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COVID-19 Q&A: Part 12

“What are the most common symptoms of COVID-19?”
Symptoms of COVID-19 can be similar to that of a common cold or flu, such as fever, chills, cough, body aches, loss of smell or taste, headache, fatigue, weakness, and gastrointestinal symptoms (such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, and vomiting.) If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s recommended you get tested for the virus. (You can find a local testing centre by clicking here.) In severe cases it is also possible to develop shortness of breath or have trouble breathing. If this happens to you, you should seek immediate medical attention by calling 911.

“How contagious is COVID-19?”
COVID-19 is a highly contagious virus that is spread through respiratory droplets (or aerosols) that release when an infected individual coughs, sneezes, or talks. You can become infected with the virus through having close contact with an infected individual, or by touching a contaminated surface and then by touching your face (such as your mouth, nose, or eyes.) The main way the virus spreads is through inhalation of these particles, which get into the airways and cause infection. There is also evidence to suggest that airborne particles can remain suspended in the air for extended periods of time, as well as travel certain distances, therefore increasing the risk of transmission of the virus.

“How can I prevent myself from getting the virus?”
One of the most important things you can do to prevent yourself from spreading the virus as well as prevent passing it on to others is to continue to utilize all the layers of protection that we know work – including washing your hands with soap and water regularly (or using hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water isn’t immediately available), keeping at least six feet apart from others when out in public, wearing a face mask, and staying home if you’re sick. Individuals who are over the age of 60 or those who have certain underlying health conditions, such as a respiratory disease (i.e., asthma, COPD), heart disease or diabetes, are at much higher risk of contracting COVID-19. If you are someone who happens to fall into the high-risk category, then you need to take extra precautions to protect yourself – even if all layers of protection are already in place and being carefully followed, as these measures do not come with a 100% guarantee that you won’t contract the virus. The extra precautions that high-risk individuals should be taking include things like working from home, ordering groceries and other necessities online, and simply staying home as much as possible.

“What does it mean to be “asymptomatic”?”
The term asymptomatic refers to someone who is infected with COVID-19 but does not develop any symptoms. While the virus is considered to be most contagious when someone does have symptoms, it’s still possible to transmit the virus to others without developing any symptoms at all and without knowing you actually have it – which, again, is why things like hand washing, mask wearing, and physical distancing are so important.

“How does the COVID-19 vaccine work?”
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use what’s known as messenger RNA – or mRNA – which mimics the S protein (also referred to as the “spike”) that causes the infection, which then results in the body’s immune response. When it comes to these particular vaccines, you will need to receive two injections. In order to achieve a strong immune response to help prevent the virus, the World Health Organization recommends receiving your booster shot 21 to 28 days after the first. However, given the slow rollout and delays of the vaccine in some areas, the World Health Organization says the second dose of the vaccine can be scheduled for administration up 6 weeks after receiving the first dose.

“How long does immunity last after receiving the vaccine?”
Because the COVID-19 vaccines are so new, it’s not yet known how long immunity from them lasts. This is, of course, something that researchers are following carefully. That being said, studies have shown the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to be 94.1% to 95% effective.

Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease currently affects an estimated 50 million people globally and over 740,000 Canadians. It is a progressive neurodegenerative condition that is characterized by memory loss and a decline of other cognitive functions that can result in severe dementia and even untimely death. Alzheimer’s disease is thought to be brought on by an anomalous build-up of proteins such as amyloid (deposits that form plaque-building proteins) and tau/neurofibrillary (deposits that form tangles) in and around the cells of the brain.

Who Gets Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer’s is typically seen in individuals over the age of 65 and affects as many as one third of individuals over the age of 85. However, it is not limited to just this age group. In some cases, Alzheimer’s disease can also impact individuals who are under the age of 65, too – with symptoms sometimes appearing in those as young as their 30s, 40s or 50s. When this occurs, this is known as “early-onset.” According to the Alzheimer Society of Canada, there are currently an estimated 16,000 Canadians living with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. While the cause of early-onset Alzheimer’s is not yet fully understood, there have been some studies that suggest rare inherited genes as the source.

