Did You Know? 29 Steps to Better Health
- Living With, Through, & Beyond Cancer (4 steps)
- Understanding & Managing Depression (5 steps)
- Get Moving! (4 steps)
- It's All in the Family (4 steps)
- Chew on This (5 steps)
- Health Knowledge is Power (4 steps)
- Especially for Women (3 steps)
Living With, Through, & Beyond Cancer
Did you know that there is seldom only one treatment option when diagnosed with cancer?
In fact, for many cancers, there can be several equally effective treatment options to consider. For some cancers, referrals to cancer centers or to oncologists who participate in cancer clinical research trials may be a good choice. One question to ask is if there are any clinical trials that would be appropriate to consider (see www.cancertrialshelp.org/trialcheck/). Understanding all the options can be overwhelming, but it is very important to be involved in the decision-making process.
Did you know that treating the whole person, not just the cancer cells, can lead to a better outcome?
Don't assume that family members, friends, caregivers, or even a health care team know what a cancer patient thinks, feels, or needs. A key component of getting treatment as a "whole person" is self-advocacy—speaking up for what is needed to cope with the physical and psychological effects of cancer and its treatment, and to live day-to-day life.
Did you know that good caregivers take care of themselves?
Caregivers shouldn't feel they have to do everything themselves. While you or someone close to you may want and need to be the main caregiver, keep in mind that others can help, too. Talk to people with similar experiences or those in similar situations. It's essential for caregivers to realize they are not alone. There's no question—being a caregiver is a hard job. There are times when caregivers will feel burdened and exhausted. The most effective things caregivers can do are take care of themselves and reach out to others.
Did you know that everyday more than 6,000 men, women and children search the National Marrow Donor Program Registry for a life-saving bone marrow match?
According to the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP), bone marrow or cord blood transplants are viable treatment options for many patients with leukemia, lymphoma and other life-threatening diseases. To ensure a successful transplant, the tissue type of a bone marrow donor must very closely match the patient's. Special testing can determine if a patient and bone marrow donor are a good match. Patients are most likely to match tissue types with someone from their own race or ethnicity. By adding more donors from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds to their registry, the NMDP greatly increases a patient's chance of finding a life-saving match. For more information and to become a bone marrow donor, visit www.marrow.org.
Understanding & Managing Depression
Did you know that depression isn't just "all in your head?"
Recent scientific research has irrefutably established that depression is a medical illness. It is not a sign of personal weakness, and it cannot be willed or "wished away" any more effectively than, say, non-treated cancer or diabetes. Depression is also known to weaken the immune system, making the body more susceptible to other medical illnesses. But despite depression's clear biological roots, people living with the disease have often been the victims of blame and societal prejudice. Ongoing research and solid scientific findings are beginning to shed light on depression, clearing up misinformation and slowly reducing stigma.
Did you know there are many potential causes of depression?
Although there is no single, definitive answer to the question of cause, many factors - psychological, biological, environmental and genetic - likely contribute to the development of depression. Causes can occur in any combination, and can include genetic influences (such as family history of the disease); biochemical factors (such as hormonal fluctuations or chemical imbalance); psychological challenges (such as social anxiety and stress), and trauma (such as suffering the loss of a loved one or enduring a violent crime).
Did you know depression is a treatable disease?
Depression is one of the most treatable illnesses, with 80-90% of people who seek treatment finding relief. Many experts suggest using both psychotherapy and medications to treat depression. Other options include psychosocial treatments (such as family education and support groups); electroconvulsive therapy (for severe depression which does not respond to other treatments); and self-care (involving elements such as healthy diet, regular exercise, spirituality and social connection). The challenging news about treating depression is that most people experiencing the disorder never seek help. Approximately 80% of people with depressive disorders go untreated.
Did you know women experience depression more frequently than men?
