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Primary Care Givers

Winter Illness: 6 Winter Health Conditions and How to Combat Them

Posted Thursday 29 November 2018 12:53 by Tim Deakin in Primary Care Givers

woman blowing her noseTis the season to watch your health closely

There are a large number of health problems that are triggered by cold weather, such as colds, asthma and the flu. We’re here to help you identify and treat these conditions effectively, so you can enjoy this time of year without worry. Let’s take a look.


We’re all familiar with the common cold. In fact, colds are the most common acute illness in the industrialised world, with young children experiencing an average of 6-8 colds per year and adults experiencing 2-4.

Thankfully, you can reduce your likelihood of catching a cold through simple hygiene measures, such as washing your hands thoroughly and regularly. You should also keep your home and any household items clean – especially mugs, glasses, towels and pillows.

Fluwinter illness

The flu is a lot more than just a bad cold. In fact, the flu virus can even be fatal in people aged over 65, pregnant women, and people with long-term health conditions such as diabetes, COPD and kidney disease. The best line of defence against the flu is the flu jab, which offers protection for one year.

Joint pain

Although there is no evidence to suggest that weather has a direct effect on our joints, many people with arthritis complain that their symptoms worsen during the winter months. It is not clear why exactly this is the case, but the likelihood is that an overall downward turn in mood can have an impact on people’s perception of their arthritis. Many people feel more prone to negative feelings in the winter, which could cause them to feel pain more acutely.

What’s more, we also tend to move less in the winter, which could have an impact on our joints. Daily exercise is recommended as a way to boost both physical and mental wellbeing. Swimming is ideal as it is relatively gentle on the joints.

Cold sores

Harsh winter winds can dry out our lips and make them more susceptible to the virus that causes cold sores. However, we also know that cold sores are a clear indication of feeling run down or stressed. So, as well as keeping your lips moisturised this season, you should also look after yourself by taking steps to reduce your stress levels. This could involve doing a simple relaxing activity every day like having a hot bath, taking a walk or watching one of your favourite films. It could also involve talking to those around you – or even a professional – about your stress.


Cold air is one of the leading triggers for asthma symptoms such as shortness of breath and wheezing. This means that people living with asthma need to be extra careful at this time of year. Put extra effort into remembering to take your regular medications, and be sure to keep a reliever inhaler close by.

Asthma patients should try to avoid going outdoors on particularly cold and windy days. If this is unavoidable, wear a scarf loosely over your nose and mouth for an added layer of defence.

Acid reflux

Although acid reflux is not directly affected by a change in the weather, it often becomes worse in the winter due to the way our diets and habits change. We tend to indulge in more fatty and rich foods in the winter, as well as more alcohol – especially during the festive period. We also tend to move less and spend more time lying down or slouching, which can also worsen symptoms.

Making positive changes to your diet and fitness regime can help to keep symptoms like heartburn at bay. Effective acid reflux relief medication is also available right here at Express Pharmacy.

Don’t risk your wellbeing this winter; take the necessary precautions to enjoy the season with a clean bill of health.

How to Attend to Your Health and Wellbeing During the Dark, Cold Months

Posted Friday 16 November 2018 15:32 by Tim Deakin in Primary Care Givers

A change in the seasons can have a serious impact on both your mental and physical health, so here’s what you can do to combat these factors

We may have experienced an unusually warm summer and autumn this year, but make no mistake: winter is coming. November marks the beginning of the descent into winter, meaning the nights are drawing in at a rapid pace and temperatures are dropping steadily.

There is a lot to love about this time of year, from cosy nights in to woolly winter jumpers. However, for many people winter can pose its own set of unique challenges. Not only are colds and flu symptoms more common at this time of year, but winter can also take its toll on many other aspects of our health – both mental and physical. So here is what you can do to keep your spirits up and your health intact this winter.

Preparing your body for the winter weather

Winter tiredness is a very real challenge that many people face at this time of year, when daylight hours are low and the cold temperature offers little motivation to step outside. However, making the most of the natural daylight and fresh air available is imperative when keeping your health up this winter.

Healthy eating and exercise are the two most important factors for staving off illness. The NHS advises a regular consumption of fruit, vegetables, milk and yoghurt – especially those that are rich in calcium, vitamins A and B12 and protein. These will help to boost your immune system. Introduce plenty of winter vegetables into your diet, including parsnips, swede, carrots and turnips. You should also make the effort to eat a hearty breakfast, consuming plenty of fibre and starchy food like cereal to set you up for the day.

