Let's stop being part of the problem and become part of the solution. Talk to your MP about the importance of restricting asbestos mining in Canada. We'll all breathe easier.
The following infographic illustrates the global impact of asbestos on health (courtesy of Devin Jollimore, Mission Safety Services, http://www.missionsafety.com/training/first-aid-cpr).
Let's stop being part of the problem and become part of the solution. Talk to your MP about the importance of restricting asbestos mining in Canada. We'll all breathe easier.
With the weather ups-and-downs of early winter, the cold and flu viruses have started to circulate and people are asking for tips to ward them off. Here are my favourites:
Wash your hands. Wash your hands. Wash your hands.
Hand sanitizers are OK for immediate urgent clean-ups but they can dry out your skin too much so use them judiciously. Proper hand washing is the best way to go, and by “proper” I mean at least 20 seconds of vigorous scrubbing with soap and hot water.
Avoid touching your face.
This is a tough one for many people; I know I touch my face unconsciously many times each day. It’s important though because viruses attack your body by entering through the moist surfaces of your eyes, nose and mouth. Use a tissue or your sleeve to cover a cough or a sneeze rather than your hand. Disinfect surfaces at home or the office by spraying water that contains some rubbing alcohol and an essential oil such as lavender, tea tree or thyme.
Maintain your hydration level.
Those moist surfaces that are the points of entry for viruses are at their weakest when they are dry, so keep them healthy by maintaining your hydration level. Make sure you’re drinking your 2 liters of water per day, and use a humidifier at home and work – even just a cup of water sitting on your desk can add to the ambient humidity.
Deploy the Nutritional Standbys
Winter is hard on our bodies, and a little nutritional support can make a big difference to how well our immune systems function. Some key items at this time of year are Vitamin C, Vitamin D3 and zinc. Check with your MD, ND or pharmacist before taking any supplements and ensure your diet is packed with these nutrient sources:
Beef, bell peppers, broccoli, herring, lamb, mackerel, mushrooms, salmon, sardines, scallops, spinach, strawberries and tuna
My holiday wishes for you: that you ward off any viral beasties that come your way, and that any infections that do occur are minor and brief.
This post originally appeared in Quora.
Recently, a Twitter follower asked me what she could do about deteriorating quality and quantity of sleep, and advised she is taking the medication pregabalin, also known as Lyrica.
Bad sleep is a hallmark symptom of fibromyalgia, but it can also be caused by many other conditions. Because fibromyalgia results in so many symptoms, it is important that people living with it do NOT assume that new symptoms arefibro-related. Poor sleep should be assessed as a potentially independent condition, and a sleep study may be warranted to identify the various things interfering with restful sleep.
Pregabalin (Lyrica) is a medication prescribed for fibromyalgia with a long list of things with which it interacts (See page on drugs.com at Pregabalin Drug Interactions - Drugs.com). People who are taking pregabalin should be very cautious about consuming over-the-counter medications or natural (herbal) remedies, and should not do so without advice of a doctor or pharmacist.
Fortunately, there are a number of things one can do to improve sleep that won't put you at risk for a potential drug interaction. You'll find many of them listed here: Healthy Sleep but I'd also like to add this suggestion: People with fibromyalgia are often sensitive to the relative concentrations of macro nutrients (especially carbohydrates and proteins) in their diets.
Many feel more alert and have less brain fog when they eat smaller amounts of carbohydrates. Unfortunately, this can contribute to a "wired" state at night. If this is the case for you, try increasing the ratio of carbohydrates to protein in your evening meal. For example, have pasta without meat or a vegetable stir fry with rice. That change, on its own, may be enough to make the difference.
Learn more about how to live well with fibromyalgia at http://www.fibrowellness.ca/
Concern among the general public and scientific communities about obesity has resulted in the development of all kinds of diet aids: low fat this, low carb that. On the low carb side of things, we've seen a proliferation of sugarless sweeteners being touted as the way to satisfy your sweet tooth without packing on the pounds.
I've stated previously that artificial sweeteners are problematic, and can actual contribute to weight gain.
A recently published study sheds some light on why we crave sweets and may help us to understand how we can satisfy those cravings and maintain a healthy weight.
The study looked at the glucose metabolism of the brains of rats who had been kept in a fasting state. It involves an enzyme, glucokinase. When the rats were offered pure glucose or foods high in glucose along with a regular diet, they preferred the higher glucose sources. The longer the rats fasted, the higher their levels of glucokinase, and the more they preferred high glucose foods. The converse was also found to be true: lower levels of glucokinase activity led to lower glucose and overall food consumption.
