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!

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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.

Canadians Living With Disabilities

As a general practitioner in Vancouver, Dr. Ali Ghahary is trained to care for patients living with complex conditions and medical needs, including persons with disabilities. Over 15 percent (more than 1 billion) of the world’s population currently lives with a disability – that accounts for over 3.8 million Canadians between the ages of 15 and 64 – a number that continues to rise.

wheelchair-1819053_1280The term “disability” can be used to describe any cognitive, sensory, mental or physical condition that causes social barriers and/or results in a severely limited ability for one to perform common, everyday, routine tasks (such as personal hygiene and cooking, in addition to attending school or work), and can sometimes require the need for daily assistance, either by a friend, a family member or in-home nursing care.

There are several different types of disabilities, all of which vary in severity. Below are just a few examples.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
Autism is a lifelong disorder that is usually present from early childhood and is caused by a combination of environmental and genetic factors. Currently, it is the fastest growing neurological disorder in Canada, affecting 1 in 68 children. Children with autism often have difficulties with social interaction and communication, as well as neurological issues such as mood disorders (anxiety) and hyperactivity.

Down Syndrome
Cells that divide abnormally cause Down Syndrome, leading to physical and cognitive impairments, as well as developmental disabilities. In Canada, 1 in every 700 babies are born with down syndrome. Women who become pregnant at a later age are at a higher risk of giving birth to a child with Down Syndrome in comparison to younger mothers.

Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral Palsy is a condition that affects muscle tone and movement. Motor skills can also be affected, causing difficulty speaking, loss of bladder and/or bowel control, the ability to eat, as well as trouble breathing. It is caused by brain damage that occurs before or during birth, but can also occur during the first few years of a child’s life – usually between the ages of 3 and 5. There are over 60,000 Canadians living with Cerebral Palsy today.

Along with Vancouver physicians like Dr. Ali Ghahary providing ongoing medical care to individuals living with disabilities, there are also several organizations around Vancouver and across British Columbia that are specifically designed towards providing necessary care, education and continued support to persons with disabilities, such as Disability Alliance BC (formerly known as the BC Coalition of People With Disabilities.)