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Asthma

Having Asthma Means Every Breath Counts

We don’t think about breathing. We just do. It’s one of our body’s involuntary functions which include our heartbeat, blood flow, and digestion.

We take it for granted on some level because it’s automatic. When you can’t breathe, for any reason, nothing matters more than your next breath.

That’s how it feels for people with asthma. It is a chronic disease and one of the most common long-term diseases for children. Adults have it too.

It can cause breathlessness, chest tightness, wheezing, and coughing early in the morning or at night. Asthma stays with you, but asthma attacks occur when something — like an allergen — affects your lungs. That’s when you feel it the most.

Girl With Her Inhaler


Asthma Facts

Asthma causes swelling in a person’s airways which makes it hard for them to breathe. While there is no cure, it can be managed with medication and preventive measures, like not exerting yourself, or limiting your exposure to environmental triggers.

Nearly 25 million, or 1 in 13, Americans have asthma. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America:

  • 8% of adults and 7% of children have asthma
  • Around 20 million Americans aged 18 and older have asthma
  • It’s more common in adult women than adult men
  • Around 5.1 million children under 18 have asthma
  • It’s the leading chronic disease in children
  • It’s more common in boys than girls
  • African Americans are nearly three times more likely to die of asthma than white Americans
  • 10 Americans die from asthma each day.

Asthma Causes

It’s not clear how it’s caused. Contributing factors, however, include genetics, environment, and occupation. If an immediate family member — like a parent or sibling — has asthma, it’s likely you have it.

Environmental elements like dampness, mold, dust mites, pollution, and tobacco smoke have all been linked to developing asthma. Working near dust, chemicals, or insulation can lead to the development of occupational asthma.

Doctor Treating Children

Diagnosis

Asthma can be hard to diagnose, especially in children under five. There are multiple tests doctors can conduct to determine if a patient has asthma, a respiratory infection, or some other chronic condition.

The most common measure is lung function. Doctors will test how much air can be exhaled after a deep breath. They may also use a device to measure how hard a person can breathe out. These tests are usually conducted before and after taking a medication to open the lungs. If there’s a difference, you probably have asthma.

Other tests include:

  • Allergy testing
  • Asthma triggers to cause airways to tighten
  • Exercising to trigger a response
  • Looking for certain white blood cells — eosinophils — in saliva and mucus
  • Measuring nitric oxide in someone’s breath
  • X-rays

Avoiding Attacks

Asthma only affects people when they have an attack. Attacks are caused when someone is exposed to an asthma trigger.

People with asthma have different triggers. The most common are:

  • Air pollution
  • Cockroaches
  • Dust mites
  • Exercise
  • Mold
  • Respiratory infections
  • Tobacco smoke
  • Wood smoke

People learn to identify their triggers, and avoid them, by working with health care professionals.

 

Treating Asthma

Asthma stays with you for life. You never outgrow it. You may have fewer symptoms the older you get, but it’s always there.

Two-thirds of children under six who may have wheezed when they had colds, may not as they get older, likely never had asthma.

Taking medicine exactly as directed and avoiding asthma triggers are the best ways to avoid an asthma attack. The medicine can vary from a pill to inhaled medications. They are prescribed to provide either long-term relief or emergency relief — like from an asthma attack with the use of an inhaler.

There can be some side effects from asthma medicine, but most are mild and soon go away.

Work with your doctor to develop an asthma plan and make sure you share it with the right people. Also, make sure to take your long-term control medicine whether you are having symptoms or not.

We’re Here to Help

Asthma is a chronic condition but not one you have to face alone. AltaMed is here to offer support with treatment and developing an asthma action plan to prevent attacks. Contact

AltaMed at (888) 499-9303 for more information or to make an appointment.

Get started with AltaMed

See how AltaMed Health Services can help your family grow healthy.

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Toilet Bladder

The Importance of Bladder Health

It’s likely the only time you ever think about your bladder is when it’s full. Then few things are more important than finding a place to relieve yourself.

The bladder is often overlooked. The hollow, balloon-like organ stores urine which has toxins and other waste filtered from our kidneys. We pass about one and a half quarts of urine through the bladder daily.

Like so many other parts of the body, the bladder changes as we age. It tends to become less flexible, holding less urine, causing us to go to the bathroom more frequently. If it gets weak it may not fully empty causing urine to leak.

Doctor Talking with Patient

It’s OK To Talk About It

The bladder deals with eliminating waste from the body which can make it an embarrassing topic for some people. But it shouldn’t be. Your bladder, and its place in the urinary tract, is integral to eliminating toxins from the body.

It plays an important role for women and men.

For Women

Women should never chalk up incontinence or other bladder issues to childbirth or aging. Some women withdraw from activities or change their routines because of bladder issues. Also, most doctors don’t routinely ask about bladder function so it’s important to speak up.

See your primary care provider if:

  • You avoid activities because of urine leakage,
  • You often feel an urgent need to urinate, rush to the bathroom, but don’t always make it,
  • You feel the need to urinate but can’t, or
  • You notice your stream is getting weaker or you feel you can’t empty your bladder completely.

Bladder Infection Symptoms

Women suffer bladder infections more often, but they also happen in men. Some symptoms include:

  • Blood in urine
  • Burning or tingling during or just after urination
  • Cloudy urine with a strong odor
  • Frequent urination
  • Low-grade fever
  • Trouble urinating
  • Urgent, persistent need to urinate
Woman Drinking Water

Tips for Bladder Health

No one can control everything that affects the bladder, but here are some steps that will help to keep it healthy.

  • Don’t hold it. Go when you need to go. Try to urinate every three to four hours.
  • Relax. It’s easier to empty your bladder when the surrounding muscles are relaxed. For women, that means sitting on the seat and not hovering above it.
  • Empty it fully. Don’t rush or you might not completely empty your bladder. This could lead to a bladder infection.
  • Wipe from front to back. This is important for women to keep bacteria out of the urethra, especially after a bowel movement.
  • Urinate after sex. Sex can move bacteria toward the urethra. Men and women should urinate shortly after sex.
  • Do Kegels. These pelvic floor exercises strengthen the muscles to help keep urine from leaking.
  • Wear cotton underwear. This will help keep the urethra dry and reduce the chances of bacteria growth.
  • Exercise. This helps prevent bladder problems.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. There is a greater chance of leaking urine if you are overweight.
  • Monitor your intake. Drinks like sodas or those with artificial sweeteners, fruit juices, tomato-based foods, and spicy foods make bladder problems worse for some people. So, pay attention.
  • Drink plenty of water. The more you drink the more you will need to urinate. Water is the best option. Check with your doctor because kidney conditions could mean you need to limit your water intake.
  • Limit alcohol or caffeine. These can make bladder problems worse.
  • Stay regular. Constipation can put pressure on the bladder and keep it from expanding.
  • Quit smoking. Smoking increases the risk of bladder cancer.
  • Track your medications. Some could make it more likely that your bladder leaks. Medications that help you sleep or relax may keep you from realizing you need to urinate.

We’re Here for Your Total Health

AltaMed is dedicated to your total wellness. We have more than 50 years of helping you grow healthy at every stage of life. Our primary goal is to help you live long and growth healthy, no matter your age.

We offer care for everyone including preventive services and age-appropriate screenings to help you feel your best, support for those managing one or more chronic conditions, and aging services tailored to your needs.

Follow this link to find a doctor in your area or make an appointment by calling (888) 499-9303.

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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.

Having Asthma Means Every Breath Counts