Empowering Healthcare empowering patients Healthy Living Positive Change Positive Potential Preventive Health

Give a Gift to Your Future Self

In the Prepandemic era, the weeks following the holidays were once the time to buy for yourself the gifts you didn’t get. These were usually material things that we wanted at the time. 

I’d like you to think about one special person very close to you that you may have forgotten during the holidays: your future self.

We all tend to make decisions each day from the perspective of our present desires and short term goals. Too often we neglect our future selves.

We also don’t realize how different our lives and values will be in the future. If you’re a grown up, you know you are not the same person you were 15 years ago. How have your relationships, goals and sense of self changed over the years?

At the same time, we underestimate our capacity to change in the future. 

Daniel Gilbert, a Harvard psychologist, calls this “The End of History” illusion. He says, “Human beings are works in progress that mistakenly think they are finished.”

People with a fixed mindset, as defined by Stanford psychologist, Carol Dweck, are defined by who they are at the present moment. They are “trapped in the tyranny of now” and this influences the stories they tell themselves and how they deal with negative events and failure. 

With a fixed mindset, when we fail in any of life’s challenges, such as passing a test, getting a promotion or learning a new skill, we attribute failure to personal qualities that we assume will never change. We might label ourselves as dumb, not good at math or just not good enough. It can make us give up.

The opposite is the growth mindset with which we see ourselves as always in a state of growing, learning and becoming. With this perspective, we learn and grow from setbacks. 

If you want to be happier today and in the future, look at yourself and others with this growth mindset. In spite of the pandemic, the bad behaviour of some and the terrible events in the news, we can hope and work today for a better future. Our society will continue to grow and evolve, and we collectively have the ability to create that better future.

Lets begin today, with own our future selves. In what ways do you steal from your future self for expedience or gratification today? Making bad food or substance choices? Sitting alone in front of the TV or computer instead of calling up a good friend or going for a walk?

On the other hand, in what ways do you invest in your future self with positive, life-affirming and prosocial actions? 

Think about the kind of person you would like to be a year or five years from now: healthier and happier with more satisfying relationships. 

How will you invest your time, attention and energy today to be that person? In his book, Atomic Habits, James Clear says that every action today is a vote for the person you want to become. 

I’ll be giving a free online talk on The Keys to Positive Change at 7 pm on Tuesday, January 19th, 2021. 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, please check  over the next few weeks or email Leona Cullen at

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The Keys to Positive Change: Transforming Our Bad Habits Into Healthy Ones

I’m giving a free online presentation on The Keys to Positive Change: Transforming Our Bad Habits Into Healthy Ones.Please share this with anyone who may benefit. 

7 pm Tuesday, January 19th, 2021


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An Introduction to Mindfulness

by Davidicus Wong, M.D.

This is a handout I share with my patients to introduce them to the practice of mindfulness and principles of cognitive behavioural therapy. I consider these to be two fundamental emotional wellness skills that every adult and child should learn.

Like any other skills we wish to master, practice – particularly daily practice – is essential. Through the power of the human brain’s capacity for neuroplasticity (to change itself), we learn new skills – including new ways of thinking and feeling – through repeated practice. In the words of the pioneering Canadian neuropsychologist, Donald Hebb, “Neurons that fire together wire together.”

MINDFULNESS MEDITATION helps us to centre our minds, increase our awareness and calm the nervous system that modulates how we experience pain and other sensations. The practice of mindfulness teaches us a less reactive approach to the rest of our lives. We become open to accept and experience every aspect of our lives, our selves and our sensations, without clinging, aversion or judgment.

We begin meditation by spending 15 or 20 minutes each day just sitting in a quiet place in a comfortable position. We turn our attention to the natural flow and sensations of the breath without trying to control it in any way. This becomes a safe and calming anchor that we can return to at any time.

We can then turn our attention to sounds as they arise in our immediate environment, just attending to the arising and disappearance of different sounds as they come and go from our awareness. We don’t have to label or identify each sound. We simply remain aware of them as they arise.

We can centre our awareness on different physical sensations in the body, perhaps the pressure at points of contact, warmth, coolness, vibrations, pulsations, tingling and even pain. We can move awareness to different areas of the body, and if a sensation such as pain in one part of the body is difficult to manage, we can shift our attention elsewhere, to the part of the body that is most comfortable or back to the anchor of the breath.

With practice, we are able to maintain awareness and attention to every sensation without reacting to it, without aversion, clinging, judgment or identification. With time, we recognize that everything within our awareness is ever changing; nothing is constant – no sensation (not even pain), no mood, no emotion and no thought.

