Healthy Living in the North

The fountain of youth

Man in boat on lake.

Reg plans on spending his senior years on the lake and is making choices now to help make that happen. What will you choose?

Have you ever heard about the fabled fountain of youth? In the 1400s, the indigenous peoples of Puerto Rico and Cuba told early Spanish explorers about a fountain with miraculous powers that would restore the youth of whoever drank from it. Many explorers searched for the fountain of youth including Juan Ponce de Leon, who accompanied Christopher Columbus.

But enough about the fountain of youth for now and onto something more local!

It’s Seniors’ Week in B.C., which is a good time to remember that eventually, we all become seniors. I’m sure that most of us picture our senior years as a time to enjoy ourselves. I plan to spend lots of time fishing, cycling and reminding my children that I don’t have to get up and go to work every day!

All I need now is a fountain of youth from which to make my morning coffee. That would make my days on the lake and my epic bike rides much easier, wouldn’t it?

But the fountain of youth is a legend, isn’t it?

If you think about seniors, what comes to mind? For instance, you may be picturing a senior sitting in a rowboat on the lake, smiling as he fishes and enjoys the day. Alternatively, you may be picturing that same senior sitting in a wheelchair staring out the window at a lake. Why is there a difference?

Did one senior take a trip to Florida and meet a Spaniard named Juan Ponce de Leon? Or is it just the luck of the draw? I’d bet the senior in the rowboat realized that the real fountain of youth can be found in the choices we make and actions we take that affect our lives.

You might be thinking that we have no control over the future and that sometimes things happen despite our best efforts to lead healthy lives. You’re right, they do. However, there’s also truth in the idea that our choices and actions have a huge impact on the quality of our lives.

Why not choose to believe that we can create our own fountain of youth and act in ways that support our health?

  • Staying physically active can reduce the risk of chronic disease such as high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease. It helps keep you independent and taking part in things you like to do. The Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines recommend 150 minutes of activity per week for adults.
  • Eating well supports your physical health, provides energy and keeps your immune system strong.
  • Staying connected to friends and family plays a huge role in supporting your mental health and happiness.
  • Challenging yourself intellectually keeps your mind sharp (perhaps sharp enough to outsmart the fish!).

The choices we make and actions we take today will affect how we get to live our tomorrow.

Personally, I’m looking forward to spending lots of time on the lake. What will you choose?

Reg Wulff

About Reg Wulff

Reg is a licensing officer with Northern Health and has his BA in Health Science. Previously, he worked as a Recreation Therapist with Mental Health and Addictions Services in Terrace as well as a Regional Tobacco Reduction Coordinator. Originally from Revelstoke, Reg enjoys the outdoor activities that Terrace offers, like mountain biking and fishing. Reg also likes playing hockey, working out, and creative writing. He is married and has two sons and believes strongly in a work/life balance as family time is important to him.


Cancer and men


Daffodils are popping up all over northern B.C. thanks to the Canadian Cancer Society’s annual Daffodil Month campaign. It’s a great chance to think about cancer prevention, screening, and treatment.

Flowers may be blooming in the Lower Mainland, but in northern B.C., you’re hard-pressed to find spring blossoms in April. There are daffodils everywhere, though, thanks to the Canadian Cancer Society’s Daffodil Month! The annual campaign raises funds and shows support for those living with cancer.

We likely all know of someone who has been affected by cancer and, according to the Where are the Men? report, men in northern B.C. have higher rates of new cancer diagnoses and are dying of cancer more often than women.

I sat down with Margaret Jones-Bricker, regional director for the Northern Region of the Canadian Cancer Society BC and Yukon Division to talk about cancers affecting men and what men can do to decrease their risk.

Are men at a higher risk for cancer than women?

When you look at cancers that only men can get, their risk is 100% greater. Such is the case with prostate and testicular cancers. Overall cancer risk and risk for specific cancers can be determined by a lot of other factors besides sex like lifestyle, genetics, age and family history. In Canada, men have a 45% lifetime probability of developing cancer compared with 41% for women.

