Don’t end up Black & Blue this Black Friday

thanksgiving_dinner2Congratulations!  You survived another Thanksgiving.  Hopefully the only thing that ended up being stuffed this year was your turkey.

However, the holiday hazards aren’t over yet.  Experts warn that the stress that accompanies Black Friday shopping can add costs, far greater than those we ring up at the mall.

While retail stores are raking in the money, shoppers are probably having a more negative experience. Although we all love a Black Friday deal, “it is more like Red Friday for the consumer, as the shopper goes into debt to pay for purchases,” says Nancy Barton, professor in the School of Physical Education and Tourism Management at Indiana University-Purdue University.

Besides overspending, four people have died and dozens of injuries have occurred in the Black Friday shopping frenzy in the past four years.

black-friday-shopping-fightWho can forget the images of the trampled Walmart worker in Long Island; the collapsed man bypassed by shoppers at a West Virginia Target and a shooting at a Toys R Us over an item brawl.

Clearly, both consumers and stores are clearly unprepared for the post-Thanksgiving stress and excitement.

Some have argued that we are wired for desire as a result of our dopamine reward pathways.” Barton adds, “When we are overstimulated by a novel experience or unlimited choices on Black Friday, a craving (for more) and insatiable desire is triggered.”

The key to combating these desires relies on the executive, thinking part of the brain. However, this control can be hindered if you are stressed out, tired and hungry, arguably the three main traits of an all-night Black Friday shopper.

How can you avoid these stressors?  How about? :

fit familyOpting out of Black Friday shopping. Think of another way to give a gift. How about buying an “experience” for your loved one(s)?  After all, there is plenty of evidence that it’s experiences, rather than things that make us happy. What about a family gym membership? Not only will you stay healthy, but the family that works out together, is more likely to stay together

Paying It Forward. Instead of spending, how about giving? Think about those who are less fortunate than you and do something for them. Visit an elderly neighbor living alone; volunteer at a local hospital / animal shelter, soup kitchen. Your smile and touch may be the greatest gift of all.

self reflectionTrying some self-reflection. The perfect antidote for ungrateful feelings is to practice gratefulness.  List three things that you are grateful for. Embody the feelings of gratefulness. Positive emotions and satisfaction with what you already have will start to unfold as you reflect on your list.

Whatever you end up doing today – please stay safe.

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Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving-2013Today, we are thankful to have you visit our  blog.

We wish you a wonderful day of family, faith, friendship, food, and football.

Come back and visit us tomorrow and every day for the latest in health news and views.

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Holiday Hellth!

Deck the fallsFor many of us the holidays mean family, feasting and fun.  But for our nation’s 18 million health care workers  – 28% of spread the cheerwhom will be working on Thanksgiving, all celebrations will be placed on hold while they help those who are sick or injured.

And, as Christmas approaches, things don’t get any better.  The number of 911 calls and hospital visits spike as the temperatures plummet. For example, around 5,800 people are treated for holiday decorating injuries alone, each year. On top of this, the number one day for cardiac deaths is December 25th with December 26th and January 1st coming in a close second and third.

To raise awareness of the strain put on healthcare workers during the holiday season and some ways they can address it, Carrington College, has released these infographics:Healthcare workers

Whatever you end up doing tomorrow, let’s not forget to say a word of thanks to our healthcare professionals. And if you do end up in their care be thankful they’re there.

Pass the gravy

making spirits brighter

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Soap vs Sanitizers

hand-sanitizerYou squirt it on your hands as you enter the grocery store, and then again on your way out. You have bottles in your car, on your desk and in your home too – and you use them often.

And no, you’re not a germophobe, it’s just that your hand-sanitizer habit is helping to protect you from colds and flu and other nasty’s, that are wet, sticky and not yours!

And even if it doesn’t, it’s harmless. Right?

Not so fast! Word on the street has it that despite how clean your hands feel after using a hand sanitizer, they’re actually still dirty.  Worse still, they’re potentially toxic and might actually lower your resistance to disease.

So are these rumors true?!  Let’s take a look at the evidence.

hand-sanitizer-triclosanWhen it comes to safety and effectiveness, the main concern with hand sanitizers is triclosan, – the main antibacterial ingredient used in non-alcoholic hand sanitizers.

