Saturday, May 5, 2012

May Is Busy with Health Observances

I haven't checked to see if May is the busiest month when it comes to health observances, but if it's not, it's way up there. Do campaigns for specific causes have any impact on you? I have a personal interest in this because of Sepsis Alliance, which brought about Sepsis Awareness Month this past  September.

Anyway, for the busy month of May, this is what I found for the United States:

Arthritis Awareness  Month

Better Hearing and Speech Month

Global Employee Health and Fitness Month

Healthy Vision Month

Hepatitis Awareness Month

Lupus Awareness Month 

Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month®

Mental Health Month

National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month

National Celiac Disease Awareness Month 

National High Blood Pressure Education Month

National Mediterranean Diet Month

National Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention Month

National Physical Fitness and Sports Month 

National Toxic Encephalopathy and Chemical Injury Awareness Month 

Ultraviolet Awareness Month

And then there are weekly observances:

May 6 to 12

May 13 to 19

May 14 to 18

May 21 to 27

And now for the daily observances

Are there any here that surprise you?

Friday, May 4, 2012

May Is Healthy Vision Month

Our vision is precious but it's often something that we take for granted until it doesn't work properly anymore. How well do you take care of your eyes?

Regular eye exams are a must, particularly if eye disease runs in your family. Initial eye visits should be done when children are young in order to detect any vision problems before they become a hindrance at school. Not being able to see the front of the class or computer screen can seriously hamper learning.

National Eye Institute, 
National Institutes of Health
Most doctors recommend annual eye checks for healthy children - it's best to check with your own healthcare provider to see what is best for your family. Don't wait until your child is ready for school - the American Optometric Association recommends that children have their first eye exam at age 6 months. Adults should ask their healthcare provider what time frame is right for them.

The eye exam:

The optometrist or ophthalmologist will look directly into the child's eye to see if there are any obvious abnormalities and may apply eye drops that will dilate the pupil (make it larger), so the back of the eye can be seen. As the children get older, they will be asked to take distance tests, to identify objects or letters on the eye chart, to see how well they can see things that are far away.

If the appointment is the first one with this particular doctor, he or she may do a colour-blind test. This involves the child looking at some pictures of mosaics and in the mosaics are some numbers that are a different colour. People who are colour blind will not be able to see the numbers. Another test that could be done are photos that have a 3-D look to them. The child is asked to try to pick up the object in the book.

Eye health

The regular eye exam, which continues into adulthood, is only one part of your eye health. To keep your eyes healthy, you have to take care of them, just as any other part of your body. This means protecting them when playing sports, doing any tasks where objects may break off or shoot into the air, wearing sunglasses and brimmed hats, and eating a healthy diet. By the way - even children should wear sunglasses. The sun's damage to the eyes is cumulative - it adds up. By wearing sunglasses in childhood, the sun doesn't get a chance to cause damage.

Eye disease

We all know people who are near-sighted (myopia) or far-sighted (presbyopia) - or both - but what does that mean? Near-sighted people can see things that are close up; far-sighted people can see things that are far away.


Cataracts are inevitable if we live long enough. A cataract is the clouding over of the eye's lens. If it is thick enough that it is causing vision loss, this can be corrected with surgery. Excessive sunlight exposure helps speed cataract formation.

Age-related macular degeneration

AMD is a common older age onset eye disease. There are two forms, dry and wet AMD. The center part of the eye, the macula, is destroyed and you lose your central vision first. If it does not stop, the vision loss moves outward to the edges. As our population ages, we are seeing more AMD.

National Eye Institute

Glaucoma is caused by pressure behind the eye and can lead to blindness. Currently, some eye drops can keep the pressure in check for some people, but it is essential to use the drops regularly as prescribed. As well, many medications cannot be used by people who have glaucoma, including over-the-counter medications. If you have glaucoma, always check with your pharmacist before taking any new medications - prescription or not.

There are many other ways your eyes can become damaged, but prevention is the key. You can find more information at the National Eye Institute, along with several documents on different eye issues.

Does eye disease run in your family? My mother has wet AMD, so I do worry about that from time to time. While you can't diagnose yourself, a good tool to use if you are concerned about AMD is the Amsler Grid. By looking at it, you will see if the lines look as straight as they should. Check out the to see how you can download a grid.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Texting and Driving - Who Would Think It's a Good Idea?

I missed May 1st's Stop The Texts Day, but it's never too late to try to stop a behaviour that is killing and maiming so many people. Even one accident from texting is too many.

