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Focus on Healthy Bones for World Osteoporosis Day

By Elderly and aging, General Wellbeing, Men's Health, Women's Health

Focus on Healthy Bones for World Osteoporosis Day

 

 

In 2017, more than 160,000 Australians will be treated for broken bones due to osteoporosis. Around 80% of patients with broken bones leave hospital without being checked for osteoporosis, so that number could be significantly higher. The 20th of October is a day set apart around the world for focusing on bone health. Osteoporosis is a condition that affects Australians from all walks of life, and you can start taking steps at almost any stage of life to decrease the risk of breaking or fracturing a bone as a result of this condition.

What is osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis refers to a condition where bones lose essential minerals (like calcium) quicker than the body can replace them. That leads to the bones becoming less thick and strong. The bones then become more porous and less dense, which weakens them – sometimes to the point where even a small bump or fall can lead to fractures. Over 1 million people in Australia, both men and women, have been diagnosed with osteoporosis.

Osteopenia is a related condition that occurs before osteoporosis. A diagnosis of osteopenia means that your bone density falls between the normal range and diagnosed osteoporosis, so you need to take action to increase the health of your bones to avoid developing osteoporosis.

How is osteoporosis diagnosed?

A simple scan can diagnose osteoporosis, called a “bone mineral density test”. The scan usually focuses on the hip and spine to see how much mineral loss may have occurred. The scan is a simple process – it requires that you lie flat on a padded table (while fully clothed), and a machine passes a scanning arm over your body. The scan does not usually take more than 10 – 15 minutes.

What risk factors can lead to osteoporosis?

Avoiding osteoporosis starts from a young age – calcium is extremely important for children and adolescents to build strong bones, and many are not getting enough. Some medications can affect bone health, and these side effects need to be discussed with your doctor. During menopause, rapidly declining levels of oestrogen make women more at risk of osteoporosis. Men’s hormone levels decline more slowly, so their increased risk often occurs later in life.

Some medications, health conditions and your family history can indicate an increased risk of osteoporosis. Being under- or overweight, low levels of physical activity, smoking, alcohol consumption, and poor nutrition can also lead to the condition.

How is osteoporosis treated?

It is very important that osteoporosis is diagnosed and treated as soon as possible. Resistance, muscle-strengthening, and weight-bearing exercises are the best for increasing bone health. Weight-bearing exercises include any activity where you support your own body weight, like jogging or dancing. In addition, you will need to eliminate negative lifestyle factors – that includes avoiding smoking and excessive drinking, and keeping your body weight in a healthy range.

Calcium is extremely important for building strong bones. If you cannot get enough calcium from your diet, a supplement might be prescribed. Vitamin D levels also need to be adequate for good bone health. Your body can make vitamin D with just a few minutes of direct sunlight, but supplements are available if you are struggling to keep your levels high enough. Protein is also important for building bones.

 

Your GP can help you assess your risk factors, and arrange for bone testing if necessary. Talk to your doctor about any medications or health conditions that might affect your bone health. Early diagnosis will give you the best possible chance of avoiding fractures and keeping your bones healthy and strong.

 

Click here to book an appointment with a GP to discuss bone health and screening –>

Thinking Positively About Mental Health

By Men's Health, Mental Health, Women's Health

Thinking Positively About Mental Health

 

 

People tend to view mental health from the perspective of an illness – either you have a mental health disorder, or you are mentally healthy. In fact, good mental health is a positive state that every person can work towards.

The World Health Organization defines good mental health as “a state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.”

Here are some facts about mental health that might challenge your perceptions.

Mental health disorders are experienced by a large and diverse group of Australians.

The 2007 National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing surveyed the mental health of the Australian population. Their study showed that 45.5% of Australians had experienced a mental disorder at one point in their lives, and 20% had experienced a disorder in the last 12 months – almost 3.2 million Australians. Regardless of gender, age or culture, good mental health is vital.

Mental health is not just about disorders.

While it is important to address mental health conditions, everyone should prioritise their mental health – even if they are never diagnosed with a disorder. Feelings of anger, anxiety, sadness, tension, or simply feeling down are normal emotions, but when they persist they can negatively affect mental health. There are many steps you can take on your own to work on your mental health, but if these feelings are disrupting your daily life it’s important to seek outside help.

