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In recent years, a big shift has occurred in the world of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Thanks to improved antiretroviral therapies and public health efforts, HIV has emerged from a deadly disease to a manageable chronic condition. New HIV infections have decreased from 3.2 million in 1995 to approximately 1.3 million in 2022. This progress is remarkable, but it’s shadowed by the troubling rise in other STIs like chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis. Recent data reports from the Centers for Disease Control indicate a significant rise in STI rates from 2020-2021, with gonorrhea and chlamydia infections increasing by over 4%, and syphilis infections surging by nearly 32% across all stages. This rise is linked to less education about these infections, reduced condom use, and shifts in dating patterns due to online dating apps.

The drop in HIV cases is a big win for public health, but it also shows we need to focus more on fighting other common STIs. Blacks/African Americans are disproportionately affected by chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis, making up nearly a third of cases in the U.S. Promoting sexual health awareness and normalizing and simplifying STI testing could lead to a notable reduction in these infections, mirroring the success achieved with HIV.

Friday, December 1 marked the 35th World AIDS Day, which was themed “Remember and Commit” to commemorate 35 years of the global fight against HIV/AIDS. This theme reminds us to remember those we’ve lost to HIV/AIDS and to renew our commitment to ending HIV, and it is also a call to action to intensify efforts against the rise of other STIs.

Sources:
www.unaids.org
www.cdc.gov

The colder winter months often bring an increase in sickness and death from influenza, COVID-19, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). For the first time, vaccines targeting all three viruses are now available. Beyond vaccinations, effective treatments for the flu and COVID-19 have proven to reduce illness severity, hospitalizations, and death rates. Additionally, various testing options, including home tests, play a critical role in early virus detection. These tests are crucial for the early detection of these viruses, enabling prompt treatment and helping to prevent further spread to family, friends, and coworkers. Furthermore, everyday preventive measures such as wearing masks, maintaining physical distance, frequent handwashing, and improving air circulation in living and working spaces provide an added layer of protection against these respiratory viruses.

The CDC has issued specific recommendations for each virus, as follows:

  • Seasonal flu vaccine: Everyone aged six months and older should receive the 2023-2024 seasonal flu vaccine. For Montgomery County’s flu vaccine clinic dates, click here.
  • COVID-19 vaccine: The updated COVID-19 vaccine is recommended for all eligible individuals.
  • RSV vaccine consideration for seniors: Adults over 60 should consult with their healthcare providers about the potential benefits of the RSV vaccine.
  • RSV vaccine for pregnant women: Pregnant women between 32 and 36 weeks of gestation should receive the Pfizer RSVpreF vaccine, ideally between September through January.
  • RSV antibody for infants: For infants under eight months old, particularly those in their first RSV season, the administration of nirsevimab, a monoclonal antibody, is recommended.* For Montgomery County’s immunizations through the Vaccines for Children Program, click here.
  • Nirsevimab for at-risk children: Children aged eight to 19 months who have an increased risk for severe RSV should receive nirsevimab during their second RSV season.*

*Please read the CDC’s health advisory regarding the limited supply of nirsevimab for infants and young children here: www.emergency.cdc.gov

Source: www.cdc.gov

The holiday season is in full swing! As we join friends and family around tables and at parties, let’s embrace the joy of the season while keeping our health in check. Here are some joyful and healthy tips for nurturing both body and mind!

Portion Power. Love those plates but control those portions. A little bit of everything lets you taste all the goodness without overdoing it.

Stay Active. Keep moving! Whether it's a family dance-off, a quick walk around the block or a friendly game of basketball, staying active keeps the energy high and the pounds low.

Hydrate with Style. Water is your best friend, but who says it can't be fancy? Add a slice of lemon or cucumber for that extra zing.

Mindful Munching. Eat slowly and enjoy the conversation. It’s about the people as much as it is about the food.

Sweet Moderation. Those desserts are tempting! Enjoy them, but in moderation. Balance is key.

Healthy Swaps. Get creative! Use healthier ingredients in your recipes. Think olive oil, whole grains, and natural sweeteners.

Listen to Your Body. Eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full. Your body knows best.

Spread the Joy. Share your healthy eating tips with friends and family. It's all about uplifting each other!

Source: Harvard Health Publishing

Health Hint

Skipping meals to save calories for bigger meals can backfire. Skipping meals can cause extreme hunger, making it harder to control portion sizes and food choices. To prevent this, enjoy a nutritious, filling snack like fresh fruit, string cheese, yogurt, or a small portion of nuts to provide enough energy and fullness. These snacks help in maintaining blood sugar levels, which is crucial for managing hunger and preventing overeating.

Source: The Mayo Clinic

Featured Video

ABC News medical contributor Dr. Darien Sutton and author Houston Kraft join Good Morning America to discuss the health benefits of kindness and how to practice it daily:

Featured Recipe: Curried Cabbage

Diabetes is a significant health challenge for many Blacks/African Americans. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), African Americans are almost twice as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes as non-Hispanic whites. This Diabetes Awareness Month, we turn our focus to understanding how diabetes impacts different parts of the body and the mind.

Your heart
Because high blood sugar levels damage the heart, people with diabetes are more likely to have heart disease. For people with hypertension, the added challenge of diabetes can increase the risk for severe complications like strokes and heart attacks.

Your eyes
Diabetes can slowly harm your eyes and can even make you blind over time. The most common eye problem for working adults with diabetes is diabetic retinopathy, which occurs when elevated blood sugar levels harm the retina’s blood vessels. Along with diabetic retinopathy, diabetics may also develop macular edema, cataracts, and glaucoma, all of which can lead to vision loss.

Your skin
Diabetes can lead to unique skin problems, particularly among Blacks/African Americans. Conditions like diabetic dermopathy and acanthosis nigricans, which cause tan or brown patches on the neck, armpits, and other joints, are more common in overweight Blacks/African Americans.

Your mind
People with diabetes have a higher chance of feeling anxious than those without it, largely because handling diabetes every day can be really stressful. When these feelings get too heavy, they’re called diabetes distress, and they can make someone want to give up on healthy habits or skip doctor visits.

Diabetes does not have to dictate the future of one’s health. With proactive management and community support, diabetics can lead healthy, vibrant lives. Black/African American Montgomery County residents can engage with AAHP to help them to navigate the challenges of diabetes. Learn more about AAHP’s diabetes-focused programs here: www.aahpmontgomerycounty.org/diabetes-and-heart-health.

Sources:
www.cdc.gov
www.diabetes.org
www.cdc.gov/diabetes

Every year, about 10% of babies in the U.S. are born prematurely, which is defined as being born before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Among these, Black/African American infants are almost twice as likely as White infants to be born preterm. After arriving too early, these newborns often face more health issues right from the start. Their little bodies struggle more with lung and brain development, and they are more prone to conditions like asthma. Learning to talk, play, and take care of themselves can be harder for them because their bodies and brains have had a tougher beginning. Sadly, these little ones are also more likely to face challenges like cerebral palsy or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as they grow up. Their journey can be tough, but it’s important to understand and support them every step of the way. It’s also important to work to prevent future instances of preterm labor.

During Prematurity Awareness Month, AAHP focuses on the important work done by AAHP’s SMILE (Start More Infants Living Equally) Healthy program to address maternal and infant health among Blacks/African Americans in Montgomery County. The SMILE program works to help Black/African American moms prevent preterm labor and also helps families care for their newborns up until their first birthday. Learn more about the SMILE program here: https://aahpmontgomerycounty.org/maternal-and-child-health.

See the SMILE team’s video on preventing preterm labor: https://youtu.be/Gy546ZtG1ms

Watch this video from the March of Dimes featuring a Black/African American mom who gave birth at 23 weeks:

The American Society for Nutrition recently published a study highlighting the significant role of lifestyle habits on living a longer life. The research was based on data from over 720,000 U.S. veterans over the age of 40 and showed that a healthy lifestyle isn’t just for preventing disease, but also acts as “lifestyle medicine” that focuses on preventing chronic diseases rather than just managing symptoms. Thus, adopting these healthy habits can help you live a longer life:

1. Not smoking. Smoking is a major cause of preventable disease and death worldwide. It’s associated with an increased risk of several cancers, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, and more. Quitting smoking can lead to immediate and long-term health benefits.

2. Being physically active. Regular physical activity helps maintain a healthy weight, reduces the risk of chronic diseases (like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer), and can improve mental health and mood.

3. Managing stress. Chronic stress can lead to serious health problems, including mental health disorders, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and diabetes. Effective stress management improves quality of life and health outcomes.

4. Eating a healthy diet. A balanced, nutritious diet can help prevent a range of health issues, including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers.

5. Having good sleep hygiene. Quality sleep is essential for good health. Poor sleep is linked to a higher risk of chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and hypertension, and can affect hormone levels, mood, and weight.

6. Avoiding binge drinking. Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to liver disease, heart problems, certain types of cancer, and accidents. Moderate or low consumption is a key component of a healthy lifestyle. Abstinence from alcohol is optimal.

7. Not being addicted to opioids. Opioid addiction can have devastating effects on health, leading to increased risk of overdose, infectious diseases, and accidental injuries.

8. Having positive social relationships. Strong social connections are linked to a lower risk of many negative health outcomes, including depression and high blood pressure, and can even influence longevity.

Source: The American Society for Nutrition

Health Hint

Did you know that the ability to stand on one leg for more than 10 seconds is actually an indicator of your overall health? As we age, our flexibility and balance begin to decrease, leading to an increased risk of falls, which are globally the second leading cause of unintentional injury deaths. Practicing standing on one leg can help you improve your balance and help you prevent future falls.

Source: www.healthline.com

Featured Video

Goodful teams up with the vibrant vegan influencer, Tabitha Brown for an enlightening video showcasing the simplicity and delight of preparing a week’s worth of vegan meals in just an hour and a half:

Featured Recipe: Sweet Potato Home Fries with Cranberry-Hazelnut Crumble

Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) is defined as abuse or aggression in a close relationship, including physical violence, sexual violence, stalking, or psychological harm. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), one in four women and nearly one in 10 men experience IPV in their lifetime. Black/African American women and men experience IPV at a disproportionately high rate, with 45% of Black/African American women and 40% of Black/African American men having encountered forms of IPV.

IPV is extremely detrimental to individuals and communities. Survivors often struggle with a range of chronic health conditions like high blood pressure and mental health issues like depression and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). IPV can lead to unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and can contribute to pregnancy and childbirth complications, such as preterm birth and low birth weight. Around 75% of women and 48% of men who experienced IPV are injured in some way because of it. IPV plays a significant role in the number of homicides within the Black/African American community, accounting for 51% of the homicides of Black/African American adult women.

The crisis of IPV can be addressed from multiple angles. Together and individually, we must do all we can to promote healthy, respectful, and nonviolent relationships, schools, and communities to reduce the occurrence of IPV. We must pay special attention to Teen Dating Violence (TDV), which occurs when adolescents experience IPV and often sets off a lifetime of IPV. By modeling and teaching safe and healthy behavior in our homes and communities and supporting initiatives to strengthen families, we can reduce the impact and occurrence of IPV.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Check out these resources to learn more about domestic violence and IPV and Montgomery County’s efforts to reduce IPV occurrences:

Sources:
www.cdc.gov
www.blackmenshealth.com
National Institutes of Health

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a time to raise awareness and inspire actions against a disease with a heartbreakingly disproportionate impact on Black/African American women. While no one has total control over whether they will develop breast cancer (or any other cancer), we can all do our best to lower our risk with each healthy choice we make. Most people know the basics of living a healthy lifestyle, but it is not commonly understood the extent to which specific healthy choices impact the risk for cancer. Let’s look at the top three factors involved in overall breast cancer risk:

1 - Weight

Being overweight or obese, particularly after menopause, appears to be linked to an increased risk of breast cancer. After menopause, having extra fat can increase levels of estrogen, a hormone that can promote the growth of breast cancer cells. One large study showed that women who gained 20 pounds or more after menopause were 18% more likely to develop breast cancer compared to those who didn’t gain weight.

2 - Physical Activity

Women who exercise regularly have a lower risk for breast cancer. Physical activity reduces breast cancer risk, mainly by helping to manage weight and lowering estrogen levels. According to the Susan G. Komen organization, women who are physically active have a 10%-20% lower risk of developing breast cancer compared to inactive women.

3 - Alcohol Consumption

Consuming alcohol can significantly increase breast cancer risk. Alcohol can increase estrogen levels and may cause DNA damage in cells, which can pave the way for cancer to develop. According to breastcancer.org, women who have three or more alcoholic drinks per week face a 15% higher risk of breast cancer compared to those who do not drink. Experts believe that for each additional drink a woman has each day on a regular basis, her risk of breast cancer increases by another 10%.

Source:
www.breastcancer.org
www.cancer.org
www.komen.org

Have you ever noticed any odd changes in your physical appearance? Maybe something just seems a little off? Sometimes, these changes are our bodies dancing through the aging process, while other times, they could be a signal of potential health bumps in the road. It’s worth your while to investigate these changes rather than disregard them.

For example, if you notice new skin growths around your eyes, it may be xanthelasma, a sign of elevated cholesterol levels and increased risk of heart disease. Swollen feet and ankles might be pointing towards concerns in your circulatory system, or perhaps issues in the heart, liver, or kidneys that need attention. Clubbed fingers, which appear as fingertips and fingernails that have spread out and are more rounded, are often signals of heart and lung issues. Jaundice, which can turn skin and eyes a yellow shade, might be a sign of liver dysfunction. Persistent bad breath and unexpected weight loss might also hint at issues like oral health problems, gastrointestinal problems, thyroid disorders, diabetes, or even cancers.

You might be wondering how to figure out whether a physical change is cause for concern. That’s why it’s important to know your body and be able to recognize when something is new or different. Then, it’s about doing a bit of homework, understanding what might be causing these changes, and finally, having a chat with a healthcare professional or your primary care physician to get the full scoop. By taking these steps, you can be ready to advocate for your own health.

Source: www.webmd.com

Health Hint

Starting your day with a breakfast focused on protein instead of carbohydrates can help you control weight by lessening your hunger and reducing the total calories you eat each day. Because protein takes longer to digest than carbohydrates, you can feel full for longer after eating a protein-centric breakfast compared to when you eat a carbohydrate-centric breakfast like pancakes or cereal. Including eggs, yogurt, or nuts in your breakfast can not only help your body burn fat and boost your metabolism but can also provide steady energy, which can enhance your mood and concentration. So focus on protein for your first meal of the day!

Source: www.healthline.com

Featured Video

Did you know that 10% of food from a typical grocery store is fake or “adulterated” (altered to decrease quality)? This special report by CNBC details how food suppliers misrepresent the ingredients in foods to inflate their cost:

Featured Recipe: Peanut Butter Protein Balls

Sexual health is a vital aspect of overall well-being, and we should all take steps to protect ourselves and our partners in intimate relationships. As we observe Sexual Health Awareness Month, let’s educate ourselves about the importance of open communication and safe practices. Every sexually active person should know the facts about STIs (sexually transmitted infections) and be prepared for respectful discussions about sexual health and STI prevention with new partners. Here are three important questions to ask before having sex with a new partner:

1. Have you been tested for STIs since your last sexual partner?

Routine testing for STIs is fundamental for safeguarding one’s sexual health, however, test results may not accurately reflect an individual’s current status if they have been exposed to an STI between tests. As a general guideline, individuals who are sexually active with new or multiple partners should get tested after each new sexual encounter, especially after unprotected encounters.

2. Which STIs were you tested for?

If someone tells you they “got tested,” don’t assume they were tested for all STIs. While routine sexual health screenings often include tests for chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and HIV, testing for skin viruses such as HPV (Human Papillomavirus) and HSV (Herpes Simplex Virus) comes with special considerations that exclude them from routine screenings. Knowing which STIs your potential partner has been tested for can help ensure that you are on the same page.

3. How do you intend to practice safe sex in our relationship?

It’s crucial to address methods that may be used to reduce the risk of STIs. Additionally, being open about any sexual activities with other partners can help determine how often both individuals should be tested for STIs to maintain their health and safety.

By addressing these questions, we can promote a culture of responsibility, trust, respect, and informed decision-making.

Sources:
www.cdc.gov
www.ashasexualhealth.org

Stretching is an essential component of a well-rounded exercise routine. It helps to improve flexibility by increasing the range of motion in your joints and muscles. Regular stretching can also aid in injury prevention by promoting better muscle balance and posture. By making the muscles longer, stretching helps to reduce muscle tension and tightness, making it less likely for you to strain or pull a muscle during physical activity or while performing common tasks like reaching for objects in the kitchen.

In addition to its physical benefits, stretching has a positive impact on mental and emotional well-being. It can help to relieve stress and tension by promoting relaxation and mindfulness. As you focus on your breath and the sensations in your body during stretching exercises, you may experience a sense of calm and peacefulness.

To incorporate stretching into your daily routine, choose stretches that target different muscle groups and perform them correctly. You can start with gentle stretching exercises and gradually increase the intensity and duration as your flexibility improves. It’s also beneficial to combine stretching with other forms of exercise, like walking, jogging, ZUMBA, or lifting weights to maximize the overall benefits to your health. Remember to always listen to your body and avoid overstretching or pushing yourself too hard, as this can lead to injury.

Join AAHP’s yoga classes on Wednesday mornings at 10:00 am to learn more about stretching and experience firsthand how it can benefit your overall well-being. Attend AAHP’s yoga class by registering and joining here. To complement your stretching exercises, join AAHP’s ZUMBA classes on Friday mornings at 11:00 am. Attend AAHP’s ZUMBA class by registering and joining here.

Sources:
www.mayoclinic.org
www.healthline.com
www.health.harvard.edu

Black/African American youth suicide rates have been on the rise over the past decade, according to a report by the Pew Charitable Trusts. The report found that suicide rates among Black/African American youth aged 10-19 increased by 60% between 2007 and 2018, compared to a 44% increase among all youth in the same age group.

Several complex factors contribute to this disturbing increase in youth suicide rates among Black/African Americans adolescents. These factors include socioeconomic disparities, limited access to mental health services, systemic racism, and the challenges of growing up in today’s digital age. Black/African American youth also deal with unique stressors that can make them more vulnerable to mental health challenges and suicidal thoughts.

It is crucial that we do all we can to provide support and resources to Black/African American youth to prevent further tragedies. Parents, teachers, and caregivers should recognize the warning signs of depression and suicidal ideation in young people and help them get professional mental health support. We can all work to promote mental health awareness and education and breaking the stigma surrounding mental health in the Black/African American community.

Source: www.pewtrusts.org

Health Hint

Embracing the great outdoors can work wonders for your mental and physical well-being. Nature provides a calming sanctuary that helps reduce anxiety, stress, and anger. Spending time in green spaces like public parks has been proven to lower depression and boost concentration. So, take a step outside, bask in the beauty of nature, and reap the benefits for your mind and body.

To enjoy nature and fellowship with other County residents, take a walk in the park with AAHP’s Weight Management Program. Walks occur every other Saturday at a scenic Montgomery County Park or trail. Learn about upcoming events here.

Source: www.health.ucdavis.edu

Featured Video

Dr. Uche Blackstock, a medical contributor for NBC News, discusses how disproportionately higher maternal mortality rates and COVID-19 mortality rates impact the mental well-being of Black/African American families:

Featured Recipe: Sweet Potato Salmon Cake

August is Breastfeeding Awareness Month, a time to celebrate all the wonderful benefits of breastfeeding and promote and encourage breastfeeding for more and more Black/African American moms!

 

Breastfeeding protects the health of both moms and babies. Breast milk contains powerful antibodies that strengthen the baby’s developing immune system and lower the risk for many illnesses and infections including ear, respiratory, and digestive tract infections; asthma; obesity; diabetes; and even Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). For moms, breastfeeding has been shown to reduce the risk of breast and ovarian cancer, promote faster postpartum recovery, and more. Breastfeeding also nurtures the bond between mom and baby, promoting emotional well-being and mental health. Breastfeeding is a natural way for moms to support their own health while providing essential nourishment for their babies.

 

This Breastfeeding Awareness Month and Black Breastfeeding Week (August 25-31), AAHP applauds the SMILE team for their work in supporting breastfeeding for Black/African American moms in Montgomery County. The SMILE program offers childbirth and breastfeeding classes, nurse case management for pregnant and postpartum moms, and the Mommy Chat, Breastfeeding Support Circle, and online groups to help Black moms on their breastfeeding journey. Learn more on AAHP’s website here.

 

This month, take the time to learn more about breastfeeding and what you can do to support yourself or someone who breastfeeds or may breastfeed by:

  • Following the hashtags #BBW23 #WeOutside #blackbreastfeedingweek on social media
  • Following AAHP’s SMILE Program’s Instagram @aahp_s.m.i.l.e
  • Checking out the SMILE team’s video on breastfeeding:

Just like eating a balanced, nutrient-rich diet and exercising regularly, getting good sleep is crucial for your health. Poor sleep quality and sleeping fewer than seven hours per night are associated with an increased risk of high blood pressure and heart disease. Sleep deprivation can lead to increased appetite and cravings for high-sugar and high-fat foods, contributing to weight gain and obesity. Sleep deprivation is also linked to higher levels of inflammation, which can increase the risk of conditions like depression and Alzheimer's disease.

So, do all you can to prioritize sleep for your health and well-being. It is recommended to stick to a regular sleep schedule, create a sleep-friendly environment, and establish healthy sleep habits. If you suspect you have a sleep disorder, consult a healthcare professional.

Learn about why lack of sleep affects the health of Blacks/African Americans in the video you will find in the section Featured Video.

Sources:
www.heart.org
www.healthline.com

During National Immunization Awareness Month, AAHP encourages everyone to take the necessary steps to ensure protection against severe communicable diseases. This can be done by staying up-to-date on immunizations and vaccinations, which safeguards your health and the health of the whole community.

Vaccines are responsible for ending smallpox worldwide and polio in the US. COVID-19 vaccines have already saved more than 14 million lives globally. Unfortunately, misinformation has caused fewer people to get vaccines. AAHP firmly supports the use of vaccines, including those for COVID-19, to combat infectious diseases and protect public health. If you're hesitant, have an open conversation with your doctor, nurse, or healthcare provider about vaccinations.

For more information on immunizations and vaccinations, visit the following pages:

Sources:
The American Association of Immunologists
www.mdpi.com
www.cdc.gov

Health Hint

Brushing your teeth is great but brushing your teeth immediately after breakfast isn’t so great. Some breakfast staples, like orange juice, citrus fruit, bread, and pastries, are acidic. Brushing your teeth right after eating can spread remnants of these acidic foods, weakening enamel. The American Dental Association recommends waiting for about 30 minutes to an hour after consuming acidic foods before brushing to protect your teeth and preserve the enamel.

Source: www.healthline.com

Featured Video

This video by Vox examines why Black Americans get the least amount of sleep and explains how narrowing the sleep gap can reduce health disparities:

Featured Recipe: Vegan Chocolate Truffles

Each July, AAHP observes National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month to recognize and address mental health concerns facing Blacks/African Americans. It’s important to know that movement and exercise can benefit mental health. Activities such as jogging, swimming, cycling, walking, gardening, and dancing have been shown to reduce anxiety and depression by providing distractions from negative thoughts and by triggering the release of endorphins, those wonderful "feel-good" brain chemicals. Just 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise (like brisk walking) three times a week can make a significant positive impact on an individual’s mental health.

If you're looking for a calming way to lift your mood, give meditative movement a try. Practices like qigong, tai chi, and yoga can help ease depressive symptoms by helping you focus on how your body feels, where it is in space, and your intuitive feelings while you move. To get started, you can join AAHP's yoga classes on Wednesday mornings at 10am.

