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How can I get medical marijuana for my terminally ill father?

PAUL TAYOR

THE QUESTION

My father is 84 and has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. The medication he has been prescribed for pain isn’t working. He wants to try medical marijuana. But getting a doctor to prescribe cannabis is like pulling teeth. His doctor says there isn’t enough scientific evidence to support its use, even though it’s legally permitted by the Canadian government. What can I do to get my father cannabis?

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How a disorienting hospital visit can lead to delirium

PAUL TAYLOR

QUESTION

My 80-year-old mother recently spent more than a day in an emergency department waiting for a hospital bed so she could be treated for pneumonia. During the long wait, she became confused and agitated. She just wasn’t herself. The doctor said she was suffering from delirium. What is delirium and what causes it?

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My mom has colon cancer. How long will she have to wait for surgery?

PAUL TAYLOR

THE QUESTION

My mom has been diagnosed with colon cancer and has an appointment to see a surgeon. What is the average waiting period from the consultation visit to surgery?

THE ANSWER

Provincial health authorities have established general targets for how long patients should wait for surgery. (I will return to those targets later.) But it’s still hard to say how long your mother will have to wait because the timing of her surgery will likely depend on the characteristics of her tumour.

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Yoga vs. Pilates: How to choose the right discipline for your needs

KATHLEEN TROTTER

Pilates and yoga can be misunderstood as being one and the same.

Both disciplines emphasize breath regulation, mindfulness during practice and alignment, but that doesn’t mean they should be used interchangeably. It is important to understand the key differences; depending on your goals, exercise history and body type, one might be more appropriate for your individual needs.

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Why we should care that many teens experience sexual difficulties

LORI BROTTO

There is a wealth of information about the sexual activities, unwanted pregnancy rates and sexually transmitted infection patterns seen in adolescent girls and boys. As a society, we have become preoccupied with the role of social media on a young person’s sexuality and on their sense of sexual self-esteem. However, one domain of sexuality that we know little about is in regards to the sexual difficulties that adolescents experience.

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Can you describe a 'typical' assisted death?

PAUL TAYLOR

THE QUESTION

Can you describe a “typical” assisted death? I would like to know exactly what is given to the patient and whether it involves any suffering.

THE ANSWER

The federal government is still in the process of drafting assisted-dying legislation. It has until June 6 to enact a new law that complies with a Supreme Court of Canada ruling in 2015 that struck down the country’s ban on doctor-assisted death.

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Three ways to improve sleep quality and brain function

DWIGHT CHAPIN

Research shows that sleep is among the most critical factors for peak performance, memory, productivity, immune function and mood regulation – but the speed and information overload of today’s pace of life can challenge sleep quality, resulting in a decline in health and cognitive function.

Our best intentions to catch up on a sleep debt can lead to inconsistent patterns of sleep. This is a slippery slope. Unfortunately, an hour less tonight does not equal an extra hour tomorrow.

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Will physical activity help me with my depression?

PAUL TAYLOR

THE QUESTION

I suffer from depression and my doctor has given me a prescription for antidepressant medication. She says my mood may improve if I also increase my level of physical activity. But I find it hard enough just getting out of bed in the morning – not to mention exercising. Can physical activity really help?

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Five tips for rebooting your workout this spring

ALEX ALLAN

It’s that time of year when we throw out the old, acquire some new, clean up what exists and organize what remains.

Historically, the concept of spring cleaning has been applied to our houses, but moving forward it should also include our bodies.

The winter months can wreak havoc on our physical structure – often encouraging inactivity, muscular imbalance, overall weakness and the accumulation of “possessions” (yes, fat cells) that we may want to shed as the weather improves.

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Three families share their stories about getting around on a bicycle

DAVE McGINN

 

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Finding relief from restless legs syndrome

JUDITH DAVIDSON

Do your legs ever drive you crazy in the evening when you are sitting or lying down? Do you feel compelled to get up, stretch them, walk around?

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is an apt name for a common disorder that is considered sleep-related, even though it occurs when you’re awake, usually in the evening. In some cases, it is just annoying; in others, it is downright frustrating, interfering with evening activities and the ability to get a good night’s sleep.

