Healthy Lifestyles

We know we should eat a balanced diet, stop smoking, have at least two alcohol-free nights a week and increase our level of exercise. We see what lifestyle options are better for our health and well-being; sometimes it is tough to make these healthy choices and changes. Or is it? Following are some guidelines about the influences and barriers that we all face when we want to make changes and some strategies on how to make these changes. Hopefully, reading this will make forming healthier lifestyle habits a whole lot easier!

What are the influences on our lifestyles?

To make changes, we need to understand what influences our behavior, how we function as individuals, what aspects of our environment can be used to support change and who can we turn to, to support these goals. In reality, for behavior to change, we need to set up our lives to help this change.
What influences our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors?

Many factors will influence how easy it is to make changes towards a healthier lifestyle.
Genetics

If you have a family history of some health-related issues, like heart disease or breast cancer, then this may provide you with real inspiration to eat a balanced diet and exercise.

You may have been born with a health problem and so have always been aware of what is the best lifestyle for you. However, even though we know we have inherited specific risks, this doesn’t ever make us do what is best for our health!

How can this be when we know the consequences are so severe?

Because we are human, we often need more to motivate us to sustain healthier alternatives than fear. We may think ‘It won’t happen to me,’ ‘I am not that overweight,’ or ‘A few drinks every night won’t hurt!’
Personality

Personality also influences how well we can make healthier choices. Someone who is outgoing, active and motivated will be more likely to sustain changes to their lifestyle than someone who would rather stay indoors and stick to their routine. Some of us get bored quickly and need variety, while others don’t like change.
Way of thinking

The way that we think also has a significant impact on motivation. If we only consider in black or white, good or bad, then it becomes hard to find balance in our lives. For example, if you have this ‘all or nothing’ thinking pattern, you may swing from diets that cause you to starve yourself and then turn to bingeing. If you find that you are a more emotional and sensitive person, then perhaps this influences how much you turn to food, alcohol or drugs, particularly as a comfort when you feel challenged. We know that people who are depressed can put on a lot of weight, or they find it difficult to eat and see their weight drop below a healthy range.
Support

Support is vital to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. For instance, we know that people who have a supportive social network are less likely to suffer depression, stress, and heart disease. This seems to work in two ways. On the one hand having people who care for you and nurture you is right for your wellbeing. It makes you feel good about yourself. Having support also means that there is someone to talk to, offload to or seek help from when you are trying to make changes in your lifestyle.

They may provide you with words of encouragement, divert your attention, boost your self-esteem, or they may give you strategies to call on should you need. Support can come from friends, family, partner, children, health professionals, counselors and also from your inner reserve (if there is any left!). Of course, sometimes people who should be supportive can sabotage our best efforts. It may be helpful to think about the people in your life who you turn to for support and ask yourself “Do they have my best interests in mind?”

 

 

Bone Health

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About your bones

Bone is living tissue made up of specialized bone cells &, like the rest of the body, it is continually being broken down & renewed. In child age, more bone is made than is broken down, & bones therefore grow. Bone growth is nearly complete by the end of puberty, with only a small increase in bone strength occurring after the late teenage years.

From the mid-30s on there is a mismatch between bone production & bone breakdown. This results in a gradual decrease in bone strength with increasing age in both men & women. Bone needs exercise, just like a muscle, to gain power.

Also, estrogen has a fundamental role in maintaining bone strength in both men & women. The levels of estrogen in the body fall at menopause & this speeds up the rate of loss of bone. During the first five years after menopause, the avg woman loses up to 10 percent of her total bone mass.
What is osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis occurs when bones lose their strength & density because of calcium loss, become fragile, & fracture (break) more easily. The word “osteoporosis” actually means bones with holes -brittle bones.

Osteoporosis mainly affects women in their middle & later years. (It is entirely different from the osteoarthritis which affects joint surfaces.)

Usually, there is no real sign that osteoporosis is developing until a fracture occurs. Breaks are most common in the spine, hip & wrist & often happen after only a minor fall. Osteoporotic wounds of the spine cause loss of height, pain & gradual development of the “dowager’s hump. This swelling is caused by compression of the spinal fractures due to the force of gravity.
How common is osteoporosis?

