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Content Was Refreshed: 19 Nov 2018 | 00:49:30

Health & wellbeing | The Guardian

Latest Health & wellbeing news, comment and analysis from the Guardian, the world's leading liberal voice

As more and more women go under the knife in pursuit of curves, it’s clear they are paying with their health

The press briefing for October’s Clinical Cosmetic Reconstructive Expo in London was delayed – there had been another death. A cluster of journalists gathered on the mezzanine while below them visitors filtered past signs for She Lase and Zero Gravity Skin and a stand for a company called Eurosilicone that claims to have been “Empowering women for over 30 years”. At the far end of the conference hall, a woman was having her jawline enhanced with fillers in front of a rapt crowd; the Safety in Beauty stand was empty.

Back on the mezzanine, there was a rustle of suits as the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) entered the room. Apologies for the delay, one said solemnly, there has been another death. A second British woman has died this year after a Brazilian Butt Lift (BBL). Which made their announcement that they were henceforth warning surgeons not to perform the procedure particularly urgent. The brief was called “The Bottom Line”.

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Posted: November 18, 2018, 12:00 pm

It’s that time of year again – the trip to the chemist, the little room, the little jab. Eva Wiseman reveals why avoiding actual flu is not the only reason she loves having the shot

The most magical time of the year – flu jab day, my chosen Christmas. I love it. I love the efficiency of popping into the chemist at lunchtime, as if for a meal deal or tampon, and leaving with the knowledge that I’m safe from four strains of flu, as well as a meal deal and a tampon. I love the wait on the hard chairs, the cheery conversation with a stranger whose neck has completely gone and who’s had it up to here with her boss. Last year I had a good chat with a man waiting for his methadone – he said it tasted horrid.

I love to sit among those boxes of potential cures for whatever ails, whether head or feet or the hazy no-man’s land in between. I hear the lowered voices of people asking the chemist for bum cream, and prevent myself from shouting, in all my flu jab love: “We are all people my friend! Underneath our jacket, cardigan, T-shirt and pants, we are all people, and we all have a bum! Don’t be shy, you are home amongst your own kind.” At this time of year it is a constant struggle not to become one of the people that shouts affectionately at strangers.

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Posted: November 18, 2018, 8:59 am

At 24, he wanted to kill himself. Now a novelist, he teaches the readers of his books – and his children – how to get through when the future looks bleak

On a September day in Ibiza, the air scented with sea and pine, Matt Haig – then 24 – walked to a cliff edge planning to kill himself. He stopped one step away.

Reasons to Stay Alive, his account of this unravelling, the strange hell of depression and anxiety and his journey back from the edge, would become a bestseller 16 years later. Already a novelist by the time he wrote it, Haig saw the book as a “side project”, though it was anything but. Within weeks, he was getting 1,000 emails a day from grateful readers. Strangers stopped him on the street to thank him. Celebrity admirers included Steven Fry, Jo Brand and Ruby Wax – and Haig was catapulted into the role of mental health campaigner.

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Posted: November 17, 2018, 3:00 pm

Give me, uninterrupted, a new world for the evening, a performance that changes my mood and my mind

I’ll find myself in the office, at about 4pm, wondering whether I should go and see something at the theatre, looking online for availability that same evening, especially as the night draws darker and earlier. The good thing about going solo – which I mostly do – is that there is often a seat free, and discounted. I never plan ahead. I am lucky enough to live 20 minutes from the best productions in the world. Browse; book; bus.

The true joy is a play without an interval. Last year, the television writer Steven Moffat called for an end to intervals, which as an opinion earns a standing ovation from me. Intervals are rubbish: they disrupt the narrative; the toilet queues ribbon around the stairwells (I often just go to the men’s: discuss); and my fellow audience members are excruciatingly slow in leaving and returning to their seats (I thought I saw Vince Cable at the theatre once, and then realised that every single person at the theatre looks like Vince Cable). Intervals are getting longer and longer, too, like Peter Jackson films.

