As most people know, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Every year over 250,000 women will be diagnosed and 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. Through several foundations including the Susan G Komen Foundation, and the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc., millions of women are able to receive early detection support, treatment and therapy in order to combat the effects of breast cancer. Because of the increased awareness and early detection breast cancer rates have been in decline for the past several years. Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with breast cancer survivors as a part of an awareness rally and the stories from these women were not only inspirational but a sign of their incredible strength and resilience. For example, one particular woman was diagnosed with breast cancer nearly 25 years ago. She was a registered nurse in one of the biggest hospitals in Chicago. Because of her medical knowledge, she began to notice some of the more common side effects of breast cancer including scaly skin and redness. As a result, she decided to go to her doctor and discovered that she had breast cancer. Immediately she decided to undergo chemotherapy in order to combat the cancer. As a result, she lost her hair, began to experience immense weakness and pain, and bouts of nausea. However, this not deter her from becoming an advocate in her community for breast cancer awareness. She battled and continued to educate others this entire time and never gave up the fight. She has now been in remission for 10 years. This is just one story out of thousands that are prevalent in the fight against breast cancer. Beyond wearing pink ribbons, or pink clothing in October, it is important to get involved and join others in the fight against breast cancer. Educating all people, males as well, about the signs and symptoms of breast cancer and what to look for. Breast cancer in males is rare, however it can still occur. Although breast cancer cannot be prevented, engaging in healthy living, including eating a well-balanced diet and avoiding smoking and excessive drinking will have positive effects as well as have some effect on helping to reduce risk. In addition, it is important that women over 40 years of age receive yearly mammograms. Even women who are younger than 40, and who show no signs and symptoms should also receive mammograms in order to further reduce the risk. Early detection is a key initiative in the battle against breast cancer. The sooner that cancer is identified, the more successful treatments can be. It is important that breast cancer awareness remain at the forefront, as it is still the 2nd leading cause of death in women. Therefore, it is essential to remain vigilant in making sure that every effort is made to increase awareness and prevent as many people from becoming affected as possible.
Many seniors struggle with the aging process. The loss of independence and declining health can oftentimes be overwhelming and scary for our elders to deal with. Several factors including loss of financial security, death of a spouse or loved one, and not being able to manage daily activities are barriers that seniors have to face as well. It is important that the family and caregivers of the resident be attentive and patient in this transition. Emotional support, as well as these tips for healthy aging, can be attributed to a better quality of life:
Proper diet and nutrition are incredibly important for our seniors to maintain healthy living and help slow certain degenerative health conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, and hyperlipidemia. Increasing the amount of fruit and vegetables in the diet while decreasing salt content and fatty foods will have a tremendous impact on the health and well-being of seniors. Enjoying a variety of foods and controlling portions will not only keep people from becoming bored with the diet, but increase satiation, or the feeling of being full!
Studies show that just as little as 30 minutes of daily exercise can improve mental cognition, heart health, decrease weight loss while decreasing anxiety and depression. Finding exercises that challenge but do not overwhelm seniors is the key; Yoga, swimming, biking, or going for a moderate paced walk are all options that can be done no matter the age or physical level. Many times, there will be cases where some seniors are not able to exercise due to physical limitations. It is important that caregivers find exercises that can suit these individuals. Merely stretching, walking, or doing light yard work can be stimulating enough exercises that keep seniors active, and mentally sharp.
Getting Enough Sleep
Sleep is something that many people take for granted but the older that you become, the more important getting enough rest becomes. Most people benefit greatly from 7-9 hours of sleep per night, but it depends on each individual person. It is important to know your body and be aware of how much sleep is needed. Getting the appropriate amount of rest helps improve mental cognition and reduces stress and inflammation. These are all factors that help with the natural aging process.
Never Stop Learning
Whether it’s as simple as doing a crossword puzzle or reading the morning paper, continuing to exercise your brain is essential to healthy aging. The brain is an active muscle; and just like arms or legs, it must be engaged, or it could suffer from weakness or atrophy. Never stop the learning process. Reading, listening to music, picking up a new hobby of interest; these are all activities that continue to work the brain and keep mental cognition and decrease the chances of dementia. Embrace the aging process, and through these Amazon healthy tips, continue to live healthily.
Smart technology in cellphones, tablets and computers have not only revolutionized our daily lives but how we also monitor our health. More specifically, the Apple Watch, one of the most popular smart wristwatches in the world, has become a great tool for patients to monitor their heart health. Recently, there have been stories of patients discovering irregularities in their heart rate because of notifications from their smart watch. Apple has teamed up with Stanford Medicine to form the “Apple Heart Study”, which uses data from the Apple Watch to identify irregular heart rhythms, as well as potentially serious heart conditions. Apple then uses the information gathered to improve its technology which is designed to detect and analyze irregular heart rhythms. If irregularities are discovered with a person’s heart rate, they then have the option to consult with a telehealth Heart Study Cardiologist. The Cardiologist then may do further observations of the patient while wearing a small “e-patch”, which will gather important data and give a clearer picture of the perceived issues, as well as give recommendations to the patient’s primary health care provider. What does this mean for most patients? Millions of Americans experience the common form of hearth arrhythmia known Atrial Fibrillation or “A-fib”. For most people, it is undiagnosed, and can often come and go regularly, especially if set off by certain stimulants such as alcohol, caffeine and other substances. Although a person may see their primary care physician with regularity, heart arrhythmias may not show up on the EKG, unless they are experiencing “A-Fib” at that exact moment. In addition, these undetected arrhythmias are among the leading causes of stroke. The more monitoring that a patient has, the better chance that irregularities are caught at an earlier stage before a stroke occurs. Therefore, heart monitoring devices such as the Apple Watch, may be beneficial to senior patients, as well as those who are more susceptible to heart attacks and arrhythmias. As is the case with most technology, there is definitely room for improvement. It is possible that the watch may pick up on arrhythmias if a person enjoys their morning coffee or has an intense workout session at the gym. However, the overall benefit is positively overwhelming. Most people may stigmatize that heart health only affects seniors or morbidly obese individuals, but this is far from the case. Recently, a teenager received an alert from her smart watch that her heart rate was unusually high. Besides a headache and a small bout of shortness of breath, she reportedly felt normal. Once she received another alert from her watch, she went to the emergency room. Doctors then identified that she was suffering from chronic kidney disease, and if it were not for the alerts from her watch, it is very possible that the disease may have continued to go undetected and potentially have devastating effects. The benefits of the smart watch are not only good for seniors or those looking to lose weight, it is effective for all, no matter their age, gender or physical ailments.