Engaging in moderate regular exercise during the winter will help you feel more energised at this time of year. If you struggle to make the time for fitness, try breaking up 30-60 minutes of exercise into 10-minute chunks, featuring an effective warm up and cool down period.

Preparing your mind for the winter weather

It’s common to feel sadder in general during the winter. A large part of this has to do with the sharp decline in the amount of sunlight we get, disrupting our sleep patterns and reducing the amount of serotonin released in the brain. For a small minority however, these gloomy feelings could have a biological cause.

This is known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), when the changing seasons bring on a bout of low mood or even clinical depression. Dr Cosmo Hallstrom from the Royal College of Psychiatrists explains that SAD could be related to the hormone melatonin and “the natural phenomenon of hibernation.” In short, winter makes some of us want to curl up and disappear until it’s over.

However, it’s vital that we ignore this urge to hibernate. Many of the best ways to treat your mental health this winter are also the ways to treat your physical health, as a healthy diet and plenty of regular exercise can be fantastic mood boosters. Hallstrom also echoes the advice of the NHS, stating that using a lightbox can be an effective coping mechanism, mimicking sunlight and boosting your mood if used for 30 minutes to one hour a day.

Many health concerns become more common during the winter, so it’s important to stay on top of your wellbeing. Express Pharmacy offers convenient, safe and effective medication for a wide range of conditions, so if you can’t make it to your GP this winter, we can deliver treatments straight to your door.

Find medication for treatments such as acid reflux, erectile dysfunction, weight loss, quitting smoking and more on our website. You can also get in touch by calling 0208 123 07 03 or using our discreet online live chat service.

10 Tips for a Healthier Summer

Posted Saturday 04 August 2018 17:04 by Tim Deakin in Primary Care Givers

We all deserve a little fun in the sun this summer, but here’s a reminder of how to stay safe and healthy too.

Now that summer (and the summer holidays) is in full swing, many of us are busy enjoying regular barbeques, sunbathing sessions, beach days and afternoon cocktails. You might even be jetting off somewhere hot for a week or two. Whatever you’re doing, it’s important to enjoy yourself and have fun. However, it’s also important to remember to stay healthy.

There’s never a bad time to refresh yourself on how to maintain your health and wellbeing during the summer months, and that’s exactly what we’re here to do. From sunscreen to smoothies, here are our 10 tips for a healthier summer.

Apply sunscreen regularly

Sun damage is cumulative, and an estimated 90% of skin ageing is caused by the sun. So the first and most vital step to staying healthy this summer is remembering to apply – and reapply – your sun protection.

Stay hydrated

20% of men drink no water at all throughout the day, as do 13% of women. This is particularly damaging in the summer, when we sweat more and therefore become more easily dehydrated. It’s recommended that you try to consume 8 large glasses of water a day, so make this the target you aim for.

Stay fit

Regular physical activity can reduce the risk of many serious conditions including stroke, type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, cancer, obesity, mental health concerns and musculoskeletal problems. So whether it’s running, hitting the gym or just enjoying some summer walks, make sure you get moving.

Try swimming

If you’re going to up your fitness game this summer, swimming is a great way to go about it. In fact, a study published by Swim England found that swimming lowers the risk of early death by 28%. If you’re heading abroad, make the time to get in a few lengths of the pool each day.

Be aware of ‘healthy’ smoothies

A study by the British Medical Association found that people who swapped their smoothie for whole fruits three times a week reduced their risk of type 2 diabetes by 7%. That’s because, while smoothies do contain plenty of fruit, they also tend to contain high levels of sugar. Be sure to check the label before you buy.


Summer means more dead skin cells, which means keeping your skin fresh and clean is vital. Exfoliation not only removes dead skin cells, but can also improve blood circulation to the face. Just be sure to tone and moisturise your skin afterwards, and reapply your sun protection.

Protect your hair

The combination of harsh sunlight, salt water and chlorinated pool water can wreak havoc on your hair, so like your skin, you need to remember to protect and treat your mane with nourishing conditioner and hair masks.

Consume your healthy fats

In the UK, the intake of healthy fatty acids is now well below the recommendation of 2%. On average, we consumer 0.7% of healthy fats. Fat gets a bad reputation, but making healthy fats a staple part of your diet is vital to your all-round health. Nutritionists recommend the equivalent of one tablespoon of olive oil a day to keep you hydrated and protect against UV damage.

Cool down with healthy snacks

According to research by Harris Interactive, young women with children are the most likely culprits to indulge in unhealthy snacks rather than having three square meals a day. If you do require a snack, make it a healthy one. Yoghurts, fruit, mixed nuts or even just some bottled water might be all you need to cool down by the pool.

