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New Year’s Resolutions: Weight Loss

New Year's Resolutions | Dr. Ali Ghahary

Making New Year’s resolutions is generally quite easy, but actually starting and sticking to them is even harder.

With 2017 coming to a close, many Canadians will use that time as an opportunity to reminisce and reflect on the year that was as well as the achievements they’ve made and the ones that might not have come into fruition.

Dr. Ali Ghahary, a family physician in Vancouver, says that the most common resolutions patients make almost always have to do with their health. Weight loss, in particular.

As getting and staying motivated can oftentimes be difficult, it can sometimes be hard to achieve your weight loss goals. In fact, it’s not at all uncommon for individuals to be unsuccessful upon their first and even second tries, as in order to have motivation you also need determination. Without it, you’re less likely to succeed. However, not all hope is lost, and there are a few suggestions Dr. Ali Ghahary has for individuals wanting to lose weight in the new year.

The first recommendation Dr. Ali Ghahary makes is to keep a food diary. Writing it down on paper and having that as a reminder of the foods you’re eating is a great way to keep track of the healthy and unhealthy foods you’re putting into your system. If you notice you’re eating a lot of carbohydrates (i.e. white bread and pasta), ask yourself what you can replace those carbohydrates with. Similarly, if you write down foods that contain lots of sugar (i.e. chocolate, sweetened fruit juice, etc.), try to find healthy alternatives. Making a few simple changes to your diet and choosing the right foods can have major benefits for your health in the long run. Dr. Ali Ghahary’s second recommendation when it comes to weight loss would be to get regular exercise. Along with healthy eating, physical activity is also a very important factor for your overall health and can reduce things like diabetes, lower high cholesterol, and decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease.

One of the biggest reasons why we often fail at keeping our new year’s resolutions is because we have impractical goals. Realistically speaking, you’re not going to lose 80 pounds in a month. A more pragmatic expectation for weight loss, says Dr. Ali Ghahary, would be anywhere from 8 to 10 pounds. Once you find a good exercise routine that you can stick to along with the right healthy foods, then you can work your way up and focus on losing more weight.

Click here for more tips on how to have a happy, healthy new year.

Dr. Ali Ghahary’s Simple Steps to Help You Achieve Optimal Health

Dr. Ali Ghahary's Simple Steps to Help You Achieve Optimal Health

Family physicians like Dr. Ali Ghahary play an integral role in a patients’ overall health and are responsible for providing them with the best medical care possible.

When it comes to the patient, there are many things that they, themselves, can do in order to help put themselves on a path towards achieving optimal health.

First and foremost, Dr. Ali Ghahary recommends having annual check-ups with your physician. By having regular examinations, you can oftentimes help stop any major health problems before they start – such as cardiovascular disease. Regular check-ups are also a great way for your physician to monitor any pre-existing health conditions and keep track of treatments, as well as send you for any necessary screening.

The type of screening you need often depends on your age. Certain tests that Dr. Ali Ghahary will consider for patients includes screening for high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease, as well as skin cancer, breast cancer, cervical cancer, colorectal cancer, and prostate cancer. According to the Canadian Cancer Society, it is recommended that women between the ages of 50 and 69 go for a mammogram ever 2 years, while it’s recommended that men start having prostate exams between the ages of 40 and 50 depending on whether or not they’re considered high risk. When it comes to prostate cancer, there are several risk factors that are taken into consideration, including ethnicity, family history, and genes.

Common colds and influenza are also two health problems that Dr. Ali Ghahary sees a lot of, especially during back-to-school and winter seasons (i.e. September through November.) The best way to prevent yourself from catching a cold or the flu is to make sure you’re practicing good hygiene habits. This means washing your hands regularly, covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze, and avoiding contact with others who may be sick. Many complications can arise as a result of the common cold or flu, including sinus infections and pneumonia. If you are experiencing facial pain, notice any green/discoloured discharge when you blow your nose, as well as if you have a persistent cough (sometimes with discoloured mucus or blood), these may be indicative of a bacterial infection which will require antibiotics. It is important to treat the infection as soon as possible to prevent it from worsening. However, it’s also important to remember that infections can be viral and will simply have to take their course. Taking antibiotics when they aren’t necessary can result in antibiotic resistance. To avoid getting sick, try boosting your immune system by adding more Vitamin C to your diet.

