Each July, AAHP observes National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month to recognize and address mental health concerns facing Blacks/African Americans. It’s important to know that movement and exercise can benefit mental health. Activities such as jogging, swimming, cycling, walking, gardening, and dancing have been shown to reduce anxiety and depression by providing distractions from negative thoughts and by triggering the release of endorphins, those wonderful "feel-good" brain chemicals. Just 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise (like brisk walking) three times a week can make a significant positive impact on an individual’s mental health.
If you're looking for a calming way to lift your mood, give meditative movement a try. Practices like qigong, tai chi, and yoga can help ease depressive symptoms by helping you focus on how your body feels, where it is in space, and your intuitive feelings while you move. To get started, you can join AAHP's yoga classes on Wednesday mornings at 10am.
Learn more about Blacks/African Americans and mental health by reading the "Minority Voices 2022: Our Mental Health Journey" report authored by AAHP, the Latino Health Initiative and the Asian American Health Initiative.
It’s a common belief that our metabolism—the process by which our bodies burn calories—slows down as we age, and that’s why our waistlines expand(ed) during our 30s, 40s, and 50s. But a groundbreaking study debunked this notion, finding that our metabolism reaches its highest point in infancy, then gradually slows down until we're around 20 years old and then remains relatively stable until we reach our sixties.
What’s really to blame for weight gain in middle-age? Likely changes in food choices, alcohol consumption, activity levels, and sleep patterns. This research reminds individuals to take a more holistic approach and more accountability regarding their health and weight management.
No matter your age, resistance training, also known as weightlifting, helps preserve the muscle mass that tends to decrease as we age. Muscle mass is a key factor in metabolism. Other healthy habits, such as getting enough rest and eating enough protein and calories, can also help you optimize your metabolism.
Good circulation is crucial for quality of life. Poor circulation can cause unpleasant symptoms, such as muscle pain, weakness, heaviness in the legs, a prickling sensation like "pins and needles" on the skin, leg swelling, painful swollen veins, and numbness. Dealing with these issues can surely put a damper on your health and well-being, so incorporate these tips to prevent and manage poor circulation:
1. Exercise: Even low-impact exercise like walking can increase blood flow and improve your circulation.
2. Change your diet: Cut back on red meat and full-fat dairy items and reduce salt intake to avoid fluid retention and high blood pressure.
3. Keep legs elevated: When sitting of laying down, prop your legs on something to improve blood flow. Elevating your legs higher than hip level creates an incline that helps blood move.
4. Quit smoking: Nicotine restricts blood flow, causes inflammation, and damages arteries. Avoid both traditional cigarettes and e-cigarettes as even small exposures to nicotine have negative effects.
5. Wear compression socks: Compression socks gently squeeze your legs to prevent swelling and venous pooling. Consult with your healthcare provider to determine which type of sock is right for you.
Include more plant-based foods to help keep your brain healthy. Researchers discovered that individuals who consistently followed plant-based diets had lower levels of beta-amyloid accumulation in their brains, which is associated with Alzheimer's disease. Among this group, those who consumed seven or more servings of green leafy vegetables per week showed even less buildup compared to those who had only one or two servings. So, remember to load up on those leafy greens to support your brain health!
In this video, trainer Chrissy King and fitness instructor Simone Samuels discuss with TODAY's Sheinelle Jones the importance of promoting inclusive wellness that embraces individuals of all races and body types:
Juneteenth is a special celebration of freedom for Blacks/African Americans, and it also serves to remind us of the work that still lies ahead. Freedom means more than breaking physical chains. For far too long, lack of access to quality healthcare, nutritious food, safe housing and other issues have burdened Black/African American communities with invisible chains, leading to health disparities. Driven by the vision of a Montgomery County where Black/African American residents are as safe and healthy as all other residents, AAHP was formed in 1999.
To celebrate Juneteenth, AAHP will offer free health screenings at the Scotland Juneteenth Heritage Festival on Monday, June 19. Attendees will have the opportunity to meet AAHP staff, participate in a 5K run, and immerse themselves in the vibrant celebrations of Scotland, the oldest black community in Maryland. Mark your calendars and learn more here.
As we celebrate Juneteenth each year, let us hold onto the spirit of freedom, answered prayers, and unwavering hope. Let’s keep working towards a future where every individual can thrive!
June is Men’s Health Month, a time dedicated to raising awareness about the unique health challenges faced by men. Given that men generally have a shorter lifespan than women and considering that Black/African American men tend to live the shortest and unhealthiest lives compared to all other demographics, it is especially important for Black/African American men to prioritize their health and wellness. Did you know these three facts about men’s health?
1. Eating a healthy diet can help men prevent prostate cancer.
Eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can improve prostate health in men. In particular, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower, as well as foods containing lycopene like tomatoes, have been found to have protective effects on the prostate. Reducing intake of red meat and dairy products may also help to improve prostate health.
2. Regular doctor visits and timely medical care can improve men’s health outcomes.
Men, particularly Black/African American men, often avoid regular checkups and seeking medical attention due to societal pressure to be tough and self-sufficient. This can lead to dismissing symptoms and delaying medical attention until their condition worsens. Men also avoid professional care for mental health concerns, contributing to a suicide rate four times higher than that of women. This pattern of avoidance can have serious consequences, as preventive care and early detection can improve health outcomes and even save lives.
3. Positive social relationships can enhance men’s health.
Strong relationships are vital for men’s health. Research shows that having solid social connections lowers anxiety and depression, boosts self-esteem and empathy, and strengthens the immune system. On the flip side, lacking social support can have a more detrimental impact on men’s health than obesity and smoking. According to Harvard Medical School, marriage also brings significant health advantages for men, including lower rates of heart disease and stroke, better mental health, and increased longevity compared to unmarried men.
Summer is here, and it’s time to soak up the sun and have some fun! Whether you’re biking, swimming, or just lounging in the backyard, stay safe and take care by being mindful of safety precautions and following health recommendations.
Staying hydrated is crucial during summer days for you and your loved ones to prevent dehydration. Drink plenty of water throughout the day, especially when engaging in outdoor activities. Protect all skin tones from sun damage by using sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 15, wearing protective clothing, and seeking shade during peak sunlight hours.