There’s no good evidence that triclosan-containing products have a benefit,” says Allison Aiello PhD, associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan. In fact, hospitals in Europe and the United States, won’t even use them because it’s thought that they don’t reduce infections or illness.

Dr. Anna Bowen, an epidemiologist at The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, says, “Triclosan-containing products don’t provide any disease protection beyond what you get from washing with soap and water.”

Research has shown that triclosan can disrupt the endocrine system, amplifying testosterone. In animal studies, it reduced muscle strength. It may also harm the immune system. Whether these findings add up to human toxicity isn’t established yet, but the FDA is currently reviewing the issue.

A more established concern: “When you expose bacteria to triclosan, it can elicit antibiotic resistance,” says Aiello. “Once the resistance is transferred, pathogenic bacteria can become resistant to many types of antibiotics.”   She also points out that quaternary ammonium, another antibacterial found in nonalcoholic hand sanitizers, has been shown to elicit antibiotic resistance.

The main concern with triclosan, that it’s an anti-bacterial, meaning it doesn’t protect against viruses or fungi.  Which means, colds and flu are not destroyed because they are caused by viruses, not bacteria.

Alcohol-based sanitizers, on the other hand, are fairly effective and safe. Those that contain  60% alcohol are good at killing bacterial pathogens and can also kill some viruses though not all of them.  Norovirus, for example, the bug responsible for the recent cruise-ship outbreaks is not affected.

If you can’t get to a sink quickly, an alcohol-based sanitizer is a good alternative to washing with soap and water,” says Aiello.

One caveat: They don’t work on visibly dirty hands.  The alcohol can’t get past the dirt.

handwashing_355pxSo how does soap and water match up?   First, they are both safe and effective. That’s right. Good old-fashioned hand washing before you prepare food or after you go to the toilet has been shown to drastically reduce the risk of diarrhea.

Hand-washing campaigns reduce absenteeism in schools,” says Bowen, “and that means parents miss fewer days of work, too.”

But, and it’s a big but – you have to wash your hands correctly.

According to the CDC you need to wash for about 24 seconds to remove bacteria and viruses from your hands. You need to cover all parts of your hands, front and back and under your nails and then dry your hands well.

have u washedHow long is 24 seconds? Apparently it’s about as long as it takes to sing two verses of Happy Birthday.  However, as I always tell my infection control students, if you’re in public, sing it with your inner voice …or you could have more than germs to worry about!

Bottom line –  soap and water beats sanitizers hands-down.  Suds up and stay safe this cold and flu season.

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Compounding the Problem?

healthcare crisisHere’s a question to get you thinking this Friday morning.  What has been called the “worst public health crisis” in the US in decades?  Is it:

(a)  HIV

(b)  Obesity

(c)  Healthcare.gov

(d)  Heart Disease

(e)  None of the above

fungal meningitisWhile there’s no doubt options (a) through (d) challenge our healthcare system, the correct answer is in fact (e). What’s more, this public health crisis may have gone unnoticed by many. What we’re referring to is the fungal meningitis outbreak that was traced to the New England Compounding Center. So far, there have 751 reported cases, including 64 deaths.

fungal meningitis case-counts-960px-2013-10-23Indeed, most Americans had never heard of compounding pharmacies until the now-shuttered New England Compounding Center was blamed for making tainted steroid injections that killed and sickened people in 20 states.

Since then, the FDA has issued more than 60 reports of compounding pharmacies that had one or more quality or sterility issues. Five compounding pharmacy testing labs received similar reports.

Now, after months of negotiating, the US Senate has finally passed legislation that was drafted in the wake of the scandal.  The Drug Quality and Security Bill will give the FDA greater oversight of compounding pharmacies and also creates a national system for tracking prescription medicines from factory to pharmacy. The bill, which was already passed by the US House, is designed to bolster the pharmaceutical supply chain, and now goes to President Obama for his signature

The bill will create a new class of compounding pharmacies, as suggested by the FDA. The agency believes that traditional compounders – those who mix or alter ingredients for individual patients on an as-needed basis, should be distinguished from ‘non-traditional’ compounders – those that sell high volumes and ship out of state because these activities may pose a higher risk.

