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Know your triggers
Know your triggers
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Do you find that your head spends more time in your hands than upright on your shoulders? If your head often feels like a battleground, you’re not alone. More than eight million Brits suffer with migraines[i], and almost everyone can relate to the inconvenience of a headache.

At best, head pains can leave us feeling foggy and confused, at worse they can be debilitating migraines. Migraines not only feel very painful, but can also cause symptoms such as sickness, nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light or noise[ii]. Other symptoms can include visual disturbances, dizziness and vertigo[iii].

The good news is that both headaches and migraines are often triggered by factors we can control, such as stress and the food we eat[iv].

Here are some of my simple tips to help keep you clear headed, and avoid the common migraine and headache triggers.
-    Dr Sarah Jarvis, practising GP, media medic and women’s health spokesperson

Eat for an easy life    

You may enjoy a cuppa and a chocolate bar come 3pm, but these can do more harm than good. Certain foods and drinks are well known headache and migraine triggers.  As well as chocolate, other foods such as ice-cream, cheese and citrus fruits are famed for their unforgiving headache-inducing qualities. Drinks to watch out for include alcohol and anything caffeinated[v]. At the other end of the spectrum, not eating regularly can also bring on migraines[vi].

One of the best ways to discover what’s causing your migraine or headache is to keep a migraine diary. This will help you spot patterns and deduce what might be your trigger. There are plenty of migraine diary templates available online, however you can find one available in both Excel and PDF format here: www.imigranrecovery.co.uk.

Forecast your future

Sudden changes in weather can commonly trigger migraines and headaches[vii], and many people can experience some form of discomfort such as a ‘stuffy head’. You might find that high humidity, rapid changes in temperature or thunderstorms can bring them on.

Although we’d all love to be able to change the weather at will, it’s never going to be an option! But, you can be prepared. If troublesome looking weather is forecast make sure you have some treatment with you in advance [viii] . Beware of continually popping painkillers though, as if you take them more than twice a week, they can actually make your headaches worse[ix]. Opt for preventative treatments which treat the cause, rather than treating just the symptoms.

For migraine suffers, Imigran Recovery treats the cause of migraines, as it contains sumatriptan, which is a specific drug that constricts the blood vessels to stop the pain of migraine attacks [x]. You can get it over the counter at your pharmacy (after consulting with your pharmacist), so you can keep it in your bag just in case!

Don’t strain about it

Although almost all forms of exercise are good, and can help lessen the frequency or painfulness of headaches and migraines, strenuous exercise (including sex) can be a trigger.

To avoid this, stick to a regular exercise routine and keep away from exercises, such as lifting weights, which can cause strain[xi]. Yoga can be particularly helpful as it helps the body release tension and relax.

Find your Zen

Sudden changes in stress hormones cause rapid releases of neurotransmitters, causing blood vessels to constrict and dilate. This may be why you can get a tension headache, or migraine, when you are stressed, or when you quickly relax for the weekend[xii]!

Everyone has their own stress reliever, whether that’s meditation, a jog round the block or a relaxing bath (scented candles optional!). Stress levels can build up rapidly, so make sure you regularly relieve your tension throughout the week to help keep your mind calm and your moods steady. If you start feeling anxious, try taking a few deep breaths or a short walk[xiii].

Sit up straight

Hunching over your desk or a poor standing posture can cause even more tension to build up in the back, neck and shoulders. Not only is this a major culprit in causing back pain, but it could also trigger throbbing head pains. Always make sure you sit up straight, using a back support if necessary. Your chair should be adjusted so that your feet are flat on the floor, your back is supported, your screen is eye level and your wrists and forearms are straight, with your elbows to the side of your body[xiv]. Make sure you take regular breaks from your desk, even if it is just to get a glass of water!

For more serious problems with your posture, you could consider seeing a physiotherapist or Alexander technique practitioner.

Smell a rat

Certain smells or particularly heavy fragrances can trigger a headache or migraine.  If you start suffering shortly after doing housework, wearing a certain perfume or washing your hair, it could be the scent that is the problem. Avoid strong perfumes and use fragrance-free products as much as possible. Ensure that you have a good flow of air in a room, using a fan if you can’t open the windows.[xv]

Sleep well

Burning the candle at both ends, doesn’t just leave you a bit groggy, it can cause a headache or migraine attack. But it’s not just too little sleep that can be the problem, too much sleep also breaks a routine[xvi].

