Health Topics

Our Health Topics section offers health information on various medical topics that touch on our day-to-day health issues. Here we have a few tips, preventative measures and mainly general awareness around current health topics / issues. Our aim is to educate the public, increase awareness and encourage healthy living.

Breast self-examination: 8 steps

Posted by on Sep 30, 2015 in Health Topics | 0 comments

Breast self-examination: 8 steps

 This great guide will take you through eight easy steps of how to examine your breasts. Raise your arm over your head. Examine your right breast with your left hand. Use a skin cream with a gentle lather to make your hand glide more smoothly over the skin. Use light pressure when examining the breast. Use deep pressure when examining the breast. For pendulous breasts, suport the breast with one hand while examining with the other. After your shower or bath stand in front of a mirror with a good light. Look for any visual changes in your breasts Note. the right breast is slightly larger than the left this is not uncommon. any change in the following: size, shape, level of nipples, obvious lump, skin colour, dimpling, or tethering, change in skin of the nipple. lift your arms abouve your head to see whether there is any dimpling or tethering of the skin. A change in the nipple itself may be a sign of problems. Look at it carefully to see whether there have been any changes such as inversion (nipple pulled inwards) or a discharge. Gently squeeze the nipple a small discharge may emerge which may be: -clear -dark green/brown/black -pinkish or blood stained (if its blood stained see your doctor immediately!) Check for lymph nodes in the armpit on each side and also feel above the collar bone Lie down over a folded towel or pillow. This allows the breast to flow over the chest wall so that the breast tissue is more easily...

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25 names for sugar

Posted by on Sep 4, 2015 in Health Topics | 0 comments

25 names for sugar

Do you know how to read nutrition labels? If not, you could get caught up in buying products that are far higher in salt, sugar, saturated, or trans fat than you imagine. According to Discovery Vitality’s Healthy Active Kids reportand Vitality’s ObeCity index, as a nation, we are eating far too much sugar. Being able to understand a nutrition label will keep you from unknowingly eating too many added sugars. For instance, did you know that there are two parts of a nutrition label? One part typically deals with the values of each nutrient in the food; the other deals with the ingredients. When you’re looking for how much sugar is in a product, it’s important to look at both of these components. How to spot a sugar fraud When you buy a packaged food product, it’s always a good idea to check the label, but checking the ingredients list can sometimes be confusing. Sugar can be disguised in many ways. Here are just 25 names to look out for: high fructose corn syrup, fructose, deflavoured fruit juice, maltose, maple syrup, brown sugar, agave nectar, sucrose, molasses, corn sweetener, corn syrup, dextrose, crystalline fructose, syrup, invert sugar, honey, cane crystals, malt syrup, cane sugar, coloured sugar, raw sugar, glucose, sucrose with added molasses, fruit juice concentrate, evaporated cane juice. If any of these is listed as one of the first ingredients, it means that there is quite a lot of sugar in the product. The less sugar there is in the product, the further down the ingredients list it will be. Be sugar smart It’s also a good idea to check the nutritional information table. This can help you to see how much sugar is in the product, even if you don’t know what the sugar is called in the ingredients list. According to the World Health Organisation, the maximum amount of sugar an adult should eat is 25g a day. Children should eat even less: 15g a day. Look for the amount of Total Sugar listed under Glycaemic Carbohydrates on the table. There will be two numbers listed for sugar: one is the amount per 100g; the other is the amount per serving. If you stick to the recommended serving size, check that the amount of sugar in the product won’t put you over your daily limit. Source: Discovery...

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Fight Spring allergies

Posted by on Aug 31, 2015 in Health Topics, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Fight Spring allergies

