Healthy Living in the North

Tales from the Man Cave: Cancer awareness

A cairn on a rocky surface

The month of November is an important time for men’s health and men’s cancer awareness. Look out for the signs along the way!

Have you seen any extra stubble in your community over the last three days?

November is a great month for cancer support for men because all the lads seem to grow extra-long moustaches to raise awareness for the cause of prostate cancer. This is a good cause, indeed, and needs more support, however I am continually reminded that when it comes to cancer, there is more than the prostate involved and that testing for prostate cancer is something that needs careful discussion with your doctor. Approximately 4,100 men die each year from prostate cancer in Canada.

The Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care, which advises doctors on the benefits of the prostate-specific antigen test (PSA), recommends that screening by PSA should not be done without detailed discussion with the man involved as there are risks involved from harms done through unnecessary treatment.

This is largely due to the nature of the different types of prostate cancer, some of which grow very slowly and some of which are fast-growing. Dr. Mike has a great explanatory video on YouTube.

What about those other cancers? Here’s a short rundown of the worst offenders:

Take testicular cancer, for example. According to the Canadian Cancer Society, in Canada in 2010, 40 men died from testicular cancer.

This is a cancer that can be cured if discovered early and that is why we encourage men (especially young men) to check themselves out. It is a sad thing to lose so many young men to this and it is better to go through life with one less than the alternative.

TIP: Check for lumps or bumps in the shower. 15 -35 is the most common age group for testicular cancer but it can occur at any age so just keep an eye out for anything that isn’t normal for you. HealthLinkBC has some more information on examining yourself.

Similarly, colorectal cancer kills approximately 5,100 men according to Canadian Cancer Society and is silent until well-developed.

That’s why the FIT test is recommended every two years after 50 years of age. This can be followed up by colonoscopy if anything requires further exploration.

Diets high in red meat and processed meats are a risk factor. Physical inactivity is a risk factor, as is obesity, smoking and heavy alcohol use. Diets high in vegetables and fruit lower risk and perhaps offer some protection.

Lung cancer is responsible for 10,900 deaths per year in Canada. Smoking causes 50% of all lung cancers – which is one of the reasons we keep saying “please stop smoking.” If everybody stopped smoking, there would be 5,450 fewer deaths from this disease within a few short years. There are currently no screening tests for lung cancer.

Skin cancer is also rising in numbers. HealthLinkBC has a good article here on what to look for.

The common thread? Changes.

No matter what it is: unusual lumps or bumps, changes in bowel habit, coughing up blood or blood in the toilet. Don’t be embarrassed – go get it checked out! Keep an eye on moles and if you see changes, you know what to do! Yes – check it out with your doctor!

If you bury your head in the sand, they might just bury the rest of you with it.

It only takes a simple appointment. And while you’re at it, ask what other screening options are available 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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Being a little more active

Four adults walking and jogging on a running track

How can you build 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity into your week?

For most of us, being a little more active is something that would bring benefits.

I don’t know about you, but it seems far too easy for me to be able to find some reason not to do my recommended 150 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous activity in bouts of 10 minutes or more. This is recommended for all adults, myself included, who are somewhere between 18 and 64 years of age. Well, at least I’m on some part of that spectrum – LOL!

One would think that doing 15 episodes of moderate to vigorous activity in ten minute periods should be easy. It’s easier than you think, but you may need to change your expectations and what you define as “activity.”

The Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines tell us to mix up moderate and vigorous intensity activities while also adding in muscle and bone strengthening:

  • Moderate-intensity physical activities will cause adults to sweat a little and to breathe harder. This includes activities like riding a bike or walking at a pace.
  • Vigorous-intensity physical activities will cause adults to sweat and be “out of breath.” This includes activities like jogging or cross country skiing.
  • Muscle / bone-strengthening activities help to build strength and balance. This includes activities like yoga or working with weights.

Here’s the link to the different guidelines for all ages. There are also very good suggestions for achieving your goals.

Baseball diamond.

What facilities exist in your community to support you to be more active?

So why does it feel so difficult to keep the activity going?

I think life continually gets in the way and while we’re motivated at some periods, there are always competing interests for our time and so it becomes easy to fall out of if it isn’t a part of our routines.

