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Monkeypox: What to Know About Rare Virus

Health experts are urging Canadians not to go into panic mode after a dozen of suspected (and 2 confirmed) cases of monkeypox were found in Quebec, with rising cases of the rare infectious disease also being found in the United States and Europe. The virus, which is similar to smallpox, is typically found in areas of Central and West Africa, where individuals are commonly exposed to it through insect bites or scratches from animals. However, with the rising cases in different countries, there is some concern that there may be a wider outbreak happening on a global scale.

While it is called monkeypox, there are several types of animals that can carry the virus. During an outbreak of monkeypox in the United States in 2003 – the first time in which human monkeypox had been reported outside of Africa – all infected individuals became ill after contact with pet prairie dogs that had been exposed to other infected animals that were imported to Texas from Ghana – including six different types of rodents.

A study conducted following the 2003 outbreak suggested that certain activities associated with animals was more likely to lead to the development of a monkeypox infection, including touching a sick animal or receiving a bite or scratch from an infected animal that broken the skin; in addition to touching the bedding or cleaning the case of an infected animal. In regard to the 2003 outbreak, there were no instances of infection attributed to person-to-person contact. However, human transmission has been seen, and is also thought to spread as a result of skin-to-skin contact (such as sexual activity, although it is important to note that monkeypox is not classified as a sexually transmitted disease), or via aerosols.

Compared to viruses like COVID-19, Canadian health officials say that the current strain of monkeypox is said to not be as contagious in typical social settings, and is instead spread through more prolonged close contact with an infected individual (such as direct contact with respiratory droplets, bodily fluids, or sores.)

Monkeypox typically begins with flu-like symptoms, such as fever and/or chills, headache, fatigue, muscle aches and swollen lymph nodes. Following this, lesions can develop across various parts of the body after approximately 3 days of the infection, including on the face and hands.

The most important thing to do if you have become infected with the virus or were in recent contact with someone who was diagnosed or had any of the aforementioned symptoms – is to self-isolate so that you do not spread it to others. There is no proven treatment for monkeypox, and in some cases it can be deadly for up to 1 in 10 people who do become infected and depending on the strain in which they were infected with. There are also complications that can occur as a result of contracting monkeypox, including things such as sepsis, encephalitis, and bronchopneumonia. That being said, most people will typically heal from the virus within 2 to 4 weeks. There has also been some research that suggests those who have been previously vaccinated against the smallpox virus may also have a certain amount of protection against monkeypox, resulting in less severe illness – although routine vaccination against smallpox was stopped in 1972. In the event that a greater risk arises to the general population, the Public Health Agency of Canada is procuring a stockpile of the smallpox vaccine – including approval of a vaccine from Danish biotech company Bavarian Nordic.

Age-Related Muscle Loss and How to Build Back Strength

Age-related muscle loss, also known as sarcopenia, is a condition that occurs as a result of the body’s natural aging process. When muscle decreases, so does a person’s strength, and this can not only have a direct impact on one’s balance, but can also affect the ability to be able to perform everyday activities – such as walking, climbing stairs, and lifting objects.

Muscle mass can begin to decline as early as age 40, and may progress more rapidly between the ages of 50 and 60. A person can lose anywhere from 3 to 8 percent of muscle mass every 10 years. While aging is usually the main cause of muscle loss, there are other factors that may contribute to sarcopenia, including living a sedentary lifestyle, poor dietary habits, illness, injury, or other chronic health conditions.

To prevent muscle loss or rebuild lost muscle, there are different ways in which you can do this – the most important step being exercise. While you may not be able to return to the same level of physical activity that you were once used to prior to developing sarcopenia, you can slowly ease back into it. By partaking in low-impact exercise, you prevent your muscles from working too hard too soon, and therefore reduce the risk of injury. Examples of low-impact exercise include going for short walks or doing stretching. You can find more great examples of workouts to help strengthen your back here. If you feel pain at any time during physical activity then it’s important that you stop and take a break.

Another good idea is to focus on the specific area of the body/the specific muscle you want to rebuild. For example, lifting weights is a great way to increase arm strength, while squats and walking are great ways to increase muscle in the legs. If you do opt for lifting weights, start with something you know you can tolerate rather than choosing weights that are too heavy. For best results you should be performing two to three sets at least twice a week. It’s important that you allow a day or two between workouts to give your muscles adequate time to recover and for that muscle growth to build back up. Once you’ve gotten used to your routine, you can always increase physical activity. You may even benefit from working with a personal trainer, as they are oftentimes able to design a workout routine that is specific to you and your needs.

