Laying a Foundation for a Healthier You


My neighbor has terrible headaches that come with little warning. She takes a pain reliever prescribed by her physician and has just been placed on a preventative medication because she has two or more debilitating attacks a month. In addition to the traditional pharmaceutical treatment, she has begun taking acupuncture treatments, meditating and taking longer walks, all of which seem to have alleviated the pain. She finds that her overall wellness and health have improved through the integration of healthy habits, appropriate medications and alternative therapy.

The Merriam-Webster Medical Dictionary defines health as the condition of being sound in body, mind and spirit. Wellness, as defined by Merriam-Webster is the quality or state of being in good health especially as an actively sought goal. Being in a state of good health depends on choosing wellness as a way of life, through the body, mind and spirit. 

 In this column we will be reporting on conventional, complementary and alternative wellness modalities. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), a division of the National Institutes of Health, defines complementary medicine as unconventional treatments used in addition to treatments by a doctor. These include such treatments as acupuncture, massage therapy, herbal supplements and meditation.  In the past two decades, research has shown a need for and a growing respect for integrative medicine, which is defined as the blending of the best of both worlds — conventional medicine and alternative medicine.

NCCAM has recently launched Time to Talk, an educational campaign to encourage patients — particularly those 50 or older — and their health care providers to openly discuss the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM),  including those listed above.  According to NCCAM, almost two-thirds of people age 50 or older are using some form of CAM, yet less than one-third of them talk about it with their doctors.

In this column the emphasis will be on wellness as a proactive approach designed to achieve optimum levels of health. A wellness-oriented combination of body, mind and spirit is an active process of gaining awareness of the role all of them play in the ability of individuals to take charge of their lives and to set healthy life-style goals.

As a departure point each week we will look at some of the health and wellness observances during the year.

In August, we observe  Cataract Awareness Month, Medic Alert Awareness Month, National Immunization Awareness Month, World Breast Feeding Week (Aug. 1-7), International Day of the Worlds Indigenous People (Aug. 9), and National Health Center Week (Aug. 10-16). Next week we will look at some of the Alexandria Community Health Centers and what services they provide.

On July 16, 2008 the Alexandria Health Department reported the first positive test for West Nile Virus in mosquitoes for 2008. No human cases have been reported this year. West Nile Virus is a mosquito-borne disease that is endemic in this region, according to the press release. Citizens are being asked to eliminate mosquito breeding on their property by emptying any water holding containers and cleaning out areas where mosquitoes can breed. We are also being asked to minimize being bitten by avoiding dawn and dusk activities, using repellants and wearing loose, long and light colored clothing when outdoors and by repairing window and door screens that may have holes that mosquitoes can enter through.
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