More than one in every two women, & one in three men, will develop bone fractures due to osteoporosis. By the time of 70, more than one in five women will have been hospitalized with a breach of the upper limb, spine or lower limb. Haaxlf of the people suffering hip fractures lose independence & require long-term nursing care. Osteoporosis takes health care system $800 million per year.
Return to the top of this page which is at risk?

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Who is at risk?

The following factors all increase the risk of osteoporosis:

  • a family history of osteoporosis (parent, sibling, grandparent);

  • inadequate amounts of calcium in the diet;

  • cigarette smoking;

  • alcohol (more than 2 standard drinks per day for women);

  • caffeine (more than 3 cups of tea or coffee per day);

  • lack of exercise;

  • early menopause, before the age of 45;

  • having a thin, small body;

  • prolonged absence of the menstrual period, which can occur as a result of excessive dieting or excessive exercise, and results in lowering oestrogen;

  • long-term use of certain medications, such as corticosteroids for rheumatoid arthritis and asthma and thyroxine for an under active thyroid.

How can the risk be reduced?

Diet

Eat a healthy diet – plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables and whole grains. In particular, eat foods that are rich in calcium. Calcium is vital to build and maintain strong healthy bones, aid muscle function and aid function of the nervous system. The minimum recommended daily intake of dietary calcium is:

Category*
Age (years)
Calcium (mg)

Children

1-3

500

4-8

700

 Girls

9-11

1000

12-18

1300

Women

19-50

1000

>50

1300

Pregnancy/Lactation:

14-18

1300

19-30

1000

31-50

 1000

Boys

9-11

 1000

12-18

1300

Men

19-70

1000

>70

1300

*Source: National Health and Medical Research Council. (2006) Executive Summary of Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand Including Recommended Dietary Intakes. Commonwealth Department of Health and Aging, Australia, Ministry of Health, New Zealand.

Dairy foods are the best source of calcium. They contain high levels of calcium which is easily absorbed by the body. Low fat varieties are available to reduce the risk of weight gain or raised cholesterol levels.

 

Calcium rich foods

 

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Canned fish with edible bones is also a good source of calcium. The calcium found in many other foods, including vegetables and nuts, is not efficiently absorbed into the body.

Post-menopausal women should have at least 1300mg of calcium each day (three glasses of milk or equivalent). Women who have difficulty consuming this amount should take a calcium supplement at night.

Although calcium does not prevent bone loss, it is important in the over-all prevention of osteoporosis when combined with exercise, oestrogen and other therapies.

Foods rich in calcium

Dairy foods

Fruit and Vegetables

  • Milk, 1 cup: 300 mg
  • Yoghurt, 200g 300 mg
  • Cheddar cheese, 1 slice: 300 mg
  • Cottage cheese, 200g: 190 mg
  • Lemon, 1 only: 110 mg
  • Dried figs, 1 only: 60 mg
  • Broccoli, 100g: 70 mg
  • Pumpkin, 100g: 40 mg

Fish

Soy Products

  • Sardines (with bones)100g: 300 mg
  • Salmon (with bones) 100g: 300 mg
  • Calcium fortified soy milk 250 ml: 290 mg
  • Soy or kidney beans, 70g: 70 mg

Miscellaneous

  • Almonds, 50g: 125 mg
  • Ovaltine, 10g: 250 mg
  • Pizza with cheese, 150g 240mg
  • Quiche Lorraine, 150g 260mg
  • Sesame seeds (black) 1 tbs: 200mg

Physical Activity

Regular weight bearing activity including resistive exercise with weights increases bone mass at all ages, stimulates bone growth, and improves flexibility and coordination. Recommended activities are: walking, jogging, tennis, dancing for at least 30 minutes three to four times a week.

Other Measure

  • Avoid cigarette smoking.

  • Reduce alcohol and caffeine intake.

Can hormone replacement therapy help?

