Categories
Burnaby Division of Family Practice Empowering Healthcare Exercise Healthy Living

We Were Made to Move: Let’s Get Walking!

Drs. Davidicus Wong, Karime Mitha and Shelley Ross
Drs. Davidicus Wong, Karime Mitha and Shelley Ross

To some, the idea of exercise brings to mind four-letter words, like pain and work. But physical activity is not just for athletes and kids. It is essential to all of us. Healthy physical activity is one of the four foundations of self-care (a healthy lifestyle). The others are a healthy diet (what you put into your body), healthy relationships (how you relate) and emotional health (how you feel). The most important predictor (what you have control over) of your future health are the habits you practice today. We were made to move. When we don’t our health suffers. When we do, we thrive. The human body evolved to survive in times when food was scarce and life more physically demanding. Our genes are more suited to the prehistoric world. That’s why we crave fatty, high calorie foods and why we accumulate body fat if we don’t keep moving. If physical activity is a part of your everyday life then your life every day will be better. Daily physical activity can boost your mood and reduce anxiety. It can help you maintain a healthy weight, muscle strength and tone, coordination and comfort in your own body. We need a certain level of fitness in order to do the essential activities of daily living, including dressing, bathing, meal preparation, housework and getting out of the house to do the things we want and need to do. Fortunately, we have bodies and brains that are highly adaptable. With regular practice, physical activity becomes easier: we grow in strength, skill, speed and grace. We can acquire healthy new habits. Though technology intends to improve the quality of our lives, it often degrades the quality of our health. Most of us would be much healthier if we walked or cycled instead or riding and driving. For many young people, thumbs get more exercise than legs. Even the couch potatoes of the sixties got more physical activity than couch potatoes today. We now use remotes to avoid the few extra steps to change the channel. If you’ve become less active because of the demands of everyday life or if you’ve just fallen into some bad habits, it’s not too late to change. Being more active can benefit you at any time in your life. It can make the difference between just getting by and feeling great. I invite you to take the first steps on the path of better health. May 9th to 15th is the Doctors of B.C.’s Walk With Your Doc week, and doctors throughout the province will be promoting physical activity in a variety of community events. On Saturday, May 9th, we’ll kick off the week with a free and fun 2 km walk at Kitsilano Beach Park in Vancouver at 9:30 am. As the event’s emcee, I’ll be there with many of my colleagues along with our patients. Even if your doctor isn’t there, you’re welcome to attend. All members of the public are invited, but come early to get your free pedometer. For more information about this event, check online at www.doctorsofbc.ca/walk-with-your-doc. To celebrate the World Health Organization’s Move for Health Day on Sunday, May 10th (Mothers’ Day), the City of Burnaby has organized a large number of free events including pole walking, canoe lessons, boot camp,. For more information check the City’s website at burnaby.ca. Dr. Davidicus Wong is a family physician. His Healthwise column appears regularly in community newspapers. For practical tips for healthier living, see the Burnaby Division of Family Practice’s website at divisionsbc.ca/burnaby.

Categories
Burnaby Division of Family Practice Empowering Healthcare Healthy Living

The Habit of Exercise

WWYD 2015

How do we acquire our habits?

Often it is from the standard set by those around you.

If your friends each have more than 3 alcoholic drinks when you go out on the weekend, you might think that’s normal and healthy (If you do, it’s not. Ask your doctor or your liver.)

If your friends and family are couch potatoes, you are more likely to be one, too. And it’s not because it’s contagious or genetic (unless your dad really is a potato).

My role models for physical activity were my parents.

My dad was very athletic and trained us in the fundamental movement skills of throwing, catching, jumping, running, agility (balance and coordination), kicking and striking (balls but not each other). He has shown us from our toddler years into his 80s that a variety of physical activity is a fundamental key to healthy living. Always a do-it-yourselfer, he continues to do his own house and yard work.

My mom – when she wasn’t cooking, cleaning and running errands for the rest of us – exercised daily. This included aerobic classes, Tai Chi, bowling and line dancing. Fast walking was always a part of my parents’ habit of being physically active.

