Recently, I was watching Australia’s ‘The Project’ and saw a segment on weight loss and gain. Turns out, a whole lot of people in Australia who classify as ‘overweight’ think they’re fairly normal. What struck me was that not many people were completing the recommended 30 minutes of exercise five times a week, as a part of their general health.
I wasn’t so worried about the fact that people weren’t completing the 30 minutes of exercise, nor was I concerned about the whole 5-days-a-week thing. I was, however, concerned about the general health guidelines.
With the information that is available in our generation, we should have all the information general health. We have countless books on being healthy, new fad diets, armchair nutritionists…yet the closest I found to an overall general health summary, especially for women, was about 12 different pages on the Better Health channel.
Therefore, today, I’m doing an overall health summary. Of course, this is a GENERAL health summary, not a chronic health summary, and you should take everything with a grain of salt. Furthermore, I AM NOT A DOCTOR. THIS IS A SUMMARY OF RESEARCH. Okay? Okay.
General Weight Health
One of the more generalized ways to inform yourself about your weight, and whether or not it’s healthy, is your BMI. The BMI has been counted and discounted so many times it’s not funny, so if you’d like a general idea, it’s for you – if you’re going to take the result to heart, maybe it’s not.
The BMI is your body mass index and estimates your total amount of body fat. Better Health Channel tells us that it is calculated by dividing your weight in kilograms by your height in meters squared. The differences in BMI between people of the same age and sex are usually due to body fat. There are of course a number of exceptions to the rule, as the BMI assumes that any excess weight is too much body fat, and therefore discounts any muscle mass, or other factors. A high-performance athlete, or pregnant woman, for instance, would register as having a higher BMI, although the weight is either muscle or ANOTHER HUMAN.
‘BMI is also not an accurate indicator for people with eating disorders like anorexia nervosa or people with extreme obesity’. Again, it is not the best measurement of weight and health risk, and most health professionals would rather use a waist circumference. However, it’s easy for you to look at and track.
Your BMI is your weight/your height/your height again.
For instance, I weigh 56kg, and I stand at 159cm. My BMI is 22.2.
If you don’t feel like doing the math, there’s a really cool calculator at the heart foundation.
So what does that mean?
Once you have calculated your BMI, you can work out your healthy weight range.
If you have a BMI of:
- Under 18.5 – you are considered underweight
- 18.5 to 24.9 – you are within a healthy weight range for young and middle-aged adults.
- 25.0 to 29.9 – you are considered overweight.
- Over 30 – you are considered obese
Here’s the thing. Cancer terrifies me, even though it’s such a normalized, albeit horrible, part of our society. Despite the fact that the detection rates and remission percentages get higher each day, it still scares the crap out of me. Unfortunately, googling ‘cancer risk’ is a really bloody dangerous business; so I asked my doctor.
After a little bit of laughing at my paranoid-ness, she told me that provided I got regular checkups, I would be fine. She also reassured me that as I have no family history of cancer, heart disease or Alzheimer’s, I was probably good for them too. Touch wood tho.
What to watch for
Breast Cancer: Symptoms of breast cancer include a lump in the breast, bloody discharge from the nipple and changes in the shape of the breast
Prostate cancer: Usually has no symptoms but can include difficulty with urination
Basal cell cancer: white, waxy lump or a brown, scaly patch on sun-exposed areas, such as the face and neck.
Melanoma: look out for new, unusual growth or a change in an existing mole.
Colon cancer: this cancer depends on where and how large the cancer is. Look out for a change in bowel habits, changes in stool consistency, blood in the stool and abdominal discomfort.
Lung cancer: symptoms include a cough (often with blood), chest pain, wheezing and weight loss, though these symptoms don’t usually appear until the cancer is quite advanced. The general advice is to just stop smoking.
Leukemia: Can be of slow or rapid growth. Rapid growing Leukemia has symptoms of fatigue, weight loss, frequent infections and easy bleeding or bruising, while the former is usually symptomless.
Even if you have a family history, you can reduce your risk of cancer.
This can be done by;
- not smoking
- avoiding second-hand tobacco smoke (passive smoking)
- being SunSmart – sunscreen y’all
- being physically active (remember that five times a week thing? Yeah. That)
- maintaining a healthy body weight
- avoiding or limiting alcohol
- eating a healthy diet.
