Is tobacco your addiction?

I’ve never been a smoker.  Look, … I did give it a try at uni, I’m talking a few puffs, but thought it was a bit disgusting, or maybe it’s that I wasn’t good at it, I just never got the attraction.  To be more precise, the reward system in my brain wasn’t activated – that’s the part of our brains which are activated in addiction.  For some people, it gets turned on when they have sugar, others alcohol and others methamphetamine.  We all have triggers that activate our reward systems, for smokers, its tobacco.

Why am I writing about tobacco?  Today is World No Tobacco Day as deemed by the World Health Organisation.  They believe it is important enough to have its own day, do you know why?  It’s because tobacco ‘kills approximately 6 million people a year and harms the health of many more’.(WHO, 2016)  The theme this year is about getting ready for plain packaging, though in Australia, we have actually been ahead of the game and have had this in place for several years now.

In a nutshell, smoking damages your health.  Not a new revelation, I know – but just how it is – I have a tendency to tell it that way!

I’m not going to ‘harp on’ as we are all, as adults responsible for our own actions, however there are just a few quick points I have noticed and wanted to point out:

Smoking has become SO expensive – on http://www.quitnow.gov.au there is a great calculator as to how much you could save by quitting – if I was a smoker, that amount of money would sure motivate me!

Smoking has become quite unsociable – at clubs and pubs etc, the smoking area is often quite removed from the main area.  As a non-smoker, I find this to be ideal, however as I smoker, surely it’s lonely?

Smoking affects unborn babies and children – you know how I said we are adults and we need to be responsible for our actions – unborn babies and children do not get this choice.  Smoking exposes everyone in its path to thousands of harmful chemicals and as adults it is in our role description to protect our children.

You’ve heard of Quitline?  Wait, there is more – the Australian Government has a dedicated website http://www.quitnow.org.au which provides a great deal of information for smokers, and soon to be non-smokers.  As well as Quitline, there is Quit Coach – http://www.quitcoach.org.au – an interactive site to support quitters.

Smoking contributes to avoidable health conditions – this isn’t an exhaustive list, but off the top of my head, I can tell you smoking is a risk for pressure ulcers and delayed wound healing because not enough oxygen gets to cells.  It also more likely that smokers will suffer from post operation complications.  That said, smokers are always up quickly after surgery, because they ‘need’ to smoke, however what they don’t realise is they are actually slowing their healing.

So on this World No Tobacco Day, spare a thought for those with a tobacco addiction – and maybe pop a few of my points (above) into a conversation, direct them to the websites I mentioned and who knows, it might just be enough for them to even consider quitting…for good!

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‘I Kidney Check’ how about you?

Are you drinking enough water?

Doesn’t everyone say that the moment you mention you have a headache??   Or is it just me?

In case you didn’t know, this week is Kidney Health Week and the theme is ‘I Kidney Check’.  It will focus on encouraging Australians to care about their own kidney health.

How often have you thought about your kidney health?  The surprising and perhaps unsettling part of diminished kidney function is that isn’t always obvious in the early stages – hence the reason you need to look after your own kidney health.

This is the perfect example of a ‘big picture’ health issue – it might not seem important today, but in the big scheme of things, it is!!  To make a difference to your kidney health, you have to know what puts you at risk and also a maintain a simple habit you can do each day to reduce your risk of kidney disease.

I think previously, I have talked about knowing your health risks and managing it – this is another of those times you need to do this!

What are the risks, I hear you say?  Just for you, I found these on http://www.kidney.org.au – do you have any of these?

  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart problems
  • Have had a stroke
  • Family history of kidney failure
  • History of acute kidney injury
  • Obesity
  • Smoker
  • Over 60 years of age
  • Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin

If you answer yes to any of these, then you should get a regular kidney check.  Your GP can do this for you.

For more information – Kidney Health Australia have also published the Kidney Fast Facts here.

And the single simple habit you can do – Drink a good amount of water each day, without fail!

  • Are you drinking enough quality water each day?
  • Is water your preferred drink?
  • Do you know how much water is right for you?
  • Our body is amazing, it will tell you when its thirsty.  However, keeping in mind, thirst is a sign that you are already a little dehydrated (as is the headache I mentioned at the start).

There are certain times when we need more water than usual, these might be if

  • are exercising
  • are in a hot or humid climate
  • have a health condition such as a kidney stone (but note that some conditions such as being on dialysis mean that you have to drink less water)
  • are pregnant or breast-feeding

There you have it, a just a small reminder to consider your own kidney health this Kidney Health Week.

Perhaps you could start a conversation – ‘I Kidney Check’, how about you?