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How to go from the couch to running 5K in eight weeks

KATHLEEN TROTTER

My biggest piece of advice for anyone who wants to start running is “just start” – lace up your running shoes and go.

The hardest part of any exercise program – especially running – is getting started. When I first started to run, each step was torture. Now running is my bliss.

Your first workout doesn’t have to be perfect. Even if you simply jog for one minute and then walk the rest of the time, it is always better to do something rather than nothing.

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The last things a caregiver for a loved one needs to hear – and the first

RENÉE HENRIQUES

Have you ever said the wrong thing? Of course you have. You’re human. And when it comes to speaking to caregivers, conversations can be especially fraught.

Statistics Canada tells us more than eight million Canadians provide care to a chronically ill or disabled loved one. That’s a lot of people that are going through caregiving journeys, and if you are not one of them, you may find yourself putting your foot in your mouth unknowingly.

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Why must ER patients wait so long for a hospital bed?

PAUL TAYLOR

THE QUESTION

I recently took my elderly father to a hospital emergency department because he was suffering from severe stomach pain. A doctor saw him fairly promptly and decided to admit him. But my father then had to wait more than a day in the emergency department before he was moved to a bed in a hospital room. Why did he have to wait so long?

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Marijuana’s effect on sleeping still unclear

JUDITH DAVIDSON

At least once a week, I hear from patients that smoking marijuana helps them to relax and to sleep. I know that other clinicians hear the same thing because they ask me about it at insomnia workshops. Does cannabis really improve sleep?

Several studies done in the 1970s examined the effects of smoked marijuana on objective sleep patterns, measured using polysomnography. This method of overnight recording involves the tracking of brain waves, eye movements and muscle tone in order to distinguish the sleep stages and their pattern of occurrence throughout the night.

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Why do researchers churn out so many contradictory food studies?

PAUL TAYLOR

THE QUESTION

Food studies frustrate me. One week a study says one thing. The next week another study says the opposite. Why do researchers churn out so many contradictory studies – and why does the news media keep covering them?

THE ANSWER

It’s fair to say that many people share your frustration – despite the fact that food studies have a lot of popular appeal. After all, in theory at least, this type of research has the potential to empower people. If you knew what specific foods could prevent certain diseases, you wouldn’t need to rely on doctors and prescription drugs.

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After baby, can parents ever regain that lost lovin' feeling?

LORI BROTTO

Sex makes a baby. But babies can be bad for sex.

Six weeks after a child is born, most women are given the green light to resume sexual activity as long as the typical healing-signs of delivery – whether a vaginal or a cesarean birth – are evident, and the couple have considered contraceptive options.

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How you’re self-sabotaging your fitness success

KATHLEEN TROTTER

Adopting a healthier lifestyle can be overwhelming; when the going gets tough, too many of us consciously (or unconsciously) sabotage our own success. I have been there. As an adolescent I was chubby and awkward; I constantly sabotaged my own health.

Learning to crave movement and healthy food has been a process; a large part of the process was learning how not to self-sabotage and, possibly more significant, figuring out that when I did self-sabotage I didn’t have to beat myself up. I could learn from the experience and then make more informed decisions in the future.

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Young baseball players need to be wary of overuse injuries to throwing arms

DWIGHT CHAPIN

Little Leaguers will soon be taking to baseball diamonds across the country with a little extra enthusiasm thanks to Jose Bautista’s bat flip and Josh Donaldson’s MVP performance last fall.

To prepare for a new season, many young ball players have already been training indoors with their teams for a couple of months. Coaches look to leverage these early reps and hours of practice into reproducible, midseason success.

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My terminally ill brother wants to move provinces to be with family. Can he get medical care?

PAUL TAYLOR

THE QUESTION

My brother has been living and working in Alberta for several years. He now has terminal cancer and wants to return to Ontario to be with family during the time he has left. Will he be able to get medical care?

THE ANSWER

Unfortunately, he will not be immediately eligible for coverage under the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP).

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Breast milk banks are life savers for preemies, and they’re making a comeback

PAUL TAYLOR

The question

I’m a new mom and I am producing more breast milk than my baby needs. I know that some mothers can’t make enough milk for their babies. Is there a way for me to donate my extra supply?

