Elderly couple preparing vegetables in kitchen. Wife feeding husband lettuce.



Heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide, contributing to around 7.5 million deaths annually


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), someone in the U.S. has a heart attack every 40 seconds


These are staggering numbers. 


Several risk factors contribute to the development of heart disease, including high blood pressure (hypertension), high cholesterol levels, smoking, physical inactivity, poor diet (high in saturated and trans fats, sodium, and added sugars), obesity and diabetes. 


While it would be worthwhile to go over every single risk factor, today we will focus specifically on sodium and its negative impact on heart health when consumed in excess.  


The health of our heart is crucial for overall well-being because it pumps blood and nutrients to keep our body functioning properly. However, too much sodium (found in salt) can harm our heart. 


Some sodium is essential for the body's balance, nerve function, and muscles. But consuming too much salt can increase blood pressure. High blood pressure puts extra strain on the blood vessels and can lead to heart problems over time. 


In this blog, we will share practical tips to reduce sodium in your diet and improve heart health. By understanding the link between sodium and heart health, you can make informed choices to protect your heart. We will explore simple strategies like cooking with fresh ingredients. We'll also learn about the DASH diet, designed to lower blood pressure and promote heart health. 


By following these tips and embracing a heart-healthy lifestyle, you can reduce the risk of heart disease and improve your overall well-being.  


Remember, even small steps can make a big difference in our heart health and lead to a happier, healthier life.



Understanding Sodium and Heart Health 

Sodium is a vital mineral that plays a crucial role in maintaining the body's fluid balance, transmitting nerve impulses, and supporting muscle contractions. It is essential for overall health and proper functioning. However, the key is to consume sodium in moderation


When you consume sodium in your diet, it gets absorbed into the bloodstream, where it helps regulate the amount of water in and around the cells. This, in turn, influences the volume of blood circulating in the blood vessels.  


When the sodium level in the blood is higher than required, the body retains more water to maintain the right balance, leading to an increase in blood volume. As a result, the blood vessels experience added pressure, leading to elevated blood pressure, also known as hypertension. 


High Sodium Intake = Increased Risk of Heart Disease

Research has consistently shown a direct correlation between high sodium intake and an increased risk of developing hypertension and heart disease. Hypertension is a significant risk factor for various cardiovascular conditions, including heart attacks, strokes, and heart failure. 


When our blood pressure remains consistently elevated due to excess sodium, it puts immense strain on the walls of our blood vessels. Over time, this strain can cause damage to the blood vessel walls, making them less elastic and prone to the formation of plaque deposits. These deposits can eventually lead to atherosclerosis, a condition where the arteries narrow, hindering blood flow to the heart and other organs. 


The reduced blood flow to the heart can cause angina (chest pain) and, in severe cases, result in a heart attack. Moreover, if the arteries that supply blood to the brain become narrowed due to atherosclerosis, it can lead to a stroke. 



Assessing Current Sodium Intake 

Taking a closer look at your sodium intake is an essential first step in improving heart health.  


Healthy prepped food, person taking notes on paper.


Many of us may not be aware of the amount of sodium we consume daily, as it is often hidden in various foods we eat. Encouraging individuals to assess their sodium intake empowers them to make informed choices about their diet and take proactive measures to reduce excessive sodium consumption. 


One way to do this is to keep a food diary for a few days, noting the sodium content of the foods you eat. By tracking your meals and snacks, you can identify patterns and discover hidden sources of sodium in your diet.  

Additionally, becoming familiar with food labels can help in understanding the sodium content of packaged foods. 


Daily Recommended Sodium Intake 

Understanding the recommended daily sodium intake is crucial for maintaining heart health.  


For healthy adults, most health organizations, including the American Heart Association (AHA) and the World Health Organization (WHO), suggest consuming no more than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day.  


However, for individuals who are at risk for heart issues or have hypertension, the recommended limit is even lower, ideally not exceeding 1,500 mg per day



It is important to note that the average sodium intake in many Western diets far exceeds these recommended limits, often reaching levels of 3,400 mg or more daily. This excessive intake puts individuals at a higher risk of developing hypertension and related heart problems. 



Sodium, The Hidden Ingredient 

Reducing sodium intake can be challenging, primarily due to the prevalence of hidden sodium in processed foods and meals prepared at restaurants.  


Many processed and packaged foods, such as canned soups, frozen meals, snacks, and condiments, contain high amounts of sodium to enhance flavor and increase shelf life. Even seemingly healthy items like salad dressings, sauces, and ready-to-eat meals can be loaded with sodium. 


Similarly, dining out at restaurants can be a significant source of excess sodium consumption. Restaurants often use salt generously to enhance taste, and large portions of restaurant meals can contain much more sodium than a homemade equivalent. 


Knowing these truths can help you make wiser choices when grocery shopping or eating out. Reading food labels, choosing low-sodium alternatives and even asking for less salt when eating out can make significant difference in managing sodium intake. 



Tips for Reducing Sodium Intake 

Opting for a heart-healthy, low-sodium diet can have numerous advantages for your cardiovascular health.  


By reducing sodium intake, you can effectively lower our blood pressure, reducing the risk of hypertension and its associated heart conditions. Also worth mentioning, embracing a heart-healthy diet can improve overall well-being, enhance energy levels, and contribute to a healthier weight. 


We understand, however, that it’s not always as easy as it sounds and that some may struggle with savoury cravings more than others. Here are some ways we believe you could reduce sodium intake in a more approachable way: 


  • Cook at home with fresh ingredients: Preparing meals at home gives you greater control over the amount of sodium in our food.  

  • Use herbs and spices as flavour enhancers: Experiment with a variety of herbs and spices to add delicious flavours to meals without relying on excessive salt. Herbs like basil, thyme, and rosemary, and spices such as cumin, turmeric, and paprika can add depth to dishes without the need for added salt. Another option is to use a salt-free alternative like such as a potassium-chloride seasoning vs. a sodium-chloride. 

  • Read food labels for sodium content: Pay attention to food labels while grocery shopping. Choose products with lower sodium content or opt for "low-sodium" or "sodium-free" versions when available. 

  • Limit processed and packaged foods: Processed and packaged foods are often high in sodium. Minimize their consumption and focus on whole, unprocessed foods. 

  • Dine out wisely: When eating out, choose dishes that are prepared with less salt. Request for sauces, dressings, and toppings to be served on the side, so you can control the amount you use. Consider healthier options like salads, grilled items, or dishes with fresh ingredients. For example, an easy win is to order your fries unsalted, then add a small amount of salt yourself. 


Exploring the DASH Diet 

The DASH diet, which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, is a scientifically proven eating plan designed to lower blood pressure and promote heart health.  


Whole foods on white countertop. Salmon, almonds, eggs, olives, vegetables.


It has gained widespread recognition for its effectiveness in reducing the risk of hypertension and cardiovascular disease. The DASH diet is not a restrictive fad diet, but rather a balanced and sustainable approach to eating that emphasizes nutrient-rich foods and proper portion sizes. 


The DASH diet encourages a focus on whole and natural foods that are rich in heart-healthy nutrients. It promotes the consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins (such as poultry, fish, and legumes), and low-fat dairy products. These foods provide essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber while being naturally low in sodium. 


The DASH diet also incorporates foods rich in potassium, calcium, and magnesium, which are beneficial for heart health. These minerals help to counteract the effects of sodium on blood pressure and maintain a healthy cardiovascular system.


Here is a sample meal that aligns with DASH diet principles. Sounds tasty, right? 



  • Oatmeal with sliced bananas and a sprinkle of cinnamon 

  • Low-fat Greek yogurt with fresh berries and a drizzle of honey 



  • Grilled chicken and vegetable salad with mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, and avocado 
  • Balsamic vinaigrette dressing (made with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and herbs) 



  • Carrot sticks and cucumber slices with hummus 
  • Fresh fruit salad (kiwi, strawberries, and oranges)



  • Baked salmon with lemon and dill 
  • Quinoa pilaf with sautéed spinach and garlic 



  • Baked apples with a sprinkle of cinnamon and a dollop of low-fat whipped cream 



Overcoming Challenges and Creating Lasting Habits 

Overcoming challenges and creating lasting habits for long-term heart health benefits involves acknowledging the hurdles of reducing sodium intake and adopting a new diet while staying motivated and focused.  


Transitioning away from familiar high-sodium foods can be difficult, but by recognizing the importance of improved heart health, individuals can take the first step towards positive change.  


Here are some ways you can overcome challenges in your health journey: 

  • Set achievable goals  

  • Celebrate every small victory  

  • Opt for gradual changes 

  • Involve a support system of family or friends  

  • Explore new recipes 

Embracing a heart-healthy lifestyle becomes a rewarding investment in overall well-being, ensuring a healthier and happier future. 



Seeking Professional Guidance 

Before embarking on any major dietary changes, it is crucial to seek guidance from healthcare professionals or registered dietitians. These experts can provide personalized advice based on individual health needs, medical history, and existing health conditions.  


Pharmacist consulting patient beside a bowl of fruits.


Consulting with your pharmacist ensures that any dietary modifications are safe and appropriate for your unique circumstances and medications. Our pharmacists can help identify potential risks and tailor dietary recommendations to achieve the best possible outcomes for overall health and well-being. 


Reach out to our team to schedule a consultation and let’s work together to reduce the sodium intake in your diet.  



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Smiling elderly woman


As the influential baby boomer generation enters their golden years, it is crucial to recognize the significance of aging baby boomers and the unique challenges and opportunities they face.  


With their sheer numbers and wealth of experience, baby boomers are reshaping our perception of aging, demanding better healthcare options, and redefining what it means to live a fulfilling and vibrant life in later stages.  


In this article, we explore the normal signs of aging and how a pharmacist can play a pivotal role in supporting and empowering baby boomers as they navigate this new chapter of life.



The Normal Signs of Aging 

Normal signs of aging encompass various aspects, including physical changes, cognitive changes, and emotional and mental well-being. These normal signs of aging should be understood as part of the natural aging process.  


While they can vary among individuals, being aware of these changes helps individuals set realistic expectations and seek appropriate support and interventions to enhance their overall well-being during the aging process.


Here's a summary of these normal signs of aging:



Physical Changes



Aging often brings changes in vision, such as difficulty focusing on close objects (presbyopia), reduced ability to adjust to changes in light, and increased sensitivity to glare. It may also include an increased risk of age-related eye conditions like cataracts and macular degeneration.


