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Every week, the Pharmacy Self Care Program (from the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia) publishes a Health Care Facts column.  This also appears in the Herbert River Express every week.

For your convenience, they will be published here - feel free to browse back over past editions.

 



John Bell Column 15 May 2012

Pharmacy Self Care Health Facts Column
By John Bell –15 May 2012

 

 

Where there’s smoke, there’s sometimes blindness

 

We all know that smoking is a major risk factor for many diseases including heart and blood vessel disease, osteoporosis and various cancers.

Perhaps less well known is the fact that smoking causes blindness.  Smokers and people who have smoked are three times more likely to develop macular degeneration.

The potentially serious adverse effects of smoking on our eyesight and the possible benefits of diet and exercise are just some of the messages to come from Macular Degeneration Awareness Week (26 May to 1 June).

Macular degeneration (MD) – sometimes known as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) because of its high prevalence in older people – is the leading cause of irreversible blindness in Australia and other Western countries.

It is the name given to a group of diseases of the retina which cause progressive, painless loss of central vision. Thus the ability to see fine detail, drive, read and recognise faces is slowly but surely lost.

Presently there is no cure for AMD; and treatments to delay or stop its progression have met with limited success. As AMD is so common (one in seven people over the age of 50 is affected) there is increasing interest in identifying risk factors which, when modified, may reduce the chance of getting AMD, or stop the condition becoming worse when it does occur.

A family history of macular degeneration gives us a 50% chance of developing the disease.  We can’t do too much to change our parents, so a regular and frequent check up by the eye specialist is important for early diagnosis.

Nevertheless, something we can address is a commitment to become a non-smoker.  Many studies have clearly demonstrated the link between smoking and AMD.

There is ongoing debate about the relationship between AMD and obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels; but research strongly suggest that diet is significant.

There’s probably still some doubt as to whether eating your crusts makes your hair grow curly.  But there’s no doubt the advice we got from our mums and grandmums with respect to vegetables was pretty accurate.

In particular the likelihood is that the pigments beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin found in carrots, pumpkin, corn and some green leafy vegetables are beneficial. Other antioxidants of interest include vitamins A and E and the trace elements zinc and selenium.

Proprietary preparations containing these substances are now available, but the use of anti-oxidants in high doses is not without risk. Beta-carotene has been found to increase the risk of lung cancer in smokers; and vitamin E has been associated with an increased risk of heart failure in people with diabetes or disease affecting circulation. Check with your pharmacist before you choose a specific product.

On the other hand, there is evidence that fish oil (containing so-called omega-3 fatty acids) might provide protection against AMD. So, the Macular Degeneration Foundation advises eating fish two or three times a week, eating dark-green leafy vegetables and fresh fruit, eating a handful of nuts once a week and protecting your eyes from sunlight exposure; and of course, if you’re a smoker, then quit! You can get more good advice from the Foundation at www.mdfoundation.com.au  And you can access a copy of their publication Slips, Trips and Falls, and how to avoid them - a guide for people with low vision.

Also, pharmacies around Australia providing the Pharmaceutical Society’s Self Care health information have a fact card titled Vision Impairment. The card gives details about not only AMD but also glaucoma, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, and refractive error.

To locate the Self Care pharmacy nearest you, log on to the Pharmaceutical Society (PSA) website at www.psa.org.au and click on “use the self care pharmacy finder”. Or phone PSA on 1300 369 772

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It’s always a good time to quit

 

It's on or about New Year's Day that well intentioned resolutions are made; and it's quite often not much later that those resolutions are broken. Studies show that nearly two thirds of smokers would like to quit, but fewer that one in 20 people who try to stop smoking will remain non smokers after three months.

Of course that's no reason to quit the quit attempts; the more often you try the more likely you are to be successful. If you're one of those people who tried unsuccessfully to stop smoking in January, why not give it another try? With the World Health Organization (WHO) sponsored World No Tobacco Day coming up on 31 May, there'll be plenty of encouragement and support. And it's always a good time to quit.

