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Issue 20> AUTUMN 2012

Laughing matter

The health benefits of laughter

Retreat to

nature In search of a natural way of life

Antioxidants on the menu

with recipes from Jane Kennedy on page 18



1 Welcome 2

Your Say Letters and Ask Our Expert


Australian Unity & You Information about member benefits, staff Q&A, plus competition winners announced


Know Your Cover Bone density


Know Your Cover Online Services


Spotlight On Superfoods


Hot Topic Dementia


10 Expert Opinion Managing headaches 12 Facts On Genetic testing 14 Member In Focus Margaret McConvill 16 Focus On Alternative therapies 18 Eat Well Boost your diet with antioxidants 22 Live Well Health benefits of laughter 24 Understanding Your Cover 25 Rewards Exciting offers for members


Welcome We believe in giving our members the best possible value for money, so we put a lot of effort into making sure you know about all the benefits that you are entitled to as part of your health insurance. In this issue of wellplan, you’ll notice that we’ve included lots of information about some of these benefits, such No Gap Dental, which gives our members easier and more affordable access to dental services, and benefits on the cost of a DEXA scan, which is a scan recommended by the National Osteoporosis Foundation to measure bone density. Also in this issue, we look at the health benefits of laughter – did you know that laughter can decrease the risk of heart disease and that it’s been shown to stimulate and improve the way our brains work? For those interested in alternative health remedies, our feature on page 16 explains what some natural therapies are all about and which conditions they are often used to treat. Many of these alternative treatments are included within some Australian Unity health covers. We also address a range of other health issues, such as how to manage headaches and the importance of diagnosing and treating dementia as early as possible. We hope that by giving you as much information as possible, you and your families can maintain optimum health and wellbeing. Happy reading!

Amanda Hagan Chief Executive Officer – Healthcare


Australian Unity Health Limited ABN 13 078 722 568 Information provided in this publication is not medical advice and you should consult with your healthcare practitioner. Australian Unity accepts no responsibility for the accuracy of any of the opinions, advice, representations or information contained in this publication. Readers should rely on their own advice and enquiries in making decisions affecting their own health, wellbeing or interest. wellplan magazine is published by Edge on behalf of Australian Unity; Change of address enquiries: 13 29 39

Contributors Dr Dee chohan Doctor Dee changed from reading Biology to Medicine at the University of Cambridge, after a doctor saved her life in her second year of studies. She decided to move to Australia and fell in love with the sunshine, beaches and the friendly Aussies! She is currently a practising Emergency Doctor in Sydney, with the Australasian College of Emergency Medicine.

ANDREW TURNER Andrew began his tenure in the health publication field as editor of the AMA (NSW) journal The NSW Doctor. Now a freelance writer, Andrew has had numerous articles published on a diverse range of health topics, including podiatry, asthma and prostate cancer.


Gagan is an Accredited Practising Dietitian who delivers Remedy Healthcare’s Bone Health Program. She has a strong passion for supporting people in understanding the importance of nutrition and lifestyle measures in maintaining good health, and motivating them to put this information into practice.

chris sheedy Chris Sheedy is a freelance writer regularly published in many of Australia’s leading titles. A strong personal interest in health and fitness has also led to his features being printed in health publications such as Body + Soul, GoodMedicine, Weight Watchers and Men’s Fitness. wellplan > 1

your say

Surprised reaction Your expert opinion on ‘Allergy Action’ [wellplan issue 19] got my attention. It was surprising to read that Australia has one of the highest allergy rates in the world! Being a recent migrant to Melbourne from India, the concept of hay fever was rather strange and new to me. For a season or two, I presumed it was a cold, or a change of weather ailment. A couple of spring seasons were torturous but now I have learnt to follow a good prevention routine. Your article provided a good overview on allergies and I hope others can benefit from the action plan and the useful information you have put together. N. Gupta, Brighton East, Victoria

Letters Winning Letter My husband recently underwent total hip replacement surgery. We wish to congratulate Australian Unity on the exceptional service they provided to us both pre- and post-operation. We received a call from Australian Unity before he was admitted to advise us of our entitlement to home care after the operation, as well as other services that we could access if we required them. Both my husband and I thought the service was outstanding and wondered why we don’t get that kind of service from more organisations around the world these days? It was the confidence and care they showed that we were impressed with – bring back old-fashioned personal and trustworthy service we say! It is so reassuring to know that you have the backing of your health fund when it comes to major surgery and submitting a substantial claim. Well done, Australian Unity! S. Grady, Mt Martha, Victoria Editor’s note: home care is available when you leave hospital early or is in substitution for hospital inpatient care.

write &


Ironclad and glad Wow! What a fantastic magazine once again. We really enjoyed reading the ‘Ironclad Nutrition’ article [wellplan issue 19]. It is a very informative article that provided some great insights. We particularly enjoyed the delicious iron-rich recipes provided

with the article, and since reading it, we have really focused on increasing our iron intake. As a sufferer of allergies, I also found the ‘Allergy Action’ article really informative. Congratulations to the team once again for another great issue of wellplan. L. Ure, Port Melbourne, Victoria

Let us know your thoughts on wellplan and suggestions for future articles – and you could win some great prizes. The author of this issue’s winning letter wins a weekly family-sized fresh fruit and vegetable box delivered for 12 weeks through Aussie Farmers Direct ($420rrp), while the authors of the other published letters in the ‘Your Say’ and ‘Ask Our Expert’ sections will receive a Jane Kennedy Fabulous Food Minus The Boombah cookbook ($39.95rrp) and a $50 VISA Gift Card. Simply email your letters to or mail them to wellplan, Your Say, Reply Paid 64466, South Melbourne, Victoria 3205 (no stamp required). Please note that published letters may be edited.

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Ask Our Expert This issue’s questions have been answered by Dr Dee Chohan, a practising Emergency Registrar at the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine. If you have a health question for wellplan’s experts, write to Please note that we may not be able to publish all correspondence.

I had a heart attack in 2003 and two stents were inserted as a result. Since this episode in my life, I have encountered many chest pains and have had ECGs and blood tests that have shown no problems. Just lately, these pains are coming more often and are more intense, but my cardiac doctor is satisfied my heart is fine. Please help. M. Clarke, Algester, Queensland
 I am very pleased you went to hospital in time when you had your heart attack, and the stents were inserted quickly, as these saved your life. One of your coronary arteries became blocked and the stents re-opened the vessel, allowing blood to flow to that region of the heart. You may have had risk factors, such as smoking, high cholesterol, a family history, high blood pressure, and on that day, the plaque on your coronary artery developed a large enough clot around it to cause a heart attack. Chest pain can be very distressing and can arise from a variety of causes aside from cardiac (heart) pain, including muscular pain, stomach pain and even pain from the lungs or gall bladder. It’s great to hear your doctor has done an ECG and blood tests to try and find the cause of your pain, I presume your cardiologist would have also checked for angina, which is spasm of the coronary arteries. I recommend you go back to your doctor to discuss your ongoing chest pains and perhaps referral onto a specialist, as it is clearly causing great concern. Your GP should be able to help you find the right specialist.

