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Listening to Your Heart – Atrial Fibrillation

Everyone knows about heart attacks… but have you ever heard of atrial fibrillation? Despite being the most common heart arrhythmia (meaning irregular heartbeat) that is medically treated and being the cause for 1 in 7 strokes, most people aren’t familiar with atrial fibrillation. Surveys have revealed that even those who are aware of it often don’t consider it a serious medical condition. Education is key here, as leaving atrial fibrillation untreated doubles the risk of heart-related deaths and increases the risk of having a stroke significantly. It is estimated that by 2030, about 12.1 million people living in America will have a diagnosis of AFib. Considering how high that number is, it’s time to start paying attention to what it is and how you can mitigate yours and your loved ones’ risk factors!

afib diagram

What is Atrial Fibrillation?

So what is atrial fibrillation? Atrial fibrillation, abbreviated AFib, is an abnormal heart rhythm during which the top chambers of your heart, called your atria, quiver rather than beat, leading to inefficient movement of blood through your heart. Given the inefficient contraction of the heart, individuals with AFib are at a higher risk for clots. The higher risk of clotting and the decreased ability of the heart to pump blood efficiently is what leads to an increased risk of further heart conditions and stroke should a clot form and travel to the brain.

Common Symptoms

While some individuals with AFib might not know they have it and may experience no symptoms at all, others could experience a number of various symptoms. Pay attention to the symptoms and take action. Consider scheduling an appointment with your doctor if you or a loved one are experiencing any of the following:

Risk Factors

In addition to symptom monitoring, there are a number of risk factors to be aware of related to AFib. Considering the risk of stroke and heart disease increases significantly with AFib, mitigating the risk factors of AFib is crucial. Risk factors include:

If any of these risk factors apply to you or a loved one, consider if your risk factors are modifiable, meaning you have more control over reducing how much of a risk they pose. Focus on lowering your blood pressure, losing weight if appropriate, reducing or eliminating alcohol intake and quitting smoking. Consuming whole, natural foods when possible, incorporating exercise and purposeful movement every day, and staying hydrated can go a long way in preserving your health!

Treatment

If you have already been diagnosed with AFib, it is important to continue to mitigate as many risk factors as you can using the guidance above, in addition to seeking proper medical treatment for your condition. Lifestyle changes, even after being diagnosed with AFib, can greatly decrease the severity and frequency of your symptoms. These lifestyle changes include cutting back on alcohol, reducing caffeine, quitting smoking, exercising regularly, eating a nutrient rich diet, losing weight if required and lowering your blood pressure. When prescribed medications for AFib, especially blood thinners to reduce the risk of clots, it is imperative that you follow the guidance of your doctor and stay consistent with the treatment.

Understanding Your Medications 

Given that AFib is a chronic condition, meaning it doesn’t go away, it is likely that you will be on medication to manage it for the rest of your life. This can be scary and anxiety inducing if you don’t understand your medications or don’t have a plan to stay on track. Meet with your doctor and be sure to understand what medications you are taking, why you are taking them, how long you will be taking them for and what side effects to look out for. You deserve to understand and feel comfortable with your treatment, so be sure to collaborate with your medical team and find support from your loved ones.

heartbeat

Atrial fibrillation – if it’s not taken seriously, it could cause serious problems!

Know the symptoms, schedule regular visits with your doctors, and practice a healthy lifestyle to reduce your risk!

Sources:

Image 1 – https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/atrial_fibrillation.htm

Image 2 – https://www.mcrmedical.com/blog/aha-2020-guidelines/

Heart Foundation –

https://www.heartfoundation.org.nz/your-heart/hearthelp/atrial-fibrillation/managing-your-af

CDC – https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/atrial_fibrillation.htm

American Heart Association –

https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/atrial-fibrillation/what-is-atrial-fibrillation-afib-or-af

Dementia vs. Alzheimer’s

Dementia is a broad term, classifying a number of disorders that all impair cognition, thinking skills, behaviors, social skills and relationships in different ways. General signs and symptoms of dementia include trouble remembering things that just happened or happened recently, regularly misplacing everyday items like a wallet or keys, trouble planning meals or remembering to eat, forgetting to pay bills, difficulty remembering how to get to familiar places and missing scheduled appointments to name a few. If you or a loved one are experiencing any of these symptoms or similar, it is important that you notify someone and plan to see your doctor immediately. Dementia tends to progress over time, with symptoms starting as mild and gradually getting worse. Early diagnosis can maximize available treatment options and potentially open the door to inclusion in clinical trials. Considering disorders with dementia symptoms affect memory and cognition, it may be difficult for an individual to recognize these symptoms in themselves. Family members and friends play a crucial role in noticing changes and raising awareness about potential cognitive disorders.

types of dementia

Early detection allows doctors to determine what the cause of an individual’s cognitive deficit is. If diagnosed with dementia, a doctor can classify which type of dementia an individual has, which can help individuals and their loved ones better understand their disease as well as appropriately plan for treatment.

