Healthy Aging: Why genes from our mothers are not enough

shutterstock_593434751.jpgFor Mother’s Day

It’s that time of year when we think of our mothers and reflect upon the gift of life we’ve been given. Indeed, it is the very reason we are on this earth. What makes us unique and one of a kind is in our genes or genetic make up.

It is why family members look alike. It is also why some diseases such as diabetes, cancer or heart disease run in certain families.  These genes are the ones we are born with and cannot change. As a physician, when we assess an individual’s risk for chronic diseases, we take that genetic makeup, that family history into account.

Our genetic make up is a gift from our mothers (and dad’s too), it is not modifiable. There is a no return policy! However, it is often the modifiable risks, the ones we can change, that will make the biggest difference in our lives. For we all want not only to live longer, but also, to live those years in an active and healthy lifestyle, independent and with all our cognitive abilities.

While you may feel those years are some time down the road, it is never too late or too early to start thinking about healthy aging and what that means. It is time to make adjustments in your lifestyle so that you can live a longer and healthier life and act as a role model to your family.

Here are a few healthy aging strategies I counsel my patients to practice

  1. Eat a healthy diet of calcium rich foods such as leafy greens and dairy products or soy-based products if you are averse to dairy. Calcium from food products is ideal and we aim for 1200 mg per day from all sources. If you are eating well, you may be getting enough calcium in your diet and supplements are not needed.  Generally speaking, we all need Vitamin D supplements as we get little direct sunlight in North America and that is the common source of Vitamin D. Take Vitamin D daily–400-1000 IU’s for adults under 50 and 800-2000 IU for adults over 50.  That is a must!
  2. Eat Healthy. Follow the Mediterranean Diet that is rich in vegetables, fruits legumes and lean meats.   Women who eat more vegetables experience less risk of cognitive decline than their peers who eat fewer vegetables. The rate of cognitive declines the lowest in women who eat the most cruciferous vegetables and dark leafy greens. And there is a positive correlation between BMI (body mass index) and the rate of cognitive decline
  3. Exercise.  Use weight-bearing exercises that use your body weight such as walking, running, weight lifting to help to strengthen both bones and muscles, as well as improving your balance. Exercise with purpose. Running up and down the stairs doing laundry is not the same. You need to exercise to raise your heart rate a minimum of three to five times a week for at least thirty minutes to get the most benefit.
  4. Stay Socially Connected. It is important to stay socially active and connected with your friends and family. Doing Sudoku at home alone might be a good brain exercise, but it is not the same as being with people. Research shows that individuals who are socially connected live longer have stimulation to protect brain aging and overall have a better quality of life.
  5. Reduce Stress—Practice Mindful Meditation. While some stress can be a good thing and helps the brain cope with life- threatening situations, too much stress is harmful. If the stress is long term, it can raise the levels of cortisol, leading to weight gain. Chronic unrelenting stress, ages our telomeres, those caps that protect our cells. Mindful meditation and other activities that reduce stress has shown benefits such as an increase in the flow of oxygen rich blood to your brain. It is not only helpful to reduce stress for your emotional well being, it actually has a measurable physical impact.

So on this Mother’s Day and throughout the year, make a promise to yourself and your loved ones to stay healthy and follow the strategies I’ve outlined above. Taking care of yourself is not selfish, it is selfless as you will be there to take care of the ones you love…..and that’s the best gift of all.

Disclaimer

The material contained in this blog is for informational and educational purposes. Great efforts have been made to maintain the quality of the content.  However, it is strongly recommended that the treatment/management of any medical conditions mentioned here, should not be used by an individual/visitor of this blog, on their own, without consulting competent persons such as your doctor, or health care provider.   As always we encourage your comments on this blog or any others and hope you will join discussions.

 

 

 

Valentines Day – Straight From the Heart

Day 30Taking care of loved ones means knowing the signs of heart attack symptoms

Valentine’s Day as we know is a time to acknowledge your loved ones, showing your appreciation and yes, love. But I would suggest the most important thing you can do for those you care the most about, is take care of yourself and your loved ones. For taking care of yourself means you will be there, healthy and strong to take care of others. It is not selfish to take care of yourself, but rather selfless. Why? Because your family will suffer, if you don’t look after yourself, if you become ill, needy and not productive. And taking care of your loved ones is a way of showing love that will have a huge impact, more than chocolates or flowers.

So as we approach Valentine’s Day and all matters related to the heart, I wanted to talk about heart health and some of the issues involved in cardiac health.