Featured Image Photo Credit: http://kidney.org.au

 

“Food is healthcare”

I don’t look at all food the way I used to.  I truly do love food, but sadly in the second half of 2015, it became apparent that there were a few foods that just, well, didn’t love me!

Before I go any further, I need to respectfully acknowledge people who suffer anaphylaxis, those with severe conditions  which bring on adverse reactions to certain foods and those with  diabetes. These people’s food choices can have life-threatening effects on their health.  In comparison, my little story is hardly worth telling, but I think still relevant to the image above.

So, it appeared that it would be a process to discover ‘which’ foods they were that didn’t love me!

You see, I had a colonsocopy (yep, the drink was woeful) – ruled out the nasties but symptoms were suggestive of Irritiable Bowel Disorder. In my head, I was thinking, ok, nothing too sinister about that – I will just watch what I eat….  and maybe take some of those over the counter medications I have seen advertised on TV – ‘for medically diagnosed IBD’ – you know the ones.

Woah – at that point I didn’t realise the regime the dietitian had in store for me!  Her recommendation was to do a FODMAP elmination – basically, cutting out all of the short chain carbohydrates for a period of 6 weeks and then methodically re-introducing them.

How hard can it be? Right? Wrong!  Do you know how many foods this involved??  There were a few days when I was just plain ‘hangry’ – so starving, and didn’t know what I was ‘allowed’ to eat.  But its done now, and you know what happened – I felt amazing, yep, on top of the world!

The dietitian was spot on, clearly all of the symptoms were being caused by those pesky short chain carbohydrates.  Then, the trick was to re-introduce them separately to work out exactly which ones were bothering me the most.  The challenges  were harder – so much trial and error (I do mostly like to have a plan!)  Interestingly, it got to this point where I didn’t want to add in any more foods because I was feeling so good, crazy hey?!

Now, I need to tell you, I seriously love bread – like, so much so that prior to the abovementioned story, my most truly favourite thing to eat was fresh bread, butter and vegemite (with proportionately more butter than vegemite, wink, wink!)  As you can probably imagine, this type of bread is not really allowed in low FODMAP regimes.  For a detailed look at FODMAP, head to http://www.med.monash.edu/cecs/gastro/fodmap/

Don’t get me wrong, its not that I haven’t had any bread at all since this unravelled, I have had bits and pieces – all the while knowing that it wasn’t the best thing for my body.  That was a choice I made on those days.  What I now know, and perhaps I didn’t fully acknowledge it before, but eating the right food really is healthcare.

 

The take away message here is:

  • Try practising mindful eating – essentially, it’s about concentrating on your food and the taste and how it makes you feel,
  • Nibbling while preparing dinner is an example of mindLESS eating, as is finishing the food on plates that your children didn’t eat 😉
  • Try keeping a journal of not of how many calories you ate, but rather, what you ate and how it made you feel – go on, just a few days, as an experiment?!

Yes, I can hear your say, nutrition is only one component of a healthy lifestyle, but it is a vital part!  You can’t eat rubbish and expect your body to work well  – like me with the bread, I know, not my wisest hour, but I have to be okay with the consequences, if that’s what I choose.

What do you choose??

Winter Wellness

I live in southern Queensland in Australia, and it kind of feels like we are on borrowed time with the weather, like winter is going to hit with vengance very soon.  Does anyone else feel like that?  I’ve just spent the weekend in Townsville – so, of course, I didn’t feel my sense of impending cold there, however when we came home, I was expecting it to be colder, but it isn’t just yet.  But I know the cold of winter will be here very soon.
I’m not particularly fond of the extremes, spring and autumn kind of suit me best, but i do know, my peaches and cream complexion is much better suited to winter!
As the cold weather approaches, its a good time to think about winter wellness and what that means for your health.  The truth is that during these colder months, the exposure to the germs is unavoidable – its how we look after ourselves that matters.
My random thoughts on being ready to stay well for winter are as follows:
Handwashing – this is the simplest and most effective action you can take to stop the spread of infection.  Are you a fastidious handwasher?
Did you know that the average adult gets two to three colds per year and children eight to twelve per year**.  The difference is ultimately, the handwashing and the amount of germs children unknowingly share!
Handwashing is the single most important activity we can undertake to stop the spread of infection.
Stay home – Do yourself a favour and stay home from work and keep children away from other children when they are sick – you don’t want to be ‘that’ person who goes in looking dreadful and then proceeds to spread their infections around.
Influenza vaccination – Influenza is a virus that is more common in winter.  A common cold or (man-flu as it is also known) is not influenza.  See http://www.immunise.health.gov.au for the specifics.
If you are in one of the high-risk groups, the vaccination is funded for free (see below this blog).
Alternatively, you can choose to pay a small price for the vaccination via your GP or some community pharmacies.  Just as a conversation starter at your next dinner party, each year’s vaccine is different to the previous year.  It depends on what the Northern Hemisphere has experienced and it is formulated to cover those most recent strains. Discuss your risk vs benefits of having the vaccination with your GP.
I don’t have time to start the immunisation debate tonight – I will just say the evidence base of why immunisation is so crucial and wise is very well researched.  If you ever get sucked into someone’s claims, my only advice is – be careful of your source!!
The most reliable and science based information available can be found at www.immunise.health.gov.au
Pneumonia – This week is pneumonia awareness week.  Pneumonia is a complication of influenza and that’s the reason I wanted to write something about this significant issue.
Antibiotics will not fix every illness you have during winter – Most winter illnesses are viruses.  Which means they will typically be self-limiting (they go away on their own after a period of time) and require symptomatic treatment only.  In the case of viruses, antibiotics are not useful.
Fitness during winter – yes, those mornings can be tough, but just remember – summer bodies are made in winter!

