How Do I Get Healthy? Healthier? Healthiest?

The question of the hour. And answering it is not easy – we still don’t have all the answers. Many different things impact your health and these things affect us all differently. The task itself can seem like too hard, too much work. But just think – wouldn’t you like to know how to achieve your best levels of energy, efficiency, vitality and overall satisfaction with your body?

Was that a “yes, where do we start?” Good. 

The factors that will improve your health are numerous. However, each individual on this planet has different genetics, lifestyles, attitudes and habits – this makes the ‘one size fits all’ approach inapplicable. Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses in different combinations. On the journey to health, we do need some kind of roadmap. And, of course, we need some way to know when we have reached our destination. Let’s start with the latter.

First, Know Thyself

We can gain clues of our future health from that of our parents and grandparents – their genes are our genes, and genes give us susceptibility to certain diseases e.g. high cholesterol, cancer, etc. That is not to say that we WILL suffer from the same conditions – how you look after your health and your environment have a more significant role on your overall health than (most) inherited factors.

Next, it is a good idea to gain some clue as to your current level of health – this is done best through testing certain markers of health. These markers are commonly used to assess your level of risk regarding certain conditions – they are used as risk factors. Examples include blood sugar levels, cholesterol, blood pressure, weight - get these checked at your doctor, pharmacy, or local clinic. Other important risk factors are smoking and alcohol.

Choose a Focus

A good place that we can start would be the variables that are not optimal (or at least within the ‘normal’ range). E.g. If a parent suffered from diabetes and you have raised fasting glucose levels, your focus should be on preventing diabetes. But a word of caution: fixating on one factor or one possible disease can become counterproductive. And one of the nice things about health is that changes you make to one area of your life e.g. eating more vegetables, will have beneficial effects on MANY if not ALL other factors and disease risk e.g. reduced risk of heart disease, obesity, cancer, diabetes, etc, etc.

Make A Plan
Health can be complicated, but we do have some general answers. The funny thing is that most of the best recommendations regarding the improvement of health are surprisingly well known. A recently published research review looked at all the factors that will improve health and extend life. Millions of dollars and thousands of hours spent on it. The result? The top four factors:
  1. Eat better
  2. Exercise
  3. Don’t smoke
  4. Drink alcohol minimally

That’s it. The basis of a healthy life. It’s stuff your parents taught you (I hope). Of course it becomes slightly more complicated in the details e.g. what makes eating ‘better’? What exercise for how long? What about secondhand smoke? But this study is not about giving us all the answers: this gives us a place to start – on which to build our health and our lives.

Wait… Is That It?!

People love to overcomplicate things. It is a combination of human curiosity, obsession and, unfortunately, the desire to make money that contribute to the quagmire of medical minutiae. “Only eat this fruit – the others are bad. Only do this exercise – the others will hurt you. If you don’t sleep exactly 8hrs, you will spontaneously combust.” All the teeny, tiny ‘tips’ and ‘tricks’ and even some of the ‘rules’ and ‘systems’ are based on some sort of logical reasoning process, and even some evidence (to varying degrees). But most of these are what’s known as “majoring in the minors”. So try not to worry too much about whether or not you’re eating this “superfood” (I mean, does it have a cape and tights?) or taking that “nutriceutical supplement” – just stick to the basics day in and day out and good things will happen.

Our future posts will focus on more of the specifics – the meat & potatoes (dirty words these days) of being healthier: Eating Better, Getting Active, Quitting Smoking, and Learning To Relax.

Thank you for reading.

What newlyweds need to know about buying their first home

The excitement of married life doesn’t end with your honeymoon; many newlyweds also dream of buying their first home together. This is one of the biggest purchases you will make and most likely a first experience for both of you, so it is very important to make sure it will suit both your needs as well as your budget.

And you should decide on your priorities before you begin looking at houses, as the wrong home or neighbourhood could have an impact on your lifestyle and your finances for many years to come, says Shaun Rademeyer, CEO of BetterLife Home Loans, SA’s biggest bond originator.

“The first step is to decide on what type of house you would like to buy in terms of size and design and how long you plan on living there. Those expecting to raise a large family may want to consider a family home, for example, while others may want a smaller home at first or even an apartment.

