Guard your heart health

Heart disease is the second leading cause of death in Canada and is a leading cause of hospitalization. In fact, about 1 in every 12 (or 2.6 million) Canadians aged 20 years and over live with diagnosed heart disease. However, early detection and management of conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes can help reduce your risk of developing heart disease.

Types of heart disease

There are many different types of heart disease, and they can be grouped into categories depending on how they affect the structure or function of the heart. For example:

  • Cardiomyopathy is a disease of the heart muscle that makes the heart weaker and unable to pump blood through the body properly or maintain a normal rhythm. It can cause a variety of symptoms including chest pain, shortness of breath, fainting, and swelling of the legs or ankles. As the condition worsens, it can lead to other problems such as irregular heartbeat, heart failure, stroke, cardiac arrest (the sudden loss of heart function), and heart valve disease.
  • Congenital heart disease refers to a heart condition that is present from birth. These heart defects can range from mild (a small hole in the heart) to severe (such as parts of the heart being poorly formed or even completely missing). These defects can affect how blood flows through the heart and into the rest of the body. The symptoms someone experiences will depend on the specific type of heart defect that person has.
  • Heart failure happens when the heart doesn’t pump blood as well as it should. As a result, the rest of the body doesn’t get enough blood. This can lead to a wide range of symptoms including fatigue, weakness, irregular heartbeat, wheezing, swelling in the belly area or in the legs and feet, rapid weight gain due to fluid buildup, chest pain, and trouble concentrating or decreased alertness. Complications of heart failure may include blood clots that can lead to a stroke, breathing difficulties, impaired liver or kidney function, and loss of muscle tissue.
  • Ischemic heart disease, also known as coronary artery disease, is the most common form of heart disease. It is due to an inadequate blood supply to the heart resulting from a blockage of the vessels that supply blood to the heart. Some people experience no symptoms, but when symptoms do occur, they may include fatigue, a fast heartbeat, shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting, sweating, and pain in the neck, jaw, shoulder, or arm. This condition can lead to serious complications including irregular heart rhythm, heart failure, and heart attack.
  • Peripheral vascular disease, which affects blood vessels that are not located near the heart, primarily involves the vessels in the legs. Only about half of the people who have peripheral vascular disease experience symptoms. The most common symptom is leg cramping that occurs during exercise. Some of the other symptoms it can cause include changes in the skin on the legs and feet, thickened toenails, weak pulses in the legs and feet, hair loss on the legs, and wounds that don’t heal over pressure points such as heels and ankles. This condition can lead to serious consequences such as nonhealing ulcers, deep vein thrombosis, erectile dysfunction, or even stroke.
  • Rheumatic heart disease, which can begin with rheumatic fever in childhood, affects heart valves, although sometimes not until 10 to 20 years after the initial illness. The symptoms a person has depend on the amount of valve damage and may include chest pain, swelling, and shortness of breath. Rheumatic fever may also develop if a person has strep throat or scarlet fever and the infection is not treated properly or after strep skin infections (impetigo). Because rheumatic fever is an immune response, not an infection, you cannot catch it from someone else who has rheumatic fever, but people with certain strep infections can spread the bacteria to others. Some of the complications of rheumatic heart disease include bacterial endocarditis (an infection of the lining of the heart), a ruptured heart valve, heart failure, and difficulties with pregnancy or delivery due to heart damage.

Who gets heart disease?

Heart disease can occur at any age but typically men are newly diagnosed between the ages of 55 to 64, while women are diagnosed between 65 to 75 years of age—ten years later than men. Men are also twice as likely to suffer a heart attack as women. According to data from the 2017-2018 Canadian Chronic Disease Surveillance System, each hour about 14 Canadian adults aged 20 and older with diagnosed heart disease die.

