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ONE IN FIVE AMERICANS OVER 50 ARE AFFECTED BY ISOLATION

As we age circumstances in our lives often change.  We retire from a job, friends move away or health issues convince us to eliminate or restrict driving.  When changes like these occur, we may not fully realize how they will affect our ability to stay connected and engaged and how much they can still impact our overall health and well-being.

We need social connections to thrive, no matter our age, but recent research shows the negative health consequences of chronic isolation and loneliness may be especially harmful for older adults.  The good news is that with greater awareness, we can take steps to maintain and strengthen our ties to family and friends, expand our social circles and become more involved in the community around us.

Having a social network that meets our needs means different things to everyone.  There are some actions to consider to help stay connected.

  • Nurture and strengthen existing relationships: invite people over for coffee or call them to suggest a trip to a museum or to see a movie.
  • Schedule a time each day to call a friend or visit someone.
  • Meet your neighbors young and old.
  • Don’t let being a non-driver stop you from staying active. Find out about your transportation options.
  • Use social media like Facebook to stay in touch with long-distance friends or write an old-fashioned letter.
  • Stay physically active and include group exercise in the mix, like joining a walking club.
  • Take a class to learn something new, at the same time, expand your circle of friends.
  • Revisit an old hobby you’ve set aside and connect with others who share our interests.
  • Volunteer to deepen your sense of purpose and help others.
  • Visit your local community wellness or senior center and become involved in a wide range of interesting programs.
  • Check out faith-based organizations for spiritual engagement, as well as to participate in activities and events.
  • Get involved in your community by taking on a cause, such as making your community more age-friendly.

Prolonged isolation can be as bad for your health as 15 cigarettes a day.  Stay engaged and remember the older adults in your lives and reach out to them this holiday season and throughout the year.

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Shots for Safety- NIH

Shots and vaccinations aren’t just for children.
The following information is from the National Institute on Health and Aging

Shots for Safety

As you get older, your doctor may recommend vaccinations—shots—to help prevent certain illnesses and to keep you healthy.

Talk with your doctor about which of the following shots you need. And, make sure to protect yourself by keeping your vaccinations up to date.

 

Flu

Flu—short for influenza—is a virus that can cause fever, chills, sore throat, stuffy nose, headache, and muscle aches. Flu is very serious when it gets in your lungs.

The flu is easy to pass from person to person. The virus also changes over time, which means you can get it over and over again. That’s why most people (age 6 months and older) should get the flu shot each year.

Get your shot between September and November. Then, you may be protected when the winter flu season starts.

Pneumococcal Disease

Pneumococcal disease is a serious infection that spreads from person to person by air. It often causes pneumonia in the lungs, and it can affect other parts of the body.

Most people age 65 and older should get a pneumococcal shot to help prevent getting the disease. It’s generally safe and can be given at the same time as  the flu shot. Usually, people only need the shot once. But, if you were younger than age 65 when you had the shot, you may need a second one to stay protected.

 

Tetanus and Diphtheria

Tetanus (sometimes called lockjaw) is caused by bacteria found in soil, dust, and manure. It enters the body through cuts in the skin.

Diphtheria is also caused by bacteria.

It is a serious illness that can affect the tonsils, throat, nose, or skin. It can spread from person to person.

Both tetanus and diphtheria can lead to death.

Getting a shot is the best way to keep from getting tetanus and diphtheria. Most people get their first shots as children. For adults, a booster shot every 10 years will keep you protected. Ask your doctor

if and when you need a booster shot.

Shingles

Shingles is caused by the same virus as chickenpox. If you had chickenpox, the virus is still in your body. It could become active again and cause shingles.

Shingles affects the nerves. Common symptoms include burning, shooting pain, tingling, and/or itching, as well

as a rash and fluid-filled blisters. Even when the rash disappears, the pain can stay.

