Health

Dr Miriam Stoppard: Why the Mediterranean diet is a solution to pollution – Miriam Stoppard

Dr Miriam Stoppard: Why the Mediterranean diet is a solution to pollution – Miriam Stoppard

You’re worried about pollution, yes? Want to offset the damage it can do? Simple. Switch to a Mediterranean diet. You know the one – mainly fruit and veg, wholegrains, fish, eggs, lean meat, nuts, seeds and olive oil.

Well, latest research from New York University on 548,699 people aged over 17 suggests it may be worth a try – it could make you five times less likely to die of pollution-related illnesses.

The research found that adults were more likely to die from heart attacks and heart disease if they were exposed to higher levels of pollution. But the increase in death rates was much less pronounced among adults who followed a Mediterranean diet.

For example, among adults who didn’t follow such a diet, the death rate from heart disease increased by 10% for every 10 parts per billion increase in nitrogen dioxide they had been exposed to. But among those whose diet was very similar to a Mediterranean diet, the death rate only increased by 2% for every 10 parts per billion increase in nitrogen dioxide.

Dr Miriam Stoppard

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Similarly, the death rate of heart disease increased by 17% for every 10 micrograms per cubic metre increase in particulate matter for adults who didn’t follow a Mediterranean diet.

But for adults who did, the death rate only increased by 5%. Air pollution is thought to trigger heart attacks and other health problems by causing inflammation and chemical imbalances.

But researchers believe that anti-oxidants found in the fruit, vegetables and wholegrains of a Mediterranean diet counteract this effect. Chris Lim, one of the researchers from the New York University School of Medicine, said: “Previous studies have shown that dietary changes, particularly the addition of antioxidants, can blunt the adverse effects of exposure to high levels of air pollution over short time periods.

“What we did not know was whether diet can influence the association between long-term air pollution exposure and health effects.”

Turns out it can – and the results were recently presented at the American Thoracic Society’s annual conference in San Diego, California.

Professor George Thurston, lead author, said: “The adoption of a Mediterranean diet has the potential to reduce the effects of air pollution in a substantial population in the US.”

And in the UK… especially in Port Talbot, Scunthorpe and Salford – our most polluted cities – and in London’s Marylebone Road and Hyde Park Corner.

Two minutes on deep vein thrombosis (DVT)

What is it?

DVT is a blood clot that develops in a deep vein, usually in the leg.

What are the symptoms?

Pain, swelling and tenderness in one of your legs (usually your calf), a heavy ache in the affected area, warm skin in the area of the clot, and red skin at the back of your leg below the knee. Anyone can develop DVT, but it’s more common over the age of 40.

DVT is a blood clot

Pulmonary embolism

If left untreated, about one in 10 people with a DVT will develop a pulmonary embolism where the clot, or part of it, travels to the lungs – a very serious condition which causes breathlessness, chest pain and sudden collapse.

When to see your GP?

If you have swelling and tenderness in your leg and you develop breathlessness and chest pain.

Diagnosing DVT

Your GP will advise you to have a blood test called a D-dimer test, which detects pieces of blood clot loose in your bloodstream.

An ultrasound scan or venogram (a contrast dye injected into your vein) can be also carried out to confirm DVT.

Treating DVT

Treatment involves taking anticoagulant medicines (heparin and warfarin), which reduce blood clotting and stop existing clots getting bigger.

Direct-acting oral anticoagulants (DOACs) may also be prescribed. They have been shown to be as effective as heparin and warfarin with fewer serious side effects. You’ll also need to wear compression stockings to help stop complications.

Preventing DVT

You should quit smoking, eat a healthy, balanced diet, take regular exercise and maintain a healthy weight.

There’s no evidence to suggest that taking aspirin reduces your risk of developing DVT. See your GP before long-distance travel if you’re at risk of getting a DVT, or if you’ve had a DVT in the past.

Wisdom teeth

Wisdom teeth serve no real purpose but can cause great pain should they become impacted when they’re erupting and have to be removed.

Wisdom teeth serve no purpose

This is because most people have jaws too small for all 32 teeth to fit into – 28 is the most we have room for. Today, around a third of people no longer develop their third and final set of molars. If they appear, they mostly do so when between ages 17 and 25, although sometimes they appear many years later.

‘Applying sun tan lotion once is enough for the whole day’

The general principle is to reapply every two to four hours as sunscreen does disperse with time.

How often do you apply suntan lotion?

Apply liberally when you’re putting it on yourself and your children. If you go into the water, you may need to reapply more often.

A good way to conserve sunscreen is to cover yourself up with clothing. Clothes are more reliable than sunscreen – you don’t have to worry about forgetting your lotion or reapplying it.

If you’re on prescription drugs, check with your doctor as some medicines can make your skin more sensitive to the sun. Certain blood pressure medications can also make your skin more sensitive, as well as antibiotics.

Dermatillomania

This is a condition where a person feels compelled to pick at their skin to the point where it causes visible wounds.

What is Dermatillomania?

It’s an impulse-control disorder – a psychological condition in which the person is unable to stop carrying out a particular action.

Dermatillomania tends to develop in the teenage years or early 20s, and affects more girls than boys.

It might start as a habit, then become uncontrollable.

Trichotillomania is compulsively pulling your hair out.

Your questions

Q I had my gallbladder removed in 2015. Just recently I heard from another person who had the same operation and they were told not to eat chocolate as this can cause complications. Why is this?

Can I still eat chocolate?

A It isn’t chocolate per se that might cause trouble, it’s all fatty foods. Let me explain.

The gallbladder collects bile containing enzymes to digest fat from the liver. It releases bile when you eat to help the absorption of fat. Between meals bile collects in the gallbladder and it’s concentrated. When the gallbladder is removed, bile is less concentrated and drains continuously into the intestine affecting digestion of fat and fat-soluble vitamins.

A heavy fat meal will therefore cause problems.

So eat small, frequent meals and go easy on fat.

Gradually increase the fibre in your diet. Ditch caffeine and dairy products.

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