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Why Prevention is Better Than Cure

According to 2008 data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, men outnumber women in many causes of non-gender related deaths.

Why? Well a number of reasons but a common theme throughout the literature is:

 

Men in Western societies such as Australia are less inclined than women to take an active role in maintaining their health. They are also less likely to seek professional help for problems, particularly those of an emotional nature.

Regardless of age and gender, the same principals apply to prevent and manage many diseases and health conditions. This is because there is a strong link between good cardiovascular health and:

  • Good brain health and the prevention of dementia
  • Prevention or better outcomes for diabetes and depression

On the other end of the scale. The risks factors that increase your chance of cardiovascular disease will also increase your chance of developing a dementia, diabetes and many other chronic diseases.

Of course, there are many other factors that can place us at risk of disease and illness that we have no or minimal control over.

Making the right lifestyle choices for optimal heart health is something you do have control over.

DISEASE PREVENTION AT A GLANCE:

Prevention Heart Disease/Stroke Prevention Dementia Prevention Diabetes Managing Depression Prevention Prostate Cancer
Not smoking Look after your heart Not Smoking Not Smoking
Manage blood cholesterol Manage blood cholesterol Manage blood cholesterol
Manage Blood Pressure Manage blood pressure. Managing high blood pressure Manage high blood pressure
Manage Diabetes Avoid onset of type 2 diabetes Manage Blood Sugar
Be physically active Be physically active – avoid falls/bumping your head Regular Physical Exercise Regular Physical Exercise Regular Physical Exercise
Maintain a healthy weight Maintain a healthy weight Maintain Health Weight Maintain healthy weight Maintain healthy weight
Follow a healthy diet Follow a healthy diet Follow a healthy diet Follow a healthy diet Follow a healthy diet – reduce red meat and high calcium dairy products
Look after your Mental health Avoid risk factors for depression and seek help at beginning of onset for optimal recovery. Get enough sleep/keep social Reduce Stress
Limit Alcohol Consumption Limit Alcohol Consumption Limit Alcohol Consumption Limit Alcohol Consumption Limit Alcohol Consumption

Although prevention will greatly lower the risk of chronic disease there can be no guarantees that you will never develop a disease or health condition. This is because there are also (non-lifestyle) factors that contribute towards disease and chronic health conditions, such as;

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Genetics
  • Ethnicity

The reality is the older you get, the higher your risk of developing a disease or health condition.

But! just because the risks get’s higher as you age doesn’t mean you give up “the fight”.  There is a lot of research out their that concludes that the happier and healthier you are, the greater the chance you are of:

  • Preventing onset of disease
  • Recovering well from surgery and illness, and
  • Being better equipped to to manage the symptoms of a chronic disease should it present.

WHAT YOU CAN DO NOW:

Learn about the fabulous job your heart and circulatory system does.
How Your Heart Works
Summary:
  • Your heart (which is a muscle) pumps approximately 5 litres of blood throughout the body via your circulatory system. It beats approximately 60 to 100 times per minute and will have beat approximately 2.5 billion times by the time you hit your 70’s
  • The role of your heart and the circulatory system is to continuously carry essential oxygen and nutrients to every cell, organ and body part and eliminate your body of unwanted waste products and carbon dioxide via the capillaries
  • The more nutrient dense your diet is, the better quality the nutrients you will be pumping throughout your body to maintain all the systems that that function it
  • Your body relies on movement to help push the deoxygenated blood back to heart and lungs to re-oxygenate
  • Your heart is a muscle and needs ongoing exercise throughout your entire lifespan to help keep it fit and efficient. Without regular physical activity, the body slowly loses its strength, stamina and ability to function well.

Click Here and discover a fun and interactive way to learn about the fabulous job your heart does (heartfoundation.org.au).

Incorporate the lifestyle choices below that best reduce your risks for chronic disease and illnesses.

  • Not Smoking
  • Manage Blood Cholesterol
  • Manage Blood Pressure
  • Manage Diabetes
  • Be physical active
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Follow a nutritious diet
  • Engage and look after your mental health

Raise your awareness of the warning signs of chronic disease and illnesses and notify your GP from the very onset. 

Treatment at early onset gives you the best chance for recovery, treatment and/or management of a condition.

Don’t ignore changes to your health, especially if they persist.  At the same time don’t automatically fear the worst.  In many instances, the symptoms you experience can be treatable and not an absolute that you have a chronic disease or illness.

Take home message!

Never be fearful of going to see your GP if something has changed for you and never dismiss a symptom because you think it is unimportant.

