Empowering Healthcare Friendship Happiness Healthy Living Love Parenting

Keeping Your Relationship Healthy

DSC00078The Family Doctors of Burnaby have been presenting free public talks in our campaign to raise health literacy called the Empowered Patient. Our goal is to provide the key information that everyone in our community needs to live a healthy life and get the most out of our healthcare system.

A key message is that healthcare is self-care. How you live today is the best predictor of your future health. The four foundations of self-care are: (1) what you eat (consume, drink, smoke or inject), (2) what you do (physical activity, risky behaviour), (3) how you feel (managing your emotions) and (4) how you relate (your important relationships).

When you think about it, you shouldn’t be surprised that your relationships can foster or harm health. Every week, I see patients who are distressed by conflicts at home – either with their spouses or their children.

When patients request a stress leave from work, the problem isn’t just the workload. It’s usually difficulties with coworkers and supervisors. Bullying is common in our schools and in our workplaces.

When I see people with depression, I always inquire about friends. They can be a crucial support or they may contribute to maladaptive behaviour, including excessive drinking or abusing drugs.

Attending to your most important relationship is fundamental to your health and happiness. Work can consume as much of your life as you allow. Consequently, you may invest less time and energy in what you value most.

For any of your relationships to thrive, you must attend to them. Nowhere is this more important than in your relationship with your significant other.

Here are 5 tips to focus your attention:

  1. Nurture emotional intimacy. After a busy day of work and looking after children or household chores, we may save nothing for our partners. Agree on making a habit of checking in with one another each day. How are you feeling? How was your day?
  2. Be affectionate. Express positive feelings. Remember that every person expresses love and has a need to feel loved in different ways. Some use words, some prefer physical affection, some appreciate kind gestures and some like presents.
  3. Schedule regular dates. When we get busy with the rest of life, time together having fun can be postponed indefinitely. Write it in both your calendars. Commit your time to what matters most.
  4. When things get stale, have an affair . . . with your own partner. Text each other during breaks throughout your day. Leave love letters. Sneak in a date during your lunch breaks.
  5. Consider a refresher on communication.

Too often, cohabitation morphs from cooperation to competition. We may begin to see our partners as competitors, and we may keep a running tally of who gets their way and who’s giving in. If you’re not sure who’s winning, ask your friends (who’ve been listening to your complaints).

Many couples develop negative stereotypes of one another. We may begin seeing the other in a negative light and misinterpret every action negatively.

Common thought distortions are Mindreading (We make negative assumptions on the other’s intentions without checking them out), All or Nothing Thinking (We see all the bad and none of the good in the other), and Excessive Blaming (When something goes wrong or is left undone, it’s the other’s fault. That’s the risk of being the only other person around).

It takes a very reflective, honest and insightful person to recognize these thought distortions. The rest of us may need a refresher on communication or couples counseling.

On Friday, January 30th at 7 pm, I’ll be speaking on the topic of healthy relationships at Burnaby Family Life. This free presentation is sponsored by the Burnaby Division of Family Practice. Register online with or call Leona at (604) 259-4450.

Empowering Healthcare Exercise Healthy Living

Do you take better care of your car than your body?

You wouldn't fill your ride's tank with contaminated fuel. Why would you do that to your body?
You wouldn’t fill your ride’s tank with contaminated fuel. Why would you do that to your body?

The daily and scheduled maintenance of your health is not unlike auto maintenance. Some of us take better care of our vehicles than our bodies.

Young people (especially men in their 20s and 30s) act as if their bodies are still under warranty and rarely see a doctor until something goes wrong.

Young women are usually better in seeing their family doctors regularly for pap smears, contraceptive advice and prenatal care.

The best predictors of your future health are the habits you practice today.

You probably wouldn’t put contaminated fuel in your gas tank or use inferior replacement parts for you car but that’s exactly what we do when we overeat, drink to excess, smoke, abuse drugs and consume an unhealthy diet (high in salt, fat and sugar).

We tend to pay more attention to our outward appearance (our hair, clothing and skin) than what’s going on inside. It’s like washing and waxing your car but ignoring the maintenance of your engine.

A significant family history (including colon cancer, breast cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, premature heart attacks and strokes) is like a manufacturer’s recall. It can give you an early warning that you may need earlier scheduled maintenance to treat hereditary risk factors.

What to check in your 20s: your health habits, including diet, alcohol consumption, recreational drugs and exercise. Women should start doing pap smears at age 25.

30s: blood pressure should be checked at least once a year beginning at age 18; watch out for weight gain

40s: blood sugars, cholesterol (depending on your family history), breast cancer (women should consider beginning screening mammograms)

50s: benign enlargement of the prostate, prostate cancer, colon cancer, osteoarthritis

60s, 70s, 80s: dementia, hearing and vision loss, mobility (fall risks), independence (ability to perform your activities of daily living), assisted living/residential care, advance medical directives, end of life care

Women are relatively protected against heart disease until menopause. After that, their risks for strokes and heart attacks rise (just like a vehicles rust protection and undercoating are protective for a limited time). Heart disease tends to be underrecognized and undertreated in women at any age.

The Family Doctors of Burnaby are running a public education campaign including free public lectures on prevention and management of your own health. For more information, check the Burnaby Division of Family Practice website at


Burnaby Division of Family Practice Empowering Healthcare Healthy Living

What keeps us from eating well?


When I was a kid, I would ask myself WWSD (What would Spock do)?

Spock of course was the First Officer on the starship Enterprise. Half Vulcan and half human, he would suppress his human emotions and make decisions based purely on logic.

If you’re not a trekkie (that means Star Trek fan for those who aren’t), you could ask yourself WWSPD (What would a smart person do)? That’s not a personal insult. It’s something we should all ask ourselves when we find areas of our lives off track.