We know more from a barcode on a gallon of milk than we do from a barcode on a bottle of prescription drugs, which could mean the difference between life and death,” says US Senator Michael Bennet. “Whether it’s a stronger drug supply chain or better oversight for compounded drugs, this commonsense bill will help restore confidence in our prescription drugs and protect our families from potential health risks.”

compoundingThe bill also creates a voluntary category for so-called office compounding of sterile medications. These operations would voluntarily register with the FDA and submit to GMP, or good manufacturing practices, compliance and pay fees in exchange for the right to ship product without a prescription. But there is no criteria concerning interstate shipping or the percentage of production involved.

The legislation “leaves regulation of this vital and long-accepted practice by independent community pharmacies to state boards of pharmacy, where it should be,” says the National Community Pharmacists Association.

But not everyone agrees.

Rosa DeLauro, a Democratic Congresswoman from Connecticut, says the “voluntary approach will continue to expose patients to potentially unsafe, mass-produced compounded drugs that are not approved or evaluated by the FDA.”

NECC steroidsSimilarly, the International Academy of Compounding Pharmacists released a statement saying that “a voluntary category of outsourcing facilities is not the answer” and warned that another potentially deadly New England Compounding Center type of scandal could still occur.

Some health policy experts have even said they fear the new bill will make drugs, less, rather than more, safe.

Critics say that by giving compounding pharmacies the option whether or not to register with the Food and Drug Administration and adhere to stricter guidelines for testing, quality and sterility, does not go far enough.

It makes what is now illegal legal,” said Dr. Michael Carome, who directs the health research group at Public Citizen, a think tank.

Carome said he opposes the bill because it allows large scale compounding without individual prescriptions and with no requirement to follow the strictest quality and sterility guidelines that drug manufacturers must adhere to.

It makes no sense to have two different tiers of drug manufacturers – one that has to meet all the manufacturing guidelines and one that only has to meet some of them. We believe in a level playing field.”

What do you think of this legislation?  Has it gone far enough?  We’d love to hear from you.

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A Blinding Pill to Swallow?

woman eyesOn Monday we brought you news about the health benefits of sex. Today the news is not so good….and for many women will be extremely concerning.

Research presented earlier this week at the American Academy of Ophthalmology annual meeting, showed that women who have taken oral contraceptive pills for three or more years are twice as likely to suffer from glaucoma.

Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness affecting nearly 60 million worldwide.

glaucomaThe researchers caution gynecologists and ophthalmologists to be aware of the role oral contraceptives might play in glaucomatous diseases, and inform patients to have their eyes screened for glaucoma if they also have other risk factors.

The study – conducted by researchers at University of California, San Francisco, Duke University School of Medicine and Third Affiliated Hospital of Nanchang University, Nanchang, China – is the first to establish such increased risk.

The researchers utilized 2005-2008 data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). The study group included 3,406 US women aged 40 years or older who completed the survey’s vision and reproductive health questionnaire and underwent eye exams. They found that females who had used oral contraceptives, no matter which kind, for longer than three years are 2.05 times more likely to report that they have glaucoma.

aao posterAlthough the results of the study do not speak directly to the causative effect of oral contraceptives on the development of glaucoma, they indicate that long-term use of oral contraceptives might be a potential risk factor for glaucoma. Certainly, “the pill” needs to , be considered as part of the risk profile. Other risk factor include:  African American- ethnicity, family history of glaucoma, history of increased eye pressure or existing visual field defects. Previous studies in the field have shown that estrogen may play a significant role in the pathogenesis of glaucoma.

This study should be an impetus for future research to prove the cause and effect of oral contraceptives and glaucoma,” said Shan Lin, M.D., lead researcher and professor of clinical ophthalmology at the University of California San Francisco. “At this point, women who have taken oral contraceptives for three or more years should be screened for glaucoma and followed closely by an ophthalmologist, especially if they have any other existing risk factors.”

Given the fact that 28% of all sexually active women in the US are on the pill, that’s a lot of glaucoma screening. You may want to call your ophthalmologist or optometrist now and get a jump on the line. Alternately, you may want to reconsider your birth control.