Fortunately, there are steps that can be taken to help prevent heart disease. Although there is nothing we can do about having a family history of heart disease or getting older, there are several factors that increase our risk of developing heart disease that we can work on modifying. We can reduce our risk by making healthy lifestyle choices that include:

  • Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight
  • Avoiding smoking
  • Being physically active
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Managing stress in a healthy way

Early detection and management of conditions that can lead to heart disease are also extremely important in helping to preserve the health of your heart.

Testing for heart disease

There are several different tests doctors perform to monitor heart health and detect heart conditions. These tests fall into a variety of categories including blood pressure monitoring, blood tests, electrocardiograms, echocardiograms, and coronary angiograms. A doctor will determine which tests each patient should have based on current health status and any symptoms that may be present. Ask your doctor how often you should have your heart health screened and if any of these tests would be right for you. Remember, many forms of heart disease do not have symptoms that you can feel.

Your London Drugs pharmacy is also an important resource in maintaining your heart health. Your pharmacist can review your medications and supplements, suggest health screening tests, and work with you and your healthcare team to optimize your treatment and prevention plan.  Complimentary self-serve blood pressure kiosks are available at all London Drugs pharmacy locations, or our pharmacy team can help you select an at home blood pressure monitor to suit your needs.  We carry a variety of monitors with the latest features, such as atrial fibrillation detection and wireless capabilities.  Our selection of Connected Health devices allow you to store results in an app to make sharing with a caregiver or healthcare team easy and convenient.  Ask your London Drugs pharmacist today how we can help you to safeguard your heart health.

Why is everyone talking about RSV?

Three things are certain each fall: cooler temperatures, pumpkin spice everything –– and an uptick in coughs and runny noses. With the kids back to school, people being indoors more often, and in close proximity to each other, viruses like respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) are on the rise.

RSV is a common, highly contagious virus that can appear like a common cold. Symptoms often start two to eight days after you come into contact with the virus and can include coughing, wheezing, sneezing, and a fever. Luckily, for most people, RSV infections tend to be mild and clear up on their own in one to two weeks. If you or your child have symptoms of RSV, speak with your local London Drugs pharmacist about things you can do at home to keep you comfortable while you recover. They may recommend over-the-counter fever reducers, pain relievers and nasal saline drops, for example. Although it may be difficult to differentiate your symptoms from a common cold, influenza or COVID-19, your London Drugs pharmacist can answer any questions you may have about your symptoms, and let you know if you should see your doctor.

Some people, like older adults, young babies and immunocompromised individuals are at a higher risk of developing more serious illness from RSV. According to one analysis, RSV caused some 470,000 hospitalizations and 33,000 deaths in people aged 60 and older in high-income countries, including Canada, in 2019. You can reduce the odds of spreading the virus to those who are more vulnerable by limiting close contact with other people while you are feeling unwell.

In past, we may not have paid RSV much attention, in part because there has been no routine testing for older adults. But that’s starting to change, in part due to the “tripledemic” that overwhelmed our doctors’ offices and hospitals last winter, when the flu, COVID-19 and RSV made so many people ill. The good news is that in addition to increasing awareness about this virus, we now have an important new tool available to help prevent severe infections.

Health Canada has approved the first vaccine for RSV for people ages 60 years and older. During clinical trials, it was found to be over 82% effective at preventing lower respiratory tract disease caused by RSV in older adults, and over 94% effective in those with underlying medical conditions. RSV infections tend to spread to the lower respiratory tract, and make it difficult to breathe, especially for older adults. It’s expected that this new vaccine will reduce hospitalizations and more serious outcomes for older people who fall ill with RSV in the coming months with effects that may last beyond the season.   Other RSV vaccines are awaiting approval by Health Canada and will be available soon.

If you are 60 or older, give yourself the best chance at staying well this season by talking to your London Drugs pharmacist about getting vaccinated against RSV.