Depression can develop in anyone, regardless of race, culture, social class, age, or gender. However, across virtually all cultures and socioeconomic classes, women are more likely than men are to experience depression. Clinical depression affects two to three times as many women as men, both in the U.S. and worldwide; an estimated one out of every eight women will experience clinical depression in her lifetime. So why do so many women battle depression? Hormonal changes may play a role, with female depression often emerging at puberty and remaining high throughout the childbearing years. Psychosocial factors that may contribute to women's increased vulnerability to depression include the stress of multiple work and family responsibilities, sexual discrimination, lack of social supports, traumatic life experiences, and poverty. Studies also indicate that sexual and physical abuses are major risk factors for depression.
Did you know kids can experience depression?
Childhood is a carefree time, right? Unfortunately, this isn't true for all kids. About 2% of school-age children appear to have major depression at any one time. Depression in preschoolers is rare, but does occur. Childhood depression is caused by a variety of factors, including genetics, environment and adverse life stresses. But the good news is that children are surprisingly resilient, and the disorder is treatable in many kids. Medication and/or talk therapy is usually effective; consulting with a pediatrician, school counselor or social worker, or educator are good first steps to finding child-centered mental health care in your community.
Take one step: Get Moving!
Physical activity is one of life's non-negotiables. Our bodies need it, and nothing can replace all of the positive effects it has on your health. But contrary to popular belief, exercise doesn't have to be a big, scary, sweaty deal. You don't need a lot of special equipment, cool clothes, tons of money, or even great skills to get a good workout. Limber up your brain with these fast exercise facts, and take one step toward a healthier body, mind, and future!
Do you know how many Americans need to get moving?
According to a National Health Interview Survey, 62% of adults in the United States don't get enough exercise. To get moving and lower your risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and certain cancers, look for small ways to incorporate fitness into your daily routine. Go for an after-dinner stroll. Lift weights and do some simple stretching and jumping jacks during commercial breaks. Pump the tunes and dance with your kids. Of course, it's always smart to talk with your doctor before starting an exercise routine.
Did you know that when it comes to physical activity, every minute counts?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests thirty minutes of daily moderate physical activity. And if you want to take a half-hour walk or bike ride, go for it. But you can incorporate your workout into your day, getting active in shorter spurts. Walk your dog: there's ten minutes. Get off the bus two stops early: there's another ten. Chase your toddler around the grocery store: there's another ten minutes (or twenty or thirty!). Even time-starved folks can make small changes to get moving over the course of an active day. The minutes do add up.
What's the most "doable" yet effective workout?
The winner is: walking! According to the American Heart Association, walking 10,000-12,000 steps a day can do almost as much good for your health as 60 minutes of vigorous exercise like running or biking. So rev up your steps. Use the stairs instead of the elevator. Take a walk (preferably not to the vending machine!) during work breaks. Slip on a pedometer to measure and celebrate your success.
Do you believe you have to begin a regular exercise routine when you're young to reap the benefits as you get older?
Good news: you're wrong! Data from the University of Cambridge suggests that even if life-long couch potatoes start exercising today, they can still lower their risk of dying from heart disease by as much as 20% over the next ten years. So make up for lost time. Check out local (and often free) community exercise classes. Or visit the library for fitness DVDs, and use them at home. Or simply go for a walk.
Take one step: It's All in the Family
One smart way to care for yourself is to care for your relationships. Healthy family connections and positive social support go a long way in helping you maintain and improve your physical and mental health. (And these strong relationships help make life more meaningful and fun.) So improve your health by taking small steps toward communicating, connecting, and creating healthy bonds with friends and family.
Did you know that a shared dinner satisfies more than just your child's rumbling stomach?
Researchers at the University of Minnesota found that children who eat more meals with their families report significantly less substance abuse and better overall mental health than those who eat fewer meals with their families. So take small steps toward gathering the family to feast. Even if it's simple food, the time together — not fancy fare — is what's important. Is breakfast less rushed than dinner? Then talk over toast. Whatever works for your clan is key.
Did you know there may be a real "love connection" between kindness and heart health?
