Tag Archives: health

Healthy eats for stronger teeth

A lifetime of healthy smiles starts in childhood. So, as well as brushing twice daily, flossing and visiting the dentist, what you give your kids to eat can dramatically affect their tooth health – and their confidence, too.

A healthy diet isn’t just about limiting the amount of sugar you give them (although cutting down on sugar is better for everyone and has much wider health benefits).

Little tummies need regular feeding and healthy snacks can help to boost your child’s energy. So what are the best snacks to help your child smile?

Cheese and crackers/breadsticks

Hard cheese like Cheddar and soft cheese such as mozzarella are great for teeth because:

  1. They are rich in calcium, which is what teeth are made from. Immediately eating a small cube of cheese after a meal or a snack plugs the tiny holes in the enamel helping protect and build stronger teeth.
  2. The protein in cheese helps neutralise the acids from food and drinks, providing both protective and strengthening effects.
  3. The chewing action encourages the flow of saliva, which is the mouth’s natural cleanser.

cheddar cheese

Fruits – apples, pears, melon and more

Yes, they contain sugar and acids, but fruits are good for the teeth because they contain vitamin C, which helps to strengthen blood vessels that nourish cells with oxygen and food. Vitamin C is also vital for strengthening the connective tissue, which keeps the teeth in place. It also helps to protect gums and other tissues from cell damage and even bacterial infection. This vitamin also has an anti-inflammatory action.

Encourage fruit as part of a meal because the chewing action helps to stimulate saliva, the body’s way to wash food debris away. And offer a glass of water after they eat fruit to help wash away any acids.

Raisins

Dried fruit isn’t usually a tooth friendly snack because the drying process removes water, which concentrates the sugars. Plus the sticky texture means it can cling to the teeth for longer, providing plaque-producing bacteria plenty of time to feast on the sugar and produce acidic waste, which can damage delicate enamel.

We used to think that raisins were much like other dried fruit but recent research shows that raisins are a tooth healthy option.

Like other fruits, raisins contain protective phytochemicals, which are effective antioxidants. One of these found in raisins is called oleanolic (pronounced o-lee-an-o-lic) acid. This seems to reduce the growth of two species of oral bacteria, one that causes cavities (Streptococcus mutans) and one that causes gum disease (Porphyromonas gingivalis)[i].

raisins

Legumes

Peas, beans and lentils also contain antioxidants that help boost the immune system that in turn helps the body fight bacteria and inflammation. Try hummus with strips of pita bread/breadsticks or veggie sticks.

Crisp veggies

Crunchy carrots and celery help to clean teeth, massage gums and freshen breath. They contain a lot of water, which dilutes the effects of the sugars they contain. And, because they need a lot of chewing, crisp veggies stimulate saliva flow (which helps protect against decay by washing away food particles and buffering against acids). Plus, the folate they contain helps to build healthy blood, which delivers vital oxygen and nutrients to every cell.

carrots and celery

Sandwiches

Made with fish, lean meat, hummus, egg or cheese, small sandwiches for tiny tummies are a great choice. Although small children often don’t like the strong taste of fish, canned fish like salmon is a great sandwich filling because it is rich in tooth building calcium. Opt for wholegrain bread because it contains fibre, which requires chewing. Remember children under five don’t need as much fibre as adults so stick with white bread sandwiches for them.

Milk – cow’s milk and soy milk

Cow’s milk is naturally rich in calcium as is soy milk, if it is processed with calcium. Although it’s a tooth friendly drink, always make the last drink of the day water, as milk contains the milk sugar, lactose. If allowed to stay in contact with the teeth for long periods, it provides food for plaque-producing bacteria, increasing the risk of tooth damage.

Pumpkin and sunflower seeds

Both are rich in minerals including zinc and magnesium. Zinc plays a key role in wound healing – including little wounds in the mouth. Plus, they contain magnesium, another mineral which works with calcium to build strong, protective enamel that can resist decay. Lack of magnesium could mean that teeth become softer and more susceptible to cavities.

pumpkin seeds

With all snacks, encourage your kids to wash them down with some water afterwards. Water helps to wash away food debris, stimulate saliva production and most water supplies in Australia have added fluoride to help harden the enamel and protect teeth, too.

Remember, children’s milk teeth are much more delicate than adult teeth – as well as being smaller, the layer of enamel is thinner so small children are especially at risk of decay and damage. And, if baby teeth are removed because of decay, there’s more risk that the adult teeth will grow into abnormal positions.

So help them snack smarter and enjoy a lifetime of healthy smiles!

