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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.

Struggling With Mental Health and Addiction in Canada

Dr. Ali Ghahary practices at Brentwood Medical Clinic, a combined family practice and walk-in clinic located in Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada. Along with being able to accurately diagnose and treat common health conditions such as influenza, diabetes, and even treat minor wounds/skin lacerations, Dr. Ghahary also has expertise in dealing with patients experiencing mental health disorders and addiction, ranging in everything from depression and anxiety disorders, to substance abuse (the use of and dependency on alcohol and/or drugs) and gambling problems.

In any given year, 1 in 5 Canadians will experience mental health or addiction problems. While women tend to have an increased rate of mood and anxiety disorders, men tend to have higher addiction rates. However, it is not unusual for mental health and addiction problems to co-occur. Patients who are already suffering from a mental illness are 2x more likely to develop substance abuse problems in comparison to otherwise healthy individuals, while patients already dealing with substance abuse problems are 3x more likely to develop a mental illness.

Mental health and addiction problems can cut up to 20 years from ones’ life expectancy, and is a leading cause of premature mortality in this country. Thus, it is imperative to be proactive and treat these issues early on in order to lead a healthy, well-balanced life. As a physician, it is Dr. Ghahary’s priority to ensure that mental health disorders and substance abuse/addiction is treated the same as any other illness would be treated – seriously, with the utmost compassion, and effectively.

There are many different ways that mental health disorders and addiction can be treated, with the most common course of treatment being a combination of medications and behavioural therapy such as outpatient counselling from a clinical psychologist or a referral to a psychiatrist via Burnaby Mental Health. Behavioural therapy is greatly beneficial in helping the patient further understand the symptoms that they may be experiencing, the risks of substance abuse, and will hugely benefit the patient in helping them on their road to recovery as well as be instrumental for the patient in maintaining their sobriety as they move forward. As mental health and addiction can also have a significant impact on ones’ personal lives, including performance in school or at work, seeking the help of a family physician, clinical psychologist or psychiatrist may also help to repair those fractured relationships and allow for better, open and honest communication in families, with friends, teachers, and with co-workers.

Caring for Geriatric Patients in Canada

As of 2014, nearly 16 percent (just over 6 million) of Canadians were made up of geriatric patients aged 65 or older. By 2030, that number is expected to rise by 7 percent to 9.5 million seniors, making them an expeditiously expanding part of Canada’s population. The average life expectancy of elderly patients is 84.2 (women) and 80 (men.) By 2036, the average life expectancy is anticipated to rise to 86.2 (women) and 82.9 (men) due to the fact that seniors are seemingly living healthier, longer lives than ever before.

While the Canadian government works to provide a number of different programs and initiatives for elderly patients and their families, much of the responsibility of care for geriatric patients falls on their caregivers (i.e. family members and friends) and general practitioners. Prior to joining Brentwood Medical Clinic in Burnaby, Dr. Ali Ghahary worked with largely geriatric communities in various parts of Canada – including the Louis Brier Home and Hospital in Vancouver. With Dr. Ghahary’s expertise brought forth to Brentwood Medical Clinic, Burnaby’s geriatric community is in great hands.

Unlike younger, healthier patients, seniors require a more comprehensive and extensive approach to their medical care. This includes frequent and/or prolonged visits with their physician, routine screening, medication adjustments, and specialist referrals in addition to dealing with their basic medical needs as well as home-care and other daily-living necessities. Common health problems found in seniors range from musculoskeletal problems such as osteoporosis (bone loss), osteoarthritis (inflammation of the joints), gout and fractures. Visual problems such as glaucoma, cataracts and macular degeneration. Cardiovascular problems such as congestive heart failure, atrial fibrillation and high blood pressure. Hormonal changes such as increased cholesterol and slower metabolism. Seniors are also at an increased risk of developing infections like shingles, pneumonia, or urinary tract infections, and other general complaints such as fatigue, decreased appetite, forgetfulness and weight loss.