Try maintaining a regular sleeping pattern, even at weekends. If you have trouble with sleeping, avoid caffeine or exercising just before going to bed and try some simply relaxation techniques, such as conscious deep breathing.[xvii]

See the solution

Eye strain can commonly cause headaches, particularly if you spend a long time looking at computer screens. Other symptoms also include eye discomfort, headaches, itchy eyes and difficulty in focusing[xviii].

Make sure you regularly get your eyes tested and take regular breaks from computer screens. While thinking, try looking into the distance or out of a window.

[i] http://www.migrainetrust.org/factsheet-men-and-migraine-10916
[ii] http://www.migrainetrust.org/factsheet-men-and-migraine-10916
[iii] http://www.migrainetrust.org/symptoms
[iv] http://www.imigranrecovery.co.uk/about-migraines/migraine-causes-information.aspx
[v] http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Migraine/Pages/Causes.aspx
[vi] Kelman L. Cephalalgia. 2007;27:394-402
[vii] http://www.migrainetrust.org/factsheet-migraine-triggers-10505
[viii] http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/headaches/Pages/Headachetriggers.aspx
[ix] http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/headaches/Pages/Painkillerheadaches.aspx
[x] http://www.nhs.uk/medicine-guides/pages/MedicineOverview.aspx?condition=Migraine%20Headache&medicine=sumatriptan%20succinate&preparation=Sumatriptan%2050mg%20tablets
[xi] http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=51909
[xii] http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/headaches/Pages/Headachetriggers.aspx
[xiii] http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/headaches/Pages/Relaxandcureyourheadaches.aspx
[xiv] http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/workplacehealth/Pages/howtositcorrectly.aspx
[xv] http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/headaches/Pages/Headachetriggers.aspx
[xvi] http://www.migrainetrust.org/migraine-triggers
[xvii] http://www.nhs.uk/livewell/insomnia/pages/treatment.aspx
[xviii] http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Eyehealth/Pages/Eyesafety.aspx

