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College Send Off

Sending your kids off to college for the first time can be scary for both the student and parents, especially if they will be in another city or state. Aside from the adjustments of living in a new city, students can feel overwhelmed by the pressures and challenges put on them. From getting good grades, to eating the right foods and alcohol and drug temptations, not to mention sexual pressures — it’s a lot to put on an emerging adult who has left the safety and security of their parent’s home.

Here are some reminders for students to stay healthy and safe, and they are good lessons for all of us:

Get Plenty of Sleep

This is a tough one for college students. It may be hard to avoid the pressure of going out to a party the night before you have an 8:00 class. Or conversely, they may pull an “all-nighter” to study for a big exam. Studies show that most adults should get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night. Lack of sleep can be a risk factor for chronic diseases and conditions  such as heart disease, obesity, depression, and even diabetes. Being sleepy throughout the day also makes it difficult to concentrate in class or while taking a test.

Exercise

Regular exercise is not only good for your body, it’s also good for your mind. Find a friend who has the same interests as you, or try something new through intramural sports on campus. Tennis, running, dancing, or flag football all provide a good cardio workout and making friends along the way is a bonus! Just 2-½ hours a week, even working out for 10 minutes at a time, can improve your overall health and fitness.

Eat Right

With a vast array of food available on campus as well as local restaurants honoring university meal plan dollars, it’s easier than ever to pack on the Freshman 15. Eating food that is high in fat, calories, sugar, and salt will only drain your energy. For the best “fast-food” grab an apple or banana on the way to class. The school cafeteria will also always have a health option in hot vegetables or a salad bar for you to get foods that are a natural source of energy. Meal plan dollars will also go further on-campus than off-campus.

Prevent STDs

Did you know that about half of the 20 million new sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) each year are among people aged 15-24 years old. For women, the long term effects of these diseases can include pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, tubal scarring, ectopic pregnancy, and chronic pelvic pain.

Even more scary is that about 1 in 4 of all new HIV infections is among youth ages 13 to 24 years. 4 out of 5 of those infections occur in males.

The CDC offers these tips:

  • If you are a sexually active female aged 25 years or younger, get tested every year for chlamydia. If left untreated, chlamydia can affect your ability to have children.
  • If you are diagnosed with an STD, notify your sex partners so they can be tested and receive treatment if needed.
  • If your sex partner is diagnosed with an STD, you need to be evaluated, tested, and treated.
  • The most reliable ways to avoid transmission of STDs, including HIV infection, are to abstain from sexual activity or to be in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with an uninfected partner.
  • Latex male and female condoms, when used consistently and correctly, can reduce the risk of transmission of some STDs.

Avoid Harmful Substances

Pressures of the new college environment include alcohol, drugs, and cigarettes, especially when trying to make friends and become part of a group. Binge drinking is defined as having five or more drinks on one occasion for men, and four or more drinks per occasion for women. Alcohol and other drug abuse are major health problems in the US. Substance use and abuse can increase the chances of injuries, sexual violence, unintended pregnancy and STDs.

Stay together

It’s also important for friends to stay together if you are going out for the evening. Tips from Help Save the Next Girl include:

  • Check on friends when you haven’t heard from them
  • Never let a friend leave alone
  • Call someone you trust when you’re in trouble
  • Always carry your cell phone

Keep an Emergency List

There are apps available for your phone that you can load with important information in case of emergency. You can list your name, height, weight, blood type, age, contact list, diseases, allergies, medications, doctors, pharmacy, and other relevant information that a medical professional needs to know about you to make fast decisions.

Parkinson’s Disease Symptoms and Stages

Parkinson’s Disease affects up to 1 million people in the United States. As many as 60,000 new cases are diagnosed each year and strikes 50% more men than women.

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative brain disorder that progresses slowly in most people. The average age of onset is 60 years; and for most people, the symptoms take years to develop.

So what causes Parkinson’s disease?

Parkinson’s is caused when the brain slowly stops producing dopamine which is a chemical that relays messages in the brain. Dopamine helps people to have smooth, coordinated muscle movements. The reduction of dopamine causes a person to have less ability to regulate their body movements and emotions. When 60-80% of the dopamine-producing cells are damaged, the motor symptoms of PD appear.

Though Parkinson’s is not fatal, complications from the disease can be. According to the CDC, complications from PD is the 14th top cause of death in the U.S.

Early symptoms of PD can be difficult to detect. Loss of sense of smell, sleep disorders and constipation may precede the loss of motor function of the disease for several years. For this reason, researchers are focusing in on these non-motor symptoms to detect PD earlier as well as look for ways to stop its progression. At present, there is no cure for Parkinson’s.

Not everyone experiences all of the same symptoms of Parkinson’s. However, for the most part, the stages are the same.

In the initial stage, mild symptoms will appear, but daily activities will not be impacted. Tremors will be present, but usually only affected movement on one side of the body. Friends and family may notice changes in posture, walking and facial expressions.

Symptoms will start to get worse in stage two of Parkinson’s. Tremors, rigidity and other movement will affect both sides of the body. Walking is more difficult and poor posture may be more noticeable. A person can still live alone, but normal routines and tasks will be more difficult and take longer.

Stage Three is noted when loss of balance occurs and movements further slow down. Falls are more common at this point, too. A person can still be independent in this stage, but daily tasks such as getting dressed and eating are significantly impaired.

During the fourth stage of the disease, symptoms are more severe. While a person may be able to stand alone, movement may require a walker. Daily routines are much more difficult rendering a person unable to live alone.

