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The Sugar Pandemic: Sugar Addiction

Not only does sugar taste good, it feels good too. It’s on-par with addictions to pharmaceutical drugs, caffeine, and alcohol – and its totally legal. – MOT MAG, ‘The “Added Sugar” Pandemic – Pure, White, And Deadly’

Whenever you eat something that is sweet, the hippocampus (a horseshoe-shaped structure with a band of nerve fibres that connects the hippocampal structures in the left and right hemispheres of the brain) enables you to remember the taste. This then results in the formation of habits, causing you to want to reach for that sweet treat over and over again. This sets off a domino-like effect and causes your dopamine levels to rise. Dopamine is a type of neurotransmitter and hormone that plays a role in many different bodily functions, including movement, memory, motivation and pleasurable reward. Which is why, when you consume sugar, the brain thinks of it as a reward. If you consume a lot of it, you’re only fortifying that reward, which can ultimately make it a difficult habit to break.

You’ve also likely heard of the term “sugar high” (or “sugar rush”) and “sugar low.” For example, when you eat a candy bar, you might notice an increase in your energy level. This is because the sugar found in that candy bar – known as a simple carbohydrate – quickly turns into glucose in your blood stream, resulting in a spike in your blood sugar levels. However, your body also needs to move glucose out of the bloodstream and into your cells. In order to do this, your pancreas will create a hormone known as insulin. However, this can cause your blood sugar level to suddenly drop. As a result of this rapid change, you may wind up feeling fatigued and shaky, and want to reach for more sweets to regain that “sugar high” feeling.

It’s also important to warn of foods that may not necessarily look sweet but contain starch. These foods include things like French fries, bagels, bread, crackers, pasta and potato chips. These foods are known as complex carbohydrates. Complex carbs get broken down into simple sugars, which can also cause a sudden rise and crash of your blood sugar level, so beware when consuming these foods as well.

When it comes to breaking the sugar habit, people will often try to quit sugar cold turkey – also known as a sugar detox. But does this actually work? Certain sugar detoxes urge individuals to avoid all types of sweets – including things like candy bars, pastries, and even dairy and refined grains – in effort to purge sugar from your system. However, this is considered somewhat drastic. Detoxes such as this also usually only work for the short-term, rather than having any long-term effects, and it’s not uncommon to fall back into old habits.

If you want to reduce sugar from your diet and beat sugar addiction, there are much easier and healthier ways to go about it.

First, avoid temptation. Don’t stock your cupboards or refrigerator with things like cookies, candy or other high-sugar foods. When grocery shopping, it’s also important to watch out for hidden sugars in foods. Examples of hidden or added sugars include things like fruit juice concentrate, evaporated cane juice, corn syrup, barley malt, malt syrup, brown rice syrup, and date syrup.

Replacing sugary foods with protein is one of the best ways to stabilize your blood sugar levels. – RUNTASTIC, ‘How to Stop Sugar Cravings’

Secondly, make sure you eat breakfast. Breakfast is considered one of the most important meals of the day and can help ward off cravings. When you don’t eat breakfast, you’re more likely to want to grab quick (and oftentimes unhealthy) snacks throughout the day. One helpful tip to help prevent your blood sugar from spiking: Add some high-protein foods into your breakfast meals (lunch and dinner, too!) Examples include eggs, nuts, low-fat yogurt, lean chicken and beans.

You can also re-train your brain to not want as much sugar as it thinks it does. To do this – and for it to actually work – I suggest cutting out one sweet food from your diet each week. You could start by putting less (or no) sugar in your coffee or pass on dessert after that dinner-time meal. By taking these small steps, you will eventually find yourself craving sugar less and less. It’s also important to note that you can still get that sweet flavour from different sources – such as fresh fruit. Some of the best low-sugar fruits include watermelon, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, kiwi and grapefruit (while fruits like mangoes, grapes and cherries are all higher in sugar.)

I also cannot stress enough the importance of exercise. Aside from its already-known health benefits, studies have shown exercise can actually decrease your appetite by reducing the level or hormone that drives hunger. You can learn more about this here.

Related Article: ‘The Sugar Pandemic: Sugar History’

Health Benefits of Staying Hydrated

Water isn’t just something you drink to quench your thirst and prevent dehydration – it has many more benefits than that. Drinking water also keeps us healthy in many ways people may not even realize, which is why it’s important to drink at least 8 glasses a day (and have a water-filled bottle on hand with you if you are out, at school, or at work.)

