Archive | Health & Fitness

Majority of Torontonians with celiac disease don’t know they have it, study shows

Posted on 13 October 2017 by admin

About 1 per cent of Torontonians are estimated to have celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder triggered by gluten. Yet University of Toronto researchers found that 87 per cent of people living with celiac in Toronto aren’t aware they have the condition.

If you’ve got constant fatigue, sore muscles or unexplained gastrointestinal problems, there’s a chance you’re part of the 1 per cent of Torontonians with celiac disease — and new research shows you probably don’t know it.

Researchers at the University of Toronto found that 87 per cent of people living with celiac disease in Toronto aren’t aware they have it.

Ahmed El-Sohemy, a professor of nutritional science at the University of Toronto and senior author of the paper, said researchers compared blood tests of about 3,000 Canadians with their responses to a health questionnaire.

“We found that among those that tested positive for the blood test, 90 per cent of them indicated ‘no’ to having been diagnosed with (celiac disease),” El-Sohemy said.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder triggered by eating gluten. There are essentially two types of the disease: a severe, early-onset form that is often identified in childhood by a pediatric gastroenterologist, and a less severe type that often isn’t diagnosed until adulthood.

With the latter, people “just never really felt right,” El-Sohemy said. They might experience fatigue or gastrointestinal problems, or mistake symptoms for inflammatory bowel syndrome or other autoimmune disorders.

“The symptoms are not as clear-cut as other types of disorders, where it’s perhaps more localized just to the digestive system,” El-Sohemy said.

Celiac disease causes damage to the small intestines, leading to malabsorption of nutrients and vitamin deficiencies.

That can manifest in ways seemingly unrelated to celiac disease — bleeding gums, brittle bones or weak muscles.

Celiac disease is the best-understood type of gluten intolerance, El-Sohemy said.

“This concept of non-celiac gluten sensitivity is still not very clear,” he said. “There have been a number of studies but the findings have been inconclusive, as to whether it actually exists.”

El-Sohemy suspects that the vast majority of people eating gluten-free by choice don’t actually have celiac disease.

Andrey Malkov of Hibiscus Cafe, a vegetarian and gluten-free restaurant in Kensington Market, said the majority of his customers are trying out or prefer eating gluten free.

“It’s a preference to try eating without gluten,” Malkov said. “And we do have quite a number of people coming in who do have celiac disease. I would say the majority would be people who prefer the lifestyle.”

El-Sohemy said the reason many people without celiac disease opt to eat gluten-free — including a number of prominent athletes — is that it cuts or reduces carb intake.

“They’re no longer eating heaping plates of pasta, and lots of refined white bread,” El-Sohemy said. “So they’re losing weight, they’re not getting that glucose crash after a big pasta meal, and they feel more energized and great.”

Still, El-Sohemy said it’s important to know whether the benefits of eating gluten free are because of intolerance or simply a better diet.

“There are a lot of gluten-containing whole grains that are very nutritious, have a lot of central minerals and fiber and they’re good sources of a variety of nutrients,” he said, adding they should still be consumed in moderation.

“And also, you don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. You don’t just cut out all sources of gluten when it’s only the carbohydrates that may have been the culprit.”

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We Should Be Talking About Men’s Mental Health

Posted on 08 December 2016 by admin

By Dr. Ari Zaretsky, 

Psychiatrist-in-Chief at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

When it comes to Movember and men’s health, the focus has typically been on prostate and testicular cancer. However, there is another common male medical condition that has been relatively overlooked: depression.

Clinical depression is a costly and debilitating condition that affects approximately five per cent of the Canadian population in any given year, and 10 per cent of Canadians over the course of a lifetime.

Although it has been commonly believed — based on community and epidemiological studies — that women are diagnosed with depression twice as often as men, this impression is more recently being brought into question.

In a 2013 article published in JAMA Psychiatry, authors explored whether sex disparities in depression rates are related to the phenomenon of men masking their depression with anger, hostility, risk taking and substance use because they believe it’s socially unacceptable to acknowledge depression publicly.

What the authors determined was surprising. When the above symptoms are considered in addition to the conventional depressive symptoms (such as sadness, loss of pleasure, self-criticism, diminished appetite) the rates of depression were no different between men and women.

Even if we put the study aside, it’s clear that depression is not exclusive to women. In fact, approximately one million Canadian men suffered from major depression in 2016 alone.

What are the consequences of untreated depression in men?

Beyond decreased quality and function of life, and potential social consequences resulting from increased anger, aggression, risk taking and substance use, untreated depression can lead to suicide.

In Canada, suicide is the leading cause of death for all men between ages 10 and 49. This is the third highest suicide rate in the industrialized world.

What role does stigma play in male depression?

Stigma and cultural expectations can lead men to mask the true symptoms of depression, impeding diagnosis and treatment.