The shingles vaccine is a safe and easy shot that may keep you from getting the disease. Most people age 60 and older should get vaccinated, even if you already had shingles or don’t remember having chickenpox. Protection from the shingles vaccine lasts at least 5 years.

 

Measles, Mumps, and Rubella

Measles, mumps, and rubella  are viruses that cause several flu-like

symptoms, but may lead to much more serious, long-term health problems, especially in adults.

The vaccine given to children to prevent measles, mumps, and rubella has made these diseases rare. If you don’t know if you’ve had the diseases or the shot, you can still get the vaccine.

Side Effects of Shots

Common side effects for all these shots are mild and include pain, swelling, or redness where the shot was given.

Before getting any vaccine, make sure it’s safe for you. Talk with your doctor about your health history, including past illnesses and treatments, as well as any allergies.

It’s a good idea to keep your own shot record, listing the types and dates of your shots, along with any side effects or problems.

 

Shots for Travel

Check with your doctor or local health department about shots you will need if traveling to other countries.

Sometimes, a series of shots is needed. It’s best to get them at least 2 weeks before you travel. For more information, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, www.cdc.gov, or call the information line for international travelers at 1-800-232-4636.

 

For More Information about Shots and Vaccines

American Lung Association 1-800-548-8252 (toll-free) info@lung.org  (email) www.lung.org

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

1-800-232-4636 (toll-free)

1-888-232-6438 (TTY/toll-free) cdcinfo@cdc.gov (email) www.cdc.gov

www.flu.gov

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

1-301-592-8573

nhlbiinfo@nhlbi.nih.gov (email)

www.nhlbi.nih.gov

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

1-866-284-4107 (toll-free)

1-800-877-8339 (TTY/toll-free) ocpostoffice@niaid.nih.gov  (email) www.niaid.nih.gov

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

1-800-352-9424 (toll-free) braininfo@ninds.nih.gov (email) www.ninds.nih.gov

 

For more information on health and aging, including free brochures about shingles and flu, contact:

National Institute on Aging Information Center

P.O. Box 8057

Gaithersburg, MD 20898-8057

1-800-222-2225 (toll-free)

1-800-222-4225 (TTY/toll-free) niaic@nia.nih.gov  (email) www.nia.nih.gov www.nia.nih.gov/espanol

To order publications (in English or Spanish) or sign up for regular email alerts about new publications and other information from the NIA, go to www.nia.nih.gov/health.

Visit www.nihseniorhealth.gov, a senior- friendly website from the National Institute on Aging and the National Library of Medicine. This website has health and wellness information for older adults. Special features make it simple to use. For example, you can click on a button to make the type larger.

 

 

National Institute on Aging

 

 

NIH…Turning Discovery Into Health®

 

 

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Aging and Your Eyes, from the National Institute on Aging

Steps to Protect Your Eyesight

Have your eyes checked regularly by an eye care professional—either an ophthalmologist or optometrist. People over age 65 should have yearly dilated eye exams. During this exam, the eye care professional should put drops in your eyes that will widen (dilate) your pupils so that he or she can look at the back of each eye. This is the only way to find some common eye diseases that have no early signs or symptoms. If you wear glasses, your prescription should be checked, too. See your doctor regularly to check for diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure. These diseases can cause eye problems if not controlled or treated.

See an eye care professional right away if you:

  • Suddenly cannot see or everything looks blurry
  • See flashes of light
  • Have eye pain
  • Experience double vision
  • Have redness or swelling of your eye or eyelid

Protect your eyes from too much sunlight by wearing sunglasses that block ultraviolet (UV) radiation and a hat with a wide brim when you are outside. Healthy habits, like not smoking, making smart food choices, and maintaining a healthy weight can also help protect your vision.

Common Eye Problems

The following common eye problems can be easily treated. But, sometimes they can be signs of more serious issues.

