It seems that lately, everywhere you turn you see the latest diet "shtick" guaranteeing quick and easy weight loss. From counting points to restricting calories to eating grapefruit and dropping bread, there is no shortage of books, tapes and programs to help guide you on this journey. Curiously, even with a multitude of weight loss approaches to choose from, over 60 per cent of the North American public continues to be overweight or obese. This begs the question -- is the weight loss industry a billion-dollar industry because it's working, or because it's not?
In order for permanent and successful weight loss to occur, the key messengers in the body -- hormones -- must first be addressed.
If hormones such as insulin, glucagon and cortisol are out of whack due to faulty food choices and stress, achieving a healthy body weight, high energy and normal blood sugar levels is very difficult, if not impossible.
Hormones and food Carbohydrates such as fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes break down into glucose (aka sugar) and are the body's number one choice for fuel. However, pick the wrong type of carbohydrate repetitively, and you will begin to throw the hormone insulin out of control.
By consuming too many high glycemic index carbohydrates such as white bread, white pasta, white potatoes, white sugar and white rice, blood sugar (glucose) levels spike, causing oversecretion of the hormone insulin. Insulin is secreted from the pancreas to lower blood sugar levels by opening up gates on cells, allowing the sugar to enter the cells.
When eating too many refined carbohydrates such as white flour and sugary products (high glycemic index "carbs"), blood sugar levels spike, sending a signal to the pancreas to oversecrete insulin. In a nutshell, excess insulin secretion facilitates the excess storage of fat.
Protein is a vital component of the daily diet. Protein helps build and restore muscle, contributes to enzyme formation and helps to maintain proper acid-alkali balance in the body. From a hormonal perspective, protein is critical to maintaining a healthy body weight as it triggers the release of the hormone glucagon.
Glucagon is in direct opposition to insulin and breaks down fat. Although going high protein may sound like the perfect option to lose weight, it is not. A certain amount of protein is needed at each and every meal or snack (approximately 30 per cent of the total calories of each meal should be derived from protein, or 4 to 6 ounces per meal for women and 5 to 7 ounces per meal for men), it should not be eaten in excess. The body does not want to use protein as its main source of fuel: it prefers carbohydrates. A lean protein/low glycemic index carbohydrate balance is the key for hormonal balance, long-term weight loss and high energy. (Try our fast and easy lean protein/low glycemic Popeye Frittata)
Take home points For hormonal health and long-term weight loss, remember to keep the following in mind when eating your next meal.
• Eat low to medium glycemic index carbohydrates, such as fruits, vegetables (aside from white potatoes), whole grains and legumes.
• Consume lean proteins such as low-fat dairy products, fish, chicken, turkey, soy, egg whites and occasional lean beef at each and every meal or snack. For "eye-balling" purposes, a deck of cards is equivalent to three ounces of protein. Women need about a deck and a half of cards per meal; men need approximately two decks of cards per meal.
• Choose your fats wisely. Avoid partially hydrogenated fats (trans fatty acids). Opt for heart-healthy monounsaturated fats such as extra-virgin olive oil, avocados and omega-3 essential fats found in almonds, walnuts, salmon, tuna, fish oils, flaxseeds and flaxseed oil, sesame seeds and fortified eggs, yogurt and milk. (Learn how to make healthy fat choices.)
In addition to making more sensible food choices, it is important to make active changes to reduce stress. When in a chronic state of stress, the adrenal glands will secrete the hormone cortisol. An oversecretion of cortisol triggers excess storage of fat around the abdominal area. In addition to being a cardiac risk factor, abdominal fat is also often the most difficult to lose. Work out, write in your journal, talk to friends, take time for yourself and laugh a little more to reduce stress and weigh in thin!
Dr. Joey Shulman is author of national bestseller The Natural Makeover Diet (Wiley, 2006). For more information visitwww.drjoey.com.
Buying art is easier than ever thanks to online shops that offer everything from contemporary abstracts to landscapes—often in a variety of sizes. With prices that won't blow the budget, you can curate an art collection from the comfort of your couch.
1. He and I wall art
The image wraps around the sides so you can enjoy its beauty from every angle.
Artwork has the power to transform the look of any room in your home, but it can be hard to find a perfect piece that fits your space and your budget. Our favourite online destinations for affordable art will help you decorate your walls without emptying your wallet.
This super soft wrap is the classic accessory you need in your closet for any time of year.
A luxurious wrap for all seasons – the Bayberries Wrap is the quintessential accessory. We chose to design this wrap in our luxurious Eco Alpaca DK yarn made of 100% superfine alpaca for its fluffy and luxurious feel. The large checker pattern is a unique alternative to plain stocking stitch and is reversible for a consistent look on both sides.