You can improve your mental health.

There are a number of ways you can work towards positive mental health – although remember that it is normal and ok to need outside help. Some ideas to help you stay mentally healthy are:

  • Focus on good nutrition and exercise
  • Get good, regular sleep
  • Reduce or eliminate alcohol and drug use
  • Talk about your feelings (or express them in a way that is natural to you)
  • Set realistic goals
  • Practice relaxation
  • Try new things and challenge yourself
  • Spend time with friends and family

Good mental health is a positive pursuit.

There is often a social stigma around people with mental health disorders, which can prevent people from seeking help. Some people don’t identify with needing to improve their mental health if they don’t have a “condition”. The truth is, mental health is about functioning well in all areas of life, having significant social connections, good self-esteem and being able to deal with change.

If you have any concerns about your mental health, whether you identify with having a “condition” or whether you could just use some support, your GP is a great place to start looking for information. Think positively – improving your mental health is about helping you to live your best life, and it’s worth pursuing.

Click here to make an appointment with a GP to discuss improving your mental health —>

Beating Breast Cancer – How to Be Breast Aware

By Cancer, Chronic Disease, Clinic News, Women's Health

 

 

Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers among Australian women (and men can also get breast cancer). Early detection ensures the best rate of survival, so it’s important to be aware and check your breasts regularly. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so it’s a great reminder to be proactive about your breasts.

Here are four important ways you can stay aware of your breast health.

1. Know your risk factors

Your risk factors determine how likely or unlikely it is that you will get breast cancer, but even people assessed as very low risk can be diagnosed with this cancer. Some factors can’t be changed. Being a woman, getting older, and having relatives with this cancer makes it more likely that you could get breast cancer.

If you have these risk factors, focus on increased awareness and reducing the risks you can control. There are simple steps that even people with a low risk of breast cancer should take. These include limiting alcohol, eating healthy foods and maintaining a healthy body weight through exercise. If it an option for you, breastfeeding for more than 12 months in total has been shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer. No matter how low your risk, it still pays to check yourself regularly.

2. Have mammograms (where appropriate)

While many people think of mammograms as the best way to detect breast cancer, that isn’t true for everyone. Mammograms are not very effective in women younger than 40, and women who are older than 70 need to discuss their options with their doctor.

Breasts gradually become less dense as women get older, which makes the early signs of breast cancer easier to see. The ideal age group for mammograms is from 50 – 70. In Australia, women aged 40 and older are offered a free mammogram every 2 years. Your doctor can help you decide if mammograms are right for you.

3. Check yourself

The most important thing you can do to catch breast cancer early is to become familiar with the shape and feel of your breasts. There are many techniques available, but as long as you visually and physically inspect your breasts you should be able to notice changes.

Some things you might look out for are lumps or lumpiness (especially only on one side), a change to the nipple including discharge, crusting, redness or if your nipple inverts, skin changes (for example, becoming red or dimpling), a pain that doesn’t go away, or a change to your breasts’ size or shape.

4. Talk to your doctor

Nine out of ten breast changes are normal and not due to breast cancer, but you should check with your doctor to be sure. Remember that early detection has a large impact on survival rates. 89 out of every 100 women diagnosed with invasive breast cancer survive five or more years beyond diagnosis, and the survival rates in Australia are continuing to improve. See your GP if you have any concerns or notice any changes to your breasts, and make sure you and your loved ones stay breast aware.

Click here to make an appointment with a GP to discuss breast cancer or a breast check.

Dealing with Dementia – Tips for Addressing the Practical Needs of Dementia Sufferers

By Elderly and aging, Mental Health

Dealing with Dementia – Tips for Addressing the Practical Needs of Dementia Sufferers

 

 

Caring for someone with dementia is a life-changing responsibility. Whether you choose to be the primary carer or part of a wider team, dementia is a condition that will require a lot of love, compassion and patience. Planning ahead can help your family be prepared for the challenges and rewards that are in the future. Here are some practical areas to keep in mind.