  • Presbyopia (prez-bee-OH-pee-uh) is a slow loss of ability to see close objects or small print. It is normal to have this problem as you get older. People with presbyopia often have headaches or strained, tired eyes. Reading glasses usually fix the problem.
  • Floaters are tiny specks or “cobwebs” that seem to float across your vision. You might see them in well-lit rooms or outdoors on a bright day. Floaters can be a normal part of aging. But, sometimes they are a sign of a more serious eye problem such as retinal detachment. If you see many new floaters and/or flashes of light, see your eye care professional right away.
  • Tearing (or having too many tears) can come from being sensitive to light, wind, or temperature changes, or having a condition called dry eye. Wearing sunglasses may help. So might eye drops. Sometimes tearing is a sign of a more serious eye problem, like an infection or a blocked tear duct. Your eye care professional can treat these problems.
  • Eyelid problems can result from different diseases or conditions. Common eyelid problems include red and swollen eyelids, itching, tearing, and crusting of eyelashes during sleep. These problems may be caused by a condition called blepharitis (ble-fa-RI-tis) and treated with warm compresses and gentle eyelid scrubs.

Eye Diseases and Disorders

The following eye conditions can lead to vision loss and blindness. They may have few or no early symptoms. Regular eye exams are your best protection. If your eye care professional finds a problem early, there are often things you can do to keep your eyesight.

  • Cataracts are cloudy areas in the eye’s lens causing blurred or hazy vision. Some cataracts stay small and don’t change your eyesight a lot. Others become large and reduce vision. Cataract surgery can restore good vision. It is a safe and common treatment. If you have a cataract, your eye care professional will watch for changes over time to see if you would benefit from surgery.
  • Corneal diseases and conditions can cause redness, watery eyes, pain, problems with vision, or a halo effect of the vision (things appear to have an aura of light around them). Infection and injury are some of the things that can hurt the cornea. Some problems with the cornea are more common in older people. Treatment may be simple—for example, changing your eyeglass prescription or using eye drops. In severe cases, surgery may be needed.
  • Dry eye happens when tear glands don’t work well. You may feel itching, burning, or other discomfort. Dry eye is more common as people get older, especially for women. Your eye care professional may tell you to use a home humidifier, special eye drops (artificial tears), or ointments to treat dry eye.
  • Glaucoma often comes from too much fluid pressure inside the eye. If not treated, it can lead to vision loss and blindness. People with glaucoma often have no early symptoms or pain. You can protect yourself by having regular dilated eye exams. Glaucoma can be treated with prescription eye drops, lasers, or surgery.
  • Retinal disorders are a leading cause of blindness in the United States. Retinal disorders that affect aging eyes include:
    • Age-related macular degeneration (AMD). AMD can harm the sharp vision needed to see objects clearly and to do common things like driving and reading. During a dilated eye exam, your eye care professional will look for signs of AMD. There are treatments for AMD. If you have AMD, ask if special dietary supplements could lower your chance of it getting worse.
    • Diabetic retinopathy. This problem may occur if you have diabetes. Diabetic retinopathy develops slowly and often has no early warning signs. If you have diabetes, be sure to have a dilated eye exam at least once a year. Keeping your blood sugar under control can prevent diabetic retinopathy or slow its progress. Laser surgery can sometimes prevent it from getting worse.
    • Retinal detachment. THIS IS A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. When the retina separates from the back of the eye, it’s called retinal detachment. If you see new floaters or light flashes, or if it seems like a curtain has been pulled over your eye, go to your eye care professional right away. With surgery or laser treatment, doctors often can prevent loss of vision.

Low Vision

Low vision means you cannot fix your eyesight with glasses, contact lenses, medicine, or surgery. Low vision affects some people as they age. You may have low vision if you:

  • Can’t see well enough to do everyday tasks like reading, cooking, or sewing
  • Have difficulty recognizing the faces of your friends or family
  • Have trouble reading street signs
  • Find that lights don’t seem as bright

If you have any of these problems, ask your eye care professional to test you for low vision. Special tools can help people with low vision to read, write, and manage daily tasks. These tools include large-print reading materials, magnifying aids, closed-circuit televisions, audio tapes, electronic reading machines, and computers with large print and a talking function.

