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Tag Archives: Health

Blogs related to health issues and topical issues regarding the health system

ARE YOU TOO OLD TO START BALLET ?

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Have you ever yearned after being a ballet dancer – that is often the case in growing up and mothers often dutifully take their children to ballet classes as I did for my three children until the tummy aches occur before lessons or with competing interests they can’t fit it into their busy schedules.

But there are some children who feel they have missed out  Or feel they want to rekindle that yearning and as adults they find a studio to reconnect or even start as a beginner.  Moreover, there are significant number of middle – aged adults who decide to join ballet classes and reap the physical and mental benefits of this challenging dance form.

I remember my daughter and friends who dance at any opportunity  often attended a well known studio ‘Pineapple’ in Convent Garden. They have classes for a wide variety of different types of dance classes.

women who do ballet over 50

L to R These women are all keen ballet dancers, or use ballet movements to stay fit and active –-these ladies are aged 50-68yrs

Subsequently  I came across an ex-ballerina from Sadlers Wells Ballet company in an acupuncture class as she wanted to learn to treat common injuries. She was teaching middle – aged pupils at Pineapple and was proud of the fact that she had a pupil of 76yrs!

Isabel McMeekan was principal dance at the Royal Ballet now runs classes for adults including Assoluta class for the over 60’s.  This is a unique class specifically created for 60 year olds and over, involving gentle stretching, core work, barre work and centre practice.

 www.everybodyballet.com

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Hence, I was not shocked when a professional colleague told me she had just enrolled for regular ballet classes. As we talked I could appreciate the positive health benefits of maintaining flexibility and bone density well into your later years to stall the onset of osteoporosis and could also ward off dementia. That’s as well as improving your figure, looks and confidence, relieving stress — and maybe even helping your love life.

We know that about 9 percent of adults age 65 and older report having problems with balance. Poor balance can be a contributing factor to falling, which can result in broken bones and hospital admissions.

Hence, because it is well recognised that:-

The single most serious threat that older people face is falling

Good balance is essential to being able to control and maintain your body’s position while moving and remaining still. Good balance helps you:

• Walk without staggering
• Arise from chairs without falling
• Climb stairs without tripping

You need good balance to help you stay independent and carry out daily chores and activities. Problems with sense of balance are experienced by many people as they age.

Inevitably practising ballet is going to be invaluable in addressing maintaining good balance.

My story of joining an adult ballet class

I did ballet as a child until about the age of 12 when transitioning to secondary school and puberty meant focussing on other things in life. It wasn’t until 9 years ago, in my late 30s, when I joined an adult ballet class, that my love of ballet was reignited! The combination of dance to classical music is unique to ballet, and though I have tried and have enjoyed many other activities (yoga, ballroom, Zumba and flamenco amongst many other things), ballet is what I have stuck at with a passion for the last 9 years! Certainly the movements and positions we get into remind me of my childhood, and the music makes me feel nostalgic and emotional. Perhaps it is all this emotion combined with the fact that I’ve had a seriously good work out keeps me so addicted to ballet!
Music is an essential part of ballet, and through ballet I have learnt to love the piano again too. I found I was enjoying the music so much at the class, I would go home to bang out the tune immediately on the piano! Memories of my old piano teacher came flooding back…and I have since made contact with her through email. These two pastimes have brought me much joy and satisfaction in recent years, I feel my childhood has returned to me in middle age!

Elizabeth

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You may feel this is something you thought was too late to start but there is a chance out there and with the added bonus of physical and mental health benefits.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on February 9, 2017 in Training and Advice

 

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LIVING WELL – SELF MANAGEMENT PROGRAMME – A PATIENT’S FEEDBACK

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Dear GP,

I usually write to you to request a prescription. When I have an appointment, I usually talk to you about my ailments – about what is not good. Nowadays that relates to chronic illness.

Today I write to share positive: the privilege of participating in LIVING WELL – the self management programme that aims to help live with long term health conditions – group engagement with individuals who combine together a broad age group with a broad range of illness. I gained from it; I enjoyed it! I use the word enjoy because we shared the experience of illness in the context of our everyday living and although suffering was there, morbidity was nowhere!

Upon first encounter I was amazed to learn that regardless of age and condition, we all shared a similar experience which presents itself in what we have identified as the ‘symptom cycle’, such as the never ending loop of pain, difficult thoughts and emotions, poor sleep, physical limitations …. I gained tools to help manage and ‘break the cycle, to gain more better moments than moments that feel unmanageable. This was nice. Some of the tools are familiar, ones we put to use in our everyday – at work or at home, such as problem solving, decision making, communication (with doctors, for example), however, it became evident to me that we don’t always identify this so we don’t necessarily put our management tools to use in an effective way in the course of an illness in the everyday.