Nutrition

Eating and drinking needs to be carefully monitored, even if they are in an aged care home, because people with dementia can forget to eat and can also have problems with swallowing. If you have checked with a doctor that there isn’t a treatable reason behind a lack of appetite (such as dental pain or depression), try offering smaller meals regularly, preferably made of familiar foods. In later stages you may need to demonstrate chewing and consider nutritional supplements. Don’t forget to offer lots of liquids, especially in hot weather.

Hygiene

People with dementia often lose interest in caring for themselves, especially in the area of basic hygiene. Choose a time when they are calm and create a relaxing, soothing environment with everything laid out and simple instructions. People with dementia might have fears that you can help provide a solution to; for example, a fear of falling might need a sturdy shower seat with a handheld shower head.

Continence

Losing control of the bladder/bowel commonly occurs in dementia, and it’s important to maintain as much privacy and dignity as possible. Make going to the toilet as easy as possible, with clear lighting at night and bathroom installations to help them get on and off, and clothing that is easy to fasten and unfasten. People often fall into patterns of when they use the toilet and give non-verbal cues for when they need to go, so you can use those patterns to help suggest they go to the toilet. Continence pads and aids are available if necessary.

Support

As a carer of someone with dementia, it is more important than ever that you look after your own basic needs, as well as theirs. You don’t have to do it alone. Get financial, emotional and physical assistance wherever possible. A National Dementia Helpline is available on 1800 100 500 if you need information. Other groups include Alzheimer’s Australia, Dementia Behaviour Management Advisory Service, and the Commonwealth Home Support Programme.

Your GP can provide further information about support networks available to provide care for your loved one. When caring for someone with dementia, and especially when looking after their practical needs, it’s a good idea to establish an ongoing relationship with a GP so that you can work together to address health concerns as they come up. A good support network and lots of information goes a log way to ease the challenges of caring for a loved one with dementia.

Click here if you would like to book in to see a GP to discuss dementia –>

 

Meditation – It’s Not What You Think

By Lifestyle, Mental Health

Meditation – It’s Not What You Think

 

While meditation has often been associated with Eastern religions, different styles of meditation are practiced in most of the major religions and philosophical practices. In modern times, non-religious meditation has become more popular as the scientific evidence of its benefits keeps building up. Here are some facts about meditation that will have you looking for inner peace.

Meditation can change your brain

Many studies have proven that meditation can reduce anxiety and stress, and can even help with depression. Meditation and relaxation techniques have been shown to decrease cognitive decline. Meditation has been seen to increase people’s overall feelings of well-being, making them feel happier and calmer in everyday life.

Meditation has very real health benefits

Other potential outcomes include benefiting the central nervous system, the immune system, improving lower back pain, and promoting relaxation. Having lowered levels of stress and anxiety can help your body to deal with illnesses, and can even help lower blood pressure.

Meditation doesn’t have to be done on the floor

While many people visualise the cross-legged lotus position when thinking about meditation, the truth is that meditation can be done anywhere that you are relaxed and comfortable. Sitting on a chair or a bed is perfectly fine, but try to avoid somewhere you are likely to fall asleep. Some people even prefer to meditate while moving – either slow, gentle movements such as yoga or tai chi, or even while doing repetitive movements like housework.

Meditation has different techniques

Meditation comes in many varieties. The type of meditation used has been shown to have a different effect on different people, meaning that if one method is not working, it might be helpful to try another kind. Some basic suggestions are:

  • Focusing on an object – focus your attention on an object, noticing how it looks and sounds, the colours and shapes, any patterns you can see. Try not to actively think or analyse, just peacefully observe.
  • Emptying the mind – letting the mind clear and not letting any specific thoughts enter.
  • Using a mantra – repeat a word or phrase over and over, in time with your breath, to focus your attention.
  • Mindfulness – focusing on the neutral observation of inner experiences like thoughts, memories, feelings or sensations.
  • Breathing – focus your attention on your breath coming in and out of your nostrils while you relax.

Meditation can be taught

While many meditation practices can be self-taught, some people benefit from lessons and prefer to be in a community.  The benefits of meditation come from regular practice, so having a class can help you make meditation a habit.

If you are having serious problems with anxiety, stress or depression, make sure you discuss it with your GP before starting any new program.