Ravinder Lilly
Ravinder Lilly, Dietitian at rt health fund

 

[i] WebMD. Raisins May Help Fight Cavities. http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/20050608/raisins-may-help-fight-cavities

 

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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.

friends at lake

  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.

KS2_5844!
Ravinder Lilly, Dietitian at rt health fund

Healthy countdown to Christmas

The lead up to Christmas is always busy. With all the extra parties to attend (and food to eat!) and a seemingly endless list of things to get done before the end of year, our health can really take a backseat.

To help make sure this silly season is your healthiest yet, we’ll be posting one health tip a day in the lead up to Christmas. So keep your eyes peeled and join us in our healthy countdown to Christmas!

  1. Breathe to de-stress: Deep breathing oxygenates your blood, which can relax you almost straight away. To breathe deeply, place your left hand on your chest and the other hand on your belly. Gently breathe in and out through your nose and concentrate on expanding your abdomen, not your chest.
  2. Laugh your way to good health: Laughter really is the best medicine! It makes you feel good by lifting your mood but also comes with other great health benefits – regular laughter strengthens your heart, lowers blood pressure, boosts circulation and stimulates your immune system, too!
  3. Learn to say ‘no’: Knowing when and how to say ‘no’ can be hard to master but it’s an important skill to learn. As well as helping to reduce your stress levels, you’ll free up time for you to do things that are more in line with your own priorities and needs.
  4. Get into portion-perfect habits: Ensure you’re getting the right mix of carbs, protein, veggies and healthy fats by following this simple rule: Fill ½ your plate with fresh veggies, ¼ of your plate with lean protein (fish, chicken, turkey, pulses or beans) and a ¼ of your plate with complex carbohydrates (wholegrains) from wholemeal pasta, potato with the skin on, brown rice or noodles.
  5. Get your kids’ eyes checked: Kids rely on their eyesight for reading, writing, computer work and for playing sport. Yet kids of all ages have trouble recognising when they have vision issues and, as a result, children can often be misdiagnosed with having ADHD, dyslexia or other learning difficulties[i].
  6. Up your water intake: Drinking more water comes with lots of health benefits. It keeps your body and skin hydrated, helps you avoid eating (or drinking) unnecessary kilojoules/calories, flushes out your kidneys (which may reduce your risk of kidney stones and other kidney problems) and supports healthy gut function.
  7. For healthier teeth, watch your diet: Oral bacteria live in your mouth, feeding on sugars from your food and drinks and producing waste that is acidic. So opt for a healthy diet without too many sugary or acidic foods to keep your teeth strong and healthy. Plus, drink plenty of water to produce saliva, your mouth’s natural way to cleanse itself.
  8. Be aware of sensitive teeth and gums: Sensitive teeth and gums could be a sign of gingivitis or gum disease, which can ultimately wear away your gums and damage your bones and jaw. It can also lead to tooth loss since teeth are lodged inside your gums. See your dentist to treat gum disease early.
  9. Watch out for ‘low-fat’ labels: Often, products labelled as ‘low-fat’ are packed full of sugar, which means they may contain ‘empty calories’ (a whole lot of kilojoules/calories with no nutritional value). High sugar intake also comes with a host of other harmful effects. Sugar may cause cravings, it’s bad for your teeth and it can contribute to a host of diseases including obesity, metabolic syndrome, diabetes and liver disease.
  10. Keep the music down: A great tune is the perfect kick-start to the day or to a workout. But research shows that frequent exposure to noises above 100 decibels can permanently damage your hearing. Turn down your music to less than 60% of the maximum volume to protect your hearing.
  11. Exercise for your eyes: Exercise is great for your overall health and there’s evidence that aerobic exercise can reduce pressure on the eyes and prevent other risk factors for glaucoma, such as diabetes and hypertension, too.
  12. Pick the right time to weigh yourself: Step on the scale first thing in the morning before eating, exercising or drinking fluids. If you aren’t able to weigh yourself in the morning, be consistent by always weighing yourself at the same time on the same scale.
  13. Don’t skip breakfast: Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day, especially if you’re trying to lose weight. It kick-starts your metabolism, gives you the energy to do more physical activities and can reduce your hunger throughout the day. Stick to a healthy breakfast made up of protein, wholegrains and some healthy fats like egg and avo on whole grain toast or fruit and whole grain cereal with yoghurt, milk or almond/soy milk.
  14. Find a fitness friend: A workout buddy can keep you motivated and make your workouts more fun! Plus, research has shown that having close friends who are active and who eat well reduces your risk for becoming obese since we tend to mimic those around us. In other words, healthy buddies are best!
  15. Brush your teeth at least two times a day: But if you’ve been eating or drinking acidic items (vinegary salad dressings, citrus, wine and/or juices or carbonated drinks) be sure to wait at least half an hour after eating/drinking. Otherwise you could literally brush away acid-softened enamel.
  16. Eat for your eyes: Eye health starts with what you eat – choose a diet rich in omega-3s (found in oily fish such as salmon), zinc (cashew nuts) and vitamins E (sunflower seeds) and C (citrus fruits).
  17. Get more sleep: Sleep deprivation has been linked with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity and mental illness. If you’re a healthy adult, you should aim for around 7-9 hours each night. Kids should get a little more, between 9-10 hours, depending on their age.
  18. Take your lunch break: Despite what you may think, taking lunch has actually been shown to increase productivity and reduce stress. And, if you don’t let yourself get over hungry, you may be more in control of what you’re eating and make healthier choices. So what are you waiting for? Take your lunch break and enjoy it!
  19. Follow the 20-20-20 rule: These days, we’re often glued to our screens, which can cause eyestrain, dry eyes and headaches. So follow the 20-20-20 rule: give your eyes a rest every 20 minutes by staring at least 20 feet (around six metres) in front of you for 20 seconds or more.
  20. Get to know your protein portions: For red meat have a portion about the size of your palm, for poultry consume a portion about the size of half of your hand and for fish you can eat about as much as the size of your entire hand. Don’t forget tofu, peas, beans and lentils are protein packed too – and don’t come with added fat or raise your cholesterol.
  21. Watch for dry mouth: Saliva is important – it’s antibacterial, neutralises acids and helps strengthen your enamel. And, if you don’t make enough, you may suffer from smelly breath and other problems. Speak to your GP if you notice persistent dry mouth or lips.
  22. Get a health check: Regular health checks are important to tackle any health issues early, before they become a problem. Speak to your GP about the appropriate health checks for your age and stage.
  23. Beat bad breath: Bad breath – or halitosis – affects everyone at some stage. To combat bad breath, brush for at least two minutes twice a day, clean your tongue, floss and drink plenty of water. Avoid smelly foods, cigarettes, alcohol and low carb diets, which can make whiffs worse.
  24. Book in for that eye exam: Are you seeing the world as clearly as you should? Some of the signs that you may be struggling with your vision are easy to spot, but others aren’t so obvious. Plus, everyone has trouble recognising when they have vision issues. So see things clearly – get your eyes examined!
  25. Smile: Smile at your co-workers, at strangers and at your in-laws … even if you feel like throttling them. Smiling can actually help lower your heart rate if you’re feeling stressed. So relax, smile and enjoy Christmas day!

