Category: Disease

When should you get tested for an STI?

By: Aria Gray MPH: Maternal and Child Health candidate 2017

If you are sexually active, getting tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) is one of the most important things you can do for your health. According to the CDC, there are about 20 million new STD infections in the United States every year. While many of us know that it is recommended to get STI tested, the rest of the details aren’t always so clear. When should you get tested and how do you get tested?

When?

  • If you have symptoms of an STI you should get tested. Common symptoms include sores on the genitals, discharge, itching, and burning during urination
  • Many STIs do not cause symptoms and many people have and spread STIs and never know it. Testing is the only way to know for sure. If you have had unprotected sex, you should get tested for STIs.
  • Preventative screening (Check out these screening recommendations from the CDC)

How?

  • Make an appointment with your health provider and ask for an STI test
  • Your health care provider will talk with you to decide what STI tests make the most sense for you
  • Potential STI tests can include
    • Physical exam
    • Blood sample
    • Urine sample
    • Discharge, tissue, cell, or saliva sample

Remember that many STIs are curable and all are treatable. The sooner you find out if you have an STI, the sooner treatment can begin.

 

I Love College, But Eyes Don’t

By: Shauna Ayres MPH: Health Behavior candidate 2017

Do you find yourself rubbing your eyes for relief in order to get through those last few pages of a journal article? The typical college student spends many hours each day reading and or staring at a screen. This is referred to as “near work” or activities that require your eyes to focus on text, pictures, or objects about arm’s length or closer. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, humans normally blink about 15 times per minute, but when engaging in near work, the number of blinks reduces to 5-8 times per minute which often results in eye strain. Eye strain is characterized by red, dry, and tired eyes, blurry or watery vision, headaches, and/or fatigue. There are a number of eye ergonomic tricks you can do to reduce the severity of eye strain when you can’t reduce the number of articles you have to read or assignments you have to complete.

  1. Sit about an arm’s length from your laptop or computer screen and position it so you are looking slightly downward.
  2. Glass screens cause glare. Try to reduce glare by using a matte screen filter.
  3. Take a break and practice the “20-20-20” rule: every 20 minutes, look at an object at least 20 feet away, for at least 20 seconds.
  4. Use eye drops when you feel your eyes are dry.
  5. Adjust the room lighting so that your screen and surrounding light are of equal brightness.
  6. Increase the contrast on your screen.
  7. If you wear contacts a lot, consider wearing your glasses more, never sleep in your contacts, and always clean them properly.

If you experience eye strain persistently, you should see an eye doctor for an eye exam and professional advice. If you wear glasses, contacts, or have any history of eye problems you should see an eye doctor once a year. If you don’t have any history of eye problems or troublesome symptoms, you should see an eye doctor every two years. Eyes are a very important organ and their health is often taken for granted until something goes wrong. So stop reading this and practice the 20-20-20 rule now.

For more information about eye health go to http://www.aoa.org/.

Busting Bias and Bullying

By: Courtney Luecking MPH, MS, RD Doctoral candidate: Nutrition

September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month.

Nearly one in five children in the United States is considered obese. We often think of this as a public health problem because of long-term health consequences such as increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, and some types of cancers. However, the consequences of prejudice and discrimination children with obesity face can be equally detrimental.

Children as young as 3 years of age may experience weight bias from peers, teachers, parents, or other family members. These interactions can negatively impact a child’s social relationships, academic achievement, eating and activity behaviors, and overall quality of life.

What can you do?

  • Check out the resources below to educate yourself
  • Question your own biases
  • Use People-First language
  • Commit to stand up against weight bias and bullying

Resources:

Videos and discussion guides from the UConn Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity

HBO’s Weight of the Nation bonus short film “Stigma: The Human Cost of Obesity”

References:

Centers of Disease Control. September is National Childhood Obesity Month. http://www.cdc.gov/features/childhoodobesity/

Obesity Action Coalition. Childhood Obesity Stigma. http://www.obesityaction.org/understanding-obesity-in-children/childhood-obesity-stigma

Obesity Action Coalition. Weight Bias and Stigma. http://www.obesityaction.org/weight-bias-and-stigma

UConn Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity. Weight Bias and Stigma. http://www.uconnruddcenter.org/weight-bias-stigma

Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria: What You Need to Know (Infographic)

GUEST BLOGGER: John Rehm

Antibiotic resistance is a continuous and growing concern, especially in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 2 million people in the United States are diagnosed with antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections annually, and at least 23,000 die due to these infections.

