Great News about Chocolate | It may be good for you after all

I was recently listening to a medical podcast from 2011 (a BMJ one I think )  in which they discussed some recent research that suggested that chocolate may be good for our health possibly because of the anti-oxidants-although they were cautious about the findings and said more research was need.

Today I heard via BBC health the wonderful news that ” Chocolate may help keep people slim”

On reading the article caution is once again advised-this is not an excuse to go on a chocolate binge. It is probably similar to the benefits from red wine. Small quantities in moderation have health benefits however over indulgence has more negative consequences than positive as chocolate is also high in sugar & fat.

As a chocolate lover myself I have decided to stop depriving myself and to indulge in a small amount of high quality dark cholcolate more frequently. The higher quality darker chocolate such as Green and Blacks contains higher quantities of the antioxidants.

Find out more about chocolate & health research here

Oops cant believe I just published a post about chocolate immediately after the article on cholesterol tests

Home Cholesterol Test Kit | Using a cholesterol test at home

Cholesterol test kits have now been available for home cholesterol testing for over 10 years. All cholesterol home tests involve testing a blood sample, for home cholesterol testing this is obtained using a lancet, or finger prick needle. This makes home cholesterol testing a problem for anyone who is squeemish or has a needle phobia as most kits only supply a single lancet.

Cholesterol is an ever changing component of blood and real time levels are affected by diet to a great degree. Put simply, cholesterol blood levels can be greatly affected by what you have eaten in the last few hours. For this reason all first time cholesterol screening home tests should ideally be done when you have not eaten for the last 8 hrs, ie first thing in the morning before breakfast. This ensures you are measuring the base line or background total cholesterol levels for your body and not just the fat content of the last fatty meal you digested.

If you are testing for the first time and are seeking the re-assurance of a normal cholesterol level, then the simplest and cheapest kits just test for a single total cholesterol level. These kits are easier to complete than the dual measure tests for total and HDL cholesterol levels. These more complex cholesterol tests are better if a raised cholesterol total level has been detected or is suspected, as they differentiate between the good (HDL) and bad total cholesterol, and show what the ratio is at the time of testing. Most first time home cholesterol testers do not need to know this if the total cholesterol level is healthy. The simple total cholesterol test kits available are simple to complete proceedurally by following the user instructions included in the pack, and most people can handle the finger prick to obtain an adequate blood drop sample to complete the total cholesterol test with a clear and accurate result. Talking of accuracy, the manufacturers have to be able to prove that the test gives accurate results in the vast majority of test samples to obtain the CE mark for the test to be sold in Europe. This means if you follow the test instructions you should be able to get a result which is close in accuracy to a laboratory analysed sample result.

If you have detected a raised cholesterol blood level on a home cholesterol test kit using a fasting blood sample then a differential test to split the LDL and HDL levels will help assess the risk factors to health and future action plan. LDL (low density lipoprotein) is the cholesterol which clogs arteries and you want to reduce. HDL (high density) is the good stuff that’s required to build cells and repair the body, you want more of this. Home cholesterol test kits such as the cholestin pack will give a result for both LDL and HDL. these cholesterol home tests are a little more expensive and are more complex to complete but come with good clear instructions and the majority of self testers complet the test with both results obtained reliably. A key tip is to ensure you can use the lancets with confidence to obtain a sufficient blood sample droplet(s) to complet both elements of the test.

For people in treatment for elevated cholesterol levels there are also electronic test monitors which are available with test strips which are read by the monitor to give a digital level. This is cost effective if you are expecting to test regularly, and gets the cost of home testing for cholesterol down to around £5 per test if you allow for depreciation on the electronic monitor.

Click here for more information ot to buy home cholesterol test kits & monitors

Minimum Prices for Alcohol | But should we go further

I like many others welcome the move to have a minimum price for alcohol that was announced today, but I can’t help but think there may be better ways to do this, and that we should be going further on this.