Try something new

Hobbies are good for both your mind and body. In fact, research shows that engaging in enjoyable activities can reduce feelings of depression and even lower blood pressure. What will your new summer activity be?

If you have any health queries this summer, don’t hesitate to contact the experts at Express Pharmacy. We provide essential medication for a variety of conditions and concerns. Call today on 02028 123 07 03 or get in touch via our discrete live chat service.

Are the Summer Holidays Bad for Your Children’s Health?

Posted Friday 13 July 2018 13:26 by Tim Deakin in Primary Care Givers

Your kids are probably starting to enjoy a well-deserved break from their studies. But is the long summer off having a detrimental effect on their overall health and wellbeing?

A study has revealed that the summer holidays are potentially detrimental to children’s health. This is largely thanks to kids spending chunks of their summer break sitting “in front of screens” and losing much of the fitness they have gained throughout the school year.

The research by UK Active measured the health of 400 school pupils before and after the summer holidays, and found that their overall health and fitness had decreased significantly. They were only able to run far shorter distances at the end of their summer break, having to frequently stop due to exhaustion.

On average, the results showed that British school children lost around 80 per cent of the fitness they have built up during term time. This is due to time off being spent “lazily”, and options like summer camps and sports clubs being too much of a financial strain for many parents. The deterioration in children from the least well-off 25 per cent of families was 18 times greater that that of children from the most well-off 25 per cent.

UK Active Research Director and leader of the study, Dr Stephen Mann, described the results of the study in greater detail, stating that it “suggests deprived children are being plonked in front of screens for hours on end.”

Dr Mann went on to describe the negative effects prolonged inactivity can have on a child’s health, saying:

“Being inactive as a child sets a dangerous precedent on a number of levels. As well as being linked to impaired physical development, shorter attention span and lower grades, an inactive childhood means that person faces much higher risk of deadly diseases such as heart disease, cancer and Type 2 diabetes in later life.”

These findings affirm fears which have been present for many years, Previous research found that 50 per cent of seven year olds in the UK don’t meet the Chief Medical Officer’s minimum physical activity guidelines of one hour of physical activity a day. Furthermore, a national audit in 2016 found that there were more than 500 million children in the UK with Type 2 diabetes.

What can you do about it?

Although summer camps and sports clubs are a great way to keep your child fit, this may not be a realistic solution for parents who struggle to meet the costs. However, there is plenty you can do with your child yourself to encourage fitness. Take a bit of time every day to do something active, whether it’s a game of football in the garden or an evening stroll around the block. And at least once a week, try to push yourself further with something slightly more demanding, like a Sunday hike or a trip to the local swimming pool.

Diet is another key factor here. Although frozen foods are often the easiest solution, taking the time to prepare healthy homecooked meals for your child can make a significant difference when it comes to their health, fitness and energy levels. You should also try to encourage your children to retain a decent sleeping pattern even when they aren’t at school.

Setting a good example is a big part of encouraging your kids to stay fit. Why not use this summer to improve your own fitness too? If you’re struggling with your weight, safe and effective weight loss medication is available from Express Pharmacy.

For more guidance and information on a variety of health concerns, don’t hesitate to contact Express Pharmacy. Give us a call today on 0208 123 07 03 or speak to us directly using our discreet online Live Chat service.

How Can Pharmacists Support GPs to Cut Waiting Times and Reduce the Strain on the NHS?

Posted Thursday 05 July 2018 10:36 by Harman Bhamra in Primary Care Givers

As the NHS turns 70 we should all take a moment to be thankful for the incredible work being done across the length and breadth of the country to keep the population healthy and well. Indeed, for many countries around the world the concept of such a well-developed universal healthcare system is a distant dream.

Yet there is no denying that the NHS is under great strain in 2018. And there are increasing calls for the burden of minor and more general medical appointments to be taken away from overstretched GP surgeries and placed in the hands of other primary caregivers such as pharmacists.

If more low-risk appointments were seen by pharmacists and not in the GP's surgery it is estimated that the NHS could save an extra £727m per year. Such an overhaul of the appointment and care system may seem controversial, but think tank Reform argues that models of care have changed very little since the NHS's inception. This, it says, has contributed to the increased and, in some cases unnecessary, burden on the health service and its professionals.

As it stands, appointments relating to minor ailments and problems concerning the use or side effects of certain medications currently account for around 15% of a GP's workload, a workload that is already widely believed to put them under too much pressure to be able to treat patients effectively.

