Diverse Communities Need Care that Meets Their Diverse Needs

March 25, 2021

 This April, we hope you’ll join us to observe National Minority Health Month. The month-long initiative is geared toward building general awareness of common health conditions and risks that affect minority and ethnic populations. Besides engaging health care providers to offer more culturally sensitive and equitable care, the initiative also encourages individuals to take control of their health. When we learn about the conditions that may be more likely to affect us, we can make sure to schedule regular screenings and doctor visits.

doctor appointment minority health

Conditions That Are Genetic

In large part, your health is determined by the choices you make. Over time, decisions like whether to snack on a piece of fruit or a slice of cake, or go to sleep at the same time every night or stay up late to watch TV can have a significant impact. But some health conditions seem to run in families – and there are even diseases that are common depending on your ethnic background.

African Americans, for example, are at greater risk for sickle-cell disease. According to the  American Kidney Foundation, the Asian, Pacific Islander, and African American communities are at higher risk for gout.

One group providing the most remarkable example of the relationship between genetics and diseases are eastern European Jews. They are susceptible to a number of rare disorders like Bloom syndrome and Tay-Sachs disease, but they are also at increased risk for many cancers. All thanks to genetics.

Knowing your family history and having regular checkups and health screenings are key factors in the early detection of these conditions. Working with a trusted provider can help reduce your risks.

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Cultural and Lifestyle-Related Conditions

Some chronic health conditions and illnesses seem to disproportionately affect certain populations who don’t have a clear-cut genetic risk. For example, both Latinos and African Americans are more likely to have obesity and complications related to diabetes. Even though unhealthy lifestyle choices may be partially to blame, some of those choices are affected by long-term systemic inequities — unequal access to care, limited access to fresh, healthy produce, or lack of doctors who understand the unique health and cultural concerns of their patients.

Additionally, African Americans often live with diseases that don’t affect whites until they’re much older, such as high blood pressure and strokes. Latinos are also more likely to struggle with issues that include high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

AltaMed is working to address many of the health disparities that make these conditions all too common in our communities. However, you can still take action to protect yourself: exercise, eat a healthy diet that includes a colorful variety of fruits and vegetables, and see your doctor and dentist for regular screenings.

two women talking minority health

Beyond Physical Health

Mental health goes hand-in-hand with physical health when talking about overall wellness. Minority populations often won’t seek out mental health services because of a perceived stigma.

According to the 2017 California Well-Being Survey, most Asian-Americans reported a high level of self-stigma related to mental health, and Hispanics reported higher self-stigma than whites. Hispanics said they were also more likely to conceal mental illness from coworkers and classmates than whites. And socioeconomic issues keep Black Americans and Latinos from completing substance abuse programs more often than whites. But AltaMed provides services to help all populations deal with behavioral health and substance abuse issues.

Culturally Sensitive Care and Much More

When it comes to helping minority and ethnically diverse communities grow healthy, good care is only part of the equation. That’s why we are involved in local programs that support the creation of good-paying jobs, markets where people can buy fresh and healthy foods, and social services that help each individual achieve their potential.

To make an appointment with an AltaMed doctor and learn how to combat your potential health risks, call us at (888) 499-9303.

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Grow Healthy at Every Age with Recommended Health Screenings for Seniors

March 18, 2021

Thanks in large part to improved medical care and changes in how most of us work, people are living longer. Someone born today is expected to live until they’re 77.8 years old.

How well you age depends largely on how well you live. A big part of that includes getting regular preventive health screenings for general physical health, cancer, and mental capacity.

 No matter how old you are, AltaMed can help you grow healthy with caring, attentive service and age-appropriate care. Read on to learn about the screenings and routine visits that are recommended for seniors. 

Hands senior screenings

Physical Screenings

Screenings can help you stay on top of chronic illnesses: if you do have a condition, it’s best to catch it early as treatment might not need to be as aggressive or invasive, and costs could be less. 