We are able to attend to each thought as it arises without getting carried away in a train of thoughts or a story in the remembered past or imagined future. We can note thoughts as they arise, without judgment or identification and let them go. We can do the same with the transient feelings and emotions that arise without getting caught up and carried away with them. We experience moods, feelings and emotions but we are not our moods, feelings or emotions. We can see them as transient, temporary conditions like a mist, a fog or a shower. They pass through us or we pass through them.

We can be mindful when walking, attending to the sensations of each step, the sounds and pressures on the feet and the movement of the legs. This becomes a mindful anchor from which what we hear, see, feel and think arises in our open and accepting awareness. 

Mindfulness can be practiced while eating, attending to the taste and texture of each bite of food; swimming, attending to the sensations of buoyancy, flowing water on the surface of the skin and rich sounds of moving water and air; and even driving. Mindfulness only begins with meditation. When you apply the healthy attitudes of non-reactive acceptance, gratitude and compassion to everything in your life throughout each day, you will discover a deeper level of peace, happiness and meaning. 

Mindfulness when diligently practiced can bring serenity to your mind and body throughout each day – an open, accepting and nonreactive approach to your life. It can foster in you greater compassion for others and yourself.

COGNITIVE BEHAVIOURAL THERAPY trains us to uncover our underlying beliefs and assumptions, choose our conscious thoughts, reframe our situation and shape our emotions. We can discover that we can improve our moods, thoughts and function in life through healthy self-care – eating regular healthy meals, ensuring adequate rest, daily appropriate physical activity and spending quality time with supportive friends and those loved ones who naturally lift our spirits. Mindfulness meditation can help us identify unskillful thoughts (those that increase suffering) and help us choose skillful ones.

MORE RESOURCES (I’ve put my favourites in bold)


The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Mindfulness (Thich Nhat Hanh)

Insight Meditation: The Practice of Freedom (Joseph Goldstein)

Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Awakening (Joseph Goldstein)

Radical Acceptance (Tara Brach)

True Refuge: Finding Peace and Freedom in Your Own Awakened Heart (Tara Brach), Jack Kornfield and Tara Brach’s videos, guided meditations and lectures are available for free on these websites. By listening to these teachers, you will quickly see how the attitude of mindfulness can be applied to your everyday life.

Local mindfulness retreats: Westcoast Dharma Society will show you how to fit in routine mindfulness breaks in just a few minutes a day


Hardwiring Happiness (Rick Hanson)

Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love and Wisdom (Rick Hanson)


Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment(Martin E. P. Seligman)

Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy (David D. Burns)

Mind Over Mood: Change How You Feel by Changing the Way You Think (Dennis Greenberger, Christine Padesky) has many useful resource including the Mindshift app for smart phones

Checkingin is a free mindfulness app for your smart phones

DIALECTICAL BEHAVIOURAL THERAPY (a synthesis of mindfulness and cognitive therapy)

            The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook for AnxietyBreaking Free From Worry, Panic, PTSD, & Other Anxiety Symptoms (Alexander L. Chapman)

For an effective technique for establishing healthy new habits, check out TINYHABITS.COM

COVID 19 Preventive Health

COVID-19: The New STI (Socially Transmitted Disease)

There is a growing and alarming complacency in communities across Canada including BC. 

Our self-congratulations and comparisons to the worst case scenarios unfolding in the US is like being a C+ student comparing himself to the kids who are failing. It’s not the time to stop studying, skip classes and start experimenting with drugs.

In recent weeks, we’re already seeing a potential second wave in the pandemic and it’s not just because we have opened more businesses and public facilities. Many individuals have forgotten about the effectiveness – and necessity – of social distancing and are just plain confused about “expanding your bubble.”

Birthday celebrations and other house parties, gathering in large crowded groups, playing contacts sports and meeting up with friends at restaurants and coffee shops without physical distancing or masks are contributing to the accelerated spread of COVID-19 infections in the community.

I have spoken to patients who are back to work and although the majority of workplaces are adhering to pandemic safety guidelines to protect the public as well as their employees, I’ve been alarmed with the lack of adequate physical distancing (or the alternative of face masks when this is not possible) behind the scenes in many stores, restaurants and even pharmacies and health care facilities. 

You shouldn’t be working face to face or side by side with coworkers without adequate barriers or face masks. You shouldn’t be taking breaks, chatting or eating with coworkers without physical distancing or wearing face masks.