Alzheimer’s Disease

Included within the classification of dementia is Alzheimer’s, which is the most common form of dementia and accounts for 60-80% of all cases. It is important to note that Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging, though age is the greatest known risk factor for individuals who develop Alzheimer’s. Most individuals who are diagnosed are 65 years of age and above, with early-onset or younger-onset Alzheimer’s referring to individuals who are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s before the age of 65. Other risk factors include genetics, family history, and risk factors classified as “other”. These include past head injury and the overall health of one’s aging process. While many of these are non-modifiable risk factors, such as aging, genetics and family history, you can facilitate healthy aging by eating a nutritious diet, getting regular exercise, avoiding smoking and alcohol, and visiting your doctor regularly.

dementia vs alzheimer's

Causes

Alzheimer’s is due to physical changes in the brain. Current research has led scientists to understand that a part of the brain isn’t working properly in individuals with Alzheimer’s, which causes atrophy or shrinkage and death of brain cells. Though it has not yet been identified where the damage begins, research has shown that two types of proteins called plaques and tangles are responsible for much of the brain cell damage and death. Over time, more and more cells shrink and die, leading to irreversible changes in the brain.

Symptoms

The initial changes to the brain begin before any signs and symptoms become present, so it is important to be able to identify early potential symptoms of Alzheimer’s. Early signs and symptoms include forgetting recent conversations and events, misplacing items, forgetting names of common places and objects, repeating questions, poor judgment, difficulty making decisions, isolation from family or friends, and becoming increasingly resistant to change.

Middle-stage symptoms show worsening memory problems. This includes difficulty remembering the names of people they know and struggling to recognize friends and family. Other symptoms at this stage may include getting lost or not knowing what time of day it is, obsessive and repetitive behavior, delusions and paranoia, problems with speech and language, disturbed sleep, and mood changes. Ultimately, in the end stages of Alzheimer’s, symptoms will become so severe that individuals will become totally dependent on their caretaker. While many things may cause memory or cognitive impairment and the early signs of Alzheimer’s may appear unassuming, it is important to contact your doctor if you are experiencing any dementia-like symptoms.

alzheimer's symptoms

If You’ve Been Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s

While there is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, there are several medications that can slow disease progression and aid in symptom management, such as reducing depression and anxiety. In addition to medication management, facilitating a healthy lifestyle can significantly improve an individual’s lifespan and quality of life with this disease. Consider incorporating regular exercise and eating a diet consisting of less processed foods, while adding in more fresh fruits and vegetables. Reduce or eliminate smoking and alcohol consumption. Spend time with family and friends and take part in social activities and hobbies that inspire joy and encourage engagement with others. If you are taking care of a loved one with Alzheimer’s, try to encourage them to partake in these lifestyle behaviors. In conjunction with current treatments, the quest to better understand Alzheimer’s and ultimately find a cure is at the forefront of biomedical research.

The challenge of being the loved one or family member of someone diagnosed with Alzheimer’s is not overlooked. If you are a caretaker, make sure you are taking your own health and wellness into consideration. Find individuals that can help with care and consider joining a support group of individuals that you can talk to about your situation.

If you need help, contact the Alzheimer’s Association 24/7 Helpline: 800-272-3900

Sources:

Image 1 – https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/what-is-dementia

Image 2 –

https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/difference-between-dementia-and-alzheimer-s

Image 3 – https://mind.help/topic/alzheimers/

Alzheimer’s Association – https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/what-is-dementia

American Brain Foundation –

https://www.americanbrainfoundation.org/diseases/alzheimers-disease/?c_src=gg&gclid=CjwKCAjwu5yYBhAjEiwAKXk_eNO81oRWdRUOgzTK2pZaRirgF82ZxNkyLM6HOMnK3gToS-9F7cjmRoCGEoQAvD_BwE

NHS – https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/alzheimers-disease/symptoms/

Mayo Clinic –

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alzheimers-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20350447

Pain Management in Hospice

In today’s day and age, it’s highly likely that you, a loved one, a family member, a friend, a neighbor or a coworker are dealing with chronic pain – and you’re by no means alone. It’s estimated that over 50 million Americans are affected by chronic pain, and over 20 million are affected by high-impact chronic pain, meaning it interferes with their life and work on a daily basis. As pain becomes increasingly widespread to the point that many individuals treat chronic aches and pains as the norm, it must be addressed.

