An Osteopath's View

Thoughts on leading a healthier life from Helena Greenwood at Jurassic Coast Osteopathy, Weymouth, Dorset

Steps to living better but a couple of surprises .. what I found out from my Living Well free health check

As part of my plan to make a few small changes to get healthier in 2020, I took advantage of Dorset Living Well’s offer of a free health check, not least because their office is based two floors above mine at Lynch Lane Offices in Weymouth. Which means no excuses about it being difficult to get to, nowhere to park or I haven’t got the time.  I just had to walk up the stairs (I could have taken the lift but I thought that would defeat the point of trying to get healthy!), I was already parked in the (large) car park at the back of Lynch Lane Offices, and it was 15 minutes out of my working day - a good investment of my time as it turns out as I found out a couple of things I didn’t know that I need to take action on.

The health check involved 4 things 
- taking my blood pressure using a standard electronic monitor (one of which I have for my patients, but rarely use on myself!)
- checking my lung capacity/function by blowing in a tube (as they do for asthmatics & other people with lung problems);
- holding a device that measures surface body fat using electrical conduction;
- calculating my BMI from my weight and height.

So the good news was that my BMI and my body fat were within the ‘normal’ range for my age.  I was expecting my lung function to be a bit compromised as I have a minor chronic heart condition (atrial fibrillation) and I’ve had pneumonia three times, but it was rather rude for the machine to tell me that I may be 54 but my lungs are 64!

However the biggest surprise was my blood pressure, which measured high at 144/100 - I had just walked briskly up the stairs but when I measured it later in the day back down in my clinic and again the next morning, the average was still around 140/90, which is the definition of hypertension below 65.  The reason it was such a surprise is that, with my heart condition, my blood pressure has been measured every time I’ve seen a consultant or a GP in the last 20 years at various times, the most recent being back in the summer - and it has always been fine, very close to 120/80.  

So this higher reading is relatively recent and a concern, firstly because (as shown by the other readings), I’m not overweight or carrying high amounts of body fat and although I might not be as fit as I could be, I do an active job as an osteopath (quite a lot of standing & walking), so I’m not inactive either.  However it’s also a concern in terms of family history - both my parents have high blood pressure and my mother ignored hers early on, leaving her with renal failure (so on dialysis) & other vascular problems in her old age - definitely not where I want to end up.

However, I’m not rushing straight off to the GP - for a start, blood pressure medications & my heart problem might not interact so well plus with having eaten & probably more importantly drunk more alcohol over Christmas than I would usually, I want to see if my current get fitter/lose weight objectives make any difference.  I’ve also started meditating daily again recently and although meditation makes absolutely no difference to my blood pressure if I measure it before and after, it may help in the long term if part of the problem is stress-related, although I don’t feel particularly stressed; I certainly have things going on in my life which I could do without, but I feel that I’m managing those.  However one cause of hypertension is poor sleep and that’s definitely true, sadly not under my control much as my husband snores very loudly!

So my plan is firstly to review my understanding of the neurological & hormonal control of blood pressure, particularly in relation to the impact my heart condition has (as can affect levels of a protein manufactured by the heart that impacts on kidney function, & kidney function is one of the things that controls blood pressure).  I will probably also ask the doctor to check my kidney function as I don’t think I’ve had that done for the last 3 years or so.

Secondly, I shall keep on with my wellness plan (diet/fitness/stress management) - we eat a lot of vegetables and not a lot of salt (we don’t eat many processed foods for a start) and I have 2-3 caffeine drinks in a day maximum so it’s difficult to see how I can cut down further on these, but I will try.  I shall probably consult a colleague, Systematic Kinesiologist Jane Collison at to help me tweak the physiological/dietary elements of my plan.  

And then I’ll see where I am as lifestyle changes can often help reduce high blood pressure, but not always if it is a genetic tendency and I shouldn’t let it go on too long because of the potential impact on my future health.

So there we are - so glad I went for my free health check, because otherwise I wouldn’t have known about my blood pressure or been in a position to do something about it!  

I strongly recommend you look at Livewell’s website & what they can offer in terms of health checks, support for all sorts of things (weight loss, giving up smoking or drinking, getting active)

Posted 97 weeks ago
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Posted 97 weeks ago

My first step..

So today, Monday 6th January 2020 was my first walk to Church Ope Cove, as part of my plan to change one thing in my life to try to feel healthier in 2020.  I chose the walk to Church Ope for lots of reasons - it’s easily achievable (about a 10 minute walk there and back from my house, excluding the steps); it has a ‘high intensity’ phase (the steps - about 150 in total in one direction, which when it is ‘up’ is pretty hard going!).  Plus there’s the reward of the most fantastic view on a very quiet and secluded beach where I can sit and watch the waves.  I was really lucky this morning, the weather was fine and clear - it will be interesting to see how I fare on wetter, windier days!  You can see the videos from my walk on my Facebook & Instagram pages (just search for Jurassic Coast Osteopathy and you should find me).   I got 2 things today from my walk that I wasn’t expecting..I got to see the most amazing deep pink line on the horizon from the sunrise (the photographs don’t do it justice as the colours had faded a bit by the time I got down to the beach - note to self, go out slightly earlier) which was beautiful.  And I felt really exhilarated afterwards when I got home (even after the 150 steps and the rest of the ‘up’ that I’d forgotten about coming back up to Portland Museum past Rufus Castle from the top of the steps and then up Wakeham back to Easton). Definitely a feel good factor on both accounts and what a great way to start the week.

