Category Archives: Interesting Reading

Health Apps That Are Actually Helpful

People generally want a healthier lifestyle and a good, healthy body. However, not many people have the money to shell out for personal trainers that can tell you when to work out, what to eat, and what  macros and how many calories you should eat. When looking to become healthier, a number of people become so overwhelmed as they’re inundated by diet culture that they give up before they ever start. One of the best ways that you can get your healthy lifestyle back on track is to use health apps. Today, we’re going to be looking at some of the most beneficial health apps to help take charge of your health. 

MyFitnessPal

If you’re looking for the best free app, look no further than MyFitnessPal. With over 50 million total downloads, this lifestyle app is designed to help track your daily food intake, giving its users a specific workout goal, calorie limit, and a great way to keep on track with your diet. While weight loss (or more appropriately fat loss, because we don’t want to loose muscle) can be quite complicated and nuanced, it is also in many ways quite simple. Energy in, energy out. For those who like maths – fat loss is simply a spreadsheet. 

MyFitness Pal helps you understand your calories you intake (eat or drink) and those you burn (exercise) on top of your Basal Metabolic Rate (the rate at which you burn energy when doing pretty well nothing – the energy that your muscles and organs need on a daily basis. 

If you input your sex, age, height and weight it pretty accurately estimates your Basal Metabolic Rate (although if you’re really serious getting a DEXA scan is the gold standard). A tip when setting up the App I’d recommend is not to select a goal weight loss or weight gain, but to “maintain weight”, otherwise MyFitnessPal will set a basal energy level below (to loose weight) or above (to gain weight) your basal metabolic rate. 

Lets say you’re a 70kg male, your basal metabolic rate will be about 1700kcal / day. If you walk for an hour, you’ve burnt say 400kcal, and if you do half an hour of hard weights you’ve burnt another 300kcal. Lets say it was an adventurous day and you rode a bike for an hour, then you’ve burnt approximately another 700kcal. That means to stay in energy balance you would eat 3100kcal. However, if that is a day that you want to loose some fat, then you could choose to have a 1000kcal deficit (noting that 1kg of fat is approximately 7000kcal of energy). 

MyFitnessPal is really useful to understand the energy density of food. Lets say for that 70kg male they did no exercise on a particular day, but they had a triple scoop chocolate ice cream for a treat at lunch. That ice cream alone would be in the vicinity of 750kcal – nearly half of all the energy budget for the day! MyFitnessPal can scan the barcode on your food and if you know the portion size you’re having you can very accurately understand the calories and portions of carbohydrates, protein and fat (“macros”) you’ve ingested. This is such a widely used app, its index of food and portion sizes is unmatched, with a database of over 11 million foods and even a recipe importer that can track recipes that you use on the web. 

This App is a great way to understand energy in, energy out, how to better control or modulate your eating habits and the benefits of exercise to burning fat. It’s a fantastic starter to the journey of fat loss and weight maintenance. 

Strava

If your lifestyle changes are more focused on outdoor activities such as running, walking, hiking, cycling, or swimming, then Strava is the app for you. This free app used by 48 million people connects to a number of different wearable devices, such as the Apple Watch, Samsung’s Galaxy Watches, and Google’s Wear OS watches. If you don’t have a wearable device, Strava also allows you to use your phone or a cycle computer. Strava’s main purpose is to act as a GPS, tracking your exercise journey as you go out cycling, swimming, running, or hiking. For an extra fee of $7.99 a month, you can get more features, such as real-time location sharing, route planning, goal setting, training logs, as well as maps of popular routes in your area. There’s also an extensive social media network connected to it where people can join challenges, connect with people on a similar workout journey, or even share photos of daily activities. 

Strava links with MyFitnessPal and the exercise that you log on Strava can instantly upload to MyFitnessPal so that you have an accurate idea of your energy use during the day.

For those a little more competitive (either internally with yourself, or with mates or anyone out there), people set up ‘segments’ on Strava and you can see how you have gone on any segment on any road or trail you have been on. Lets say you have a favourite little hill on your ride home most days. If you give it a crack you can see how you compare with your previous results, your personal best, other people who have done it on the same day, your mates and in fact compared with the best times ever. 

It’s an exercise logging app with a social and competitive element too!

Fooducate

This app does exactly what it says on the tin: it’s an incredible app that teaches you about weight loss, calories, and the importance of water intake, macros, and workouts. The app is an educational tool to tell you what kinds of food you should be buying on your diet and even goes so far as to recommend ingredients to buy from the grocery store. It even has a feature that allows you to scan food products to look at the pros and cons of purchasing the food. This allows you to make the best decision based on your health journey.

Tips for Lowering Your Blood Pressure

It’s happened. You go to the doctor and get the diagnosis: high blood pressure. Now you’re possibly looking down the barrel of long term anti-hypertensive medications. However, taking medication isn’t the only way to control your blood pressure. There are several lifestyle changes that you can implement to help lower your blood pressure and help it stay that way.

Lose Weight

One of the main reasons you may find that your blood pressure is rising is that your weight is increasing. Being overweight and staying that way can cause other problems such as sleep apnoea while you sleep, raising your blood pressure. 

This may seem like a given, but weight loss is an effective measure to take to help lower blood pressure. Losing even a little bit of weight can help your blood pressure tremendously. With every kilo lost, you can reduce your blood pressure by around 1 millimeter of mercury.

A helpful way to think about how fat loss helps, is that for every kilo of fat lost, you loose 500metres of blood vessels. For example, if Bob and Jane were to blow water through equal diameter hoses and Bob’s was only a foot long and Jane’s was 10metres long, who would have to blow harder? …. Jane. The reason for this is that Jane is blowing against more peripheral resistance. It’s a very similar concept with fat loss. If you lose 1kg of fat, your heart is pumping against 500m less of blood vessels, which is less peripheral resistance and less hard that the heart needs to pump. 

Keep Up an Exercise Regimen

If you have high blood pressure, a steady exercise regimen of 30-60 minutes, 4-5 days a week can help lower your blood pressure by about 5 to 8 millimeters of mercury. This needs to be a long-term habit.

Simple exercises such as walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, or dancing can be beneficial when lowering blood pressure. Interspersing short bursts of high interval training can also help. You can also include strength training into your regimen, as it can help build muscle mass, consequently increasing your Basal Metabolic Rate and therefore potentially reducing fat which then reduces blood pressure. If you choose to include strength training, you should use it at least twice a week. 

Reduce Sodium

This is one of the best ways that you can work to reduce your blood pressure by about 5 to 6 millimeters of mercury. Sodium (salt) increases blood pressure by an osmotic effect – it keeps fluid in your blood vessels and thus increases the pressure. You generally want to limit your sodium intake to around 2,300 milligrams a day. If you can lower that intake to about 1,500 milligrams a day, that’s even better. 

There are many ways that you can decrease your sodium intake. Reading food labels and choosing the low-sodium alternatives available can be incredibly helpful. Avoiding processed foods is essential. Sodium isn’t typically found in natural foods; it’s mostly added after, during the processing period. You can also avoid using salt in your food, as one level teaspoon of salt has around 2,300 mg of sodium. 

DISCLAIMER

All content provided on the www.lachlansoper.com.au website is general in nature and for informational purposes only.  It does not take into consideration an individual’s circumstances and it is not advice and should not be used as a substitute for advice from an appropriately qualified professional.

Opinions are my own. Links to external websites do not constitute an endorsement or recommendation.

No responsibility is accepted for any liability, loss or risk which is incurred as a consequence of the use of any of the material or links on this website, nor for any errors or omissions in the information.

All content on this website © Lachlan Soper (unless otherwise specified)

Tips for Managing Chronic Pain

Chronic pain can disrupt lives and change them forever. Living with chronic pain isn’t easy for those suffering from it or for their loved ones. Injuries and illnesses as well as prolonged physical, emotional, or social stress can be the causes of chronic pain, and everyone experiences that pain differently. 

Depression, anxiety, stress, anger, fear, intrusive thoughts, isolation, and overdoing things can create more pain signals in the body and make the pain feel even worse. But there are ways to manage chronic pain so that it doesn’t overtake your life. 

Breathing or Meditation

To help ease chronic pain, deep breathing and meditation can help your body to relax. There are many ways that you can meditate in order to relax. As long as the soothing power of repetition is at the heart, then you are meditating. When meditating, try to only focus on your breathing, and ignore intrusive thoughts. If you’re having trouble with meditating on your own, a class can be a great help.

Stay Active  

Staying active may seem like the last thing you want to do when dealing with chronic pain, but it’s a great way to alleviate some of that pain. When we exercise, our brain releases endorphins which help improve our mood while also blocking pain signals. Exercise also strengthens muscles, which is another pain-reducing effect that helps prevent re-injury or further pain. When staying active with chronic pain, it’s essential to find the right exercise or activity for you. Some sports put you in positions that make pain worse (depending on your specific pain). Walking is generally a good activity for most pains – the subtle movements and lack of impact help lubricate the joints. Talk to your doctor beforehand to discuss what is right for you.

