Thursday, December 29, 2016

Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)

Deep Vein Thrombosis
Affecting up to as many as 200,000 Canadians each year, Deep Vein Thrombosis (commonly referred to as DVT) is a condition that occurs when blood clots form in the veins located in your body – typically affecting the thigh or lower leg. However, it is not unlikely for them to also develop in other areas of the body.

DVT usually occurs most commonly in Canadian adults aged 50 or older, and can be the result of many risk factors and health conditions that change how blood moves throughout your veins, such as injury to the veins, obesity, smoking, birth control pills, hormonal therapy, smoking, and staying seated for long periods of time. Certain forms of cancer, inflammatory bowel disease and heart failure have also been found to be linked to Deep Vein Thrombosis, and it can also occur as a result of pregnancy due to an increase in hormone levels and slower blood flow as the uterus expands. The increased risk of developing DVT can last as many as 6 weeks after giving birth. Certain surgical procedures can also lead to the development of DVT, so it is important to talk to your physician about the risks and benefits of surgery.

Dr. Ali Ghahary, a physician in Vancouver, treats patients with DVT based on the symptoms they present with. However, not all individuals with Deep Vein Thrombosis are even aware that they have this condition, as symptoms usually only occur in approximately half of individuals with DVT. The most common symptoms of DVT include swelling in extremities such as the ankles, legs, or feet, cramping or severe and unexplained pain, skin that feels warm to the touch or an area of skin turning blue or reddish in colour. One complication of DVT is known as a Pulmonary Embolism, a life-threatening condition that results in arteries in the lungs being blocked. Signs and symptoms of a Pulmonary Embolism include dizziness, sweating, chest pain, fast breathing, rapid heart rate and coughing up blood. If you experience any of these symptoms it is recommended that you seek medical attention immediately.

As mentioned, Deep Vein Thrombosis is usually diagnosed in combination with the symptoms patients present with. Dr. Ali Ghahary and other Vancouver physicians may order tests such as an ultrasound study, venogram, MRI, and a blood test known as a d-dimer. If you are diagnosed with DVT, medications such as Heparin or Warfarin may be prescribed. These medications help to thin the blood, thus making it difficult for the blood to clot and decrease the risk of developing blood clots in the future. If blood thinners are not successful, you may be given medication known as a Thrombolytic drug via intravenous. Thrombolytic therapy works to break up blood clots. 

To prevent DVT, it is important to make certain lifestyle changes. These changes include smoking cessation, weight loss, and physical activity

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Ear Infections in Children

Dr. Ali Ghahary is an experienced physician in Greater Vancouver, practicing at Burnaby’s Brentwood Medical Clinic – a combined family practice and walk-in clinic – where he sees patients ranging in age from elderly to infants. Children have accounted for over 80% of doctor visits in North America in the last year alone, with 5 out of 6 children in Canada having had at least one ear infection before they turn 3 years old, and it is one of the leading reasons for a parent to take their child to see a physician.

As most ear infections in children occur before they are able to fully speak, it is important to watch out for the signs and symptoms that may indicate that your child has developed an ear infection. These signs and symptoms include pain, constant tugging at the ears, unusual fussiness, difficulty sleeping, difficulty with balance, trouble hearing, and a fever.

Children are more prone to developing ear infections than adults due to their immune systems not being fully developed, thus making them unable to fight infections as well as adults. Eustachian tubes in children are also smaller than those in adults, which makes the drainage of ear fluid also difficult. Ear infections usually develop in children as a secondary infection and are commonly the result of a child having had a cold or other upper respiratory infection.

There are three types of ear infections, all with varying symptoms. The most common form of ear infection is Acute Otitis Media (AOM). AOM affects the middle ear, and usually results in it being swollen, causing fluid to get trapped behind the eardrum. A child with AOM will notice pain and may develop a fever. The second most common form of ear infection is Otitis Media with Effusion (OME). OME typically happens once an ear infection has been treated and is no longer present, but results in fluid remaining trapped behind the ear drum. There are usually no symptoms present with OME. Lastly, Chronic Otitis Media with Effusion (COME). This is a result of fluid remaining in and failing to drain from the middle ear, even when there is no infection present. However, Chronic Otitis Media can make it difficult to treat new ear infections that may develop, and can also have a significant impact a child’s hearing.

In order to diagnose whether or not your child may have an ear infection, Vancouver physicians like Dr. Ali Ghahary will ask a child’s parent or guardian a series of questions about their general health, and will also look in the child’s ear using a lighted instrument scientifically known as an Otoscope. Upon inspection, if the eardrum looks swollen or red, that is usually indicative that an infection is present. To treat the infection, Vancouver physicians will prescribe a course of antibiotics for 7 to 10 days – usually Amoxicillin – as well as recommend over-the-counter pain relievers such as Ibuprofen or Acetaminophen to help reduce pain, inflammation and ever. In cases where the physician is unable to make a definitive diagnosis of an infection, they may require that you wait a couple of days to see if the child’s symptoms improve. If the child is not better within 48 to 72 hours, then antibiotic therapy will be started. Once antibiotic therapy has begun, your child should begin to feel better within a few days time. If your child is still feeling unwell after approximately 3 days of being antibiotics, it is important to let your physician know as they may need to prescribe a different antibiotic.

