Category Archives: women’s health

Six reasons to add exercise into your day

Your body was made to move. But because of the hectic pace of 21st century living, many of us don’t fit enough exercise into our day.

Research from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare shows that 56 per cent of us don’t get close to the recommended 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity on most days of the week[i].

If you make time for exercise you’ll benefit not just your body, but your mind, too. Sports and exercise help boost your mood and blast stress. As you know prolonged stress can lead to serious health problems.

Different exercise, different health benefits

Aerobic or cardiovascular exercise helps to protect your heart and lungs, improve endurance and builds your fitness, strength and stamina.

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Strength training (working with weights) will sculpt your body because it builds muscle and burns fat. By the way, ladies, don’t worry that weight training will make you look like a man – you don’t have enough of the muscle building hormone testosterone so weight training will make you look slender – not manly!

If you have a lot to lose or have stiff joints, swimming is a great low impact-exercise. And walking is a great workout too, especially if it’s brisk.  All types of exercise burn kilojoules, helping you manage your weight.  And if you want to lose a few kilos, exercise also helps you to focus your mind on your healthy plans so it’s easier to get to a healthy, happy weight!

Not convinced? Here are six super reasons you should fit exercise into your day! 

  1. Burn those kilojoules

Dieting 101: Consume more kilojoules than you burn and you’ll gain weight. Burn more kilojoules than you consume and you’ll lose the kilos. But whether you want to lose weight or not, exercise is vital to help you get lean and stay that way. Though beware, if you’re exercising to lose weight – the exercise will need to be intensive and prolonged.

Not seeing the results you want? You may not be burning off as much as you think. For example, if you weigh around 60kg and you eat a 50g chocolate bar (1,130 kilojoules) you’ll need to cycle at a moderate pace for 35 minutes or walk for over an hour to burn it off! So, think about what kind of exercise you do and your exercise intensity so you become an active exerciser and not a distracted dieter!

  1. Boost circulation

When you exercise your working muscles produce chemicals, which leave the muscle cells and dilate (widen) tiny capillaries (blood vessels). This makes it easier for blood to reach your body and brain cells, bringing more nourishing oxygen-rich blood to your cells. Another benefit of better circulation is that you’ll nourish your internal organs. So you feel good on the inside – and on the outside, too!

  1. Support the muscles that support your joints

Exercise helps to build strong bones and maintain strength and flexibility. Strength and flexibility is important at every stage of your life but especially as you get older.

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  1. Shape up!

Ever heard that if you build lots of muscle that it will turn to fat if you don’t exercise as much? Not true. Muscle and fat are two completely different tissues so it’s not possible to replace one with the other. But you can build muscle and reduce body fat with weight training and strengthening exercises. Muscle burns more kilojoules than fat because it needs a lot more fuel to simply exist, compared with fat, which is a storage material. Exercising helps your body use up fat stores and gives a sleeker shape. That’s because muscle and fat take up a different amount of space in your body.

  1. Tone up the right places

Everyone has target areas they’d like to tackle. Aerobic exercise blasts fat from all of you, but you can target your problem areas. Fat from around the exercising muscle is used for energy as the muscle grows, enabling you to trim down and firm up trouble areas.

Lifting weights can really help to tone up! Aim for strengthening exercises with weights at least twice per week for up to 30 minutes, to slowly build up your body’s muscle. If you haven’t exercised for some time, speak with your doctor first and get the help of a qualified personal trainer who can help you get your technique, posture and balance right.

Your posture is about the way various parts of your body align in relation to one another. Good posture can help to prevent fatigue, headaches and chronic muscular tension. Perfecting your posture can also help to boost circulation, aid digestion and may help you sleep more soundly.

For good balance, you have to be able to control a number of muscles in order to prevent falls, which may help prevent injuries as you age.

  1. Feel good about you!

Australia’s Black Dog Institute says, ‘Numerous studies have shown that people who exercise regularly experience fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety than those who do not exercise regularly. Several trials have shown that regular exercise of moderate intensity can be an effective treatment by itself for mild-to-moderate depression[ii].’