Learn more about Blacks/African Americans and mental health by reading the "Minority Voices 2022: Our Mental Health Journey" report authored by AAHP, the Latino Health Initiative and the Asian American Health Initiative.

Sources:
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
www.mayoclinic.org
www.health.harvard.edu

It’s a common belief that our metabolism—the process by which our bodies burn calories—slows down as we age, and that’s why our waistlines expand(ed) during our 30s, 40s, and 50s. But a groundbreaking study debunked this notion, finding that our metabolism reaches its highest point in infancy, then gradually slows down until we're around 20 years old and then remains relatively stable until we reach our sixties.

What’s really to blame for weight gain in middle-age? Likely changes in food choices, alcohol consumption, activity levels, and sleep patterns. This research reminds individuals to take a more holistic approach and more accountability regarding their health and weight management.

No matter your age, resistance training, also known as weightlifting, helps preserve the muscle mass that tends to decrease as we age. Muscle mass is a key factor in metabolism. Other healthy habits, such as getting enough rest and eating enough protein and calories, can also help you optimize your metabolism.

Sources:
www.health.harvard.edu/blog/surprising-findings-about-metabolism-and-age
www.health.harvard.edu/diet-and-weight-loss/does-metabolism-matter-in-weight-loss
www.nbcnews.com
www.healthline.com

Good circulation is crucial for quality of life. Poor circulation can cause unpleasant symptoms, such as muscle pain, weakness, heaviness in the legs, a prickling sensation like "pins and needles" on the skin, leg swelling, painful swollen veins, and numbness. Dealing with these issues can surely put a damper on your health and well-being, so incorporate these tips to prevent and manage poor circulation:

1. Exercise: Even low-impact exercise like walking can increase blood flow and improve your circulation.

2. Change your diet: Cut back on red meat and full-fat dairy items and reduce salt intake to avoid fluid retention and high blood pressure.

3. Keep legs elevated: When sitting of laying down, prop your legs on something to improve blood flow. Elevating your legs higher than hip level creates an incline that helps blood move.

4. Quit smoking: Nicotine restricts blood flow, causes inflammation, and damages arteries. Avoid both traditional cigarettes and e-cigarettes as even small exposures to nicotine have negative effects.

5. Wear compression socks: Compression socks gently squeeze your legs to prevent swelling and venous pooling. Consult with your healthcare provider to determine which type of sock is right for you.

Source: www.health.clevelandclinic.org

Health Hint

Include more plant-based foods to help keep your brain healthy. Researchers discovered that individuals who consistently followed plant-based diets had lower levels of beta-amyloid accumulation in their brains, which is associated with Alzheimer's disease. Among this group, those who consumed seven or more servings of green leafy vegetables per week showed even less buildup compared to those who had only one or two servings. So, remember to load up on those leafy greens to support your brain health!

Source: www.health.harvard.edu

Featured Video

In this video, trainer Chrissy King and fitness instructor Simone Samuels discuss with TODAY's Sheinelle Jones the importance of promoting inclusive wellness that embraces individuals of all races and body types:

Featured Recipe: Spicy Roasted Okra with Peanut Sauce

Juneteenth is a special celebration of freedom for Blacks/African Americans, and it also serves to remind us of the work that still lies ahead. Freedom means more than breaking physical chains. For far too long, lack of access to quality healthcare, nutritious food, safe housing and other issues have burdened Black/African American communities with invisible chains, leading to health disparities. Driven by the vision of a Montgomery County where Black/African American residents are as safe and healthy as all other residents, AAHP was formed in 1999.

To celebrate Juneteenth, AAHP will offer free health screenings at the Scotland Juneteenth Heritage Festival on Monday, June 19. Attendees will have the opportunity to meet AAHP staff, participate in a 5K run, and immerse themselves in the vibrant celebrations of Scotland, the oldest black community in Maryland. Mark your calendars and learn more here.

As we celebrate Juneteenth each year, let us hold onto the spirit of freedom, answered prayers, and unwavering hope. Let’s keep working towards a future where every individual can thrive!

June is Men’s Health Month, a time dedicated to raising awareness about the unique health challenges faced by men. Given that men generally have a shorter lifespan than women and considering that Black/African American men tend to live the shortest and unhealthiest lives compared to all other demographics, it is especially important for Black/African American men to prioritize their health and wellness. Did you know these three facts about men’s health?

1.    Eating a healthy diet can help men prevent prostate cancer.

Eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can improve prostate health in men. In particular, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower, as well as foods containing lycopene like tomatoes, have been found to have protective effects on the prostate. Reducing intake of red meat and dairy products may also help to improve prostate health.

2.    Regular doctor visits and timely medical care can improve men’s health outcomes.

Men, particularly Black/African American men, often avoid regular checkups and seeking medical attention due to societal pressure to be tough and self-sufficient. This can lead to dismissing symptoms and delaying medical attention until their condition worsens. Men also avoid professional care for mental health concerns, contributing to a suicide rate four times higher than that of women. This pattern of avoidance can have serious consequences, as preventive care and early detection can improve health outcomes and even save lives.

3.    Positive social relationships can enhance men’s health.

Strong relationships are vital for men’s health. Research shows that having solid social connections lowers anxiety and depression, boosts self-esteem and empathy, and strengthens the immune system. On the flip side, lacking social support can have a more detrimental impact on men’s health than obesity and smoking. According to Harvard Medical School, marriage also brings significant health advantages for men, including lower rates of heart disease and stroke, better mental health, and increased longevity compared to unmarried men.

Sources:
www.health.clevelandclinic.org
www.nimh.nih.gov/health
www.health.harvard.edu
www.heart.org
www.health.harvard.edu/mens-health
www.adaa.org

Summer is here, and it’s time to soak up the sun and have some fun! Whether you’re biking, swimming, or just lounging in the backyard, stay safe and take care by being mindful of safety precautions and following health recommendations.

Staying hydrated is crucial during summer days for you and your loved ones to prevent dehydration. Drink plenty of water throughout the day, especially when engaging in outdoor activities. Protect all skin tones from sun damage by using sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 15, wearing protective clothing, and seeking shade during peak sunlight hours.

Swimming is a popular summer activity, but it’s critical to practice water safety to prevent accidents and drowning. Adults and children alike should learn how to swim and always avoid swimming alone. Children should always be supervised in and around bodies of water.

Grilling is a common summer activity, but it’s best to practice safe grilling techniques to reduce the risk of cancer. Cooking meat over an open flame releases cancer-causing chemicals, so consider pre-cooking meats in the oven or microwave before grilling to reduce grilling time and the amount of harmful chemicals released. Marinating meat in vinegar, citrus juice, or other acidic liquids can also prevent the formation of cancer-causing compounds. Try grilling fruits and vegetables for a healthier option.

There’s no better season to enjoy the great outdoors, so consider spending some time in one of Montgomery County’s beautiful parks. If you’re up for getting some exercise in while enjoying the company of other community residents, join AAHP for AAHP Walks on selected Saturdays. The next walk will be held on Saturday, June 17 at Lake Needwood in Rock Creek Regional Park in Rockville from 9:00am – 10:30am.

Sources:
www.cdc.gov
www.aicr.org

Health Hint

While news can be a great source of information, entertainment, and inspiration, be cautious of news overload. The media focuses on negative events so it may be a good idea to limit your exposure and focus on the positive aspects of life. By maintaining a healthy balance in your news intake, you can maintain a positive outlook and appreciate the good around you.

Source: www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org

Featured Video

Many people struggle to meet the recommendation of walking 10,000 steps per day. The Root’s Tatasha Robertson explains how she accomplishes this by incorporating walking into her daily routine:

Featured Recipe: BBQ Jackfruit Sandwiches with Avocado Slaw

Stroke is a serious medical condition that can have debilitating and life-altering consequences. While some risk factors for stroke, such as age and family history, are beyond our control, there are many things we can do to reduce our risk of having a stroke.

Maintaining a healthy weight is one of the most important things we can do to prevent stroke. Being overweight or obese increases our risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes, all of which are major risk factors for stroke. By eating a healthy diet and staying physically active, we can maintain a healthy weight and reduce our risk of stroke.

Another important factor in stroke prevention is controlling high blood pressure. High blood pressure is the single most important risk factor for stroke, and it can be managed through lifestyle changes, such as reducing salt intake, exercising regularly, and quitting smoking, as well as through medication. It's also important to treat atrial fibrillation, a type of irregular heartbeat that can increase our risk of stroke. By taking steps to manage these and other underlying medical conditions, we can significantly reduce our risk of stroke and enjoy a healthier life.

Source:
www.health.harvard.edu

Preeclampsia is a serious pregnancy complication that can cause high blood pressure and kidney dysfunction. The risk factors for preeclampsia include first pregnancy, multiple pregnancy, age 35 and older, family history, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney disease, and autoimmune disorders. Studies have shown that US-born Black/African American women are at higher risk of preeclampsia than both White women and Black/African American women who immigrated to the US. Structural racism, combined with biological, cultural, and social factors, may contribute to this disparity.

High blood pressure is a common symptom of preeclampsia and can be an early warning sign of the condition. It is important for pregnant women to monitor their blood pressure regularly to prevent and manage preeclampsia. Women should be aware of the signs and symptoms of preeclampsia and seek timely medical care if they suspect they may have preeclampsia. Women should also maintain a healthy lifestyle during pregnancy by eating a balanced diet, staying active, and avoiding unhealthy habits like smoking.

May is Preeclampsia Awareness Month, and AAHP wants you to know that preeclampsia can be prevented and managed with proper care and attention. For more information about the SMILE (Start More Infants Living Equally healthy) Program, AAHP’s services for Black/African American expecting and postpartum moms, please visit AAHP’s website here.

Sources:
www.hopkinsmedicine.org
www.preeclampsia.org

Physical activity should be a part of everyone's daily routine, regardless of age. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), regular exercise can help to prevent chronic diseases, improve mental health, and promote overall wellbeing.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children and adolescents participate in at least one hour of physical activity each day, which can include activities like running, swimming, riding bikes, playing sports, or simply playing outside. Teenagers should aim for at least an hour of moderate to vigorous exercise per day. They can engage in activities such as team sports, running, or dancing, and can also incorporate strength training exercises. It’s important for teenagers to find activities they enjoy so they can stay motivated and continue exercising as they get older.

Exercise becomes even more important in maintaining good health as we get older. The CDC recommends that adults engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week, along with muscle-strengthening activities at least two days per week. Older adults can focus on lower-impact activities such as walking or swimming and should incorporate strength training to maintain muscle mass and yoga and tai chi to improve balance and flexibility.

No matter what your age or stage of life, it's never too late to start exercising. By making physical activity a part of your daily routine, you can enjoy the health benefits and improvements of being more active. So, get out there and get moving!

Sources:
www.cdc.gov
www.healthline.com

Health Hint

Spring can be tough for those with allergies, as pollen and allergens are more common during this season. Indoor allergens can also cause symptoms since we spend most of our time indoors. To minimize indoor allergens, consider a thorough spring cleaning, which can include vacuuming carpets and rugs and deep cleaning dusty areas. To reduce outdoor allergen exposure, you can flush out allergens from nasal passages by rinsing or spraying with a nasal saline solution after spending time outside.

Source: www.everydayhealth.com

Featured Video

In this TED video, Sangu Delle, a TED fellow, entrepreneur, and clean water activist from Ghana shares his personal journey of learning to manage anxiety in a society that is uncomfortable with emotions:

Featured Recipe: Almond Flour Crackers

AAHP warmly invites all County residents to join us for our annual celebration of health, AAHP Community Day. Register here.

April is National Minority Health Month (NMHM), a time to raise awareness about health disparities in minority communities. NMHM holds a special place in AAHP’s heart because it aligns with our mission to bring an end to health disparities. We are proud of our work to build a future where Black/African American County residents are as healthy and as safe as the rest of the population.

The Department of Health and Human Services has given this year’s NMHM the theme “Better Health Through Better Understanding.” Helping clients understand their health is a significant part of AAHP’s work. When clients understand their health, they are empowered to make better decisions in their daily lives. For example, if you understand the link between unhealthy foods and chronic disease, you are more likely to avoid unhealthy foods to protect your health.

Celebrate NMHM by telling other Black/African American County residents about AAHP’s programs and services. Spread the word to your friends, family, and neighbors about AAHP’s health education classessupport services for pregnant and postpartum moms and their infants, health screenings, and more. For more information about AAHP’s programs and services, click here. Check out AAHP’s calendar of events here. To register for an event or class, click on the event or class and then click on the registration link.

Source:
www.minorityhealth.hhs.gov/nmhm/

If you are sexually active, the only way to know that you do not have an STI is to get tested. People may feel unsure about how to get tested for STIs, but it is important and doesn’t have to be scary. Here’s the 4-1-1 on STI testing:

WHEN should you get tested for STIs?

Women under 25 who are sexually active should be tested for gonorrhea and chlamydia every year. Pregnant women should be tested for syphilis, HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C early in their pregnancy. Pregnant women at risk for infection should also be tested for chlamydia and gonorrhea. Sexually active gay and bisexual men, and men who have sex with men should be tested at least once a year for syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhea, HIV, and hepatitis C. You should get tested for hepatitis B if you show symptoms or have had unprotected sex, shared needles, razors, or toothbrushes with someone who has the virus, even if you don't have symptoms. Testing for herpes is recommended when symptoms are present. Women aged 25-65 should get an HPV or Pap test every five years, depending on prior results. Everyone from ages 13 to 64 should get tested for HIV at least once in their lives. Anyone at risk for infection (such as having multiple partners or frequently changing partners) or who shares injection drug equipment should get tested for HIV at least once a year.

HOW can you get tested for STIs?

The Dennis Avenue Health Center in Montgomery County offers confidential testing for gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis, hepatitis B and C, herpes (culture only) and HIV. More information can be found here. A listing of private STI testing locations can be found here. Planned Parenthood in Gaithersburg also offers STI testing. You can also order at-home STI testing kit here for fast and discreet results.

WHY should you get tested for STIs?

Testing for STIs is crucial for everyone, no matter your age, sex/gender, or sexual orientation. STIs are common and can go unnoticed without any symptoms. They can lead to severe health problems, including infertility and increased risk of HIV infection. Regular testing can help detect and treat infections early, protect your partner(s), and prevent further spread.

STI Awareness Week is April 9-15. Did you know that in 2020, over half (53%) of reported cases of STIs were among adolescents and young adults aged 15–24 years?

Stress can have a significant impact on your physical and mental health. Learning to manage stress is an important life skill that can help you reduce health risks and lead a healthier, happier life.

Stress can affect the heart by increasing blood pressure and exposure to the stress hormone cortisol, which contributes to heart disease. Research has shown that stress may affect heart health by increasing inflammation, but this hasn’t been completely proven. In addition, stress can lead to unhealthy habits, such as smoking, overeating, abusing alcohol, not exercising, and not sleeping properly which also contribute to heart disease.

Stressful experiences, such as physical or sexual abuse, neglect, unemployment, bereavement, or a major medical diagnosis can have long-lasting effects on mental health, especially during youth. Research has shown that these events can increase the risk of developing anxiety and mood disorders, as well as suicidal thoughts and attempts. It is important to recognize the signs of stress in order to reduce its psychological and physical effects.

Pregnancy can be a stressful time, and this stress can have a direct impact on the health of your baby. Excessive stress during pregnancy increases the risk of having a preterm or low-birthweight baby, which can cause serious health problems in infants.

The video below artfully explains the toll stress can take on your body:

Health Hint

Workaholism, also known as work addiction, is a real mental health condition that can negatively affect relationships as well as physical and mental health. Signs of work addiction include taking work home, staying late at work, and constantly checking emails or texts while at home. If you or your loved ones feel that work is consuming your life, take steps to make changes so you can achieve a healthier balance. Tips on how to move past workaholism can be found here.

Source: www.healthline.com

Featured Video

Ricki Fairley, a cancer survivor, is the founder and CEO of Touch, the Black Breast Cancer Alliance in Annapolis. She shares her inspiring journey of creating a new life for herself after being diagnosed with cancer in this video:

Featured Recipe: Creamy Vegan Potato Salad

Eating healthy is a fundamental part of maintaining good health, yet many people make poor food choices. The convenience of unhealthy snacks and fast food, the lower cost of unhealthy foods compared to nutrient-rich foods, taste preferences, and lack of knowledge about proper nutrition all contribute to people choosing unhealthy food over healthy food, leading to adverse health outcomes. March is National Nutrition Month, a time to learn more about nutrition and create healthier relationships with the food we consume so we can enjoy better health.

Good nutrition helps to prevent and manage a wide range of diseases and conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke, cancer, and even mental health conditions. Good nutrition is vital for supporting the immune system and helps us prevent and recover from colds, the flu, and other infections. It can also improve our moods, energy levels, muscle strength and physical endurance. No matter your age, nourish your body with a healthy diet for optimal health and wellbeing.

Check out these tips to help you establish lasting habits that can lead to better health:

  • Plan ahead. By planning and prepping your meals ahead of time, you can control portion sizes and have healthy food to eat on-the-go.
  • Snack smart. Instead of giving in to cravings for unhealthy snacks like potato chips or packaged sweets, choose nutritious snack options like fresh fruit, trail mix, or air-popped popcorn.
  • Eat your colors. Aim for colorful variety of foods when planning meals. Eating a rainbow of fruits and vegetables is the best way to ensure you get the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients your body needs.

Whether you're looking to lose weight or just enjoy a balanced diet, National Nutrition Month is the perfect opportunity to take steps towards making smarter food choices.

Sources:
www.eatright.org
www.heart.org
www.diabetes.org

Are you concerned about alcohol's potential to harm your health? It might be time for a reality check. Alcohol is classified as a Group 1 carcinogen, meaning it has been identified as a major cause of many types of cancer, including (female) breast, colorectal, esophageal, stomach, liver, and several other forms. It’s best for your health to avoid alcohol entirely but if you choose to drink alcohol, the National Cancer Institute recommends limiting yourself to less than two drinks per day for adult males and one drink per day for adult females. While light or moderate drinking may not lead to increased cancer risk, heavy or binge drinking may result in higher rates of some cancers and may even contribute to more aggressive cancers.

In addition to the increased risk of cancer and other chronic illnesses, overindulgence in alcohol can lead to mental health issues such as depression, decreased cognitive abilities, and poor impulse control. Furthermore, alcohol remains a common factor in cases of domestic abuse and vehicle accidents.

March marks Alcohol Awareness Month, an opportunity to raise awareness about alcohol use and its potential consequences. Because alcohol has become an integral part of the social lives of so many, taking the time to understand how drinking affects our performance, emotions and decisions can help us establish positive habits that will benefit our health in the long run.

Sources:
www.recovered.org
www.cancer.gov
www.cancercontrol.cancer.gov

The gut (gastrointestinal tract) is far more important than many people realize. Poor gut health is caused by an imbalance of gut bacteria which can cause digestive disorders like frequent diarrhea or constipation. Other common signs of poor gut health include abdominal pain, bloating, nausea, vomiting, indigestion, heartburn, fatigue, and weight loss. People with poor gut health often have weakened immune systems and are more prone to infections as well as inflammatory diseases like arthritis. Along with these physical symptoms, people may experience changes in mood such as anxiety or depression.

One way to improve your gut health is by reducing sugar intake. Sugar feeds the bad bacteria in the digestive tract which can lead to the unhealthy balance that causes inflammation and disease. Eating plenty of fiber-rich foods such as vegetables, fruits, and legumes will help ensure that your gut is kept in balance and your digestive system remains healthy. Regular exercise also contributes to improved gut health by increasing blood flow.

Nourishing and strengthening your body with good nutrition and regular exercise can help you prevent digestive discomfort and chronic conditions, enabling you to enjoy the benefits of a healthy and happy gut.

Source: www.mdanderson.org

Health Hint

Don’t fear fluoride! Although fluoride-free toothpaste may be marketed as a natural alternative to regular toothpaste, toothpastes containing fluoride are more effective in promoting healthy teeth and gums. Fluoride helps strengthen your teeth and actively prevents the formation of plaque and bacteria that can cause decay.

Source: www.healthline.com

Featured Video

Zerlina Maxwell of MSNBC and Dr. Ebony Hilton discuss groundbreaking research that reveals Black/African American women are more vulnerable than their White counterparts to certain chemicals found in cosmetics and hair care items:

Featured Recipe: Vegan Beet Pesto Pasta

The African American Health Program wishes everyone a beautiful and empowering Black History Month filled with knowledge, joy, and celebration!

This Tuesday, February 7th, AAHP hosted a special event in observance of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. “A Real Conversation about Blacks and HIV/AIDS” took place at the Sandy Spring Museum and featured an open discussions with experts, healthcare workers, and people whose lives have been affected by HIV/AIDS. With health screenings, HIV testing, sexual health resources and information available, in addition to enlightening conversation, this sold-out event presented an opportunity to get real about HIV/AIDS in our community.

Blacks/African Americans are impacted by HIV/AIDS more than any other race or ethnic group, with recent reports indicating that Blacks/African Americans accounted for 59% of HIV diagnoses in Montgomery County despite only making up 18% of its population. National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day was created to remind us of the disproportionate impact of HIV and AIDS on African Americans, so let's educate ourselves, get tested, seek treatment if necessary, work together to reduce stigma and eliminate new infections. Let’s unite against HIV/AIDS and build an HIV-free future!

Source: www.aidsvu.org

As we celebrate Black History Month to honor the important contributions Blacks/African Americans have made throughout American history, let's also work towards a healthier future by raising awareness of heart disease and how it affects Blacks/African Americans. It's American Heart Month, so AAHP encourages you to focus on your heart health and take steps to reduce your risk for heart disease.

Your everyday choices and overall lifestyle play a tremendous role in your heart health. Managing your weight with diet and exercise, monitoring your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and avoiding unhealthy habits like smoking and drinking alcohol in excess can reduce your risk of heart attack or stroke by up to 80%. If you want to learn how to live a healthier lifestyle and reduce your risk for heart disease, attend AAHP’s Chronic Disease Management classes this month.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the U.S. and Blacks/African Americans have higher rates of heart-related illness and death than other races/ethnicities. Furthermore, Blacks/African Americans living with heart disease in the aftermath of a heart attack or stroke often face economic losses and decreased quality of life, contributing to the Black-White wealth gap and mental health disparities.

Watch this Million Hearts® video about Andrea’s experience having a heart attack while pregnant:

One in three teens in the U.S. are victims of abuse from someone they’re in a relationship with, according to love is respect, a project of the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Parents, guardians, teachers and other adults have an essential role in creating a space of trust for teens. We should be knowledgeable on the signs of teen domestic violence and be prepared to provide support when needed. We should educate our youth on healthy relationships and equip them with communication and conflict resolution skills. It’s also critical that we set a good example of healthy relationships with our own relationships. 

AAHP proudly joins love is respect to promote their Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month campaign, “Be About It.” Follow AAHP on social media (@aahpmoco on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram) and share our posts to spread awareness of teen dating violence and help our youth thrive in every aspect of their lives. 

Source: www.loveisrespect.org

Health Hint

Check in on your vision health. Many eye diseases may go unnoticed and worsen over time. Cataractsdiabetic retinopathyglaucoma and age-related macular degeneration are all common eye conditions that can have serious consequences if left untreated. Ask your primary care doctor or ophthalmologist if it’s time for a comprehensive eye exam.

