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Diseases & conditions

Benefits of Meditation and Mindfulness

April 24, 2015 | Cathy | Comments (10)

Horizon with stones

Creative Commons Deed CCO

Mindfulness has been the 'flavour of the month' for health books recently. I think of mindfulness as focusing on the present and being in the moment and a technique to deal with stress and anxiety in our busy lives. And indeed, many recent titles on mindfulness are about mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR).  

Because stress is a contributing factor to various diseases, meditation and mindfulness may have health benefits beyond lowering stress. For example, meditation together with light treatment has been shown to be more effective than light treatment alone for psoriasis. MBSR techniques also had positive short-term and long-term effects in terms of pain and overall well-being, for patients with fibromyalgia.  

Recent research has shown the intriguing results of meditation reducing the rate of brain aging as well as affecting the length of telomeres of breast cancer survivors. Telomeres protect chromosomes from damage; longer telomeres are believed to protect against disease.

However, meditation doesn't help with all conditions. For example, one recent study showed that meditation alone did not lower blood pressure and another study found no evidence of meditation helping with weight loss. But even without these benefits, meditation can help you manage your stress, reduce negative emotions and improve your emotional well-being.

For more about the health benefits of meditation, you can check out one of the titles below or attend one of the library's meditation programs:

The healing power of meditation You are not your pain (book)
audiobook (CD)
The mindful way workbook
The blissful brain: neuroscience and proof of the power of meditation The meditation doctor: a practical approach to healing common ailments through meditation Clinical handbook of mindfulness

Could you use an extra set of eyes?

April 17, 2015 | marietta forster-haberer | Comments (0)

Be My Eyes
Now you can...there is an app for that! Check out this free app "Be My Eyes", developed by Hans Jorgen Wiberg in Copenhagen, Denmark. Wiberg, who has Usher Syndrome, an inherited condition that causes progressive vision loss, came up with the idea for an app after he saw many blind people using FaceTime to get help from family and friends. Broadening the scope from a few available helpers to a network of eyes worldwide, he got together with software developers and voila, the 'Be My Eyes' app was born.

In a nutshell, the Be My Eyes app connects blind people with sighted volunteer helpers from around the world via live video chat. The app is available for free from the App Store. But here is the catch, at this stage it's only available for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. But don't despair, the developers are working on an Android version. To voice your interest in the Android version, go to their site to register.

While the app was developed for blind people, there is no reason why other people with diminishing vision could not use it. I am thinking particularly of the aging boomers. Could this be the way of reducing medication errors in the home?  If you can think of other innovative uses for this app, send it along in your comments.

For other helpful vision loss tools contact your local CNIB office. To locate an office near you, check out their website or call their helpline at 1-800-563-2642.

For further suggestions, check out the library's collection on Self-help devices for the visually impaired.

   Assistive technology for students who are blind or visually impaired - a guide to assessment  Keep It Simple - A Guide to Assistive Technologies   Assistive technologies in the library

Why sitting is hazardous to your health...

April 9, 2015 | marietta forster-haberer | Comments (2)

Rethinking sittingSitting is a favourite pastime in North America. We sit in our cars, sit at our desks, lounge around in endless meetings and when we get home, guess what? We plunk down in front of the tele or computer.

According to a survey "Americans are sitting an average of 13 hours a day and sleeping an average of 8 hours resulting in a sedentary lifestyle of around 21 hours a day." Does that sound like you? Be honest, I won't tell! Whether you admit it or not, most of us spend way too much time in the sitting position.

So what's wrong with sitting? I could quote umpteen articles that show that sitting is hazardous to our health but as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words so I will let this graphic from the Washington Post do the 'talking'. For full explanation of the hazards, check out the original source.

So what can you do about the hazards of sitting? The exercises illustrated above help to counteract a sedentary lifestyle. But to really tackle the problem, you need to reduce the time you spend sitting around. There are many creative ways to cut out sitting....walk/bike, roller blade to work or at least part of the way; use an exercise ball or treadmill desk instead of an office chair; walk during meetings rather than sit in stuffy boardrooms; and go for a walk after dinner instead of sitting in front of the television. Borrow a pedometer from us to keep track! These measures go a long way to combat the hazards of sitting.

For more information, check out the featured books below. Or perhaps you would like to acquire a more ergonomically designed chair?  Even better, explore mindful uses for the much maligned chair...

   Get up!  why your chair is killing you and what you can do about it   Sitting kills, moving heals how everyday movement will prevent pain, illness, and early death -- and exercise alone won't   How to sit

   Fifty chairs that changed the world  A taxonomy of office chairs - the evolution of the office chair, demonstrated through a catalogue of seminal models and an illustrated taxonomy of their components    Chairs  Chair

    Quiet sitting - the Daoist approach for a healthy mind and body    Chair yoga - seated exercises for health and wellbeing    Seated tai chi and qigong - guided therapeutic exercises to manage stress and balance mind, body and spirit  

     Yoga for meditators - poses to support your sitting practice     Sitting still like a frog - mindfulness exercises for kids (and their parents)    Shi er duan jin - 12-routine sitting exercises

When healthy eating turns obsessive...

