6 common health risks for women – awareness, prevention & treatment

As it’s Women’s Month in August, we thought we’d have a little fun and spice things up by creating an acronym that you can use to super-charge your month as a fabulous South African woman. It’s called WOW BOD – and it is the 6 most common health risks for women that you need to be aware of, to create a healthy body that is wow!

Here they are:

1. W = women-only health problems

A big worry for women is being healthy enough to have children, as they are our future generation. The 4 H’s are a concern in this regard: HIV infection, Herpes, HPV (genital warts) and Hepatitis can all be life-threatening and may put an end to having babies. Although these problems are not limited to women, HPV is one of the leading causes of cervical cancer, which only affects women. They are also at greater risk of HIV infection. Always practice safe sex and ensure that you are in a monogamous relationship. Visit your doctor for more information or STD testing.

2. O = osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a disease that causes the body’s bones to become brittle and weak. In worst cases, even a cough or bending over can cause bones to fracture or break. The most vulnerable spots in the body are the wrist, hip and spine. The disease can also affect men and women of all races, but white and Asian women are most at risk. Calcium supplements and increased calcium intake from milk and other products have been shown to aid prevention, while sufferers of osteoporosis should exercise more regularly to strengthen muscles. A bone which has a muscle pulling on it becomes stronger. See your doctor for more information, a bone density test or about treatments ranging from hormone therapy to bone-building medications.

3. W = weight gain

Obesity carries with it a multitude of health risks, from heart attack to cardio-vascular disease (CVD), circulatory problems and respiratory problems. CVD alone is responsible for killing almost 17-million women around the world each year. The incidence of this disease in South Africa among women aged 35 to 44 is 150% higher than in the United States. Although carbohydrates are singled out as being the biggest culprit, any food intake in excess of 1,500-2,000 calories per day (depending on the size of the woman) will lead to weight gain. Processed carbs are the easiest way to gain weight (junk food and sweet drinks are especially dangerous), so these should be eaten as a treat on special occasions only, or avoided altogether.

4. B = breast cancer

This cancer is a leading cause of death in women, with over 3-million women dying of cancer every year. Fear is also a problem here, which may prevent women from seeking proper medical advice and being screened by doctors, before undergoing radical surgeries like mastectomies. Watch out for lumps, growths and soreness in the breasts, and ask your doctor about a mammogram.

5. O = overly-high blood pressure (hypertension)

Hypertension is the primary cause of strokes, which may cause irreparable brain damage and/or physical disability. Too much sodium (salt) in the diet, which causes the body to retain water, pushes up the blood pressure. A lack of potassium may also be responsible. Regular exercise, sustained weight loss and a reduction of salt are all advised. It is vitally important to be checked (anything higher than 120/80 is high), as high blood pressure is known as ‘the silent killer’ because of the lack of symptoms. See you doctor immediately if you suspect you may have it.

6. D = diabetes

This disease affected 143-million women in 2010 and is expected to rise to 222 million by 2030. Over 2-million women die each year from it. Type-2 diabetes is almost always linked to poor diet and excessive lifestyle. An addiction to sugar, gradual weight gain, lack of exercise and smoking are factors leading to diabetes, which occurs when the body stops responding to insulin. Black and Asian women are most vulnerable, but this disease can affect women of any race group who are overweight and not physically active. See your doctor for a simple blood test to determine whether you are at risk.

For more information please contact:
Dr S Silvester MD
Emergency Room Physician, ER Manager
Maputo Private Hospital
Tel: +258 214 88 600

Disclaimer: Any information contained here is merely a guideline. Always visit your healthcare practitioner for any health-related advice or diagnosis.

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7 healthy habits a mother can teach her daughter

August is National Women’s Month and Child Health Month. Mothers are important role models for their daughters. Showing them how to be healthy and create healthy lives for themselves as they grow into young women is the most vital gift a mom can pass on to her girl child.

Here are 7 ways mothers can lead the way with health:

1. Go see your doctor and get checked up

If you are already ill with a chronic disease, you have a family history of cancer, or you are over 50, you should be especially aware of the need to visit your doctor more regularly. Breast cancer and cervical cancer can be life-threatening. If caught early, the difference in time could save your life.

Teach your daughter about pap smears and mammograms in particular, as these are not the kind of subjects that daughters can usually talk to fathers or husbands about. Go for pap smear tests every 3 years if you are between 21 and 29, and pap smear and HPV testing every 3-5 years if you are between 30 and 65. HPV is a leading cause of cervical cancer in women, so this is essential.

Mammograms are also a must for women, especially starting between the age of 45 and 50 (in most cases, your mom will still be alive when you reach this age). You can commiserate together about how cold and impersonal the instruments are, and how brave you have both been for taking the plunge and getting checked!

