# Thursday, 16 July 2015
                 
Fermented foods are a no brainer when it comes to making healthy food choices. When made properly they are chock full of probiotics, which help restore your gut's good bacteria to their optimum levels. Fermented foods are also full of nutrients and also act as chelators that detoxify the body of heavy metals.
posted on Thursday, 16 July 2015 21:30:56 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #   
# Monday, 16 June 2014
                 
Did you know that hearing loss due to aging and excessive noise can be prevented and in many cases reversed by the food that we eat along with some supplements? Loss of hearing is not something we should just accept as a fact of life!
posted on Monday, 16 June 2014 18:07:14 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #   
# Tuesday, 22 April 2014
                 
There are many natural antihistamines that help to control seasonal allergies. In addition eating local honey is a form of immunotherapy that can also help reduce seasonal allergic reactions. Read on to find out more.
posted on Tuesday, 22 April 2014 19:59:46 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #   
# Wednesday, 03 July 2013
                 
I've spent over 6 seasons working in Northern Ontario, home to mosquitoes and other nasty bugs that are many and huge in size. Use these tips and my experience to avoid mosquito bites!
posted on Wednesday, 03 July 2013 18:27:38 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #   
# Thursday, 09 May 2013
                 
Did you know that onion juice has been proven to aid in hair re-growth when it comes to baldness caused by alopecia areata? While this might not appeal to everyone, it is a natural treatment and the smell of it on the scalp (even after rinsing) can be alleviated by adding some other ingredients to the onion juice before its application.
posted on Thursday, 09 May 2013 21:42:56 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #   
# Friday, 05 April 2013
                 
Vitamin D is critical to our health and well being, yet recent studies suggest that 75% of Americans (and probably Canadians) are vitamin D deficient. The results are a dramatic increase in a wide variety of illness and ailments. Yet it is so easy to get the vitamin D we need to be healthy!
posted on Friday, 05 April 2013 21:23:50 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #   
# Wednesday, 09 January 2013
                 
Many of us have experienced the "wintertime blues", where we feel a little down and tired during the cold, dark winter months. This could be seasonal affective disorder, or SAD for short. There are things we can do to alleviate SAD. Most importantly, get outside and soak up the sunshine!
posted on Wednesday, 09 January 2013 14:37:49 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #   
# Wednesday, 14 November 2012
                 
There are many natural flu preventions that we can do to help our bodies fight off the seasonal flu bug. Diet is especially important, since it has such as dramatic effect on our immune systems (either boosting it or depressing it, depending on what you eat).
posted on Wednesday, 14 November 2012 18:24:51 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #   
# Monday, 24 September 2012
                 
Getting a chronic disease can be a debilitating and catastrophic experience that not only affects the sufferer but also family members. Just some chronic disease prevention tips are: quit smoking; eat a healthy diet; get regular physical exercise; lose any excess weight; and avoid excessive alcohol consumption.
posted on Monday, 24 September 2012 22:17:01 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #   
# Wednesday, 05 September 2012
                 
Canada to a large extent has become an "instant gratification" society, much to the detriment of our eating habits. Fast food such as greasy hamburgers and fries are the norm. So is frozen packaged foods that we pop into a microwave for a quick and easy meal. The downside to this is that many of us no longer eat healthy. The repercussions are enormous: our immune systems are weakened, leaving us susceptible to colds and the flu. The chances of contracting some health ailment are also vastly increased, as is a premature death.
posted on Wednesday, 05 September 2012 21:41:21 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #   
# Tuesday, 24 July 2012
                 
This blog article discusses diabetes: what it is; various ways to treat it; and purchasing a health insurance plan to cover the costs of testing kits, glucose monitoring equipment and other durable medical supplies.
posted on Tuesday, 24 July 2012 19:01:52 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #   
# Saturday, 13 March 2010
                 
Although factors such as family history and age cannot be altered, many of the health concerns that can cause cardiovascular disease are controllable. Every Canadian can make the choice to improve their health status, and thus, improve their chances over not becoming ill. In order to lessen the chances of heart disease and/or stroke the following is recommended:
 
  • Control Blood Pressure: The single most important stroke risk factor that is controllable; a 10 point drop in blood pressure equals a 40% less chance of having a stroke.
  • Quitting Smoking: Smoking can increase the risk of stroke as much as 2 to 3 times. Quitting can diminish this risk within the first year of cessation; after 5 years of successful abstinence from smoking the risk is diminished to a person that has never smoked before. For non-smokers, it is essential to avoid second- hand smoke which can double the risk of cardiac disease/stroke.
  • Control Cholesterol: The link between high levels of bad cholesterol, LDL and heart disease are stronger than the connection between bad cholesterol levels and stroke. LDL, however, causes hardening of the arteries, which in turn increases the risk of stroke. Keeping cholesterol in a healthy range will usually require being physically active, maintaining a healthy weight, as well as taking any medications prescribed.
  • Exercise: Regular physical activity can be a major factor in reducing the risk of stroke. The right type and amount of exercise can often cut the possibility of having a stroke by half. As well, exercise can lead to other healthy changes.
  • Getting and Maintaining a Healthy Weight: Excessive body weight definitely raises the risk of having a stroke. Healthy eating, along with regular physical exercise, is essential for cardiovascular health. A properly balanced nutritious diet helps to lower body weight and the size of the waist/ The Body Mass Index (BMI) level is good indicator of whether or not the ideal body weight has been reached. High BMI levels for women are to be considered at a high risk of stroke; high BMI coupled with a large waist in males is considered particularly high risk.
  • Normal Blood Sugar Levels: Almost 20% of people who have had a stroke are diabetic. In turn, diabetics have a higher risk of stroke due to that over time; high levels of blood sugar can damage the blood vessels that lead to the brain. Diabetics must manage their disease with extreme care in order to reduce the risk of stroke.
  • Control Atrial Fibrillation: Atrial fibrillation is a heart rhythm disorder that can increase the chance of the formation of blood clots, which can lead to a stroke. It is important to take the medication that is prescribed for this condition.
This and the past 2 blogs have dealt with cardiovascular disease and stroke. As with most other health conditions, a healthy diet and lifestyle is absolutely essential for optimal health. Please remember to notify your health (and life) insurance broker if and when your health status is upgraded due to a healthier lifestyle; you may be entitled to lower insurance premiums.

posted on Saturday, 13 March 2010 14:59:36 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #   
# Friday, 26 February 2010
                 
Ischemic heart disease is the most common type of cardiovascular disease and affects men and women both equally. While factors such as age and/or heredity to contribute to the likelihood of cardiovascular disease, the majority of cases found in Canadians were related to risk factors that are modifiable. The major risk factors for cardiovascular disease are:

  • Smoking: Smoking greatly increases the risk of the development of blocked arteries, blood clots, reduction of oxygen in the blood as well as increased blood pressure. Smoking, either first and/or second hand are harmful to human health in general, and specifically is high-risk for developing ischemic heart disease and stroke. Non-smokers can die just as prematurely from second-hand smoke; smoking nearly doubles the risk of stroke as well. Quitting smoking not only provides immediate but also long lasting health benefits; within hours of smoking cessation the risk of heart attack already begins to decrease.
  • Lack of Exercise: People who are physically inactive have twice the risk of having heart disease as well as a stroke. More than half of the Canadian population reports to being inactive; for those who have already experienced a heart attack, it is vital to have and maintain a healthy level of exercise in order to increase chances of survival.
  • Unhealthy Eating: 56% of Canadians report eating less than 5 servings of fresh fruit and vegetables per day, with the minority only reporting that they eat fresh fruit and vegetables in the amounts recommended in Canada's Food Guide. Not only do fresh fruits and vegetables protect the heart and blood vessels, but they provide fiber and contain anti-oxidants (substances which work against the development of blockage in the arteries).
  • High Cholesterol: Cholesterol is one of the fats in the blood that contributes to the growth of all cells in the body. Too much cholesterol ca lead to blockage of the arteries. There are 2 main types of cholesterol:
    1. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol is most often referred to as "bad cholesterol" because it's high levels contribute to artery blockage.
    2. High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol is most often referred to as "good cholesterol" because it helps to carry LDL-cholesterol away from the artery walls.
  • Triglycerides are not a type of cholesterol but they are, however, a type of fat thatis found in the blood and are linked with excess weight, excessive alcohol consumption and/or diabetes.
  • High Blood Pressure (Hypertension): This is the measure of the force (pressure) of blood against the walls of the blood vessels (arteries). The top number of a blood pressure reading represents the pressure when the heart contracts and pushes blood out (systolic) and the bottom number is the lowest pressure when the heart relaxes between beats (diastolic). Blood pressure that is consistently more than 140/90 mmHg is considered high, although for those people who have diabetes, 130/80 mmHg is considered high. High blood pressure can, over an extended period of time, cause scarring that promotes the build-up of fatty plaque which is a substance that can narrow and eventually block the arteries. Fatty plaque also causes strain to the heart, initially causing a thickening of the heart muscle and eventually causing the heart to weaken. Very high blood pressure can cause blood vessels in the brain to burst, resulting in a stroke. While high blood pressure is one of the most important risk factors for cardiovascular diseases, it is also the number one modifiable risk factors for strokes. More than 2.6 million Canadians have been diagnosed with hypertension; there is a possibility that just as many people are living with hypertension and are simply not aware of it. It is expected that more than 90% of people 55-65 with normal blood pressure are expected to develop high blood pressure over their lifetime. In 2007 21 million Canadians visited community physicians due to high blood pressure; blood pressure medication that is prescribed by a physician has also risen. Approximately 2.3 billion dollars a year are spent on direct costs of high blood pressure.
  • Sodium: While the human body does require some sodium in order to function in a healthy manner, too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure, which in turn is a major risk for strokes, heart disease, and/or kidney disease.
  • Obesity/Overweight: Being significantly overweight and/or obese increases the risk of developing a wide range of serious health issues, including heart disease, Type 2 diabetes as well as high blood pressure.
  • Stress: High levels of stress and/or prolonged stress may manifest itself in a physical sense, causing high cholesterol, increased blood pressure, and/or disturbances in heart rhythm. These conditions can all increase the risk of developing heart disease. As well, for some people, living with high levels of stress may cause them to not get enough rest, a proper diet, regular physical exercise etc. which in turn are all factors that can elevate the risks of heart disease.
  • Diabetes: Diabetes occurs when insulin does not control the level of sugar in the body, either because not enough insulin is produced or because the body does not react properly to the insulin that is produced. Insulin is then required to break down sugar in the body. Diabetes increases the risk of high blood pressure, coronary artery disease and strokes, particularly for those whose sugar levels are poorly controlled. Diabetes can result in poor circulation caused by damage to the blood vessels.
The third and final blog in this series will provide information on how to lower the risks of cardiovascular disease as well as the current treatment methods; this blog will be available within the next 10-14 days.
 

posted on Friday, 26 February 2010 16:58:13 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #   
# Tuesday, 16 February 2010
                 
Canadians all across the country spent the weekend celebrating Valentine's Day on Saturday. And while the majority of men and women enjoyed affairs of the heart this weekend not enough are taking care of their heart. In fact, Health Canada states that although mortality rates have been reduced in the past forty years, heart disease is still one of the leading causes of death in Canadians. 1.6 millions Canadians are estimated to be living with either heart disease or those who are living with the effects of a stroke.

Anyone who gets a diagnosis for heart/cardiovascular disease should know that this disease is preventable and manageable, especially when it comes to making changes for a healthier lifestyle. There are 6 different types of cardiovascular disease (cardiovascular disease refers to more than one disease of the circulatory system, including the heart and blood vessels, whether the blood vessels are affecting the lungs, brain, kidneys, etc. These 6 are the leading cause of death in Canadians:
 
  • Ischemic Heart Disease: This is the most common type of cardiovascular disease in Canadians and other industrialized countries; this refers to problems with the circulation of blood to the heart muscle. A partial blockage of one or more of the coronary arteries can result in a lack of enough oxygenated blood (ischemia) which then causes symptoms such as angina (chest pain) and dyspnea (shortness of breath).An artery's complete blockage causes necrosis (damage to the tissues) and/or a myocardial infarction (heart attack).
  • Cerebrovascular (Stroke): This refers to a problem with the circulation of blood in the blood vessels of the brain. A blockage with effects lasting less than 24 hours is known as a transient ischemic attack. Complete blockage with long-term effects is known as a cerebrovascular thrombosis (clot). It is also common for a blood vessel in the brain bursting which results in long term effects on health.
  • Peripheral Vascular Disease: This disease affects the circulation found primarily in the legs; patients with this disease typically complain of pain in their calves, especially when walking.
  • Heart Failure: This occurs when the pumping action of the heart cannot provide enough blood to the rest of the body as it is needed, resulting in damage to the heart muscle (i.e. from a heart attack) or from excessive, chronic abuse of alcohol, or because of a heart muscle known as cardiomyopathy. People with heart failure usually complain of shortness of breath as well as leg swelling.
  • Rheumatic Heart Disease: This was once more common among Canadians, but now is more prevalent in many poor countries. This disease begins in childhood with a bacterial infection which affects joints and heart valves; the heart problems appear many years later, in which often the heart valves require to be replaced via surgery. Other infections can also occur attacking the inner tissues of the heart including valves (endocarditic) and the outer tissues overlying the heart (pericarditis).
  • Congenital Heart Disease: This begins because of a problem with the structure of the heart due to a birth defect. These anatomical defects can be as minor as a small hole in one of the inside walls of the heart or they can be as major and complex which can affect the way blood flows through the heart and lungs. Some congenital heart problems can be fatal unless immediately corrected by surgery, others cause disability in varying degrees and can be treated by surgery later in life with either one or more surgeries.
This blog dealt with identifying the major types of cardiac disease; the next blog will address treatment and identification issues surrounding cardiac disease.

posted on Tuesday, 16 February 2010 16:29:42 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #   
# Tuesday, 26 January 2010
                 
Many Canadians experience what is known as 'the winter blues'. Shorter daylight hours, combined with the anticlimactic feeling once the holiday season is over, can make people feel somewhat dejected. While feeling blue is a normal human reaction to life, some people experience clinical depression throughout the winter months. This is known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and can be quite problematic. While it is normal and healthy for all people to experience some forms of feeling mildly depressed during the winter months, SAD is a form of clinical depression that is triggered by the winter season.

People who are suffering from SAD experience such symptoms as:

•    Feeling down constantly;
•    Low energy;
•    Sleep difficulties (either not being able to sleep or oversleeping);
•    Appetite difficulties, including sudden cravings for foods that are high in carbohydrates;
•    Lack of interest in what is happening in life and activities that were normally enjoyed;
•    Concentration difficulties and difficulties in processing information;
•    Feelings of depression, hopelessness, and/or anxiety;
•    Social withdrawal;
•    Weight gain.

Researchers believe that SAD is the result of the days becoming shorter in the winter months. Studies have suggested that SAD is more prevalent in northern countries; this is a result of winter days being shorter in the more northern countries. It is estimated that two to three percent of the population of Ontario suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder every year. As well, studies have shown that up to 100,000 people who reside in British Columbia experience SAD every year. A much larger percentage of the Canadian population suffers from the 'winter blahs' with symptoms very similar to SAD, but not to the extent of fitting the criteria for clinical depression.

The current typical treatment for SAD is light therapy, also known as phototherapy. This requires the person experiencing the symptoms of SAD to be exposed to bright artificial light. This treatment mimics the person being exposed to the level of sunlight normally experienced during the summer months. These light boxes can be purchased and used in the person's home; the majority of people have a significant positive result from as little as 30 minutes a day of being exposed to a special fluorescent light box. The most common ‘dose’ of light is 10,000 lux. Lux is a measure of light intensity. Typically, indoor light is under 400 lux; a cloudy day is typically 3,000 lux; a sunny bright day is typically more than 50,000.

Portable light boxes are safe and are now commercially available for those who experience the symptoms of SAD and typically cost between $200 and $400. The side effects of using a light box are usually quite mild; some people may experience nausea, headaches, eye strain, and/or feeling 'edgy' when they first start to use light therapy. These negative feelings usually do not last long and will go away as the therapy progresses. Anti-depressant medications may also be effective for those who are experiencing severe reactions to the lack of sunlight.

If you are experiencing these symptoms during the winter months, consult with your health care professional about whether or not light therapy may be beneficial for you. Also check your individual and/or group health plan to see if the cost of a fluorescent light box is covered through your health insurance.

posted on Tuesday, 26 January 2010 14:01:01 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #   
# Monday, 07 December 2009
                 

With the Christmas season upon Canadians, alcohol can factor into many of the seasonal parties and functions. However, for women who are pregnant alcohol consumption can cause serious defects in the unborn child. It is estimated that nine babies for every 1,000 that are born in Canada have Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder which can cause birth defects and/or developmental disabilities.

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder is an umbrella term that describes the range of disabilities and/or diagnoses that are a result of alcohol consumption during pregnancy; impact of FASD varies from child to child. The degree of disability and birth defects usually depends on the amount of alcohol that was consumed, how often it was consumed and at what stage of the pregnancy it was consumed, as well as the health status of the pregnant mother. It should be noted that no amount of alcohol is considered safe for pregnant women .

It is estimated that more than 3,000 babies in Canada are born each year with FASD, and approximately 300,000 Canadians are currently living with some form of FASD. Research suggests that the cases of FASD are higher in aboriginal communities as well as rural, remote Northern communities. However, FASD has been found in all communities in Canada regardless of location as well as financial status.

FASD causes mild to severe health problems for those who suffer from it. It can impact delays in development, cause intellectual problems and well as problems learning how to socialize with others. Some common examples of FASD are:

  • Learning disabilities (particularly in mathematical concepts);
  • Difficulty in understanding that actions have consequences;
  • Depression;
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder;
  • Physical disabilities such as kidney problems and internal organ problems;
  • Skeletal abnormalities, i.e. facial deformities.

FASD can also cause behavioral problems such as:

  • Difficulties in handling money and/or telling time;
  • Difficulties in reasoning and being able to competently think problems through;
  • Difficulties in learning from past experiences and not repeating the same mistakes over and over;
  • Difficulties in scheduling, i.e. remembering appointments;
  • Difficulty in maintaining socially appropriate behaviors;
  • Difficulties in everyday tasks, i.e. paying rent, grocery shopping, job performance.

People with FASD can also develop secondary disabilities; early diagnosis is essential for being able to access professional help and on-going supports. These secondary disabilities can include such issues as:

  • Mental health issues;
  • Poor performance in school or completion of education;
  • Problems with the law;
  • Chronic unemployment;
  • Drug and/or alcohol abuse;
  • Homelessness.

If FASD is suspected, it is vital that a doctor trained in this issue do a medical diagnosis in order to rule out other medical conditions that are usually treatable. A medical diagnosis of FASD involves a team of doctors who are trained to assess psychological, speech as well as everyday functioning of the person. While there is no cure for FASD, proper medical intervention can help to provide those with FASD to lead more productive and satisfying lives.

In order to prevent FASD it is recommended that all women follow these steps:

  • As 50% of pregnancies are unplanned, most women do not realize they are pregnant in the early stages. Therefore, if a woman even suspects she may be pregnant, or is planning to become pregnant, cease all alcohol consumption immediately.
  • For women who are not using birth control but are having sex, avoid consuming alcohol as there is no way of knowing when you may become pregnant.
  • For women who are concerned about their consumption of alcohol, seek the help and advice of your healthcare professional.

It is essential that pregnancy and alcohol consumption are not mixed, since there is no safe amount of consumption during any stage of pregnancy.

posted on Monday, 07 December 2009 14:40:24 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #   
# Thursday, 22 October 2009
                 

As the previous article stated, there are several types of laser eye surgery: PRK, Lasik and Lasek procedures.

LASIK usually has less post-operative pain, and there is a greater risk of complication due to the cornea being cut into. This includes:

  • Mild to significant dry eyes, which can affect vision;
  • Poor quality of night vision due to halos and glare, thus affecting the ability to drive safely at night;
  • Corneal ectasia, a serious condition caused by the weakening and bulging of the cornea. Severe cases of this condition can require a corneal transplant or implant.

Both the LASIK and PRK procedures carry the risk of corneal infection, known as infectious keratitis. This infection can result in a significant loss of vision. LASEK surgery reduces the risks such as weakening of the eye and dry eyes. As with any other surgical procedure, complication risks are increased for people with certain health conditions and/or lifestyles. When contemplating eye laser surgery, have a detailed consultation with the surgeon about:

  • Your medical history and current health conditions. Make sure the surgeon is made aware of such conditions (yours and family history) as lupus, diabetes, keloid formation and any eye diseases, i.e. herpes simplex, glaucoma, dry eyes, eyelid infections, and/or previous eye surgeries.
  • Your current lifestyle. For people who engage regularly in sports, where it is likely to be hit in the face, after LASIK there is a risk that the flap could dislocate. This risk remains for years after the laser surgery.
  • Your career plans. Certain occupations (i.e. pilot, police officer) have specific vision requirements, most of which can be obtained through laser surgery. It is advisable to consult with not only the surgeon, but with members of the occupation to make sure the requirements are met.

As well as considering the benefits and risks of laser eye surgery, it is important that people are realistic about what they will achieve through the procedure. As people age, so do their eyes, it is possible that in the future some people may need reading glasses or other corrective eyewear again, especially those over the age of 40. There also is the possibility of having to have a second procedure if the right amount of correction is not achieved through the first surgery.

Cost is also a consideration for eye laser surgery. Before considering this option, consult with your health insurance professional to see what they cover. Most health insurance does however cover the costs of contact lenses and/or corrective eyewear. Check your group health insurance and/or individual health insurance plan.

posted on Thursday, 22 October 2009 15:40:24 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #   
# Monday, 05 October 2009
                 

Every year, thousands of Canadians contemplate laser eye surgery in order to correct their vision. This surgery is done in anticipation of the person no longer being required to use contact lenses and/or prescription glasses in order to have better vision. Canadians who are contemplating laser surgery should be well informed of not the benefits of these procedures, but also the risks.

Laser eye surgery is most commonly used to correct vision problems such as:

  • Myopia, also known as near-sightedness;
  • Hyperopia: also known as far-sightedness;
  • Astigmatism: when vision is distorted when looking at objects at any distance;
  • Presbyopia: when the person is unable to focus on nearby objects.

All of these vision conditions are caused by problems with the eye focuses an image on the retina (the light-sensitive layer at the back of the eye). A large part of the eye’s ability to focus is dependent on the shape of the cornea (the clear front surface of the eye). A surgeon will use a laser device to make permanent changes to the shape of the cornea. Most often used is the Excimer laser, which produces a ultraviolet light beam which vaporizes tissue, thus altering the shape of the cornea. This usually corrects mild to moderate refractive errors in the eye.

