Too many Australians live with – and tragically die from – health conditions that are preventable.
It is estimated that nearly half of all deaths aged under 75 could have been avoided with earlier diagnosis and positive health decisions.
Whilst there a wide range of complex conditions, there are some core principles which reduce your risk of suffering from many chronic diseases.
- Eat Healthily – Include fruit and veggies in your daily diet while keeping red meat and salt to a minimum.
- Don’t Smoke – It’s not just your lungs that are at risk when you have a puff, cigarettes can cause an array of different cancers and other diseases.
- Restrict Alcohol – Stick to less than 2 standard drinks a day.
- Exercise Regularly – Stay active and aim for half an hour’s exercise a day.
- Maintain A Healthy Weight – Try to keep your weight in the BMI range of 18.5 to 25 kg/m
- Manage Blood Pressure and Cholesterol Levels – Have these checked regularly by your GP to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.
- Get Vaccinated – Follow the National Immunisation Program to make sure you and your family and protected against a range of serious conditions.
Education is also a big part of the remedy. We’ve compiled some helpful info and online resources so you can keep up to date with the key illnesses and conditions that affect our community. We also offer a range of Preventative Health Checks to mitigate against future health problems for you and your family.
Nearly 150,000 Australians are diagnosed with cancer every year
Many of the most common cancers now have established screenings and prevention strategies so it’s important to stay informed.
The Aussie summer is the envy of many around the world, with our sunny days, beautiful beaches, and sizzling barbecues. We pay a price for it though, with 2 out of every 3 Australians diagnosed with skin cancer before the age of 70 – one of the highest rates in the world.
There are three common types of skin cancer – melanoma, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Melanoma is the most dangerous, with the other two often grouped together as ‘non-melanoma skin cancer’.
To lessen the threat from skin cancer:
- Avoid direct exposure to the sun – use water-resistant, SPF30 sunscreen and cover your body with hats and UV-protective clothing.
- Get a full-body skin annually to scan for any cancers or other lesions.
After non-melanoma skin cancer, Bowel Cancer is the second-most common cancer in Australia for both men and women. It is particularly common in older Australians and sometimes known as colon or rectal cancer depending on where the disease originates.
Any sustained irregularities with the bowel function could be symptoms of Bowel Cancer. This includes any pain, diarrhoea, constipation, blood in faeces or urine, and significant weight loss.
That said, Bowel Cancer is often asymptomatic and screening is essential for early detection. Here in Australia we have a really effective screening program, where every two years the Government will send you a testing kit which you can do at home and then send off to pathology. The results are then sent out to you and you can review with your doctor. You can find full details on the screening program here.
Is one of the most serious health risks facing Australian men. Read more on our Men’s Health page.
Breast and Cervical Cancer
Continue to threaten the lives of too many women in our community. Check out our Women’s Health page to learn more about both conditions and the screening programs that exist.
Show your heart a little love, it goes a long way
Coronary Heart Disease is the leading underlying cause of death in Australia, with other heart conditions and cerebrovascular conditions like stroke also claiming the lives of many Australians.
Heart disease is an umbrella term which includes a few different heart conditions. The most common is Coronary Heart Disease – caused by complications with the arteries connected to the heart – however, there are other conditions that relate the heart muscle and function such as Angina.
A healthy lifestyle is the best defence against heart disease, combining positive eating and exercise habits with regular GP visits to monitor blood pressure and cholesterol. Some other factors which can make you more susceptible to a heart condition include;
• High levels of stress.
• A family history with the disease.
• Complications during pregnancy can increase the risk for some women, as can changes in blood pressure and cholesterol post-menopause.
You should keep an eye out for any tightness in your chest and speak immediately with your GP if it occurs.
Other key symptoms include;
• Shortness of breath.
• More intense heart palpitations.
• Pain travelling from your chest to your arms, jaw, neck, back, shoulders and abdomen.
• Sweating and dizziness.
Even if you’re feeling in good health, proactivity is vital to keep your heart in good shape. All Australians over the age of 45 – or over 30 for First Nations peoples – can get a free annual Heart Health Check. It takes just 20 minutes and is available at all NHC locations.
The Heart Foundation is an amazing source of information on all things heart health, covering causes, symptoms, management strategies and fundraising opportunities.
A stroke is caused when there are complications with the arteries that deliver blood to the brain. Broadly this comes in two forms, a clot which causes a blockage or a burst vessel causing bleeding on the brain. Around 100 Australians suffer a stroke every day and while the consequences are different in every case, this can cause restricted mobility, speech, brain function and behavioural changes.
Everyone can be susceptible to stroke, though the risk grows with age and men are affected more often than women. Positive lifestyle choices help mitigate the threat, though close monitoring or blood pressure and cholesterol are also essential. Those who have diabetes are also more likely to experience a stroke.