2. Spa days

Women are the backbone of our society, and every woman needs a good pampering now and again. Make it a day to bond and get to catch up with each other, chat about life, love, dreams and difficulties, and what the future holds. The health benefits of an aromatherapy massage, a good exfoliation and facial, a mani and pedi, and a delicious healthy lunch will lift both your spirits and invigorate you.

3. Do the fruit & veggie thing

It cannot be stressed enough, as more and more research shows that we must eat our greens if we want to live to see our grandchildren. Moms, this can be an especially important lesson for your adult daughter if she has young kids: she will want them to grow up healthy and strong, so she must herself lead by example.

The recommended dose is 5 portions per day, in a combination of fruit and vegetables. A portion is generally considered to be the size of your hand or about 100g. A banana for breakfast with a glass of orange juice (be aware though that fruit juices are high in sugars), a healthy salad for lunch which includes a whole tomato, half a cucumber and a helping of lettuce (or these on a wholewheat roll), and a sweet potato with your dinner would be considered a good portion of 5.

4. Go easy on the sugar

The irony of life is that as we eliminate dreaded diseases and remove threats to humans from other catastrophes, we have become our own worst enemies, often with what we eat.

While we’re not advocating a complete removal of sugar from your life, cutting back is a good thing if you want to stave off the effects of metabolic syndrome and other lifestyle diseases such as diabetes. South Africa has one of the highest obesity rates in the world, so it’s not for nothing that government opted to introduce a sugar tax.

Switch to honey if you can afford it, and raise your children to have less sugar - learning healthy habits at a young age will carry through to adulthood. If you do have a sweet tooth, then take up walking. Research has shown that a good walk for 20 minutes every day lessens sugar cravings, so ask your mom or your daughter to meet with you for a nice walk and a chat, even if only on the weekends.

5. Bond with and grow to love H2O

Yes, we know you’ve heard it a lot, but even so, water is absolutely essential for good living. It gives the kidneys a boost, helps with digestion, and has been linked to longevity of life. Give your children water to drink from a young age and drink water with them. Ensure that the family drinks at least 1 litre (children) to 2 litres (teens and adults) of water a day. Whenever you go out, take bottled water with you and always order a glass of water when bonding with your family at a restaurant. Make water your go-to beverage in your home.

6. Burn the calories

Especially after giving birth, women can tend to battle with excess weight. If you’re a young mom with small kids, make it a habit to get and keep your children active and burning energy. This will help them into adulthood. If you’re an older mom with grown children, see how the two of you can exercise together.

7. Ditch the cigarettes

There are absolutely no health benefits to smoking. As a mom, consider a programme or aids to reduce your craving and addiction to tobacco (speak to your doctor for more guidance), and lead by example. If you smoke, how can you expect your daughter not to?

For more information please contact:
Dr S Silvester MD
Emergency Room Physician, ER Manager
Maputo Private Hospital
Tel: +258 214 88 600

Disclaimer: Any information contained here is merely a guideline. Always visit your healthcare practitioner for any health-related advice or diagnosis.

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Healthy parents raising healthy children

August celebrates Child Health Month. Children learn most from their greatest teachers: their parents. If you want your young ones to grow up smart, strong and healthy, then lead them in these 4 areas of life, and you’ll be off to a great start:

1. Combine vegetables and fruit with Maths

Here’s a nifty idea that combos 3 things that children don’t really like, but if they become second nature because they are a habit, they may stick with them for life. Create a home-made game focused on Maths, spelling or grammar using fruit and vegetables, and then spend time playing with your youngsters as you focus on the food.

Let’s say you decide on Maths. Each colour represents a unit of the decimal system. Tomatoes are multiples of 1,000. Peaches are multiples of 100. Bananas are multiples of 10. Cucumber slices are units of 1. Get your child to work out a series of numbers using the fruit and vegetables, and then let them calculate some simple Maths sums. At the end, symbolically “eat” the numbers or words and tell them that they are swallowing genius. This way they also eat their greens!

2. Get the bodies moving

Modern lifestyles are horribly sedentary – we sit in the car or the taxi, we sit at work and school, we sit in front of the TV or phone. A non-negotiable element of raising healthy children is exercise, which will strengthen the body into adulthood. Pack away the smartphone and the TV, and take the young ones outside for some fresh air and some fun time.

Play hide and go seek, throw a ball, jump in the pool if it’s summer and you have one, go for a walk in the park, play with the dog, jump on the trampoline, go for a run, have an egg-and-spoon race in the back yard or down the road (be mindful of traffic), go pick up rubbish on the beach. Your children will love you for the time spent together, and you will all get some exercise (you included, much to your doctor’s delight). Tired children also sleep better at night.