If you have concerns or need to talk to someone, you can talk to;
- Your doctor
- Cancer Council Helpline Tel. 13 11 20
- PapScreen Victoria Tel. 13 11 20
- BreastScreen Victoria Tel. 13 20 50
- Multilingual Cancer Information Line, Victoria Tel. 13 14 50
The Better Health Channel would like to remind you;
- The purpose of cancer screening is to find a disease or condition in its early stages, before it causes symptoms, which increases the chance of successful treatment.
- Population-based screening programs exist for three cancers— breast, cervical and bowel.
Regular Health Checks
I get it. No one likes to go to the doctor. No one wants to have to ‘adult’ and get on the phone to make that appointment. However, when you’re umming and ahhing remember this: prevention is the best form of treatment. If someone could have prevented by illness with something as simple as a vaccination, I would have cried myself stupid.
It is a good idea to visit a doctor regularly, even if you feel healthy. The purpose of these visits is to:
- check for current or emerging medical problems
- assess your risk of future medical issues
- prompt you to maintain a healthy lifestyle
- update vaccinations.
General Health checks at home
You can do a basic health check at home to review your health in relation to:
- You gotta stop drinking so much alcohol. People (cough grown-ups) (cough not college students) who have at least two alcohol-free days per week and stick to no more than two standard drinks per drinking day have better long-term health.
- Take good care of your teeth. You know the drill – clean your teeth for two minutes twice a day, followed by flossing and Listerine, can significantly reduce your risk of tooth decay, gum disease and holes. You also need to see a dentist at LEAST once a year.
- Eat good. You should be having at least two serves of fruit and five serves of vegetables each day. Which is a lot. It’s is better for your long-term health to reduce sugar and preservatives, and eat regular meals.
- Do the movement. Regular physical activity is good for your mental health, heart and bones, and can prevent many diseases. Aim for 30 minutes to an hour of moderate physical activity a day.
- Check your skin. Do a regular skin check and note any unusual moles or freckles, and see your doctor if you notice anything unusual.
- Smoking – Quit
- Weight – maintaining a healthy weight range helps prevent longer-term diseases, such as diabetes and arthritis.
Try and get regular health checks for your heart
General health check-ups for heart disease may include:
- Blood pressure – have your blood pressure checked every two years if it is normal, you are aged under 40 years, and there is no family history of high blood pressure.
- Blood tests – check cholesterol levels and blood triglycerides, among other things. High levels may indicate an increased risk of various health problems, including heart disease.
- Obesity tests – being overweight is a significant risk factor for many health conditions, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Know the risk factors for type 2 diabetes
- family history of diabetes
- pre-diabetes (slightly elevated blood glucose levels)
- age over 45 years
- overweight or obesity
- high blood pressure
- high blood cholesterol
- inactive lifestyle
- history of angina (chest pain), heart attack or stroke
- in women, a history of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).
Health checks for bowel cancer
The faecal occult blood test (FOBT) uses chemicals to check a bowel motion sample for blood, which may be a sign of bowel cancer. If you are over 50, you should have this test once every two years, or after you turn 40 if you have a family history.
Health checks for eye conditions
Eyesight tends to deteriorate with age. Serious eye conditions such as glaucoma, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy and macular degeneration are more common with age.
If you already wear prescription glasses or contact lenses, you should have your eyes tested every year. Adults who do not wear prescription glasses or contact lenses should have an eye test every two years.
Health checks for your bones
Advancing age is a significant risk factor for osteoporosis in both men and women. A bone density test helps to determine the health of your bones. Generally speaking, people over the age of 50 should be assessed for the need to have a bone density test
Your absolute risk score for heart disease and stroke
In researching all this stuff, I found this thing called an absolute risk score. As you know, I like numbers, so I got my rocks off on this. It can be done through your doctor, who will calculate a percentage score, or absolute risk, which puts you into one of three categories of risk, being:
- high risk – a score over 15 per cent means you are at high risk. If you have a score over 15 per cent, you have at least a one in seven chance of having a heart attack or stroke in the next five years, if you are left unmanaged
- moderate risk – if you have a score of between 10 and 15 per cent, you have, as a minimum, a one in 10 chance of having a heart attack or stroke in the next five years, if you are left unmanaged
- low risk – if you have a score under 10 per cent, you have a less than 1 in 10 chance of having a heart attack or stroke in the next five years, if you are left unmanaged.