Oestrogen replacement at menopause prevents bone loss, but only as long as the therapy continues – that is, as long as the woman remains on HT.

When the woman stops taking oestrogen bone loss begins again. The dose of oestrogen required may be different for different women. All women should consider oestrogen to prevent bone loss after menopause, particularly those women who enter menopause with a low bone mineral density or with an early menopause.

Oestrogen replacement is often necessary to prevent bone loss in young women who do not ovulate regularly, such as may occur in anorexia and with polycystic ovaries. When oestrogen therapy is not appropriate other therapies may be prescribed.

How is osteoporosis diagnosed?

The most reliable way of diagnosing osteoporosis is by measurement of bone density. This is usually, and most reliably, done by the technique known as DEXA. DEXA uses X-ray technology, involves minimal radiation, is accurate, and can be used to monitor the effects of treatment and/or to monitor for disease progression as time passes.

What can be done for women with osteoporosis?

It is never too late to seek treatment. Treatment can halt bone loss and significantly reduce the risk of fractures.

HT is a very effective treatment for osteoporosis and is mostly prescribed when a woman has reduced bone density and menopausal symptoms.

Medications prescribed for women who have had a fracture include alendronate, etidronate, raloxifene, and calcitriol. All these treatments appear also to strengthen bones and prevent fractures, and they may improve bone density.

Drinking alcohol Print E-mail

Women and alcohol

Women & alcohol

Due to size, body type & the way in which our bodies process alcohol, women become affected by alcohol far faster than men. As a result, women are also more vulnerable to the acute & chronic effects of alcohol misuse.
What is a st&ard drink?

One st&ard drink contains 10 grams of alcohol. When keeping track of your alcohol consumption, it is essential to count the st&ard drinks consumed, rather than cans or glasses. This is because the alcohol content of alcoholic can often be higher than one st&ard drink. For instance, pre-mixed drinks can be equal to 1.5 or more st&ard drinks & cocktails can be similar to two or more st&ard drinks.

All pre-packaged alcohol cans or bottles have the number of st&ard drinks listed on the label. Beverages such as wine, beer & spirits are sometimes served in glasses, so care must be taken. Ask bar staff if you are uncertain.

Standard drink guide

  • 30ml spirits = 1 standard drink
  • 100ml wine = 1 standard drink (Be careful! An average glass of wine contains 150-200ml; which is 1.5 – 2 standard drinks)
  • 375ml (one can) full strength beer = 1.5 standard drinks (An average pot-glass of beer is 285ml (1.1 standard drinks) and an average pint-glass of beer is 425ml (1.6 standard drinks))
  • 375ml light beer = 0.8 standard drinks (An average pot-glass of beer is 285ml (0.6 standard drinks) and an average pint-glass of beer is 425ml (0.9) standard drinks))
  • 60ml fortified wine (e.g. port, sherry) = 1 standard drink

Low risk drinking

In 2007 the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council defined low risk alcohol consumption for women as, on average, no more than two standard drinks per day and at least two alcohol free days per week. Low risk consumption of alcohol (at or below the guidelines above) in conjunction with a healthy lifestyle does not appear to be associated with long-term illness. However, there are times during illness and when taking medication when you should not consume any alcohol. Your doctor can provide advice at these times.

High risk drinking

High risk alcohol consumption is best defined as anything that exceeds the consumption of more than two standard drinks per day. High risk drinking, including binge drinking (the consumption of excess alcohol over a short space of time) can put your health at serious risk.

Drinking excessively (four or more drinks at a time) even once or twice per week, such as on weekends, may cause health problems, increase risk of injury and accidents, and affect relationships with those close to you, even when you do not drink for the rest of the week.

