It is often said that eyes are the windows to a person’s soul but they are also our window onto the world. However, every year 10,000 Australians go blind and around 200,000 Australians have vision impairment that cannot be corrected by spectacles. Every 65 minutes an Australian loses part or all of their vision. Maintaining good eye health should be a priority for all.
Every year, for the month of July, The Eye Surgeons’ Foundation (the fundraising arm of The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists and The Ophthalmic Research Institute of Australia) runs JulEYE – the Foundation’s national eye health awareness month.
JulEYE aims to raise community awareness of eye health issues, as well as raise funds for research projects into the causes and cures of vision impairment and blindness. The campaign also supports international and domestic development projects whose goals are aligned with those of The Eye Surgeons’ Foundation.
Red eyes and dry eyes are common eye problems. Redness and dryness are symptoms of many eye conditions. Some of these conditions are not serious, but others are serious and may affect eyesight.
Everyone has blood pressure. It is the pressure of blood against the walls of your blood vessels (or arteries) as the heart pumps blood around your body. Your blood pressure will increase and decrease depending on what you are doing. When you are exercising, nervous or stressed your blood pressure will increase and it will decrease when you are sitting or sleeping. High blood pressure is when your blood pressure is persistently higher than normal even at resting state (also known as hypertension).
According to Australian Health Survey, in 2011-12, almost one-third of all adult Australians had hypertension. Of these, almost half (48.8%) self-reported having a current and long-term heart or circulatory condition. Men were more likely to have hypertension than women. Hypertension was significantly more prevalent at older ages, with almost 9 in 10 people aged 85 years and over having hypertension.
Blood pressure is measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg). Your blood pressure is recorded as two figures, for example 120 over 80 (120/80). The top number is the pressure in the arteries when the heart squeezes blood out during each beat. The lower number is the pressure in the arteries when the heart rests between each heartbeat. It is best to measure blood pressure when you are relaxed, and sitting or lying down. Readings over 120/80 mmHg and up to 139/89 mmHg are in the normal to high normal range.
A blood pressure reading under 120/80 mmHg is considered optimal.
Readings over 120/80 mmHg and up to 139/89 mmHg are in the normal to high normal range.
High blood pressure is greater than 140/90 mmHg and if you have blood pressure above 180/110 mmHg, your blood pressure is very high.
High blood pressure (hypertension) increases your chance of developing heart disease, a stroke, blood vessel disease, damage to the retina of the eye, kidney disease and/or other serious conditions. Generally, the higher the blood pressure the greater the health risks. It is important to get your blood pressure checked regularly, because you may have no symptoms or signs of high blood pressure but still have hypertension.
Your blood pressure may be strongly influenced by:
Some medicines can also raise blood pressure (talk to your pharmacist).
Treatment for hypertension often includes lifestyle changes. These changes may include losing weight (if overweight), regular physical activity, a healthy diet, cutting back if you drink a lot of alcohol, discontinuing smoking, a low-salt diet and reduced caffeine intake. If needed, there are medicines which can lower blood pressure.
It is important to have your blood pressure checked regularly by a health professional, such as a pharmacist. If you want to ‘know your numbers’ visit your local pharmacy, your health destination.
At Fresh Therapeutics we can take your blood pressure by means of easy-to-use, painless blood pressure machines. We use blood pressure machines that can also detect Atrial Fibrillation. People with atrial fibrillation have a higher risk of stroke. At Fresh Therapeutics we sit down with you to explain your readings, offer advice on how to lower and maintain lower blood pressure and refer you to a doctor if further testing is required.
Incontinence describes any accidental or involuntary loss of urine from the bladder (urinary incontinence) or bowel motion, faeces or wind from the bowel (faecal or bowel incontinence). It may cause distress as well as being a hygiene problem. However, incontinence can be managed and treated.
If you have experienced this problem, you are not alone. Incontinence is a widespread condition. It can range from ‘just a small leak’ to complete loss of bladder or bowel control. In fact, over 4.8 million Australians have bladder or bowel control problems for a variety of reasons.
It is likely that the true number of people affected is much higher. Many people do not tell their doctor or pharmacist about their incontinence, due to embarrassment. Some people mistakenly think that incontinence is a normal part of ageing or that it cannot be treated. If you experience bladder or bowel control problems seek help, as the symptoms will not go away on their own and may worsen over time.
World Continence Week is held on 19-25 June 2017. The week is coordinated in Australia by the Continence Foundation (CFA). CFA provide resources and information for the public, including the National Continence Helpline (Ph. 1800 33 00 66). This Helpline is a free service staffed by continence nurse advisors who can provide information, education and advice to people with incontinence or those caring for someone with incontinence.
Urinary incontinence is quite common and often associated with pregnancy, childbirth, menopause or some chronic health conditions. It can range from a small dribble when you cough or laugh, to large flows of urine. Stress and urge incontinence are common types of urinary incontinence.
People with poor bowel control or faecal incontinence have difficulty controlling their bowels. This may mean they pass faeces or stools at the wrong time or in the wrong place. They may also pass wind when they don’t mean to or experience staining of their underwear. About 1-in-20 people experience poor bowel control. It is more common as you age, but many young people also have poor bowel control. People with poor bowel control also often have poor bladder control.
Treatment depends on the type of incontinence. It is therefore important that a continence assessment is conducted by a professional so an appropriate management plan can be developed. Lifestyle changes may significantly help some types of incontinence and these include:
Drink about 6–8 cups of fluid each day (1.5–2 litres of water) spread evenly throughout the day, unless otherwise advised by your doctor. To avoid disruptions to your sleep, drink a little less in the evenings.
Reduce the number of drinks containing caffeine (e.g. tea, coffee, hot chocolate and cola) as this can increase urge incontinence.
Avoid constipation by maintaining a healthy balanced diet that contains plenty of fruit, vegetables and fibre.
Lose some weight if required, as a modest amount of weight loss can improve urinary incontinence.
Aim for 30 minutes of exercise most days.
Do pelvic floor exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles.
Go to the toilet only when you need to, rather than ‘just in case’.
Go to the doctor if you think you have a urinary tract infection.
There is a range of health professionals with specialist knowledge in continence management who can assist you www.continence.org.au.
At Fresh Therapeutics we help you understand which medicines (both prescribed and over-the-counter) can affect bladder and bowel continence.
We stock the Molimed® range of incontinence pants, pads and other aids – not all pads are the same. We also have information about the Australian Government Continence Aids Payment Scheme (CAPS). This program provides financial assistance for eligible people who have permanent and severe incontinence to meet some of the costs of incontinence management products.
Bowel 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.
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
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 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 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.
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.