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Feb 222017

(BPT) – On the path to good health, it pays to follow your heart — literally. A healthy heart is essential to supporting good overall health, yet many people ignore the warning signs that their heart is not as healthy as it could be.

A 2016 survey from the American Academy of Family Physicians, conducted by Harris Poll, found that nearly three in 10 men and women reported they had been diagnosed with high blood pressure. This result mirrors the findings of research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The findings translate to an estimated 75 million people with high blood pressure, and just slightly more than half have the condition under control.

“This finding is concerning because we know that high blood pressure and heart attacks or chronic heart failure are so closely related,” said John Meigs, Jr., MD, president of the AAFP. “According to the CDC, seven out of 10 people who have a first heart attack have high blood pressure. Seven out of 10 people who develop chronic heart failure have high blood pressure. So it’s important that people know what their blood pressure is.”

To lower your blood pressure and improve your heart health, the American Academy of Family Physicians offers these recommendations.

* Be deliberate with your diet. Fruits and vegetables are essential, but pay special attention to their color too. Vegetables and fruits of different colors offer different nutrients, so mix them up. At the same time, avoid heavily processed foods and those high in sodium. You should also make sure you’re drinking plenty of water rather than soda or energy drinks. Aim for at least eight 8-ounce glasses every single day.

* Balance your BMI. If you don’t know your BMI, a quick Internet search can lead you to several easy-to-use BMI calculators. And once you do know your BMI, you can start taking steps to reduce it, if necessary. According to the American Heart Association, losing just 5-10 percent of your body weight can dramatically reduce your risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke. And that leads us to …

* Jump start your heart with aerobic exercise. Your heart is a muscle, and like other muscles in your body, exercise strengthens it. So put your heart through a workout with activities like walking, biking or hiking to increase your heart rate. Exercise can also lower your risk of developing plaque in your arteries, allowing your heart to be more efficient in delivering blood and nutrients to other parts of your body.

* Stop the stress. Aside from a poor diet, there may be no larger culprit for high blood pressure than stress. Successful stress management has been proven to reduce your risk of heart attack or stroke. So relax, exercise, meditate, breathe deep or just have some fun. Whatever you do to burn off stress, make it an essential part of your day. You and your heart will be better for it.

“Get your blood pressure checked,” says Meigs. “If you have high blood pressure, work with your doctor to treat it and lower your risk factors. That same advice applies to knowing what your blood cholesterol levels are.”

To learn more about how you can reduce your blood pressure and improve your heart health, have a conversation with your family doctor today. Your doctor will be able to give you an accurate assessment of your current health and offer ideas on where and how you can improve. And to find more heart-healthy tips, visit

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Feb 192017

(NC) Whether your travel style is more sun, sand and fun or learn, explore and history, everyone can use a vacation this time of year. Check out these tips for a memorable, stress-free adventure.

  1. Do your research. Want a break from it all, but don’t know where to go? Sunny destinations are popular, but do some research on what else cities and countries offer, like shopping, cultural attractions, and favourable currency exchange rates. Many airlines and travel sites also have great savings at this time of year for flights and hotel packages. Take time to compare ( a great deal may be all it takes to make your decision.

  2. Think outside the box. Most vacationers are heading south, but do you actually enjoy winter weather and activities? If so, don’t be tempted to hop on the bikini weather bandwagon. European cities are often slightly warmer than here, and are beautiful in the snow with plenty of museums, attractions, and events to keep you busy. Or visit a Canadian destination for days filled with skiing, snowboarding, or skating and cozy evenings by the fireplace.

  3. Check out clothing sales. Visiting somewhere new often requires a bit of a wardrobe overhaul, adding key pieces like swimsuits or sturdy walking shoes. Most retailers suffer a slow season after the holidays, meaning great sales on upcoming spring and summer collections for you. Depending on where you’re headed, you can also take advantage of clearance winter items or basics that you can wear almost anywhere.

  4. Pack smart. Always include your contact information and your destination contact information inside and outside each piece of checked baggage. This helps identify baggage if any outside tag is damaged or lost. Always keep essential and valuable items with you on board, such as your passport, identification and return tickets, medicines and medical devices, money, jewellery, electronic equipment, and essential overnight items.