Fighting Fit Females – 5 Factors that Influence Women’s Health

By General Wellbeing, Lifestyle, Women's Health

Fighting Fit Females – 5 factors that influence women’s health

 

This year, the Women’s Health Week focus was on 5 major health concerns that affect women. Most of these issues relate to each other – for example, getting healthy levels of exercise will help you sleep, improve your bone health, relax your mind and avoid cardiovascular disease. Have a look at these commonly neglected areas of women’s health, and plan how you can make small changes that have big effects on your health.

Heart Healthy

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for Australian women, so it’s important to take cardiovascular disease very seriously.  Factors like family history and age can’t be changed, but there are many lifestyle choices that will improve your chances of avoiding cardiovascular disease – eating well, moving more, and paying attention to your mental health all influence blood pressure and heart health. Seek help early, be aware of the signs of heart attack (they may not be what you think) and have regular check-ups to keep heart healthy.

Clear Mental Clutter

Mindfulness is fully supported by science as a method to counter depression, anxiety and stress.  Mindfulness means disengaging from all the stress of worrying about the future or dwelling on the past, and taking time to concentrate on the present. There are many different ways you can practice mindfulness, and great resources available online. You have everything you need to start right now – so set some time aside, find a guided mindfulness exercise to get you started, and begin your journey of decluttering your mind.

Strengthen Your Frame

Women are particularly susceptible to weakened bones or osteoporosis, but there are some easy ways to fight back. Getting regular sunlight helps vitamin D production. Regular weight-bearing physical activity, where you use your body to work against gravity, helps strengthen bones. Finally, a diet rich in calcium will build up your bones and allow them to perform their many vital functions.

Get Active

Exercise has a positive impact on nearly every part of your life, yet most of us don’t get enough. It can feel daunting to start an exercise program, but don’t think in terms of marathon training – little changes add up fast. Ideally, women should be aiming for at least 2 ½ hours of moderate intensity exercise over the course of a week, with strengthening exercises on at least 2 days. Try to tackle the reasons you might avoid exercise, and make small, lasting changes to see the benefits.

Get Enough Sleep

Sleep is often undervalued, but not getting enough can have far reaching consequences for our physical and mental health. Establish a good bedtime routine to help you nod off. Turn off screens at least 2 hours before bedtime, and aim for around 7-9 hours per night. Caffeine consumption is a bad cycle to get into – it stops you sleeping, and people who haven’t slept enough often resort to caffeine to feel alert again. 10 minutes of brisk exercise is much more energising than caffeine, and is less likely to keep you awake at night.

If you have concerns in any of these areas or need ideas on how you can make changes, your GP is a great place to start. Making small, permanent changes (instead of grand plans you might not stick to) will start you on the path to better health.

Managing your Asthma

By Asthma, Chronic Disease

Managing your Asthma

 

Asthma can be confusing because it means different things to different people – from wheezing after a short run, to being admitted to hospital. If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with asthma, it’s important to know that asthma is a manageable condition. While there might not be a cure, here are some key areas that can help you get control over the symptoms.

Asthma action plan

An asthma action plan is written in conjunction with your doctor, and tells you what medications you should take, how to tell if your asthma is getting worse, what to do if you have worsening symptoms, and what to do in the event of an asthma attack. If you find that you are having symptoms more than once or twice a week, your asthma could probably be better controlled. Chat to your GP about starting or updating your plan, as your needs will change over time.

Correctly using your inhaler

If you do not use your inhaler correctly, you will not get the full dose of medicine – and up to 90% of people are thought to be using their puffers incorrectly. There are many different types of inhalers available, so there is potential for change if your current model is not working for you. Spacers can also be used help you get the whole dose of medicine, so children should always use a spacer for both preventative and reliever puffers, and adults may be recommended to use them with preventative puffers. There are different types of spacers as well, so work with your doctor to find the right combination for you.

Identifying triggers

Asthma can be triggered by many factors or combination of factors. It could be a cold that you catch, something you inhale such cold air or irritants in the air, strong emotions, physical activity, food or alternative medicines, or other factors in your environment.

Some triggers you should avoid, such as smoking and air pollution inside. Some you can’t really avoid, such as catching a cold or stress – but you should try to minimise your risks. Other triggers like exercise, sex and laughing shouldn’t be avoided. If you find these triggers are causing asthma episodes, you and your doctor should consider a change in your management plan and medication so you can maintain your quality of life.

