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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.
 
Sources:
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:
 
Sources:

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!
 
Sources:
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.
 
Sources:
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.
 
Sources:

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.
 
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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.
 
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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!
 
Sources:
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.
 
Sources:
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!
 
Sources:
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.
1401 Rockville Pike
Rockville, MD 20852
(240) 777-1833
info@aahpmontgomerycounty.org
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