September is Pain Awareness Month, a month dedicated to raising awareness about the prevalence of pain and pain management. Given that the prevalence of pain increases with age, a particularly important community of individuals who require proper pain management is individuals under hospice care, or end of life care.

pain awareness month

As individuals and their families make the decision to embrace hospice care, the concern of pain and discomfort that often accompanies end-stage disease is among the top. Hospice care is a service that is centered around providing your loved one, family member or friend maximal comfort as they near the end of their life. Pain management is a key component of hospice care, ensuring that individuals are free from pain, which provides them with not only physical, but also mental, relief.

Despite the great potential and aid that hospice provides, a recent study revealed that upwards of 60% of individuals in hospice care still deal with pain, and that one third of the individuals from a collection of studies rated their pain as moderate or severe. Unresolved pain means that somewhere in the system, there are interferences with proper pain management measures. These barriers may come from the family and patient, or they may come from the healthcare providers, or a combination of both in some cases. Several things that may impede pain management from the side of the family includes denial of pain as a means of protection from acknowledging end of life, acceptance that pain is just part of the disease and can’t be resolved, fear of addiction, cognitive restrictions, or feeling a need to be “brave”. From the healthcare providers’ side, barriers include poor pain assessments, not recognizing the global nature of pain, fear of addiction, fear of legal issues, or fear of doing harm to name a few. Any number of these barriers can result in mismanaged pain and discomfort in the patient. Managing and controlling pain lends an impactful hand in making sure your loved one’s end of life remains high quality. It is imperative that you are aware of these barriers to pain relief, so that they can be addressed and reduced.

Pain management in hospice comes in many forms. Hospice care is provided by a multidisciplinary team of healthcare professionals, to include doctors, nurses, pharmacists, spiritual counselors, social workers, bereavement specialists, and other special support. Together, these professionals can collaborate and devise an individualized pain plan to facilitate comfort within an individual’s own home. While doctors and pharmacists can provide medications to alleviate physical pain, other key members of the hospice team can address other areas in an individual’s life that inspire comfort on a deeper level. Pain goes beyond just the physical mechanism, and individuals experiencing high levels of pain can often benefit from an all-encompassing approach to relief. This includes providing spiritual support and a professional who can assist in acceptance and grief. Taking a multidimensional approach to pain management is an incredibly effective way of reducing pain while increasing quality of life.

hospice care circle

When discussing physical pain, there are several important factors to remember. Everyone’s pain threshold is different and cannot be judged by an outsider. All pain deserves to be treated and relieved. Consider using a 1-10 scale to understand your loved one’s pain – with 1 being no pain at all and 10 being the worst pain they have ever experienced. Pain should be treated immediately, as delaying treatment only makes the pain worse. Finally, while a fear of addiction is common when it comes to pain management, it is not likely to occur when medications are used properly under the supervision of healthcare providers.

Understanding the benefit that pain management has on an individual’s quality of life towards the end and the prevalence of pain in older individuals in America, it is crucial to stay vigilant against the barriers that may interfere with pain management. Be sure to get involved with your loved one’s hospice care and include yourself in the planning process. You and your loved one are a vital part of the interdisciplinary team.

Sources:

Image 1 – https://anest.ufl.edu/2020/09/08/september-is-pain-awareness-month/

Image 2 – https://www.ecommunity.com/services/post-acute-care/community-hospice

CDC – https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/67/wr/mm6736a1.htm#:~:text=September%20is%20Pain%20Awareness%20Month,national%20action%20to%20address%20pain

International Association for the Study of Pain – https://www.iasp-pain.org/advocacy/pain-awareness-month/

American Society for Pain Management  http://www.aspmn.org/Documents/Position%20Statements/Pain%20Management%20at%20the%20End%20of%20Life%202017.pdf

Johns Hopkins Medicine – https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/palliative-care-methods-for-controlling-pain Mayo Clinic – https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/end-of-life/in-depth/hospice-care/art-20048050#:~:text=What%20is%20hospice%20care%3F,psychological%2C%20social%20and%20spiritual%20needs

Relax, Let’s Talk About Stress Management!

