There is some concern amongst professional drivers, following an alarming number of deaths from Coronavirus within this profession that better personal protection was not made available.
Most of these unfortunate deaths were within London transport, and all of them were regarded to be fit and healthy. However, Emeka Nyack Ihenacho was asthmatic, and he was one of nine bus drivers who have lost their lives to the Coronavirus in the UK.
A study in biomedical central (BMC) on infectious diseases in 2011 found that bus or tram use was associated with an almost six-fold increased risk of developing an influenza-like infection during flu season.
Although tuberculosis spreads differently to flu, another study in Houston within that year found that the incidence of TB was almost eight times higher among commuters who spent more than an hour a day on the bus.
Most people with Coronavirus will recover within about a week of getting symptoms and will not need medical care, but some people will need to be treated in hospital – including the prime minister.
Boris Johnson, who is 55, is currently being cared for in St Thomas’ hospital in London after his symptoms worsened.
This includes people over the age of 70, regardless of whether they have a medical condition or not, and people of any age with underlying health conditions, such as heart disease.
There are more than 1.5 million people in the UK who are at the most significant risk of needing hospital treatment if they catch Coronavirus.
This includes people with cancer who have been receiving chemotherapy. They are being asked to stay at home all of the time to shield themselves from the virus.
Coronavirus infects the lungs. The two main symptoms are a fever and a dry cough, which can sometimes lead to breathing problems.
The cough to look out for is a new, continuous cough. This means coughing a lot for more than an hour or having three or more coughing episodes in 24 hours. If you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual.
You have a fever if your temperature is above 37.8C. This can make you feel warm, cold or shivery.
A sore throat, headache and diarrhoea have also been reported, and a loss of smell and taste may also be a symptom.
It takes five days on average to start showing the symptoms, but some people will get them much later. The World Health Organization (WHO) says the incubation period lasts up to 14 days.
Coronavirus also appears to disproportionately affect men in their 50s and 60s to a certain degree, although they are not singled out as a high-risk group because it’s not that clear-cut.
Researchers are not sure why this might be.
UK data from intensive care hospital wards shows the average patient who is critically ill is aged 60. Most are men, and many have other health conditions that could put them at increased risk, such as heart problems and obesity.
Of the 647 coronavirus-related deaths registered by the Office for National Statistics in England and Wales up to the week ending 27th March, 44 were aged 45-65 – around 7% of the total.
Death rates go up with age in both men and women, but men tend to outstrip women across the generations.
Data from China, where the pandemic began, also suggests men are at higher risk than women, although experts caution there could be factors other than gender, such as smoking habits, that could explain the link.
Prof Ian Hall, Professor of Molecular Medicine, University of Nottingham, said: “I am not convinced this completely explains the increased risk of severe disease in men, so it seems possible there may be some other as yet unidentified factor playing a role.”
Men are more likely than women to have heart disease, diabetes and chronic lung disease.
Some have suggested genes, and sex hormones might be involved too.
Are women more immune?
Prof Philip Goulder, an expert in immunology at the University of Oxford, said: “It is becoming increasingly recognised that there are substantial differences in the immune system between males and females and that these have a significant impact on outcome from a wide range of infectious diseases.
“The immune response throughout life to vaccines and infections is typically more aggressive and more effective in females compared to males.”
This could be down to women carrying two copies of the X chromosome, compared to the single X and a Y that men have.
Many critical immune genes are located on the X chromosome, he says.
Every year, about 600,000 people in the UK die. People with underlying health conditions and the elderly are most at risk, just as they are if they have Coronavirus.
Nearly 10% of people aged over 80 will die in the next year, Prof Sir David Spiegelhalter, at the University of Cambridge, points out, and the risk of them dying if infected with Coronavirus is almost precisely the same.
Stay as fit and healthy as you can by exercising and eating a balanced diet.
If you smoke, now is a good time to quit.
Men are more likely than women to:
Coronavirus spreads when an infected person coughs or sneezes small droplets – packed with the virus – into the air. These can be breathed in, or cause an infection if you touch a surface they have landed on, then your eyes, nose or mouth.
So, coughing and sneezing into tissues, not touching your face with unwashed hands, and avoiding close contact with infected people are essential.
Viruses can be active outside the body for hours, even days. Disinfectants, liquids, wipes, gels and creams containing alcohol are all useful at getting rid of them – but they are not quite as good as normal soap.
Why does soap work so well on the Sars-CoV-2, the coronavirus and indeed most viruses? Because the virus is a self-assembled nanoparticle in which the weakest link is the lipid (fatty) bilayer. Soap dissolves the fat membrane and the virus falls apart like a house of cards and dies – or rather, we should say it becomes inactive as viruses aren’t really alive.