I don’t like the taste of plain water. Is it sufficient to drink weak cordial instead and is the amount I need to drink based on my weight? What are the medical risks in not drinking enough water? S. Marshall, East Geelong, Victoria It is vital for humans to drink enough water. Water is needed by all cells in our body, and dehydration will lead to fatigue (especially when exercising), headaches, kidney failure, skin dryness, over-heating, confusion and delirium. We can only survive a few days without water. We need to be able to be hydrated enough to produce at least 0.5ml of urine per hour per kilogram weight or we will damage our kidneys. Of course, this is the bare minimum and we should really be producing 1-2ml per hour per kilogram weight, so an 80kg man should be making 80ml of urine each hour. To achieve this, we should drink roughly 1.5 litres of fluid each day, and as long as you are not diabetic or

I recently suffered nausea and vomiting and went to the doctor who said that I have vertigo. Is it possible for the doctor to diagnose me without a test? I have also read about tinnitus (ringing in the ear), which I have had for many years now. Can this cause vertigo and is there any cure for both of these illnesses? S. Mostyn, Burpengary, Queensland Vertigo is fairly common and in basic terms is the perception of movement where no movement exists, an unpleasant feeling of dizziness or spinning is commonly reported. However, there are many different causes of vertigo – it can be due to

obese (cordials contain a lot of sugar), weak cordial is fine. A slice of fresh lemon would be much healthier and improve the taste. The amount we need does depend on weight, so a small elderly lady would need a lot less water than a muscular man who weighs 120kg and exercises daily. Also, patients with heart failure and kidney failure may be advised to drink a little less than others, as they cannot excrete excess fluid as efficiently1.

abnormalities in the ear canals or from problems within the brain, or it can be caused by problems involving the whole body, such as anaemia, kidney or thyroid issues. A doctor can diagnose the most common causes of vertigo by learning the full history of the complaint, a thorough examination and a few simple tests. As you also have tinnitus (ringing in the ears), and your vertigo has not resolved, I recommend you go back to your GP to talk about your symptoms and consider asking for a referral to a specialist such as an ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctor for further investigation and management.

References: 1. Reference: Nutrition Reviews. 2010 Aug;68(8):439-58. Water, hydration, and health. Popkin BM, D’Anci KE, Rosenberg IH.

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Spread the Member benefit


Did you know that by simply referring your family, friends or colleagues to Australian Unity’s Hospital or Combination Health cover, we will give you a $100 VISA Gift Card*? When your family member or friend purchases their Australian Unity Health cover, all they have to do is mention your name and membership number in the ‘referring member’ section of the application form and the $100 VISA Gift Card is yours. It’s that simple! There are no restrictions on the amount of people you can refer, so spread the word and enjoy the rewards.

To find out more, call 13 29 39 or visit *Terms and conditions available at

Claim on the

Members now have the convenience and flexibility of being able to make a claim using an iPhone app. To start using the new claiming app, make sure you are registered for Online Services then simply follow the three easy steps below. 1

Dollars for pounds Helping our members sustain optimum health and wellbeing is of paramount importance to Australian Unity. And we know that one of the ways our members can achieve this goal is through maintaining a healthy diet and weight level. That’s why Australian Unity has set up a rewards system to keep you motivated every step of the way. By joining an approved weight-loss program, such as Weight Watchers, SureSlim, Jenny Craig or Ultralite, we’ll reward you with $100. If you achieve your target weight, we’ll give you another $100. Stay within 5kg of your target weight for 12 months and we’ll reward you with a further $150*. Simply supply Australian Unity with your weight-loss program receipt along with a completed claim form for the first reward.

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To receive the second and third cash rewards, certificates of goal achievement endorsed by your weight-loss provider, as well as your completed claim forms, must be supplied. To find out more, call 13 29 39 or visit * Available with all Hospital, Combination and Extras covers, except Care ‘n Repair and Overseas Visitors Cover. Where a member has both Hospital and Extras cover, benefits may only be claimed under the Hospital cover.



Download from the ‘iTunes app store’. Install the Australian Unity Health Insurance claiming app and you’re almost ready to go. 2

Member benefit



Login using your Online Services login details.

Choose how you want to claim 3

Make a Claim To ‘Make a Claim’, submit your claim(s) details into the claiming app and benefits of up to $300 in total can be claimed straight away. You can choose to attach a photo of your receipt(s), which allows you to make any further claims instantly, or we’ll request receipts from you later and once they’re processed, you can start claiming again. Quick Claim Simply take a photo of your receipt(s) and attach through the ‘Quick Claim’ option, and your claim(s) will be processed within 24 hours.

To find out more, call 13 29 39 or visit iPhone and iPad are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the US and other countries. App Store is a service mark of Apple Inc.


Simone Lansell Melbourne-based Simone Lansell always wanted to be a vet but allergies prevented her from following that dream and, pursuing her love of science and health, she became a dentist instead. After nine years of practising dentistry, she has never looked back. Tell us about your role at Australian Unity. I have been practising as a dentist for nine years and have worked at Australian Unity for that entire time. I am a general dentist but have special interests in orthodontics and treating children (only the well-behaved ones!). What led you to becoming a dentist and what is the most enjoyable aspect of your career? Dentistry was not my first choice after I completed my VCE. [But] I was accepted to study dentistry at Melbourne University and deferred for a year to gain some work experience in dental clinics to see if this was what I wanted to do. Luckily, I really loved it and still do.  I enjoy interacting with people and this is a great part of my job. It’s nice to have a good chat with my regular patients and I like meeting new people. I also enjoy seeing the positive changes I can make to a patient’s wellbeing and health.

How often should people be visiting a dentist for a check-up? For the majority of people, six-monthly visits are sufficient. If, however, there are particular problems, for example gum disease, then treatment needs to be more regular. 
 What’s the most important thing for people to remember when looking after their teeth? Keep up good oral hygiene practices, such as brushing and flossing, and ensure they have regular dental check-ups so that any problems may be picked up when they are minor, rather than leaving them to become bigger and more costly problems. 
 What’s the biggest mistake people make with their dental care? Not flossing regularly! It is so important to clean in-between the teeth where toothbrushes cannot reach so as to prevent gum disease, bad breath and decay in these areas. 

Do you live by the advice that you give to your patients? Of course! I want to keep my teeth and I am currently having work done on my teeth now to correct my deep bite. 
 How do you try to maintain a healthy lifestyle? I have always liked to keep fit. I ride my bike to work most days and walk as much as

possible. I try to do yoga or Pilates once a week to keep flexible and help lessen the chances of back problems. I am a vegetarian, which means I need to give special attention to getting all the nutrients I need by eating a varied diet. I try to limit alcohol intake to weekends and drink in moderation, although I do like to indulge in a good shiraz!

competition winners

In the previous issue of wellplan (Spring 2011), we told you about Zoe – a fictitious 30-something Australian Unity member whose mission is to show people just how useful Australian Unity health insurance can be. She’s the star of her own blog and a range of television advertisements that share her adventures as she uncovers things that make life that little bit easier – like our health insurance. As well as introducing Zoe, we gave Australian Unity members the opportunity to win one of five 16GB Apple iPad 2s by describing a creative idea for a new Zoe television advertisement.

Entrants were asked to show how useful Australian Unity health insurance could be. We had an overwhelming response, with lots of imaginative and inventive applications. Congratulations to our winners (listed below), who each received a 16GB Apple iPad 2, valued at $579 each. V. Gibson, Fitzroy, VIC S. Atkinson, Wonga Park, VIC C. York, Rozelle, NSW L. Miller, Tarlo, NSW K. Parton, Harvey, WA

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No bones

about it

Osteoporosis can lead to serious injury, so it pays to keep a check on the health of your bones.

Strong, healthy bones are something we take for granted in our youth but as we age, the density and quality of our bones is gradually reduced. As a result, they become thinner and, in some cases, can become brittle and more susceptible to fracture than normal bones. This condition is known as osteoporosis, or ‘brittle bone disease’, which, according to Osteoporosis Australia, occurs when bones lose minerals, especially calcium, quicker than the body can replace them. A 2007 report prepared for Osteoporosis Australia by the University of Melbourne’s Department of Medicine estimates that someone is admitted to an Australian hospital every five to six minutes with an osteoporotic fracture – a figure that will rise to every three to four minutes over the next decade as our population ages. Osteoporosis affects both men and women, but while one in three Australian men will suffer an osteoporotic fracture, the figure is higher for women at one in two, due mainly to rapidly declining oestrogen levels after menopause. Risk factors include a family history of osteoporosis, conditions such as coeliac disease, rheumatoid

arthritis, chronic liver or kidney disease and, in men, loss of libido and impotence. The Federal Government provides a free screening program for Australians aged 70 and over, where a bone density test known as dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) measures bone density at the hip or spine, the area where most osteoporosis-related fractures occur. However, the National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends DEXA scans for post-menopausal women under the age of 65 and men aged 50 to 69 who have risk factors for osteoporosis. Even a small bump can cause serious fractures to a person with osteoporosis, resulting in major injury or disability, which is why it is better to diagnose early-onset osteoporosis before it becomes a major health risk.

