What happens when you have a mammogram

I won’t lie. The first time I had a mammogram, I really didn’t know what to expect. But being at high risk of developing breast cancer in my lifetime due to the fact I have BRCA1 gene mutation, then well let’s just say I am going to become very familiar with mammograms! But apart from the fact I expected it was some kind of scan, I had little idea about what happens when you have a mammogram.

Mammograms save lives

The bottom line is that mammograms save lives with breast screening saving around 1,300 lives each year in the UK. Finding cancer early can make it more likely that treatment will be successful.

Having said that, it doesn’t distract from the fact that having a mammogram is not exactly the most pleasant of experiences in my personal opinion just because it does tend to be pretty uncomfortable as your breast tissues gets pulled and manipulated into certain “flatter” positions before it gets positioned into place ready for the scan.

That said I would rather take a mammogram every day of my life rather than having a malignancy undetected in my breasts. The alternative – not knowing the status of your breast tissue and any potential changes and what they may mean, is unthinkable to me.

Do not put your mammogram off

Whatever the pain and discomfort you feel, I want to lay down now how important it is NOT to let this deter you from having your routine mammogram and attending breast cancer screening. All women are invited for a routine mammogram in the UK from age 50 up. If you have an increased risk of breast cancer due to hereditary factors then you should be having a routine mammogram annually from the age of 30 of 40.

Worries about the procedure, along with COVID disruption saw a 44 per cent fall in the number of women screened for the disease nationally in 2020-21 according to NHS England, but mammograms and early diagnosis of cancer can rapidly improve the long-term prognosis and chances of recovery. 

If you are worried about having a mammogram, not sure what a mammogram is, or yet to have your first mammogram, here Kate Whittaker, Superintendent Mammographer, at King Edward VII’s Hospital explains all.

when you have a mammogram

I’ve been invited to attend a mammogram. Should I go and what should I expect?

When women turn 50, they will be contacted by the NHS Breast Screening Programme  Unit, inviting them for a mammogram. All patients registered as female will be contacted every three years, until they turn 71.

Mammograms are a straightforward, non-invasive short procedure, but increasingly women are missing appointments, or declining to attend their screening. Worries about the procedure, along with COVID disruption, saw a 44 per cent fall in the number of women screened for nationally in 2020-21 according to NHS England. But mammograms and early diagnosis of cancer can greatly improve a patient’s long-term prognosis and chances of recovery – so why should women attend them, and how can they prepare?

Before the appointment

As mentioned above, breast screening can save lives. Identifying and intervening early can dramatically improve the outcomes for breast cancer, but attending a mammogram is obviously a personal choice.

If you do decide to attend and feel nervous about the procedure, try to book an appointment at a time when you’re not going to be rushing around. If you feel comfortable doing so, ask a friend or loved one to take you to the appointment for moral support, and have something nice planned for afterwards that you can look forward to and distract from any worries.

When you have a mammogram, you’ll be asked to undress from the waist up, so try to wear something comfortable that’s easy to take on and off. You’ll always be imaged by a female mammographer, but if you have any queries or concerns, including mobility issues or special requirements, it’s best to contact the screening unit before your appointment. That will allow them to make any necessary changes to your appointment, such as duration or location, as some sites are remote and may not be accessible to disabled service users.

During the mammogram

When you’re ready, you’ll be invited into an x-ray room by the mammographer, who will explain the procedure and answer any questions. Your breast is imaged by gently placing it onto the x-ray machine and applying some compression. This only lasts a few seconds and releases the moment the x-ray has been taken. You’ll have four images taken in total, two on each breast. All you’ll need to do is take a few small steps in front of the machine and raise your arms when asked, to help with the breast positioning in the side images. The whole process is over very quickly, in around five minutes, but keeping still is really important to get an accurate x-ray.

Breast screening can be uncomfortable, or occasionally a little painful for some people, so talking through any concerns with the mammographer can be very useful, you can also tell them to stop at any point if you’re feeling discomfort.

Getting your results

Results will be sent to you by post and they generally take between two and four weeks. A copy will also be sent to your GP for your medical records.

Your results will either say ‘No sign of breast cancer’ or ‘Need further tests’. If you have no sign of breast cancer, you can wait for your next mammogram in three years time, unless you notice any breast changes, including any lumps in your chest or armpit, discharge from your nipple, or an unusual texture on the skin of your breast. Do a check once or twice a month, and contact your GP if you notice any changes or have any concerns about your breasts.

when you have a mammogram

If you need further imaging, don’t panic. Most people who need further tests will not be diagnosed with breast cancer. But if you are worried, you can discuss the appointment with a breast care nurse, who will be able to explain to you the result, and what next steps will be taken.

You’ll be offered an appointment in a screening assessment clinic where you’ll be offered an examination of your breast and sometimes more mammograms, an ultrasound, or sometimes a needle test. Results from these tests normally take around a week. All of this will help the Breast Unit team and your GP to best support you and offer any further investigations and treatment you may require, which, in some cases, can limit the need for invasive treatment, or surgery. So when you receive your next invitation, I’d urge you to come forward and attend your  mammogram, or if you notice any breast changes or symptoms in the meantime, speak to your GP to access support as early as possible, which may save.

We hope the above helps you overcome any fears you may have about attending a mammogram screening. Focus on the end game in that when you attend a mammogram, you are doing something amazing for your body and yourself, and empowering yourself with the knowledge you need about any risk factors, warning signs and potential treatment down the line. To find out more about assessing your breast cancer risk see this useful guide over at our friends Breast Cancer Now or speak to your GP.

Photos by cottonbro and Tara Winstead via pexels and National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

4 ways you can keep your aging parents safe

While gals in their 40s are always looking for ways to be healthier and ensure they can still do everything they used to do in their 20s and 30s, their parents are another issue. The older you get, the older your parents will be, and this means they may require more care and support. And of course, you’re going to provide that care and support to say thanks for raising you and making sure their quality of life remains as good as possible. One of the best ways to do this is to keep them safe, but how?

Move closer to them 

aging parents

Moving closer to your parents will make sure you can look after them in case anything happens. If they cannot move in with you due to any number of reasons, you can at least try to be as close as possible. 

Being closer to them will allow you to respond immediately. You don’t want to be on the other side of the country if something happens, so being able to act quickly can put your mind – as well as theirs – at ease. While moving house is not always convenient, it’s something to consider as your parents get older. 

Consider care options 

If moving house isn’t on the cards right now, you can look at other options, especially if your parents have suffered an illness or a fall that has affected their mobility and overall health. 

There are many care services to consider, such as care homes, while live-in care has become an increasingly popular option for elderly folks who do not want to move out of their house. With this, a professional carer will be on hand at all hours to provide support and company, which can make it easier for you if you do not have the time to drive back and forth due to other family or work commitments. 

Check-In regularly

Sometimes, you don’t need to be right by your parents to keep them safe. It might be that they just want you to check in regularly so you can see how they are doing. 