3. Make brushing teeth lots of fun

Cavities and gum disease are strongly related to oral hygiene, and the habits that children form in this area when they are young will last them a lifetime. Always ask your children if they have brushed their teeth, remind them, and do regular check-ups (sneak up on them and have some fun by surprising them in the bathroom).

Turn brushing teeth into ‘Idols’ by using the toothbrush as the microphone. Get them to sing along as they carefully brush both upper and lower teeth, spluttering through all the toothpaste as they belt out their favourite hit. Be careful that they don’t choke on or swallow toothpaste (excess fluoride can be harmful). So what if the bathroom has toothpaste splatters everywhere? All you’ll remember is how much fun you had.

4. Love, love and more love

The thing that children most need from their parents or guardians is love. If they know they are loved and cared for, they will always respond to your leadership and the way you try to steer their lives. A big part of them feeling loved is spending time with them, despite your busy schedule. Make sure that birthdays are extra special, and engage with your children in areas that they enjoy and are interested in.

When young ones mess up or they have to be disciplined, it is far more palatable if they know their parents really care. Work hard to create a loving environment for your children, for they are the world’s future.

Have a chat with your doctor about the best way to prepare meals for school, and how to handle sports injuries and other scrapes and bangs.

For more information please contact:
Dr V Moodley
Specialist Paediatrician
Ethekwini Hospital & Heart Centre
Tel: +27 (0) 31 581 2512
Info@Lenmed.co.za or Vineshm@ehhc.co.za

Disclaimer: Any information contained here is merely a guideline. Always visit your healthcare practitioner for any health-related advice or diagnosis.

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5 of the most challenging mental illnesses and how to manage them

Mental illness affects 1 in 3 South Africans and can be debilitating for a family. Sadly, 75% of these sufferers will not receive adequate treatment.

If you think someone close to you is suffering from a mental illness, it is important to take it seriously. Show them your support by suggesting they get the help of a mental health professional. If you think you may be suffering from a mental disorder, seek help as soon as you can.

Here are 5 of the most challenging mental illnesses, and how to help someone who suffers from them:

1. Anxiety disorder

When runaway emotions start to affect daily functioning, then it may be time to address an anxiety disorder. Reasons for this illness include a history of family mental health problems, environmental factors such as a very traumatic event, an imbalance of hormones or impaired brain functioning, or some other physiological reason including withdrawal symptoms from an addiction.

Symptoms may include:

  • Feeling jumpy or irritable
  • An irrational fear or response to an everyday event
  • Excessive negativity
  • An inability to cope with life in general
  • Chest pain or heart palpitations
  • Stomach cramps and nausea
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Hot flashes or chills

Techniques to overcome anxiety disorder include practising stress management, exercise, counselling and support groups, and relaxation techniques including yoga, Pilates and aromatherapy.

2. Bipolar disorder

This mental illness is aptly described: it is a binary state where the person is either elated and ecstatically happy and thus manic, or completely depressed and down in the dumps. The alternating states of manic-depressive can come on quickly or slowly over long periods of time and may even result in suicide.

Symptoms may include:

  1. Intense emotional states of either euphoric fantasies or terror nightmares
  2. Self-injuring behaviour such as cutting or scratching
  3. Impulsive behaviours such as overspending or sexual addiction
  4. Intense self-hatred or skewed self-image

The best way to assist someone is to seek professional help. Medication is usually prescribed for the bipolar sufferer. Hospitalisation and psychotherapy may also be needed.

3. Depression

Depression is the state in which you just cannot seem to shake off an ongoing sadness. Everyone has disappointments and regrets, but when these feelings begin to overwhelm us to the point where we cannot seem to recover, this may indicate depression. There is evidence that depression is linked to self-anger that has turned inward.

Symptoms may include:

  • An ongoing sadness
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Unexplained weight loss or gain
  • A sense of lethargy or fatigue
  • Feelings of worthlessness

Triggers such as the loss of a loved one and other forms of grief (like losing a baby or not being able to fall pregnant) can often be part of the root cause. Ongoing anxiety can also lead to depression.

Time and understanding are two key ingredients in helping someone. Medication may also be necessary to enhance and elevate mood. Helping a person to get back on track with their lives, and encouraging them to follow their interests and passions are good ways to break the cycle of depression. Seek professional help if possible.


The first thing that often comes to mind when looking at a sufferer of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a wilful and naughty child on Ritalin running around breaking things. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the ailment affects mostly young people, with some 9% of young children being diagnosed. However, as many as 4% of adults also have the illness.

Symptoms may include:

  1. Jumping around and becoming easily distracted
  2. Being excessively loud
  3. Becoming bored
  4. An inability to complete tasks
  5. Fidgeting and playing with objects
  6. Being impatient and impulsive

The causes of ADHD may be genetic, while strong evidence suggests that the children of mothers who smoked or abused alcohol while pregnant are more prone to the illness.