It’s also essential that you’re eating a well-balanced, healthy diet. Having a diet that consists of a mix of different fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is not only crucial for muscle health, but can also benefit your overall health as well – such as reducing the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Increasing your protein intake can also help rebuild muscle mass. Protein includes things like lean meats, cold-water fish, and eggs. Drinking water can also support muscle growth and flux toxins from the body.

It’s important that you avoid taking supplements that claim to be able to dramatically improve muscle strength, as many of these kinds of products do not help and may actually increase body fat. If you’re looking for alternatives, your best course of action is to speak to your family physician.

How to Control High Blood Pressure

Nearly one in five Canadians (that’s approximately 4.6 million people) between the ages of 20 and 79 have hypertension – the medical term that is commonly used to describe high blood pressure. Blood pressure is when the force of your blood gets pumped from the heart and against the blood vessels, making it possible for the delivery of things like nutrients and oxygen to different organs and tissues in the body. However, when you develop hypertension, this means that there is too much pressure in your blood vessels – thus the term “high blood pressure” – and when you have high blood pressure, this can cause damage to those blood vessels as well as pose other serious risks to your health if left untreated.

When it comes to the risk factors of high blood pressure, there are many. However, some of those risk factors are things that you can control, while other risk factors may be beyond your ability to control. For example, one of the most common reasons why someone might develop high blood pressure is often due to their lifestyle. This can include everything from having an unhealthy diet to excess consumption of alcohol, living a sedentary lifestyle, being overweight or obese, to bad habits such as smoking. You can also develop high blood pressure as a result of stress and other health conditions such as diabetes, kidney disease, and sleep apnea. That being said, these are all things that you can manage and control, which can help keep your blood pressure at healthy levels. As mentioned, there are also certain risk factors associated with high blood pressure that cannot be controlled, such as age and genetics. You’re more likely to develop high blood pressure as you age, or if there is a history of high blood pressure in your family.

When it comes to keeping your blood pressure under control, changing your lifestyle can be hard, but with the right mindset it is something that you can easily achieve. As mentioned, having a healthy diet is an important aspect in reducing your risk of high blood pressure. Once of the most common dietary approaches that health professionals recommend is the DASH diet – which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. The DASH diet focuses on eating more fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, fish, poultry, whole-grains and nuts, while limiting your intake of things like sugar and red meat, as well as foods that are high in saturated and trans fats, sodium, and cholesterol. Exercise is also important, as being at a healthy weight not only reduces your risk of developing high blood pressure, but is beneficial to your health in a number of other ways, such as decreasing your risk of heart disease, and it can even boost your mood and relieve things like stress and anxiety. Things like cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption can be difficult habits to break, and you may need extra help with those which is okay. There are plenty of cessation tips available online as well as different things, like patches, that you can try, while groups like AA and other counselling/therapy and rehabilitation programs can also help if you are dependent on alcohol. Along with making healthy lifestyle habits, medications can also be prescribed to help control blood pressure. Some of the medications that are most commonly prescribed include diuretics, beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors, ARBs, CCBs, and direct renin inhibitors.

If high blood pressure remains untreated and out of control, your health can be at risk, which is why getting your blood pressure under control is so important. Having high blood pressure can increase your chances of suffering a stroke or heart attack, puts you at increased risk of heart failure, kidney disease, retinopathy (eye problems), and dementia.

If you are someone who has recently been diagnosed with high blood pressure, it’s important to be as educated as possible on what your blood pressure numbers should be and how to properly monitor your blood pressure. Having a blood pressure level of 120/80 mmHg means you are at low-risk of developing hypertension, while blood pressure readings between 139/89 mmHg and 140/90 mmHg put you at a moderate to elevated risk of hypertension. You can help to keep track of your blood pressure by having an at-home blood pressure reading device, which can be a good tool in helping keep your physician informed on how well your blood pressure is being controlled and knowing how well you are or aren’t progressing. When using an at-home device, it’s important that you don’t smoke or drink caffeine at least 30 minutes before taking your blood pressure. You should also sit and rest quietly for at least 5 minutes prior to taking your blood pressure, and make sure your feet are flat on the floor and arm at heart-level.