1. It’s good for the digestive system.
When you don’t drink enough water, you can develop digestion problems – including an increase in stomach acid, which can ultimately increase your risk of developing things like stomach ulcers and heartburn, as well as constipation. In order for the bowels to work as they should and for digestive problems to be prevented or less problematic, it’s important to drink water.

2. It’s good for our kidneys.
Water is what helps our kidneys remove waste from our blood through urine, as well as helps blood travel to and deliver essential nutrients to our kidneys. When you don’t drink enough water and become dehydrated, it’s much more difficult for the kidneys to go through this process. Essentially, our kidneys are what regulate fluid in the body. When you don’t drink enough water, you can develop a wide range of problems including urinary tract infections, as well as kidney problems, including kidney stones, which can lead to kidney damage if not treated properly.

3. It can help prevent hangovers.
While one should never drink alcohol in excess, it’s not uncommon to experience hangovers after consuming alcohol – which can include symptoms such as headaches, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, weakness, dizziness or light-headedness, shakiness, or thirst. These symptoms can develop after consuming alcohol because, when you drink it, the body will eventually start to lack fluid and you will pass less urine as a result, leading to lack of electrolytes in the body and dehydration. By drinking water, you can help increase the body’s hydration and reduce the symptoms of a hangover.

4. It’s good for the skin.
If you happen to have dry skin, one of the reasons why could be due to lack of water. This is because when the skin doesn’t get enough water, it starts to lose its elasticity and will start to look and feel parched. By drinking just two cups of water each and every day, you can increase the skin’s blood flow and you should start to notice an improvement in the skin’s appearance. When your skin is dehydrated, it is more prone to developing problems – including, as mentioned, dryness, in addition to fine lines, wrinkles, skin sagginess, and acne.

5. It helps regulate body temperature.
When we are exposed to warm environments or become warm as a result of exercise or illness, such fever caused by the flu, we sweat. Sweating is the way in which the body will try to cool itself down and prevent itself from overheating. To assist in regulating our body temperature, drinking water is important as it also has the ability to expel excess heat from the body. This is why it’s important to drink water before and after working out, as well as when you are ill.

6. It aids weight loss.
If you’re looking to lose weight, two things are important: What you eat, and how much exercise you get. Combined, getting regular exercise and having a diet can help you lose a significant amount of weight. However, drinking plenty of water before, during and after meals can help create that feeling of fullness and reduce your want to snack in-between meals, which can also help assist in weight loss.

Common Summer Health Hazards

Warmer weather can be a nice break from all the rain we’re used to getting in Vancouver, but there are also certain hazards that come along with the summer and heat. Find out what some of those are below, along with what precautions you should take to protect yourself.

Staying hydrated is important. Not just during the summer months, but all the time. Drinking water not only keeps you hydrated and helps regulate body temperature, but it also increases energy levels and helps with muscle performance. Unfortunately, summer is a season where it’s not uncommon for physicians to see patients presenting with symptoms of dehydration – usually due to a combination of staying in the heat for prolonged periods of time while not drinking enough water. Symptoms of dehydration include fatigue, dizziness, confusion, nausea, dry mouth, irritability, and extreme thirst. Seniors and children are much more susceptible to becoming dehydrated, so make sure you have plenty of water on hand.

An estimated 80,000 cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in Canada each year, and your risk of developing skin cancer doubles if you’ve had just 5 sunburns. While it might sound hard to believe, it’s true. This is one of the many reasons why physicians warn about the dangers of ultraviolet rays – whether it’s from direct sunlight or the use of tanning beds. If you’re going to be outdoors, you need to take precautions to protect your skin. I recommend wearing an SPF 30, as it will block at least 97% of UVB radiation. In addition, you should also wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect your scalp, as well as sunglasses to protect your eyes. Sunburns can be severe, so if you do have one and need to find relief, taking a cold bath can help alleviate some of the pain. Finding a gentle moisturizer that contains aloe vera can also be soothing to the skin. You can also get relief by taking over-the-counter medication, such as ibuprofen, to help with the discomfort as well as reduce inflammation.

