Guide to The Regular Health Checks You Should Be Having

Guide to the Regular Health Checks You Should Be Having

Health Checks Ensure You Stay Healthy

Introduction

Regular health checks ensure you stay fit and healthy.  Many health problems are not apparent without health checks.  Regular checks you do yourself keep you in tune with your body.  A medical practitioner must also perform some checks.  This article will explain why it is important to have regular health checks, including several you can do yourself.  It also includes a recommended schedule for health checks that your doctor will do.

The advantages of a regular health check-up

The most important reason to have regular health check-ups is the early detection of diseases such as heart disease and cancer.  Treatment is much more successful if caught at an early stage, before complications have set in.  Many life threatening diseases have little to no symptoms.  For example, kidney failure.  Other health issues may have symptoms that are vague or mistaken for other conditions.  Symptoms such as fatigue can relate to many different causes. Vague symptoms are often explained by lifestyle factors such as being busy. Without regular checkups a health issue can be overlooked until you develop a serious illness.

My Back Pain Masked a Serious Health Condition

I have a chronic degenerative spinal condition which is very common in nurses.  CT scans and bone scans show degeneration in the fascia joints in my spine.  When my back pain intensified, my doctor prescribed a cortisone injection under CT guidance.  This successfully treated the pain, so I had them regularly with improvement in my pain.

When I developed severe back pain on the opposite side of the degeneration my GP prescribed stronger pain killers.  I suffered for over two years, believing the pain was caused by degeneration. I did not really understanding why my pain was on the opposite side.  It wasn’t until I developed complications after surgery this year that it was found that I had hydronephrosis.  The back pain was actually caused by a blockage which caused the urine to reflux back into my kidney.  

This would have led to serious kidney problems if it hadn’t been detected as an incidental finding.  I’m a Registered Nurse and I hadn’t even suspected my back pain was kidney related.  This is one example of how serious health issues can be overlooked, especially if they can be tied in with existing, known health issues.

The Regular Health Checks You Should Be Having - infographic
The Regular Health Checks You Should Be Having

The health checks you can do yourself

You can do many health checks yourself.  If you find anything concerning, you can then see a doctor.  Get to know your own body by doing these regular health checks:

Skin – Regularly check your skin, taking note of any moles, freckles and skin blemishes.  A doctor, preferably at a specialised skin cancer clinic, should assess any changes.  The doctors at skin cancer clinics are experienced in assessing skin. They use specialised equipment designed to detect early skin changes. Early changes that might indicate skin cancer can be treated before they develop further.

Weight – check once per week.  It is a good idea to keep an eye on your waist circumference as well.  Any waist measurement over 88cm (35 inches) for women and 102cm (40 inches) for men may mean you are at high risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.  See my article Why Your Waist Measurement Matters for more information.

Dental – Dentists should examine any lesions and bleeding that don’t resolve in a week.  Clean teeth at least daily and use floss as your oral health is vital for overall well-being.  Have a regular checkup and clean by a dentist at least yearly.

Mental and emotional health – seek medical help if you have symptoms of anxiety, intense sadness, fatigue, insomnia or changes in appetite that don’t resolve after a month or two.

In addition to the above, women need to do monthly breast self examinations.  See my article How to Perform a Breast Self Examination (and Why) for a complete guide.   Men need to perform a testicular self examination monthly from puberty onwards.  See your doctor if there is any unusual thickening or lumps.

The health checks your doctor will do

Have a regular check-up with your doctor every two years.  Be aware of your family health history as it may mean you need screening more often – see my article Know Your Personal and Family Health History for more information.  Your doctor should be able to tell you if you are at high risk for certain diseases.  Additional screening to the following may be recommended.

The recommended health checks for both men and women:

Skin checks:  Yearly

Heart health – blood pressure every two years from age 40, more often if you have a family history of high blood pressure, stroke or heart disease.  You should also have your blood tested to check for high cholesterol and triglycerides every 5 years from age 45, more often if high risk.  If you are high risk you may also have an ECG (electrocardiogram) or cardiac echo, which are both non-invasive checks.  A one-off test is offered at age 45-49 to screen for high risk of heart disease.

Bowel screening every two years from age 50. (A bowel screen kit will be sent to your home if you are an Australian resident)

Sexual health – yearly if sexually active.  See your doctor immediately if you have pain, discharge, lesions or if you have unprotected sex.

Eye tests for glaucoma and macular degeneration – every two years after age 40s if you have a family history.  From age 65 if you notice vision deterioration.

Bone density from the age of 45 (women) or 50 (men) if at risk for example, a family history of osteoporosis.

Diabetes – A fasting blood sugar test.  A one-off test is offered at age 45-49 to screen for high risk of type 2 diabetes.  Those at high risk of Type 2 Diabetes should be checked 1-3 yearly. 3 yearly for people not at risk, from the age of 40.  Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders should start 3 yearly checks from age 18.  

Hearing Impairment – a hearing assessment yearly after age 65.

Kidney disease – every 1-2 years if at high risk.

Immunity – Flu shots (Influenza vaccinations) yearly after age 65.  If you are high risk or work in the health care industry you should also have Influenza and Hepatitis B vaccinations.

Health Checks for Women

In addition to the above health checks, women should have:

Cervical screening every 5 years from the time you are sexually active.  The cervical screening Test has replaced the Pap Smear. It should be started at age 25 or two years after your last Pap Smear.

Breast screening every 2 years from age 50-74.  If you are high risk you will be offered screening from a younger age and more frequently.  For example, I have been having yearly mammograms and ultrasounds plus MRIs every 2 years because of my high risk.  Some women have them more frequently than that, depending on your doctor’s preference.