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Side Effects of Sex

monday-morning-blues--large-prf-1124686656It’s Monday morning, it’s cold and the holidays are still too far away to be a reality for most of us.  Not a lot to be cheerful about?  Right!

Never fear, SRxA’s Word on Health is here to help start your week off right with some health news that may just bring a smile to your face.

While many people associate a healthy lifestyle with grueling workouts, strict dieting and general deprivation and misery  – this is a misconception.

According to Dr Joseph Mercola, an osteopathic physician, web entrepreneur and New York Times best selling author, healthy habits can be among the most rewarding.  Take sex. It counts as moderately intense exercise plus it boosts numerous aspects of both physical and mental health. As long as you’re engaging in safe-sex practices, increasing your sexual activity is a surefire strategy to better health!

benefits of sexMercola suggests regular sex can reduce stress, bolster self-esteem and foster feelings of intimacy and bonding between partners.  Better still, a healthy sex life can result in a longer, healthier and, most would agree, more enjoyable life.

In case that’s not enough – here’s 10 more healthy side effects of sex:

1. Improved Immunity

People who have sex frequently have significantly higher levels of immunoglobulin A (IgA). IgA is part of the immune system that forms your body’s first line of defense. Its job is to fight off invading organisms at their entry points, reducing or even eliminating the need for activation of your body’s immune system. This may explain why people who have sex frequently also take fewer sick days.

2. Heart Health

According to one study, men who made love regularly (at least twice a week) are 45% less likely to develop heart disease than those who did so once a month or less.

Sexual activity not only provides many of the same benefits to your heart as exercise but also keeps levels of estrogen and testosterone in balance, which is important for heart health.

3. Lower Blood Pressure

Sexual activity, and specifically intercourse, is linked to better stress response and lower blood pressure.

4. It’s a Form of Exercise

Sex helps to boost your heart rate, burn calories and strengthen muscles, just like exercise. In fact, research recently revealed that sex burns about 4 calories a minute for men and 3 for women, making it (at times) a ‘significant’ form of exercise. It can even help you to maintain your flexibility and balance.

5. Pain Relief

Sexual activity releases pain-reducing hormones and has been found to help reduce or block back and leg pain, as well as pain from menstrual cramps, arthritis and headaches. One study even found that sexual activity can lead to partial or complete relief of headache in some migraine and cluster-headache patients.

6. Help to Reduce Risk of Prostate Cancer

Research has shown that men who ejaculate at least 21 times a month (during sex or masturbation) have a lower risk of prostate cancer.

sex and sleep7. Improve Sleep

After sex, the relaxation-inducing hormone prolactin is released, which may help you to nod off more quickly. The “love hormone” oxytocin, released during orgasm, also promotes sleep.

8. Stress Relief

Sex triggers your body to release it’s natural feel-good chemicals, helping to ease stress and boost pleasure, calm and self-esteem. Research also shows that those who have sexual intercourse responded better when subjected to stressful situations like speaking in public.

9. Boost Your Libido

The more often you have sex, the more likely you are to want to keep doing it. There’s a mental connection there but also a physical one, particularly for women. More frequent sex helps to increase vaginal lubrication, blood flow and elasticity, which in turn make sexual activity more enjoyable.

10. Improved Bladder Control in Women

Intercourse helps to strengthen pelvic floor muscles, which contract during orgasm. This can help women improve their bladder control and avoid incontinence.

Happy Monday!

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Anaphylaxis Legislation gets Presidential Seal of Approval

HowtoUseYourEpiPen644x356-process-sc644x356-t1338817363SRxA is delighted to announce that earlier this week President Obama signed into law the School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act.  During a week in which Obama and his new healthcare.gov website have made headlines for all the wrong reasons, we thought it only fair to commend him on this important anaphylaxis initiative.

The School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act is legislation that will help to protect schoolchildren who experience life-threatening anaphylaxis.

This legislation is a significant milestone for food, venom and latex allergy safety in our nation’s schools,” says Tonya Winders, chief operating officer of Allergy & Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics (AANMA). “It will help save lives of children who experience an anaphylactic reaction for the first time or don’t have epinephrine auto-injectors readily available when anaphylaxis occurs.”