If I have symptoms, what should I do?
If you have a new, continuous cough or a fever you should stay at home and self-isolate for at least seven days.
If you, or someone you live with, develop symptoms, the entire household needs to isolate for 14 days to monitor for signs of the disease.
What should I do if my symptoms don’t get better?
The main reason people need hospital treatment is difficulty breathing.
In the UK, the NHS 111 website will guide you through what you need to do.
If you are so breathless that you are unable to speak more than a few words, then you will be told to call 999 as this is a medical emergency.
When do people go to the hospital with Coronavirus?
If you become so ill that you’ve stopped doing all of your usual daily activities, then the website will advise speaking to a nurse by dialling NHS 111.
It doesn’t take a genius to realize that sleep is beneficial for the body. After an uninterrupted sleep session, you feel refreshed, full of energy and ready to take on the day.
The importance of sleep goes beyond boosting your mood and energy levels. In recent years, scientists have gone to great lengths to understand the health benefits that sleep brings. In this article we’ll be looking at exactly how sleep enhances your health.
Numerous studies have shown that sleep has a positive effect on your memory and allows the brain to become much better at remembering things.
Researchers believe this is the result of a process known as memory consolidation whereby the brain recalls skills learned while you are awake.
Sleep is like nutrition for the brain. When you get enough of it, the chances of losing concentration during the day are much less.
This makes you much more alert while you complete your daily tasks and has a direct positive impact on your effectiveness, productivity and performance.
The body releases growth hormone and builds new muscle cells while you are sleeping. Not only does it renew and revitalize your cells, but it also repairs any tissue damage.
This is particularly beneficial if you perform weightlifting workouts, as the intense exercises that make up these workouts tear your muscles slightly so that they can grow back bigger and stronger.
Sleep provides your body with the platform it needs to fully repair these torn muscles and maximize your muscle size and strength.
Researchers have found that getting enough sleep can help you eat less and even accelerate the rate at which your body burns fat.
Sleeping helps to regulate the levels of ghrelin and leptin in your body – 2 hormones that control hunger and appetite.
It also stimulates the production of human growth hormone – a hormone which supports and speeds up your body’s fat burning processes.
If you’re an athlete who wants to improve your performance, getting good quality sleep every day can help you achieve this goal.
Researchers at Stanford University ran a study on college football players who slept for at least 10 hours daily over several weeks.
They found that not only did the well-rested athletes increase their average sprint times but also felt less tired and had more stamina during the day.
When your body is sleep deprived, it goes into stress mode. Its functions remain on high alert which causes a spike in blood pressure and cortisol – the stress hormone.
High blood pressure increases your risk of heart attacks and stroke while being stressed has a negative impact on your mood and increase your risk of falling into depression.
By ensuring that you get enough sleep on a regular basis, you can keep your body out of stress mode and stay in a calm, relaxed state.
As you can see, there are so many reasons to enjoy quality sleep. So, if you’re not currently getting at least 6 hours every night, make some changes to your lifestyle right now, set aside the time for quality sleep and start enjoying all these benefits.
Most experts agree that weight loss, maintenance or gain is a matter of caloric balance: that is, your energy needs versus your energy intake.
Your energy needs are calculated from a combination of your basal metabolic rate (BMR), your non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT), and any exercise you do.
It’s impossible to get exact numbers for your individual calorie burn, which will be different every single day depending on your activity levels, movement, stress levels, metabolic stress, how well you sleep, your waking hours, and even tiny details like how much you fidget, sit or stand. But you can get a decent idea by using a trusted formula like the Mifflin – St Jeor formula.
On the flipside is your caloric intake, which comes from the food and drinks you consume. This is relatively easy to calculate, by using a spreadsheet or app, or keeping a rough tally using a calorie guide or the caloric information on food labels.
Just bear in mind that no numbers are completely accurate, with some food labelling information believed to be over 10% out. The take-home point is that it is impossible to know exactly how many calories your body needs, or how many calories you have ingested.
That’s why it is a good idea to get in tune with your body’s hunger and satiety signals rather than eating by the clock or from a rigid plan.
Food is made up of macronutrients: proteins, carbohydrates and fats. All foods contain one or more of these. For instance, chicken breast is mostly protein with a small amount of fat. Potatoes are mainly carbohydrate with a minuscule amount of fats and protein.
Oats are mostly carbs, with some fat and a small amount of protein. Each macronutrient carries a caloric load: 1gram of protein is 4 calories, 1gram of carbohydrate is 4 calories, 1gram of fat is 9 calories.
