By Emma Teitel - Wednesday, November 7, 2012 - 0 Comments
Heart disease ran in the family; he had survived three heart attacks, and a heart transplant
Ronald Alan Sept was born on Jan. 11, 1946, in Medicine Hat, Alta. His parents, Albert and Anne Sept, were farmers from Maple Creek, a rural Saskatchewan town, some 85 km southeast of Medicine Hat. Ron, the first of two children (his sister Carol would come five years later) was milking cows and feeding chickens at age five. He liked to ride horses, herd cattle and help his mom bake cookies. But his favourite pastime was music. When Ron was 7, he took up the accordion and couldn’t put it down. He was so skilled after just two weeks that his teacher sent him home: “The teacher said ‘He’s gonna teach me!’ ” Ron told his family.
On Christmas Eve, 1958, when Ron was 12, his dad suffered a heart attack and died. Things changed quickly for the Septs. Anne rented the family farm to her brother and moved Ron and Carol to Medicine Hat, where she found work in a hospital kitchen. Ron grew up overnight, helping with chores, getting Carol ready for school. But he wasn’t all that interested in school. As a teen he often missed class—intent on making a living, not getting a diploma. One day, when he was 16, he skipped school to help a friend deliver milk. Ron was in the passenger seat of his friend’s milk truck when another driver ran a stop sign and smashed into them. Ron went flying through the windshield. Miraculously, his only injury was a cut on his forehead; this, however, wouldn’t be the last time he dodged death. Continue…
By Kate Lunau - Monday, March 12, 2012 at 11:50 AM - 0 Comments
And exercising won’t necessarily save you
Shoehorning a visit to the gym into a busy day is difﬁcult for almost anybody. Jacqueline Gradish, a personal trainer in Toronto, sees it all the time with her clients, who are “crammed into their workdays,” she says. “They come ﬁrst thing in the morning, because it’s the only time they have control over.” Even after a session with Gradish, many will ﬁnd themselves spending the rest of the day barely moving: seated at a desk, in a car, or after work, on the couch. “Some of them are literally tied to a screen,” she says.
Canadian adults are now spending about three-quarters of their time sedentary, according to Mark Tremblay, director of the Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group (HALO) at the CHEO Research Institute in Ottawa. A growing body of research suggests that too much sedentary time carries risks—even for those who diligently exercise. In September, Tremblay’s group launched the Sedentary Behaviour Research Network (SBRN) to study the impact of all the time we spend inactive, the dangers of which we’re only starting to understand. Jean-Philippe Chaput, junior research chair at HALO, puts it bluntly: “Independent of physical activity, sitting too much is killing us.”
According to Canadian guidelines, adults should do 150 minutes of moderate or vigorous aerobic physical activity per week, in 10-minute bouts or more. But only 15 per cent of us actually do that much, according to Statistics Canada; among that small group, many would qualify as “active couch potatoes,” who exercise for 30 minutes or so and spend the rest of their time relatively inactive. “A few [recent] studies have suggested that people who sit more die sooner, and have an increased risk of disease,” says Travis Saunders, a Ph.D. candidate at CHEO. “We’ve all been blind to it the past 30 or 40 years, focusing on the importance of physical activity. Sitting was just seen as a lack of activity,” not as an independent risk factor, as it’s now understood.
By Kate Fillion - Tuesday, September 20, 2011 at 9:40 AM - 240 Comments
Dr. William Davis on why it is so addictive, and how shunning it will make you skinny
William Davis, a preventive cardiologist who practises in Milwaukee, Wis., argues in his new book Wheat Belly that wheat is bad for your health—so bad that it should carry a surgeon general’s warning.
Q: You say the crux of the problem with wheat is that the stuff we eat today has been genetically altered. How is it different than the wheat our grandparents ate?
A: First of all, it looks different. If you held up a conventional wheat plant from 50 years ago against a modern, high-yield dwarf wheat plant, you would see that today’s plant is about 2½ feet shorter. It’s stockier, so it can support a much heavier seedbed, and it grows much faster. The great irony here is that the term “genetic modification” refers to the actual insertion or deletion of a gene, and that’s not what’s happened with wheat. Instead, the plant has been hybridized and crossbred to make it resistant to drought and fungi, and to vastly increase yield per acre. Agricultural geneticists have shown that wheat proteins undergo structural change with hybridization, and that the hybrid contains proteins that are found in neither parent plant. Now, it shouldn’t be the case that every single new agricultural hybrid has to be checked and tested, that would be absurd. But we’ve created thousands of what I call Frankengrains over the past 50 years, using pretty extreme techniques, and their safety for human consumption has never been tested or even questioned.
By Julia Belluz - Thursday, August 4, 2011 at 4:39 PM - 9 Comments
The Statement: “People who eat a high-sodium diet can be putting themselves at risk of high blood pressure that can lead to heart attack and stroke.”—The Chronicle Herald, 08/03/2011
After decades of attempts by policy makers to wean people off the white stuff, it is now taboo to grab the salt shaker at a restaurant and pour it like snow on your dinner. The wisdom that salt is bad is often reinforced in the media. Just this week, the Chronicle Herald ran a piece about how to “shake your salt habit,” as if sodium were akin to tobacco or cocaine. The Globe and Mail also published on a new scare study, which revealed that 70 per cent of infants consume too much salt. Parents were warned that side-effects could be “more serious than having bloated babies… too much salt in an infant can lead to poor kidney development (and kidneys are the organs that help us skim salt from our blood).” Continue…
By Kate Fillion - Monday, November 22, 2010 at 9:15 AM - 1 Comment
On what to eat to avoid catching colds, herbs that work, and being a human guinea pig
The bestselling health writer is a participatory journalist who has tried everything from body scans to biofeedback to rolfing. In The Secrets Of People Who Never Get Sick, Stone supplies tips (and the scientific rationale behind them) from unusually healthy people.
