While every Canadian faces his or her own unique set of health hurdles, there are a number of ailments that have become pervasive in Canada. Though medicine has advanced over the years, our modern lifestyles have introduced a new set of health challenges. Here are some of the top health problems that Canadians face today.
According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, diagnoses of diabetes among Canadians increased 70 percent from 1998/1999 to 2008/2009. For those ages 35 to 44, the number of diagnoses actually doubled in that decade! Experts blame the shocking increase in the disease on rising obesity rates, caused by diet and inactivity. The Canadian Diabetes Association says there are nine million Canadians with diabetes or prediabetes, and experts expect the prevalence of the disease to grow another 47 percent by 2024.
Heart disease and stroke are consistently among the leading causes of death in both men and women. Though some of the contributing factors, such as age, race and family history, are out of our control, many of the lifestyle factors associated with heart disease are on the rise. For instance, the rise in obesity and inactivity is putting more and more Canadians at risk. And for those Canadians living with diabetes, heart disease risk is also higher. While smoking has decreased greatly in the past decade, 16 percent of Canadians are still smoking, and putting themselves at a significantly higher risk for developing heart disease.
Multiple sclerosis may not be a leading killer, but it's a scary and uniquely Canadian disease. Canada has the highest rate of MS in the world, with about 100,000 people living with the disease. Most are diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 40, but the cause of the disease is still unknown. Mysteriously, some of the hardest hit countries seem to be those furthest from the equator, leading some people to believe that the disease is linked to a shortage of vitamin D, which is produced from sun exposure. But even accounting for our northern location, this theory doesn't seem to explain why our rate is a whopping 28 percent higher than that of Denmark, the country with the next highest rate.
Cancer as a whole is the leading cause of death among Canadians, and the incidence of the disease is expected to increase in coming years as our population ages. More than 75,000 Canadians are estimated to die of cancer a year. While lung and colorectal cancers account for 40 percent of all cancer deaths, skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer. In the past two decades, we have managed to decrease the death rates associated with many cancers, including breast, prostate and stomach cancers, but others, such as liver cancer, are on the rise. (Liver cancer is associated with hepatitis, alcohol use, obesity and diabetes.) Though there have been many advances in cancer research in the past several years, Canadians still have a long way to go in the fight against cancer.
While it's not a disease in itself, alcohol leads to a number of dangerous diseases in Canadians, including addiction and several types of cancer, but alcohol can also lead to other accidents and personal injuries. In fact, alcohol can account for eight percent of all deaths among Canadians under the age of 70, and a study from the journal Addiction says that Canadians drink about 50 percent more alcohol than the rest of the world, on average.
Much like cancer, chances are that everyone has been affected by mental illness in some way, whether through association with friends or family, or through their own struggles. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, 20 percent of Canadians will experience mental illness in their lifetime, and eight percent of adults will experience major depression. Mental illness also leads to suicide, which is one of the leading causes of death among Canadians from adolescence to middle age. Unfortunately, Canada still struggles to properly treat mental illness, as many patients wait months to see a psychiatrist or are forced to pay out of pocket for therapy.
There has been a recent flurry of misinformation warning the public about the safety of vaccines that has gotten health officials worried that we could soon see a rise in previously eradicated diseases. In early 2014, there was an outbreak of the measles in Fraser Valley, B.C., that made hundreds of people sick because of the failure to vaccinate against the disease. Currently, the province of British Columbia is reporting their lowest vaccination rates among kindergarteners in a decade. And it's not just affecting kids. During the 2014 flu season, a poll found that less than four in 10 Canadians received the flu shot, and the primary reason so many neglected to get it was because of a mistrust of vaccines. In the coming years, education about vaccines should be a priority in Canada to keep the next generation free of preventable diseases.
Between 3 and 8% of women have PMDD, a severe form of PMS with depression-like symptoms.
"For the three days leading up to my period, I was suicidal, anxious and irritable. I'd have fits of rage; I felt unglued. Then, I'd get my period and I'd be fine," says Jennifer, who asked us not to use her last name. Her psychotherapist suggested PMDD two years ago as a possible cause for her mood swings.
PMDD is like PMS's bigger, badder sister. It's another way of saying very severe PMS, says Dr. Samantha Saffy, a psychiatrist in Vancouver. In order to get a PMDD diagnosis, you need to experience the disorder's depression-like symptoms—mood swings, irritability, anger, feelings of hopelessness, anxiety, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, insomnia and a decreased interest in usual activities—more months than not. They should occur in the week leading up to menses, then improve after your period starts.
It can be difficult to get a diagnosis. Jennifer had been to three physicians with no luck. But just knowing PMDD exists might be helpful. "Often, being aware of your condition through education can help ease symptoms," says Dr. Tanya Tulipan, a psychiatrist specializing in reproductive mental health in Halifax. "If you know that certain days of the month will be more challenging for you, you can plan around them to minimize stress. Healthy habits such as getting adequate sleep, exercising regularly and eating healthily are known to ease symptoms, too." Cognitive behavioural therapy and mindfulness can also help, but "if none of these strategies works, your family doctor can suggest an antidepressant that you can take continuously or even just for the week that you have your symptoms," says Dr. Tulipan.
Here's how to make your own shower bomb with essential oils for a whole new level of relaxation.
If you enjoy a hot shower or bath to help you relax at the end of a stress-filled day, you'll love these quick DIY shower bombs that allow you to add a soothing essential oil blend to your shower's steam. Essential oils have long been used to aid everything from sleep to energy.
Now Solutions created this recipe to help you get the benefits of essential oils through inhaling the scented steam of your shower—it's like your own home spa treatment. When these scents are diffused through steam, they reach the nerves in the olfactory cavity, which go right to the brain, so you're likely to feel the calming effects right away.
How to make your own shower bomb
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a mini-muffin tin with foil liners. Mix 1 cup of baking soda with 1/3 cup of water to form a thick paste. Pour by tablespoon into the mini-muffin cups. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. Top with several drops of essential oils.
For a shower bomb that will help you relax and unwind, Now recommends a blend of one drop of chamomile oil, two drops of lavender oil and two drops of sandalwood blend oil. But you can make your own blend, too. Clove essential oil is also soothing and comforting, as is ylang ylang. Or, if you're looking for a pick-me-up to start your day with, basil essential oil is known to be energizing, and bergamot and lemon are both uplifting scents.
When your shower bomb is ready, place it on your shower floor and enjoy the relaxing vapours.
Want more ways to destress? Check out these eight stress-busting habits.