Unless you are designing a specific meal plan to get super-shredded for the bodybuilding stage, or to put on as much weight as possible in a short amount of time, don’t sweat the minutiae.
What’s more important is getting a good balance of macronutrients at every meal, eating enough protein (most people don’t, and protein is essential for almost every function in the body), paying attention to healthy fats (from oily fish in particular), and neither overshooting not failing to meet your caloric needs by too much on a consistent basis.
If you only do these 5 things, you’ll be well on your way to eating a healthy diet which will nourish your body and protect your health.
Previous studies are somewhat confusing, is alcohol safe, because current research states that there are many benefits to drinking alcohol, and others say we should avoid at all costs.
The answer is simple: drink in moderation.
Moderate alcohol consumption, otherwise known as low-risk drinking, is defined as having up to one standard drink, 0.6 fluid ounces of 14 grams of pure alcohol per day for women and two standard drinks per day for men, according to Dietary Guidelines.
A standard drink is equivalent to a 12-ounce serving of regular beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits. Consuming more than three drinks per day for women and more than four drinks per day for men is considered heavy drinking.
A study published by JAMA Psychiatry in 2017 indicated that “high-risk drinking and alcohol abuse disorder among women has increased by almost 60%.
Moderate drinking can play a role in maintaining a healthy weight and a healthy heart as it can reduce weight gain and the risk of heart disease.
Choosing wine instead of beer or other high-calorie alcoholic beverages can help with weight loss.
As for your heart health, some studies also show alcohol consumption can increase the production of good cholesterol.
Drinking beyond moderation, even sporadically, is unhealthy.
While some benefits of moderate alcohol consumption may exist, you can’t ignore the dark side of drinking alcohol and the risks are mostly related to heavier alcohol consumption.
However, frequent alcohol consumption can lead to alcoholic disorders and their many consequences, including physical dependence, mental health issues like depression, sleep problems as well as work, family and social dysfunction
According to the American Cancer Society, alcohol consumption is a risk factor for a variety of cancers including mouth, throat, colon, breast and liver. Even moderate alcohol consumption is linked to a 20% increased risk of mouth and throat cancer.
Bear in mind, the cancer risk increases the more you consume.
There’s little harm in enjoying a glass of wine with dinner, but you can protect your health and avoid unnecessary consequences by limiting your consumption.
Heavy alcohol consumption can lead to alcohol dependence or addiction; therefore, drinking in moderation is key if you choose to drink at all.
Excessive alcohol drinking can have long-term physical health risks such as:
Ensure you leave adequate time for the alcohol to leave your system, you may still find your are over the safe driving limit during the following morning or day.
On average, it takes about 1 hour for your body to break down 1 unit of alcohol. However, this can vary, depending on:
It can also take longer if your liver isn’t working normally.
1 unit of alcohol is equivalent to 10ml or 8g of pure alcohol. There are roughly:
If you drink a large (250ml) glass of wine, your body takes about 3 hours to break down the alcohol.
If you drink 1 pint of beer, your body takes about 2 hours to break it down, 1 pint of strong lager is equivalent to 3 units, so this will take longer.
However, this time can vary, depending on the factors mentioned above.
If you have a few drinks during a night out, it can take many hours for the alcohol to leave your body.
The alcohol could still be in your blood the next day.
This means that if you drive the day after an evening of drinking, you could be over the legal alcohol limit.
For more information, see How much alcohol can I drink before driving?
Low back pain is an aching discomfort that normally occurs in the lumbar portion of the spine. It is one of the most common health problems, and is the reason most drivers often give for taking time off work.
Low back pain may be the result of excessive strain on the lower back due to a poor posture, bad seating position when driving, being overweight, or having to do a lot of carrying or lifting of heavy loads. For a few people, persistent back pain may be due to arthritis.
Back pain is usually caused by a mechanical disorder of one of the structures in or around the spine. The pain may be the result of damage to a ligament or muscle, or to one of the joints between adjacent vertebrae (bones of the spine).
Occasionally the pain is due to a slipped disc, a condition in which the spongy material between the vertebrae, bulges through its surrounding ligament and presses on adjacent spinal nerves. This nerve pressure causes pain in the back and also pain running down the back of the legs (sciatica).
Other causes of back pain include arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis (a disease of the joints) and, rarely, a tumour in the spinal column. It may also be caused by abdominal problems such as peptic ulcer, pancreatitis or aortic aneurism (localised dilation of the aorta).
In most cases, back pain goes away within a few days. It often improves before the doctor has arranged any tests, so the exact cause may not be confirmed. If the pain persists or keeps comingback, tests will be done to establish a diagnosis.