Treatments include medications to help calm the mind, as well as psychological interventions where linking is done between the person’s value systems and the tasks that they have to complete.

5. Addiction

When we think of addiction, we often think of alcohol or drugs. However, there is growing evidence that sugar and technology are both highly addictive, as is smoking. While it may seem a bit harsh labelling these addictions “mental illness,” oftentimes there are strong psychological reasons and psychosomatic neuroses attached to overuse of any single thing. Being co-dependent on another human being can also be unhealthy.

For those who smoke, research shows that nicotine addicts get cravings that last as long as 20 minutes, which is why cigarettes are so hard to give up, and why many who stop smoking return to it in later life.

Seek professional help to determine the underlying emotional issues that promote addictive behaviours.

For more information please contact:
Dr MJ Ndhlovu Clinical & Consulting Psychologist
PhD (Cons Psy) UNISA, Msoc. Sc (Clin Psy) (UNW)
+27 (0) 11 923 7785
Info@lenmed.co.za or mjndhlovu@yahoo.com

Disclaimer: Any information contained here is merely a guideline. Always visit your healthcare practitioner for any health-related advice or diagnosis.

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7 tips for a healthy work life

Do you feel stressed at work all the time? Assuming you work 8 hours a day, 5 days a week for an average of 22 days per month, between the ages of 20 and 65, and with 20 days’ leave per year, you will, in a normal lifespan, spend about 90,000 hours working – that’s 10 solid years at work (24/7/365), which excludes time getting to and from your job.

How does one have a successful career without sacrificing personal time and family? The concept of a work-life balance is defined as proper prioritising between “work” (career and ambition) and “lifestyle” (health, pleasure, leisure, family and spiritual development).

The first step in obtaining the optimal work-life balance is by achieving good health because if we are healthy, we feel better about ourselves and have more energy to manage our lives. Since most of our time is spent at work it’s a good place to maintain good health.

Here are 7 tips to keep healthy during your working day:

1. Start with a good breakfast

Even for manual labour, your brain is probably the organ you will most use on the job. It burns about 300 calories, or 20%, of your total intake per day – and it gets that energy from glucose. So, if you skip breakfast you’re headed for a binge of biscuits and tea by 10 am, which will spike your blood sugar and you will eventually gain weight. If you’re pressed for time, most bosses will have no problem if you eat some fruit and yoghurt at your desk at 8 am whilst you check emails.

2. Follow that up with a good lunch

The law mandates break times during working hours, so don’t be a martyr and work through your break. Everyone needs a time out. Have a salad or a healthy sandwich, and if you can, get some fresh air on your face.

3. Drink lots of water

Our bodies are made up of 70% water, so there’s a reason we need it. Tea and coffee are stimulants, so make sure to offset heavy beverage drinking with lots of water.

4. Use the stairs

It may be challenging if you’re on the 49th floor of the Carlton, or if you work in a single-storey office park, but the point is this: get some exercise. It’s a great stress reliever from work pressures. Park the car far from the entrance and take the back exit when you leave. If your company offers gym facilities, grab them, or start a running club with your work friends.

5. Get the work done

Nothing stresses you out – and annoys the boss – more than not sticking to your deadlines and meeting your outputs for the tasks you have been set. Politely tell chatty co-workers that you need to knuckle down and do your job. When you’ve cleared it off your plate, the psychological release is enormous, and the boss will be impressed if it’s good work delivered on time.

6. De-clutter your desk and your computer

Having too many windows open on your PC and scratching around for your pen under a mountain of paperwork, slows you down and clouds the mind, and this just leads to more stress. For clarity and efficient use of your mind space, keep your desk neat. When it dissolves into chaos again, take five minutes and re-organise it. Make this a habit.

7. Get some sleep

It may be that your best mate has their birthday party one night during the week, or you had to pull an all-nighter for your job. Life happens. Make sure that you get enough sleep the next night then, and don’t make all-night partying, TV, phone surfing or work a habit. Adults should be getting at least 6 to 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep a night in order to recharge properly for the next day.

If you’re battling with work balance, seek the help of a medical professional as soon as you can, and try not to let stress and unhealthy living get the better of you.

For more information please contact:
Lana Pitt Occupational Therapist
BSC OT (Wits)
Daxina Private Hospital
+27 87 087 0644

Disclaimer: Any information contained here is merely a guideline. Always visit your healthcare practitioner for any health-related advice or diagnosis.

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Youth Day – time to be young, care-free and drug-free

Filled with hormones and the typical anxieties that come with being pubescent, young people are more susceptible to drugs. They can be well into their 20s, with even pre-teens being affected by the scourge of poisons from tik and nyaope to cocaine and heroin. Even marijuana, though now somewhat legalised by the Constitutional Court, can lead youngsters into trouble.