It’s okay to go to a restaurant that has taken the appropriate measures to protect their patrons. 

But with whom should you be meeting?

Eating and talking less than two meters apart are high transmission activities where respiratory droplets may carry the virus. Don’t even think about sharing foods and drinks.

That’s why we should consider COVID-19 the new STI (socially transmitted infection). When you talk, hug and eat with one person – even a trusted friend who doesn’t feel sick – you’re talking, hugging and eating with everyone they have talked, hugged or eaten with in the past two weeks and whomever each of their social contacts have met up with.

You may think you know who is in your expanding bubble but you really don’t because your bubbles have merged with multiple other bubbles.

Ultimately, if you don’t keep track and consider the logarithmic expansion of your shared bubbles, it’s the opposite of a slow leak: a rapidly expanding bubble that when large enough and risky enough can explode like the Hindenburg.

Mind your bubble. Keep it safe and small. 

Don’t let it burst.

Hindenburg disaster - Wikipedia

Dr. Davidicus Wong is a family physician. He was the founding chair and lead physician of the Burnaby Division of Family Practice and continues to serve on the board. His Healthwise Column appears regularly in this paper. For more on achieving your positive potential in life, read his blog at

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Free Public Health Talks for 2020: The Empowering Patients Program

Tapestry Talk

The Empowering Patients Free Public Talks for 2020

with Dr. Davidicus Wong


  • Monday, February 3rd, 2020 The Keys to Positive Change
    • Tommy Douglas Library in the Edmonds neighbourhood


  • Monday, February 24th, 2020  The Patient-Doctor Relationship
    • Bob Prittie Library in Metrotown


  • Thursday, March 12th, 2020  Emotional Wellbeing
    • Brentwood Community Resource Centre, 2055 Rosser Avenue


  • Wednesday, April 8th, 2020  Healthy Eating
    • McGill Library in North Burnaby)


  • To be scheduled: Healthy Relationships and Healthy Physical Activity


To register online or call (604) 259 4450

For more information about our Empowering Patients Public Health Education Program, please see the Burnaby Division of Family Practice’s website or Dr Davidicus Wong’s website


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The Fast Choice is Rarely the Healthy Choice – for Your Relationships, Emotions and Body

As an intern in my twenties coming off a night of call with the weight of the hospital off my shoulders, I would crave for a hashbrown and Sausage McMuffin on my way home to sleep. Though my hunger was soon satisfied, I eventually recognized I wasn’t renewed by fast food and a quick nap.

We all know that fast food (processed, sugary, fried, fatty or salty) makes for poor fuel and nutrition. If we hold off the urge for a quick fix, we can let the craving pass and make a healthier choice.

The same holds for the other quick and convenient fixes that have become the habits and norms of daily life. Consider the “fast foods” of our friendships, activities, emotional needs and rest.

The Need for Real Friendships

A hundred Facebook friends or Instagram followers cannot replace a handful of good friends. You can have a long list of associates but most of us need just a few true blue friends for life.

Like fast food, fast friends may be interesting and fun, but they don’t provide the long term support and love we need over a lifetime. Your real friends are there when you need them, providing unconditional care.

They tell you what you need to hear – even if it’s not what you want to know. They see and bring out the best in you. Connecting through social media is no substitute for calling and meeting up with a best friend.

The Need for Meaningful Activity

Boredom can be quenched online. Binging on Netflix, watching endless YouTube videos and playing Candy Crush can fill the void with distraction. They consume attention and time but ultimately leave us wanting more.

Boredom signals for a need for challenge and meaning. Our brains were built to learn and our spirits crave for meaningful challenges. Satisfy your mind with new places and experiences. Enjoy the stimulation of a really good book.

The Need for Rest and Recreation

All work and no play make Jack and Jill burnt out.

We all need balance in our activities.

The internet is saturated with attention and time vampires. Another evening check of your phone or pad can lead to a late night. A Starbucks coffee or Tim’s double double are no substitutes for a good night’s sleep.

During a day of work or study, a change of pace with a walk, meditation or music can refresh you better than a shot of caffeine or nicotine. I’ve found that a quick lunchtime swim can energize a busy afternoon in the clinic.

The Need for Peace and Happiness

When you’re feeling down and distressed, what do you reach for?

It may be easiest to scroll through social media or play Candy Crush, vape, drink, smoke or get a dose of another favourite chemical. Again we may turn to our usual comfort foods.

Though these quick fixes may help us feel better for the moment, the effects are transient. None provide the lasting happiness or peace we really need.

