Category: health

Safety Awareness

 

wear a helmet

Every year National Safety Awareness is observed in June to minimize injury and death on the road, at home, and at work. Injuries are the leading cause of death for Americans ages 1 to 40. The good news? Everyone can get involved to help prevent injuries. 

This June, we encourage you to learn more about important safety issues like preventing poisonings, transportation safety, and slips, trips, and falls.

  • Poisonings: Nine out of 10 poisonings happen right at home. You can be poisoned by many things, like cleaning products or another person’s medicine.
  • Transportation safety: Doing other activities while driving – like texting or eating – distracts you and increases your chance of crashing. Almost 1 in 6 crashes (15%) where someone is injured involves distracted driving.
  • Slips, trips, and falls: One in 4 older adults falls each year. Many falls lead to broken bones or a head injury.

Raising awareness about safety issues can reduce the risk of injuries by being better prepared. Check out some of these resources to learn more about safety preparedness:

Take some classes to learn skills like CPR and first aid

Get downloadable material about safety awareness

Stroke—You Have To Act FAST

Learning the signs and symptoms of a stroke and knowing how to act FAST can be life-saving. This month is marked by National Stroke Awareness month.

Here are the numbers:

  • About 800,000 people have a new or recurrent stroke every year.
  • That comes down to a person having a stroke about every 40 seconds.
  • It’s the 5th leading cause of death in the US.
  • Every 4 minutes someone dies from a stroke.
  • Up to 80% of strokes can be prevented.
  • It is the leading cause of adult disability in the US.

What is a stroke?

A stroke is either caused by a weakened vein leaking blood or a blocked artery. In either case, blood – and therefore oxygen – are not getting to the brain. These are called hemorrhagic and ischemic strokes, respectively. A temporary block of blood flow is called a transient ischemic attack (TIA) but is also referred to as a mini-stroke. That should not dampen the potential severity of what it is, attention should be sought immediately as a full stroke is likely to occur soon.

What is FAST?

FAST is a simple acronym for signs to be on the look-out for if you suspect a person is having a stroke.

Face drooping – Ask the person to smile and observe if the face droops.

Arms weak – See if the person is able to lift both arms overhead. Does an arm drift down or do they have trouble raising one?

Speech difficulty- Have the person repeat a person phrase. Pay attention to see if they slur or sound odd. They may have some confusion and trouble understanding you.

Time to call 9-1-1 (or your local emergency number) – Call 911 immediately if you observe any of these signs.

Other symptoms include:

  • trouble walking
  • a sudden and severe headache that may be joined with vomiting or dizziness
  • trouble seeing in one or both eyes

Why is it that so important?

In the case of many medical emergencies, stroke included, time is of the essence. Once a person starts having a stroke, it only takes a matter of minutes before brain damage can start to occur. Depending on where and the severity of the stroke, the type of damage can vary but often temporary or permanent disability can be expected. Two-thirds of survivors have some type of disability. These can include:

  • A difficulty with talking and swallowing: sometimes people can experience problems with swallowing, eating, and language due to trouble controlling muscles in your throat and nose. This can include difficulty communicating by talking, reading, and writing. Working with a therapist may help.
  • New sensations may occur in parts of the body affected by the stroke. This could be pain, tingling, or numbness. New sensitivities like to temperature changes could develop.
  • After a stroke, you may lose control of parts of your body or be paralyzed on one side like a side of your face or a leg. Physical therapy may help to return to activities like dressing, walking, and eating.
  • Some memory loss is common as well as changes to your cognitive ability like reasoning and judgment.
  • Emotional problems or depression could manifest after experiencing a stroke.
  • A person may experience behavior changes and their ability for self-care. They may become withdrawn and need help with chores, grooming, and dressing.

The success of treating these complications varies on the person and their situation.

Risk factors

Below are some risk factors that increase a person’s chance of having a stroke. While some of these are unavoidable, working on the ones that are changeable can help lower your risk level and possibly increase your quality of life.