Source: www.pennmedicine.org

Featured Video

Check out Kevin Fredericks, AKA “KevOnStage” as he interviews a cardiologist about Black/African Americans and heart health as part of the “Live to the Beat” campaign from the CDC’s Million Hearts® initiative:

Featured Recipe: Hoppin' John Patties with Herbed Totatoes

Living to see another year is a gift for which we can all be grateful. The start of a new year is an excellent time to focus on how we can live up to our full potential, especially when it comes to our health. We hope that you have plans to adopt and maintain a healthy lifestyle this year and that you have set realistic goals and milestones to help you stay motivated and on track throughout the year. 

To further ensure that you follow through with your health commitments, find resources or people who can help support you along your journey. Whether it’s a fitness coach, nutritionist, or online support group, having people who can provide guidance and accountability can be incredibly helpful when trying to achieve long-term success with health goals. As your partner in health, AAHP offers a variety of services and programs to help you manage your health, such as:

  • Health education classes
  • Diabetes support
  • Weight management guidance and support
  • Care and guidance for expectant mothers and mothers of infants and their families
  • Mental health support and referrals

To learn more about how AAHP can help you, please visit our website at www.aahpmontgomerycounty.org, call us at (240)777-1833 or contact us via email at info@aahpmontgomerycounty.org.

In addition, Montgomery County Recreation Center membership passes will be free for County residents in 2023. Starting January 3rd, a free pass will provide access to fully equipped fitness rooms, open gym (drop-in) activities and game rooms at any community recreation center during regularly scheduled hours.  

Once you have set realistic health goals and found the resources that will help support those goals, make sure you actually follow through. It can be hard at times, but keep pushing towards success, in 2023 and beyond!

Every January, AAHP recognizes Cervical Health Awareness Month, a time to spread awareness about cervical cancer and other cancers that can be prevented with early detection. Health screenings and vaccinations have made cervical cancer one of the most preventable types of cancer, yet the American Cancer Society estimates that more than 4,000 women died from cervical cancer in 2022.

Early detection is key for fighting cancer, so getting regular health screenings is one of the most effective ways to win the battle before it starts. The earlier an issue is detected, the easier and more effective treatments can be. To prevent cervical cancer, Pap tests help detect any abnormalities in the cervix before they become a major issue. Girls and women should start getting Pap tests when they become sexually active or by the age of 21. Cervical cancer can also be prevented by getting vaccinated against HPV (human papillomavirus), the most common cause of cervical cancer. To help prevent breast cancer, women should get regular mammograms starting at age 40. Men should get prostate exams starting at age 50 to help prevent prostate cancer. To help prevent colon cancer, a colonoscopy is recommended every 10 years for adults over the age 45. It’s important to discuss your individual risk factors with your doctor since more frequent or specialized tests based on family history or lifestyle choices may be recommended.

Cervical Health Awareness Month serves to remind us of the importance of prevention when it comes to maintaining our overall health. This month, take the time to review your health history and make sure you (and/or the children in your care) are up-to-date on health screenings.

Sources:
National Cervical Cancer Coalition
American Cancer Society
The Centers for Disease Control

The word “inflammation” is everywhere, but what inflammation actually does to your body is not common knowledge.

Inflammation occurs when the immune system responds to damage caused by bacteria, viruses, toxins, or trauma. In this process, white blood cells rush to the affected area, bringing oxygen and nutrients to promote healing. However, this also causes inflammation. In a healthy body, inflammation is a normal part of healing and lasts only as long as needed; however, if inflammation persists over time, it can become chronic and cause serious health issues.

Chronic inflammation is linked to a variety of diseases including heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, autoimmune diseases, depression, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancer. Studies show that Blacks/African Americans are more likely than other racial groups to experience higher levels of chronic inflammation. Fortunately, there are steps individuals can take to reduce their risk for developing chronic diseases related to high levels of inflammation.

The foods we eat greatly influence our inflammation levels. Foods that can contribute to inflammation include processed meats, fried foods, refined carbohydrates like white bread or white rice, sugary beverages, processed snacks, and alcohol in excess. Foods that fight inflammation include fruits and vegetables like spinach, kale, blueberries, strawberries, oranges, carrots, bell peppers, broccoli, cauliflower and tomatoes; healthy fats such as olive oil, avocado oil or coconut oil; lean proteins like fish and poultry; and nuts, seeds, whole grains, and herbs. You can also reduce inflammation by exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, managing stress effectively, avoiding tobacco use, and getting regular checkups with a healthcare provider.

Source:
Harvard Health Publishing
The Cleveland Clinic
The National Institutes of Health

Health Hint

Did you know that volunteering is good for your health? Volunteering has been shown to have numerous benefits, including reduced risk for heart disease, stroke, depression, anxiety and general illness. A Longitudinal Study of Aging concluded that those who make a habit out of volunteering have significantly lower mortality rates, regardless of age, gender or physical health. So, this Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, as you honor the memory of Dr. King by serving your community as a volunteer, remember that you’re also honoring your health by volunteering.

Source: Mayo Clinic Health System

Featured Video

n this video from the Grio, Dr. Yolandra Hancock warns of the unprecedented 'tripledemic' of COVID-19, flu, and RSV—an occurrence that should not be taken lightly by anyone looking to stay healthy in this winter:

Featured Recipe: Vegan Lasagna

Every year on December 1st, AAHP joins individuals and organizations locally and around the world to observe World AIDS Day. This is a day for remembrance of those who have died from AIDS and an opportunity to support those currently living with HIV/AIDS. It’s also a celebration of the progress we’ve made in fighting the HIV/AIDS epidemic and an opportune time to spread awareness about HIV/AIDS/STI prevention.

Thanks to incredible advances in HIV/AIDS treatment in recent years, HIV is now considered a manageable chronic illness. With the help of antiretroviral drugs, people living with HIV enjoy long, healthy lives and no longer need to live in fear of transmitting HIV to others. That’s because antiretroviral drugs can suppress the virus so much that it cannot be detected in blood, which is referred to as having an “undetectable viral load.” An HIV-positive person with an undetectable viral load cannot transmit HIV to their sexual partners. This is a huge breakthrough worth celebrating on World AIDS Day.

The U=U campaign promotes the message that people with HIV who have an “(U)ndetectable viral load” are “(U)ntransmittable.” The U=U campaign encourages people to get tested for HIV and to get treatment immediately if they are diagnosed. This powerful message also helps to reduce stigma associated with HIV, promote responsible sexual behavior, and reduce transmission rates.

Learn more about Montgomery County’s HIV/AIDS/STI prevention and testing services here.

Sources:
www.worldaidsday.org
www.health.harvard.edu/blog/uu-ending-stigma-and-empowering-people-living-with-hiv

The holiday season is a time for giving, and there are many great gifts that can help someone achieve their health and fitness goals.

Consider gifting a loved one with a device that can help them track nutrition, weight, and fitness. Some trackers monitor glucose levels, heart rate, or stress levels, while others track menstrual cycles or body fat percentage. Whatever the tracker's function, it will help your loved one see what goes on in their body and allow them to adjust their diet and exercise habits accordingly.

If you’re looking for a gift that will help your loved one stay mentally healthy, consider a stress relief wearable. These devices monitor biometrics like heart rate and breathing patterns and provide feedback to help them stay calm and focused. Some wearables even offer aromatherapy or sound therapy to help them relax. A smart yoga mat or aromatherapy diffuser are also great ideas that can promote mental health.

If you know someone who is always on the go, why not prepare for them healthy snack baskets with delicious and nutritious treats they can grab while they’re running around? Gift baskets can include a curated selection of nuts, fruits, trail mixes, energy bars, and even some sweet treats like dark chocolate.

Other great options that promote health and fitness include free weights for home use, a smart scale, a gym membership, cooking classes, or a cookbook. If you’re looking for a small kitchen gadget, consider a food scale or a spiralizer (to help your loved one make noodles made from zucchini instead of pasta).

These gifts can help your loved one start 2023 on the right foot!

During a time of celebration and togetherness, it’s tempting to overindulge in alcohol and food. If you find yourself at a holiday party partaking in salty and sweet treats and drinking adult beverages, take a moment to consider the consequences of overindulging. Holiday heart syndrome can occur during or after periods of celebration and is characterized by heart palpitations (skipped, extra, or irregular heartbeats) as well as dizziness, chest discomfort, or shortness of breath. Extreme physical or emotional stress, common during the holidays, also contributes to holiday heart syndrome. While the condition can simply be an alarming side effect of doing too much, it can lead to serious heart issues, including heart failure and stroke. While people with preexisting heart issues are more likely to experience holiday heart syndrome, it can happen to anyone, so everyone should be aware of the dangers of overindulging and make efforts to reduce their risk.

First, be aware of your body’s response to alcohol. If you experience any symptoms such as chest pain, dizziness, or irregular heartbeat, seek medical care immediately. Second, if you are consuming alcohol, do so in moderation. Chronic excessive drinking increases your risk of developing holiday heart syndrome. Finally, make sure to practice other chronic disease prevention strategies, such as eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly. It is also important to get enough rest and manage stress in a healthy way, such as through yoga or meditation. By taking preventative steps, we can all reduce the risk of developing this condition and help protect our hearts.

Health Hint

Sparkling water is an excellent alternative to soda. Studies show that sparkling water might help you feel full for longer and keep food in your stomach longer, compared to regular or “flat” water. Make sure your sparkling water has no added sugars to ensure you’re not trading one bad habit for another. Also, citric acid, phosphorous or sugar in sparkling waters can erode the enamel on your teeth, so choose sparkling waters without those ingredients.

Source: www.clevelandclinic.org

Featured Video

Every year, nearly seven million people worldwide die of heart attacks. Cardiovascular disease, which includes strokes as well as heart attacks and other health issues, is the world's leading cause of death. This TED-Ed discusses the causes and therapies for this lethal condition:

Featured Recipe: Roasted Chai-Spiced Pears

For many people, November is the start of the holiday season. However, November is also Diabetes Awareness Month, a good time to reflect on the importance of discipline in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Diabetes is a chronic condition that can have serious complications if it’s not well-controlled. But most people living with diabetes CAN take control of their condition with education and discipline.

If you have diabetes or prediabetes, make self-discipline an integral part of your commitment to yourself. Closely monitor your blood sugar levels and take your medications on time. Blood sugar levels can be affected by what and when you eat. An exercise regimen also will help you regulate your blood sugar levels. It can be challenging to stick to these healthy habits day after day. But don’t give up—with time and practice, healthy habits will eventually become second nature.

A diabetes support group of people with similar goals and challenges can inspire you to achieve proper lifestyle adjustments. AAHP’s diabetes focus area offers programs and services to help you do just that. Check out AAHP’s Diabetes Prevention Program here and learn more about AAHP’s Chronic Disease Management and Prevention classes (which regularly focuses on diabetes) here.

Sources:
www.mayoclinic.org
www.hopkinsmedicine.org

Preterm labor occurs when the uterus contracts and the cervix opens before the 37th week of pregnancy. This can lead to preterm birth, a leading cause of death in newborns worldwide. Preterm birth can also cause respiratory distress, jaundice, cerebral palsy, intellectual disabilities, and other conditions that negatively impact health. Early detection and treatment of preterm labor is essential to improve outcomes for both mother and child.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2020, one in 10 babies were affected by preterm labor, and in 2019, the rate of preterm birth among Black/African American women (14.4%) was about 50% higher than the rate of preterm birth among white women (9.3%). Many factors may contribute to this disparity. Research suggests that Black/African American women are more likely to be exposed to stressors that can trigger preterm labor, such as financial insecurity or racism. Additionally, Black/African American women are more likely to have certain health conditions that can increase their risk of preterm labor, such as obesity or high blood pressure.

If you are pregnant or may become pregnant in the future, have constructive conversations with your doctors about how you can manage and prevent preterm labor. Reach out to AAHP’s SMILE (Start More Infants Living Equally healthy) program for support, education, and guidance. The SMILE nurses and staff can become your team throughout your pregnancy and the first year of your child’s life. The SMILE program has been at the forefront of improving birth outcomes for Blacks/African Americans in Montgomery County for more than two decades. Learn more about the SMILE program here.

Sources:
www.cdc.gov
Population Reference Bureau

Quitting smoking is not easy, yet the decision to do so is perhaps one of the best decisions a person can make in their life. The process of quitting smoking takes time and a plan. Allow the Great American Smokeout event on the third Thursday in November to be your first step in your journey towards a tobacco-free life. This year’s Great American Smokeout will fall on November 17th.

Although quitting smoking is unpleasant and challenging, the benefits of quitting far outweigh the discomforts of withdrawal. Within just 48 hours of quitting, the nerve endings in your mouth and nose will begin to grow, renewing your sense of taste and smell. Blood circulation improves within two to 12 weeks after quitting smoking, making physical activity much easier while lowering your risk of a heart attack. Within one month of quitting, the many nicotine receptors in the brain return to normal, breaking the cycle of addiction. Quitting tobacco also lowers inflammation and boosts your immune system which makes it easier to fight colds and other illnesses.

If you want to stop smoking, several treatments and resources are available to help you beat your nicotine addiction and reduce withdrawal symptoms. Programs like the Maryland Cigarette Restitution Fund (CRF) provide support for those who want to quit smoking and focus on preventing tobacco-related diseases. Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) can provide you with a low level of nicotine without the tar, carbon monoxide and other dangerous chemicals present in cigarettes and reduce the unpleasant withdrawal effects. With the right treatment plan and support, you can successfully quit smoking and improve your overall health.

November is both Lung Cancer Awareness Month and COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) Awareness Month. Cigarette smoke exposure is a major cause of COPD and lung cancer and contributes to many other diseases including other cancers, heart disease, diabetes, certain eye diseases, and more. Reduce your risk for these diseases by participating in the Great American Smokeout and start your tobacco-free life on November 17th.

Sources:
www.cancer.org
www.lung.org
www.cancer.org/healthy/stay-away-from-tobacco
Maryland Department of Health
American Association for Cancer Research

Health Hint

To keep your health and health goals in perspective, de-emphasize food and drink from your holiday festivities. Focus on fun, not food! Remember what the holidays are really about: spending time and making memories with loved ones. Consider new ways of enjoying the holidays; instead of making cookies or a gingerbread house, make ornaments or decorate. At holiday parties, move away from the food and move closer to the people whose company you enjoy.

Featured Video

In this video, epidemiologist David Barker discusses how unborn babies experience life in the womb and how occurrences from the outside world influence their development:

Featured Recipe: Lemon Maple Roasted Carrots

This Breast Cancer Awareness Month, AAHP is proud to announce several accomplishments and events marking AAHP’s triumphs in the battle against breast cancer and breast cancer disparities.

AAHP’s nurse case manager, Serena Holtz has spent her life fighting for the well-being of others, and her legacy continues to grow. On Saturday, September 18th, Ms. Holtz was honored as “Survivor of the Year” at the Susan G. Komen “More than Pink” Walk at Freedom Plaza in DC. Donning a crown and sash, she told her inspiring story of treatment and survival before a crowd of thousands. Several AAHP staff attended and supported in person and in spirit for this momentous occasion. Ms. Holtz also hosted the Livin’ the Pink Life, Pink Gala event on Saturday, October 15th at Leisure World in Silver Spring. This year’s theme was “It Takes a Village” and honored the special supporters who have helped make life easier for those fighting breast cancer. AAHP is extremely proud of Ms. Holtz and the contributions she has made to improving the health of Black/African Americans in Montgomery County.

Nationwide and in Montgomery County, breast cancer remains a top cancer killer among women, with death rates for breast cancer 40% higher in Black/African American women than in White women. Early detection is the key to making strides to eliminate this disparity. Make this the month that every woman over forty in your life makes an appointment to have a mammogram.

Source: www.cancer.org

In October, the Montgomery County Domestic Violence Coordinating Council launched the “Walk in Their Shoes” campaign in observance of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The campaign featured displays of pairs of shoes accompanied by the stories of domestic violence survivors who live in Montgomery County. Intended to highlight the prevalence of domestic violence, guide viewers on how to help a loved one experiencing domestic violence and provide access to free local resources available for victims of abuse, the displays can be seen at the Montgomery County Public Libraries, Montgomery County Recreation Centers, police stations and other sites across the County.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, in 2019, Black/African American women accounted for 14% of the U.S. female population, but 28% of the females killed by males in single victim/single offender incidents where the race of the victim was known. The problem is further worsened by many Black/African American women not reporting incidents of violence because they do not want their partners and loved ones involved with the criminal justice system.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline by calling 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), visiting www.thehotline.org or texting LOVEIS to 22522.

Source: www.montgomerycountymd.gov

In the Age of Information, health myths persist. It can be hard to know what’s true and what’s false, especially when the internet is full of conflicting claims and opinions. That’s why AAHP is here to bust some common health myths. Such as:

MYTH: Exercise can make up for an unhealthy diet.

FACT: Physical fitness is extremely important, but an unhealthy diet can limit the benefits of exercise. Nutrients from food help your body create new cells as old ones are being replaced; if you’re not getting enough of these nutrients, your body won’t be able to build or repair itself as efficiently. As a result, regular physical activity won’t have as big an impact on your health and longevity.

MYTH: Black people don’t get skin cancer.

FACT: While it’s true that Blacks/African Americans are diagnosed with skin cancer at lower rates than Whites, Blacks/African Americans do get skin cancer and have a much lower five-year survival rate. According to a 2019 study published by the Centers for Disease Control, from 2001 through 2014, the relative 5-year melanoma survival rate among non-Hispanic Black populations was 66.2%, compared with 90.1% for non-Hispanic White populations.

MYTH: People with mental illnesses can “snap out of it” on their own if they are strong enough or tried hard enough.

FACT: Mental illness is complex, and many people suffering from mental illness need professional help to overcome or manage their mental health. Seeking professional help for mental illness takes a great deal of strength.

Sources:
www.cdc.gov
www.heart.org
www.healthline.com
www.mentalhealth.gov

Health Hint

Winter is coming, and it will be here for a while. While cold weather may seem like the cause of cold and flu, these sicknesses are caused by contact with viruses. During colder months, people spend a lot more time indoors, where viruses can spread more easily. So, it’s important to wash your hands frequently especially in the colder months.

Source: www.heart.org

Featured Video

MadameNoire presents this episode of “Listen to Black Women” on preventing and combating domestic violence in the Black/African American Community:

Featured Recipe: Broccoli Rabe with Kalamata Olives

Families play a large and dynamic role in shaping the health behaviors of children and the health behaviors they will have throughout their lives. When children and adolescents live with parents, caregivers, or older family members who practice good health behaviors, they are more likely to develop the same positive habits for themselves. These are important points to consider this Childhood Obesity Month, which is observed every September.

While setting a good example is instrumental in influencing youth towards positive health behaviors, encouraging good eating habits through words and actions, and providing opportunities for movement and exercise are also critical. Reduce your and your family’s risk for obesity and chronic disease by increasing the fruits and vegetables consumed in your home. You can start by filling half your plate with fruits and vegetables and doing the same for children. Eating together as a family is a great way to reinforce healthy habits. Research shows that children who eat at least three family meals together per week are 24% more likely to be eating healthy foods than children in families with less shared meals. Children who ate with their families were also less likely to be overweight. Exercising together, such as taking a walk, playing a sport, or riding bikes together before or after a meal can help children get into the habit of being active. Reducing screen time can free up time for family activities and can remove cues to eat unhealthy food, such as seeing commercials for fast food. Instruct children not to use electronics while they eat their meals to ward against mindless eating.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than a third of children and teens are now overweight or obese. Without intervention, this childhood obesity epidemic can lead to higher rates of chronic disease and higher healthcare costs when these children become adults. Let’s do what we can now so that the next generation can have a healthier future.

Source:
American Psychological Association
www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org
www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/obesity

It’s Sexual Health Awareness Month, so below find answers to questions you might be afraid to ask out loud:

1.    Do condoms protect against all STIs?

Condoms have been proven to prevent most STIs including chlamydia and gonorrhea. However, they are not equally effective against all STIs, as skin-to-skin contact can transmit some viral STIs like herpes, genital warts, and syphilis. That’s why it’s important to get tested regularly—even if you always use condoms.

2.    Can I take an STI test during my menstrual period?

According to Planned Parenthood, yes, you can get tested for STIs during your period, even on your heaviest days. Your period should not influence outcomes. However, some at-home tests recommend waiting a few days after your period to test for certain infections, so be sure to read the instructions.

3.    Can you get an STI from oral sex?

Oral sex is often considered a safer choice to vaginal intercourse and other forms of penetrative sex. However, while it is safer in terms of preventing unplanned pregnancy, it only reduces and does not eliminate the risks from STIs that can be spread from skin-to-skin contact, as well as STIs like chlamydia and gonorrhea.

4.    Why do they call HIV and AIDS two different names when they are the same thing?

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is the virus that causes AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome). A person can be infected with HIV for many years without having AIDS. To be diagnosed with AIDS, a person must have a variety of symptoms, infections, and specific test results.

5.    Is bacterial vaginosis an STD?

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a condition that occurs when there is an imbalance of “good” and “harmful” bacteria in a vagina. BV is not technically an STD, but it commonly occurs in women who are sexually active and rarely affects those who have never had sex. Douching, not using condoms, and having new or multiple sex partners can upset the normal balance of vaginal bacteria, increasing the risk for BV.

Sources:
www.getthefacts.health.wa.gov.au
www.cdc.gov/std/bv/stdfact-bacterial-vaginosis
www.plannedparenthood.org

From the way we think and feel to how we determine our worth, self-esteem influences nearly every aspect of life. Low self-esteem can lead to destructive behaviors and can contribute to a variety of mental health problems, including anxiety and depression. It also causes people to avoid healthy behaviors such as learning new things, socializing, getting exercise or seeking medical care.

It’s especially important to focus on building your self-esteem when you’re not where you want to be with your health. Having a chronic disease, obesity, mental illness, or any other health condition can certainly take a toll on your confidence so be on guard for negative self-talk. Forgive yourself for making mistakes, give yourself credit for accomplishments big and small, and use hopeful statements or affirmations to re-energize your hope for the future you want.

Your child’s self-esteem plays a crucial role in how they handle setbacks, peer pressure, and other challenges throughout life. Parents and caregivers can help boost a child’s self-esteem by acknowledging them and their opinions, offering them opportunities to participate in activities that interest them, and giving them the freedom to make their own decisions when they have proven trustworthiness. Don’t react to them only when they make mistakes; praise them for good work and positive actions as well.

Sources:
www.healthline.com
The Mayo Clinic
www.kidshealth.org

Health Hint

Although gummy vitamins may be marketed as a tasty alternative to traditional pills and tablets, they’re not the best option. Firstly, gummy vitamins often are weaker than traditional vitamins because their shelf-life is shorter and their strength wears off faster. Furthermore, gummy vitamins are more likely to damage teeth because gummy particles can get stuck to teeth, causing decay. They also contain sugar, which also leads to tooth decay. If your child consumes gummy vitamins, be sure that they brush their teeth after taking them.

Sources:
The Cleveland Clinic
www.columbiamd.dentist

Featured Video

Senior Clinical Psychologist Dr. Jamie Howard joins CBS News to talk about the negative impacts of social media on today’s youth and what parents can do to mitigate it:

Featured Recipe: Vegan Potato Cakes with Rice

AAHP strongly encourages moms to breastfeed as an important part of giving their infants a healthy start in life. Breastfeeding provides the perfect balance of nutrients and antibodies for infants, and reduces the risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, diabetes type 2, and heart disease for moms. It also helps moms lose weight after pregnancy and can even help to prevent postpartum depression. For numerous reasons, Black/African Americans have lagged behind other races/ethnicities in receiving these tremendous benefits. Vital to the mission of ending health disparities, AAHP’s SMILE program provides breastfeeding support to Black/African American postpartum moms and infants. This and every August, AAHP celebrates National Breastfeeding Month to highlight our efforts and successes in helping Black/African American moms and families in their breastfeeding journey.