Most episodes of low back pain can be resolved by resting the back for a few days. However, if low back pain is persistent or recurrent, the doctor’s diagnosis can usually be made by means of a physical examination.
The physical examination includes testing neurological (nervous system) responses and muscle function. Other diagnostic studies may include taking a CT scan (a complex form of X-ray which gives a detailed cross-sectional image of a part of the body), or a myelogram (an X-ray of the back taken after an injection of a dye into the spine).
Bed rest for at least a few days only and followed by gentle movements. Painkillers, anti-inflammatory drugs and muscle relaxants, heat pads / baths may be prescribed to help relieve muscle spasm.
Manipulation of the back by a doctor, physiotherapist or osteopath can be very effective, helping to relieve the pain and spasms in some cases.
Anyone with severe back pain caused by an injury or fall, or who is unable to move, should be taken by ambulance to the nearest hospital.
Do not move the injured person as this should only be done by trained staff.
Factors that increase the risk of injury include the load being too heavy, large, difficult to grasp or unstable, the task being too strenuous or involving awkward postures or movements.
The working environment lacking sufficient space, having slippery, uneven or unstable floors, having extreme temperatures or poor lighting.
Employers are required to carry out risk assessments, and take action to protect workers from the risks of manual handling.
Prevention measures include:
• Designing and organising tasks to avoid manual handling completely, or at least restrict it.
• Using automation and lifting equipment.
• Organising manual handling tasks in a safe way, with loads split into smaller ones, and proper rest periods provided.
• Providing information and training to workers on tasks, and the use of equipment and correct handling techniques. (CPC Course)
Avoid prolonged sitting and keep the back mobile. Take a walk during your 4.5 hours rest periods and ensure your seat is correctly adjusted for your size.
Take regular exercise on your days of work and attempt to strengthening abdominal and back muscles. Swimming is excellent exercise for back pain. Using a back rub can also help control minor bouts of back pain.
Some people find relief from cold treatment with an ice pack.
For persistent backache, a gradual loss of excess weight will help reduce the weight-bearing load on the spine. Sleeping on a firm mattress and, for severe, chronic back pain, wearing a corset-like back brace can also help to ease the situation.
Reducing emotional stress if at all possible, can help, as many people unconsciously tighten their back muscles when they are worried or tense.
Your doctor will examine your posture and the movements of your back when you are standing. You will then be asked to lie down so your back can be checked for areas of tenderness and muscle spasm. The nerve and muscle function in both legs will also be checked, as pressure on the spinal nerve can cause numbness or weakness.
Low back pain is rarely dangerous. However, if the pain is accompanied by leg weakness, a feeling of numbness, or bladder or bowel problems, this indicates that there is pressure on one or more of the spinal nerves.
If the pain is caused by a disc prolapse or tumour, prolonged pressure on a spinal nerve will require surgery, as permanent nerve damage can result. You must see a doctor if the pain is persistent.
Many people with recurrent back pain have found relief by studying and following the Alexander Technique.
This is a system of posture adjustment and training for the correct movement of the spine, neck and limbs.
The technique is taught in individual classes.
This briefing arose from a campaign by Unite lorry drivers in the North East of England who wanted to raise awareness about obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) for professional drivers.
Feeling tired at work may be for a variety of reasons, not necessarily because they are suffering from OSA, and they should seek advice from their GP.
Proper and early diagnosis of any condition along with appropriate medical treatment from the NHS is essential for members’ continued health at work. Seeking medical advice is also important to ensure that professional drivers can comply with the DVSA medical standards – self-diagnosis is not a suitable option.
OSA is a serious. potentially life-threatening condition that is far more common than is generally understood. Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) is a breathing disorder characterised by brief interruptions of breathing during sleep. It owes its name to a Greek word, apnoea. meaning “without breath”.
As we go to sleep, the muscles of the throat relax as a normal part of the sleep process. In individuals with OSA, this relaxation progresses to the point where the passage for air is partially or completely blocked, dramatically reducing or stopping airflow into the lungs.
This causes an increase in Carbon Dioxide levels and the brain responds by waking up the individual for a short while to open the air passage. Breathing begins again, but the natural sleep cycle is interrupted.
Having OSA means that a person can stop breathing for periods when asleep. These interruptions (apnoea). which last for 10 seconds or more, occur when the airway narrows so much that it closes. These stops breathing, and the brain reacts by briefly waking up, causing the airways to re-open and breathing to restart.
The individual is usually unaware of this awakening and this process can be repeated up to several hundred times during the night. Proper restful sleep becomes impossible, resulting in sleepiness and impairment of daytime function. Early recognition and treatment of OSA is important.
