Coronary Heart Disease

I’ve just submitted my assignment for my module ‘Therapeutic Approaches to Nutrition’ and wanted to share some of my findings.  We were asked to choose a topic ourselves, so I chose one that was close to my heart ❤ – Coronary Heart Disease (CHD). Now that’s a subject literally close to my heart, (and the rest of my family), as my father died prematurely of a myocardial infarction at the age of 52 (when I was only 10).

Syl, Val, Pam & Alf

Syl, Val, Pam & Alf

Only now do I understand the biochemical and physiological processes that cause this condition which is one that develops over time, often with no symptoms. Here are some of my findings:

  • Fatty material and cholesterol called plaque builds up in the walls of the coronary arteries.
  • This condition is called atherosclerosis and the fatty material is called atheroma.
  • This narrows or blocks them, limiting or stopping oxygenated blood to the heart.
  • This plaque becomes covered by a fibrous cap which may rupture and cause blood clots which can be fatal (Thomas 2001).
  • Smoking is the major risk factor as it increases permeability of the artery walls contributing to plaque formation (Clancy & McVicar 2009).
  • being overweight, obese, physically inactive, having diabetes and a family history of heart disease, increases your risk.
  • Too much sodium(from eating salt) in the blood impairs the kidneys ability to remove water and extra fluid causes higher blood pressure and if left untreated can severely damage the arteries and kidneys.
  • Eating more fruit and vegetables increases intake of antioxidant vitamins which protect against free radicals.

Here are some practical steps to help reduce the risk of developing CHD.

Steps to reduce saturated fat intake
  • Select lower-fat dairy products
  • Grate cheese instead of slicing it
  • Eat chicken without the skin
  • Select leaner cuts of meat or trim the fat off
  • Use turkey mince instead of beef or lamb mince
  • Compare labels and choose the one with less saturated fat
  • Use sunflower or olive oil instead of butter or lard
  • Eat less pastry, cakes and biscuits
  • Switch from whole milk to semi skimmed, 1% or skimmed milk
  • Eat healthier snacks like fruit
Food Standards Agency (2009)
Cardio-protective Diet Features
  • Eat 2 or more portions of fish weekly, 1 portion should be oily
  • Eat at least 5 portions of a mixture of fruit and vegetables each day
  • Replace saturated fat with monounsaturated fat (e.g.rapeseed or olive oil)
  • Replace some dietary fat energy by increasing complex carbohydrate intake
  • Divide fat intake between at least 3 regular daily meals
  • Avoid excessive alcohol intake – 3 or less units a day for women & 4 or less for men
  • Limit salt intake.
Reproduced from Daniels L. (2002) Diet and coronary heart disease: advice on a cardioprotective diet. British Journal of Community Nursing. 7, 7.


Me and my Dad X

Me and my Dad X

There are also lots of studies recommending the `Mediterranean diet’ to help prevent CHD – you can find out more via my previous post

More information is available via The British Heart Foundation.

Approximately 46,500 men and just under 34,000 women died of this disease in the UK, in 2010, sad, shocking, preventable!


Love you Alfred Booth X



Happy New Year 2015

I love new years day! It’s a time for new beginnings, for looking forward, for planning how to get healthier, for packing away your party shoes and putting your new running shoes on, or at least thinking about putting them on!

Screen Shot 2015-01-01 at 20.49.15My healthier steps include:

  • Dryathlon – I had my last glass of fizz just before midnight and won’t be touching another drop for at least a month.
  • I’ve registered for a 10k run at Tatton Park on 1st March with my friend Janet (it’s her first 10k) so need to get training.
  • My sons gave me the Good Housekeeping Super Soups; sumptuous soups for every day’ book for Christmas. It has lovely recipes so I’m going to work my way through that. Thanks Tom & Matt
  • I’m doing research into mindful eating (thanks Dinah for the info) – fascinating subject, will post here when I know more.
  • Practicing my yoga poses, ready for my yoga retreat! (nothing booked yet – Geraldine get yourself a yoga mat!)
  • I’ve also bought my work colleagues a new year present – a pedometer each!! I do hope they like them.


This year I need to be fitter and healthier than ever as this is a big year from me, as I finish my Nutrition and Health degree and make some life changing career decisions. I’d really love to hear what your healthy plans are for the new year.

