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diabetes Empowering Healthcare empowering patients

What You Need to Know About Diabetes – Exploding 4 Myths About This Common Condition

by Davidicus Wong, M.D., November 9th, 2022

If you were in a room with 10 other adults, odds are one of you has diabetes.

The prevalence of diabetes in adults over age 20 is 1 in 11, and the incidence of diabetes is expected to increase as the population ages, becomes less active and more obese.

There’s a good chance that you – or someone that you care about – will develop diabetes. That’s why we all need to know more about it.

November is Diabetes Awareness Month. In spite of being a very common condition, most people know little of it. Here are 4 common myths about diabetes.

Myth #1: It’s all about sugar.

Diabetes is a problem with metabolism – how your body converts food into energy. Because glucose is a source of energy for every cell in the body, diabetes has potential effects on multiple organ systems, including the nervous and circulatory systems.

Poorly controlled diabetes is a major cause of heart attacks, strokes, kidney failure, amputations and blindness. A person who has had diabetes for several years is considered by physicians to have the same risk of a heart attack as someone who has established vascular disease.

Poorly controlled diabetes is a common cause of erectile dysfunction. More bad news: Viagra doesn’t work as well for people with diabetes. 

Myth #2: Diabetes is caused by being overweight or consuming too much sugar.

This myth is popularized repeatedly by news media. At least once a year, newscasters announce an epidemic of diabetes caused by consuming too much sugar or junk food. This just confuses the public about the real risks for diabetes.

There are two types of diabetes. Type I is insulin-dependent. For some reason, usually related to the immune system, the pancreas no longer produces sufficient insulin. This can follow a viral infection. Type I diabetes requires insulin injections or infusions. There is a rare genotype that renders one more likely to develop this autoimmune version of diabetes.

90% of diabetes is type II or insulin-resistant. This is more commonly a hereditary condition. You might inherit a tendency for diabetes from your mother or father. As you grow older or gain weight, your cells may become more resistant to the effects of your body’s own insulin. You become glucose intolerant, and carbohydrates, such as rice, pasta and potatoes cause a greater rise in your blood sugars than they normally should.

Not everyone who is overweight or drinks a lot of pop will develop diabetes, but if you have the genes for type II diabetes, gaining weight, getting older and consuming excessive sugar will allow diabetes to manifest.

Myth #3: All diabetics have to take insulin and check their blood sugars many times each day. 

People with type I diabetes – because they do not produce enough natural insulin – are dependent on insulin injections or infusions. They have to monitor their blood sugars regularly throughout the day to keep their glucose levels in a safe range.

Most people with type II diabetes do not require insulin with the onset of their condition so they usually do not have the same need for multiple daily glucose testing. There are a variety of oral medications to control type II diabetes. Two essentials are regular physical activity and smaller, more frequent meals with low glycemic index foods (carbohydrates that do not cause a sharp rise in blood sugars).

If blood sugars continue to rise beyond a safe level, insulin may be needed.

Myth #4: Everyone with diabetes will get complications.

Some people who remember their parents dying from the complications of diabetes are distraught with a new diagnosis of diabetes in themselves, but I remind them that recognizing diabetes early can be a positive opportunity to improve their lives. With knowledge and support in partnership with their family doctors, they will be able to live full and active lives.

With the careful management of diabetes, most of the complications of diabetes can be avoided. This requires optimal self-management in which individuals are given the support and education they need to be effective managers of their own health.

In addition to blood sugars, we monitor and manage blood pressure, cholesterol levels, changes in the eyes and kidney function.

I’ll be giving a free online presentation on “What You Should Know About Diabetes” at 7 pm on Thursday, November 17th, 2022. You’ll learn if you are at risk for diabetes and how you can prevent it; how diabetes can affect your heart, circulation, nervous system and brain; and what you would need to know to effectively manage your health and avoid these complications. 

To register for this free online event, contact Leona Cullen at (604) 259-4450 or register online: https://us06web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_Myi-nF5hS96QX-OHKzjGsw

This presentation is part of the Burnaby Division of Family Practice’s Empowering Patients public education series.