Sleep is another necessary factor when it comes to achieving optimal health. Without a good night’s rest, our entire system can be thrown out of balance. Dr. Ali Ghahary recommends patients get at least 8 hours of sleep each night. If you suffer from chronic insomnia, you may need to be prescribed medications to help you sleep.

Diet and exercise are also essential parts of your health. You can find plenty of diet and fitness tips from Dr. Ali Ghahary by clicking here.

For more information on how to achieve optimal health and wellness, follow Dr. Ali Ghahary on Twitter at @DrAliGhahary

Medication Safety

Medication Safety | Dr. Ali Ghahary

Whether you take regular medications or are only in need of an over-the-counter drug (such as Advil or Tylenol) from time to time, Dr. Ali Ghahary, a family physician practicing in Vancouver, British Columbia, wants patients to know these basic but crucial medication safety tips.

For each medication you take, the more you know the better. While most prescribed medications come with a patient information sheet, you still might be left with some questions. For example, questions on how to properly take the drug, how often it should be taken, and if there are any abnormal side effects that you should watch out for. While you can certainly find the answers to many of those questions by doing a simple Google search, Dr. Ali Ghahary says it is best for patients to go to their prescribing physician or pharmacy with any questions they may have.

When taking medications, it is important for patients to take them exactly as prescribed unless otherwise specified by their physician. For example, if you have been prescribed a course of antibiotics for 7 days, you should finish the entire course – even if you’re feeling better. By not finishing the full course of antibiotics or by not taking the correct dose, you put yourself at risk of recurring infections as well as a whole other gamut of problems, including antibiotic resistance.

Prior to taking any medication you’ve been prescribed, it’s also important to let your pharmacy know about any other medications you’re on. Certain prescription drugs can interact with each other, and in some cases those interactions can be deadly. Your pharmacy will be able to advise you of any potential drug interactions. If there are any interactions between medications you have been prescribed or ones you are already taking, a pharmacist will be able to suggest a safe, alternative medication for your doctor to prescribe.

While it should go without saying, you should never take a medication that has been prescribed or given to you by someone other than your physician. As we so often see, you may wind up being given a medication that is entirely different from what you expect it to be. For example, it could be laced with Fentanyl – an ingredient that, even if a tiny amount is ingested, can be deadly. You could also a medication that is expired, or one you’re severely allergic to..

It’s also important to keep medications out of reach of children and pets. As infants and animals can crawl around and climb things fairly easily, you’ll want to store your medications in a hard-to-reach spot or a locked cabinet. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), over 60,000 children are hospitalized as a result of getting into medications that were not properly stored or hidden from their reach. If you suspect your child has gotten into a medication, Dr. Ali Ghahary urges patients to go to the nearest emergency room. If you have any questions, you can also contact the British Columbia Drug and Poison Information Centre (BC DPIC) at 604-682-5050 or toll-free at 1-800-567-8911. They also have an informative list of prevention tips available on their website which can be found by clicking here – including how to properly store medications as well as what to do in the event of a medication overdose or poisoning.

Many pharmacies also allow patients to return any unused or leftover medications to them through the BC Medications Return Program, which has been in place since 1996. This program allows for the safe disposal of medications and sharps (i.e. needles/syringes).

The Benefits of Eating Meat and Poultry

Meat and Poultry

Eating a well-balanced diet is essential for your overall health. Your diet should not only include fruits, vegetables and whole grains, but Dr. Ali Ghahary also recommends making sure you’re eating enough meat and poultry.

Along with fruits, vegetables and grains, meat and poultry are great for the diet because they contain protein and amino acids that are crucial for good health. Red meats, pork and poultry are also rich in iron, and are three essential food items you’ll want to include in your diet, especially if you’re low on iron. Signs that you might be iron deficient include fatigue, weakness, pale skin and headache. For some individuals, just these foods alone aren’t a strong enough source of iron, so you may need to turn to iron supplements. However, bear in mind that iron supplements can sometimes be hard on the stomach.

Compared to other proteins, high-quality meats have also been shown to prevent muscle loss. As we age our bones and muscles begin to decrease in strength, putting you at risk of developing sprains, strains, fractures, or even breaks. Eating meat along with consuming enough calcium will help strengthen your bones and muscles, therefore decreasing your risk of suffering any serious injuries. To help with bone strength, you should also make sure you’re getting enough vitamin D, B12, and omega-3 fatty acids.

