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Trees Improve Our City: Tree for Me

October 25, 2016 | Lucy | Comments (0)

Have you ever looked up and around at some of the beautiful trees in Toronto? Have you ever wondered how they can benefit us and future generations?

In fact, trees can benefit us, our families and future generations in more ways than one! Not only are trees our anti-climate change tools, but they improve our way of life, especially in cities.

Trees have the ability to absorb excess carbon dioxide (the main cause for the warming of the earth's surface) from the atmosphere. In exchange, trees release oxygen and absorb other particulate matter, resulting in cleaner and cooler air for everyone!

Studies even show that when in the presence of trees, hospital patients will recover at a faster rate, when compared to patients that are not in the presence of trees. Trees even improve our mental health!

Researchers are finding new ways to measure and evaluate the human, social, environmental, and ecological benefits of trees and other green infrastructures. Learn more about this research and other studies in our GreenFILE database.

Program participants at the Annex Tree for Me event
Image courtesy of the Toronto Parks and Trees Foundation.

You can do your part for your friends, family and future generations by registering for the Tree for Me event being held at Annette Street Branch where you will learn how to plant and care for a tree. Following this, program participants will receive a free native seedling to take home with them!
The City of Toronto has a free biodiversity series of booklets which are available online and in libraries. Take a look to see what else you can learn about Toronto's trees in the Trees, Shrubs and Vines of Toronto (PDF) eBooklet.

For further reading, check out the Trees Ontario field guide and see which Toronto trees you are able to identify!

Trees Ontario  Trees Shrubs & Vines of Toronto
The tree Meetings withThe hidden life of trees
The glory of the tree Trees Trees a life story

Please check the Toronto Parks and Trees Foundation website for a full listing of other Tree for Me events happening this fall.


Biodiversity and Your Well-being

April 28, 2016 | Cathy | Comments (0)

Biodiversity Garden
Image courtesy of

It's Earth Month 2016 and the time has come to take seriously our impact on the planet. Toronto Public Library is happy to present the best of our collections on environmental education, geared to children, teens and adults. Watch for environmental displays in branches across the city and pick up some reading material. At the same time, please join us for
Our Fragile Planet, our free environmental programming series. Learn about issues that impact our city, and what you can do to tread lightly on our planet.

North York Central Library recently hosted a program about the effect of transportation systems on wildlife. Dr. Namrata Shrestha, a senior landscape ecologist with the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA), spoke about the habitat loss and fragmentation for wildlife caused by roads and railways. Being limited to a small area may result in a species dying out because they cannot find enough food or mates; this in turn has a ripple effect on the ecological health of other species in our green space.

Some transportation planning initiatives undertaken by TRCA and local municipalities include: closing roads during breeding seasons, determining the best locations for future roads which minimize the impact on wildlife for the present and in the future, retrofitting pipe structures so they can be 'paths' for critters to travel along (who knew that there were peacocks in the wild in Ontario?). These measures reduce biodiversity loss. What caught my attention was when Dr. Shrestha asked, "Why do we care about biodiversity loss? Because it's the right thing to do? For biodiversity's sake?" Well, it turns out that biodiversity is connected to human health. 

Biodiversity is defined as the variety and variability of life on Earth, including the genes in all living things, all species and the ecosystems these species comprise. Three ways in which greater biodiversity helps us:

1. Infectious Disease

Some diseases/pathogens are spread by vectors such as ticks and mosquitoes. Greater animal diversity means there is a larger pool of hosts for vectors to bite.  Some of these hosts are unable to pass along the disease to new vectors, and thus the cycle of infection ends. This reduces the chance of people becoming infected. An example of this process is Lyme Disease, which is spread by ticks. "People are at greater risk for getting Lyme disease in, and at the edge of, fragmented forests and other degraded habitats that favor mice that are ... competent hosts for Lyme. By contrast, large, intact forests are associated with greater vertebrate diversity, more incompetent hosts, fewer infected ticks, and less disease risk" (Chivian and Bernstein, 2010).

2. Food Production

A greater genetic diversity in our crops lessens the chance of crop failure due to plant diseases, plant pests and changing weather.  

3. Medical Research

Herbs and other plants are used in traditional medicine and complementary medicine. Decreasing plant biodiversity may mean the loss of plants with potential health benefits.