Start Tracking Your Pain Levels and Activity

Effectively treating your pain requires tracking your pain levels and activity every day. This will provide your doctor with the information they need to treat your pain. An easy way to track this is by keeping a log or journal of your daily “pain score”. Write down your pain level on a scale of 1 to 10 at the end of each day as well as the activities you did that day. Sharing this with your doctor will give them an understanding of your chronic pain. 

While this is helpful, there is another train of thought, which is that you need to re-frame / distract yourself from pain. For example the recent winner of Australian Survivor was a pain researcher, when doing a difficult challenge and asked about the pain, she deflected the question. Rather than acknowledging that she felt pain, she would say things like “I’m fine”, or “I can keep doing this”.

Save Energy for Loved Ones

Chronic pain, whatever the source, is tiring. You only really realise this when you have chronic pain, and others without chronic pain don’t quite get that exhaustion. When you’re having a good day, be sure to share it with your friends and family. When dealing with chronic pain, time management is essential. Start saving your energy during the day to be both physically and emotionally present for your family. Try not to be so giving to others during the time that you’re not with loved ones by simply learning to say ‘no’ and setting boundaries. This will allow you to spend that limited energy on the things and people you love the most.

DISCLAIMER

All content provided on the www.lachlansoper.com.au website is general in nature and for informational purposes only.  It does not take into consideration an individual’s circumstances and it is not advice and should not be used as a substitute for advice from an appropriately qualified professional.

Opinions are my own. Links to external websites do not constitute an endorsement or recommendation.

No responsibility is accepted for any liability, loss or risk which is incurred as a consequence of the use of any of the material or links on this website, nor for any errors or omissions in the information.

All content on this website © Lachlan Soper (unless otherwise specified)

How to Better Your Cardiovascular Health

Having good cardiovascular health is important for anyone to have. Although keeping your heart healthy is so essential to one’s health, many do not take the necessary steps to better their cardiovascular health. Worldwide, heart disease is the number one cause of death but it is, for the most part, preventable. Simple lifestyle changes and risk management could be the only things standing in the way of bettering your cardiovascular health

Frequent Exercise

One of the best ways to keep your heart healthy is by moving every day. Exercise may not be all that appealing to some, but it’s essential for living a long and healthy life. Your heart is a muscle that needs to be exercised in order to build strength. Try aiming for at least 30 minutes of heart-pumping activity such as brisk walking, bicycling, and swimming. Frequent exercise helps with weight management, reduces stress, improves sleep, and lowers blood pressure which all reduce the risk of hypertension. 

Eating Well

There’s a reason why we are told to always eat fruits and vegetables. Eating well can have a huge effect on your cardiovascular health. ​​When meals contain mainly fruits, vegetables, dairy, poultry, fish, and nuts, our bodies will be in much better health. It’s also imperative to avoid or limit the intake of certain foods such as salty and sugary foods and drinks. Eating well can improve your cholesterol, which directly affects your cardiovascular health.

Stop Smoking

Smoking is very bad for your overall health, but especially for your heart. Smoking can cause serious health issues such as heart disease, breathing problems, lung cancer, kidney cancer, and emphysema. Not only is smoking bad for you, but it’s terrible for those around you. If you still smoke, it is essential to talk with your doctor about how to quit smoking. You’ll be bettering your health and the health of others around you by quitting, 

Manage Your Blood Pressure

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, can cause serious issues such as heart attack, stroke, congestive heart failure, kidney disease, and loss of mental function. By lowering your blood pressure, you are reducing your risk of these. Your resting blood pressure should be around 120/80. By exercising daily, avoiding sugary foods, increasing your daily fruit and vegetable intake, limiting your sodium (salt)  intake, and limiting your alcohol intake can all work towards lowering your blood pressure.

DISCLAIMER

All content provided on the www.lachlansoper.com.au website is general in nature and for informational purposes only.  It does not take into consideration an individual’s circumstances and it is not advice and should not be used as a substitute for advice from an appropriately qualified professional.

Opinions are my own. Links to external websites do not constitute an endorsement or recommendation.

No responsibility is accepted for any liability, loss or risk which is incurred as a consequence of the use of any of the material or links on this website, nor for any errors or omissions in the information.

All content on this website © Lachlan Soper (unless otherwise specified)

Debunking Common Health Myths

Health-related myths are as common as they are potentially dangerous. The best way to fight unhelpful misinformation is by doing one’s best to stay informed. This is especially true when it comes to personal health.

Here is a list of some of the most common health myths – and why they’re wrong. Read more to gain control over your health and wellness. Remember, this is a small list compared to all the myths out there – read up on other myths to stay informed about your health and wellbeing.

Drink Eight Glasses of Water a Day

While staying hydrated is a crucial part of staying healthy, there is no universal standard for how much water one should drink. The important thing is to drink when you’re thirsty. Our bodies are incredibly well designed, and thirst is the mechanism we have to maintain our hydration where it should be. According to experts, this is the best way to stay hydrated. Eating lots of other water-rich foods like fruits and vegetables will also help.

Cracking Your Fingers Causes Arthritis

Parents and teachers love to tell children that cracking fingers (or any other joint) can and will cause arthritis. However, this is false, at least according to several studies. The sound of cracking knuckles happens when air that forms in the fluid of our joints releases – pops. People can force this by pulling their joints slightly apart – in other words, by cracking them. Nothing about this action causes arthritis, though the sound is unpleasant for some people.

People Need Daily Multivitamins

There’s this common misconception that people (especially those over a certain age) need to be taking multivitamins every day. However, researchers aren’t so sure of that. Yes – people should take vitamins they are lacking (vegetarians and iron, pregnant people and folic acid, etc.), but that does not mean we need to flood our bodies with extra vitamins they don’t need. A well-balanced diet (with fruit and vegetables of different colours) should provide most vitamins necessary, except for those with certain health conditions or dietary restrictions.

Cholesterol is Bad

People hear the word ‘cholesterol’, and their mind immediately jumps to the wrong places. However, this isn’t an accurate reaction to have. While having too much cholesterol is undoubtedly a bad thing, our bodies do need a certain amount. More than that, there are two groups of cholesterol (HDL – “good”, and LDL – “bad”), and both play important roles in the health of our bodies.

Healthy Habits to Live Longer and Better

Although we can’t control how long we live for, there are many healthy habits we can form to encourage a healthier and longer life. These habits can also improve the quality of life while encouraging longevity. While it’s easier to fall into bad habits that can affect our health, it’s so much better for the mind, body, and soul to be nourished every day. Follow these healthy habits to live longer and better:

 

Regular Physical Activity 

It should come as no surprise that exercise is a great habit to form to live a healthy lifestyle. But just the simple act of moving every day, even if just a little, can massively improve your health and wellness. If you’re not up for hitting the gym every day or lifting weights, start off slow by making it a habit to take a stroll around the neighbourhood. If you’re feeling up for a little more, take a lazy jog for a kilometre or two. 

By moving every day and engaging in some form of exercise, you can reduce your risk of age-related diseases such as certain cancers, diabetes, stroke, and cardiovascular disease. A healthy amount of exercise can also strengthen bones, muscles, and boost overall life expectancy. Aim for a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate activity each week, which is recommended by the CDC. 

 

Eat a Balanced Diet

This habit should also come as no surprise. Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet can have a huge impact on the quality and longevity of your life. By eating well, you can keep your weight and body fat down while also giving your body the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals it needs.

A healthy diet should include dark leafy greens, starchy and non-starchy vegetables, fruits, whole grains, healthy fats, lean protein, and calcium. Ideally consume two fruit and five vegetables most days. To get in a full range of vitamins and minerals, try to choose a range of colours for your fruit and vegetables. Try to also get your protein from lean meats. Plant sources of protein like nuts and beans can also have a great influence on helping you to live healthier and longer. 

 

Have a Regular Sleep Schedule

To live a long and happy life, sleep is essential. Having a regular sleep schedule (sleep-wake cycle) will affect your body’s overall functioning. If you have an inadequate sleep schedule, you run the risk of serious health conditions such as hypertension, inflammation, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, mood disorders (like depression and anxiety) and obesity. These risks contribute to a shorter lifespan, which is why a regular sleep schedule is important for longer life expectancy. Ideally go to bed and rise at the same time every single day (including weekends). Even if the bed time shifts a little, ideally the waking time should remain the same time every day.

A healthy amount of sleep for an adult is at least 7&½  to 8 hours of sleep.

How Future Physicians are Trained with AI

As technology advances, it opens the door to innovation. One of the biggest industries to benefit from emerging technologies is the healthcare industry. Through advanced tech, healthcare workers and providers have been able to give better care to patients, limit human error through ​​electronic health records, make healthcare more available to patients in rural areas, and lower overall costs. 

An advanced technology known as Artificial Intelligence (AI) is aiming to make large improvements in medical training. AI could be incorporated into physician training and help them be better prepared for their future in the medical field. 

 

​​Shift Training Knowledge

Before the introduction of AI in the healthcare industry, doctors and physicians held all of the information they needed to diagnose patients and decide on the correct path of care in their minds on hand-held records. The patient’s outcome depended on how much knowledge and experience the doctor had. Now training and education will need to shift from training providers to know all of the data, to now assisting them to understand how to extract essential information from the massive amounts of data.