“Then the location of your home is just as vital as the type of house you buy. The distance from work or good schools should be considered, distance from friends or family as well as the presence of amenities such as shops, hospitals, parks or other recreational spots. Some may want to look at areas with lower property rates as their first priority while others might be seeking more security.

“Many newlyweds are now also on the lookout for newer, eco-friendly homes with solar panels and space for a kitchen garden and it’s important to make sure you are both on the same page before you begin searching.”

The next step is to start looking for a home which closely matches all your criteria, he says, and these days that has been made much easier via the online property portals. “These enable you to filter your results according to area, price, number of bedrooms and bathrooms and type of property, for example, and also to set up SMS alerts for new listings that match your specifications.

“However, although online searches can save you many weeks of house-hunting the traditional way, it is vital that you do actually view any home you are interested in buying before you sign an offer to purchase – and check out the neighbourhood at the same time.”

Thirdly, says Rademeyer, you need to work out how you intend to finance your purchase. “For most buyers this means getting a home loan, and that means that you will most likely require a cash deposit equivalent to 10 or 20% of the home’s purchase price.

“This can be difficult to save, but in addition to helping you qualify for a loan, it will lower your monthly loan repayments and help to protect you against future interest rate increases. A reputable bond originator will be able to explain how this works and to help you get loan pre-qualification so that you have a better idea of how much you can afford to pay for your first home as a married couple.

“Your friends may also be able to help you finance your dream home by starting a crowdfunding campaign as a wedding present, or giving you cash instead of another toaster. And speaking of weddings, even a relatively modest reception costs many thousands of rands these days, and you might want to consider skipping some of the more expensive trimmings and putting the savings towards your deposit.

“Buying a home is after all the best way for most people to build a financially secure future, and the sooner you are able to start doing that, the better it will be – for both of you.”
Contact us today and let’s get you into that dream home.

Better Life
Anne-Marie Bamber
Home Loans consultant
Tel: +27 (0)21 851 3568 | Fax: +27 (0)21 441 1494 | Cell: +27 (0)82 071 1665


Compost can be used to feed your soil and is perfect for if you are trying to grow your own food, either at home or in a community garden. You can also start composting at your small business premises if you have a suitable garden area. 

What to compost
As a rule, organic matter that will rot or decay will make good compost, but each composting system is slightly different, so some research and trial and error is needed. See the guide below for what works really well, and what you should avoid:
  •       Garden waste such as grass cuttings, leaves, soil, branches and so on
  •       Vegetable and fruit peelings
  •       Tea leaves and tea bags
  •       Coffee grounds
  •       Egg shells
  •       Paper, cardboard, sawdust and wood shavings
  •       Wood fire ash
  •       Seaweed (in moderation, as it is very salty)
  •     Torn up newspaper and kitchen towels

  •       Anything that doesn't rot, like metals, glass and plastics
  •       Meat (it attracts rodents)
  •       Garden waste sprayed with pesticides
  •       Toilet or septic tank sewage
  •       Dead animals
  •     Cooked table scraps (only if your system can accommodate these)

Getting started is easy. Make sure you have the following:
  1. Garden waste or acceptable organic kitchen waste
  2. A secured, separate section of your garden with open soil, or a container you can put outside on the soil: an old tyre with a board covering the top, or a covered box.  Any container you use should not be sealed underneath, as liquid needs to drain into the soil
  3. A garden fork or stick for turning the compost in the container or heap
  4. Gloves for handling food waste 
Full, yet simple instructions on setting up and harvesting your compost system can be found on the City of Cape Town website.

Norgarb Properties Agents Andre and Lucia (Intern Agent), who specialise in the Claremont area, will be sharing some household tips and handy home hints with you every month.

Andre Ter Moshuizen: 082 602 1367   |  |
Lucia Salters (Intern Agent): 082 806 4619  |

Learning to sew Part 1 ~ Replacing a Button

Simple Sewing Kit ~ Basic tools to do this project

·         Small packet of medium size needles.
·         Thread the required colour of your garment.
·         Small sharp embroidery scissors
·         Unpicker
·         Basic colours of reels of thread for example: white, grey, black & navy depending on your wardrobe.