To help more people in our communities acquire the habit of being physically active, the Doctors of B.C. has organized Walk With Your Doc events throughout the province. The doctors who treat you in their clinics and hospitals are now your role models in the community. We really do walk the talk!

During the week of May 9th to 15th, doctors throughout British Columbia will be promoting physical activity in a variety of community events.

On Saturday, May 9th, we’ll kick off the week with a free and fun 2 km walk at Kitsilano Beach Park in Vancouver at 9:30 am. As the event’s emcee, I’ll be there with many of my colleagues along with our patients.

Even if your doctor isn’t there, you’re welcome to attend. All members of the public are invited, but come early to get your free pedometer. For more information about this event, check online at www.doctorsofbc.ca/walk-with-your-doc.

To celebrate the World Health Organization’s Move for Health Day on Sunday, May 10th (Mothers’ Day), the City of Burnaby has organized a large number of free events including pole walking, canoe lessons, boot camp,. For more information check the City’s website at burnaby.ca.

regularly in this paper. You can read more about achieving your positive potential in health at davidicuswong.wordpress.com.

Categories
Caregiving Emotions

Let’s talk about your emotional health

DSC00585

Your emotional wellbeing is an essential part of your health, but many patients only see their doctors when something is wrong with their bodies.

In the daily reality of my family practice, I assist patients coping with overwhelming emotions, troublesome thoughts and anxiety. Many initially present a physical problem, such as abdominal pain or insomnia as the reason for the visit.

Physical problems themselves are a cause of distress and can have a significant impact on our lives. Yet emotional distress can result in even greater negative effects.

Our emotional states can narrow our thoughts and influence our behaviour, affecting our enjoyment of life, our performance at work or in school, and how we relate to others. This can create vicious cycles of distressing emotional states, negative or anxious thinking, and worsening of our circumstances that in turn leads to increasingly negative feelings.

Our feelings shape our thoughts. When anxious, we may see a more threatening, overwhelming and unpredictable world. We underestimate our ability to cope. We overestimate what we must deal with.

When we become depressed, we may see our selves, others and our circumstances in a negative light. We have more difficulty seeing our own good qualities and abilities, the good in our relationships and the positive aspects of our circumstances.

Many people suffering from emotional symptoms hesitate to get help because they think they should be able to manage on their own. Although normal emotional reactions are part of life – it’s human to feel sad if we lose a loved one and anxious when we’re threatened, we need help when our emotions are of an intensity and duration such that they negatively impact the important areas of our lives, including our relationships and our performance at school or work.

Family members and friends sometimes don’t know what to do when someone they care about is suffering emotionally. Some mistake depression for a minor case of the blues that we all suffer when things don’t go our way, but people with depression can’t just snap out of it.

They need more information on how to recognize serious emotional problems and how to get help.

The Doctors of BC (British Columbia Medical Association) has just launched a new website, OpenMindBC.ca as part of its Council on Health Promotion Youth Mental Health Project. It contains valuable links to resources for youth and young adult patients and families, teachers and health care providers.

You’ll find information about common emotional problems, including anxiety, depression, substance abuse and psychosis. On the site, you can find online tools for self-assessment, practical self-help information, tips for managing stress and information to access professional help.

Even if you’re neither a youth nor a young adult, check out this invaluable website anyway. You’ll find helpful suggestions that anyone can use to manage stress and maintain emotional health.

And if you need some help with your emotional health, talk to your family doctor. It’s part of what we do to care for you as a whole person.

Dr. Davidicus Wong is a family physician. 

Categories
Empowering Healthcare Healthy Living patient-doctor relationship Physical Activity Positive Potential

Walking boosts creativity

I recently wrote of the many benefits of regular physical activity. These include improvements in cardiovascular fitness, sleep quality, mood and anxiety levels and reductions in the risks for heart disease, stroke, diabetes and osteoporosis.

So you won’t be surprised when your doctor writes you a prescription for exercise.

You might be if your teacher or boss tells you to take a hike – all for the sake of creativity.

A recent study at Stanford University has shown that we are more creative while walking than when we are sitting. In their study published last week in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition, coauthors Marily Oppezzo and Daniel Schwartz looked at the immediate effect of walking on performance in standardized tests of divergent thinking. They tested 176 college students and other adults in four experiments after they had walked indoors on a treadmill, sat indoors, walked outdoors or sat in a wheelchair while they were pushed along the same path.

