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How to Combat Seasonal Affective Disorder

By General Wellbeing, Lifestyle, Men's Health, Mental Health, Women's Health No Comments

Beating the Winter Blues

If you notice yourself getting down when temperatures start to drop, you could suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. It’s more than just feeling a bit gloomy – SAD is a recognised condition with millions of people experiencing symptoms at winter time. Thankfully, there are some easy steps you can take to stop the change in season from affecting your mood.

Season Affective Disorder Symptoms

Seasonal Affective Disorder symptoms commonly mimic symptoms of depression. Feelings of hopelessness, a lack of energy, changes in eating and sleeping patterns, and a change in activity levels or making the time and effort to do the things you usually enjoy are all signs of Seasonal Affective Disorder. However, what might make it SAD is the timing – Especially if symptoms occur during the winter months, when the days and nights are cold, there is a lack of sunshine and warmth, and days are spent inside out of the elements.

According to Beyond Blue, sunlight affects our hormones, but some people are more susceptible than others. Lack of sunlight can mean our bodies produce less melatonin, the hormone that tells your body it’s time for sleep. Less sun could also mean less serotonin, a hormone that affects mood, appetite and sleep. Finally, sunlight affects our body’s internal clock (circadian rhythm) – so lower sunlight levels during the winter can throw off your body clock.

Seasonal Affective Disorder Treatments and Tips

1. Follow the Light

Researchers have demonstrated a clear link between reduced light exposure and a drop in mental health for many people during the winter months. As the days get shorter but work hours remain the same, it can be hard for people to get enough natural light into their day. This is turn affects mood, sleep habits and can have other side effects like poor vitamin D levels.

If SAD is getting you down, you might have to think of creative ways to get more light into your day. If you can choose to sit next to a window at work, that could help you get that light ix throughout the day. Spending your lunch hour outside whenever possible is another great way to get some light. For those who can’t make it outside, light boxes can help. Setting up a bright station and spending time there daily can help life your mood.

2. Get Active

SAD can leave you feeling lethargic and unmotivated, but try to push through and get some movement into your day. Exercise is generally recommended to help combat depression, but has some benefits that specifically relate to SAD. If your exercise takes place outside or in front of a light box it can help you get some extra light into your day, and it can work to reduce the effects of the carbohydrates often craved by people experiencing SAD. Often the cold is a reason for people to stay inside, but some light exercise can have you warm again in no time. It doesn’t have to be long or strenuous – a walk outside during your lunch break might be enough to help you feel better.

3. Watch Your Food

Craving carbohydrate-rich food is a recognised symptom of SAD, and it can lead to a downwards shift in your mood, not to mention the physical effects and potential weight gain. If you’re tempted to fill your plate with comforting carbs, try to look for other solutions. Protein-rich meals will keep you feeling fuller for longer. Try swapping an omelette instead of cereal, and a chicken salad instead of a chicken sandwich. Fruit can help meet your cravings for sweet, but are also full of fibre and nutrients.

4. Sleep Soundly

How you sleep has a massive effect on your mood, and SAD can send your sleep patterns into a downwards spiral. Napping through the day, feeling lethargic and missing the usual light cues that help your brain wake up can disturb your sleep patterns. Try to help your body’s natural processes along. When you wake up, aim for bright lights and lots of activity. Instead of letting the lethargy glue you to the couch, try to fight it with activity. Then when sleep time comes around, low lights (especially minimising bright screens at least an hour before bed), and a warm, comfortable environment can help you drift off and sleep soundly.

Next steps to combat Seasonal Affective Disorder:

If you are finding symptoms hard to shake off, if SAD is significantly affecting your life or if making basic changes doesn’t seem to be having an effect, it’s a good idea to discuss your symptoms with your GP. For most people, however, it won’t take much to boost your mood. You don’t have to succumb to the winter blues – a few basic changes should have you back to normal in no time.

Four Tests You Should Have Every Year

By Body Systems, Cancer, General Wellbeing, Men's Health, Skin, Women's Health

Four Tests You Should Have Every Year

 

Many people avoid seeing the doctor until there is something obviously wrong. There is a huge need for preventative health measures, and early diagnosis is crucial in the successful treatment of many conditions.  A good GP will work with you to not only fix existing problems, but to prevent and identify possible areas of concern to make sure you are not only healthy now, but stay healthy for the future.

Here are four simple tests that you should have at least every year to make sure your body is functioning well.

Full Blood Tests

Your blood holds so many clues to your wellbeing, and if you don’t check you will never know. From potentially serious conditions like diabetes and cancer, to general fatigue that can come from low counts of vitamins and minerals in your blood – it’s best to find out. Your blood can give you an indication of your heart health and levels of cholesterol, and can give clues as to how your other organs are performing.

