News, updates, articles and discussions from healthcare professionals.
News, updates, articles and discussions from healthcare professionals.
The Dangers Of StressStress. It’s a word associated with present-day society and yet its origins go way back to prehistoric times. For millennia, humans have relied on stress in order to get things done – at first as a tool for physical survival and now, a tool for surviving the demands of modern life. But unless kept under control, stress can cause more harm than good. And with one in five UK adults claiming to feel stressed more days every month than not, it’s fair to say that our stress isn’t exactly under control. To understand why this is an issue, and how to keep your stress in check, you have to first understand what makes stress so dangerous.Why is stress dangerous?Stress is the body’s natural reaction to danger, whether that’s actual danger (like our prehistoric ancestors stumbling across a sabre-toothed tiger) or perceived danger (like our boss’s wrath if that report isn’t turned in on time). When you experience a stressful event, your brain sends a distress signal to other areas of your body, causing a flurry of physical and mental reactions. These reactions vary from person to person and range in severity, but common symptoms of stress can include:HeadachesStomach achesA racing heartFeeling overwhelmedRapid breathingChanges in appetiteTrouble sleeping When these symptoms are experienced rarely and briefly, they generally cause little to no harm and therefore stress can actually be a net benefit, helping us to achieve our goals and stay on top of demanding schedules.However, when stress grows out of control it can become incapacitating. In fact, in 2021, stress, anxiety, and depression accounted for 50% of all work-related health problems, having a devastating impact on the nation’s productivity. But beyond harming productivity, unchecked stress can also contribute towards the development of serious health problems in certain individuals. The effects of stressFeeling stressed may be unpleasant but, unfortunately, the effects of stress can be a lot more dangerous than simply having a bad day, week, or month. When it comes to personal health, the more serious effects of stress can vary broadly, but might include the following.Difficulty regulating emotionsConsistent stress, even when mild, can contribute towards loss of control over your emotions. It’s easier to understand why this is if you remember that your body has limited energy to expend. When you’re stressed, your body thinks that it is under attack and has to spend more energy fighting this. Therefore, it has less energy available for controlling emotions, which it doesn’t perceive to be as immediate a problem. The damage caused by this can be cyclical – as your stress grows, it becomes harder to manage your emotions and look after yourself, which in turn causes more stress, and so on. This can make it incredibly hard to get out of the cycle once you’re in it and can soon begin to dominate your life.Increased likelihood of ill healthChronic stress is associated with the development of more serious conditions, both physical and mental. This is because the body is not designed to be in fight or flight mode permanently and therefore, when this happens, normal functioning is disrupted. The long-term effects of chronic stress still aren’t fully understood but we know that the stress hormone cortisol plays a large part. Cortisol is involved in the regulation of the body’s inflammatory response and when cortisol levels are too high, inflammation levels rise. Inflammation has been linked to a plethora of health issues, including depression, obesity, susceptibility to infectious diseases, Alzheimer’s, and cancer. Poor heart healthOver time, stress puts strain on the heart because of the continued release of adrenaline. Adrenaline is another hormone that’s key to the body’s fight or flight response, and it causes your heart rate to speed up. This can lead to high blood pressure, which itself can develop into an increased risk of heart attacks or strokes. What’s more, common habits for mitigating stress such as overeating, smoking, and lack of exercise can exacerbate this risk.Negative impact on dietStress can affect your diet in one of two main ways – drastically undereating or overeating. Undereating is the body’s natural reaction to stress in the short term and, harking back to those prehistoric ancestors, is caused by the need to be in high alert, ready-to-escape-threat mode, rather than the relaxing ritual of eating. Overeating is caused by the desire to seek pleasure-releasing hormones as a response to stress – often referred to as ‘comfort eating’.These results are thought to be caused by adrenaline or cortisol, and both can cause further problems including health issues related to either obesity or being underweight, as well as mental health difficulties.Contribution towards premature agingStress is well known to cause premature ageing, both on a superficial and biological level. Cortisol can break down the skin’s collagen and elastin, resulting in premature wrinkles. Without getting too deep into the complex science behind biological ageing, the key takeaway is that prolonged exposure to stress can cause cells to age faster than usual, resulting in an accelerated ageing process.Premature ageing can cause a whole range of additional knock-on issues, such as low self-esteem, and speed up the development of health problems. As stress puts your more at risk of developing health problems anyway, the impact can be incredibly detrimental.Weakened immune systemOur immune systems become less capable when we’re under continuous stress, meaning minor illnesses like viruses and infections can impact us more readily. It makes it harder for your body to both fight off infections in the first place and to overcome the infection if it is able to break through your immune system’s first line of defence. This is, again, thought to be because of the effects of cortisol, which limits our immune system’s ability to fight off antigens.Decreased lifespanHeavy stress is thought