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Woman with Stomach Pain

The A, B, Cs (Ds and E’s) of Hepatitis

Your liver is a vital organ that fights infections, filters blood, and processes nutrients. It needs to be at its best, otherwise its function is affected.

Hepatitis is a viral condition that targets the liver. It can keep your liver from doing its job properly, and can even lead to cancer, or the need for an organ transplant.

There are five types of viral hepatitis — hepatitis A through hepatitis E. The most common in the U.S. are hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C. Each is caused by a specific virus and can be passed from person to person. There are effective vaccines for hepatitis A and hepatitis B, but not hepatitis C. Each, however, can be easily avoided.

Person Injecting a Baby

Hepatitis A

This very contagious disease is in the stool and blood of an infected person. It’s transmitted when someone ingests the virus, even in microscopic amounts. There are nearly 25,000 new infections each year.

It’s most often spread from close personal contact or eating contaminated food. International travelers, men who have sex with men, people who use shared needles to inject drugs, and the unhoused are at greatest risk.

Children from 12 to 23 months are typically vaccinated against the hepatitis A virus. Children aged 2 to 18 who haven’t been vaccinated can get a “catch up” vaccination.

Symptoms — including fatigue, jaundice, nausea, and stomach pain — can last up to two months. It is more severe if the patient is HIV positive or has hepatitis B or C.

Hepatitis B

This can be transmitted through the blood, semen, or other body fluids of an infected person. It can happen through sex with an infected person, sharing needles, from mother to baby at birth, or even sharing personal items like toothbrushes and razors.

There are less than 23,000 new infections annually. However, more than 860,000 people in the U.S. live with hepatitis B. Two in three people don’t know they’re infected. Nearly half of those infected in the U.S. are Asian.

There is a vaccine for infants and children under 19 years old. It is highly effective at preventing infection.

It is typically a short-term illness. For 90% of infants, it becomes a chronic illness that can lead to cirrhosis or liver cancer. For adults only 2% to 6% develop a chronic illness.

Not everyone who is infected has symptoms. Those who do present with fatigue, jaundice, nausea, poor appetite, and stomach pain.

Test Hepatitis

Hepatitis C

There is no vaccine against the virus that causes hepatitis C, and more than 2.4 million people are living with it. There are more than 50,000 new infections each year. It is the leading cause of liver transplants and liver cancer.

It is most often spread by sharing needles. It’s a short-term illness for some people, but for more than half, it is a long-term infection. There are often no symptoms. When they do appear, it’s a sign of advanced liver disease.

It’s important to get tested for hepatitis C because treatments can cure most people in 8 to 12 weeks.

Hepatitis D

Only people who have been infected with hepatitis B get hepatitis D. You won’t get hepatitis D if you’re vaccinated against hepatitis B.

You can get hepatitis D at the same time you have hepatitis B or immediately after you’ve had hepatitis B.

It can be an acute, short-term infection, caused when the body fluids of an infected person enter a non-infected person. It can also be a long-term, chronic infection causing severe symptoms, long-term liver damage, and death.

Hepatitis E

This is most often found in developing countries. People are typically infected by drinking water contaminated by the feces of someone with hepatitis E.

People have gotten sick in the U.S. with hepatitis E from eating raw or undercooked pork, shellfish, venison, or wild boar meat.

Symptoms can include fatigue, jaundice, nausea, poor appetite, and stomach pain. Most people, including young children, have no symptoms. Chronic infections are also rare unless the person has a compromised immune system. Most people recover without complications.

There is no vaccine available in the United States.

Get Facts and Vaxed

Please contact AltaMed to learn about appropriate immunizations for everyone in your family at any age. We can also help you with information if you’re traveling. It’s important that we all do our part to keep the rates of infection down and to protect ourselves, our families, and our neighbors. Call us at (888) 499-9303 for information or to make an appointment.

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Test Diabetes

Stop Diabetes Before It Ever Starts

Chances are, you may know someone living with diabetes. The latest National Diabetes Statistics Report, published by the CDC, revealed that 37.3 million Americans, or 11% of the population, have been diagnosed with the disease. Perhaps even more shocking, an estimated 96 million U.S. adults (38%) are living with prediabetes. 

As of 2019, diabetes was the seventh leading cause of death in the United States, with more than 280,000 lives lost. Total medical costs and costs from lost productivity, unemployment, and premature mortality totaled $327 billion. 