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Burnaby Division of Family Practice COVID 19 Physical Activity

Join Burnaby’s Walk With Your Doc this Saturday morning!

Everyone is welcome to our annual pandemic-safe Walk With Your Doc on Saturday, September 17th, 2022 at Confederation Park in North Burnaby.

Join Mayor Mike Hurley, myself and our team of Burnaby family doctors for an invigorating, easy community walk. 

Walking remains an accessible physical activity that supports our physical, emotional and social wellbeing. We are sharing the message that we care about your health and we care for our community. 

Free registration starts at 9:30 am (with prizes while they last). At 10 am, I’ll be speaking at the nearby Confederation Seniors Centre on Healthy Physical Activity and how to make it part of your daily life, followed by our community walk around the track. 

To register in advance: https://survey.alchemer-ca.com/s3/50153585/Sept-17-WWYD-Public-Registration

For more information: https://media.campaigner.com/media/58/581380/PRCS%20WWYD22%20Letter%20Poster%20FINAL.jpg


What to Expect from Covid this Fall – What You Need to Know about the Current Subvariants and the Newly Approved Bivalent Booster Shots

In recent weeks, the Omicron wave appeared to peak, but the pandemic is far from over.
In fact, we are expecting a rise in cases in the next month with our increasing time indoors and students returning to classes where masks are no longer mandated.

New Bivalent Vaccine Approved
On September 1st, Health Canada announced the approval of Moderna’s bivalent booster shot that targets the original Covid strain and the BA.1 Omicron subvariant. Health Canada will be shipping the new vaccine to provinces in the next few weeks.
Pfizer’s bivalent booster vaccine has not yet received approval by Health Canada but a decision is expected in the next month.
BA.1 was the dominant subvariant of the Omicron wave that started in November, but the dominant more contagious subvariants that make up more than 97% of our current infections are BA.4 and BA.5.
Although we don’t know exactly how effective the new bivalent booster will be for the currently circulating subvariants in the real world, early trials suggest it will reduce severe infections requiring hospitalization. 

What You Need to Know About the Current Subvariants
The BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron subvariants drove the third Omicron wave just when most people felt it was safe to meet indoors without masks. Many work places had returned to business as usual. Last week, one of my immune suppressed patients was infected after meeting with a roomful of unmasked colleagues.
These latest subvariants evaded the immunity from past infections with Omicron and were much more transmissible. There were decreased rates of coughing and loss of smell but increased rates of fatigue as symptoms compared to previous Covid variants.

When Should You Get Your Next Booster?
If your last Covid vaccination was over 6 months ago, you are eligible to book a booster dose at your local pharmacy. Prior to the release of the Moderna mRNA vaccine last week, many people under 70 were patiently waiting for a notification to book their 4th booster shots. 

Most of us were not informed that we could have booked our boosters simply by calling the vaccine booking number 1-833-838-2323 7 am to 7pm 7 days a week. 

Health Canada has proposed that it be given at least four months after your last Covid vaccination. The US FDA has approved both the Pfizer and Moderna bivalent booster shots and is recommending administration at least two months after last vaccination. 

Please note that the only available bivalent vaccine available in Canada at this time is the Moderna vaccine. A relative who had booked her 2nd booster after receiving her invitation, was asked by the pharmacist if she wanted the Pfizer or the Moderna vaccine. She chose the Pfizer vaccine not realizing that it was not the new bivalent vaccine but rather the same vaccine she had received for her 1st booster over 6 months ago. 

Although it was not Omicron-specific, I assured her that this would still reduce her risk for a more severe infection and hospitalization should she become infected with the current subvariants.

Here is the provincial website for booster shots: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/covid-19/vaccine/booster

What You Can Do to Stay Safe Now
In the meantime, remember that Covid is still circulating among us at high rates and N95 and KN95 masks provide better protection than cloth masks, surgical masks and no masks in crowded indoor places.

Dress warmly and continue to enjoy outdoor physical and social activities this fall. 
I hope to see you this Saturday for our Walk With Your Doc!

