When it comes to trying to convince people to be more active to lower their health risks, one of the most frustrating things for doctors is that the people who tend to listen to this advice most are usually those people who are already somewhat active, not those who are most sedentary.
But the studies show over and over and over again that the biggest gains from making a bit of a positive adjustment in activity level actually come to those who are the least active to start with.
For example, in a huge study which was published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, researchers set out to examine the effect that genes confer on heart health and whether or not living a healthy lifestyle could offset any negative contribution to life expectancy from inheriting “bad” genes.
And their happy conclusion is that yes, healthy living can indeed offset “bad” genes.
More encouragingly, perhaps, even if you inherited a higher risk of heart disease from your ungenerous parents, you don’t have to do all that much in terms of trying to live a healthy lifestyle to counter the effect of those genes.
In this study, the researchers concluded that even a small upward tick in healthy living – some exercise but not necessarily 5 times a week and not necessarily very vigorous workouts, eating some veggies and fruit but not necessarily 10 servings a day, maintaining a decent body weight even in the mild overweight category – significantly lowered the risk of dying from heart disease that “bad” genes confer.
Or to put this in the words of the study’s authors, “the biggest protective effect by far (on life expectancy in this study) came from going from a terrible lifestyle to one that was moderately good.”
In other words, the people who are likely to gain the most benefit are those who manage to finally get off the couch, even if it’s only to walk around the block to start, not those who go from jogging a half-hour a day to running faster and longer.
So the great news is that genes are not destiny.
The bad (sort of) news is that you do have to do something about it, however.
Healthy Heart Clinics Offer Critical Screening to Reduce Risk of Heart Disease: Leading Cause of Death in Canada
Nine in ten Canadians have at least one risk factor for heart disease and stroke
Despite the fact that almost 80% of premature heart disease and stroke can be prevented through healthy behaviors, heart disease is the leading cause of death among women and the second leading cause of death among men in Canada. Research shows that nine in ten Canadians have at least one risk factor for heart disease and stroke.
As part of Heart Month in Canada, London Drugs is encouraging Canadians to take preventative action by attending a Healthy Heart Clinic running February 6th to March 23rd at 68 London Drugs locations.
Many Canadians miss the signs of heart disease that often precede a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems. Prevention ultimately starts with knowing your risks as there are often no symptoms until the underlying disease has progressed.
London Drugs’ Healthy Heart Clinics involve a one-on-one 45 minute screening and evaluation with a Patient Care Pharmacist. They take a measurement of total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, random glucose and blood pressure and assess risk factors such as family history, age, level of exercise, diet, smoking history and high blood pressure. Next they focus on minimizing these risks. This might include a discussion of changes to diet, fitness routines or lifestyle. Habits like eating healthy, being active and living smoke-free, have a big impact on health. The appointment is collaborative and customized for each patient and pharmacists can contact physicians to recommend further medical intervention or changes to medication.
For more information about London Drugs’ Healthy Heart Clinics or to book a clinic appointment visit: http://www.londondrugs.com/healthyheart
A complete list of clinic dates, times and locations can be found here: https://pharmacy.londondrugs.com/pdf/Heart_Health_Clinics_2017.pdf
 Public Health Agency of Canada
If you’re like me (‘heaven forbid”, I think I heard a few people cry out), then you often have trouble sticking to hard schedules especially ones that involve resolutions, and particularly, of course, resolutions about improving your health.
I mean, I cannot begin to count the many times I’ve vowed to eat less of some of the things I eat too much of such as salami and pickles and a list of others too long to mention in a brief blog post.
I invariably resolve to eat less of these foods just after I pigged out on them late on December 31 – I celebrate the new year by eating stuff I know I shouldn’t eat – and I can usually manage to stick to my resolve until the next time I see these items again when I re-open the fridge early on January 1.
OK, so that’s a slight exaggeration – some years I manage to hold out till January 2 – but you know what I mean: lifestyle resolutions are exceedingly hard to stick to.
For example, some studies have estimated that the average smoker makes 8 or so attempts to quit before he’s finally able to succeed at not smoking.
And the reason they call it yo-yo dieting is that the vast majority of people who want to lose weight go on and off diets regularly because diets are so very hard to stick to.
So my advice at this late point in January is this: if you resolved to do something on that artificial deadline of January 1 and like the vast majority of us, you did not succeed to hold out this long, please don’t be hard on yourself: that’s just how tough lifestyle change can be.