But how does resistance against these lifesaving drugs occur and how can we prevent its spread?

The leading cause of resistance is through overconsumption or incorrect prescribing of antibiotics. According to the CDC, approximately 30 percent of all antibiotic use is unnecessary. In response, health care and patient advocacy organizations are pushing for patients to have an open dialogue with their health care provider, such as a Family Nurse Practitioner, about appropriate antibiotic use.

To aid in this effort, Nursing@Georgetown, Georgetown University’s School of Nursing and Health Studies’ online nursing program, created the following infographic that addresses sources of exposure, trends in resistance, and encourages patients to speak with their care providers about antibiotic use. For more information, visit Nursing@Georgetown’s post here.

GU_antibiotic_resistance_infographic

Celebrating Freedom from Disease

Happy 4th of July!

Today is the day that we celebrate freedom in the U.S. However, most of us don’t think about, or we simply take for granted, the successes that have been achieved and the continued fight being waged to be free from disease.

Through public health initiatives like improved sanitation, the initiatives and infrastructure to ensure clean drinking water, and the use of medical advances such as vaccinations and antibiotics, the US is now free, or well on its way to becoming free, from numerous pathogens and infectious diseases.

The most recent data from the CDC concerning reported cases of infectious diseases showed that there were zero reported cases of smallpox, polio, diphtheria, and yellow fever in the U.S., along with staggeringly low numbers of several other diseases, like cholera, that were previously responsible for thousands of deaths.

 

So this Independence Day, enjoy all of your freedoms and have a happy and healthy celebration!

Disease Chart

Data taken from Summary of Notifiable Infectious Diseases and Conditions — United States, 2013

 

What does it mean to be healthy?

Today is National World Health Day!

At first, it seems obvious what this day is all about- promoting health. But health is not a simple concept when you examine it more closely. So, what is health?

Most of us automatically think of a healthy person as someone who is free of disease. However, this is a narrow definition that does not take into consideration other mental, social, or environmental factors that can impact the quality of a person’s life. According to the World Health Organization, “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

Because health is a subjective state of well-being and not an objectively classifiable disease-free state, health can actually differ radically from person to person. Perhaps even stranger to consider is the fact that what is considered “healthy” or “diseased” is not consistent across cultures, in fact, both of these terms represent socially constructed concepts.

For example, in Anne Fadiman’s novel The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, she follows the true story of Lia Lee, the young daughter of Hmong immigrants who suffers from what Western society calls epilepsy. However, to her family and others in their culture, Lia’s condition is not a disease but is a mark of spiritual distinction. The struggles that subsequently ensue between Lia’s Western doctors and her family is a lesson in the importance of communication and cultural understanding when different definitions of health and illness clash.

So, since there is no set definition for what it means to be healthy, celebrate National World Health Day this year by defining what being healthy means to you, then try talking to your friends or family about their definitions of health and see how they compare!

Feel free to share your thoughts about health in the comments below.

Take care of your kidneys!

Today is dedicated to raising awareness about an underrated but integral part of all of our lives- that’s right, today is World Kidney Day.

The kidneys are the organs responsible for filtering the body’s blood and removing toxins for excretion in the urine, as well as controlling blood pressure and regulating the blood’s water, sodium, and potassium levels which must be kept within a relatively tight range in order for the body to function. While other organs, like the heart, get a lot of attention, healthy kidney function is also essential to overall health and wellness.

With college students across the country going on spring break, kidneys everywhere are experiencing increased risk for impairment and disease. That’s because alcohol consumption impairs the kidneys’ ability to regulate fluid, electrolyte, and acid-base balance in the body, even during acute periods of heavy consumption.

Especially of concern during periods of heavy drinking is the potential to sustain acute kidney injury. This occurs when blood alcohol levels rise to dangerous levels, causing a sharp decrease in kidney function, and requiring temporary dialysis until normal function returns. These injuries usually heal with time, but have the potential to inflict lasting damage on the kidneys. Excessive alcohol consumption can also lead to liver disease, which then negatively impacts the kidneys’ ability to function normally.

