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Day One: There is still time to get the flu vaccine!

Over the next 12 days, we will be sharing daily posts to motivate you to think about your health and well-being during the holiday season. Some posts will focus on handy tips, while others will offer a reflexion. We hope these words will inspire you and we invite you to share them with friends, neighbors and family. 

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For millions of people every season, the flu can mean a fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle aches, fatigue, and miserable days spent in bed. However, you may not realize that more than 200,000 people are hospitalized in the United States from flu complications each year. But there is a vaccine that can prevent flu, and its benefits are well documented.

This is why CDC recommends an annual flu vaccine for everyone 6 months and older, especially those who are at high risk for serious flu-related complications, like pneumonia, that can lead to hospitalization and even death. This includes young children, pregnant women, people 65 and older and people with certain medical conditions, like asthma, diabetes or heart disease.

The week of November 7-13 is National Influenza Vaccination Week, and is a perfect opportunity to talk to friends and loved ones about the importance of getting the flu vaccine. Here are some helpful Spanish-language tools to aide you:

Share these social media graphics:

vacunemonos graphic 3

Watch and share this video of seniors in Los Angeles who share why they get vaccinated.

Print and place this Spanish language flyer in a visible place in your home, place of employment or community center:

NIVW 2014 Volante

¿Tiene diabetes? ¡Usted no está solo!

Vivir con una enfermedad crónica no es fácil para nadie. Es normal sentirse incomodo, triste, culpable o enojado. ¡Usted no está solo! Hay millones de personas en los Estados Unidos sufriendo de esta enfermedad, incluyendo un porcentaje que no han sido diagnosticados. Lamentablemente, estas personas no están recibiendo la atención y los cuidados médicos que necesitan para controlar la enfermedad y llevar una vida saludable.

Pero su caso es distinto. El conocer su diagnóstico y tomar pasos para controlar la diabetes le da una tremenda ventaja y oportunidad para vivir mejor y más sano. No deje que la diabetes se adueñe y dirija su vida. Al contrario: ¡Ud. tiene todo a su favor para controlar la diabetes!

La diabetes es una enfermedad que usted puede manejar siempre y cuando haga ciertos ajustes y cambio en su estilo de vida. Les compartimos unas recomendaciones:

1. Comparta sus sentimientos y emociones.

El estrés y la preocupación afectan el nivel de azúcar en su sangre y permiten que la enfermedad defina su vida.  La diabetes es una condición médica, no una sentencia de muerte. Comparta sus dudas, temores y estado emocional con sus amistades y familiares cercanos. Si se siente cómodo/a, hasta puede hablar con un terapeuta. Otra alternativa es unirse a un grupo de apoyo de personas quienes también padecen de la enfermedad.

2.  Tenga una rutina diaria establecida.

Crear hábitos y rutinas le permite controlar no solo la diabetes, sino su vida y salud:

  • Siempre tome sus medicamentos a la misma hora y según le indique su médico — aún cuando se siente bien y piense que no las necesita. El hecho de sentirse bien significa que los medicamentos están cumpliendo su función, y por ende, no debes dejar de tomarlas.
  • Examínese los pies para asegurar que no tenga ampollas, llagas, cortes, o inflamación. Llame a su doctor si tiene alguna herida en el pie que no cicatriza.
  • Lávese los dientes y use hilo dental después de cada comida.
  • Mida y lleve un registro de su glucosa y presión arterial. Recuerde llevar esta información a su cita médica. También es importante llevar control de su nivel de colesterol, tanto el LDL, que es considerado el “colesterol malo” y el HDL o el “bueno”.

3. Hágase controles médicos regularmente.

Para poder controlar bien a la diabetes, visite a su médico por lo menos dos veces al año. Recuerde llevar sus registros sobre su nivel de azúcar y presión arterial.

4. Coma sano y con gusto.

La dieta alimenticia es clave para controlar bien la diabetes. Evite comidas con altos contenidos de grasa, azúcar y sal. Reemplace las harinas blancas y almidón por integrales. Tome más agua y evite las bebidas carbonatadas y azucaradas. Coma más frutas y vegetales verdes y otros colores. Evite freír la comida y busque maneras alternas para prepararla: a la plancha, hervido, al vapor o al horno. No dependa del ketchup, la mostaza y la mayonesa para darle gusto a la comida. Pruebe condimentos como el cilantro, la cúrcuma, el orégano y otros para darle buena sazón y sabor a la comida. (Recuerde que debe consultar cualquier cambio alimenticio con su profesional médico.)

