NCI Medical Matters Series 

June 2020: Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month

June is National Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness month.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, affecting almost half of Americans over the age of 85.

It is characterized by progressive memory loss and cognitive decline. Studies suggest that prevention strategies include: treatment of HTN, consumption of omega-3 fatty acids, physical activity, and cognitive engagement.

Also, there are medical interventions that show promise in slowing the progress of Alzheimer’s symptoms. 

So, if you have concerns, or notice symptoms in yourself or a loved one, contact your primary care provider for evaluation and a discussion of management options.

 

July 2020: UV Safety 

Summer has arrived, and its time to remind ourselves about sun safety. Persons with fair complexion, and those who sunburn easily are at increased risk of skin cancer, the most common form of cancer in the US. UV radiation exposure before the age of 24 years carries the greatest risk for skin cancer. Sunburns in childhood are the most damaging.

 

The United States Preventative Task force and The American Academy of Family Practitioners encourage sun protection behavior; specifically: the use of broad spectrum sunscreen with a protection factor of at least 15; wearing sun protective clothing including hats and sunglasses; seeking shade during the midday hours of 10 am to 4 pm; and avoiding tanning beds. Tanning beds increase the risk for skin cancer just as direct sun exposure does.

 

Don’t ruin summertime fun with painful sunburns and increased cancer risk. If you have specific concerns or questions about your personal risk factors, ask your primary care provider for more information on staying safe this summer.

 

August 2020: Breastfeeding 

New parents have lots of decisions to make, and now they have to take into consideration implications of COVID 19. One thing that hasn’t changed however is the recommendation to breastfeed. Breastmilk provides perfectly balanced nutrition for infants and provides protection against many acute and chronic illnesses.

 

All major health organizations, such as the American Association of Family Practitioners, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the United States Preventative Services Task Force recommend exclusive breastfeeding up to 6 months, then continued breastfeeding as other foods are introduced, up to a year. The WHO recommends continuing to breastfeed until the child is two years old. Health benefits include decreased risk of eczema, asthma, and gastroenteritis in children who are breastfed, and decrease risk of ovarian and breast cancer, diabetes, obesity, HTN, and postpartum depression, in mothers who breastfeed.

 

Studies have not detected   SARS-CoV-2 in breastmilk, and so even if a parent has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or was exposed and has symptoms, it is still reasonable to breastfeed or provide expressed milk for the infant. The decision to breastfeed is personal and multifactorial, so take time to discuss this important topic with your health care provider.

September 2020: Childhood Obesity 

Obesity in children aged 2 to 19 has increased from 13.9% in the year 2000, to 18.5% in 2016. This translates to 13.7 million individuals. Obesity during childhood carries many potential physical health risks, including an increased risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, breathing problems, such as asthma and sleep apnea, joint problems and musculoskeletal discomfort, fatty liver disease, gallstones, and heartburn. In addition, children with obesity are more likely to suffer from psychological and social problems such as anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, lower self-reported quality of life, bullying and stigma.

 

The American Medical Association recommends health care providers address weight with children at least annually, at which time dietary, physical activity, and lifestyle habits can be addressed.  Each day, children should get at least 60 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity, limit screen time to 2 hours, partake in family meals, and consume no more than one serving of a sweetened beverage (for example: fruit juice, fruit drink, regular-calorie soft drink, sports drink, energy drink, sweetened or flavored milk, and sweetened iced tea).

 

Many of these changes need to be addressed at the level of the family and can have a positive impact for all involved. Discuss with your primary care provider and other trusted sources on ways to improve your whole family’s health.

November 2020: Diabetes 

This is diabetes awareness month and according to the American Diabetes Association, 34.2 million, or 10.5% of the population of the United States are affected. Diabetes is an elevation in blood sugar levels; it’s a chronic disease that can be asymptomatic for years.

 

Approximately 10 % of diabetics have Type 1, which is characterized by insulin deficiency, and usually is caused by an autoimmune or viral attack on the pancreatic cells that produce insulin. Type 2 diabetes which accounts for 90% of cases, is caused by the body resisting the effects of insulin. 

 

For those with risk factors including family history, obesity, inactivity, ethnicity, and those with a history of gestational diabetes or symptoms such as increased thirst, frequent urination, irritability, fatigue, or frequent infections, it’s important to contact your primary care provider for appropriate screening and management. Simple lifestyle changes such as diet modification and increased exercise may be enough, and early diagnosis and intervention can delay and even prevent the onset of serious complications.