to be able to reduce your lifespan by up to as much as three years. And this impact can be exacerbated by any of the above other effects of stress – if you smoke, overeat, drink too much alcohol, or develop poor heart health as a result of stress, your lifespan may be further shortened. How to avoid the dangers of stressBefore reading this article becomes a stressful experience in itself, remember: it’s not all doom and gloom. While it’s unrealistic to think that we can live our lives devoid of stress, we also shouldn’t want to. As stated earlier, stress can be incredibly useful in the right doses. And there are plenty of tips, tricks and coping mechanisms that we have at our disposal to help achieve a balance.The most important thing is learning how to manage your stress. Fortunately, the medical advice on how to do this is pretty simple! Some of the most commonly shared techniques that will help you to minimise stress are to:Exercise regularly Get fresh air and sunlightEat a balanced diet Meditate and practice mindfulnessLearn what your triggers areBe realistic about your goals and expectationsThere are also a range of healthcare treatments that could help you to manage stress, including acupuncture, yoga, counselling, and hypnotherapy. While they’re not ‘cures’ for the effects of stress, they can certainly help to mitigate them in some people.My Health Assistant has been designed with stress-reduction in mind, making it quicker and easier to find health professionals in your area. If you’d benefit from some help in making lasting changes to your life, whether in the form of one of the treatments listed or even from a nutritionist or personal trainer, search for the service you want and find support near you.Read more
Liam Francis Collins, 31, is an actor from Manchester who is passionate in his advocacy for openness surrounding mental health struggles. “Up until I was 21 I didn’t really understand what depression was. It didn’t make sense to me.” Liam explained. “It’s sort of a suffocation of the mind. You can’t just stop, and that’s the hardest thing.” During his ten-year battle with mental health issues - initially triggered by a series of upsetting events that occurred within a three-month period - Liam has discovered a plethora of helpful techniques and resources including therapy, yoga and exercise. “I think it definitely helped me.” Liam explains, speaking of his experience with therapy. “Just talking to someone - it’s going to help a great deal. No matter how you feel - if you’ve got that willingness to be open and speak to someone it does the world of good.”Liam also leans heavily on physical activities to support him in his struggles with his mental health. “When I first started yoga [I realised that] not only was it good for the body and the muscles, but for the discipline and the mind. It was the best thing I ever did. There have [also] been so many times when I’ve woken up and I did feel really down [but] I felt so much better just from going for a run. That’s my medicine - I need to do exercise. I’m convinced that it helps - without a shadow of a doubt.”Not content with just helping himself, Liam also put his talents to good use in 2019 when he wrote and starred in his award-winning debut short film - “My Toughest Battle“. The short film follows a young boxer who is plagued by mental health issues, and is now used in schools and colleges to educate young people on the importance of speaking out when struggling with their mental health. Liam is now confident in being open and unashamed of his struggles, and hopes that one day everyone can feel that way too. “I hope that we can get to a place one day where talking about our own mental health is as normal as talking about the weather, or ‘what did you do today?’ at the dinner table. I’d love that to be the case [in] the future.” Watch Liam’s Story here; If you’re struggling with your own mental health, there are many places to seek support. Samaritans - 116 123 (24/7) https://www.samaritans.org/ National Suicide Prevention - 0800 689 5652 (24/7) https://www.nsphuk.org/ CALM - 0800 58 58 58 (5pm - midnight) https://www.thecalmzone.net/ The Mix - 0808 808 4994 (Under 25s, 3pm - midnight) https://www.themix.org.uk/ Contact 111 or 999 for urgent or emergency helpRead more
The Effects of Dehydration on the BodyWe all know that water is good for us, but the effects of dehydration are actually much more serious than many people realise. Ensuring you’re sufficiently hydrated is a critical aspect of managing your health, cognition and overall wellness. After all, our bodies are made up of 60% water! Like it or not, we’re basically cucumbers with complicated feelings and jobs. What is dehydration?Before we get into the nitty gritty, let's first find out what dehydration actually means. It’s a word that gets thrown around quite a lot, but dehydration refers specifically to the result of excessive water loss - often defined as a loss of more than 2% of your bodily fluids. Loss of fluids is a completely normal element of natural bodily function and occurs every day through sweating, peeing and more, but it’s when those lost fluids aren’t replaced that issues can arise. When your body is dehydrated, it doesn’t have enough water to carry out its normal functions, meaning it can struggle to operate as usual, resulting in the side effects that are commonly associated with dehydration. Now that you know what dehydration actually means, grab yourself a cold one (water, that is) and take a look at all of the weird and (not so) wonderful things your body gets up to when it doesn’t have enough of the cool, blue stuff. How does dehydration occur and who is most at risk?The leading causes of dehydration are excessive sweating, some medications (such as diuretics or antihistamines), stomach bugs that cause vomiting and diarrhoea, and simply not drinking enough fluids throughout the day. We really should be drinking around eight glasses of fluid a day - and no-added-sugar squash, tea and coffee (without sugar!) and low fat milk all count towards your daily intake. So there’s really no excuse!Those most at risk of dehydration