February Disability Connection Newsletter: 10 Ways to Stay Healthy and “Well-thy”

February Disability Connection Newsletter: 10 Ways to Stay Healthy and “Well-thy”

Disability Connection Newsletter. This section has four photographs from left to right. A woman, who has spina bifida and a learning disability, stands next to her scooter. A young man, who has Costello Syndrome, bags groceries in a supermarket. A Veteran who is blind sits in a chair at his office. A woman, who has a Spinal Cord Injury, advocates for people with multiple disabilities.

February 2014 

 Disability Connection: 10 Ways to Stay Healthy and “Well-thy”

1. Face the Heart Truth. February is American Heart Month, a reminder that all individuals should educate themselves on heart disease and prevention. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “heart disease” refers to different kinds of heart conditions, the most common of which occurs when buildup blocks the arteries that supply blood to the heart. Heart disease can cause a heart attack, heart failure and arrhythmias. The good news is that it can be prevented. The American Heart Association has a multitude of tips on how to live a healthy lifestyle, such as diet, exercise and monitoring blood pressure and cholesterol regularly. Women, in particular, are more at risk for developing heart disease. The National Lung, Blood and Heart Institute’s The Heart Truth campaign for #MyHeart28, offers a challenge each day on Facebook during American Heart Month that encourages participants to take action against women’s heart disease.

2. Start Eating Healthy. The old saying goes, “You are what you eat,” but what exactly does that mean? Visit ChooseMyPlate.gov to learn about the five food groups (i.e., dairy, fruits, grains, proteins and vegetables) and how to eat healthy on a budget. Your family and you can also access tools for managing your food intake, meal portions and physical activity. Plus, you can hang this print-ready poster on your fridge as a daily reminder to eat a healthy and balanced diet.  Want to learn about the nutrients in different foods? Check out the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Nutrient Database. You can also visit Allrecipes.com to get free recipes, which are submitted and rated by other site members.

3. Jump-start Your Exercise Routine. One of the most important ways to stay healthy is through exercise. According to the Mayo Clinic, exercise can help you control your weight, combat disease, improve your mood and boost your energy.  It doesn’t take much to fit some activity into your day for at least 30 minutes – consider running, walking, hiking, cycling, yoga, tai chi or Zumba, to name a few. The President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition’s I Can Do It, You Can Do It! program is a national initiative that encourages all Americans of any age or ability to lead a healthy lifestyle that includes regular physical activity and good nutrition. Sign up to be an I Can Do It, You Can Do It! advocate by emailing ICDI@hhs.gov. You can also visit the National Institute on Aging’s Go4Life website for exercise suggestions, as well as advice on how to choose a fitness trainer and track your activities.

4. Find an Accessible Fitness Center. Everyone reaps health benefits from regular exercise and those with disabilities are no exception. A Fitness Center Accessibility Checklist can help you determine if the gym or health club you are considering joining offers accessible equipment and facilities. Some Independent Living Centers (ILCs) have accessible fitness centers on their premises or offer other wellness programs. To find an ILC near you, use the ILRU State Directory. You may also want to check out the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation’s NeuroRecovery Network Community Fitness and Wellness Program, which has centers located in five cities: Lawndale, Calif.; Willow Springs, Ill.; Louisville, Ky.; Minneapolis, Minn.; and South Jordan, Utah. Each center provides a customized exercise program to help people with spinal cord injuries and other physical disabilities increase their strength and flexibility. If the outdoors is more your style, the National Recreation and Park Association has affiliates in every state that provide a variety of wellness and fitness programs for people of all abilities.

5. Learn Your Family Health History. Knowing your family’s history of illnesses can help you and your doctors determine your risk of disease and spot early symptoms. My Family Health Portrait is a free online tool from the Surgeon General that can help you record your family’s unique health history in one of four languages: English, Spanish, Portuguese or Italian. To start, make an accurate record of when family members’ health conditions developed and the age of diagnosis. You should also note whether the conditions were related to the person’s cause of death. Go back on your family tree as far as you can, including your grandparents and great grandparents, if possible. It’s especially important to record any recurring health problems. The Mayo Clinic gives advice on how to ask loved ones to share their personal medical information. Your Family Health Portrait cannot predict your future health, but it can ensure you and your loved ones receive the best care possible.

6. Know Your Rights to Accessible Healthcare. A trip to the doctor’s office can often be a frustrating experience for people with mobility issues. Check with a medical facility ahead of time to ask if they are accessible. For instance, do they have a wheelchair accessible weight scale, a height adjustable exam table or an accessible bathroom? You and Your Doctor: A Short Guide to Your Rights and Responsibilities contains helpful information about communicating effectively with your doctor or healthcare team about your needs. ADA Q & A… Health Care Providers, a Pacer Center ACTION Information Sheet, gives guidance on how this landmark legislation supports patients with disabilities. Access To Medical Care For Individuals With Mobility Disabilities is also a good technical resource for medical care providers on the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as it relates to healthcare services and facilities. For additional tips on getting the best healthcare possible, visit the People with Disabilities: Living Healthy section of the CDC website.

7. Get a Physical Exam. To make sure you are in tip-top shape, it is important to have regular physical exams with your primary care provider. Although there is no “one-size-fits-all” answer for how often you should go, doctors say it depends on your age and disease risk. During a physical exam, you may be screened for various health conditions to make sure you have a clean bill of health. The National Library of Medicine breaks down what your health screening should include, depending on your age. You should also be aware of important screening tests for men and women. The myhealthfinder tool allows you to select your age, gender and whether you want information for yourself, someone else or your child to determine what preventive services you should receive at your next doctor’s appointment.

8. Increase Your Brainpower. When it comes to brain health, the old adage, “Use it or lose it,” certainly applies. However, according to scientists, there are many things you can do to improve your memory and mental performance. For one, AARP’s Brain Health Center has lots of resources to help you optimize your brain power. Features include exercises and games, diet and lifestyle tips, as well as relevant blog posts. You can also sign up for the free online Easter Seals Train Your Brain Challenge, which exercises your memory, brain speed, people skills, intelligence and navigation. In addition, How to Improve Your Memory from Helpguide.org lists five tips and exercises to help you sharpen your memory and boost your mental performance.

9. Download a Health App. Technology has increasingly become integrated into our everyday lives, helping us track every aspect of our health. Last year, MobiHealthNews shared Google’s top 20 free health apps. Among them are apps that track your fitness, sleep cycles and weight. TIME magazine also picked their top five health apps, one of which you can use to scan barcodes on packaged food at the grocery store to determine its nutritional value. Another one assists you in finding doctors in your local area. Check your iTunes or Google Play store to find out which apps are available for your mobile device.

10. Relax for Health! Relaxation is more than a state of mind; it can also have a positive effect on your overall physical health and well-being. For instance, deep breathing exercises may reduce high blood pressure, pain, insomnia and depression. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine offers information on different types of relaxation techniques, including meditation and yoga. The National Center on Health, Physical Activity, and Disability (NCHPAD) website also has a section, Yoga for Individuals with Disabilities, which is easily adaptable for a wide range of abilities. Lastly, take a break from your mobile device and/or computer at least one day on the weekend. The Ultimate Guide to Unplugging infographic offers suggestions on how to digitally detox, as well as the benefits you will reap from doing so.

Don’t forget to visit Disability.gov for resources on healthy living. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and use #disabilityconnection to talk to us about this newsletter. You can also read Disability.Blog to learn about helpful programs in your community.

Read past issues of the Disability Connection newsletter.


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