Pat Rochon likes to tell the story about climbing
Machu Picchu, Peru with this then 50-something father who, while an enthusiastic traveller, had never before embraced such a physically challenging trip. "Wouldn't you know it, Dad out-hiked me. He wasn't huffing and puffing nearly as much as I was – and it was his first adventure trip of this kind," recalls Pat, who is the national sales manager for
Adventure Travel Center. Surprising? Yes, but not uncommon for many people who tackle their first adventure trip and decide they love it. Where they once shied away from "adventure travel" (and the visions of Indiana Jones it once conjured up), they soon make it their preferred mode of travel.
"When I first called my dad about going on an adventure travel trip together after my mom died, back in the mid-1990s, he was hesitant. He thought his travelling days were over. I remember how he dismissed the notion of joining me on an active trip because he wasn't fit enough, he wasn't young enough, he hadn't done any kind of wild adventure before."
Pat, who's not without a sense of humour (a valued trait in any world traveller!), didn't even tell his father that their Peruvian trip was billed as 'adventure travel' until the trip was over. Cagey guy. Says Pat, "I realized my dad had the same misconceptions shared by a lot of people. The label 'adventure travel' scares them. I clearly remember him saying, 'You’re an adventure travel guy. You’re going to do all that camping and that bug stuff. I don't think I can.’" [caption id="attachment_13501" align="aligncenter" width="300"]
Hiking in Peru, challenging but ultimately very possible! (Courtesy: Allard Schmidt)[/caption]
Pat's doubting dad was proved wrong. The father-and-son duo have since been on 40 such trips together, to such destinations as Jordan, Nicaragua, India, Costa Rica and Panama. Pat, who has waved his passport through the borders of 125 countries, is seeing a lot more adventure travellers in all shapes and sizes these days. "Solo travellers, honeymooners, thirty-something couples, families with kids, and quite often, three generations of one family travelling together - and they're all looking for some kind of adventure." But, as Pat explains, many people come to adventure travel after long bouts of 'yes, let's do it' and 'no, somehow I don't think it's for us.'" The reason? There are some fairly
common myths and misconceptions about adventure traveller. They go some like this:
not fit enough. 2. It's too
risky. 3. It's too
expensive 4. I've
never done it before. I'll hold everybody back. 5. I'll
get bored and be left out if I want to stay back and not join the activity on certain days.
And the list goes on. Increasingly, more and more companies, just like Pat Rochon's
Adventure Center, are addressing these misconceptions and tweaking their marketing message. "I tell people that I’ve got this company that specializes in worldwide small group holidays. Are they interested?'" says PAt, "Without exception they will say: ‘Sure I can do that.’ Then I tell them, 'Well, that's adventure travel.'" [caption id="attachment_13504" align="aligncenter" width="300"]
Zip-lining near Arenal, Costa Rica (Courtesy: Keith Haufle)[/caption]
The actual activities in each adventure trip vary. "Different types of adventure trips speak to different types of people," says Pat, who has climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, canoed in the Amazon, trekked in Nepal and bathed elephants in Thailand. Trips at the
Adventure Center run the gamut from
Family Trips such as the one in Costa Rica that's billed as the
"Turtles, Rivers and Mountains," package, whereby clients participate in a turtle conservation project in Tortuguero National Park. Families can get hands-on experience protecting the nests, tagging turtles and hiding them from poachers. "And," says Pat, "of course they'll want to go zip-lining through the rainforest, as well." Couples could consider one of the
Wildlife Adventures, such as the five-day
Remote Amazon trip which gives clients the chance to tour the Amazon jungle by boat in Bolivia and Peru. Then again, for travellers looking to experience some adventure closer to home, there's a variety of hiking and trekking holidays in the
Canadian Rockies or in the
Charlevoix area of Quebec. Which of the following options would be your No. 1 pick for an adventure travel option:
Mongolia by horseback and jeep. 2. Safari in
Botswana in canoe and by foot. 3. Trekking in
Post your response below and see how your adventure travel tastes compare with other Canadian Living visitors!
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.
Q: I really like the look of hardwood flooring, but I've been warned against using it in the kitchen. â€¨I don't want to settle for laminate. Are there any other options? — R.S., Brantford, ON
A: Many people love the warmth and elegance of wood floors in a kitchen, but durability is a concern. Water can damage any type of flooring, so humidity levels must be controlled in kitchen and bath environments.
Your best bet is engineered wood flooring: a thin veneer of real wood adhered to a composite wood plank. This option offers the thickness of a solid wood plank at a considerably lower price tag. The planks are sold sanded, stained and protected—often with up to 15 coats of UV-protectant varnish, making them scratch- and fade-resistant. As easy to install as laminate planks, they're a good option to use all over the house, even in the kitchen. Expect to pay $8 to $20 per square foot for the product, and an â€¨additional $4 to $8 per square foot for professional installation.
For more solutions to your design dilemmas, read what Karl Lohnes has to say about picking a couch.
This story was originally titled "Design Dilemma" in the June 2014 issue.
Try this simple way to beat stress and help relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression.
If you're into yoga, there's a practice you might already be doing that's been shown to benefit people who suffer from mental illness.
A recent study from the University of Pennsylvania found yogic breathing, a practice known as Sudarshan Kriya, helped "alleviate severe depression in people who did not fully respond to antidepressant treatments," and lessened symptoms, such as stress, associated with the mental illness.
Karusia Wroblewski, who teaches yogic breathing in her yoga classes at Toronto's Yogaspace, says the technique has significantly improved the lives of both herself and her students. "They have more energy and their outlook on life improves," she says. "One student reported being able to cut back on anxiety medications. I just received a thank-you letter from a student who had suffered from deep depression, panic, anxiety attacks and insomnia."
Yogic breathing is more than just slowed inhalation and exhalation—it requires a conscious effort in recognizing and regulating our breathing patterns by adjusting the speed, rhythm and volume of each breath. According to Wroblewski, we often neglect the importance of breathing because it's a natural process. She says injuries, stress and even strong emotions can affect "healthy breathing."
Thankfully, for those who can't make it out to yoga class, you can practise yogic breathing at home. It's entirely safe for beginners. Wroblewski suggests finding an experienced instructor if you want to try intermediate or advanced techniques. Here's how to do it.
When: Try practising when you wake up in the morning, or at night right before you go to bed. It's not ideal to do this type of breathing on a full stomach.
Proper position: Start by lying on your back with a pillow under your knees and interlace your fingers, resting them on your abdomen. Close your eyes. Let the tension in your body melt away.
The basics: Inhale gently through your nose—imagine a balloon inside your body slowly inflating. Exhale through your mouth while the air escapes the balloon. Control your breathing; your breaths in and out should be smooth. While you're breathing, try not to dwell on your thoughts—just let them come and go, as if they were on a cloud floating by. Repeat the breaths three to four times, then close your mouth while continuing to breathe through your nose.
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.