Allergies And Asthma

Breathe Easy...
  Written by Jenny Catton   Recent research suggests that twice as many people have asthma now than they did 25 years ago. Scientists aren’t sure what has caused this dramatic increase but many people think that environmental factors could be playing a part.   What is asthma? Asthma is an inflammatory disease that affects the airways. Sufferers commonly experience symptoms including wheezing, coughing, a tight feeling in the chest and shortness of breath. Asthma can affect people of all ages. In the UK, more than 5.2 million people, including 1.1 million children, are being treated for asthma. In the USA, over 20 million people are thought to have asthma.   Are environmental factors to blame? Many things have been blamed for causing asthma from eating too much processed food to a lack of breast feeding. But more commonly, it’s environmental factors – particularly those that affect air quality that are linked to asthma.   Traffic fumes The charity Asthma UK has found that two thirds of people with asthma have reported that traffic fumes make their symptoms worse. In other studies, the number of instances of asthma has been found to be greater in people that live close to roads with high volumes of traffic – particularly those where buses and lorries fuelled by diesel regularly travel. Some studies have also suggested that traffic fumes could be linked to adult-on set asthma.   Modern homes It’s not just pollutants on our roads that can trigger asthma. The air quality within our homes could also be causing an increase in the number of cases of asthma. In the past we didn’t have central heating or air conditioning to keep our homes artificially heated and some experts believe that the changes in our homes – particularly a lack of fresh air could be a factor.   Exposure to chemicals Some scientists believe that exposure to chemicals could be to blame for an increase in asthma. This can include chemicals within household cleaning products or outdoor chemicals such as herbicides and pesticides. In fact, studies have shown that babies who were exposed to chemicals in the womb or shortly after birth may be more sensitive to allergens and more at risk of developing asthma.   Cigarette smoke Of course everyone is now aware of the health problems that cigarette smoke can cause and adults suffering from asthma would be wise not to smoke. But second-hand smoke can be a danger too, particularly for children. Children who grow up in a smoking household have been found to need more emergency treatment for asthma than those in a smoke-free home.     Protect your family If you think you or a family member may have asthma, it’s important that you talk to your doctor. They will be able to give you a plan and if necessary, medication, to help you manage your asthma. For many people, asthma is just an uncomfortable condition but for some sufferers it can be much more serious and in extreme cases can even cause death.   For more advice about asthma, visit: www.asthma.org.uk  
Could Colds During Pregnancy Lead To Child As...
Studies suggest that mothers who catch a cold during pregnancy could be more likely to have children who develop asthma, as the bacteria and viruses affect the in-utero environment. Babies who are exposed to the allergens are more likely to become sensitive to them and this could affect them later in life, according to researchers. The new study, which examined the risk of the common cold to unborn children, shows that women who are pregnant should take extra precautions around people who have colds and are sneezing, as it could lead to problems for their children later in life. The mothers infections and bacterial exposure during the pregnancy leads to the environment in the womb being altered. Allergist Dr Mitch Grayson stated that in addition to this, the same children in the study who had early exposure to allergens, including house dust and pet hair, also had increased odds of becoming sensitive by the age of five. When dust mites from the mother and the child’s mattresses were analysed, children with high dust mite exposure yet low bacteria exposure were more likely to develop allergies to dust mites than those with low dust mite exposure and high bacteria exposure.   Researchers looked at 513 pregnant women in Germany, and their 526 children. The women completed questionnaires during the pregnancy, when the children were 3 and 12 months old, and then every year up until the children reached five years old. Of the families, 61 per cent of them had a parent with asthma, hay fever or atopic dermatitis. According to the ACAAI, asthma and allergies can be hereditary; if both parents have allergies, the child is as much as 75 per cent more likely to be allergic. If just one parent is allergic, or if a close relative has allergies, then the child has a 30 to 40 per cent chance of developing some form of allergy. This drops to just 10 to 15 per cent if neither parent has an allergy. Researchers claim that they now know for certain that allergies and asthma can develop in the womb, as genetics play an important factor in both diseases. However, this study sheds light on how the environment a mother creates during pregnancy can begin to affect the child before it’s even been born. Asthma is the most common potentially serious medical condition to complicate pregnancy, according to the ACAAI.   Asthma affects around 1 in 12 women during their childbearing years, and when women with asthma become pregnant, one third of the patients improve, one third get worse, and one third remain unchanged. Asthma is a serious condition which affects a number of people and has numerous triggers, including house mites, dust, pollen and pollution. As pollution and toxins in the air have increased over the years, the risk of developing respiratory diseases has also increased. There are ways to treat asthma and, depending on the severity of the condition, your child may require medication to maintain it. If you're concerned about the risk colds and asthma have to your baby, or think your child is developing symptoms of asthma, you should seek advice from your GP as soon as possible. As with any pregnancy, it's important to stay as healthy as possible, maintain a balanced diet which includes all the nutrients both you and your baby need, and get enough exercise; you should also avoid alcohol and smoking, to maintain good health for both you and your baby.