The Stroke Foundation website is a rich source of info on the condition, prevention strategies and fundraising initiatives.
Over a million Australians live with diabetes
Diabetes occurs when the body can’t create sufficient levels of glucose in the blood. You’ve probably heard of type 1 and type 2 diabetes, though there is also gestational diabetes which has far less awareness. In summary;
- Type 1 diabetes is caused when the pancreas doesn’t produce sufficient insulin due to an autoimmune reaction. This is neither preventable or curable and requires daily management of insulin levels and injections.
- Type 2 diabetes or more common and occurs when insulin production decreases over time. It is preventable, with known lifestyle and genetic causes.
- Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy, as for some women high blood glucose levels don’t recede after the baby is born.
Positive lifestyle choices are the best way to protect against Type 2 diabetes. Other factors that can make its occurrence more likely are high blood pressure and cholesterol, a family history with the disease as well as ethnic backgrounds such as Indigenous Australian, Pacific Island, Indian subcontinent or Chinese. The risk also increases with age.
There is a range of symptoms that you should look out for. Please speak to your GP if you;
- Have constant excessive thirst or hunger.
- Are feeling tired or dizzy, or have blurred vision.
- Have itching skin infections or notice that cuts are healing slowly.
- Are passing more urine.
- Are gradually putting on weight.
- Have mood swings.
- Have leg cramps.
Pregnant women should have their blood glucose level checked at weeks 24-28 of pregnancy to understand the risk of developing gestational diabetes after birth. Women aged over 40, who are overweight, have a family history of diabetes, have previously given birth to a very large child, or are from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, Melanesian, Polynesian, Chinese, Southeast Asian, Middle Eastern or Indian backgrounds can be at higher risk, at might be advised by their doctor to get checked sooner in the pregnancy.
Once diagnosed, diabetes is a manageable disease. Your doctor will talk to you about a Care Plan, covering all the necessary steps to handle the mental and physical challenges that diabetes presents. Regular check-ins with the GP are strict adherence with the Care Plan are essential to stop diabetes affecting your way of life too severely.
Diabetes Australia has lots more information, and the NDSS helpline on 1800 637 700 can also help with any questions you may have.
Deep breaths – it’s time to talk respiratory health
Given that we take around 22,000 breaths a day, it can hardly be a surprise that the health of our lungs is one of the most fundamental measures of our overall health. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) – which includes chronic forms of bronchitis, asthma and emphysema – is one of our country’s leading causes of death, whilst conditions like asthma, sleep apnoea and hay fever affect the quality of life of many in our community.
You won’t be shocked to hear that smoking is the main cause of serious lung conditions. It can’t be said too often, cigarettes are a direct threat to your health. Remember that you can always talk to you GP if you’re looking to cut them out of your life.
There are a few other steps you can take to reduce the risk of respiratory problems.
- Avoid pollutants – be particularly careful if your job exposes you to gases, chemicals, dust or other dangerous substances.
- Reduce infections – get vaccinations for the likes of influenza and pneumonia.
- Monitor air quality – depending on where you live there may be substances in the air which aren’t great for your health, ranging from smoke, to pollutants, to pollen.
The Lung Foundation Australia is the main local authority on respiratory health, check out their page to learn more. Their ‘Check in with your lungs’ tool is a simple, interactive way to do a quick review of your lung health, check in with your GP if it raises any concerns.
Vaccinations save lives
Increases in vaccinations in recent decades have led to the virtual eradication of conditions like smallpox and polio, with large reductions for a range of other conditions. We’re fortunate here in Australia that the Government funds a very comprehensive immunisation program, protecting you and your family against harmful conditions without any out of pocket costs.
It’s a great idea to be familiar with the National Immunisation Program schedule, which lays out all the crucial vaccinations from infancy through to old age. Indigenous Australians should refer to this schedule, which has some tweaks to match the health needs of First Nations peoples. Your GP at the NHC can help you to monitor the schedule and administer the immunisations.
Beyond the NIP schedule, there are also life changes that need additional vaccinations – such as moving to a new occupation or travelling overseas. You can find more information here on the Health.gov.au website, or discuss this with your GP at any stage.
Sadly, in recent years there has been a flood of misinformation about vaccinations – particularly in social media. All vaccinations in Australia are thoroughly tested to make sure they’re safe for you and your children. If you have any questions please speak to a medical professional, or refer to credible sources of information such as The Department of Health. Don’t take social media content on face value as much of it isn’t coming from reputable sources and remember that – just like viruses and other diseases – bad information can quickly spread within the community.
We’re here to help
We offer a broad range of vaccinations and health checks, for children, adults and seniors. The vast majority of these are bulk billed to members.