One of the reasons is that exercise boosts the release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers and feel-good chemicals, which helps to boost your mood[iii]. And as regular exercise helps to tone and shape your body, you’ll have another reason to feel good!

So go on, get moving!

This health information is brought to you by the health and wellbeing team at rt health fund.

*The advice provided is for the average adult and should not be interpreted as being applicable to children, the elderly or those with a chronic medical condition necessitating prescribed diets and physical activity regimens.

[i] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Risk factors to health. http://www.aihw.gov.au/risk-factors/ 

[ii] Black Dog Institute. Diet & exercise – Exercise  – Getting help. http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/public/gettinghelp/exercise.cfm

[iii] Black Dog Institute. Diet & exercise – Exercise  – Getting help. http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/public/gettinghelp/exercise.cfm

Hormonal shifts that might hit you in the mouth

Hot flushes, sweats and mood swings – the middle years can be a challenging time for many women. And, although most people know about the effects on the body, menopause can also have a big impact on oral health.

To mark Dental Health Week (1-7 August 2016) which focuses on women and oral health this year, rt healthy teeth dentist, Dr Karlien Roper, shares some of the less well-known side effects of menopause.

Dr Karlien says, ‘Most people know that around the middle years, fluctuations in female hormones such as oestrogen can cause a range of problems before, during and around menopause. And, it’s well known that women can become more susceptible to bone problems such as osteoporosis and heart conditions during this time. But there are also a number of related oral health problems.’

Dry mouth

Dipping oestrogen levels affect the amount of water in the body since oestrogen plays a part in controlling fluid regulation[i]  – and that includes the fluid content of the mouth. Couple this with the fact that the body’s ability to conserve water naturally declines with age which means that it’s easier to get dehydrated.

Dehydration can contribute to:

  • Dry mouth
  • Bad breath
  • Tooth decay and gum problems (as oral bacteria produce acids that damage teeth and gums which saliva helps to wash away)
  • Altered taste perception and burning tongue (these could be due to the effects of oestrogen on the nerves that control taste perception).

What you can do

Drinking plenty of water may help keep your body – and your mouth hydrated. Sip some throughout the day – keep a glass or bottle with you. Drinking water after a meal also helps to cleanse the mouth, boosting the action of saliva. Watery foods such as vegetables and fruits are a good choice. But alcohol, advises Dr Karlien, is a natural dehydrator and can make dry mouth worse. So try to dilute alcoholic drinks with water and enjoy water or other non-alcoholic alternatives between alcoholic drinks. Chewing sugar-free gum after eating is also a good idea, as it triggers saliva flow helping to cleanse the mouth after eating.

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Dr Karlien adds: ‘Whatever the cause, if you feel your mouth is dry, see your dentist. Your dentist may refer you to a specialist to find out the cause as dry mouth and taste changes can be distressing. Reduced saliva production also means that oral problems can worsen because bacteria have more time and opportunity to stay in contact with the teeth, causing damage to both teeth and gums.’

Guidance for gums

Some conditions that affect the gums are more common in the years after menopause, again, because of fluctuating levels of hormones that directly affect the oral cavity[ii]. The majority of women – 60 per cent – experience periodontal (gum) problems[iii].

Signs of gum disease include:

  • Sensitive, soft or swollen gums
  • Receding gums
  • A change in colour of the gums
  • Gum pain
  • Bleeding gums.

 What you can do

‘Keep it clean!’ says Dr Karlien. ‘The cause of gum disease is the build-up of bacteria between the gums and teeth and this causes irritation, inflammation and bleeding (gingivitis). So, between-teeth cleaning is vital.’ Because the gums are the foundation for your teeth, a weak foundation could even lead to tooth loss.

‘Gingivitis is not a serious condition,’ continues Dr Karlien. ‘The problem is that it can progress to a more serious form of gum disease, periodontitis. This involves deeper infection and can result in potential tooth loss. Periodontitis is also linked with chronic (long-term) diseases such as heart disease[iv], as bacteria from infected gums pass through damaged gum tissue and enter the bloodstream causing heart problems. This is why it’s vital to keep teeth and gums as healthy as possible not just at home, but with professional dental health check-ups and treatment.’