A phone call every night or every other night is often enough, especially if they live far away and you can’t nip over for a quick chat and a catch-up. You could also buy them a smartphone with messaging apps so you can get immediate responses. 

Let them keep their independence 

aging parents

Your parents’ independence is crucial for their wellbeing, so allowing them to maintain this independence can be beneficial for keeping them safe. 

While you might think that they cannot take care of themselves like they used to because of old age, there’s a chance they will surprise you. They don’t want people to coddle them but instead let them live their lives and feel they are in control, which will keep their mental capacity in excellent condition. 

Taking care 

While not all parents will require all-day care and support immediately, it is something that may happen to your mother or father (or both). If you know your options before something happens, such as an illness or a fall, you can make sure they can enjoy the rest of their life with independence and support.

Are you currently dealing with your aging parents? Let us know by commenting below or connect with us over on Instagram.

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The best ways to stay well as you age

Aging gracefully isn’t always the easiest thing to do but there are some tips and advice that can give you a better chance of doing so. You must remind yourself that you matter and that the better job you do at self-care the better you’re going to feel overall.

Below are some of the best ways to stay well as you age. Put these into practice and it won’t be long before you’re on your way to improved health and more happiness. Getting older can be hard on your mind and body but it can also be a beautiful and rewarding journey if you approach it in the right manner.  

Take care of your physical body

stay well as you age

One of the best ways to stay well as you age is to take care of your physical body. There are many ways to do so such as getting enough sleep and exercise daily. Also, address aches, pains, and discomforts as soon as they occur instead of putting them off. Have a doctor you can visit as needed and keep the number of an emergency dentist handy. It may also help to do yoga or stretch often to remain loose and build more strength and stamina. Your new routine may also include strength training as well as other fun activities that get your heart rate up.

Lower stress

Stay well as you age by finding useful and productive ways to lower stress. Too much of it can be debilitating and cause you anxiety and anguish. It may be that you write in a journal, review your gratitude list, or head outside for a walk when you’re feeling overwhelmed. These are just some of the best ways to reduce stress and reset when you’re experiencing tension and uneasiness. Know what your triggers are and try to avoid them or at least prepare for them when you can. Acknowledge and notice your feelings and have healthy outlets for releasing any negative emotions you’re harboring.

Challenge your mind

stay well as you age

Mental health matters and plays a significant role in how you feel overall and function. Improve and boost your mental health by staying challenged and engaged in life. Find a job and career that makes you think and problem-solve and do some crossword puzzles in your free time. Start a new hobby and socialize with others so you’re always taking in new thoughts and perspectives.

Cook healthy meals

A nutritious diet will also help you achieve better wellness and keep you on track to feeling great. Stay well as you age by cooking healthy meals for yourself and packing healthy snacks to bring with you on the go. Consume more fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins and try to cut back on the refined carbohydrates, saturated fats, and sugar. You’ll have more control over the ingredients and what you’re putting in your body when you grocery shop and cook at home. It’ll be easier to maintain a healthy weight and you’ll have more natural energy when you eat right. There are so many benefits that it’ll be worth your efforts to prepare meals yourself.

What do you do to stay well as you age? How are you preserving yourself? Let us know by commenting below or connect with us over on Instagram.

7 reasons you need to be more selfish and how to own it

“Ugh, she’s so selfish!”, you may have muttered under your breath about someone else in your life probably more than one or two times. Well, hold the phone! Because being selfish – or indeed, more selfish, is having somewhat of a reinvention. Yes people, the times they are a changing. Those days when being branded as selfish, or self-centred are slowly being replaced by an alternative way of thinking, which is that being selfish is actually good! Otherwise known as positive selfishness.

If you are sick of putting everybody else first and putting your needs last. If you are feel that you are being undervalued by those around you whether it be family, friends or work colleagues. If you are feeling like you’re running on empty, spread thinner than the latest iPhone then hold up! Here, Carolyn Hobdey author and founder of Redefining Selfish lays down seven reasons you need to be more selfish and how to own this new breed of positive selfishness.

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We get so caught up in our busy lives, in the groundhog day of work, family and household chores, giving our all to everyone else, trying to avoid careering into a midlife crisis etc that we don’t stop to consider our own needs. When this happens, we can become fed up and frustrated, but how often do we stop and think about what’s causing those feelings?

Here are seven reasons why you might need to be more selfish and what you can do about them:

An endless ‘to-do’ list

When you feel like you’re never getting on top of things in your life, it can be hard to see your way out of the rut. If you’re in a constant state of busy-ness with barely any time to think or catch your breath, then its a sure sign that you need to take some selfish time out.

To do this, you need to determine what is actually important. This helps to sort out that not everything on that list is of equal weight in your life; it gets you away from your ‘to-do’ list being one amorphous mass of stuff. To do this, write everything you have to do on post-its (one item per post-it). Then plot them on a grid with ‘important’ on one axis and ‘urgent’ on the other from low to high for each. Now place the post-its on the grid – be ruthless about what goes where!

be more selfish

Feeling resentful about your life

Even if your life is the picture of ‘success’ or looks like you have it all, it’s ok if you don’t feel that way about it. It’s normal to look at your life and ask yourself, “is this it?”. If you find yourself doing this, or hacked-off by the monotony of your existence, then its time to take stock and be focused about what you want.

To do this, look at the two possible versions of your life. In the first, write down everything that those you know and love will have to say about you at the end of your life if you carried on living it as you are today. If nothing changed, what would be the legacy that you would leave? What would be said about your behaviours and actions?

Then write the alternative version. This includes everything that you want to be said about you – the person you were, the impact you made and how you lived your life. Look at the difference between the two versions, then plan what steps you’d need to take to move from the first version to the second.

Frequently weary or burnt out

Our ‘always on’ society means constant demands on your time and attention.

When you feel like you’re always running on empty, it’s time to take notice. Excessive, extended periods of stress lead to burn-out. Burn-out means you’ll hit a brick wall and your body will prevent you from doing anything, however much your mind wants otherwise. Therefore, prevention is crucial.

Instead, see yourself as a battery; your energy levels are the charging bars. Check in on those bars every day. Keep a record of your energy levels on a scale of 1 to 5. Observe if there is a pattern. Notice if your levels are consistently low or if certain events/people reduce them. Then start doing one thing per day to be kind to yourself. Something exclusively for you that boosts that battery. Build cumulatively on that success.

be more selfish

Stressed or anxious

Life’s endless treadmill naturally leads to stress – especially when we’re expected to have-it-all and be able to do-it-all. The reality is that we’ve no more time in each day than our ancestors had, we’re just expected to cram more in. The negative impacts on our minds and bodies of the relentless cortisol experienced when we’re stressed have been well documented.

Ten minutes each day of thoughtful breathing, mindfulness or guided meditation has been proven to have a significantly beneficial impact on reducing stress and anxiety. Think you don’t have time? Monitor for a week how much time you spend scrolling through social media…

Feeling guilty for putting yourself first

When did showing yourself some respect become a bad thing? If you feel guilty for taking time for self-kindness, then ask whose guilt it is that you’re carrying around. Where does it come from? Who instilled that into you? Is it even your guilt?

