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Struggling With Mental Health and Addiction in Canada

Dr. Ali Ghahary practices at Brentwood Medical Clinic, a combined family practice and walk-in clinic located in Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada. Along with being able to accurately diagnose and treat common health conditions such as influenza, diabetes, and even treat minor wounds/skin lacerations, Dr. Ghahary also has expertise in dealing with patients experiencing mental health disorders and addiction, ranging in everything from depression and anxiety disorders, to substance abuse (the use of and dependency on alcohol and/or drugs) and gambling problems.

In any given year, 1 in 5 Canadians will experience mental health or addiction problems. While women tend to have an increased rate of mood and anxiety disorders, men tend to have higher addiction rates. However, it is not unusual for mental health and addiction problems to co-occur. Patients who are already suffering from a mental illness are 2x more likely to develop substance abuse problems in comparison to otherwise healthy individuals, while patients already dealing with substance abuse problems are 3x more likely to develop a mental illness.

Mental health and addiction problems can cut up to 20 years from ones’ life expectancy, and is a leading cause of premature mortality in this country. Thus, it is imperative to be proactive and treat these issues early on in order to lead a healthy, well-balanced life. As a physician, it is Dr. Ghahary’s priority to ensure that mental health disorders and substance abuse/addiction is treated the same as any other illness would be treated – seriously, with the utmost compassion, and effectively.

There are many different ways that mental health disorders and addiction can be treated, with the most common course of treatment being a combination of medications and behavioural therapy such as outpatient counselling from a clinical psychologist or a referral to a psychiatrist via Burnaby Mental Health. Behavioural therapy is greatly beneficial in helping the patient further understand the symptoms that they may be experiencing, the risks of substance abuse, and will hugely benefit the patient in helping them on their road to recovery as well as be instrumental for the patient in maintaining their sobriety as they move forward. As mental health and addiction can also have a significant impact on ones’ personal lives, including performance in school or at work, seeking the help of a family physician, clinical psychologist or psychiatrist may also help to repair those fractured relationships and allow for better, open and honest communication in families, with friends, teachers, and with co-workers.

Caring for Geriatric Patients in Canada

As of 2014, nearly 16 percent (just over 6 million) of Canadians were made up of geriatric patients aged 65 or older. By 2030, that number is expected to rise by 7 percent to 9.5 million seniors, making them an expeditiously expanding part of Canada’s population. The average life expectancy of elderly patients is 84.2 (women) and 80 (men.) By 2036, the average life expectancy is anticipated to rise to 86.2 (women) and 82.9 (men) due to the fact that seniors are seemingly living healthier, longer lives than ever before.

While the Canadian government works to provide a number of different programs and initiatives for elderly patients and their families, much of the responsibility of care for geriatric patients falls on their caregivers (i.e. family members and friends) and general practitioners. Prior to joining Brentwood Medical Clinic in Burnaby, Dr. Ali Ghahary worked with largely geriatric communities in various parts of Canada – including the Louis Brier Home and Hospital in Vancouver. With Dr. Ghahary’s expertise brought forth to Brentwood Medical Clinic, Burnaby’s geriatric community is in great hands.

Unlike younger, healthier patients, seniors require a more comprehensive and extensive approach to their medical care. This includes frequent and/or prolonged visits with their physician, routine screening, medication adjustments, and specialist referrals in addition to dealing with their basic medical needs as well as home-care and other daily-living necessities. Common health problems found in seniors range from musculoskeletal problems such as osteoporosis (bone loss), osteoarthritis (inflammation of the joints), gout and fractures. Visual problems such as glaucoma, cataracts and macular degeneration. Cardiovascular problems such as congestive heart failure, atrial fibrillation and high blood pressure. Hormonal changes such as increased cholesterol and slower metabolism. Seniors are also at an increased risk of developing infections like shingles, pneumonia, or urinary tract infections, and other general complaints such as fatigue, decreased appetite, forgetfulness and weight loss.