Recommended physical screenings include:

  • Blood pressure — Almost half of all adults have high blood pressure, so it’s important to have yours checked at least once a year (or as often as your doctor recommends).
  • Cholesterol — Many people are able to reduce their cholesterol with a healthy diet and exercise, but sometimes medication is needed. 
  • Obesity — Being obese is hard on the heart, liver, and joints and puts you at risk for serious conditions.
  • Blood glucose and Type 2 Diabetes — Medicare covers screenings in people with one or more risk factors.
  • Vision Your eyes change with age  and you run the risk of developing glaucoma, macular degeneration, dry eyes, and loss of peripheral vision.
  • Abdominal aortic aneurysm — This is a standard check of the heart for men 65 to 75, who have smoked.
  • Osteoporosis — Bone-density tests are covered once every two years for women over 65. Post-menopausal women younger than 65 should also be screened.
  • Hepatitis C — Medicare covers at least one screening for adults born specifically between 1945 and 1965.
  • HIV — Older adults at higher risk include people with multiple partners, men who have had sex with other men, and people with past and present injection drug use.
  • Other STIs — Sexually active adults at all ages should be screened regularly.

Cancer screening senior

Cancer screenings

Age is a leading risk factor in a number of cancer types, though it’s not really clear why. So, it’s incredibly important to get screened. A number of cancers are easily detectible and can be treated successfully if diagnosed early.

  • Colorectal cancer — Routine screening should start at 50 unless there is a family history. Then it should be earlier and more often. Otherwise, a colonoscopy is recommended every 10 years.
  • Breast cancer — Medicare covers screening mammograms every 12 months.
  • Cervical cancer — Older women who have never been screened should have a Pap smear at least once. Women at high risk should have one every 12 months. 
  • Lung cancer This screening is recommended for adults aged 55-80 who were heavy smokers (about 30-packs a year) or who quit in the last 15 years.
  • Prostate cancer — Men can choose between a digital rectal exam or a prostate-specific antigen test. Screenings are recommended between 55 and 69 years of age.

Doctor with tablet senior

Mental and safety screenings

When your AltaMed doctor asks questions about your life and what’s been on your mind, it’s not just to be polite: they may be looking for clues about your mood, mental state, and mental sharpness. These are delicate topics, but your answers can help identify:

  • Depression — The goal is to make sure you are not on a path that could lead to harming yourself or others. Therapy, medication, or a combination can help control depression.
  • Cognitive impairment — Cognitive Impairment is when a person has trouble remembering, learning new things, concentrating, or making decisions that affect their everyday life, and ranges from mild to severe. Doctors want to ensure you can still function in your current living situation. This may require input from a caregiver.
  • Falls and functional ability — Part of Medicare’s Annual Wellness Visit includes looking at the ability to manage the activities of daily living. Doctors will ask questions about mobility and the risk of falling which could lead to a traumatic brain injury (TBI) or breaking a hip, wrist, or some other joint. 
  • Substance use — Someone who has been drinkingsmoking or doing drugs their entire life will eventually pay the price for it. Answer honestly about alcohol, tobacco, and recreational drug use.

PACE Yourself with AltaMed

Making these screenings a regular part of your healthy habits could help you feel great and stay independent for longer. Talk to your doctor to get their personalized recommendations.

If you’re a caregiver or a senior with complex medical needs, AltaMed PACE offers coordinated care and services, including medical treatment, physical therapy, and social services. The program even offers meals, exercise, social activities, and transportation for qualified seniors. 

There are 11 AltaMed PACE facilities in the greater Los Angeles area including two new locations in Orange County:

Anaheim
1325 N. Anaheim Blvd., Suite 100
Anaheim, California 92801

Santa Ana
3601 W. Sunflower Ave., Suite 100
Santa Ana, California 92704

AltaMed PACE has made a difference for seniors like Antonio, Kenneth, and Rodolfo and Bertha – it may be right for you, too. 

For more information about services or eligibility, visit AltaMed.org/PACE or call (855) 252-PACE (7223).