What cancers should men be particularly concerned about?

The three most common types of cancer in men are lung, colorectal and prostate. Prostate cancer accounts for about one-quarter (24%) of all new cancer cases in men. Breast cancer rounds out the top four most frequently diagnosed cancers in Canada, but is much less common in men.

In the north, we have higher rates of tobacco use, which means higher rates of lung cancer. Smoking is related to more than 85% of lung cancer cases in Canada and men develop lung cancer slightly more often than women.

Approximately 1,000 Canadian men were diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2014. It is the most common cancer in young men 15–29 years of age.

What can men do to decrease their risk of cancer?

The number one thing men can do is if you smoke, stop!

Other ways to decrease cancer risk include lifestyle changes related to physical activity and healthy eating. The Canadian Cancer Society has some great nutrition and fitness recommendations.

Occupational and environmental factors can also impact our health; these include our home and work environments. Have your home tested for radon, which is a factor in lung cancer, second only to tobacco use.

What screening options are available to men? How do they know if they should be screened?

Approximately 5-10 per cent of cancers are related to specific inherited genetic abnormalities. The fact that 1 or 2 family members have been diagnosed with cancer doesn’t mean that you will also develop cancer. This is especially true if the family member is not a first-degree relative or if the cancers are of different types. It is important to discuss screening with your doctor if you have a family history of cancer. Your doctor may suggest testing at an earlier age or using a different test than recommended by the provincial guidelines.

The Canadian Cancer Society recommends that men (and women) age 50 and over have a stool test (guaiac-based fecal occult blood test or fecal immunochemical test) at least every 2 years. There is convincing evidence that stool tests with appropriate followup can significantly reduce deaths from colorectal cancer.

Prostate cancer seems to be different. Large, reliable studies haven’t been able to tell us clearly whether it’s a good thing to use these tests to look for prostate cancer. So, we recommend that you talk to your doctor about your risk of prostate cancer and about the benefits and risks of finding it early.


In northern B.C., men have higher rates of new cancer diagnoses and are dying of cancer more often than women. There are, however, things that men can do to decrease their risk of cancer.

Are all cancers preventable?

Up to 50% of all cancers are preventable. Certainly your risk of contracting lung cancer is hugely preventable by quitting smoking.

For other cancers, we don’t always know what the cells in our bodies will do, but we can do our best by following a healthy lifestyle, getting physically active, eating more vegetables and fruit, and limiting our consumption of red meats and alcohol.

Investing in the best research has led to tremendous progress against cancer. We know more about what causes cancer, how it develops, how best to treat it and how we can improve the quality of life of people living with cancer. Today, over 60% of Canadians diagnosed with cancer will survive at least 5 years after their diagnosis. In the 1940s, survival was about 25%.

What resources are available for men looking for more information?

The Canadian Cancer Society has information specific to men and downloadable pamphlets on everything from cancer prevention to diagnosis and treatments:

We strongly encourage smokers to use the supports that are available to help them quit smoking and to get access to nicotine replacement therapies through the Lung Association’s QuitNow and the new QuitNow Men websites.

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.


Tales from the Man Cave: Brain Awareness Week

MRI machine

MRIs and other tools have created a wealth of knowledge about the brain and how it works but even these advances are just the tip of the iceberg! Look after your brain by looking after your overall well-being!

Brain Awareness Week is happening this week and that’s got me thinking about our wondrous brains!

Your brain is wonderful. Everything it does affects you – and everything that you do affects your brain in some way – so it’s very important to keep your brain healthy. But what does that look like exactly?

One important aspect of brain health is mental wellness, and the BC Healthy Living Alliance has some great information on that connection.

