Kerri

Women’s Health: Thoughts for International Women’s Day

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Figure 8 shaped ribbon, pink, with pink text stating march 8th Women's DayIt makes sense that Mother’s Day and International Women’s Day are in the same month in the UK, doesn’t it! Perhaps March is also a good month to consider how to protect yourself, or encourage a woman in your life to do so, by going for that overdue medical check-up or that breast exam or mammogram, or pap test that is being put off!
How else can women focus on their health this month?
  • Learn about women’s health concerns:
    • Many women do not realize that signs of a heart attack may be different in women, as Carolyn shares on our US blog.
    • While we often think about breast cancer, cervical cancer, or ovarian cancer when it comes to woman’s health issues, women should also undergo routine colonoscopies and other tests to check for colon cancer.
    • Conditions like osteoporosis can be caught early (known as osteopenia) so long as bone scans are done routinely. Taking supplements of calcium and vitamin D (as recommended by your doctor) may also be good ways to prevent osteoporosis.
  • Check in with your emotional/mental health
    • Postpartum depression is a diagnosis unique to women who have just given birth. If you have a new little one at home, but are still feeling the blues, check in with your doctor for resources and mental health support.
    • Anxiety and depression are common in women as well—if you believe that you are not feeling right, act on it and get the support you need!
    • Stress is real, and for women who are simply doing too much—raising kids or grandkids or nieces or nephews, working, maintaining a social life, and trying to assist in keeping the household running!—things may get overwhelming at time. Learn ways to reduce stress and cope with it.
    • Do not be afraid to ask for help!
  • Relax when possible, and take time to socialize!
    • It is important to take time out, no matter how busy you may feel you are (or even no matter how NOT busy you feel!)
    • Read, watch TV, colour, go for a walk, take a bath—these are all ways you may find helpful to unwind: leave us your tips in the comments!
    • Visiting with friends is also important, and something that often happens a lot less as we get older—why? Take time to see old friends and make new ones!
    • Exercise is also important and maybe hard to get—maybe grab a coffee with a friend and then go for a walk at the same time?
These are just a few tips to stay as healthy as possible—what are yours?
Have a happy International Women’s Day, and for the mums out there, Happy Mothers Day, too! And if your mom has a medical condition and would benefit from wearing medical ID, consider a My Identity Doctor Medical ID Gift Card so she can pick something to help her stay safe. Contact us to learn more, and make your gift a thoughtful one that’s also easy to shop for!
Kerri

Self-Injury Awareness Day: The Facts

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Trigger warning: Self injury, self-harm, suicide, 
 
clip art of a plaster/bandage with a pink heart on centre portionSelf injury, also known as self harm (which LifeSigns UK defines different to self-injury), can affect anyone—no matter their age, gender, race or religion, or socioeconomic status. Self-injury is an unhealthy coping method used when the burden of one’s feelings are too great. In this situation, some people turn to self-injury as a physical release to an emotional problem. Different issues can contribute to a person beginning to self-harm: poor body image, low elf-esteem, perfectionism and desire to achieve well (often in regard to school grades but also in other areas of life); others may have endured trauma or abuse, however many who self-harm do not fit these categories. Anything that may be causing emotional distress may lead to a person resorting to self-harm as a coping mechanism. [1]
Self-injury is not the same as being suicidal. Self-injury, by definition, is “deliberate, non-suicidal behaviour that inflicts physical harm on your body”, and is “aimed at relieving emotional distress”. [1.1] Cutting, burning, and poisoning or drug overdose are all common forms of self-injury. [1.2]
In the UK, you can reach out to LifeSigns UK for help in dealing with your self-injury. Know also that your GP, counsellor or mental health professional can provide you resources and assist you in developing better coping mechanisms. Some alternative coping behaviours suggested by LifeSigns UK include writing, creating something, listening to music, or going for a walk. [1.3]
If you know someone who self-injures or you think may self-injure or be at risk, learn more about how you can help in the right ways.
If you are affected by self-injury, some medical conditions may make wearing medical ID jewelry important, especially as you are working on alternative coping methods. To learn more about alternative coping methods, finding resources and support, and Self Injury Awareness Day, visit LifeSigns UK.
Kerri