The answer

That’s certainly a very generous offer. Four Canadian cities now have non-profit breast-milk banks that accept donations from healthy nursing moms.

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Develop a solid plan to help loved ones with declining health

Renée Henriques

I often get frantic calls from people at the beginning of a care journey with a loved one whose health is in decline. I know how the start of this journey feels, and it is not great. Acknowledging that your loved one needs help is the first step on a long road to creating a care plan that works. Here are some things you should know, and steps that you can take to help create a good plan for your loved one.

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Joining a study for quicker access to treatment isn’t jumping the line

PAUL TAYLOR

THE QUESTION

My daughter suffers from really bad anxiety. She has been on a waiting list for many months to see a specialist at a hospital. The doctor’s office recently phoned to say my daughter can be seen right away if I agree to enroll her in a study. It seems wrong to tie her treatment to a study. To me, this just looks like queue-jumping. Is this fair or even ethical?

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Deconstructing ‘no pain, no gain’ and other fitness fables

KATHLEEN TROTTER

Just because you have heard something a million times doesn’t make it correct. Sure, your family, friends, colleagues and fellow gym members might look like they know what they’re talking about, but that doesn’t mean you should blindly trust their advice.

I can’t tell you how many times I overhear conversations about fitness – at brunch, at parties and especially at the gym – that are so misguided I almost cringe. If you are buying into any of these five fitness myths, you might be unknowingly sabotaging your progress and putting yourself at risk of injury.

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Why the stethoscope still has value as a modern-day medical tool

PAUL TAYLOR

THE QUESTION

I was recently in a hospital for a medical appointment and noticed some doctors with stethoscopes around their necks. Then I read an article in the newspaper that said the stethoscope was invented 200 years ago. I find it strange that doctors are still relying on them. Isn’t there something better?

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Be careful with domperidone, a drug that boosts a mother’s milk production

PAUL TAYLOR

The question

I’m a new mother and my doctor thinks I am not making enough milk for my baby. He said that I should take a drug called domperidone to boost my milk production. When I googled domperidone, I found that Health Canada put out a warning that says this drug can cause abnormal heart rhythms and sudden death. Is it safe?

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Skiers need to stretch and strengthen year-round

DR. DWIGHT CHAPIN

Skiing is generally considered to be a high-risk sport, independent of age. Although advances in equipment design, such as multidirectional release bindings, have reduced the number of injuries on the slopes, the knee remains vulnerable. A third of all skiing injuries are related to the knee joint, with ligament injury being the most common. Thumb injuries also frequently occur when a skier falls on an outstretched arm while still gripping the pole.

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‘Exercise as medicine’ can help treat chronic diseases – if done properly

ALEX ALLAN

Imagine your doctor wrote a prescription for your elevated blood pressure and then sent you to an exercise facility to fill it. What if a few of your old pills magically transformed into a treadmill (with you on it) and your side effects flipped from low energy and fatigue to a feeling of vitality and vigour?

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What to do if you’re frustrated with home care services in Ontario

PAUL TAYLOR

THE QUESTION

Five years ago, at the relatively young age of 60, my husband suffered a stroke that left him profoundly disabled. After two years in a continuing-care hospital, he was deemed medically stable enough to return home with two hours of home care a day – authorized at the time by our local Ontario Community Care Access Centre (CCAC), which distributes provincial government funds to our neighbourhood care agency. Now his new care co-ordinator has told us that the CCAC wants to cut us back to one hour a day – even though his physical condition has not improved. He cannot roll over in bed, sit up by himself, use the bathroom, shower or transfer to his wheelchair without help. The care co-ordinator said the CCAC has not received any more funding from the government and has to find efficiencies. There is no way we can manage with just one hour a day. What are our options?

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When ‘floaters’ in your field of vision are a sign of deeper medical issues

PAUL TAYLOR

THE QUESTION

I often see semi-transparent specs of stuff floating across my field of vision. They seem to be inside my eyes. Does this mean there is a problem with my eyesight? Should I be worried?

THE ANSWER

About eight out of 10 adults see similar things. Although people may describe them in different ways, they are generally known as “floaters.”

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