Health Checks for Men

In addition to the above health checks, men should have:

Prostate – Annual prostate checks from age 50, earlier if you have a family history.  This involves a blood test (PSA), and may include a digital rectal examination.  See your doctor if you have trouble urinating, pain, blood in your urine, night-time urination frequently, or incontinence.

Women's Health Checks - The recommendations for Breast checks, and cervical screening.  Men's Health Checks - The recommendations for  Testicular and Prostate checks
Women’s and Men’s Health Checks

Be an Advocate for your own Health

You are the best advocate for your own health.  If you suspect you have a health issue, see your doctor.  If you are unhappy with the outcome, seek another opinion.  You know your own body.  Keep track of the symptoms, write them down, and identify any patterns.  If you are unsure of whether you should see a doctor, refer to my article Signs You Need to See a Doctor.  

Let your doctor know of any family history of disease.  Keep track of your personal and family health history – see this article for more information.  Most important, keep up with your health screening and the regular health checks you should be having.

Please note:  I am a Registered Nurse of 30 years but I am unable to give specific medical advice.  If you are concerned please see your GP.  Screening schedules may differ depending on where you live.  The schedule recommended here is for guidance only.  This post is for general informational and educational purposes only.  Please refer to the disclaimer.

Further reading: While researching this article, I found the most thorough information at the following websites:

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How to Perform a Breast Self Examination (and why)

How to Perform a Breast Self Examination (And Why)

The statistics on breast cancer are troubling. Even with all the research and new treatments available, there are still 55 new breast cancer diagnoses daily. The most important detection for early breast cancer is regular breast self examination. This post will inform you of how to perform a breast self examination correctly, and other important facts to be aware of.

Early Detection of Breast Cancer Leads to Higher Survival Rates

If breast (and other cancers) are detected early, they have a much higher survival rate. Options for treatment are numerous. At present the five year survival rate for breast cancer is 91% in Australia, and 96% if the cancer is caught early. That is an excellent outcome, but there are still over 5000 deaths yearly. A free breast screening program is available in Australia, but performing breast self examination is still the best way to detect early cancer. It is important to note that males can get breast cancer too, albeit at a much lower percentage than women.

Breast Cancer Statistics in Australia.  Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer, affecting 1 in 7 women and 1 in 675 men.  Source:  National Breast Cancer Foundation
Australian Breast Cancer Statistics. Credit: National Breast Cancer Foundation

How to Perform a Breast Self Examination

If breast cancer is caught early there is a very high chance of survival. A monthly breast self examination is the best way to detect early breast cancer because every woman’s breasts are different. If you know how your breasts usually look and feel, you will be in the best position to identify early changes and seek medical attention. Some breast changes are very subtle so it is important to know what to look for. The most important thing is to check your breasts monthly. Some guides say to do it on the first of every month, and some say after your monthly period ends. Post menopausal women should do theirs on the first of the month.

I have seen a number of ways to perform breast self examination. I have always done mine in the shower with soapy, slippery skin. Some women prefer to do theirs lying down. What matters the most is that you check all parts of your breast including up to your collar bone and under the armpit. Here is an excellent video which shows very clearly the correct procedure:

Breast Self Examination. Credit Madras Institute of Orthopaedics and Traumatology, India

Signs and Symptoms to Watch For During Your

Breast Self Examination

The signs and symptoms to watch for are:

  • Changes in the size or shape of your breast
  • Dimpling or a ‘pulling’ of skin on your breast
  • Any new lumps in the breast or under your arm
  • Breast pain or swelling (pain is rare)
  • Discharge of fluid (except breast milk) from the nipple, including blood
  • Dry, flaky red skin around the nipple area

If any of these symptoms are found, make an appointment to see your General Practitioner as soon as possible. Some women have no symptoms and the cancer is found during a routine mammogram or physical examination by a doctor. Mammograms should be done two yearly between the ages of 50 to 74. Breast Screen Australia provides a free screening service for women aged 50 to 74. Free screening is also available for women aged 40 to 49 and over 74, if requested. It is recommended that women with a strong history of breast or ovarian cancer are screened from an earlier age.

If symptoms are found, further testing may be required including ultrasound, biopsy and other scans such as a CT Scan or MRI. Treatments depend on the size and type of tumour, whether it has spread, and your general health.

Signs and Symptoms of Breast Cancer:  changes in the size or shape of your breast, dimpling or pulling of skin on your breast, any new lumps in the breast or under your arm, breast pain or swelling, discharge of fluid (except breast milk) from the nipple, including blood and dry, flaky red skin around the nipple area.  Source: ICON Cancer Centre
Signs and Symptoms of Breast Cancer. Credit: ICON Cancer Centre

Preventing Breast Cancer

Some factors that increase your risk of breast cancer include:

  • increasing age,
  • family history,
  • inheritance of mutations in the genes BRCA1, BRCA2 and CHEK2
  • Exposure to female hormones (natural and administered)
  • a previous breast cancer diagnosis
  • a past history of certain non-cancerous breast conditions

While you can’t do much about your genetic history, there are lifestyle factors that can impact your chances of getting breast cancer. These include:

  • being overweight
  • not enough physical activity
  • drinking alcohol
  • exposure to radiation

Know Your Breast Cancer Risk

I have written about my own diagnosis of BRCA2 gene mutation, which lead to my bilateral prophylactic mastectomies. It is important to know your risk because the presence of a gene mutation or family history of breast and ovarian cancers, could dramatically increase your risk. My risk before surgery was 60-80% as opposed to the general female population of around 13%. The only effective way I could guarantee that I would not get breast cancer was to have my breast tissue removed. It was a “no brainer” for me – the type of cancer that people with BRCA2 get is often the worst type with a very low survival rate. I did not even want to take that risk.