5. Practique alguna actividad física.

Es importante en toda etapa de vida mantenerse activo, especialmente si padece de diabetes. Practicar alguna actividad física como caminar, bailar o nadar 2 o 3 veces por semana le ayudará mantener un peso ideal, a incrementar su fuerza muscular y a sentirse generalmente mejor. (Recuerde que debe consultar con su médico antes de iniciar cualquier programa de ejercicios o actividad física.)

En la página web de los Centros para el Control y la Prevención de Enfermedades (CDC, por sus siglas en inglés) encontrará información que lo ayudará a cuidarse.

El programa Salud y Bienestar de NHCOA ayuda a los adultos mayores, sus familias y cuidadores prevenir y controlar la diabetes. Este programa fue desarrollado con el apoyo delos Centros para el Control y la Prevención de Enfermedades (CDC, por sus siglas en inglés) y es patrocinado por la Walmart Foundation.

Feliz Año Nuevo: New Resolutions for 2014

ae25c3c389bab00310e593f279cd83ca741d828dAs the end of 2013 draws near, people around the world are getting ready to celebrate a new year. While traditions vary in different cultures – from eating grapes to kissing a loved one at midnight – one common tradition that people across many cultures share is making resolutions for a fresh start. This year the NHCOA family encourages you to adopt some new resolutions that will not only improve your life, but the lives of those around you too, including our padres y abuelitos.

  1. Get tested for HIV. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1 in 4 people living with HIV don’t know they have it. One of the best ways we can achieve the goal of making an AIDS-free generation a reality is to stop the spread of HIV by practicing safe sex every time and getting tested for HIV regularly.
  2. Each year resolutions around weight-loss and increased gym attendance prevail. This year try adopting a healthy diet and doing physical activity, such as dancing or walking, in an effort to prevent or manage diabetes.
  3. Get vaccinated against the flu. The height of flu season arrives right after the new year, so it’s still not too late to get your vaccine. And while the flu vaccine may be one of the most well-known vaccines, you may need others. Discuss the vaccines you need with your doctor this year.
  4. Help fight Medicare fraud by becoming a volunteer for the National Hispanic SMP program. Scammers often target Hispanic older adults due to their unique vulnerabilities, including linguistic and cultural barriers, lower levels of formal education and social isolation. By getting involved with the NHSMP, you can help protect our padres y abuelitos from Medicare fraud and strengthen the program for future generations.
  5. Advocate for paid family leave in your state. Twenty years after the passage of the Family and Medicare Leave Act, only about 60 percent of U.S. workers have access to paid leave, putting a huge financial burden on new parents and those with sick family members.
  6. If you don’t have health insurance, sign up for a plan through the marketplace. NHCOA’s Navigators can help you as you decide which plan best meets your needs. In 2014, access to health insurance is no longer a privilege, but a right.

No matter the resolutions you pick, the NHCOA family wishes you a happy and healthy Near Year! Feel free to share your resolutions in the comments section below.

NHCOA Encourages Everyone to Raise Awareness During National Diabetes Month

November is National Diabetes Month – an annual observation established to educate and raise awareness about this challenging chronic disease. While diabetes affects millions of people and families across the country, myths and misinformation are still prevalent, which can be problematic when addressing how to prevent and manage the disease. During November, the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA) encourages you to use the materials in our toolkit to help educate and raise awareness about diabetes among your loved ones and community members.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) diabetes is a disease in which blood glucose levels are above normal. This disease can remain silent for years, but ultimately may cause serious health complications, including heart disease, blindness, kidney failure and lower-extremity amputations. Overall, diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S. As of 2011, diabetes affects 25.8 million people, or 8.3 percent, of the U.S. population. The CDC estimates that this includes 18.8 million diagnosed individuals and seven million undiagnosed individuals.

