Tag Archives: education

Getting Your Blood Pressure Readings

You and Your Blood Pressure Readings

Choosing an At-Home Monitor

One of the best things you can do to manage high blood pressure is to track it regularly. A home monitor will help you keep track of blood pressure readings between visits to the doctor.

There are many different types of at-home blood pressure monitors, and there are always the booth ones at local pharmacies. While the style may be different, monitors come with the same basic parts. They have:

  • An inflatable cuff or strap
  • A gauge for readouts
  • And some use and come with a stethoscope

Things to keep in mind for good blood pressure readings:

  • It is important to get one with a cuff that fits your arm, because a cuff that is too small will give a high reading no matter what.
  • Your doctor can help you find the best option for you and teach you how to use it correctly.
  • If you already have an at-home monitor, bring it with you to the doctor’s office so they can check its accuracy.

Getting Good Blood Pressure Readings at Home

These tips from the Mayo Clinic can help you get good blood pressure readings at home:

  • Measure your blood pressure twice a day.
  • Don’t take a reading immediately after waking up.
  • Avoid food, caffeine, and tobacco for at least 30 minutes before taking a reading.
  • Sit quietly for a few minutes before measuring.
  • Make sure you are seated with both feet on the floor, with your back supported.
  • Support your arm on an arm rest or table top on an even level with your heart.
  • Don’t talk while taking your blood pressure.

Getting Good Blood Pressure Readings at the Doctor’s Office

According to findings from the University of Virginia Health System, how you’re positioned while taking a blood pressure reading can change your reading by up to 15%. Make sure your blood pressure readings are as correct as possible:

Take a breather.

We’ve all been there. You’re running late for your doctor’s appointment, so you’re rushing into the building at the last second. If you’re called back right away, ask the nurse to wait a few minutes to take your blood pressure so your heart rate has time to return to its normal level.

Assume the position.

Just like at home, make sure you’re sitting in a chair with your back supported with both feet flat on the floor. Support your extended arm at heart level.

One size does not fit all.

Let your nurse know if the blood pressure cuff feels too tight or loose. Just like with your at-home monitor, too tight can give you a falsely high reading.

Compare blood pressure readings.

Check to see how a reading at the doctor’s matches your at-home readings.

Controlling Asthma with Diet

Balancing and Controlling Asthma with Your Lifestyle

Controlling Asthma through Lifestyle

There is no way to magically cure your asthma, but eating a smart and healthy diet and keeping a healthy lifestyle can make a huge difference in controlling asthma.

The number of people with asthma has risen in the past 3 decades, and many wonder if it’s because of our changing diet without enough fruits and veggies.

Several studies have explored this connection. One found that teens with poor nutrition were more likely to have asthma.

And while nutrition is likely not the cause of asthma, it can be the cause of obesity. Being overweight makes you more likely to have severe asthma symptoms, take more meds, and miss more work.

Changes for Controlling Asthma

Eat lots of fruits and veggies.

Packed with antioxidants like beta carotene and vitamins C and E, fruits and veggies help with lung problems. Try controlling your asthma by adding more of these to your diet:

  • Apples, which have been tied to lower rates of asthma, possibly because of something in them called flavonoids that have been shown to open airways.
  • Cantaloupe, which is high in Vitamin C.
  • Carrots, which have a lot of beta carotene, can help reduce attacks caused by exercise.
  • Coffee, the caffeine in it can help open airways slightly for a few hours after drinking it.
  • Flax seeds, which are high in omega-3 fatty acids and magnesium which can relax your muscles, which can help open airways.
  • Garlic, which has long been used as a treatment for many things because it’s thought to be anti-inflammatory.
  • Avocados, which is a healthy antioxidant called glutathione.

Add more vitamin D.

Studies find that people with severe asthma have low levels of vitamin D. Work on controlling your asthma by adding more foods with plenty of vitamin D to your meals, like milk, eggs, and salmon.

Avoid trans fats.

Trans fats, found in many processed foods like margarine, can make your asthma worse and have been linked to other serious health conditions, like heart disease.

Look for sulfites.

Sulfites are a preservative that keeps foods like wine, dried fruits, pickles, and fresh and frozen shrimp good for longer. They give off sulfur dioxide which can irritate your lungs, and research has tied it to asthma flare-ups in some people.