This wrap pattern is suitable for beginners, and knitters of all skill levels will enjoy the simple pattern and beautiful yarn. We recommend using stitch markers to indicate each square and make it easier for you to follow the pattern. Knit on 3.75 mm needles with five skeins of yarn, this pattern requires patience, but it is a joy to knit and you will wear the wrap for years to come.
Materials: - 5 Skeins of Americo Eco Alpaca DK (100% Superfine Alpaca) 100g / 262 yards (240 m) - 3.75 mm (US5) needles -Stitch markers (optional) - Yarn needle
Measurements: Approximately 75" (190 cm) long by 15" (38 cm) wide
Gauge: 20 stitches and 26 rows = 4 inches (10 cm) in stocking stitch using 3.75 mm (US 5) size needles or size needed to achieve gauge.
K, k: knit
P, p: purl
RS right side of work – knit side
WS wrong side of work
Using 3.75 mm (US 5) size needles, cast on 129 stitches.
Purl 2 rows.
*Next Row (RS): K2, (k25, p25) 2 times, k25, k2
Next Row (WS): k2, (p25, k25) 2 times, p25, k2
Repeat these two rows 12 more times (26 rows).
Next Row: K2, (p25, k25) 2 times, p25, k2
Next Row: K2, (k25, p25) 2 times, k25, k2
Repeat these two rows 12 more times (26 rows)*.
Repeat from * to * 6 more times.
Next Row (RS): K2, (k25, p25) 2 times, k25, k2
Next Row (WS): k2, (p25, k25) 2 times, k25, k2
Repeat these two rows 12 more times (26 rows).
Next Row (RS): K2, (k25, p25) 2 times, k25, k2
Knit 2 rows. Cast off in pattern.
Finishing Sew in all loose ends. For best results, block your finished piece. Enjoy!
Americo Original is a Canadian yarn company and online knitting shop with its own line of quality yarns, knitwear patterns and accessories. Americo’s yarns are made exclusively in the Andean highlands of South America, using only natural fibres, including luxurious wool, llama, alpaca, cotton, linen, silk and cashmere. Americo and its in-house design lab are based in Toronto, offering international shipping from its online store: americo.ca/shop.
Bad health habits are literally taking years off your life, according to a new Canadian study. But we have strategies for curbing the worst offenders.
We have bad news and good news. First, the bad: whether it’s being a couch potato, smoking, letting one glass of Chardonnay turn into the whole bottle, or indulging in a giant bowl of chips and dip, our most beloved vices are killing us. Or rather, they’re drastically reducing our life expectancy, says a new study recently published in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS Medicine. It found that smoking, eating junk food, vegging out and drinking can actually slash almost six years off the life expectancy of both men and women.
The study, authored by Dr. Doug Manuel, a senior scientist at The Ottawa Hospital and professor at the University of Ottawa, focused on the worst habits, which contributed to nearly half of all deaths reported in Canada. Using a predictive algorithm Manuel and his team created, population health surveys at the individual level were examined to learn just how dangerous these vices can be. The findings were dramatic—“smoking, by itself, was associated with 32% to 39% of the difference in life expectancy across social groups,” the study says.
But that’s where the good news comes in: though their impact can’t be understated, you can combat unhealthy habits—or at least tame them. Here are the 4 guilty pleasures that are worst for your health, and what you can do to curb them.
While only about 20 per cent of Canada’s total population smokes, it is still the reigning health hazard for Canadians. When lighting up again, remember that the overall loss of life expectancy is an estimated 2.8 years. Coming up with a smoking cessation plan can help you butt out.
2. Eating Junk Food
A poor diet can shave off 1.2 years of your life, so we think it’s safe to say that giving into your sweet tooth at every craving is not a good call. To head off that 3pm junk food craving, don’t skip meals, and keep healthier snack options on-hand.
3. Physical Inactivity
With all the hours you put in at the office, it can be hard to find the opportunity and motivation to head to the gym. But yoga, Pilates, running or even going on 15-minute walks will add an extra 2.6 years onto your life. The solution? Changing your perspective.
4. Consuming Alcohol
Drinking has the least impact of these four vices—drinking contributed to a two-week decrease in life expectancy, but we know heavy drinking impacts your health in other ways. That’s why it’s important to drink with restraint.
Heart disease and stroke are one of the leading causes of death for Canadian women—and risk factors, symptoms and even treatment might vary by age. Here's what you need to know.
It was Dec. 13, 2014. I was getting ready to go out for dinner when suddenly everything went wrong. I lost coordination, almost like I was drunk. I went numb, as if the local anesthetic that dentists use had been applied to half of my body. My arm went limp, I could barely walk and, out of the blue, I got a raging migraine. At 31 years old, I was in the midst of a transient ischemic attack, often called a ministroke, but I had no idea.