While diabetes impacts every person it touches, this chronic disease has a disproportionate impact on diverse communities, including Hispanics. In fact, Latinos are 1.5 times more likely to have diabetes compared to the non-Hispanic white population. This is due to several factors, including obesity, hypertension, inactivity and high cholesterol. Moreover, in 2010, more than a quarter of older Americans ages 65 and older had diabetes. For those of us who have diabetes or have a diabetic loved one, we know first-hand how the impact of this disease goes beyond the medical complications that patients eventually develop. Diagnosed and undiagnosed diabetes represent large medical costs. It also hurts the economy as it causes disability, lost productivity and premature mortality. In 2007 alone, the total cost of diabetes was $218 billion.

While there is no cure to for diabetes, there are ways to prevent it, manage it and/or avoid complications. Among these are:

  • Maintaining a healthy diet
  • Participating in physical activity every day (i.e. walking, dancing, exercise, etc.)
  • Educating yourself and loved ones about diabetes, its symptoms and how to prevent and/or manage it
  • Working with your doctor to create a wellness plan and following his/her instructions

As a result of the high rate of diabetes in the Hispanic community, NHCOA created Salud y Bienestar (Health and Well-Being) – a national flagship program that educates and informs Hispanic older adults, their families and caregivers on how to prevent and/or manage diabetes and its complications. Originally funded by the CDC, Salud y Bienestar has helped thousands of Latino seniors and families over the last several years make healthier lifestyle changes.

Vacunemonos: the Flu, Diabetes and HIV/AIDS

For most people, the flu is a respiratory illness that is unpleasant, but remedied by rest and medicine. Common flu symptoms may include a high fever, cough and/or sore throat, a runny or stuffy nose, headaches and/or body aches, chills, fatigue, nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea.  However, the flu can be more serious for some groups of people, including young children, older adults and individuals with certain health conditions, such as diabetes and HIV/AIDS.

Diabetes is a chronic disease in which blood glucose levels are above normal. Diabetes can weaken your immune system, making it harder for your body to fight the flu virus. Additionally, being sick can raise your blood glucose and prevent you from eating properly. This may result in a negative impact in diabetes care because diet and exercise are important components of managing the disease. When the flu and diabetes intersect you are also at risk of flu-related complications like pneumonia.

HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, also weakens the body’s immune system, gradually destroying the body’s ability to fight infection and certain cancers. Studies show that HIV-positive individuals have an increased risk for heart and lung-related hospitalizations during flu season as a result of HIV/AIDS and serious influenza-related complications. There is also a higher risk of flu-related death in HIV-positive people.

Due to the severity of possible complications, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that individuals with HIV/AIDS or diabetes receive a flu vaccine each year. It’s important to note that the nasal spray version is not safe for individuals living with HIV/AIDS or diabetes. This vaccine contains a weakened form of the live flu virus and is only approved for use among healthy people, ages two to 49 that are not pregnant.

Vaccines are for everyone, regardless of age, but they are particularly important for Hispanic older adults, who are disproportionately impacted by chronic diseases that can cause severe flu complications. Data shows that Hispanic older adults are five times more like to have HIV than non-Hispanic white seniors and Latinos overall are 1.5 times more likely to have diabetes than non-Hispanic whites.

Despite these facts, Hispanic older adults have lower flu vaccination rates than the general population. As a result of this gap in vaccination rates, the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA) created Vacunémonos (Let’s Get Vaccinated) – a cultural, linguistic and age-appropriate program that seeks to increase vaccination rates among Hispanic older adults, their families and caregivers. Since its inception, Vacunémonos has trained 146 promotores de salud (lay health workers) and reached over 6,000 individuals through interpersonal and one-on-one educational sessions. To learn more about Vacunémonos, please visit the program webpage.

Salud y Bienestar: Tips to Make Latin Food Flavorful & Nutritious

Food is vital to our health and well-being, as it helps nourish and energize our bodies. Food is also as nourishing for the soul as it is for the body. As Latinos, food is an important part of our culture – a way to keep the sabores (flavors) of our home countries alive in the U.S. More than just alimentation, food is also a vehicle to gather family and friends to celebrate, commiserate and more.