Member benefit

How do you

measure up? There’s no better time than now to visit your GP to discuss your risk of osteoporosis and whether or not a DEXA scan is appropriate for you. If it is, and you choose to proceed, Australian Unity will give you a 70 per cent benefit of up to $70 on the cost of a DEXA scan*. To claim, simply send a copy of the receipt for your DEXA scan and a completed claim form to: Australian Unity, 114 Albert Road, South Melbourne, Victoria 3205.

To find out more, call 13 29 39 or visit bonedensity * Available on LifeChoice and LifeChoice Plus covers only. 12-month waiting period applies. Benefit available where no Medicare rebate is payable.

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know your your cover say

Manage your

membership Manage your membership the easy way with Australian Unity’s Online Services.

Useful for Can you remember what life was like before the internet? This expansive global resource has placed an enormous amount of information at our fingertips and has given us tools to simplify once-arduous tasks. Whether you want to pay a bill without the hassle of queuing up at the bank, book a holiday or get your groceries delivered to your door, the internet provides the means and saves time like never before. If you’re looking to simplify your life even more, our Online Services allow you to manage your membership from the comfort of your own home. The user-friendly site caters for many aspects of your memberrelated needs, from updating your contact details to making claims, and more.

What can I do online? Members who register for Online Services have exclusive access to a wide range of services that make managing your health insurance easier than ever. From simple to more involved decisions, Online Services can accommodate a variety of tasks, such as changing your contact details, finding health providers and adding or removing dependants.

You can also make claims and payments online and even set up direct credit or debit – saving 4 per cent with the latter – to receive automatic claim payments into your bank account. Plus, you can check your claims history and limits at any time. Now that’s useful!

Wellbeing advice Of course, Online Services isn’t just about making payments and managing your details; you can also access a wealth of information designed to help you improve your wellbeing, such as Wellplan Online. With many people now relying on the internet for health information, this interactive tool – developed by medical professionals – provides the resources to help you manage your own wellbeing. Tools such as the Online Health Risk Assessment and personalised Health Bytes are just some of the valuable components of Wellplan Online.

Your reward All Australian Unity Health members who register for Online Services are entitled to Wellplan Rewards, a program that offers great discounts on a wide range of health

everyone For those who are not registered for Online Services, there’s still plenty of useful ways for you to manage your membership on the general Australian Unity website. You can view and compare your level of cover, order replacement membership cards, locate one of our No Gap Dentists or order discounted contact lenses. Finding a healthcare provider is also simple. Just use the search engine to locate Gap Cover doctors, agreement hospitals or HICAPS providers within your area.

Registering for Online Services is quick and easy. Simply go to onlineservices

and lifestyle products and services, including vitamin and health supplements, eyewear and movie tickets. So, what are you waiting for? Get even more out of your membership and register for Online Services today. wellplan > 7


How super

are superfoods? The list of ‘superfoods’ is constantly growing, along with their claims to fame. The only question now is: will the real superfoods please stand up? WORDS Rowena Robertson

Goji and acai berries, spirulina, chia seeds… these exotic-sounding foods, along with many others, have all been touted as ‘superfoods’. They are labelled as such because they are said to have extremely high concentrations of nutrients and antioxidants, and only a small amount needs to be consumed in order to gain significant health benefits, ranging from reduced blood pressure to protection against cancer. But while the term ‘superfood’ may carry a lot of weight in the minds of consumers, it is a marketing term rather than a scientific one, and some experts remain sceptical about the misconceptions surrounding it. Even though it is illegal to make a claim on a food’s packaging linking it to the reduction

of a risk of a serious disease, Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) has long been concerned about potentially misleading claims on labels and is currently working on a proposed standard to regulate the claims. According to FSANZ, the new code will ensure growers and manufacturers of so-called superfoods will be able to make health claims about their foods only if there is scientific evidence to back them up, similar to the laws for medicines. FSANZ communication manager Lorraine Belanger says the new standard “is not only intended to enable industry to innovate but will give consumers a wider range of healthy food choices; ensuring they have the information they need to make informed choices.”

Nutritional powerhouse Goji berries: A renowned antioxidant, goji berries are said to be extremely high in Vitamin C and effective in killing cancer cells. Chia seed: Chia seeds, high in omega-3 fatty acids, are believed to help reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Red beans: Rich in Vitamins C, D and A, red beans are believed to repair damaged cells in the body that can prevent the development of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, as well as some cancers. Purple carrots: With their purported anti-inflammatory properties, purple carrots are said to ease arthritis and back pain. Reference: 1

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Many health experts and consumers welcome the clarity such a standard would bring, as it will help consumers to identify the real superfoods and their proven health benefits. However, it is important to remember that a balanced diet, rather than a focus on one or two foods, is key for good health. Eating one food in isolation will not have a positive effect on health. In fact, excessive ingestion of a particular food can result in the body simply excreting the excess and, in a worst-case scenario, over-consumption can be harmful1. Also, importantly, as superfoods are usually sourced from exotic locations, they are often frozen, powdered or made into capsules or drinks, thereby losing some of the nutritional value, as well as being expensive and less sustainable. You may get more nutrition and value for money by going to the local market and buying a bag of fresh apples and oranges. Eating good foods combined with other good foods is more likely to benefit your health long term. And the nutritional value of ‘normal’ foods should not be underestimated – the humble carrot is high in betacarotene, which is converted by the body into Vitamin A, aiding vision, the skin and immune system. And bananas contain Vitamins B6, potassium and magnesium and have been said to relieve depression symptoms, as well as decreasing blood pressure. While superfoods certainly have their place within our diets, we should have realistic expectations about what they can do for us. The bottom line is the same as always: eat a balanced diet with a rainbow of fresh fruit and vegetables for better health.


Forget me not As cases of undiagnosed dementia skyrocket, the early detection and treatment of this debilitating illness have become increasingly important. The statistics are startling. In Australia and other Western countries worldwide, at least half and up to three-quarters of Alzheimer’s and other dementia cases have not been diagnosed, according to a report recently released by global patient advocacy organisation Alzheimer’s Disease International. This, along with the fact that the global incidence of Alzheimer’s disease is forecast to quadruple over the next 40 years – reaching a staggering 100 million cases of people with dementia by the year 2050 – puts the value of early detection sharply into focus. Dr Maree Farrow, research fellow at Alzheimer’s Australia, describes dementia as “the collection of symptoms that people with the illness experience”, including memory loss, problems with language, confusion, behavioural changes and decreased judgement. More than 60 different conditions are known to cause dementia symptoms, according to Dementia Care Australia, with Alzheimer’s disease accounting for around 50 to 70 per cent of all cases. Signs of early-stage dementia are subtle, stresses Dr Farrow, but the first sign people usually notice is a problem with short-term memory. “They’ll remember things that happened a long time ago but they have trouble remembering what happened yesterday,” she explains. “So, they might forget conversations and repeat things because they’ve forgotten that they’ve already told you something.” Other signs to look out for are language changes – where a person finds it increasingly difficult to find the appropriate word in a conversation, understand what other people are saying or follow a story on television or in the newspaper. Alzheimer’s Australia says the benefits of early diagnosis of dementia are varied and

WORDS Andrew Turner

of great significance in managing the illness long term. In particular, the organisation cites the following advantages of early detection: It enables a person with dementia to play an active role in decision making and planning for their future. It allows for immediate access to medications and medical help. Medications for Alzheimer’s disease can be more beneficial if given in the initial stages of the illness. As similar symptoms to dementia can be caused by treatable and reversible conditions such as infections and depression, the earlier the causes of these symptoms are identified, the sooner the treatment process can begin. When it comes to services, treatment and support, there are plenty of options available – not just for those living with dementia but for their families and carers, as well. There are medications available for treating dementia, says Dr Farrow, which are usually prescribed by a neurologist, psychiatrist or other specialist. “There are medications that, while they don’t stop the disease from progressing, can help with the symptoms for a while,” she explains. “Some people get many years of benefit from these medications.” Alzheimer’s Australia offers professional counselling support for people with dementia, their families and their carers, as well as free educational courses. “Carers need to learn as much as they can about the illness and the strategies that may be helpful in reducing their stress,” says Dr Farrow.