Here’s to a healthy, happy 2015.

Cheers (toasting you with a champagne glass full of fizzy water topped with a fresh raspberry).

Val X

Merry Christmas and Happy Anniversary!

Merry Christmas everyone! Today (26.12.14) is extra special for me because I’m celebrating the anniversary of my first blog post on

Over the last 12 months I’ve uploaded 86 posts, had 3,626 views from 79 countries and have nearly 100 followers.  I also won a scholarship award for my blog and had an amazing time at the award ceremony on 5th December where I meet a hero of mine Dr Tanya Byron who presented my award.

Nutrition & Health Degree Award Winners with Edge Hill Chancellor Dr Tanya Byron

BSc (Hons)Nutrition & Health Degree Award Winners  (Val, Nathan & Laura) with Edge Hill Chancellor Dr Tanya Byron


Another highlight of the event was meeting the other ICT & Enterprise award winners Lindsey who has set up her own candy buffet business called ‘Sweet Dreams’, and Greg Anderton for “Leafy Lytham’ his garden retail product business. Stats: stats


I have really enjoyed writing my blog and have learned  new technical skills and a great deal about social media. It takes time, patience and commitment to keep a blog going for 12 months with many closing after just a few months, but it seems that every day I learn something new that I am just desperate to share..

My Edge Hill University Scholarship Award has allowed me to attend a number of excellent nutrition events and to share my experiences with other students who weren’t able to attend, for one reason or another. For me it’s a great record of what CPD activity I have undertaken.

Hayley, Greg and Val ICT & Enterprise Excellence Award Winners

Hayley, Greg and Val ICT & Enterprise Excellence Award Winners

Most of all over the last 12 months I’ve met some really interesting and lovely people who have all been very supportive about my blog and encouraged my passion for the subject of nutrition.  I’m looking forward to blogging over the next 12 months, sharing knowledge and continuing to find my social media voice.

Merry Christmas and a happy new year from


Greg Anderton with his Leafy Lytham stall at Edge Hill.

Greg Anderton with his Leafy Lytham stall at Edge Hill.

Nutrition Society Winter Meeting – Loved it!

This years Nutrition Society Winter Meeting on ‘Nutrition and age-related muscle loss, sarcopenia and cachexia’, was every bit as good as last years event. The two day symposium organised by the Royal College of Medicine and the Nutrition Society was packed full of interesting speakers, poster presentations and opportunities to network.

You can see me in the bottom left photo doing  a bit of networking !

Twitter feed from the Nutrition Society showing me networking!

The event helped me to understand the role skeletal muscle plays in maintaining health and wellbeing and the importance of nutrition in preventing sarcopenia (the loss of mass, strength and function) and cachexia (involuntary rapid loss of body weight and muscle mass).

The lectures, oral presentations and poster sessions provided information from a clinical perspective and findings from current research. I found the biochemistry and physiology fascinating and although as a nutrition student I’m certainly no expert, the presentations really helped me understand how bodily functions and chemical processes change with age.

photo 3 wm

Everyone I met was so passionate about their subject and it was great to chat with those who had just presented their research findings, and those like me, who are studying and may present at the event in future.

I met many interesting people including:

  • a Dietitian I follow on Twitter (Dr Sarah Bath)
  • a Psychiatrist who had worked in eating disorder clinics,
  • a nutrition student who has applied for a studentship in Hong Kong,
  • a Dietitian who has an amazing career as a freelance,
  • a member of the Royal College of Medicine.

I also spent time chatting to Research Dietitian (Eva Grace) from Kings College London who presented finding from a longitudinal cohort study she has undertaken into the ‘persistence and development of malnutrition in patients with upper-gastrointestinal cancer’.

Eva’s lecture was fascinating and introduced me to the Patient Generated Subjective Global Assessment (PG-SGA) they used which is a nutritional assessment considered to be the gold standard that has been validated in the oncology setting.  I discovered that this was more in-depth and reliable than the Malnutrition Universal Screening Tool (MUST) more widely used to assess patients in a clinical setting as it consists of only four simple steps.

photo 2 wm











I really enjoyed the whole event and loved spending a couple of days in London.  On the way back from the meeting, to the hotel after day one I called in to Selfridge’s Department Store and ended up watching ‘Paddington Bear’ in the Everyman cinema on the lower ground floor. The cinema was lovely: very plush, sofas, comfy chairs and a bar! Had a great time – a brilliant two days from start to finish.