The warm days of Spring are here again and as welcome as the warmth and sunshine might be, it also signifies the start of Spring allergy season. 1. Know what you are allergic to You may think you know what’s causing your allergy symptoms, but an allergy specialist (allergist) may be able to help identify your triggers. An allergist can perform tests to pinpoint the cause of your suffering and then find the right treatment to stop it. 2. Get over-the-counter medication If you know you’re prone to sniffles and sneezes as the weather warms up, now is the time to stock up on allergy medications, don’t forget to also look in the homeopathic and natural medicine aisles for relief. But you’ll still need to see your doctor if you take prescription-only drugs to ease your allergies. 3. Wash hands frequently Develop a healthy hand hygiene routine by frequently washing hands with soap and running water for at least 30 seconds to remove clinging pollens and keep hands germ free. Don’t touch your already sensitive eyes with dirty hands and try rinsing eyes with cool water after coming indoors to help minimize the effects of pollen. Shower and wash hair at night to prevent pollens from getting into bedding. 4. Regularly cleaning your home Spring cleaning sounds like a lot of work, but ridding your home, car, office or playroom of bacteria, mold, dust and other grime can keep you free of spring colds and help you cope better with seasonal allergies. Plus, all that window washing and floor sweeping will burn some calories too. 5. Pets and allergies can go hand in hand A tip for dog or cat owners who are allergic to fur: bathe your pets frequently. Your pet’s saliva on the fur from cleaning itself or on your skin from slobbery kisses can also incite an allergy reaction. In addition to bathing your pet, remember to wash your hands soon after you’ve had direct contact with your furry friend. Although there is no real cure for seasonal allergies, it is possible to relieve symptoms and still enjoy the start of the warm season and all its beauty. Remember, frequent handwashing with warm water and soap is one of the simplest and most effective ways to stay healthy. Also cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze to combat the spread of any infections. source:...

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How much salt is too much?

Posted by on Aug 21, 2015 in Health Topics | 0 comments

How much salt is too much?

Do you know that eating too much salt is bad for your health? Although our bodies need a little bit of salt, it’s easy to eat too much. Here is the rule: kids and adults only need to eat around one teaspoon of salt a day. Eating more than one teaspoon of salt a day can harm your health by increasing your blood pressure. High blood pressure can in turn increase your risk for heart disease and stroke – even in young people. You’d be surprised to know how much salt is in everyday foods and how much more salt you eat than is good for you. In fact, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of South Africa says that South Africans eat eight times more salt than we should be. That is, seven teaspoons of salt more each day than the recommended amount. This fact goes hand-in-hand with the troubling number of people in South Africa who suffer from high blood pressure. South Africa has one of the highest rates of hypertension in the world. Many foods contain added salt – swap the culprits for healthier alternatives   What you may not know is that a lot of the salt you eat, you’re getting from your food before you even add any at the table. Despite this, reducing your family’s salt intake isn’t that difficult. A lot of the changes you can make to reduce salt intake are also good for overall health. One of the biggest sources of high salt in the diet is processed foods; particularly processed meats like polony or viennas. These foods contain high quantities of saturated and trans fats which are also bad for your heart. All it takes is a simple swap for healthier options, like fresh chicken breast, ostrich fillet or fish. You’ll know the amount of salt you’ve added; and these are overall better for you. Some foods contain more salt than you might expect. Here are foods high in salt and what you can swap them with for healthier choices: Breakfast cereals. Choose high quality breakfast foods like boiled eggs or rolled oats over processed cereals. Bread can be surprisingly high in salt. Look carefully for bread that has the Heart Mark logo – this shows you the product is healthier and lower in salt than others. Processed foods of any kind. Particularly processed meats like sausages, polony, viennas, biltong, dry wors, and deli or sandwich meats are high in salt. Cook food from scratch and choose fresh varieties of meats like cuts from the butchery, fresh poultry, and fresh or frozen fish with no marinade or seasoning. Sauces, soups, and stocks are often made with huge amounts of salt. Although you may not use much, they can almost double your daily salt intake. Make your own broth with fresh vegetables and meat, and flavour it with unsalted herbs and spices. The solution to make sure you eat only one teaspoon of salt a day? Choose low-salt foods, fresh ingredients, and add herbs for flavour. Not adding extra salt to your food can help to reduce your risk for heart disease by 40%. Prepare meals with healthy, fresh ingredients for yourself and your kids and you’ll feel the benefits for life. Source: Discovery...

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Active parents have active children