Generally, men tend to be socialized to control their emotions and base their self-esteem on mastery, financial and occupational success, and strength. In the face of loss, failure, or other life setbacks, some men may express aggression and anger since these emotions are more socially “acceptable.”

These cultural expectations can also mask some of the common symptoms of depression. Men are more likely to deal with their depressive symptoms by drinking alcohol, using drugs or pursuing other risky behaviour. Many men also avoid talking about depressed feelings with their friends or family.

Is depression common in elderly men?

Depression is not a normal part of aging. However, specific medical conditions such as heart disease, stroke and cancer can contribute to depression, either directly (through the disease itself) or indirectly (e.g. through the medications and other treatments involved).

There are also important psychosocial factors that need to be considered in older-aged men. Retirement is difficult for many men because they lose meaningful work (an important source of self-esteem), they lose a routine, and they lose a way to organize their lives.

In addition, loss of a spouse/partner can be particularly devastating for men, as a spouse may have played a central role in organizing social networks and connections. As those networks/connections begin to deteriorate, it can result in even further isolation.

How is depression treated in men?

The general consensus is that 80 per cent of people with depression — both men and women — can be treated equally effectively with antidepressant medication, specific active forms of psychotherapy (such as cognitive behavioural therapy or interpersonal psychotherapy) or a combination of both types of treatment together.

How can you get help?

If you are feeling depressed, talk to your family doctor. S/he can help you get the help you need.

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Healthy Ways To Get Your Pre-Pregnancy Bod Back

Posted on 05 May 2016 by admin

Dr. Jennifer Pearlman B

Women’s Health, Hormone and Beauty Expert

Your little bundle of joy arrived and surprisingly weighed in at a small fraction of your total pregnancy weight gain. The numbers aren’t adding up and you may — like many moms — begin to wonder if you will ever get your body back after baby.

1. Don’t rush!
Savour the moment! Your little bundle of joy is changing by the minute — but you don’t have to. Don’t be too rushed in transforming back to your pre-pregnancy weight or shape. Just remember it took you nine long months to gain the weight — it can often take as long or longer to shed the pregnancy pounds. Stay the course with patience and determination.

2. Breast is best!

If breast feeding is an option, it is a great way to burn extra energy while bonding and feeding your newborn. Breast feeding consumes more energy than pregnancy and is a great way to help get your body back into shape. The daily caloric burn when exclusively breast feeding is 500 calories, while pregnancy burns 300 calories daily.

3. Make sleep a priority!

Sleeplessness is inevitable in the early post-pregnancy phase and can make it more difficult to lose the extra inches. Lack of sleep has been associated with poor eating habits and weight gain. Even if your nighttime sleep is disrupted, you can try to get some shuteye through out the day when your baby does. Make naps a priority. The stack of dirty dishes and pile of laundry can always wait until later.

4. Take a time out!

Time outs aren’t just for little ones. Parents may find they too need a break — even a brief reprieve from the stress of parenthood. Time outs can help us better cope with stress and keep cortisol levels controlled. Cortisol, the stress hormone, can block our best intentions around weight loss. Keeping stress at bay is good for baby and your body.

5. Get moving early on!

Invest in a good stroller with sturdy rubber wheels and equipped with a large carry basket. Pack a bag with water, diapers, and an on-the-go healthy snack like trail mix and get going!

Vary your walking route and make it purposeful by walking to do your chores with trips to the grocery store or bank. Until your baby is ready for sleep training, usually around four to five months, stroller naps are considered by most experts to be an acceptable option.

6. Rebuild your core
The stretching of the abdominal wall to accommodate a growing baby will temporarily weaken your core. In about 15 per cent of women, the abdominal muscle sheath may split during pregnancy (called a diastasis) leaving a gap through which abdominal contents can bulge or herniate.

With a diastasis present, women must be extra vigilant when starting on an exercise program and are best off avoiding exercises that excessively strain the central core muscles. Oblique curls and planks are preferred and attention must be paid to the pelvic floor.

7. Restore your floor
Further destabilizing a mommy’s middle is the combined impact of pregnancy, labour and delivery on the tone of the inner core — the pelvic floor.

But with proper diagnosis and treatment, it is possible to repair the pelvic floor. Kegel exercises are key to successful recovery. Kegels work best when co-ordinated contractions of the pelvic floor muscles are supported by activation of adjacent muscle groups like the abdominal, gluteal and leg muscles.

There are training devices and specialists that can help you further hone the perfect Kegel. Consider seeing your doctor or a women’s health expert to ensure you have properly diagnosed the problem and what type of pelvic floor rehab is right for you.

8. Eat purposefully
Plan your diet to be rich in plant-derived phytonutrients and healthy sources of protein and fat and low in potentially harmful chemicals like pesticides, added flavouring and colouring chemicals in processed foods. The addition of supplements like vitamin D3 and calcium can help meet the higher needs of breast feeding women.

