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.

Understanding cholestrol-the good, the bad, and the guidelines

Heart disease is the number one cause of death in Canada, which makes prevention of heart disease so important. Some risk factors for heart disease unfortunately cannot be changed, including your genes, gender and ethnicity. There are many other factors, however, that you can control. These are called modifiable risk factors, and include high blood pressure, obesity, smoking, diet, exercise levels, and high cholesterol. But what level of cholesterol is considered to be high, and how does your doctor determine whether or not cholesterol-lowering medication is right for you?

You may have heard of “good” cholesterol and “bad” cholesterol. Good cholesterol is called HDL and bad cholesterol is LDL. LDL cholesterol is used as the primary target when deciding whether your cholesterol is at target or not. Target cholesterol levels differ according to risk category; if you are a low-risk individual, we accept higher LDL levels than we do for high-risk individuals. So the first step that your doctor takes when assessing your cholesterol profile is determination of your risk category. This is done by calculating what’s called a Framingham Risk Score, which takes into account your age, gender, total and HDL cholesterol levels, smoking status, blood pressure, family history, and whether or not you have diabetes.

A Framingham Risk Score of less than 10% is considered low-risk, and for these individuals an LDL level of less than 5.0 is considered acceptable. Individuals with a risk score of less than 5% can have their cholesterol rechecked in 3-5 years, while those with a risk score of 5-9% should have their cholesterol levels repeated yearly. Framingham Risk Scores between 10 and 19% fall into the moderate-risk category. The target LDL level for moderate-risk individuals is <3.5. Levels greater than 3.5 should be treated with cholesterol-lowering medication. However, cholesterol-lowering medication will also be recommended if your LDL is less than 3.5, but a different marker called non-HDL is elevated. Finally, Framingham Risk Scores of 20% or greater are considered high-risk. Treatment with cholesterol-lowering medications will be considered for all high-risk patients, regardless of LDL cholesterol levels.

Your doctor will discuss the specifics of cholesterol-lowering medication with you if it is indicated based on these guidelines. For some individuals, lifestyle modification can be tried before medication in order to help lower cholesterol levels. For others, however, medication may be required at the outset depending on risk level and degree of elevation of cholesterol levels. Whether you require cholesterol-lowering medication or not, everyone should try to implement the Canadian Cardiovascular Society’s recommendations for a heart-healthy lifestyle:

1.    Diet with reduced saturated fats and refined sugars
2.   
Weight reduction and maintenance
3.   Exercise: 150 mins/week of moderate activity (i.e. brisk walking, biking, swimming, etc.
4.   Quit Smoking
5.   Limit alcohol to no more than 1-2 drinks/dayTo learn more about dietary fats from the Heart & Stroke Foundation, click here: http://www.heartandstroke.on.ca/site/c.pvI3IeNWJwE/b.3581947/k.D7AE/Healthy_Living__Dietary_fats_oils_and__cholesterol.htm

 

 

Losing weight the successful way

As a family physician, I am often asked, what is the best diet to lose weight. The answer is that all of the well known popular diets whether it’s low fat, low-carb or high fiber is all pretty similar.  The most important part is not the diet or weight loss plan you choose, but sticking to it.  We have a hard time over a sustained period of time staying motivated and following a plan.  Ashley Grachnik, RD, CDE, a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator recommends these five strategies to lose weight successfully.

Losing Weight – the Successful Way

How do I lose weight and actually keep it off this time?” 