Asian man using glasses to read close-up object.



Age-related hearing loss (presbycusis) is common, characterized by difficulty hearing high-frequency sounds, speech clarity, and distinguishing sounds in noisy environments.


Taste and Smell

Sensory changes can affect the ability to taste and smell, leading to decreased sensitivity to certain flavors and smells.


Muscle and Joint Stiffness 

As individuals age, there is a natural loss of muscle mass (sarcopenia) and decreased flexibility. This can result in muscle weakness, decreased mobility, and joint stiffness, making movements more challenging and increasing the risk of falls.


Changes in Skin Elasticity and Appearance 

Aging can lead to a decrease in the production of collagen and elastin, resulting in reduced skin elasticity and firmness. This may contribute to the development of wrinkles, sagging skin, and age spots. The skin may also become drier and more prone to irritation and bruising.


Alterations in Sleep Patterns 

Many older adults experience changes in their sleep patterns, including difficulty falling asleep, waking up frequently during the night, or waking up too early in the morning. These changes can result in poorer sleep quality, daytime sleepiness, and fatigue.


Aging can also lead to a shift in the circadian rhythm, making individuals more likely to feel sleepy earlier in the evening and wake up earlier in the morning.



Cognitive Changes  

Aging individuals may experience occasional memory lapses, such as forgetting where they placed their keys or struggling to recall names or details. These memory lapses are typically considered a normal part of the aging process. However, they are often minor and do not significantly impair daily functioning.


Slower Information Processing and Reaction Times 

As individuals age, there is a natural decline in information processing speed and reaction times. It may take longer to absorb and assimilate new information, leading to a slower response time. This can be evident in tasks such as decision-making, problem-solving, and learning new skills.


Challenges in Multitasking and Problem-Solving 

Aging can bring challenges in multitasking and problem-solving abilities. Juggling multiple tasks simultaneously may become more difficult, and individuals may require more time and effort to switch between tasks effectively. Problem-solving skills may also be affected, requiring more time to analyze and find solutions to complex situations.



Emotional and Mental Well-being


Fluctuations in Mood and Emotional Resilience 

Aging individuals may experience more pronounced fluctuations in mood. This can include both positive and negative emotions, with emotional responses becoming more intense. While certain life events or circumstances can contribute to mood changes, hormonal changes, and adjustments to life's challenges and transitions can also play a role.


Increased Susceptibility to Stress and Anxiety

Aging individuals may find themselves more susceptible to stress and anxiety. The ability to cope with stressors may be diminished, and individuals may experience heightened feelings of worry or unease. This can be influenced by various factors, including changes in brain chemistry, life changes, health concerns, and social factors.


Transitioning Through Life's Changes and Maintaining Purpose 

As individuals age, they often experience significant life changes, such as retirement, loss of loved ones, or changes in social roles.


These transitions can present challenges in finding and maintaining a sense of purpose and fulfillment. Adjusting to new routines, establishing new social connections, and exploring new hobbies or activities can help individuals navigate these transitions and maintain a sense of purpose and meaning in their lives.



The Role of Pharmacists in Helping with Aging 

By leveraging their expertise in medication management, preventive care, chronic disease management, lifestyle guidance, and provision of resources, pharmacists play a pivotal role in optimizing health and well-being during the aging process.  


Pharmacist talking to baby boomer woman in pharmacy.


Their comprehensive support can help aging individuals lead fulfilling lives while effectively managing their health and medication needs. Here are key aspects of a pharmacist's role in supporting optimal health during the aging process:



Medication Management

Pharmacists are medication experts who can review and assess an individual's medication regimen, ensuring its appropriateness and safety. They can identify potential drug interactions, adverse effects, and duplications, helping to prevent medication-related complications.


Reviewing Medication Regimens and Potential Interactions 

Pharmacists conduct comprehensive reviews of an individual's medication regimen, taking into account all prescribed medications, over-the-counter drugs, and supplements. They assess the appropriateness, safety, and effectiveness of the medications, considering factors such as potential drug-drug interactions, allergies, and individual characteristics. This review helps identify and minimize the risk of adverse drug reactions or interactions that can be more significant in aging individuals due to changes in metabolism and multiple medication use.


Offering Advice on Adherence and Proper Administration 

Pharmacists play a vital role in ensuring individuals understand how to take their medications correctly. They provide clear instructions on dosage, timing, and administration techniques (e.g., with or without food). Pharmacists also offer strategies to enhance medication adherence, which can be challenging for aging individuals who may have complex medication regimens. This can include using pill organizers, reminder systems, or simplified dosing schedules to help individuals stay on track with their medications.


Identifying Alternative Treatments and Adjusting Dosages 

Pharmacists have extensive knowledge of medication alternatives and can collaborate with healthcare providers to identify suitable alternatives when needed. They may recommend medications with fewer side effects or those that are better suited for specific health conditions or age-related changes. Pharmacists can also adjust dosages based on individual needs, considering factors such as organ function, metabolism, and potential drug interactions. 



Health Monitoring and Preventive Care 

Pharmacists can actively monitor and manage various health parameters to promote well-being in aging individuals. They can perform health screenings, such as blood pressure checks, cholesterol monitoring, and blood glucose tests, helping to identify and address potential health issues proactively.


Conducting Regular Health Screenings 

Pharmacists can perform various health screenings to monitor key health parameters. This may include measuring blood pressure, cholesterol levels, blood glucose levels, and assessing other vital signs. Regular screenings help identify potential health issues or risk factors, enabling early intervention and appropriate management.


Recommending Immunizations and Vaccinations 

Pharmacists are knowledgeable about recommended immunizations and vaccinations for different age groups. They can provide guidance on necessary vaccines, such as influenza, pneumonia, shingles, and other vaccines to protect against infectious diseases. By ensuring individuals receive appropriate immunizations, pharmacists contribute to disease prevention and overall well-being.


Assisting with Chronic Disease Management 

Many aging individuals have chronic conditions that require ongoing management. Pharmacists can play a vital role in supporting individuals with chronic diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension, asthma, or heart disease. They can provide education on medication management, lifestyle modifications, and self-care techniques. Pharmacists work collaboratively with healthcare providers to monitor treatment effectiveness, address medication-related concerns, and help individuals navigate their disease management plan. 



Lifestyle Guidance 

Pharmacists can offer guidance on lifestyle factors that contribute to overall health and well-being. They can provide nutritional counseling, recommending appropriate dietary choices and supplements that support aging individuals' unique nutritional needs.


Pharmacists can also promote physical activity tailored to individual abilities, assisting with exercise plans that improve mobility, strength, and balance.  

Moreover, they can provide advice on sleep hygiene and stress management techniques to enhance sleep quality and emotional well-being.


Providing Nutritional Counseling and Supplements Guidance

Pharmacists can offer personalized nutritional counseling to help aging individuals make informed choices about their diet. They provide guidance on balanced nutrition, portion control, and dietary modifications to address specific health conditions or age-related changes. Pharmacists can also advise on the appropriate use of dietary supplements, ensuring individuals understand potential benefits, risks, and interactions with medications.


Promoting Physical Activity and Exercise Tailored to Individual Needs

Pharmacists recognize the importance of physical activity and exercise for maintaining overall health and well-being in aging individuals. They can provide recommendations on exercise routines tailored to individual abilities, considering factors such as strength, flexibility, and balance. Pharmacists can also offer guidance on incorporating exercise into daily routines and provide resources for appropriate physical activity programs or exercises specific to aging populations. 


Offering Advice on Sleep Hygiene and Stress Management Techniques

Pharmacists play a role in promoting healthy sleep habits and addressing sleep-related concerns. They can provide advice on sleep hygiene practices, such as maintaining a regular sleep schedule, creating a conducive sleep environment, and avoiding stimulating substances or activities before bedtime. Pharmacists can also offer strategies for managing stress, including relaxation techniques, mindfulness exercises, and referrals to appropriate resources or support services.



Support and Resources 

By referring to community services and support groups, educating on adaptive devices and assistive technologies, and collaborating with other healthcare professionals, pharmacists provide valuable support in addressing the broader needs of aging individuals beyond medication management. Their involvement helps individuals access necessary resources, adapt to age-related changes, and receive comprehensive care that promotes independence, well-being, and a higher quality of life.


Referring to Community Services and Support Groups 

Pharmacists are familiar with various community resources and support services available for aging individuals. They can provide referrals to local organizations, community centers, or support groups that cater to the specific needs and interests of aging individuals. These services may include social programs, transportation assistance, meal delivery services, and caregiver support networks. By connecting individuals with these resources, pharmacists help enhance social engagement, reduce isolation, and improve overall well-being.


Educating on Adaptive Devices and Assistive Technologies 

Aging individuals may benefit from using adaptive devices and assistive technologies to maintain independence and improve quality of life. Pharmacists can educate individuals on the availability and proper use of such devices. This may include items like mobility aids (canes, walkers), hearing aids, vision aids, medication organizers, and other assistive devices. Pharmacists can provide information on where to obtain these devices, guide individuals on how to use them effectively, and address any concerns or questions related to their usage.


Collaborating With Other Healthcare Professionals for Comprehensive Care 

Pharmacists play a crucial role in a multidisciplinary healthcare team. They collaborate with other healthcare professionals, such as physicians, nurses, physical therapists, and occupational therapists, to ensure comprehensive care for aging individuals. Pharmacists contribute their expertise in medication management, health monitoring, and lifestyle guidance to create a holistic care plan. They communicate and share information about the individual's health status, medication history, and treatment goals, allowing for coordinated and integrated care that addresses the unique needs of aging individuals.



In Conclusion 

As the baby boomer generation enters their golden years, it is crucial to recognize the significance of aging baby boomers and the unique challenges they face. Pharmacists play a pivotal role in supporting and empowering aging individuals as they age gracefully. 


Baby boomer couple at yoga studio smiling and embracing while holding yoga mats.


By leveraging their expertise in medication management, health monitoring, lifestyle guidance, and provision of resources, pharmacists contribute to optimizing health and well-being during the aging process. They serve as valuable healthcare partners, offering guidance on medication regimens, preventive care, chronic disease management, and lifestyle modifications. Pharmacists also promote open communication, trust, and collaboration, fostering strong relationships with aging individuals. 


