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Wed, 19th October 2016

I have been writing health columns for most of my life. Consistently, the commonest question still asked is "how can I lose some weight". They come from all age groups - the young, teenagers, mid and late life. Even retired people continue to inquire. I especially enjoyed one recently where this guy in his seventies made a similar request. The answer to every question of course is virtually identical.

However, let's look at the "other end" of life. Most people, mainly guys but women also, retire anywhere from sixty to seventy-five, some continue to go on into their eighties and longer. Why then should they worry about losing weight? Simply because they are putting on weight, with no obvious variation in food intake. The answer of course is that whilst their food intake is the same, invariably they are not so active.

During our working life, many are on the go all day, even with sedentary jobs. Moving around the office, probably outdoor work, up and down stairs. Even as a doctor, I would jump up and welcome each patient into my surgery, sit down and listen, then jump up and examine the patient, often from head to toe. By days end I had really run a marathon. Lots walked part way to work, even if it meant a half km or more to the bus or train, then more at the other end. In short, there was a fairly high level of exercise, like it or not, apart from a specific exercise programme. The kJs burned up.

Come retirement, heaps of exercise (any form) is much less. The same number of kJs are eaten. Body metabolism in general slows down. So, weight increases. What to do. The advice never varies. "Don't waste your money on gyms, or special food and diet plans. Get at least 30-60 minutes (total) walking a day. Modestly reduce intake of food, specially fats (all kinds) and high carb foods. Fruit, veggies, lean meat, nuts, berries, eggs, fish, legumes, low fat dairy products and lots of water still make up the ideal diet. 93 cm around the waist (navel level) and 80 cm for women is the desired goal. It is easy, and you will live longer. Like about ten years, if the medical journals are right".



We are continually being asked to reduce water consumption.


There are hundreds of simple measures, all easy. As a starter, halve the time your shower. Baths are out. If you're just having a wash, put a plug in the basin, instead of letting the tap run. Don't have it running full blast when cleaning your teeth. Even as children every bathroom had stickers saying "Please Save Water". When a young rural doctor, (only tank water), one bucket was the maximum. A manual pump wet the body, you lathered up (no water), then the balance washing off the soap. No big deal.

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I am 45, moved to a different area and saw a new doctor, and asked for a repeat of the pill. He said they were not allowed to prescribe the pill for women over 45 as the chances of pregnancy were virtually nil.


Pregnancies have commonly been reported in women over 50. The pill became available in the late 1950s, and one of Gough Whitlams first new laws was to put it onto the PBS, where it has been available ever since. It is very safe, about 98% reliable if taken correctly (not with antibiotics, or if vomiting) Pregnancy over forty increases risks of Downs and other nasties, and is not recommended. Which makes contraception even more important if still sexually active. Today there are also many other methods of contraception. It is said one million Australian women take it regularly, and 60 million world wide. Maybe talk to another doctor.

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I have a Weet-Bix with hot water and a slice of toast for brekky and a cup of coffee. Is this adequate?


Social custom dictates three meals a day. Sure, this brekky is fine. Weet-Bix is simply cooked wheat rolled into flakes and compressed into biscuits. I have one with hot water each morning, plus marmalade on toast and coffee. Sandwich for lunch. A hot meal at night, including many coloured veggies and fruit. That, or some variation, is adequate for the majority. Avoid snacks, fizz drinks, cakes, pastries and fried fast food.

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I have two double shot skinny flat whites en route to work each day, but find I can't get to sleep until midnight. Will this do me any harm?


Coffee is full of caffeine, the only kick start legal drug of addiction in Australia. The more caffeine, the bigger the kick. Powdered stuff contains about 60 mg a cup, the more concentrated the bigger the hit. Boiled (the strongest) contains about 500 mg a cup. You're probably on about 1200 mg a day, plus whatever other stuff (e.g. cola drinks) you shovel down your throat. Its effect lasts up to 16 hours. That's why you're still tossing and turning at 2am. It won't do you any harm, but sleep also is essential to staying alive.

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I only have two periods a year and I want to fall pregnant. I've never taken the pill.


I've seen women with only one MP a year fall pregnant, so don't despair. However, I suggest referral to a fertility clinic for a full medical check, and some good sound advice.

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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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