It has been argued that pharmacists are the best placed to relieve GP's surgeries from the responsibility of seeing low-risk patients who present with common symptoms or side effects. Pharmacists are highly trained medical professionals and are more than equipped to deal with a broad range of low-risk conditions and general queries.

More work does, however, need to be done in raising awareness of pharmacists as primary caregivers and offering patients confidence in alternative medical professionals.

“The process of trying to steer patients away from the GP's waiting room and to their pharmacist for treatment and advice has been a slow one, but we're finally starting to see results across the board,” says Express Pharmacy’s Daman Bhamra.

“Pharmacists are in a great position to offer primary care solutions to those who need them but don't necessarily need to see a doctor. Patients would still get the same level of expert treatment and knowledgeable consultation and GPs would have more time to spend on those who really needed them and not just a medical mind to talk to.”

Reform believes that increasing the amount of appointments handled by pharmacists would not only save the NHS money, but would also increase the length of most appointments to around twenty minutes at a time. The think tank also stated in a report released back in April 2016 that making better use of clinicians outside of the GP's surgery would allow the government to scrap it's lofty target of recruiting the extra 5,000 GPs it believes is needed to allow current patient numbers to be seen.

The report was the result of interviews with 22 important stakeholders from within the NHS, the healthcare consultancy, private healthcare groups and the government. One of the other findings of Reform's findings was that pharmacists should also be relied upon to deliver ongoing support for GPs after a diagnosis and treatment plan has been established, with pharmacists delivering reviews and medication monitoring services for chronic conditions such as asthma.

“In reality, pharmacists can do a lot more than dispense your medication after you've seen your GP,” says Daman. “Pharmacists are an essential part of the care process already but we can, and should, be taking on much more of the responsibility for patients’ broader needs.”

If you require health advice or guidance, why not consult one of our qualified pharmacists over the phone on 0208 123 0703.


Peter Kay on Saturday 14 May 2016 17:19

I'm 73 and now see things as a waste of time due to this " B" ED. I am still able to heave 3x2 paving flags about but have to turn my back on my wife because I'm a failure.How can I

find a way back, any guidance much appreciated.

Marina Abdalla on Saturday 14 May 2016 17:25
Reply to Peter Kay

Dear Peter,

Thank you for reading our blog. Erectile Dysfunction is a common problem in men which can be resolved with a range of different treatments. We offer private prescriptions for the treatment of erectile dysfunction, which can be viewed on our website, under the 'Treatments' tab.

If you require any further assistance or advice from a pharmacist, please call us on 020 8123 0703.

Thank you,

Express Pharmacy


The Murky World of Brain Fog

Posted Monday 27 February 2017 16:49 by Tim Deakin in Primary Care Givers

brain fogWe all have the odd bad day but what if losing your train of thought or suffering from poor memory becomes part of everyday life? For those who suffer from brain fog, these undesirable symptoms are a harsh reality.

In this article we take a look at the causes of brain fog and reveal just some of the steps that are recommended to help lift the haze.

What exactly is brain fog?

Brain fog is known by many names, from the clouding of consciousness to brain fatigue, and can be experienced in mild to severe episodes by individuals of all ages and from all walks of life.

For most, the effects of brain fog come on suddenly with no warning. They can make the management of symptoms particularly difficult. Lack of focus, poor short term memory, reduced mental sharpness and difficulty organising thoughts or finding words are just some of the symptoms associated with brain fog. Where symptoms aren’t addressed or appropriately managed the effects of brain fog can influence sufferers’ personal and professional lives in the long term.

The causes of brain fog

There are a number of triggers that can bring on episodes of brain fog. In an age of digital overload, your lifestyle can play a major role in just how severely symptoms strike and how often. The stress and anxiety that often goes hand-in-hand with modern day life is a primary cause of brain fog. In addition to this, nutritional deficiencies and dehydration have been proven to cause disturbances in the brain. Good brain function relies on the consumption of foods containing magnesium, vitamin B12 and amino acids, and if your body is deficient in these nutrients or dehydrated in general, then brain fog is likely to occur. Lack of sleep can also result in brain fog symptoms.

As well as everyday lifestyle factors, there are certain stages of life where you are more susceptible to the effects of brain fog. If you are undergoing chemotherapy, memory loss can be a common side effect, however this is usually a short term issue. For women experiencing the menopause, pregnancy or a particularly heavy period, hormonal changes can influence your memory and concentration.

Stress and depression is also commonly associated with brain fog – whether it is mental fatigue caused by work or a lack of sleep, or depression caused by an issue such as weight concerns.