However, Latinos are 1.5 times more likely than non-Hispanic whites to have diabetes – a chronic condition that can be influenced in part by one’s diet. Many people assume that diabetics are resigned to eat healthy yet flavorless foods in order to manage their condition. While a healthy diet is an important component in preventing and managing diabetes, it doesn’t mean that you have to refrain from eating delicious Latin cuisine. Instead, focus on preparing healthier versions of traditional dishes.

Recognizing the importance of food in the Hispanic culture, and the prevalence of diabetes, the American Diabetes Association – the leading national organization dedicated to fighting diabetes – developed these simple tips to make Latin food that is both flavorful and nutritious.

  • Go bananas – Take advantage of all the fruits and vegetables that come from the Caribbean, and Latin and South America and incorporate them in your meal plan. Be adventurous and pick up a new fruit or vegetable the next time you go to the store.
  • Every fiber of your being – Incorporate more fiber in your meal plan by choosing fresh produce and whole grain products, such as brown rice or whole wheat tortillas.
  • ‘Tis the season – Skip the salt and use herbs, garlic and other seasonings. Use spicy chili peppers to add flavor and zip. Try smoked turkey instead of salt pork.
  • Now you’re cooking! – Broil it. Bake it. Grill it. Or, use a low calorie cooking spray instead of butter when frying or sautéing.
  • Lean on me – Remove skin and fat from meats before cooking. Use skim instead of whole milk.

So the next time you reach for your abuelita’s recipes, be sure to review and incorporate some of these tips to make a meal that is good for your body and soul. ¡Buen provecho!

NHCOA’s Salud y Bienestar diabetes prevention and management program is supported by the Walmart Foundation.

Vacunémonos: Flu Season 2013-2014

Autumn has officially arrived, ushering in with it the 2013-2014 flu season. A common myth is that the flu and its corresponding vaccine are just for children. The reality is that anyone can catch the flu, making it important for everyone to get vaccinated. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that everyone ages six months and older get a yearly flu vaccine.

Currently the flu vaccine comes in two forms: a shot and nasal spray, making it a quick, but important step in protecting against the flu. Additionally, flu vaccines are available at a variety of locations, including doctors’ offices, drugstores and supermarkets, which makes getting the vaccine more convenient than ever. The ideal time to get your flu vaccine is by October.

The flu can vary in its affect on people, causing mild to severe illness. Some severe cases can result in hospitalization or death. The CDC recognizes that vulnerable populations, including older adults, young children and people with certain health conditions, are at a higher risk for complications from the flu. As a result, people in these populations are highly encouraged to get vaccinated each year, even in years when there are vaccine shortages.

When compared to other ethnic groups, Hispanics are less likely to take measures to prevent the flu, including getting vaccinated. The CDC attributes this to linguistic and cultural barriers, in addition to the high rate of uninsured individuals in this population. However, flu vaccines are particularly important for Hispanics, who disproportionately suffer from chronic conditions, such as diabetes, which can make the flu more dangerous.

In order to address the gap in vaccinations among Hispanics, the National Hispanic Council on Aging developed the Vacunémonos program. The Vacunémonos program successfully reaches Latino seniors, their families and caregivers through a two-pronged approach that combines one-on-one outreach through the deployment of promotores de salud (lay health workers) and a locally-focused bilingual communications campaign built around the message of the importance of adult vaccination. To learn more about Vacunémonos, please visit: http://www.nhcoa.org/vacunemonos/.

To find a vaccination center near you, please visit: http://www.vaccines.gov/getting/where/.

Stories of Older Adults with HIV/AIDS

large_aids_day_GenLogo_RGB300HIV can infect anyone, at any age, if given the chance. However, it does disproportionately impact certain populations. HIV/AIDS is a serious health concern for older adults; today adults 50 years of age and older account for 32.7% of HIV diagnoses in the U.S. Furthermore, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that this number will increase to 50% by 2015. The numbers don’t lie: HIV can, and often disproportionately, affects older adults, parents and grandparents.

Contrary to popular myths and stereotypes, some seniors engage in behaviors that put them at risk for HIV, including unprotected sex, sex with more than one partner and substance abuse (including injecting drugs). However, many older adults either don’t know they are at risk of infection or have HIV and don’t know it – HIV can remain silent for many years, and they are not aware of their status thus not receiving treatment and potentially infecting others.. Traditionally older adults have rarely been targeted in HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness campaigns. Subsequently, many do not realize that their behaviors can put them at risk for HIV infection.

