Taking a vacation is good for your health (and your job)


We are obsessed with talking about well-being, on this blog, and so it’s no surprise that we enjoy reminding people to take their much deserved vacation time. After all, taking a vacation is proven to be not only fun and relaxing, but also be good for your health.

One study compared heart disease rates among 12,000 men over nine years. They found that those who took frequent vacations were 32% less likely to die from heart disease and 21% less likely to die from another serious health problem.

Another large and influential study found that women who took a vacation only once every six years were almost eight times more likely to develop heart disease compared to women who vacation at least twice a year or more.

It’s no surprise that people who take vacation time are less likely to suffer from higher levels of stress and depression. A study conducted on 1,500 women found that those who take vacations at least twice a year are less likely to suffer from depression and stress than women who take at least one vacation every two years or more.

Interestingly, and there are studies proving that vacation time actually increases productivity. Ernst & Young conducted an internal study of its employees and found that, for each additional 10 hours of vacation they took, their year-end performance ratings improved 8 percent. Staff who took frequent vacations were also much less likely to leave the company.

Another study conducted by the Boston Consulting Group found that employees who were required to take time off were much more productive overall than those who spent more time working 52 weeks a year. Personally, after some days free of the daily stresses, I find I’m able to make more thoughtful decisions at work. Taking a break for one’s own wellness is a right that shouldn’t be taken for granted, and research shows us, it increases productivity: a win-win for companies and employees. So where are you thinking of going this summer? Keep an eye out for our post on places to visit in and around Ontario.

By: Greg Dwulit


Health is real wealth

seiu healthcare healthaholic blog health is real wealth

Wellness is important to us all, and by creating an environment that is healthy and encouraging, you can help build your workplace into a hub for positive change.

With summer right around the corner, there are many things you can do within your workplace to help create a healthy and happy work environment inside and outside the workplace. Here are a few tips that can help you on your road to wellness.


Everyone likes to be outside on a nice, sunny day. By organizing walks outdoors during lunch or coffee breaks, it gives people the opportunity to soak up some much needed vitamin D from the sun as well as burn off a few calories with some friends. Walking allows people to go at their own pace and set goals however they like. Even if it’s raining outside, indoor walks with the right company can make cloudy days into sunny ones.


With patio season quickly approaching, who doesn’t enjoy a refreshing beverage on a hot summer’s day? We all know that those sugary drinks aren’t good for you, and too much alcohol is damaging to your liver.  Anyone looking to lose weight could be helped by upping their water intake. Studies have found that when participants drink water before a meal, they lose weight faster than those who did not drink water. Extra water helps us eat less by making us feel full, and it may also boost metabolism, so drink up!


We know how hard it can be to prepare meals in advance, with a busy schedule who has the time to pack a lunch? Studies have shown that people who eat lunch out less frequently are more likely to lose weight. Even one fast-food meal a week can do damage, including increasing your risk for heart disease. Snack machines usually don’t have many healthy options. Get around this by preparing your own snacks ahead of time. From fresh fruit to mixed nuts, pre-planning will help you make healthy choices and avoid impulse buys.

By: Andrew Miller

Musical Memories

Over the weekend I spent some time with the eldest member of the family- our grandmother. At 87 years, parts of her memory have naturally faded to the point where she is vigilant, but mostly discreet in her actions. On the other side of the couch, was my 8 year old niece: chatty, active and showing us the latest video she liked on YouTube.

This interesting dichotomy reminded me of an article I had come across on the impact of jazz music on people with Alzheimer’s. The article states that:

“Anything you are emotionally attached to can affect the brain,” Tanzi said. “Music memory can activate the brain. In a nursing home, you might see a moderate-to-advanced Alzheimer’s patient suddenly at the piano playing music and singing, even if they haven’t uttered a sentence in weeks….The pathology goes all around the music memories areas, but doesn’t touch them,” he said. “The best way to activate music memory is with the music you love the most.”

Music can indeed be a magical remedy for a tough day, the treatment for a loss, the elixir to a celebration, so it’s no surprise that we can reinvigorate someone’s mind and spirit through the power of music. But the impact that “music memory” practitioner’s provides is nevertheless fascinating.

Do you have any experience utilizing music with Alzheimer’s patients, or as a form of therapy? Please share your experience with us!

By: Shilpa R. Sharma

Jillian and Living Organ Donation

A young woman’s race to find a liver donor has started exploding online. She’s from London, Ontario and at 28 years old, has a disease that has severely affected her health and is threatening her life.

Jillian Di Bernardo’s liver is failing due to a hereditary disease. Saving her requires organ donation – but not from a deceased donor, a different type. Living donation. This means she needs to find someone who is willing to give her a piece of themselves. Someone who will take time out of their life to save another.

Before and after: a picture of how Jillian’s disease has affected her physical health

For the generous person who does the living donation procedure, there is a program available to apply for funding to help with costs such as travel and accommodation, and loss of income associated with the time one must take off work to heal.