If you have any concerns about your health, talk to your doctor before the tests are ordered so they can advise you if it’s worth having some extra areas looked at. A follow-up appointment once the results come through is important as it gives your doctor the opportunity to address any concerns or send you for further tests if necessary.

Blood Pressure

If you have personal concerns about your blood pressure or any family history of unhealthy blood pressure you will need to be checked more often, but everyone should be checked at least yearly. While you can often get the tests done at a local chemist, making an appointment with your GP allows you to record your readings to notice any changes over time, to discuss what the numbers mean, and to be advised on whether any further action may be required.

“Down Under” tests – Prostate Checks, Mammograms, Colon Checks and Pap Smears

No one said they were fun, but on the other hand they are not as bad as you might imagine. Chat to your doctor about how often you should get these checks and what form they should take – your age and family history will determine how frequent they should be. For example, prostate health can sometimes be measured using a blood test, rather than the manual examination some people fear, and mammograms are not recommended for women under the age of 40. Regardless of the form these tests take, don’t let your fear of discomfort get in the way of routine checks that could save your life.

Skin Checks

Melanoma and other types of skin cancer are on the rise in Australia, and can usually be easily diagnosed by a specialist in a quick, non-invasive appointment. The specialist will look closely at your skin, paying special attention to any moles or spots you might have. Family history of skin cancer increases your risk of getting the same disease but even one bad sunburn over a lifetime has a similar increased risk. Early detection is vital for successful treatment, and many places even bulk bill their skin scans – so cost shouldn’t be a factor.

It’s important to find a GP who you have a good relationship with, who will work with you to guard your future health as well as treating your present concerns. Book an appointment to discuss what tests might be right for you, and don’t let nerves or apathy get the better of you. Your health is worth guarding, and a few simple tests could literally save your life.

Click here to book an appointment with a GP to discuss your health ->

Focus on Healthy Bones for World Osteoporosis Day

By Elderly and ageing, General Wellbeing, Men's Health, Women's Health

Focus on Healthy Bones for World Osteoporosis Day

In 2017, more than 160,000 Australians will be treated for broken bones due to osteoporosis. Around 80% of patients with broken bones leave hospital without being checked for osteoporosis, so that number could be significantly higher. The 20th of October is a day set apart around the world for focusing on bone health. Osteoporosis is a condition that affects Australians from all walks of life, and you can start taking steps at almost any stage of life to decrease the risk of breaking or fracturing a bone as a result of this condition.

What is osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis refers to a condition where bones lose essential minerals (like calcium) quicker than the body can replace them. That leads to the bones becoming less thick and strong. The bones then become more porous and less dense, which weakens them – sometimes to the point where even a small bump or fall can lead to fractures. Over 1 million people in Australia, both men and women, have been diagnosed with osteoporosis.

Osteopenia is a related condition that occurs before osteoporosis. A diagnosis of osteopenia means that your bone density falls between the normal range and diagnosed osteoporosis, so you need to take action to increase the health of your bones to avoid developing osteoporosis.

How is osteoporosis diagnosed?

A simple scan can diagnose osteoporosis, called a “bone mineral density test”. The scan usually focuses on the hip and spine to see how much mineral loss may have occurred. The scan is a simple process – it requires that you lie flat on a padded table (while fully clothed), and a machine passes a scanning arm over your body. The scan does not usually take more than 10 – 15 minutes.

What risk factors can lead to osteoporosis?

Avoiding osteoporosis starts from a young age – calcium is extremely important for children and adolescents to build strong bones, and many are not getting enough. Some medications can affect bone health, and these side effects need to be discussed with your doctor. During menopause, rapidly declining levels of oestrogen make women more at risk of osteoporosis. Men’s hormone levels decline more slowly, so their increased risk often occurs later in life.

Some medications, health conditions and your family history can indicate an increased risk of osteoporosis. Being under- or overweight, low levels of physical activity, smoking, alcohol consumption, and poor nutrition can also lead to the condition.

How is osteoporosis treated?

It is very important that osteoporosis is diagnosed and treated as soon as possible. Resistance, muscle-strengthening, and weight-bearing exercises are the best for increasing bone health. Weight-bearing exercises include any activity where you support your own body weight, like jogging or dancing. In addition, you will need to eliminate negative lifestyle factors – that includes avoiding smoking and excessive drinking, and keeping your body weight in a healthy range.

Calcium is extremely important for building strong bones. If you cannot get enough calcium from your diet, a supplement might be prescribed. Vitamin D levels also need to be adequate for good bone health. Your body can make vitamin D with just a few minutes of direct sunlight, but supplements are available if you are struggling to keep your levels high enough. Protein is also important for building bones.