Categories
Burnaby Division of Family Practice COVID 19 Empowering Healthcare empowering patients Healthy Living Preventive Health Screening Tests

As Public Health Restrictions Ease, It’s Time to Think About Your Total Health 

In British Columbia, the Provincial Health Officer announced an easing of pandemic health restrictions. The mask mandate has been lifted and there are no longer any limits on indoor or outdoor gatherings. When children return to classes after the spring break, they will no longer be required to wear masks. 

This is a significant change. Although our neighbours in Alberta have lifted their mask mandate, it remains in place in Ontario. 

As of April 8th, proof of vaccination will no longer be required by Provincial Public Health.

However, individual businesses or events may still require you to wear a mask or show proof of vaccination. Surgical masks are still required in health care settings including hospitals and doctors’ offices. You still need to wear a mask on airplanes and other federally regulated travel. 

Restaurants, bars, pubs and nightclubs can now operate at full capacity . . . and you can dance.

For details of these and other changes to the Provincial Health Orders, please check the government website at https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/covid-19/info/restrictions

These changes will bring an unmasked sigh of relief to many. Although it may be looking more like business as usual, beware of a false sense of security. The pandemic is far from over. 
It remains a personal choice for you to wear a mask. Until I see a further reduction in the number of my patients reporting Covid 19 infections over the next month, I will continue to wear an N95 outside of my home. 

There are some high risk areas where masks are strongly recommended, including public transit. 

Over the past two years, Covid 19 has been the primary health concern for almost everyone except healthcare workers. We know that chronic conditions, preventive health, emotional health, addictions and acute health problems require timely attention. 

Most people however have deferred important check ins with their primary care providers, reduced the frequency of monitoring of chronic health conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes, or even ignored symptoms that require medical attention.

For example, in the first year of the pandemic, many women deferred their overdue pap smears – necessary for the early identification and treatment of cervical cancer. When women started to return to their doctors to catch up on this important screening exam, we experienced an unusual delay (up to two months) for us to get the results of pap smears from the BC Cancer Agency.

Take this time to consider your total personal health. When did you last check in with your family doctor? Are you due for some screening tests?  Do you have concerning symptoms that require medical attention?

As part of the Burnaby Division of Family Practice’s Empowering Patients public health education program, I’ll be giving a free online talk on Making Sense of Symptoms and Screening Tests at 7 pm on Thursday, March 31st, 2022.

I’ll provide an update on adult screening tests that for many of us are long overdue since the beginning of the pandemic and review the symptoms that should prompt a visit to your doctor.

For more information or to sign up, please check https://divisionsbc.ca/burnaby/for-patients/empowering-patients

If you are unable to attend my online talk, you can still access some key information I’ve put together on screening tests and important symptoms. https://divisionsbc.ca/burnaby/for-patients/empowering-patients/other-resources

Categories
COVID 19

Living with Omicron

by Davidicus Wong, M.D. January 9th, 2022

Just when we thought we knew how to cope with the coronavirus, Omicron has changed everything. 

Our capacity for testing and contact tracing is overwhelmed. 

But don’t get mad at our local health authorities.

This is the case across North America and around the globe. In the past week, the rate of new infections has almost doubled around the world.

Omicron – now the dominant variant in BC – is a gamechanger.

With its shorter median incubation time (from exposure to symptoms) of 3 days, greater capacity to spread from person to person and a most highly contagious period beginning from one or two days before the onset of symptoms, Omicron may soon affect every family.

Cloth masks and even surgical masks are no longer sufficient to protect you while you are shopping or in other indoor places.

The good news is that the Omicron variant appears to cause less severe illness than Delta at least in the vaccinated. But don’t call this a mild illness (unless you consider a severe flu-like illness to be mild). 

The other potential good news is that with this Omicron surge, we may be seeing the beginning of the end of the pandemic. Through the combination of Omicron’s rapid spread in every community and increasing Covid vaccinations (including boosters as close as possible to 6 months after the 2nd shot), we may achieve population immunity to the coronavirus.

So why not allow Omicron to spread at its current pace? 

