Top tips for your teeth

smile (2)Many of us take our teeth for granted — until we have a problem with them. Then we can’t get to the dentist quick enough!

But did your know that by taking good care of your teeth, you can limit or even eliminate some of the problems associated with your teeth?

Teeth play a very important function for our health and wellbeing. Other than the more obvious job of chewing our food, they also have an important role in our digestion. (Imagine swallowing some of the food you eat without chewing it first!) Without teeth, we wouldn’t be able to eat certain foods. Nor would we be able to speak clearly — take the time to listen to a child who has just lost their two front teeth if you don’t believe it.

Once all of our baby teeth have fallen out and our adult teeth have come in, that’s it! They have to last you for the rest of your life. So it pays to take care of them.

There are several things that can go wrong with our teeth and our mouth:

Gum Disease — Gum disease affects the visible gums and the deeper tissues of the bone, root surface and the ligament that connects the teeth to the bone. Untreated gum disease can lead to periodontal disease, which can cause tooth loss.

Early symptoms of gum disease include:

  • Bleeding gums when you brush your teeth
  • Bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth
  • Receding gums
  • Sensitive teeth or gums
  • Loose teeth or teeth that have moved.

Dental decay —Dental decay, causes cavities and discoloration of both permanent and ‘baby’ teeth. As the disease progresses, the tooth becomes weaker and may be prone to nerve damage or the loss of the tooth.  

Dental hygiene 

Practicing good dental hygiene is the best thing you can do to prevent gum disease and other tooth-related problems.

The Australian Dental Association recommends you have a thorough dental check-up at least once a year, where your dentist will check for problems with your teeth and for early signs of gum disease. They may also take x-rays to determine the health of your teeth and gums in areas that cannot be seen from a normal examination.

While regular check-ups are important, you should also visit your dentist if you experience:

  • A toothache
  • Bleeding gums or gums that bleed when you brush or floss
  • Red, tender or swollen gums
  • Gums that are pulling away from your teeth
  • Loose teeth
  • Unusual sensitivity to hot and cold.

 While a dental check-up is important for the health of your teeth there are some things you should do at home to keep your teeth and gums clean. For example:

  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day using a proper brushing technique. If you are unsure, ask your dentist.
  • Use a toothpaste containing fluoride
  • Use a toothbrush with a small head and soft bristles
  • Floss your teeth every day
  • Enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods
  • Limit your intake of sugary snacks and drinks that are sugary and acidic (e.g. soft drinks, juices, cordials, etc.)
  • Drink plenty of tap water.

So don’t take your teeth for granted. Look after them and keep your smile for the rest of your life.

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Tips for a good nights’ sleep

woman asleepSleep is an essential part of our day. Experts recommend that adults should get between seven and eight hours sleep every night. However, this doesn’t always happen, and for some people, problems associated with sleeping are of real concern.

If you have trouble getting enough shut-eye, or simply want to improve the quality of your sleep, try these simple tips below:

1. Keep a regular schedule

If your body is in a natural sleep-wake cycle (circadian rhythm), it can be easier to achieve quality sleep. Getting up at the same time every day and going to bed at the same time every night, can help your body ‘set’ your circadian rhythm.

2. Be active

Regular physical activity has been shown to improve sleep quality and allow you to get to sleep quicker at night. So try to get some activity during the day. Being active too close to bedtime however, may have the opposite effect.

3. Cut back on caffeine and stimulants

Caffeine can interfere with sleep so avoid beverages such as coffee, tea, some soft drinks and energy drinks. Nicotine is also a stimulant so if you smoke, try to avoid it before bedtime. Medications and alcohol can also affect sleep quality, so take these into consideration.

4. Relax…..

It may sound obvious but take time out before bedtime and avoid activities with leave you mentally stimulated (e.g. computer games, puzzles, etc.) This also includes important or worrying discussions. Instead, engage in activities that leave you feeling relaxed such as reading, listening to music or meditating.

5. Look at your surroundings

Make sure your bedroom is dark, quiet and well ventilated. Remove all clutter and items that do not belong in your bedroom. And reserve your bedroom for sleep and intimacy only.

6. Avoid heavy meals

Going to bed on a full stomach may cause indigestion and interfere with your sleep. As a general rule, avoid eating two hours before going to bed. Watch how much you drink before going to bed as well, to avoid waking up to use the toilet.

7. Increase your exposure to light

Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate your circadian rhythm. This hormone is produced in the brain and its production is controlled by light exposure. By increasing your exposure to light each day you may be able to improve your sleep quality.

8. Go to bed when you are tired

This may be an obvious one, but many people ‘push through’ to stay up a little bit longer, instead of going to bed when they feel tired. If you do feel tired way before your bedtime, try to stay awake until it’s time for bed.

