Kawartha North Family Health Team

Have a heart….

February is obviously known for hearts related to Valentine’s Day, but it is also heart month for the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

I have recently been thinking about heart health as my husband is trying to address his high blood pressure and it certainly brings home the reality of looking after our hearts.  Being in his 40’s and exercising regularly, we felt assured that such things as high blood pressure were on the worry list for our neighbours not us, but lo and behold – not so.

Following a visit for an unrelated health check, a reading of 185 over 80 brought things into instant focus and made me re-evaluate how we eat and in particular how much caffeine and sodium we consume.  We are already active and at a healthy weight, both important contributing factors, and his age and gender are strikes against his blood pressure outside of my influence so that left limited control for me.

First off, I am NOT his doctor, so I told him to go see him instead.  I may work for a health care facility, but at the end of the day, this may require medication and that is outside of my purview.  What I am, however, is the cook in the house.  So I did review what we eat and overall we eat very healthy, but whilst I don’t have a sweet tooth, I like my salt.  So that was the main adjustment.  Of course in your home, make sure you limit fried and fatty foods, get your fruits and vegetables and then like myself, assess your sodium.  I think the most eye opening was the unknown sodium consumption.  I already tried to limit how much salt I used in my cooking, but on looking at things like the stock and sauces I use, it started to add up quickly.

So start by checking your blood pressure to assess your heart health and make sure you are looking after yourself and your loved ones.

Your friends at the Kawartha North FHT



Where’s the beef?

Where’s the Beef?

Last month, Canada revealed its most recent edition of Canada’s Food Guide.  The first iteration, called “The Official Food Rules”, was introduced in July of 1942 in an attempt to mitigate nutritional deficiencies during wartime food rationing.

Over the years, the “Food Guide” has formed the basis of many Canadians’ nutritional knowledge, basing their healthy eating on the four food groups.  Unfortunately, recent interviews by CBC showed that many Canadians have never heard of it, leaving me to question how valuable was the guide and what impact, if any, will it continue to have.

In my personal life, while I have not always followed it to the letter, it has definitely been the basis of what I consider to be a healthy diet. Certainly, the new pictorial provides a quick glance reference to remind us that our healthy diet should include a variety of fruits and vegetables which should ideally constitute 50% of our meal.  Gone are milk and milk products as well as meat and alternative from the 2007 edition, having been replaced by “Protein Foods”.

Additionally what has been added and what dietitians and nutritionists will find heartening, is very basic and common sense eating advice such as drinking water, cooking more frequently and sharing meals with loved ones.

So why not take this opportunity to restart your healthy habits for the new year using Canada’s Food Guide as inspiration?

Your friends at the Kawartha North FHT

Putting your best foot forward….

Putting your best foot forward….

Whilst sandal season may be over, I would still like to take this time to get you to check your feet.

For such an important part of the body, it seems to me that we often pay little attention to our “little piggies”. We squeeze them into shoes that are not the perfect size because they were on sale or match our outfit, we wear high heels (ok, not everyone) to look better or add a couple inches – all in the name of vanity. So as I refreshed my summer polish, it struck me that I care more what others think of my feet than I do simply because they are so vital to my health and wellbeing.

Certainly, anyone with Diabetes is well accustomed to taking extra care to prevent injuries and neuropathy, but we should all take an extra moment to ensure that we are following the basic guidelines to keep our feet healthy.

  • Of course, first and foremost, wear well fitted shoes with low or no heels;
  • Cut or file nails straight across and never shorter than the end of your toe to prevent issues such as ingrown toenails;
  • Do not treat Plantar warts at home – this is not a DIY project and can lead to painful scarring.;
  • Consult a professional early to treat corns and calluses; and
  • Exercise your feet. While there are very helpful foot exercises, a good old fashioned walk is still one of the best exercises for your feet.

So take care of your feet and they will take care of you.

Your friends at the Kawartha North FHT

Don’t let pain slow you down….

If you are anything like me, the changing weather will increase any discomfort you may have in your joints and make it awfully tempting to look for comfort on the couch, but this is likely the worst approach to take.

While movement may feel uncomfortable, it is vital in reducing joint pain, increasing strength and flexibility and helping to combat fatigue. Don’t worry, you don’t need to run a marathon, even mild to moderate exercise will help.

Start slowly with range-of-motion exercises including stretching and try low impact activities such as Tai Chi or walking. If able, move up to include strengthening exercises to build muscle and protect joints. Avoid working the same muscle groups two days in a row and rest between workouts, particularly if your joints are painful or swollen. Once you have two or three days per week of strength training in your routine, add aerobic exercises. Try low impact activities such as swimming and split it into 10 minute intervals if you find it is easier on your joints.

Remember to keep it low impact and apply heat to sore joints prior to exercising to relax stiff joints. Take a break if you are experiencing pain and apply ice after activity if needed. Don’t overdo it and trust your body, but remember that exercise truly is one of the best things you can do for your sore joints – even if it does seem counterintuitive at first.

So get active and get moving.

Your friends at the Kawartha North FHT

What to do to fill in for school hours….

Wow, yet another school year over, ready for summer break? If you are lucky enough to have vacation plans or are heading to the cottage, keeping the kids busy should be a cinch. Unfortunately, you may face heading to work most days or enjoying a “staycation” in which case, keeping your kids busy can pose a challenge.

Funnily enough, it has become easier than ever to have them entertain themselves, “play a video game, watch a movie, text a friend”….unfortunately all the new technologies, while a treat for babysitting, come with their own set of challenges. So what are good guidelines for screen time and how do you enforce them without a power struggle this summer?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, school age children should have no more than two hours of screen time per day, while preschoolers should be limited to less than one. Of course, if you are heading to the office in the morning and leaving your children alone or in the care of a sitter, this can be easier said than done.

