Tag Archives: well-being

An optometrist’s guide to beating spring allergy season

Spring time is prime time for allergies. And, although most of us know about symptoms such as runny nose and sneezing, allergies can have a major impact on your eyes, too. Optometrist Jane Le from Sydney’s rt healthy eyes explains how allergies affect your eyes, why they occur and what you can do to ease your eyes as we enter allergy season.

Blog_small_hayfever_sneeze

Jane explains that eye allergies are common and usually mild; they can occur on their own or in conjunction with allergic rhinitis (hay fever) or sinusitis (inflammation of the nasal mucus membrane). But, for people who have chronic eczema or asthma, eye allergies can be serious and can trigger inflammation of the conjunctiva (the delicate membrane that covers the eye and the inside of the eyelid).

If you’re affected, your eyes may feel itchy and sore but some people don’t get itching – instead, they feel a burning sensation and/or tired eyes.

What causes allergies?

Like all allergies, symptoms occur when your body overreacts to a substance i.e. an allergen. The immune system makes antibodies to fight what it sees as an invader (the allergen) and this causes your body to release histamine.

Your eyes are especially sensitive to allergens because like your skin, they are exposed and vulnerable to the outside world. When allergens come into contact with your eyes, they cause cells called mast cells to break down with the release of histamine. Histamine causes itching and dilation of the blood vessels and excessive watering of the eyes, too. You might get swelling of the eyelids or conjunctiva, sensitivity to light, blurry vision and/or a burning sensation. Plus, histamine causes blood vessels to widen and this allows for inflammatory allergic molecules to flow more easily into the eye’s bloodstream. The result? Redness of the eyes, swelling and more.

Seasonal and perennial

The most common types of eye allergies are seasonal and perennial (happen all year round).

Seasonal allergies are caused by exposure to pollens, tiny potentially irritating materials released from grass, trees, mould and weeds. Pollens are at their highest concentration in spring and summer, resulting in hay fever for susceptible people.

Perennial allergies that affect the eyes throughout the year are caused by a range of ever-present allergens, from mould, pet substances (dead skin cells, hair, feathers in bedding) and dust mites. Pollution, tobacco smoke, chlorine and certain medicines can also trigger an allergic reaction in susceptible people. The symptoms of eye allergies can also be triggered by direct contact with cosmetics, perfumes, preservatives, contact lenses and insect stings.

Sometimes, it’s easy to detect what’s causing your allergic eye problems. But it’s not always simple. So, your GP may suggest a few tests to pinpoint exactly what’s setting you off.

Six self-help ways to protect your eyes from allergies and reduce symptoms

1. Reduce exposure to the allergen or allergens that are triggering your symptoms. If it’s pollen, wear sunglasses to block pollen particles from getting to your eyes when you’re out and about.

Blog_small_hayfever_sunnies
2. Try to keep the windows closed and use the air conditioning when you’re in the car.

3. Wash after being outside to remove pollen from your body and hair.

4. Think about replacing carpets with hard flooring and cleaning them with a slightly damp cloth instead of sweeping (which tends to stir up allergens). And, if you can, choose blinds instead of curtains for the same reason.

5. Cold compresses and lubricating eye drops can help ease the symptoms, especially if your eyes are itchy. Or, try a sterile saline solution to help flush away allergens from your eyes.

6. Keeping your eye drops in the fridge may provide some cooling relief.

Medical treatment for mild allergies involves the use of anti-histamine eye drops. Oral anti-histamine medications can be helpful to reduce the symptoms of hay fever, too. And, steroid eye drops may need to be prescribed for more chronic (long-term) and serious allergies. See your optometrist or GP for the most effective treatment plan.

About the author

Jane Le is qualified in ocular therapeutics and has been an optometrist since 2006. She has worked extensively across Australia and as a volunteer optometrist in El Salvador and in Mexico. Currently, she works at rt healthy eyes in Surry Hills, Sydney.

