Health A-Z

Health A-Z

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Challenging the myths around dieting and weight from our Health for Women website

A few simple lifestyle changes can prevent kilo creep, without dieting. Learn more...

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What the experts recommend for better health

1 April 2014:

On World Health Day (7 April) Jean Hailes for Women's Health experts want women of all ages to think about what they can do to improve and maintain their health.

While what the experts have to say varies depending on their area of expertise, their message is united: Making just one small change can make a big difference to your health.

Jean Hailes executive director (and daughter of the late Dr Jean Hailes) Janet Michelmore AO says it is important to remember that you can't care for others unless you care for yourself.

"My mother always said 'you have to look after yourself' – which is not always easy to put into practice with our busy lives," said Janet. "She believed that if a woman is not fit and healthy, the wheels can fall off. So often women are the linchpin in families and communities."

Other tips for better health include:

  • Become assertive, take an active approach to solving day to day problems and worry less – Jane Fisher, the Jean Hailes Professor of Women's Health at Monash University
  • Walk to keep healthy. It's free, relieves stress and can be done with a human or four-legged friend. It helps you maintain a healthy weight, bone density, cardiovascular fitness and vitamin D levels – Jean Hailes endocrinologist Dr Sonia Davison
  • If you develop hot flushes and night sweats around the time of menopause, make sure you seek balanced and reputable information – Jean Hailes Inaugural Patron Professor Henry Burger AO
  • Drink plenty of water every day to avoid dehydration, which can lead to an irritated bladder and needing to 'go' more frequently – Jean Hailes gynaecologist Dr Elizabeth Farrell AM
  • If motherhood is one of your life goals, don't leave it too late – Jean Hailes Research Unit at Monash University, Dr Karin Hammarberg
  • Make breakfast count – make it nutritious, delicious and sustaining – Jean Hailes naturopath Sandra Villella
  • Sex should be enjoyable for both partners. If it isn't, talk to your GP – Jean Hailes continence physiotherapist Janetta Webb

Read more...

What women spend time worrying about: anxiety, bones and memory

11 March 2014:

Jean Hailes Magazine out now!

The latest Jean Hailes National Magazine is available now, featuring a range of health issues relevant to Australian women at every life stage. In this issue we focus on understanding the difference between worry and anxiety; remembering that it’s never too late to maintain strong bones; and how to protect and improve our memory and brain function.

With input from a range of health experts, each article offers up to date information that is both fresh and evidence based. Features in the latest edition include:

Anxiety: learn, think, do

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health problem in Australia. The ABS reports that anxiety affects over 2 million people aged 16-85, the majority of whom are women. It is important to recognise the difference between normal worry and anxiety that is becoming a problem.

Healthy bones

With 1.2 million Australians – mostly women – affected by osteoporosis, it is good news that there are many simple things you can do to keep your bones strong and healthy throughout your life. Find out tips for better bone health when you are young, at midlife and in later years.

Memory

So many of us worry about our memory, but few of us really understand how our memory works, including chronic pain, changes in hormones, stress, depression, busy lives and even medication. Memory may also be more challenged at various life stages including having a baby, midlife and later years. By caring for ourselves it is possible to preserve – and even improve – our memory.

You can subscribe to the Jean Hailes magazine for free by calling 1800 JEAN HAILES (532 642) or subscribe online at www.jeanhailes.org.au

To access the online version of the Jean Hailes magazine, go to www.jeanhailes.org.au/magazine/2014-magazine-vol-1 

Read more...

Helping women to start those ‘difficult’ conversations

4 March 2014:

While an estimated 1 in 5 women living in Australia experience sexual violence and 1 in 3 experience physical violence at some point in their lives, women from other cultures living in Australia experience violence at a higher rate.

Ahead of International Women's Day on March 8, Jean Hailes for Women's Health acknowledges that women from all cultures may sometimes need support to deal with difficult situations, including the pressures, anxieties and stresses of raising a family in a new country.

In partnership with InTouch Multicultural Centre Against Family Violence, Jean Hailes has interviewed bilingual community workers to draw on their knowledge of what information is most needed by the women they work with.

The result is the development of a practical and easy to understand resource designed to help women think about their physical and mental health in the context of family relationships and experiences settling into Australia.

How To Look After You is available in English and has been culturally translated into five different language groups – Indian (Punjabi), Arabic, Dari, Vietnamese and Chinese.

"This resource focuses on supporting women who are in vulnerable situations and aims to educate and engage the community to positively change attitudes and behaviours, which fits in well with this year's theme of 'inspiring change' for International Women's Day," says Jean Hailes project manager Rhonda Garad who co-developed the resource with InTouch.

"This is an example of a strong partnership between two groups working to make a difference for women dealing with anxiety and stress following a move to Australia," she says.

"We see it as an important way to 'start conversations' for those worried that a loved one may not be coping or may be at risk of, or experiencing, family violence."

According to InTouch CEO Maya Avdibegovic women from other cultures, now living in Australia, can be isolated and may have difficulty talking about their issues. They also may not know where or how to seek help.

"We see women at different stages here at InTouch," says Maya. "Some may be newly arrived, without family support and dealing with the immediate stress of resettling with limited English, limited employment and housing opportunities, and no knowledge of the Australian culture and justice system. Many women come from countries that do not have legal, financial or emotional support systems like what is available in Australia and they don't know that support systems exist here."

Read more...