9. Don’t be a clock-watcher

One of the worst things you can do if you have trouble sleeping is watch the clock. Worrying how many hours there are until the alarm goes off can make sleep even more difficult. If this is the case for you, turn the clock so you can’t see it, or get rid of it all together. 

10. Reduce stress

Stress can interfere with your ability to get to sleep and stay asleep. Try relaxing activities before bed and if there is significant stress in your life, consider seeing a counsellor.

Sleep deprivation is a serious problem and is linked to increased illness or morbidity. If you experience sleeping problems, speak to your doctor, as there are a range of treatments which may help you enjoy some quality sleep time.

Further information on sleep can be found at:
 The Sleep Health Foundation
The Australasian Sleep Association

The dangers of being too fat

When it comes to excess weight, science has proven that carrying too much body fat puts your life at risk.

fat man

Whether you call it your spare tyre, muffin top, bingo wings or beer gut, if you carry too much body fat, you are not healthy.

This week (17 – 23 February), is Australia’s Healthy Weight Week, an initiative of the Dietitians Association of Australia. The week aims to raise awareness of the importance of achieving and maintaining a healthy weight and a healthy lifestyle.

The prevalence of overweight and obesity in Australia has been steadily rising for the past 30 years. The latest statistics from the National Health and Medical Research Council indicate that around 60 per cent of Australian adults are classified as overweight or obese and more than 25 per cent of these fell into the obese category.

More worrying, the obesity rates of children are also increasing with around 25 per cent of children aged 5 – 17 years, classified as overweight or obese, with 6 per cent of them being obese.

These are the cold, hard facts. As a nation, we are becoming fatter and unhealthier every year.

Why is being overweight dangerous

Being overweight can lead to:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes
  • Musculoskeletal problems including osteoarthritis and back pain
  • Sleep apnoea
  • Gallstones
  • Infertility.

Even if you currently don’t exhibit signs of any of the above, if you are overweight, you are setting yourself up to develop them later on, leading to a premature death.

Regardless of whether you are ‘comfortable in your skin’ or not, if you carry too much fat, you need to do something about it.

Good nutrition and adequate levels of activity play an important role in losing excess fat and maintaining a healthy weight.

So if you want to win the battle of the bulge and not be another statistic, speak to your doctor today about ways in which you can be on the path to a healthy weight and a healthy life.

You may also like to visit http://www.healthyweightweek.com.au/ for some advice and tips on how to get started, including a FREE downloadable cookbook.

Eat for energy and beat the afternoon slump

tired ladyAre you one of the many people who feel exhausted at the end of the day? Perhaps you reach mid-afternoon and hit the wall?

For many people, fatigue is a big problem. Busy lifestyles and lack of sleep are just two things that can contribute. But for most people, the problem is likely to be linked to your diet.

But how can this be, if the majority of us are eating foods high in energy (kilojoules)?

Well, it comes down to the type of foods you eat and how your body uses them as a source of energy.

Most of us eat more energy (kilojoules or calories) than we need. This excess energy is stored as fat. And while we can tap into our fat stores, this doesn’t provide us with the immediate energy boost we need during the day.

Dips in energy levels occur when you don’t eat enough food, or you make poor choices. By focusing on foods with a low Glycemic Index (GI), you can ensure that you have a regular, steady supply of energy, rather than the peaks and troughs that most people experience.

But what does GI mean?

In a nutshell, GI is a ranking of carbohydrates on a scale from 0 to 100. This ranking corresponds to the extent to which they raise blood sugar levels after eating. Foods that are rapidly digested and absorbed, which result in marked fluctuations in blood sugar levels, are rated a high GI score. These foods do not keep you full. Instead, they will give you a peak of energy, followed by a trough, or slump, once they have been absorbed and digested.

On the other hand, low-GI foods produce gradual rises in blood sugar and will keep you feeling fuller for longer. They will also help you stay satisfied for longer, reduce hunger pangs and may help you make smarter choices, because you never get to that ‘starving’ stage.

Further information on the Glycemic Index can be found at www.glycemicindex.com

Beat the afternoon slump

We have all succumbed to the temptation of eating chocolate when the mid-afternoon slump hits. While this may provide you with an initial pick-up in energy levels, it will not last for long. Once your body has used this energy, your blood sugar levels sky-dive, leaving your more lethargic and hungrier than ever.

But by following these five tips, you can head off lethargy (and temptation):

  1. Include a small serve of low-fat protein (e.g. chicken, lean meat, fish, etc.) at lunch.
  2. Include a low-GI carbohydrate with your lunch (e.g. beans, legumes or grainy bread).
  3. Have an light snack (e.g. low-fat yoghurt and fruit, or cottage cheese and veggie sticks) about mid-afternoon to keep your blood sugar levels up.
  4. Take a brisk walk as it gets the blood circulating in the brain (or at least move around the office a bit).
  5. Drink at least eight glasses (two litres) of water a day. Sometimes lethargy can be due to feeling dehydrated.