Optometrist Jane Le
Jane Le, optometrist at rt healthy eyes

 

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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

How fatigue affects both body and mind

Feeling a little less energetic than you’d like? Diet, exercise, emotional health, sleep and work, all contribute …

Fact: Staying awake for 17-19 hours affects your concentration in a similar way to having a blood alcohol content of 0.05%. Staying awake for longer periods is equivalent to a blood alcohol content of 0.1% – you’d definitely be off the road for both![i]

Stress makes you tired and it affects all of your body …

  • Brain – headaches and migraines
  • Lungs – coughs and asthma
  • Mood – anxiety, difficulty concentrating
  • Muscles – tension, pain and nervous ticks
  • Stomach – ulcers, heartburn and indigestion
  • Skin – dryness and rashes
  • General – tiredness and fatigue.

Watch the caffeine

Lots of us use caffeine to kick-start our day, but did you know that it increases alertness for only a short time? If you consume caffeine regularly, it may not boost your alertness as much. And, five or six cups of coffee per day can make you jittery and anxious. Caffeine can also interfere with restful sleep. Try cutting down slowly over a month or so and see if your fatigue reduces.

Nap vs. sleep

A short nap could be just what you need to boost alertness. If you can, get your head down for around 15-20 minutes – but set the alarm because longer periods can increase grogginess and leave you feeling worse.

Diet counts

  • Drink enough water – even mild dehydration can trigger tiredness.[ii]
  • Watch sugary foods and drinks – they cause a rapid rise in blood glucose (sugar) but this is followed by a rapid dip as your body releases insulin to normalise levels. The result is tiredness, irritability and hunger.
  • Opt for wholegrains instead of refined, white flour foods for longer lasting energy.
  • Eat regularly – skipping meals causes blood glucose to dip triggering fatigue.

pulses

Could you be short on iron?

This mineral is a major component of haemoglobin, which carries oxygen to every blood cell. One of the major signs of iron deficiency anaemia is fatigue. Oily fish, pulses, wholegrains and lean meat contain iron. Eating vitamin C rich veggies (tomatoes, capsicum) or fruit (Kiwifruit) increases the amount of iron your body absorbs each time you eat.

Exercise

Being more active actually helps you sleep more restfully, feel better about yourself and along with a healthy diet may help you lose extra kilos. All of these can boost your mood and fight fatigue.

Relax

Meditation, yoga, reading or spending time with friends and family will help boost your energy levels.

woman resting

Did you know? Psychological factors are responsible for a massive 50-80% of cases of fatigue[iii]. Professional counselling can help you to work out the issues adding to your anguish. In some cases, fatigue is also the symptom of an underlying medical problem. So, if you feel excessively tired and you’re getting enough rest, speak with your GP.

Ravinder Lilly
Ravinder Lilly, Dietitian at rt health fund

[i] National Center for Biotechnology Information. Moderate sleep deprivation produces impairments in cognitive and motor performance equivalent to legally prescribed levels of alcohol intoxication. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1739867/

[ii] Psychology Today. Fighting Fatigue with Diet. https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200310/fighting-fatigue-diet

[iii] Better Health Channel. Fatigue fighting tips. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/fatigue-fighting-tips

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

 

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

Influenza – should you get vaccinated?

As soon as autumn arrives, you can hear the word flu (a shortened version of the term influenza) being talked about everywhere. But, do you know what causes influenza? What’s in the vaccine? How it works? And whether it’s right for you? Dr Jui Tham, Chief Medical Officer at rt health fund has the answers …

The influenza virus explained

Influenza is an infection caused by a number of different viruses – tiny organisms that can invade living things – plants, animals (including other microorganisms) and humans.

Stock-image-woman-with-flu-in-bed_xxlInfection spreads via droplets of air-borne moisture – one sneeze can project 100,000 particles into the air. And, in just 12 hours, one influenza virus can invade and multiply through a million cells in your nose and throat. If they reach the lungs, they can trigger problems like bronchitis and pneumonia. Every year in Australia, influenza causes about 18,000 hospitalisations and 300,000 GP consultations[i]. It can be a serious condition for the very young and the elderly, for whom it can be fatal. For the majority of the population who are generally reasonably healthy, it isn’t fatal but can be very debilitating.

