BOWEL CANCER – A DEADLY REALITY – BOWEL CANCER AWARENESS MONTH

bowel cancerBowel cancer is the third most common type of newly diagnosed cancer in Australia affecting both men and women almost equally. It is Australia’s second biggest cancer killer after lung cancer. Australia also has the unenviable record of one of the highest rates of bowel cancer in the world.

14,962 Australians are told they have bowel cancer each year, which includes 1,313 people under 50 years of age. The risk of bowel cancer increases sharply from 50 years of age. 4,071 Australian die every year from bowel cancer.

The good news is that bowel cancer is one of the most curable types of cancer if detected early and, if caught in time, 90% of bowel cancer cases can be treated successfully.

Bowel Cancer Awareness Month is an annual initiative of Bowel Cancer Australia, and is run throughout the month of June. A highlight of Bowel Cancer Awareness Month is Red Apple Day, which this year is on Wednesday 21 June 2017. On this day Australians are encouraged to support the vital work of Bowel Cancer Australia through the purchase of a Bowel Cancer Awareness Ribbon and apple themed fundraising activities.

The apple logo used by Bowel Cancer Australia is a symbolic representation of the charity’s bowel cancer message. A small hole in an apple is caused by a worm but if detected early and removed, the worm is unable to continue affecting the apple. The message is that it’s the same with people. If bowel cancer is detected early it can be treated successfully and people can continue to enjoy life.

However, at the moment fewer than 40% of bowel cancers are detected early so we need to start acting early and be aware of the symptoms earlier. If bowel cancer is detected before it has spread beyond the bowel, the chance of surviving for at least five years after diagnosis is 90%. Sadly, many cases are not detected until a later stage and so, overall, the chance of surviving at least 5 years for bowel cancer patients is 68%. The fact is that early detection offers the best hope of reducing the number of Australians who die each year from bowel cancer.

The risk of developing bowel cancer is greater if you:

  • are aged 50 years and over;
  • have a history of inflammatory bowel disease, such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis;
  • have previously had special types of polyps, called adenomas, in the bowel; or
  • have a significant family history of bowel cancer or polyps.

The definition of ‘significant family history’ is important. You are considered to have a significant family history of bowel cancer if a close relative (parent, brother, sister or child) developed bowel cancer at a young age (under 50 years) or if more than one relative on the same side of your family has had bowel cancer.

Most bowel cancers develop from non-cancerous growths called ‘polyps’. Not all polyps become cancerous and if they are removed the risk of bowel cancer is reduced. The development of bowel cancer generally takes many years, and usually begins in the lining of the colon or rectum. If the cancer isn’t treated, the cancer can grow through the wall of the bowel and spread to the lymph nodes and to other parts of the body.

It is important to speak to a health professional about any concerns you may have.

At Fresh Therapeutics we stock the ColoVantage® Home Kit for screening for bowel cancer. The aim is to find any polyps or to find cancer early when they are easier to treat and cure. These BowelScreen Australia test kits come complete with full instructions, a dedicated customer helpline, as well as a reminder service. (http://www.bowelscreenaustralia.org/bowel-screening)

We also stock  a range of Self Care Fact Cards including one titled Fibre and bowel health. Other Fact Cards may also be relevant and helpful depending on your individual situation – such as Constipation, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Haemorrhoids  or Vomiting and Diarrhoea

Acknowledgement: Pharmaceutical Society of Australia Self Care Program Health Column

Fresh-Therapeutics-Blog-Men's-Health-Featured-Image

Men’s Health

This year, the theme of Men’s Health Week is ‘Healthy Body – Healthy Mind: Keeping the Balance’. This theme explores the different ways men and boys are managing to keep healthy – physically and emotionally – in a busy and sometimes challenging world. From 12–18 June 2017, communities around the country will come together to create events, promotions and activities tailored to the needs of men and boys.

Men and boys face different health and wellbeing concerns than women and girls, and Men’s Health Week is an opportunity to both acknowledge their differences and look for ways to improve the health and wellbeing of men and boys throughout Australia.

