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Here comes the sun

By Stephanie Simons,
Head Pharmacist,
Lindo’s Pharmacy in Devonshire

Summer’s finally here! Whether it’s beaches, barbecues or just spending a bit more time outdoors, there’s something for everyone to look forward to. But summer is not only good for the soul – it’s also great for your health.

As the summer draws in, so does the sunshine. In the months of April, May and June the hours of sunshine begin to increase, peaking in July, and with the sunlight comes a variety of incredible health benefits.

The main advantages come from Vitamin D, which is synthesised by the body when our skin is exposed to sunlight. As the weather improves and we spend more time outside, our Vitamin D levels rise due to this increased exposure.

Vitamin D is crucial for the development and maintenance of your bones and teeth. It helps the absorption of calcium from the intestines, ensures correct renewal of bone tissue, and maintains phosphorus levels in the blood – all of which contribute to strong, healthy bones. This can reduce the risk of osteoporosis and aid the treatment of the condition.

Vitamin D is also known to have a positive effect on the immune system, the brain and the nervous system. Building up a healthy supply of Vitamin D during the summer can therefore stand you in good stead come the winter months, helping you ward off viruses like cold and flu.

It can play a role in more serious health problems too. Research shows that Vitamin D can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, rheumatoid arthritis and severe asthma, and is also thought to help those managing diabetes to regulate their insulin levels.

However, it’s not just Vitamin D levels that improve during the summer. Greater exposure to sunlight can increase the release of a hormone called serotonin, which helps to maintain a balanced mood, a healthy appetite and a regular sleep cycle. When you’re out and about in the sunshine, the resulting increase in serotonin can help you feel calm, focussed and ready to tackle the day.

Ever noticed you or someone close to you experiences more sadness or lethargy during the winter months? This can be because of the reduced sunlight and the lowers levels of serotonin, a condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). If you’re worried about your mental health or that of a loved-one, it’s always a good idea to check in with your GP – at any time of year.

And let’s not forget, sunlight has its risks too, especially in the hot climate we enjoy here in Bermuda. To ensure that you’re keeping yourself safe from sun damage, it’s important to apply sun protection products like Sol Rx, Blue Lizard, Coppertone, Aveeno and others throughout the day. It’s also essential that you stay hydrated when spending a lot of time in the heat, so be sure to drink plenty of water. The best advice is to plan ahead – when heading out for a day in the sun, make sure you’re prepared. Of course, not everyone loves the sun. If you’re struggling to get enough Vitamin D then taking a supplement such as Nature’s Bounty or Nature Made Vitamin D or a good multivitamin tablet (or gummy) that contains at least 800 IU (50mcg) of vitamin D can make all the difference. Meanwhile, visit your pharmacist or GP if you have any concerns about your health. We’re here to help – come rain or shine.

Stephanie Simons is the head pharmacist at Lindo’s Pharmacy in Devonshire. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and has been practicing for over 20 years. She is a registered pharmacist with the Bermuda Pharmacy Council and is a member of the Bermuda Pharmaceutical Association.

 

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How to Keep Your Gut Happy and Healthy

By Stephanie Simons,
Head Pharmacist,
Lindo’s Pharmacy in Devonshire

 

This month is both Nutrition Month and Colorectal Cancer Month, which made us think that now would be a good time to check in with our digestive health.

The Bermuda National Tumour Registry reported that colorectal cancer is the third most common form of cancer in Bermuda. It typically affects those over the age of 50 years old and lifestyle factors that may increase your risk of getting it include obesity, inactivity, smoking, heavy drinking and certain diets. While studies are still being done to ascertain what specifically are the dietary factors that increase the risk of colorectal cancer, the consensus seems to be that diets that are high in red and processed meats are particularly dangerous.

So, what makes a healthy diet for your digestive system? As we’ve discussed before, a well-balanced diet is the best diet. There are certain things, though, that are particularly valuable for your digestion. The king of these is fibre.

Fibre provides bulk, reducing the risk of constipation and helping to keep you regular. In addition to keeping things moving, fibre can also help lower cholesterol levels and keep blood sugar in check. It is also sometimes credited with keeping you fuller for longer, so you’re less inclined to snack.