The study looked at whether or not a sweet substitute, fructose, would satisfy the fasted rats in the way high glucose foods did and found that it did not. This suggests the regulation of sugar intake by glucokinase is specific for glucose.
Some of the study's findings are believed to hold true for humans. Studies have shown people with mutations that lower levels of glucokinase have lower body weights; those with mutations that raise levels of glucokinase have higher body weights.
The authors' conclude:
This mechanism may explain the observation that diets high in carbohydrate are associated with weight gain in mice (62) and why low glycemic index diets produce weight loss (41). It also provides a possible CNS mechanism to explain the often-described phenomena of the “sweet tooth” and carbohydrate craving, particularly for high glycemic index foods.
Sucralose Affects Glycemic and Hormonal Responses to an Oral Glucose Load
Glucokinase activity in the arcuate nucleus regulates glucose intake.
Familial hyperglycemia due to mutations in glucokinase.
The second activating glucokinase mutation (A456V): implications for glucose homeostasis diabetes therapy.
It's prostate cancer awareness month and prostate screening has been making news recently. One of the standard screening tools, the PSA (prostate-specific antigen) test, has come under scrutiny. Some experts advise that the test should be dropped, others say it still has value. Who's right? If we drop the test, does this mean that men will no longer be screened for prostate cancer?
PSA is an enzyme that is secreted by cells in the prostate gland. It helps to liquefy the semen to make it easier for sperm to move, and may help facilitate the passage of sperm into the uterus by dissolving cervical mucus. It is normally present in small quantities. Prostate disorders, including prostate cancer, may result in higher levels of PSA.
Research on prostate antigens began in the 1960's. By 1987, work was underway to define the value of PSA as a clinical marker of prostate cancer (1). From the beginning, this was considered controversial because while PSA rises with development of cancerous tumors, it also increases for other reasons, such as the presence of benign prostatic hypertrophy, and in response to procedures such as prostate massage, needle biopsy and resective surgery.
A 1986 study conducted by a company researching PSA testing concluded that a "normal" test result would be below 0.4 ng/ml based on observations of over 400 apparently healthy men (2). Experts at the time the test came into clinical use acknowledged that the cut-off was arbitrary, and that it tended to detect changes unrelated to the presence of cancer (3).
To further complicate matters, it seems the term "prostate-specific antigen" is inaccurate, because the antigen is not, in fact, specific to the prostate and its secretions. It is also detectable in amniotic fluid, breast milk, and the urine and serum of women (4).
So, the good news is we have a test. The bad news is the test results may be misleading.
In 1987, before the PSA test was in widespread use as a screening device, the approximate number of new prostate cases in Canada was 8,200 and the number of prostate cancer deaths was 2,800. The numbers for 2013: 23,600 new cases, and 3,900 deaths (5), (6), (7). Survival rates improved from about 86% in the 1992-94 period to about 95% in the 2006-2008 period (7).
It's clear that more cases of prostate cancer are being detected and successfully treated. What about harms from over-treatment?
The PSA test is known to have a high rate of false positives; this can lead to invasive investigations of healthy men. It's sensitivity can also result in the detection of small, slow-growing cancers that would never require treatment - the problem here is the idea of living with a cancerous tumor, even one that is not a health-threat, may frighten people into demanding care they do not actually need. These limitations make reliance on the PSA test as a major screening tool a problem.
Stepping back from routine use of the PSA test does not mean we are abandoning screening. It means we should rely more on physical examinations, supported by additional testing (such as the PSA test) when the person's medical risks and exam results indicate these are warranted, in accordance with the new Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care guidelines.
(1) Stamey, Thomas A., et al. "Prostate-specific antigen as a serum marker for adenocarcinoma of the prostate." New England Journal of Medicine 317.15 (1987): 909-916.
(2) Myrtle JF, Klimley PG, Ivor L, Bruni JF (1986). "Clinical utility of prostate specific antigen (PSA) in the management of prostate cancer". Advances in Cancer Diagnostics. San Diego: Hybritech Inc.
(3) Kolota, Gina (May 30, 2004). "It Was Medical Gospel, but It Wasn't True". The New York Times.
(4) Laux, Dale L., and Sarah E. Custis. "Forensic detection of semen III. Detection of PSA using membrane based tests: sensitivity issues with regards to the presence of PSA in other body fluids." Midwestern Association of Forensic Sciences (2004).