Q: One of the health tips in your book is to take brewer’s yeast daily. What’s the scientific basis for that?
A: Brewer’s yeast is a pretty amazing way to get your vitamin B: thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, panthothenic acid, folic acid—it’s got everything except vitamin B12. Vitamin Bs also keep homocysteine levels low. Epidemiological studies have linked high levels of homocysteine to stroke and coronary heart disease. And brewer’s yeast is a good source of protein, plus you get all these amazing minerals like selenium and potassium. It’s a natural way to get substances your body needs, without having to buy a bunch of different pills.
Q: If you drink beer regularly are you getting the same stuff?
A: I talked to a beer manufacturer who claimed that you did, but it’s not absolutely clear. It looks like if you skim the top off of a beer you might be getting the same stuff, but oddly enough, no one has ever done a double blind, random controlled study on beer as a preventative for colds! Seriously, things that tend to be free or easily available aren’t money makers for drug companies, so there isn’t much research on them. That doesn’t mean they don’t work.
By Cathy Gulli - Monday, September 27, 2010 at 12:53 PM - 0 Comments
Not that they’re inclined to believe it
Boomers developed their “forever young” mentality partly as an aversion to how their parents aged, says social demographer Andrew V. Wister: “They saw the grey hair, the wrinkles. They got slower and chubbier. Boomers are very cognizant that they don’t want to age the way their parents did.” So it makes perfect sense that baby boomers are among the biggest consumers of Botox and hair dye. But beyond the surface, it’s another story: rather than being more fit than their parents were when they were in their 40s, 50s and 60s, many boomers are actually now in worse shape.
It’s an inevitable part of adulthood: realizing the ways in which we are just like and nothing like our parents. The revelation can be amusing, even nostalgic. Or, as recent statistics examining the health of baby boomers suggest, the realization can be unsettling.
In this, the second article in a three-part series examining the wellness and lifestyles of baby boomers—those born between 1946 and 1965, who account for nearly one-third of the national population—Maclean’s explores their physical condition and finds that for all their youthful attitudes, baby boomers are actually setting themselves up for senior years marred by sickness.
By Julia McKinnell - Tuesday, March 16, 2010 at 10:05 AM - 24 Comments
For night terrors on business trips, call the hotel front desk and don’t flaunt your meds
Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams would be wise to say as little as possible about his heart surgery and recovery, according to advice in a new book on how to cope with the emotional after-effects of heart surgery through an “eight-step Cardiac Comeback Plan.”
“One day I was strong. The next day I was weak. One day my colleagues looked up to me. The next day they seemed to see me as weak and ‘damaged,’ ” writes Dr. Marc Wallack in Back to Life After a Heart Crisis. Wallack is a New York surgical oncologist who had a quadruple bypass. “Only tell people about your heart disease on a need-to-know basis,” he advises. “You do not need people talking about you while you are trying to recover. You do not need people using the details of your illness for their own personal gain.”
Before going into the hospital, pack the following, he suggests: slip-on shoes, bathrobe, baseball cap and sunglasses. “After being indoors that long, the glare of the sun can be uncomfortable, and you don’t need anything else to make you uncomfortable during that long, hard walk from the hospital door to your waiting car. You might also want to bring a puffy jacket, such as a ski jacket.” The jacket isn’t for warmth, “but to protect your tender incision area and prevent other people from getting too close to you.”
By Kate Lunau - Wednesday, February 25, 2009 at 10:10 AM - 1 Comment
The quest to use the body’s own cells to fix a damaged heart
How do you mend a broken heart? For the zebrafish, an aquarium dweller with bright stripes down its side, it just takes time. Clip off a piece of its heart, says Gordon Keller, director of the McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine in Toronto, and it will eventually repair itself. “Why can the fish do it,” he wonders, “and we can’t?” Maybe, one day, that could change.
After a heart attack, a scar is left behind, distorting pumping action, “which can result, eventually, in heart failure,” says Ottawa cardiologist Dr. Andreas Wielgosz, spokesperson for the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada. Cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 killer in Canada—yet cell-based therapies are offering new hope for treating damaged organs. Using the body’s own building blocks, researchers are attempting to coax the human heart into generating functioning tissue where a scar would otherwise be.
By Cathy Gulli - Monday, February 23, 2009 at 1:00 PM - 0 Comments
Women often downplay their risks and symptoms. So do some men around them.
Talk to most doctors about heart disease for long enough and one phrase is bound to come up: “It’s an equal-opportunity threat,” says Dr. Beth Abramson, a spokesperson for the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada and director of the cardiac prevention and rehab centre and women’s cardio division at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. Today, just about the same number of men and women succumb to heart disease and stroke, about 36,000 annually. Yet “when people shut their eyes and think of someone having a heart attack, they think often of a man,” she says. “It’s perceived to be a man’s disease. It’s not.”
In fact, one in three Canadian women will die of heart disease and stroke—compared to one in 18 from lung cancer and one in 28 from breast cancer. By 2050, stroke mortality in the U.S. is projected to be 30 per cent higher for females than males. Despite the staggeringly high risks, the issue is only now gaining widespread recognition. “We noticed [female] patients were so surprised to have had a heart attack,” says Dr. Susan Bennett, director of the women’s heart program at George Washington University Hospital in Washington. The thinking was, “ ‘Everybody was checking my breasts and uterus, but nobody was talking to me about heart disease.’ ”