The excessive sleepiness associated with OSA impairs quality of life and places people at increased risk of road traffic and other accidents.
It may also be associated with irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke, impairment of cognitive function and mood and personality disorders.
Apnoea occurs in all age groups and both men and women; although it is more common in middle aged men. OSA affects an estimated 4% of the male and one percent of the female middle-aged population.
Recent research has suggested that the disorder is much more prevalent in the transport industry. A 2005 study found that 16% of HGV drivers in the study has OSA and a corresponding increased risk of accidents.
Other studies found that drivers with OSA have a 2 to 13-fold increase in accident rates. The risk of an accident for an OSA sufferer appears to be greatly increased. Further studies show that approximately 33% of OSA sufferers have had an accident in the past 5 years, with 19%-27% of OSA patients admitting to falling asleep at the wheel. UK research estimated that 20% of all motorway accidents are caused by sleepiness.
If untreated, OSA is a major threat to nightly rest. People most likely to have or develop OSA include those who snore loudly, are overweight, have high blood pressure, or have a physical abnormality in the nose, throat, or other parts of the upper airway. If left untreated or undiagnosed the results can be tragic.
Stimulants (like coffee) taken to counter the effects of tiredness but is not a substitute for sleep. The regular use of stimulants by individuals may be a clue to the existence of an underlying sleep disorder. Ingestion of alcohol, sleeping pills, or smoking, can exacerbate OSA.
If you. or someone you know, snores nightly and has one or more of the following signs or symptoms. OSA may be the cause (though there may also be other reasons).
Common signs and symptoms of OSA include:
Treatment can include:
Lifestyle changes – weight reduction and reduction of alcohol consumption
In a small number of cases surgery may have a place if there is a definite anatomical cause though a variety of treatments are available.
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy is the most common and effective treatment for OSA. The individual wears a mask over the nose or mouth during sleep and gentle pressure from a quiet air blower forces air through the nasal passages.
The CPAP machine adds gentle pressure to the air as it is breathed in. This prevents the airway from collapsing and stops obstruction during sleep.
Your Next Step
Restful sleep is required for a normal healthy life Daily wakefulness should be effortless and free from unintended sleep episodes. Excessive sleepiness is far more common than often realised and can be dangerous.
If you or someone close to you regularly shows the signs of excessive sleepiness, or complains of constantly feeling tired
get help from your GP. OSA can be simply screened, diagnosed and treated.
Treatment of OSA is effective, affordable and uncomplicated.
This article only provides general information about OSA Individuals should contact their GP for medical advice about OSA and the NHS treatment which is available.
Sources of further information
Loughborough Sleep Research Centre/Awake www.awakeltd.info/
National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidance on CPAP and OSA www.nice.org.uk
Unite Health and Safety Unit. Direct Line: 020 7611 2596 e-mail: [email protected]
Len McCluskey, General Secretary Unite House. 128 Theobalds Road
Every company policy state that if you drink on the road your job will be terminated. Also, if any alcohol is found in your truck by your company your employment will also be terminated. Most of the major transport companies also have a mandate that all drivers involved in a road traffic accident will need to take a compulsorily drug and alcohol test. The consumption of alcohol is prevalent amongst professional drivers and stress has been linked to the increase in consumption.
Many drivers do not appreciate that they are still over the legal limit during the following day. However, a current documentary by Radio and TV presenter Adrian Chiles highlighted the long-term damage alcohol has on your health.
A current documentary included Proofessor Roger Williams from the Institute of Hepatology at King’s College Hospital in South London, has given his life to medicine and is widely revered as the “Sir Alex Ferguson of the medical establishment”, and his driving passion is to dispel our blasé attitudes to casual, excess drinking and face up to its real cost.
A speech made a few weeks ago by the Secretary of State for Health, Matt Hancock read:
‘For 95 per cent of people, the alcohol we drink is perfectly safe and normal. I like a pint or the odd glass of wine, and I know I speak for most of my audience and certainly the vast majority of my colleagues, too.’
We must also need to point out that alcohol plays an important role in the lifestyles of European citizens and cultures of European countries. Alcohol is also an important driving force behind the European economy that creates jobs, generates fiscal revenues and contributes to the UK and EU economy by around €9 billion annually through trade (Anderson & Baumberg 2006)
WHAT riled Professor Williams was that first sentence? For while the Health Secretary may think 95% of alcohol consumption is safe, Professor Williams and fellow experts on the influential Lancet Standing Commission on Liver Disease in the UK do not.
They are committed to lobbying the Government and public health policy makers to act, especially on the availability of cheap drink.
