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Repetitive Strain Injuries

A Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI), affecting over 2 million Canadians, is trauma to the nervous and musculoskeletal systems that is usually caused by tasks that are repetitive or forceful in nature, and by continuous or strenuous positions. RSI is an umbrella term that is used to describe various conditions such as tendinosis/tendinitis, edema, golfer’s elbow, and focal dystonia. One of the most common RSI’s affecting Canadians today is CTS, commonly known as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome occurs as a result of the nerve running from the forearm to the palm becoming compressed, thus causing pain – usually in the hands and/or fingers. Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome are often described as a burning sensation, pulsing or aching pain, tingling, and weakness. Symptoms of CTS are initially intermittent in nature; however, these symptoms will usually begin to occur at a more frequent rate as time goes by. While the direct cause of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is unknown, genetics have been thought to play a role. Other health conditions have also been linked to CTS including inflammatory diseases and previous injuries, and even obesity – which affects one-third of patients in Canada. A surge in the use of computers and typewriters over the years have also been linked to playing a part in the increase of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and other RSI’s.

When it comes to treating Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and other RSI’s, is always dependent on the symptoms presented by the patient. Common NSAID pain-relievers such as Advil and Aleve, which are available without a prescription, can be helpful, but they are not always conducive in the relief of symptoms. When NSAID’s or other pain-relief medication proves to be ineffective, your physician may turn to the use of corticosteroids. Corticosteroids are often given via injection into the site of pain, or they can also be taken orally in pill form. In addition to medicinal treatment, physical therapy is also beneficial for CTS sufferers. With various physical therapists available to see in Burnaby and surrounding areas, as well as throughout Canada, attending regular physical therapy treatments should be easy and will help to strengthen the muscles in the hand and wrist as well as improve the dexterity. As with any surgery, there are risks (such as nerve damage) – and while those risks are low, surgery is still not a popular choice of treatment for Canada healthcare professionals and their patients given the length of time it can take for one to recover and regain the full use of their hands (up to 3 months.)

To avoid Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and any long-term, irreversible nerve damage, it is recommended that you avoid any type of activity that may worsen the symptoms or cause further strain. For example, if you are going to be typing on your computer or writing for a prolonged period of time, it is important that you take 10 to 20 minute breaks in order to relax the muscles.

Common Causes of Dry Mouth

Everyone experiences a dry mouth from time to time. You can develop a dry mouth due to a number of reasons – with two of the most common causes being stress and dehydration. Dry mouth happens when the salivary glands fail to make enough saliva. If you’re a smoker, abuse drugs and/or alcohol, or are undergoing cancer treatment (such as radiation and/or chemotherapy), it is not uncommon to develop dry mouth.

Certain autoimmune disorders, like Sjogren’s syndrome, can also cause a dry mouth, as can certain medications. In fact, there are over 500 medications known to cause dry mouth, including but not limited to antihistamines, antidepressants, antiemetics, medications used to control blood pressure, as well as sedatives. If you do develop a dry mouth and suspect it may be a result of a medication that you are taking, it is important for patients to know that they should not abruptly stop medications before checking with their family doctor or pharmacist. If medication is a suspected cause of dry mouth, your physician may be able to alter its dosage to see if that makes any difference, or might even recommend a different medication all together.

There are also certain things that doctors, dentists and pharmacists also suggest patients try themselves for relief of dry mouth. For example, chewing sugar-free gum or sucking on sugar-free candy can often help to stimulate the salivary glands, drinking plenty of water during the day, as well as using a humidifier in your home – especially at night. Using an alcohol-free mouth rinse can also help.

If these home remedies are not helpful and you find that you are still suffering from a dry mouth, your doctor and/or dentist may need to prescribe you with a medication to help the function of the salivary glands, especially if you have any underlying medical conditions – like Sjogren’s syndrome – as mentioned above, in addition to lupus or rheumatoid arthritis. Treating whatever the underlying cause is will often help alleviate other symptoms.