This doesn’t mean you have to cut these from your diet. Just watch for a reaction for about an hour after you eat them.

Stay away from allergy-triggering foods.

Asthma puts you at a bigger risk for food allergies, and you can develop them late in life.

After you eat common allergy-triggering foods like nuts, soy, eggs, and dairy, keep an eye out for common allergy reactions:

  • Burning, teary, itchy, red, or swollen eyes
  • Coughing, wheezing, or a tight chest
  • Headache
  • Hives or skin rashes
  • Itchy nose, throat, or mouth
  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing

Avoid foods that trigger Gastroesophageal Reflux Disorder (GERD).

Up to 70% of people who have asthma, also have GERD, which is stomach acid reflux. GERD can make asthma symptoms worse.

While it can cause normal heartburn symptoms, it doesn’t always. You may need to take medicine or lose weight to manage GERD. But sometimes just eating smaller meals, cutting back on alcohol and caffeine, and avoiding eating before bed can help. You can also avoid foods that you know cause these problems for you.

Lose weight.

While losing weight isn’t easy, it can help your asthma. Eat a healthy and balanced diet and stay active. Make sure you talk to your doctor about how best to manage your asthma or use your meds so that you can exercise without causing attacks.

Asthma Treatment

Know Your Asthma

What Is Asthma?

Asthma is a long-term disease where your airways become inflamed and narrow, making it harder to breathe. This can cause chest tightness, shortness of breath, and coughing.

It’s affects all ages, but is usually diagnosed in kids. More than 25 million people have it.

Your airways are tubes that carry air in and out of your lungs. When the airways react to an allergen, the muscles around them tighten, which limits the air getting into the lungs.

Cells in the airways can also make more mucus in this situation, which further makes it hard to breathe.

And once this has all happened, it’s easy for things like stress or activity to make it even worse. Asthma’s symptoms are in many ways, a chain reaction.

There is no cure for asthma, but there are great forms of treatment, including meds, nebulizers, and inhalers. These let you prevent and treat attacks right away to prevent a more serious attack, which can require emergency care.

Your Asthma

Everyone’s is a little different. Many things create the recipe, or chain reaction, for your asthma. Your age, triggers, allergens in your environment, weight, overall health, where you live, and which meds you’re taking can all matter.

Common Triggers

  • Acid Reflux
  • Allergies
  • Bad Weather
  • Certain Foods
  • Certain Medicines
  • Cold or Dry Air
  • Exercise
  • Food Additives
  • Fragrances
  • High Humidity
  • Infections from Flu, Cold, or Virus
  • Pets
  • Strong Emotions or Stress

Common Allergens

  • Chemicals
  • Cockroach Allergens
  • Dust Mites
  • Mold
  • Outdoor Air Pollution
  • Smoke from Burning Outdoors
  • Tobacco Smoke

Your allergies especially affect your asthma. Your runny nose, sniffling, and sneezing can actually start that chain reaction. And by treating them, you can actually improve your asthma.

Treatment

Everyone with asthma should have an Asthma Action Plan that they make with their doctor. It’s a personalized plan that has:

  • The kinds of medicine you’ll take
  • When you’ll take it
  • How you’ll manage it long-term
  • How you should handle attacks
  • How you’ll manage your allergies
  • When you should go to your doctor or the ER

Even though each person will have a different set of things that cause their symptoms, asthma medicine categories are the same for everyone.

Combinations and doses vary, but most people with asthma have 2 kinds of meds, a quick-relief one in case of a flare-up and a long-term controller they take daily.

Types of Meds

Medicine Category

What It Does

Examples

Long-Term Control

This is your most important med. When taken daily, these help control symptoms and prevent attacks. Skipping doses raises your risk of attack.
  • Inhaled Corticosteroids
  • Leukotriene Modifiers
  • Long-Acting Beta-Agonists (LABAs)
  • A Combination Inhaler with a Corticosteroid and an LABA

Quick-Relief or Rescue Meds

Take these as needed to quickly treat an attack and to prevent attacks from exercise. If you’re using these more than 2x a week, tell your doctor. Short-Acting Beta-Agonists:
  • Albuterol (Proventil, Ventolin)
  • Metaproterenol (Alupent, Metaprel)
  • Pirbuterol (Maxair)
  • Bitolterol (Tornalate)
  • Levalbuterol (Xopenex)

Oral Steroids:

  • Prednisone
  • Prednisolone
  • Methylprednisolone

Allergy-Induced Asthma

Take these daily or as needed to control allergies, like pollen, mold, grass, etc.
  • Allergy Shots (Immunotherapy)
  • Omalizumab (Xolair)

Info via National Institutes of Health (NIH)

Your Action Plan

Make sure you have the answers to these important questions in your action plan:

  • What are the names of my medicines?
  • What does each one do?
  • What are their side effects?
  • What can I do to decrease their side effects?
  • Will they work with other drugs, vitamins, food, and drinks?
  • How much is a dose of each?
  • When is the best time to take each? With breakfast, before bed, or with symptoms?
  • How long do I have to take them?

Things You Can Do

You should also work with your doctor or our disease management program to make sure you know how to use your inhaler and flow meter.

Keeping track of your triggers and taking care of yourself can also help:

Salt and Your Heart

Cutting Back on Salt for Your Heart

Salt’s Effects

You’ve no doubt heard that salt’s bad for you. While the truth is your body needs salt, too much can be very bad for you.

On average, Americans eat  4,000-5,000 mg of salt every day, and your body only needs about 500 mg a day. That’s a big difference. One that can be a big problem if you have high blood pressure.

And it’s not just about what you add to your food. 75% of your sodium intake comes from processed foods. Salt adds flavor and keeps things fresh, so food manufacturers use a lot of it.

A study in Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart Association, found a high-salt diet may decrease how well meds used to treat high blood pressure work.

So, if you’re currently taking meds for or have high blood pressure, a low-salt diet could help them work.

Clean Up Your Diet

While you might want to talk to your doctor before you drastically cut back on salt, there are a lot of things you can do yourself to cut back that are good for you no matter what.

  • Stop buying heavily processed foods like corn oil and soda.
  • Shop around the outside edge of the grocery store and you’ll hit all the spots with the freshest foods.
  • Read food labels. Those with fewer and simpler ingredients are best. The longer the list, the more room there is for chemicals, sugar, salt, and oils.
  • Cook more at home. Restaurants, especially chains, use heavily processed foods.
  • Train your tongue. If you are used to salt, sugar, and fat, you’ll need time to appreciate the flavor of natural foods.
  • Add other seasonings and flavors to keep your meals delicious and interesting:
    • Allspice: Look for a low- or no-sodium options for seasoning meats, gravy, and even tomatoes.
    • Almond Extract: Great for puddings, desserts, and fruit.
    • Basil: Sprinkle on some fresh or dried basil to add a kick to fish, lamb, salads, soups, and sauces.
    • Chives: Add a light onion flavor to salads, sauces, sides, and soups.
    • Garlic: Fresh garlic is good for you and very flavorful.
    • Ginger: Try this on chicken and fish.
    • Lemon Juice: Make your lean meats and fish pop.
    • Dry Mustard:  Add to meat, marinades, homemade salad dressings, and veggies.
    • Onion Powder: Good for marinades, meat, and veggies.

Eating a low-sodium diet can be easy and delicious, it just takes a little planning and great recipes. Visit our Pinterest to find all kinds of healthy recipes you can make at home.

Dividing Your Plate

Dividing Your Plate Into Sections

Dividing your plate into sections to make sure you choose healthy foods and use proper portions is the key to managing your diabetes, cholesterol, high blood pressure, and your diet.

Dividing Your Plate

According to the American Diabetes Association, a good way to plan your meals is by dividing your plate into 3 sections.

Use an imaginary line and cut your plate in half. Divide one of the halves into two to create the three different zones.

For Breakfast

  • The large section is for fruit, fresh if possible.
  • Whole grain cereals or whole grain toast go into one of the smaller sections.
  •  Eggs, Greek yogurt, or lean breakfast meats go into the other small section.

For Lunch and Dinner

  • The large section is for non-starchy vegetables like carrots, spinach, broccoli, and green beans.
  • Starchy foods such as whole-grain bread, rice, or potatoes go into one of the smaller sections.
  •  Lean meat or meat substitutes go into the other small section.

Keeping portions in mind when managing your diet can have a significant effect on your health.

Deciphering Diabetes Questions

Diabetes Questions and Answers

There’s a lot of information out there about your diabetes and what you should and shouldn’t do, so it’s only natural that you have diabetes questions.