More about the viruses

The tiny microorganisms that are influenza viruses can only replicate inside a living organism so they’re always looking for a way to get inside you. When they do, viral cells take charge of your body cells making them produce more viral particles, turning your cells into a sort of influenza factory. And, as they increase in number, symptoms are triggered – fever, aching, shivering and more.

One of the ways your body’s immune system defends against infection, after detecting microorganism invaders, is by fighting them by producing very specific antibodies, disease-fighting soldiers. After fighting that particular invader, the blueprint to overcome it is retained. That way, should your body encounter that very same organism, it can rapidly produce and deploy the soldiers needed to destroy the particular invader and protect the body from infection.

The trouble is, viruses can easily change their format slightly (mutate). This tiny mutation means that it becomes an organism that the body hasn’t encountered. So, a whole new blueprint for the infection fighter has to be made. And this takes time.

What’s in the vaccination?

Because viruses mutate easily, a new vaccine is needed every year – last year’s vaccination probably won’t protect you from this year’s outbreak.

The vaccination contains three strains of the viruses that have caused the most illness in the northern hemisphere the season before.

The vaccine contains dead viruses – they don’t need to be alive to trigger your body to produce antibodies to them. So, if you were to encounter any of the three strains contained in the vaccine, your immune system can act rapidly.

Will the vaccine give me influenza?

Because the vaccine contains dead viruses, it can’t trigger influenza. Sometimes people feel ill after an influenza vaccination but this is more likely to be due to an unconnected infection such as a cold. It is still possible for you to catch an influenza virus after vaccination – there are many strains of influenza virus around and the vaccination only protects you against the three most common strains.

In fact, there are so many different types of influenza virus that it isn’t possible to mass-produce a vaccine to protect against them all. But what the vaccine does do is alert your body to the threat of it without the virus being able to reproduce and cause symptoms. Even so, there might be a little soreness around the injection site and, rarely, a slight temperature and aching muscles for a couple of days afterwards.

Who needs it?

Experts recommend that certain people get vaccinated against influenza because if they were to catch it they may pass it onto vulnerable people or because they may be vulnerable themselves.

Vaccination is recommended for anyone over six months who wants to be protected against influenza. And it is free for:

  • People over 65 years
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from 15 years of age
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged from six months to less than five years
  • Pregnant women
  • Infants aged six months or older with heart disease, asthma, chronic lung disease, diseases of the nervous system, impaired immunity, diabetes or infants who have had a chronic illness requiring medical follow-up or hospitalisation in the past year
  • Children aged six months to 10 years who are on long-term aspirin therapy
  • People who live or work in nursing homes/other long-term care facilities and people who are homeless.

If you don’t fall into these at-risk groups, you can still go along and get vaccinated at your GP clinic – some pharmacies also provide this service and it will cost you around $10.

When should you have it?

It’s best to be vaccinated in autumn before winter comes to allow you time to build immunity (it can take three weeks after immunisation to do this). The vaccine is released in March/April and the influenza season lasts until August/September.

Is it safe?

Talk to your doctor if you have an egg allergy, as the vaccine might contain traces of egg. And don’t have a vaccination if you have a cold or influenza because of the slight chance of fever. Otherwise, the influenza vaccine is considered safe.

What else can you do to avoid influenza this winter?Stock-image-middle-aged-man-running_xxl-15

We’ve known for a long time that exercise can help to boost mood and build strength and it may even boost resistance to infection. Researchers at the University of Sydney are studying whether exercising before having an influenza vaccine could improve its effectiveness[ii]. The researchers say that although we know that regular exercise activates the immune system, it may also improve the body’s response to the vaccine.

To find out more, talk to your GP or go to www.immunise.health.gov.au.

Jui Tham is Chief Medical Officer at rt health fund
Jui Tham is Chief Medical Officer at rt health fund

[i] Influenza Specialist Group. Influenza Fast Facts. http://www.isg.org.au/index.php/clinical-information/influenza-fast-facts-/

[ii] University of Sydney. Flu shots boosted by exercise. http://sydney.edu.au/news/84.html?newsstoryid=11426

50 of the best health tips – ever!