Springtime Allergies

While spring doesn’t arrive until March 20th, many people are already experiencing allergy symptoms; and while spring-related allergies are usually only a temporary thing, that’s not to say that they aren’t at all problematic, or, sometimes, downright disruptive, as these particular types of allergies can get in the way of doing something as simple as being able to enjoy spending time outdoors.

The good news is that, as mentioned, springtime allergies don’t have to last forever – and there are certain things that you can do to either prevent or help decrease the severity of the symptoms you might experience.

1. Limit how much time you spend outside. While this might not seem ideal, if you suffer from severe springtime allergies then you should consider reducing the amount of time that you spend outdoors. If you are going to go outside, it’s important to note that pollen counts tend to be at their highest around noon – particularly on days that are hot, dry, or windy – so if you are going to be spending quite a bit of time outdoors then it’s suggested you limit your time outside between – or, spend your time outside in the early morning or late evening instead. That being said, pollen count will never be at zero, so still be cautious about being outdoors no matter what time of day it is.

2. Protect yourself with a large-brimmed hat and sunglasses. While this tip might sound like something you only need to do if you’re going to be exposed to sunlight, wearing a large-brimmed hat and sunglasses can also protect your hair and eyes from exposure to pollen. For example, without sunglasses, pollen can get into the eyes much more easily; while without a hat, pollen can stick to the hair which can rub off on your pillow at night – and can still cause irritation and an allergic response to you that way.

3. Change clothing. After being outside, and if you know you suffer from allergies, then you may want to consider changing your clothes and putting what you wore outside into a laundry hamper. Just like pollen can stick to your hair, it can also stick to your clothes, and this will then cause it to spread throughout your home, making your symptoms persist.

4. Reduce your activity level. Staying fit and exercising regularly is something we all need to do in order to stay as healthy as possible. However, on days where the pollen or and/or pollution levels are particularly high, it’s recommended that you decrease the intensity of your outdoor workouts. This is because the more intense your workout is, the faster you breathe – and the faster you breathe, more allergens you will ultimately inhale. Examples of some allergy-friendly, lower-intensity workouts include things like weight training or yoga. It is also suggested that you exercise indoors, as opposed to outdoors, on days where pollen levels are high.

5. Try medication. As much as we may not necessarily like the idea of taking medications, there are instances where we need it and won’t have a choice; and if you’ve tried all of the aforementioned tips mentioned above with now real decrease or difference in the severity of your allergies, then this is one of those times. Nowadays, you can find many different (and affordable) products designed to help you with allergic-related symptoms, such as nasal sprays, as well as oral medications. If, after trying these OTC products and you’re still noticing no change in your symptoms, then your doctor may be able to prescribe you something stronger. In some cases, your physician may also refer you to an allergist, as they can test for specific things you might be allergic to and also offer you other methods of treatment.

Fending Off Daylight Saving Time Fatigue

If you find yourself feeling more fatigued after springing your clocks forward this past weekend, you’re not alone. This is because DST can cause a disruption to your circadian rhythm – your body’s internal clock that is responsible for cycling between your sleep-wake cycle, which is what causes you to feel fatigued or alert.

While adjusting the time forward by just one hour might not seem like a big deal, the average person actually gets 40-minutes less sleep than they usually would in comparison to other times of the year. Therefore, your body may feel as though it is being forced to follow a sleep schedule that is unnatural to what it’s used to, and this is what causes you to feel more sluggish.

Along with increased fatigue (with some individuals even experiencing insomnia), health experts have also noticed an uptick in other trends that commonly occur along with Daylight Saving Time, such as heart problems, mood disorders, as well as an increase in motor vehicle accidents.