Shopping in person and online may provide instant gratification but they ultimately leave us feeling empty. The joy of a new purchase never lasts.

What we ultimately need is meaningful activity and relationships. Take the time to reflect on where you devote your precious time and attention. Don’t settle for a quick fix.

Dr. Davidicus Wong is a family physician. His articles appear in the Vancouver Courier, The Westside Post and Richmond News.

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Your Health Depends on Your Relationships


Burnaby WWYD 1

What determines your health and happiness?

We know that it is much more than timely access to a good healthcare system. In the 2009 report of the Senate Subcommittee on Public Health, only 25 per cent of the health of the population was attributable to the health care system, 15 per cent was due to individual biology (i.e. genetics) and 10 per cent to environmental.

The remaining 50 per cent was due to a variety of social determinants, including poverty, work conditions, housing, diet and community factors.

One of the key determinants of physical and emotional health – and therefore, happiness itself – is our sense of belonging – our connection with our community.

Among the interesting findings of the 2013 My Health My Community survey were the responses to two questions addressing social connectedness. Only 45% of residents in metropolitan Vancouver had four or more people to confide in; 6% of residents had no one. Only 56% of metropolitan Vancouver residents felt a strong sense of community belonging. Not surprisingly, recent immigrants had lower rates of community belonging.

What can we do to nurture our social connections at a personal and community level and improve both our personal health and happiness and that of everyone in our community?

On an individual level, we could make our relationships a priority. Of course, at the end of every life, it is our relationships that were primal. Yet we all tend to take our most important relationships for granted.

Without daily care and attention, we can fall into conflict, become distant and neglect our most important partners in health and wellbeing. We spend more time and attention invested in work, school, personal goals and entertainment; they can take over our daily lives, leaving little for what and who matters most.

We must prioritize time each week and every day for the people in our lives. We must nurture positive interactions to offset our human brains’ natural negativity bias.

As neuropsychologist, Rick Hanson has said, our minds are Velcro for the bad and Teflon for the good. We hear criticisms and demands from others more loudly than affection and appreciation.

Your child, friend and partner need to hear five positive comments to balance out one negative just to come out even.

We need real – not electronic – face time with one another. Our lasting happiness has nothing to do with experiencing transient pleasures and acquiring more material things. Happiness can only be enjoyed in the moments we are fully present, connected with our lives and the people that are an integral part of it.

You are not just an individual. You are part of a greater whole – a partnership and a family, a network of friends and a community, a part of humanity, nature and the world.

We can help others feel more connected in our community by getting to know our neighbours, recognizing what we have in common and offering assistance when and where it is needed.

As a community – at work or school, in our neighbourhoods, and in our church and social groups – what are we doing and what can we do to reach out and connect with others? We are all a part of a greater whole, and we each play a role in the health and wellbeing of our community.

On Thursday, December 6th, 2018, I’ll be giving a free talk at the Bonsor Recreation Centre in Burnaby from 7 to 8:30 pm. The topic: The Positive Potential of Your Relationships. I’ll discuss how healthy relationship and social connections are essential to your happiness and wellbeing; the qualities of healthy relationships; recognizing and managing challenges, and how we can foster a sense of belonging and connectedness in our community. It’s part of the Burnaby Division of Family Practice’s Empowering Patients health education program. To register, email Leona at lcullen@divisionsbc.caor call (604) 259-4450.


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Emotional Wellness (Davidicus Wong)

What is Emotional Wellness?

A deep sense of meaning and purpose, an abiding sense of peace, the ability to manage the stress and transitions of life, awareness of your thoughts and feelings and the ability to manage them.


Why emotional health matters

  1. Emotions influence our behaviour, our relationships and our thinking.
  2. Anxiety holds us back from doing what we need to do, from moving forward, from reaching out, and from giving our best to the world.
  3. Depression is a major cause of disability and absenteeism from work or school.

Video: Why Emotional Health Matters


Anxiety Disorders

When your anxiety has a significant impact on your function at work, school or home or in your social life.

  1. Generalized Anxiety:excessive worry about many things
  2. Panic Disorder:recurrent panic attacks (symptoms may include chest pain, a racing heart, sweats, shortness of breath and dizziness)
  3. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: repetitive intrusive thoughts or recurrent compulsions to perform an act (e.g. checking, handwashing, rituals)
  4. Social Anxiety: excessive anxiety in specific social situations e.g. large groups, interviews, shopping
  5. Phobias:extreme specific fears e.g. spiders, heights, flying


Mood Disorders

The Symptoms of Depression: fatigue, change in sleep, change in appetite, impaired concentration,  forgetfulness, thoughts of death or suicide, self-blame and guilt, feeling sad, hopelessness, lack of enjoyment or pleasure, loss of motivation.