2015Ready to improve your life in 2015? Time to kick bad habits to make room for good ones? Here are 50 better health changes that you can really use to boost your health in the coming year and every year to come brought to you by the team at rt health fund!

  1. Get moving! Regular physical activity boosts physical and mental health and fitness. So, sign up for an activity that helps you get fit, active and take on new challenges whether you want a better backhand or to sizzle when you salsa!
  2. Choose positive relationships. Studies show that we tend to mimic the behaviour of those around us. So if you’re surrounded by negativity, chances are you’ll be dragged down, too. So cut the dead wood and choose upbeat, entertaining and happy buddies.
  3. Eat more fibre. Most of us don’t get enough fibre and increasing your intake can boost your energy levels because it slows down the rate at which carbohydrates are digested and released into the blood. The result? Longer-lasting energy for body and mind! Wholegrain cereals, pulses and lentils are fibre-rich.
  4. Do some neurobics. Challenge your brain by doing tasks that activate your brain’s biochemical pathways and bring on new pathways to help to strengthen or preserve brain circuits. Try eating or brushing your teeth left-handed (if you’re right-handed) or work out a new route to a destination – these types of activities can enhance mental agility, keeping your brain sharper for longer.
  5. Get enough sleep. Lack of rest affects your mood, stress levels and appetite. Aim for seven or more hours each night and stick to a regular bedtime routine.
  6. Downsize your portion sizes. Use smaller plates and bowls and opt for tall, skinny glasses instead of round, oversized ones. You’ll consume less without feeling deprived!
  7. Get more of the sunshine vitamin! Around 30-50% of Australians are deficient in vitamin D – important for strong bones, reducing your risk for certain cancers and improving your mood. The best way to boost your vitamin D levels is via sensible sun exposure. Good food sources include fortified margarine and oily fish.
  8. Set goals. Start setting yourself some small, attainable goals. You may come across a hurdle or two, but stay consistent, stay on course and you will reach your goals!
  9. Take some time out for you. Think about things you love to do or just take a moment away from everything to relax and get in touch with yourself. A bit of ‘me time’ might be just the thing you need to de-stress, ease anxiety, be present, find respect for yourself and/or create more energy.
  10. Eat for your eyes. Green leafy veg and orange produce contain protective carotenoids, particularly lutein and zeaxanthin that act like sunscreen inside your eyes. But don’t forget good quality sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat.
  11. Don’t smoke. Smoking is linked with lung and mouth cancers and macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness. If you’ve tried to quit before and failed, keep trying and you’ll be more likely to succeed. Every time you try, you’re one step closer to success!
  12. Take a break from your computer screen. Watching a screen for too long can trigger eyestrain and blurred vision, headaches and dry eyes. Every 20 minutes, rest your eyes by looking 20 feet (seven metres or so) away for 20 seconds and every two hours, get up and take a 15-minute break.
  13. Drink more water. Water is vital for every cell in your body. It is vital for digestion, regulation of body temperature, heart rate and blood pressure. Urine should be straw coloured – if its darker, you need to drink more water!
  14. Battle dry skin with your diet! Choose foods like avocadoes and salmon, which are rich in healthy unsaturated fats and vitamin E needed for healthy, glowing skin.
  15. Get your health checked out. Don’t dodge the doctor; health checks can actually help prevent ongoing interactions with health professionals. Make an appointment to see your GP soon!
  16. Try something new. Whether it’s learning a new language or a new skill, you’ll challenge yourself whilst boosting self-esteem and you may meet new friends at the same time!
  17. Sharing is caring and has many health benefits. One study by the United Health Group found that 76 per cent of people who volunteered said that it made them feel healthier and 94 per cent said that it improved their mood. Plus, a massive 96 per cent reported that volunteering enriched their sense of purpose.
  18. Don’t be afraid to say no. By saying yes all the time, you’re likely to be doing things that you don’t really want to and over time, this can lead to stress, resentment and the feeling of being overwhelmed. Think about yourself first and if you decide to do what you want to do – at least some of the time.
