When will you be taking your sick days?

Duvet time is good.jpgA survey conducted by a nutritional supplement company found that 71% were most likely to take a sicky in January. I doubt any of us are surprised by that revelation.

January is traditionally the most depressing month of the year; at least two more months of being cold and miserable. Gone are the nightly parties and good cheer and we are left with weakened immune systems/credit cards to add to our SAD.

January is not the only month to inspire the odd sicky. The unpredicted warm day/football tournament/random hangover (delete as appropriate) have long been traditional reasons for an unplanned day off.

There are quite a few reasons for working days to be lost at the moment. Maybe you have been trapped by the great billows of early snow, or the treacherous ice sheets left behind. Maybe you are one of the unlucky people succumbing to the Norovirus or an annoying little cold.

Someone very wise once told me that it was a complete waste to have a day off when you actually felt sick and that you should save them for when you really couldn’t face the world.

We think that sick days have a very necessary place in our busy and stressful ‘modern’ lives. We spend most of our time rushing about, not getting enough sleep and probably not eating very well. So when a bad cold or the need to have a duvet day rears its head, it is our duty to make sure we slow down for a few hours at least.

Being stressed affects your mind and body; people suffering from stress are much more likely to become unwell so it makes sense to stop when your body tells you to.

So when January rolls around after the hectic mess of Christmas will you be among those putting on your best sick voice to call the boss?

You never know, the predicted arrival of more snow might provide a timely excuse for some quality duvet time.


Should we just scrap the autumnal clock change?

sun.jpgDoes it feel like you are going to work and coming home without seeing any daylight? We know that the reduction in daylight makes us all a tad depressed, but could we solve this by not changing our clocks each autumn?

Not putting the clocks back in October and still putting them forward in the spring would be a simple and effective way to vastly improve our health and well-being, said an expert in last week’s BMJ.

Mayer Hillman, Senior Fellow Emeritus at the Policy Studies Institute, argues that the effect of doing so would be to increase the number of ‘accessible’ daylight hours and thus encourage more outdoor activity throughout the year.

Research shows that people feel happier, more energetic and have lower sickness rates in the longer and brighter days of summer, whereas their mood tends to decline during the shorter and duller days of winter. Two studies published by the Policy Studies Institute also point to a wide range of advantages of the clock change proposal.

Hillman went on to say how surprising it is that there has been a consistent oversight of the role that increasing the number of ‘accessible’ daylight hours in this way could play in the promotion of physical health and well-being. Taking account of the typical daily patterns of adults and children, the clock change ‘would considerably increase opportunities for outdoor leisure activities – about 300 additional hours of daylight for adults each year and 200 more for children.’

Hillman says there is considerable public support for this action.

Tell us what you think

Should we go along with the clock changes or demand a review?

Get more folate to beat the winter blues


A study in Japan has found folate, a vitamin found in green leafy vegetables, reduced the symptoms of depression amongst men by 50 per cent in over 500 subjects studied.

This might be news to many of us, but it seems nature may have known all along.
Depressing winter is also the season for veggies packed full of smile-inducing folate.

Cabbage, purple sprouting brocolli, beetroot, parsnips, leeks, kale, Brussels sprouts, spring greens and endives are the veg you should be munching on.
Because they’re in season right now they’re at their tastiest and most nutritious – full of folate. Visit www.iminseason.com for some delicious seasonal recipes.

And don’t worry girls, although the study was conducted on males, other research has also found some links between low levels of folate with depression in both sexes. Chances are chowing down on your greens could leave you feeling a little sunnier too.

Nagging health questions answered on new UK government site

London: Got a nagging question about your health? Are you planning a new fitness regime or are you interested in finding out more about a particular condition and relevant treatment options? If you are looking for reliable, personalised information about your health and lifestyle you can now find it at the new website, NHS Choices www.nhs.uk

Health advice is now the second most searched for subject online so it is no surprise that there is a lot of information of variable quality out there.
NHS Choices is a one-stop shop for all your health information that you can trust and that puts you in charge of decisions about your own health, lifestyle and even treatment options.

See how fit and healthy you are with a quick and easy personal health check and watch short movies from the experts and real people about their experiences of common conditions and treatments. Read honest accounts of how celebrities such as Steve Redgrave, Tricia Goddard, Rosemary Conley and Nik Powell, Richard Branson’s co-founder of Virgin Records have overcome their own health problems. You can even become an expert with access to information only previously available to the medical profession.

Get motivated and take inspiration for a healthy life from Live Well, a series of online magazines featuring up to date articles, short movies and celebrity contributions to appeal to different groups such as women, teenagers, men and families.

