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Lung Cancer Awareness

By the end of this year, an estimated 30,000 Canadians and 236,740 Americans will have been diagnosed with lung cancer. Lung cancer is one of the most common types of cancer that affects North Americans (followed by breast cancer, colorectal cancer, prostate cancer, skin cancer, and stomach cancer), and is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths – killing an estimated 1.76 million people worldwide each year. The average age of individuals diagnosed with lung cancer is between 65 and 70, while there is also a small number of younger people (under the age of 45) who are diagnosed.

Types of Lung Cancer

There are two main types of lung cancer:

• Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC)
• Small cell lung cancer (SCLC)

There are also several different subtypes of Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) that one can be diagnosed with, including:

• Adenocarcinoma
• Squamous cell carcinoma
• Large cell (undifferentiated) carcinoma
• Adenosquamous carcinoma
• Sarcomatoid carcinoma

Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) accounts for as many as 85% of all lung cancers, while up to 15% of lung cancers are small cell lung cancers (SCLC).

Risk Factors

Aside from age, there are other risk factors that can increase someone’s chances of developing lung cancer, including:

• Tobacco or cigar smoking
• Exposure to second-hand smoke
• Exposure to asbestos
• Exposure to radon
• Air pollution
• Personal/family history of lung cancer

Symptoms of Lung Cancer

• A persistent or worsening cough (lasting longer than 2 or 3 weeks)
• Coughing up blood
• Recurring chest infections
• Pain when breathing or coughing
• Persisting fatigue/decreased energy
• Loss of appetite
• Unexplained weight loss

Early Detection

When it comes to any type of cancer, early detection is key, as that can increase your chances of successful treatment. Screening for lung cancer is important as its symptoms typically do not appear until it is already in an advanced stage (and may have spread to other parts of the body.) Screening is recommended for individuals between the ages of 55-74 and are at high risk (for example, if there is a family history of lung cancer or if you are or were a smoker.)

Vitamin & Mineral Deficiencies

Vitamins and minerals provide a wide range of benefits when it comes to keeping us healthy – including giving our immune systems a boost as well as repairing tissues, just to name a few. While most vitamins and minerals come from food sources, it’s possible to be vitamin and mineral deficient if you do not have a healthy diet, suffer from food allergies and sensitivities, or have other underlying medical conditions.

While all vitamins and minerals are good for you, some are more important than others – iron, folate, vitamin A, and B vitamins (such as B1, B2, B3, B6, B9 and B12) especially. Because these vitamins and minerals are so crucial, it is also more common for Canadians to become deficient in them compared to other vitamins and minerals.

Iron is responsible for carrying oxygen to our blood. If your body does not have enough iron then it is unable to provide the blood with the amount of oxygen it needs. In severe cases of iron deficiency, you can also develop anemia. The most common cause of anemia is blood loss, particularly in females with heavy menstrual periods. As a result of low iron and anemia, you may feel fatigued, weak, have headaches, as well as have a pale appearance to your skin.

Folate is crucial in tissue growth and the multiplication of cells. Pregnant women who are folate deficient could be at an increased risk of giving birth to an infant with birth defects – such as anencephaly and spina bifida. These conditions occur when the infant’s brain is exposed to amniotic or spinal cord fluid. You are also at risk of becoming folate deficient if you consume cereal and few fruits and/or leafy green vegetables.

Vitamin A is essential in helping the body fight infections, promotes proper growth, and reproduction. Insufficient levels of vitamin A can cause impaired vision, and it is also the leading cause of blindness in children.

Vitamin B12 helps to keep the body’s nerves and cells healthy. It also breaks down food we eat into glucose, which gives you energy. Without enough vitamin B12 you could develop neurological deterioration as well as impaired function of the immune system.

Zinc is relied on by the human body as it performs many different functions. Not only can it heal wounds and repair tissue, it can also promote proper blood clotting, helps you metabolize carbs, proteins, fats and alcohol, promotes the production of sperm, and can even correct the function of your thyroid. Symptoms of severe zinc deficiency include recurrent infections, diarrhea, and mental disturbances.

Osteoporosis Awareness

One of the most common disease affecting older individuals is osteoporosis – a condition that is characterized by low bone mass in addition to deterioration of bone tissue, which can lead to an increased risk of fractures. Because bone deterioration can develop over a number of years, an individual may not initially be aware that they even have the disease. It is only when they begin to develop fractures and bone breaks that they realize something is wrong, and by this time the disease is already in an advanced stage, which makes it more difficult to treat.