In order to prevent ear infections it is important to practice good hygiene including frequent hand washing. It is also a good idea to get your child vaccinated against the flu, and to ensure that they are not around other sick children. For more information on the flu vaccine and ways to prevent bacterial infections, click here. Dr. Ali Ghahary can also be found on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Caring for Canada’s Geriatric Populations

Caring for Canada’s Geriatric Populations

As of 2014, nearly 16 percent (just over 6 million) of Canadians were made up of geriatric patients aged 65 or older. By 2030, that number is expected to rise by 7 percent to 9.5 million seniors, making them an expeditiously expanding part of Canada’s population. The average life expectancy of elderly patients is 84.2 (women) and 80 (men.) By 2036, the average life expectancy is anticipated to rise to 86.2 (women) and 82.9 (men) due to the fact that seniors are seemingly living healthier, longer lives than ever before.

While the Canadian government works to provide a number of different programs and initiatives for elderly patients and their families, much of the responsibility of care for geriatric patients falls on their caregivers (i.e. family members and friends) and general practitioners. Prior to joining Brentwood Medical Clinic in Burnaby, British Columbia, Dr. Ali Ghahary worked with largely geriatric communities in various parts of Canada – including the Louis Brier Home and Hospital in Vancouver. With Dr. Ghahary’s expertise brought forth to Brentwood Medical Clinic, Burnaby’s geriatric community is in great hands.

Caring for Canada’s Geriatric Populations
Unlike younger, healthier patients, seniors require a more comprehensive and extensive approach to their medical care. This includes frequent and/or prolonged visits with their physician, routine screening, medication adjustments, and specialist referrals in addition to dealing with their basic medical needs as well as home-care and other daily-living necessities. Common health problems found in seniors range from musculoskeletal problems such as osteoporosis (bone loss), osteoarthritis (inflammation of the joints), gout and fractures. Visual problems such as glaucoma, cataracts and macular degeneration. Cardiovascular problems such as congestive heart failure, atrial fibrillation and high blood pressure. Hormonal changes such as increased cholesterol and slower metabolism. Seniors are also at an increased risk of developing infections like shingles, pneumonia, or urinary tract infections, and other general complaints such as fatigue, decreased appetite, forgetfulness and weight loss.

To ensure optimal health, elderly patients should not only go for regular check-ups with their physician, but also ensure that they are getting enough sleep, include vitamin-rich diets that include calcium and Vitamin D to prevent bone disease, and limit salt intake in order to control blood pressure levels. Eating foods that are higher in antioxidants will also help lessen the risk of vision loss as a result of macular degeneration, and living an overall healthy lifestyle can decrease the risk of developing heart disease by as much as 80%.

BC Children’s Hospital

Part of Dr. Ali Ghahary’s commitment as a physician in Vancouver is to ensure patients and their families receive exceptional healthcare from medical facilities in this Province, including BC Children’s Hospital – the only full-service, pediatric acute care hospital in British Columbia. In doing so, Dr. Ali Ghahary participates in the ‘Grind for kids’, an annual fundraiser by the BC Children’s Hospital Foundation in effort to raise funds so that they can continue to provide children in British Columbia and the Yukon with exemplary care.

http://instagram.com/alighahary

BC Children’s Hospital’s roots date back to 1923, when a fund was established for crippled children by the BC Women’s Institute in Vancouver. They continued to make groundbreaking achievements for pediatric care over the years, and in 1982 construction was completed for a $60 million, 29,730 square-metre, 250 acute-care bed facility. Since then, BC Children’s Hospital has continued to make advanced breakthroughs over the years, and is now home to approximately 90,000 patients and their families each year – operating 55 different clinics in its Ambulatory Care building. As many as 9,000 children and adolescents hospitalized at BC Children’s Hospital required surgery last year alone, with more than 1,000 children being admitted to the hospital’s pediatric intensive care unit, and over 700 undergoing treatment for cancer.


In 2006, BC Children’s Hospital launched the ‘Healthy Buddies’ initiative in schools across the Province, which focused on health promotion by providing education on body image, nutrition and physical activity. In 2006, BC Children’s Hospital launched an all-new mental health building as part of their Child Youth & Mental Health program, funded in part by the Government as well as donations. This Vancouver-based facility provides long-term psychiatric care and eating disorder programs, receiving over 25,000 outpatient visits from children and adolescents up to the age of 18.