To ensure optimal health, elderly patients should not only go for regular check-ups with their physician, but also ensure that they are getting enough sleep, include vitamin-rich diets that include calcium and Vitamin D to prevent bone disease, and limit salt intake in order to control blood pressure levels. Eating foods that are higher in antioxidants will also help lessen the risk of vision loss as a result of macular degeneration, and living an overall healthy lifestyle can decrease the risk of developing heart disease by as much as 80%.

Understanding Anxiety

Whether it’s starting a new job, taking care of family matters, or speaking in front of large groups, we all experience anxiety from time to time; and while this kind of anxiety generally does not affect one’s ability to get through their everyday lives, it can be quite debilitating for other individuals and put them at risk of developing further mental illness.

Below is a look at some of the common disorders that are associated with anxiety.

Phobias
The strong, relentless and troublesome feeling of fear around any given situation, person, object or animal. People who suffer from phobias will go out of their way to avoid potential triggers, lessening their quality of life as a result. Similarly, those with agoraphobia also suffer from the same kinds of fears in addition to feeling as though they are trapped and unable to escape certain situations.

Panic Disorders
What would be considered a normal reaction to an otherwise stressful situation for those who don’t suffer from anxiety would be an extreme reaction for those who do – with symptoms such as the feeling of intense fear, constant worry, rapid heartbeat, sweaty palms, shortness of breath and nausea.

Generalized Anxiety
Those with generalized anxiety are oftentimes still able to function in social settings – however, they will excessively worry over what are considered to be mundane, everyday problems, have difficulty sleeping as well as muscle tension.

Social Anxiety Disorder
Unlike generalized anxiety, those who suffer from social anxiety disorder will avoid social situations whenever possible. They fear being judged by others. Social anxiety can have a severe impact on one’s performance in school or at work, as well as impinge on relationships.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
Commonly referred to as OCD, obsessive-compulsive disorder is an assemblage of unwanted thoughts and urges, and abnormal and repeated actions in effort to diminish anxiety.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Also known as PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder is a result of a traumatic life event. Those with PTSD will experience extreme panic, have harrowing flashbacks, and will feel unsafe even when they are not in danger.

Regardless of age, education, income or cultural background, no one is exempt from anxiety or mental illness. At least 20% of Canadian adults will be diagnosed with a mental illness at some point in their lifetime, with 8% of those experiencing major depression. The stats are even more staggering when it comes to children: Up to 20% between the ages of 12 and 19 have already experienced anxiety or a major depressive episode, and as many as 4 million children are currently at risk of developing a mental illness in the future.

Regrettably, at least half of the individuals who say they suffer from mental illness will not see a physician; this is due in part to the stigma that surrounds mental illness and the fear of being discriminated against as a result. However, if left untreated, it can lead to serious and sometimes life-threatening problems, including other mental disorders, so it is important to recognize that with the right support, mental illness can be managed.

At Brentwood Medical Clinic in Burnaby, British Columbia, Dr. Ali Ghahary works in conjecture with patients, clinical psychologists and psychiatrists. While treatment varies from patient to patient, medication is oftentimes used to manage depression and anxiety. However, there are also some other commonly recommended suggestions that have been proven to be beneficial for those suffering from mental illness including CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) and physical activity.

South Beach Diet

Since 2014, a self-reported 14 million Canadians were estimated to have considered themselves overweight or obese according to a study done by Statistics Canada. This is a rate that continues to rise steadily in Canada predominantly as a result of an increase in overly processed foods, excess calories, and lack of nutrients in diets, in addition to inadequate exercise regimens.

For many individuals, weight-loss can be quite a challenge and a true test of self-discipline; and while it can oftentimes be discouraging when weight-loss goals are not met, causing one to fall back into old eating habits, maintaining a healthy weight is vital to your overall health and well-being.