Cancer

Pylons and Cancer – Is there a Link?...
    Do you live close to electricity pylons? Are you worried about the health impact of these structures? If so, you’re not alone. For many years, people have questioned whether there could be a link between electricity pylons and cancers. Many studies have been conducted in an attempt to answer this question but experts have continually failed to agree on whether electricity pylons pose a health hazard to those living close by.   In 2001 a report by the National Radiation Protection Board (NRPB) suggested that living close to pylons could cause a small increase in the risk of developing childhood leukaemia. In addition, a Danish review conducted in 2008 investigated the link between electromagnetic fields and childhood leukaemia. It stated that children who are exposed to electromagnetic fields over a period of time do seem to have an increased chance of developing leukaemia but was unable to explain why this may be the case. And there have been many other studies in countries throughout the world that have failed to find a link.   Despite the lack of clear evidence to support or reject a potential link, many people who live close to electricity pylons are naturally worried about the effects they could have on health. Many families believe that their loved ones have died from cancer as a result of living close to pylons. This has led to several campaigns to prevent homes from being built close to electricity pylons and to stop pylons from being erected close to existing housing.   You can find out more about electricity pylons in the UK at: www.nationalgrid.com/UK   For more information about leukaemia and other cancers, visit: www.cancerresearchuk.org
More Information on Asbestos and Mesothelioma...
There was a time, in the mid to late 80s, when everyone was talking about asbestos. There were news stories about asbestos materials in schools and libraries and other public buildings. People were talking about their worries about remodeling old houses for fear of encountering asbestos. For people who discovered asbestos in their buildings, there was debate over the expense and danger of removing it, versus the expense and danger of leaving it be. All of this sudden awareness of asbestos was due to the fact that instances of an asbestos-related cancer called mesothelioma were on the rise.   Today, the news doesn’t cover many stories about the dangers of asbestos; instead we are treated to multiple commercials about mesothelioma lawsuits. You would think that because asbestos doesn’t get as much press that it’s no longer a problem, but that’s not true. Asbestos in homes and public buildings is still an issue, as is the cancer caused by exposure to it.   What is asbestos? Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral made primarily of silicone and oxygen. There are two distinct types: ·  Chrysotile, also known as white asbestos, which is common used in industrial settings. Chrysotile asbestos has tiny curly fibers that wrap around each other; and, ·  Amphibole, which has several different names, including brown asbestos and blue asbestos, and has straight, needle-like fibers. Asbestos is strong, resistant to chemicals and heat, and doesn’t conduct electricity. On the surface it seemed like the perfect insulator so, starting in the 1900s, people were using it in everything from insulation in schools, and factories, to engine parts and automobile brakes, to ceiling and floor tiles. Asbestos was everywhere.   What’s the problem with asbestos? When things made of asbestos remain intact, there’s no problem at all. The problems start when the asbestos breaks up and those tiny fibers become airborne. Asbestos fibers are very “sticky” and when they get into the lungs, instead of being expelled when you cough, they stick.  Asbestos fibers can also contaminate food, making it possible for you to ingest them and end up with tiny fibers stuck to your digestive tract. In places where the asbestos has stuck, tissue grows around the fibers and can eventually form into mesothelioma or other forms of cancer. In the 1980s, when people discovered the danger of asbestos, regulators began taking steps to reduce people’s exposure to it. As a result, many products that were once made with asbestos no longer contain it. However, that doesn’t mean asbestos is no longer a problem. Although there are federal regulations banning the use of asbestos in some instance, there is not a universal ban on the substance. This means that it’s still possible for asbestos to make it into your home. Additionally, older buildings could still contain it within the walls, on the floors, and in the materials used to insulate pipes and ducts. Online resources can provide a list of asbestos containing products that could be potentially dangerous if they become broken or worn, or are exposed through a routine home remodel. If you have an older home, or just have concerns about whether or not there is asbestos in your home, you can consult one of these lists. If you recognize the names of any of these products, you should consider having your home or garage tested for asbestos.   Asbestos and Cancer We have talked a little about asbestos and cancer before, in terms of the increases in mesothelioma cases and efforts in the UK to reduce the manufacture of products that contain it. Today we will talk more about why mesothelioma is such a big deal. The main problem with mesothelioma is that the early symptoms of mesothelioma are so mild that most people ignore them until they get really bad, and by then it’s too late. Another serous issue is that mesothelioma has a latency period from 20 to 50 years, which means that individuals who were exposed on the job in the 70s could be well past retirement age when they start getting sick. An additional troubling issue is that asbestos sticks to clothing, so the spouses and families of individuals who worked with asbestos were also at risk for exposure. Finally, mesothelioma has a very poor survival rate. The median survival time for stage 1 is 21 months, however most people aren’t diagnosed until the advanced stages, when the survival time is significantly lower. If you believe that you have been exposed to asbestos, and you have chest pain, coughing, and shortness of breath, contact your physician.