Swimming is a popular summer activity, but it’s critical to practice water safety to prevent accidents and drowning. Adults and children alike should learn how to swim and always avoid swimming alone. Children should always be supervised in and around bodies of water.
Grilling is a common summer activity, but it’s best to practice safe grilling techniques to reduce the risk of cancer. Cooking meat over an open flame releases cancer-causing chemicals, so consider pre-cooking meats in the oven or microwave before grilling to reduce grilling time and the amount of harmful chemicals released. Marinating meat in vinegar, citrus juice, or other acidic liquids can also prevent the formation of cancer-causing compounds. Try grilling fruits and vegetables for a healthier option.
There’s no better season to enjoy the great outdoors, so consider spending some time in one of Montgomery County’s beautiful parks. If you’re up for getting some exercise in while enjoying the company of other community residents, join AAHP for AAHP Walks on selected Saturdays. The next walk will be held on Saturday, June 17 at Lake Needwood in Rock Creek Regional Park in Rockville from 9:00am – 10:30am.
While news can be a great source of information, entertainment, and inspiration, be cautious of news overload. The media focuses on negative events so it may be a good idea to limit your exposure and focus on the positive aspects of life. By maintaining a healthy balance in your news intake, you can maintain a positive outlook and appreciate the good around you.
Many people struggle to meet the recommendation of walking 10,000 steps per day. The Root’s Tatasha Robertson explains how she accomplishes this by incorporating walking into her daily routine:
Stroke is a serious medical condition that can have debilitating and life-altering consequences. While some risk factors for stroke, such as age and family history, are beyond our control, there are many things we can do to reduce our risk of having a stroke.
Maintaining a healthy weight is one of the most important things we can do to prevent stroke. Being overweight or obese increases our risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes, all of which are major risk factors for stroke. By eating a healthy diet and staying physically active, we can maintain a healthy weight and reduce our risk of stroke.
Another important factor in stroke prevention is controlling high blood pressure. High blood pressure is the single most important risk factor for stroke, and it can be managed through lifestyle changes, such as reducing salt intake, exercising regularly, and quitting smoking, as well as through medication. It's also important to treat atrial fibrillation, a type of irregular heartbeat that can increase our risk of stroke. By taking steps to manage these and other underlying medical conditions, we can significantly reduce our risk of stroke and enjoy a healthier life.
Preeclampsia is a serious pregnancy complication that can cause high blood pressure and kidney dysfunction. The risk factors for preeclampsia include first pregnancy, multiple pregnancy, age 35 and older, family history, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney disease, and autoimmune disorders. Studies have shown that US-born Black/African American women are at higher risk of preeclampsia than both White women and Black/African American women who immigrated to the US. Structural racism, combined with biological, cultural, and social factors, may contribute to this disparity.
High blood pressure is a common symptom of preeclampsia and can be an early warning sign of the condition. It is important for pregnant women to monitor their blood pressure regularly to prevent and manage preeclampsia. Women should be aware of the signs and symptoms of preeclampsia and seek timely medical care if they suspect they may have preeclampsia. Women should also maintain a healthy lifestyle during pregnancy by eating a balanced diet, staying active, and avoiding unhealthy habits like smoking.
May is Preeclampsia Awareness Month, and AAHP wants you to know that preeclampsia can be prevented and managed with proper care and attention. For more information about the SMILE (Start More Infants Living Equally healthy) Program, AAHP’s services for Black/African American expecting and postpartum moms, please visit AAHP’s website here.
Physical activity should be a part of everyone's daily routine, regardless of age. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), regular exercise can help to prevent chronic diseases, improve mental health, and promote overall wellbeing.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children and adolescents participate in at least one hour of physical activity each day, which can include activities like running, swimming, riding bikes, playing sports, or simply playing outside. Teenagers should aim for at least an hour of moderate to vigorous exercise per day. They can engage in activities such as team sports, running, or dancing, and can also incorporate strength training exercises. It’s important for teenagers to find activities they enjoy so they can stay motivated and continue exercising as they get older.
Exercise becomes even more important in maintaining good health as we get older. The CDC recommends that adults engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week, along with muscle-strengthening activities at least two days per week. Older adults can focus on lower-impact activities such as walking or swimming and should incorporate strength training to maintain muscle mass and yoga and tai chi to improve balance and flexibility.
No matter what your age or stage of life, it's never too late to start exercising. By making physical activity a part of your daily routine, you can enjoy the health benefits and improvements of being more active. So, get out there and get moving!
Spring can be tough for those with allergies, as pollen and allergens are more common during this season. Indoor allergens can also cause symptoms since we spend most of our time indoors. To minimize indoor allergens, consider a thorough spring cleaning, which can include vacuuming carpets and rugs and deep cleaning dusty areas. To reduce outdoor allergen exposure, you can flush out allergens from nasal passages by rinsing or spraying with a nasal saline solution after spending time outside.
In this TED video, Sangu Delle, a TED fellow, entrepreneur, and clean water activist from Ghana shares his personal journey of learning to manage anxiety in a society that is uncomfortable with emotions:
AAHP warmly invites all County residents to join us for our annual celebration of health, AAHP Community Day. Register here.
April is National Minority Health Month (NMHM), a time to raise awareness about health disparities in minority communities. NMHM holds a special place in AAHP’s heart because it aligns with our mission to bring an end to health disparities. We are proud of our work to build a future where Black/African American County residents are as healthy and as safe as the rest of the population.
The Department of Health and Human Services has given this year’s NMHM the theme “Better Health Through Better Understanding.” Helping clients understand their health is a significant part of AAHP’s work. When clients understand their health, they are empowered to make better decisions in their daily lives. For example, if you understand the link between unhealthy foods and chronic disease, you are more likely to avoid unhealthy foods to protect your health.
Celebrate NMHM by telling other Black/African American County residents about AAHP’s programs and services. Spread the word to your friends, family, and neighbors about AAHP’s health education classes, support services for pregnant and postpartum moms and their infants, health screenings, and more. For more information about AAHP’s programs and services, click here. Check out AAHP’s calendar of events here. To register for an event or class, click on the event or class and then click on the registration link.
If you are sexually active, the only way to know that you do not have an STI is to get tested. People may feel unsure about how to get tested for STIs, but it is important and doesn’t have to be scary. Here’s the 4-1-1 on STI testing:
WHEN should you get tested for STIs?