Other things that may help:

  • Change the type of lighting in your room.
  • Write with bold, black felt-tip markers.
  • Use paper with bold lines to help you write in a straight line.
  • Put colored tape on the edge of your steps to help you see them and prevent you from falling.
  • Install dark-colored light switches and electrical outlets that you can see easily against light-colored walls.
  • Use motion lights that turn on when you enter a room. These may help you avoid accidents caused by poor lighting.
  • Use telephones, clocks, and watches with large numbers; put large-print labels on the microwave and stove.

Remember to ask your eye doctor if your vision is okay for safe driving.

For More Information

Here are some helpful resources:

National Eye Institute
Information Office
31 Center Drive MSC 2510
Bethesda, MD 20892-2510
1-301-496-5248
www.nei.nih.gov

National Library of Medicine
MedlinePlus
www.medlineplus.gov

For more information on health and aging, contact:

National Institute on Aging
Information Center

P.O. Box 8057
Gaithersburg, MD 20898-8057
1-800-222-2225 (toll-free)
1-800-222-4225 (TTY/toll-free)
www.nia.nih.gov
www.nia.nih.gov/espanol

American Optometric Association:   http://www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/good-vision-throughout-life/adult-vision-19-to-40-years-of-age/adult-vision-41-to-60-years-of-age?sso=y

2015 Healthy Living Expo

Have Fun and Get the Facts at the 2015 Healthy Living Expo! – May 29th
8:00 – 12:00 p.m. at the Southwestern Illinois College
Varsity Gymnasium 2500 Carlyle Ave. Belleville, IL

Join us as we discover ways to Head to Toe wellness. The Healthy Living Expo will take place on Friday, May 29th 2014 from 8:00 – 12:00 p.m. Gain information and enjoy great entertainment with hands on activities.

Visit the interactive stations at the Expo and find out what is hiding in the piles of paper in your house with Habits for a Healthy Home. Learn a new exercise or the benefits of therapeutic drumming. Find out how you can add more water into your daily routine or how to make a healthy fruit smoothie. Participants can also bring in their smart phones or tablets and questions they may have about how to operate them.  For more detailed information on stations please see below.

The event also offers health screenings including: balance and fall risk assessment, blood pressure screenings, glucose testing, and hearing assessments. The highlight of the event is over 100 exhibit tables. Family members and caregivers are also encouraged to attend. This event is open to the public, and all activities are free.

Major sponsors of the event include: AARP, Direct Medical, O’Fallon Apartments, Reliant Health Care, SWIC- PSOP, St. Clair County Office on Aging, and Visiting Angels.

This free event is hosted by AgeSmart Community Resources. The mission of the Healthy Living Expo is to provide informational, educational and social activities for older adults, their family and friends in a half-day event. Additional information is available at www.AgeSmart.org or by calling 618-222-2561.

 

Interactive Stations

Habits for a Healthy Home
Sponsored by Tranquil Transitions

What’s hiding in those piles of paper? When was the last time you vacuumed under the couch? Why is it important to keep your clutter to a minimum? Join Tranquil Transitions for information on keeping your home clean, organized and decluttered to improve your health and wellness.
Motivation Station
Sponsored by

Research shows us the therapeutic benefits of ancient rhythm techniques. Drumming accelerates physical healing, boosts the immune system and produces feelings of well-being, and a release of emotional trauma. Join Christopher Sutton as he shares some of the benefits of drumming.