Through medication reviews, regular check-ins, and personalized guidance, pharmacists ensure that medications are appropriate, effective, and properly administered. They provide valuable insights into potential interactions, alternative treatments, and dosage adjustments. Pharmacists also contribute to health monitoring through screenings, immunizations, and chronic disease management, promoting proactive care and early intervention. 


Moreover, pharmacists offer lifestyle guidance encompassing nutrition, physical activity, sleep hygiene, and stress management. They educate individuals on making informed choices, adapting to age-related changes, and accessing community services and support groups. By collaborating with other healthcare professionals, pharmacists ensure comprehensive care and facilitate a holistic approach to aging well. 


Establishing a strong relationship with a pharmacist is essential. Open communication, trust, and regular check-ins allow individuals to actively involve their pharmacist in their healthcare journey. Pharmacists serve as knowledgeable resources, offering guidance, addressing concerns, and providing personalized support. By building this relationship, aging individuals can enhance their quality of life, make informed decisions, and navigate the aging process with confidence. 


In conclusion, the role of pharmacists in supporting aging individuals goes beyond medication management. They serve as trusted allies, empowering individuals to embrace the changes that come with aging while maintaining their health, independence, and overall well-being. With their expertise and compassionate care, pharmacists are valuable partners in helping aging baby boomers navigate the aging process with grace and vitality. 




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What is Normal as we Age

Group of happy friends


Everyone gets older, but what can we expect our bodies to do as we age? As we get older our bodies get older too and begin to deteriorate. This may sound bad or alarming but is completely normal and happens to everyone. It is our body’s way of adapting to the new changes that are happening to us as we age. Our hair may begin to get gray, we may need glasses now, or we may begin to lose a little height. However, there is nothing to be worried about.


Because our bodies begin to change so much to accommodate our new life stage, we need to consider that some of these changes can be signs of our health changing as well. However, there is nothing to worry about as there are simple and easy ways of managing our health as we get older. We may need to change our lifestyle or simply watch out for some warning signs, but all can be managed. Here are some normal signs of aging and how you can help yourself manage them.


Skin Changes

The first thing you may notice as you age is changes to your skin. This may begin happening as young as your 40’s depending on your lifestyle. As we get older, we experience a loss of fluids in our bodies. These fluids often help keep our skin soft, tight, and healthy. This loss of fluids can then lead our skin to wrinkle, feel drier, thinner, and spots or other abnormalities may begin to appear. This is all normal and can be easily managed as we age.


How you can help

Here is what you can do to help your skin health as you get older.


  • Drink lots of Water: This may seem obvious, but a surprising number of elders drink less and less water as they get older because they believe they don’t need to drink that much. Because you are losing fluids in your body as you get older, you need to drink more water to make up for the fluid loss.

  • Take Warm Baths and Showers: As we age our skin begins to dry out more. Hot water can then further dry out our skin. Our skin also begins to thin as we get older, making us more sensitive to temperature. Taking warm or cool baths and showers still allows you to get clean while also keeping some moisture in your skin and preventing burns.

  • Use Sunscreen: “Use sunscreen!” is often something we yell at our children as they run out of the house in the summer. However, adults need to use sunscreen too or in some cases wear protective clothing. Because our skin thins as we age the sun can be more harmful, causing burns or sun stroke more easily. You should be using sunscreen everyday when you leave the house, even in the winter as the harmful rays’ bounce and reflect off the snow.

  • Check Regularly: You should be checking your skin almost everyday for new spots or abnormalities like moles or rashes. These can often be harmless like age spots, or they could be signs of cancer or other diseases. With so many changes happening all at once it is better to be safe and check often. If something new does appear and you are unsure if it is normal or not, do not hesitate to go see your doctor or talk with your pharmacist. It is better to be safe than sorry.


Loss in Strength and Stamina

You may notice that as you get older you aren’t able to climb the stairs as easily or you can no longer pick up your grandchild without joint pain. This is completely normal. As we get older our muscles begin to degrade causing us to experience a loss in strength and stamina.


Our muscles will begin to lose tissue and become less toned, causing us to experience a loss in strength. This can then make activities like picking up heavy objects, getting out of bed, or doing hobbies like gardening much harder.


You can also expect a loss in stamina. Making things like exercise, walking up the stairs, standing, or maintaining activities much harder.


Senior couple exercising at home


How you can help

Here is what you can do to improve and manage your strength and stamina as you get older.


  • Eat Healthy: Eating healthy may seem like age-old advice given to anyone and everyone, but there is a reason why. That is because it works. Switching over to a healthy diet can greatly improve your strength and stamina. Eating good foods like veggies and fruits, and iron-heavy foods like red meat or fish can be very helpful.

  • Exercise: This may seem counter productive as a loss of strength and stamina can make exercising harder. However, without exercise our muscles will continue to deteriorate further. By exercising we can build that strength back up and often be even stronger than we were before. Start small by going on regular walks, especially if you didn’t do much exercise beforehand. Then begin to work your way up to more strenuous work outs. Maybe even consider weight training.

  • Stretching: Stretching mixed with exercise can greatly improve your muscles. Not only should you be exercising to strength them, but you also need to stretch them to maintain their flexibility. Without stretching you can experience micro tears in the tissue. By stretching you can maintain their elasticity allowing you to push yourself more when it comes to exercise.


Harder to See and Hear

You may notice that you are having a harder time seeing when you read a book or trouble hearing when you are out in a crowded space. This is all normal. Just like everything else our eyes and ears begin to deteriorate as we get older.


You may begin to realize that it is suddenly harder to read and may need to get glasses for the first time in your life. Or if you already wear glasses, you may notice your vision is getting worse and may even experience glaucoma or cataracts. You may also begin to hear less. This could be higher frequencies or just in general. You may notice that you can only hear someone if they are right in front of you. Or loud spaces may cause you to experience confusion as you can no longer hear the person next to you.


Couple wearing sunglasses


How you can help

This is all completely normal, but there are still some things you can do to help.


  • Get Checked Regularly: It is always a good idea to go and get your hearing and sight checked regularly. When you are younger, they recommend getting your eyes checked every three years if there are no changes. However, as we age the changes can happen a lot more rapidly and without notice. Get checked every year if not every six months if you notice changes. You should also be getting your hearing checked every six months as well to ensure to don’t miss anything.

  • Wear Sunglasses: Up until this point, you may have avoided wearing sunglasses outside as that is just one extra thing you need to remember. However, wearing sunglasses helps protect your eyes from the harmful sun rays. Because our eyes are already deteriorating, going out without sunglasses can worsen it at a rapid rate. Besides, all that squinting is just going to add crow’s feet and wrinkles!

  • Ear plugs: Wearing ear plugs may seem counter intuitive as you are trying to hear more not less. However, wearing ear plugs in loud or crowded spaces may help you. It prevents you from getting overwhelmed and allows you to focus more on the person speaking to you. It will also allow you to maintain what hearing ability you have left, rather than making it worse by overloading your ears with a bunch of noise.


Memory Loss

Memory loss may seem scary as it is often associated with things like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. However, memory loss on a minor level can be completely normal. Even when we are young, we all experience momentary lapses in memory, like forgetting where we put our car keys. As we get older, we continue to experience the same thing more often. Most of the time there is no need to worry about things like dementia, however, if you are worried or experiencing more memory loss then normal feel free to go get tested, it never hurts.


Elderly people playing board game


How you can help

Managing memory loss is quite easy once you know how.


  • Exercise Your Brain: Exercising your brain may seem like a weird concept, however, it can be very beneficial. Exercising your brain can be something as simple as doing a puzzle, as it helps retain memory and cognitive function. Or you could begin doing crosswords or sudoku, as they both require you to engage your use of memory. It could also be more complicated, like learning something new, such as a language or skill.

  • Make a Schedule: If you notice that you aren’t forgetting things all the time just occasionally, try creating a schedule. This will allow you to go about your daily tasks without much thought. If you do the same thing everyday it becomes easier to remember.

We hope this was helpful in allowing you to recognize normal signs of aging either in yourself or a loved one and some ways to help manage them. If you are interested in more health-related content, please check out the rest of our News page.


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Dried fruits and nuts on a bowl


When you come home from a busy day all you want to do is sit down, relax, and enjoy your night. The last thing that you want to be thinking about is “what can I make for dinner”, let alone whether it is healthy or not. With this busy world everyone is thinking about a million things at a time, your appointment on Monday, the kid’s soccer practice tonight, that report due in the morning. Taking the extra time to consider what you are making for dinner and if it’s healthy doesn’t really seem like a priority.


However, it may not have to be that complicated. Many everyday foods that you may have in your fridge or pantry right now, can have some surprising health benefits. By continuing to stock healthy kitchen staples, you can begin to create healthy eating habits with little to no effort. Simply taking the time to educate yourself on some common healthy foods can make the biggest difference. Having them on-hand when you start to cook can save you from just opting for pizza rather than a trip to the grocery store.


Here is our list of Top 10 foods you may already have at home that have surprising health benefits. It features all kinds of good and healthy options including natural remedies, anti-inflammatory foods, immune-boosting foods, and some surprising additions you may not expect. For further information on the health benefits of food and health conditions, check out the rest of our News page.


Dark Chocolate

Now you may be thinking, “but isn’t chocolate packed full of sugar?”. And you would be right, it can be most of the time. However, dark chocolate can be quite healthy in small amounts. Dark chocolate contains a higher-than-normal level of cacao and lower levels of sugar and milk, making it a healthier treat. It also contains healthy minerals such as potassium, zinc, and selenium, and has been linked to reduced risk of stroke and potential protection against harmful sun rays. When eaten in small amounts, dark chocolate can improve your overall health, and provide a nice treat.


If you keep pure cacao on hand, it can be used to add a rich chocolate flavour to smoothies and baked goods without adding any sugar at all! Eating a little bit of healthy chocolate can also satisfy your ‘choco-cravings’ and stop you from demolishing a party-size bag of M&Ms after dinner.


assorted bread



Another food that may come as a major surprise is bread. Bread is often associated with heavy amounts of carbs, sugars, and overall seen as an unhealthy food. However, the right bread can provide you with some missing nutrients. White bread is the type that contains all the harmful sugars and carbs. Whole grain, not whole wheat, bread is surprisingly healthy; it’s high in folate, iron, and fiber. It has also been linked to lowering your risk of developing diabetes and heart disease, as well as lower levels of cholesterol.