9. Join a mommy group or class!

New babies and their never ending needs can lead to social isolation. Make an effort to join a new mommy group or sign up for baby programs to meet other new moms. Stroller classes and other post-pregnancy fitness programs can keep you socially connected, fit and help foster baby’s development.

10. Take care of mommy, too!

Don’t skip out on your own health needs and self-care. Take time to visit your doctor to discuss any new problems like; persistent sadness, crying, hair loss, breast or nipple pain, excessive fatigue, bladder difficulties, acne or brown spots, and sexual health problems including pain with intercourse and low libido. These are just some of the many common health concerns that can emerge in a new mom and which can be properly investigated and treated by a doctor.

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Canada’s Youth Win Big With The Federal Budget

Posted on 31 March 2016 by admin

Sharon Wood, President and CEO, Kids Help Phone

Canada’s youth are the biggest winners from federal budget, but not in the way you’d expect. Buried deep inside the budget, well below the commendable financial commitments to First Nations, families and young children, is a potential game-changer for young people — plans to create the first ever Prime Minister’s Youth Council.

This is a momentous opportunity for Canada’s youth — but only if we get it right.

Young people in our country face significant challenges — high unemployment rates, barriers to education and job training, declining physical and mental health, a lack of affordable housing and social programs that often fail them. These problems are multiplied for aboriginal youth.

Canada’s young people face these huge challenges without a unified voice and without a clear plan to take them forward. It’s little wonder youth are often mistakenly characterized as being disengaged and disinterested.

Thankfully, there is widespread support in Canada to listen to youth voices more.

This February, a national Abacus Data survey commissioned by the National Youth Service Agencies (NYSA) — a self-formed group of youth-serving registered charities from across Canada — found that 69 per cent of Canadians support the creation of an advisory council. Their support is not surprising — 67 per cent of respondents also said that young people have too little influence on public policy.

The Prime Minister’s Youth Council offers an opportunity for youth to directly influence decisions at the highest level. It signals to young people in Canada that they do not face these challenges alone. For it to be effective, we need to carefully craft its priorities, its membership, its processes and its supports.

So first things first — who should be on the Youth Council? The first priority must be to involve some youth who do not yet have the right to vote. Engaging and involving young people early encourages them towards civic participation in adulthood and will begin to equip them with the tools they’ll need for their early adult years.

The Council must be diverse and socially inclusive, giving voice to all Canadian youth including the underrepresented populations that are frequently over-represented in every challenge facing youth. Young women, aboriginal youth, LGBTQ2S youth, and young people with lived-experiences of poverty and homelessness, care environments and mental health issues should all have a strong voice on the Youth Council.

What issues should the Youth Council prioritize? When asked in the Abacus Data survey, Canada’s youth aged 18-29 said that youth employment (66 per cent), post-secondary education and job training (63 per cent), mental health (55 per cent) and health care (50 per cent) were the issues the Council should focus on. The Prime Minister’s Office should consult widely with Canada’s youth, key ministerial staff and youth-serving agencies to make a comprehensive mandate and strategic action plan from the Council’s outset.

What supports will Youth Council members have? As a collection of Canada’s most prominent youth serving agencies, we know from experience that each young person is an individual, and each will react differently to their new role. It’s critical that Youth Council members receive ongoing emotional and professional support so they can manage the pressure and scrutiny of their new high-profile roles, such as access to support, media training, and skill-building opportunities.

Today we congratulate the Government for taking a bold and innovative step towards a brighter future for all young people in Canada. Let’s seize this opportunity to create a Youth Council that we can all be proud of.

National Youth Serving Agencies (NYSA) is a self-formed group of youth-serving registered charities from across Canada who reach 5.6 million children and youth. Group members include 4-H Canada, Best Buddies Canada, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada, Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada, Cadets Canada, Canadian Red Cross Society, The Duke of Edinburgh Awards, Frontier College, Girl Guides of Canada, Junior Achievement Canada, Kids Help Phone, Meal Exchange, National Association of Friendship Centres, National Youth in Care Network, Salvation Army, Pathways to Education, Save the Children, Scouts Canada, St. John Ambulance, The Navy League of Canada, The Students Commission of Canada, The United Nations Association in Canada, YMCA Canada, YOUCAN! and YWCA Canada.

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Effective moves to deal with flabby arms

Posted on 11 February 2016 by admin

Now you are one of those, one with the slender waist, yet are too embarrassed to get into a sleeveless outfit because you are embarrassed of your jiggly arms. It’s that upper arm flesh, which makes us think twice even when wearing short leaves. But you don’t have to live with those bat wings, sweat it out at the gym, or at home, and you are good to go.

