Thursday, May 07, 2009

May Health Observances 2009 (Part 1)

May is Lupus Awareness Month. I'd never heard of Lupus until 1981 when my Army roommate in Germany tearfully confided that her mother back in Ohio was battling a severe-form of this chronic, auto-immune disease which can damage organs, joints or skin. Treatments for Lupus were not as good then, and her mother ultimately passed away in her 40's due to complications of the disease. Women of child-bearing age are most commonly afflicted with Lupus, with women of color at greater risk than Caucasians. Neither men, nor children, are immune, however. Learn more about this illness at the website of the Lupus Foundation of America. While there, don't overlook the links of additional Patient Resources. For a Lupus-oriented blog, try this one: On the Road to a Cure.

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) (a.k.a Lou Gherig's Disease) ALS is an insidious and progressive neurodegenerative disease that attacks nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord causing, muscle weakness, atrophy, and eventually total paralysis. ALS is not contagious, but certain envrionmental exposures may increase its likelihood. Learn more by reading "Facts You Should Know about ALS." I'm sure others have accepted this illness with as much dignity and class, but Lou Gherig's farewell speech to baseball fans in 1938 is, never-the-less, uplifting and gives evidence of a gracious spirit. (On a personal note, an affectionately-remembered, distant relative passed away last year after battling ALS for nearly five years.) Want to know more about ALS? Check out the Muscular Dystrophy Association's ALS page entitled, "Anyone's Life Story."

Celiac Disease Awareness Month. Celiac disease is yet another autoimmune illness, this one affects about 1% of the U.S. population (it's MUCH more common in Ireland, Finland, Sweden, Italy and Austria). Although it may seem obvious, it's worth stating that those of us of Northern European descent are more commonly afflicted by Celiac Disease (and, by-the-way we are more inclined towards two other autoimmune disorders, Type 1 Diabetes and Multiple Sclerosis).

In Celiac disease the gluten protein found primarily in wheat, rye and barley, triggers an immune response when it enters the small intestine (where most of our food's nutrients are absorbed.) Damage to the small intestine's lining results in troubling physical symptoms such as pain, bloating, and bowel issues, but even more seriously--the disruption of digestion from a compromised small bowel that can lead to more serious systemic complications as a result of vitamin, mineral, and other nutritional deficiencies. Strict life-long adherence to a gluten-free diet is the essential treatment for Celaic Disease. This illness is also in my extended family, so I understand that it's a real challenge, but my relative is the picture of health and a true beauty.

Check the sidebar on the right for youtube videos which convey important information related to two other health awareness campaigns this month:

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