The NHS recommends that adults drink no more than 14 units each week — that’s 14 single shots of spirit or six pints of beer or a bottle and a half of wine.
But about a third of drinkers consume more than this, which is enough to significantly damage their health, particularly their liver.
The reporter used to be a bit of a drinker, often knocking back six pints of Guinness a day. In an average week, I’d consume around 50 units, although that number was known to double.
I did my best to downplay and told himself everyone likes a drink. (But that’s not true, since about 17 per cent of adults don’t drink at all and 70 per cent of those who do stick to the 14-unit guidelines.) The only days I drank nothing focus on extreme cases, and so the rest of us look at the classic ‘alcoholic’ slumped in a shop doorway, and say to ourselves: ‘Oh, that’s not me!
Therefore, I have no problem.
I am fine.’
Well, I know now that we aren’t fine. Today, as someone who still likes to drink, nothing when he was broadcasting in the evening. He needed an actual reason to abstain for even one day. His drinking habits go back a long way. At university, if anyone I liked had said they didn’t drink, well, I probably wouldn’t have ended up being friends with them.
And as a lifelong West Bromwich Albion fan, going to a match meant having a few drinks with mates — one or two or countless — beforehand.
I believe the word ‘alcoholic’ is outdated, but I’ve come to realise that I was undoubtedly dependent on alcohol to some extent.
And if I am, then thousands of others are, too. They are drinkers like me, quietly putting it away without, superficially, doing any great harm — when, actually, we could do ourselves some real good by drinking significantly less.
I believe that all the coverage of alcohol misuse and abuse fails to tackle this problem. It tends to focus on extreme cases, and so the rest of us look at the classic ‘alcoholic’ slumped in a shop doorway, and say to ourselves: ‘Oh, that’s not me! Therefore, I have no problem. I am fine.’
Well, I know now that we aren’t fine. Today, as someone who still likes to drink, nothing would give me more pleasure than to tell you that the 14-unit figure is a load of nonsense.
But I can’t do that. Over the past months, I’ve applied my (admittedly unscientific) mind to a vast amount of evidence, and it is clear that the folks in white coats speak the truth: drinking more than 14 units a week is bad for you.
To suggest otherwise is about as daft as claiming that smoking isn’t harmful.
To be fair to Matt Hancock, he’s right when he points out that the group most at risk of alcohol-related health problems is the 5% of drinkers who put away more than 50 units a week (for women, who are more susceptible to damage caused by alcohol, it’s 35 units). Indeed, this group consumes about a third of all the alcohol drunk in the UK.
But look at it another way and you discover that nearly half of all alcohol is consumed by the 8.5 million drinkers like me who knock back between 14 and 50 units a week.
More than one million hospital admissions annually are the result of alcohol-related disorders, and it costs the NHS £3.5 billion a year.
Alcohol is the biggest risk factor for death in men under 60.
And terrifyingly, with the frequency of deaths from liver disease and hospital admissions increasing year on year, logic dictates that must include many of those drinking between 14 and 50 units a week. From all I have learned about fullblown liver disease, the symptoms are horrific and the end ghastly.
Just as worrying is the demonstrated link between drinking arid the increased risk of common cancers of the breast and bowel. All of this becomes even more alarming when you realise — as I did when making the documentary for the BBC — that it’s very easy to drink 50 units a week if you drink something every day and then throw in a couple of big nights out.
At a friend’s 40th birthday celebration last year, I drank four pints of Guinness, four bottles of beer, a glass of champagne and five glasses of wine. Even a quiet night out — what I, in my ignorance, thought of as a non-drinking night with a mate — would be two pints of Guinness each and perhaps a bottle of wine between us.
Even with that degree of regular boozing, the symptoms can be silent. Liver disease often doesn’t show itself until it’s too late to easily treat.
Routine blood tests showed my liver function was normal, but for the documentary I had a fibroscan which is a type of ultrasound that assesses the hardness of the liver. That told a different story.
My liver is fatty, which is bad, and there are signs of fibrosis caused by a large amount of scar tissue — both undoubtedly linked to my drinking. In short, last year I found I was well on the way to having potentially fatal liver disease.
The liver specialist I saw said: ‘You can’t go on like this’ — and he was right.
For you, it’s not a choice between living a good, long life or a good, slightly shorter life, he added; it’s about making your declining years as bearable as possible. And drinking too much before you get there isn’t going to help.
Ironically, my biggest concern is getting to old age without having ruined my innards so much that I can’t enjoy a drink to ease me through my twilight years.
