Keep your health in check

‘To keep the body in good health is a duty… otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.’ Buddha

It’s common to suffer from a particular health condition without even knowing it. Even if you’re in great physical shape, it is still important to self-monitor, given many issues have no symptoms.

If you want to age healthily, introduce an annual physical because the last thing any of us want, or need, is for illness rob us of our health.

We’re so lucky these days that technology has come a long way. It can predict whether we’ll have a heart attack within the next five years by keeping tabs on vitals such as cholesterol and blood pressure and, if you 40+ there’s FREE scans for breast and bowel cancer, even osteoporosis.

Online health portals MyDr and WebMD suggest health screening is important for disease prevention. They explain why checking for conditions early, before symptoms develop, improve outcomes.

Both list the types of checks needed at different stages in life, and provide health tools and calculators that look at symptoms, diseases, tests, medicines, treatments, nutrition and fitness.

As a Health Care Ambassador for HealthStorylines, RoamingRAVE has been spruiking the benefits of documenting symptoms once an illness has taken hold but now it is time to broaden that approach, think prevention, to keep your health in check.

It’s time to monitor your health. Ask yourself how you really feel? Are you tired all the time? Stressed out? Suffer from aches and pains. Do you seek out comfort foods? Pop over-the-counter pills? If you answer yes to any or all, it’s time to turn things around.

SIMPLE CHECKS such as Blood pressure / Weight / Cholesterol / Blood sugar / Vitamin deficienies / Immunisations / Skin check

First set up that annual physical with your GP. Once you’ve got the all clear it may be as simple as making a few dietary changes to improve your lot. Remember nothing changes if nothing changes.

Sure it’s hard to get motivated when you feel beat 24/7 so take it one step at a time. Start swapping out some of those comfort foods for a more balanced diet. It takes less than two minutes to microwave frozen veggies, providing half your daily intake. Throw in a salad at lunch and you’re on your way to achieving a balanced diet.

Next it takes two pieces of fruit, a handful of nuts, and four serves of carbohydrates like breads or crackers. Keep meat down to small portions of 100g or under and a few legumes (four bean mix, or lentils) and you’re done!

Unsplash

Soon adding those greens to your diet will put a spring in your step and you’ll be up to adding exercise to the mix. Think of exercise as just another daily task. Strap on your step counter and see what you get mowing the lawn, or vacuuming the house. Now compare that to walking around the block? Which exercise do you prefer? Walking is great for your heart and connects you to nature in your neighbourhood.

TAKE UP THE CHALLENGE
This month’s HealthStorylines challenge is to make just one healthy change a day. It can be as easy as achieving eating two pieces of fruit a day, or adding extra greens to cutting out something sweet, or two!

HealthStorylines.com

You owe it yourself to feel great, If you’d like to join me to inspire others to improve their quality of life through their own data, email support@healthstorylines.com

Or just check in here, or via RoamingRAVE on Facebook, and join me in a health challenge that’s easy to achieve. It’s never too soon to keep your health in check.

RoamingRAVE, aka Judy Wilkinson, has used the Health Storylines app since being diagnosed with neuroendocrine tumours of the GI tract in 2016. After more than a year documenting her health, she has become a Self-Care Ambassador as part of a pilot to encourage others to track their health.  Read her story via Zebra Tales.

 

 

Get the health care you deserve

“When people take an active role in their care, research shows they fare better.”  ― Dr Paul Haidet, on WebMD

Courtesy Pixabay

Imagine what it’d be like if a medical practitioner listened to your reason for your visit, asked questions and welcomed further questioning.

Now imagine their recommendations for treatment were based on research into your particular complaint, and additional resources were provided on your condition.

You’d probably leave feeling like you were given a solid strategy to manage your health successfully.

Trouble is, this scenario rarely happens.

Most of us get 15 minutes to cram numerous health issues into a consultation where the majority of questions go answered, and we leave feeling disappointed with the exchange.

No wonder patients are pushed into using online platforms like Dr Google to help manage health.

Courtesy Business Directory Australia

The ideal doctor-patient relationship, says Dr Paul Haidet, at DeBakey VA Medical Centre in Houston, is like a meeting of two “experts”.