And even more important, don’t take any failure to be a signal to give up: remember those average smokers I mentioned earlier – even though they fail most times they try to quit, a great proportion of them, perhaps as many as half, do eventually succeed.
Bottom line: it’s never too late to make a positive health change even if you’re well into your senior years.
And there’s no reason not to pick another totally artificial deadline date – say February 1, or February 3, or whatever – to try to make that change.
Check out the London Drugs Health & Wellness Library for more information on health conditions, natural health products and healthy living.
If like me, you’re going to travel this winter – by mid-January, I’ve had about as much as I can take of the dark and the cold and the excuses my favorite hockey team keeps coming up with to explain why their losses keep piling up – you should be aware of this rather sobering information from a survey of tourists done by Orlando Health.
Orlando, Florida, is of course, a favourite destination for many tourists.
This report published on the Eurekalert.org web site found that an astounding (at least to me) one in four vacations ends up including at least one visit to an emergency room.
So here is a partial list of some key things that you should try to do to ensure you don’t end up in an ER on your trip.
First, and most important, I think, make sure you know which vaccines you require for the places you want to visit.
And then make even more sure to get those vaccines.
If you are on any meds, make sure to bring along an adequate amount of those drugs, and if you’re neurotic like me, you might like this idea: I always get my wife to carry a separate stash of all our meds in case I lose the ones I’m carrying.
Which is a good time to mention that I also often bring along a second set of glasses (or some spare contact lenses) just in case.
Also, make sure to carry details of pertinent and relevant medical information about yourself, such as a list of the drugs you are taking, and which conditions you have – it’s much easier to consult a pre-written list than it is to have to suddenly come up with relevant information in a stressful situation like an ER.
I also think it’s a very good idea to get travel health insurance, especially if you’re a senior.
And finally, use common sense at your destination.
Sure, it’s a vacation and you want to enjoy yourself but it’s not really a lot of fun if your travel plans are interrupted by an unwelcome visit to the ER because say, you drank too much, or you were out in the sun too long, or you did something else that’s risky which you wouldn’t have done if you had thought about it a bit more.
And hey, have a great time wherever it is you’re going.
London Drugs offers a Travel Clinic service where you can talk to a Travel Clinic Pharmacist about medications, vaccinations and health supplies that you might need for your trip. To find out more or book an appointment, visit www.ldtravelclinics.com
Recognizing the increasing role pharmacists play in the Canadian health care system on National Pharmacist Day, January 12, 2017
January 12th marks National Pharmacist Day. For many years, Pharmacists have been taking on expanded roles in the Canadian health care system, working more closely than ever before with patients, their families and collaborating with other frontline health care providers to deliver team-based patient care.
While most Canadians are familiar with visiting their local pharmacist to pick up prescriptions, many people are still unaware that they also provide convenient access to a range of health care services.
London Drugs’ Certified Injection Pharmacists are able to administer vaccinations right at the pharmacy.
Travel and Immunization Clinics are hosted at many London Drugs pharmacies to help prepare patients for international travel. Pharmacists review a patient’s immunization history and make sure vaccinations are up-to-date according to provincial, national and even international immunization programs. They can suggest and administer additional vaccines depending on planned travel activities, previous immunization history and the local conditions at many common destinations. For example, International Health Regulations require Yellow Fever vaccination for travel to countries in sub-Saharan Africa. South America and Saudi Arabia requires proof of meningococcal vaccination travel during certain dates.
London Drugs’ Certified Injection Pharmacists are also able to administer influenza vaccinations, as well as the Zostavax vaccine for Shingles.
Traditionally in Canada, the authority to prescribe medications has rested with doctors but as part of Pharmacists’ expanded scope of practice in Canada, Pharmacists in many provinces now have the ability to provide emergency prescription refills, renew or extend prescriptions, modify or adapt drug therapy, change drug dosage and even have independent prescriptive authority (in Alberta).
As the most accessible health care professionals in Canada, Pharmacists make significant contributions to the quality of drug therapy and patient outcomes by initiating, monitoring and adjusting drug therapy. For example, Anticoagulation Clinics are offered at some London Drugs pharmacies for patients taking the drug warfarin. Pharmacists can administer international normalized ratio (INR) tests which provide valuable insight about the effectiveness of the medication. Based on the immediate test results, pharmacists can adjust medication dosages right away resulting in improved patient care.
Beyond preparing and dispensing medications, London Drugs pharmacists play a critical role in helping to improve medication adherence through a number of programs and services.