Yet, controlling it is relatively easy. Type 2 diabetes — the most common form of diabetes — is often the result of the poor choices we make. Type 1 diabetes — the body’s inability to make insulin — is genetic. In this blog, we will focus on the diabetes we can control. 

Person over a Scale

Facts and Figures

More than 37 million people, or 11.3% of the U.S. population, have diabetes. More than 28.5 million of those are adults. Another 200,000 are adolescents and children. More than 8.5 million, or 23% of adults with diabetes, are undiagnosed. 

People with elevated blood sugar, but not high enough to have diabetes, have prediabetes. It affects 96 million people over the age of 18, or 38% of the adult population in the U.S. More than 26 million people over the age of 65, or 48.8% of that population, have prediabetes. 

Anywhere from 15% to 30% of people with prediabetes will develop diabetes in as little as five years if they don’t get active or drop some weight. Most people with type 2 diabetes had prediabetes first. 

Some people will have prediabetes for years but never have any clear symptoms until it turns into type 2 diabetes. Get your blood sugar tested if you have any of these risk factors: 
 

  • Overweight 

  • High blood pressure 

  • Have a low level of “good” cholesterol 

  • 45 years old or older 

  • Have a history of heart disease or stroke 

  • Are depressed 

  • Smoke 

  • Parent or sibling has type 2 diabetes 

  • Physically active less than three times a week 

  • Had gestational diabetes while pregnant 

  • Gave birth to a baby weighing more than nine pounds 

  • Have polycystic ovary syndrome which makes it difficult to get pregnant 

Race and ethnicity can also be a factor with African Americans, Hispanics, American Indians, Pacific Islanders, and some Asian Americans at higher risk. 

Family Playing at the Beach

How to Stop Diabetes 

Too many people don’t take diabetes seriously. Yet, two out of three people with diabetes will die from a heart attack or stroke. 

You don’t have to succumb to a diabetes diagnosis, however. Just a few steps will help put you on a path that could keep you out of diabetes’ clutches. 
 

  • Drop the extra weight. You don’t need to do anything dramatic. Your doctor can help you set realistic goals of losing a pound or two a week with changes to your diet. The American Diabetes Association recommends people with prediabetes lose 7% to 10% of body weight to stop the onset of diabetes. 

  • Get active. Being active helps you lose weight. It will help lower your blood sugar. It can boost your sensitivity to insulin which helps control blood sugar. Try for 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise a day, like brisk walking, biking, or swimming. Also, don’t sit for extended periods of time. 

  • Eat fiber-rich foods. They fill you up, which keeps you from snacking and promotes weight loss. It also slows your body’s ability to absorb sugar and fat. Eat fruits and vegetables like apples, tomatoes, oranges, bananas, and peppers. Eat leafy greens, broccoli, and cauliflower. Add beans, chickpeas, and lentils to your diet. Whole grains like whole-wheat pasta and bread, whole-grain rice, quinoa, and whole oats are beneficial. 

  • Eat healthy fats. These unsaturated fats promote good heart health. 

  • Eat healthy fats. These unsaturated fats promote good heart health. 
     

    • Canola, cottonseed, olive, and sunflower oil 

    • Almonds, flaxseed, peanuts, and pumpkin seeds

    • Fatty fish like cod, mackerel, salmon, sardines, and tuna;

    Limit dairy to low-fat and replace beef with lean chicken and pork. 

  • Avoid fad diets. You need to make lasting choices. Fad diets may help you drop weight, but you need to change your eating habits not just now, but for the future. Think about dividing your plate so you have one half covered with fruits and non-starchy vegetables, one fourth covered in whole grains, and one fourth with protein. 

We're Here to Help

AltaMed understands that lifestyle changes can be difficult. We help support you with several programs to keep you fit and help you take control of your diabetes or keep you from ever getting it. 
 

  • STOMP — Family Health and Fitness Program — STOMP is Solutions & Treatment to Obesity Management and Prevention. This fun, interactive childhood healthy weight program helps kids and their families develop healthy habits around nutrition, fitness, stress management, and more – to help them grow healthy for life. STOMP is a full year of hands-on support that includes visits with doctors, nutritionists, fitness instructors, and other health professionals. It’s available for free for qualifying AltaMed members and their families. Locations include Anaheim (714) 678-2143, Boyle Heights (323) 307-0479, El Monte (626) 582-1428, Santa Ana (714) 919-0280, and Huntington Beach (714) 375-2261

  • Diabetes Prevention Program — This year-long program helps you set goals and overcome challenges with support from a trained wellness coach and a registered dietician. It is available at our Los Angeles and Orange County locations to AltaMed patients over the age of 17. Call (323) 558-7606 for more information or email HealthEducation@altamed.org

  • Diabetes Management Program — This six-class educational program is available to diabetes patients 18 and older. Participants work with a Health Educator to develop practical skills to help manage their diabetes, prevent complications, and improve quality of life.