Low-carb diets are something Dr. Ali Ghahary advocates, and there are several healthy and easy-to-follow diet options that will help you achieve your weight-loss goals. One of those diets, and perhaps the most popular today, is the South Beach diet, known for its low-carb-friendly, high-protein and high-in-fiber food choices. Foods such as vegetables and legumes (chickpeas and kidney beans) are a vital part of the South Beach diet as they slow down the body’s digestion, thus making you feel fuller for a longer period of time, while foods that are higher in protein (such as chicken and fish) avoid spiking your blood sugar, making you less likely to feel hungry and want to overeat. The great thing about the South Beach diet is that while it focuses on all healthy foods, it also has the ability to include certain carbohydrates, making it an easier diet for many to cultivate. The purpose of the South Beach diet is to find a steady balance of healthy foods you are putting into your system, not just for weight-loss but also for your general well-being, and it is a diet that you can stick to on a long-term basis. However, as with any diet, the initial phase is usually the toughest and requires determination.

For the first two weeks of the South Beach diet (otherwise known as ‘Phase 1’), you will focus on eating proteins, low-fat dairy products, and vegetables. Cabohydrates such as breads, rice, pasta, fruits, potatoes, sugar and alcohol consumption are all to be completely avoided. This is in effort to train your body to eliminate the bad carbohydrates from your system, reduce cravings, and introduce healthier alternatives. At the second level (known as ‘Phase 2’) of the South Beach diet, carbohydrates are gradually reintroduced. If you would normally have a slice of toast for breakfast each morning, instead try one piece of fruit, followed by two pieces of fruit the next day, three pieces the day after, etcetera. Fruits such as apples, bananas and pears are considered to be higher in carbohydrates, but those particular fruits can be good for you if eaten in moderation. Once you rid your body of the “bad” fats and carbohydrates and slowly re-introduce the “good” fats and carbohydrates, you will find that you will have fewer cravings and will begin to notice weight-loss as well as an increase in your energy level and other effects as a direct result of your dietary changes. The great thing about the South Beach diet is that while it is low in carbs, it is not as low in carbs as other diets out there, and at the final phase of this diet you can actually get as much as 30% of your calories from carbohydrates, so long as you are choosing the right ones to intake to give your body the appropriate nutrients and minerals required to help you achieve and maintain your weight-loss goals. You can find an overwhelming number of recipes for the South Beach diet simply by doing a search online.

As always, it is important that you first check with your general practitioner before making any significant dietary changes.

Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease

Dr. Ali Ghahary, a family physician in Vancouver, is adept in treating chronically ill and geriatric patients, including those suffering from dementia.

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Exercise Benefits Your Health

With people in Canada looking for ways to live longer and have more energy, regular exercise is the key to optimal health. Not only does it keep you fit, but it has also been shown to warn off depression, strengthen bones, and improve digestion. People who exercise regularly also have a lower risk of mental decline, Alzheimer’s and mental illness.

In addition to treating patients with maladies such as the flu or common cold, Dr. Ali Ghahary, an accomplished family physician at Brentwood Medical Clinic in Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada, also helps to manage his patients’ health by suggesting various lifestyle changes, including exercise.

Just 1.5 hours of exercise per week can reduce the risk of premature death by 20 percent. If you exercise five hours per week, risk of death at an early age decreases as much as 34 percent. A carefully planned workout routine can add years to your life and also lower the risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis, high cholesterol and colon cancer. Exercise is a simple, effective way for Canadians and individuals all over the world to boost their health and prevent chronic diseases.

The brain also benefits significantly from a challenging workout. Studies have indicated that physical activity not only improves cognitive function, but also reduces anxiety and minimizes the detrimental effects that stress can oftentimes have on the body. Children and adolescents who exercise a few times a week have also been shown to perform better in school than those with a sedentary lifestyle, and active adults have higher levels of GABA, a chemical in the brain that improves the mood and wards off anxiety. Physical exercise also stimulates the formation of new brain cells, helping to improve learning functions and problem solving skills.

Overall, regular exercise can make you healthier, happier, smarter, and more productive – all you need is a minimum of 30 minutes each day in order to reap the benefits.