Divergent thinking involves generating creative ideas by exploring possible solutions. It is essential for brainstorming – the free flow of ideas we need before we can begin to write an essay or story, solve a problem or collaborate as a group.

In the Stanford study, subjects were asked to come up with alternate uses of a specific object and to generate complex analogies to specific phrases.

Walking – either indoors or outdoors – resulted in significantly more creative responses than sitting.

Creative thinking isn’t just for artists, writers and students. It can benefit every aspect of our lives. Our most troublesome problems seem to come up over and over again. Divergent thinking can help us generate new approaches to those problems. It can help us reimagine and reinvent our lives. It can open the window to new possibilities.

In B.C., doctors are connecting with their patients in creative new ways.

Last Saturday, I had a 90-minute group medical visit with 15 of my long-time patients, all living with chronic pain. This alternative way of serving my patients allowed me the time to share new approaches to the challenges of their conditions.

I introduced the concept of neuroplasticity – how the function of different areas of the brain and the connections between neurons can change and adapt to new learning. I was able to teach them mindfulness meditation, the principles of cognitive therapy (how we can change both our emotional states and our perception of pain by changing our thoughts) and the practice of self-hypnosis.

On Saturday, May 3rd, I’ll be connecting with my patients in another creative way. The Doctors of B.C. (formerly the B.C. Medical Association) will demonstrate their care and commitment to our patients and community with a free and fun 2 km walk at Kitsilano Beach Park in Vancouver at 9:30 am.

All members of the public are invited, but come early to get your free pedometer. You never know what great ideas we’ll come up with just walking and talking. For more information about this event, check online at www.bcma.org/walk-with-your-doc.

Drs. Davidicus Wong, Karime Mitha and Shelley Ross at the BCMA's Walk With Your Doc May 4th, 2013
Drs. Davidicus Wong, Karime Mitha and Shelley Ross at the BCMA’s Walk With Your Doc May 4th, 2013

 

Categories
Exercise Healthy Living Physical Activity

The side-effects of exercise. Some of them are positive!

abreast in a boat team

I recently wrote of the many benefits of regular physical activity. These include improvements in cardiovascular fitness, sleep quality, mood and anxiety levels and reductions in the risks for heart disease, stroke, diabetes and osteoporosis.

In fact, doctors across B.C. have been writing their patients prescriptions for exercise.

Of course, every treatment has potential side effects. Fortunately, these risks are by far outweighed by the benefits of exercise.

Musculoskeletal injuries – strains, sprains and fractures – are the most common risks of exercise. The risks depend on your chosen activity, where you exercise and your individual risks. To reduce your risk for injuries, begin at a lower intensity (i.e. walk before you run, hop before you leap), use proper equipment (i.e. appropriate footwear, helmets and other protective equipment), a safe environment (i.e. a designated bike path) and expert assistance (i.e. coaching, training and supervision).

The less common but serious risks of exercise include irregular heart rhythms, heart attacks and respiratory distress in those with asthma or chronic lung disease. Another rare risk is muscle injury so severe that it results in the rhabdomyolysis, the breakdown of muscle cells and kidney failure.

To avoid these more serious complications, understand the risks of extreme exercise, including marathons and vigorous exercise in extreme weather conditions – and if you could be at increased risk by personal or family history, consult with your doctor.

There is appropriate exercise for everyone but it has to be individualized according to your interests, physical condition and personal medical history. Like all prescriptions, the dose is important.

You can overdose on exercise. Yes, regular aerobic activity with its release of feel-good endorphins can be addictive. You’ll know you’ve been overexercising if you are getting more frequent colds, feel achy all over all the time, feel exhausted every day and suffer frequent injuries.

Often the side effects of exercise are positive and unexpected. Almost 20 years ago, Dr. Don McKenzie of the McGavin Sport Medicine Centre at U.B.C. put together a study group to dispel the myth that strenuous upper body exercise may cause lymphedema in women who have had breast cancer.

