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.

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Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome

Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) is a condition that prevents the lungs from getting enough oxygen due to the build-up of fluid in the lung’s air sacs called the alveoli.

Some of the most common causes of ARDS include aspiration, pneumonia, septic shock, the inhalation of chemicals, as well as traumatic injury. Those who smoke or drink alcohol are also at a higher risk of developing ARDS.

When the lungs become built up with fluid, their ability to expand then decreases. Consequently, you will then exhibit symptoms such as rapid breathing, difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, as well as low blood pressure and even organ failure – such as kidney or liver failure.

In order to accurately diagnose ARDS or other problems with the lungs, Dr. Ali Ghahary will listen to a patient’s chest with a device known as a stethoscope. The stethoscope allows for Dr. Ghahary to hear any abnormalities in a patient’s lungs. If it’s suspected that the patient has Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome and their blood pressure is low, they may have a pale appearance as well as a blue-ish tinge to the skin and nails. This is caused by lack of oxygen. Other tests that are performed to diagnose ARDS include complete blood counts, urine cultures, sputum cultures, chest x-rays and bronchoscopies.

As many as 10,000 Canadians die each year as a result of Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome. As this can be a life threatening condition, ARDS usually requires hospitalization for treatment – often in an intensive care unit (ICU). While in the intensive care unit, the patient will be sedated and they will be placed on a ventilator. The main goal of the ventilator is to not only provide the patient with large doses of oxygen, but to also help the lungs recover. Diuretics, antibiotics, and anti-inflammatory drugs are also often prescribed to patients with ARDS.

Though it can take several months to years, patients with ARDS can recover quickly. Some patients, however, may have long-term respiratory problems, including difficulty breathing, fatigue, weakness, and even depression. In order to properly manage your lung health, it is important to go to your physician for regular check-ups and immediately report any abnormal symptoms that you’re experiencing.

For further advice on how you can protect your lungs and for other lung-related support services, visit the BC Lung Association’s website at bc.lung.ca.

Vertigo

Dr. Ali Ghahary - VertigoVertigo is a type of disorder that affects your balance. It is often characterized by dizziness or a sensation that you or the room you are in is spinning. In instances where it feels as though you yourself are moving, this is known as subjective vertigo. If it feels like objects are moving or the room you’re in is spinning, this is known as objective vertigo. As a result of these sensations, it is also not uncommon to experience other symptoms such as nausea and vomiting, headaches, and even sweating.

When it comes to diagnosing vertigo, it is important to understand that it is not the same as dizziness despite the two words sometimes being used interchangeably. When you are dizzy, you will feel faint, lightheaded, and unsteady…whereas with vertigo, you will perceive yourself or objects to be moving.

Vertigo can last a few hours to a few days, and in some cases may even take several weeks before it settles down completely. There are many reasons why an individual might develop vertigo, including inner ear infections, such as vestibular neuritis. Vestibular neuritis causes the vestibular nerve to become inflamed and disrupts your sense of balance. You can also develop vertigo as a result of a traumatic head injury, or even by moving a certain way – such as standing up or bending over. This is known as Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo or BPPV. It can also be a common side effect of medications. If you notice any abnormalities (such as vertigo) while you are taking medications, it is important to avoid operating heavy machinery or driving until you know the side effects have subsided. You should always address any concerns you have about the medications you are taking with your doctor or pharmacy, and also be sure notify them right away of any abnormal side effects. In some cases, your physician may want to change the dose of your medication, or will prescribe you a different medication all together.

Treating vertigo will depend on how severe it is. The best way to prevent vertigo from worsening is to rest in bed and avoid movement as much as possible. When getting out of bed or moving around, it is important to do so slowly and carefully. To treat some of the symptoms that are associated with vertigo, like nausea and vomiting, Dr. Ali Ghahary recommends trying over-the-counter antiemetic medications such as Gravol. If that is unsuccessful, a stronger medication called Ondansetron may be prescribed.

If your vertigo worsens or persists, your family physician may need to refer you to an ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) specialist or a Neurologist.

Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

Thousands of Canadian women are currently living with ovarian cancer. It is the 5th most common cancer in women today, and by the end of this year the number of those diagnosed with the disease is expected to reach an estimated 2,800.

There are several myths that surround ovarian cancer. For example, many women believe that having regular pap testing can actually detect ovarian cancer early. However, contrary to that belief, pap tests can only screen for cervical cancer by detecting changes to the cells of the cervix. When it comes to ovarian cancer, it can only be detected from a pap smear if it is in an advanced stage. A transvaginal ultrasound and a blood test known as CA-125 can also both be useful diagnostic tools; however, there is no one definitive test that can be used to determine whether or not ovarian cancer is present when it’s pre-symptomatic. Another myth that is commonly associated with ovarian cancer is that the HPV (Human Papillomavirus) vaccine can prevent it – however, this is not the case. While the HPV vaccine can protect against genital warts and cervical cancer, it does not protect against ovarian cancer.

As mentioned, CA-125 blood testing and transvaginal ultrasounds are currently the two main diagnostic tools used to help detect or monitor ovarian cancer, though they are not conclusive. When your CA-125 levels are high, this does not necessarily mean that you have ovarian cancer. Having elevated CA-125 levels could mean the recurrence of a tumour/malignancy – however, those elevated levels can also be the result of a number of other non-cancerous health factors, too. If your CA-125 levels have decreased, this typically indicates that cancer treatment, such as chemotherapy, has been effective.

Ovarian cancer typically affects women over the age of 55. Its’ cause, however, is unknown; though there are certain risk factors one should pay attention to. Women also have a higher chance of of developing ovarian cancer if there is a history of it in their family.

Symptoms of ovarian cancer are often non-specific, and individuals with ovarian cancer may not even be aware that they have it. Common symptoms of ovarian cancer include bloating, feeling full quite quickly after eating, abdominal or pelvic pain, as well as urgent/frequent urination. That being said, it is always important to remember that just because you have some or all of these symptoms does not mean you have ovarian cancer.

This is why, as part of Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, Dr. Ali Ghahary and physicians from all across the country, as well as Ovarian Cancer Canada, are hoping to incase awareness on this deadly disease as well as find screening improvements, which will then hopefully lead to a decrease in the ovarian cancer death rate.

If you would like more information on ovarian cancer, you can visit Ovarian Cancer Canada’s website at ovariancanada.org. Also be sure to follow Dr. Ali Ghahary on Twitter and Instagram to join in on the conversation about #OvarianCancerAwareness.