  19. Drink less alcohol. Drinking less can do great things for your wallet, your waistline, your mood and possibly even your reputation. If you need help, speak with your GP or contact an anonymous support group such as 1300 DRIVER.
  20. Spend more time with family. Your family is important and spending time with them will strengthen bonds and can be heaps of fun. This doesn’t mean you need to connect with family members that stress you out, though. You’re entitled to pick, choose and plan your quality time!
  21. Get in touch again. Reconnecting with friends is great for your health. According to research published in the journal PLoS Medicine in 2010, feeling disconnected can harm your health as much as alcohol abuse and smoking. So, get in touch by phone or social media and follow up with a face-to-face visit!
  22. Be realistic. Life isn’t a Disney movie. Learn to accept its imperfections, bumps and hurdles as part of the journey. But if life is getting you down or if you feel like you can’t cope, speak with your GP.
  23. Aim to cut 100 calories a day. Weight can creep up on you without you knowing it so by axing a hundred calories each day, you could help you lose 5kg by the end of the year. Do this by swapping a cup of sugary cola for a diet version, switching from whole milk to skim milk or eating a medium orange instead of drinking 300ml of orange juice. Little changes can do a lot of good!
  24. Take a moment to take it all in. 21st century living is so fast-paced that it’s easy get stuck thinking about the future or dwelling on the past. Try to make a conscious effort to be aware of your inner and outer world – it’s important for your mental health and your inner peace. Activities like yoga can do wonders for your mind-body health.
  25. Get the help you deserve. Whether this involves speaking with your GP, talking to a support group or asking a friend to babysit so you can have a quiet meal, it’s not selfish to ask for help.
  26. Get the balance right. One of the best things you can do for your health is to eat plenty of veggies and fruits and less processed items. Pile up half of your plate with veggies; add a quarter of a plate of low-fat protein and the rest as wholegrain carbohydrates.
  27. Eat more wholegrain foods. Wholegrain foods are loaded with iron, fibre, vitamins and minerals. Plus, they don’t cause a sharp rise and then a fall in your blood glucose levels, helping you stay fuller – and mentally sharper – for longer compared with processed picks.
  28. Drink fewer fizzy drinks! A normal can of soda contains around 10 teaspoons of sugar, which can contribute to health problems like overweight and related conditions like Type 2 diabetes. The acids and sugars found in soft drinks also break down your enamel causing dental decay and yellow teeth.
  29. Wake up and stretch daily. Babies do it – and so do animals. So if you’ve forgotten the need to stretch after sleeping, relearn it! Stretching boosts circulation and digestion, and eases back pain if you do it right. Try some yoga moves to help harmonise and welcome the new day.
  30. Blast workout boredom. You can really rev up your metabolism by alternating your speed and intensity during aerobic workouts. This not only helps to prevent boredom, it can also help keep you lean and sculpted because by giving your body a jolt, you’ll burn more calories,.
  31. Protect yourself. The sun’s rays can burn, even through thick glass and under water. So, use sunscreen, strap on a hat, wear your sunnies and, if you’ll be swimming for long periods, grab some tinted goggles, too!
  32. Laugh often. Laughter is a great workout and triggers the release of feel-good hormones called endorphins. It also boosts the immune system helping you to feel well and stay well.
  33. Go nuts for nuts. Walnuts are rich in omega-3 fats, which are called essential because your body can’t produce them for itself. These fats cut inflammation in the arteries surrounding your enhancing heart function. Other unsalted nuts provide a wide mix of minerals and protein including Brazil nuts – just one provides your daily selenium needs.
  34. Strengthen your heart. Safely lifting weights boosts your body strength helping to lower body fat and increasing muscle at the same time. Aim for two sessions per week as well as aerobic exercise to boost your healthy HDL-cholesterol and lower harmful LDL-cholesterol.
  35. Walk more. Health experts recommend around 10,000 steps for good health. So check out how many steps you take daily and then aim to increase it by 10% each day until you’re walking 10,000 steps daily. There are also lots of free apps that can track your walking over the day.
  36. Ditch the white stuff! It’s a quick and easy way to lose weight – including belly weight – and boost your overall health. White, processed carbs are often called ‘bad carbs’ because they mess with your blood glucose and affect appetite, mood and focus. So, out with the white bread, rice, pasta, sugar and flour and in with the heavy whole grains and home-cooked fare.