In spite of all the advances of modern science, the brain is still very mysterious. Most mental illnesses, for example, have no blood tests or scans which can determine their existence or origin. Research in this area continues but given the complexity of the brain, understanding this area fully is a tall order! It seems to me like there are billions of possible connections to explore! We do have some tools, though. Functional MRIs can see areas of the brain that light up when certain tasks are being undertaken but they can’t tell us what someone is thinking. In the same vein, EEG states are electrical readings that might point to sleep, waking, or other states determined by the waves seen on a screen.

As wonderful as this all is – and it truly is wonderful – nothing that we have so far can take the complex whole of brain cells and nerve endings and synapses and read all of the electrochemical messages and make sense of them.

Just how complex are our brains? Here’s one way to think of it:

When I read back this text, I have a voice in my head that is reading the text simultaneously. I am aware of the mess on my desk, the room I am in, and the fact that I have just smacked my lips. I am aware of the pressure on my buttocks from the chair, that it’s cloudy outside, that there are people putting drywall up in my bedroom, and so on. All of this is being processed in fractions of milliseconds! Where is that information? This awareness is just the tip of the iceberg – think of all the unconscious things I’m not aware of!

Still, in spite of all its mystery, we know that if certain areas of the brain are damaged, for example, you won’t be able to lift your hand or move your foot. But to further complicate matters, it’s also known that one area of the brain can learn to take over a function that is normally processed or caused by another area in the brain.

Phew! My head – or should I say my brain – is spinning with the mind-bending reality of it all!

So with all of this mystery during Brain Awareness Week, while we keep learning more and more about the brain every day, can I suggest these brain-boosting healthy living messages for us to try?

  • Eat well.
  • Get enough rest.
  • Don’t smoke or take chemicals (think drugs) into your brain.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Be as happy and as positive in outlook as possible.
  • Do life wholeheartedly.
  • Look after your mind, your body, and your spiritual needs as best as you can.
  • Get involved in your community.
  • Laugh a lot.
  • Be grateful for the small things in life.
  • Meditate or do yoga.

Your brain and you are one in the same, so looking after your overall physical and psychological well-being is important.

I wish you the best with my whole brain and my whole being.

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.


Tales from the Man Cave: The hope of spring can bring a healthier you

Snow hanging from a tree branch.

Blue sky, winter sun, and beautiful snow! Take advantage of northern B.C.’s winter wonderland now so that you can start the spring a little healthier this year!

Spring is still several weeks away but it is often around now that we spend all of our time wishing for longer days and warmer temperatures and forget to enjoy the winter. Yes, the weather can seem bleak, but just look at how the sun showcases the snow in all of its magnificence. Gleaming and hanging from bent limbs of trees, it radiates a white beauty seldom equalled. When I stop to look, it can be breathtaking! That’s the point of this blog post: taking advantage of every last bit of our beautiful northern winters!

Winter can slow us down physically, but here in the north of B.C., we have all sorts of free (or almost free) opportunities that people all over the world spend lots of money to access!

There are trails for snowshoeing or cross-country skiing. There are places to go downhill skiing or snowboarding and much more. What about the views on the trails on a clear, sunny day? Is there anything like this in the world?

So let’s start appreciating the opportunities we have in the north and engage with the winter physically (and safely). We can go with friends and make it a social or even spiritual event. This type of physical activity can help fight winter’s melancholy and help keep us in shape for all of that gardening in the spring!

Remember to reduce your sedentary activities at every opportunity:

  • Every move counts, whether that’s in the gym or on a treadmill or simply walking around the block to look at the trees. Move and keep moving.
  • If you work long hours in an office or at a job where you have to sit down most of the time, get up and move at every chance you get.
  • Don’t get caught sitting down with sitting disease. Stand up as much as possible. Build a little schedule for standing and moving. It’s easy and it’s good for you.

At the end of the day we may still be in the throes of winter but remember that the Canada Winter Games are here and games of any kind can add a little extra motivation. Winter will have its way, of course, but with it comes the hope of spring.

Let’s enter spring a little healthier this year by challenging ourselves to move more today!

Visit HealthLinkBC for more healthy winter tips.

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.


Tales from the Man Cave: It’s time to slow things down!

