Healthy Living in the North

The Grizzly Truth: Setting a Healthy Sleep Routine

Falling asleep with Netflix isn't a good idea.Happy summer everyone! First, I would like to thank Trent for doing some citation checks last month when I questioned who coined the quote I used as a leading statement in my last blog post. We may make you an honorary member of the Grizzly Truth Internet Sleuthing Department. ;)

I hope you are enjoying the added daylight hours and getting the most out of this time of year, whether that’s fishing, camping, hiking, or any important seasonal rituals you may have. See what I did there?

One drawback to the extra daytime hours is that it may interfere with our sleeping patterns. Sleep is something many of us have occasional difficultly with and research indicates this can impact our overall wellness. Studies have identified that difficulty with sleep is a common issue for people with mental health concerns, but recently it has been questioned whether the difficulty with sleep was one of the contributing factors for an illness or if the sleep problems emerged as part of the illness. Regardless, there is consensus that practicing sleep hygiene is beneficial to our health.

Now, this is something I have set some personal goals around because when you start to look into the tips and practices that are encouraged for healthy sleep habits, I recognize that I have some improvement to do. Areas that pose challenges for me are: having a soothing pre-sleep routine, avoiding night-time clock watching, and being conscientious of nighttime eating and snacking. I can think of a number of nights where I thought I would try to catch up on Game of Thrones right before bed and then found myself lying awake and cursing George R.R Martin and his fondness for killing off beloved characters. Having my phone and iPad close by while I am sleeping also creates issues as I hear my e-mail notification noise and inevitably make the mistake of “quickly checking my e-mail” before calling it a night.

In my research into this, I found a great article offering 12 tips for improving quality of sleep, from the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Furthermore, there are some really great resources you can access for free on YouTube around progressive relaxation and guided imagery that help you relax and can become part of a pre-sleep routine (see some resources below). Other tips, like avoiding stimulants such as nicotine in cigarettes or coffee before bed, can cause more of a challenge for those of us with habits, but might give you some food for thought if you are thinking about making other lifestyle changes.

Do you have a pre-sleep routine, or do you have any practices around sleep hygiene that you’ve found particularly helpful? Please share in the comments below, and I hope that by next month we’ll all be feeling well rested and relaxed so we can enjoy our brief but beautiful northern summer!

More resources:

Nick Rempel

About Nick Rempel

Nick Rempel is the clinical educator for Mental Health and Addictions, northwest B.C. He posts a monthly blog, "The Grizzly Truth," which aims to shed light on men's mental wellness. Nick has lived in northern B.C. his entire life and received his education from the University of Northern BC with a degree in nursing. He enjoys playing music, going to the gym, and watching movies in his spare time.

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Practising Safe Boating

Canoe fishing on a lakeOkay I’ll admit it. I like to have a beer now and again. Drinking is a part of a lot of our lives, but sometimes it’s just not a good idea.

Awhile back, my wife and I went canoeing on a popular lake north of town. It was a good day, clear and sunny. During our paddle around the lake we were almost capsized by a couple of guys in a power boat. We made it back to the beach safely but it was a close call.

When we got back on land we encountered the guys from the power boat. They were not “bad people.” They apologized for almost overturning us and offered us each a beer from a cooler between the seats. There were empties rattling around in the bottom of the boat and both looked to be a little bit drunk. Now these guys would probably not drive a car after drinking but they thought of going out in a boat as something different. It didn’t occur to them that impaired is impaired or that a boat is a motor vehicle.

Because of the work I do, I know that according to the Canadian Red Cross, about 200 people will die in boating accidents in Canada this year and that 25% of those will have alcohol in their blood. About 40% of all boating mishaps involve alcohol. Operating a vessel while under the influence is a Criminal Code offence. Drinking on a boat that does not have onboard living accommodations is an offence as well.

We all want to have a good time. Part of having a good time is getting home safe.

