Do NOT offer juices to children!

Juice AKA Cavity-inducing sugary water

Juice AKA Cavity-inducing sugary water

Dear Dr. Mo: What’s the verdict on giving juices to kids? Should I offer them to my baby or should I just stick to water?

Dear reader: Your question targets a persistent dilemma parents have and we often discuss this topic with them as family physicians. If you want a short answer, that answer is: you should stick to water.

Having said that, let me break it down a bit further: Continue reading

Fever in children and what to do about it?

fever - friend or foe

fever – friend or foe

Dear Dr. Mo: I’m wondering if I should always aggressively try to bring fever down in my child? Isn’t fever sometimes good?

Dear reader: Fever in children can be a tricky thing and it’s one of those symptoms that scares parents the most – for a good reason as no parent wants to see their child sick. So what to do about it?

In the simplest of terms and most commonly – do nothing.

Now, this comes with a few strings attached, as usual, so let me clarify.. Continue reading

Zika Virus Infographic – symptoms, transmission and prevention

Dear readers: I’ve received several questions related to Zika virus so in response, I’ve made this simple infographic with basic information. For further information on this evolving and important health issue it is best to stay up to date by following Zika Virus topic on relevant sites like WHO, CDC and alike.

Zika Basics Infographic Image credit: AskDrMo.ca

Hypertension – how to get an accurate measurement?

Dear readers: Many of your questions revolved around Hypertension – elevated blood pressure, which is the most common condition seen in primary care and leads to myocardial infarction, stroke, kidney (renal) failure, and death if not detected early and treated appropriately.

Measuring your own is the best way to track itWhether you are checking your blood pressure (BP) at home as advised by your physician or at your physician’s office, it is important to do it right and get an accurate measurement.

Check out this infographic with 7 simple tips to help you get the most precise BP measurement.

Continue reading

Marijuana, weight gain and other misfortunes

Dear Dr. Mo: I’m worried that smoking marijuana might make me gain weight – is it true that this could happen?

Dear reader: Consuming marijuana classically produces symptoms of increased appetite (so called the munchies) and in principle, it could lead to weight gain in otherwise healthy individuals. This, in addition to its anti-nausea effect (anti-emetic) is the reason marijuana is sometimes prescribed to cancer patients to alleviate some of their symptoms (from both the illness and its therapy).

Get high and fat

Get high and fat

It also often causes a dry mouth, which is usually noted by users and I should say that the munchies really should be the least of your concerns when smoking marijuana.
Let me explain.

I’ve heard people claim otherwise but the fact is that intoxication with marijuana does significantly impair motor function and consequently seriously interferes with driving ability – being high or being drunk makes almost no difference.
It can also cause a heart to race (tachycardia) and induce serious discomfort and even a panic attack.

Heavy marijuana use over long time is strongly linked to Amotivational syndrome, which is characterized by apathy and boredom – if this sounds too esoteric, let me put it into a real clinical scenario: Continue reading

Here’s Why You’re Really Gaining Weight

Dear Dr. Mo: Could obesity be contagious?

Dear reader: Obesity is of course not infectious per se but it’s well known to be ‘socially contagious’ and in that sense your question is spot on – eating habits of eating companions or groups exert significant influence on us; and we are mostly unaware of this fact.

Social contagion

Social contagion

One is more likely to be overweight if one has a lot of friends who are overweight and a very good way to gain weight is to have lunches or dinners with other people, especially if they are overweight.

On average, if you grab a meal with a friend, you will eat about 35% more than what you would eat if you were eating alone.

If you are eating in a group of 4, you will eat about 75% more and in groups of 7 or more people, you will probably eat 96% more! Continue reading

Stop With the Gluten-Free Already!

Dear Dr. Mo: Is gluten-free food generally a healthier option?

Dear reader: The trouble with gluten-free products is that they tend to have a health aura around them, which sometimes blinds people from seeing what they’re really eating.

There is nothing necessarily healthier about gluten-free bread or cookies or pasta or any other food you can think of. Often, if one took a closer look at the label, the product would likely be lower in protein and fiber than a non gluten-free alternative.  The catch is that the calorie counts remain the same or similar but because we may think that being gluten-free automatically means healthier food, we may eat more of it.

Many people who eat gluten-free foods say they think they’re healthier and also many believe it will help them lose weight but be cautious of this trap as you may actually be gaining weight by eating more and by eating foods with more fat, more sugar, less protein etc.

Continue reading

How to choose adequate UV protection for your eyes?

Dear Dr. Mo: How to be sure my sunglasses protect my eyes well from UV light? Is the price tag sufficient as guidance?

Dear reader: Your question is well timed and important and wherever we go, even when the skies are overcast with clouds, our skin and eyes are constantly exposed to UV light – invisible to us, but potentially damaging nonetheless.
Choosing the right protection becomes an integrative part of a healthy lifestyle.

Glasses UVThe two forms of UV (Ultra Violet) light that affect our health are UVA and UVB. There’s also UVC, which can be extremely damaging but our atmosphere’s ozone layer filters it out completely so it does not figure in our review here.

