Meditation Basics

by Adrienne Stokes, M. Ed. | UAB Community Health & Human Services Alumni

Photo by Oluremi Adebayo on Pexels.com

“You cannot always control what goes on outside. But you can always control what goes on inside.” – Wayne Dyer

Regular meditation can help you to control your emotions, enhance your focus, and decrease stress. There are many different ways to mediate. The following steps can help get you started.


Step By Step Guide to Meditation

  1. Choose a quiet, peaceful environment free from distractions
  2. Wear comfortable clothes
  3. Decide how long you want to meditate, 15-45 minutes is recommended
  4. Sit in a comfortable upright position with your spine straightened
  5. Close your eyes if it helps you to focus and relax
  6. Follow your breathing
    • Breathe deeply, inhale through your nose then exhale through your mouth
    • Focus on your breathing and breathing only
    • Let all thoughts slide away and empty your mind, focus only on your breathing
    • Become aware of the rising and falling of your abdomen as you breathe in and out
  7. Continue like this until your time is up.

Meditation takes practice. Don’t worry if you have trouble emptying your mind or become frustrated or easily distracted, just return to following your breathing. As you train your mind and body to relax through meditation, you’ll become accustomed to the routine and begin to associate deep breathing with stress relief. In the same way that pictures of food may make us feel hungry, meditative breathing can decrease our stress.

So, if you’re having a bad day and feeling under pressure, stop for just a moment to take a few deep breaths. The results may surprise you.


Dry Eye Awareness Month

by Taylor Sullivan, M. Ed. | UAB Community Health & Human Services Alumni

July is Dry Eye Awareness Month

Dry eye is caused when the eyes do not make enough tears to stay moisturized or when the tears do not work correctly. Dry eyes can make your eyes feel uncomfortable and, in some cases, cause vision problems.

Dry eye is common and affects millions of Americans. There are several options available to help with dry eye while keeping eyes healthy and comfortable.


Symptoms of Dry Eye

  • Scratchy feeling as if something is in your eye
  • Stinging or burning feeling in your eye
  • Eye redness
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Blurry vision

Risks of Dry Eye

Anyone can get dry eye, but some are more at risk than others.

  • Those 50 years of age and older
  • Women
  • Contact lens wearers
  • Lack of Vitamin A
  • Certain autoimmune conditions
  • Too much screen time

Treatment depends on what causes your symptoms. Artificial tears are the most common treatment for mild dry eye. For severe dry eye, prescription medication may be necessary, but moisturizing gels and ointments are also available without a prescription.

Talk to your eye doctor today about dry eye and treatment and prevention options.


Newsletter – SOPHE Community of Practice on Healthy Aging | July 5, 2021

by Jun Wang, Intern and UAB Community Health & Human Services Student

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Title: Immune Aging and How to Combat It

Brief Description: The human immune system becomes less effective at tackling infection or inflammation and less responsive to vaccinations as we age. This increases the risk of all age-related sickness. Fortunately, regular exercise, maintaining a moderate weight, and adopting the right diet may help a person maintain a healthy immune system throughout life and into old age.

Link to resource: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/immune-aging-and-how-to-combat-it


Title: Get the Facts on Healthy Aging

Brief Description: For most older adults, good health ensures independence, security, and productivity as they age. Yet millions struggle every day with health and safety challenges such as chronic disease, falls, and mental health issues—all of which can severely impact quality of life. Get the facts on healthy aging and older adults: Chronic disease, falls, physical activity, oral health, and behavioral health are all topics older adults should learn about to ensure health and wellness as they age. The National Council on Aging Center for Healthy Aging provides chronic disease management, falls prevention, and other initiatives.

Link to resource: https://www.ncoa.org/article/get-the-facts-on-healthy-aging


Title: What to Know Before Your Second COVID-19 Vaccines

Brief Description: Understand the do’s and don’ts of the two-dose coronavirus vaccination regimen. To be fully immunized, it’s critical to get that second shot. Your side effects will likely be stronger after the second dose. You should avoid taking pain relievers before your shot, but feel free to take them afterwards. The timing between doses does not need to be exact, though avoid getting the second dose too early; it can be given up to six weeks after the first. Your second dose should be from the same manufacturer as your first. A rash at the injection site is not a reason to skip your second dose. You should temporarily avoid all other vaccines. Full immunity is not immediate and won’t kick in till two weeks after your second dose. You still need to wear a mask as there is a small chance you could get sick or carry the virus and silently transmit it to others.