In order to address this disconnect, the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA) joined the Act Against AIDS Leadership Initiative (AAALI) – a partnership between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and leading national organizations representing the populations hardest hit by HIV. NHCOA, Farmworker Justice and ASPIRA are the only AAALI partners that are dedicated to serving the Hispanic population. As AAALI partners, each organization promotes HIV/AIDS awareness in the communities they serve through three main messages: get the facts, get tested, and get involved.

Each year on September 18th organizations and community leaders across the country come together to raise awareness of the impact of HIV/AIDS on older adults by recognizing National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day (NHAAAD). NHAAAD is a powerful opportunity to highlight the complex issues related to HIV prevention, care and treatment for aging populations in the U.S. It’s important that we talk with the older adults in our lives about HIV/AIDS today and throughout the year in order to help them get the facts, make safe choices and get treatment after a positive diagnosis.

As with any other population, older adults are a diverse group from many walks of life and sexual orientations. Whether they work in the fields or in an office, are self-employed or retired, all older adults need to be informed about HIV/AIDS.  Below are stories that show the risks and decisions that some older adults face on a daily basis that lead to HIV/AIDS. While these stories are fictional, they are based on true experiences. NHCOA sends a special thanks to Farmerworker Jusice for contributing “Jorge’s” story.

Jorge
Jorge left Mexico when he was 25 years old to find work in the United States.  He left behind a wife and two young boys, but felt like he had little choice.  There was no work in the town where he lived and although he had found some work in the city nearby, it wasn’t enough to support his family.  He’d been here for almost forty years, working the fields.  Both his sons eventually joined him to do farm work and brought their wives from Mexico.  His wife stayed behind though, looking after their house and her parents and other relatives.  Jorge would have returned to Mexico before now, but the farm still gave him work and his children took care of him.

He’d been doing farm work for as long as he could remember.  The work was repetitive and demanding and the days were long and the years longer.  His body was bent and he moved slower than he used to.  On top of his normal aches and pains, he’d recently been feeling sick, with unexplained exhaustion, nausea, and some vomiting.  His son kept telling him to go to the doctor but the health center was far away, so he kept putting it off.

It was a Sunday afternoon, after church, that he first found out he was HIV-positive.  The church was putting on a health fair and they were offering a variety of screenings: cholesterol, vision, hearing, COPD, kidneys, and HIV.  He wasn’t planning on getting an HIV test that day; he had no reason to believe he was positive.  However, the woman at the booth convinced him to get it done.  When he returned 20 minutes later for the results, he was shocked when she said it was positive.

He didn’t say anything to anyone.  He was in his 60’s, too old to be diagnosed with HIV, in his opinion.  He’d always thought that HIV was for younger people in the 20’s and 30’s, not abuelos like himself.  When he finally went to the health department for the confirmation test, it was weeks later.  The health center worker who initially tested him had contacted him and offered to go with him to the health department.  When his results came back, they said he’d probably had HIV for years.  He would most likely need to start medication soon, but it would be a little more difficult to treat his HIV because he had waited so long to be tested.

When the health care worker asked him what he planned to do, now that he knew he was HIV-positive, he said he was going to go home.  And by home, he meant Mexico.  He was too ashamed to tell his sons about his diagnosis and he was just never comfortable seeing doctors in this country.  Although he’d spent more than half his life in the US, Mexico was still his home and where he wanted to finish out his life.  The doctor told him that with medications he could live a relatively normal and healthy life; however, he wasn’t sure what he was going to do when he got back to Mexico.  He didn’t want his wife to know he was HIV-positive and he knew that if he sought treatment in Mexico, people in his town could find out.   All he knew was that this was not what he had expected to deal with at his age.

Josefina
Josefina was born and raised in El Salvador, but has lived in the United States since she was 18 years old. She followed her high school sweetheart here in search of better opportunities after he asked her to marry him. It was a big adjustment to move to another country without knowing the language or the culture, but they were able to support each other and build a beautiful life together.

Josefina and her husband, Manuel, opened a restaurant, specializing in their families’ authentic Salvadorian recipes. The restaurant required long hours, but they enjoyed it and the support it provided for their family. Over the years they raised three children together, and later in life watched as their family expanded with the addition of spouses and grandchildren.