I would recommend all nutrition students attend events run by the Nutrition Society they really do bring a subject to life.


Paddington Bear Selfridges window display was amazing

Paddington Bear Selfridges window display was amazing

Busy month of CPD activity – November

The busy month started with a day at the Countess of Chester Hospital where I met the most amazing group of dietitians from different specialisms and finished with a day at the Association for Nutrition Regional Networking Meeting in Manchester, where I met some really lovely people all very enthusiastic about their dissertations and PHD’s.

CPD is defined by the Health Care Professions Council (2014) as:

  • “the way professionals continue to learn and develop throughout their careers so they keep their skills and knowledge up to date and are able to work safely, legally and effectively”

I also managed to deliver a presentation for my Personal Career Development Module, spent a day job shadowing at Public Health England and submitted my application to Chester University for a Postgraduate Diploma in Dietetics. Phew!!

December is a bit quieter, I’m attending the Edge Hill Scholarship Awards on Friday and then off to London again for the Nutrition Society Winter Meeting. Val

Val's November CPD Activity

Val’s November CPD Activity

3rd Year Edge Hill Nutrition Students at the Association for Nutrition Regional Meeting

3rd Year Edge Hill Nutrition Students at the Association for Nutrition Regional Meeting

Royal Liverpool Hospital Food and Nutrition event - Joyce and Margi

Royal Liverpool Hospital Food and Nutrition event – Joyce and Margi

‘Food Matters Live’ event – Brilliant!

This week I was lucky enough to spend 3 days in London at ‘Food Matters Live’ the new annual cross-sector forum bringing together professionals from nutrition, health, government, food manufacturing, retail and food service.

Great fun meeting up with Geraldine

Great fun meeting up with Geraldine

The event endorsed by the Association for Nutrition as a CPD activity was buzzing with over 200 exhibitors, all with interesting stories to tell or new products to try.  Some of the new products I sampled were:

  • Cricket fudge – Containing protein rich edible insects available from
  • Birch tree sap – This Eastern European sweet drink, is said to have an array of health benefits
  • Natural colouring for food – Great idea, nothing artificial just fruit & veg
  • Coconut water – All sorts of flavours and brands were on offer
  • Baobab and moringa – Drinks and energy bars made from these African ‘super-ingredients’ – tasty

With over eighty seminars and a busy schedule of conference sessions I was in my element. Janet Street Porter and Michael Mosley were good value and Jay Raynor was over the top as ever!

Food Matters Live 18-20.11.14

Food Matters Live 18-20.11.14

I attended seminars on allergy and intolerance, nano-technology, packaging, health and wellbeing and conference sessions on tackling childhood obesity and the future of nutrition in a resource constrained world and the role of media in marketing.

Getting to ask a panel of experts a question linked to my dissertation was my personal highlight.

My question:

Do you think people have a good level of knowledge of the link between diet and disease across the socioeconomic gradient

The panel said:

“they were not aware of any studies measuring this but there was evidence that people don’t make the link between diet and disease especially at the lower end of the socioeconomic gradient. In reality the panel thought people were concerned with meeting basic hunger needs rather than thinking about the consequences of what they are eating. As to whether people ever considered that the cheeseburger they were eating would cause heart disease or breast cancer for example – the panel thought not!’


The distinguished panel who answered my dissertation question:Dr Susan Jebb, Professor of Diet and Population Health in the Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, The University of Oxford and Chair of The Department of Health Food Network Partington, Director General, British Soft Drinks Association (Host) Samira Ahmed, Broadcaster, Journalist and Writer Dr David Haslam, GP & Senior Partner & Chair of National Obesity Forum Dr Angela Donkin, Senior Advisor, UCL, Institute of Health Equity

The distinguished panel who answered my dissertation question:Dr Susan Jebb, Professor of Diet and Population Health in the Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, The University of Oxford & Chair of The Department of Health Food Network
Gavin Partington, Director General, British Soft Drinks Association
(Host) Samira Ahmed, Broadcaster, Journalist and Writer
Dr David Haslam, GP & Senior Partner & Chair of National Obesity Forum
Dr Angela Donkin, Senior Advisor, UCL, Institute of Health Equity 

I had a really great time and as a nutrition student the breadth of topics discussed were amazing. I thought getting everyone together at one event was a brilliant idea! Chatting with like-minded people, listening to the conference speakers and finding out about new developments in the food, nutrition and health arena over the 3 day period gave me a broader view of this dynamic industry – definitely time well spent.