No matter what your risk score, there are changes that you can make to improve your cardiovascular, and general health. These changes include:
- stopping smoking
- being physically active most days of the week
- eating lots of fresh vegetables, fruits, lean meats, oily fish, eggs and low-fat dairy products
- reducing the amount of fried and baked foods you consume
- limiting your alcohol consumption
- avoiding adding salt to food. Choose ‘no added salt’, ‘low-salt’ or ‘salt-reduced’ foods where possible
- drinking water
- maintaining a healthy weight.
Benefits of a healthy lifestyle
So I found this on the better health website, and I died with laughter. The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP)has a healthy lifestyle acronym, called SNAP. I had to put it on the website. I had to.
- Smoking – affects every organ of your body. Call Quitline or visit the Quit website for online resources to help you stop smoking.
- Nutrition – affects your overall physical and mental health.
- Alcohol – can affect you physically and mentally in the short and long term.
- Physical activity – can improve overall health and reduce your chronic disease risk. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate physical activity a day.
Having laughed at them, however, they do have a point (I mean, it’s not like they have…medical training or anything). There are heaps of benefits to living a ‘healthy life’. This includes;
- Reducing the risk of most diseases, including heart disease, stroke, and diabetes
- Improving your joint stability
- Maintaining bone density, preventing osteoporosis and bone fractures
- Reducing the symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression
- improving sharpness and clarity of mind, including memory
- increasing the length of your life.
You do need to take steps to prevent illness though.
We might have an immune system, but I’m living proof that the bugger needs some help along the way. You need to regularly make sure that your vaccinations are up-to-date, use sunscreen, be hygienic with food handling and practice safe sex.
No one get me started on this whole anti-immunizations thing. The ‘No Jab, No Play’ bill was the smartest thing that the Australian government has done since our anti-gun laws. Immunisation is the simplest and most effective way of protecting children and adults against certain diseases.
You can protect yourself and your children by:
- making sure you and your children are up to date with immunizations (children in Australia are routinely immunized as babies, then as part of getting ready for school and while they are at certain stages at school)
- getting an annual flu shot if you are in a high-risk group, such as older people.
Your child needs to have had certain immunizations for your family to be eligible for the Australian Government Family Tax Benefit Part A supplement and the Child Care Benefit. More information is available from the Australian Government Department of Human
SLIP SLAP SLOP BITCHES.
I’m Irish, what do you want from me? 3 minutes in the sun and I’m a LOBSTER, so let me tell you – just wear the damn sunscreen. Yeah, you look daggy in front of your friends, but it’ll be worth it when they’re peeling and you’re not.
Australia has some of the highest ultraviolet (UV) levels in the world, and we have the highest rate of skin cancer in the world. UV is the radiation that causes skin cancer. This radiation is strong enough to cause sunburn in just 11 minutes on a fine January day.
During summer, protect yourself from sunburn and the possibility of skin cancer by:
- wearing a hat when you go outside between 10 am and 4 pm
- using sunscreen
- finding shady areas if you are going to spend time outside
- covering up with lightweight clothes, including long sleeves and pants.
Be a clean human
Am I really writing this on a post? Have good hygiene. Good personal hygiene can stop the development and spread of disease.
Good personal hygiene means:
- washing your hands before eating or preparing food, after the toilet and after sneezing or coughing
- having a daily shower or bath, and using soap to kill the bacteria that grows on your skin.
Good dental hygiene starts with brushing your teeth in the morning and before you go to bed. This, and regular check-ups with your dentist will help prevent mouth and gum disease, which can lead to other illnesses in the body.
You can’t self-check everything, so make sure you’re getting regular checkups.
The best way to stay on top of your general health is to see your general practitioner for regular health checks, healthcare advice and when you get sick.
In your 20s and 30s, general health checks that are recommended include:
- blood pressure (every two years)
- pap test and pelvic exam (women, every two years)
- yearly dental checks
- skin cancer check for those at higher risk
- regular testes examination (men).
In your 40s, it also becomes important to have general health checks for:
- eye checks (if high-risk)
- regular breast checks (women who are high-risk)
- health assessment if you are at risk of developing chronic disease (one in your late 40s)
- health assessment if you are at risk of heart disease
- cholesterol checks
- health assessment if you have a high risk of developing type 2 diabetes (every three years).
If you are over 50, it is important to have the tests above, as well as to have:
- breast checks and mammograms (for women, check yourself regularly and have a mammogram every two years. For men, when you have symptoms)
- an assessment of your bone health
- faecal occult blood tests (FOBT) to detect bowel cancer (every two years using a self-test)
- a hearing assessment (when you have symptoms ).