1.Although this variant is almost unavoidable in our daily lives and appears “milder”, the most vulnerable – including the immune compromised, the unvaccinated (including children under 5), the elderly and others more clinically vulnerable may become sick enough for hospitalization.

If we allow cases to continue to rise, our ERs and ICUs will be overwhelmed. We will not be able to look after all the patients with respiratory failure due to Covid in addition to the many other critically ill patients who require the same resources.

This will have a tsunami effect on the entire healthcare system, affecting all of us, including those who have been awaiting surgery for debilitating painful hip joints, vision limiting cataracts and other elective but necessary surgery. 

2. Omicron is affecting every workplace and school. As it spreads, it will put a strain on every business with increasing numbers of employees off work. We’ve already seen flights cancelled due to illness among the flight crew.

3. We need time to fully vaccinate and give boosters to as many as possible to reduce the severity of disease in those who are exposed.

This is the time not only to consider your goals and resolutions for the New Year but to revise your Personal Pandemic Strategy. 

1.Upgrade your face mask to the more effective N95 or KN95. 

2. Get your booster shot as soon as you receive your notification. 

3. Limit your exposure out of the home. This weekend, while swimming at our local pool (keeping my face underwater or masked when close to others), I was shocked to see the number of elders unmasked sitting in the sauna. Through the glass window, it looked like an early pandemic test for vaccination effectiveness. 

4. Limit your social circle. Remember that Covid is the new STI (socially transmitted disease). Share the air with one person and you’ve just shared the air (and airborne germs) with everyone they’ve met with in the past few days. Wear your (N95) protection or abstain!

5. If you have a scratchy throat, new headache, muscle aches or any of the other non-specific symptoms of Covid, self-isolate the minimum of 5 days recommended (though 7 to 10 days is even safer) and wear an N95 mask when around others at least a full 10 days after symptoms started. 

In an ideal world, you would be able to access a rapid antigen test after day 5 before ending self-isolation, but testing sites are not currently able to keep up with the initial diagnoses of Covid infections.

Use the CDC guidelines for self-monitoring and call your family doctor if you have any questions or concerns.http://www.bccdc.ca/health-info/diseases-conditions/covid-19/self-isolation

In life, there are always circumstances beyond our control, but with up-to-date knowledge and support, we can make choices to cope, survive and thrive.

I’ll be giving a free online talk on The Keys to Positive Change at 7 pm on Thursday, January 20th, 2022. As part of the Burnaby Division of Family Practice’s Empowering Patients public health education program.

I’ll share practical tips for improving your wellbeing and making positive changes that last. These are the secrets that my patients and I have successfully used to transform new habits into healthy routines that stick. For more information or to sign up, please check https://divisionsbc.ca/burnaby/for-patients/empowering-patients

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Burnaby Division of Family Practice COVID 19 Positive Change

A New Year and a New Variant

by Davidicus Wong, M.D. January 2nd, 2022

A normal New Year prompts reflection on the year past. What were the highlights? What did you learn? How did you grow? 

You are not alone if the days, weeks and months of the past year – devoid of many normal social activities – seemed to blend together punctuated by the disasters of deadly heat and floods and the waves of the Delta and now the Omicron variants.

In New Years past, we would resolve to adopt new habits or personal projects, but you might be holding back on taking more control over your life with the uncertainties of the current Tsunami wave of the pandemic.

Let’s take stock of what we know so far about the Omicron variant.

1. It is much more contagious than the Delta variant, but you probably already knew that. Almost everyone has a friend or family member who became sick in the past month.

2. It has a shorter incubation time (the time from infection to the onset of symptoms) of approximately 3 days.

3. Double vaccination reduces your risks of severe infections although you can still become infected and spread it to others. Getting your booster provides further protection against more severe illness. If you are unvaccinated, you are more likely to have more severe illness.

4. If you are infected with the Omicron variant, you are most contagious to others one or two days before you start experiencing symptoms and two or three days after. 

This may be part of the reason authorities have reduced the self-isolation time from 10 to 7 to 5 over the past weeks. As of last Friday, Dr. Bonnie Henry advised that vaccinated individuals with COVID-19 need only self-isolate for 5 days but wear a face mask and social distance for a further 5 days (i.e. 10 days total from the onset of symptoms). Unvaccinated individuals with COVID-19 must still self-isolate for 10 days.