I often hear as an introduction “I can’t sew on a button but….I would like to learn to sew.”
Then astoundingly I have heard at least three prospective pupils say ~ I would like to make my own Wedding Dress (one was XXX L) & alternatively make Wedding Dresses to sell!

We are going to start very simply with basic tasks that you can do relatively quickly yourself. It is normal if you find yourself feeling clumsy in your coordination, as it is fairly demanding work & it takes time & skill to develop. You will have a new respect for the skill after sewing one button on!

My career began as a small child as I was always drawing feminine figures & clothing which evolved into paper dolls. My fascination with transformation came as I played with the buttons, while watching my mother & aunt sewing as part of their regular lifestyle, but best of all making wonderful dresses for Parties. I was dazzled to see two attractive women become glamorous!

Your first task is to find the missing button or replace it with one that closely matches your garment in size & colour. The most common ones to go missing are usually on shirts & more regularly men’s shirts.
I suggest you start a button bottle as the variety in buttons is huge! Just cut off any buttons before you throw an old garment away & I need to mention here that the variety of buttons is enormous. The likelihood of finding one the same very remote & highly unlikely!

If you are lucky & mostly when the garment was a good one, there is a spare sewn on the side seam. Remove carefully with the small sharp scissors or unpicker.
If there is not a button available & you have not yet got a button bottle then visit “The Bargain Box” in Wynberg, which is an old fashioned shop & where you could buy a single similar button!

The first step is to remove a button from the lowest part of the shirt near the hem where you may be able to get away with replacing it, if it is tucked in like a man’s shirt. The one that is missing is often over the chest or the stomach where some stress often occurs depending on the figure!

The replacement is easier if the button has two holes instead of four, but if it is four holed you just examine how the original method button was sewn on & duplicate it using the formula.
All this is a good excise in logic….as well as nimble fingers. If the shirt tucks in you can replace the lowest button with something similar just to keep the bottom together when it is tucked in which makes the look tidier.

Thread up a medium sized needle with a matching thread & thread up your needle double with a knot or failing that start with 2 small back stitches for security. Lay the shirt flat on a table & do up the rest of the buttons. The exact place will be clear if you put a pencil mark through the buttonhole to mark the alignment.
You need to notice which was the direction of the holes are to be able to imitate the existing buttons.

Best Tip ~ Take a match stick & place under where the stitches will be (you seem to need 3 hands at this time) & incorporate the match stick under the button when you sew about 4 times, then bring the needle out under the button close to the sewing you have done & wind the tread about 3 times around the bottom of the button. This forms what is called a shank & this makes the method of the button sewn on not only strong but more flexible & therefore unlikely to fall off again.
Finish by taking the needle & thread to the wrong side to sew a few small stiches in the same place discretely under the button.

How I can help?
If you would like me to do an evening Workshop on this & how to put up a Hem please give me a call on 021 6711387. I will be covering “How to put up a Hem in Theory in the next Newsletter.”
Just to say it is harder to write the instructions than to actually do it!

Barter (Trade your skill for mine)
I am willing to do an exchange of services instead of money on a barter system if you have a skill I would like to learn or a service to offer in exchange.

Visit a Class - no obligations
You are welcome to visit a class by phoning me to book an appointment with no obligations.
For more details click here.

Sharon Barry-Taylor
Established 1990
Phone 021 6711387        
Cell 076 5628151
* Best times to phone are early mornings and lunch times  1pm – 2 pm



With a worldwide emphasis on obesity and diabetes,
 many of us are turning to sugar substitutes as a healthier option.
Xylitol is one of these - But beware XYLITOL is HIGHLY TOXIC FOR YOUR DOG!

Xylitol is a natural sugar alcohol that can be found in berries, corn, oats, mushrooms and other fruits and trees. It has very few calories and a low glycaemic index (GI) *
*GI - a scale that rates carbohydrate rich foods by how much they effect blood sugar levels. 

Xylitol   is manufactured commercially mainly from corn fibre and hardwood trees and usually made into a white powder or crystals which look very much like sugar. It has become increasing popular as a sugar substitute and is included in many ‘sugar free’ food stuffs. It is often used in sugar free chewing gum as it has been proven to reduce the formation of dental plaque, lessen the possibilities of dental cavities and stimulate the production of saliva in people.