But to get those well- sculpted arms, you need to work to reduce that flab from the back of your arms. For that, you need to include reg- ular cardio workouts such as swimming, running, brisk walking, cycling in your workout regime, eat a healthy, balanced diet, give up processed, sugary food (cakes, biscuits, bread) for lean protein and good fats (chicken, lentils and dairy products), which will help your body build more muscle, and get at least six hours of sleep.

Aside of giving you a leaner silhouette, building muscle in your upper arms and shoulders helps you stand taller, so your posture im- proves. Arm strength is good for performances in activities from swimming to yoga.


Hold a weight in each hand and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.» The palms of your hands should be facing forwards.» Bend your elbows, bringing your lower arms up towards your shoulders.» Lower your arms slowly back and with control to the starting position.


Stand with your knees slightly bent, a free weight in each hand.» Keeping your back flat, bend forward at the hips, lift both arms to the sides until they are parallel to the floor, squeezing your shoulder blades as you lift and main taining a slight bend in your elbows.» Count to one, then slow down. Do 10 reps.


Sit tall in a chair or stand with feet shoulder width apart and knees slightly bent. Hold a weight in each hand and ex- tend your arms straight out in front of you, chest height, slightly wider than your » Bring your arms slightly for- ward, upward, and then back- ward, making 12 inch circles with your arms.

» Repeat the circle movement twelve times and then reverse the motion by going backward, upward, and the forward. Repeat that motion 10 times.


Lying on your back on a bench, extend your arms overhead with a free weight in each hand » Bend your el- bows so your forearms are parallel to the floor. Slowly lengthen both arms at once, ex tending as high as you can. Count to one, then slow down. Do 10 reps.


Sit on a chair or bench. With your arms straightened, place your hands on the chair bench next to your butt.» Ex- tend your legs straight out in front of you. Now, lift your bottom off the bench. This is your starting position.


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The race to find ‘biomarkers’ that can predict dementia

Posted on 26 November 2015 by admin

In a laboratory on the south side of town one August afternoon, a man names animals as he paces down a walkway: Aardvark. Bear. Camel. Dog. Giraffe. That same afternoon in a lab on the north side of town, a graduate student is poring over data generated by a rare seven-tesla MRI. The brain imaging machine is the most powerful of its kind in Canada, and one of fewer than 60 in the world.

The south-side lab belongs to Manuel Montero Odasso, a geriatrician who studies gait and mobility. The north-side lab belongs to Robert Bartha, a physicist who works with cutting-edge imaging technology. But both researchers — and countless others around the world — are in pursuit of the same thing: dementia “biomarkers,” bodily clues that could predict the existence of the brain disorder years before its worst symptoms take hold.

That two scientists in the same city could be taking such divergent approaches speaks to the sheer challenge involved. Dementia affects nearly 50 million people worldwide, yet there is no single positive-or-negative test for it, only a combination of exams that support a diagnosis.

Biomarker research could provide more certainty for patients. But it could also bring more grief: should doctors tell patients their minds will one day unravel if there is no treatment? Decades of drug trials have failed to cure the disease.

“If tomorrow I could diagnose someone with Alzheimer’s disease five years before they got the symptoms, that would be a huge victory for us in terms of diagnosis. But the bottom line is we don’t have an effective treatment,” says Bartha.

Yet many researchers also believe that the best hope for a dementia drug is to intervene before memory problems become apparent. By the time symptoms are obvious, the brain is already ravaged. To peer inside the brain earlier — figuratively or literally — we need biomarkers.

“Maybe if you give (treatment) before the symptoms are full blown and the brain is already deteriorated, you’ll be able to postpone the disease significantly or change the course altogether,” says Bartha. “So having that biomarker that identifies people early is critical to defining new drugs and evaluating whether or not they’re going to be effective.”

Tim Costello, the 72-year-old man listing animals as he walks, is part of a study led by Montero Odasso that has been running since 2007 at London’s Parkwood Institute, involving 150 participants. The subjects, who have mild cognitive impairment — a diagnosis that sometimes leads to full-blown Alzheimer’s and sometimes doesn’t — return to the lab every six months to repeat the same series of tests.

They walk down a sensor-filled pathway as they undertake a series of cognitively demanding tasks. They count backwards from 100 by ones, and then by sevens. They list as many animals as they can. They balance on a platform. A computer records tiny variances in their gait and balance.

Normal adults slow down if they attempt cognitively demanding tasks while walking. But Montero Odasso has found that patients with cognitive impairment slow down more, and their gait becomes more uneven. If a simple walking test could predict who among the cognitively impaired will advance to more serious dementia, it would have immediate benefits — especially because other targets for biomarker research, such as spinal fluid, are invasive or expensive to obtain.

With gait analysis, “You can do it any time, anyplace,” says Montero Odasso, who is also a clinician-scientist at Western University.