The epidemic of tobacco use is one of the greatest public health threats the world has faced.

Smoking is one of the leading causes of preventable death. In fact, tobacco is the only product which, when used as directed, causes ill health and death.

This year nearly six million people will die from a tobacco-related heart attack, stroke, cancer, a lung ailment or other disease. Of this number, around 5 million are current users or former users of tobacco, but there are also more than 6000,000 people - almost a third of them children - who will die from second-hand smoke; that is the smoke that some unthinking or inconsiderate smoker has puffed out.

Generally the introduction of measures to improve community health are universally supported - measures such as the building of effective sewage systems, the availability of clean drinking water and the promotion of vaccination. However, according to WHO, the efforts of various countries to implement tobacco control, and thus save thousands of lives, is being energetically undermined by the tobacco industry.

So, this year, the theme for World No Tobacco Day is "ban tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship".

Regardless of how cigarettes are presented, there would hardly be a man, woman or even child in Australia who doesn’t know about the dangers of smoking. And yet, there are probably many reasons why people begin to smoke – peer pressure is a particularly relevant factor in young women. But the reality is, once you start smoking it’s mighty hard to stop.

Until recently, it was thought that stopping smoking completely – either cold turkey or with the help of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) – was the best way to ensure becoming a long term non-smoker. But this “quick stop” method doesn’t suit everyone.

The “cut down then stop” (CDTS) method has now been given the official seal of approval. Evidence has shown that reducing the number of cigarettes smoked with the assistance of NRT, makes it easier for some heavily addicted smokers to ultimately quit completely.

Also, the simultaneous use of more than one nicotine replacement therapy product used not to be considered appropriate. But experience has shown that some smokers who continue to have cravings with single therapy, or those who have quit in the past and then relapsed, will benefit and become long-term quitters by using the patches and gum together.

There are many myths and misconceptions about the effects of nicotine and NRT. If you need some help to quit, make sure you get the facts and the right advice on what products will suit you best. Ask for the fact cards on Smoking and Staying a Non-smoker from one of the pharmacies around Australia providing the Pharmaceutical Society’s (PSA) Self Care health information. Log on to the website at www.psa.org.au or phone 1300 369 772 for the nearest location.

Of course if you're already a non smoker, make sure you avoid all that smoke other people are generating.

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Article courtesy of the Pharmacy Self Care Program, an initiative of the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia.

 
John Bell Column 08 May 2012

Pharmacy Self Care Health Facts Column
By John Bell –08 May 2012

 

 

Where there’s smoke, there’s sometimes blindness

 

We all know that smoking is a major risk factor for many diseases including heart and blood vessel disease, osteoporosis and various cancers.

Perhaps less well known is the fact that smoking causes blindness.  Smokers and people who have smoked are three times more likely to develop macular degeneration.

The potentially serious adverse effects of smoking on our eyesight and the possible benefits of diet and exercise are just some of the messages to come from Macular Degeneration Awareness Week (26 May to 1 June).

Macular degeneration (MD) – sometimes known as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) because of its high prevalence in older people – is the leading cause of irreversible blindness in Australia and other Western countries.

It is the name given to a group of diseases of the retina which cause progressive, painless loss of central vision. Thus the ability to see fine detail, drive, read and recognise faces is slowly but surely lost.

Presently there is no cure for AMD; and treatments to delay or stop its progression have met with limited success. As AMD is so common (one in seven people over the age of 50 is affected) there is increasing interest in identifying risk factors which, when modified, may reduce the chance of getting AMD, or stop the condition becoming worse when it does occur.

A family history of macular degeneration gives us a 50% chance of developing the disease.  We can’t do too much to change our parents, so a regular and frequent check up by the eye specialist is important for early diagnosis.