Short and long-term effects of high risk drinking

The short-term effects of high risk drinking include:

  • Poor sleep
  • Change in mood, (often affecting relationships)
  • Headaches
  • Dehydration
  • Problems with day-to-day functioning, including clear decision making
  • Irritation to the lining of the stomach, intestine and pancreas, which may cause nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea
  • Accidents, injury

The long-term effects of high risk drinking include:

  • Depression
  • Relationship difficulties
  • Decline in quality of life
  • Weight gain
  • Permanent liver damage
  • Dementia
  • Ability to think clearly
  • Alcohol dependence
  • Low vitamin B, zinc and magnesium, especially when combined with irregular eating
  • Increased risk of some cancers, particularly breast cancer

Alcohol and young people

According to the National Alcohol Guidelines, young Australian adults have the highest consumption of alcohol and are most at risk of alcohol related injuries such as road trauma, sexual coercion, falls, violence, accidental death (e.g. drowning, overdose) and suicide.  Binge drinking (drinking to excess over a short space of time) is most common among 14-25 year olds.

It is important for young adults (and adults as well) to carefully weigh up the risks involved before drinking alcohol above recommended guidelines.

Handy hints for drinking responsibly

  • Set a maximum number of drinks for the night and make a pact with your friends to help you keep to it
  • Start and finish with soft drinks or water, or alternate between alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages
  • Choose drinks with a low alcohol content – e.g. light beers, top mixed drinks with extra soft drink or soda
  • Do not skip meals when going out and drink alcohol with food to slow absorption
  • Avoid salty foods that make you thirsty and make you drink more
  • Avoid home-mixed drinks such as punch where you cannot determine the alcohol content
  • Be careful of friends or waiters topping up your drinks for you – this makes it much harder to gauge how much you have had to drink
  • Make sure your friends stick with you, all night
  • Absolutely no driving and never accept a lift from a drunk driver
  • Eat sensibly through the week, get some exercise and proper sleep

Alcohol and breast cancer

Regular alcohol consumption increases a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer.  This risk rises with the level of alcohol consumed; therefore a reduction in alcohol consumption by women who drink alcohol regularly may reduce their breast cancer risk.

Alcohol and pregnancy

The 2007 guidelines advise pregnant women not to drink alcohol. High level drinking during pregnancy can cause a range of health problems for the unborn child, and can increase the likelihood of miscarriage. Alcohol in the bloodstream also passes through into breast milk which can in turn cause irritability, poor feeding and sleep disturbances in the child.

For thought

  • For women around the time of menopause, alcohol intake can exacerbate hot flushes
  • Excess alcohol consumption may be an indicator for stress and can also worsen stress and depression

Questions and Answers

Q: Are there long term side effects for women who regularly drink small amounts of red wine?

The guidelines are based on the best available evidence to date. Until we have evidence to the contrary drinking quantities within the recommended guidelines, does not appear to cause any long term effects.

Q: How do you advise women to reduce alcohol intake when it is such an ingrained part of many people’s lives?

This is a complex question. If alcohol consumption is affecting your health then immediately ceasing intake is important. If you find this difficult, talk to your GP and seek expert help.

Many women may wish to modify their intake, where alcohol has become a habit. Expectations or pressure by friends or family to drink, frequent exposure to alcohol in social situations can interfere with good intentions. Practical tips such as setting a maximum number of drinks for the evening or taking a limited amount of money with you, making a pact or have a competition with your friends or family to see who can reduce intake. Alternate alcoholic beverages with water are just some ways to reduce your alcohol intake.

Resources for alcohol management

Women & alcohol: to drink or not to drink

Alcoholics Anonymous: www.alcoholicsanonymous.org.au

Al-anon: www.al-anon.org/australia
(for friends and family of problem drinkers/alcoholics)

Giving up smoking

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People can usually list many good reasons for giving up smoking. However, often they are the very people who cannot seem to stop, even when they know there is no safe level of smoking.

The benefits

According to Quit Victoria, you will feel the benefits of quitting straight away as your body repairs itself. Depending on the number of cigarettes you smoke, typical benefits of stopping are:

  • After twelve hours almost all of the nicotine is out of your system.
  • After twenty-four hours the level of carbon monoxide in your blood has dropped dramatically. You now have more oxygen in your bloodstream.
  • After five days most nicotine by-products have gone.
  • Within days your sense of taste and smell improves.
  • Within a month your blood pressure returns to its normal level and your immune system begins to show signs of recovery.
  • Within two months your lungs will no longer be producing extra phlegm caused by smoking.
  • After twelve months your increased risk of dying from heart disease is half that of a continuing smoker.
  • Stopping smoking reduces the incidence and progression of lung disease including chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
  • After ten years of stopping your risk of lung cancer is less than half that of a continuing smoker and continues to decline (provided the disease is not already present).
  • After fifteen years your risk of heart attack and stroke is almost the same as that of a person who has never smoked.