Where to get help For people suffering from dementia, and for their families and carers, there are a large number of organisations that provide support services throughout Australia. These include care packages and assessment, monitoring and respite services. Check with your GP, Practice Nurse, Community Health Centre or Commonwealth Carer Respite to find out what’s available in your area and what you may be eligible for.

For more information, visit: Commonwealth Carer Respite 1800 052 222 internet.nsf/services/carer_ respite_centres.htm Alzheimer’s Australia at, or call the National Dementia Helpline on1800 100 500.

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WORDS Andrew Turner

Heading off Almost all of us will have to contend with a headache at least once in our life, but those who endure them regularly need not suffer in silence. 10 > wellplan


expert opinion

What do Elvis Presley, author Stephen King and tennis ace Serena Williams have in common? All have struggled with severe headaches at some point in their life, receiving recurring medical treatment to help ease the debilitating effects of this condition.  Celebrity or otherwise, headaches don’t discriminate – they are one of the most common symptoms humans face every day and affect millions of Australians every year. A massive 84 per cent of Australians over the age of 18 have had a headache treated at least once in the previous 12 months, according to Gerald Edmunds, secretary general of the Brain Foundation, which runs Headache Australia. A person who suffers pain when various structures of the head are inflamed or irritated is experiencing a headache, says Edmunds. These structures include nerves and muscles; arteries leading to the brain; membranes within the ear; and the nose, throat and sinuses, which are the air-filled cavities inside the head.

identifying the cause There are around 200 types of headaches – all derived from a variety of causes – and they are divided into two broad categories: primary and secondary. The primary category includes migraines, tension headaches and cluster headaches, according to the International Classification of Headache Disorders, published by the International Headache Society. The secondary group comprises headaches that are side effects of another condition, trauma or disorder. Overuse of medication, excess alcohol intake, head and spinal injuries, meningitis, sinus infection, brain tumour and a variety of eye diseases are among the factors that can trigger a secondary-type headache. Treating a secondary headache involves treating the underlying disorder. In the primary category, tension headaches are the most common – around seven million Australians can expect to experience a tension-type headache at some point in their life, according to Headache Australia. Stress, anxiety and poor posture are among the causes, and the symptoms include a mild to moderate, dull, persistent pain on both sides of the head and, in some cases, a sudden jabbing pain in the head. Depending on the symptoms and triggers, rest, medication, relaxation techniques or psychotherapy are the main treatment options available. The least common primary category type, cluster headaches affect an estimated 14,000 Australians and five times as many men as

women. They usually develop between the ages of 20 and 40 and are extremely painful. Believed to be caused by a disorder of the human internal clock, sufferers endure a pronounced, steady pain behind one eye and the attacks occur in groups, or clusters, over several weeks. Treatment for cluster headaches generally comes in the form of medication.

headache or migraine? Tension headaches can co-exist with migraines, says Edmunds. They affect between 12 and 15 per cent of Australians and, as hormones are thought to play a significant role, about twice as many women as men. “Migraines are a neurological disorder and an intermittent disability, somewhat akin to epilepsy, where people are quite well but then something triggers an episode,” explains Edmunds, adding that an episode can last from two hours to two or three days before suddenly stopping. The International Headache Society classifies a headache as a migraine when at least one of the symptoms includes nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light or sensitivity to noise, and the associated pain is one-sided, throbbing, moderate to severe or aggravated by movement. There are a multitude of migraine triggers, which vary from person to person and can also vary between attacks on the one individual. Among the culprits are dietary triggers, ranging from caffeine withdrawal to dehydration and certain types of alcohol; environmental triggers, such as bright light and loud sounds; hormonal triggers, including pregnancy, menstruation and menopause; and physical triggers, like lack of sleep or excessive vigorous exercise. Susceptibility to migraine is generally inherited, according to Headache Australia, but while much is known about the many aggravating triggers, the exact cause of migraines is still to be fully identified. “We don’t know exactly what it is that connects between an external stimulus – whether it be light, sound, heat, cold or whatever – and getting the migraine,” says Edmunds. 

SEEKING TREATMENT The good news when it comes to migraines is that they can be treated. Over-the-counter medications, such as aspirin, can be effective in treating infrequent, less severe migraines, while preventative medication can be taken daily – irrespective of whether a headache is present – to reduce the incidence of severe

or frequent headaches. However, if a need to take over-the-counter medications becomes regular, medical advice must be sought because of the potential for gastrointestinal damage in the long term. As headaches are a very individual condition, Headache Australia stresses the importance of sufferers managing the problem by identifying and, where possible, avoiding the factors that bring on a headache. Edmunds recommends recurring headache sufferers work closely with their GP to establish an accurate diagnosis of their type of headache. Depending on the outcome, a doctor may make a referral to a specialist neurologist or continue working together to develop a management plan involving the identification of precipitating factors, assessing lifestyle habits, considering lifestyle changes and keeping a headache diary.  Important in developing such a plan, Edmunds insists, is working with a doctor to devise a regime that involves complementary approaches, rather than just medication, if at all possible. “Adopting a diet akin to the Heart Foundation diet for a healthy body and healthy heart, as well as high oxidant foods that are beneficial for brain function and help the synapses work better, are an essential part of that,” he says.

Join the

national register Do you suffer from chronic headaches or migraines? Headache Australia has set up a national register to assist it in providing additional research and developing initiatives to help headache sufferers back on the road to a full recovery. Those on the register will be informed of newly available treatments and will be provided the opportunity to volunteer in upcoming research projects that will ultimately help deliver more effective treatments to those affected by the condition. 

To join the national register, visit

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facts on

Playing gene in the


What issues should you consider before deciding to probe into your health at a genetic level? WORDS Rowena Robertson

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facts on

With the rapid advances in medical technology, genetic testing has become increasingly popular and, of late, has become a hot topic of moral debate. The sophisticated process involves taking a sample of blood, skin, hair, saliva, or (prenatally) embryo, placental tissue or amniotic fluid1, and performing a direct examination of a person’s chromosomes, DNA or the biochemical product of a gene. As well as being used to establish the paternity of a child – one of the most common uses of genetic testing – there has recently been an increased focus on people having tests to determine their predisposition to, or in some cases definite development of, an inherited disorder. In Australia, genetic testing is now available to estimate the risk of a person developing a variety of diseases, including adult-onset cancers, Alzheimer’s disease and type 1 and 2 diabetes. There is also a growing market for online genetic testing called direct-to-consumer (DTC) testing, which allows a person to bypass the health system and perform tests at home. However, there are many factors to be considered before embarking on a path of genetic discovery – the results may have complicated implications, not only for the person being tested but also for their family.

