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Autism: What is “The Spectrum?”

Posted by on Apr 25, 2017 in Adult Education, Centura College, Health, Lifestyle

Autism: What is “The Spectrum?”

By Esperanza Poquiz & Jul DeGeus

What is Autism?

                Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a brain disorder commonly characterized by having difficulty with communication and forming relationships, alongside having repetitive behaviors and obsessive interests. Symptoms are almost always present before the age of three and one in every 68 children are known to have some form of ASD. This results in more than 200,000 cases of ASD in the United States each year. (1) In honor of World Autism Awareness Month, here is some insight into Autism and ways you can help support research and spread awareness.

Signs and Symptoms

Autism spectrum disorder behaviors are typically present in early childhood. Parents may notice that their child is unresponsive when their name is called, or that there is a delay in learning to talk. Other signs caught in the early stages are a low interest in people, playing alone, and little to no eye contact. (2) Below are a few more signs that may develop:

  • Repetitive or unusual behaviors, i.e. rocking, repeating sounds, jumping
  • Difficulty in handling sensory stimuli ( touch smell, sight, sounds), may find it painful or confusing
  • Responding in an uncommon way when faced with emotions
  • Becoming distressed when placed in an over stimulating environment or when their routine has a minor change
  • Difficulties engaging in conversations
  • Having a tendency in eating non-food items, known as Pica

Behaviors and their severity vary with each person. Recognizing and tracking these signs can help you and your physician determine which treatment is best for you or your loved one.

Screening for ASD

                As recommended by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), children should have a specific ASD screening done at their 18 and 24 month checkups. If the child has a sibling or other family members with autism, are premature with low birth weight, or show ASD behaviors earlier than 18 months an earlier screening may be needed. A child will be referred to additional evaluation if developmental problems are found during the screening.3 In some cases ASD characteristics may not be noticed until adult hood. Adults with ASD signs should speak with a doctor and ask to be referred for ASD evaluation or to a psychologist or psychiatrist with expertise in ASD.

Treatments and Therapies

Being that there is a vast range of symptoms associated with ASD, there are no standards in treatments. If you or your loved one has ASD, working with a health care professional is essential to develop a health care plan tailored specifically to your needs. If treatment starts early, most children can learn how to relate and communicate better with others. (3) Here are a few common treatments:

  • Medication – Taking medication can lead to having fewer problems with aggression, anxiety, depression, irritability, and repetitive behaviors.
  • Behavioral Training – This uses positive reinforcement by rewarding appropriate behavior which teaches social skills and helps with communication.
  • Therapy – Speech therapy, physical therapy, and psychotherapy can help those with ASD.

 

How You Can Help

                Awareness and education amongst family members and friends can lead to a less stressful environment when it comes to caring for someone with autism. By being trained, family members can learn the routine of the child and learn how to handle certain situations and reactions that the child may go through. Support groups or autism organizations are great ways to connect with people. By joining a support group you are able to trade information and experiences that may help you learn new options. (2)

There are many ways that those who are not directly affected by ASD can support the cause. Multiple organizations, such as Autism Society, Autism Speaks or Autism Cares Foundation, allow you to donate or fundraise for ASD. Search for local events, such as races, concerts, dinners or festivals, that are being held to raise money for ASD. Every little bit helps, whether you attend or volunteer to work these events. Fashionista? Some clothing and jewelry lines donate portions of their sales to ASD research and even have exclusive items created to showcase ASD awareness. If you are a bookworm, there is a long list of books to expand your knowledge of ASD. Any way you choose to help will benefit the spread of ASD awareness.

Caring for someone who has ASD can be hard at times, but by having the proper knowledge, support, and training, life for your loved ones can go a little smoother. If you want to know more about autism and how you/a loved one can get treated, consult your personal physician. If you would like more information or want to connect with others, call the Autism Response Team (ART) at 888-288-4762.