He says when people take an active role in their care, research shows they fare better – in satisfaction and in how well treatments work – and that a passive patient is less likely to get well.

Yet patients often don’t speak up for themselves. So how do we change from passive patient to an active advocate for our own health care?

First it requires finding a quality practitioner. No surprise that it also requires research, and a lot of luck.

Once you’ve identified a provider, the next strategy is to ensure you know what questions to ask.

After experiencing three cancers the late Jessie Gruman, who founded the non-profit Center for Advancing of Health (1992-2014), told WebMD her experiences taught her to ask, “What does that mean?”

“If I didn’t … they’d just assume that I knew,” Gruman said. “The onus is on the patient to indicate when they don’t understand.”

Caleb Alexander, MD, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Chicago also told WebMD there were “many barriers that prevent patients from raising concerns”.

Some are embarrassed, he says, while others think there is nothing doctors can do.

So perhaps more research is required to help prepare your list but always ensure sites you visit are reputable and target your complaint.

Previous RoamingRAVE blogs have focused on quality apps that can help with health goals. Some websites and apps provide information about the condition in question and will guide you to track your symptoms.

When you track how you feel, it can help on the question front. 

Failing that, adopt Dr Haidet’s simple mnemonic: ABC.

  • A = Ask questions
  • B = Be prepared
  • C = Communicate Concerns and Desires

He explains that communication means asserting yourself if you have a problem with the care you’re getting, or if there’s an issue you want your doctor to consider.

You’d have to agree with Gruman who advocated that everyone should expect to be taken seriously and treated with respect. Dr Haidet believes shared medical decision-making is best: “Accept nothing less.”

The author has used Health Storylines since being diagnosed with neuroendocrine tumours in 2016. After more than a year documenting her health via the app, she has become a Self-Care Ambassador as part of a pilot to encourage others to track their health.

Can we really find healthy living through apps?

“Few apps aimed at increasing health and wellbeing actually contain strategies and functions that lead to long-term change.” ― Life Matters, ABC

You’d have to agree that today’s time-poor lifestyle pushes most of us to seek quick-fix solutions to achieve our health goals.

RoamingRAVE posts often focus on the hard graft required in the form of behavioural change to achieve a healthier lifestyle but now there’s some real science behind using apps to help us rise to the challenge.

Relying on willpower is one reason why most of us don’t stick to our health goals but if using an app is your thing, as it is mine, research by Dr Fiona McKay at Deakin University School of Health and Social Development has provided a silver bullet.

It came up with a reliable, theory-based scale to help us select the RIGHT app.

The research looked at more than 300 healthy living apps available for Apple® and Android™ devices between July and October 2018. 

It found that apps that encouraged behaviour change included the following elements:

  1. Setting goals for the actions you like to achieve
  2. Tailoring the app to suit you
  3. Sharing your progress with others (through connections with social media)
  4. Receiving rewards or acknowledgements when you complete activities or make progress towards your goal. 

Each app description was reviewed by independent experts to determine if that app could be classified as behaviour-changing (change in this instance referring to activities or actions done regularly to achieve a healthier lifestyle such as exercising, eating healthier food, or managing stress).

Apps reviewed in the research had to have at least two of the four behaviour change elements. Next a systematic review to investigate the app’s potential for behaviour change was conducted allowing the creation of the App Behaviour Change Scale, or ABACUS. Cool huh?

So I guess you want to learn more about this rating system? VicHealth is where you’ll find the results of the potential effectiveness of apps that can help you achieve a healthier lifestyle. Select this link to find out more on how apps were selected, reviewed and rated.

Cue the Health Storylines app. It also has the elements required to stick to your goals. It works well for those living with a chronic disease but anyone wanting to track their health will find peace of mind. By monitoring symptoms, it allows anything unusual to come to light that can be raised with a health professional.

And it has that all-important share function, called Circle of Support, to encourage you along the way. There’s many other features to check out. So if you’d like to improve your quality of life through your own data and join me in living a healthier life, just click on this link to get started. 

After more than a year documenting her health via the Health Storylines app, the author has become a Self-Care Ambassador as part of a pilot to encourage others to track their health.

Everyone’s going through something

No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. – Aesop

Sometimes we forget that everyone’s going through something.

