Blood Transfusions: Who Needs Them and Why?

Dr. Ali Ghahary - Blood TransfusionsBlood is a vital part of the human body. It is responsible for the transportation, protection and regulation of different substances; from supplying the body with essential substances and nutrients such as oxygen, sugar and hormones, as well as the removal of waste, in addition to acting as a clotting agent. Without it, our bodies would not be able to properly function.

A large percentage of Canadians have required blood transfusions, and many hospitalized Canadians need blood transfusions every day. Canada has one of the safest blood systems in the world. To ensure that blood donation is safe for the intended recipient, the Canadian Blood Services requires that donors meet certain criteria prior to making their donation. This criteria includes being over the age of 17, meeting certain height and weight requirements, as well as having good overall health. However, it is also important to note that not everyone is eligible to donate blood. To find out whether or not you are eligible, the Canadian Blood Services has a list of the ABC’s of Eligibility on their website at blood.ca.

A blood transfusion can be necessary for a number of reasons, with the most common one being anemia. Anemia can be caused as a result of a severe injury (i.e. from a traumatic event such as a car accident), being iron deficient, having kidney disease, liver disease, having an infection or infections that stop the blood from producing properly, and even certain cancers that cause the blood cells to produce at a decreased rate, such as lymphoma or leukemia. A patient may also require a blood transfusion after surgery due to blood loss.

There are certain risks and complications that can occur as a result of giving blood. For those who are donors, it is not uncommon to notice some local bruising around the area in which the needle was placed. Typically this bruising will go away on its own after a few days. If you are having localized pain, over-the-counter pain medication such as acetaminophen can provide you with some relief. It’s also not uncommon to feel faint/lightheaded after donating blood. To avoid fainting, you will be asked to stay at the blood donor clinic for at least 15 minutes before you are allowed to leave, and may also be asked to eat a light snack. It’s also important to drink additional fluids (at least 16 oz.) for up to 2 days after donating blood.

Similarly, blood recipients are also faced with complications and risks – including allergic reactions, fever, iron overload, and a rare but serious condition known as acute immune hemolytic reaction that causes your body to attack new red blood cells and produce substances that are harmful to your kidneys. When receiving blood, your doctor has weighed the risks and benefits.

If you have any further questions about blood donation, Vancouver physician, Dr. Ali Ghahary, recommends contacting the Canadian Blood Services by calling 1-888-2-DONATE.

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Understanding Fibromyalgia

Until recently, Fibromyalgia, a disorder that is characterized by chronic pain, was not always recognized as a legitimate health problem. To date, approximately 3% of Canadians suffer from fibromyalgia, with up to 90% of those cases being women between the ages of 30 and 60.

Certain things, such as car accidents or infections, have been long thought to be a cause of fibromyalgia. Several studies have also suggested that fibromyalgia may be hereditary, meaning you are more likely to develop it if someone in your immediate family also suffers from it. However, many causes of fibromyalgia are spontaneous, thus making it a complex condition for doctors to diagnose.

The chief complaint in patients with fibromyalgia is widespread pain – meaning they cannot pinpoint one specific location where their pain is located. Instead, it affects various parts of their body. However, others may have specific points on their body where the pain is located – such as the arms or legs. Other health conditions, such as IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), chronic headaches and insomnia, are also linked to fibromyalgia.

As there is no known cure for fibromyalgia, it is Dr. Ali Ghahary’s main goal as a family physician to treat the symptoms that the patient is experiencing.

In lieu of prescribing different pain medications, doctors will commonly prescribe antidepressants or anticonvulsants. As fibromyalgia pain is also thought to be neuropathic related, these types of medications work by targeting the brain’s pain signals and nerves. In 2007, Lyrica (also known as Pregablin) became one of the first FDA-approved drugs to treat fibromyalgia pain, followed by Cymbalta in 2008, and have seen high success rates. Some patients also opt for trying natural treatment methods to help ease the pain associated with fibromyalgia, such as low-impact exercise, and having a diet that is rich in leafy, green vegetables as well as omega-3 fats – both of which are great for reducing inflammation, pain, and provide your body with essential nutrients.

It’s also not uncommon for fibromyalgia to also result in the patient experiencing bouts of depression and anxiety, which is why Dr. Ali Ghahary also stresses the importance of taking care of your mental health and being able to recognize the signs of mental illness. Always remember to speak out about how you’re feeling and have good support system around you.

High-Risk Pregnancy: What Does It Mean?

 

When a medical professional deems a pregnancy “high-risk”, this means that the chances of the mother and/or baby developing health problems are significantly increased in comparison to pregnancies that are not considered to be high-risk.

