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Dealing with Diabetes During the Holidays

Preparing for the upcoming holidays can be difficult, especially if you’re trying to watch your waistline. The holiday season can also be difficult for individuals who suffer from certain health conditions – for example, diabetes. If you happen to have your diabetes under control, then indulging in some holiday food shouldn’t be a problem. However, if you do not have your diabetes well managed and your blood sugar levels tend to be all over the map with large spikes or low drops, you will want to take extra precautions.

While the holidays are usually a time for people to stay home and relax as much as possible, it’s important for individuals with diabetes to stick to a routine. Family physician from Vancouver, Dr. Ali Ghahary, recommends getting up at the same time each morning, getting regular exercise, eating three well-balanced meals per day, and taking your medications at the same time.

It’s also important to check your blood sugar frequently. Given how easy it is to indulge in sweets and other foods we shouldn’t necessarily eat over the holidays, your blood sugar may not be at levels you’re used to, and if not careful it’s easy for blood sugar levels to get dangerously high. On the contrary, blood sugar levels can also decrease. This can happen as a result of taking certain mediations, skipping meals or eating less frequently, as well as getting too much exercise/overexertion. Depending on whether you have type I or type II diabetes, you may need to check your blood sugar levels as much as four to eight times per day. While it might seem like a nuisance to have to check your blood sugar levels so often, it can be a matter of life or death.

Drinking alcohol can also have a negative impact on your blood sugar levels. For those with diabetes, it is recommended that you avoid alcohol. However, if you do happen to want to indulge in an alcoholic beverage over the holiday season, Dr. Ali Ghahary suggests having no more than 1 or 2 drinks.

If you’ll be dining out this holiday season, many restaurants offer a wide range of healthy meal options – not only for those who are allergen-sensitive or prefer gluten-free choices, but for diabetics as well. Simply ask your server. You can also substitute many food items. For example, rather than greasy French fries, you can ask for a baked potato instead; and rather than mashed potatoes, ask for steamed vegetables.

Hopefully these tips will help you have a healthy holiday season. For more info on healthy eating, including a list of resources available in your community, click here.

Living With Complex & Multifactorial Health Conditions

While most individuals see their family physician once a year for their annual check-up, there are also a large number of Canadians that will make recurring visits to their doctor’s office as a result of complex and multifactorial health conditions. While many health conditions such as the common cold or flu are easily curable, complex or multifactorial disorders don’t have a single genetic cause, therefore oftentimes making them difficult to identify and treat, leaving the patient feeling vulnerable and frustrated – and, as a result, the patient can sometimes develop mood and mental health related changes, as well as social isolation.

Along with treating patients on a walk-in basis, Canadian physicians like Dr. Ali Ghahary, a general practitioner at Brentwood Medical Clinic in Burnaby, BC, which is located just a few minutes outside of the city of Vancouver, spend a significant amount of time caring for patients who are living with chronic health problems – including but not limited to heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and chronic pain disorders such as fibromyalgia. These complex and multifactorial health conditions can affect individuals of all ages, with more than half of Canadian adults aged 65 and older being diagnosed with at least three or more chronic/ongoing medical problems.

When caring for patients, Dr. Ali Ghahary pays particular attention to a number of factors including socioeconomic elements as well as the medical complexity – i.e. past medical history, the current level of pain that the patient may be experiencing, and the symptoms involved. Prescribing medications to patients living with numerous health problems is much more difficult and intricate than in patients who require simple treatment for something like influenza or skin lacerations. For example, a medication that may be beneficial in treating one ailment may in fact wind up making other ailments worse. If you are a patient living with a complex and multifactorial health condition, it is always important to have a sit-down discussion with your physician to talk about your treatment plan as it is a decision-making process that requires a trusting relationship between the doctor and patient. Your physician is able to answer any questions that you may have about your diagnosis and treatment plan, and remember, no question is ever considered to be a bad question. When dealing with chronic illness it is important to stay informed, and especially important to your physician that they address any concerns and inquisitions you may have. If you are concerned about a medication that you have been prescribed, this is something you are also urged to talk about with your physician or pharmacist, but know that the benefits usually often outweigh any risks involved. You should also let your doctor or pharmacist know of any side effects you may be experiencing as a result of a prescribed medication and whether or not the prescribed treatment is or is not working.