The recent infant formula shortage highlighted the importance of breastfeeding and further justified AAHP’s work. Breastfeeding SMILE moms were not as vulnerable to the infant formula shortage. Furthermore, AAHP put a great deal of effort into sharing resources that directed moms to available infant formula. AAHP understands that many factors influence whether a mom breastfeeds, including many factors beyond one’s control. AAHP is proud to fill the gap in breastfeeding support and to support moms when breastfeeding is not an option.

Sources:

National Institute for Children's Health Quality

www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding

You’re probably aware of the lifestyle habits that keep your heart healthy: eating a nutrient-rich diet, exercising, not smoking, not abusing alcohol or other harmful substances, and managing stress. But did you know the following are also good for your heart?

Good relationships. Social connectivity plays a large role in heart health. Positive, nurturing relationships can come from neighbors, spouses, relatives, and even pets. Studies have shown that holding hands, hugging, or petting an animal can lower levels of stress hormones. In addition, a supportive loved one might encourage you to exercise or eat better or see a doctor when you need one.

Home-cooked meals. Excessive sodium intake is a known contributor to heart disease, but most of the sodium that Americans consume—about 70%—comes from restaurant, prepackaged, and processed foods and not salt added to home-cooked meals. Data from 2009–2012 shows that up to 94% of Americans exceed the recommended limit of 2,300 mg of sodium per day, with salt added during cooking and at the table only accounting for 5–6% of daily sodium intake.

“Listening” for a heart attack. Be aware that a person can experience a “silent heart attack,” or a heart attack with no symptoms, mild symptoms, or symptoms they may not associate with a heart attack. Heart attacks that happen silently can be just as harmful as those that occur more obviously, but if you don’t know you’re having a heart attack, you may not get the medical help you need to limit the damage. If you suspect you may be having a heart attack after experiencing these symptoms, call 911 right away even if you’re not certain you’re having a heart attack.

Sources:

www.clevelandclinic.org
www.cdc.gov
www.cardiosmart.org
www.heart.org

Gun violence has increasingly become a major public health threat, as the number of firearm deaths grew by nearly 43% between 2010 and 2020. Firearms have now surpassed car accidents as the number one killer of children and teenagers, especially young Black/African American males. In 2020, Black/African American males between the ages of 10 and 24 died by gun homicide 21.6 times as often as White American males of the same age group. This is one of the most shocking, troubling, and heartbreaking health disparities facing Blacks/African Americans. Incidents of gun violence have far-reaching impacts on the health of Blacks/African Americans as a whole.

While generally regarded as safe, Montgomery County has experienced an uptick in gun violence as well. Lee Holland, president of Montgomery County’s police union said, “Montgomery County is absolutely seeing a rise in gun violence. It’s alarming the number of shootings our members are responding to on a weekly and in some cases daily basis.” According to Montgomery County Police Department data, the number of homicides involving guns, victims, and suspects under 21 has more than doubled between 2021 and 2022 as of June.

View the infographic series published by the National Institute for Healthcare Management Foundation here.

Sources:
www.washingtonpost.com
www.montgomerycountymd.gov
National Institute for Healthcare Management Foundation

Health Hint

Enrolling in a clinical trial can help Blacks/African Americans achieve better outcomes when seeking medical treatment. Despite being disproportionately affected by chronic diseases, African Americans are severely underrepresented in clinical trials. Research conducted during clinical trials can provide valuable insight into how Blacks/African Americans react to different medications and therapeutics, thus improving those treatments and medications for Blacks/African Americans. A list of clinical trials in Maryland can be found here.

Source: www.rollcall.com

Featured Video

Oscar, Tony and Emmy-Award-winning actress Viola Davis speaks with EBONY about A Touch of Sugar, a documentary exploring America’s diabetes crisis and how it disproportionately affects Black and Brown communities:

Featured Recipe: Apple Cinnamon Peanut Butter Breakfast Toast

Every July, AAHP observes Minority Mental Health Month with the Department of Health and Human Services to raise awareness and support Blacks/African Americans living with mental health conditions. Blacks/African Americans are 20% more likely than White Americans to report significant emotional distress and are less likely to receive treatment or therapy. The stigma of mental illness and lack of access to care result in countless Blacks/African Americans suffering from mental illnesses and having no idea where to turn or what resources are available to them.
 
Fortunately, the stigma is decreasing as more and more people understand that having a mental illness doesn’t make a person less deserving of love and respect. As more celebrities and influencers (such as actress Taraji P. Henson, actress Jennifer Lewis and rapper Kid Cudi) go public with their own stories of mental health challenges, we’ll continue to see even more progress toward destigmatizing mental illness and more people will get the help they need.
 
We can each help by being compassionate and supportive of those who have been impacted by mental illness (including yourself). When someone makes a disrespectful remark regarding mental illness, or people with mental illnesses, let them know that their comments add to stigma and make it harder for people with mental health conditions to get help. Remind them that they wouldn’t disrespect or make fun of someone with a chronic disease like cancer or diabetes, so they shouldn’t do so with mental illness. As we fight to end the stigma surrounding mental illness, one of the best ways we can help is by being mindful about how we talk about it.
“Once my loved ones accepted the diagnosis, healing began for the entire family, but it took too long. It took years. Can’t we, as a nation, begin to speed up that process? We need a national campaign to destigmatize mental illness, especially one targeted toward African Americans...It’s not shameful to have a mental illness. Get treatment. Recovery is possible.”
 
–Bebe Moore Campbell, author of Your Blues Ain’t Like Mine, and 72 Hour Hold, on her experience with a family member who suffered from bipolar disorder
According to the National Alliance for Caregiving, more than 40 million Americans provide care to an elderly or disabled person every year. Taking care of a loved one can be difficult, especially when you have other time-consuming responsibilities, such as managing your relationship with your spouse, looking after your children, or building your career. You may feel overwhelmed and frustrated at times, and you may even neglect yourself. It’s harder to care for others if you do not maintain your own physical, emotional, and mental health and happiness, so consider these strategies for help:
  1. Assess your level of self-care and identify places where you may need improvement. Are you eating well? Are you sleeping enough? Are you exercising regularly? These habits are essential for good health and mental wellbeing and will help keep your body running at its best.
  2. Have a plan in place for when you start to feel burned out. Your plan can include taking a break to relax, asking for help, or treating yourself to an activity you enjoy.
  3. Learn how to recognize and cope with negative feelings and be honest about what you feel. Recognize that these are common human emotions, and it is okay to have them. Forgive yourself and move on.  
  4. Build a personal support system which may include family, friends, religious groups, organizations and anyone who makes you laugh, stay grounded, provides valuable information and/ or advice, or just listens when you need to vent. Having a strong support network helps us feel loved and cared for, which can help reduce stress.  
  5. Recognize the role and importance of humor and laughter. Humor and laughter can take negatives and turn them into positives, so look for humor in all things, good and bad.
Find more tips and resources at Johns Hopkins Medicine’s Family Caregiver Toolkit here.
 

A Message from AAHP’s Weight Management Program

AAHP offers a weight management program to help you achieve your goals regardless of your starting point! If your goal is weight maintenance, loss, or gain, we can assist in tailoring a program to your specific needs. The weight management program provides:
  • one-on-one coaching sessions
  • group activities, including support groups and bi-weekly fitness walks
  • health and fitness instruction
  • assistance with designing meal plans focused on balancing macronutrients in your diet,
  • various levels of exercise routines
We strive to meet you where you are to help you stay healthy and “live your best life”. The AAHP program is very collaborative between the client and program coordinators. We consider all program participants “family” with whom we work together, judgement-free, to support individual goals and overall fitness and healthy lifestyles that align with and can be incorporated into your daily routines.
 
AAHP’s main objective is to help identify sustainable effective tools and habits that promote overall fitness and wellness and reduce the risk of chronic disease. We want to inspire and encourage daily movement for a permanent lifestyle change.
 
Stacy Gantz directs the AAHP Weight Management Program. Her theoretical and practical training are in exercise science, physical therapy, and public health. Primarily, however, she is excited to work with program participants to adopt the discipline, knowledge, and motivation to maintain the desired weight consistently for years to come.
 
To learn more about or register for the Weight Management Program, please contact Stacy Gantz at 301-233-9612 or sgantz@mcfarlandassociate.com.⁠

Health Hint

Did you know that obesity can increase the risk of developing dementia? A recent study found that people with a BMI that put them in the "overweight" or "obese" category were more likely to get dementia. This result confirms previous research.
 

Featured Video

Wanda Barfield of the Center for Disease Control Division of Reproductive Health explains how social, economic, and environmental stress affects the reproductive health of Black/African American women in this video from PBS Nova:

Featured Recipe: Zucchini Pizza Boats

It’s time for some action on Black/African American men’s health! Far too frequently we find ourselves mourning the untimely death of another Black/African American male. We must face the fact that, compared to all other demographics, Black/African American men live the shortest and sickest lives, and we must confront this truth with action.
 
June is Men’s Health Month, so take some time to learn more about the unique health risks that Black/African American men face and how they can reduce their risk for preventable diseases. Although we are aware that racism, high incarceration rates, unemployment, poverty, lack of access to quality medical care and social services, and many other issues contribute to the health disparity impacting Black/African American men, we can encourage ourselves and the Black/African American males in our lives to make lifestyle choices that promote good health. As more and more Black/African American males commit to eating a healthy diet, being physically active, avoiding drugs and excess alcohol, getting regular health checkups—including mental health checkups, and seeking early treatment for disease and injury, the overall health status of Black/African American males will improve.
 
If you want to take action on Black Men’s Health this Men’s Health Month, tell a Black/African American man you know about AAHP’s programs and services, especially AAHP’s Health Promotion classes (view the schedule here). Follow and share AAHP’s content on social media.
 
Sources:
When a parent, spouse, or sibling exhibits signs of dementia, life will change for you and everyone around them. Tough conversations are sure to come, and it’s best to have them sooner rather than later. Having these conversations earlier can help you manage and plan better and can also give your loved one the opportunity to have a say in their future care before their brain functioning worsens.
 
To prepare for such a conversation, consider using indirect or direct conversation starters:
  • I’ve been thinking about my own long-term care plans lately, and I was wondering if you had any advanced planning tips for me?
  • I was wondering if you’ve noticed any changes in my or your behavior.
  • Would you like to know if I’ve seen any changes in you that worry me?
Talking to someone with dementia will require patience, good listening skills, and new strategies. A person with dementia symptoms may not see the symptoms in themselves and may react with confusion, denial, and withdrawal, but do your best to offer your support. Assure your loved one that you will support and be there for them for a diagnosis and beyond. If they avoid the conversation altogether, plan to raise it again. If they refuse discussion or support, consult a medical professional.
 
Find more tips on managing conversations with people with dementia here.
 
#AlzheimersandBrainAwarenessMonth
 
Sources:
Is the spread of monkeypox a major concern?
 
Monkeypox is a rare virus closely related to smallpox. On Friday, June 3rd, the CDC announced 21 monkeypox cases in 11 states, with more expected. Approximately 800 cases of monkeypox have been reported worldwide. Scientists and public health officials are concerned about the virus’s spread beyond Africa, where it is endemic, or regularly occurring.
 
Monkeypox is primarily spread by close physical contact with patients who have lesions caused by the virus. Monkeypox symptoms include fever and sore throat, followed by swollen lymph glands and general discomfort. The illness can be severe and lead to death in some cases, but most people recover completely. Even without special treatment, recovery normally takes two to four weeks.
 
Currently, smallpox vaccines are being administered to people who have been exposed to monkeypox or who have high risk potential. The smallpox vaccine is said to be 87% effective against monkeypox.
 
Sources:

Health Hint

Don’t forget the sunscreen! Sunscreen protects you from skin cancer by reducing the amount of UV light that penetrates your skin. Even though darker-skinned people have a lower risk of skin cancer, they can still get it, and Black/African Americans are more likely to die of skin cancer due to being diagnosed at a later stage.
 

Featured Video

In this moving talk presented by TEDxSJSU, Shaun J. Fletcher, PhD, discusses his experience having anxiety attacks and how Blacks/African Americans can destigmatize mental health conditions and improve their mental health:

Featured Recipe: Tabitha Brown's Vegan Carrot Hot Dogs

In our community, older adults are a key source of strength. Through their experiences, challenges and successes, they have built resilience that helps them face new challenges. When communities tap into this, they become stronger too. That’s why AAHP celebrates Older Americans Month (OAM) with the Administration for Community Living by promoting their theme for 2022: Communities of Strength, which recognizes the important role seniors play in fostering the connection and engagement that build strong, resilient communities.
 
Observe OAM by connecting with the seniors in your life. If you’re a senior, celebrate your strength and share your story with people from younger generations. OAM is a great time to:
  • Look for joy in the everyday. Celebrate small moments and ordinary pleasures by taking time to recognize them. Start a gratitude journal and share it with others via social media, call a friend or family member to share a happy moment or to say thank you.
  • Reach out to neighbors. Even if you can’t get together in person right now, you can still connect with your neighbors. Leave a small gift on their doorstep, offer to help with outdoor chores, or deliver a home-cooked meal.
  • Build new skills. Learning something new allows us to practice overcoming challenges. Take an art course online or try a socially distanced outdoor movement class to enjoy learning with others in your community. Have a skill to share? Find an opportunity to teach someone, even casually.
  • Share your story. There’s a reason storytelling is a time-honored activity. Hearing how others experience the world helps us grow. Interviewing family, friends, and neighbors can start new conversations and strengthen our connections.
When people of different ages, backgrounds, abilities, and talents share experiences—through action, story, or service—we help build strong communities. And that’s something to celebrate! 
 
For more resources, visit the official OAM website, follow ACL on Twitter and Facebook,
and join the conversation via #OlderAmericansMonth.
 
To learn more about AAHP’s senior initiatives, contact Monique Gardner, AAHP Aging Coordinator at Monique.Gardner@montgomerycountymd.gov.
 
Whether you’re years away from when you think you’ll be pregnant or you’re actively planning to become pregnant soon, it’s best to get your health in order now. Your health impacts the health of your baby, so your preconception health and behaviors are critical.
 
Assessing your mental and physical health is a crucial first step. Stress is an important variable that can compromise your health and complicate a pregnancy. Make sure that any current medical conditions such as diabetes, thyroid disease, high blood pressure and kidney disease are being treated and under control. If you are obese, take action to get to a healthy weight. Again, take stock of your mental and emotional well-being and do not hesitate to seek professional help.
 
Be mindful of everything you consume as you prepare your body to bring forth life. Smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and drug abuse can harm your reproductive organs and your overall health. Prior to becoming pregnant, eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and get plenty of sleep to support your body’s functions.
 
Establish a good relationship with your primary care physician and OB/GYN. Talk to them about your plans to have a baby and be honest about previous pregnancies, past and current medical conditions, medications, and lifestyle choices that may impact your pregnancy. Make sure your doctors are aware of all medicines and supplements (even over the counter drugs) that you are taking and be prepared to stop them if advised to do so after conceiving because some medicines can cause birth defects. Discuss preparation like folic acid which can help prevent birth defects and many women who may become pregnant are advised to take it.
 
May is Women’s Health Month, a perfect time to think about your preconception health for pregnancy as a possibility for you in the future.
 
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When your dentist looks inside your mouth, he/she has a bird’s-eye view of what's going on with your other organs and systems as well. A routine dental exam can detect early signs of serious diseases. Your dentist may recognize some health conditions by the smell of your breath. A fruity or fishy smell can signal uncontrolled diabetes, kidney or liver failure. If the odor is excessively foul, it may indicate anything from an abscess in the lungs to bronchitis to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Lumps, bumps, swelling or sores inside the mouth or swollen or sensitive glands around your neck can signal oral cancers. Routine dental exams have also been instrumental in the early detection of autoimmune diseases, drinking problems, vitamin deficiencies, sinus infections, eating disorders, and pregnancies.
 
The condition of your teeth and gums reveals the time and care you invest in your dental routine. Cavities may suggest poor oral hygiene as well as a poor diet or alcoholism. And your dentist knows if you only floss before dental appointments because your gums will look damaged if you rarely floss.
 
Your mouth is a “window” to your overall health. Be sure to keep up with your regular dental checkups just as you would with your other health checkups.
 
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Health Hint

It’s Spring so it’s time to get outside and exercise. You can take walks or hikes, ride your bike, or skate. Or you can play basketball or tennis with friends or family. You’ll benefit from the exercise as well as the vitamin D you can get from the sun, but don’t forget the sunscreen!

Featured Video

It is estimated that 30 percent of adults and 66 percent of teenagers are chronically sleep-deprived in the United States. Sleep deprivation can result in significant bodily injury. In this TED-Ed video, Claudia Aguirre explains what happens to your body and brain when you don't get enough sleep:

Featured Recipe: Vibrant Collard Green Wraps with Green Curry Tahini Sauce

Every April, AAHP joins the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health (OMH) to celebrate National Minority Health Month. This year’s theme is “Give Your Community a Boost!” Although rates are falling, COVID-19 is still in our midst, and we’re encouraging Black/African American residents to get vaccinations and booster shots to help our community fight COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) continues to recommend COVID-19 immunizations along with physical distancing, wearing well-fitting masks, and avoiding crowded indoor areas and areas without proper ventilation.
 
As we raise awareness about the health disparities that affect Blacks/African Americans, we acknowledge the long history of racism in the healthcare system leading to today’s mistrust of vaccines and boosters. But we must also face the reality that, according to the CDC, Blacks/African Americans are almost three times as likely to die from COVID-19 and about three times as likely to be hospitalized as White Americans. As seen on the chart below, unvaccinated residents have higher death rates than vaccinated and boosted residents. Immunization is one of the best tools we have to reduce the impact of this devastating virus.
Minority Health Month presents new opportunities to encourage individuals to research and learn the facts about COVID-19 immunization and to increase their health literacy overall. To join AAHP and OMH in observing Minority Health Month, use the hashtag #BoostYourCommunity on social media when you educate your loved ones and neighbors about getting vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19. 
 
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Stress is not just a state of mind but also a physical experience for your body. Chronic stress keeps your body in stress response mode, which can lead to numerous chronic brain and heart disorders. Surges in stress hormones damage arteries and blood vessels, causing blood pressure to rise and increasing the risk of heart attack or stroke. Stress causes your heart to work too hard for too long. Stress tends to strengthen areas of the brain that manage dangers, while the part of the brain that manages complex reasoning takes a backseat, which can contribute to Alzheimer’s disease. Chronic stress can also contribute to overeating, undereating, alcohol and drug misuse, and social withdrawal.
 
To prevent stress from harming your health, learn how to manage your stress in healthy ways, such as engaging in regular physical activity, practicing relaxation techniques (such as deep breathing, meditation, yoga, tai chi or massage), nurturing and enjoying close personal relationships, and partaking in relaxing hobbies like playing music or painting. Don’t be afraid to seek professional therapy or mental health treatment. These health practices can help you keep your mind and body strong.
 
#StessAwarenessMonth
 
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Many people become more forgetful as they age. But how do you differentiate between age-related forgetfulness and major cognitive decline that could lead to dementia?
 
Age-related forgetfulness may cause occasional issues that often do not severely impact an individual’s life. For example, forgetting the date and recalling it afterwards, or occasionally misplacing one’s belongings, are not life-altering incidents. On the other hand, dementia can interfere with a person’s quality of life and daily activities. Not only does dementia affect thinking and memory, but it also affects one’s ability to concentrate, reason, and visually understand their surroundings. These issues may manifest as difficulty having a discussion, getting lost in once-familiar places, repeatedly asking the same questions, or confusion concerning the date or time of year, persons, and places.
 
Although some forgetfulness is normal as we age, don’t dismiss any changes in memory or thinking that alarm you. Consult your doctor if you feel you are having more serious memory problems than usual.
 
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It’s been two years since the first COVID-19 case was discovered in Montgomery County. Although it appears we are on the other side of the pandemic, it is not over. Here are some of the latest updates:
  • Eighty-six percent of Montgomery County residents are “fully vaccinated,” including about 60% of residents between five and 17 years of age. Over 50% percent of eligible residents have received their booster or an additional dose.
  • The COVID-19 Omicron BA.2 subvariant makes up most recent cases and is said to be about 50 to 60% more transmissible than the first Omicron strain. 
  • During the peak of the Omicron surge in January, Black/African American Montgomery County residents were twice as likely to be hospitalized due to COVID-19 than White residents.
  • The County Council allocated special appropriation funds to address COVID-19 in the Black/African American populations. Learn more here.
  • The County’s indoor mask mandate was lifted on February 22nd. Many businesses and organizations can continue to require masks or face coverings on their premises and the County recommends masks or face coverings in County buildings.
  • Free rapid tests for COVID-19 and N95 masks are available to County residents at some County libraries. Learn more here.
  • Vaccines and boosters are offered to County residents at clinics throughout the County. Learn more and schedule your appointment here.
  • As of the end of March, 1,956 Montgomery County residents have died from COVID-19.
 
On March 28th, County Executive Marc Elrich issued a special thank you to essential workers for their hard work and dedication serving Montgomery County communities over the last two years. AAHP’s amazing staff certainly deserves special recognition for continuing to provide a high level of care and support during these unprecedented times. The AAHP family is proud of our hard work and contributions.
 
Please see Montgomery County’s data dashboard here for more information.
 
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Health Hint

When was the last time you checked your smoke and carbon monoxide detector? These detectors should be tested at least once a month. Remember: a smoke and carbon monoxide detector may not be able to save your life if it’s not working properly. Consider setting a monthly or weekly reminder to check your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

Featured Video

In this 60 Minutes feature, Bill Whitaker reports on the research that proves the negative impact of racism on the health of Blacks/African Americans:

Featured Recipe: Creamed Coconut Greens With Lime

This Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, let’s celebrate the many new and exciting advancements in the battle against colorectal cancer, the third-deadliest cancer in the U.S. For colorectal cancer specifically and cancer in general, cancer rates are declining and late-stage cancer survival rates are steadily increasing. Recent advancements in surgical techniques include “minimally invasive surgery” which can remove polyps or cancerous tissue with less pain and shorter recovery time. Targeted therapy has been combined with or used instead of chemotherapy in recent years. Unlike chemotherapy, which kills cancer cells as well as the healthy cells surrounding them, targeted therapy only kills cancerous cells. Vaccines to prevent colorectal cancer are currently in clinical trials.
 
While these advances in preventing and treating colorectal cancer offer glimmers of hope, there is still much to be done. Unfortunately, over the past thirty years, the rate of colorectal cancer has doubled in adults under 50. Research indicates that obesity, sedentary behavior, poor diet, and other environmental factors contribute to this dramatic increase. Many younger adults are years away from their first colonoscopy, which hinders early detection and treatment for those who will eventually be diagnosed. A study by the American Cancer Society found that adults under 55 are 58% more likely than older adults to be diagnosed with late-stage colorectal cancer.
 
To help reduce the impact of this highly preventable disease, all Americans should begin colorectal cancer screenings (colonoscopy) at the age of 45, especially African Americans and those with a high risk for colorectal cancer. This Colorectal Cancer Month, AAHP strongly encourages you to make sure your screenings are up to date and hopes you spread the word about colorectal cancer screenings to those around you.
 
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Keeping your blood pressure in check can seem like a puzzle with too many pieces. Sometimes it’s a game of trial and error to find the right medication. Frustration and anxiety can set in as your doctor increases, changes, and supplements your medications. Be sure to tell your doctors exactly what is going on with you as you experience each modification. You will need a reliable blood pressure monitor at home to take and record several daily blood pressure readings. Share these records with your doctor when appropriate.
 