So Let’s Start Raising Your SYMPTOM Awareness -

TOP 10 Preventable Chronic Diseases for Australian Men

Did you know that the following chronic diseases are the leading causes of preventable deaths for Australian men. Although we have not provided all information pertaining to these conditions, remember you can always Click on the words highlighted in blue for more information. We would also encourage you to go to the Your Health and Wellbeing” section of our website, especially in regard to non-gender health specific conditions you should know more about.

According to the Better Health Channel the Top 10 causes of preventable death in men are:

1. Ischaemic Heart Disease (IHD)

Ischaemic Heart Disease (IHD) is term given to heart problems caused by narrowed and clogged heart arteries. These arteries get narrower when fatty material (called plaque) build up inside and clogs them. When your heart arteries are narrowed, less blood and oxygen can reach your heart muscle. Your heart, as with all your muscles, needs optimal blood flow and oxygen to remain healthy and work efficiently.

IHD is also called coronary artery disease and coronary heart disease and is associated with age and is a lifelong condition that affects many people and is the number one leading cause of preventable deaths for men. IHD is the most common cause of Heart Attacks. The condition angina is commonly a precursor to having a heart attack. The following information is sourced from a selection of credible resources. All of which are referenced and listed after each of the following headings.

ANGINA

Angina is caused by Ischemic Heart Disease (IHD). It occurs when your heart does not get the blood and oxygen it needs to function healthily. Angina often causes pain and discomfort – people describe it as a tight, gripping or squeezing sensation and can vary from mild to severe.

Symptoms

The type of pain you may experience can vary from person to person. According the Australian Heart Foundation you may experience angina pain;

  • In the centre of your chest
  • Spreading to your back, neck or jaw or to one or both shoulders, arms or hands
  • In other parts of your body but not in your chest
  • More as an unpleasant feeling than of pain in your chest or feel short of breath

Symptoms can be experienced at different times of the day, such as,

  • Early in the morning
  • When resting or even sleeping

Sometimes symptoms can occur because of;

  • Cold weather
  • A heavy meal
  • After physical activities

Angina is not a heart attack, but it is an indicator that you are at a high risk of having a heart attack in the future. If you have angina your risk of having a heart attack increases.

It is very important that you speak to your GP if and when you experience any of the above symptoms; regardless of how mild or long they may last. Immediate medical attention and lifestyle changes can prevent or prolong a heart attack from happening.

HEART ATTACK

A heart attack occurs when a blood clot breaks away from the inner wall of your heart arteries (a result of damage caused by plague build up) completely blocks the flow of blood and seriously reduces blood flow to the heart muscle. As a result, some of your heart muscle starts to die.

According to the Australian Heart Foundation, warning signs of a heart attack include:

  • Cold sweat
  • Dizziness
  • Ache or tightness in and around jaw (one or both sides) can spread up from chest to jaw)
  • General discomfort in your neck, a choking or burning feeling in your throat. May spread from your chest, shoulders or neck
  • A general ache, heaviness or pressure around one or both of your shoulders. This discomfort may spread from your chest to your shoulder(s)
  • Shortness of breath – difficulties taking a deep breath
  • Pain, heaviness, tightness, pressure or a crushing sensation in your chest
  • Mild pain or discomfort in your chest – feeling generally unwell
  • Nausea
  • Discomfort, pain or heaviness, uselessness in one or both arms

IS IT ANGINA OR A HEART ATTACK?

As you can see symptoms of Angina and a Heart Attack are similar but:

  • You are likely experiencing ANGINA if symptoms ease within a short period of rest or after 10 minutes of taking angina medication prescribed by your doctor. If symptoms do ease, make an appointment to see your GP straight away – Remember – angina can be a precursor to experiencing a heart attack if left untreated!
  • You are likely experiencing Angina if symptoms ease within a short period of rest or within 10 minutes of taking angina medication prescribed by your doctor
  • Call 000 immediately if your symptoms are severe, do not subside within a short period of rest or get worse rapidly – you are likely having a heart attack

Helpful Questions to ask the Ambulance Call Centre

  • Should I take/give prescribed medications for chest pain/discomfort while I wait?
  • Should I take/give aspirin while I wait? (if so how much?)

