The Merry Month of May

Welcome to May, the month when we celebrate National Asparagus Month, American Cheese Month, and International Drum Month.

How will YOU celebrate?MAY blocks

These may seem silly, and are, in fact, often made up by organizations to boost sales of this item or that. They are fun but have little impact on our lives (unless you are a dairy farmer or a concert drummer). But May is also National Blood Pressure Month, Bladder Cancer Awareness Month, Arthritis Awareness Month, Better Sleep Month, and Mental Health Awareness Month.

While there are no Hallmark cards for these celebrations, they are here for a reason – to remind us of serious health challenges or practices, and to remind us to get checked regularly for them. I, for one, feel every month is National Blood Pressure Month. Many of us with spinal cord injuries feel we are on a roller coaster of blood pressure readings. Often our doctors prescribe medications – to raise our pressure when we need it, or to lower it. If you have not had your blood pressure checked recently, this is the time to do so. If you are not already checking your own blood pressure periodically, I suggest you get a blood pressure monitor and start monitoring this important health indicator. The National Institutes of Health reports that each year, about 795,000 people in the United States have strokes, and of these, 137,000 die. When our spinal cords are injured, our body’s inner regulators just don’t work as well as most others’ do. So it is wise to consult the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation’s Paralysis Resource Guide to educate yourself on the dangers of high blood pressure and other cardiovascular health considerations.

Take time this May to engage and assess your own health. Spinal cord injury causes a greater risk of bladder problems, due to our lack of sensation or movement. And while moving around is a challenge for everyone, arthritis can further complicate movement for those with paralysis, especially as we get older.

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And who couldn’t use better sleep? We need our sleep to go through our daily routine, to exercise and to keep all our bodies’ systems functioning smoothly. But according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1 in 3 adults in the United States reported not getting enough rest or sleep every day. Nearly 40% of adults report falling asleep during the day without meaning to at least once a month. Getting enough sleep is directly also connected to our mental health, so it is as important to check up on our mental health as it is to keep tabs on our physical health.

Many of us are blessed with great support systems: family, friends, and medical professionals. But in the end, we are responsible for our own health. You can take action on all of these challenges to improve your own health. Keep records of your health and speak up when you have concerns or questions. Instead of waiting for someone to ask you if you have been healthy, raise any concerns with your medical professionals.

Many years ago, I received a valuable piece of advice: If possible, bring a friend or family member to your medical appointments. Often, due to our discomfort or nervousness, we may not remember all the details of our medical visits, or all the instructions we receive. A second set of eyes and ears may help you remember what your doctor said when you get home, and how to continue to take care of your own health.

So, whether you celebrate National Miniature Garden Month or National Chamber Music Month this May, take this time to assess your own health, speak up about any concerns, and be your own fiercest advocate. By the end of the month, you will be a happier and healthier person!

Learn more about the May 2024 in our latest blog: May 2024 Awareness Highlights.

About the Author - Howard Menaker

Howard Menaker is a retired communications and public affairs executive, with over 30 years of experience in international corporations and trade associations. Previously, he worked as an attorney, specializing in civil litigation. He now devotes much of his time serving on non-profit boards of directors, including a prominent theater company and a historic house museum in the Washington, DC area. He and his husband split their time between Washington and Rehoboth Beach, DE.

Howard Menaker

The opinions expressed in these blogs are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $10,000,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement by, ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.