Health Tips


Matthew Banks, consultant gastroenterologist at University College Hospital, London: 'If I'm going to a dinner party, I'll make the occasional exception, but my general rule is to eat nothing after 8pm.

Fifteen simple rules: Medics have devised their own, more idiosyncratic health tips based on what professional experience has taught them

Fifteen simple rules: Medics have devised their own, more idiosyncratic health tips based on what professional experience has taught them

'That's because eating at night substantially raises your risk of acid reflux. You produce more stomach acid after a meal and the valve between your stomach and your oesophagus also relaxes.

'So if you're lying down relatively soon afterwards, acid is more likely to get into your gullet. 'as well as being uncomfortable in the short term, there are problems associated with long-term acid reflux, namely oesophageal cancer.

'It's become a bit of an epidemic, with the incidence growing faster than most other forms of cancer. the problem is that it's hard to treat and the prognosis tends to be poor. Ideally, eat your evening meal at least four hours before lying down.'


Susan Julians, physiotherapist at City road Physio, London: 'Varifocals [where two lenses are seamlessly combined in one piece of glass for reading, distance and middle distance] just aren't worth the risk.

'I have seen lots of patients with severe neck pain from looking through the bottom of their glasses; this compresses the joints in their neck.

'It's a particular problem if you're working and might be switching between looking at a computer screen and something else you are reading. Stick to a pair of single focus glasses.'


Take a nap: Lying on a modern day bed of nails creates the most incredible quality of sleep, according to an expert

Take a nap: Lying on a modern day bed of nails creates the most incredible quality of sleep, according to an expert

Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, a sleep therapist at Capio Nightingale Hospital, London: 'I Spend 15 minutes a day resting on a shakti mat ( It's a long, thin cushion covered in 4,000 spikes - a modern day bed of nails. It doesn't sound very comfortable and when you first get on it feels like lots of tiny painful bee stings all over your body.

'But after about 30 seconds or so you relax and then it doesn't hurt at all. I don't know exactly how it works - it's something to do with the acupressure points - but it helps me sleep much more deeply at night.

'It seems to create the most incredible quality of sleep.'

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Dr Angela Obasi, a senior clinical lecturer at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, says: 'I travel abroad a lot with my two young children, aged two and four, and I've had them vaccinated for rabies. But it's something many people might not think of for their young ones.

'They also don't like the idea of a rabies vaccine because it's three jabs, so it's a bit of a hassle and quite expensive. But it's totally worth it for the peace of mind: rabies is the most terrible disease.

'If your child is bitten by an infected animal, there really is little that could be done to save their life and I'm not prepared to risk that.'


Ioan Tudur Jones, consultant orthopaedic and trauma surgeon at The Clinic for Foot and Ankle injury, the Lister Hospital, London: 'l like a lot of women, my wife worries about bunions and blames wearing stilettos.

'But I encourage her to wear high heels as often as possible - not only does she look good in them but as a foot and ankle surgeon I know that bunions are 99 per cent hereditary.

'She may as well enjoy wearing heels - they aren't going to make her bunions worse.

'As for me, I make sure I spend five minutes every day stretching my achilles tendons. a tight achilles is the root cause of all kinds of foot problems and injury and it can make a flat foot much flatter.

'If you stand on the stairs and let your heels drop down, you can feel the stretch. It really is worth doing daily.'


Nick Lowe, consultant dermatologist at the Cranley Clinic, London:

'I know just how undesirable effects of sun exposure can on the skin, so every morning even in deepest, darkest winter, always apply protective day cream with SPF15 and UVB protection.

'But I'm also aware that sun exposure is one of the main sources of Vitamin D - a deficiency has been linked to a host problems, from multiple sclerosis, to heart disease, brittle bones, colon and prostate cancers.

Most people in this country are Vitamin D deficient at the end of winter and, unfortunately, protecting your skin potentially means putting your health at risk. So I take a daily Vitamin D pill of 1,000 international units (the recommended daily intake is 400), so I can continue to protect my skin.'

Bad for your back: Never use a vacuum cleaner, says an osteopath

Bad for your back: Never use a vacuum cleaner, says an osteopath

Simone Ross, an osteopath from Kane and Ross, London, says:

'My golden rule is that I never use a vacuum cleaner - it's just too bad for your back. Our bodies are not designed to be in a mid- stance posture for any length of time and it's easy to injure a disc, muscle or other soft tissue while hanging over stooped like this for an extended period.

'If you've got an existing problem it can trigger catastrophic back pain. In our house we have wooden floors - you're much more mobile when sweeping, so far less likely to sustain an injury.

'However, if you really have no choice, look for the lightest vacuum cleaner possible and keep the movements you make close to the body, to minimise any stooping and stretching.'