Posted by on Jul 26, 2015 in Health Topics | 0 comments

Active parents have active children

How active are you? You may not think that your health has much of an impact on your kids’ health, but it does. The more active you are – the healthier and more physically active your kids are. Going to the gym just twice a week influences your children to become more physically active than their peers whose parents do not. But Discovery Vitality’s ObeCity Index, which measured the health and wellbeing of people living in some of South Africa’s major cities, found that most adults do not meet the daily minimum recommended amount for physical activity. While there are many reasons that levels of physical activity are decreasing, many of them are easy to overcome. Here are some great ways to get yourself more physically active, and improve the health of your kids as well: Take a break from screen time. Having more televisions or computers in the home and having a television in the bedroom is linked with higher use. Parents’ rules regarding television and computer use are connected with lower levels of sedentary behaviours in young people. Studies have shown that engaging in more than four hours of screen time daily poses a significant health threat. So instead of watching television, spend time together as a family cooking a healthy meal, playing, practising sport, or engaging in hobbies like music or dancing. Turn inactive time into active time. Instead of sitting while taking phone calls, watching television, or helping the kids with homework, stand. And when you’re standing while brushing your teeth, doing the dishes, or cooking, do some squats, leg lifts, or lunges. Take the time to look after yourself. Make time for yourself and go to the gym, go for a run, a cycle, or do some yoga on the living room floor. All the better if you can bring your children with so they can see you being active – many gyms now have sections where children can enjoy some active play while you work out. Find fun ways to play. Children need quite a lot of physical activity to help them grow and develop healthily. Think of your children’s physical activity needs as an opportunity to get the whole family active. An event like parkrun can offer fun exercise for the whole family while you earn Vitality points. Bike parks, running trails, play grounds, or even dog parks can offer you great ways to exercise and have fun as a family. Keeping physically active is one important factor that can help to improve your health, and the health of your kids. Make an investment in your health and in their future by staying physically active. Source: Discovery...

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When food bites back

Posted by on Jun 28, 2015 in Health Topics | 0 comments

When food bites back

The majority of food allergies in children are not severe, and will be outgrown with time, but they can get in the way of your child’s ability to sleep well, play normally, and function at school. The eight foods that account for most of these allergies are cow’s milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, soy and wheat. The signs Most serious food allergies start in infancy and early childhood, and many parents don’t even know their child has a food allergy until they end up in the emergency room. In a broader sense, parents should be aware that food allergies are more common among children who come from families where other members suffer from allergies, and also that babies who suffer from eczema are more prone to develop food allergies. In most cases the allergy affects the skin, gastrointestinal and respiratory tracts, but in serious cases also the cardiovascular system. Dr Sarah Karabus, a Cape Town paediatrician and allergologist, points out the immediate signs, which are reactions that usually occur within minutes of eating the particular food, but can sometimes take up to two hours before becoming visible. “The most common symptoms would be hives or wheals (an extremely itchy red rash),” says Karabus. “With more severe reactions, there may be diarrhoea and vomiting.” In extreme cases there may be breathing problems, such as coughing, wheezing, voice changes or anaphylaxis. Karabus also warns against confusing food allergies with food intolerance. “Food intolerance doesn’t involve the immune system,” she says, “which means no antibodies develop against the food as they would with an allergy.” Food intolerance is rarely life-threatening. Be alert “The first step would be to give the child an antihistamine,” says Karabus, “but if the child is known to have a severe allergy, the parent might also give an adrenaline injection into the thigh.” Thereafter, you should go to the closest emergency room, she adds. The best measure of precaution, though, is education – for the parents, the child if they are old enough, the family, and all the caregivers, including school staff. “Everyone must be taught to read food labels, to determine which foods are likely to contain a particular ingredient,” says Karabus. She adds that emergency medications must always be available, even at school. The law has changed and teachers are now allowed to administer medication. Parents can get a form from their healthcare practitioner that gives written permission for teachers to act. Back-up Karabus also gives the following advice: If your child is allergic to a food from a major group, such as milk, supplements must be given so that the child does not develop any nutritional deficiencies. It is useful to consult a dietician trained in the management of childhood food allergies. Children often outgrow certain food allergies, so it’s important to let your paediatrician or allergologist retest your child every few months in order to determine if that food can be reintroduced into the diet. Children rarely outgrow a fish allergy and only 20% of children will outgrow a peanut allergy. If tests show that the allergy levels are decreasing, a “food challenge” should be performed whereby the food is given in incremental amounts according to specific guidelines, in a controlled hospital setting. Source:...

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10 ways to have a healthier work day