You can get more fibre into your diet by eating foods rich in it, such as chickpeas, artichokes, bananas, oats and nuts and seeds, such as almonds and pumpkin seeds.  If you are struggling to get all of the fibre you need, though, there are a number of excellent fibre supplements, including Metamucil and Benefiber. These can be dissolved into water and drunk or taken in pill form.  You can also find Psyllium husk which can be incorporated into smoothies etc. to increase the fibre content.

Fibre is also important as a vital food source for the friendly bacteria in our guts. These good bacteria help us to combat bad microorganisms in digestive, supporting our immune systems and keeping the intestines healthy. 

These foods are high in beneficial probiotics – kimchi, pickled beets, apple cider vinegar, yogurt, pickles, and sauerkraut.

Foods rich in probiotics, including yoghurts and fermented foods are widely believed to be beneficial to our gut flora by supplementing and enriching them. Examples of healthful foods that you can stock up on in Lindo’s include sauerkraut, miso, kimchi and, of course, live yoghurts.

If you are struggling to balance your diet, then it might be worth considering taking some supplements. In addition to the aforementioned fibre supplements, there are multivitamins such as Phillips’ Colon Health Probiotic Capsules and Culturelle, which can ensure that you’re getting all of the nutrients your gut needs.

A healthy digestive system won’t just reduce your chance of colorectal cancer, it can offer a huge range of benefits from helping to maintain a healthy weight to improving your skin. Ensuring that everything is working properly will also give you peace of mind and a sense of wellness. If you have any questions or concerns about your digestive health, or want to find out more about dietary supplements, reach out to your pharmacist who will be happy to help.

Stephanie Simons is the head pharmacist at Lindo’s Pharmacy in Devonshire. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and has been practicing for over 20 years. She is a registered pharmacist with the Bermuda Pharmacy Council and is a member of the Bermuda Pharmaceutical Association.

 

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Heart attacks in women – know the signs

 

By Stephanie Simons,
Head Pharmacist,
Lindo’s Pharmacy in Devonshire

What do you think a heart attack looks like? Most people would be able to list off some of the most commonly known symptoms: chest pain, shooting pains in the left arm and shortness of breath. But did you know that these are the symptoms most often associated with heart attacks in male patients? Not enough people understand that heart attacks can present very differently in women, which can be dangerous.

As February is Heart Month and we are about to pass into March, which is Women’s Month, we thought this was the perfect time to brush up on our knowledge of heart disease in women and how it can present.

Heart attack symptoms are frequently seen as being less dramatic in female patients and they can take a longer period of time to develop. Many women who suffer cardiac arrest report feeling fatigued for a long period of time, experience dizziness, nausea and other flu-like symptoms. Men, on the other, tend to have localised pain in the chest and the left arm. When women do experience localised pain then it tends to be in the neck, jaw or both arms. All of this adds up to the fact that women who are in cardiac distress are sometimes misdiagnosed because their catalogue of ailments doesn’t always add up to a clear picture.

There is also a false perception that women don’t have heart attacks or that, if they do, they’re exceedingly rare. In fact, in the United States, it is the leading cause of death for women, killing 289,758 women in 2013. Approximately the same number of women as men pass away each year as a result of heart disease. Worryingly, women who do suffer heart attacks are disproportionately more likely to die than men as a result of heart disease.

While most women who suffer heart attacks are in their 70s when they first have an episode, there is an increasing trend of younger women being hospitalised for this. The American Heart Association recently found that women between the age of 35 and 54 had a 10 per cent rise in hospital admission rates for heart attacks, versus men’s 3 per cent, in the 2010-14 up from the 1995-99 period.

This means that it is vital to know what a heart attack in yourself or your loved ones might look like. Knowledge is power and will enable you to advocate for yourself in time of need.

As with most disease, prevention is the best course of action. You can reduce your chance of heart disease by avoiding or giving up smoking and maintaining a healthy lifestyle and fitness regimen. Those women who are at most risk for heart disease include diabetics, those who are menopausal, obese and under great emotional or mental strain.

If you want to take strides to improving your heart health, check out this article with some top tips and suggestions. You can also talk to your pharmacist or doctor if you have any particular concerns about your heart health and how to address them.

Stephanie Simons is the head pharmacist at Lindo’s Pharmacy in Devonshire. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and has been practicing for over 20 years. She is a registered pharmacist with the Bermuda Pharmacy Council and is a member of the Bermuda Pharmaceutical Association.

