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Wed, 11th March 2015

As time ticks on, everybody starts thinking about the elixir of eternal youth. That amazing "something" that will guarantee the marvellous sensations of being alive, enjoyed during the teens, twenties, thirties and a bit beyond. You can kid yourself but you can't kid nature, and inexorably with the passing of the years, the system starts to flag.

A body chemical called "growth hormone" falls by 12 per cent a year after middle age, and the production of the sex hormones also starts to plummet. In women this is abrupt when the menopause occurs, usually late forties. Oestrogen production stops. In guys testosterone levels fall but more gradually. After thirty, the other sex hormone called dehydro-epiandrosterone (DHEA) also crumbles fast. About the same time, gradual deterioration occurs. Weight often increases as fat gathers around internal organs and tummy. Quality of life slowly wanes, memory often falters and there are increased risks of heart and blood vessel disease.

So what to do. Many try and jump onto the hormone merry-go-round. Oestrogen, testosterone are often given, in the hope of arresting, or reversing the slide. DHEA has also been grabbed as part of the remedy and in some countries (not Australia) is readily available as a food supplement. Is there any value in these and is their reduction the cause of the symptoms? Not necessarily, so goes the current thinking. Use of testosterone in men in now not advised, and may be harmful. Women may be given oestrogen for short bouts. DHEA is definitely not on the agenda. The search for eternal youth continues.

Meantime, sensible nutrition, regular exercise, adequate sleep, controlled eating and avoiding overweight still head the list for maintaining good health for many years, and avoiding illness. Stick to the well known basics. With our present medical knowledge this is the best bet.



I recently trod on an old paling with a blunt rusty nail facing upwards and I had bare feet. It took a lot of effort to pull it out, and wonder what are the risks.


It is possible the bone may have been penetrated, even fractured. Also, rusty nails can transmit germs, including tetanus, which is still a deadly disease. There are more than 60 reported cases each year, and include some deaths (although rare). Immediate treatment is essential, including tetanus toxoid update, may be antibiotics, and imaging to check on the bones. Never neglect any dirty wound.

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My 16 year old was kicked in the scrotum during a mild fight with his "mates", and is still yelping with pain. Is this the usual carry-on with blokes?


It certainly is the usual carry on, for a kick in this vital spot is agonising. There is a very rich nervous supply. Suddenly disrupted, it causes nausea, sometimes prostration, maybe collapse, and perhaps internal damage, or swelling. The list goes on. Many women are aware of this, and keep it in mind in case they need a sudden protective intervention in event of being accosted by a menacing male. Keep it in mind.

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I am mid forties, was diagnosed with breast cancer, underwent major surgery, followed by chemo and radiation. My hair has dropped out as predicted. What are the current views on wearing a wig? Does it give temporary lift to self esteem?


Some women wear a wig and feel relatively normal. Others find it hot and uncomfortable, and cease use. Mostly their friends are understanding and "on side" which is pretty important. Most families become more closely knit than ever and offer as much support as they can. Whether to wear a wig or not is a personal choice.

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A mate says he suffered from "torsion of the testis". What does this mean?


Torsion means twisting. The testes in the scrotum are connected to the rest of the body with an artery, vein and vas deferencs (which carries the sperms). If it suddenly twists, a not uncommon event, there is pain, often nausea, maybe swelling. If the blood supply is cut off for long, the testis may die. This is a serious matter. It must be resuscitated (untwist) as quickly as possible.

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I have suffered abdominal discomfort, and the gastro specialist said he would "scope me". This sounds rather coarse and unpleasant.


This is the short hand word for "endoscopy and/or colonoscopy". A tube with a light and lens enters the throat and food tube and checks the lining of the stomach and duodenum. Also, a similar tube may examine the other end, including the rectum and large bowel. It is important to check for ulcers, bleeding, small warts (polyps) which may lead to cancers. Little bits called biopsies can be removed for pathological assessment. It is a very valuable examination, and can often accurately foretell and prevent cancers and other serious bowel pathology. It will eventually become a routine screening intervention similar to breast and cervical checks in women.

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This health advice is general in nature. You are advised to seek medical attention from your doctor or health care provider for your own specific symptoms and circumstances.



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