Winter road in northern B.C.

It has been a wild winter in northern B.C.! Snow, rain, ice pellets, beautiful sunshine, bitter cold, and more – sometimes in the same week! With so many different conditions changing so quickly, it is important to match your speed to the road conditions! (Picture by Northern Health staff member Shellie O’Brien)

Lately, I’ve noticed that despite the snow and ice we’ve been seeing across the north, people are still driving too fast! It’s time to slow down!

Two years ago on the way to my son’s birthday lunch downtown, I was forced off of the road by two logging trucks. I was behind one of the trucks when the other decided to overtake me on a bend. That truck caused a white-out condition which caused me to lose control and go for a serious spin. I had to write off my van.

Amazingly, the truck drivers were so pressed for time that they never even acknowledged my dilemma and just kept going.

I can tell you that for me and my daughter, this was a very distressing event. I also remember that the slide really felt like it was in slow motion. All we could do was look at each other and pray. Luckily we came to a halt on the centre of the road several metres downhill and walked away from it.

Judging by the speed of the vehicles whizzing past me on icy roads, it seems like we are a people of faith – we really must believe in the ability of our tires to work miracles.

We keep being told to reduce our speed and that speed kills, but no one seems to be listening. Well, perhaps we listen for a week but then it’s rush here and rush there again, with our speed gradually creeping up.

Of course, as the saying goes, I am probably preaching to the choir but sometimes even the choir needs a reminder to stay in tune.

Please keep an eye on your speed to match road conditions. The vehicles in ditches should serve as reminders that the roads are not that good and that our tires may not be the only factor!

Slow down, won’t you! It’s a short life as it is.

Find more winter driving tips at WorkSafeBC.

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.


Super Bowl Sunday: If you bring it, they will eat

Cupcakes topped with chocolate footballs

The Super Bowl tends to be all about excess so this Sunday, try something new! Instead of football-themed cupcakes and chicken wings, try a football-themed fruit tray and chicken skewers! And remember to plan ahead for a safe ride home!

I have to admit that when it comes to the Super Bowl, I can’t help but watch with mixed emotions. The thing is that as someone who listens to off-season podcasts and follows the draft; someone who reads pre-season reports and monitors every game, every Sunday; and someone who is as serious about his fantasy team as Jerry Jones is about his Cowboys, I can’t help but have respect for the Super Bowl’s history within the game while, at the same time, hating the spectacle that revolves around the big game.

Unlike a regular season game, or even a pre-Super Bowl playoff game, Super Bowl Sunday is an exaggeration of the NFL experience – it is to a regular game what Vegas is to a regular city. There are more viewers – last year’s Broncos/Seahawks matchup garnered 111.5 million viewers in 185 countries in 30 different languages; there’s more media coverage – basically two weeks leading up to the game; and, of course, there’s the star-studded halftime show (this year featuring Katy Perry… roar). Unfortunately, the theme of exaggeration isn’t limited to the game itself, extending to our food and alcohol consumption.

In fact, viewers who watched last year’s Super Bowl consumed more calories during the Super Bowl weekend than they did during “any other time of the year, including Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.” Let’s stop to think about that for a sec. Consider what you ate this holiday season – the treats that started pouring into your office in early December, the baking at friends’ houses when you were out visiting, the mountain of food you called your turkey dinner. Now pack that into one weekend! Ron Burgundy might say he “isn’t even mad, that’s amazing”, but your arteries are definitely singing a different tune! If you’re thinking that can’t add up, chew on this: it’s estimated that Americans ate 1.23 billion wings, 11.2 million pounds of potato chips, and ordered over four million pizzas from Dominos, Pizza Hut, and Papa John’s during the 2013 game!

Because the Super Bowl is a social event, there’s also a party aspect to it and that comes with increased alcohol consumption for many viewers. In America, 51.7 million cases of beer will be consumed this Sunday, which means even more calories and an increase in drunk drivers on the road. Make sure you aren’t one of them and plan for safe ride if you are having some drinks.