Trust is an essential factor in healthcare. When patients receive any kind of therapy management, they are expecting that the professionals in charge of their care are not only knowledgeable but truthful in all aspects of care. It is important as healthcare providers, that we remain transparent with patients and understanding of not only their physical health, but emotional and mental wellbeing as well. As a community pharmacist, I have had many interactions with patients that allowed me to gain a more in-depth notion of each individual that I treated. For example, if there were patients who were on a fixed income, I would be able to look at their medication therapy and recommend alternative medications that would fit their budgets and still be effective. I was able to do this because patients were comfortable enough to trust me with their financial situations in order for me to help them. Sometimes there is a giant disconnect between providers and patients. Patients are often times intimidated by healthcare providers and afraid to express their issues. Sometimes older patients who are experiencing pain, side effects or mental and emotional issues are not transparent with their providers about these conditions. This creates a barrier that makes providing great healthcare much more difficult. My grandfather was one of the proudest, most hard-working people that I’ve ever been around. He worked as a farmer and mechanic throughout most of his life. He would talk to anybody who came across his path and believed that any ailment could be prevented with a teaspoon of castor oil and a good night of sleep. Once he became older, he started to experience frequent chest pain and tightness. He refused to go to the doctor because he had the belief that if he did, then he would never return home. This is a common fear amongst people in our community. Many people have a distrust of providers and believe that either most are only concerned about the prospect of making money, or they simply do not care about their wellbeing. This is a stigma and barrier that is the responsibility of us in the healthcare community to overcome. Patient-centered care is the backbone and foundation of the proper care of patients, and this idea must not be forgotten. Patients as well as their families have the responsibility of making sure that every important detail of the patient is given to their caregiver. For example, if it is an elderly person who is in a nursing home or assisted living facility, the caregivers must be aware of all medications, both prescription and over-the counter, that are being taken, as well as physical ailments and mental/emotional wellbeing. This ensures that they are given the best care possible, which also gives peace of mind to those involved. Trust is the key factor that establishes these points. Patients must not only trust the competency of those in charge of care, they must trust that the best care will be given. For all patients to receive the best care possible, trust is not only needed, its essential to the foundation of healthcare.
The month of August usually represents an end to the summer, and a return for school age children back to their buses, school lunches and after-school programs. However, a recent outbreak of a long-forgotten disease has parents, teachers and the elderly population on high alert. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 107 cases of measles have been diagnosed in 2018 along throughout over 21 states and the District of Columbia, including Texas. Compared to recent years, the number of reported cases is slightly higher and not tied to a single large outbreak like the record number of cases from 2016. The most startling news is that most people who contracted measles did not get vaccinated. Measles is a contagious infection that is caused by a virus. The infection stage occurs over a 2-week period, and during this time there are no signs and symptoms. Once its effect takes place, several symptoms including persistent cough, runny nose, fever may occur. Eventually, the most hallmark sign of measles, the rash of small red bumps, covers the body and increases the fever. The measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine is very effective against measles with nearly 93% success rate. So how does this work? Think of the vaccine as a study guide for a test, or a blueprint to a house. It prepares the body to fight against a disease, without being exposed to the actual symptoms. Vaccines are made of weakened or dead antigens of the disease. When administered, it causes the body to produce antibodies which fight the weakened antigens and prevents an infection from spreading. The immune system then stores this information for future use. Once a person is affected by the actual disease, their immune system will recall the antigen and know exactly how to combat the disease, which is how a person becomes immunized. Although measles was considered to be eliminated in America in 2000, it is one of the leading worldwide causes of death for children. The World Health Organization estimates 450 children die each day due to measles and nearly 20 million people contract measles each year. Those children who were not vaccinated as infants have a higher chance of contracting the disease. With August being National Immunization Month, it is important that not only children reporting back to school are being protected from diseases, but our senior population as well. Seniors are often overlooked when it comes to immunizations, but because of age, their immune systems may weaken and be more susceptible to certain diseases. Also, if they have other diseases such as diabetes, their immune system may be even more compromised and susceptible to viruses. Even if a person was vaccinated earlier in life, the effectiveness of the vaccine decreases over time, so it is important that booster shots may be given in order to increase the chance of the body fighting back against the disease. Also, when people in general are vaccinated against a disease, it decreases the chance that our children and senior population get affected as well, even if they are unvaccinated. This is known as herd immunity. This concept shows that it is not also imperative that our most vulnerable populations are vaccinated but that everyone becomes protected as well. This ensures that an outbreak does not occur, and a few cases are contained. Vaccinations not only protect yourself, it protects our communities.