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smokefree drop inSmokers keen to kick the habit will have an added incentive if they make the change in March.

National No Smoking Day is on 12 March and Medway residents who quit with the council’s stop smoking service during this month will be in with a chance of winning prizes donated by local businesses.

Every year more than a million smokers use No Smoking Day as their motivation to quit and it is hoped people in Medway are no exception.

Anyone who signs up to the scheme in March and reaches week five of the seven week treatment programme, will get a free day pass to a local gym.

Those who go on to quit as a result, will be in with a chance of winning a prize.

Prizes range from cinema tickets, to hair cuts, lunches for two and a signed Gillingham FC football.

To pledge to quit visit the stop smoking team in Chatham High Street on 1 or 12 March, or call 01634 334800.

Those who successfully shake the habit with the help of weekly support sessions and carbon monoxide monitoring, will be entered into a prize draw and invited to a prize giving even at Gillingham Football Club on 8 May.

Director of Public Health Alison Barnett said: “Many people like to use the national no smoking awareness day as a starting point for their journey to become smoke free.

“I think it is really good that there is now the added incentive of winning a prize for those who achieve their goal. We want to help people who want to quit as much as we can and this makes it a bit of fun and gives people a small reward.

“I would like to thank all the local businesses that have donated prizes.”

For more information about the stop smoking service visit www.abettermedway.co.uk

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main copy.qxdWith Valentine’s Day approaching, it’s time to think about your heart.

NHS Medway Commissioning Group (CCG) is encouraging people to consider their lifestyles during February’s Healthy Heart Month. Making simple changes to diet and exercise can reduce the risk of developing coronary heart disease. In Medway there are 7,500 people diagnosed with the disease, but it’s thought to affect many more.

Coronary heart disease (CHD) is usually caused by a build-up of fatty deposits on the walls of the arteries that surround the heart. This can make coronary arteries narrower and restrict the flow of blood to the heart which increases the risk of heart attack. People are at higher risk if they:

• Smoke
• Have high blood pressure (hypertension)
• Have a high blood cholesterol level
• Do not take regular exercise
• Have diabetes

Other risk factors include being obese or overweight and having a family history of CHD. This risk is increased if someone has a male relative with CHD under the age of 55 or a female relative under the age of 65.

People from an African Caribbean background have a higher risk of high blood pressure than all other ethnic groups in the UK. Coronary heart disease rates are at their highest in South Asian communities.

The CCG’s clinical lead for long-term conditions, Dr Chris Markwick, said: “We’re urging everyone to think about their lifestyle and their heart in February.

“Are there things you can change to help you have a healthier heart? Can you quit smoking, lose weight, or be more active? How about trimming the fat from meat or grilling instead of frying? If so, there’s no better time to do it than now.”

Things you can do to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels include:

• Eating a balanced and healthy diet – and going easy on salt
• Avoiding eating too much food that contains saturated fat, such as cakes and biscuits, cream and hard cheese
• Being more physically active
• Keeping to a healthy weight
• Quitting smoking
• Reducing alcohol consumption and sticking to recommended guidelines
• Keeping blood pressure under control
• Cutting down on sugar – too much sugar in the diet can increase the chances of diabetes which will, in turn, increase the chances of developing CHD.

Healthy Heart Month runs from 1 to 28 February. For more information about heart disease, visit the NHS Choices website www.nhs.uk or the British Heart Foundation website www.bhf.org.uk.

If you’re concerned about your heart, visit your GP.

Around 40,000 people across Medway are diagnosed with high blood pressure, and the NHS believes many more may not know they suffer.

NHS Medway Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) predicts there may be as many as 65,000 people in total with high blood pressure across the Medway towns and is urging people to get tested and ‘know their numbers’. Read More

A total of 1,200 people have signed up to A Better Medway’s Healthy New Year campaign since November, and there’s still two events left for people to make a health pledge.

Make a pledge at either Chatham High Street on Thursday, 24 January or Hempstead Valley Shopping Centre on Thursday, 31 January to be in with a chance of winning some great prizes. More

Did you know that community pharmacies offer many more services than most people realise? Health checks for blood pressure and cholesterol, treatment for minor ailments from coughs and colds to tummy bugs, help with allergies, weight management and stopping smoking, personalised medicines advice and much much more.

As part of Ask Your Pharmacist Week (5-12 November), Medway Clinical Commissioning Group is encouraging people to make use of the wide range of services and advice available at their community pharmacy – it really is more than just a place to pick up pills!

Across Kent and Medway, there are 314 pharmacies in towns and villages. Many pharmacies are open late – some until 11pm at night – and at weekends, and you don’t need an appointment. By visiting your pharmacist instead of going to your GP surgery or Accident and Emergency (A & E), you will be seen quickly. It’s a much more convenient alternative and keeps other NHS services such as A & E, available for people with serious and life-threatening illnesses and injuries.

Community pharmacists are knowledgeable healthcare professionals who are accessible to everyone. They offer expert, confidential advice and treatment and can also support people to self-care, helping you to manage a long-term health condition, such as asthma or arthritis. If you regularly take prescription medicine, you can ask for a medicines use review to identify any problems and check your medication is working for you.

A number of pharmacies across Kent and Medway will, within the next month, provide specialist in-store services and expert advice, branded as a ‘Healthy Living Pharmacy.’ Kent and Medway has become one of 20 successful national pathfinder sites to offer people an extended healthy living service for issues such as alcohol consumption, sexual health and dietary advice.

Medway Clinical Commissioning Group is also reaching out to men this November, to take a more active interest in their medicines and well-being and to talk to their local pharmacist about some of the healthcare services they may need. More

A new advertising campaign motivating smokers to quit has hit the big screen in Medway. A two-minute video, ‘Is Your Habit Giving You Hassle?’ features a giant cigarette bothering a women as she tries to go about her day, and is being shown on the large outdoor screen at the Dockside Outlet Centre, on screens inside the centre and at Chatham, Gillingham and Rochester libraries. More

For health tips and advice on the move, check out the new ‘A Better Medway’ Twitter page. More

The last leg of my ‘pub crawl’ to our local pubs brings me to Strood. Although Strood has lost many pubs in the last few years, there remains a good number and they are putting on a good, resilient performance. More

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