Hey, one doesn’t train to be a patient!

LIVING WELL encapsulates this and in an intense 6 session period, equips us with a toolbox that we can dig into at any given moment. Practice starts together; the work, we each have to continue to apply later. LIVING WELL is a lesson in responsibility and ownership of one’s condition. True, everything is good in ‘class’ and like learning to swim, you might get the moves when you’re in the pool having a lesson but next time you step into the water on your own, you might still feel you are going to drown. I do know it takes time to master tools but I also know that I have been equipped with a framework. I also now know that there is a strength from experiencing a group face to face.

LIVING WELL has enabled me to form a sense of community thanks to caring instructors who themselves experience long term health conditions and have participated in a course prior to becoming the guide. This is also thanks to an amazing group of people who, like me, may have had a sleepless night last night and not because we were out clubbing but because the challenges to go out to ‘a club’ can be immense. ‘Club’ here merely symbolises engaging with life in the everyday. I have learned new strategies that others use on how they may cope with a sleepless night, I hope they have learned something from me. So, we have gained and you do too. As we have learned about responsibility and ownership of how we engage with our long term health conditions,

LIVING WELL demonstrates how we can better engage with our doctors. You have come to know me overtime through my condition. You can understand the importance of this course for me. I strongly hope there will be future opportunities for existing groups to meet again in session for further learning.

But,without patients wanting to participate in the first place there will be no LIVING WELL. I am apprehensive that the course has now ended; someone else might be apprehensive about starting. Can you please continue to promote the LIVING WELL programme in your surgery to your patients, and amongst your colleagues so their patients can ‘LIVE WELL’ too? It has been a privilege,

Sincerely,

Grateful patient

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Posted by on October 20, 2015 in Training and Advice

 

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MINDFULNESS FOR EVERYONE

Last year I blogged about mindfulness and recommending this has become an integral part of our practice as we constantly see patients faced with the stress of modern living. For those that are not aware of mindfulness, which involves meditation, is defined as:-

 “the intentional, accepting and non-judgemental focus of one’s attention on the emotions, thoughts and sensations occurring in the present moment”.

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I was asked to proofread an  article written by Charlie Morgan, yogi and yoga teacher who promotes the slogan:-

                               ‘ Your health is your wealth, the rest is a bonus’

The article was to be published in the section on health and happiness on the blog of deliciouslyella the blogger, foodie, yogi, best-selling author, nut butter addict, Telegraph columnist, app creator & avocado enthusiast.

I was delighted to see it appear on her blog for many  people to view and subsequently read the positive comments.

Click on the link below to read the article:-

image                                     Mindfulness

Thank you Ella and Charlie for collaborating to promote mindfulness and help many people understand it’s value in today’s world.

http://www.charliemorganyoga.com

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Posted by on June 12, 2015 in Training and Advice

 

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EXPERT PATIENT PROGRAMME (EPP) COMES TO EALING

The Expert Patients Programme (EPP) is a self-management programme for people living with a chronic (long-term) condition. The aim is to support people by:

  • increasing their confidence
  • improving their quality of life
  • helping them manage their condition more effectively

What is an expert patient?

Many GPs who care for people with chronic condtions say that the patient often understands the condition better than they do. This is not surprising – many patients become experts as they learn to cope with their chronic conditions.

There is evidence that, with proper support, people with a chronic condition can take the lead in managing their condition. This helps improve their health and quality of life, and reduces their incapacity.

An expert patient is someone who:

  • feels confident and in control of their life
  • aims to manage their condition and its treatment in partnership with healthcare professionals
  • communicates effectively with professionals and is willing to share responsibility for treatment
  • is realistic about how their condition affects them and their family
  • uses their skills and knowledge to lead a full life

This week we had an email informing us that this programme is due to start this month

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Our first Expert Patient Programme has now been booked:

Dates:      19th May to 23rd June ( 6 consecutive Tuesday evenings)

Time:        6pm – 8.30pm

Location:  Hanwell Community Centre, Small Meeting Room, Westcott Crescent, Hanwell,

London W7 1PD

Interested participants contact the course provider directly to register interest either calling or emailing as shown above

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ARE YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW BECOMING FORGETFUL ?

Last year I attended an interesting lecture from a doctor that had recently been diagnosed with dementia. What impressed me was not only her courage at being able to talk about the subject but the fact that having been diagnosed in the early stages she was able to get her affairs in order and have some say in how she wanted to spend the rest of her life as well as share with others what her thoughts were about her future.