AI makes huge amounts of data available at physicians’ fingertips, making it imperative for students to learn not to keep up with data because the algorithm can do that. Students will need to develop the ability to know what’s useful to know and what is not. 

 

New Probabilities and Methods

As AI becomes more involved in healthcare, students will need to start learning the probabilities and the methods used in AI. With more data and better pattern recognition software, healthcare providers may spend less gathering information and more time focusing on patient care. In other words, medical students and future physicians may evolve to change their focus from hunting and synthesizing data, to using AI to help them interpret results and then emphasizing compassion for their patients.

Physicians should be able to think less clinically and more compassionately, which can have a massive impact on the quality of patient care. 

 

Knowing When to Question AI Data

While AI is an advanced technology that can greatly limit human error, it’s imperative that students learn when to question it. When training future physicians, there needs to be an emphasis on understanding AI output while also questioning AI methodologies. 

Although AI will assist in spending less time gathering information, it’s good to have a healthy scepticism. A certain level of scepticism will help to avoid oversight and automation bias. Students must learn to identify potential flaws or errors as AI grows and evolves. For all of its benefits, nothing can get a professional (in any field) experience. Not brilliance, not AI, it’s simply time in the profession, developing their own pattern recognition and developing an experienced “gut feel” to check and back up the output from AI

Why Mental Health is Just as Important as Physical Health

When people think of healthy living, they tend to think of exercise and a clean diet. However, so much more goes into feeling and being healthy. Mental health is just as important, if not more, as physical health. Psychological, social, and emotional well-being all fall under the umbrella that is mental health. It impacts our thoughts, feelings, and even our actions in our daily lives. How someone is able to handle emotions, stress, social situations, and decision-making is greatly determined by their psychological state. 

Oftentimes, people will prioritise their physical well-being at the expense of mental health. It’s essential to focus on being well mentally in the same way we work on our physical health.

The Effects on Physical State

Mental health can have a direct effect on your physical well-being. For example, those who suffer from stress and anxiety often have weaker immune systems and fall sick quite easily. Many studies have found that mental health problems can cause your physical health to deteriorate. Doctors have even reported seeing patients’ physical health improving once they have addressed their mental health issues. 

Financial Instability Effects

Many people are unaware that their mental health can have an effect on their financial stability. The American Journal of Psychiatry conducted a study that found those who dealt with mental health issues earned 40% less than those in good mental conditions. The same study found that those who left their mental health issues untreated account for one-third of the overall homeless population.

The effects on financial stability are largely due to the fact that people with mental illnesses tend to be far less productive than those without. 

Family Relationships

Mental health can also have a great effect on family relationships. Oftentimes, loved ones are those most impacted by mental health issues. Those who grew up with parents with mental illnesses often fall victim to abuse, neglect, as well as both emotional and behavioural issues which affect them from childhood well into adulthood. Because of this, recovery for the entire family is what is most desired so that everyone is able to heal and move on.

Living a Long and Fulfilling Life

The happiness and longevity of life are impacted by our mental health and well-being.  By valuing both your mental and physical health, you’re more likely to live a long and happy life. In 2012 The British Medical Journal conducted a study that found those who deal with mental health problems could have a lower life expectancy, even those with minor mental illnesses. Living each day feeling depressed, stressed, or panicked can seriously impact your life. It’s essential to be well mentally and physically to reap the benefits of a long and happy life. 

Some Actions to Consider

Plan your day and week so that you have time to get some exercise most days and also time to wind down most days (however you wind down). Maintain connections with at least a few close friends who care for and love you regardless of your actions and mistakes. Find a great counselor or psychologist. Seeing a counselor or psychologist doesn’t mean you have a “problem”, just like getting your car serviced means your car has a “problem”. Having a psychological professional in your corner can help you understand your past, how you came to be the way you are, why you react in certain ways, and other valuable self-insight. These can help you move forward in a more healthy and robust manner – for both yourself, and the other people in your life.

Requirements for Opening up Australia’s Borders

As more people begin to get vaccinated worldwide, more countries are debating opening their borders. This decision is tough because Covid-19 rates have spiked as the delta variant begins to spread much more quickly. Australia has concluded that there must be 80% of the population vaccinated to reopen borders and end lockdowns. This could happen by the end of the year. 

With 80% of Australia’s population vaccinated and 95% of those who are most vulnerable to the virus, the country will be “safe” to live with the virus, and severe cases should be rare. If Australia were to open up too early with only 50%-70% of the population vaccinated, there would still be a significant risk of spreading the virus, severe cases would be on the rise, and once again, hospitals will be overrun and overwhelmed. 

Luckily, reaching 80% vaccinated looks pretty likely to happen by the end of the year, with only 10% of the population being against the vaccine. Vaccine supplies will be arriving in Australia within the next couple of months, and the rollout of these vaccines is crucial. To get 80% vaccinated, the vaccine must be as accessible as possible. Meaning the vaccine will be available to everyone at mass vaccination hubs, their doctor’s office, local pharmacies; and perhaps even schools, workplaces, and pop-up clinics at public places and gatherings such as supermarkets and sporting events.

Once the vaccine supplies have arrived in Australia, experts feel it would benefit the government to aim the launch at specific populations such as those hesitant to take the vaccine and those who don’t think they need to, such as the younger generation. Experts also feel there should be incentives for people to get the vaccine, such as a lottery or other prizes. Vaccine passports, mandatory vaccines for those who work with vulnerable populations or in high-risk settings, and approving the vaccine for children under 12 can help Australia reach its goal of 80% vaccination.

After 80% of the population is vaccinated, likely, there will no longer be lockdowns, and no longer be any quarantine requirements. This could also open up the borders for the vaccinated population with fully vaccinated visitors. To get back to how it was before the virus, 80% vaccinated is the bare minimum and must be met.

The COVID vaccines currently available to Australians – some pros and cons and thoughts

At the present date (the start of September), Australia has two vaccine candidates which the public can have. While it’s good to know about each of them, in many ways the community discussion about these two vaccines can lead to stress due to desiring one over another. The stress is because, due to worldwide supply chain constraints we only get a certain amount of vaccines delivered to Australia. Consequently the government, on advice of ATAGI (their technical group that advises on vaccinations) only has supplies for Pfizer for people aged 16-59 years old inclusive and 12-15 years old with specified medical conditions. There appears to be ample Astra Zeneca COVID-19 vaccinations to vaccinate anyone (18 years or older) who would like to get it, on the basis of informed consent.

Common side effects after vaccination:

These usually occur in first 12 to 72 hours (sometimes longer), and included, but are not limited to:

  • Sore arm at vaccination site
  • Flu like symptoms
  • Body, muscle, joint aches
  • Fever, sometimes chills
  • Mild headache
  • Lethargy

Roughly half of people get some form of reaction, some get essentially no reaction, a small portion of people have reactions lasting longer than 72 hours. The reactions are often worse after the first dose of AstraZeneca and worse after the second dose of Pfizer.

Rare side effects with AstraZeneca

As at 15th August, with 8.1 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine given in Australia there were 112 reports of blood clots possibly or confirmed related to the vaccine. This means the odds of Thrombosis with Thrombocytopaenia Syndrome (TTS) are roughly 1:70,000 (depending on age) and the risk of dying from this is approximately 1:1,000,000.

To put this in some context, your risk of dying from a car accident at some point in your life is about 1:20,000 (of course risk is more nuanced than simply this comparison, in giving a vaccination a medication is given to a “well” person to prevent a possible disease, giving a medication to a “well” person should meet a higher threshold than giving a medication to someone who is “sick”).

It’s worth noting that the risk of a blood clot from the contraceptive pill is 1:1000 – a DVT. To our current medical knowledge, there is not an overlap between risk for DVT and TTS (thrombosis with thrombocytopaenia syndrome).

TTS may be seen from day 4 until day 42. It can present with the following symptoms (but not limited to):

  • Headache
  • Blurred vision
  • Reduced consciousness
  • Abdominal pain
  • Leg pain

It requires urgent medical assessment with GP or emergency department, and can be diagnosed with a simple blood test.

Rare side effect after Pfizer

The most common rare, but significant side effect from the Pfizer vaccination that we know of is Myocarditis or Pericarditis. This can present with symptoms including (but not limited to):

  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid heart beat or palpitations (arrhythmias) of the heart
  • Swelling of the feet, ankles or legs
  • Fatigue
  • Generalised symptoms of an infection, such as headache, body aches, joint pain, fever, sore throat or diarrhoea

Out of the 7.2 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine administered at 15th August there were 188 suspected cases of myocarditis or pericarditis, and no deaths. Most of these cases are mild. That is a risk of approximately 1:40,000. Young people with structural heart disease or arrhythmias are encouraged to seek their cardiologist’s advice before a Pfizer vaccination.

If the above symptoms develop, urgent medical assessment should be sought via a general practitioner, emergency department or cardiologist and tests which include an ECG, cardiac enzymes and echocardiogram can be done to assist the diagnosis.

