Posts Tagged ‘get tested’

Baby Boomers and Hepatitis C

November 30th, 2016

Here’s a heads up, Baby Boomers! The US Preventive Service Task Force and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend we all get tested for hepatitis C. That’s because adults born between 1945 and 1965 are five times more likely to have been exposed to the hepatitis C virus than the rest of the population. One out of every 30 Boomers has been exposed.

These statements scream two big questions: What’s the deal with hepatitis C and why are Baby Boomers so highly at risk? First things first.

Hepatitis C is a viral infection that attacks the liver. It can lead to serious problems such as cirrhosis (scarring), liver cancer and liver failure. Hepatitis C is the main reason people need liver transplants, and the incidence is increasing in the US.

The virus is spread through the blood or body fluids of an infected person. Exposure to the virus most often occurs from reusing infected needles, and less commonly through sex and from mother to baby. Some people caught it from tainted blood transfusions or organ transplants prior to 1992, when screening was initiated.

If you’re carrying the virus, you probably don’t know it. Most of the time, there are no outward symptoms to alert you. In a few cases, though, people might notice a loss of appetite, nausea, fatigue, and a slight yellowing of their eyes and skin, as well as dark urine.

A simple blood test can tell you if you carry antibodies for the hepatitis C virus. Having antibodies means you’ve been exposed to the virus at some point. (About 20 percent of people who have been exposed successfully fight it off.) If you test positive for antibodies, a follow-up test will tell you if you are currently infected. If so, there are new treatments out there that can wipe out the virus in nearly 100 percent of cases.4

So, why are Baby Boomers at risk? The answer is: No one knows for sure. The prevailing thought used to be that it was due to a high-risk lifestyle, which created a stigma for people who had hepatitis C. However, recent research has put the kybosh on that theory.

In a study published in early 2016 in The Lancet Infectious Diseases, researchers say the hepatitis C epidemic can be traced to hospital transmissions caused by the practice of reusing needles in medical settings.

During their study, the researchers found that 1948 to 1963 saw the greatest expansion of hepatitis C virus infection, which suggested that the epidemic had its roots in World War II, when battlefield medical procedures helped spread the virus. After the war, there was a ton of new technology developed, but knowledge of the risks didn’t develop as quickly.

Prior to 1950, physicians typically used glass and metal syringes that were washed and reused. In most cases, they were disinfected, but traces of blood could remain, as on other medical equipment. Disposable needles became popular between 1950 and 1960, but by that time, the drug culture was emerging. And as noted earlier, blood products and organs weren’t carefully screened for viruses until 1992.

The researchers in this study concluded that medical practices, not lifestyle choices, are actually behind the high hepatitis C rates in the Baby Boomer population. Their hope is to eliminate the stigma attached to hepatitis C and encourage people in this generation to go ahead and get tested. Will you?

What is Pre-Diabetes and How do I Know if I Have It?

June 1st, 2016
iStock photo

iStock photo

Years ago one of my relatives developed Type 2 diabetes. I knew nothing about diabetes at the time. I accompanied him to see a hospital dietitian, where basically he was told: here’s what you can eat, here’s what you can’t; go home, follow the rules and you’ll be fine.

Since then, I’ve learned that diabetes is far from simple. Managing it requires meticulous self-care. Many people are successful, but many are not. A lot of diligence is required to stay healthy.

It’s worth taking the time to learn about Type 2 diabetes, which affects 90 to 95 percent of all diabetics.

One of the most important things to know is whether you are at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, which affects 90 to 95 percent of diabetics.

It typically won’t appear without warning. Unfortunately, that warning is often silent and only evident in blood tests.

But it’s one you don’t want to miss because there is really good news about the warning stage of diabetes. Health professionals compare it to hazard lights that appear suddenly on an automobile dashboard. Do something instead of waiting for the problem to get worse and you’ll save time and trouble.

Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body’s use of glucose becomes impaired. Glucose, also referred to as sugar, is an energy source derived from food and normally enters cells as fuel.

When that process no longer works like it should glucose levels rise in the blood. Abnormal blood glucose levels can cause all sorts of problems over time from damaging delicate blood vessels in the eyes to blunting wound healing.

The warning stage is pre-diabetes when blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough to diagnose full-blown diabetes. One in three Americans are pre-diabetic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and most don’t know it.

There is really good news about pre-diabetes, however, which is why it’s important to know whether you have it. Pre-diabetes can be reversed through modest amounts of weight loss and exercise.

Health professionals recommend routine screening for pre-diabetes after age 45 or earlier if you are African American or Hispanic, overweight, had the type of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy, have a family history of diabetes and other risk factors of pre-diabetes.

If tests show you’re pre-diabetic, now is the time to take action. More than a decade ago, a landmark study showed it is possible to turn things around. The study found that these two steps stop progression to actual diabetes or delay it significantly:

  • Lose a relatively small amount of weight if you’re overweight or obese; just a 10 percent weight loss can make a big difference.
  • Get more exercise; a brisk, half-hour walk most days can help tune up how your body processes blood sugar.

Of course, changing lifestyles is easier said than done. Humans may have been built to move and eat a variety of nutritious food that doesn’t come in a box or through a drive-thru window. But in today’s world, that can be far from simple.

And because pre-diabetes can occur without obvious symptoms, it’s easy to not think about and put off any intentions to change.

If you find that you’re stalling, there is a program that can help. It’s called the National Diabetes Prevention Program and its “lifestyle change program” offers classes and coaching through places like the YMCA and county health departments.

Check them out – and get a blood sugar test to see where you stand, if you’re at risk.

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