To remove this guilt, see this time as an investment in you. When you put yourself first, you’re putting credits into the bank of you – these are just a way to balance out all the debits that you allow others to withdraw. Staying in the ‘black’ with your body’s account is much healthier. 

Not being valued by others

When this happens you need to ask, “what do I do that makes this happen?”. Yes, this might seem harsh on you, but when others treat you badly, it’s frequently because you communicate that you don’t matter.

Want that to change? Start looking at how you treat yourself. Consider what you tell people about your value by the way you prioritise yourself. When you start putting you higher up on your priority list, others will treat you how you treat yourself. Simple.

Thinking being selfish is ‘bad’

Do you tell yourself that if you take time for you, take attention away from others and don’t put those you love first that the whole world is going to cave in? Where does that perception of selfish come from?! When did loving yourself become a thing of shame?

Change your mindset about ‘selfish’. You can’t rescue anyone if you’re drowning; put your own life-vest on before helping others. When you look at self-care as being a way in which you can better serve those you love, then it becomes self-less to be selfish.

Shifting your mindset about what it means to be selfish is about learning to value you.

You matter. Believe that.

Do you ever wish you were more selfish? Could you see yourself redefining the concept of selfishness to the benefit of your confidence and wellbeing? Do share a comment below and keep the conversation going over on our Instagram community here.

Background photo created by benzoix, Love photo created by wayhomestudio, Flower photo created by gpointstudio

How to live through a permacrisis when it feels like the world has gone mad

First there was Brexit, then there was the pandemic, and now Russia is pummelling Ukraine. If your levels of anxiety are creeping up again then you are most certainly forgiven. This morning after I dropped off my daughter at school, I had a conversation with a fellow school mum about the state of affairs and I walked away with that familiar yet unwelcome feeling of anxiety gripping my chest. When we are constantly being thrown curveballs of the unknown, the sense of dread about what will happen next becomes palpable. This, my friends, it what it is to be living through a permacrisis.

However bad whatever the world seems right now, it all feels a bajillion times worse thanks to the never ending news feeds which are constantly being rammed down our throats thank to the phones in our pockets and our attachment to social media. We can’t bare to look, yet we become disgustingly addicted to doom scrolling all in one fell swoop.

So now we are firmly here in the age of the permacrisis, how the heck do we live through it without completely losing our marbles? First let’s take a look at why we are all feeling so damned anxious now:

Why world troubles fire up your anxiety

Terence Watts, psychotherapist and author of the new book BWRT: Reboot your life with BrainWorking Recursive Therapy says:

“It can be difficult to get your head round… after all, Covid is nearly over, and Mr Putin and his army are hundreds of miles away. So why on earth are so many of us not sleeping properly and perhaps quietly wondering if we’re mentally ill?  Well, the answer is actually quite simple. 

It’s because most of us are control freaks, whether we want to admit it or not!

In the UK we’re so used to being in control of our lives that it’s the ‘norm’ and we really don’t think about it very much in the usual way. We have freedom. Then, suddenly, control is wrenched away from us, and we’re subject to mammoth changes almost overnight. 

The problem is, everybody’s psychology is already exhausted from two years of Covid, and just as things start to feel normal again, up comes this new threat… and resilience has taken such a beating that it all feels just too much.”

What can you do about it?

So now we understand why we are mentally where we are, what can we do about it?

Watts offers some hope: “What can you do to relieve that nagging anxiety at the back of your mind, that uncomfortable feeling somewhere in your gut? Take time to detach yourself from it. We can’t stop what’s happening in Ukraine, but you can give yourself a psychological break from it for a while. Here’s the perfect exercise to do just that. It works best if you can learn it and then do it with your eyes closed:

Step 1: Imagine how you might look from the outside

If you knew exactly how to deal with the situation and make it as vivid in your thoughts/mind as you can. Don’t worry if it seems daft or unlikely, or what anybody else might think or say if they knew – just imagine it anyway in the privacy of your mind, and store that image of the ‘competent self’ anywhere in your thoughts.

Step 2: Now think of a clock

…with an hour hand, a minute hand and a hand that shows the seconds so that you can see the clock is working. Make that vivid in your mind, too. (You don’t have to think of both this image and the first one at the same time.)

Step 3: Take a moment

…to imagine how you look from the outside when you’re at your most anxious and make that vivid too – be honest now and make it look real!

Step 4: Imagine you can stop the clock

…and actually stop time by simply staring hard at the image so that it’s frozen in the past. In fact, everything has stopped except you. You can just walk out of that frozen scene and see yourself with each step adopting that ‘competent self’ you created at step 1.

Step 5: Zoom in

Now zoom right into that image to actually become that competent self as if you’re on the inside looking out on the world as you stride forwards and notice how good that feels.

Step 6: Repeat

Repeat steps 3 – 5 at least three times and notice how it gets easier each time. Stop when you’re happy with how you feel, or after six repeats which is about the maximum useful number.

This exercise has helped a good few people to get through trying times – and the good thing about it is that you can do it as often as you like and it gets better every time. You can’t change what’s happening in the world, of course, but you can change how you react to it!”

permacrisis

The power of distraction

The ability to shift our attention away from negative experiences (note: not ignoring them), is a powerful one, in particular when it comes to managing anxiety at times like these. Dr Marianne Trent, Clinical Psychologist, founder of Good Thinking Psychological Services and host of The Aspiring Psychologist Podcast ellaborates:

“Whilst as a mental health professional I know that distraction is not the cure, it can be helpful to use strategies which keep us mindfully in the present. This might include things such as affirmations, or even just practicing skills in mindfulness such as rhythmic breathing or yoga. When creating affirmations it can be beneficial to include ways you can have a positive impact upon your thoughts and actions such as: I am choosing to focus on the things I can control, I am learning skills to soothe and calm myself, I can trust myself to take action as an when needed.

Where we do have to use a little bit of caution with positivity is if we are using it in a way which might actually be gaslighting to ourselves. For example, in the past I have worked with people who were feeling very sad and having a truly horrid day but were telling themselves that they were feeling really strong and were going to have a great day. This runs the risk of invalidating important needs and feelings and communications. So if you are having a horrid time right now then it is always a good idea to reach out to someone qualified and experienced to help you feel better.” 

Other tools to try and reduce the anxiety of living in a permacrisis

I am a big believer in having a bank of tools for dealing with tough mental times, of which we have been having plenty of over the last few years. Here Lisa Butcher, hypnotherapist, reiki master and shamanic practitioner shares some additional tools we can use during these times when we feel anxious about things we can’t control:

Breath Work

When you start to feel your palms getting sweaty or your tummy twisted in knots it’s good to work on your breath.  Every time you breathe in imagine there is calming beautiful energy coming into your body and every time you breathe out imagine letting go of fear, worry and anxiety. I like to do 7/11 breathing which is when you breathe in for the count of seven, through your nose, hold for a couple of beats and breathe out through your mouth emulating a sigh for the count of 11. Do this upto 10 times. Another great technique is to breathe in through your nose for the count of four, hold your breath for the count of three and then breathe out for the count of eight. It’s important to count the breath as it makes you concentrate on what you are doing and helps to take your mind off the feelings of anxiety.