Bipolar Disorder:episodes of depression and mania/hypomania (heightened mood and energy, overconfidence, decreased need for sleep, impaired judgment, decreased need for sleep, delusions of grandeur)


Psychotic Symptoms:impaired reality testing, delusions (fixed false beliefs), hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that are not real), disorganized behaviour e.g. schizophrenia


Video: 4 Key Emotional Health Skills

Key Emotional Health Skills

  • A Meditative Practice to calm your mind, centre your thoughts and reflect.

Recommended Reading on Mindfulness: Joseph Goldstein, Thich Nhat-Hahn, Jon Kabat-Zinn.


Cognitive Therapy

  • Reflect on the thoughts that trigger your emotions. Is there another way to look at the situation?
  • Question the underlying beliefs behind unhealthy thinking.
    • Identify your cognitive distortions
    • all or nothing thinking – seeing all the bad in another person or situation; catastrophizing – imagining the worst;
    • excessive self-blame

Recommended Reading:Mind Over Mood by Padesky and Greenberger; Authentic Happiness by Martin Seligman.


Visualizing Your Goals

  • Turn your problems into goals.
  • Instead of replaying the past or ruminating on the negative, think about what you want.
  • When you are most relaxed, visualize yourself having achieved your goal.
  • How do you feel? What do you see? What do you hear? Make it real!


Managing Stress

  • Burnout: when the demands of work or life exceed our ability to manage them.


Seizing the Locus of Control

  • Identify your sources of stress.
  • Are you reacting in proportion to the stress?
  • Recognize what you can change or control.
  • Accept what you cannot change; assume responsibility for what you can.
  • Recognize your choices.


The 80/20 Rule: 20% of our reaction to a situation is related to the facts; 80% arises from what we bring from our past and how we conceptualize the present.


The Daily Management of Stress

Be a good parent to yourself:

  1. Go out and play.Have an exercise routine.
  2. Don’t skip meals.Schedule regular healthy meals.
  3. Go to bed.Get enough sleep and take regular breaks.
  4. Go to the doctor.See your own family doctor appropriately.

Express your emotions with those close to you with a group of confidantes. Form or join a support group.

Live in accord with your values.

Attend to your relationships.

  1. Foster emotional intimacy.Agree on a habit of checking in with one another each day. How are you feeling? How was your day?
  2. Show your affection. Express your positive feelings.
  3. Schedule regular dates.Commit your time to what matters most. Don’t wait ‘til there’s time; make time!
  4. Communicate in a healthy way.Take a breath and let anger cool before you react. Acknowledge the other’s feelings and point of view. Express how you feel without blame.
  5. When things get stale, have an affair. . . with your partner.


Video: Keys to Managing Stress

Where to Find Help

Canadian Mental Health Association

Courses, resources, cognitive therapy and support.


Burnaby Mental Health (604) 453-1900

Assessment, treatment, counselling and crisis intervention.


Cameray Child & Family Services

203 – 5623 Imperial Street, Burnaby (604) 436-9449

Counselling for children and families.



Education, cognitive therapy courses.



Mood Disorders Association of BC

Support groups, cognitive therapy and wellness programs.


SAFER  (604) 675-3985

Education, support and counselling for those who have suicidal thoughts, have attempted suicide.

Support for family members.


The Four Foundations of Self-Care


  • What you eat(what you put into your body).


  • What you do(physical activity and rest).


  • How you feel(emotional wellbeing).


  • How you connect(healthy relationships).


Please share this information with your family, friends and anyone else who may find it helpful.

Together we’ll create a healthier community and a healthier future.

Preventive Health

Screening for Adults: What Tests When?

Most adults don’t know all the screening tests they should be getting and at what age and frequency. Regardless of their presenting concerns, I take a moment to review each patient’s chart before entering the room. I’ll make sure that they’re up-to-date with any screening tests; if they’re overdue, I’ll remind them or write the req.

I’ve put together a poster of screening tests that’s easier to read than the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care website. I’ve invited my colleagues to post copies in their exam rooms to use in their consultations with patients.  Download the poster >

This morning, I ran through a summary of these tests on Global TV.

