According to a raft of studies and statistics, the global obesity problem shows no signs of diminishing. In fact, medical experts tell us that it is the number one threat to our health and is only on the increase. So it stands to reason that doctors and drug companies are committing huge resources to finding the magic bullet that will help us shed those unwanted -- and dangerous -- pounds.
A recent study by researchers at Stanford University claims to have found a hormone that, when injected into laboratory mice, has managed to suppress the rodents' appetites. They have named the hormone obestatin and have located it in the stomach and small intestine of the test subjects. This substance has one extremely coveted ability -- it made the mice eat less.
The study, published in the current issue of the journal Science, states that obestatin appears to work by slowing the passage of food through the digestive passage, thereby making the subject 'feel' less hungry.
With mice as test subjects, it becomes extremely difficult to know exactly why the weight loss occurred. But the study did show that mice given the hormone for eight days consumed half as much food as usual, and in turn, lost weight.
The challenge is in trying to determine why the mice consumed less food and if it was entirely due to the physiological effect of obestatin. The researchers have no way of knowing whether the mice felt sick because rodents cannot vomit. Also, the hormone was only administered to mice of normal weight -- so it is difficult to know whether it would have the same effect on obese mice.
Still, the discovery represents a breakthrough in the understanding of weight loss and hormones. But how can it help?
As the major funder, drug company Johnson & Johnson owns the rights to the study and any drug that could result from it. But it appears that obestatin would not be effective in a pill format and would need to be taken as an injection or a nose spray.
Another concern with the substance is that the weight lost in subjects did not appear to be from fat and may have been muscle. That wouldn't do much good for obese patients.
The search goes on, but there are established ways to control weight gain -- sadly, none of them come in pill form. Simple thermodymics plays an important role -- if you consume more calories than you burn, weight will be gained.
Exercise, and the types of food consumed (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean white meat) are also incredibly important factors in your overall health. More and more research proves that obesity is a killer. That same research has yet to turn up a magic cure. Prevention is, in this case, the best bet.
Do you speak the language of flowers? Find out the different meanings of various flowers, plus get five tips on making your bouquet last.
In the Victorian era, particular flowers in certain colours were chosen to express specific feelings. Using this language of flowers – called "floriography" – a bud, bouquet or even a boutonniere delivered more than colour and scent. Here's what some familiar flowers may convey:
Apple blossom - Good things to come Aster - Contentment Buttercup - Childishness Pink carnation - Gratitude Yellow carnation - Rejection Crocus - Gladness Daffodil - Chivalry and respect Daisy - Innocence and purity Daylily - Enthusiasm Dill - Lust Edelweiss - Daring and courage Forsythia - Anticipation Gardenia - Secret love and joy Blue hyacinth - Constancy Ivy - Wedded love and fidelity Lavender - Loyalty White lily - Heavenly purity Lily of the valley - Humility Mint - Virtue Orange blossom - Marriage and fertility Palm leaves - Victory Dark crimson rose - Mourning Pink rose - Friendship Red Rose - Passionate love Snowdrop - Hope Sunflower - Adoration Red tulip - Declaration of love Violet - Faithfulness
So that beautiful bouquet of dark crimson roses and white lilies surrounded by palm leaves that you just sent to your friend or love one could be telling her, "Many are mourning my victory and success within our relationship, as it's heavenly to be with you!" But – since floriography word lists vary – it could simply be saying, "Hi!"
5 best ways to make your bouquet last 1. Buy fresh flowers. Avoid flowers with any signs of mildew or mould, and look for buds that are just beginning to open. A&P, Dominion and Loblaws help out by guaranteeing their blooms will last for a specified number of days.
2. Keep it clean and lukewarm. Start with a squeaky-clean container and lukewarm water (tepid water is more readily absorbed than cold), then change the water every other day.
3. Add a floral preservative. Most bouquets come with their own packet of goodies that provide nutrients and prevent bacterial growth – all to keep the flowers fresher longer.
4. Strip and recut the stems. Remove any leaves that will be immersed, then recut the stems to encourage water uptake. Trim soft stems straight across. Cut woody stems on an angle, then smash or slit the bottom 2.5 cm (1 in). Pinch small wads of cotton from a cotton ball and stuff them into the bottom of hollow stems to help them hold moisture.
