Five experts, five tips: GPs on keeping well – mentally and physically

‘Younger women need to be aware of starting their CervicalCheck screening when they are 25’

‘It’s tragic that we have to structure exercise into our lives instead of simply walking to school, walking to the shops and carrying bags home.’ File photograph: Getty

‘It’s tragic that we have to structure exercise into our lives instead of simply walking to school, walking to the shops and carrying bags home.’ File photograph: Getty

 

Dr Ide Delargy

Medical director of the Practitioner Health Matters Programme
“When I give advice to people, I use what I call the See plan. To be well, you have to See well which means to get adequate Sleep, Eat well and take regular Exercise. These are the basic building blocks of wellbeing and if you’re not adhering to them, you won’t be well.

I also advise people to “choose joy over duty” and to “lean into their hobbies”, so it is about doing things that give you joy. It can be hard to motivate ourselves all the time so enlist the help or support of someone else when you are doing these things.”

Dr Phillip Sheeran

GP in Co Wicklow
“I believe we can be healthier if we change aspects of our daily lives. So for instance, we all live in climate controlled indoor environments but if you turn down the heating a few degrees, you will lose weight.

January is Health Month in The Irish Times. Throughout the month, in print and online, we will be offering encouragement and inspiration to help us all improve our physical and mental health in 2021. See irishtimes.com/health
January is Health Month in The Irish Times. Throughout the month, in print and online, we will be offering encouragement and inspiration to help us all improve our physical and mental health in 2021. See irishtimes.com/health

Also, it’s tragic that we have to structure exercise into our lives instead of simply walking to school, walking to the shops and carrying bags home. Basically, we should be using our bodies more as part of our everyday lives.

I also think that we are starved of social contact while living our lives through screens. Remember the time when you sat in front of the television and chatted to family about what was on. We all need to laugh and connect with others more.

And finally, I advise people to get all their vaccinations. If I was to do nothing else but vaccinate people for the rest of my working life, I would save more lives than any other work I do.”

Dr Tom O’Dowd

GP in Tallaght, Dublin
“My advice to people is to monitor their health more themselves. So, get a weighing scales and weigh yourself each week to ensure you aren’t putting on extra weight. If you have children, it’s worth having an infra red thermometer which can tell you accurately how your child’s fever is progressing (over 37 degrees Celsius on repeated readings is a concern).

If you have diabetes, keep a check on your finger blood glucose levels every day and show your GP your records. If you have COPD [chronic obstructive pulmonary disease] consider buying a pulse oximeter to test your finger oxygen levels. If they are falling because you are getting a bit chesty, you need to tell your GP who will adjust your inhalers. And if you are over 40, consider investing in a blood pressure machine. If it is raised for the first time (over 130/90) your GP will organise a 24-hour test for you.”

Dr Noirin Herlihy

GP in Mallow, Co Cork
“As a parent of young children, I’m very aware of how important a healthy diet, regular exercise, limited screen time, good sleep routines and mental wellbeing is for family life. But before a woman becomes pregnant, it’s important for her to take folic acid and Vitamin D supplements which are continued into the pregnancy. Breastfeeding is also the healthiest food for babies. Weaning on to solid foods can begin at four months.

It’s good for parents to remember that children can have coughs and colds up to eight times a year until they are around seven or eight. Undertheweather.ieis a good resource to help with measures that can be taken at home. However, if they have a high fever, reaction to bright lights, a stiff neck or a blotchy red rash, they should seek advice from their doctor as soon as possible.”

Dr Velma Harkins

GP in Banagher, Co Offaly
“The most important health tip I have for women of all ages is to stop smoking and limit their alcohol intake to a maximum of 10 units per week. Women’s overall health can be impacted by hormonal changes throughout their lives. Eating a well-balanced nutritious diet high in fruit, vegetables, fish, healthy fats, and low in carbohydrates helps regulate hormonal swings.

“Younger women need to be aware of starting their CervicalCheck screening when they are 25. Cervical cancer, if detected early, is very curable. For older women, menopausal symptoms such as mood swings, hot flushes and night sweats can impact badly and HRT [hormone replacement therapy] can be prescribed by GPs.

“Women should check they are registered for breast check screenings (from aged 50) and bowel screening (from aged 60). Older women especially should look after their bone health with a calcium and protein rich diet and weight-bearing exercises as loss of oestrogen after the menopause can cause osteoporosis.”

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