Tag Archives: blood vessel

Understand Blood Pressure

Understanding Blood Pressure

Getting your blood pressure checked is nothing new. But do you understand it all?

What Exactly Is Blood Pressure?

Blood pressure’s the force of your blood pushing against the walls of your arteries. High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a common disease when that pressure of the blood flowing through the blood vessels is too high.

If your blood pressure gets too high, it can cause serious damage which can lead to blockage which can cause heart attacks, strokes, and heart failure.

There are 2 main types of high blood pressure:

  • Primary high blood pressure is the most common type and it tends to develop as you age.
  • Secondary high blood pressure is caused by another medical condition or use of certain medicines and it usually goes away when this issue is treated.

Risk Factors for High Blood Pressure

  • Age – Men usually develop it around age 45 and women after age 65.
  • Race – High blood pressure and serious complications are more common for African Americans.
  • Family history – It tends to run in families.
  • Certain chronic conditions – Kidney disease, diabetes, and sleep apnea can raise your blood pressure.
  • Stress
  • Pregnancy
  • Being overweight
  • Not being physically active
  • Tobacco use
  • Too much salt
  • Too much alcohol
  • Too little potassium
  • Too little vitamin D

If you have some of these other risk factors, your doctor may set your blood pressure target lower.

What Are the Numbers?

  • Systolic is the pressure in your arteries when your heart contracts, the top number.
  • Diastolic is when your heart rests, the bottom number.

 What Are They Doing?

When a nurse takes your blood pressure, you might wonder what they’re doing. These are the steps they’re following:

  • They wrap the blood pressure cuff around your arm.
  • They place a stethoscope under the cuff at the crease of your elbow (where the major blood vessel of the upper arm is.)
  • They inflate the cuff until it stops the flow of blood.
  • They slowly loosens the cuff’s valve to let the blood start to flow again and listen for sounds in the blood vessel.
  • Then, the first tapping noise they hear, they’ll note as the systolic number, the maximum pressure when the heart contracts.
  • The taps fade, and they note the pressure at the last tap as your diastolic number, the minimum pressure while your heart’s at rest.
  • Along with your numbers, they note which arm they took your blood pressure on and how you were positioned, like sitting with your feet flat.

 Where Should My Numbers Be?

Systolic Measure

Diastolic Measure

What to Do

Normal

Below 120

Below 80

Maintain a healthy lifestyle to avoid raising your levels.

High-normal

120 to 139

80 to 89

Make lifestyle changes.

High

140 to 159

90 to 99

Make lifestyle changes. Possibly start a low-level diuretic.

Extremely High

160 or higher

100 or
higher

Often 1 or 2 meds are required right away, plus lifestyle changes.

Source: Consumer Reports, “onHealth”, Volume 23 Number 2

It’s also normal for your blood pressure to change when you sleep, wake up, are active, and are excited or nervous.

If you’re worried about your blood pressure, keep an eye on your levels and take them with you to your next appointment. A broad look at your numbers can help your doctor put you on the right track for heart health.

Helping Heart Disease

Vantage Point: Walk to Mend Hearts

As a child, I folded and cut red, heart-shaped Valentine’s Day cards. As a teenager, I experienced my first broken heart. And as adults, we learn the importance of taking care of our hearts by eating right, exercising, and avoiding damaging habits, like smoking, to avoid heart disease.

Heart disease, a disorder of the heart and blood vessels, affects people of all ages and is the number one killer of women. You should also know about atrial fibrillation (AFib) and stroke. AFib is where upper chambers of the heart beat irregularly, causing dizziness, fainting and a racing, pounding sensation. Stroke is a brain attack that occurs when blood clots block an artery or blood vessel, interrupting blood flow to the brain. People with AFib are five times more likely to have a stroke.

People diagnosed with heart problems may feel overwhelmed, anxious, and afraid, opening the door for depression. That’s where Greater Wenatchee Mended Hearts, a volunteer peer-to-peer support organization, comes in to inspire hope through people who are heart patients themselves. I recently had the privilege to attend one of Mended Hearts’ monthly meetings. The room was buzzing with encouragement. Mended Hearts also hosts educational speakers and sends monthly newsletters full of valuable information about heart disease.

One of the most valuable aspects of Mended Hearts is its Heart Patient Visiting Room program that lets heart patients meet other people who have gone through or are going through the same thing. Natalie Noyd, director of the cardiovascular service line at Confluence Health, says peer support coming from someone who has walked the walk helps heart disease patients feel they can get through the experience and aids the overall recovery process. Confluence Health and Mended Hearts work together, mutually spreading heart disease awareness and education, and helping patients, throughout North Central Washington.

Health Alliance provides therapy to help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and also offers rehab and testing. Sometimes heart disease runs in the family, so creating habits to help prevent the disease becomes extra important for people with a family history of heart problems. Health Alliance encourages you to learn more by joining the Go Red for Women Heart & Sole Walk on February 6 in various locations throughout Wenatchee.

Walks will also take place at Confluence Health Clinics in Omak and Moses Lake. To learn more about Mended Hearts, call Ann at 509-679-8181 or email mendedhearts91@frontier.com.