While you are waiting for an ambulance

  • Don’t lie down flat on a bed or the floor
  • Don’t eat, drink or take anything by mouth unless advised by the ambulance operator
  • Sit down comfortably with your knees bent
  • If on the floor, sit with your back rested against a wall with your knees bent
  • Loosen tight clothing

The Heart Attack Action Plan is an excellent resource to keep handy should there be an emergency. You can also order a wallet size card from the Heart Foundation website.  It is also useful to familiarise yourself with how to administer CPR in case your loved one becomes unconscious or stops breathing.

Information, Resources and References

2. Lung Cancer

According to Lung Cancer Australia, men and women often are diagnosed with different types of Lung Cancer so may experience different symptoms. Research also shows that Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in men.

The types of lung cancer that are more common in men often grow near the central airways of the lungs. Because of this a persistent cough, coughing up blood, wheezing, and repeated infections due to airway obstruction (such as pneumonia) may be more common.

A unique set of symptoms called paraneoplastic syndrome is also more common in the types of lung cancer found in men. These symptoms may include weakness in the upper limbs, muscle cramps, and loss of coordination.

Common symptoms of lung cancer in men may include:
  • Persistent cough or a new or changed wheeze (or both)
  • Breathlessness
  • Blood-streaked phlegm (mucus)
  • Pains in the chest when coughing or taking a deep breath
  • Recurring pneumonia or chest infections
  • Recurring bronchitis
  • Excessive tiredness (fatigue)
  • Unexplained weight loss
Less common symptoms can include:
  • Hoarse voice
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Swelling of the face or neck
  • Pleural effusion – fluid around the lungs causing shortness of breath
  • Changes in the shape of your fingers and nails known as ‘finger clubbing’

Note: Many of these symptoms can be caused by other diseases and conditions apart from lung cancer. It is very important that speak to your GP immediately should you experience any of the symptoms listed above so that appropriate treatment can be provided.

Information, Resources and References

3. Stroke

A stroke, also referred to as a Cerebral Vascular Accident (CVA) occurs when blood flow to an area in the brain is cut off. Your brain cells rely on blood to provide essential oxygen and nutrients for optimal brain health and function. Without it, brain cells die and connections to other parts of the brain and body are lost.

There are two types of Stroke
  1. Ischaemic – a blood clot forms in a blood vessel leading into the brain or within the brain itself
  2. Hemorrhagic – a blood vessel in the brain breaks or ruptures and blood leaks into the brain causing damage and tissue to die

How significantly you are effected after a stroke is dependent on many things, including;

  • How soon you were able to seek treatment
  • The type of stroke
  • Your general health pre-stroke
  • The part of the brain affected and the amount of tissue damaged

Learn how to recognise the signs of someone having a stroke. (Click here)

It is important that as soon as you suspect you are, or someone you know is, having a stroke to call emergency 000.

In the acute stages of stroke, the sooner the blood clot can be dissolved or the bleed stopped the better outcomes for recovery and the less severe the effects to your function. According to the Brain Foundation, for thrombolysis treatments to work you must receive it within 4.5 hours of the onset of stroke and it is not suitable for all patients. Click here to read more.

A search on the Stroke Society of Australia website show that the hospitals within the Newcastle region that have Acute Stroke Units and can administer the tPA drug (Thrombolysis) used to break up clots for suitable patients include:

  • The John Hunter Hospital
  • The Mater Hospital
  • Gosford Hospital is the next closest
Important – while you wait for the ambulance.
  • If the person is conscious, lay them down on their side with their head slightly raised and supported
  • Do not give them anything to eat or drink. Loosen any restrictive clothing that could cause breathing difficulties. If weakness is obvious in any limb, support it and avoid pulling on it when moving the person
  • If they are unconscious, check their breathing and pulse and put them on their side. If they do not have a pulse or are not breathing start CPR straight away

How to perform CPR – Booklet

WHAT IS A TRANSIENT ISCHAEMIC ATTACK? (TIA)

A transient ischaemic attack (TIA) happens when the blood supply to your brain is blocked temporarily. The signs are the same as for a stroke, but they disappear within a short time. Often, they are only present for a few minutes.