To ensure optimal health, elderly patients should not only go for regular check-ups with their physician, but also ensure that they are getting enough sleep, include vitamin-rich diets that include calcium and Vitamin D to prevent bone disease, and limit salt intake in order to control blood pressure levels. Eating foods that are higher in antioxidants will also help lessen the risk of vision loss as a result of macular degeneration, and living an overall healthy lifestyle can decrease the risk of developing heart disease by as much as 80%.

Understanding Anxiety

Whether it’s starting a new job, taking care of family matters, or speaking in front of large groups, we all experience anxiety from time to time; and while this kind of anxiety generally does not affect one’s ability to get through their everyday lives, it can be quite debilitating for other individuals and put them at risk of developing further mental illness.

Below is a look at some of the common disorders that are associated with anxiety.

Phobias
The strong, relentless and troublesome feeling of fear around any given situation, person, object or animal. People who suffer from phobias will go out of their way to avoid potential triggers, lessening their quality of life as a result. Similarly, those with agoraphobia also suffer from the same kinds of fears in addition to feeling as though they are trapped and unable to escape certain situations.

Panic Disorders
What would be considered a normal reaction to an otherwise stressful situation for those who don’t suffer from anxiety would be an extreme reaction for those who do – with symptoms such as the feeling of intense fear, constant worry, rapid heartbeat, sweaty palms, shortness of breath and nausea.

Generalized Anxiety
Those with generalized anxiety are oftentimes still able to function in social settings – however, they will excessively worry over what are considered to be mundane, everyday problems, have difficulty sleeping as well as muscle tension.

Social Anxiety Disorder
Unlike generalized anxiety, those who suffer from social anxiety disorder will avoid social situations whenever possible. They fear being judged by others. Social anxiety can have a severe impact on one’s performance in school or at work, as well as impinge on relationships.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
Commonly referred to as OCD, obsessive-compulsive disorder is an assemblage of unwanted thoughts and urges, and abnormal and repeated actions in effort to diminish anxiety.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Also known as PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder is a result of a traumatic life event. Those with PTSD will experience extreme panic, have harrowing flashbacks, and will feel unsafe even when they are not in danger.

Regardless of age, education, income or cultural background, no one is exempt from anxiety or mental illness. At least 20% of Canadian adults will be diagnosed with a mental illness at some point in their lifetime, with 8% of those experiencing major depression. The stats are even more staggering when it comes to children: Up to 20% between the ages of 12 and 19 have already experienced anxiety or a major depressive episode, and as many as 4 million children are currently at risk of developing a mental illness in the future.

Regrettably, at least half of the individuals who say they suffer from mental illness will not see a physician; this is due in part to the stigma that surrounds mental illness and the fear of being discriminated against as a result. However, if left untreated, it can lead to serious and sometimes life-threatening problems, including other mental disorders, so it is important to recognize that with the right support, mental illness can be managed.

At Brentwood Medical Clinic in Burnaby, British Columbia, Dr. Ali Ghahary works in conjecture with patients, clinical psychologists and psychiatrists. While treatment varies from patient to patient, medication is oftentimes used to manage depression and anxiety. However, there are also some other commonly recommended suggestions that have been proven to be beneficial for those suffering from mental illness including CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) and physical activity.

South Beach Diet

Since 2014, a self-reported 14 million Canadians were estimated to have considered themselves overweight or obese according to a study done by Statistics Canada. This is a rate that continues to rise steadily in Canada predominantly as a result of an increase in overly processed foods, excess calories, and lack of nutrients in diets, in addition to inadequate exercise regimens.

For many individuals, weight-loss can be quite a challenge and a true test of self-discipline; and while it can oftentimes be discouraging when weight-loss goals are not met, causing one to fall back into old eating habits, maintaining a healthy weight is vital to your overall health and well-being.