If you build it into your life, health will come!

Looking at the guidelines, it seems that if we try to do things that we are doing anyways in a more vigorous manner, then we might very well be able to meet our goal without having to change much. Vigorously rake the leaves. Take the stairs. Go for a walk at lunch time (even around the worksite or office if need be). Do the housework with gusto. Whatever helps! Perhaps even keep a record of it for a while and set some goals for yourself.

If you can, build some of those more structured activities into your routines, too. Try something new!

It will seem like work until it seems like life. Therefore, make your life the work you need to do for your health and become as active as you can in this moment.

Good luck and keep trying!

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: Staying healthy is a walk in the park

Walking path beside a river.

Take advantage of the beauty around us to do the healthy thing.

Studies show that being born eventually leads to death 100% of the time in men. OK, I jest, but we men do die sooner than women on average, which is something to think on. So this post is not about the avoidance of death but rather the making of life as good as it gets until that time comes. Everything after that is in the realm of philosophy or theology!

For me, avoiding the consequences of sedentary behaviour are crucial, as studies show that being sedentary is really quite bad for your health. I have also determined that I am so important that it is imperative that I stay alive … you probably feel the same way about yourself! But our world conspires through various means to ensure that we remain sedentary, even if we work hard (generally speaking).

So what is sedentary behaviour?

  • Sitting for long periods, with little movement.
  • Watching TV, working at a computer, playing video games, or even driving.

These days, many people know about health and are striving to keep some level of fitness. When we look around us, gyms are pretty busy and many of us are outside running, jogging, and walking.

So why are so many people “unhealthy”?

It turns out that even if you are an active person (meaning you meet the guideline for adults of 150 minutes per week of physical activity), being sedentary for more than 6 hours a day may actually negate those health benefits.

We can certainly identify many of the culprits:

  • Long commutes to work (read: sitting down in car with higher blood pressure).
  • Sitting at a desk all day for work.
  • The loss of the local store so that most stores are far from the family home (read: sitting down in car with … yeah, you get it!)
  • Stress can also lead us to withdraw, which can mean sitting at home watching TV or being on the computer or our phones either with social media or Netflix, just trying to pass the time and take a little heat off ourselves.

But what if all that sitting down and screen time was actually a major cause or a contributor to stress? It’s a good question and studies agree: we don’t move enough! If you sit 6 hours or more a day, then your behaviour is sedentary. It does not take long to accumulate 6 hours of sitting, either – count how many hours you spent sitting today!

If, like me, you want to live as long as possible, there exists an easy exercise that many can engage in at low cost. Here are the benefits of this easy exercise:

  • Reduces the risk of coronary heart disease as well as lowering that blood pressure.
  • Reduces cholesterol and body fat and increases bone density.
  • Enhances mental well-being and increases flexibility and co-ordination.
  • Reduces the risk of cancer of the colon

Sound good? Let’s give it a shot!

What is it? Well, it’s a walk in the park!

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: Know the signs. Start the conversation. Reach out.

Quote from article

Talking to a person close to you about suicide may be very difficult, but it’s an important step in helping your loved one get the support he needs.

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day and, according to World Health Organization, some 800,000 people die by suicide every year. There are also many more who attempt suicide but are unsuccessful.

Here are some facts:

  • More people in Canada die annually from suicide than from murder.
  • In Canada, 2,700 males die by suicide each year.
  • Suicide ranked as the seventh leading cause of male death in Canada in 2007.
  • In British Columbia, suicide is one of the top three causes of mortality among men aged 15 to 44, costing $209 million in 2010.
  • In Northern Health, suicide is the second leading cause of injury-related death.
  • There were 46 deaths, 263 hospitalizations, 323 ER visits and 55 people left disabled from suicide and self-harm in 2010 in northern B.C.
  • For males in B.C. aged 15-65, the rates were 3-4 times higher than death rates for females.
  • Men tend to report depression less often but also tend to engage more lethal methods for suicide.
  • Some Aboriginal communities have higher rates of suicide.