There can be other signs, such as:

  • Numbness, clumsiness, weakness or paralysis of the face, arm or leg on one or both sides
  • Dizziness (in particular ‘head spins’), loss of balance or an unexplained fall
  • Loss of vision in one or both eyes
  • Headache, usually severe and sudden
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Nausea or vomiting

A TIA is a warning that you may have a stroke in the future and is an opportunity to act to prevent this happening. With investigation and treatment, the risk of stroke following a TIA can be reduced by up to 80 percent. You must consult your doctor if you experience any symptoms of a TIA. Download the Transient Ischaemic Attack Information Guide

INFORMATION, RESOURCES AND SUPPORT

4. Chronic Lower Respiratory Diseases

Chronic lower respiratory diseases are chronic diseases of the airways and other parts of the lung. The more common diseases you may be heard of are:

  • Asthma
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Lung cancer
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Sleep apnoea
  • Occupational lung diseases (caused or exacerbated by exposure and inhalation of certain dusts or vapours in the work place such as asbestos, silica and coal dust)

The two chronic lower respiratory disease we will focus on are COPD and Sleep apnoea. You can find out more about the other chronic respiratory diseases listed above by clicking on the headings highlighted blue.

CHRONIC OBSTRUCTIVE PULMONARY DISEASE 

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is an umbrella term used to describe progressive lung diseases including emphysema, chronic bronchitis, refractory (non-reversible) asthma, and some forms of bronchiectasis. This disease is characterized by increasing breathlessness.

Signs and Symptoms of COPD

  • Increased breathlessness
  • Frequent coughing (with and without sputum)
  • Wheezing
  • Tightness in the chest

Increased breathlessness and coughing is not a normal part of ageing. You need to speak to your doctor as soon as you notice any of the above symptoms. Should you be diagnosed with COPD (or another type of respiratory disease) – the next thing you need to do is learn more about how your lungs work and manage your systems to optimise function and prevent further deterioration.

Information, Resources and References

Speak to your GP about what supports and rehabilitation programs you can be referred to. Belmont District Hospital, the John Hunter Hospital and the Newcastle Community Health Centre provide pulmonary rehabilitation programs.

OBSTRUCTIVE SLEEP APNOEA

Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) is a potentially serious sleep disorder and can sometimes occur in conjunction with COPD (American Sleep Apnea Association)

OSA is when the airway at the back of the mouth repeatedly, partly or completely obstructs during sleep. Your breathing is reduced or may stop altogether. The oxygen level then falls and you wake up briefly to start breathing again.

Symptoms:
  • Snoring
  • Tossing and turning and/or stop breathing during the night
  • Waking up during the night gasping and choking
  • Feeling tired when you wake
  • Struggle to stay awake as the day goes on, especially in the afternoon

If you experience any of these symptoms you need to speak to your doctor. Sleep Apnoea can usually be treated successfully. Remember your body and brain need good and continuous oxygenated blood to work efficiently. Those who experience moderate to severe sleep obstructive sleep apnoea are at risk of dying prematurely.

Information, Resources and References

5. Prostate Cancer

Prostate Cancer is the most common cancer in men and the risks of onset increase as you age and/or have a strong family history of prostate cancer. According to the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia ‘Prostate cancer occurs when abnormal cells develop in the prostate. These abnormal cells can continue to multiply in an uncontrolled way and sometimes spread outside the prostate into nearby or distant parts of the body”.

Prostate Cancer is generally a slow growing disease. It can be identified as low grade (non- life threatening) and high grade, where the cancer can spread quickly and be terminal. In the early stages, prostate cancer may not cause any symptoms until the cancer has grown large enough to put pressure on the urethra and most likely cause problems associated with urination. That is why it is important to have regular medical check-ups with your doctor and discuss any changes in your general and reproductive health.

Summary of Prostate Cancer Testing

When symptoms do occur, they may include:
  • Difficulties with starting and stopping urination
  • Pain or a burning sensation when passing urine
  • Urinating more often than usual, particularly at night
  • The feeling that the bladder can’t be fully emptied
  • Dribbling urine
  • Blood in the urine or semen (Never ignore this!)
  • Pain during ejaculation

It is important to note that all of these symptoms can also be caused by conditions usually less serious than prostate cancer. It is also important to note that most enlargements of the prostate are benign, which means they are not cancer and can be easily treated.

As always – discuss any symptoms, changes or concerns as soon as you experience them with your GP. Regardless of prognosis, if you are experiencing any discomfort you need to be treated to prevent it from getting worse.

Information, Resources and References

6. Dementia

The following information is based on information sourced from Dementia Australia and the University of Tasmania’s Understanding Dementia MOOC 2017.

Dementia is not an easy condition to summarise because there are over 100 diseases that may cause dementia. Dementia itself is a syndrome NOT a disease. It is an umbrella term that describes a collection of symptoms that are caused by disorders affecting the brain.

The Four most common causes of dementia include:
  1. Alzheimer’s disease
  2. Vascular dementia
  3. Dementia with LewyBodies
  4. Fronto-Temporal dementia

The majority of dementias are progressive, which means there is no cure and that symptoms will increase as the dementia progresses.