If you’re finding yourself impacted by the time change, there are certain things you can do to better prepare yourself leading up to DST and even after, such as:

PRACTICING GOOD SLEEP HABITS. Following good sleep hygiene is important for your overall health and wellbeing. This not only means establishing a sleep routine where you’re going to bed and getting up at the same time each morning (being sure to get at least 7 hours of sleep every night), but you should also refrain from computer, cell phone use or TV-watching late at night. By not getting enough sleep, this can actually have a negative impact on your health in a variety of different ways.

TAKING SHORT NAPS. If you’re someone who experiences sleep deprivation because of DST, you may find it beneficial to take a nap during the day, However, it’s recommended that a nap should not exceed 20-minutes, as the longer you nap the groggier you may wake up feeling.

HEALTHY EATING HABITS. What you eat and when you eat it can have an impact on how well you do – or don’t – sleep. For example, caffeine. Caffeine acts as a stimulant, and if you drink it too late into the afternoon or evening you might find yourself tossing and turning in bed all night. Things like chocolate and energy drinks can also keep you awake, as can eating heavier meals, so these are all things you want to be mindful of. Foods that can assist in providing you with a better night’s sleep include almonds, walnuts, and fatty fish – or you may want to try warm milk or chamomile tea. For more healthy eating tips, click here.

Easing of COVID-19 Restrictions

Earlier this week, the B.C. Government announced that COVID-19 restrictions would be easing – beginning with the mask mandate, which has now been lifted. While you will still be required to wear a mask in certain settings, such as healthcare facilities (i.e., doctors’ offices), it is now up to British Columbians to decide, based on their own comfort level, whether they want to continue wearing a mask in other settings. For those who are not ready to stop wearing a face mask, or for individuals who are at high-risk of contracting COVID-19 (for example, if you are clinically extremely vulnerable/immunocompromised), the recommendation is that you continue to wear a mask – especially in indoor public settings – if you feel more comfortable doing. Masks are also still encouraged, but not mandatory, on public transit (such as buses and ferries.)

On April 8th, further restrictions will be lifted. This includes proof of vaccination no longer being required under public health order to access certain services, businesses, or events, as well as no longer being required for post-secondary student campus-housing. That being said, individual businesses and event organizers can choose to continue to require proof of vaccination for entry. Proof of vaccination will also continue to be required for federally regulated travel, such as air travel. You can find more about the federal regulations for COVID-19 by clicking here.

When it comes to business safety plans, these will also no longer be required effective April 8th. However, all businesses must continue to follow guidance for communicable diseases from WorkSafe BC. As part of this plan, employers must understand the risks for their employees – whether those risks are specific to their workplace, or certain employees who may be at higher risk than others, as well as be prepared to implement further measures when required to do so by public health. Employers must also continue to implement policies that ensure their workers are aware of any measures in place, have supports in place for employers working from home, and post any necessary signage in the workplace to explain the policies of your business.

Undoubtedly, the easing of these restrictions has left some British Columbians feeling quite anxious. If you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed, it’s important to find healthy ways to cope with those emotions, such as talking to a trusted individual, or doing other healthy activities like getting regular exercise, meditation, and even eating healthy, well-balanced meals as all of this can help improve the mood. As social media and television are two of the most common ways people get their news, overexposure can also lead to increased feelings of stress and anxiousness, so it is recommended that you consider scheduling TV and social media “blackout” times throughout the day to give yourself a bit of a break. Remember, prioritizing your mental health is just as important as prioritizing all other aspects of your health. For tips on how to better manage anxiety, visit www.anxietycanada.com.

Colorectal Cancer

What is Colon Cancer?

The colon (which consists of four different parts, including the descending colon, ascending colon, transverse colon, and sigmoid colon) is part of the large intestine and is considered the final part of our digestive system. Its main responsibility is to reabsorb fluids while also processing and eliminating waste products from the body.