Complimentary therapies

There are some well-researched practices that you can speak with your doctor about using to help manage your asthma. Caffeine has been shown to increase lung capacity, and there are some promising signs that eucalyptus oils can help. Other therapies such as acupuncture, herbal medicines and supplements, breathing exercises and hypnosis may also help, but do not have enough evidence to say with certainty that they are safe and effective.

Managing your symptoms is a team effort. If you would like a review of your asthma management plan, talk with your GP to discuss what could work for you.

 

Click here to book an appointment with a GP to discuss asthma management –>

 

Infertility Awareness

By Family Planning & Parenting, Women's Health

Infertility Awareness

Sometimes even well-meaning strangers can ask, “When are you having a baby?”  For some people, it’s more than just uncomfortable – it’s heartbreaking. Infertility is not something we often discuss in polite conversation, but it needs to be. One in six families is affected by infertility, and the issue should be discussed so we can all better understand the factors surrounding a private struggle that many people face.

Infertility is common.

Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive a child after more than 12 months of unprotected sex. One in six families are affected by either male or female infertility, or a combination of both. The World Health Organisation has predicted infertility to be the third most serious health condition in the 21st century, after cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Infertility affects both genders.

Males make up just under half of reported cases of infertility. One in 25 men is thought to have a low sperm count, and females over the age of 35 have a one in three chance of having issues with their infertility.

IVF is not always the solution.

There are many, many reasons that a family might struggle with infertility. Some causes are able to be addresses by looking at lifestyle, such as;

  • Frequency and timing of sex. There is a small window every month where conception is possible, and some couples can seek education as to the best way to monitor their chances of conceiving.
  • It’s not well known that many STIs, especially including chlamydia and gonorrhoea, can cause infertility issues. Once an STI has been diagnosed, the doctor can discuss where to go from there.
  • After the age of about 33, conception becomes more difficult. Consultation with a doctor can give you some options.
  • Some genetic factors negatively influence fertility.
  • Lifestyle choices. Alcohol, smoking and caffeine are all known to impact fertility. For some people, giving up these substances helps them fight infertility.
  • Weight and exercise. Being overweight and not exercising makes it much harder for the body to conceive. A healthy body can increase chances of conception.
  • Having all the vitamins and minerals the body needs is vital to healthy conception, especially if someone has a deficiency.

Approach the fertility discussion with sensitivity.

While it’s absolutely vital that fertility is spoken about, remember that issues around sex and conception are often private matters. Some people feel like they’ve “failed” if they can’t conceive naturally within a “normal” timeframe. It’s almost always better to focus on listening and supporting, rather than giving advice.

If you are struggling with fertility, or find yourself wondering if what your family is experiencing is “normal” – talk to someone. Almost every person who finally seeks advice about their fertility wishes they had started sooner. Your trusted GP is a great place to start, and they can refer you on if necessary.

Click here to book a GP to discuss infertility –>

The Truth About Healthy Bones

By Body Systems, General Wellbeing, Lifestyle

The Truth About Healthy Bones

 

Poor bone health is a problem for 2 in 3 Australians older than 50 years. People of all ages can take steps to develop strong, healthy bones that will last a lifetime. Let’s look at some misconceptions about bone health, and find out the truth about healthy bones.

Misconception 1: Osteoporosis can’t be prevented.

Osteoporosis means that bones have become weak and brittle. If a person’s dietary intake is not enough to keep their body functioning, the body can borrow calcium and other minerals from the bones – which makes them more fragile and prone to breaking. Bone health can be influenced by genetics, but building strong bones early in life and maintaining good bone health habits later on goes a long way towards preventing osteoporosis.

Misconception 2: Osteoporosis is a women’s problem.

Because women have a rapid drop in oestrogen during menopause, they are more susceptible to osteoporosis. Men’s testosterone levels do drop off, but at a more gradual rate. However, by age 65, both genders lose bone mass at about the same rate. Osteoporosis affects 1 in 5 women over the age of 65 years, and 1 in 20 men – although the number of men is growing. Both men and women can benefit from good bone health.