How are you and your family staying safe on the water this summer?

Resources:

Andrew Burton

About Andrew Burton

Andrew is a tobacco reduction coordinator for Northern Health’s population health team and works to support healthy living practices in communities across northern B.C. Andrew is developing positive activity and diet practices for two reasons: to deal with his own health concerns, and to “walk the talk” of promoting healthy living. Building on his training and experience in creative arts therapy, Andrew founded and runs the Street Spirits Theatre program promoting social responsibility among young people. This work has been recognized nationally and internationally as a leading method of social change.

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Tales from the Man Cave: Heart Advice for Men’s Health Week

A healthy heart is essential to be a healthy man.

A healthy heart is essential to be a healthy man.

In honour of Men’s Health Week, I want to talk about things men (and everyone, really) can do to help reduce the risk of heart disease. To do the subject justice would require a book but for today I will mention only the briefest of actions that can be carried out.

Here is my list of factors you may be able to change which will help the health of your heart:

  1.  Smoking. Just quit. This is beyond doubt the number one thing you can (and should) do. It is the number one modifiable factor under your control which can help you have a longer life. About 30% of all deaths from heart disease in the U.S. are directly related to cigarette smoking.
  2. High blood pressure. Cigarette smoking injures the lining of the blood vessels and increases the risk of developing blood clots, which contributes to hardening of the arteries. Even inhaling others’ cigarette smoke has been shown to lower good cholesterol. Studies have shown that HDL levels often go up soon after a person quits smoking.
  3. High blood cholesterol. Fatty foods are a contribution to poor heart health. Check out Canada’s Food Guide for advice on eating well.
  4. Diabetes. I’m talking about type 2 diabetes which can come under your control somewhat by monitoring what you eat and engaging in physical activity.
  5. Physical inactivity. Plan to do at least 30 minutes of physical activity a week. If you work in an office make a plan to stand up many times during your working day. Remember our mantra “every move counts.” Decrease screen time and get outside as much as possible. Walk the dog or just walk.
  6. Canada's Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines

    From Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines

    Excessive alcohol consumption. Drinking too much alcohol can increase your blood pressure and contribute to the development of heart disease and stroke, among other things. Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines can help you.

  7. Stress. The direct relationship between stress and heart disease perhaps lies in all of the above. If people have stressful lives, suffer anxiety and depressed mood, these can contribute to all of the other negative behaviours and at the same time make changing behaviour much more difficult. Increased alcohol consumption, comfort eating and watching more movies on TV, may provide short-term stress relief through self-medication, but in the long run will not work well for you. It’s better to go for short walks in nature and learn some relaxation strategy such as meditation. Decrease alcohol consumption and increase physical activity to release those feel good hormones and engage with the family and community. In addition to this guys need to talk about their stressors.

No one can guarantee the health of your heart in the future but by following some simple steps you can decrease your risk and feel less stressed.

Jim Coyle

About Jim Coyle

Jim is a tobacco reduction coordinator with the men’s health program, and has a background in psychiatry and care of the elderly. In former times, Jim was director of care at Simon Fraser Lodge and clinical coordinator at the Brain Injury Group. He came to Canada from Glasgow, Scotland 20 years ago and, when not at work, Jim plays in the band Out of Alba and spends time with his family.

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A focus on our people: Partnerships for better care

In the latest CEO video blog, Cathy is excited to highlight one of the exceptional partnerships that exist to help Northern Health provide high quality services to northerners. In this example, Cathy speaks with Christa Keating and Tanya Schilling about partnering with UNBC and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union to provide men’s health screening at Maher Terminals in Prince Rupert, B.C.

Cathy Ulrich

About Cathy Ulrich

Cathy became NH president and chief executive officer in 2007, following five years as vice president, clinical services and chief nursing officer for Northern Health. Before the formation of Northern Health, she worked in a variety of nursing and management positions in Northern B.C., Manitoba, and Alberta. Most of her career has been in rural and northern communities where she has gained a solid understanding of the unique health needs of rural communities. Cathy has a nursing degree from the University of Alberta, a master’s degree in community health sciences from the University of Northern BC, and is still actively engaged in health services research, teaching and graduate student support.