Grounding 

Grounding is a brilliant way to get out of your head and into your body. Imagine yourself as a big oak tree. With the roots growing out the bottom of your feet, going through the different layers of the earth vertically and horizontally firmly grounding you. Now imagine pushing the energy swirling around your head (overthinking and fear) down through your body and down into mother earth to be transformed. I like to do this practice every morning when I wake up. I lay in bed and visualize my body being grounded. I then take this feeling with me on my morning dog walk. It helps me to connect with nature and feel like I’m connected to the earth.

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The TIPP Technique

If you are in the middle of a panic attack the best way to deal with it in the moment is to fill a wash basin with ice cold water. Put your whole face in the water and hold for 20 seconds. Take your head out of the water and take two or three deep breaths. Repeat this three times, and then do star jumps or move your body for 60 seconds. After sit down in a chair and take 20 long deep breaths – breathe in for the count of five and out for the count of seven. This technique is called TIPP – it stands for Temperature, Intense Exercise, Pace Breathing, Paired Muscle Relaxation. It might sound dramatic but believe me, it works.

The Five Senses

Look for five things around you and describe them. Listen to four different sounds and only focus on them. Smell three different things – try to distinguish three different scents around you. Touch two different textures. Taste one thing. By doing this you are using all of your senses to get out of your worry/fear. By stopping in the moment and using all five senses you relieve negative thought patterns and ease the anxiety.

How have you been feeling anxious with the recent world developments? Do leave a comment and share below and join our Instagram community here for more support.

Photo by Keenan Constance, Olya Kobruseva and PNW Production from Pexels

4 common sexual concerns after 40 (and what we can do about them)

As life starts to throw more challenges as we get older, whether it’s in terms of our health or just the sheer volume of tasks we need to complete every single day, the fact is that we’re not always in the mood for a bit of naughtiness, if at all! We can be very surprised by changes that occur in our sexual activity, especially after 40. There are very common reasons for this, such as decreased libido, hormone decreases, and changes in our sexual response. But there is more to it than this. Here, we explore, 4 common sexual concerns after 40.

1. Loss of libido

It’s a very common thing women experience, but we must remember that men experience it too! As women go through perimenopause into menopause, women are less likely to think about sex, if at all. And they may be very surprised at this sudden change. But it’s not just women. But men can have decreased libido too. And this is predominantly because their testosterone levels are starting to dip. 


While some methods and medications can help with this, such as Testogel, the fact is that when both partners are losing their libido, this can throw up a confusing number of components. Commonly, if one partner is sexually active and the other one isn’t, this can pose relationship problems, where breakups and divorces can occur.

2. Perception of the self

sexual concerns after 40

Something that is not always spoken about in relation to sex is the fact that as we get older we are going through so many physical changes that we can feel less desirable, which means we can be less interested in sex. Over the age of 40, there is more of a chance of us gaining weight, losing fitness levels, as well as our mood altering throughout these times. 

But we have to bear in mind that the challenges in dealing with each of these aspects can be overwhelming all in themselves. If we don’t feel attractive, which will impact our interest in sex, the best approach is to do what is manageable and reasonable to improve our overall health and appearance. But this alone is not enough. We then need to move on and learn to accept that we are who we are as we enter a new stage of our lives. 

Having that sense of self-perception is so important, regardless of your sex drive, but the more important component is to learn to accept who you are. Once we begin to feel more comfortable in our own skin, this is when we’re going to feel more attractive and open to possibilities. So many of us don’t feel attractive, even during the act of sex, which means that we’re going to not want to even initiate this because it’s going to have a negative impact on our frame of mind.

3. Gender role behaviour

In mid-life, partners can begin to fall out of sync with each other. Women in mid-life will experience a number of changes, not necessarily because of pre-menopause but the focus in their lives changes. For women who have had children in their 20s or early 30s, now they are beginning to focus more on their own needs, but will also have more time to devote to themselves. This is why we see many women changing careers in mid-life. The same thing applies to men, as they are more likely to start slowing down in their careers and want to have a balance in their lives. 

Overall, these things will impact sexual behaviour and will mean that when both partners are going out of sync with each other, they won’t necessarily have those same desires to focus on the other person. As we get older we can feel that we may have given too much of ourselves to others, especially if we’ve been in a parental role. We see many women and men in middle age going out and socialising more as they may have felt they missed out on a lot of this over the last decade or so. 

The main solution to this is about, very simply, learning to sync up with each other’s lives, even to the smallest degree. It’s almost like we’ve got to let our partners get these things out of their system. After all, we deserve to let our hair down, but if our partner is looking to do the same thing we’ve got to be aware that as we try to reclaim our lives for ourselves, there is another person in the equation. 

4. A change in sexual response

In women and men, there is a lot more difficulty in coming to orgasm, or orgasms may be less satisfying, and could potentially be an early warning sign of underlying health conditions, such as cardiovascular disease.

What can we do to help with these problems?

sexual concerns after 40

As we get older, there needs to be more focus on sex in a holistic manner. The fact is that it’s not just about being able to do it as in when you please. As we get older, we’re going to encounter more health problems that pose obstacles. Here are a few things that you can do to help move things along:

Manage stress

As we go into mid-life, our stress can increase. And this is where taking a look at your common stressors and eliminating these will help. Because if you work to manage your stress, you’re going to improve your general well-being which will have a positive effect on your sexual appetite. Managing stress doesn’t have to be about meditating for 2 hours a day, in fact, even as little as 5 minutes a day can have a positive impact, as long as you choose the right practises for you. Learning to breathe low, slow, and deep can have a positive impact on your abilities to deal with stress. 

Having a healthier diet

Our bodies respond very well to certain diets. And because there’s so much information around being healthy, we can find ourselves going down certain avenues that don’t benefit us on an individual level. Physiologically speaking, you have to ensure that you are increasing blood flow and helping your body to regenerate in the right ways. In many ways, the solutions are simple: eating for energy and having whole foods without any preservatives or additives. But it’s also important to remember that fat can also be beneficial here, especially good fats. 

Exercising

sexual concerns after 40

Women who take part in exercise have been shown to display fewer menopausal symptoms. It also increases cardiovascular health, resulting in a better sexual response. 

Treating anxieties

It may be beneficial to go to the doctor and discuss the right methods to medicate any form of anxiety or depression. It’s worth noting that medication like antidepressants can inhibit sexual function, but having this in combination with a type of therapy such as CBT may work for you. 

Sleep

Finally, having adequate sleep is vital for every aspect of your life. Having a solid 8 hours is not just going to reduce your stress, but will increase your hormone production which has a natural impact on increasing sexual desire. 