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Posted: November 17, 2018, 9:00 am

The baker and TV presenter on life after Bake Off, her husband’s awful cooking and family fun in the ‘flounge’

Sleep I get five hours. Once the kids – Musa, 12, Dawud, 11, and Maryam, eight – go to bed, I start working again, which means I’ve no time for my husband, Abdal. I go to bed about midnight and, as soon as my head hits the pillow, I’m gone. There have been times when I haven’t even heard the end of a sentence.

Eat It’s taken me three years to learn that just because I work in the food industry, it doesn’t mean that I have to eat every minute of every day. After Bake Off I put on a stone. Now, if I am hungry I’ll eat, and if I’m not, I won’t. Once a month we have dessert for dinner and my kids don’t have to have anything savoury if they don’t want to. They can have custard on top, or cream – whatever they want.

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Posted: November 17, 2018, 7:59 am

Forced to sit up straight, I had to confront my slouch. I’ve been a little more upright ever since

Horse riding raises the same question as ballet: why is an adult woman taking this up so late in life? This time I solved it by taking my eight-year-old with me, which brought a fresh problem: she’s a natural. She can’t do a rising trot for 50 yards without someone shouting “Brilliant!” at her. I’m not one of those mothers who says that about everything: her nickname is Harper the Quitter. So I felt a bit stupid, like I was trying to bust into her street dance troupe, but on the other hand, there I was, on a horse. And aren’t they lovely?

We went to Allendale riding school on the Isle of Wight, and got to the point quite fast: rising trot is nursery slopes stuff in riding terms but, as exercise, surprisingly strenuous. All its principles are the opposite of a regular workout. You can brace your abs if you feel minded, but nobody ever mentions them. Much more important is to put your weight in your heels, but with your toes pointing upwards, and to keep your legs relaxed.

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Posted: November 17, 2018, 7:00 am

What will it be – a canter on the beach or a gallop through history?

In the city Living in a city is no barrier to learning to ride a horse. Vauxhall city farm, in the London borough of Lambeth, is overlooked by the MI6 building, and surrounded by high-rise blocks. It offers lessons for adults and children.

On the beach Learn to ride on a beautiful stretch of sand at Nolton Stables in Pembrokeshire. There are 90-minute rides to Druidston Haven for all abilities. When riders reach the beach, they split up into smaller groups according to experience, including walkers, trotters and canterers.

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Posted: November 17, 2018, 7:00 am

As a new road cycling pantheon is launched, we ask who should be honoured for their efforts to promote cycling for all. Add your suggestions in the comments and we’ll select some of the best in a future post

The world of mountain biking has had a hall of fame since 1988. Road cycling has a few of them, including a UK-centric one from British Cycling – and now a new international one from Rouleur magazine launching on Thursday. But, to the best of my knowledge, transportation cycling has never had one.

Nature abhors a vacuum, so here’s our chance to start the Everyday Cycling Hall of Fame. I’ve taken the liberty of suggesting who I think ought to be the first 10 inductees. Who would you include?

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Posted: November 1, 2018, 7:00 am

Close passing and dooring are serious concerns but there is more to be done to make our streets safer and cleaner, from funding boosts to road planning

The announcement of a Highway Code review for walking and cycling is a forward step for active travel and road safety. It may not be the millions of pounds of investment needed, but it’s a start.

The Department for Transport (DfT) review will cover issues such as how to safely overtake cyclists, guidance on preventing car-dooring of cyclists, and giving pedestrians and cyclists the right of way at side roads.

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Posted: October 19, 2018, 6:00 am

The mayor of London is proud of his work boosting cycling in the capital, but his critics say too little is being done

On a blustery September day two years into his mayoralty of London, Sadiq Khan appears atop a Santander cycle to open a stretch of kerb-protected bike lane – the 2.5km extension of cycle superhighway 6, from Farringdon to Kings Cross. It may be the first time he’s appeared officially on a bike since his 2016 election campaign but he seems genuinely passionate about cycling and walking, and has clearly done his homework – even if some of his stats don’t tell the whole story.

