Home Blog Page 2

Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease

Dementia is a term that means loss of memory and other cognitive functions, which interfere with activities of daily living. Living with any form of dementia can take a toll on the patient and caregivers. It can come as a shock, and it will be a moment of crisis where strong support is needed.

Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia, accounts for 60 to 80 percent of cases in Canada and generally affects more seniors than any other age group. Alzheimer’s occurs when the brain cells and connections die, affecting the ability to think coherently and remember things both in the long and short-term. Currently, there is no cure for the disease, but there are ways to help advance the field and assist the people suffering, including both patients and their loved ones.

The Alzheimer’s Society of Canada is an active community-centered organization dedicated to helping those with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Their focus is to provide adequate and thorough education, counselling, support, and resources for help outside the doctor or hospital setting not only to patients, but to families, caregivers, and healthcare professionals who work with Alzheimer and dementia patients.

Advocacy is an important role of the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada. They work closely with government officials and the community to push for legislative changes that will improve the programs that work towards finding a cure or better treatment for this degrading disease. The goal is to improve the care offered to Alzheimer and dementia patients, while providing the support needed to those who suffer alongside them.

Mounting research and evidence shows that the earlier the disease is caught, the better the patient and family tend to fare. There are services offered by the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada that will help newly diagnosed patients and families become more familiar with symptoms and how to handle them. For example, First Link is a referral service that helps you find the appropriate practitioners; MedicAlert Safely Home is a program offered to help ensure the Alzheimer sufferer does not get lost or injured, assisting with a safe return home. On the MedicAlert bracelet is critical information about the person’s health, so as to avoid medical errors if there is an emergency.

For more information about Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, contact your local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada. No referrals are needed. Even if you are unsure if there is even a diagnosis of dementia lurking in your family, this organization can still help you find the best resources as well as healthcare providers in your area who can make a diagnosis and recommended treatment options.

Keeping Your New Year’s Weight Loss Resolution

Making New Year’s resolutions is generally quite easy, but actually starting and sticking to them can be even harder. With 2022 now behind us, many Canadians will use this time as an opportunity to reminisce and reflect on the year that was as well as the achievements they’ve made and the ones that might not have come into fruition, while focusing on the new year.

As getting and staying motivated can oftentimes be difficult, it can sometimes be hard to achieve your weight loss goals. In fact, it’s not at all uncommon for individuals to be unsuccessful upon their first and even second tries, as in order to have motivation you also need determination. Without it, you’re less likely to succeed. However, not all hope is lost, and there are a few suggestions I have for individuals wanting to lose weight in 2023.

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

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

Healthy Resolutions for the New Year

The most common resolutions that people make going into a new year include weight loss and healthy eating. These resolutions often mean that people will make drastic changes to their diet and fitness plans; but these drastic changes are also some of the reasons why people don’t necessarily see the immediate results they expect. While we should all strive to keep our bodies as healthy as possible, there are things you can do to make it a bit easier to follow through on those new year’s resolutions that you’ve made.

Exercise: Vowing to get more physical activity is never a bad thing. While some people might find it easy to incorporate a strict exercise regimen into their routines, others might have a difficult time – and that’s okay. Try not to be hard on yourself and remember that you’ve already taken the first step in wanting to make a positive change for yourself to improve your quality of life. Next, start slow. The biggest mistake people sometimes make when engaging in new fitness routines is by doing too much at once. This will not only cause you to burn out more quickly, but you also increase your risk of developing muscle-related injuries. Don’t go running a marathon right away (as that’s something people should train for.) Instead, ask yourself how you can incorporate exercise into your day to day life. Do you normally take elevators or escalators? Try taking the stairs, instead. Do you normally go for 15-minute walks? Try increasing the length of your walks each day. By doing this, you give your body the time it needs to adjust to these changes. It can also be fun to keep track of your workout goals each day in a calendar or a journal, so that you have a better idea of what you succeeded in and what you need or want to work on more. To stay motivated, ask a friend or family member to workout with you. There are also many fitness apps that you can download that can not only help you with that motivation but also give you different activities (such as stretches) that you can also try. If you’ve recently joined a gym, it can also be tough to find the motivation to go – at least initially. If this sounds like you, try to remind yourself of all the benefits that exercise has. You’ll not only lose weight, but it will help your general health overall. To mentally prepare yourself even further, try packing your gym bag the night before as this will give you more of an incentive to go rather than procrastinating the day of.