Cells found in the colon or rectum can change and may begin to behave abnormally or no longer grow. These changes can lead to pre-cancerous conditions such as adenomas (including tubular adenomas, villous adenomas, and tubulovillous adenomas) or hereditary colorectal syndromes. Symptoms of these pre-cancerous conditions may include changes in your bowel habits, mucus in the stool, rectal bleeding, bowel obstruction, abdominal pain, as well as anemia and fatigue. If left untreated, these conditions could also lead to the growth of malignant (cancerous) tumors, which could potentially metastasize to other parts of the body. There are also some rare types of colorectal cancer that can develop, such as squamous cell carcinoma and small cell carcinoma.

Risk Factors

The following factors can increase your risk of developing pre-cancerous conditions or colorectal cancer.

• Having a previous personal or family history of colorectal polyps
• Having a previous personal or family history of colorectal cancer
• Inflammatory bowel disease
• Type II diabetes
• Being overweight or obese
• Consume a diet high in red meats or processed meats
• Smoke
• Drink alcohol
• Your racial/ethnic background
• Are of a certain age

What are the Symptoms of Colon Cancer?

Symptoms associated with colon cancer can vary from person to person, but may include:

• Major changes in bowel habits
• Stools that appear narrower in shape (often described as pencil-thin)
• Blood in the stool (can appear as bright red, black or tarry)
• Diarrhea or constipation
• Feeling as though the bowel does not completely empty
• Weight loss that is unintentional
• Abdominal pain
• Gas
• Bloating
• Constant fatigue
• Anemia

Can Colon Cancer Be Prevented?

While there is no definitive way to prevent colorectal cancer from developing, there are certain measures you can take to lower your risk. For example, by maintaining a healthy weight, having a healthy diet, and avoiding tobacco and alcohol. In addition, if there is a familial history of colon cancer in your family, you should go for regular screening (regardless of age.) This can be one of the most powerful tools in the prevention of colorectal cancer. By going for regular screening, polypus can be detected and removed before they turn cancerous. In addition, regular screening can also detect colorectal cancer when it’s in an earlier stage, therefore making it easier to treat.

For more information on colorectal cancer, visit www.colorectalcancercanada.com.

Why Healthy Eating Matters

Regardless of your health goals, what you eat always matters. While going to that fast food drive-thru after a long day at work might seem like a good idea at the time, you could actually be doing your body more harm than good – and you can throw your entire system out of whack by eating just one unhealthy meal. By maintaining a healthy diet you can stop yourself from running into a multitude of health problems later in life, such as diabetes, obesity and heart disease – the leading cause of death amongst Canadians (aside from cancer and respiratory diseases.)

Sure, it can be difficult to break those bad eating habits – especially when we live in a world that has food so readily available to us. Of course a juicy burger and greasy French fries are going to seem more appealing than a bowl of salad. However, the more processed, high-in-carbohydrates and high-in-fat foods that we consume, the more our bodies start to crave and become addicted to them. That being said, the good news is that no one is ever too far gone to the point where they cannot make changes to what they eat! All you have to do is begin to implement new eating habits to replace the old ones, and all of those cravings that you were having before will eventually be replaced with cravings for much healthier alternatives.

Now you’re probably wondering how to do that, right? The first course of action in changing your eating habits is to take baby steps. By rushing into it, you are more likely to fail and revert back to those bad habits we were talking about. For example, if you’re craving sweets and are used to eating a chocolate bar or cake for dessert, try swapping them for fruits like strawberries, apples, or blueberries. Fruits contain nutrients that are vital for your overall well-being, and you’ll still be getting that sweetness but from a much healthier source. The same rule applies for those late-night snacks. If you’re used to eating a bag of potato chips, try baking your own, instead! Thanks to social media sites like Pinterest, it’s simple to do, and you’ll avoid all of that trans-fat (which can clog the arteries and lead to heart disease.)

When it comes to making changes to your diet, it’s also important to remember that the effects won’t happen overnight. Meaning you’re not going to immediately drop 50 lbs. Just like building a house, weight loss is a process, so be patient with that process and with yourself. The results of healthy eating take some time to show, but will ultimately be worth it.

