I have had a cough for years. I have tried everything but nothing seems to make it go away. Friends have now recommended that I cut out all dairy from my diet, as it may. Are they right?
Dairy foods – milk, cheese, yogurt and the like – are often blamed for causing mucus. For example, I know singers who avoid dairy because they believe it affects their voice, but there is no good scientific evidence for this.
Chronic cough has many causes: asthma, allergies or even acid reflux. A GP can discuss all the possibilities.
Commonly used blood pressure tablets called ACE inhibitors are also known to cause coughing. If this becomes a problem, you should talk to your doctor about finding an alternative.
Safely trying a dairy-free diet involves trialling it for two to four weeks to see if it makes a difference. It will only be worth continuing if the benefits are truly evident, as this type of elimination diet, which removes entire food groups, comes with risks.
Chronic cough has many causes: asthma, allergies or even acid reflux. A GP can discuss all the possibilities
Dietary foods are an excellent source of protein, calories and calcium, which is especially important for older women to prevent weak and thin bones. Skipping them means depriving those benefits and can lead to other problems like fractures.
For anyone young or old on a dairy-free diet, I’d recommend using the calcium intake calculator from the Royal Osteoporosis Society to make sure you’re getting enough calcium (theros.org.uk).
My wife was diagnosed with pseudogout after developing a swollen and very painful knee. To date he has been prescribed anti-inflammatory drugs and ibuprofen ointment. Although they help a bit, she still can’t walk any distance without considerable discomfort. Do you have any advice?
Pseudogout is a form of arthritis in which crystals of a substance called calcium pyrophosphate form in the joint. This is similar to gout, where crystals of a different chemical – urate – accumulate.
This condition causes acute episodes of joint pain and swelling. For most people this can be the knee affected by pseudogout and it tends to occur in the over 60s.
Symptoms usually come on very quickly and people find that their knees suddenly become hot, swollen and even red. Acute pain usually lasts for a few days before subsiding, and it takes about a fortnight for the joint to return to normal.
For most people this will be the knee affected by pseudogout
Determining what causes an acute attack of pseudogout is not always easy. Sometimes it occurs after an illness, operation or injury, but it is not always clear.
When it flares up, the first step is to ice the joint and use an anti-inflammatory medication like aspirin. Ice is a valuable anti-inflammatory and you should use it for 15 minutes two or three times a day. You can get specially shaped ice packs for the knee at the pharmacy.
A gout medication called colchicine can also be used, but it must be started within the first day of an attack.
Steroid tablets from a GP can be used to treat the problem, as well as steroid injections into the joint. Talk to your GP about getting back into exercise, which is an important part of your life and health.
If they can’t get the condition under control, they may be able to offer a referral to a rheumatologist.
About three years ago I was diagnosed with bladder prolapse and was fitted with a pessary that was changed every six months. It works well – I lost my husband a few years ago, so I’m not sexually active. But at these appointments I am always asked if I want an operation to correct the problem. I’m 70 but I haven’t given up on meeting new people. Is surgery safe and worth having?
The word prolapse means an organ has moved out of its normal position. This can occur in a woman’s pelvis with aging, as support structures such as the pelvic floor muscles weaken.
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The bladder and vagina are right next to each other in the pelvis and are separated only by a thin wall of muscle – if this muscle weakens, as it usually does, a prolapse will occur.
With a bladder prolapse, it not only causes discomfort but also causes problems with passing water.
A pessary is a simple and effective physical therapy. It is usually made of silicone and is inserted into the vagina by a healthcare professional, physically pushing the bladder back into place. It is usually changed every six months.
Patients can have intercourse while using some types of pessaries and will be taught to remove and replace them themselves if it is more comfortable.
The operation for bladder prolapse is called anterior repair. It is done under general anesthesia and is performed through the vagina with no visible scarring. One risk is that the prolapse can return, which happens in about a third of women who have this surgery.
It can cause incontinence or difficulty urinating, and there are general risks of surgery, such as infection and bleeding, which can affect your general health.
If this is an option, an appointment with a surgeon will help you learn more about the risks and benefits, which can help you make a decision.
The perfect prescription for the over 60s
I was thrilled to hear that the government scrapped plans to raise the eligibility age for free prescriptions from 60 to 66.
Ministers previously said Britons would be charged up to pension age. This was a grossly unfair idea, with each drug costing around £10, people often relying on many and many having to replenish their stock every few weeks.
Studies show that the average person over the age of 60 relies on about 42 packets of prescription pills per year. I have long argued for a major shake-up of the system. It’s ironic that some get their medicine for free – like thyroid sufferers – but others – like asthmatics – don’t. It’s time we copied Scotland and made prescriptions free for all. If you’re struggling with medication costs, ask your pharmacist about a pre-pay certificate, which saves you cash.
Send me your questions about women’s heart health
Next week in our women’s health special, a panel of experts will answer questions readers send in about everything from itchy intimate skin to sore breasts.
Recently I asked what you specifically wanted to know about menopause, but this week I’m asking your thoughts on another important topic: heart health.
We know that there is a large gender gap in survival from heart disease – women are 50 per cent less likely than men to receive a correct diagnosis. And it is estimated that men are twice as likely to survive a heart attack.
Why? Well, the symptoms of heart problems can look different in a woman, and studies for telltale signs have historically excluded women, so there are many unknowns about exactly what doctors look for.
Now I want to help you understand the health of your own heart. The question is what do you want to know about? Write to the email address below and tell me.
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