Have you got your health?

With winter warming away into the sunny spring, many central Kenai Peninsula residents are getting antsy in anticipation of the great Alaska summer.


Most of us rush out and get caught up in our favorite summer activities -- fishing, hiking, running, swimming, camping, four-wheeling and others -- without thinking twice about it. But take a minute and remember those pursuits can be better enjoyed in good health and physical condition.

Breakup is the perfect time to set aside those bad winter habits and grow healthy along with the blooming season. For those reasons, we'd like to draw your attention to the State of Alaska Department of Health and Social Services' push to recognize National Public Health Week.

Each day of next week will focus on a different health aspect that can ensure your summer -- and the rest of your year -- can be increasingly more enjoyable through better health. Even just the small changes in diet, exercise, tobacco use, immunization practices, sexual conduct and mental well-being can help us maintain better health.

Let's view it as a reminder -- that little nagging voice -- to remember our bodies are the most important things we own.

* Monday kicks off the week with obesity prevention. Obesity is a serious concern across the nation and in Alaska. According to Health and Social Services, in 2010, 67 percent of adults -- up from 49 percent in 1991 -- were overweight or obese, and the state has high rates of childhood and youth obesity as well. For tips on changes you can incorporate into your daily routine go to fruitsandveggiesmatter.gov or cdc.gov/physicalactivity/index.html.

* Tuesday's theme is reducing the impact of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. Studies indicate the overall proportion of current adult smokers declined in the last decade, and Alaska  has made strides in the right direction. However, smoking and tobacco use is still a critical concern among Alaskans and Alaska Natives. For help and free services, call the Alaska Tobacco Quit Line at 1-800-QUIT NOW or go online to alaskaquitline.com.

* Wednesday will focus on immunization and preventing the spread of disease. Thanks to success of decades of vaccinations, parents these days don't have to witness the heartbreaking effects of diseases that are now preventable. But they are still of concern -- prevention and vaccination is key to support the greater health of all. In 2010, Alaska ranked 42nd among all states for completion of the standard series of vaccines. A full schedule of childhood vaccines can be found at epi.hss.state.ak.us/id/iz/schedules/schedule.pdf.

* Sexually transmitted diseases will be the focus for Thursday. Even though a good deal of progress has been made in the battle against STDs, more preventative measures are needed. Alaska has had the first or second highest chlamydia infection rate in the United States each year since 2000. Alaska has also seen a recent increase in reported HIV and syphilis cases. Locations for HIV and STD testing sites are available on line at hivtest.org, or IKnowMine.org. Free test kits for chlamydia and gonorrhea are available through the mail at IWanttheKit.org. More information on STD awareness is at cdcnpin.org/stdawareness/ and cdc.gov/std/stats10/trends2010.pdf. Information on STDs in Alaska is online at epi.hss.state.ak.us/default.jsp.

* The awareness week will conclude on Friday with focus on mental and emotional well-being. While mental fitness is highly personal, it is possible to manage just like physical fitness. Identifying the signs of depression and mental illness not only increases your ability to help others it is also aids in self-examination. Alaskans can promote mental and emotional well being through positive parenting, maintaining violence-free homes, encouraging children and adolescents to participate in extracurricular and out-of-school activities and by encouraging those who need help to seek proper treatment or screening, the state reports. Log on to www.carelinealaska.org for more information.

In short: Good health habits are key in many aspects of life and allow us to enjoy the things we love more. Take next week as an occasion to make sure we're up-to-snuff and check in on those we love.


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