Women under 25 who are sexually active should be tested for gonorrhea and chlamydia every year. Pregnant women should be tested for syphilis, HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C early in their pregnancy. Pregnant women at risk for infection should also be tested for chlamydia and gonorrhea. Sexually active gay and bisexual men, and men who have sex with men should be tested at least once a year for syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhea, HIV, and hepatitis C. You should get tested for hepatitis B if you show symptoms or have had unprotected sex, shared needles, razors, or toothbrushes with someone who has the virus, even if you don't have symptoms. Testing for herpes is recommended when symptoms are present. Women aged 25-65 should get an HPV or Pap test every five years, depending on prior results. Everyone from ages 13 to 64 should get tested for HIV at least once in their lives. Anyone at risk for infection (such as having multiple partners or frequently changing partners) or who shares injection drug equipment should get tested for HIV at least once a year.
HOW can you get tested for STIs?
The Dennis Avenue Health Center in Montgomery County offers confidential testing for gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis, hepatitis B and C, herpes (culture only) and HIV. More information can be found here. A listing of private STI testing locations can be found here. Planned Parenthood in Gaithersburg also offers STI testing. You can also order at-home STI testing kit here for fast and discreet results.
WHY should you get tested for STIs?
Testing for STIs is crucial for everyone, no matter your age, sex/gender, or sexual orientation. STIs are common and can go unnoticed without any symptoms. They can lead to severe health problems, including infertility and increased risk of HIV infection. Regular testing can help detect and treat infections early, protect your partner(s), and prevent further spread.
STI Awareness Week is April 9-15. Did you know that in 2020, over half (53%) of reported cases of STIs were among adolescents and young adults aged 15–24 years?
Stress can have a significant impact on your physical and mental health. Learning to manage stress is an important life skill that can help you reduce health risks and lead a healthier, happier life.
Stress can affect the heart by increasing blood pressure and exposure to the stress hormone cortisol, which contributes to heart disease. Research has shown that stress may affect heart health by increasing inflammation, but this hasn’t been completely proven. In addition, stress can lead to unhealthy habits, such as smoking, overeating, abusing alcohol, not exercising, and not sleeping properly which also contribute to heart disease.
Stressful experiences, such as physical or sexual abuse, neglect, unemployment, bereavement, or a major medical diagnosis can have long-lasting effects on mental health, especially during youth. Research has shown that these events can increase the risk of developing anxiety and mood disorders, as well as suicidal thoughts and attempts. It is important to recognize the signs of stress in order to reduce its psychological and physical effects.
Pregnancy can be a stressful time, and this stress can have a direct impact on the health of your baby. Excessive stress during pregnancy increases the risk of having a preterm or low-birthweight baby, which can cause serious health problems in infants.
The video below artfully explains the toll stress can take on your body:
Workaholism, also known as work addiction, is a real mental health condition that can negatively affect relationships as well as physical and mental health. Signs of work addiction include taking work home, staying late at work, and constantly checking emails or texts while at home. If you or your loved ones feel that work is consuming your life, take steps to make changes so you can achieve a healthier balance. Tips on how to move past workaholism can be found here.
Ricki Fairley, a cancer survivor, is the founder and CEO of Touch, the Black Breast Cancer Alliance in Annapolis. She shares her inspiring journey of creating a new life for herself after being diagnosed with cancer in this video:
Eating healthy is a fundamental part of maintaining good health, yet many people make poor food choices. The convenience of unhealthy snacks and fast food, the lower cost of unhealthy foods compared to nutrient-rich foods, taste preferences, and lack of knowledge about proper nutrition all contribute to people choosing unhealthy food over healthy food, leading to adverse health outcomes. March is National Nutrition Month, a time to learn more about nutrition and create healthier relationships with the food we consume so we can enjoy better health.
Good nutrition helps to prevent and manage a wide range of diseases and conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke, cancer, and even mental health conditions. Good nutrition is vital for supporting the immune system and helps us prevent and recover from colds, the flu, and other infections. It can also improve our moods, energy levels, muscle strength and physical endurance. No matter your age, nourish your body with a healthy diet for optimal health and wellbeing.
Check out these tips to help you establish lasting habits that can lead to better health:
Whether you're looking to lose weight or just enjoy a balanced diet, National Nutrition Month is the perfect opportunity to take steps towards making smarter food choices.
Are you concerned about alcohol's potential to harm your health? It might be time for a reality check. Alcohol is classified as a Group 1 carcinogen, meaning it has been identified as a major cause of many types of cancer, including (female) breast, colorectal, esophageal, stomach, liver, and several other forms. It’s best for your health to avoid alcohol entirely but if you choose to drink alcohol, the National Cancer Institute recommends limiting yourself to less than two drinks per day for adult males and one drink per day for adult females. While light or moderate drinking may not lead to increased cancer risk, heavy or binge drinking may result in higher rates of some cancers and may even contribute to more aggressive cancers.
In addition to the increased risk of cancer and other chronic illnesses, overindulgence in alcohol can lead to mental health issues such as depression, decreased cognitive abilities, and poor impulse control. Furthermore, alcohol remains a common factor in cases of domestic abuse and vehicle accidents.
March marks Alcohol Awareness Month, an opportunity to raise awareness about alcohol use and its potential consequences. Because alcohol has become an integral part of the social lives of so many, taking the time to understand how drinking affects our performance, emotions and decisions can help us establish positive habits that will benefit our health in the long run.
The gut (gastrointestinal tract) is far more important than many people realize. Poor gut health is caused by an imbalance of gut bacteria which can cause digestive disorders like frequent diarrhea or constipation. Other common signs of poor gut health include abdominal pain, bloating, nausea, vomiting, indigestion, heartburn, fatigue, and weight loss. People with poor gut health often have weakened immune systems and are more prone to infections as well as inflammatory diseases like arthritis. Along with these physical symptoms, people may experience changes in mood such as anxiety or depression.
One way to improve your gut health is by reducing sugar intake. Sugar feeds the bad bacteria in the digestive tract which can lead to the unhealthy balance that causes inflammation and disease. Eating plenty of fiber-rich foods such as vegetables, fruits, and legumes will help ensure that your gut is kept in balance and your digestive system remains healthy. Regular exercise also contributes to improved gut health by increasing blood flow.