Points to ponder But there are other things to be mindful of when considering genetic testing. When it comes to tests that can give a definitive result, each individual must weigh up whether or not they really want to know that they will develop a particular disease and what will be gained from that knowledge. “Detection of a genetic defect might result in the stress of knowing that a disease will develop in the future and there may not be any treatment available to prevent or treat that disease,” explains Dr Husband. “Furthermore, detection of a genetic disorder in one family member may have implications for other family members who may not want to know whether they have the same disorder.” It’s worth considering the fact that, legally, you must disclose the results of any genetic testing to your life insurance company, which may affect your premiums or lead to the denial of an offer for insurance2. For those attracted by online genetic testing, Dr Husband notes that, “such testing rarely

Not set in stone Having a genetic predisposition to a disorder doesn’t necessarily mean your fate is sealed. Many tests cannot predict whether a person will definitely develop a disease; they can only determine the probability of developing it. And a genetic test can’t determine how other factors, such as the environment, might influence the outcome3. Also, a genetic test can only pick up known genetic mutations. For example, a woman could show no evidence of known breast cancer genes in a test, but go on to develop the disease because of an abnormality or a gene that has not yet been identified4. As with any decision that could affect your future or your health, anyone considering genetic testing should arm themselves with as much information as they can, so they are in the best possible position to make the right decision for themselves and their family.

work through the risks and benefits of particular tests in different situations

The benefits Certainly, there are times when genetic testing may well be a worthwhile course of action. “Genetic testing can be helpful in confirming the diagnosis in a patient with symptoms that fit with a specific genetic disorder or in predicting future risk of developing an inherited disease in someone with a strong family history of that disease,” says Melbourne general practitioner Dr Angus Husband. “Detection of a genetic disorder that increases the risk of certain cancers might allow more frequent testing aimed at early detection of such a cancer at a curable stage.” Dr Husband adds that knowledge of genetic conditions might help people make major financial or family planning decisions. For some, it could also provide a much-needed sense of relief or encourage them to make important lifestyle changes that will help reduce the risk of developing a certain disease – for example, a smoker with a family history of lung cancer may receive the motivation they need to stop smoking. For others, the results may act as a catalyst for starting on a course of preventative medical treatment or help them to make more informed healthcare decisions.

comes with the appropriate medical advice and support needed if abnormalities are detected”.

Genetic counselling Genetic testing can open up a range of social, ethical and psychological issues. For this reason, counselling plays a vital role in the genetic testing process. In particular, genetic counselling: Provides individuals and families with information and support about genetic disorders Can be carried out prior to genetic tests being conducted, to help people to

Aids people who’ve been diagnosed with a particular gene to come to terms with the consequences of a disease, the likelihood of developing it or passing it on to other family members, as well as helping with life management and family planning options Can be ongoing – previous information can be reviewed and counsellors will answer new questions as they come up Is provided in Australia by graduate health professionals with specialist training in genetics and counselling, who are certified by the Human Genetics Society of Australasia (their counselling is provided in conjunction with a clinical geneticist)

For more information on genetic counselling services, visit

References: 1 DNA Genetic Testing – screening for genetic conditions and genetic susceptibility. Fact sheet 21. pdf/factsheets/fs21.pdf 2 Life Insurance Products and Genetic Testing in Australia. Fact sheet 23. fs23a.pdf 3 Genetics Home Reference website, 4 American Society of Human Genetics website,

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member in focus



Inspired by the healing ways of natural therapy and all things Japanese, Margaret McConvill’s life has found new shape and meaning.

WORDS Andrew Turner PHOTOGRAPHY Jarrod barnes

After many years of leaping, pivoting, twisting and turning, Margaret McConvill’s netball-weary knees finally gave way. They’d absorbed the jarring effects of unforgiving courts since she was just seven and, at her doctor’s request, they would need to be operated on – a procedure that required the knee cap being taken off, scraped and put back on. But the 21-year-old’s martial arts teacher had different advice, suggesting Margaret see a Chinese herbalist he knew. Keen to avoid an operation, Margaret did just that, and upon listening to the pulse in her wrist, the herbalist suggested an alternative method of treating her problem knees – a concoction of herbs that she was instructed to boil and drink each night. After initially becoming violently ill from the “gross black glug”, Margaret persevered and in 10 days the pain in her knees had completely disappeared. “The swelling went down, the knee cap was no longer grating on the bone and I’ve never had a problem since. I thought, wow, this is amazing,” she recalls. Margaret’s mother, then a nurse, and her brother, a doctor, were both sceptical, labelling the potion a “voodoo magic kind of thing”, but the inquisitive Sydneysider was unfazed. “I thought, no, there is something to this,” Margaret, now in her late 40s, remembers. The profound experience was Margaret’s first foray into the world of natural therapies and would eventually pave the way for a radically different life, far removed from her customary career of corporate stress and strain. The next stage of Margaret’s fateful journey came when she met her husband-tobe. A public relations and marketing business owner, Peter had a love affair with Japan, an obsession that began after a stint as a rotary exchange student to the country in the 70s. Peter’s enthusiasm for the country would soon rub off, with Margaret also finding fascination with all things Japanese. Driving around the Victorian spa town of Daylesford while on holiday in late-2002, the couple stumbled upon a sign for Shizuka Ryokan, a Japanese wellness retreat Margaret had seen on a travel show some time earlier. After deciding to pay a visit and stay at the retreat, Margaret remarked to Peter how he

What’s your story?

would be “in his element” running such a place. Peter informed her the property was for sale and, as fate would have it, within months the pair were Shizuka Ryokan’s proud new owners. Almost a decade later, it’s as if Margaret and the Japanese country spa retreat she made her own are a partnership that was always destined to be. Soon after taking on the new venture, she visited Japan for the first time, taking inspiration from the many Ryokans (traditional Japanese inns) she and Peter stayed in, and taking heart in the realisation that her business was authentic and not just an imitation. An avid cook most of her adult life and, in her own words, a “good imitator”, the trip gave Margaret the opportunity to observe what Japanese chefs were doing and, on her return, incorporate it into their business. She does all the cooking for her guests, her izakaya [tapasstyle Japanese dining] earning rave reviews. But as a budding natural therapist before taking over the reins of Shizuka Ryokan, it’s in this domain that Margaret has gained most gratification. Within her multi-disciplinary wellness practice, she performs aromatherapy, reflexology and oncology massage, and offers clinical consultations to residents in the local community, in particular in the area of infant massage. Margaret takes pride in the transformation she sees from the moment her guests arrive, usually “highly stressed”, to when they come off the massage table “looking younger”. Relieving the pain for clients with cancer, she says, is one part of her role that brings a great sense of achievement and satisfaction. “One guy had multiple myeloma and he said his pain level when he came in was nine out of 10,” says Margaret. “I gave him a treatment and when we finished I said, ‘how do you feel’, and he said, ‘that is unbelievable, I don’t feel any pain’. In the course of an hour, his pain went from nine out of 10 to one out of 10. All it was, was human touch. I think it was just allowing his nervous system to have a good sensory experience rather than being poked and prodded.” Inspired by several return trips to Japan, Margaret and Peter have continued to add an authentic flavour to the television-less and phone-less Shizuka Ryokan, which, under their attentive guidance, has won numerous

Margaret’s mantra for good health The mind has such a powerful connection to the body and the more people start to realise that, the more they’ll be able to take control of their own health. I do meditation, so I’m very mindful of being in the moment. If you actually live in the here and now then you’ll be much happier. I grow my own vegetables and herbs – going out and eating a tomato in the middle of summer, while it’s still warm, is a mind-blowing experience. My two spoodle dogs take me for a walk every day, from home to the lake and back, which is about an hour’s walk.

awards. Margaret has become skilled in the Japanese art of flower arranging, ikebana, and the employment of Japanese staff has seen the food become even more authentic. For Margaret, it’s a fortunate and ultimately rewarding life, one she couldn’t possibly have conjured in her wildest dreams as a young netballer with wonky knees. See page 16 for our feature on alternative therapies.

In our last issue, we invited you to tell us your story and be featured as the next cover star of wellplan. For this issue, Australian Unity member Margaret McConvill contacted us with her inspirational story and took part in a photo shoot with a professional beauty stylist and photographer. To tell us your story and have your chance to be on the front cover of wellplan, write to us by March 16, 2012 at or wellplan, Front Cover Story, Reply Paid 64466, South Melbourne, Victoria 3205 (no stamp required). wellplan > 15

focus on

Natural progression Alternative therapies have not always enjoyed a smooth ride across the landscape of Western medicine but, finally, several have earned their place as respected practices with some mainstream health practitioners. WORDS Chris Sheedy

Up until a decade ago, various natural remedies and alternative therapies were generally treated with suspicion, as if they involved some sort of witchcraft or voodoo magic. Despite the fact that most of the treatments had been practised and perfected around the globe for thousands of years, Western medicine was slow to accept their usefulness. Today, it’s a little different with an official peak body, the Australasian Integrative Medicine Association, promoting the integration of evidence-based, complementary medicine into mainstream practice. So, what are these therapies all about and which conditions are they best considered for? Here’s a rundown of five popular forms of complementary medicine.

