About Shaun

In my 5 years of experience in the healthcare industry, I've helped countless friends, family and acquaintances find out more about their condition, their treatment options and current standards of care. I've got them to the right healthcare professionals, valuable second opinions and into the hands of comforting surgeons. I'm thankful to the friends I've made who are great medical professionals that give me timely and objective advice. Health education has since become a strong passion that I've developed and come to enjoy and now i hope to share. Only if you know how to take care of yourself can you be confident of taking care of your loved ones.

Get Rid Of Blackheads: How to prevent and remove them

blackhead compiled

What are Blackheads?

Also known medically as an open comedo, plural: comedones, it is a yellow or dark solid plug found on the face or on the back. It is made up of mostly keratin and sebum which darkens as it is oxidized. (Sebum: a sticky oily substance produced by the sebaceous glands in the skin. It is a waterproofing agent and  acts as protective barrier)

What causes Blackheads?

A common misconception is that blackheads are caused by dirt or poor personal hygiene, but the fact is that they are caused by Excess oils accumulated in the sebaceous gland ducts which are trapped or clogged.

What’s the difference between White Heads and Black Heads?

Essentially they are made of the same substances however, white heads are closed comedones and are not exposed to air and so cannot darken through oxidation.

How to prevent Blackheads?

1. Reduce your stress – Sebum production is partly controlled by testosterone which is why so many pubescent males suffer from acne problems. Men who are stress tend to have higher amounts of testosterone produce to help them cope. This in turn causes excess sebum production.

2. Get sufficient sleep – In the same way testosterone levels increase in stressed individuals, it also increases with those who do not get enough sleep.

3. Keep your face relatively oil free but not oil-less – Individuals who have oily skin/scalp are often compelled to get the strongest cleansers in the market, the ones that leave your skin feeling squeaky clean and smooth to the touch. A trip to the dermatologist last year told me otherwise. He prescribed either using Cetaphil or QV for sensitive or baby’s skin. He explained that while it is important to keep my face clean, many face cleansers strip moisture from the skin, causing the skin to react by producing more sebum which is worst for the oily skin population.

4. Gentle exfoliation – Blackheads form when pores gets clogged with dirt. Find a suitable daily exfoliant (i.e. a gentle one) and a stronger one for twice a week ritual. This is to make sure that your pores stays unclogged and clean.

5. Moisturize – This I’m still experimenting on the right products for your skin. While many products claim their suitability for different skin types, i advice taking a high degree of suspicion when deciding on what to use. Cream base moisturizers work for some, while water based lotions for others. Best to trial and error to see whats best for you or see a dermatologist on whats best. I have found at this point that the AI lotion or the QV lotion works for me. I sometimes apply them more than the usual twice a day. Making sure my face is cleanse first of course.

QV Physiogel

 

How to Remove Blackheads?

As far as possible, and I’ve learnt the hard way, leave extraction as the very last resort and only to those you can gently squeeze out if you have to.

1. Pore Strips – These are little wet stickers that attached to your skin and allowed to dry and then peeled of (my closest experience to a brazilian wax i think). On close examination, your comedones should be standing proudly at attention. Can be fun.

2. Over the counter topical products or cleansers that contain: benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, sulfur or resorcinol in their ingredients – Benzoyl peroxide dry up excess oil while the others help breakdown the blackheads. Patience… I know squeezing is a lot faster.

3. I guess prevention is better than cure. If you are interested in more home remedy treatments and prevention, I’ve come across another article which you may find quite interesting: 5 Natural Ways to Remove Blackheads

What does 2000 calories look like?

Want to know the secrets of weight loss? Here you go:

Energy in > Energy out ~ Weight gain

Energy in < Energy out ~ Weight loss

Energy in = Energy out ~ Weight Maintain

Here’s a quick snapshot of our calorie requirements:

30 year old female,
Height: 165cm
Weight: 55kg
Maintain – 1500 cal/day
Fat loss – 1200 cal/day
Intense fat loss – 950 cal/day

30 year old male,
Height: 175cm
Weight: 65kg
Maintain – 2000 cal/day
Fat loss – 1500 cal/day
Intense fat loss – 1100 cal/day

Here is a useful Calorie Calculator from http://www.freedieting.com

Power of Posture

What do the Good Guys have that the Bad Boys don’t…?Slide1

A GOOD POSTURE! If only all parents knew this little secret of turning their little ones into handsome, upright lady killers they would insist on all their children walking around with a meter rule stuck in the back of their pants.

posture-problems

Which Posture Alignment Do You Belong To?