Once osteoporosis is in an advanced stage and your bones have become weaker, some of the symptoms that you may experience include:

• Back pain
• Easy fractures (typically of the spine, wrist and/or hip)
• Gradual loss of height
• Stooped posture
• Bone loss in the jaw (often seen on dental X-rays)

Along with age, there are other risk factors associated with osteoporosis. These include gender, body weight, low bone mineral density, previous fragility fractures, previous history of falls, as well as family history of the disease. Certain medical conditions can also contribute to the risk of osteoporosis as well as the risk of bone breaks, fractures, and falls; for example, rheumatological conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, malabsorption syndromes (caused by things like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis), chronic kidney and/or liver disease, primary hyperparathyroidism, hyperthyroidism, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), as well as a condition known as hypogonadism which is a sex hormone deficiency, and even certain neurological disorders. Certain medications have also been known to increase the risk of fractures, including synthetic glucocorticoids (such as Prednisone), drugs to treat breast cancer or prostate cancer, other prostate drugs, contraceptive drugs (such as Depo Provera), gastrointestinal drugs (such as ones used to treat things like acid reflux, heartburn, and ulcers), anti-seizure/epileptic drugs, anti-depressants, thyroid hormone replacement, blood pressure medications, diuretics, as well as frequent use of acetaminophen, narcotic and opioid medications, and some blood thinners.

In order to minimize your risk factors and decrease your chances of developing osteoporosis, you should book an appointment with your family physician so that they can do an in-depth assessment of the health of your bones. In some cases, physicians may recommend that their patients have what’s known as a BMD (bone mineral density) test. This is a painless X-ray that can measure the amount of minerals – such as calcium – in your bones, and can be quite a helpful test in diagnosing osteoporosis. It’s also important for patients to ensure that they are getting enough calcium, protein and vitamin D. When it comes to calcium, it’s recommended that individuals between the ages of 19 and 50 get at least 1000mg per day, while those over the age of 50 need at least 1200mg. Some examples of calcium-rich foods and beverages include fortified orange juice, almonds, beans (such as white beans, navy beans and pinto beans), fish (such as sardines and salmon), broccoli, bok choy, kale, squash, and snow peas. If you’re unable to get sufficient calcium intake through the foods you eat, then you can try a supplement. Because there are very few food sources of vitamin D, supplementation is also suggested for this. As for protein, this is best found from seafood, white-meat poultry, lean beef, milk, eggs, soy, oats, and broccoli.

Healthy Snacking Tips

When we hear the term “snacking,” most of us think it’s something we have to stay far away from if we want to lose weight. However, with the right food choices, snacking can actually be healthy and still be something you can enjoy.

The holiday season is right around the corner and is generally the time of year when food consumption hits an all-time high in North America. From chocolate to fruitcake, to chips and dips, the holidays can be a tempting time to overindulge in things we wouldn’t normally find ourselves eating on a regular basis. By eating things like potato chips, chocolate, and other sugary foods, you’re not actually getting any essential nutrients. For example, proteins, vitamins and minerals – all of which are required for good health.

If you’re following a strict diet – for example, a low-carb diet – then you’ll have to pay close attention to the snacks you choose to consume. Many low-carb snacks require little to no preparation. Eggs are a great low-carb option as they’re high in protein, as well as vitamins and minerals. They can also make you feel fuller, which means you’ll be less likely to consume more calories throughout the day. If you’re inclined to eat potato chips, replace them with raw vegetables; celery, carrots, broccoli, peppers, etc. For some extra flavour, make your own low-calorie ranch dip (click here for a great recipe.) However, if you’re more of a sweet than savoury fan, instead of eating cake and chocolate, replace them with fruits (strawberries, grapes, bananas, prunes) and yogurt.

There are many healthy meal and snack options out there, it’s just a matter of finding the right ones and making sure they’re things you like so that you can stick to making healthier eating habits.

COVID-19 Bivalent Vaccines

Since the start of the global pandemic, a lot of headway has been made – including what we know about the COVID-19 virus, how it transmits, how it affects people, and the types of treatment methods that are available – specifically with the use of vaccines. While vaccines are not 100% foolproof, they remain the best course of action when it comes to protecting yourself as well as others around you, and can prevent serious illness or death from occurring should you happen to contract COVID-19.

