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Antibiotic Resistance

Most of the time when you come down with a common cold, it is the result of a virus. Symptoms such as sneezing, sore throat, coughing, runny nose, nasal congestion and sinus pressure can be treated with over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen and pseudoephedrine, and will usually go away after one or two weeks. However, complications such as pneumonia, ear and sinus infections can also occur with a cold, which would then require the patient to be prescribed a course of antibiotics.

Antibiotics are prescribed for various types of infections. Pneumonia, ear and sinus infections as mentioned above, in addition to skin infections, meningitis, and urinary tract infections. The type of antibiotic that is prescribed depends on the kind of infection that the patient has, and there are hundreds of different types of antibiotics that are available, though the main classes that are prescribed by physicians like Dr. Ali Ghahary include: Penicillins, Cephalosporins, Macrolides, Fluoroquinolones, Sulfonamides, and Tetracyclines.

Antibiotics work by killing the bacteria caused by the infection and prevent it from multiplying. However, antibiotics can also wreck major havoc on our guts and can kill the good bacteria and protective organisms. They also come with a wide range of side effects with the most common ones being nausea, stomach upset and diarrhea. This is why doctors and pharmacists will often recommend that antibiotics be taken with food and that you also include probiotics in your diet while on medication in order to help restore the good bacteria that was lost.

When prescribed antibiotics it is important that you take them exactly as directed by your physician. Not following directions, either by taking a higher or lesser dose, or by not finishing the entire course of medication, can result in antibiotic resistance. Antibiotic resistance means that the medication loses its ability to fight bacteria, allowing the bacteria to continue to grow and become more difficult to treat.

More information on antibiotics and antibiotic resistance can be found by clicking here.

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’re actually 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. 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 for those juicy burgers and fries 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, Dr. Ali Ghahary wants you to remember that the effects won’t happen overnight. If you eat nothing but spinach and kale salads for a week straight, you’re not going to immediately drop 50 lbs. Just like building a house, it’s a process. The results of healthy eating take some time to show, but will ultimately be worth it in the end.

How Jet Lag Can Impact Your Health

When travelling, the circadian rhythm in your body can often take a bit of time to adjust – especially if you’re going to or from different time zones. For example, your body may wind up telling you it’s time to go to sleep in the middle of the day when you should and would normally be awake, or you’ll tend to stay awake during the late hours of the night and into the earlier hours of the morning when you should actually be sleeping.

This is known as jet lag – a common sleep disorder that is known to cause a temporary imbalance to your biological clock.

Along with being in different time zones, there are many other factors that play a part in the disruption of your internal clock – such as exposure to sunlight and darkness, rising and falling temperatures, hormone levels, and other biological conditions.

While jet lag isn’t entirely preventable, Dr. Ali Ghahary, a family physician from Vancouver, recommends making a few minor adjustments before planning your next vacation. One way to help you get used to being in another time zone is to get awake and go to bed earlier than you normally would for several days prior to your trip – you could even set your watch to the time zone of the destination in which you are travelling to. When booking a trip, try to choose flights that have early-evening arrival times. You should also avoid alcohol and caffeine, as both of these can act as stimulants to the brain and either keep you from going to sleep or prevent you from staying awake when necessary. They can also make you dehydrated, and dehydration often makes the symptoms of jet lag even worse.

Along with extreme fatigue or insomnia, other common symptoms that someone with jet lag might experience include increased irritability, lack of concentration, stomach upset including diarrhea, constipation, and even headaches.

If you constantly suffer from jet lag, taking a low-dose melatonin supplement – as little as 0.5mg – may help your body send off the signals that it needs to put you to sleep. As always, you should check with your primary healthcare practitioner before taking any kind of supplements or medication designed to help you sleep, as well as check with your local pharmacy to ensure there are no interactions with any medications you may currently be taking.