There are several types of laser eye surgery that are commonly performed in Canada:

  1. PRK (Photo-Refractive Keractectomy): the outer layer of the cornea is removed with a surgical blade or blunt instrument. A computer-guided laser beam is then used to vaporize tiny amounts of tissue that are under the surface of the cornea. This procedure removes just enough tissue in order to reshape the cornea in a way that the vision is now corrected. The healing process of this procedure is usually completed within one week.
  2. LASIK (Laser Assisted in situ Keratomileusis): This procedure is more complicated than PRK. A flap is cut in the cornea with either a sharp blade or a laser. The flap is then lifted and a computer-guided laser removed specific calculated amounts of tissue from the inside layers of the cornea. The flap is then put back. Wavefront technology may be used in this procedure, wherein a detailed map of the eye is produced. The healing time for this procedure is generally less than the time for PRK.
  3. LASEK (Laser Epithelial Keratomileusis): This procedure is a variation of both PRK and LASIK. The outer layer of the cornea is cut and then alcohol is used to loosen and lift it in a single layer. A laser beam is then directed at the tissue under the epithelium. This procedure is best suited to people who have vision problems that require minor correction; the healing period is usually two weeks. As with any surgical procedure, there is a risk taken (though quite small), that complications can arise. Each certain procedure does carry with it a small percentage of complications. For those contemplating PRK, the risks include: • Moderate to severe pain for the first several days; • Hazy vision during the healing; this generally will clear within the first week after the surgical procedure; • Regression. In some cases the eye can regress to its previous refractive error, this usually will occur during the first 6 months. In these cases the person may need a second (enhancement) surgery, or may have to once again wear corrective eyewear or contact lenses.

See our next blog article for the conclusion about laser eye surgery.

posted on Monday, 05 October 2009 15:40:24 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #   
# Monday, 31 August 2009
                 
Phobias: These are only classified as a disorder if they prevent the person from leading a normal life. They come in two categories; social phobia (fear of social situations) and specific phobias (i.e. spiders, flying, heights, etc.) Social phobia causes the person to experience intense fear of social situations to the extreme where contact with people can paralyze the person and make them experience feelings of extreme self-consciousness. This fear can be so intense that the person will find it easier and more comfortable to avoid any and all situations that may trigger these feelings, thereby limiting their ability to lead a 'normal' life as well as interact with other people. Specific phobias produce an irrational fear of a specific environment or object that produces an overwhelming feeling of fear. The inability to control this extreme terror even though logically they realize it is not grounded in reality causes extreme anxiety and panic.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): This relates to someone who has suffered a traumatic experience, i.e. rape, robbery, physical, mental and or emotional violence. The person relives the terror of the experience and can be triggered by anything that they associate with the trauma. Common symptoms include:

•    Flashbacks;
•    Nightmares;
•    Depression;
•    Anger and irritability.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: This disorder causes persistent unwanted thoughts (obsession) and behaviors (compulsion) that is uncontrollable. Typical obsessions revolve around germs, persistent doubts (knowing you turned off the oven but still obsessed that you didn’t and the house may burn down), and disturbing sexual and/or religious thoughts. Compulsions can cause excessive washing, cleaning, counting, organizing and checking.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder: This causes the person to excessively and inappropriately worry about ordinary things and events and usually lasts for at least six months. The person will expect the very worst to happen to them even when there is no evidence to support those thoughts (i.e. worrying about being fired, even when you have great evaluations, got a promotion, etc.) They can cause such physical symptoms such as nausea, fatigue, shaking, muscle tension and headaches.

As many anxiety disorders have some roots in biology, anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications are commonly used in order to help the person relieve the symptoms as well as the emotional impact of these disorders. Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) is also used with great success, and usually in conjunction with medications. There are specific CBT techniques designed for anxiety disorders that can be learned to help alleviate the symptoms, i.e. breathing techniques for those with panic disorder in order to lower the heart rate. Support groups are also available whereby the person can not only learn from others, but find acceptance as well as a non-judgmental environment in which they  can be open and honest about their experiences.

It is not uncommon for people to suffer for up to 10 years with these disorders without seeking out treatment or even a diagnosis. A specialist can correctly diagnosis these disorders and help to not only provide medication, but specific supports and therapies that will help the person regain their life. The first step is to talk to your health care provider about what you are experiencing so they can refer you to a specialist as well as other resources in your community.

posted on Monday, 31 August 2009 22:29:51 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #   
# Friday, 21 August 2009
                 
With an estimated 1 in 10 Canadians affected by anxiety disorders these are now one of the most common mental health problems in Canada. Fortunately anxiety disorders can be successfully treated with a combination of medications and/or therapy. It is important for Canadians to understand the differences between simply being anxious in response to a real situation as opposed to an anxiety disorder that can produce fear and/or stress that is not proportional to the event.

Stress and anxiety are a part of daily life for Canadians, whether it's work and/or school, family and/or home life. Situations arise that legitimately can cause anxiety and while this may feel uncomfortable to experience, these feelings aren't debilitating. However, for those who have an anxiety disorder, these feelings can be extreme as well as last for long periods of time, with the feelings of intense fear and/or distress that are not proportionate to what is actually being experienced. The brain interprets these experiences to be more risky than they actually are, making life become fearful to the extent that it negatively impacts on personal and professional life. Anxiety disorders affect both adults and children, many times without the person realizing that what they are experiencing is not 'normal' stress. Due to the stigma of mental health issues, many choose not to seek out treatment because they are afraid of others opinions, especially in the workplace.

Anxiety disorders affect not only behavior and thoughts, but emotional and physical health. They are believed to be caused by various circumstances, such as biological factors, personal circumstances, social and economic circumstances, as well as brain functions. It is typical for a person to suffer from more than one anxiety disorder, as well as having depression, eating disorders and/or substance abuse issues. The most common anxiety disorders are:

Panic Disorder: This disorder causes the person to have very sudden and severe panic attacks in which they become very quickly and without warning with the feeling of being incredibly terrified. They cause such physical symptoms such as:

•    Chest pains, usually accompanied by chest palpitations;
•    Shortness of breath and/or difficulty breathing;
•    Dizziness and feelings of unreality;
•    Stomach pains;
•    The very real fear of dying (these are also symptoms of heart attacks).

People with panic disorder will usually visit local emergency rooms with the fear that they are having a heart attack and are possibly dying. Prolonged attacks which can elevate the heart rate for an extended period of time can be very stressful and extremely hard to work through.

The next blog will be a continuation, with the other disorders listed and explained.

posted on Friday, 21 August 2009 15:51:36 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #   
# Thursday, 30 July 2009
                 
The International Agency for Research on Cancer released a statement yesterday concerning tanning beds and the increased risk of cancer. They stated that tanning beds are as deadly as mustard gas, plutonium and other identified carcinogens, and officially labeled tanning beds and ultraviolet radiation as 'carcinogenic to humans'. They made this statement after they comprehensively reviewed studies which have found that the risk of skin melanoma increased by 75% when humans used tanning devices before the age of 30. The dangers of tanning beds are now considered as dangerous as smoking cigarettes.

Previously tanning beds and/or ultraviolet radiation have been labeled as 'probably carcinogenic to humans'. This new classification removes any doubt about the harmful potential of tanning beds; some doctors are advocating that they never be used under any circumstances. The Canadian Cancer Society is advocating for Ontario to place restrictions upon use of tanning beds and is calling for a ban for anyone under the age of 18. They claim that artificial tanning lights can emit rays that are as much as 5 times stronger than the midday sun. They are also calling for mandated standards for staff that operate tanning salons, a government run registry of tanning equipment use, and restrictions regarding advertising that is aimed at Canadian youth.

In a 2008 study conducted by the U.S. National Cancer Institute, it was found that the annual rate of melanoma among young women had risen by 50% since 1980; Canadian experts said that it was likely that this was also happening in Canada as well. It is estimated that 5,000 Canadians will be diagnosed with melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer in 2009, almost 1,000 will die as a result of this.

Ontario currently has no regulations regarding who uses tanning beds as well as the staff who run the salons. Instead, Health Canada has voluntary guidelines for tanning salons; this states that children under 16 not use tanning equipment and that operators should inform clients to discuss with their physician the potential risks of using tanning beds. Regardless of these voluntary guidelines, a 2008 study conducted by the Canadian Cancer Society found that 60% of tanning salons in Toronto did not ask the age of the client, and 51% did allow clients under 16 to use the facility.

New Brunswick, along with Scotland, Germany, France and some Australian states have already banned tanning bed use for anyone under the age of 18. 29 states in the U.S. have restricted use for youths using tanning beds; many require parental consent. An MPP from Ontario did introduce a private member’s bill in 2008 calling for a similar ban; this bill is before the standing committee on social policy.

For more information regarding the dangers of ultraviolet radiation and the use of tanning beds, please visit the Canadian Cancer Society.

posted on Thursday, 30 July 2009 19:53:19 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #   
# Monday, 20 July 2009
                 
Celiac disease affects nearly 1% of the Canadian population. Celiac disease is an immune mediated disease triggered by the ingestion of gluten, which is storage protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and other cereal grains. Read on for information such as common Celiac symptoms, nutrition and diet.
posted on Monday, 20 July 2009 17:36:24 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #   
# Monday, 29 June 2009
                 
The World Health Organization has updated their list of confirmed cases of the H1N1 influenza outbreak. As of June 24, 2009, 55,867 cases have been confirmed globally, with 238 people dying as a result of infection. Canada has reported 6,457 cases of the swine flu, with 15 confirmed deaths. Within Canada, confirmed cases for the provinces are as follows:
  
PROVINCE CASES DEATHS
British Columbia 243
0
Alberta
605
1
Saskatchewan
626
0
Manitoba
517
2
Ontario
2665
7
Quebec
1660
9
New Brunswick
4
0
Nova Scotia
117
0
PEI
3
0
Newfoundland
27
0
Yukon
1
0
NWT
6
0
Nunavut
258 0

Most of the confirmed cases have been mild, with only 275 people requiring hospitalization. However, there is growing concern over the rapid rate of infection in Canada's aboriginal communities, especially those in remote parts of Manitoba. Out of the 500 reported cases in Manitoba, over 25% are aboriginal. The Inuit community in Nunavut is also experiencing a H1NI outbreak, with over 250 reported cases. Many reserves, which are in isolated parts of Ontario and Manitoba, have been under virtual quarantine for a month after cases of either swine flu or other respiratory illnesses were reported.

Initially it was thought that the H1N1 virus would die out with the warm weather approaching; flu viruses tend to not be prevalent in warm weather as they don't like humidity. It was originally predicted by public health officials that the first wave of infections would decline over the summer, to be followed by a second wave of infections this fall. This is evidently not happening, as infections are still occurring, and are not decreasing in numbers at all. This unprecedented infection pattern has health officials baffled. In June the World Health Organization announced that it was announcing the swine flu a pandemic; this is the first global flu epidemic in over 40 years. Canada is a global leaser in pandemic planning and is continuing to implement our overall pandemic plan for the health sector, The Canadian Pandemic Influenza Plan.

In response to the current data available, as well as not being to predict the nature of the virus, Canada has begun to implement an aggressive approach to combat this particular virus in order to determine the best way to protect Canadians. With the escalation of the Pandemic Phase 6, the Canadian Pandemic Influenza Plan for the Health Sector. This includes such measure as:
 
  1. Ensuring that the National Antiviral Stockpile can be mobilized quickly so Canadians throughout the country will have access to the treatment they need.
  2. Reviewing the science and the working with the vaccine manufacture GlaxoSmith Kline, in order to begin the process of developing and testing a pandemic vaccine in accordance with their standing contract and ongoing involvement in vaccine development, testing and production.
  3. Managing the National Emergency Stockpile System (NESS) which contains hospital supplies, equipment and other pharmaceuticals which include a stockpile of antiviral medication.
  4. Assessing implementation of community based strategies aimed at mitigating potential impact on the healthcare system and society at large.
  5. Working with national professional organizations and non-government organizations to monitor essential health-related resources, i.e. medical supplies, antiviral, vaccines, sanitizers and antibiotics.
For more information regarding the latest outbreaks of the swine, flu, or what to do if you suspect it may be your area, please visit the Public Health Agency of Canada.
posted on Monday, 29 June 2009 14:27:59 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #   
# Monday, 25 May 2009
                 
Smoking is unhealthy for everyone, but women especially seem to be at higher risk than men, a new study shows. Scientists from Harvard University Medical School and the University of Bergen in Norway conducted a study that focused on Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) which showed that female smokers experienced reduced lung function at a lower level of exposure as well as being affected at a younger age when compared to men. The differences in gender were most pronounced in COPD patients under 60 and those who had smoked less than a pack a day for 20 years. The study also showed preliminary findings that women who got cancer were younger than men, even though the women had on average smoked less than their male counterparts. These findings suggest that women may have an increased susceptibility to cancers caused by smoking, as well as COPD.

COPD is a progressive disease that causes increasingly difficulty in breathing in those it affects and includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Smoking is one of the leading causes of COPD. Symptoms of COPD include shortness of breath, an increase in mucus as well as coughing. COPD slowly damages the airways, making them swollen as well as partly blocking them. The air sacs at the tips of the airways may also suffer damage. The airways and sacs in the lungs lose their shape and stretchiness and the walls between the air sacs become destroyed. The walls of the airways become thick and swollen and the cells produce more mucus which blocks the airways.

80-90% of COPD cases are caused by cigarette smoking. This includes current and former smokers, as well as exposure to second hand smoke. The symptoms are most often noticed in mid-life, generally 40 and over. Its symptoms can often be mistaken as a natural part of the aging process, which can prevent people from seeking treatment early on. Symptoms of COPD include shortness of breath, coughing up a large amount of mucus, fatigue and constant chest infections. While there are treatment programs available, there is currently no known cure. COPD is a progressive disease which in most cases is fatal, either directly caused by COPD or by complications associated with the disease. Health complications that are caused by COPD include:

•    Recurring chest infections, i.e. pneumonia;
•    Pulmonary hypertension (higher than normal blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs);
•    Cor pulmonale (enlargement and strain on the right side of the heart) which can lead to heart failure;
•    Arrhythmia (irregular heart beat);
•    Respiratory failure.

Quitting smoking is a very important factor in treating COPD. While the damage caused by smoking cannot be undone, quitting smoking prevents further damage from occurring. Quitting smoking as well as preventing being exposed to second hand smoke is the fastest method to begin to feel better. This, combined with medication and pulmonary rehabilitation programs can help those with COPD relieve the symptoms as well as help prevent the disease from progressing.

While quitting smoking can be extremely hard, there are various methods available to help those who wish to quit. These can include support groups, cessation medications as well as nicotine patches and gum. Talking to a health care professional about quitting smoking is important in order to discover which cessation method will be best for your individual needs. Smokers who have quit should also inform their health and life insurance agent of this new health status as it can lead to a reduction in premiums based on an improved health status.

For more information regarding COPD as well as help for quitting smoking, visit The Lung Association for resources.

posted on Monday, 25 May 2009 14:19:20 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #   
# Sunday, 03 May 2009
                 
The World Health Organization has announced that the current influenza pandemic alert has been raised from phase 4 to phase 5.  They are suggesting that all countries immediately activate their pandemic preparations to combat this illness. Effective as well as essential measures to combat the swine flu include heightened surveillance, early detection and treatment, and infection control in all health facilities.

As of April 29, 2009, nine countries have officially reported cases of AH1N1 swine influenza infections. The countries with laboratory confirmed cases are:

•    Austria – 1 reported case, no deaths
•    Canada –85 cases, no deaths
•    Germany – 3 cases, no deaths
•    Israel – 2 cases, no deaths
•    New Zealand – 3 cases, no deaths
•    Spain – 4 cases, no deaths
•    United Kingdom – 5 cases, no deaths
•    United States – 91 cases, 1 death
•    Mexico – 26 cases, 7 deaths

These numbers are changing rapidly; so for more information, check the websites of the individual country for the latest confirmed case count.

The World Health Organization is responsible for identifying the phases of outbreaks, as well as defining what those phases are. They are currently defined as:

Phase 1: Influenza viruses circulating in animals, especially birds. Phase 1 does not include humans becoming infected.

Phase 2: Humans becoming infected by an animal influenza virus; potential for pandemic.

Phase 3: Animal and/or animal-human influenza virus causing limited disease in humans; human to human transmission is not widespread, but rather isolated.

Phase 4: Human to human transmission and/or human to animal transmission are confirmed, with widespread or community-level outbreaks. The risk of pandemic infection is much higher, but not yet considered a foregone conclusion.

Phase 5:
Human to human spread of the virus is confirmed in at least 2 countries in one WHO region; it is now likely that a pandemic is imminent.

Phase 6: The Pandemic Phase. Community outbreaks are now occurring in at least one country from a second WHO region; this indicates that a global pandemic is underway.

It is important for people and communities to realize that a pandemic does not indicate the severity of the influenza; but rather that the infection is happening. Cases that have currently been reported in Canada are all considered mild. Pandemic influenza is defined as a new influenza virus that is being spread easily between humans and is affected a wide geographic area. The term pandemic should not be equated with the severity of the infection.

Swine flu is a respiratory disease of pigs that is caused by the influenza A virus. Transmission to humans is rare, but does occasionally happen, resulting in H1N1 flu virus.  The virus in humans is a respiratory illness that has symptoms similar to those of regular human seasonal flu. However, the risk of animal influenza that is transmitted to humans is the potential for the virus to mutate and be directly transmitted human to human. The flu shot that many people receive each year does not protect those people from this virus; it is only effective for the seasonal flu that is expected to affect those people for that given year. The symptoms of swine flu are:

•    fever;
•    lack of appetite;
•    coughing and/or sneezing;
•    sore throat;
•    muscle aches;
•    fatigue;
•    runny nose and/or watery eyes.

Some people have also reported vomiting and/or diarrhea as well. For people with chronic conditions pneumonia may develop from infection of this virus. It is important to note that this is the first time that this strain of the flu virus has been identified in humans. There has been no documentation of this virus having a sustained infection rate in human to human transmission.

Canadian travelers are now being advised to postpone any elective and/or non-essential travel to Mexico. This advisory is in place until further notice; there is no time line yet of when this will be lifted. For those who are going to Mexico, they are advised to:

•    Wash hands frequently. Soap and water should be used often; alcohol-based hand sanitizer is a great way to keep hands sanitary when out in public with little access to public facilities (i.e. beach, pubic transit).
•    Practicing proper sneezing/coughing etiquette; use a tissue, your sleeve, or some other barrier method in order to reduce the spread of germs. After sneezing and/or coughing, make sure that hands are thoroughly washed.
•    Avoid physical contact with anyone who appears to be sick, and/or is displaying any of the symptoms.
•    Pay close and careful attention to local government and public health announcements daily. These announcements can include movement restrictions as well as prevention recommendations. These announcements can and do change frequently, so check often.
•    For those who are at higher risk of severe illness from influenza (i.e. people with diabetes, lung and/or heart disease, the elderly and children under 2 years), consult with your health care provider before travel.

For anyone who is in Mexico and develops symptoms of H1N1 flu virus, seek medial attention immediately. The Canadian Embassy as well as the consulate will be able to provide a list of physicians. The website of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade also has this information available. For those returning from Mexico, it is important to monitor for the symptoms for at least 7 days. Avoid contact with other humans and stay home until you have a confirmed diagnosis of your illness. Contact your health care provider immediately, and advise them that you have recently been to Mexico. If you are displaying symptoms when arriving back into Canada, advise the customs officer as well. You must also advise a customs officer or a quarantine officer if you have been near and/or in contact with someone who either has been confirmed as having this virus, and/or if it is suspected.

It is essential to advise the hospital, clinic, doctor's office, etc. that you have been to Mexico and may have been exposed to the swine flu virus. This will enable the healthcare professionals to promptly isolate you, and/or provide you with a mask in order to prevent any further transmission.

For updates on the swine flu in Canada, visit Health Canada's website. This gives information regarding new transmissions, where the new transmissions are located, as well as any updates on travel advisories. For those who are planning international travel, visit the World Health Organization's website for current information on the country you plan on visiting.

posted on Sunday, 03 May 2009 21:35:02 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #   
# Tuesday, 10 March 2009
                 

Statistics Canada has released a new study regarding obesity as it relates to job performance. The study shows that more Canadian workers are now obese, with the obesity rate climbing from 12.5% in the mid 1990's to 15.7% in 2005. Obesity is most prevalent among workers in the age range of 55 to 65; 21% of this workforce population was obese in 2005. Obesity is defined as any person whose body mass index (BMI) is over 30; 18.5 to 24.9 is defined as a normal weight range. Body mass index is calculated by a person's weight in kilograms divided by the square of their height in meters.

The study found that those who were obese found it harder to get their job done; some needed to cut back on their work activities as well as had a higher risk of being injured and/or requiring more days absent from work. Young men are almost 4 more times likely to be absent from work if they are obese. Obesity is also cited as the cause for women aged 35 to 54 to require either reduced work activities and/or disability days. Obese workers also have an increased probability of being hurt on the job; partially due to fatigue as well as physical limitations. As well, personal protective equipment may not be worn (or worn correctly), i.e. gloves and goggles. Certain medications may also increase the risk of being injured at work. Obese employees were found to have higher job strain (this is defined as high psychological demands combined with low job control.) These workers also felt that they received low social support from their colleagues and/or supervisors.

While obesity may be causing a problem in the workplace, the workplace may actually be the cause of some workers obesity problem. Canadians who work shift work and/or excessive hours tended to be at higher risk for being obese. A higher proportion of 'blue-collar' workers were found to be obese compared to those who work in the 'white-collar' professions. Irregular working hours associated with shift work can make it hard for employees to maintain a healthy eating schedule. Men who work more than 40 hours per week were more likely to obese than those who work a full-time schedule of 30 to 40 hours per week. Men between the ages of 35 to 54 with higher incomes tended to be more obese than those with lower incomes; one possible reason given was a tendency to dine out more often. However, women in the same age bracket tended to be more obese when their personal incomes were lower; this was attributed to possible cultural differences. Men and women with low education levels had a significantly higher chance of obesity with the exception of younger workers aged 18 to 34.

Workplace environments also play a large role in employee health. Jobs that are sedentary in nature can lead to excessive eating as well as a decrease in physical activity. Many Canadian jobs require much of the workforce to be in front of a computer terminal. This can lead to the tendency to snack during work hours as well as limited physical movement throughout the day, which in turn raises the risk of obesity.