She was taking medication which can slow the disease down considerably. Moreover, the understanding and care of patients with Dementia has improved remarkably in the past 5 years. When I wrote about my mother 2 years ago it had only just been recognised the importance of Advanced Care Planning and my sister and I were able to have similar conversations with her so that she was able to have some say in where she was to live for the rest of her days, have a say in who should have her treasured possessions and even make personal similar requests such as ‘you will pluck out any facial hair, keep my hair tidy, my nails manicured, and make sure I wear  my favourite make up’ She wanted to remain smartly dressed and maintain a neat appearance this was important to her. We fulfilled her wishes as far as possible and she died wearing her usual make up, her favourite perfume, hair set and permed and wearing a clean, new nightdress. She had pictures of her family around her and playing the music she loved most.

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When I recently went to see ‘Still Alice’ at the cinema not only was the acting of Julianne Moore worthy of an Oscar Award but it demonstrated how a family can be involved in the care of a relative with progressive dementia. In  the case of Alice it was a rare form of dementia which particularly strikes those of a young age, but nevertheless the message was the same. It was a compelling and emotional account of a family overwhelmed with a disease which affects all family members in many different ways,  sometimes dividing but also drawing everyone together with the common desire to help fulfil the individual’s life to the end as the person that everyone knows slowly disappears but somehow remains present.

If someone you know is becoming increasingly forgetful, you should encourage them to see their GP to talk about the early signs of dementia. If it is a relative may be accompany them . We usually screen them first by an array of blood tests to exclude simple causes which are easily treatable. If we are concerned about their cognitive function following a mini- mental health test we then refer to a older persons consultant who performs more mental tests s well as a MRI brain scan before coming to a definitive diagnosis.

Dementia is a syndrome (group of related symptoms) that indicate problems with the brain. There are several types of dementia.

Dementia

One of the most common symptoms is memory loss. While there are other reasons someone might be experiencing memory loss, if dementia is detected early, in some cases its development can be slowed and the person affected may maintain their mental function. The typical features of memory loss are :-

Struggling to remember recent events
Problems following conversations
Forgetting the names of friends or objects
Repeating yourself
Problems with thinking or reasoning
Confusion in familiar places

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In Ealing we have a very supportive group ‘Dementia Concern ‘ which is a group of people who support and help in the many aspects of caring for a person with dementia. Carers as we all know are amazing people who day by day and of often night after night perform the vital job of caring for someone who would fail to manage in their own home without them. They help maintain their dignity, their personal hygiene and those individual demands and requests we all have.

refer to their website to find out how they help and when the Dementia Cafe is open.

http://dementiaconcern.co.uk/services/dementia-cafe/

 
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Posted by on March 23, 2015 in Training and Advice

 

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Letter to a Diabetic

                                                                     

                                       

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                                            Dr Brenda Patricia Down,

                                              Getwell surgery,

                                              Manuka Lane,

                                               Andover, B4 UD1

                                                                                                                     

                                                                                       March 20th 2015    

Mrs Diane Mellitus

6, Sweetwater Drive,

Andover  B4 1LL

Dear Diane, 

I am writing to you as I am very worried that I have not seen you in surgery for sometime and your last blood tests were not good and showed that your diabetes is poorly controlled. I know that if you come to see me, together we can improve the situation considerably.

The problem is that, although you may not feel too bad, if your blood sugar is high for a long time your body is slowly becoming damaged. Gradually, the large blood vessels in your body will become clogged. As a result, you are more likely to have a heart attack, stroke or have difficulty walking without severe leg pain. It also effects the small blood vessels and this effects your eyes causing cataracts or damage to the back of your eyes and it may effect your kidneys. The high sugar effects the nerves, especially in your feet and hands, so that you can’t feel things properly.

I know you love sewing gifts for your family, but if your eyesight gets worse and you can’t do much with your fingers you will really miss making all those lovely gifts.  They so rely on you to do repairs and it won’t be that long before the grandchildren will be on the way! I also know how independent you are and how you like to get out and about.

Do you know that I saw a diabetic patient last week who has lost such a lot of weight and has been walking the new dog each day. I could not believe how his blood sugars have improved, his blood pressure has come down and his cholesterol is normal, which means I have been able to stop nearly all of his tablets. He is so happy that he will look better in his swimming trunks and with the money he has saved on quitting smoking he has decided to take his wife on a Caribbean cruise!

Please make an appointment soon so that we can get to grips with controlling your diabetes as it is not only me who is worried  about you, but your family must also be concerned and I know you are so important to them.

Best Wishes,

Dr  B.P. Down

Family doctor

PS Did you manage to get to that meeting with Right Start to learn more about diabetes? If you want to look up to find out more about Diabetes try http://www.diabetes.org.uk it is a really good website. 