Comparison of effectiveness:

Pfizer is slightly better at preventing symptomatic COVID (cold-like or flu-like symptoms) – 95% protection after the 2nd dose. With AstraZeneca it is approximately 60% if the booster is at 6 weeks and approximately 80% if the booster is at 12 weeks.

However, the purpose of the vaccination is protection from severe COVID-19 (which is hospitalisation, or being on a ventilator in hospital) or death. Both vaccines give at least 95% protection from severe COVID and death.

So… if the purpose is to prevent severe COVID (which many would argue), they are both similar in effectiveness.

The risk of a severe or fatal outcome from COVID-19 is much lower in young people, therefore the relative risk of adverse reaction from the AstraZeneca vaccine is higher.

Of course in the context of an “outbreak” the risk of COVID 19, and a severe outcome from the disease itself increases.

Immunity to coronaviruses wanes over time (eg: 6 months), whether that immunity is from an acquired infection or by vaccination. A recent study showed that the immunity waned more slowly with the AstraZeneca vaccination than with the Pfizer vaccination.

There are so many different variables, many different pros and cons for each vaccination and this discussion could go for hours or more. It’s very difficult to work out the odds of benefit / risk for any individual person.

Current Government Guidelines re: Pfizer and AstraZenica

As at the current date, due to supply chain constraints, we can only vaccinate people between the ages of 16-59 with Pfizer and those with specified medical conditions outside those ages.

Pregnant women who get COVID-19 have an increased risk of severe illness and adverse pregnancy outcomes, and are a priority to get vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccination. A recent information release from Chief Medical Officer for NSW, Dr Kerry Chant, says there is no evidence to date that COVID-19 vaccination affects the ability to conceive.

Most general practices have plenty of AstraZeneca to give right away, and can begin patients on the journey to being “fully” vaccinated. Those practices are bit by bit working through eligible patients for Pfizer first, and it will take longer to get a Pfizer vaccination. It may be at least a month or two before we can offer Pfizer outside the current guidelines – that is pure speculation on my part. This means that each individual who chooses to get vaccinated is likely to be faced with discerning the choice between getting AstraZeneca now, or at least some weeks to start a Pfizer vaccination course.

Most general practices are receiving very many requests every day, to vaccinate people outside the government guidelines we are given. We are obliged to stick within the guidelines.

The government “encouragement” is to get whatever vaccine you can get as soon as you can get it – to protect yourself from COVID-19 and also as a community service to protect others.

If you need to consider your options and are looking for a discerning read: Google: “Doing the maths on AstraZeneca” is a helpful article to see how a scientist weighed up whether to get AstraZeneca or not<https://www.smh.com.au/national/doing-the-maths-on-astrazeneca-20210727-p58d81.html?btis>

What to Know About the Delta Variant

As countries worldwide slowly began to reopen and get back to normal following the numerous lockdowns caused by COVID-19, a new strain put everything to a halt once more. Delta is a new mutation of the virus that is in almost every country. Most of Australia’s new cases are the Delta variant, causing most of the country to enter into a 2-month lockdown in mid 2021.

With this new mutation, scientists and medical officials see some different symptoms than those found with the “alpha” variant of coronavirus in the earlier stages of the pandemic. As the world braces for the Delta variant, here is what we know now and what to keep in mind:

Different Bodies Means Different Symptoms

As we’ve observed with the early stages of COVID-19, signs and symptoms will vary from person to person. How the virus causes an illness depends on viral factors such as speed of replication and modes of transmission, which can change as the virus evolves. It also depends on host factors, which will be more specific to the individual and have a lot to do with their age, gender, medical co-morbidities, diet, exercise, and even stress levels.

When discussing signs and symptoms of the delta variant, it’s imperative to keep in mind that these refer to the most common amongst the infected population. 

Common Signs and Symptoms We Know Now

As medical officials analyse the data of the Delta variant, we’re learning what the new signs and symptoms may be. In the United Kingdom, patients could use a self-reporting system through a mobile app that found the most common COVID symptoms could have changed from the ones associated with the virus before the new mutation. 

Fever and cough are still common symptoms, even with Delta. Infected individuals may also experience a headache and sore throat, while they will have a runny nose on rare occasions. With Delta, a loss of smell now ranks ninth most common symptom.

Many factors could cause these changes in symptoms. For one, data were originally gathered from likely much sicker patients, mainly in the hospital. It’s also important to keep in mind that many older age groups are vaccinated, so a large portion of COVID cases are the younger generations who tend to experience milder symptoms. However, these are simply theories, and the reason why the symptoms are evolving and changing remains uncertain.

What This Means For Vaccinated People

Many vaccinated individuals have voiced concerns and questions on whether they are protected from the Delta variant. It’s essential to keep in mind that the new variant will mean the effectiveness of vaccines could be compromised, however, the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines appear to continue to offer very high protection against severe COVID (hospitalisation) and death from COVID, and still reasonable protection against symptomatic COVID after the second dose of vaccination. 

When looking back on a recent “superspreader” event in New South Wales, we can see why it’s so important to be vaccinated. Out of the 30 people at the party, only 6 were vaccinated and none of the vaccinated people contracted the virus. According to reports, the 24 people who did not have the vaccine were infected with the Delta variant. 

However, those vaccinated should still take precautions. Even when vaccinated, in some cases, an infection is still possible after vaccination, albeit a lower risk. Those vaccinated who contract the virus are likely to experience a lower viral load with much milder symptoms than those unvaccinated.

DISCLAIMER

All content provided on the www.lachlansoper.com.au website is general in nature and for informational purposes only.  It does not take into consideration an individual’s circumstances and it is not advice and should not be used as a substitute for advice from an appropriately qualified professional.

Opinions are my own. Links to external websites do not constitute an endorsement or recommendation.

No responsibility is accepted for any liability, loss or risk which is incurred as a consequence of the use of any of the material or links on this website, nor for any errors or omissions in the information.

All content on this website © Lachlan Soper (unless otherwise specified)

Tips for Preparing for Surgery

Going into surgery, no matter how minor the procedure, can be scary and nerve wracking for most people. A great way to calm these nerves and settle your fears is by properly preparing for the surgery. Preparing can make the procedure go much smoother and put you into the proper mindset before going in. 

Days Before Your Surgery

Before going into surgery, there are a few things you need to cover. First off, it’s important to gain a full understanding of what your surgery is for, what the surgery is aiming to accomplish in terms of health, and the risks involved. While it may seem counterproductive to look over the risks of the surgery, it is imperative to know what you’re signing up for. Make sure to ask your doctor whether you’ll be given a general anaesthetic, a local anaesthetic or light sedation because you’ll need to prepare differently for each type.  

Another important discussion to have with your doctor is about your medication to know if it’s safe or unsafe to take as usual leading up to your surgery. This is particularly important for people with diabetes when they are required to fast prior to surgery. Be sure to list every medication before going in. Whether it is prescribed or over-the-counter, it can affect your surgery. Also be sure to discuss foods you can and cannot, if alcohol consumption should be reduced, or help to quit smoking prior to the procedure. Smoking can increase complications during surgery and recovery.

The Day Before Your Surgery

Depending on the anaesthetic, you may need to avoid eating and drinking some hours before your surgery. Generally, your doctor or anaesthetist will let you know beforehand when you should stop eating or drinking. While most medications with a sip of water are safe to take the day before surgery, medicines such as anticoagulants, aspirin, or diabetes medications require special instructions

Beyond bodily expectations to worry about the day before surgery, it’s best to plan how you’ll be getting to and from the hospital. It’s also good to have a family member or friend along with you to help get you home and be there for moral support. 

On the day of your surgery, be sure to report to hospital reception, meet with your anaesthetist, and discuss post-surgery recommendations with your doctor. 

The Days After Surgery

Preparing for before surgery and after surgery are equally important. On the days leading up to your surgery, you should always ask the doctor how long they expect you to stay in hospital afterward. While some operations will only need patients to stay in the hospital for a few hours, others will need multiple days in the hospital after surgery. Be sure to prepare for the amount of time you’ll be spending in the hospital post-surgery. You may need to bring spare clothes, books and electronics to keep you occupied, and a friend to take care of your household while you’re away. 

Also, be prepared if you will need rehabilitation after surgery. Talk with your doctor to plan for rehabilitation treatment at home or in a rehabilitation unit.

DISCLAIMER

All content provided on the www.lachlansoper.com.au website is general in nature and for informational purposes only.  It does not take into consideration an individual’s circumstances and it is not advice and should not be used as a substitute for advice from an appropriately qualified professional.

Opinions are my own. Links to external websites do not constitute an endorsement or recommendation.

No responsibility is accepted for any liability, loss or risk which is incurred as a consequence of the use of any of the material or links on this website, nor for any errors or omissions in the information.

All content on this website © Lachlan Soper (unless otherwise specified)

Differentiating Allergies, the Flu, and COVID-19

It can be difficult to tell the difference between COVID-19, the flu, and seasonal allergies. They have many similarities when it comes to symptoms, and that just further complicates the process.