Nevertheless, something we can address is a commitment to become a non-smoker.  Many studies have clearly demonstrated the link between smoking and AMD.

There is ongoing debate about the relationship between AMD and obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels; but research strongly suggest that diet is significant.

There’s probably still some doubt as to whether eating your crusts makes your hair grow curly.  But there’s no doubt the advice we got from our mums and grandmums with respect to vegetables was pretty accurate.

In particular the likelihood is that the pigments beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin found in carrots, pumpkin, corn and some green leafy vegetables are beneficial. Other antioxidants of interest include vitamins A and E and the trace elements zinc and selenium.

Proprietary preparations containing these substances are now available, but the use of anti-oxidants in high doses is not without risk. Beta-carotene has been found to increase the risk of lung cancer in smokers; and vitamin E has been associated with an increased risk of heart failure in people with diabetes or disease affecting circulation. Check with your pharmacist before you choose a specific product.

On the other hand, there is evidence that fish oil (containing so-called omega-3 fatty acids) might provide protection against AMD. So, the Macular Degeneration Foundation advises eating fish two or three times a week, eating dark-green leafy vegetables and fresh fruit, eating a handful of nuts once a week and protecting your eyes from sunlight exposure; and of course, if you’re a smoker, then quit! You can get more good advice from the Foundation at www.mdfoundation.com.au  And you can access a copy of their publication Slips, Trips and Falls, and how to avoid them - a guide for people with low vision.

Also, pharmacies around Australia providing the Pharmaceutical Society’s Self Care health information have a fact card titled Vision Impairment. The card gives details about not only AMD but also glaucoma, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, and refractive error.

To locate the Self Care pharmacy nearest you, log on to the Pharmaceutical Society (PSA) website at www.psa.org.au and click on “use the self care pharmacy finder”. Or phone PSA on 1300 369 772

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Article courtesy of the Pharmacy Self Care Program, an initiative of the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia.

 
John Bell Column 01 May 2012

Pharmacy Self Care Health Facts Column
By John Bell –01 May 2012

 

 

It’s time to control asthma

 

World Asthma Day is an annual event organised on the first Tuesday in May by the Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA) to raise awareness and improve the care of asthma. This year GINA is continuing with the theme “you can control your asthma”, but now with the addition of “it’s time for control”.

Australia has more people with asthma than just about anywhere else in the world.  About 10% of the Australian population (more than 2 million people) have asthma. Everyone knows someone – a friend or family member – with asthma.

Asthma is a potentially very serious condition likely to cause at least discomfort, quite possibly severe disability and perhaps even death. So, learning “asthma first aid” is a simple skill that could save someone’s life

In Australia, the number of deaths from asthma each year declined from about 1,000 some 20 years ago to less than 300 in 2005, but in the past few years it has been increasing again to more than 400.

During the winter, colds and flu are major causes of cough and congestion, but these are not the only conditions which affect our ability to breathe freely.

A variety of factors can trigger the inflammation which causes the symptoms of asthma – wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness and coughing, particularly at night or in the early morning.  These trigger factors include allergies, viral infections and inhaled pollutants such as tobacco smoke, dust and dust mites.  Cold air exposure and exercise can trigger asthma, as can reflux disease and certain medicines in people with super-sensitive airways.  Even laughing (said to be the best medicine!!), especially in children, has been shown to trigger asthma.

Identification and avoidance of trigger factors goes a long way towards asthma control.  But most people with asthma will need preventer and reliever medicines as well.

What medicine is best and how often it should be used depends on whether the asthma is classified as intermittent, mild persistent, moderate persistent or severe persistent.

We don’t yet have all the answers as to the exact underlying cause of asthma – or why some people have airways more naturally sensitive – nor do we have the perfect single treatment.

Most people who live with asthma think they are in control of their condition, but the reality is very different. According to Asthma Australia up to 90% of people with asthma do not use their inhalers correctly and only around 20% have a written Asthma Action Plan.

