Alzheimer’s disease is not part of the normal process of aging, and it affects millions

We all hear jokes about “senior moments” or walking into a room and then promptly forgetting why. But Alzheimer’s disease and dementia is not the normal process of aging and really is nothing to laugh about. Alzheimer’s is a serious disease that is the 7th leading cause of death in Idaho and the 6th leading cause of death nationally. It affects millions of Americans and their families.

Tell us what Alzheimer’s actually is. It’s more than just memory loss, right?

That’s right. It is a progressive disease that starts with mild memory loss that could lead to a person not knowing how to speak or how to carry out their daily activities. It involves the parts of the brain that control thought, memory, and language. Scientists are learning more every day, but they still don’t know what causes it. Continue reading

Get Your Flu Vaccine Before the Holidays!

Influenza (“Flu”) activity is currently low in the United States and Idaho, but is expected to increase in the coming weeks with holiday travel and family get-togethers just around the corner. We are already seeing some positive flu tests across the state.

“With the holidays approaching, this is the perfect time to protect yourself and your loved ones by getting vaccinated against the flu,” says Dr. Leslie Tengelsen, the state’s influenza surveillance coordinator. “We don’t want to see people’s holidays ruined because of flu illnesses that are easily preventable. A flu vaccination today offers protection throughout this year’s flu season.” Continue reading

Idaho Medicaid Seeks Public Comment on Proposed Supported Living Rates

The Idaho Division of Medicaid is seeking public comment on plans being submitted  to the federal government to set new rates and methodology to reimburse providers of supported living services. These services help developmentally disabled adults live in their own homes rather than in an institution or certified family home.

The proposed amendments are the result of an intensive cost survey conducted of supported living providers earlier this year, followed by stakeholder meetings for additional input and analysis. If approved by the federal government, Idaho Medicaid anticipates the new methodology and rates will go into effect on April 3, 2017. Continue reading

Quit tobacco TODAY for The Great American Smokeout!

The third Thursday in November is the Great American Smokeout, the day each year when smokers are encouraged to make a plan to quit. Tobacco use is the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the United States, but about 40 million Americans still smoke cigarettes.

How many Idahoans smoke or use tobacco products?

About 16 percent of adult Idahoans smoke. Around 10,200 high school students smoke, and many begin smoking as early as age 13. Nicotine in tobacco is so addictive, it’s difficult to stop once you start, and when you start at such an early age, the health problems get worse.

Why is it important to quit smoking sooner rather than later?

The benefits of quitting start immediately. After 20 minutes of not smoking, your heart rate and blood pressure drop. 12 hours after quitting, the carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal. A year after quitting, your extra risk of a heart attack related to smoking drops by half. And after 10-15 years being cigarette-free, there is a substantial reduction in your risk for cancer or heart disease from smoking.  Continue reading

Idaho Child May Have Rare Neurologic Illness

A southwest Idaho child under the age of 5 may have Acute Flaccid Myelitis (AFM), the first reported case in the state this year. AFM is a very rare, but serious condition that can cause a sudden onset of weakness or paralysis in a person’s arms or legs, or the loss of reflexes. AFM most often occurs in children.

AFM is not a germ that can pass from person to person. AFM is a condition that suddenly develops, sometimes in people who initially had a viral infection such as West Nile, polio, a cold or after a fever. Nationally, the incidence of AFM is less than one case per million people.

Since some cases of AFM occur after infections from preventable diseases, there are interventions you can take to protect yourself and your family.  First, make sure everyone is up-to-date on their vaccinations, so you do not get infected with a preventable disease that may make you susceptible to AFM.  Wash your hands frequently, especially before eating. During seasons when mosquitoes are active, take precautions to avoid mosquito bites.

Symptoms for AFM are a sudden onset of limb weakness or paralysis, and loss of muscle tone. AFM symptoms can also include facial droop, difficulty moving your eyes, drooping eyelids, difficulty swallowing and slurred speech. If a person has sudden onset of any of these symptoms, please contact your healthcare provider immediately.

Nationally, as of September, there were 89 cases of AFM reported from 33 states in 2016.  This compares to 21 cases in 2015, and 120 two years ago.  Due to a recent national increase in cases, which include illnesses from Washington, Idaho’s health districts are informing doctors and healthcare providers throughout the state to notify public health if they suspect AFM. With this initial case in southwest Idaho, blood samples are being sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for testing to determine if a cause can be found.

For more information about this rare, but serious disease, please visit the CDC’s website.

Best way to avoid lung cancer? Quit smoking.

You may not know that lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in Idaho. Other kinds of cancers certainly get a lot more attention, but we should all be aware of the risks. Smoking causes about 85 percent of lung cancer deaths in Idaho, but that leaves 15 percent that are not caused by smoking. And since November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month, it’s important to understand what we can do to reduce our risk for developing this terrible disease.

Are there symptoms of lung cancer?

Symptoms can vary a lot for everyone, so they’re not very reliable. Some people don’t have symptoms at all, but others may have shortness of breath, coughing and wheezing that doesn’t go away and that might include blood, chest pain, fever, and weight loss.

Who is most at risk?

Everyone has the potential to develop lung cancer, but some people have a higher risk than others because of lifestyle choices (like choosing to smoke), environmental exposures (like radon), and family history. Current smokers or those who have smoked in the past are 10 to 20 times more likely to develop lung cancer than nonsmokers. Secondhand smoke also causes lung cancer – nationally about 38,000 nonsmokers die each year from secondhand smoke exposure. Continue reading

Here’s how to protect your children from lead poisoning

It’s National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, so it’s a good time to learn about it and consider having your children tested for lead exposure, especially if you live in a home that was built before 1978. Although lead poisoning is considered the most preventable environmental disease among children, there are still about half a million kids in the U.S. with elevated levels of lead in their blood.

How does lead get into your child’s body?

The most common way a child is exposed to lead is from dust from deteriorating lead-based paint in older homes and apartments. This is by far the most dangerous lead exposure for most children. Lead-based paint was used in more than 38 million homes until it was banned for residential use in 1978. More than half of the homes in Idaho were built before 1978 and could have lead-based paint in them. Lead also can be found in soil near mining or smelting sites, tap water in homes with older plumbing, car batteries, bullets, and even some folk medicines such as azarcon or greta. Grown-up hobbies that use lead such as reloading and making bullets, or making stained glass and pottery can also increase a child’s exposure to lead. Continue reading