We hope you’ve enjoyed our healthy countdown to Christmas. Stay healthy everyone and happy holidays!

[i] Midwestern University. Uncorrected Vision Issues Misdiagnosed as Learning Disabilities in Children. https://www.midwestern. edu/news-and-events/university-news/uncorrected-vision-issues-misdiagnosed-as-learning-disabilities-in-children.html

 

Jenna Kazokas - Marketing Coordinator at rt health fund
Jenna Kazokas – Marketing Coordinator at rt health fund

Don’t do battle at the buffet – fill up without filling out!

According to Nutrition Australia, the average Aussie packs on around 0.8-1.5kg over the Christmas period[i]. The trouble is that most of us don’t lose the extra kilos over the year. The result? We’re getting heavier and heavier. Today, a staggering two thirds of Australians are overweight or obese[ii].

Being too heavy is seriously bad for your health – it increases your risk of chronic (long-term) conditions such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancers and even Alzheimer’s disease.

This Christmas season follow these easy tips to pick smarter and healthier options at your gatherings, to help you fill up on flavour – without filling out!

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Before the party

Don’t let yourself get too hungry before an event – it’s easier to succumb to fatty/sugary treats. So have a small sandwich or some veggie sticks and hummus or tomato salsa. Make sure you’re hydrated, too. It’s easy to mistake hunger for thirst.

Circle before you choose and chew

Studies show that when faced with a wide selection of foods, people tend to want to try everything. So make a conscious decision to stop, take a look at what you fancy going around the table a few times before making your choice. Then make sure you chew, chew, chew! According to food psychologist, Dr Brian Wansink, people who chew their foods more tend to be lighter than people who don’t[iii].