There is an ongoing, increasing and mostly silent crisis in the health and wellbeing of men and boys. Due to a lack of awareness, poor health education, and culturally conditioned behaviour patterns in their work and personal lives, the health and wellbeing of men and boys is an area of concern. In Australia and in several other countries, men and boys experience significantly higher rates of addiction, violence, crime, accident and premature death in comparison to their female counterparts. Life expectancy for men is around four years less than that of women (80.1 years compared to 84.3 years).

Men also show significantly higher rates of death from cancer, heart disease, homicide and suicide. Australia has taken a leading role in establishing Men’s Health Week as a well-known and clearly-defined event that focuses attention on men’s health and wellbeing issues and stimulates health promoting activities at all levels.

The National Male Health Policy (released in May 2010) provides a framework for improving male health across Australia – with a focus on taking action on multiple fronts. It identifies six priority areas for action. These are to promote:

  • Priority 1: Optimal health outcomes for males.
  • Priority 2: Health equity between population groups of males.
  • Priority 3: Improved health for males at different life stages.
  • Priority 4: A focus on preventive health for males.
  • Priority 5: Building a strong evidence base on male health.
  • Priority 6: Improved access to health care for males.

A clear opportunity exists for health and other organisations – public, voluntary and private, national and local – to work together to focus attention on key men’s health issues and to develop practical initiatives that can make a difference to the health of Australian men.

During Men’s Health Week let’s reach out to Aussie men and boys and create events that respond to the issues impacting on the health of men, boys and their families in your local area– useful men’s health information, event ideas and contacts, as well as other resources, are available from www.menshealthweek.org.au

Most men’s health problems are preventable. What is required is a new approach to health interventions and health promotion which delivers messages to men that their health and wellbeing is important and encourages men to access health services more regularly to set up a health maintenance plan with their doctor. Many men typically do not access medical, allied health or welfare services in a timely way when their health and wellbeing is at risk. Accordingly health services need to review their way of operating and be mindful of making their services more men friendly.

At Fresh Therapeutics our pharmacists can advise on men’s health and an encourage men to have their blood pressure, weight and BMI and alcohol intake checked. We provide advice on the various local services available for smoking cessation, weight management, alcohol management and exercise. We also provide information and advice on the medicines you take.

At Fresh Therapeutics you can get more detailed information in the Self Care Fact Cards on  Men’s health, Erectile dysfunction, Exercise and the Heart, Fat and Cholesterol  and Prostate problems.

Healthy Heart Healthy Life

Healthy Heart Healthy Life
Healthy Heart Healthy Life

The importance of doing something healthy for your heart is highlighted by the fact that 90% of adult Australians have at least one risk factor for heart disease. Risk factors include a family history of heart disease, and the risk also increases as you age. Gender is important because being male is also a risk factor.

As a nation, we tend to take our hearts for granted but the sobering facts are that cardiovascular disease is the cause of 34% of deaths in Australia, followed by all cancers on 29%.

There are four simple steps that we can undertake to make some inroads into improving the health of our hearts.

The first step is to keep moving at any age and at any level of fitness. Exercise has many benefits beyond fitness and flexibility. Exercise stimulates the body’s immune system, reduces the blood’s ability to clot easily, improves brain function and lowers blood pressure.

Exercise can even prevent some forms of cancer. Research in older patients with age-related muscle wasting (also called sarcopenia) has shown that strength training was found to prevent disability, slow down dementia and reduce the risk of accidental falls. In later life independence and good health are closely related to physical fitness.

The second step is to look at what we eat and to ensure we eat wisely. Good nutrition extends beyond controlling our intake of cholesterol, calories and chocolate. There is also great benefit in understanding the important effects of trans fats (bad for you), and polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats (good for you). Or how the body metabolises different carbohydrates (sugars) and the impact this has on weight, diabetes and body fat deposits.

Research consistently shows that the right balance between food intake and exercise is vital for optimum weight, fitness and health.

The third step suggested is to keep track of our health measurements. This includes cholesterol levels, blood pressure, heart rate and rhythm, weight, sugar levels, waist circumference and exercise capacity. A close relationship between your family doctor, pharmacist and consumer will optimise the way good health is measured and monitored.