Risk Factors and Prevention

Beyond genetics, there has been some research to suggest that one’s overall health, lifestyle and environmental factors may also be contributors to the development of Alzheimer’s disease – with the focus of ongoing studies being on things like the link between cognitive decline and certain vascular and metabolic conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity. When it comes to preventing cognitive decline, mental stimulation is important – which can include things like reading and social engagement. Getting regular physical activity as well as consuming a healthy diet is also important in improving brain function.

Warning Signs

While one of the most common warning signs associated with Alzheimer’s disease is memory loss – it’s also important to be able to understand the difference between what is and isn’t considered normal. If you misplaced your keys on a certain day or can’t find your grocery list on another, these may simply be one-off cases of forgetfulness – or nothing more than age-related changes. It’s when these behaviours are repetitive and frequent in nature and start to disrupt one’s daily life that they start to become a concern. Individuals with Alzheimer’s disease are also more likely to start forgetting important dates, may ask the same questions more than once, or rely on friends and family to remember things for them. Once-familiar tasks may also become difficult, such forgetting how to drive to a frequented location (as well as forgetting why you’re there or how you got there), and the ability to plan, follow and keep track of certain things (such as making monthly bill payments.) Individuals with Alzheimer’s may also start to struggle with their vocabulary, as well as develop decreased decision-making and poor judgement, along changes in their personality and mood (including confusion, depression, and anxiety.)

While memory loss can be an uncomfortable subject to bring up, it’s important to speak to your healthcare provider if you notice one or more of the warning signs listed above. When it comes to diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease, early detection is critical. While there is no cure, detecting Alzheimer’s early enough can potentially help to reduce symptoms, as well as help you prioritize your overall health.

For more information on Alzheimer’s disease, as well as to find your local Alzheimer Society in addition to other resources, visit www.alzheimer.ca.

Medication Side Effects, Adverse Reactions and Allergies

There is a plethora of reasons why someone might need to take medication. On average, more than half of all adults take up to four different medications each day – either over-the-counter or prescription medication – in order to prevent, treat or help relieve symptoms of certain illnesses, chronic diseases, infections, and more. Medications come in various forms, such as tablets and capsules, liquid, topical ointment, drops, inhalers, injections, patches, and suppositories.

Almost all medications come with a list of side-effects, and sometimes that list can be long. While many of the most commonly prescribed and OTC drugs are typically well-tolerated by most individuals, no two people are exactly the same and the body itself is very complex. As a result, some people may be much more sensitive to certain medications than others, which means there is a higher likelihood that they could experience side-effects from the medications they take. As for why side-effects occur, there are a number of reasons. For example, it’s not unusual to experience some side-effects when starting a new medication and until your body becomes better adjusted to it, which could take days, weeks, or in some cases, months. Alternatively, you can also experience side-effects when the dose of your medication is increased, or when you stop taking a medication that you have been on for a prolonged period of time (also known as withdrawal effects.)

The types of side-effects that someone experiences will depend on the type of drug they have been prescribed. When it comes to use of antibiotics, common side effects include things such as nausea, diarrhea, and yeast infections. If you’re on a pain reliever, you may notice stomach upset and nausea. If you’ve been prescribed an antidepressant, you may have trouble sleeping, feel agitated, or gain weight. If you’ve been prescribed a medication to help control your blood pressure or for your heart, you may experience drowsiness, dizziness, and loss of appetite. If you are on medication for diabetes, side-effects can also include nausea, fatigue, dizziness, as well as heartburn. If you’re on an antihistamine or type of decongestant, it’s also possible to experience nausea and/or vomiting, in addition to nervousness and sweating. While this isn’t a full list of every medication there is, or a full list of side-effects, these are generally the ones that are most frequently reported. If you are taking a medication and notice any side-effects, it’s always a good idea to make both your pharmacy and physician aware so that it can be noted on your file, as well as for your own peace of mind. If your side-effects persist for longer than they are supposed to, or if they worsen, you should consult with your physician as soon as possible as you may need to have your medication dosage adjusted or be prescribed a different medication all together.

