Whelehans Health Blog

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Weight, body mass index and waist circumference

Have you been inspired by RTE’s “Operation Transformation”? Committed to making a positive change in 2016? An important part of getting started on the path to real change is to understand where you are now, starting with this question….Do you know your numbers? Knowing your own vital numbers gives you your starting point.

As part of our commitment to helping you be healthier in 2016, Whelehans have teamed up the Operation Transformation team to offer you the opportunity to have your BMI, weight and waist measurements measured at no charge by a qualified nutritionist.  Next Saturday 9th January, we host a “Do you know your numbers” weight management event with Nutritionist Aisling Murray at Whelehans Pharmacy. Our nutritionist will offer free BMI, weight and waist measurements as well as nutrition advice in one to one consultations. Simply call Whelehans at 04493 34591 to book your free check.

Body Mass Index (BMI)

Many experts recognise body mass index (BMI) as the most accurate way to determine if you are a healthy weight for your height by providing a numerical rating. Recent medical research uses BMI as an indicator of an individual’s health status and disease risk.
Below are the ranges for BMI values for adults:

Health risk
Less than 18.5
Osteoporosis, infertility and lung disease. Recommended to speak to a GP.
Healthy Weight
18.6 – 24.9
Low risk of a weight related disease.
25.0 – 29.9
type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, gallbladder disease and certain cancers.
Greater than 30
Higher risk of all the above diseases.

 BMI doesn’t tell the whole picture (like where on the body you are carrying weight and what that weight is eg. Muscle, tissue or fat). BMI is just an indicator to follow. BMI is beneficial for assessing a person’s risk of disease, such as heart disease and diabetes and can give an indication of how likely you are to develop these diseases. BMI is only suitable for someone who participates in light exercise.

Waist Circumference

Carrying weight around your stomach compared to elsewhere on the body, is directly linked with an increased risk of certain chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers. The reason carrying weight around your stomach (trunk region) makes you more susceptible to chronic diseases are due to the hormones which are produced as a result and they have a negative impact on our bodies.

How to measure your waist?
To measure your waist, you need to find the bottom of your rips and the top of your hips. Your waist is located in the middle of these two points (for the majority of people this will be around the belly button). A measuring tape is then wrapped around your bare skin or a light shirt. Make sure to be relaxed, exhale and then measure your waist. A common mistake regularly made is assuming your waist is where your trousers sit.

The table below indicates your risk of ill health depending on your waist measurement. These measurements refer to adults only. 

Waist measurement
Healthy Range
36 inches or less
31 inches or less
Overweight range
37- 40 inches
32 – 35 inches
Obese range
40 inches or over
35 inches or over

Overweight range
Regardless of your height or build, if your waist measurement is over 32 inches as a woman and 37 inches as a man you are considered to be in the overweight range. This doesn’t necessarily mean an individual is obese; what it indicates is that the person is carrying excess weight around their middle and are at an increased risk of diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers. If you are in the overweight range, making healthy lifestyle changes, improving your diet and increasing exercise will help reduce or prevent any further increases in your waist.

Keeping the weight off longer term
Once you know your numbers you have the benchmark you need to set your own goals and targets. To help you achieve all you want to, have you thought about taking advantage of a professional nutrition service? If you have been thinking of doing something about your weight or diet for a while, perhaps it is time to take advantage of the nutrition service at Whelehans where you can get the comprehensive support and information you need to help you reach your target weight.

Whelehans Nutrition Service is now at a special weekly rate of only €10 per week. Your private and confidential one to one appointments with our qualified nutritionist Aisling Murray Bsc are held in our purpose built consultation room within the pharmacy. Aisling, will help you each step of the way to reach your goals through a mix of weekly weight checks, support along with professional dietary and nutritional advice.

Take the first step on the path to a new you in 2016, call 04493 34591 now for more information or to book your free place at our free weight managment event next Saturday January 9th. With the first installment of Operation Transformation airing on RTE on Wednesday January 6th at 8:30pm, our event will be popular and with places limited, be sure to call quickly to secure your place

For comprehensive and free health advice and information call in to Whelehans, log on to www.whelehans.ie or dial 04493 34591. Email queries to info@whelehans.ie.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

The myths about alcohol and hangovers (uncovered)

With Christmas and New Year’s party season well and truly underway I thought it would be a good time to discuss facts about alcohol and dispel some of the myths we have about alcohol. Alcohol is safe if drank in moderation. Alcohol releases endorphins in the brain which is why it makes us feel good (and why it is so addictive); it also affects the area of the brain that causes inhibition which is why it makes us talk more and feel more relaxed. In this article I only discuss the short term effects of drink. There are also many long term health dangers of heavy drinking. According to Dr Conor Farren, a consultant who deals with alcohol addiction in St Patrick’s hospital in Dublin, abuse of alcohol can cause 63 different diseases to our body.