Signs of a Stroke

Do You Know the Signs of a Stroke?

About 700,000 Americans will have a new or recurring stroke this year, and more than 158,000 of them will die. Stroke is the third highest cause of death among Americans and a leading cause of serious, long-term disability.

About Strokes

There are different kinds of strokes:

Ischemic Stroke
A blockage within a blood vessel that supplies blood to the brain. These account for 87% of all stroke cases.
Hemorrhagic Stroke
When a weakened blood vessel ruptures, like an aneurism. The most common cause is uncontrolled high blood pressure.
Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)
Often called a mini stroke, these are caused by a temporary clot. But these warning strokes should be taken very seriously.

 

Strokes can cause:

  • Paralysis on the left or right side of the body, depending on the side of the brain the stroke is on
  • Vision problems
  • Quick, inquisitive behavioral style or slow, cautious behavioral style, depending on the side of the brain the stroke is on
  • Memory loss
  • Speech or language problems

Signs & Symptoms of Stroke

The early signs and symptoms of stroke are very similar to the long-term effects. These can include:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion
  • Trouble speaking or understanding
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking or loss of balance

What Happens After a Stroke

Once you’re taken to a hospital, a doctor will try to gather info to make a diagnosis. They will:

  • Go over what’s happened already
  • Get your medical history
  • Do a physical and neurological exam
  • Get certain blood tests done
  • Get a CT or MRI scan
  • Study the results of other tests that might be needed
  • Work with you on immediate and long-term treatment

Preventing Strokes

The good news is that 80% of all strokes can be prevented by managing key risk factors, including high blood pressure, smoking, and physical inactivity. More than half of all strokes are caused by high blood pressure.

Learn more about high blood pressure, its generic drug options, or preventing strokes.

Remember, if you or someone you are with experiences stroke symptoms, it is very important to get medical attention immediately. If given within the first 3 hours of symptoms, a clot busting drug can reduce long term disability for the most common type of stroke.

Healthy Eating for Your Heart

Healthy Eating and Exercise for Your Heart

You can reduce your risk of heart disease and lower your blood pressure and cholesterol with 2 easy lifestyle changes: healthy eating and exercise.

Healthy Eating

Healthy eating habits can help you lower 3 of the major risk factors for heart attacks, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, and obesity.

Tips to Help with Healthy Eating

  • Eat a variety of fruits, veggies, grains, and dairy, which are all good for you in the right portions, and they keep your diet from getting boring. Use MyPlate to learn more about healthy  eating and portions of these foods.
  • If you keep track of the calories you take in and burn, you can balance them to keep a healthy weight.
  • Avoid foods that are high in calories and low in nutrition, like soda and candy.
  • Limit the foods high in saturated fat and cholesterol that you eat, like full-fat dairy, vegetable oil, and egg yolks.
  • Use smaller plates, which has been shown to help people eat smaller portions.
  • Don’t deny yourself the foods you love, just enjoy them in moderation.
  • Don’t eat more than 2,400 milligrams of salt a day.

Soda and Healthy Eating

The amount of soda Americans drink has risen 135% over the last 30 years.

A study from the American Heart Association found middle aged people who drink as little as one soda a day, diet or regular, are at least 40% more likely to develop risk factors for heart disease.

This could be because people who drink sodas are more likely to have a sweet-tooth and eat other sugary food.

Cutting down on soda both lowers the sugar, empty calories, and salt you’re taking in. Stick to water instead.

Say “No” to Trans Fats

Trans fats hide in a lot of prepackaged foods. Like saturated fats, they raise your bad cholesterol  and lower your good cholesterol levels, increasing your chances of heart disease.

Learn to avoid them for healthy eating:

  • Margarine: Choose margarine in a tub, which has the least trans and saturated fats.
  • Baking Mixes: These can have fat in them that you don’t know about. Baking from scratch can help you cut back and control what’s in your treats.
  • Soups: Both dried and canned soups have trans fats and lots of sodium. Try making your own with fresh veggies and meat.
  • Fast Food: Almost everything in the drive-thru has something bad for you in it. Order grilled chicken and skip the fries.
  • Frozen Foods: Even if it says low fat, it can still have trans fat. Choose frozen foods with the fewest grams of total fat.
  • Chips and Crackers: Go for baked chips, low-fat crackers, or fat-free alternatives like pretzels.
  • Breakfast Foods: Choose cereals that have no fat, and breakfast and granola bars that are low in fat.
  • Toppings, Dips, and Condiments: Wherever you can, sub a low-fat alternative, like oil and vinegar instead of a ranch dressing and low-fat milk instead of cream.

Alcohol and Your Heart

Drinking a lot of alcohol on a regular basis can affect your blood pressure and cholesterol. While a little alcohol every day, like a glass of red wine, may have some minor health benefits, heavy drinking can cause a number of health problems.

Heavy drinking can raise your blood pressure and increase your risk of stroke and heart disease. Alcohol keeps the liver from making hormones that help control blood pressure. Heavy drinkers can lower their systolic blood pressure by 2 to 4 points just by cutting back.

Some studies do show that moderate drinking is linked to good cholesterol levels. Stick to no more than 2 drinks daily for men younger than 65, and one for women or anyone over the age of 65.