Diabetes

Does Heavy Drinking Increase Your Risk of Pre...
  If you’re a young person whose wellness is affected by early-stage hypertension, heavy drinking may put your wellbeing at risk of diabetes. This is according to researchers at the San Antonio Hospital, University of Padova, Italy, whose cohort study of stage 1 hypertensive individuals showed that more than 10 drinks a day boosted the risk of prediabetes (in which your serum glucose between 100 and 125 mg/dL) more than six times.   Lucio Mos and colleagues presented their findings at the European Association for Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation's EuroPRevent meeting, noting that if you have less than five drinks a day, you are neither harming or improving your risk for prediabetes. Session moderator Paul Dendale, MD, PhD, of the University of Hasselt, Belgium, commented that this is a surprising finding, because there is an established link between moderate drinking and a protective effect in cardiovascular disease and certain other conditions.   The original aim of the Hypertension and Ambulatory Recording Venetia Study (HARVEST) was to look at white-coat hypertension in patients seen at 17 hypertension clinics in northeast Italy, and so Dendale surmised that the hypertensive population studied may have accounted for the difference in the study’s findings. He noted, ‘Alcohol is also increasing the blood pressure, so it might be that, there again, you have some effect in a population that is more sensitive to alcohol.’ Dendale concluded that, therefore, the message remains an emphasis on moderation.   1,177 patients, ages 18 to 45, participated in the study, all of whom had systolic blood pressure between 140 and 159 mm Hg, or diastolic pressure of 90 to 99 mm Hg. The participants had never been treated for hypertension and were free of other important risk factors for atherosclerosis at baseline. The study involved 6.5 years of follow-up, during which time average glycaemic levels climbed with greater daily alcohol intake (P=0.02), as did prediabetes (P=0.006). Those who drank more also tended to have higher cholesterol (P=0.03), and 3.1 times more likely to have sustained hypertension (95% CI 1.4 to 7.2). However, when it came to those who abstained from alcohol, and those who drank mild amounts, the researchers reported that the risk of prediabetes was similar.  
Properly Caring for Your Feet when You Have D...
  On the face of it, diabetes doesn’t sound like such a serious condition — elevated levels of sugar in the blood wouldn’t seem like it would do too much damage. But, nothing could be further from the truth. Poorly controlled blood sugar damages the body on several fronts, and increases your risk of developing a host of issues from heart disease to kidney failure. If you have suffered from nerve damage, you must pay careful attention to your feet, as you are less likely to feel various sorts of damage that can cause serious complications, such as infection or even amputation of toes, or the whole foot.   Here are some tips for properly caring for your feet if you have diabetes:   Daily Foot Check Catching foot problems early is crucial to minimize complications of the disease, and a daily check is the first line of defense. If you find any scrapes or cuts, you must begin treating them right away. Wash the area thoroughly with soap and water, and apply antibiotic creams and bandages. Failure to treat can lead to more serious problems, such as open sores and infection. If you experience any oozing, redness, foul-smelling discharge, warmth or swelling, contact your doctor as an infection has already taken root. Contact your doctor immediately if you see any blue or black skin as this indicates blood flow blockage — this is an emergency and requires immediate attention.   Keep skin moisturized, but don’t put lotion between the toes as moisture in this area can trigger fungus growth. Don't break blisters open — clean it and cover with a bandage. About once a week, you want to cut toenails –straight across — to prevent ingrown toenails, which can lead to infection.   If you notice any slow-healing wounds, make an appointment with your doctor.   Considerations for Socks and Footwear Choose your shoes carefully if you have diabetes. First off, to ensure a good fit, you should always wear the socks you normally wear, when trying on shoes. Look for ones with more depth in the toe box to avoid squashing your toes; avoid shoes with seams on the inside — they can rub on your foot and cause discomfort. Wool or cotton socks are a good choice. You might even look into buying diabetic socks, which are specially made to control moisture, and reduce friction and pressure that can irritate feet suffering from complications of diabetes.   Break in new shoes gradually to reduce blisters, pain and other discomfort. Don't walk around barefoot — always wear shoes and socks. The nerve damage makes it less likely you will feel injury, so it is prudent to always keep your feet protected.   There are special shoes that are made for diabetics — this might be something covered by Medicare or your private insurance. Inquire about this to see if you are able to get at least partial insurance coverage.   Keep Your Feet Dry One of the most important aspects of proper foot care for diabetics is drying your feet thoroughly after bathing or swimming or any other time they get wet. The space between the toes is highly susceptible to skin-breakdown when moist, increasing the risk of infection. Preventing infection is one of the primary goals of diabetics with foot problems. This condition makes wounds more slow to heal, which can lead to serious complications. Prevention is the name of the game.   Go Easy with Exercise Regular exercise is a cornerstone treatment of this disease — it keeps weight under control and blood sugar in check. But, if you have foot problems, you must choose your activities carefully. Opt for non-impact aerobic exercise, such as walking or swimming. You don't want any excessive leaping, bouncing, and jumping.   Check Water Temperature Nerve damage in the extremities makes it difficult to tell how hot or cold water is. You run the risk of serious burns and infection if you don't check water temperature beforehand. If your hands have damage as well, use your elbow to check water temperature before getting into the shower or bath.   Diabetes can be a scary condition because of the serious problems it can lead to. But, fortunately, the most powerful treatments are in the realm of lifestyle, meaning you have a great deal of control in managing it. Complications like nerve damage in the feet can be kept in check with proper self-care.