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Hormones and bones

The risk of osteoporosis increases rapidly just after menopause and the jawbone, like other bones, can be affected. This is because oestrogen blocks the enzyme that causes bone breakdown[v].

What you can do

Get enough calcium and vitamin D. Calcium is the major mineral in bones and teeth while vitamin D is vital for the absorption of calcium. Foods such as cheese, broccoli and tofu are great sources of calcium and you can get enough vitamin D by going outside. This can help to prevent erosion but won’t be enough to restore bone loss. Your doctor may prescribe treatment to rebalance your hormone levels if you have severe bone loss.

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Tips to keep your teeth

Wear and tear is natural with age. And so, protecting your teeth is as vital ever. ‘Twice daily brushing and flossing are great home maintenance habits. But seeing your dentist for a professional clean and check-up are vital too. Small challenges can be picked up early by your dentist and effective treatments can keep you smiling for the long term,’ ends Dr Karlien Roper.

About the author

In her work at rt healthy teeth, Dr Karlien Roper enjoys the variety of services offered to her patients and also has a keen interest in cosmetic dentistry, facial aesthetics and endodontics. Married with two beautiful boys, Dr Karlien enjoys spending time with her family, cheering her family on at the sports fields, having a braai (South African barbecue) with friends and travelling.

Dr Karlien Roper
Dr Karlien Roper, Dentist at rt healthy teeth

[i]  PubMed – NCBI. Sex Hormone Effects on Body Fluid Regulation. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2849969/

[ii] PubMed – NCBI. Menopause and oral health. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4195183/

[iii] PubMed – NCBI. Oral Health and Menopause: A Comprehensive Review on Current Knowledge and Associated Dental Management. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3793432/

[iv] WebMD. Periodontal Disease and Heart Health. http://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/features/periodontal-disease-heart-health

[v] ScienceDaily. How Estrogen Protects Bones. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/03/070323171448.htm

Ten facts about bowel cancer

In Australia, the government estimates that there will be over 17,500 cases of bowel cancer[i] this year.  And although it was the third most diagnosed cancer in 2012, it is set to be the second most diagnosed cancer of 2016[ii]. So what is bowel cancer? Why does it occur and what can you do to prevent it?

Here are 10 need-to-know facts about bowel cancer …

1. The bowel is the large intestine so bowel cancer is cancer of the large intestine – it is also known as colorectal cancer.

2. The bowel is the last part of the very long and specialised tube called the gastro intestinal tract (GIT). Food is broken down in the early part of the GIT and is then digested and absorbed. Nutrients from food enter your bloodstream and then go to body cells where they provide nourishment. In the large intestine, water is reabsorbed and the result is waste materials.

3. The condition is most common in people over 50. That’s why from 50 years of age, you’ll be encouraged to use a bowel testing kit which can pick up early signs of the condition. Even so, the rates of bowel cancer in younger people have increased which researchers say is a worrying trend[iii]. Early detection is key as up to 90% of cases can be successfully treated[iv].

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4. Many cancers have a genetic link so if a close family member has had bowel cancer, you should be monitored closely by your GP.

5. Diet and lifestyle play a major role in the development of many cancers including bowel cancer. The Cancer Council estimates that in 2010, more than 2,600 new bowel cancer cases in Australia were associated with consuming too much red meat and processed meat[v]. Now, the World Health Organization has classified processed meats (ham, salami, sausages and hot dogs) as class one carcinogens. This means that there is strong evidence that these meats cause cancers; this could be due to the chemicals used in meat processing. Red meat (e.g. pork, beef and lamb) are classified as probable causes of cancer[vi]. High temperature cooking (e.g. cooking on a barbeque), can also create chemicals that are carcinogenic (potentially cancer-causing). So what can you do? Downsize your portion sizes of meat and enjoy vegetables more often. When you’re cooking, add plenty of beans in your chilli con carne and casseroles and add lots of veggies in your pies and pasta dishes.

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6. A diet that’s rich in plant foods – veggies and fruits – reduces bowel cancer risk. These foods are rich in plant antioxidants, vitamins and minerals which are protective to your health. Plus, veggies and fruits contain fibre which is the body’s natural cleanser. Fibre mixes with water in the gut and this helps to speed waste products out of it, reducing the time that wastes are in contact with the gut.