As a Registered Dietitian focusing on Diabetes prevention and management I get this question
all the time.  I see patients who have tried every diet and weight loss trick in the book.  Most of the time they are able to lose some weight but eventually, and inevitably it seems, the weight creeps back on.  This usually happens because of extreme short term changes like cutting outentire food groups which are not sustainable in the long run.  Most people know they should be eating balanced, healthy meals but they don’t always
recognize other behaviour changes that can help with long term success.  So here are my suggestions for healthy eating and changing food behaviours, not dieting.  Healthy eating nourishes the body, prevents diseases and keeps you at a healthy body weight while healthy food behaviours set you up for
success.  You want long term success? Read on…

  1. Change your relationship with food

Food is not your friend or your enemy.  Food should not comfort you when you’re sad, relieve your stress when it’s been a tough day or reward you when you’ve done something good.  Food is your body’s nourishment, just like air and water.  So what does your body really need to be sustained? – Healthy carbohydrates, fat, protein, vitamins and minerals.  When you’re emotional – sad, happy, stressed, angry, tired – find something else to do about it that doesn’t involve the kitchen or the drive thru.  I know this is easier said than done but starting to identify those times when you turn to food as emotional comfort or reward is the first step to changing your relationship with food.  To help you, write down a list of all the things you enjoy doing that doesn’t involve food.  Put that list on the fridge or cabinet and when you’re about to reach for food that list is in your face reminding you to turn around and try something else other than eating.

  1. Find support

Changing your habits is difficult but it’s easier when you have people in your corner cheering you on.  You don’t need the food police, that is not supportive, you need friends or family who will encourage you through your journey without judging your setbacks.  And there will be set backs.  If you’re not comfortable talking to your friends or family I suggest turning to the online community.  I’m not talking about joining a diet club online as you might get a lot of misinformation about what healthy eating really means.  I’m mean a chat room or blog about the challenges you face trying to eat healthy and stay on track.  So many people around you are trying to do the same thing as you and you can easily support each other through the tough hurdles of healthy eating and weight loss.

  1. There is no such thing as will power

I truly believe that will power doesn’t exist.  Or if it does it is finite and runs out way too quickly.  So rather than have all sorts of temptations easily accessible to the point you have to fight with yourself NOT to give in, why not set yourself up for success?  Create an environment where you don’t have to fight, where all your choices are easy and healthy.  That means there is no ice cream in the freezer, chips in the cabinet, or pop in the fridge.  When you open anything in your kitchen it is healthy.  Involve your family too – make the house a haven for health and everyone at home will reap the benefits.

Another challenge against “will power” is eating out.  If you’re going to someone’s house for dinner bring a salad, veggie platter or fruit salad so you know at least one option will be healthy.  Don’t go to an all you can eat buffet.  Choose, instead, to go to a restaurant where you know there are healthy choices on the menu or you can ask for healthy substitutions.  Study the menu online or call ahead before you go to ask questions about how dishes are prepared and what kinds of substitutions are possible.  Bottom line: healthy choices are only as hard as you make them.

  1. Enjoy a treat every once in a while!

If it’s your birthday, have some birthday cake.  If you’re at a wedding, have some wedding cake.  Don’t be that person who is on a diet so you can’t ever eat anything unhealthy until you’ve reached your weight goal so you can completely fall off the wagon and indulge in excess.  Allow yourself little treats now and then.  If you’ve been eating healthy and exercising then there is nothing to feel guilty about when you treat yourself to some birthday cake.  Notice I’m using the word “treat” and not “cheat” – this goes back to point number 1 and having a healthy relationship with food.  If you consider food just what it is, then a treat now and then isn’t a negative.  Relax and enjoy and don’t feel guilty.  And if you really want to ensure a little treat won’t be a big set back for you then plan some extra exercise that day before or after the birthday party or wedding.

  1. Make your health your number 1 priority

Yes, healthy living (eating and activity) takes time and planning.  Far too often the excuse for running to a drive thru or skipping the gym is that you just didn’t have time.  If you don’t make time for your health now, you’re going to have to make time for illness later.  And health is a much better thing to make time for.  So re-prioritize.  Take a careful look at everything you do in the day and shift around the importance.  Grocery shopping for healthy food, time to cook and prepare healthy food, and time for some physical activity should be top on the list.  If you find time to sit in front of the TV or computer at all in the day, those activities should move lower than your health on the priority list.  Or if you’re too tired at the end of the day then take a good look at what you do in the beginning of the day and move your health to the start.  No better time to focus on your health then today, so what are you going to do today that is healthy?