All white bread, however, isn’t bad. Enriched white bread, which is white bread that has had additional nutrients added back in after the milling process, can have some good vitamins. Enriched white bread often contains vitamins B1 thiamine, B2 riboflavin, and B3 niacin. If you’re watching your waistline, limit the bread (and total carbs) on your plate to around 33% of your total calorie intake.



When most people think of lean and healthy meats, they often go to skinless chicken breast. However, pork loin or roast can often provide you with similar health benefits. Some cuts of pork can contain a lot of fat, however, the leaner cuts such as the loin or roast can often be just as lean as chicken breast. Pork also contains good B vitamins like B1 thiamin, B2 riboflavin, and B3 niacin. So rather than always going for that plain skinless chicken breast, maybe mix it up and throw in some pork loin every now and then.


Just remember that pork is still a red meat, no matter how much the pork board wants to call it the ‘other white meat’. Red meat can affect your cholesterol and studies show that eating a lot of red meat may be linked with certain bowel cancers.


Fresh, raw garlic



Like many other spices, people only think of garlic as a seasoning, meant to add extra flavour. However, garlic can provide you with some great health benefits on its own. Garlic has been proven to be an anti-inflammatory food, lower cholesterol, improve your heart health, aid in digestion, and lower your blood sugar levels. It has also been linked to reducing cell damage and blood pressure. It can also help reduce your chances of getting a cold or the flu, so maybe consider it the next time you are starting to feel under-the-weather. However, like most things, too much garlic can be harmful; leading to bloating and heartburn so be careful how much you are adding.


Eating raw garlic also can be more beneficial than adding it into a cooked dish. During the cooking process it can lose some of its important nutrients. By eating it raw and whole, you can get more health benefits out of it. Raw garlic is also a natural remedy for when you are sick.


Black tea & Green tea

When thinking of healthy tea most people typically gravitate towards green tea as it is high in antioxidants. But what they don’t know is that black tea is also very healthy. Black tea contains something called catechins, which are a naturel type of antioxidant that comes from tannins. Black tea has also been linked to helping lower your risk of developing heart disease. So next time you are looking for a healthy tea, maybe choose black rather than green.


It's important to make sure you are following the correct methods for brewing the tea you have chosen. Different teas require different temperatures of water and steeping times. For example, Green Tea releases the most flavour and nutrients in water that is 175-180 degrees Fahrenheit. If you bring the water to boil (around 212 degrees Fahrenheit) it will destroy some of the benefits and make the tea taste bitter. Green tea should be steeped for 3-4 minutes and then the tea leaves (or bag) should be taken out.



Whether they are a fruit, or a vegetable, it does not matter because either way they are extremely healthy. Tomatoes contain some of the highest levels of vitamin C, even higher than most citrus fruits like oranges. Because of their red pigment, tomatoes contain a very concentrated amount of vitamin C. This level only continues to rise when using tomato paste, because it has been concentrated and reduced even further. Tomatoes are also one of the few sources of lycopene, which has been linked to skin and other health benefits.


Canned tomatoes are a healthy option as well, just make sure you choose the no-sodium or low-sodium varieties. You can always add salt to the recipe, and control how much you add, so there’s really no reason to have it in the can.



Mushrooms or fungi may not seem like much from the outside, but on the inside, they are packed full of good nutrients. All mushrooms or fungi contain high levels of vitamin D. Specifically, portabella and cremini mushrooms are also a great source of vitamin B2 riboflavin and B3 niacin.


A bowl of oatmeal with berries on top



Aside from being a very versatile food and quick and easy breakfast, oats can be great in other ways. Rolled or steel-cut oats, not instant, can be a great source of complex carbs, fiber, vitamin B1 thiamin, B3 niacin, B5 pantothenic acid, B6 pyridoxine, folate, and iron. They have also been linked to a 21% decrease in heart disease as well as decreasing blood sugar spikes.



Nuts can be very healthy, when they aren’t coated in mass amounts of salt or ground into sugar filled spreads. Unprocessed nuts can provide you with more nutrients than you think. They contain healthy minerals such as magnesium, copper, iron, selenium, and zinc. They are a source of healthy fats and have been linked to lower cholesterol and control appetite.


Nuts can also be an anti-inflammatory food source, promote cell growth, increase your overall energy, and improve digestion. However, you should keep in mind that the recommended serving size for most nuts is about an ounce or one handful. This number of nuts is good for your health but over doing it can reduce the beneficial effects.



Many fruits have been said to provide you with health benefits, however, berries such as blueberries and raspberries have some of the best health benefits. Berries are a great way to get a lot of your needed nutrients, they are easy to eat on the go, pair well with other foods, kids love them, and they don’t taste healthy which is always a bonus.


Berries are a great source of both vitamins C and K, as well as probiotics, potassium, fiber, and antioxidants. They have also been linked to helping reduce conditions like type-2 diabetes. For more information about type-2 diabetes check out this blog post.


They also help reduce the risk for heart disease, as well as improve heart health, reduce inflammation, and boost immunity. Consider adding a side of berries to your lunch or giving a little extra to your kids for a snack each day.



Eating healthy doesn’t have to be a chore, it can be as simple as stocking healthy kitchen staples. Most of the common foods in your fridge or cupboard right now could have amazing health benefits you just have to know what you are looking for. When it comes to developing healthy eating habits all it takes is to take a step back and recognize what you have and where you can make improvements.


Even when it comes to cooking methods for healthy eating, all you must do is reduce the amount of salt and bad fats you are using and start integrating healthy food choices. Consider food pairing for maximum health benefits. And remember it doesn’t have to be overthought or complicated, you probably have everything you need already at home.


If you are unsure where to begin your healthy eating journey, come ask a pharmacist at a Cook’s Pharmacy location near you! We are in Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge, Wellesley, and New Hamburg, or give us a call. Our pharmacists are always happy to help and give you healthy recommendations. If you are simply interested in more health-related content, check out our News page for more blogs covering a wider range of health topics.


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Woman waking up feeling well-rested



“The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will instruct his patients in the care of the human frame, in diet, and in the cause and prevention of disease.” – Thomas Edison


The pursuit of wellness, while very popular today is not a new concept. Ayurveda, a holistic system of medicine from India, dates back as early as 3,000-1,500 BC. It strived to create harmony between the mind, body, and spirit and utilized practices like meditation and Yoga.


Traditional Chinese Medicine hails from the same era, relying on approaches such as acupuncture, herbal medicine, qi gong, and tai chi. Fast forward hundreds of years (skipping a few evolutions of wellness along the way) to the 19th century, when intellectual movements and new medical practices exploded in the US and Europe. Modern versions of homeopathy, osteopathy, chiropractic, and naturopathy were born.


The philosophy of these methodologies, “that a healthy body is a product of a healthy mind and spirit” laid the groundwork for the thriving wellness and self-help movements we see today. Despite the rise of modern “Western” medicine’s mid-20th century push against these practices, many have regained respect within the mainstream medical community.


Over the past 30 years wellness has become part of an integrated culture focused on health in our society. This movement motivates millions of people seeking better lifestyles, diets, exercise regimes, and mindfulness. A Consumer Opinions survey, across four continents found that 79% of consumers found wellness to be important and 42% make it a top priority. This widespread interest results in a global wellness market worth $4.4 Trillion in 2022.


So, what are people focusing their attention on? Here are some of the big wellness trends you’ll be hearing about in 2023.



1. New Ways to Prioritize Sleep

To be at our optimal health, doctors recommend 7-9 hours of sleep a night.


On average most Canadians are doing it and scoring 7.9 hours of sleep! People aged 35-64 are the age demographic most likely to not get enough sleep and probably the ones who need it the most. (And the demographic who is most likely reading this blog). Well, here are a few trending techniques you can add to your sleep routine.


Sleep syncing is replacing counting sheep. This involves you adjusting when you sleep to align better with the rhythms of nature (like the sun or moon). Studies are showing that people can fall asleep faster and reduce stress. A good way to start tuning your circadian rhythm is to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day – this helps you set a regular sleep schedule. You can also try circadian eating, having those heavy meals earlier in the day and keeping it light at night.


Finally, a trend with hardcore wellness nuts is mouth-taping while sleeping. Taping one’s mouth forces you to breathe only through your nose, which some argue has a slew of health benefits. These include better temperature control, filtering the air with your cilia (or nose hairs), and humidifying the air you breathe. It might make you wonder too if mouth-taping could prevent snoring? Time will tell if this trend really takes off!  



2. A Focus on Women’s Health

Up until the 1990s most medical health research was conducted by men for men. Women were not leading the research nor were they the subject of the research. For decades, women were excluded from research trials from scientists and doctors fearing it would put women’s fertility at risk. Medical research concluded this by the theory of using only male animals' cells and tissue, research could reduce the number of variables to control. They also wrongly assumed any findings could easily be applied to women.


Thankfully medical science has progressed, and we now better understand women’s health;  the causes and symptoms of diseases, and needs. Which, can be very different from our male counterparts. As the number of women in the medical field increase, so is research dedicated to understanding women’s health. We’ve seen significant growth in our knowledge of menopause and the impact of hormones in recent years.


The focus on women’s health should continue, as more and more research is done on other female-specific issues like endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), and fertility. Hopefully this results in better treatments, medicines, natural health products, and strategies specifically designed with women in mind.



3. The Gut Biome

Over the past 5 years, we’ve seen an increase in the amount of information on gut health – we don’t see this leaving the wellness stage anytime soon.


Woman holding her hands in a heart shape over her gut


Adding probiotics, fermented foods, and reducing our sugar intake are common wellness practices. The connection between our gut biome and our overall health is in the early stages of discovery but new findings are connecting our guts to our brain!


We all know a brain is made up of neurons, approximately 100 billion. Did you know that your gut also has neurons – but, a whopping 500 million more? These gut neurons are connected to your brain through nerves in your nervous system. Another amazing finding is that a large proportion of serotonin, the happy hormone, is produced in the gut. Researchers are going as far as to say that gut bacteria can affect your brain health. Safe to say, this area of health and wellness is just getting started to explore all the ways we can improve our wellness by having a healthy gut.