If you suffer from diabetes, having a diet that is low in carbohydrates and high in protein can also help control blood glucose levels – for example, beef, pork and lamb. Being diabetic, it’s always important to pay attention to what you’re eating and check your blood sugar regularly. You should try not to consume any more than 3 ounces of protein per meal. Click here for more tips from Dr. Ali Ghahary on diabetes and healthy eating, include tips on how to eat healthy this holiday season.

Lastly, if you’re looking to lose weight, low-carb and high protein diets that include poultry and lean meats have also been shown to help promote weight loss and help with weight management.

For vegetarian alternatives, follow Dr. Ali Ghahary on Twitter and Instagram!

Ear Problems

Ear Problems | Dr. Ali Ghahary

Our ears are some of the most sensitive parts of or body – they are responsible for controlling our balance and allowing us to hear sound.

There are many different ear problems that can be diagnosed in both infants and adults.

Middle ear infections – also known as otitis media – are especially common in babies and young children, and they commonly occur after a cold. With a middle ear infection, the ear canal, which is located just behind the eardrum, develops a build-up of pus and/or fluid. Some of the most predominant symptoms of a middle ear infection include earache, discharge coming from the ear, and loss of hearing. A child with an ear infection may also develop a headache, fever, and have trouble sleeping in addition to a loss of appetite. To reduce the pain that is associated with ear infections, Dr. Ali Ghahary recommends giving your child Advil or Tylenol – which is available in chewable tablets or liquid suspension formula. Dr. Ali Ghahary will also prescribe young patients with a course of antibiotics to help rid the infection, and in some cases may also prescribe eardrops.

Earwax blockage is also another common problem that Dr. Ali Ghahary sees in patients. While some individuals are simply prone to earwax blockage, it can also be caused by the use of cotton swabs/q-tips, as this can actually push wax further into your ears and cause injury to the eardrum. For those with recurring earwax buildup, Dr. Ali Ghahary will flush the wax out using a syringe filled with lukewarm water. You can also try some at-home remedies to help soften earwax, such as dropping a few drops of baby or mineral oil into the ear.

Inner ear function can also become a problem for older adults, especially those who are elderly. Approximately 50% of individuals between the ages of 60 and 69 will have some type of vestibular dysfunction, 70% for those between the ages of 70 and 79, and 80% for those 80 and above. Hearing loss, for example, can come along with aging, and it can affect one’s life in many different ways, such as talking on the phone or being able to hear your name when it’s called while at the doctor’s office or hospital. Individuals with hearing loss will also usually have to increase the volume on their televisions or radios.

If you suffer from hearing loss, the first thing you should do is see your family doctor. If you do not have a family doctor, there are many physicians at various clinics throughout Vancouver and the Lower Mainland that allow patients to be seen on a walk-in basis, including Dr. Ali Ghahary at Brentwood Medical Clinic in Burnaby.

In order to determine whether your hearing loss is temporary or permanent, Dr. Ali Ghahary will refer patients to an otolaryngologist; a kind of doctor who specializes in problems with the ears, nose and throat.

Tips on How to Stay Active During the Winter

Stay Active During the Winter

When it comes to cooler weather, it can sometimes be difficult to stay physically active – especially if you’re used to exercising outdoors. Despite the shorter days and drops in temperature, Dr. Ali Ghahary still suggests patients try to remain as physically fit as possible during the winter.

If you want to avoid the cold but still want to keep fitness as a part of your daily routine, Dr. Ali Ghahary recommends exploring different methods of exercise. You can find some of his suggestions below.

One easy way to ensure you’re keeping fit is to join a gym. Gyms offer a wide range of exercise equipment such as treadmills, bicycles, stair climbers, and weights. Most gyms also offer fitness classes – which are usually available at no extra cost as part of your membership package or at a reduced cost. Similarly, many community centres also have gyms and they, too, offer exercise classes, which anyone can attend by paying a small drop-in fee. Indoor swimming is another great way to keep fit and there are many year-round pools open in and around Vancouver and Burnaby. Swimming is a great way to give your muscles a workout, and you can burn up to almost 300 calories.

For those who are more shy about working out in front of others or in groups, it’s also just as easy to exercise from the comfort of your own home. If you’re able to afford it and have extra room in your house, purchase an exercise bike or treadmill. You can also buy sets of weights and include those in your at-home gym, too. If affordability is an issue or you simply don’t have the space, Dr. Ali Ghahary recommends trying yoga or using your phone to find easy-to-follow at-home exercise routines. Working out at home can be just as good as going to a gym or an indoor pool, and you can reap many of the same benefits.