March 30, 2015 | marietta forster-haberer | Comments (0)

More and more people recognize the value of healthy eating. Even fast food chains are cashing in on this trend. Clean Eating, as we have seen in last week's blog, can improve your health by replacing junk and processed food with wholesome food that you prepare at home.

But alas, as with most things in life, too much of even a good thing can be too much. A case in point: while exercise is undoubtedly good for you, some people with exercise addiction definitely overdo it.

Does that mean that we can be addicted to healthy eating? Indeed, we can. There is even a term for this condition called Orthorexia Nervosa. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, it is an eating disorder where "orthorexics become fixated on food quality and purity."

While most of us don't have to worry about being Health Food Junkies, here is a checklist of traits that may indicate that you or someone you know is taking healthy eating to an extreme:

  • Do you spend a lot of time each day thinking about your diet?
  • Do you plan your meals several days ahead?
  • Is the nutritional value of your meal more important than the pleasure of eating it?
  • Has the quality of your life decreased as the quality of your diet has increased?
  • Does your self-esteem get a boost from eating healthfully?
  • Have you given up foods you used to enjoy in order to eat healthy foods?
  • Does your diet make it difficult for you to eat out, distancing you from family and friends?
  • Do you feel guilty when you stray from your healthy diet?
  • Do you feel at peace with yourself and in total control when you eat healthfully?
  • Do you eat only healthy foods? 

For more information on Orthorexia Nervosa check out Dr. Bratman's book on Health Food Junkies. Other titles highlight issues of other eating disorders and exercise addiction.

    Health food junkies - overcoming the obsession with healthful eating  The truth about eating disorders  Almost anorexic - is my (or my loved one's) relationship with food a problem

    The exercise balance - what's too much, what's too little, and what's just right for you!  Understanding exercise addiction   Diary of an exercise addict - a memoir


Aboriginal AIDS Awareness Week

December 1, 2014 | marietta forster-haberer | Comments (0)

December 1st to 6th is Aboriginal AIDS Awareness Week. While there are no reliable data that capture the full extent of the HIV/AIDS epidemic amongst First Nations, Inuits and Métis populations in Canada, it is estimated that about 22 per cent of new cases of HIV occur among the Aboriginal population even though Aboriginal people represent only 3.3 per cent of the Canadian population. Even more alarming is the rate of HIV-positive tests among Aboriginal women. The National Aboriginal Health Organization's fact sheet has more data and reasons why Aboriginal people appear to be more vulnerable to HIV infection.

While searching for information on HIV/AIDS in Aboriginal people, I came across the Cree Medicine Wheel which shows the individual with HIV in the centre of the wheel surrounded by the seven teachings of the Ojibway Peoples - love, wisdom, truth, honesty, courage, respect and humility. Looks intriguing... Wholistic-model

For more information on HIV/AIDS check out Toronto Public Library's collection on HIV/AIDS and more specifically the Native Peoples Collection at the Spadina Road Branch, North York Central Library and Toronto Reference Library.

Ready for the flu shot but don't know where to get it?

October 23, 2014 | marietta forster-haberer | Comments (0)

A nurse injects a patient with a flu shot. The Canadian Press-Jeff McIntosh CityNewsWell, you are in luck. Toronto Public Health is launching its flu shot clinics as we speak. There are clinics all over the city, some of them in your Public Library. Click on the interactive map for hours and locations. If you don't want to wait in line, it may be a good idea to make an appointment. You can make your appointment online or call 416-338-7600 choosing option 3.


And it's a good idea to get your flu shot early since it takes about two weeks for antibodies to develop. If you cannot make any of the clinic dates or the locations are not convenient, check with your doctor's office or your local pharmacy for their schedule.

For those of you who are still on the fence, undecided whether to get the flu shot or not, here is a number to call: Toronto Public Health Immunization Information Line 416-392-1250. You may also want to check out the following background information on this year's flu vaccine or put a hold on one of TPL's titles on influenza.

    100 questions & answers about influenza    Influenza - a century of science and public health response   Flu - alternative treatments and prevention - proven strategies to protect yourself and your family

      Achoo! stop the flu  Colds, the flu, and other infections  The flu



Is there a common link between Cancer, Diabetes, Alzheimer's?