By the numbers, male suicide is not far behind prostate cancer in terms of death rates in Canada, but it is often a hidden thing and an uncomfortable topic to discuss publicly. Many people who lose family members to suicide are reluctant to acknowledge it because of the stigma. Someone else is always left behind to bear the costs of male suicide and these are largely costs that do not show up in the statistics.

There are many reasons that men decide that they have no other road out than to kill themselves. Mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression can leave an individual looking inward and feeling isolated. They can then easily believe that there is no point to life. Depression distorts thinking and makes the irrational seem plausible.

The difficulty with male depression is that the symptoms are not what we expect and are easy to overlook. Anger, irritability and feelings of being overwhelmed can make talking with someone about these feelings difficult. At the same time, if someone is becoming increasingly irritable about lots of seemingly small things, then maybe depression should spring to mind.

It is time to open the windows and let in some fresh air. We need to build the support for men to feel safe in asking for help. Talking is a great place to start and the more we talk about it, the less difficult it will become. Talking to a person close to you about suicide may be very difficult, but it’s an important step in helping your loved one get the support he needs.

If you have ever thought about hurting yourself or someone else or have been feeling overwhelmed, irritable and not yourself, talk to someone – call 1-800-784-2433 (1-800-SUICIDE). Getting help is the healthiest thing you can do for yourself and your family!

More information

Banner for World Suicide Prevention Day

Preventing Suicide: Reaching Out and Saving Lives

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: Fatigue & workplace safety

Man using chainsaw on a log.

How do you keep your workplace or work site safe? Fatigue can lead to injury so be sure to ask yourself what you can do to ensure that you, your employees, or your family members are safe at work.

At 39 years of age, John never thought that he would be among the disabled.

His Monday started off very well. He had the usual commute, half awake, sipping on his coffee mug, driving to work. It had been a late night again last night and, in fact, he had had quite a few late nights recently. The days appeared to be beginning to merge into one another. It seemed to John that he had been working 24/7 for quite a few weeks now.

The job was OK once he mastered it and he had been doing it for years. He was progressing well with the renovation jobs. Climbing ladders or going on roofs was easy for him as a tradesman and he always made sure he took the appropriate safety precautions. Nothing he couldn’t handle.

Today, he would find out, was different. Today, tired after several long days and experiencing fatigue, John would make a judgment error. He would get injured on the job. Life would change for John, suddenly and mercilessly. He would no longer be able to go out on Saturday mornings to kick the ball with his boys. He would no longer be able to continue with the job he had been doing for years. Life would change this Monday and it would take years to recover from it.

John, obviously a made up character, is actually more common than we would like to think. Labour Day, like the National Day of Mourning on April 28, provides us with an opportunity to think about how we can support safe workplaces and to remember lives lost or injured in the workplace. Northern B.C. has more than its fair share of workplace injuries and deaths due to the nature of its industry, but we have the power to change these statistics.

Like our character John, many of us are tired because of hard work and long hours that lead to fatigue. Fatigue is a serious workplace safety issue, however, and can even be a killer. It’s very important to balance hard work with enough rest and recreation. WorkSafe BC has more information about the dangers of fatigue in the workplace.

If you, your employees, or your family members are starting to feel like John in our story, ask yourself what you can change to make life a little more balanced and a little safer.

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: Going to your doctor is the “man-healthy” option. Why should you visit?

Man with his arm around a statue.

Talking to someone about your body and health concerns can be frightening – you may prefer statues – but Jim challenges men to be vulnerable for a while. A quick chat with the doctor can empower you to make choices about health before you are forced to be talking about disease.

It would be great if we could all cut disease off at the pass and catch every ailment before it developed.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could consign disease to history with each of us simply dying in our own beds of old age?

This is a utopian dream, of course, but it is grounded in the need to move our focus from illness to health. That is my discussion here and in my opinion we actually need to access our doctors before we develop a reason to go see one.

The problem with us males might be that we tend to think that if we can work, then we must be healthy. Sometimes we also have the tendency to bury our heads in the sand and ignore the warning signs. I recently did that myself!

Going to the doctor once a year for that face-to-face time or to check blood work or blood pressure is the healthy option for men. I have heard men say that they would not visit a doctor in case “they found something.” As much as I understand that nobody wants to have “something”, it is generally better to have that “something” discovered before it bites your backside and is too late to treat effectively.

