Friday, December 17, 2010
Watch this week's video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oc4VlKcy4Sw
One for you, two for me. Sound familiar? It’s a classic trap around holiday shopping, where the buyer gets enticed by all the glitz, selection and pre-holiday sales. Mix in the stress of the season, and you have a prime recipe for retail therapy overload. While many people love to shop (present company included), the problem is when it truly becomes a problem.
While the term “shopoholic” has been thrown around layman’s circles for ages, doctors actually do recognize “compulsive shopping” as a real diagnosis. American studies estimate about 6% of their population suffer from the problem. In fact, there has been burgeoning interest in compulsive shopping, recognizing it as part of the spectrum of obsessive compulsive disorders. There is also a proposal in upcoming psychiatry literature to make this condition a formal diagnosis in the so-called bible of identifying mental illness (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM). So what defines a compulsive shopper? Not being able to pay off your debts, making shopping a priority over other important things in your life, and having loved ones comment that it’s out of control.
If this is all sounding too familiar, take heart, there are things you can do. The first step is always identifying the problem, and then taking steps to fix it. Know there are high-risk times, including the holidays, when stress and lack of sleep can make you more vulnerable to a retail meltdown. So try replacing your shopping time with healthier ventures, like a trip to the gym. If you must shop, do so only with cash. Only go shopping when you need something. And take Santa’s lead: bring a list and always check it twice.
There will be some, however, that need more expert intervention from a psychologist or psychiatrist well versed in this area. Doctors at Sunnybrook have treated many, helping target patterns of thinking that may distort what is pleasurable. In severe cases, medications may be needed. The bottom line is, help is available.
And for everyone, shopping smart is always the way to go. The Ministry of Consumer Services just released a 2011 Smart Consumer Calendar, helping all those making really big purchases this holiday season, like cars and houses.
So as you navigate through one of the most consumer-driven weeks of the year, be real and realistic. And remember that you can’t buy good mental health in any store.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Watch this week's video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZIHdwM2B5eUOY
UPDATE: The results are in! Dr. Strauss reports a promising success rate for collagenase: http://sunnybrook.ca/media/item.asp?c=1&i=735.
If you’ve ever used Drano, you know it’s a pretty simple fix. You pour it down the sink, wait, and then flush with hot water. Voila! Problem solved. If only heart surgery were so simple. Oh, wait, at Sunnybrook’s Schulich Heart Centre it is…
Hundreds of thousands of people have a concrete-like build up in their arteries that nothing can pass through, not even the thin guide wires used to insert artery-opening stents. That leaves two pretty dismal options: live with terrible side effects, like not being able to walk up a flight of stairs, or have much more serious bypass surgery. Dr. Bradley Strauss, the new Chief of the Schulich Heart Centre, has been developing an easier solution for over a decade. Now, in a world first, he’s testing this incredible approach at Sunnybrook.
Dr. Strauss’ Drano-like brainchild is called collagenase, a substance that is injected into the blockage and allowed to sit, softening the build up enough to allow stenting the next day. Collagenase has been tested on 18 patients so far at Sunnybrook, with a nearly 85% success rate. In a candid interview following the latest surgery, Dr. Strauss was, admittedly, thrilled. After first seeing the effects of collagenase at work during initial trials, he was so taken aback he needed to get some fresh air. “I was so excited that I had to leave the hospital and go for a walk, thinking did I just see something so rare? In your life, if you do lots of research which I’ve spent doing, you’re fortunate if you have one idea in your lifetime that may make a difference. That first moment when you see something that wouldn’t happen without what you did, it’s pretty humbling. And every time I do it now, I feel the same way. It’s humbling.”
It’s also life changing for patients like John Balkwill. At 48, this father and husband could barely muster up the energy to walk across the room. His most recent decade had been riddled with multiple surgeries, minor heart attacks and constant pain from severely blocked arteries. John was running out of options, until he was enrolled as patient number 18 in the collagenase trial at Sunnybrook. Before the surgery, he was hopeful. His first wish, if all went well, was to go for a walk without pain. Barely two days later, he was packing his bags and doing just that. “I went through the whole night without pain for the first time. I haven’t been able to accomplish that in over a year. So it’s a new step every day now.”
On the Drano website, they write “don’t let a tough clog upset your schedule and ruin your day.” How appropriate. Good thing there’s now a medical approach to keep your “drains” and life running smoothly. Dr. Strauss hopes that within a year, centres around the world will be unclogging the arteries of their hard to treat patients with this drug. Call it a breakthrough that really breaks through…
For more information, click here.
Monday, December 6, 2010
Watch this week's video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFnKjZoewOY
Brandon Quigley was enjoying a game of volleyball three years ago when an ordinary day suddenly turned south. He felt a tearing sensation in his chest, and overwhelmingly unwell. He had the good sense to sit out the rest of the game, and follow up on his wife’s advice to see a doctor right away. Good thing he did. No one at the beach that sunny day could have predicted what this 32-year-old-father was up against. After extensive testing at Sunnybrook, a big problem was detected. Brandon had an aortic dissection, a tear in the big vessel coming off his heart and supplying blood to his entire body. It kills some instantly, and most within two weeks.
Brandon’s surgery was done by heart surgeon Dr. Gideon Cohen, who says aortic dissections, dangerously, are commonly missed or misdiagnosed. Because this condition causes chest pain, it can be easily mistaken for a heart attack, which is treated with blood thinners. But that’s the worst thing you can do for an aortic dissection, as the risk for bleeding is already through the roof. He says an astute medical team and CAT scan are essential to pinpointing the problem.
But there are many things you can do, like knowing the risk factors and red flags. Symptoms of aortic dissection include a tearing feeling or pain in your chest, abdominal discomfort, back pain or even paralysis. Conditions like high blood pressure, pregnancy, male gender, angiograms and even acute trauma, like a fall, can cause a tear. You’re also at higher risk if a blood relative has had the condition, meaning you should talk to your doctor about being screened with a chest MRI.
I met Brandon at his home after work a few weeks ago, where the success of his treatment became even more apparent. 4-year-old Emma happily leapt on her daddy’s back for a piggyback ride and he tossed her playfully around the living room. She was only a year old when her father was rushed to Sunnybrook, and will have no memory of this close call. Neither will 2-year-old Sara, whose life was made possible thanks to the saving of her father’s.
Brandon has been through cardiac rehab, which is recommended for all patients who have experienced an aortic dissection. After his own experience, and losing his mother to an aortic dissection, he’s now being proactive about screening his daughters. He’s also hopeful that others will learn about his story and come away knowing more. That includes recognizing the signs of trouble, and of course, how important is always is to take your wife’s advice.
For more information, click here