The What, Why and How of Obesity

With an increasingly steady percentage of Canadians struggling with obesity, it is important to raise awareness and learn about all of the positive ways to ensure you are leading a healthy lifestyle. Obesity, a result of excess body fat being accumulated, can have a severe and sometimes life-threatening impact on one’s health. In this article we will look at what obesity means, why people become obese, the health risks associated with obesity, and obesity treatment options.

As of today there are at least 6 million Canadians struggling with their weight, with 1 in 4 adults and 1 in 10 children diagnosed as being chronically obese. One of the top reasons why we are seeing more and more individuals’ becoming obese is due in part to increased food consumption and overly processed foods. The expenditure of fast food has also tripled over the years. In addition to dietary causes, sedentary lifestyles also lead to obesity. This can include watching too much television, spending too much time in front of a computer, or playing video games. By burning less calories and avoiding physical activity, your obesity risk increases significantly. By staying fit you will not only lose weight, but physical activity also helps to decrease other health risks such as high blood pressure, osteoarthritis, and even helps to stabilize insulin levels.

In addition to lack of physical activity, research has also shown that insomnia plays a factor in weight problems with increased appetite being a direct result of sleep deprivation, which then doubles your risk of becoming obese. If you are not getting enough sleep, your body produces something called Ghrelin, a hormone that works as an appetite stimulant, and less Leptin, a hormone that works as an appetite suppressant. If you do suffer from insomnia, there are several natural remedies that can help such as acupuncture, taking more vitamins and minerals, and making modifications to your diet by avoiding stimulating foods such as caffeine, sugars, and carbohydrates. In fact, Dr. Ali Ghahary is a strong advocate of low-carb diets, which are safe and easy to follow for all individuals. A faulty obesity gene called FTO, albeit rare, is found in 1 in every 6 people, which causes overeating. Individuals who carry this particular gene tend to gravitate towards fatty foods and take longer to feel full. If you experience significant weight gain in a short amount of time, this may be indicative of other health problems, and should be checked out by your physician. Certain medications may also cause rapid weight gain, and alternative treatment methods should be considered whenever possible.

People who struggle with obesity often find themselves feeling discouraged if they do not lose weight immediately or don’t notice any immediate benefits. However while the benefits may not always be noticeable to the naked eye, losing just 5 to 10 percent of your body weight (12 to 25 lbs. in an individual weighing approximately 250 lbs.) can have a significant improvement on your health. With reduced calorie intake and increased physical activity, it will be easy to achieve a healthy weight and maintain it in the long run.

The Role of a Family Physician

Family physicians are essential to the health of the general public, providing comprehensive care to individuals within their communities and building positive relationships with those they treat. The role of a family physician is to be an advocate for public health and provide quality, integrated care to individuals and their families; specializing in everything from general health care/routine check-ups, immunizations, ophthalmology, obstetrics, family planning, mental/behavioural health, and even minor surgical procedures. Physicians like Dr. Ali Ghahary make a commitment to their patients’ well-being by providing continuing care and establishing an exemplary rapport with individuals under their care, as well as with fellow health care providers.

As of January 2016, the number of active physicians in Canada was an estimated 80,544, with 52% being family physicians and 40% being specialists.

When dealing with illness, it is important for a family physician to exhibit a compassionate, sensitive and empathetic attitude towards the patients’ feelings and the impact that feeling or being ill may have on their everyday lives. A family physician will work with a patient to reach common ground in finding an appropriate treatment plan by using their own knowledge of family medicine in addition to utilizing the best scientific evidence available, as well as providing patients with continued health care management moving forward.

The main objective of a family physician is to help individuals remain healthy by providing patients with health care and treatment plans that are individualized to each unique person. This is done, in part, by asking a patient questions about their current lifestyle (including any drug use, alcohol use, and physical activity), questions about their previous health history, as well as finding out about any history of family illness such as certain diseases or cancer. By physicians finding out this extensive but relevant information, they are able to provide the general public with better overall outcomes of their health as well as significantly reduce disease and death rates. A family physician will always respect the privacy of their patient, utilizing the promise of doctor-patient confidentiality.