Link to resource: https://www.aarp.org/health/conditions-treatments/info-2021/what-to-know-before-second-vaccine-dose.html


Title: 10 Early Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s

Brief Description: Early detection matters. If you notice one or more of these signs in yourself or another person, be sure to get checked.

  1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life
  2. Challenges in planning or solving problems
  3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks
  4. Confusion with time or place
  5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
  6. New problems with words in speaking or writing
  7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
  8. Decreased or poor judgement
  9. Withdrawal from work or social activities
  10. Changes in mood and personality.

Link to resource: https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/10_signs


Take Care of Yourself!

by Adrienne Stokes, M. Ed. | UAB Community Health & Human Services Alumni

Photo by Alex Green on Pexels.com

The COVID-19 pandemic may be stressful, but you can get through it. Take care of yourself and cope with the stress by addressing your physical, emotional, and mental health.

Take care of your Physical Health through

  • Eating a balanced diet
  • Regular physical activity
  • Plenty of good sleep
  • Avoiding excessive alcohol and drug use

Take care of your Emotional Health through

  • Connecting with others
  • Taking a break (unwinding)
  • Staying informed (but avoiding too much exposure to news)
  • Seeking help when you need it

Take care of your Mental Mealth through

  • Meditation
  • Connecting with your faith-based organization
  • Continuing with your treatment and staying aware of new or worsening symptoms
  • Calling for help if needed

Black Mental Health Resources

• National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800) 273-8255

• TC Counseling & Consulting (205) 377-5537

• Allworld Counseling & Consulting (205) 583-0237

• Strive Counseling Services (205) 721-9893

• Black Mental Health Alliance (410) 338-2642

• National Crisis Hotline (800) 273-8255

• The Crisis Center – Birmingham (205) 323-7777


REDUCING DISTRESSING PREGNANCIES AMONG BLACK WOMEN: TAKE ACTION

By Jaelyn Copeland (Community Health and Human Services Student), with contributions from Shayna Bryan (Intern & Community Health and Human Services Student)

Original photography by Mario Testino for Vogue magazine

Maternal mortality rates in the United States have been increasing steadily year after year, placing the country 56th on the World Health Organization’s worldwide data set, which is near the bottom of the developed nations. This disproportionately affects black women, who face not only the typical health hazards that come with childbirth, but must also wrestle with racial bias in the medical industry

Did you know black women are three times more likely to die due to pregnancy-linked causes than their peers?

According to the CDC, for every 100,000 births, 37 black women died in comparison to 15 white women and 12 Hispanic women. The causes of these racial differences are numerous. One of the issues is a lack of access to health care and poor quality of service. However, CDC data shows that even college-educated black women die at higher rates from pregnancy-related causes than white women who did not graduate from high school.

Look no further than Serena Williams, one of the greatest professional tennis players in history and an overall acclaimed athlete with a net worth over $200 million, whose pregnancy story demonstrates that these issues penetrate every level of society. In an interview with Vogue, Williams recalls battling with major problems shortly after the birth of her daughter. After her daughter was born through Cesarean section, Williams became short of breath. Knowing her own history of blood clots in the lungs (called pulmonary embolisms), she instantly alerted a nurse to her symptoms. However, staff were slow to respond to her concerns. The resulting complications ended in Williams needing a filter inserted into one of her major veins. It took six weeks of bed rest before she eventually returned home.

Serena’s traumatic story places her among the 50,000 women in America who face dangerous or life-threatening pregnancy-related problems each year.

However, researchers suggest this estimate may still be too conservative. Racial bias in the medical industry is a systemic issue that is becoming more recognized. The CDC has launched the Hear Her campaign to spread awareness and education on the complications associated with pregnancy. The lesson for the medical industry is to listen to patients more and make sure their needs are addressed. For the rest of us, the lesson is to learn to be your own best advocate.


Here are steps you can take:

  • Enroll in pre-natal care early, 1 month before pregnancy if possible
  • Take pre-natal vitamins as early as possible, even before becoming pregnant
    • Vitamins like folate are essential to brain and spinal cord development which occurs during the first few weeks of pregnancy
  • Learn the warning signs of common complications, particularly those you are at high risk for and those in your family medical history
  • Make stress management a priority
  • Speak up!
    • Create a list of questions to ask your doctor, make your concerns heard!
    • Keep a written record to help you and your doctor stay on track and accountable during appointments

PSA developed by Brittany Reynolds, Shayna Bryan, and Larrell Wilkinson

Sources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, November 25). Pregnancy Mortality Surveillance System. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/maternal-mortality/pregnancy-mortality-surveillance-system.htm.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, March 24). About the Campaign. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/hearher/about-the-campaign/index.html.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, May 11). Urgent Maternal Warning Signs. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/hearher/maternal-warning-signs/index.html.

