May Days! What’s Old and What’s New in Health Awareness This Month

Don’t let the month of May pass without monitoring your health! Take note of the medical conditions and health syndromes recognized this month, learn more about them, and do what you can to stay healthy!

1.    Mental Health Awareness Month

President Obama has designated the month of May as Mental Health Awareness Month by Presidential Proclamation, noting that millions of people in America are living with mental illness. (1) Although depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, and post-traumatic stress disorder are some of the most common mental illnesses, many others affect people living in America, as well. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines mental health as “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.” It goes on to state that, shockingly, “only about 17% of U.S adults are considered to be in a state of optimal mental health”! (2) A new report indicates that children are also suffering from decreased mental health outcomes in that 1 in 5 suffers from mental illness. Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are key illnesses in children. (3) Learn more at the Mental Health America website. (4)

Image: Courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Amanda Mills

2.   Hepatitis Awareness Month

A healthy liver is essential for a healthy life.  Viruses and alcohol are two frequent causes of hepatitis, although many other types exist.
A quick rundown:
Hepatitis A: Fecal-Oral transmission, contaminated water; Preventable with vaccine.
Hepatitis B: Blood-borne, intravenous (IV) transmission, IV drug users at risk, sexual transmission; Preventable with vaccine; can be treated with interferon, anti-virals
Hepatitis C: Intravenous (IV) transmission, IV drug users at risk; can be treated with interferon, anti-virals
Hepatitis D: Blood-borne; transmitted with only with hepatitis B; preventable with Hepatitis B vaccine
Hepatitis E: International travelers; fecal-oral transmission; contaminated water; prevent by avoiding exposure.Know about the different types of hepatitis, how you can contract hepatitis, your risk factors, and how the disease is transmitted. (5, 6)

3.   American Stroke Month

Recognizing the signs of a stroke are crucial for improved health outcomes and a better chance at survival.  The American Heart Association uses the “F.A.S.T.” acronym as a simple way for people to be on alert and recognize the signs of a stroke. (7)

F.A.S.T. stands for:

“F acial drooping
A rm weakness
S peech difficulty
T ime to call 911″

Strokes are associated with high blood pressure, so maintaining a healthy blood pressure is key.  Learn more about preventing strokes here: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/stroke/ (8)

Image: Courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Amanda Mills

4.    National Arthritis Awareness Month

Osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are the most common causes of arthritis.  OA is a joint disease which affects the elderly, overweight, the athletic, and those with structural joint defects.  It is generally a disease of wear and tear of the cartilage in the arthritic joint.  Symptoms of the disease include stiffness and swelling after being at rest for a period of time. (9)  RA is associated with autoimmune disease, occurs more commonly in women, and generally affects the joints of the hands and feet.  The disease results in deterioration of the joint lining, bone erosion, and joint deformity. (10) The physical manifestations of the disease, itself, can be quite scary for a patient and his/her loved ones.  A helpful interactive Medline Plus tutorial about RA  helps ease a bit of the anxiety. (11)  Also, new drugs such as tofacitinib are making rheumatoid arthritis more bearable for the 1.5 million sufferers of the disease in the United States. Tofacitinib works by inhibiting a cellular protein complex called JAK-STAT which is involved in signaling activity within cells, regulating cell growth and metabolism, and controlling nuclear function. Tofacitinib is able to decrease the inflammatory mediator response in RA, thus lessening RA symptoms in the patient. (12) Learn more at the Arthritis Foundation website. (13)

5.   National High Blood Pressure Education Month

High blood pressure increases your chance of heart disease and is dangerous because it often has no symptoms.

Infographic: Courtesy of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

6.   National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month

Image: Courtesy of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)

Pollen, grass, dust, animal dander, and food allergens all add up to a world of misery of millions of people in this country who suffer from allergies.  Great strides have been made in the diagnosis, management, and treatment of allergies and asthma.  Researchers have identified a new variant of IgE, an antibody involved in the allergic reaction, that triggers the release of histamine (which causes allergic symptoms such as runny noses and watery eyes).  This new IgE variant may be a potential target for drug therapy to alleviate allergy symptoms.  Find out more at “Allergic Diseases” at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) website. (14,15)

7. Healthy Vision Month

Dr. Rachel Bishop of the National Eye Institute discusses common vision problems and explains the importance of having a comprehensive dilated eye examination.