High Blood Pressure

When you have high blood pressure (also known as hypertension), this means that the pressure in your arteries is higher than what’s deemed safe. When reading blood pressure levels, physicians look at two numbers – the top, systolic number, which is the pressure when the heart is beating; and the bottom, diastolic number, which is the pressure when the heart is resting in between beats.

Blood pressure is separated into five separate categories:

  • Normal
  • Elevated
  • Stage 1 Hypertension
  • Stage 2 Hypertension
  • Hypertensive Crisis

Normal Blood Pressure

With normal blood pressure, your systolic readings should be less than 120, while your diastolic levels should be less than 80.

Elevated Blood Pressure

With elevated blood pressure, your systolic levels can range anywhere from 120 to 129, while your diastolic levels will be less than 80.

Stage 1 Hypertension

With stage 1 hypertension, your systolic levels can range anywhere from 130 to 139, while your diastolic levels can range between 80 and 89.

Stage 2 Hypertension

With stage 2 hypertension, your systolic levels will be 140 or higher, while your diastolic levels will be 90 or higher.

Hypertensive Crisis

When your blood pressure reaches a hypertensive crisis, your systolic levels will be higher than 180, while your diastolic levels will be higher than 120. This is considered a medical emergency and you should consult with your physician immediately.

Given the fact that high blood pressure often comes with no symptoms, it can be dangerous and sometimes even deadly. However, there are certain risk factors and things that I recommend paying attention to…

For example, you are at a higher risk of developing high blood pressure if you are a smoker or are exposed to second-hand smoke, are overweight or obese, have high cholesterol, have diabetes, chronic kidney disease, obstructive sleep apnea, are not physically active, have an unhealthy diet, and drink excessive amounts of alcohol. Your age, race/ethnicity and gender also play a factor in whether or not you are at an increased risk of developing high blood pressure, as well as whether or not there is a history of high blood pressure in your family.

Preventing High Blood Pressure

In order to decrease your risk of developing high blood pressure, there are certain lifestyle changes I recommend making. First and foremost, do not smoke. Secondly, it’s important to maintain a healthy weight and eat a healthy diet (i.e. one that is low in trans fats and saturated fats, low in sodium, and high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products.) Staying physically fit by engaging in low-impact exercise can also be beneficial and is something I strongly suggest.

How to Tell If You Have High Blood Pressure

As mentioned, high blood pressure often comes with no symptoms, so they only way to know if you have high blood pressure is to have it monitored by your physician. Once it is deemed that you do (or do not) have high blood pressure, your physician will be able to guide you in the right direction in terms of finding a treatment plan that is best suited for you – including making some of the aforementioned lifestyle changes – and, if necessary, also prescribing medication.

Steps to Boost Your Mental Health

As a family physician, I don’t just advocate for patients to take care of their physical health – I also urge the importance of mental health, too. Even if you don’t realize it, so much of what we do and experience can impact us mentally, which is why, when talking about health, it’s important to not only focus on things like heart and/or bone health, but on whole health – that way you are benefiting both the mind and the body – and regardless of age or gender. Whether it’s a young child that is just developing, a teenager going through the many ups and downs that so often come along with adolescence, or a senior enjoying retirement, your mental health matters.

There are many lifestyle factors that play a part in the decline or improvement of mental health. Living a healthy lifestyle can not only help to prevent the onset or worsening of mental health conditions, but you’re also preventing things like heart disease, obesity, diabetes and other chronic health conditions at the same time. To ensure you’re taking care of your mental and overall health, I recommend the following steps:

• Eat healthy
• Get regular exercise
• Sleep well
• Manage stress

When it comes to eating healthy, it’s all about making sure you’re getting the right amount of vitamins and other essential nutrients. Studies have shown foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids (such as salmon or sardines), chicken and walnuts are some of the best foods for improving mental health, and have even been shown to reduce symptoms of specific types of mental illness, such as depression, ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), schizophrenia, as well as other mental health disorders. Drinking water can also be beneficial to your mental health and provide you with more energy throughout the day. For more on how certain foods impact your health, check out the article titled ‘Five Foods for Good Health’.

Along with helping people control, maintain and lose weight, exercise is also one of the most beneficial ways to improve your mental health. Regular physical activity can have a profound impact on depression, can relieve stress, boost the mood, and give you a much better overall quality of life. There are many different ways to incorporate physical activity into your daily routine, too. For example, you could join a gym or partake in a drop-in fitness class at your local community centre. Now that the weather’s getting nicer, it’s also a good idea to try and move your exercise routine outdoors – you could go for a walk around your neighbourhood, a hike at the Grouse Grind, or even biking. In Vancouver, the opportunities and place you can go to get exercise are endless.