Covered naturally

As part of your Australian Unity health insurance, all Extras and Combination cover* provide benefits for a range of natural therapies, including acupuncture and naturopathy, to benefit the total you. For access to benefits on a more extensive range of therapies, Australian Unity’s Harmony Natural Therapies is an Extras cover allowing you to claim for alternative therapies, such as reflexology, homoeopathy, aromatherapy, iridology and herbalism, as well

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as complementary therapies, such as remedial massage, shiatsu and Chinese medicine, which are not covered by Medicare. Benefits are only paid for services by recognised practitioners in private practice, so please contact Australian Unity prior to your first consultation.

Call 13 29 39 for more information or go to *Natural therapies are not included as part of Care ‘n Repair and Overseas Visitors Cover.

focus on

Acupuncture Acupuncture has been practised in China for more than 2,000 years and is related to the idea that the human body contains a complicated system of energy channels. Acupuncture manipulates these channels to bring the body back to its best performance. Usually understood as a therapy that involves needles inserted into the skin, acupuncture can also be carried out through suction cups, magnets, lasers or herbs placed on the skin1. Whichever method is chosen, the purpose is the same – to stimulate the body’s energy channels. Acupuncturists consider the entire body, meaning the specific complaint is understood to be just one aspect of what is going on all around it. The World Health Organisation has published reviews and analyses of clinical testing of acupuncture and has recommended it for treatment of pain, digestive complaints, stress-related disorders, respiratory and seasonal disorders, women’s health, children’s health, chronic disease management and drug and alcohol issues2.

Naturopathy While it can be utilised after an illness has been diagnosed, much of the focus of naturopathy is around preventative health and early detection of issues. Most important is the idea that the body has the ability to heal itself 3. Gentle therapeutic techniques, such as herbal medicine, massage and dietary and nutritional advice, are used to support the body, mind and emotions in order to promote recovery. The Australian Natural Therapists Association says naturopathy, which can be traced back to European healing systems in the 18th and 19th centuries, is broadly recommended for fatigue, stress-related

issues, mood disorders, digestive problems, PMT and general aches and pains. Naturopaths believe homeostasis is central to a healthy body – this means a constant or stable state, including temperature, hydration and blood pressure. Illness is far more likely to occur when environmental or lifestyle issues knock the body out of balance. Once the stresses causing the imbalance are removed, the body is able to heal itself4.

Aromatherapy Based around the use of aromatic essences, the art of aromatherapy has been developed for both preventative health and active treatment of diagnosed issues. Aromatherapy is holistic in that devotees believe it treats the body as a whole, as well as the mind and spirit, mixing physiological results with psychological benefits in order to reduce stress and enhance the body’s natural healing process5. Essential oils extracted from plants have been used for medical purposes for at least 2,000 years. These days, practitioners believe they can be used to alter mood and cognitive functions, therefore providing greater opportunity for the body to heal itself, as well as for direct application as antiseptics to help heal such things as burns and wounds6.

Homoeopathy A 200-year history of clinical practice has earned homoeopathy a place as the second most popular form of medical treatment in the world after Chinese medicine, says Michelle Hookham, president of the Australian Homoeopathic Association. It’s a system of medicine based on the belief that ‘like should be treated by like’. In other words, homeopaths believe if somebody is suffering insomnia, irritability

or overly heightened senses – all of which are typical symptoms of stimulation by caffeine – then they should be treated with a coffee-based medicine. The element that causes symptoms in a healthy body is the element that should be used to treat the symptoms by stimulating the body’s ability to cope. Hookham says homoeopathy can be used to assist treating anything from sore throats and common colds through to emotional and psychological issues.

Herbalism Herbal medicine is the oldest system of medicine in the world7 but has experienced massive changes along the way. There are now various branches of the practice, including Western, Indigenous, Chinese and Indian – all of which can be found within Australia. Medicines come directly from plant extracts and they are often unique, as plants have developed complicated chemical compounds to defend themselves against predators and diseases8. While these compounds can be toxic to insects, they can have various powerful and often positive effects on the human system. Herbal medicines sometimes don’t differ greatly from conventional pharmaceuticals – in fact, the traditional pharmaceutical industry often looks to herbalism for inspiration regarding future medicines9. References: 1 & 2 World Health Organisation, Acupuncture: Review and Analysis of Reports on Controlled Clinical Trials, 2003 3 & 5 Australian Natural Therapists Association website 4 Better Health Victoria website 6 International Aromatherapy & Aromatic Medicine Association Inc 7, 8 & 9 National Herbalists Association of Australia


While many people find benefit in complementary medicine, its role co-exists with mainstream medicine. If you are taking prescription medication, it is very important to consult your GP before commencing any complementary therapy, as some herbal and naturopathic preparations can interact with your usual medication. It is similarly important not to stop taking prescription medication because a complementary alternative has been commenced without speaking to your usual doctor or specialist.

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eat well



Antioxidants play an important role in protecting the body from many diseases – and the good news is they’re a natural part of a balanced diet. WORDS Gagan Cheema

What are antioxidants?

Benefits of antioxidants

The mention of ‘antioxidants’ conjures an image of tiny crusaders, waging a battle for good health and optimum wellbeing throughout our body. But what exactly are antioxidants and why are they so good for us? Antioxidants are naturally occurring molecules in certain foods that help to neutralise oxidation in the body’s cells. It’s this oxidation process that can produce undesirable ‘free radicals’ – molecules that are involved in the ageing process and can contribute to a range of serious illnesses. Our bodies are designed to neutralise free radicals naturally, but when external factors – such as smoking, alcohol or pollution – are added to the mix, our bodies sometimes need some help to combat them. And that’s when antioxidants come into play. Some of the most common antioxidants come in the form of Vitamins A, C and E, the minerals copper, zinc and selenium, and carotenoids such as betacarotene, which are all present in a number of fresh foods.

A diet high in antioxidants can help reduce the risk of degenerative conditions that have been linked to the oxidation of the body’s cells and the damaging chain-reaction effect of free radicals. These conditions include certain cancers, coronary heart disease, strokes and damage to brain nerve cells that, in turn, can contribute to illnesses like Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease. The antioxidants actually expel free radicals from the body cells, thereby preventing or reducing the damage caused by oxidation1.

Sources of antioxidants Most of the antioxidants we consume come from plants – they are abundant in many fruits and vegetables – but they can also be found in other foods, such as nuts, grains and some meats, poultry and fish. Fruit and vegetables are the principal sources of two of the major dietary antioxidants: Vitamin C and carotenoids. Although many people do not realise it,

certain fruit and vegetables also contain the third major antioxidant nutrient, Vitamin E, although its major sources are cereal oils, olive oil and nuts2,3. While it’s possible to purchase a range of antioxidant vitamin supplements, studies offer little support that taking Vitamin C, Vitamin E, betacarotene or other single antioxidants provides substantial protection against heart disease, cancer or other chronic conditions. The evidence also seems to suggest that antioxidants are more effective when consumed in a well-balanced, varied diet rather than in tablet form4,5. References: 1 Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), 2011. 2 Dragsted LO, Pedersen A, Hermetter A, et al. ‘The 6-a-day study: effects of fruit and vegetables on markers of oxidative stress and antioxidative defense in healthy nonsmokers ‘, Am J Clin Nutr, 2004; 79: 1060–1072. 3 Catherine Rice-Evans, Nicholas J. Miller ‘Antioxidants – the case for fruit and vegetables in the diet ‘, British Food Journal, 1995; 97( 9): 35 – 40. 4 Cook NR, Albert CM, Gaziano JM, et al. ‘A randomized factorial trial of vitamins C and E and beta carotene in the secondary prevention of cardiovascular events in women: results from the Women’s Antioxidant Cardiovascular Study’, Archives of Internal Medicine. 2007; 167(15):1610–1618. 5 Bjelakovic G, Nikolova D, Gluud LL, et al. ‘Antioxidant supplements for prevention of mortality in healthy participants and patients with various diseases’ Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2008; (2):CD007176.