Osteoporosis Awareness Month

Affecting as many as 2 million Canadians and 44 million Americans, osteoporosis is a condition that causes the quality and the density of your bones and bone tissue to deteriorate over time, leading to an increased risk of bone fractures and breaks. The most common injuries that are related to osteoporosis include the shoulders, spine, hips, and wrists.

While there is no known cause of osteoporosis, there are certain factors that put you at risk of developing osteoporosis. Those who are over the age of 50 are at a much higher risk of developing osteoporosis than those under the age of 50. It is also more likely to affect females than it is males, though it certainly affects both genders. Having a low body weight as well as a past history of fractures can also put you at risk.

Aside from osteoporosis, certain medical conditions can also put you at risk of falls and/or fractures. For example, rheumatological conditions – such as rheumatoid arthritis – a disease that causes the joints to become inflamed and painful, as well as diseases that are associated with Vitamin D deficiency, including chronic kidney disease, chronic liver disease, malabsorption syndrome, as well as certain neurological conditions due to the increased risk of falls.

Whenever Dr. Ali Ghahary, a family physician in Vancouver, BC, suspects that a patient might have osteoporosis, he will send them for a scan that is able to measure their bone mineral density. The bones that are most commonly looked at during this scan are the bones in the lower spine, thighbone, and forearm, as well as the bones in your heels, wrists and fingers. During a bone density scan you are exposed to very little radiation, and the test itself can last as little as 10 minutes or up to 30 minutes.

To reduce the risk of osteoporosis or to minimize its effects, Dr. Ali Ghahary recommends that patients make sure they’re getting enough Vitamin D, calcium and protein. It’s important to try and get these from food sources. However, if you are unable to do so, Vitamin D and calcium come in supplements that are readily available at any pharmacy or drug store. Dr. Ali Ghahary also recommends that patients get regular exercise, as physical activity can help strengthen the bones and muscles. You should also avoid smoking and alcohol, as these habits can not only increase your risk of osteoporosis, but also increase the risk of falls.

You can find much more information on Osteoporosis can be found by visiting the Osteoporosis Canada website at osteoporosis.ca. Additional information can also be found by following Dr. Ali Ghahary on Twitter as well as by using the hashtag #OsteoporosisMonth.

The Different Types of Sleep Disorders

Dr. Ali Ghahary, a family physician from Vancouver, Canada, recommends adults get anywhere from 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night, while children and teenagers between the ages of 3 to 17 need anywhere from 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night.

Getting a good night’s rest not only leaves you feeling rejuvenated the next day, but it also plays a vital role in many areas of your health. Getting proper sleep can improve heart health and concentration – and studies have also suggested that individuals who are looking to lose weight who get adequate sleep also tend to lose more body fat than those who don’t get enough sleep.

While a lack of sleep can be caused by a number of factors including drinking too much caffeine, watching too much television or spending too much time on the computer late at night, or by noise, there are also certain sleep disorders that can disrupt one’s ability to get a good night’s rest. At least 40% of Canadians and 70% of Americans have some form of a sleep disorder. The most commonly diagnosed sleep disorders include insomnia, sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, and narcolepsy.

Individuals with insomnia will often complain of difficulty falling asleep or having a hard time staying asleep. You may also wake up several times throughout the night, wake up too early, feel fatigued throughout the day, have an inability to be able to concentrate at work or school. Persons with insomnia should also avoid driving, as the risk of car accidents is higher in those with sleep disorders. In certain cases, insomnia may be treated with medication. In other cases, it is also treated with cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) in order to determine the root cause of the insomnia – stress and anxiety often being one of the causes. Reducing anxiety can significantly improve one’s sleeping habits.

Sleep apnea is a much more serious form of sleep disorder that can cause your breathing to be interrupted. There are two forms of sleep apnea – OSA, also known as Obstructive sleep apnea, and CSA – also known as Central sleep apnea. With OSCA, the airway becomes blocked as a result of the throat’s soft tissue collapsing as we sleep. With CSA, the airway does not become blocked – however, the brain fails to send the signal to the body that tells it to breathe. Some of the most common symptoms of sleep apnea include snoring, choking or gasping for air, and feeling fatigued throughout the day. Sleep apnea can be life threatening, therefore it is important to not ignore the symptoms and speak to your family physician as soon as possible.