The need to try and find disease before it happens is not only wise, but is a strategy employed in many civilized nations with public health departments. Strategies such as immunization and health education are well advanced and often taken for granted. As are such things as access to clean drinking water and sanitation. Without these, many people become ill and many die.

Going to your doctor causes little harm in itself (perhaps some anxiety) and actually empowers you to make choices about your health before you are talking about your disease.

Discussing changes in our bodies and concerns about our health with our doctors gives us the best chance at avoiding some types of cancer and heart disease by making lifestyle changes when they’re still effective at improving our health. Stopping smoking, eating more vegetables and fruit, managing stress and living an active life can not only help us live longer, but live better. Feel better for longer.

Death – so far – has not been overcome, I am told.

Talk to your doctor and be a little vulnerable for a while. No one needs to know about it.

All the best.

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: Stress

Cloudy skies

Stress can feel like there are storm clouds overhead.

Stress is an unavoidable part of our daily lives. It can motivate us to get things done, but it can also overwhelm us if we don’t know how to manage it. It is said that about 20% of the population will suffer from serious stress issues at some point in their lives. Pressure at work, trouble with relationships, and our own expectations can all lead to increased levels of stress. Chronic stress can lead to disease and therefore it’s important to learn to manage our stress in healthy ways.

Stress can lead to a number of physical problems and in the long term even damage blood vessels, contributing to heart disease, high blood pressure and various other ailments.

Stress can also really affect your thinking and feelings. We have likely all had stressful thoughts and feelings at various times during our lives, but if they persist, they can lead to something more serious like depression and anxiety, which will need professional help.

Below are some examples of thoughts and feelings that might be an indication that stress in your life is becoming unmanageable and that you might need help:

  • You may have persistent thoughts about things going wrong and can even have panic attacks. You may believe you have screwed things up in your life or feel like a failure. You might feel full of doom and gloom about your life and find yourself waiting for the worst to happen.
  • You may often feel unwell and tense.
  • You might feel as if you have no energy for anything. You slow down.
  • You might be more irritable and you may be quick to lose your temper.
  • You’re not able to concentrate like you used to.
  • You might not sleep well or you can’t “switch off”.
  • You may also feel worthless or hopeless. You cry a lot.
  • You find yourself drinking too much or using other substances to cope.
  • You might avoid certain places in case something bad happens. You escape from places when you feel tense. You retreat from life and try to protect yourself against the world.

These things can come on either slowly over time or suddenly after a major life crisis. It can be like a vicious downward cycle that feeds on you – there is a close link between stress, anxiety, panic, depression, poor sleep, and substance abuse. Anxiety and depression are very commonly found together.

Like many things in life, these feelings and conditions can be either mild, moderate or severe. If you feel it is all too much, you need help and you need to talk to someone about it.

Did you know? Although women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression, men are 3-4 times more likely to die by suicide.What can be done?

There are many things in general that can be done to defeat or manage stress symptoms.

  • Talking to someone is a great way to help yourself! There is no shame in being vulnerable as this can also help others to reach out to you.
  • Exercise has been demonstrated to reduce the effects of stress and has the spin off that it can make you feel healthier and feel good with the release of all those “feel good” chemicals.
  • Write down a list of stressors in your life. Often the very act of writing down the stressful things can give you a more realistic view and you might see ways to reduce your stress that you hadn’t thought of yet.
  • Reduce your intake of caffeine and alcohol as both can worsen stress and anxiety. Caffeine can increase jitteriness and anxious feelings and alcohol can make you feel depressed. In the long term, alcohol can make you anxious and even lead to panic attacks.
  • Healthy eating and good nutrition has also been shown to be helpful in combating stress, giving the body the energy and nutrients it needs to fight stress effects.
  • Take a “one thing at a time” approach to help you get through the tasks of the day and to stop you from running everything together and going over things again and again.
  • Focus on the positive and try to find at least 5 things each day to be thankful for. Gratitude works in changing the conversation from negative and self-deprecating to positive and grateful.
  • Try yoga and meditation. Maybe it’s time to join a group and change up your life and learn some new things. Research shows that meditation is very useful in helping people cope with stress. People can learn that they are ‘not’ their thoughts and that thinking and self are different. This can help combat negative thoughts.
  • Avoid isolating yourself and think about doing things for other people. Helping others helps us to feel better about ourselves. Join a group of some kind to give you an interest that is different from family and work.
  • Go to a counsellor. There are many well-researched thought and behaviour therapies that can help people re-imagine their lives for the better.
  • Talk to your doctor about your stress if you are having trouble coping. There are ways that your doctor can help with anxiety and depression.