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Men, this week’s for you!

Where are the men?

The NH men’s health program launched in 2011 with this report, “Where are the Men?”, which focused on the health status of northern B.C. men.

On June 3, the new Canadian Men’s Health Foundation was officially launched on Parliament Hill, with the mission to inspire Canadian men to live healthier lives. Along with that, their “Don’t Change Much” campaign was released, and June 9 – 15 has been declared as the first ever Canadian Men’s Health Week. This is another step in bringing much needed attention to the health issues affecting men and the challenges we face in accessing men with our current health services.

Men’s health isn’t a new topic in northern B.C. In fact, we’ve been working to support better health for our northern men since 2010, using new and innovative ways to find and connect with them about health where they live, work, learn, play and are cared for. Our northern reality is that many of our men here live and work in more rural and remote locations, hold jobs related to industry (forestry, oil and natural gas), and work long hours and shift work – often away from the family home base.

Northern Health’s men’s health program, unique for a Canadian health authority and launched in 2011, was born out of the recognition that northern B.C. men not only die sooner than northern women by almost 5 years, they also die more frequently of all causes including cancer, heart disease, alcohol, tobacco, injuries and suicides. B.C. men are twice as likely as women to be non-users of the health services and although northern B.C. makes up only 7% of the province’s population, we account for over a third of the workplace deaths, where 94% of those were men.

MANual: Men's health survival guide

Northern Health developed the MANual: A Men’s Health Survival Guide in 2012.

In the last three years, the men’s health program has done a lot of work consulting with men in communities across the north and creating resources and services to meet their needs. Most notably, we have brought men’s health screening to community events and gatherings where the men are; engaged with research partners around men’s health in the workplace; run a number of promotional campaigns (the “MAN challenge”, MOvember, MANuary, FeBROary); provided grants for injury prevention/men’s health champions to do work in the community; created an interactive men’s health website (men.northernhealth.ca); developed the very popular  MANual: a Men’s Health Survival Guide; and filmed a documentary called “Where are the Men?”.

Looking forward, our work in men’s health has only just begun! We continue to grow and improve upon the services we offer to men in northern B.C., while sharing the importance of men’s health within the health care system, as well as in communities. We’re working to improve the health of men, because men matter! Let’s celebrate the great work being done and the efforts across Canada to bring men’s health issues to the forefront. Let’s get men talking about their health!

Happy Men’s Health Week!

Holly Christian

About Holly Christian

Holly Christian is the NH Men's Health Coordinator. Previous to this, she worked as the school nutrition lead for Northern Health’s population health department. Her passion for food and health promotion drew her to the nutrition field and she relocated to northern B.C. from the east coast. Although she has fully embraced northern living, she enjoys the warmth of the sun and the sound of the ocean. She stays active by training for triathlons, and is looking forward to this year’s community garden harvest – a personal experiment that is so far succeeding!

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Tales from the Man Cave: World No Tobacco Day

A picture of the sun in the sky with the headline World No Tobacco Day and the subheading the sun will still shine tomorrow

Will this sunrise be the one that sees you quit tobacco?

Last year, when writing about World No Tobacco Day, I challenged you to drop the “World” and make it “Your No Tobacco Day” so that you knew exactly who’s in charge of quitting tobacco products.

I’m happy to report that a friend, and a reader of this blog, took up that challenge and successfully quit. My heart is with my friend’s family, with hopes that they may continue to live smoke free for life.