While you may know that you should eat an abundance of heart-healthy foods and avoid junk food, and that you should get 150 minutes of exercise weekly, following through is another matter. Seek guidance online. Check out the DASH eating plan to help you. Join AAHP’s Health and Fitness classes for guided Zumba and yoga classes online (check the calendar here). Find ways to keep your stressors at a minimum and stay positive.
 
For inspiration to “get down with your blood pressure,” watch this spirited dance video from the American Heart Association:
Cognitive decline is bound to show up in all of us sooner or later, especially if we are blessed with longevity. The goal is for this to happen later rather than sooner. Healthy habits, such as eating nutrient-rich foods, staying physically active, engaging in positive relationships, managing stress in productive ways, and living a full and active life can help to prevent or delay cognitive decline, including Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) and other forms of dementia. 
 
A well-stimulated brain is more resilient against cognitive decline. “Brain training” games like crossword puzzles and Sudoku have been used to improve memory, thinking and problem-solving in people showing signs of cognitive decline. Learning a new language or musical instrument can have a similar effect. In one study, older adults with no previous musical experience improved their communication skills and processing speeds after a few months of weekly piano lessons.
 
If cognitive decline progresses to AD, fewer options are available other than treatment and management of symptoms with medication. The newest medication, aducanumab, slows the progression of the disease by reducing amyloid (abnormal tissue) deposits in the brain. Other drugs target behavioral symptoms, allowing patients to live with greater independence, dignity, and quality of life.
 
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Health Hint

Did you know that being overweight or obese increases the risk of infection, hospitalization, serious long-term illness, and death from COVID-19? This is because obesity decreases lung capacity and impairs the immune system.
 
If you want to get healthier, lose weight, and improve your chances against COVID-19, sign up for AAHP’s Weight Management Program. To learn more, call (240) 777-1833 or click here.

Featured Video

Our gut bacteria can break down foods that our bodies can’t digest, create essential nutrients, manage our immune system, and protect us from infection. This fun, animated video from TED-Ex explains how the foods we eat impact the health of our gut:

Featured Recipe: Cassoulet Vert

Celebrate American Heart Month this February by devoting a little time every day to care for yourself to protect the health of your heart. Although heart disease is largely preventable, it is a leading cause of death for women and men in the United States, and many Americans remain at risk of getting it, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). Health problems that increase the risk of heart disease are common in African American communities, including being overweight and having high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. Having multiple risk factors increases your risk for heart disease. People with poor cardiovascular health and other chronic diseases are at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
 
It may be easier than you think to “put your heart” into your daily routine. Each Sunday, look at your week’s schedule and carve out 30 minutes daily for heart-healthy practices. Here are few self-care tips to try every day to make your heart a priority:
 
Self-Care Sunday
Find a moment of serenity every Sunday. Spend some quality time on yourself.
 
Mindful Monday
Be mindful about your health and regularly monitor your blood pressure or blood sugar if needed. Keep an eye on your weight to make sure it stays within or moves toward a healthy range. Being aware of your health status is a key to making positive change.
 
Tasty Tuesday
Choose how you want to approach eating healthier. Start small by pepping up your meals with a fresh herb or spice as a salt substitute. Or try a different way of eating, such as the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan, which is scientifically proven to lower blood pressure.
  
Wellness Wednesday
Don’t waffle on your wellness. Move more, eat a fruit or vegetable you’ve never tried, decide to quit smoking or vaping, or learn the signs of a heart attack or stroke.
 
Treat Yourself Thursday
Treats can be healthy. Try making a dessert with fresh fruit and yogurt. Then stretch your imagination beyond food. Host a family dance party, take a few minutes to sit still and meditate, go for a long walk, or watch a funny show. Laughter is healthy. Whatever you do, find a way to spend some quality time on yourself.
 
Follow Friday
Follow inspiring people and pages on social media, or text a friend to help you stick to your self-care goals. Remember to take care of your mental health, too. Try to surround yourself with positive energy. If you’re feeling down, reach out to family and friends for support, or talk to a qualified mental health provider.
 
Selfie Saturday
Inspire others to take care of their own hearts. Talk about your self-care routine with loved ones or share a selfie on your social media platforms. Having social support and personal networks can make it easier to get regular physical activity, eat nutritious foods, reach a healthy weight, and quit smoking.
 

AAHP Co-Sponsored MedStar Montgomery Heart Health Webinar

A screenshot of MedStar Montgomery Medical Center's heart health webinar
In observance of American Heart Month, MedStar Montgomery Medical Center hosted a Heart Health webinar on Tuesday, February 1st at 6:30pm. Attendees listened to professional insights and played a lively game of Heart Health Jeopardy. Jennifer Donelan, a former TV reporter and the Director of Communications for the DC Fire & Emergency Medical Services Department, served as the moderator. Speakers included Estelle Darlyse Jean, MD, a board-certified non-invasive cardiologist with MedStar Cardiology Associates at MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute, and Dr. Oluseyi Princewill, MD, MPH, a board-certified cardiologist practicing in Olney, MD and Ellicott City, MD. 
 
This event was co-sponsored by AAHP and Alpha Kappa Alpha, Inc.
 
A recording of the event can be accessed on Facebook at this link.
The same behaviors that protect your heart also protect your brain and help to keep your mental health intact. No matter how old you are, your diet, sleep habits, physical activity level, and how you manage stress play a role in lowering your risk of heart disease, as well as mental health disorders like anxiety, depression, and cognitive disorders like dementia. Fortunately, you can take steps now to reduce your likelihood of developing these diseases.
 
Get enough sleep. At least 7-8 hours of sleep are recommended per night. Sleep allows your body and mind to recharge and helps your brain consolidate learning and memories. Poor sleep may cause the formation of plaques linked to Alzheimer’s.
 
Exercise. The connection between physical fitness and brain fitness in undeniable. At least 30 minutes of physical activity are recommended, three times per week. Aerobic exercise helps slow shrinkage in the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain that deals with memory.
 
Eat Healthy. Fiber-filled diets with whole grains, vegetables, and fruit help to maintain brain health. Reduce intake of saturated fats, sodium, cholesterol, sugar, and alcohol. Taking a daily multivitamin may be beneficial. Some studies have shown that coffee may lower your risk of dementia by 36%.
 
Avoid stress. Evidence shows that stress impairs working memory, hindering one’s ability to concentrate. Guided meditation, deep breathing, and other strategies can help cope with stress.
 
Stimulate your Mind. Research shows that staying mentally active as you age can help reduce risk of cognitive impairment. Exercise your brain with activities like reading, writing, playing games and puzzles, and social interaction. Trying new things, such as taking a cooking class or learning a new language, also helps to keep your brain active.
 
Say no to cigarettes. Smoking damages blood vessels and reduces blood flow from the heart to the brain, which can contribute to problems with thinking, memory, and attention.
 
We are never too young or too old to take steps to safeguard our heart and brain health. Heart-healthy behaviors practiced in our youth may reduce the risk for cognitive decline later in life.
 
This is the second article in AAHP’s series in cognitive decline. Stay tuned for the third article in next month’s Health Notes.
 
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Most people know that the foods and beverages we consume impact our health, but many people remain unaware of the harm caused by beauty and personal care products that we spray or rub onto our skin. Sadly, African American women and children face the greatest dangers from the toxins in these items. That’s why it’s important to read the list of ingredients in beauty and personal care items just as you would for your food and beverages.
 
One of the biggest culprits is fragrance, which can be labeled in ingredient lists as “fragrance, perfume, parfum, essential oil blend, or aroma” in hair and body oils, lotions, body wash, facial cleansers, serums, exfoliating scrubs, sunscreens, and more. Ironically, the use of fragrance in these items can make them smell extraordinarily pleasant, clean, and natural, which disguises their potential to increase cancer risk, reproductive and developmental disorders, allergies, and sensitivities. Household cleansers, candles, air fresheners, detergents, food packaging materials, store receipts, and many more everyday items also contain carcinogens and potentially harmful chemicals.
 
Make a New Year’s resolution to better understand what you touch, breathe, and put on your body. The following resources can guide you in making the right decisions for yourself and your family:
 
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Health Hint

Coffee may be good for you! Despite the controversy, coffee is loaded with antioxidants and numerous studies have linked coffee consumption to lower risks for type 2 diabetes, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and other diseases. Daily consumption of three to four cups seems to be the most helpful, however pregnant people should avoid it entirely due to research connecting coffee consumption to low birth weight.
 

Featured Video

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute presents the powerful testimony of Jennifer Donelan, the moderator for MedStar Montgomery Medical Center’s Heart Health webinar, which was co-sponsored by AAHP. The possibility of heart disease never occurred to Jennifer before her heart attack at the age of 36.

Featured Recipe: Vegan Chocolate Beet Cheesecake

When you envision your 2022, what do you see? Hopefully you see yourself manifesting your health goals and stepping into your best life. You can increase your likelihood of accomplishing your health goals by using the SMART concept. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound.
 
specific goal is clear and well-defined. Instead of the goal to simply “eat healthier,” a specific goal includes what needs to be done to eat healthier, such as “eat five servings of fruit or vegetables daily” or “eat one serving of fried food only once a month.” Specific goals help you establish what will be required of you.
 
measurable goal can be tracked over time so you can see your progress. It’s easy to measure the number of days per week you exercise or how many servings of fruit and vegetables you’ve eaten in a day. A journal or an app can help you track this information. Seeing your progress recorded can help you stay focused and keep you motivated.
 
An attainable goal is a goal within reach. Being too ambitious or unrealistic about your goals can easily lead to failure and disappointment and cause you to give up. For example, setting a goal to lose 10 lbs. every week is unrealistic—such dramatic weight loss is unhealthy and difficult to sustain. Losing weight at the slow and steady rate of 1-2.5 lbs. per week can be challenging yet is also attainable and sustainable.
 
relevant goal aligns with your abilities, concerns, or resources and what you want for your life. For example, if you love to swim, you can make a goal to swim a certain number of days per week. You are more likely to stick with your goals if you enjoy what you must do to accomplish them.
 
time-based goal includes a deadline or time frame to keep you motivated. To set a SMART goal to get the recommended 150 minutes of exercise per week, you can plan to exercise for 45 minutes four days a week. To drink eight glasses of water per day, set an alarm to drink one glass per hour. If you want to lose 20 lbs. by June, you can plan to lose around one lb. per week.
 
Happy New Year and the best of luck in achieving your health goals!
 
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In the U.S., cancer kills almost 600,000 people a year, which makes it the second most common cause of death. According to the American Cancer Society, about 45% of these deaths are preventable as they are linked to modifiable risk factors such as smoking, getting too much UV radiation (from the sun or tanning beds), being overweight or obese, and drinking too much alcohol. Pap test screenings for cervical cancer, combined with a vaccine for human papillomavirus (HPV), the virus that usually causes cervical cancer, has made cervical cancer one of the most preventable cancers of all. Yet 4,200 American women die from cervical cancer each year, including a disproportionate number of Black/African American women.
 
Every January, AAHP observes Cervical Health Awareness Month to send the message loudly and clearly that cervical cancer is highly preventable with screening tests and vaccinations. The HPV vaccination is recommended for girls and boys nine to 12 years old. Unvaccinated children and young adults 13 to 26 years old should be vaccinated as soon as possible. Vaccination at younger ages helps to prevent more cancers than vaccination at older ages. Unvaccinated men and women 27–45 years old can still get the HPV vaccine and should discuss this option with their doctors.
 
Because the HPV vaccine doesn’t protect against all strains of HPV, it’s best that women get a Pap and an HPV test. For women 21 to 29 years old, a Pap test is recommended every three years. Women 30 to 64 years old should receive an HPV and Pap test every five years.
 
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As we age, our mental and cognitive abilities tend to decrease, which can begin in your 40s. But how can you know if these difficulties are a part of normal forgetfulness, aging or if they are symptoms of what is known as cognitive decline? Ranging from mild cognitive impairment to severe dementia, cognitive decline occurs when a person’s cognitive inabilities prevent them from completing tasks like remembering routes when driving, taking their medicine, or managing their money. A person’s health and well-being may then be affected in a big way by this, especially if the cognitive decline progresses to Alzheimer’s Disease. Fortunately, cognitive decline isn’t completely inevitable. Just as there are ways to manage and even reverse chronic diseases like hypertension and diabetes, there are interventions available that can help you preserve your brainpower and delay dementia. If you want to learn more, follow our series on cognitive decline in the AAHP newsletter in the coming months. We will explore the science behind memory loss, why it’s important for African Americans, where you can get help and support, and more.
 
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Health Hint

Have you “winterized” your vehicle? The days of heavy snowfall are here so, ensure your car or truck is in good working order. Your tires, windshield wipers, and window defrosters may need some extra care to handle the ice and snow. Use a winterizing checklist to help ensure your vehicle is ready for these tricky winter roads and brutal cold temperatures.

Source: www.montgomerycountymd.gov/covid19/face-coverings

Source: AARP

Featured Video

Tamika Felder was diagnosed with cervical cancer at 25. She now utilizes her experience as a cancer survivor to help others avoid HPV-related cancers. In this video from the National HPV Vaccination Roundtable, she expresses her hope that parents vaccinate their children against HPV:

Featured Recipe: Red Lentil Sweet Potato Soup

The year 2021 marks the 40th anniversary of the first five official reports of what we now know as AIDS. More than 36 million individuals, including 700,000 people in the United States, have died from AIDS-related sickness since the epidemic began in 1985. AAHP joins the global commemoration of World AIDS Day every December 1st to honor those lost, to highlight efforts to end the epidemic, and to show support for everyone living with HIV/AIDS, including the more than 4,000 Montgomery County residents.

Domestically and worldwide, remarkable progress has been achieved in preventing and treating HIV. New innovations in HIV research, prevention, care, and treatment have helped to decrease the HIV transmission rate and have made it so that an HIV diagnosis is no longer seen as a death sentence. Through sexual health education campaigns, the stigma of HIV has been greatly reduced. Despite this remarkable success, HIV remains a major health threat on a national and global scale, with Blacks/African Americans disproportionately affected.

This year, AAHP began collaborations with the Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America (EHE) a federal strategy launched locally by the former County Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles. With the goal of ending the HIV epidemic in Montgomery County, federal funding and assistance will develop four critical service areas: diagnosis, treatment, prevention, and outbreak response. AAHP’s HIV navigator works closely with EHE’s program manager to provide culturally informed, judgment-free HIV prevention services to Montgomery County residents of African descent.

AAHP encourages Montgomery County residents to review the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services’ A Plan to End HIV in Montgomery County. We hope each of you join in these efforts by doing the following:

  • Learn the basics about HIV.
  • Get tested for HIV, even if you do not think you are at risk.
  • Seek treatment if you’re a person living with HIV.
  • Ask your healthcare provider about PrEP, the HIV prevention medication.
  • Combat HIV stigma by treating people living with HIV with respect and compassion.

Sources:

www.hiv.gov/world-aids-day
www.cdc.gov/worldaidsday/
www.montgomerycountymd.gov

Sickness is prevalent throughout the holiday season, in part because many people travel, exposing themselves and others to viruses and respiratory diseases such as the flu, the common cold, and COVID-19. Hand hygiene, face coverings, vaccinations, and health-promoting habits all help to prevent infection and spread of these diseases.

Practicing good hand hygiene is a simple but effective way to stop an infection in its tracks. Your “T Zone” (eyes, nose, and mouth region) is the single entrance point for ALL respiratory diseases into the human body. Therefore, make every effort to stop the unconscious habit of touching your T Zone. Also avoid coughing or sneezing into your hands. Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly, particularly before and after preparing food and eating. This video from Johns Hopkins Medicine shows how to properly wash your hands:

Getting vaccinated against the flu and COVID can protect against these infections and reduce the risk of illness, hospitalization, and death. Vaccination is particularly important for people who are at higher risk of developing serious flu and COVID complications, including people with certain chronic conditions such as asthma, diabetes, and heart disease, as well as pregnant women and women up to two weeks after pregnancy, children between six months and five years of age, and people over 65. The more people vaccinated; the more people are protected.

Keeping your immune system healthy can help your body fight viruses and respiratory illnesses just as it can help you prevent and manage chronic disease. Minimize your risks by eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, and not smoking,- abusing drugs or alcohol. We can expect to get sick from time to time; our bodies aren’t indestructible. But we can also put our best foot forward in keeping ourselves as healthy as possible.

Sources:
www.cdc.gov/flu
www.healthline.com
www.lung.org
www.healthline.com
www.copdfoundation.org

The fanfare and excitement of the holidays can be hard to manage if you’re pregnant or caring for a newborn, especially if it’s your first. Consider these pointers when navigating “the most wonderful time of the year.”

Prioritize sleep. This may not be the year for shopping marathons or late-night holiday parties. If you’re growing a baby or taking care of an infant, it’s best to sleep every chance you can. Sleep late, take midday naps, or turn in early whenever it’s convenient. And of course, baby needs sleep too!

Pace yourself. Avoid exhausting yourself when you’re pregnant during the holidays by beginning your to-do list early and concentrating on one or two doable things at a time. If you have a baby in tow, space out activities so that your baby is not overwhelmed or upset by all the travel and change. Be prepared to abandon plans that aren’t working for the baby. When in doubt, go with less.

Be selective about the company you keep. Pregnancy is a stressful time, and people who stress you out should be avoided. It’s also a good idea to limit exposure to too many people and the germs they may carry. Consider requesting that individuals wash their hands before handling the infant or refrain from doing so if they haven’t been feeling well.

Don’t be afraid to accept or ask for help. If you’re lucky enough to have good friends and family offering helping hands, don’t be afraid to take them up on it. Or simply ask. Tasks like wrapping gifts, cooking, cleaning, or babysitting can be outsourced while you sleep. Chances are, there’s someone around you looking forward to sharing their time and services during this season of giving.

Sources:
www.whattoexpect.com
www.babygaga.com

Health Hint

Montgomery County has made great strides in combatting COVID-19 and can be proud of its 99% vaccination rate. But the epidemic is not yet over! Because the level of community transmission stands at “substantial,” face coverings must be worn indoors as of November 20th. It’s especially important to stay the course and be vigilant about COVID-19 prevention.

Source: www.montgomerycountymd.gov/covid19/face-coverings

Featured Video

This entertaining whiteboard video by PictureFit counts down the 10 most calorie-dense foods you will likely encounter during the holidays:

Featured Recipe: Pomegranate-Poached Pears

Scenario: You’re diabetic or prediabetic and the holidays are here. You know you’ll be tempted by the most scrumptious culinary delights that will surely spike your blood sugar. If you’re prediabetic, you may be concerned that an indulgent holiday season will cause your condition to progress into full-blown diabetes. You want to enjoy yourself and let loose, but you also know your health is on the line. So, what do you do? What’s your game plan?
 
For most people, it’s unrealistic to be on their best health behavior during the holidays. Health experts suggest allowing yourself some wiggle room while also using this time to better understand diabetes prevention and management. That involves being aware of the nutritional value of the food you want to consume, notably their carbohydrate content. Traditional holiday foods tend to be high in carbs, so be picky and focus on your favorites. For example, your aunt’s signature coconut cake that you’ve been looking forward to eating every year—a slice may be worth the fat, calories, and carbohydrates, but those store-bought sugar cookies served at the company holiday party may not be.
 
Exercise can help significantly in diabetes management and prevention and in overall health. Consider going for a walk or jog or playing some flag football with your family. Physical activity will help your digestion, improve your insulin sensitivity, and make it easier to manage your blood sugar. Other health-promoting lifestyle behaviors such as getting enough sleep, drinking plenty of water, and keeping a positive mindset can also help you conquer the holidays.
 
November is National Diabetes Month! AAHP's Kick Start Your Health classes will focus on diabetes prevention and management and will feature guest speakers. Learn more here.
 
Sources:
Blacks/African Americans who smoke seem to be particularly affected by chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which can lead to emphysema or chronic bronchitis. COPD, a lung disease, is a leading cause of mortality and disability in the U.S. Unfortunately, Black/African American smokers tend to develop COPD at a younger age and with lower levels of smoking than non-Hispanic White Americans. This disparity may be attributed to other health conditions and overall lifestyle.
 
Symptoms of COPD include shortness of breath, chronic coughing, hoarseness, wheezing, chest pain that worsens when you breathe deeply, laugh, or cough, and recurring respiratory infections such as pneumonia or bronchitis. These signs and symptoms appear gradually and get worse with time. Unfortunately, many mistake these symptoms as part of getting older or being out of shape. Without treatment, patients with COPD progressively lose their energy and stamina, making it difficult to carry out everyday activities.
 
Watch the videos below to learn more about recognizing the symptoms of COPD and pursuing a treatment program after diagnosis:
November is COPD Awareness Month and Lung Cancer Awareness Month. COPD is closely linked to lung cancer, the most common cancer and a top cancer killer in the world. Blacks/African Americans are at higher risk of developing and dying from lung cancer than other racial and ethnic groups. Quitting smoking represents the single most important decision an individual can take to prevent COPD and lung cancer.
 
Thursday, November 18 is the Great American Smokeout, an annual event designed to prompt smokers to begin their smoke-free life. If you smoke, join thousands of people across the country in taking an important step toward a healthier life and reducing the risk for cancer and COPD. If you don’t smoke but love someone who does, encourage them to participate. The American Cancer Society also has additional resources for quitting smoking here.
 
Sources:
Did you know that Thanksgiving is also National Family History Day? Your family health history is a record of all the illnesses and health conditions in your family. Because you and your family share DNA and may also share behaviors and circumstances, such as the way you eat and where you live, your family health history can help you make informed decisions about your own health. A family history of a chronic condition increases your risk of developing that disease yourself, particularly if more than one close relative has (or had) the disease or if a family member had the disease at a younger age than typical.
 
The holidays present a great opportunity to ask your loved ones about health conditions. To record your family health history, write down the names of your close relatives from both sides of the family: parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces, and nephews. Ask them about any health issues they are now experiencing or have experienced in the past, as well as when they were originally diagnosed. You may think you know all about the health of your parents or siblings, but you might be surprised by what you don’t know.
 
Questions can include:
  • Do you have any chronic diseases like heart disease or diabetes? What about health conditions like high blood pressure or high cholesterol?
  • Have you ever had a stroke? Have you ever been diagnosed with cancer? If so, what type and around what age were you diagnosed?
  • From what countries or regions did our ancestors originate from before arriving in the United States?
  • What were the causes of death for relatives who died early? At what age did they pass?
 
Even if the information you collect is limited, your doctor can use this information to determine which screening tests you need and when those tests should begin. Screening tests, such as blood sugar testingmammograms, and colorectal cancer screening, may help detect diseases in their earliest stages, when treatment is most effective. Your doctor can also offer advice on how you can change lifestyle behaviors to prevent diseases that run in your family.
 
Check out My Family Health Portrait below, a free and easy online tool to help you collect your family health history information. Do share this information with your family members and doctors.
If you are adopted, or have a child through sperm or egg donation, learn about accessing your or your child/children’s biological family’s health history here.
 
Sources:

Health Hint

Exercising while watching TV is a great way to “kill two birds with one stone.” You can exercise while you watch a show or movie, or you can take exercise breaks during commercials. This strategy can also keep you from making trips to the kitchen to load up on snacks.