A good posture, i believe, is a subconscious discipline that one has to instill in him. And it is also better trained from young, like eating vegetables, or sleeping by 10pm, or drinking 8 cups of water a day, and flossing… flossing is very important, but i’ll leave that fr another blog post.

The fact of the matter is, happy people with high energy levels, a high self-esteem, who are confident and are successful in life tend to have great postures. They walk tall, stand tall and almost seem like they could conquer the world! They look great, speak fluently and tend to command respect and attentiveness wherever they go and whoever they are with. But this is true vice-versa! Let me elaborate further, a person who maintains a strong posture naturally smiles more, feels more confident, commands more respect and have better interactions resulting in a much happier outcome. They look better, feel better and tend to be super heroes.

Stop for a moment and think about the current posture you are adopting. even while sitting. How do you feel? what is your head position? how does your neck feel. where are your shoulders relative to your chest? how does your upper back feel. is your lower back forming a big C, small C, flat or hunched? are your knees locked? how do you feel?

Here are some tips from Mayo Clinic to help guide our posture:

  1. Hold your chest up high, keep your shoulders back and relaxed. Your head should be level and “pulled skyward”. From the side view, your ears should be aligned with your shoulders which are aligned with your hips.
  2. Engage your core muscles by keeping your abdominal muscle activated and your butt muscles tight (you should not be poking your butt out).
  3. Keep you weight centered in the middle of your feet while your weight should be evenly distributed on both feet. your knees should not be locked.

* here’s a tip my fiance, Jamie, taught me to reset my posture: get on your toes and reach up with your hands as high as you can toward the sky, while.keeping your balance and your core activated. As you lower yourself, keep all your body reference points aligned, Head, Shoulders, Hips, Knees and Toes.. Sounds like a nice jingle!

“STAND TALL STAND PROUD!”

The Dangers of High Heels

sjp9f-2-webSarah Jessica Parker reminds all you ladies out there that every little magic comes with a price! And for the magic that transforms the average pair of legs into model like; head turning; eye-popping; girlfriend slap inducing, pair of gorgeously long legs that reach up to heaven, the price is your feet. And it comes in the form of bunions, hammer toe, a bad back and possibly a hole in your wallet. in a recent interview with NET-A-PORTER, she reveals that her doctor told her “Your foot does things it shouldn’t be able to do. That bone there … you’ve created that bone. It doesn’t belong there.”

While prevention is the best cure, telling you to avoid it would be a futile, repetitive and dull effort. It probably easier to get a 50 year smoker to quit his nasty vice than to use shock tactics to stop a girl from buying heels… True story.

Bunion

Bunion

Hammer Toe

Hammer Toe

So while I can’t tell you to stop and I won’t (you girls do look nice) , ill give you my 2 cents worth of advice on how best to protect the 10 little piggies from further torture:

1. Limit your walking, running, jumping, standing in heels – You have endured a 100 minutes on a bus-train-walk to the office. By then you would’ve flaunted off those god sent pair of legs to about 162 people.  For goodness sake change into a pair of ultra comfy Jelly flats from melissa that everyone is raving about. There’s definitely no shame in that. Plus I’m sure your colleagues couldn’t  care less. (http://www.melissa.com.sg/)

If you are heading out for a long party night, keep a pair of Rollasoles (http://www.rollasole.com/) in your bag. For just in case your feet feel like they’re swimming in hot burning coals after 3 hours of dancing to LMFAO.