Pick up a small one

Psychologically speaking, eating from a smaller plate is more satisfying than loading up a large plate – the plate looks fuller so your mind is tricked into thinking you’ve had loads to eat. Plus, Brian Wansink found that people tend to finish everything on their plate[iv]! Our portion sizes have grown over the last 20 years along with our waistlines – did you know that the plates used by our grandparents were the size of our current salad plates? That’s one great reason to downsize your plate.

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Slow down

Put your knife and fork down between bites. Put your glass down before you have another sip. Why? It helps you to become more focused on what you’re consuming. It also takes around 10 minutes after you are full that the signals reach your brain to tell you that you’ve had enough. Slowing it down helps you get back in tune with your body and puts you back in control.

Veggies first

They are low in kilojoules and rich in nutrition, water and fibre. They also require a lot of chewing which helps to slow things down as you take the edge off your appetite. The fibre in veggies and legumes (peas, beans and pulses) absorbs water (another reason to ensure you’re well hydrated), which forms a jelly like mass that helps you to feel physically fuller.

Sushi’s special

If sushi is on the menu, it’s a great option. The combo of high protein fish and filling fibre in the sticky rice is a healthy choice. Add wasabi to tempt and tantalise your taste buds.

Don’t drown in fat

Creamy, cheesy, dressings, dips and sauces make the kilojoules soar and drown fresh tastes, too. Instead, drizzle a little olive oil and lemon or lime juice on your salads and veggies.

Try smaller treats

If you love certain treats, you don’t have to cut them out completely. If you can, try to opt for small amounts and eat slowly – enjoy every mouthful.

Move away from the buffet

Research shows that being near food – seeing it and easily being able to grab it – makes it more likely that you’ll eat more[v]. So try and sit as far away from the meal mountain as you can.

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Drink from a long one

Again, Dr Wansink’s pioneering work has shown that people tend to feel that they have drunk more if they drink from long glasses compared with short, stubby ones[vi]. Using tall thin glasses instead of large wide ones means that you’ll end up pouring less and drinking less, too.

Don’t drink your kilojoules

Your body was meant to be hydrated with kilojoule free water. This may be one reason why your body finds it so hard to detect the kilojoules in juices, waters and smoothies. Alcohol provides a double whammy – it has a lot of KJs and it also puts the brakes on fat breakdown. So try to dilute your drinks, alternate between alcoholic drinks and water and opt to be the designated driver if you can.

Balance things out

Don’t make the celebrations start early and stay late into January – it’s a sure fire way to start the New Year a little heavier. Balancing your extra intake with extra exercise is vital if you don’t want to start the New Year heavier than you were last year. Just half an hour a day can make a big difference to your health – your body health and your self-confidence and emotional wellness, too.

Click here to download our infographic on what to eat this holiday season.

Ravinder Lilly
Ravinder Lilly, Dietitian at rt health fund

 

[i] Nutrition Australia. Tips to beat the Christmas bulge. http://www.nutritionaustralia.org/national/resource/tips-beat-christmas-bulge

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

[iii] Reader’s Digest. How to Chew Your Food More. http://www.rd.com/health/diet-weight-loss/chew-more-eat-less/

[iv] Cornell University Food and Brand Lab. Most of the World Belongs to the Clean Plate Club – Except Children. http://foodpsychology.cornell.edu/op/Clean_Plate_Club

[v] Cornell University Food and Brand Lab. How Visibility and Convenience Influence Candy Consumption. http://foodpsychology.cornell.edu/content/how-visibility-and-convenience-influence-candy-consumption

[vi] Cornell University Food and Brand Lab. Short, Wide Glasses Induce Us to Over-Pour Despite Serving Experience. http://foodpsychology.cornell.edu/op/glassshape

Nine ways to naturally reduce your blood pressure

Think high blood pressure only affects older people? Think again because research suggests that it can affect people in their 20s. And it’s a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke – still the major causes of death in Australia.

Even younger people who have blood pressure readings in the upper range of normal (between 120/80 and 140/90) can be affected by a heart issue later on in middle age, according to researchers writing in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology[i].

And, because it is often a silent condition, you may not know you have hypertension unless you have your blood pressure checked.

1. Lose a few

Your blood pressure rises as your weight does because being too heavy makes your heart work harder – the strain can lead to hypertension. Losing just a few kg can make a big difference if you’re overweight. Speak with your GP for more advice.

2. Get moving

Your heart is a muscle and exercise strengthens it – it can help your heart pump more blood with less effort. If you have slight high blood pressure, exercise can help you avoid full-blown hypertension. And if you have already been diagnosed, regular exercise can help you reduce your blood pressure to safer levels. Aim for half an hour or more on most days of the week and try to be consistent otherwise you’ll lose the benefits.