7. Getting plenty of fibre is also important because if you eat high-fibre foods and eat less fatty foods, the type of gut bacteria changes inside you and the bacteria produce more of a substance called butyrate. This by-product of fibre metabolism has important anticancer effects[vii].

8. Watch your weight. The majority of Australians – over 60 per cent[viii] – are now overweight or obese. Being overweight raises your risk of bowel cancer because excess body fat produces hormones and growth factors that affect the way cells work. Bowel cancer is one of many cancers that are linked to being overweight or obese[ix].

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9. Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption raise the risk of bowel cancer. Both introduce potential carcinogens into the body. If you smoke or drink to excess, get help by talking to your GP.

10. What to look out for? Blood in your stool, abdominal bloating/cramping, a persistent change in your bowel habits and unexplained changes in weight.

The Australian Government, through the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program, offers free screening for bowel cancer. If you are eligible you will be sent a kit with information about what to do. If you have any of the symptoms listed above no matter your age, make sure you see your GP.

This health information is brought to you by the health and wellbeing team at rt health fund.

[i] Australian Government. Bowel Cancer Statistics. https://bowel-cancer.canceraustralia.gov.au/statistics

[ii] Australian Government. Bowel Cancer Statistics. https://bowel-cancer.canceraustralia.gov.au/statistics 

[iii] Bowel Cancer Australia. Bowel Cancer Australia. https://www.bowelcanceraustralia.org/youre-never-too-young

[iv] Australian Government. Cancer Screening – Bowel Screening Campaign Home. http://www.cancerscreening.gov.au/internet/screening/publishing.nsf/content/bowel-campaign-home

[v] Cancer Council Australia. New WHO meat study another reason to eat more fruit and veggies, says Cancer Council. http://www.cancer.org.au/news/media-releases/new-who-meat-study-another-reason-to-eat-more-fruit-and-veggies-says-cancer-council.html

[vi] American Cancer Society. World Health Organization Says Processed Meat Causes Cancer. http://www.cancer.org/cancer/news/world-health-organization-says-processed-meat-causes-cancer

[vii] Imperial College London. Diet swap has dramatic effects on colon cancer risk for Americans and Africans. http://www3.imperial.ac.uk/newsandeventspggrp/imperialcollege/newssummary/news_28-4-2015-12-6-31

[viii] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Overweight and obesity. http://www.aihw.gov.au/overweight-and-obesity/

[ix] Cancer Research UK. How being overweight causes cancer. http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/causes-of-cancer/bodyweight-and-cancer/how-being-overweight-causes-cancer

Seven better health habits to learn from your kids

As a mum, I know that with age comes education and experience. But on the downside, I think we may also unlearn a thing or two – and it turns out that your kids can be the ones to teach you. For example, it’s natural for children to put their health first without even realising it. So, maybe it’s time for the grown-ups to do the same. Here are seven valuable lessons you may be able to learn from your kids …

  1. Better breathing

Have you ever seen a baby breathe? Noticed the way the diaphragm (the large muscle below the lungs) rises and falls? This is called diaphragmatic breathing, and it’s the natural way to take in a deep breath and oxygenate your body. This kind of breathing expands your lungs and presses down the diaphragm, causing the abdomen to expand as the lungs are filled with air. When stressed or anxious, adults are prone to shallow breathing from the chest, which means that the bottom parts of the lungs don’t fill up, denying the body of vital oxygen.

Whether you’re sitting, standing or lying down, place one hand on your chest and another on your stomach and breathe out, exhaling completely. As you inhale, count slowly to five and the hand on your stomach will rise up. Then exhale, counting down slowly from five until that hand goes down. Though it’s not as easy as it sounds and you may need to practice it, regular abdominal breathing is a great way to keep your stress levels down, as well as slow down your heartbeat and reduce or stabilise your blood pressure[i].

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  1. Ask why?

