Staying Healthy Checklist
Stress and Mental Health
Getting help for stress and mental health concerns is centrally important to maintaining good health. We invite you to share with us if you are struggling with your mental health or with managing stressors in your life. The link, above, will connect you with numerous mental health resources that you may also find useful.
“The link between physical activity and better physical, mental or emotional health have been proven in study after study. But everyone is different. Understanding what really motivates you, how much and what kind of activity is required to experience positive change (hint – it depends on your age 0-4, 5-17, 18-64 or 65+), and finding an activity you love to do from all the different ways to get physically active is key. Once you get the ball rolling, you won’t believe all the ways activity can benefit you and those around you.”
The new Canada Food Guide (2019) is a great resource to support healthy eating. The best evidence surrounding diet supports the following:
- Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits.
- Eat protein foods and choose protein foods that come from plants more often.
- Eat whole grains.
- Limit processed foods.
- If you choose processed foods, eat them less often and in small amounts.
- Prepare meals and snacks using ingredients that have little to no added sodium, sugars or saturated fat.
- Choose healthier menu options when eating out.
- Make water (or white milk) your drink of choice.
Quitting smoking is one of the single best things you can do for your health. Are you thinking about quitting? If so, please talk to your doctor – we can help! If you smoke but you’re not ready to quit, that’s okay, but please let your doctor know you are smoking as this is important for us in order to care for you most effectively.
Want some online help? Tobacco Free Nova Scotia is full of useful information to help support you, regardless of your readiness to quit.
Drinking alcohol is a personal choice and comes with potential health risks including, weight gain, increased blood pressure, liver disease and risk of alcohol dependence. Alcohol should be avoided in pregnancy and used judiciously or not at all by youth in their late teens to age 24 and by seniors over age 65. For adults age 24-65 who choose to consume alcohol, we recommend you adhere to Canada’s low risk drinking guidelines. Historically, modest alcohol consumption was cited as having cardiovascular benefits, but more recent evidence suggests potential benefits are offset by increased risks of weight gain and high blood pressure – even in those who drink modestly – so it is not advised to start drinking alcohol or to increase alcohol consumption “for your health”.
Are you concerned you may have a problem with alcohol? If so, please talk to your doctor – we can help! Want some online help?
Alcoholics Anonymous provides excellent information for patients and families of patients who suffer from alcohol use disorder. You can confidentially enter your postal code and find a location for an AA meeting near you for peer support and a 12 step program.
Crosbie House is a local not for profit recovery and addiction centre run by physicians, addiction specialists and volunteers in New Minas, NS. You can call toll-free to inquire at 1-866-681-0613 or vist their website.
Addictions Services are available and publicly funded in the Annapolis Valley. You can self-refer by calling 1-855-273-7110. We have Mental Health and Addictions therapists on site at the Eastern Kings Memorial Community Health Centre (EKMCHC) next door to our clinic.
Immunizations & screening for chronic conditions
Staying healthy also involves appropriate screening for chronic conditions and immunization. Please ask us about vaccines and screening during your next scheduled appointment.
Immunization is one of the most important public health accomplishments in the past 50 years. The individual and population health benefits of vaccination are scientifically undisputed and supported by a vast body of medical evidence. Vaccines are safe. They are an easily accessible way to maintain good health and prevent diseases that decades ago led to significant illness, hospitalization, and death. Learn about the recommended immunizations for children, youth and adults.
Cancer screening refers to tests that can be done to look for signs of cancer or to see if you are likely to develop cancer. There are 2 types of cancer screening tests: early detection tests and preventive screening tests.
Early detection tests look for cancer that already exists, trying to find it early. Mammograms are an example of an early detection test because they can find breast cancer when it is still really small.
Preventive screening tests look for growths or cells that are likely to become cancer. Pap tests (for cervical cancer screening) are an example of a preventive screening test. Pap tests can find precancerous cells before they become cancer and when they can still be removed so that the cancer never develops. Another example of a preventive screening test is a colonoscopy, which can find growths in the colon called polyps and remove them before they turn into cancer.