High-Risk PregnancyWhile being told you that have a high-risk pregnancy can certainly sound scary and seem overwhelming, it doesn’t always necessarily mean that you will run into problems. It’s simply a way for doctors to ensure that you get special attention, and that any problems that might develop during your pregnancy are taken care of early on.

There are a number of factors that can come into place when physicians like Dr. Ali Ghahary, as well as other medical specialists, such as OB/GYN’s, make this determination. For example, a pregnancy may be considered high-risk if you’ve ever had problems with past pregnancies, such as preterm labour, or are pregnant with twins/triplets. You may also be considered high-risk if you have health problems such as endometriosis, cancer, diabetes, kidney disease, high blood pressure, epilepsy, and HIV or Hepatitis C. Age can also determine whether or not a pregnancy is considered high-risk – for example, teenagers who become pregnant are more likely to develop anemia or high blood pressure, and are also less likely to seek prenatal care. On the contrary, women over the age of 35 are at an increased risk of developing pregnancy complications, such as excessive bleeding or prolonged labour. Those who smoke, use illegal drugs, drink alcohol and/or lead otherwise unhealthy and unsafe lifestyles are also more likely to have a high-risk pregnancy. All of these aforementioned factors (and more) are taken into consideration when dealing with the health of the mother and baby.

To avoid a high-risk pregnancy, there are certain (and very important!) steps that Dr. Ali Ghahary says every expectant mother should take…

The first step would be to ensure that you are leading a healthy lifestyle. If you smoke, quit! If you drink, stop! These are risky substances that can have a detrimental impact on the health of your child. The second would be to ensure that you have sought out regular prenatal care. By having regular prenatal check-ups, you not only monitor your own health, but the health of your unborn child as well. It’s also crucial to make sure you’re eating a healthy diet when pregnant. You may need to satisfy those random pregnancy cravings from time to time, but it’s also important to get essential nutrients like calcium, iron and folic acid. Many expectant mothers will opt to take a prenatal vitamin to help with the intake of these and other nutrients.

If you have any concerns about your pregnancy or about becoming pregnant, do not hesitate to discuss those concerns with your primary health practitioner.

How to Stay Healthy This Fall

As summer transitions into fall in just two weeks time (the first day of autumn is September 22nd), Vancouver physician, Ali Ghahary, has put together a list of tips on how to better prepare yourself for the changing seasons.

How to Stay Healthy This Fall

As flu season approaches in November, it’s not a bad idea to get the flu shot a bit early. Typically, many clinics and pharmacies around Vancouver and surrounding areas will offer the flu shot as early as October. If you are high-risk (such as a senior over the age of 65, have a previously diagnosed chronic illness, have a weakened immune system or are pregnant), Dr. Ali Ghahary recommends getting the flu shot. It is also recommended for children under the age of 5. There are many types of flu strains, and it is a highly contagious illness, so it’s always a good idea to protect yourself against it. To avoid influenza, always practice good hygiene habits such as regular hand washing, keeping your mouth and nose covered when coughing, and avoiding contact with others who are sick.

Along with the fall also comes gloomier weather – this means more clouds and rain than sunshine. As a result, we’ll be spending more time indoors than out, which means our intake of Vitamin D will be decreased. To ensure you’re getting enough Vitamin D, Dr. Ali Ghahary recommends taking a Vitamin D supplement. Taking Vitamin D helps with calcium absorption, and it also boosts your immune system and your mood. Click here for more surprising benefits of Vitamin D.

Daylight savings also occurs in the fall. On November 5th, we’ll be turning our clocks behind an hour. This means that there will be longer periods of darkness, and as a result you will be getting some extra sleep. However, some people often have trouble with daylight savings as it can make you feel as though your sleep pattern has been significantly disrupted. Despite getting that extra hour of sleep, it’s still important to go to bed at a decent time and make sure you’re getting at least 8 hours of sleep each night so you feel well-rested the next day. For those who suffer from insomnia, Dr. Ali Ghahary shares some tips on how to fight it on his website at alighahary.ca.

You may also notice a change in your skin during the colder fall months, and even into winter. Cooler temperatures can cause skin to become pale, dry and flaky, so it is important to keep your skin moisturized. You can also still wear a sunscreen. If you have sensitive skin, your family physician or dermatologist will be able to recommend something to you.

Staying active is also important! With the change in weather you may be less inclined to exercise outdoors. However, there are still ways you can keep fit at home. If you don’t have exercise equipment, doing stretches and yoga are great ways to stay physically active. Many community centres also have drop-in sessions available and some even offer free fitness classes.

Also remember to keep eating healthy. In-season vegetables broccoli, squash, kale, cabbage, and other dark, leafy green vegetables such as spinach and romaine lettuce. You can find much more information on healthy eating by clicking here.