Sleep is something that some may not realize plays at important role in mental health. While some people say that they can run on very little sleep, it’s recommended that we get at least 6 to 8 hours of sleep each night – minimum. Getting enough sleep allows the body to repair and rejuvenate itself. If you don’t get enough sleep you’re not only putting yourself at risk of mental decline (and can develop anxiety and/or depression), but you can also wind up with a weakened immune system – meaning you’ll be much more likely to fall ill with viral or bacterial infections. If sleep is something you constantly struggle with, you may suffer from a condition known as insomnia and may require medicinal intervention to help you get a better night’s rest.

Lastly, managing stress. Day to day life can be difficult for even the best of us, and we’ve all experienced or will have had experienced a stressful situation or two (or many more) at some point or another in our lives. How we handle that stress, however, is key. If you’re someone who experiences a lot of stress in life, you need to set aside a bit of time each day to find ways to manage it. It can be as simple as writing down how you’re feeling in a journal, taking 30 minutes out of your day to meditate, or finding a support group so you can express how you’re feeling with others. Stress can have a huge impact on the body, and the result can be either negative or positive depending on your coping mechanisms. For more on how the body reacts to stress, click here.

Remember, if you’re struggling with your mental health, don’t be afraid to reach out to a trusted individual such as a friend, family member, or doctor. You can also find great mental health resources by visiting the Canadian Mental Health Association website at CMHA.ca. If you are in immediate need of assistance or are going through a crisis, please visit the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention at suicideprevention.ca, or visit your nearest emergency room.

Counselling for Children

Growing up in today’s society can be difficult enough as it is, but it’s especially difficult for young children and teenagers thanks to idealizations of what it means to be “perfect” as seen on TV shows (i.e. reality shows) and in the media (such as magazine covers.) Then there’s also the issue of peer pressure. During high school (and sometimes even earlier), it’s not uncommon for teenagers to experiment with things like tobacco use, marijuana and alcohol, leaving their peers feeling as if they have no choice by to try these things in order to fit in and be liked. Aside from this peer pressure and the constant need of feeling as though they have to be perfect, children and teens are also more susceptible to issues with mental health, such as depression and anxiety. One of the first signs that your child may be experiencing a mental health problem is if they are having emotional or behavioural problems. For example, they may spend more time sleeping, they may want to avoid certain places (such as school) and become more isolated and withdrawn in general, or they may also have sudden outbursts of anger – which could lead to potential violence, in addition to crying more often as well as having thoughts of fear, shame, and hopelessness.

While some individuals, such as friends or family, may tell you that it’s just a “phase” that your child is going through and that they’ll “grow out of it,” it’s better not to heed this kind of advice and instead take action upon noticing any unusual behavioural changes. The longer you wait, the higher the risk is that your child will develop other problems, such as eating disorders, severe depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders, as well as suicidal ideations and cutting. This is dangerous behaviour that may be a child’s way of letting you know they’re hurting without telling you directly. This type of behaviour can be caused by trauma, frustration, and even undiagnosed disorders (such as learning disorders.) Other signs that something may be wrong also include persistent worrying, a drop in grades at school, inability to concentrate or sit still, hearing voices, and dieting excessively. When a child experiences any changes in their behaviour such as these, this can not only cause a disruption to their own lives, but cause a disruption to family life, too, and have a significant impact on parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and grandparents, which is why it’s so crucial to seek out help as early as possible. The earlier you get help, the better chances you have at not only finding out what the underlying cause might be to your child’s actions (if there is any underlying cause) and what steps you need to take in order to rectify that.

For families that are going through difficult times with parenting, I recommend counselling – both as a whole family unit, but also allowing your child to have their own one-on-one time with a therapist. Children will sometimes feel more comfortable bringing up issues to strangers before they do their own families, so giving them that opportunity can allow them to feel more relaxed in discussing the things that might be bothering them. For teenagers, a therapist will tend to prefer to speak to a child and use what’s known as CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) as part of their treatment plan; while younger children will often be asked to explain how they’re feeling through artwork and other methods. In some cases, a child will need to be treated by a psychiatrist as they may also require medication.

How is Mental Illness Defined?

Mental illness is defined as a disease of the brain resulting in a disturbance in thoughts or behaviours, which can range from mild to severe. At some point in their lifetime, an estimated 1 in 5 Canadians will experience a mental illness in some capacity. Mental illness can affect people of all ages – from children to teenagers, and adults to the elderly.