Fernandez, M. E. (2021, February 10). Why Black women are less likely to survive pregnancy, and what’s being done about it. http://www.heart.org. https://www.heart.org/en/news/2021/02/10/why-black-women-are-less-likely-to-survive-pregnancy-and-whats-being-done-about-it.

Haskell, R. (2018, January 10). Serena Williams on Motherhood, Marriage, and Making Her Comeback. Vogue. https://www.vogue.com/article/serena-williams-vogue-cover-interview-february-2018.

Lockhart, P. R. (2018, January 11). What Serena Williams’s scary childbirth story says about medical treatment of black women. Vox. http://www.vox.com/identities/2018/1/11/16879984/serena-williams-childbirth-scare-black-women.

Testino, M. (September 2017). Photograph of Serena Williams. Vogue.

WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA, World Bank Group, and United Nations Population Division Trends in Maternal Mortality: 2000 to 2017 Geneva: World Health Organization, 2019. Retrieved from: https://data.worldbank.


ARE YOU GETTING ENOUGH SLEEP? TEST YOURSELF AND TRY THESE TIPS

by Adrienne Stokes, M. Ed. | UAB Community Health & Human Services Alumni

Photo by William Fortunato on Pexels.com

A good night’s sleep should not be taken for granted. Not getting enough sleep is linked to increased risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, obesity, and depression. Exhaustion can also lead to vehicular accidents and mistakes at work.

Sufficient sleep is an essential component of a healthy lifestyle. It is recommended that most adults sleep 7-9 hours each night for optimal health. It is also important that your regular sleep is of good quality, so you feel rested when you wake.

Getting enough sleeps means less sickness, a healthy weight, lower health risks for serious health conditions, reduced stress, improved mood, clearer thinking, and better decision making.

Talk to your doctor if you often have trouble sleeping or still feel tired after sleeping as these are symptoms of a possible sleep disorder.


Good Sleep Habits

  • Go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time, even on the weekends
  • Make sure your bedroom is quiet, dark, relaxing, and at a comfortable temperature
  • Remove electronic devices from the bedroom (i.e. TVs, computers, cell-phones)
  • Avoid large meals, caffeine, and alcohol before bedtime
  • Enjoy some physical activity before bedtime

Are you getting enough sleep?

Take the Sleep Hygiene Index below to see if you are getting enough sleep. Answer the following thirteen (13) questions. If after adding your total below, your score is 7 and above, consider trying the good sleep habits above.

  1. I take daytime naps lasting 2 or more hours (Yes or No)
  2. I go to bed at different times from day to day (Yes or No)
  3. I get out of be at different times from day to day (Yes or No)
  4. I exercise to the point of sweating within 1 hour of going to bed (Yes or No)
  5. I stay in bed longer than I should 2 or 3 times a week (Yes or No)
  6. I use alcohol, tobacco, or caffeine within 4 hours of going to bed (Yes or No)
  7. I do something that may wake me up before bedtime (play video games, browse internet, clean) (Yes or No)
  8. I go to bed feeling stressed, angry, upset, or nervous (Yes or No)
  9. I use my bed for things other than sleep or sex (watching TV, reading, eating, studying) (Yes or No)
  10. I sleep on an uncomfortable bed (poor mattress or pillow, too much or not enough blankets) (Yes or No)
  11. I sleep in an uncomfortable bedroom (too bright, too stuffy, too hot, too cold, too noisy) (Yes or No)
  12. I do important work before bedtime (pay bills, study) (Yes or No)
  13. I think, plan, or worry when I am in bed (Yes or No)

Score

For every Yes add 1 point, for every No add 0 points. Add up your totals.

0-3 Very Good

4-6 Good

7-9 Poor

10-13 Very Poor

(Sleep Hygiene Index Adapted from Mastin, Bryson & Corwyn, 2006)


Please check out the sources below to learn more about the practicing good sleep habits. Please also share your thoughts about sleep and sleep hygiene in the comments section of this post or via our page on Facebook @WilkinsonWellnessLab.

Resources and Further Reading

https://health.gov/myhealthfinder/topics/everyday-healthy-living/mental-health-and-relationships/get-enough-sleep#panel-4

https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/index.html


Railroad Park, Birmingham’s Green Oasis

By Jerrica Lake, Intern & UAB Community Health & Human Services Student

Looking for a safe place to get a dose of sunshine this summer? Try Railroad Park, located in the heart of Birmingham and situated along 1st Avenue South between 14th and 18th Streets. The park is open 7 a.m.-11 p.m. daily with around-the-clock rangers on patrol and 24-hour security system surveillance. Free parking is available along the outer perimeters of the park along 1st Avenue South.