The most common heart attack symptom is chest pain, central pressure over the chest or radiating to the neck, chin and left arm, often accompanied by nausea or shortness of breath. In women, we sometimes see variable chest pain or some type of pain, pressure or discomfort in the chest. But it’s not always severe or even the most prominent symptom, particularly in women. We also need to pay attention to other symptoms, such as:

Neck, jaw, shoulder, upper back or abdominal discomfort
Shortness of breath
Right arm pain
Nausea or vomiting
Sweating
Light- headed or dizziness
Unusual fatigue
These symptoms can be subtler than the obvious crushing chest pain often associated with heart attacks. And sometimes we downplay these symptoms.

Certainly if we really want to care for our partner, our family and the ones we love, we need to focus on how to increase the healthy manoeuvres and avoid heart disease. Instead of an extravagant high fat meal in a restaurant, why not consider a cooking class on low fat options? Instead of a sedentary activity, such as a movie, with snacks and junk food, how about trying a new activity such as hiking or snowshoeing? Or maybe a spin class or yoga?

While heart disease is the number one killer, many Canadians still don’t think of the disease as a personal concern. Lack of awareness may be a barrier to timely assessment and treatment. This Valentine’s Day, please take the time to assess your heart health and your families’ health for cholesterol and triglycerides and start to make heart healthy changes in your life.

See you at the gym!!

Disclaimer

The material contained in this blog is for informational and educational purposes. Great efforts have been made to maintain the quality of the content.  However, it is strongly recommended that the treatment/management of any medical conditions mentioned here, should not be used by an individual/visitor of this blog, on their own, without consulting competent persons such as your doctor, or health care provider.   As always we encourage your comments on this blog or any others and hope you will join discussions.

 

 

 

Top Trends in Preventative Healthcare

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Science and Technology Converge
Part I

As a passionate advocate of preventative healthcare and wellness, I am glad to see that there will be an increased focus on prevention, because many older people continue to have chronic diseases which overwhelm their daily activities and are not enjoying a good quality of life in their later years. It is worth emphasizing that while most of us will face some sort of illness in our later years, it is important to live a healthy lifestyle; get enough exercise, eat a healthy diet, avoid smoking, excessive drinking, sugar, salts and unhealthy fats and processed foods. That way we will cope with illness, aging and any disability in a strong and independent manner.

Advances in technology and science are making it easier for people to focus on preventative healthcare. In order to maintain a healthy lifestyle and for a more health conscious society, let’s look at some of the possibilities and opportunities.

 Wearable Technology will continue to grow! And why do I love it?

It seems we need to quantify every step, every workout, every morsel of food and every waking and sleeping minute of the day and as a result there is an ever-expanding range of technologies to support our need to chronicle our daily lives. Interest in mobile apps such as activity trackers like Fitbit will continue to capture consumer interest. According to a report by international consulting firm, PwC, “Adoption of health-related smartphone apps doubled in two years, from 16 percent in 2013 to 32 percent in 2014 and will continue. There are many fitness and activity trackers on the market today, it can be confusing.   PcMagazine, has an excellent article comparing various trackers and recommends you try them out before you buy. Once you’ve bought a fitness tracker, the next step is to integrate it into your daily routine, which I recently wrote about. “You’ve bought a fitness tracker—Now what!

What has worked for me is the challenge of maintaining my commitment by using my Fitbit, trying really hard to maintain that 10,000.00 steps per day. I appreciate a measurable outcome. And yup, I have learned once again, that “hectic does NOT equal aerobic”.

Disclaimer

The material contained in this blog is for informational and educational purposes. Great efforts have been made to maintain the quality of the content.  However, it is strongly recommended that the treatment/management of any medical conditions mentioned here, should not be used by an individual/visitor of this blog, on their own, without consulting competent persons such as your doctor, or health care provider.   As always we encourage your comments on this blog or any others and hope you will join discussions.

Six Top Tips For Healthy Aging

shutterstock_84108826.jpgA healthy older woman is active and independent. By active, I mean being able to do the things you want like meeting your friends, going out, and working out. You don’t have any limitations based on physical issues. Being independent is a more cognitive aspect o f health. It means you are able to do thins such as your own banking, your own housekeeping and travel without needing someone to go with you. You can live on your own, you’re not in any kind of institution.

What are the signs of healthy aging in older women?
There are several markers that are considered predictors for how well you are going to age in the next ten years. Those include:

  • Self-Assessment of quality of life
  • Body Mass Index
  • Ability to walk/run
  • Ability to squat down to the floor
  • Having a strong grip

What steps can you take?