September 19, 2014 | marietta forster-haberer | Comments (0)

Morwenna Given, Medical Herbalist
To find out, please join us for a free health talk given by Morwenna Given, practising Medical Herbalist.  Ms. Given will talk about the basic and common molecular beginnings of Cancer, Diabetes and Alzheimer's Disease and discuss how the pathologies of each disease is interlinked.

The talk will take place on Wednesday, September 24, 2014 from 6:30 to 8:00 pm in the Beeton Auditorium at the Toronto Reference Library.

Bring your questions! The talk is free and All are welcome. 

For more general information about the prevention of Cancer, Diabetes and Alzheimer's Disease check out one of these books from our collection.


  L'alimentation anti-âge - bien manger pour bien vivre longtemps  Eating well, living well - an everyday guide for optimum health  The Alzheimer's prevention program - keep your brain healthy for the rest of your life

   Say no to cancer - the drug-free guide to preventing and helping fight cancer      Eat well age better - how to use diet and supplements to guard the lifelong health of your eyes, your heart, your brain, and your bones    Nutrition in the prevention and treatment of disease.


Diagnosed with fatty liver... what now?

July 14, 2014 | marietta forster-haberer | Comments (1)

Liver Disease in Canada: A Crisis in the Making

According to a report by the Canadian Liver Foundation, an estimated 25% of Canadians, or 8.5 million people, are obese. Fatty Liver disease, which is directly linked to obesity, is the most common form of liver disease in Canada. This is an alarming correlation.

So what does it mean when you are diagnosed with fatty liver disease? Some fat in the liver is normal but if fat makes up more than 5%-10% of the weight of the liver, you may have alcoholic or nonalcoholic liver disease which may lead to serious complications. 

90%-100% of people who abuse alcohol develop fatty livers. But what about people who do not drink or drink moderately and still have fatty liver? Their condition is called nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). The cause of NAFLD is not clear but obesity, high cholesterol/triglycerides, and insulin resistance go hand in hand with NAFLD.

Currently, there is no medical treatment for fatty liver disease but as Dr. Julie Chen put it, NAFLD should act as a wake-up call prompting us to make the necessary lifestyle changes to keep our cholesterol, sugar levels and weight in balance. 

Here are some titles in TPL's collection that you may want to check out on fatty liver and other liver disorders.

  Healing fatty liver disease - a complete health & diet guide, including 100 recipes     Fatty Liver You Can Reverse It Liver disorders - a Cleveland Clinic guide

   Dr. Melissa Palmer's guide to hepatitis and liver disease        Fast facts - liver disorders          The liver disorders and hepatitis sourcebook

June is ALS awareness month!

June 9, 2014 | marietta forster-haberer | Comments (0)

Lou Gehrig's disease
ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis), also called Lou Gehrig's disease, is a rapidly progressive neuromuscular disease that attacks the nerve cells that transmit electrical impulses from the brain to the voluntary muscles in the body - your arms, legs, face etc., Once these electrical impulses are no longer received, the muscles lose strength, atrophy and die.

ALS affects approximately 5 out of every 100,000 people worldwide. You cannot 'catch' ALS and there are no known risk factors, although 1 in 10 cases is due to a genetic defect. 

For more information on ALS or to find out why ALS is commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease, check out the ALS Society of British Columbia's Frequently Asked Questions site.

Here are also some helpful sites with more information and book titles you may want to borrow from the library:

       Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis - a guide for patients and families       Motor neuron disease       Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

        Luckiest man - the life and death of Lou Gehrig       I remember running - the year I got everything I ever wanted-- and ALS    Morrie Schwartz lessons on living

       Rowing without oars    Stephen Hawking - an unfettered mind    So much, so fast one family's attempt to cure Lou Gehrig's Disease

        Until I say good-bye - my year of living with joy      You're not you - a novel        The happiness of Kati

Kidney Diet Information...

March 1, 2014 | marietta forster-haberer | Comments (0)

Ever wonder what you can eat when you have kidney problems? While there is no standard 'kidney diet', the dietitians at the Kidney Foundation of Canada have lots of helpful suggestions. They can help you plan your meals, track your daily intake, provide mouthwatering dietitian approved recipes and answer your kidney related health questions.

Here are some sample fact sheets you can browse...

For more information on kidney disorders check out our earlier blog or peruse one of TPL's books on the subject.

   Handbook of nutrition and the kidney  Handbook of chronic kidney disease management  Kidney disease - a guide for living  Eating well, living well with kidney disease

   100 questions & answers about kidney disease and hypertension  100 questions & answers about kidney cancer  100 questions and answers about kidney dialysis  Handbook of kidney transplantation

    Urinary tract and kidney diseases and disorders sourcebook  The encyclopedia of kidney diseases and disorders  The renal system at a glance   Williams' basic nutrition and diet therapy




Toronto Public Library helps find reliable, understandable health information for you and your family.