For many of us, driving is a fact of life. In North America, we are particularly reliant on vehicles to whisk us from point A to point B with a minimum of fuss … if you don't count gridlock! But the reality is that cars aren't cheap. For the average Canadian household, transportation is the second largest expense after housing.
How much does it cost to own a car? According to the Canadian Automobile Association, once you've factored in the cost of insurance, depreciation and other incidentals, car ownership can cost between $6,000 and $9,000 a year, depending on the make and model of your car. And those are just the fixed costs. Once you add fuel and other operating costs to that mix, you're looking at spending many thousands more, depending on how far and how frequently you drive.
While getting rid of your car is the obvious way to save money, it might not be a realistic option for people who live outside of urban centres. Instead, consider these smaller steps to reduce car costs.
1. Drive less aggressively If you want to preserve the life of your car, consider driving more slowly and carefully. You'll not only extend the life of your brakes but you'll cut back on fuel costs, too. Dave Rennie, owner of Dave Rennie's Autocare in Ottawa, says slowing down is one of the easiest ways to save money.
"When you're driving fast, the engine has to work harder, and wind resistance also becomes a factor," he explains. He says driving at 120 kilometres an hour on the highway can easily use 20 percent more fuel than driving at 100 kilometres an hour.
"Manufacturers design cars so that they get the best fuel economy at the speed limit," says Rennie. He says some cars -- especially smaller ones -- are sensitive to being pushed hard to go faster and will compensate by gobbling up gas. Even in the city, he advises drivers to avoid accelerating hard and then jumping on the brakes, which is hard on the car and causes unnecessary wear and tear. 2. Check your tires Though it sounds simple, keeping your tires properly inflated can go a long way towards helping your reduce car costs.
"Tire pressure is critical," says Rennie, explaining that tires that are under-inflated generate more heat and wear out more quickly and unevenly.
"Think about trying to push a full wheelbarrow that has a flat tire," he laughs. "It's a lot harder to do!" He says keeping your tires properly inflated will not only extend their life, but will help with fuel efficiency, too.
While some cars have warning lights that come on when the tire pressure goes down, Rennie says they aren't foolproof. Instead, he recommends checking your pressure regularly with a tire gauge.
3. Maintain your vehicle One of the best ways to reduce car costs in the long run is to keep your car well maintained. "Don't wait until something fails," advises Rennie. "Most manufacturers recommend that you have things serviced after a certain number of kilometres. If you do that, you'll have a better chance to getting the full value out of your car."
He points out that in the Canadian climate, staying on top of rust is particularly key, because it can cause cars to wear out before their time. "Rustproofing your car when you buy it will be money well spent if you plan to keep it long-term," he says.
4. Reduce your insurance Though there's no getting around the cost of having car insurance, there are ways to reduce how much you're paying.
"The first thing you should do is talk to your insurance representative to make sure you have appropriate coverage," says Steve Kee of the Insurance Bureau of Canada. He says options for lowering costs can range from increasing your deductible to deciding not to have collision insurance, particularly if your vehicle is more than 10 years old (it may be worth less than the insurance you're paying on it).
When they're making their assessment, insurance companies also look at things like what kind of car you drive (some cars have lower cost insurance ratings - do the research before your next purchase), whether your car has an alarm system, and how many kilometres you tend to log (driving less will help lower your rate). Kee says it's also worth asking about bundling: If you buy all your insurance from one company, you may be able to work out a deal.
5. Consider carpooling or car sharing If you're ready to think differently about driving, sharing cars is a great option. Carpooling is an economic boon for people heading in the same direction on a regular basis. And more people in a car together not only helps to reduce car costs, but it's better for the environment, too.
People living in urban centres from Victoria to Halifax may want to consider joining a car-sharing network. Membership allows you to use a car on an hourly, as-needed basis -- a good option if you don't need to drive in to work every day.
"Carsharing saves people money because it converts the fixed cost of owning a vehicle into a variable costs, so you pay as you drive," says Kevin McLaughlin, President of Toronto's Autoshare. "If you own a car, you pretty much have to drive it everywhere to get your money's worth. But once people shed their car, a world of flexibility opens up."
Your body needs some sugar to function, but Canadians, who consume the equivalent of 26 teaspoons of the sweet stuff every day, are probably overdoing it. We break down what too much sugar does to your body, and how you can cut back.
Good news for those with sweet tooths: Glucose is our main source of fuel, so, yes, we actually do need sugar in our diets. But don't get too excited— they're not all alike.
"All carbohydrate-containing foods, whether candy, pop, fruit, vegetables or grain products, break down into glucose in our bloodstream," says Patricia Chuey, a Vancouver-based registered dietitian. "But our bodies respond differently when we get sugar from nutrient-dense, fibre-rich foods, eaten as part of a balanced meal that contains protein, compared to 'empty' calories from zero-nutrient, fibre-less foods."
Those carb-heavy, low-nutrient foods cause our blood-sugar, or glucose, levels to spike, triggering the release of insulin in response. One of insulin's jobs is to move glucose from the blood to our liver, muscle and fat cells for storage, and when there's more in our bloodstream than what our bodies need for energy, it can end up as stored fat—"even though fat, per se, wasn't consumed," says Chuey. That's partially why excess sugar consumption is linked to fatty liver disease, as well as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Fibre-rich, nutrient-dense foods, on the other hand, break down more slowly, so they don't cause as much of a blood-sugar spike, or the resulting weight gain.
That doesn't mean you have to skip your favourite sweet indulgences entirely. What we know today is that moderation is key—a little sugar won't hurt you.
But, for the most part, Canadians are not consuming a little sugar. According to Statistics Canada, on average, 22 to 26 percent of our total daily caloric intake consists of sugar. Put another way, that's an average of 110 grams, or 26 teaspoons, per day. And it's not just how much; experts are also concerned about where it comes from.
