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Better your health with Michael Mosley

Medichecks partner with Michael Mosley to be the blood test provider for his new show - Lose a Stone in 21 Days.

Did you see Medichecks on channel 4’s brand new show - Lose a Stone in 21 Days with Michael Mosley last night? We are so proud to be the blood test provider for the show.

Lockdown has affected us all in different ways, whether it was overcoming challenges such as the new work-school-home life balance, finding new ways to stay fit and healthy, or getting enough sleep. It’s understandable that during these difficult and stressful times many of us have turned to drink and comfort eating.

According to a recent survey, two-thirds of British adults say they have gained weight during lockdown. Carrying excess weight not only puts you at a greater risk of long-term health conditions such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease but also puts you at increased risk should you catch COVID-19 (1). A study by Public Health England (PHE) found that for people with a BMI of 35 to 40, risk of death from COVID-19 increases by 40% and with a BMI over 40 by 90%, compared to those not living with obesity (1).

Even more worryingly, a recent survey found that only 10% of Brits who are clinically obese realise they are, preferring to describe themselves as ‘average’ or ‘a bit overweight’. It also identified that women had a better understanding than men, with 12% recognising they were obese, compared to 7% of men.

As the UK government continues to ease lockdown and gyms start to re-open, there is no better time than now to get back into shape and shed those lockdown lbs before the potential 2nd wave of Coronavirus in the autumn. And Michael Mosely shined a spotlight on how this can be done quickly and safety in his Lose a Stone in 21 Days show last night.

Michael Mosley How To Use a Stone

How is this possible?

Michael Mosely put 5 people who had gained a lot of weight during lockdown through an intense 21-day diet plan in a bid to help them lose weight and improve their overall health, including their metabolic health.

In the UK, around a third of adults over 40 have metabolic syndrome, which means you have at least three of the following: a large stomach, high blood pressure, high blood sugars or abnormal levels of blood fats. If you have metabolic syndrome you are at greater risk of heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes. All of which have been found to put you at an increased likelihood of dying from COVID-19.

At the start of the 21-day experiment, the 5 volunteers took our Diet & Lifestyle Check Plus Blood Test and Zinc (serum) Blood Test to establish their baseline markers. While the volunteers were quite young, with an average age of less than 40, the blood test results revealed that they were already starting to show signs of metabolic syndrome. As well as this, two of the volunteers were identified as having high cholesterol, and one was pre-diabetic. The results also identified that four were deficient in nutrients, such as folate and vitamin D, which are crucial for a functioning immune system.

To lose weight and improve their overall health the volunteers were asked to stick to eating just under 800 calories per day including high protein sources, some fats and very low amounts of carbohydrates, similar to the Ketogenic diet. Although the low-calorie intake involved in this diet may sound dramatic and unrealistic, similar diets have been piloted by the NHS in an attempt to tackle obesity.

In addition, a recent study found that consuming 800 calories per day and maintaining a low carbohydrate intake had a positive impact on blood sugars and the mental wellbeing of obese patients with type 2 diabetes (2).

So how did they get on?

The end results have not been revealed yet as filming is still ongoing. Make sure you watch the next two episodes on Wednesday 12th and Wednesday 19th August at 9 pm to find out if the scales have budged and how the diet has impacted their overall health. 

Feeling inspired to kickstart your own journey to better health?

The need to look after our health and understand our bodies is more important than ever before. One of the best ways to understand which areas of your health and lifestyle you need to improve is with a simple blood test. Establishing your baseline biomarkers can identify whether you have raised cholesterol, are deficient in key vitamins and minerals such as vitamin D, vitamin B12 and folate and whether you are at risk of developing long term health conditions such as type 2 diabetes or cardiovascular disease (CVD).

The great thing is if you do find out that your markers are out of the normal range, in most cases simple diet and lifestyle changes can be made to reduce your risk of any further damage.

For example, around 3 in 5 cases of type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed by maintaining a healthy weight, eating well and being active.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a condition that causes your blood sugar levels to become too high for your body to process correctly. Here’s the science behind it:

Your blood sugar levels are controlled by insulin - a hormone that is produced by your pancreas. When you digest food, glucose is produced and used in your cells for energy. Insulin moves the glucose out of the blood and into the cells. Diabetes causes the body not to produce enough insulin or the present insulin not to work correctly, leaving higher levels of glucose in the bloodstream.

The two types of diabetes are:

  • Type 1 – the body’s immune system destroys the cells that produce insulin.
  • Type 2 – the body does not produce enough insulin or react to the insulin that is created.

In the UK, 90% of diabetes cases are type 2 (3); if left uncontrolled, type 2 diabetes can cause serious health issues such as blindness, heart disease and kidney failure. 

What are the symptoms?

Common symptoms of type 2 diabetes include: 

  • Excessive thirst
  • Frequent urination (particularly at night)
  • Tiredness
  • Weight loss
  • Genital itching
  • Blurred vision
  • Cuts/injuries taking longer to heal

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms or are concerned about your diabetes status, our Diabetes (HbA1c) Blood Test can help to diagnose type 2 diabetes. You can take your doctor reviewed results to your GP to receive the correct treatment.

However, before diabetes develops, your body enters a stage where its blood sugar levels are higher than the norm, but not high enough to be considered diabetic. This stage is called pre-diabetes and is where urgent action needs to be taken to prevent the development of type 2 diabetes. 

Pre-diabetes does not show any symptoms, and most people are unaware that they are becoming resistant to insulin. Here are some targets to look out for when testing your blood sugar levels:

  • HbA1c levels over 48 mmol/mol = diabetes 
  • HbA1c levels between 42 - 47.9 mmol/mol = pre-diabetic

If your results are showing pre-diabetic levels, the good news is that it is still possible to prevent this from developing into type 2 diabetes. Although you cannot control factors such as age or genetics, there are many lifestyle changes that you can take control of.