How can I relieve symptoms?

Regardless of the cause of your brain fog, there are several steps that you can take to relieve symptoms and actively improve your memory. Drinking more water and making positive changes to your diet is a great place to begin. Focus on eating a brain-function-boosting diet by incorporating foods that are rich in Omega-3, -6 and -9 fatty acids, magnesium, complex B vitamins, and antioxidants. People who smoke or consume high levels of alcohol have also been proven to be at greater risk of brain fog, so take steps to limit intake.

All You Need to Know About the Flu Virus

Posted Thursday 24 November 2016 17:32 by Tim Deakin in Primary Care Givers

flu vaccineWith winter fast approaching, the health headlines are filled with seasonal cold and flu stories. It is indeed the time of year when the flu virus strikes and for older people in particular being struck down by this winter bug can be especially debilitating.

Most commonly suffered between December and March when the weather is at its coldest and your immune system more vulnerable, you may have already encountered seasonal flu. Knowing exactly what seasonal flu is and what you can do to protect yourself is the key to making the festive season a pleasant one and not a pain-filled one.

What is seasonal flu?

Flu or influenza can strike at any time of the year but is more common during the winter months. Flu is essentially a virus that is extremely infectious and rather unpleasant, and whilst it is often mentioned in the same breath as the common cold, the two are very different. The common cold and seasonal flu are the result of different virus groups, and with the flu, symptoms such as fever, fatigue, headaches, coughs, aches and pains start suddenly and last for much longer.

There are three types of flu virus, A, B and C, although C is much more rare than the other two forms of the disease. Once you have been infected, flu virus symptoms tend to appear within two to three days, however most will start to feel relief within one week. Children, older people and individuals with weakened immune systems however many feel unwell for longer periods.

For elderly people and those with long-term health issues, exposure to flu can also lead to serious complications, including chest infections and worsening of existing long-term health conditions. In rare cases, flu can cause tonsillitis, ear infections, sinusitis, convulsions, meningitis and encephalitis. Pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to infection, and the flu has been linked to pregnancy complications.

As we mentioned the flu is extremely infectious and is passed on from the nose and mouth of the infected person via coughing and sneezing.

What can you do to protect yourself?

There are many ways that you can protect yourself from the flu virus. As the infection is passed from person to person, good hygiene can go a long way in preventing its spread. In addition to washing your hands on a regular basis with warm water and soap, you should also clean surfaces that you commonly come into contact with or share contact with – door handles, computer keyboards and telephones are common culprits when it comes to the spread of flu. Using tissues to guard your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough, and disposing of those tissues immediately, is also vital to stopping its spread.

The flu vaccine is also an excellent route to prevention, and whilst it is available for free on the NHS to those aged 65 or over, children aged between 2 and 4 years old, pregnant women, children of school age (in years one and two only), those with long-term health conditions (children and adults suffering from chronic heart or lung disease are particularly susceptible to infection and more serious complications) and individuals with weaker immune systems, privately anyone can have access to the annual flu vaccine. Delivered to children as a nasal spray or to adults as a trivalent (three-component) and quadrivalent (four-component) shot, the flu vaccine triggers the development of protecting antibodies and is most effective when given between September and early November.

A Beginner’s Guide to Movember

Posted Friday 04 November 2016 14:10 by Tim Deakin in Primary Care Givers

movemberUnless you like to spend your Novembers in hibernation, you can’t help but have noticed that each year the streets of Britain see an explosion of facial hair as gentlemen – both young and old – join in the annual celebration of Movember.

But Movember is much more than a ’tache styling competition and a modest cause to raise awareness. This year’s campaign is more ambitious than ever before in its aim to address the crisis in men’s health. Indeed, November offers an opportunity to learn more about the Movember foundation and the important commitment the charity has made to fighting for men’s health around the world.

Why Movember?

On average, men live for six fewer years than women. Testicular cancer rates have doubled in the in the last 5 years, and prostate cancer rates are set to double over the next 15 years. However, it is not just cancer that is taking the men in our lives beyond their prime. A staggering three quarters of all suicides are carried out by men.

Movember is designed to help raise money to improve services and advocates for more open and honest discussions about men’s health issues. If you have never considered getting involved before, your support could play an important role in helping to change perceptions around men’s health and reduce unnecessary and preventable premature deaths among males.

Here is how you can help the cause this November!

Grow a mo

Whether you opt for a lavish handle bar, a modest pencil or a work of art like nothing the world has seen before, facial hair is the hallmark of this great cause, a fantastic way to get people talking about men’s health and a way to show support with pride.