How do I quit?

There are several methods and aids available to assist with giving up smoking:

1.  ‘Cold turkey’ (stopping completely without aids)

2.  Nicotine gum / patches

3.  Prescribed medication – discuss with your doctor if you are suitable for use of these

4.  Other – acupuncture, hypnotherapy (may be helpful in some people, however there are limited studies available as to whether there is any scientific evidence of benefit)

For thought

  • Women who smoke only 1-4 cigarettes each day double their cardiovascular disease and stroke risk
  • Smokers have an earlier menopause by 1.5 to 2 years
  • Smokers have a higher incidence of osteoporosis
  • Smokers have increased skin ageing and wrinkles

Resources

Like all good things, it is going to take some time and effort for you to quit smoking, but thousands of smokers in Australia have already stopped. You can too with the help of the following resources.

QUIT

www.quit.org.au

The Quitline telephone number is 137 848
 OxYgen www.oxygen.org.au/
 Quitnow www.quitnow.info.au

Remember that you may need several attempts at stopping. It has been shown that success is better with the support of agencies such as those listed in the resource section above.

 

Heart Health

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Women and heart disease

What is heart (cardiovascular) disease?

Cardiovascular disease affects either the heart or major blood vessels (arteries) supplying the heart, brain and other parts of the body. It is the number one killer of both men and women in Australia.

What causes heart disease?

From early in life, fatty cholesterol deposits called plaque gradually build up on the walls of arteries. Over time this causes a narrowing of the arteries, resulting in reduced blood flow to the heart and other vital organs. These cholesterol plaques can rupture at any time and cause blood clots to form in the blood vessels which block the artery. This blockage of blood supply can lead to chest pain (angina), heart attacks and stroke.

What is a heart attack?

When an artery to the heart becomes completely blocked, an area of heart muscle is starved of oxygen and consequently dies.

Symptoms of a heart attack

Symptoms include lasting, severe, central chest pain and sometimes pain spreading down the left arm or into the jaw. Anyone experiencing this should go to hospital immediately, or call an ambulance, as early treatment for heart attack can save your life. Even mild chest pain, breathlessness or bouts of unexplained indigestion should be discussed with your health practitioner to ensure that these symptoms are not indicating underlying heart disease.

What is a stroke?

A stroke is the blockage or rupture of a blood vessel in the brain, causing damage to surrounding brain tissue.

Symptoms of a stroke

Stroke symptoms depend on which area of the brain has been affected, and can include severe headache, dizziness and confused speech. A stroke often occurs without warning, and weakness or paralysis down one side of the body, loss of speech, loss of swallowing reflex and sometimes unconsciousness may result. Hospital or ambulance treatment is urgently required.

What are the major risk factors for cardiovascular disease?

  • high blood pressure
  • elevated blood cholesterol
  • family history (if the relative was under the age of 65yrs when the cardiovascular disease developed).
  • cigarette smoking
  • diabetes
  • excess body weight, especially when abdominal fat is increased
  • lack of exercise

High blood pressure

Blood pressure is classically provided as two values, the systolic or upper level and the diastolic or lower level. Put simply, when the heart pumps, roughly every second it momentarily increases the pressure in the blood vessels (the higher systolic pressure). Then in the brief pause between the heart beats the pressure falls again (the lower diastolic pressure). Ideally blood pressure should be 130/80 or below most of the time. Blood pressure does fluctuate, but consistent higher levels can damage artery walls and the heart itself, increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease, especially stroke. Apart from family history, risk factors can be improved by healthy nutrition and lifestyle. Have your blood pressure checked regularly.