More than heart attacks: February is Heart Month Worldwide

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February is Heart Month worldwide. While heart attacks and cardiovascular disease prevention in particular may be what topics spring to mind this time of year, there are other types of heart disease to consider that may not be as much in the forefront of the awareness spotlight as February comes to a close.
Of course, taking the many steps—exercise, good nutrition, and regular medical care including blood pressure and heart checkups—to prevent heart disease or catch it early are very important. These are things we need to be aware of year-round, not just in February! However, there are other types of heart disease that go beyond the heart attack or cardiovascular arrest that springs to mind when we talk about heart disease.
Congenital heart defects (CHDs) are a type of heart problem that are present at birth. CHDs are not curable and may or may not be treatable with surgery or medication—some people have lifelong symptoms, need multiple surgeries or require a heart transplant; others—like myself—receive medical intervention. (In my case, I simply received a dose of medicine that prompted the hole that allows blood to bypass the unborn baby’s lungs to close as it should have). A young person is not usually the first person we think of when we hear heart disease, but 8 in 1000 babies born in the UK have a CHD [1]. 250,000 adults in the UK live with a CHD [1]. Most people with congenital heart defects should wear a medical ID bracelet or necklace identifying their CHD.
Other types of heart disease include genetic diseases, cardiomyopathy [2] (weakening of the heart muscle that makes it have to work very hard to continue to pump oxygenated blood around the body), angina (pain in the chest that may or may not precipitate a heart attack), heart failure (from a variety of causes, including heart attack, CHD, heart valve or rhythm problems—arrhythmias), high blood pressure, and more [2]. Not all of these conditions can be prevented, however, the better health you are in, the better chances you have of making a strong recovery in the event you are affected by heart disease. This is why the steps to prevention are so important. A friend of mine’s dad had a major heart attack several years ago: he walked daily prior to his heart attack, and got to the hospital as quickly as possible (especially given he was on the highway!) once he realized something was not right. It was not long before he was again circling the block with his wife, going farther and farther as the weeks went on: to see him even just two years later, you would never guess what he had been through; the only sign is—if you know what to look for–the nitroglycerin that he is sure to carry in a leather pouch around his neck.
If you have heart disease, wearing a medical ID bracelet or necklace is usually recommended to ensure that your condition is treated correctly and promptly, either expediting or omitting unnecessary tests once your heart condition is communicated. If you are prescribed a blood thinner, blood thinner medical identification should be worn, such as a medical bracelet for warfarin, the most common anticoagulant (blood-clot stopper) in the UK [3]. You can check out our custom engraved medial ID bracelets at the My Identity Doctor shop—hand packed with lots of love by Burton the shop pup!
Kerri

What is Encephalitis and Can You Spot It?

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The answer is, probably not! The tricky thing about the rare and serious condition encephalitis, in which the brain swells, is that it can look a lot like the flu [1]. It is more likely to affect the very young or very old, however, anyone can be affected. [1] Symptoms may look like the flu but do not always—if confusion or disorientation, personality or behaviour changes, difficulty speaking, muscle weakness or inability to move in some parts of the body, seizures or loss of consciousness occur, especially in the presence of flu-like symptoms, medical attention should be sought immediately. [1] Encephalitis might be caused by viruses, like herpes simplex or chicken pox, and more rarely, bacterial or fungal infections. An immune reaction in which the immune system attacks the brain causing it to become inflamed may also be the cause of encephalitis—or, the cause may not be able to be determined. [1] Encephalitis is NOT contagious, though in some areas, it may be preventable by keeping vaccines up to date including the MMR vaccine, and other travel-specific vaccines including the rabies vaccine when in areas with limited medical care access, the Japanese encephalitis vaccine for travellers visiting at-risk parts of Asia, the tick-borne encephalitis vaccine for travel in some parts of Europe (outside the UK). [1]
Encephalitis is treated similarly to many severe infections: antiviral medications, steroids to reduce swelling, immune system treatments if this is deemed to be the cause of the swelling, pain or fever reducers, seizure medications, antibiotics and anti-fungal medications, and respiratory support just as in severe flu cases, which may include need for a ventilator or oxygen [1]. Treatment depends on the severity and type of infection, and can range from days to weeks. [1] Even after the encephalitis has been treated, the symptoms may not completely go away. Some people may, with work, make a full recovery, but others may never completely recover. Some after-effects or complications of encephalitis include memory problems, personality and behavioural changes, executive function issues including issues with attention, concentration, problem solving and planning, seizures, and ongoing fatigue [1].
Most people do not know what encephalitis is, or do not know what it is until a family member or friend becomes affected. February 22 is World Encephalitis Day—and a reminder if “flu like symptoms” seem like they are too much to handle, it is time to visit A&E or call for an ambulance—it is best to be on the safe side, or receive treatment as early as possible. Those living with after-effects of encephalitis should consider wearing medical ID, especially if they experience memory loss, confusion, or seizures, for peace of mind.
Kerri

When winter cold can be a literal pain, not just an inconvenience: Raynaud Awareness Month

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Raynaud Syndrome, also known as Raynaud Phenomenon when it is secondary to another diagnosis, makes a person’s limbs/extremities overly sensitive to cold temperatures, because of hypersensitivity of the tiny blood vessels in the fingers (and toes, as well as a person’s ears, nose and even nipples). Raynaud’s most often causes the affected body part to change colours—either decreasing the colour (turning white) to changing to blue or red (and not just a “pinkish”-red!) [1], Attacks of Raynaud syndrome can be uncomfortable and even painful, and can make using the hands very difficult for fine-motor tasks.
The cause of Raynaud Syndrome is not known, but sometimes it is caused by another medical condition (known as Secondary Raynaud’s)—this is often caused by an autoimmune disease, scleroderma and lupus being the most common, [1] but also including type 1 diabetes or autoimmune arthritis. Secondary Raynaud’s can cause more severe complications, like ulcers of the affected body part, and should be followed-up on regularly with your doctor. Primary Raynaud’s is usually mild and without other complications. [1] If you have another condition that has brought on Secondary Raynaud’s, it is likely important to wear medical ID jewelry for your autoimmune condition.
People with Raynaud’s Syndrome should protect their hands from injury and cold temperature, keep warm when outdoors (especially if working outdoors), and exercise/massage fingers on work breaks [2]. Many specific precautions can be used with vibrating tools as these can trigger Raynaud’s symptoms, although if undiagnosed, medical attention should be sought before continuing work with these devices. [2] While cold is the primary trigger of Raynaud symptoms, strong emotions like stress and anxiety are also known to cause symptoms as adrenaline produced in response to these emotions may limit blood flow. [2]
Remember, most of the time, Raynaud’s is not dangerous even if uncomfortable. However, if you have an autoimmune condition that has lead to secondary Raynaud’s, wearing a medical ID to identify this condition may be important in an emergency.
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