Gentlemen, this is your chance to get creative. If you are short of your own ideas, why not let the sponsor with the highest donation choose the style or colour of your new furry friend for added hilarity and a boost to donations!

Whatever you do make sure you direct people to the Movember web page to donate.

Take the Move challenge

With the festive season around the corner and the cold months settling in, there is no better time to get physically active. Make a bid to move more during November and your new fitness regime can help raise money for men’s health with the help of sponsors. Take the Move Challenge means you can carry out any activity you like: organise a race with friends; learn salsa; or don a costume and head to the gym to set a new personal record. Get thinking and get moving!

Organise an event

Not able to grow your own moustache or take part in a sporting event? Why not organise a different type of event to rake in the pounds instead? Set up a ping pong tournament, try a game of Dungeons and Dragons or plan a good old fashioned dinner party.

Organise well and you and your friends can enjoy a great night whilst making a valuable contribution to the Movember Foundation.

Distinguished Gentleman’s ride

Are you a keen motorcyclist? Then maybe you should consider joining the annual Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride - where hoardes of suave bikers across 500 cities ride out together to show solidarity.

So, there you have it. A great cause with plenty of options available – all as part of a great cause.

Are You Taking Care of Your Mental Health?

Posted Monday 31 October 2016 19:54 by Tim Deakin in Primary Care Givers

Most of us will visit the doctor when we think we have an infection or the dentist when we feel pain in our teeth. But how many of us take the same steps when we feel more down or stressed out than usual?

It can be easy to consign your mental health to the backburner, but it’s actually just as important to take care of the mind as it is to look after the body. Here are some tips for looking after your mental health during the winter months.

1.Watch your mood

All of us will feel upset or stressed at some point – these emotions are part and parcel of daily life. However, it’s important to make sure that your mood isn’t impinging on your ability to carry out daily tasks. For example, you may be busier than usual at work as the festive season approaches.

It’s normal to feel a little bit stressed out as you try and fit all the work in. However, does that stress stay with you when you come home from work? Or do you feel like your stress response isn’t proportional, and that you shouldn’t be feeling as overwhelmed as you do? If that’s the case, it is possible that you’re exhibiting symptoms of an anxiety disorder.

It is also important to look out for low mood. Many people find that they feel fine throughout the summer, but as the days get shorter they end up hit with the “winter blues”. Whilst a lot of us don’t like cold weather or long nights, “winter blues” shouldn’t be ignored. Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a type of recurring depression thought to be caused by the lack of sunlight characteristic of autumn and winter.

Persistent low mood can be debilitating, and a feeling of depression for almost half of the year should be addressed. Some people tackle SAD by ensuring that they have winter breaks abroad, while others choose treatments such as talking therapy, medication or even mood lamps, which can mimic natural exposure to sunlight.

Elderly relatives should also be looked after during the winter months. As travel becomes difficult and temperatures drop, it’s easy for elderly people to become isolated. This loneliness can lead to depression in older people, which is only worsened at Christmas, so be sure to pay a visit to elderly family members who cannot travel during winter.

2.Address the causes of anxiety

Research into the causes of mental health problems is still ongoing. Having said that, most experts agree that mental health difficulties such as anxiety or depression can be caused by unexplained chemical imbalances in the brain or traumatic events and experiences. While you won’t be able to tell exactly what’s going on in your brain, pinning down a root cause of anxiety or depression can do wonders for your mood.

We’ve already mentioned that SAD is particularly common in the elderly, many younger people also suffer from regular anxiety and depression. Health conditions such as erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation or hair loss, it may be possible that these issues are causing unnecessary worry. Fortunately, a lot of these problems are treatable with the kind of medications we offer here at Express Pharmacy.

With treatment, symptoms such as anxiety may be reduced. But it is also important to talk about your feelings and mental state with friends, family members or a trained health professional (even if you prefer not to disclose the source of your anxiety).

3.Talk to someone

Indeed, it may not be possible to find a particular cause for your mental health difficulties. A lot of people find that they are affected by mental health problems almost randomly, just like physical illnesses sometimes afflict us without cause.

If you’re worried about your mental health, it’s best to make an appointment with your GP. Doctors are well palced to help you plan a course of treatment that is best-suited to your individual circumstances. This can range from medication and talking therapies to lifestyle changes such as a better diet and more exercise.

Would you like more advice and guidance from an experienced medical professional? Did you know that pharmacists are highly trained in many aspects of healthcare and can help you with many issues beyond prescription medication. Try our Live Chat tool today and let us help you work through your health matter.