Stress. Something most of us are probably a little more familiar with than we’d like to be. Whether it comes from scrambling to meet deadlines, financial distress, family feuds, social dynamics, or in the form of something else entirely, you can probably name five things that are stressing you out at this very moment. And that’s okay! Stress is normal – so long as it’s an amount of stress that doesn’t interfere with you being able to go about your day. We know what stress is and we know we have stress… but do we know how to manage it so that it doesn’t become dangerous?

stressed woman

The American Institute of Stress conducts a national poll every year measuring the levels of stress in America. Considering the pandemic and the toll it has taken on the world, it is not surprising to find out that stress levels are on the rise according to the results of the poll. Similarly, the American Psychology Association conducts an annual survey of stress levels across the United States and has found comparable results. Some of the top contenders for causing stress were the increasing cost of everyday living such as gas, groceries, and electricity, as well as the current state of the world and personal finances. Sound familiar? Most likely. If you are anything like the average American, these causes of stress are pretty relatable. Not to mention, the age of retirement is continuing to increase as we see people working for longer and longer, which results in these major stressors continuing to have a big impact on our elderly population. Stress has increasingly woven itself into much of our community and is threatening to cause lasting damage to our society.

While stress is normal and can even be an effective motivator when experienced in short, appropriate amounts (think of the clarity you get from a 45-minute workout), chronic stress can have tremendously negative effects on the body and mind. When experienced over a long period of time, stress and the coping mechanisms that often accompany it, can perpetuate disease and make recovery much harder. Managing and controlling stress levels can be crucial in maintaining health and well-being.

Although reading all of this might make your stress levels feel even higher, don’t panic! Fortunately, you have the ability to implement some strategies that have been shown to decrease stress levels to a tolerable, beneficial amount. The following domains are impactful areas of people’s lives that can be fostered to reduce stress if implemented properly.

Exercise and movement

This can look very different person to person. Physical activity has been proven to improve mood and decrease stress levels. Movement ranges from walking your dog to playing recreational sports with friends to hitting the gym hard with your headphones and zoning everyone else out. Find a way to move your body every day that you look forward to doing and that brings you joy.

Rest and recovery

Sleep is the only time that your brain truly recovers. In order to properly manage your mood and your stress levels, you must prioritize getting enough sleep. The recommended amount of sleep for adults is 7-9 hours. Try creating a “sleep routine” where you establish habits that you practice each night before settling down for bed. This can include dimming the lights in your house, limiting screen time, lighting a candle, or anything else that relaxes you and prepares your body and mind for rest. Many people also find forms of meditation to be extremely beneficial in aiding relaxation and recovery.

Nutrition

What we eat dictates in large part how we feel. A diet made up of skipped breakfasts, meals on the run, and processed foods leaves us feeling low in energy, irritable, and unprepared to handle the regular stressors of life. Aim to eat a varied diet of whole foods, including fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, complex carbohydrates such as beans, sweet potatoes, and whole grains. To complement a proper diet, drink lots of water to keep your body hydrated and functioning properly.

Hobbies and support systems

Do the things you love! It sounds simple, but we rarely leave ourselves time for the people and activities that we love. Spending time every day doing an activity that makes you happy can help to reduce stress by breaking up your day and providing distraction and satisfaction. Surrounding yourself with people who love you is a good reminder that you are supported and can take on the challenges of your day-to-day life. Go to community gatherings, call your friends and family, take classes – stay connected!

person meditating

Consider these areas above in relation to your own life and think about where you can grow to better buffer your stress. To better assess your own stress levels so you can begin taking action to manage them, visit https://www.stress.org/self-assessment!

Sources:

Image 1 – https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/what-matters-most/201701/10-new-strategies-stressmanagement

Image 2 – https://health.clevelandclinic.org/how-to-relieve-stress/

Sleep Foundation – https://www.sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need

Social Security – https://www.ssa.gov/pressoffice/IncRetAge.html

The American Institute of Stress – https://www.stress.org/self-assessment American Psychology Association – https://www.apa.org/topics/stress/health

Men, June means it’s time to take charge of your health!

young father and son

The month of June is Men’s Health Month and is dedicated to bringing awareness and providing education regarding all things health for the male population. With chronic disease and sedentary lifestyles on the rise, it is more important than ever to stay properly informed of how you can take steps to preserve your own health. Oftentimes, it can be as simple as making small changes to your daily routines that can prevent illness and preserve your quality of life in the long run.