Unfortunately, testing sites have been overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of symptomatic individuals, and the majority of those infected with COVID-19 will not be able to get a test. Those who do test positive have no way of knowing what variant they are infected with. There is an assumption that everyone will have the Omicron variant.

5. Three reports from England, Scotland and South Africa suggest that the Omicron variant has a 40 to 80% lower rate of hospitalization compared to Delta. These reports are not yet peer-reviewed and published so we remain cautiously optimistic.

We have to accept that which is beyond our control – including the phases of the pandemic, public health orders and the behaviour of others – but given our personal goals and values, where will we devote our time, energy and attention? 

What positive actions can we each take to regain a sense of control, wellbeing and connection to the people in our lives? What can we do for others?

Our current knowledge can inform how you choose to move forward and make the most of 2022 while staying reasonably safe. 

Being fully vaccinated and receiving the booster when you are able will reduce your risk for a serious infection even with the Omicron variant.

Continue to wear face masks – preferably the much more effective N95s – when indoors outside of your home. 

Stay connected with your social network but choose carefully with whom you will meet face to face. Meeting up with friends to eat or drink may increase the odds that you’ll contract the Omicron variant and pass it on to others. 

I’ll be giving a free online talk on The Keys to Positive Change at 7 pm on Thursday, January 20th, 2022. As part of the Burnaby Division of Family Practice’s Empowering Patients public health education program, I’ll share practical tips for improving your wellbeing and making positive changes that last. These are the secrets that my patients and I have successfully used to transform new habits into healthy routines that stick. 

For more information or to sign up, please check https://divisionsbc.ca/burnaby/for-patients/empowering-

Categories
Burnaby Division of Family Practice COVID 19 empowering patients Growth Healthy Living Positive Change Positive Potential Procrastination Self-care

Regaining Control of Your Life During the Pandemic 

by Davidicus Wong, M.D. January 16th, 2022

At the end of a year of successive waves of Covid and extreme weather conditions, many of us were cautiously hopeful for a brighter 2022. 

You may even have considered New Year’s resolutions to improve your diet, get fit or start those projects you’ve been putting off amidst these pandemic doldrums.

Recent studies have showed that up to two thirds of New Year’s resolutions are abandoned by February. 

Many more haven’t even bothered to make any formal life-improvement plans. The radical changes we’ve had to make with work and school, shopping and socialization have left many feeling frustrated, angry, helpless and even hopeless – in short, stuck in pandemic burnout. 

To escape the downward spirals of resignation or rage in the face of accelerating unpredictable change, we need to regain what in psychology we call the locus of control. This is a personal sense of agency – the conviction that we can positively control some important aspects of our lives.

Although we have been forced to give up many of the comfortable and sustaining routines of our daily lives, we can each regain our personal identity as agents of positive change.

One of the keys to coping with change is what psychologist, Carol Dweck calls the growth mindset. The limits of our abilities are not fixed. We are adaptable and capable of learning and personal growth even as adults. 

We can do better than just survive this pandemic. We can thrive.

We can even do better than just be resilient. We can learn to be anti-fragile – growing stronger with each challenge.

If you’re ready to make some positive changes in your life, you should of course start with your deepest values and needs. But the key to successful personal change that will last well beyond February is not to launch right into a radically different and difficult routine.

Start with a very small achievable behaviour that is just one step in the direction of your greater goals. For example, if your big goal is to walk 10,000 steps a day, simply put on your runners in the morning. If your big goal is to eat healthier, start by eating one fresh fruit with breakfast.

That one easy routine will become a habit in as little as 7 to 10 days. You’ll have the positive energy and confidence to take the next step. 

These small but progressive changes will progress month by month. By the end of 2022, you will be amazed by what you have achieved. As James Clear says in his bestseller, Atomic Habits, every positive action is a vote for the person you want to become. 

In this rapidly changing world, you will remain an agent of positive change in your own life.