Flanked by his deputy mayor for transport, Heidi Alexander, and his walking and cycling commissioner, Will Norman, Khan is bullish about his cycling record. This despite ongoing criticism over delays, and a bruising exchange with Westminster city council this summer – the council he brands “anti-walking, anti-cycling” after it blocked cycle superhighway 11 and Oxford Street pedestrianisation in quick succession.

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Posted: September 21, 2018, 11:24 am

Tackling a tough, three-day course around Stavanger, Peter Kimpton battles the elements to discover a stunning landscape that involves as much water as land

Garlanded with wispy clouds, jagged mountains rise sharply above glassy lakes, reflected to sky with such perfection you are almost dizzy with how upside down it all appears. Or is that a mirage – from exhaustion? From the moment 250 cyclists clattered nervously, like skinny, helmeted warriors on to a ferry at 6.45am to battle through the water in mist and rain for 45 minutes even before the start, it was clear this would be no ordinary event. Cycling in Norway is less travelling on land, more an undulating series of roads and bridges linking breathtaking fjords; a constant movement between mountain, sea and lake.

Haute Routes sportives are always challenging, designed to replicate professional-level riding, except unlike Alpine routes, this inaugural event is three days long, pleasingly located in one place, the harbour city of Stavanger on Norway’s west coast. One hotel, one race village nearby, and three days of circular routes. So the logistics were easy, everything close at hand, and the post-ride food and massages were excellent.

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Posted: September 14, 2018, 6:00 am

One practice prescribing activities saw 20% cut in hospital outpatient admissions

Boxing, bingo and Bollywood dancing are being prescribed on the NHS in a pilot project that GPs claim is reducing their workload by cutting the number of non-medical issues they deal with.

“Community prescribing” sees patients sent to exercise classes and sessions on debt and housing advice in church halls and pubs for issues that GPs are not qualified to address.

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Posted: November 18, 2018, 3:01 pm

Government aims to avoid ‘harmful effects’ caused by acupuncture and homeopathy

The Spanish government has announced plans to eradicate alternative medicine such as acupuncture or homeopathy from health centres.

The proposal, unveiled by the science and health ministers, aims to avoid the “potential harmful effects” of the practices when they are used as an alternative or a complement to treatment that is itself based on “proof and scientific rigour”, the government said in a statement.

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Posted: November 14, 2018, 6:24 pm

Study of remote communities in Venezuelan rainforest sheds fresh light on hypertension

A western lifestyle might be the reason blood pressure tends to rise with age, according to a study of remote tribal communities.

Hypertension is a key risk factor for cardiovascular disease, and in many developed countries, including the UK, the likelihood of developing increases with age. More than a quarter of adults in England have high blood pressure, with recent figures showing the proportion rises to 58% among those aged 65-74.

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Posted: November 14, 2018, 4:00 pm

Having genetic variants linked to high BMI can lead to mental health issues, study finds

Being overweight can cause depression, researchers say, with the effects thought to be largely psychological.

While previous studies have found that people who are obese are more likely to have depression, it has been unclear whether that is down to depression driving weight changes or the reverse.

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Posted: November 13, 2018, 5:00 am

Each Baby Counts project analyses cases of stillbirth, neonatal death and babies born with brain damage

Seven out of 10 stillbirths, neonatal deaths and babies brain damaged at birth could be avoided if the NHS provided better care during labour, a new government-funded report has found.

The inquiry identified lack of staff, the pressure on maternity units and a failure by midwives and obstetricians to follow guidelines as common factors in such events.

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Posted: November 13, 2018, 12:01 am

There are many diets you can follow if you want to live more healthily, but it’s hard to know which has the best long-term effects? Luckily, a team of experts has done the research

Losing weight is a common new year’s resolution. Even when dressed up as a pledge to eat more healthily, it can be tinged with self-loathing. Those pigs in blankets, mince pies and Baileys. Why, oh why? But at least anyone who wants to improve their diet has a fantastic resource to help them. With perfect timing, a US panel of experts in diet, obesity, diabetes, heart disease and food psychology has scrutinised and ranked 40 diets. Its listings, which are produced annually, show which diets are best for short- and long-term weight loss, which are easiest to follow, which you are most likely to stick with – and which are unsafe because they don’t supply enough nutrients.