Nourishing and strengthening your body with good nutrition and regular exercise can help you prevent digestive discomfort and chronic conditions, enabling you to enjoy the benefits of a healthy and happy gut.
Don’t fear fluoride! Although fluoride-free toothpaste may be marketed as a natural alternative to regular toothpaste, toothpastes containing fluoride are more effective in promoting healthy teeth and gums. Fluoride helps strengthen your teeth and actively prevents the formation of plaque and bacteria that can cause decay.
Zerlina Maxwell of MSNBC and Dr. Ebony Hilton discuss groundbreaking research that reveals Black/African American women are more vulnerable than their White counterparts to certain chemicals found in cosmetics and hair care items:
This Tuesday, February 7th, AAHP hosted a special event in observance of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. “A Real Conversation about Blacks and HIV/AIDS” took place at the Sandy Spring Museum and featured an open discussions with experts, healthcare workers, and people whose lives have been affected by HIV/AIDS. With health screenings, HIV testing, sexual health resources and information available, in addition to enlightening conversation, this sold-out event presented an opportunity to get real about HIV/AIDS in our community.
Blacks/African Americans are impacted by HIV/AIDS more than any other race or ethnic group, with recent reports indicating that Blacks/African Americans accounted for 59% of HIV diagnoses in Montgomery County despite only making up 18% of its population. National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day was created to remind us of the disproportionate impact of HIV and AIDS on African Americans, so let's educate ourselves, get tested, seek treatment if necessary, work together to reduce stigma and eliminate new infections. Let’s unite against HIV/AIDS and build an HIV-free future!
As we celebrate Black History Month to honor the important contributions Blacks/African Americans have made throughout American history, let's also work towards a healthier future by raising awareness of heart disease and how it affects Blacks/African Americans. It's American Heart Month, so AAHP encourages you to focus on your heart health and take steps to reduce your risk for heart disease.
Your everyday choices and overall lifestyle play a tremendous role in your heart health. Managing your weight with diet and exercise, monitoring your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and avoiding unhealthy habits like smoking and drinking alcohol in excess can reduce your risk of heart attack or stroke by up to 80%. If you want to learn how to live a healthier lifestyle and reduce your risk for heart disease, attend AAHP’s Chronic Disease Management classes this month.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the U.S. and Blacks/African Americans have higher rates of heart-related illness and death than other races/ethnicities. Furthermore, Blacks/African Americans living with heart disease in the aftermath of a heart attack or stroke often face economic losses and decreased quality of life, contributing to the Black-White wealth gap and mental health disparities.
Watch this Million Hearts® video about Andrea’s experience having a heart attack while pregnant:
One in three teens in the U.S. are victims of abuse from someone they’re in a relationship with, according to love is respect, a project of the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Parents, guardians, teachers and other adults have an essential role in creating a space of trust for teens. We should be knowledgeable on the signs of teen domestic violence and be prepared to provide support when needed. We should educate our youth on healthy relationships and equip them with communication and conflict resolution skills. It’s also critical that we set a good example of healthy relationships with our own relationships.
AAHP proudly joins love is respect to promote their Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month campaign, “Be About It.” Follow AAHP on social media (@aahpmoco on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) and share our posts to spread awareness of teen dating violence and help our youth thrive in every aspect of their lives.
Check in on your vision health. Many eye diseases may go unnoticed and worsen over time. Cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration are all common eye conditions that can have serious consequences if left untreated. Ask your primary care doctor or ophthalmologist if it’s time for a comprehensive eye exam.
Check out Kevin Fredericks, AKA “KevOnStage” as he interviews a cardiologist about Black/African Americans and heart health as part of the “Live to the Beat” campaign from the CDC’s Million Hearts® initiative:
Living to see another year is a gift for which we can all be grateful. The start of a new year is an excellent time to focus on how we can live up to our full potential, especially when it comes to our health. We hope that you have plans to adopt and maintain a healthy lifestyle this year and that you have set realistic goals and milestones to help you stay motivated and on track throughout the year.
To further ensure that you follow through with your health commitments, find resources or people who can help support you along your journey. Whether it’s a fitness coach, nutritionist, or online support group, having people who can provide guidance and accountability can be incredibly helpful when trying to achieve long-term success with health goals. As your partner in health, AAHP offers a variety of services and programs to help you manage your health, such as:
In addition, Montgomery County Recreation Center membership passes will be free for County residents in 2023. Starting January 3rd, a free pass will provide access to fully equipped fitness rooms, open gym (drop-in) activities and game rooms at any community recreation center during regularly scheduled hours.
Once you have set realistic health goals and found the resources that will help support those goals, make sure you actually follow through. It can be hard at times, but keep pushing towards success, in 2023 and beyond!
Every January, AAHP recognizes Cervical Health Awareness Month, a time to spread awareness about cervical cancer and other cancers that can be prevented with early detection. Health screenings and vaccinations have made cervical cancer one of the most preventable types of cancer, yet the American Cancer Society estimates that more than 4,000 women died from cervical cancer in 2022.
Early detection is key for fighting cancer, so getting regular health screenings is one of the most effective ways to win the battle before it starts. The earlier an issue is detected, the easier and more effective treatments can be. To prevent cervical cancer, Pap tests help detect any abnormalities in the cervix before they become a major issue. Girls and women should start getting Pap tests when they become sexually active or by the age of 21. Cervical cancer can also be prevented by getting vaccinated against HPV (human papillomavirus), the most common cause of cervical cancer. To help prevent breast cancer, women should get regular mammograms starting at age 40. Men should get prostate exams starting at age 50 to help prevent prostate cancer. To help prevent colon cancer, a colonoscopy is recommended every 10 years for adults over the age 45. It’s important to discuss your individual risk factors with your doctor since more frequent or specialized tests based on family history or lifestyle choices may be recommended.
Cervical Health Awareness Month serves to remind us of the importance of prevention when it comes to maintaining our overall health. This month, take the time to review your health history and make sure you (and/or the children in your care) are up-to-date on health screenings.
The word “inflammation” is everywhere, but what inflammation actually does to your body is not common knowledge.