Because getting older, for many people, means naturally losing interest in sex, this doesn’t have to be the case. The reality is that we all deserve a healthy sex life, and having an understanding of the common issues that underlie a lot of middle-aged sexual anxieties, as well as having the best health solutions, will make a massive difference.

Keep the conversation going by commenting below or connecting with us on Instagram

Are there benefits to a plant-based diet in your 40s?

This article includes PR samples

By now we can all safely admit that we have tried SOME form of restrictive dieting in our time. I remember an old boss going through the cabbage soup diet trend and just feeling so sorry for her. She must have been starving and farty! I had the benefit of working on Celebrity Fit Club where I worked closely with the team supporting the celebrities and I learned so much about nutrition. However, I was in my early 20s and had a metabolism faster than a speeding train. It’s only now, in my 40s, I’ve discovered that this train needs a frikking service!

These days, I look to maintain a healthy balance with food. I eat mindfully and I enjoy what I eat. That said, I know that at this stage of my life, I will benefit hugely from fuelling my body in the right way. I do enjoy meat but for various reasons I do want to cut back so I was super interested to learn more about the benefits to a plant-based diet.

What is a plant-based diet?

We asked Dr Kirstie Lawton, a registered nutritional therapist at the Institute for Optimum Nutrition and an AfN registered nutritionist to explain a little more. She offered us the following information.

According to the British Dietetic Association, a plant-based diet consists mostly or entirely of plant-based foods. While the term is synonymously used with veganism, a plant-based diet isn’t necessarily vegan and may include those who eat some meat, fish, egg, or dairy. The diet is predominantly made up of fruit and vegetables, grains, pulses and legumes, nuts and seeds. 

What are the benefits to a plant-based diet?

benefits to a plant-based diet

An entirely plant-based diet, if correctly balanced, is rich in a wide range of protein building blocks, phytonutrients (plant-derived nutrients) and a diverse array of fibre, that can support the microbiota and improve gut health. Pulses and legumes are protein-rich and contain a variety of nutrients including B vitamins, iron, folate, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, zinc, and fibre to support the microbiota.

Nuts and seeds are highly nutritious food sources containing a wide variety of protein building blocks, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals including B vitamins, vitamin E, iron, potassium, selenium, magnesium, zinc and copper, and fibre. Fruit and vegetables are rich in a wide variety of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and fibre also. 

There is research supporting the use of a well-considered plant-based diet for reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and blood lipid profiles, management of diabetes type 2, weight reduction and prevention of some cancers. However, what is key here is that the diet is from whole food sources that are prepared from scratch, rather than over-reliance on processed plant foods that are high in salt and additives. 

What considerations are there for eating a plant-based diet?

Plant-based eating can be healthy and nutritious, however, there are some key considerations: 

While a number of vegan food sources contain protein, the amount is generally quite low, so it is essential to ensure that you are eating a good source of protein at each meal. A number of these sources also have what we call limiting amino acids, e.g. a protein building block that is essential from the diet is missing. By combining plant-based foods e.g. beans and rice, the meal becomes a source of all essential amino acids. The richest and most complete source of protein is soy, however, this can be highly processed and isn’t suitable for everyone. 

Research indicates that those eating an entirely plant-based diet may be deficient in a number of nutrients including riboflavin (B2), Niacin (B3), vitamin B12, vitamin D, iodine, zinc, calcium, potassium, and selenium. Sources of all of these nutrients are available through a plant-based diet and some fortification (calcium, vitamin B12). However, someone who is plant-based and concerned that their diet isn’t diverse enough may wish to consider supplementation, which should be done in consultation with a registered nutritional therapist.

Consider supplementation

benefits to a plant-based diet

Further potential deficiencies include the essential fatty acids DHA and EPA, which are derived from fish, and are essential for a number of functions in the body. While these can also be converted from the fatty acids found in seeds, conversation rates are low. Algae is a plant-based source of DHA and EPA and should be considered in supplement form. Finally, choline is essential for a wide range of functions, and is especially important for the growing foetus, so choline supplementation may also be a consideration in those who are eating a plant-based diet and of childbearing age. 

There are more and more plant-based products on the market that are highly processed, and full of inflammatory ingredients which may not be optimal for health. These should be eaten as an occasional food choice, and replaced with homemade recipes from raw or minimally processed ingredients where possible. 

Finally, those with GI issues, such as an imbalance or overgrowth of bacteria, issues with nightshades, a soy allergy, or intolerance to histamine-rich or oxalate-rich foods may struggle with a plant-based diet, and should seek support from a registered nutritional therapist to correct these health concerns.

Plant-based recipe ideas

benefits to a plant-based diet

I was thrilled with Good4U asked me to try their range of plant-based snacks and toppers.

Packed with plant-based protein, the range is ideal for those looking for a natural protein boost, whether it’s to increase energy after a workout or to incorporate as part of a family meal, the delicious topper combinations are here to elevate and nutritionally optimise those bland dishes.

To add nutritional benefit to those more indulgent meals, these tasty toppers can be added to a wide range of dishes including your favourite pizza, curry, or burrito. In fact, the handy pouches can be easily resealed and used whenever a sprinkle of goodness is needed in your dish.

Good4U Super Seeds offer a crunchy and savoury mix of tamari roasted sunflower seeds, pumpkin, and British-grown green peas. At only 144 calories per 25g serving, the seeds contain zinc, known to help the immune system to reduce unwanted bacteria and viruses, ideal for fighting off those colds and flus during the winter months.

If you want to add a bit of spice to your evening meal, why not turn up the heat with Good4U’s Garlic and Chilli Salad Toppers. This spicy mix is only 123 calories per 25g serving, made with sweet red peppers, chilli roasted seeds, smoky chipotle, and a sprinkle of kale, which can be poured on your curry for a nourishing boost or added to your salad to give an extra punchy kick.

To find out more about the range and for recipe inspiration, visit the Good4U website.

benefits to a plant-based diet

I’ve been really enjoying building Buddha bowls for a satisfying lunch. Follow the steps below, picking one suggestion from each. Season to taste and enjoy! Send us your pictures on Instagram!

Grain Base

Grains are naturally high in fibre, helping you feel full and satisfied. Choose from one of the following:

Brown rice

Spelt

Buckwheat

Millet

Quinoa

Bulgar Wheat

Barley

Corn

Giant Cous Cous

Wild Rice

Protein

We need protein in our diet to help our body repair cells and make new ones. Choose from one of the following:

Chickpeas

Lentils

Kidney Beans

Peas

Edamame Beans

Black Beans

Mung Beans

Soy Beans

Navy Beans

Tofu

Colour

benefits to a plant-based diet

There’s nothing more beautiful than eating the rainbow. So add one of the following to invite your eyes to the party:

Broccoli

Kale

Spinich

Carrots

Sweet Potato

Butternut Squash

Red Cabbage

Mangetout

Radish

Beetroot

Dressing

Fats in dressings can actually help you absorb key nutrients. But don’t go crazy! Choose from one of the following:

Olive Oil

Balsamic Vinegar

Apple Cider Vinegar

Red or white wine vinegar

Lemon Juice

Lime Juice

Honey

Pumpkin Seed Oil

Soy Sauce

Natural Yoghurt

Texture

Who doesn’t love that added crunch. Salads don’t need to be boring. What will you add from the following?