So, I’ve cut down on my drinking, though it’s not been easy. In fact, I wonder whether it’s easier to stop completely rather than to try to moderate what you drink. If you stop completely, you have only one decision to make, hard though it is. But you know where you stand, and so does everyone else.
If you’re merely moderating, there are dozens of decisions to make every week. When do I drink?
How much do I drink?
Will this friend or that friend be annoyed if I don’t drink with them?
The list goes on and on.
But I’m proud to say that I’ve managed it. And, for me, the key to it has been counting units. Believe me, I know how hard it is to bring yourself to do this, and I resisted for a while.
I find the Drink Less phone app easiest to use (other apps are available). It allows you to input your alcohol intake throughout the day and projects it onto a graph. The effect on me was immediate.
I’ve discovered that once you’re counting units, you can work out which drinks you really want, or need or will enjoy.
I reckon if you put every drink I’ve ever consumed in a row, it would stretch for nearly four miles. But, to be honest, I think I’ve only really appreciated a third of them. The rest were completely unnecessary, and now I’ve got a dodgy liver for my trouble. What an idiot!
Nowadays, when I go to the pub, I order what the Germans call beer sour: half a beer and half a soda water in the same glass.
That’s been a game changer for me. It gives you a pint to hold and the taste isn’t dramatically different. More importantly, it’s half the units. I’ve also started drinking alcohol-free versions of the drinks I like, and there’s plenty of good stuff out there.
So how do I feel in my new guise as a ‘moderating drinker’?
Well, I’m a bit lighter, a bit calmer, a bit healthier and, what I do drink, I enjoy more.
The biggest changes I’ve noticed, however, are psychological. The pressure we put on each other to drink is absurd. Alcohol is the only drug you must apologise for not taking. I’ve sworn a solemn oath no longer to be pressured into drinking by anyone, and nor will I pressure anyone else.
But neither will I pressure anyone into drinking less. If you enjoy every drop, crack on —just if you’re aware that more than 14 units a week puts your health at risk. Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t get down to that number. I still really struggle, but every unit I don’t drink helps.
If you’re regularly drinking much more than that — say 40 units a week — my strongest advice is to ask your GP to send you for a fibro-scan. I know how lucky I am. I got the wake-up call I needed. Now, I want to wake-up others.
And if I ever need further encouragement, I can always call upon the image of Professor Williams slumped at his desk in despair, knowing better than anyone what too much booze is doing to us — and determined to do something about it.
The mental health of employees is as important in the workplace as their physical wellbeing. It includes an individual’s emotional, psychological and social wellbeing and influences how they handle stress.
Poor mental health can vary from feeling “down” to suffering from anxiety and depression Usually, an individual’s mental health will fluctuate depending on the pressures they are experiencing.
The UK Department of Health advises that one in four people will at some point experience mental health issues and almost six in 10 employees (59%) experience workplace stress. A survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) revealed that stress and mental ill-health were among the most common causes of long-term workplace absence.
An employer’s failure to recognise mental health can be costly. Research shows that mental ill-health costs employers in the UK £30bn each year through lost production, recruitment and absence.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the annual cost of depression and anxiety in the workplace is $1 trillion per year globally. By contrast, the WHO emphasizes that workplaces that proactively promote mental health and support people with mental disorders have lower rates of absenteeism, increased productivity, and benefit from other economic gains.
Employers should take steps to tackle the causes of workplace stress and actively promote positive mental health among employees. This can be done in a variety of ways, from raising awareness, training and seminars to proactive wellbeing initiatives such as yoga classes and gym memberships.
Promoting a culture of good mental health will help to minimise the risk of employment-related mental ill-health and the risk of claims against the employer.
As highlighted in A Call to Action Proceedings from the Mental Health in the Workplace earlier this year, data accumulated over the past decade suggests that “comprehensive wellness programs, that incorporate mental well-being, flatten the cost curve on medical and productivity-related expenditures, allowing the company to return savings to its members.”
So, how can organizations take steps to start prioritizing mental health in the workplace?
All managers and organizations have the capacity to take the steps required to proactively address mental health issues and, in the process, do a better job supporting their teams, reducing burnout and increasing productivity.
In order to combat workplace stress, employers should:
Employers need to ensure the policy is properly implemented in practice by:
When you’re traveling on a plane with a small child, you’re asked to put your own oxygen mask on first. The same rule holds true for managing mental health. If you’re taking care of yourself, taking care of your team will be a lot easier. Remember, in times of uncertainty, people look up. Whether or not you intend it, people will model your actions.
To begin, start with something simple, sustainable and scalable. For example, make a decision to be more active, eat better and, if it’s an issue, drink less. Start small and build on your momentum.
