World Meningitis Day

With today, April 24th, being World Meningitis Day, the Confederation of Meningitis Organizations as well as the Meningitis Research Foundation of Canada and others are raising awareness about this potentially life-threatening condition. Their goal and the goal of Vancouver physician Dr. Ali Ghahary (and other physicians around the world) is to better educate patients on the signs and symptoms of meningitis in the hope that treatment will be sought before it reaches that life-threatening stage.

Meningitis is a condition that occurs when the lining that surrounds the brain and spinal cord becomes inflamed. It is typically spread from close contact with other individuals (i.e. from coughing/sneezing, sharing utensils, etc.) Some of us carry the germs of meningitis without even realizing it.

If left untreated, meningitis can be fatal in a short period of time. Survivors of meningitis that leave treatment too late can have severe consequences such as paralysis, blindness, and deafness. Thus, it is important to seek immediate medical attention at the first signs of meningitis. Some telltale signs and symptoms of meningitis include fever, severe headache, nausea and vomiting – these symptoms are usually present within the first 6 hours. Later signs and symptoms include drowsiness, neck stiffness, cold hands and/or feet, skin rash, confusion, and even coma.

There are different forms of meningitis. Aseptic meningitis, also known as viral meningitis, is the most common. It is most prevalent during the summer and fall months, is usually less serious and rarely life-threatening if treated early. Most of those infected with viral meningitis typically recover within 5 to 10 days. Bacterial meningitis is more severe. It can progress quickly and be fatal within 48 hours or less. The first sign of bacterial meningitis is flu-like symptoms. Fungal meningitis, while rare, can also be serious. Fungal meningitis occurs in individuals who have compromised or weakened immune systems (i.e. from cancer, diabetes, etc.) and premature babies with low birth weights. It is treated with ant-fungal medications.

While most recover from meningitis without any after-effects, that is not always the case. Certain issues can arise after meningitis, which can be temporary or permanent. This includes memory loss, trouble retaining information, difficulty concentrating, residual headaches, weakness, paralysis, speech problems, changes in eyesight, and more. Children may also develop disturbed sleep, changes in character, as well as other behavioural problems.

Vaccines are an affective way to protect against bacterial meningitis. They work by creating antibodies against the bacteria. As there are many different strains of bacteria that can cause meningitis, one vaccine for a particular bacterium will not protect against the other, so it is important to have the discussion with your physician as to what vaccine is best-suited for you.

Remember, if you notice any of the symptoms of meningitis or are not feeling yourself, seek medical attention immediately and do not wait as it could be a matter of life or death.

For more facts on meningitis, follow Dr. Ali Ghahary on Instagram at http://instagram.com/alighahary and on Twitter at @DrAliGhahary.

Health Dangers of Sugar

Dr. Ali Ghahary, a family doctor from Vancouver, Canada, has always been a strong advocate of healthy eating.

Ali Ghahary - sugar cubesIn previous blogs, Dr. Ali Ghahary has written about the importance of having a healthy diet and how bad eating habits can negatively impact your health. Something that has been long known to contribute to a decline in health is sugar. Canadians consume an overwhelming amount of sugar each year – almost 90 pounds worth! On average, males and females between the ages of 9 and 13 consume about 103 to 120 pounds of sugar – a number that increases during teenage years, up to as much as 138 pounds. The primary source of sugar consumption in the younger generation is carbonated soft-drinks. However, it can also be found in other sources such as candy, and even fruits and vegetables. Sure, sugar can taste good, but it is having harmful, even life-threatening effects on our health.

Ali Ghahary - carbonated beverages
Soft-drinks are a common source of sugar

Perhaps one of the reasons why Canadians are consuming so much sugar today is because we don’t actually know how much we’re putting into our bodies. This is why in 2014, Health Canada proposed that changes be made to nutrition labels that would require companies to make it clear as to exactly how much sugar was going into packaged foods in the hope that it would deter individuals from eating unhealthy items and instead want to make healthier choices. The World Health Organization also came up with new guidelines that same year, stating that sugar should make up for less than 10 percent of our energy intake per day, which is a number that has already been far exceeded. They go on to add that if we cut that number in half to 5%, we would reap additional benefits.

Salad dressings also contain sugar, something that is usually unbeknownst to shoppers without reading nutritional labels.

Even for individuals who do strive to make healthy food choices, sugar can still be difficult to avoid. This is due in part to sugar being hidden in certain processed foods that aren’t necessarily thought of as “unhealthy” or even sweet. Ketchup, for example, contains as much as 4 grams of sugar in just one tablespoon. Salad dressing, tomato sauce, marinades, processed meats and pretzels also contain sugar. It is even found in infant formula.

One of the main reasons why sugar should be avoided is because it contains calories and does not have any essential nutrients. In fact, excessive intake of sugar can actually lead to nutrient deficiencies. Sugar is also high in fructose, which can cause a multitude of health problems. While it may not be an issue if we only consume a small amount (from a fruit, for example) or exercise regularly…if fructose overloads the liver, it is then turned into fat. Sugar can also cause insulin resistance, which causes problems with glucose (blood sugar.) Too much glucose can be toxic, and is one of the biggest reasons for complications from diabetes. Individuals who consume more beverages containing sugar, such as soda, are 85% more likely to develop Type II diabetes. According to multiple studies, sugar has also been thought to contribute to cancer – one of the leading causes of death worldwide – as it feeds cancer cells. In addition to all of these health problems, sugar also leads to cavities, feeds candida (yeast), can lead to osteoporosis, contributes to heart problems and ulcers, can cause arthritis, and promotes the aging of skin.

For more information on healthy eating, follow Dr. Ali Ghahary on Instagram and Twitter. If you are interested with speaking to Dr. Ghahary about your health directly, you can find his walk-in schedule on his website at http://alighaharyvancouver.ca.