May is when spring’s colors take full bloom and warmer weather encourages more time outside in the sunshine. Enjoying more of the outdoors is a great healthy habit to tie in with continued education about what else we can do to stay healthy. For that reason, it’s vital that we continue to learn about and be aware of the signs of the three major diseases being highlighted this month: stroke, hepatitis, and arthritis.
Stroke: The #5 cause of death in the U.S.
Stroke is a disease that affects the arteries leading to and within the brain. According to the American Stroke Association, it is the fifth cause of death and a leading cause of disability in the United States. A stroke occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is either blocked by a clot or bursts (ruptures). When that happens, part of the brain cannot get the blood and oxygen it needs, so the cells in that region die.
The American Heart Association named May National Stroke Awareness Month because strokes affect so many people, especially those with high blood pressure. Women are particularly vulnerable because they have unique risks for high blood pressure, including pregnancy, birth control use, and menopause.
Ways to lower your risk of stroke are similar to preventing heart disease. Maintaining a healthy diet, exercising, and measuring blood pressure regularly can help.
It’s also important to recognize the signs of stroke. Thinking F.A.S.T. is a simple and effective way to do this:
Face: Does one side of the person’s face look droopy or uneven?
Arm: Is one arm unresponsive and does it hang down?
Speech: Is their speech slurred or does not make sense?
Time: If you notice any of these signs, it’s important to act fast and call 911.
Hepatitis: The hidden epidemic
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has designated the month of May as Hepatitis Awareness Month in the United States, and May 19th as Hepatitis Testing Day. During May, the CDC, its public health partners, and healthcare organizations such as Community Health Connections are working to shed light on this hidden epidemic by raising awareness of viral Hepatitis and encouraging priority populations to get tested.
Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver and it’s often caused by a virus. According to the CDC, the most common causes of viral hepatitis are Hepatitis B virus (HBV) and Hepatitis C virus (HCV), although it can also be caused by Hepatitis A virus (HAV). HBV and HCV share modes of transmission and can cause severe liver disease, liver cancer, and death. They affect different populations differently, so healthcare providers have different tools to address each type of viral Hepatitis. Millions of Americans are living with viral Hepatitis and many don’t know it. Even if you think you haven’t been exposed, getting tested can help you be sure and provide you and your family comfort in knowing your status and being proactive with your health.
The goal of Hepatitis Testing Day is to help raise awareness of Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C and to encourage more individuals to learn their status. It is a dedicated day for people at risk for viral Hepatitis to be tested, and for health care providers to educate patients about viral Hepatitis and testing. Here at Community Health Connections, we offer testing, vaccinations for Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B for our pediatric and adult patients, and clinics for Hepatitis C-positive patients. We encourage you to contact us for an appointment to come in, learn more, get tested, and receive any other care you may need.
Arthritis: The #1 cause of disability for Americans
May is recognized each year by the Arthritis Foundation as National Arthritis Awareness Month. According to the Foundation, arthritis impacts more than 50 million Americans, making it the number one cause of disability in the country. That means 1 in every 5 adults, 300,000 children and countless families are affected by arthritis.
What is arthritis? It’s a general term used for conditions that cause joint pain, stiffness, swelling, and other joint symptoms. Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common type of arthritis. In joints with OA, the protective cartilage between bones starts to wear away. This allows the bones to rub together, which can cause pain and stiffness.
Arthritis is caused by a combination of risk factors that are unique to you. Some of them–age, genetics, previous injuries, and overuse of certain joints–are factors that are not fully under our control. Though, other factors like weak joint muscles, lack of exercise, and continued joint wear and tear due to excess weight can be improved through building healthy habits around movement and healthy eating.
Some common signs of arthritis include:
- Morning stiffness lasting 30 minutes or less;
- Joint pain or tenderness that is constant or that comes and goes;
- Not being able to move a joint in the normal way; and
- Weakness and joint pain that can’t be explained.
Here are Community Health Connections, we want to keep you healthy so you can continue enjoying the new Spring season and many more to come. Education about stroke, Hepatitis, and arthritis, is important to help you know if you have any of these conditions. If you have concerns about experiencing symptoms around these diseases or any part of your health, contact us at Community Health Connections and set up an appointment today!