(5) Canadian Cancer Society: Canadian Cancer Statistics 1987, Toronto 1987 via http://bit.ly/1wuBg3T
(6) National Cancer Institute of Canada. Canadian cancer statistics 2000. Toronto, Ont: National Cancer Institute of Canada; 2000. via http://bit.ly/1rZccvs
(7) Canadian Cancer Society’s Advisory Committee on Cancer Statistics. Canadian Cancer Statistics 2013. Toronto, ON: Canadian Cancer Society; 2013 via http://bit.ly/1rZoeF0
I was recently asked by someone on Quora to answer this question:
How did you overcome serious mental, emotional, and or physical burn-out and exhaustion?
Burnout is a common experience. In some professions, burnout rates exceed 25% (1). If you haven't experienced it yourself, you probably know someone who has.
From a health standpoint, burnout has been found to be associated with low levels of physical activity, obesity, exhaustion, heavy drinking, and diminished professional efficacy (2).
Obviously, it's a personal and social problem that warrants attention.
I'd like to share my response to the Quora question, which included the following comments:
I think serious burnout results from the interplay of circumstances and personality. Circumstances would include things like your job, financial and relationship stresses. Personality factors would include things qualities such as ambition/drive, altruism, and degree of comfort when setting boundaries, along with the existence of, or vulnerability to, other conditions, such as depression and anxiety.
As is the case in most instances of recovery, the first step is to acknowledge you have a problem. If you continue to think you have to "tough it out", or that ignoring it will make it go away, you will continue to have episodes of burnout.
It's too easy to say "just stop". That's not always feasible. Some people don't have the option of quitting their jobs or leaving difficult relationships.
The things that helped me most to recover were these:
The most important steps were the first and the last. Wayne Dyer says:
“Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.”
It's true, and completely under your control.
10 Life Changing Tips Inspired By Wayne Dyer
(1) Dyrbye, Liselotte N., et al. "Burnout among US medical students, residents, and early career physicians relative to the general US population." Academic Medicine 89.3 (2014): 443-451.
(2) Ahola, Kirsi, et al. "Burnout and behavior-related health risk factors: results from the population-based Finnish health 2000 study." Journal of occupational and environmental medicine 54.1 (2012): 17-22.
Ever since its link to cancer and lung diseases was established, asbestos has been in the news on a recurring basis. Recently, concerns have been raised about why Canada continues to engage in the trade of this dangerous substance.
Asbestos was first discovered in North America in the province of Quebec in 1860. By 1898, the medical community was suspecting it was harmful to health. Why did it take so long to raise suspicion?
Asbestos-related lung diseases are slow to emerge, taking 30 years or more to develop, depending on the kind of illness. By the 1950s, occupational disease studies were underway that eventually established that workplace exposure levels of asbestos were sufficient to cause these diseases. Mesothelioma currently accounts for the deaths of approximately 200 Canadians per year with new cases emerging at a rate of approximately 500 per year. Each case is estimated to cost over $500,000 in healthcare expenses and lost earnings.
Asbestos is a fibrous mineral, found naturally in six forms. The chrysotile form is the main type that is used commercially now, primarily for cement products, brake linings and roofing products. Since 1975, global demand for asbestos has dropped dramatically as many countries have restricted or completely banned its use in response to concern about asbestos-related illnesses. The impact of this drop in demand has resulted in the elimination of Canada's chrysotile asbestos mining industry, which began around 1878 and ended in 2011 with the closure of the final two mines located in Quebec.
The end of asbestos mining in Canada did not end of our affair with asbestos, however. As recently as last year, Canada was still importing raw asbestos and asbestos-containing products such as brake pads, pipes, tiles and clothing in amounts totaling about $4.9 million. For context, $4.9 million represents about 0.00069 % of Canada's annual imports. Given its tiny contribution to the economy and the alternatives available, you have to wonder why it is necessary to bring asbestos into the country.
In 2012, the Canadian federal government agreed to end its support of foreign asbestos mining and to stop opposing efforts to have asbestos listed as a dangerous substance as part of an international effort to protect people in developing countries from exposure under the Rotterdam Convention. But it continues to defend asbestos imports, saying asbestos is only dangerous when exposed to the air. Unfortunately, that can easily occur when asbestos-containing products are damaged, and at that point, there is no safe level of exposure.
