# Thursday, January 7, 2010
                 
Travelers in Canada and the United States are experiencing delays in North American airports due to the recent incident aboard a Northwest Airlines flight. The flight had originated from Amsterdam and was scheduled to land in Detroit. A Nigerian man attempted to ignite an incendiary device on the flight Christmas Day, but succeeded only in starting a small fire. An Al Queda group in Yemen is claiming responsibility for the failed attack.

The Canadian government has announced that it has ordered 44 full-body scanners. Passengers departing from major Canadian airports and flying to the United States will then have a choice of either being scanned or submitting to a physical ‘pat down’ by an airport guard. The first dozen of the full-body scanners are due to be delivered by the end of next week and be operational by March. Airports in Toronto, Ottawa, Vancouver, Edmonton, Regina, Winnipeg, Montreal, Halifax and possibly Gander are the first Canadian cities to receive the scanners. Other unspecified locations will receive scanners in the later months of 2010. Until the scanners are operational the Minister of State for Transport is recommending that all passengers traveling to the United States through Canada be automatically subjected to the secondary screening program. This would entail passengers being asked to submit to a physical pat-down or a full-body scan in addition to the already existing security measures.

The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority has indicated that it will follow the recommendations of the federal privacy commissioner:
  • That the body scanners will be used only when a passenger fails a metal detector and then refuses a physical pat-down;
  • That the screening officers must be in a different room than the passenger and must not wear/have any identifying information.
The scan requires the passenger to pass through a stand-up probe that looks similar to a phone booth and takes approximately one minute. It works by projecting low level millimeter wave radio frequency energy over and around the passenger’s body. It is capable of peering beneath clothing to project a graphic three dimensional image of the person onto a computer screen in a remote room. There the security officer can detect weapons or explosive devices hidden beneath the clothing. The scan has already been approved for use in the United Kingdom as well as the Netherlands. In Canada the scan will not be used on anyone under the age of 18, due to the fears that the resulting images could possibly amount to child pornography.

For Canadians traveling to the United States, be advised that the new security measures will make wait times longer; allow for plenty of time to pass through Customs as well as the security checks. It is also advisable to call ahead and ask what exactly will the rules are regarding carry-on luggage and other items, i.e. laptop computers, cell phones.

posted on Thursday, January 7, 2010 4:39:31 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #   
# Monday, December 7, 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, December 7, 2009 2:40:24 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #   
# Monday, November 30, 2009
                 
When it comes to quality of lifestyle, Canada is the top destination for expats, according to HSBC Bank International. Following Canada as a desirable location for expats is Australia and Thailand in the number 2 and 3 spots. Expats rated qualities such as accommodation, food, entertainment, social and family life, education, childcare, healthcare, household goods, working hours and commuting distances, health, hobbies, among other things. Canada was also highly rated when it came to such issues as making friends and integrating easily into their new communities.

According to the study, the top ten locations for expats determined by quality of life are:

•    Canada
•    Australia
•    Thailand
•    Singapore
•    Bahrain
•    South Africa
•    France
•    United States
•    Spain
•    Hong Kong

The United Kingdom scored very poorly in the votes regarding quality of life, and was at the bottom of the list of considered countries. Canada also scored very highly when it came to:

•    Enrolling children into the Canadian public school system;
•    Being able to set up finances, utilities and healthcare in their new country;
•    Finding a new place to live;
•    Learning the local language;
•    Making friends not only with other expats, but with local residents.

Over half the expats that participated in this study have lived abroad for more than five years. Canada placed third in regards to countries for settling down; South Africa and Thailand are first and second. Expats under the age of 35 are most likely to return home at least once a year; three-quarters of those surveyed make at least an annual trip home. Those expats who live in Brazil are most likely to go home at least once a year, according to almost 94% of those surveyed. The study also showed that the longer an expat has remained in their adoptive country, the less likely they are to return home. Only one third of expats who have lived away from their original country for 10 years or more reported they have not gone home for more than 2 years.