Think Fast Allergy Symptoms PicThe measure provides a funding incentive to states that enact laws allowing school personnel to stock and administer emergency supplies of epinephrine auto-injectors. Epinephrine is the first line of treatment for anaphylaxis.

The School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act was bipartisan legislation, first passing the U.S. House of Representatives on July 30, 2013, and then the U.S. Senate on Oct. 31, 2013, before heading to the President’s desk.

Allergic reactions to foods are the most common cause of anaphylaxis in community settings, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Studies show that 16-18% of schoolchildren with food allergies have had a reaction from accidentally ingesting food allergens. In addition, 25% of anaphylaxis cases reported at schools happened in children with no prior history of food allergy.

USAnaphylaxis_10_14_13As of today, 28 states have passed emergency stock epinephrine legislation and six have bills pending.  Let’s hope this legislation will spur the remaining states to follow as soon as possible.

Green states that have passed stock epinephrine laws or regulations:

AlaskaArkansasArizonaCaliforniaColoradoFloridaGeorgiaIllinoisKansasKentuckyLouisiana,MarylandMassachusettsMinnesotaMissouriMontanaNebraskaNevadaNorth DakotaOklahoma,OregonSouth CarolinaTennesseeUtahVirginiaVermontWashington, and West Virginia

Yellow states have pending stock epinephrine bills:
MichiganNew JerseyNew YorkNorth CarolinaOhio and Pennsylvania

Red states that have no stock epinephrine bills: 
AlabamaConnecticutDelawareHawaiiIdahoIndianaIowaMaineMississippiNew HampshireNew MexicoRhode IslandSouth DakotaTexasWisconsin, and Wyoming

To find out more about anaphylaxis in schools please visit http://www.epipen4schools.com/ and https://www.anaphylaxis101.com/Resource-Library/Anaphylaxis-in-Schools.asp

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Does Double Dutch Delay Dementia?

Multilingual-HELLO1G’day, Zao shang hao, Bonjour, Kalimera, Boker tov, God morgen, Buon giomo, Bom dia, Zdravstvuyitye, Buenos dias!

Or if you prefer – Good Morning!

No it’s not one of those guess the country viral Facebook quizzes (although we will print the answers at the bottom of this post for those of you who want to play along).  No, the reason for today’s multilingual greetings is because a new study has shown that speaking more than one language can delay the onset of, not one, not two…but three types of dementia.

In the largest study on the topic to date, published this week in the online issue of Neurology, researchers found that people who spoke two languages developed dementia four and a half years later than people who only spoke one language.

Our study is the first to report an advantage of speaking two languages in people who are unable to read, suggesting that a person’s level of education is not a sufficient explanation for this difference,” said study author Suvarna Alladi. “Speaking more than one language is thought to lead to better development of the areas of the brain that handle executive functions and attention tasks, which may help protect from the onset of dementia.”

dementiaFor the study, 648 people from India with an average age of 66 who were diagnosed with dementia were evaluated. Of those, 391 spoke two or more languages. A total of 240 had Alzheimer’s disease, 189 had vascular dementia and 116 had frontotemporal dementia, with the remainder having dementia with Lewy bodies and mixed dementia. Fourteen percent were illiterate.

People who spoke two languages had a later onset of Alzheimer’s disease, frontotemporal dementia and vascular dementia than people who spoke only one language. The difference was also found in those who could not read. There was no additional benefit in speaking more than two languages.

The two-language effect on age of dementia onset was shown separately of other factors such as education, gender, occupation and whether participants lived in the city or country.

These results offer strong evidence for the protective effect of bilingualism against dementia in a population very different from those studied so far in terms of its ethnicity, culture and patterns of language use,” Alladi said.

Thanks languageWhile the study didn’t show any additional benefit in speaking more than two languages, we don’t think it hurts to try.

How many languages do you speak?