I was only able to attend because of my Edge Hill Scholarship Award so will be eternally grateful.


Inspired by the first graduate of dietetics in the UK – Dr Fred Pender!

I had the pleasure this week of meeting Dr Fred Pender the first graduate of dietetics in the UK and author of several textbooks, including the informative Blackwell best seller ‘Clinical Cases in Dietetics’.Fred 3Dr Pender has practiced as a Dietitian at the Murrayfield Hospital since it opened in 1984 and has a very impressive CV. This includes Dietitian in gastroenterology; Chief Renal Specialist; Area Dietitian; a range of teaching posts and presenting his body of work in Boston, San Diego, Assisi, Madrid, Umea, Jerusalem and now Ormskirk in Lancashire!Fred1

I met Dr Pender as he delivered his lecture as part of the Edge Hill Public Lectures Series organised by the University’s Health and Social Care Faculty. His presentation ‘Life is a Minestrone’ provided a fascinating insight in to his role as Lead Specialist Dietitian with the bariatric weight loss service at the Spire Edinburgh Hospitals where he has developed the dietetic arm of the multi-disciplinary team supporting clients who are overweight and obese.Fred 2

Dr Pender talked about the challenges faced by his patients, the different types of bariatric surgery and some of the changes patients experience after surgery including; reduced appetite, a heightened sense of sweetness and smell, and psychological displacement.

As part of the lecture we were all asked to complete a questionnaire to help us explore our relationship with food, and the nutrition students amongst us were encouraged to try to understand other people’s relationship with food too, including taking time to observe people eating in large groups.

The lecture was illuminating from start to finish and Dr Pender closed by highlighting the importance of having a skilled workforce to help address the issue of overweight and obesity. If you are interested his suggestions for good eating behaviour, they were:

  • Eating slowly
  • Drinking plenty of water
  • Regular eating
  • Awareness of serving size
  • Varied eating – consuming a range of different ingredients per day, e.g. aim for seventeen
  • Good meal composition

You couldn’t help being inspired by Dr Pender and as I pen my application for a Post Graduate Diploma in Nutrition and Dietetics at Chester University I’ll be thinking about the difference he’s made during his dietetic career, spanning 30 years.

A big ‘thank you’ goes to Dr Pender for taking the time to come to Edge Hill University and for agreeing to do a ‘posey’ photo for my blog.


Meet Hayley a mother who followed her instinct…

As a nutrition student I love chatting to people about nutrition related health issues. This week I met Hayley Anderson who delivers ‘Walking Away From Diabetes’ sessions at the Skelmersdale Community Food Initiative. Hayley a former Community Nurse, who studied at Edge Hill University, shared with me the story of her son Evan and the concerns she had about his digestive health, from an early age.

Hayley & Evan

Hayley & Evan

Hayley told me that as a baby Evan had suffered from recurring bouts of reflux, projectile vomiting and problems swallowing and how initially this was put down to possetting or common digestive problems.

Having trained as a nurse Hayley was able to question what she was being told by health professionals, and press for an endoscopy to investigate further. The endoscopy revealed that Evan was suffering from a severe case of Eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE) an allergic / immune condition which causes inflammation or swelling of the oesophagus which is the tube that sends food from the mouth to the stomach.

A 2013 study by Redd & Schey reported that the prevalence of EoE is said to have increased significantly over the past few years, however, it is unclear whether the prevalence is actually increasing or if health professionals are just recognising it more often.

The American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI) outline that in EoE patients, large numbers of white blood cells called eosinophils are found in the tissue of the oesophagus, where there are normally none. EoE is said to occur at any age and most commonly occurs in Caucasian males.

