Stethoscope

"Take charge of your health." It's a common phrase that we can encounter anywhere, whether it is on the cover of magazines resting on the racks at the grocery store or printed on posters hanging up at the doctor’s office. Maintaining good health is something many people strive for and is a popular New Year’s resolution.

Some health issues that affect women could be caused by genetics or other biological factors. However, there are actions that can be taken, suggested diets to follow and medical providers who can all play a role in lowering the risk of poor health conditions.

Data and information collected by widely known health organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control as well as local health care agencies such as AppHealthCare, a public health department for Watauga, Ashe and Alleghany counties, provide both clarity and insight about the most common illnesses affecting women in the High Country.

Heart Disease

Cardiovascular disease, more commonly referred to as heart disease, describes heart conditions including diseased vessels, structural problems and blood clots.  According to both the CDC and the community health reports for the region, heart disease remains the most common cause of death for both women and men.

In order to lessen the risk of unhealthy heart conditions, the website for the CDC recommends maintaining a healthy diet and weight, getting enough physical activity, refraining from smoking and limiting alcohol intake. Local specialists in the High Country are able to provide those experiencing difficulties with their heart with treatment plans and also suggest ways to help prevent complications. The Cardiology Center of Watauga Medical Center, The Jefferson Specialty Clinic and Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute all provide medical care for those with heart-related illnesses. The Cardiology Center provides information on their website at apprhs.org/cardiologycenter, can be contacted at (828) 264-9664 and is located at 175 Mary St. in Boone. The Jefferson Specialty Clinic is located at 968 U.S. Highway 221 Business in West Jefferson, and more information about their services is available at apprhs.org/jeffersonclinic. They can be reached at the same phone number as the Cardiology Center. Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute is located at 436 Hospital Dr. in Linville and can be contacted at (828) 737-7650.

Communicable Diseases

Also known as infectious diseases or transmissible diseases, communicable diseases result from the infection, presence and growth of pathogenic, biologic agents in an individual human or animal host. According to Melissa Bracey of AppHealthCare, the number of confirmed and probable cases of communicable diseases continues to increase in the area. These cases include Lyme Disease and other communicable diseases such as sexually transmitted diseases.

The best preventative measures are immunizations, and there has been an increase in the number of people protecting themselves by being vaccinated, according to Bracey. It is also important to be informed about STDs. Those concerned about the diseases impacting our area can follow AppHealthCare on social media for news about communicable diseases that may affect them or their loved ones. Their Boone office and all of the health departments in the High Country also offer testing for all STDs and administer vaccines for HPV and all Hepatitis strains.

Hepatitis C Virus 

The Mayo Clinic defines Hepatitis C as a viral infection that causes liver inflammation, sometimes leading to serious liver damage that spreads through contaminated blood. Hepatitis C is spread by sharing needles or other equipment/devices for drug use. According to Bracey, the High Country is experiencing the opioid crisis affecting the nation, and there has been an increase in reported cases of Hepatitis C in the area. Chronic Hepatitis C just became a reportable disease to state epidemiology in the past two years, which attributes to some of the spike in number of cases.

High Country Community Health and Stepping Stone of Boone both provide medication-assisted treatment. High Country Community Health is located at 108 Doctors Drive in Boone and can be contacted at (828) 262-3886. Stepping Stone of Boone is an addiction treatment center located at 643-L Greenway Road in Boone and can be reached by phone at  (828) 265-7078 or email at info@steppingstoneofboone.com.

Narcotics Anonymous also provides support for people with substance use disorders through meetings. A community health program, Project Lazarus, helps promote and implement strategies to ensure people take prescription drugs correctly, store them securely, dispose of them properly and never share them with others. This project is carried out through collaboration with law enforcement. 

Mental Health

Mental health remains a health priority for the communities of Watauga, Ashe and Alleghany, as shown in the community health reports provided by AppHealthCare. Mental illnesses can include depression, anxiety and an overall decrease in emotional wellbeing. Local services are offered to help combat issues of mental health and offer intervention and support for those struggling with mental illnesses.

Mental Health First Aid Training, a course to give community members key skills to help someone who is developing a mental health, substance use problem or experiencing or experiencing a mental health crisis, is offered at different locations in Boone.

Daymark Recovery Services provides expertise and care for those in need of mental health treatment options. Daymark’s website offers information about their extensive services, community resources, numbers for the Suicide Prevention Hotline and 24-Hour Crisis Hotline and more at daymarkrecovery.org/locations/watauga-center. Their Boone facility is located at 132 Poplar Grove Connector, Suite B, in Boone. The outpatient behavioral health program of Cannon Memorial Hospital is designed to meet the needs of adults, children and families experiencing a variety of problematic behaviors, thoughts and life patterns. The office is located at 436 Hospital Drive, Suite 235, in Linville and can be reached by phone at (828) 737-7888.

Obesity

According to data found in the community health reports, the rate of adults in Western NC who are overweight continues to increase. Being overweight often leads to complications such as heart disease, diabetes and other health-related issues. The High Country is fortunate to have access to a variety of local, fresh foods at farmers markets and opportunities for physical activity such as parks, hiking trails and fitness centers. Local services such as AppHealthCare’s Nutrition Services program help individuals decrease their risk of becoming overweight by offering consultations and programs by registered dietitians and nutritionists.

Cancer and Chronic Diseases

A chronic disease is long lasting in nature, such as cancer, type II diabetes and Alzheimer's Disease. Type II diabetes continues to rise in Watauga County for both men and women and Alzheimer’s has become a leading cause of death in recent years. Health screenings for women for breast/cervical cancer, primary care for the diagnosis and treatment of diabetic patients and a dietician for nutrition assessment and counseling are available at all health departments.

Smoking-Related Illnesses

According to the CDC, tobacco use is the primary cause of COPD in the United States. However, it can also result from air pollutants experienced in one’s home such as secondhand smoke and some heating fuels or at work in the form of dusts, gases and fumes. Some genetic predispositions can also play a role in causing COPD.

Information found in community health reports conclude that women experience a higher rate of COPD, and tobacco use remains the single leading cause of preventable disease and death in Western NC. Free nicotine replacement therapy is available to Watauga County residents through a partnership with the NC Quitline. Phone calls can be made toll-free, 24/7 to the NC Quitline at 1 (800) 784-8669. The Northwest Tobacco Prevention Coalition is an educational effort that helps increase awareness of health hazards stemming from tobacco use and secondhand smoke and promotes policies to protect the public from negative consequences of tobacco exposure. For more information about the coalition, coordinator Teri VanDyke can be reached at (828) 264-4995.

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