 
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Posted by on March 20, 2015 in Training and Advice

 

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ARE YOU LOOKING AFTER YOUR HEART? – HAPPY VALENTINES DAY…….

     HELP YOUR HEART BY SMALL CHANGES.              

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Stressed out?

Stress is a word people use for feeling they feel when everything gets too much.

You might get this if:-

  • You have too much to do
  • If other people are asking a lot of you
  • You are having to deal with things you can’t control

To help keep your heart healthy, you need to take care of your body and your mind

You have a choice in that you can choose how you want to control your life and change it for the better by just taking

10 minutes out.

How does stress affect your heart?

Being stressed often makes you do things which are bad for your heart:-

  • smoking – stop to think whether you could consider a quit smoking day and contact Smokefree Ealing by calling 0208 579 8622 or visit http://www.smokefreeealing.co.uk
  • drinking too much – if you need support contact RISE –  http://www.ealingrise.org.uk
    Phone: 020 8843 5900
    24hrs: 0800 195 8100
  • eating unhealthy foods that are high in saturated fat and salt so that you put on too much weight, raise your blood pressure and cholesterol levels.- contact your GP for advice or screening.

If you  smoke , have high blood pressure, high cholesterol or are overweight, you are more likely to get coronary heart disease, which means you might get angina or have a heart attack.

Drinking too much alcohol can cause problems with your heart rhythm, high blood pressure and damage your heart muscle.

If you have stresses you need help with contact IAPT  Self-referral line: 020 3313 5660 or visit :-

http://www.wlmht.nhs.uk/service/ealing-iapt/

find out more about dealing with stress and helping your heart.  download the following:-

Heart

https://www.bhf.org.uk/~/media/files/publications/other-prevention/g926_take_time_out_01_14.pdf

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2015 in Training and Advice

 

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SCARLET FEVER MAKES A COME BACK

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This deadly disease was first described gin the 1500s. Due to its contagious nature and debilitating, if not deadly, effects, outbreaks of scarlet fever were greatly feared.

Charles Dickens knew more than he would have wished about scarlet fever. His son, Charley, was afflicted by it, causing the family to leave Paris hurriedly and return to London in 1847, and it featured in several of his novels. It was a much-feared disease that caused devastating epidemics through the 19th and early 20th centuries, resulting in thousands of deaths.

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The boy in this story is suffering from scarlet fever. Because the disease was so infectious, it was not uncommon for all the children in a family to contract scarlet fever and for none to survive.

I can remember my grandmother telling about the carts that rolled down the streets to remove infected people to take them to the fever isolation hospitals outside the towns during epidemics of scarlet fever or other infectious diseases.

Over the years scarlet fever has naturally declined over the past  200 years probably largely due to intake of  better food and clean drinking water, improved sanitation, less overcrowding and better living conditions generally. Also, I suspect that accuracy in diagnosing scarlet fever was more difficult as diseases with rashes such as smallpox, meningococcal meningitis and measles were very common.

Fans of the Little House on the Prairie series will remember that it was scarlet fever was thought to have that resulted in Mary’s blindness. However, as there was no record of a sore throat it was more likely to have been caused by meningococcal meningitis. Both scarlet fever and meningitis have a widespread rash but they are differentiated by performing the ‘glass test’. The rash of scarlet fever becomes white with the glass test.

https://www.meningitisnow.org/meningitis-explained/signs-and-symptoms/glass-test/

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When penicillin was widely available in 1942 this made significant difference to the course of the diseases in that severe complications such as Rheumatic Fever with serious heart problems, Glomerulonephritis with severe kidney problems, osteomyelitis ( bone infection ) and blood borne infections are now very rare.

Now, 160 years later, it is making a comeback. Almost 3,000 cases were recorded in 2008, the highest total for a decade, and doctors fear a dangerous strain of the infection is becoming more widespread. If seems scarlet fever follows a cycle rising and falling roughly every four years – and is currently on a rising trend.

What is Scarlet Fever (Scarletina)?

Scarlet fever (sometimes called scarlatina) is an infectious disease caused by the bacteria Streptococcus pyogenes, which is commonly found on the skin or in the throat, where it can live without causing problems. However, under some circumstances, they can also cause diseases like scarlet fever.

It is most common in children between the ages of 2 and 8 years of age. I remember one Sunday evening last year I saw 6 children from the same reception  class at school attend with classical signs of scarlet fever.

What are the symptoms and signs?

Symptoms include a fever, tiredness, nausea and vomiting and may be headache aswell as feeling generally unwell.