3. Slash salt

Salt draws in fluid, raising the volume and pressure of blood in your arteries. Most salt in the average person’s diet comes from processed foods so cooking more from scratch will have a dramatic salt lowering effect, especially if you eat out a lot or you’re a fast food fan. Add flavour with fresh herbs, citrus, chilli, garlic and balsamic vinegar.

4. Eat more veggies

These pack a protective nutrient punch – they’re high in fibre and low in kilojoules. Veggies and fruits also contain potassium, which can reduce the blood pressure raising effects of sodium (salt). Pulses, fish, shellfish, nuts and seeds are also rich in potassium.

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5. Stub out the habit

The nicotine in tobacco constricts blood vessels and triggers the production of adrenaline, making your heart beat faster and your heart work harder. See your GP for more information on quitting smoking.

6. Limit alcohol

Drinking too much alcohol can raise blood pressure and reduce the effectiveness of blood pressure medications. Stick to the recommended daily maximum of two standard alcoholic drinks.

7. Ask if you snore

Constant snoring can be a symptom of obstructive sleep apnoea (where you stop breathing while you’re asleep). It’s associated with hypertension because your body could be suddenly jolted awake due to lack of oxygen. The sudden burst of adrenaline causes a surge in blood pressure. Not smoking, losing weight and decreasing or stopping your alcohol intake may help you stop snoring. Talk to your GP for individual advice.

8. Watch the caffeine

Caffeine is a stimulant and consuming too much may increase blood pressure, tightening blood vessels and intensifying the effects of stress. Stick to a daily maximum of 400mg or less (around four cups of coffee).

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9. Find some downtime

Working is a must for most of us but working very long hours may mean you don’t have the time or energy to exercise, relax and eat well. Try to find time – balancing work and life are essential for a healthier future.

Click here to download our infographic on heart health.

KS2_5844!
Ravinder Lilly, Dietitian at rt health fund

[i] Reuters. Elevated blood pressure in early adult years tied to heart issues later. http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/06/26/us-blood-pressure-heart-failure-idUSKBN0P62D520150626#K53630RyQ8YxTkHK.97

Testicular cancer – five common questions answered real quick!

Testicular cancer is the second most common form of cancer in young men aged 18-39. The good news is, most cases can be treated successfully and regular self-checks starting from the adolescent years are vital.

So, what do you need to know about testicular cancer?

  1. What is it? Cancer happens when abnormal cells occur and grow out of control forming a mass or tumour. These cells can invade and damage cells and tissue in other organs.
  1. Why does it occur? The exact causes of testicular cancer are not known, but a number of conditions increase the risk such as having a family or previous history of the condition.
  1. Who is affected? Testicular cancer is more common in white men than other ethnic groups. Being born with undescended testes and having HIV[i] also raises your risk of testicular cancer. Very tall men, who are 195cm (6.4 ft) or above, are three times more likely to develop testicular cancer than men of average height[ii].
  1. How is it detected? Regular self-examination is important. If you detect a swelling or lump in the testicle, which is usually painless, see your GP. A change in the shape/size of the testicle or a dullness or ache in the testes, lower abdomen or scrotum is also worth getting checked.
  1. What’s next? If the lump requires investigation, you’ll be sent for a painless ultrasound of both testicles. Often, you may also be given a blood test to identify raised levels of hormones that may indicate cancer. You might not have testicular cancer, but if you do, the sooner you start treatment, the more likely it is to be effective. Your doctor will speak with you about treatment options.

This health message is brought to you by the health and wellbeing team at rt health fund, Australia’s only dedicated, not-for-profit health fund for people who work in the transport and energy industries.

[i] American Cancer Society. Some facts about testicular cancer. http://www.cancer.org/cancer/testicularcancer/moreinformation/doihavetesticularcancer/do-i-have-testicular-cancer-facts-and-risk-factors
[ii] NHS Choices. Testicular Cancer – Causes. http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Cancer-of-the-testicle/Pages/Causes.aspx

Straight teeth – it’s not just about looking good!

There’s no doubt that a straighter smile can boost your confidence. But did you know that it could also improve the health of your teeth and gums? And, that it could even help retain your pearly whites? 