If you get nothing else from this section, your take home message is to educate yourself on the early warning signs and symptoms of dementia and speak to your doctor immediately if symptoms present, especially if they become persistent. Only a medical practitioner such as your local doctor or a specialist, such as a Geriatrician can diagnose dementia.

WHAT IS NORMAL FORGETFULNESS?

  • Don’t compare yourself to others to tell if your memory is ‘normal”. You may never have had a good memory for numbers or faces. You may never have had a good sense of direction. You may have always struggled to remember where you put your keys
  • As you age you may take more time to process and recall information, such as people’s names or places. In normal aging the brain may slow down but intelligence remains stable
  • Normal forgetfulness is occasional, dementia is persistent and progressive, not just occasional
  • Dementia affects more than memory: it also affects your language, visual-spatial function and executive function skills
  • Other reasons why your attention processes and ability to retain new information may change include; pain, stress, anxiety, grief, depression, fatigue, illness, infection, deliriums and decreased hearing
  • Research also suggests that immediate memory and a lifetime memory do not change as we get older

Click here for more information on normal forgetfulness and how to distinguish between normal memory loss and a person with dementia.

WARNING SIGNS OF A DEMENTIA:

  • Early signs of dementia are subtle and may not be immediately obvious, especially to others
  • Symptoms can vary between people (this is because dementias can affect different areas of the brain)
Common Symptoms of a Dementia can include:
  1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life
  2. Challenges in planning or solving problems
  3. Difficulty performing familiar tasks at home or leisure
  4. Confusion about time and place
  5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships, i.e. difficulty reading or judging distances
  6. New problems with words in speaking or writing
  7. Misplacing things, losing things, inability to retrace the steps
  8. Decreased or poor judgement and decision making
  9. Withdrawal from participating in normally enjoyed task or social activities
  10. Changes in mood, personality and behaviour

Click onto the 10 Warning Signs of Dementia to learn more.

CONDITIONS THAT MIMIC SYMPTOMS OF DEMENTIA:

  • Stroke
  • Depression
  • Delirium
  • Alcoholism
  • Infections
  • Hormone disorders
  • Nutritional deficiencies and dehydration
  • Post-surgery with general anaesthesia (POCD) – This can last from a few weeks to a few months)
  • Brain tumours

Are you or someone you know experiencing changes in memory or thinking? If so, schedule an appointment with your doctor – and sooner rather than later.

As you can see by the list of conditions that ‘mimic” dementia symptoms, it is important to see your doctor so he/she can evaluate your overall health to best identify the cause of your symptoms. Many of which (if not a dementia) are treatable.

WHY EARLY DETECTION IS IMPORTANT?

No one wants a diagnosis of dementia but early detection can have many advantages; such as:

  • Receive a more accurate diagnosis because you will still be able to assist your GP/geriatrician with your medical history and background
  • Ability to voice your concerns with your doctor and specialists, answer any important questions he/she may ask and ask important questions of your own
  • Getting the maximum benefit from available treatments/medications – These treatments work best in the early on-set stages of dementia. They do not cure dementia but can slow down the progress and provide relief from symptoms. The benefit to you is that you maintain your level of independence for longer
  • You can take advantage of the early stage dementia support groups and the resources available to you
  • You will have time to re-prioritise how to spend your time and focus on what is important to you
  • You can maintain autonomy by pre-planning for what may come ahead, ensure that your affairs are in order and discuss your wishes and long term care planning with family
  • Maintain your confidence. Knowing there is a reason for your forgetfulness or confusion can help you put strategies in place to make things easier and less stressful for you and not erode your self-esteem

Your doctor may refer you to a medical specialist such as a Geriatrician. A Geriatrician specialises in the care of older adults and Alzheimer’s disease.

SENSORY AND HEARING LOSS

Recently there has been some research suggesting there may be a link between sensory and hearing loss with an increased risk or progression of a dementia. Although there needs to be much more research to back up these findings, it does highlight the importance and argument for wearing your prescribed hearing aids and glasses and or other visual or hearing assisting aids. It is also highlights the importance of having regular eye and hearing tests the older you get.

Apart from anything else, not being able to see or hear when you are in your later years may encourage stigma and misconceptions from others that you don’t understand what is going on around you. For example, if you are provided information from your doctor and do not follow those instructions properly (because you didn’t hear them or see them properly and did not let the doctor know), he/she may assume that you are confused or non-compliant.