Red blotches are the first sign of the rash. These turn into a fine pink-red rash that feels like sandpaper to touch and looks like sunburn.
The rash usually starts in one place, but soon spreads to other parts of the body. It commonly affects the ears, neck, chest, elbows, inner thighs and groin, and may be itchy.

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The rash blanches with the ‘glass test’ and does does not normally spread to the face.

However, the cheeks become flushed and the area just around the mouth stays quite pale ( circumoral pallor) The rash will turn white if you press a glass on it. The tongue becomes swollen and red and is often called a ‘strawberry tongue’

The rash usually fades after about a week, but the outer layers of skin, usually on the hands and feet, may peel for several weeks afterwards.

In milder cases, sometimes called scarlatina, the rash may be the only symptom.i

How do you protect yourself from scarlet fever?

The risk of infection can be reduced through general good hygiene and cleanliness, including:

•Washing your hands often, using alcohol hand rub

•Not sharing eating utensils with someone who has the infection

•Disposing of tissues promptly

What should I do if I think my child has scarlet fever?

•See their GP as soon as possible

•Make sure that your child takes the full course of any antibiotics prescribed. Although your child will feel better very quickly after starting the course of antibiotics, you must complete the course of treatment to ensure that you don’t carry the germs after you’ve recovered.

•Stay at home, away from nursery, school or work for at least 24 hours after starting the antibiotic treatment to avoid spreading the infection.

•You can help stop the spread of infection through frequent hand-washing and by not sharing eating utensils, clothes, bedding or towels.

More information about scarlet fever:-

http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Scarlet-fever/Pages/Introduction.aspx

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2015 in Training and Advice

 

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SING – A – LONG TO IMPROVE YOUR LUNG CAPACITY AND PARKINSON’S DISEASE

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We have all been introduced to singing since we were born and most parents we will be delighted when they hear their child sing a familiar song for the first time and leap to record the moment. It is just as delightful when you hear your grandchild sing and singing to your grandchild even if your singing voice is limited is always appreciated and met with the  words ‘again, again’ !

As a schoolgirl  I associated  singing with warbling, middle aged women with blue rinses and clearly remember having learn to sing ‘Blow the wind Southerly’ by Kathleen Ferrier as an 8 year old !  I was in the school choir because I liked singing not because I had any musical talent!  Then there was the evolution of pop music And musical shows and then the doors opened wide and  singing for pleasure in the home took on a new light. After all I followed the generation where families used to sing around the piano at home but now it was singing with the radio or TV.

My children have known pop music since an early age and sing-a-longs with the radio on the school run were an important start to the day,  amusing many a commuter as they sidled up alongside us on the Great West Road. Now there are an overwhelming number of genres of music,  which has led to a wider range of choirs than ever before – gospel, rock, church, barbershop, beatbox  to name a few. You can find choirs who do popular chart hits arranged for choir, songs from the shows, or traditional folk music so that singing in choirs has become more popular.

In previous blogs I have alluded to the benefits of singing for patients with dementia and  the feel-good effects of singing in helping in depression. However, experts now believe that joining a choir could improve the symptoms of a range of health problems including Parkinson’s, depression and lung disease.

At a conference of the Royal Society for Public Health, Grenville Hancox, professor of music at The Sidney De Haan Research Centre for Arts and Health, Canterbury, described the changes that can take place through singing together as “extraordinary”.
He told how he and colleagues have witnessed people with respiratory problems learning to breathe more easily, those with depression beating the blues and patients with Parkinson’s disease standing tall and singing loudly.
Prof Hancox is the founder of Skylarks, a new choir for people with Parkinson’s. This disorder of the central nervous system makes normal movements difficult and weakens the voice as the muscles in the face and vocal chords deteriorate. Prof Hancox and his colleague Stephen Clift, the centre’s professor of health education, are undertaking research to find out if choral singing can help with Parkinson’s symptoms, especially those affecting the voice, with choir members undergoing computer-assisted acoustical voice analysis at the start and finish of the study.

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Ian MacDonald, voice specialist with the British Association for Performing Arts Medicine, reported to have said that it is logical that singing can help in this way. “The vocal cords are muscles,” he says. “By exercising them, you increase tone and restrict tremor, and the voice is less jittery. Singing warms the muscles up – just as athletes warm up theirs.” Being required to stand tall when performing may also improve core strength and benefit these patients.

As Professor Hancox and his colleagues have claimed they have witnessed people with COPD , a debilitating respiratory disease  learn to breathe more easily.  Around the world an estimated 64 million people are struggling to breathe on a daily basis.  The World Health Organization expects COPD to be the third leading cause  could potentially help so many people 

Sonia Page, the specialist respiratory nurse who is leading the current Singing for Breathing choir at the Royal Brompton Hospital, London says it has helped people with COPD “gain greater control of their breathlessness instead of being at the mercy of it.”