When taking any medication, adverse reactions can also occur in a small number of people. While side-effects are often expected to possibly occur with certain medications, adverse reactions are not, and are characterized as an undesired harmful effect resulting from a medication or an unintended medical occurrence. As with side-effects, the types of adverse reactions that can occur depends on the medication itself. If you experience an adverse reaction to a medication, it’s important that you contact your pharmacy or physician right away.

It’s also possible for individuals to be allergic to certain medications. Among the most common medication that individuals are allergic to is an antibiotic known as Penicillin, which is used to treat bacterial infections. However, anyone can be allergic to any medication. The most common allergic response that individuals can have to medications include things like rash, hives, and itching, which can be treated with an over-the-counter antihistamine. In severe cases, the body can also go into what’s known as anaphylaxis – a severe (and potentially life-threatening) allergic reaction – resulting in things like wheezing, swelling of the tongue and/or throat, and trouble breathing. In the event that you have this type of allergy, you should call 911 right away. When this type of allergic reaction occurs, it is treated with epinephrine. While severe allergic reactions are rare, just like side-effects they are also possible. Depending on the type of medication you are allergic to, you may also need to avoid related medications. Always make sure your doctor and pharmacy are aware of which medications you are allergic to so that this can be well documented.

Respiratory Related Illnesses

COVID-19 is a serious, and deadly, respiratory illness that the world has been grappling with for the past year. In addition to this virus, there are other certain respiratory related illnesses that are common in the winter months, such as colds and flus, along with other chronic respiratory diseases affecting a large number of Canadians – including things like asthma, COPD (also known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), chronic bronchitis, cystic fibrosis, and more.


Currently, an estimated 3 million Canadians are living with asthma. Asthma is a condition that causes the airways to swell and become narrow, making it difficult to breathe – along with other symptoms such as wheezing upon exhaling, coughing, and pain or tightness of the chest.

There are certain things that can trigger an asthma attack, such as pollen and pet dander (known as allergy-induced asthma), chemicals such as fumes, gases or dust (known as occupational asthma), or can even be induced by exercise (particularly if you are over-exerting yourself.) There are also certain risk factors that can increase your chances of developing asthma, such as having a relative with the condition, being a smoker (or exposure to second-hand smoke), and being overweight.

If you find that you are short of breath frequently, or have frequent coughing or wheezing spells, then you should see a doctor to get a definitive diagnosis. If it is suspected you have asthma, your doctor will prescribe a medication, like short-acting beta agonists (to provide quick relief of symptoms), or an inhaled corticosteroid. If you are prescribed an inhaled corticosteroid, it’s important to note that it may take several weeks of use before you start to notice its benefit. In some cases, oral corticosteroids may also be prescribed.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

COPD is a condition that describes a group of lung conditions related to difficulty breathing, such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis. The main cause attributed to COPD is tobacco use. It can, however, also be diagnosed in people who are non-smokers (for example, those who have been exposed to second-hand smoke, or exposure to environmental fumes.)

Symptoms of COPD include shortness of breath, chest tightness, wheezing, chronic cough (that may sometimes produce mucus), decreased energy levels, weight loss, swelling of the ankles, legs or feet, as well as an increase in respiratory infections.

While COPD is considered a progressive disease, it can be managed with the right treatment, which includes bronchodilators, inhaled corticosteroids – or a combination of both. In severe cases, someone with COPD may require supplemental oxygen, and may also benefit from pulmonary rehabilitation programs to help with things like exercise training.

Cystic Fibrosis

Cystic fibrosis is a disorder that is inherited and progressive. It is known to cause persistent infections of the lungs and can significantly limit one’s ability to breathe over time. It can also cause severe damage to the lungs and other organs in the body. Currently, the average life-span of someone with cystic fibrosis is between the age of 44 and 50.

