Special Guest Medical Editor, Dr John D’Arcy, is a family doctor who began his broadcasting career nearly 30 years ago as a producer and presenter for Seven News. He was the first medical practitioner appointed to an Australian newsroom and continues as ‘medical editor’ for The Seven Network’s Sunrise program and guest medical editor for Sunday Night.
Here he shares his secrets with The Retiree readers on the worrying winter health issue of flu shots, gives advice on sun-damaged skin care and as the ambassador for Australian Hearing, reminds us about importance of looking after your hearing.
WILL A FLU SHOT INCREASE MY CHANCES OF GETTING ALZHEIMER’S OR DEMENTIA?
Let me start by making a definite response. NO! Many people mistakenly believe that vaccination does something negative to the immune system, our body’s defence system.
The truth is that vaccination does the opposite. It actually stimulates the immune system and enhances it to defend against dangerous and deadly bacteria and viruses. The elements are mostly inactivated germs which still have the external structure which is recognised by the body’s defence system which goes on to make bio-chemicals and cells to fight the disease.
Influenza is not a common cold. It causes fever, muscle aches and pains. Whilst it is a virus and therefore can’t be defeated by an antibiotic, the disease can be so debilitating a person may get a secondary infection with a bacteria and suffer pneumonia.
Each year 2500 Australians die because of influenza. Most of them are older but some are infants. In the United States of America, babies as young as six months of age are immunised, not only to protect them but also to stop the spread of the influenza virus to the older community.
World scientific experts get each year together to assess the flu strains which cause infection during winter and autumn in the Northern Hemisphere. With careful thought, they design a vaccine for those of us who live in the Southern Hemisphere.
This decision happens every year because the influenza virus, unlike a leopard, changes its spots or the nature of the cell wall. As far as your body is concerned, this years’ virus is totally new so last year’s flu shot may not protect you in 2013.
Back in 2001, scientific agencies assessed 4,392 people who were at risk of developing Alzheimer’s and concluded that the flu shot will benefit those at risk of the disease and may even make it less likely they’ll suffer it. If you care for a person who already has Alzheimer’s disease you can be confidant a flu shoot will boost their immunity.
Of course, you should talk this over with your general practitioner and at that time it may be a good opportunity to review your immunisation status over all.
There is no doubt that immunisation saves lives.
Care Strategies for Dry Skin
5 lifestyle tips for relieving dry skin
These strategies can also help make your skin supple and smooth:
- Plug in a humidifier at home to help keep skin hydrated during winter months when indoor air is dry.
- Wear cotton and other natural fibers. Wool, synthetics, or other fabrics can be scratchy and irritating.
- Drink plenty of water
- Eat omega-3 foods. Essential fatty acids can help fortify the skin’s natural oil-retaining barriers. Foods rich in omega-3 include cold-water fish (salmon, halibut, sardines), flax, walnuts, and safflower oil.
- For redness or inflammation, apply a cool compress or an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream on the area for a week. If these don’t provide relief, talk to your doctor.
Tips for the bath or shower
- Skip long, hot showers. Hot water strips oils from the skin faster than warm water. Long showers or baths actually dry out your skin. Limit yourself to a single 5- or 10-minute warm shower or bath a day.
- Use a gentle cleanser or shower gel with moisturiser. Instead of harsh cleansers, go for unscented, soap-free, or mild soap cleansers.
- Moisturise while skin is still moist. Pat your skin with a towel after you shower or wash your face or hands, leaving it damp. Apply a moisturiser within three to five minutes of washing to lock moisture in.
What to look for in a moisturiser
You don’t have to pay a fortune for a good, rich moisturiser. Read the label. Ingredients that may be helpful for dry skin include:
- Ceramides. Ceramides help the skin hold water and soothe dry skin. Synthetic ceramides may mimic the natural substances in the outermost layer of skin that help keep moisture in.
- Dimethicone and glycerin. These draw water to the skin and keep it there.
- Hyaluronic acid. Like ceramides, hyaluronic acid helps skin hold water.
- Lanolin, mineral oil, and petroleum jelly (petrolatum). These help skin hold on to water absorbed during bathing.
- Be sure to apply sunscreen to areas of your body that are exposed to the sun during the day. Look for a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or more that says “broad spectrum” on the label.