The research also raises fascinating questions about our species, since bipedalism and brain expansion were both crucial adaptations in the evolution of Homo sapiens. In fact, many believe they were linked: that walking upright was necessary to develop bigger, more sophisticated brains. Other mammals, such as cats, can walk in a straight line even without a functioning cortex. But in humans, important aspects of cognition like attention and memory share the same brain circuits that control gait and navigation.

In Bartha’s lab at Western University’s Robarts Research Institute, multiple experiments are underway. But perhaps the most exciting is a collaboration among biophysicists, cell biologists, chemists and others at the multidisciplinary institute: the team is trying to develop injectable chemical tracers that would cling to early imbalances in the dementia-damaged brain and light up under an MRI scan.

 “They would kind of hunt out and stick to pathological changes associated with Alzheimer’s disease,” says Bartha. “It’s not something we’re actually doing in people yet — we’re still in the animal phase of testing — but it’s really a neat idea, and I think that’s the big future for imaging.”

Researchers already use a type of imager known as PET to scan for abnormal brain proteins linked to dementia, but in the context of clinical trials and other research — not as a diagnostic tool. PET systems are also rare, requiring long waits.

“In terms of getting this out to people, they wouldn’t have to wait a year or two for a scan. MRI is much more accessible, and it’s much cheaper than PET,” says Bartha. MRI is also a more flexible tool. “We can take really nice pictures, but we can also look at how the brain is functioning; we can do a memory test while someone is in the scanner.”

Montero Odasso and Bartha both see their own approach as the future. But they do not see themselves in competition: in fact, the participants in Montero Odasso’s trial undergo MRIs in Bartha’s lab, and both lead teams in the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging, a massive research network that aims to promote collaboration among top scientists and lead to transformative results.

Biomarkers: where else are researchers looking?

 Saliva: University of Alberta research presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in July showed that in a small sample of diseased and non-diseased patients, those with dementia had different patterns of certain substances that are the byproducts of metabolism. The evidence is very preliminary, but presents a tantalizing opportunity if it can be validated, because saliva is so easy to obtain.

 Cerebrospinal fluid: Research has suggested that those with dementia have different levels of amyloid and tau, two abnormal proteins linked to Alzheimer’s, in their cerebrospinal fluid, the clear fluid that protects the brain and spinal cord. Other proteins indicative of damage to the brain’s synapses, such as one called neurogranin, are also being probed.

 Blood: Researchers are also investigating whether abnormal levels of proteins can be detected in blood — a bodily fluid that is much easier to obtain and much more cost-effective, but still more invasive than other techniques.

 Eye: Researchers with the Ontario Neurodegenerative Disease Research Initiative are investigating eye movement as a potential biomarker, since some patterns, such as jumping between objects passing by a car window, are linked to the brain’s frontal lobe, where early damage occurs in Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases. The researchers are also examining how nerve fibres and blood vessels change over time in the eyes of dementia patients. Research elsewhere has suggested that amyloid and tau can be detected in dementia sufferer’s eye lenses.

 Brain: Since dementia is a neurodegenerative disorder, naturally, researchers are investigating many different biomarkers in the brain, including the presence of inflammation, evidence of altered proteins and simple brain size.

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Be safe from gastroenteritis

Posted on 22 July 2015 by admin


WITH monsoon upon us, health experts say that gastroenteritis is a common ailment that is affecting hundreds of people in the city. One of the most common symptoms of gastro is vomiting and diarrhoea, which causes severe weakness and discomfort.

Other symptoms include painful cramps in the stomach, bodyache, fever, waves of nausea and giddiness due to dehydration.

If you suffer from some of these symptoms or notice a family member suffering from them, it is best to get checked by a doctor to rule out any ailments. Senior citizens and children are more susceptible to dehydration, so it is important that they stay adequately hydrated.

General Physician Dr Manjusha Agarwal says that while street food can be very tempting during this weather, it is best to prepare tasty snacks in your own kitchen to keep temptations at bay. “Use only boiled, bottled or purified water.

Avoid water and ice that is not made from the above kind of water. Don’t drink beverages made other than from treated boiled water and do not add ice, even if they are not chilled to your liking. Avoid juices, buttermilk, lemon juice, etc, from street vendors. One must even avoid fruits, which have been pre-cut or peeled and kept in the open. It is strongly recommended to be careful about leafy vegetables like cabbage, spinach, fenugreek etc.

Presence of mud, dirt and worms make them all highly infectious. Fruits like pears, peaches, plums, papayas and bananas should be thoroughly washed before consuming.”

She continues, “Maintaining simple hygiene practices such as frequent hand washing especially before meals helps prevent communicable diseases. Have a balanced and protein rich diet — don’t forget to include antioxidant rich foods such as green tea, fresh fruits and assorted nuts to fight against infections and have strong immunity.”

In a nutshell There could be several causes of gastroenteritis.

These include:

– Consuming contaminated food or water.

– Following unhealthy hygiene habits or coming in contact with someone who already has the virus.