Exercise! It is never too late. Join Lucas Hale and Ashley Duffie as they demonstrate the Strong for Life Exercise program. Strong for Life is a strengthening exercise program designed by physical therapists for home use by older adults to improve strength, balance and overall health.
U + H20 = a healthier you!
Sponsored by Hospice of Southern Illinois

The human body is anywhere from 55% to 78% water depending on body size. A rule of thumb, 2/3 of the body consists of water, and it is the main component of human body. Did you know that your tissues and organs are mainly made up of water? Here are the percentages:
• Muscle consists of 75% water
• Brain consists of 90% water
• Bone consists of 22% water
• Blood consists of 85% water
The functions of water in the human body are vital. Every cell in your body needs water from “Head to Toe”!
Technology Station
Sponsored by Joe’s Technology

“Joe’s technology will help keep you connected to your world”

Enjoy a Healthy Fruit Smoothie
Sponsored by Buena Salud11

Our health embraces so much more than just our body, but encompasses our mind and spirit too…reaching well beyond today’s pains or pleasures! Come join Certified Health Coaches Derek and Christina to explore daily habits that promote wellness and mental clarity for life’s journey ahead and enjoy a fruit smoothie while you learn.

MiniHLE15

Diabetes and Older Adults

Diabetes is a serious disease. People get diabetes when their blood glucose level, sometimes called blood sugar, is too high. Diabetes can lead to dangerous health problems, such as having a heart attack or stroke. The good news is that there are things you can do to take control of diabetes and prevent its problems. And, if you are worried about getting diabetes, there are things you can do to lower your risk.

What Is Diabetes?

Our bodies change the food we eat into glucose. Insulin helps glucose get into our cells where it can be used to make energy. If you have diabetes, your body may not make enough insulin, may not use insulin in the right way, or both. That may cause too much glucose in the blood. Your family doctor may refer you to a doctor who specializes in taking care of people with diabetes, called an endocrinologist.

Types Of Diabetes

There are two kinds of diabetes that can happen at any age. In type 1 diabetes, the body makes little or no insulin. This type of diabetes develops most often in children and young adults.

In type 2 diabetes, the body makes insulin, but doesn’t use it the right way. It is the most common kind of diabetes. You may have heard it called adult-onset diabetes. Your chance of getting type 2 diabetes is higher if you are overweight, inactive, or have a family history of diabetes.

Diabetes can affect many parts of your body. It’s important to keep type 2 diabetes under control. Over time it can cause problems like heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, blindness, nerve damage, and circulation problems that may lead to amputation. People with type 2 diabetes have a greater risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

Pre-diabetes

Many people have “pre-diabetes.” This means their glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be called diabetes. Pre-diabetes is a serious problem because people with pre-diabetes are at high risk for developing type 2 diabetes. If your doctor says you have pre-diabetes, you may feel upset and worried. But, there are things you can do to prevent or delay actually getting type 2 diabetes. Losing weight may help. Healthy eating and being physically active for at least 30 minutes, 5 days a week is a small change that can make a big difference. Work with your doctor to set up a plan for good nutrition and exercise. Make sure to ask how often you should have your glucose levels checked.

Symptoms

Some people with type 2 diabetes may not know they have it. But, they may feel tired, hungry, or thirsty. They may lose weight without trying, urinate often, or have trouble with blurred vision. They may also get skin infections or heal slowly from cuts and bruises. See your doctor right away if you have one or more of these symptoms.

Tests For Diabetes

There are several blood tests doctors can use to help diagnosis of diabetes:

  • Random glucose test—given at any time during the day
  • Fasting glucose test—taken after you have gone without food for at least 8 hours
  • Oral glucose tolerance test—taken after fasting overnight and then again 2 hours after having a sugary drink
  • A1C blood test—shows your glucose level for the past 2–3 months

Your doctor may want you to be tested for diabetes twice before making a diagnosis.

Managing Diabetes

Once you’ve been told you have type 2 diabetes, the doctor may prescribe diabetes medicines to help control blood glucose levels. There are many kinds of medication available. Your doctor will choose the best treatment based on the type of diabetes you have, your everyday routine, and other health problems.