People often associate mental illness with things like depression and anxiety. However, mental illness is not just limited to these specific conditions. Mental illness comes in various forms; in fact, there are over 200 classifications of mental illness.

Common Disorders

As mentioned, there are many different types of mental illnesses that one can be diagnosed with. However, the most common forms of mental illness include depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. Depression affects the way one feels, how they think and how they act, and can also affect one’s ability to perform everyday activities, such as going to work or school, and even something as simple as getting out of bed. Severe depression can lead to thoughts of suicide, which is why it’s imperative to speak to a healthcare professional as soon as possible so that you can find the right treatment and get it in a timely matter. Anxiety disorders also often co-occur with depression. Anxiety is defined as feelings of worry, uneasiness, and also results in panic attacks. With bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, an individual will experience what’s described as low lows or high highs, as well as sudden changes in energy levels, the way they think, and the way they behave. Schizophrenia, a severe, chronic disorder of the brain resulting in the breakdown of thoughts and emotions, as well as behaviour. Symptoms of schizophrenia include delusions and hallucinations, as well as the inability to think clearly or concentrate.

Diagnosing Mental Illness

In order to accurately diagnose mental illness, I urge the importance of speaking to a medical professional upon the first sign of symptoms – symptoms that may include feeling sad or down for an extended period of time, extreme fluctuations in mood, withdrawal from friends and activities that you once enjoyed, extreme fatigue, detachment from reality, changing in eating habits, alcohol and drug use, as well as suicidal ideations.

Treating Mental Illness

In order to treat mental illness it’s important to get an accurate diagnosis. Once you have a definitive diagnosis, the treatment used is often a combination of medication and therapy – including outpatient therapy, usually with a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist. There are many medications used to treat mental illness, such as anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications. If you’ve been prescribed these medications, be aware that it’s not uncommon to experience symptoms such as fatigue and nausea during the first several weeks until your body becomes used to the drug. Always report any severe or unusual symptoms to your physician, as the dose of your medication may need to be altered.

Mental Health Week

“Mental Health” is a broad term that is used to describe a wide range of different psychological conditions. However, the term is also about much more than mental illness. It’s also about how you feel – whether you’re happy or sad, feeling good about who you are, and how you manage the highs and lows that come with life.

Because mental illness is so common and widespread (with over 200 classifications),  it’s important to know the warning signs that are associated with mental illness. However, those warning signs may differ depending on the age of the individual. For example, younger children may experience changes in school performance (i.e. poor grades), changes in their sleeping and/or eating habits, have frequent temper tantrums, excessive worry, anxiety, hyperactivity, aggression, and even hyperactivity. In older children and teenagers there may be defiance of authority, frequent outbursts of anger, a prolonged negative mood, an inability to cope with problems and daily activities, as well as substance use. Young adults and adults may have confused thoughts, prolonged depression, irritability, social withdrawal, hallucinations, delusions, unexplained physical ailments, and suicidal thoughts.

Whether you experience any of the aforementioned symptoms/warning signs or not, it’s never a bad idea to check in on your own mental health, as this is a good way to not only support it, but make improvements if necessary. For example, ask yourself the following:

• Am I optimistic about my future?
• Do I feel good about myself?
• Do I enjoy life?
• Do I get along with others/have good social interactions?
• Do I have a good support system around me?
• Am I reaching my full potential?
• Do I feel confident?

If your answer is “yes” to the majority of these questions, then these are signs of good mental health. However, if your answer is “no”, it wouldn’t hurt to discuss how you’re feeling with someone you trust – whether it’s a friend, family member, or a physician.

This is also why, from May 2nd to 8th, 2022, the Canadian Mental Health Association is asking individuals to #GetReal about mental health and talk about what it means to them, as well as to have empathy for those who may be struggling with their mental health. Having this discussion is also a good way to reduce the stigma that is so often associated with mental illness. Since Mental Health Week first began in 1951, 57% of Canadians say that they believe the stigma associated with mental illness has been reduced, while 70% say they believe the attitude towards mental health issues has changed for the better compared to 5 years ago.

We all have good and bad mental health days, but it’s important to keep the good days coming. In order to do this, some strategies that the Canadian Mental Health Association recommends trying include connecting with friends and family (i.e. going for coffee, grabbing lunch, or even sending them an e-mail), as well as staying active (physical activity has been show to improve mental health.)