Fore more on diet and weight loss, watch my video below.

Glaucoma

Your eyes are one of the most important parts of your body. As such, seeing your optometrist for regular eye exams is important to ensure optimal eye health and rule out any eye disorders and diseases that could have an impact on your vision, such as refractive errors, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, age-related macular degeneration, and more.

Another common eye condition, known as glaucoma, affects as many as 400,000 Canadians and total of an estimated 80 million people worldwide. Glaucoma can occur in people of all ages – including babies and teenagers, as well as younger and older adults. However, certain individuals are at higher risk of developing glaucoma than others. Some of those risk factors include the following:

• Being over the age of 60
• Race
• Having high intraocular pressure
• Extreme nearsighted or farsightedness
• History of eye injuries
• Previous eye surgery
• Certain medical conditions (i.e., heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure)
• Certain medications (i.e., corticosteroids)
• Having a family history of glaucoma

There are also different types of glaucoma that one can be diagnosed with. These include open-angle glaucoma, angle-closure glaucoma, normal-tension glaucoma, congenital glaucoma, and other variants (such as secondary glaucoma, pigmentary glaucoma, pseudo-exfoliative glaucoma, traumatic glaucoma, neovascular glaucoma, uveitic glaucoma, as well as irido corneal endothelial syndrome.)

Open-angle glaucoma (also known as primary or chronic glaucoma), the most common form of glaucoma to be diagnosed (accounting for as many as 90% of all cases), tends to develop slowly. As a result, it is also one of the most commonly undetected forms of glaucoma – particularly in its early stages – as it is typically painless, and therefore an individual may not initially realize they have it until it has moderately progressed. In order to accurately diagnose open-angle glaucoma, it is recommended that pupil dilation is done during an eye exam. To do this, eye drops will be administered which will increase the size of the pupils so your doctor or optometrist can properly examine the health of your eyes – including the optic nerve and retina. Another test that is often done to help detect any changes in your peripheral vision and to diagnose glaucoma is something called visual field testing. For this particular type of test, you will be seated in front of a machine and asked to stare ahead at different blinking lights (with one eye covered at a time.) If it has been confirmed that you have glaucoma, this is a test that will usually be repeated to determine if your glaucoma has stabilized or if it is getting worse.

While glaucoma cannot be reversed, there are certain things you can to do help slow vision loss if caught early enough. The most important thing when treating glaucoma is to lower your intraocular eye pressure. The most common treatment method for this usually begins with prescription eyedrops; while other treatment methods may include oral medications, or, in some cases, laser treatment or surgery. Different foods and food components have also been linked to increased intraocular pressure, such as caffeine, trans fats, and saturated fats, so you should avoid or limit your intake of these and opt for healthier eating habits.

To learn more about glaucoma and how it is diagnosed and treated, visit the Glaucoma Research Society of Canada website at www.glaucomaresearch.ca.

Why You Should Avoid Processed Foods

Processed foods aren’t known for their health benefits. They contain little nutritional value, if any, and they are also high in additives and preservatives in order to improve appearance and prolong shelf-life. This is known as chemical processing.

One thing processed foods are commonly known for is their sugar content, and as you know, when consumed in excess amounts, can do a number on your health. Sugar is not only bad for the waistline (with the potential to lead to obesity), but it also increases your risk of developing diabetes, and also increases your risk of developing cavities (tooth decay) and therefore requiring dental procedures such as fillings or root canals later on. Sugar can also have adverse effects on your metabolism. Many of the processed foods that we consume are also designed to trick the brain into thinking it’s something we need by engineering them to look and taste as desirable as possible, and this is what also leads to overconsumption.

