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Live the dream

Not everyone enjoys the winter months. Long dark evenings make it difficult to get out in the fresh air, wind and weather encourages you to stay indoors, low temperatures turn you to comfort foods and the combination of central heating and frosty outdoors can make your skin dry and tight.

But it doesn't have to be like that! Here are some ways to energise the winter months so you look and feel great.

Winter-proof your skin Stay hydrated by drinking lots of water and moisturising really well. Eat lots of antioxidants to keep your skin bright and exfoliate once a week to get rid of the dead cells.

Brighten your mood The winter can dampen the liveliest of spirits - researchers believe it's the lack of light that interferes with the hormones in the brain and reduces serotonin - the feel good hormone. But even on the worst day there is 30 times more light outdoors than in, so even if its bad do try to get outside every day even if its only for a short time. Make the most of natural daylight by pulling back curtains, and sitting by windows. If you suffer really badly from lack of light, consider a light box.

You can also boost your mood by eating foods rich in tryptophan which your body uses to make the happy hormone serotonin. Eat fish, turkey, chicken, cheese, beans, tofu, oats and eggs. Taking a supplement of something like St Johns Wort may also help brighten your mood.

Boost your immunity Most adults get 2-5 colds each winter when we're cooped up indoors. Build up your defences by eating foods rich in Vitamin C- citrus fruits, berries, red peppers, tomatoes - and Zinc - seafood, meat, liver, wholegrains. Getting enough sleep is also important, as is taking some regular aerobic exercise.

Protect your Heart and Lungs Asthma, respiratory problems and heart attacks are more common in the winter because colds and flu can be a trigger. The best way to keep your heart and lungs healthy is to exercise aerobically as much as possible - at least 30 minutes, 3 times a week. You can also eat oily fish and other foods that provide Omega 3 fatty acids which help against heart disease. 

Physical Activity after a heart attack

People who have suffered from a heart attack are not destined to a life of bed rest. In fact cardiac rehabilitation programs are based on getting active as soon as possible.

These programs are based on three phases:

Phase 1 - still in hospital after a heart attack or cardiac operation, supervised by a coronary care nurse. Small amounts of exercise are encouraged such as walking and exercise is recorded daily, and small daily increases encouraged.

Phase 2 - on release from hospital. Return to hospital three times a week for closely monitored exercise. Wearing mobile ECG leads, the use of bikes and treadmills are monitored by coronary care nurse. This phase normally lasts several months.

Phase 3 - long term maintenance. Structured exercise sessions for people with coronary conditions are organised in fitness centres/community facilities by specialists and physical activity built into every day life.

Coronary problems normally fall into one of the following categories:

Coronary artery disease

A heart attack occurs when the artery carrying blood to the heart becomes blocked. This is usually due to the partial blocking by atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is the build up of fatty substances (cholesterol in particular) on the lining of the arteries. The build up is gradual over a persons lifetime. When complete blockage occurs, which is usually a sudden event, part of the heart muscle loses its blood supply and dies.

Angina pectoris

This is an episode of chest pain that may radiate to the neck, jaw or down either arm. It signifies that the heart is not receiving enough oxygen-rich blood. It usually occurs during exercise, emotional turmoil or even after a heavy meal when the heart is working harder. It is not a heart attack, but often a precursor to one. Medication or reduced activity usually helps.


This is where blood vessels become blocked by a blood clot. Most likely in the presence of atherosclerosis, or when blood flow is sluggish.

Coronary Thrombosis

This is when a clot blocks off blood flow to the heart, causing the affected part to die. If more than 30% of heart muscle is damaged, death may occur.


This affects the brain not the heart, but has all the same causes as the coronary problems. When the blood supply is reduced or cut off to the brain, cells damage occurs resulting in paralysis, impaired speech etc.

How does physical activity help ?

Physical activity will help reduce the chance of having another heart attack and it reduces the risk of dying from another heart attack by around 25%. Physical activity

reduces the tendency of blood to clot, a major risk factory for coronary heart disease and reduces that amount of bad cholesterol in the body. also helps reduce irregular electrical activity in the heart.

What type of activity is best?

The best exercise is stamina-based, aerobic exercise with extended warm up and cool down sessions, and a low-to-moderate intensity conditioning bout.

This exercise should - Increase the heart rate Use 50% or more of total muscle mass (including thighs, trunks, arms and shoulders) Last at least 20-30 mins

Examples include walking, swimming, jogging, dancing, cycling etc.

You also need to include some strength and flexibility-based activity to get the best health gain.

However, resistance training (ie using weights must avoid heavy lifts. Use low weights when lifting above shoulders. Activities such as gardening and housework can be useful strength building activities. Do not hold your breath when lifting as this puts additional strain on your heart.

Be Safe

If you get angina, use tour GTN tablet or spray before starting to exercise Being physically active outside when its cold can increase the chance of When exercising.

Avoid being physically active immediately after you have eaten allow at least an hour.

Being physically active outside when its cold can increase the chance of angina, so don't push yourself when its cold go to the gym instead.


if you have Discomfort in your chest or upper body or have severe breathlessness.

Nausea or dizziness, fainting or palpitations.

How often should you exercise?

You should aim to build up to 30 minutes of moderate activity 5 or more days a week.
BUILD UP to this gradually.

Moderate activity means breathing harder and getting warmer than normal, but you should be able to talk as you exercise.

Please check with your doctor before starting any exercise programme.