Signs and symptoms associated with cystic fibrosis include a persistent cough (that produces thick mucus), wheezing, frequent lung infections, recurrent sinusitis, and intolerance to exercise. There are also digestive-related symptoms associated with CF, such as chronic constipation as well as intestinal blockage. As CF progresses, there can also be complications that develop over time, such as hemoptysis (coughing up blood), respiratory failure. Anywhere from 40 to 50 percent of adults diagnosed with cystic fibrosis are also diagnosed with diabetes, in addition to the development of liver disease, while men and women may also have fertility issues.

Because there is no cure for cystic fibrosis, the goal of treatment is shifted towards preventing infections, removing and loosening mucus from the lungs, preventing intestinal blockage from occurring, as well as ensuring the patient has adequate nutrition.

How the Body Changes as We Age

Aging isn’t usually something that people like to think about or discuss all that often. It is, however, part of the natural life cycle and something all of us will ultimately experience. As you get older, you will start to notice changes in your body. These changes that occur can be both physical and mental. For example, you might be feeling more fatigued than you used to, you may notice the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, you might have more overall body aches and pains, trouble with your eyesight, or your memory may not be as sharp as it once was. While some of these things may not necessarily be cause for immediate concern from an emergency standpoint, you should always report any changes with your health to your physician.

One of the most common conditions that is associated with aging is arthritis. While arthritis can affect individuals of all ages, it most commonly affects adults aged 65 or older. (Other risk factors include gender, obesity, genetics, smoking, and having a diet low in calcium and vitamin D.) Osteoarthritis – also sometimes referred to as degenerative joint disease – is the most common type of arthritis that is diagnosed and associated with aging. Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage that cushions your joints starts to deteriorate and wears down, causing bone to rub on bone, which results in pain that is typically felt in the spine, hips, knees, and hands. In addition to experiencing pain, other symptoms of osteoarthritis can also include joint stiffness and/or swelling (due to inflammation), popping or cracking of the joints (sometimes described as feeling like a “grating” sensation), decreased range of motion, and bone spurs. Because osteoporosis is a degenerative disease, this means that it can’t be reversed and can result in chronic pain. To help alleviate the symptoms associated with osteoporosis, the recommended treatment is often a combination of medications (such as acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) and physical or occupational therapy, as well as lifestyle changes (such as exercise and weight loss.) If these types of conservative treatments are not helpful, your doctor may also recommend that you get corticosteroid injections. In severe cases, joint replacement surgery (known as arthroplasty) may also be recommended.

An increase in the number of infections one might develop can also become a concern as you get older. COVID-19, for example, is a respiratory virus that affects a high rate of seniors – particularly those in long-term care. It’s also not uncommon for those who are older to develop pneumonia – a type of infection that impacts the lungs. This is because as we age, our immune systems aren’t as strong as they once were, which makes it harder to ward off infections. Symptoms of pneumonia can vary from person to person, but usually include things like pain in the chest or rib area, coughing, shortness of breath, fever or chills, weakness, fatigue, and confusion. If you are suspected to have pneumonia, your doctor will order a CT scan or X-ray to confirm the diagnosis. Bacterial pneumonia is also treated with antibiotics. In most cases, pneumonia can be treated at home, but it’s also not uncommon for seniors to be hospitalized as a result as some may require oxygen therapy.

Our skin also changes as we get older. It may start to look dull in appearance, you may notice the development of wrinkles, it may feel dry, and your skin may also bruise more easily. If you suffer from dry or itchy skin, this may also be attributed to not drinking enough water, smoking, spending too much time in the sun, or loss of sweat and oil glands (which is also common with aging.) To help prevent dry skin, you should increase your water intake as well as make sure you moisturize the skin daily, use mild soap, and use a humidifier to add moisture to your living space. You may also notice the appearance of flat, brown spots on the skin – also known as “age spots” – which commonly appear on areas such as the hands, arms, face and back, are usually the result of years of exposure to the sun. These are, however, typically harmless. Regardless of our age, it’s important to take good care of our skin by doing things like limiting how much time we spend in the sun, use sunscreen when we’re going to be exposed to the sun, avoid tanning, as well as wear protective clothing.