With the rates of obesity having such a negative impact on the Canadian workforce, employers are being urged to help facilitate better health practices for their employees. It has been suggested that implementing health promotion programs may actually cost employers less than having to pay for sick leave, etc. This can have a direct impact on such expenses as prescription medications that are needed for those who are obese, as well lessening the risk of workplace accidents and/or injuries. As well, Canadians who have a better health status enjoy a lower premium on their health benefits. Even if a person initially must pay more due to health status, losing weight can actually entitle them to apply for a reduction in premiums. Health insurance premiums are based in part on health status; improvement in status can save potentially a large amount of money, especially in the long-term. It may also reduce the amount that is deducted from group insurance premiums should all staff improve their health.

There are many ways all Canadians can help improve their health that do not require a large financial investment, but rather more a conscious effort of daily habits. Some suggestions to make your workplace a healthier environment are:

• Talk to your co-workers as well as your employer about implementing a healthier workplace. Your employer may be willing to offer such initiatives such as partially reimbursing employees for such items as gym memberships, etc. in order to have a healthier, more productive staff.
• You can also talk to your co-workers about healthier snacks and lunches; substituting fresh fruit instead of donuts and other high-fat snacks for example.
• Organize a staff walk during the lunch break; this can help not only burn off calories, but help re-energize for the afternoon hours.
• Use the stairs instead of the elevator if you can; walk instead of drive if possible.
• Packing a lunch gives you more control over the types and portions of food you eat instead of dining out. This also tends to be a less expensive alternative than eating out. You can pack snacks such as fresh fruit, vegetables, crackers, etc. for when you’re working that will satisfy the craving to eat, while not being high in fat and calories.


If exercise is just not possible during the week, plan some weekend activities that require you to be active. An improved diet as well as physical exercise gives the employee more energy as well, making them more productive. A few simple lifestyle changes can make all the difference when it comes to health and helping to combat the stresses of life.

posted on Tuesday, 10 March 2009 10:06:59 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #   
# Saturday, 24 January 2009
                 

When a lump is discovered in the breast, either by the woman or her physician, tests will be ordered to determine whether or not the lump is cancerous. These tests can be used to 'stage' and 'grade' the cancer. These tests will most likely include:

Imaging Studies: This allows tissues, organs and/or bones to be studied in detail. X-rays, ultrasounds, CT scans and/or bone scans give healthcare professionals the opportunity to study pictures of the size of the tumor and to see if it has spread.

Biopsy: This is usually necessary to make a definite diagnosis of cancer; cells are removed and checked under a microscope. These cells can also be studied to determine how fast the cancerous cells are growing. A biopsy can be done by:

   • Fine needle aspiration: this uses a thin needle to remove fluid/cells from the lump.
   • Core needle biopsy: a needle is inserted through a small incision in the breast to remove samples of tissue.
   • Surgical biopsy: local anesthetic is used and part or the entire lump will be removed.

Laboratory Tests: If cancerous cells are found in the biopsy sample these tests can help the physician learn more about the cancer to determine which treatment options are best suited. The hormone receptor status test shows whether the cells have certain hormone receptors. This can help predict how the tumor will behave and whether or not it will respond to hormonal therapy; this is more common in post-menopausal women. The Her2 test looks for the cancer gene that controls the Her2 protein. Her2 positive breast cancers behave differently than other breast cancers and need specific treatment.

Once a definite diagnosis of cancer has been made the cancer will be given a stage and a grade. The cancer stage describes the tumor size as well as whether or not it has spread beyond the place where it began to grow. In the earliest stage of breast cancer the cells are found only in the milk ducts or lobules and are called in situ cancer. If this is diagnosed before these cells have spread to the surrounding tissue there is no risk of them spreading once they have been removed. When breast cancer spreads of the duct or lobule it is called invasive cancer; this is still effectively treated especially if diagnosed early. The five stages of breast cancer are:

Stage 0: There are 2 kinds of stage 0 breast cancer: ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), where abnormal cells are in the lining of the milk duct and have not spread outside of the duct. Lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS), where abnormal cells are in the lining of a lobule.
Stage 1: Where the tumor is 2 cm or smaller and the cancer has not spread outside of the breast.
Stage 2: Where the tumor is 2 to 5 cm, or the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes, or both.
Stage 3: Where the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes and may have also spread to surrounding tissues i.e. the muscle or the skin.
Stage 4: Where the cancer has spread to distant parts of the body.

The biopsy sample is studied to determine the grade of the tumor which is based on how the cancer cells look and behave when compared to the normal cells. There are 3 grades:

Grade 1: This is a low grade; slow growing and less likely to spread.
Grade 2: This is a moderate grade.
Grade 3: This is a high grade that tends to grow quickly and is more likely to spread.

Along with the stage and grade of the breast cancer, the healthcare team will factor in the woman's age, health status and whether or not she has been through menopause in order to determine the best treatment options. The most common treatment methods are:

Surgery: The type of surgery will depend on the size and location of the tumor. A lumpectomy involves the removal of a lump as well as some tissue, but not the whole breast. A mastectomy involves the removal of the whole breast. Many times the doctor will also remove some lymph nodes from the armpit in order to determine whether or not the cancer has spread.

Radiation Therapy: External beam radiation therapy involves a large machine that is used to aim a beam of radiation at the tumor. The radiation damages the cancerous cells as well as healthy cells that are in the path of the beam. This type of radiation therapy is almost always given after breast-conserving therapy (lumpectomy) and is sometimes used after a mastectomy. In certain cases, the lymph node area will also be treated with this therapy. Internal radiation therapy (brachytherapy) involves radioactive material being placed directly into or near the tumor. 

Chemotherapy: This treatment is given either orally (pills) or by injection. Chemotherapy drugs interfere with the ability of cancerous cells to grow and spread; however this treatment does damage healthy cells as well. Side effects from chemotherapy generally include nausea, vomiting, fatigue, hair loss, decreased appetite as well as increased risk of infection. Some chemotherapy drugs can affect the ability to become pregnant as well.

Hormone Therapy: This treatment removes hormones from the body and/or blocks their actions which can stop cancer cells from growing. Tumors that are hormone receptor positive can be treated with this therapy. Drugs, surgery or radiation therapy can be used to change hormone levels. Hormonal drugs are given as either injections or oral medications. This can cause menopause-like symptoms, i.e. irregular periods, hot flashes. These side effects can be reduced and/or controlled and usually go away once treatment has been concluded; however menopause may be permanent. Surgically removing the ovaries from pre-menopausal women is also a treatment option. This causes immediate onset of menopause.

Biological Therapy: This method of treatment uses drugs to interfere with how the cancer cells grow as well as using the body’s immune system to destroy the cancerous cells. This treatment is often used for women whose breast cancer has too much of the Her2 protein.

Early detection plays a large role in the successful treatment of breast cancer. Women aged 40-49 should have a clinical breast examination at least every 2 years. Women aged 50-69 should have a clinical breast examination every 2 years as well as a mammogram during the same time period. Women over this age should talk to their physician regarding how often testing should occur. For more information regarding breast cancer, please visit the Canadian Cancer Society.

posted on Saturday, 24 January 2009 16:20:55 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #   
# Monday, 12 January 2009
                 

Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer found in Canadian women. It is estimated that in 2008 over 22,000 women were diagnosed with breast cancer, and over 5,000 will ultimately lose their life due to this disease. Over 400 women are diagnosed with breast cancer every week in Canada on average; as well an average of 100 women die due to this illness every week. Men are also at risk for breast cancer, with an estimated 170 diagnosed cases in 2008 with 50 fatalities.

Early detection is crucial for successful treatment and survival for women who have breast cancer. Every woman, regardless of age and medical history should regularly examine their breasts in order to detect any abnormalities. Breast cancer is most often detected when a lump is found in the breast and/or armpit. These lumps are usually painless. Other signs of potential breast cancer may include:

   • Changes in breast size and/or shape;
   • Dimpling and/or puckering of the skin that resembles an orange peel;
   • Thickening of the breast skin;
   • Redness, swelling, and/or increased warmth in the affected breast;
   • Inversion of the nipple;
   • Crusting and/or scaling of the nipple.

Women of all ages should be aware of their breasts in order to be able to detect any changes. This can be achieved through looking at your breasts as well as touching them in order to detect any changes. Some women may experience changes that are due to their menstrual cycle; these are important to note in order to determine if anything unusual is happening. Breast tissue may also change with a woman's age. When doing self breast examinations, remember that breast tissue covers not only the breast, but extends up to the collarbone as well as from the armpit across to the breastbone in the centre of the chest. It is recommended to do breast self-examinations monthly for all women, even those who are having regular screening tests.

The majority of women who develop breast cancer have no risk factors other than being a women as well as aging (especially for women 50 and older). However, your risk factor can be higher if:

   • You have already had breast cancer;
   • You have a family history of breast cancer, especially if your mother, sister and/or daughter have been diagnosed before menopause;
   • You have a family history of ovarian cancer;
   • You have an above average exposure to estrogen (which your body naturally produces). This could be due to:

  • Not having given birth for the first time before the age of 30;
  • Menstrual cycle starting at an early age;
  • Beginning menopause later than the average age;
  • Have taken hormone replacement therapy for more than 5 years;
  • Having dense breast tissue;
  • Having a history of breast biopsies that show certain breast changes, i.e. increased number of abnormal cells that are not cancerous (atypical hyperplasia);
  • Having had radiation treatment to the chest area, especially before the age of 30.

Women who may have a slightly higher risk of breast cancer include:

   • Women who are obese, especially after menopause;
   • Women who regularly drink alcohol;
   • Women who have regularly taken birth control pills.


It is important to remember that most women who develop breast cancer do not have a family history of the disease; as well, some women may develop breast cancer without having any of these risk factors present in their lives.

The next blog that will be posted will give in-depth information regarding diagnosis, staging and treatment. Please post in the comment section if you have any questions regarding this or any other health related topic. We would like to invite all our readers to suggest ideas that they would find informative!

posted on Monday, 12 January 2009 16:39:54 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #   
# Monday, 22 December 2008
                 

Canadian health officials are urging parents to not give over-the-counter cold medications to children under the age of 6. This warning comes from concerns over misuse and unintentional overdoses of the products. Earlier this year Health Canada recommended that these medications not be given to any children 2 years of age or less and said that there is limited evidence that these medications have any effectiveness in young children.

Health Canada asked a scientific panel to review these issues and while these products cannot be definitely proven; there are signs that cannot be ignored. The panel did find that there were indications of misuse and overdoses, as well as rare instances of serious side effects linked to these treatments. These effects included such problems as heart problems, hallucinations and convulsions; as well 5 deaths have been linked to various cold and cough products.

Officials also have found that very few studies indicate that these products work effectively on children. Since studies designed to test these products are tested on adults, it has always been assumed that they work on children as well. The Nonprescription Drug Manufacturers Association of Canada plans to submit new evidence showing that their products are indeed safe and effective for children to use.

Over a 13 year period, Canadian officials received reports of over 160 negative reactions from children who were given cough and cold remedies. Last year it was recommended that no cold and cough medication be given to any child under the age of 2 unless it was directed by a healthcare professional. Further studies have since been evaluated, and now Health Canada wants to raise that age to 6. Their reasons state:

• Both Canadian and international health professionals and experts agree that these products should not be used for children under the age of 6;
• As body weight can affect how a medication works, some children between 2-6 may weigh the same as some other children who are less than 2 years old which is the most vulnerable group;
• Children under the age of 6 generally have more colds than older children and are more likely to be exposed more frequently to these medications;
• Younger children are less likely to communicate a side-effect from the medicine and ask for help in the same manner as a child over 6.

Health Canada recently released a statement that will now make over-the-counter medications have 'enhanced labeling' for medications for children aged 6-12 and have dosing devices for all liquid formulas. Companies will have until the fall of 2009 to comply with these new standards.

posted on Monday, 22 December 2008 15:53:22 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #   
# Friday, 12 December 2008
                 

Health Canada has found that three quarters of soft plastic children's toys contain chemicals that have been linked to reproductive harm in children. These toxic chemical additives have been voluntarily banned in the European Union; the United States is joining this ban in February of 2009. Toys containing phthalates are still on sale in Canada legally so no enforcement of the voluntary ban can be taken.

Phthalates are used to soften the plastic in toys that are made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Phthalates are not chemically bound to the plastic that they are added to; this results in the chemicals continually leaching from the plastic. This leaching process is accelerated when the toys which contain the chemicals are sucked on or put in the mouth of children. This exposure can pose serious health risks during a child's crucial development stage, causing such problems as reproductive defects, early onset of puberty, and/or lower sperm counts. Phthalates can cause disruption to the endocrine system and block production of testosterone. Some phthalates have also been linked to cancer when people are exposed to large doses.

Health Canada, along with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission called on toy manufacturers a decade ago to remove these harmful chemicals in all products that were intended for sale for children aged 3 years and younger that were likely to be chewed and/or sucked on. However this voluntary ban did not include toys that are produced for children above this age range where there still is a high risk of health problems due to these additives. Due to a higher cost in replacing these additives, some toy manufacturers are continuing to use phthalates despite the risks. As these toys are banned in Europe and will be banned in the United States in 2009, Canada will become a top market for these products.

Fortunately some toy companies have voluntarily discontinued using phthalates in the production lines; as well some retail stores are voluntarily no longer stocking these items. Hasbro and Mattel Inc. discontinued using these chemicals in their toy production shortly after the ban in Europe. As well, Sears Canada, Wal-Mart and Toys R Us have announced that starting in 2009 they will no longer carry toys that contain phthalates.

As of this date, there is no scheduled ban for these harmful chemicals in Canada. It is the responsibility of the Canadian consumer to be aware of the types of toys they purchase to ensure that it is not harmful to their children. The majority of toys that contain these chemicals originate from China where the use of phthalates is still predominating in the manufacturing of children's toys. These products usually do not carry a label that identifies the type of plastic that they are made of; consumers should look for words such as vinyl and/or PVC in the toy's description. As well, most toys that are composed of PVC often have a strong odor that is described as 'disagreeable'.  Toys comprised of PVC tend to feel soft and rubbery and most often do not immediately return to their original shape once they are twisted and/or bent.

For those consumers who are concerned about purchasing potentially toxic toys, there are alternatives. A variety of teethers are available that are made of fabric as well as non-toxic plastics. Wooden toys (that do not contain toxic paints) as well as hard plastic toys are also a safe option.

posted on Friday, 12 December 2008 16:27:10 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #   
# Friday, 21 November 2008
                 

With the lessening of daylight hours, many Canadians are prone to experiencing the 'winter blues'. For many people the lack of sunlight causes only slight depression, but for others it can be cause of clinical depression. In very rare cases Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) can also occur in summer months as well. Canadians who are affected by SAD can be much debilitated throughout the winter months, unable to function at their normal level of productivity.

Since the days get shorter the further north someone is, SAD is more common in northern countries, i.e. Canada. It is estimated that 3% of the Canadian population will experience symptoms of SAD within their lifetime and 15% of all Canadians will experience the milder form of SAD, i.e. the 'winter blahs'. Episodes of SAD are very similar to the episodes of depression and can be difficult to diagnose. Medical conditions such as thyroid problems can cause the same symptoms that people who have SAD may experience.

Although awareness of SAD as a condition affecting mental health has been around for 150 years, it was only recognized as a disorder in the early 1980s. As such, many people who have SAD may not be aware of the disorder and/or that treatment is available. Research is still ongoing as to determine the causes of SAD, as of yet there is no one confirmed cause. However the disorder seems to relate to the seasonal variations in light "A";a biological internal clock in the part of the brain which regulates the circadian (daily) rhythms. Circadian rhythm responds to changes in the season, partially because of the difference in the day length. With electricity and other modern implements of society, the circadian rhythm is telling the body to sleep as the hours are dark, but unlike past centuries, society rarely goes to bed when the hour turns dark; electricity means being able to be productive well past sunset. Other research shows that neurotransmitters (chemical messengers in the brain) that help the regulation of sleep, mood and appetite may be disrupted in people who have SAD.

The symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder may be difficult to diagnose as the symptoms can be very similar to other forms of depression and/or bipolar disorder. Generally symptoms that recur for at least 2 consecutive winters without any other possible explanation for the changes in mood and behavior indicate the presence of SAD. These symptoms may include:

• Appetite change, particularly a craving for sweets and/or starchy foods.
• Weight gain.
• Decreased energy/fatigue.
• The tendency to oversleep.
• Difficulty concentrating as well as an increase in irritability.
• Feelings of despair and/or anxiety, some may experience thoughts of suicide.
• Avoidance of social situations.

For those who do suffer from SAD, these symptoms will generally disappear when the spring arrives. Some people's symptoms may disappear quite suddenly with a short time of heightened activity; others may experience the gradual dissipation of their symptoms.

Although some teenagers and children may experience SAD, it generally begins in people who are over the age of 20. It is more prevalent in women than in men. The risk of SAD does decrease with age. SAD may also affect shift workers and those who are naturally deprived from natural sources of light in their work environment.

For those people who suffer from long periods of depression during the winter months as well as major changes in sleeping and eating habits, consult with your healthcare provider as soon as possible. There are effective treatments available that can relieve these symptoms. As with other forms of clinical depression, anti-depressants may be prescribed in order to help cope with the symptoms. Anyone displaying symptoms of clinical depression are strongly urged to obtain medical help immediately.

For those who are experiencing milder symptoms of SAD there are ways of lessening these negative effects. These include:

• Spending more time outdoors during the available daylight hours in order to have the maximum exposure to sunlight.
• Rearranging your furniture (or work space if possible) in order to be near a window; make sure to keep the curtains open as much as possible.
• Install skylights; add more lamps.
• Maintain a physically active lifestyle since exercise relieves stress, builds energy and increases both your physical and mental well-being.
• Taking a walk during your lunch period in order to experience sunlight.
• If affordable, try to book a vacation in a sunny part of the world; be aware however, that symptoms may occur once you come back home. Make sure that you have the appropriate travel insurance for your trip!

Light therapy has proven to be effective for many people who suffer from mild to moderate SAD. Light therapy involves sitting beside a specialized fluorescent light box for several minutes a day. Before starting light therapy, consult with your physician about whether this is the best alternative for your needs. If light therapy has been approved by your doctor, be sure you are buying an approved light box. The box you purchase should be labeled CSA approved for use in Canada. Make sure that the device has a filter that blocks ultraviolet rays, which are harmful to human skin. It is always a wise idea to purchase your light box from a reputable company that has a history of good business practices.

For more information regarding Seasonal Affective Disorder, you can visit the Canadian Mental Health Association website.

posted on Friday, 21 November 2008 14:39:03 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #   
# Friday, 07 November 2008
                 

Diverticulitis is a condition that affects many Canadians as they get older. It generally occurs in people over 40 and becomes more common as they age. Diverticulitis is the condition of having one or more diverticula (sacs that form by a fold in the lining of the intestinal wall). These sacs can trap feces that move through the intestine. It is quite common for Canadians to already have diverticula and be unaware of the condition as there are usually no symptoms until inflammation and/or bleeding occurs. Diverticulitis can also appear in the gastrointestinal tract above the stomach which can trap food. Esophageal diverticula do not cause any serious health problems, but trapped food can cause the food to back up when a person bends over and/or lies down.

Once the diverticula have become inflamed the condition is then known as diverticulitis which can become a serious health problem. It is believed that diverticula are usually caused by muscle spasms, or by pairs of muscles that do not contract in a synchronized manner. This puts pressure around the blood vessels that pass through the inside of the wall of the large intestine (colon). The most common symptom of inflammation is abdominal pain which usually occurs in the lower left side of the abdomen. Cramping, nausea, vomiting, bloating, fever, chills and sudden change in bowel habits can also signal diverticulitis.

Bleeding can occur when feces get lodged in a diverticulum and the bowel draws fluid out of feces before ejecting it. If the feces stays lodged for a long time it can become hard and dry, which can erode the blood vessels. This can cause a large amount of blood to be released from the rectum, as well as small amounts of blood being released on a continual basis. Any bleeding that does not stop always requires medical attention. A colonoscopy can be used to identify the site of the bleeding as well as to stop the bleeding. For people with chronic bleeding surgery may be necessary to remove the affected part of the colon.

Diverticulitis can cause infections that are easily treated with antibiotics. If an infection is left untreated, an abscess (localized collection of pus) can form in the wall of the colon. An abscess can cause swelling as well as destroy the surrounding tissue. If the abscess remains small and in the wall of the colon it usually can be treated with a course of antibiotics. If the abscess does not respond to antibiotics a doctor may need to insert a catheter through the skin in order to help drain the abscess.

Peritonitis can occur when large parts of the abdominal cavity become inflamed. It always causes a fever and the belly very often is bloated and feels very hard. As well, a person may feel extremely ill with nausea and vomiting. Peritonitis can cause death within a few hours if it is not treated. This can be caused by perforations that leak pus out of the colon and in turn form a large abscess in the abdominal cavity.

Diverticulitis is more common in North America, Australia and England where diets typically are not high in fiber. Industrialized countries that have diets that are high in processed foods have higher cases of diverticulitis than countries in Asia or Africa, where these food products are not as common in people's daily diets. If you have been diagnosed with diverticulitis, changing your diet as well as regular exercise can be very beneficial. Talk to your health care professional about the best way to manage your condition, as well as possible medical procedures that may be required.

posted on Friday, 07 November 2008 16:20:19 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #   
# Wednesday, 22 October 2008
                 

A fast food restaurant has been linked to over one hundred suspected and confirmed cases of E. coli in North Bay, Ontario. Health officials have reported that the outbreak appears to have originated from a Harvey's restaurant. The particular restaurant in question was ordered to close after initial laboratory tests traced the strain of E. coli 0157:H7 to the specific location.

There are currently 158 cases of suspected E. coli; so far 35 have been confirmed. Health officials speculate that the origin of the outbreak stems from improper food handling (i.e. improperly sanitized counter surface) rather than originating from the food products, as no symptoms have occurred from patrons of other Harvey's restaurants throughout the province which would have received the same food products.  However, there are cases being reported from other parts of Ontario as the particular Harvey's location was patronized by travelers. Cases are being investigated in Toronto, Muskoka, Simcoe, Sudbury, Belleville and Trenton, as well as other neighboring communities in Northern Ontario. Currently 18 cases have been ruled out as originating from the Harvey's location.

Many Canadians still remember the E. coli outbreak that occurred in Walkerton, Ontario in May, 2000 where 2300 people became ill and 7 people died as a result of the town's water supply becoming contaminated. The Walkerton outbreak which was ultimately found to be a result of manure from a farmer’s field that was located near one of the town wells was Canada's most severe outbreak of E. coli. Canadian health authorities usually report only a few thousand cases of E. coli sickness per year for the whole country.