And it doesn’t have to be your doctor! Throughout your day you will come across many situations where it is in your best interest to hear and see what is going on properly. So please use the visionary or auditory aids prescribed to you as much as possible. It is doubly important to wear them if you are being assessed for cognition.

Go to the ‘Your Health and Wellbeing” section for more information on dementia prevention and information on the sensory system, such as vision, hearing and touch.

INFORMATION, RESOURCES AND SUPPORT

  • Hunter Dementia and Memory Resource Centre, 2 Percy Street, Hamilton, Ph: (02) 4962 7000

The people at the Hunter Dementia and Memory Resource Centre are very helpful and supportive. If you would like to speak to a ‘bloke’ ask for Stuart Torrance. He and all the staff are very approachable. Stuart can also tell you about the Men’s Sheds located in the Newcastle region.

7. Colon & Rectal Cancer:

Bowel cancer is the second most common cancer in both men and women in Australia and is more common for people over the age of 50. Most bowel cancers start as benign, non-threatening growths – called polyps – on the wall or lining of the bowel. In more advanced cases, the cancerous tumour can spread beyond the bowel to other organs.

The risk of developing bowel cancer rises sharply and progressively from age 50. In the early stages there could be no symptoms – That is why it is important to have 1-2 yearly screening tests from the age of 50 onwards.

Screening for bowel cancer

Currently, the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program, using the faecal occult blood test (FOBT) is offered free to people turning 50, 54, 55, 58, 60, 64, 68, 70, 72 or 74 years of age. This test is non-invasive and can be done at home. Its purpose is to test for blood in the faeces of people who have low risk and no symptoms of bowel cancer.

The FOBT is not for people with a family history of bowel cancer. If you have a family history of bowel cancer, you may need screening colonoscopies.

For further information call 1800 118 868 or visit cancerscreening.gov.au.

SYMPTOMS OF BOWEL CANCER

It is important for you to become aware of the symptoms associated with bowel cancer symptoms so you can alert your immediately if you notice any changes. It is also important to note that many of the below symptoms may also be due to other medical conditions or a change in diet/medications. If you experience symptoms try not to be too alarmed – but don’t put off seeing your GP either.

Common symptoms of bowel cancer can include:
  • A recent, persistent change in bowel habit (looser, diarrhoea, constipation, change in frequency)
  • A change in appearance of bowel movements (narrower or mucus in stool)
  • Blood in the stool or rectal bleeding (NEVER IGNORE -SEE GP IMMEDIATELY)
  • Frequent gas pain, cramps
  • A feeling that the bowel has not emptied completely
  • Unexplained anaemia (low red blood count – tiredness/weakness/weight-loss)
  • Rectal/anal pain or a lump in the rectum/anus
  • Abdominal pain or swelling (lump or mass in your tummy)

If symptoms persist for two or more weeks you need to speak to your doctor without delay. 90% of cases are successfully treated with early intervention.

Information, Resources and References

8. Blood and Lymph Cancer, Including Leukaemia

LYMPHOMAS

The Leukemia Foundation report that each year, approximately 5800 people are diagnosed with Lymphoma. Lymphomas are cancers that affect the lymphatic system and can be described as an uncontrolled multiplication of malignant changes in a type of white blood cell. 89 percent of people who develop lymphomas are diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

What causes Lymphoma?

In most cases the cause of lymphomas is not known. Possible causes may include:

  • Damage to, or mutation of, proteins in our genes that control growth and cell division
  • Weakened immune systems (either due to an immunodeficiency disease or drugs that suppress function and the immune system)
  • Certain types of viral infections than weaken the immune system

What are the symptoms of Lymphoma?

Lymphomas commonly present as a firm painless swelling of a lymph node (swollen glands), usually in the neck, under the arms or in the groin. Other symptoms may include:

  • Recurrent fevers
  • Excessive sweating at night
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Persistent lack of energy
  • Generalised itching
  • Some develop in deeper parts of the body such as the abdomen (causing bloating)
  • Some can develop in the chest (causing coughing, discomfort in the chest and difficulty breathing)

If you notice any swelling of in the glands of your neck, arms or groin and/or experience any of the above symptoms, speak to your doctor immediately and ask for a blood test.

LEUKAEMIA:

Leukaemia is a cancer that affects the blood and bone marrow where blood cells are made. There are 4 types of Leukaemia. Two are Acute and two are Chronic.

What Causes Leukaemia?