Excess alcohol consumption in this country poses a massive health risk and costs the country in both healthcare consequences and days lost from work, as well as crime and accidents related to alcohol. The increased in problem teenage drinking may also be a consequence of the low alcohol prices and the wide availibility of alcohol.

What I don’t fully understand is why the government did not put up tax on alcohol in the budget yesterday. This would have the effect of putting the prices of alcohol in the shops up, and the money generated through this increased taxation on alcohol would go to help pay off the budget deficit. Would seem to be a win win to me.

Free Chlamydia Test by Post | UK Chlamydia Screening Campaign

Did you know that you may be able to get a free chlamydia test kit to use at home , under the government screening programme for Chlamydia.

The Chlamydia screening programme has been running for several years in the UK and provides free home Chlamydia test kits by post to sexually active under 25 year olds in UK. Home tests for Chlamydia have been available commercially now for several years and have proved effective and reliable.

Chlamydia is a very common sexually transmitted infection affecting about 1 in 12 young people . Chlamydia often causes no symptoms in the early stages and is often transmitted to a sexual partner before the person knows that they are infected. Diagnosis and treatment are fairly easy, and the Chlamydia test can be performed at home using a swab or urine sample.

The purpose of the campaign is to raise awareness amongst teenagers and young people about Chlamydia and to increase the uptake of Chlamydia testing & treatment when it is offered to young people. Untreated Chalmydia can have serious health consequences such as infertility, ectopic pregnancy, orchiditis, urethritis etc.

For more info on the Free Chlamydia Test by Post for under 25’s visit

If you are not under 25 years of age and would like to get a Chlamydia test by post they can be purchased online here


Hi guys, my name is Akshay, I’m from Singapore and I’m a new guest blogger. I have completed my A levels and am planning to apply to UK for medicine during my gap year. I first came to know about this provision of writing for Valuemed from a medical student who previously wrote for Valuemed. I was immediately keen on writing as a guest blogger not only for the purpose of gaining a deeper insight into medicine but also to keep up to date with the latest news in the medical world. I would like to thank Kate for giving me this opportunity and will write more on medical news in the near future. Cheers

New Home Prostate Test Kit from ProstaQUICK | Check Blood PSA levels at home

A new home prostate test kit is now available from NanoRepro called ProstaQUICK.

The Prostate test kit is a complete home blood test for the detection of elevated PSA levels. PSA is Prostate-specific Antigen, a chemical detectable in blood. Elevated levels of PSA are associated with prostate disease and particularly prostate cancer, a common form of cancer affecting men over the age of 60.

The ProstaQUICK test not only detects elevated levels of PSA above the 4ng/ml considered significant but also will show if the level is above 10ng/ml. The advantage of this dual result will be apparent to men who are under medical periodic review for an elevated level of PSA, had investigations which are normal and are advised to “keep and eye on the psa level” every 6 months. If the level increases to over 10ng/ml further investigations are normally undertaken.

The ProstaQUICK home prostate test is certified as 97% reliable and the proceedure for completing the test is very well described in the instructions. An auto lancing devise is included for the finger prick blood sample which is needed for each test.

Zestica Fertility Lubricant | Zestica Fertility sales grow 400% in 2011

Scottish based biotech company Burdica, the manufactures of Zestica Lubricant  have announced a new Canadian deal which will see its fertility lubricant and moisture lubricants available in Canada during 2012. The deal with “Shoppers” chain, a similar retailer to “Boots” here in the UK will see the products in over 200 stroes accross Canada. Two other Canadian firms have now also signed deals with Burdica.

Sales of Zestica have grown over 400% in 2011. The product is already available across most or Europe with deals in place now in Switzerland adding to agreements in Austria and Germany.

Zestica is the only one of the fertility lubricants to be formulated with HA (hyaluronic acid) the naturally occuring molecule found around the egg which promotes sperm motility.

Thousands of women have now tried Zestica, finding it both great to use and easy to apply. Zestica fertility lubricants are recommended for couples trying to conceive in preference to other non fertility personal lubricants which can obstruct sperm motility and even reduce the chances of conception is some cases.