The term E. coli is an abbreviation for Escherichia coli and is a form of bacteria most commonly found in the intestines of humans as well as animals. There are hundreds of strains of the bacterium, with many strains being harmless to humans. However E. coli 0157:H7 is identified as the most dangerous to humans as it produces a powerful toxin that can cause severe illness. While the bacterium is mostly found in meat, it can also be found in unpasteurized milk and apple cider, as well as raw vegetables, cheese and contaminated water. Fruits and vegetables that grow close to the ground are susceptible to contamination as they can come into contact with improperly composted cattle manure that is used as a fertilizer. It can contaminate water as the bacteria that causes E. coli can be washed into creeks, rivers, etc. that may ultimately end up in sources for drinking water.

The symptoms of E. coli are generally characterized by severe abdominal cramping. This cramping occurs from merely hours after exposure, but can also take up to 10 days to show up. Diarrhea (sometimes bloody) can also occur in people who have been exposed to E. coli. It is possible for someone to have no symptoms, but still spread the bacteria to other people, who can then become quite ill. People who have suffered E. coli 0157:H7 poisoning are at a 30% higher risk of developing either high blood pressure or kidney damage, according to a Canadian study that was released in 2008. While most cases will resolve on their own within 5-10 days, a small number of cases of E. coli contamination can lead to a condition known as hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). This is a life-threatening condition which is treated in the intensive care units of hospitals. HUS kills approximately 3-5 % of people who contract it; it can also lead to lifelong complications for its survivors. These complications can include lifelong health issues such as blindness, paralysis as well as kidney failure.

 As E. coli can also be spread via human contact, it is also urged that people who are exhibiting symptoms do not go to their workplace so as to prevent spreading the bacteria. The bacteria is most often spread from person-to-person but can also be spread by hand-to-mouth contact. Anyone who has been infected with E. coli should not share dishes, glassware and/or cutlery with anyone else. As well, all bedding, towels, facecloths, etc. should be washed separately with hot water and bleach. Washing hands often and thoroughly will help reduce the possibility of spreading E. coli to other people, as well as not handling food products when actively sick (i.e. diarrhea). Ensure that all raw fruits and vegetables are washed thoroughly before cooking and/or cutting them; disinfect all cutting surfaces and utensils before and after as well.

If you suspect that you may have been exposed to this (or any other) E. coli outbreak it is important to contact your local health department to advise them of your situation. It is also important to receive medical care to ensure that all steps are being taken to ensure a speedy and full recovery. For more information regarding this or any other related topics, visit the Public Health Agency of Canada.

posted on Wednesday, 22 October 2008 15:26:57 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #   
# Monday, 06 October 2008
                 

Ontario public health officials are trying to contact 27 people who have been exposed to tuberculosis from a passenger on a bus traveling from Toronto to Windsor this past August. The passengers are being publicly urged to contact their local health units in order to be tested for TB as a safeguard. As the TB bacteria cannot be detected for at least 3 weeks following exposure, people may not be aware that they could potentially become ill. The risk that other passengers may have been exposed is low, but it is still necessary to be tested to determine if anyone else has caught the disease.

Approximately 1600 new cases of TB are reported in Canada every year, so the risk of developing the disease is relatively low. However, it can have serious health risks, so it is important for Canadians to recognize the symptoms as well as minimize the risk of becoming infected. TB is transmitted by frequent exposure to someone that has active tuberculosis; the bacterium is spread via sneezing, singing, coughing, etc. It is not as contagious as other diseases such as influenza or the chicken pox.

Most people can be exposed to TB bacteria and not develop the disease. It is possible for the immune system to effectively kill the germs. If this doesn't happen the bacteria can remain alive in the body which is called TB infection. Someone with TB infection will show no symptoms and not fall ill; they are also at no risk of spreading the disease. TB infection occurs when the immune system cannot stop the bacteria from growing; this risk is highest within 2 years of becoming infected. Approximately 10% of people will become infected with tuberculosis within their lifetime.

The symptoms of tuberculosis in the lungs are:

• bad cough that lasts longer than 3 weeks
• pain in the chest
• feeling very weak and/or tired
• coughing up blood and/or sputum
• loss of appetite
• fever and/or night sweats

A simple skin test can determine whether or not a person has a TB infection. This is accomplished by a very small amount of non-infectious TB protein being injected under the surface of the skin; a hard swelling will develop within 48-72 hours if the person is infected. At this point the health care provider will probably recommend antibiotic treatment in order to prevent the infection from developing into TB disease. Additional tests as well as chest x-rays may be needed in order to determine whether or not TB disease is present.

For those people who have TB disease it is extremely important to be treated as soon as the disease has been determined. A course of antibiotics for a minimum of 6 months is needed in order to kill all of the TB bacteria. Finishing the course of treatment is vital in order to prevent the risk of developing a strain of the disease that will be drug resistant, which is harder as well as more expensive to treat. As well, people who do not finish the treatment also pose a risk of spreading TB to others.

People with a weakened immune system are more at risk of developing TB infection and/or disease. People who have HIV/AIDS are 50-170 times more likely to develop TB disease; therefore this population group should always be tested for TB. Conversely, people who test positive for TB infection and/or disease should also get tested for HIV in order to help the physician determine the best course of treatment. Other populations that have an increased risk for TB infection are anyone:

• who has come into close contact with someone who has or is suspected to have active TB
• with a history of active TB and/or has had an x-ray suggesting that they had TB in the past but did not receive treatment
• who is living in an Aboriginal community that has a high rate of TB infection and/or disease
•  who is living or working at a long-term care facility, correctional facility
• who has had an organ transplant and is being treated with immunity-suppressing drugs
• who has a lung disease known as silicosis
• who has chronic lung failure and requires dialysis
• who has cancer of the head and/or neck
•  who has been infected with the TB bacteria within the past 2 years
•  who has had a chest x-ray that shows signs of old TB
• who is being treated with glucocorticoids
• who is receiving treatment with tumor necrosis factor alpha inhibitors (for auto-immune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis)
• who has any type of diabetes
• who is underweight with a body mass index of under 20
• who smokes one pack of cigarettes or more per day
• who is under five years old when first infected with the bacteria

If you suspect that you have been exposed to someone that has tuberculosis, make an appointment with your health care provider for testing. You can also visit The Lung Association website for more information regarding tuberculosis.

posted on Monday, 06 October 2008 15:40:02 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #   
# Wednesday, 24 September 2008
                 

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) has long been the leading cause of severe vision loss in Canadians. As age is one of the predominant risk factors for developing this condition, all Canadians over 50 years of age are strongly encouraged to learn more about the warning signs, as well as having an understanding of what this condition entails.

AMD gradually takes away central vision by the slow degeneration of the macula (a small area located in the very centre of the retina). Due to the slow and painless progress of this condition, AMD can remain undetected until it reaches the more advanced stage; routine eye exams however can detect it in its earlier stages. Therefore it is highly recommended that all people over 50 have their eyes regularly examined. In rare cases AMD can progress incredibly fast, i.e. weeks and/or months, resulting in permanent central vision blindness. It is imperative that AMD be caught as quickly as possible as earlier treatment usually results in less vision loss.

AMD is characterized by either 'dry' or 'wet'. Dry AMD occurs first; all people who have wet AMD have had the dry form of the condition. For 85-90% of people however, AMD will stay at the dry level and not progress to the advanced wet AMD. Dry AMD happens when light sensitive cells in the macula begin to break down; this causes gradual blurring of the central vision. As it progresses some individuals may see a blurry spot in the center of their vision. This loss of central vision increases as less of the macula can function. This can happen to either one eye or both; it is possible that both eyes may be affected at different times as well. For those who have AMD in one eye there is an increased likelihood that AMD will develop in the other eye. It is also possible to have AMD in both eyes and have the eyes progress to wet AMD at different interval.

A common early sign of dry AMD is drusen, which are yellow deposits located under the retina. Scientists are uncertain about the connection between drusen and AMD; what is known is that an increase in size and/or number of drusen raises the likelihood of developing into advanced dry AMD or wet AMD. Drusen alone does not cause vision loss, and many people can have a few small drusen in their eyes and not progress into AMD. However, people who have drusen should be regularly tested by their eye care professional in order to monitor this condition.

Wet AMD (also known as advanced AMD), occurs when abnormal blood vessels start to grow under the macula. These blood vessels are usually quite fragile and often leak blood and fluids, which raise the macula from its normal location at the back of the eye. This damage occurs rapidly, resulting in a greater loss of central vision. Wet AMD tends to be quite unpredictable and can appear very suddenly. There is no set schedule of when dry AMD changes into wet AMD; one of the early symptoms of wet AMD is the appearance of straight lines that are suddenly wavy. This, as well as any other vision change, should be reported immediately to your eye care professional as a comprehensive dilated eye exam is necessary.

There is currently no known cure for either dry or wet AMD. However, there are different treatments, depending on which type of AMD you have that can halt the progress of the condition. People who have the dry form of AMD can slow the progression and/or reduce vision loss by using specific high dose ocular vitamin therapy. As well, lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking and/or and improved diet can have a positive impact on reducing the chance/speed of progression of the disease. As well, vision should be monitored on a regular basis in order to track the progression.

Currently effective treatment is not available for all forms of wet AMD. Research is progressing, but at this date only 3 treatments for wet AMD have been approved by Health Canada. Although these treatments will not cure the condition, they can be very effective in halting the progression of wet AMD. They are:

Laser Photocoagulation (LPC): This method uses a high energy beam of light (laser) to destroy the fragile, leaky blood vessels. However, this method poses a risk of damaging surrounding healthy tissue as well as some vision. As well, there is a high risk of developing new blood vessels after this treatment; repeated treatments are usually necessary. Laser surgery is only used to treat a very small percentage of people who have wet AMD; it is usually most effective on those whose leaky blood vessels have developed away from the fovea (central part of the macula).

Photodynamic Therapy: This method involves injecting the drug verteporfin into an arm, which then travels throughout the body. This drug will 'stick' to the surface of new blood vessels; when a light is shined on the eye for 90 seconds the light will activate the drug, destroying the new blood vessels. It does not destroy the surrounding healthy tissues, but those who are being treated with this method must avoid any bright lights (indoor and outdoor) for five days after the treatment. It is a painless course of treatment that can be done in a doctor's office and usually takes 20 minutes. This treatment may need to be repeated as the results are often temporary.

Injections: This is the latest method to treat wet AMD and involves injecting drugs directly into the affected eye. Also known as anti-VEGF therapy, the injections work by blocking the growth of new abnormal blood vessels that tend to grow at an abnormally high level in eyes with wet AMD. Injections may need to be done as often as monthly. Successful injection treatments can help slow down vision loss; in some cases it can also improve vision. Injections may need to be done as often as on a monthly basis depending on the rate that the wet AMD is progressing. It is done in a doctor's office; the eye is numbed before injection and afterwards the eye will be monitored.

Research shows that AMD occurs more in people of white origin than those of African American descent. As well, women appear to be at greater risk for this disease than men. Having a family history of AMD can also increase the odds of having the condition. However, there are lifestyle choices that can either lessen the risk, and/or slow down AMD. Smoking has been linked to the increased risk of AMD; obesity has also been linked to the progression of early and intermediate stages of AMD to advanced AMD. Eating a healthy diet of fish and leafy green vegetables can reduce your risk of developing AMD; it is also important to maintain a healthy weight, exercise and maintain a normal blood pressure.

More information can be found about Age-related macular degeneration at AMD Canada, as well as the Canadian National Institute for the Blind.

posted on Wednesday, 24 September 2008 16:29:00 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #   
# Monday, 01 September 2008
                 

So far, 15 Canadian deaths have been linked to the listeria outbreak that has now spread throughout most of Canada. Nine deaths in Ontario, one in Alberta and one in British Columbia have been attributed to listeria, either as a contributing factor or the direct cause. 4 deaths in Ontario as well as one death in Quebec and another in Saskatchewan are currently being investigated to determine whether listeria was a contributing factor. As well, the number of listeriosis cases has now reached 33, from the original 17 that had been diagnosed. Another 25 illnesses are being investigated as well to determine whether listeriosis was the cause, as well as 6 more deaths.

The outbreak has been definitively linked to a north Toronto plant of Maple Leaf Foods Inc. The plant has since been closed for mass sterilization. Maple Leaf Foods has recalled almost all products that were produced at this plant; so far over 20 different meat products totaling over 500 000 kilograms, have been recalled. Supermarket chains Loblaw Co. and Sobeys Inc. have recalled close to 50 ready-to-eat sandwiches and other deli products that contain meat that could be contaminated as it originated from the affected Toronto plant. This is due to the uncertainty of what lines have been contaminated in the food plant. Currently, the only meat products that have tested positive for listeria were manufactured in July, but all products that were manufactured from June 2 and forward are being recalled as a preventative measure. King Bean Wholesalers is also recalling 4 different varieties of roast beef sandwiches from stores that are located throughout British Columbia.

Maple Leaf Foods Inc. has taken full responsibility for the listeria outbreak. They have released television commercials as well as full page newspaper ads apologizing to the Canadian public and vowing to do to everything in their power to rectify the situation. The spokesperson for Maple Leaf has stated that the company is in no way is blaming Canada's current food inspection laws and guidelines. Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency are supervising and monitoring the food recall at the Toronto plant.  Maple Leaf Foods and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency have set up toll-free phone lines that consumers can call with any questions or concerns. These phone numbers are 1-800-568-5801 and 1-800-442-2342.

Public health officials are warning that the current amount of Canadians that have become ill, or may become ill, from listeriosis will likely increase. Every illness and/or death must be investigated in order to determine whether or not the strain of listeria that has been linked to the tainted meat is actually responsible. They are currently locating and interviewing people in order to establish whether they have been ill with listeria, and to determine the likely source of the contaminated food.

To see the list of all recalled products visit the CFIA website. Remember that there is the possibility of more products that will be recalled. Although this outbreak was initially thought to be in Ontario, other provinces are reporting cases that may be linked to Maple Leaf products. Check with your local health agency to see whether or not these products may have been sold in your region. You may want to check every few days in order to be aware of any new recalls.

posted on Monday, 01 September 2008 18:17:57 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #   
# Friday, 08 August 2008
                 

The Health Minister of Canada has announced that Canada will be increasing protection for Canadians who suffer from food allergies. This will be done through new labeling requirements for food allergens, gluten sources and added sulphites contained in prepackaged foods. Health Canada has also announced that they will also launch several studies related to allergies, including a large national study of food allergy prevalence. They will also conduct 2 studies on the dietary habits and coping skills of people who have celiac disease and are on a gluten-free diet.

Currently, the Food and Drug Regulations requires that ingredients of food products be declared on the labels of most prepackaged foods; however components of certain ingredients are exempted from this declaration. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency does have the ability to recall foods that are currently exempted from the labeling requirements if a health risk is identified; however the tougher labeling regulations will provide manufacturers with clear rules establishing procedures to be followed in a consistent and systematic fashion, thereby reducing the number of food recalls and/or preventable allergic reactions. The improved regulations would require that manufacturers now declare all food allergens, gluten sources as well as added sulphites on prepackaged food labels. The new regulations would detail exactly how these are to be listed on the food labels.

Some Canadians may be unaware between the differences of food allergies and intolerances. You are not necessarily allergic to a particular type of food just because it does not agree well with you. Although certain foods may make you sick, food allergies are much more serious and can be fatal if untreated quickly.

• Food intolerance: is a food sensitivity that does not involve the immune system. Unlike food allergies, or chemical sensitivities, where a small amount of food can cause a reaction, it usually requires a more normal portion of food to produce symptoms of food intolerance. Although these are commonly mistaken for a food allergy, intolerance is more likely to originate in the gastrointestinal system and caused by an inability to digest and/or absorb certain foods, or food components. One of the most common forms of food intolerance is lactose intolerance. This occurs in people who lack an enzyme called lactase, which is needed by the body to digest lactose (a sugar in milk). Symptoms of lactose intolerance may include abdominal pain, bloating, flatulence and/or diarrhea.
• Chemical sensitivities: This occurs when a person experiences an adverse reaction to chemicals that naturally occur in, or are added to foods. This may be the caffeine found in coffee, tyramine in aged cheeses, and flavor enhancer MSG.
• Celiac disease: This is an inherited intolerance to gluten. The main sources of gluten are cereal grains; the only current treatment for celiac disease is a strict diet that is completely gluten free.
• Food allergies: are sensitivities caused by a reaction of the immune system to specific proteins in a food. Currently, it is estimated that food allergies affect as many as 6% of young children and 3-4% of adults. In allergic individuals, a food protein is mistakenly identified as harmful by the immune system. The first time the body is exposed to such a protein the immune system responds by creating antibodies called immunoglobulin E (IgE). When the individual is exposed again to the same food protein, Ige antibodies and chemicals such as histamine are then released. Histamine is a powerful chemical that causes a reaction in the respiratory system, gastrointestinal track, skin and/or cardiovascular system.

It is also a wise choice to carefully read all labels of prepackaged foods that you are buying. Make sure you also understand what the labels mean, and what the ingredients are. Some people can become confused with the long, confusing names of products; some research of your own will give you a better understanding of what you are buying, as well as what the nutrition value of that product is.

posted on Friday, 08 August 2008 18:46:26 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #   
# Tuesday, 15 July 2008
                 

Summer can be an ideal time to take part and/or all of your accrued vacation days from work, especially for those who wish to have a family holiday. Taking time off from your work environment is essential in order to maintain mental and physical health. This time is also valuable in terms of maintaining your relationships with your family and friends. Not taking time off from work often leads to higher levels of stress, which negatively impact health. For those who already have health issues such as cardiovascular problems, acute stress can be quite dangerous.

A study which started in 1948 had women filling out questionnaires over a 20 year period that tracked their vacation time, as well as health status. Back then the study showed that women who took a vacation only once every 6 years were almost 8 times more likely to develop health issues such as coronary disease and/or heart attacks than those women who took a minimum of 2 vacations a year. The published study in 1992 also factored in health issues such as obesity, diabetes, smoking and the amount of income; once again those at a higher risk level were those that did not take regular vacation time.

Another study was conducted in 2000 which studied 12,000 men who were considered high risk for coronary disease over a 9 year period. The results showed that those men who did not take a yearly vacation had a 21% higher risk of death from all causes and 32% more likely to have a fatal heart attack.

A study has shown that 23% of Canadians have canceled and/or postponed their vacation plans due to their obligations at work. Canadians also "give back" an average of 3 days of their vacation time that though they are entitled to, do not take due to work. This is in part due to the fact that most Canadians are conditioned to value employment productivity sometimes more than their work-life balance. To maintain work-life balance, it's also important not only to take your vacation days, but to take them properly. 42% of Canadians seem to use all their time at once, taking a 2-3 week vacation from work, while the rest seem use their days here and there. Taking 2 weeks off seems to be the ideal amount of time; it allows the body and mind the chance to properly unwind and become rejuvenated. However, breaking up your vacation time into a series of long weekends does not seem to give you enough

Every company will have their own policies regarding when to submit your vacation days in order to get them approved. This does require sometimes making plans a few (or more) months in advance. You will need to be proactive as your vacation time approaches, in order to let all the other staff know exactly when you are leaving, and for how long. If someone is temporarily filling in for you, you should make sure they are aware of what their responsibilities will be, and what realistically you expect them to accomplish. Due to this advance planning, you may find that when your vacation finally comes, you are swamped with work, i.e. in the middle of a project. This may require you to be in contact with your office while you are on vacation. If this is happening to you, designate with your office a certain time of day that you will be available to them. Try and deal with your work within that window of time, so you can actually relax and enjoy your vacation the rest of the time. Make sure that all people involved are aware of this schedule, as well as that your cell phone/blackberry/laptop etc will be turned off until the next appointed time.

Remember that by not taking time off you are reducing your productivity as well as optimum health status. Whether jetting out of the country, or simply staying home, all Canadians need to take time to unwind and relax in order to be at their peak performance for work.

posted on Tuesday, 15 July 2008 17:33:20 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #   
# Monday, 23 June 2008
                 

With summer here bringing the hot weather, air quality can be a big concern for Canadians, especially depending on where you live. Even for those who do not have respiratory problems, smog can be quite harmful and pose a health risk. For those with existing breathing problems, smog can be very dangerous.

Originally, the word smog was a definition of the mixture of smoke and fog. However, today smog defines the harmful mixture of gases and particles and is considered air pollution. Although it is usually visible as haze, it can also be invisible, due to particles that are too tiny to be visible. Weather factors such as humidity, as well as the type of pollutants determine what type of smog you experience on that certain day.

Many air pollutants combine to make smog. These pollutants are usually:

• Ground-level ozone: Ozone that is found high in the atmosphere is known as "good ozone"; it helps protects us from the sun's rays. However, ground level ozone is harmful to human health when it is inhaled. It can exacerbate respiratory problems for those who already have asthma, COPDS and other lung diseases, as well as those who suffer from cardiovascular diseases. Ground-level ozone forms when nitrogen oxide and volatile organic compounds from vehicle exhaust, factory emissions, etc. react with sunlight.
• Fine Particulate Matter (PM): A broad term for particles of liquids and/or solids that are air pollutants. PM 2.5 is matter that is very small but that can be breathed deeply into a person's lungs and remain there. It also stays in the air longer and travels further than other large particles. It is usually a result of vehicle exhaust, wood burning, paved and/or unpaved roads, construction, industry and forest fires. This tends to be the matter that makes people cough and/or sneeze as well as irritate the lungs, eyes, and/or throat. This also exacerbates breathing problems for those who already have respiratory disorders, and can actually cause heart attacks in those who have existing heart diseases.
• Sulphur Dioxide: A colorless gas that usually smells like burnt matches; this is a main ingredient in acid rain. When this combines with Volatile Organic Chemicals (VOC) and sunlight it creates ground-level ozone. The main causes for this gas are burning fossil fuels, industry mills, volcanoes and hot springs, and diesel vehicles. Exposure to sulphur dioxide can actually cause lung disease. It also irritates the nose and throat and causes breathing problems, as well lowering the lung's natural defense system. For those with cardiovascular and/or respiratory problems, exposure can make these worse.
• Nitrogen Oxides: This is caused by the same things that cause sulphur dioxide. Exposure can lower the body's resistance to lung infections as well as cause shortness of breath and irritation of the upper airways.
• Total Reduced Sulphur Compounds (TRS): A mixture of gases that usually smells like rotten eggs. This is common around areas that contain steel, pulp and/or paper mills, refineries and sewage treatment plants. Exposure usually results in headaches and/or nausea.
• Carbon Monoxide (CO): Odorless, tasteless, colorless gas that is poisonous at high levels. This is usually caused by burning fossil fuels in vehicles, the production of metals as well as emissions from heaters. At low levels, it can cause headaches, dizziness, lack of breath as well as slower reflexes and perception. High level exposure can result in unconsciousness, seizures, coma and respiratory failure that can result in death.
• Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC): These are gases in the vapors of gasoline, solvents as well as oil-based paints. They react with nitrogen oxides when it is sunny and/or warm and cause ground level ozone. The most common causes for VOCs are burning gasoline, the production of oil/gas products, wood burning and the evaporation of liquid fuels and solvents. Exposure can cause irritation to the eyes, nose and/or throat, headaches, nausea, loss of coordination and can also worsen lung and heart conditions.
• Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH): This is caused by the incomplete burning of carbon materials, i.e. wood, oil, garbage, coal, etc. Over 10,000 compounds make up this group of pollutants, which are responsible for lung irritation as well as skin rashes. Some PAHs have been found to cause cancer in laboratory animals when they are inhaled, ingested, and/or come into contact with skin. The major sources of PAHs are furnaces, exhaust from vehicles, cigarette smoke, wood burning, and fuel producing plants.