Featured Video

This cheerful and informative video discusses meal plans, grocery shopping and how to improve your general well-being when you’re living with diabetes:

Featured Recipe: Peanut Butter and Zucchini Muffins

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. During this special observance, AAHP joins organizations and people worldwide to raise awareness of breast cancer and to show support for people impacted by it. In the U.S., about one in every eight women born today will get breast cancer at some point in their lifetime. Every year, more than 200,000 American women are diagnosed with breast cancer and more than 40,000 will die from it. (Men also get breast cancer but make up less than 1% of breast cancer cases.) Between 2014 and 2018, Black/African American women were equally likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer as non-Hispanic White women but were almost 40% more likely to die from breast cancer. AAHP’s work to empower Black/African American women with education on how to prevent and defeat breast cancer is critical to fulfilling its mission of reducing health disparities.
 
While some risk factors, such as age, family history, and having dense breasts are outside of one’s control, an overall healthy lifestyle can help reduce breast cancer risk. Healthy lifestyle behaviors include limiting alcohol intake, not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, eating a nutrient-rich diet, exercising, getting enough sleep, and breastfeeding. By contrast, unhealthy lifestyle behaviors increase your breast cancer risk. Additional risks include taking hormone replacement therapy after menopause for more than five years and taking certain forms of oral contraceptive pills.
 
The good news is that early-stage breast cancer is almost always curable. Because women who get mammograms on a regular basis are more likely to detect breast cancer early, less likely to need a mastectomy (removal of one’s breast) or chemotherapy, and more likely to be cured, AAHP partners with numerous organizations to help provide and promote mammograms for Black/African American women in Montgomery County.
 
Black/African American women have a greater risk before age 40 year than White women. If there is history of breast cancer in your family, speak with your doctor if you are less than 40 about when to begin and how often to get mammograms. If you are a woman between the ages of 50 and 74, schedule a mammogram at least every two years. If you have a history of breast cancer in your family, do not wait, discuss your options with your doctor.
 
On October 3rd, AAHP kicked off Breast Cancer Awareness Month by partnering with Harvest Intercontinental Church in Olney for a breast cancer awareness event and health fair. AAHP provided a myriad of health screenings, including blood pressure, blood glucose, A1C, BMI, and wellness checks. AAHP also brought along a group of advocates from local breast cancer organizations, including Touch 4 Life, Inc, 2 For 2 Boobs, Inc, Living Beyond Breast Cancer, and Brothers Against Breast Cancer. With missions to save black lives from breast cancer by educating, engaging and empowering, and goals to decrease the incidence of late-stage breast cancer diagnoses, these organizations were perfect partners to increase the level of understanding in the community about the importance of early detection. Other event activities included a healthy cooking demonstration with Mrs. Robina Barlow, line dancing with Ms. Miejo Dambita, prize raffles, and more! See AAHP’s website for pictures
 
On October 10th, AAHP continued its breast cancer awareness campaign by partnering with Kingdom Fellowship A.M.E. Church for a Virtual Panel Discussion. The keynote speaker for this event was AAHP's consultant, Dr. Nancie Richberg, the "Kick Start Your Health" instructor, as well as a breast cancer survivor. Other thriving survivors included AAHP staff members Serena Holtz and Wanda Smith, as well as Laura Crandon with Touch 4 Life, Inc, Tallulah Anderson with 2 For 2 Boobs, and Tiah Tomlin with My Style Matters, Inc. The presentations were followed by a Q&A Session and healthy cooking demonstration with Mrs. Robina Barlow, who spoke on the relationship between food and breast cancer risk, survival, and recovery. These events helped to increase our community's knowledge about the importance of self-breast examinations and mammography for early detection, as well as the importance of early detection in saving lives.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression associated with the changes in the seasons. For most people, SAD occurs from fall until spring. While the exact cause of SAD is undetermined, many hypotheses exist. It’s possible that the decreased amount of sunshine in fall and winter contributes to the disruption of a person’s circadian rhythms (internal clock) as well as a decrease in serotonin, a “happy hormone.”
 
SAD shouldn’t be brushed off as a simple case of the “winter blues” or a seasonal funk that one must simply get over. Not only is SAD associated with low energy, sleeping problems, sluggishness, agitation, difficulty concentrating, and feelings of hopelessness or guilt, SAD can also lead to substance abuse, eating disorders, and suicidal thoughts and behaviors. That’s why it’s important to take signs and symptoms of SAD seriously. People with SAD should seek treatment just as they would for any other health issue.
 
If you think you are suffering from SAD, you may wish to consult AAHP’s mental health screening tool for further understanding of your condition and resources that can help you.
 
Source:
There they are…sweet treats! You know you shouldn’t give in to the temptation, but sometimes you can’t help yourself. With the start of Halloween and continuing with the holidays on to New Year's Eve, you might find yourself eating more than a few mini candy bars or one too many slices of cake. It’s no secret that sugar can be addictive, but it’s possible to overcome the downward spiral of sugar addiction by learning how to enjoy them while limiting the amount you eat. These pointers may assist you in mentally preparing for the upcoming Sugar Season:
  1. Strategize your indulgences. It may be unrealistic to say no to every single sweet treat that passes your way. You may want to focus on a few select treats or special days that may really be worth the indulgence. For example, you might swear off all sugary treats except your mother’s pound cake.
  2. Savor and appreciate the foods you eat. Whether it’s a delicious baked treat or a healthy vegetarian meal, enjoy the flavors and textures you experience. Make a mental note of how much you are consuming and how it will impact your health. Mindfulness often leads to good decision-making and can help you resist temptation.
  3. Show up to events full or partially full. When you eat a healthy meal or snack before a special event, you’re less likely to indulge at the event.
  4. Satisfy yourself with fruit. Fresh fruit can be an excellent choice when you’re wrestling with a sugar craving. And dipping your fruit in a bit of melted antioxidant-rich dark chocolate can make you feel like you're having an actual dessert.
  5. Stay the course. Your commitment to your health should still stand even after a slip-up. The key is to get back up on the horse and return to your low-sugar lifestyle as soon as possible. Most likely, you will find it gets easier and easier to resist unhealthy foods.
Sources:

Health Hint

As we begin the season of giving and sharing, remember that giving is also good for the giver. Volunteering your time or donating your resources can give you a warm feeling and may also reduce your blood pressure, improve your self-esteem, and decrease your depression and stress levels, which ultimately increases your longevity and wellbeing.
 

Featured Video

TED-Ed presents this powerful video about how sugar affects the brain:

Featured Recipe: Pumpkin Quinoa Chili

Eating fruits and vegetables is more than just healthy—it also makes you happier! The Produce for Better Health Foundation’s (PBH) research indicates that Americans who eat fruits and veggies every day say they experience physical, emotional, and social benefits now as well as into the future. Yet, close to 9 in 10 Americans don’t eat the recommended amount, which is 4-5 servings daily.

If you want to eat more fruit and vegetables, you should strategize and figure out what works best for YOU. Here are some ways to get your fruits and veggies numbers up without a ton of hassle:

  • Pair fresh fruit with your cereal, oatmeal, or yogurt.
  • Add fresh fruit to your salads.
  • Throw some chopped vegetables into your morning omelet.
  • Use 100% vegetable juice as the liquid in your smoothies.
  • Instead of snacking on chips or crackers, reach for canned pickled vegetables.

National Fruits & Veggies Month is the perfect time to start incorporating more fruits and veggies into your daily routine. For more information visit www.fruitsandveggies.org. And check out AAHP’s Health and Nutrition classes on Thursday afternoons at 1pm for cooking demonstrations and plant-based recipes (register here). You can also find some delicious plant-based recipes in AAHP’s cookbook.

Source: www.fruitsandveggies.org

As people continue to live longer and longer, having a positive attitude about aging can help to reduce the social stigma associated with aging. September is Healthy Aging Month as well as World Alzheimer’s Month. We should celebrate growing older and enjoy the success we’ve had in improving health for seniors.
 
Without a doubt, aging can be difficult at times, but for many people, it can be much easier with smart lifestyle choices. Staying physically active can help seniors remain independent as long as possible. In addition to exercise, diet can also affect the quality of life in the Golden Years. Eating a nutritient-rich diet can help with weight management, lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, reduce inflammation and slow down muscle loss. It’s also important to get adequate sleep, surround yourself with good people, and do activities you enjoy. And it’s never too late to find a new passion or hobby or work on your health issues. 
 
As we age, our brains change, but the same healthy behaviors that help prevent some kinds of cancer, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease may also reduce your risk for cognitive decline. Although we can’t control our genetics or our age, a report from the Lancet Commission suggests that addressing risk factors can delay or even prevent up to 40% of dementia cases.
 
We’re all getting older and each day is a blessing. Whether you’re eighteen turning nineteen, or eighty turning eighty-one, enjoy your life!
 
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Humans have been using condoms since ancient times, but the invention of latex in 1920 ushered its transition from primitive hand-produced items made from fabrics like silk and linen to the mass-produced wonders they are today. The condom is the most popular form of birth control, and apart from abstinence, it’s the safest and easiest ways to protect against sexually transmitted diseases.
 
Unfortunately, condom usage isn’t as popular as it should be, and the rates of STD among young people are steadily rising. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, condom usage among American high school students decreased from 62% in 2007 to 54% in 2017. Since 2015, reported chlamydia cases increased 19%, gonorrhea cases increased by 56%, and syphilis cases increased by 74%. These increases are partially due to more women of reproductive age choosing contraception over condoms now that birth control is more effective and convenient than ever.
 
September is Sexual Health Awareness Month, and we encourage everyone to learn more about sexual health and spread the word about how condoms prevent STIs. Epidemiological research concludes that male condoms, when used correctly and consistently from the start to completion of vaginal or anal sex, are 90% effective in reducing HIV transmission, 71% effective in reducing gonorrhea transmission and up to 66% effective in reducing syphilis transmission. That’s a great deal of leg work towards reducing the personal and public impact of STIs. Untreated STIs can lead to cervical cancer, ectopic pregnancy, postpartum endometriosis, infertility, and more.

Health Hint

For parents and caregivers with children back in school, this can be a nervous time! Parents and caregivers should remind themselves and their children to think positive, be flexible, and make good decisions in the face of so much uncertainty. For help, seek out mental health and social support services, including those provided by AAHP (such as AAHP's mental health screening tool). Parents and caregivers of students attending Montgomery County Public Schools can find resources on page 19 of the MCPS Reopening Guide.

Featured Video

Food companies spend billions of dollars advertising cereal, drink and quick meals to impressionable children, contributing to an epidemic of childhood obesity. Common Sense Media explains how parents can steer children away from this harmful marketing:

Featured Recipe: Chipotle Cauliflower Nachos

In recognition of National Breastfeeding Month, AAHP seeks to raise awareness about the importance and benefits of breastmilk, and to empower and support all mothers to achieve their breastfeeding goals.

Breast milk is the best source of nutrition for most babies, providing a variety of vitamins and minerals to help babies grow big and strong. Moms often have many concerns about breastfeeding, especially in the early days, and it’s not always easy for them to get the support they may need. AAHP’s SMILE nurses are sensitive to the common challenges moms and families face and offer guidance, education, and support with breastfeeding and other aspects of caring for an infant. Check out the SMILE program’s digital library for instruction and insights on breastfeeding as well as pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum life, and more.

Mothers can still breastfeed and keep their baby safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control is providing safety guidelines and recommendations as information about breastfeeding and COVID-19 continues to evolve. If you’re concerned about COVID-19 vaccinations while breastfeeding, watch this video from Greater than COVID:

A well-balanced diet can help ensure that we get an adequate supply of nutrients to keep our bodies healthy and strong. However, vitamin deficiencies can occur in individuals with specific medical conditions or diets or in certain demographics or phases of life. This is particularly true with three essential vitamins: vitamin D, folic acid, and vitamin B12.

Vitamin D helps your body absorb the calcium it needs for strong bones and teeth. Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with some types of cancer and cardiovascular disease. Unlike most other vitamins, vitamin D is mostly obtained via sunlight. Melanin reduces the skin’s ability to produce vitamin D from sunlight, so individuals with darker skin are at higher risk for low Vitamin D levels. Because Vitamin D is hard to come by in food, many Blacks/African Americans should consider taking it in vitamin form.

Found in leafy green vegetables, fruits (particularly citrus fruits, melons and strawberries) and legumes, folate (or folic acid) is important in red blood cell formation and for healthy cell growth and function. It’s best known for aiding in fetus development and preventing birth defects, so women of reproductive age should get 400 micrograms of folic acid daily, in addition to eating a healthy diet. Folic acid may be difficult for some people to get through foods alone, so additional supplements may be needed.

Vitamin B12 promotes the health of your nerves and blood cells, and aids in red blood cell formation and DNA synthesis. As you age, your stomach acid decreases, making it more difficult to digest protein and release vitamin B12 from meals. Additionally, diseases such as Crohn’s disease or medicines such as the diabetes medication metformin may impair B12 absorption. Because meat, poultry, fish, and eggs are the greatest sources of vitamin B12, vegans and vegetarians are also at risk of B12 deficiency. These populations should consider a B12

supplement.

Sources:

www.newsinhealth.nih.gov
www.health.clevelandclinic.org
www.healthline.com
National Institutes of Health
www.everydayhealth.com

Palm oil (also known as Dende in the Caribbean) is one of the most widely used oils in the world. Its color ranges from deep red orange to almost translucent, with the darker colors containing the most nutrients. Popular in West African and Caribbean cuisine, palm oil is believed to have several health benefits. According to Oldways (a nonprofit organization helping people rediscover and embrace the healthy, sustainable joys of shared cultural traditions), its significant saturated fat content interacts differently with our bodies than the saturated fats found in unhealthy foods.

Palm oil’s potential risks and benefits have sparked debate among nutritionists and medical researchers. A recent study showed that palm oil increased cholesterol levels and put consumers at risk for heart disease. In an animal study, consumption of palm oil that had been repeatedly heated led to plaque deposits in the arteries. Other researchers contend that there is no scientific proof that palm oil leads to increased cardiovascular health problems, and that, when compared to other oils (such as coconut oil), palm oil is virtually cholesterol-free. These researchers claim that palm oil has antioxidant properties that may support brain health and reduce heart disease.

In addition to the health debate, there are several ethical questions concerning conservation, wildlife and the environment related to the production of palm oil. Increasing demand for palm oil has led to deforestation, which contributes to global warming and catastrophic changes in ecosystems.

Sources:

www.healthline.com
National Institutes of Health
www.oldwayspt.org

Health Hint

Stock supplies that save lives. Keeping a well-equipped first-aid kit in your home and vehicle can assist you in successfully responding to common injuries and emergencies. Keep them in a convenient location out of reach of little children. Make sure older children know their purpose and location. You can build your own first-aid kit or purchase one at most drugstores.

Featured Video

This informative animated video explains why breast is best:

Featured Recipe: Baked Stuffed Tomatoes with Pico de Gallo and Cauliflower Rice

For seniors, managing life safely in the comforts of one’s own home can be especially challenging, especially for seniors who live alone. Accidental falls and burns are two of the most common health and safety concerns affecting the elderly.

If you are a senior living alone, you can safety proof your home by keeping all pathways well-lit and clear of any objects over which you can trip and fall. A rug lying around on a slippery floor is an accident waiting to happen. Make sure there are no loose rugs anywhere in your pathway. You may want to tape your rugs down to prevent any chance of slipping and falling.

Fires can be frightening for anyone. If there is a fire in your home, don’t try to put it out yourself. Know at least two ways that you can leave your home or apartment and leave quickly. Make sure you have fully functioning smoke detectors installed throughout your home so that you can be alerted before the fire gets out of control.

AAHP collaborates with the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service (MCFRS) to help keep African American seniors in Montgomery County healthy and safe from falls and fires in their homes. Earlier this year, AAHP staff and senior volunteers and MCFRS conducted home visits in which AAHP provided health screenings and MCFRS personnel checked smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, reviewed fire prevention tips, and discussed injury prevention. For updates and information on similar events, check out the Senior’s Corner on AAHP’s website.

Sources:

www.healthinaging.org
www.seniorsmatter.com
blog.mavencare.com

July is the hottest month of the year, with temperatures ranging between the low 80s to the mid to high 80s. When a person is unable to adequately cool themselves, they may experience heat-related disease or even death. Seniors, small children, infants, and people who have chronic medical problems are more vulnerable to heat-related sickness and mortality. In the U.S., more than 700 people die each year from severe heat. To protect yourself from extreme heat and sun damage, adhere to the following tips:

  1. Avoid being out in the sun between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m, when UV rays are strongest and produce the most sunburns and most intense sun damage.
  2. Protect yourself with appropriate clothing. Wearing long sleeves, pants, and a wide-brimmed hat can safeguard your body from the damaging effects of the sun. Wear sunglasses that filter UV rays to protect your eyes.
  3. Wear sunscreen during the day every day. Many dark-skinned individuals believe they have natural protection to sunburns, skin damage, and skin cancer because of their skin tone. While skin color and skin cancer are associated, they have a complicated relationship.

“People with dark skin may have the misconception that they are immune to skin cancer because their skin has more melanin – or pigment,” says Ana Ciurea, M.D. “While they are less likely to get skin cancer, they are still at risk.”

Track extreme heat in your area with the CDC Heat & Health Tracker. This nifty resource provides up-to-date local information on heat and health to help individuals and communities better plan for and react to severe heat events.

Sources:

www.cdc.gov
my.clevelandclinic.org
www.healthywomen.org

Many of AAHP’s programs and classes use vocabulary only known by individuals with high levels of health literacy. Empower yourself with knowledge to prevent and fight cancer and other chronic diseases by making sure you know and understand the following terminology:

Antioxidants – “Good” molecules that protect the body from “bad” molecules (free radicals) that damage cells and cause disease. Antioxidants naturally occur in our bodies but can be supplemented by foods to maintain the best balance of antioxidants and free radicals.

Carcinogen – A substance that causes cancer.

Colonoscopy – an exam used to detect precancerous tissue or polyps in the colon or rectum. Colonoscopies are performed by inserting a tiny video camera inside a person’s body so a doctor can view inside the colon.

Free radicals – molecules formed in the body that can cause disease. Free radicals serve important functions for health but should always be balanced by antioxidants.

Mammogram – an x-ray used on the breast to look for early signs of breast cancer.

PSA (prostate-specific antigen) test – a blood test to locate a protein made by normal cells and cancer cells in the prostate gland.

SPF (sun protective factor) – a measure of how much UV radiation from the sun can burn skin when using sunscreen compared to not using sunscreen. SPF value increases as sunburn protection increases.

Source:

www.preventcancer.org

Health Hint

Seniors and children home alone while their parents are at work during summer are vulnerable to predators. Make sure you as well as the children and seniors you love are savvy about personal safety. A child or senior home alone should not allow strangers, salespeople, and/or uninvited guests into their home. Personal information should never be shared with anyone before talking it over with a trusted friend or family member. A senior should never sign anything they do not understand or give in to pressure to donate money to a cause or charity. In these situations, it’s best to say NO. 

Featured Video

July is Minority Mental Health Month. Comedian and Daily Show host Trevor Noah presents this hilarious and informative clip on the state of mental health in the African American community:

Featured Recipe: Coconut Lime Popsicles

AAHP observes Men’s Health Month every June and invites all Black Montgomery County residents to join us in encouraging African American/Black men and boys to live a safe, healthy lifestyle!
 
Men of every age need to take the time to focus on their mental and physical well-being. From 19 to 90, even if a man is in “perfect” shape, he should make routine appointments with his healthcare providers to ensure that he is maintaining good health. A Cleveland Clinic survey revealed that 82% of men report trying to stay healthy and live longer for those who rely on them, yet only 50% engage in preventive care. That needs to change. Women can help by reminding male loved ones to keep themselves in good health by making all their appointments with their healthcare providers and to take care of themselves both physically and mentally.
 
Because Black/African American men have poorer health outcomes than Black/African American women and men of other races/ethnicities, AAHP’s Men’s Health Initiative places special consideration on engaging Black/African American men. AAHP’s Brother 2 Brother conversations engage Black/African American men in discussions about their lives and their health in a non-judgmental environment with the guidance of a healthcare professional. Join the Men's Health Initiative mailing list here.
 
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While crash dieting isn’t the way to go, summer is the perfect time to transition into permanent lifestyle changes around food. Your summertime taste buds love healthier, cooler foods like salads and smoothies, and your summer wardrobe covers less of your body, which can be motivating. The bounty of fruits and vegetables in season during summer will delight your senses and further inspire you to eat a plant-based diet for the rest of your life.
 
Mixing fruits and vegetables can add some pizzaz to your favorite summertime dishes. Add mangos or pineapple to salsa. Put a handful of salad greens in your smoothie—you won’t taste the greens, but you’ll know they’re in there. Throw some fruit on the grill alongside those vegetables. Check out this month’s featured recipe, which includes juicy grapefruit segments paired with fennel.
 
Remember, the diversity of colors on your plate reflects the diversity of nutrients in your body. Fruits and vegetables get their color (and their taste and smell) from phytonutrients, compounds that strengthen a plant’s immune system and protect them from hazards in their natural habitat. These compounds also protect humans from chronic disease. Be sure not to peel the skin off the most colorful fruits like apples, peaches, and eggplants, because most of the nutrients are concentrated in or near the skin.
 
Join AAHP in celebrating the myriad health and well-being resources located right here in Montgomery County by celebrating Family Health & Fitness Day on Saturday, June 12. Organized by the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA), Family Health & Fitness Day promotes the importance of local parks and recreation in keeping communities healthy.
 
To celebrate, AAHP encourages everyone to gather safely with family and friends to get active at one of the Montgomery County parks. Enjoy a variety of family friendly activities, such as walking, biking, kayaking, golfing, swimming, tennis and more. Community members also can participate in Family Health & Fitness Day by having a picnic or exploring nature at one of the trails.
 
Living close to parks and other recreation facilities is consistently related to higher physical activity levels for both adults and youth. AAHP takes pride in providing health and wellness resources for the community, and we hope you’ll come out and discover the many opportunities for families and individuals to stay active and fit.
 
To learn more about Family Health & Fitness Day, visit www.nrpa.org/familyfitness.
National HIV Testing Day is June 27. Share with your friends and loved ones what knowing your HIV status means to you. Your words can empower others to get tested for HIV, know their status, and their prevention and treatment options.
 
Learn more about HIV self-tests here: https://bit.ly/2AhexD6.
 
#HIVTestingDay #StopHIVTogether

Health Hint

Pay attention to your pillow. Because pillows absorb body oil, dead skin cells, and hair, they can create the perfect environment for allergens that can cause respiratory issues. The National Sleep Foundation recommends washing your pillow every six months, using a protective cover for your pillow, and replacing your pillow every one to two years.
 
Source: www.sleep.org

Featured Video

The unrelenting stress of fighting systemic racism can alter a body’s normal functioning until it starts to wear down. The theory, known as John Henryism, helps explain health disparities that impact Black/African American men:

Featured Recipe: Grapefruit and Fennel Salad with Mint Vinaigrette

“Communities and countries and ultimately the world are only as strong as the health of their women,” Former First Lady Michelle Obama once said. These wise words express the importance of AAHP’s work to improve and promote the health of Black women and girls in Montgomery County. As we observe Women’s Health Month throughout May, AAHP encourages you to learn more about Black women’s health and to discover and support the organizations that empower Black women to live healthier lives.
 
AAHP’s focus on heart healthy lifestyle helps Black women protect themselves against the top killer in the U.S.: heart disease. Every year, nearly 50,000 African American women die from heart disease. Almost half of African American women ages 20 and older have heart disease. Despite this reality, only one in five African American women considers herself personally at risk. AAHP’s Chronic Disease Management Program educates Black women on their personal health risks and provides guidance and opportunities to mitigate those risks through fitness classes, cooking demonstrations, and education on heart health, diabetes, obesity, and other chronic conditions. Learn more here.
 