Take a look at your phone. It’s always undergoing improvements, updates and revisions, and isn’t that a bit like life? It can get pretty hectic and scary for us adults, but for children, new and unfamiliar obstacles are just tasks that need to be learned and mastered. Be curious about the world and ask questions, as not only does this provide a mentally stimulating workout that may help keep conditions such as dementia at bay, but people may also consider you to be a good listener and conversationalist.

Whether you’re eight or 80, you can always learn, so enjoy the journey to discover, develop and grow. When you can, be flexible, open and embrace uncertainty, rather than letting your doubts take over. Take your time to look around, appreciate what you have and talk with others about the weird and wonderful world that’s out there. 

  1. Eat like a kid

No, this doesn’t mean order the chicken nuggets off the kids’ menu! But, do try to keep your portion sizes smaller. That way you can go back for seconds if you’re still hungry. Healthy children usually eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full because they follow their natural body and brain cues and are in tune with their hunger and fullness.

If you grew up being told to eat everything on your plate, even if you were full, don’t let that habit stick – make a conscious effort to stop when you’ve had enough. Making a child eat when they aren’t hungry overrides their natural appetite cues and has links to weight problems later in life. Has this happened to you? Eat smaller, more regular meals packed with veggies to avoid getting over hungry and binging on something you shouldn’t.

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  1. Don’t sit still

Children are always on the move and this is not only a great way to learn, but it also strengthens bones and muscles and burns kilojoules. Unfortunately, it’s not always possible for adults, especially if your job means you have to sit for long periods behind the wheel or in front of a computer terminal. If that’s the case, make sure you get up frequently and stretch.

Getting fit for kids isn’t about slogging it out on a treadmill for an hour, it’s about finding something that they love doing and doing it over and over. After all, exercise shouldn’t be a chore and doesn’t need to be. Love to walk? Visit your nearest national park and enjoy a bush walk. Love to dance? Try out that Zumba class you’ve been meaning to try. You get the picture …

  1. Know when it’s time for some R&R

When was the last time your kids said ‘I want to go home’? Generally speaking, kids know when they are tired and will let you know when they need to rest. So just like them, respect your cues and listen to your body when it tells you it’s tired. Ignoring those natural signals to rest can trigger stress and illness in both your body and mind. Lack of sleep in adults has also been linked with obesity since it triggers the release of the hunger hormone, ghrelin, as well as having links with type 2 diabetes, poor memory and loss of focus.

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  1. Ask for help

When kids need help, they ask for it, whether it’s with their homework or getting something off the top shelf. As we grow up, asking for help becomes a little harder – perhaps because we fear the way we will be perceived by others. Asking for help when you need it may put you out of your comfort zone, but it helps you learn, grow in confidence and get better (whether this is better at a skill or better health wise).

Us adults feel like we need to do everything for ourselves, but there is nothing weak or embarrassing about asking for help. Whether it’s your family, friends, GP or a support hotline, someone is always ready to help you – and you and your family deserve to get that help.

  1. Look on the bright side

Not only are kids naturally inquisitive, but they’re optimistic as well (usually!). Looking on the bright side is linked with less stress and better wellbeing. One study in the American Journal of Cardiology found that people who were more optimistic had higher levels of healthy cholesterol (HDL-cholesterol) and lower levels of triglycerides[ii], which are a type of fat. No wonder they say that laughter is the best medicine!

What are the children in your life teaching you about looking after your health?

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Simone Tregeagle, Chief Operating Officer at rt health fund, with her daughter

 

[i] Harvard Health Publications. Relaxation techniques: Breath control helps quell errant stress response. http://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/relaxation-techniques-breath-control-helps-quell-errant-stress-response
[ii] The American Journal of Cardiology. Relation Between Optimism and Lipids in Midlife. http://www.ajconline.org/article/S0002-9149(13)00388-3/abstract

Eight great ways to make resolutions that rock!

Resolutions. Do you find that soon after you make them that you break them? This year, try our eight knockout tips to help you keep your promises.

  1. Be real

Are you making promises to yourself because you really want to? Or is it because someone wants you to make changes? Try writing down all the potential promises you’re considering. Then, put an ‘I’ on the ones you want to make for yourself and an ‘o’ if someone else is wanting you to make the change. The more ‘I’s’ you have, the more likely you are to stick with your plans. If you have more ‘o’s’ you’re less likely to succeed. So really think about your resolutions and why you’re adding them to your list.