One of the factors that expats consider when choosing a new country is the quality and cost of healthcare in their adoptive country. While Canada does provide basic, free healthcare for all of its legal residents and/or citizens, newcomers to Canada may face a 3 month waiting period when they first arrive before they are eligible to receive their provincial health card. In order to avoid costly medical bills during these 3 months, outside health insurance is recommended. In some provinces a simple visit to a walk-in clinic can start at $50.00 just for an initial examination and does not include prescription medications, further follow-up medical care, etc. Visitors to Canada insurance is an ideal health insurance plan to bridge this gap in order to have optimal health coverage during those months where the newcomer is uninsured.

posted on Monday, November 30, 2009 3:23:19 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #   
# Sunday, November 8, 2009
                 
The H1N1 virus is now being held responsible for the death of 31 Ontario residents; last week an apparently health 13 year old boy died within 48 hours of displaying symptoms of the swine flu. An investigation is also currently underway to determine whether or not H1N1 was also responsible for the death of a 12 year old girl from Waterloo. A total of 101 people in Canada have died as a result of this pandemic so far. As a result of the 'second wave' of swine flu in Ontario, people are now lining up to receive the H1N1 vaccine throughout the province, sometimes waiting the whole day to receive the flu shot.

Access to the vaccine is currently being limited to people who qualify as a 'priority status'. This includes all children between the ages of 6 months to less than 5 years, health care workers, pregnant women, and people who live in remote and/or isolated communities.  How the vaccine is distributed depends on the province of residence, as each province decides on how best to serve their citizens. Provincial health cards are not required at flu shot clinics, but proof of residence must be shown in order to prove that the person is indeed a resident of that province.

The H1N1 vaccine is an adjuvanted vaccine, with the exception of pregnant women who should receive a non-adjuvanted vaccine. This does not necessarily mean that the adjuvanted vaccine is harmful to pregnant women, it just simply hasn't been tested for this specific group; if there is no alternative, pregnant women can get the adjuvanted vaccine. An adjuvanted vaccine is a vaccine that includes a substance that boosts the individual's immune system as well as increases their response to the vaccine. The non-adjuvanted vaccine does not have this 'booster' element. Immunity to the H1N1 virus should begin approximately 10 days after the person has been vaccinated.

 Along with vaccinations, some regions in Ontario are also implementing swine flu screening centers in order to relieve the stresses of hospital emergency rooms. Community health units will be opening flu assessment centers; patients can receive medical advice, receive antiviral medications if necessary, and be referred to further medical help if deemed necessary. The majority of people who have already or will contract H1N1 will not need further medical treatment past a prescription, if that. Those with healthy lifestyles and a healthy immune system will simply become ill, but with no life-threatening consequences.

Check your specific region for what is available, and for vaccination centers. The vaccine is currently being distributed to physicians as well; your doctor may be able to book you an appointment for your flu shots.

posted on Sunday, November 8, 2009 3:13:52 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #   
# Thursday, October 22, 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, October 22, 2009 3:40:24 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #   
# Monday, October 5, 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, October 5, 2009 3:40:24 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #   
# Monday, September 21, 2009
                 
Vancouver Canada will be the host of the 2010 Winter Olympics and Paralympics Games that will be running from January 22 until March 21, 2010. The actual event schedule has not yet been released, and will not be until much closer to the actual games date. Vancouver is estimated to have 350,000 visitors to their city for this spectacular event; 10,000 worldwide media representatives be also be attending to cover the games.

Vancouver has some brand new venues that will be showcased during the Olympics, including:

•    Richmond Olympic Oval: Opened in December of 2008, this multi-use waterfront facility will be hosting all the speed skating events.
•    Vancouver Olympic/Paralympic Centre: Will be opening in February of 2009 and will be hosting all of the curling events.
•    Whistler Olympic/Paralympic Park: Opened in 2008, this will be the first Olymic venue to include all three Nordic events on one site: Cross-Country skiing, Ski Jumping and Biathlon.
•    Whistler Sliding Centre: Opened in December of 2008, this venue boasts the fastest track in the world and will host the Bobsleigh, Luge and Skeleton competitions.

Non-Canadian residents must purchase their tickets for through an Authorized Ticket Retailer from their respective National Olympic Committee. Although the majority of accommodations have already been reserved, there will be rooms available closer to the competition dates. For those who have yet to book their trip, it is wise to do so as soon as possible. This includes not only accommodations, but flights, car rentals, etc.