Maternal health is also a key issue for African American women, as African American women have three times the maternal mortality rate compared to White American women. Multiple factors drive this disparity, including access to healthcare and underlying chronic conditions. AAHP’s SMILE program addresses the various social and medical risks Black women face and guides them to a healthy and safe pregnancy and childbirth. The SMILE program provides nurse case management (including home/zoom visits) for Black moms and their families until an infant’s first birthday. Learn more here.
 
AAHP is one of multiple organizations mobilized to advance the health of Black women and girls. Organizations like the Black Women’s Health ImperativeGirlTrek, and the Black Girls RUN! Foundation have mobilized countless African American women to take control of their health. The National Association to Advance Black Birththe National Birth Equity Collaborativethe Black Mamas Matter Alliance, and Moms Rising work to improve Black birth outcomes. Support AAHP and these organizations by following on social media, donating, volunteering, or committing to advance the health of African American women this May.
 
Sources:
What do you know about high blood pressure, a.k.a. hypertension, a.k.a. the Silent Killer?
 
Because its symptoms are easily misunderstood, many people with high blood pressure don’t know that they have it. Without making the necessary dietary and lifestyle changes to control and manage high blood pressure, it can slowly develop and may eventually lead to stroke. Watch this testimonial from a 39-year-old physically active man who was unaware of his high blood pressure until he suffered a stroke.
 
The only way to know that you have high blood pressure is to get it checked. And because there’s no cure for high blood pressure, one of the best ways to manage it is by monitoring your blood pressure at home and making heart-healthy lifestyle choices. These lifestyle choices include eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables and low in fat and sugar, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, not smoking, and limiting your alcohol intake. AAHP can support you in adopting and maintaining these health practices. Our Health Promotion classes on heart health and hypertension focus on monitoring your blood pressure, understanding your medication, and making the lifestyle changes that help you manage your blood pressure.
 
African Americans are 50 percent more likely to have a stroke than White Americans. May is High Blood Pressure Education Month and Stroke Awareness Month. Let’s take the time to learn and do what we can to defeat the Silent Killer.
 
Sources:
Dehydration occurs when you don’t drink enough water. When dehydration recurs for long periods, chronic dehydration can set in. If you need some help understanding why drinking water is so important to your health, take a look at the health conditions associated with chronic dehydration:
  • decreased kidney function
  • kidney stones
  • hypertension
  • urinary tract infections
  • intestinal failure
  • dementia
  • headaches
Drinking an adequate amount of water can be a challenge for many people. These five tips can help:
  1. Replace other drinks with water. While beverages such as sodas, juice, and sports drinks can quench your thirst, they can also be highly caloric, leading to obesity and cavities. For example, a 12 oz. sports drink contains 75 calories and 2 teaspoons of sugar; a 12 oz. serving of sweet tea contains 120 calories and 8.5 teaspoons of sugar; and a 12 oz. serving of orange soda contains 210 calories and 13 teaspoons of sugar. Water is by far the best choice because it quenches your thirst without calories or sugar.
  2. Incorporate drinking water into your routine. Drinking a glass of water immediately before and/or after you eat a meal, go to the bathroom, or check social media can help you integrate drinking water into your everyday lifestyle.
  3. Drink a glass every hour. Set an alarm for every hour to drink a glass. During a standard, eight-hour workday, drinking a glass every hour is an easy way to drink eight glasses.
  4. Add flavor. If you don’t care for the taste of water, infuse it to enhance the taste. Consider adding fruits like kiwi, lemon, strawberry as well as mint or basil or even your favorite tea bags.
  5. Eat foods containing water. Certain fruits and vegetables have a high water content. These include lettuce (96% water), celery (95% water), watermelon (91% water), and honeydew melon (90% water). Including more of these fruits can help you stay hydrated and add nutrients to your diet.
Sources:

AAHP’s SMILE Program is delighted about the birth of its first set of triplets, born on January 18 to 36-year-old J.P. The triplets consist of two girls born at four pounds each within five minutes of each other and a three-and-a-half-pound boy born feet-first one hour later. Because the triplets were born prematurely and underweight, they were hospitalized in the neonatal intensive care unit before being released. AAHP’s clinical director donated a small refrigerator to store breast milk and the SMILE program provided three car seats and Pack and Play cribs. J.P. is married with four other children.

Health Hint

Eat mindfully! Eating while you’re distracted by the TV or computer can prompt you to eat more. On the other hand, if you take the time to enjoy the flavors, colors, and textures of your foods and think about how your food was prepared, you’ll be inclined to eat less during and after the meal. Our brains signal to us that we’re no longer hungry about 20 minutes after we start eating, so it’s easy to ignore these signals if you’re distracted.
 

Featured Video

Leading a more active lifestyle takes time, effort, and determination, but in the end, it's really worth the shot. Here's what will happen to your body when you exercise regularly:

Stay tuned for a special event on Saturday, May 22 featuring AAHP!

May 16, 2021 - May 23, 2021

Featured Recipe: Dina's Tossed Mushrooms

April is National Minority Health Month. This year’s theme is #VaccineReady and will focus on encouraging Black/African Americans to get vaccinated against COVID-19. As we work to bring this pandemic to an end, more Black/African Americans getting vaccinated counts as a critical measure to reduce the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 within the Black Diaspora communities nationwide. 
 
According to data from Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services, in Montgomery County, Black/African Americans contributed to 17.7% of COVID deaths, while making up 19% of the total population. While these numbers do indicate a disproportionately lower death rate, Black/African Americans residents have a lower vaccination rate as well. As we see the light at the end of the tunnel, it’s important to remember that pandemic is not yet over, so we must maintain due diligence and use every tool at our disposal to preserve our health.
 
During this Minority Health Month, AAHP encourages residents to:
  • Get the facts about COVID-19 vaccines.
  • Share accurate vaccine information.
  • Get vaccinated when the time comes.
  • Practice COVID-19 safety measures, including:
  • Wearing a mask to protect yourself and others.
  • Washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Staying at least six feet from people outside your household.
  • Avoiding crowds.
 
Find more COVID-19-related resources on AAHP’s website here.
 
Source:
April is STI Awareness Month. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that nearly 20 million people contract an STI each year. Many STIs could be prevented with clearer understanding of sexual health risks and mitigating those risks with appropriate and healthy sexual behavior.
 
Did you know the following facts about STIs?
  1. STIs can affect female fertility. Untreated gonorrhea and syphilis can lead to Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID), which can cause permanent damage to a female’s reproductive system, leading to infertility. According to the Center for American Progress, 24,000 women in the U.S. are diagnosed with infertility caused by untreated STIs each year. 
  2. It’s possible to test negative for an STI and actually have it. Each STI has an incubation period, which is the time between contracting the STI and when your body has produced antibodies (your body’s natural immune defenses) to fight the STI. To get more accurate results, test after the incubation period has ended.
  3. Men and women are not affected by STIs equally. Compared with a man’s reproductive anatomy and environment, a woman’s reproductive anatomy and environment enables viruses and bacteria to enter the body and thrive easier. Furthermore, women experience more long-term complications from untreated STIs, including infertility and the possibility of transmitting an STI to her infant during childbirth.
  4. Condoms don’t prevent all STIs equally. While condoms, when used consistently and correctly, are highly effective in preventing HIV, which is transmitted via body fluids, they are less effective in preventing genital ulcer diseases like herpes, syphilis, and HPV (human papilloma virus) which can be transmitted via skin-to-skin contact from areas condoms don’t cover.
  5. Some people with HIV cannot transmit it to others. Antiretroviral treatments can reduce a person’s viral load so that they are undetectable, meaning the levels of HIV in that person’s body are too low to be detected. A person with an undetectable viral low has zero risk of transmitting HIV to others. 
 
Sources: 

One in five new HIV diagnoses occurs in young people ages 13-24. Learn why investing in youth health and education is critical to ending HIV: go.usa.gov

Drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes at the same time can work as a one-two punch towards the development of oral and pharyngeal cancer (cancer of the mouth, throat, tonsils, and tongue). Alcohol dehydrates cell walls, making it easier for the carcinogens in tobacco to penetrate mouth tissue. This process explains why alcoholism is the second biggest risk factor in developing oral cancer behind smoking.
 
More than 51,000 people are diagnosed with oral cancer each year and one person dies from it every hour. Many people who survive oral cancer suffer from long-term health problems such as severe facial disfigurements and difficulties eating and speaking. Unfortunately, African American men face higher risk of oral cancer compared to other demographics. Learn more by clicking on the picture below:
Spring has sprung! Better weather and blossoming flowers inspire us to take advantage of the new possibilities in our midst. Celebrate springtime by focusing on new health promoting habits that can serve you well in the year ahead, such as:
 
Eating more greens. Consider leafy greens for every meal, even breakfast. Sauteed spinach or kale pair wonderfully with scrambled eggs or an omelet. A handful of spring mix can easily go inside your favorite breakfast smoothie. For lunch, eat sandwiches with romaine lettuce instead of bread. Dinner salads are always a classic.
 
Infuse your water. Drinking a big glass of lemon water upon waking up can start your day off just right. You can also include sprigs of mint, basil, or other herbs for variety. Cucumbers, strawberries, and citrus fruits are also popular choices in water. A few tea bags in a gallon jug of water can offer even more variety.
 
Stretch! Implement stretching into your morning and nighttime routines. No matter your age or fitness level, stretching can improve your flexibility, posture, and overall health. Stretching also helps with stress relief. For more guidance on the best ways to stretch, join AAHP’s yoga classes on Wednesdays at 10am. Learn more here.

Health Hint

For Spring cleaning, choose non-toxic products instead of conventional cleaning products for safety and health. Conventional cleaning products that contain chemicals such as bleach and ammonia can cause allergies, chemical burns, and rashes, and can be unsafe for pets and children if they accidentally ingest them. You can actually make your own cleaning products using ingredients like vinegar and lemon juice.
 
Source: 

Featured Video

The anchor video for THE CONVERSATION features W. Kamau Bell in conversation with health care workers addressing some of the most common questions and concerns Black people have about COVID-19 vaccines:

Featured Recipe: Spring Asparagus Salad with Olives, Lemon and Couscous

Most families all over the world are quarantined with kids and are forced to find new ways to balance everyday living. Check out these helpful tips on getting through the day so you can be prepared and refreshed for the next:

Remain Calm – Being able to provide your child calm and stability is extremely important, especially during these uncertain times. Although we can’t predict tomorrow or what the day may bring, it’s important for your children to see and know that you are a consistent and stable figure throughout their day. Children will often take in their parent's attitudes, personalities, and mannerisms, so if you’re seeking calm in your household, start from within.

Create a schedule – Consistency is crucial to children of all ages. Before quarantine, most children were on strict school/home/sleep schedules to keep them engaged, active, and well rested. Setting a schedule as similar to their pre-quarantine schedule can make a big difference in behavior. Online school tends to be shorter and less hands-on, so it’s important to not rely on that solely for activity throughout the day. Make your own learning plans that align with their online learning plans, set start and end times for different studies and check in with their progress throughout the day. Try to adjust your schedule to work with their needs but remain consistent!

Set expectations – setting a to-do list and daily goals is not only beneficial in the workplace, but in the home as well. Use age-appropriate language to discuss with your children the plans for the day, what you need to accomplish, and what you expect for them to accomplish as well. Once the daily expectations are met, you can decide what type of reward or privilege is appropriate for your child, but always acknowledge things getting done!

Talk it out – Talk to your children about how quarantine or other daily concerns are affecting them. At this point, most families know and understand that the world is a bit different than how it use to be. However, it’s important that you provide a safe place for your children to openly discuss their personal challenges. Sometimes a listening ear and some reassurance is all they need to reduce anxiety, stress, and sadness. Often times these symptoms can present themselves in children as overactivity, attention seeking behavior, over/under eating, and moodiness. Talk to your children and find a professional if you notice any of these changes.

Ask and be willing to receive help – Undoubtedly, you are dealing with A LOT! Don't be hard on yourself. Reach out to your SMILE team if you are unsure where to start for support. Do the best you can and learn to forgive yourself if you fall short. Take breaks. Take deep breaths. Pray, write, stretch, exercise...whatever recharges YOU! Start from within!

Despite its common role as the centerpiece of your typical American meal, meat does not have to make the meal. A meatless meal can provide all the nutrients and flavor at a fraction of the cost. With some time and patience exploring the world of foods beyond meat, even the most dedicated carnivores can feel satisfied by a meatless meal, or a meal with less meat or healthier meats. 

The benefits of ditching meat for plants is well-documented. Health-conscious people who don’t eat meat (vegans and vegetarians) tend to eat more beans, whole grains, and vegetables and consume fewer calories compared to meat-eaters, so they often weigh less and have a lower risk of heart disease and other chronic diseases. People who eat red meat (beef, lamb, etc.) and processed meats (deli meat) have an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and certain cancers, such as colorectal cancer.

If you can’t let go of meat completely, consider reducing your meat consumption and opting for leaner, healthier cuts of meat. Think of meat as a “topping” or garnish instead of as the main event. Choose chicken over beef and chicken breast over chicken wings—the leaner the better.

If you crave the flavor and texture of meat, you may choose artificial meat sources such as Beyond Burger, but be sure to check the nutritional content first as many artificial meat sources are high in sodium and other unhealthy additives. Learn about meat substitutes like breadfruit and tofu, and attend a Health and Nutrition class for food demonstrations on how to cook delicious, plant-based meals.

This March, in honor of National Nutrition Month and Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, AAHP encourages you to experiment with reducing your meat consumption or going all-out with a #MeatlessMarch.

Source: www.mayoclinic.org

Tooth decay is often first discovered at the dentist’s office. Then and there, your doctor can fill your cavities and send you along with a date for your next appointment in six months. Because that process, like so many other things, has been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, many people may learn of the poor condition of their teeth by suffering from a toothache.

Seeing a dentist every six months is an important oral health practice, but diligently practicing good oral hygiene is fundamental. That means brushing twice every day for a whole two minutes, flossing daily, drinking plenty of water, eating a healthy diet, and avoiding sweets and processed foods. When you’re taking good care of your teeth, you don’t dread going to the dentist as much. And you can feel more confident that a toothache won’t pop up.

If you or your child or children are due for a dentist appointment, call your dentist and learn about their recommendations and safety protocols. Because dentist offices already held stringent infection control measures, dentists have had lower rates of COVID infection compared to other healthcare professionals. Therefore, if you’re way overdue for a dentist appointment, and you’ve been slacking on your oral care routine and indulging your sweet tooth too often, it may be best to make an appointment before that toothache hits.

Sources:

www.clevelandclinic.org
www.verywellhealth.com

Adolescence and teenage years are not for the faint of heart, especially with COVID-19 and social media in the mix. Mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, and even more severe mental health conditions like bipolar disorder often manifest in the teen years and can lead to a lifetime of struggle with other health issues such as drug abuse. That’s why adolescents and teens need strong mental health support to grow into healthy adulthood.

Parents and caregivers can help adolescents and teens navigate these tumultuous years with connectedness. Open and honest communication with teens, proper supervision, and sharing and engaging in activities with teens can help parents and caregivers build strong bonds with the youth in their lives. It’s also important for parents and caregivers to communicate and collaborate with other adults in a youth’s life, such as coaches, teachers, and other activity leaders.

For more information, check out this handy infographic from the National Association of Mental Health (NAMI) here.

Health Hint

Eye strain is a common problem among adults who work at a computer daily. To help prevent it, the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends following the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, look away from your computer for 20 seconds at an object 20 feet away. If your eyes still consistently feel fatigued, make an appointment to see an optometrist.

Source: www.aao.org

Featured Video

Social media influencer Tabitha Brown discusses her vegan meal prep strategy for the week:

Featured Recipe: Grilled Portobello Mushroom Steaks

Did you know that people who have close relationships at home, work, or in their community tend to be healthier and live longer? One reason, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) is that we’re more successful at meeting our health goals when we join forces with others. NHLBI launched the #OurHearts movement to inspire us to protect and strengthen our hearts with the support of others. 
 
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. Health problems that increase the risk of heart disease are common in African American communities, including being overweight and having high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, and diabetes. We can combat heart disease through our connections with others. Consider these five lifestyle tips and share them with those you care about:
 
Get Moving!
Keep your body active throughout your day. Aim for at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week. Build up to activity that gets your heart beating faster and leaves you a little breathless. Invite family, friends, colleagues, or members of your community to join you in your efforts to be more physically active by making walking dates or by joining an online fitness class like AAHP’s Health and Fitness classes for Zumba on Tuesdays at 11am, and yoga on Wednesdays at 10am. 
 
Eat heart healthy!
We tend to eat like our friends and family, so ask others close to you to join in your effort to eat healthier. Together, try NHLBI’s free Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan, which is free and scientifically proven to lower high blood pressure and improve cholesterol levels. Find delicious heart healthy recipes at NHLBI’s Heart Healthy Eating.
 
Get your sleep!
Sleeping 7-8 hours each night helps improve heart health. To get better sleep, try going to bed and waking up at the same time each day. Turn off all screens at a set time nightly. Instead of watching TV before bed, relax by listening to music, reading, or taking a bath.
 
Manage your stress.
Reducing stress is good for your heart! Implement stress management techniques such as breathing exercises and relaxing mind-body exercises like yoga and tai-chi. Physical activity also helps reduce stress. Join a friend or family member to do a relaxing activity every day, like walking, yoga, or meditation, or participate in a stress management program together. If you are feeling especially troubled, talk to a qualified mental health provider or someone you trust.
 
Track your heart health stats. 
Keeping a log of your blood pressure, weight goals, physical activity, and if you have diabetes, your blood sugars, will help you stay on a heart healthy track. Ask your friends or family to join you in the effort. Check out NHLBI’s Healthy Blood Pressure for Healthy Hearts: Tracking Your Numbers worksheet
 
Learn about heart health and heart healthy activities in your community at nhlbi.nih.gov/ourhearts. Use #OurHearts on social media to share how you and your friends, colleagues or family members are being heart healthy together.
During the month of February, AAHP will partner with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Minority Health (OMH) to celebrate the achievements of African Americans and honor the significant role and impact African Americans have made on all facets of life and society throughout U.S. history. This year’s campaign will highlight the impacts COVID-19 has on African Americans with underlining health issues such as uncontrolled hypertension. The focus will also be on preparing communities for the vaccine and promoting the continued practice of COVID-19 safety measures, including the three Ws: Wear your mask, Watch your distance and Wash your hands and also avoid crowds and poorly ventilated areas.
 
The Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services observes Black History Month with a virtual tribute to honor African American Montgomery County residents who served in the U.S. Armed or Uniformed services. This collaboration with the Montgomery County Commission on Veterans Affairs will profile 29 exemplary veterans and the contributions they have made in their military careers and beyond. This virtual tribute can be seen here.
Healthcare workers in Montgomery County have recently received the COVID-19 Moderna vaccine, and are gearing up to vaccinate more residents as additional vaccines arrive. Provided by the federal government through the Maryland Department of Health, these vaccines will be offered free of charge; however, even with insurance, the hospital bills for persons that skip the vaccine and get COVID-19 can run into the thousands.
 
Everyone should research and understand the facts about the COVID-19 vaccine and make an informed decision about getting vaccinated. While we must always remember the history of racism, abuse and neglect African Americans have experienced by government systems and the healthcare industry, we must also acknowledge what has changed and act on opportunities to preserve our health and build our futures.  
 
Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, a Black viral immunologist at the National Institutes of Health was a key scientist behind the Moderna vaccine. Knowing the reluctance that many African Americans have about taking a COVID-19 vaccine, Dr. Corbett felt that it was important to be visible. "This person who looks like you has been working on this for several years and I also wanted it to be visible because I wanted people to understand that I stood by the work that I'd done for so long," Dr. Corbett said.  
 
Clinical trials proved the Moderna vaccine to be 94.1% effective at preventing COVID-19 illness in people who received two doses and who had no evidence of being previously infected. Clinical trial participants consisted of males and females of diverse ages, and races/ethnicities and among persons with underlying medical conditions. 
 
According to the CDC, the hospitalization rate for African Americans was almost four times the hospitalization rate for White Americans and the death rate was almost three times that of White Americans. Montgomery County Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles was among the first to receive the vaccine. "​I think the vaccines are safe, and are a new tool to help alleviate the burden of COVID-19 in our communities, particularly in those communities hit disproportionately," he said.
 
The vaccine is not recommended for people who have severe (anaphylactic) allergic reactions or are allergic to any ingredient in an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine, people who have had an allergic reaction after a first dose, and people who are allergic to polyethylene glycol or polysorbate.
 
Please visit Montgomery County’s COVID-19 Vaccination page for more information about vaccine distribution and when you can receive one.
 
Sources:
While it is highly recommended that individuals over 18 get a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it is available to them, everyone should research the best course of action according to their own personal health profile. Although a severe allergic reaction to a COVID-19 vaccine is rare, individuals who tend to have allergic reactions should plan to get vaccinated at a hospital where they can receive immediate care in the event of a severe adverse reaction. Pregnant women should know that, based on lab research, the mRNA vaccine does not affect pregnancy or fertility. (In fact, the immunity provided by the mRNA vaccine may be passed on to babies in utero and breastfed newborns.) 
 
After getting your second vaccine dose, you may be overwhelmed with relief and tempted to let your guard down. Please don’t. Much remains unknown about how protection from COVID-19 vaccines works in the real world. Even though the vaccine can help your body fight a possible infection, it is unclear whether it can prevent you from infecting others. Preventative measures such as mask wearing, social distancing, and washing hands frequently will continue to be critical for reducing opportunities for COVID-19 to spread.
 
With the advent of a new and more contagious COVID-19 variant, many public health experts have suggested wearing two masks. While the CDC has not yet recommended wearing two masks, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and Chief Medical Advisor to President Joe Biden explains why it makes sense in this video. Wearing two masks may be extremely helpful particularly in instances where social distancing isn’t possible.
 

Health Hint

Limiting your consumption of sugary, fatty, or salty foods can help you reset your taste buds to appreciate the taste of whole foods in their natural state. Try gradually cutting down the amount of sugar and salt you add to your food. For example, if you typically have three sugars in your coffee, try adding just two this week, and next week, add only one. Within a month, you’ll notice you can enjoy your coffee with less sugar.
 

Featured Video

COVID-19 does not just affect the lungs. Watch this video from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) to learn how it affects the heart:

Featured Recipe: Valentine's Day Fruit Salad

For many weary souls, 2021 couldn’t have gotten here soon enough! After a challenging 2020, a brand-new year before us offers new opportunities to be better, stronger, and healthier. As we celebrate and wish each other all the best in the year ahead, let’s reflect on how the lessons from 2020 can help us conquer 2021 and beyond.
 
The COVID-19 pandemic illustrated the importance of health and the reality of racial health disparities. In the aftermath of disproportionate sickness and death from COVID-19, the shining light placed on African American health has prompted a loud call to action. The healthcare industry has been forced to reckon with its long history of mistreatment and neglect of African Americans. The COVID-19 pandemic motivated many people to take their health more seriously and led to increased participation in self-managed health and wellness activities and increased awareness of nutrition, exercise, and mental health. By keeping the momentum going, individually and collectively, we can transform our health in sustainable ways.
 
We also approach 2021 with a deeper appreciation of social interaction and healthy interpersonal relationships. Stay-at-home orders and social distancing measures made it easier for people to bond with loved ones inside their households while making it more difficult to spend time with loved ones outside their homes—both circumstances have highlighted the value of relationships to mental health and well-being. The rise in domestic abuse, suicide, and substance abuse has also emphasized the need for mental health resources. As we look forward to a post-pandemic world, we can work to strengthen and promote healthy relationships and positive social interactions to build our collective mental health and emotional resilience.
 