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The health benefits of straighter teeth …

  1. Cleaner teeth, banished bad breath – cleaning each and every tooth surface and getting to the gums can be more difficult if you have overcrowded or crooked teeth. It can also make it harder to remove the bacteria in your mouth. Removing the plaque-producing bacteria in your mouth is essential if you want to reduce the chances of cavities and bad breath. A cleaner mouth also helps you to reduce your risk of gum disease – healthy gums are vital because they hold your teeth in place. Gum disease is a major cause of tooth loss in Australia[i].
  2. Reduced tooth wear and tear – because crooked/crowded teeth don’t fit properly in your mouth, teeth can rub against one another leading to abnormal and/or faster wear and tear.
  3. Better tooth function – when your upper and lower jaws aren’t aligned properly (e.g. if you have an overbite, underbite or crossbite), the result can be stress on your teeth, which increases the chances of chipping. It can also cause gum recession and damage to the teeth as well as headaches and painful jaws. Teeth that don’t fit well in your mouth can affect how efficiently you chew so straightening your teeth can help to improve your bite, making chewing more efficient, too.
  4. Smile confidence – there’s no doubt about it, a straighter smile can give you a confidence boost and make you want to smile more.

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Ready for the health benefits you’ll gain from straighter teeth?

Our rt healthy teeth dentists are experts in straightening teeth and can offer the perfect treatment to suit you.

Removable options

Our dentists are trained in Invisalign® and Quick Straight TeethQ Removable devices, which use clear, custom-made aligners to straighten your teeth without wires or brackets. The aligners are discreet and because they can be removed, you can get in and clean and floss your teeth to maintain your oral hygiene throughout your treatment. And, there is no metal involved, which can cause irritation to the gums and teeth.

Fixed option

Another option from Quick Straight Teeth is Q Fixed braces. These braces use clear and tooth coloured materials so they are also discreet. This is a great option for more serious orthodontic issues.

Whether you’d benefit from a removable device or clear braces, come in and find out how you could benefit from a straighter smile. If you’ve been putting off a smile makeover, now’s the perfect time!

rt healthy teeth is located at 1 Buckingham Street, Surry Hills NSW 2010. Call 1300 991 044 to make an appointment or visit rthealthcentre.com.au for more information.

[i] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Oral health and dental care in Australia. http://www.aihw.gov.au/WorkArea/DownloadAsset.aspx?id=60129548452

The six tell-tale signs that may mean you have diabetes

Someone is diagnosed with diabetes mellitus every five minutes or so around the country and it has been described as the biggest challenge to Australia’s health system. Already, 1.2 million Australians have been diagnosed[i], yet a massive half a million people are thought to have diabetes without knowing it yet. Are you that one in half a million?

Of those who have diabetes, around 10 per cent have type 1 diabetes (where no insulin is produced) while around 85 per cent have type 2 diabetes[ii] (where insulin is produced but isn’t used by the body). The other five per cent are women who have diabetes triggered by pregnancy.

Type 2 diabetes is strongly linked with being overweight – especially carrying too much weight around the middle, and with being inactive. Having a family history of type 2 diabetes also increases your risk.

The signs and symptoms of type 2 diabetes aren’t always as obvious. It’s often diagnosed during a routine check-up at the GP. And, although the symptoms are often mild and develop gradually over a number of years, there are a few tell-tale signs. If you have any of these symptoms – or you know someone who does – go and get checked out by your GP.

  1. Hunger and fatigue. Your body and brain cells rely on a tiny sugar called glucose to provide the fuel they need to function properly. Your body tries to regulate your blood glucose level and keep it within very narrow limits. To physically enter the cells and provide nourishment, your body needs the hormone insulin. Insulin ‘holds hands’ with glucose to get it into where it needs to be. If your body becomes resistant to insulin, which can happen when there is too much fat in your cells (this distorts the shape of the membranes making it difficult for insulin to enter them) and the hormone can’t do its job, your cells become deprived of nourishment. The result? Hunger and tiredness.
  1. Thirst and frequent trips to the loo. Your body likes to hang on to the nutrients it receives and so it will reabsorb glucose. But when there’s too much glucose circulating around your blood (if insulin is absent or not working properly, for example), your body can’t reabsorb all of it. To get rid of the extra glucose, your body makes more urine. But for this to happen, it needs more fluid hence an increase in thirst. Drinking more means you need to urinate more, too. The glucose spills out in urine (diabetes means siphon – to pass through and the Latin word mellitus means honeyed or sweet!)
  1. Dry mouth and itchy skin. Because your body concentrates on trying to get rid of the excess glucose in your body through urine, there’s less fluid to go around for the rest of your body. The result can be a dry mouth and/or a strange, lingering taste. This can be due to less saliva production (saliva is your mouth’s natural cleansing system). Dry mouth can make dental problems worse so as well as seeing your GP, keeping up with visits to your dentist is vital, too. Also, because your kidneys are using so much fluid to get rid of excess glucose, there may be less fluid around to reach your skin. Dry, annoyingly itchy skin can result.
  1. Blurred vision. As your body battles with fluid and glucose, the fluid in your eyes can be affected. Dryness can mean that the lenses in your eyes alter in shape making focussing more difficult and leading to blurred vision.
  1. Infections. Millions of microorganisms live in harmony in and on your skin and that includes yeast organisms. But, if circumstances are right, yeast infections like candida and athlete’s foot can flourish and grow out of control since they love glucose and moist, warm conditions. That’s why recurrent yeast infections may be a sign of diabetes.
  1. Slow healing of cuts and wounds. Blood carries the nutrients and infection fighters needed to promote wound healing. But, fluctuations in blood flow caused by fluid levels can slow down wound healing. On top of this, high levels of blood glucose can affect the nerves leading to poor blood circulation. All of this makes it harder for blood to reach the wound or cut, which slows down wound healing.