include people reliant on others for their fluid intake (such as children and the elderly), people with physical disabilities or chronic illnesses (such as diabetes, kidney diseases and Alzheimer’s) and anyone who exercises vigorously in hot conditions. What does dehydration do to the body? Dehydration affects our body, our mind and even our good looks! It can cause muscle cramps, excess sugar cravings (which can lead to weight gain), brain fog, dull skin, low blood pressure, sunken eyes - the list goes on!How, exactly? Well, since our body is made up of around 60% water, it understandably plays a central role in regulating all sorts of bodily functions including protecting organs, flushing out waste and toxins, and carrying nutrients and oxygen around the body. When our hydration levels drop and we become dehydrated, your body has limited resources to perform these regular functions, which can lead to depleted levels of sodium and electrolytes and, in turn, physical and cognitive issues. Symptoms of dehydrationThe effects of dehydration on the body can lead directly to adverse symptoms, but these often present differently depending on a range of factors including your age, general health, and how dehydrated you are. Be on the lookout for any of the following symptoms in yourself or a person in your care:In adultsExtreme thirstLess frequent urinationDark-colored urineFatigueDizzinessConfusionIn childrenDry mouth and tongueCrying without tearsNo wet nappies over three hoursSunken eyes and cheeksSunken soft spotLack of energy or irritability Potential serious consequences The symptoms of dehydration are our warning sign that something isn’t right but, left untreated, dehydration can have more serious consequences. Ongoing unaddressed dehydration can result in a range of serious health problems including:Urinary tract infections (UTIs)Kidney infectionsSeizures and muscle contractionsLoss of consciousnessHeat exhaustionThat’s why it’s so important to act on the early symptoms of dehydration when they present – if you don’t rehydrate relatively quickly, you run the risk of much more serious complications. How to prevent dehydrationDehydration can affect the body quickly, so the best approach to tackling it is to work towards preventing it occurring in the first place. Knowing how to prevent dehydration is particularly important in the hotter months of the year, when hydration levels can drop more rapidly. You can easily prevent dehydration by ensuring you practice regular hydration - especially in hot weather or after exercise. Aim to drink around eight glasses (or two litres) of fluid per day and ensure that you pay extra attention to rehydrating after sweating or suffering with vomiting and/or diarrhoea. If you experience any mild symptoms of dehydration, rehydration should be enough to relieve them. However, if you suspect that you or somebody in your care is suffering from the effects of extreme dehydration then contact a medical professional immediately. Now you know the dangers of dehydration, what are you waiting for? Pour yourself a nice cool glass of water and get your water intake to where it should be.Read more
Picture this: it’s 5.45am, your alarm goes off and you shuffle into the bathroom. You fumble for the light switch, and as you rub your stinging eyes you can’t help but notice through the frosted glass that it’s still dark outside. You get ready in a daze; tea and toast, a toothpaste stain on your tie and sips of watery coffee from a travel mug as you wait for your windscreen to defrost. It’s just another Thursday. As you dawdle into work a familiar thought enters your mind - “Maybe I should go self-employed?” You quickly dismiss it. After all, being self-employed isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and it would be far too difficult to organise and keep on top of. Right?At My Health Assistant we know that your time as a healthcare professional is invaluable, so we’re committed to shouldering as much of the heavy lifting as possible - enabling you to focus your time and energy where it really matters.Our app is an all-in-one marketing tool and virtual office. Patients can find and connect with you directly through our search engine, and our app can manage your diary, take online bookings for day(s) or hours(s) you want, even raise invoices and take payments so you don’t have to. We’ll make sure you have the correct professional insurance and even handle your annual tax-returns through our partner companies, as well as offering legal support and additional PA services. Still not convinced? Here are a few of the most compelling benefits of being self-employed that might help you to make your mind up. 1. Better work-life balanceThe days of wearing burn-out like a badge of honour are over. The importance of a healthy work-life balance is becoming increasingly more apparent, and as a self-employed worker you are in complete control of your working hours. A poor work-life balance can lead to increased stress, reduced productivity and an inability to focus on the task at hand. Long days can also lead to damaged relationships, as important events and time with loved ones fall further down the list of priorities.Complete flexibility and freedom in your working week allows you to prioritise your time and create a schedule on your own terms. You can plan your appointments around prior commitments, and adapt your working hours depending on how you feel and what you need.Being self-employed allows you to do the job you love, whilst also ensuring you never lose focus of what matters most to you. 2. More control over your incomeAnother benefit of being self-employed is the ability to set your own hours which, in turn, gives you complete control over your income and allows you to plan ahead with ease.Not only can you set your own rate of pay as a self-employed professional, but you are 100% in control of your timetable and schedule. In other words, you can work and earn as much (or as little) as you wish!You don’t have to work full-time hours either – you can simply top-up your current salary by working one day or evening a week, become completely self-employed or do anything in between!Working as a professional with My Health Assistant enables you to access all of the benefits and the convenience of being self-employed without worrying about any of the formalities. We handle everything else for you, allowing you to spend more quality time with your patients. 