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  1. Cut them down

Next, decide on what you really can achieve this year. If there are too many lifestyle changes, it may be too difficult to drastically overhaul your life. So, go for quality not quantity.

  1. Get excited about your outcomes

Being motivated about the new you will help you achieve your goals. Say you want to lose a few kilos. Ask yourself why? What’s your motivation? Want to be healthier? Want to have the stamina to play with your kids? Is it for an exciting holiday or other event? Or, do you want to be slimmer to boost your self-confidence? Write down your reasons in a journal and remind yourself often – say when you wake up and before you go to bed. 

  1. Think about how you want to feel

What words or phrases sum up the eventual outcome of your resolution? Perhaps energetic? Or positive? Or closer to your family and friends? Post your word or phrase on a sticky note and place it where you’ll see it often – on your bathroom mirror, in the car, on the fridge or at your desk. If you want to go a step further, find some pictures that reflect your chosen mood to remind you of your commitment to yourself.

  1. Get planning

Next, make a plan to work out the practical ways that you’re going to reach your goals. So for example, it’s not enough to say ‘I’ll lose some weight.’ Instead, if you want to lose 10kg, break up your major goal into 10 smaller goals. So, perhaps losing a kilo per week could be your smaller goal, which will mean you will reach your major goal of losing 10kg by March. You choose what will work for you!

  1. Turn your plans into actions

Next comes strategy. Perhaps wake up 40 minutes early and walk Monday, Wednesday and Friday for 30 minutes. Committing to suitable days is much more likely to help you succeed than just saying ‘I’ll exercise more’.

  1. Be surrounded by support

Ever heard the phrase ‘misery likes company’? If you hang around people who are negative and are themselves unhealthy, it’s OK to see less of them. Because surrounding yourself with positive people rubs off. Even better, enlist the help and support of a special person. Share your resolutions with each other and you’re more likely to both achieve your goals, too. Your mate or mates will lift you up, keep you accountable, celebrate your achievements and share the inevitable bumps in the road. Are you really committed? Share your intentions on social media and see how much support you’ll get from loved ones.

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  1. Do something good

If you have better health goals in your New Year’s resolutions, think about doing it for charity. It will help to spur you on if you know that you’re making changes not just for you, but for a good cause, too.

And remember …

Changes don’t happen overnight and habits can take a while to make – and to break, too. So be kind to yourself and know that you will experience slip ups along the way. Remember that the small daily actions that you make each day will bring bigger and more positive changes. Consistency is key and momentum creates momentum so stay with it and soon, you’ll see your small steps create big results. Acknowledge your successes and allow yourself to feel good about each one. You made the change. You achieved part of your bigger plan.

Here are some resolutions that our partners are going to make to ensure that 2016 is the best year yet!

‘My New Year’s resolution is to look after myself better. I will lose weight, eat healthier and start being more active. I will buy healthier foods for myself in the weekly grocery shop, cut back on fast food and bring a healthy lunch from home to work. I’m going to try and attend a gym in the city before work and hopefully, start and end each day with a healthier and happier me!’

Glenn Feige QHSSE Manager, Australia, Kayden Industries (Australia) Pty Ltd

‘I think that laughing more is the best health advice! Actually, it has helped me think more about how I can make the kind of conscious decisions I need to make to look after my mental health. Exercising daily, eating well and looking after body health is important. But I know that it is vital to look after my mental health better, too.’

Jenny Fellows, Fellows Bulk Transport

‘My promise for 2016 is to relax more and smell the roses – after all, life’s too short! I’ll be going for short breaks, enjoying my surroundings and loving life!’

Tracie Dickenson, Owner/Director, Daryl Dickenson Transport

‘My resolutions are four fold, I will: 1. Be impeccable with my words, 2. Not take anything personally, 3. Not make assumptions and 4. Do the best I can!’

Annie Humphries, PA to State Secretary, RTBU Qld

Wishing you a very happy, healthy and super successful New Year – this year and every year.

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Ravinder Lilly, Dietitian at rt health fund