E-BRIEF: Let's Toast to a Healthier 2003
The New Year often means a new health kick: Vows to tone up and trim down, and maybe going to the doctor and getting ourselves as regularly "maintenanced" as we do our cars. So, this week's University of Cincinnati e-briefing examines the health concerns of the young and old, and what you should be doing to preserve your good health.
Table of contents:
1. Maintaining your health
- Five steps to a healthier you
- The annual checkup; trend says diabetes rising
- Who's avoiding the doctor?
2. Screenings: The cancer fighter
- Tests for the genders
- The young man's cancer
- Preventing cancer before it starts
3. Healthy minds, healthy bodies
- Sleep makes for sound health
- Beating the post-holiday blues
- A prescription to help family doctors spot suicide risks
4. Issues affecting young and old
- Teens turn to the Web for health information
- The talk with the teenager: A parent's concern
- Seniors seek health classes
5. Addictions: The lifelong battle
- Treatment programs in crisis
- Are drug courts effective?
1. MAINTAINING YOUR HEALTH
A. FIVE STEPS TO A HEALTHIER YOU
The five top steps to a healthier you, recommends Jeffrey Susman, MD, director of family medicine at the University of Cincinnati and editor of the Journal of Family Medicine, "may sound humdrum but they really can make a difference." He suggests:
- Go to a physician's office periodically for a check-up, including at least once in your 20s, to establish dialogue with a physician and check such things as your cholesterol before the onset of problems that will crop up in later life.
- Wear a seat belt.
- Don't smoke. If you do, make sure you examine the ways to help you quit.
- Know your cholesterol level and monitor it periodically.
- Eat a balanced diet and get some exercise. Being overweight puts you at risk for all sorts of health problems, especially diabetes.
B. THE ANNUAL CHECKUP
Men and women should be keeping their annual checkups and adding additional screenings as they get older. Kirsten Lupinski, director of the UC Wellness Center, says new reports recommend cholesterol screenings as early as when people reach their 20s, to watch out for the number one killer of both men and women: heart disease. Because of rising rates of obesity, Lupinski adds that glucose screenings should occur when people reach their 30s. That's because diabetes rates are rising with the numbers on the scales. She recommends that along with regular checkups for health maintenance, Americans get serious about proper diet and exercise. "Obesity has been linked to heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers. A lot of causes of heart disease are beyond our control, but you can control your weight with proper diet and exercise."
C. WHO'S AVOIDING THE DOCTOR?
When it comes to New Year's resolutions to take care of their health, perhaps it's men who need to listen up. Women are 100 percent more likely to seek preventative health services, compared to men, according to Barbara Rinto, director of UC's Women's Center and former administrative director of the Women's Health Program in the UC College of Medicine. Rinto cites statistics from the annual National Health Care Survey, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control. Even when you exclude pregnancy-related visits, women are 33 percent more likely to receive outpatient care than men. These differences decline somewhat as men and women age, but peak in the 15-44 age range. Rinto notes that women, despite seeking health care, are more likely than men to perceive their health condition as fair or poor, to suffer from obesity and have auto immune diseases. Women are also more likely to make the health care decisions for the household.
2. SCREENINGS: THE CANCER FIGHTER
A. TESTS FOR THE GENDERS
Kirsten Lupinski, director of the UC Wellness Center, says women should begin getting regular pap smears by the time they reach their 20s or become sexually active and mammograms are recommended when women reach age 40 (earlier if there's a family history of breast cancer). Men should begin screenings for prostate cancer by 50, and even earlier if there's a family history of prostate cancer.
B. THE YOUNG MAN'S CANCER
Catching breast cancer early through women's self breast examinations gets a lot of media attention, yet who ever hears about men's examinations fortesticular cancer? Jeffrey Susman, MD, director of family medicine at the University of Cincinnati suggests that testicular cancer can strike men very early in their teens and 20s. If caught early, it can be very treatable. Susman recommends that men check regularly for swelling, lumps or enlargements in the testicles by doing a manual exam.
C. PREVENTING CANCER BEFORE IT STARTS
The American Cancer Society reports colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in the U.S., but the death rate from the disease has been steadily dropping for the past 15 years. Dr. Durado Brooks, M.D., director of the American Cancer Society's colorectal cancer program: "The good news is that there's been improvement in our treatment options related to colorectal cancer, and we have very clear evidence that screening can prevent colorectal cancer by finding abnormalities before the cancer has even developed." Dr. Brooks says despite the benefits of regular screenings, a low number of Americans are including them in their checkups. Annual colorectal screenings are recommended to start at age 50 for the general population. Those who have a family history of cancer or polyps, or other risk factors such as inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn's disease, colitis) should begin screenings at a younger age.