Spread the message – we all know someone or lots of people who fit into one or more of the categories below – do the right thing and start a conversation with them about whether they have considered influenza vaccination.  Peer engagement is an awesome way to spread how important the message of good health is.

So there you have it, my thoughts on winter wellness.  I will be so organised with my winter woolies by the time the proper cold weather gets here, will you?

 

Image result for stay well this winter

Source:  www.norfolkslivingwell.org.uk

Featured Image Source – http://www.mapio.net

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High-Risk Groups – Source:  www.immunise.health.gov.au

**www.uptodate.com

Connected?

How is it that we have access to more information than ever before and yet, as a society, our health is, to say the least, struggling?

And that we are more ‘connected’ than any generation in history, and social isolation is a real issue in our time?

socialmedia-facebook-twitter-network-instagram

Photo via VisualHunt

When it is laid out like that, its hard to ignore, but it’s true.  We think we are so ‘in the know’ but we often aren’t!!

The power of community is a phenomenon that our ancestors had right – they knew being part of an extended family was good for health, (for a variety of reasons) and that it most definitely takes a village to raise a child. But, here we are and it seems, we have mostly gotten ‘too cool’ for the village!  Why?  There are lots of reasons, of which, I’m sure you can think of without me!

Look, I’m not saying you should invite every family member to be part of your household/village, that would be extreme, and for some, too much to take!  Though wouldn’t it be awesome to chill out with the people who feed your soul more often?? Or just to know you belong to something bigger than yourself?

This belonging is one of the keys to resilience as defined by world-renowned Dr Michael Ungar of The Resilience Research Centre, based in Canada.  I had the honour of hearing this man speak about resilient youth last year in Brisbane – and I can tell you, one day wasn’t enough!!  He has dedicated an unbelievable amount of time to researching resilience and how it affects both individuals and communities.  You can see his work at http://resilienceresearch.org

Sorry, I’m back on topic now – communities can push us to new places of ability and belief and also keep us honest!  I’m reminded of this when sometimes I force myself to go for a run in the morning, I might not go far, but at least I go, and have stuck to my word I had previously given my inspiring friend!

My morning battle backs up what we know already.  That is – results are multiplied (in many areas of life) when you surround yourself with ‘your’ like-minded people.

A good example is weight loss and weight loss maintenance – not only does research show it is more successful in the early stages with a buddy.  But another tip to long term success is creating an environment where the new found healthy lifestyle is the ‘norm’ rather than feeling like you are the odd one out.

Reading through what I’ve written so far, I kind of sound like I’m saying just have any people around!!  I’m not, it is still crucial to choose the people you spend time with wisely, but find the like-minded people who force you up a level!!

This notion has been termed strategic alliance – its not about what you want in return, its about how we can team up to get better outcomes in the big picture of life.

For health, it means more health-focused lifestyles, not only for us, but also those around us!

For the parents who are reading, it means carefully constructing your village.  Are you part of a village?  How do you think it would be useful if you were?  Some parents can be vicious – for reasons I have never figured out.  I know you will understand when I say – parenting shouldn’t be a competition, it should be about building each other up while we figure out what we are doing – and all the while keeping your children’s self-esteem intact!

The truth is, in this modern world, this concept of community (and the power it holds) needs much work!

We need to use our online connectedness as a tool to create offline communities and villages and importantly, find ‘our’ people. 

I’ll leave you with this – a challenge to consider – What communities you are part of?  How do you contribute to them? Are you proud of your contributions?  What else would you like to get out of these communities?  How connected are you?

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Featured Image:  Photo via <a href=”https://visualhunt.com/”>VisualHunt</a&gt;