Ask Our Health Experts – June
What are the risks associated with osteoporosis and do lifestyle factors play a part?
with Dr Drew McMenamin
In Australia, every five minutes a patient is diagnosed with an osteoporotic fracture. One-in-two women, and one-in-three men over 60 years of age will develop a fracture due to osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a condition where the bones lose minerals faster than the body can replace them, resulting in reduced bone density. Typically, there are no symptoms of osteoporosis until a patient presents with a fracture.
There are many risk factors for developing osteoporosis. Family history, certain medications including corticosteroids and medical conditions e.g. thyroid disease, increase the risk. In women, early menopause is an important risk factor, as oestrogen helps regulate bone density. Lifestyle factors such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, lack of dietary calcium and a sedentary lifestyle can also cause osteoporosis.
A DEXA scan can detect the early changes of osteoporosis within minutes. The scanner utilises fan beam technology, which is both faster and more accurate than pencil beam scanners.
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I am a shift worker, but still want to make sure I am taking care of my health, is there anything I can do?
How to eat well while working shifts
with Dale Cooke
Working shifts can have an effect on the way you eat and the types of foods and drinks you consume.
Your body has a 24-hour cycle (also known as your body clock) that helps regulate when you wake-up, your digestion, hormones and many other functions of your body. This inbuilt clock is pre-programed to respond to you being active during the day and asleep at night, so when you work shifts, your body can find it difficult to adjust.
When your body clock is disrupted, you may begin experiencing disturbances to your sleep, fatigue and potential health problems. However, eating healthy foods at the right time can make shift work easier by providing your body with energy when you need it, helping you to sleep better when you do get the chance to rest and also helping you to prevent fatigue.
Being organised is the key to eating well on shifts
• Plan your meals for the shifts ahead, go grocery shopping and prepare your meals in advance.
• Keep it simple and start with salad sandwiches or wraps, lean protein and vegetable stir fry, or salad with tinned tuna.
• If you are on the road or travel as part of your work, pack some healthy snacks such as trail mix, fruit and tinned tuna or beans.
• Once you get into the routine of packing a healthy lunch and snacks, you can start to experiment with new ideas. You can also cook extra at dinner and take leftovers for lunch the following day.
• If you don’t have access to a fridge, keep food cold by using an esky or cooler bag with a frozen ice block or frozen water bottle in it.
• Takeaway food can zap your energy and leave you feeling flat, as they are often high in salt, fat and sugar, and can contribute to excess weight gain. Choose an option containing vegetables or salad, or ask to add a side serve of these. And don’t be tempted to upsize or add extras like hot chips or soft drink – water is the best beverage.