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Posted: January 5, 2018, 4:18 pm

A new study suggests canine-lovers could be 23% less likely to die from heart disease – or it could just be that healthier people prefer dogs

Dogs really are our best friends, according to a Swedish study that says canine ownership could reduce heart disease. A study of 3.4 million people between the ages of 40 and 80 found that having a dog was associated with a 23% reduction in death from heart disease and a 20% lower risk of dying from any cause over the 12 years of the study. Previous studies have suggested dogs relieve social isolation and depression – both linked to an increased risk of heart disease and early death.

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Posted: December 4, 2017, 7:00 am
More than a quarter of new fathers in a new study showed significant levels of depression – what are the causes, and what can they do about it?

Men don’t go through pregnancy or childbirth. Their hormone levels don’t nosedive. They don’t get sore nipples. What exactly have they got to be depressed about? Quite a lot, according to research from Sweden showing that, over the past 10 years, a significant number of men have struggled with the transition to fatherhood.

This latest research tries to quantify just how many men get postnatal depression. Previous studies have found between 4% and 10% of men, while, in this smallish sample of 447 Swedish fathers who volunteered (and may therefore not represent your average dad), a surprising 28% of men had symptoms that scored above mild levels of depression. Overall, 4% had moderate depression. Fewer than one in five fathers who were depressed sought help, even though a third of those had thought about harming themselves. While women in the UK are often asked a series of questions that screen for postnatal depression (which affects up to 13% of women), the mental health of fathers is rarely assessed.

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Posted: November 13, 2017, 8:00 am
If you have sensitive skin, doctors recommend moisturisers without fragrance or allergic ingredients, but terms such as ‘hypoallergenic’ and ‘dermatologist-recommended’ are often just marketing tools

What do you look for in a body moisturiser? Is it the smell, how smooth it leaves your skin feeling, or how much it costs? If you are attracted by terms such as “dermatologist recommended” or “hypoallergenic”, you may be disappointed. A study of the top 100 best-selling whole body moisturisers found that not only did prices vary by 9,400% but that 95% of the products claiming to be dermatologist-recommended had at least one ingredient that could cause an allergy. Of the hypoallergenic moisturisers, 83% contained a substance on the allergen list of the North American Contact Dermatitis Group (NACDG). The most common potential allergy-causing ingredients were fragrance mix and paraben mix (a preservative).

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Posted: October 30, 2017, 7:00 am

A new report suggests that young people are aware of their parents’ drinking – and it may well have an impact on their relationship with alcohol. So should you keep booze out of the family home?

When you’re drinking wine at home, don’t look as if you’re enjoying it – at least not if you have kids. How much you drink, how often you say: ‘Ah, that’s nice,’ while imbibing and whether you use alcohol as a reward or coping mechanism can all encourage adolescents to drink, according to a report last week from the Institute of Alcohol Studies.

In case you think it’s OK for teenagers to drink, the Department of Health advises children have an alcohol-free life until the age of 15 and only one drink a week until they are 18. In 2009, Prof Liam Donaldson, the Chief Medical Officer at the time, warned that “exposing children to drink-fuelled events” was one of the root causes of the UK’s drinking problem.

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Posted: October 23, 2017, 6:00 am

It’s hard to urge a parent to get help, says Annalisa Barbieri, but he needs support to adapt

My father is in his 50s and has a senior position in a global company, but he has just been told that he’s being made redundant. He worked his way up from nothing. His own family didn’t have much money, and his own father used to talk him down, which he’s admitted diminished his confidence. He has the strongest work ethic of anyone I know and is remunerated well; he and my mother have a good standard of living. He would do anything for his family – practically and emotionally, he’s been a great support.

At times when Dad and I have been alone, he has talked about the huge responsibility he feels in paying the mortgage and making sure he and my mum have enough money for retirement. He wishes he could retire early, but says it can’t happen any time soon. My mother looks after their finances and has told me they are fine financially, and that if he wanted to, they could take early retirement and be comfortable.