Here are some practical tips for helping future generations to avoid being caught up with drugs, what to do with drug addictions, and where to seek help.

1. Practice open communication in the family

There comes a time, just like chats about the birds and the bees, when you need to start having grown-up conversations with your children about drugs. Even though kids become self-aware well before they become teenagers, they lack the emotional capacity and mature decision-making skills to make informed choices. We see this manifest itself today with the increase in teenage pregnancies, despite the fact that most schools teach some form of sex education, and many girls know about contraception.

However emotionally unsettling it may be for either you and/or your child, you need to have the drug talk. Begin by broaching the subject more indirectly and ask the child if the topic has come up in school. Without ever being intrusive, try to probe and see if there have already been any exposure to drugs. This should also include a chat about alcohol.

Although there are no hard and fast guidelines on exactly what you should say, honesty is the best policy. Chances are they will never view you as their ‘friend’, but children and young adults should know that they can come to you with anything and that you will always be willing to listen and understand their situation.

2. Drugs are linked to emotions

As with all addictions, from food to sugar and alcohol, drug abuse is linked to emotions, which is why the youth are particularly easy targets.

Life is complex, and circumstances may make it more so. Add to that a volatile cocktail of increased hormone levels, the initial difficulty of experiencing menstruation for the first time, peer pressure, bullying, cyberbullying, and addiction to social media, plus academic pressure to get good marks, and it’s no wonder the youth are emotionally charged.

Again, of utmost importance is to keep open lines of communication. As the adult, you need to manage your emotions better than your child does, in order to be a beacon of strength and a friendly ear. Always ask how things are going, be sensitive yet firm about setting boundaries, and look for behavioural changes, mood swings, weight loss or gain, erratic sleeping patterns, and concern expressed by teachers and/or other parents (outside of the gossip mill).

Help your child learn valuable coping skills. These include support systems like church youth groups, a focus on extra-mural activities that they enjoy and are good at, being involved socially and interacting with others, chores around the house to teach both discipline and responsibility, and seeking professional help if need be, from a therapist.

3. How – and where – to get help

Helping your child to get the attention they require need not be expensive. The most important elements are showing children that they are loved, valuable and worthwhile, which doesn’t cost money. Connecting to the things that they most enjoy will help to bridge lines of communication with them. The “just say no” method can also be used – if children understand that there are both positive and negative consequences attached to behaviour in a cause-and-effect relationship, then they will be less inclined to engage in self-destructive drug abuse.

Organisations such as AA, Al-Anon, Narc Anon and Lifeline are all starting points. A list has been provided at the end of this article for you. Take time to educate yourself further on what the best practices are for drug-proofing your children by reading up on the subject. Even better, turn it into a project and get your kids to research the harmful effects of abuse with you. That way as they face the critical moment when being offered drugs, they know what the consequences are.

Contrary to popular belief that teenagers are difficult and don’t understand parents, the youth are at the beginning stages of what all humans want: love, understanding, acceptance, shelter, security, food, and the opportunity to become their very best. Nurture these needs and cultivate an environment where they can grow, and your youngster may soon see that a life of emptiness either taking drugs or pushing them will lead nowhere.

Schools can also offer some counselling and advice. A word of caution: It is not wise for a parent to use school as a dumping ground to take care of children while they get on with their lives. Children are smart, and they will lose faith in a parent who they think does not care.

4. What to do if things don’t change

As we’ve mentioned before, setting boundaries is paramount. The youth in your care, whether they are over the legal age limit or not, should know your stance on drug-related issues. Of course, you need to lead by example. How can you expect your teenager to not smoke if you do? The same when it comes to abusing alcohol. Children learn by example.

Your sterling leadership aside, what happens if a youthful soul does fall off the wagon? There are no easy answers, unfortunately. One school of thought is the “Tough Love” stance – your child needs to know that destroying themselves is not something you will tolerate or abide by because you love them too much. Linked to this, 12-step programmes suggest that until the addict reaches “rock bottom”, and the drawbacks they perceive from taking drugs outweigh the benefits, the young offender will continue to offend.

Practising tough love and putting your foot down assertively but gently is a method that has proven successful. Here’s an example: “Son, I love you very much, but there will be no drug use while you are living under my roof. Either you enter a programme and get help, or you will have to go and live elsewhere.”

If you are worried that your child may be taking drugs, contact your doctor who can guide you on what to do. Or, make contact with one of the listed organisations below.