 

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A Good Night’s Sleep

 

By Stephanie Simons,
Head Pharmacist,
Lindo’s Pharmacy in Devonshire

A good night’s sleep is something that most people treasure: it can make you feel restored and refreshed, ready to tackle the day ahead. When we miss out on it, it can wreck our whole day, leaving us sluggish and temperamental. Amazingly, for an act that is vital to all of us, we don’t know that much about sleep: scientists are still studying it to find out exactly why we need sleep and all of its benefits.

In these short and dark days of winter, sleep can be a comfort, but many people still struggle to fall asleep and to wake up. Here are some of my thoughts and insights that you might find useful.

While there is sometimes an attitude that sleep is something that should be minimised in order to make the most of your day, this is a detrimental way of thinking. Most experts agree that good quality sleep is vital to a healthy lifestyle and is just as important as your diet and fitness routine.

A restful night of sleep will leave us feeling refreshed in the morning and will have a notable impact on concentration and productivity. Most people have had the experience of going to work after a restless night and found that they aren’t able to produce the kind of work they normally would.

A lot of people find themselves in bed, unable to shut off, worrying about the day ahead or things that they did that day. By establishing a clear routine in the evening, this can often be remedied. The blue light that emanates from the screens of electronic devices is widely believed to disrupt our sleep, stimulating our brains and suppressing melatonin production. This means that you should stop using them approximately an hour before bed, minimum. You might find temptation easier to resist if your phone or tablet is not within reach: why not leave it in a different room at night?

Before turning off your bedside light, train your body to prepare for sleep by reading a book or listening to some classical music for a short period. This can help to make you feel a little drowsy and set you off on the right foot.

If you find yourself easily disturbed as you are trying to drift off, it may be worth investing in an eye mask or earplugs – they are not just for air travel! Ensuring that your bed smells nice is useful, too, with lavender often cited as being helpful for those who want to rest. A drop of lavender essential oil on your sheets, your hands or even in a pre-bedtime bath can help to soothe your mind.

If you are still struggling with sleep, some nutritional supplements may help your body better prepare for a restful night. Melatonin, the hormone that helps your body transition to sleep, can be taken in a tablet form to help your body better regulate its wakefulness and is available over the counter. Other natural nutritional tablets, such as Valerian, can also help the body fall asleep quicker.

When it comes to waking up, try to resist hitting the snooze button over and over. Studies have shown that waking up when your alarm first goes can leave you feeling more alert in the long run whereas hitting snooze can complicate your body’s waking up process, leaving you feeling more tired.

Natural light helps in waking up but if you’re having to get up consistently before dawn, it may be worth investing in an alarm clock that wakes you up by gradually lighting the room, which can result in a less jarring wake-up call.

Should you still struggle to sleep then come and talk to your pharmacist who can suggest other medication, such as Sleep-Eeze or ZZZquil, which can help send you off to the land of nod. However, these are short-term solutions and if insomnia persists you should consult a doctor.

Stephanie Simons is the head pharmacist at Lindo’s Pharmacy in Devonshire. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and has been practicing for over 20 years. She is a registered pharmacist with the Bermuda Pharmacy Council and is a member of the Bermuda Pharmaceutical Association.

 

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Diabetes – Back to Basics

 

By Stephanie Simons,
Head Pharmacist,
Lindo’s Pharmacy in Devonshire

We hear a lot about diabetes in Bermuda. This is because we have an extraordinarily high rate of it in our population: at about 14 per cent we have about double the global average. While we’ve previously discussed how to manage the disease and how to reduce your risk, I thought it was time for a crash course in diabetes, just in time for Diabetes Awareness Month.

Diabetes is a lifelong condition once it develops and can have serious effects on a person’s health and lifestyle. It is defined by the body’s inability to regulate sugar in the blood, known as glucose. We take in glucose in our food, when sugars and carbohydrates are broken down. It is what gives us the energy to get on with our lives, from focusing on work to running around with our kids. Glucose levels in the blood are controlled by a hormone known as insulin which allows the sugar to enter our cells.

But those with diabetes have problems with their insulin which means that the cells don’t get the energy they need and the glucose just builds up in their bloodstream. This causes all kinds of problems including fatigue, extreme thirst, inability to heal properly and blurry vision. There are also a number of serious complications that can arise from diabetes which is why it is so important to regulate the disease with the guidance of a medical professional.