Healthy Lifestyle Changes to Help You Get Your Cholesterol Under Control

August 27, 2020

Maybe your doctor has told you that you have high cholesterol levels, or you suspect you’re one of the 134 million people in the U.S. who have elevated cholesterol. You may wonder how serious it is, or what you can do to get your cholesterol levels under control.

High cholesterol is not a disease itself, but it’s a condition that puts you at risk for heart disease and stroke. If you have elevated levels of cholesterol, you won’t experience any symptoms. Your doctor can give you a simple blood test that measures the cholesterol in your blood.

Good Cholesterol Versus Bad Cholesterol

Section 1

Cholesterol is carried through your body on two different types of proteins:
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or bad cholesterol. This type of cholesterol contributes to fatty buildups in your arteries. If you have too much LDL, you could be at greater risk for heart attack, stroke, and peripheral artery disease.

High-density lipoprotein (HDL), or good cholesterol. It is believed that the HDL in your blood carries the LDL away from your artery and back to your liver, where it is broken down and passed out of the body.

When your doctor tests your cholesterol, they’ll measure the total cholesterol, as well as your levels of LDLs and HDLs, and then make recommendations based on these numbers.

Even if you’re not worried about your cholesterol but want to improve your heart health, the tips below are a good start!

Exercise More

Section 2

Doing moderate physical activity can help you reduce the bad kind of cholesterol. Aim for at least 30 minutes five days a week.
How to do it: Just start moving! Even a vigorous walk around the block counts as cardio exercise. Although you’ll get the best results with cardio, strength training can also help control your cholesterol.

Add More Fiber to Your Diet

Section 3

Eating soluble fiber—which dissolves in water to form a gel-like material—can prevent cholesterol from entering your bloodstream. This can also aid weight loss efforts by making you feel full for longer, and fiber can help prevent constipation.
Where to find it: apples, pears, oatmeal, Brussels sprouts, oat bran, almonds.

Eat Less Red Meat

Section 4

Red meats, such as beef, pork, and lamb are high in saturated and trans fats which can raise your cholesterol level and increase your risks for high blood pressure and heart disease.
How to do it: White-meat, skin-off chicken and fish are healthy proteins, and there are also many delicious meatless options you can try. Fish/seafood like salmon, mackerel, oysters, sardines, and anchovies are good sources of Omega-3 fatty acids, which promote heart health and may lower your bad cholesterol.

Cut Down on Full-Fat Dairy Products

Section 5

Whole-fat dairy foods like milk, cheese, cream, and ice cream are high in saturated fats and cholesterol and can raise your LDL levels.
How to do it: Look for low-fat or cholesterol-free versions of your favorites. Swapping 2% milk for regular milk still gives you all the bone-building calcium and nutrients but without the cholesterol. Instead of ice cream, try a fruit sorbet or sherbet.

Quit Smoking

Smoking tobacco and using products like vapes are some of the worst things you can do for your health. Cigarette smoke raises your LDLs and lowers your HDLs – in addition to putting you at greater risk for many diseases and ailments, including COVID-19.
How to do it: Quitting is often easier said than done, especially if you’ve smoked for a while. Our Behavioral Health Services team can offer you support and make recommendations to support your journey to go tobacco free.

Lose Extra Weight

Section 6

Being overweight can increase your cholesterol levels and put you at higher risk for heart disease, so even losing just a couple of pounds can help lower your cholesterol.
How to do it: Making a few simple lifestyle changes like the ones outlined here can help you lose weight at a safe and steady pace. Your doctor can give you more information and make personalized recommendations.

Skinny People Can Have High Cholesterol, Too!

Anyone is susceptible to high cholesterol, including young people, athletes, women, men—basically everyone. Some of the risks are related to lifestyle, but certain health and genetic conditions can contribute to high cholesterol which is why changing your diet isn’t always enough. Many people with high cholesterol can use cholesterol medications to manage their levels but lowering your cholesterol with healthy lifestyle choices should always be the first choice.

You Have Support

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We encourage you to work with your doctor to get your numbers down and grow healthy! If you’re interested in our Healthy Heart Program, which helps individuals achieve healthy cholesterol and blood pressure levels, please call (323) 558-7606.