Leading Health Concerns and Risk Factors

While men and women both share many of the same leading causes of death, studies have shown that men have a higher morbidity and mortality rate than women from coronary heart disease, hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes and cancer, four of the top ten leading causes of death in our country. Though many factors, including genetics, come into play with these diseases that are not always avoidable, many of the biggest risk factors are preventable, including smoking, alcohol consumption, lack of physical activity, obesity, and high-risk behavior.

Statistics have identified men as being more likely to smoke, drink higher amounts of alcohol, partake in risky behaviors, and put off checkups and medical care, all of which put you in a much higher risk category for chronic disease. Recognizing the risk factors that are most at play for you and reducing their presence in your own life can have a monumental impact on the quality of your life.

statistics graphinc

Health Issues Unique to Men

In addition to being at higher risk for universal health issues that can affect everyone, there are several health concerns that are unique to men. These include prostate cancer, benign prostate enlargement and low testosterone. Sometimes signs and symptoms don’t present themselves until it’s too late, and because men are more likely to skip the doctor visits, these diseases can go unnoticed for some time despite treatments being available. Regular checkups and screenings are imperative for men, as they can often identify disease early, even before symptoms occur, making it more likely that treatment will be successful.

Making the Change

Lifestyle changes can be hard but living with chronic disease that could have been prevented is the unfortunate alternative. When you’re ready to consider evaluating some of the risk factors for disease that exist in your own life, start by making a list. Once you’ve made a list, pick one to three things that you can change right away. The change can be as small as drinking one more cup of water each day to as big as hiring a personal trainer or nutrition coach!

Remember, a huge key to success is starting with something you know you will be able to stick to in order to build a strong habit. Reducing risk factors, improving your nutritional choices, and increasing your daily activity levels has a long list of benefits. These include better sleep, improved cognition, less weight gain, decreased levels of depression, and lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type-II diabetes, hypertension, Alzheimer’s and several types of cancers. You have the ability to dictate your quality of life for the rest of your life, starting with the changes you make today.

Use this checklist below as a pocket guide to make sure you’re hitting your health goals and share with the men in your life!

References

Image 1 – https://www.minorityhealth.hhs.gov/omh/content.aspx?ID=10238

Image 2 – https://bppn.org/june-is-mens-health-month/

American Heart Association – https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/fitness-basics/aha-recs-for-physical-activity-in-adults?gclid=CjwKCAjwyryUBhBSEiwAGN5OCPrs7yMioBQ6DkruGXplfE6urx91CVQEadSrYxoZHVUrPIkkmpOs0BoC6z8QAvD_BwE

CDC – https://www.cdc.gov/healthequity/lcod/men/2016/all-races-origins/index.htm

National Library of Medicine – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5756802/

My Health Finder – https://health.gov/myhealthfinder/topics/doctor-visits/regular-checkups/men-take-charge-your-health

June 12th: Women Veterans Day

June 12, 1948. A day that changed the course of history with the passing of the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act. This act would allow for women to serve in an official capacity in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force.

While it took until 1948 for women in service to be recognized by law, women have been making invaluable contributions during war times through much of American history. From sewing uniforms, to providing medical services, to forming all-female units to help fight the war, women were integral members of the military as early as the Revolution and continued to serve in the Civil War and the World Wars. Today, they are legally and rightfully permitted to serve in the Armed Forces and continue to be a vitally important component.

Female soldier standing in field filled with American flags

Despite women being the fastest growing group of veterans, with approximately two million residing in the United States today, they experience a disproportionate amount of challenges compared to their male counterparts both during their time in service and upon returning to civilian life. At present, they continue to face a higher risk of harassment and sexual violence during service, homelessness following their duty, difficulty finding employment, and social bias upon reintegration to society. The Armed Forces have always been and remain a male biased organization and the struggles for women because of this bias continue to negatively impact our female veterans. The Center for Women Veterans (CWV) was established in 1994 to address

some of these disparities between women and men in service. The CWV continues to be a leading organization whose mission it is to ensure that female veterans are treated with respect and equality. While there are scattered efforts across the nation and within communities to address the needs of female veterans, we are far from a point at which we should be satisfied. Women’s Veterans Day was first recognized just four years ago on June 12, 2018. This day was established to highlight female veterans and the struggles they face in hopes of addressing them with lasting solutions. We, as a society informed of the struggles these brave women face, must continue to raise awareness on their behalf.