  • Age – being over the age of 55 increases your risk of a stroke
  • Sex – men are more likely than women to have a stroke but women are older when they have one and are more likely to die of a stroke.
  • Race – African-Americans have a higher risk of stroke.
  • Hormones – estrogen-based therapies,  use of birth control, and the higher levels of estrogen during pregnancy and after childbirth increase the risk of stroke.
  • Physical inactivity
  • Heavy drinking
  • Obesity
  • Illicit drugs (cocaine, methamphetamines, etc)
  • Smoking and secondhand smoke
  • Diabetes
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Cardiovascular disease (abnormal heartbeat, heart failure, defects, and infection)
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • A family history of stroke, TIA, or heart attack

 

Implementing simple lifestyle changes can help lower your risk but if you are concerned about your risk, speak to a healthcare professional. If you or someone know has been affected by stroke, therapy may be able to help increase one’s quality of life. Remember, if you suspect someone is having a stroke, act FAST. 

Connecting Your Heart With Your Brain

heart health = brain healthYou know what they say, ‘what’s good for the heart is good for the brain’. Ok, it might not actually be a saying but maybe it should be. There is increasing information that steps to prevent heart disease may also prevent or slow dementia.

A rising public epidemic is railing brain health. In a person’s 20s, the brain naturally starts showing signs of cognitive decline and an estimated 3 out of 5 Americans will, in their lifetime, have some type of brain disease. However, the rate of Alzheimer’s, dementia, and stroke cases seems to be increasing and by 2030, these conditions are expected to exceed 1 trillion dollars.

There have been a number of studies that show that factors that affect heart and vessel health also affect the brain. Considering the brain uses 20% of the body’s oxygen and is surrounded by hundreds of vessels, it makes sense that poor cardiovascular health would, in turn, affect the brain’s health.

There are overlapping risk factors for both cardiovascular disease (CVD) and dementia. A few include type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity, and especially high blood pressure. These can have some effect on the vessels in the brain, cause the brain to shrink at a faster rate, cause changes to white matter, or lead to a stroke. In fact, according to  Ralph Sacco, M.D., chief of neurology at the Miller School of Medicine at the University of Miami and past president of the American Heart Association (also the first neurologist to be president of the AHA), high blood pressure is the “strongest predictor of brain health.” Some research indicates that the presence of these risk factors in middle age may have a greater effect on brain health than if they were in old age, however, specifics as to why are yet to be determined.

The American Heart Association has developed a system called Life’s Simple 7 as a means to keep a person’s health in check.

  • Blood Pressure Management
  • Cholesterol Control
  • Blood Sugar Regulation
  • Being Active
  • Eating Balanced
  • Weight Loss
  • Quit Smoking

Some studies have followed participants following this guideline for many years (30 years in some cases) to see how their health progressed. They awarded how well a person abided by each guideline with points between 0-2 and researchers found that every point missed seemed to correspond with about a year’s worth of age-related brain shrinkage. Similarly, other researchers found that with each increase of a point, the participant’s risk for heart failure was lowered by 23%. The research, however, does have some limitations and requires more data.

The earlier a person takes their health seriously the better, but starting now is better than never starting at all. Take steps and actions to take control of your health. Assess your health and speak with a physician if you have any questions or concerns. Simple actions can go a long way such as taking daily walks, incorporating more vegetables, or cutting out something high in sugar. A healthy heart can lead to a healthy brain, which could lead to a multitude of other positive life and body changes. Take charge of your health today!

 

Drink Your Milk For Strong Bones and Joints

We remember being told as children to drink milk to have strong bones. The ‘Got Milk?’ campaign centered around milk being essential to healthy bones. As we get older we may replace milk with soft drinks and forget to be mindful of our bones, that is until we notice our joints aching and the looming possibility of osteoporosis.