2. Make them as comfortable as possible – Get insoles that help cushion and distribute the pressure on your feet. Scholls have a wide range of different insoles you can use , depending on your instrument of torture, called Party Feet. Check them out here:

3. Choose quality over price – Stay away from shoes that look awesome but are incredibly cheap. in the same way, would you pay for Makeup that cost $1? They’re bound to be dodgy…

4. Try to get heels with a more gradual slope – this puts less pressure on the ball of your foot as well as on your arch.

5. As far as possible, get shoes with a thicker heel – This may help not help with poking the eyeballs out of your attacker, but it sure is good for avoiding getting stuck in grills, falling into the MRT gaps and most importantly, it helps give you stability while you are walking and standing. Which in turns relieve pressure from the rest of your foot which normally would try compensate for the lost of balance.

Now that you have damaged your feet, hooked the guy of your dreams, but found out that he is a foot masseuse and has a MAJOR foot fetish, what can you do about your bunions and hammer feet? Well to start with, not much. The changes to your foot are permanent and anatomical. Unless they are affecting your lifestyle in a significant way or causing chronic pain, doctors would usually recommend home care to relief the symptoms:

  1. Change to roomy shoes
  2. Ice it for 10-15 mins
  3. Orthotics (custom insoles that relieve the pressure)
  4. Pain killers and anti inflammatory drugs

If you have tried everything, but are still bothered by the pain, the inconvenience, the feel and the look of your feet, you can consider surgery:

Before after pictures of bunion surgery, courtesy of www.healingfeet.com

Before after pictures of bunion surgery, courtesy of http://www.healingfeet.com

before and after hammer toe surgery, courtesy of http://www.footnewyork.com

Bunion Surgery and Hammer Toe surgery should be done by a qualified Foot and Ankle Surgeon. While Foot and Ankle Surgeons fall under the greater specialty of Orthopedic Surgeons, not all are qualified and trained to operate on your foot. Just a quick overview, they can be categorized into:

  • Musculoskeletal (they deal mostly cancer and tumors of the bone and connective tissue)
  • Adult Reconstruction (total hip, knees, shoulder replacement)
  • Spine (spine fusion, laminectomies, disc replacements)
  • Sports (mostly knee, shoulder, hip and elbows: dealing with soft tissue, like meniscus repair and arthroscopy procedures)
  • hand (trigger finger, carpal tunnel)
  • Foot and ankle (BUNIONS & HAMMER TOE Surgery!)

Make sure to discuss your expectations with your surgeon, and while the pictures above look nice and encouraging, it should never be used as solely a cosmetic procedure. While good cosmesis is one of the outcomes of the surgery, let me remind you that every magic comes with a price and the risk of surgery may outweigh all the benefits of having it.

Happy walking!!

The perfect patient

sick_girl

Going to see a doctor isn’t normally a good thing (unless your girlfriend is waiting in the car with both your passport or a pair of movie tickets) and for that matter, you should prepare to make the most out of it.

Most people go to see the doctor for various reasons:

  1. You are not feeling well
  2. You have seen the doctor, but are not getting better (perhaps deteriorating)
  3. You are seeking a second opinion
  4. You are going for a routine follow-up on your treatment

Doctors are trained to see certain patterns in your symptoms to diagnose your condition and can do a much better job if you provided them more information other than I’m having a headache. While doctors are the most highly regarded individuals in society, and for good reason: they spend a million years training, are overworked and underpaid, they save lives and bear the burden when they can’t, they may miss a diagnosis, or under-diagnose a patient or even get a diagnosis wrong. In an Australian study, up to 30% of patient harm from GP medical errors were reported (Med J Aust 2002; 177 (2): 68-72). Thus it may be worth your while to put some effort into preparing for your next appointment. Penning down everything you need to tell your doctor also makes sure you don’t forget an important piece of information.

If you are not feeling well, list down the following for your doctor:

  1. What are your symptoms?
  2. When did they start?
  3. What were you doing when it started or what triggered it?
  4. Did they get better over time? Or worsen over time?
  5. Have you experienced this before?
  6. If yes, what triggered it? And how did it go away?
  7. What makes it better or worse?
  8. Are you taking any medication at the moment?
  9. If yes, does it help?

