February is Heart Month in Canada

Heartbeat - Dr. Ali Ghahary
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Heart Month, created by the Heart and Stroke Foundation, is a campaign to raise awareness on heart disease and promote positive lifestyle changes to lessen the risk of patients developing heart disease or suffering from a stroke.

At least 9 in 10 Canadians over the age of 20 have at least one risk factor for developing heart disease, and an estimated 600,000 Canadians are currently living with heart failure. While there is no cure for heart failure, there are many steps a person can take to manage the condition, and other changes one can make to avoid the development of heart failure later in life, as 8 in 10 cases of heart disease and stroke are preventable by making simple lifestyle and behaviour changes.

If you are a smoker, consume alcohol, are physically inactive, have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, you are at an increased risk of developing heart disease. As many as 14 million Canadians are obese or overweight, and more than 2 million Canadians have been diagnosed with diabetes, with prevalence on the rise.

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Eating well is a key factor in keeping your heart healthy. Instead of eating over-processed food such as pizza, hot dogs, and deli meats, choose foods that are natural. Fruits and vegetables, for example, carry lots of nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, fibre and antioxidants, and you should eat 7 to 10 servings each day.

Dr. Ali Ghahary, a physician in Vancouver, is a strong advocate for healthy eating and healthy lifestyles, and you can find diet-specific information by visiting https://alighahary.wordpress.com. In addition to eating more fruits and vegetables, you should also try to consume whole grain foods rather than refined grains such as pasta or white bread. Whole grain foods such as brown rice, quinoa and hulled barley contain fibre, vitamin B, and protein. Other foods containing proteins include beans, lentils, fish, tofu, lean meat, and certain dairy products that are lower in fat. Making a meal plan by writing down a list of foods and recipe ideas may be helpful, and you should always read the nutrients facts found on packaging to know how much salt, sugar or trans fat you may be consuming. If you like to snack, instead of eating potato chips try alternatives such as celery, cucumbers, carrots, or grape tomatoes – these go great with low-fat dips, salsa, hummus or peanut butter.

Physical activity is also important in maintaining heart health. By exercising 150 minutes per week, you are not only preventing heart disease and stroke, but you will also be lowering your cholesterol as well as avoiding diabetes, osteoporosis, and certain types of cancer. You will also notice benefits quickly; blood pressure will improve, and you will feel much more energetic as a result of staying physically fit.

For more information on exercise and its many health benefits, along with other great health tips, visit Dr. Ali Ghahary’s blog at http://alighahary.blogspot.ca. You can also follow Dr. Ghahary on Twitter at http://twitter.com/DrAliGhahary.

Epilepsy Triggers and Treatment

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Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that is the result of abnormal brain activity, bringing about loss of consciousness, convulsions (seizures) and other sensory disturbances. Symptoms of epilepsy range from mild episodes of staring or petit-mal seizures, to more severe and uncontrolled movements and seizures known as grand-mal.

Epilepsy currently affects up to 65 million individuals worldwide and 300,000 Canadians, with 15,000 new cases of the disorder being diagnosed in Canada each year. At least 30% of patients that are diagnosed with epilepsy also have accompanying learning disabilities, psychiatric disorders, memory loss, and even behavioural problems. The number of Canadians diagnosed with epilepsy is higher than the number of Canadians that have been diagnosed with colon cancer, and almost as high as the number of Canadians with prostate and breast cancer. (It is always important to have regular checkups with your physician and go for any screenings required. http://alighahary.blogspot.ca)

In as many as 60% of the cases of epilepsy, the cause is unknown. However, epilepsy can also be the result of serious brain injury (i.e. trauma at birth), being involved a motor vehicle accident, or having a stroke. Brain tumors and certain infections can also lead to epilepsy. While epilepsy is more frequently diagnosed in children and seniors, it can affect individuals of all ages. 44% are diagnosed with epilepsy before the age of 5, 55% before the age of 10, and 75% to 85% before age 18. In nearly half of childhood cases, seizures disappear completely.

Along with the aforementioned causes, seizures can also be triggered by stress, emotions, lack of sleep, having poor nutrition or skipping meals, illness, fever and allergies.

Long-term drug therapy is used to treat epilepsy. Vancouver physicians like Dr. Ali Ghahary and Neurologists across Canada prescribe both narrow-spectrum and broad-spectrum AED’s, depending on the types of seizures the patient is having, and they can be prescribed as a single medication or used in combination with others. Medications prescribed to treat epilepsy include those in the class known as Benzodiazepines, such as Clonazepam and Diazepam, which are also commonly used to treat those who have anxiety or difficulty sleeping. Other medications commonly prescribed to treat epilepsy and seizures include Divalproex, Gabapentin and Carbamazepine. If medications are unsuccessful, brain surgery may be considered.

As always, these medications have side effects and one individual may not react the same as another, so it is important to weigh the risks and benefits of these drugs with your doctor and pharmacist and be sure to make them aware of any concerns you have or side effects you may be experiencing.