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Answers:

G’day [Australia] Zao shang hao [China], Bonjour [France] Kalimera [Greece] Boker tov [Israel] ,God morgen [Denmark], Buon giomo [Italy], Bom dia [Portugal], Zdravstvuyitye [Russia], Buenos dias [Spain]

Honoring the Health Sacrifices of Our Veterans

VETERANS-DAY-poster-2012On Veterans Day, America pauses to honor every service member who has ever worn one of our Nation’s uniforms. Each time our country has come under attack, they have risen in her defense. Each time our freedoms have come under assault, they have responded with resolve. Through the generations, their courage and sacrifice have allowed our Republic to flourish. And today, a Nation acknowledges its profound debt of gratitude to the patriots who have kept it whole.

As we pay tribute to our veterans, we are mindful that no ceremony or parade can fully repay that debt. We remember that our obligations endure long after the battle ends, and we make it our mission to give them the respect and care they have earned. “

These two paragraphs are taken directly from the 2013 Veterans Day Presidential Proclamation.

But getting Veterans the care they deserve is not always easy.  The wounds of war can go far beyond what meets the eye. From mental health issues to pain and illness that persist long after they’ve left the battlefield, veterans face a multitude of health troubles either unique to their service or more frequent among them than the general population.

Folks returning from combat have a constellation of health concerns, including physical issues, psychological issues and psychosocial issues concerning things like work and family,” said Dr. Stephen Hunt, national director of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Post Deployment Integrative Care Initiative.

Some of the most common physical complaints of returning soldiers cannot be classified into a single disorder. They include nonspecific symptoms such as fatigue, pain and cognitive disturbances such as memory and concentration problems.

Here are seven of the most commonly seen health conditions confronting veterans:

vetsparade-79576Musculoskeletal injuries and pain

Just over half of all veterans’ post-deployment health visits address lingering pain in their backs, necks, knees or shoulders.  According to a study in the Journal of Pain, about 100,000 veterans of the Gulf War nearly 20 years ago have reported chronic muscle pain.

Mental health issues

PTSDWhile post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among soldiers has been well publicized, other mental woes can also result from the trauma of war. A study in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry [now JAMA Psychiatry] found that one in 10 Iraq war vets develop serious mental problems, including violent behavior, depression and alcohol abuse. The study found that PTSD or depression seriously impaired daily functioning in 8.5 – 14% of these vets.  Disabling on its own, PTSD is also linked to the development of physical illnesses for veterans as years pass. Researchers from Walter Reed Army Medical Center reported that 54% of veterans with PTSD also had sleep apnea, compared with 20%of PTSD patients in the general population. PTSD in vets is also associated with a greater risk of developing dementia.

Chemical exposure

syria1Research by the American Heart Association found that exposure to nerve agents such as sarin – which can trigger convulsions and death on the battlefield – may cause long-term heart damage in Gulf War veterans. The damage can include an enlarged left ventricle, heart rhythm abnormalities or a reduction in the pumping strength of the heart.

Infectious diseases

Although all military personnel are given routine vaccinations before deployment, veterans suffer disproportionately from certain infections that civilians almost never experience.  They include bacterial infections such as brucellosis, which may persist for years; campylobacter jejuni, which causes abdominal pain, fever and diarrhea; and Coxiella burnetii, which in chronic cases can inflame the heart.

Leishmaniasis, a parasitic disease caused by the bite of a sand fly native to the Middle East, is a particularly brutal condition veterans experience. Those infected suffer weight loss, fevers, headaches, muscle pain and weakness, anemia, and enlargement of the spleen and liver. It can be fatal if untreated, according to the VA..

army-mil-2007-06-28-113715Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

TBI, often brought on by a blow or jolt to the head, disrupts brain function and has been called the signature wound of the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the National Academy of Sciences. Blast exposures and other combat-related activities put service members at greater risk for sustaining a TBI compared to their civilian counterparts, according to the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center.

Common effects of TBIs include cognitive issues such as shorter attention span, language disabilities, and an inability to process information. Vets can also suffer from lack of motivation, irritability, anxiety and depression, headaches, memory loss and PTSD.

However, you choose to mark Veteran’s Day 2013, please remember the sacrifices made by all of our vets and be mindful of the long-term health problems they face. Ladies and Gentleman of the military, we thank you for your service.

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