Finally, the fourth step is our mental approach and staying optimistic. Studies show our state of mind can protect, as well as damage, heart health. Important risk factors that may lead to heart disease include stress, anger and depression and these can be as damaging as high cholesterol levels in causing heart disease. Conversely, a positive state of mind, a supportive community, and personal happiness may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular problems.

At Fresh Therapeutics we have  a range of products, medicines, services and advice to support heart health. These include:

  • prescription medicine and medicine advice
  • health advice such as managing your weight
  • blood pressure monitoring
  • Heart rhythm and rate monitoring
  • services to help you lose weight and quit smoking.

In addition, at Fresh Therapeutics we have Pharmaceutical Society Self Care Fact Cards on topics such as High blood pressure as well as lifestyle topics such as Weight Management, Cholesterol and Fat, Staying a non-smoker that provide information about the topic as well as self help organisations that may be helpful.

Glaucoma

Glaucoma is an eye disease that can cause vision loss and is potentially blinding. It runs in families. If someone in your family has glaucoma, you are up to 10 times more likely to develop glaucoma. You probably have never noticed or even thought about glaucoma, as it is rarely discussed. In Australia, approximately 300,000 people have glaucoma. However, about half of these people don’t even know they have it. Generally, there is no pain associated with glaucoma, and the loss of sight is gradual. Peripheral vision (side vision) is usually affected first, and many people don’t even notice it’s gone.

In glaucoma, the optic nerve, located at the back of the eye, is damaged. This may happen if the pressure in the eye increases. Fluid in the eye should drain away, lowering eye pressure. But in glaucoma, the fluid doesn’t drain away properly, slowly destroying the optic nerve, which eventually leads to blindness. The optic nerve can also become damaged by certain medicines, such as steroids, and some medical conditions, such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

There are some simple things you can do to ‘beat invisible glaucoma’, such as having regular and comprehensive eye checks. These checks must include measurement of eye fluid pressure, review of the optic nerve and assessment of visual field loss. Optometrists and ophthalmologists conduct these tests.

So who should have a comprehensive eye test? Anyone who:

  • has a family history of glaucoma
  • is over 40 years of age
  • is having trouble seeing
  • has taken certain medicines, such as steroids for lung conditions
  • has diabetes
  • has high blood pressure
  • has had a serious eye injury.

The good news is that, if you are found to have glaucoma, it is treatable. Although damage to the optic nerve is not reversible, further damage to your eyesight can be stopped or slowed down. People with glaucoma are usually prescribed eye drops to lower the pressure in their eyes. Eye drops must be used regularly and exactly as prescribed by your doctor. Ask your pharmacist if you are unsure how to use eye drops. Sometimes, laser treatment, eye surgery or a combination of treatments is needed.

This year, World Glaucoma Week is 12–18 March.

At Fresh Therapeutics we encourage you to learn more about this condition. We have Pharmaceutical Society Self Care Fact Cards with information about Glaucoma and the Glaucoma Association that provides support to glaucoma suffers.  If you have glaucoma we can assist you with understanding how your medicines work, how to store and apply your drops and tell you about possible side effects.

WORLD ASTHMA DAY | Asthma Action Plan

World Asthma Day (2nd May 2017) is an annual event organised by the Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA), which works with health care professionals and groups around the world to reduce asthma prevalence, morbidity and mortality.

People with asthma have sensitive airways in their lungs which can make breathing difficult when certain triggers cause the airways to narrow because:

  • the lining of the airways become swollen and inflamed, producing sticky mucus
  • the muscles around the airways tighten.

Asthma affects more than two million Australians. It cannot be cured but can be well controlled with medicines and lifestyle. This can allow you to live a normal and active life, free from symptoms of asthma including:

  • wheezing or a whistling sound with breathing
  • coughing
  • breathlessness
  • feeling tight in the chest
  • finding it hard to breathe.

Symptoms can vary over time, and often occur at night, early in the morning, or during or just after activity. Children may also say they have a sore tummy, not eat or drink as much, or may get tired quickly.