Some people can become so stressed that they may even consider suicide.

If you have suicidal thoughts or thoughts about death you need to speak to your doctor and counsellor immediately. I know what you’re thinking: “But I’m a man, Jim, I shouldn’t ask for help.” I’m here to tell you that you can ask for help and that it makes you an even stronger man for doing so. You can call a crisis line and talk to someone there confidentially or seek emergency help by calling 911.

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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Spreading men’s health across the north!

Two speakers at a conference.

Holly Christian (Northern Health) and Trevor Kehoe (First Nations Health Authority) speak at Men’s Health Works. What can you do to promote men’s health?

When working in an emerging area of health promotion in the north, it can often feel like you’re the lone soldier on the battlefield. The battle we are currently waging is men’s health.

Statistics on the cost of men’s health in Canada released by the Canadian Men’s Health Foundation are startling to say the least and highlight the ongoing need for prevention work.

Northern Health has been a key player in the men’s health movement in Canada, gaining much attention for the cause with the release of the insightful Where are the Men? report. That’s not to say there aren’t other groups working on men’s health in larger centres. There are also groups focused on specific men’s health issues. We’re likely all aware of the Movember phenomenon and many other pockets of prostate cancer work being done.

However, men’s health is complex and involves more than just their testicles. The risks for chronic disease (including sedentary behaviour, obesity, poor diet, stress and smoking) are showing up in all men of all age groups. In fact, there’s never been a better time to come out from behind the 8-ball (pardon the pun) and figure out our next move.

Men’s Health Works

On June 8, 2015, thanks to the Centre for Excellence in Cancer Prevention and the BC Healthy Living Alliance, researchers, health promotion staff and community members came together in Prince George for the Men’s Health Works workshop. It was a great opportunity to showcase, for a northern audience, men’s health work happening across B.C. and beyond!

Men’s Health Works covered topics including men’s health in the workplace, suicide and depression, First Nations men’s health, and a highlight of POWERPLAY and Working on Wellness, two research projects taking place in northern, male-dominated workplaces (to learn more about Working on Wellness, check out the latest issue of A Healthier You magazine!).

The passion for men’s health in the room was evident! The fact that the men’s health message is spreading is a testament to the work of not only researchers and health authorities like Northern Health, but the amazing work of community members who are making men’s health a priority and talking about it at home, work, school, and on the ground!

My key takeaway messages from the workshop were:

  • Women have a huge role to play in the health of men. As mothers, sisters, daughters, spouses, aunties, cousins and friends, they need to encourage and support the men in their lives to prioritize their health.
  • Workplaces are in a unique position to support men’s health in an environment where men spend most of their time. Policies that support health both at work and after work lead to healthier, happier workers.
  • Local champions for men’s health can have a big impact in their communities.
  • Current Canadian research is leading to the development of resources aimed at men that address depression, suicide, and social isolation.

What can you do to help promote men’s health?

Holly Christian

About Holly Christian

Holly Christian is a Regional Lead for Population Health. She has a passion for healthy living and health promotion and is a foodie at heart. Originally from Ontario, she has fully embraced northern living, but enjoys the warmth of the sun and the sound of the ocean. She swims, bikes and runs, and just completed her first marathon.

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Tales from the Man Cave: Sun is fun but you need to take precautions

Airplane in a sunny sky

If you’re out in the sun – maybe taking in Quesnel’s SkyFest this weekend – be sure to take precautions like wearing a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen.

I just heard about a new skin disease. Well, it’s as new to me as this lump on my head. Funny, that! Here’s what happened:

Bald guy shaves head, notices a lump about size of sixpence (bigger than a penny, smaller than a nickel for you Canadians!) that feels like sandpaper and is real itchy.

