By GORDON GLANTZ
GORDONVILLE — October is now in the books. We’ve carved our pumpkins, gone trick-or-treating, raked our leaves (well, not me) and ushered in the start of the NHL and NBA seasons.
Most importantly, we’ve seen enough pink to make us think long and hard about the reason: Breast Cancer Awareness.
While we shouldn’t forget that men can conceivably get breast cancer, 99 percent of cases are women.
That’s our wives, our mothers, our daughters, our sisters, our dearest of friends.
That could be why the most macho of men let down their guard and wear pink shirts, ties, caps, etc.
While breast cancer owns October, in terms of awareness, there are other worthy causes — dental hygiene, disability employment, domestic violence and others – that often fly too far under the radar.
Once the calendar flips to November, the same holds true, but there is no clear-cut dominant cause.
Let us look at a few (alphabetically) – and exclude the lesser serious ones (National Georgia Peach Month, National Novel Writing Month, National Pepper Month, National Vegan Month) – that claim November to raise awareness:
Aviation Month: Yawn! Literally, since the glorified station wagons with wings often jar me from my afternoon naps as they fly into nearby Wing’s Field, I’m sleep deprived. Wake me up when they invent something that can reach outer space (Star Trek had us there already). I’ve seen enough Wright Bros. replicas in museums to last a lifetime.
Good Nutrition Month: When every corner has a pizza place or a fast-food burger joint, it’s hard to resist the temptation to less than healthy. Still, a little awareness can go a long way. Example: The U.S. ranks 31st in life expectancy, according to the World Health Organization, at right around 79 years old — after ranking at, or near, the top in the 1960s. There are a lot of contributing factors, such as the air we breathe and the stress we put ourselves under, but eating right isn’t a bad place to start. Tough to do it all the time, every time, but I try when I can to go with the healthier choice without being ridiculous – or annoying — about it.
Hunger Awareness Month: In what is supposed to be the wealthiest country in the world, too many people either go hungry or lack access to healthy food. It is called “Food Insecurity,” and USDA reports that 21 percent of households with children deal with what is defined as “lack of access to food” at all time for all family members. While hard statistics weren’t kept during the Great Depression, this is in the same ballpark.
National AIDS Awareness Month: AIDS has morphed into more of a chronic disease than a death sentence, and cases have dropped 8 percent between 2010 and 2015, according to HIV.gov. Nevertheless, an estimated 1.1 Americans have AIDS and, more staggering, 1 in 7 are unaware. It is also more prevalent in certain regions, such as southern states (38 percent).
National American Indian Heritage Month: The ancestors of those who were here long before the Vikings or Christopher Columbus, prefer to be called Native Americans, Indigenous Peoples of the Americas or First Nation. They deserve that much, should a month honoring their heritage take off. The Trail of Tears has yet to dry, but there are rays of hope. On Tuesday, Sharice Davids of Kansas and Debra Haaland of South Dakota became the first two Native American women elected to Congress.
National Diabetes Awareness Month: I may be biased, since I am one of the growing number of Americans (1.5 million per year) with this “pre-existing condition.” When I was borderline, doctor’s orders were diet and exercise. Yeah and right. What deserves more attention is the way the American Medical Association has chosen to define what is or is not diabetes. What was borderline 5-10 years ago, is considered diabetic now. While I’m also happy to report that my own numbers are, more or less, more “normal” than when I was diagnosed, I will be forever branded as a type 2 diabetic. I don’t want to be saying there is a conspiracy going on with the drug and insurance industries to keep people labeled for their own ends, but it is worth discussing around your own sugar-free dinner table. Make no mistake, awareness is gargantuan. The American Diabetes Association estimates that of the 30.4 million Americans (9.4 percent) with diabetes, another 7.2 million are undiagnosed.
National Peanut Butter Lover’s Month: This one hits close to home. My daughter Sofia has a peanut butter allergy and, for whatever reason, she is far from alone in her generation. Studies reveal a 21 percent increase since 2010, with 2.5 percent of all children having a peanut allergy (accounting for more than half of food allergies in kids). This is almost like having a National Tobacco Lover’s Month, is it not?
National Red Ribbon Month (anti-drunk driving): I’m not a big fan of the word great, but great work has been done in this area the last few decades. Designated drivers, DUI checkpoints, bartenders cutting people off and calling a cab, etc. Attention seriously needs to either shifted to, and somehow be connected with, the scourge of distracted driving (estimated 3,200 fatal car wrecks a year, according to DMV.org).
Summary: While there is no overriding cause (i.e. Breast Cancer in October), take time to consider many of the above (even when a single-engine plane is waking you up from your nap). There are a lot of interconnecting parts in the area of food and nutrition. Those going hungry, or who are not properly nourished, don’t eat as well and put themselves more at risk for diabetes (the National Institutes of Health reports an increase of 1.8 in type 1 diabetes and 4.8 in type 2, which is less genetic and more the result of eating unhealthy and lack of exercise). Then again, while there are health benefits to peanut butter, let’s work to make school cafeterias peanut-free zones.
This column originally appeared in The Times Herald on Nov. 11, 2018.