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As healthcare continues to progress over the years, the top priority of the BC Children’s Hospital Foundation is to ensure that the are up-to-date with today’s technology and treatment availability, and with $150 million contributed by donors they are currently in the process of building a brand-new Children’s Hospital – the Teck Acute Care Centre – a modern diagnostic facility in Vancouver that will be better able to manage the needs of children with chronic conditions such as cystic fibrosis and cancer, as well as complex surgeries. The Teck Acute Care Centre will also be able to better accommodate families by providing them with private rooms rather than open-wards.

For more information on BC Children’s Hospital and how you can donate, visit http://bcchf.ca.

You can also find Dr. Ghahary on Instagram at http://instagram.com/alighahary and Twitter at http://twitter.com/dralighahary.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Canadians With Kidney Disease

According to the Kidney Foundation of Canada, an estimated 2.6 million Canadians either have kidney disease or are at risk of developing chronic kidney disease in the future. There are many factors that can lead to one developing kidney disease, such as smoking and a family history of kidney disease, with diabetes and RVD (Renal Vascular Disease) being the two leading causes of kidney failure.

Diabetes is a condition where the body is unable to produce any/enough insulin, which causes an increase in the levels of glucose found in the blood. RVD, otherwise known as Renal Vascular Disease, refers to an array of complications that affect the circulation of blood in the kidneys, which can ultimately cause damage to the tissues of the kidneys, cause high blood pressure, and even lead to kidney failure.

While treatment of kidney disease is usually dependent on any underlying causes, physicians in and around Vancouver’s lower mainland, including Dr. Ali Ghahary at Brentwood Medical Clinic in Burnaby, British Columbia, will usually send patients for simple blood tests or urinalysis to see how the kidneys are functioning. These tests also play a key role in early detection. Treatment of kidney disease will consist of a combination of medications used to help control the symptoms.

As kidney disease can elevate levels of blood pressure and cholesterol, medications are often prescribed to help combat this. Individuals may also suffer from anemia as a result of kidney disease, so supplements of the hormone known as Erythropoietin containing iron will also commonly be prescribed. This will help to relieve tiredness and weakness that is also often associated with kidney disease. Calcium and Vitamin D supplements may also be recommended to prevent the risk of fracture and weak bones that may develop over time, as well as introducing a diet that is low in protein to avoid the kidneys having to overwork themselves.

A team of doctors from British Columbia, including Dr. Andrea Levin, the head of the Division of Nephrology at Vancouver’s University of British Columbia, are currently leading one of Canada’s biggest efforts to improve the type of care those with kidney disease receive by exploring better screening options, especially for those at an increased risk of developing kidney disease, diet education, as well as well as research on drugs that can slow the progression of kidney disease.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Psoriasis Exacerbated by Cooler Weather

As summer comes to a close in just over two weeks, cooler temperatures and a change in the weather will soon follow suit – and the colder the season, the drier, itchier and inflamed the skin can become.

Psoriasis, a common autoimmune disorder that affects as many as 1 million Canadians and 125 million individuals, manifests itself as a skin problem. With Psoriasis, skin may feel itchy and/or sore and appear scaly and/or red. While the exact cause of Psoriasis is unknown, a combination of genetics and certain triggers (such as stress) are likely to play a part in the disorder; and while family physicians like Dr. Ali Ghahary may need to prescribe medication to individuals with Psoriasis, there are also some steps you can first try in order to help sooth the skin as well as prevent flare-ups of the disorder. The following steps are also beneficial to anyone who might be suffering from dry skin.

First and foremost, individuals suffering from dry skin should moisturize daily. Moisturizer will not only leave your skin feeling smoother and softer, but also help to prevent irritation. The thicker the moisturizer, the better, as it well help to lock water into the skin, leaving it moist. If you have sensitive skin then you should make sure you use products that are perfume and lanolin-free. Cleansing skin is also important, but make sure you do not overdo it as you may actually wind up stripping the skin of its natural moisturizing factors. 15-minute oatmeal or Epsom salt baths will also help to sooth dry, irritated skin.

Protecting exposed areas of the skin while out in cold, windy weather is another important factor as Psoriasis can oftentimes be exacerbated by the cooler elements. When outdoors you should always wear soft, warm layers of clothing, as well as hats, gloves and scarves.

If you find that following these steps do not improve the skin’s appearance, you should talk with your doctor so that an effective treatment plan can be put into place.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Cases of Melanoma Growing Rapidly in Canada

On average, an estimated 500 Canadians are diagnosed with cancer each day. Out of each type of cancer that exists, Melanoma is one of the fastest rising cancers in the country. As many as 6,800 Canadians will be diagnosed with Melanoma; 3,700 of those diagnosed are men, while 3,100 are women.