Diagnosing and treating type 2 diabetes is very important. Your GP can give you a quick check-up and test for diabetes. And, treatment can help you stay well and help you avoid nerve damage, heart trouble, and other complications later on.

This health message is brought to you by the health and wellbeing team at rt health fund, Australia’s only dedicated, not-for-profit health fund for people who work in the transport and energy industries.

[i] Diabetes Australia. About Diabetes. https://www.diabetesaustralia.com.au/about-diabetes

[ii] Diabetes Australia. What is diabetes? https://www.diabetesaustralia.com.au/what-is-diabetes

Heading off halitosis

Do you have a personal problem that no one’s telling you about? Bad breath – or halitosis – affects most of us at some time. And chances are that if you are affected by this smelly affliction, loved ones and acquaintances won’t want to tell you for fear of embarrassing you …

There’s no DIY bad breath test either – you can’t self diagnose bad breath by cupping your hands, blowing on them and breathing it all in. That’s because although the smell receptors in your nose are great at identifying new smells, they can’t detect persistent odours. If you really want to know if your breath is as fresh as it could be, ask someone you’re close to. Ready to get to the bottom of the problem? Then read on!

What causes bad breath?

Bacterial build up, gum disease and bits of trapped food (which provide food for the bacteria that live in your mouth and allow them to thrive) can contribute to bad breath. Your mouth dwelling bacteria produce smelly gases – called volatile sulphur compounds (VSCs). So, keeping your teeth and gums clean, regular professional cleaning and treatment for gum disease can make a huge difference to your fresh breath confidence.

What to avoid!

  • Smelly foods – garlic, onions, ginger and strong curry spices can linger in the mouth before they disappear.
  • Cigarettes – the noxious gases can lurk inside your mouth, contributing to bad breath.
  • Alcohol – the smell of the alcohol imparts a unique odour. Drinking too much alcohol can also cause dehydration, which allows bacteria to thrive.
  • Low carbohydrate diets – when your body uses fat for energy instead of carbohydrates, the result can be a strong and unusual smell.

Some medications and certain health conditions can also cause bad breath. Talk to your GP to find out more.

What you can do

  1. Brush thoroughly but gently on every tooth surface for at least two minutes, twice a day (wait for at least half an hour after eating acidic foods or drinking citrus drinks, wine and fizzy drinks or you could literally brush softened enamel away).
  2. Clean your tongue. Bacteria live in the grooves of your tongue so use your brush or a special tongue brush to clean it and the insides of your cheeks, too.
  3. Use dental floss after eating to remove bits of food that remain in your mouth. The bacteria will then have less food to feed on.
  4. Drink plenty of water and fluids to fight dry mouth.
  5. Chew sugar-free gum after eating – it stimulates the release of mouth-cleansing saliva.

Ask your dentist

Seeing your dentist regularly is vital if you’re after fresh breath confidence. During a professional clean, your dentist will pay special attention to areas where food can get caught and where plaque or tartar has built up. All of the areas that you find difficult to reach on your own can be cleaned thoroughly during your visit. Your dentist can also give you a tip or two about the best way to clean your teeth and gums and show you any areas that you might be missing. You may even be prescribed special products such as an antibacterial mouthwash and/or special interdental brushes to help remove any food stuck between your teeth.

If bad breath persists, it may be a sign of another problem – a sinus, tonsil or adenoid problem for example. So, go along and see your GP.

rt healthy teeth is located at 1 Buckingham Street, Surry Hills NSW 2010. Call 1300 991 044 to make an appointment or visit rthealthcentre.com.au for more information.

Depression – it’s all about you!