As well, many people with asthma are unaware of asthma first aid. These procedures are essential to know, not only for everyone with asthma, but also if you have someone with asthma in your family or you’re caring for someone with asthma. And it’s especially important for teachers to know about asthma first aid. The State Asthma Foundations have available Asthma Emergency Kits which include basic equipment and instructions for use to assist someone having an asthma attack; and the Foundations can provide education and training on the use of the kits. Check out the website www.asthmaaustralia.org.au  for more details; and look for the latest edition of Asthma Update.

Also, the Pharmaceutical Society in Australia (PSA) has recently revised the Asthma and Asthma Medicines fact cards.  These cards provide the latest information on how asthma can be well controlled so that people with asthma can live a normal and active life, free of symptoms.

The cards are available from all pharmacies in Australia that provide the PSA Self Care health information.  Phone 1300 369 772 for the nearest location; or alternatively log onto www.psa.org.au and click on “Self Care” then “Find a Self Care Pharmacy”.

By being prepared with good asthma management strategies we should all breathe a little more easily.

 

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Article courtesy of the Pharmacy Self Care Program, an initiative of the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia.

 
John Bell Column 28 Apr 2012

Pharmacy Self Care Health Facts Column
By John Bell –28 Apr 2012

 

 

Bidding farewell to thrush

 

Fungi live with us - both on us and inside us - in enormous numbers; usually quite happily and generally without causing any harm at all. But now and again their presence can be quite problematic; more especially when the balance of power is disturbed amongst all those micro-organisms residing on and in our body.

A particular type of fungal infection is the one caused by the yeast known as Candida. Within this species, Candida albicans is most likely to be the offending organism and the symptoms it gives rise to are called candidiasis or more commonly thrush.

The areas that Candida finds most attractive are the warm, moist, airless parts of the body.  This is why the vagina is the most common site; but thrush can also develop in other areas such as the mouth, the armpits, under the breasts, the groin and the nappy area in babies.

In fact, Candida albicans resides in 50% of healthy mouths; however, the symptoms of oral thrush are more common in infants and the elderly. So it's when the immune system of the host is not fully developed, is inadequate or is in some way compromised, that irritation and discomfort results. Poorly fitting dentures and poor oral hygiene generally are factors which might mean oral thrush infection is more likely. And the risk of oral thrush is also increased by smoking, dry mouth and incorrect use of asthma inhalers which contain ingredients known as corticosteroids. If none of these risk factors can be readily identified, a nutritional deficiency or an underlying more serious condition could be the cause and a visit to the doctor is required.

Dry mouth is a really common problem, more so the older we get, and there are many medicines which can cause or aggravate dry mouth. These include prescription medicines such as antidepressant and anti-anxiety medicines, diuretics and antipsychotics, as well as medicines for high blood pressure and Parkinson’s Disease. And there are many non-prescription medicines that can cause dry mouth too: antihistamines (especially the older, sedating variety) and medicines for nausea and stomach cramp.

There is now a range of products available to help with dry mouth – mouth washes, tooth pastes, gels, mouth sprays and chewing gum. If dry mouth is a problem, check with your pharmacist as to which product might be suitable for you. And there are also some good over-the counter remedies for treating oral thrush.

Skin irritation within the nappy area in babies is caused by friction and the presence of moisture; and the irritation becomes much worse when urine and faeces come into contact with the already damaged skin. It’s also then that fungal infection with Candida albicans is likely. The rash becomes bright red from what might have been just a faint pink, the area inside the skin folds is affected and so-called satellite lesions – that is spots branching away from the main rash – are evident.

Combination products containing hydrocortisone (to sooth the irritation) and an anti-fungal (to treat the infection) can usually bring the condition under control inside a week; then regular nappy rash prevention measures can be resumed.