To accurately diagnose a sleep disorder, Dr. Ali Ghahary may request that a sleep study be performed. A sleep study is administered by wearing a special device that records your sleeping patterns which is then turned into data to be analyzed. This is a non-invasive procedure and can be done in the comfort of your own home.

For more information on these and other sleep disorders, visit the Canadian Sleep Society website at css-scs.ca.

Health Benefits of Drinking Water

While not everyone considers water to be an important factor in his or her everyday health, it is actually a key component to staying healthy and is fundamental in keeping nutrients circulating properly in your body. The human body is composed of at least 60% of water and plays an integral role in many different bodily functions including digestion, absorption, and maintenance and regulation of body temperature. Drinking water is also a great way to quench your thirst without having to worry about calories that are found in soda and other sugary beverages, which can be low in nutrients and not provide any benefit whatsoever in terms of your health.

If you do not drink enough water each day, you may wind up suffering from dehydration. Symptoms of dehydration include dry mouth, dry eyes, urine that is dark in colour, fatigue or dizziness, and nausea that worsens after exercise. When the body is dehydrated, your brain will trigger its thirst mechanism, which is not something you should ignore.

For individuals looking to lose weight, substituting water for beverages that are high in calories can help. It’s also imperative to include foods that are water-rich in your diet, as these are more filling and can also help to decrease your calorie intake. Water-rich foods include fruits and vegetables, beans, oatmeal and broth-based soups. The body absorbs these foods slower, making you feel full.

Staying hydrated also helps with muscle performance and keeps them feeling energized. If you are not getting enough water, muscles will not work as well. It is recommended that you drink at least 17 ounces (a little over 2 cups) of water prior to exercising, and you should also drink water at regular intervals during physical activity to replace the fluids you lose from sweating. Water also plays a significant role in kidney function. The kidneys are responsible for flushing out toxins. However, if you are not getting enough fluid intake then this becomes difficult for the body to do and you may be at an increased risk of developing kidney stones. As you can see, not only does water help with various parts of your health, but the effects of drinking water can also be noticeable from the outside, too, and keeps the skin looking good. If you don’t drink enough water, your skin can appear dry and wrinkled.

Dr. Ali Ghahary, a physician in the Greater Vancouver area, recommends patients make water their go-to beverage of choice. The Canadian Food Guide also recommends that individuals drink water each day, limiting the intake of carbonated/soft drinks, energy and sports drinks, sweetened beverages and alcohol. These are extremely high in calories and low in nutrients. If you are turned off by water due to its lack of flavour, try adding things like orange wedges, lemon, lime, berries or mint. Other healthy options include 100% fruit juices and fortified soy beverages.

The Opioid Crisis in Vancouver

In 2016, there were 922 overdose deaths in British Columbia. In Vancouver, 15 people died from opioid-related overdoses in just one week alone, and the number of opioid deaths in the Province is expected to reach as high as 1,400 by the end of 2017, making it a public health emergency.

As a result of the increased number of opioid-related deaths across the Province, new guidelines based on one similar to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were established for physicians and the prescribing of opioids and other highly addictive drugs, making British Columbia the first in Canada to be bound, legally, by such guidelines. Medications such as opioids often act as a band-aid when treating chronic pain disorders or other health problems, and they can actually make pain worse.

Patients can often develop a high tolerance to opioids over time, which can then lead to addiction and dependency, and can also ultimately result in individuals turning to other unsafe ways to get the drug – which is often off the street, and is why we have heard of so many cases of drugs being laced with Fentanyl, or its more potent cousin, Carfentanil. Even when ingested in small amounts, these drugs can be deadly.