Generally, experts agree that you should set consistent guidelines and explain these to your children up front. Nothing derails a plan more than inconsistency. It becomes difficult to say why they will only be allowed two hours today when they had six yesterday. If possible, involve your sitter in the plan, but if your kids will be unattended or you are not sure the sitter is mature enough to enforce such guidelines, you may choose one of the technological options such as Luma to curb extra access.

Additionally, ensure that there are other activities planned as an alternative to screen time. These don’t always have to be all fun either. Perhaps you make an agreement that they need to wash the dishes and read two chapters before they are able to access their screen of choice. Of course, fun time is also important.

So be prepared this summer and agree to set up healthy guidelines to keep everyone happy.

Your friends at the Kawartha North FHT

Coming clean about cleaning

Based on our recent weather, let’s assume that spring has finally sprung, so aside from starting my seeds, the thing that comes to mind is spring cleaning.

I hate to admit it, but housework rates pretty low on my priority list; that being said, I recognize the joy of seeing a job done so there is always a part of me that looks forward to a good day of cleaning. I think there is a certain mental catharsis to looking around after a long day and noting how beautiful your space is.

But don’t just wash dishes for your mental health, and yes, there are actually studies that show doing dishes reduces anxiety; instead, recognize that doing household chores has been found as effective as going to the gym according to researchers following 130,000 people in 17 countries. Performing 30 minutes of any kind of physical activity five days a week could slash your risk of death from any cause by 28 percent and your rate of heart disease by 20 percent – and yes, that includes mopping floors and vacuuming. Of course both the benefit and the fun increase exponentially if you add some of your favourite music.

Personally, my favourite part of spring cleaning is finally getting out into my garden and preparing the beds for the new season, although I do have to admit that I may be tempted to neglect the floors in favour of the flowers.

So feel good about clearing some of the chores of your list and get your exercise at the same time.

Don’t sweat the small stuff….

Did you accomplish everything you wanted to this winter? Are you constantly feeling guilty about not calling your – mother, brother, sister, friend? How about fretting about your child’s last semester? We have all felt stress and while it can be a positive motivating factor, don’t let it become a negative force in your life.

Stress is a normal response to “dangerous” situations, but unlike our ancestors, we do not often face wild animals to trigger the fight or flight response. Today it is more likely to be that commute from the city, a nagging deadline or our internal guilt that is causing this and it could trigger our natural instincts to be stuck in the on position for extended periods.

Chronic stress can begin to interfere with our ability to live a normal, healthy life, causing loss of sleep, abnormal eating habits, exacerbating chronic diseases and leading to depression. Often the causes are a culmination of small factors that in of themselves are easily overcome.

So if you are feeling stressed, take a step back to identify the causes and list them individually to enable you to break them down into smaller, more manageable tasks. Take a moment to walk away from a stressor that seems outside of your control right now, this is obviously not the approach to take for the commute home. Let go of issues that are simply “not worth the battle”. Exercise and cut back on caffeine and alcohol to try and maintain good sleeping habits and if all else fails – recognize if and when you need help to address these issues.

Recognizing that stress is negatively impacting your life is the first step in the battle, don’t let it rule your life.

Your friends at Kawartha North FHT

Take some time to be creative

Too many things on your to-do list and your hobbies are falling by the wayside?  Don’t be too quick to dismiss your creative endeavours as frivilous.

According to the American Public Health Association,  while chronic disease is a national burden, they are also often associated with negative psychosocial impacts such as depression which tend to increase negative impacts of such conditions.  Health psychologists have found that art provides an opportunity for self-reflection alters both behaviour and thinking patterns resulting in a reduction of symptoms.

Additionally, art fills the void often occupied by distracted thoughts of illness and reduces the associated stress and anxiety.  But if you are thinking the benefits are all “in your head”, think again.  An article in the Journal of Psychosomatic Medicine used writing as a treatment for HIV patients and found that it impacted the cells inside the body, leading to improved immune systems.

So don’t dismiss that hobby, whether you write, paint, sing or knit – it is good for you.  The physical and psychological benefits of being creative are expressed in tangible ways making it worth to set aside the time.

So do something creative and be kind do yourself at the same time.

Your friends at the Kawartha North FHT


Help us help you!

We are looking at expanding our walk-in clinic services to serve you better.  Please take a moment to complete our short survey so we know what you would like.  A link to the survey can be found here.

Thank you!

Another thing to add to the list….

Do you ever turn on the radio and hear that it is “National __________ Day” and think to yourself – do we have a day / week / month for everything? If you said yes, you are not alone and like myself, you have likely also thought – WHY do we have a day for that?

Well as I listened to CBC the other day, it was brought to my attention that November is “Make a Will month” and I had those very thoughts. Later on, I reflected on the fact that I was thinking about my will, something that like many Canadians, I try to avoid considering for obvious reasons and it dawned on me that without that notice I would likely not be pondering this necessity.

So, I use this opportunity to spark a difficult conversation. I hope that you have heeded our advice over the years and consequently are living a healthy and long life, but some things remain inevitable despite our best efforts. I trust we all know the reason to have a will so I would like to take this one step further and say – do you also have a Power of Attorney for your Personal Care? If, heaven forbid, you become unable to make decisions about your health or your housing, is someone in a position to do so on your behalf? If you have answered yes, you are already ahead of many Canadians. If you have discussed your wishes with your Power of Attorney to ensure that they will be able to speak effectively on your behalf and have advised your Health Care Provider who this person will be, you have tackled one of the most difficult subjects and we commend you. If not, why not take Make a Will month as an opportunity to start a difficult conversation?

So be healthy, but also be prepared.