  • Diabetes Group Visits — Learning how to manage your type 2 diabetes successfully can help you lead a long and normal life. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been diagnosed recently or had it for a while. The program uses evidence-based principles and focuses on nutrition, activity, medication compliance, and self-care. The goal is to help participants lower their HbA1c scores and keep them in the healthy range. You will meet with a team of professionals, including a doctor and pharmacist, for six weeks. It’s a friendly and welcoming environment where you can get to know others with diabetes and share your success. It is available at all Los Angeles and Orange County locations to AltaMed patients over 18 years old. Call (323) 558-7606 for more information. 

  • Community Health Specialist Support — For patients with diabetes who are looking for additional help, AltaMed Community Health Specialists (CHS) can help provide medication and health appointment coordination, as well as assist with securing financial resources. AltaMed CHS will work with you and your medical team to achieve your individual health goals and improve overall care. 

  • Nutrition Counseling — A balanced diet is essential for people with diabetes. Work with an AltaMed Registered Dietitian (RD) to develop personalized meal plans that will create better eating habits and a healthier lifestyle. This service is open to patients of all ages.

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Person With Sunglasses Smiling

Getting Tested for HIV has Never been Easier

HIV is no longer the automatic death sentence it was 40 years ago. Advancements in treatment are allowing people to live symptom-free. The virus even becomes undetectable and untransmittable if treatments are taken as prescribed.

But treatment for HIV is only possible with a diagnosis. Unfortunately, 13% of the 1.2 million people living with HIV in the United States have no idea they have it. They need to be tested.

June 27 is National HIV Testing Day (NHTD). The goal is to encourage people to get tested, know their status, and get linked to care and treatment.

HIV Testing

Why Testing Matters

Testing is crucial to stopping the spread of HIV. There are close to 35,000 new infections each year. But those are just the KNOWN cases because those people have been tested. There could be thousands more people who have yet to be tested.

The highest number of infections are in the South and those most affected are gay, bisexual, or men who have sex with other men. The highest infection rate is for African Americans followed by Hispanics.

Doctor and Patient Smiling

What to Expect from Testing

  • In a lab — A health care provider or lab technician will take a sample of blood or oral fluid. You may be able to wait if it’s a rapid test, or it could take several days for results. If you come back negative and haven’t been exposed to HIV within 72 hours of your test, you don’t have HIV. If you come back positive, you’ll have more tests to confirm.
  • Outside a lab — If it’s done by a mobile testing unit or a community-based group, you will not want to have been exposed for three months prior to testing in order to feel confident in a negative result. See a health care provider if the test comes back positive.
  • At home — You can take a rapid self-test that gives results in 20 minutes. You can get them at a pharmacy or online. You can also get a mail-in self-test online or from your health care provider.

Types of HIV Tests

According to HIV.gov no test can determine if you have HIV immediately after exposure. If you think you’ve been exposed in the last 72 hours, talk to your doctor immediately about post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP).

Different tests have different “window periods” when they can detect an HIV infection.
 

  • Nucleic acid test (NAT) — 10 to 33 days after exposure
  • Antigen/antibody test — Performed in a lab or using blood from a vein, 18 to 45 days after exposure. Blood from a finger prick, 18 to 90 days after exposure.
  • Rapid oral test — 23 to 90 days after exposure.

If your test comes back negative, get tested again after the window period. It’s one of the only ways to be sure you are HIV-negative.

Know Your Status

AltaMed offers free and confidential HIV testing in person, or we can provide you an at-home HIV test that is easy to take. AltaMed provides a full range of services related to HIV and STI testing and prevention as well as treatment. If you are seeking services, call the Patient Service Center at (323) 869-5448 in Los Angeles County or (714) 500-0491 in Orange County.

If you have been diagnosed recently with HIV, we want to assure you that we are here to help with your medical care, connecting you to the best doctors, and providing resources like one-on-one counseling. Click here to learn more about the HIV care services available to you.

The A, B, Cs (Ds and E’s) of Hepatitis