Graham Jones, psychologist and associate lecturer with the Open University: 'My mum says I would go to the opening of an envelope and she has a point. Whenever I am invited to meetings or events - business or social - I invariably accept.

'That's because psychologically being around a variety of people from all walks of life helps you develop a positive frame of mind. People who tend not to have a wide social
circle are more prone to depression.

'Interacting with different people stops you dwelling on things and laughter itself helps to release endorphins. So the next time you inwardly groan when you're asked to something you don't feel like attending, change your perspective and look at is as something that could make you happier.'


Sid Dajani, a pharmacist in Bishopstoke, near Southampton: 'I can't be ill in my job - if there isn't a locum available people won't get potentially life-saving medication. So if I have to go in and am feeling unwell, I'll take the appropriate medication.

'But I always stick to the absolute minimum dose to avoid any cognitive impairment. All drugs affect the brain in some way - sometimes even the most mundane painkillers.

'If you want to function as well as possible, stick to a low dose. And anyway, taking more of something doesn't necessarily mean it will be more effective.'

Mr John Rowles, an orthopaedic surgeon employed by the Southern Derbyshire NHS trust: 'I've suffered from long-term low back pain since the age of 16.

'It's occasionally unpleasant but I don't take pills - I've learnt to trust that it's something I'll be able to cope with.

'We need to put pain in perspective - I've seen people with relatively minor problems who complain about being in constant pain and also people with the most severe muscular- skeletal problems who lead full and active lives.

'Pursuing a completely pain-free life has actually made the former worse off.'


Alcohol intake: There's some evidence to suggest that drinking spirits may be worse than wine, because the alcohol content is higher and purer

Alcohol intake: There's some evidence to suggest that drinking spirits may be worse than wine

Dr Mark Hughes, dentist and clinical director at the Harley Street Dental Studio: 'In dental school, like most students, I enjoyed a drink or two. I particularly liked spirits such as vodka and whisky. I smoked, too - never very much, but socially around ten cigarettes a week.

'However, I cut down on both tobacco and spirits, after I discovered how prevalent oral cancer is - more common than cervical or breast cancer. It kills 1,700 people each year in the UK.

'Tobacco users, especially if they also drink and are over 40 years old, are at the highest risk.

'But alcohol intake is also a problem, and there's some evidence to suggest drinking spirits may be worse than wine, because the alcohol content is higher and purer. Now, I indulge in the odd glass of wine, but I stay off the whisky.'

Trevor Prior, a podiatrist from Premier Podiatry in Central London: 'I alternate my shoes every day. The sweat from your feet in your shoes needs more than just over- night to dry out properly otherwise you can get fungal infections, which thrive in warm, damp conditions.

'I used to suffer from these until I realised they cleared up whenever I went away on holiday and wore flipflops instead of shoes for a few days.'

Emma Wells, nutritionist at Smart Nutrition: 'People think it's a healthy option, but I've seen the problems it can cause , so I never drink fruit juice. Much better to rehydrate with water.

'Fruit juice tastes good, but the sugar and calorie content are both surprisingly high, so they are a quick and easy route to weight gain.

'Citrus fruit juices in particular are also very acidic and can contribute to IBS, migraines and skin problems such as psoriasis as well as tooth decay.

'A lot of fruit juice is also made from concentrate, which means it has been frozen, before having water reintroduced.

'This process reduces some of the beneficial antioxidant effects of having fruit juice in the first place - so it's even less worth bothering with.

'Try to get your vitamins by eating your fruit and vegetables instead.'

Barry Stevens, head of The Trichological Society, the oldest professional institution for trichologists in the world: 'No matter how much you know about the science of hair, you can't stop it falling out - I'm proof of that. As a man of 68, I'm relatively thin on top but because of my work, I know there is nothing I can do about it.

'All these cures you hear about are simply snake oil. There is nothing you can do to prevent male pattern baldness and it's simply a waste of time to try.

'The only thing that does make a difference is a hair transplant, an operation that I pioneered. 'I had it done in 2004, when some of my colleagues ran out of patients to practise on. I had a couple of thousand hairs put in and I've been pleased with the results.

'That's the only thing you can do to prevent yourself going bald, aside from choose the right grandparents. So much of what relates to our hair is genetically inspired.'

Paul Darroch, audiologist and founder of Darroch Hearing Aid Centres: 'It's not an excuse to get out of the DIY - well, not totally anyway - but I do try to stay clear of using power tools as much as possible.

'They are very loud machines and if you use them regularly without adequate ear protection, you risk permanently damaging your hearing.

'Of course, if you wear protective ear gear every time you use them you would probably be OK. But most people don't think to do that - and the damage can build up over the years.

'I'd rather just steer clear of them altogether, even if it means that the shelves in my house don't get put up.'

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