Food Poisoning
That summer picnic or BBQ may actually be a breeding ground for bacteria. In order to avoid food poisoning at your next picnic or BBQ, you should always make sure any meat or poultry you plan on grilling is thoroughly thawed and prepared (such as marinated) prior to leaving home. You should also make sure all produce is washed thoroughly before eating it. You should also pack your cooler correctly. It’s important to keep any thawed, raw foods separate from foods that are already cooked or don’t require cooking. Coolers should contain plenty of ice packs and be a temperature of no higher than 40°F. Before and after handling food, make sure your hands are washed thoroughly. Foods should also be kept out of direct sunlight and shouldn’t be left out sitting for more than 2 hours. If the outside temperature is 90°F or above, then foods shouldn’t be left out for longer than 1 hour. And, as always, make sure foods (especially meat, poultry and seafood) are cooked thoroughly before consumption. Symptoms of food poisoning can include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, and can sometimes be severe and may require medical intervention.

Insect Bites and Stings
Bites and stings are another common occurrence around summertime. Especially mosquito bites and bee stings. For some, bites and stings can be more of a painful nuisance, but for others they may be life-threatening as it’s possible to develop an allergic reaction as a result of a bite or sting. While they’re not 100% preventable, there are certain steps you can take in effort to try and avoid being bitten or stung, such as avoiding wearing perfumes, light-coloured clothing, and guard sugary foods or beverages (such as soda.) Pain, tenderness and itching can all occur as a result of a bite or a sting. However, if you develop hives or swelling across large areas of your body, notice swelling of the face or tongue, or develop a tight chest or have trouble breathing, you should seek medical attention immediately.

UVA and UVB Rays

With plenty of sunshine in the forecast for British Columbia, now is an important time to remind everyone about the benefits of wearing an SPF and why not wearing one could be detrimental to your skin and your health.

For example, skin cancer is one of the most common types of cancers amongst Canadians, often due to prolonged exposure to sunlight (both natural and artificial, such as tanning beds) as a result of failing to take the necessary precautions to keep the skin protected.

In order to understand how SPF works, you should also be aware of the difference between UV rays – such as UVA and UVB rays.

UVA rays

UVA rays can cause damage to the skin year-round and are what cause the skin to become tanned, though they can also cause things like premature aging (such as wrinkling), immune system suppression, and yes, even cancer (melanoma.)

UVA rays can penetrate through windows and clouds, which also means it’s possible for them to penetrate through the thickest layer of the skin known as the dermis.

UVB rays

UVB rays can burn the superficial layer of the skin, causing things like sunburn, pigmentation and discolouration, and also play a key role in the development of skin cancer. While anyone is at risk of damage to the skin and even skin cancer, children tend to be much more susceptible as they have more sensitive skin than adults.

One of the most common mistakes people make when it comes to wearing as SPF is that they think they only need it when it is hot and sunny outside. However, even on cooler, cloudier days and even during the winter, an SPF should be worn – every day, all day and night.

There are also various types of SPF creams on the market. For example, some may work immediately but will need to be reapplied often and won’t offer as much UVA protection compared to others. Other SPFs can be irritating and may take several minutes to be active. It’s all about finding what feels best on your skin.

To help you choose the right SPF it’s also a good idea to have an idea of how much time you think you can spend in the sun without getting burned (this is the definition of Sun Protection Factor.) For example, if you’re someone who can only spend 10 minutes in the sun before getting burned then using something like an SPF 20 will keep your skin protected for up to 200 minutes. The type of SPF you choose also depends on other contributing factors such as the time of day as well as exposure to things like wind and water.

Managing Stress and Anxiety

Stress is something that affects thousands of Canadians every day. When we become stressed or anxious, the nervous system releases chemicals that send alarm signals throughout the body, which then trigger an instinctive response known as “fight or flight.” When that fight or flight response is triggered, it means the brain perceives something as a threat. How you choose to handle that stress and anxiety, however, is crucial to your well-being, as if left unmanaged, it can lead to more severe mental health problems, such as depression.

If you’ve ever had a deadline to meet for school or work, have gone on a first date, or don’t know what you’re going to cook for a large dinner party you’re hosting, then you know exactly how stress and anxiety might feel. Along with work and school stressors, sometimes even the most positive of events can cause one to feel stressed or anxious – such as the birth of a baby or planning a wedding. Certain physical environments, such as unsafe living conditions, noise and traffic can also cause stress and anxiety.

Women are more likely to be affected by stress and anxiety than men. For women, the most common stressors include time constraints and family matters, while men say they feel more stressed and anxious with work and financial matters. Older adults are also at a much higher risk of struggling with stress and anxiety due to changes with their health. Levels of stress and anxiety are also at an increased high in today’s youth with having to balance school, activities, and friendships.