Things you should ask your doctor:

  1. What medication will you prescribe for me?
  2. How long should i keep taking them?
  3. Are there any potential side effects I should look out for?
  4. Are there generic options for the drugs you are prescribing?
  5. When should I expect to get better?
  6. How long should I wait to see you again if I don’t get better?

If You have seen the doctor, but are not getting better (perhaps deteriorating)

  1. List your symptoms AGAIN and any new ones that you notice
  2. Score how much worse they have deteriorated (double the pain etc)
  3. Have you been taking the medication as prescribed? (Be honest)
  4. Has the treatment or medication helped in any way?
  5. What changes have you notice since the last visit?
  6. What makes your symptoms better or worse?

If you are seeking a second opinion

  1. Bring along all your previous investigations
  2. What are your symptoms?
  3. When did they start?
  4. What were you doing when it started or what triggered it?
  5. Did they get better over time? Or worsen over time?
  6. Have you experienced this before?
  7. If yes, what triggered it? And how did it go away?
  8. What makes it better or worse?
  9. What medications are you taking for your symptoms?

Refrain from telling the doctor whom you are seeking second opinion from what was your previous diagnosis and treatment plan offered. Simply because you want an independent opinion and any suggestion may sway his pattern of investigation. Only after he has fully done his assessment, findings and treatment plan should you then discuss the options you now have on your plate with him.

If you are going for a routine follow-up on your treatment:

  1. How are you feeling with regards to your symptoms?
  2. How are you feeling with regards to the treatment and medication?
  3. What are the side effects of the treatment and medication you are experiencing?
  4. Have you notice anything different since the last visit?
  5. If you have been told to refrain from any activities ask if you can now return to them.

I quote John Philpot Curran: “My dear doctor, I am surprised to hear you say that I am coughing very badly, as I have been practising all night”.

If you expect more than that, give them more than that.

You snooze you win! 10 Tips on how to get good sleep.

Wake me up and i'll kill you!

I used to suffer from insomnia which lasted for almost a year and in my quest for good sleep, I’ve read countless articles, taken a bowl full of anti-histamines (not at once), experimented on different breathing techniques, meditation, stretching, teas, supplements and I think I’ve finally found the secrets to a good night’s sleep.

But first, let me elaborate on what sparked off my desperation to get sleep… If you are experiencing any of these below, you would know exactly how I felt.

Presentation1

Before I go into how I got back my sleep, first let me say it is firstly not something that happens overnight. It takes COMMITMENT, LIFESTYLE CHANGE & BEHAVIOURAL CHANGE. Secondly, sleep it something very personal, and there are always exceptions to the rule. Take for example, the national swimmers that train till 9pm at night, yet go to bed merely just 2 hours later only to wake up at 6am to start training again. They don’t seem to have trouble sleeping or have any signs of sleep deprivation but “experts” recommend not exercising 4 hours before bedtime to have good sleep.

Back to Sleep:

1. Be Happy & Contented – Easier said than done. Ask those around you who sleeps well at night about life and they will probably tell you “it’s great” or “so far so good”, while aske those who can’t sleep and they will probably reply with “could be better” or “stress… as always” or even worst “my girlfriend left me for another guy”. The honest truth is that if you love your life and at peace with yourself, you’d be sleeping like a baby, unless you have some physiological problem, which I will elaborate further later.

2. Peace of mind – I will admit that being happy and contented was difficult for me, but while one cannot always be happy, one can have peace of mind. Easier than being happy, peace is an acceptance, not resign, but rather true acceptance of one’s current state while having the ability to rationalize and react accordingly.