After one year, no one in the study group developed lymphedema. As a positive side effect, the women discovered that they loved paddling together so much that they founded the Abreast in a Boat Society, the world’s first dragon boat team comprised of breast cancer survivors.

The mission of the now approximately 165 members who paddle on five crews throughout the Lower Mainland is to raise awareness of breast cancer and to demonstrate that women diagnosed with breast cancer can enjoy full and active lives. For more information about these inspired women who serve as living symbols of hope, visit their website at http://www.abreastinaboat.com.

abreast in a boat

The safest way to begin a more active lifestyle is to join the Doctors of B.C. on Saturday, May 3rd at 9:30 am for a free and fun 2 km walk at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach Park. I’ll be there with many of my colleagues along with our patients. There won’t be a safer place to walk anywhere in town.

All members of the public are invited, but come early to get your free pedometer. For more information about this event, check online at www.bcma.org/walk-with-your-doc.

Dr. Davidicus Wong is a family physician and Physician Lead of the Burnaby Division of Family Practice. 

 

Categories
Burnaby Division of Family Practice Empowering Healthcare Exercise Healthy Living patient-doctor relationship Physical Activity Positive Change Preventive Health

The Evolving Patient-Doctor Relationship

Dr. Davidicus Wong with patients, Donna and Albert Gomes
Dr. Davidicus Wong with patients, Donna and Albert Gomes

Medicine is a calling. For dedicated physicians, our responsibility to our patients, profession and society extend beyond regular working hours and occupy our minds outside of both hospital and clinic.

Traditionally, the sacred moment is the time we spend with each of our patients, our attention focussed on their wellbeing. Yet the patient-doctor relationship continues to evolve.

In the past, physicians used to give orders – for their patients to lose weight, exercise, eat better, quit smoking, limit alcohol and take their prescription medications, and when their patients would return many months later not having followed those orders, they would be labelled “noncompliant” and the doctor would repeat the same orders.

We no longer use that term; it harks back to the days of medical paternalism. The doctor doesn’t always know best. We have expertise in the science of medicine and experience in what has worked for most patients; however, patients are the experts on their own lives, their values and their priorities.

When patients fail to follow through on goals we have set together, I don’t blame them. Rather I question whether I had helped them choose the best goals for them. Were they the goals that matter most to the individual? Did I provide sufficient support for success?

Those old doctor’s orders were actually good recommendations for activities that would promote health, but achievable goals must appeal to the patients’ values and be appropriate to their circumstances. They must be tailored to the individual.

The Practice Support Program has been teaching family physicians new tools to help our patients make lasting positive changes. When most people think of health care, they think of the tip of an iceberg – acute care in the hospital, and that is where a large proportion of our tax dollars is spent. Yet 90% of professional organized health care takes place in the community, for example, in primary care clinics. Family physicians provide much of the medical care for most patients.

But professional health care itself is just the tip of an even greater iceberg. Self-management is the care that patients provide to themselves through the monitoring of their chronic conditions, nutrition, physical activity and self-education.

The key to improved health is to better support patients in their self-care.

The doctor-patient relationship continues to evolve with the advent of the Divisions of Family Practice throughout the province. With the support of the General Practice Services Committee, family physicians have formed non-profit organizations to improve primary care in their communities.

Dr. Shelley Ross leading the WWYD pack
Dr. Shelley Ross leading the WWYD pack

On Saturday, May 3rd, the Doctors of B.C. (formerly the B.C. Medical Association) will demonstrate their care and commitment to our patients and community with a free and fun 2 km walk at Kitsilano Beach Park in Vancouver at 9:30 am. I’ll be there with many of my colleagues along with our patients.

Even if your doctor isn’t there, you’re welcome to attend. All members of the public are invited, but come early to get your free pedometer. For more information about this event, check online at www.bcma.org/walk-with-your-doc.

Dr. Davidicus Wong is a family physician and Physician Lead of the Burnaby Division of Family Practice.

Drs. Davidicus Wong, Karime Mitha and Shelley Ross at the BCMA's Walk With Your Doc May 4th, 2013
Drs. Davidicus Wong, Karime Mitha and Shelley Ross at the BCMA’s Walk With Your Doc May 4th, 2013