Elevated blood cholesterol

Cholesterol is the term used to describe the small particles that the human body uses to carry fats around in the blood stream. Our diet contains cholesterol in animal products however we also make cholesterol from fat. The amount of cholesterol in our blood is not only determined by our diet (primarily our fat intake), but also by our family history via genetic influences.

There are several types of cholesterol. The low density cholesterol (LDL) has been labelled the bad type as it tends to deposit cholesterol in unwanted areas, chiefly in the wall of the blood vessel leading to cholesterol plaques. The high density cholesterol (H DL) labelled the good type, tends to carry cholesterol away from the blood vessel walls back to the liver for processing. The balance of these cholesterol types, as well as the total cholesterol level in the blood is important.

So all people – even those with healthy diets and low body weight – need to have their levels checked regularly.

What are the symptoms of high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol?

Often none. This is why it is so important that all women over the age of 40 should have blood pressure checks at least once a year and cholesterol checks as appropriate after discussion with your doctor. If your blood pressure or cholesterol is elevated then appropriate treatment is necessary to ensure the normal levels are maintained. Treatment of both these risk factors substantially reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Factors that can influence high blood pressure

  • Family history (if the relative was under the age of 65 when the cardiovascular disease developed)
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Excess body weight, especially when abdominal fat is increased
  • Lack of exercise

What can I do to reduce my risk?

  • Enjoy a wide variety of healthy foods.
  • Limit animal (saturated) fats as much as possible, eg choose lean cuts of meat, trim off excess fat, grill rather than fry.
  • A little fat is okay. Use mono unsaturated fats, e.g. olive oil for salad dressing and cooking
  • Choose calcium-rich, low-fat dairy products.
  • Include phytoestrogen foods like soy products, legumes (chick peas, lentils, red kidney beans, etc.), rice, grains, nuts and alfalfa regularly in your diet.
  • Eat fish high in omega-3 fatty acids twice a week.
  • Reduce your salt intake.
  • Maintain a healthy body weight.
  • Avoid smoking.
  • Exercise regularly – aim for 30 to 40 minutes of physical activity at least three times a week.
  • Use relaxation techniques to reduce stress.
  • Discuss medications for high blood pressure and high cholesterol with your health practitioner.

What about Supplements?

It is important to note that although ongoing studies with combinations of phytoestrogens, antioxidants and micronutrients are awaited with interest, there is insufficient data to recommend the consumption of isolated supplements for prevention of cardiovascular disease. In contrast, the consumption of diverse and balanced diets, which are rich in foods containing many nutrients, including antioxidants and phytoestrogens, can be safely recommended.

What about Medications?

The treatment of high cholesterol and high blood pressure may require the addition of medications. These medications are introduced if lifestyle measures are not sufficient or levels are especially high. Treatments with blood pressure and cholesterol lowering medications have proved extremely effective in reducing all cardiovascular disease in high risk individuals but they need to be taken consistently.

Does hormone therapy (HT) have effects on cardiovascular disease?

Women taking HT (also known as hormone replacement therapy – HRT) appear to have a lower risk of heart disease, but there may be many reasons for this. HT, in tablet form, reduces cholesterol as well as having favourable effects on the blood-vessel wall. However, it also increases the risk of blood clots forming when blood-vessel plaques rupture. Currently HT should be avoided in women with established heart disease.

Making Informed Decisions Print E-mail
Gathering information, thinking about options and knowing what it is you value, will help you make decisions that are appropriate for you. When it comes to your health and wellbeing, talking with your health practitioner can assist you in making an informed decision.

Choosing a health practitioner

Developing a partnership with your health practitioner will depend on a level of trust that insists on:

  • Mutual respect
  • Clear communication
  • Shared responsibility

While it may take time and effort to establish this partnership, in the end it will be in your best interests to choose carefully. When choosing a health practitioner you could take into account:

  • Their expertise
  • How accessible they are (e.g. location, appointment times and fees)
  • Their ability to listen, empathise and communicate skilfully
  • Their willingness to involve you in the decision making process around your healthcare

Why evidence matters

Information about health can be obtained from a variety of sources: family, friends, the media and healthcare professionals. With the advent of the World Wide Web, information is available more readily, making it increasingly hard to judge competing claims. The task is even harder when health claims are made with the underlying purpose of promoting a particular product.