– Since the disease is often referred to as a foodborne disease, it is best to avoid eating out during this season.

– Make sure you boil all drinking water and keep the kitchen area clean and dry.

– Cook all food items thoroughly — don’t leave anything undercooked.

– Don’t keep cut fruits and vegetables open for a long time. Consume them soon after cutting.

– It is also advisable to maintain good hygiene habits — wash your hands every time after visiting the washroom.

– Use a hand sanitiser while travelling.

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Screen Addiction Is Taking a Toll on Children

Posted on 10 July 2015 by admin


Excessive use of computer games among young people in China appears to be taking an alarming turn and may have particular relevance for American parents whose children spend many hours a day focused on electronic screens. The documentary “Web Junkie,” to be shown next Monday on PBS, highlights the tragic effects on teenagers who become hooked on video games, playing for dozens of hours at a time often without breaks to eat, sleep or even use the bathroom. Many come to view the real world as fake.

Chinese doctors consider this phenomenon a clinical disorder and have established rehabilitation centers where afflicted youngsters are confined for months of sometimes draconian therapy, completely isolated from all media, the effectiveness of which remains to be demonstrated.

While Internet addiction is not yet considered a clinical diagnosis here, there’s no question that American youths are plugged in and tuned out of “live” action for many more hours of the day than experts consider healthy for normal development. And it starts early, often with preverbal toddlers handed their parents’ cellphones and tablets to entertain themselves when they should be observing the world around them and interacting with their caregivers.

In its 2013 policy statement on “Children, Adolescents, and the Media,” the American Academy of Pediatrics cited these shocking statistics from a Kaiser Family Foundation study in 2010: “The average 8- to 10-year-old spends nearly eight hours a day with a variety of different media, and older children and teenagers spend more than 11 hours per day.” Television, long a popular “babysitter,” remains the dominant medium, but computers, tablets and cellphones are gradually taking over.

“Many parents seem to have few rules about use of media by their children and adolescents,” the academy stated, and two-thirds of those questioned in the Kaiser study said their parents had no rules about how much time the youngsters spent with media.

Parents, grateful for ways to calm disruptive children and keep them from interrupting their own screen activities, seem to be unaware of the potential harm from so much time spent in the virtual world.

“We’re throwing screens at children all day long, giving them distractions rather than teaching them how to self-soothe, to calm themselves down,” said Catherine Steiner-Adair, a Harvard-affiliated clinical psychologist and author of the best-selling book “The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age.”

Before age 2, children should not be exposed to any electronic media, the pediatrics academy maintains, because “a child’s brain develops rapidly during these first years, and young children learn best by interacting with people, not screens.” Older children and teenagers should spend no more than one or two hours a day with entertainment media, preferably with high-quality content, and spend more free time playing outdoors, reading, doing hobbies and “using their imaginations in free play,” the academy recommends.

Heavy use of electronic media can have significant negative effects on children’s behavior, health and school performance. Those who watch a lot of simulated violence, common in many popular video games, can become immune to it, more inclined to act violently themselves and less likely to behave empathetically, said Dimitri A. Christakis of the Seattle Children’s Research Institute.

In preparing an honors thesis at the University of Rhode Island, Kristina E. Hatch asked children about their favorite video games. A fourth-grader cited “Call of Duty: Black Ops,” because “there’s zombies in it, and you get to kill them with guns and there’s violence … I like blood and violence.”

Teenagers who spend a lot of time playing violent video games or watching violent shows on television have been found to be more aggressive and more likely to fight with their peers and argue with their teachers, according to a study in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence.

Schoolwork can suffer when media time infringes on reading and studying. And the sedentary nature of most electronic involvement — along with televised ads for high-calorie fare — can foster the unhealthy weights already epidemic among the nation’s youth.

Two of my grandsons, ages 10 and 13, seem destined to suffer some of the negative effects of video-game overuse. The 10-year-old gets up half an hour earlier on school days to play computer games, and he and his brother stay plugged into their hand-held devices on the ride to and from school. “There’s no conversation anymore,” said their grandfather, who often picks them up. When the family dines out, the boys use their devices before the meal arrives and as soon as they finish eating.

“If kids are allowed to play ‘Candy Crush’ on the way to school, the car ride will be quiet, but that’s not what kids need,” Dr. Steiner-Adair said in an interview. “They need time to daydream, deal with anxieties, process their thoughts and share them with parents, who can provide reassurance.”

Technology is a poor substitute for personal interaction.

Out in public, Dr. Steiner-Adair added, “children have to know that life is fine off the screen. It’s interesting and good to be curious about other people, to learn how to listen. It teaches them social and emotional intelligence, which is critical for success in life.”

Children who are heavy users of electronics may become adept at multitasking, but they can lose the ability to focus on what is most important, a trait critical to the deep thought and problem solving needed for many jobs and other endeavors later in life.