Even if you don’t have a workout planned, remember that many household activities also count as exercise. For example, vacuuming and shovelling snow.

Click here for even more fitness tips from Vancouver physician Dr. Ali Ghahary.

Allergies

Allergies

Allergies are common, especially during the springtime. Spring allergies (commonly referred to as hay fever) are usually caused by sensitivity to pollens from flowers, trees and grass – but allergies can also occur year round and have many different causes.

For children, allergies are particularly common during their first 3 years of life. The most common foods that a child can be allergic to include dairy, eggs, soy, wheat/gluten, fish and peanuts – even trace amounts of these common allergens can be enough to cause a severe and sometimes deadly reaction. An allergic reaction in a child can include everything from a rash, hives/itchy skin, itchy eyes, sneezing, coughing, runny nose, or anaphylactic shock. Children with allergies can also develop recurrent ear infections. As a family physician, Dr. Ali Ghahary will refer children to see an allergist if it is suspected they have allergies. Prior to seeing an allergist, it is important to keep a diary of any known allergies and the types of reaction your child has. To determine which allergies your child has, an allergies will perform what is known as a skin prick test.

It is also important to note that it’s not just food and pollens that can cause allergies. Things such as dust, mold, chemicals, perfumes and other airborne irritants (and even tattoo ink!) can all cause allergic reactions and be just as severe. Allergies can also worsen over time.

While allergic reactions can’t always be prevented, Dr. Ali Ghahary recommends avoiding any known allergens/triggers to reduce your risk. When it comes to food allergies, cross contamination is a huge problem. For example, when you go out to eat at a restaurant, the food you order may not contain any nuts – however, this does not mean you’re at any less of a risk of developing an allergic reaction, as the food you eat can still be produced on equipment than may have handled nuts or other allergens. This is why it’s always important to check with your server prior to ordering or call the restaurant ahead of time to make sure it’s safe to eat there. Restaurants take allergies very seriously and are often able to accommodate those with severe allergies.

Unfortunately sometimes taking these precautions just isn’t enough. For those with both seasonal and year-round allergies, you may need to take over-the-counter antihistamines (such as Benadryl or Reactine) on a regular basis depending on how severe your allergies are. As some antihistamines can make you drowsy, it is important not to drive or operate heavy machinery after taking them. Nasal sprays, such as Nasonex and Omnaris, can also be prescribed to help combat allergies and relieve sinus-related symptoms.

If you suffer from allergies or have any concerns about potential allergies, Dr. Ali Ghahary is available to see patients at Brentwood Medical Clinic on a walk-in basis and is willing to answer any questions you might have.

Finding Relief for Dry, Itchy Skin

Dry, itchy skin is a common problem for many Canadians; it can be caused by different skin conditions, such as eczema, which can be worsened as a result of cooler, winter weather.

As irritating as dry, itchy skin can be, there are certain home remedies as well as medical remedies that Vancouver family physician, Dr. Ali Ghahary, recommends trying.

The first thing to do in effort to find relief is to exfoliate. When you exfoliate, you clear away dead skin cells, and that allows moisturizer to better penetrate the skin. However, when exfoliating, it’s always important to remember to do it gently – and not every day. By exfoliating your skin too roughly or too much, you could actually cause damage to the skin and make symptoms like itching even worse. Exfoliators are widely available at most drug stores as well as at cosmetics counters in large department stores.

Once you have found an exfoliator (and have used it!), you’ll want to moisturize. Rather than choosing a light, gel or cream-based moisturizer, choose one that is thicker and oil-based. Thicker moisturizers tend to last longer, and therefore will have better results when it comes to soothing your skin. If you’re not a fan of moisturizers to do their textures or scents, you can also try using petroleum jelly. You’ll want to apply your moisturizer approximately 2 to 3 minutes after stepping out of the shower.

While on the subject of bathing, as comforting as long, hot showers and baths might be, they can also be quite damaging to the skin and strip it of its natural skin-protecting oils, so you’ll want to make sure you don’t stay in the shower/bath too long. If you suffer from extremely dry, itchy and flaky skin, dermatologists recommend showering or bathing for no longer than 10 minutes. Also be sure to only use mild, non-scented cleansers and soaps.

