NEWS:

By Clive Lindley-Jones | January 27, 2011 1:51 pm

Have you noticed that any time the BBC news reports anything to do with Flu, even if there is no real need to do so, the two graphics they turn to are the big blobby virus AND a picture of a hypodermic needle. The unspoken connection (nudge) being that the only sensible alternative to a bad bout of flu is 'the flu jab'. While the evidence is mixed as to its effectiveness or the health risks of using such vaccines, what does seem to be true is that we have unrealistic expectations as to what such vaccines can actually do to reduce the risk and severity of flu.

That BBC image

We can argue all week over this, but I suspect those who are well-informed about such things would agree that the general public often has over estimates of the effectiveness of vaccines to curb such epidemics, even if not as many of us as they might like bother to take up the offer. It is hard not to suspect that, at times, such subliminal nudges are used to calm a potential panic and suggest that 'everything is being done that can be done'. I can sympathise with this a bit, but let us not fall for it, let us take as much responsibility for our own wellbeing as we can, even if this still cannot fully protect us from such miserable and, rarely, fatal outcomes. Let us grow up and get real about health, do our part to stay as healthy as we can, so that on those occasions when we are inevitably ill, we have as much reserve as possible.

Perhaps next time they grind that tired old flu story out on a dull day, they will  have some pictures of people of all ages working out. So whether or not you choose to get a flu vaccine,  don't forget to wash your hands often (especially before eating); avoid being close to persons who are sick; clean your house with soap and water or general household cleaning agents, especially "high touch" places such as the phone; eat a healthy, balanced diet; get plenty of rest and get physically fit, as this  may reduce your time spent sick during cold and flu season by nearly 50 percent, according to a study conducted by researchers from Appalachian State University and published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

And finally, following on from my film about Vitamin D last month, a news story caught my attention this month. We poor parents cannot get it right how ever hard we try. Increasingly children are turning up with Rickets as a result of lack of exposure to sunlight, our main source of vitamin D.

In this BBC News story a young girl was diagnosed with rickets and her attentive mother's care to avoid skin damage by putting on factor 50 sun screen was suspected to be part of the problem. What to do? Basically, we all need to get out more. 15-20 minutes every other day out in the sunshine, but avoiding extensive exposure to the strong midsummer, midday sun seems to be the main idea.

However, check out how much you are actually outside over the next week as a test. You may find it is only actually seconds as you walk to the car or the bus.

So, especially as the sun comes back this spring, why not start  making more effort to get out into the garden or out for a walk more often. Being part of nature, being in nature, naturally lifts our spirits and nourishes our soul, as well as feeds our bones.

Intrigued? See also Dr. Luise Dillner's guide to Vitamin D.

Are you stuck down the U-bend? What did you say? No, its not as bad as you think. What recent economic and happiness research tells us, which might seem  somewhat counter-intuitive at first, is that there is a certain U-bend of happiness in most people's lives.

That is, we start off quite optimistic and happy but the pressures of life grind us down until we reach the nadir, which (statistically at least) seems to be around age 46. And then, encouragingly, after that, for the average person things pick up.  So that despite all the downsides of ageing, most people report that they are, in fact, happier in later years. Hence the U-bend: We start off well, dip in the middle under the strain, but pick up later. So if you are 46, don't give up, things should be starting to improve any time now!

 

 

Book of the Month

Life: Keith Richards

This book, one of the publishing hits of 2010, has probably not escaped your notice. Keith Richards, bad boy par excellence, Rolling Stones riff maker, junkie, passionate musician, tax exile, folk hero and surprisingly loving, honest and somehow, in his own strange way, attractive, survivor, has produced an extraordinary, no holds bared, candid and fascinating account of those decades of excess and music on the road.

It is all here, growing up in drab post-war Dartford, (in some ways the most touching part of the book) meeting Mick Jagger on Dartford station as young teens, the rapid rise to super-stardom, the tours, the friends, the deaths, the drugs, the music, the whole account of the ultimate sex, drugs and rock and roll life that Richards has, against all the odds, managed to survive and even, mostly, remember. An engrossing and, surprisingly, heart-warming account of his life and love of music.

Through all the mad, irresponsible, tragic excess, comes a surprisingly touching and human story.  Anyone who has ever been hooked by a Rolling Stones riff, or been tempted, on a wet afternoon, to fancy themselves as a rock god, will enjoy it to the end.