 

Becoming Smoke Free

It is no secret that smoking is bad for your health. Smoking has negative effects on nearly every organ in your body, and it has been connected with more than two dozen diseases and conditions. In fact, smoking tobacco is the number one cause of preventable deaths in Canadians, and it impacts the health of people of all ages—from unborn babies to seniors. About 48,000 people in Canada die from tobacco use each year. Every single day, about 125 Canadians die due to a smoking-related illness.

Smoking increases the risk of coronary artery disease and stroke by two to four times, and it increases the risk of lung cancer by about 25 times. Smoking also contributes to problems with vision, fertility, dental health, bone health, rheumatoid arthritis, and type 2 diabetes. Adults who don’t smoke but are exposed to secondhand smoke can develop many of the same health problems that affect smokers.

Smoking during pregnancy can cause tissue damage in a developing baby and may increase the risk of miscarriage. Babies whose mothers smoked while pregnant and babies who are exposed to secondhand smoke after birth are more likely to die from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Is vaping safer? Maybe not. Vaping may reduce overall health risks to an adult who switches completely from smoking tobacco to vaping nicotine.  However, vaping it is not harmless.  When inhaled by vaping, nicotine is absorbed through the lungs and moves quickly through the bloodstream, entering the brain and other organs, just as it does with smoking. Vaping can damage blood vessels and increases the risk of heart disease. Plus, it can irritate the throat and lead to lung diseases like asthma and emphysema. Kids and teens who vape are particularly at risk of the harmful effects of nicotine, because their brains are still developing.  They may be more susceptible to becoming addicted to nicotine and at lower levels of exposure than adults. Ultimately, it may also lead them to smoking cigarettes.

Is now your time to quit?  Need some help?

May 31 is World No Tobacco Day. Why not make that the day you decide to quit?

Quitting smoking isn’t easy, but it is possible, and London Drugs can help you. Ask our pharmacists about scheduling a Smoking Cessation Consultation. During this free meeting, your pharmacist will provide you with practical tips and advice on quitting and will work with you to develop a personalized plan to help you quit. The pharmacist can also recommend non-prescription medications to help you quit successfully or suggest prescription drugs you should talk to your doctor about.  In British Columbia, the BC Pharmacare Smoking Cessation Program is available to help cover the costs of these medications.

 

Don’t wait—now is the perfect time to make the decision to take control of your health. Speak to your local London Drugs pharmacist to find out how they can help you today, tomorrow, or whenever you are ready.

 

References:

Risks of vaping – Canada.ca

Health risks of vaping-handout (final) (quitnow.ca)

Government of Canada. Calendar of health promotion days

Government of Canada. Smoking and Your Body

CDC. Health Effects of Cigarette Smoking

CDC. Smoking During Pregnancy

CDC. Health Problems Caused by Secondhand Smoke

Government of Canada. Tobacco and premature death

Government of Canada. Risks of vaping

Government of Canada. Quitting Smoking: Deciding to Quit

How Connected Wellness Devices Can Help You

The concept of medical devices that attach to your body, take measurements to monitor your health, and report the results to your healthcare team may sound like the premise of a science fiction movie, but it is actually the face of medicine today.

The London Drugs Connected Wellness Program combines the medical expertise of our pharmacists with the expertise of our TECH Department. Our pharmacists can recommend appropriate health monitoring devices to meet your needs and can help you interpret the results. And our TECH Department can help you set up compatible Bluetooth devices and apps to download the readings to. The data collected on your device can then be shared with anyone YOU choose, from family and caregivers to members of your healthcare team. The most common connected wellness devices are fitness trackers and watches that monitor your activity, heart rate, and even oxygen levels in your blood. Connected health can also be used for monitoring blood pressure, body temperature, or blood glucose levels. These devices operate using a variety of solutions like sensors and wireless connectivity to collect and transmit data to your mobile phone or tablet through an app.

What are the benefits of connected wellness?

Monitoring blood glucose without pricking a finger
Continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) devices measure glucose levels at regular periods throughout the day and night. And you can view your glucose level any time just by looking at an app on your mobile phone or tablet. This can be extremely helpful for people with diabetes to reduce the number of finger pokes, to identify trends in the readings, or to monitor the glucose of a child or loved one remotely.