It's time for the Canadian federal government to do the right thing and ban asbestos.
From time to time, I get asked about health information that is circulating in emails on the internet. Some examples include:
I always investigate the claims made in these emails and invariably find the majority are false.
For the sake of your well-being and peace of mind, I recommend you develop some healthy skepticism if you receive one of these alarming emails, even if it comes from someone you know or what seems to be a credible source.
How do you check the veracity of these warnings? Here are a few tips:
If that sounds like too much work, consider this:
If you forward one of those emails to someone who acts on the information, believing it to be truthful because it came from you, and that person suffers as a result, you bear some responsibility for the harm they experience. Be wise, be a bit skeptical.
My brother, sharp guy that he is, recently shared a brief article with me that comments on the costs of workplace stress.
We all know that stress can undermine health. It won't surprise you that workplaces have been found to be a significant source of stress. This article put Canada's cost of work-related stress at $22 billion in lost productivity.
Today, I came across an article in Forbes about the waste, costs and harm generated in the American healthcare system. The same observations apply in Canada.
What’s the connection? Actually, there are several. Healthcare workplaces are often highly stressful. Healthcare workers, including doctors, are stressed. Stressed workers are more likely to make errors in judgment. Their stress may also heighten anxiety about the consequences of errors, driving them to either cover up mistakes, or engage in the kind of “cover your ass” activities that make organizations bureaucratic, inefficient and ineffective.
Few workplaces do much to mitigate workplace stress. Larger companies may offer their employees Employee Assistance Programs that include psychological counseling, as if there should be no limit to the amount of stress an individual can handle, and if you can’t handle it you just need some coaching. No one seems to be questioning the reasonableness of burgeoning workloads and 24-7 accessibility. For employees in smaller companies that don’t have these programs, there may be no help at all.
As a result, we have stressed-out healthcare workers attempting to remedy their own degrading health and that of other stressed-out workers and failing (since a $22 billion loss in productivity must surely be viewed as a collective failure) because all the attention is on the response to stress, not the causes of it.
So, what do we do about it?
The costs of workplace stress are individual AND collective. Billions of dollars are being wasted because employers are not considering how work practices contribute to stress and illness. It’s time to get our business and industry leaders engaged in positive, creative discussions about stress mitigation.
My brother recently shared a short essay that pertained to topics that I also write about often: gratitude, cultivated happiness and their impacts on resilience and overall health. I thought you might enjoy reading it too.
THE BACK NINE HOLES
Here it is... the back nine of my life and it catches me by surprise ... How did I get here so fast? Where did the years go and where did my youth go?
I remember well seeing older people through the years and thinking that those older people were years away from me and that I was only on the first hole and the back nine was so far off that I could not fathom it or imagine fully what it would be like.
But, here it is ... my friends are retired and getting gray ... they move slower and I see an older person now. Some are in better and some worse shape than me ... but, I see the great change ... Not like the ones that I remember who were young and vibrant ... but, like me, their age is beginning to show and we are now those older folks that we used to see and never thought we'd become.
Each day now, I find that just taking a shower is a real target for the day! And taking a nap is not a treat anymore ... it's mandatory! Because if I don't on my own free will ... I may just fall asleep where I sit!
And so ... now I enter into this new season of my life unprepared for all the aches and pains and the loss of strength and ability to go and do things that I wish I had done ... and never did !!! But, at least I know, that though I'm on the back nine, and I'm not sure how long it will last ... 2 or 3, or 15 or 20 years ? ... this I do know, that when it's over on this earth...it's over. Does a new adventure begin? I really don't know. Yes, I have regrets. There are things I wish I hadn't done ... things I should have done ... but there are many things I'm happy to have done. It's all in a lifetime.
If you're not on the back nine yet ... let me remind you, that it will be here faster than you think. So, whatever you would like to accomplish in your life, please do it quickly! Don't put things off too long!! Life goes by quickly. Do what you can today, as you can never be sure whether you're on the back nine or not!
You have no promise that you will see all the seasons of your life ... so, live for today and say all the things that you want your loved ones to remember ... and hope that they appreciate and love you for all the things that you have done for them in all the years past !!!
"Life" is a gift. The way you live your life is your gift to those who come after. Make it a fantastic one. LIVE IT WELL! ENJOY TODAY! DO SOMETHING FUN! BE HAPPY ! HAVE A GREAT DAY Remember "It is health that is real wealth and not those pieces of gold and silver. LIVE HAPPY IN 2014!