I’ll be giving a free online talk on The Keys to Positive Change at 7 pm on Thursday, January 20th, 2022. As part of the Burnaby Division of Family Practice’s Empowering Patients public health education program.

I’ll share practical tips for improving your wellbeing and making positive changes that last. These are the secrets that my patients and I have successfully used to transform new habits into healthy routines that stick. 

For more information or to sign up, please check https://divisionsbc.ca/burnaby/for-patients/empowering-patients

Categories
COVID 19 Healthy Living

7 Steps to a Safer Christmas Season

by Davidicus Wong, MD

With our second pandemic holiday season, with informed planning and precautions, we can still celebrate and connect with friends and loved ones.

As with everything else in life, we have to accept the reality of the present – including all of the known facts, and recognize our choices. Those choices will determine how safe and happy our New Year will be.

The newly recognized Omicron variant is overtaking the Delta among new COVID-19 infections across the globe. Part of the reason is its shorter incubation time (the time from exposure to the onset of symptoms).

With the Omicron variant, you can start showing symptoms within 4 days.

This new variant can also evade some of the protection provided by full vaccination. 

Its initial symptoms are almost identical to a common cold or the flu. We don’t yet know for sure if the Omicron variant will cause severe illness requiring hospitalization.

A lot of us are disappointed that we cannot have the big holiday dinners and parties we envisioned, but we are in a much better position than we were one year ago when weren’t allowed to gather with anyone outside of our household. 

Last Christmas, we dropped off Christmas dinner and presents at my dad’s front door, returning home to open presents together virtually by Zoom.

This year, provincial health orders allow a household to have one other family or 10 other people to share a meal together at home. https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/covid-19/info/restrictions

Here are 7 steps you can take to keep yourself and your loved ones as safe as possible:

1. If you aren’t fully vaccinated, do it now. 

The vaccinated are much less likely to get a serious infection and require hospitalization. 

2. Get a booster shot if your last vaccination was over 6 months ago. 

Our immunity to all strains of COVID-19 wanes sometime between 6 to 8 months. 

We all have to be registered on BC’s COVID-19 website in order to receive the invitation to book our boosters. https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/covid-19/info/response

3. Keep wearing face masks if you are around others indoors (This includes stores and other businesses, churches and temples, restaurants, movie theatres and homes where others outside of the household are invited). 

4. Continue to sanitize your hands after touching potentially contaminated items and surfaces – before you touch your face. 

5. Consider a better quality mask.

The stocking stuffer that shows you care is an N95 mask.

A year ago, we thought COVID-19 was mainly spread through respiratory droplets; hence the 2 meter social distancing rule and the wearing of at least cloth masks. 

We now know that COVID-19 virus is aerosolized and can linger in the air of a room for a period of time (perhaps up to 15 minutes) depending on room ventilation. 

Medical surgical masks offer better protection than cloth. They are also more comfortable to wear.

N95 masks offer a much higher level of filtration and are more available and less expensive than a year ago. 

Do not wear masks with valves. The valve is one way and spreads your germs around the room as easily as if you were unmasked. Wearing a valved mask sends the message that you care about yourself but no one else in the room.

6. If you feel unwell or feel a cold coming on, stay away from others and get tested. The Omicron variant can present with more subtle symptoms and you can pass it to others who may become seriously ill. Don’t take that chance with your friends and family.

7. Before you gather this holiday season, review these steps with everyone involved.

Wishing you all healthy holidays and a happier New Year!

Categories
Burnaby Division of Family Practice empowering patients Relationships

The Pandemic has Put our Relationships to the Test

The pandemic has put many of our relationships to the test.

To reduce the spread of infections, we’ve had to connect with our friends at a distance, virtually by phone, text, social media or video. 

The elderly have been hit hard by both the virus itself and the social isolation required to reduce its spread. 

Many in our community feel shut in. Family and friends may be able to drop off groceries at the door, but the close presence of others for those hours we once took for granted are sorely missed. Some have no family nearby to help. Many have become depressed, missing the last remaining pleasures of a long life. 