So this month’s Health Storylines challenge is to do a small act of kindness.

The best form of kindness starts with being kind to yourself but if you want to broaden that approach there’s a kindness movement you can tap into. It was launched way back in 1995.

RAK unites people around the world through kindness, capping off the week with “Random Acts of Kindness Day” on February 17.

That’s all and good if you’ve enough energy to go around but sometimes you just need to bring it back to the power of one, you.

It’s important to offer yourself kindness. Like love, if you’re kind to yourself, you’ll be kind to others. It becomes automatic.

Therefore over the next seven days do a small act of kindness every day. After a week you’ll find being kind to yourself becomes that little bit easier. To really cement this habit, do it for six weeks.

Health Storylines is a helpful tool to guide you. By using MyJournal you can track good deeds by selecting one of five topics, but the one that fits best is under accomplishments (where you can list any random act of kindness).

Random acts don’t need to be big. It can be things like sharing expensive magazines among extended family members to smiling or saying hello to a stranger in the street.

In MyJournal just tick Box three to enter actions in the Entry panel. It’s a way to affirm and track those moments when you’ve been kind to yourself, or someone else. Next share it with friends or family that can view your story, or just add it to your journal. It’s always there in the history for you to recall. And you can also personalise your Health Storylines according to your condition, to receive additional Tools to better track your health.

Whether you have a chronic illness or not being kind to yourself, and others, releases powerful feel-good endorphins. The act helps you to live more in the present. It also allows you to accept what you can, and can’t, control.

If you need further help to be kind to yourself, try this mindfulness mediation. Previous RoamingRave posts on Mindfulness explain how it takes time and effort for positive thoughts to override the negative. But it’s worth pursuing.

Being kind to yourself when living with a chronic condition is huge part of bearing it. Therefore it’s important others know about your illness so they understand what’s going on. It’s also important to track symptoms. It can help those who may share the same symptoms or experience.

Health Storylines is always seeking people to tell their story. For NETs patients that’s shared under Zebra Tales. But anyone living with a chronic condition (a long-term health condition that may not have a cure) such as Arthritis, Asthma, Crohn’s disease and COPD. If you’d like to share your story, email support@healthstorylines.com.

OK, are you ready to join me in living in the moment with each random act of kindness? You are? Great, just click on this link to get started. 

The author has used Health Storylines since being diagnosed with neuroendocrine tumours in 2016. After more than a year documenting her health via the app, she has become a Self-Care Ambassador as part of a pilot to encourage others to track their health. Her story also appears on the app under Zebra Tales

The Importance of Being Optimistic

“Instead of worrying about what you cannot control, shift your energy to what you can create.”  ― Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart

It’s a new day, a new year, and a new way to live your life.

This year all zodiac signs will benefit from the Year of the Earth Pig. Chinese astrology suggests 2019 will be a year full of joy, friendship and love. It’s an auspicious year because the Pig attracts success in all the spheres of life.

But there’s a catch. According to Chinese tradition we will need to learn how to take advantage of everything that’s beautiful in life in 2019. So it is time to ramp up optimism and positive thoughts as all qualities of the Pig sign will find a way to express themselves this year.

We’ll be exposed to gentleness and generosity, but we’ll need to be more attentive to others and, on a collective level, to altruistic initiatives.

And yes, optimism doesn’t solve all of life’s problems but sometimes it can make the difference between coping and collapsing.

‘It’s not easy being optimistic but positive self talk is the core of optimism.’ ––  LUCY MACDONALD, Learn to Be an Optimist  

Sounds great so we’ll need to catch our negative inner critic before it starts beating us up. 

When that happens, make a start by telling yourself: It’s your right to enjoy life.  Use Health Storylines to give yourself some Healthy Doses of positive thoughts. Choose from Love, Gratitude, Optimism, Funny and Mindfulness. Each saying will lift your spirits. For example, under Mindfulness Mother Teresa tells us to “be happy in the moment, that’s enough. Each moment is all we need, not more.”