Diet: The second most common new year’s resolution that people make, which often goes hand in hand with exercise, is diet. You’ve consumed far too many carbs and too much sugar over the holidays, and you want to work it off, which is great. However, just like exercise, dieting should also focus on the bigger picture. Eating healthy is something that we should strive to do no matter the time of year, as our health depends on it. Having too much of certain foods (fats, carbs, sodium, sugar), or not having the right portion sizes as recommended by Canada’s Food Guide, can have a detrimental effect on your health. When you don’t eat properly, you’re at risk of developing everything from cardiovascular disease to diabetes, high cholesterol, and, of course, obesity. One thing that can be quite helpful on your weight loss journey is to keep a diet journal by writing down the foods you eat during each meal, including snacks. Next, you need to know what to replace those foods with. The first thing I recommend to anyone wanting to make a change to their diet is to decrease sugar intake and replace it with fresh fruit – many of which are naturally sweet – as well as include more vegetables. You should also include more protein in your diet, as well as foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, for example), whole grains, and legumes. You also shouldn’t deprive yourself of carbs completely, as you can swap the bad carbs with ones that are considered healthy, such as foods with fibre, beans, brown rice and quinoa (also known as complex carbohydrates.) The same goes for fats. Many of the unhealthy foods we consume contain saturated fats, but when you eliminate fat from your diet completely you also eliminate some valuable nutrients. Instead, you should replace saturated fats with foods that contain unsaturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats, such as olive oil, peanut butter, and nuts, just to name a few.

Mental Health: Our mental health is something we should all take care of, and it something that has been discussed even more-so as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Similar to exercise, things like meditation and yoga can also help to relax the mind and reduce any stress or anxiety you might be experiencing. Keeping a journal can also be beneficial. Unlike a diet journal you might keep, a mental health journal is more of a day-to-day diary of your thoughts and anything else you feel like writing down. Keeping social connections is also important for mental health; and while face-to-face meetings might be limited this year thanks to the pandemic, it’s still important to communicate with loved ones through other avenues like video chats, texting and e-mails.

Managing Holiday Stress

The first thing you should do if you’re feeling stressed, anxious or depressed is to acknowledge those feelings. By keeping your emotions bottled inside you, you could actually make the stress, depression and anxiety even worse. If you’re feeling down due to the loss of a close friend or loved one, realize that it’s completely normal and acceptable to have feelings of grief and know that there are many others out there going through the same grieving process as you.

The holidays are also a time where families get together – and unfortunately, for some, that can also mean drama, which can contribute to feelings of stress and anxiety. While you don’t have to get along with everyone, try to keep any negative conversations with your family members for another time and have the holidays be a time where you do your best to set aside any grievances. Families also change and grow over time, which means the holiday traditions you were once used to might change as well. For example, children grow into adults, move out of the house, and eventually have families of their own – meaning you might not get to spend every holiday with them. If you’re celebrating the holidays apart from your family members this year, try to create new traditions and keep in touch with them via e-mail, text message, or by writing letters.

Many people also get stressed about money during the holiday season, and Canadians often tend to overspend this time of year. While you might want to buy the perfect gift for everyone on your list, it’s also important to not spend beyond your means if you can’t afford it. Instead, stick to a budget. You can even make homemade gifts (Pinterest is great for finding ideas), and if you’re stumped on what to buy someone then another alternative would be to donate to a charity of their choice.

Also remember to take some time for yourself and realize it’s OK to say “no”. We’re often scrambling around for others or doing last minute preparations that it’s easy to forget to stop and breathe. Taking 30 minutes out of your day to set aside for yourself, with no distractions, can help to reduce stress and clear your mind. This could mean something as simple as sitting down and watching your favourite TV show, reading a book, listening to music, getting a massage, or going for a walk.

Despite the aforementioned tips, Depression is still at an increased rate during the holiday season. If you or someone you know are experiencing thoughts of sadness or hopelessness, or are having thoughts of suicide, please reach out to a medical professional. You can also find a list of mental health resources by clicking here.

Eating Healthy During the Holidays

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

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

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

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.