What causes a hangover?
The unpleasant symptoms experienced during a hangover are mainly caused by three factors. (1) The diuretic effect of alcohol that causes the drinker to pass more urine and thus become dehydrated. (2) The toxic effects of by-product of alcohol metabolism (acetaldehyde) (3) Depletion of vitamin A, vitamin C, the B vitamins (especially vitamin B6), magnesium, potassium and calcium. Co-geners are another cause of hangovers. These are impurities created during the fermentation of some types of alcohol. Low quality wines and dark drinks tend to have high levels of co-geners. A general rule of thumb is the darker your drink, the worse the hangover. Certain chemicals added to some drinks such as preservatives and sweeteners also make the hangover worse.

The symptoms of hangovers
Symptoms of hangovers can include some or all of the following class of symptoms:

Constitutional: Fatigue, weakness, and thirst. Pain: Headache and muscle aches. Gastrointestinal: Nausea, vomiting, and stomach ache. Sleep and Biological Rhythms: Decreased sleep including decreased deep sleep which means the sleep you do get does not leave you refreshed. Sensory: Dizziness and sensitivity to light and sound. Cognitive: Decreased attention and concentration. Mood: Depression, anxiety, and irritability. Sympathetic Hyperactivity: Tremor, sweating, and increased pulse and blood pressure.
How long will a hangover last?
Hangover symptoms usually begin within a few hours of the drinking session ending when the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) begins to fall. The symptoms usually peak at the time when the person’s BAC returns to zero. Hangover symptoms can last from a few hours to up to 24 hours. Some binge drinkers develop a tolerance for alcohol which means they do not get hangovers, however their performance at work or other areas of their life will be affected.

Is there a cure for hangovers?
There is no cure for a hangover. Apart from drinking in moderation (or not drinking) there is no guaranteed way of preventing one. Hangover cures are generally a myth. Dehydration is the main culprit; three times as much fluid is lost than is taken in while drinking alcohol because of the diuretic effect alcohol has on the kidneys; this is because alcohol inhibits a hormone called anti-diuretic hormone (ADH). The symptoms of a hangover can be reduced by rehydrating with water before going to bed. The best way to deal with “the morning after” symptoms is to rehydrate by drinking plenty of fluids. You can replace lost fluids by drinking bland liquids that are easy on the stomach such as still or sparkling water and isotonic drinks. Water also helps dilute the leftover byproducts of alcohol in the stomach. Adding salt and sugar to water helps replace the sodium and glucose lost the night before. Many believe that fatty or fried foods the next morning will ease the symptoms; however this is more likely to irritate an already delicate stomach. Over the counter painkillers can help with headaches and muscle cramps. Sugary foods may help reduce trembling. An antacid may ease an upset stomach. Food helps slow the absorption of alcohol so it takes alcohol longer to reach your blood stream, thus reducing the risk of becoming intoxicated and your hangover may not be as bad. Lining the stomach with a glass of milk before drinking may slow down the absorption of alcohol very slightly. Replenishing vitamins and minerals lost may help as alcohol robs our body of many vitamins and minerals. Some people believe that taking a supplement such a vitamin C or B complex supplement can help.

Why do hangovers get worse as we get older?
Many of us have heard people saying (or said it ourselves) that hangovers get worse as you hit your 30’s or 40’s compared to when you were in your early 20’s. Is this just our imagination? There is truth in this and there is a scientific explanation. Our body uses the enzymes alcohol dehydrogenase (ALDH) and aldehyde dehydrogenase (ADH) to break down alcohol. As we get older, these enzymes reduce in efficiency meaning that it takes longer for the body to get rid of the toxic byproducts of alcohol such as acetaldehyde which leads to longer and more unpleasant hangovers.

Happy New Year to all readers from all at Whelehans Pharmacy, 38 Pearse St, Mullingar.

Eamonn Brady is a pharmacist and the owner of Whelehans Pharmacy, Pearse St, Mullingar. If you have any health questions e-mail them to info@whelehans.ie

 This article is shortened for this health blog. More detailed information and leaflets is available in Whelehans or www.whelehans.ie