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Infertility Awareness Week

Leah Sarich | posted Wednesday, May 28th, 2014


One in six couples will face infertility. That means these couples have been trying to have a baby for one year without a pregnancy. That’s a lot of unhappy couples in Alberta.

For Infertility Awareness Week I spoke with Dr. Calvin Greene from the Regional Fertility Program. He says we know a woman’s fertility starts decline in her early 30s. But we tend to think of infertility as a female problem, when in fact, in 40 percent of cases infertility is a problem on the male side. It breaks down like this. In 40 percent of cases, it’s a male problem. In 40 percent of cases, it’s a female problem. And in 20 percent of cases, it’s both or the infertility is unexplained.

Dr. Greene says for example, men’s sperm quality starts to decline after the age of 40. In fact, for the sperm donor program at the clinic, they don’t accept sperm samples from men over age 40.

Also for Infertility Awareness Week, Dr. Greene tries to raise awareness about the logic of funding fertility treatments in Alberta by the provincial government. Dr. Greene is in fact, in talks with the province right now. He has outlined to the government how funding fertility treatments make sense financially over the long term, and also results in better outcomes for moms and babies.

When fertility treatments are funded, doctors do not need to transfer as many embryos into the woman. This results in fewer multiple births, fewer high-risk pregnancies and fewer long term care issues for babies born prematurely as often happens with multiples. And yet the successful pregnancy rates remain the same.

And Dr. Greene says they are getting better at IVF all time. For example, in 2009 the rate of twins with IVF was 30 percent, now it’s just 16 percent, and again, the pregnancy rate is still great.

Quebec currently funds three cycles of IVF, Manitoba has tax credits for IVF and Ontario will start funding IVF in 2015.

Here’s a link to more statistics on IVF in Canada.

For more information about the Regional Fertility Program visit their website, and you may also want to visit their charitable arm, Generations of Hope, that helps couples with funding for IVF.

Missed the segment? Watch it here.

Straight Teeth Faster

Leah Sarich | posted Monday, May 26th, 2014


We all want the perfect smile, but wearing braces or Invisalign for a year and a half deters a lot of people. However, a new device can make this process go a lot faster.

It’s called Acceledent. Orthodontist Dr. Sam Daher says once a patient has braces or Invisalign on their teeth, they can bite into the Acceledent device for 20 minutes a day, and speed up their teeth straightening process by 30 to 40 percent. Dr. Daher says the device uses soft pulse technology, which causes the device to pulsate at a fraction of what an electronic toothbrush would. This pulsating stimulates the cells around the teeth decreasing the turnaround time.

Even though some patients were worried the device would cause headaches or pain, Dr. Daher says there are no side effects to using this technology at all. In fact, he says the technology has been used by the medical community for bone healing since the 1950s.

Jairo Vargas who has braces and is currently using Acceledent says “it’s easy to use…if it will cut down that time by even a few months it’s worth it.”

The cost of the Acceledent device varies, but is usually around one thousand dollars. Dr. Daher says if his patients agree to use the device properly and every day, they’ll cover half the cost.

For more information about Acceledent visit the company’s website.


Allergy Season

Leah Sarich | posted Wednesday, May 21st, 2014


Allergy season is set to kick in right about now as tree pollen counts climb with the warmer weather. I spoke with Allergist Dr. Joel Doctor who says it’s time to talk to your doctor or pharmacist immediately about your treatment plan, because treatments are more effective when you start them before your symptoms get really bad.

So what are those classic hayfever symptoms? Dr. Doctor says they look a lot like cold symptoms except for one  major difference – itch. Along with the watery eyes and a runny nose you can have itch in both the eyes and nose, even the ears and on the palate.

And if symptoms go untreated, Dr. Doctor says your quality of life can be severely impaired. It may be difficult to concentrate at school and work, it may be challenging to drive and sleeping can be disturbed.

The good news is there are many treatment options. For mild hayfever, Dr. Doctor says there are many over the counter antihistamines that will work. He recommends using ones without a decongestant unless you really need it. Decongestants can cause jitteriness and sleep disturbance, so if you must use one, do so only during the day.

For more severe symptoms see your doctor for prescription strength nasal cortisone sprays and allergy eye drops.

