Beats Per Minute • Erie Family Health Center Blog • December 2014
In this issue: On Depression • Fighting Flu Season • Our Erie Patients
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Under the Affordable Care Act more people than ever have access to resources to improve their mental health and well-being. However, there are still many Americans who struggle on a day-to-day basis with mental illnesses that affect their ability to function at work or school, and may diminish their relationships with family, friends, and significant others.
One of the most discussed and talked-about mental illnesses is depression. Depression is a treatable illness that affects 19 million American adults and 350 million people worldwide. Contrary to popular belief, depression is not a sign of weakness, nor is it an inherent personality trait. Depression is a mood disorder that causes a chronic feeling of “the blues.” Those affected by it may lose interest in activities that they once enjoyed because they feel sad, anxious, or hopeless about their life.
Those persistent feelings of sadness can cause physical symptoms, too. Headaches, low energy or exhaustion, indigestion, appetite or weight changes (either eating too much or eating very little), nausea, and fluctuations in sleep patterns (sleeping too much or too little) can all be signs of depression.
There is no one single cause of depression. It can happens for a variety of reasons, and may occur during critical periods in a person’s life. Some causal factors that clinicians consider when diagnosing depression include past physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, a family history of depression, major life changes (even positive life changes, such as marriage or graduating from school, can cause depression), or substance abuse.
But treatment for depression is available. If you believe that you are struggling with depression, it is recommended that you see a physician right away to take advantage of the right treatment option for you. Treatments for depression may include prescription medication or talk therapy.
There are also a variety of alternative treatment options that you can pursue yourself to find relief from depressive symptoms; for example, studies have shown that exercise helps release chemicals called endorphins, which boost your mood and trigger positive feelings. And what’s good for your body is good for your brain: eating a well-balanced diet and making sure that you’re getting enough nutrients can help decrease feelings of sadness or lethargy. Avoiding alcohol and lowering your sugar intake will also help to stabilize your mood.
No one should have to suffer from depression in silence. If you need someone to talk to right away, please call the National Suicide Prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK). You will be directed to a support counselor within your region in minutes.
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With the oncoming cold weather, not to mention the recent headlines about the Ebola outbreak and contagious disease, keeping healthy and bacteria-free through the flu season are probably at the forefront of everyone’s minds. Though the temperature may be chilly outside, there are plenty of ways your children can maintain optimal health throughout the school year.
Keeping hands clean is one of the best ways to prevent spreading illness. Teach your children that it’s important to remain aware of what their hands have touched so that they can wash their hands right away and avoid spreading germs to others. Children (and adults, too!) should wash their hands before preparing and eating food, after touching garbage, and after using the bathroom. They should also make sure to wash their hands after coughing or sneezing.
To properly wash your hands, lather them together with soap and scrub them for 20 seconds (for an automatic “timer,” teach your children to sing Happy Birthday twice in a row!), and then rinse and dry thoroughly with a clean towel.
If soap and water aren’t nearby, then giving your child an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that they can keep in their pocket, locker, or backpack will also work as a temporary fix. Remind your child to use the sanitizer at mealtimes or after using shared school objects, like crayons and scissors. While sanitizers do reduce the amount of bacteria on your hands, they don’t get rid of all types of germs. Washing your hands should always be the number-one choice.
It’s also important to teach your child proper etiquette for coughing and sneezing. Give them a pack of tissues to keep in their backpack or locker and encourage them to cough or sneeze into the tissue, then wash their hands or use hand sanitizer. Coughing or sneezing into the elbow is another way to avoid spreading germs if a tissue isn’t available.
Especially when your children are young and starting school, they may want to make friends—and fast friends are made by sharing sweets and treats from their lunches. While it’s great that your child wants to share, make it a rule that anything that can be put into their mouth should be kept to themselves.
Finally, do bring your child in for an appointment to see their pediatrician and ask about whether your child is eligible for the flu shot. Every year, approximately 20,000 children under the age of 5 are sent to the hospital because of the flu. Children of certain ages are at especially high risk for getting the flu. You can keep your child healthy by making an appointment and asking your child’s pediatrician what the vaccination options are for your child.
Our Erie Patients
Providing our patients with quality, compassionate care is our top priority. Everyone at Erie, from our doctors and nurses to our billing and administrative staff, work at Erie with the hope that what they do on a daily basis betters the health and well-being of the entire community. These stories provide just a glimpse into the lives of some of our patients—and how their health, and their family’s health, has improved under the care of Erie’s attentive staff.
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Everyone knows that having a clean, white smile is better than having cavities—but did you also know that dental health affects your overall health and well being? Cavities are caused by bacteria, and bacteria in the mouth, if left untreated, could travel to other parts of the body and cause infections.
Five-year-old Carmen developed cavities as a toddler. Erie dentist Yolanda Hendrix and dental assistant Denise Gonzalez began providing treatment and education. “Learning to care for teeth early in life establishes hygiene and nutrition habits that contribute to better overall health,” said Hendrix.
Carmen’s mother, Marilu Salgado, believes that oral health is very important for her four children. She is grateful for the knowledge she gained through Carmen’s treatment and regular dental visits with Carmen’s siblings.
“We have our healthy routine now,” said Mrs. Salgado. “Everyone brushes after meals. We stay away from candy and visit the dentist every six months. Carmen is eating more fruits and vegetables. She even asks to drink water now instead of soda or juice. It’s good for our whole family!”
Are you interested in sharing your personal story of how the people at Erie have positively affected your health? Contact email@example.com and your story could be featured on the Erie blog, website, as well as or other social media channels.