4. Many Mini-Workouts Every Day

Today’s time commitments make it hard for a large portion of people to carve out a 30–45-minute block for exercise. The recommended amount of exercise per week is 150 minutes. Buzz words around the term "mini-workouts" are incidental or micro workouts. No matter the name, these terms are all promoting the same thing – and research is demonstrating that these exercise snacks are just as effective as 45 minutes all at once. 


One study from the University of Utah showed that all efforts, no matter how small, add up. Another paper published in Obesity demonstrated mini-workouts throughout the day can help curb appetite. Incidental workouts, can be as simple as walking a few blocks, doing 10 push-ups, running up the stairs instead of plotting along, or doing a wall sit (maintain a 90-degree squat up against a wall) while waiting for your lunch to heat up in the microwave.


Moderate intensity exercise, which is defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as any physical activity that raises your heart rate and makes you sweat. Exercise, no matter how you break down the minutes, will lower your risk of heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes and even help battle some common cancers.



5. Re-Evaluating Our Relationship with Alcohol

The pandemic saw a significant rise in the consumption of alcohol around the world. Recent statistics shared by StatsCan, revealed some severe consequences of that.


But, our culture has revered a good, cold beer and sip of a solid whiskey for decades. It’s a social thing, after work, with our friends, and for special occasions.


Friends cheers over mocktails


Canada’s old guidelines for drinking allowed for up to 10 drinks per week for women and 15 for men. The new guidelines for drinking alcohol have drastically changed its recommendations, stating that a maximum of 2 drinks per week for both men and women is ideal to promote optimal health and prevent premature death and disease.


Many of us use alcohol as a way to relieve stress after a long day without considering the effects it can have on our long-term health. Enter the ‘sober curious’ movement, with a growing market shift to mocktails. Even celebrities like Blake Lively who created a new line of products called Betty Buzz is getting in on it (despite her partner’s Ryan Reynolds investment in Aviator Gin).


Non-alcoholic alternatives are on the rise, like adaptogenic drinks that use plants and herbs to help reduce stress instead of alcohol. Just hop on your favorite social app and enter #sobercurious or #damplifestyle and you will see a movement growing to reduce or eliminate their alcohol intake.


Benefits include better sleep, fewer calories in your diet, and significantly reduced chances of getting cancer.



6. You Could Always Try Mushrooms

The benefits of functional mushrooms are only just being discovered. Recent studies have shown high levels of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and bioactive compounds. Think better sleep, memory, and immunity. Plus, we’re seeing stress reduction, reduced inflammation, and increased energy. Be on the lookout this year for increased research on the magical powers of mushrooms.



Try One, or Try Them All!

The World Health Organization reminds us that health is “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”


Depending on your lifestyle, focusing on just one new area of your health can make a world of difference. Whether it’s prioritizing your sleep, adding exercise, reducing your alcohol intake, or focusing on how you can improve your gut health. Chances are, any or all of the above will result in you feeling better in your mind, body, and spirit.




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Heart-Healthy Foods

Mother and daughter eating healthy foods



Putting heart health on the back burner when life gets busy is easy to do, particularly when it feels like there are not enough hours in the day, the kids need to get to their appointments or activities, and the boss keeps piling on the workload.


It can be challenging to find time to exercise, practice self-care, and cook well-balanced meals – even though we know full well that our overall health is just as important as all the things we need to do and all the places we need to be.


However, our hearts work so hard for us every minute of every day and, just like car engines, can start to struggle if they don't have clean fuel or if we let gunk build up in all the lines! Our fast-paced society and the forever increasing demands on our time, attention, and energy understandably make fast food, freezer meals, and highly processed snacks seem like ideal options, but today is a great day to start putting better fuel in your body to support heart health! Learn more below about how you can protect your heart with healthy foods!



Why Prioritize Heart Health

Our hearts are pretty hardy organs, but if we neglect them too long, our tickers can start to show signs of trouble. Poor diet, stress, excess weight, and living with high blood pressure can eventually lead to heart diseases such as Coronary Artery Disease (CAD), stroke, Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD), aortic disease, arrhythmias, cardiogenic shock, and even heart failure.


While heart disease can be managed with lifestyle changes and medication, your best bet will always be to take a proactive approach to caring for heart health - and your overall health - by exercising regularly, practicing self-care, managing any current diseases, taking all your medications as prescribed, and eating a heart-healthy diet.


To learn more about heart health overall, the causes of poor heart health, and what you can do to protect your heart throughout your life, take a look at our other Heart Health blog post that covers multiple topics in greater detail! To learn more about incorporating more heart-healthy foods into your diet, continue reading below!  



Tips for Eating a Heart-Healthy Diet

Before jumping into our heart-healthy foods list, there are a few "golden rules" for eating for heart health that you should remember when meal planning.


These include:

  • Reducing red meat, sugar, saturated and trans fats, sodium, and processed or canned foods
  • Limiting sodium intake to 2300 mg/day (or 1500 mg/day if you have kidney disease or high blood pressure)
  • Incorporating fiber-rich foods
  • Preparing meals at home as often as possible
  • Eating a variety of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat dairy, protein-rich foods, and foods high in healthy fats
  • Limiting alcohol
  • Managing portion sizes


Following these tips will help set your heart up for success and make navigating a lifestyle change easier. For a list of heart-healthy foods, continue reading below!



Foods That Support Optimal Heart Health

Eating a variety of nutritious foods is essential for overall health but it is especially essential if you are trying to follow a heart-healthy diet as a proactive approach to reducing heart disease, as a way to lower cholesterol, or to heal after a heart attack. No matter your reason for following a heart-smart diet, we are happy you have found your way to our heart-healthy food list!


Our list of the most heart-healthy foods includes:  

  • Heart Healthy Vegetables
  • Heart Healthy Fruits
  • Heart Healthy Protein Foods
  • Whole Grains for Heart Health
  • Fat-Free or Low-Fat Dairy
  • Healthy Oils and Fats


You’re sure to find something on our list of best foods for your heart and arteries below! 



Heart Healthy Vegetables


Spinach with water droplets


Vegetables are very supportive of heart health because they are packed with so many vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. They also offer high levels of nitrates that help oxygen-rich blood reach your heart more easily. In addition, they tend to be lower in calories and higher in dietary fiber than other food categories.


Generally, dark leafy greens are a safe bet when shopping for vegetables that are good for your heart. Look for swiss chard, collard greens, lettuce, spinach, bok choy, mustard greens, and arugula. Asparagus, broccoli, and carrots are also heart-smart vegetables.


When shopping for heart-healthy vegetables, look for fresh, frozen, or canned options. If opting for canned vegetables, be sure to check the sodium content on the nutrition label and opt for low-sodium options only. Avoid all vegetables with creamy sauces, or processed vegetables that are fried or breaded. 



Heart Healthy Fruits

Like vegetables, heart-healthy fruits are a great choice for improving or protecting your heart health. They are also loaded with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants that reduce inflammation that can contribute to heart disease development.


Heart-healthy fruits include cherries, blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries. Apples, bananas, pears, oranges, prunes, and grapes are other great choices. In addition, tomatoes are also considered a heart-healthy fruit – even if you would strongly debate that they are more of a vegetable! 


When shopping, steer clear of coconuts and coconut products as they are high in calories and saturated fat, which is not supportive of cholesterol levels. Canned fruit packed in syrup or frozen fruit that has a lot of added sugar should also be avoided. Instead, seek out fresh, no-sugar-added frozen options, or canned fruit packed in water or juice.



Heart Healthy Protein Foods


Healthy protein sources on wood platter


Next up on our list of great foods for heart health are protein foods! Protein foods cover multiple types of delicious and nutritious foods such as dairy, meat, poultry, fish, eggs, legumes, and soy and soy products.


When shopping for heart-healthy groceries, look for low-fat dairy options when purchasing milk, cheese, and yogurt. Opt for lean meat (like pork tenderloin), skinless chicken or turkey, and cold-water fish like salmon. You can also enjoy eggs as a great source of protein. Eat peas, beans, and lentils for low-fat and no-cholesterol proteins.


The key to remember in the protein category is that you should avoid full-fat options, processed meats, high-salt proteins, organ meats, processed foods, and fried or breaded meats. This part of a diet and lifestyle change can be one of the trickiest adjustments, but focusing on what you can have versus what you can't often makes it easier to build up a list of heart-healthy proteins to incorporate into your meal plan.



Whole Grains for Heart Health

Whole grains play an important role in regulating blood pressure, making them a key part of heart health! Whole grains are full of fiber and other nutrients, and you would be surprised how easy it is to incorporate more of them into your heart-healthy diet - simply substitute whole grains for refined grains!


Refined grains are abundant in convenience foods, bread, desserts, and even some crackers! White bread, frozen waffles, muffins, cakes, pies, doughnuts, biscuits, and cornbread are some of the most common refined grain products that are great for a busy lifestyle but not so great for heart health. Therefore, try to avoid these products as much as possible or reserve them for occasional treats or special occasions.


Instead of consuming refined grains, opt for whole wheat flour (100% whole wheat is ideal), whole grain pastas, high fiber cereals (watch the sugars), and unsweetened oatmeals. Brown rice, buckwheat, and barley are other heart-healthy grain options to experiment with. 



Healthy Oils and Fats


Healthy fats


While it is a common misconception that all fat in our diets is bad, there are actually many sources of healthy fat in food that support heart health when consumed in moderation. These healthy fats are called monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats, and they play an important role in maintaining our body's cells. They also provide nutrients and can help reduce heart disease when eaten in place of saturated fat (bad fat).


Healthy fat sources include avocados, nuts, seeds, olive oil, canola oil, certain fish, and some margarines. These healthy fat sources can be used in place of saturated fat sources like butter, lard, bacon fat, cream sauces, gravy, hydrogenated margarine, and coconut. Just remember that moderation is still key for healthy fats, as they are higher in calories than other food types.




In conclusion, there are many delicious and nutritious foods that you can easily incorporate into your diet if you are seeking to adopt a heart-healthy food plan. Eating more heart-healthy foods is an effective way to better support your body if your ticker is showing signs of trouble. A heart-healthy diet is also part of a proactive approach to heart health.


Incorporating heart-healthy foods into your lifestyle is completely doable with vegetables, fruit, protein foods, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and healthy fats. Remember to do your best to reduce sodium, limit convenience foods, increase fiber, manage portion sizes, and eat a variety of delicious foods.