It wasn't until the next day, when I was feeling only slightly better, that I realized something was really wrong. I didn't want to wait for an appointment with my family doctor, so I called Telehealth Ontario, the provincial service that connects callers to a registered nurse via telephone. In the very back of my mind, I wondered if I'd had a stroke—but I was too young, or so I thought. But when I described my symptoms, it became clear that I wasn't too young. In fact, the nurse who took my call was worried enough to send paramedics to my house. Soon, I was in the back of an ambulance, rushing through Toronto's busy streets on the way to the hospital.
The statistics Luckily, my stroke was mild, and, in July 2015, I underwent surgery to have a patent foramen ovale closure device inserted to close the hole in my heart. But, to this day, I'm still shocked at how little I knew about the risks associated with stroke and heart disease, or just how common they are. As I soon learned, about 1.6 million Canadians—557,000 of them women over the age of 24—report having cardiovascular disease. And, according to a study looking at factors and behaviours affecting cardiovascular health published in 2013 in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, fewer than one in 10 adult Canadians were in ideal cardiovascular health from 2003 to 2011, which means 90 percent of us are making choices that are increasing our risk for a cardiovascular event. In fact, heart disease and stroke is one of the leading causes of death for Canadian women, and most of us have at least one risk factor.
It's a club that I didn't particularly want to be a part of, but having joined, I began wondering what other women's experiences had been like.
Unlike me, when Victoria resident Carolyn Thomas started having a range of symptoms— crushing chest pain, nausea, weakness, sweating and a persistent ache down her left arm—on her 58th birthday, she immediately thought it could be a heart attack and went straight to the ER. But when she got there and told the doctor on duty about her symptoms, he said it was just acid reflux. "I remember exactly what he said," she recalls. " 'You're in the right demographic for acid reflux. Go home and call your family doctor for a prescription for antacids.' " Embarrassed and apologetic, she did just that. But her symptoms persisted for two more weeks. She eventually went back to the hospital, and this time, she was told she was suffering from what was actually one of the most serious types of heart attacks—a complete blockage of her left anterior descending artery, which is often referred to as the widow-maker.
Since then, she has recovered, but it's far from full—she had to retire early and continues to see a specialist at her regional pain clinic.
Irmine MacKenzie also went to the hospital immediately. It's been 35 years since the New Waterford, N.S., resident lost the use of her left arm and leg after suffering a stroke caused by carotid artery stenosis, narrowing of the arteries that carry blood from the heart to the brain. She was 61 years old and, having just finished eating breakfast with her husband, John, she headed to the kitchen to tackle the dishes. Suddenly, plates started dropping from her hands, shattering as they hit the floor.
After a six-week hospital stay and a three-month stint in a rehabilitation program in Halifax, she eventually learned to walk again. Her ability to manage quite well over the past three decades is clearly a testament to her grit— and maybe some kind words from a stranger. "I won't ever forget the ambulance driver who took me to the rehabilitation centre," she says. "He told me, 'We're taking you by stretcher now, but you'll be walking out of there with a cane.' " Sure enough, that's exactly what she did.
A better understanding It has now been two years since I suffered my transient ischemic attack, and I feel like I'm still learning about heart health. I now understand the importance of cardiac rehabilitation, for one thing. When I had my stroke, I didn't know this kind of program existed—my cardiologist didn't refer me to one, but having access to dedicated professionals in a safe, encouraging environment could have helped me navigate the health-care system and guided me toward healthier choices.
One thing I found myself, Carolyn and Irmine echoing is how, as women, we must advocate for ourselves in the health-care system, ensuring that our voices are heard and our health is looked after. We need to put ourselves first, without shame or guilt. As Dr. Paula Harvey, director of the cardiovascular research program at Women's College Hospital in Toronto, says, "It comes back to education and partnership with your health provider. Don't be afraid to ask questions and be informed."
Heart health by the decade Nearly two-thirds of all heart attacks and strokes occur in Canadians 65 or older, but younger Canadians are increasingly at risk. Here's what you need to know at every age.
In your 20s and 30s: Young people with heart-health issues are part of a growing minority. A study published in 2012 out of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine found that, over a period of 12 years, strokes among people aged 20 to 54 made up an increasingly greater proportion of strokes across all age groups, growing from about 13 percent in 1993–94 to 19 percent in 2005.
Closer to home, the Heart and Stroke Foundation says several studies predict that the rate of strokes among younger adults will double in the next 15 years. The main reason? According to Dr. Tara Sedlak, a cardiologist at Vancouver General Hospital and clinical assistant professor at The University of British Columbia, it comes down to lifestyle—high stress levels, poor eating habits, lack of exercise and smoking. Research bears this out: The University of Cincinnati study suggested that a rise in lifestyle-related risk factors (such as diabetes, obesity and high cholesterol) may contribute to a higher incidence of stroke.