Because vaccine immunity can wane over time, booster vaccines are an important part of staying protected against COVID-19 – especially as we begin to see cooler weather, which will likely come along with a new surge of cases during the fall and winter months. It’s also important to note that because different variants of the virus can also emerge over time, manufacturers may also need to release new vaccines to the public or re-work current vaccines – hence, Bivalent vaccines.

What does the word “Bivalent” mean?

The word “Bivalent” means that the vaccine causes the immune system to create antibodies against two different strains/variants of the COVID-19 virus.

Are there different types of Bivalent vaccines?

A “Bivalent” vaccine is an adapted version of a current vaccine, and there are two types that are currently available: the Moderna Spikevax and/or the Pfizer BioNTech Comirnaty vaccines – which were approved by Health Canada on September 1st, 2022 (Moderna) and October 7th, 2022 (Pfizer).

What variants do the Bivalent vaccines target?

The Moderna Bivalent vaccine targets the original SARS-CoV-2 virus as well as the Omicron BA.1 subvariant, while the Pfizer Bivalent vaccine also targets the original virus, in addition to the Omicron BA.4/BA.5 subvariants.

When should I get the Bivalent booster?

Because two vaccines are not considered enough protection with new variants like Omicron still being in our communities, it’s recommended that everyone get their Bivalent vaccine at least 6 months after their last dose. Bivalent vaccines are currently available for everyone aged 12 or older.

How do I book my Bivalent vaccine?

Invitations are currently being sent out on a rolling basis. If you are a British Columbia resident and have not yet received an invitation to book your Bivalent vaccine and think you are due for it, you should contact the call centre at 1-833-838-2323. Someone will be available to take your call from 7 AM to 7 PM, 7 days per week.

Paleo Diet – What is It?

Diets are not always easy to maintain. However, with the appropriate knowledge on exactly what it means to “diet” and the types of foods that you are putting into your body, as well as a little bit of tenacity and determination, you would actually be surprised at just how easy having a healthy diet can be to sustain.

Unlike certain fad diets that are out there today (most of which focus solely on fast weight loss and counting calories), diets such as the Paleo diet (also known as the “Hunter-Gatherer” diet) are designed to be long-term and help control your glycemic levels, increase your HDL cholesterol levels (otherwise known as the “good” cholesterol), and restrict certain (but not all!) carbohydrates, with the focal point being on your overall well-being. Following a Paleo-based diet is beneficial to your health and decreases your risk of certain health conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, osteoporosis, and even certain cancers. Accompanying weight loss, a Paleo based diet also improves your digestion, reduces chronic inflammation, and gives you more energy.

Celery, salmon, chicken, pork, apples and peaches are just some of the examples of foods included in a Paleo-based diet. For a comprehensive list, click here.

The term “Paleo” comes from the prehistoric era from over 2 million years ago known as Paleolithic. If you think about it, processed foods and many of the ingredients that we are ingesting into our systems today did not exist back then – food had to be found or hunted. The Paleo diet gets back to basics, so to speak, and was established upon the foods and lifestyles of our prehistoric ancestors. It predominantly consists of grass-produced meats, omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, walnuts, flaxseed oil, soybeans), rich antioxidants (fruits and vegetables), while it excludes things like processed foods, dairy, grain products, salt and sugar.

The Paleo diet is all about limiting certain foods and strategically choosing others, and it is one of the best diets that you could go on to preserve a healthy body and mind. One incentive of following a Paleo-based diet is the fact that you don’t have to count calories and can even indulge in some of your favourite foods and beverages, as long as it’s done in moderation. For example, dark chocolate with a cocoa content of 70% or higher, is a great source of antioxidants and can lower your risk of heart disease, and while the Paleo diet doesn’t encourage anyone to start drinking alcohol, studies have also suggested that two antioxidants found in red wine, Polyphenol and Resveratrol, can also improve heart health.

Meal planning can be the most difficult part of finding success with any diet, but is an important factor of the Paleo diet, and below are just a few small examples of Paleo-based foods. There are also many different Paleo recipes available online.