Yes, most of these stats are based on American viewers and they’d be significantly lower for Canadians, but the point remains: if you are going to a Super Bowl party, you’re probably eating poorly and your chances of drinking are higher, resulting in a ton of calories over the course of one football game. So, what can you do to make Super Bowl Sunday a healthier one? All you have to do is replace one thing that you love with a different thing that you love that happens to be healthier. For instance, instead of chicken wings, make chicken skewers; instead of nachos and cheese, make taco chips and hummus; and instead of bringing a meat and cheese tray to your friend’s place, bring a veggie tray.

If you’re worried about being that person who doesn’t bring something delicious, consider the Field of Dreams theory of food thought: if you bring it, they will eat it! Plus, making something is almost always cheaper, healthier, and far more appreciated. With all of that in mind, I’ll leave you with two predictions for the game:

  1. You’ll have a healthier Super Bowl if you try to, and
  2. The Seahawks repeat with a 24-20 victory over the stinkin’ Patriots.

Have a healthy game-day recipe you want to share? What about your own scoreboard prediction? Let me know in the comments below!

Have a safe and healthy Super Bowl!

Mike Erickson

About Mike Erickson

Mike Erickson is the Communications Specialist, Content Development and Engagement at Northern Health, and has been with the organization since 2013. He grew up in the Lower Mainland and has called Prince George home since 2007. In his spare time, Mike enjoys spending time with friends and family, sports, reading, movies, and generally nerding out. He loves the slower pace of life and lack of traffic in the North.


Tales from the Man Cave: What’s so super about the Super Bowl anyway?

Photo of hockey game taken from the stands at CN Centre in Prince George

Jim may prefer watching hockey with the lads to watching the Super Bowl, but whatever the sport, he’s a huge fan of the chance to get together, talk, and socialize, which can have a positive impact on health!

I have to be honest. Although I have never been a big fan of American football, it has a great many enthusiastic followers, so there must be something to it.

Perhaps it’s just the American approach to sports. It’s terms like “World Series” when only one country is involved that fill me with laughter.

So when I was asked to write about the Super Bowl this week, I was admittedly a little annoyed at having to write about the “other” football (more on that later!). But the more I thought about it, the more I realized what some gentle ribbing and some good old football banter could do for our health as guys. How often do you get the chance to spend a whole day with friends these days? Getting together and being social (and maybe even being active!) can do wonders for your mental wellness and in some cases may be just what the doctor ordered!

Now, for me, serious football (soccer, to this Scot), is one in which the whole world is involved, such as in World Cup soccer. That event truly deserves the name “world.” And if you want ferocious, just check out the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team for some really tough men with ugly tongues! Staring down those boys is no joke. These fellas mean business.

OK, I know you are probably inventing all of your little comeback lines and getting hot under the collar as you read this, but hold on a minute! Isn’t this the whole point? One of my favorite things about getting together with the lads for a good game (whether World Cup or, ahem, “World” Series) is the banter and camaraderie. Bring it on!

Also, the beauty of a great move such as the one by the Seahawks against the Packers last week that sealed the game at the last moment is incredibly exciting. It brings us all together! I still have not forgotten walking home with a group from a Glasgow Celtic game, either elated or in the deepest despair. We take our teams’ outcomes very seriously!

My son would say “old man, you don’t understand the game.” And he’d be right. But here’s the point: I don’t think that matters so much. Of course you will have the guys argue about specific plays in rugby, soccer, or American football and at least a bit of understanding is required to take part in that conversation so that you can show your opponent that he is wrong, but the sport around which that takes place is less important than the group of guys who sit together and argue the points. This opportunity to spend a whole day together just talking and hanging out is important for mental wellness and it’s something that we guys unfortunately don’t do enough of!

It’s all about getting together with folks and having some fun.

Imagine no hockey or football or rugby – I guarantee that something else would have taken its place. Maybe even another really exciting game like Irish football. Naw!