Under the new guidelines, physicians must sit down and discuss with patients the dangers of opioids and offer alternatives for chronic conditions such as back pain, headaches and other ailments. It is important for physicians like Dr. Ali Ghahary to also carefully analyze a patient’s personal and medical history, as some patients may be more vulnerable to addiction such as those who have been abused, or those who come from families with a history of addiction or have previously battled addiction themselves. Doctors should not only weigh the risks and benefits of opioids, but all types of medications, and should also review the patient’s PharmaNet file, as those who are prone to addiction will often do what is called “doctor-shopping” and collect multiple prescriptions from different healthcare professionals…to either get more pulls for themselves, pills to give to others, or pills to sell.

More information on the dangers of opioids and alternative treatment options for chronic pain can be found by clicking here.

Vancouver’s Best Fitness Spots

As a family physician in Vancouver, Ali Ghahary not only evaluates and treats patients with everyday common health issues, but also counsels patients on the importance of physical activity, putting an emphasis on the important role it plays in attaining optimal health.

The city of Vancouver is known as being one of the most illustrious outdoor regions in Canada, with plenty of easy access and available transportation to several parks, beaches and hiking spots around the Lower Mainland, including but not limited to Stanley Park, False Creek, English Bay, and the Grouse Grind – also commonly referred to as the “Stairmaster of Mother Nature” – a physically challenging 2.9 kilometre trail up Grouse Mountain in North Vancouver.

There are over 220 parks and beaches in Vancouver, so it goes without saying that Vancouver residents have an abundance of options when it comes to keeping physically fit. If outdoor activity isn’t something you are fond of, there are also several community centres or gyms to join, or you can even implement physical activity in your home by doing yoga or lifting weights. That being said, while research has shown Vancouverites to be much more physically active than those in other Canadian cities and Provinces, many individuals have a BMI over 30 (which is considered obese or overweight), and as many as 85% of Canadians still, unfortunately, do not meet the required guidelines of physical activity, which is 150 minutes of moderate-level exercise each week, or 30 minutes per day.

Dr. Ali Ghahary encourages patients to stay as active as possible. Individuals who are inactive can develop serious health complications including an increased risk of coronary heart disease and increased blood pressure levels (also known as hypertension.) Being immobile also increases the risk of developing adult-onset Type II diabetes, making you resistant to insulin, as well as stiff joints, poor posture, and osteoporosis, which can cause bones to fracture easily. Other risks of physical inactivity include mental illness such as depression and anxiety, as well as an increased risk of being diagnosed with certain cancers such as colon cancer and breast cancer. Canadians who keep fit on a regular basis have reported decreased stress levels, decreased blood pressure levels, and weight loss or improvement in weight management.

By making small improvements to your physical activity, you will notice astronomical rewards to your health. Click here for even more information from Dr Ali Ghahary on exercise, its many health benefits, and different ways you can keep fit.

Understanding Inflammation

When Canadians think of inflammation, we often think of it as damage to the body that causes pain and swelling, and even infection. While this is true to a certain extent, inflammation is actually the body’s natural response to something it perceives to be harmful. So while infection is oftentimes easily associated with inflammation, inflammation does not necessarily mean an infection is present. Inflammation occurs by releasing chemicals from the white blood cells, which assists in protecting the body from and removing any damaged pathogens, cells or other irritants. A bacterium, fungus or virus causes infection, and inflammation is simply the body’s response to it. When inflammation is present, this means that the body is trying to heal itself. If inflammation did not occur, our bodies would never properly heal.

There are two types of inflammation that can occur. Acute and Chronic. Acute means the rapid onset of inflammation, which can become severe but has a short healing period. Acute inflammation can be the result of having a sore or scratch throat caused by the common cold or flu, bronchitis, skin wounds, dermatitis, appendicitis or sinusitis. Unlike acute inflammation, chronic inflammation is long-term and can last from months to years. Chronic inflammation can be caused by the failure to eliminate acute inflammation as well as other persisting irritants. It can result in several diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, hay fever, and even certain cancers. Chronic sinusitis, asthma, and digestive orders such as Crohn’s disease are also linked to chronic inflammation. Signs and symptoms of inflammation can include pain to the affected areas (especially upon touch), redness, swelling, and the feeling of warmth.

