The Role of a Dietitian

When it comes to healthy eating, making the right food choices isn’t always easy. You may need to change your eating habits due to being overweight, having high cholesterol, or because of food allergies or sensitivities. While family physicians like Dr. Ali Ghahary can certainly help steer patients in the right direction when it comes to making healthy food choices – such as recommending low-carb diets – you may need additional help from a dietitian.

Just as any other healthcare professionals – such as doctors, pharmacists and specialists – dietitians are just as important to your health and wellbeing. They not only work alongside patients, but also with general practitioners, in hospitals, long-term care facilities, and from time to time you may even find a dietitian in a grocery store providing customers with tips on healthy eating.

An RD (registered dietitian) is a professionally trained individual that is able to counsel patients on food and what it means to have good nutrition – and not only that, but the information in which they do provide is tailored specifically to the client whom they are helping. Meaning that the information in which a dietitian provides to you is given to you with your needs in mind and yours alone, as food that is good for one individual may not be right for another.

In addition to providing patients with counselling on nutrition, dietitians can also provide patients with information on how to combine their healthy eating with other lifestyle changes, such as fitness. Healthy eating and weight loss often go hand in hand. Following the advice of a dietitian or a nutritionist can also help to reduce the risk of diabetes as well as lower your cholesterol and blood pressure.

To find a dietitian in your area, visit the Dietitians of Canada website at dietitians.ca.

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Dr. Ali Ghahary’s Tips for Managing Diabetes

If you’ve just been diagnosed with diabetes it can be tough to navigate – at least initially. For many, managing diabetes means having to make lifestyle changes, and while it’s certainly not a death sentence, it can still be a matter of life or death if you don’t take the appropriate steps to keep yourself healthy.

The most common form of diabetes is Type II diabetes. Type II diabetes occurs when the body doesn’t use insulin properly – also known as insulin resistance. This can lead to a number of health problems including heart disease, stroke, neuropathy, and of course high blood sugar.

Below, Dr. Ali Ghahary, a family physician in Vancouver, shares some important steps that you can take if you’ve been diagnosed with Type II diabetes – which will not only help control your blood sugar levels, but improve your overall quality of life, too.

First and foremost, make sure you’re eating healthy. Ensuring you’re eating a good, well-balanced diet is something Dr. Ali Ghahary recommends to all of his patients, but it is especially important for managing diabetes.

Certain foods such as carbohydrates (i.e. pasta, bread, grains), milk, candy, canned fruit and starchy vegetables break down into glucose and raise blood sugar levels a lot faster than other foods would. Instead, choose non-starchy vegetables like beans, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, onions, tomatoes and peppers. You can find a full list of non-starchy vegetables by clicking here. You should also choose other healthy food options such as nuts, whole grains and seeds, and of course limit your sugar intake. When it comes to protein, make sure your choices are low in saturated fat – like turkey or fish. Avoid things like hot dogs and deli meats, as these are foods that are processed and contain little to no nutritional value, and can also increase the risk of high blood pressure. When choosing grains, make sure they’re whole grains – such as quinoa and wild rice. Whole grain bread is also a healthier alternative to white bread. Grains contain a wide variety of healthy vitamins and minerals. Avoid things like pasta and white rice. As for dairy, avoid things like chocolate milk or any dairy product that is full fat. Greek yogurt, for example, is a healthier, low-fat option.

Managing diabetes doesn’t just mean changing your diet, however. It is also important to have a handle on your weight. Being overweight can lead to diabetes or make diabetes worse. Losing weight can not only decrease your blood sugar levels, but it can also decrease the risk of other health complications such as kidney failure and cardiovascular problems.

For more information on both Type I and Type II diabetes, click here.

What is Meningitis?

Meningitis is a serious infection that causes the fluid and the membranes (known as the meninges) that are responsible for protecting the brain spinal cord to become inflamed.

Bacterial Meningitis
Bacterial Meningitis

There are two main types of meningitis: Viral and bacterial. Viral meningitis most common in the summer and autumn months, is the most common form and is the cause of almost 90 percent of meningitis cases. It typically goes away on its own without any treatment required. Bacterial meningitis, however, is the much more serious of the two, and if left untreated can be fatal. There are also rare types of meningitis, including fungal meningitis, which affects individuals who have weak immune systems, as well as parasitic meningitis, which is caused by lakes and rivers that are contaminated. Just like bacterial meningitis, these rare forms can also be fatal, which is why it’s crucial to seek immediate treatment upon the first sign of symptoms.