Misconception 3: Bone health is only relevant to older people.

There are several advantages of considering bone health, even in children and young adults. Firstly, the habits that encourage strong bones are generally good for your whole body. Secondly, the teenage years build one-quarter of adult bone mass, and by the late twenties bones are at their peak mass. After this point, adults need to be careful to maintain good habits so they don’t lose that mass. Building healthy bones at a young age gives your older self a strong advantage later on.

Misconception 4: Maintaining strong bones is difficult.

There are 3 simple ways that you can ensure your bones stay healthy and strong. They are:

  1. Get enough calcium: In most Australian diets calcium comes from dairy products, but there are other sources such as supplements, fortified soy products and other foods. Discuss your calcium needs with a doctor or dietician to make sure your intake is adequate.
  2. Weight bearing exercise: it’s not only muscles that get stronger as you exercise – your bones get stronger too. Any exercise that offers some resistance is a good option for strengthening bones.
  3. Get vitamin D: Vitamin D is another essential building block for healthy bones, and the good news is that your body can make its own when given direct sunlight. But don’t throw your sun safety habits away – normally only a few minutes in the sun will do the trick. Talk to your doctor about how much sunlight you need to get your daily vitamin D.

While age, genetics and gender can’t be changed, your habits can. Healthy bones are worth the effort. Your GP is a great place to start looking for personalised information about what you can do to avoid osteoporosis and help your bones stay fighting fit, well into your later years.

Click here to book an appointment with a GP to discuss bone health –>

Keeping Abreast of all Things Breastfeeding – 7 Facts You May Not Know

By Children's Health, Family Planning & Parenting, Nutrition, Women's Health

Keeping Abreast of all Things Breastfeeding – 7 Facts You May Not Know

 

It’s World Breastfeeding Week, and the theme this year is “sustaining breastfeeding together”. Breastfeeding is actually a team effort – the research shows that mothers breastfeed more effectively and for longer when they feel supported. So, let’s get together and look at 7 interesting facts you might not know about breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding benefits mothers

It’s not just baby that benefits – exclusively breastfeeding can have a natural birth control effect for the first six months – but while it’s 98% effective, it’s not 100% failsafe! Breastfeeding also reduces the risk of breast and ovarian cancer, helps most mothers to lose baby weight, and reduces the risk of type II diabetes and postnatal depression.

Breastfeeding helps the budget

Breastfeeding can save a family hundreds of dollars a year. Even without the cost of formula, breastfeeding mothers avoid the cost of bottles, bottle warmers, sterilisers, and specialised equipment. Even mothers who pump their breast milk will not normally require as much additional cost.

Breast milk adapts to baby’s needs

Breast milk changes its nutritional profile as your baby’s needs change. Breast milk for a 1 month old is different to the milk a mother produces for a 6 month old. It can even be different from one day to the next – for example, the body will automatically add more water during hot weather to help baby stay hydrated.

Big breasts don’t mean better breastfeeding

Breast size has very little to do with how much milk is produced and stored. Breast size is usually determined by fat deposits, but it is the mammary glands in breasts that produce milk.

Breastfeeding helps with bonding

Babies are born with limited eyesight – in fact, they can only see 20 – 30 cm. That happens to be the perfect distance to see their mum’s face while breastfeeding. Breastfeeding also gives skin-to-skin contact, which is perfect for bonding with a new baby.

Don’t put the brakes on breastfeeding

Mums can still breastfeed during most sicknesses – in fact, it’s often better for baby. By the time you have symptoms, you have probably already passed on the infection, so it’s best to keep breastfeeding so your baby gets the benefits of your antibodies to help fight the sickness. You also don’t need to avoid a glass or two of alcohol – just wait at least 2 hours after each drink before feeding again.

Breastfeeding knowledge is built up over time

While many people think breastfeeding comes naturally, it can actually take some women time and effort to learn. It’s normal to need help. That’s why one of the major factors that determine whether a mother sticks with breastfeeding is how much support she has.

Not everyone can breastfeed exclusively, but the vast majority of women are able to when given support.  If you have any concerns or questions about breastfeeding or your baby, your GP can help or point you towards free specialist services.

You can click here to book in with a GP –>

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