Taking steps to make lifelong change

17 February 2014:

As Australians buckle down to achieve those New Year resolutions such as giving up alcohol, losing weight, quitting smoking, exercising more or reducing stress, many are finding it hard to stay on the band wagon.

Jean Hailes psychologist and head of translation Dr Mandy Deeks says while people may recognise they need to make changes in their life, in reality it can be difficult to kick old habits and stay motivated.

"Making changes you can stick to can be really hard and it can make you feel even worse if you perceive that you have failed," says Dr Deeks. "It's important to remember that the way we think, feel and behave involves many complex processes that are influenced by many factors, so quick fix solutions don't work."

To help you make sustained change in your life, Dr Deeks suggests understanding more about what motivates you, what your goals are, and what has happened in the past when you have tried to make changes previously.

Try asking yourself these questions:

  • What needs to change?
  • What do you want to achieve – short and long-term – by making these changes?
  • What has stopped you or allowed you to make changes in the past?
  • Who can I turn to, to support any changes I make?
  • Where else can you get support?

The biggest factor to predict success is readiness to change. "It's important to ask yourself if you are ready to make change. Only you can make changes to your life, no-one else can do it for you," she says. "Other people may suggest healthier alternatives to you, but only you can put these into practice."

When people are not ready to make change they will put barriers – or excuses – in the way, such as saying 'I wanted to give up alcohol but I did it at a time I was looking after my mum'. This is different to when people say 'I knew this time I had to put all my energy into quitting otherwise my health was going to deteriorate.'

Don't underestimate the power of your thinking, warns Dr Deeks. Even if the time is right for you to make change, unhelpful thinking can undermine your determination to succeed.

"It is easy to think you have ruined your chances of ever giving up alcohol or sugar because you slipped and had a drink or ate some sweets," she says.

"This can lead you to blame yourself for all the little things that go wrong," she says "and this kind of thinking makes you feel negative and anxious."

Read more...

Try saying it with condoms!

10 February 2014:

No one wants to think about sexually transmissible infections on Valentine's Day, but the day is a great opportunity to think about how you are keeping yourself safe.

National Condom Day falls on Valentine's Day, February 14, to bring into focus the need for being aware of the risks of contracting an STI, says Jean Hailes gynaecologist Dr Elizabeth Farrell AM.

"We want women to know that they can catch an STI at any age, so even if you're not worried about getting pregnant anymore, you still need to use a condom to practise safer sex," she says.

While common STIs in Australia, including chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis, HIV and genital herpes are seen at higher levels in teenagers and young adults, anecdotally doctors are seeing a rise in some of these conditions in older women.

Genital herpes is one STI where the prevalence is significantly higher in women than men, with those aged 35-44 having the highest prevalence (16% of women compared to 8% of men).

Dr Farrell's advice to women in their 40s and 50s who are out there dating is that wearing a condom has to be non-negotiable.

"I see lots of women who say 'I don't need to worry about getting pregnant anymore so I don't bother with condoms'. I tell them that while your period is irregular it is possible to fall pregnant and, more importantly, you need protection from infection, not just pregnancy," she says. "And for women who are postmenopausal and may be starting a new relationship, pregnancy is not an issue, but you should still use condoms to protect you from catching an STI."

"My advice is to develop the confidence at any age to talk to your partner about wearing condoms. There are lots of fun condoms these days, so explore what's available and make it fun and enjoyable."

"And for men and women this Valentine's Day, why not be creative and say it with condoms – make it fun, exciting and healthy."

Tips for safer sex
  • Condoms are not just for stopping pregnancy – they are also the best way to protect against STIs
  • Condoms are one of the most accessible and inexpensive forms of birth control and protection from STIs
  • You may not know if you – or your partner – has an STI as there may not be any obvious signs
  • You can catch an STI at any age – you are never too young or too old to practise safe sex
  • Use condoms if you are in a new relationship
  • Develop the confidence to talk to your partner about wearing condoms

Read more...

Back on track with your health

20 January 2014:

As the holidays draw to a close, Jean Hailes for Women’s Health reminds us that it’s not necessary to make New Year resolutions that are difficult to keep. Instead, focus on making just one small change to improve your health.

“The holiday season can mean we have wound down and forgotten our usual routines – which can be both good and bad,” says Jean Hailes endocrinologist Dr Sonia Davison. “But as the work and school year begins, now is a great time to have a think about one thing you’d really like to achieve in terms of your health.”

Dr Davison suggests this could be increasing your regular physical activity, improve your cholesterol, do regular pelvic floor exercises, quit smoking or reduce a dress size. The key, she says, is to develop confidence in yourself and to say to yourself: ‘I can do it!’

Jean Hailes women’s health experts have come up with some suggestions to help you make practical changes to get you back on track with your health this year:

  • Active catch ups – meet up with friends and go for a walk in the park or along the beach
  • Manage alcohol-free days – watch how much you are drinking and have at least 2 alcohol-free days every week
  • Portion sizes – eating your meals from a bread plate will help not to eat too much; pick an entrée instead of main when eating out or pick a lighter salad and grill option
  • Make food colourful and fun – summer is the time to enjoy creating interesting salads; try baby beetroots, roast veggies or seasonal fruit and top with a yoghurt-based dressing
  • Sleep is not just for good for children – set up good sleep routines now that the year is starting; wind down earlier in the evening or get up earlier so you are tired earlier at night
  • Make water your drink of choice – rehydrate in warmer weather with plenty of water
  • Make time for you – do at least one thing that you enjoy every day, even if it’s only a few minutes

Read more...

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