This month we’re shining the health spotlight on men’s emotional health. Do you know a man who thinks he’s too macho to talk about depression? If you do, he’s not alone …

Although both women and men are affected by anxiety and depression, men are much less likely to seek the help they need[1] (only 28 per cent of men seek professional help). Around one in eight men are likely to be affected at some time in their life[2] so it’s pretty common.

The kind of symptoms you might experience include:

  • Stress – which can be a symptom of depression but can also be part of the cause (stress can trigger changes in both the body and the brain).
  • Anxiety – although it’s more likely to affect women than men, men are more likely to report anxiety rather than say that they are feeling depressed.
  • Fatigue and sleep problems – which can make day-to-day challenges more challenging.
  • Moodiness
  • Changes in eating behaviours
  • Negative thoughts – including negative thoughts about self worth
  • Irritability, anger and/or hostility towards others
  • Difficulty in concentrating – and in making decisions
  • Substance abuse – men are twice as likely to turn to destructive behaviours such as drug and alcohol use, if affected by depression[3].
  • Sexual problems – men may not want to openly talk about this with others
  • Loss of interest in the pleasures of life – where once enjoyed activities are no longer enjoyed.

What can you do?

Everyone is different and every person is affected differently. But there are a range of treatments that can really help; including talk therapy and medication. Speak with your GP about the best treatment options for you. There are also some lifestyle changes you can try.

Exercise

Not just important for your body; exercise is also good for your mood. Regular exercise can help lift you, provide a distraction
from worries, help you feel better about your body and your mental strength, boost energy levels, help you feel like part of a team (if you play team sports) and even help you sleep. Exercise seems to alter the levels of chemicals in the brain – such as mood-lifting chemicals, serotonin and endorphins, while reducing stress hormones.

Relaxation training

Stress involves the release of hormones like adrenaline, which causes tension in your muscles and amplifies stimulation of the nervous system. Anxiety and stress can lead to depression, too, so if you’re feeling either of these, it’s important to try and tackle them early.

Relaxation training (like yoga) connects your breath with each movement helping to relax and stretch the muscles. It may also help reduce anxious thoughts and behaviours and make you feel as if you have more control over feelings of anxiety and/or stress.

Diet

You already know that fast foods can make you pile on the kilos and can contribute to chronic conditions such as heart disease. But new research suggests that too much processed food may also contribute to depression,[4] according to Spanish researchers who studied the eating habits of close to 9,000 people.

Manufactured foods that contain trans fats (artificially hardened fats) and saturated fats (from animal foods) can raise the risk of depression by up to 51 per cent, the researchers found. This could be due to the increased inflammation seen in the body when these unhealthy fats feature in your diet.iStock_000041367902_Double_FINAL

On the other hand, diets rich in green veggies, fruit, oily fish, nuts, seeds and pulses (peas, beans and lentils) – which, combined, provide high levels of antioxidants, B vitamins, folate and Omega-3 fats – have been shown to reduce rates of depression.

Worried about a loved one?

Have you noticed that a friend, colleague or loved one is behaving differently? You may see a difference before the affected person recognises a change themselves. Someone who is undergoing emotional challenges may be reluctant to admit or even recognise if they’re having difficulties.

How can you help?

  • Start a conversation. Talk about what’s going on – but make sure the conversation is private and let them guide what is spoken about. Reserve your judgement about whatever the person you’re speaking with may share with you. Check in a few days later to see how they are feeling and to remind them that help is available.
  • Urge the person you’re speaking with to take action by scheduling an appointment with their GP – but don’t force the issue.
  • See if the person that’s affected might be interested in some resources, such as the ones below.

If you speak with someone and they talk about suicidal thoughts, gently encourage them to seek help immediately from a mental health professional.

When you’re trying to help a depressed friend, be aware that you may also experience a range of emotions such as frustration, sadness and helplessness. So if you choose to reach out, don’t neglect your own mental wellness.

Seek support

Being around people who have had or are going through similar experiences to you can be a great opportunity to connect and discover ways to deal with challenges. Search online for local support groups or contact your GP to find out whether they know of any in your area. The mental health charity, beyondblue, also has a supportive online community that can really help someone who is feeling alone to feel supported.

For more information:

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

[1] Black Dog Institute. Facts and figures about mental health and mood disorders. http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/docs/Factsandfiguresaboutmentalhealthandmooddisorders.pdf

[2] Beyondblue. Depression in men. https://www.beyondblue.org.au/resources/for-me/men/depression-in-men

[3] Better Health Channel. Men’s health. http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Men%27s_health

[4] ScienceDaily. Link between fast food and depression confirmed. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120330081352.htm