Before we talk about driving and texting, how many times have you seen someone walking and texting who bumped into a post, tripped on a sidewalk, or fell on the stairs? I have. I've seen people walking and texting walk right into traffic, forcing the drivers to slam on their brakes. I've seen texting people walk into oncoming pedestrians. And that's just walking, folks. That's just walking.

Think about it. Driving takes concentration. You need to look at what is in front of you - in fact, that's the most important part of driving, right? You need to see where you are going. When you learn how to drive, you learn how to use your mirrors by very quickly darting your eyes to the mirror and then back to the road. Every second you are not looking straight ahead is a second that something can be happening in front of you that you don't notice.

So, think about texting. It takes much longer than a split second to text. Therefore, your eyes are off the road for more than that split second. What can happen during that time? A car in front of you may have slowed down or stopped; a child or animal may have run into the road; you may have approached a stop sign or red light; or you may veer off course. And these are just a few examples.

I know that many young drivers of today have been brought up (for the most part) with a phone in their hand, but this problem is not restricted to younger drivers. I've seen people my age (50) doing the same thing. I've never been able to understand what is so very important that the message cannot wait for the few minutes it would take to find a place to pull over.

So, how can we make people understand that this is not acceptable? The people who are texting know that they shouldn't be. It's impossible for them not to know, just like people know they shouldn't drive drunk. But people who text and drive suffer from "nothing will happen to me" syndrome, and they are sure that they can handle it. Until someone is killed. Someone innocent who happened to get in their way.

What are your suggestions? How do you think we can get people to think smart and stop texting while driving?

A Quebec woman died earlier this year as she was texting and driving. Maybe this may help bring the point home to people who aren't yet convinced of its dangers:
Man releases final text chat with girlfriend, warns against texting and driving

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Blogathon 2012 Blogger List

If you are looking around for some great blogs to discover, Jan Udlock, a fellow blogger who is helping out with the running of the Blogathon, has compiled a full list of all the Blogathon participants. You can find the Blog Roll here.

While I am discovering some new blogs that I know I will enjoy, I would like to do a special plug for my writer friends whose blogs I am already familiar with and that I'd like to share. They are:

Annie Logue Ann Logue, Financial and current events, from author of four Dummies books on investing.

Debbie Kaplan – Frisco Kids, Your guide to kid-friendly events and trips around the San Francisco Bay area.

Jackie Dishner - Bike with Jackie, Your guide to inspiration, encouragement, quirky stories, laughs and life-changing adventures.

Jan Udlock – Imperfect Mom, Professional writer, parenting expert, mom of five.

Jane Boursaw - Reel Life with Jane, Syndicated family movie and TV reviews.

Jennifer Fink – Blogging About Boys, All about boys.

Leah Ingram – Suddenly Frugal, How to live more on less money; and Philly on the Cheap, Deals, discounts and living on the cheap in the Philadelphia area.

Lisa Jaffe Hubbell - Land Guppy, Writing about good food, good books, and good times.

Peggy Noonan – Alt Med for You, Alternative medicine news and how-to information.

Sandra Hume – Little House Travel, Everything Little House fans and their families should know about traveling to places Laura Ingalls Wilder called home.

Sarah E. Ludwig - Parenting by Trial and Error, The learning curve in raising kids.

Sheila Callahan – Sheila Callahan, What’s on my mind.

Tracey Arial Arial View, Exploring the world through words.


May Is National High Blood Pressure Education Month

Do you know what your blood pressure is? Do you know what a "normal" blood pressure is? It's surprising how many people say no to either or both of those questions. But this is National High Blood Pressure Education Month in the United States, so let's do some educating.

First, some sobering numbers from the Centers of Disease Control (CDC):

- Among American adults who are in the community, meaning that they are not in a hospital or a long-term care facility, about 1/3 or about 68 million have high blood pressure (hypertension).

- Hypertension is very expensive to the economy. With the associated healthcare services and medications, as well as missed days of work, hypertension costs the United States about $93.5 billion (with a B) in 2010, and the costs are rising.

But what exactly is hypertension?

As your heart pumps oxygen-rich blood away towards your body's organs and tissues, the blood pushes against the arteries, which carry the blood. The more resistance the blood meets as it goes through, the harder the the heart has to pump and the higher the pressure goes. The less resistance there is, the lower the blood pressure goes.

Picture a garden hose. As the hose rests along the ground, straight, the water pressure remains even as it flows through. If you pinch the hose, or make the end narrower, the pressure will build up. Along the same lines, if you cut holes in the hose or replace it with a wider hose, the pressure will not be as strong.

When the heart has to work hard to get the blood through the arteries, it can tire or become damaged.

So, why is that dangerous?

