6 inventions to improve your health From a minimally invasive way to replace heart valves to organic energy bars, these Canadian-made inventions will help you live a healthier life. By Canadian Living 2014-04-24 00:00:00 6 inventions to improve your health Slideshow View Slideshow 6 inventions to improve your health Replay This Slideshow Previous Next By: Photo: © Copyright Radon testing What if you could ensure you're not at an increased risk of lung cancer just by bringing a simple device into your home? Radon, a gas released during the breakdown of uranium in rocks and soil, can enter your home through drains or cracks in the foundation and accumulate in the air. Responsible for 2,000 deaths in Canada each year, it's the second leading cause of lung cancer, and it can't be seen or smelled. But you can test your home to learn if you're at risk. Just place the testing device, which costs about $50 and can be ordered online, in your home for at least three months. Afterward, send it to a lab and await your results. A Health Canada study found that seven percent of homes have excessive levels of radon. And while some areas across the country have a higher risk than others, no region is radon-free. Canadians are becoming aware of radon's dangers: Nova Scotia has released a map of radon risk areas; Saskatchewan's schools and hospitals have been tested; and the Ontario government is working on a bill that would necessitate the establishment of a radon-tracking registry. Philips Hue sleep Having trouble adjusting to the dark mornings of daylight saving time? Or just hate mornings in general? Try making your own morning light. The new customizable wireless lighting system Philips Hue lets you program a gradual light to wake you at whatever time you like. The coloured lighting options even let you create your own sunrise! A study published in Chronobiology International showed that waking up to a dawn-simulating light can improve your mood and cognitive function even when you haven't had enough sleep. Light therapy has long been used to help insomnia sufferers get back on regular sleep cycles. The light can create the perfect ambience to relax or energize. Plus, it can be controlled remotely via an easy-to-use app to make it appear that you're home. Gorp Clean Energy Bar While training for a triathalon eight years ago, Colleen Dyck found she had trouble digesting traditional energy bars. So Colleen whipped up her own high-protein versions. Soon, many of her training mates were asking for them, too. That's when she and her farmer husband, Grant, realized they might be on to something. The result: Gorp Clean Energy Bar, produced on the couple's family farm in Niverville, MB. The name is an acronym for "good ol' raisins and peanuts," backpacker slang for energy food. "I wanted people to be pumped after they read our ingredient label, not puzzled," says Colleen, whose ingredient philosophy is "local first, then organic." The bars, available at gyms nationwide, come in three flavours and retail for $3 apiece. Collective kitchens People cooking together, sharing resources, learning how to better feed themselves and their families (with an eye to affordability), all while maintaining a sense of dignity. Such are the ingredients of collective kitchens (sometimes called community food centres), which are not to be confused with food banks. Collective kitchens first appeared in the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve quarter of Montreal in 1982, when three neighbourhood women came together to save on grocery bills by planning and preparing meals together. There are now about 1,300 collective kitchens in Quebec, and the concept is spreading across Canada. Alberta alone has 200. The concept is simple: A clean, safe cooking facility is provided so participants can make meals, share tips, learn recipes and simply enjoy the pleasure of cooking and eating well. One study showed that 20 percent of participants boosted their intake of fruits and vegetables to five or more per day. But the benefits go way beyond improved nutrition and lowered grocery bills. It's the improved social bonds and sense of community that are the real recipe for success. For more information, visit cfccanada.ca. Minimally invasive heart surgery You've got a faulty heart valve in need of repair, but the idea of surgery is daunting: lengthy hospital stay, even longer recovery period—not to mention the pain. But what if there were a minimally invasive surgical technique that meant less pain, shorter hospital time, minimal scarring and a quicker recovery period? A committed and talented team at the Montreal Heart Institute, headed by Dr. Michel Pellerin, MD, and Dr. Denis Bouchard, MD, recently performed this new procedure on their 500th patient. Unlike open heart surgery, which requires a long incision down the centre of the chest, Pellerin and Bouchard's technique involves just one small incision on the right side of the chest and another at the groin. "It's now the standard technique for heart surgery here at the institute," says Dr. Pellerin. Whereas most hospital stays for heart surgery range from five to seven days, Dr. Pellerin says the new technique frequently requires a stay of only three days. (Think of the health-care savings!) And the recovery period can be reduced from two months to two weeks, depending on the severity of the ailment. The Montreal Heart Institute has launched clinical studies to further document the benefits of the technique, in the hope of making it available to more Canadians. Mushrooms that can clean water One of Canada's greatest environmental problems might be solved by a curious kid. "It all started back when I was 15," says Kelcie Miller-Anderson. "I saw a dandelion growing through the asphalt—they grow anywhere—and I discovered that one of the things that allows them to do that is a type of fungi." Having grown up in Alberta, in the heart of Canada's oilsands, she wondered if there was a way to use this knowledge to reclaim land used by the oil industry. By the time she was 18, she'd made a remarkable discovery: Oyster mushrooms can detoxify contaminated water left over after bitumen extraction. In her basement lab experiments, the mushrooms—which are natural decomposers—fed on contaminants such as hydrocarbons, effectively cleansing the water and returning it to a state where it could sustain life. Her discovery is still being tested, but in the meantime, Kelcie, now 19, is furthering her knowledge of the natural world via the University of Alberta's environmental sciences program, where she majors in land reclamation. And she has big plans for the future. "I'd like to continue researching natural processes that could have big applications for different problems today. I want to see what else nature can come up with for us," says Kelcie. "I've just got to get through university first." For more cool health inventions, check out the technology that can keep you healthy. Subscribe to Canadian Living This story was originally titled "Bright Ideas" in the April 2014 issue. Subscribe to Canadian Living today and never miss an issue!