Seniors Week: Be proactive to look after your health

Everything we do affects many other aspects of our health. From sleep to physical activity, to our mental health and our nutrition, we need to take care of it all.
Everything we do affects many other aspects of our health. From sleep to physical activity, to our mental health and our nutrition, we need to take care of it all.

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Having spoken to a wide variety of medical specialists and health practitioners about their area of expertise lately, I have noticed an interesting interconnection between all of their comments.

The epiphany I’ve had as a result of interviewing and listening to them all is this:

When it comes to your health and wellbeing, there’s no one magic thing that you can do right each day in order to look after yourself.

It turns out that it is everything you do that makes a difference, and in some cases you may be a little surprised at what affects what.

The amount of physical activity you do, the nutrition you feed yourself, the quality of your sleep, the precautions you take in the sun, and the measures you take to improve your mental health, can all have an impact on one or more of the others.

First off, podiatrists Dr Allan Donnelly and Dr Ricky Lee both told us about the links between diabetes and your feet, and the alarming number of amputations Australian surgeons need to do as a consequence of diabetic foot disease.

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Apart from having your podiatrist help you manage the condition before it gets that bad, the solution they both offered to prevent it in the first place is to lower your risk of type 2 diabetes by watching what you eat and being physically active on a regular basis.

Elsewhere on the body, ophthalmologists Dr Randev Mendis and Dr Maciek Kuzniarz both pointed out that research is indicating that proper nutrition can help reduce the risk, perhaps even reduce the severity of, conditions like macular degeneration.

Dr Kuzniarz also wants you to protect your eyes from UV radiation with properly-rated sunglasses, and to quit smoking because the eyes are yet another organ that it puts at greater risk.

Four separate dermatologists pointed out that it doesn’t take long to get enough vitamin D for your bones, and it is best done in the morning or evening when the level of UV is safest.

You can also get some vitamin D in certain foods which is handy through winter.

Sleep physicians point out that your health affects your sleep, and your sleep affects your health. Dr Carolyn Daikin said “Regular exercise and activity outside during the day helps good sleep at night.”

Meanwhile Dr Stuart Miller told us “Lack of adequate quality sleep is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity and poor mental health.”

He also says “insomnia is both a physical and functional brain condition”, with neuroscientists continuing to do research on how it can best be treated in future.

As for snoring, that affects not just you, but also denies your partner some of the sleep they need. 

“Almost half of adult men and one quarter of women snore regularly”, Dr Miller added. Note that jabbing them in the ribs is not helpful to either of you.

For any such sleep issues send them to their GP who may refer them to a sleep clinic if necessary.

Orthopaedic surgeons illustrated that your joints and bones are affected by your weight and nutrition too.

Dr Brendan Klar pointed out the unavoidable fact that over half of knee replacement patients are considered obese (BMI of 30 or over) at the time of their surgery. Also, their mean age is 68.

This weight not only puts extra strain on your original knees, it will also increase the wear rate on the prosthetic they put in, and it can hamper your recovery.

Dr Sindy Vrancic described how shoulder fractures from lighter impacts (like a simple fall from standing height) can be an indicator of poor bone health.

The prevention here is again nutrition and physical activity to increase their density and therefore reduce your risks.

WHAT TO DO

It doesn’t matter how rich or poor your are, how famous or anonymous, nor how able or disabled you are, we are all the same when it comes to being a squishy compilation of blood and organs that needs to be consistently nourished, nurtured, cared for, cared about, physically active and properly rested in order to be healthy.

Helpfully, you are not on your own when it comes to figuring out what is going to be best for you to improve your health.

There is no shortage of guidance that your GP can give you if you need it, regarding anything from your sleep, to making sure you’re not nutritionally deficient in any way, to determining what type of physical activity you are still capable of.