Melanoma occurs when the skin has been exposed to too much ultraviolet radiation – either from natural sunlight or other forms of UV radiation such as tanning beds – which causes a change in the skin cells. As a result, a malignant tumour or tumours will form in the melanocytes. The melanocytes are cells that produce melanin, which is responsible for the pigmentation of your skin and eyes. Keeping the skin protected at all times is important. The skin is the body’s largest organ and is culpable in protecting the skin from injury, infection and sunlight. The skin is also plays an essential role in keeping your body temperature under control by ridding itself of bodily waste via the sweat glands. Malignant tumours can also oftentimes metastasize to different parts of the body, and it is not limited to just the skin. Albeit rare, Melanoma can be found anywhere in the body that melanocytes are present, including the mucosal tissue (Mucosal Lentiginous Melanoma), internal organs, and the eyes (Intraocular Melanoma.)

The most common and earliest symptoms that an individual with Melanoma may present with is changes to otherwise normal-looking skin or moles. While it is not uncommon to have moles (the average person has as little as 10 moles and as many as 40), they should not change in size, shape or colour, be more than 6mm in length, or feel itchy or painful. Late signs of Melanoma include enlarged lymph nodes in the neck or under the arms, feeling out of breath, chest pain, headaches, nausea, fatigue, loss of appetite and weight loss.

While Melanoma is one of the deadliest forms of skin cancer, taking some straightforward protective measures against ultraviolet radiation can also help to prevent it. If spending a protracted amount time outdoors, you should always ensure that you have the proper protection against the sun’s harmful UV rays. Wearing sunglasses and other protective articles of clothing, applying sunscreen and staying in the shade are all crucial factors in avoiding Melanoma. For more information on how you can avoid other heat-related illnesses, read Dr. Ali Ghahary's article on summer health and safety tips.

Friday, August 19, 2016

UV Protection

Nice weather is always a great excuse to get outdoors and be active. However, you should always ensure that you are taking extra precautions to avoid heat-related illness and other health problems associated with overexposure to UV rays. Below is a look at some further insight and recommendations from Dr. Ali Ghahary, a family physician at Brentwood Medical Clinic in Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada.

Firstly, it is important to know the difference between the types of UV radiation that exist. While UVC rays are the strongest, they are the least concerning as the ozone layer prevents them from reaching the earth. On the other hand, UVA and UVB rays are the most concerning and should be taken very seriously as they can cause irreparable damage. Whether you are exposed to natural sunlight or artificial ultraviolet rays, you are at risk of developing heat stroke, severe sunburn, skin damage, and even damage to your eyes.

Just as we would wear sunscreen to prevent sunburn, it is also important to protect the eyes; therefore, if you are going to be in an environment that leaves you exposed to ultraviolet rays, it is also recommended that you wear sunglasses. Both natural and artificial UV radiation can cause severe damage to the eyes, including damage to the cornea and the lens, as well as burning the frontal surface of the eyes (similar to a sunburn.) Failure to protect your eyes from UV rays can lead to both short-term as well as long-term, serious health effects, including a higher risk of developing cataracts, irreversible damage to the retina, chronic eye problems, and even skin cancer. 

When looking for a pair of sunglasses that will give your eyes enough protection, you should make sure they are free of any distortion and ensure that they screen out at least 75% (and up to 90%) of visible light, and block 99% of UVA and UVB radiation. Wrap-around frames will also provide you with increased protection.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)

Lupus Awareness
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE), or simply commonly referred to as Lupus, is an autoimmune disease that attack’s the body’s healthy tissues and organs by producing antibodies causing inflammation. As many as 15,000 (or 1 in 2,000) Canadians are affected by the disease, and it can develop in individuals of all age groups and genders. However, it most commonly affects those between the ages of 15 and 44, and is generally diagnosed more frequently in women than men.

There is no known cause of lupus, however research has suggested that there may be genetic predispositions to the disease along with environmental & hormonal factors, and stress. Up to 5% of children born to individuals diagnosed with lupus will also develop the disease.

SLE commonly affects multiple parts of the body. Some early symptoms include muscle and joint pain, chronic fatigue, low-grade fever, and skin rash. There are several other manifestations of lupus which includes sensitivity to sunlight, loss of appetite, swollen glands, hair loss, dry eyes and/or mouth, oral ulcers, arthritis, changes in skin colour due to poor circulation, and blood abnormalities such as anemia or a low platelet count. Those diagnosed with lupus also have an increased risk of developing blood clots in addition to severe internal organ problems, including kidney, lung and heart disease, as well as brain and other neurological manifestations. These symptoms vary from person to person and can range from mild to severe.

