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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].

small image_breathe

  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.

small image_family eating

  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.

small image_relax

  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?

Version 2
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

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Protect your hardworking eyes

They work when you work, they work when you’re relaxing and they even work when you’re sleeping. So, are you giving your hardworking eyes the care they deserve?

At work …

Most eye injuries (60 per cent) occur during work[i]. According to the Australian government, the construction, mining, agriculture, forestry and fishing industries are where most eye accidents at work occur[ii]. Any job that involves airborne particles or hazardous substances carries a risk of eye injury. Protect your eyes by:

  • Wearing the right eyewear – your workplace health and safety policy advisors will direct you on the right kind of eyewear you need. Generally speaking, safety eyewear made with polycarbonate lenses and a safety frame with side shields or close fitting wraparound styles give the best protection.
  • Seeking shade – it’s not just your skin that the sun can damage, ultraviolet (UV) rays can also harm your eyes[iii]. Over time, too much sun can contribute to cataracts (where protein builds up in the lens making it cloudy and preventing light from passing clearly through it). So, if you work outside or spend part of the day outdoors, always wear a hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.
  • Driving safely – did you know that the sun can penetrate glass and damage your skin and eyes? If you do a lot of driving, think about applying a clear, protective UV blocking film to the side windows as well as wearing sunglasses. And, if you’re suddenly more sensitive to light, see your GP.

safety at work

Protecting screen eyes

Do you find that you’re having trouble reading fine print whether you’re working in front of a screen or relaxing behind one? Called presbyopia (pronounced press-by-o-pee-a), this condition tends to affect people aged 40 and above. It happens as the lens loses its flexibility. And, in order to focus when you’re reading, the lens needs to be flexible enough to adapt and change shape.

If you work with computer screens for much of the day, you may experience eye strain – a bit like repetitive strain injury for your eyes. If this is you, your optometrist may prescribe computer glasses, which have lenses that are specially designed to maximise your vision at the kind of close-up distances that you need to be able to focus on when doing computer work. You can also make changes to your computer screen such as placing the screen about an arm’s length away from your eyes and a little below eye level. Also, make sure to take regular breaks from computer work. A good rule of thumb is the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes look away from your computer about 20 feet (around 6.1m) in front of you for 20 seconds.

Feeding your eyes

What you eat can benefit your eyes. So, try to snack on nuts and seeds, which contain key antioxidants such as vitamin E and zinc to protect your eyes. Go for a mixed handful of almonds, Brazil nuts and pumpkin or sunflower seeds. Flax and chia seeds are also a good option, as they contain omega-3 fats, which lubricate cells and help to reduce inflammation.

Go for green, yellow, orange and blue … Veggies are low in kilojoules and packed with nutrition, so opt for a cup or more daily. Brightly coloured veggies and fruits (such as carrots, eggplant, mangoes and blueberries) are also rich in eye protecting antioxidants.

vegetables

Avoid dry eyes. Your tears naturally lubricate your eyes but health conditions, medications, dry air, allergies and getting older can all cause dry, irritated eyes. Essential omega-3 fats help to nourish you from the inside out so try to enjoy oily fish like salmon, sardines and fresh tuna two or three times per week. Or, think about taking a fish oil supplement. These fats are called essential because your body can’t make them for itself – you have to get them from your diet. If dry eyes persist, ask your optometrist about a suitable product that might help or see your GP.

Due for a check-up?

You need regular eye exams all through your life, especially if eye problems run in your family or if you have other risk factors.  An eye exam can also show other conditions, such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

Book an eye test with our qualified optometrists at rt healthy eyes. We’re open to – and we welcome – everyone!