Posted by on Jun 15, 2015 in Health Topics | 0 comments

10 ways to have a healthier work day

Feeling tired, disorganised, anxious or tense in the workplace? Then try these 10 ways to make your work day healthier. Have a healthier work day, tip 1: Declutter your desk A clean, uncluttered working space is far more conducive to a productive day than a desk piled high with files, dirty mugs and scraps of paper. Depending on how bad the situation is, put aside five minutes to an hour (or even a whole day, if possible!) to clear up your desk, wipe your keyboard clean and organise your files and papers. You’ll feel a lot more clearheaded when you do so, and you won’t constantly be igniting stress levels by having to look for important things that have disappeared under the rubble. Have a healthier work day, tip 2: Go green Certain plants can help absorb the pollutants emitted by office carpets, MDF, paint and anti-stain treated fabrics — such as formaldehyde, benzene and trichorethylene. Spider plants, peace lilies, golden pothos and goosefoot plants are all effective varieties. Also, fresh-cut flowers brighten the office — and therefore brighten your mood! — and can help to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the air. Have a healthier work day, tip 3: Take a break Chiropractors recommend getting up to stretch and walk around at least every 40 minutes to prevent joint pain, muscular tension and eye strain. It’s also good for your productivity: breaking a long spell of concentration by changing position, taking a few deep breaths and focusing on something else for a moment can help to recharge you for the next bout of work. Have a healthier work day, tip 4: Get ventilation Many of us don’t have the luxury of working next to an open window — especially as some companies prefer to keep the windows firmly sealed and pump the place with air conditioning! But if you do have the choice, work in a well-ventilated area with as much natural light as possible. If your options are limited, though, instal a plug-in ioniser to help improve the air quality. Ionisers are available from department stores and larger chemists. Also, ensure you get out of the office for at least 20 minutes every day, regardless of your office set-up. Have a healthier work day, tip 5: Pack your lunch It’s not impossible to get healthy snacks and lunches in the deli or cafe, but the temptation to go for a mayonnaise-laden sandwich can be quite strong after a stressful morning! The cost of regular trips to the nearest coffee house or pastry shop can add up, too. So, try to take a packed lunch instead of buying your lunch. However, if a packed lunch doesn’t appeal (perhaps you like to eat out with colleagues or friends), you could still stock your desk drawer with healthy snacks such as dried fruit, nuts, apples and pears, rice cakes and crackers. You could also take your own non-caffeinated tea, coffee or herbal tea supply. Have a healthier work day, tip 6: Switch off Don’t leave computers, faxes, phone chargers and photocopiers switched on all the time — all electrical equipment emits electro-magnetic fields, and there is some evidence that these are linked with sub-optimal health and conditions such as insomnia, headaches and anxiety. Also, you should make sure you...

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Flu Fighting Foods

Posted by on May 22, 2015 in Health Topics | 0 comments

Flu Fighting Foods

Instead of battling with winter colds and flu, try using natural remedies to overcome these ailments With winter fast approaching, sniffles, colds and flu are imminent. Babies and young children go to crèche or primary school, where they are exposed to a variety of germs through coughs and runny noses. Older children are exposed to the same germs, and on top of this, have to contend with the stress of writing tests and exams. All of this takes its toll on the immune system, sending our little ones on a downward spiral of winter colds and flus. When it comes to diet, there are a few foods that can help stave off the germs, or at least, soothe the symptoms. Chicken Soup It could be that chicken soup makes you feel better, just because of its comfort factor. But studies have found that it has anti-inflammatory properties, helping with sore throats, while also being a decongestant and keeping you hydrated. Scroll to the bottom of the article for a recipe. Garlic Garlic’s natural antibiotic properties help to relieve the symptoms of colds and flus. It is also high in vitamin C. Garlic works best when raw, so you could always chew a garlic clove, which will have the added benefit of keeping everyone at bay and preventing the spread of germs. But if this doesn’t tickle your fancy, try adding it to stews, roasts or pastas. You can also try a gremolata as a zesty topping: mix together the juice and zest of a lemon, with a handful of chopped parsley, a clove or two of garlic and a splash of olive oil. Ginger This root may help ease sore and scratchy throats, while suppressing coughs and relieving congestion. Add grated ginger to a stirfry or steep a small amount to make a ginger and honey tea. Honey This wonder food is antibacterial and antimicrobial, which means it stops the growth of bacteria. Honey can also boost the immune system while helping to relieve sore throats. Try taking two teaspoons of honey before bedtime to relieve a cough. However, honey should not be given to children younger than one. Rooibos tea, with honey and lemon, is a comforting drink that can also help remedy sore throats. Honey can also be used as a marinade for chicken or as a topping on fruit and yoghurt. Horseradish, Wasabi, Mustard and Chillies Any of these are great for clearing the sinuses. Chillies and red peppers are also a good source of vitamin C. Of course, getting children to eat and enjoy these may be a challenge. Lemons Another food high in vitamin C, lemons help to reduce phlegm, help sore throats and ease coughs. Used as part of a gargle, the acidity could also help eliminate germs. Vitamin C This vitamin helps to build up our natural defences and boosts the immune system. It may not be able to prevent or treat colds, but it can help shorten their duration. Some other foods that are high in vitamin C include oranges, guavas, fresh broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, strawberries and papaya. Water and Hot drinks When winter ailments set in, we often feel congested and stuffy. Lots of fluids help to keep you hydrated, preventing this congestion. Hot drinks are especially good for decongestion...