  37. Cook your veggies in just a small amount of water. The delicate water-soluble vitamins C and folate are lost in the cooking water. So cook for the shortest time possible and use the cooking water to make gravy. Steaming and stir-frying are good ways to retain the vitamins in your veggies.
  38. Get on top of your financials. The stress of an unhealthy hip pocket can affect your health and relationships. And long-term stress can bring a range of health problems including depression, digestive and sleep issues, heart disease, weight gain and more! So work on your financial health by talking to a financial advisor, cutting down, tracking your spending and making attainable goals for yourself.
  39. Sit less. Sitting is the new smoking because studies have shown that prolonged sitting increases your risk of developing heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, cancer (bowel and endometrial), obesity and premature death. So this year try to minimise the amount of time you spend sitting; incorporate more physical activity into your day and take breaks from your computer chair, couch or driving seat when you can.
  40. Have digital free days. Spending so much time online nowadays means you can lose touch with the ‘real world’. So go on a digital detox. Put your phone away and close that laptop. Go for a walk, read a book, do some gardening or go to the beach instead.
  41. Take a holiday. Sometimes you just need a good rest, a bit of fun and a chance to get away from the daily grind. Holidays are linked to lowered stress, better sleep and improved relationships. So start saving and plan your next destination!
  42. Work on your posture. Bad posture can lead to back and shoulder pain and is also linked to depression, gastrointestinal disorders, reduced lung function and other health problems. So stretch daily, take up a yoga class and/or visit a physio.
  43. Watch less TV. There are lots of studies that have found a link between watching a lot of television and obesity. Plus, according to a study published in the Journal of Economic Psychology excessive television viewers report “lower life satisfaction … higher material aspirations and anxiety”. So get off that couch, get out and enjoy life!
  44. Work on your communication skills. Communication is so important: it connects us, allows us to convey our thoughts and ideas to others. It can even shape others’ perceptions of us. So learn to listen, work on maintaining eye contact in a conversation, read more to increase your vocabulary and learn work with different groups of people.
  45. Get organised. There’s nothing worse than feeling frustrated and jumbled: it can leave you feeling frazzled, tense or anxious. So this year make an effort to organise yourself – write lists, de-clutter, create a designated spot for all your bills, buy a planner and stick to schedules.
  46. Listen to more music. Listening to music can help relax, uplift and motivate you, ease pain, improve the quality of your sleep, decrease stress, lift your mood and more! So whether you’re relaxing, working or working out, get lost in your favourite tunes.
  47. Donate blood. According to the Australian Red Cross: ‘Only one in 30 people give blood, but one in three people will need it in their lifetime’. Giving blood has many benefits for you; it helps regulate your iron levels and means you get a mini health check every time you donate (you’ll get a quick physical before you go in, and your donation will be tested for various infectious diseases in a lab before it’s considered safe for medical use).
  48. Take your lunch break daily. Make sure you take time during your day (even if it’s for 10 minutes or so) to get away from your workstation. It can help improve your health, and afternoon productivity and interactions with your teammates.
  49. Get more calcium. Calcium builds bone strength drives many metabolic functions including muscle contraction, nerve transmission and the secretion of hormones. Aim for an intake to 1000mg-1300mg per day. Good sources include low-fat dairy foods, almonds, sesame seeds, canned fish like salmon and sardines and soya products.
  50. Meet new people. Remember how we told you that feeling disconnected could harm your health as much as alcohol abuse and smoking? Use you existing friendship group to make new friends, join a club or group where you can meet people with similar interests, talk to new people and find upbeat, positive people that can help you all enjoy time together.

Wishing you a very happy and healthy New Year, this year and every year!

Brought to you from Strategic Business Manager, Rebecca Delahaye and Key Account Managers; Alison Weatherill, David Stock and Cassandra Steen from rt health fund with the very best wishes for good health and happiness now and always!