Xylitol is safe for use in humans but is EXTREMELY TOXIC TO DOGS!
When ingested by humans, xylitol is absorbed slowly, it does not need insulin to enter cells and its low GI means that very little insulin is released into the blood stream.

However, its effect in the dog is a very different story. It is estimated that as little as 0.1g/kg body weight is toxic in the dog!
When a dog eats xylitol, it is absorbed quickly into the bloodstream and causes a massive release of insulin from pancreas. This can happen within 10- 30 minutes. The sudden release of such a large amount of insulin, plunges the dog’s blood/glucose levels causing - Hypoglycaemia *
Hypoglycaemia - dangerously low blood /glucose levels
The effects are similar to a diabetic overdosing with insulin causing a hypoglycaemic episode.

Symptoms can depend on how much and how long ago the xylitol was ingested.

The first symptoms of Xylitol poisoning is: Vomiting
Followed by

What should you do?
If you suspect that your dog has eaten xylitol or something containing xylitol:

Depending on when and how much your dog ate, your vet may try to induce vomiting to limit the amount of xylitol absorbed.
Blood tests will be done to monitor blood/glucose levels and determine organ involvement. Xylitol poisoning can cause life threatening liver damage.
Iv fluids and supportive treatment will be given to help correct the blood/glucose imbalance and support vital organs such as the liver.
Recent studies have shown that some dogs develop elevated liver enzyme activity which can result in acute liver failure and death. Post-mortem changes have been seen in the structure of the liver with necrosis of liver cells. At this point, it is not fully understood why xylitol has this effect. 1

Prognosis depends on quantity ingested and whether symptoms are severe, most mild cases will recover fully. However, those with chronic liver damage can result in a poor prognosis.
Cats are not as susceptible to the toxic effects of xylitol as dogs

There are many articles on the internet relating to xylitol below I have referenced some of the reliable sites that I have used in my research should you wish to read deeper into this subject.

What effects does Dagga have on the brain?

The Western Cape High Court recently ruled in favour of Dagga eventually being used legally for private use at home. But what effects does Dagga have on the brain?

By Dr Samantha J. Brooks Ph.D.

As a neuroscientist, and with the recent decision by the Western Cape High Court to consider legalising the use of Dagga for private use at home in two years’ time (using Dagga can still currently land you in jail), I advise you to carefully consider the influence it might have on the brain. Some say Dagga causes pleasure and might even be helpful for people with illness and disease.  But there is also evidence to suggest that long term use may be related to mental illness and hard-to-reverse negative effects.  Considering the effects on the brain might help us to understand whether we should support strict laws to prevent people from using Dagga, or whether we should rather be campaigning to relax those laws.  Most of us probably know someone who has tried Dagga, perhaps you have tried it in the past or even currently use it?  With all the controversy in mind, what does Dagga really do to the brain? An informed view of the effects of Dagga on the brain is good for personal benefit, as well as for the health of our community in Harfield Village, and for society as a whole.  By fully appreciating the effects that Dagga might have on our brains, we can decide for ourselves whether we should use it.

Dagga – the name for Cannabis or marijuana in South Africa - refers to the dried leaves, flowers, stems and seeds of the hemp plant Cannabis sativa.  The plant contains a mind-altering, difficult to pronounce chemical – delta-9-tetra-hydro-cannabinol, or THC for short (much easier to say!)THC is the active ingredient that is crumbled down and is popular to smoke in hand-rolled cigarettes (joints), in pipes or water pipes (bongs), emptied cigars (blunts) and vaporisersTHC is regarded as a psychedelic that acts on cannabinoid receptors and the release of dopamine in the brain, producing both short and long term effects on a person’s ability to function normally.  While it’s general use in popular culture is often regarded as negative and related to crime and anti-social behaviour, some also argue that it is pleasurable, relaxing and that cannabis-based products, such as Hemp Oil may have positive, anti-inflammatory effects on those with serious illness such as epilepsy, cancer and multiple sclerosis, although this is not yet proven.  In fact, the late South African Politician, Mario Oriani-Ambrosini, who sadly died of lung cancer in 2014, campaigned for the medical use of marijuana and suggested that it helped his long battle with terminal, inoperable disease.  