The management of asthma aims to prevent asthma symptoms. Avoiding triggers and using asthma medicines correctly can help you manage your asthma and also prevent lung damage from asthma. Many triggers can cause asthma symptoms such as:

  • allergens you breathe in (e.g. from house dust mites, pollens, moulds, animal hair)
  • air pollution (e.g. cigarette smoke, dust)
  • colds and flu
  • cold air or a drop in air temperature
  • exercise or physical activity (exercise-induced asthma)
  • certain medicines (e.g. aspirin, anti-inflammatory pain relievers, beta-blockers, echinacea, royal jelly)
  • strong smells and fumes (e.g. chemicals, paints, perfumes, cleaning agents)
  • emotional upset, stress, anxiety
  • some foods and food preservatives, flavourings and colourings.

Visit your doctor or health clinic regularly so they can assess your asthma symptoms, review your asthma management and medicines, and help you write an Asthma Action Plan for when your asthma gets worse.

You can control your asthma well by managing the factors that trigger it and by using asthma medicines correctly. Most asthma medicines are inhaled (breathed) into the lungs.

The main types of asthma medicines are called relievers and preventers. Relievers are short-term medicines that open airways quickly by relaxing the muscles around the airways. Preventers are long-acting medicines.

Asthma makes the lining of your airways inflamed (red and swollen). Preventers help to reduce the inflammation and reduce the amount of mucus in airways. They also make airways less sensitive to asthma triggers. They can prevent asthma symptoms and lung damage if used every day.

Relievers:

  • help relieve asthma symptoms within a few minutes. Their effect can last for 4–6 hours (short-acting)
  • should be used only ‘as needed’ for quick relief
  • may be used before exercise, to prevent exercise-induced asthma.

Some inhalers contain a combination of a corticosteroid preventer and a long-acting reliever in the same inhaler device.

Preventers:

  • must be used or taken every day, even when you don’t have any symptoms
  • may take several weeks to improve symptoms
  • will not relieve an asthma attack once it has started.

Some people need to use preventers for only a few weeks or months of the year, but other people need to use preventers all year round. If you do not get asthma symptoms and rarely use your reliever, ask your doctor to review your asthma medicines. Preventers should not be stopped unless advised by a doctor.

The aim of asthma treatment is to prevent symptoms. You should use your preventer or combination inhaler every day. Use your reliever only when needed. Always read and follow instructions carefully.

See a doctor or follow your Asthma Action Plan if you:

  • need to use a reliever more than two days a week
  • have daytime asthma symptoms more than two days a week
  • use the whole reliever inhaler in less than a month
  • have asthma symptoms during the night
  • find physical activity hard because of asthma
  • notice your peak flow readings getting worse
  • have an asthma flare-up.

At Fresh Therapeutics our pharmacists check your inhaler technique and help you select a spacer if needed. We also provide information about asthma and asthma medicines with the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia’s Self Care Fact Cards Asthma and Asthma medicine. The Asthma Fact Card includes an Asthma First Aid Plan with information about what to do in the event of an acute asthma episode.

Living with Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinsons Disease | Fresh TherapeuticsThis week (10-17 April) is Parkinson’s Awareness Week. In Australia, Parkinson’s Australia is the national peak body and charity representing Australians living with Parkinson’s, and has a wide range of information sheets and advice available on their website: www.parkinsons.org.au

Parkinson’s disease is a disorder of the central nervous system (CNS), and it is one of many neurological conditions. In Parkinson’s disease, nerve cells in the brain degenerate. There is no known cause, however there are many theories, and it is generally thought that multiple factors are responsible. Increasing age, being male and head injuries may increase the risk, while genetics may also play a role. Individuals with Parkinson’s disease have insufficient levels of the chemical dopamine. This lack of dopamine means people can have difficulty controlling their movements and moving freely. Impact on other body systems can also occur, such as on sense of smell, thinking and mood.

According to Parkinson’s Australia approximately 70,000 Australians live with Parkinson’s disease. The average age of diagnosis is 65 years. However younger people can also be affected, and the term ‘young onset’ is used for those diagnosed between 21-40.

Scientists and researchers have not yet been able to find a cure for Parkinson’s disease. However, treatments are available to manage symptoms and assist people to live a fulfilling and productive life.

