Lack of Balance and Prevention of Falls

Balance is something we learn early on as infants and children. First, we learn by sitting. Then, we learn by standing. Following that, we’re often learn with bicycles, roller-skates, and rollerblades. However, as we age, balance is something that can also decrease – especially in those who are elderly. When it comes to balance, it isn’t just a matter of learning how to stand on your own two feet. In order to be able to balance properly, many parts of our bodies also need to be functioning properly – including your bones, muscles, joints, eyes, nerves, heart, and even ears. If we’re not fully functioning, it’s not uncommon to start to experience balance problems.

Lack of balance can be caused by a variety of conditions. Vertigo, for example, is a condition that causes a sense of spinning/motion (also known as dizziness) even though nothing around you is actually moving. As a result, you lose your balance and can stumble. Vertigo is associated with many different medical conditions, including Meniere’s disease, migraines, vestibular neuritis, benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, motion sickness, and even head injuries such as concussions. In addition, lack of balance can also be caused by other neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, as well as certain medications, and even psychiatric disorders such as depression, stress and anxiety.

If you are someone who frequently experiences balance problems, Dr. Ali Ghahary recommends booking an appointment with your family physician for a thorough examination. Depending on the symptoms and severity of said symptoms, Dr. Ghahary may refer patients for a series of tests including bloodwork, hearing tests, and medical imaging. An in-office neurological exam is also sometimes done to check a patient’s reflexes and ensure there’s no abnormal brain activity or involuntary functions that could be contributing to the patient’s balance problems. If all of the tests conducted determine that there are no significant problems with your health, it may simply be a matter of learning balance restraining exercises, which can be taught to you by a physiotherapist. In order to prevent falls, you may also require the use of a cane or walker. If severe vomiting or dizziness also occurs along with your balance problems, you may need to be prescribed medication to help control those symptoms.

Because those who are elderly are much more susceptible to falls, especially if living on their own, it is important to reiterate that they should not be walking around in the dark, or doing any kind of climbing (i.e. up/down stairs, or on/off ladders) that could increase their risk of losing their balance or having a fall. Falls can be detrimental to seniors, as they are more likely to suffer from fractures, sprains and breaks.

For more information on fall prevention, visit the BC Balance and Dizziness Disorders society at balanceanddizziness.org.

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Common Causes of Chills

Do you find yourself feeling cold all the time, even during warmer weather? While some people have a natural tendency to feel cold more than others, there are a few different health conditions that Dr. Ali Ghahary says can cause a drop in body temperature.

Iron Deficiency

Iron deficiency is something that is common in many individuals, especially women with their periods. In order for our red blood cells to be able to function properly and carry oxygen around the body, iron is required. However, being iron deficient can have a significant impact on this process, which can cause symptoms such as chills, fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath, dizziness, and pale skin.

Iron deficiency is usually diagnosed via a blood test. If it’s confirmed that you are iron deficient, you will need to increase your iron intake. The easiest way to do this is to incorporate more iron-rich foods into your diet, such as leafy green vegetables, lean meats, and eggs. Sometimes food isn’t enough, however, and you may need to take an iron supplement. They can, however, be hard on the stomach.

Lack of Circulation

In a recent article, Dr. Ali Ghahary touched on the importance of circulation. Lack of circulation can not only cause chills, but it can also impact many other aspects of our health and cause things like dizziness, hair loss and dry skin.

The human body can be lacking in circulation as a result of decreased physical activity/obesity, poor diet, tobacco use, blood clots, and even stress. The best way to get the body circulating as it should be is to make healthy lifestyle changes – including exercising regularly and breaking bad habits like smoking.

Poor Sleeping Habits

Getting a good night’s rest is crucial for your overall health and wellbeing. If you don’t get enough sleep, feeling chilled is one of the most telltale signs. Dr. Ghahary recommends patients get at least 8 hours of sleep each night, if possible. To avoid sleep disruptions, you should also shut down devices such as televisions and smartphones at least 2 hours prior to going to bed. It’s also a good idea to try and go to sleep and wake up the same time every day; this way your body gets used to the routine.

Being Underweight

While it might come as a surprise, being underweight can also cause the body to feel colder – particularly in those with a low BMI of 18.5 or under. Those who are underweight tend to lack muscle mass, which is important when It comes to maintaining body temperature, producing heat and speeding up our metabolism. Should you go out and eat a bunch of unhealthy food so that you can try to gain weight? No. You can, however, try to build more muscle by lifting weights.