  5. Know where to go for air travel help. Unfortunately, sometimes the perfect winter getaway can turn into something less than ideal if you experience flight disruptions and delays; lost, delayed or damaged baggage; or denied boarding or bumping due to overbooking. If you have one of these problems, you can file a complaint with the Canadian Transportation Agency. Their job is to help resolve complaints between passengers and airlines. Find more information online at

Feb 162017

(NC) Canada’s 150 years is a rich history chock-full of milestone achievements that leave us with more than 150 reasons to be proud. As Canada celebrates its 150th anniversary this year, the nation is bursting at the seams with a mosaic of talents that are renowned around the world. Here’s a look at three Canadian-isms that put the “great” in “great white north.”

Music to the World’s Ears. Canada’s roster of musical talent is indisputable. From rock and roll, to bluegrass, R&B and hip hop, our country continues to export many musicians who have gone on to top national and international charts, breaking records and collecting accolades along the way. Artists like Blue Rodeo, The Tragically Hip, Drake and Justin Bieber make our sounds heard around the world.

Perfect politeness. A study conducted by a group of students at McMaster University in 2016 sought to decipher just how polite we actually are. Researchers compiled and compared millions of geo-tagged tweets from Canada and the United States. between February and October 2015. Their data was then compiled into two separate word bubbles so that the speech and language used in the neighbouring countries could be observed. The more often the word was used, the larger it appeared within the word bubble. Words such as “amazing,” “great” and “beautiful” dominated the Canadian bubble. In comparison, the U.S. bubble featured words that were too offensive to be displayed on the graphic and were blurred out as a result.

Canadian milk. Canada’s dairy farmers are deeply rooted in our history, with some farms even pre-dating the country itself. Using the rich history, knowledge and passion of those who came before them, today’s Canadian dairy farmers continue to innovate and evolve to ensure dairy farming remains a sustainable industry for generations of future Canadians. Upgrades to milking technology, such as automated milking systems, allow cows to be milked whenever they want. Moreover, Canadian milk is free of antibiotic residues and artificial growth hormones, ensuring that Canadian milk is produced in accordance with the highest standards and regulations. It all works to make Canadian quality milk delicious, nutritious and world-class.

Find more information at

Feb 122017

(NC) While writing a will does not need to be complicated, it’s always advisable to contact a lawyer or notary. Ensuring there are no small mistakes that could cause difficulties in future years and the peace of mind that comes from knowing everything has been done correctly are well worth the cost of legal advice — which is often far less than people imagine.

Here are answers to some common questions about writing a will.

Can I write my own will without consulting a lawyer?

You can, but it’s not usually advisable. Homemade wills are generally valid if certain minimum requirements are met, at least in some provinces. But there’s no substitute for the professional expertise of a competent lawyer or notary. Laws about will-making and taxes can vary from province to province. The specific wording needed to ensure your wishes are met is important to keep in mind. A small mistake in a homemade will might cause complications to your estate and result in your wishes not being carried out.

What is an estate?

Everyone has an estate, if they own anything at all. The term applies not just to real estate but cash, cars, furniture, books — any property at all. The smaller your estate, the more important that it be settled quickly, as delays usually mean more expense. Your estate may also be larger than you realize. Don’t make the mistake of thinking of your property’s original cost. In many cases, its value may have increased.

How much does it cost to have a lawyer draw up my will?

That depends on how simple or complicated the will is. Ask the lawyer in advance what it will cost. It’s a question they answer routinely.

To receive a free information package on wills and bequests, write to Amnesty International, 312 Laurier Avenue East, Ottawa, Ontario, K1N 1H9.

Feb 102017

(NC) Every worker in Canada outside of Quebec between the ages of 18 and 70 who earns more than $3,500 each year contributes to the Canada Pension Plan. This means that roughly 19 million people contribute to and collect from the fund each year. But do you know how your contributions are managed to ensure they’re there when you retire?

Canada Pension Plan Investment Board manages the assets found within the CPP fund, from the time you start making contributions to when you start collecting.

Here are five important facts about your money:

  1. The CPP fund is currently worth approximately $300 billion and is expected to continue growing for decades.

  2. Deductions are made from each paycheque until the maximum pensionable earnings as set by the Canada Revenue Agency is reached. The funds not needed to pay current benefits are invested.

  3. CPP assets are invested with the singular objective of maximizing returns without undue risk of loss to ensure that Canadians have a foundation for their retirement income.