What then, are the short and long-term effects of Dagga on the brain, and are they generally positive or negative? Dagga, or cannabis, acts on receptors in the brain that release opioids and dopamine, often leading to euphoric, relaxing effects on behaviour and thought processes.  In the short-term, cannabis may slow down thought and reaction speed, alter judgement, impair memory and coordination, blurring or altering vision and bodily sensations, and so it would be dangerous to operate machinery or drive a car under the influence of cannabis. On the longer term however, cannabis may lower stress and tension, but may also lead to cognitive deficits or even more serious mental illness such as anxiety, depression and schizophrenia/psychosis. 

The mixed scientific findings regarding the effects of Dagga on the brain may well be due to genetic susceptibility.  In other words, some genes are copied differently and change over generations, a term in science known as a single nucleotide polymorphism (or SNP for short, again, much easier to pronounce!).  My colleagues at the Institute of Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience at King’s College in London have done extensive work on this, and have suggested that cognitive impairments, or even psychosis after using cannabis may occur if a person has a certain type of SNP on a gene known as COMT, which is linked to the functioning of the prefrontal cortex.  However, as we all know, it is not only genes that play a part in our behaviour, but also the environment, and my colleagues also highlight the very important role of social factors.  The bottom line is, if you have genetic susceptibility and experience negative social factors, such as unemployment, poverty and social isolation (few friends and family nearby), and you choose to smoke Dagga, it could have very damaging and long-term effects on the brain.  And so these factors together could explain why the Western Cape High Court ruled to consider, but not yet implement, the relaxation of the laws on private use of Dagga at home.

Dr Samantha Brooks is a neuroscientist at the UCT Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health, specialising in the neural correlates of impulse control from eating disorders to addiction.  For more information on neuroscience at UCT and to contact Samantha, see

Protect yourself from fraud and identity theft

I recently received an unsolicited job application from a young lady, which caused me to ponder the naivety of many when it comes to personal security.

The email, addressed to no one in particular, contained the following -
·         Scanned copy of her ID document
·         Scanned copy of her Drivers licence
·         Scanned copy of her Passport
·         Her CV, which provided me with -
o   Her cell phone number
o   Email address
o   Previous and current residential addresses
o   Previous and current employers

Now if I were a crook - this would surely be ‘manna from Heaven’.

And this was done by an educated young person, not an old fogey – so someone who should have known better.

We are living in an increasing digital age and with that comes the risk of cyber crime and identity theft.
I’m not anti-internet, nor a conspiracy alarmist, but when you share aspects of your life on social media and email (as most of us do), you need to practice some degree of caution.

So what could happen?
·         Someone could clone your identity
·         Incur significant debt in your name (purchase a car, take out a loan etc.)
·         Access and empty out your bank account
·         Clone or use your credit cards
·         Open additional credit cards and accounts in your name
·         Commit a crime in your name
·         Stalk you

Cautionary suggestions
·         Update your computer and online passwords at least once a year and keep a note of the changes in a physical book, hidden somewhere safe at home or the office. NOT on a piece of paper in your wallet or purse.
·         Don’t use the same password for all your accounts
·         Create complex passwords and email addresses which are difficult to crack. Don’t use a combination of your name and date of birth such as (hello!)
·         Create passwords with a combination of lowercase and upper case letters and one or two numbers. These are the hardest for hackers to decode
·         Don’t share your passwords with anyone
·         Don’t give out your personal information (date or birth, ID number, home address, bank account details) to strangers over the phone or via email – always verify their legitimately first
·         Shred confidential documents, receipts, statements etc. to avoid crooks retrieving information from your rubbish bin
·         Clean out your mailbox daily to avoid people stealing and opening your mail
·         Be mindful of what you share online – a photograph of your new home minus burglar bars or electric fencing could end up in the wrong hands
·         Ideally don’t put your address or phone number on Facebook – if a stranger needs to reach you ask them to inbox you so that the information isn’t visible to all on your public page
·         Be mindful of what information you have on your cell phone (photographs, passwords, emails, contact details of friends and family). Always keep your phone safe and protect it with a strong password
·         Back up your computer and phone regularly

Keep safe out there.

Article by Madge Gibson, Harfield Village Resident