Get great ideas for healthy eating with recipes from Emma Bunton, Nadine Coyle, Dannii Minogue and Myleene Klass and watch celebrity chefs cook up simple, healthy meals for the whole family and romantic nights in.

Find inspiration for a fitness regime that works for your age and lifestyle. Get active and take the Chelsea FC challenge, try walking your way to fitness and a great pair of legs or read how Olympic sprinter, Linford Christie has managed to stay fit and lean post retirement and post forty.

Learn our how to stay happy and healthy at work and see what the experts have to say about a mid life crisis. Is your urge for a newer model – car or woman – due to brain or hormone changes or just bad behaviour.

Should you need to go to hospital NHS Choices gives you the information to make an informed decision about where and when you want to be treated. View ratings on hospital waiting times, cleanliness and readmission figures and for the first time what previous patients have to say about their treatment and experiences via immediate online feedback.

It is even possible for you to make your choice of hospital based upon personal preferences such as travelling times, MRSA incidences and availability of single sex wards.

1. The NHS Choices website draws on the combined experience and expertise of NHS.uk, NHS Direct, the National Electronic Library for Health, and the Healthcare Commission.

2. NHS Choices can be found at www.nhs.uk The site will continue to evolve and significant extensions are scheduled for later in 2007 and 2008.

3. The site will allow patients to access NHS approved information using a number of features under distinct headings:

Live Well
• Information that will help the well to stay fit and assist those who are unwell to manage their condition

• ‘Magazine’ content will reflect the interests and needs of different groups such as teenagers, families and those over 70

Health A-Z
• Access to a vast library of approved medical literature, previously only available to clinicians to enable a deeper understanding of conditions & treatment options
• Easy to understand multi-media guides on the most common procedures e.g. hip replacement
• Detailed guides to living with 20 long-term conditions such as diabetes to help patients manage their condition. Expert opinions from professionals and patients will provide advice and support

Choose Services
• Authoritative, comparative data on the standards and availability of services
• Searchable comprehensive directories e.g. on hospitals, GPs and care homes
• A quality scorecard that will help patients and GPs together to identify the most appropriate clinicians and locations for their treatment

Your Thoughts
• Patients will be able to directly comment and feedback on their hospital experience
• All comments will be pre-moderated and references to named individuals will be removed
• Hospitals will have the opportunity to respond to comments about their services.

Light technology does help winter depression, says new report

London: A three year trial trial has confirmed the effectiveness of a revolutionary new LED technology that emits an intensely bright uv-free light at exactly the right wavelength to achieve the maximum and most rapid suppression of the sleep hormone melatonin.

The conclusion of the study at five centres in Canada and Holland was titled “Treatment with The Litebook is an effective treatment for SAD as assessed by both clinicians (SIGH-SAD, CGI) and patients (BDI).”

The short treatment time (30 minutes) and portability of the device may increase patient appeal and adherence over other treatment options, including chemical antidepressants and other light therapy devices.

This study comes hot on the heels of clinical trials, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, that demonstrated that light therapy is more effective than fluoxetine (Prozac) in the treatment of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Light therapy is a drug free and non-addictive.

Compared to fluoxetine it was shown to have a more rapid onset of improvement and a lack of side effects. It is estimated that only 3 -5% of people suffer from SAD but the incidence of ‘Winter Blues’ is as high as 40%.

Dr. Jan Wise, London-based consultant psychiatrist and expert in seasonal depression and light therapy, comments, “Two in five people will suffer from depression at some point in their lives. If you notice symptoms such as lack of energy, trouble sleeping and a general low feeling for prolonged periods, then this is a very real sign of SAD. Light therapy is an important and clinically proven treatment for seasonal depression. It is non-invasive, non-chemical and enables anyone with SAD to control their symptoms as naturally and effectively as possible.”

Typical SAD symptoms of lethargy, low energy, carbohydrate and nicotine craving, poor sleep patterns and depressed mood are not restricted to winter months. The effects of light and lack of sleep on body rhythms can cause year-long social jetlag. The Litebook also offers an effective drug-free treatment for shift workers, teenagers, over 50s and anyone living out of kilter with their body clock. Typical usage time is just 15-30 minutes compared to up to 2 hours using large and unwieldy legacy systems.

Magic box for SAD sufferers

Sufferers of Seasonal Affective Disorder, depression caused by a lack of sunlight in winter months can be treated with a new gadget that emits a powerful light.

The new “Litebook” is small enough to put onto a desk and needs to be used for only 15 minutes daily to be effective.

The condition which may affect as many as 1 in 50 people is common in winter because there is less sunlight to stimulate the part of the brain which controls mood, appetite and sleep.

Due to be launched in the UK this month, it costs £149.99. For more information, call 0845 456 7040