Evan in hospital

Evan in hospital

The symptoms of EoE are said to vary with age:

  • Babies and toddlers may refuse food or not grow properly.
  • School-age children may suffer from recurring abdominal pain, vomiting or have trouble swallowing.
  • Teenagers and adults most often have difficulty swallowing. The oesophagus can narrow to the point that food gets stuck and is called food impaction which is a medical emergency.The 2013 study referred to earlier, provides details of treatments such as the six food elimination diet which is the treatment being tried by Hayley and Evan. The diet is based on removing those foods groups with the most allergenic potential, namely, milk, eggs, soy, wheat, nuts, and seafood. This diet is less restrictive than elemental / formula diets and does not require the in-depth allergy testing necessary in specific food elimination diets. Studies in adults have shown varied results, which are possibly associated with the degree of compliance to the diet itself. There is evidence from one study of 35 patients with EoE, which found that 74 % of the patients showed improvements both clinically and histologically.
Evan lost weight when he was first born

Evan lost weight when he was first born

I was in a similar position to Hayley before my son was diagnosed coeliac disease, and like Hayley I just knew that there was something wrong and wouldn’t give up. Evan is very lucky to have Hayley as his mum, our concern is that other children may not be so lucky and be suffering unnecessarily.

For me as a Nutrition and Health student this case highlights the importance of ongoing Continuing Professional Development (CPD) and keeping up to date with new research findings.

Evan after his diagnosis

Evan now after his diagnosis of Eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE)

Both Hayley and I say to parents everywhere you know your babies better than anyone else, so follow your instincts.


More information on EoE can be found on the following websites:


Redd, M. & Schey, R. (2013) Eosinophilic Esophagitis: Current Treatment, Digestive Diseases and Sciences<spacer.gif>58.3<spacer.gif>

Back to Uni for my final year..

Just when I thought my degree course couldn’t get any better I find myself donning a lab coat and lighting a bunsen burner, to  determine the slip point of various fats (that’s the temperature at which they melt). It was brilliant! 


Lab work

Val – enjoying the lab work 

We conducted experiments testing butter, sunflower oil, lard and coconut oil, to establish their properties and how food manufacturers conduct similar tests when developing new products and for quality control.

Sue - The Bunsen Burner Queen

Sue – The Bunsen Burner Queen

I’m so happy to be back at University for my final year, which I think is going to fly by.

My modules this year are:

  • Therapeutic approaches to nutrition.
  • Public Health Nutrition.
  • Wider determinants of overweight and obesity.
  • Personal career development.
  • Biological Sciences / lab work.

Since coming back to Uni I’ve also had two fascinating lectures in Public Health Nutrition which in a nut shell is concerned with: preventing disease, promoting health and prolonging life.

In Therapeutic Approaches to Nutrition  lecture 1, we identified a range of food related health issues,  explored the role of nutritionists and dietitians and discussed the importance of  building good therapeutic relationships. Lecture 2 covered the stages of change transtheoretical model and motivational interviewing, which included some practise interviews where we matched intervention to the relevant stage of change.

We also had a lecture outlining what is required of us with our Dissertation and a Personal Career Development lecture with some fascinating insights in to the job application process.

A great start to my final year.


Life is just a bowl of cherries!

“Life is just like a bowl of cherries” is a saying used to convey that life is wonderful.

IMG_1490.JPGIt is also the title of a 1931 song with a great message that still rings true today. The first verse says:
Don’t take it too serious,
Life’s too mysterious,
You work, you save, you worry so,
But you can’t take your dough, when you go, go, go.

From a nutritional perspective cherries and cherry juice are power houses of goodness.

IMG_1817.JPGA study into ‘cherry Antioxidants: from farm to table’ outlines that sweet and sour contain compounds that have antioxidant, anti cancer and anti inflammatory properties. This can be enhanced when grown in temperatures of 25 to 30 degree C.

Transport and storage can have a negative effect but today’s swift harvesting methods and freezing methods mean sour cherries derived from species such as Montmorency are said to retain high levels of nutrients.

In the study I found there was evidence reported that a 90 day cherry intake reduces the levels of pro-inflammatory molecules in plasma and further invitro studies provided evidence of a reduction in the proliferation of human colon cancer cells in culture.

I don’t know about you but I have this habit of associating certain foods with certain people. Cherries remind me of my good friend ‘Sharon’ who regularly eats them and loves the taste. Now I’ve noticed that Sharon has a lovely clear complexion. If nothing else that’s a great reason to eat more cherries!


Thanks Pam for the lovely picture x