Here is a list of resources for you to get more help:

Alcoholics Anonymous
Narcotics Anonymous
Al-Anon (for the families of substance abusers)
South African National Council on Alcoholism & Drug Dependence
Recovery Direct

For more information please contact:
South African Depression and Anxiety Group
Department of Social Development Substance Abuse Line 24hr helpline
+27 (0) 800 12 13 14

Disclaimer: Any information contained here is merely a guideline. Always visit your healthcare practitioner for any health-related advice or diagnosis.

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The risks of smoking and how to quit

Did you know? Worldwide, tobacco use causes more than seven million deaths per year, and on average, non-smokers live at least 10 years longer than smokers.

The World Health Organization (WHO) deemed 31 May every year World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) to encourage a 24-hour period of abstinence from consuming tobacco in any form around the world. Every year there is a theme to promote awareness around the damages tobacco causes to our health. In 2019 the WNTD theme is Tobacco and lung health.

While the South African population as a whole has become less tolerant of smoking because of stringent laws dictating where smokers are allowed to smoke and where not, the statistics regarding tobacco-related deaths are still quite frightening. According to the Tobacco Atlas, more than 42,100 South Africans are killed by tobacco-related disease every year.

So why don’t smokers simply give up? Well, it isn’t that easy because tobacco is laced with the chemical called nicotine which is highly addictive. Consuming nicotine by smoking cigarettes or vaping releases the “feel good” chemical dopamine in our brains. Unfortunately, it also teaches the brain to crave the nicotine over and over again, thereby causing an addiction to cigarettes.

The problem is that tobacco smoke contains thousands of harmful chemicals including at least 70 which can cause cancer and are referred to as carcinogens. The most common diseases caused by tobacco use are:

  • Lung cancer
  • COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Asthma
  • Reproductive issues
  • Diabetes
  • Blindness by cataracts
  • Various cancers, including Colon, Cervix, Liver, Stomach and Pancreatic Cancer

These alone should be motivation to give up smoking. Plus, the benefits of quitting are endless.

First and foremost, find a good programme that will work for you. When you are doing your research, make sure the programme addresses both the short-term challenge of stopping smoking and the long-term challenge of preventing a relapse.

Before quitting, it might be a good idea to speak to your doctor about the various programmes and what type of support you require. If you have concerns about gaining weight or having withdrawal symptoms, your doctor will be able to give you good advice and remind you that it is better to gain a little weight which you can easily lose than to continue smoking and risk getting heart disease or cancer.

As a matter of fact, the benefits of giving up are almost instant. As soon as a smoker quits smoking this is how the body starts to recover:

1 hour later - The heart rate drops and returns to normal. Circulation improves and blood pressure is reduced.

12 hours later - Carbon monoxide levels return to normal and oxygen levels increase. This means blood pressure drops further and decreases the risk of stroke and heart disease.

1 week later - Smell and taste returns as nerve endings begin to heal.

1 month later - Lung function improves and exercising becomes much easier to do. If you have developed a smoker’s cough, it may disappear.

9 months later - The lungs significantly heal themselves. You will stop getting lung infections such as bronchitis.

1 year later - The risk of getting coronary heart disease decreases by half. This risk will continue to drop after one year without smoking.

5 years later - The arteries and blood vessels to begin to widen again which means the blood is much less likely to clot and cause a stroke.

10 years later - The chance of getting lung cancer is roughly decreased by half compared with someone who carries on smoking. Also, the risk of developing mouth, throat or pancreatic cancer significantly decreases.

15 years later - The chance of getting coronary heart disease or pancreatic cancer is the same as that of a non-smoker.

20 years - The risk of death from smoking-related causes, including lung disease and cancer, decreases to that of a person who has never smoked before.

No matter how you choose to give up smoking, it’s important to be good to yourself and your body. Don’t eat unhealthy comfort foods to replace the oral gratification and deal with the stress of giving up. Try these 5 simple tricks to help support you while you’re on a good quitting programme:

  1. Take walks - As soon as you feel the urge, go for a brisk walk to clear your head and release dopamine in a healthy way.
  2. Drink lots of water - Smoking dehydrates the body and water rehydrates it; plus drinking water gives your mouth something to do instead of smoking a cigarette.
  3. Have healthy snacks on the ready - When you quit smoking you will need to replace the oral gratification from cigarettes. Don’t fixate orally on bad foods by ensuring that healthy foods are available to you at all times.
  4. Eat a variety of healthy meals - Make it interesting for your brain to register various tastes and textures of food. This way you will replace feelings of boredom after quitting, for feelings of excitement about eating good food.
  5. Pamper yourself - Give yourself a pat on the back for giving up smoking and treat yourself using the cash you have saved from expensive cigarettes.

Quit the bad habit of smoking before it’s too late and enjoy the benefits from day one.