To stay up-to-date on current health care and medicine, family physicians will partake in continuing medical education by attending conferences and seminars regularly.

Flu Season

As flu season is now in full swing, Dr. Ali Ghahary, a family physician at Brentwood Medical Clinic in Burnaby, British Columbia, will see an increased number of patients wanting to receive a flu vaccination.

Flu season typically runs from November through April (however, outbreaks can happen as early as October and last as late as May) and results in the hospitalization of as many as 12,000 Canadians every year. While most individuals will recover from the flu without needing to seek any kind of urgent medical attention, there are certain individuals who are at risk of developing serious flu-related complications such as pneumonia, bronchitis, or sinus and ear infections. High-risk individuals include seniors over the age of 65, those under the age of 65 with a previously diagnosed chronic condition, those with weakened immune systems, children under the age of 5, pregnant women, and healthcare providers such as nurses and doctors.

Influenza is a highly contagious respiratory illness that affects the lungs, throat and nose, and can easily be passed from person to person. Those suffering from the flu can experience a wide range of symptoms including a sudden onset of cough or fever, fatigue, sore throat, runny nose, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, a decreased appetite, and overall body aches. All of these symptoms can be severe, whereas symptoms of the common cold are usually mild in comparison.

Flu strains also change from year to year; thus, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommends anyone over the age of 6 months be vaccinated against the flu each year. The flu vaccine works by creating antibodies that provide protection against and subdue strains of influenza. It is important to note that it typically takes up to 2 weeks for the antibodies to form and the flu shot to take full effect, therefore if you are exposed to the flu within that time frame you may still be at risk of developing the flu. If you have an egg allergy or are allergic to any of the ingredients found in the flu vaccination such as gelatin, you should avoid getting a flu vaccine and take alternative preventative measures against the flu. Garlic works well to boost the immune system and is known for its antibacterial properties, in addition to other nutrient-dense foods such as carrots, squash, broccoli, and kale, and proteins such as skinless chicken, turkey and beef. Regular exercise (2.5 hours each week) is also beneficial in playing a key role against developing illness.

Antibiotic Resistance

Most of the time when you come down with a common cold, it is the result of a virus. Symptoms such as sneezing, sore throat, coughing, runny nose, nasal congestion and sinus pressure can be treated with over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen and pseudoephedrine, and will usually go away after one or two weeks. However, complications such as pneumonia, ear and sinus infections can also occur with a cold, which would then require the patient to be prescribed a course of antibiotics.

Antibiotics are prescribed for various types of infections. Pneumonia, ear and sinus infections as mentioned above, in addition to skin infections, meningitis, and urinary tract infections. The type of antibiotic that is prescribed depends on the kind of infection that the patient has, and there are hundreds of different types of antibiotics that are available, though the main classes that are prescribed by physicians like Dr. Ali Ghahary include: Penicillins, Cephalosporins, Macrolides, Fluoroquinolones, Sulfonamides, and Tetracyclines.

Antibiotics work by killing the bacteria caused by the infection and prevent it from multiplying. However, antibiotics can also wreck major havoc on our guts and can kill the good bacteria and protective organisms. They also come with a wide range of side effects with the most common ones being nausea, stomach upset and diarrhea. This is why doctors and pharmacists will often recommend that antibiotics be taken with food and that you also include probiotics in your diet while on medication in order to help restore the good bacteria that was lost.

When prescribed antibiotics it is important that you take them exactly as directed by your physician. Not following directions, either by taking a higher or lesser dose, or by not finishing the entire course of medication, can result in antibiotic resistance. Antibiotic resistance means that the medication loses its ability to fight bacteria, allowing the bacteria to continue to grow and become more difficult to treat.

More information on antibiotics and antibiotic resistance can be found by clicking here.

Why Healthy Eating Matters

Regardless of your health goals, what you eat ALWAYS matters. While going to that fast food drive-thru after a long day at work might seem like a good idea at the time, you’re actually doing your body more harm than good – and you can throw your entire system out of whack by eating just one unhealthy meal. By maintaining a healthy diet you can stop yourself from running into a multitude of health problems later in life such as diabetes, obesity and heart disease – the leading cause of death amongst Canadians aside from cancer and respiratory diseases.