Get Active in the Park!

Featuring 19 acres of green space, including 9 acres of open lawn, Railroad Park is the ideal place to have a picnic, go for a jog, or play frisbee with peers or pets. There are onsite restrooms, water fountains, and a café with a delicious menu, so feel free to make a day of it!

Railroad Park is abundant with greenery and water features, with ponds, streams, an eye-catching lake, and a stunning rain curtain feature. More than 600 trees have been planted for shade and the abundance of flowers make the park a luxurious landscape for the senses.

There is large outdoor gym area inspired by Muscle Beach in California. For kids, the park offers two playgrounds and a climbing dome. For skaters, there is a designated skate zone with three skate bowls available. For an adult looking to get active, it offers a variety of walking trails including

  • The Magic City Loop (3/4 mile)
  • Rail Trail (1/3 mile)
  • Powell Avenue Promenade (1/3 mile)
  • Limestone Trace (1/2 mile)

With sweeping lawns, picturesque streams and the beautiful Birmingham skyline framing it all, Railroad Park a prime spot for relaxing and connecting with nature within our urban jungle.


Use this image to share the message on social media!

Sources:

Birmingham’s Railroad Park – About Us. (n.d.). Retrieved June 16, 2021, from: https://www.railroadpark.org/about.html


REFLECTING ON JUNETEENTH: FROM CELEBRATION TO CALL FOR ACTION (FOR ALL AMERICANS)

By Shayna Bryan (UAB Community Health & Human Services Intern) with contributions from Dr. Larrell L. Wilkinson

On Thursday, June 17th (2021), the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act was signed into law, making this year’s observation of Juneteenth, the first observation of the new federal holiday.  On Friday, the 18th, Dr. Larrell Wilkinson had the opportunity to speak to a diverse group of college sophomores and juniors about aging research within the fields of community health and human services.  During his talk, Dr. Wilkinson spoke about the day’s federal observance of “Juneteenth” which is traditionally celebrated on June 19th in celebration of the day in 1865 when enslaved African-Americans were informed of their freedom and that the Civil War had ended.  Dr. Wilkinson shared with the young diverse scholars his hope for the Juneteenth commemoration to help foster “understanding given diverse racial experiences among Americans, which could support racial healing and reconciliation among Americans, and lead to greater solidarity within our country.”  He ended by saying that “we have to do the work…Americans can overcome challenges when working together and tackling the issues.”

Juneteenth is about celebrating the end of chattel slavery in the US as well as African American history, culture, and progress. But make no mistake, this is an American celebration for everyone because it marks a turning point in our nation’s history that is painful to remember but essential to understand for our future.  Slavery was a terrible human and economic institution that has bathed our country’s history in blood and conflict.  In our present day and into the future we have opportunities to reduce the instances of racial violence and prejudice and heal the hurts from our many past circumstances of injustice.  Keeping systems of segregation, discrimination, and oppression due to the social construct of race in order to preserve power, resources, or wealth for a select racial category is un-American and will not lead to the forming of a “more perfect union.”

We should never forget the terrible atrocities conducted under the system of slavery or the harms performed during the eras of Reconstruction and Jim Crow.  But we should also remember to celebrate the recovery and progress made towards racial harmony and cultural proficiency by all racial groups and work to secure the “blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.” What are your thoughts? From your point of view, what is the best way(s) to improve cultural and racial harmony in the United States of America? Please feel free to leave comments below or engage with us @WilkinsonWellnessLab on Facebook.


LET’S TAKE A LOOK AT THE MEDITERRANEAN DIET AND ITS BENEFITS

By Shayna Bryan, Intern & UAB Community Health & Human Services Student

If you’ve ever spent time looking for healthy diets to follow, but wanted to avoid a highly restrictive diet (like vegan) or a commercial diet plan (like Weight Watchers), you probably have come across the Mediterranean Diet. It has been the subject of research for over 50 years and has been ranked the best overall diet by the U.S. News and World Report for four years running. The American Heart Association, the American Diabetes Association, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the World Health Organization have all endorsed the Mediterranean diet as a healthy and sustainable eating style that reduces risk for heart disease and Type 2 Diabetes. The Mediterranean Diet also may assist with weight loss in obese people and is associated with lower rates of depression, cognitive decline, cancer, and all-cause mortality.

This diet has a lot of major endorsements! So then, what’s up with this diet and why is it so special?

