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P is for pelvic floor exercises, a must after childbirth and for any woman over 35 who wishes to avoid an embarrassing leakage every time she coughs or laughs. Pelvic floor exercises may be tedious but they are simple to perform, can be carried out anywhere - at a bus stop or in the office - and are essential to female health. An added bonus is that they can improve a woman's sex life.

The pelvic floor consists of layers of muscle stretching like a hammock from the pubic bone to the end of the backbone, which hold the bladder, uterus and bowel in place. Ageing, childbirth and lack of exercise all take their toll on these vital muscles; their sagging can eventually lead to prolapse of the womb. They can be strengthened by the following exercises, which should be carried out two or three times a day.

Stop and start the flow of urine by contracting and relaxing the muscles, each time for a count of six. This also helps identify the correct muscles.

Imagine you are in a lift and draw in the muscles gradually as you ascend floor by floor (10 floors). Relax them as you descend.

Imagine you are sucking water into the vagina. Relax and repeat five times.

Q is for quinine, a substance obtained from the bark of the cinchoma tree and the oldest drug treatment for malaria. It was introduced in the last century, but is no longer widely used because it frequently causes side effects, including ringing in the ears, headaches, nausea, hearing loss and blurred vision. It is now used mainly to treat malarial strains resistant to other antimalarial drugs and, in lower and safer doses, to treat nocturnal leg cramps.

Q is also for Q fever, a flu-like illness caused by rickettsia, a parasitic organism harboured by farm animals. Although most people recover with antibiotic treatment, the disease can cause complications such as endocarditis, an inflammation of the heart. Not surprisingly, farm workers run a higher risk of acquiring Q fever, which is thought to be contracted by inhaling contaminated dust.

R is for repetitive strain injury (RSI), a condition afflicting keyboard workers that can cause pain in the wrists and fingers so intense that sufferers can no longer brush their hair or turn a key in a lock. Although some doctors are still sceptical about the existence of RSI, claiming that psychological factors are involved, the Health and Safety Executive now lists work-related upper-limb disorders (another name for RSI) as the main health problem associated with working with VDUs. The disorder is thought to be related to poorly designed desks, poor posture and sitting rigidly still moving nothing except fingers and hands for lengthy periods. Stress also contributes.

Using a light touch on the keyboard can help, as can avoiding over-use of the mouse. Arm stretches and shoulder exercises can be performed at the desk and no keyboard worker should remain immobile for more than 20 minutes. For more information contact the RSI Association, Chapel House, 152 High Street, Yiewsley, West Drayton, Middlesex, UB7 7BE. Telephone 01895 431134.

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