5. Show them off in a good spot. Set your floral arrangement away from drafts, direct sunlight, radiators and ripening fruits (the latter emit ethylene, which prevents buds from opening, discolours blooms and leaves, and shortens vase life).
Add a touch of whimsy, colour or class to your winter wardrobe with a great manicure.
When it comes to winter, we usually forget to have fun with our beauty look. It's probably because we're more concerned about keeping warm with hefty sweaters and tuques. When it comes to beauty we're focused on keeping our lips soft, our skin hydrated and our beauty updates affordable. We tend to put fun lip colours and bold eyeliner on the back burner.
But break out of that winter beauty rut! There's an easy way to have a little fun—and you won't even need to pick up a new lipstick. Instead, make your next manicure (whether you're heading to a salon or DIY-ing your mani at home) one of these great picks. We looked at our favourite nail brands, artists and manicure spots to bring your the best winter manicure ideas.
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.
"The little fairies I saw were about, I would say, the size of two-year-olds, that height," says 97-year-old Mary Flynn of Otterbury, N.L. "When I came down the way, I saw a red bandana and it blew across the road. When I looked to see where it went, I saw two little fairies by a tree with bright red windbreakers and little peaked caps."
Whether they're fairy stories, tales of the early settlements or other otherworldly yarns, Newfoundland's long-standing oral traditions have always been a powerful force. But it's the fairy stories, in particular, that are rife on the Rock. Full of wonder and magic yet anchored by the
real world experiences of Newfoundlanders, fairy folklore is as culturally important to the province as any historical building or artifact.
Not your everyday fairy The province's rich fairy folklore traditions originate from the Scottish, Irish and English who brought over their stories when they settled on Newfoundland in the 1600s. These fairies (also known as the Good People or the Little People) are not of the Tinker Bell variety; the creatures come in all sizes and have been glimpsed in the shape of children, adults, glowing lights and even animals. They're mischievous and apt to entrance you, cause trouble and lead you astray. And they definitely
don't have wings.
That most of Newfoundland's fairies are described as troublemakers is somewhat surprising. "The majority of fairies are not good fairies," says Barbara Rieti, who did a PhD thesis in folklore, on the subject of fairies, at Memorial University of Newfoundland in St. John's, N.L., and later authored the book
Strange Terrain: The Fairy World in Newfoundland (ISER Books, Memorial University, 1991). "They play tricks and lead you over the edge or a cliff. They'll change people. Or you'll get a fairy blast when they hit you, and then nasty stuff comes out of the wound, like sticks, balls of wool and fish bones."
Wounds dripping with balls of wool and fish bones (and the obvious entertainment factor in these tales) aside, fairy stories often held deeper meaning. "To me, fairy stories had to do with knowing and not knowing, a very important element in Newfoundland culture," says Rieti. "Because communities were small and isolated but interconnected, knowing someone, knowing who they are and where they come from was important." Fairy stories weren't just about fairies; they were about living through challenges and surviving, be it in the woods, on the water or down the trail.
Nature versus civilization "Fairies aren't so much to be feared as they are to be respected and, where possible, avoided," says Dale Jarvis, intangible cultural heritage development officer for the
Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador. Like Rieti, he believes fairy folklore is deeply connected to the natural world. "In a sense, fairies are nature personified," says Jarvis. "They're neither good nor bad; they don't follow human rules. Fairy stories are, in a way, how we talk about our interaction with the unpredictability of nature."
In many cases, the stories are about regular Newfoundlanders who have incredible things happen to them.
Someone picking berries will hear fairy music, become entranced and lose their way in the woods; days later they will return home, not knowing what happened. If feeling mischievous, fairies might swap a baby for a changeling, a sickly being not entirely human. Fairies may join children for tea on the beach, spirit a loved one away on a horse or place a curse, making a family member mute. Fairies could even take people away and drown them in the sea. Much of the province's fairy folklore exists at the point where the civilized world and nature intersect. "The stories take place at the end of the garden, where people go to pick berries, in the meadow, at the beach, or slightly away from the house-in the border zone between the wild and the tame," says Jarvis.