You don’t have to give up your favorite beverages, just drink them in moderation.

Healthy Eating During the Holidays

The average adult will eat nearly 3,000 calories during a typical holiday meal, and that doesn’t include snacks, appetizers, or dessert. Use these healthy eating tips to cut back:

  • Never go to a party hungry. Before you leave, eat a light snack full of fiber and protein so you don’t binge at the dessert table.
  • Prepare a healthy side. Substitute skim milk or egg whites in  recipes to lower fat, cholesterol, and calories.
  • Survey the spread. Before choosing what to eat, check what’s available. Look for apps with fresh veggies, fruits, and whole grains. Avoid dishes like casseroles where you can’t tell what all’s inside.
  • Eat lean. There are plenty of ways to add flavor without the gravy. Grilled, steamed, skinless, and seasoned are the best heart-smart choices.
  • Don’t stay close by. Take a few items, and walk away from the food. When you’re catching up, it’s easy to lose track of how much you’ve eaten.
  • Stay active. Instead of giving into an after-meal doze, take a walk or go to the mall for some window shopping.

Potassium and Your Heart

Potassium helps lower your blood pressure in two ways:

  • By getting rid of extra salt through urine.
  • By relaxing blood vessel walls, which lets blood flow more easily.

One article in the Journal of Clinical Hypertension found that just changing how much potassium and magnesium you eat could lower your blood pressure 2 to 6 points.

Adding potassium to your diet doesn’t mean you can eat all the salt you want. But getting enough potassium, at least 4,700 milligrams a day, plays an important part in your overall healthy eating plan to control your blood pressure.

Studies also show a link between potassium and lower stroke risk, so getting more of it is good for your family members, too, even if they don’t have high blood pressure.

From fish to fruits to dairy, lots of foods have potassium. It’s easy to fit into every meal:

1,000 mg
  • Avocado (1 cup)
  • Papaya (1)
  • Baked potato (8 ounces with skin)
  • Edamame (1 cup shelled, cooked)
  • Lima beans (1 cup, cooked)
  • Sweet potato (1 cup, cooked)
750 mg
  • Plantains (1 cup, cooked)
  • Salmon (6 ounces)
  • Tomato sauce (1 cup)
  • Winter squash (1 cup, cooked)
500 mg
  • Banana (1)
  • Beets (1 cup, cooked)
  • Cantaloupe (1 cup)
  • Dried apricots (12 halves)
  • Dried figs (4)
  • Orange juice (1 cup)
  • Yogurt (1 cup plain low-fat)
250 mg
  • Broccoli (1/2 cup, cooked)
  • Zucchini (1/2 cup, cooked)
  • Kiwi (1)
  • Mango (1)
  • Nectarine (1)
  • Orange (1)
  • Pear (1)
  • Strawberries (1 cup)
  • Raisins (1/4 cup)
  • Dates (5 whole)
  • Milk (low-fat or skim,1 cup)
  • Chicken breast (5 ounces, roasted)
  • Peanut butter (2 tablespoons)
  • Peanuts (1 ounce, about 1/4 cup)

Heart Healthy Nuts

Mother Nature’s near-perfect snack is tree nuts. They’re one of the healthiest and easiest snack foods. From boosting memory and brain power to protecting against cancer, research has shown the power of this snack.

Studies find walnuts have the most antioxidants, about twice that of other nuts, and polyunsaturated fats, that help reduce cholesterol and protect the heart, omega-3s, melatonin, and protein.

If walnuts aren’t your first choice, munching on other kinds still has plenty of benefits. Nuts actually lower levels bad cholesterol in your blood. Try substituting a serving of nuts for a food that’s high in saturated fat, like red meat, eggs, and whole-fat dairy.

Almonds
  • Packed with protein, fiber, calcium, and iron.
  • Very high in monosaturated fat, or the heart healthy fat.
  • One of the best sources of Vitamin E, which protects against cancer and stroke.
  • Per 1 ounce serving: 160 calories, 14 grams of fat.
Cashews
  • Good source of monosaturated fat.
  • Per 1 ounce serving: 155 calories, 12 grams of fat.
Pistachios
  • Great source of potassium.
  • High in monosaturated fat (almost as much as almonds).
  • Per 1 ounce serving: 160 calories, 13 grams of fat.
Peanuts
  • Has more protein than tree nuts.
  • Per 1 ounce serving: 170 calories, 14 grams of fat.
Pecans
  • Great choice for fighting high cholesterol because they’re low in saturated fat.
  • Per 1 ounce serving: 200 calories, 20 grams of fat.

Get Moving

Being active is one of the most important things you can do to help control your blood pressure and lower your cholesterol, as well as lower your risk of heart disease. It doesn’t have to take much time, in fact, you can easily add the recommended 30 minutes of physical activity a day simply by changing your routine.

For example, try:

  • Taking a 10-15 minute walk during your lunch break.
  • Jumping rope for 15 minutes.
  • Gardening or raking leaves for 30 minutes.
  • Going for a walk in the park with your family.

Make sure you talk to your doctor before you start a new diet or exercise routine.