Awareness: January, 2016

Note: For past issues of our MIRACLE Awareness pages and topics, visit our archives.

Throughout the year, government agencies and private organizations emphasize a list of medical conditions and safety awareness observances. MIRACLE Online Books does not cover every health and safety awareness observance, and nothing we discuss here is comprehensive. What we attempt to do every month is focus on one or two safety or health observances, and then list the other events we found along with hyperlinks to the associated web pages.

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The organization of this page falls into three main areas. The first area addresses month-long events and highlights one cause with a short article on its significance. Immediately following that discussion, a bulleted list allows you to scan through the other month-long events for more information. The second area of this page focuses on week-long events and contains a shorter discussion on one event along with a table of the other events in that category. The final section lists day-long events in a table and provides links to the relevant web pages.

The information on this page is dynamic. It changes every month and potentially during the weeks and days between. Consequently, we encourage you to come back often and see what's new.

Awareness Campaigns this Month

January is the month of new beginnings. In keeping with this tradition, MIRACLE Online Books begins 2016 with a fresh commitment to provide more information and help to you. One of the annual observances in Canada this month is Alzheimer's awareness, and we'd like to call that out as our emphasis as well. You can find a full discussion of this observance under the heading Alzheimer's Awareness Month in Canada.

It is difficult to imagine and even harder to accept, but a medical condition known as Niemann-Pick disease (NPC) exhibits some of the same characteristics of Alzheimer's disease in infants and children. This disease is always fatal. Most children who are diagnosed with NPC usually do not make it to their twentieth birthday, and many of them perish before they reach their tenth. You can find an interesting story about twin sisters with this disease on ABC news. Finally, there are three types of NPC: A, B, and C. The girls in the ABC story suffer from type C, which you can find out more about on the National Center for Biotechnology Information website and the National Niemann-Pick Foundation website.

Along with the focus on Alzheimer's disease, there is an emphasis on a healthy lifestyles. To this end, we're recognizing several healthy lifestyle observances. One of these observances is Family Fit Lifestyle Month. Alzheimer's disease typically shows up late in life, but choices we make much earlier on may make a significant difference. A healthy lifestyle that starts in childhood may lower the risk, reduce the severity, or delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease later in life.

Alzheimer's Awareness Month, Canada

January is Alzheimer's Awareness Month in Canada. Alzheimer's disease is a progressive, irreversible form of dementia that slowly disables short-term memory, shuts down other cognitive functions, and impairs the ability to perform the most basic tasks. This medical condition usually doesn't appear until the mid-60s and beyond, but it has been known to surface earlier. Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia, and it ranks among the leading causes of death in the industrialized world.

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Alzheimer's disease is a result of amyloid plaques that accumulate in the brain over a lifetime, but the exact cause of these deposits remains uncertain. Scientists have isolated potential genetic markers for the disease and developed treatments to slow its progression, but a cure remains elusive.

The onset of this disease is gradual and hard to detect; therefore, it may be mistaken for irresponsibility or behavior issues. Further complicating detection is the fact that radical behavioral changes are part of life; character changes are not always a symptom of disease. The only way to know for sure is with a proper medical diagnosis. The main challenge in this circumstance may be persuading your loved one to see a doctor.

The impact of Alzheimer's disease is not limited to adults. It can affect small children in ways that are hard to detect. For example, ongoing changes in the behavior of a grandparent or parent may perplex and sadden small children. In such instances, they need a compassionate, truthful explanation of what is happening to the grandparent or parent. You can find more information on talking to children about Alzheimer's disease on the Alzheimer's Association website.

Primary caretakers of patients with Alzheimer's disease include, but are not limited to spouses or domestic partners, children, parents, and friends. While it is true that professionals provide medical services, the bulk of the responsibility usually falls on someone closely related to the patient while the disease runs its course. Those who lack a network of family and friends may find themselves isolated and increasingly stressed as the symptoms intensify. Simple tasks such as shopping for groceries present a major challenge for caretakers.