Inflammation occurs when the immune system responds to damage caused by bacteria, viruses, toxins, or trauma. In this process, white blood cells rush to the affected area, bringing oxygen and nutrients to promote healing. However, this also causes inflammation. In a healthy body, inflammation is a normal part of healing and lasts only as long as needed; however, if inflammation persists over time, it can become chronic and cause serious health issues.
Chronic inflammation is linked to a variety of diseases including heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, autoimmune diseases, depression, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancer. Studies show that Blacks/African Americans are more likely than other racial groups to experience higher levels of chronic inflammation. Fortunately, there are steps individuals can take to reduce their risk for developing chronic diseases related to high levels of inflammation.
The foods we eat greatly influence our inflammation levels. Foods that can contribute to inflammation include processed meats, fried foods, refined carbohydrates like white bread or white rice, sugary beverages, processed snacks, and alcohol in excess. Foods that fight inflammation include fruits and vegetables like spinach, kale, blueberries, strawberries, oranges, carrots, bell peppers, broccoli, cauliflower and tomatoes; healthy fats such as olive oil, avocado oil or coconut oil; lean proteins like fish and poultry; and nuts, seeds, whole grains, and herbs. You can also reduce inflammation by exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, managing stress effectively, avoiding tobacco use, and getting regular checkups with a healthcare provider.
Did you know that volunteering is good for your health? Volunteering has been shown to have numerous benefits, including reduced risk for heart disease, stroke, depression, anxiety and general illness. A Longitudinal Study of Aging concluded that those who make a habit out of volunteering have significantly lower mortality rates, regardless of age, gender or physical health. So, this Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, as you honor the memory of Dr. King by serving your community as a volunteer, remember that you’re also honoring your health by volunteering.
Source: Mayo Clinic Health System
n this video from the Grio, Dr. Yolandra Hancock warns of the unprecedented 'tripledemic' of COVID-19, flu, and RSV—an occurrence that should not be taken lightly by anyone looking to stay healthy in this winter:
Every year on December 1st, AAHP joins individuals and organizations locally and around the world to observe World AIDS Day. This is a day for remembrance of those who have died from AIDS and an opportunity to support those currently living with HIV/AIDS. It’s also a celebration of the progress we’ve made in fighting the HIV/AIDS epidemic and an opportune time to spread awareness about HIV/AIDS/STI prevention.
Thanks to incredible advances in HIV/AIDS treatment in recent years, HIV is now considered a manageable chronic illness. With the help of antiretroviral drugs, people living with HIV enjoy long, healthy lives and no longer need to live in fear of transmitting HIV to others. That’s because antiretroviral drugs can suppress the virus so much that it cannot be detected in blood, which is referred to as having an “undetectable viral load.” An HIV-positive person with an undetectable viral load cannot transmit HIV to their sexual partners. This is a huge breakthrough worth celebrating on World AIDS Day.
The U=U campaign promotes the message that people with HIV who have an “(U)ndetectable viral load” are “(U)ntransmittable.” The U=U campaign encourages people to get tested for HIV and to get treatment immediately if they are diagnosed. This powerful message also helps to reduce stigma associated with HIV, promote responsible sexual behavior, and reduce transmission rates.
Learn more about Montgomery County’s HIV/AIDS/STI prevention and testing services here.
The holiday season is a time for giving, and there are many great gifts that can help someone achieve their health and fitness goals.
Consider gifting a loved one with a device that can help them track nutrition, weight, and fitness. Some trackers monitor glucose levels, heart rate, or stress levels, while others track menstrual cycles or body fat percentage. Whatever the tracker's function, it will help your loved one see what goes on in their body and allow them to adjust their diet and exercise habits accordingly.
If you’re looking for a gift that will help your loved one stay mentally healthy, consider a stress relief wearable. These devices monitor biometrics like heart rate and breathing patterns and provide feedback to help them stay calm and focused. Some wearables even offer aromatherapy or sound therapy to help them relax. A smart yoga mat or aromatherapy diffuser are also great ideas that can promote mental health.
If you know someone who is always on the go, why not prepare for them healthy snack baskets with delicious and nutritious treats they can grab while they’re running around? Gift baskets can include a curated selection of nuts, fruits, trail mixes, energy bars, and even some sweet treats like dark chocolate.
Other great options that promote health and fitness include free weights for home use, a smart scale, a gym membership, cooking classes, or a cookbook. If you’re looking for a small kitchen gadget, consider a food scale or a spiralizer (to help your loved one make noodles made from zucchini instead of pasta).
These gifts can help your loved one start 2023 on the right foot!
During a time of celebration and togetherness, it’s tempting to overindulge in alcohol and food. If you find yourself at a holiday party partaking in salty and sweet treats and drinking adult beverages, take a moment to consider the consequences of overindulging. Holiday heart syndrome can occur during or after periods of celebration and is characterized by heart palpitations (skipped, extra, or irregular heartbeats) as well as dizziness, chest discomfort, or shortness of breath. Extreme physical or emotional stress, common during the holidays, also contributes to holiday heart syndrome. While the condition can simply be an alarming side effect of doing too much, it can lead to serious heart issues, including heart failure and stroke. While people with preexisting heart issues are more likely to experience holiday heart syndrome, it can happen to anyone, so everyone should be aware of the dangers of overindulging and make efforts to reduce their risk.
First, be aware of your body’s response to alcohol. If you experience any symptoms such as chest pain, dizziness, or irregular heartbeat, seek medical care immediately. Second, if you are consuming alcohol, do so in moderation. Chronic excessive drinking increases your risk of developing holiday heart syndrome. Finally, make sure to practice other chronic disease prevention strategies, such as eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly. It is also important to get enough rest and manage stress in a healthy way, such as through yoga or meditation. By taking preventative steps, we can all reduce the risk of developing this condition and help protect our hearts.
Sparkling water is an excellent alternative to soda. Studies show that sparkling water might help you feel full for longer and keep food in your stomach longer, compared to regular or “flat” water. Make sure your sparkling water has no added sugars to ensure you’re not trading one bad habit for another. Also, citric acid, phosphorous or sugar in sparkling waters can erode the enamel on your teeth, so choose sparkling waters without those ingredients.
