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Epilepsy Awareness

Purple Day

March 26th, 2022 is Epilepsy Awareness Day.

There are about 3.4 million people with epilepsy nationwide: 3 million adults and 470,000 children who suffer with epilepsy. http://www.cdc.gov

It can be a debilitating chronic disorder that affects even the most mundane aspects of your life and can rob you of being able to do tasks that many of us take for granted.

I was diagnosed around 2008 with an unspecified seizure disorder, that took years to be able to control and has prohibited me from driving. Though I have not had tonic-clonic seizures in over a year, I still have absent seizures frequently; this means I have active epilepsy.

Active Epilepsy

An adult aged 18 or older has active epilepsy if they report they have a history of doctor-diagnosed epilepsy or seizure disorder and:

  • are currently taking meds to control it or
  • had one or more seizures in the past year or both.

A child aged 17 or younger has active epilepsy if their parent of guardian reports:

  • that a doctor of health care provider has ever told them they their child has epilepsy or seizure disorder, and
  • their child currently has epilepsy or seizure disorder.

What is a Seizure?

It’s a sudden, uncontrolled electrical disturbance in the brain. It can cause changes in your behavior, movements or feelings and in levels of consciousness. http://www.maycoclinic.org/diseases

Seizure types vary by where in the brain they begin and how far they spread. Most last from 30 seconds to 2 minutes. A seizure that lasts longer than 5 minutes is a medical emergency.

Symptoms of a Seizure

These can range from mild to severe depending on the type of seizure. Seizure signs and symptoms may include:

  • temporary confusion
  • staring spell
  • uncontrollable jerking movements of arms and legs
  • loss of consciousness or awareness
  • cognitive or emotional symptoms such as fear, anxiety or déjà vu.

Types of Seizures

Focal seizures

These result in abnormal electrical activity in one area of the brain. These can happen with or without loss of consciousness. This is called Focal Seizures with Impaired Awareness and Focal Seizures without Loss of Consciousness.

Generalized Seizures

These appear to involve all areas of the brain:

  • Absence seizures (previously known as petit mal)
  • Tonic Seizures
  • Atonic Seizures
  • Clonic Seizures
  • Myoclonic Seizures
  • Tonic-Clonic Seizures (previously known as grand mal)

What does a Seizure Feel Like?

Everyone has a different experience with their own specific seizure, however for me, when I experience an absence seizure I just blink out of existence for a few seconds. This is one of those reasons why it’s dangerous for me to drive. When I experience a tonic-clonic seizure it’s frightening and for me, I only have a brief second of awareness of what is going to happen- like when you are on the verge of falling asleep and you feel like you are falling and jerk awake. Except I am not conscious during these episodes and when I come back, I can be disoriented and almost always feel nauseous. You can read about Destiny’s Experience here.

Common Causes of Seizures

The most common causes of seizures is epilepsy, however, not every person who has a seizure has epilepsy. Some types of seizure disorder may be caused by genetic mutations and:

Other Triggers

  • High fever
  • Lack of sleep
  • Flashing lights, moving patterns or other visual stimulants
  • Low blood sodium (hyponatremia)
  • Medications, such as certain pain relievers, antidepressants or smoking cessation.

If you have Seizure disorder or Epilepsy, know that you are not alone. Seek out epilepsy support organizations to help you deal with the struggles of having epilepsy.

Epilepsy Alliance America

Epilepsy Foundation

Cure Epilepsy

Hello!!

It’s been a very busy couple months.

Found out I am going to be a grandma. planned a baby shower in record time. Had the baby shower. And then promptly got sick.

I promise I’m going to crank out a few blog posts before the end of March!

Actual footage of me..

Simple Ways to Build Your Confidence in 2022

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Image via Pexels

[Here’s another great post from Lexie Dy. Please Enjoy!]

The new year is here, and now is the time to think of how you can improve your confidence, health, and well-being. The key is to strike a balance between establishing lofty, overwhelming goals and attainable goals that will leave you feeling great after achieving them.

After all, nothing can build your confidence more than accomplishing something you set out to do. That’s why LoveKarmaFood has provided a few realistic tips for setting goals and building confidence in 2022!