In addition, you can keep control of your diabetes by:

  • Tracking your glucose levels. Very high glucose levels or very low glucose levels (called hypoglycemia) can be risky to your health. Talk to your doctor about how to check your glucose levels at home.
  • Making healthy food choices. Learn how different foods affect glucose levels. For weight loss, check out foods that are low in fat and sugar. Let your doctor know if you want help with meal planning.
  • Getting exercise. Daily exercise can help improve glucose levels in older people with diabetes. Ask your doctor to help you plan an exercise program.
  • Keeping track of how you are doing. Talk to your doctor about how well your diabetes care plan is working. Make sure you know how often to check your glucose levels.

Your doctor may want you to see other healthcare providers who can help manage some of the extra problems caused by diabetes. He or she can also give you a schedule for other tests that may be needed. Talk to your doctor about how to stay healthy.

Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Have yearly eye exams. Finding and treating eye problems early may keep your eyes healthy.
  • Check your kidneys yearly. Diabetes can affect your kidneys. A urine and blood test will show if your kidneys are okay.
  • Get flu shots every year and the pneumonia vaccine. A yearly flu shot will help keep you healthy. If you’re over 65, make sure you have had the pneumonia vaccine. If you were younger than 65 when you had the pneumonia vaccine, you may need another one. Ask your doctor.
  • Check your cholesterol. At least once a year, get a blood test to check your cholesterol and triglyceride levels. High levels may increase your risk for heart problems.
  • Care for your teeth and gums. Your teeth and gums need to be checked twice a year by a dentist to avoid serious problems.
  • Find out your average blood glucose level. At least twice a year, get a blood test called the A1C test. The result will show your average glucose level for the past 2 to 3 months.
  • Protect your skin. Keep your skin clean and use skin softeners for dryness. Take care of minor cuts and bruises to prevent infections.
  • Look at your feet. Take time to look at your feet every day for any red patches. Ask someone else to check your feet if you can’t. If you have sores, blisters, breaks in the skin, infections, or build-up of calluses, see a foot doctor, called a podiatrist.
  • Watch your blood pressure. Get your blood pressure checked often.

Be Prepared

It’s a good idea to make sure you always have at least 3 days’ worth of supplies on hand for testing and treating your diabetes in case of an emergency.

Medicare Can Help

Medicare will pay to help you learn how to care for your diabetes. It will also help pay for diabetes tests, supplies, special shoes, foot exams, eye tests, and meal planning. Be sure to check your Medicare plan to find more information.

For more information about what Medicare covers, call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) or visit their website, www.medicare.gov.

For More Information

Here are some helpful resources:

American Diabetes Association
1701 North Beauregard Street
Alexandria, VA 22311
1-800-342-2383 (toll-free)
www.diabetes.org

National Diabetes Education Program
One Diabetes Way
Bethesda, MD 20814-9692
1-888-693-6337 (toll-free)
www.ndep.nih.gov

National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse (NDIC)
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
1 Information Way
Bethesda, MD 20892-3560
1-800-860-8747 (toll-free)
1-866-569-1162 (TTY/toll-free)
www.diabetes.niddk.nih.gov

For more information on health and aging, contact:

National Institute on Aging
Information Center

P.O. Box 8057
Gaithersburg, MD 20898-8057
1-800-222-2225 (toll-free)
1-800-222-4225 (TTY/toll-free)
www.nia.nih.gov
www.nia.nih.gov/espanol

Visit www.nihseniorhealth.gov, a senior-friendly website from the National Institute on Aging and the National Library of Medicine. This website has health and wellness information for older adults. Special features make it simple to use.

Todays blog is from the National Institute on Aging
National Institutes of Health
NIH…Turning Discovery Into Health®
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Getting Started- Living Healthy

Living healthy is a way of life, not a “quick fix” that can be bought at a local supplement store. There are many advertisements that lead you to believe their product will help you take-off weight and keep it off. If it were that easy wouldn’t we all be at our desired weight? When thinking of diets, individuals usually have an end goal in mind, such as hitting a goal weight; but when this goal is reached the diet usually ends. After the diet is over, we tend to return to eating the same way we did before and the weight gets put back on. This is one of the differences between being on a diet and healthy living. When an individual is focused on living healthy it is not all about weight loss, it is about maintaining a healthy lifestyle; weight loss is a product of changing your diet and increasing exercise.