Along with affecting your mood, stress and anxiety can also impact the body. For example, you can develop muscle tension and pain, rapid heartbeat, upset stomach, diarrhea, fatigue and headaches. It’s also not uncommon for people dealing with extreme stress and anxiety to turn to alcohol, smoke cigarettes, and abuse drugs.

Because stress and anxiety affect everyone differently, it’s important to be able to identify triggers and find ways to cope. Sometimes coping with stress and anxiety can be as simple as writing down what you’re feeling stressed or anxious about, including writing a list of goals and solutions. Self-care, such as yoga and meditation can also help relax the mind. Other times, you may simply need to vent. For children and teens, many schools offer free counselling services. There are also private counselling services available throughout British Columbia, while your physician can also refer you to a psychiatrist.

Are You Getting Enough Vitamins & Minerals?

Vitamins and minerals are considered essential nutrients as they play a key role in maintaining your health – physically and mentally. Without them, you’re at risk of developing a number of health complications. In order to help you have a better understanding of just how important vitamins and minerals are, I’ll break down the different types as well as which ones are required in order to help you achieve optimal health.

There are 13 essential vitamins: Vitamin A, C, D, E, K, B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B7 (biotin), B6, B12 (cyanocobalamin) and B9. Vitamins are grouped into two different categories: Fat-soluble vitamins, which are absorbed more easily by dietary fat and bind to the stomach for later use; and Water-soluble vitamins, which are absorbed directly by the cells in the body. Each of the vitamins listed have their own special function…

Vitamin A helps to form and maintain healthy bones, teeth, skin, soft tissue and mucus membranes. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that not only boosts the immune system, but also promotes healthy teeth, in addition to wound healing, the maintenance of healthy tissue, as well as helps with iron absorption. Vitamin D, commonly referred to as the “sunshine vitamin,” is a vitamin that is naturally made within our bodes when we have been exposed to the sun. Vitamin D also helps with calcium absorption. Vitamin E is an antioxidant and helps the body form red blood cells. Vitamin K isn’t necessarily considered an essential vitamin, but it helps the blood coagulate. Some studies have also suggested it can be important for bone health. Vitamin B1, also known as thiamine, changes consumed carbohydrates into energy, and also plays an essential role in promoting healthy nerve cells and heart function. Vitamin B2, also known as riboflavin, works together with some of the other B vitamins and promotes body growth in addiction to the production of red blood cells. Vitamin B3, also known as niacin, has cholesterol-lowering effects when taken at higher doses, and also helps to maintain the skin as well as promote healthy nerves. Vitamin B5, also known as pantothenic acid, plays a role in the production of hormones and cholesterol, and it is also essential for metabolizing our food. Vitamin B7, also known as biotin, is also essential for metabolism, hormones and cholesterol. Vitamin B6 helps maintain brain function and form red blood cells. Vitamin B12 is another vitamin that is important for metabolism; in addition, it also helps to form red blood cells and maintain the central nervous system (CNS). Lastly, Vitamin B9, which consists of folic acid, and has many health benefits including preventing aging, preventing cancer, preventing heart attacks, aiding fertility, and maintaining good mental health.

There is also a wide range of essential minerals that the body needs. These include but are not limited to calcium (which is needed to form strong bones and teeth), iron (which helps carry oxygen from the lungs to the cells in your body), potassium (which controls the electrical activity of the heart as well as helps build proteins), magnesium (which supports nerve and muscle function, as well as boosts immunity), and other trace minerals.

Vitamins and minerals can be found in many different food sources. In some cases, patients may be deficient in certain vitamins and/or minerals and will require a supplement.

Healthy, Natural Ways to Find Pain Relief

Thousands of Canadians suffer from pain every day. Pain can be acute and a result of something like a scraped knee, sprained or broken bone, which will get better over time, or can be chronic and much more severe – such as fibromyalgia, arthritis, migraines, or other pain disorders. Regardless of the cause, the goal is to find relief. Over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen and ibuprofen are typically the go-to medications of choice when it comes to those that are seeking pain relief. However, too much of these medications over a prolonged period of time can lead to other health complications such as kidney and liver problems, ulcers, and more. In addition, opioids are also problematic when it comes to pain relief, as they are not meant to be used long-term. Prolonged use of opioids can result in the body becoming dependent on the drug, in addition to the drug itself becoming less successful in treating the pain, therefore requiring more which can then lead to addiction. As a result, physicians work diligently to warn patients about the dangers of long-term use of opioids, and are instead helping patients find healthier ways to help relieve pain.