Patients have also reported improved respiratory stamina, reduced impact of chest infections and improvements in sleep apnoea (a condition that causes interrupted breathing during sleep). Dr Nicholas Hopkinson, a consultant chest physician at the Royal Brompton Hospital in London, notes that singing cannot reverse the lung damage caused by COPD, but it can still be of benefit.
COPD patients have difficulty emptying the air from their lungs (known as gas trapping), he says, which is why they suffer from shortness of breath – a problem made worse if they panic and start to hyperventilate.
“Singing may help these patients to improve their posture and learn techniques to help control their breathing. In particular, by breathing out more slowly they give their lungs more time to empty, reducing gas trapping,” says Dr Hopkinson.

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The free weekly singing classes held at both Royal Brompton and Harefield hospitals are open to all respiratory  at Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust to help them relax and learn new breathing techniques.

The sessions are organised by the arts team at the hospital and are funded by charitable donations. The course leaders hope to enhance existing support for respiratory patients with an enjoyable, informal exercise, that teaches a better understanding of breath control through the use of the voice.
Two of the longest-standing members of the singing groups are Harold Dearing, who has asthma and has had several operations on his heart, and John Turner who has COPD. John has been coming once a week to the Brompton Hospital since 2010 and is passionate about the benefits of singing.
“It helps us feel much, much better. Although singing therapy can’t cure the lung damage caused by acute respiratory conditions such as COPD, the combination of breathing exercises and song can help people with breathing difficulties cope better with their disability.”
“Doing everyday ordinary activities becomes increasingly difficult for people with lung problems,” says John. “I find singing gets your lungs working better, you get out of the house, you meet people and you become a social animal again.”
“Way back in 2002 when I was diagnosed with emphysema, it was suggested I would soon need oxygen. Well I haven’t yet needed it and I think this is very largely due to singing.”
Singing to build confidence
Harold Dearing has been with a singing group for three years. As a teenager, he’d sung in a choir, so when he saw the Harefield course advertised he decided to give it a go.
“Every time I go it’s beneficial. I enjoy the exercises, but it’s especially nice to be together singing. It’s confidence-building. The teachers make it fun and make sure you’re in your comfort zone.”

Angela Reith, a music therapist who runs the sessions at the Harefield hospital says she sees several benefits.
“Some find that by the end of the session they breathe more easily. Others benefit especially on a social level. They have a good time and if you’re happy with yourself you can cope better with your condition,” says Angela.
Singing’s feel-good factor
Joanna Foster who runs the sessions at Royal Brompton agrees about the feel-good factor of singing in a group. “Singing together is not just exercises. It’s fun and it releases endorphins.”
Each of the sessions involves breathing exercises and singing. Starting with gentle upper body stretches, the group then practice making different sounds as they exhale such as sighs and fake laughter.
“It’s the same techniques that actors and professional singers use to warm up their voices and overcome nerves,” says Joanna.
This then leads into singing whole songs, learning them in chunks and eventually – depending on the size of the group – singing rounds and harmonies.
A survey of 500 patients taking part in the singing workshops at Royal Brompton and Harefield found that 70% felt markedly physically better after the workshops.

Joining a choir is by no means a conventional solution for such a serious illness.

The research team from Canterbury Christ Church University in Kent felt they had good reason to investigate the effects  on COPD and singing and showed that the benefits are real. Dr Ian Morrison, a senior research fellow and one of the project’s authors, said: “Lung function improved dramatically, particularly after about five months, once people had got used to what they were doing and changed their breathing habits.

It has been observed that people with breathing problems tend to develop a lot of anxiety about the very process of inhaling.  The tendency is to do ‘gaspy’ breathing so they’re taking short little breaths. This actually fills up the lungs without clearing them, making it even more difficult to breathe. Due to their obstructed airways, many people with COPD already find emptying their lungs a challenge.Gasping makes the problem worse and can, in the most serious cases, lead to a build-up of carbon dioxide in the blood, which can result in respiratory failure.

In contrast, the techniques used in singing encourage people to breathe in a much deeper, more controlled manner.The whole musculature around the lungs, throat and the upper chest improve with time,” says Dr Morrison. They use what they have much better and you really see a difference in the skill of actually breathing.”