In addition to keeping your alcohol consumption in check, other ways to prevent kidney disease include:

  • reducing high blood pressure
  • reducing sodium intake
  • increasing physical activity
  • maintaining a healthy body weight
  • avoiding or quitting smoking
  • managing blood glucose for those with diabetes

So enjoy your spring break, but try your best to take care of those kidneys!

National Eating Disorder Awareness Week: 3 Minutes Can Save a Life

It’s National Eating Disorder Awareness Week.

“3 Minutes Can Save a Life: Get Screened. Get Help. Get Healthy.”

Being a student comes with a lot of challenges and the stress that comes with them. Course loads and social pressure balanced with work or other responsibilities can quickly become overwhelming. This unique situation makes it more likely for mental health problems, including eating disorders to manifest. Eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder and OSFED (other specified feeding or eating disorder).

People struggling with an eating disorder typically become obsessed with food, body image and/or weight. These disorders can be very serious, chronic, and life-threatening if not recognized and treated appropriately. The earlier a person seeks treatment, the greater the likelihood of both physical and emotional recovery.

That’s why the National Eating Disorders Association is encouraging people to use their three minute screener to promote both awareness of the issue and early intervention for those affected.

If you feel you may be at risk for an eating disorder, you can take the screener here.

When (and Will) We Have A Zika Vaccine?

President Obama has requested that $1.8 billion in emergency funding be put toward the development of a Zika vaccine, but that doesn’t mean we’ll have a quick fix to one of the world’s most alarming threats to public health.

Although government funding is likely to be soon secured, and several companies are working expeditiously to develop a potential vaccine, experts say we’re at least 18 months away from having a vaccine that’s ready for widespread dissemination.

Unfortunately, the development of vaccines is often a slow process, largely due to federal regulations that prevent testing on human subjects in the early stages of the formation process. Obviously, such regulations are intended to keep subjects safe, but this standard wasn’t always the case. Since the 1940s, scientists tested vaccines on themselves and their family members during their trial and error processes. Remarkably, most cases were a success; however, in 1955, the federal government intervened after a clinical trial left 11 test subjects dead and hundreds more paralyzed. Since then, new rules were created that involve benchmarks that must be followed before pharmaceutical companies can sell vaccines for public use.

This process can (and usually does) take several years of research before scientists can determine a virus’ specific antigen. The vaccine then goes through three stages of testing to determine specifics, such as potential side effects, correct dosage amounts, and whether or not it would be effective among large numbers of people. Obviously, it’s a lengthy process, which, in most cases, is still ongoing when an outbreak’s peak has passed.

It’s a tricky situation, because public health calls for the promotion of health for all, primarily through the prevention of unhealthy outcomes. This makes the speedy development of vaccines seem like a tremendous positive for attacking viruses and disease. However, safety always comes first, thus, preventing a vaccine from causing more harm than good.

So, while the jury is still out on if and when we’ll see a Zika vaccine, we can at least be sure not to see anything for quite some time.

Why You’re Not Too Young to Worry About Heart Disease

February is American Heart Month, a time to raise awareness about heart disease and how to prevent it. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States, causing 1 in 4 deaths each year.

If you’re reading this and thinking, “I’m too young to worry about heart disease,” it’s time to think again. How you live your life now strongly affects your risk for cardiovascular disease later in life. In fact, the plaque that causes heart disease can build up starting as early as in your twenties.

The good news is that heart disease can easily be prevented with just a few lifestyle changes, even if you have family history of the disease. Here are a few things you can do to reduce your risk:

1.) Get your blood pressure checked- Uncontrolled high blood pressure is the leading cause of heart disease and stroke. Since there are no signs or symptoms of high blood pressure, getting it checked regularly is an important step in prevention. If you discover you have high blood pressure, make goals with your doctor and work towards lowering it.

2.) Reduce your sodium intake- Excess sodium can greatly increase blood pressure, and most Americans consume way more sodium then they need. While those “instant” products and canned food are quick and easy, they can run high in sodium. One package of Ramen is almost half the recommended daily dose. Being aware of the sodium in products you buy and making small changes like buying low, reduced or no salt versions of products can make a big impact.

3.) Exercise regularly- While sometimes it might feel like there are not enough hours in the day to fit in a workout, exercise is an important part of keeping a healthy heart. If you’re not a fan of going to the gym or don’t have the money to shell out for a membership, try going on hikes, kicking a soccer ball around outside, or just enjoying a jog around the block.