But one day, Josefina’s American dream came to an end when Manuel suffered a heart attack and did not survive. She did not think she would be able to cope with the grief of losing her husband of more than 40 years, but was able to heal thanks to the support of her family.

In the years since the loss of her husband, Josefina kept busy by working at the restaurant, taking care of her grandchildren and meeting friends for the occasional cup of coffee. While she was surrounded by people who loved her, she still felt lonely sometimes. When she mentioned this to Rogelia, her close friend, over coffee one day, her friend exclaimed, “Of course you feel lonely! It’s been nearly five years since Manuel passed away, and you haven’t dated anyone!” At first Josefina recoiled at the idea of dating someone. How could she date anyone after losing the love of her life? What would her kids think? What would people think of her having a boyfriend in her 60’s? However, Rogelia reassured her that Manuel would want her to be happy. She suggested that Josefina come to salsa night at the local senior center to meet some new people. Reluctantly, Josefina agreed.

Later that week, the women attended salsa night, where Josefina met a handsome widower named Juan Ignacio. She was surprised by how much fun they had dancing and talking that night– she hadn’t felt so lighthearted in years. So at the end of the night when he asked to take her out to dinner the following week she didn’t even think twice before accepting his invitation to dinner.

Soon after they first met, Josefina and Juan Ignacio started dating. While their relationship was short-lived, it made her happy while it lasted. A few months after their relationship ended she went to the doctor for an annual checkup. During the physical her doctor conducted routine tests, including an HIV test, which came back positive.

She was shocked and devastated by the diagnosis. Other than her husband, Juan Ignacio was the only man she’d ever been with – how could this be possible? Her doctor asked if they had used protection, which surprised her. She could no longer get pregnant, so she hadn’t thought to use protection. The doctor gently explained more about HIV/AIDS and who it affects. Josefina was surprised to learn that she was not alone – many older adults were living with HIV, and now she was one of them.

Carmen and Luis
Carmen is a Cuban-American who grew up in the Little Havana neighborhood of Miami. As a teenager she met Luis and got married right after she graduated high school. Family was very important to them both, so they decided to buy their first home in Little Havana in order to be close to both of their families. Luis was a construction manager and Carmen kept busy as a stay-at-home mom to their seven children. They had a humble life together, but were happy.

After nearly 50 years of marriage, Luis became very sick and had to be hospitalized. While running tests to determine his ailment, the doctors discovered that he had AIDS. The couple was shocked. Carmen had heard of AIDS, but never thought that it was a disease that would affect their family. Shortly after Luis was diagnosed, he passed away. Upon the suggestion of the doctors, Carmen got tested for HIV and the results came back positive.

She was devastated by the loss of her husband, and the news of her diagnosis only compounded that feeling. She thought that she would meet the same end as her husband. However, the doctor explained to her and her family the difference between HIV and AIDS. He told her that due to the incredible advancements in medical treatment over the years, people living with HIV can live fulfilling and relatively normal lives. He assured her that by taking her medications as prescribed, she could manage her HIV like any other chronic disease. With the love and support of her family, Carmen began treatment immediately following her diagnosis.

It’s been ten years since Luis passed away and Carmen is thriving because she has followed the treatment guidelines that her doctor recommended. She is HIV-positive, but she is still AIDS-free.

NHCOA Encourages Intergenerational Dialogue on National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day

HIV can affect anyone at any moment in life. In fact, today adults 50 years of age and older make up the fastest growing population with HIV. This is more than just a little known fact; it’s the reality that the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA) – the leading national organization working to improve the lives of Hispanic older adults, their families and caregivers – and other organizations and community leaders across the country will raise awareness of todayNational HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day (NHAAAD). NHCOA urges you to use this national awareness day as an opportunity to engage fellow community members in an intergenerational dialogue about HIV/AIDS.

Data show that nearly 25 percent of people living with HIV/AIDS are 50 years of age and older, but a common misconception is that it is a disease that only affects young people and fringe populations. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that half of all people living with HIV in the U.S. will be 50 years of age or older by 2015. As a result, NHAAAD was created in 2008 as a nationally recognized day to highlight the complex issues related to HIV prevention, care and treatment for aging populations in the U.S.