HRT News & Research-Have The Risks Been Overhyped ?

Just had an e-mail through with some interesting reading from Menopause Matters.

Here is the e-mail:

Much debate and controversy surrounds the issue of risks and benefits of Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). In the past, many women took HRT in the belief that, while accepting that all medicines, and indeed many non-medicines, carry some risk, overall for most women the benefits appeared to outweigh the risks. All this changed in 2002 when a large American trial, the Women’s health Initiative trial, (WHI) showed that the use of HRT increased the risks of breast cancer, heart disease, stroke and blood clot. Following swiftly on came the British Million Women study which emphasisied the risks of breast cancer with HRT. Understandably, women in their millions stopped taking HRT and many doctors stopped prescribing it.
Were these concerns and huge change in use of HRT justified?
The WHI trial has since been reanalysed and in fact, heart disease and stroke were only increased in women who were 20 or 10 years post menopause respectively and were starting HRT just for the purpose of the trial. Women in the trial taking HRT who were under the age of 60 were shown to have a reduced risk of heart disease. A small increased risk of blood clot is found in women taking tablet form of HRT in the first year of use, but not if taking transdermal (patch or gel). The risk of breast cancer in WHI was in fact NOT demonsrtated in women taking estrogen only HRT, and in women taking combined estrogen and progestogen HRT, was only increased if HRT was taken before the trial and then continued for the 5 years of the trial. The level of increased risk shown is less than the associated breast cancer risk with 2 or more units of alcohol per day, or with being overweight after the menopause.
Further, a recent publication has shown that the Million Women study was in fact flawed and did not prove an increased breast cancer risk with HRT.
So where are we now? A very comprehensive review of the facts has now been published in the British Medical Journal and shows that we have almost come a whole circle, in that we have conclusive evidence that HRT is still the most effective treatment for menopausal symptoms, reduces the risk of osteoporotic fracture, reduces the risk of diabetes and colon cancer and, if used early in the menopausal years may well reduce the risk of heart disease. The association with long term use of HRT after the age of 50 and breast cancer risk is of concern but all medicines carry some risk and it seems once again, that overall for most women the benefits appeared to outweigh the risks.
Full report, menopause news, personal stories, healthy recipes, fashion and exercise tips in our magazine, issue 27 due out this month. See details
Dr Heather Currie
Menopause Matters

Menopause Matters magazine, is the ONLY magazine of its kind, specifically written for women who are approaching or experiencing the menopause.

You can read the current edition of Menopause Matterse magazine online for FREE. Just register

What makes a good family doctor or GP from the patient’s perspective ?

I am a new guest blogger. As a retired doctor, I am now experiencing the medical profession from the other side of the desk, and it has given me reason to think about what in my opinion makes a good doctor and what we as patients want from our doctors.

Here are my thoughts:

  • We want our doctors to be available-by this I mean I want to be able to get an appointment easily and be able to get through on the phone to the surgery to book one
  • We want our doctor to listen
  • We want our doctors to be empathic.
  • We like our doctor to be running reasonably on time-waiting in a doctors waiting room is very stressful. You often bump into neighbours who you might not wish to discuss your medical conditions with and worry that you might catch flu or something off another patient. Strangely when I was a young doctor seeing sick patients constantly this thought never concerned me but as I have got older a bout of flu can be truly nasty. Anyway I digress-back to the list.
  • We want our doctor to have good up to date knowledge and clinical skills
  • We want our doctors to recognise when we are really worried about our health or ill
  • We want our doctor to give us choices and discuss the options with us
  • We want our doctors to be enthusiastic, even dare I say passionate, about patient care
  • We want our doctors to refer us for specialist advice /care when appropriate
  • We want our doctors to be able to consider all the possibilities, and to question their diagnosis
  • We want our doctors to be able to admit if they make a mistake, to say sorry and to rectify it
  • We want our doctor to keep their skills up to date and to be abreast of changes & developments in medicine

Anyway these are my thoughts on this subject in the order of priority that I gave them. Let me know yours in comments.