For more on Mental Health Week, visit mentalhealthweek.ca or search the hashtag #GetREAL on social media.

The Importance of Staying Hydrated

The importance of drinking water isn’t just a fad – it’s true. Keeping your body hydrated with fluids is crucial for your health as well as maintaining proper function of a wide range of systems and organs within the body – including the heart, brain and muscles. Aside from this, water is free of calories, fat and carbohydrates. Essentially, your body depends on water in order to survive.

Are You Drinking Enough Water?

It is recommended that we drink a minimum of 6 to 8 8-ounce glasses of water every day. The best way to tell whether or not you’re drinking enough water is to pay attention to the colour of your urine. If you are well hydrated, your urine should be colourless or light yellow. If you’re dehydrated and not drinking enough water, your urine will appear darker yellow or amber.

Foods High in Water Content

Aside from a good, cold glass of water, there are also certain foods that are high in water content. In fact, as much as 20% of your water intake actually comes from food. Fruits and vegetables like watermelon, strawberries, cantaloupe, pineapple, oranges, raspberries, cucumbers, iceberg lettuce, celery, green pepper and spinach are made up of anywhere from 80% to approximately 95% of water and are great for keeping you hydrated. That being said, it’s also important to be aware of which fruits might have less benefits for your health, which you can read more about by clicking here.

Signs and Symptoms of Dehydration

When you don’t drink enough water, you become hydrated – also known as dehydration. Depending on how dehydrated a person is, signs and symptoms of dehydration can be very minor, or they can severe and sometimes even life-threatening. Dehydration is especially concerning for young children and older adults (seniors, in particular.) Signs and symptoms of dehydration may include dry mouth, extreme thirst, infrequent urination, dark-coloured urine, fatigue, dizziness or confusion, dry skin, and even headache. If you develop a rapid heart rate, have seizures, have diarrhea (for 24 hours or more), have bloody or black stools, can’t keep down fluids, or become disoriented, you should seek immediate medical attention by seeing your doctor or going to the nearest emergency room.

What Causes Dehydration?

Along with not drinking enough water, dehydration is generally quite common during warmer months – especially the summer. As Vancouver is currently experiencing a heat wave and seeing higher than seasonal temperatures, Dr. Ali Ghahary wants to remind people about not just the importance of keeping yourself hydrated, but also about the importance of protecting yourself from the sun. Along with drinking water, if you’re going to be outdoors for an extended period of time you should also make sure you’re wearing sunscreen, sunglasses, and a wide-brimmed hat. You should also take breaks from the sun and move to shaded or air-conditioned areas whenever possible.

How Tobacco Harms Your Health

Smoking Statistics

There are as many as 1 billion smokers worldwide. According to a health survey released by Statistics Canada, an estimated 17.7 percent (or approximately 5.3 million) of Canadians are smokers, beginning as early as age 12. While smoking rates have been falling steadily in Canada over the last few years, it’s still an urgent problem that needs to be addressed. Smoking kills more than 37,000 Canadians each year. In fact, smoking causes more deaths every year than HIV, illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle accidents and firearm-related incidents combined.

Smoking and Cancer

While some think that lung cancer is one of the only types of cancer directly caused by smoking, tobacco use can actually cause cancer in any part of your body. This includes bladder cancer, blood cancer, cervix cancer, colon cancer, esophagus cancer, kidney cancer, liver cancer, pancreatic cancer, and stomach cancer.

Smoking and Respiratory Health

Respiratory problems are common among smokers. Common lung diseases that arise include emphysema, chronic bronchitis and COPD – also known as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. Smoking can also trigger asthma, causing symptoms such as shortness of breath, wheezing, and chest tightness or chest pain.

Smoking and Cardiovascular Health

If you’re a smoker, you’re at a very high risk of developing diseases affecting the heart and blood vessels – also known as cardiovascular disease. This includes everything from coronary heart disease and stroke. A stroke occurs when a clot forms and blocks the blood’s flow to the brain, or when a blood vessel bursts in or around the brain. Blockages related to smoking can also reduce the blood flow to your skin and legs. For more information on cardiovascular health, visit the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada.

How to Quit Smoking

While quitting smoking can be challenging, it’s important to ensure your health thrives. Anyone who quits smoking may experience withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, difficulty sleeping and lack of concentration, but it’s important to remember that these symptoms are only temporary. For more helpful smoking cessation tips, click here.