"Whole foods that are sweet, like fruit, can be good sources of vitamins, minerals and fibre, which can contribute to overall health," says Gita Singh, a research assistant professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Boston's Tufts University.
It's added sugar, regardless of the source, that's the problem. You'll find it in processed foods, such as many breads, soups, salad dressings and pasta sauces. And then there's pop, sports drinks and fruit drinks, which experts collectively refer to as sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs). These drinks are among the top causes of obesity and its attendant ailments, which include heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancer and other chronic diseases. In fact, Singh coauthored a report published in the medical journal Circulation that estimates SSB consumption is partially responsible for the diabetes-, cancer- and cardiovascular disease–related deaths of 1,600 Canadians each year.
The fact that SSBs are a leading source of excess sugar in our diets is galling but encouraging. That's because the solution is straightforward: Stop, or at least cut back on, drinking them.
Chuey says you can further reduce the added sugar in your diet by avoiding convenience foods that list sugar (or maltose, corn syrup, cane sugar or honey) among the first three ingredients; swap your caramel macchiato for a latte; and top plain yogurt with fresh fruit. The less sugar you consume, the less you'll end up craving.
But when you do indulge, go all in. "Apply the pleasure maximization principle," says Chuey. "Make it really worth it! Not in terms of quantity, but the kind of quality that will really satisfy." So skip the soda fountain. But those homemade cookies? Enjoy!
YOUR BODY ON SUGAR
Click on image for larger view. Illustrations, thenounproject.com.
There are lots of table sugar subs on the market, but how do they stack up, health-wise?
Stevia: Zero calories per teaspoon
Stevia is a zero-calorie, fructosefree option.
Date sugar: 11 calories per teaspoon
Date sugar contains all the fibre and nutrients found in the dried fruit.
Coconut sugar: 15 calories per teaspoon
Made from the sap of coconut-tree flowers, coconut sugar has the same calorie count as table sugar, but it's lower on the glycemic index.
Agave nectar: 15 calories per teaspoon
Agave nectar is about 1 1/2 times sweeter than refined sugar, so you can use less. But it's high in fructose (hello, blood-sugar spikes!).
We needed help demystifying the seemingly endless list of milk alternatives, so we went to the experts for real talk on dairy-free drinks.
Whether you're lactose intolerant, vegan, or just like the taste, there are plenty of reasons to experiment with adding milk alternatives to your diet. But with more varieties than ever before, how do you know which option is best for you? We asked two registered dietitians, Carol Harrison and Crystal MacGregor, for the skinny on dairy-free drinks.
Why does cow's milk get a bad rap?
Carol Harrison: Some people are worried about hormones or antibiotics in milk. But the truth is, growth hormones are not approved for use in dairy cattle in Canada. As well, The Canadian Food Inspection Agency reports compliance for veterinary product residues in milk is greater than 99 per cent.
Crystal MacGregor: Cow’s milk is a nutritious and safe choice. Non-dairy beverages are actually not suitable for children under the age of two because they do not contain enough calories, protein and fat to support children’s needs.
Which beverage is closest to cow’s milk in terms of nutritional profile?
CM: Soy is the closest to dairy in protein per serving at 7 grams of protein per cup. When possible, choose organic versions, as many conventional soy milks can come from genetically modified soybeans, which may contain higher levels of pesticides and fertilizers.
CH: The only beverages I consider nutritional substitutes for cow's milk are goat’s milk fortified with vitamin D and soy beverages fortified with calcium and vitamin D.
What are some things a person should consider when choosing a dairy-free beverage?
CM: If choosing a non-dairy alternative for a source of protein it is important to note that not all are created equal—most nut milks such as almond, coconut and cashew milk contain less than 1 g of protein per cup.
CH: Aim for 30 per cent daily value calcium and 45 per cent daily value vitamin D. Also choose unsweetened options to curb unwanted added sugars.
Check out our slideshow of popular dairy-free drinks, with pros and cons from our experts.
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.
On those cold, wintry days when you need somethingwarm around your face, grab your knitting needles, hibernate for a weekend and knit up The Stone and Arrow Winter Set. Designed in bulky yarn, The Arrow Headband and The Stone Scarf come together in a snap. And with simple repeating patterns, they're perfect for confident beginners looking to expand their knitting skills.
The Stone Scarf got its name from its 3D texture, created by alternating knits and purls, that resembles a stonewall. The quirky stone-like bumps are tempered by a garter-stitch border and a slipped selvedge for a tidy edge.
• 2 balls (each 150 g/225 m) Schachenmayr SMC Tweed Montage* in Dusty Ranch (actual amount used for scarf: approx. 322 m)
• A 7-mm knitting needle
*If you are having difficulty finding the Schachenmayr SMC Tweed yarn, try Noro Obi or Noro Kama. Both are available online and can be shipped to Canada. Both give very similar stitch gauge and have a nice gradual colour change.
Lana Gross Medio is also very close in colour. This yarn can also be purchased online, but be advised that the shipping costs may be hefty. Lana Gross Medio is thinner than what the pattern calls for, so if you decide to use this yarn you should cast on 34 sts instead of 24, and follow the pattern exactly as it’s written. The width will be roughly the same.
14 sts/25 rows = 10 cm/4 inches in Basket Welt Stitch
Basket Welt Stitch:
Rows 1 and 2: Sl1, k1 *p5, k5* repeat to last 2 sts, k2.
Row 3: Sl1, knit all stitches to end of row.
Rows 4 and 5: Sl1, k1 *k5, p5* repeat to last 2 sts, k2.
Row 6: Sl1, k1, purl to last 2 sts, k2.
Repeat Rows 1 to 6 for pattern stitch.