The Pursuit of Happiness: It's a Hormonal Affair

Posted Friday 11 March 2016 10:53 by Tim Deakin in Primary Care Givers

Happiness is something we all strive for. But it is also something that is hard to put one’s finger on. The pursuit of happiness is different for everyone – it can stem from something spiritual or something material; involving euphoric highs or deep contentment. We each experience this phenomenon in different ways to different degrees.

Ahead of this Sunday’s International Day of Happiness, we look at whether the secret to happiness actually lies with science.

The Science of Happiness

From an evolutionary standpoint, our bodies are designed to release happy-making hormones and monoamines when all is well. Similarly, unhappiness may be experienced when neurological imbalances occur.

With the chemicals in our body so finely balanced, the rigors of day-to-day life can have a huge impact on our state of happiness, as lifestyles lead to the constant ebb and flow of hormones.


One way the human body has failed to adapt is recognising the difference between paper tigers (a piece of paperwork) and actual tigers (a predator). As a result, the human body tends to overreact to stressors by inducing a ‘fight or flight’ response. In other words, many people feel excessively agitated and unnerved by events that, although often serious, are not immediately life-threatening.

Stress causes the body to experience a huge surge in hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol to prepare for a life or death situation – even when there is no genuine danger to life.

Menstrual cycle

The rise and fall in levels of progesterone and oestrogen produce the changes in women’s bodies during the menstrual cycle. In turn this fluctuation in hormones can also cause low mood and changes in appetite, which can lead to side effects such as depression and weight gain.

Neurotransmitters help regulate our mood. Two of which, GABA and endorphins, are very important in this process. Fluctuating levels in both of these chemicals can result in anxiety, irritability and tension. GABA helps promote feelings of calmness while endorphins are vital in helping us experience pleasure and pain.


Self-esteem can have a very significant bearing on happiness. Body image, mood, confidence and a sense of self worth all play an important role in our general contentment in life, but it often doesn’t take much to send this off course.

Research from the University of Michigan has shown that the greatest indicator of human satisfaction is satisfaction in the self. As a result, unhappy people often have low self-esteem. Those with low self-esteem are more likely to turn to outside sources for happiness and therefore are more susceptible to substance abuse, anxiety and depression.

Just a few physical issues that can impact on self-esteem include weight issues and even concerns over unwanted facial hair.

Seek Hormones not Happiness

The monoamine neurotransmitter serotonin is known to contribute to feelings of happiness and wellbeing. Research has shown that those with depression have a deficit of serotonin.

Levels of serotonin can be boosted by taking part in activities that make you happy, such as reading a book or eating chocolate as a treat. If in doubt, strenuous exercise is also known to boost serotonin, so a gym session or sex with a trusted partner is also a sure way to promote wellbeing.

Endorphins are also hormones considered to be key to happiness. Most commonly known as the chemicals released during exercise, endorphins are released when the heart rate rises, particularly during sexual intercourse.

If you have heard of the phrase ‘runners high’, you will also know that heading out for a job can bring on a feeling of euphoria. The after-effect of exercise is a flood of endorphins that make us feel a hormonal hight that can be as intoxicating as many drugs. This is because endorphins resemble the chemical structure of opiates, which is why exercise is commonly prescribed to recovering drug addicts as a source of stimulation and a way to access a similar sense of euphoria.

Oxytocin is a hormone released when we cuddle. It is a bonding hormone considered to be crucial in maintaining feelings of contentment. It doesn't just work amongst humans either, research shows that cuddling a pet is just as effective in the production of oxytocin.

To ensure a happy and healthy self we must try to boost the production of those happy hormones; adrenaline, endorphins, GABA and oxytocin. Regular exercise, restful sleep, thinking positively and practicing self-care, are all ways to help us maintain a healthy hormone balance.

Nanny State or Sweet Idea? What's the Deal With Sugar Tax?

Posted Sunday 17 January 2016 12:49 by Tim Deakin in Primary Care Givers

Sugar has found itself increasingly under the spotlight in recent months. From doctors to politicians, journalists to Jamie Oliver, everyone has a viewpoint. And nothing has come under fire more than sugary drinks. But are the sugar tax proposals really the way forward? And just how harmful is sugar?​

According to a recent survey, the average person in the UK consumes 700g or 140 teaspoons of sugar every single week, significantly more than the levels deemed to be safe by health experts. Sugar intake has been closely linked with weight problems and is thought to be a key contributor to the levels of obesity in the UK. Heightened levels of sugar in the blood also take their toll on the liver and kidneys, resulting in conditions such as Type 2 diabetes.

