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Dear Diana, after a recent medical check-up which included a blood test I was told I was anaemic. How can I help myself to rectify this? Patricia Carson West Yorkshire

Patricia, typical symptoms of anaemia are lack of energy, a rapid heartbeat and shortness of breath when exercising, or dizziness. Being told you are anaemic could indicate you don’t have enough haemoglobin in your blood or have fewer red blood cells than normal. Anaemia can occur if your body doesn’t have enough iron, a deficiency of which leads to the decreased production of red blood cells that carry oxygen around the body. Anaemia caused by iron deficiency can affect nails resulting in curvature and sometimes causing cracked corners of the mouth. Iron rich foods include red meats, fish, poultry, seafood and some plant sources.

Anaemia can also be the result of vitamin B12 or folate deficiency, with symptoms such as tingling in the feet and hands and unsteadiness when walking. Treatment depends on the cause of the deficiency but improving your diet may help treat and prevent recurrence. Vitamin B12 is found in meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, yeast extract (such as Marmite) and specially fortified foods.

The best sources of folate include green vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts and peas. If your body stores of vitamin B12 are depleted your doctor may prescribe vitamin B12 injections or tablets to restore normal levels.

My nails are very flaky and appear to break at even the lightest bump

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Dear Diana

My nails are very flaky and appear to break at even the lightest bump. I do wear gloves for washing up and try and avoid using too many chemicals when doing housework but I can never seem to grown them all to the same length.

Joanna Williams, Cornwall

Long-term exposure to water or chemicals such as detergents and nail polish are most often the cause, so you are right Joanna to wear rubber gloves doing the chores, especially wet work.  Keep fingernails dry and clean to prevent bacteria from growing under your fingernails. It could just be a sign of ageing! Nails can be strengthened by taking biotin (vitamin B7) supplements, and by frequently applying moisturising cream rub the lotion into your fingernails and cuticles. Applying a nail hardener might also help protect and strengthen your nails.

Always keep fingernails dry and clean, this prevents bacteria from growing under your fingernails. Brittle nails can sometimes be caused by a fungal nail infection and this can be easily cleared up by taking a course of antifungal tablets.  However, nail abnormalities can tell a lot about your health. So if this simple care doesn’t improve your nails, and you haven’t injured or been biting them talk to your GP – especially if your nails have changed in colour, texture, shape or thickness. Flaky nails are most likely to be a sign of a fungal nail infection or injury, but can sometimes indicate a more serious underlying disease. Nail psoriasis and  lichen planus are skin conditions which can affect the nails, and either an underactive thyroid or overactive thyroid, which control hormone production, just might be the cause of your brittle, crumbly nails.


My New Year resolution to lose weight hasn’t really done it for me!

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Hi Diana …Well here we are nearing the end of January and my New Year resolution to lose weight hasn’t really done it for me!  What down to earth tips can you give me to help my continuing battle with the bulge!   Marjorie Barnes…Devon


Hi Marjorie, you need motivation so ask your GP, a dietician or a slimming club for advice on diet foods, soups, pills and supplements to help you choose a diet plan to suit you.   Set yourself a reasonable and achievable goal weight and persuade a friend to join you. Aim to achieve your goal weight by a certain date or special occasion (wedding, anniversary, birthday) but to avoid disappointments don’t set your goal too high.   Be realistic; calculate that the event or date is far enough in the future for you to achieve your goal.

Buy an article of clothing, or re-discover a favourite from your slim past, in the dress size you aim to be.   Look at it often – for inspiration! Arrange to treat yourself to a reward when you eventually do reach your target and spoil yourself.   Perhaps that holiday you previously longed for but felt too obese to take, or an activity that your size restricted you from doing in the past.

When you eventually reach goal weight congratulate yourself on time and effort well spent, and on your determination to succeed.   Vow to stay motivated, slimmer and fit and stick with your healthy habits and winning formula for life.

Staying well – in difficult times

Dr. Sarah Schenker is a PhD Registered Dietitian, Author, Writer and Broadcaster. Sarah is an Accredited Sports Dietitian and Registered Public Health Nutritionist, a member of the British Dietetic Association; The Nutrition Society; The Guild of Health Writers and has served on both professional and government committees.


A healthy diet CANNOT stop you from becoming infected with the coronavirus. First line defence is to follow the government advice of washing your hands regularly, coughing into a tissue and staying apart.

However, staying well and healthy is more important that ever before. Eating well can boost your immunity and healthy behaviours will help to get you through these challenging and difficult times.

Stay hydrated


This is an important time to stay well and healthy and part of staying healthy is to stay well hydrated. Our bodies are made up of about 60% water and water is important for lots of different functions including respiration and keeping the lungs healthy.

If you don’t consume enough fluids, over time the body will become dehydrated. Even 1% dehydration (equivalent of 1% of body weight water loss) has negative effects on both physical and cognitive functions and these become more severe as dehydration gets worse.  

Don’t wait until you feel thirsty to drink as this is not always a good indicator of mild dehydration, in fact, feelings of thirst may not kick in until the body is around 2-3% dehydrated.

Often when large volumes of plain water are consumed in on go, the body detects an excess and may excrete more than it needs to. It is much better to consume small regular amounts of water throughout the day to maintain optimum hydration.

Stay positive

Being dehydrated can make us feel tired and lethargic, but it also impacts on mood, short term memory and ability to concentrate. Mild dehydration can make you feel irritable and grumpy, and in these challenging times ahead it is even more important that we try to maintain a good mood and stay positive

Working from home can be a real challenge and a typical time to feel lethargic is in the middle of the afternoon, known as the mid-afternoon slump. Mild dehydration is often a key factor as people tend to consume most of their fluids in throughout the morning and then tend to reduce their fluid intake after lunch. It is the mid-afternoon slump that can lead to low mood, lack of motivation to be active and effect concentration levels. Maintaining good hydration throughout the day can improve mood and the ability to stay focused and well as feeling energised and having a sense of wellbeing.