The most advanced and debilitating phase is stage five. The stiffness in a person’s legs makes it impossible for them to stand or walk and a wheelchair is required. For some, they become bedridden. 24-hour nursing care is required for all activities. Some people may also experience hallucinations and delusions.

Other symptoms can include:

  • Depression, anxiety and irritability
  • Slow thought, language and memory difficulty
  • Hallucinations and delusions
  • Light-headedness
  • Sleep disorders
  • Constipation
  • Pain
  • Fatigue
  • Vision problems
  • Excessive sweating, especially of hands and feet (with little or no exercise)
  • Oily skin
  • Increase in urinary frequency and incontinence
  • Loss of sense of smell
  • Sexual problems
  • Weight loss or gain

Treatment and Medications

At present, there is no cure for PD, but a variety of medications provide dramatic relief from the symptoms. Usually, affected individuals are given levodopa combined with carbidopa.

Carbidopa delays the conversion of levodopa into dopamine until it reaches the brain. Nerve cells can use levodopa to make dopamine and replenish the brain’s dwindling supply. Although levodopa helps at least three-quarters of parkinsonian cases, not all symptoms respond equally to the drug. Movement and rigidity respond best, while tremors may be only marginally reduced. Problems with balance and other symptoms may not be alleviated at all.

Anticholinergics may help control tremor and rigidity.  Other drugs, such as bromocriptine, pramipexole, and ropinirole, mimic the role of dopamine in the brain, causing the neurons to react as they would to dopamine.

An antiviral drug, amantadine, also appears to reduce symptoms. In May 2006, the FDA approved rasagiline to be used along with levodopa for patients with advanced PD or as a single-drug treatment for early PD.

A therapy called deep brain stimulation (DBS) has now been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. In DBS, electrodes are implanted into the brain and connected to a small electrical device called a pulse generator that can be externally programmed. DBS can reduce the need for levodopa and related drugs, which in turn decreases the involuntary movements called dyskinesias that are a common side effect of levodopa. It also helps to alleviate fluctuations of symptoms and to reduce tremors, slowness of movements, and gait problems. DBS requires careful programming of the stimulator device in order to work correctly.

If you are showing signs or symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease, make an appointment with your doctor. Early treatment can help slow the progression of the disease.

Sources: National Parkinson’s Foundation and the National Institute of Health

What Causes Hearing Loss?

Do you experience ringing in your ears? Do you have a hard time understanding what someone is saying? If so, you are not alone. Hearing loss is the most common condition affecting older adults.

Hearing loss is caused by noise, aging, disease, and heredity. Hearing involves both the ear’s ability to detect sounds as well as the brain’s ability to interpret those sounds. People with hearing loss may find it hard to have a conversation with friends and family. They may also have trouble understanding a doctor’s advice, responding to warnings, and hearing doorbells and alarms.

About 17% of American adults report some degree of hearing loss and the older you get the larger the percentages. 18% of Americans 45-64 years old, 30% of adults  65-74 years old, and 47% of adults 75 years old report some degree of hearing impairment. Men are more likely to experience hearing loss than women.

Factors that determine how much hearing loss will negatively affect a person’s quality of life include:

  • the degree of the hearing loss;
  • the pattern of hearing loss across different frequencies (pitches);
  • whether one or both ears is affected;
  • the areas of the auditory system that are not working normally—such as the middle ear, inner ear, neural pathways, or brain;
  • the ability to recognize speech sounds;
  • the history of exposures to loud noise and environmental or drug-related toxins that are harmful to hearing;
  • age.

There are two general categories of hearing loss.

Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when there is damage to the inner ear or the auditory nerve. This type of hearing loss is usually permanent.
Conductive hearing loss occurs when sound waves cannot reach the inner ear. The cause may be earwax build-up, fluid, or a punctured eardrum. Medical treatment or surgery can usually restore conductive hearing loss.

More common in people over 50, presbycusis (a form of hearing loss) comes on gradually as a  person ages. Presbycusis can occur because of changes in the inner ear, auditory nerve, middle ear, or outer ear. Some of its causes are aging, loud noise, heredity, head injury, infection, illness, certain prescription drugs, and circulation problems such as high blood pressure. Having presbycusis may make it hard for a person to tolerate loud sounds or to hear what others are saying.

A symptom of hearing loss is Tinnitus — a ringing, roaring, clicking, hissing, or buzzing sound. It can be loud or soft and heard in one or both ears. Tinnitus can accompany any type of hearing loss. It can be a side effect of medications or something as simple as a piece of earwax blocking the ear canal. But, tinnitus can also be the result of a number of health conditions.

If you think you have tinnitus, see your primary care doctor. You may be referred to an otolaryngologist — a surgeon who specializes in ear, nose, and throat diseases — (commonly called an ear, nose, and throat doctor, or an ENT). The ENT will physically examine your head, neck, and ears and test your hearing to determine the appropriate treatment.

Some people may not want to admit they have trouble hearing. Older people who can’t hear well may become depressed or may withdraw from others to avoid feeling frustrated or embarrassed about not understanding what is being said. Sometimes older people are mistakenly thought to be confused, unresponsive, or uncooperative just because they don’t hear well.

Hearing problems that are ignored or untreated can get worse. If you have a hearing problem, you can get help. See your doctor or audiologist. Hearing aids, special training, certain medicines, and surgery are some of the choices that can help people with hearing problems.

Hearing aid technology has improved over the years allowing for more comfortable and discreet solutions.

Our stores also carry hearing aid batteries, so be sure to have some on hand so don’t miss any important conversations.
Source: National Institute of Health