“Aging is a part of life, but HIV doesn’t have to be. People are living longer than ever before so it is important that we help them age in the best possible health,” said Dr. Yanira Cruz, President and CEO of NHCOA. “As advocates, our role is to provide our older adults with knowledge so that they are able to make informed decisions and protect themselves. It is also critical to show that after a positive HIV diagnosis, it is possible to lead a healthy and fulfilling life by adhering to treatment. National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day serves as a powerful opportunity to continue the dialogue about HIV, who it impacts and how we can prevent it.”

There are various reasons why HIV/AIDS has such a high impact on this unexpected population. Traditionally older adults have rarely been targeted in HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness campaigns. As a result, many do not realize that their behaviors can put them at risk for HIV infection. Additionally, health care providers may mistakenly assume that older patients are no longer engaged in high risk behaviors, and therefore do not initiate conversations about the importance of using protection and getting tested regularly. On the other hand, many older adults with HIV/AIDS were diagnosed young, and thanks to tremendous advancement in treatment, have been able to live for decades with the disease.

Upon observing the impact of HIV/AIDS in older adults, NHCOA joined the Act Against AIDS Leadership Initiative (AAALI) to provide a voice for Hispanic older adults, their families and caregivers. AAALI is a partnership between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and leading national organizations representing the populations hardest hit by HIV. As an AAALI partner, NHCOA promotes intergenerational HIV/AIDS awareness in the Hispanic community, particularly Latino seniors, through three main messages: getting the facts, getting tested, and getting involved. To this end, NHCOA has created Spanish language materials targeted to older adults, their families and caregivers, which are available at www.nhcoa.org/actagainstaids on NHAAAD and year-round.

NHCOA Celebrates National Cholesterol Education Month

During September the National Hispanic Council on Aging and health proponents across the country observe National Cholesterol Education Month – an annual awareness month dedicated to educating people about the importance of preventing high cholesterol by leading a healthy lifestyle.

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), “cholesterol is a form of fat that is carried through the body in two kinds of bundles, or lipoproteins. It’s important to have healthy levels of both.” These two bundles are called low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and high-density lipoproteins (HDL). LDL, or “bad” cholesterol,” can lead to a buildup of cholesterol in the arteries. Therefore, the lower your LDL level, the better. HDL, or “good” cholesterol, helps remove cholesterol from your body. In general, the higher your HDL level, the better. Aside from lipoproteins, triglycerides are another kind of blood fat that raises your chances for a heart attack or stroke if your levels are too high.

While it’s important to talk to your doctor about what numbers you should aim for, the ADA recommends that individuals maintain less than 100 mg/dl for LDL cholesterol; 50 mg/dl or higher for HDL; and less than 150 mg/dl for triglycerides. In order to maintain healthy LDL and HDL levels, there are certain lifestyle choices that are beneficial, including eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight and not smoking. Additionally, it’s important to work with your doctor and, if necessary, take your cholesterol medicine as prescribed. NHCOA encourages everyone to use September as an opportunity to check their cholesterol levels and get informed about the importance of maintaining healthy cholesterol levels.

High cholesterol is an issue that impacts the health of many Americans, but it is particularly pervasive among Hispanics. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Hispanics are about 36 percent less likely than non-Hispanic whites to have properly controlled cholesterol. Similarly, Hispanics are nearly 12 percent more likely to have diabetes than non-Hispanic whites. Cholesterol and diabetes are linked because cholesterol is affected by high blood pressure and high blood glucose, which are risk factors for diabetes. The more risk factors you have, the higher your risk for developing these health problems.

In order to address the diabetes disparity in the Hispanic community, NHCOA created Salud y Bienestar (Health and Well-being), its signature diabetes prevention and management program, which is supported by the Walmart Foundation. Salud y Bienestar uses a culturally and linguistically appropriate and age sensitive approach to diabetes education and outreach efforts, specifically targeting Hispanic older adults, their families and their caregivers. Over the years, NHCOA has reached thousands of people across the country through Salud y Bienestar which the important message of maintaining a healthy lifestyle as a form of diabetes prevention and management. For more information on Salud y Bienestar, please visit www.nhcoa.org/salud-y-bienestar-program/.