Common symptoms shared between the three include a sore or itchy throat, runny nose, and sneezing. This can make it harder to differentiate if those are the only symptoms, though the appearance of new symptoms can help to narrow it down.

Common Symptoms for Both COVID-19 and the Flu (influenza)

To make matters more complex, COVID-19 and the flu share many more symptoms than they do with allergies. Symptoms include fever, body aches, fatigue, shortness of breath, runny nose, cough, sore throat, headaches, and sometimes vomiting, and diarrhea.

Both illnesses spread in similar ways and can be contagious even when a person is asymptomatic. In many cases, the onset of symptoms tends to be rapid, within four to ten days from exposure.

Seasonal Allergy Symptoms

Common symptoms for seasonal allergies include sneezing, runny noses, watery or itchy eyes (sometimes pink or red), itchy sinuses, itchy throat, ear congestion, and postnasal drip (with consequent clearing of your throat). Less common symptoms include headaches, shortness of breath, wheezing, and coughing.

When comparing the less common symptoms side by side with the flu and COVID-19, it’s easy to see how confusion may arise. One of the quickest ways to spot an allergy is to identify its pattern. Is it coming back at the same time every year? Do the symptoms recur in similar places (eg: a child’s bedroom with a lot of soft toys)? If so, the allergies are likely to be the cause.

Telling the Difference

Several key symptoms help to distinguish COVID-19 from the flu or allergies. Patients with COVID-19 have been known to report a loss of taste and smell. This is unlikely for either the flu or allergies.

The symptoms for COVID-19 may linger longer than those of the flu. This is especially true for patients with preexisting conditions. Additionally, occasionally younger patients have reported the appearance of a rash on their toes, something that the flu is not known for.

When suffering from various symptoms and trying to understand which condition is the cause, it’s time to take a closer look. Seasonal allergies can make a person feel tired and run down, but the symptoms are unlikely to spike or get worse. Both COVID-19 and the flu will cause a rapid onset of symptoms, though COVID-19’s symptoms are more iconic and may last longer.

DISCLAIMER

All content provided on the www.lachlansoper.com.au website is general in nature and for informational purposes only.  It does not take into consideration an individual’s circumstances and it is not advice and should not be used as a substitute for advice from an appropriately qualified professional.

Opinions are my own. Links to external websites do not constitute an endorsement or recommendation.

No responsibility is accepted for any liability, loss or risk which is incurred as a consequence of the use of any of the material or links on this website, nor for any errors or omissions in the information.

All content on this website © Lachlan Soper (unless otherwise specified).

Tips for Staying Healthy in the Winter

With winter looming on the horizon, it’s essential to start preparing now. The colder weather and shorter days make it harder for everyone to stay healthy, even though it is now more critical than ever.

As always, there are specific tips and tricks that can be used to help reduce the risk of illness during this time of the year.

Get a Flu Shot

The flu, aka Influenza, is a highly contagious infection that affects tens of thousands each year. One of the best ways to help protect yourself from the flu during the winter months is to get this year’s flu vaccine. It will help reduce the chances of getting the flu and reduce the severity of symptoms, if nothing else.

Eat Well

Who doesn’t love hot chocolate and other warm treats when it is freezing outside? Still, it is essential to continue to eat healthy, even when the cravings are strong. Eating a balanced diet full of lots of fruit and vegetables helps to provide essential nutrients and vitamins.

Drink Plenty of Water

In the warmer months, it’s easier to remember to stay hydrated, but it is just as important, if not more so, to keep nice and hydrated during the winter months as well. Water plays a role in all our lives and is a significant factor in staying healthy. 

Cleanliness

One of the easiest ways to stop the spread of illness is by keeping our hands clean. Wash your hands, cover your mouth, and sanitize objects commonly interacted with during the day. All of these actions will help to keep everyone healthy and happy during the winter months.

Sleeping Well

Getting eight hours of sleep can help boost the body’s immune system, which in turn will help to fight off any potential infections. So it’s crucial to maintain healthy sleeping habits and avoid anything that may negatively impact sleep, such as caffeine after mid afternoon or before bedtime. Additionally, relaxation techniques are an effective way to wind down before bedtime. Some people find playing an audiobook or podcast can help them settle to sleep efficiently. 

Exercise

It’s essential to make time to exercise during the winter. Even just thirty minutes in a day can have a significant impact on our health – and on our immune systems. This is yet one more way to help keep our bodies healthy.

Plan a Doctor’s Visit

The winter months are a great time to go ahead and make that yearly appointment with your doctor. It’s essential to have regular health screenings, giving your doctor a chance to keep up with your life and check for early signs of any concerning conditions.

 

DISCLAIMER

All content provided on the www.lachlansoper.com.au website is general in nature and for informational purposes only.  It does not take into consideration an individual’s circumstances and it is not advice and should not be used as a substitute for advice from an appropriately qualified professional.

Opinions are my own. Links to external websites do not constitute an endorsement or recommendation.

No responsibility is accepted for any liability, loss or risk which is incurred as a consequence of the use of any of the material or links on this website, nor for any errors or omissions in the information.

All content on this website © Lachlan Soper (unless otherwise specified).

What Happens After Getting the Covid Vaccine?

It’s finally happening. Vaccines for Covid-19 are steadily becoming more available to the general public. Pending any future vaccine rollout hiccoughs, one day soon there will come a time when most of society is vaccinated, and it may feel like the world is just a little bit safer from this virus.

As people prepare to get vaccinated, there are a few natural questions that come up. What should they expect immediately following their vaccination, what will be safe for them, and what they should continue to avoid, just to name a few of the primary concerns.

Safety Measures

While it is tempting to consider oneself in the clear to go back to a normal routine, certain safety precautions should be kept in place. The Australian Government recommends that basic safety measures (testing, contact tracing, quarantine, and isolation) all remain in place.

To look into it a bit further, the CDC explains how and when people are considered fully vaccinated. People are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their second dose. The only exception to this would be for patients who received a single-dose vaccine (not yet approved in Australia), in which case they are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after.

It’s also important to remember that “fully vaccinated” does not mean in the clear with regards to risk. Some people do not seroconvert to vaccines (produce a sufficient immune response), and new variants of COVID-19 may not be very well protected by the vaccine. In fact many epidemiologists believe that we may well need annual COVID-19 vaccines for variants which mutate each year (I guess we’ll see in time).

Potential Reactions

One of the biggest concerns to the public is the possibility of reactions to the vaccine itself. All vaccines (all medicines) can cause side effects. 

Common side effects from COVID-19 vaccines include: 

  • pain, redness, and swelling around the injection area, 
  • tiredness for a few days, 
  • headaches, 
  • muscle or joint pain, 
  • rever / chills
  • nausea

Expected and common side-effects are related to the immune system being activated by the injected antigen and from the action of injecting liquid into a muscle through a needle. Most side effects go by themselves and only last 1-2 days. An icepack wrapped in a teatowel can be used to manage pain. Paracetamol or ibuprofen are not routinely recommended to take post COVID-19 vaccination.

It’s important to note that while these side effects are considered common, there’s no guarantee that they will occur. Many have not experienced any negative side effects at all, after getting their vaccine. Conversely, some patients did report stronger variants of these listed side effects.

As with any vaccination or medication, reach out to your doctor or local hospital if more concerning or urgent side effects arise. More concerning symptoms can include shortness of breath, swelling in the legs, chest pain, abdominal pain, and a persistent headache not mostly relieved by paracetamol.

Remember the 2nd dose!

When you book (or have) your first vaccine dose, remember to book your second vaccine. The recommended minimum time from first to second dose is 3 weeks for the Pfizer vaccine and 4 weeks for the AstraZeneca vaccine (noting that the recommended interval between doses for Astra Zenica is 12 weeks). 

Your second vaccine must be carried out with the same COVID-19 brand as the first dose. 

Can you get COVID-19 from the vaccination?

No. None of the COVID-19 vaccines contains live coronaviruses. Therefore, the virus is unable to replicate and grow to cause an infection. For example, the Astra Zeneca vaccine delivers genetic code instructions to produce the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein only which is recognised by the immune system. There are no changes to the human DNA through this process. These are the same steps which occur when a virus invades normally, except that the spike proteins are reproduced instead of more viruses. 

However, it is possible for a person to catch COVID-19 just before or after a vaccination and therefore return a positive test due to an active infection acquired before the vaccine was effective.

Some side-effects from COVID-19 vaccination might be similar to symptoms of COVID-19. It is important to still get a COVID-19 test performed at your local testing centre if you have any of the respiratory COVID-19 symptoms including a runny nose, cough, sore throat, loss of smell or taste, even after you have been vaccinated. 

Travel and What Can You Do When Fully Vaccinated

The list of restrictions will vary depending on the state and country, so it is important to look up local laws before considering travel (and make sure your travel plans allow cancellations due to unforeseen circumstances).

Despite being vaccinated, the advice from the government is to take the same COVID-safe precautions that you have taken pre vaccination (such as wearing masks, physical distancing and frequent hand washing). This may change with time and increasing vaccination, but it’s really a case of watch this space and be patient. 