Let’s work together to make 2021 a year of comebacks and help each other grow in new ways. AAHP invites you to learn more about our health services by visiting our website here. You can also spread the word by sharing and promoting AAHP’s resources and services with your network.
As you work to achieve your 2021 health goals, be sure to have the basics down:
 
Do you have a trusted primary care physician (PCP)? A trusted PCP can help you navigate your health journey towards longevity and a better quality of life. According to Primary Care Progress, “adults in the U.S. who have a primary care provider have 19% lower odds of premature death than those who only see specialists for their care.” AAHP provides referrals to PCPs for AAHP clients as a critical part of chronic disease prevention and management strategy.
 
Are you current on recommended preventive health screenings, vaccinations, and tests? Based on your age, gender, and other factors, evidence-based preventive services such as mammograms and colonoscopies detect disease so you can seek treatment sooner rather than later. Vaccinations help build immunity against communicable diseases like measles, flu, HPV, and COVID-19. Routine STD testing can help you manage your sexual health and prevent the spread of STDs. Check out the Cleveland Clinic’s Health Maintenance Guidelines for Adults for more information.
 
Do you know and understand your health metrics? Your health metrics include your BMI (body mass index), blood cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood glucose. These numbers are especially important if you are obese, prediabetic or diabetic. Carefully monitoring these numbers is vital to developing a plan that includes goals and benchmarks towards improving your health and preventing the development of heart disease and other serious health complications. AAHP offers free health screenings by enrolling in remote patient monitoring or at select sites: see our calendar for dates and locations.
 
Sources:
Speaking of vaccines, did you know the HPV vaccine (Gardasil 9) is 99% effective in preventing HPV (human papilloma virus), the virus that most often causes cervical cancer?
 
HPV is an extremely common STD that consists of thousands of strains, some of which cause cervical cancer. Although cervical cancer is highly preventable, in the U.S., nearly 13,000 women are diagnosed each year and more than 4,000 die from it each year. Highly effective in preventing HPV infection, the HPV vaccine is routinely recommended for boys and girls ages 11 and 12. In the video from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) below, Dr. Margot Savoy, MPH, discusses why the HPV vaccine is so critical and addresses the concerns parents have about getting their 11 and 12-year-olds vaccinated:
Gynecological screenings (pap tests) can also help prevent cervical cancer by detecting precancerous cells in the cervix. As with most cancers, early detection is key! The CDC recommends women ages 21-65 get a pap test every two to three years. Most women who die from cervical cancer did not have regular pap tests.
 
This Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, AAHP encourages you to learn and share info about cervical cancer. If you are due for a pap test, make an appointment! If you or your child is eligible to take the HPV vaccine, do your research and make an appointment to get it! Learn more about Montgomery County’s cervical cancer screenings here.
 
Sources:
Golden Globe-winning actor, writer, and producer Taraji P. Henson brings mental health awareness to social media with her new talk show, Peace of Mind with Taraji, which airs new episodes on Facebook Watch on Mondays and Wednesdays. With her best friend Tracie Jade as cohost, Taraji discusses mental health with celebrities, mental health experts and regular people. The series premier aired on Tuesday, December 14 and featured Gabrielle Union who discussed having post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after being sexually assaulted. The show seeks to prompt serious conversations about mental health and reduce the stigma associated with mental illness.
 
> Watch Peace of Mind with Taraji here. (Click the follow button and turn on video notifications.)
 
“Mental health issues are huge in communities of color,” Henson told Healthline in a 2018 interview. “We experience trauma on a daily basis, in the media, in our neighborhoods, schools, the prison system, or simply walking down the street, you name it.” Henson’s father, a Vietnam veteran, suffered from PTSD and was eventually diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Having witnessed her father’s experience with mental illness and having struggled to find an African-American therapist to help support her own mental health, Henson was driven to start The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation (BLHF), a nonprofit organization named after her father. The BLHF works to strengthen mental health support for African Americans in urban schools, prisons, and communities.
 
Mental health support for African Americans is now more important than ever. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, African Americans were 10 percent more likely to report having serious psychological distress than non-Hispanic whites, but only 1 in 3 African Americans received mental health treatment, according to the U.S. Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health. A recent study by Johns Hopkins showed that the suicide rate among Black Maryland residents appears to have doubled the recent historical average during lockdown (March 5 through May 7). As COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc on everyday life, threatening the progress made in reducing health disparities, African American organizations are tasked to create resources and opportunities to support mental health and emotional resilience. AAHP Mental Health Screening Tool is for individuals to make an anonymous informal personal assessment of their mental health and to receive referrals for local mental health resources.

Health Hint

To help the days, weeks, and months of 2021 run more smoothly, focus on building solid morning and bedtime routines. An efficient morning routine can help you remain focused and productive throughout the day while an effective bedtime routine can help you sleep better, which in turn helps you maintain your morning routine.
 

Featured Video

NowThis News tells the story of a young man whose partner died giving birth:

Featured Recipe: Creamy Asparagus and Pea Soup

Data from the 2018 Montgomery County Annual HIV Epidemiological Profile reveals that African Americans in Montgomery County are disproportionately impacted by HIV and in 2018 made up 61% of new diagnoses as 17% of the County population. To address this disparity, AAHP offers HIV/AIDS education, testing, and other sexual health resources for African Americans in Montgomery County. AAHP also provides counseling for people who test positive for HIV to delay the onset of AIDS and prevent some life-threatening conditions from emerging.
 
Each year, AAHP observes World AIDS Day on December 1 to highlight the progress made in building an HIV-free future for Montgomery County. It is also a day of celebration and support for the millions of people living with HIV/AIDS and those working to eradicate it. While AAHP did not host a World AIDS Day event this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, AAHP continued to promote sexual health awareness and encouraged County Black residents to get tested.
 
If you do not know your HIV status, make an appointment to get tested. And tell your loved ones about AAHP’s HIV testing and sexual health resources. Visit www.aahpmontgomerycounty.org for more info.
 
Black women are unstoppable. From the highest levels of government, as entrepreneurs, in communities and households in Montgomery County and nationwide, Black women SHOW UP and do the work to build capacity and resources for empowerment. In the spirit of recognizing the indomitable force of Black womanhood, AAHP celebrates the work of two outstanding organizations making real differences in the lives of African American women across the country: GirlTrek and Black Girls RUN!.
 
"When black women walk, things change," say T. Morgan Dixon and Vanessa Garrison, GirlTrek’s enterprising founders. Longtime friends, Garrison and Dixon formed GirlTrek in 2010 to mobilize Black women to come together and walk for health and healing in our bodies, homes, and communities. GirlTrek is the largest health nonprofit for women and girls. The organization recently reached a milestone: one million women and girls have pledged to walk with GirlTrek in the direction of their healthiest, most fulfilled lives. Watch this inspiring video to hear Ms. Dixon’s powerful testimony of how she beat depression by walking.
 
Black Girls RUN! (BGR!) was founded in 2009 to address the obesity epidemic in the African American community and to encourage Black women to maintain an active and healthy lifestyle. BGR! hosts runs, walks, and other fitness-related events and offers support and resources to new and veteran runners. With over 250,000 members nationwide, BGR! provides a community where Black women bond over love of fitness. Watch this feature from NBC News to see BGR! in action.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a severe flu season could be devastating. Each year, flu causes tens of millions of illnesses, hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations, and tens of thousands of deaths in the United States. A CDC study of 10 flu seasons from 2009-2010 through 2018-2019 showed that African Americans had the highest flu-related hospitalization rates. An annual flu shot is generally recommended for everyone six months or older. Increased risk of hospitalization makes getting a flu shot especially important for African Americans.
 
Unfortunately, due to incidents like the Tuskegee Experiment, many African Americans harbor deep mistrust of the American medical establishment, which hinders many from getting a flu shot. But it’s important to examine the facts about flu vaccination and heavily consider the real consequences. Getting sick from flu means missing school or work, and time away from loved ones for about a week or longer. Getting a flu shot is one safe and simple act we all can do to protect ourselves, our families and our communities. It also helps save medical resources and protects health workers so they can continue caring for people with COVID-19.
 
Doctors’ offices and pharmacies are taking steps to ensure vaccines can be provided safely during the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information, including where to find a flu shot near you, visit GetMyFluShot.org. Updates on Montgomery County’s flu vaccination clinics can be found here
 
Visit www.AAHPCovid.com to be tested for COVID-19. Remember Don’t Stress. Take the Test!
 
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While any holiday season can take a toll on our emotional and mental health, this holiday season unleashed a wave of loneliness, depression and anxiety that has been far more unbearable for many. But now is the time to really focus on mental and physical health. Be mindful that elevated stress levels may cause you to eat poorly, overeat, not eat enough, drink in excess, or engage in other unhealthy behaviors, so make special efforts not to do so.
 
Keep your mind and body in good shape with exercise and good stress management practices. Exercise is one of the best ways to lower stress. Prayer and meditation are also linked to lowered depression and anxiety symptoms. Talking about your feelings—with friends, family, or a professional—can help you through this exceptionally difficult holiday season.
 
Let’s do our best to stay hopeful and healthy. If you are in need of mental health services or resources, please reach out to AAHP’s social worker at 301-562-5309 or Shauniqua.key@montgomerycountymd.gov.

Health Hint

Why wait until January 1st to start your diet or your exercise regimen? If you’re serious about accomplishing your New Year’s Resolutions, why not start now? If your goal is to lose weight, if you focus on building healthy habits now, it will become easier to make good decisions as the holidays progress. You can get help from the AAHP Weight Management Program by contacting Regina Barnes at (240)777-1833.

Featured Video

In this animated video, TED-Ed explains what happens to your brain when sugar hits your tongue.

Featured Recipe: Vegan Sweet Potato Pie

Every November, AAHP observes American Diabetes Month to promote awareness of diabetes and our work to help Black Montgomery County residents manage and prevent diabetes. More than 34 million Americans live with diabetes, with African Americans facing higher risks of death and serious health complications from diabetes compared to White Americans. AAHP’s Diabetes/Heart Health focus area gives hope and resources to diabetics (and prediabetics) who wish to take control of their health by making positive lifestyle changes.
 
This American Diabetes Month, AAHP challenges you to take AT LEAST one of the following actions to spread awareness of diabetes and its impact:
  • Learn more about AAHP’s services and programs for diabetes education, prevention and management by visiting AAHP’s website.
  • Attend a Health Promotion (formerly called Chronic Disease Management) class on zoom. Check out AAHP’s calendar to see the class schedule, and click on the Zoom link for each class to register and attend.
  • Sign up for dMeetings, AAHP’s online diabetes education classes.
  • Sign up for AAHP’s new Diabetes Prevention Program (see more info below).
  • Share a post about diabetes from AAHP’s FacebookInstagram, or Twitter pages.
If you are prediabetic or at risk for developing diabetes, join AAHP’s new Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP). Led by the Centers for Disease Control, the program guides participants through lifestyle changes that can help prevent Type 2 diabetes. Learn more:
Source: www.diabetes.org

Most people understand that smoking can lead to lung cancer. In fact, according to the CDC, smoking causes roughly 90% of all lung cancer deaths. However, despite being highly preventable, lung cancer kills around 146,000 Americans each year. But what is the reality behind those numbers? Consider these five lesser-known facts:

  1. Lung cancer kills more people each year than breast, colon, and prostate cancer combined. 
  2. African American men have the highest rates of lung cancer in the U.S., with an incidence rate 30% higher than for White men. Both African American women and men are more likely to develop and die from lung cancer in spite of lower smoking rates and less exposure to cigarette smoke compared to White Americans. 
  3. Because lung cancer screening comes with health risks, lung cancer screening is recommended only for people who have a history of heavy smoking, and currently smoke or recently quit within the past 15 years, and are between the ages of 55 and 80.
  4. People who live and spend a great deal of time around smokers increase their lung cancer risk as much as 20-30% through secondhand smoke.
  5. More than half of lung cancer patients die within one year of diagnosis.

For information and resources to help you or a loved one stop smoking, visit Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services online or call 240-777-1222. 

Life continually throws at us unexpected challenges. At times, the pace of life and our various struggles overwhelm us. How we respond in these moments impacts our health more than most people may realize. We must protect our physical and mental health by focusing on building emotional resilience and managing stress in healthy and productive ways.
 
Now, more than ever, it’s important to learn and practice good stress management. Learn breathing techniques that can help you relax and lower your blood pressure. Pray, meditate, and practice gratitude as best as you can according to your faith. Exercise regularly to fight depression, manage your weight, and prevent chronic disease. Consider professional therapy and self-care coaching. These health practices can help you keep your mind and your body strong.
 
On the opposite side of the spectrum, if you respond to stress in harmful ways such as drinking alcohol in excess, using drugs, or overeating, your body and your mind will take a hit. Chronic stress keeps our cortisol (stress hormone) levels elevated, which can impair immune function, increase the risk for chronic disease, and make it harder to lose weight. Stress can exacerbate a host of health issues, including heart disease (leading to strokes and heart attacks), preterm labor, mental illness, and substance abuse.
 
While it’s almost impossible for most people to have the best response to stress 100% of the time, we can do the best we can, one decision at a time.

Back to School Facts and Stats

  • Over 70% of young people who took a screen at mhascreening.org between April and July 2020 mentioned loneliness and isolation as the main things contributing to their struggles. Learn more about #CopingDuringCOVID at mhanational.org/backtoschool.
  • Young people continue to be disproportionately affected by COVID19 related mental health issues. Roughly 9 in 10 are screening with moderate-to-severe depression and 8 in 10 are screening with moderate-to-severe #anxiety. Learn more at mhanational.org/backtoschool. #BackToSchool2020
  • Chronic loneliness, which many of us are feeling these days due to COVID19, can translate to poor sleep, high blood pressure, greater risk of suicidal ideation, and even alcohol and drug use. Learn more about #CopingDuringCOVID at mhanational.org/backtoschool. #BackToSchool2020
  • If your kid or teen seems to be struggling, and it persists, something more serious might be going on. Get screened for mental health at MHAscreening.org. #BackToSchool2020
  • Since March of 2020, 83% of 11-to-17-year-olds screened positive or at-risk for #anxiety at MHAscreening. org, and 91% screened positive or at-risk for #depression. Learn more at mhanational.org/backtoschool. #BackToSchool2020 #CopingDuringCOVID
  • 61% of teachers said their jobs were always or often stressful and 58% said they had poor mental health due to stress. Debates over reopening and safety concerns are making teachers’ mental health worse. Learn more at mhanational.org/backtoschool.
#CopingDuringCOVID #BackToSchool2020 

AAHP’s SMILE Program’s New Digital Resources

In support of Black Montgomery County moms and their families, AAHP is excited to introduce a series of videos and online tools on pregnancy, labor, breastfeeding, and more. Visit AAHP’s website to see the coming videos on pregnancy through the first year of life.
 
Check out the SMILE program’s childhood development classes, featuring presentations by SMILE nurse case managers. The more moms learn and participate in SMILE activities, the more SMILE bucks they can cash in for giveaways and prizes like pacifiers, books, car seats, and more. The next class will be held on November 20 at 1pm. Check the calendar for later dates. Learn more about the SMILE bucks program here.

Health Hint

Although social distancing remains in effect for Thanksgiving, putting a twist on your videochat festivities can offer new ways to make special memories. Research creative celebration ideas, such as planning a family menu and cooking together while videochatting. Coordinate a recipe swap and cook-off. Take a “Zoom 2020 Family Photo.” Have a centerpiece contest. Creativity is key in helping us cherish special times with loved ones even during difficult times.

Featured Video

This animated video from TedEX explains how yoga’s combination of movement and posture, breathing techniques, and spiritual contemplation can benefit one’s health:

Featured Recipe: Creamy Vegan Butternut Squash Pudding

The health and vitality of our community starts with the womb. Standing on the front lines of the battle against infant mortality, the SMILE program provides Black Montgomery County moms with the support, education, and guidance they need as they bring forth and nurture new life. As we observe National Infant Mortality Awareness Month, we encourage everyone to join us in this effort by doing their part to build a safe, healthy, and prosperous community where every Black baby can live to reach their full potential.
 
Infant mortality is defined as death that occurs before an infant’s first birthday. The infant mortality rate estimates the number of infant deaths for every 1,000 births. According to the U.S. Office of Minority Health, African American babies are more than twice as likely to die within their first year compared to White babies. While difficult to digest, these statistics tell the true story of the disadvantages African Americans face from the start.
 
Everyone should strive for optimal health by practicing good health habits, but if you are pregnant or may be pregnant in the future, your health habits affect the health of your babies. Eating healthy food, exercising regularly, making sure you’re getting essential nutrients like folic acid (which helps prevent birth defects), knowing your family health history, avoiding alcohol and tobacco, managing and preventing chronic conditions like obesity and diabetes, learning how to manage stress—these core health practices help to ensure a healthy pregnancy and a healthy first year of your baby’s life. Expecting moms and moms of infants can count on AAHP for help putting these practices into action.
 
Since 1999, AAHP’s SMILE team has provided award-winning care and services for pregnant moms and moms of infants, including nurse case management, home visits, childbirth and breastfeeding classes, and more. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and Montgomery County Stay at Home Orders, the SMILE Program mobilized to create opportunities for social interaction and community-building for pregnant moms who may feel overwhelmed and alone. The SMILE Program is often perceived as a haven, a family, and a school. Learn more about the SMILE program here and spread the word!
 
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Numerous studies have named obesity as the second-leading risk factor for severe sickness or death from COVID-19, with the top risk factor being “advanced age” (over 65). The link between obesity and chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers make obesity an epidemic in its own right. According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 42% of American adults and 18% of American children and adolescents are overweight or obese. African Americans must address obesity prevalence in order to reduce health disparities. That need is now more critical than ever with COVID-19 in our midst.
 
Being homebound for long periods of time can result in getting less physical activity and eating more processed foods, inevitably leading to weight gain. Establishing and maintaining good eating habits and a regular exercise routine can help counter the threat of obesity-related health conditions and COVID-19. Adults should do the best they can to set a good example and emphasize the importance of a healthy lifestyle to the children and adolescents in their lives. As students settle into virtual classes at home, parents and caregivers should incorporate exercise and healthy eating into their “new normal.”
 
The following chart documents obesity rates by race and ethnicity, according to The State of Childhood Obesity, a report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation:
Healthcare workers and public health experts predict an uptick in COVID-19 infections and deaths during flu season, which is just around the corner. Losing weight, eating healthy, exercising, and building up the immune system provide the best protection against COVID-19. If you’re ready to start losing weight and getting healthy, join AAHP’s weight management plan. See the graphic under this article for more information.
 
September is Childhood Obesity Month. Find health and nutrition activity worksheets for kids here.
 
Learn more about healthy eating and nutrition at the following resources:
  • Produce for Better Health – a resource for busy parents, providing recipes, serving ideas, shopping advice, and creative ideas for incorporating more fruits and vegetables into the family diet.
  • My Plate – a website from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) with information on how to create a personalized eating plan and balance diet with physical activity, including interactive learning tools for adults and children.
  • Nutrition Information – a website from the Department of Agriculture with links to a wealth of information on nutrition, food facts, healthy eating, physical activity, and food safety.
  • Manna Community Resources – an organization dedicated to ending hunger in Montgomery County through food distribution, education, and advocacy.
  • Montgomery County Food Council – an organization working to improve the environmental, economic, social, and nutritional health of Montgomery County, Maryland by making a positive impact on the local food system.
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The passing of beloved actor Chadwick Boseman from colon cancer at the age of 43 has shaken the African American community. The talent and spirit Boseman embodied with his portrayals of King T’Challah, Thurgood Marshall, Jackie Robinson, and other icons inspired so many towards excellence. As we mourn, we also reflect on the value of life and of a life well-lived.
 
Anyone can get cancer. Half of American women and a third of American men will be diagnosed in their lifetime. African Americans have the highest incidence and mortality for most cancers compared to all other racial/ethnic groups. For colon cancer, which is the third most common cancer in the U.S. and the second most common cause of cancer-related death, the mortality rate for African Americans is 35% higher than that for White Americans. African Americans are twice as likely as White Americans to be diagnosed with colon cancer before the age of 50. A complex mix of biological, socioeconomic, behavioral, and genetic factors drive these statistics. Even though cancer can affect people of any age or health status, social determinants lead to health disparities that place African Americans squarely at the bottom.
 
AAHP answers that current reality by sharing our vision for the future. Imagine with us a future where every African American in Montgomery County:
  • has a colorectal cancer screening (colonoscopy) starting at age 45
  • has the intention and resources to eat a healthy diet filled with fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
  • maintains a healthy weight
  • is physically active relative to their physical ability
  • avoids tobacco and drinks alcohol only in moderation (pertaining to residents of legal age)
If you share that vision, learn everything you can about preventing cancer and other chronic diseases and share that knowledge with others.
 
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Cholesterol is a fatty, waxy substance found in the blood. Although the body needs and naturally produces cholesterol, the foods we eat can add more good or bad cholesterol to our bodies. Too much bad cholesterol can clog the arteries, increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke. Because there are no symptoms of having high cholesterol, it is important to get a blood test every four to six years to check your cholesterol levels. More than 102 million American adults over 20 have high cholesterol levels (220mg/dL), and more than 35 million are at high risk of heart disease. Seven percent of American children and youth between the ages of six and 19 have high cholesterol. Children over the age of two should start getting tested for high cholesterol if they are overweight or have a family history of high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes or other chronic diseases.
 
Like high blood pressure, high cholesterol can be prevented and managed by adopting a healthy lifestyle and/or with medication. More than 55% of adults in the U.S. take medication for high cholesterol.
 
September is National Cholesterol Education Month. Observe by scheduling an appointment or making a date to get your cholesterol checked.
 
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Health Hint

If you want to limit screen time for your child but still want to keep them occupied and entertained, try audiobooks. Perfect for travel, bedtime, and chores, audiobooks can stimulate your child’s imagination and help them learn how to listen more attentively. Families can also listen to audiobooks together as a bonding activity.
 
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In this informative video from Pfizer, Dr. Freda Lewis-Hall discusses the warning signs of colorectal cancer and a young Black woman details her experience being diagnosed with colorectal cancer at the age of 31:

Featured Recipe

INGREDIENTS
  • ¼ cup double-concentrated tomato paste
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely grated
  • 1½ tsp. ground coriander
  • 1½ tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 medium head of green or savoy cabbage (about 2 lb. total)
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 Tbsp. chopped dill, parsley, or cilantro
  • Full-fat Greek yogurt or sour cream (for serving)
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Mix tomato paste, garlic, coriander, cumin, and red pepper flakes in a small bowl.
  2. Cut cabbage in half through core. Cut each half through core into 4 wedges.
  3. Heat ¼ cup oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high. Working in batches if needed, add cabbage to pan cut side down and season with salt. Cook, turning occasionally, until lightly charred, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer cabbage to a plate.
  4. Pour remaining ¼ cup oil into skillet. Add spiced tomato paste and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until tomato paste begins to split and slightly darken, 2–3 minutes. Pour in enough water to come halfway up sides of pan (about 1½ cups), season with salt, and bring to a simmer. Nestle cabbage wedges back into skillet (they should have shrunk while browning; a bit of overlap is okay). Transfer cabbage to oven and bake, uncovered and turning wedges halfway through, until very tender, liquid is mostly evaporated, and cabbage is caramelized around the edges, 40–50 minutes.
  5. Scatter dill over cabbage. Serve with yogurt alongside.
 
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The African American Health Program is funded and administered by the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services and implemented by McFarland & Associates, Inc.
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