For more information please contact:
Dr AJ Mahmood (Surgeon)
FCS (SA), H Dip Surg (SA), MB BS Chittagon,
Daxina Private Hospital,
+27 (0) 87 087 0644
info@lenmed.co.za or mahmoodaj@hotmail.com

Disclaimer: Any information contained here is merely a guideline. Always visit your healthcare practitioner for any health-related advice or diagnosis.

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How to Cope with an Allergy to Bee Stings

South Africans love being outside and who can blame them with all the great outdoor spaces and lovely sunny weather conditions. However, the outdoors also has an abundant bee population. Bees are beneficial to the environment, and if left alone will generally mind their own business, but they can also sting us if we threaten them, whether accidentally or not.

To most, being stung by a bee is slightly annoying and a little painful but can quite easily be treated at home. But for people who are allergic to bee stings, getting stung can trigger a strong reaction serious enough to warrant emergency treatment. This usually means a trip to the hospital casualty department.

How do you know you are allergic?

Bee stings can bring out a mild reaction, usually in the form of temporary pain and a slight localised swelling where the sting penetrated the skin. It is less common to have a severe allergic reaction. But did you know that having one type of reaction doesn’t necessarily mean it will stay this way? You can have a different reaction every time you are stung by a bee. This means that you need to be cautious around bees whether you react mildly or not.

A mild reaction presents with:

  • An immediate and sharp burning sensation at the site of the bee sting
  • Redness around the area of the bee sting
  • Slight swelling

Usually, this will clear up within a 12-hour period.

A moderate reaction presents with:

  • More irritation over and above the immediate pain
  • More redness
  • More swelling - can start as small and grow bigger throughout the day

Usually, the swelling lasts longer than a day and can take as long as 10 days to clear up completely. Having a moderate reaction doesn’t mean you will have a severe allergic reaction if you get stung again. However, if the reaction gets slightly worse every time you are stung, it is recommended that you see your doctor to discuss treatment and prevention.

A severe allergic reaction presents with:

  • Hives on the skin (not necessarily localised around the sting area) or the skin can become flushed or very pale
  • Swelling of the throat and tongue which will cause difficulty breathing
  • A weak and rapid pulse
  • Dizziness and even fainting
  • Nausea
  • Loss of consciousness

This type of reaction is called anaphylaxis and can be fatal if not treated as an emergency. If someone shows the above symptoms call for an ambulance immediately. People who are severely allergic can have these reactions very quickly, and about 30 to 60% of people who have severe reactions can become anaphylactic the next time they are stung.

When are you more at risk?

If you have had a bad reaction to a bee sting before, you stand a bigger chance of having a severe allergic reaction if stung again.

Adults are more at risk of having a severe reaction than children and it can be more life-threatening for them.

If you are frequently outdoors or live close to a beehive you should be very cautious and take preventative measures.


By following some precautionary measures you will put yourself and your loved ones at a lower risk of being stung by bees:

  • When outdoors, make sure you keep sweet drinks and all food covered.
  • At home, clean away garbage and over-ripe fruit.
  • During bee season - spring and summer - don’t go barefoot when you are outside.
  • Be aware of beehives when you are mowing the grass as loud, vibrating noises can disturb the bees and, when threatened, the swarm may attack you.
  • Do not wear bright clothing and sweetly scented perfumes and body lotions if you are going outdoors in bee season.
  • If there are bees flying around where you are, do not panic and swat at them as this will make them feel threatened. Remain calm and slowly move away from them to another area.
  • If you can hear or see a swarm of bees approaching, calmly but quickly leave the area and get inside the closest building. Close all windows and doors behind you until the swarm has passed by.

The good news

Most people only ever experience mild reactions to bee stings. According to the Journal of Asthma and Allergy, around 5% of people will experience a severe allergic reaction to insect stings in their lifetimes.

If you have a moderate or severe reaction to bee stings, you should make an appointment to see your doctor who can help you with preventative measures in the event of you being stung again.

Finally, if you are not sure about the seriousness of a sting you can call an emergency number and ask for advice or call for an ambulance.

For more information please contact:
Jurgen Kotze, Emergency Care Practioner (ECP) REG (ECP 0001031)
Advanced Life Support
Emergency number: 0861 007 911
+27 (0) 53 045 0350 (Royal Hospital and Heart Centre)
+27 (0) 53 723 3231 (Kathu Private Hospital)

Disclaimer: Any information contained here is merely a guideline. Always visit your healthcare practitioner for any health-related advice or diagnosis.

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7 Ways to Keep Your Kidneys Healthy

Our kidneys belong to what we call our 'major' organs, as they perform work in our body that keeps us alive. We can live without a gall bladder, but we cannot survive without a liver, heart, lungs or kidneys. This is why it's so vitally important that we look after our kidneys, not only to prevent kidney disease but also to make sure they are always in good working order. So, let's have a look at what our kidneys do for us, what happens when they can't do these things anymore, and how to look after them.

