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Dosage, THC levels and other points to consider before trying medical marijuana

PAUL TAYLOR

THE QUESTION

My mother had a mastectomy after being diagnosed with breast cancer. It’s now six months since her operation and she is still suffering from sharp, burning pain where her breast was removed. The drugs she has been given for the pain aren’t providing enough relief. I’ve heard that marijuana is good for pain. Should she ask her doctor for a prescription for pot?

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High sexual desire in women can be totally normal

LORI BROTTO

Women’s sexuality is evaluated, judged, scrutinized and criticized regularly, with everyone peddling an opinion about what women are expected to feel, enjoy and participate in when it comes to sex. Women’s sexual desire has received the most attention, particularly after the approval of Viagra for men in 1999 in Canada, and this interest was amplified following the approval of the female sexual-desire pill, flibanserin, by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2015 (flibanserin is under review right now by Health Canada). Over the past 18 years, doctors, researchers, the public and women themselves have asked: Is my level of sexual desire normal?

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How depression can set the stage for heart disease

PAUL TAYLOR

THE QUESTION: A close friend has been troubled by manic depression for many years. She’s now in her 40s and recently found out that she already has signs of heart disease. Is there anything that actually links depression to heart problems?

THE ANSWER: Numerous studies have found that patients who suffer from either depression or bipolar disorder face elevated chances of getting heart disease at an early age.

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Effective stretching is key to your workout success

KATHLEEN TROTTER

Too often, individuals are given the advice, “Don’t forget to stretch” – as if stretching is both a monolithic category of movement and uniformly positive.

Both assumptions are overly simplistic and potentially dangerous.

Stretching is not a homogeneous category. The appropriateness of each type of stretch, which includes dynamic, static, corrective and fascial, depends on the goals of the individual and the segment of the workout.

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Why antioxidants aren’t as healthy as you think

VANESSA MILNE

Antioxidants have been touted as the answer to everything from heart disease to erectile dysfunction. But in fact, antioxidant supplements have been studied for almost 20 years and the results have been overwhelmingly poor, ranging from having no effect to significantly increasing the risk of death. Here’s what the science tells us:

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Should I be undergoing any tests for my severe back pain?

PAUL TAYLOR

THE QUESTION

I went to my doctor because I’ve had really bad back pain. I asked if I should get an MRI, CT scan or even an X-ray to find out what’s causing my discomfort. My doctor said I don’t need any tests. But what happens if there is something really wrong with me? Wouldn’t it be better to do something now, rather than let it get worse?

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What can I do when I can’t afford my prescriptions?

PAUL TAYLOR

The question

I’m in my 50s and work two jobs to make ends meet. I also have some health problems and I’ve been prescribed several medications. But I sometimes find it hard to pay for my drugs. What am I supposed to do when I can’t afford them?

The answer

You should start by having a discussion with your doctor.

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What are the pros and cons of feeding tubes?

PAUL TAYLOR

THE QUESTION

My mother has advanced dementia and lives in a nursing home. She is now having problems swallowing her food. I’ve asked the staff at the home if she can get nourishment through a feeding tube. But they say there are risks involved with artificial nutrition. I don’t want her to starve to death. What are the pros and cons of feeding tubes?

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My medical records are still on paper –– should I be worried?

PAUL TAYLOR

THE QUESTION

I’ve had the same family doctor for 20 years and I like her. But my medical records are still on paper and my doctor has no plans to convert to an electronic system. That makes me wonder how up-to-date she is with other medical advances. What could be the holdup?

THE ANSWER

Changing to electronic medical records (EMR) is a daunting task for physicians who have been in practice for a long time.

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A key fitness component often overlooked: balance

KATHLEEN TROTTER

A well-rounded fitness routine typically includes three main pillars: cardio (walking, biking, etc.), strength (using machines, dumbbells, bands, etc.) and flexibility (stretching, yoga, etc.)

Balance should be considered the fourth pillar – a “non-negotiable” component of every regimen.

Why?

Balance and proprioception are intrinsically linked. Proprioception is the feedback loop between the body and brain; it’s the mind-body connection that allows your brain to know where you are in space and thus how your body should appropriately react. By challenging and training your balance, you also fine-tune your proprioception.