To learn more about biodiversity and your health, here are a few titles:

A world in one cubic foot

For information on  Earth Month programs, click here.

Forget the Pleasuredome...Welcome to the Microbiome!

January 29, 2016 | Cathy | Comments (0)

image courtesy of

The microbiome is "the complete genetic content of all the microorganisms that typically inhabit a particular environment, especially a site on or in the body, such as the skin or the gastrointestinal tract" (American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 2011). I first heard the term microbiome a few years ago with respect to the Hygiene Hypothesis--basically that our 'cleanliness' was causing the good bacteria in our gut to be wiped out and allowing the bad bacteria to colonize/overgrow. Since then, a slew of journal articles and books have been published about the (gut) microbiome. The latest research has found that sociable animals such as chimps have a more diverse microbiome and there may be healthier microbiomes--this may explain why humans who have strong social connections live longer.

Our microbiome is affected not only by exposure to external sources such as other humans and our environment but also by our diet. Fibre is required to feed the microorganisms in our gut. Recent research indicates that a diet low in fibre may have long lasting effects on not only our microbiome but also those of successive generations. An increase in fibre may not do much to increase diversity of the microbiome.  As my colleague Emoke mentioned in a previous post, probiotics are bacteria which help keep the natural balance of organisms in your intestines. Besides taking probiotic supplements, one can eat foods rich in probiotics, such as kefir, yogurt, miso, sauerkraut and kimchi.  

To learn more about the microbiome, probiotics and fermented foods, check these out:

Everything Guide to Gut Health   Delicious Probiotic Drinks


  Healthy Probiotic Diet  

Living Well for a Healthier YOU

November 9, 2015 | marietta forster-haberer | Comments (0)

No need to wait for the new year to make a healthy living resolution... November is Living Well Month at the Toronto Public Library, so why not start now?

To help you get started, the Toronto Public Library is offering a series of programs and Living Well displays at your local branch. Librarians have also compiled booklists of favourite titles to help you attain your goal of living well. Here is a selection from those booklists:


Born to walk - the transformative power of a pedestrian act


Walking as a mode of transportation has been largely replaced by other things but Rubenstein provides research into the benefits of walking for individual health as well as providing benefits for society.



Fitness - steps to success


Designed for anyone wishing to lead a healthier lifestyle, this book offers nutritional tips, advice for motivation and workouts that will improve cardiovascular health, strength and flexibility.



Your body - the science of keeping it healthy


Curious about the impact of exercise on your body? Time Magazine editors use medical equipment to find out exactly what happens during physical activities and look at which techniques may be the most effective.



The healthy mind cookbook - big-flavor recipes to enhance brain function, mood, memory, and mental clarity


Based on the latest scientific research, Rebecca Katz has developed more than 120 recipes which aim to improve brain health.




Joyous health - eat and live well without dieting


Holistic nutritionist Joy McCarthy, creator of the blog Joyous Health, shares her nutritional secrets for increased energy, balanced hormones, improved digestion and low blood pressure and cholesterol.



The Wellness Kitchen - fresh, flavorful recipes for a healthier you

Paulette Lambert is the Director of Nutrition for the California Health & Longevity Institute and ABC's Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition expert. In The Wellness Kitchen, she shares simple and healthy recipes from her teaching kitchen.




The Mayo Clinic handbook for happiness - a 4-step plan for resilient living


Whether it’s natural inclination or learned behaviour, Dr. Amit Sood believes happiness is a habit. Combining knowledge from neuroscience, psychology, philosophy, and spirituality, he presents a series of exercises help to train people’s brains into choosing happiness.



Mindfulness in plain English


In this step-by-step guide to the myths, realities, and benefits of meditation and the practice of mindfulness, the author introduces the tools of meditation, what it does, and how to make it work in daily life. Included in this expanded edition is a chapter on the cultivation of loving kindness and its relevance in today’s world.



The now effect - how this moment can change the rest of your life


A mindfulness approach helps people connect to the present moment. As a leader in mindfulness psychology, Dr. Elisha Goldstein takes this approach one step further by offering practical techniques to make permanent life changes.