Call rt healthy eyes Surry Hills (NSW) on 1300 991 044

Call rt healthy eyes Charlestown (NSW) on 1300 782 571

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] National Center for Biotechnology Information. Epidemiology of ocular trauma in Australia. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10485561

[ii] Australian Safety and Compensation Council. Work-related eye injuries in Australia. http://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/sites/swa/about/publications/Documents/201/WorkRelatedEyeInjuriesAustralia_2008_PDF.pdf

[iii] The Skin Cancer Foundation. How Sunlight Damages the Eyes. http://www.skincancer.org/prevention/sun-protection/for-your-eyes/how-sunlight-damages-the-eyes

14 signs that could mean your child has a vision problem

A massive one in five children has a vision problem that hasn’t been detected yet[i]. Good vision is vital for learning – a massive 80 per cent is done via sight[ii]! Yet, kids of all ages have trouble recognising when they have a problem with their vision. With nothing to compare their sight with, they’ll probably accept that what they’re seeing is normal and that they’re seeing the world in the same way as everyone else. Your child probably won’t be able to talk to you about what they’re experiencing if vision deterioration is slow, too. The result? Frustration, irritation and a loss of concentration or decreased performance at school.

The common signs and symptoms of vision problems in kids

Vision problems mean that kids can face challenges at school, which are often misdiagnosed as ADHD, dyslexia or other learning difficulties[iii]. So it’s important to know the signs. Watch out for:

  1. Headaches
  2. Eye strain
  3. Blurred or double vision
  4. Cross eyes or eyes that appear to move independently of each other
  5. A dislike of reading and up close work
  6. Short attention span during visual tasks
  7. Turning or tilting of the head, or closing or covering one eye to read
  8. Placing the head very close to a book or desk when reading or writing
  9. Constant blinking or eye rubbing
  10. Using a finger as a guide while reading and/or often losing where they are up to
  11. Slow rate of reading or poor understanding of reading
  12. Difficulty remembering what has been read
  13. Leaving out words, repeating words or confusing similar words while reading
  14. Poor eye-hand coordination.

If your child shows one or more of these symptoms, it could be due to a vision problem.

girl blowing bubbles

What to do

Many kids have never had a comprehensive eye examination, which is one reason why vision problems go unrecognised for so many children. Your optometrist is trained to pick up and treat problems effectively. Book your child in for an eye exam at least once every two years – more often if your optometrist recommends it.

And, if your optometrist doesn’t detect a vision problem, your child’s symptoms may be caused by another condition such as dyslexia or another learning disability. Knowing about this early is important and your GP can refer you to an educational specialist to help find the root of the problem. Either way, your child gets the treatment they need.

[i] Optometry Australia. Your Eyes. http://www.optometry.org.au/your-eyes/your-child’s-eyes/

[ii] 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

[iii] 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

 

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

 

Young and active? Time to get protected!

Think about health insurance and you probably won’t think about young people. After all, being young means being fit, healthy and active, doesn’t it? In my experience working with rt health fund, I’ve seen first-hand how living life to the fullest – whether it be through sports, travels and/or celebratory nights out – means that having health insurance should be high on a young person’s agenda!

Accidents happen!

People under 30 are much more likely to make a claim for unplanned medical treatment than older people. And, the kinds of accidents and injuries that go hand-in-hand with an active lifestyle can clock up huge bills.

Don’t pay extra tax

Did you know that private health insurance can actually save you money? By having private hospital cover you may be able to avoid a tax called the Medicare Levy Surcharge, which applies to Australian residents who earn over a certain amount and don’t have hospital cover. The extra you’re charged increases as your income rises.

So, for example, for the Financial Year 14/15, if you’re a single person earning $95,000, you’ll be taxed an extra $950 in Medicare Levy Surcharge. A base-level private hospital cover with rt health fund can cost less than this – so by taking out a low level of cover you may avoid the surcharge, receive the benefits of having private hospital cover and be able to choose where and when you’re treated – and who treats you, too!

Income brackets change annually so keep an eye on which income tier you fall under by visiting www.ato.gov.au.

Don’t delay or you’ll pay, and pay, and pay …

For every year you’re over 31 and don’t have private hospital cover, the government charges you a 2% loading on top of the ‘base rate’ that the health fund charges. And over the years this loading can creep up to a whopping 70%! Once you’re stuck with a loading, it’ll be yours until you’ve paid for hospital cover with a loading for ten whole years!