When it comes to chronic pain, it is generally broken down into two categories: Nociceptive or Neuropathic. Nociceptive pain is the result of damage being done to body tissue, and is usually described as an aching, sharp or throbbing pain; whereas Neuropathic pain occurs when there has been damage done to the nerves. Chronic pain can affect any area of the body, and it can so debilitating to the point where it may affect your ability to carry out your day to day activities, in addition to requiring you to take time off school or work, as well as affect your ability to socialize and keep personal relationships. Because pain can be so complex, finding relief is often a matter of trial and error. While doctors won’t shy away from prescribing patients medications when it is absolutely necessary, sometimes introducing certain changes in lifestyle can also be beneficial – such as engaging in regular, low-impact physical activity, healthy eating, and reducing stress – as part of their pain management plan.

Aside from medication and breaking certain unhealthy habits, finding relief from pain might actually be right under your fingertips through certain items you already own. For example, if you suffer from body aches or sprains/other related injuries, applying a cold compress to the affected area(s) for 10 minutes at a time can be significantly effective. Cold not only has an anesthetizing effect, but it can also reduce swelling and inflammation, as well as temporarily reduces nerve activity which results in a reduced level of pain. Alternatively, heat (from a heating pad or warm towel) can also reduce things like painful muscle spasms and joint stiffness. However, heat should not be applied to an injury for at least 48 hours. When applying heat directly to the skin, you should also make sure it’s not too hot so that you can avoid burning the skin. Certain essential oils are also great, natural ways of finding pain relief – especially lavender and peppermint oils. If the cause of your pain is due to underlying inflammation, lavender can help relieve this thanks to its analgesic properties. Similarly, peppermint oil can also treat pain caused by inflammation as well as a variety of other ailments including nausea and vomiting. The great thing about essential oils is that they can be used in many different ways. You can find relief by placing a few drops in your bathwater or shower (inhaling oil-infused steam can not only relieve pain, but is also found to be quite soothing and can even help with sleep), or gently massaging the oil directly onto the areas of your body that you find affected by pain. You can also relieve muscle and joint pain by soaking in an epsom salt bath for approximately 20 minutes. Epsom salt has been used as natural pain reliever for many, many decades as it contains exceptional anti-inflammatory properties. It’s also not uncommon to find certain brands of epsom salt infused with essential oils like the ones already mentioned.

Sometimes finding pain relief can also be a matter of simply opening up your cupboards, fridge, or taking a trip to the local grocery or fruit and vegetable store. Ginger is one of the most natural and healthiest remedies when it comes to not just treating pain and inflammation, but a wide range of other ailments such as nausea, indigestion, and high cholesterol…and it can even reduce the risk of things like heart disease and cancer. While raw ginger is the best and most effective way to go, ginger also comes in tea and candy form – though beware of the sugar! Adding a teaspoon of powdered cinnamon to your tea or to a glass of warm water and honey can also help to relieve pain and improve your overall health. Green, leafy vegetables (spinach or kale) or fruits (cherries) are also some of the top foods that can fight pain and inflammation.

Healthier Sugar Substitutes

It goes without saying that sugar is bad for you. It’s not only high in calories which can lead to weight gain, high cholesterol and heart disease, but it can also cause tooth decay and cavities, which can result in you requiring dental work such as fillings or even root canals. Furthermore, sugar can also be problematic if you have certain pre-existing conditions, such as diabetes – and those are just some of the reasons why it’s recommended you stay away from sugar and make better food choices.

If you’re craving something sweet, then there are healthier alternatives you can try…

For example, if you prefer drinking soda, swap it for water mixed with lemon and lime or your favourite berries. Eliminating soda from your diet and switching it up with flavoured water not only decreases sugar from your diet, but still gives you that sweet taste you’re craving. The same goes for certain foods you eat – such as cakes, cookies and other baked goods. Fresh fruit not only makes a sweet after-meal dessert, but it’s also much healthier than eating those aforementioned unhealthy foods. In addition, fruit isn’t something that has to be limited to just one meal – it can be incorporated into your breakfast, lunch, dinner – and even makes for a great snack. Fruits are some of the healthiest foods you can eat as they are rich in antioxidants and high in essential nutrients such as vitamin C, folic acid, potassium, calcium, fibre, and more. Among some of the healthiest fruits you can include in your diet are apples, oranges, strawberries, peaches, melon, blackberries, blueberries, grapefruit, pineapple, pomegranate – and, surprisingly, avocado. It is important to note that many of these fruits (and some not mentioned) do contain sugar, though the sugars found in fruits are natural.