The University of Chicago was interviewed about what is safe to do after you’ve been vaccinated, and the link provides some interesting information. 

Domestic travel will depend on local outbreaks and what quarantine measures governments take with these outbreaks. It is still not clear when we can expect international borders to open.

Many experts do not expect international travel to and from Australia to open up to what it was before the pandemic began until 2024, so this is a season for developing patience.

You can still get COVID-19 after vaccination, so think of others in the public

Research to current date shows that  the vaccines prevent severe COVID-19 disease very well, but it may still be possible to be infected with, and to spread COVID-19 to other people.  Therefore, it is important to be tested if you have any COVID-19 symptoms, even after you have been vaccinated. 

Even when vaccinated, masks may again become recommended or mandatory if and when there are future outbreaks. This is to protect those that have not received a vaccination yet (either due to lack of availability or medical reasons). Addiotionally, Dr. William Schaffner from Vanderbilt University Medical Centre advises to follow these practices for another reason: social pressure. Without knowing the vaccination status of those around, it is easier to feel safe when seeing masks in place. 

When it comes to public health, it is better to err on the side of safety.

 

DISCLAIMER

All content provided on the www.lachlansoper.com.au website is general in nature and for informational purposes only.  It does not take into consideration an individual’s circumstances and it is not advice and should not be used as a substitute for advice from an appropriately qualified professional.

Opinions are my own. Links to external websites do not constitute an endorsement or recommendation.

No responsibility is accepted for any liability, loss or risk which is incurred as a consequence of the use of any of the material or links on this website, nor for any errors or omissions in the information.

All content on this website © Lachlan Soper (unless otherwise specified).

How to Prepare for a Telehealth Appointment

As many parts of the world continue to social distance and coming in contact with people becomes less and less routine, telecommunications have become the new normal. The healthcare industry has embraced telehealth and more patients are turning on their laptop and phone cameras to see their family doctor. 

While both patients and doctors get used to these new adjustments, it can sometimes be difficult to know how to prepare for these types of appointments. Here are some helpful tips for preparing for your next telehealth appointment:

List Your Symptoms

A great way to prepare for an appointment with your doctor via telecommunication is by writing down your symptoms beforehand. Especially if you are feeling sick, it’s essential to provide your doctor with as much information as possible. A virtual appointment is much different from one in person. A doctor cannot do the usual physical examination checks to evaluate your symptoms, so writing down how you are feeling in as much detail as possible can help them give you a better diagnosis. Details such as how long the symptoms have lasted, medications you’ve taken, and sharing pictures of any visible symptoms can be especially helpful. 

Find a Quiet Space

Before starting your video chat with your doctor, it’s important to find a comfortable and quiet area. This area should also have a strong internet connection. The last thing you want is for your doctor to mishear you or not be able to hear your doctor because the people around you are being too loud or your internet connection cuts out. 

Discussing medical information should also be a private conversation between you and your doctor. This way you are able to be as honest as possible and not worry about people overhearing. A quiet area that is free of distractions can help your appointment feel more like a real doctor visit. 

Ask What to Expect

When you make your telehealth appointment, be sure to ask your doctor or other staff what to expect. Ask them if the appointment will be conducted over the phone or by video chat, and whether you are to call the doctor at the appointed time or whether they will call you (more likely they’ll call you after they’ve finished with their previous patients). Also, be prepared, that the doctor may well need to examine you and then arrange blood tests or imaging. Many things can be done in medicine over the phone or video consult, but sometimes there is no substitute for a thorough physical examination. So, be prepared that although you’ve booked a telehealth appointment, you may need to come into the surgery.

 

DISCLAIMER

All content provided on the www.lachlansoper.com.au website is general in nature and for informational purposes only.  It does not take into consideration an individual’s circumstances and it is not advice and should not be used as a substitute for advice from an appropriately qualified professional.

Opinions are my own. Links to external websites do not constitute an endorsement or recommendation.

No responsibility is accepted for any liability, loss or risk which is incurred as a consequence of the use of any of the material or links on this website, nor for any errors or omissions in the information.

All content on this website © Lachlan Soper (unless otherwise specified).

Pros and Cons of Virtual Doctor Visits

Even before the pandemic struck, virtual doctor visits were becoming more and more popular. Now with so many people confined to their homes and the doctor’s office not being as safe as it used to be, virtual visits and telehealth communication have become a necessity. However, virtual visits have their advantages and disadvantages. When it comes down to it, is it worth it in the end?

Pro: Cost-effective Care

Oftentimes, a virtual visit with your doctor is going to be less expensive than a traditional visit to their office. A patient can actually save money by removing the time spent sitting in the waiting room and commuting to the clinic. Virtual care appointments also decrease no-show and late appointment rates.

Pro: Convenient and Accessible

Many patients found virtual visits to be easier and much more convenient. Instead of taking time out of their day to drive down to the clinic and wait for the doctor, they can access care right from the comfort of their home or wherever they have an internet connection. Telehealth is also a great option for those living in rural areas and remote locations. They can gain access to doctors more easily while also having quicker and more convenient access to specialists. 

Pro: Better Patient Engagement

Patients are more likely to set and keep their appointments when made through telehealth solutions. Virtual visits also encourage patients to be more involved by making it easier to reach out with questions, voice concerns, share early warning signs, and schedule a follow-up appointment. With the patient-centered approaches that telehealth offers, there’s a major improvement to patient care.

Con: More Training and Tech Equipment

Moving care to a virtual platform requires more training in tech and requires equipment. This restructures the IT staff’s responsibilities, which costs both time and money. To ensure patients are getting the best care possible with virtual visits, training for doctors, nurses, and other medical staff is crucial. 

Con: Less In-Person Consultations

Technology has its limitations and cannot completely replace in-person consultations. However, the appeal and convenience of virtual visits will make in-person visits seem like even more of a hassle, even when it is necessary. Not all procedures, especially a checkup, can be performed digitally. 

At the end of the day, as good as tele-health is, nothing can replace an experienced doctors’ gut feel when a patient walks in their door, and there is no substitute for a thorough clinical examination. 

Telehealth is a worthwhile supplement to good patient care, but should never replace it, as things will get missed.

DISCLAIMER

All content provided on the www.lachlansoper.com.au website is general in nature and for informational purposes only.  It does not take into consideration an individual’s circumstances and it is not advice and should not be used as a substitute for advice from an appropriately qualified professional.

Opinions are my own. Links to external websites do not constitute an endorsement or recommendation.

No responsibility is accepted for any liability, loss or risk which is incurred as a consequence of the use of any of the material or links on this website, nor for any errors or omissions in the information.

All content on this website © Lachlan Soper (unless otherwise specified).

Digital Health Trends

Innovative technology has changed our lives and improved our day-to-day. As industries embrace and adapt to new technologies, they’re finding ways to improve customer service, communication, and even employee satisfaction. The healthcare industry is truly embracing technology and seeing the advantages of digital trends. It is reshaping how patients interact with health professionals, data is shared more easily among providers, and it is changing treatment plan decisions as well as health outcomes.

Records in the Cloud

Thanks to tech advancements, over the years more and more medical records are moved into cloud storage. This type of cloud infrastructure is key to having easy access between disparate systems. Healthcare organisations using the cloud for storage understand that it is the best way to hold large amounts of medical data that accumulates every day. It’s also an easy way to share information, images, and records across different healthcare providers and organisations. If executed correctly, cloud storage can improve patient care, everyday workflow solutions for physicians, and ensure records remain private and secure. 

Resources such as My Health Record offer an online summary of a patient’s key health information. This information can be securely viewed online by the patient or medical professional and gives healthcare providers access to important health data such as allergies, medication, past and present medical conditions, blood tests, and more. 

Wearable Devices 

Tracking your health in real-time has been made possible thanks to innovative wearable devices. Many people are familiar with devices such as fitness trackers, smartwatches, and heart monitors that pair to personal devices. These wearables are now more often being paired with Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) platforms that can send data to their doctor. In the future, we can expect to see wearables playing a major role in healthcare and digital health. These devices can help patients in recovery or assist those with chronic issues. The data that is collected from wearables can help healthcare providers, medical professionals, and patients transform healthcare. 

Virtual Reality

What was once thought of as futuristic recreational technology is now a breakthrough in the healthcare industry. Wearing a Virtual Reality (VR) headset is an immersive experience and is now used by educational institutions to train future doctors. VR is also being used for surgeons to test techniques to prepare for intricate surgeries. What’s more, experienced physicians have used it as a way to practice new procedures and perfect ones they’ve done in the past. There could be even more VR advances in 2021.

 

DISCLAIMER

All content provided on the www.lachlansoper.com.au website is general in nature and for informational purposes only.  It does not take into consideration an individual’s circumstances and it is not advice and should not be used as a substitute for advice from an appropriately qualified professional.

Opinions are my own. Links to external websites do not constitute an endorsement or recommendation.

No responsibility is accepted for any liability, loss or risk which is incurred as a consequence of the use of any of the material or links on this website, nor for any errors or omissions in the information.

