Fun Ways to Stay Fit This Summer

As a family physician in Vancouver, Canada, Dr. Ali Ghahary has always been a strong advocate of physical activity and encourages his patients to stay active.

Exercise has not only been scientifically proven to help one’s physical wellbeing – such as weight loss and weight management – but it is also great for one’s mental health, too, and can significantly reduce levels of stress and anxiety.

While exercise can be daunting and feel more like something you have to do as opposed to something you want to do, there are several ways you can make your fitness routine fun and hassle-free.

With the weather expected to stay sunny and hot across metro Vancouver for the foreseeable future, partaking in outdoor activities is one way to have fun while keeping fit – and with plenty of parks and beaches across the lower mainland, it shouldn’t be difficult to do.

One way you can incorporate physical activity into a fun routine is by going bike riding – this can be done alone or as a fun group activity. If you don’t have your own bicycle, Stanley Park offers affordable bike rentals starting at $7.62 with many different options to choose from, such as 1-speed and 7-speed cruisers, mountain bikes, city bikes, road bikes, tandem bikes for two, and even children’s bikes. Cycling is a great workout for the muscles and it gives your body strength and stamina, and helps to improve mobility. It is also way less straining on the body, therefore resulting in a much lower risk of developing injuries in comparison to other sports.

Beach volleyball is another fun way to stay healthy and fit. You can burn up to 130 calories by playing for as little as 30 minutes, and up to 480 calories by playing for 60 minutes. Beach volleyball is also great for improving your hand-eye coordination, increasing your metabolic rate, and toning and shaping the upper body (arms and shoulders.) Similarly, playing a game of tennis has the same great benefits.

Going swimming also blasts calories away, burning as much as 470 calories per hour. It is a total body workout and strengthens your arms, chest, abs, back, legs and shoulders.

For more summer health tips, follow Dr. Ali Ghahary on Twitter at @DrAliGhahary!

Vancouver’s Opioid Crisis

In 2016, there were 922 overdose deaths in British Columbia. In Vancouver, 15 people died from opioid-related overdoses in just one week alone, making it a public health emergency.

As a result of the increased number of opioid-related deaths across the Province, new guidelines based on one similar to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were established for physicians and the prescribing of opioids and other highly addictive drugs, making British Columbia the first in Canada to be bound, legally, by such guidelines. Medications such as opioids often act as a band-aid when treating chronic pain disorders or other health problems, as Dr. Ali Ghahary has written about previously, and can actually make pain worse.

Patients can often develop a high tolerance to opioids over time, which can then lead to addiction and dependency, and can also ultimately result in individuals turning to other unsafe ways to get the drug – which is often off the street, and is why we have heard of so many cases of drugs being laced with Fentanyl, or its more potent cousin, Carfentanil. Even when ingested in small amounts, these drugs can be deadly.

Under the new guidelines, physicians must sit down and discuss with patients the dangers of opioids and offer alternatives for chronic conditions such as back pain, headaches and other ailments. It is important for physicians like Dr. Ali Ghahary to also carefully analyze a patient’s personal and medical history, as some patients may be more vulnerable to addiction such as those who have been abused, or those who come from families with a history of addiction or have previously battled addiction themselves. Doctors should not only weigh the risks and benefits of opioids, but all types of medications, and should also review the patient’s PharmaNet file, as those who are prone to addiction will often do what is called “doctor-shopping” and collect multiple prescriptions from different healthcare professionals…to either get more pulls for themselves, pills to give to others, or pills to sell.

More information on the dangers of opioids and alternative treatment options for chronic pain can be found by clicking here.

ALS Awareness and Support

ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease or Motor Neuron Disease, is a condition that affects individuals when the bran is unable to properly communicate with the body’s muscles. Motor neurons serve as the body’s internal wiring and help you move around. With ALS, these motor neurons gradually break down. When this occurs, you will slowly lose the ability to walk, talk, eat, swallow and even breathe. As ALS progresses, these symptoms will worsen.

ALS - Ali Ghahary
The blue and white ribbon signifies support for those living with ALS.

There are two types of ALS: Sporadic ALS, which is the most common form of ALS can affects individuals of any gender, ethnicity or age (though it typically affects people between the ages of 40 and 60), and Familial ALS. Familial ALS is passed from parent to child, and accounts for up to 10 percent of ALS cases. Another form of ALS, known as Bulbar ALS, affects up to 30 percent of ALS patients. With Bulbar ALS, muscles in the head, face and neck become paralyzed. Typically, symptoms (such as changes in voice or speech/articulation) of Bulbar ALS are not present until later stages of the condition.

There are currently over 200,000 people worldwide living with ALS, with approximately 3,000 of those being in Canada.

There is not one particular thing that causes ALS. Instead, it has a wide array of causes which can include changes in genes, and even environmental factors. As more ALS research is done, the ALS Society of Canada will have a better understanding of what else triggers it. Due to ALS having symptoms that mimic other diseases (such as thyroid disorders or lyme disease), it can initially be difficult to diagnose. In order to properly diagnose ALS, Dr. Ali Ghahary will review the patient’s symptoms and rule out other health conditions. This can be done by administering blood and urine tests, as well as referring patients for electrodiagnostic tests such as an EMC, and magnetic resonance imagine (MRI.)

Since ALS is a progressive disease, there is no cure. You may face challenges as you begin to adapt to the symptoms associated with ALS, therefore it is important to have a good support system in place. Primary care physicians, like Dr. Ali Ghahary in Vancouver, are available to better explain ALS and will also consult with other healthcare providers. As ALS can affect the ability to swallow, seeking advice from a dietician is also beneficial in helping you to maintain proper nutrition. The ALS Society of BC also provides support to ALS patients, and they even offer an equipment loan program that includes mobility equipment, lift equipment, communicative devices, bathroom aids, beds and other accessories. All of this equipment is available at no charge.

For more details on ALS and to take part in ALS Awareness Month, follow Dr. Ali Ghahary and the ALS Society on Twitter.

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.