So there you have it. By making a few tweaks here and there, you may be surprised at how energetic you really can feel.

However, if lack of energy is a continuing problem and changes to your diet and lifestyle do not seem to make a difference, make an appointment with your general practitioner, to make sure there is nothing else that is causing the problem.

The facts about head lice

head liceWith the kids back at school, there may be some little unwelcome visitors popping up at your house in the next couple of months.

That’s right. The dreaded head lice.

Head lice are harmless creatures but usually make people squirm. They are tiny, wingless insects that live on the hair found on human heads and necks.

They are about the size of a sesame seed and can vary in colour from cream to dark brown. They can be incredibly hard to see on the hair.

Female lice lay their eggs on the base of the hair shaft. These eggs are called nits and they are a creamy white colour. After 7-10 days, the eggs hatch. Within two weeks, they are mature enough to lay eggs themselves.

How to spot eggs

Eggs or nits are easier to spot than the lice themselves. They are about the size of a pinhead and stick to the base of the hair, near the scalp. They differ from dandruff in that they are hard to remove. However, your child may exhibit signs of head lice before you even spot them, as they can become quite itchy.

How to treat head lice

There are many treatments available to get rid of head lice, so speak to your pharmacist about which one is suitable for you. Some preparations are gentler than others and suit those with a sensitive skin and scalp.

You can treat head lice using:

  • Conditioner and comb method — the conditioner stuns the lice which allows you to comb them out with a fine metal comb, designed to remove lice and eggs. This does not kill lice or eggs
  • Chemical or herbal treatments — these are designed to kill the lice and eggs. The preparation is left in the hair for a period of time (depending upon the treatment), and then washed out. After the hair has been conditioned, you use a fine metal comb, (head lice comb), to comb out the dead lice and eggs.

The important thing is that you MUST do a follow-up treatment within 7-10 days, as one treatment cannot kill all lice and eggs at once. You should also soak all brushes and combs in head lice solution.

It is also a good idea to wash pillow-cases, hats and towels. Heat will kill any eggs and lice, so washing them in water above 60 degrees Celsius or putting them through a dryer will do the trick.

Preventing head lice

There is no fool-proof way to prevent head lice. While the lice cannot jump or fly, they can crawl from head to head. Young children who are in close contact with one another are most at risk of contracting them.

Children with long hair should wear it tied back. There are some products on the market that are designed to deter head lice, so once again, ask your pharmacist about these.

If you find head lice on your child, it is your responsibility to treat them. You should also notify your child’s school or pre-school so that other parents can check their children’s hair.

Health Department guidelines regarding when a child can return to school following an outbreak of lice vary from state to state, so check with your school or pre-school.

Further information can be found at the following Department of Health websites:

Queensland http://education.qld.gov.au/schools/healthy/wellbeing-guidelines/head-lice.html

New South Wales http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/environment/headlice/Pages/default.aspx

Victoria and Tasmania http://health.vic.gov.au/headlice/

South Australia http://www.sa.gov.au/subject/Education,+skills+and+learning/Health,+wellbeing+and+special+needs/Health+conditions/Headlice

Western Australia http://www.public.health.wa.gov.au/2/261/2/head_lice_fact_sheet.pm

Northern Territory http://www.health.nt.gov.au/library/scripts/objectifyMedia.aspx?file=pdf/45/18.pdf&siteID=1&str_title=Head%20lice%20and%20nits.pdf

Signs of depression

Despite its prevalence — one in five women and one in eight men in Australia will experience depression at some time in their lives — many people remain unsure of what depression actually is.

rain on windowDepression is more than just feeling low or down. Most of us feel that way from time to time. Those who experience depression are more likely to feel these feelings more intensely and for longer periods of time. Sometimes, they may feel depressed ‘for no good reason’.

People with depression can have difficulty functioning in everyday life, and may lose interest in activities that they once enjoyed.

Depression is a serious illness. However, you should not feel ashamed or afraid of it. Millions of Australians  have suffered from depression and now live normal lives. They key is in seeking treatment.

Signs of depression

The following (if experienced for two or more weeks) are typical signs of depression:

  • Feelings of sadness or misery
  • Increased moodiness
  • Irritability and frustration
  • Difficulty accepting personal criticisms
  • Withdrawal from social situations with friends and family
  • Loss of interest in food, sex, exercise or other pleasurable activities
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Increased alcohol and drug use
  • Skipping work or school
  • Increased physical health complaints like fatigue or pain
  • Recklessness (e.g. driving too fast or dangerously)
  • Slowing down of thoughts and actions.

The key in fighting depression is to seek treatment. The longer your depression goes untreated, the worse it may become.

It can be very difficult to take that first step in admitting you need help, but something that is well worth doing.

If you feel you may need help with depression, please speak to your general practitioner.

Further information on depression and mental health can also be found at http://www.beyondblue.org.au/.