| Health Observances
- May 2007
National Celiac Disease Awareness Month
Celiac disease is a genetic autoimmune disorder.
It affects children and adults. People who have the disease cannot
eat gluten, the protein found in wheat, rye, barley and oats. Eating
gluten starts an 'autoimmune reaction' that causes inflammation
of the upper portion of the small intestine. The body actually attacks
itself, in other words, and causes damage to the small intestine.
The inflammation prevents the intestine from
absorbing nutrients as well as it should. Consequently, the symptoms
of Celiac disease, especially in adults, often have more to do with
nutritional deficiencies, because they cannot absorb iron, calcium
and fat-soluble vitamins.
Sturge-Weber Syndrome Awareness Month
When a baby is born with a facial birthmark, often
called a "port wine stain," there's a chance that this
child has what's called Sturge-Weber Syndrome. The stain is caused
by a large amount of capillaries under the surface of the skin.
Not all babies who have port wine birthmarks have
Sturge-Weber Syndrome. In fact, only about 8 to 15 percent of them
do. But having the syndrome means there are other symptoms as well.
These include seizures, which most often begin during the first
year of life, weakness on one side of the body and glaucoma (increased
pressure within the eye).
Every case of Sturge-Weber is different, depending
on the the child. If you'd like more information about this syndrome,
talk with your doctor about ways to get connected with others who
have a family member with Sturge-Weber. You may also want to visit
the Web site of the Sturge-Weber Foundation http://www.sturge-weber.com/index.htm
Multiple Chemical Sensitivities
In the last decade or so, there's
been increased awareness about a condition called Multiple Chemical
Sensitivities, or MCS. People who have MCS suffer from reactions
to chemicals and other irritants in the environment. Symptoms vary
from person to person, and can include dizziness; irritations in
the eyes, ears, nose and throat; stomach/digestive problems; joint
and muscle pain; nosebleeds; skin problem; seizures; memory loss.
Symptoms can be mild, severe, sometimes delayed, sometimes chronic.
Triggers can include cleaning products, perfumes,
pesticides, solvents, latex, hairspray, fabric softeners, building
materials and other things.
The symptoms are so wide-ranging that it can
be difficult to determine whether a condition is actually MCS or
something else. It's important to find a doctor who can work with
you to pinpoint the cause of your symptoms and figure out how best
to treat them. There's currently no cure for MCS. Treatment consists
mainly of avoiding exposure to triggers.
National Employee Health and Fitness Day
You hear about companies that offer a few programs
to help their employees get on the road to better health; aerobics
classes on site, maybe, stress reduction programs, or similar efforts.
But it's not often that you come across a company that offers such
a comprehensive program as Catholic Healthcare Partners 'Creating
Healthy People' campaign. Read
about it here.
World No Tobacco Day
Quitting smoking is hard, so if you're trying to
achieve this goal, visit the World No Tobacco Day Web site http://www.who.int/tobacco/communications/events/wntd/2007/en/index.html
It offers information about quitting, about the effects of tobacco,
information for parents and links to other helpful sites.
Fibromyalgia Awareness Day
Fibromyalgia is a complex, chronic condition. It
causes muscular aching, pain, stiffness, tenderness and fatigue.
The term 'fibromyalgia' comes from 'fibro' meaning fibrous tissues
such as ligaments and tendons; 'my' meaning muscle; and 'algia'
which means pain. The pain of fibromyalgia is typically located
in the soft tissues around the joints, in the skin and in organs
throughout the body.
Other symptoms can include difficulty sleeping,
depression, migraine headaches and irritable bowel syndrome.
- About 80 percent of people
who suffer from fibromyalgia are women.
- Fibromyalgia is the most common cause of general
musculoskeletal pain in women between the ages of 20 and 55.
- It does not appear to be related to ethnicity.
- Nobody knows for sure what causes it, although
some researchers, practitioners and patients believe that its
onset follows a serious traumatic physical event (car accident,
injury, infection) or serious emotional trauma.
National Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention
One of the best ways to keep your bones strong is
to get regular exercise. Weight-bearing activities; walking, jogging
and weight training, can help build the density of your bones.