Your GP can help you assess your risk factors, and arrange for bone testing if necessary. Talk to your doctor about any medications or health conditions that might affect your bone health. Early diagnosis will give you the best possible chance of avoiding fractures and keeping your bones healthy and strong.

Click here to book an appointment with a GP to discuss bone health and screening –>

Thinking Positively About Mental Health

By Men's Health, Mental Health, Women's Health

Thinking Positively About Mental Health

 

 

People tend to view mental health from the perspective of an illness – either you have a mental health disorder, or you are mentally healthy. In fact, good mental health is a positive state that every person can work towards.

The World Health Organization defines good mental health as “a state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.”

Here are some facts about mental health that might challenge your perceptions.

Mental health disorders are experienced by a large and diverse group of Australians.

The 2007 National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing surveyed the mental health of the Australian population. Their study showed that 45.5% of Australians had experienced a mental disorder at one point in their lives, and 20% had experienced a disorder in the last 12 months – almost 3.2 million Australians. Regardless of gender, age or culture, good mental health is vital.

Mental health is not just about disorders.

While it is important to address mental health conditions, everyone should prioritise their mental health – even if they are never diagnosed with a disorder. Feelings of anger, anxiety, sadness, tension, or simply feeling down are normal emotions, but when they persist they can negatively affect mental health. There are many steps you can take on your own to work on your mental health, but if these feelings are disrupting your daily life it’s important to seek outside help.

You can improve your mental health.

There are a number of ways you can work towards positive mental health – although remember that it is normal and ok to need outside help. Some ideas to help you stay mentally healthy are:

  • Focus on good nutrition and exercise
  • Get good, regular sleep
  • Reduce or eliminate alcohol and drug use
  • Talk about your feelings (or express them in a way that is natural to you)
  • Set realistic goals
  • Practice relaxation
  • Try new things and challenge yourself
  • Spend time with friends and family

Good mental health is a positive pursuit.

There is often a social stigma around people with mental health disorders, which can prevent people from seeking help. Some people don’t identify with needing to improve their mental health if they don’t have a “condition”. The truth is, mental health is about functioning well in all areas of life, having significant social connections, good self-esteem and being able to deal with change.

If you have any concerns about your mental health, whether you identify with having a “condition” or whether you could just use some support, your GP is a great place to start looking for information. Think positively – improving your mental health is about helping you to live your best life, and it’s worth pursuing.

Click here to make an appointment with a GP to discuss improving your mental health —>

Don’t Hold It In – Continence Issues and Why You Should Talk to Someone.

By Elderly and ageing, Family Planning & Parenting, Men's Health, Women's Health

Don’t Hold It In – Continence Issues and Why You Should Talk to Someone.

Continence issues are not a popular topic, but if there is no serious discussion, people who suffer in this area often feel alone and helpless.  The theme of this year’s Continence Week is “No laughing matter” – focusing on people’s tendency to laugh off continence issues as a joke, or to treat it as an inevitable part of ageing or childbirth. The truth is, continence is a specialist health issue with a range of treatments and management strategies. Let’s look at bladder and bowel control issues, and why we should be discussing them.

What is incontinence?

Incontinence is the word used for problems with bladder or bowel control. This could mean that a person accidentally loses urine from their bladder, or has accidental loss from their bowels – including faeces or passing wind. Problems can range from small, infrequent leakages to complete loss of control over the bladder or bowel. Over 4.8 million Australians have some loss of control over their bladder or bowel.

Who is at risk?

Bladder and bowel control problems affect one in four people. It is more common as people age, but these problems are not only limited to older people – many young people also have bladder or bowel control issues. Childbirth can also cause complications that lead to bladder and bowel control problems. Many people with poor bowel control also have poor bladder control.

Isn’t it just something that happens sometimes?

People like to make light-hearted jokes about incontinence, but the truth is that bladder and bowel control problems are a health issue.  It’s not a natural part of getting older or giving birth, and it will not get better on its own. Incontinence is an issue that needs medical help to manage, control or fix symptoms.

How can you treat or manage your continence issues?

People with bowel or bladder control issues can feel embarrassed to bring them up, but it is important to discuss them with someone who can help. Bladder and bowel control problems can be treated, managed or cured – you won’t know how much improvement you can make until you ask.

You can work on creating healthy habits to improve your bowel and bladder health by eating healthy food, drinking lots of water, exercising regularly, toning and exercising your pelvic floor, and by reviewing and improving your toileting habits.

Where can you go for help?

Your GP can help you manage and treat your bladder or bowel control issues, and can advise you on what steps you can take to improve your condition.

If you are uncomfortable talking about your bladder or bowel control issues in person, you can phone 1800 33 00 66 for confidential advice, or you can go to www.continence.org.au to find information, connect and share your experience.

Don’t live with incontinence issues – click here for an appointment today.

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