Sunflower Seeds

Pumpkin Seeds

Poppy Seeds

Hemp Seeds

Almonds

Cashews

Hazelnuts

Walnuts

Brazil Buts

Peanuts

I love seeing all the gorgeous colours in the bowl knowing I’m eating mindfully and healthily. The best part is, it tastes amazing. We have introduced meat-free Mondays at home. It’s a start!

Are you plant-based? Are you considering cutting back on meat? Let us know by commenting below.

4 self loving ways to change your appearance

Making changes to your appearance is probably something that you do many times throughout your life. Some people are happy to make huge changes all at once, but not everyone is happy doing something completely different. You might want to change your appearance but do it in a way that’s a bit more discreet and perhaps that other people can’t even identify. Maybe you want people to notice that something is different and that you look good without really being able to say what it is. If you want to change your appearance in a more subtle way, here are some options.

Straighten your teeth

Change Your Appearance

Straightening your teeth is a great way to get a new look and improve your smile. It’s something that you might have wanted to do before but couldn’t afford when you were younger. However, as an adult, the idea of wearing braces probably doesn’t appeal to you. Fortunately, you now have the option of Invisalign, which is transparent and discreet. Instead of having visible braces like a teenager, you’ll have see-through aligners that are custom-fit for you. People probably won’t even be able to tell that you have them in, so you can happily wear them without feeling self-conscious.

Try Contacts

If you’ve worn glasses for a long time, you’re probably used to wearing them every day. But contact lenses provide an alternative that can allow you to change your look. As you get older, you could find that your vision changes and you might end up needing to wear glasses or contacts even if you never have before. Contact lenses allow you to correct your vision without having to wear glasses all the time, and it’s not difficult to learn to use them. Of course, if you don’t feel confident about it, you could consider switching up the style of your glasses.

Wear different underwear

Change Your Appearance

The foundational garments that you wear can actually make a big difference to how you look in your clothes. In particular, wearing the right bra can really help your clothes to look better. You can also wear underwear to give you a smoother silhouette and help you get the right shape, especially if you’re wearing clothes with a closer fit. Try experimenting with some different styles to find underwear that you feel good wearing and that helps to provide your outfits with the right foundation.

Learn some new makeup techniques

Doing your makeup in a different way is something that other people might not pick up on straight away. You can make subtle changes that help you to feel more confident and give you a new look that you love, but you don’t have to do anything too drastic. You could change the way you do your eyeliner, choose a new lip colour, or try some subtle contouring if you want to do something a little different from your usual makeup.

If you want to make changes to your appearance, they don’t have to be huge changes. Try something a little more subtle that will still make a difference.

Eating well to age + 5 scrummy recipes!

Have you made a pact with yourself to eat better this year? If you’re reading this because you’ve already hit the 40 mark – which you most probably have – then you will know that we can’t quite get away with shovelling any old thing into our system and not pay the penalty for it. The bottom line is that at 40, we need to start thinking about eating well to age so we can feel more vibrant and vital for longer. Because that’s the aim of the game now folks isn’t it?

So what’s the schtick here? At 40, eating well to age means we should all be eating plenty of veggies – the more colourful and intense in colour the better, a variety of fruits, wholegrains, the right amount of protein, healthy fats and the like. As our metabolisms slow down, quite simply…we need to be more selective about what we eat if we want to walk the path to improved wellness.

With that said, today we are sharing some of our favourite recipes for eating well to age from the very appropriately named book – Eat Well to Age Well – the inspiring new cookbook by Beverley Jarvis – which is a veritable bible for eating well to age. It’s packed full of delicious whole food recipes, as well as insightful nutritional and invaluable practical guidance to help us all become super agers, without the hard work!

Vegetable medley with chickpeas and almonds – V

Eating well to age
Credit: David-James Selling

This filling vegetable dish is ideal served as a light lunch or supper, needing only the addition of a dressed, mixed-leaf salad to make it into a complete meal. If you don’t eat the whole dish at one sitting, leftovers can be chilled and re-heated the following day. You may prefer to cook the vegetables on the hob while you cook the sauce in the microwave.

SERVES 2

INGREDIENTS:

250 g washed and diced butternut squash

1 celery stick, chopped

1 small red pepper, chopped

1 medium-size courgette, sliced

1 tsp dried mixed herbs

Juice ½ orange

25 g flaked almonds

1x 200 g chickpeas, drained

EQUIPMENT:

You will need a shallow microwaveable dish (about 1 ½ litre in capacity), a citrus juicer, microwaveable dinner plate, chopping board and knife, spoon for stirring and microwaveable dinner plate.

NUTRITIONAL NOTE:

Butternut squash is a good source of dietary fibre and contains 22 g carbohydrate per cupful. One cup also contains 57% of the RDI for vitamin A and 52% of the RDI for vitamin C, as well as vitamins B1, B3, B6 and B9. It also makes a valuable contribution towards the RDI for the minerals calcium, iron, phosphorus and copper. The chickpeas provide 7.4 g fibre, 7.2 g protein and 15.7 g carbohydrate per 100 g.

TO SERVE:                                

Dressed, mixed-leaf salad with chopped apple; wholemeal bread rolls.

1. Put the prepared vegetables into the shallow dish, sprinkle with the herbs and then add the orange juice.

2. Cover the dish loosely with greaseproof paper, wrapping it under the dish to prevent it from blowing off.

3. Microwave on High for 5 minutes.

4. Remove the dish from microwave and carefully stir the vegetables, then recover and return to microwave for a

further 3½ minutes on High.

5. Set aside to stand, covered.

Toast the almonds:                                                                                                                                                                                                 

 1. Arrange them around the outside edge of the dinner plate and then microwave on High for 5 minutes, opening the door and rearranging the nuts once during cooking. They will turn lightly golden.

2. Add the drained chickpeas to the vegetables and return to the microwave for 1 minute on High.

3. Serve the vegetables with their delicious juices, topped with the toasted almonds, accompanied by the bread rolls and salad.

Cod and courgette kebabs with pineapple

Eating well to age
Credit: David-James Selling

These tasty fish kebabs, flavoured with lemon and garlic could be cooked on the BBQ, or under a pre-heated grill. They are as attractive to serve as they are good to eat.