This is critical:
If you promise yourself that you’re going to start meditating for an hour each day, you’ll likely fail to find the time to meet your target. By keeping your goals realistic, you’ll also be keeping everything in your circle of control.
Take a long, hard look at your workplace or, better yet, bring in a neutral third party to carry out a 360 assessment. From your location in the corporate suite, the toxic elements in your organization may not be visible.
After all, people often go out of their way to mask problems. A trained workplace coach or facilitator, however, can check in with your employees and help identify patterns that may be making your workplace toxic.
Also, bear in mind that discovering that you have a bullying or harassment issue in your organization isn’t only essential if you want to address mental health concerns — it’s also a compliance issue.
“Sexual harassment and assault in the workplace” are not just about Harvey Weinstein.
A similar social media campaign is playing out on Instagram among models who are sharing stories of abuse and harassment in the fashion industry.
In order to combat workplace stress, employers should:
Employers need to ensure the policy is properly implemented in practice by:
A CIPD survey found that “less than half of respondents report that their organisation support employees who experience mental-health problems very well or fairly well, while one in five (20%) say that their organisation supports such employees not very well or not at all.
Almost three respondents in 10 (28%) don’t know how well their employer supports people who experience mental-health problems”. Employers need to do more to ensure that employees feel supported with their mental health and should encourage open channels of communication.
The arbitration service Acas suggests employers could develop action plans to help promote positive mental health.
This could include:
Breach of contract – an employee suffering from work related stress might argue that their employer has breached an express or implied term of their contract of employment. Additionally, the employee is signed off sick from work due to stress or mental health issues and then subsequently dismissed, they might have a claim for unfair dismissal.
Disability discrimination – an employee might be protected from the disability discrimination act if they suffer from mental ill-health issues that have a substantial adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities and anxiety and depression could tall within this definition.
Whether or not an individual’s work-related stress can be regarded as a disability will be for an employment tribunal to decide.
Business professionals lack the necessary training to address mental health in the workplace” and “often lack the skills needed to build a positive work environment where workers feel empowered.
To this end, they advise partnering with experts in mental health to develop executive training programs designed to prepare leaders to build and sustain a mentally healthy workforce.
If you’re truly committed to addressing mental health in your organization, in 2019, consider the potential return on investment for contracting with or recruiting a partner with expertise on people and mental health.
There is no better way to destigmatize mental health than to make a mental health expert an integral part of your team.
An interesting concept to keep drivers fit was introduced into the Stream Space cab of his Mercedes-Benz Actros. Thanks to an initiative by German haulier Spedition Fehrenkotter, driver Heiko Gebhardt has installed a personal fitness studio in the StreamSpace cab of his Mercedes-Benz Actros.
Gebhardt now uses the TopFit Set (part number B6 626 0350) during breaks to actively combat muscle tension and to strengthen the muscles that are prone to stress.
TopFit comprises a plywood board to which two metal eyelets are attached. Exercise straps, known as tubes, are attached to these with snap hooks. Two pairs of tubes offer different levels of training resistance.
Gebhardt stands on the board between the seats. The set is completed by a pair of flexible, ergonomic handles which rotate to follow the movements and thereby reduce wrist tension, plus a useful carrying bag.
“We specifically developed our Top Fit Set for use in a truck cab,” says Siegfried Rothe, Daimler Trucks customer researcher and developer.
“Using the fitness board, drivers can exercise in the privacy of their cab -which is an important factor for many truckers.”
Training videos, including ‘Basic Fit’, ‘Strong Fit’, Top Fit’ and ‘Power Fit’ workouts, are provided on a DVD supplied with the set. Each workout contains six exercises aimed at the relevant areas of the neck, shoulders, upper arms, abdomen and upper/ lower back.
However, Gebhardt prefers the digital fitness coach via the FleetBoard Driver app, which also has information and tips on health and fitness on the road.
App your truck has become reality.
With the Mercedes-Benz Truck App Portal, you are now given the option to equip your vehicles with apps which increase your convenience and efficiency.
More aps include the following:
Overview of vehicle operation: The digital manual is a digital operation instruction – directly available in the vehicle.
Date and hints: The Fleetboard Driver informs the truck driver in real-time about relevant data on his vehicle and provides hints how to improve his individual driving behaviour.
Overview of vehicle operation: The digital manual is a digital operation instruction – directly available in the vehicle.
Stopwatch for support: The app with integrated timer helps the driver to move his vehicle in the scope of legal regulations – including during breaks.
This is a 3rd party Digital apps which would be useful if available in the UK.
I have this app on my smart phone at the moment to search for parking space: The community based app offers free parking options including evaluations and also provides further useful information.