How can I reduce my risk?

Here are our top 10 steps to reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes:

10 tips to lower your risk of diabetes

Cholesterol is another biomarker which can be lowered by implementing diet and lifestyle changes if found to be high. 

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a fatty substance which is produced naturally by the liver and is found in every cell in the body. It can also be found in some foods, namely animal products. Cholesterol is vital for the maintenance of cell membranes and the production of vitamin D and bile acid. It is also important in the production of many key hormones such as testosterone and oestrogen. 

As cholesterol travels around the body in the blood, it is bound to small proteins called lipoproteins. High-density lipoproteins (HDL), remove cholesterol from our tissues, take it back to the liver where the cholesterol is recycled. Because of their role in the body, HDL is often referred to as the “good cholesterol” and offer a protective role.

In contrast, low-density lipoproteins (LDL) are commonly known as ‘bad cholesterol’ because they carry cholesterol from the liver to our tissues, depositing it on our artery walls. This eventually leads to fatty plaques developing which block the blood vessels and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke. 

What causes high cholesterol?

There are several factors that can increase your risk of bad cholesterol including;

  • Smoking – the walls of your blood vessels can become damaged from cigarette smoking which makes them more prone to building up fatty deposits. 
  • Obesity – having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater puts you at higher risk of high cholesterol.  
  • Lack of exercise – exercise helps boost your body’s HDL, or “good”, cholesterol while increasing the size of the particles that make up your LDL, or “bad” cholesterol, making them less harmful. 
  • Age – as you age, your liver becomes less able to remove LDL cholesterol, increasing the likelihood of having high cholesterol.
  • Genetics – high cholesterol levels can be passed down through families in the genes and can lead to Familial hypercholesterolaemia (FH for short) which is an inherited condition. If left untreated FH can result in heart disease at a very young age. 

As well as diet and lifestyle, our cholesterol levels can also be affected by having certain conditions such as thyroid disease. Hormones produced by our thyroid gland play a major role in the regulation of metabolism and aid the breakdown of fats including cholesterol. If the thyroid gland is underactive or overactive, the body’s ability to process cholesterol can be affected. Hypothyroidism, in particular, can lead to hypercholesterolemia, which is the increase of LDL cholesterol in the body.

What are the symptoms of high cholesterol? 

Because there are no obvious signs or symptoms of high cholesterol, a blood test is needed to check cholesterol levels. A cholesterol blood test will usually measure levels of triglycerides, LDL and HDL cholesterol as well as determining your risk of heart disease based on the ratio of HDL to total cholesterol. 

Our Cholesterol Check is the perfect way to measure cholesterol levels and determine your risk of developing heart disease. This test can be completed easily from the comfort of your own home using our finger-prick test kit. Our expert doctors will review your results and recommend the best steps to take to lower your cholesterol levels if found to be high. 

How can I lower my cholesterol?

If you have high cholesterol levels, there are a number of lifestyle changes you can take to reduce your cholesterol levels and decrease the risk of fatty plaques building up in the arteries.

1. Improve your diet by eating heart-healthy foods

Making a few changes to your diet choices can significantly reduce your cholesterol levels, increase the amount of good HDL cholesterol in your body and improve your heart health.

  • Follow a Mediterranean diet

Combining the healthy living habits of those from countries which border the Mediterranean Sea, such as France, Greece, Italy and Spain have been linked with good heart health and low cholesterol levels. A traditional Mediterranean diet is usually low in meat and dairy products, high in vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, grains, fish, and unsaturated fats such as olive oil. 

Find out everything you need to know about the Mediterranean diet here.

  • Eliminate saturated fats

Saturated fats which are found in red meat and dairy products, raise total cholesterol and LDL levels. For healthier options, instead choose leaner cuts of meat, low-fat dairy and monounsaturated fats. Plants do not contain cholesterol so eating more fresh fruit and vegetables as well as seeds, nuts and whole grains can help to lower cholesterol levels.

  • Eat more foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential in the body but are only obtained through diet. They help to increase HDL cholesterol levels and reduce your triglyceride levels. Increasing your intake of oily fish, flaxseeds and supplementing cod liver oil are all effective ways to increase omega-3 levels. Some sources of omega-6 are better than others, such as sesame and avocado oils which contain lower levels of omega 6 compared to sunflower oil.

  • Increase your intake of soluble fibre

Both insoluble and soluble fibre have heart-health benefits, but soluble fibre plays a role in helping lower your LDL levels. Good sources of soluble fibre include oats and oat bran, fruits, beans, lentils, and root vegetables.

2. Exercise regularly

Having an active lifestyle is an excellent way to help lower your cholesterol levels. 150 minutes of exercise a week is needed for healthy cholesterol - as recommended by the NHS. Exercise increases the size of the lipoprotein particles that carry cholesterol in the blood. This means that more cholesterol will be transported from the body tissues back to the liver where it will be broken down and expelled. Exercise is also important in maintaining a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese is a risk factor for having high cholesterol levels and put you at an increased risk of developing conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. 

3. Cut the alcohol and cigarettes

Smoking is bad for your health - everyone knows that, so it is no surprise that smoking can raise cholesterol levels. Smoking lowers levels of HDL cholesterol and can injure the lining of the blood vessels. Quitting smoking can help to lower cholesterol levels and decrease blood pressure, therefore improving your heart health. Excessive alcohol consumption for a prolonged period of time can increase triglyceride and cholesterol levels which can lead to the development of high blood pressure, heart failure and stroke. It is advised that both men and women should not drink more than 14 units of alcohol a week to minimise the health risks that alcohol can cause.

all you need to know about cholesterol