 4 minute video on Global TV

Our Burnaby Division of Family Practice put together a more detailed presentation on screening tests and important symptoms. You’ll find even more practical and unbiased health information on our Empowering Patients section on the Division’s website.

It’s important to remember that screening tests are intended for the average adult with no family history or symptoms of these conditions.

If you have a family history of colon or breast cancer, you may be at increased risk and require these or other tests much earlier and more frequently. This requires a discussion with your physician.

If you feel a lump or feel pain in part of a breast, see a physician immediately. Likewise, if you see blood in your stools.

In the Empowering Patients section of the Division’s website, you’ll find more educational videos, including my series on symptoms that may require a visit to your doctor.

Dr. Davidicus Wong is a family physician in Burnaby, B.C. He is the lead of the Empowering Patients health literacy program and a board member of the Burnaby Division of Family Practice.


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What you need to know about high blood pressure

Aneroid BP

On Monday, August 21st at 7 pm, I’m presenting “What You Need to Know About High Blood Pressure” at the Tommy Douglas Metrotown Library in Burnaby. This free presentation is sponsored by the Burnaby Division of Family Practice and the Burnaby Public Library. Because seating is limited, please register by phone at 604-436-5400, in person at any branch or online at http://

Do you have high blood pressure?

If you’re an adult, you have a one in five chance, and your lifetime risk for developing hypertension is 90%. Your risk may be even higher if you have a family history of high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney failure or strokes.

Blood pressure is the measurement of the pressure of blood inside your blood vessels, specifically, the brachial artery of the upper arm. A normal blood pressure of 120/80 (“120 over 80”) represents a systolic pressure of 120 mm Hg (when the heart contracts) and a diastolic pressure of 80 (when the heart relaxes).

But blood pressure is more than just a number.

High blood pressure damages the delicate inner walls of arteries throughout the body, including the kidneys, brain, heart, eyes and extremities. Over time, it contributes to atherosclerosis (narrowing of arteries), manifested as progressive kidney failure, loss of circulation to your feet and legs, dementia, loss of vision, erectile dysfunction, heart failure (weakness in the pumping of the heart) and angina (chest pain due to impaired circulation to the heart muscle).

The catastrophic end results are premature heart attacks, strokes, blindness, kidney failure requiring dialysis, amputations of toes and feet, aneurysms (the expansion and rupture of blood vessels in the chest, abdomen or brain) and end stage heart failure.

Unless you have it measured, you won’t know your blood pressure. Most people with high blood pressure feel perfectly fine. That’s why it’s recommended that all adults have their blood pressure measured “at appropriate medical visits.” I recommend at least once a year.

High blood pressure may be caused by medical conditions such as kidney disease or an overactive thyroid, by medications including ibuprofen or an unhealthy lifestyle; however, 95% of people with high blood pressure have essential hypertension that is often genetic. Blood pressure also increases with age.

White coat syndrome is a real condition wherein a person’s blood pressure is much higher when taken by a doctor or nurse than at home. For this reason, many clinics now rely on automated office blood pressure machines. The operator sets it up, leaves the room and allows the machine to take three measurements. I ask my patients to measure and record their home blood pressures with a reliable machine (that we compare to our office equipment).

If blood pressure is never high at home or work, we don’t prescribe medications. However, some people have significant rises in their blood pressures with stressful situations, including their work. If the blood pressure is high at least 8 hours/day (i.e. at work) in addition to the medical clinic, it should be treated.

I coined the term “White Collar Syndrome” when I discovered that my patient – an accountant – had the highest pressures when he was at work.

As a physician, I want my patients to maintain safe blood pressure levels and avoid long-term complications. Medications have a potent effect in lowering blood pressure but they are not addictive and don’t make the body dependent any more than before they are started.

I have many patients who have been able to reduce the doses and numbers of medications they take through major lifestyle changes. Some now have normal blood pressures without any drugs.

These potent lifestyle changes include quitting smoking, limiting or stopping alcohol, increased physical activity, weight loss (if overweight), eating more fruits and vegetables and less red meat, and limiting sodium (salt) in the diet.

On Monday, August 21st at 7 pm, I’m presenting “What You Need to Know About High Blood Pressure” at the Tommy Douglas Metrotown Library in Burnaby. This free presentation is sponsored by the Burnaby Division of Family Practice and the Burnaby Public Library. Because seating is limited, please register by phone at 604-436-5400, in person at any branch or online at http://

Dr. Davidicus Wong is a family physician. To learn more about upcoming health education events, see the BDFP website at