Look after your skin this winter

hands skinThe colder months are upon us. And while some of us may be happily waving goodbye to the hot weather, others of us are not so pleased — particularly those who suffer from dry and itchy skin.

Dry and itchy skin (also known as dermatitis) can happen all year-round, but it may be worse during the cooler months.

There are two common types of dermatitis (contact dermatitis) and eczema (atopic dermatitis).

Symptoms usually include red, swollen or blistered skin, which can be intensely itchy. Sufferers usually find that certain substances or conditions can make the condition worse. Skin may also be inflamed and scaly in appearance. If the skin has been scratched, then there may be areas where blisters are weeping.

Dermatitis generally occurs when the skin is in contact with chemicals or substances that cause an allergic or irritant response. Eczema on the other hand, is a more chronic (persistent or recurrent) condition that usually presents itself in childhood and is often associated with a family history.

Either way, both conditions can be painful.

Treatment for dermatitis and eczema involve reducing the inflammation and the itching and preventing future flare ups. Your pharmacist will be able to advise you on the best treatment for your condition.

Other tips to reduce or avoid itchy skin this winter include:

  • Use soap-free products (e.g. such as hand-wash and shower gel)
  • Wash in lukewarm water
  • Use bath oils to lock in moisture
  • Avoid long-hot baths and showers which can dry out your skin further
  • Pat skin dry, rather than rub it
  • Moisturise while skin is wet to retain further moisture.

If you continue to suffer from dry, itchy skin, visit your doctor.

Further informationAustralasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy

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Get active in April

Premier's Active AprilThis April all Victorians are invited to get more active.

The Premier’s Active April campaign is part of the Victorian Government’s commitment to promote healthy and active lifestyles and get Victorians more active, more often!

Research has shown that regular physical activity can:

  •          Reduce your risk of a heart attack
  •          Lower your blood cholesterol
  •          Lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes and some cancers
  •          Lower your blood pressure
  •          Increase the strength of your bones
  •          Help you maintain a healthy weight
  •          Lead to better sleep
  •          Lead to increased happiness and energy levels.

The National Physical Activity Guidelines for Adults recommend at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity on most, preferably all, days.

In it’s sixth year, Active April challenges all Victorians to get at least 30 minutes of activity every day during the month of April.

Want to participate?

It’s easy. Simply log onto https://www.activeapril.vic.gov.au/ and register your details. You can register as an individual, a family, a team or a school. Simply by registering, you are eligible for some fabulous offers and have a chance to win some great prizes.

By logging your activity into the Active April app, you can keep track of how well you are going.

active aprilThe Active April website is filled with tips on getting your activity in each day, along with a list of events you can participate in.

And the best part about it, is that it’s free.

Don’t live in Victoria? That’s no excuse!

Why not run your own Active April. Grab your family or some mates and make a commitment to be active for 30 minutes each day of April. You’ll be doing something positive for your health and happiness.

Further details:

Premier’s Active April

Australia’s Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines

Your most important organ

brainInternational Brain Awareness Week (BAW) will be held from 10-16th March this year. It is the global campaign to increase public awareness of the progress and benefits from brain research.

Amazingly, there are over 1,000 diseases and disorders of the brain and most of them do not have a cure. Statistics indicate that more than 25 per cent of the population will experience a brain disorder sometime in their lifetime.

So because it’s Brain Awareness Week, and your brain is really your most important organ, here are our top tips on keeping your brain in tip top shape.

  • Keep your brain active —Engage in activities that will stimulate your brain. Experts recommend doing something different to what you normally do.
  • Eat nourishing foods — Our brains need optimal nutrition to keep them functioning at their best. Protein and omega-3 fats are particularly important for growing, developing brains. Carbohydrates provide the main energy source for your brain.
  • Be active — One research study showed that people who exercise later in life may better protect their brain from age-related changes. Another showed that being active may cut your risk of Alzheimer’s disease by 33 per cent.
  • Protect your brain — Always wear a seat belt when in a vehicle, a sports safety helmet when appropriate and a bike helmet when riding any kind of bike. Brain injury can result in death or permanent disability.
  • Manage stress — Evidence shows that stress can affect the brain. It can raise blood pressure and heart rate, which increase the risk of stroke, and depression can affect memory and brain metabolism.
  • Get enough shut-eye — Sleep plays an important role in repairing tissues and boosting the immune system. REM sleep helps us consolidate information learned during the day. Lack of sleep can affect your memory and concentration levels.
  • Have regular health checks — Other health problems such as diabetes and high cholesterol increase your risk of stroke. If you have suffered a series of mini-strokes, you are at higher risk of dementia. So have regular check-ups with your GP.
  • Give up smoking and drugs — Smoking has been shown to damage memory, learning and reasoning abilities. Similarly, using illicit drugs can cause problems with movements and responses as well as with memory.

If you notice any changes to the way you move or speak, or have problems swallowing, experience issues with your memory, moods or vision, please visit your doctor. It’s probably nothing to worry about, but it’s always best to make sure.

And if you would like to make a donation to the wonderful work the Brain Foundation is doing, please visit their website .