Get a rebate from the government

Because the government really wants you to take out private health cover, they’ll pay part of the cost of your health cover for you. It’s called the Australian Government Rebate on Private Health Insurance. You may be entitled to it if you’re an Australian resident who qualifies for Medicare and holds private health insurance.

Give yourself choices

The public health system in Australia is exceptional. There’s no doubting that. But where unexpected injury is concerned and specialist care is required, having health insurance is important if you want a say about where and when you’ll be treated and who’ll be treating you.

And this is especially important for young people who enjoy the freedom of making their own choices and taking their own direction in life. Accidents without the protection of private health insurance can see those choices disappear.

Recently, we spoke with a number of young people who shared their stories about unexpected accidents and injuries. In these cases, all of them were covered by private health insurance. And it’s a good thing too…

Ouch – you can still see the scar!

‘Playing cricket as a 22 year old, a short ball hit me on the side of my left index finger when I was batting. I heard a cracking

noise (I guess it could have been avoided if I’d used my cricket bat instead haha!). A few days later, I still wasn’t able to moveStock-image-doctor-with-xray_RSZ my finger so the GP sent me for an x-ray.

Turns out I had fractured my third metacarpal and needed a CT scan, surgery and about three months of physiotherapy.

Because I had health insurance, I could get into a hospital for surgery within a week.

And, around 70% of the physiotherapy costs were covered.

I’m really glad that I had private health insurance – there was no stress working out if I could afford the surgery or if I’d have to wait for the public system to schedule me in … and there were no hidden expenses to pay, either!’ Clinton

Stock-image-man-on-jet-ski-in-ocean_RSZToothless Tom

Imagine getting caught out with broken teeth. ‘My friends and I were mucking around on a jet ski when my mate went head-over-heels and chipped both his front teeth. He had to walk around with broken front teeth for weeks while he scraped together the money to get them fixed!’ That is definitely not something to smile about!

No injuries – still need treatment…

‘As a young dancer in my twenties, I train four to five times per week and the workouts are pretty high intensity. And even though I haven’t had an injury, I do have to see my physio regularly. Plus, I need to have sports massages to ensure that I take care of my body.

If I didn’t have health cover I might put it off – which wouldn’t do my health much good. I use the physio and massage therapy under my Extras cover and I love that I can use HICAPS for on-the-spot processing – I was out-of-pocket just $10 for my last massage!

I never thought about health insurance before joining rt health fund, which is when I started paying attention to what I could claim. And Extras Cover by itself isn’t that expensive. I have spoken about my experiences with my sister who has a little boy and she’s thinking of joining, too! You never know what you might actually need!’ Joanne

The belle of the ball

This story is all too common… ‘My cousin was walking down the stairs of a nightclub late one night, wearing super-high Stock-image-dancing-at-club_xxl_RSZstilettos, and she tripped and fell. She tore the ligaments in her leg and ended up needing surgery and physio for months after.’ It just goes to show that accidents can happen anywhere, at any time.

Thank goodness I was covered!

‘I love being active and when I was competing in sport acrobatics, I landed badly dislocating my knee. I was taken to Emergency, my knee was x-rayed and I was sent home. Three months later though, I still had knee issues.

I was sent to a specialist and had an MRI; I was told that I had a ruptured ACL (anterior cruciate ligament).

Because I was covered with private health insurance, I was in surgery within a few weeks with my choice of doctor and at my local private hospital! And, I was only a few hundred dollars out of pocket. Without health insurance, I might have had to wait months for surgery.

My brother and I have had quite a few other injuries and rt have been with us all the way!’ Megan

We’ve served Australians and their families for over 125 years and we know that one size definitely does not fit all. We offer a range of different covers which mean that young people have a choice and can enjoy the kind of lifestyle services they want – like massages, dental, optical and physiotherapy – and less of the services they don’t need.

I’m proud to say that we’re the most trusted health fund in Australia[i]. So talk with our friendly consultants about our range of great value covers today! Call 1300 56 46 46 or email join@rthealthfund.com.au.

Help us help you complement a healthy active lifestyle so you can live your life, your way!

[i] Ipsos, Healthcare and Insurance in Australia 2013

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