Avoidance of misleading blood pressure readings
Some people get so nervous when having their blood pressure measured at the doctor’s office, that it throws off the reading. Measuring your blood pressure at home with a connected blood pressure monitor and tracking it over time provides a more accurate way of assessing your blood pressure for you and your healthcare provider. You can share all your readings from home through an app to allow them to see what you are experiencing every day.

Improved quality of life
Knowing that you can monitor your own health and share it with those who can help is empowering. And by sharing this reliable health information with your healthcare team it will allow them to make more informed medical decisions with you.

Better access to healthcare
Connected wellness technologies enable care to be delivered outside of hospitals, laboratories, and doctors’ offices, eliminating barriers for people whose locations or life circumstances make it difficult to access healthcare testing and monitoring facilities on a regular basis.

How Does London Drugs Support Connected Wellness?

London Drugs carries a wide range of smart technology devices that can help you take control of your personal health. These devices can help you track your blood pressure, heart rate, blood glucose, sleep, activity levels, and more. Our London Drugs pharmacists will help you find the right solution to manage your condition, and our TECH staff will make sure these solutions will work for you. Our pharmacists and TECH staff work together to help you select the right tech device for your needs, and we set up your device to ensure that everything is working properly and that you understand how to operate and maintain the device. We also help you track and monitor your results and share your health data with anyone you choose–your healthcare providers, caregivers, or family—through your smartphone or tablet.

We are here to help you. Ask us about connected wellness and what it can mean for you.

Men’s Health Week – June 13-19

Men’s Health Week is June 13-19 2022, aimed to raise awareness about important health issues impacting men and boys.

Did you know?

According to Health Canada, men are twice as likely as women to suffer a heart attack.

Did you know?

According to Health Canada, men are newly diagnosed with heart disease about 10 years younger than women (55-64 years vs 65-74 years)

What is heart disease?

Heart disease is a term to describe a number of conditions affecting the heart including coronary artery and vascular disease due to hardening of the arteries (cause of most heart attacks and angina), rhythm disorders (arrhythmias), structural heart abnormalities, and heart failure.

What are some common causes of heart disease in men?

How can you reduce your risk of heart disease?

What else can you do to reduce your risk of heart disease?

  • Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about your risk of and management of high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol. All are contributing factors to risk of heart disease.

What are the top 5 causes of death for men in Canada?

According to Statistics Canada (2020) the leading causes of death were:

  1. Cancers
  2. Heart diseases
  3. Unintentional injuries (accidents)
  4. Covid-19
  5. Cerebrovascular diseases (strokes, hemorrhages)

Stress and Mental Health

What exactly is stress?17 Stress is a biological response that causes hormones (brain chemicals) to surge through your body. These hormones make you sweat, breathe more rapidly, and tense your muscles. Sometimes called “fight or flight,” the stress response is a built-in alarm system that prepares your body to take action – or leave the scene.

Stress and Mental Health

Stress is a normal response to outside pres­sures or demands, and small doses of stress help people stay focused, meet deadlines, and handle challenging situations. When stress is frequent or prolonged, however, the risk of mental health problems increases. Long-term stress raises the risk of depression, anxiety, and harmful substance use, as well as medical problems such as aches and pains, digestive problems, and even heart disease.17 It also works the other way: mental health problems make you less capable of handling stress.1

Common sources of stress include a challenging physical environment (such as an unsafe living space), relationships, work, financial problems, and major life changes.17 Of course, you may have other sources of stress that reflect the unique pattern of your life.

Modern life puts stress in just about everyone’s path. So how do you know if stress is a problem for you? The table below lists some symptoms to watch for.17 Pay special attention if you notice these symptoms occurring more often than usual.