Treatment of lupus is dependent on the symptoms of each patient, but the central objective is to avert potential damage to the organs by decreasing the body’s inflammation. If symptoms are mild, Dr. Ali Ghahary will suggest the use of anti-malarial medications in addition to non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) such as Naproxen. In cases where symptoms are severe, patients will be prescribed immunosuppressants to control flare-ups of inflammation when other medications such as steroids have been unsuccessful or not well tolerated. It is important to note that long-term use of immunosuppressants can lead to other severe side effects, health problems, and increased infection, so it is important to weigh the risks and benefits of these medications with your primary care physician.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Living with PTSD

PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) is a form of anxiety that materializes after a traumatic event. According to researches from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, as many as 2.4% of Canada’s population experience symptoms relating to PTSD at any given time, and a staggering 76% of individuals have reported being exposed to at least one traumatic event that was sufficient enough to cause PTSD.

Traumatic events causing PTSD can include experiencing or being a witness to natural disasters (hurricanes, earthquakes), major accidents (workplace, automobile, aircraft), criminal activity (burglary, physical violence, abuse) and military combat. Most individuals with PTSD do not experience symptoms immediately; they can appear up to 3 months after a traumatic event, or even years later. These symptoms include a constant feeling of fear or anxiousness, crying, feeling on edge, recurring thoughts and flashbacks, nightmares, inability to concentrate or make decisions, anger/resentment, feelings of guilt, avoidance, emotional withdrawal, dizziness and upset stomach.

Our body’s nervous system has 3 days of dealing with stressful events. These are via social engagementmobilization, and immobilization. Social engagement is one’s way of listening, speaking, and making eye contact, which is usually avoided in those with PTSD. Immobilization is the body’s way of feeling the need to defend itself, a “fight or flight” response, and increased blood pressure. Immobilization is the feeling of being overwhelmed and unable to calm down.

While PTSD can affect anyone, there are certain individuals that are considered to be higher risk. A study done by the University of British Columbia discovered that emergency personnel such as nurses, doctors, paramedics, police officers, firefighters and war veterans were at risk of being diagnosed with PTSD at a much higher rate than the average individual. Women were also twice as likely to be diagnosed with PTSD than men, though it’s unclear why. It can also affect children, though the symptoms can appear slightly different than those in adults. Signs your child make be experiencing PTSD include fear of separation from family, sleep problems, and the loss of acquired skills such as toilet training.

The most common treatment for PTSD is the use of SSRI (Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor) medications to manage symptoms in combination with CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), which helps individuals cope with and change any harmful thoughts or feelings they may have relating to any traumatic events experienced. Exposure Therapy, which is also a part of CBT, is also used. ET is a carefully guided form of treatment that makes the patient gradually relive certain traumas in order to face their fears head on. Dr. Ali Ghahary also recommends patients attend support groups, as having people to relate and talk to can make you feel less isolated and alone.

Some other helpful tips in dealing with PTSD include breathing exercises as well as engaging in regular physical activity – you do not need to have a strenuous workout, but something as simple as 30 minutes of walking each day can be beneficial to not only the mind, but the body as well. You should also avoid drugs and alcohol, and make sure you are getting a proper sleep each night.

For those dealing with loved ones who suffer from PTSD, it is important to educate yourself on certain triggers that can cause your friend or family member feelings of discomfort, and also to be supportive.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Chronic Fatigue

We all know what feeling tired is like – it can happen after a long day at work or strenuous physical activity. Tiredness is the body’s natural reaction to any kind of exertion. As a result, we must allow our bodies time to rest in order to allow it the capability to function as normal and perform new duties. However, if you are feeling tired after very little activity, if it is constant, and is not relieved by rest, you may suffer from something called Chronic Fatigue.

Chronic fatigue, a diagnosis that was once dubious amongst those in the medial field, is now being accepted as a true medical disorder, with just under 400,000 Canadians having been diagnosed. It typically affects individuals over the age of 40, with the majority of chronic fatigue sufferers being women. Certain viral infections such as the Epstein-Barr virus, hypotension (low blood pressure), a weakened immune system and hormonal imbalances have all been suspected to play a part in the diagnosis of chronic fatigue, but there has been no direct link between them. With no current cure for chronic fatigue, treatment is focused solely on the symptoms that are presented by the patient. 

Below are some common symptoms of chronic fatigue:

Excessive tiredness (lasting longer than 24 hours)
Mental exhaustion
Inability to focus/concentrate
Memory loss
Headaches
Muscle pain

It is also important to rule out any other potential causes of your tiredness, as there are other conditions with symptoms that mimic those of chronic fatigue such as Lyme disease, lupus, mononucleosis, hypothyroidism, fibromyalgia and even depression.