The sun can also be damaging to the skin and cause irritation. While it’s certainly less intense during winter months, it can still do harm – even when there’s snow. For added protection, Dr. Ali Ghahary recommends using moisturizer with an added SPF of 15 or more. It’s also smart to always wear other protective gear like a hat, gloves and scarf.

Giving your diet a boost by adding more omega-3 fatty acids into yout diet can also be helpful in healing dry, itchy and irritated skin, as they help the skin create moisture-retaining barriers. Some examples of omega-3 rich foods include salmon, tuna and walnuts. You can find more about this and get other healthy eating tips from Dr. Ali Ghahary by clicking here.

Health Benefits of Drinking Tea

Benefits of Tea

Drinking tea is not only delicious, but did you know that it’s also good for your health? Below, Dr. Ali Ghahary shares information on its many benefits!

One great thing about drinking tea is that it contains many antioxidants. Although the human body does produce antioxidants on its own, it never hurts to get a little extra. Consuming foods that are rich in antioxidants as well as drinking tea can not only decrease your risk of developing infections, but can also help ward off serious disease as well as certain forms of cancer – including colorectal, pancreatic, breast and lung cancer.

While tea does contain a certain amount of caffeine, its caffeine content is as much as 50% lower than what’s found in a cup of coffee. As caffeine can keep you awake, you’re more likely have a better night’s sleep by drinking tea. If you want to avoid caffeine in your tea all-together and are looking for a more natural sleep aid, try drinking chamomile tea. It’s naturally caffeine-free and tastes great. Speaking of chamomile tea, it’s also considered an antispasmodic, which means it’s also great for those with digestive problems like irritable bowel syndrome – also known as IBS.

Recent studies have also suggested that drinking tea – green tea, in particular – has been shown to prevent bone loss. This can be especially beneficial information for women over the age of 50 and men over the age of 50, as those are the typical ages when your bones tend to become weaker and can result in things like osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. Drinking tea can be one of many lifestyle habits in helping prevent bone loss.

If you are prone to developing colds or the flu, you’ll also want to strongly consider drinking tea as it can give the immune system a much-needed boost as well as enhances the body’s defense system against infections. Tea is also great to drink if you’re suffering from a sore throat, as it can be soothing.

For more information on what makes tea so healthy, visit the Tea and Herbal Association of Canada at www.tea.ca.

Healthy Holiday Eating

Healthy Holiday Eating

The holidays are a time to celebrate with friends and loved ones, and those celebrations usually tend to come with an overindulgence in foods and other sweet treats! Dr. Ali Ghahary, a family physician in Vancouver, shares tips on how to eat healthy this winter season and avoid putting on any extra pounds!

When it comes to preparing your Christmas feast, it’s not uncommon to want to skip meals to “save room” in hopes of avoiding any weight gain – and while you think might think you’re doing your body a favour, you could actually be doing it more harm than good.

Christmas dinners tend to be larger than the average dinner, and often have us going back for second and third helpings despite the fact that you may be consuming foods that are healthy and nutrient-rich (i.e. Brussels sprouts, yams, and that delicious green bean casserole.) When we skip meals, our bodies become hungrier, meaning we’re much more likely to overeat. Skipping meals also means you’re not getting all the essential nutrients your body needs throughout the day in order to combat certain diseases and illnesses. Therefore, Dr. Ali Ghahary recommends eating as normal. To help you satisfy your hunger, make sure you include plenty of fibre in your diet during the day by consuming whole grains as well as fruits and vegetables.

With Christmas also come desserts and plenty of snacking – this includes everything from candy canes, to chocolate, to fruitcake, to apple and pumpkin pie. While it can be tempting to want to indulge in it all, it’s also important to be aware of not only how much you eat, but what you eat, as certain desserts tend to be higher in calories than others. Desserts can also be a problem for those who are diabetic. If your diabetes is under control then indulging in a few holiday treats shouldn’t be a problem. However, if your blood sugar tends to have high spikes or very low drops then you’ll want to take extra precautions. As many different things can cause glucose levels to decrease or increase, Dr. Ali Ghahary recommends checking your blood sugar regularly. You can find more tips from Dr. Ghahary on how to manage your diabetes during the holidays by clicking here.

When it comes to the holiday season, food and your health, it’s simply a matter of staying mindful. For more general tips on diet and weight loss, click here. You can also get more ideas on healthy eating by following Dr. Ali Ghahary on Twitter at @DrAliGhahary.