point in their lives, this was an important step in protecting access to basic, preventive care.

Charity campaigner, Debbie Dowie, discusses breast cancer treatment


Debbie Dowie (far right) and the Boot Out Breast Cancer Team

Mia Bolton

Today, Bolton based charity campaigner, Debbie Dowie, has said she feels “very strongly” that unnecessary cancer treatment needs to change.

This follows the news that 4,000 British women go through unnecessary, and sometimes harmful, breast cancer treatment each year.

Mrs Dowie, wife of ex-footballer Iain Dowie, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009 and, after a mastectomy, was told that she would need to have chemotherapy.

“Fortunately I had an amazing oncologist who told me about a test that is only offered in Los Angeles,” said Mrs Dowie.

The test is not available on the NHS and cost Debbie £2,500. 8 weeks after sending her breast tissue to Los Angeles, she was happy to receive the news that she would not benefit from chemotherapy.

“I was in a very fortunate position that I could afford to pay for the test, it was later refunded by my insurance company as they realised that I had saved the insurance company between £30,000-£40,000 on chemotherapy and other subsequent treatments,” she added.

Mrs Dowie suggests that for some people, like herself, chemotherapy is not always the most suitable option.

“A friend of mine, wife, and mother of 3 recently underwent chemotherapy for breast cancer. Unfortunately the chemotherapy was not suitable and affected her heart. She died in her sleep 2 weeks ago aged 48,” she explained.

After her diagnosis, Mrs Dowie founded the charity Boot Out Breast Cancer. The charity aims to raise funds for the latest advances in breast cancer treatments.

Despite potential difficulties with cancer treatment, Debbie encourages both women and men to go for breast screenings, as early diagnosis is key.

“I would much rather we were over diagnosed and are called back for 2nd screenings than to let people slip through the net,” she added.

Talking about people being sent for unnecessary treatment after breast screenings, Dr Harpal Kumar, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said:

“Research is advancing at pace and we hope that in the future there will be a number of new techniques that we can use alongside the screening programme to make it more sophisticated and reduce the numbers of women having unnecessary treatment.

Until this is possible, we’d recommend women who have had something unusual picked up through screening to seek full advice and discuss all possible options with their breast cancer specialist team.”

Online Graphing

Statistics for this bar chart have been gathered from Cancer Research UK

Keep track of tiredness: Blood vessel disease ‘vasculitis’ is easy to miss


In October 2010, 15 year old Lauren Currie thought she had picked up a chesty cough. When her mother Adrienne took her to her doctor, he dismissed it as a chest infection and prescribed antibiotics.

The next day, Lauren began coughing up blood; the GP reassured the family there was nothing to worry about, but said they should go to hospital the following day to get her checked out.

After minutes of arriving at the hospital the next morning, the family was surrounded by a crash team, who told them Lauren had pneumonia and within 48 hours she had died.

Lauren’s death certificate stated that her cause of death was vasculitis – a condition where blood vessels become inflamed, cutting off the blood supply to vital organs and causing them to fail. Vasculitis is as common as bacterial meningitis, even though many doctors are not aware of it.


Vasculitis – raised blood vessels under the skin

Around 3,000 people develop vasculitis each year. Lauren was found to have a rare and aggressive form called Wegener’s granulomatosis, which affects the nose, kidneys, and lungs. Around a fifth of those with this type of vasculitis will die within a year, with a quarter dead within 5 years.

‘One of the most common symptoms in any form of vasculitis is tiredness, as any inflammation causes this,’ Professor Kuntal Chakravarty, a rheumatologist at Queen’s Hospital, Essex, explained to the Daily Mail.

As well as excessive tiredness, it can produce an acne-like rash caused by inflammation of the blood vessels beneath the skin. This could be itchy, and usually affects the upper or lower limbs or whole body.

Other symptoms to look for are persistent ear, nose and throat infections. With Lauren’s form, patients can sometimes develop symptoms such as blocked sinuses or nose, and a nosebleed.

Study: A Bit More Sleep Means A Lot Of Help In School For Kids


A good post about the importance of a good night’s sleep.


WASHINGTON (CBS DC) — Getting the kids to bed may not be easy, but it can pay off in the long run.

Children who can get just a little more sleep each night can improve their school behavior and alertness levels, new research suggests.

The finding is published online Oct. 15 and in the November print issue of Pediatrics.

“Even small changes in daily life that can allow children to add about a half hour of sleep could have a significant impact,” study author Reut Gruber, director of the attention behavior and sleep lab at the Douglas Institute at McGill University in Quebec, told US News.

For the research, Gruber randomly assigned 34 children, aged 7 to 11, to one of two groups. One group had their sleep restricted, with bedtimes moved back so they lost an hour of sleep, for five nights straight.

The other group had their bedtimes…

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