Vision can also deteriorate as you get older. You may need glasses for reading, while other eye-related problems such as age-related macular degeneration and glaucoma can also develop. Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss in individuals aged 50 or older. With AMD, you may have trouble adapting to low light and need brighter lighting, have blurred vision, a reduction in your central vision, as well as distortion in your field of vision and retinal damage. Glaucoma is a condition that causes damage to the optic nerve due to high pressure in the eye, and it is the leading cause of blindness in individuals over the age of 60. With glaucoma you may experience symptoms such as blurred vision, halos around lights, eye pain, eye redness, headache, nausea and vomiting. Depending on the severity of your condition, glaucoma is treated with things like prescription eyedrops, oral medication, and surgery. In order to prevent these eye conditions from developing as well as to detect them early, it’s important that you see your optometrist for regular eye exams.

When it comes to memory and forgetfulness, it’s not uncommon to lose things from time to time. We’ve all misplaced our keys or forgotten where we’ve written down someone’s name or phone number. These occasional lapses in memory aren’t typically cause for concern. However, if they become frequent, or if you (or someone you know) becomes unable to perform everyday tasks, has trouble recalling specific instances, gets lost easily, easily disoriented, or forgets certain words, then these may be signs of Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease typically affects those over the age of 65, while early-onset Alzheimer’s disease can affect those under the age of 65. While there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, certain things can help slow the progression of the disease, such as getting regular exercise, eating a brain-healthy diet, strengthening your cognitive skills, managing stress, as well as taking care of your heart health.

Musculoskeletal Pain

The musculoskeletal system consists of the muscles, bones, tendons, ligaments, joints, cartilage, and connective tissues (such as collagen and elastic fibers, which are responsible for supporting and binding our organs together.) The musculoskeletal system plays at important role as it is what provides the human body with its form, stability, and ability for movement. However, there are also certain diseases that can have an impact on the way our musculoskeletal system functions, which can cause issues with mobility as well as chronic pain, and are the leading cause for disability globally.

As many as 1 million Canadians suffer from musculoskeletal diseases – with 80% of those being women, and 20% being men. Musculoskeletal diseases can range from acute and be short-lived, or they can be chronic and lifelong in nature. Typically characterized by pain, musculoskeletal conditions can have a significant impact on one’s mobility and dexterity, and overall functional ability – such as impacting their day to day lives (i.e. ability to work, go to school, and socialize with others.) Ultimately, this can also have an impact on one’s mental wellbeing.

The most commonly diagnosed musculoskeletal conditions include those affecting the joints (such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, psoriatic arthritis, and gout), those affecting the bones (such as osteoporosis, osteopenia, fragility fractures or traumatic fractures), those affecting the muscles (such as sarcopenia), and those that affect the spine (such as neck or back pain.) Multiple areas of the body can also be affected by musculoskeletal pain, which may be associated with widespread chronic pain disorders (which are sometimes complex in nature, such as fibromyalgia) or certain inflammatory or connective tissue diseases (such as lupus.)

In order to diagnose whether or not a musculoskeletal disease may be the cause of a patient’s pain, it is important to determine what areas of the body are affected, whether the pain is new or has been persisting for some time, if there are any other symptoms in addition to the pain, and if there are any triggers that worsen the pain or anything that relieves it. To rule out (or rule in) any other potential causes of pain, your physician may order further testing – including X-rays (if it is suspected that you have a fracture, to look for a certain type of arthritis, or if a bone infection or tumour is suspected), MRI (to identify any abnormalities of soft tissues such as tendons and muscles, as well as help detect fractures), CT scan (to provide further detailed imaging for suspected fractures or bone problems), as well as blood work (if disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis or systemic lupus erythematosus are suspected.)