For those with even more severe symptoms, desensitization is an option. There’s a relatively new desensitization technique available in Canada that is a sublingual tablet. It’s a pill that’s put under the tongue. You must start this process several months before allergy season and then into the season itself.  This process offers a 30 percent reduction of symptoms.

The other desensitization technique is allergy shots. This is a major commitment requiring shots weekly at the doctor’s office for several months, then monthly shots for three years. That said, this technique results in a 70 percent reduction in symptoms that lasts for years.

Tree pollen season starts now, grass pollen season starts in June escalating through July peaking right around Stampede. Dr. Doctor says it’s also helpful to check the pollen count for the day so you can take appropriate action. If it’s a dry, hot and windy day, you know the pollen count will be high and it may be a better day to go to the mall, than for a hike.

Dr. Doctor’s advice: plan ahead and start your treatment regimen right now!


Prenatal Stress

Leah Sarich | posted Thursday, May 15th, 2014


Growing a new little life is an extraordinary time. But pregnant women who are stressed may be harming their baby. Now, let’s be clear about the kind of stress we’re talking about. We are talking about “toxic” stress. This is not the kind of everyday stress that many moms feel, this is chronic, unrelenting stress that seems unbearable.

Researchers Nicole Letourneau, the Norlien/ACHF Chair in Parent-Infant Mental Health at the Alberta Children’s Hospital, and Gerald Giesbrecht Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Calgary, are looking into how mom’s stress affects baby. In fact, Giesbrecht says, they can now predict how baby will react to stress once it’s born, based on how mom handled stress while she was pregnant.

Studies show moms experiencing toxic stress will have babies born with biological changes in their brain and organ development and even their body size. And as these children grow up, they’ll be more prone to cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndromes like diabetes and they’re also more at risk of mental illness like anxiety and depression.

So Letourneau and Giesbrecht are trying to understand how this stress signalling from mom affects baby.

The good news is research is already showing these negative impacts on baby can be prevented. Giesbrecht says if mom has a supportive partner who can help lower her stress, the signalling sent to baby is greatly reduced. Letourneau adds that support from mom can come from many places including doctors, nurses, social workers, friends and family.

The idea is we need to support families and make sure that mom and baby are both happy and healthy so we create productive future members of society.

For more information on this research visit Letourneau’s website and Giesbrecht’s website.


E Cigarettes

Leah Sarich | posted Monday, May 12th, 2014


Electronic cigarettes are exploding in popularity. Just 10 years ago, the industry was worth a few million dollars. Today, the electronic cigarette industry is a two billion dollar industry.

But what do we know about these little devices? Lung and airway specialist Dr. Bob Cowie from the University of Calgary says we know there is no evidence to suggest e cigarettes are safe. He says we know the e-cigs are designed to lure young users with their sexy gadgetry and numerous flavours of liquid nicotine like blueberry and bubblegum. Dr. Cowie also says there’s no evidence that suggests using e-cigarettes will help anyone quit smoking. He adds we don’t know how harmful the second hand vapours might be either.

What we do know is that most e-cigarettes contain liquid with nicotine in them and that nicotine is still incredibly addictive. In fact, Dr. Cowie fears that these young e-cigarette smokers will get addicted to the nicotine in the e-cigarettes and then graduate to traditional cigarettes which we know are very harmful. And even more dangerously and illegally, young people are known to have put hash or marijuana oil into their e-cigarettes to get high.

We also know that the small vials of colourful liquid or “juice” that go into the e-cigarettes are very tempting for children. They look like candy. And in fact, Dr. Cowie says many children have been poisoned by drinking the nicotine-filled liquid and some have even died.

Dr. Cowie urges people to take extreme caution if they decide to use an e-cigarette. He says as a society we should be very concerned about these devices. He argues that before any meaningful legislation is drafted in Canada, we may have created an entirely new generation of kids addicted to nicotine.

For more information visit Health Canada’s position on e-cigarettes.

Cancer Chic

Leah Sarich | posted Wednesday, May 7th, 2014


How do you live life to the fullest in the wake of a cancer diagnosis? And what if if that diagnosis comes right in the prime of your life?

Two cancer survivors, Karla Laing and Christine Francoeur, are determined to help young women with cancer. That’s why they run Cancer Chic, a workshop for young women with any kind of cancer that is designed to provide education and mentorship to women on their cancer journey.