To the women that have served this country and to those that continue to serve, we see you and we thank you.

Group of soldiers saluting with focus on female soldier

For more information regarding the resources available to you as a female veteran, you can visit the National Veterans Foundation’s website for a categorized list of resources depending on your specific needs. https://nvf.org/women-veteran-resources/

References:

VAntage Point – https://blogs.va.gov/VAntage/89813/origin-women-veterans-day/

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs – https://www.va.gov/womenvet/resources/index.asp

VAWnet – https://vawnet.org/sc/challenges-specific-female-veterans National Veterans Foundation – https://nvf.org/women-veteran-resources/

Cropped image of military service member holding PTSD block letters

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Awareness, Recognition, and Support

What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

Life is full of events that cause challenge, fear, or even sometimes pose a threat to us. Those serving in the military are even more susceptible than the general public to these events due to the high-stress, high-risk nature of their occupation. Often and commonly, individuals react to the situation at hand and are temporarily unsettled by these events before returning to normal daily living. In other cases, the event that is experienced can have long-lasting, life-altering negative effects and this is known as post-traumatic stress disorder. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) defines post-traumatic stress disorder, commonly referred to as PTSD, as a disorder that develops in individuals who have experienced shocking, scary, or dangerous events who continue to feel stress or fear even after they are safe from the original event.

Signs and Symptoms

While it is common for individuals to be temporarily disrupted by a trauma, especially during combat, PTSD diagnosis is less common and requires an individual to experience symptoms for more than a month and in a great enough capacity to interfere with work and/or relationships. Symptoms are categorized into four subgroups: re-experiencing, avoidance, arousal and reactivity, and cognition and mood symptoms. Below are some examples of each.

Re-experiencing

Avoidance

Arousal and Reactivity

Cognition and Mood

Treatment Options

Whether you recognize these signs or symptoms in a loved one or perhaps in your own behaviors, you are not alone and there are many treatment options available. Treatment by a mental health provider can open up the door to options such as medication or psychotherapy, or a combination of both. The medications that have been studied and utilized most extensively are antidepressant medications which help to mitigate anger, worry, sadness and numbness. Additional medications can be sought out and explored to help alleviate other symptoms such as trouble sleeping and nightmares. Psychotherapy, also referred to as “talk therapy”, can be done one-on-one or in a group setting. Along with specific and individualized therapy goals, treatment should aim to educate individuals about their triggers and symptoms and prepare them with strategies to manage them when they occur.

PTSD can be incredibly isolating and takes a toll on the lives of many individuals in our community. While it may be hard to imagine living without the symptoms, recovery is possible. In congruence with medication and therapy, there are steps you can take on your own to facilitate recovery. Exercise can be a useful tool to improve both physical and mental health, as it is proven to reduce stress and improve mood. A strong support system of family and friends, as well as the veteran community, can be key to recovery. Involving loved ones in your life and engaging in a community that can relate to your experience can help to alleviate the loneliness associated with PTSD. While working with your therapist to build skills to reduce symptoms, consider partaking in activities that previously sparked joy and interest.

Caring for someone with PTSD can take a serious toll on those providing support as well. If you are a family member, friend or loved one of someone with PTSD, it is imperative to

prioritize your health and seek care and support for yourself as well. Look into local support groups within your community or virtual platforms to connect with other individuals in similar positions and keep regular checkups with your doctor. Make sure to set aside time to sleep, exercise and eat while you are offering care. You are not alone in offering care; seek out professionals and encourage the individual you are caring for to get further treatment. The better you care for yourself, the better you will be able to offer support.

Looking to the Future

Research has been underway for years looking into both the mental and biological components of PTSD, and new research directions continue to develop as scientists acquire new information. A subgroup of research studies called clinical trials seek to study if new tests, prevention measures, or treatments are effective. While clinical trials are an excellent method to further scientific knowledge, individuals should be aware that new information is the goal and there is no guarantee of successful treatment. If you are interested in learning more about current clinical trials or being involved in one, you can visit clinicaltrials.gov for a current list of National Institutes of Health (NIH) studies being conducted across the country or visit the NIMH’s Clinical Trials webpage for information about partaking in a study.