The moto that I have adopted towards my diet is, “moderation, variety, and balance.” Cutting out the foods that we love, makes them even more desirable. So, instead of cutting them out, eat them in moderation. We get the same great food, just not as much of it. Variety is also important when planning your diet. Getting a variety of different fruits and vegetables ensures that the body has the vitamins and minerals that it needs to perform at its highest level. Last but not least, is balancing your plate with all of the food groups; fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein, and dairy. MyPlate.gov is a great resource to identify different alternatives for each food group and to identify serving sizes. Eating healthy and exercise go hand in hand when talking about living a healthy lifestyle.

Exercise seems like a big leap if it is not already part of our routine. When starting out, doing anything is better than doing nothing. Taking a short walk or taking the stairs instead of the elevator are two great options to get started out. The CDC recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week, for adults. This is just a little over 20 minutes a day, seven days a week. They also recommend strength training activities on two of those days for optimal benefits. While this is ideal, it may not be everyone’s starting point.

Making these changes may seem intimidating, especially if there is no end in sight, but these changes can start out small. It may be as simple as watching portion sizes and taking the stairs when you can. Make it something that is easy to fit into your daily routine or eating habits. The more easily the change fits into your already hectic life, the more likely the healthy habit will be continued. Remember it is not all about weight; it is about being healthy and maintaining that lifestyle.

 

This week’s blog is from Ashley Duffie.  Ashley is the Nutrition/Wellness and Transportation  Specialist at AgeSmart Community Resources.

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Glaucoma Awareness Month

awareness_logo

January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month, an important time to spread the word about this sight-stealing disease.  Thanks to the Glaucoma Research Foundation for providing all of the valuable information in this blog.  You can learn more about the Glaucoma Research Foundation at www.glaucoma.org.

Currently, more than 2.7 million people in the United States over age 40 have glaucoma. The National Eye Institute projects this number will reach 4.2 million by 2030, a 58 percent increase.

Glaucoma is called “the sneak thief of sight” since there are no symptoms and once vision is lost, it’s permanent. As much as 40% of vision can be lost without a person noticing.

Glaucoma is the leading cause of preventable blindness. Moreover, among African American and Latino populations, glaucoma is more prevalent. Glaucoma is 6 to 8 times more common in African Americans than Caucasians.

Over 2.7 million Americans, and over 60 million people worldwide, have glaucoma. Experts estimate that half of them don’t know they have it. Combined with our aging population, we can see an epidemic of blindness looming if we don’t raise awareness about the importance of regular eye examinations to preserve vision. The World Health Organization estimates that 4.5 million people worldwide are blind due to glaucoma.

Help Raise Awareness

In the United States, approximately 120,000 are blind from glaucoma, accounting for 9% to 12% of all cases of blindness. Here are three ways you can help raise awareness:

  1. Talk to friends and family about glaucoma. If you have glaucoma, don’t keep it a secret. Let your family members know.
  2. Refer a friend to our web site, www.glaucoma.org.
  3. Request to have a free educational booklet sent to you or a friend.

What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that gradually steal sight without warning. Although the most common forms primarily affect the middle-aged and the elderly, glaucoma can affect people of all ages.

Vision loss is caused by damage to the optic nerve. This nerve acts like an electric cable with over a million wires. It is responsible for carrying images from the eye to the brain.

There is no cure for glaucoma—yet. However, medication or surgery can slow or prevent further vision loss. The appropriate treatment depends upon the type of glaucoma among other factors. Early detection is vital to stopping the progress of the disease.