Every year, nearly seven million people worldwide die of heart attacks. Cardiovascular disease, which includes strokes as well as heart attacks and other health issues, is the world's leading cause of death. This TED-Ed discusses the causes and therapies for this lethal condition:
For many people, November is the start of the holiday season. However, November is also Diabetes Awareness Month, a good time to reflect on the importance of discipline in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Diabetes is a chronic condition that can have serious complications if it’s not well-controlled. But most people living with diabetes CAN take control of their condition with education and discipline.
If you have diabetes or prediabetes, make self-discipline an integral part of your commitment to yourself. Closely monitor your blood sugar levels and take your medications on time. Blood sugar levels can be affected by what and when you eat. An exercise regimen also will help you regulate your blood sugar levels. It can be challenging to stick to these healthy habits day after day. But don’t give up—with time and practice, healthy habits will eventually become second nature.
A diabetes support group of people with similar goals and challenges can inspire you to achieve proper lifestyle adjustments. AAHP’s diabetes focus area offers programs and services to help you do just that. Check out AAHP’s Diabetes Prevention Program here and learn more about AAHP’s Chronic Disease Management and Prevention classes (which regularly focuses on diabetes) here.
Preterm labor occurs when the uterus contracts and the cervix opens before the 37th week of pregnancy. This can lead to preterm birth, a leading cause of death in newborns worldwide. Preterm birth can also cause respiratory distress, jaundice, cerebral palsy, intellectual disabilities, and other conditions that negatively impact health. Early detection and treatment of preterm labor is essential to improve outcomes for both mother and child.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2020, one in 10 babies were affected by preterm labor, and in 2019, the rate of preterm birth among Black/African American women (14.4%) was about 50% higher than the rate of preterm birth among white women (9.3%). Many factors may contribute to this disparity. Research suggests that Black/African American women are more likely to be exposed to stressors that can trigger preterm labor, such as financial insecurity or racism. Additionally, Black/African American women are more likely to have certain health conditions that can increase their risk of preterm labor, such as obesity or high blood pressure.
If you are pregnant or may become pregnant in the future, have constructive conversations with your doctors about how you can manage and prevent preterm labor. Reach out to AAHP’s SMILE (Start More Infants Living Equally healthy) program for support, education, and guidance. The SMILE nurses and staff can become your team throughout your pregnancy and the first year of your child’s life. The SMILE program has been at the forefront of improving birth outcomes for Blacks/African Americans in Montgomery County for more than two decades. Learn more about the SMILE program here.
Quitting smoking is not easy, yet the decision to do so is perhaps one of the best decisions a person can make in their life. The process of quitting smoking takes time and a plan. Allow the Great American Smokeout event on the third Thursday in November to be your first step in your journey towards a tobacco-free life. This year’s Great American Smokeout will fall on November 17th.
Although quitting smoking is unpleasant and challenging, the benefits of quitting far outweigh the discomforts of withdrawal. Within just 48 hours of quitting, the nerve endings in your mouth and nose will begin to grow, renewing your sense of taste and smell. Blood circulation improves within two to 12 weeks after quitting smoking, making physical activity much easier while lowering your risk of a heart attack. Within one month of quitting, the many nicotine receptors in the brain return to normal, breaking the cycle of addiction. Quitting tobacco also lowers inflammation and boosts your immune system which makes it easier to fight colds and other illnesses.
If you want to stop smoking, several treatments and resources are available to help you beat your nicotine addiction and reduce withdrawal symptoms. Programs like the Maryland Cigarette Restitution Fund (CRF) provide support for those who want to quit smoking and focus on preventing tobacco-related diseases. Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) can provide you with a low level of nicotine without the tar, carbon monoxide and other dangerous chemicals present in cigarettes and reduce the unpleasant withdrawal effects. With the right treatment plan and support, you can successfully quit smoking and improve your overall health.
November is both Lung Cancer Awareness Month and COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) Awareness Month. Cigarette smoke exposure is a major cause of COPD and lung cancer and contributes to many other diseases including other cancers, heart disease, diabetes, certain eye diseases, and more. Reduce your risk for these diseases by participating in the Great American Smokeout and start your tobacco-free life on November 17th.
To keep your health and health goals in perspective, de-emphasize food and drink from your holiday festivities. Focus on fun, not food! Remember what the holidays are really about: spending time and making memories with loved ones. Consider new ways of enjoying the holidays; instead of making cookies or a gingerbread house, make ornaments or decorate. At holiday parties, move away from the food and move closer to the people whose company you enjoy.
In this video, epidemiologist David Barker discusses how unborn babies experience life in the womb and how occurrences from the outside world influence their development:
This Breast Cancer Awareness Month, AAHP is proud to announce several accomplishments and events marking AAHP’s triumphs in the battle against breast cancer and breast cancer disparities.
AAHP’s nurse case manager, Serena Holtz has spent her life fighting for the well-being of others, and her legacy continues to grow. On Saturday, September 18th, Ms. Holtz was honored as “Survivor of the Year” at the Susan G. Komen “More than Pink” Walk at Freedom Plaza in DC. Donning a crown and sash, she told her inspiring story of treatment and survival before a crowd of thousands. Several AAHP staff attended and supported in person and in spirit for this momentous occasion. Ms. Holtz also hosted the Livin’ the Pink Life, Pink Gala event on Saturday, October 15th at Leisure World in Silver Spring. This year’s theme was “It Takes a Village” and honored the special supporters who have helped make life easier for those fighting breast cancer. AAHP is extremely proud of Ms. Holtz and the contributions she has made to improving the health of Black/African Americans in Montgomery County.
Nationwide and in Montgomery County, breast cancer remains a top cancer killer among women, with death rates for breast cancer 40% higher in Black/African American women than in White women. Early detection is the key to making strides to eliminate this disparity. Make this the month that every woman over forty in your life makes an appointment to have a mammogram.
In October, the Montgomery County Domestic Violence Coordinating Council launched the “Walk in Their Shoes” campaign in observance of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The campaign featured displays of pairs of shoes accompanied by the stories of domestic violence survivors who live in Montgomery County. Intended to highlight the prevalence of domestic violence, guide viewers on how to help a loved one experiencing domestic violence and provide access to free local resources available for victims of abuse, the displays can be seen at the Montgomery County Public Libraries, Montgomery County Recreation Centers, police stations and other sites across the County.