There are many types of cancer that do not have screening tests. A good screening test is a test that has a low risk to the patient and a good chance at detecting a cancer if it is present. Importantly, a screening test also has to be reasonably accurate so that false alarms aren’t too common. All screening tests have false positives, and -less commonly- false negatives, so it is important to always bring up any new symptoms or changes with your doctor. A screening test is not a diagnostic test. If a screening test comes back abnormal, it will generally lead your doctor to recommend a more specific test to rule out a cancer.
If you have a family history of certain cancers or conditions, you may be at higher risk than the general population and different screening guidelines or tests may be recommended for you. Please discuss your family history and any changes in family members’ health with your doctor.
Breast Cancer Screening
Cervical Cancer Screening
Colon Cancer Screening
The Colon Cancer Prevention Program (CCPP) was developed by the Nova Scotia Cancer Care Program with the goal of decreasing the number of colon cancer deaths in Nova Scotia by facilitating regular screening of all Nova Scotians aged 50-74. It is available across the province. The CCPP helps find cancer and pre-cancerous growths; if these growths are found early, colon cancer can be prevented.
The CCPP will send you a kit every 2 years until you reach the age of 75. The kit will arrive in the mail shortly after you have an ‘even’ birthday (for example, at ages 56 or 64 or 72). If your kit is positive, you will be called by a CCPP nurse to arrange a colonoscopy with a local specialist.
Some people, for example those with a family history of hereditary colon cancers, people who have inflammatory bowel disease, and individuals with Lynch Syndrome should have earlier (before age 50) colorectal screening in the form of a colonoscopy. Please raise this with us if you believe this could apply to you.
Prostate Cancer Screening
Prostate cancer screening is not universally recommended, but following an informed discussion of risks and benefits and shared decision-making, certain men will choose to have a digital rectal exam and PSA (prostate specific antigen) test. This is appropriate for some patients, but not all. If you are interested in prostate cancer screening or believe you are at higher risk for prostate cancer (e.g. family history of prostate cancer in your father or brother), please book an appointment with your physician to discuss this.
Heart Disease, Stroke & Diabetes Prevention and Screening
Heart disease, stroke and diabetes have major impacts on patient health. 8 in 10 cases of premature heart disease and stroke cases are preventable through healthy lifestyle behaviours. You can significantly reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes by making the following lifestyle choices (click on the links below to learn more):
It is also very important to:
There are numerous guidelines on recommended cardiovascular screening. We generally advise screening blood tests for cholesterol and blood sugar around age 40, but if you have risk factors, this may be recommended at an earlier age. Please ask your doctor about what screening would be appropriate for you.
Bone Health and Osteoporosis
At least 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men will break a bone due to osteoporosis in their lifetime. Fractures from osteoporosis are more common than heart attack, stroke and breast cancer combined. Osteoporotic fractures are associated with loss of mobility, reduced independence and in some cases, death. Learn how getting adequate physical activity and getting enough calcium and vitamin D can help maintain good bone health. Calculate your daily calcium intake. Learn more about osteoporosis on the Osteoporosis Canada website.
Doctors can order bone mineral density (BMD) tests to determine the health of your bones and, when combined with you individual risk factors, your doctor can use this to determine your fracture risk. Bone mineral density tests are usually done with low dosage x-rays every 1-5 years, depending on your risks.
An initial BMD test is is recommended for all men and women age 65 and over.
Both women and men over 50 should be assessed to identify those at higher risk of osteoporosis.
Risk factors for low bone mineral density, future fractures and falls include:
– if either parent has had a hip fracture,
– having had a prior fracture with minimal trauma,
– long-term (more than 3 months) use of glucocorticoid therapy such as prednisone,
– rheumatoid arthritis,
– current smoker,
– history of falls in the past 12 months,
– vertebral fracture apparent on x-ray,
– inadequate physical activity
– high alcohol intake (3 or more drinks per day) and
– weight loss greater than 10% since age 25.