All content on this website © Lachlan Soper (unless otherwise specified).

Why Australia’s Covid 19 Response Was Better Than Most

Countries all over the world fell into uncertain times when the coronavirus (Covid 19) began to quickly spread. World leaders had to quickly come up with a plan of action to keep their citizens safe and healthy. Some countries went into strict lockdown, while others’ responses were delayed. It’s no wonder now why there are some countries lifting restrictions and coming out of quarantine while other countries are still having daily death counts approaching the thousands.

Australia had one of the best Covid 19 responses throughout the entire world. Today, almost all of Australia is back to normal with quarantine restrictions lifted and no masks to be seen. There are many reasons why our country has done better than most:

Being an Island

One of the biggest factors that helped Australia go back to normal is being an island. Australia is closed off from the rest of the world with no neighbouring countries to worry about. Much like New Zealand, Vietnam, Brunei and some Caribbean islands, Australia is reporting fewer cases every week. Defeating a virus can definitely be a lot easier when your country is an island and the borders are closed to foreigners, but that isn’t the only factor that helped Australia.

Strict Quarantine

When it was clear the virus was very serious and people’s lives were in danger, Australia went into a very strict quarantine that kept many citizens at home for months, especially in Victoria. Unlike the United States and Europe, the borders were strictly closed to foreigners. Blocking out the rest of the world from entering and keeping Australians from leaving had a huge effect on controlling the spread of the virus. 

For Australian citizens, they had to stay at home unless absolutely necessary. For instance, in Melbourne, Australia’s second-largest city, most people were confined to their homes for 22 hours a day. The only time they were allowed to leave their homes was only for exercise, shopping, schooling, medical appointments, or funerals. These strict rules and regulations helped keep the virus under control and saved many lives. 

Rigorous Contact Tracing

Another strategy Australia has put in place while tackling the virus is its rigorous contact tracing. Australia has adopted a backwards contact-tracing approach to keep coronavirus cases low. Instead of forward contact tracing by finding all the people an infected person could have passed the virus on to and asking them to self-isolate, Australia’s backwards contact tracing aims to find who gave the virus to the person who tested positive, which can potentially pick up infections that might otherwise be missed.

DISCLAIMER

All content provided on the www.lachlansoper.com.au website is general in nature and for informational purposes only.  It does not take into consideration an individual’s circumstances and it is not advice and should not be used as a substitute for advice from an appropriately qualified professional.

Opinions are my own. Links to external websites do not constitute an endorsement or recommendation.

No responsibility is accepted for any liability, loss or risk which is incurred as a consequence of the use of any of the material or links on this website, nor for any errors or omissions in the information.

All content on this website © Lachlan Soper (unless otherwise specified).

Choosing the Right Primary Care Doctor for You

Believe it or not, your primary care doctor, or general practitioner (GP), should be one of the most important relationships when it comes to your health and well-being. It’s imperative to take the time to do your research and find the right doctor for you. They should not be chosen on a whim because they can have a major impact on your health and wellness. Take the time to find someone who is qualified and, more importantly, someone you can trust. Here are some helpful tips for choosing the right primary care doctor for you:

Ask Friends and Family

While nowadays everything can be found on the internet, it’s also a good idea to ask around when looking for a primary care doctor. More often than not, your friends and family will have a doctor that they trust and like well enough to make a recommendation. However, it is also very important to keep in mind that although a doctor was perfect for your best friend or your parents, it doesn’t mean that he or she will be right for you. With that in mind, asking friends and family can help you get the search started. 

Think of Your GP like the hub of a wheel

In a bicycle wheel everything communicates back to the hub. Your GP is the hub. They need to know as much as possible to either deal with the problem you present with themselves, or to know the right people to send you to. If it is a musculoskeletal problem, their job may be to find you the most appropriate physiotherapist. They then refer you to that physio, and the physio then communicates back with your GP. Similarly if you are, for example, short of breath, it could be many things, but two systems that are common are the respiratory and cardiovascular systems. The GP’s job, if it is a complicated issue, is to find the most appropriate specialist in that area, who will then treat you and communicate with your GP. Your GP should always be at the centre of the loop, so that they can know as much as possible about your medical needs, and therefore facilitate the best treatment possible. They are both your treating physician, and your advocate within the health field.

Keep Location in Mind

Your GP is typically for everyday health needs, which is why it is essential that they are located somewhere convenient for you. By sticking with a doctor who is close by, you won’t need to travel far and wide when you’re not feeling good. What’s more, if your doctor’s office is conveniently located, it’ll be much easier to keep your appointments and be more capable of coming in last minute if there is an emergency.

Give the Doctor a Visit

Once you feel you’ve found the right doctor for you, schedule a visit. A face-to-face meeting will help you make certain that you’ve made the right choice. In the visit, make sure you feel comfortable in the office, with the doctor, and even the nurses. If you feel you’ve found a GP you trust, then they’re the right person to rely on and help manage your healthcare. Use the visit as an opportunity to discuss your past medical history, any current medications you take, or any chronic conditions you’re managing.

DISCLAIMER

All content provided on the www.lachlansoper.com.au website is general in nature and for informational purposes only.  It does not take into consideration an individual’s circumstances and it is not advice and should not be used as a substitute for advice from an appropriately qualified professional.

Opinions are my own. Links to external websites do not constitute an endorsement or recommendation.

No responsibility is accepted for any liability, loss or risk which is incurred as a consequence of the use of any of the material or links on this website, nor for any errors or omissions in the information.

All content on this website © Lachlan Soper (unless otherwise specified).

Some Occasions It’s Worth Seeing Your Doctor

There are some patients who have no problem going to their doctor with anything they have a question about or when they aren’t feeling well. However, there are others who hardly ever go to their doctor, even if they are sick or in pain. Most of the time, this doesn’t mean they’re trying to be tough or think the doctor can’t help. On the contrary, many people aren’t sure when it’s serious enough to go to their doctor.

Prolonged Muscle Soreness

Often times, someone will experience sore muscles after trying a new exercise or any physical activity that the body isn’t used. Most of the time, it will last for a couple of days. However, if the soreness lasts for a week or longer, it could be time to get your doctor on the phone. In rare situations, prolonged muscle soreness from intense exercising could be associated with rhabdomyolysis, which can lead to permanent kidney damage if untreated.

Chronic Low-back Pain

The older you get, the more likely you are to get stiffness or aches on your neck, back, and shoulders. Usually, with a bit of stretching and over the counter medications such as paracetamol or ibuprofen it may dissipate. However, chronic pain in your lower back could be a red flag if there is also pain or tingling down your leg. This could mean you’ve slipped or herniated a disc, or a pinched nerve root. This type of injury calls for medical attention and you should phone your doctor immediately.

You’re Sick For a Month

Many things in medicine get better with the course of time. However, if your symptoms persist longer than you or your relatives would expect, or if something “mild” persists for up to a month, it’s worth getting checked out. If your symptoms are persisting, what you have may not be a “simple” transient issue, and it’s worth having your doctor check you out to help diagnose and treat you.

DISCLAIMER

All content provided on the www.lachlansoper.com.au website is general in nature and for informational purposes only.  It does not take into consideration an individual’s circumstances and it is not advice and should not be used as a substitute for advice from an appropriately qualified professional.

Opinions are my own. Links to external websites do not constitute an endorsement or recommendation.

No responsibility is accepted for any liability, loss or risk which is incurred as a consequence of the use of any of the material or links on this website, nor for any errors or omissions in the information.

All content on this website © Lachlan Soper (unless otherwise specified).

The Transition For Children From Paediatric Care

When it’s time to move from paediatrics to adult care, the transition can be difficult for some, particularly for those with significant disabilities who have needed ongoing paediatric care since they were infants. While it may sound as simple as moving from one doctor to another, many parents struggle with knowing the right time or wondering how different it will be for their child. Here’s what to expect when transitioning from paediatric to adult care:

The Right Time for the Transition

When it comes to deciding the right time to transition away from paediatric care, there is no one answer for this. Transitioning from paediatric to adult care usually occurs around the 18th birthday. However, in reality, it is a case-by-case basis. It all depends on the patient, their health history, and much more. When you’re thinking about taking your child out of paediatric care, it’s always best to consult their doctor first to decide when would be the right time. 

The Role of the Pediatrician 

Under their care, a paediatrician will help prepare your child for the transition to an adult physician. As the patient grows older, paediatricians will begin to see patients in private when they’re in their early teen years, depending on the level of disability. As adolescents begin to learn real-life responsibilities such as driving or getting their first job, they also need to learn how to advocate for themselves when it comes to their health. 

The Consent of Treatment

There is a principle called the “mature minor”, it is different from state to state and country to country. What that means is that some point, between the ages of 14 and 16, the doctor determines if the child has the maturity to understand and consent to the treatment they are having. If they are ‘mature’ enough to consent, then their consultation is confidential. As such, when a patient is at the age of consent, they no longer have to disclose anything medically related to their parents. This means that whatever is discussed between the patient and their doctor will stay between them. 