The harder your heart has to work, the higher the risk of it becoming damaged or you developing heart disease. Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in North America.

You can't wait until you have signs of high blood pressure because there are no symptoms. This is exactly why hypertension is called the silent killer. By the time the damage is done, it's often too late.

Finding out your blood pressure

Many drugstores have blood pressure machines in the pharmacy area that anyone may use. If you don't know your blood pressure, this is a good place to start, unless you are seeing your doctor or nurse practitioner anyway.

Your blood pressure has two numbers, an upper number and a lower one. The upper number is the systolic pressure, as the heart beats. The lower number is the diastolic pressure, as the heart relaxes. When a nurse takes your blood pressure with a stethoscope, he or she is listening for when the beating of the blood begins as it flows through the artery and then when it can no longer be heard. The measurements are in millimeters of mercury, or mmHg.

The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute suggests that a normal blood pressure for a healthy adult 18 years old or older is one where the systolic number is 120 mmHg or lower and the diastolic is 80 mmHg or lower. A blood pressure of 120 to 139 over 80 to 89 is considered to be prehypertension. This is followed by stage I hypertension (140 to 159 over 90 to 99) and stage II (160 or higher over 100 or higher).

If you are monitoring your blood pressure at a local store or with a machine that you have at home, it's important to be consistent by using the same machine each time, much the way you should weigh yourself on the same scale each time. Every machine is a bit different. Your blood pressure may come out to three different readings on three different machines. By taking it always on the same machine, you will see if there are any changes. It is also best to take it at the same time of day each time as blood pressures can rise and fall throughout the day.

If you think that your blood pressure is too high, you should talk to your doctor or nurse practitioner about it. It could be helpful if you keep a record of your own blood pressure measurements, a diary, so you can show the doctor what you mean.

White coat syndrome

Some people have perfectly normal blood pressures, but it shoots up whenever they have their pressure taken by a doctor or nurse. This is what we often call white coat syndrome. If this happens to you, having your own machine at home and keeping track yourself may be more helpful than just having your pressure taken at the doctor's office.

Low blood pressure

You don't hear about low blood pressure too often because, as a rule, it's not a serious problem in every day life. If you are up and about, living life as you want, a lower than average blood pressure is likely not going to cause any problems. However, people with low blood pressures can get dizzy more quickly than other people, so it is important for them to get up slowly from a sitting position, be sure they are well hydrated, and to eat well.

So - what's your blood pressure? Feel free to let us know in the comments section. Mine is usually around 115/70 or so, but it's been much lower, so I'm one of the ones who has to be very careful sometimes.

(Blog post number 2 of Blogathon 2012!)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

We're Part of the 2012 Blogathon!

Keeping up a blog can be tough when life gets busy. I often have great ideas to put on this blog but then I get side tracked and I figure I'll come back and do it later. Unfortunately, "later" will become "never" much of the time.

The thing is - this is a popular blog even though it's not updated regularly. I check my stats and I get a good number of visitors every single day. This blog has raised my profile as a health writer and not only have clients found me through the blog, I have helped many people with some of the information I've posted.

So, because I know my poor blog has been neglected and I keep saying I'll be better at posting, I have decided to join the 2012 Blogathon. I committed to writing a blog post a day from today until May 31st. Hopefully, the topics I choose will be interesting and entertaining and my poor blog will no longer feel left out of my writing life.

Many of my regular readers know that I am particularly passionate about a few specific healthcare topics. One is sepsis, a disease that kills over 700 people PER DAY in the United States. Yes, per day. Sepsis Alliance is one of my clients. Yesterday was the 10-year anniversary of the death of the founder's daughter. Erin Flatley was only 23 years old - the age of my daughter now. Erin went in to the hospital for minor elective surgery. She died of sepsis five days later.

There are even higher numbers of people who get sepsis and live - but are left with severe life-altering after effects, such as limb amputations, organ dysfunction, post traumatic stress disorder, and more.

In 2011, we instituted Sepsis Awareness Month, to be held every September. This year, the Global Sepsis Alliance has declared September 13th to be World Sepsis Day. This is a huge opportunity to help raise more awareness of this horrible illness. If you would like to watch a video on the impact of sepsis, Sepsis: Emergency is quite powerful.

Want to learn more? Dr. James O'Brien was interviewed on BlogTalkRadio. Listen to how he describes what sepsis is, what can happen with it, and how it could be treated:

Listen to internet radio with Boomer and The Babe on Blog Talk Radio

Now, is there anything in particular you would like me to talk about? Are there any health topics that are concerning you? There is so much in the news these days from issues about autism to childhood obesity.