Perhaps the most important thing one can do to relieve symptoms associated to chronic fatigue is by making lifestyle changes, something Dr. Ali Ghahary already recommends to his patients under many different circumstances and for certain health conditions. These lifestyle changes include making dietary changes, and limiting or all together eliminating intake of caffeinated beverages such as coffee and sodas (doing so well help you get a better night’s rest.) You should also limit your use of nicotine and alcohol, and ensure that you are not overexerting yourself during the day, especially when involved in any physical activity. It may also be a good idea to work with a trainer or physical therapist to help you with an easy exercise routine. Alternative medicine such as acupuncture, yoga and massage therapy have also been found to be constructive for chronic fatigue sufferers, but you should always check with your physician beforehand.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Symptoms and Treatment for Insomnia


Insomnia is a common sleep disorder that affects 3.3 million Canadians aged 15 or older, and with 18% of sufferers reporting they get less than 5 hours of sleep each night. It can be a short-term or ongoing condition. Studies have shown that insomnia affects more women than men, and it is also linked to individuals who are middle-aged, as well as those who suffer from chronic pain, stress and obesity.

In acute cases, insomnia is typically brought on by stress, certain pressures in life, or traumatic events, and can last for days or weeks at a time. In chronic cases, insomnia can last up to a month or longer, and is oftentimes a secondary symptom of other health problems, sleep disorders, or substances in the body such as certain prescription medications, alcohol, or even caffeinated beverages and tobacco – which effects can last as long as 8 hours. If left untreated, insomnia can cause a severe lack of energy, irritability, and even depression and anxiety. Other symptoms of insomnia include poor concentration, muscle aches and a decreased level of alertness.

There are some simple habits that Dr. Ali Ghahary suggests in order to avoid potential sleep disruptions – these include listening to calming music to relax, limiting your use of any distractions such as television or computers, not eating any heavy meals at least 5 to 6 hours before bedtime, as well as setting a sleep schedule. Other non-medical treatments for insomnia that may be beneficial include attending cognitive behavioural therapy session (which is great for relieving stress and anxiety), meditation, and stimulus. If those are unsuccessful, medications such as benzodiazepine hypnotics and melatonin receptor agents may be prescribed, but it is important to weigh the risks and benefits of these types of medications with your physician.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The Many Benefits of Exercise



Along with promoting healthy eating, Dr. Ali Ghahary is a strong advocate of patients also introducing regular physical activity into their daily routines. The rewards of exercise can be obtained regardless of your age, gender, or physical ability. Below are some of the positives of fitness.

Prevent Weight Gain / Maintain Weight Loss
This is one of the most common reasons why Canadian adults choose to introduce regular physical activities into their routines, especially with obesity on the rise in Canada. By engaging in physical activity, you burn calories, which in turn reduces body fat and builds muscle. Physical activity can be done by working out at a gym, going for brisk walks, participating in yoga classes, and even swimming. It is important to choose something that you like doing so that you can stick with it.

Reduces Pain
As we age, bone loss occurs which can result in back pain. Regular physical activity does not only help reduce pain and lessen the risk of osteoporosis, but it also increases muscle strength, endurance, and helps improve your posture and flexibility.

Improves Mood / Alleviates Anxiety
In addition to helping with weight loss, regular fitness and exercise also helps to improve the mood. Partaking in moderate to high intensity exercise helps stimulates the brain cells and provides you with emotional stability, relieves stress and anxiety, and boosts your confidence. You will be left feeling happier and relaxed as a result.

Lessens the Risk of Heart Disease and Stroke
Exercise helps to raise the HDL levels (also known as the “good” cholesterol) and decreases LDL levels (the bad cholesterol.) It also strengthens the heart muscle and increases the working capacity of your heart. As a result, this lessens your risk of heart disease and stroke.

Boosts Energy
In addition to helping your cardiovascular system work more efficiently, exercise has also been proven to be beneficial in boosting your energy as it delivers oxygen and important nutrients to your tissues.

Productivity
Whether you are a student studying, need to get an important task at work completed, or simply want better concentration, exercise produces new brain cells (also known as neurogenesis) which helps to boost the brain’s performance. As a result, you are able to get more done.

Lastly, while it can sometimes be difficult to get motivated, exercise doesn’t have to be something that is thought of as a chore, but can instead be thought of as something that is fun. There are many different types of exercise and ways you can go about it – from working out in a gym, enjoying the outdoors by going on a bike ride, or playing your favourite sport.

It is important to note that strenuous physical activity is not needed in order to reap the benefits. Something as simple as a 30-minute workout can prove to be beneficial for your overall health.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Differentiating Between Types of Headaches and How to Treat Them

We’ve all experienced a headache at least once in our lives – they are a common complaint for many individuals and are triggered by various lifestyle factors including everything from changes to your diet, lack of sleep, overworking, poor posture, stress, and noise. However, not all headaches are alike. In this article we will look at the different types of headaches that can be experienced, how to differentiate between them and their symptoms, and how they can be treated.