But there is a way to turn the tide: As with other age groups, simple changes such as exercising regularly, quitting smoking and eating healthily could see the rates of cardiovascular disease—and, more specifically, stroke—decrease, says Dr. Paula Harvey, director of the cardiovascular research program at Women's College Hospital in Toronto.
In your 40s and 50s: Cardiovascular disease is less common among younger women, in part because of their higher estrogen levels; the hormone offers some protection to the arteries. But as women approach menopause and their estrogen levels drop, the incidence of stroke and heart attack increases.
Unfortunately, broad knowledge of their increased risk may not protect perimenopausal women from misdiagnosis. According to research by the Canadian Medical Protective Association, which provides advice, legal assistance and risk-management education to 95,000 Canadian physicians, doctors are missing the signs of stroke in patients nearly 10 percent of the time, largely because symptoms are often nonspecific—patients often complained of headache, dizziness, nausea and vomiting.
And women, who have historically been less inclined to advocate for themselves, are particularly at risk. Research out of the University of Leeds in England showed that, between April 2004 and March 2013, 198,534 heart attack patients at National Health Service hospitals in England and Wales were initially misdiagnosed—and most of them were women. During that time, women suffering a heart attack were 50 percent more likely to be misdiagnosed compared to men.
It might be difficult to challenge doctors who tell you nothing's wrong, but Dr. Sedlak encourages women to listen to their bodies and to be firm with health-care providers about what they're experiencing. "If you feel there is a real problem, be persistent," she says.
In your 60s and beyond: Women over 65 have the most strokes of all age groups, but they still have fewer strokes than men the same age. However, a Danish study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association in 2015 found that, after 60, women tend to have more serious strokes than men—and they're more likely to survive, which can have serious repercussions on quality of life.
John Sawdon, the public education and special projects director of the Cardiac Health Foundation of Canada, explains that cardiac rehabilitation programs, which are free with a referral from your doctor, are the perfect next step for recovering cardiac patients of all ages, but they're particularly important for older Canadians, who tend to live more sedentary lives. These programs are supervised by a cardiologist and, after an assessment, are tailored by your cardiac rehab team, which usually includes nurses, physical therapists, kinesiologists and social workers. They can provide exercise training, education on heart-healthy living and stress counselling—all of which can contribute to the health and well-being of people who have heart problems. And they're effective, too: "Research has shown that those completing cardiac rehab live seven years longer than control groups," says Sawdon. It also "reduces incidence of another heart attack by 50 percent."
What's your risk? Ninety percent of adult Canadians have at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease. But while factors such as obesity, hypertension, alcohol abuse, family history and ethnicity increase everyone's risk, regardless of gender, the following three are particularly relevant to women.
Smoking: While we all know that smoking is seriously unhealthy, it can be especially damaging to women's cardiovascular health. Smoking when taking the oral contraceptive pill can drastically increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. But quitting can cut your risk within a year.
Diabetes: According to the Canadian Diabetes Association, people with diabetes are at a very high risk of developing cardiovascular disease. In fact, "they may develop heart disease 10 to 15 years earlier than individuals without diabetes."
Mental illness and stress: "Women have a higher frequency of stress-induced heart disease, and women's hearts are affected by stress and depression more than men's," says Dr. David Fitchett, a cardiologist at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto and associate professor of medicine at the University of Toronto.
Heart health dictionary
Atherosclerosis: When arteries narrow and harden due to plaque buildup.
Cardiomyopathhy: Diseases of the heart muscle, which cause it to become enlarged, thick or rigid.
Cardiovascular disease: A broad term for problems with the heart and blood vessels, often due to atherosclerosis. These conditions can lead to heart attack, angina or stroke.
Heart attack: Also known as a myocardial infarction, these attacks happen when the flow of blood to a section of the heart is blocked, preventing the muscle from getting oxygen.
High blood pressure: Also called hypertension, this is when the long-term force of blood against artery walls is elevated, requiring the heart to work harder, which may eventually lead to heart disease.
Microvascular angina: A disease of the small coronary artery blood vessels. Many angiograms do not view the small blood vessels, so this can be difficult to diagnose.
Spontaneous coronary artery dissection: A tear in the coronary artery wall. Physical or emotional stress appears to play a role. Most cases (around 70 percent) occur in women under 50—and a third of those are pregnant or postpartum women.
Stroke: When the blood supply to a portion of the brain is interrupted. This can happen when a blood vessel carrying oxygen and nutrients to the brain either bursts or is blocked.