SERVES 2

INGREDIENTS:

250 g cod fillet (or salmon fillet if

preferred), skinned and cubed

6 button mushrooms

½ tbsp olive oil

1 garlic clove, crushed

Juice and finely grated zest of

½ lemon or lime

1 tbsp freshly chopped coriander

1 medium courgette, cut into 6 equal slices

1 small red pepper, cut into 2.5 cm pieces

2 canned pineapple rings in natural

juice, drained well, then cut into chunks

(optional)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

EQUIPMENT:

You will need a chopping board and knife, small mixing bowl, shallow dish, fork, teaspoon, tablespoon, skewers, a pastry brush, citrus juicer, small bowl and fork.

NUTRITIONAL NOTE:

The cod makes a valuable contribution towards your RDI for protein. It can also provide all or more of your RDI for vitamin B12 and is a valuable source of selenium and iodine. The potato mash makes a good contribution to your RDI for carbohydrate with the sweet potatoes adding vitamins A and B6, plus 6.6 g fibre per 100 g. The bell peppers are a good source of antioxidants.

TO SERVE:

Serve with the pickled vegetables on page 114 and a mash made from equal quantities of sweet and ordinary white potatoes, such as King Edwards, peeled, then cooked together in a covered large pan of boiling water until completely tender. Drain well, then mash, beating in a little semi-skimmed milk and a seasoning of salt and freshly ground black pepper.

1. Put the cod and mushrooms into a shallow dish.

2. In a mug or small bowl, mix together the olive oil, garlic, lime/lemon zest and juice and the coriander.

3. Whisk with a fork and spoon over the mushrooms and fish. Cover and chill for 30 minutes.

4. Carefully thread the fish and mushrooms onto 2 kebab skewers, alternating with the courgette, red pepper and pineapple pieces, if using.

5. Brush each skewer with some of the remaining marinade mixture and season with a little salt and pepper.

6. Grill on a grill rack, lined with tin foil, for 6-8 minutes, turning occasionally, or until cooked through.

7. Serve immediately, with the pickled vegetables and the mashed potatoes.

COOK’S TIP

If you are using wooden/bamboo skewers, soak these in water for ½ hour before use to stop them burning.

Curried lamb soup with broccoli

Eating well to age
Credit: David-James Selling

Any leftovers can be cooled, then stored in the fridge, for up to 3 days. The soup also freezes well; re-heat until boiling and simmer for 3 minutes before serving. Filling and sustaining, serve the soup as a complete meal, accompanied with some warmed naan or chunky wholemeal bread.

SERVES 4-5

INGREDIENTS:

2 tbsp olive or rapeseed oil

1 large red onion, chopped

2 carrots, diced

3 tbsp tikka curry paste

1 clove garlic, chopped

½ red chilli, de-seeded and chopped

2.5 cm piece fresh ginger,

peeled and grated

1 x 400 g can chopped tomatoes

2 tbsp tomato purée

350 g lamb leg steaks, trimmed and diced

1 rounded tbsp plain flour, seasoned with

salt and freshly ground black pepper

1.2 litre lamb stock

1 x 400 g can cannellini beans,

drained and rinsed

1 head broccoli, florets only

EQUIPMENT:

You will need a chopping board and knife, 2 dinner plates, absorbent kitchen paper, a measuring jug, tablespoon, grater, teaspoon, wooden spoon, slotted spoon, large saucepan with lid and large frying pan.

NUTRITIONAL NOTE:

The protein in the lamb contributes significantly to your RDI. Lamb also contributes vitamins B6 and B12, iron and magnesium. There are fibre and vitamins A and C in the carrot, tomatoes and broccoli and protein, fibre, vitamin B9, and the minerals copper, and iron in the cannellini beans.

TO SERVE:

1. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large saucepan, on a high heat.

2. Add the onion and carrot and stir-fry for about 5 minutes, over a medium heat, until the onion is soft and translucent.

3. Stir in the curry paste with the garlic, chillies and ginger and keep stir-frying for a further minute.

4. Add the tomatoes and tomato purée to the pan; stir well.

5. On the dinner plate, toss the lamb in the seasoned flour.

6. In a large, shallow frying pan, heat the remaining oil.

7. Add the lamb to the hot oil in the frying pan and stir-fry, over a medium-high heat, until golden on all sides.

8. Lift from the pan, using a slotted spoon, and drain on absorbent kitchen paper.

9. Add the lamb stock to the saucepan and bring to the boil.

10. Cover and simmer gently, for 30 minutes.

11. Stir in the drained beans and broccoli.

12. Continue to simmer for 5-7 minutes, covered, until the vegetables are just tender. Return lamb to pan. Stir.

13. Serve, in warmed soup bowls

Avocado and chicken bake

Credit: David-James Selling

Avocados are highly nutritious and simply delicious, quickly baked in the microwave. This easy recipe makes a great light lunch or supper dish. As an alternative to the chicken, try chopped cooked prawns or drained, flaked, canned tuna fish.

SERVES 1

INGREDIENTS:

50 g cooked chopped chicken thigh

or breast meat

50 g freshly made brown breadcrumbs

1 tbsp Greek-style natural yoghurt

1 tbsp freshly chopped tarragon or parsley

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 large ripe avocado, halved

Juice ½ lemon

25 g parmesan cheese, grated

EQUIPMENT:

You will need a 1-litre mixing bowl, tablespoon, teaspoon, citrus juicer, pastry brush, microwaveable avocado dish, 2 microwaveable dinner plates, chopping board and knife, and cheese grater.

NUTRITIONAL NOTE:

Avocados have many nutritional benefits (see page 23). The chicken makes a significant contribution towards your RDI for protein. The breadcrumbs provide carbohydrate and fibre.

TO SERVE:

2 tsp crème fraîche; handful parsley sprigs, chopped.

1. Put the chicken into the mixing bowl with the breadcrumbs and yoghurt then stir in the herbs with a seasoning of salt (keep to a minimum) and pepper.

2. Brush both halves of the avocado with lemon juice and wrap one half to chill in the fridge for use in a salad the following day.

3. Fill the remaining avocado half with the prepared filling.

4. Sprinkle with the grated cheese.

5. Put the filled avocado half in the microwaveable avocado dish, then stand the dish on a dinner plate.

6. Microwave, uncovered, on High for 2½-3 minutes. Serve immediately with the crème fraîche and parsley.

COOK’S TIP

This recipe can easily be doubled. If cooking two avocado halves together, allow about 4 minutes, and space them apart on a dinner plate.

Sweet jacket potatoes with smoked mackerel, horseradish and parsley

Credit: David-James Selling

Sweet potatoes cook quickly in the microwave and can be counted as one of your seven-a-day. I often serve them for a quick lunch, straight from the microwave, with just some crumbled feta cheese and a dressed, mixed salad with a sliced kiwi fruit and some chopped dates added.

SERVES 2

INGREDIENTS:

2 medium-size sweet potatoes,

washed and dried

Spray oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

75 g smoked mackerel fillet, skinned

3 tbsp Greek-style natural yoghurt

2 tsp lemon juice

2 tsp horseradish sauce

1 dsp freshly chopped parsley

EQUIPMENT:

You will need a vegetable knife, microwaveable dinner plate, 1-litre mixing bowl, fork, measuring spoons, chopping board and knife.