Common Health Concerns for Men

As anyone would, men also face certain threats to their health as they age. It isn’t unusual for men to go to the doctor less frequently than women. As a result, men are at a much higher risk of developing serious, life-threatening health conditions. Below, I outline some of the different health concerns men face, along with information on how they are diagnosed and what you can do to treat them.

1. Prostate Cancer
Prostate Cancer Canada recommends that men be screened for prostate cancer by the age of 40 – this according to new guidelines released in 2013. As of 2016, over 20,000 Canadian men were diagnosed with prostate cancer, and 1 in 8 men will die from it. Prostate screening is initially done by a PSA test – a simple blood test that can determine the amount of PSA protein that is in your blood. Not only can a PSA test indicate whether or not you have prostate cancer, but it can also detect other prostate-related conditions. Common symptoms of prostate cancer include difficulty urinating or having a frequent urge to urinate (especially in the evening), painful urination, or the inability to urinate. Symptoms of prostate cancer are not always present, therefore early detection is important.

2. Heart Disease
While heart disease can affect men and women equally, it is still a health condition that men often worry about. If heart disease runs in your family, you area at a greater risk of developing heart disease yourself. However, other factors also play a part in determining whether or not you will develop heart disease at some point in life – including diet and exercise. It is important to see your physician for annual checkups. At an appointment, Dr. Ali Ghahary will check a patient’s blood pressure and also refer them for basic blood testing, which is often helpful in determining cholesterol levels. If high, this can be a precursor to heart disease.

3. Erectile Dysfunction
While this can be an uncomfortable subject for patients to talk about, it is more common than one might think. According to a recent study done on almost 5,000 Canadian men between the ages of 40 and 80, at least half of those have had ED. Men who have had their prostate removed, have diabetes, and smoke are at a greater risk of developing it.

4. Weight Management
As men age, their metabolism slows down. If your metabolism is slow, your weight can increase. It is important to stay physically fit and make healthy food choices. Read Dr. Ali Ghahary’s articles titled ‘The Surprising Health Benefits of Exercise’ and ‘Weight Loss and Weight Management’ for more information.

Canadian Men’s Health Foundation

Autism Spectrum Disorder in Children

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is characterized as a complex neurobiological condition that impacts the function of the immune, endocrine, nervous, hepatic and gastrointestinal systems. In addition, it can also severely impact one’s social interactions and development, causing repeated behavioural patterns. The prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorder has grown to well over 100% in the last decade. 1 in 68 children have ASD, making it one of the most commonly diagnosed neurobiological conditions in Canada today.

Autism Spectrum Disorder is caused by both environmental and genetic factors, though there has not been a definitive determination as to what, exactly, causes ASD. What is known about ASD, however, is that it can occur in all ethnic and racial backgrounds, and it is a lifelong disorder.

Diagnosing Autism Spectrum Disorder as early as possible can make a world of difference. As it commonly appears in infancy and childhood, there are a number of warning signs that parents should watch for in their children.

While some of the impairments in correlation with autism may only be mild for some children, those same impairments can be quite challenging for others. For example, how your child socializes and interacts with others. This includes verbal and non-verbal communications, how they think and behave, as well as how they relate to their peers and the outside world. It is important to monitor your child’s development to ensure that they are meeting all of the appropriate cognitive, social and emotional milestones for their age. While it’s not always the case, these sorts of delays in development put your child at a heightened risk of having ASD. A child with ASD may also regress. For example, they may stop communicating or using certain words that they would have otherwise commonly used before, (i.e. saying “hello,” “mommy,” etc.) They may also lose interest in games and television shows that they previously enjoyed. Regressions of this nature are considered serious and should not be ignored.

In slightly older children, the signs of autism become much more diversified. They may seem aloof or detached, have difficulty connecting with others and making friends, have trouble discussing their feelings, and dislike being touched. Older children with autism may also have speech and language impediments, such as grammatical errors, repeating words, failing to understand humour or other emotions, and speaking in an abnormal tone. Children with autism also tend to avoid eye contact and will not use gestures to explain how they’re feeling, making them seem robotic-like in nature. It is also not uncommon for a child to have difficulty adapting to change – even something as simple as furniture being moved.

If you suspect that your child might have autism, or if you have any concerns relating to your child’s development, it’s important to address this with your family physician or paediatrician.

Brain Tumour Awareness

In recent years, discussion on brain cancer and tumours has increased. While brain cancer isn’t considered to be one of the most common types of cancer that one could be diagnosed with, it still affects an estimated 3,000 Canadians and 23,000 Americans each year.