Quitting tobacco is the most difficult of tasks. There are many theories surrounding addiction. Some are brain based, centered on the mind or psyche. Some suggest that vulnerable individuals are more likely to become addicted than “normal” people. Some say we’re all addicted to something. Maybe it’s work, cleanliness, or food. Perhaps it’s control, the internet, or your own beliefs. Some research suggests there is an empty space deep within each of us that needs filling. An abyss, if you like. Others suggest that we self-medicate to reduce the pain of a stressful world.

Personally, I feel that all of these things ring true to some degree and that if you have to be addicted to something, make that one addiction something positive, like exercise. Am I correct? I don’t think it matters.

At an individual level, there is only you and the struggle you face to be free of that which harms you. There is help out there, like nicotine replacement, and informed evidence suggests that using that help improves your chances of quitting.

But, regardless of the help, the battle is yours.

Sure it’s World No Tobacco Day on May 31, but really its world with a small ”w”, your world. I hope you take up the challenge and good luck to you.

Jim Coyle

About Jim Coyle

Jim is a tobacco reduction coordinator with the men’s health program, and has a background in psychiatry and care of the elderly. In former times, Jim was director of care at Simon Fraser Lodge and clinical coordinator at the Brain Injury Group. He came to Canada from Glasgow, Scotland 20 years ago and, when not at work, Jim plays in the band Out of Alba and spends time with his family.

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Tales from the Man Cave: Top 5 yard work safety tips

top 5 yard work safety tips

Get outside and tidy up that yard! But be safe about it.

I am sitting in my home office contemplating the grueling aspects of going out and raking the last of the leaves from Fall. The ones that I was sitting in my office contemplating raking last Fall.

I am told that contemplation is good for mental health, so as long as I keep thinking about this, I should be ok – Right?! But it looks awful, and I sense the nagging question, “What will the neighbours say?”

So I go outside, into the brisk and breezy day and as you’d expect, all that contemplation from last year is coming back to haunt me. There is a deck that needs painting and some repairs to the façade of the house and everywhere I turn there is something needing done and the angst is growing.

Then it hits me! I am suffering from one of the diseases of modern life: maintenance hysteria! It is a serious business, everywhere I look all I see is manicured lawns and perfect facades. Everywhere, that is, except mine. The only disease to take over this one is procrastination, and wouldn’t you know it, I have already returned to the TV… only to be taunted, as I furiously hit the remote, by Mike Holmes and Brian Baeumler, TV home improvement heroes.

I am sweating profusely now and my heart is pounding in my chest. I run from the TV and into the garage to find the chainsaw to fix the broken fence, but I can’t find it because of all the recycling product that I have not returned yet.

So my key message this week (besides the fact that chainsaws aren’t all that helping in fixing fences)? You know you have to do it. So do it safely. All kidding aside, there are real hazards.

Here is my list of top 5 yard work safety tips:

  1. Warm your body up by having a nice little walk in the sun or the yard before doing anything too strenuous. Stretch a little and then swing that bloody sledgehammer.
  2. Wear the right clothing for the job. Moving machinery has potential to cause serious harm even death.  Flying rocks that come off the machine or other objects can cause serious eye damage and even eye loss. Hearing can be damaged due to excessive noise levels. So wearing the appropriate clothing, such as long trousers and long sleeves as well as proper shoes or boots is a good idea. Put on the safety goggles and ear muffs and avoid any loose clothing that could get caught in machinery. You might also want a hat or ball cap too to protect your head from the sun.
  3. Don’t forget the H20! Keep yourself properly hydrated when it’s warm and you’re working hard.
  4. Be aware of who’s around you. Kids and pets have a tendency to sneak up on you, so make sure you know who’s around to avoid any potential for others to be injured.  Unfortunately, there are hundreds of thousands of lawn mowing accidents worldwide every year. Some fatal.
  5. Be mindful of your back and lift properly! It’s far too easy to put it out by heavy lifting of bags of soil or mulch or just plain old shoveling. Make sure you’re not biting off more than you can chew and bend those knees and use your thighs to take the wait.