Each case of Parkinson’s disease is unique, with everyone exhibiting varying symptoms. For example, not all people get tremors and for some, the first symptom can be movement problems. Some of the main symptoms include:

  • tremor, or shaking
  • rigidity, or muscle stiffness
  • bradykinesia, or slowness of movement
  • freezing
  • stooped posture
  • shuffling gait

Parkinson’s disease can be disabling. However, there are many tools which can lead to better quality of life for those with Parkinson’s disease, and your local pharmacy can help.

With modern medicine, symptoms can be managed. The main aim of medicinal therapies is to increase the level of dopamine. As Parkinson’s disease affects each person differently it is important to individually tailor medicine regimens accordingly. As the disease progresses, and dopamine production is reduced, it is quite common for people to need their medicine regimes altered.

One of the key aspects of managing Parkinson’s disease is medicine management. Medicine must be taken at the correct time to allow for absorption time and the attainment of therapeutic levels. Factors such as diet also need to be considered when taking medicine. At Fresh Therapeutics our Pharmacists can assist you to gain the maximum benefit from the medicine, while keeping side effects to a minimum. Our pharmacists can help with advice and counselling – discussing what the medicine is for, what benefits should be expected, possible side effects and their management, drug interactions and how to keep an accurate record so information can be given to the doctor at each visit.  There are several medicines that can worsen the symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease and our pharmacists can provide a list of the medicines to watch.

People with Parkinson’s Disease may have difficulty swallowing which makes oral medicines difficult to take. At Fresh Therapeutics we can compound most medicines into a liquid or other dosage form to achieve drug levels to help manage the disease.  We also stock Gloup a medication lubricant that makes taking tablets and medications a more pleasant and safer experience for the patient.

At Fresh Therapeutics we can also provide home delivery and medicine management services such as dose administration aids (DAAs. Fresh Therapeutics can also be a point of contact to reduce social isolation and depression which can be experienced in Parkinson’s disease.

Our pharmacists can also talk through other problems that impact on Parkinson’s disease such as constipation, depression and falls.  We provide the   Pharmaceutical Society of Australia’s Self Care Fact Cards on  Preventing falls, Constipation and Depression and we can help with detailed information on managing the costs of medicine.

Depression

This year, the theme of the World Health Day campaign is depression.

In any one year, about one million people in Australia experience depression. One in six women and one in eight men will experience depression at some time in their lives. Depression is much worse than feeling sad or ‘low’ for a while after an unhappy or stressful event. It is a serious illness that changes the way a person thinks, feels and behaves.

Chemical changes in the brain are thought to contribute to depression. A number of factors may contribute to its development. These include emotional stress (e.g. loss of a loved one, relationship problems, unemployment), hormonal changes (e.g. after childbirth, menopause), alcohol and drug abuse, certain medicines and medical conditions (e.g. cancer, diabetes, stroke, chronic pain), other mental illnesses (e.g. anxiety, dementia, schizophrenia), personal factors (e.g. loneliness), certain personality traits (e.g. negative thinking patterns, low self-esteem), and a family history of depression.

Symptoms of depression can include sadness, feeling miserable, loss of interest or pleasure in activities, changes in weight or appetite, difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much, lack of energy, difficulty thinking, concentrating and making decisions, feelings of worthlessness, headaches, stomach or muscle pains, and thoughts of suicide or death. If you have had any of these symptoms for more than 2 weeks, talk to your doctor. If you are a parent, look out for these symptoms in your teenagers.

Depression is often not recognised and can go on for months or even years if not treated. Untreated depression can have many negative effects on a person’s life, including serious relationship problems, difficulty finding and keeping a job, and drug and alcohol problems. Depression is unlikely to go away on its own, and each person needs to find the right treatment for them. It is important to seek support as early as possible – the sooner a person gets treatment, the sooner they can recover.

There are several different types of treatment for depression. More than one form of treatment may be needed. Treatments used include psychotherapy (such as counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy) and antidepressant medicines, or a combination of the two. Psychotherapy can help you change unhelpful patterns of thinking and acting and improve coping skills. Antidepressant medicines can correct chemical changes in the brain. There are many different types of antidepressants, and you may need to try several before finding one that suits you.