Texting looms as the next national epidemic, with half of teenagers sending 50 or more text messages a day and those aged 13 through 17 averaging 3,364 texts a month, Amanda Lenhart of the Pew Research Center found in a 2012 study. An earlier Pew study found that teenagers send an average of 34 texts a night after they get into bed, adding to the sleep deprivation so common and harmful to them. And as Ms. Hatch pointed out, “as children have more of their communication through electronic media, and less of it face to face, they begin to feel more lonely and depressed.”

There can be physical consequences, too. Children can develop pain in their fingers and wrists, narrowed blood vessels in their eyes (the long-term consequences of which are unknown), and neck and back pain from being slumped over their phones, tablets and computers.

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How to Protect Your Skin From the Sun This Summer

Posted on 26 June 2015 by admin


What have been the recent changes in sunscreen protection?

There are two major changes in Canadian sun protection taking effect this summer. They’re part of a new Health Canada legislation that passed late last year. These changes are going to start happening this summer and will apply to new products. However, you may still see some products in the store, like last year’s stock in example, that aren’t following these rules.

The first major change is the UVA circle, which is the new seal of protection. This is possibly the most important piece of news in sun protection.

UVB rays cause sun burns and represent 5 per cent of the harmful UV rays which come from the sun. Meanwhile, UVA rays cause skin cancer and aging, and represent 95 per cent of the harmful UV rays that come from the sun. SPF is only a measure of UVB protection and doesn’t imply anything about UVA at all.

Since SPF is only referring to protection from UVB rays causing sunburns, Health Canada wanted a way to let people know how well sunscreens on the market can protect from UVA rays.

What to look for: Sunscreens that meet health Canada’s minimum standard of UVA protection will be allowed to display a new logo on their packaging. It looks like the image below. Canadians need to look for the circle.

The second major change is the new limit on SPF.

While there’s a significant difference between SPF levels of SPF 30 and SPF 60, once you
go above SPF 60, there’s a minimal difference in the level of protection that you’re getting.

Reason for the change: Health Canada wants to stop the misconceptions that lead to under-use of sunscreens with excessively high SPF. For example a common misconception is the idea that “SPF 100 is 100 per cent protection from the sun.”

It’s not, in fact no sunscreen is truly 100 per cent protection but once you’re at SPF 50, you’re about as close as you’ll get. This misconception causes people to under-apply thinking they’re more protected than they are. Or perhaps worse, not bother to re-apply.

What to look for: From now on the new cap on SPF will be 50. If a sunscreen has a higher SPF value than that it will be labelled as SPF 50+. This should keep things safe and easy to understand for Canadians.

Who should be using sunscreen?

Everyone should be using sunscreen, but especially children as their skin is more fragile and susceptible to sun damage. More importantly, if you get a serious sun burn before the age of 16, your chances of suffering from skin cancer later in life (increases).

If you have been using self tanner are you safe from the sun?

If you want a your skin to have a golden, “sun-kissed” glow, self-tanners are a much safer way to achieve this look, rather than actually tanning in the sun. Just keep in mind that self-tanners often don’t contain much (if any) SPF or UVA protection. So if you’re going outside in the sun, you’ll still need a high protection sunscreen.

How to get the most out of your sunscreen protection?

Ensure that you’re applying 30 ml (which is the equivalent of the size of a golf ball) for your whole body when you’re out in the sun.

Ensure you apply your sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside. It takes about this long to bind to your skin. However, if you use a mineral sunscreen, it can be applied right before you go out under the sun and you won’t need to wait 30 minutes.

Sunscreen only lasts for two hours. Make sure you re-apply if you’re going to be out in the sun longer. Keep in mind that it takes 30 minutes for your sunscreen before it starts working, so that implies to re-apply every 1.5 hours to be safe.

Any other tips?

Even if you’re using waterproof sunscreen, make sure you re-apply after you towel off.

I will be using these tips to keep my skin safe and happy this summer. Your suggestions are always welcome, as I continue on my journey to enjoy life to the fullest. Let’s have the very best 2015!


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Monkey malaria in humans on the rise

Posted on 13 June 2015 by admin


Plasmodium knowlesi, previously thought to only affect macaques, caused 66 per cent of Malaysia’s malaria cases last yea

In the spring of 1965, a lone American set off for the jungles of Malaysia, sleeping by day and working by night. The official story is that “B.W.” was a surveyor with the U.S. army; it’s believed, however, that he was actually a CIA spy, dispatched to the Malaysian hilltops to eavesdrop on communists.

It remains unclear what B.W. accomplished in that jungle. But according to the medical literature, he definitely picked up something strange: a mean case of monkey malaria.

Two weeks after leaving Malaysia, B.W. landed in a Maryland hospital with a diagnosis of Plasmodium knowlesi, a form of malaria previously thought to only infect macaques.