Low-carb diets are something Dr. Ali Ghahary advocates, and there are several healthy and easy-to-follow diet options that will help you achieve your weight-loss goals. One of those diets, and perhaps the most popular today, is the South Beach diet, known for its low-carb-friendly, high-protein and high-in-fiber food choices. Foods such as vegetables and legumes (chickpeas and kidney beans) are a vital part of the South Beach diet as they slow down the body’s digestion, thus making you feel fuller for a longer period of time, while foods that are higher in protein (such as chicken and fish) avoid spiking your blood sugar, making you less likely to feel hungry and want to overeat. The great thing about the South Beach diet is that while it focuses on all healthy foods, it also has the ability to include certain carbohydrates, making it an easier diet for many to cultivate. The purpose of the South Beach diet is to find a steady balance of healthy foods you are putting into your system, not just for weight-loss but also for your general well-being, and it is a diet that you can stick to on a long-term basis. However, as with any diet, the initial phase is usually the toughest and requires determination.

For the first two weeks of the South Beach diet (otherwise known as ‘Phase 1’), you will focus on eating proteins, low-fat dairy products, and vegetables. Cabohydrates such as breads, rice, pasta, fruits, potatoes, sugar and alcohol consumption are all to be completely avoided. This is in effort to train your body to eliminate the bad carbohydrates from your system, reduce cravings, and introduce healthier alternatives. At the second level (known as ‘Phase 2’) of the South Beach diet, carbohydrates are gradually reintroduced. If you would normally have a slice of toast for breakfast each morning, instead try one piece of fruit, followed by two pieces of fruit the next day, three pieces the day after, etcetera. Fruits such as apples, bananas and pears are considered to be higher in carbohydrates, but those particular fruits can be good for you if eaten in moderation. Once you rid your body of the “bad” fats and carbohydrates and slowly re-introduce the “good” fats and carbohydrates, you will find that you will have fewer cravings and will begin to notice weight-loss as well as an increase in your energy level and other effects as a direct result of your dietary changes. The great thing about the South Beach diet is that while it is low in carbs, it is not as low in carbs as other diets out there, and at the final phase of this diet you can actually get as much as 30% of your calories from carbohydrates, so long as you are choosing the right ones to intake to give your body the appropriate nutrients and minerals required to help you achieve and maintain your weight-loss goals. You can find an overwhelming number of recipes for the South Beach diet simply by doing a search online.

As always, it is important that you first check with your general practitioner before making any significant dietary changes.

How Exercise Benefits Your Health

With people in Canada looking for ways to live longer and have more energy, regular exercise is the key to optimal health. Not only does it keep you fit, but it has also been shown to warn off depression, strengthen bones, and improve digestion. People who exercise regularly also have a lower risk of mental decline, Alzheimer’s and mental illness.

In addition to treating patients with maladies such as the flu or common cold, Dr. Ali Ghahary, an accomplished family physician at Brentwood Medical Clinic in Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada, also helps to manage his patients’ health by suggesting various lifestyle changes, including exercise.

Just 1.5 hours of exercise per week can reduce the risk of premature death by 20 percent. If you exercise five hours per week, risk of death at an early age decreases as much as 34 percent. A carefully planned workout routine can add years to your life and also lower the risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis, high cholesterol and colon cancer. Exercise is a simple, effective way for Canadians and individuals all over the world to boost their health and prevent chronic diseases.

The brain also benefits significantly from a challenging workout. Studies have indicated that physical activity not only improves cognitive function, but also reduces anxiety and minimizes the detrimental effects that stress can oftentimes have on the body. Children and adolescents who exercise a few times a week have also been shown to perform better in school than those with a sedentary lifestyle, and active adults have higher levels of GABA, a chemical in the brain that improves the mood and wards off anxiety. Physical exercise also stimulates the formation of new brain cells, helping to improve learning functions and problem solving skills.

Overall, regular exercise can make you healthier, happier, smarter, and more productive – all you need is a minimum of 30 minutes each day in order to reap the benefits.