It is estimated that smog causes 5900 early deaths in Canada per year. The majority of these early deaths occur in Canadian major cities. While smog is harmful to everyone's health, those who are at high risk are:

• People already suffering from lung disease, i.e. asthma, emphysema and/or chronic bronchitis
• Children and teenagers as their lungs are still developing and they tend to be more active outdoors. Their smaller size also means that they are breathing in more pollutants per pound of body weight which leads to a higher absorption rate.
• Seniors
• Anyone who does vigorous outdoor activities during high smog days, especially those that work outside (construction workers, etc)

Although April – September is usually considered "smog season", it can and often does occur all year round. Ground level ozone generally is more prevalent in the warmer months, while fine particulate matter occurs during the winter. Everyone should be aware of how air quality affects their breathing, especially those listed above. Pay attention to air quality advisories, and try to avoid being outside during times when smog is prevalent.

For those who are sensitive to smog, or suffer from pre-existing heart and/or lung problems, try to stay inside in an air-conditioned environment. Air conditioning can help make breathing easier during the hot summer months, especially in hot and humid weather. If you can’t avoid being outside, make sure to avoid exerting yourself physically. Try to stay in shady areas, as well as roads and streets with heavy traffic. Drink plenty of water, and rest often. Exercise indoors, such as a gym or your home. Going outdoors in the morning instead of the afternoon is also advisable; the pollution levels are usually lower during this time period. If you have asthma, never leave home without your inhaler; chances of having an asthma attack are much higher when the air quality is poor.

Smog can have a negative affect on your health for up to a day after being exposed. If you experience problems breathing, make sure to contact your physician as soon as possible. For severe asthma attacks or other serious difficulties breathing, go to your nearest emergency room.

posted on Monday, 23 June 2008 16:36:04 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #   
# Wednesday, 11 June 2008
                 

While everyone will experience a sleepless night every now and then, chronic insomnia can have a very negative impact on health. Lack of sleep is one of the main causes of preventable traffic accidents as well as work-related accidents. Sleep is also required to bolster your immune system, as well as restore physical and mental energy. Long term sleep deprivation can also increase the severity of chronic diseases, such as high blood pressure and diabetes.

Everyone's sleep requirements are different; while some people only need 4-5 hours of sleep others require 9-10 hours. The average amount of sleep required for optimal health is usually 7-8 hours per night. The amount of sleep you need will change throughout your life, depending on such factors as your age, physical activity level as well as any medications you may be on. Insomnia also becomes more prevalent as people age and is usually more common in women.

Insomnia can be either temporary or chronic. Temporary insomnia can be situational, i.e. not being able to sleep before a stressful situation (exam, interview, etc). This usually resolves itself when the stressful situation is over. Chronic insomnia however happens on a regular and frequent basis, with either problems falling and/or staying asleep. Chronic insomnia often occurs for no apparent reason. Symptoms include such things as:

• Difficulty falling asleep at night
• Waking up often during the night
• Waking up too early and not being able to get back to sleep
• Daytime irritability due to lack of sleep
• Daytime fatigue

The most common reasons for insomnia include:

• Stress and/or anxiety: Worrying about work, school, family, health, etc. can result in your mind being too active to be able to relax. Everyday anxiety, as well as anxiety disorders can have the same effect.
• Depression: Depression can result in either sleeping too much or not being able to sleep. The chemical imbalances that can cause depression can result in the brain not being able to relax enough to be able to fall asleep.
• Using stimulants: Certain prescription drugs such as high blood pressure medication, some antidepressants as well as corticosteroid medication can cause insomnia. As well, over the counter medications such as decongestants, weight loss products and some pain medications contain caffeine and/or other stimulants which will interfere with the ability to fall asleep.
• Change in circadian rhythm: Jobs that require rotating shift work can interfere with the body's natural circadian rhythm and cause sleep problems. Jet lag is also another known interference, but usually resolves itself within a few days.
• Eating habits: Eating too much before bedtime can cause some people to feel uncomfortable when they lie down. As well, heartburn can cause discomfort which can result in keeping you awake.
• Pain: Medical conditions such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, etc. can cause pain that is great enough to keep some people awake.
• Behavioral insomnia: Worrying excessively about not being able to sleep can result in prolonging the pattern of insomnia. Trying too hard to force sleep can cause stress which in turn keeps the body awake.
• Changes in physical activity: A decrease in physical activity, which is common among people who are older, can cause sleeplessness.
• Change in lifestyle: Drinking more alcohol and/or caffeine can cause insomnia. As well, people who tend to nap during the day may find themselves not being able to sleep as well at night.

While there is differing opinions about the time length to wait before consulting with a doctor (a few days or a few weeks) it is advised to seek help from your physician if your insomnia is such that it drastically interferes with your daily activities. Because insomnia is not a disease, there is no specific test to diagnose it. Your doctor will ask very detailed specific questions about your regular sleep patterns and habits, i.e. snoring, medications you are currently taking, pain, and whether or not your legs jerk when you sleep, as well as other related questions. You will probably be asked to keep a sleep journal, where you can record when you go to bed, how long before you fall asleep, how many times per night you wake up, and when you get up in the morning, as well as the quality of your sleep. Your physician may also require that you spend a night in an accredited sleep disorder clinic, where your sleep can be monitored by professionals.

There are different ways that your doctor can recommend to help deal with chronic insomnia. The most common treatments are:

• Stress reduction: If your insomnia is due to increased stress, then reducing your stress will help solve the disrupted sleep patterns. Daily exercise can help as it can reduce stress, improve mood as well as deepen sleep. It is recommended to complete exercising at least 4 hours before bedtime. As well, your doctor may recommend therapy to help you manage your stress in a more productive manner.
• Sleep hygiene techniques: There are certain strategies that can be used in order to help promote a better sleep pattern. This includes such things as having a "buffer zone", in which you spend 90 minutes before your scheduled bedtime consciously trying to relax. Another successful technique is the "20 minute rule", where if you do not fall asleep within 20 minutes of going to bed, you get up; only returning to bed when feeling 'drowsy'. This should be repeated throughout the night if necessary. This technique does result in mild sleep deprivation, which should increase the pressure to sleep the following night. When repeated, over time this technique should improve sleep.
• Medications: Your physician may prescribe sleeping pills which will help you sleep. This can be especially effective for those who are going through a stressful period, as once the stress is over, a more normal sleeping pattern will return. Sleeping pills are usually prescribed as a short term solution; if used for too long insomnia can return when you stop taking them. As well, dependency will result in needing higher doses in order to obtain the original effect. However, there are cases where your doctor may extend the time that sleeping pills are used.

Getting enough sleep is essential for not only your physical health, but also your mental health. Leading a healthier lifestyle can promote better sleep patterns, as well as being aware of the amount of caffeine, nicotine and/or alcohol you consume. Talk to your family doctor if you are consistently having difficulties sleeping; finding the origin of the problem will result in a quicker resolution.

posted on Wednesday, 11 June 2008 21:33:29 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #   
# Monday, 26 May 2008
                 

With summer soon approaching, many Canadians are planning their summer vacation. For those who plan on leaving Canada, attention should be paid to not only what vaccinations are mandatory, but which ones are recommended. It is important to remember that not all countries face the same potential outbreaks; for every visit outside of Canada you should consult with your physician as well as reputable travel advisories in order to be informed of any potential health risks.

Certain diseases are far more common in developing countries than in Canada, however as Canadians are usually immunized early in childhood, there is very little risk of becoming infected. Check your childhood immunization chart to make sure you have been vaccinated for diseases such as rubella, tetanus, polio, and diphtheria. While outbreaks of these have not been prevalent in Canada for a long time, epidemics do occur in other countries. If you are traveling with young children, consult with their pediatrician about the status of their vaccinations, as well as any health risks concerning the area of travel.

The most common diseases that you can be vaccinated for and are at risk of acquiring are:

• Hepatitis A and B: Can be caught from "unclean" water, including fruits and vegetables that are washed in this water and ice cubes and is also transmitted by sexual contact. There is a combined vaccine that provides lifetime protection against both Hepatitis A and B consisting of three doses given over a 21 day period.
• Influenza: The flu vaccine in Canada is based on projections of what type of flu will be prevalent for the season. While this is usually consistent with flu outbreaks around the world, it does vary. Timing as well is a factor, as the flu season in the Northern Hemisphere occurs in wintertime; the Southern Hemisphere has their projected flu season during the summer, and flu season typically lasts all year round at the equator. As well, due to the recycled air on airplanes, the risk of catching infectious diseases is quite high.
• Typhoid: Be advised that the vaccination for typhoid only lasts for 3-4 years, and typically only provides 70% protection. Anyone traveling to a country with under-developed water treatment systems and/or sanitation systems should be vaccinated. New Canadians who are traveling back to their homeland are at the highest risk of becoming ill with typhoid.
• Yellow Fever: One of the only vaccinations that is required by health officials to cross international borders. 21 countries in Central Africa as well as South America require a yellow fever vaccination certificate for all entries; 102 countries demand this certificate from anyone who has been in the "yellow fever zones". There is a high mortality rate among people who become infected with yellow fever. The current vaccine only lasts for 10 years, so it is important to keep your immunization records, and be aware of when you need to be vaccinated again.
• Meningococcal (bacterial) meningitis: This is recommended for anyone traveling throughout sub-Saharan Africa, especially if you plan on living closely among the local population. This is a very dangerous disease and is highly contagious; it is passed between people through coughing and/or sneezing. This vaccination is now required for anyone going to Saudia Arabia to participate in the Hajj. As your risk of infection is lower when staying in a quality hotel, you may not need this vaccination. It is a wise idea to consult with a travel health professional in order to determine your individual risk.
• Japanese encephalitis: Is transmitted through mosquito bites, as is malaria and yellow fever. This is prevalent mostly in rural areas of South and Southeast Asia and can be fatal, as well as causing severe neurological damage. It is mostly contracted in the summer months by an evening-biting mosquito and the symptoms are similar to those of meningitis. The vaccine offers protection for 2-3 years; be aware that there have been allergic reactions associated to this vaccine. It is highly recommended for those who plan on spending more than a month in areas that are affected with this disease.
• European tick-borne encephalitis: Has similar symptoms to the Japanese version, but often has more severe consequences. It is a viral infection carried by ticks, and is found in Russia, the former Soviet Union, as well as other parts of Europe, and is most prevalent in the summer months. Anyone planning to stay in these areas for a long period of time should be vaccinated; this vaccine does need to be ordered, so you must plan ahead. It is also important to follow procedures that reduce the risk of being bitten by ticks.
• Rabies: A fatal disease of the brain and nervous system that is transmitted through animal bites, especially dog bites. Rabies is common throughout the world, including North America. Although this vaccine is expensive, it is very safe and effective. For those who have been vaccinated and are bitten by an animal, 2 additional doses are required. However, for those who have not been vaccinated, 5 doses of vaccine and one of rabies immune globulin are required for effective treatment. The rabies immune globulin is not widely available in the developing world, which poses a huge health concern if bitten. It is important to know whether or not this is easily accessible in the country you plan on traveling in, as well, consult with a travel medical professional. This is usually recommended for long-stay travelers, especially those traveling with children.
• Malaria: There is currently no malaria vaccine. There is however, three first-line antimalarial drugs that are recommended to help prevent becoming infected. These drugs should be taken for several weeks or even the day before potential exposure, as well as during the travel period, and for 1-4 weeks after returning. It is important to know that none of these drugs offer 100% protection, so it is important to take safety measures to prevent being bitten by virus-carrying mosquitoes. These include using insect repellants, as well as mosquito netting, screened accommodations, and wearing long pants and long sleeved shirts after dark.

You should consult with your physician as soon as possible when making your travel plans. This will allow you enough time for the slower vaccines to take effect. A 2 month time period is usually recommended to consult with your doctor. Your doctor will have the latest information on any outbreaks, as well as the latest vaccines that are available. As well, it is very important to tell your doctor that you have been abroad if you become ill within 2 months of returning to Canada, in case you have caught a foreign-based illness.

There are also websites that offer the latest information about these diseases globally. The Public Health Agency of Canada offers travelers advisories and/or warnings of any outbreaks throughout the world. This is an important tool when making your travel plans in order to decide if your destination is a safe one. Before booking your travel plans, make sure you have the latest information available about the country/region. Be aware that the health status of a country can and does change; make sure you read all travel advisories every time you plan on leaving Canada.

posted on Monday, 26 May 2008 15:13:54 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #   
# Wednesday, 14 May 2008
                 

Chances are that at some point in your life, you've taken antibiotics to fight a serious infection. Traditionally antibiotics have been very effective in combating illnesses such as pneumonia, meningitis, tuberculosis, and other infectious diseases. However, misuse and/or overuse can lead to strains of these diseases becoming resistant, and therefore very hard to treat.

There is global concern now as there is an increased finding in antibiotic resistant forms of bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites that up until now were easily treated. This could potentially lead to outbreaks of diseases that have been assumed eradicated, i.e. tuberculosis. As well, these outbreaks will be more difficult to treat, as they will not positively respond to the standard treatment protocols.

A major cause of this resistance can be traced to misuse of antibiotics; as well the unnecessary prevention of infections in people, plants and/or animals. Germs are living organisms that are capable of adapting to their environment, and often will take on the characteristics of other, more potent germs. This means that overuse of products such as antibacterial soaps can end up causing germs that are not very harmful to mutate into germs that are. It is important to realize that germs that become resistant to one antibiotic are likely to become resistant to another antibiotic.

In order to help prevent your body from becoming resistant to antibiotics, it is essential to use them only as prescribed, and exactly as prescribed. Antibiotics are not effective for treating such common ailments as a cold and/or the flu. If you are sick, and not getting better, you must visit your physician to be properly diagnosed and treated. This will usually involve a culture being taken, in order for your condition to be properly identified; this is important as certain viruses will respond better to certain types of antibiotics. If you are prescribed antibiotics, you must take them exactly as prescribed; even if you are feeling better, it is vital that you finish all the pills prescribed. If you do not finish the cycle of antibiotics, it usually will result in only the weak bacteria being killed off, with the stronger bacteria remaining and possibly growing stronger in order to survive. This will possibly result in a more serious illness that is not going to respond as well to antibiotics.

Using anti-bacterial products kills off "good" bacteria. The human body needs to be exposed to bacteria in order for the immune system to effectively be able to combat them. By killing off the "harmless" bacteria, your immune system does not have the chance to develop antibodies, leaving you more at risk for serious illnesses. Washing your hands with soap and water regularly throughout the day is a great way to reduce your exposure to any harmful bacteria. As well, cleaning products that are labeled anti-bacterial have the same result; using normal products such as vinegar and water will leave your house clean and allowing good bacteria to remain. Proper food handling and preparation will ensure that the bacteria responsible for illnesses such as salmonella are destroyed.

It is also important to be current in your vaccinations. This is the most effective way of reducing your risk of becoming ill and ultimately needing antibiotics. Make sure you discuss this with your physician; remember that vaccinations for adults will differ than those for children. If you do have unused antibiotics in your home, do not flush them down the drain; this increases the risk of these drugs going into the water table. Bring them back to your doctor or pharmacy, where they can dispose of them properly. Never share your prescription with anyone, even if they are exhibiting the same symptoms you have as it's important for everyone to be diagnosed by their own doctor.

Using antibiotics in the proper way still remains one of our best options in treating certain infections and diseases. Make sure that you reduce your chances of becoming resistant, so that if and when you do need antibiotics, they will be the most effective. It is also important to see your physician as early as possible when you are ill and suspect that it is not just a common cold or flu; not only will you get better quicker, but you will reduce the risk of those around you by decreasing the contagious period of the virus.

posted on Wednesday, 14 May 2008 16:04:06 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #   
# Friday, 25 April 2008
                 

Canada is the first country in the world to declare a chemical used in the manufacturing of hard plastic items as toxic, and is taking steps towards banning its use. Officials for the Canadian health ministry, as well as the Canadian environmental ministry announced the news last week, and said that it is very likely that the use of BPA in the manufacturing of baby bottles will be in effect within the next year. After being declared toxic, a 60 day commentary period comes into place where it seems highly unlikely that the toxic status will be overturned. After this 60 day period, if no new evidence is brought forward that clearly shows the chemical is safe, the chemical can be eligible to be banned within a year.

Health Canada's screening assessment of bisphenol A focused primarily on the impact of the chemical on newborns as well as infants up to the age of 18 months. Exposure to bisphenol A comes primarily from heating baby bottles that contain the chemical, as well as the migration from can liners into infant formula. The current studies show that while the exposure to the chemical is below levels that may pose a risk, the gap between exposure and effect is not large enough. Studies conducted by Environment Canada have shown that even low levels of BPA is harmful to fish and aquatic organisms over time; tests already show that the chemical can be found in waste water and sludge treatment plants.

Bisphenol A is an industrial chemical that is used to make a hard clear plastic known as polycarbonate. This plastic is used in many consumer products such as reusable water bottles, as well as baby bottles. The chemical is also used in epoxy resins, which act as a protective lining for the inside of metal-based food and beverage cans. This lining prevents corrosion of the can to protect the food or beverage from any dissolved metals, as well as helping to preserve the quality and safety of canned foods. The chemical is also used in other products such as medical devices, dental sealants, sports equipment such as helmets, electronics and automotive parts.

Certain studies have shown that exposure to even low levels of BPA during pregnancy, infancy, and/or early childhood may effect normal development. It can also cause sensitivity to the onset of diseases later in life, especially the potential for mammary and prostate cancer. Laboratory studies have shown that when infants are exposed to BPA, it can lead to neurological as well as behavior problems later in the future. However, there does not seem to be any risk associated with the chemical and adult humans.

For parents who use baby bottles to feed their newborn or infant, precautions should be taken. Do not pour boiling water in baby bottles that have BPA, as very hot water causes the chemical to migrate out of the bottle at a much higher rate. Water should be boiled and then allowed to cool to a lukewarm temperature in a non-polycarbonate container before being transferred into the baby bottle. This precaution should also be used when preparing infant formula that comes from cans that contain the chemical. If you are unsure about whether or not the baby bottles you are currently using contain BPA, check the bottom of the bottle. Typically a number 7 can be found in the centre of the recycling symbol. Note that the number 7 is used to denote a broad category; you can only be 100% sure if the container has BPA when the initials PC are beside the number 7. If the bottle has no recycling symbol, there is no way to determine if it is a polycarbonate or not. You can also switch to using glass baby bottles, as well as alternative plastic bottles that do not contain the chemical. As there is no discernable risk in the exposure of BPA through canned drinks and foods, there is no reason to stop using these products.

Health Canada is continuing to study the effects of Bisphenol A, especially in pregnant women as well as infants. However, as the current completed studies have shown some risk, the Department of Health has decided to be "safe, rather than sorry" when it comes to this particular chemical.

posted on Friday, 25 April 2008 15:36:24 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #   
# Monday, 14 April 2008
                 

There is a common assumption that over-the-counter drugs and vitamins are safe because they do not require a prescription. Very few people read the labels and instructions about the safe use of these products, as well as investigating whether or not they negatively interact with other products and/or prescription medications. Many people also do not think it is important to tell their physician about any herbal supplements they are taking because they mistakenly think that herbal supplements are safe; however, these, mixed with other medications, can prove to be very dangerous.

Using herbs for their medicinal properties has been practiced for centuries. The problem is that people assume that because it is a natural remedy, it is 100% safe. While these supplements can definitely be helpful for some health issues, they must be taken in a safe manner, and with your physician's knowledge. Many times people take too much of these remedies, assuming that because they are natural, they can be consumed in high doses.  Herbal supplements and vitamins can be dangerous if taken in higher doses than suggested, the same as prescription medications. People with certain health issues need to be aware that certain herbal properties can exacerbate their condition, even when taken as directed.

Ginkgo biloba is a common herbal supplement that is used for memory enhancement. This is a very common supplement with Canadian seniors as a natural way to combat the effects of aging. However, many are not aware that ginkgo biloba should never be taken by anyone who is taking prescription blood thinners. Ginkgo biloba contains properties that naturally thin the blood; these combined greatly increase the risk of strokes and/or severe bleeding. Dong quai and ginseng are also dangerous for those on blood thinning medications.

 St. John's Wort is an herb that is commonly used to combat mild or moderate depression, but should never be used with prescription anti-depressants, especially those that are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, i.e. Prozac, Serzone, Luvox, Paxil, or Zoloft. This combination causes an imbalance, and can cause symptoms such as feeling weak, tired and confused; totally defeating the purpose of taking the medication to begin with.

Echinacea is a very popular herbal supplement that is designed to fire up the immune system. Millions of people take Echinacea at the beginning of the winter to help ward off colds as well as the flu virus. As well, many products such as cough drops and multi-vitamins contain Echinacea without the consumer's knowledge. Echinacea however, should never be taken by anyone who uses corticosteroids, or any other prescription medication that is designed to suppress the immune system.

Valerian is an herb that is a natural sedative, and is used by people to help those who are suffering from insomnia, or other sleep disorders. It can be dangerous, however, when combined with other sleep aids, either prescription, or over-the-counter, as it can cause over-sedation. As with any other sleep aid products, it should never be combined with alcohol.

Glucosamine is a natural supplement designed to help with joint problems and arthritis. However, many forms of glucosamine contain sodium, which can be very harmful for those who are on a low-sodium diet i.e. those who have high blood pressure. People who are allergic to shellfish may also be allergic to glucosamine.