So, although this particular man is not a big fan of the Super Bowl, you might just find him with a group of guys watching the game and arguing the finer points of which he knows little. Getting together is the finer point.

So, guys, get together this Super Bowl and have a whale of a time with some good food, a few friends, and maybe the odd little manly tongue-in-cheek humorous argument. It’s all part of the package. Stay well.

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.


Make halftime count!

Seattle Seahawks jersey on a couch.

This Super Bowl Sunday, make sure to get that jersey off of the couch! Try switching between standing and sitting every time possession changes, invent your own touchdown dance, or have a pushup contest during a commercial break. There are lots of ways to make sure that it isn’t just the players who are being active on Sunday!

Are you all set for this Sunday? Got your jersey, snacks, and a great group of friends to enjoy the game with? This year’s Super Bowl promises to bring even more excitement to the West Coast as our neighbours to the south and closest NFL team, the Seattle Seahawks, battle to defend their title as NFL champions!

Even those of us who aren’t diehard fans will likely participate in the annual ritual and let’s face it, it’s another excuse to have a party! As the spouse of a Seahawks fan, I’m often drawn into the games, but find the constant start-stop action and pauses for commercial breaks frustrating! During the Super Bowl, these commercial breaks are even longer (they’re known for their creative advertising) and they host a long, star-studded halftime show which, for many, is the highlight of the game.

So I ask you, what do we do with all the down time? Even though each quarter is just 15 minutes long, the average game can last up to four hours! Bathroom breaks aside, we all know that is way too long to be sitting. In fact, we’re starting to see more promotion of standing in the workplace (I’m standing as I type this), but what about at home? How many of us go home after a long day and just flop on the couch for hours on end? Is the Super Bowl just another group-sanctioned excuse to veg out?

It doesn’t have to be this way! My challenge to you is to make halftime (and commercial time) count! Get up and move around. Anyone can do it. You don’t need any fancy equipment. Just stand up. And no, that doesn’t mean you should go outside for a smoke break! Let’s face it, if you can last four hours without smoking, then you’re already on your way to quitting!

During the down time, make an effort to get up, stretch, and walk around. Why not even go outside and toss the pigskin around for a few minutes with your pals? With all the nice weather we’ve been having, for most of us in northern B.C., we can’t even complain that it’s too cold!

Looking for more creative ideas to get moving?

  • Celebrate touchdowns with your own endzone dance. There’s no such thing as excessive celebration in your living room!
  • Switch from sitting to standing each time possession changes.
  • Challenge a buddy to a pushup contest – see how many you can do during one commercial!

Make the most of your halftime and encourage others to join in. Support your team by getting on your feet and look to those guys on the TV for inspiration. They certainly didn’t get to where they are by sitting around!

Remember what I was saying about being on your way to quitting? If you are looking for more info and tools to help you quit smoking, check out the new QuitNowMen website and enter to win $2,500 by pledging to quit for one week!

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.


Tales from the Man Cave: Learn to quit by quitting

Woman smoking a cigarette beside a soccer field

What’s stopping you from quitting today? For Jim, it took several quit attempts. Remember to learn from those attempts! Learn to quit by quitting!

It was a day like any other day. But, as it happened, this day was going to be different.

I was typing on my home computer and then at precisely 3:00 p.m., I took a pack of cigarettes from my pocket, crushed them, and threw them in the trash. It was March 21, 2001, and I had just quit smoking, this time for good.

That was my hope, anyways, and that’s how it turned out.

I have heard it said many times that this is the way that some people stop. “Out of the blue, I just quit,” they say. I admire that. For me, that wasn’t quite the case. Yes, I crushed the smokes and yes, I quit, but I was using a nicotine patch and if memory serves me correctly, I may have been using one to reduce my intake just before I quit.

The day after my quit, after talking to my pharmacist, I wore two patches, a 21 mg and a 14 mg, and I gradually reduced these as the weeks off cigarettes turned to months and then to years.

