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.

Concussions: Risks and Prevention

With thousands of children and teenagers now back to school and also partaking in after-school activities, health professionals in Canada, like Dr. Ali Ghahary, will begin to see contact sport-related injuries on the rise such as sprains, bone fractures and concussions.

concussionA concussion occurs when the brain impacts the inside of the skull, usually the result of a direct blow to the head, and causes damage that ultimately changes how your brain cells function.

While concussions are common among athletes and school-aged children, kids and adolescents are also at higher risk of developing a concussion due to the fact that their brains are still growing. Symptoms of conclusions can be physiological (including headaches, dizziness and nausea, cognitive (including lack of concentration, memory loss and slurred speech), as well as emotional (depression and anxiety.) As concussions can have serious and sometimes life-altering effects, it is important that these symptoms are taken seriously and treated immediately. It is also important to watch out for late signs of a concussion, as symptoms can take as long as hours, days, or even weeks to develop. If left untreated, a concussion can lead to a traumatic brain injury (500 out of every 100,000 Canadians are diagnosed with a TBI each year), and can even be fatal.

Children are not the only age group at high-risk of developing concussions, however. Seniors are also susceptible to developing concussions, usually the result of a fall, something that is quite common with age. Studies have also shown that seniors with concussions had a greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease as opposed to those who have not had any previous head injuries. Seniors that do develop a concussion may require hospitalization and long-term rehabilitative care depending on the severity of the injury.

In order to prevent a concussion, one should always ensure that they are taking appropriate steps to reduce that risk. These steps include wearing the proper headgear and padding during sports, wearing appropriate footwear, wearing a seatbelt while in a vehicle, and keeping your home safe by moving any clutter and keeping dark spaces well lit. Regular, low-impact exercise in older individuals will also help to strengthen the bones and muscles, improve balance, and decrease the risk of falls.

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.