April is National Cancer Control Month, a time for raising awareness about the prevention and treatment of cancer. In honor of the annual event, here’s the truth about four common cancer myths.
Myth: Cancer is contagious
Fact: Since your immune system automatically destroys foreign cells, cancer can’t spread from person to person, either through the air or through direct contact. However, certain bacteria and viruses that increase the risk for cancer are contagious — for example, human papillomavirus (HPV), which is sexually transmitted, can cause cervical cancer.
Myth: Antiperspirants cause cancer
Fact: While a few rogue scientists claim using antiperspirants containing aluminum heightens your risk of breast cancer, the National Cancer Institute states that no reliable scientific evidence links these products to the development of cancer. There’s also no evidence that using hair dye presents a cancer risk.
Myth: Eating sugar makes cancer worse
Fact: While eating lots of sugar isn’t good for you, it won’t cause your cancer to develop more rapidly, as is sometimes claimed. Likewise, cutting sugar out of your diet won’t cause your cancer growth to slow.
Myth: You won’t get cancer if no one in your family has it
Fact: Only a very small percentage of cancer cases are inherited (about five to 10 percent). You’re more likely to develop cancer because of age, environmental factors or life-style choices.
What you need to know about pneumococcal disease
Pneumococcal disease is a name for any infection caused by pneumococcus bacteria. These bacteria are found in the respiratory tract, including the throat and nose, and are transmitted through direct contact with infected respiratory droplets.
It mainly affects children under the age of five, people over the age of 65, and individuals with certain diseases like diabetes and cirrhosis. Here’s an overview of what you need to know.
The pneumococcus bacteria can cause illnesses such as otitis, sinusitis, and bronchitis. Symptoms typically appear one to three days after a person is infected and can vary in severity depending on the area of the body affected. Here are a few examples.
• Difficult or painful breathing
• Blue lips
• Severe neck stiffness
Although most infections can be treated with antibiotics, severe pneumococcal infections can lead to hospitalization and even be life-threatening.
Prevention and treatment
The best way to prevent pneumococcal disease is to get vaccinated. It’s also recommended to quit smoking, avoid contact with infected people and wash your hands often.
Pneumococcal disease should be taken seriously to avoid possible complications like pneumonia, meningitis, and brain damage. Contact a healthcare professional if you have any questions.
Heart Month: Learn the difference between cardiac arrest, heart attack
February is National Heart Month, and doctors want Virginians to understand heart health better – specifically, heart attacks and cardiac arrest.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 800,000 people have heart attacks yearly, most of which are first-time heart attacks. Cardiac arrest can involve numerous factors, and heart attack is the most common.
Dr. Benjamin Galper, assistant chief of cardiology at Mid-Atlantic Permanente Medical Group in northern Virginia, said this is partly why the two get mixed up. He said signs of a heart attack typically could be chest pressure, nausea, or sweating – but the signs of cardiac arrest are more dire.
“Cardiac arrest itself is not subtle,” he said. “If you’ve gotten to the point of cardiac arrest, it means the person is unconscious and doesn’t have a pulse when you take their pulse, and they’re not breathing. So, when someone’s had cardiac arrest, it’s usually obvious and usually quite concerning.”
National Heart Month is a good time to commit to reducing those risks with a heart-healthy diet and regular exercise. Galper also encouraged people to get CPR training to aid someone having a heart attack until first responders arrive – and possibly save a life.
Underlying diseases such as diabetes or prediabetes can make a person more susceptible to heart problems. Dr. Ravi Johar, chief medical officer at UnitedHealthcare, said genetics could be another risk factor.
“Things like Marfan Syndrome increases the risk of aneurysms and abnormal blood flow to the heart, and things of that sort, so there can be some genetic consequences,” he said. “There can also be genetic history; if your parents had problems with their hearts, there’s a higher likelihood that you may.”
He added that heart disease could affect people at any age. CDC research has found it can start as early as 35, and the risks increase with age. Anyone experiencing new chest pains or shortness of breath is encouraged to talk with their doctor about their heart-health options.
By Edwin J. Viera
Public News Service
Hey, watch your back!
Watching your back — or watching out for it, to be precise — is a good practice for anyone. It’s especially true when lifting is involved.
Lifting injuries are a common cause of back pain. You can protect yourself by being physically fit, managing your weight, and practicing good lifting habits at home and in the workplace.
Your physical condition is important. For example, stiff joints and muscles can limit your ability to keep your back safe position as you lift. If your leg muscles are not very strong, you may find crouching hard. Low fitness will cause your muscles to tire quickly, placing more stress on your spine.