For additional reading on these topics, check out these recommended reads for adults, children and teens:

 Living Well Display at Beaches Branch Living Well Display at Mount Dennis Branch

The Games are Coming... A Medical Perspective

July 7, 2015 | marietta forster-haberer | Comments (0)

Ignite logoEver wondered what goes on behind the scenes in terms of medical preparation and support during any great sport event?  Just ask Dr. Julia Alleyne, chief medical officer for the Canadian Olympic team and top doctor for the 2015 Pan Am games. Besides monitoring the health of all Canadian athletes and accredited team members partaking in the Games, "she'll coordinate all medical services from anti-doping efforts to emergency care, and will serve as chief medical officer for athletes from every country." Quite a tall task, but as Dr. Julia Alleyne pointed out, her experience at the London Olympics prepared her well for this new challenge.

But the care of athletes doesn't just start at the Games... As we know, Olympians are not born but get to the podium only after many years of grueling practice which unfortunately includes numerous setbacks due to physical injuries. And you don't have to be an Olympian to experience sports injuries

If you are interested to read up on the field of sports injuries, check out our selection of books on Sports Medicine.

      Sports injuries sourcebook      Any given Monday - sports injuries and how to prevent them, for athletes, parents, and coaches -based on my life in sports medicine      Sports injuries information for teens - health tips about acute, traumatic, and chronic injuries in adolescent athletes...


      Sport first aid     Index    Sports & exercise massage comprehensive care in athletics, fitness & rehabilitation

And if this kindled your interest in becoming a health care professional in a sports related field, why not explore one of these exciting career choices.

 Sports medicine doctor  IndexCARBECVC  Opportunities in physical therapy careers  Top 300 careers - your complete guidebook to major jobs in every field

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

If you're happy and you know it...

March 19, 2015 | marietta forster-haberer | Comments (2)

International Day of Happiness

"This year will mark the third observance of the International Day of Happiness, which recognizes the relevance of happiness and well-being as universal goals and aspirations in people’s lives and the importance of their recognition in public policy objectives." To celebrate this year's Day of Happiness, the UN launched a social media campaign with the aim to create the world's happiest playlist... 

If you're happy and you know it

While I am not sure that my song...“If you’re happy and you know!” will make the playlist, I can attest that singing it to my little granddaughter while rocking her on my knees definitely made us both very happy! 

For more ideas on the 'Contagion' of happiness check out one of these titles from the Toronto Public Library and don't forget to add your happy song to hashtag #HappySoundsLike.

 Happy is the new healthy - 31 ways to relax, let go, and enjoy life NOW!   Happiness is a state of mind  Find happiness now - 50 shortcuts for bringing more love, balance, and joy into your life   Four Meditations on Happiness

  Uncovering happiness - overcoming depression with mindfulness and self-compassion  The intelligent optimist's guide to life - how to find health and success in a world that's a better place than you think  Questions for the Dalai Lama - answers on love, success, happiness & the meaning of life  The secrets of happiness - how to love life, laugh more, and live longer

  The mindful way through stress - the proven 8-week path to health, happiness, and well-being   The practice - a daily guide for living present, managing stress, and being happy  The happy life checklist - 654 simple ways to find your bliss  Life by the cup - ingredients for a purpose-filled life of bottomless happiness and limitless succes


Paraskavedekatriaphobia and other things we fear...

March 13, 2015 | marietta forster-haberer | Comments (0)


Phobias - stories of your deepest fearsIf you are spooked by Friday the 13th, you are not alone. Also known by the unpronounceable name of Paraskavedekatriaphobia, it is not a legit phobia, at least not according to the DSM, the bible of mental disorders. That's the good news.

The bad news is that there are numerous phobias with less eccentric labels that cause a lot of anguish and suffering for many people. To explore more about these legit phobias, check out some of the titles highlighted below. 

But if after all you are attached to Paraskavedekatriaphobia, keep practicing the pronunciation. According to 'experts' at the MedicineNet, "when you learn to pronounce it, you're cured!"


  Overcome phobias and panic attacks    Scared stiff everything you need to know about 50 famous phobias   Face your fears - a proven plan to beat anxiety, panic, phobias, and obsessions

   Anxiety and phobias  Phobic and anxiety disorders in children and adolescents  Freeing your child from anxiety - practical strategies to overcome fears, worries, and phobias and be prepared for for life--from toddlers to teens




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