To greatly assist in comparing treatment options and deciding what is right for you, ask yourself a series of questions:

  • What could happen if I did nothing at all?
  • What treatment or intervention choices are available to me?
  • What are the possible risks and benefits of the different choices?
  • How do the benefits and risks weigh up for me?
  • Have I now gathered enough information to make my decision
You need to assess the choices available to you based on best evidence from clinical trials against:

  • The resources available to you (such as access to services and cost)
  • Your own personal values (does a particular treatment fit with my lifestyle and how I choose to take care of myself?)

Interpreting clinical trials

It is more difficult than you would expect to prove that a particular treatment prevented something from happening, or relieved a particular condition. The results from using a particular treatment should be better than no treatment at all or using something that is already known to be helpful. Remember there are all kinds of reasons why people recover or do not get sick (such as spontaneous remission and ‘strong’ genes).

To filter out effects NOT related to the treatment itself, high quality scientific studies known as Randomised Control Trials (RCT) must have a similar group (control group) that did not receive the treatment but are similar in most other respects (anecdotal evidence can be persuasive but not conclusive). The riskier or more powerful the treatment being considered, the more important it becomes to understand the results of scientific studies. Understanding scientific studies can then help you balance the risks and the benefits of a particular healthcare decision.

A good example of an RCT is the Women’s Health Initiative study in the US. (For more information about this study see Women’s Health Initiative.

Using the tools provided here, along with trusted sources of information, can help you make decisions that are right for you.

Relaxation Print E-mail
Escaping from the stress and strain of the daily routine has a positive influence on the health and wellbeing of both women and men.Taking some time for yourself by simply reading a book or magazine, taking a long bath, gardening, enjoying beauty care “rituals” (such as getting your hair or nails done), and participating in a hobby or recreation are all marvellous forms of relaxation.

Personal pleasures

Every day do something that you enjoy like reading, listening to music, gardening and sewing.

Aromatherapy, Tai chi, a warm bath, sauna or spa to relax your body, meditate or pray.

Laughter

Laughter produces endorphins in the body which help you relax and feel good about yourself.

  • Bring laughter into your life by being with friends who have a good sense of humour, and watching comedy shows.

Positive thinking

Practice pushing away negative thoughts and replacing them with positive thoughts – and enjoy the relaxing effect.

  • Negativity – for example ‘I fail more times than I get it right’.

    Try and catch yourself when you think in this unhelpful way and challenge yourself
    ‘I do get things right sometimes’.

Physical activity

Physical activity decreases muscle tension and improves concentration and self esteem.

  • Walking is simple and effective, and particularly appropriate if you are starting an physical activity program.

Massage

This can be a simple hand or neck massage by a partner or friend.

  • Indulge yourself occasionally or regularly with a body massage from a professional masseur.

Yoga

There are many forms of yoga, some more physical than others.

The focus, here  is on the combination of meditation with body stretches and gentle physical activity.

Meditation

Mediation requires practice.

  • Sit comfortably in a quiet environment.

  • Breathe deeply and close your eyes.

  • Focus on a word, chant or image and push away all the day-to-day thoughts intruding into your mind.

  • 15 to 20 minutes daily promotes an inner calmness.

Consider attending meditation classes.

Relaxation exercises

These exercises include tensing and then relaxing each limb in turn, then your torso and face.

  • Sit down in a comfortable chair or better still lie down on your back.

  • Think about your toes – concentrate on them and wiggle them then relax them.

  • Slowly move your mind to your legs – first the left leg, tense and relax and then the right leg, tense and relax.

  • Same with each arm – tense and relax.

  • Think about your breathing, take some deep breaths then fully exhale and breathe gently and relax.

  • Move your mind now to your head and tense up your facial muscles then relax. Clear your mind.

  • Improves strength of dorsal vertebrae and back muscles

 

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