To test its effects, Morrison and his colleagues asked over 100 COPD patients – ranging from mild to severely affected – to attend weekly singing sessions over a 12-month period.They measured their lung capacity with a device known as a spirometer – which looks a bit like a giant breathalyser – and asked participants to fill in a questionnaire to find out on a qualitative level how they were feeling. One of the tests involved measuring how much air a person could force out in a rapid puff. ( Peak Flow Meter)

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On average the people in our study had 50% of expected lung function,” said Prof Stephen Clift, the study’s lead author. “That means about 1.5 litres of air in a one second puff. For healthy lungs, we would expect something more like 3 litres.” Without treatment, people with COPD can expect to see the size of their puff decrease by around 40ml a year.The very best the team had hoped for was that after singing regularly for one year, the size of that puff would stay the same.

Instead we got an increase of 30ml,” says Prof Clift.

“Although the changes are small, the progressive nature of COPD means that any loss of function year-on-year is going to be more significant for them.

“In our study, we not only appeared to halt the decline but people showed a small improvement.”

Dr Morrison added: “There’s also the social and psychological side, because any long term condition is isolating.

A recent Swedish study published in the journal Integrative Physiological and Behavioural Science suggested that it not only increases oxygen levels in the blood but triggers the release of “happy” hormones such as oxytocin, which is thought to help lower stress levels and blood pressure.

Singing has all the benefits mentioned so far and can also be very helpful in improving speech which has become slurred and unclear as a result of Parkinson’s. These same breathing exercises can prevent decline and marginally improve lung function in serious lung disease.

Breathing exercises and vocal techniques used when singing can help with:

  • sustaining the voice
  • increasing and controlling volume
  • varying pitch and expression
  • improving diction
  • controlling vocal speed
  • increasing the fluidity of diction
  • improving Posture

Not surprisingly there are a growing number of informal singing groups for people with Parkinson’s or other illnesses, such as Alzheimer’s. The opportunity to work on vocal and breathing techniques in an informal setting with people who share similar difficulties can be a valuable social activity and can help with self-confidence and overcoming Depression. And you don’t generally need to be able to sing to participate because such groups are not usually choirs and most do not give performances.

Typical singing activities which can help with improving posture, breath work and diction include:

  • taking your voice ‘for a walk’ up and down in pitch
  • lifting the tongue to the roof of the mouth
  • practicing trills (rapid alternation between two adjacent notes of a scale) with lip and tongue
  • making different types of sighs
  • humming
  • echoing tunes
  • singing in rounds (one voice starts and others join in one after another until all are singing different parts of the same song at the same time)
  • experimenting with a variety of pitch, pace and mood in songs.

Singing techniques have also been used to aid fluidity of speech and combat stuttering: Melodic Intonation Therapy (MIT) uses song phrases to retrieve speech when this has been lost or weakened. Group singing can give a social outlet and boost self-confidence in people who tend to withdraw socially due to slurred speech and weakening articulation

Prof Clift and Prof Hancox believe the health benefits of belonging to a choir, for some chronic conditions will become indisputable. “There are examples of arts on prescription and gym on prescription,” argues Prof Hancox. “How about singing on prescription, too?”

If after reading this you want to have singing lessons or join a choir try your local church, community centre or school. I have listed some ideas below of various choirs in and around Ealing.

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Ealing Choral Society,

This is one of London’s best choirs: they are an amateur choir, performing with world-class orchestras and soloists in Ealing, as well as Central London and occasionally abroad.

http://ealingchoralsociety.org

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Questors Theatre Choir

imageAnd for more information about joining, read the Why not sing with us? section.

Contact us here or phone 020 8816 7734 / 07802 720333

We are a 60-strong mixed voice choir based in West London, England, and affiliated to Questors Theatre.

http://www.questorschoir.org.uk

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Ealing Common Choir

imageThis was formerly Ealing Common Choir. Singers are welcome and ideally  can read music and sight-read a simple line. You’ve probably sung on and off all your life. Contact us or just come along to a rehearsal on a Thursdays at St Matthews Church, Ealing Common. Further details:-

http://www.smce.org.uk

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Gospel choir/Singology

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Singology is a vocal coaching company setup by Mark De-Lisser in 2000 to provide singing opportunities and tuition to people of all ages. With a strong tradition of choral singing, Singology has now launched ‘Singology Choirs’ to encourage more and more people to get involved in community singing, which has been proven to increase confidence, social cohesion and can also be used as a diversionary activity for young people in the community.

Monday Ealing 7:30pm – 9:30pm Ealing Town Hall, W5 2BY 12th Jan – 23rd Mar

http://www.gumtree.com/p/classes/new-intake-of-singers-for-singology-pop-gospel-choir-in-ealing/1007900384

http://www.singology.com

Singology choirs throughout London are joining together to sing at the Royal Festival Hall.