The Difficulties with Getting a COVID-19 Vax

Throughout every country, the dangers of the worldwide pandemic, coronavirus, still linger. Although some populations have begun to get back to the way it used to be slowly, many are still worried about the likely second wave of coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. Looking at countries in the Southern Hemisphere that up until late June appeared to have had COVID-19 well under control (like Australia), there has been a large surge in cases in July as the typical winter respiratory infection season arrives. In January 2021, when many are fed-up with social distancing, there may well be a huge rise in cases in the Northern Hemisphere respiratory infection season. Many are hoping for a vaccine to help stop the spread of the dangerous virus. However, there are difficulties with getting a COVID-19 vax.

Developing a brand new vaccine is a significant medical and scientific discovery. It can take decades to finally find a successful vax, even with the urgency of the situation. Remember drug companies are motivated by profits – if a drug is likely to be profitable, they’ll pour more money into trying to develop it. Coronaviruses are one of the main causes of the common cold (as well as rhinoviruses, RSV and parainfluenza). Almost all of us get at least one cold every winter. So there would be a huge incentive to developing a successful vaccine to a disease we all get every year. There has never been a successful vaccine to a coronavirus. Why will it be different with COVID-19? Hopefully, it will be different, but we have to be realists. 

Also, studies have shown that those people who acquire COVID-19 have a rapid drop off in their natural immunity – 23-fold in only a few months! The immune system generally builds a more robust response to “naturally” acquired infections, than to vaccines. So if a vaccine is developed, people may need to be re-vaccinated at least every 3 months. 

Once the corona vax is created, many people may be fearful about getting vaccinated. Even with the vaccine tested and numerous trials are done, it’s difficult for people to trust a new vaccine entirely. These are reasonable concerns. It is wise not to be an ‘early adopter’ of new medications, often side-effects become more well known once the medication has been in broad community use after the initial trial phases. 

Facing the Reality of a Vaccine

While a COVID-19 vax could help billions of people around the world, it’s essential to be realistic. Probably within the first few weeks of distributing a vaccine, there will be countless stories about side effects, medical syndromes, and scary reactions. Even for someone who is pro-vaccine, this could be scary to hear. It’s important to be realistic that many people are going to be scared to take the vaccine, not based on science, but on the horror stories spread around. Many people are probably going to want to wait before getting vaccinated, which is entirely understandable. 

This means if a vax if found and ready to be given to the public, it won’t stop the pandemic in its tracks. It will definitely take time. 

Asking Your Doctor the Tough Questions

When it comes to health and medicine, the best person to talk to is your doctor. However, sometimes the tough or even embarrassing questions are not easy to ask. While a lot of people understand that their doctor is there to help them, many still have a tough time working up the courage to speak up about health questions or concerns because it can feel too embarrassing. Take a look at these tips for asking your doctor the tough questions:

 

Prioritise Concerns

Often times, doctors only have about 15-20 minutes to talk with their patients. When you have a line of questions for your doctor, have them prepared ahead of time by writing a list. By preparing, it can help you get used to the idea of asking and make it easier to ask. It’s also a good idea to ask your tough questions at the start of your appointment. This way, your doctor has more time to give you a quality answer and explanation. 

 

Use Your Own Words

Chances are, you tried researching the tough question online already before working up the courage to ask your doctor. While this can sometimes be helpful, it’s important to tell your doctor how you’re feeling or why the concern has been raised in your own words. Using your own words is better than spewing medical terms you read on the internet. You can even write down your symptoms or experiences beforehand to make sure you tell your doctor everything they need to know. 

 

They’ve Probably Heard it Before

Your doctor has spent many years studying the medical field and has probably seen many patients before you. Whatever ever tough or embarrassing question you want to ask, they have probably heard it before. Never be too scared to ask because you’re afraid they’ll judge or think it’s strange. 

 

It’s Their Profession

When it comes down to it, a doctor’s job is to answer any medical question that their patient has. As their patient, you have a professional relationship that allows you to be completely open about your medical concerns and they are there to help you. Being too embarrassed to ask the tough questions can put a damper on your health and do more harm than good. Be sure to always be open and honest with your doctor. 

Resilience – 3 characteristics to help through life’s traumas

Trials, trauma and tough roads, we all will face them in life. Some more often and some in more tragic ways than others. Relationship breakdown, death of loved ones, job loss, financial difficulty, medical illnesses and other life events can all throw us into despair. 
How do we deal with such tragedies and grief? 
Resilience researcher and fellow traveller in the world of emotional trauma, Lucy Hone, believes that developing emotional resilience is one of the best ways to both healthily grieve and live our lives concurrently. She believes that resilient people have 3 key characteristics. She says:

1. “Resilient people get that s#*t happens. They know that suffering is part of life. This doesn’t mean they actually welcome it in…. Just that when the tough times come, they seem to know that suffering is part of every human existence.”

2. “Resilient people are really good at choosing carefully where they select their attention. They have a habit of realistically appraising situations, and typically, managing to focus on the things that they can change, and somehow accept the things that they can’t. This is a vital, learnable skill for resilience. Make an intentional, deliberate, ongoing effort to tune into what’s good in your world.”

This characteristic is fundamental to a famous prayer known as “The Serenity Prayer” which prays to God: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.”

3. ‘Resilient people ask themselves, “Is what I’m doing helping or harming me?“‘

https://www.ted.com/talks/lucy_hone_3_secrets_of_resilient_people?utm_source=recommendation&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=explore&utm_term=newest-talks-4

When you go through life’s traumas, as we all will, find a great counselor or psychologist to get you through, and some good mentors too – some close friends who are not merely “yes” people to help shape and gently guide you on your journey. And on that journey learn to accept that suffering is part of life, focus on what you can change and accept the things you cannot change, and stop doing the things which reactivate your distress.

God-willing these strategies can help you survive, take the next steps, move on and transform in your life.

Dr Lachlan Soper

Wisdom from Jewish Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl – Success, Happiness and Pleasure

I’ve had the privilege of going through Viktor Frankl’s book, “Man’s Search for Meaning” lately.
Here’s one quote, worth reading twice, on success and happiness:
“Don’t aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you’re going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued, it must ensue. And it only does so as the unintended side effect of ones personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself, or as the byproduct of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success, you have to let it happen by not caring about it…. In the long run… success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about it”
“Pleasure is, and must remain a side-effect or by-product, and is destroyed and spoiled to the degree to which it is made a goal in itself. Hence the failure of hedonism”.

Dr Lachlan Soper

Ingredients to great conversation. Be prepared to be amazed – Celeste Headlee

In this talk by Celeste Headlee, she outlines the ingredients of a great conversation: Honesty, brevity, clarity and a healthy amount of listening. And most importantly, “be prepared to be amazed.”

Most of us need to be challenged to apply our minds to what we hear, before we engage our mouths to add our opinion.

10 Rules for better conversations:

  1. Don’t multitask. Be present. Be in that moment. Don’t be half in the conversation
  2. Enter every conversation assuming you have something to learn. Everybody is an expert in something
  3. Use open ended questions. Who, what, where, when, why or how? What was that like? How did that feel? It gives a more interesting response.
  4. Go with the flow. If thoughts come into your mind, let them go.
  5. If you don’t know, say that you don’t know.
  6. Don’t equate your experience with theirs. Their loss of a family member, job loss vs your family loss or job loss. Their and your experiences are different.
  7. Try not to repeat yourself. It’s condescending and boring.
  8. Stay out of the weeds. People don’t care about the years, names, dates… They care about you, what you are like, what you have in common.
  9. Listen. Keep your mouth shut as often as you possibly can. Keep your mind open. Always be prepared to be amazed.
  10. Be brief.

 

“Conversational competence might be the single most overlooked skill we fail to teach.

Kids spend hours each day engaging with ideas and each other through screens. But rarely do they have the opportunity to hone their interpersonal communication skills. Is there any 21st Century skill more important than being able to sustain competent confident conversation. Paul Barnwell, High School Teacher

Listen on: ted.com

Dr Lachlan Soper

Loneliness – important to consider for those you know in these times of self-isolation

Loneliness can be a killer.
It increases early mortality risk by 26%.
For comparison, that’s similar to obesity or 15-cigarette daily smoking habit.
Loneliness, research shows, raises systolic blood pressure, BMI (body mass index), and puts people at increased risk for depression and suicide.

Read full article on: mdlinx.com

Dr Lachlan Soper

The benefits of decluttering

This season in life was one I never sought after. BUT there have been so many opportunities to grasp a hold of. One of the small opportunities is decluttering.

“Minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value, and the removal of the things that distract us from it”
Benefits include more time with family & generosity.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WVbQ-oro7FQ

Dr Lachlan Soper

The Paradox of Choice

A thought provoking talk about the paradox of choice.
The multitude of choice we have leads to paralysis rather than freedom. People put off decisions.
The second consequence is that even if we overcome the paralysis to make a choice, we become less satisfied with the choice we’ve made.
The opportunity cost of missing out on the option you could have chosen detracts from the enjoyment of the choice you made even if it was an excellent decision.
“I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”
Apostle Paul

Read full article on: ted.com

Dr Lachlan Soper