For those who are planning to visit British Columbia for the Olympics, but are not Canadian residents, it is important to realize that they will need travel insurance for their stay here. The 'free' Canadian health care system has been in the international news quite frequently; people may not understand that this does not apply to visitors to Canada. Non-Canadian residents who require medical treatment in Canada and do not have the proper travel insurance will be required to pay out-of-pocket; for a trip to a Canadian hospital emergency room, this can quickly add up to hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in medical bills. Even the average cost of visiting a walk-in clinic in Canada can start at over $50.00, which covers just the basic visit; any additional medications/treatments will be additional.

HealthQuotes.ca advises all non-Canadians to purchase Visitors to Canada insurance in order to make sure that your visit to our great country does not end in unexpected medical bills that can be very expensive. Travel insurance is quite inexpensive, and well worth the peace of mind should something go wrong.

posted on Monday, September 21, 2009 3:54:08 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #   
# Monday, August 31, 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, August 31, 2009 10:29:51 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #   
# Friday, August 21, 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, August 21, 2009 3:51:36 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #   
# Thursday, July 30, 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, July 30, 2009 7:53:19 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #   
# Monday, July 20, 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, July 20, 2009 5:36:24 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #   
# Monday, June 29, 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, June 29, 2009 2:27:59 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #   
# Friday, June 19, 2009
                 
Many Canadians have group health insurance which is provided by their employer. These insurance plans cover health costs which are not covered by the employee's provincial health insurance plan. This can include such expenses as dental care, vision care, prescription medications, etc. Depending on the group health insurance plan your employer provides, expenses such as physiotherapy, chiropractor, and speech therapist can also be covered, either partially or entirely.

Group health insurance is available for any business that has a minimum of 2 employees. This can be an easier and less expensive option to individual health insurance, as there may be less medical questions asked in order to qualify for health and dental benefits. Long term disability may also be included in a group plan; typically there is a 120 day waiting period for this benefit. However, individual long term disability coverage can be acquired with a typical waiting period of between 30 to 90 days, depending on the plan.

LTD insurance insures that a person will have an income if a sudden illness/accident prevents the insured person from working. It is designed to protect against the sudden loss of income, which for most Canadian families, can be financially devastating. Disability insurance pays a monthly benefit while the injured and/or ill person cannot return to work; this differs from critical illness insurance, which pays a lump sum even if the person returns to work.  Disability insurance is available for either long-term or short-term; it also is available on a guaranteed issue basis. Guaranteed issue disability is currently only available to residents of Ontario; however HealthQuotes.ca is working on expanding this coverage for other Canadian residents. Four questions are asked for this coverage:

•    Are you currently disabled?
•    Are you currently hospitalized?
•    Do you have cancer?
•    Are you HIV positive?

If the answer to these 4 questions is no, then enrolment in this LTD coverage is guaranteed, regardless of any other health concerns and/or issues.

Having this type of insurance coverage can be especially important during this tough economic recession. For those families that are living paycheck to paycheck, any loss of income can be disastrous for their financial well-being. An unexpected illness or injury can financially cause a family to suddenly not be able to pay their mortgage, car payments, etc. as well as big expenses such as university tuition.

Closely read your employee benefits package to see whether or not Long Term Disability insurance is included, and if so, how much you are covered for. Examine your monthly expenses and how much money is needed every month to adequately support your family. If you are not fully covered should an accident/illness occur, you may want to purchase more LTD coverage. A consultation with your insurance broker is usually free, so it won’t cost anything to ask questions if you are unsure about what type of health insurance coverage you have, and whether or not it is suited for your current needs.

posted on Friday, June 19, 2009 4:35:05 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #   
# Monday, May 25, 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, May 25, 2009 2:19:20 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #   
# Sunday, May 3, 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, May 3, 2009 9:35:02 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #   
# Wednesday, April 22, 2009
                 
Canada has now been in the news twice in the past week due to Canadian travelers experiencing difficulties. One incident was the hijacking of a Canadian commercial flight in Montego Bay, Jamaica, that was ultimately destined for Cuba. The other incident relates to Conquest Vacations not paying their bills, leaving Canadian tourists stranded as many were forced to come up with money for their hotel bills, which were included in their travel package.