The condition known as vulvovaginal candidiasis, or vaginal thrush, occurs mainly in women aged between 16 and 60. It is more common when taking some antibiotics, oral contraceptives or, in the case of post menopausal women, when taking hormone replacement therapy. It is also common during pregnancy.

As well as the traditional topical treatments there is also now a single dose oral capsule.

Pharmacies providing the Pharmaceutical Society’s “Self Care” health information have available a fact card on the topic of Thrush, as well as cards on Nappy Rash and Dry Mouth. For the nearest location phone 1300 369 772 or checkout the website at www.psa.org.au Click on “Self Care” then “Find a Self Care Pharmacy”.

 

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Article courtesy of the Pharmacy Self Care Program, an initiative of the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia.

 
John Bell Column 21 Apr 2012

Pharmacy Self Care Health Facts Column
By John Bell –21 Apr 2012

 

 

War stories

 

The spectacular international success of the stage show War Horse, based on the 1982 children's novel by Michael Morpurgo, has raised awareness of the extent of the  role of horses in  World War I. Records indicate that more than a million horses were sent to the battlefields from the Britain; of this number just 65,000 returned.

Perhaps less well known is that more than 130,000 Australian horses went to the fighting fronts of the "Great War". At the end of the war 13,000 Australian horses remained overseas, but due to quarantine restrictions could not be shipped home; they were sold or destroyed.

Of course in the 1914-18 war the human sacrifice from Australia was even more significant. In just four years, 60,000 Australians died - out of a total population then of less than 5 million.

ANZAC Day was established to commemorate Australia's involvement in World War I and specifically the landing on the Gallipoli peninsula in Turkey.  More recently this day has become arguably Australia’s most significant national occasion.

On ANZAC Day we now remember all Australians who served and died in all wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations.

ANZAC Day brings with it a mix of emotions – a sense of achievement, a sense of pride, but also a sense of sadness. Nevertheless, for everyone it’s a time for reflection – a time to reflect on what is and what might have been.

By the mid 1930s all the rituals we now associate with ANZAC Day were well established – dawn vigils, marches, memorial services, reunions and even two-up games. Another of these traditions is the bugle call of the Last Post. The ceremonial presence of the lone piper is also likely to have become a feature of Australian memorial services from the early 20th century. The traditional Scottish song of mourning and remembrance, Flower of the Forest, is the tune usually played on these occasions.

Flowers and plants in their own right have come to play a part in this process of reflection and remembrance. It’s now commonplace to wear a sprig of rosemary on ANZAC Day. Centuries ago this aromatic herb was believed to have properties to improve memory; and possibly because of these supposed properties rosemary became an emblem of both fidelity and remembrance in ancient literature and folklore. The Flanders Poppy is another flower increasingly being used as part of ANZAC Day observances.

The narcotic pain relievers have been developed from another kind of poppy - the opium poppy – and remain one of the most valuable groups of medicines available. It’s a grim irony that the Taliban, fighting our forces in Afghanistan, are being supported by funds derived from the heroin trade – heroin manufactured from those same poppy plants.

Unfortunately the pain experienced by our troops in war zones is often such that it can’t be managed by pain relievers alone.  Post traumatic stress can be severe and long lasting.

Official recognition was given to the condition known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in 1980 following the Vietnam War. While the majority of causes of PTSD are war related – war veterans, peace-keeping forces and refugees are all at high risk – people who are victims of natural disasters may also suffer PTSD.

With the assistance of the Australian Government and the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Pharmaceutical Society has produced a fact card on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  It’s one of a series of Cards that includes Anxiety, Depression and Sleeping Problems available at your nearest Self Care pharmacyPhone the Pharmaceutical Society on 1300 369 772 for more information or check the Society’s website www.psa.org.au and click on “Self Care” then “Find a Self Care Pharmacy”, for the location of pharmacies providing the Society’s Self Care health information.

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Article courtesy of the Pharmacy Self Care Program, an initiative of the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia.

 
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