One thing my wife (and our dog) have appreciated most is that our kids are home all the time. They’ve been able to study and work from home. No matter what my workday brings, I’ve enjoyed our family dinners, evenings and weekends together.

But I know, this has not been a blessing to others, who may feel trapped in their own homes. Difficulties in family relationships may be amplified by confinement at home. 

Others struggle to find shelter during these cold winter days and nights. The homeless are more vulnerable to mental and physical illness in addition to COVID-19. 

If you or someone you know is struggling with relationships or difficult emotions, talk to your family doctor who can support you and connect you to resources in our community. Burnaby Family Life offers counselling to women who have experienced trauma due to abuse and violence and to children and youth who have witnessed domestic violence or any type of abuse. Check their website at burnabyfamilylife.org or phone (604) 659-2200.

Cameray Child and Family Services is a community-based agency committed to the strengthening of individuals and families through a spectrum of services including counselling, education, outreach and advocacy. Check their website at cameray.ca or call (604) 546-9449.

Burnaby Neighbourhood House offers a wide range of programs, services and events (vitually during the pandemic) bringing together community members of all ages and backgrounds in a positive and supportive environment. Check their website at burnabynh.ca or call (604) 431-0400 for South Burnaby and (604) 294-5444 for North Burnaby. 

In Burnaby, our community organizations have been are working together throughout the pandemic through our Primary Care Network. To discover a variety of resources available for those in need, check burnabycoronavirus.com.

On Thursday, December 2nd, 2021 at 7 pm, I’ll be speaking on the Positive Potential of Our Relationships, providing practical tips on building and maintaining healthy relationships with your significant other, family members, friends, peers and all the other people in your social world.

To learn more and sign up for this free Zoom workshop, check out the Burnaby Division of Family Practice Empowering Patients website: https://divisionsbc.ca/burnaby/for-patients/empowering-patients. Here’s the direct link to sign up for this talk: https://us06web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN__TqZBV4zT0mdg31jKbTcGA

Categories
Burnaby Division of Family Practice COVID 19 Emotions stress management

What is your Pandemic Stress Response?

by Davidicus Wong, M.D. November 14th, 2021

When I connect with my patients – virtually or in person, we often check in with how we’ve been coping during the pandemic. 

The pandemic has brought with it heightened levels of stress in every part of the world. All of us have been affected with greater impacts on the most vulnerable, including young children, our elders, the homeless and others who have been socially isolated.

At the beginning of last year, I had optimistically expected that we would be united in supporting one another and beating the pandemic. 

Instead, we’ve seen unforeseen levels of stress and divisive responses to that stress.

Previously normally functioning families have been divided by conflicting responses to the pandemic.

Many of my patients have reported that they are no longer talking to some of their siblings because of the gulf between their personal pandemic responses. Mutual love (or at least tolerance) have been replaced by anger and distrust.

At the beginning, we were divided by just the belief that the virus was a serious threat and the need for social distancing. The divisions grew deeper with debates on mask wearing. Today, family discussions about vaccinations are more heated that those involving sex, politics, religion and money. 

We are all vulnerable to stress, and stress is an inevitable part of being human and living in this world. For each of us, there is an optimal level of stress. 

In situations, where the challenge is far below our ability to manage (such as a really easy job or class well below our potential), we feel bored (and likely spend a lot of time looking at our phones).

When we hit the sweet spot where the challenges of the situation are perfectly matched by the peak of our abilities, we are in the zone that has been called the state of flow by psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (who just passed away on October 20th, 2021 at age 87). 

But good stress (eustress) becomes distress when the challenges of our situation exceed our capacity to cope. This can happen with a heavy academic load for a student, unrealistic work demands in an understaffed office, or a hospital or clinic overwhelmed with multitudes of seriously ill patients.

In these situations, most of us initially feel helpless and anxious. If these overwhelming demands continue, many eventually feel hopeless burnt out and depressed.

When pushed to the extreme, we behave in different ways – expressing our personal stress response. We’ve seen the pandemic stress response expressed as anxiety in most (including young children), depression in some (including many teens) and anger in others (a lot of adults). 