I should say a little about using the nicotine patch before quitting. Although it’s best to stop smoking completely when you are using the patch, if you still smoke a few cigarettes, it’s okay as long as you are not getting more nicotine than your body is used to. I am speaking from experience here, of course, but studies have suggested that I might just be correct.

At the end of the day, this quit attempt for me was the last in a long history of multiple efforts over many years. I now know that I am the type of person who really needed to be pushed in order to quit. For most people, it takes an average of five quit attempts before they can stop for good.

So what’s the moral of this story? Well, it seems that for most smokers, we learn to stop by stopping.

In my experience, there are times in life when stopping might be even harder such as when there is major stress in your life. For example, for me, I wouldn’t have tried quitting during exams. Instead, wait till the sea calms a bit, then throw in your hook. Some people won’t agree with that statement but in my experience, it rings true. Remember that every quit attempt gets you closer to success but there is no value in needless suffering.

That said, this of course is why you need to stop: so that you do not bring needless suffering upon yourself in the form of lung disease or cancer.

Learn from your previous attempts. What went wrong? Did you tell yourself “just one”? Did you get so bad-tempered that just you “had” to have a cigarette and let everybody live in peace? Don’t look at those attempts as failures. Use that experience to help you quit for good this time!

As we settle into the new year – and given the fact that New Year’s resolutions are usually not all that successful – why not try to learn to stop by stopping again?

You never know – it might just be the last time you have to do it!

Do you need some resources to help you quit?

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.


Keeping young men healthy

Young man having blood tested by lab technologist.

Regular checkups and tests are important to keeping young men healthy. What’s your maintenance schedule?

“The sooner the better.” Whether it’s when to start saving for retirement, or when to put on your winter tires (hey! we are in the north), these are words of advice that we hear regularly. The earlier you take action, the better it truly is for you – especially when it comes to your health!

Establishing healthy habits and checking in with your body on how things are running can not only improve your health in the short term, but help prevent illness later in life. This is especially important in northern B.C. where men are more likely than their southern counterparts to develop chronic diseases like diabetes, coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, and many types of cancers.

A great resource that Northern Health developed to support men’s health is the MANual. This guide covers many topics related to men’s health, from nutrition and physical activity, to mental wellness and specific disease information, such as prostate cancer and cardiovascular disease. The information is developed for – and specific to – men, including young men!

Do you know your maintenance schedule?

Screenshot of health maintenance tips from Northern Health Man Maintenance Guide

Check out Northern Health’s men’s health survival guide, complete with the Man Maintenance Guide, at

The guide (developed by Northern Health’s own health professionals) suggests that “dudes” (guys aged 18-39) should have some regular maintenance, including:


  • Blood pressure check
  • Dental checkup
  • Testicular self-exam (optional)

Every 3-5 years:

  • Lipid (cholesterol) blood test
  • Diabetes check

If you have specific risk factors or symptoms, you may also want to look into:

  • Prostate checkup
  • Colon & rectal cancer screen
  • Depression screening
  • Influenza vaccine*
  • HIV test (if you are sexually active)

*Keeping all immunizations up-to-date is an important part of routine maintenance for all men. Generally, this means getting a tetanus/diphtheria/pertussis booster every 10 years and making sure you have the shots you need when you travel.

Have you talked to your doctor about any of these?

GOLFing for testicular cancer?
Did you know that testicular cancer more commonly affects younger men? This is one body part you definitely don’t want to ignore! You can grab your life by the … err … “horns” by performing regular self-exams! Just remember GOLF:

  • Groin
  • Only takes a moment
  • Look for changes
  • Feel for anything out of the ordinary

If you do find anything unusual or alarming, talk to your doctor today!

Talk to the experts

Regular maintenance, along with healthy eating and regular physical activity, will give you the chance to get ahead of a major break down. Frequent checkups with your doctor can help to keep your engine running like it just came off the lot!


This article was first published in A Healthier You, a joint publication of Northern Health and the Prince George Citizen.

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.