Around the age of 25, our bones and joints are at the height of their strength. Bone mass decreases and cartilage wears down as time goes on becoming fragile. Joints protect the bones from rubbing against each other but when cartilage is worn away too much it can lead to arthritis. At some point after the age of 50, half of all women and a fourth of men will fracture a bone due to osteoporosis. This condition, that affects women more aggressively than men especially after menopause, continually weakens the bones causing the break very easily.

milk for bones

Good bone and joint health start in childhood often with a tall glass of milk and an active lifestyle. Proper nutrition is imperative to strengthening and later maintaining bones and joints. Calcium and vitamin D are essential. Many kinds of cereal and milk come fortified, making a bowl in the morning, not a bad option (just watch the sugar levels). Dark leafy greens such as kale, spinach, bok choy, and collard greens are packed with calcium — so are edamame and yogurts. For the dairy-sensitive, enriched soy and almond milk can make up your calcium needs.

While there are foods fortified with vitamin D, your body will naturally produce when exposed to sunlight making for an excellent opportunity to get up and go on an afternoon walk. Just 15 minutes a few times a week should produce enough vitamin D for your body to properly absorb calcium.

But don’t let those 15-minute walks be your only source of exercise. Maintaining a healthy weight is imperative to the body’s health. Extra weight can put unnecessary strain on your bones and joints. Research shows that for every extra pound, there’s four times more stress on the knees. Bones become stronger through activity and benefit from muscle building exercises (muscles and ligaments protect the bones and joints too — bonus!), dancing and brisk walking. Change up the types of exercises, though, since weight-bearing exercises can wear out joints. Mix in some aerobic workouts like running or for low-impact options try swimming and cycling. Speak with your doctor before starting any new exercise programs and find a trainer if you need help learning proper form to avoid injury.

Somethings aren’t so helpful to keeping bones and joints strong. Soft drinks and caffeine may not be so bone-friendly so try to limit the intake of these. Alcohol can also hinder bone and joint health so women should have no more than one drink a day, up to seven a week, and men two drinks a day but no more than 10 a week. Not only is it bad for your lungs, but smoking is also bad for the bones. Healthy lifestyle choices can help improve quality of life in later years.

It’s important to understand what effects medications may have outside of its main purpose as some may have adverse side effects. Prednisone, a corticosteroid used to help arthritis inflammation, decreases the amount of calcium absorbed causing bones to weaken.

Supplements could be an option for maintaining the nutrition needed for bone and joint health. Talk to your doctor if you are concerned about any deficiencies in your diet and if supplements are a good fit. There are new medicines on the market in recent years to help with osteoporosis and more to come. They’re all a little different but increase bone mass either by encouraging new bone growth or slowing the breakdown of the bones.

In a person’s younger years, it’s vital to build up strong bones and joints to set the foundation for their later years. Nutrition and exercise are the pillars of building and maintaining all aspects of a person’s health. So remember, drink your milk.

The Lowdown on Myasthenia Gravis

 

What is Myasthenia Gravis (MG)?

Myasthenia Gravis is a chronic autoimmune neuromuscular disease that causes weakness in skeletal muscles. The name translates from Latin and Greek origins to “grave, or serious, muscle weakness”. This disease targets muscles that are responsible for breathing and moving body parts, like arms and legs, and is worse after active periods but improves with rest. Often, muscles that control talking, chewing, swallowing, facial expressions, the eyes, breathing, limb movement, and the neck are affected.

Over half of MG cases, eye problems were the first sign. These include ptosis, which is the drooping of one or both eyelids, and diplopia, double vision that improves if one eye is shut. Throat and face muscle symptoms are the first sign in about 15% of those who develop myasthenia gravis. These are the most common symptoms seen in myasthenia gravis patients.

Other symptoms include weakness of the neck, arms, and legs. These don’t usually present themselves without the above symptoms. Legs are less often affected than arms but may cause patients to waddle. More seriously, breathing can be affected and can be a critical issue. Continue reading “The Lowdown on Myasthenia Gravis”