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.

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Below is a look at some of the common disorders 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.

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Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) vs. Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

stomach-1051854_960_720Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) are two common disorders of the digestive system. These disorders affect as many as 5 million Canadians, with approximately 120,000 individuals in Canada being diagnosed with IBS every year. In fact, Canada has one of the highest rates of IBS diagnoses in the world today. While the symptoms of IBS and IBD are very similar, it is important to understand that the two are not the same condition and they have contrasting treatment regimens.

Unlike IBD, IBS is considered to be the lesser evil of the two. Perhaps the biggest difference between the two is the fact that while IBD is an indicator for other gastro-related illnesses and causes the intestines to become inflamed, IBS does not. IBS can, however, cause profuse discomfort and anguish, with symptoms such as persistent abdominal pain, diarrhea and constipation – oftentimes alternating. These symptoms can range from being mild to severe, and they can disturb one’s self-image, ability to work, and overall quality of life. Individuals with IBS generally do not show any signs of any severe disease when examined, so a diagnosis is almost always dependent on the symptoms presented by the patient to their physician. Common complaints and symptoms of IBS that Dr. Ali Ghahary sees in patients include bloating, gassiness, nausea, and the inability to move the bowels despite urgency. IBS can be caused by certain medications, dietary changes, hormonal changes and stress. Treatment includes antidiarrheal medications, fiber supplements, and stress relief.

IBD, on the other hand, affects 1 in every 150 Canadians, and can be a direct cause of severe gastrointestinal diseases known as Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease – both of which are accompanied by inflammation of the bowel. Symptoms of IBD include weight loss, chronic diarrhea, abdominal pain and bloating. In severe cases, low-grade fevers and bloody stools may also be present. These are red flags that should not be ignored. IBD is diagnosed with blood tests, stool tests, CT scans or endoscopes, and is commonly treated with several types of medications: Aminosalicylates (to help control inflammation), Antibiotics (to help those who may develop an infection known as C. Difficile), Corticosteroids (to treat sudden onset of IBD-related flare-ups), Immunomodulators (to quiet the immune system and reduce inflammation), and biologic therapies (to block proteins that may produce inflammation.)

Senior Health

hand-588982_960_720With Canadians living longer, it is also important to note of the potential health risks that come with aging. As such, Health Canada is continuously researching ways to recognize the ongoing needs of seniors in Canada.

Some important principles that Dr. Ali Ghahary recommends for his patients are healthy eating, injury prevention, good oral hygiene, physical activity and smoking cessation; all of which are especially crucial for the well being of seniors in Canada today. Below we will take a slightly closer look at some of the foundations of these principles and the important roles that they play in helping seniors live healthier, happier lives.

fruits-155616_960_720Good nutrition, in particular, is relevant not only for your overall health, but also for seniors to maintain good balance, strength and resistance as they age, with the Canadian Food Guide recommending that all adults ages 51 and older eat at least 7 servings of fruits and vegetables per day, 6 to 7 services of grain products (bread, quinoa, cereal, cooked pasta) per day, up to 3 servings of milk/alternatives (fortified soy beverages, yogurt, cheese) per day, and 2 to 3 services of meat/alternatives (cooked fish, shellfish, poultry, lean meats, tofu, eggs, peanut butter, nuts and seeds) per day.

Up to 30% of seniors experience at least one fall every year, which are the dominant cause of injuries to seniors, and 85% of those falls requiring hospitalization. Common causes of falls amongst seniors include poor balance, usually due to declining muscle and bone strength, diminishing vision or hearing loss, and unsafe conditions in the home. It is important to take preventative measures in and around the home to avoid injury. This can be done by adding non-slip surfaces to the bathroom, eliminating clutter, installing good lighting in the home, having well-lit walkways and stairways, and placing otherwise hard-to-reach items in spots that are easier to get to. In the autumn and winter months it is also imperative to clear paths and staircases of any snow, ice or leaves in order to avoid slipping.

Low-impact exercise such as walking or aqua-fit is also beneficial to senior health, but one should always first check with their family physician before commencing any new exercise programs.

Obesity: Why it Exists, What it’s Caused By, How it’s Treated

diet-695723_960_720With an increasingly steady percentage of Canadians struggling with obesity, it is important to raise awareness and learn about all of the positive ways to ensure you are leading a healthy lifestyle. Obesity, a result of excess body fat being accumulated, can have a severe and sometimes life-threatening impact on one’s health. In this article we will look at what obesity means, why people become obese, the health risks associated with obesity, and obesity treatment options.

As of today there are at least 6 million Canadians struggling with their weight, with 1 in 4 adults and 1 in 10 children diagnosed as being chronically obese. One of the top reasons why we are seeing more and more individuals’ becoming obese is due in part to increased food consumption and overly processed foods. The expenditure of fast food has also tripled over the years. In addition to dietary causes, sedentary lifestyles also lead to obesity. This can include watching too much television, spending too much time in front of a computer, or playing video games. By burning less calories and avoiding physical activity, your obesity risk increases significantly. By staying fit you will not only lose weight, but physical activity also helps to decrease other health risks such as high blood pressure, osteoarthritis, and even helps to stabilize insulin levels.

physiotherapy-595529_960_720In addition to lack of physical activity, research has also shown that insomnia plays a factor in weight problems with increased appetite being a direct result of sleep deprivation, which then doubles your risk of becoming obese. If you are not getting enough sleep, your body produces something called Ghrelin, a hormone that works as an appetite stimulant, and less Leptin, a hormone that works as an appetite suppressant. If you do suffer from insomnia, there are several natural remedies that can help such as acupuncture, taking more vitamins and minerals, and making modifications to your diet by avoiding stimulating foods such as caffeine, sugars, and carbohydrates. In fact, Dr. Ali Ghahary is a strong advocate of low-carb diets, which are safe and easy to follow for all individuals. A faulty obesity gene called FTO, albeit rare, is found in 1 in every 6 people, which causes overeating. Individuals who carry this particular gene tend to gravitate towards fatty foods and take longer to feel full. If you experience significant weight gain in a short amount of time, this may be indicative of other health problems, and should be checked out by your physician. Certain medications may also cause rapid weight gain, and alternative treatment methods should be considered whenever possible.

People who struggle with obesity often find themselves feeling discouraged if they do not lose weight immediately or don’t notice any immediate benefits. However while the benefits may not always be noticeable to the naked eye, losing just 5 to 10 percent of your body weight (12 to 25 lbs. in an individual weighing approximately 250 lbs.) can have a significant improvement on your health. With reduced calorie intake and increased physical activity, it will be easy to achieve a healthy weight and maintain it in the long run.