 

Sources:

  1. Autism Speaks. What is Autism. Retrieved April 14, 2017, from https://www.autismspeaks.org/section/what-autism
  2. National Institute of Mental Health. Autism Spectrum Disorder. Retrieved April 14, 2017, from  https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/autism-spectrum-disorders-asd/index.shtml
  3. Autism Spectrum Disorders Health Center. Retrieved April 14, 2017, from  http://www.webmd.com/brain/autism/default.htm

Pet Positivity: How Owning a Pet Helps Your Health

Posted by on Apr 11, 2017 in Centura College, Community Connections, Health, Lifestyle

Pet Positivity: How Owning a Pet Helps Your Health

April 11th is National Pet Day and in honor of our loyal companions, Centura College gives insight to some of the health benefits of owning a pet.

Written by: Esperanza Poquiz Edited by: Jul DeGeus

Having a pet companion has more benefits than you can even imagine. They can give you pure joy just by the way they cock their head and look at you, or give you that rush of excitement when you return home from a long day at work or school, which in itself are all the benefits one might need. Sure, they are cute and fun to play with, but having a furry, feathery, and even scaly friend also comes with responsibility, which believe it or not, can still have a positive impact on your life. Being a pet parent can actually make your life, mentally, emotionally, and physically better. So, let’s break down some reasons on why having a pet can be enjoyable and beneficial:

Animals are known to show unconditional love, which can decrease depression. Becoming a pet parent can help combat the feelings of loneliness through companionship. I know what you’re thinking, pets are fun to have and all, but pets take a lot of work, and money, to keep them happy and healthy. What you may fail to realize is that even the tedious tasks that come with owning a pet can have great benefits for your mental health. Think about it, your pet relies on you for almost everything and thrives on having your love and attention. It’s always nice to feel wanted, let alone needed, and your pet’s dependency give you a sense of purpose you might otherwise be lacking because of depression. Knowing that you have someone relying on you to wake up every morning and take care of them is a great motivator for you to get up out of bed and get your day started. (1) 

Source: Pixabay

In addition to all the comforting benefits your pet may bring you, research has shown that having a pet can have a positive impact on your overall health. Owning a pet can lower your blood pressure, improve your immunity, and decrease the risk of a heart attack or stroke. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institute of Health (NIH) have conducted studies on people who own pets. Their results have revealed that pet owners confirm signs in decreased cholesterol, blood pressure, and triglyceride levels, all of which reduce the risk of heart attacks. (2) If someone has already faced one of these issues, owning a pet can speed up your recovery rate and have you back to taking care of yourself and pet companion in no time!

Source: Max Pixel

Owning a pet can improve your social skills by helping you meet new people. Your pet can serve as a conversation starter, enabling you to interact with more people who share a common interest.  Going for a walk or bringing your pup to the dog park or training class can put you in a situation where there are plenty of people willing to have conversations that involve you both gushing over your four legged friends. If big social settings aren’t your forte, but you love being out of the house, try going to pet friendly cafes. Dining with your furry friend is a rapidly growing fad these days and more cafes are starting to cater it. Owners can enjoy a quiet meal at their favorite restaurant without having to take a doggy bag home for your fur-baby bestie. Not a big dog person? If cats, birds, fish or reptiles are more your thing and you don’t usually take your pet out, don’t worry! You can still meet plenty of people online through social media with the same interests/pet as you from the comfort of your own home! (3)

Source: Pixabay

Don’t have a pet? No problem! Just by having interactions with someone else’s pet or meeting with therapy animals can decrease stress. Playing or petting an animal can increase oxytocin, the stress reducing hormone, and decrease cortisol, the hormone known to cause stress. Playing with an animal can promote levels of serotonin and dopamine, nerve transmitters that are known to have pleasant and soothing properties.(1)  If you suffer from stress anxiety, and you don’t want the responsibility of having a pet of your own, try volunteering at an animal shelter, or offer to pet sit. Not only will you be helping others, you will be able to relieve some of your stress in the process!

So there you have it, just a few of the many reasons why having a pet can be beneficial. The bond you create with your pet is something that can last you a lifetime, giving you memories that are irreplaceable. Not only can pets bring you joy and love to your life, they can also help save yours.