You may be unintentionally putting yourself at risk if you are taking herbal supplements and/or certain vitamins if you have health concerns such as:

• Problems with blood clotting
• Any type of cancer
• Any form of diabetes
• Enlarged prostate gland
• Epilepsy
• Glaucoma
• Heart disease
• High blood pressure
• Psychiatric problems
• Parkinson's disease
• Immune system problems
• Have suffered or are in danger of suffering a stroke
• Thyroid problems
• Liver problems
• Are scheduled for surgery

It's important to recognize that the vitamin and herbal supplement industry is not as strictly regulated as prescription pharmaceuticals. This means that often warning labels are not included detailing the potential dangers of a certain product, or other drugs that the product may negatively interact with. And while the majority of natural supplements are safe and effective, they must always be taken in the manner prescribed. Taking too much of natural supplements can be harmful, the same as prescription medication. For optimal health results, tell your physician about everything you take, including vitamins in order to prevent any potential negative interactions. You can also do your own research about these vitamins and supplements to learn about the benefits as well as the dangers. Before buying any supplements, talk to your pharmacist, who is aware of all your prescription medications; they will also be knowledgeable about any potential harm.

posted on Monday, 14 April 2008 15:57:15 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #   
# Monday, 17 March 2008
                 

Skin Cancer Prevention

Many Canadians are escaping the cold winter months by traveling to countries that have a warmer climate. It's important when enjoying your time in the sunshine to make sure you are not exposing your skin to potentially harmful UV rays, which can increase your risk of skin cancer. As children and infants are especially at risk due to having sensitive skin, precautions need to be taken.

Skin cancer is the one form of cancer that can be prevented. There are 3 types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and malignant carcinoma. The first two are the most prevalent forms of skin cancer found in Canadians. They tend to develop later in life on areas of the skin that have been repeatedly exposed to the sun such as the face, neck, and/or hands. They are rarely fatal as it is uncommon for this form of cancer to spread to other areas of the body. Minor surgery easily removes the affected areas of skin. Malignant melanomas on the other hand, are quite fatal as they progress very rapidly and can develop on virtually any part of the body. This form of skin cancer also occurs a lot earlier in life and accounts for 5% of people affected by skin cancer.

Everyone is at some risk of developing melanoma, but certain factors can determine if you are at an increased level of risk. These are:

• Exposure to the sun. UVA as well as UVB rays are dangerous to skin health and can induce skin cancer. Blistering sunburns in early childhood as well as cumulative exposure are factors that can increase your risk of developing skin cancer. This applies to both natural sun and tanning booths.
• Moles. Most people have small brown moles or "beauty marks" that appear in the first several decades of life. These are normal moles which are harmless. Atypical moles however, can be dangerous. Also known as dysplastic nevi, these are moles or patches of skin that are abnormally dark, or moles that are bleeding, crusting or changing in their color, size, and/or shape. These should be checked immediately by your physician. It's important to realize that regardless of type, the more moles you have, the greater your risk is for melanoma.
• Skin type. People with fairer skin are more at risk for all forms of skin cancer.
• Family history. It's estimated that one out of ten patients diagnosed with skin cancer has a family member who has also had it. Therefore, it's important to know if your parents, siblings or children have been diagnosed with melanoma, as you are in a melanoma-prone family. A person who has a first-degree relative with melanoma has a fifty percent greater chance of developing skin cancer than those with no family history of the disease. You also have a slight increase in risk if anyone such as aunts, unless, cousins, grandparents, etc. have had skin cancer.
• Your own personal medical history. Having any form of skin cancer automatically increases your risk of occurrence. People with a compromised immune system that is a result from chemotherapy, organ transplant or HIV/AIDS are also at a higher risk level for melanoma.

The main cause of skin cancer is exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UV rays). These rays cause skin cancer by directly damaging skin cells, as well as weakening the immune mechanisms in the skin. Consequently, most cases of skin cancer can be prevented by limiting your exposure to UV rays. Things you can do to minimize your exposure are:

• Try and spend time in the shade when outdoors during the hottest parts of the day
• If you're spending long periods of time in the sun, wear a broad-rimmed hat, as well as clothing that has a tight weave, and covers your skin
• Use sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 15 and offers both UVA and UVB protection. You should apply sunscreen 15-30 minutes before going in the sun, as well as 15-30 minutes after exposure. Make sure to reapply often after swimming, vigorous activity, or toweling off.
• Certain medications can make your skin more sensitive to UV rays, so read the labels and inserts for all your medications. If you're still unsure, consult with your physician or pharmacist.

If you are taking infants and/or children outside follow the above recommendations as well as:

• Never letting infants or young children play or sleep in the sun in a playpen, stroller, or carriage.
• Even when wearing sunscreen, do not let your children stay in direct sun for long periods of time.
• Make sure your children are wearing plenty of sunscreen, and reapply often as they are more active then most adults which can make it wear off more quickly.

Make sure to regularly check for any changes in moles on your skin, if you think there has been any sort of change, consult with your physician.

posted on Monday, 17 March 2008 13:22:22 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #   
# Saturday, 01 March 2008
                 

Living With Chronic Pain

Every year, millions of Canadians suffer from chronic pain. More than half of these Canadians do not receive adequate treatment to alleviate this devastating pain. A recent study actually showed that in one large Canadian medical centre the majority of patients who were in moderate to severe pain were not even asked by medical staff if they were in pain. Statistics Canada has recently released a study which showed that over 25% of Canadian seniors who live at home, and nearly 40% who reside in a institution are living with chronic pain, severe enough that it interferes with daily life.

While pain is a natural part of everyone's life, chronic pain has distinct characteristics. There are 2 basic types of pain, acute and chronic, which are very different from each other.

Acute Pain: Results usually from disease, inflammation or injury to tissues. It generally comes on quickly, i.e. after surgery or trauma. It may be accompanied by emotional distress and/or high anxiety levels. The cause of acute pain can usually be quickly diagnosed and treated. As well, the pain is usually confined to a given period of time as well as severity. Only in rare cases does acute pain become chronic.

Chronic Pain: Lasts for a much longer duration than acute pain and is more resistant to medical treatment. Chronic pain is widely believed to represent disease itself, and can be made much worse by environmental as well as psychological factors. Chronic pain can be a result of an initial accident such as sprained back, infection, or can be the result of an ongoing condition such as cancer, arthritis. Chronic pain can also occur without any previous injuries and/or evidence of body damage. Severe and frequent migraines can also fit into this category.

There is no test that tells a physician just how much pain a person is in, or how intense their pain is. The physician can ask questions about whether the pain is dull or sharp, location, burning or aching, etc, but these are only general indicators. Physicians can however, use technology to find the source of the pain. The most common are:

Electrodiagnostic Procedures: Electromyography (EMG), nerve conduction studies, and evoked potential (EP) studies can help physicians tell precisely which nerves and/or muscles are affected by pain and/or weakness. EMG consists of thin needles being inserted into the muscles so the physician can see or listen to the electrical signals displayed. Nerve conduction studies involve the use of two sets of electrodes that are placed on the skin over the muscles. The first set sends a mild shock that stimulates the nerve that runs to the muscle. The second set makes a recording of the nerve's electrical signals, from which the physician is able to detect nerve damage. EP test follow the same theory, but with the second set of electrodes set on the patient's scalp in order to determine the speed of nerve transmission to the brain.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging: A MRI provides the physician with pictures of the body's tissues and structures, which can help determine where and why pain is occurring.

Neurological Exams and X-Rays: The physician will test movement, reflexes, balance, sensation as well as coordination. X-rays will show if any bones or joints are the cause of the chronic pain.

It is important for those who suffer from chronic pain to communicate effectively with their physician in order to receive the appropriate treatment and relief. Many different people in the medical field may be helpful in pain management, includes nurse, physiotherapists, psychologists, and occupational therapists, as well as your physician. If needed, your family doctor can refer you to a pain specialist if the pain is not self-resolving. To help your physician give you the proper care, be prepared for your appointments. By keeping a daily pain diary, and recording the amount of pain, the time it occurred and what you did to alleviate this pain get be a great assistance to your doctor. Make sure to use descriptive words such as throbbing, stabbing, burning, aching, tingling, dull, sharp, deep, pressing etc as well as rating it from 1 to 10. As well, keep a list of any and all medications that you take or have taken for pain control. It can also be helpful to list any activities you participated in either just before or at the onset of the pain.

Chronic pain can be managed in different ways, depending on the individual. This can be achieved usually through the proper pain medications, as well as such therapies as acupuncture, massage and chiropractic treatment. Some of the most common ways drugs that physicians use to treat chronic pain are:

Analgesics: The class of drugs that includes most painkillers such as aspirin, acetaminophen and ibuprofen. It is used in most nonprescription medications for mild to moderate pain.

Anticonvulsants: Usually used for seizure disorders, but can be effective for pain that is associated with neuropathic origins.

Antidepressants: Depression is now being associated with chronic pain, especially back pain. Some antidepressants in the psychotropic drug class can be used for treating both conditions. Some anti-anxiety drugs also contain muscle relaxants, and can be effective as well.

Antimigraine Medications: These medications are only for people who suffer from serious and/or frequent migraine headaches. The are only available by prescription, and should only be used under a physician's care, as some do have serious side effects.

COX-2 inhibitors: Used for the treatment of arthritis pain. These drugs are relatively new to the market, and have not yet been tested for long-term side effects. They do, however, seem to lessen some of the negative side effects commonly associated with older anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDS).

Nonsteriodal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS): These drugs are effective for relieving pain by reducing the inflammation in the affected tissues. These can however, cause some people to suffer from upset stomachs.

Opoids: The oldest class of drugs known to mankind; they derive from the poppy plant. Codeine is a very mild form of opoid; morphine is one of the strongest forms of this drug. Opiates are a narcotic, and can induce sedation as well as pain relief. Opiates are physically addictive, and should only be taken with a physician's supervision and monitoring. Opiates do have such side effects as nausea (including vomiting in some cases) and constipation.

Methods other than medication can also be an effective measure to combat chronic pain. These may be used alone, or in conjunction with pain medication, depending on the individual.

Acupuncture: Is a traditional Oriental method of healing which involves applying needles to precise parts of the body. Although some consider this method controversial, it has been a popular method to help various conditions.

Biofeedback: Used mostly for headaches and back pain. A special electronic machine is used to train the patient to become aware of and ultimately control certain body functions. By learning to control things such muscle tension, heart rate and skin temperature, the patient will be able to effect a change in their response to pain by using techniques such as relaxation exercises.

Chiropractic: This can be very effective for those with acute lower back pain and other back disorders. This involves a licensed chiropractor manually manipulating the spine.

Counseling/Therapy: Psychological help and support can help patients by giving them much need coping skills to deal with chronic pain. Support groups can be helpful for those going through multiple surgical procedures as well as diseases such as cancer.

Physical Therapy/Rehabilitation: Exercise, massage, and/or manipulation can help not only alleviate pain, but help to speed up recovery from certain injuries.

It's important to let your physician know if you are experiencing pain that doesn’t seem to go away, or appears for no particular reason, as it may be symptomatic of a serious condition. There is no one specific cure for chronic pain; one of the above methods, as well as a combination of methods may be the right choice for you.

Many individual health insurance plans, as well as employee benefits packages offer coverage for not only the prescription costs, but for non-medicinal treatments. If you do not currently have coverage for such items as chiropractic visits, you can always enquire about adding these features to your current coverage.

 

posted on Saturday, 01 March 2008 14:14:36 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #   
# Tuesday, 29 January 2008
                 

Canadian Weedless Wednesday

Last week was National Non-Smoking Week across Canada, with the focal point being Weedless Wednesday. Started in 1977, National Non-Smoking Week is one of the longest running Canadian public health education efforts. It's goals are to educate Canadians about the dangers of smoking, to prevent people from starting to smoke, and to help smokers quit. Coincidentally, this national event took place on the heels of Wolfville Nova Scotia's ban on smoking in vehicles in which children under 16 are present. Presently Nova Scotia, British Columbia and the Yukon have had bills or motions introduced to make this ban province-wide.

Most Canadians are unaware of just what makes smoking so lethal. Not only is the smoker as well as non-smokers who breathe in second-hand smoke exposed to nicotine, but many other toxins are in cigarettes. All of these toxins are harmful to anyone who inhales them. A sample of the toxins found in cigarettes are:

   • Tar: found in tobacco smoke. Tar is a sticky black residue that contains hundreds of chemicals, most of which are classified as carcinogenic and/or hazardous waste. Found in tar are such chemicals as polyaromatic hydrocarbons, aromatic amines and inorganic compounds
   • Nicotine: is the addictive substance in tobacco. It occurs naturally in tobacco plants and is harmful to cardiovascular and endocrine systems in humans. It causes chemical and/or biological changes in the brain. Nicotine is extremely poisonous in large amounts
   • Carbon Monoxide: is in tobacco smoke as a result of burning tobacco, and is responsible for the reduction of red blood cells delivering oxygen to human tissue. This has the greatest potential for causing damage to the heart, brain and skeletal muscles.
   • Formaldehyde: Is registered in Canada as a pesticide and causes eye, nose and throat irritation as well as other breathing problems
   • Hydrogen Cyanide: One of most toxic chemicals in tobacco smoke; frequent exposure to low concentrations of this cause weakness, headaches, vomiting, nausea, eye and skin irritations and rapid breathing.
   • Benzene: has been declared toxic by the Canadian Environmental Protection Act and is believed to be harmful at any level of exposure. It has been described as a Group 1 carcinogen.

It is obvious from this list that smoking and/or exposure to tobacco in any form is extremely harmful. Smoking is directly related to such potentially fatal diseases as:

   • Cardiovascular Disease: This includes heart attacks, strokes, hardening of the arteries and/or dilation or rupture of the aorta. Cardiovascular disease is responsible for 2 out of 5 tobacco-caused deaths. It is responsible for the death of approximately 17,500 Canadians every year.
   • Cancer: This includes lung cancer, cancer of the mouth, pharynx, larynx and/or esophagus, cancer of the pancreas, cancer of the kidneys and cancer of the bladder. Cancer is responsible for 2 out of 5 tobacco-caused deaths, and kills approximately 17,700 Canadians every year.
   • Respiratory Disease: Including pneumonia and influenza, chronic bronchitis, emphysema and chronic airways obstruction. Respiratory disease is responsible for 1 out of 5 tobacco-caused deaths with a mortality rate in Canadians of approximately 9500 per year.

Smoking is also directly related to other serious health issues. Smokers are more likely to suffer from peptic ulcer disease; the ulcers are also slower to heal and more likely to reoccur. Smoking is also a risk factor for Crohn's disease, also known as chronic bowel disease. Smoking affects oral health; as well or oral cancer, smokers are more likely to experience tooth decay and/or gum disease. As smoking reduces bone density, it can cause and/or aggravate osteoporosis. Smokers with osteoporosis have increased chances of bone fractures. Because smoking decreases blood flow in the small blood vessels in the skin smokers are more likely to experience premature aging and more skin wrinkles. For women who smoke, they can experience menopause 1 to 2 years earlier than non-smoking women. For men, smoking may cause impotence.

The statistics surrounding the life expectancy of smokers is highly alarming.  The Canadian Council for Tobacco Control estimates that for every 1000 Canadians age 20 who smoke, about 500 will die from a tobacco-caused death if they continue. Out of these 500 deaths, half will occur before the smoker turns 70. Approximately 45,000 Canadians every year die from tobacco-caused illnesses, and smoking causes the highest number of preventable illnesses, disabilities and/or deaths in Canada.

Obviously, it is vital that Canadians quit smoking in order to prevent death and/or illness. There are many different theories about the best way to quit smoking. However, it is up to the individual to choose a plan and/or method that works for them; not everyone will benefit from the same method. For smokers who wish to quit, it's important to find a method that works for you and to be prepared for what quitting smoking entails.

While there are various unproven methods such as hypnotherapy, acupuncture, etc, the 2 major smoking cessation aids are:

Prescription Medications: Your doctor can prescribe certain medications like Varenicline tartrate which may reduce the sense of satisfaction that you get when smoking. It can also help reduce the cravings and help alleviate withdrawal symptoms. This drug works by weakening the chemical reactions in the brain caused by nicotine that make smoking feel pleasurable. However these types of medication are not recommended for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. It is also not recommended that nicotine replacement therapy products such as patches, gum or inhalers be used when taking this drug. Certain anti-depressants can also be helpful in quitting smoking. Although it is not certain how this works, studies have shown that smokers who have been treated for depression with certain prescription drugs reported that along with the symptoms of depression going away, so had their urge to smoke. These medications are only available with a prescription, so consult with your physician to see if this is an option for you.

Nicotine Replacement Therapies: Nicotine gum and the patch.

   • Nicotine Gum: Releases a dose of nicotine that when chewed helps with the withdrawal symptoms. Chewing nicotine gum can satisfy the cravings quickly and also helps to keep the mouth busy. It is available without a prescription, and can be purchased at most pharmacies. It is available in different doses for all levels of smokers.
   • Nicotine Patch: This consists of small self-adhesive patches that slowly release nicotine into the bloodstream. It can be placed anywhere on the skin between the waist and the neck. The patch allows the smoker to gradually reduce the amount of nicotine they use. It can however, cause the skin surrounding the patch to be irritated and may also cause headaches, dizziness, upset stomach and blurred vision. The 24 hour patches may cause sleep problems as well. Although this is available without a prescription, consult with your physician about using it, especially if you have angina, irregular heart, have had a heart attack, are pregnant and/or breastfeeding and if you are taking other medications.

It is important to be prepared to quit smoking. Consult with your physician; discuss the above-mentioned options to see what is right for you. You should also come up with a strategy to help avoid the pitfalls. Some good ideas for planning ahead to quit are:

   • Pick a quit day. Try and pick a date within 2 to 3 weeks of making the decision to quit. This deadline will help you decide how to handle the situations which make you want to smoke. Try and choose a time that isn’t very stressful. Remember, there’s never going to be the "perfect" time, so pick your date and stick to it.
   • For some people it can help to cut down first. You may also want to purposely leave your cigarettes at home when going out, cutting down on your cigarette breaks at work, etc.
   • Make a list of all the reasons you want to quit smoking and post them in every room of the house and/or work.
   • Get rid of all your ashtrays and make your usual smoking areas as uncomfortable as possible.
   • Plan ahead for ways to combat the urge to smoke. This can include going for a walk or working out; make sure you also have plenty of healthy snacks on hand for when the hand-to-mouth urge strikes.
   • Through the first few days, take it hour by hour. View each smoke-free hour as an accomplishment. It can be daunting when thinking of never smoking again, so break it down into manageable time frames
   • Drink lots of water to help flush the nicotine and other chemicals out of your system.
   • Change your routine for your usual times to smoke. For instance, if you smoke right after a meal, you need to replace that activity with another one.

Most relapses occur within the first three months of quitting smoking. They are usually caused by triggers, i.e. an incredibly stressful event. However, relapsing does not mean that you have to become a smoker again. If you do happen to slip and have a cigarette, don't overact, but become recommitted to being a non-smoker.

Being able to identify the symptoms of withdrawal can better prepare the smoker for what to expect, as well as how to alleviate them. Knowing what to expect and the general time taken to be rid of these symptoms can help the smoker come up with an effective quitting plan. Nicotine is physically addictive and it does take time for the body to expel itself of not only the nicotine, but the other chemicals that are being ingested with every cigarette smoked. Most smokers who quit experience physical effects such as:

   • Irritability: This generally lasts 2-4 weeks and is caused by the physical craving for nicotine. It is important to recognize that this is a withdrawal symptom and spend extra time devoted to relaxation methods such as hot baths, music, etc.
   • Lack of energy: Nicotine is a stimulant and keeps your brain active. The body generally takes 2-4 weeks to readjust to living without this boost. During this period don't push yourself too hard; if possible take naps when needed.
   • Insomnia: Nicotine affects brain waves and sleep patterns. Sleep pattern disruption usually lasts for a week. During this time try to avoid caffeine, especially at nighttime
   • Dry throat and cough: This usually only lasts a few days, and is caused by the body getting rid of trapped mucus in the airways. Make sure to drink lots of water and juice to help get rid of the mucus.
   • Dizziness: As your body is now receiving more oxygen, you may feel dizzy for 1 to 2 days. Make sure to get up slowly after sitting or lying down.
   • Difficulty concentrating: This can last for up to a few weeks and is caused by your body readjusting to not having the constant stimulation from nicotine. Reduce your workload and take a lot of breaks if possible.
   • Chest tightness: Chest muscles may be sore from excessive coughing as well as muscle tenseness from the cravings. This usually lasts for a few weeks; deep breathing can help alleviate the soreness.
   • Stomach pain, gas, and/or constipation: This can happen as bowel movement drops very briefly. When you quit smoking, make sure your diet is high in fibre as well as fruits and vegetables.
   • Hunger: Your body may confuse nicotine craving as hunger pains. As well, the hand-to-mouth action from smoking can be hard to break. This can last anywhere from 2-4 weeks. Make sure to have lots of healthy snacks such as raw vegetables, popcorn, fruit, pretzels, etc on hand so you can enjoy lots of guilt-free munchies.

The actual nicotine craving is usually the worst in the first few days of quitting, although some people can experience occasional cravings for long periods afterwards. Nicotine generally takes around 3 days to come out of the bloodstream. Recognize the cravings for what they are and try to wait them out, they tend to only last for a few minutes. Keep yourself busy with another activity during the cravings to take your mind off of it. If using nicotine gum as part of your plan, then this is the time to have a piece.

Smokers who quit before they experience irreversible heart and circulatory disease can greatly improve their health. In fact, after 20 minutes of quitting, blood pressure, pulse and body temperature all start to return to their normal state. Within 8 hours the oxygen and carbon monoxide levels in blood return to normal and smoker's breath disappears. In the first 24 hours of quitting smoking carbon monoxide will be eliminated from the body. As well the lungs will begin to clear out the smoking debris and mucus. 72 hours after quitting lung capacity begins to increase and breathing becomes easier. 3-9 months after quitting lung function increases by up to 10%. Being smoke-free for one year reduces the risk of heart disease by up to one-half of a smoker’s. Within 10 years the risk of lung cancer falls to one-half of the risks of a smoker’s, and within 15 years the risk of heart disease is about the same as someone who has never smoked.

Along with improved health, quitting smoking can be financially beneficial. For instance, Canadians who smoke one pack per day at $8.00 per pack will save $2920 in the first year alone. Smokers who quit will also experience savings in their health and life insurance premiums. As these premiums are based on health status, the more healthy you get, the more you can save. When you quit smoking let your health and life insurance broker(s) know so that they are aware of your new and improved health status.