If you are not sure where to start with adopting a heart-healthy food plan, your local pharmacist can help! Find a Cook’s Pharmacy near you in Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge, Wellesley, or New Hamburg, or give us a call! Our pharmacists are happy to help you create a heart-healthy food list and set you up for success!




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Dr. checking patients hearing



As we get older, everything doesn’t necessarily age like fine wine. Reading glasses, back pain, and a slower metabolism are some of the first and most common things you might notice. Hearing loss may be another.


A recent study reported that 4.6 million Canadians, 20-79 years old have measurable hearing loss. Reported hearing loss significantly rises to two-thirds in those aged 70-79.


Common symptoms of age-related hearing loss often happen gradually and include:

  • Complaining of muffled sound and speech
  • Trouble hearing words in settings where there is background noise, like a restaurant or crowd.
  • Repeatedly asking people to speak louder, slower, or clearer
  • Turning up the volume on the TV
  • Avoiding group conversations and social settings
  • Many might ignore these symptoms believing they are manageable. Others afraid of appearing older by using hearing aids will continue to just live with hearing loss, believing that the decision will not have any long-term consequences. Recent research connecting hearing loss to dementia may change that.


study published in July 2021, out of the University of Oxford, looked at over 82,000 participants aged 60 years and older. Findings showed people who struggle to hear speech in noise were more likely to develop dementia than those with normal hearing, as measured over an 11-year period. Before we look further into the research let’s define what dementia is and the impact it has on people’s lives.



What is Dementia?

The Mayo Clinic defines “Dementia[s] as a term used to describe a group of symptoms affecting memory, thinking, and social abilities severely enough to interfere with your daily life. It isn't a specific disease, but several diseases [that] can cause dementia.”


Worldwide, around 50 million people suffer from dementia. The most common of these is Alzheimer’s, Vascular Dementia, and Parkinson’s. The symptoms of dementia can be devasting to those affected and their loved ones. Memory loss, difficulty communicating, inability to handle complex tasks, confusion, and agnosia – the inability to remember objects or people. Dementia can also have severe psychological impacts including changes in behaviour, depression, hallucinations, mood swings, and anger.



How is Dementia Linked to Hearing Loss?


Woman sitting her cane under her chin


The causes of Alzheimer’s, Vascular Dementia, and Parkinson’s vary and are not well understood. A report produced by the Lancet Commission called Dementia Prevention, Intervention and Care was released in 2020, sharing the risks of dementia. It found that 60% were unknown, and 40% could be broken down into “12 modifiable risk factors.” Some of these included less education, brain injury, social isolation, and depression. But the highest percentage went to hearing loss, representing 8% of the modifiable risk factors. Specifically midlife untreated hearing loss.


This study is not alone in its findings. John Hopkins University tracked 639 adults for almost 12 years. Dr. Frank Lin and his research team found that the degree of hearing loss increased the risk factor for dementia:

  • Mild hearing loss doubled the risk.
  • Moderate hearing loss tripled the risk.
  • While severe hearing impairment increased the risk up to five times compared to those who had no hearing impairment


“Brain scans show us that hearing loss may contribute to a faster rate of atrophy in the brain. Hearing loss also contributes to social isolation. You may not want to be with people as much, and when you are you may not engage in conversation as much. These factors may contribute to dementia,” Lin says.


Another study led by Jonathan Peelle conducted brain scans of older adults. Participants listened to different sentences, that changed in complexity while being scanned. Tests were also done to measure “grey matter” or regions of the brain involved in muscle control. Further tests looked at the senses, seeing and hearing, memory, and decision-making. Findings showed the brain cells of people with hearing loss were less active when they listened to complex sentences. They also had less gray matter in the auditory areas of the brain.



Can Hearing Aids Help Against Cognitive Decline?

Although much work remains to be done, preliminary research is showing positive results that wearing hearing aids can lower the risks of cognitive decline. A meta-analysis of 31 studies published in 2022 demonstrates a convincing link, most likely attributed to how hearing aids and cochlear implants make it easier to prevent isolation and stay socially engaged. Two other modifiable risk factors in developing dementia.


A large 2018 study looked at the results from more than 2,000 Americans aged 50 and up who took word recall assessments every two years for almost 20 years. Among participants who started wearing hearing aids during the period, the results suggested that the aids slowed the rate they lost memory of words.


Circling back to Dr. Lin’s work at Johns Hopkins it is hopeful we will have more evidence in 2023.  A large National Institute on Aging study is looking to understand if hearing aids can protect the mental processes of those aged 70-84. The study is pulling nearly 1,000 people with hearing loss from multiple locations. One set are provided hearing aids while the other set only receives education. It is hoped the study will provide definitive results on whether wearing hearing aids can reduce the risk of brain aging and dementia.



What’s Holding People Back from Hearing Aids?


Woman touching her hearing aid


Aside from the connection to dementia hearing loss can cause other problems in perfectly healthy Canadians. Social isolation, depression, mobility issues, and fatigue to name a few. In fact, a whopping 80% of those estimated 4.6 million Canadians don’t wear hearing aids. So why aren’t people getting the help they need?


Common answers include:


My hearing isn’t that bad. It seems to take time for people to process and get a handle on hearing loss. StatsCan reports, even once hearing loss is suspected, there is still on average a delay of seven years or more before an individual seeks help.


Hearing aids are for old people. Aging is hard to accept, and traditionally most people that wear hearing aids are over 70. If you are one of the unfortunate and start to lose your hearing long before that, hearing aids may come with a “senior” stigma attached to them.

Hearing aids are big and ugly. Today’s technology has improved the look and capabilities of hearing aids and cochlear implants (a device implanted into the inner ear and stimulates the hearing nerve. It’s for children and adults with profound hearing loss.) There are even products on the market that are advertised as the “invisible hearing aid” that fit so deeply in your ear canal that you can hardly see them from the outside.

Hearing aids are difficult to use. Many people do not like to learn new things. As with any technology there is an adjustment period while you learn how to use it. Most doctors and hearing clinics allow for a trial period until you can find the best product for you.


Knowing the Risks, What Should You Do?

Well for starters get your hearing checked. Regular hearing tests in your 30s, 40s and 50s should be part of your health regiment, like eye exams and yearly check-ups with the family doctor. You can even check your hearing with a free online hearing test. If the results aren’t perfect, booking an appointment at a local hearing clinic is covered by your health benefits.



What If I Need Hearing Aids? Are they Covered in Ontario?

OHIP provides some coverage of hearing aids for every resident despite age, through the Assistive Devices Program (ADP). ADP provides a grant of $500 per ear, once every 3 years if required. You just need to fill out the forms given to you by your audiologist. Once you have your hearing aids, the audiologist will bill OHIP directly.


Most private insurance companies provide coverage ranging from $500 to $1500 per hearing aid. Workplace benefits packages also offer some coverage ranging from $300-$500 over 2 years but are often shared with hearing aid repairs.


The cost of hearing aids in Ontario is not insignificant and varies widely depending on the technology, brand, and features. On average, a hearing aid can cost between $2500 to $3500, but be as low as $1000 or as high as $8,000. Premium tech will come with a higher price tag, while basic hearing aids with fewer bells and whistles tend to be less expensive.



Keep the Big Picture in Mind

Knowing all the hang-ups, inconveniences, and expenses that can come with hearing aids, we need to remember the quality of life today and in the future. More and more research is showing us that hearing loss represents 8% of the modifiable risks for dementia AND not treating hearing loss can contribute to another 4% from social isolation.


As a society, we need to start normalizing hearing tests, offer more support for those with hearing loss and encourage governments and insurance plans to provide more coverage. HearingLife Canada reports if we treated all hearing loss cases nearly 1 in 10 dementia cases could be eliminated. The impact of dementia on people, families, society, and the healthcare system far outweighs the stigma and costs of hearing aids.




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New Powers for Pharmacists in Ontario

Pharmacist talking to a patient



Have you heard the great news that pharmacists in Ontario can now help you and your family more than ever before? They can do so because, as of January 1, 2023, the scope of practice for pharmacists has expanded!


Due to the changes to regulations in Ontario’s Pharmacy Act, pharmacists are now authorized to assist patients with an additional thirteen minor ailments. Of course, this is on top of the many other ways pharmacists can help serve your health needs.


So, what can a pharmacist help you with in Ontario? We outline everything you need to know about the recent changes below.



Why Did Ontario Expand Pharmacists’ Scope of Practice Under the Pharmacy Act?

It is not a secret that hospitals and family doctors across Ontario have been overburdened and backlogged for far too long. If you are fortunate to have a family doctor, appointment wait times are likely lengthy and, if you don’t have a regular family physician, you are probably used to sitting in a walk-in clinic for hours – if you can even get in that day! Unfortunately, emergency room wait times are not any better.


Despite all health professionals doing their best to meet never-ending demands, capacity issues have been ongoing for decades. Unfortunately, matters have worsened in recent years as more and more healthcare professionals burn out, fall sick, or opt to hang up their scrubs for good. Simply put, it was time for something to change!


Better utilizing pharmacists' robust training and expertise is a natural decision to free up physicians' capacity for more complicated health concerns. Expanding the scope of practice for pharmacists helps relieve some pressure from doctors’ offices, walk-in clinics, and hospitals because many cases do not require a physician's attention – particularly common, uncomplicated, and non-life-threatening ailments.


While Ontario’s new regulations under the Pharmacy Act will not solve all the challenges facing Ontarians, healthcare professionals, and our public health systems, it is a step in the right direction!



Benefits of Expanding Pharmacists’ Scope of Practice

Everyone’s lives are busy. Between raising children, working, running errands, keeping the house presentable, maintaining friendships, caring for an aging loved one, and so much more, balancing all the responsibilities of life is tough. With most households requiring two incomes and employers always asking for more, there are never enough hours in the day.


Most people do not have time to spend hours away from work and household duties to wait for health care for a minor health concern, so allowing pharmacists to utilize more of their robust knowledge to help their patients can make a difference. 


While many people need to travel to a different city or town to visit a hospital, doctor's office, or walk-in clinic, almost everywhere has at least one local pharmacy. Finding a great pharmacist near you is typically easier, making it faster and easier to access care!


With Ontario’s new regulations, you may even be able to get a diagnosis and prescription without ever having to step foot in a doctor’s office! Pharmacists are already highly trained experts in prescription medications, drug interactions, dosage requirements, and common ailments, so they are the perfect health professionals to help reduce the number of stops you need to make in your busy day.