Twisting or jerking while lifting or carrying can injure the small facet joints that guide back movements. The discs that separate the vertebrae (bones) and the ligaments that hold them together are also at risk. Discs are composed of a jellylike core surrounded by a strong fibrous ring. Repeated unsafe lifting may tear or rupture the fibrous ring or its supporting ligaments.
Lifting while bent forward increases stress on your spine. Other factors can compound this stress, like the weight of the load, how far it is held away from your body, how often and how fast you lift, and how long you hold the load.
According to the Australian Physiotherapy Association, back injuries are most likely when the spine is bent forward and twisted simultaneously.
Make your work easier:
- Always check the weight of the load and get help if necessary.
- Wherever possible, lift and carry heavy items with a tool. Instead of carrying parcels, use a hand trolley.
- Repackage heavy articles to reduce the size and weight of individual loads.
- Wear comfortable clothing and flat, nonslip shoes.
- Store loads at waist height so you don’t have to bend or lift overhead.
How heart disease and mental health are related
February is American Heart Month and is an excellent opportunity to focus on improving your cardiovascular health. After all, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Although many associate heart health with physical health, mental health can also negatively impact your ticker.
Studies show that people who experience depression, anxiety, and isolation often have elevated heart rates, increased blood pressure, and reduced circulation. Individuals with mental health disorders may experience changes to their nervous system and hormonal balance, which can contribute to heart arrhythmia.
Mental health disorders prevent people from maintaining a healthy lifestyle and increase the likelihood of adopting behaviors like smoking, excessive drinking, inactivity, and a poor diet. Consequently, it’s important to address mental health disorders early and provide access to support services to promote mental wellness and reduce the risk of heart disease. Here are a few ways to do so.
• Exercise regularly. Being active can help boost your mental health by releasing chemicals in your brain that ease anxiety and depression. Find an activity you enjoy and can commit to practicing consistently.
• Practice mindfulness. Relaxation techniques like meditation and guided breathing promote mental wellness by reducing stress, improving sleep quality, and helping you feel calmer and more balanced.
• Seek out meaningful social interactions. Taking up a new hobby, learning a new skill, joining a neighborhood group, and volunteering in your community are great ways to combat isolation and reduce chronic stress.
If you find it challenging to manage stress or are experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety, reach out to a healthcare professional in your area.
True or false: human papillomavirus (HPV)
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a sexually transmitted infection. Some strains can cause genital warts or cancer. These four true or false statements can help you learn more about this disease.
1. HPV is only transmitted through penetrative sex
False. HPV can be spread through skin-to-skin contact, such as intimate touching, oral sex, or sharing sex toys with an infected partner.
2. Treatment can cure HPV
False. There’s no cure for HPV. However, doctors can often treat warts and precancerous lesions caused by the infection.
3. A person can be infected with HPV without knowing it
True. HPV typically doesn’t cause symptoms, making it easy to transmit unknowingly. In most cases, the body’s immune system will get rid of the infection naturally within two years.
4. A diagnosis can be a sign of infidelity
False. Signs of infection, such as warts, can appear weeks, months, or even years after someone has been infected with the virus. It’s difficult to determine when or from whom the virus was transmitted, especially for people with multiple sexual partners.
Several vaccines can protect you against HPV. Talk to your healthcare provider about which ones are available to you.
Flavonols may slow cognitive decline
Higher dietary intake of flavonols — antioxidants found in tea, wine, and certain fruits and vegetables — may help preserve memory and cognitive abilities among older people, according to a new study published in the journal Neurology.
Researchers followed 961 study participants whose ages ranged from 60 to 100 years old for an average of 6.9 years, tracking their intake of flavonols called quercetin, kaempferol, myricetin, and isorhamnetin. None of the participants showed symptoms of dementia at the beginning of the study, and all participants underwent annual cognitive and memory assessments.
The study conclusion: People whose diets were highest in flavonols, particularly kaempferol, displayed measurably slower rates of cognitive decline than those who consumed flavonols in lower quantities. You can find kaempferol in apples, grapes, tomatoes, green tea, and several types of berries, among other foods.
Though the results are promising, researchers aren’t jumping to conclusions or recommending flavonol supplements yet, according to CNN. Flavonol-rich diets typically include larger quantities of fruits and vegetables, which provide an array of health benefits. More research is needed to determine whether the cognitive benefits directly resulted from flavonol consumption or due to healthy diets and other factors.
Still, a few extra daily servings of flavonol-rich foods, like leafy greens or berries, are unlikely to hurt you, and the benefits may be greater than we know.