Source: Pixabay

Sources:

  1. Davis, J. L. (2004). 5 Ways Pets Can Improve Your Health. Retrieved April 10, 2017, from http://www.webmd.com/hypertension-high-blood-pressure/features/health-benefits-of-pets#3
  2. McCandless, S. G. (2012, August 22). No. 3: Stay Heart Healthy. Retrieved April 10, 2017, from http://www.animalplanet.com/pets/no-3-stay-heart-healthy/
  3. Holland, E. (2017, February 13). 7 Health Benefits of Owning a Pet. Retrieved April 10, 2017, from http://www.chopra.com/articles/7-health-benefits-of-owning-a-pet#sm.00080x16bxntf9c100m17enhork0y

World Health Day: Depression Awareness

Posted by on Apr 6, 2017 in Centura College, Health, Lifestyle

World Health Day: Depression Awareness

Written by: Esperanza Poquiz, Edited by: Jul DeGeus

On April 7, 1948, the World Health Organization’s Constitution took force; Their mission: “build a better, healthier future for people all over the world… [And to] direct and coordinate international health within the United Nations’ system”.1   A resource to help people combat diseases, the World Health Organization, or “WHO,” believes in assisting people of all ages to lead a long, healthy life. WHO has inspired many people across the world to help others in need, with more than 7,000 employees in 150 offices in multiple countries.1 In 1950, WHO began to celebrate their efforts by deeming April 7 World Health Day. Each year they choose a disease to champion and educate the public about.

This year’s World Health Day theme is depression, a disorder that affects many people of all ages. Depression is a common disorder that is caused by chemical imbalances in the brain, affecting more than 3 million people in the United States each year. Depression can have an impact on your daily life, making everyday tasks harder to do. It may also have impacts on relationships with loved ones and friends, as well as hobbies and careers. Depression, if left untreated, can lead to fatigue, feelings of guilt or worthlessness, and possibly suicide, which is the 2nd leading cause of death of 15-29 year olds.

What Depression Looks Like

There are many forms of depression; acknowledgement and awareness are key steps to helping yourself or a loved one cope with depression. Here are a few signs2:

  • Excessive sleep or difficulty sleeping
  • Fatigue
  • Decreased energy
  • Constant headaches, cramps , or digestive problems
  • Changes in weight and appetite
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Difficulty in making decisions
  • Difficulty in remembering or concentrating.

People who suffer from depression may not experience every symptom and symptom severity varies with each person. Recognizing and tracking these signs can help you and your physician to determine which treatment is best for you.

Clinical Treatment

Treatments come in various forms, each catered to the specific type of depression. Studies have shown that mild to moderate depression can be fought with types of therapy, including:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy– This takes a hands-on approach to changing patterns of thinking and behavior that contribute to depression.
  • Interpersonal therapy- Based on the idea that personal relationships are key to psychological problems, interpersonally therapy focuses on how your relationships with other people can impact your mood.
  • Psychodynamic psychotherapy– This focuses on the unconscious process that helps you understand how behavior and mood are affected by unresolved issues.
  • Phototherapy– Also known as light therapy, is the practice of sitting in a light box that permits either a dim or bright light for the prescribed time your doctor has given you.

Other forms of treatment for depression include medication, such as antidepressants, which control the levels of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain. If all other forms of medication have failed, brain stimulation therapy, such as electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), may be an option. This treatment causes an electric charge that produces a controlled seizure. 3

Outside of Treatment: Lifestyle Changes

There are alternative ways to battle depression. Some cases of depression can be helped by exercising. Physical actives are shown to have many benefits like improving your mood through the release of endorphins. Performing a physical activity for 20 – 30 minutes a day can lead to better sleep, more energy, higher self-esteem, and less stress.

Owning a pet companion can also help with depression. Pets are known for showing unconditional love and can assist in defeating the sense of loneliness. Research shows that by owning a pet, it can lead to better sleep and health. Joining a social group can help as well.

Socialization has been known to assist in treating depression. Love to read? Join a book club! Or, kill two birds with one stone and get some exercise by joining a Zumba class. Schedule reoccurring meets with your friends or family members. Depression doesn’t have to be spent battling it alone, surround yourself with great people, or pets, and it could help you in more ways than you can imagine.

If you want to know more about depression and how you can get treated, consult your personal physician. If you are inspired to help others stay healthy, a great way to start that new journey is looking into the various health programs that we offer here at Centura College. If you feel that you may be experiencing suicidal thoughts or feelings, call: 800-SUICIDE (800-784-2433) or 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255).