So although I like to try and stay in the humour zone, I am afraid that injury is no laughing matter and with a little thought, is mostly avoidable. But certainly, don’t be afraid to get outside! Working in our yards is great physical activity, and being productive and enjoying the sun is great for our mental wellness too.

I wish you all a great summer – safe and enjoyable.

 

Jim Coyle

About Jim Coyle

Jim is a tobacco reduction coordinator with the men’s health program, and has a background in psychiatry and care of the elderly. In former times, Jim was director of care at Simon Fraser Lodge and clinical coordinator at the Brain Injury Group. He came to Canada from Glasgow, Scotland 20 years ago and, when not at work, Jim plays in the band Out of Alba and spends time with his family.

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Tales from the Man Cave: Immunization is the healthy option

ImmunizationNext week is national immunization week. Immunization can be a hot topic and I can be very opinionated, so, as you’d expect, here is an opinion.

We are not immune to misfortune or disease. Today there are many who oppose immunization on principle or for reasons of fear.

Celebrity has played a large role in this with scaremongering regarding immunization and sometimes well intentioned celebs put out ill-informed information with a great deal of authority, which then becomes part of societal thinking, thereby informing behaviour.

The stakes are high and what is on the table is life itself.

I had a 3-year-old who developed meningococcal meningitis. It’s no laughing matter. We were told he had a 50/50 chance. My wife took the high road and I the low road.

In my mind I was losing a son; she could not even consider such a possibility. We were 24/7 around his bedside in hospital until he pulled through and it was the most stressful thing that has ever happened to me.

Turns out she was right and for that I am forever thankful.

So from experience I am informed of the great need for immunization.

Some of the offenders have been on the planet for millions, or like E. coli, even billions of years. Some we thought were dead are reemerging.

If we look back 200 to 300 years, which in the whole scheme of things is not all that long, we will see many deaths in childhood, from scarlet fever, chicken pox, whooping cough, Polio, diphtheria and measles, not to mention Tuberculosis and others.

In fact, we only need look to the 1918-20s for the famous Spanish influenza outbreak following on the tail end of WWI, which killed an enormous amount of healthy Europeans, to see the need for immunization.

So although I know there is no point in scaremongering regarding these things I can tell you at a personal level the agony of watching a child hang in the balance and praying that the scales tip in his favor.

Be informed about immunization and take the responsibility not to pass influenza, for example, on to a more vulnerable population who might not survive it. Immunization is the healthy option.

Jim Coyle

About Jim Coyle

Jim is a tobacco reduction coordinator with the men’s health program, and has a background in psychiatry and care of the elderly. In former times, Jim was director of care at Simon Fraser Lodge and clinical coordinator at the Brain Injury Group. He came to Canada from Glasgow, Scotland 20 years ago and, when not at work, Jim plays in the band Out of Alba and spends time with his family.

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The Grizzly Truth: reflecting on rituals

Reflecting on ritual: eulichan runningWhile attending some educational meetings last week I had the opportunity to listen to a speaker by the name of Dr. Glen Grigg, who is a clinical counsellor and teacher for City University in Vancouver and the Justice Institute of BC.

Glen spoke about rituals and the role they play in our health and wellness. Glen shared a story about a family in a war torn environment where the mother made a point of having the children continue the daily rituals around preparing for and attending school (taught by the mother), having meals together (despite having next to no food), and doing homework.

Glen highlighted that consistency with our rituals, particularly those that are deeply rooted with our identity, can be a protective factor during times of turmoil and stress. He posed the following question:

Can you think of a ritual in your life, and make a story about how it defines a part of who you are?

This led to some deep introspection on my part, as well as a little bit of anxiety when I began to self-diagnose some of my rituals as potentially compulsive behaviors (for example, I have a ritual around the way I enjoy one of my favorite TV shows, Mystery Science Theatre 3000, and I will refuse to start the episode unless everything is prepared accordingly).