It has been a life changing decision for me because I had complications – I haemorrhaged post operatively. I’m still recovering 5 months later and have not been able to return to work. It may seem strange to say that I still don’t regret that decision.

I found out this past weekend that my brother has Stage 4 Prostate Cancer, undoubtedly from BRCA2. My mother-in-law has terminal lung cancer and only has a few weeks to live. The high incidence of cancer in my family gives me a lot of anxiety around it. Mum passed away at my age from cancer, and dad died from pancreatic and prostate cancer (BRCA2). My son had a melanoma at 24, and two of my siblings also had melanomas. Some families seem to cop a large burden, and ours is one of them.

Don’t Ignore Symptoms

One of the messages I want to convey is never to ignore symptoms. I have written about this previously in Signs You Need to See a Doctor. Be an advocate for your own health because without it daily life is so much harder.

Please share this article – it may help someone you care for. If you enjoyed this you may like my previous post October is For Breast Cancer Awareness which lists my previous posts about my BRCA2 diagnosis and surgeries.

Note: This post is for general informational and education purposes only. Please refer to my disclaimer.

Shared on Denyse Whelan Blogs Life This Week Linkup

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Amazon Prime Day Sale is on now

Amazon Prime Day Sale is On Now

Amazon Prime Day is on the 13th October this year rather than July. This means you can get exclusive deals right when you need them – before the busiest shopping time of the year. Prime Day is a two day sales event exclusively for Amazon Prime members. There are already early deals online!

This post may include affiliate links which means I may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please see my full disclosure.

The Amazon Prime Day Sale

To access the exclusive sale, you need to be an Amazon Prime member. You can sign up for a one month trial of Amazon Prime for free, and you will only be charged if you don’t cancel your membership within the month. I have a feeling you may want to keep your membership because it has such amazing benefits, including:

  • Free delivery – unlimited shipping on millions of items (this depends on where you live and the item – see the Terms and Conditions on the Amazon site)
  • Award winning movies and TV shows. Watch exclusive content like Amazon originals
  • Over 2 million songs ad-free
  • Original Audio series from Audible

Why I use Amazon Prime

Prior to joining Amazon Prime I was paying nearly $20 for Netflix, $18 for Spotify and $13.99 for Kindle Unlimited per month. Now I can get all that plus more for $12.99 with Amazon Prime! (Note I still pay a small amount for my Kindle books). The movies and TV shows alone are worth joining up. I will be doing most of my Christmas shopping online this year and the vast choice on Amazon Shopping means I won’t have to buy from lots of different outlets.

Watch this Space for Deals

From now until the end of the Amazon Prime Day sale I will be posting deals as they come up. These will be selected for my readers based on what I know you will love. I am looking mainly at health products, fitness gear, walking shoes and clothes, home beauty & spa products, eco friendly items and books. Watch my social media profiles for more.

For example, here are some deals you can buy straight away:

This Kindle e-Reader Bundle is $169.97, down from $189.97. My price as an Amazon Prime member is $119.97. There are thousands of items with similar savings to this.

These walking shoes are a great price even with the shipping cost to Australia.

Such a bargain for a fitness tracker.

Keep watching this space for more deals as I see them. Some deals will only be available for a short time, but undoubtedly you will be able to buy a similar item for a great price if you miss out.

Don’t forget, the main sale is on the 13th and 14th October. Join up for a free 30 day trial with Amazon Prime to access the sale. Watch this page for great deals as I find them.

Amazon Prime’s Australian Sale has already started!

Here are the best deals I could find:

Fitbit Versa 2 $198.00, down from $299.95

Kindle eReader $99, save $40

Set of resistance bands $49.95, save $10

Nike shoes and clothing from $20.32

Sketchers shoes from $43.17 – $95.00

I will keep an eye out for more deals and add them as I see them.

Best Deals on Amazon US site

Up to 40% off all Adidas clothing, footwear and accessories

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October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October is for Breast Cancer Awareness

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month.  I will be featuring breast cancer awareness in my blogs, as well as hereditary cancer.  My focus on cancer awareness this month is due to a passion for health promotion.  I can speak from experience because I have been a Registered Nurse for 30 years as well as having diagnostic tests and multiple surgeries.  

If you have been following Midlifestylist.com you may be aware that I have BRCA2 gene mutation which increases my risk of breast and other cancers.  Both my parents died of cancer – mum was my age, 54.  My father had BRCA2 as well.  He had prostate cancer and pancreatic cancer, and passed away when he was 84.  His father also died of prostate cancer and his sister died of ovarian cancer.  My son and two siblings had melanoma.   Cancer has therefore impacted my life dramatically. 

This year I had prophylactic surgeries to remove my ovaries and breasts.  That is because my chance of getting cancer was so high.  Unfortunately I had complications from both operations and required 3 extra operations.   I’m still recovering and have not been able to return to work since May.

Raising awareness of breast cancer and BRCA2

I can use my blog as an avenue of passing on my knowledge and experience of the impact of cancer and hereditary cancer risk.  Raising awareness will hopefully spare other families from seeing one of their loved ones suffer from cancer.

My previous blog posts about BRCA2 and cancer are:

The first of every month is the day women should perform a breast self examination.  My next post in this series will show you the correct way to perform the breast self examination, and what symptoms to look for.  