Through Medication reviews pharmacists provide personalized consultations to patients to examine and discuss issues around medication use, side effects, interactions, and anything else related to medication therapy, with the goal of ensuring safe and effective treatments.
London Drugs Certified Diabetes Educators assist patients through individualized Diabetes Management Clinics. These customized one-on-one consultations focus on blood sugar testing, medication management, preventing low blood sugar, foot care, eating well and getting enough physical activity.
Health is often a part of many Canadians’ New Year’s resolutions, and London Drugs pharmacists are equipped to offer guidance. Patients can meet one-on-one with a pharmacist for any of the following screening clinics and preventative health services:
London Drugs pharmacists help equip patients with physician-prescribed portable monitors like the Holter Monitor, which is a wearable EKG (electrocardiogram) device that continuously records a person’s heart rhythms, and Ambulatory Blood Pressure Monitor which measures blood pressure over a 24-hour period, giving healthcare providers the most clear and thorough picture of the body’s response to working, exercising, eating, and sleeping. Both monitors help physicians diagnosis critical health issues.
I’m a person who is always trying to find the bright side of things so most days, I try to think of something that can “up” my mood, such as the thought that there are now four years left until the next American election turmoil.
In other words, I would describe myself as an optimist and that’s a good thing because optimism has been linked in several studies to better health outcomes.
But what about the flip side?
What if you’re a pessimist, someone who feels the glass is never full enough?
Does that harm your health?
Well, according to an 11-year-long Finnish study of nearly 3,000 people, people who were judged to be pessimists based on psychological testing at the start of the study had a 2-3 times higher risk of dying from heart disease over the course of the study than did the rest of the study participants.
On the other hand, though, and frustratingly for me, optimists did not have a lower risk of dying during the study although I am optimistic that this latter finding is actually a mistake and to that end, another recent study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology did find that those study participants judged to be optimists when the study was launched did in fact live longer than those not as hopeful (the only caveat is that this was a study on only women, but hey, I’m very optimistic that the same thing holds true for men, too.
Anyway, the big question is can you change your personality and pass from the darker side to the lighter side?
This is very hard to answer from currently published studies – and if you’re a pessimist, I suppose you will say it can’t be done – but I believe you can work on your temperament and if not totally eliminate pessimistic feelings, at least temper them.
For some of us, it takes work for sure, but I am very hopeful that it can be done.
It’s cold and flu season once again and odds are that you will come down with at least one such infection this year, and if you’re unlucky or a parent – kids bring these viruses home very regularly – you might even get sick two or three times.
You can, of course, easily lower your risk of getting the flu by getting the flu shot. Although it’s still early days, it appears that the current vaccine is a decent match against this year’s flu strain.
Unhappily, though, there are still no vaccines against the many different viral strains that cause colds. An experimental “cold vaccine” developed in the US seems to be working well at preventing colds in macaque monkeys, and although it’s a huge step from other primates to humans, this is still hopeful for the future.
Keep in mind that frequent hand-washing also seems to lower the chances of coming down with colds, the flu, and some gastrointestinal viruses too, so wash your hands often.
But if you do get sick, how can you tell the difference between a cold and the flu and does it even matter to know whether you are sick with one or the other?
The second part is easy to answer: a cold doesn’t do much damage but “the flu” can kill, especially the most vulnerable such as the very young, the very old, those with immune system problems, and others.
So yes, it does matter to know the difference if only to be much more aware of trying not to pass on the flu should you get it.
However telling the difference between the two isn’t easy.
In very general terms, although both viral infections produce somewhat similar symptoms such as a sore throat and cough, colds are milder infections that may drive you crazy because of your blocked nose or sneezing but unlike the flu, colds don’t usually lead to high fevers or more generalized symptoms such as aches and pains.
As I said, though, this is a broad generalization and there is a large symptom crossover between colds and flus.
Final question: how should these viral infections be treated?
Lots of fluids (as a Jewish man, I swear in the benefits of frequent large bowls of delicious home-made chicken soup), rest (I also believe that people who are sick with what they believe to be the flu should stay home until they feel better; and if they can’t stay home, they should at least wash their hands as often as they can) and judicious use of medications for symptoms, although if you do decide to use drugs for symptoms, please do yourself a favour and consult your pharmacist about possible side effects from these drugs and especially how these drugs may interact with other drugs you may be taking.
If you’re sick of being sick then London Drugs has everything you need to take care of your health. Click here to shop our collection of cough, cold and flu relief, or learn more about getting the flu shot at London Drugs here.