Good sources of antioxidants Betacarotene: pumpkin, mangoes, apricots, carrots, spinach, parsley, watermelon

Capsanthin: red and yellow peppers, oranges

Flavanoids: tea, green tea, citrus fruits,

milk, nuts

onions, apples

Selenium: seafood, offal, lean meat, whole grains

Isoflavanoids: soybeans, tofu, lentils, peas, milk

Lycopene: tomatoes, watermelon Canthaxanthin: mushrooms 18 > wellplan

Manganese: seafood, lean meat,

Vitamin C: oranges, blackcurrants, kiwi fruit, mangoes, broccoli, spinach, capsicum, strawberries

Vitamin E: avocados, nuts, seeds, whole grains

Zinc: seafood, lean meat, milk, nuts Polyphenols: thyme, oregano Copper: seafood, lean meat, milk, nuts Lignans: sesame seeds, bran, whole grains, vegetables

Lutein: leafy greens, corn

eat well

Strawberry granita Serves 4 500g strawberries 1. Tip the strawberries into a blender or food processor and whiz to a smooth purÊe (or use a hand-held blender). Pour into a rectangular container and freeze. 2. Every few hours, remove from the freezer and beat lightly with a fork to mix in the frozen crystals. By the time it is frozen firm, the granita should be quite granular with small, icy crystals. 3. Remove from the freezer 10–15 minutes before serving. It looks best served in glasses or round glass bowls.

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eat well

Spicy pork loin with Thai apple salad Serves 2 Spicy pork loin ½ teaspoon ground cumin ½ teaspoon ground coriander ½ teaspoon ground ginger ¼ teaspoon dried chilli flakes ½ tablespoon light soy sauce 1 tablespoon sunflower oil 1 small bunch of coriander, roots well washed and chopped, leaves reserved 1 x 240g pork loin ¼ cup roasted peanuts

Thai apple salad 2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and cut into matchsticks 4 spring onions, finely shredded 6 snow peas, finely shredded 1 stick celery, finely shredded Dressing 1 clove garlic, finely chopped 1 small red chilli, finely chopped juice of 1 lime 1 tablespoon fish sauce 1 teaspoon caster sugar

1. Combine the cumin, coriander, ginger, chilli flakes, soy sauce, half the sunflower oil and the coriander roots in a shallow dish. Add the pork loin and turn around in the spicy mixture so it is evenly coated. Leave for 15–30 minutes for the flavours to infuse. 2. Heat the remaining half tablespoon of oil in a heavy-based frying pan over a medium heat. Add the pork and cook for 5 minutes on one side, then turn and cook for another 3 minutes. Turn again and cook for 2 more minutes then remove from the pan and leave to rest in a warm place for around 5 minutes before serving. When carved, the meat should be ever so slightly pink in the centre. 3. To make the Thai apple salad, combine the ingredients in a mixing bowl. Mix the dressing ingredients in a small bowl and pour onto the salad. Toss so evenly coated. 4. To serve, arrange a mound of salad on each plate, add slices of spicy pork and sprinkle with peanuts and coriander leaves.

Feta, watermelon, red onion and black olives Serves 1 ¼ watermelon, deseeded and cut into chunks

100g Greek feta cheese ½ red onion, finely sliced

handful small black olives drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil splash of lemon juice 1. Arrange the watermelon, feta, onion and olives on a plate. 2. Drizzle with a little olive oil and lemon juice and serve. 20 > wellplan

eat well

Chilli tuna steaks with wasabi coleslaw Serves 2

Recipes and images from Jane Kennedy Fabulous Food, Minus The Boombah cookbook, Hardie Grant Books, $39.95rrp.

Tuna steaks 2 x 140g tuna steaks 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil pinch dried chilli flakes sea salt and freshly ground pepper lime wedges coriander leaves

Wasabi coleslaw Âź red cabbage, finely sliced Âź white cabbage, finely sliced 2 spring onions, finely sliced on the diagonal handful snow peas, finely sliced on the diagonal 1 tablespoon mayonnaise 1 tablespoon Greek yoghurt wasabi paste to taste

1. To make the coleslaw, combine the cabbage, spring onions and snow peas in a mixing bowl. 2. In a smaller bowl, mix the mayonnaise and yoghurt to make a creamy dressing, then add as much or as little wasabi as you like. It is usually best to start with a small squeeze and increase to taste. Add the dressing to the coleslaw ingredients and toss to combine thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. 3. To prepare the tuna steaks, rub them all over with a little olive oil then sprinkle with a good pinch of dried chilli flakes and season generously with salt and pepper. 4. Heat a non-stick frying pan over a high heat. Place the tuna in the pan then lower the heat to medium-high. Cook for around 4 minutes then turn and cook for 2 minutes on the other side. This will cook the tuna medium-rare. Cook for 6 minutes on one side and 3 minutes on the other if you prefer it well done. 5. Serve the tuna steaks with coleslaw on top, lime wedges on the side and scattered with coriander leaves.

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best medicine

Did you hear the one about laughter and your health‌ it’s guaranteed to boost your spirits and your wellbeing!

WORDS Kayte Nunn

Live well

A big belly laugh can ease tension and generally make you feel good, but the benefits of laughter extend much further than that. From generating an increase in the supply of oxygen to our body (an aerobic activity), strengthening our immune system and helping to ease pain and the effects of stress – not to mention triggering the release of endorphins and improving heart function – laughter definitely packs a beneficial health punch. When we let out a great chuckle, or even just a quiet giggle, we use up to 50 facial muscles. And, according to studies, this triggers the release of feel-good hormones oxytocin and melatonin, as well as serotonin and dopamine, which are both used in antidepressants. “There is almost certainly a physiological benefit,” says Dr Tim Sharp, a clinical psychologist and founder of The Happiness Institute. “When we laugh, we release hormones and there are certain neurotransmitters in our brain that are mood-enhancing. This happens when you laugh naturally and even if you ‘fake it’ … you can still build up the same physiological response and therefore get the same benefits.” There are other physical benefits related to this, adds Dr Sharp, who says that some research suggests that laughing can be good from an exercise point of view. “When we laugh, we use various muscles and activate different parts of our body, so it’s a good form of physical activity.” Finding something to laugh at regularly might even help prevent a heart attack. A study conducted in 2000 by cardiologists at the University of Maryland Medical Center found that people with heart disease were 40 per cent less likely to laugh at a range of situations compared to people without heart disease. The study concluded that people with heart disease generally laugh less and display more anger and hostility in everyday life situations1.

Stress-buster When we laugh heartily, our facial muscles contract, our breathing speeds up and, in some cases, our tear ducts are activated. Blood flow increases, which combats the effects of stress, and fight or flight stress hormones such as epinephrine, cortisol and dopamine, which usually swing into action when our bodies experience stress, anger or hostility, are stemmed2.

Lighten up! Watch a funny movie with a few friends – laughing with others increases social connectivity. Join a ‘laughing club’ or take part in ‘laughter yoga’, where people meet for the specific purpose of having a good laugh together.

Laughter has also been found to be a natural painkiller. A study published in the Journal of Holistic Nursing3 looked at the pain perceptions of patients who were told jokes before pain medication was administered. Those patients perceived less pain than those who were not told jokes.