There are also a number of things you can do yourself to help reduce the symptoms of depression. Regular exercise can create positive feeling and improve mood. Getting enough sleep on a regular basis, eating a healthy diet and avoiding alcohol can also be helpful. Learning and using relaxation techniques can help relax your body and mind. Let family and friends know how you are feeling. Although they may not fully understand what you’re going through, they may be able to give you extra support. Always check with a doctor or pharmacist before using complementary medicines or alternative therapies to treat depression. They can interact with certain prescription medicines.

At Fresh Therapeutics we have copies of several Beyond Blue publications including “What Works for Depression”.  Our pharmacists can sit down with you and review your medicines by conducting a Medscheck and also provide information about self help groups and online mental healths services.  For instance we can help you navigate the  government web-site www.mindhealthconnect.org.au –  the easy way to find mental health and wellbeing information, support and services from Australia’s leading health providers, together in one place.  We also have the Pharmaceutical Society’s Self Care Fact cards on lifestyle topics such as relaxation techniques and sleep problems.

 

Overweight and Obesity

Overweight and obesity is an Australian National Health Priority Area, currently affecting 63% of Australian adults and 25% of Australian children. The latest statistics show 35.5% of Australians aged 18 years and over are overweight, and almost 28% are obese.

It has been predicted that by 2025 around 83% of Australian men and 75% of women aged 20 years and over will be overweight or obese.

The causes of overweight and obesity are not easy to define. Although diet and physical activity are central to maintaining a healthy weight, social, environmental, behavioural, genetic and physiological factors can play their part in contributing to weight gain. For many, weight gain is hard to avoid and very difficult to reverse.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines overweight and obesity as abnormal or excessive fat accumulation (build-up) that may impair health. We gain weight when we eat more energy (kilojoules) than we use up through exercise or activity. Energy is measured in kilojoules (kJ) and different foods provide different amounts of energy.

Gaining weight can increase your risk of health problems, like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. People with most of their body fat around their waist, which surrounds our vital organs, are at an increased risk. Risk factors for weight gain include living in inner regional, outer regional and remote areas of Australia, and living in a lower socioeconomic area.

Only one in 10 Australians who are trying to lose weight seeks advice from a dietitian. Other allied health professionals such as doctors and pharmacists can also provide advice and materials to help people who want to lose weight or manage their weight. At Fresh Therapeutics we can measure your weight and height to calculate your body mass index (BMI) as a way of identifying if you are overweight or obese and may benefit from advice about weight management.

People also often have unrealistic expectations of how much weight loss is possible. Weight loss goals should be realistic, and even small amounts of weight loss improve health and wellbeing. Weight management must focus on health improvement and behavioural change rather than only on weight loss.

Weight management is a long-term strategy. It must be initiated by the individual and then maintained with the help of healthcare professionals, family, friends and carers. It involves setting realistic goals, self-monitoring behaviour and progress, understanding stimulus control (recognising and avoiding triggers that prompt unplanned eating), modifying thinking and problem solving.

Lifestyle interventions are the first approach in weight management, with an aim to reduce energy intake, increase physical activity and encourage behavioural change, and brings a range of health benefits. More intensive interventions such as very low-energy diets (e.g. meal replacement products), weight loss medicines and even surgery may be required in some situations – ask your health care professional for advice.

Weight loss medicines and products should be used with a healthy diet and increased physical activity for consumers who are overweight and obese in order to highlight the need for a healthy diet, regular physical activity and lifestyle change to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

We have Pharmaceutical Self Care Fact Cards on topics such as Weight and health, Fat and cholesterol, and Fibre and bowel health. As well as measuring your BMI we can help you identify the best way for you to manage or lose weight.

Teenagers and Alcohol

An Australian survey in 2013 found that the average age at which young people aged 14-24 first tried alcohol is 15.7. Approximately 86% of Australians 14 years of age and over have drunk alcohol at least once in their lives.

Alcohol acts as a central nervous system (CNS) depressant. The effect of alcohol comes from a combination of factors, including the amount of alcohol consumed and various other factors such as age, gender, body size, nutrition, and drinking experience. Alcohol consumption affects not only the person drinking, but everyone in the community. It is estimated that alcohol costs the Australian community over $15 billion a year. These costs relate to health problems, accidents, crime, violence, social issues, and loss of productivity.