Thinking symptoms

  • Difficulty thinking or concentrating
  • Memory problems
  • Negativity or lack of self-confidence
  • Constant worrying
  • Difficulty making decisions

Emotional Symptoms

  • Nervousness, inability to relax
  • Fear or Anxiety
  • Sadness or Guilt
  • Low morale
  • Feeling hopeless or helpless

Physical Symptoms

  • Heahaches, muscle tension, other physical aches
  • Digestive problems
  • Rapid heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of sex drive

Behavioural symptoms

  • Changes in eating or sleeping patterns
  • Social withdrawal
  • Nervous habits such as nail biting
  • Increased use of substances
  • Neglect of family or work responsibilities

The Sandwich Life

About one in 10 parents belong to the “sandwich generation” – people caring for both children and elders- and they typically spend three hours per day on caregiving duties. Not surprisingly, such double duties create extra stress. if you find yourself in this situation and have other family members who can step up, hold family meetings to discuss and assign tasks, so the responsibility doesn’t fall on you alone. Prepare for financial challenges by consulting an advisor. Just as important, schedule “duty-free” leisure time with the older people you care for, so you get a physical and mental break from your to-do list.

Resources: https://cdn.flipsnack.com/widget/v2/widget.html?hash=7cfr0qan30

Mental Health: When You Need Extra Help

Mental health problems rarely stay in one place. If we catch them early, they often improve. If we wait too long, they can easily get worse and turn into a true mental health disorder, like anxiety or depression.

Mental health problems and substance use also feed into each other: having a mental illness doubles the risk of having a substance use problem, and people with substance use problems are three times as likely to have a mental illness.21

Mental health and substance use disorders are common­ and not to be taken lightly. Consider these facts:2-1 25

Frequency

  • In any given year, 1 in 5 Canadians experiences a mental illness or addiction.
  • By age 40, about half of Canadians have had (or still have) a mental illness.
  • About 4.6% of Canadians have an anxiety disorder, while 5.4% have major depression.
  • Over a lifetime, about 18% of Canadians meet the criteria for alcohol use disorder (the most common substance use disorder).

Impact

  • Mental illness is the leading cause of disability in Canada.
  • People with mental illness and substance use disorders are more likely to die early.
  • Tobacco is the leading cause of premature death, responsible for 17% of cases.
  • Depression reduces cognitive (thinking) performance on the job about 35% of the time.

Recognizing when you need extra help can make all the dif­ference. Reach out to a health professional if you experience symptoms like these2:5

  • Excessive worrying or fear
  • Feeling excessively sad or low
  • Confused thinking
  • Extreme mood changes
  • Difficulty carrying out daily activities
  • Avoiding friends and social activities
  • Changes in eating patterns, sleep habits, or sex drive
  • Overuse of substances
  • Physical symptoms without obvious cause (such as headaches or stomach aches)
  • Thoughts about self-harm

Such symptoms could signal depression or anxiety. Talk to your doctor to learn more. Once you have a diagnosis, you and your doctor can lay out a treatment plan, which in most cases will in­clude talk therapy and/or medication. In fact, research suggests that combining therapy and medication has the strongest and most lasting effect for both depression and anxiety.26

Don’t hesitate to use your London Drugs pharmacist as a resource. Your pharmacist can provide general guidance on mental health and substance use, help you navigate the healthcare system, and connect you to community resourc­es. If you start a medication for a mental health disorder, your pharmacist can answer your questions about the drug and help you manage side effects.

Bouncing Back: A self-help program for people with mental health problems

if you have anxiety or depression – or if you’re simply feeling low, worried or stressed, a free self-help program called BounceBack (http://bounceback.cmha.ca) may help you gain new skills to boost your mental health. Developed by the Canadian Mental Health Association and available to everyone over 15, the program provides skill-building workbooks and online videos, as well as telephone coaching if you get a referral from a health professional.

Resources: https://cdn.flipsnack.com/widget/v2/widget.html?hash=7cfr0qan30

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