As for what causes musculoskeletal pain, it is most commonly the result of an injury (such as a motor vehicle accident or fall), or it can be caused by overuse (for example, if you have a job that involves heavy lifting, you might have chronic back pain as a result) in addition to things like prolonged immobilization and poor posture. Someone with musculoskeletal pain may also experience other symptoms such as stiffness, fatigue, and sleep disturbances – and, as mentioned, it can also significantly impact mental health, and may therefore also lead to anxiety or depression.

When it comes to treating musculoskeletal pain, the focus is usually on the cause. The different types of treatment methods used may include physical therapy, occupational therapy, applying heat or cold to the affected areas, reduced workload, acupuncture or acupressure, low-impact physical activity (such as strengthening, conditioning and stretching exercises), massage, and biofeedback. In cases where musculoskeletal pain is acute and mild in nature, it can also be treated with over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. When the pain is chronic in nature (i.e., fibromyalgia), medications such as antidepressants or anticonvulsants may also be prescribed, which can also help to reduce pain. However, if you are prescribed these medications, it’s important to note that you may experience some initial side-effects (such as increased fatigue) – which should go away over time. These particular medications may also take several weeks before you notice any reduction in your level of pain.

The Dangers of Smoking

Smoking is one of the most common (as well as one of the deadliest) habits in the world. On a global scale, over 1 billion people (equivalent to 20% of the world’s population) are cigarette smokers. Of those 1 billion individuals, an estimated 4.6 million are Canadian.

Smoking is often a hard habit to break as tobacco is highly addictive. This is because when you smoke tobacco, nicotine enters the body quickly and releases chemicals that go to the heart and brain which can have an imitating effect on one’s mood that are similar in nature to other types of drugs (such as amphetamines) and can speed up your reaction time as well as increase your attention span and ability to focus. While these may all seem like positives, there are far more many negatives and dangers when it comes to tobacco use.

For example, cigarette smoking is the leading cause of cancer – including those of the mouth and throat, esophagus, voice box, stomach, kidney, pancreas, liver, bladder, cervix, colon, rectum, and, of course, lung cancer – which is the most commonly diagnosed type of cancer as well as the leading cause of cancer-related death in Canada. Aside from causing cancer, there are also many other health impacts associated with tobacco use to consider, including increasing your risk of developing (or worsening) the following:

• COPD (including emphysema and bronchitis)
• Asthma
• Heart disease
• Diabetes
• Rheumatoid arthritis
• Eye disease
• Tuberculosis

The good news is that if you are a smoker, this is something you can also quit. That being said, given the addictive effects of nicotine, smoking cessation isn’t always easy for everyone and is usually something that takes willpower and determination. It’s also important to note that when you do quit smoking, you can develop withdrawal symptoms – sometimes as quickly as a few hours after you’ve had your last cigarette.

Symptoms of smoking withdrawal may include physical, mental and behavioural changes, such as:

• Insomnia
• Restlessness
• Poor concentration
• Irritability (i.e., frustration or anger)
• Depression
• Tremors
• Increase appetite
• Digestive problems
• Weight gain
• Headaches
• Cough
• Decreased libido

While these symptoms may be unpleasant to deal with, it’s important to note that they are only temporary as the body gets used to not relying on the effects of nicotine, and should fully subside after 2 or 3 weeks. If your cigarette cravings and withdrawal symptoms are severe, there are things you can do in effort to distract yourself and keep your mind on something other than that need to smoke. For example, by going for a walk (or doing other forms of exercise), avoiding other triggers that make you want to smoke (such as alcohol or caffeine consumption), or by using nicotine replacement therapy (which is available as gum, lozenges, or a patch.) It’s also important to remember why you’re quitting: For the betterment of your health.

If you’re already a non-smoker, tobacco can still have an effect on you too. This is known as second and third-hand smoke, which comes from inhaling air exhaled by a smoker, as well as from smoke that stays in things like our clothing, hair, carpeting, walls, furniture, etc. Exposure to second and third-hand aerosols can increase someone’s risk of things like asthma and COPD, as well as expose them to potential cancer-causing chemicals. The best way to prevent your exposure to second-hand smoke is by being in 100% smoke-free environments. For example, do not allow those around you to smoke in your presence, and avoid areas where smoking is permitted.