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How to find the right retirement home for your loved one

Renée Henriques

When he was 60, my dad, Bernie, made me promise that I would never put him in a home. He made me promise at least once a year after that. But later in life, his health deteriorated to the point where I could no longer keep my promise. I researched homes extensively, always with a heavy heart and a sense of betrayal.

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Ditch this outdated upper-body exercise in 2017

KATHLEEN TROTTER

The new year is commonly a time of renewed – if often briefly – dedication to fitness. The gym floor becomes inundated with members trying, not surprisingly, all the almost iconic exercises such as squats, push-ups, pull-ups and lunges. Some are legendary for good reason. Others are, best-case scenario, not overly effective and, worst-case scenario, dangerous.

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I want to be healthier in 2017. Is there an app for that?

PAUL TAYLOR

THE QUESTION

As my New Year’s resolution, I plan to pay more attention to my health. I must admit I am a bit of a techno geek. Can you recommend any apps that can help me achieve my goal?

THE ANSWER

There are literally tens of thousands of health-related smartphone apps. But identifying the good ones can be a lot like finding the proverbial needle in a haystack. The vast majority of health apps are downloaded, used maybe once or twice, and then abandoned.

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The low-down on the ‘get up’ — a toning, do-anywhere exercise

KATHLEEN TROTTER

One of my favourite do-anywhere exercises is known as the “get up,” or “Turkish get up.” Whatever you call it, some iteration of this movement will benefit almost anyone. Those who are aesthetically driven will appreciate that it tones the entire body. Athletes will appreciate that it requires co-ordination and connects the core to the rest of the body. And those who exercise to maintain functional fitness and mobility will appreciate that the get-up improves flexibility and strengthens the movement pattern needed to get down on and up from the floor.

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Why aren’t all health-care workers getting the flu shot?

PAUL TAYLOR

The question

My father was recently admitted to an Ontario hospital. While he was there, he ended up getting the flu. I was told he might have caught the bug from a nurse, a doctor or another health-care worker. That surprised me. Why don’t people who work in hospitals get flu shots?

The answer

Most Canadian hospitals put a lot of effort into encouraging their staff members to get the annual influenza vaccination. But, for a variety of reasons, a significant proportion of them decline the shot.

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Should the Zika virus still factor into your travel planning?

PAUL TAYLOR

THE QUESTION

My husband and I decided against taking a vacation down south this winter because we were worried about the Zika virus, which can cause horrific birth defects. We don’t have children yet, but we are thinking about starting a family soon. Now we see that the World Health Organization has lifted its Zika emergency. Should we reconsider our vacation plans?

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Feeling lonely? Five tips for staying connected in an isolated world

RENÉE HENRIQUES

One of my clients calls me at least once a week to check on me. She makes sure I am doing well and then she talks to me about her life. She tells me how she used to make jam with her husband: “He would put on an apron and do whatever I said,” she’ll say, and then she makes me promise that if I ever make jam, I’ll use a wide-bottomed copper jam pot. My client took a liking to me when I went to assess what kind of home care she needed and she got my office number from her niece.

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Four tips for helping a loved one make healthier choices

KATHLEEN TROTTER

You can’t force people to make healthier choices, and you can’t do the work for them – no matter how much you love them.

You can lecture your loved one on the benefits of making a health change, but until he or she is ready to change, logical information just won’t stick. Health is a process, and in order for long-term changes to occur, the person must want – and be ready – to be part of the process.

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Do women ever respond differently than men to prescription drugs?

PAUL TAYLOR

The question

I’m interested in knowing whether women ever respond differently than men to prescription drugs. Do they?

The answer

The short answer to your question is yes, in some cases. But it’s taken the medical community a long time to reach that conclusion.

Traditionally, it was believed men and women react to medications in the same way. In fact, most research studies are carried out mainly on men. Even preliminary animal studies primarily use male rodents.

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New study confirms need for ‘active surveillance’ of prostate cancer

NEIL FLESHNER

As a physician and surgeon who has researched and treated men with prostate cancer for more than 20 years, I read with great interest a new study published last week in the New England Journal of Medicine, which set out to answer the question of what happens to men after a PSA test finds prostate cancer.