Sure, it can be difficult to break those bad eating habits – especially when we live in a world that has food so readily available to us. Of course a juicy burger and greasy French fries are going to seem more appealing than a bowl of salad. The more processed, high-in-carbohydrates and high-in-fat foods that we consume, the more our bodies start to crave and become addicted to them. That being said, the good news is that no one is ever too far-gone to the point where they cannot make changes to what they eat! All you have to do is begin to implement new eating habits to replace the old ones, and all of those cravings that you were having for those juicy burgers and fries will eventually be replaced with cravings for much healthier alternatives.

Now you’re probably wondering how to do that, right? The first course of action in changing your eating habits is to take baby steps. By rushing into it, you are more likely to fail and revert back to those bad habits we were talking about. For example, if you’re craving sweets and are used to eating a chocolate bar or cake for dessert, try swapping them for fruits like strawberries, apples, or blueberries. Fruits contain nutrients that are vital for your overall well-being, and you’ll still be getting that sweetness but from a much healthier source. The same rule applies for those late-night snacks. If you’re used to eating a bag of potato chips, try baking your own, instead! Thanks to social media sites like Pinterest, it’s simple to do, and you’ll avoid all of that trans-fat (which can clog the arteries and lead to heart disease.)

When it comes to making changes to your diet, Dr. Ali Ghahary wants you to remember that the effects won’t happen overnight. If you eat nothing but spinach and kale salads for a week straight, you’re not going to immediately drop 50 lbs. Just like building a house, it’s a process. The results of healthy eating take some time to show, but will ultimately be worth it in the end.

Osteoporosis Awareness Month

Affecting as many as 2 million Canadians and 44 million Americans, osteoporosis is a condition that causes the quality and the density of your bones and bone tissue to deteriorate over time, leading to an increased risk of bone fractures and breaks. The most common injuries that are related to osteoporosis include the shoulders, spine, hips, and wrists.

While there is no known cause of osteoporosis, there are certain factors that put you at risk of developing osteoporosis. Those who are over the age of 50 are at a much higher risk of developing osteoporosis than those under the age of 50. It is also more likely to affect females than it is males, though it certainly affects both genders. Having a low body weight as well as a past history of fractures can also put you at risk.

Aside from osteoporosis, certain medical conditions can also put you at risk of falls and/or fractures. For example, rheumatological conditions – such as rheumatoid arthritis – a disease that causes the joints to become inflamed and painful, as well as diseases that are associated with Vitamin D deficiency, including chronic kidney disease, chronic liver disease, malabsorption syndrome, as well as certain neurological conditions due to the increased risk of falls.

Whenever Dr. Ali Ghahary, a family physician in Vancouver, BC, suspects that a patient might have osteoporosis, he will send them for a scan that is able to measure their bone mineral density. The bones that are most commonly looked at during this scan are the bones in the lower spine, thighbone, and forearm, as well as the bones in your heels, wrists and fingers. During a bone density scan you are exposed to very little radiation, and the test itself can last as little as 10 minutes or up to 30 minutes.

To reduce the risk of osteoporosis or to minimize its effects, Dr. Ali Ghahary recommends that patients make sure they’re getting enough Vitamin D, calcium and protein. It’s important to try and get these from food sources. However, if you are unable to do so, Vitamin D and calcium come in supplements that are readily available at any pharmacy or drug store. Dr. Ali Ghahary also recommends that patients get regular exercise, as physical activity can help strengthen the bones and muscles. You should also avoid smoking and alcohol, as these habits can not only increase your risk of osteoporosis, but also increase the risk of falls.

You can find much more information on Osteoporosis can be found by visiting the Osteoporosis Canada website at osteoporosis.ca. Additional information can also be found by following Dr. Ali Ghahary on Twitter as well as by using the hashtag #OsteoporosisMonth.