The Mediterranean Sea is a meeting point of three continents: Africa, Asia, and Europe. When health experts and researchers recommend the “Mediterranean Diet” they’re not talking about the food of just one people or one culture, but the common shared characteristics of the simple everyday meals made for centuries in this region of the world. Meals are built around plant-based foods, heavily seasoned with herbs and spice (though not tons of salt). These meals are made, shared, and enjoyed amongst a community of families and friends.

Here’s are the common characteristics of the Mediterranean Diet:

  • High consumption of vegetables, often raw or slightly cooked
  • Beans, nuts, legumes, seeds, potatoes, and unprocessed or whole grains
  • Olive oil as the principal source of fat
  • Fruit treated as a dessert
  • Moderate consumptions of fish, poultry, and dairy (mostly in the form of yogurt and cheese)
  • Low consumption of red meat
  • Moderate alcohol consumption, often in the form of red wine

Please check out the source below to learn more about the Mediterranean Diet. Please also share your thoughts about the Mediterranean Diet in the comments section of this post or via our page on Facebook @WilkinsonWellnessLab.

Sources:

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2019, June 21). Mediterranean diet for heart health. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/mediterranean-diet/art-20047801.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015 – 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. December 2015. Available at https://health.gov/our-work/food-nutrition/previous-dietary-guidelines/2015.

U.S. News & World Report. (n.d.). Mediterranean Diet. U.S. News & World Report. https://health.usnews.com/best-diet/mediterranean-diet.

What is the Mediterranean Diet? http://www.heart.org. (n.d.). https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/nutrition-basics/mediterranean-diet.


WOMEN, BE SMART ABOUT YOUR HEART!

By Shayna Bryan (UAB Community Health & Human Services Intern) and Dr. Larrell L. Wilkinson

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Every February since 1964, Americans have celebrated American Heart Month! Why? According to the CDC, heart disease is the leading cause of death among American adults and most ethnic/racial groups. Heart disease the body’s circulatory system, i.e. your veins and arteries. There are several forms of heart disease, but some of the most common include heart attack and coronary artery disease. According to the American Heart Association , a heart attack occurs when blood flow to the heart is interrupted, thus the oxygen supply to the heart muscle is reduced or completely cut off. This is important because the CDC estimates that 805,000 heart attacks occur annually in the United States.

Among Americans, non-Hispanic Black (African Americans) are at great risk for heart disease. The American Heart Association reports that about half of African-American women over the age of 20 have some form of heart disease, yet only about 1 out of 3 know their heart health risk. Around 50,000 African-American women die from cardiovascular disease annually. But we can prevent the deaths and reduce the number of our families impacted by heart disease. Here is what we can do:

Step 1: Learn your risk for heart disease.

Visit your doctor and ask for diagnostic tests for coronary heart disease. If you don’t have a personal physician or access to health care, contact Jefferson County Department of Health or your local county health department for assistance.

In general, any individual who has been diagnosed with any of these conditions is at risk for heart disease:

• Overweight or obesity
• High blood pressure
• Diabetes
• Physical inactivity
• Family history (first degree relative, such as a parent or sibling, who has had a heart attack or stroke before age 50)

Step 2: Work to reduce your risk of heart disease.

Photo by Laura James on Pexels.com

Eat healthy
Add more fruits and vegetables to your diet. Five servings a day is the recommended minimum, so aim even higher by making vegetables half of your meal. Lower your sodium intake by eating more home cooked meals, instead of fast food. Drink water, not soda or juice which is high in added sugars.

Be active
Aim for 150 minutes of physical activity every week. That’s only around 20 minutes a day. You can make walking part of your routine. Try going for a walk and talking to a friend on the phone. Any activity that elevates your heart rate will improve your health and help lower your risk.

Manage stress
Stress management is important for heart health. Eating healthy and staying active can help keep your stress levels down. Learn what triggers your stress and address it by slowing down and engaging in meditation or breathing exercises.

Step 3: Always look for the signs of a heart attack

According to the American Heart Association, women are somewhat less likely than men to experience chest pain. Instead, they are more likely to experience:

  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Pressure or tightness in the chest
  • Stomach pain

To learn more about heart disease in women, please click on the links above. Additional resources include the following links:

https://www.goredforwomen.org/en/about-heart-disease-in-women/signs-and-symptoms-in-women/symptoms-of-a-heart-attack

https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/consumer-healthcare/what-is-cardiovascular-disease/african-americans-and-heart-disease-stroke

https://www.heart.org/-/media/phd-files-2/science-news/2/2021-heart-and-stroke-stat-update/2021_stat_update_factsheet_black_race_and_cvd.pdf?la=en

https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/stress-and-heart-health