Posted 98 weeks ago

Making Changes One Step at a Time

New Year is often a time that people make resolutions but often we make life difficult for ourselves by making changes that are hard to sustain or being too ambitious - I can definitely hold up my hand to that one!  Making a change and keeping it going means you have to build a new habit - and that can take time (over 3 months apparently to establish one).  So what strategies do I use that help me?  Well, the first thing is,  I don’t try to make multiple changes all at once - I’m going to start with just ONE thing.  For example, as an Osteopath I’d like to set my patients a good example - I’d like to get a bit fitter, be a bit calmer, lose a bit of weight, spend more time in nature, work harder on my relationship - that’s an awful lot of things to change and that probably isn’t the whole list - I haven’t included all the things I’d like to change about work, although I figure that if I’m physically fitter and mentally calmer, those things will give me more energy, resilience and clarity at work.. so maybe I don’t have to make targets for everything.  

And that just illustrates my point - if I wrote down everything I wanted to change or work on and then tried to do them all, that in itself could lead to me feeling a bit overwhelmed, which would rather defeat the objective!  So I am trying to thing of ways to work smarter - to think of a change  to make that will help me achieve a few things by creating one new habit.

The first thing that is important for me is to do something that works for me mentally, otherwise I’ve no hope of sustaining it.  In relation to getting fitter, the gym bores me, I’m a poor swimmer (and I hate the smell of chlorine, I even have a water filter at home to take the smell away), I find travelling to exercise classes a bit of a pain, particularly since I can rarely find one to fit around my work schedule.  I’m also not much good at sustaining an exercise regime at home by myself - I just end up doing other stuff that seems more important (cleaning, washing, ironing, cooking, gardening - all ‘active’ but not really ‘active ‘ enough to get me fit).

However, I live on Portland.. which is fantastic for walking, which I enjoy - so that will definitely work for me mentally and increase my chances of sustaining a new walking habit.  However what has been hard for me is to do it regularly, particularly since I get home late in the evenings when its dark, because it’s the scenery and the wilder paths I enjoy (not visible and not safe in the dark!).  

So my first step has been to commit a regular time to walk - just twice a week, in the morning on the days that either I start later at work (Monday) or don’t work (Friday - which leaves Saturday & Sunday for all those chores and family time).  The walk I’ve chosen is from my house down to Church Ope Beach, which means a flight of 96 steps - down is not so bad but up is going to be hard work, however it does give me something by which I can measure my achievement either in time to do, puff involved or speed (I hope to be fit enough to run it after a few months!).  It’s about half an hour (including the ‘high intensity’ step climb) and I can extend the walk the fitter I get.  I also have the opportunity to walk on more than 2 days or even go swimming with friends who swim off the beach (no chlorine, although I think I’ll be waiting until the summer when it’s a bit warmer!).

So the walking will help with my fitness and weight loss.  I already use a calorie counter app that works really well for me; I’ve used it for about 6 months and lost a stone but I’ve got a bit stuck, so I’m hoping changing my activity will restart that.  I even carried on using the app over Christmas - painful to see how many calories are in wine, Christmas cake etc - but that habit has kept going so I know I can keep it going - proof that if you stick at it, a new habit can be established!  Calorie counting really works for me mentally as I love to have a target and get below it, also I can see the options if I want to swap a glass of wine for something else one day, it gives me a sense of control which is really important to me (probably one of the reasons I’m self-employed).

Walking on Portland will also get me in nature, which is a fantastic contributor to mental health in general; I also find walking quite meditative and I’ll have the opportunity down at Church Ope to sit & listen to the waves and synchronise my breathing for a few minutes before tackling the steps back up!  Even in the rain (as Princess Ann said recently, there’s no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing!).

So that’s my first ‘small step’ - aim to go for a walk twice a week that helps me with fitness, weight loss, mental health and probably other things as well that I haven’t thought about. Doing things by myself doesn’t help me sustain them - but making this commitment publicly by sharing it with you and committing to update you on my progress should help.  I’m also not going to beat myself up if I don’t manage it every week  - if I can’t go one day, I’ll try to find another time and maybe encourage family to come too so I can share some of the benefits!  

There’ll be more on other small steps - my strategies & other peoples’ - on these pages & on my Facebook page so watch out for those.

Happy New Year and good luck with any changes you’re thinking of making in 2020!  Be kind to yourself.

Posted 99 weeks ago

Posted 142 weeks ago
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Posted 142 weeks ago
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Posted 142 weeks ago

Get walking!

Walking is a great cardiovascular exercise - you can do it on the flat or give your leg and back muscles more of a workout by going up and down hill - the gluteal muscles (that form the fleshy part of your backside) are particularly important for the support of the low back area so walking can really help low back problems.  You can speed up or slow down to vary the pace and the workout plus get all the mental health benefits of being outside in nature, particularly at this time of year with crisp blue autumn skies and wonderful sunsets. I hate the gym but I know how important it is to exercise - I’m lucky enough to live on Portland and I always take my camera out on a walk, whether I’m exercising, foraging or just having some peaceful time out.  You can see the results of some of this summer’s walks below, look out for more over the coming months.  Even better - get out there yourself and get the benefits - even a walk round a park or a small green space or along the harbourside can be great if you can’t walk far or don’t live on Portland. Get outside & get healthier (for free) by being in nature and getting more mobile!

Posted 161 weeks ago
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Posted 161 weeks ago
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Posted 161 weeks ago