Autoimmune diseases can also result in inflammation. An autoimmune disease is when the body’s immune system issues a response to otherwise healthy tissues and mistakes them for pathogens or irritants that are harmful. Examples of autoimmune diseases include rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, lupus, psoriasis, and fibromyalgia.

In certain cases, Dr. Ali Ghahary, a family physician in Vancouver, Canada, will prescribe medication to alleviate the symptoms associated with inflammation. These medications include anti-inflammatories known as NSAIDs – such as Aspirin or Ibuprofen, and are used to treat inflammation and pain. Corticosteroids such as Prednisone are also commonly usedn. As these drugs can result in serious side effects and other health conditions, it is not recommended that they are taken long-term unless otherwise noted by your physician.

Hepatitis B (HBV)

Hepatitis B Virus, also known as HBV, is a potentially life-threatening liver disease that can be either acute or chronic.

More infectious than HIV, Hepatitis B is contracted through contact with bodily fluids or blood of a person already infected with the disease. While less than 2% of the Canadian population is infected with HBV, it affects an estimated 1.2 million individuals in the United States and over 300 million individuals worldwide, resulting in the deaths of over 600,000 patients each year due to complications from the disease including cirrhosis – a condition that results in scarring of the liver usually as a result of exorbitant alcohol consumption, viral Hepatitis B and C, and other causes, in addition to liver cancer.

Symptoms of Hepatitis B Virus include fatigue, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, dark urine, pale stools, joint pain, stomach pain and jaundice (yellowing of the skin.) However, more than half of those with Hepatitis B usually do not develop symptoms until their liver has been affected.

As mentioned, HBV is spread through contact with blood and bodily fluids. It can also be contracted through using unsterile tattooing or body piercing equipment, sharing personal hygiene items with another infected individual such as razors, toothbrushes, scissors and nail clippers, by sharing contaminated drug-use items (i.e. needles), as well as unprotected sex and/or having multiple sexual partners. It is important to note that HBV is not spread by having casual contact with someone…such as kissing, hugging, shaking hands, or being around individuals who may be coughing or sneezing.

Taking preventive measures to avoid contracting HBV is important. In Canada, all Provinces offer free immunizations to children and certain groups of adults who may be at risk of developing HBV. The vaccine is routinely given to children in Grade 6 who have not yet been vaccinated. It is also typically recommended to children under the age of 12 whose families have emigrated from countries that have a high HBV risk rate and to individuals who have had multiple sexual partners or a recent sexually transmitted infection (commonly referred to as an STI), individuals with chronic liver disease, and health care practitioners who are at risk of coming into contact with blood or bodily fluids as a result of their job.

In acute cases, Hepatitis B will clear on its on – usually within 6 months of first contracting the disease. This means that you will no longer be infected with HBV and also will not put others at risk of developing it. However, in chronic cases, long-term treatment is required.

In order to manage symptoms associated with HBV, Vancouver physicians like Dr. Ali Ghahary focus on relieving the patient’s symptoms, preventing any complications that may arise, as well as preventing transmission of the disease.

To start, Dr. Ali Ghahary will monitor patients with blood tests to keep a close eye on the health of the liver. Medications such as Epvir, Hepsera, Tyzeka and Baraclude will also be prescribed. These are antiviral medications that help to slow down the progression of the virus. In severe cases, a liver transplant may be necessary.

To cope with the diagnosis of HPB, it is important to educate yourself on the disease. Speaking to your physician is always a great place to start, and there are various libraries around Vancouver and the surrounding area that will likely have books available on the disease. The Vancouver Infectious Disease Centre also offers support and educational tools on HBV and other acute and chronic diseases, including HIV and HCV.

If diagnosed with HBV you should ensure that you are taking care of your liver by avoiding alcohol consumption, ensure that you have a healthy diet, are getting regular exercise, as well as getting enough sleep.