Shared on Life This Week Linkup by Denyse Whelan

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Reduce Your Kitchen Waste – Save Money & Lower Your Carbon Footprint

Reduce Your Kitchen Waste

Easy ways to be less wasteful in the kitchen 

It makes sense to reduce your kitchen waste as it saves money and is better for the environment.   This article will discuss some easy ways that you can be less wasteful in your kitchen, and ways you can lower your carbon footprint using eco-friendly alternatives.

This post may contain affiliate links which means I may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please see my full disclosure.

Eco-Friendly Materials

Just by swapping to eco-friendly products you can effectively reduce kitchen waste. Look for items made from the following materials:

  • Hemp
  • Jute
  • Organic Cotton
  • Recycled Glass
  • Bamboo
  • Bioplastic compostable products made from Sugar cane, corn or potato starch 
  • Wood especially teak, or recycled wood
  • Stainless steel or aluminium
  • Recycled rubber
  • Clay
  • Recycled paper
  • Coconut husks/fibre
  • Linen made from flax
  • Cork
  • Soybean fabric
  • Recycled Polyester Plastic (PET)
  • Wool felt, or reclaimed wool

For further information, read this article from Household Wonders.

Reduce Your Kitchen Waste – Only buy what you need

I discussed this in my article How to Eat a Healthy Diet On a Budget.   By only buying what you need, you can reduce food waste.  Use a list when you shop, only bulk buy if you know you will consume it by the expiry date, and shop at wholefood stores where you can buy ingredients by weight. Avoid products with a lot of packaging, for example fruit or vegetables with plastic wrapping and trays. I cringe every time I see the unnecessary packaging in supermarkets. Buying from markets can be far better for the environment and the produce will be much fresher.

Compost your food waste 

You can reduce your carbon footprint by composting your food waste at home.  Home composting saves your waste ending up in landfill.   Landfills are responsible for much of the methane gas, a byproduct of composting organic material.  Landfill gas, a combination of methane and carbon dioxide, is responsible for much of the greenhouse gas emissions.

Food scraps can be composted and used to fertilise your garden and pot plants.For further information about home composting, read my Complete Guide to Composting and Worm Farms.   

Use alternatives to plastic bags and food wraps in the kitchen

By swapping plastic with eco-friendly alternatives you will drastically reduce the amount of waste going to landfill.   Choose compostable bags and food wraps, silicone lids for containers, beeswax wraps, muslin bags, and storage containers made from glass or stainless steel.

I have a set of silicone lids which are a great way to avoid using plastic wrap. They come in different sizes and can stretch over bowls or to save cut fruit. They may be hand washed or put in the top rack of the dishwasher. My set has lasted at least two years.

Silicone Lids.  These may be stretched over bowls, or used as fruit and vegetable savers.  Hand wash or put in the top rack of the dishwasher to clean.  Reuse again and again.  May be placed in the microwave
Silicone Lids. These may be stretched over bowls, or used as fruit and vegetable savers. Hand wash or put in the top rack of the dishwasher to clean. Reuse again and again. May be placed in the microwave

Reusing and re-purposing plastic

A common question among people trying to reduce kitchen waste is:  should I throw out all my plastic bags and containers?  The answer is, absolutely not!  That will only add to the landfill.  Instead, try to reuse them as much as possible before you discard them.  Re-purpose them elsewhere. 

Plastic containers could be used for storage.  Even ones that have lost their lids could be used as dividers in your sock drawer or bathroom.  Reuse plastic until it’s completely unsuitable for further use, and only buy sustainable products from now on.

Use stainless steel, silicone or ceramic alternatives to disposable or plastic

Reusable items include drinking straws, coffee mugs, drink containers with lids, coffee pods and lunch boxes.  You will save money as well as reduce plastic use.

Swap paper towel and cleaning implements to eco-friendly alternatives 

I love the fact that there are now reusable alternatives to so many products.  Everything from cotton or cellulose dishcloths to coconut pot scrubbers are now available. Look for products made from sustainable materials, including the packaging they come in.  The bonus is that they look great, especially the bamboo ones.  

As someone who has multiple allergies and very sensitive skin, it is vital for me to avoid strong chemicals.  Eco-friendly cleaning products made from natural ingredients are better for the environment and less allergenic to my skin.  Look for pure Castile soap products.

Clever Ways to Reduce Kitchen Waste.  Save Money and Lower Your Carbon Footprint.  Alternatives to plastic wrap, cleaning implements made from environmentally friendly materials, produce bags, reusable drinking straws and coffee mugs
Clever Ways to Reduce Kitchen Waste. Save Money and Lower Your Carbon Footprint. Alternatives to plastic wrap, cleaning implements made from environmentally friendly materials, produce bags, reusable drinking straws and coffee mugs

Where to find stockists of eco-friendly goods

We are lucky to be able to purchase a huge range of eco-friendly products in Australia.  Our supermarkets and department stores have increased their range over the years and there are specialty stores as well.  You can find a lot of eco-friendly products online.  The Well Store sells not only environmentally friendly  homeware, but also food and health supplements.  

Because of my allergies I am always on the search for products that are hypo-allergenic and made ethically from natural ingredients.   The Well Store has an extensive range for personal and home use.  I recommend this company to anyone trying to reduce waste in their kitchen, and lower their carbon footprint. 

Reduce your kitchen waste

To sum up, reducing waste in your kitchen is as easy as swapping plastic and disposable products with reusable or compostable products.  You will not only reduce your carbon footprint, ultimately you will save money.  You may purchase many of the products from supermarkets or specialty stores such as The Well Store.

Can you suggest other ways to reduce your kitchen waste? I’d love to hear what ways you are environmentally friendly at home. Leave a comment below.