For further information visit The Brain Foundation

Health checks that may save a woman’s life

female doctorLet’s face it, we all live busy lives. Sometimes a visit to your doctor for a check-up seems like more trouble than it’s worth, especially when you are juggling so many other things.

However, a regular check-up could just save your life.

Here are some of the most common screening tests that can make a difference to women’s health.

Breast screening

Early detection of breast cancer greatly increases the chances for successful treatment. Breast cancer can be detected by a clinical breast examination and mammography screening.

Women in Australia with no breast symptoms, aged between 50 and 69 are eligible to participate in BreastScreen Australia’s free breast cancer screening program. Every two years, women in this age group are recalled to have a screening mammogram. Women aged 40-49 are also welcome to attend, but they do not receive a two-yearly reminder.

Talk to your health practitioner about which method of screening is best for you.

Cervical screening

Regular Pap smears help protect against cervical cancer. This type of cancer is one of the most preventable of all cancers, as long as it’s detected early, so it’s important to have them, as unpleasant as they are. It is recommended that women over 18 who have ever had sex should have a Pap smear every two years. Regular cervical screening can prevent the most common form of cervical cancer in 90 per cent of cases.

Cholesterol and blood pressure

Did you know that heart disease is the number one killer for Australian women? Cholesterol and blood pressure levels are important risk factors for heart disease and stroke. If you are over the age of 40, you should have your cholesterol and blood pressure checked regularly. Talk to your general practitioner how often you need to be tested, but the general recommendation is once a year.

Bone density testing

Osteoporosis is characterised by a thinning of the bones causing them to fracture or break easily. While both men and women are at risk of developing the disease, women are more at risk after reaching menopause. This is because of lower levels of oestrogen. Bone density testing can identify osteoporosis.

Before heading off for a bone density test, your doctor will review any risk factors you may have for osteoporosis, and any other diseases or medications that may impact negatively upon the health of your bones.

Next time you visit your doctor, make sure you discuss your bone health.

Bowel screening (Colorectal cancer screening)

Bowel cancer is one of the most common cancers for Australians over 50 years of age. Around 80 Australians die of the disease each week. A faecal occult blood test (FOBT) detects tiny amounts of blood (often released from cancers or pre-cancers) in the stool.

Women with no family history of the disease should be screened every two years, after the age of 50. If there is a family history of bowel cancer, seek the advice of your general practitioner.

So don’t put off that check-up any longer. Invest the time in looking after your health. You are worth it.

Further information:

BreastScreen Australia Program

National Cervical Screening Program

Osteoporosis Australia

The Heart Foundation

National Bowel Cancer Screening Program

Headache or migraine?

man with headacheMost of us have experienced a headache before. Headaches are one of the most common conditions that people suffer from. In fact, it is highly unusual not to ever get one.

But what is the difference between a headache and a migraine?

Headaches

There are many types of headaches, all with different causes.

Tension headaches — these are generally caused by physical or emotional stress on the body (e.g. stress, lack of sleep, poor posture). They are characterised with a steady but non-throbbing pain on both sides of the head. Sometimes they can feel like a tight band of pressure around the head and can last from 30 minutes up to a few days.

Cluster headaches — present as an excruciating pain located around or behind one eye. They usually occur in clusters (e.g. once or several times, every day for a few days or weeks to months), usually at the same time of day. They can last from 15 minutes to three hours. Patients usually become restless and pace the floor.

Secondary headaches — these are usually caused by an underlying problem, such as a neck problem, head injury, sinus, tooth or jaw problems, a hangover or eye-strain. Some medical conditions can also contribute to secondary headaches.

Migraines

Technically, migraines are classified as a type of headache. But as any migraine sufferer would know, they are no ordinary headache. They can last anywhere from four to 72 hours. Migraines affect about 15 per cent of adults, with women two to three times more likely to get them than men. Migraines are characterised by:

  • A severe, throbbing headache often felt on one side of the head, and behind the eye.
  • Blurred vision, flashing lights, numbness, tingling
  • Sensitivity to light, noise or odours
  • Nausea or vomiting, upset stomach, abdominal pain
  • Loss of appetite.

Treating and managing headaches

There are a range of different medications for headaches available both over-the-counter (OTC) and by prescription. However, it is important to note that using too much headache medication can cause more headaches — also known as ‘rebound headaches’ or medication overuse headaches. Speak to your doctor or pharmacist to see if you are at risk of developing these type of headaches.

If you are a regular sufferer of headaches or migraines, you may benefit from keeping a headache diary. These special diaries (available at Headache Australia http://headacheaustralia.org.au/headache-management/7-chronic-headache-a-migraine-diaries) are designed for you to write down information regarding your headache, such as date, time, duration, type, and any environmental factors that may have occurred before your headache.

Keeping this diary for a few weeks or months may help you identify patterns and triggers for your headaches, and will greatly assist your general practitioner or pharmacist in managing your condition.

While the odd headache is normal, regular headaches — particularly those that interfere with the quality of your life — are not.

If your headaches or migraines are a problem for you, speak to your doctor.

Further information:

Headache Australia