The Australian Guidelines to Reduce Health Risks from Drinking Alcohol state ‘for children and young people under 18 years of age, not drinking alcohol is the safest option’ and that ‘children under 15 years of age are at the greatest risk of harm from drinking’. These guidelines are based on health risks to teenagers however there are also legal and social risks.

For adolescents, drinking alcohol contributes to the three leading causes of death for this age group – unintentional injuries, homicide, and suicide. In addition, over 50% of alcohol-related serious road injuries occur in the 15–24-year-old age bracket. According to the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), alcohol consumption in teenagers also contributes to physical injuries, risky sexual behaviour, antisocial behaviour, and poor academic performance. Studies show the earlier alcohol consumption starts, the greater the chance of developing problems with alcohol later in life, and the greater the likelihood of adverse physical and mental health conditions/consequences.

Every year, ‘schoolies’ events are covered in the media. Many of the incidents highlight the immediate negative consequences that can occur from binge drinking, such as physical injury from alcohol-fuelled violence. Developmental and social issues for the teenager, their peers, and their family can be less obvious as they arise over time.

Parents, and other significant adults, can positively influence teenagers to make wise choices regarding alcohol, and help them to reduce the risk of harm from alcohol. These adults can help even if the teenager has already started drinking.

Some useful tips include:

  • setting a good example through their own alcohol behaviours
  • rewarding responsible behaviour and attitudes towards alcohol
  • talking about strategies to deal with peer pressure regarding alcohol
  • discussing alcohol-related health issues as well as alcohol laws and the potential consequences for breaking them.

It is often said Australians love a drink. We can also show love for our children by helping them to avoid the harm alcohol can cause them when drinking starts at an early age.

At Fresh Therapeutics we have Pharmaceutical Society Self Care Fact Card entitled Alcohol and we can give you more information about the effects of alcohol, including interactions you’re your medicines, and where to seek counselling about alcohol-related problems.

Brain Awareness Week

This year, Brain Awareness Week is taking place on the 13th to 19th March. Brain Awareness Week is a global campaign to increase public awareness of the progress and benefits of brain research, and unites the efforts of organisations worldwide in celebrating the brain for people of all ages.

In Australia, the Brain Foundation is a charity that is dedicated to funding research around the country into neurological disorders, brain disease and brain injuries. This research aims to advance diagnoses, treatment and patient outcomes.

The brain is a large and complex organ, and is made up of more than 100 billion nerves communicating in numerous connections called synapses. Different parts of the brain work together, and control numerous aspects of daily living, including breathing, sleep, coordination and balance.

According to the Brain Foundation, there are a wide number of conditions, diseases and injuries classified as ‘brain disorders’. These conditions include Alzheimer’s disease, autism, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, migraine, multiple sclerosis, and many others. Brain disease and injury affects millions of Australians and their loved ones.

The Brain Foundation also runs the Healthy Brain Program, which aims to assist Australians to keep their brains healthy into old age through providing community education and research. As people are living longer, the prevalence of degenerative brain disorders is increasing. This program aims to increase community awareness of the potential for improving long term brain health through lifestyle changes and risk reduction, promote the recognition of risk reduction strategies, and motivate changes to develop a healthy brain lifestyle. Some pointers to a healthy brain include:

  • Exercise and challenge your brain
  • Nourish your brain with a healthy diet and drink alcohol in moderation
  • Enjoy physical activity
  • Make ‘safety first’ a priority (head trauma is the silent epidemic)
  • Learn to manage stress and depression
  • Relax and sleep well
  • Have regular checks for blood pressure, diabetes, heart rate, cholesterol
  • Do not smoke or use illegal drugs

For Brain Awareness Week this year, the Brain Foundation is inviting Australians to host a ‘Big Trivia’, and help Australians with brain disease and injury. This is a great opportunity to gather your family and friends, test your brain power and raise money for brain research. It is easy to host your trivia event – information on how to host the event, access to trivia questions and answers, invitations and promotional material, as well as other resources are available. For more information visit: https://bigtrivia.org.au/

At Fresh Therapeutics as members of the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia’s Self Care program we can provide Self Care Fact Cards on a wide variety of health topics about brain conditions. Available Fact Cards include those titled Alzheimer’s disease, Epilepsy, Migraine, and many others.