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Posted: November 16, 2018, 3:00 pm

We had only been together a short time when her mum died, but we grew very close. Since the funeral she has closed up on me and I don’t know if I should stick around

I met a woman online three months ago and we had an instant connection. After a few days, she confided that her mum had cancer. After a week of nonstop texting we met up and started seeing each other. A month later, her mum died and I never left her side. She decided I needed to be there for the funeral, which was a big step for us both (as was her meeting my two kids). But the next day, she closed up on me, saying she didn’t know when she would be back to her old self again. I am torn. Is she going to throw away what we had, or should I stick around?

• When leaving a message on this page, please be sensitive to the fact that you are responding to a real person in the grip of a real-life dilemma, who wrote to Private Lives asking for help, and may well view your comments here. Please consider especially how your words or the tone of your message could be perceived by someone in this situation, and be aware that comments that appear to be disruptive or disrespectful to the individual concerned will be removed.

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Posted: November 16, 2018, 12:01 pm
I find my girlfriend of seven months very attractive, so why do I lose my erection during intercourse?

My girlfriend and I have been in a relationship for seven months, and we started being sexual four months ago. But I can’t get erect without oral sex and, during intercourse, I can’t stay hard for more than about 40 seconds. I find my girlfriend very attractive, and there are strong sensual feelings and love between us. Why is this happening? What is the reason for losing erection during intercourse and reaching it only via oral sex?

It takes time to learn the art of comfortably switching between different types of sensual stimuli. Sometimes, it is difficult for a man to adjust to the difference between the feelings of oral and vaginal sex – especially if he has expectations that this should be immediate. Slow down and allow yourself time to bridge these two uniquely different sexual sensations. For now, your girlfriend may be willing to help you by delaying the switch to intercourse until you are closer to an orgasmic threshold. But it is actually quite common for a man to lose erection during intercourse, and this is often triggered by anxiety. During oral sex, you can relax and enjoy receiving pleasure without performance anxiety or fear of failure. By contrast, intercourse presents significant challenges. In this situation it is important to try to relax and to avoid being goal-oriented or expecting a perfect “performance”. And just because you embark on intercourse at a particular point during lovemaking does not mean you have to continue. Try to reach an understanding with your girlfriend that it is OK to take a break from intercourse and return to oral sex, and that this should not be a cause of anxiety for either of you. Most importantly, learn to pleasure her without involving your penis; skilful clitoral stimulation is usually a very acceptable make-up strategy.

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Posted: November 12, 2018, 8:00 am

You are making it easy for your older sister to dominate you, Mariella Frostrup tells a woman in her 20s that she no longer needs to play by the old rules

The dilemma My older sister and I are both in our mid-20s but have never been close. From a young age she would show her strength, picking fights and, as we got older, these became more verbal. We have not been in each other’s lives much over the past 10 years, but what was normal teenage behaviour has transformed into a negative adult relationship. She seems to have a genuine dislike for me that I don’t want to put down to jealousy. That is so petty and I’m not sure what she would be jealous of. She makes me feel incredibly insecure. When I see her I have terrible anxiety and the things she’s called me (lazy and tight with money) are unfounded and mean. I get highly emotional and she doesn’t seem to care, switching from anger to cracking a joke minutes later. I recently spoke to my mother about this and she said she could see that my sister acts unfairly towards me, but she doesn’t want to get involved. I should also say that our father is currently undergoing cancer treatment which has put even more strain on our relationship, but I am trying to hold it together for our parents’ sake.

Mariella replies As you should. I’m sorry to hear about your dad and hope he makes a swift recovery. Sibling rivalry is as old as humanity itself, so your dilemma, while compelling, isn’t surprising or easily solved. It is, however, timely as the festivities approach and, along with the joy of reunions and gift giving, comes the less heart-warming prospect of immersion in family dynamics that haven’t changed since childhood.

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Posted: November 18, 2018, 5:59 am
Content Was Refreshed: 19 Nov 2018 | 00:49:30