Types of Glaucoma

There are two main types of glaucoma: primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG), and angle-closure glaucoma. These are marked by an increase of intraocular pressure (IOP), or pressure inside the eye. When optic nerve damage has occurred despite a normal IOP, this is called normal tension glaucoma. Secondary glaucoma refers to any case in which another disease causes or contributes to increased eye pressure, resulting in optic nerve damage and vision loss.

Regular Eye Exams are Important

Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the world, according to the World Health Organization. In the most common form, there are virtually no symptoms. Vision loss begins with peripheral or side vision, so if you have glaucoma, you may not notice anything until significant vision is lost.

The best way to protect your sight from glaucoma is to get a comprehensive eye examination. Then, if you have glaucoma, treatment can begin immediately.

Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness among African-Americans. And among Hispanics in older age groups, the risk of glaucoma is nearly as high as that for African-Americans. Also, siblings of persons diagnosed with glaucoma have a significantly increased risk of having glaucoma.

Risk Factors

Those at higher risk include people of African, Asian, and Hispanic descent. Other high-risk groups include: people over 60, family members of those already diagnosed, diabetics, and people who are severely nearsighted. Regular eye exams are especially important for those at higher risk for glaucoma, and may help to prevent unnecessary vision loss.

Learn more about Glaucoma Research Foundation.

Cervical Cancer Awareness Month

January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, today’s blog has important information about HPV and Cervical Cancer prevention from the National Cervical Cancer Coalition ( a program of the American Sexual Health Association).

What is HPV?

HPV is human papillomavirus. HPV is a common virus–more than half of sexually active men and women are infected with HPV at some time. At any time there are approximately 79 million people in the U.S. with HPV.

Some types of HPV may cause symptoms like genital warts. Other types cause cervical lesions which, over a period of time, can develop into cancer if undetected. However, most people have no symptoms of HPV infection, which means they have no idea they have HPV. In most cases, HPV is harmless and the body clears most HPV infections naturally.

HPV and Cervical Cancer

According to the National Cancer Institute, more than 12,000 women in the U.S. will be diagnosed cervical cancer this year and about 4,000 of these women will die. Most women with an HPV infection will not develop cervical cancer, but it’s very important to have regular screening tests, including Pap and HPV tests as recommended.

Cervical cancer is preventable if precancerous cell changes are detected and treated early, before cervical cancer develops. Cervical cancer usually takes years to progress. This is why getting screened on a regular basis is important; screening can usually catch any potential problems before they progress.

What is the difference between PAP and HPV tests?

A Pap test is a test to find abnormal cell changes on the cervix (cervical dysplasia) before they have a chance to turn into cancer. A small brush or cotton tipped applicator will be used to take a sample of cervical cells. These cells are examined for abnormal cell changes. Experts recommend that Pap tests begin no earlier than age 21.

Unlike Pap tests, which look for abnormal cervical cell changes, an HPV test can detect “high-risk” types of HPV. “High risk” types of HPV can lead to cervical cancer and this test helps healthcare providers know which women are at greatest risk. Experts recommend using both the HPV test and Pap test with women ages 30-65. (HPV tests can also be used with younger women who have unclear Pap test results.) For women with normal Pap/HPV test results, co-testing should be repeated once every five years.

HPV Vaccines

Two HPV vaccines are currently on the market and both are approved for use with girls and young women.  One vaccine is also approved for use with boys and young men.  The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends routine HPV vaccination for males and females ages 11-12, with “catch up” vaccination for those ages 13-26.

Taking charge of your health

A majority of women diagnosed with cervical cancer either have never had a Pap test or did not have one in the previous five years. Cervical cancer is completely preventable if precancerous cell changes are detected and treated early, before cervical cancer develops. Regular Pap tests, supplemented by HPV testing, will detect virtually all precancerous changes and cervical cancers.

Learn more about HPV and Cervical Cancer 

www.nccc-online.org

www.asexualhealth.org

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