Dr. John D’Arcy
MBBS, Dip Obstetrics RCOG
Australia’s best-known media doctor and practicing physician, John was the first medical practitioner appointed to an Australian newsroom and today is a medical editor of The Seven Network’s, Sunrise and The Morning Show and presents on the “Sunday Night” show.
John has practiced across the globe, including in the UK, on the Isle of Wight, at Qui Nhon in Vietnam where he and his wife were medical volunteers in the months preceding the fall of Saigon, and later at Gorkoa in PNG, before settling into family practice in Sydney.
He was educated at St. Aloysius College and later studied medicine at the University of Sydney, graduating in 1971. He received his Diploma of Obstetrics in London in 1975. John is now a board member of The Institute of Immunology and Allergy Research.
IMPROVING YOUR HEARING
Hearing loss is a common issue for older Australians. It affects one in six people and with our ageing population, this is expected to increase to one in four by 2050.
In most people’s cases, age-related hearing loss develops slowly over time and a lot of people aren’t even aware it is diminishing.
But maintaining good hearing allows you to enjoy a healthier and happier life. Hearing can affect how you communicate and live your life in a number of ways.
If someone is having trouble with their hearing it can impact their ability to understand what is being said and to know when to respond. Good hearing is a key to feeling like you’re part of a relationship with family and friends.
For me, the onset of a hearing issue was causing increasing fatigue in my daily life. I was starting to feel isolated and frustrated and I knew I had to do something about it.
But since I was fitted with a hearing aid, it’s taken away the fatigue of listening. I don’t have to struggle hard to appreciate what people are saying. That’s the biggest thing! My hearing aid has removed that fatigue.
I can also hear things I haven’t heard for a long time. I’m more interested in conversations as I don’t have to struggle hard to appreciate what people are saying.
It was a routine hearing check that started the process of me getting a hearing aid.
I can’t stress how important it is for people get your hearing checked, but unfortunately many people don’t see it as a priority. Consider your hearing as you do having your blood pressure checked.
People should also remember that having a hearing check isn’t just about finding out if you need a hearing aid. There are many other ways to help you hear better. Your audiologist will work with you to find the best strategy to help improve your overall hearing.
Sometimes it’s just hearing the TV at normal volumes, hearing your doorbell, or conversing with friends on the phone that’s the problem. The good news is there are many solutions to help in these specific situations. This includes devices that make everyday hearing easier, like headsets for watching the TV and alert systems for doorbells.
So I encourage you to take the first step to improve hearing and have a check! Australian Hearing offers free hearing checks for seniors at its centres located conveniently across the country. For more information, or to find your nearest Australian Hearing, call 131 797 or visit www.hearing.com.au
CAN YOU REVERSE SUN DAMAGE TO YOUR SKIN?
Much of Australia is a subtropical country and the levels of ultraviolet rays are large.
The rates of skin cancer, both benign where it causes damage to exposed parts of the body and malignant where the local damage and destruction spreads or metastasises to other parts of the body, is one of the highest in the world.
Despite the wise caution to “slip slop slap”, slip on a shirt, slop on some sunscreen and slap on a hat and the addition of wearing sunnies to protect the eyes and ‘seeking shade’, skin cancers account for 80% of all newly diagnosed cancers.
Australia’s incidence is the highest in the world and 3 times the rate in the USA.
In general practice, we diagnose a million cases every year and in 80% of them excessive expose to the sun is the cause.
If a skin spot becomes darker or lighter, bigger or smaller. Itchy or bleeds it’s always a warning sign which needs a consultation.
But once treatable cancers are excluded it is possible to reverse the ravages of the sun:
- Let’s start by reinforcing the use of Sun Protection Factor 50+. As well as slipping on a shirt and slapping on a hat, use of SPF 50+ every 2 hours and it’s reapplication not only protects the skin but allows damaged skin to heal.
- Skin needs hydration. Exposure to UV dries it out and the use of a hand and body cream, one without an odour is essential in regenerating the skin lining.
- Because the drying kills the superficial cells it makes the surface of the skin blotchy and irregular. Scrubs can get rid of these cells and rejuvenate the underlying tissue.
- If your troubled by darkened spots, your doctor or dermatologist has a prescription that will lighten the skin and whilst were talking about experts, whilst general practice is always the first port of call, sometimes a specialist appointment is needed.