Before Starting Your Workout at Home

This equipment is enough to get you started on your home gym.  Remember the most important aspect of exercising is to choose one you enjoy and stick to it.  Get into a good routine where you exercise regularly, whether that be cardio and strength three times a week or second daily yoga.  Any regular exercise is essential for your mental and emotional health. If you are new to regular exercise or have significant health problems, see your doctor prior to starting a new exercise regime (see my disclaimer – this post is intended for general informational purposes only).

Workout Planner - use a planner like this to keep motivated.  You can set your goal for the week and track your progress.  Image source: Canva.  Data"- pin - nopin = "true"
Workout Planner – use a planner like this to keep motivated. You can set your goal for the week and track your progress.
Image source: Canva

You may enjoy other articles such as What You Need to Know Before You Start Walking for your Health.

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Health Tips to Promote Women’s Health Week

Women's Health Tips

Promoting Women’s Health

Women’s Health Week is from 7 – 11 September this year. Women’s Health Week is a week dedicated to all women across Australia to make good health a priority. Every day this week I have been publishing Women’s Health tips to promote women’s health. This post will discuss each tip in more depth and provide links so that you may learn more. I am passionate about promoting health and have been using social media posts for this. Links to my social media accounts are at the top of the page.

Women’s Health Tip 1 – Exercise Regularly

Improve your health by exercising regularly. Find an exercise you love and stick to it. That may be a brisk walk for 30 minutes a day, a yoga session, or a dance lesson. It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as you enjoy it and do it on a regular basis. If you are moving your body daily you will reap the benefits, both mental and physical. Don’t let health issues hold you back. In this post I explain how I overcame my health issues and don’t let them stop me from maintaining my exercise.

Exercise Regularly.  Regular exercise is essential for mental and physical health.  Find an exercise you love and stick to it
Exercise Regularly. Find an exercise you love and stick to it. Regular exercise is essential for mental and physical health

Women’s Health Tip 2 – Eat a Healthy Diet

Eat a healthy diet that is balanced and doesn’t cut out whole food groups (unless you have specific health reasons to avoid them such as allergies). A healthy diet includes food from all food groups – protein, carbohydrates, healthy fats, whole-grains and dairy or it’s alternatives. Diets that cut whole food groups out are fad diets and can’t be sustained without health issues. One of the most important indicators of health is your waist size. Eating a healthy diet can be seen to reduce the amount of fat stored around your waist and reduce your risk of health issues such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Read more about it at this post.

Eat a healthy diet.  A healthy diet includes protein, fruit and vegetables, wholefoods and healthy fats.  Maintain a healthy weight without fad diets
Eat a healthy diet. A healthy diet includes protein, fruit and vegetables, wholefoods and healthy fats. Maintain a healthy weight without fad diets

Women’s Health Tip 3 – Take Time for Self Care

Taking time for self care is important for your mental and emotional health. You may find yourself caring for others, and being so busy you don’t have time for YOU. Make self care a priority in your routine. Find something you enjoy – try meditation, singing, hobbies, dancing, yoga, massage, beauty treatments or just relaxing with a good book. Our emotional health is being tested this year, with many people finding they are more stressed than usual due to the pandemic. That means it is even more important that you prioritise your self care, which you can read more about in this post.

Take time for self care.  Self care is important for your emotional and mental health.  Take time for YOU.  Try meditation, talking to a friend, relaxing, beauty treatments, hobbies ... find something you enjoy
Take time for self care. Self care is important for your emotional and mental health. Take time for YOU. Try meditation, talking to a friend, relaxing, beauty treatments, hobbies … find something you enjoy.

Women’s Health Tip 4 – Get Health Checks Done

Make sure you are aware of what health screening is recommended for women in your age group. This may differ according to your place of residence. Ensure you attend to monthly breast self examinations and check your skin for changes. Maintain a regular schedule of screening for your breasts, dental health, eyes, and heart (blood pressure, cholesterol and other blood tests). Depending on your age, you may need bowel cancer screening, regular pelvic examinations, bone density test and mammograms. Your doctor will advise you of any further tests you may require depending on your personal and family health history. More information is in this post and I will have a post in the future on health checks.

Get Health Checks Done.  Screening for breasts, skin, teeth, eyes, heart, bowel, gynae, bone density etc.  See your doctor - find out what screening is needed for your age group.
Get health checks done, including screening for breasts, skin, teeth, eyes, heart, bowel, gynae, bone density, etc. See your doctor to find out what screening is needed for your age group

Women’s Health Tip 5 – Be an Advocate for Your Well-being

You are your own advocate. Speak up if you are concerned, or if you feel your concerns are not being addressed adequately. Those niggly feelings that something is wrong should not be ignored. See a doctor if you are worried. This post will help you decide whether your symptoms mean you should see a doctor. The head in the sand approach does not work with health. It’s easier to treat things if they are in their early stages, and it’s far better to prevent disease than treat it.

Be an advocate for your well-being.  Don't hesitate to see a doctor if you suspect something is wrong.  Your well-being is important.
Be an advocate for your well-being. Don’t hesitate to see a doctor if you suspect something is wrong. Your well-being is important.

Women’s Health is Important

Women make up over 50% of the population. Women’s health is important because we are often the main caregiver of others. We often put our own needs last and ignore health issues until we are really unwell. Stay in tune with your body, and look after it. Don’t take your health for granted because it takes all the joy out of life if you are in poor health. By following these women’s health tips, hopefully you will feel inspired to prioritise your well-being. For further information about Women’s Health Week visit the official website.