Charms for protection With potential fairy-wrought disaster always near, there are many traditional charms Newfoundlanders use for protection. Keeping bread in your pockets can ward off the fairies. Or, if you are in danger of being led astray, you can turn an article of clothing inside out, putting you back on the right path (it confuses the fairies and breaks their spell). Money is also a charm. Some locals pin silver coins to their clothing or place coins inside baby carriages. Religious metals have the same effect. "The tricky part," says Jarvis, "is that, for every story you hear and every rule about the fairies, there's another story that says the opposite." It seems that, above all else, Newfoundland fairies are capricious.
In days past, fairy stories may have been used keep children from wandering too far into the woods or into a forbidden area
—an imaginative safety mechanism, if you will. A parent might say, "Don't go too far because the fairies might get you." Other times, fairy stories may have been used to cover or deny a violent incident, such as a beating or a physical or mental illness. It would be common to hear that a community member was "away with the fairies" or "touched by the fairies." Whether to entertain, teach, keep children safe or manage a difficult circumstance, fairy talk has always mingled with Newfoundland's more tangible cultural traditions.
Fairy central Fairy folklore is particularly strong in the Conception Bay area of the
Avalon Peninsula. In Cupids, the first English settlement in Canada, fairy stories have had centuries to take root.
Cupids Legacy Centre, a museum that includes an archaeology field lab and fairy garden, is committed to keeping fairy folklore alive and thriving in the community. "Newfoundland isn't just about historical artifacts," says Peter Laracy, the centre's general manager. "We're also about music, dance, poetry, language and stories. It's the intangible traditions that reflect who we are and what we are."
Laracy firmly believes that the beginnings of Newfoundland culture are based in oral storytelling, which he considers to be the most fundamental form of communication. It's a different level of connection; there's trust between the storyteller and the audience, one in which those listening suspend their normal concept of the world and just believe. He finds that today's Newfoundlanders are still drawn to the otherworldly and inexplicable. "I think people want to let go of the fact that everything has to be explainable," says Laracy. "Listening to and telling fairy stories frees the mind and allows you to believe that anything is possible
—there's a freedom of human expression."
The captivating quality of fairy stories lives most fully in the actual telling. Laracy says a good fairy story and storyteller can evoke emotions such as fear, wonder, awe, sadness and joy. Every year, Cupids Legacy Centre hosts an evening that celebrates fairy culture.
On the rooftop garden, which is decorated with fairy sculptures, the crowd is entertained by a fairy play. Then, the community's renowned storytellers (Mary Flynn being one who has seen fairies on several occasions) tell dramatic fairy stories in a room full of community members and fairy enthusiasts who hang on every word.
The Fairy Ring in Conception Bay North. Photo by Dennis Flynn
Many of the stories recount fairy sightings, strange happenings or talk of fairy paths and fairy ground (the places Newfoundlanders avoid for fear of disturbing the fairies). In the Conception Bay North area, there's an ancient fairy ring, a circle of 13 massive beech trees surrounding barren ground, where fairies have their meetings, of course. Legend has it that nothing will grow on fairy ground. It's a quiet, spooky place, ripe for otherworldly gatherings.
A future for fairies Like the beech trees anchored on fairy ground, fairy folklore has been around for a while, centuries even. Folklorists are often asked if the stories and traditions will eventually die out. Dale Jarvis is adamant in his response. "No, I think we're seeing a revival in fairy stories. People may not believe in them the same way they once did, but there's a growing understanding here in Newfoundland that this is a part of our culture, part of our traditions." Barbara Rieti is of the same mind. "What has surprised me over time is how persistent fairy stories have been. People will say that the tradition is receding, but fairy stories never really recede."
Through fairy stories, Newfoundlanders connect to their history, to each other and to nature. They all have a fairy story to tell
—and it's one likely passed on from generation to generation. The stories themselves are full of delightful drama, adding a distinct cultural flavour that isn't found anywhere else in Canada. And even though the fairies might be, frankly, terrifying, every local enjoys connecting with an audience (of one or 100, it makes no difference) to share a tale. "What I love about fairy stories," says Jarvis, "is that a real person has had this magical experience. These stories are about survival, change, hope and resiliency. And who doesn't want to believe in magic?"