3. Have your fill, but not full – This goes for food and water. A stomach full of food can make you feel uncomfortable in bed, and if you find yourself stuffed at the time of going to bed, I suggest going for a nice slow stroll with your dog, girlfriend, spouse (not in that order of priority), this may also help calm you down and relax just before hitting the sheets. On the contrary, if you are trying to fall asleep hungry, most likely your mind would be bugging you all night about your neglect (not your fault… its caused by a hormone called ghrelin). In this situation, get up and have something light. I suggest:

    1. A glass of warm low-fat milk or Milo. If you are lactose intolerant, have a warm glass of Soy milk
    2. Cooked Rolled Oats (Warm)
    3. Soft boiled eggs and a biscuit or a slice of wholemeal bread
    4. Warm cuppa soups

You should always stay away from:

    1. Cold food like cereals in cold milk – reason being you tend to eat cold food a lot faster, increasing the likelihood that you small meal would double or even triple.
    2. Snacks like chips, nuts and crackers – Firstly most are highly seasoned. The salt causes water retention and can get you dehydrated as you sleep. The small little bite sized portions are created by the devil. You never stop when you are supposed to, and somehow they never fill you.
    3. Oily food
    4. Spicy food
    5. Finishing your meal in under 2 minutes – you would probably still be starving after.

The same goes for water. I used to have the idea that people dehydrate most at night and so I would down a whole glass of water just to sustain myself in the next 8 hours. Turns out for a couple of weeks I was getting up twice a night to pee and not realising it! If you are thirsty, sip a little bit of that big glass of water and save the rest for the next morning. On waking up, down the rest of the glass! Try it and you’d be amazed how much fresher you will feel each morning… and how much faster you get out of bed.

4. Stay away from all Algarettes (alcohol+cigarettes) – If you think it helps you relax, you are deadly wrong. Drunken people get the worst sleep ever while smokers crave nicotine even while sleeping.  There is a whole science to sleep, alcohol and nicotine, and if you are interested you should Google it. Personally I used to have a nightcap or 2, sometimes 3 before I go to bed, and it did help me to sleep, however I woke up most mornings not feeling fresh, worst still there are moments I could doze off at the wheel while driving to work. After I experimented on 5 days of sobriety, it was painfully obvious how silly I was before.

5. Get Comfortable – Whatever it takes, change your pillow, fix your air conditioning, buy a new bed, ask your partner to sleep in another room, put on some scented candles… whatever it takes. For me, I bought a king sized bed so that my fiancé could go swimming in bed and I wouldn’t be affected. Aroma therapy works miracles too. I found that one of the most comfortable places in the world are spas… it always smell so good, so I took their lead and got myself a burner, dimmable lights and adjusted the temperature to 22 degrees on low fan

6. Do not watch TV – As tempting as it may be having a flat screen on your wall and a thousand cable channels, refrain from turning it on. On night as I was about to sleep, I turned on the TV and Family Guy was showing, followed by the Simpsons and on another channel was Geordie Shore. I watched them all, but worst still, I could get to sleep after all that. Turns out experts believe that TV and bright screens stimulate your mind and prevent you from falling asleep. Which brings me to my next point:

7. Have a routine of winding down – It helps to create a habit which ends with blissful sleep. Mine goes like this: I watch some TV before showering, usually waiting for the toilet to free up, never on a single channel, but whatever seems interesting at that point. At the same time I do some stretching and back strengthening exercises like the bridge, some planks etc. Once the toilet is free, I floss, followed by brushing my teeth, mouth rinse then shower. After my shower I moisturize my face and body, get to bed armed with my a daily devotion (My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald chambers). I kiss my fiancé goodnight, turn off the lights, close my eyes and say a short prayer, hopefully getting to the Amen. Works  90% of the time.

8. Keep the lights dim always – buy yourself a table lamp or some form of mood lighting. Trust me it helps.

9. Keep out the noise – Try avoid disruptive sleep. You might not remember waking up, but you actually do wake up more often than you know it. Dogs parking, cars horning, doors slamming, the male Koel bird (those who live in South Asia would know what i mean).

10. Have a productive day – Increasing your productivity in the day helps you to have comfort that you have done enough, giving you the peace of mind and contentment that you need to fall deep into blissful sleep. Don’t be too quick to just fulfil work productivity (you might find yourself working till 9 pm). Make sure you find time for yourself (exercise, shopping, chilling) and time for your loved ones. This productive balance keeps you going, not just to bed, but to work each morning as well!

Enough said! Here’s a summary:

 Presentation2