NUTRITIONAL NOTE:

A good source of fibre, and providing 6% of your daily requirement for carbohydrate, and 4% of your daily vitamin C  needs, sweet potatoes also provide 10% of the daily requirement for vitamin B6. The mackerel and yoghurt contribute significantly towards your daily protein requirement and the mackerel also provides more than the RDI for vitamin D, significant B3 (niacin) and B12 and the minerals iron, magnesium and selenium. Greek yoghurt contains 121 mg calcium per 100 g.

TO SERVE:

Accompany with a dressed, mixed salad.

1. Score a cross in the top of each potato you wish to cook.

2. Stand the potatoes, spaced apart, on the dinner plate and spray them all over with a little spray oil and season with a little salt and pepper.

3. Microwave them, uncovered, on High for 5-6 minutes for one potato or 8 minutes for two.

4. Set aside for 4 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, prepare the filling: In the mixing bowl, mash together using a fork, the mackerel fillet with the yoghurt,

lemon juice and horseradish sauce. Add the parsley and fork in.

6. Serve the opened jacket potato(es) with the mackerel filling, divided between them, accompanied by the salad.

COOK’S TIP

Baked sweet potatoes are delicious served with a dollop of lightly seasoned Greek yoghurt, with a little finely chopped red onion or a few snipped chives.

Eat Well to Age Well is available to buy at Waterstones and on Amazon. Check out the first chapter of the book here.

The best healthy recipes for ageing

We hope you enjoyed these recipes which are a fantastic way of eating well to age. Have you started eating well to age? Which is your favourite recipe from the above? And if you haven’t why not join our Instagram community where we share all things related to life in your 40s here.

Cover picture credit: Food photo created by senivpetro

What is social prescribing and how can it help you?

You may have recently heard the word social prescribing coming up in the news. From the use of the arts to help those struggling with mental health including the possibility of using comedians to help those with trauma. But what is social prescribing and how could it help you? Here, we get the full-down on social prescribing from Bev Taylor, Director of Strategy, National Academy for Social Prescribing and why this latest form of lifestyle medicine might be coming to prescribed to you by your GP sometime soon….

What is a social prescription and when is it generally used?

Social prescribing changes lives. It connects people to practical and emotional community support, through social prescribing link workers, who are based in GP practices and take referrals from all local agencies. Link workers have time to build trusting relationships, start with what matters to the person, create a shared plan and introduce people to community support.

Link workers give people time, focusing on ‘what matters to me’ and taking a holistic approach to people’s health and wellbeing. They connect people to community groups and sources of advice, practical and emotional support. A social prescription helps people get more control over their health and wellbeing, to manage their needs and in a way that suits them. It can especially help people who:

  • have one or more long-term condition
  • need support with their mental health
  • are lonely or isolated
  • need extra help to make community connections
  • have complex social needs which affect their wellbeing.

The NHS has committed to connecting people to activities in the community that help them manage their health and wellbeing. The National Academy for Social Prescribing exists to ensure these activities are supported, celebrated and able to support people’s needs.

How can it improve our health?

There is emerging evidence that social prescribing can lead to a range of positive health and wellbeing outcomes for people, such as improved quality of life and emotional wellbeing.

Many things affect our health and wellbeing – finances, access to green space, what’s going on at home, to name a few.1 in 5 appointments booked with GPs are for essentially non-medical reasons. These include issues such as loneliness, social isolation, debt, housing issues and relationships. [Source: A very general practice: How much time do GPs spend on issues other than health? – Citizens Advice]

People may talk to their GP because they may be feeling stressed about their work, money, or because they are lonely and isolated. The impact that these issues can have on our physical and mental wellbeing has been particularly clear as the nation responds to COVID19.

But these problems cannot be fixed by medicine, or doctors, alone. That’s where a social prescription comes in.  Social prescribing connects people to practical and emotional community support, through social prescribing link workers, who are based in GP practices and take referrals from all local agencies. Link workers have time to build trusting relationships, start with what matters to the person, create a shared plan and introduce people to community support.

Activities such as those connected with the arts, or natural environment, or engaging in exercise or sport can help us to maintain and build relationships, unlock our strengths, to have choice and control and to find constructive and helpful activities within our community.

social prescribing

How can it improve our enjoyment of life?

Everyone will gain from being asked the question ‘what matters to you?’ Social prescribing link workers help those people who need extra support to make community connections. They introduce people to community groups and practical support. They follow-up to ensure that people are included and getting the support they need.  Having someone to help us deal with poor housing and money worries can be a real life saver.  It can be positive to be out in the community, doing things, learning new skills, and meeting new people. All of these add to our enjoyment of life.

What could a social prescription include?

Social prescribing links people to a range of activities that are typically provided by voluntary and community sector organisations, for example, debt counselling, housing advice, volunteering, arts activities, group learning, gardening, befriending, cookery, healthy eating advice and a range of sports.

What are some examples of social prescription?

Through the Thriving Communities Fund the National Academy for Social Prescribing is supporting 36 projects to deliver social prescribing in their communities. Some highlights include:

  • Reading Voluntary Action – Wild Being – An extensive programme of arts, culture, nature, physical activity and life advice for 300 people including pop up arts, English language conversations, and gardening.
  • Robin Hood Health Foundation Prescribe to Thrive Partnership – Tailored social prescribing to reach 100 residents to improve physical and mental health and wellbeing, alongside support for artists and creatives.
  • Argyle Community Trust Green Social Prescribing – A health and wellbeing programme in Central Park, Plymouth, to enhance use and enjoyment of green space and green social prescribing.
  • Canal & River Trust – Nottingham & Beeston Canal – The Canal & River Trust will lead partners will use the natural asset of the Nottingham & Beeston Canal to provide physical activity, art, heritage and food-based activities, reaching c.430 people.
  • Heeley Development Trust – Happier Healthier Heeley Plus – A range of creative, green and physical activities to help people reconnect – including bicycle powered Shakespeare.
  • Sunderland Culture Sunderland Social Prescribing Partnership – High-quality creative social prescribing activities for carers and their families including doorstep delivery, men’s shed, outdoor volunteering and singing for lung health.
social prescribing

How do we go about getting a social prescription?

In 2019 the NHS introduced social prescribing link workers as part of the NHS infrastructure, which acknowledged what was already happening in some places. They were introduced in primary care networks, as part of the multidisciplinary teams within the practice team.

When social prescribing works well, people can be easily referred to link workers within their GP practice. People can also refer themselves.

There are many opportunities for people to access community activities directly, but the social prescribing link worker role is crucial for those unable to connect for themselves, or facing barriers to achieving their health and wellbeing goals; or perhaps lacking skills, knowledge or confidence.

Anything else to add or any resources to share?

The Thriving Communities Ideas Hub is packed full of inspiring stories, and you can join our Network to connect with others interested in the field.

photo created by rawpixel.com and tirachardz – www.freepik.com