What New Health Concerns Can Pharmacists Help With in Ontario?


Pharmacist smiling while talking to a patient


As of January 1, 2023, pharmacists in Ontario will be able to offer prescriptions for 13 health concerns, including:

  • Acid reflux (gastroesophageal reflux disease)
  • Hay fever (allergic rhinitis)
  • Cold sores (herpes labialis
  • Dermatitis (eczema, atopic, allergic and contact)
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Impetigo
  • Insect bites and hives
  • Menstrual cramps (dysmenorrhea)
  • Oral thrush (candidal stomatitis)
  • Pink eye (conjunctivitis; bacterial, allergic and viral)
  • Sprains and strains (musculoskeletal)
  • Tick bites
  • Urinary tract infections


These pharmacy services are in addition to:

  • General health concerns
  • Diabetic counselling
  • Medication compounding
  • Weight loss management
  • Compression stockings
  • Travel health consultations
  • Respiratory counselling
  • INR management
  • Flu shots and vaccines
  • And more!



How Does Accessing Expanded Services From Pharmacists Work?

Expanded services from your local pharmacy are available in person or virtually at participating pharmacies. As most pharmacies are independently owned and operated, each one will have its own practices. Therefore, start by calling the pharmacy near you to see if you can walk in or if you must book an appointment in advance.


Accessing care from pharmacies is free to everyone with an Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP). Simply bring your health card with you to your appointment/drop-in visit.


Once your local pharmacist has confirmed that you have OHIP, you will have the opportunity to have a conversation in a private counselling space. Your pharmacist may do a quick visual inspection of the area of concern to confirm a diagnosis and gauge severity.


Next, your pharmacist will provide a diagnosis or refer you to another health professional if required. In most cases of uncomplicated ailments, your pharmacist will recommend an over-the-counter remedy or, if it falls within their new scope of practice, prescribe a medication. If you are prescribed a drug, you do not need to fill your prescription at the same pharmacy that prescribed it.


Your pharmacist will then update your family doctor to ensure they are aware of your health concerns and the treatment the pharmacist recommended or prescribed.



Can Pharmacists in Ontario See Your Medical Records?

Yes! Pharmacists in Ontario do have access to your electronic medical records. Having access to information about your health history is a critical part of helping doctors, hospitals, pharmacies, and other medical professionals provide appropriate medical care and advice to patients.


Through your electronic medical records, your local pharmacist can access any past lab results, diagnostic imaging reports, hospital visit reports, and a list of any medications dispensed to you through the Ontario public drug plan. However, pharmacists cannot see your doctor's notes in your physical file at their office or view a list of any medications that you accessed through private insurance or with cash.



When Will a Pharmacist Recommend That I See My Family Doctor Instead?

Your local pharmacists always strive to provide prompt and exceptional service to all patients, which is why most pharmacies are excited and eager to offer expanded services. However, pharmacists must continue to ensure that they work within their scope of practice and act in each patient's best interest. For these reasons, your pharmacist may refer you to a different medical professional in some cases.


Pharmacist sending patient with a note to see a doctor


If you are experiencing an urgent or life-threatening health emergency, seek medical treatment from the hospital. For complicated health concerns, book an appointment with your family doctor. For uncomplicated or common ailments, visit your pharmacist.


Pharmacies will do their best to offer you relief and information as quickly as possible. However, if they determine that blood work, lab testing, or urinalysis may be required to confirm an assessment, or if your health concern is beyond their scope of practice, you will be referred to your doctor or another medical professional as per regulations in the Pharmacy Act.




Family doctors' waiting lists are getting longer, hospitals are overburdened, walk-in clinics are packed, and healthcare professionals are tired. Individuals and families are also busier than ever and do not have the time to wait hours in a waiting room or weeks for an appointment. Something had to change, and pharmacists are happy to be able to step up to help!  


As of January 1, 2023, pharmacists can now diagnose and prescribe medications for 13 common, uncomplicated, and non-life-threatening ailments like acid reflux, cold sores, dermatitis, oral thrush, pink eye, tick and insect bites, urinary tract infections, and more!


These expanded pharmacy services are in addition to assisting you with general health concerns, INR control checks, compression stockings, travel health consultations, respiratory counselling, prescription compounding, and weight loss management.


These changes to regulations under Ontario's Pharmacy Act allow pharmacists to utilize more of their expertise while reducing the pressure on other areas of health care and making accessing care more convenient than ever for individuals and families in the province, which is great news for everyone!



Connect With Cook’s Pharmacy!

Do you have a common or uncomplicated health concern that you do not feel warrants a trip to the doctor or hospital? Then consider contacting Cook’s Pharmacy!


In addition to diagnosing and prescribing medications for conditions within our new scope of practice, we can also answer questions about your medications and offer compounding solutions. We are also here to help offer support for quitting smoking, managing diabetes, losing weight, or breathing challenges. Don't forget to ask us about travel consultations and vaccinations too!


For your convenience, Cook's Pharmacy is pleased to offer pharmacy services in several locations, including Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge, Wellesley, and New Hamburg. Our skilled team of pharmacists is ready to support the diverse health needs of you and your family.




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9 Tips for Staying Well in Winter

Kids playing outside in snow



Winter is always a tough time for both children and adults to stay healthy. The changing seasons and temperature fluctuations allow many viruses to flourish. In addition, winter is also when most people stay indoors and spend more time in close contact with friends and family. All these factors are great news for viruses (who love having potential hosts in enclosed spaces) but not so great for everyone else.


While it is impossible to avoid winter illnesses entirely – particularly if you have a child in school, daycare, or community programs – there are many precautions you can take to stay well in the winter.


Below, we offer ten tips for reducing the transmission of nasty viruses and keeping your immune system strong.



Tip 1: Be Aware of Winter Illnesses

Knowing which illnesses to keep an eye out for during the winter months is an important part of staying well. Being aware of when different types of viruses circulate can help you know which symptoms to watch for in your household. This awareness of common winter illnesses can also make it easier for you to prepare to treat some mild symptoms at home.


The most common seasonal illnesses in the winter months are:

  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)
  • Common Cold Influenza
  • Strep Throat
  • Croup
  • Pneumonia
  • Norovirus
  • Ear infection


To learn more about each illness and the symptoms and treatments, take a look at our other blog post, where we dive deeper into common illnesses that peak in autumn.



Tip 2: Stay on Top of Handwashing and Sanitizing

One of the most effective ways to reduce your chances of getting sick is to wash your hands properly with soap and warm water. The best practice is to wash your hands regularly and thoroughly throughout the day, even if you haven't left the house or your desk.


Person washing their hands with soapy water


Bacteria can linger on your phone, keyboard, and so much more. So, while you may think handwashing is less important at home than when you are out and about, that is not the case.


Handwashing is extra essential if you are at work or out running errands. Communal areas and public spaces are playgrounds for viruses and bacteria waiting to come home to you and your loved ones.


If you are unable to wash your hands with soap and water, alcohol-based hand sanitizer can help kill some germs. However, be sure to give your hands a thorough scrub with warm, soapy water as soon as possible.



Tip 3: Don’t Touch Your Face

This tip is one we are all quite familiar with from the past couple of years due to COVID-19 prevention awareness. However, it is just as applicable to winter illnesses.


Touching your face is an unconscious habit that most people have. From scratching your nose to rubbing your eyes to biting your nails, touching your face significantly increases your chances of catching nasty bugs.


Try to pay attention to when you touch your face the most and make a conscious effort to break that bad habit.



Tip 4: Always Bring Along Tissues

Everyone knows that colder weather brings about runny noses, coughing, and sneezing, so it is never a bad idea to bring tissues with you wherever you go. Keeping a stock of tissues and wipes handy helps ensure you or your child are not touching your nose and then touching other surfaces or items while you are out and about in your community.


Using a tissue to wipe a runny nose or cover a cough or sneeze helps keep others around you healthy while reducing the chances of transferring new germs from your hand to your mouth and nose.


Toss some travel pack tissues into your purse or bag, so you always have them available. Be sure to keep a box in your car as well that is easily accessible to whoever may need a tissue.



Tip 5: Sanitize Toys and High Touch Surfaces

Did you know that bacteria and viruses can survive on objects and surfaces for days? From your child's favourite toy to the shopping cart at the grocery store, there are many places where germs can linger.


Person wiping computer keyboard


Door handles, keypads, gas station pumps, steering wheels, cell phones, and keyboards are some of the worst offenders, so be sure to clean them with an antibacterial wipe when possible.


Get into the habit of regularly cleaning your children’s toys as well. Soap and water are excellent for hard plastic toys, while some fabric toys may do just fine in a regular laundry cycle. Opt for a disinfecting spray for tough-to-clean items that cannot get wet.



Tip 6: Get Vaccinated

Each year, influenza (flu) vaccines are easily accessible, but taking time to book your flu shot is particularly important this year. Children are at increased risk this year due to the relatively low flu circulation during the COVID-19 pandemic. With everyone physically distancing, wearing masks, and being extra vigilant with preventative measures in the past few years, children were less exposed, making them particularly vulnerable now.


Flu vaccines can be life-saving – especially for children, seniors, and people with compromised immune systems – because immunization helps the body build antibodies to fight off viruses. Of course, getting the flu shot doesn't guarantee that you will not be stuck in bed for a few days, but it can reduce the length and severity of flu symptoms.


Talk to your family doctor or local pharmacist if you or your children have not yet received your flu shot. You will be happy you did if the flu finds its way into your household!



Tip 7: Eat Healthy and Exercise

Unprocessed food is rich in vitamins and minerals that keep your body strong and give it a better chance of fighting off illnesses. For this reason, do your best to incorporate a variety of fruits, vegetables, healthy proteins, and whole grains into your family's diet. Planning healthy meals is important all year long, but particularly in the fall and winter when seasonal illnesses are rampant.


Exercise is also a key part of staying healthy and keeping your immune system strong. Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day. Choose a few different exercises that you enjoy that focus on strength, endurance, flexibility, and balance.


As a bonus, eating well and exercising daily helps you maintain your weight and reduces your chances of developing lifestyle-related diseases!