Perhaps the most severe form of a headache is one that develops into a migraine. Affecting an estimated 3 million Canadians, with 3 out of 4 sufferers being female as well as 5% of children under the age of 18, a migraine is a headache in which the blood vessels in the brain become constricted and release inflammatory substances, causing extreme discomfort as a result. Migraines can last as long as 72 hours, with some individuals suffering from migraines on a weekly, persistent basis, and they are usually described as pulsating or throbbing pain. Prior to onset of a migraine, one might experience aura – seeing bright lights, lines, or dots. In addition, a migraine is generally accompanied with sensitivity to light, sounds and smells, blurred vision, nausea, vomiting, dizziness and fatigue. In rare cases a fever may also be present. They are also certain triggers that may lead up to a migraine, including the consumption of caffeine, alcohol, hormonal components and changes in one’s sleeping pattern. It is important to recognize these triggers and make applicable changes, as avoiding them may lessen the frequency and severity of your symptoms.

A tension-type headache (TTH), also commonly known as a muscle contraction headache, is the most common kind of headache that one might experience. Tension-type headaches affect 4 out of every 100 Canadians, and are described as a dull, aching pain, a feeling of tightness or pressure around the forehead and back of the head, or tenderness on your shoulder muscles, neck and scalp. While a tension headache can be hard to differentiate from a migraine, they are not usually associated with migraine symptoms such as nausea, vomiting or visual disturbances. Tension headaches are generally developed into two categories: Episodic and Chronic. An episodic tension headache can last as short as 30 minutes to a whole week, but usually occur less than 15 days a month, whereas chronic tension headaches may be continuous and occur more frequently.

The treatment of both migraine and tension headaches is fully dependent on the symptoms experienced by the patient, as well as the history. Pain relievers such as Ibuprofen (Advil) taken as soon as you notice the onset of symptoms may relieve the discomfort of mild headaches; stress management is also beneficial. For those suffering from severe migraines, Dr. Ali Ghahary suggests the use of medications called Cambia or Relpax – drugs that are specifically used in the treatment of migraine headaches.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

A Look at the Myths and Benefits of Low-Carb Diets

On average, approximately one-third of Canadians are considered to be obese, which is why Canadians are progressively turning to diets to help them lose weight and stay healthy.

For many, the word “diet” can be scary, but it doesn’t have to be. Healthy eating by way of low-carb diets is a safe and effective way of keeping your body properly nourished, and will also keep you feeling strong and energized in addition to helping you with weight loss in the process.

Of course there are many myths surrounding all diets, with one of the most common myths being that diets that are low in carbohydrates are harder to stick to and will leave you feeling hungry. People often mistake low-carb diets as meaning you have to cut out all of your favourite foods. However, that is just not the case. As with every diet, certain foods must be restricted, but with a low-carb diet in particular the types of foods that you will eat will depend solely upon what your main goals are. It is important to remember that being on a low-carb diet doesn’t necessarily mean you’re on a no-carb diet and have to deprive yourself of certain foods. It simply means that you are choosing to eat fewer carbohydrates and more of the “healthy” fats and proteins. These include grass-fed meats such as beef, port and chicken, wild-caught fish such as salmon or trout, olive oil, nuts, and high-fat dairy products such as cheese and yogurt. If weight-loss isn’t your main reason for wanting to go on a low-carb diet, then you can also include potatoes, legumes, and non-gluten grains such as rice and quinoa in your diet in moderation. Moderation is key to healthy eating and dieting, because when you eat well, you feel well. It is important to avoid sugary soft drinks, candy, gluten-grains such as wheat and pasta, trans-fats, and omega-6 rich seeds, oils, and vegetables like canola oils, cottonseed oil, and corn.

Another common myth about low-carb diets is that they are high in saturated fats, therefore must be dangerous and will cause health problems (such as heart disease) if you eat low-carb on a long-term basis. This has never been proven to be true. In fact, on a low-carb diet, saturated fats like meats and omega-3 rich eggs are encouraged, and have been proven to be beneficial for one’s overall health. In comparison to low-fat diets, low-carb diets have been proven to be the better option to reduce body fat, blood pressure, and also improve symptoms of diabetic patients.

These health benefits are why more and more physicians like Dr. Ali Ghahary are strong supporters of low-carb diets – because not only are they essential in keeping you feeling robust, but they are also easy to manage and proven to be effective.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Low-Carb Diets: Paleo Diet

Diets are not always easy to maintain. However, with the appropriate knowledge on exactly what it means to “diet” and the types of foods that you are putting into your body, as well as a little bit of tenacity and the will to follow through, you would actually be surprised by just how easy dieting and healthy eating can be to sustain. With 60% of Canadian adults and over 20% of Canadian children currently struggling with obesity, family physician Dr. Ali Ghahary is a strong advocate of low-carb diets and physical activity being implemented into patient’s health care regimens.