For help on quitting smoking, visit QuitNow.ca.

Making Healthy Resolutions for 2021

Now that the holidays are over, we begin to turn our focus toward the things that we’re most looking forward to and what we want to work on throughout the year (otherwise known as New Year’s resolutions.) Many of the resolutions that people make are often health-oriented, including but not limited to:

• Eating habits
• Physical activity
• Mental health

Eating habits: The holidays are a time where people tend to overindulge in certain foods – particularly those that are high in sugar, fats and carbohydrates. As a result, wanting to eat healthier is one of the most common resolutions that people will make when entering into a new year. Unfortunately, sticking to a healthy diet is also one of the most common resolutions that fail. This is because rather than focusing on eating healthy foods, people focus more on going on specific diets. While certain diets, such as ketogenic diets, can be successful, there are also certain diets that fail due to the fact that many of them are “fad” diets, which focus on the short-term benefits as opposed to long-term benefits. Thus, when making the decision to eat healthier, you need to remember that the goals you set are realistic.

For example, if you eat nothing but fruits and vegetables for a week, you’re not going to lose hundreds of pounds in the same amount of time. That’s not a realistic expectation to have. However, if you incorporate fruits and vegetables along with other healthy foods (i.e. foods high in protein, rich in fibre, etc.) into your everyday meals, you will start to see results over time. Because many diets also tend to focus on the elimination of certain foods, this can also make the idea of healthy eating un-enjoyable. Therefore, it’s important that you switch your thinking and instead focus on what you can add to your diet to make it healthier versus the things you have to subtract. For example, start committing to eating an apple a day or drinking more water, and you can build upon that.

Physical activity: Both during and following the holidays, it’s not uncommon to be less physically active. As a result, you may also notice weight gain. Combined with healthy eating habits, physical activity will not only help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight, but it can also improve your overall health in many other ways – such as reducing your risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

If you are not used to getting regular physical activity, start with what you know your body can handle. For example, by going for a walk each day. As little as 30 minutes of regular physical activity each day can help you start to reap the benefits.

Strength conditioning to target muscles, as well as flexibility training to improve posture, balance, and reduce risk of injury to the body can also be beneficial.

Mental health: Our mental health is just as important as every other aspect of our health. The holidays are commonly associated with an increase in things like depression, and anxiety. Coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic, these conditions can be exacerbated even further, which is why it’s important to be in tune with your mental health – as well as check on those around you. Mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety can often be combated with things like counselling or medication. However, it’s also important to reach out to a trusted individual – such as a friend or family member – to talk about how you’re feeling.

If you’re in any kind of distress or having thoughts of suicide, it’s also important that you seek immediate medical attention by reaching out to your physician or calling 911. There are also 24/7/365 help lines available to both youth and adults via the Kids Help Phone or Crisis Service Canada.

Eating in Moderation

The holiday season is a time when many of us indulge in foods that we wouldn’t normally eat on a regular basis (especially sweet treats!), which is why weight loss is usually among the top of the list for people’s New Year’s resolutions. While it’s okay to treat yourself to certain foods every now and then, it’s also important to remember that the foods you eat can have a domino effect on your health in more ways than one. Therefore, we need to ensure that we’re eating in moderation – and this is something that we should be doing regardless of the time of year or occasion that’s being celebrated.

For example, if you’re craving something sweet, you can swap the sugar-based treats for foods that are naturally sweet – such as fresh fruit, which can be mixed into Greek yogurt or incorporated into other healthy meals, such as salads, to give it a sweet twist. However, eating in moderation isn’t just about the types of foods that you eat. It’s also about portion control.