Bald guy’s inside voice thinks, “What is that? Don’t know, but it’s OK.”

Eventually, I visit my doc for something else.

Lo and behold, the doctor he sees the lump and pronounces: actinic keratosis!

“What’s that about my hairy toes?” I think.

Actinic keratosis. The sun has damaged my skin. I mention this because as we age, it is so easy to discount certain things as occurring “just because” we are getting older. Some of them are linked to simply getting older and some are not, so it really is best to get thoroughly checked out if you’re suspicious of anything. It can do no harm. I messed up this time and should’ve connected with my doctor after that first itch. But I’m getting ahead of myself!

I had had this lump for about 4 months and thought, “it’s OK, it will heal next week.” And then when it did not heal, I would say to myself, “it does not look like a melanoma to me, so I will wait and see.” And so I waited 4 months and finally asked my doctor as an aside after much prompting from wife.

So, looking back and given the fact that I am always telling others to get checkups, why did I just ignore the lump and my own advice and chalk it up to “getting older”? I think that I did so for the same reason as a lot of other guys do: I just thought that this was no big deal. That I would be OK. Luckily for me, I was – but what if I was not?

Actinic keratosis is a skin disorder that can be pre-cancerous but, luckily, is very easily treated with nitrous oxide. It can, however, develop into squamous cell cancer, which, although also easily removed, can get into the lymphatic system and spread. This, of course, is not such a good outcome but is mostly avoidable by paying attention to the skin around the areas exposed to the sun, like the top of your head, ears, face, shoulders and chest.

So, sun is fun, but make sure you cover up and take precautions! HealthLink BC has some information about that.

I am a pink flamingo, never tanned in my life, but I do like the sun. Even today, I caught myself out in the yard without a hat.

Doing the right thing is not so easy sometimes, but my summertime resolution is to cover up and wear a wide-brimmed hat, sunscreen and shades when I am outdoors. Even if I add long sleeves and pants to the mix, there is no reason why I should not be still enjoying the good weather.

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: There’s no smoke without fire

Stuart Lake

Keep an eye on air quality before planning your days this summer! With wildfires raging and dry conditions so far this year, not all days will be as clear as this beautiful afternoon at Stuart Lake!

With B.C. wildfires – including plenty in northern B.C. – dominating the headlines recently, I’m worried.

I’m worried that soon – and for some of you this may already be the case – I will be stuck indoors as outside there will be two enemies of my personal health which will keep me imprisoned:

  1. The smell of smoke in the air from a forest fire, which makes me cough.
  2. That lovely sun, which recently hit 32 degrees for me, even in the shade. I took my wall thermometer off the wall to see what the temperature would be if I placed it in the sun. Within minutes it went to 42 degrees! Standing still for any length of time will do that to your skin, too! 42 degrees. Holy smokes! It was not quite a scientific experiment, but all the same, it was very hot!

The recent headlines and my past experiences during this time of year got me thinking about wellness and all the other issues related to these two conditions, like air quality advisories and sunscreen.

At one point last year, my local air quality health index was at 7, which is high risk. Given the current fire situation, I suspect that I’ll see that number again this year – some of you may have already. You can check your local air quality at bcairquality.ca.

So, what’s the advice given to those of us with respiratory ailments, children and the elderly at these levels?

Take it easy, stay indoors if you can (well, yes, it may also be plus 30!), and try and avoid strenuous activities during the period of the warning. This, I should say, also applies to the general population. If you are working outside and it’s causing you to cough, maybe you should take it easy, too. Catch up with the yard work another time.

And did I mention sun? I don’t think I have to tell folks these days that as beautiful as it is, it also harbours some dangers in the form of skin cancer from too much exposure. Use a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher and spend as little time in the sun as possible. Higher SPF doesn’t mean you can stay out longer! Also, try to cover up as much skin as possible, especially if you are as fair as I am, and especially on top of your head.

Lastly, keep an eye on local air quality advisories, especially if there are forest fires out in your area as exposure to smoke and particulates can trigger asthma and worsen other respiratory ailments.

Happy holidays!

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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