Unlike certain fad diets that are out there today that focus solely on fast weight loss and counting calories, low-carb diets such as the Paleo diet (also known as the Hunter-Gatherer diet) are designed to be long-term and help control your glycemic levels, increase your HDL cholesterol levels (otherwise known as the “good” cholesterol), and restrict certain (but not all!) carbohydrates, with the focal point being on your overall well-being. Following a Paleo-based diet is beneficial to your health and decreases your risk of certain health conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, osteoporosis, and even certain cancers. Accompanying weight loss, a Paleo based diet also improves your digestion, reduces chronic inflammation, and gives you more energy.

The term “Paleo” comes from the prehistoric era from over 2 million years ago known as Paleolithic. If you think about it, processed foods and many of the ingredients that we are ingesting into our systems today did not exist back then – food had to be found or hunted. The Paleo diet gets back to basics, so to speak, and was established upon the foods and lifestyles of our prehistoric ancestors. It predominantly consists of grass-produced meats, omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, walnuts, flaxseed oil, soybeans), rich antioxidants (fruits and vegetables), while it excludes things like processed foods, dairy, grain products, salt and sugar.

The Paleo diet is all about limiting certain foods and strategically choosing others, and it is one of the best diets that you could go on to preserve a healthy body and mind. One incentive of following a Paleo-based diet is the fact that you don’t have to count calories and can even indulge in some of your favourite foods and beverages, as long as it’s done in moderation. For example, dark chocolate with a cocoa content of 70% or higher, is a great source of antioxidants and can lower your risk of heart disease, and while the Paleo diet doesn’t encourage anyone to start drinking alcohol, studies have also suggested that two antioxidants found in red wine, Polyphenol and Resveratrol, can also improve heart health.

Meal planning can be the most difficult part of finding success with any diet, but is an important factor of the Paleo diet, and below are just a few small examples of Paleo-based foods. There are also many different Paleo recipes available online.

Breakfast:
Eggs (scrambled in olive oil)
Kiwi and kale smoothie
Seasonal fresh fruit

Lunch:
Salad & grilled chicken (drizzled with olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice)

Dinner:
Spaghetti squash (instead of pasta) topped with marinara sauce
Pork
Turkey breast (skinless)
Salmon (drizzled with olive oil and minced fresh garlic)
Steamed vegetables

Snacks:
Dried fruit and nut mix
Seasonal fresh fruit
Celery sticks
Carrot sticks

Beverages:
Water
Green tea
Almond milk (instead of cow’s milk)
Decaffeinated coffee (in moderation)

Homemade fruit juice

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Non-Contraceptive Uses for Birth Control

Oral contraceptives have been a long-time method for women wanting to avoid unwanted pregnancy. However, at least 15% of Canadian women use birth control for non-contraceptive purposes. This includes irregular menstrual cycles, menstrual cramps, Endometriosis and PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.)


Oral contraceptives contain two types of synthetic hormones: Estrogen and Progesterone. The physiological effects and uses of these hormones, as well as the type of oral contraceptive prescribed, are fully dependent on the symptoms being experienced by the individual.

While it is not abnormal for most women to experience some cramping and general discomfort as a direct result of their menstrual cycle, it could also be a sign of Endometriosis. If you are noticing abnormally painful periods, have heavier than normal bleeding during your menstrual cycle, pain during intercourse or are having fertility problems, these signs may be indicative of Endometriosis. Other signs of Endometriosis include bloating, diarrhea and nausea. As a result, birth control is prescribed to help treat the aforementioned symptoms, and in severe cases will be taken on a frequent and continual basis to stop the menstrual cycle all together. Oppositely, in women with significantly short menstrual cycles and very little bleeding (also known as “amenorrhea”), oral contraceptives may be prescribed to help replace estrogen into the body, which will regulate the menstrual cycle. Lack of a menstrual cycle may be caused by weight loss, stress, or excessive exercise, so it is important to speak with your physician so that you can also treat any potential underlying causes that are a factor in leading to menstrual problems.

Along with treating menstrual irregularity, there are other medical benefits to using oral contraceptives. The hormones in birth control pills have been show to significantly reduce breakouts in individuals prone to acne. While the results typically aren’t immediate, these skin changes do become noticeable over time. Oral contraceptives have also been said to lower the risk of ovarian cancer, ovarian cysts, and even menstrual migraines.

However, as with any medication, the use of oral contraceptives does not come without side effects. Spotting and irregular periods may occur during the first 3 weeks of starting birth control. In addition, you may also notice nausea, and in that case you will want to take your medication with food or an anti-nausea medication such as Gravol. Birth control has also been shown to cause significant weight gain in some individuals, so it is important to exercise regularly and watch your portion intake. Low-carb diets are something Dr. Ali Ghahary strongly advocates, and may even be beneficial while on birth control to avoid potential weight gain.

Every individual will react differently to birth control medications, so it is important to write down a list of any concerns you may have to discuss with your family doctor upon your next visit.