Another challenge some of us will face is working too near the fridge! Being well hydrated can also help to control appetite. It’s a common mistake to confuse feeling a bit hungry with actually being thirsty. So we turn to snacks instead of water which means we take in unnecessary calories.  The mid-afternoon slump can also lead people to crave sugar when they don’t need it. Maintaining good hydration reduces these cravings and stops you from over-eating. 

Boost your immune system

Good immunity is really important just now. Two key vitamins you need are vitamin C and vitamin D. Vitamin C is needed for producing white blood cells and antibodies that fight off infections. Vitamin D is important for innate immunity, this is the way the body prevents the entry and spread of pathogens (including viruses that can cause disease). Vitamin D stimulates the production of powerful substances in the cells that line the respiratory tract and protect the lungs from infection.

The body doesn’t store vitamin C so we need to include vitamin C-rich foods in our diets every day. This includes foods like oranges, grapefruits, kiwi, and green leafy veg. Obviously these are subject to availability, so it’s worth knowing that frozen peas, berries and long life orange juice also counts.

From April onwards we start to build our stores of vitamin D through exposure to sunlight. While heeding the advice to stay at home, try to get out in the fresh air at least once a day, exposing your face and fore arms to sunlight without sunblock or protection; 20 minutes should be long enough. When it comes to diet there aren’t that many foods naturally high in vitamin D. Ones that are include oily fish, red meat, liver and eggs. It is a good idea to consider taking a supplement.

Retirement and care

Every day we get that little bit older and whoever we are may well start thinking about “retirement.”  When we were younger we assumed older people retired at 60 years of age.  We also thought many of them would need to be looked after because ageing was like an illness! Some people still assume we older folk are incapable of changing our lifestyle, opinions, our outlook, our religion or our politics because of our age!  Ageism had presumed that 60 years signified the end of a person’s productive life and from then on older folk became a burden on society and the health service.

But how things have changed and thankfully ageism has become a thing of the past. Many of us “not born yesterday” realise that some people who simply do retire may be wasting their knowledge and experience. For others who have simply retired, it can sometimes lead to decline and a feeling of worthlessness. Shattering the retirement myth of rocking chair and slippers  older people now have the choice of continuing to work on if they choose to whether for financial reasons or just because they love their job.  Alternatively many who do choose retirement use their time pursuing hobbies or fulfilling their lifelong dreams.

I can assure the younger generation that whichever choice we make either to retire or continue working we older people have a lot to offer, not least of which is experience. Like many of my contemporaries I still work, travelling the world as a fitness guru or nearer to home working as a broadcaster and journalist. I enjoy encouraging others of “retirement” age to be useful, fit and happy members of society.  And it’s fitness that can turn our later years of either working on or retiring into a satisfying and happy period of life.  Being healthy can alleviate the increasing strain on the health services, for which importantly in the future our younger generations will have to work hard to fund. Unfortunately some older people will be less than well, this may be the time to take advice on the care services available.

Most mature people over the age of 55 understand the importance of a healthy lifestyle; some have already been medically advised to start taking regular exercise!  Their excuses for not doing so range from lack of time, pressure of work or family. Many retired people of 60 plus wrongly consider they are too old, or feel it’s too late to worry about a healthy lifestyle. Happily others do try and feel that walking or golf are ample exercise, which is a positive start!  As the years pass by no matter what your age or fitness ability even doing some simple exercises in the privacy of your own home can make a difference. Feeling fit adds a quality and buzz to everyday life which will help to make your years of retirement a joy.

Do not attempt the following exercises if you have osteoporosis, a bad back or have balance problems.

1.WAKE UP MONKEY STRETCH will stretch out and wake up your body. Stand feet shoulder width apart, bend your knees, incline forward from the waist and swing arms down to floor and behind you. Now continue in a flowing movement to straighten knees and swing arms forward and high up above your head. Breathe deeply, lift rib cage, straighten up and stretch out entire body.  Repeat rhythmically 5 times.

2        LEG LIFTS will strengthen the quadriceps (front thigh muscles). Stand and hold back of a chair for support. Straighten right leg, point toes and lift leg high out in front and hold for 5 seconds. Keeping leg as high as possible and take it on around to side and hold for 5 seconds.   Relax leg down and repeat with the left leg.   Repeat 5 times with each leg. (Keep supporting leg soft).

3        CIRCLES will release tension in shoulders, upper back and improve posture. Stand or sit, bend your elbows and raise your arms to the side and simply place fingertips on your shoulders.   Keeping your fingertips in position bring your elbows forward and together in front of your chest.   Draw a circle with your elbows – lift them both up and take on out to either side and, then on back pulling your shoulder blades together, as far as comfortable.   Continue drawing imaginary circles with your elbows on down to sides and back to start position.   Repeat 5 times clockwise and 5 times anti-clockwise.

 4        SIDE TWISTS will improve the mobility of your shoulders and upper back. Stand or sit upright as before but concentrate on posture by pulling in your tummy.   Bend your elbows out, bring your hands up and touch your fingertips together in front of your chest.   Keeping your elbows up  twist from your waist only and take your upper body, arms and head to look around your right side (as far as comfortable.   Come back to centre and continue to twist arms and upper body to look around left side.   Keep elbows up, fingertips touching and repeat this twisting movement 5 times to each side, working the back and shoulders.