The factors that contribute to leukaemia are unknown, they may include:

  • Exposure to intense radiation and certain chemicals such as benzene
  • Viruses such as the Human T-Cell leukaemia virus

What are the Symptoms of Leukaemia?

The symptoms of CLL and AML leukaemia are very similar. The symptoms that differ are labelled CLL or AML.

  • Swollen lymph nodes (glands) in the neck, under the arms or in the groin, due to collections of lymphocytes in these areas (CLL)
  • Pain or discomfort under the ribs on the left side, due to an enlarged spleen (CLL)
  • Anaemia, due to a lack of red cells, causing persistent tiredness, dizziness, paleness, or shortness of breath when physically active
  • Frequent or repeated infections and slow healing, due to a lack of normal white blood cells
  • Increased or unexplained bleeding or bruising, due to a very low platelet count
  • Excessive sweating at night
  • Possible bone pain, swollen lymph nodes, swollen gums, chest pain and abdominal discomfort due to a swollen spleen or liver (AML)

If you experience any of the above symptoms you need to see your doctor immediately and request a blood test.

Information, Resources and References

9. Diabetes

There are three different types of diabetes and all types are complex and serious. The three main types of diabetes are type 1, type 2 and gestational diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes is an insulin dependent auto-immune condition in which the body stops or can’t make enough insulin to function properly. Type 1 diabetes is not due to modifiable lifestyle factors. There is no cure and it cannot be prevented.

Type 2 diabetes is a progressive condition in which the body becomes resistant to the normal effects of insulin and/or gradually loses the capacity to produce enough insulin in the pancreas. Type 2 diabetes is associated with modifiable lifestyle factors. However, those that have a strong genetic and family history of type 2 diabetes have a greater risk of developing it than those who don’t.

We are going to focus on type 2 diabetes because for many it can be prevented through modifiable lifestyle risk factors.

What Increases risk of Type 2 diabetes?
  • Family history of diabetes
  • Age – the risk increases as we age
  • Gender
  • Cultural background
  • Lifestyle factors (overweight/obese, high blood pressure, smoker, poor diet, sedentary lifestyle)

Check your risk

Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes
  • Being excessively thirsty
  • Passing more urine
  • Feeling tired and lethargic
  • Always feeling hungry
  • Having cuts that heal slowly
  • Itching, skin infections
  • Blurred vision
  • Gradually putting on weight
  • Mood swings
  • Headaches
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Leg cramps

Note: Some people with type 2 diabetes do not initially experience symptoms. Sometimes the signs and symptoms of type 2 diabetes are dismissed as part of ‘getting older”.

Type 2 diabetes is a serious condition and needs to be managed from the onset – so make sure you have regular medical check-ups, especially if there is a family history of type 2 diabetes.

Management of Type 2 Diabetes:

If you have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes it is essential that you treat it as the serious and complex medical condition it is. You need to manage your condition as directed by your doctor/diabetic specialist or diabetic nurse to keep your blood glucose levels close to the target range (usually between 4-6 mmol/L on fasting).

Without good and consistent management of your diabetes you increase the risk of developing future short term or long term medical complications.

Complications of Type 2 Diabetes

The complications of type 2 diabetes are the same and as serious as for those who have a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes. For people who have a diagnosis of diabetes, they are:

  • 4 x more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke
  • At an increased risk of suffering from preventable blindness
  • 3 x more likely to suffer kidney failure
  • 15 x more likely to suffer an amputation (see Foot Care below)
  • More than 30 per cent more likely to experience depression, anxiety and distress

With early diagnosis, optimal treatment and effective ongoing support and management you can reduce your risks of diabetes-related complications.

What can I do to reduce my risks?
  • Get support and manage your diabetes
  • Get regular eye tests so any changes with your vision can be picked up early
  • Learn more about how to prevent or manage diabetes from the links below
  • Look after your feet – check them for skin tears, cracks, wounds etc daily and see a diabetic podiatrist regularly
  • Avoid situations which may cause you injury or skin tears/ulcers. For example, pressure from prolonged sitting or lying, gardening without protective clothing, leaving skin damp/moist (dry between your toes) stubbing your toes (wear protective shoes) etc. Click here for more information on wound awareness

Click here for the National Diabetic Services Scheme Booklet on how to manage diabetes as you age.

If you have a diagnosis of diabetes and have discovered a wound on any part of your body you should see your GP or diabetic nurse to ensure that it is treated effectively.