Stephen Fray, a 20 year old Jamaican resident who has been described as being 'mentally challenged' stormed a CanJet Airlines flight, armed with a loaded gun. Fray forced his way past airport security, barging onto the jetliner and took the crew hostage. He fired a shot that grazed the co-pilot's face and then demanded to be flown off the island. The situation was ultimately resolved when a unit from the Jamaica Defence Force Counter Terrorism Operations Group stormed the aircraft and arrested the disturbed young man after 8 hours of negotiations did not resolve the crisis.

This incident however, is raising questions about airport security around the globe. In a post 911 world, where airport security has been dramatically increased, it's disturbing that an armed man with mental health issues could reach an aircraft with relative ease. Security personnel at Sangster International Airport are not armed. A former senior immigration officer at Pearson International Airport who is also an expert in terrorism and national security, said that this hijacking could have happened anywhere. He raises the question of airport security personnel being armed, being sufficiently trained to deal with this type of situation, as well the distance between the security check and the aircraft, where ideally there would be enough time and distance to intercept someone before they had the opportunity to approach a waiting plane.

Approximately 1,600 Canadian travelers were recently stranded when Conquest Vacations suddenly went out of business on April 15, 2009, citing the current economic downturn for their business failure. Other reasons that they stated for their now defunct operations includes price wars with other major tour operators, overcapacity and unrealistic and unreasonable demands by credit cards companies. When Conquest suddenly and unexpectedly (at least to Canadian consumers) shut their doors, they claimed that current vacationers would not be affected; however that statement has proved to be false. Canadians who were on vacations that had been booked through Conquest were suddenly faced with demands for their hotel payments, which they had already paid through their booking. Some Canadians who were stranded in Mexico reported that hotel security demanded payment immediately; if not paid they threatened to call Mexican police. Some were suddenly locked out of their hotel rooms until payment was made; there is a report stating that one traveler was denied their medication that was in their hotel room, and became quite ill as a result of this delay. As well, some vacationers who assumed they had a paid airline ticket back to Canada were faced with the realization that this was possibly no longer the case. With banks being closed on the weekend, some travelers had difficulties getting money wired to them in order to fulfill these unexpected financial demands. The hotels were demanding payment that Conquest had not honored, and had not informed anyone who had booked through them that this was a possibility.

Because Conquest has shut down business as opposed to filing for bankruptcy, Canadians who have booked through them and have paid in full will have to wait up to 6 weeks to get a refund on their credit card, as there is an investigation pending. For those who have already booked vacation time from work and booked their vacation, and do not have the financial resources to pay again while waiting for their refund, this effectively means that they're out of luck. All future bookings made through Conquest will not be honored; these vacations need to be rebooked through another tour operator. They will have to seek refunds through their travel agent, credit card company, and/or through Conquest itself.

There has been a lot of criticism regarding the Travel Industry Council of Ontario (TICO) and their responsibility regarding whether or not they adequately protected consumers. Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty says that the government owes it to Canadian travelers to examine whether or not TICO should warn the public when a tour operator is in financial difficulty. However TICO responds to this suggestion by saying that by warning the public of possible financial distress, tour operators could find themselves failing due to the publicity. Currently, there are no rules in place in order to prevent this situation happening again.

For Canadians who are planning a vacation abroad, it appears that the responsibility regarding this issue lies with the traveler. Although provincial travel watchdog agencies are trying to help stranded tourists, and are offering to refund their out-of-pocket expenses, this still does not totally alleviate the problems that these travelers faced. And with the economy still in a downturn, this could potentially happen again if other operators suddenly close their doors without any warning.