When your lifestyle is less active, you tend to
lose bone mass and muscle mass as well. Regular exercise, on the
other hand, helps maintain bones and muscles. Another benefit of
regular exercise is that it decreases your risk of falling and inuring
Food Allergy Awareness Week
Do you ever wonder whether you might be allergic
to a specific food? Symptoms of a food allergy include
- Difficulty breathing
- Abdominal cramps
- Tingling sensation in the mouth
- Swelling of the tongue and throat
The best way to determine whether you have an allergy
is to visit your doctor with the following information
- A food diary of everything you’ve eaten for the past 1
or 2 weeks
- What your symptoms are
- How long after eating your symptoms occur
A physical exam, lab tests and the information you
provide will help your doctor determine whether food is causing
Related to Alcohol
National Alcohol and Other Drugs Week
Drinking during pregnancy can cause fetal alcohol
syndrome, or FAS. And FAS is the leading known cause of mental retardation.
Children with FAS exhibit the following characteristics:
- Problems with learning, paying attention and remembering
- Problems with speech and hearing
- Behavioral problems
Additionally, children with FAS are born with
- A flattened mid-face
- Small jaw
- Thin upper lip
When you choose not to drink alcohol during pregnancy,
you're choosing to give your child a chance at avoiding one of the
known causes of mental retardation. You don't have to be an alcoholic
to have a baby with FAS. Binge drinking even once (five or more
drinks at a time) can result in serious damage to an unborn child.
And drinking any amount of beer, wine or hard liquor when you're
pregnant may cause your baby to have FAS or a less severe, but still
serious condition, Fetal Alcohol Effect. Nobody knows for sure if
there is any 'safe' amount of alcohol to consume during pregnancy.
So, the only safe amount is none!
Bike to Work Week
Did you know there's such a thing as a 'commuter'
bike? They've been popular in Europe and Asia for a while, and now,
as Americans are becoming more aware of the need to get regular
exercise, the bikes are becoming more popular here.
If you've been thinking about riding a bike to work
a few days per week, you may want to consider one of these commuter
bikes. They usually have about 16 to 20 speeds, so you'll get a
lot of help if your ride to work has hills.
If you're interested in finding our more about biking
to work, go to the League of American Bicyclists Web page: http://www.bikeleague.org/resources/better/commuters.php
Tinnitus Awareness Week
If you have sounds inside your ears that nobody
else can hear; ringing, whooshing or pulsing, for example, it's
possible that you could have tinnitus. For some people, these sounds
come rarely, maybe only once, and disappear. But other people experience
the sounds 24 hours per day.
The American Tinnitus Association estimates that
about 50 million Americans have the condition. Causes can include
noise-induced hearing loss, wax build-up in the ear canal, ear infections,
head and neck trauma, certain types of tumors.
There are many different treatment options for tinnitus,
but only you and your doctor can determine which ones might be most
successful for you. Treatments can include hearing aids, acupuncture,
biofeedback, cochlear implants, counseling (which helps improve
your response to tinnitus) and the use of techniques that enhance
Tuberous sclerosis is a rare, multi-system
genetic disease that causes benign tumors to grow in the brain and
on other vital organs such as the kidneys, heart, eyes, lungs, and
skin. It commonly affects the central nervous system and results
in a combination of symptoms including seizures, developmental delay,
behavioral problems, skin abnormalities, and kidney disease.
The disorder affects as many as 25,000 to
40,000 individuals in the United States and about 1 to 2 million
individuals worldwide, with an estimated prevalence of one in 6,000
newborns. TSC occurs in all races and ethnic groups, and in both
To read more about this condition, visit the National Institute
of Neurological Disorders and Stroke http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/tuberous_sclerosis/detail_tuberous_sclerosis.htm
Cornelia de Lange Syndrome Awareness Day
Cornelia de Lange Syndrome (CdLS) is a rare condition
that is present from the time a child is born. Children with CdLS
possess the following common characteristics:
- Low birth weight (many times less than 5 pounds)
- Slow rate of growth
- Small stature
- Small head size
- Thin eyebrows that frequently meet at the midline
- Long eyelashes
- Short nose that turns up
- Thin lips that turn down
People with CdLS also often have many health problems,
such as reflux, heart defects, seizures and developmental delays.
Mental retardation is common, and is generally moderate to severe.
The condition is named after a Dutch pediatrician,
Cornelia de Lange, who identified the syndrome in 1933.