The ability to grip and squat really speak to muscle strength and balance and overall physical fitness. The ability to squat is interesting become some women go walking or to exercise classes but may not be able to maintain their ability to squat. Being able to squat to the floor indicates strong posture and balance and decreases the risk of falling. Because if you fall, you are likely to break something and fractured hips lead to a 25% death rate.
Body Mass Index (BMI) is a measure that reflects the relationship between your weight and height. Healthy women have a BMI of between 20 and 25. Women in this range tend to do better life long, no matter what you’re looking at.
Eat Healthy More of the Time. Have lots of fruits and vegetables and reasonable amounts of protein. My daughter who is a dietitian advises an 80/20 rule. Eighty percent of the time, each a healthy diet based on Canada’s food guide. 20 per cent you can relax a little bit.
When it comes to exercise, you need to do two things; strength training to keep your bones strong and your upper body strong. And some form of aerobic exercise that elevates your heart rate for 30 minutes. Meaning you need to exercise with purpose-this is not walking the dog or have a hectic day, hectic is not aerobic.
Stay or become socially connected. A Canadian government study showed that social connectedness  is really important for healthy aging. And you will feel better than if you were isolated by staying at home.
Finally, medicine is a team sport. You and your doctor work in partnership to make good health decisions for you along with other practitioners; pharmacists, dietitians, physiotherapist and other healthcare providers.

* Excerpts taken from an interview with Dr. Brown in an article published in Mind Over Matter, Women’s Brain Health Initiative Magazine, 2014

#active #healthy #activeliving

Disclaimer
The material contained in this blog is for informational and educational purposes. Great efforts have been made to maintain the quality of the content.  However, it is strongly recommended that the treatment/management of any medical conditions mentioned here, should not be used by an individual/visitor of this blog, on their own, without consulting competent persons such as your doctor, or health care provider.   As always we encourage your comments on this blog or any others and hope you will join discussions.

 

So You’ve Bought a Fitness Tracker— Now What?

shutterstock_593935241You’ve finally decided to get into shape, need more motivation or just want another ‘toy’ to add to your growing list of fitness gizmos. So you begin to check out fitness devices. I started on-line and then decided to go to one of the big box stores to take a closer look. There are now so many of them on the market it can be daunting.
I was amazed at the variety of fitness trackers or ‘wearable technology ‘ as they’ re called on display. There are even trackers for pets and ones that will critique your tennis swing! I was totally lost. But quick relief, my daughter went online and bought me one!!! Whew, decision made.

So the first step is to decide what you want to track?
Steps, calories, heart rate, fitness activities besides walking or running or a combination of some or all, you can even measure the amount of sleep and awake time. Do you want one to wear on your wrist or discreetly on your person—in your pocket or attached to your bra?
Once you’ve made the choice the next step is to wear it for the first week—if you don’t regularly exercise then just wear it for a week to decide what you normally do –that would be your baseline.
Now that you know your starting point, it’s time to get moving.
Set a reasonable goal. Your fitness device might have a default goal — often 10,000 steps a day. From your baseline add 200-300 steps a day to increase your weekly total by 2,000. That’s an increase of about a mile a day. Keep building up until you get to 10,000.
When you look at calories burned, a reasonable goal is to increase by 250 calories a day. You can get that from 30 minutes of mild to moderate exercise. Or you could burn that amount doing some extra moving during the day. Grocery shopping for instance burns about 100 calories an hour for a 175-pound person.
Remember, to lose 1 pound a week, you need to create a 500-calorie deficit each day. The best way to do this is by eating a little less and moving a little more.
Pay attention to how you feel. On a day when you walk 1,000 more steps than usual, you may notice you feel great and want to do it again the next day.
Transform wasted time into steps. Once you’re aware of your steps, the most boring parts of your day become opportunities. On hold with customer service? Pace your house. Waiting to pick up your kids from school, arrive a bit early and go for a walk. Take the stairs when you can instead of the elevator.
Healthy aging can begin with baby steps! And as always, it is one step at a time!

#run #fitness #active #healthy

Disclaimer
The material contained in this blog is for informational and educational purposes. Great efforts have been made to maintain the quality of the content.  However, it is strongly recommended that the treatment/management of any medical conditions mentioned here, should not be used by an individual/visitor of this blog, on their own, without consulting competent persons such as your doctor, or health care provider.   As always we encourage your comments on this blog or any others and hope you will join discussions.