Or use Health Storylines to practise regular gratitude. Use the Journal or Positive Thoughts Diary tools to become more optimistic by writing down the things you are grateful for.

www.confidentlife.com.au says not only does expressing gratitude light up parts of the brain that make us feel good, but also the effects are long-lasting and have a self-perpetuating cycle. So the more gratitude we feel, the more attuned we are to things to be grateful for, and the more benefit we find from it.

And of course, there are great health benefits from thinking positively.

The Mayo Clinic suggests the following health benefits of positive thinking and optimism: 

  • Increased life span
  • Lower rates of depression, and distress
  • Greater resistance to infection
  • Better psychological and physical well-being, cardiovascular health and coping skills

So lets ditch the common forms of negative self-talk such as filtering, personalising, catastrophising and polarising. Instead we can learn to turn negative thinking into positive thinking. Sure it takes time and practice, but given it’s the year of the Pig, we’ve got the best chance of making a change.

Are you ready to join me in living a healthier and more joyful life? You are, great. Just click on this link to get started.

The author has used Health Storylines since being diagnosed with neuroendocrine tumours in 2016. After more than a year documenting her health via the app, she has become a Self-Care Ambassador as part of a pilot to encourage others to track their health.

Gut reaction

Life without bacteria would be impossible.— Louis Pasteur

It is hard to imagine that as the new century dawned 18 years ago the editors of Science prophesied that “human microbe research would become the new hot topic worldwide”. 

It seems gut microbiome has always been a hot topic. But it took another five years, in 2005, for the prophecy to be realised when Australian researchers Barry Marshall and Robin Warren were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their discovery that peptic ulcer disease was primarily caused by Helicobacter pylori, a bacterium with affinity for acidic environments, such as the stomach.

In people with compromised immune systems this bacteria can cause cancer. In Australia H. pylori is classified as a class 1 carcinogen. Our top research body, the CSIRO, says Australia has one of the highest incidence rates of chronic diseases of the digestive system.

And yet we’re only just learning the link between our gut microbiome and why we get sick. In 2014 new research linked the Western diet to asthma, autism, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, emphysema and cancer. 

What this research did was reveal how a healthy diet could prove to be the best preventable medicine, even cure, because food affects the 1.5 kg of bacteria we carry deep inside our gut. 

In Canada, 2014 research revealed fixing our microbiome was as easy as eating 50g of fibre daily – “mainly in the form of resistant starch-and reduced fat and protein”. It suggested current guidelines (25g-30g) for the consumption of fibre-rich foods were too low and increasing the fibre recommendation to more than 50g was “likely to have an immediate effect on colon cancer risk”.

That’s good news given belly problems in North America account for more than 200 million doctor’s visits and billions in health care costs annually. 

But as early as 2010, Mark Hyman MD — the director of Functional Medicine in Cleveland — was already spruiking the benefits of addressing imbalances in the function and flora of the gut in his blogs.

He suggested five steps to rebalance our gut flora:

1. Eat a fibre–rich, whole foods diet—rich in beans, nuts, seeds, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, to feed and grow good bugs.

2. Limit sugar, processed foods, and animal fats/protein as they provide food for unhealthy bugs.

3. Avoid the use of antibiotics, acid blockers and anti-inflammatories, which change gut flora for the worse.

4. Take probiotics daily—these healthy, friendly flora can improve digestive health and reduce inflammation and allergy.

5. Consider specialised testing—such as organic acid testing, stool testing (to look at the DNA of the bacteria in your gut), and other tests to help assess gut function.

Jump to 2018 and there are myriad books, including recipes and TV medical shows on improving the microbiome, cementing the gut health revolution prophesied in 2000.

I guess we really are what we eat. And instead of popping a pill all we need do is improve our diet and double our fibre intake.

As a Health Care Ambassador for Health Storylines, it is important to be part of the movement to raise awareness of living a healthy life and being your own health advocate.

Search for this tool, or select add tool and it comes up under the Health Tracking category

It is also crucial to track symptoms. Health Storylines is useful for this, especially the Symptom Tracker tool to record and update symptoms as well as estimate severity from 1-10. It also allows you to rate the impact of all symptoms. Select done to see a graph. In addition you can add a comment, which provides handy information should you need to show it to your GP or specialist.

So, are you ready to join me in living a healthier life? You are, great. Just click on this link to get started. 

