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.

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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.

Low-Carb Diets: South Beach Diet

low-carb dietSince 2014, a self-reported 14 million Canadians were estimated to have considered themselves overweight or obese according to a study done by Statistics Canada. This is a rate that continues to rise steadily in Canada predominantly as a result of an increase in overly processed foods, excess calories, and lack of nutrients in diets, in addition to inadequate exercise regimens.

For many individuals, weight-loss can be quite a challenge and a true test of self-discipline; and while it can oftentimes be discouraging when weight-loss goals are not met, causing one to fall back into old eating habits, maintaining a healthy weight is vital to your overall health and well-being.

Low-carb diets are something Dr. Ali Ghahary advocates, and there are several healthy and easy-to-follow diet options that will help you achieve your weight-loss goals. One of those diets, and perhaps the most popular today, is the South Beach diet, known for its low-carb-friendly, high-protein and high-in-fiber food choices. Foods such as vegetables and legumes (chickpeas and kidney beans) are a vital part of the South Beach diet as they slow down the body’s digestion, thus making you feel fuller for a longer period of time, while foods that are higher in protein (such as chicken and fish) avoid spiking your blood sugar, making you less likely to feel hungry and want to overeat. The great thing about the South Beach diet is that while it focuses on all healthy foods, it also has the ability to include certain carbohydrates, making it an easier diet for many to cultivate. The purpose of the South Beach diet is to find a steady balance of healthy foods you are putting into your system, not just for weight-loss but also for your general well-being, and it is a diet that you can stick to on a long-term basis. However, as with any diet, the initial phase is usually the toughest and requires determination.

low-carb diet

For the first two weeks of the South Beach diet (otherwise known as ‘Phase 1’), you will focus on eating proteins, low-fat dairy products, and vegetables. Cabohydrates such as breads, rice, pasta, fruits, potatoes, sugar and alcohol consumption are all to be completely avoided. This is in effort to train your body to eliminate the bad carbohydrates from your system, reduce cravings, and introduce healthier alternatives. At the second level (known as ‘Phase 2’) of the South Beach diet, carbohydrates are gradually reintroduced. If you would normally have a slice of toast for breakfast each morning, instead try one piece of fruit, followed by two pieces of fruit the next day, three pieces the day after, etcetera. Fruits such as apples, bananas and pears are considered to be higher in carbohydrates, but those particular fruits can be good for you if eaten in moderation. Once you rid your body of the “bad” fats and carbohydrates and slowly re-introduce the “good” fats and carbohydrates, you will find that you will have fewer cravings and will begin to notice weight-loss as well as an increase in your energy level and other effects as a direct result of your dietary changes. The great thing about the South Beach diet is that while it is low in carbs, it is not as low in carbs as other diets out there, and at the final phase of this diet you can actually get as much as 30% of your calories from carbohydrates, so long as you are choosing the right ones to intake to give your body the appropriate nutrients and minerals required to help you achieve and maintain your weight-loss goals. You can find an overwhelming number of recipes for the South Beach diet simply by doing a search online.

As always, it is important that you first check with your general practitioner before making any significant dietary changes.