 

Sources:

  1. World Health Organization. Who we are, what we do. (n.d.). Retrieved April 04, 2017, from http://www.who.int/about/en/
  2. The National Institute of Mental Health. (2016, October). Depression. Retrieved April 04, 2017, from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression/index.shtml
  3. Goldberg, J., MD. (2016, May 07). Depression Overview Slideshow: Emotional Symptoms, Physical Signs, and More. Retrieved April 04, 2017, from http://www.webmd.com/depression/ss/slideshow-depression-overview

Caffeine: The Drinkable Drug

Posted by on Mar 28, 2017 in Centura College, Health, Lifestyle

Raising awareness about the benefits and risks of caffeine.

By Jul DeGeus

“I need caffeine!” It’s 7:30 am and the cold shower you took didn’t wake you up as well as you had hoped.  At 11:30 PM, you only have nine hours between you and that final exam. You need something to fend off the beckoning call of your comfortable, lonesome bed that is begging for you to crawl in it and get some shut eye. Whether we are feeling tired, sluggish or just want some pep in our step, caffeine is a universal go to when we need a picker-upper. But what is caffeine and where does it come from?

Caffeine is a natural drug that derives from tea leaves, coffee and cocoa beans and kola nuts. Its most common effect is alertness and the stimulant, when used regularly, can cause the body to develop a minimal dependency. This habit is unlike other drugs- If you decide to go cold turkey, you may experience symptoms, but after a few days, the withdrawal will go away.

Ok, so, now that we know what caffeine is, let’s find out about the effects, both negative and positive, it has on our bodies. Grab a fresh cup of Joe, your favorite organic tea or a soda pop, and let’s expand your knowledge and awareness of the infamous caffeine.

Pros

Exercise Benefits- Caffeine even aids in weight loss and can increase your stamina. The combination of caffeine and carbohydrates can speed up the process of muscle glycogen restoration, which, in turn, can sooth your post-workout pains. As someone who constantly falls off the work out horse and is perpetually sore, this is music to my ears .3

Health Conditions– Caffeine has been linked to prevent or reduce symptoms in people who experience the following health conditions or diseases: asthma, kidney stone risk, erectile dysfunction, reduce fatty liver and liver fibrosis risk, lower risk of suicide, strokes, diabetes, cancer, cataracts, Parkinson’s and Alzeimer’s.3

Mind and Body- Caffeine can be used to detox your liver and colon. The stimulant can sharpen your memory skills and alertness, as well as reaction time and logical thinking. Got the eye twitches? Try a cup of coffee to tame it. 3

 

Cons

Sleep interference- This effect is different for everyone, depending on your sensitivity to caffeine. If you have cup of coffee within the six hours before your bed time, there is a chance that you may be tossing a turning due to caffeine overload. 2

Withdrawal Symptoms- As mention above, caffeine is a drug and it can be “addictive.” Not like, “I need to go to rehab,” but more along the lines of, “I’m so cranky and everything is getting on my last nerve.” It’s easier to kick the caffeine by waning your intake over an extended amount of time, but if you do come to an abrupt stop, symptoms include: headaches, tiredness, anxiety, depression, lack of concentration and grumpiness. 2

Excessive Intake- Having too much caffeine can have a negative impact on certain individuals. If you are on medication, it is important to know whether or not caffeine will interfere with the effects of your prescription. Consuming caffeine in exaggerated amounts can result in high blood pressure or migraines. Finally, women who are pregnant should consult with doctors about the proper amount of caffeine intake, as it can increase the risk of miscarriage. 1

And there you have it; a snippet of the good and the bad of one of the most beloved natural drugs in consumption. If you want to know more about caffeine and the medical effects it has on you, consult your personal physician.

 

Sources:

  1. Petre, A., MS, RD. (n.d.). What is Caffeine, and is it Good or Bad For Health? Retrieved March 28, 2017, from https://authoritynutrition.com/what-is-caffeine/
  2. Ratini, M., DO,MS (Ed.). (2015, April 13). Caffeine Myths and Facts. Retrieved March 28, 2017, from http://www.webmd.com/balance/caffeine-myths-and-facts#1
  3. Top 24 Caffeine Health Benefits. (2017, January 19). Retrieved March 28, 2017, from https://www.caffeineinformer.com/top-10-caffeine-health-benefits
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