Resources for Veterans and Caregivers

Seeking treatment can feel overwhelming and lonely initially, and it is important to know that there are many organizations that are in place to help you find the support you or your loved one may need.

If you are a veteran with PTSD, the Veterans Crisis Line is available to you and your loved ones. You do not need to be enrolled in VA benefits or health care to access the 24/7, 365-day-a-year support that this line offers. Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255 and press 1

If you are a caregiver for a friend, family member, or loved one dealing with PTSD, the VA offers caregiver support in the form of a helpline as well as a caregiver program. To visit the website, go to caregiver.va.gov or call the helpline to speak to someone directly. Caregiver Support: 855-260-3274

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administrations, abbreviated SAMHSA, has a free and confidential hotline for individuals and family members facing mental health and/or substance abuse disorders. This hotline is also referred to as the Treatment Referral Routing Service and provides referrals to treatment centers, support groups, and community-based programs. The hotline is free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year and is available in Spanish and English. SAMHSA hotline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)

Additionally, the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) has a Monday-Friday, 10am-10pm, ET. informational helpline as well as an email address, helpline@nami.org, to

provide support and resources to individuals in need. The NAMI is NOT a hotline, crisis line, or suicide prevention line. NAMI helpline: 1-800-950-NAMI (6264)

Thank you to our veterans and their community caregivers.

We see you, and we support you.

References

NIH – https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd#part_2241 SAMHSA – https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline https://www.caregiver.va.gov/Tips_by_Diagnosis/PTSD.asp https://www.veteranscrisisline.net/

NAMI – https://www.nami.org/help

Image – https://www.heroesmile.com/intersection-of-ptsd-and-veterans/

Man with Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s and Brain Health Awareness Month

June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Health Awareness Month. This month, take time to discuss the importance of brain health with your friends, relatives, and elderly adults in your life—especially those who may be at risk for dementia and cognitive impairment. Taking steps to improve brain health early on can often reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and other cognitive disorders.

What Is the Prevalence Of Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer’s disease affects an estimated 6.5 million Americans. As the most common form of dementia, Alzheimer’s is a progressive disorder that destroys brain cells and causes the brain to shrink. It is most common among adults over the age of 65.

Memory loss is the primary symptom of Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s can also affect a person’s concentration, judgement, and decision-making ability, leading to problems with carrying out essential daily tasks like bathing, getting dressed, and cooking. Many people with Alzheimer’s often require hospice care so they can get help with performing these activities.

The Importance Of Early Screening

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive condition that develops gradually over time. There is no designated screening test for Alzheimer’s, though your doctor can review your medical history and perform an evaluation to determine your risk.

Ways to Improve Your Brain Health

Maintaining optimal brain health is key to reducing your risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. If you are caring for Alzheimer’s patients, you can work with them to improve their brain health and reduce the severity of certain symptoms.

Eat Healthy, Nutritious Foods

Leafy greens, fatty fish, and almonds are some of the many foods that contribute to good brain health. Foods like these are loaded with nutrients, including vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids, that are shown to boost brain health and delay the progression of Alzheimer’s. Eat a higher amount of healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, fish, poultry, and nuts to improve your cognition.

Stay Social

Socializing with others on a regular basis can stimulate your memory and attention, strengthening neural networks to improve overall brain function. Being social can reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation, boosting the quality of life in people with Alzheimer’s. Go dancing, join book clubs, and attend social events at community centers. Many hospice care providers can help you find social activities geared toward older adults and seniors.

Exercise Regularly

Physical activity offers a wide range of benefits for cognition and brain health. It improves your circulation and blood flow, boosting your memory and problem-solving ability. It can even help ward off anxiety and mood disorders, including depression. Schedule exercise into your daily schedule, even if it’s only a 10- to 15-minute walk. Better yet, join exercise classes for seniors, such as water aerobics and yoga.

Challenge Your Brain

Learning new skills and challenging your brain can lead to the formation of new connections between brain cells, which reduces your risk for cognitive problems, including Alzheimer’s. Play board games with your relatives and other seniors in the community, or take classes that teach you a new language or how to cook a certain cuisine. You can even download and play brain games on your smartphone, such as Wordle, Lumosity, and Candy Crush.

Hospice Care With Apreva

Apreva Hospice is a leading provider of hospice services throughout San Diego County—including hospice services for people with Alzheimer’s disease. Fill out our online form today to learn more about our hospice care services.

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