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Shoo Flu

Posted by on May 9, 2015 in Health Topics | 0 comments

Shoo Flu

The flu vaccine will give your child a fighting chance against the influenza virus Every year, especially during the winter season, the influenza virus makes its infectious rounds. The virus infects the nose, throat and lungs, causing illness, hospitalisation and even death, so it’s not to be taken lightly. Young children, and those who have certain long-term health conditions such as asthma, are particularly at risk of getting serious flu complications. Having a strong immune system is a vital line of defence against the mutating virus, but health practitioners encourage parents to also have their children vaccinated with the latest influenza vaccine. The best time to do this is in March or April, but it’s never too late. The vaccine is recommended from six months old. “Each year, new vaccination formulations are developed based on the latest influenza strains,” explains Dr Neville Wellington, a GP in Cape Town. “The vaccination is made up of a chemically inactivated virus [parts of three different strains], which enables the body to get to know and store the ‘shape’ of the virus so that when you are exposed to the actual virus, your body is armed to fight it.” Lee Baker, a medicine information pharmacist from Joburg, explains that the vaccine is not live, so it cannot cause flu. But how effective is it in preventing flu? “This all depends on whether or not the strains circulating are those in the vaccine this year, as well as the age and health of the person being vaccinated,” says Baker. “A two-year study published in 2003 of children aged 6–24 months old found that the vaccine was 66% effective in preventing laboratory-confirmed influenza in one year of the study.” The flu vaccine will only protect against the strains of flu in the vaccine, points out Baker, so you may still get sick if a different strain has been circulating. “And you may also get sick after being vaccinated if you were already incubating the flu virus at the time of being vaccinated,” Baker explains. According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in the US, it takes about two weeks after the vaccination for antibodies that protect against influenza virus infection to develop in the body, which is why it’s best to get vaccinated before the flu season. The side effects to the vaccine are generally mild, as is the case for most vaccines, and may include pain and redness at the injection site, as well as a headache and body ache within 24 hours after the vaccine is given. “But these are usually resolved within three days,” says Baker. You can get this year’s flu vaccine at pharmacies, your family doctor or hospitals. If you do happen to get flu, antibiotics are not advisable to treat the infection as they are only effective against bacteria. Wellington advises that you get enough rest at home to give your body the chance to fight the virus and also prevent spreading the virus at school or work. There are plenty of medications available to help relieve the symptoms and discomfort, but always consult with your child’s paediatrician first. source:...

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Keep warm, keep well.

Posted by on Apr 17, 2015 in Health Topics | 0 comments

Keep warm, keep well.

Cold homes have a significant impact on people’s health. One of the best ways of keeping yourself well during winter is to stay warm.  Keeping warm over the winter months can help prevent colds, flu or more serious health conditions such as heart attacks, strokes,pneumonia and depression. The chances of these problems are higher if you’re vulnerable to cold-related illnesses because of one or more of the following: you’re over 65 you’re on a low income (so can’t afford heating) you have a long-term health condition, such as heart, lung or kidney disease you are disabled How to fight flu Flu is a highly infectious illness that can spread rapidly. You may be eligible for a free flu jab if you’re at risk of complications from flu. Find out if you can get the flu jab for free on the NHS. Fuel poverty facts In the UK, in the winter of 2012-13 there were 31,000 deaths linked to the cold weather. Currently, there are 2.46 million households in England in fuel poverty. This is when a household is living below the poverty line and has higher than average energy bills. Read more about fuel poverty from the Energy Bill Revolution. Keep your home warm If you have reduced mobility, are 65 or over, or have a health condition such as heart or lung disease, you should heat your home to at least 18C and make sure you wear enough clothes to stay warm. It’s a good idea to keep your bedroom at this temperature all night. If you’re under 65 and healthy, you can safely have your house cooler than 18C, if you’re comfortable. You can also use a hot water bottle or electric blanket (but not both at the same time) to keep warm while you’re in bed. Eat well in winter Food is a vital source of energy, which helps keep your body warm. Try to make sure that you have hot meals and drinks regularly throughout the day and keep active in the home if you can. Wear warm clothes Wrap up warm, inside and out. Layer your clothing to stay warm and wear shoes with a good grip if you need to go outside. If possible, stay inside during a cold period if you have heart or respiratory problems. Source:...

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