Given that there are as many as 100 different types of brain tumours and that they can appear in different parts of the brain, symptoms can oftentimes be vague as well as vary in intensity from person to person. In fact, you can develop symptoms of a brain tumour quickly or gradually – but the symptoms will usually always progress over time. One of the most common initial signs of a brain tumor is head pain – usually described as a headache. While having a headache every now and then isn’t necessarily a specific indicator of a brain tumour (as headaches and migraines are both very common), it can be a potential indicator if your headaches are recurring, worsen over time, or if they do not get better by taking over-the-counter pain relievers (such as Ibuprofen or Acetaminophen.) Headaches associated with brain tumours can also be brought on my something as simple as leaning over (as this causes an increase in pressure in the brain), or you can even wake up with a headache.

Someone with a brain tumour may also develop cognitive changes, as well as balance and muscle problems. Cognitive changes can include memory lapses, such as forgetting where you put things or asking the same questions repeatedly – or, you may also have difficult answering questions that are posed to you. You can also develop behavioural changes, though these are usually first noticed by those who are close to you or around you often, such as friends, family, or co-workers. If there is a tumour growth in the cerebellum, this can lead to issues with balance and coordination; for example, dropping things, bumping into things, or even tripping and falling from time to time, a s well as loss of muscle strength, and even one-sided paralysis. Seizures are also possible as brain tumours progress, and more than 40% of individuals with a brain tumour will have at least one seizure to due interference in the brain’s normal electrical activity. It’s also possible to have a partial seizure, which can include symptoms such as trouble speaking, smelling strand odours that others cannot detect, as well as uncontrollable arm shaking.

When it comes to diagnosing brain tumours, they are often detected through MRI or CT scans – while radiation, chemotherapy and surgery are often the standard treatments, there are also other types of treatment methods that oncologists recommend depending on the type of tumour that the patent has been diagnosed with. For example, patients with glioblastoma have undergone an advanced treatment method known as optune therapy in which the patient wears a cap-like device that then transmits electrical currents to disrupt the cancer-cell division. Immunotherapy is another treatment method used to attack tumours and help reengineer immune cells and kill/remove the tumour cells from your body. In addition to brain tumours, immunotherapy is also used on other types of cancer, such as melanoma. For tumours that are difficult to reach surgically, a heat treatment known as later interstitial thermal therapy is also an option. It is also commonly used on patients who suffer from drug-resistant forms of epilepsy and is considered to be minimally invasive and has a quicker recovery time.

Bone, Joint and Muscle Health

The bones provide our bodies with support – such as the skull, which is responsible for the formation of our face as well as protecting the skull; the backbone, which is responsible for protecting the spinal cord – the pathway that transmits messages back and forth between the brain and body; the ribs, responsible for protecting the lungs, heart, liver and spleen; and the pelvic, which protects the bladder/reproductive organs and intestines. While bones may seem light, they are also able to withstand weight.

Then there are the joints. The joints are where the bones meet and allow is to be flexible. Without joints, we wouldn’t be able to move at all. In addition, the muscles also play a similar role and aid in flexibility.

The bones consist of calcium, sodium, phosphorus, collagen and other minerals. In order for the bones to stay healthy, calcium is required. When the bones lack calcium or other minerals, they become much more susceptible to fractures and breaks. Calcium is commonly found in milk. If you are lactose intolerant then you may want to consider taking a calcium supplement.

As we overwork our bones, joints and muscles, we become more susceptible to injury. There are a number of injuries that can happen to the bones, joints and the muscles, with the most common being breaks or strains/sprains/fractures. These types of injuries are commonly seen in contact sports, such as football, and occur frequently in school-aged children. RSIs (Repeititve Strain Injuries) can also commonly occur as a result of bone, joint or muscle overuse. For example, if you write or type on a regular basis without taking breaks, you may develop conditions known as carpal tunnel or tendinitis. These can be severely painful and debilitating conditions if left untreated.

The best course of action you can take to treat these types of injuries is, of course, rest – meaning no writing, typing or playing any contact sports until you are fully healed. I also recommend the use of a Coban self-adhesive bandage. Wearing a bandage regularly will help to protect (and better support) your bones, joints and muscles, and will prevent injuries from occurring in the future.