Maybe your heart really can be filled with (or at least fueled by) love. Researchers at Case Western Reserve University found that married men with known or suspected coronary artery disease who answered "yes" to the question, "Does your wife show you her love?" had significantly less chest pain than men who answered "no." Although further study linking loving support with heart health will reveal the complete story, everybody wins when you take small steps today. So hug your hubby, smooch your sweetie, cuddle your kids. Tuck "you're special" notes in pockets or lunchboxes. At the very least, say I love you.
Did you know that America's overweight kids are now fighting adult diseases?
We all think our kids grow up too fast, but this is ridiculous! According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the percentage of overweight children has doubled over the past two decades, and as a result, health concerns such as heart disease and what used to be called "adult onset diabetes" are springing up in American children. Since we all want to keep our kids safe and healthy, become your kid's "health idol" by modeling healthy behavior. Limit your screen time (both computer and television), and instead take the family for swing and slide sessions at the park. Do the "Commercial Break Boogie" by getting up and dancing during television ads. Enjoy an occasional family fast food feast, but choose low-fat options and don't supersize your servings.
Did you know that children can suffer from hypertension?
This will get your heart pounding: a recent study in the medical journal Pediatrics found that about five out of every 100 kids have elevated blood pressure. And if left untreated, high blood pressure can lead to future heart failure, stroke or organ damage. So take small steps to help keep your child's heart and cardiovascular system stay healthy. Watch for high blood pressure symptoms, such as headaches, dizziness, shortness of breath, and vision problems. Get your children's blood pressure checked during their routine exams, including both annual well-child check-ups and acute visits. This is especially important if your child is overweight or you have a family history of hypertension.
Take one step: Chew on This
Food. It's not only necessary for survival, it's one of life's great pleasures. What simple steps can you take to make sure your daily diet supplies you with high energy and still tastes great? Swallow these fun food facts, keeping in mind that small dietary steps add up to big strides for your health.
What's up with today's enormous entrees?
According to the American Heart Association, 20 years
ago the average pasta serving was two cups. Today your
plate packs four cups! So take one step forward to
improve your health: order an appetizer as your main
course or "doggie-bag" half of your entree before
digging in. But don't skip meals; your growling
stomach will drown out your good judgment! Take one
step. It's never too late.
Did you know the big fish story that might save your life?
A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that eating as little as 8 ounces of fish a week can cut a women's risk of stroke in half. So go fish! Forget about frying; think baked or broiled (and deliciously seasoned!) instead.
Do you know how your diet influences your body's insulin level?
Recent Mayo Clinic research echoes your mother's advice: Eat lots of fruits, vegetables, and fiber. These foods can actually change your blood's sensitivity to insulin within as little as two weeks, helping to reduce your risk of diabetes. Need some small steps toward incorporating these foods into your diet? Sprinkle high-fiber cereal over your regular cornflakes. Put some applesauce into a recipe instead of using oil or butter. Carry carrots for your commute.
Did you know that the soda you are drinking might be making you chubby?
Tufts University reports that many soda lovers are actually drinking more calories than they are eating. Soda contains lots of sugar, sometimes disguised as corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, or malt syrup. So read your beverage's nutrition information, and decide if you really want to gulp, rather than munch, the calories in your lunch. Choose seltzer water with a little lemonade, pomegranate or other fruit juice, or make a container of H20 your new favorite accessory.
Did you know that your neighborhood can contribute to your being overweight?
Is your local market stocked with reasonably priced nutritious food, or is your closest option a convenience store filled with processed snacks? According to Latino Health Access, affordable, fresh whole foods are scarce in many American communities, particularly in inner city and rural locations. Banding together with family or neighbors experiencing the same "grocery challenge" is a positive first step. Swap childcare or carpooling duties for distant shopping trips. If you're taking public transportation, go with a friend and help carry each other's purchases. Start a family or community garden to get nature's freshest offerings. Explore advocacy resources like the Latino Health Access and The United Way for other helpful ideas.
Take one step: Health Knowledge is Power!
In the dark when it comes to health information? You're not alone. According to a recent Institute of Medicine report, nearly half of all American adults have trouble figuring out medical forms, and even have difficulty understanding their doctor's instructions!
