The top 10 things you wanted to know about health in 2017

FoMD experts delivered advice about this year's most pressing health topics on new UAlberta news site, Folio

Laura Vega - 19 December 2017

The University of Alberta officially launched its news site in 2017. Called Folio, it combines topical, timely news articles with the experiences of our U of A experts. As the year comes to an end, here are the top 10 Folio health stories of 2017 that feature our Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry's expert tips on how to keep tabs on our regular health habits:

1. Why and when you should get the flu shot
The dreaded flu season sneaks up on us sometimes sooner than we expect it and it's a major topic of conversation every year, with the recurrent debate: Is the flu shot really necessary?

To avoid becoming a victim of the flu, timing is key. Lynora Saxinger, professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases, gives her expert opinion on the benefits of getting the flu shot at the right time to stay healthy during an early and intense flu season.

2. An unheralded yet costly flu-like virus to hit the province hard
Research by David Marchant from the Department of Medical Microbiology & Immunology and the Pulmonary Research Group warns about an upcoming wave of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), a little-known but potentially deadly flu-like virus. Marchant's team predicts the severity of the upcoming RSV season and encourages the provincial health system to prepare.

3. Alberta's marijuana plan the best we can expect, for now

Leading up to the nationwide legalization of marijuana in July of 2018, questions arise on how to regulate its consumption. Health experts and politicians try to figure out what seems to be the biggest drug policy reform Canada has seen in decades.

Although there is much work to be done, UAlberta experts give credit to the Government of Alberta's plan. Charl Els, clinical professor in the Department of Psychiatry, comments as an addictions specialist.

4. How to beat the baby boomer bulge
Those rolls in the waistline that weren't there before? Call them the baby boomer bulge-the one that sneaks up on people in their 40s and 50s as hormone levels drop and body weight rises.

Fear not: The baby bulge is more common that it seems, according to Richard Lewanczuk, professor of medicine and physiology. Lewanczuk, along with other experts included, advises to tackle the issue early on and find a balance of calorie intake and physical activity.

5. Why doctors are suggesting doing away with annual physical check-ups

It's very uncommon to hear we should be going on fewer visits to the doctor. However, the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care-a group of Canadian physicians and medical and prevention experts-has suggested yearly "complete" medical physicals may not be the right approach to stay on top of our health.

Neil Bell, University of Alberta family physician and a former member of the task force, explains the best ways to manage our health and why yearly physicals may result in unnecessary risks.

6. No magic pill to postpartum weight loss

There's no one-size-fits-all solution for losing that baby weight. Research by Rhonda Bell, Linda McCargar and Carla Prado from the Alberta Diabetes Institute suggests that every woman loses weight differently, so each may need to adapt her weight loss strategy to fit her own needs and pace.

7. Possible new target for treatment of multiple sclerosis found by UAlberta researchers
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a currently-incurable autoimmune disease. Fabrizio Giuliani from the Division of Neurology and Thomas Simmen from the Department of Cell Biology co-authored a study that discovered an entirely new mechanism in brain cells, which may be the cause of MS. This opens the door to new possibilities of targeted treatments and looking for other proteins that may be involved.

8. Home blood pressure monitors inaccurate 70 per cent of the time

A good check on your blood pressure may depend on the devices you use at home. UAlberta research reveals that 70 per cent of home blood pressure monitors are unacceptably inaccurate.

Jennifer Ringrose, professor in the Department of Medicine and lead author of the study, and her team explain the factors that may cause the different measurements and give advice to minimize inaccurate readings.

9. COMMENTARY || 7 ways to soothe your child's pain in the hospital
Although parents may not be able to completely prevent their kids from ending up on a trip to the ER, they can make a difference to soothe their pain. In this commentary piece, ER doctor and professor of pediatrics Samina Ali shares her insights on how to help children have a less stressful and painful ER experience.

10. Fecal transplant capsules as effective as colonoscopy in treating C. difficile
The best and less-invasive treatment for C. difficile infection might take guts-healthy people's guts, to be exact. A clinical trial led by Dina Kao, professor in the Division of Gastroenterology, confirmed that ingesting capsules with healthy donors' frozen fecal bacteria is just as effective as a colonoscopy (96 per cent effectiveness) in treating the superbug.

The discovery offers more choices for patients to access treatment that is safer, less invasive and even less expensive.