Why A Company Health and Wellness Plan is Good for Employees and Your Bottom Line

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In today’s times, it’s astonishing to learn that a whopping 5 million Canadians do not have a family physician. It’s even more alarming when you learn that nine out of ten Canadians have at least one risk factor for heart disease or stroke (smoking, high alcohol consumption, physical inactivity, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and or diabetes).
More Alarming Statistics:

  • Only 16% have it treated and under control
  • An estimated 2.4 million Canadians have diabetes
  • Almost 40% of Canadian adults are classified as having high blood cholesterol levels
  • 19% of Canadians (4.6 million) age 20-79 are hypotensive
  • Another 20% (4.8 million) are pre-hypertensive

For more alarming stats click here: The ROI of an Employee Wellness Program

Will things get better?
With the population of baby boomers aging and people experiencing hard economic times, more workers are delaying retirement and working well into their 60s—this means that better benefits are required to retain talent. Meanwhile, governments are actively looking to pass on healthcare costs to private sectors. That means fewer services and higher employer costs. However, the bottom line is that over 70% of all healthcare costs in Canada are related to chronic diseases, many of which can be prevented or better managed through more appropriate lifestyle choices.
How health and wellness initiatives add value to companies
By implementing these types of programs, the benefits to companies are indisputable. The programs help contain cost since an aging population means higher employer spending; they help the company compete for talent, especially considering that 61% of 30-year-old Canadians believe their employer has an obligation to assist them in maintain a healthy lifestyle; and they help to target health spending by measuring its returns on investment.
Why should companies care?
Our research shows that companies are more interested in the benefits of creating a culture of corporate wellness rather than the hard dollar costs. The following benefits may not be as measurable as reducing drug and disability costs, but employers rate them higher than cost:

  • Issues around productivity
  • Employee satisfaction
  • Loyalty, employee engagement, recruitment
  • Corporate reputation
  • Attracting talent

Initiatives don’t have to be costly. It could be something as simple as bringing in Weight Watchers, creating a joint program with a local gym, or offering healthy options in the company cafeteria.

#wellness #fitness #healthy #happy

 

Disclaimer: The material contained in this blog is for informational and educational purposes. Great efforts have been made to maintain the quality of the content.  However, it is strongly recommended that the treatment/management of any medical conditions mentioned here, should not be used by an individual/visitor of this blog, on their own, without consulting competent persons such as your doctor, or health care provider.   As always we encourage your comments on this blog or any others and hope you will join discussions.

Heart Disease in Women: Different Than in Men

shutterstock_58404043.jpgUnderstanding the symptoms

Although heart disease is often thought of as a problem for men, more women than men die of heart disease each year. One challenge is that some heart disease symptoms in women may be different from those in men. Fortunately, women can take steps to understand their unique symptoms of heart disease and to begin to reduce their risk of heart disease.
Heart attack symptoms for women

The most common heart attack symptom in women is some type of pain, pressure or discomfort in the chest. But it’s not always severe or even the most prominent symptom, particularly in women. And, sometimes, women may have a heart attack without chest pains. Women are more likely than men to have heart attack symptoms unrelated to chest pain, such as:

  • Neck, jaw, shoulder, upper back or abdominal discomfort
  • Shortness of breath
  • Right arm pain
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Light- headed or dizziness
  • Unusual fatigue

These symptoms can be subtler than the obvious crushing chest pain often associated with heart attacks. Women may describe chest pain as pressure or tightness. This may be because women tend to have blockages not only in their main arteries but also in the smaller arteries that supply blood to the heart — a condition called small vessel heart disease or microvascular disease.

  • Women’s symptoms may occur more often when women are resting, or even when they’re asleep. Mental stress also may trigger heart attack symptoms in women.
  • Women tend to show up in emergency rooms after heart damage has already occurred because their symptoms are not those typically associated with a heart attack, and because women may downplay their symptoms.
  • If you experience these symptoms or think you’re having a heart attack, call for emergency medical help immediately. Don’t drive yourself to the emergency room unless you have no other options.

#women #healthy #heartdisease

Disclaimer:

The material contained in this blog is for informational and educational purposes. Great efforts have been made to maintain the quality of the content.  However, it is strongly recommended that the treatment/management of any medical conditions mentioned here, should not be used by an individual/visitor of this blog, on their own, without consulting competent persons such as your doctor, or health care provider.   As always we encourage your comments on this blog or any others and hope you will join discussions.