The World Health Organisation's guidelines state that just 5% of our diet should be made up of sugar, but recent statistics in the UK suggest that we as a nation are taking in considerably more than that. More worrying still, those consuming the most sugars are children.

A National Diet and Nutrition Survey found that children aged 11 - 18 were in fact taking in 15.6% of their daily energy through sugars. And much of this is ingested in the form of drinks.These kind of worrying statistics have led to recent lobbying for the introduction of a sugar tax.

Celebrity chef, Jamie Oliver, has been among the most vocal asking for government to take steps to both educate children about the dangers of over-consuming sugar and enforce stricter regulations on drinks companies. This is supported by a report produced by Public Health England outlining a need for a tax of up to 20% on all high sugar products. In light of these findings, the NHS recently announced that just such a 20% sugar tax is to be imposed in hospital cafes by 2020.

The introduction of a sugar tax has been particularly successful in other countries, with the British Medical Journal promoting Mexico as a prime example of why a tax on sugar would be beneficial in the UK. As one of the most obese countries on the planet, Mexico was the poster country for soda consumption. The preferred thirst quencher for adults, children and even babies, one soft drink brand is even considered to have magical powers in the highlands of Chiapas. Since being introduced in 2013 however, the sugar tax has led to a 12% reduction in sales, but with the Prime Minister saying that he would rather avoid its implementation, are there more reasons against or for the sugar tax?

Tackling obesity head on

Whilst Mexico’s story provides hard facts about just how successful the introduction of sugar tax can be in a nation highly addicted to sugar, many individuals are looking elsewhere for solutions. Jargon free labelling and better education are just two routes that are being pursued to reduce the influence of this killer. With the number of people deemed overweight or obese increasing on a daily basis, and statistics regarding diabetes and cardiovascular disease not lagging far behind, taking precautions to control weight, calorie intake and the prevalence of added sugars in search of better nutrition is an important step for all.

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What Is Seasonal Flu and Should I Be Vaccinated?

Posted Tuesday 22 December 2015 16:00 by Tim Deakin in Primary Care Givers

What is flu?

Influenza, commonly known as flu, is a common viral infection rife in the UK in the winter months and spread from person to person by coughing and sneezing. Flu is not the same as the common cold: symptoms are usually more intense and occur more suddenly than mild cold symptoms - and they also tend to last longer.

Flu symptoms can include a high temperature upwards of 38C, tiredness and muscle weakness, headache, aches and pains and a dry or chesty cough. Although most people should start to feel better after a week, flu can be more dangerous for groups such as the elderly, small children and pregnant women.

There are three types of flu viruses - A, B and C, however, only types A and B affect humans. Type B generally causes milder symptoms than type A, and is more commonly seen in children. With flu estimated to cause between 3-5 million cases of severe illness and 250,000 – 500,000 deaths annually across the world (according to the WHO), it is important to understand how the virus may affect you and how you can protect yourself this flu season.

The flu vaccine

The flu vaccine is available to help prevent your body from contracting flu and is highly recommended for certain age groups. The vaccine is available free on the NHS for: anyone over the age of 65, pregnant women, people suffering from obesity, people with certain underlying health conditions and anyone with a weakened immune system.

The vaccine is made up of a combination of subcategories of flu types A and B. Due to the continuous evolution of the flu virus, these subcategories are reviewed regularly by the WHO to ensure the effectiveness of the vaccine.

Most people are healthy enough to fight off flu without experiencing any serious symptoms, which is why the vaccine is only available on the NHS to high-risk patients. Generally, flu can be managed by taking medications such as paracetamol in order to keep temperatures down and aches and pains under control. It is also important to drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.

Follow the correct advice, and most people start to feel better after one week. In most cases, visiting the doctor is unnecessary and actually risks spreading the virus further. Treatments such as antibiotics have no effect on the flu virus and therefore doctors can do little more than recommend standard over-the-counter medications.

Effectiveness of the flu vaccine

Although the efficiency of the flu vaccine changes every year based on the adaptation of each new strain of the virus, it has been estimated that the vaccine was 29% effective against influenza A and 46% effective against influenza B during the 2014 flu season. These figures are slightly lower than those seen in previous years.

Professor Paul Cosford, Public Health England’s Director for Health Protection, said:

“Whilst it’s not possible to fully predict the strains that will circulate in any given season, flu vaccination remains the best protection we have against an unpredictable virus which can cause severe illness and deaths each year among at-risk group. These include older people, pregnant women and those with a health condition, even one that is well managed.”

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