The workshops focus on four pillars of information… feeling great from the inside out by helping women with make-up application and hair loss, using chemical free products to help prevent recurrence of disease, the importance of staying fit to help both body and mind and survivorship.

Brenda Danyluk was diagnosed with breast cancer just four months ago, in December 2013. She has taken the Cancer Chic workshop and says it helped her to look and feel her best despite being in the middle of treatment. She says the workshop has also helped her to negotiate her new normal. Danyluk says, “I was so busy being busy and I had to stop.” Danyluk admits the workshop encouraged her to ask herself some important questions about how she was going to live her life going forward so that it’s more fulfilling for her and her family. Cancer Chic has helped her to enjoy and appreciate this one life we have.

The Cancer Chic workshops are hosted at Wellspring once every two months. They run from 9:30 am to 1:30 pm and include a lunch and great swag bag!

The sessions are free! They are small by design to encourage sharing and the building of community among participants.

Their big fundraiser, Cancer Chic’s Third Annual Silent Auction, is tonight at Mercato West. All the information about the event and Cancer Chic can be found on their website.

Menopause Courses

Leah Sarich | posted Wednesday, Apr 30th, 2014


Are you experiencing hot flashes, night sweats or mood swings? These could be the first signs of menopause. And for Calgary women wanting more information about this change of life, the new spring session of courses through the Calgary Women’s Health Centre at Foothills Hospital are underway.

Menopause: “It’s Not Hot” and “Smooth Sailing” is a two part session run by Ranjit Uppal a Clinical Nurse Specialist. The first session outlines what exactly menopause is and the symptoms associated with it. Smooth Sailing goes through treatment options for menopause and addresses the controversy surrounding these treatments and how to understand what’s right for you. This second session also talks about how to manage symptoms without treatment. For example, the importance of dressing in cotton, using cotton sheets, changing your diet to help with the changes in your body and much more.

This course also helps women cope with the frustration that these menopausal symptoms may last  for years. It talks about perimenopause, the time when women may start experiencing symptoms in their early 40s to actual menopause where women have no period for 12 months and how this occurs usually around the age of 51. That said, some women may continue to experience symptoms into their late 50s.

Ranjit has a wonderful sense of humour which is injected into these sessions. She illustrates how having a sense of humour about menopausal symptoms can help women cope with this change of life.

And of course, Menopause, is just one of many courses offered through the Centre this spring. I encourage women to check out their website and take advantage of these classes. They’re a wonderful resource for women. They help women to feel supported, educated and empowered. And the best part?? The courses are free.


Parkinson’s Treatment

Leah Sarich | posted Monday, Apr 28th, 2014


Parkinson’s Disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disease after Alzheimer’s and thousands of Albertans are living with it. Most people are diagnosed over the age of 65, but it can affect people in their 40s, 30s and even 20s.

Parkinson’s affects movement because of a lack of dopamine in the brain. There is no cure for the disease but there are treatments that can help improve mobility in patients.

I spoke with Dr. Ranjit Ranawaya a neurologist with the Movement Disorders Program at the University of Calgary. He says the standard treatment is a medication called Levodopa. It basically replaces the dopamine in the brain and helps to improve motor function so patients are better able to do simple tasks like buttons, brush their teeth or cut their food. The main side effect of the drug is it causes patients to sway, movements we may associate with actor Michael J. Fox.

The bad news is as the disease progresses Levodopa tends to work less well. Patients have a shorter amount of time where their movements are better, and the swaying caused be the medication may get worse. However, there is now a new way to receive this medication. Dr. Ranawaya says Levodopa is now available in Canada in a liquid form and is administered through a tube that goes into the small intestine. This allows for a more continuous delivery of medication throughout the day.

So for patients who have perhaps been bedridden by their Parkinson’s, this new way of receiving the medication may allow them to have a much better quality of life.

This is an option for patients in this later stage of disease and for whom other treatments are not an option.

However, this treatment is very expensive. It costs about 60 thousand dollars a year, compared to the pill form which is very inexpensive. Right now, Alberta Health Services only covers the liquid form of Levodopa on an individual basis and for a short time. Doctors hope that if they can prove the medication is very helpful for certain patients, that AHS will extend coverage.

For more information visit Parkinson’s Alberta.

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