For more information on the effects of smoking, and advice on how to quit please visit these websites:

Canadian Cancer Society
The Lung Association
Health Canada Quit4Life

 

posted on Tuesday, 29 January 2008 20:35:53 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #   
# Wednesday, 07 November 2007
                 

Osteoporosis Month In Canada

November is Osteoporosis Month in Canada. Approximately 1.4 million Canadians suffer from this disease, which mostly affects aging adults. Osteoporosis is a loss of bone density that causes bone fractures, deformity and/or disability. It usually affects twice as many women as men, with 1 in every 4 women over 50 at risk.

Osteoporosis occurs when bone mineral density is lost. This causes bones to become think and weak, and at high risk for fractures. It is  also known as the "Silent Thief" because there are usually no symptoms of bone loss until fractures start occurring. The most common fractures occur in the wrist, hip and/or spine. Mortality is significantly increased after hip fractures, and less than 50% of seniors fully recover from this ailment. It is estimated that 25% of seniors who have fractured a hip reside in long-term care facilities for at least one year.

Women are twice as susceptible to osteoporosis because they experience menopause. Estrogen is responsible for helping women maintain healthy bones. As estrogen levels drop significantly during menopause, women experience more bone loss. While hormone replacement therapy can help women reduce the drop in estrogen, it can increase their risk of breast cancer, as well as other adverse health effects. This is an option that should carefully be considered by a woman and her physician.

Although not as common in men, osteoporosis can occur. As well as age, there are several factors that increase a person's risk, including:

• A family history of osteoporosis
• Low calcium diet
• Sedentary lifestyle (not enough exercise)
• Low body weight
• Smoking
• Vitamin D deficiency
• Excessive caffeine intake (more than 4 cups a day of coffee, tea, and/or cola)
• Excessive alcohol consumption (more than 2 drinks per day)
• Long term use of certain medications (cortisone, prednisone, anticonvulsants)
• Osteopenia (lower than normal bone density)
• Early menopause or removal of ovaries (before 45) without hormone replacement
• Post-menopausal


If some of these risk factors are applicable to you or someone in your family, talk to your physician about a bone density test. Because bone density loss does not have symptoms until a fracture occurs, it is essential that seniors (especially women) take preventative measures. All seniors should:

• Follow a healthy diet, that includes calcium rich food. People over 50 need 200 mg of calcium per day. As the body ages, it loses the ability to absorb calcium as well as it used to, so seniors may require a calcium supplement. Calcium rich foods include milk products, salmon, beans, sunflower and sesame seeds, green vegetables, figs, and rhubarb.
• Get enough Vitamin D, which helps the body absorb calcium. All people over 2 years of age should consume 500 ml of milk every day, and everyone over 50 should take a daily supplement of 400 IU of Vitamin D.
• Regular exercise is important to keep bones strong. Seniors can do low-impact activities such as walking, dancing, hiking, etc. as part of their daily routine in order to strengthen bones. Activities such as yoga, swimming, tai chi can increase flexibility that helps prevent falls, which is important for those who already have osteoporosis.
• Quit smoking. Just by quitting you can dramatically reduce the rate of bone loss and risk of fractures.

Health concerns and needs change constantly throughout our lives. Therefore, it is imperative that our health insurance coverage reflects these changes, and adequately provides for these needs. For instance, Canadians in their 20's may not give much thought to whether or not their insurance covers such things as nursing homes and/or home care. However, for seniors, this may now be a priority in their coverage.

There are different ways to obtain health insurance that reflects these specific needs. Critical Illness insurance pays a lump sum for those who suffer a critical illness, regardless of if and when you are able to return to work. Although illnesses covered depends on the carrier, C.I. covers such health problems as:

• Cancer
• Heart Attack and/or Stroke
• Alzheimer’s
• Multiple Sclerosis
• Kidney Failure
• Blindness or Deafness
• Organ Transplant
• HIV/AIDS
• Parkinson’s Disease

Disability insurance pays a monthly benefit when the insured person is unable to work due to illness and/or accident, usually up to 2/3 of your current earnings. Premiums are higher for occupations deemed more dangerous. This benefit can last up until 2 years, until the age of 65. After 65, this benefit can be continued (although may be modified) but the insured must continue to work.

For residents of Ontario and Quebec there is a new product available from Blue Cross called Tangible. This insurance is a hybrid that offers Disability and Long Term Care if needed; if not it remains as life insurance coverage. With Tangible, 50% of the initial amount insured can be converted for Long Term Care.

It is important to remember that life doesn't remain constant. As our health needs change, we need to ensure that our insurance changes with it. Consult with your broker every few years in order to make sure that your current health insurance reflects your needs.

posted on Wednesday, 07 November 2007 00:11:04 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #   
# Monday, 29 October 2007
                 

Halloween Safety Tips

Children across Canada will be flocking to the streets in a few short days for trick-or-treating. Especially for younger children, the excitement of the holiday can make it easy to forget safety tips and measures. Parents therefore need to exercise caution and make sure that their children have a safe and happy Halloween.

It is recommended that parents accompany children under 10. If your child is over 10, and will not be accompanied by a parent, ensure that they are going out in a group. Map out a route that the group should follow, so that you know where they are going to be. Try and stick to a neighborhood that you know well. Give your child your cell phone so they can call in case of emergency. Tell your child to only go to houses that are lit up; and to never enter someone's home.

Check the weather forecast and make sure your child is dressed appropriately. As masks can impair vision, try and use makeup instead. Make sure the costume fits your child properly; long costumes can cause them to trip. Also ensure that the costume isn't made of a flammable material. Brightly colored costumes make your child more visible to motorists. Costumes should be comfortable and allow your child to move easily.

If you plan on handing out treats, make sure your porch and yard are well-lit. Clear your walkway and sidewalks for things such as wet leaves that children can slip and fall on. If you use candles in your jack-o-lantern, make sure it is placed out of reach of children. Keep your pets locked in a separate room; the constant doorbell and stream of people can upset a normally docile animal. If possible, avoid handing out candy that has common allergens, such as peanuts. If your child has food allergies make sure he/she knows what is allowed and what isn't. Make sure to tell trick-or-treaters not to eat their candy before they have gone home and had their parents inspect it.

It's important to remember that children can easily get caught up in the excitement of the night, and can forget simple rules. Talk to your child about why the rules are important, such as crossing streets only at intersections, so they have a better understanding. If possible, have a few adults from your neighborhood take out a group of kids. Have a safe and happy Halloween!

posted on Monday, 29 October 2007 13:54:46 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #   
# Monday, 15 October 2007
                 

Anti-Inflammatory Removed From Canadian Market

Prexige, an anti-inflammatory prescription medication will no longer be sold in Canada. The drug has primarily been prescribed to adults who have exhibited the signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis. Health Canada has canceled the medication's market authorization after receiving additional safety information. Further testing has shown a potential for serious liver problems.

Prexige has been on the market in Canada since November 2006. It has a maximum dose of 100 mg. daily. However, Australia pulled Prexige from their market this year following reports of serious adverse liver problems stemming from doses of 200 mg and 400 mg per day. Upon reviewing the additional safety information, Health Canada has concluded that it is not possible to safely and effectively manage this risk even with 100 mg daily. Currently 2 cases of liver-related problems have been reported in Canada since the drug's approval, and 4 cases have been reported worldwide.

While the vast majority of prescription drugs are safe to use (under a physician's direction) occasionally Health Canada must recall a product. It is important to remember that all medicines carry some risk. When starting a new prescription and/or over-the-counter medication, be aware of any changes that may occur and discuss them with your physician and/or pharmacist. It is possible to have adverse affects from a medication when you mix it with other medications, vitamins, foods and/or beverages. Read and follow the instructions for the prescription carefully. Ask your pharmacist for written information and/or directions regarding your medication.

For people who are currently on prescription medication(s), the following tips may prove to be useful:

• Ask your doctor why you are being prescribed this medication. Have an understanding of why you need this medication, and how it works. Some medications require check-ups and/or tests. Ask about the possible side effects, what to expect and how long it should take to start working. Tell your physician about all other medications, supplements, vitamins, etc. in order to prevent a possible adverse reaction.
• Use the same pharmacist. By doing this, one pharmacy will have your records and be aware of your medications. This will allow your pharmacist to monitor your prescriptions and make you aware of any possible harmful interactions.
• Keep a record of all medications you take. In case of emergency, have a current list of all prescriptions, over the counter medications, vitamins, supplements and herbal remedies you take. This information can be invaluable to a physician in the event of an emergency. It is also important for your physician and pharmacist to have this information.
• Safely store your medication. Read and follow the instructions on how to store your medication. Never combine different pills in one container, as you may not remember the instructions for each one.

If you have any questions about prescription recalls, go to the Health Canada website for further information.

posted on Monday, 15 October 2007 16:57:38 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #   
# Thursday, 27 September 2007
                 

Diabetes And Exercise: Controlling Your Sugar Levels

A new study has found that aerobic exercise combined with weight training can stabilize the blood sugar levels in people with Type 2 diabetes. Diabetics who regularly do both types of exercise improved their blood sugar levels at twice the rate of diabetics who just did one form of exercise. These recent findings are clinically significant in the treatment of Type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes, also known as late-onset diabetes, usually manifests later in a person's life. This form of diabetes can be prevented and/or delayed through improving your health, as well as controlling your weight and diet. As the rates of obesity increase, so does the rate of Type 2 diabetes. The Canadian Diabetes Association estimates that 3 million Canadians will have Type 2 diabetes by the end of the decade. Over 40 thousand Canadians a year die as a result of diabetes-related illnesses.

Type 2 diabetes prevents the pancreas from producing enough insulin, the hormone that helps control glucose levels in the blood. People who suffer from this form of diabetes are at high risk of developing micro-vascular problems such as blindness, kidney problems and/or peripheral nerve problems.

This new research can significantly impact the 2 million Canadians currently diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. By combining both of these types of exercise, people suffering from Type 2 diabetes can reduce their risk of heart attack and/or stroke by up to 20%. They will also lower their risk of diabetes associated illnesses by as much as 40%.

For people who suffer from diabetes, the costs associated with treatment can be significant. Insulin, testing kits and blood sugar monitors can be expensive for those who do not have health insurance. For people who have diabetes and wish to obtain health insurance coverage, HealthQuotes.ca offers several plans which do not require a medical questionnaire.

Flexcare offers the ComboPlus Starter Plan which provides coverage for dental, prescription drug and health coverage. The Starter plan also provides coverage for durable medical equipment such as pens, needles and testing strips!

If you have Type 2 diabetes, consult with your physician about starting an exercise program that can help you control your sugar levels. By losing weight, eating healthy and exercising, you can be proactive about your disease. Talk to your insurance broker as well about which coverage is right for you.

posted on Thursday, 27 September 2007 13:23:39 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #   
# Tuesday, 11 September 2007
                 

Canadian Mental Health Commission

Federal Health Minister Tony Clement has announced that Calgary will be the new home of Canada's Mental Health Commission. This newly formed commission is aimed at erasing the stigma associated with mental illness as well as sharing information about mental health issues nationwide. The 2007 Federal Budget has allocated $55 million dollars over the next 5 years towards this goal.

It is estimated that 20% of Canadians will experience some type of mental illness during their lifetime. Although most mental illness begins during the adolescent stage of life, it can strike at any time, and exhibit a myriad of symptoms. The cause of mental illness can be complex. Factors such as genetics, biology, personality and life events can all play a significant role in a person's mental health status.

Most people go through difficult times, and experience depression, sadness and/or a feeling of being isolated. These feelings are usually short-term and are emotional reactions to a specific incident (i.e. a death of a loved one, a break-up, etc.) These feelings are a normal part of life, and people learn to cope with the difficulties that come their way.

Mental illness however, is quite different. It can negatively impact a person's ability to function and/or cope with the most basic tasks of everyday life. Mental illness can be responsible for seriously disturbed thinking, moods, and/or behavior.  A person suffering from mental illness can show symptoms of significant distress and the ability to function "normally" over an extended period of time. Symptoms can vary from mild to severe, depending on the type of illness, the individual, and/or their environment.

Mental illness can assume many forms, including:

• Schizophrenia, which affects how the person perceives the world
• Mood disorders (depression, bipolar, etc.) which affects how the person feels
• Anxiety disorders, which affects how the person perceives events or situations to be
• Personality disorders, which affects how a person perceives themselves in relation to others
• Eating disorders (anorexia, bulimia) which affects how a person feels about their body image and food

Mental health plays a large role in physical health, and vice versa. It is common for people with physical health problems to experience anxiety and/or depression over their condition. These mental health issues can sometimes affect their recovery. Mental health issues can also increase the risk of physical problems, such as:

• Blood biochemical imbalances
• Weight gain/loss
• Gastrointestinal problems
• Heart disease
• Diabetes

Most mental illness can be successfully treated, with medication, psychotherapy, counseling, community support systems and/or education. However, many do not seek treatment due to the stigma of mental illness. The earlier treatment is sought, the quicker the effected person can begin to regain control over their life.

Another factor for people not seeking treatment may be due to finances. The Sun Life Basic, and Standard and Enhanced Plans offer compensation for psychologist visits and prescriptions. If you have group insurance through your employer, check to see if you are covered for psychology or psychiatric treatment.

It is important to take care of yourself physically, emotionally and mentally. If you or someone you know is experiencing mental health issues, please seek help immediately.

posted on Tuesday, 11 September 2007 16:58:36 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #   
# Tuesday, 28 August 2007
                 

West Nile Virus

Cases of West Nile virus have risen throughout the western provinces. Currently 213 cases have been reported in Manitoba, which is double the amount of infection for all of Canada last year. Peak exposure to West Nile usually occurs between late July to mid August, with more cases expected to be reported since incubation time for the virus is usually 3 weeks. While it is currently not an epidemic, some experts are warning that the worst is yet to come.

West Nile virus is transmitted to humans when they are bitten by infected mosquitoes, which have previously fed on infected birds. Weather conditions can also play a large role in this virus, as mosquitoes prefer hot humid weather for breeding. As the first reported case of West Nile occurred in 2002, researchers are still uncertain about the long-term effects of this virus, but studies are showing that prolonged health concerns do occur.  This includes long term physical effects such as muscle weakness, paralysis, fatigue, headaches, confusion, depression, problems with concentration and/or memory loss. Therefore, it is important to recognize the symptoms of WN and obtain treatment accordingly.

Many people are bitten by infected mosquitoes and show no symptoms, and/or do not become severely ill. Illness usually occurs between 2 and 15 days of become infected, and generally causes flu-like symptoms. Mild cases of WN usually involve fever, headache and muscle ache, as well as swollen lymph glands and a rash. People who are otherwise in good health generally make a full recovery with no prolonged health problems.

For people who have weaker immune systems, including the elderly, WN can pose serious health risks, and can possibly be fatal. For these people, WN can lead to meningitis (inflammation of the spinal cord or lining of the brain) and/or encephalitis (inflammation of the brain). For these severe cases, the symptoms include the sudden onset of severe headaches, high fever, stiff neck, muscle weakness, vomiting, drowsiness, confusion, loss of consciousness, and paralysis. Medical treatment should be sought immediately if you have experienced a mosquito bite and are experiencing these symptoms. West Nile virus can cause these extreme symptoms in people of every age bracket and health status.

It is important during the season to pay attention to your local news or local health agency to be informed if any WN cases have been confirmed in your area. As WN can quickly spread to different regions via  birds, it is important to minimize your risk of being bitten. Some helpful tips for reducing your exposure are:

• Try to avoid being outside at dawn and/or dusk, as this is the period when mosquitoes are most active


• Wear long sleeved shirts and long pants when outside, as well as a hat; this will deter bites


• When going outside, use insect repellent. If you are planning on being outside for a long period of time, make sure you re-apply the repellant if needed


• Make sure your windows are properly fitted with screens so mosquitoes cannot enter your house. Do not leave your doors open.


• Mosquitoes need standing pools of water to breed. Make sure you remove standing water from such places as birdbaths, pool covers, flower pots, pet bowls and wading pools. You can also clean your eaves troughs in order to prevent clogs that can trap water.


• Report any dead birds to your local health agency, as testing can be done to determine if the bird is infected.

If you experience any of the mentioned symptoms, and have mosquito bites, see your family healthcare provider. As long-term effects of WN are not yet known, it is important to be aware of the virus, and to keep your physician informed. As the global climate changes, so does the habits and habitats of mosquitoes. This is also true for the birds that originally carry the virus. Check with local health agencies every summer for the latest data and information.

posted on Tuesday, 28 August 2007 16:37:12 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #   
# Tuesday, 07 August 2007
                 

Lyme Disease In Canada

Lyme disease can pose a serious health risk, depending where you live in Canada. Lyme disease is caused by bacteria that are usually carried by mice, squirrels, birds and other small animals. This infection is transmitted to humans via certain species of ticks, who first bite the infected animal, and then bite people. For people who live in southern British Columbia, southern and eastern Ontario, southeastern Manitoba and Nova Scotia, caution should be used when being outdoors during the spring thru to the fall.

Canada currently has 2 species of ticks which have been associated with transmitting Lyme disease. The western blacklegged tick has been identified as the species that inhabits British Columbia. Ontario, Manitoba and Nova Scotia are home to the blacklegged tick, more commonly known as the deer tick. Transmission generally occurs when humans walk through tall grass or vegetation, whereupon the tick attaches itself to the skin.

If you reside in, are visiting, or plan on visiting one of these provinces, it is important to be aware of the symptoms of Lyme disease. Although symptoms vary from person to person, Lyme disease commonly has three stages. The most common first symptom is a circular rash that begins at the site of the bite. The rash usually occurs 3-30 days after being bitten by a tick. A person bitten by an infected tick may also experience fatigue, chills, headache, muscle and joint pain, fever and swollen lymph nodes. If this first stage is left untreated, the disease will progress to the second stage, which lasts several months. The second stage includes symptoms such as multiple skin rashes, migraines, painful and/or stiff joints, extreme fatigue and abnormal heartbeat. The third stage is comprised of chronic arthritis and neurological symptoms, which can include headaches, dizziness, paralysis and numbness.

Lyme disease, if left untreated, can develop into a chronic illness that is difficult to treat. If caught in the early stages, it is effectively controlled with antibiotics. Therefore, it is crucial that during tick season Canadians who live in the mentioned areas are aware of these symptoms. For those who spend time outdoors in the affected regions, there are several things you can do to minimize your risk of being bitten and potentially being infected.

• Check with your local public health office. They will have the current information on whether these ticks are currently in your area.
• When spending time outdoors, especially where there is tall grass and/or wooded areas, wear light-colored clothing that covers your entire body. Wearing light colored clothing will allow you to see if a tick is on you. In order to make sure ticks have no access to bare skin, tuck your shirt into your pants, and tuck your pant legs into your socks.
• Avoid wearing sandals or open shoes.
• Spray your clothing and exposed skin with insect repellent.
• Although cats and dogs cannot transmit the virus to humans, they can carry the ticks into your home. If you have pets that spend time outdoors, make sure you check them regularly for ticks.
• Check your clothing and body thoroughly for tick bites each and every time after spending times outdoors. If you discover a tick attached to your skin, grasp the tick's head with tweezers and slowly pull it out. Be careful not to crush or twist the tick when removing it. Save the tick in a bottle or plastic bag, in order for easy laboratory identification in case you develop Lyme disease. If you develop a rash or any other symptoms, immediately seek medical help.
• Remember that even if you don't live in one of the identified regions, migratory birds can spread the ticks into new areas.

Fortunately for Canadians, the risk of Lyme disease is fairly low. By exercising these simple precautions, you can greatly reduce your risk of being bitten, or, if bitten, reducing the length and severity of the illness.

posted on Tuesday, 07 August 2007 15:14:30 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #   
# Wednesday, 18 July 2007
                 

Safety Issues Regarding Weight Loss Supplements

The rate of obese or overweight Canadians has significantly increased in the past 25 years. While the reasons for this increase remain complex and varied, the fact remains that obesity is a serious health issue. Being significantly overweight greatly increases the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoarthritis, certain types of cancer, as well as increased probability of suffering a stroke.

As the obesity rate increases, so has the market for weight loss products. While there are several prescription weight-loss medications available in Canada, these are intended only for people who are medically at risk due to obesity. These drugs should be used under the strict supervision of a physician, and to be used as part of a medically sound weight loss plan that also includes physical activity and a balanced diet. These drugs should never be taken without the approval of your doctor, as there can be side effects and/or health risks. You should only use these medications exactly as prescribed, and never share them. It is not advisable to order these drugs online, unless you have a prescription from your doctor.

There are also various natural health products that are readily available in pharmacies, supermarkets, health food stores and/or online. While some of these products are safe and/or effective, it is important to remember that there is no such thing as a magic pill that will miraculously make you lose weight. Any weight loss supplement, whether prescription or over the counter, will only work if it is a part of a weight loss plan that includes diet and exercise.

It is a common mistake to assume that over the counter diet aids are safe and effective. In fact, they could potentially lead to serious health concerns. If you are planning to use health products in order to lose weight, do some research and be informed about the potential risks of the products available. It is important to be aware of the ingredients in the health product you intend on using, and whether these ingredients can have an adverse effect when used with other drugs or foods. As well, these products may not be safe is you have other health problems or are elderly.

While it is impossible to list all the risks that are associated with all of the available products, here are some basic guidelines to help you make a wise, informed choice:

• Never use prescription weight loss medication that has not been prescribed to you by your family health care provider.  There are internet websites that will allow you to purchase these drugs without a prescription from your family doctor. Instead, you "consult" online with one of their "professionals". However, this can be very dangerous, as only your physician is completely aware of your medical history and health status. You may inadvertently be prescribed a medication that is harmful to you.

• Taking several different weight loss products together at the same time. Certain weight loss products and natural health products contain different ingredients that when combined may be harmful to you. These ingredients may also negatively interact with other medication you may be taking. Even if the product you intend on using does not need a prescription, consult with your health care provider in order to ensure that you plan on taking is safe for you.

• Be aware of who you're buying your product(s) from.  If you purchase these products online, be aware that not all websites are legitimate. Anyone can put up a website and advertise health products. These products, including prescriptions, may not be approved for sale in Canada because they are deemed unsafe and/or ineffective. Research the company that you are considering purchasing your health products from, and make sure that they are legitimate.


• Never take products in a manner for which they are not intended. Products like ephedra or ephidrene are authorized in Canada as a decongestant. However, they have been commonly misused as a weight loss supplement. Laxatives are also commonly misused in this fashion as well. These products are not intended to be used as weight loss supplements, and can cause serious health problems if used in such a manner.


• Do not assume that products are safe because they are advertised as natural.  Active components from a food substance can be extracted, concentrated and manufactured or sold as a natural health product. While the original food may in itself be safe when consumed in moderation, the higher doses found in the extract may be potentially harmful. This is especially true in the case of green tea, which is very safe, but where the highly concentrated form has been linked to serious liver damage.