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, in 2019, Black/African American women accounted for 14% of the U.S. female population, but 28% of the females killed by males in single victim/single offender incidents where the race of the victim was known. The problem is further worsened by many Black/African American women not reporting incidents of violence because they do not want their partners and loved ones involved with the criminal justice system.
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline by calling 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), visiting www.thehotline.org or texting LOVEIS to 22522.
In the Age of Information, health myths persist. It can be hard to know what’s true and what’s false, especially when the internet is full of conflicting claims and opinions. That’s why AAHP is here to bust some common health myths. Such as:
MYTH: Exercise can make up for an unhealthy diet.
FACT: Physical fitness is extremely important, but an unhealthy diet can limit the benefits of exercise. Nutrients from food help your body create new cells as old ones are being replaced; if you’re not getting enough of these nutrients, your body won’t be able to build or repair itself as efficiently. As a result, regular physical activity won’t have as big an impact on your health and longevity.
MYTH: Black people don’t get skin cancer.
FACT: While it’s true that Blacks/African Americans are diagnosed with skin cancer at lower rates than Whites, Blacks/African Americans do get skin cancer and have a much lower five-year survival rate. According to a 2019 study published by the Centers for Disease Control, from 2001 through 2014, the relative 5-year melanoma survival rate among non-Hispanic Black populations was 66.2%, compared with 90.1% for non-Hispanic White populations.
MYTH: People with mental illnesses can “snap out of it” on their own if they are strong enough or tried hard enough.
FACT: Mental illness is complex, and many people suffering from mental illness need professional help to overcome or manage their mental health. Seeking professional help for mental illness takes a great deal of strength.
Winter is coming, and it will be here for a while. While cold weather may seem like the cause of cold and flu, these sicknesses are caused by contact with viruses. During colder months, people spend a lot more time indoors, where viruses can spread more easily. So, it’s important to wash your hands frequently especially in the colder months.
MadameNoire presents this episode of “Listen to Black Women” on preventing and combating domestic violence in the Black/African American Community:
Families play a large and dynamic role in shaping the health behaviors of children and the health behaviors they will have throughout their lives. When children and adolescents live with parents, caregivers, or older family members who practice good health behaviors, they are more likely to develop the same positive habits for themselves. These are important points to consider this Childhood Obesity Month, which is observed every September.
While setting a good example is instrumental in influencing youth towards positive health behaviors, encouraging good eating habits through words and actions, and providing opportunities for movement and exercise are also critical. Reduce your and your family’s risk for obesity and chronic disease by increasing the fruits and vegetables consumed in your home. You can start by filling half your plate with fruits and vegetables and doing the same for children. Eating together as a family is a great way to reinforce healthy habits. Research shows that children who eat at least three family meals together per week are 24% more likely to be eating healthy foods than children in families with less shared meals. Children who ate with their families were also less likely to be overweight. Exercising together, such as taking a walk, playing a sport, or riding bikes together before or after a meal can help children get into the habit of being active. Reducing screen time can free up time for family activities and can remove cues to eat unhealthy food, such as seeing commercials for fast food. Instruct children not to use electronics while they eat their meals to ward against mindless eating.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than a third of children and teens are now overweight or obese. Without intervention, this childhood obesity epidemic can lead to higher rates of chronic disease and higher healthcare costs when these children become adults. Let’s do what we can now so that the next generation can have a healthier future.
It’s Sexual Health Awareness Month, so below find answers to questions you might be afraid to ask out loud:
1. Do condoms protect against all STIs?
Condoms have been proven to prevent most STIs including chlamydia and gonorrhea. However, they are not equally effective against all STIs, as skin-to-skin contact can transmit some viral STIs like herpes, genital warts, and syphilis. That’s why it’s important to get tested regularly—even if you always use condoms.
2. Can I take an STI test during my menstrual period?
According to Planned Parenthood, yes, you can get tested for STIs during your period, even on your heaviest days. Your period should not influence outcomes. However, some at-home tests recommend waiting a few days after your period to test for certain infections, so be sure to read the instructions.
3. Can you get an STI from oral sex?
Oral sex is often considered a safer choice to vaginal intercourse and other forms of penetrative sex. However, while it is safer in terms of preventing unplanned pregnancy, it only reduces and does not eliminate the risks from STIs that can be spread from skin-to-skin contact, as well as STIs like chlamydia and gonorrhea.
4. Why do they call HIV and AIDS two different names when they are the same thing?
HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is the virus that causes AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome). A person can be infected with HIV for many years without having AIDS. To be diagnosed with AIDS, a person must have a variety of symptoms, infections, and specific test results.
5. Is bacterial vaginosis an STD?
Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a condition that occurs when there is an imbalance of “good” and “harmful” bacteria in a vagina. BV is not technically an STD, but it commonly occurs in women who are sexually active and rarely affects those who have never had sex. Douching, not using condoms, and having new or multiple sex partners can upset the normal balance of vaginal bacteria, increasing the risk for BV.
From the way we think and feel to how we determine our worth, self-esteem influences nearly every aspect of life. Low self-esteem can lead to destructive behaviors and can contribute to a variety of mental health problems, including anxiety and depression. It also causes people to avoid healthy behaviors such as learning new things, socializing, getting exercise or seeking medical care.
It’s especially important to focus on building your self-esteem when you’re not where you want to be with your health. Having a chronic disease, obesity, mental illness, or any other health condition can certainly take a toll on your confidence so be on guard for negative self-talk. Forgive yourself for making mistakes, give yourself credit for accomplishments big and small, and use hopeful statements or affirmations to re-energize your hope for the future you want.
Your child’s self-esteem plays a crucial role in how they handle setbacks, peer pressure, and other challenges throughout life. Parents and caregivers can help boost a child’s self-esteem by acknowledging them and their opinions, offering them opportunities to participate in activities that interest them, and giving them the freedom to make their own decisions when they have proven trustworthiness. Don’t react to them only when they make mistakes; praise them for good work and positive actions as well.