  4. CPPIB adopts a truly global perspective by investing in a broad range of asset classes from around the world. This includes everything from a large stake in the Canadian independent multimedia studio, Entertainment One Group, to numerous investments in real estate and infrastructure abroad.

  5. The Chief Actuary of Canada, who conducts a financial review of the CPP every three years, projects that the Fund will grow to approximately $476 billion by 2025 and is sustainable for the next 75 years at current contribution rates. This means you can rely on your funds in retirement and for generations to come.

Find more information at

Feb 082017

(NC) March is Fraud Prevention Month in Canada and the federal government is reminding Canadians to be on guard against offers that seem too good to be true. Seniors in particular can become victims of various forms of fraud. Those who are isolated are even more at risk.

Scammers target seniors with several kinds of fraud, from telephone and email scams to fraudulent telemarketing.

One of the easiest ways for seniors to protect themselves from fraud is to order a credit report every year from Canada’s credit reporting agencies, Equifax and TransUnion. A credit report will show when someone else has opened credit cards or loans in your name.

While powers of attorney and joint bank accounts can help seniors and those who care for them manage and protect their finances, these tools can be abused by people in positions of trust.

To guard against this risk, seniors can reduce the number of banking transactions that need to be carried out by someone else on their behalf by using direct deposit for pensions and other regular payments, as well as preauthorized payments for regular bills.

“We know seniors are targets for fraud and we want to make sure they and their families understand how to identify and prevent fraud,” says Jane Rooney, Canada’s financial literacy leader. “That’s why the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada offers plenty of information to help protect seniors and vulnerable populations.”

If you or someone you know have been a victim of fraud, contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501. Find more information online at

Feb 062017

(NC) Get a head start on decluttering, organizing and simplifying your life with these tasks you can complete in just a couple of days.

The one year rule. Pick an area in your home — your closet, cupboards or bookcase — and apply the one year rule. If you haven’t worn it or used it in any way over the last twelve months, donate or toss it. You can make an exception for souvenirs or sentimental items.

Organize your entertainment. Sort your books, magazines, DVDs, records, and games in a way that makes sense for everyday use. Put those for the kids on lower shelves for easy access, and sell or donate any they (or you) have outgrown.

Monitor expiry dates. Check your medicine cabinet, beauty products and kitchen for expired items.

Clean as a team. Involve the family to quickly deep clean a room or two, going into all the nooks and crannies that everyday cleaning misses. Get all the doorknobs, handles and light switches, and move furniture and items in back corners to clean accumulated dust.

Go paperless. Have you ever gone through paperwork and found a cheque you forgot to cash? Avoid having to tidy up your home office next year by making the move to paperless — in banking, shopping and government payments.

Receive your federal payments — including your pension benefits, the Canada Child Benefit and other tax-related payments such as the GST/HST credit — straight into your bank account by signing up for direct deposit. It’s the fastest, safest and greenest way to get your payments. Visit your financial institution or go to for more information.

Feb 042017

(NC) Scam artists defraud millions of people each year by phone, by mail, online, and in person using many different tactics. But the grandparent scam is one of the most heartbreaking. Around for years, it typically occurs when a grandparent receives a call from a scammer pretending to be a family member in need of money immediately.

“I’ve been arrested in another country!” they say. “I need money wired quickly to pay my bail. Please, don’t tell my mom or dad because they’ll only get angry!”

The scammer often claims to have been in a car accident, to be having trouble returning from a foreign country, or have been arrested and need to be bailed out. The grandparent is asked to wire some money through a cash transfer company immediately. Victims often send the money without verifying the information until after the money is sent and it’s too late.

This is why it’s important to stay on guard. Use these tips from the Competition Bureau to stop yourself or a loved one from becoming a victim:

  1. Don’t reveal any personal information. It’s important to protect your identity at all times and only give out information when you know you can trust the person you’re talking to.

  2. Never send money to anyone you don’t know or trust. Don’t send money or pay fees to claim a prize or lottery winnings. Never wire money to someone whose identity you cannot confirm. Unless you’re sure that you know the person, never give your credit card or banking information over the phone.

  3. Ask questions and be assertive. Scammers are counting on the fact that you’ll want to act quickly in an emergency. Be sure to assess the situation fully before making any decisions.

  4. Investigate further. Try asking the caller questions that only your grandchild would know. Call the child’s parents to verify the story.

