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.)

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Alzheimer’s Disease versus Age-Related Memory Loss

Dr. Ali Ghahary
Dr. Ali Ghahary

Dr. Ali Ghahary, a family physician in Burnaby, British Columbia, treats patients at all stages of life. Having previously served in a practice with a high percentage of elderly patients, Dr. Ali Ghahary draws on an in-depth knowledge of Alzheimer’s disease and other conditions of advanced age.

In its early stages, Alzheimer’s disease may closely resemble the natural forgetfulness of later life, though certain key differences are noticeable. Many older individuals report trouble forgetting appointments or the names of new acquaintances, but this manifests differently in a patient with early-stage Alzheimer’s. These patients forget new information often and frequently need to have the same information repeated multiple times.

Many older people forget the day of the week or the month, but they are able to recall this information after thinking on it for a moment. Patients with Alzheimer’s, by contrast, may lose track not only of dates but also of their sense of time. They may not be able to understand events that are not happening immediately, and they may forget the current season and even lose track of their surroundings.

Similarly, although it is normal for an older person to misplace an item occasionally, patients with Alzheimer’s may not be able to retrace their earlier steps and find where they may have laid down the item. They may accuse others of stealing the item, particularly if they are experiencing the personality changes or increased moodiness that often characterizes the disease. These social challenges, combined with a new inability to follow conversations, may make patients with Alzheimer’s disease more withdrawn, as well.

Common Food Allergies and How to Avoid Them

peanut-999921_1280Food allergies have become an increasing health concern in Canada over the years, with as many as 2.5 Canadians suffering from at least 1 common food allergy. The highest incidence of food allergies is found in children.

Below is a look at some of the most common food allergens according to Health Canada:

Peanuts:
The most common food allergy, especially in children, is a peanut allergy (affecting 2 in 100.) Peanut allergies have become so severe that some schools have banned peanuts or products containing peanuts all together, and is considered a “priority” allergen that must be listed on all ingredient labels if manufactured in a facility that also produces products containing nuts. As a result, more and more companies and begun introducing nut and/or peanut-free products that are specifically advertised towards school-aged children such as cookies, crackers and chocolate. Other nut allergens include tree nuts; these include hazelnuts, cashews, macadamia nuts, pecans, pine nuts, walnuts and pistachios.

Milk:
This includes all dairy products such as cheese, yogurt, and ice-cream. Many products contain milk, even in powdered form. It can be found in baked goods, coffee, soup mix, and even tofu.

Seafood:
Clams, scallops, shrimp, and lobster are all common seafood allergies. However, it is important to note that individuals with a seafood allergy are often able to eat certain types of seafood, while having to avoid other types all together. Seafood reactions can be severe, as one does not necessarily need to eat it in order to react to it. The smell of fish is enough to trigger an allergic reaction in some individuals. Seafood can also commonly (but oftentimes unknowingly) be found in salad dressings and sauces.

Soy:
Soy is another common allergen, but one that is not always easy to detect without carefully reading labeling. It can be found in everything from certain foods such as tofu, to candy, chewing gum, and even baby formula.

Sulphites:
An additive that is commonly used to preserve the shelf life of fruits, vegetables, and certain packaged foods. While sulphites are usually safe, they can still trigger allergic reactions and asthma in sulphite-sensitive individuals. If you have a sulphite allergy or sensitivity, it is best to avoid packaged foods and ensure you thoroughly wash all fruits and vegetables before consumption.

When we think of an allergic reaction, we often think of hives, swelling, or a rash. Anaphylaxis (usually resulting in trouble breathing or swallowing, or other respiratory distress sich as coughing, wheezing ad chest pain/tightness) is another common but serious allergic reaction that can be life-threatening, requiring individuals to carry an Epinephrine auto-injector (EpiPen) with them at all times, something that is easily prescribed by family physicians like Dr. Ali Ghahary. Other signs of an allergy include nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, diarrhea, dizziness and headache.

It is important to know that one does not need to ingest a large amount of an allergen in order to develop an allergic reaction, as it only takes a trace amount, so to avoid allergic reactions you should always ensure that you take special precautions. When buying food you should always read the ingredients on the packaging, and when dining out you should forewarn your server so that food can be prepared separate from any potential allergens. Proper hand washing and utensil cleaning is also of the utmost importance when it comes to avoiding food allergies and possible cross-contamination.

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.