If your child has CdLS, be sure to reach out
to others for all the support you can get. It's extremely beneficial
to connect with other families who can share their experiences with
you. One Web site that might be helpful is the CdLS Foundation http://www.cdlsusa.org/
National Women's Check-up Day
Men and women; their health is equally important,
but their health issues are often different. Some diseases affect
women differently, especially heart disease. Menopause is a women's
health issue that's always of high interest. And then there's the
constant complaint of women; that their husbands won't go to the
Read more about women's and men's health, especially
heart disease and women, menopause, and men's health issues. (
2003 HEART E-MAGAZINE, 2004
HEART E-MAGAZINE, DECEMBER
2002 TOPIC OF THE MONTH, AND JUNE
2003 TOPIC OF THE MONTH.]
National Neurofibromatosis Month
Neurofibromatosis (NF), or von Recklinghausen disease,
is a genetic disease in which patients develop multiple soft tumors
(neurofibromas). These tumors occur under the skin and throughout
the nervous system.
Read more about neurofibromatosis here http://220.127.116.11/regions/ehealth/health_information/00058130.asp?keyword=neurofibromatosis
National Emergency Medical Services Week
May is trauma awareness month. Trauma is a leading
cause of death in the U.S. For example, in 2000 there were:
- 43,354 deaths from motor-vehicle crashes
- 16,765 homicides
- 13,322 deaths from falls
- 3,377 deaths from fires
In many cases, human behavior is the cause of a
trauma-related injury. The fact is that most traumatic injuries
could have been prevented.
Ordinary people can play a tremendous role in the
reduction of trauma in this country. Pay attention to public safety
messages. Practice safe driving habits; every single time you get
in the car. If you feel as if you're in an unsafe situation, trust
your instincts and get away.
National Mental Health Counseling Week
Do you ever wonder what kind of training a mental
health counselor is required to have? According to the American
Mental Health Counselors Association, a licensed mental health counselor
must meet or exceed the following requirements:
- Master's degree in counseling or closely related
mental health field
- Completed a minimum of two years post master's
clinical work under the supervision of a licensed or certified
mental health professional
- Passed a state-developed or national licensure
or certification examination
National Anxiety Disorders Screening Day
Your mental health affects many aspects of your
life. In so many cases, mental conditions are treatable. This includes
depression, phobias, panic attacks, addiction and others. For more
about these important issues, read these articles [MARCH
Do you ever wonder whether you have an anxiety disorder?
Click here to find a location where you can receive
free screening to find out.
Better Sleep Month
According to the National Sleep Foundation, about
half of all Americans report problems with sleep at least half the
time. Here are some things that can improve the quality of your
- Avoid smoking. Like caffeine, nicotine is a stimulant. When
you go to sleep, your body experiences nicotine withdrawal. Quitting
smoking may make sleep difficult at first, but in the long run,
it will help you to fall asleep more quickly and wake up more
- Keep your bedroom very dark when you sleep. Consider getting
heavy window shades or curtains, or wearing an eye mask.
- Get up at the same time each morning and go to bed at the same
time each night. This can be hard on the weekends, but if you
have trouble sleeping, give it a try.
Source: The National Sleep Foundation
Early treatment for Lyme
disease is the key. If you notice a rash (sometimes it resembles
a bull's eye, but not always) and flu-like symptoms, consider getting
tested for the condition.
Since Lyme disease is a bacterial infection, oral antibiotics are
the common treatment for it.
If the disease has progressed
and symptoms become more involved; joint pain, heart problems, neurological
problems; then it may be necessary to be treated with an antibiotic
intravenously (directly into the vein).
Oral or intravenous treatment
typically lasts 2 to 4 weeks, depending on the severity of the symptoms.
There is currently no evidence that other types of medications or
approaches to antibiotic treatment are more likely to cure the disease.
For more details about
this condition, including prevention, detection and treatment, read
2004 topic of the month article
National Stuttering Awareness Week
Currently, there's no commonly recommended medication
The National Stuttering Foundation has the following
recommendations for helping a child who stutters:
- Try not to phrase your discussions using a lot of questions.
It's harder for children who stutter to answer a question than
it is for them to express their own ideas.
- Try not to interrupt a child who stutters. This makes it harder
for them to speak.
- In general, try to create a relaxed atmosphere, letting the
child know that you enjoy listening and talking together.
- Try to be relaxed when you speak with the child. Your relaxation
may help the child to relax and perhaps stutter less.
Skin Cancer Awareness Month; May 2 National
Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Day
Even though the spring days are still usually fairly
cool, the sun's rays are strong and you're at risk of too much exposure
to ultraviolet rays. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS),
the best way to lower your risk of melanoma is to avoid too much
exposure to the sun and other ultra violet light, such as tanning
booths. Stay out of the sun as much as possible, especially during
the middle of the day when the sun is strongest. But if you know
you're going to be in the sun, the ACS recommends using a sunscreen
with an SPF factor of at least 15.