All inclusive travel insurance does offer some protection for stranded travelers. Depending on the plan, it can cover costs that are non-refundable when it comes to the sudden disruption of all inclusive trips, as well as covering unexpected medical costs. Canadians who are planning to leave the country for a vacation should be aware of what their travel insurance coverage includes, and adjust this if necessary. Every trip is different, depending on the destination country, tour operator, etc. It is highly recommended that all Canadians research and understand what their travel insurance covers. While all inclusive coverage may not be necessary for every trip, it may be a wise choice for some locations, as well as the type of trip planned.  For more information regarding the different types of travel coverage that are available, please visit our Travel Insurance page.

posted on Wednesday, April 22, 2009 5:40:59 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #   
# Tuesday, March 31, 2009
                 
IPSOS-Reid has just released a survey that shows 7 out of 10 seniors in Canada have mobility and/or health issues that affects their physical limitations as well as increases their risk of falling. 46% of these seniors do not use an assistive device, i.e. scooter, cane, walker. 63% of seniors who reported having a fall in the past year do not use an assistive device, even though life expectancy for seniors is reduced as much as 25% due to falls, as well as costing the Canadian healthcare system $1 billion annually.

According to these results, there is a major discrepancy between seniors who need these devices when the warning signs appear, and the willingness to do so. The survey indicated that two thirds of Canadian seniors believe that using an assistive device is a threat to their security; making them visible targets for crime. However, studies have shown that 9.5% were victims of reported crime in 2004; 28% of reported crimes were committed against people aged 15-24 in the same time period. Being stigmatized as 'old, vulnerable, frail, loss of independence, etc' were largely the number one reasons cited for not using a device that would not only improve their mobility, but help prevent falls.

Although the psychological impact of a senior feeling that they are losing their independence, assistive devices are intended with exactly the opposite in mind. They range from products that allow a person to bathe alone, help prepare food, to devices that assist with mobility. Grab bars, bath seats and non-slip floor mats greatly reduce the risk of accidental falls that occur when bathing, and can allow a senior to bathe unattended, thereby in actuality allowing them to retain their independence. Food preparation devices such as side-opening oven doors, height-adjustable cupboards and counters also allow for greater independence, giving a senior the equipment they need to safely and comfortably use their kitchens. Items such as automatic card shufflers allow seniors to continue their hobbies and enjoyment of life.  

It is estimated that one out of every 3 Canadian seniors will experience a fall at least once a year. Hip fractures are the most common injury, and approximately 20% of injuries sustained in falls will contribute to death. Health issues that can increase the risk of fall in seniors are:

•    Poor balance;
•    Decreased muscle and/or bone strength;
•    Reduction in vision;
•    Reduction in hearing;
•    Home conditions.

Almost half of all falls experienced by seniors occur in and/or around the home. Go through the home in order to determine where the possible danger areas are. Some suggestions for making the home safe:


Bathroom:

•    Rubber non-slip bath mat for the tub and shower.
•    Grab bars by the toilet and the bath which will help for sitting and/or standing.
•    Bath seat in the shower.
•    Raised toilet seat (if needed).

Living Room/Bedroom:

•    Clean up any loose wires and/or cords that may trip someone.
•    Reduce clutter and establish wide, clear walking paths.
•    Make sure that lights are all working (you may want to use a higher wattage light bulb now).
•    Use a cordless phone, this not only eliminates cords lying around, but allows the senior to have the phone with them always.
•    Ensure that scatter mats are of the non-slip variety. Normal scatter rugs are a hazard for slip and falls.

Kitchens:

•    Make sure that items that used daily are within reach, i.e. not in cupboards that require a mini-ladder to access them.
•    Store all heavy items in lower cupboards.
•    If you must use a step stool to access items, make sure it is a stable step stool that has a safety rail.
•    If you use floor wax, ensure that it is a non-skid formula.
•    Ask for help for any tasks that you do not feel that you can safely accomplish on your own.

Stairways:

•    Ensure that stairway lighting is well lit (this could include using higher wattage light bulbs).
•    Make sure that the handrails are safe and can safely accommodate weight.
•    For those who wear reading glasses, make sure you remove them before attempting to go up and/or down the stairs.
•    Take your time! Rushing up and down stairs is a major factor in falls.

Home Exterior:

•    Make sure that all walkways and outside steps are free of debris; especially in winter, make sure that all snow and ice are removed.
•    Keep the front entrance well lit.
•    Put all lawn and garden maintenance tools away in order to prevent accidentally falling over them.