• If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Many advertisements make claims that are not supported by scientific fact. Many supplements claim to suppress appetite, increase metabolism and/or block the absorption of carbohydrates or fat. Products that are authorized for sale by Health Canada have been assessed and determined to be safe and effective for their authorized purpose. However, unauthorized products can be harmful, and/or ineffective.

It is important to consult with your physician or health care provider before embarking on any weight loss plan. While medications and/or supplements can help you lose weight, it is important to remember that there is no pill that will melt off the pounds. It is essential to incorporate exercise and healthy eating into your lifestyle in order to shed the unwanted pounds.

If you have been denied health insurance due to your weight issue, you may want to purchase Guaranteed Issue coverage. This policy does not require any medical information or ask questions regarding your health. Please contact us if you have any questions regarding this coverage.

posted on Wednesday, 18 July 2007 12:36:57 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #   
# Tuesday, 26 June 2007
                 

Extreme Heat And Your Health

While most Canadians enjoy the hot summer weather, extreme heat can prove to be a problem for some. With global climate changes, certain parts of Canada are now experiencing prolonged heat waves. This, combined with exposure to smog, can cause adverse health effects in some people.

Being active outdoors is a great way to get exercise and maintain a healthy lifestyle. However, it is important to recognize the effects that extreme heat can cause in order to stay healthy. Your body must work harder in a heat wave in order to maintain it's normal core temperature. Smog can further complicate matters by making it harder to breathe normally. While some people may experience mild unpleasantness, others may be potentially suffer serious and/or life threatening illness.

A heat wave refers to three or more consecutive days with extremely high temperatures, usually combined with high humidity. It is also common for the temperature to remain high even during night time hours. This means that your body is constantly working overtime to keep cool. This pressure can aggravate pre-consisting conditions where the heart and lungs are already strained.

While most people may just experience discomfort in a heat wave, certain groups are more at risk. This includes:

• Seniors
• Infants and pre-school children
• Pregnant women
• Diabetics
• People with heart and/or respiratory disease
• People who play sports, exercise or do strenuous work outdoors for a prolonged period of time
• People who work outdoors, i.e. construction workers
• People who are currently taking anti-depressants, anti-parkinson's drugs, diuretics, sleep medications, anti-diarrhea pills and certain antihistamines
• People who are overweight

Prolonged exposure to extreme heat can cause symptoms, ranging from mild to severe. These include:

• Heat Cramps: painful spasms usually in the leg and stomach muscles. These are usually accompanied by heavy sweating. If you are experiencing this, move to a cooler place and lightly massage the affected muscles. Sip a half a glass of cool water every 15 minutes.
• Heat Exhaustion: even though sweating profusely, your skin is cool, pale, and/or flushed. Can be accompanied by a weak pulse rate, dizziness and/or fainting, vomiting, headache and exhaustion. People affected by heat exhaustion should immediately lay down in a cool place, and put on cool wet clothes. Slowly sip a glass of water every half an hour, unless nauseous. If vomiting occurs, seek medical attention immediately.
• Heat Stroke: also known as sun stroke. This occurs when body temperature is high, pulse is strong and rapid, and breathing becomes shallow and rapid. Heat stroke is incredibly dangerous, and can result in death. Symptoms include severe headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion and the skin is red, hot and dry, with no sweating. If you suspect you or someone else may be suffering from heat stroke go to the hospital immediately.

It is a good idea to pay attention to daily local forecasts, in order to be aware of any heat and/or smog alerts for your region. If you are susceptible to extreme heat and/or smog, try to remain indoors on those days where extreme heat is predicted. If you do plan on being outdoors on incredibly hot days, try to do so either in the mornings or evenings, when the temperature is not as hot. Dress in loose clothes, and make sure you wear a hat, as well as sunglasses. Remember to hydrate often, and bring water with you wherever you go. If you do not have air conditioning, find out if your city or town has cooling centres, where you can escape the heat if the need arises. You can also go to a mall, public library, etc. Try to avoid caffeine, alcohol, and beverages that contain large amounts of sugar, and these can cause the body to lose more fluid. Drinking sports beverages is also important if you have been sweating, as sweating causes the body to lose salt and minerals.

Although you may not be unduly affected by the heat, make sure that those in your family such as the elderly, etc. are taken care of. For those with small children, it is important to remember that they may not be able to handle the heat as well as you. Plan activities that you can all enjoy while getting some exercise.

posted on Tuesday, 26 June 2007 11:54:09 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #   
# Friday, 18 May 2007
                 

Canadian Mumps Outbreak

Ontario is the latest province to have reported cases of the mumps. 3 cases have  been reported in Toronto, with 6 other cases being reported in other parts of the province. Toronto health officials have issued a warning, due to the highly contagious nature of this disease. The outbreak originated in Nova Scotia, with over 200 people contracting the virus, which has also spread to New Brunswick, which has 40 reported cases. The cases in Toronto have been directly linked to a student from the Maritimes visiting the city without knowing he was carrying the disease, with 300 people reportedly being exposed to the virus.

This recent outbreak seems to have started with the student population in New Brunswick. 95% of the cases are attributed to university students. Due to the close living quarters, and social settings, i.e. classes, dining halls, etc. the virus has quickly spread. Any students traveling to or from New Brunswick need to aware of their health and any symptoms they might be exhibiting in order to stop the spread of mumps. While the mumps is typically not a serious illness, it can cause meningitis, hearing loss and inflammation of the testicles or ovaries, and inflammation of the pancreas. Pregnant women who contract the mumps are also at risk of miscarriage. For anyone who has a compromised immune system, the mumps can pose a potentially fatal health risk.

While Eastern Canada experienced a mumps outbreak in 2005-2006, Ontario has not been exposed to the mumps in recent years. Therefore, many people may not be aware of the symptoms, and how it is spread. The mumps is a highly contagious virus that is spread through saliva. It is spread through coughing, sneezing, kissing, and also through the sharing of food, cigarettes and drinks or contact with any surface that has been contaminated with the virus. Therefore, it is important to not share these items, or any other items that would put you in contact with another person's saliva. The symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches and pains, fatigue, loss of appetite and tenderness of the salivary glands. If you are experiencing these symptoms, and suspect you may have been exposed to the mumps virus, it is advised that you self-isolate yourself for a period of 9 days (other than to obtain medical care) in order to stop the spread of the virus.

It is assumed that people approximately of 40 years of age have a natural immunity to the virus. Depending on the province in which you reside, people between 12-17 have already had 2 doses of the mumps vaccine. It is important that you check with your health care provider to see whether or not your children have received both doses of the vaccine in order to prevent them from contracting the mumps virus. For the people that do not fall into these categories, consult with your physician to see if you have been vaccinated, and whether or not you should receive another. For the areas that are experiencing current outbreaks, you may be advised to receive another vaccination, especially students and people who work in the healthcare industry.

posted on Friday, 18 May 2007 11:57:43 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #   
# Monday, 16 April 2007
                 

Workplace Safety

How Stress At Work And Home Can Increase Accident Risk

Recent studies have shown that the rate of stress experienced by Canadians has greatly increased in the past 10 years. A major cause of this elevated stress stems from working longer hours while trying to also maintain a family. Many Canadians are either currently raising a family, or actively caring for elder family members, or both. With a large percent of families consisting of either single parents or with both parents working full time, demands on time, energy and concentration can be overwhelming.

A 2001 National Work-Life Conflict study showed that over half of the employees surveyed were either caring for children, the elderly, or a disabled person. 70% were active parents, 60% were caring for an elder, 13% were caring for a disabled person, and 13% were caring for both children and elders.  The survey also indicated that these employees are working longer hours with heavier workloads than those surveyed in 1991. Unpaid overtime rose substantially, as well as employees bringing extra work home. With the globalization of some companies, work-related travel has increased, as well as work hours in order to accommodate time zones. As well, one-third of employed Canadians do not take a vacation, or reduce their allotted vacation time by an average of 8 days, thereby not allowing themselves time for relaxation and rejuvenation.

Both of these factors greatly contribute to fatigue and stress, which in turn, elevate the risk of accidents. People who are fatigued and/or mentally focused on other tasks can create an unsafe environment, especially when driving or working in an environment where mental alertness is required. A study conducted by the University of North Carolina concluded that sleep-deprived drivers are comparable to drinking drivers in regards to the probability of being involved in a car accident.

As well as the higher risk of accidents, prolonged high levels of stress can be detrimental to one’s health. People who experience a high stress level for long periods of time are at risk for physical symptoms such as high blood pressure, increased cholesterol levels, increased levels of blood sugar and fatty acids, and increased stomach acids. These physical symptoms, if left untreated, can pose serious health risks.

This elevated likelihood of accidents on the road and in the workplace poses a risk for all. This increased risk also poses certain financial concerns. Many people would be unable to meet their financial obligations if they were suddenly injured and unable to work. Disability insurance may be one way to ensure that if you are ever unable to work due to injury or illness you will not be left without a monthly income. This coverage can be up to two-thirds of your current earnings, paid out monthly. Premiums are variable, depending on your occupation; for those in jobs considered dangerous, the premiums may be higher. Disability insurance is available either for short term or long term; discuss these options with an insurance broker to see which option is more suited for your needs.

posted on Monday, 16 April 2007 16:37:46 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #   
# Monday, 26 March 2007
                 

How Dental Problems Can Affect Your Overall Health

Many Canadians overlook the importance that oral health plays in maintaining their health. However, dental problems are more than just a cosmetic problem. Cavities and gum disease, left untreated, can lead to more serious health issues, such as heart disease, respiratory disease, diabetes and in the case of pregnant women, underweight babies. Poor oral health has also been linked to sleeping problems. Children who suffer from certain oral problems are also at risk of behavior and developmental problems. If a person cannot chew their food properly, or has to avoid certain foods due to pain and discomfort, there is a risk of not getting the proper nutrition.

Gum disease is an inflammation of the gums. This can not only affect the teeth and gums, but the bone supporting the teeth. Plaque that is not removed by daily brushing and flossing can harden into tartar and contribute to gum infections. If left untreated, gum disease can lead to serious health problems, including heart disease and strokes. Bacteria from plaque can travel from the mouth into the bloodstream, and has been linked to clogging of arteries, as well as damage to heart valves. It can also travel into the lungs, causing infections or aggravating existing lung conditions. People with diabetes are more at risk for contracting gum disease, which then puts them at greater risk for diabetic complications.

Women who are pregnant need to be vigilant about their oral health. Recent studies have indicated that gum disease in pregnant women raise the risk of premature babies with low birth weight, which in turn elevate the risk for later problems, including developmental complications, asthma, behavioral difficulties, and a higher risk of infant death.

If you are a smoker, you should be aware that smoking tobacco reduces blood flow to the gums. This means that your gums are not getting the oxygen and proper nutrients that they need to stay healthy. This increases your risk of bacterial infections. Smoking has also been linked to oral cancer. If you are a smoker, it is essential that you visit your dentist regularly.

Seniors are also high risk due to the fact that many are keeping their teeth longer. Seniors who still have their own teeth may have less access to dental services due to living on a fixed income, which may not make visiting their dentist regularly affordable. For those seniors residing in long-term care facilities, frailty, poor health and dependence on others make them especially vulnerable. Many minor dental problems may go unnoticed until they escalate and the senior is complaining of pain and discomfort. For those in poor health already, these infections may pose a serious health threat.

It is therefore recommended by Health Canada that Canadians visit their dentist regularly. Regular checkups and cleanings are the best way to prevent oral health problems, or stop minor problems from escalating into major health problems. For children, it is important to learn at an early age how to properly care for their teeth, and a dentist can spot potential problems that will affect them later in life.

Health Insurance Plans and Dental Coverage

For those who do not go to the dentist regularly because of the expense, dental coverage may be an affordable option. Coverage can be obtained with or without a medical questionnaire, depending on your needs.

HealthQuotes.ca offers FlexCare, which has provisions for DentalPlus. This comes with Core Benefits, and the option of either the Basic or Enhanced Plan. The Basic plan covers fillings, cleaning, scaling, examinations, polishing and certain extractions, with recall visits every 9 months. No medical questionnaire is needed, and acceptance is guaranteed. The Enhanced Plan is the same, with the added benefit of most extractions being covered, and recall visits every 6 months. The Enhanced Plan also has benefits that in the second year of coverage allow for oral surgery, periodontics and endodontics. Year three of your coverage allows for orthodontics, crowns, bridges and dentures.

FollowMe offers basic dental services, such as exams, cleanings, fillings, scaling, polishing, root planning, diagnostic and denture services. The Enhanced Plan offers endodontics and periodontics, and the Premiere Plan offers the same along with crowns, bridges, dentures and orthodontics.

You can compare Canadian personal health and dental insurance quotes online at your leisure, or speak to an experienced health insurance broker free of charge at 1-800-474-4474.
  
posted on Monday, 26 March 2007 18:18:35 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #   
# Thursday, 08 March 2007
                 

National Healthy Pregnancy Campaign

The Canadian Minister of Health, Tony Clement, has announced the launch of a 5 week campaign to raise awareness of health considerations for a healthy pregnancy. This 3 million dollar awareness campaign will focus around raising awareness in Canadian women about health issues regarding pregnancy.

The new Sensible Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy will offer Canadian expectant mothers the latest research and scientific guidance regarding health issues for delivering a healthy baby. This guide is offering information on behaviors that can have a negative impact on a pregnancy, as well as information regarding nutrition, emotional health and a pregnancy calendar.

If you are planning on starting a family, we recommend that you check your current health coverage to see whether or not it covers maternity issues and your new infant. As your family grows, so does your health insurance needs. FlexCare offers full coverage for expectant mothers, and newborns are automatically added to the same coverage, if the application is made within 30 days.

For more information on pregnancy and health issues, please visit http://www.womenshealthmatters.ca
  

posted on Thursday, 08 March 2007 15:02:04 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #   
# Wednesday, 17 January 2007
                 

Children's Fitness Tax Credit

The Children's Fitness Tax Credit came into effect January 1, 2007.  This tax credit hopefully will encourage parents to enroll their child(ren) in organized physical activities in order to combat the alarming child obesity statistics. By defraying the costs associated with children's organized sports and other activities, the Federal Government is hoping to offset the costs of registration and membership fees.

The tax credit is available up to $500 per child under the age of 16, in registration and membership fees for ongoing, supervised programs. Eligible programs must include a significant amount of physical activity which contributes to cardio-respiratory endurance, plus an additional physical component of: muscle strength, muscular endurance, flexibility, and/or balance. For parents of a child who is eligible for the disability tax credit, a separate $500 will be available, with a minimum of $100 being spent on registration fees.

By offering this tax credit, the Canadian government hopes to influence a whole generation of children on the positive benefits of physical activity and healthy life styles. Obesity and a sedentary lifestyle are one of the leading causes of juvenile diabetes. By encouraging children to become physically active, hopefully the rate of juvenile diabetes will start to decline.

Recent studies have estimated that a person with diabetes can incur costs for medication and medical supplies of between $1000 and $15,000 a year. These costs are not covered by your provincial health care plan. For those parents who have a child with juvenile diabetes, purchasing health insurance coverage can be an effective way of defraying these costs. HealthQuotes offers a ComboPlus Starter Plan which does not require a medical examination and covers diabetic supplies.

If your child has been diagnosed with diabetes, and you would like more information, please visit http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hc-ps/dc-ma/diabete-eng.php.
 

posted on Wednesday, 17 January 2007 19:08:30 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #   
# Wednesday, 29 November 2006
                 

Ontario Organ Donation


Organ donation is a topic that most Ontario residents think about briefly when renewing their driver’s licenses. It is however, becoming an increasingly controversial topic, with new legislation being proposed in order to increase the amount of donors. With medical technology constantly advancing, organ transplants are saving the lives of people who would otherwise be facing a very bleak future.


A private member’s bill has recently been introduced by New Democrat MPP Peter Kormos, with the intent of establishing new “presumed consent” rules. This new bill, if passed, would make organ donations automatic unless a patient had already refused permission.  Another bill, introduced by Conservative Frank Klees, wants to force every eligible Ontario citizen to respond yes, no, or undecided about their organ donation intentions. While both MPP’s have differing opinions on how to increase organ donations, both agree that changes need to occur in order to reach this goal. Currently, Ontarians can choose to sign an organ donation card, but this card is not legally binding. The choice to donate organs ultimately belongs to the deceased’s family.

Health Minister George Smitherman has stated that while he’s personally comfortable  with the concept of presumed consent, Ontario needs to further consult with the public before making any policy decisions. A team will be appointed to consult with the public and further study the issue.

A new law is already in place requiring 13 major Ontario hospitals to report to the Trillium Gift Of Life Network whenever someone dies in their facility, in order to find a donor match. This law has effectively increased the rate of organ donations in Ontario. With this rise in organ donations, some critics say that presumed consent may not be necessary.

It is important for every eligible person to carefully consider this matter, and make an informed decision on whether they would like to become an organ donor. For more information on organ donation, please visit http://www.giftoflife.on.ca/en/.

posted on Wednesday, 29 November 2006 11:55:33 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #   
# Thursday, 26 October 2006
                 

Canadian Men And Prostate Cancer


It is estimated that close to 21,000 Canadian men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer this year, and over 4,000 men will die as a result of the disease. With early detection however, prostate cancer is treatable, and sometimes, even preventable. Prostate cancer is the second most diagnosed cancer among Canadian men. With these new statistics coming out, it is vitally important that men become knowledgeable about prostate cancer and what resources are available to them.

While there is no evidence of one single cause of prostate cancer, there are certain factors that seem to increase the risk of developing this disease. These factors include:

Age:
Men 65 and over seem to be more at risk of developing this disease
Family history of prostate cancer:
If other men in your family have been diagnosed with prostate cancer, you are at higher risk.
Diet:
Men who consume a diet high in fat increase their risk level
Lifestyle:
Obesity and inactivity contribute to risk level of prostate cancer.
Ethnic Background:
Men of African ancestry tend to be more high risk of developing prostate cancer than those of Caucasian descent.

Men who fit one or more of these categories need to be aware that they are more likely than others to have or be at risk of having prostate cancer, and consult with their family physician about testing. It is generally recommended that men start getting tested at the age of 45.

If prostate cancer is detected early enough, there will be no symptoms. However, men suffering one or more of the following symptoms are strongly urged to talk to their family physician about testing:

  • A need to urinate frequently, especially at nighttime.
  • Difficulty starting to urinate.
  • Difficulty holding back urine.
  • Weak or interrupted flow of urine.
  • Painful or burning sensations when urinating.
  • Difficulty in having an erection.
  • Experiencing pain when ejaculating.
  • Detecting the presence of blood in urine or semen.
  • Frequent pain and/or stiffness in the lower back, hips or upper thighs.

These symptoms can also be indicators of other health issues, so it is important to have a thorough work-up from your doctor to determine the origin of your symptoms.

For men who are unsure of what questions to ask their doctor, or how to interpret their test results, the Prostate Cancer Research Foundation offers this information. Some other websites offering valuable information on prostate cancer and testing are:

These websites offer information on testing procedures, prevention, alternative treatments and support groups for those who are currently battling this disease. Ask your physician as well for information and informational sources regarding your health.
 

posted on Thursday, 26 October 2006 18:04:28 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #   
# Tuesday, 10 October 2006
                 

Flu Shots For Canadians

Once again, it is that time of year that Canadians are vulnerable to influenza. "Flu" season typically starts in November and ends in April. The flu is caused by the influenza virus, which causes a respiratory infection. Although the majority of Canadians recover from the flu, for some it can be potentially fatal. Pneumonia and other serious complications can set in, caused by influenza, causing serious medical problems.

Many Canadians are confused about what influenza actually is, and when they have it. Many times people misconstrue their symptoms of mild food poisoning as the stomach flu, which actually does not exist. The common cold can also be construed as the flu. Influenza typically has symptoms beginning with a headache, cough and chills, followed by a fever, runny nose and sneezing, and watery eyes. Loss of appetite is also common. Children may experience nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

There are certain populations that have been designated "high risk" and as such, are encouraged to receive yearly flu shots. This includes people who fall into one or  more of the following categories:

  • Infants 6-23 months.
  • Anyone with chronic heart and/or lung disease.
  • Anyone residing in nursing homes or chronic care facilities.
  • Anyone working in a health care related field with chronic exposure to the flu virus.
  • Anyone traveling to areas with a flu outbreak.
  • Anyone with diabetes, anemia, cancer, immune suppression, kidney disease or HIV
    Children on ASA therapy.

Those who should not get the flu shot:

  • Under 6 months of age.
  • Anyone who has a severe allergic reaction to eggs.
  • Anyone who has had a severe allergic reaction to a previous flu shot.

The flu shot can have some minimal side effects, the most common being soreness at the injection site. Fever, fatigue, and muscle aches are also common. These side effects are temporary, usually only lasting 1-2 days.

Consult your family physician about whether the flu shot is an option for you. For those who do not have a family physician, and wish to receive the flu shot, consult http://www.gov.on.ca for resources in your area.

It is important to remember that those showing symptoms of the flu need to avoid infecting others, especially those who are very young or very old who may become seriously ill if infected. If you suspect that you may be becoming ill, avoid anyone who falls into the high risk category. During flu season wash your hands frequently as a means of reducing your chances of catching the virus.
 

posted on Tuesday, 10 October 2006 16:39:46 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #   
# Wednesday, 23 August 2006
                 

Child Obesity and Health

Recent Canadian surveys are showing an alarming rate in the increase in child obesity. It has been estimated that over 500,000 Canadian children are obese or grossly overweight. Although medical factors can be to blame, lifestyle choices are also a common cause. Children are now spending more time playing video games and on the computer rather than participating in physical activities. As well, with time demands and financial concerns, nutrition seems to sometimes fall by the wayside.

The impact of child obesity can be a life-long obstacle that your child will be forced to overcome. Obese children tend to develop into obese adults. The health risks associated with obesity are alarming; these children are high-risk candidates for early disability, as well as premature deaths. Obesity also contributes to a decreased quality of life, as health issues may prevent the individual from pursuing their goals.

Childhood obesity can also affect your child's future insurance rates. As health status determines your health insurance, as well as life insurance rates, your child's health is important. Weight related health issues could potentially affect your premiums as much as smoking does. It is important to remember that while your Provincial healthcare assumes most health-care costs, they do NOT cover all costs.

For more information on childhood obesity, visit the Childhood Obesity Network at http://www.obesitynetwork.ca.

It is important for Canadians to be aware of their health, and to take positive steps in ensuring that the next generation of Canadians have the tools necessary to be as healthy and successful as we hope for them to be.
   

posted on Wednesday, 23 August 2006 15:10:50 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #   
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