Take a Look at Your Finances      

Financial uncertainty can cause a lot of stress, hindering you from reaching any goals you set this year. Take time to go through your finances and find ways to improve your standing.

Maybe you could cut unnecessary costs and find other ways to save money. One option is to refinance your home, meaning that you decrease your home’s equity to lower your mortgage payment or free up cash.

Evaluate Your Work Life  

This could be the year for you to make a career change. Is your workload overwhelming you? Are you chronically bored in the office or having issues with your coworkers? Consider your career path to determine if there is something else you would rather be doing.

Maybe you could start your own business. These days, technology makes it possible to launch a home-based company in almost any industry. If you go this route, consider going back to school to earn an online degree. Getting a business degree could help you develop essential business, management, and leadership skills to benefit the rest of your career.

Focus on Nutrition

Your body and mind need proper nutrition to perform at total capacity. If you regularly eat empty calories and processed foods, you are not doing your health and well-being any favors. Think of practical ways to incorporate healthier alternatives into your diet. Here are a few options to keep in mind:

  • Healthy fats
  • Lean proteins
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Nuts
  • Seeds

One easy way to get a ton of nutrients in one sitting is to make smoothies. Load your favorite fruits and veggies into a blender, and add water or almond milk for a delicious and healthy treat!

Pay It Forward

The primary purpose of volunteering in your community is to help improve the lives of the residents. But when you pay it forward for a cause that you believe in, it can deeply enrich your life.

Studies show that volunteering your time at a local organization can significantly enhance your overall health and happiness. It also allows you to meet new people and broaden your perspective.

Adopt a Growth Mindset

Would you like to crush your goals this year? Or would you prefer to settle for less? Often, the difference between these two outcomes is your mindset. In 2022, resolve to address a growth mindset that helps you focus on your goals and the practical steps for accomplishing them.

Along with consistently looking for realistic solutions, speak positive affirmations over yourself each day. It can also help to find a mentor to guide you through challenges and keep you accountable on your journey. You can do it; all that’s left is for you to believe it!

It’s nearly impossible to accomplish goals without confidence. And the best way to boost your confidence is to establish goals you can attain. Rather than setting out to achieve a lofty mission, write down a few realistic changes you can start making today. The tips above will get you off to a great start, but research other habits that can build your confidence and lead to better overall health and well-being.

If you enjoyed this article, you can read much more helpful content on LoveKarmaFood.com!

National Eating Disorder Awareness Month

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** This subject may be triggering to some, so please exercise caution before reading. **

What Are Eating Disorders?

According to the American Psychiatric Association eating disorders are defined as behavioral conditions that are expressed by severe and persistent disturbances in eating behaviors and associated with distressing thoughts and emotion.

Some types of eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, avoidant restrictive food intake disorder, other specified feeding and eating disorder, pica and rumination disorder.

Altogether, eating disorders affect roughly 5% of the population. In many cases signs and symptoms begin in adolescence and young adulthood. Some are more common in women, as with anorexia nervosa and bulimia; however, they can all occur at any time and any age. [i]

A Brief Glimpse of Eating Disorder Definitions

Anorexia nervosa: A condition characterised by deliberate efforts to severely restrict food intake (despite low body weight), often to the point of clinical starvation.

Bulimia nervosa: A condition in which someone eats large quantities of food and then purges it via vomiting, exercising excessively just after a binge, or using laxatives, diuretics, or enemas.

Binge-eating disorder: A condition in which someone eats large quantities of food, often in a very short period of time, to the point of discomfort; they may feel that they “lose control” while this occurs.

What Causes Eating Disorders?

There are many reasons someone might develop an eating disorder, but rarely is it about trying to look thin. Many with eating disorders have low self-esteem, and they struggle with past trauma, lack of control over their lives, and feelings of inadequacy, anxiety, or depression.

Things to be Aware of

If you are worried a loved one may be struggling with this, here are a few things too look for. It can often be difficult to know if someone may actually have an eating disorder or is simply concerned about their weight in a culture that is obsessed with dieting. But you can start with the following:

  • Starving themselves or restricting their food intake, like eating significantly below normal daily requirements of calories per day
  • Acting extremely controlling around food and/or wanting to eat in private
  • Exercising excessively
  • Purging, including self-induced vomiting or misuse of laxatives, diuretics or enemas
  • Spending long, unexplained amounts of time in the bathroom, or needing to run to the bathroom right after each meal
  • Consuming a large amount of food very quickly and being unable to stop
  • Exhibiting limited spontaneity around food and/or heightened stress around meal time
  • Preoccupation with being thin
  • Belief they are fat no matter how thin they are
  • Hiding their very thin body with big, bulky clothing
  • Negative body image and frequent negative comments about their body
  • Rigid rules and beliefs about what foods can be eaten and how they should be eaten
  • Setting high standards for how successful they are at controlling their weight
  • Exhibiting depression or anxiety
  • Becoming defensive or irritable when approached about their eating habits
  • Acting controlling about letting others see their emotions, or being very restrained in their emotions
  • Feeling guilt, helplessness, or low self-esteem
  • Rapid or excessive weight loss
  • Constantly feeling cold
  • Dry, yellowish skin
  • Fine hair
  • Brittle nails
  • Mouth lesions, chronic sore throat, or “chipmunk cheeks” (when the glands on the sides of the jaw enlarge) caused by frequent purging
  • Girls with very low weight may not get their periods

[ii]

The Stats:

Something important to remember is that this is not “girl only” disorder. It is estimated that 20-25% of the total number of people with eating disorders are male.

[iii]

LGBTQ Stats:

  • Gay men are seven times more likely to report binge-eating and twelve times more likely to report purging than heterosexual men.6
  • Gay and bisexual boys are significantly more likely to fast, vomit, or take laxatives or diet pills to control their weight.6
  • Transgender college students report experiencing disordered eating at approximately four times the rate of their cisgender classmates.7
  • 32% of transgender people report using their eating disorder to modify their body without hormones.8
  • 56% of transgender people with eating disorders believe their disorder is not related to their physical body.8
  • Gender dysphoria and body dissatisfaction in transgender people is often cited as a key link to eating disorders.7
  • Non-binary people may restrict their eating to appear thin, consistent with the common stereotype of androgynous people in popular culture.7

[iv]

BIPOC Stats:

* BIPOC refers to Black, Indigenous, and People of Color

  • BIPOC are significantly less likely than white people to have been asked by a doctor about eating disorder symptoms.3
  • BIPOC with eating disorders are half as likely to be diagnosed or to receive treatment.2
  • Black people are less likely to be diagnosed with anorexia than white people but may experience the condition for a longer period of time.4
  • Black teenagers are 50% more likely than white teenagers to exhibit bulimic behavior, such as binge-eating and purging.3
  • Hispanic people are significantly more likely to suffer from bulimia nervosa than their non-Hispanic peers.3
  • Asian American college students report higher rates of restriction compared with their white peers and higher rates of purging, muscle building, and cognitive restraint than their white or non-Asian, BIPOC peers.5
  • Asian American college students report higher levels of body dissatisfaction and negative attitudes toward obesity than their non-Asian, BIPOC peers.5

[v]

You Are Not Alone

 Having an eating disorder is a struggle and one that lasts a lifetime. I struggled with anorexia/bulimia when I was a teenager and I still struggle now, as an overweight adult. But having people I can talk to, even if those people are on social media platforms, has made it much more manageable. Knowing you are not alone in what seems to be an insurmountable obstacle can make all the difference. You may continue to struggle with it after the initial healing, but it won’t be as bad. Have faith, think positive and remember that your body is beautiful and treat it kindly.


[i] Guarda, M.D., A., 2022. What Are Eating Disorders?. [online] Psychiatry.org. Available at: <https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/eating-disorders/what-are-eating-disorders&gt; [Accessed 26 February 2022].

[ii] The Jed Foundation. 2022. Understanding Eating Disorders | JED. [online] Available at: <https://jedfoundation.org/resource/understanding-eating-disorders/?gclid=CjwKCAiAvOeQBhBkEiwAxutUVGRj1AG-XIjCBhBSC2UZgA6b5ZW3NNMOXZBisKzu3nvbclKqsfBTsRoCl48QAvD_BwE&gt; [Accessed 26 February 2022].

[iii] Muhlheim, PsyD, CEDS, L., 2020. Understanding Male Eating Disorders. www.verywellmind.com.

[iv] National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders. 2022. Eating Disorder Statistics | General & Diversity Stats | ANAD. [online] Available at: <https://anad.org/eating-disorders-statistics/&gt; [Accessed 26 February 2022].

[Eating Disorders in LGBTQ+ Populations. (2018, February 21). Retrieved February 22, 2021, from https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/learn/general-information/lgbtq

Lauren Muhlheim, L., PsyD, CEDS. (2020, June 20). Eating Disorders in Transgender People. Retrieved February 22, 2021, from https://www.verywellmind.com/eating-disorders-in-transgender-people-4582520

Duffy, M. E., Henkel, K. E., &amp; Earnshaw, V. A. (2016). Transgender Clients’ Experiences of Eating Disorder Treatment. Journal of LGBT Issues in Counseling, 10(3), 136-149. https://doi.org/10.1080/15538605.2016.1177806]

[v] National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders. 2022. Eating Disorder Statistics | General & Diversity Stats | ANAD. [online] Available at: <https://anad.org/eating-disorders-statistics/&gt; [Accessed 26 February 2022].

[Deloitte Access Economics. The Social and Economic Cost of Eating Disorders in the United States of America: A Report for the Strategic Training Initiative for the Prevention of Eating Disorders and the Academy for Eating Disorders. June 2020. Available at: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/striped/report-economic-costs-of-eating-disorders/.

Becker, A. E., Franko, D. L., Speck, A., & Herzog, D. B. (2003). Ethnicity and differential access to care for eating disorder symptoms. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 33(2), 205-212. doi:10.1002/eat.10129

Sala, M., Reyes-Rodríguez, M. L., Bulik, C. M., & Bardone-Cone, A. (2013). Race, ethnicity, and eating disorder recognition by peers. Eating disorders21(5), 423–436. https://doi.org/10.1080/10640266.2013.827540

Uri, R. C., Wu, Y., Baker, J. H., & Munn-Chernoff, M. A. (2021). Eating disorder symptoms in Asian American college students. Eating Behaviors, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eatbeh.2020.101458]

February is Heart Awareness Month

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What is a Heart Attack?

“A heart attack happens when your heart muscle cannot get the oxygen and nutrients it needs to function properly.” [Heart Facts]

Why Do They Happen?

There can be many reasons that increase your risk for a heart attack including your age and any medical conditions. However, there can be other factors that put you at higher risk, such as: a diet high in saturated fats, cholesterol, being overweight/obesity, drinking too much alcohol, not getting enough sleep and tobacco use. Less common causes of CHD are: Drug misuse and lack of oxygen in blood (hypoxia). [Risk Factors, NHS]

Heart Disease is the leading cause of heart attacks. CHD is a condition in which the coronary arteries (major vessels that supply the heart with blood) become clogged with deposits of cholesterol. These deposits are called plaque. Before a heart attack one of the plaques ruptures causing a blood clot to form at the site of the rupture. The clot may block the supply of blood to the heart, triggering a heart attack.

Gender Differences in a Heart Attack

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Women

If you have any of these signs, call 911 and get to the hospital immediately.

  • Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of the chest. It lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back.
  • Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
  • Other signs that may be indicative of a heart attack include breaking out into a cold sweat, nausea or light-headedness.

Men

If you have any of these signs, call 911 and get to the hospital immediately.

  • Chest pain is the most common symptom in men (and women.) Most often it starts slowly with mild pain or discomfort.
  • Chest discomfort or pressure and the pain can be severe but many times it can be a feeling of “fullness,” squeezing or pressure. It can also be mistaken for heartburn.
  • Pain can show up in other parts of your body unrelated to the heart. typically it’s a part of the body above the waist- including part of your stomach, upper part of your arm (probably the left) or both; your back, neck or jaw and even teeth.

Men and Women

  • The most common symptom between men and women is chest pain or discomfort. However, women are more likely than men to experience symptoms such as shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting and back or jaw pain.

More on Gender Differences in Cardiovascular Disease

A recent study based on data from 2 million patients, suggests that women were less likely to be prescribed aspirin, statins and certain blood pressure medicine compared to men.

Cardiovascular Disease (CVD)

As mentioned above this is a group of diseases involving the heart or blood vessels. This includes high blood pressure (hypertension), coronary artery disease, heart attacks, heart failure, heart valve problems and abnormal heart rhythms. It can also present differently in men and women. For example, while the frequency of CVD tends to be lower in women before menopause than in men, the frequency dramatically increases after menopause accounting for approximately 1 out of 3 deaths in women. Also, and probably not surprisingly many of the classic signs and symptoms of CVD are based on research largely performed in men.

How Do You Ensure You Ensure You Are Receiving the Best Cardiovascular Preventative Care?

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Routine doctor visits.  Everyone should routinely visit their primary care doctor, regardless of age, sex or medical history. It’s important to get routine screenings of cholesterol, diabetes, and blood pressure. You should discuss any risks you have and if your screenings show issues, you should discuss with your doctor your risk for CVD and also the risk and benefits of medication.

Please Visit the CDC for information about your risks.   

10 Ways to Get Calm, Cool and Collected in Five Minutes

Everyone struggles with stress. In fact, “nearly half of all U.S. adults say stress has negatively affected their behavior.” (Team, 2022)There really isn’t a way to escape stress in our lives. 8 out of 10 Americans report being stressed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Seventy-seven percent of U.S. adults are stressed over the future of the nation. Two-thirds of professionals are more stressed on the job than they were five years ago. (Korn Ferry, 2019) Health problems are a huge source of stress. Women often express they are stressed more than men (women place their stress levels at an average of 5.1 out of 10, while men report 4.4 out of 10.) (American Psychological Association, 2016) It’s not only the adults who are stressed either. Teens and younger children are feeling the weight of stress on their small shoulders. Why on earth are kids stressed, you might ask? Let’s see: mass shootings, climate change and global warming, widespread sexual harassment and assault reports and a rise in suicide rates, to name a few. So, since we can’t evade the stress that comes with life, the next best thing is having some tools to help us though the stress. Especially easy ones that can help us reach Calm, Cool and Collected in Five Minutes! Sign me up please!

Please enjoy this piece by Laura Newcomer

10 Strategies to Feel Calmer Fast

  • Listen to music

If you don’t already have a calm-down playlist, don’t let that be another stress! You can easily find calming music by searching Spotify or YouTube. Try searching general terms such as “calming music” or more specific queries such as “calm piano music” or “meditation music.” Research confirms that listening to relaxing tunes can help the nervous system recover from a stressful stimulus. 

  • Practice progressive muscle relaxation

This easy, equipment-free activity can help relieve both physical tension and psychological stress. The practice requires you to tense and then relax all of your body’s major muscles one at a time, starting near your head and working toward your feet. 

  • Watch an ASMR video

Though research into Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) is still in the early stages, some evidence suggests watching an ASMR video could promote a feeling of calm and overall well-being. If you’re not familiar with ASMR, it’s a pleasurable tingling sensation in the scalp or spine. Some people experience it when they watch others do mundane sensory activities such as whispering, turning pages, or eating. Experiment with different videos to see if a particular type works for you.  

  • Give journaling a try

You’ve probably heard this one before, but writing down your thoughts can be a powerful way to manage anxiety and spark a more positive mindset. Research suggests you can benefit from journaling in two ways: Free write about what makes you anxious or list things you’re grateful for.

  • Do acupressure

Even if you don’t have time for an hour-long massage, you can give yourself the gift of calming touch with acupressure. The practice may help relieve anxiety and reduce pain, and it’s simple. Learn some easy-to-reach pressure points, then apply some gentle pressure and feel your body unwind. 

  • Go for a short walk outside

Physical activity — including low-impact activities such as walking — helps release pent-up energy and is a proven tool for managing stress. Up the ante by taking your movement break outside. Research shows time spent in nature can help relieve stress and anxiety. 

  • Try a breathing technique

Focus on your breath for just a few minutes to help you find some space from stressful thoughts. If you’ve tried one style of breathwork and it didn’t work for you, try another! You have plenty of styles to choose from, including belly breathing, 4-7-8 breathing, three-part breathing, box breathing, and roll breathing. Experiment with different techniques until you find one that helps you feel calmer. 

  • Practice EFT tapping

Emotional freedom technique (EFT) sometimes goes by the nickname “tapping.” Whatever you call it, the practice has gained popularity in recent years as an alternative approach for managing everything from stress to physical pain. Research indicates it can be helpful for anxiety, depression, phobias, and PTSD. The process is a little involved, but with a little practice, it becomes easy. Check out a step-by-step guide to get started

  • Listen to a 5-minute guided meditation

Meditation has become go-to health advice for good reason. It’s been shown to ease anxiety, depression, and even physical pain. If the thought of sitting with your own thoughts for five minutes makes you more anxious, consider a short, guided meditation to make the process less daunting. 

  • Repeat a mantra

Sometimes, the best way out of a spiral of anxious thoughts is to distract yourself with another thought. Mantras (which are sometimes called repetitive prayers) come in handy. The technique is simple: Just repeat a short prayer or affirming phrase such as “With every breath, I feel myself relax” either out loud or in your mind while breathing slowly and deeply. Continue until you feel calmer. 

Conclusion

When you’re feeling overwhelmed, take five. Then deploy any of the techniques above. Within just a few minutes, you may find yourself feeling calmer and more equipped to tackle whatever challenges life throws at you. 

Employers Can Offer These Benefits for Maximum Impact

Offering benefits to your employees is one of the best ways to retain them while showing them you care about their wellbeing, and these days there are several options for business owners who want to set themselves apart from their competitors. Getting creative can help you make the most of all your business has to offer prospective workers and show longtime employees how valued they are, so you’ll want to prepare a strategy for your benefits plan.

It can also help to get to know your workers and the challenges they face, especially those who are living with a chronic illness or are taking care of ill family members; LoveKarmaFood is a great resource for learning more about these challenges and how you can help your employees face and overcome them. Keep in mind that focusing on overall wellness–including mental health–can help your employees feel appreciated and can alleviate barriers that keep them from taking care of themselves.

Give them the time they need

Whether your employees are currently dealing with health issues or not, it’s important for their wellbeing to have the flexibility to access care providers when they need them. Allowing for paid time off, sick days, vacation time, and personal time can be extremely beneficial to your workers because it alleviates the pressure to work when they’re sick or taking care of a loved one. You might also consider offering unpaid leave, which can come in handy for those who have an unexpected life event and are unsure of how long it will be before they can return to work.

Give them access to care

Allowing your employees to take all the time they need to get well or take care of family responsibilities is one important step, but you can also help them get access to the care they need. Providing healthcare benefits is a wonderful start, but not all health plans are made the same, so it’s crucial to take a careful look at your company’s plan to ensure your employees’ needs are met. If they’re not, it might be wise to look for supplemental plans for dental and vision care or life insurance. You can also provide resources for those who need access to mental health services.

Offer support

When it comes to the mental health of your employees, you can also offer support in the form of an experienced HR representative who can help mitigate stress within the company and prevent small issues from becoming big problems. Once stress has been spotted, talk to the affected employee and offer a few solutions, such as having them team up with a coworker to lighten their load or offering remote work options, which can be beneficial for both of you. You can also look for ways to change up the work environment to make it a more calm, comfortable space for everyone.

Make your business the place to be

The culture and environment of your company should be as inclusive and well-rounded as possible, not only to attract the best possible employees for your needs but also to ensure that they feel valued and want to stick around. You can achieve this by setting clear expectations of your workers and living up to your word, asking for and acting on feedback, and prioritizing communication and creativity.

Giving your employees as many advantages as possible will encourage them to participate in an active relationship with your company, and it will also allow you to attract the best talent for your business’s needs. Think about which benefits are most desired in your field, and try to remain as flexible as possible as you make the necessary changes to your workplace.

Reach out to LoveKarmaFood today with questions or comments.

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Cervical Health Awareness Month

It’s cervical health awareness month, so gather ‘round girls and guys, to learn about why your cervix is important and why you need to keep it healthy.

photo of women holding each other s hands
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The cervix is: The lower, narrow end of the uterus that forms a canal between the uterus and vagina.

Photo: wikimedia.org

What it does: Part of the lining of the cervix contains glands that make and release mucus. For most of the menstrual cycle and during pregnancy, the mucus is thick and stops sperm from entering the uterus. The thick mucus also helps to protect the uterus and the upper female reproductive organs from harmful bacteria.

During pregnancy: During childbirth, the cervix widens (dilates), allowing the baby to pass through the birth canal.

Now, there’s a lot more regarding the cervix that involves endocervix, ectocervix, glandular and squamous cells, but you can open up Google and discover the biology on your own. (I never liked biology.) I want to talk about why it’s important to keep your cervix healthy and why. Let’s start with HPV.

HPV: Human Papillomavirus

Photo: http://www.jpost.com

HPV is an infection that causes warts in various parts of the body depending on the strain. It’s an STI (Sexually Transmitted Infection) and one of the most common. You can be symptom free but still infect others through sexual contact and there is no cure. The warts may go away misleading you to believe you are cured when you aren’t. Treatment may include removing the warts by your healthcare professional or with prescription medication. In most cases (9 out of 10), HPV goes away on its own within two years without any additional problems. But when HPV does not go away, it can cause problems like genital warts and cancer. HPV can cause cervical cancer and cancer of the vulva, vagina, penis or anus. It can also cause cancer in the back of the throat (oropharyngeal cancer) and this can include the base of the tongue and tonsils. It can take years and even decades for cancer to develop in people infected with HPV. Genital warts and cancers result from different types of HPV.

Cervical Cancer

According to the National Cancer Society statistics for 2022, about 4,280 women will die from cervical cancer and about 14,100 new cases of invasive cancer will be diagnosed. It used to be much worse; cervical cancer was at one time the leading cancer killer of women. Pretty self-explanatory, cervical cancer is cancer of the cervix. It starts in the cells lining the cervix — the lower part of the uterus (womb). Cancer starts when cells in the body begin to grow out of control. It can be caused by certain types of HPV which is spread through sexual contact. The main types of cervical cancers are squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma. But you can prevent cervical cancer by getting screened before you show symptoms. Screenings can help find abnormal cells or signs of HPV before they turn into cancer.

When to Get a Pap Smear:

Many women are unclear about when they should get a pap smear. According to most doctors, most young women should start at age 21. However, is you are younger than 21 and sexually active or experiencing any reproductive health concerns, you should speak to an experienced gynecologist sooner. In part, the reason for the confusion in women is that pap smears are thought to be only for those who are sexually active, when the pap smear is to collect cells from the cervix and screen for abnormal cells. Sexual intercourse does increase a woman’s risk of exposure to HPV, which is the cause of nearly all cervical cancer and why women who are sexually active should be vigilant about getting tested. The Pap smear can also help protect sexually inactive women who have a family history of it.

Tips for a Happy Cervix:

  • Condoms: Use them. They protect your cervix and body from STD’s including HPV.
  • Get a Pap Smear: And follow up!
  • If you are able to: Get the HPV vaccine.

Message to Leave Here with:

Don’t be scared, be proactive. Take initiative with your health and make sure your girlfriends are taking care of their bodies. Cancer is vicious and this is one of those cancers that can be preventable if you maintain your health.

References:

https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cervical-cancer/about/key-statistics.html

https://cancer.ca/en/cancer-information/cancer-types/cervical/what-is-cervical-cancer/the-cervix

Hello January!

So, how’s your New Year kicking off? Everyone happy and as healthy as they can be? It’s been a slow start for me in the writing and writing goals department, but you know what they say about slow and steady? And I’m very familiar with being slow! My cane and I were never accused of being fast.

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Let’s see, to start off with I had a mammogram in/around October and the results were meh. I have to have another mammogram done with ultrasound of the left side. Fun times! By the way…every time I see or hear mammogram it just sounds like someone dressed as a boob should be dancing around and singing Happy Birthday to someone. I know, weird, but that’s me. Anyways, I’m not too worried about it yet- about 10-12% of women are called back after a mammogram for more tests and fewer than 1 in 10 women are actually found to have cancer after that second appointment (www.ngrmc.org). But breast cancer, however remote the possibility is still scary. I lost two friends/coworkers to it, after they both fought very long battles with it. But worrying before there’s any hard evidence seems counterproductive. Of course, when it’s 1 a.m. and I can’t sleep, try explaining that to my over active brain and anxiety.

Less stressful but more annoying has been the fierce pain in my left shoulder that makes it impossible to sleep in any other position than on my back. Also, heel pain in my left foot which has been going on for months but I’m sure y’all are familiar with self-triage. If you’re not, my definition is: when there’s so much crap going wrong with your body that you have to decide what is most important and/or life threatening and you take care of that first. I did purchase a U-pillow from Amazon that has made sleeping better. I kid you not, we have like 12 pillows on our king size bed, not including my Squishmallows and every night has been this epic game of “where do I stick this pillow, so I don’t hurt.” Not a very good game title, but you get the idea. I also play that game with ice packs.

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I am still having gut/Crohns issues. While I have a great functional gastroenterologist, who I believe really listens and wants to help, the tests she wants me to do are not covered by my insurance and at roughly $400 a pop, I can’t rationalise the expense. I mean seriously, the question becomes pay bills or take these tests. I don’t have $800 bucks lying around for tests that may or may not tell me what is going on. So, I do what many of my Spoonie brethren out there do, I ignore it until I can’t anymore and try alternative ways to alleviate symptoms or hope that there might be a different test to take. It’s really a no-win situation but I haven’t found a better alternative.

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Okay, now that I have complained, let’s look at the positives. I’m writing in my blog. Yay! Woohoo! Pats myself on the back. Seriously, it can be difficult when you have a busy life and also the weight of being chronically ill and/or in pain. Additionally, there’s always this mini-dialogue going on in my head wondering if what I am writing about is meaningful/important. Besides this, I’m steadily working on my reading challenge this month. I haven’t gotten as far along as I’d like to, but I think trying to read at night is not a good time. I’ll have to make some time in the morning or early afternoon when I am not so tired. Even if tired doesn’t mean sleepy, it means my body and mind just want to zone out and not focus on words. Not to mention my RLS is sometimes so bad I can barely watch television at times. Good times, right?

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Other good things…the fam is happy and healthy. That is definitely something to be cheery about, especially in the age of COVID. The kids are doing great. Going to school and working. Oh! I have a list of topics I’m gearing up to right about. I am hoping having a list will help keep me organised and on track. That’s about it. Thank you for having patience with me and cheers to a new, and happy year!

See you in a week or two for my post on: Cervical Health Awareness Month

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Happy New Year

I always have this idea, maybe a goal, that I will have all these great blog posts out for the holidays. Then, the holidays come around and between the preparation of all the gifts, of which many are hand-made, and just the hustle and bustle of the time, I don’t do it. I admit, it’s probably about 45%-time management and needing a more thorough plan of what my blog posts will be from post to post, and 55% my health. In the past I’ve put up a hiatus notice, letting every one know I was taking a break, anticipating that this would happen, but this time it escaped me. I apologize for that.

I have found that it is much easier to write about tricks and ways to balance your life with chronic illness/pain, then it is to practice it. There are so many variables in one’s life that it can make things challenging, but I have resolved to make this a priority in the upcoming year. I don’t like New Year’s Resolutions, I prefer lifestyle changes, and I will be working on small changes here and there to help myself be more prepared in the future so this doesn’t happen next year. I do make allowances for my health and for things getting out of hand, and I know some would say I am being too hard on myself, but I’m really not. The only way to succeed, is by me setting parameters, for planning each week or each month in advance and by allotting time specifically for my blog/work, even though I am home and making it clear to those around me that I need this time for me.

My biggest New Year’s Change are challenges I have already planned throughout the year for each month. So, each month I will be devoting a full month to something I think needs more attention, or something new I want to try. I got this idea a while back and decided I would like to give it a go. I seem to do better when approaching something in a small chunk rather than the whole bite, so doing something like this allows me to focus 28-31 days on something that is important to me and be mindful of what I want to accomplish. After the month has passed and before I move on to the next thing, I will think about how I want to continue and if there should be any changes. This new year is all about changes and improvements one step at a time.