If you are a senior who requires an assistive device that will improve your quality of life, check your health insurance coverage to see if these are included in your benefit package. Talk to your primary health provider about any issues you are currently dealing with; your physician can be very helpful in discussing products and devices that are suited for your needs. The Red Cross also has a ‘loan’ program for some assistive devices; consult with your local chapter.

posted on Tuesday, March 31, 2009 4:28:02 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #   
# Tuesday, March 10, 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, March 10, 2009 10:06:59 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #   
# Monday, March 2, 2009
                 

Most times, when Canadians think about insurance, they think only of the standard health and life insurance policies. For some, this may be enough; however, especially for self-employed people, as well as those who do not have the savings to maintain their lifestyle for a period of time, disability insurance may be a wise choice.

Personal Accident Disability Plans provide monthly payments that can fund expenses, and/or replace your income in case you become disabled due to an accident. Sickness Disability is also offered, providing you meet the qualification standards for this particular plan. These plans are guaranteed to be renewed to age 65, 70, or 90; the age limit will depend on the particular plan you select; as long as premiums are paid on time, your plan cannot be canceled.

This insurance is quite easy to apply for, with automatic acceptance and/or acceptance within 5 days of the application (the coverage starts on the day the application was signed), up to 90 days. Very few questions will need to be answered, so the application process is very easy for most.

The 24 Hour Compensation Plan includes features such as:

Accident Total Disability Benefits: This entitles the policyholder to payments of $2,000 a month which is paid each month on the first day of the disability if you become totally disabled due to an injury sustained in an accident. This amount is paid while the total disability continues for up to 2 years. This benefit does reduce to $1,000 at age 70. Totally disabled means that you were employed (minimum 30 hours a week) prior to the accident, and that you are unable to perform your occupation and are not working elsewhere. Otherwise, this means that you are unable to perform most of your routine daily activities.

Accident Partial Disability Benefits: If you become partially disabled due to injury, this plan will pay a partial disability benefit of $1,000 (50% of your Total Disability Benefit) for up to 6 months. If employed prior to the accident, partially disabled means that you cannot perform one or more of your important duties and cannot work full time. Otherwise this means that you are unable to perform a significant amount of your routine daily activities.

Accident Total Disability Benefit Adjustment: If your annual income decreases after you have applied for coverage, your Total Disability benefit, as well as claim payment and premiums may be reduced based on your new annual income.

Integration With Other Sources:  If your Total Disability claim is more than $2,000 per month, your claim payment may be reduced by the amount of disability benefits you receive from other plans.

The Accident Excess Medical Rider provides you with a reimbursement of the following expenses that you may have incurred as a result of an accident:

• Paramedical services of a licensed physiotherapist, osteopath, massage therapist, and/or chiropractor, up to $800 per accident;
• Semi-private or private hospital room expenses, up to $100 per day for up one year;
• T.V., radio and/or telephone rental expenses while hospitalized, up to $15 per day;
• Prescription drug expenses of up to $500 per accident, maximum 30 day supply of medication per prescription for all Canadian residents except those who reside in Quebec;
• Medical equipment expenses, i.e. hospital beds, oxygen equipment, wheelchairs, crutches, canes, walkers, etc. of up to $7,500 per accident;
• Medical supplies and prosthesis expenses of up to $7,500 per accident. This includes such expenses as artificial limbs or eyes, surgical stockings, orthopedic appliances (not including teeth), braces, collars, splints, casts, trusses, pressure garments, burn garments, medical dressings, etc.
• Prescription vision care expenses. This covers the full cost of 1 pair of prescription eyeglasses or 1 year supply of contact lenses, provided that these were not previously required or worn. Up to $250 per accident for the repair or replacement of existing prescription eyeglasses or contact lenses.
• Dental care expenses for the services of a dentist or dental surgeon, for up to $3,500 per accident for the repair of natural teeth or treatment of a fractured jaw.

Consult with your insurance broker to see if this type of coverage is best suited for your needs. You can also visit us at http://www.healthquotes.ca/Disability/ for more information regarding these types of plans.

posted on Monday, March 2, 2009 12:51:26 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #   
# Saturday, January 24, 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, January 24, 2009 4:20:55 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #   
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