The Alzheimer's Society of Canada provides a checklist of warning signs for this disease. Checklists are no substitute for a proper diagnosis, but such tools may alert you to a potential condition while medical treatments are most effective and help you convince your loved one to schedule an appointment.

Nothing prevents Alzheimer's disease, but you may be able to reduce your exposure to some of its associated risks and manage some of its effects. Factors such as aging, genetic markers, and related medical conditions are fixed and unavoidable. Nevertheless, people with all of these factors can modify the risk and impact of an Alzheimer's diagnosis. Other risks can be addressed with prevention. Strategies such as healthy eating, physical exercise, and learning new skills may lower the risk of Alzheimer's disease.

Medications are also available for mild, moderate, and advanced stages of the disease, but the types of medicine and their availability depend on your location and other factors. For the best advice, consult your physician.

Alzheimer's disease takes an awful toll every year, but help is available. The Alzheimer's Society of Canada (ASC) provides helpful advice and resources from people living with this disease on a Shared Experiences page. If you want to know more about Alzheimer's disease, visit ASC's Alzheimer's disease webpage. For additional information, see the Alzheimer's Association website.

Other Health Awareness Campaigns this Month

Other observances this month the following safety and health issues:

Awareness Campaigns by Week

In keeping with the January tradition of kicking off New Year resolutions, one emphasis this month is weight control. Weight control brings its own rewards, but it is also one of the potential ways to lower the risk factors and impact of Alzheimer's disease. See our section on Alzheimer's awareness above.

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It may seem counterintuitive, but part of our problem with obesity may be our obsession with it. We have an almost endless variety of low-calorie drinks and foods. Scientists have begun to question the efficacy of some diet foods, and suggested that traditional alternatives may be more effective. In addition, certain exercises may also provide questionable value.

An effective weight-control program must sustainable, rewarding, and enjoyable. The sustainability of any resolution depends on several factors such as time, support, and opportunity. If you overcommit yourself or make your program too rigid, you may quit before you notice any progress at all.

Your weight-control resolution must reinforce progress with a creative reward system. One possible reward is to buy a new wardrobe item or a bicycle. Another reward may be announcing your progress to a support group and receiving the recognition you deserve.

Above all, your resolution must be enjoyable. Replace unhealthy choices with healthy choices you enjoy, or work on reducing larger portions of unhealthy foods and increasing healthier portions. Finally, setbacks are common with weight-control resolutions. If you fall off your program, get back on it as soon as possible. Overcome defeat with renewed determination.

Table 1 lists the week-long campaigns recognized during the remainder of this month:

Table 1: Health and Safety Awareness Campaigns by Week
Week Observance or campaign
1-7 Diet Resolution Week (Look past the first announcements on the web page.)
3-9 National Folic Acid Awareness Week (Information is from 2013.)
17-23 Healthy Weight Week
National Non-Smoking Week (See also the Canadian Council for Tobacco Control website.)
18-22 No Name Calling Week
18-24 Healthy Weight Week (See also Human Relations Media website.)
24-30 National Certified Nurse Anesthetists Week
25-31 National Drug Facts Week

Awareness Campaigns by Day

Another lifestyle choice that may affect the risk of Alzheimer's disease is smoking tobacco products. January 22 is Weedless Wednesday, which is a part of National Non-Smoking Week in Canada. January 29 is National Preschool Fitness Day. Table 2 lists the daily campaigns recognized this month:

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Table 2: Health and Safety Awareness Campaigns by day
Day Observance or campaign
1 Global Family Day
World Day of Peace
4 International World Braille Day
National Weigh-In Day
11 International Thank You Day
21 Women's Healthy Weight Day
22 Celebration of Life Day
Weedless Wednesday (about tobacco control)
24 Moebius Syndrome Awareness Day
25 National IV Nurse Day
27 Family Literacy Day, Canada
29 National Preschool Fitness Day
30 World Leprosy Day (There appears to be two separate observances of World Leprosy Day.)
31 World Leprosy Day (There appears to be two separate observances of World Leprosy Day.)
National Bug Busting Day (United Kingdom)
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