Meningitis Symptoms - Stiff Neck
A stiff neck is a common symptom of meningitis.

Symptoms of viral and bacterial meningitis can be very similar in nature, although the symptoms of bacterial meningitis tend to be much more severe. Symptoms can come on suddenly and last as long as 3 weeks. They include headache, stiff neck, fever, irritability, nausea and vomiting, sensitivity to light, and a decreased appetite. Dr. Ali Ghahary again urges the importance of seeking treatment right away if you develop any of these symptoms – even if you do not think that you have meningitis – as it can mean life or death. As meningitis cannot be diagnosed based on symptoms alone, a test called a lumbar puncture (also known as a spinal tap) will need to be administered in order to make a definitive diagnosis. A lumbar puncture collects cerebrospinal fluid and checks for any increased pressure of the central nervous system as well as measures the levels of glucose, protein, as well as the white blood cell count. If glucose levels are low, and the white blood cell count and protein levels are high, then this is confirmation of meningitis.

While you’re not likely to catch meningitis simply from walking by/near someone already infected, the risk of transmission and catching meningitis increases if you have prolonged contact with an individual who is already infected. Bacteria from meningitis can be spread through saliva (i.e. coughing, kissing, sharing eating utensils and/or drinking glasses), mucus, sneezing, and even contaminated food.

In order to prevent serious complications of bacterial meningitis, such as brain damage or death, the patient will need to be hospitalized and administered IV antibiotics.

To avoid getting meningitis, Dr. Ali Ghahary recommends patients maintain a healthy lifestyle, get enough rest, and avoid contact with those who are sick. There are also certain vaccinations that may be able to fight against some forms of meningitis, and that may be worth a discussion with your primary care physician.

How to Stop Nosebleeds

There are several tiny blood vessels in the lining of the nose. Due to these blood vessels being so close to the surface, they can be easily damaged – either from dry air or too-frequent blowing of the nose – resulting in nosebleeds. If you take medications like antihistamines or decongestant, over time this can also dry out the nasal membranes and cause nosebleeds. Use of Aspirin, blood thinners, trauma to the nose, alcohol consumption, as well as chemical irritants can also cause nosebleeds.

In order to prevent nosebleeds from occurring, it is first important to figure out the cause. If your nosebleeds are a result of the use of nasal decongestants, it is generally fairly easy to stop the nosebleeds by discontinuing the use of the nasal spray. Instead, Dr. Ali Ghahary from Vancouver suggests switching to a saline nasal spray to help keep the nasal membranes lubricated. The more lubricated the nasal membranes are, the less likely you are to develop nosebleeds. Using a humidifier can also be helpful. To stop a nosebleed in its tracks, Dr. Ali Ghahary recommends sitting in an upright position and leaning slightly forward. Sitting in this position reduces the blood pressure in the veins of the nose, which slows down the bleeding. You can also stop bleeding by taking your thumb and index finger, and pinching your nostrils shut. This applies pressure to the septum and can also slow down the bleeding. You may need to repeat these steps for approximately 10 to 15 minutes in order to stop the bleeding completely.

NosebleedsWhen simple methods such as the ones mentioned above fail, your doctor may choose to pack your nose to stop the bleeding. In cases where nosebleeds are severe and chronic, the blood vessels in the nose may need to be cauterized in order to stop the nosebleeds from occurring. This type of procedure is typically done by an ENT (Ear, Nose, Throat) specialist. An ENT specialist will also be able to look at your nose with a special instrument known as an endoscope, which can be helpful in ruling out sinus disease or any other problems that may be causing your nosebleeds.

You may also be predisposed to developing nosebleeds if you happen to be fighting a viral or bacterial infection (such as the common cold), have a history of both allergic and non-allergic rhinitis, have high blood pressure, or are going through hormonal changes as a result of pregnancy.

Most nosebleeds are not considered serious and generally stop on their own – oftentimes without even needing any special care. However, if your nosebleeds are severe and you are losing large amounts of blood, it is important that you seek medical attention as soon as possible.