There are also various sugar alternatives on the market which have increased in popularity over the years. For example, artificial sweeteners. Sold under many different brand names, artificial sweeteners are something people turn to as they virtually have no calories, nor do they contribute to tooth decay or raise blood sugar levels. Many artificial sweeteners are also safe to use in things like coffee and tea, as well as baking, though you may need to make some modifications to your recipes as artificial sweeteners often taste much sweeter than sugar does. Just like you would with anything else you eat, it’s also important that artificial sweeteners are used in moderation, as it is possible for them to come with potential side-effects – and you may even find yourself craving sweet things more frequently.

Honey is also something that people will often use as an alternative to sugar, but it actually has a higher calorie count than sugar. Just one tablespoon of honey contains approximately 64 calories, while one tablespoon of sugar is approximately 49 calories. It also has the same effects that sugar would, such as impacting blood sugar levels, which can be problematic if you are diabetic. Aside from consumption, however, honey has been long-used as a natural remedy for many different ailments. Swallowing a spoonful of honey has been known to soothe a sore throat and ease a cough, and has also been used for wound healing purposes. When consumed in moderation, honey can have both anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory effects.

To make sure you’re reducing sugar from your diet, always make sure you’re purchasing sugar-free products (yogurt, for example) and unsweetened versions of things like nut butters and applesauce, as well as snacking on healthier foods (such as trail mix or raw fruits and vegetables instead of candy.

Protecting Your Skin from the Sun

In any given year, an estimated 80,000 cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in Canada. By the end of 2022, it is estimated that 9,000 Canadians will be diagnosed with skin cancer; while an estimated 1,200 will die from it. (Click here for more skin cancer statistics from the Canadian Cancer Society.) Now that summer is here, it’s especially important for the public to be educated on the risks associated with exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays.

There are four different types of skin cancer that you can be diagnosed with:

• Actinic Keratosis (AK)
• Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC)
• Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)
• Malignant Melanoma

Actinic Keratosis is caused by chronic exposure to ultraviolet radiation, such as sunlight. Areas of the body most commonly affected by AK include the scalp, face, neck, shoulders, arms, hands and back. AK is more common in adults over the age of 45 as well as those who are fair skinned or have light hair, freckles, and burn easily. You are also more likely to develop AK if you’ve had frequent exposure to sun throughout your early life. Some health researchers also suggest that Actinic keratosis is an early form of Squamous cell carcinoma, which is why it’s so crucial to seek treatment as early as possible. Those with AK will often notice scaly, plaque-like patches that are approximately 1 to 3 mm in diameter and they may range in colour from brown to red.

Basal Cell Carcinoma is considered to be the most common form of skin cancer as it accounts for 90% of cases that are diagnosed. It begins at the outer layer of skin, also known as the epidermis, and is caused by frequent/long-term exposure to sunlight or artificial ultraviolet light, such as tanning beds. Common areas of the body affected by BCC include the scalp, face, ears, neck, back and shoulders. Other contributing factors include genetics, vaccinations, and even tattoos. While Basal Cell Carcinoma generally affects individuals over the age of 40, anyone can be diagnosed. You’re also at a higher risk of developing BCC if you are on long-term immunosuppressive drugs or have a suppressed immune system due to illness. One of the most common, earliest signs of Basal Cell Carcinoma are non-healing sores – particularly if they bleed or ooze for three weeks or more. The sores may be painful or itch, while other times may give the patient no discomfort. Skin lesions that appear shiny or bumpy are also indicators of BCC.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma is the second most common form of skin cancer after Basal Cell Carcinoma. It also occurs after overexposure to sunlight – either from the sun’s UV rays or tanning beds, but can also develop as a result of burns, scars, sores, as well as exposure to certain chemicals. Chronic skin inflammation and other medical conditions known to suppress the immune system can also encourage the development of Squamous Cell Carcinoma. Like other forms of skin cancer, SCC also occurs on areas of the body that have experienced prolonged exposure to ultraviolet rays. Telltale signs of sun damage include wrinkling of the skin, pigment changes, and loss of elasticity. If you develop wart-like growths, growths that get larger over time, persistent scaly red patches, or have open sores, these could all be warning signs of Squamous Cell Carcinoma.