For information about melanoma, read the April
2004 issue of our Cancer E-Magazine.
Clean Air Month
It turns out that the Environmental Protection Agency's
current 'acceptable' level of ozone, which is 80 parts per billion,
is still able to increase the risk of premature death.
Smog is primarily made up of ozone, which is a molecule
that consists of three oxygen atoms bound together. When you inhale
ozone, it can damage your lungs.
As the weather gets warmer and air pollution gets
worse, what do you need to know about how air quality affects you
when you exercise?
Heavy exercise such as running can increase your
risk of respiratory problems and reduced lung function. You can
decrease the effects of ozone by doing a less strenuous activity
;walking instead of running, for example. Or you can limit the amount
of time you spend on the exercise. Exercising inside is another
Ozone levels are usually lowest in the early morning
and in the evening, so adjusting your schedule is another way to
Fitness and Sports Month
If you're looking for
a new warm-weather activity, consider taking up kayaking. It's easy
to learn, it's a cardiovascular exercise and you can do it on your
own or with a group. Do an Internet search for kayaking clubs in
your area. You can learn the activity after some basic lessons.
Someone who weighs 150 pounds would burn about 340
calories during an hour of kayaking. Often, people kayak for longer
than an hour, so you're likely to burn even more calories.
National Bike Month
A bike is something that your child shouldn't have
to grow into. It has to fit, for safety's sake. Here are some guidelines:
- Your child should be able to sit on the seat with feet flat
on the ground.
- The handlebars should be no higher than the shoulders.
- Children under age 7 should use only foot brakes. After that,
foot and hand brakes are okay.
Helmets should sit level on your child's head, and
no other type of hat should be worn under it, including baseball
hats. The straps should be tight enough that no more than a finger's
width can fit beneath.
Schizophrenia Awareness Week
What exactly is schizophrenia? It's a brain disease
that causes people to have trouble thinking clearly and to have
difficulty with relationships with other people. People who have
this condition often find it hard to know what is real and what
There's no known cure for schizophrenia, but there
are medications available that help control the symptoms. Many experts
in the field of schizophrenia believe that it's most beneficial
to start taking medication as soon as symptoms begin. Some of the
common early warning signs of schizophrenia include
- Hearing something, or seeing something, that isn't present
- A feeling of being watched
- Speaking or writing in ways that don't make sense
- A change in hygiene habits or appearance
- Personality changes
- Inappropriate behavior
Schizophrenia is difficult for the people who have
it and for their loved ones. There are so many challenging issues
associated with this disease; medication management, side effects
of medication, social isolation, etc. If you or someone you love
has schizophrenia, be sure to get the support you need.
Recreational Water Illness Prevention Week
According to the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention, there has been an increase in the number of swimming-related
illnesses in the past decade. These illnesses can cause
- Ear infections
- Respiratory infections
- Eye infections
- Wound infections
You're especially susceptible to these illnesses
if you spend time in decorative water fountains, hot tubs and lakes,
rivers and oceans. Avoid swallowing the water in these types of
locations. Additionally, after a rainfall, lakes, rivers and oceans
are more likely to be dangerous.
To keep pool water safe for others, remember these
- Don't swim if you have diarrhea
- Take a shower before you swim
- Wash your hands after using the bathroom
- If you have children in diapers, check and change those diapers
often, and change the diapers in the bathroom, not by the pool
- If you have young children who are recently potty trained, make
sure they take frequent bathroom breaks
HIV Vaccine Awareness
The Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention estimate that about 950,000 Americans are
infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. And they believe
that about one third of the people who are infected don't know it.
More than half of new HIV infections occur in African Americans,
although African Americans make up only 12 percent of the population.
AIDS is the fifth leading cause of death for Americans aged 25 to
44, and it's the number one cause of death among African American
men of any age.
There is currently no
vaccine for HIV, although scientists have been searching for about
two decades. Research is currently underway.
Source: American Cancer Society; The American Lyme
Disease Association; American Mental Health Counselors Association;
American Tinnitus Association; The CdLS Foundation;
The Celiac Disease Foundation; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention;
KidsHealth.org; Ecological Health Organization, Inc.; Environmental
Health Perspectives, April 2006; The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis
Network; Freedom from Fear; The National Center for Injury Prevention;
The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence; National
Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; National Institute
of Neurological Disorders and Stroke; The National Schizophrenia
Foundation; The National Stuttering Foundation; Schizophrenics Anonymous