The ingredients on processed foods are something else you need to pay attention to. Chances are if you can’t pronounce the ingredient, then it’s a good you should be staying as far away from as possible. Many of these ingredients are either preservatives (which are used to prevent foods from rotting), colorants (which are used to give foods a specific colour), artificial flavouring, as well as texturants. Processed foods will also often include an even larger number of chemicals that manufacturers aren’t required to disclose, so you really don’t know what you’re putting into your body. They’re also high in simple carbohydrates. These generally break down quite quickly in the digestive tract, which can cause your blood sugar and insulin levels to rapidly spike and then crash. Once your blood sugar levels have dropped down, you’ll find yourself craving those carbohydrates all over again.

Along with unhealthy ingredients and the potential health risks that we know they already pose, research has shown a possible link between consumption of ultra-processed foods and cancer, with the risk of developing cancer increasing by as much as 10%. Compared to other processed foods, ultra-processed foods are usually much higher in calories, added sugars and sodium. Ultra-processed foods consist of things like candy, chocolate, ice-cream, sweetened breakfast cereals, soft drinks, packaged soup, hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken nuggets, and French fries. The study also found that those who consumed more processed meats had a higher risk of being diagnosed with colorectal cancer, while those who consumed processed foods that were more on the sugary side had an increased risk of developing breast cancer.

In order to prevent the risk of cancer and all of the other health risks that come associated with having unhealthy eating habits, the first thing you need to do is cut back on processed foods. The healthier foods you eat, the more essential nutrients you’re getting, which can actually prevent cancer and decrease your risk of developing other health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.

To start incorporating more healthy choices in your diet, I suggest eating more fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grains. If you’re someone with a busy schedule and tend to grab quick and easy meals (i.e. crackers, granola bars, or microwave dinners), try setting aside enough time so that you can start cooking your meals at home and also make sure to avoid cooking with ultra-processed ingredients like fats and sauces. Thirdly, physical activity also plays a huge role, and it often goes hand in hand with healthy eating. When you’re eating right and exercising, you’ll reap even more benefits.

Your Liver Health

Your liver, which is located on the right side of the abdomen, is one of the most important organs in your body, and plays a critical role in your health (performing over 500 vital functions), such as:

• Metabolizing alcohol, drugs, and other chemicals
• Neutralizing and destroying poisonous/toxic substances
• Producing, storing, and supplying glucose
• Producing, storing, and exporting fat
• Transporting substances in your blood
• Clotting of your blood
• Helping the body resist infections
• Regulating thyroid, cortisone, and adrenal hormones
• Regulating cholesterol
• Aiding digestion
• Regulating the body’s supply of essential vitamins and minerals

What is Liver Disease?

Liver disease affects as many as 1 in 4 Canadians. There are several different types of liver-related diseases, including hepatitis A, B and C, fatty liver disease, cirrhosis of the liver, inherited diseases such as hemochromatosis and Wilson diseases, as well as liver cancer.

Symptoms of Liver Disease

Symptoms of liver disease will vary from person to person. In some cases, an individual may not experience any symptoms at all. However, among the most common are:

• Abdominal swelling
• Swelling of the legs
• Bruising
• Changes in color of urine and/or stool
• Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)

Risk Factors

One of the most common myths that is often associated with liver disease is that many people are under the impression that they can only get it if they drink alcohol in excess. This, however, is wrong. While heavy alcohol consumption can be one of the contributing factors for liver disease, there are also many other factors that can put an individual at risk of developing liver disease, such as having type 2 diabetes, obesity, illicit drug use/sharing needles, blood transfusions (prior to 1992), unprotected sex, and exposure to other people’s blood and/or bodily fluids.

To prevent liver diseases, it’s important to be aware of the critical role your liver plays in your overall health and wellbeing, as well as ensure you’re making healthy lifestyle choices to prevent it from occurring – such as reducing/avoiding alcohol consumption, avoid mixing alcohol with with medication (i.e., acetaminophen), getting vaccinated against hepatitis A and B, practicing safe sex, and make food choices that optimize the health of your liver.

For more on liver health, visit the Canadian Liver Foundation website at www.liver.ca