The London Health Sciences Centre has prepared an information booklet for those considering volunteering to save Jillian’s life – or helping others like her.

Unfortunately, the number of people waiting for life-saving transplants in Ontario far exceeds both the deceased and living donor lists. Consider having the conversation about organ donation with your family today.

Click here to find out more about Jillian and help out with some of her health-related costs.

International RSI Day: “Because Work Shouldn’t Hurt”


Invisible injuries are some of the most dangerous occupational injuries plaguing today’s workforce.

According to Statistics Canada, every year approximately 2.3 million Canadians experience Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSIs). In Ontario alone, RSIs account for more than 40% of all lost-time injuries allow by the WSIB – making these injuries the single largest class of compensation claims in the province.

Despite their widespread prevalence, these injuries are often dismissed, ignored, or unidentified.

Today, on International Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) Day, it is important to recognize those who suffer from these injuries, as well as to raise awareness and prevent these debilitating injuries from happening to workers.

RSIs, also known as musculoskeletal diseases (MSDs), affect muscles, tendons and nerves of the neck, back, shoulders and hands and are a result of a variety of factors, such as repetition, forceful movements, awkward positions, cold temperatures, stress, fast-paced work, and vibration. The disease affects a wide range of workers across different sectors, with common symptoms such as discomfort, pain, numbness, tingling and weakness. The symptoms are often gradual so it’s important to raise awareness so workers seek help from their doctor, supervisor and Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC) as soon as they notice issues, as they can be treated much easier if diagnosed early.

Recognizing RSIs as being work-related is also vital because there is a strong link between RSIs and mental health issues, another potentially debilitating invisible injury which requires greater awareness. It is important to raise awareness on both visible and invisible illnesses in the workplace.


1 organ donor can save 8 lives

I had a fascinating phone call with an SEIU Healthcare member who was part of the first Ontario team to set up a program to train RPNs to perform eye enucleations—that is, harvest parts of the eye from a dead individual who has chosen to donate them.

In just one year the pilot program has led to over 30 people regaining sight. I was reminded about how important organ donation is. In fact I borrowed Service Ontario’s statement for the title of this post: 1 organ donor can save 8 lives.

Most people don’t like to think about worst-case scenarios, but if you don’t do it, someone else could make the wrong decision for you. You can register to be an organ donor online.

I’m not even trying to be even-handed on this issue. I believe there is one way to go and that’s to donate your organs to others if needed when you die. It’s a tragedy that not only do some die too soon all of a sudden, but also others pass away while they wait for transplants.

Mother Hears Heartbeat of Her 16-year-old Dead Son

This video shows the overwhelming emotion involved for a family member whose loved one has donated their organs. The donor has died, but their death was not in vain. His dying literally saved someone else. This woman gets to hear her son’s beating heart again, and she knows the good he continues to do in the world because of his decision.

A similar scenario helped me think about organ donation for the first time when I was in high school. A 15-year-old girl from the same school died in a terrible car accident. Months later, I saw a newspaper article taped to her locker. It was an article written by her parents, advocating for organ donation and explaining that their daughter Melanie’s organs had saved several lives. I am glad they found purpose in this worthy cause and hope people continue to sign up.


…but what about assisted death?

This post follows one I wrote last week on suicide; usually the fatal result of a mental illness such as clinical depression. But this week I’m thinking and writing about a different kind of suicide: the death a rational person chooses because of their incurable poor, and usually declining, physical condition.

What “rational,” “incurable,” and “physical” mean are all debatable. But I’m talking about a growing movement in Canada for discussion about what’s often called either assisted suicide, assisted death, or euthanasia. The movement is sometimes referred to as “dying with dignity.”

What did Donald Low, a physician at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, and Gillian Bennett, a retired psychotherapist from British Columbia, have in common?

They both suffered from fatal diseases, and they both went out appealing to Canadians to please consider the right for anyone to “die with dignity.”

Donald died without outside intervention, despite his wishes (because euthanasia is illegal in most of Canada, although the law is changing in Quebec). Watch him talk about the issue here, a week before his death:

But Gillian committed suicide because of the dementia that was getting worse and rapidly taking over who she once was. She thought it through in detail and discussed it with her family. A website was launched on the day she died: deadatnoon.com. It includes all of Gillian’s written reasoning and explanations.

The Healthy Debate blog posted that their most shared article this year is the one that thoroughly explains the difference between euthanasia and palliative care. This is a hotly contested and debated issue in Canada right now. The Canadian Medical Association also just discussed this at a big meeting in Ottawa.

Before she died, Gillian Bennett wrote: “Understand that I am giving up nothing that I want by committing suicide. All I lose is an indefinite number of years of being a vegetable in a hospital setting, eating up the country’s money but having not the faintest idea of who I am.” Pictures and video of her family discussing her death are on the Vancouver Sun.

Donald Low’s health was failing at a much faster pace and he did not take the dramatic step of suicide. But he did say: “What worries me is how I’m going to die. What the end is going to look like. […] Why make people suffer for no reason when there’s an alternative?”