A FINAL NOTE – FOOT CARE & DIABETES:

It is essential that if you have a diagnosis of diabetes that you take care of your feet every day. It is common for diabetes to cause damage to the nerves of your feet, affect your blood circulation and increase risk of infection. This greatly increases your risk of developing foot ulcers and increases your risk of complications leading to amputation.

Nerve and circulation damage to your feet impedes pain and sensation. You may not be aware that your feet are wounded or toenails have become ingrown and infected so check your feet thoroughly every day (or get someone else to do it).

And if you see any damage, redness, swelling, bruising or cuts, infection or ingrown nails – arrange to get them treated ‘that day!” If you aren’t already, it is in your best interest to have regular podiatry appointments with a podiatrist that specialises in Diabetic foot health.

Please educate yourself on the complications and management of diabetes on foot care. Go to Diabetes Australia – Foot-Care – and Podiatry NSW/ACT – Diabetes

Find a Podiatrist near you.

Information, Resources and References

  • Diabetes Australia, 535 Hunter Street, Newcastle NSW 2300, Ph: (02) 4929 6970
  • Hunter Diabetes Centre, Level 1, 41 Llewellyn Street, Merewether, Ph: (02) 4963 2323
  • Diabetes Newcastle: provides information for diabetes educators and services within the region
  • Prosthetic Limb Service (formerly known as ALS);
    • Local Amputee Clinic/Prosthetic Limb Service in Newcastle:
      • TORONTO: Toronto Private Hospital – Day Rehab Area, South Wing Cnr Carey and Excelsior Parade Toronto NSW 2283, Director: Dr L Laycock Ph: 4950 0600
      • SHORTLAND: Hunter Valley Private Hospital Amputee Rehabilitation Clinic – Physiotherapy Gym, 20 Mawson Street Shortland NSW 2307 Director: Dr L Laycock Ph: 4950 0600
      • NEW LAMBTON: Rankin Park Hospital – The Limb Centre, Lookout Road New Lambton NSW 2305, Director: Dr P Gale – Attending PSP: Hunter Prosthetics & Orthotics Service Ph: 4921 4151
  • Diabetes Australia: Helpline 1300 136 588
  • Diabetic Neuropathy and Ulcers
  • Diabetes NSW
  • National Diabetes Services Scheme (NDSS): A program that provides products and services (blood & urine testing strips, free syringes, pens and needles) at a subsidised cost to people who register and are eligible for the scheme
  • NDSS – Frequently Asked Questions hand out
  • NDSS Access Points – Newcastle: Access points are places where you can pick up your pre-ordered supplies. Search your local area, there are many to choose from

10. Suicide

It is dismaying that suicide is in the TOP 10 premature causes of death for men in Australia. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Beyond Blue report that on average, one in eight men will experience depression and one in five men will experience anxiety at some stage of their lives. It is thought that between 10 and 15 per cent of older people experience depression and about 10 per cent experience anxiety. Depression and anxiety are not a normal part of ageing. But the older you get the more you may experience the triggers that can onset depression and/or anxiety.

For example:

  • Physical or economic dependency
  • Mental/physical health problems
  • Chronic Pain
  • Grief & loneliness
  • Profound sense of loss of self
  • Alcoholism
  • Carer stress

If symptoms of anxiety and depression are ignored and left unmanaged, a downward spiral towards suicidal tendencies may be triggered. Revisit our section on “Depression and Anxiety” for more information.

It is important that you are aware of the suicide warning signs; such as:

  • A sense of hopelessness or no hope for the future
  • Isolation or feeling alone or uncared for
  • Negative view of self – Feeling worthless
  • Drastic changes in mood and behaviour
  • Frequently talking or thinking about death
  • Attempts to make your funeral arrangements
  • Giving your meaningful possessions to people in preparation for when you’re gone
  • Feeling like a burden to others
  • Making suicide threats – ‘Sometimes I feel like I just want to die’
  • Substance abuse

Information, Resources and References

  • Lifeline Hunter Central Coast, Newcastle Office, 12 Maitland Road, Islington, NSW 2296, Ph: (02) 4940 2000, Crisis Support 13 11 14
  • Newcastle: [email protected]
    Office Administration Hours, Monday – Friday: 9am – 5pm
  • Lifeline Hunter Central Coast provide a complete list of local crisis support services across in the Newcastle, Central Coast & Hunter region. Examples include; counselling services, accommodation support for homelessness, welfare assistance centres, health Services, community and mental health teams, mental health support groups.
  • Lifeline Crisis Support, Suicide Prevention: Getting Help and Support Services
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