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5 reasons to have a pre-winter health MOT

September is all about preparation. Dr Sam Rodgers explains how a health MOT can help you prepare for winter and what you should be checking for.

What is a pre-winter health MOT?

A pre-winter health MOT can provide you with valuable insights into your health and identify if you lack essential vitamins and nutrients. That’s important because from November to March, we are more susceptible to some illnesses. 
 
Common winter illnesses, or conditions, include:
-    Colds and flu
-    Dry skin and hair 
-    Aches and pains 
-    Low mood or energy

Five reasons to have a pre-winter health MOT
 
1.    Check your vitamin D 

The government advises everyone in the UK to take a daily vitamin D supplement to support their general health throughout autumn and winter [1], partly because our main source of vitamin D comes from sunlight exposure.

Vitamin D is vital for healthy bones and muscles, which support your cardiovascular, respiratory, and autoimmune systems. Yet, the National Diet and Nutrition Survey [2] shows that one in five adults are vitamin D deficient. A lack of vitamin D can lead to fatigue, aches and pains, and a general sense of not feeling well. 

Last year, we found that vitamin D levels in our customers jumped by a third during the national lockdown, which could’ve been down to people spending more time outside or being more aware of supplementing. However, exceeding recommended intakes of vitamins and minerals could be just as dangerous as a deficiency in some cases, so checking your levels is still worthwhile. 


2.    Assess your nutrition

Have you ever noticed that you eat, or would like to eat, more during the winter? Many of us can feel hungrier in winter due to the drop in temperature stimulating our appetite. Consuming a large proportion of foods from refined carbs like white bread, cakes, biscuits, and sugar can harm our health, especially if you already have a fatty liver or are prediabetic.


3.    Monitor any health conditions

No matter the time of year, regular health checks can help to pick up or monitor health conditions. Early detection can help treat or prevent a health condition from forming, like if you’re prediabetic and you are able to make diet and lifestyle changes to reverse your risk.
 

4.    Minimise winter fatigue

Getting enough undisturbed sleep is vital for fighting off winter tiredness [3]. But did you know that low iron, vitamin B12 or even your thyroid hormones could also contribute to fatigue and low energy?

Your hormones play a key role in controlling your body’s processes, from your temperature to heart rate. If you’re feeling tired all the time, a blood test can help you to rule a condition or deficiency out of your investigations and help you to get to the root cause faster.

 

5.    Help to optimise your immunity  

Winter is the ideal circulating time for flu and common colds. That’s before we get into the added complexity of coronavirus - or what isolating for a year and a half may have done to our immune systems. 
 
Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, particularly seasonal foods, helps to optimise your immunity. The NHS is also advising more people to get the flu vaccine this year due to fewer people having built up natural immunity to it during the COVID-19 pandemic. 
 
A health check can see whether you have any risk factors that may impact your immunity, like a zinc or iron deficiency. Zinc is important for immune function and a deficiency can increase susceptibility to infectious diseases, while iron contributes to immune defence [4]


Pre-winter health tests

  • Health and Lifestyle Blood Test – is an excellent entry-level health check, which gives a detailed insight into your health. You can take this test from the comfort of your own home, with results and doctors’ comments sent back to you within a few days. 
  • Vitamin D (25 OH) Blood Test – this simple finger-prick test tells you whether you have sufficient levels of vitamin D.
  • Men’s Ultimate at Home Blood Test – this is a comprehensive health check for liver and kidney function, testosterone hormone levels, cholesterol status and nutritional markers.
  • Women’s Ultimate at Home Blood Test – this easy home finger-prick test checks the thyroid, liver and kidney function, cholesterol status and nutritional markers. 


References

  1. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/vitamin-d-supplementation-during-winter-phe-and-nice-statement/statement-from-phe-and-nice-on-vitamin-d-supplementation-during-winter
  2. https://www.nutrition.org.uk/nutritioninthenews/new-reports/983-newvitamind.html#:~:text=According%20to%20national%20surveys%20in,below%2025%20nmol%2FL)
  3. https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/sleep-and-tiredness/5-ways-to-wipe-out-winter-tiredness/
  4. https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/12/1/236/htm