Malignant Melanoma is considered the most serious form of skin cancer, as well as the most deadly. It causes more than 900 deaths in Canada each year. However, the good news is that with early detection, it can be cured. In order to determine the presence of Malignant Melanoma, you need to know the warning signs. It can start as what appears to be a new mole or freckles on the outer surface of the skin. Malignant Melanoma can also cause pre-existing moles or spots on the skin to change in appearance – such as shape or colour. Malignant Melanoma can develop over weeks or months, or can be a more slow-growing cancer over several years.

As mentioned, in order to prevent skin cancer, the first thing you should do is take precautions to keep your skin protected from ultraviolet rays. While you might not think a little bit of exposure to ultraviolet rays is dangerous, it may actually be more harmful than one realizes. If you’re going to be exposed to sunlight, I suggest using an SPF 15 or 30. An SPF 15 sunscreen will block as much as 93% of UVB radiation, while an SPF 30 blocks as much as 97%. The higher the SPF, the better protected your skin will be. It’s also important to avoid use of tanning beds, as even the UV exposure from tanning beds can do serious damage to not just the skin, but to the eyes as well. Along with wearing sunscreen, you should also keep your scalp protected by wearing large-brimmed hats, and keep your eyes protected by wearing sunglasses. If you notice any abnormalities with your skin, you should always report those changes to your family doctor or dermatologist right away.

Heat Stroke Prevention

During extreme heat events or heat waves, your health can be at risk and you may develop what’s known as heat stroke, which can potentially be fatal.

Heat stroke, which is most common during the summer months, is when your body begins to overheat and reaches a temperature of 40°C or higher. It occurs as a result of being exposed to high temperatures (including physical exertion in high temperatures) for a prolonged period of time. While heat stroke more commonly affects individuals who are older (those over the age of 50, for example), it can also affect younger people, including babies – and even the healthiest of people, such as athletes. Heat stroke is something that should be taken seriously, as if it is not, it can do serious damage to the brain and other internal organs. Below is some information on heat stroke, including the signs and symptoms you should watch for, as well as what important preventative measures you can take to avoid developing heat stroke all together, and what to do in the event that you or someone you know does happen to develop heat stroke.

Preparing for extreme heat/weather is one of the best ways to prevent heat stroke. This means paying close attention to local weather forecasts (including forecasts of regions you might be travelling to) so that you know when you should take extra precautions to keep yourself protected.

As mentioned, you also need to be aware of the warning signs and symptoms that are associated with heat stroke, which can include the following:

• Severe, throbbing headache
• Dizziness and/or light-headedness
• Red, hot and/or dry skin
• Lack of sweating (despite heat)
• Muscle cramps and/or weakness
• Nausea and vomiting
• Rapid heartbeat
• Rapid and/or shallow breathing
• Confusion and/or disorientation
• Seizures
• Loss of consciousness

If you develop any of the aforementioned symptoms or see someone who may be exhibiting signs of heat stroke, it is important to immediately move to a cool area and drink water. You can also cool down by applying a cool cloth/compress (such as an ice pack) to the skin. If the person has lost consciousness, you should call 911 immediately.

As mentioned, drinking water is also important – not just after you’re already exhibiting signs of heat stroke, but prior to developing any signs, as water helps to keep the body hydrated and regulate its temperature. You should also drink water before, during and after any kind of physical activity. To make water taste more appealing, you can add a small amount of flavouring to it; many fruits and vegetables, such as watermelon, also have a high water content and can be another great way to increase your water intake if you don’t happen to have drinking water readily available.

Of course warmer weather means wanting to spend more time outdoors, but this, too, can lead to heat stroke, so always make sure you’re keeping your body protected by wearing loose-fitting clothing, a hat, and taking breaks from the sun by moving to cool, shaded or air-conditioned areas. For some people, spending time outdoors in extreme heat can be too much – but so can spending time indoors, especially if you live in a warm apartment building or don’t have air conditioning. If this is the case, having an oscillating fan can be helpful. You can also block direct sunlight by keeping blinds and curtains closed, while having windows open at night once temperatures begin to cool down

Other heat-related illnesses include things like heat rash (in which your hands, ankles and/or feet become swollen), heat cramps (in which you develop muscle cramping), heat rash, and heat exhaustion.