It is important to note that there are certain health conditions, such as eating disorders, that can also cause low BMI levels – the most common being anorexia. If you or someone you know suffers from this type of eating disorder, it’s important to speak to your family physician.

Why You Shouldn’t Skip Breakfast

If you’re thinking about skipping breakfast this morning, you might want to reconsider!

According to a recent study done by researchers from the Mayo Clinic, findings suggested that eating meals in the mornings may actually help keep you slimmer and promote weight loss, as those who ate breakfast compared to those who didn’t were less likely to gain weight and accumulate belly fat. The study, which analyzed the breakfast habits of approximately 350 individuals, found that those who ate breakfast on a regular basis gained an average of 3 pounds in a year, while those who only ate breakfast occasionally gained approximately 5 pounds, and those who skipped breakfast all together gained 8 to 10 pounds.

While it’s easy to skip on what’s commonly referred to as the most important meal of the day, it’s widely known that if you eat breakfast in the morning then you’re less likely to feel hungry throughout the day, meaning you won’t snack as frequently and indulge in things that aren’t necessarily good for you.

Of course it’s not just about how frequently you eat. It’s about what you eat, too. Just as you would with lunch and dinner, you need to make sure your breakfast choices are just as healthy. That means avoiding carbohydrates, sugar-filled foods and fruit juices. Some of the best foods you can eat in the mornings include eggs, Greek yogurt, and oatmeal. You can also add things like chia seeds, flax seeds, and nuts to your breakfast, as these are packed with fibre, and can also prevent you from unnecessary snacking in the middle of the day. If you’re unsure what to make for breakfast or are in a hurry, a smoothie can be a quick and easy way. Simply blend together some of your favourite fruits and ice (with or without a little bit of Greek yogurt.) Another great way to kick off your morning is by making a protein shake. You can find plenty of healthy shake recipes on Pinterest.

Just as healthy eating is important for adults, it’s also important to make it a habit for young children. However, kids can be picky eaters, so the best way to get them to eat healthy is to make it fun and set up a reward system. Also think beyond breakfast food. If you had ham for dinner, it also works as a great breakfast food. For example, in an omelette. Pinterest also has plenty of tips to help parents make breakfast a fun activity for children.

Don’t Eat Romaine Lettuce, CDC Warns

If you recently purchased romaine lettuce, you might want to think twice before eating it. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, also known as the CDC, has issued a strong warning urging all Americans to avoid consumption of the leafy green vegetable, and instead says you should throw it out or take it back to your point of purchase for a refund due to fears of E. coli contamination.

This latest warning comes just three months after the initial outbreak that caused as many as 53 people to become ill, killing 2; and while there had been no new cases reported since December, and the risk of developing E. coli was considered to be quite low, some grocery stores and restaurant chains across North America decided to voluntarily pull romaine lettuce from their store shelves and off their menus out of an abundance of caution. However, following new information coming to light in recent days, the CDC now says the outbreak has expanded to at least 16 states and sickened at least 60 people, including 8 inmates from the same Alaskan jail. Hardest hit states in this most recent outbreak include Pennsylvania, with 12 reported cases, and Idaho, with 10.

While the exact source of the contamination has yet to be identified, health officials say the information they’ve received thus far suggests that the contaminated lettuce was most likely grown in Yuma, Arizona. However, if you’re unsure of the specific source of your lettuce, the CDC says consumers should avoid it all together – even if you’ve already eaten it and have had no ill effects – as it can take anywhere from 24 hours to 7 days until symptoms will present themselves. The most common symptoms associated with E. coli that you need to watch out for include abdominal pain and/or cramps, gas, severe or bloody diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite. Other complications can also arise, such as decreased urine output or bloody urine, pale skin, fatigue, dehydration, and fever. If any of these symptoms develop, or if your symptoms worsen or persist, you should seek immediate medical attention, as failure to treat an E. coli infection could be fatal – though the chance of this happening is typically quite rare, and in most cases an E. coli infection will get better on its own as long as you make sure you’re getting plenty of rest and drinking plenty of water. If you’re not getting enough fluids, you may require them needing to be administered to you intravenously. You may also need to be prescribed antiemetic medication, such as Zofran, to help relieve the nausea and vomiting.

Now you’re probably wondering what this outbreak means for Canadians. Well, there’s some good news to share. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, Canadians are free to consume romaine lettuce without worry. That being said, Dr. Ali Ghahary still recommends taking the appropriate measures to ensure that your lettuce is well washed prior to serving and consumption, and that you don’t store lettuce in your fridge any longer than 7 days.