  5. Get their information. Find out if there’s a phone number you can call them back at. If it’s truly a relative, they won’t hesitate to provide this.

  6. Take precautions. Remind family members not to announce on social media that they’re going away. This could expose them and their families to fraudsters who can use this information. Ensure your family’s contact information is up to date so that you can easily get in touch with them to find out more.

Find more information online at or by phone at 1-800-348-5358.

Feb 022017

(NC) Believing you’re immune to becoming a target of fraud is one of the biggest money mistakes you can make. Victims come from all walks of life and fraudsters are increasingly sophisticated, creating tricky new scams online, over the phone and in person.

Canadians lose millions of dollars every year from these kinds of attacks. But fortunately, there are steps you can take to avoid this.

“By recognizing, rejecting and reporting scams, consumers can protect themselves and assist in the fight against fraud,” explains John Pecman, the Commissioner of Competition. “During Fraud Prevention Month and throughout the year, the Competition Bureau works with its partners to help Canadians combat fraudulent activity.”

The Competition Bureau recommends keeping these tips in mind:

  1. Beware of offers that seem “too good to be true.”

  2. Be vigilant when evaluating ads offered online, over the phone or in print — whether it’s for a job, product or service. For example, if you see an ad for a job where you need to use your bank account to receive and pass on payments from a foreign company, or a promise that you will receive a percentage commission for each payment you pass on, it’s probably a scam.

  3. Be wary of unsolicited phone calls, emails, text messages or letters from unknown sources.

  4. Don’t provide your information in response to unsolicited pop-ups.

  5. When it comes to door-to-door sales, don’t be rushed. Research the company, the individuals, the product or the offer, and verify any contact and company details. You do not have to give them an answer at your door.

  6. Be sure that you understand all terms and conditions of an offer of service or product before sending money or giving credit card or bank account details. Find the terms and conditions of any “free” trial offer that requires your credit card number. Often these can lead to charges that you didn’t expect. Inform yourself about renewal and cancellation requirements. If this information is difficult to find, think twice before signing up.

  7. Shred unneeded documents like receipts, bank statements, old tax returns, and even junk mail containing your address, such as credit card preapprovals. All of these documents contain personal information and should be destroyed before they hit the recycling bin.

  8. Know that trustworthy businesses almost never contact you or visit your home unannounced to ask for personal details, banking or financial information. They do not do so by email, phone or text message, either.

  9. Testimonials can appear quite believable by using so-called satisfied customers, celebrities, or experts. Be aware that these can be fake.

  10. Report suspected scams to the Competition Bureau to help keep others from falling victim.

Find more information at

Feb 012017

(NC) Many of us love sharing on social networks — whether that’s pictures of our family, information about an upcoming vacation, or updates on a new fitness trend we’re trying out. But with so much personal information out there, it’s easy for scammers to get hold of your money or steal your identity.

With the growing popularity of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and other social media sites, it’s important to be careful about how much information we share, where, and with whom. Canadians lose millions of dollars every year from these kinds of vicious attacks, so be on the lookout at all times.

Protect yourself by being mindful when using social media:

  1. Be password savvy. Create strong passwords and ensure that they’re unique and challenging so scammers won’t be able to guess them. A good password is one that’s easy to remember but hard to guess. Make it a habit to change your passwords regularly and use different ones for different sites. Don’t save them to your browser — a password management tool is much safer and can help you keep track of them all.

  2. Explore your privacy settings. Managing your settings wisely can help avoid any unwanted attention to your social media pages. Adjust your settings to select who can access your personal information, photos and posts.

  3. Avoid oversharing. While social media encourages the sharing of personal information, avoid revealing too many personal details. Scammers can use this to track down information that allows them to steal your identity. Remember, just because you post something in a private group or with advanced privacy settings doesn’t mean that someone won’t take a screen shot and share it.

  4. Be careful where you click. There are many attention-grabbing links, photos and articles that pop-up, but don’t click on just anything. While these sites may look legitimate, they can contain programs that attempt to take your contact information and share it.

  5. Stay alert and cautious. Be vigilant about who you communicate with online and how you verify their identity. Be extra cautious when people online ask you to do something. Never click on suspicious links, and never share personal or financial information unless you can absolutely trust the person on the other end and verify that they are who they say they are.

Find more information at