UVA is responsible for skin tanning and aging and UVB is linked to sunburn and skin cancer; a large portion of UVB is also absorbed by the ozone layer.

UV light also affects eye health and darker lenses may not necessarily provide better protection from it. In fact, a dark lens with poor or no UV protection can do just the opposite – it can damage the eye by allowing more UV rays into it. Continue reading

Zinc for the Common Cold – Does It Work?

Get your Zinc from food

Get your Zinc from food

Dear Dr. Mo: Is Zinc helpful in treating the common cold? Should I use it?

Dear reader: When we catch the infamous cold (acute upper respiratory tract infection), sometimes the symptoms may be severe enough that we reach out to anything that has even a hint of a promise of a quick cure.

 

The truth is, there’s no effective cure other than our own immune system and yet, many supplements are out on the market claiming to boost the immune response and help us fight off the virus.

Evidence is strong against any substantial effectiveness of any of these supplements.

Healthy diet and exercise remain the only sure fire ways to overcome the common cold – yes, even while you’re sick, if you can, you should moderately exercise (or at least stay active) and not rest for too long – this will speed up the recovery.

Zinc time and again emerges as one of the supplements suggested to help us fight the common cold but, does it work? Continue reading

Last Resort: Oral Contraceptives as Emergency Contraception

OCP 2Dear Dr. Mo: What if I needed an emergency contraception and didn’t have it (couldn’t get it) – would a regular pill do the trick?

Dear reader: Even though I don’t recommend this as a contraceptive practice of choice, the answer is Yes.

Any Oral Contraceptive Pill can, in principle, be used as an Emergency Postcoital Contraception (EPC) as long as it contains a certain amount of estrogen hormone; the required amount is 200 μg of ethinyl estradiol (usually 20 – 35 μg of ethinyl estradiol per tablet but it may vary – read the composition label) – take the number of tablets to amount to 200 μg, then repeat in 12 hours. Continue reading

Stroke – The Brain Under Attack – know when to act and do it fast

Early symptoms can be elusive and missed

Early symptoms can be elusive and missed

Dear readers: Some time ago, father of a friend of mine had suffered a stroke – he’s still alive and on his way to recovery mostly because of the prompt and immediate reaction of the people who were there when it happened.
Those first few hours following a stroke are what decide between living or dying, between serious and irreversible brain damage and a minor, repairable one.

Identifying and treating a stroke as quickly as possible can and does save brain cells, brain function, and ultimately, lives. With this in mind, all of us need to know the warning signs of a stroke and when to get help as fast as possible.

So, what signs to look for to suspect a stroke?

I like The U.S. National Stroke Association’s mnemonic FAST as it both conveys the urgency of the situation and it helps us memorize the most important clues. Remember it as Act FAST!

Here’s what it stands for: Continue reading

Fiber and health

Add fiber-rich foods to your daily diet

Dear Dr. Mo: I am looking to improve my diet and fiber comes highly recommended as something to eat daily. What is it and where to get it from? How much is enough?

Dear reader: The reason fiber is highly recommended as a part of any healthy diet is simple – it is really good for you.

Previously, it was thought that fiber was a significant factor in preventing colon cancer but as it turns out, most of the evidence show that fiber has no such effect in prevention of this disease.

Still, fiber has many other good effects, for which it is considered a must-have in our everyday diets.

So, what does fiber do for us?

Fiber helps prevent heart disease, obesity, diabetes (by improving insulin resistance), constipation and diverticulitis (an intestinal problem). It helps to regulate cholesterol levels by slightly reducing the “bad” LDL cholesterol. And last, but certainly not the least of good effects is the increase of the bulk of foods making us feel fuller for longer – that’s another way fiber helps us in avoiding overeating and being overweight.

What is fiber and where to get it from?

Fiber is an indigestible carbohydrate form found in plant foods.There are two types of fiber: Soluble and Insoluble Continue reading

Mediterranean diet – a healthy way of eating

Dear readers: Many posts on this site discuss different aspects of a healthy diet and mostly emphasize the importance of balanced, versatile and flexible but

Versatile and healthy food choices

Versatile and healthy food choices

healthy food choices, whether you are staying put or travelling.

This pattern of eating could be named in different ways and many have heard of the so called Mediterranean diet, which is in fact exactly that – a variety of good foods arranged in a flexible manner throughout the day.

The most recent and very exciting results came out of one Spanish trial just a few days ago, proving without a shadow of a doubt, the benefits of this ‘Mediterranean’ eating style. Continue reading

Resuscitation of the ways we learn

Dear readers: When I was in medical school, teaching methods were still pretty much old-fashioned: huge text books (mostly handed down through 2 – 3

Books are still necessary - but now there's more to them

Books are still necessary – but now there’s more to them

generations of students) with sporadic updates, typically dry lectures and practical exercises with an occasional power point clumsily executed as the most tech we would get – and then after a while you would take your exam and the cycle would repeat itself.

This landscape is drastically different nowadays even though it’s only been about a decade since the first smart phones had been rolled out and even less than that time since the Google, Facebook, the App store, iPhone, iPad and what not. Continue reading