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Ten ways to reduce injuries from excessive smartphone use

DWIGHT CHAPIN

Mobile phone and handheld device-related injuries are on the rise as people spend more and more time with their heads buried into their personal devices texting, tweeting, e-mailing and surfing the Internet. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information in the United States, the incidence of musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) of hand, wrist, forearm, arm and neck has been increasing all over the world because of the prolonged, forceful, low-amplitude, repetitive use of our hand-held devices.

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Three exercises to strengthen your feet

KATHLEEN TROTTER

Most of us have very weak feet, and it really should be a priority. The way that the foot interacts with the ground affects how the entire body functions. If your foot placement is not biomechanically sound and your feet are not strong, you risk developing anything and everything from hip and knee pain to plantar fasciitis (inflammation of the fascia under the foot).

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Be wary of clinics offering stem-cell treatment

PAUL TAYLOR

THE QUESTION

I was doing some research on the Internet for a relative who suffers from arthritis. I came across a bunch of U.S. clinics offering stem-cell treatments for arthritis and other illnesses. Are these clinics legit?

THE ANSWER

There is good reason to be extremely wary of anyone claiming to be using stem cells to treat patients. Although stem cells hold great promise, there are only a few safe and proven therapies for these cells at the present time.

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Do fitness trackers put your privacy at risk?

PAUL TAYLOR

THE QUESTION

I bought a fitness tracker, hoping it will help me boost my physical activity. However, a friend said the device might expose my personal health information to snooping by Internet hackers. Should I be worried?

THE ANSWER

A recent study by researchers at the University of Toronto pointed to several security and privacy risks associated with wearable fitness trackers. But whether these are serious enough for you to stop using your device is really your call. You could be concerned – or not.

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Pregnant? It may be time to correct your posture

KATHLEEN TROTTER

Working toward a more ideal posture is important for everyone, but it is particularly important for anyone who is currently or has ever been pregnant; ideal posture decreases the frequency and intensity of back and pelvic pain, prolapses and incontinence, while simultaneously increasing ease and quality of movement and breath.

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Multiple medications are a problem for seniors. Here’s how to reduce the risks

PAUL TAYLOR

THE QUESTION

My mother is in her 70s and suffers from a lot of health problems. I am very worried that she has been given too many different medications that are too strong for her. What should I do?

THE ANSWER

It’s possible that your mother may need all the drugs she is currently taking. But it’s also true that patients sometimes get prescribed drugs and remain on them when they are no longer required.

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How can Ontario’s new ombudsman address patient concerns?

PAUL TAYLOR

THE QUESTION

I have a complaint with the care my father received at an Ontario hospital. I’ve heard in the news media that the province has a new patient ombudsman – Christine Elliott. Can she help me?

THE ANSWER

Ontario is the first province to establish an ombudsman to deal specifically with the concerns of patients and their caregivers.

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Can doctors actually predict how long patients have left?

PAUL TAYLOR

THE QUESTION

My aunt was diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer. Her doctor said she had about six months to live. But she died just over one month later. Are doctors usually this bad at predicting how long patients will survive?

THE ANSWER

Unfortunately, doctors get it wrong more often than they get it right, and most of the time, they overestimate how long patients will live.

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Weight loss is not always the answer to better health

KATHLEEN TROTTER

If, as a society, we want to become healthier – as opposed to simply continuing to spend money on “health” products and wasting time in a constant cycle of weight loss, weight gain, frustration and self-sabotage – we need to rethink how we frame health and weight.

For the most part we use aggressive language to talk about health and weight: “Fighting the battle of the bulge” becomes about going to “war” with one’s body. The problem is, this type of discourse does not set anyone up for long-term success. If you launch a full-on assault on your body, it will inevitably fight back.

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Tips for helping elderly loved ones keep track of their medications

RENÉE HENRIQUES

A client of mine recently presented me with her pretty basket of pill bottles. “I never miss one,” she reported with a smile. “I am very careful with my medications.”

With reading glasses perched on her nose, she picked up Bottle 1 and said, “This is for my blood pressure and I take this twice a day.” Check. She pulled out Bottle 2, and said, “This one I am not sure of.” The label was from the local vet clinic, and the “patient’s” name looked like one of a pet. My heart sank.

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