Although gummy vitamins may be marketed as a tasty alternative to traditional pills and tablets, they’re not the best option. Firstly, gummy vitamins often are weaker than traditional vitamins because their shelf-life is shorter and their strength wears off faster. Furthermore, gummy vitamins are more likely to damage teeth because gummy particles can get stuck to teeth, causing decay. They also contain sugar, which also leads to tooth decay. If your child consumes gummy vitamins, be sure that they brush their teeth after taking them.
Senior Clinical Psychologist Dr. Jamie Howard joins CBS News to talk about the negative impacts of social media on today’s youth and what parents can do to mitigate it:
AAHP strongly encourages moms to breastfeed as an important part of giving their infants a healthy start in life. Breastfeeding provides the perfect balance of nutrients and antibodies for infants, and reduces the risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, diabetes type 2, and heart disease for moms. It also helps moms lose weight after pregnancy and can even help to prevent postpartum depression. For numerous reasons, Black/African Americans have lagged behind other races/ethnicities in receiving these tremendous benefits. Vital to the mission of ending health disparities, AAHP’s SMILE program provides breastfeeding support to Black/African American postpartum moms and infants. This and every August, AAHP celebrates National Breastfeeding Month to highlight our efforts and successes in helping Black/African American moms and families in their breastfeeding journey.
The recent infant formula shortage highlighted the importance of breastfeeding and further justified AAHP’s work. Breastfeeding SMILE moms were not as vulnerable to the infant formula shortage. Furthermore, AAHP put a great deal of effort into sharing resources that directed moms to available infant formula. AAHP understands that many factors influence whether a mom breastfeeds, including many factors beyond one’s control. AAHP is proud to fill the gap in breastfeeding support and to support moms when breastfeeding is not an option.
You’re probably aware of the lifestyle habits that keep your heart healthy: eating a nutrient-rich diet, exercising, not smoking, not abusing alcohol or other harmful substances, and managing stress. But did you know the following are also good for your heart?
Good relationships. Social connectivity plays a large role in heart health. Positive, nurturing relationships can come from neighbors, spouses, relatives, and even pets. Studies have shown that holding hands, hugging, or petting an animal can lower levels of stress hormones. In addition, a supportive loved one might encourage you to exercise or eat better or see a doctor when you need one.
Home-cooked meals. Excessive sodium intake is a known contributor to heart disease, but most of the sodium that Americans consume—about 70%—comes from restaurant, prepackaged, and processed foods and not salt added to home-cooked meals. Data from 2009–2012 shows that up to 94% of Americans exceed the recommended limit of 2,300 mg of sodium per day, with salt added during cooking and at the table only accounting for 5–6% of daily sodium intake.
“Listening” for a heart attack. Be aware that a person can experience a “silent heart attack,” or a heart attack with no symptoms, mild symptoms, or symptoms they may not associate with a heart attack. Heart attacks that happen silently can be just as harmful as those that occur more obviously, but if you don’t know you’re having a heart attack, you may not get the medical help you need to limit the damage. If you suspect you may be having a heart attack after experiencing these symptoms, call 911 right away even if you’re not certain you’re having a heart attack.
Gun violence has increasingly become a major public health threat, as the number of firearm deaths grew by nearly 43% between 2010 and 2020. Firearms have now surpassed car accidents as the number one killer of children and teenagers, especially young Black/African American males. In 2020, Black/African American males between the ages of 10 and 24 died by gun homicide 21.6 times as often as White American males of the same age group. This is one of the most shocking, troubling, and heartbreaking health disparities facing Blacks/African Americans. Incidents of gun violence have far-reaching impacts on the health of Blacks/African Americans as a whole.
While generally regarded as safe, Montgomery County has experienced an uptick in gun violence as well. Lee Holland, president of Montgomery County’s police union said, “Montgomery County is absolutely seeing a rise in gun violence. It’s alarming the number of shootings our members are responding to on a weekly and in some cases daily basis.” According to Montgomery County Police Department data, the number of homicides involving guns, victims, and suspects under 21 has more than doubled between 2021 and 2022 as of June.
View the infographic series published by the National Institute for Healthcare Management Foundation here.
Enrolling in a clinical trial can help Blacks/African Americans achieve better outcomes when seeking medical treatment. Despite being disproportionately affected by chronic diseases, African Americans are severely underrepresented in clinical trials. Research conducted during clinical trials can provide valuable insight into how Blacks/African Americans react to different medications and therapeutics, thus improving those treatments and medications for Blacks/African Americans. A list of clinical trials in Maryland can be found here.
Oscar, Tony and Emmy-Award-winning actress Viola Davis speaks with EBONY about A Touch of Sugar, a documentary exploring America’s diabetes crisis and how it disproportionately affects Black and Brown communities:
Wanda Barfield of the Center for Disease Control Division of Reproductive Health explains how social, economic, and environmental stress affects the reproductive health of Black/African American women in this video from PBS Nova:
In this moving talk presented by TEDxSJSU, Shaun J. Fletcher, PhD, discusses his experience having anxiety attacks and how Blacks/African Americans can destigmatize mental health conditions and improve their mental health:
It is estimated that 30 percent of adults and 66 percent of teenagers are chronically sleep-deprived in the United States. Sleep deprivation can result in significant bodily injury. In this TED-Ed video, Claudia Aguirre explains what happens to your body and brain when you don't get enough sleep:
In this 60 Minutes feature, Bill Whitaker reports on the research that proves the negative impact of racism on the health of Blacks/African Americans:
Our gut bacteria can break down foods that our bodies can’t digest, create essential nutrients, manage our immune system, and protect us from infection. This fun, animated video from TED-Ex explains how the foods we eat impact the health of our gut:
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
This entertaining whiteboard video by PictureFit counts down the 10 most calorie-dense foods you will likely encounter during the holidays:
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.
This cheerful and informative video discusses meal plans, grocery shopping and how to improve your general well-being when you’re living with diabetes:
TED-Ed presents this powerful video about how sugar affects the brain:
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:
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.
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.
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:
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
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.
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.
This informative animated video explains why breast is best:
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.
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:
“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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Social media influencer Tabitha Brown discusses her vegan meal prep strategy for the week:
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:
NowThis News tells the story of a young man whose partner died giving birth:
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:
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.
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.
This animated video from TedEX explains how yoga’s combination of movement and posture, breathing techniques, and spiritual contemplation can benefit one’s health:
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: