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Is your child distracted at school?

Have you ever found a grade on your child’s report card that seems to be below his or her abilities?

This may indicate poor study habits, a behavior problem or indicate an underlying medical condition.

Distractibility in kids can be due to learning disabilities, situational stress or trauma, abnormal lead levels, vision or hearing abnormalities.

So what can you do?

If you suspect a vision problem, schedule an appointment with an optometrist.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 20 percent of children become nearsighted during their school years.

Symptoms of a vision problem

  • Does your child complain about headaches?
  • Does your child rub his or her eyes often?
  • Does your child’s eyes water?
  • Are your child’s eyes sensitive to light?
  • Does your child squint or cock his or her to one side when looking at something, whether near or far away?
  • Does your child need to close one of his or her eyes to see clearly?
  • Does your child sit too close to the TV or hold books close to his or her face when reading?

If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, you may want to have your child’s vision tested. If you do not have an optometrist, you could ask your primary care provider for a recommendation. Vision problems

Hearing problems can also cause frustration in the classroom. An audiologist can determine if your child is suffering from a hearing loss. Researchers at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, concluded that even minimal hearing loss can affect academic progress. A child with a hearing loss in one ear is 10 times more likely to have academic difficulties.

Dyslexia or attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADD or ADHD) may cause your child difficulties at school. Up to 12 percent of the school-aged population have ADD or ADHD, while 15 – 20 percent of the population have some degree of dyslexia, which affects a person’s ability to read, write or calculate.

Twenty percent of children with learning disabilities struggle with attention problems in the classroom.

Distraction in class may also be caused by emotional upheaval that a child is dealing with at home. A child who experiences loss, strife in the home, bullying at school or a similar stressful situation may feel anxious or depressed.

Other problems in academic performance may need to be evaluated by educational professionals through standardized academic tests or motor skill assessments. Contact your child’s school’s guidance office for more information.

When to get help for your child

If you suspect that your child may have a learning disability, it is important to get help for child as soon as possible. Make sure that you enlist the services of your health care provider and the educational professionals that can support you and your child throughout the process. The earlier the disability is identified, the easier it is for the child to learn new ways to compensate and succeed.

For more information on possible medical reasons for poor school performance, talk to your health care provider or locate a provider in your area with Affinity or Ministry.

March is National Nutrition Month

fresh fruits vegetables

Every year in the month of March, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) celebrates National Nutrition Month to raise awareness for the importance of making smart food choices and developing thoughtful eating and physical activity habits.

This year’s theme for National Nutrition month is “Put Your Best Fork Forward.” The theme recognizes that individuals have the ability to make healthy food choices in their lives. Even small, positive changes can have impact overtime.

A diet goal for individuals could be to increase diet variety. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans defines diet variety as, “A diverse assortment of foods and beverages across and within all food groups and subgroups selected to fulfill the recommended amounts without exceeding the limits for calories and other dietary components.”

Basically, this is saying that variety is like getting all the good benefits from food without getting too much food and exceeding calories. Food can provide the following nutrients: water, protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals. Certain foods are higher in one type of nutrient, and some have multiple nutrients. For example, non-fat yogurt provides protein, carbohydrates and the mineral calcium. Bananas provide carbohydrates, but they also provide the mineral potassium. The goal is to have a wide variety of foods to provide a spectrum of the nutrients.

Ways to Add Variety to Your Diet

Take a look at your typical weekly diet. Are you finding that you’re a little too routine and maybe don’t get enough variety? It can be very common for individuals to fall into a comfortable pattern, but I challenge you to increase your diet variety, and there are some ways of accomplishing this:

  • First, take a look at your fruit and vegetable intake—The goal is for individuals to have five, one cup servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Many Americans don’t accomplish this. Fresh, frozen, reduced-sodium canned and 100 percent juice products all count toward the goal of five servings. Increasing intake of fruits and vegetables increases your vitamin and mineral intake, which is great for our health.
  • Dust off that cookbook—Recipes and cookbooks can be a place for great inspiration. If you don’t already have cookbooks at home, I often recommend going to a resale shop or a discount book store to look for cookbooks that interest you. If you have access to the Internet, there are many consumer websites with reviews you can use too.
  • Experiment with vegetarian proteins—Plant-based protein foods are good for our bodies as they often provide fiber in addition to protein. Plant-based proteins include beans and legumes, soy, nuts, nut butters, and seeds. Starting with beans as a substitute for meat in a recipe can be a good start.
  • Interchange your grains—Americans often consume wheat products, but there are other grains that are growing in popularity. Quinoa, farro, amaranth and barley, to name a few, are whole grains that provide carbohydrates, fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals. Grains can differ in the amount of vitamins and minerals they provide. So, varying can increase exposure to different nutrients.

Change can often times be difficult. Allow yourself time to vary your routine. If you still feel like you’re struggling with meal planning and choosing healthy foods, reach out to a local registered dietitian.

Source: National Nutrition Month Toolkit from www.eatright.org

Could You Have Sleep Apnea Without Knowing It? A True Story

driver sleep apnea

“Doc, I’m glad you made me have that test. Now I feel better than ever. I just didn’t realize how tired I really was!”

A truck driver had come in for his Department of Transportation (DOT) required certification exam. That was his parting comment to his provider as they exchanged a hearty handshake, and he left with his certificate, satisfied.

Although they were seeing eye-to-eye by then, things didn’t start that way. The driver was surprised a month earlier when his provider required him to have a sleep study to screen for sleep apnea.

His doctor had explained how this very common condition causes people to momentarily but repeatedly stop breathing while asleep, disrupting normal sleep cycles. He understood that, and admitted his wife once mentioned she noticed pauses in his snoring pattern while he slept.

Then his provider covered the connection between untreated sleep apnea and health conditions, including how it can lead to high blood pressure, heart failure, and even sudden death. He said he’d heard that, too, and knew his own blood pressure had been borderline.

Because sleep apnea sufferers never reach deeper levels of sleep, they are prone to excessive daytime drowsiness, which could lead to falling asleep at the wheel. That’s where the driver stopped agreeing with his doctor and clammed up.

His test confirmed severe sleep apnea. He started nightly use of a CPAP machine, and noticed results right away. “I should have done this years ago!” he said.

Sleep apnea isn’t new. But requiring tests for it, in people who don’t feel they have it, is new. This has created no small amount of controversy, particularly among truck drivers, who are under scrutiny because of the obvious public safety implications of their job.

Sleep apnea is a killer

There are more than 5,000 deaths due to large truck crashes in the U.S. annually. Somewhere between 7 percent and 20 percent of these crashes are due to truck drivers falling asleep behind the wheel. Their job is very demanding and would be stressful for anyone. But it’s a killer for someone with untreated sleep apnea, which may increase crash risk by two to seven times. And it is estimated that 17 percent to 28 percent of truck drivers have that condition. (Reference: Parks, 2009)

Still, those same statistics mean most truck drivers don’t have sleep apnea. And, most truck drivers finish long careers without ever being in any accident. So, how can doctors decide which drivers need to go through this inconvenient and expensive process, simply to remain eligible to drive a truck?

The answer is by using a tape measure, a scale, and a blood pressure cuff.

How to identify possible sleep apnea

In 2006, a joint task force of three major professional groups was formed: The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, the American College of Chest Physicians, and the National Sleep Foundation.

One of their tasks was to decide how doctors could identify drivers who ought to have sleep apnea screening, even among drivers who didn’t think they were drowsy. Their consensus was to require the screening test if two out of the following three criteria were met:

  • Body mass index of 35 or greater
  • Neck circumference of 17″ or greater in male drivers and 16″ in females
  • High blood pressure that was either new, uncontrolled, or requiring two or more medicines to control

(Source: Hartenbaum et al, 2006)

Should you be tested for sleep apnea?

If you are a truck driver, staying alive requires that you can stay awake. Discuss sleep apnea with your doctor and have the test if they or your DOT medical examiner recommends it.

If your work is not as safety-sensitive as that, talk to your doctor if you are concerned about feeling tired or sleepy. Also, the following increase your risk of sleep apnea:

  • If your body mass index is over 25.
  • If your neck measures 17 or more inches around (16 inches if you are female)
  • If your blood pressure is a problem

No Butts About It – Colon Cancer Screenings Save Lives

colon cancer

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death for men and women, which is why March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and why colonoscopy screenings are so important.

Colon Cancer Facts

  • Colorectal cancers typically develop slowly and over several years.
  • Early colorectal cancers usually have no symptoms—making regular screenings essential.
  • 90 percent of colorectal cancers are preventable, and it starts with scheduling a colonoscopy.

What is a Colonoscopy?
If you’re age 50 or older and haven’t had a colonoscopy, now is the time to schedule one. A colonoscopy is an examination in which a doctor inserts a thin tube with a camera into the rectum and up into the colon (the large intestine). The doctor is looking for small growths, called polyps, which sometimes can become cancerous.

Why is a Colonoscopy So Important?
Finding and removing polyps before they become cancerous actually prevents colon cancer. If cancer has already developed, the earlier it is treated, the more likely it can be cured. Most polyps and early cancers do not have any symptoms.

What If a Polyp is Found?
The polyps will be removed during the colonoscopy. This does not cause any pain. The polyps are sent to the laboratory to identify whether they are cancerous or not.

Will the Exam Hurt?
You will be sedated for the exam, and most people have no discomfort while others experience a slight amount of abdominal pressure for a short time. Because you are receiving sedation, you will need someone to drive you home after the procedure.

Why Do I Need to Take a Medication to Prepare for the Test?
Your colon is about five feet long and has liquid and solid stool throughout. For the doctor to be able to see any polyps, the colon needs to be cleaned out by taking a medication. This medication—a special fluid you can drink—will give you loose watery stools. There have been many improvements in the prepping solutions, including low volume doses that are much easier to tolerate.

Will My Insurance Pay For the Exam?
Almost all insurance companies pay for a colonoscopy after the age of 50. If you have a screening colonoscopy, meaning you have not had any symptoms (like abdominal pain or blood in the stool) and have not had an abnormal colonoscopy in the past, then there is no copay or deductible.

Patient Story: Sue was healthy and didn’t have any family history of colorectal cancer. And yet, at 47 years old, she was diagnosed with the cancer. Click here to read Sue’s inspiring story of how she fought through this cancer and why you should get screened.

For More Information

If you’re experiencing symptoms or need to schedule a colonoscopy, find a doctor near you at Affinity or Ministry.

Sleep Tips for Shift Workers

man sleeping in bed

Take a nap during a break or before reporting to work

Short naps (20-30 minutes) can improve alertness on the job.

Work clockwise

If you work rotating shifts, request that succeeding shifts start later than your last shift. This will help your body adjust.

Plan ahead for changes in your shift-work schedule

Adjust your sleep schedule three days in advance of a change in your work schedule.

Avoid exposure to sunlight if you need to sleep during the day

Wear dark glasses to block out the sun on your way home.

If possible, have someone drive you home

Or take public transportation after a night shift. Drowsy driving puts you and others at risk.

Maintain a consistent nonwork schedule

Keep the same bedtime and wake time, even on weekends. Keeping a routine helps your body know when to be alert and when to sleep.

Eliminate noise and light in your sleep environment

Use room-darkening shades or drapes. Wear a sleep mask and/or ear plugs.

Avoid caffeine, alcohol and nicotine

All three substances are known to disrupt sleep. While alcohol may induce sleep, the quality of this sleep is often fragmented.

Avoid heavy meals before bedtime

Junk food and foods with high sugar and/or fat content can increase your metabolism.

Relax before bed

Unwind after work. Engage in relaxing activities prior to going to sleep. Establish a soothing routine to encourage sleep.

Seek professional help

If you experience ongoing sleep problems, ask a health care provider if melatonin, medications, bright light therapy, or a sleep study are appropriate options for you.

Disclaimer: The information found on Affinity's blog is a general educational aid. Do not rely on this information or treat it as a substitute for personal medical or health care advice, or for diagnosis or treatment. Always consult your physician or other qualified health care provider as soon as possible about any medical or health-related question and do not wait for a response from our experts before such consultation. If you have a medical emergency, seek medical attention immediately.

The Affinity Health System blog contains opinions and views created by community members. Affinity does endorse the contributions of community members. You should not assume the information posted by community members is accurate and you should never disregard or delay seeking professional medical advice because of something you have read on this site.