He became the first person in recorded history to catchmonkey malaria in the wild, but he would not be the last. Today, five decades after B.W. came down with a fever, thousands of P. knowlesi cases have been reported across Southeast Asia, in every country but Laos. The vast majority have occurred in Malaysia, where the monkey parasite is now the leading cause of human malaria, and government officials recently announced that P. knowlesi caused 66 per cent of the country’s 3,923 malaria cases last year.

Once written off as a monkey problem, scientists now consider P. knowlesi to be the “fifth human malaria.” But even as the human toll ticks upward, the mystery around this strange disease lingers.

“It’s surprising how little we do know about P. knowlesi,” said Jonathan Cox, a medical geographer with the London School of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, who is spearheading a project studying the disease’s emergence. “I don’t think it’s going to cause a pandemic or anything. But we don’t know enough about the risk factors to know exactly what we’re dealing with yet.”

Even the CIA agent’s case was considered a fluke, with investigations at the time concluding it was a freak occurrence.

“The 1965 case was probably considered a curiousity,” said Dr. Christopher Plowe, a malaria expert with the University of Maryland. “We had no clue P. knowlesi was significant to human health.”

But then came the husband-and-wife team of Balbir Singh and Janet Cox-Singh, both malaria researchers who moved to Malaysian Borneo, where they started a lab at the University of Malaysia Sarawak.

Prior to leaving, Singh asked a World Health Organization colleague if there was anything interesting about malaria in Malaysia that he should investigate. “He said, ‘Look out for P. malariae,” Singh recalled.

  1. malariaeis one of the rarer forms of human malaria. But as the country made greater strides in fighting malaria — reducing its annual caseload from 60,000 in 1995 to less than 4,000 last year — it became increasingly clear that there was something odd about Malaysia’sP. malariae cases.

For one, patients were getting really sick, sometimes even dying — unusual for P. malariae, which is thought to cause milder disease. So Singh travelled by boat up the Rajang river to visit a hospital in the remote region of Malaysia where cases were clustering, bringing a handful of patient blood samples back to his lab.

Using what was then-considered novel gene sequencing technology, Singh quickly realized why these cases were so weird. They weren’t P. malariae at all; they were P. knowlesi.

“Initially, we thought it was just one or two cases,” said Singh. “But what we found out was that virtually everything that’s been identified as P. malariae has been P. knowlesi.”

Singh has since identified more than 1,200 cases and he now believes that P. malariaeisn’t endemic to Malaysia at all. He explains that previous cases were probably misdiagnosed because the two malarias look so similar under the microscope.

For Singh, there are many important questions to answer still when it comes to P. knowlesi, including why, exactly, cases seem to be on the rise. His worst-case scenario is that P. knowlesi (still believed to be sporadically jumping from monkey to human) will evolve to start spreading human-to-human — a development that could pave the way for monkey malaria to spread beyond Southeast Asia and regions where macaques are prevalent.

Of the five human malarias, P. knowlesi is still a lower priority, accounting for a tiny proportion of the total human misery caused by this disease. But scientists know fully well that infectious diseases are always ready to send up new surprises.

“We can too often, as researchers, slip into a way of thinking that ‘Malaria is this’ or ‘Malaria is that,’” said David Conway, a malaria researcher at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine who also studies P. knowlesi. “But that can change — and it has changed.”

Why are cases of monkey malaria on the rise?

Here are four theories for what might be driving the uptick:

Better detection

Scientists suspect Plasmodium knowlesi has long been infecting people — only now we have the tools to detect it. Under the microscope, the parasite looks near-identical toPlasmodium malariae but thanks to a technology called PCR, scientists can now accurately diagnose monkey malaria. And as the old adage goes: “The more you look, the more you will find.”


Malaysia is undergoing massive deforestation, primarily due to an expansion of palm oil plantations. This means macaques (the natural “host” for the P. knowlesi parasite) are being driven from their habitats and spreading closer to human populations. Meanwhile, human population expansion is bringing people into jungles — and therefore closer to macaques and the mosquitoes that bite them.

Mosquito behaviour

The mosquitoes that transmit monkey malaria belong to the Anopheles leucosphyrusgroup, a forest-dwelling insect that likes to feed outdoors and bite at night. They prefer feeding on macaques but perhaps they’ve recently developed a taste for humans; another theory is that a new mosquito species has entered the mix. “Some mosquito vectors are quite open-minded,” said David Conway with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. “Mosquito populations can shift.”

Parasite mutation

Scientists still have a lot to learn about the P. knowlesi parasite and a recent study revealed that humans were actually being infected by two subtypes of the parasite, each specific to a species of macaque. So what might happen if mosquitoes were simultaneously infected by both P. knowlesi subtypes? “Potentially you could get hybridization,” said Jonathan Cox with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. “And that might change how pathogenic this parasite is.”

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