But you can arm yourself with knowledge. Communicate with your health provider, seek out trustworthy resources on the Web and from credible toll-free information hotlines. Ask questions and listen. These small steps can help you become a more savvy health consumer.
So take one step, starting with these fast facts about taking charge of your health:
What's the most common cancer in America?
Skin cancer grabs this ignoble title, with more than 1.3 million cases diagnosed in the United States each year. The good news is that researchers are constantly exploring new prevention and treatment strategies. For example, a recent University of Arizona study points to the possibility of fruit extracts serving as potentially powerful sunscreens in the future. But while scientists dig deeper into this and other cancer-fighting options, perform the lifesaving basics: apply sunscreen above SPF 15, don a hat, and become a shade worshipper.
What symptoms signal a heart attack?
We often think of heart attacks as sudden and intense pain. However, most start with mild chest pain, some shoulder discomfort, or even shortness of breath. Other signs include nausea, extreme fatigue, lightheadedness, indigestion, or a cold sweat. If you experience these symptoms, take them seriously, and call 911. Remember that the symptoms may manifest differently in men and women. Other important steps for heart health include knowing your family medical history, monitoring your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and eating a diet low in fat and rich in fruits, vegetables and fiber.
Do you know your blood cholesterol level?
If you're over 20, you should. According to the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP), adults 20 years and older should have a blood test called a lipid or lipoprotein profile at least once every five years. Don't know much about this simple test? Check out the NCEP site at www.nhlbi.nih.gov/about/ncep/index.htm, contact your local health department, or call your health care provider to learn more. Even if your cholesterol level is elevated, changes in your diet and physical activity can make a lifesaving difference. Some people may need medications as well.
Did you know that laughter may be heart-healthy?
Scientists at the University of Maryland School of Medicine found that watching a humorous movie for even 15 minutes can help increase your blood flow. So take small steps toward chuckling. Rent that funny film, fool around with friends, switch on a sitcom. Listen to a comedian on your music player while taking a walk. Take your health more seriously than you take yourself.
Take one step: Especially for Women
You're a woman. Translation: you're a multi-tasking manager, logistics specialist, cheerleader, communication expert, chauffer, and event planner. So while you're caring for everyone and everything around you, make time to care for yourself, starting with these small steps.
Did you know that heart disease doesn't discriminate?
This is one case where we wish women weren't equally represented. Contrary to popular belief, heart disease is not just a male disease. In fact, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, heart disease annually claims the lives of more women than men. So take small steps toward better heart health. Have your blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels checked regularly. Engage in physical activity like walking. "Color" your diet (think an orange for breakfast, red apples for lunch, and some vivid greens for dinner).
Did you know that walking can improve your heart health?
Walk! Walk for your life! A report in The Journal of the American Medical Association found that a sedentary 40-year-old woman who begins walking briskly half an hour a day, four days a week, can enjoy almost the same reduced heart attack risk as a woman who has exercised regularly her entire life. So take small steps to increase, well, your steps. If you're in generally good health, the old standbys still work: take the stairs, park in a distant spot, and get off the bus a stop or two early.
Do you know the potential risks and rewards of hormone-replacement therapy?
The Women's Health Initiative Study (WHI), supported by the National Institutes of Health, found that estrogen plus progestin hormone therapy (HRT) can reduce the risk of colorectal cancer and bone fractures in postmenopausal women. But results from the WHI also importantly revealed that this medication increased the risk for heart attack, stroke, blood clots, and breast cancer, leading to significant changes in recommendations for its use. The study emphasized that women should use HRT at the lowest possible dose and for the shortest possible time to treat menopause-associated symptoms, and that the elevated risk for the disorders listed above rose after five years of therapy. Further HRT research is underway, focusing on how possible side effects and potential benefits are impacted by dose, hormone type, and the age at which HRT is initiated. So take small steps toward learning more. Talk with your doctor before deciding on a treatment plan. Go online to www.nhlbi.nih.gov/whi to read more about HRT's pros and cons.