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The Ealing Rock Choir

image             Grange Primary School,
Church Gardens, Ealing, London, W5 4HN

The Ealing Rock Choir is led by singer/pianist Christina Clark. We have a great year lined up and we would like to invite you to join our choir and take part in the local Ealing and wider London community. We are the Ealing rehearsal of the trailblazing Rock Choir. We often team up with the other local London choirs to perform in much bigger choral groups. These inspirational moments are unique to the Rock Choir experience. It’s unbelievable and you can still join the choir. Just like a gym class or amateur dramatic society, your Rock Choir rehearsal provides an escape from everyday life. One evening a week during term time, your time is completely your own, to do nothing but sing your heart out with friends whilst enjoying our trailblazing formula of fun, friendship and feel-good music. Book a FREE singing taster session at the Ealing Rock Choir and see for yourself!

There’s no pressure to perform if you don’t want to – it’s all about having fun and enjoying some well-deserved ‘me time’. – See more at: http://www.rockchoir.com

The Ealing Rock Choir singing at the Minack theatre, Cornwall. This is a fascinating outdoor theatre with an intriguing story.

http://www.minack.mobi

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Addison Singers

imageThe Addison Singers comprises two classical choirs – an auditioned Chamber Choir and larger non-auditioned Oratorio Choir; and two jazz choirs – an auditioned Jazz Ensemble and a larger non-auditioned all-female Jazz Choir. It also offers three different singing classes to meet the needs of beginners, intermediate and the more competent, experienced singer.

http://www.addison-singers.org.uk/about-us/who-are-the-addison-singers

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Or if or if all else fails try some Kareoke or sing- a – long with the TV or radio

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Posted by on February 8, 2015 in Training and Advice

 

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IS BLOATING A PROBLEM?

This week I had an email reminding me it is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Week in March and to prepare for fundraising events and this brought to mind the tale of a dear aunt.

It was Easter 1969 when my aunt who was diagnosed with carcinoma of the ovary. She was the head teacher of a challenging junior school in Dagenham and aware of the surplus energy many of her pupils had and as no-one had volunteered to teach imagefootball she had decided to take on the task. However, that did create some problems as she was a Roman Catholic nun Sister Mary Ursula, who wore a full length habit and a stiffly starched headdress as seen in the comedy Sister Act!

I had only seen her when we as a family visited London as she was not allowed to stay anywhere other than a convent. We always had great fun as children when we visited as she always managed to produce a special meal usually afternoon tea and we were allowed to explore the convent grounds play with the animals they kept as well as have a singsong or dance to popular songs around the piano. We also helped to serve soup to the unusual people who came to the back door. I was always puzzled by these visitors but despite being as inquisitive as usual I never got any satisfactory answers to why these people came.

She had been to see her team play in the schools cup final and was overjoyed that they had won. She had run up and down the pitch cheering them on like any other football coach but in full nuns habit!
Unfortunately, shortly after this she was admitted to hospital with pneumonia and incidentally found to have advanced Ovarian Carcinoma. She like many others showed very little in the way of symptoms.

Coincidentally, I had applied to do voluntary work in Dr. Barnado’s children’s home in Barkingside, Essex, helping with spins bifida children who had been taken into care and was accepted. They provided free accommodation and meals and this gave a country girl a chance to be able to explore London. What’s more I would be near Upton Park Hospital where she was having frequent admissions for treatment.

It wasn’t long before she made her mark there with frequent colourful visitors ranging from high ranking priests to ex-pupils. There was never a dull moment especially as she took it upon herself to visit the male wards (bearing in mind that in those days many patients were in hospital for weeks on end) equipped with mouth organ to orchestrate singalongs usually the old cockney pub songs or football songs especially as she was a keen West Ham supporter!

Needless to say it was appropriate that she was the first person I told when I received my A level results and full acceptance to Medical school. Sadly she died the day I left to go home to prepare to start my career in medicine. This was my first experience of being with someone so ill and eventually dying. She was only 41yrs of age and died within months of being diagnosed. She was so open about how she felt and what gave her the most comfort. Her insights, her humour and her fears along with her many words of wisdom formed a good base as I embarked on my medical training.

It is sad that even after 45yrs only 3% of women can very confidently pick out a symptom 

Carcinoma ovaryIf ovarian cancer but if diagnosed the prognosis has improved considerably. 

The disease is the fifth most common cause of cancer deaths in women and experts fear the lack of awareness may contribute to low survival rates in the UK compared with elsewhere.

Ovarian cancer

We as doctors are increasing our awareness and  vigilance  about investigating women when presenting with suspicious symptoms. We need you to come to us if you have suspicious symptoms.

    image          It  may simply be persistent bloating don’t assume it is Irritable Bowel Syndrome –  GET CHECKED

http://www.targetovariancancer.org.uk

 
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Posted by on January 25, 2015 in Training and Advice

 

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