What do our kidneys do for us?

The main job of our kidneys is to work together with our liver to process and remove toxins from our blood. In this case, 'toxins' aren't necessarily poisons. The term means anything that would be harmful to us if they stayed in our systems. So, it includes everything from certain ingredients in our food (like small traces of mercury in fish) to animal fat and alcohol. As blood flows through our kidneys, they remove these materials from the blood, thus ensuring that these don't enter any further into our bodies.

The kidneys also do a lot more for us. They help to control our blood pressure by regulating the amount of salt in our bloodstream and removing any harmful extra salts and minerals and help produce red blood cells. This is very important for overall body health, and particularly to keep your bones healthy. Our kidneys turn all these materials into a waste product that we eliminate, which we call urine.

Because they play all these roles, our kidneys have to be very strong. Problems develop when they aren't healthy enough to successfully process harmful materials. When this happens, our entire bodies begin to break down which could be fatal. This is why people who have severe kidney disease have to have regular 'dialysis', where their blood is routed through a machine that 'cleans' it in the same way that their kidneys would before it is pumped back into their bodies.

Where are your kidneys?

You'll find your kidneys, one on either side of your body, just below your rib cage towards the back of your abdomen. They are deep inside your body, to protect them from external damage because they are so important in keeping you alive. Each is about the size of an adult's fist.

What happens with kidney disease?

Kidneys can take such a battering if we don't look after them that they can no longer work as well as they should, and they can become diseased. In extreme cases, they can stop functioning completely, which we call a kidney (or renal) failure. Happily, we only need one kidney to survive, which means that we can afford to lose one if it becomes unhealthy.

So, what can happen to our kidneys? The main condition that we need to be careful of is known as Chronic Kidney Disease. Recent research has found that a major cause of this is obesity, which makes sense, because our kidneys are especially vulnerable to the things we eat, given their jobs in our bodies. In fact, our diets are so important to healthy kidneys that we are seeing an increase in kidney disease as a result of eating too much unhealthy fast food. It is estimated that15% of South Africans suffer from some kind of kidney disorder

The main culprits here are Type 2 diabetes and hypertension. They both have very serious effects on our kidneys, weakening them and breaking down their ability to function.

7 Ways to Keep Your Kidneys Healthy

Unless there is a kidney condition in the family that is passed down – and this is quite rare – kidney diseases are completely preventable. Here are 7 things that you can do every day to help make sure your kidneys are healthy and happy.

1. Live an active lifestyle and keep fit

When we're fit our blood pressure is lower, which means far less strain on our kidneys. It doesn't really matter what kind of exercise we do, but the best exercises for kidney health are cardiovascular ones, like cycling and running.

2. Control your blood sugar

Diabetes is closely linked to kidney damage, so it's very important to follow the guidelines that protect you against diabetes. This means not eating too much sugar, in any form whatsoever. Remember, there is a LOT of sugar in a takeaway hamburger, for example, so do some research to find out about better low sugar options.

3. Look after your blood pressure

High blood pressure damages the kidneys, so make sure you have yours checked regularly. Maintain good blood pressure by eating properly and exercising regularly.

4. Drink lots of healthy fluids

Water is critical for the kidneys to function properly. It makes sense if you think about it for a moment. Imagine a cup of water with a little bit of salt in it, and another cup full of salt with just enough water to make it moist. It's far easier to pour from the first cup than the second, because the more water you have, the more the salt is diluted. Our kidneys work in the same way.

5. Don't smoke

Smoking not only puts toxins into our blood that the kidneys need to then cleanse, but it also narrows the blood vessels, which interferes with blood flow through the kidneys. This means that it is more difficult to remove the toxins from the bloodstream.

6. Don't drink too much alcohol

As we said above, the kidneys are used to remove alcohol from the blood. If we drink too much, we damage our kidneys over the long term, because having to process too much alcohol places a serious amount of strain on our kidneys and liver.

7. Be careful of over-the-counter pills

All medication (particularly pills and capsules) need to be processed by the kidneys, and some of these medications can have a serious effect if you take them for too long. So, make sure you tell your doctor about all medications you're taking, and how much of them you're using.

For more information please contact:
Dr MM Mahlangu (Specialist Physician / Nephrologist)
MBBCh(Wits) Mmed Internal Medicine (UL) Cert of Nephrology (CMSA)
Zamokuhle Private Hospital
+27 (0) 11 923 7750
info@lenmed.co.za or info@sd-nephrologist.co.za

Disclaimer: Any information contained here is merely a guideline. Always visit your healthcare practitioner for any health-related advice or diagnosis.

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