Fortunately, there is help available once we recognize we need it. A starting point is looking at your situation and distinguishing those aspects of your life over which you have no control from those over which you do have control. 

For temporary situations over which we have no control, we need to accept them (The only other choice is to get upset or angry but that won’t change the situation). We need to recognize those areas of our life over which we do have control and choose to act according to our deepest positive values. 

The pandemic has shown us that we can only get through this by working together. The sooner all of us have accepted this reality, the sooner we will have it under control.  

On Thursday, November 25th, 2021, I’ll be speaking on Emotional Wellness, providing practical tips on managing stress and difficult emotions, including key emotional health skills that we all need to practice during the pandemic and throughout our lives, beginning in childhood.

To learn more and sign up for this free Zoom workshop, check out the Burnaby Division of Family Practice’s website: https://divisionsbc.ca/burnaby/for-patients/empowering-patients

Dr. Davidicus Wong is a family physician. His Healthwise Column appears regularly in the Burnaby Now, Westside Post and Royal City Record

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How Virtual Health and the Pandemic Have Transformed Your Relationship with Your Doctor

by Davidicus Wong, M.D. October 17th, 2021

The pandemic – and technology – have transformed how we meet our healthcare needs. 

The Benefits and Limitations of Telehealth

Telehealth – phone or video consultations with physicians – have replaced many in person clinic visits. Patients and doctors have discovered the benefits – and limitations – of virtual consults.

Many patients have welcomed the convenience of a phone call or video visit to prevent travelling to the clinic necessitating time off school or work and a potentially hazardous wait in a reception room.

However, I’ve heard of many patients’ stories of being misdiagnosed with repeated virtual visits until they are finally examined in person. 

Although a physician can diagnose some conditions with some accuracy by a patient’s description alone, the physical examination is necessary in many cases. I have found it next to impossible to diagnose the exact nature of a back injury based on symptoms and video alone. 

In the same vein, skin conditions are easy to misdiagnose through photos and video. Most video lacks sufficient resolution and many photos emailed by patients are focussed on hair or objects in the background rather than the skin change of concern.

Abdominal pain is also notoriously misdiagnosed without a physical examination.

For these reasons, most family physicians are seeing patients in person for those situations where virtual health is insufficient. Most of my colleagues are therefore offering a mixture of Telehealth and in-person clinic visits (where medical masks are mandatory for all adults). However, there remain a small number of physicians who are still not doing any in person visits.

Don’t hesitate to call your own family doctor just as you did prior to the pandemic. The medical office assistant will let you know how the clinic is coordinating Telehealth and in person care.

COVID-19 Vaccinations: Dr. Google/Mr. Hyde

The persuasive power of the internet is a double-edged scalpel. With an evolving pandemic and an explosion in scientific knowledge, we’ve been overwhelmed by information – some of it sound, much of it false. 

I’ve welcomed frank discussions with my patients to identify their concerns, assess their personal risks and helped them decide to get their vaccinations. Very few have remained unconvinced and unvaccinated.

Patients have shared how extreme opinions have polarized families. Some grandparents have not yet seen their children’s babies born during the pandemic. 

Re-engaging With Your Family Physician

Family physicians are reaching out to their patients and reminding them that they have remained at work throughout the pandemic. Yet the public might have the impression that many clinics are closed. 

I’ve reached out to my patients with regular email newsletters updating them throughout the pandemic. I’ve specifically checked up on my elderly patients (who don’t use the internet) and have chronic conditions that require regular monitoring.

On Thursday, October 21st, 2021, I’ll be speaking on the Patient-Doctor Relationship, providing practical tips on communicating and collaborating with any healthcare provider  to achieve your personal goals. 

I’ll also talk about the key information you should ask your doctor or any other healthcare provider so that you can make an informed decision and give consent to medical procedures, investigations and medications, including vaccines. I’ll be reviewing the recommended age and gender-based screening tests that you may have missed during the pandemic.

To learn more and sign up for this free Zoom workshop, check out the Burnaby Division of Family Practice’s website: https://divisionsbc.ca/burnaby/for-patients/empowering-patients