A force for good Shared laughter increases our emotional connections with others and has been shown to improve our relationships by cementing positive bonds and deepening intimacy. During times of stress and disagreement, it can act as ‘money in the bank’, or it can work as a useful stress release. In its purest form, it can simply add elements of joy and vitality to our lives. “We often laugh when we’re with other people; this enhances connectedness and interpersonal relationships,” says Dr Sharp. “We know that this sort of connectedness is very good for us – it both destresses us and boosts positive emotions.” Laughter has even been shown to improve the way our brains work. A study conducted at Stanford University in 2003 used MRI machines to map brain activity. When the participants enjoyed a joke, the nucleus accumbens – part of a pathway that runs to the brain’s reward centre in the mid-brain area – was activated, which is the same part of the brain that has been shown to be stimulated by eating chocolate or having sex. This is also where dopamine is generated,

When you hear laughter, ask what the joke is – people are generally happy to share their humour. Hang out with fun, playful people who laugh easily. It will help put you in a more positive frame of mind. Ask people what they find funny, or to relate something funny that’s happened to them recently.

a chemical that stimulates the brain’s frontal lobe, which is used in complex mental tasks4.

Laughter in practice The movie Patch Adams, starring Robin Williams, was based on the rule-breaking work of American doctor Hunter ‘Patch’ Adams, who believed that humour, joy and laughter were essential to healing. This philosophy can now be seen in practice in many of our own hospitals, particularly in children’s wards, where clowns are often an integral part of the treatment program. As Dr Sharp says, “If you think about the best humour, it looks at things from a different perspective. One of my favourites is Gary Larson, and there’s also The Simpsons, Monty Python, and so on. What they do is take a completely normal scenario and twist it in a way we haven’t seen before. If you do this the right way, it can be funny. This is also very good for our mood as it can make a distressing event less distressing.” This can have far-reaching ramifications, adds Dr Sharp. “This is at the heart of cognitive therapy, which is arguably the most effective treatment for depression, anxiety and stress, as it is based on looking at situations in a more helpful way. A lot of humour does that, so laughing is often associated with looking at things in different ways.” References: 1 2 3 Matz, A. Brown, “Humor and Pain Management.” Journal of Holistic Nursing. 16.1 (1998): 68-75. 4

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understanding your cover

Avoid the financial and physical pain of toothache by making regular visits to your dentist.

Filling the


These days, many people avoid a trip to the dentist until they’ve developed a tangible condition, such as severe toothache or a cracked tooth. At this point, the problem is often so far advanced that treatment may be more extensive and painful than if it had been treated earlier. At Australian Unity, we believe preventative care is the best way to avoid such situations and with the help of Australian Unity No Gap Dental Centres and providers, your dental health can be addressed before it becomes a sore point.

What is No Gap Dental? Because your dental health is important to us and we know that your smile is important to you, all Australian Unity members who have Extras cover can utilise No Gap Dental, which offers a selection of preventative dental services at no out-of-pocket cost (subject to yearly limits)*. Services include an initial examination, scale and clean, X-ray and topical fluoride treatment, as well as all future periodic examinations and associated X-rays. You are also entitled to custom-made mouth guards to ensure your teeth are protected – even when you’re playing sport. As we’re always looking for ways to increase the value of your health insurance, we offer this useful service to our members to encourage regular (six-monthly) visits to

the dentist, thereby maintaining oral hygiene and catching any potentially costly conditions before they get out of control.

Where do I go for these services? Australian Unity operates four Dental Centres in Victoria and all our staff are qualified professionals who offer every aspect of dental care, including general and advanced dental care, cosmetic dentistry and tooth whitening. Carefully selected for their high-quality and technologically advanced facilities, No Gap Dental providers are located in most states. Australian Unity is also planning to expand its coverage by adding more practices to the No Gap Dental network, making this service even more accessible to members. * Care ‘n Repair cover excluded.

To find out more, call us on 13 29 39. To locate an Australian Unity Dental Centre or No Gap Dentist, go to

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wellplan rewards

Wellplan Rewards


In addition to great-value Hospital and Extras cover, Australian Unity membership comes with additional benefits… subscribe to Wellplan Rewards and take advantage of the following exciting offers.

Australian Unity Home & Contents Insurance 10% off your home and contents insurance Choosing Australian Unity Home and Contents Insurance is a smart move. Our five-star rating by Canstar for outstanding value on home and contents insurance, together with a 10% discount just for being an Australian Unity member, are great reasons to call us. Even better, if you combine your home and contents policy, have a working home security alarm and purchase online, you could receive up to a further 30% off the discounted rate. We have a range of policies, so you can select one that perfectly meets your needs. To make sure you have the cover that best suits your needs, call 1800 331 418 or visit Go to: Search for: Home & Contents Insurance For more information: Calliden Insurance Ltd (ABN 47 004 125 268 AFSL 234438) is the issuer of home and contents products. A Product Disclosure Statement for these products can be obtained from or by calling 13 29 39, and should be considered when deciding whether to acquire, or to continue to hold that product.

Discounted Movie Tickets

Great prices for all your favourite cinema tickets* Most of us love going to the movies. It doesn’t matter whether you go for the epic stories, sound effects, comfortable seats – or even the choc tops and popcorn – it’s a great way to spend some time-out with family and friends. If you’re already thinking about your next movie night, why not purchase movie tickets and movie vouchers at Spendless My Rewards online store, where you’ll find great value and genuine savings. Movie vouchers are available at discount prices and can be used at a wide range of participating cinemas. Go to: Search for: Discounted Movie Tickets For more information: or phone 1800 352 600 * Members must create an account online before making a purchase. Prices are subject to change by the manufacturer and do not include display accessories or options unless otherwise stated. Delivery fees apply. Delivery times may vary and are only indicative delivery dates that can be given by our sales staff. Spendless Buying Advisory Service reserves the right to correct any errors or misprints. To view the full terms and conditions, please visit the website.

Oaks Hotels & Resorts

Eyecare Advantage

Oaks Hotels & Resorts offers a quality choice of more than 35 apartment hotels and resorts located throughout Australia, New Zealand and the Middle East. From the convenience of corporate facilities to family suites ideal for a relaxing break, Oaks Hotels & Resorts have something to suit every stay. Choose from spacious, contemporary, serviced apartment accommodation located in some of the best CBD locations or premium resort destinations, such as Port Douglas, Port Stephens, the Gold and Sunshine Coasts and Queenstown, New Zealand. Oaks Hotels & Resorts welcomes guests to experience quality accommodation, a range of corporate and leisure facilities and friendly hospitality at an affordable rate.

In addition, members with Extras cover can enjoy optical benefits of between $150 and $300 per year (depending on the level of cover). So, with this exclusive offer from Australian Unity’s preferred optical store, Eyecare Advantage, don’t put off that visit to the optometrist.

5% discount on the best available online rate*

Go to: Search for: Oaks Hotels & Resorts For more information:

A discount of 25% on a complete pair of prescription glasses, or a free pair of prescription sunglasses with every purchase of complete spectacles*. This includes a free retinal photograph (valued at $90)

Go to: Search for: Eyecare Advantage For more information: *Available to members with Extras cover only. Not to be used in conjunction with any other offer. The free pair of prescription sunglasses is from a selected range only.

* Not valid in conjunction with any other offer. Bookings must be made online through and your Australian Unity membership card must be produced at check-in.

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We know that people have busy lives and that not everyone gets the chance to sit down to read a magazine from cover to cover. That’s why we also offer our members the option of receiving wellplan magazine to view online. By registering to receive wellplan magazine online, you will have instant access to a range of interesting and relevant articles about your health and wellbeing, as well as simple and useful information about the services that we provide. You’ll also be helping the environment by cutting down on paper waste.

Simply go to and login to Online Services. In the ‘My Membership Details’ section, you can choose ‘Manage your communication preferences’, and from here simply select to receive wellplan magazine via email. When the magazine is next produced, we will send you an email with a link to access wellplan magazine.

Wellplan - Issue 20_2  

Australian Unity Wellplan Issue 20. Autumn 2012

Wellplan - Issue 20_2  

Australian Unity Wellplan Issue 20. Autumn 2012