We don’t make smart choices when we’re in a rush, stuck in a routine, following the crowd or sidetracked by emotions. Every parent knows that a two-year-old throwing a tantrum acts like a baby and a five-year-old like a two-year-old. A teenager still acts like a teenager. Adults in a rage make very foolish choices.

When we take a calm moment and reflect, we recognize where we can make some improvements. Understanding that what we inhale, drink and consume is crucial to our physical and emotional wellbeing, we could make better choices.

What are the barriers to eating the healthiest diet?

  1. Habit. It seems easier to continue the old routine of eating the same breakfast or skipping it altogether. You may eat the same fast food meal just because it’s easier than trying something new. You may order your usual specialty coffee without thinking about calories or fat content.

To change an unhealthy habit requires time to reflect on healthier choices and repeated attempts to establish a better routine.

  1. Your emotional connection with food. We all have our favourite foods. They may be comfort foods that remind us of happy times past, like a hot chocolate on a snowy day. They can be snacks or drinks that we crave so much that we forget how bad we felt the last time we consumed them.

Giving up emotional eating requires the discipline to reflect before we eat and choose what is best for us.

With age and wisdom, you may eventually discover that even if we don’t satisfy a craving, it will eventually subside.

  1. Your cultural connection with food. Growing up Chinese-Canadian, you have to be antisocial to avoid eating in Chinese restaurants with the usual high salt, high fat and high carb meals. Fortunately, my mom cooked brown rice, lots of veggies and low fat meats. We ate Western food and Chinese food every other day. My sister and I would know to set the dinner table with knives and forks if we used chopsticks and soup spoons the night before.
  2. Advertising. Television commercials are designed to make us crave for fast food. Big screens and high definition make bad food look even better. Imagine what those commercials would be like if restaurants were required to state the health risks as they do in American drug commercials. This bacon double cheeseburger combo may increase your risk for obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, strokes, heart attacks and premature death.
  3. Knowledge. Many people rely on TV, the internet and their friends for medical information, including the basics of a healthy diet. A more reliable source is Canada’s Food Guide on Health Canada’s website. It provides practical information on finding adequate nutrition from a variety of foods.
  4. Cost. Often less nutritious food is cheaper than healthier choices. Eating on a smaller budget can be a challenge. In upcoming columns, I’ll discuss the basics of healthy eating with some tips for eating on a budget.

On Friday, January 16th at 7 pm, I’ll be speaking on the topic of healthy eating at the Confederation Centre at 4585 Albert Street in North Burnaby (near the Eileen Dailly Pool and McGill Public Library).

This free presentation is sponsored by the Burnaby Division of Family Practice. Register online with or call Leona at (604) 259-4450.

Dr. Davidicus Wong is the Physician Lead of the Burnaby Division of Family Practice. To learn more about upcoming health education events, see the BDFP website at



You are what you eat

If you’ve ever said “I feel like a bacon double cheeseburger”, you probably forgot about the old expression, “You are what you eat.”

Too often, we reflexively eat what we crave and think of food as a means to satisfy our hunger. Over the past month, most of us have indulged in treats and feasts, and to burn off the extra pounds many will be heading to the gym. This will be a busy month at our gyms, community centres and pools.

We really are what we eat, and it’s not just the extra calories and weight that we should worry about.

If you had a car that you relied upon to safely transport your family, you wouldn’t use cheap, contaminated fuel nor would you accept inferior replacement parts. Your body is even more valuable and cells that make up your body are constantly being replaced.

The food you eat is digested and metabolized not only to provide you with the energy for the day’s activity but also to supply the building blocks for the cells that make up every organ in your body.

A healthy diet can provide you with the essential nutrients to support your immune system, prevent cancer, improve cognitive function, remain active and feel well. Significant deficiencies can result in anemia, osteoporosis (thinning of the bones and fractures) and skin conditions. Excessive salt can raise blood pressure. Unhealthy and excessive fat intake can promote heart disease. Excessive sugar can result in obesity and in some, diabetes.

My upcoming columns will review the essentials of a healthy diet and provide tips on enjoying a healthier daily lifestyle, but just to get the New Year started, take the one-week healthy eating challenge. If you don’t already do so, eat at least 5 servings of vegetables and fruit (not including juice) each day and forgo unhealthy snacks, such as potato chips, donuts, pop or fast food. Note how you feel after just one week of healthier eating.

On Friday, January 16th at 7 pm, I’ll be speaking on the topic of healthy eating at the Confederation Centre at 4585 Albert Street in North Burnaby (near the Eileen Dailly Pool and McGill Public Library).

This free presentation is sponsored by the Burnaby Division of Family Practice. Register online with or call Leona at (604) 259-4450.

As a family doctor, I enjoy a privileged relationship with every patient in my practice. But over recent years, the circle of concern for the average family physician has expanded. Thoughout the province, the GPSC (General Practice Service Committee) has supported the creation of non-profit organizations made up of the family physicians serving each community. The Burnaby Division of Family Practice is one such organization whose members are the family doctors of the Burnaby. Our goal is to work with the public and other stakeholders to improve primary healthcare and the health of all members of our community.

Our organization has launched the Empowered Patient public health education campaign. Our goal is to provide unbiased information to help you live a healthier life and get the most from the healthcare system.

At various venues including our community centres, schools and libraries, family physicians will be providing free public talks on a variety of practical topics. I’ve already delivered presentations on improving the patient-doctor relationship, screening tests and achieving your personal health goals.

As topics are presented, we’ve made the key practical information available on the BDFP website at

Dr. Davidicus Wong is the Physician Lead of the Burnaby Division of Family Practice. To learn more about upcoming health education events, see the BDFP website at