The second part of the exercise, looking for a story that explains a part of who I am, has occupied a lot of my thinking lately. I had the opportunity to travel to Prince Rupert this week, and it so happens that the eulichan fish are currently running. I am aware of the significance of the eulichan for the First Nations of this area and that there are a number of rituals tied to the catching and processing of these fish. I am sure many individuals who engage in these rituals would be able to share stories that highlight the personal and cultural significance of the fish and the practices. I took a picture of all of the activity on the water around the running eulichan and took some time to do some personal reflection.

I was reminded that the only fish I’ve brought home since moving to Terrace have been donations from friends (my goal this summer is to go river fishing and come home with my own fish, not just a story of the one that got away!). One ritual that has had significant impact on my life recently is starting to read together with my wife. I think this ritual tells more of a story about our relationship than telling a story about me as an individual. The process of choosing a book to read, settling in and getting comfortable together, and then reading/being read to all have meaning associated with them. The net result has been a protected time to be close as a couple, where neither of us necessarily need to think about the words to say because they’re written for us and we can simply be present with one another.

If anyone is interested in sharing, I would be very interested to hear your responses and thoughts about a ritual that helps you stay well. What story does it tell about who you are? I would also be keen to hear from anyone who does catch and prepare eulichan, as I don’t know as much about the practices and rituals involved as I would like! Your turn – share in the comments below!

Additional reading on rituals:

Nick Rempel

About Nick Rempel

Nick Rempel is the clinical educator for Mental Health and Addictions, northwest B.C. He posts a monthly blog, "The Grizzly Truth," which aims to shed light on men's mental wellness. Nick has lived in northern B.C. his entire life and received his education from the University of Northern BC with a degree in nursing. He enjoys playing music, going to the gym, and watching movies in his spare time.

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Tales from the Man Cave: Colon Cancer Screening

Beat colon cancerOver the last few years I have personally lost some good friends to this terrible disease.

Colon cancer is one of those diseases that can be detected early and treatment can be started before it gets out of hand. Generally speaking, survival rates are better the earlier the cancer is diagnosed.

I can’t emphasize enough the need to let your family doctor know who you are every now and then and get a health screening at least once a year, once you are getting over 40. At least arrange an appointment and discuss with your physician what screening might be appropriate for your age. After 50, please go and discuss which option is best for you with your family doctor.

These cancers can be treated early and many are preventable. Changes in bowel movement such as blood in the toilet are always a good reason to visit your doctor. Chances are that it’s just due to internal hemorrhoids, but don’t bury your head in the sand. Changes in bowel habit either accompanied or unaccompanied by abdominal pain would also be another good reason to see the doc. Family history of bowel cancer is a powerful reason to take the test.

The new FIT test (Faecal Immunochemical Test), which your doctor can order, can be carried out every two years or so after the age of 50 and up to 74 years of age. It’s an easier test to take than a colonoscopy and it’s from the comfort of your own bathroom. For the FIT test, it’s a case of check your poo in the loo and take the sample back to the lab. Simple.

Many of us pay more attention to our teeth than our longevity!

Other tests such as checking blood sugar, blood pressure, tests for prostate cancer and cholesterol screening  can all be quite easily done. These can inform you of what lifestyle changes you might make to improve your changes of a healthy long life.

Lifestyle changes often require commitment, of course, but are much easier than going through chemotherapy or surgery.

There are no guarantees in life but a little friendly advice from a healthcare provider and a little reading accompanied by small changes in diet etc. might just help you dodge a bullet.

Jim Coyle

About Jim Coyle

Jim is a tobacco reduction coordinator with the men’s health program, and has a background in psychiatry and care of the elderly. In former times, Jim was director of care at Simon Fraser Lodge and clinical coordinator at the Brain Injury Group. He came to Canada from Glasgow, Scotland 20 years ago and, when not at work, Jim plays in the band Out of Alba and spends time with his family.

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