Tip 8: Get Enough Sleep Each Night

Sleep is another part of keeping your immune system strong and giving your body the best chance to fight off illness. Getting adequate sleep also often reduces recovery time if you do fall ill. For these reasons, aim for seven to eight hours of sleep each night. Avoid sleeping more than ten hours; getting too much sleep can reduce sleep quality overall and ultimately suppress your immune system.


Woman peacefully sleeping in bed


While adults should aim for seven to eight hours, teenagers' optimal number of hours per night is nine to ten hours. School-aged children can benefit from ten or more.



Tip 9: Stay Home/Keep Your Kids Home If You Are Sick

One of the best things you can do to keep yourself, your loved ones, and people in your community safer from seasonal bugs is to stay home if you are feeling unwell. While you may feel like you should drag yourself to work or school when you have a sore throat, cough, or runny nose, it is actually best to physically distance yourself and rest.


Seasonal illnesses like the common cold and influenza can spread more quickly than you realize. That is why when one child at daycare gets sick, almost all the other children are sick soon after. The same applies for many workplaces. Therefore, stay home if you are unwell to reduce community spread and give your body a chance to recover more quickly.


If you absolutely cannot stay home, wear a mask when you are out in public spaces to reduce the circulation of airborne droplets from your breath, coughs, and sneezes.




In conclusion, several common winter illnesses can leave you and members of your household feeling unwell in the colder months. These illnesses include Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), cold, strep throat, croup, pneumonia, norovirus, and ear infection.  


Luckily though, there are many ways you can reduce the chances of catching a bug. For example, always keep your hands clean, sanitize high-touch surfaces, and try to break the bad habit of touching your face. In addition, always keep tissues and hand sanitizer handy in your purse, bag, and car.


Do your best to eat healthy, exercise, and sleep enough each night to keep your immune system healthy. Also, be sure to stay home if you are feeling unwell and get your flu shot each year.



Book Your Flu Shot with Cook’s Pharmacy!

Are you and your loved ones up to date on your annual flu vaccine? If not, reach out to  Cook’s Pharmacy to learn more about how to book your flu shot appointment in Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge, Wellesley, or New Hamburg.




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Heart Health

Woman stretching outside



Most people don’t really think about it. In fact, we really do just take it for granted that our heart is there and that it’s doing its job. We all know how important it is to be alive, but most of the time it works away in anonymity. Twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year, your heart pumps blood and oxygen to your muscles and organs.


You would think that such a vital piece of our internal machinery would be protected at all costs. It should be one of the most important things we think about each day right? Unfortunately, unhealthy habits creep into our lifestyle, and over time we damage that muscle until it starts to have issues.


Your heart is very susceptible to several different factors. Heart disease is a big factor, but even the most perfect heart will eventually get old and tired. It takes a lot of effort to pump blood through our bodies, over and over, multiple times a minute, year after year. So why do we make its job so much harder?


You can take control of your heart health! And your pharmacist is a key piece of your heart health team. Working with them, alongside your doctor and maintaining good habits, can help you give your heart a fighting chance, and maybe even improve its health to keep it running longer.


Let’s look at some of the causes of heart disease and what we can do to ward off issues while living a heart-healthy lifestyle.



What can go wrong?

Heart disease is an umbrella term for several different types of heart conditions. The most common type of heart disease is coronary artery disease (CAD) which is usually what people are thinking of when they say they have heart disease.


There are four main types of heart disease:

  • Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) – which restricts blood in and around your heart muscle.
  • Stroke – which is a blockage of an artery preventing blood from reaching the brain.
  • Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) – narrowed arteries restrict blood flow to the arms or legs.
  • Aortic Disease – restricts blood flow through your main artery, the aorta.


Ignoring heart disease can lead to arrhythmias (abnormal heartbeats), cardiogenic shock (severe damage to the heart muscle), or even heart failure (when the heart can no longer pump blood).


We’re going to go over some lifestyle factors and health tips that can help you prevent heart disease. Your pharmacist is an amazing resource for heart-healthy living tips and even over-the-counter (OTC) medications, vitamins, and other supplements to help slow down or prevent heart disease.


However, if you have already been diagnosed with heart disease, or are experiencing symptoms you should speak with your doctor right away.



What Causes Heart Disease?



Thanks to some amazing marketing of products through the late 1980s and the 1990s, cholesterol gets a really bad rap. It’s important to know that there are two different kinds of cholesterol and that you need some cholesterol in your diet to function.


Good cholesterol, also known as high-density lipoprotein (HDL), is important because it reduces bad cholesterol and is critical in making vitamin D and other hormones in our body like estrogen and testosterone.


The reason cholesterol has such a bad reputation is because bad cholesterol, also known as low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is a real troublemaker. Found in a lot of processed foods, deep-fried foods, and red meat, LDL cholesterol plays a big factor in the creation of plaque on your artery walls.


Over time, as the plaque builds up, there becomes less and less room for the blood to flow through. The smaller the opening, the harder your heart has to strain to push the blood through. Eventually, the artery gets blocked, and you are dealing with a major heart problem.


Speak with your doctor or pharmacist about getting your cholesterol levels checked.


Regular testing is important because there are usually no symptoms for high cholesterol until something serious like heart disease or a blockage occurs. You can get tested at your doctor, in your local pharmacy, or even get an at-home test. You want to check your cholesterol at least every 4 to 6 years, and more often if you have or are at risk for heart disease.


The good thing is that with some diet changes, proper exercise, and sometimes some medication, you can reverse high cholesterol and take the strain off your heart.


High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is often known as the silent killer because it has no symptoms until you have heart disease or possibly even a stroke. There are several causes of high blood pressure such as being overweight, diet, stress, or plaque buildup.


For example, when your arteries start to build up a lining of plaque, the space available to pump blood gets smaller and smaller. Imagine blowing air through a large straw and then blowing air through a very, very, small straw. You must blow a lot harder to push the same amount of air through, and the same principle applies to your heart when it pumps blood.


You can easily get your blood pressure tested, so it makes sense to check it as often as you can. Not only can your doctor check your blood pressure, but you can also have your pharmacist check it, use an automated machine in a pharmacy or mall, or even order an at-home testing machine.


Older man monitoring his blood pressure


It’s important that you test your blood pressure multiple times and then average out the results. If you’re having a particularly stressful day or had a very salty meal, your blood pressure reading can be artificially inflated. So get it checked,  but get it checked a couple of times to be sure.


Your pharmacist can help with healthy eating advice, stress management advice, and testing equipment. Technology advances have brought the price of blood pressure monitors down drastically and a home unit can be purchased for a very affordable amount.



What Can I do to Lower my Risk of Heart Disease?

Luckily, the steps for reducing your risk of heart disease are straightforward. Here is a quick list of what you can do:

  1. Eat healthy as often as you can
  2. Get regular exercise and practice self-care
  3. Manage your bad habits and other diseases
  4. Don’t skip any medications

Let’s break down some of these tasks into a little more detail and talk about how a pharmacist might be able to help. Remember that lowering your blood pressure and/or bad cholesterol levels can help keep heart disease in check. Several of the steps used to lower cholesterol or your blood pressure, also offer additional benefits like reducing the strain on your heart muscle, improving cardio, and strengthening your heart muscle at the same time.


Step 1: Eat Healthy

To eat heart-healthy, your meals should be mostly fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, poultry, fish, and nuts. You should limit red meat, sugary food, and sugary drinks.


Woman tossing salad in her kitchen


As a bonus, eating healthy can help reduce your weight, which reduces strain on your heart, reduces blood pressure, and lowers your cholesterol.

  • Stay within a reasonable caloric limit each day.
  • Eat proper serving sizes or portions.
  • Cut back on red meat, sugar, saturated and trans fats, sodium, and processed or canned foods.
  • Eat a variety of healthy foods – don’t eat the same thing each day.
  • Get plenty of fiber – soluble fiber is best for lowering cholesterol.
  • Lower your sodium intake. You should limit your sodium to 2300 mg per day (and 1500mg per day if you have high blood pressure, or kidney disease).


Step 2: Move More

In an ideal world, you should be getting 30 to 60 minutes of aerobic heart-pumping activity, at least 3 to 5 times a week. And that doesn’t have to be done at once, you can break it into two 15-minute walks per day. To help with heart health, exercise should get your heart pumping like brisk walking, bicycling, or swimming.


To maintain weight, or lose weight, even a small amount of daily walking at a slow to moderate pace can still help. Make sure you talk to your doctor before starting exercise if you suffer from high blood pressure. It’s very important to start slowly and work your way up to taking on a high-intensity aerobic exercise.


Step 3: Quit Smoking, Lose Weight, Manage Stress, etc.

Let’s group any bad habits that affect your heart health into this one section.


Recreational drugs, nicotine, etc. can damage your arteries and increase your odds of developing heart disease. Even if you don’t smoke, your risk increases just from being around second-hand smoke. You should also limit your alcohol consumption to one drink per day for women, and for men, it’s no more than 2 drinks per day.


Watch your weight. The more physical mass your body has, the more your heart must work to get blood to your whole body. Even dropping something as small as 5% of your body weight can improve your blood pressure. Your pharmacist may have a weight-management program available, and most pharmacies will carry supplements, vitamins, and other weight-loss aids.


Manage your stress. Stress increases your blood pressure and increases your heart rate. The more your body stays stuck in its ‘fight-or-flight’ state, the more stress is placed on your heart. Exercise, meditation, relaxation, and even some OTC supplements can manage and lower stress. Speak with your pharmacist to see what options are available to you.


Man relaxing on the couch with his hands behind his head


Step 4: Don’t Skip any Medications

If your doctor or health care provider has prescribed any medication, it is critical that you take those medications as prescribed. Speak with your pharmacist if you are having trouble tolerating a medication, or finding it difficult to maintain your dosage. A compounding pharmacy can help by offering alternatives that may be easier to handle.


Not only is it important to take the medications that directly affect your heart health, like blood pressure medication, but it’s also important to take care of other diseases like diabetes. Ignoring an unrelated disease or issue can still have unintended consequences on your heart health.



In Conclusion

Your heart health is important. Heart disease is a silent killer, and it creeps up without any symptoms until it’s too late. The only way to catch it in time is to have regular check-ups and testing of your blood pressure and cholesterol.


Speak with your pharmacist or healthcare provider and get a plan in place that helps address the underlying conditions. If you control those areas, you can slow and possibly even completely prevent heart disease.




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