“…skin cancers account for 80% of all newly diagnosed cancers”
Care Strategies for Dry Skin
Menopause and Your Skin
For many women compared to hot flushes and mood swings, the havoc the menopause wreaks on skin might seem insignificant.
Yet your plummeting oestrogen levels can often result in pigmentation problems and a loss of collagen — the protein that determines skin thickness — which in turn leads to diminished radiance, loss of elasticity and skin that is dry and more prone to irritation. It might be natural and normal but it’s not terribly pleasant.
Menopause can bring some frustrating new issues for your skin, or even bad flashbacks to your teen years with problems like acne. But take heart — remember that there are the good changes with menopause too.
Oil production is less after menopause, which gets rid of acne (eventually) and helps to shrink pore size. Your skin is more consistent and not subject to pre-menopausal fluctuation. Many wrinkles can be prevented and treated with good topicals, good nutrition, and modern technology. And you’ve never had more confidence and self acceptance of your own beauty, because you’re more comfortable with who you are.
Manage stress – Stress can lower your body’s levels of estrogen and thyroid hormone, which can lead to dry skin. Find at least 15 minutes of time out of every day to unwind and decompress. Go outside and take a walk, practice yoga or tai chi, go get a mani/pedi, sit on your porch with a good book, whatever it is that you enjoy.
Eating well – Beautify your skin from the inside by eating a well-balanced diet and taking a high-quality multivitamin to give your skin a nutritional boost. Foods rich in antioxidants and protein, such as fresh produce, fish and eggs, can stimulate collagen growth, which keeps the skin elastic and helps prevent wrinkles. Vitamin E helps keep skin glowing, protects skin from ultraviolet light, improves the effectiveness of sunscreen and helps with stretch marks, so look for vitamin E-rich foods like sunflower seeds, greens like spinach, almonds and asparagus.
Hormone replacement – A 1997 study of 3,875 postmenopausal women concluded that estrogen helps older women to have younger looking skin and that estrogen helped maintain their skin’s collagen, its thickness, its elasticity, and its ability to maintain moisture. The study also found that the chances of having dry and wrinkled skin was 30 percent less in women who took estrogen replacements (HRT) in comparison with women who did not.
Another recent skin study of 98 postmenopausal women with hormone- replacement therapy (gel or patches) showed increased skin thickness, skin hydration, and skin surface lipids (good fats). The study found that estrogen therapy increased the skin thickness 7 to 15 percent and skin oil (sebum) by 35 percent.
Post-menopause acne is deeper than teenage acne and not superficial
Creams, gels, and lotions that are put on the skin work well for blackheads and whiteheads but do little for the deeper cystic-type acne that goes along with the changing hormones in the peri-menopausal woman. If you do have blackheads and whiteheads, the Renova .02% cream will help remove those, while also preventing wrinkles—an added bonus!
Oral contraceptives – Dermatologists will sometimes recommend an oral medication, like an oral contraceptive, for a younger woman with acne. Because the risk of blood clots increases significantly after the age of 35 and particularly in smokers, this is not a good option for most women in their forties and fifties. Women over 35 shouldn’t take oral contraceptives, except when recommended by a gynecologist.
Oral antibiotics – Many dermatologists are avoiding oral antibiotics for long periods unless they are absolutely necessary. When oral antibiotics are used too freely in conditions where they are not absolutely needed, bacteria can become resistant. For example, most people now know that trying to treat a common cold, which is caused by a virus, with an antibiotic is not helpful at all and just breeds bacterial resistance.
Also, oral antibiotics can change the “good bacteria” in our intestinal tracts, mouth, and vaginal area. This can lead to the overgrowth of yeasts and “bad bacteria.” But, if necessary, oral antibiotics can work well. It’s fine to use antibiotics for acne for a month or two to control a severe flare. Since it takes prescription creams and lotions eight to ten weeks to kick in, an oral antibiotic will control your acne while the topicals have a chance to start working.
Reference: Dermatology Nursing, Oct. 1, 2006.
Reference: Dr. Brandith Irwin. Copyright 2008-2013 SkinTour LLC. All rights reserved. For more information visit www.skintour.com.
“These aren’t hot flashes,they’re power surges”