3. Your career, your wayOne of the biggest advantages of being self-employed is the ability to direct your own career progression. When you are your own boss you have complete control over your own path. You aren’t bound by the job roles available to you in your place of work, and are able to advance and grow at your own pace. The direction of your career can be moulded to suit your life and current circumstances perfectly, and My Health Assistant can support you in taking the steps necessary to reach your goals. 4. Increased autonomyWhen you work as an employee for an existing business, you have to fit into their ways of working and typically don’t get the chance to make meaningful choices of your own. As a self-employed professional, on the other hand, you benefit from near-complete autonomy and who you work with.That freedom can give you new-found job satisfaction as you see the direct impact of your choices and can make of your business exactly what you want. But aside from that, it can also offer more immediately tangible benefits including the ability to choose where your office is (or if you even have one!), who you hire, and how you operate. 5. Variety where you want itWork days as an employee are generally predictable, even in the healthcare sector. Everyone has their own role within a multi-disciplinary team and you’ll typically know exactly what you’ll be doing every day that you turn up to work. Some people like things that way, but for everyone else, self-employment provides the opportunity to inject some variety into your work-life. As a business owner, you can choose what roles to take responsibility for yourself and which to delegate to employees, agencies, or software solutions. If you’ve always wanted to give marketing a go, self-employment allows you to spread your wings. Got a penchant for bookkeeping? You can be your own accountant. And solutions like My Health Assistant can help you to unload the burdens you don’t want, with tools including marketing, calendar management, invoicing, and PA services all available in one handy platform. Should I go self-employed?At the end of the day, the most important factor in deciding whether self-employment is the right choice for you is your own preference. But, if you want more control over your work-life balance, ways of working, and earning potential, becoming a self-employed professional is one of the best ways to achieve it. Ready to make the leap? You don’t have to go it alone. If you’re interested in pursuing a new self-employed life in the healthcare sector, whether you want to work for yourself part-time or set up your own practice with staff, we can guide you along the way. Read more about the support we can offer you as a professional, or get in touch with us directly to ask any further questions you have. Your profession, your journey, your choice.Let us take care of you.Read more
What is the one thing that would improve your quality of life?Many people could reel off a list as long as their arm; reduced pain, a clearer mind, help in supporting loved-ones, a shoulder to lean on, improved fitness, etc.Really, what it all boils down to is our health. Imagine having access to healthcare options without the commitment of hefty insurance fees or an ongoing subscription. Long wait times for diagnosis and treatment can be detrimental to our wellbeing, and issues can worsen before we are attended to promptly or by the appropriate specialist. This, combined with the often unattainable cost of private healthcare, means that thousands of people across the UK are currently waiting for care they desperately need.My Health Assistant is the app for anyone looking to book treatments directly with an affordable, private medical or health specialist in their local area. There are no joining criteria and you don’t have to qualify your healthcare needs to use My Health Assistant - we simply want to break down the barriers faced by so many families when it comes to timely, quality care that is local to them.The idea for My Health Assistant arose after the company directors experienced a number of healthcare issues in their family. The inspiration came after attending a private doctor’s appointment for a skin condition that a general practitioner was struggling to treat. During the appointment, the Dermatologist immediately identified a separate issue: a growing mark on the patient’s leg that had until then remained undiagnosed. The eventual diagnosis was early stage skin cancer - resulting in swift treatment.This was a bittersweet experience - on one hand this family felt extremely grateful for being in the position to seek out private healthcare when it mattered most, but they also felt recognition and anxiety for the thousands of families who did not have the same privilege.This experience posed a question - how could they help other families, their friends and our amazing health care professionals to treat people quicker?It was felt that people needed more support and more visibility of the options available to them. There was a need for a tool for those unable to take out health insurance - ensuring accessibility to alternative healthcare professionals as and when needed.Therefore, My Health Assistant was launched in March of this year.The app provides easy access to affordable healthcare services and treatment options, enabling people across the UK to take control of their health and decide upon the best option for their families. Health struggles can be scary, but you never have to feel like you’re on your own. Our team of caring and approachable advisors are always on hand to support you over the phone or online, and with our easy-to-use app you can tailor your search to match your exact needs.Take control of your health with people who care.My Health Assistant. Prioritising you.Read more