Dr. Ali Ghahary Meets World-Renowned Cardiothoracic Surgeon and TV Host Dr. Mehmet Oz

Dr. Ali Ghahary and Dr. Oz

Vancouver physician, Dr. Ali Ghahary, recently had the opportunity to meet with Dr. Mehmet Oz. Dr. Oz, a cardiothoracic surgeon, first came to prominence after his appearances on ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show’, which spanned over 5 seasons and 55 episodes from 2004 to 2009.

Born in Cleveland, Ohio on June 11th, 1960 to parents who had immigrated from Turkey, Dr. Oz says his interest in medicine began at the early age of 7 after having witnessed first-hand the hope that his father, Mustafa Oz, a surgeon at Wilmington Medical Centre, brought to his own patients, saying, “I thought…it would feel so good if I could do that too.” His father’s work as a surgeon influenced Dr. Oz greatly, which would eventually lead the path to his own career in the medical industry, and he would later earn an MBA from the Wharton School as well as an MD from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.

Dr. Oz’s research includes heart replacement surgery, cardiac surgery, as well as heath care policies. He has been a professor in the Department of Surgery at Upper Manhattan’s Columbia University since 2001. He also directs the Cardiovascular Institute and Complimentary Medicine Program at New York’s Presbyterian Hospital. He has also co-authored 6 books which have all appeared on the New York Time’s Best Seller’s List, and won 5 Emmy Awards between 2011 and 2016 for ‘The Doctor Oz Show’ including Outstanding Talk Show Host.

Dr. Oz’s specialty of cardiothoracic surgery is the field of medicine that involves the surgical treatment of different organs inside the chest, otherwise known as the thorax. This includes general treatment of the heart and lungs. In most countries, cardiac surgery and thoracic surgery are studied separately. In Canada, thoracic surgery is studied as its own 3-year fellowship. A residency combined with cardiac surgery can take anywhere from 5 to 15 years before one can become a fully qualified surgeon.

Diseases that cardiothoracic surgeons treat include coronary artery disease, aortic valve disease, mitral valve disease, lung cancer, esophageal cancer, atrial and ventricular septal defects, as well as tetralogy of fallot. Other conditions cardiothoracic surgeons are also adept in include chest gastrointestinal disease, mesothelioma, chest reconstruction, and more.

Understanding Inflammation

When Canadians think of inflammation, we often think of it as damage to the body that causes pain and swelling, and even infection. While this is true to a certain extent, inflammation is actually the body’s natural response to something it perceives to be harmful. So while infection is oftentimes easily associated with inflammation, inflammation does not necessarily mean an infection is present. Inflammation occurs by releasing chemicals from the white blood cells, which assists in protecting the body from and removing any damaged pathogens, cells or other irritants. A bacterium, fungus or virus causes infection, and inflammation is simply the body’s response to it. When inflammation is present, this means that the body is trying to heal itself. If inflammation did not occur, our bodies would never properly heal.

There are two types of inflammation that can occur. Acute and Chronic. Acute means the rapid onset of inflammation, which can become severe but has a short healing period. Acute inflammation can be the result of having a sore or scratch throat caused by the common cold or flu, bronchitis, skin wounds, dermatitis, appendicitis or sinusitis. Unlike acute inflammation, chronic inflammation is long-term and can last from months to years. Chronic inflammation can be caused by the failure to eliminate acute inflammation as well as other persisting irritants. It can result in several diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, hay fever, and even certain cancers. Chronic sinusitis, asthma, and digestive orders such as Crohn’s disease are also linked to chronic inflammation. Signs and symptoms of inflammation can include pain to the affected areas (especially upon touch), redness, swelling, and the feeling of warmth.

Autoimmune diseases can also result in inflammation. An autoimmune disease is when the body’s immune system issues a response to otherwise healthy tissues and mistakes them for pathogens or irritants that are harmful. Examples of autoimmune diseases include rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, lupus, psoriasis, and fibromyalgia.

In certain cases, Dr. Ali Ghahary, a family physician in Vancouver, Canada, will prescribe medication to alleviate the symptoms associated with inflammation. These medications include anti-inflammatories known as NSAIDs – such as Aspirin or Ibuprofen, and are used to treat inflammation and pain. Corticosteroids such as Prednisone are also commonly usedn. As these drugs can result in serious side effects and other health conditions, it is not recommended that they are taken long-term unless otherwise noted by your physician.