There are two primary forms that diabetes takes: Type 1 and Type 2. Type 1 means that a person is unable to make insulin at all and it is considered more serious and is unavoidable for those who have it – scientists have yet to discover its cause. Approximately ten per cent of those who have diabetes have Type 1 and they must regulate their blood sugar with frequent insulin shots. Typically, Type 1 develops early in life, often in childhood, though there are exceptions.

Type 2 diabetes is much more common, particularly in Bermuda, and is defined by the body’s cells not responding to insulin the way it should and/or not being able to make enough of it. It can often be avoided with a healthy lifestyle, although there are certain risk factors that can determine how likely it is that you will develop it, including: obesity, family history, an inactive lifestyle and certain ethnic factors.

Those with diabetes must be vigilant about their health and at this time of year it is also important to think about the rise of seasonal illness. Those who have diabetes are often considered by medical professionals to be more at risk of sickness and developing complications which is why we recommend the flu shot for diabetes sufferers: it is better to be safe than sorry.

If you want to find out whether you may be at risk for Type 2 diabetes, Diabetes UK has created a useful diabetes risk assessor tool that you may find useful: https://riskscore.diabetes.org.uk/start. It is much more preferable to try to reduce our risk factors for diabetes than it is to manage the disease: prevention is king.

You can find out more about diabetes in Bermuda by checking out the Bermuda Diabetes Association online at their website here: http://www.diabetes.bm/

If you have any questions about diabetes, either in yourself or a loved one, or want to find out whether you might be at risk, please speak to your pharmacist or your doctor.

Stephanie Simons is the head pharmacist at Lindo’s Pharmacy in Devonshire. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and has been practicing for over 20 years. She is a registered pharmacist with the Bermuda Pharmacy Council and is a member of the Bermuda Pharmaceutical Association.

 

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What Generic Means for You

By Stephanie Simons,
Head Pharmacist,
Lindo’s Pharmacy in Devonshire

Have you ever heard people discussing “generic drugs” and not been sure what they were talking about? Helping our customers find the best medicine for them and their budget is one of the great services that your pharmacist can offer you, so we want to make sure that you’re not missing out!

When your doctor gives you a prescription for medication, they will sometimes specify a particular brand of product. However, our Pharmacy Act allows pharmacists to substitute a generic or less expensive equivalent to what your doctor has prescribed, so long as you agree, without having to contact you doctor.

Generic medications contain the same active ingredients as you would find in brand name medicine and will have the same overall effect. The only difference is the packaging, branding and, occasionally, the inactive ingredients. The inactive ingredients are the things in your medicine that don’t usually have an effect on your treatment – for instance, they might affect the superficial aspects of it, such as shape or taste of it.

Most prescription drugs are available as both a brand offering and generic. Our preference is ordinarily to offer our customers the generic option as they are much more cost effective. We would never offer you a medical treatment that we didn’t think would be just as effective as a popular brand or if we thought that there would be a negative trade-off in terms of the quality of the medication.

Generic medication is typically cheaper because the company producing them does not need to invest in research, testing or advertising – the drugs being produced are copies of medicines developed and tested by big names in pharmaceuticals, once their patents have ended.

Additionally, in Bermuda, we import all of our drugs in from different countries, so sometimes we may have sourced a cheaper, brand or alternative from a different market in order to give you access to more affordable medicine.

Generic drugs are not just limited to prescription medication, many over the counter medications, such as allergy and pain relievers, also have generic alternatives.

Your pharmacist has a record of your repeat and continuing medications and by returning to the same pharmacy over and over again, you can develop a productive rapport and work together to make sure that you are taking the medicine that best fits your needs and is affordable.

If you are on a long course of medication we also encourage you to give us feedback. If you feel that one type of generic or brand medication is working more effectively than another, then let us know. We are always happy to work with you to manage your health and budget.

To find out more about generic medications and to find out if there’s one you should be using, please speak to your pharmacist.

Stephanie Simons is the head pharmacist at Lindo’s Pharmacy in Devonshire. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and has been practicing for over 20 years. She is a registered pharmacist with the Bermuda Pharmacy Council and is a member of the Bermuda Pharmaceutical Association.

 

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