The author has used Health Storylines since being diagnosed with neuroendocrine tumours in 2016. After more than a year documenting her health via the app, she has become a Self-Care Ambassador as part of a pilot to encourage others to track their health.

Change won’t wait for some other time

To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.— Oscar Wilde

Many NETs patients are frustrated by living life in the slow lane when it comes to getting diagnosis/treatment

It’s been just over two years since discovering I was among 10,000 Australians diagnosed with Neuroendocrine Tumours (NETs).

On the eve of NET Cancer Day 2018 it is time to reflect on this complex and misunderstood chronic condition.

In the past year many high-profile people have been diagnosed and even passed away from this increasingly “common” cancer, including Aretha Franklin.

Yet NETs are still misrepresented in the media and among the medical fraternity, including an embarrassing segment by Dr Oz misstating Aretha died of the deadlier form of pancreatic cancer. Luckily ABC’s Detroit station WXYZ got the story right, but LACNETs explained it best.

It seems obvious that help is needed to raise awareness of the rising rate of NETs not only abroad but especially in Australia. Specifically the issue which needs to be taken up is to remove NETs off the “rare cancer” list so that it can be better funded and researched.

NETRF.org study

In an except from a US study, this statement particularly resonates:

Making the case for increased attention to NETs

“I think the most important thing this paper does is help us articulate the size and scale of the NET problem to help us position and articulate how important this is on a population level,” –co-author Dan Halperin, MD, MD Anderson Cancer Center, who is also a NETRF-funded researcher

Further there are few support programs in Australia for people diagnosed with NETs. After my surgery to remove the tumour(s) I was sent on my way with little understanding of what to expect next (other than six monthly blood and urine tests and an annual nuclear scan). Treatment was “active surveillance/watchful waiting”. Given we are conditioned to take the fight up to cancer with “chemo”, waiting for it to return seemed inhumane and negligent. If only treatment had been better clarified. How would NET patients know these tumours don’t respond well to chemo or radiation and that other “big gun approaches” like targeted therapy are used only as a last-line defence. 

This poor approach to patient education perhaps is due to the fact there are few NETs specialist hospitals worldwide. Australia has ONE centre of excellence for NETs, the Peter Mac in Melbourne, though Sydney’s Royal North Shore Hospital is recognised as a NETs specialist centre, due to the sheer volume of NETs patients it sees.

As a NETs patient if you aren’t seen by a NETs specialist hospital from the start (because you live in a different region, state or rural area), you are not advised of such centres existing.

It took six months post-surgery to discover there was a NETs-specialist hospital in my state. Even so I was not encouraged to transfer as “watchful waiting for non-functional NETs was all I needed”. Within a year I developed suspected Carcinoid Heart Disease, suggesting my NETs were functional. Sadly I wasn’t aware of European Guidelines which Australia follows that suggest all NETs patients should be seen by a NETs specialist team in a NETs specialist centre. Statistics show that the average oncologist rarely sees a NET patient in their working lifetime. Yet this cancer is on the rise (7 out of every 100,000 worldwide).

There is ONE organisation in Australia supporting this cancer: The Unicorn Foundation, which states there are 1800 new cases diagnosed each year. It says there are 10,000 known cases in Australia. That should send alarm bells ringing among a population of just 24 million given the USA reports just over 100,000 cases among its 325+ million residents. Why is NETs so prevalent here? 

As a Health Care Ambassador for Health Storylines, it is important to be part of the movement to raise awareness for this complex disease that gains little recognition or understanding among GPs and specialists. Unfortunately most NETs patients’ diagnosis can take many years because: If you don’t suspect it, you can’t detect it.

I hope support, research and awareness for this condition can be improved with every NET Cancer Day.

In the meantime, NETs patients must continue to be their own health advocate. In the words of Barack Obama: Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. You don’t need a dire diagnosis to act now. If you’d like to join me in living a healthier life, click on this link to get started.

PS: If you know anyone diagnosed with NETs who would like to tell their story and inspire others with the condition, please contact linda@selfcarecatalysts.com

The author has used Health Storylines since being diagnosed with neuroendocrine tumours in 2016. After more than a year documenting her health via the app, she has become a Self-Care Ambassador as part of a pilot to encourage others to track their health.