3. HEALTHY MINDS, HEALTHY BODIES
A. SLEEP MAKES FOR SOUND HEALTH
Two of the most overlooked areas of healthy living, suggests Jeffrey Susman,MD, director of family medicine at the University of Cincinnati, are sleep and mental health. "We are a hugely sleep-deprived society. In our 24/7society, more and more, we are trying to do with less and less sleep. We know that sleep deprivation leads to all sorts of problems - the No. 1 problem being car accidents. We take sleep for granted. Sleep deprivation has untold consequences."
B. POST-HOLIDAY BLUES
Gary Dick, UC assistant professor in the School of Social Work, has some advice for beating the post-holiday blues, which seem to come just as quickly as the holidays. For some people the month or two after the holidays means a major letdown as they return to normal routine. For others, the return to normalcy is welcome. For those who may have a tough time after Jan. 1, Dick suggests: planning a trip in January, setting a goal for yourself and doing something active to relate to it, taking up a new hobby, planning a family holiday gathering for the end of January instead of during the holiday rush, taking time to rest or reading a book.
C. A PRESCRIPTION TO HELP FAMILY DOCTORS SPOT SUICIDE RISKS
Keith King, University of Cincinnati assistant professor of health promotion, says a good percentage of the teens and adults who've attempted suicide had seen their doctor within the past six months. King says doctors may be missing the signs and symptoms of depression, such as mood swings. King, an adolescent suicide prevention researcher, was recently invited to Cork, Ireland to present at a workshop aimed at curbing an upswing in suicides there. Part of his workshop focused on how family doctors could educate family members on suicide prevention. "People may come in to their office about another matter and mention their son is depressed, feeling helpless or currently experiencing mood swings. These family members need to recognize the warning signs and make the appropriate referral to a mental health professional."
4. ISSUES AFFECTING YOUNG AND OLD
A. TEENS TURN TO THE WEB FOR HEALTH INFORMATION
A 2001 national survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that of the 90 percent of young people age 15-24 who said they had been online, 75 percent used the Web to find health information. The survey of 1,209 young people across the nation also found that 44 percent of them turned to the Web for information about sexual health including HIV and AIDS. University of Cincinnati Associate Professor Jonathan Alexander teaches courses on writing with technology, as well as a service-learning course series that educates young people about HIV and AIDS. "Clearly, students are interested in sexual health, but a number of them also look up information about drug and alcohol usage."
Alexander adds that because there is so much misinformation on the Web, students need to develop critical literacy skills to know what to trust and what to question. He adds that parents can help open up the conversation about their children's health concerns by directing them to reputable Websites, such as The Body at www.thebody.com/index.shtml. "Parents might be surprised, too, by some of the sites their children lead them to!" says Alexander.
B. THE TALK WITH THE TEENAGER: A PARENT'S CONCERN
Parents want to do a better job of teaching their kids to say no to alcohol and drugs, and they also want to make sure they're conveying the right message. That news comes from a survey of 388 parents that was conducted by the University of Cincinnati Center for Prevention Studies. Keith King, University of Cincinnati assistant professor of health promotion, says the survey found that parents most often turned to their church when they wanted to gather information on drug prevention.
C. SENIORS SEEK HEALTH COURSES
Diane Decker is co-director of the University of Cincinnati Institute for Learning in Retirement, which is part of a national network of programs offering non-credit courses to senior citizens across the country. Decker says that out of the hundreds of local ILR offerings every year, health-related courses are very popular with senior citizens. While other ILR courses in history, languages, technology, art and music might attract an enrollment of about 40, a health-related course like one offered on arthritis will draw up to 140 students."At this time in their lives, health is of pressing concern to our students, all of whom are 50 and older. And even health courses that you might think would be too somber or painful, like the one on Alzheimer's, are well attended."
5. ADDICTIONS: THE LIFELONG BATTLE
A. TREATMENT PROGRAMS IN CRISIS
Lawrence Anthony, director of the Addiction Studies program for the University of Cincinnati, says cutbacks in treatment programs for addictions have reached the crisis level, and that can affect the health of an entire community through increased domestic violence, domestic abuse and other crimes. Anthony is working with other colleagues in the treatment field across the state of Ohio to increase awareness about the crisis in treatment programs.
B. ARE DRUG COURTS EFFECTIVE?
Treatment or jail? The question about which is the more appropriate option for drug abusers continues to swirl around, although a recent University of Cincinnati study sheds positive light on one treatment option. The drug court model is working very well in Ohio, with program graduates 15 percent less likely to be re-arrested than a comparison group who did not receive drug court services. Drug courts offer treatment options and judicial oversight to drug offenders as an alternative to jail. "The drug court model clearly embraces the notion that 'get tough' policies towards drug abuse have fallen short," says Ed Latessa, the study's principal investigator and head of the UC criminal justice program. "By endorsing the view that treatment, when combined with strict judicial monitoring, can be an effective tool in reducing recidivism, drug courts hold more promise than traditional policies that rely on incarceration and stricter sentences."