I love to hear from my audience, so feel free to comment on my posts or contact me via my contact form. I would love to know if there’s any subject you would like me to discuss in a future post. If you would like to receive my newsletter, please sign up for it in the box below.

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How to Eat a Healthy Diet on a Budget

How to Eat a Healthy Diet on a Budget

This post may contain affiliate links which means I may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please see my full disclosure.

This article will tell you how to eat a healthy diet on a budget. We all want to eat well.  Most of us want to eat a healthy diet.  One of the barriers to eating a healthy diet is the cost of healthy food compared to junk food.  The cost of buying individual ingredients, and the time taken with cooking something healthy as opposed to buying fast food on the way home from work can often lead us to consuming unhealthy junk food.

It is a fallacy however, that you can’t eat a healthy diet on a budget.  The key to eating a healthy diet lies in planning for the long term.  Here are some tips for eating healthy on a budget:

Tips for Healthy Eating on a Budget

Grocery Shopping Tips

  • Stock your pantry so that you have the ingredients for easy meals on hand. This means you’re less likely to order Uber Eats or takeaways. See my guide to stocking your pantry below.
  • Buy in bulk, especially staples that last a long time if stored correctly.
  • Buy when the specials are on, but only food that you know you will use.
  • Only eat in season fruit and vegetables.  For example, a cauliflower can cost $2 in season or $8 out of season.  The other advantage to buying fruit and vegetables in season is that they are fresher and often have less chemicals and packaging than store bought ones if bought from the markets.
  • Buy frozen fruit and vegetables when they are out of season.  Frozen fruit and vegetables retain their nutrients as they are snap frozen straight after harvesting.  They last a long time and are often cheaper than fresh.
  • Only buy what you need.  I buy two tomatoes per week because I would waste a whole bag.
  • Plan what meals you will be cooking for the week and only buy the ingredients for those recipes.  This reduces waste.  We have stores where you can take your own containers and buy foods such as wholefoods by the weight.  Some supermarkets offer this service as well.
  • Buy generic brands.  They are often a similar quality as branded versions, and are often hard to distinguish from the more expensive brands.
  • Buy alternative protein sources such as tofu and legumes. They can be very cheap compared to meat and chicken. Try to have two meat-free meals per week.
  • Buy cheaper cuts of meat and cook them in a slow cooker.  Slow cooking is a fantastic way of making tougher meat such as chuck steak, into tender, melt-in-the-mouth meals.
  • Avoid buying food that you already have.  Check your cupboards and make a list of what you need before you head to the shops.  I have found since I’ve been doing online grocery shopping that I’ve saved money.  Instead of buying something unnecessarily I can check my cupboards to make sure I need it.  I also do less impulse buying of unhealthy treats.
  • Don’t go shopping when you’re hungry!  You will be likely to put more into your trolley, and it would most likely be unhealthy food.
  • If you do go to the shops, avoid aisles that have unhealthy food.  I don’t even walk down the chocolate, sweet and soft drink aisles.  Stick to the perimeter of the store as this is where the wholefoods are.

Prepare Your Own Food as it is Cheaper

  • Wholefoods are cheaper than heavily processed foods.  A bag of rolled oats is much cheaper than oat based muesli with fruit.  You can make your own muesli, or try my overnight oats recipe.
  • Make your own stirfry sauces and recipe bases from scratch.  Ready-made ones are often full of sugar and salt and are very expensive.  Use fresh ginger, garlic, onion and low sodium soy sauces for your stirfry sauce instead.
  • Grow your own vegetables – even a few plants in containers for herbs and easy-to-grow vegetables, can save you money and provide nutritious and fresh additions to your diet.
  • Invest in a bread maker.  I can buy a huge bag of baker’s flour which lasts a few weeks.  Our own sweet and savoury loaves such as fruit and nut bread, banana bread, focaccia and pizza bases are easy to make and save us heaps of money.  
  • Other things I make myself rather than buy ready-made are Greek yoghurt and salad.
  • Since my sons moved out I find I’m still cooking enough for four people.  I freeze the remainder in meal-sized portions so there’s always a meal that we can defrost and heat if we’re too tired to cook.
  • Save $5 per day by making your own coffee at home. I have a fantastic Delonghi coffee maker that grinds, and brews the coffee, and even froths the milk. The initial cost of the coffee machine is high, but it pays for itself quickly if you have 1-2 cups per day rather than going to the cafe.
  • Prepare your lunches for the week ahead.  Some ideas are:
    • A large salad you can take daily for 2 – 3 days
    • Portions of healthy snacks e.g. nuts and dried fruits
    • Healthy muffins can be made and frozen
    • Cut up carrot sticks, celery sticks with a portion of hummus or salsa
    • Vegetable soup divided into meal-sized portions.  It can be frozen until needed
    • Try my healthy burrito recipe for easy, healthy meal prep.

How to Stock Your Pantry With Healthy Food on a Budget

This is a guide for stocking your pantry.  If you have the following in your pantry you will be able to cook most recipes and avoid having to buy takeaways.  A well stocked pantry will help you to eat a healthy diet on a budget. I always have the following in my pantry:

Pantry

  • Tins of tomatoes, beans (kidney and cannelloni), corn
  • Dried lentils
  • Herbs, spices, stock powders and gravy powders
  • Olive oil, canola oil, coconut oil, sesame oil and oil spray
  • Longlife milk – almond, skim, coconut
  • Flours – baker’s, wholemeal, cornflour
  • Oats, oat bran, chia seeds, couscous
  • Nuts and dried fruit
  • Rice – long grain, arborio
  • Pasta – spaghetti, penne, Singapore, vermicelli
  • Vinegar – white, balsamic, cider, red wine
  • Salt and pepper
  • Sauces – soy, oyster, chili, tomato, barbecue, mustard
  • Pesto, salsa, tomato paste
  • Sugar – caster, raw, brown
  • Soups – tomato, mushroom
  • Curry paste and powder
  • Taco shells and burrito / tortilla wraps
  • Honey, maple syrup, Vegemite, peanut butter
  • Rice crackers
  • Wholemeal bread
  • Cereal – Weetbix, Plus
  • Tins of tuna (small and large)

Refrigerator

Stock your refrigerator with the following:

  • Milk (low fat)
  • Eggs
  • Cheese – feta, low fat shredded, parmeson
  • Hommus
  • Greek yoghurt
  • Fresh fruit and vegetables in season.  I always have potatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, onions, carrots, apples, tomatoes
  • Mayonnaise

Freezer

Stock your freezer with the following:

  • Chicken breast, chicken thigh fillets, low fat mince, lean beef.
  • Other cuts of meat in season
  • Peas, blueberries, mixed vegetables
  • Puff pastry

Eating Healthy Food Doesn’t Have to be Expensive

Eating Healthy Food Doesn't Have to Be Expensive
Eating healthy food doesn’t have to be expensive

Does the cost of healthy food put you off buying it? It is actually a fallacy that healthy food is expensive. That is because we are bombarded with messages about super-foods. These so-called super-foods are trendy, and the price is bumped up accordingly because the demand for them is high. There are other foods that are much more readily available, and offer the same health benefits at a much lower cost.

I have compiled a list of the healthiest food you can buy. These foods are not only healthy, they are versatile, easy to prepare and cheaper than so called super-foods. These foods are usually well tolerated by most people, and are nutrient dense. That means you get more buck for your dollar. If you would like a copy of the list, plus a handy shopping list template and a guide to buying healthy food, the link is below:

Money-saving Appliances

The right kitchen appliances can help you to eat a healthy diet on a budget. Here are my recommendations for appliances that can help you save money:

Delonghi Coffee Machine

I save $5 – $10 per day by brewing my own coffee. My son and I bought this coffee maker and when he moved out he took it with him. I loved it so much I bought another one. I like that it uses coffee beans, not pods which are bad for the environment. It grinds and brews the coffee as required, and it also can froth milk for a cappuccino. There is a power-saving mode so it switches off when not in use. I use the coffee grinds on the garden so there is very little waste.

Breville Slow cooker

A slow cooker is one of the best money saving appliances you can buy. I still use my crock pot, the original slow cooker, which I received as a gift in 1987! That version is long gone, but you may still buy the Crock Pot brand slow cooker. The Breville Slow Cooker is my husband’s and it is almost as good as my ancient one. It just shows you how long quality appliances last if you look after them. A slow cooker transforms cheap cuts of meat into beautiful, melt-in-the-mouth meals with very little fuss. Just put all the ingredients in, and turn it on for 4-6 hours and your meal will be ready to serve.

Breville bread maker

My bread maker is my new favourite appliance. Because I have spent much more time at home than usual this year, I have been experimenting with many different types of cooking. Making bread is so incredibly easy in this bread maker that I make at least two loaves per week. You just add all the ingredients to the bread maker bowl, program the machine, and it does it all – kneads, proofs and bakes the bread. We’ve made fruit and nut loaves, pizza bases, foccacia, wholegrain and white bread and they’re all amazing.

Panasonic Microwave Oven

My microwave oven is perhaps the most utilised appliance in our kitchen. I really don’t know where I’d be without it. This particular model is an inverter oven so it defrosts, cooks and heats food with more precision than an ordinary oven. The reason it is such a great appliance is it is fabulous for cooking a quick healthy meal, or to defrost and heat one from your freezer. This means you’re not resorting to buying takeaways.

Save Money with These Appliances for your Kitchen - Panasonic microwave, Breville Bread Machine, Delonghi Coffee Maker, Breville Slow Cooker
Save Money with These Appliances for your Kitchen –
Panasonic microwave, Breville Bread Machine, Delonghi Coffee Maker, Breville Slow Cooker

The Health Benefits of a Healthy Diet

Healthy food fuels your body. You will maintain a steady weight, have more energy, will be able to concentrate better and have less health issues. Eating convenience and junk food should be a rarity. It may be cheaper in the short term to eat something convenient, but in the long term the cost to your health will add up. Using the above suggestions, you will be able to learn how to eat a healthy diet on a budget.

I lost 17kg last year on a Government sponsored program. I had a phone consult with a Dietician regularly throughout the program, which was the key to my successful weight loss. Most of my weight loss came down to my diet because the only exercise I am able to do is walking due to chronic back pain and other health issues. Your diet is vital for maintaining a healthy weight, and preventing illness.

I am a Registered Nurse, but my background isn’t specifically in nutrition.I recommend that you consult a Dietician and a General Practitioner if you have health issues or a lot of weight to lose to get you into the healthy weight range. This post is for general informational and educational purposes only. Please refer to the disclaimer.

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Please comment on my article as I love hearing from my audience.

This blog post was shared on Life This Week, a Linkup by Denyse Whelan

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Tips to Improve Your Well-being When Life Gets You Down

Tips to Improve Your Well-being When Life Gets You Down

Life is Getting Us Down in 2020

This year I’ve noticed many more people talking about how they’re feeling demotivated, distressed, fed-up and down in the dumps.  Many people have begun to let their healthy diet and exercise routines slide, and their waistline expand.  The affects of the global pandemic on our well-being are really starting to become apparent as it drags on with no end in sight. The uncertainty, isolation and risks to our health and lifestyle are all factors in causing this decrease in our state of well-being.

Our well-being won’t just miraculously improve if we don’t make an effort to change our routines.  We have to work at it because it’s all too easy to be lazy and get into bad habits.  Frequently people get into a rut and can’t see any end to their current situation.  It’s as if a black cloud is over their head.  A few down days can lead to depression.

Clinical depression needs to be treated by health care professionals such as psychologists and medical doctors. (I am not a trained professional in these fields. Please refer to my disclaimer. This article should be used for informational purposes only).   I’m not talking about depression in this article, rather the low mood that many of us are experiencing due to the current pandemic.  If your mood has not improved after a few weeks, please seek professional help. 

How I’m Working on Improving My Well-being 

I talked recently about how my long recovery from surgery has been affecting my well-being.   As time drags on and I’m still not well enough to go back to work, I’ve had days where I feel really down in the dumps.  What have I been doing to help myself deal with these feelings?  

I’ve had to be proactive and work at maintaining my mental health.  My tendency to shut down and go into a shell, wallowing in misery, didn’t work for me in the past.  Over time I’ve found there are activities I can do to improve my mood.

When Life Gets You Down Use all Five Senses to Improve Your Well-being.  The senses of touch (massage), smell (perfume, scented candles), taste (fresh coffee, healthy fruits), hearing (music, sound of water fountain), sight (scenery, sunset) can be used to improve your mood
When Life Gets You Down Use all Five Senses to Improve Your Well-being. The senses of touch (massage), smell (perfume, scented candles), taste (fresh coffee, healthy fruits), hearing (music, sound of water fountain), sight (scenery, sunset) can be used to improve your mood

How to Use All 5 Senses to Improve Your Well-being When Life Is Getting You Down

You can use all five senses to improve your mood and your well-being.   For example, who can deny that the fresh whiff of coffee in the morning doesn’t immediately heighten your sense of smell?  Or that a warm hug from someone you love doesn’t make you feel calmer and happier? I am a very sensory person, and I’ve found the following have helped:

  • TOUCH: I had a massage.  I normally have a remedial full body massage but I still can’t lie on my front so I had a sitting massage instead.  To make the most of it I used deep breathing techniques to relax my muscles.  These tiny Thai masseurs are so strong, you feel like you’ve done 3 rounds with a sumo wrestler!  But it works.
  • SOUND: Listening to uplifting music.  I was born in the 60s so I love 70s and 80s music.  I can sing as loud as I like to my favourite hits  and it’s always a mood booster.
  • SMELL: A splash of my favourite perfume lifts my spirits.  I don’t save my scent for special occasions.   I use it daily because it makes me feel better to smell nice.  Using scented candles and reed diffusers has also helped.
  • SIGHT: Taking time to watch the sunset, or admire a beautiful scene is uplifting.  While I’m out walking my dog every day I take time to look at my surroundings.   I’m lucky to live where I have lovely parks and waterways nearby.  My dog’s a social butterfly so we end up meeting lots of dogs and their owners.  It’s nice to say hello or stop and chat if they’re up for it.
  • TASTE: I’ve done lots of cooking.  It’s starting to show as the weight’s starting to creep up.  Only 1kg but since I lost 17kg last year I’m very wary of gaining any weight.  So I’ve gone back to basics and getting back on a healthy diet.  It’s easy to grab convenience food when you’re feeling low, but taking the effort to prepare fresh food will boost your mood.  Eating lots of fruit and vegetables,  quality protein and healthy fats will make you feel more energised.

Other Ways I’m Boosting My Mood

Sometimes we have to push ourselves to be proactive in improving our well-being.   I know what depression is like and it’s easy for me to slide into that state of mind.  Rather than just allowing myself to stay in a rut, I push myself to do activities that I know will boost my mood.  

I credit my improved sense of well-being to the following:

  • Putting a bit of make-up on every day.  Then I don’t feel so daggy.
  • I’ve had a couple of phone sessions with a counsellor.   Getting the perspective of an impartial person about my long recovery time has really helped.  My takeaway from the sessions – I’ve been looking after everyone else for the last 30 plus years so it’s time to look after myself.  And let others look after me (which I find hard to do).  
  • I’ve been spending time socialising.  My nature is an introverted homebody so I  tend to stay home where I’m in my comfort zone.  I know that the most uplifting activity for me is having meaningful conversations with people.  So I make an effort to meet someone to talk over coffee or a meal.  Phoning them is the next best thing.  It improves my well-being so much.
  • I’ve been de-cluttering and tidying.  Just one area of the house at a time.  There’s nothing better than a good cleanout!  I can’t do too much housework because it increases the pain and swelling, so I just do a little bit every day.
  • I’ve been spending time in my garden every day.  Spring is upon us in Australia and the spring growth has begun.  It’s been a very long winter because time has dragged by for me and I’m really looking forward to warmer weather.  We’re lucky to have a pond with fountains in our garden.  The sound of cascading water is music to my soul.
We have a pond with fountains. The sound of the water trickling is music to my soul. I love the sound and find it very calming

What ways do you use to improve your well-being?  Share them here so others can benefit.

Just a head’s up, I saw my surgeon a couple of days ago, and because my swelling and pain are ongoing he’s going to operate again on Monday.  I’ll be in hospital for a few days and have a drain for a few weeks.  While I’m in hospital I won’t be allowed visitors which will be horrible. Not having the support of my family will be really hard but I know this is necessary to assist my healing and prevent further complications.

Because of this, I may be a bit inconsistent with my blog for the next few weeks.

shared on Life this Week, a linkup by Denyse Whelan

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