While eating in moderation is defined as avoiding excessive amounts of calories as well as avoiding particular foods, this can also be subjective. For example, the average adult and youth aged 13 or older need approximately 2,000 calories per day (or approximately 600 calories per meal), while children between the ages of 4 and 12 need around 1,500 calories per day (or 500 calories per meal). That being said, this may vary from person to person as calorie needs are also dependent on ones’ individual nutrition and health needs, and it’s not always a one size fits all approach. Certain factors such as your age, gender, height, and activity level also all play a role in calorie intake. Of course, counting calories isn’t something people always think to pay attention to, which is why portion control is also so important. If you’re dining out, for example, then you have little to no control over the portion of food on your plate (and these portions tend to be larger) – whereas when you’re at home, you have complete control over the foods you cook and how much of what you consume.

The foods you eat also need to have variety to them, and this is equally as important for nutrition as there isn’t just one food group that contains every single nutrient that our bodies need. While eating healthy all the time might sound boring, the more variety there is to the foods you eat…the healthier you will be. For example, make sure the foods on your plate are colourful – i.e., plenty of fruits and vegetables – as well as also being sure to include protein-rich foods, such as lean meats, fish and seafood, eggs, and dairy products, in addition to whole grains. By eating foods from each of these groups, you will be giving your body the essential nutrients that it needs in order to thrive and keep you healthy.

Including variation in your overall, everyday diet and eating in moderation will ultimately help you avoid overconsumption of unhealthy foods and can assist with things like weight loss and/or weight maintenance, along with other healthy lifestyle habits such as getting regular exercise. Combined, eating healthy and living an active lifestyle can significantly reduce your risk of things like heart disease, diabetes, chronic inflammation, and more. If you’re having trouble finding the right foods to eat, you could also speak to a dietitian who can help you come up with some personalized meal plans and solutions to get you started in the right direction.

How to Celebrate the Holidays Safely in 2020

This holiday season, due to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, things are going to look and feel quite different than what we’re used to. While restrictions vary from place to place, those who reside here in British Columbia are being asked to put a pause on their holiday celebrations and travel plans, and instead stick close to home in effort to help slow the spread of the virus. This means that all non-essential travel should be avoided and that you shouldn’t be going to visit any friends or extended family (whether in or outside of the province), as well as hosting or attending any holiday parties. Because large gatherings such as these are where the highest transmission rates of COVID-19 tend to happen, it’s crucially important that we do everything we can to be as vigilant and proactive as possible in preventing this from happening – and while the restrictions that are currently in place might certainly put a damper on any holiday plans that you did have, there are still unique (and safe) ways you can celebrate the holidays and ring in the new year.

While you may not get that in-person interaction with friends and family this year that you were so looking forward to, there are still other ways in which you can interact with them. One way to do that is by having a virtual gathering via video conferencing by using your computer, tablet, or smart phone. You can pre-plan this by setting a time where everyone can connect, and maybe even cook your holiday meal together, watch a holiday-themed movie, or open gifts together. So, while you might not exactly be spending time together face-to-face, this can still be a fun and unique way to interact with each other.

For families with younger children, it may be difficult for them to understand why they don’t get to visit their grandparents, cousins, or other family members, or spend time with their friends during the Christmas break from school – which is why it’s important to try to keep the holiday season as normal as possible for them. As mentioned above, virtual visits are a great way for kids to keep in touch with friends and family over the holidays. Because social distancing measures can’t be met, many shopping malls have cancelled photos with Santa and are instead offering virtual visits instead. You can also plan fun things to do with kids surrounding the holidays, like driving around your neighbourhood to see light displays, creating fun games that the family can play together, doing holiday baking, etc.

For some individuals, the holidays can already be a tough time of year. Coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic, the uncertainty that surrounds it, and increased isolation, this can make things all the more difficult – and, as a result, some people may develop depression or start to notice an increase in feelings of stress or anxiety. If you know someone who might be struggling during the holidays, set aside time to do a virtual check-in with them to see how they’re doing and let them know you’re there to talk. If you’re someone who happens to be struggling yourself and need someone to talk to, don’t be afraid to reach out to a person you trust.