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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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Clean Hands, Good Health

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

September is the time of school-time and germs! That’s why the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) organisations, Cleans Hands Coalition, is celebrating International Clean Hands Week from September 16.

We are taught from a young age the importance of washing our hands before we eat, after we have used the bathroom and anytime our hands have got dirty. However, many adults lose this conscientiousness: The Royal Pharmaceutical Society found in 2017 that 84 per cent of British adults don’t wash their hands long enough to clean them of bacteria which can cause infections or viruses and that one in five adults does not wash their hands after using the bathroom and a third don’t before preparing food.

When we don’t wash our hands of bacteria, we leave ourselves open to all kinds of diseases and infections through the transference of fecal, mucus and other matter. This can result in illnesses such as salmonella, norovirus and conjunctivitis. The best way to avoid this is to instill a proper handwashing regimen any time you come into contact with dirty material, so: after the bathroom, after using public transport, after interacting with a sick person and throughout food preparation.

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society recommends that hands must be washed for 20 seconds – long enough to hum “Happy Birthday to You” through twice – in order to effectively remove germs from them. There are also a number of useful guides about the method used to wash your hands, in particular this one from the UK’s National Health Service shows how to most effectively scrub yourself clean in the manner of surgeons.

At Lindo’s, we stock a wide range of hand-soaps, including natural ones, soaps for sensitive skin and super effective ones, such as Dial’s products.

We don’t always have the luxury, though, of having the time or facilities needed to wash our hands the old-fashioned way but that’s where hand sanitiser comes in handy! Portable and effective, a hand sanitiser is a great handbag or desk staple.

When choosing a hand sanitiser, you should look for one that has an alcohol content of at least 60 per cent, that you don’t dislike the smell of – the smell of hand sanitisers can be surprisingly long lasting – and does not include triclosan. Triclosan is an antibacterial chemical but it has recently been the subject of controversy as it may cause harmful side effects.

The CDC recommends that hand sanitisers should have an alcohol content of at least 60 per cent – the higher the alcohol content, the more germs and bacteria are eliminated. Lindo’s stocks Germ-X which is a powerful germ-killing hand sanitiser with an alcohol content of 63 per cent and comes in a range of handy sizes and scents. However, many people find that the high alcohol content in hand sanitiser can result in dry hands or may have sensitivities that that the alcohol can aggravate. To combat dry hands, it is worth investing in a hand cream (such as Nivea Hand Cream). For those who find alcohol-based sanitisers too harsh or for the very young, alcohol-free sanitisers can work, although they may be slightly less effective. CleanWell hand sanitisers are conveniently available as a foam cleanser and in wipe form and are formulated from natural ingredients designed to kill germs and leave hands soft.

When it’s not possible to wash your hands easily, such as when you’re out and about or using public transport – always a hotspot for bacterial transfer – then hand sanitiser is a great second option. Washing your hands will remove the germs from you altogether, whereas a hand sanitiser will kill them. However, there are certain bacteria that hand sanitisers are not effective against, including norovirus.

Using a hand sanitiser or washing your hands regularly can have a positive effect on your health but also on your productivity: a study in 2010 by BMC Infectious Disease Review found that office workers who used an alcohol-based sanitiser five times a day were two thirds less likely to get sick than the rest of their co-workers.

If you have any questions about how to keep your hands cleans or want product recommendations, please don’t hesitate to speak your Lindo’s 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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Keeping an Eye on Your Health

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

Summer is in full swing now and many of us are enjoying spending our days out in the sunshine. It is important, though, to take care of ourselves as we make the most of the good weather. Along with the risk of sun burn and dehydration, summer brings around greater instances of eye injuries – particularly in children – so we have put together some tips to take care of your sight this season.

Allergy sufferers often put up with symptoms all year round in Bermuda and summer is no exception, with our native flowers in bloom across the island. Allergy medications can help to keep itchy eyes, rashes and sniffles to a minimum but if you prefer to target the symptoms directly without dealing with any other possible side effects, such as drowsiness, drops such as Visine AC, Otrivin-Antistin and Opticrom can be very effective.

While encouraging your children to play outside is wonderful for developing their sense of imagination and will allow them to get a good workout, parents often come to expect injuries to happen – amongst these are eye injuries which can be caused by rough play, branches or dust. This is a normal part of growing up and shouldn’t deter parents from letting children explore the great outdoors, but it pays to be prepared.

A bruised or swollen eye should be treated in much the same way as a regular bruise would be treated: a cold pack should be applied to the injury for short periods of time. Pain can be relieved with over the counter painkillers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil).

An irritated eye that has dust or other particles in it can be flushed with an eyewash such as Optrex which will soothe the eye and help to dislodge anything stuck in it. It is also important to avoid rubbing the injury which might make it worse, even though it will itch.

Swimming is a great way to cool off, but it can irritate the eyes, whether it is seawater or chlorine from the pool. If you have a swimming pool, check that it is not overchlorinated – this can cause stinging pain and dry eyes. The correct pH level for a swimming pool is 7.4, which is the same level as the pH level for human eyes. It can be helpful for children to wear goggles while they are swimming, to keep irritants out.

Many people complain of feeling dried out in the summer, as air conditioners are switched on more regularly and, as a result, dry eyes are a common symptom of this. To avoid this, take care to minimise the use of your air conditioner at home: if it is a breezy day, encourage a cross draft by opening windows on opposite sides of the house and use an electric fan. Before bedtime on warm nights, run the air conditioning on full until it’s time to sleep and then switch off the air conditioning in favour of an electric fan. If dry eyes become too uncomfortable then you may want to use an eye-drop product such as Systane, Genteal or Blink, which help to lubricate the eyes and ease any discomfort.

Whenever a group of children are in close contact with one another, there is always the risk of a spread of infection. This can often lead to the much dreaded ‘pink eye’ sweeping through your child’s friendship circle or siblings. Polysporin Antibiotic Eye Drops can help to treat these quickly and efficiently and does not require a prescription: you may find it useful to keep a bottle in your medicine cabinet if a family member is prone to eye infections.

In addition to obvious physical ailments, it is important to look after the long-term health of your eyes: wearing sunglasses and a hat will help reduce glare and strain and will reduce the chance of squinting which can result in headaches.

If eye pain, redness or itching lasts longer than a few hours, then you should consult a pharmacist or a doctor. If there is any sensitivity to light or signs of a progressing infection, such as a build up of ‘eye gunk’ or if the eye has been scratched, then you should make an appointment to see 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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