Common Vision Problems

Importance of Having a Comprehensive Dilated Eye Examination

Videos: Courtesy of the National Eye Institute

Also recognized in the month of May are: National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month, Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month®, National Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention Month, Lupus Awareness Month, National Celiac Disease Awareness Month, Preeclampsia Awareness Month.

Learn more at “Stay Healthy in 2013! Health Awareness in the New Year” and the National Health Observances website. (16, 17)

References:
1.   “Presidential Proclamation — National Mental Health Awareness Month, 2013.” April 30, 2013. The White House. Website. http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/04/30/presidential-proclamation-national-mental-health-awareness-month-2013. Retrieved May 18, 2013.
2.   “Mental Health Basics.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Updated July 11, 2011. Website. http://www.cdc.gov/mentalhealth/basics.htm. Retrieved May 18, 2013.
3.   “Children’s Mental Health – New Report.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Updated May 17, 2013. Website. http://www.cdc.gov/features/childrensmentalhealth/. Retrieved May 18, 2013.
4.   “Mental Health Month: Pathways to Wellness.” Mental Health America. Website. http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/go/may. Retrieved May 18, 2013.
5.   “Viral Hepatitis: A through E and Beyond.” National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC). NIH Publication No. 08–4762.  February 2008.  Last Updated April 23, 2012. Website. http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/viralhepatitis/. Retrieved May 18, 2013.
6.    Mayo Clinic Staff.”Alcoholic hepatitis.” Mayo Clinic Website. November 3, 2012. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/alcoholic-hepatitis/DS00785. Retrieved May 18, 2013.
7.    “American Stroke Month.” American Heart Association. Updated May 15, 2013.  Website. http://www.strokeassociation.org/STROKEORG/General/American-Stroke-Month_UCM_324151_Article.jsp. Retrieved May 18, 2013.
8.   “What Is a Stroke?”  National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. February 1, 2011. Website  http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/stroke/.  Retrieved May 18, 2013.
9.   “What is Osteoarthritis? Fast Facts: An Easy-to-Read Series of Publications for the Public.” National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) Information Clearinghouse. Website. Updated November 2010. http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Osteoarthritis/osteoarthritis_ff.asp. Retrieved May 18, 2013.
10.   Mayo Clinic Staff. “Rheumatoid Arthritis.” Mayo Clinic Website. Updated August 10, 2012. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/rheumatoid-arthritis/DS00020. Retrieved May 18, 2013.
11.  “Rheumatoid Arthritis.” Medline Plus. Website. Updated May 14, 2013. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/rheumatoidarthritis.html. Retrieved May 18, 2013.
12.   Collins, Francis. “NIH Research Leads to New Rheumatoid Arthritis Drug.” NIH Director’s Blog. January 14, 2013. http://directorsblog.nih.gov/nih-research-leads-to-new-rheumatoid-arthritis-drug/. Retrieved May 18, 2013.
13.   Arthritis Foundation Website.  http://www.arthritis.org/about-us/arthritis-awareness/. Retrieved May 18, 2013.
14.  “NIAID Researchers Identify Potential Drug Target for Allergies.” National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Website. Updated April 30, 2013.  http://www.niaid.nih.gov/topics/allergicDiseases/research/Pages/AllergyDrugTarget.aspx. Retrieved May 18, 2013.
15.  “Allergic Diseases.” National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Website. http://www.niaid.nih.gov/topics/allergicdiseases/Pages/default.aspx. Retrieved May 18, 2013.
16.   Myrick, Dorkina. “Stay Healthy in 2013! Health Awareness in the New Year!” https://msp3kina.com/2013/01/27/stay-healthy-in-2013-health-awareness-in-the-new-year/. MSP3-The Policy Café. Retrieved May 18, 2013.
17.   National Health Observances Website.  http://healthfinder.gov/nho/Default.aspx. Retrieved May 18, 2013.



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