The truth is that there’s really nothing you can’t do or eat. The key is moderation, along with a well-balanced meal plan and exercise.

Diabetes Questions Answered

These common diabetes questions can help you get answers.

Q: Is there a cure for diabetes?

A: Sue Kirkman, senior vice president of the American Diabetes Association (ADA), said there is no cure for type 1 or type 2 diabetes. But if you eat right, you can help control your disease.

Q: Do people with diabetes have to be on a special diet?

A: Once upon a time, people with diabetes had to follow super-strict diets. Now, we know that following a balanced diet will help with your diabetes. A balanced diet includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meat, dairy, and small amounts of good fats, like nuts and avocados.

Q: If I have diabetes, do I need to avoid foods that are high in carbs, like pasta and bread?

A: Carbohydrates are an important past of a well-balanced diet. A person with diabetes should consume around 3 to 4 servings of carbs per day. Whole-grain foods are especially good for you. They’re high in fiber, which has many health benefits. Of course, carbs aren’t something you should binge on, but they definitely should be a part of your diet.

Q: What about sweets?

A: Again, you shouldn’t eat an entire box of Milk Duds at the movie theater, but chocolate and other sweets aren’t off-limits. Just keep it under control and enjoy small portions. And fruit is a great option when you’re craving something sweet. You can also check a diabetes cookbook to find healthy and delicious desserts you’ll love.

Q: Can caffeine raise my blood sugar?

A: You probably won’t see a major spike in your blood sugar levels. But if you have Type 2 diabetes, drinking caffeine, especially after meals, can affect your blood sugar. Studies have shown that the amount of caffeine in two cups of black coffee can cause a noticeable rise in your blood sugar levels. If managing your levels is hard, less caffeine might be a good first step for you.

Q: Is there an insulin pill?

A: The ADA says an insulin pill is not coming soon. But, shots aren’t your only choice. There are also patches that you stick to your stomach for an easy dose of insulin.

Traveling with Asthma and Allergies

Traveling with Asthma and Allergies

Vacations are always exciting and relaxing, unless you aren’t prepared for traveling with asthma and allergies.

Don’t let them stand in your family’s way. By carefully getting ready ahead of time, you can make sure you have smooth travels.

Preparing for Traveling with Asthma and Allergies

Having a great trip starts when you’re planning. When you’re looking at destinations and hotels for your family, you may want to find a PURE hotel room. Hotels across the country are adding these hypoallergenic rooms.

From installing air purifiers to ripping out dust-filled carpets and drapes, these rooms have been overhauled to be allergy-friendly. You may pay a little extra (about $20 more), but by getting rid of allergens and surprise asthma flare-ups, a PURE room can make your trip an easy one.

And don’t forget to make sure you have enough of current prescriptions ahead of time. With some things, you can stock up in advance. For others, you may have to take your prescription with you and get it filled on the road. Make sure you also know which pharmacies your plan covers before getting a prescription filled there.

Keep a document that lists all of the medicines and supplies you’re traveling with. Not only can it help you pack before leaving home or the hotel, but you can also show it to security agents at airports to help them check your supplies quickly.

Packing for Traveling with Asthma and Allergies

According to the TSA, you can pack your meds or nebulizer in your carry-on for your flight.

It’s important to pack both your quick-relief and controller meds in your carry-on so that you can treat or prevent an attack on the flight. Plus, if your checked bag gets lost, at least your asthma’s still taken care of.

Keep medications in their original containers, and keep them in a separate, clear plastic bag. This makes it easy for security to check what kind of meds you have and that they’re yours.

Pack copies of your Asthma Action Plan which has important info about your asthma that can help those traveling with you and the people you visit if something should happen.

Use your list to make sure you’ve packed everything you need to take care of your asthma.

Take your Health Alliance member ID card in case you need to visit a doctor while you’re out of town.

If you aren’t getting a PURE room, pack your own bedding, like any special pillows, sheets, or bed covers.

If your kids are traveling without you, it’s important to both help them pack their meds, and to make sure they have their emergency plan and important numbers, like your phone number, handy when traveling.

Traveling with Asthma and Allergies

Once you’re at the airport, the key to a smooth flight is communication.

Make sure you tell the security officers you are traveling with asthma meds or a nebulizer, which they will have you take out of your case.

Use a phone, an app, or a watch that can stay on your home time zone, so you can keep track of when you should be taking medicine on your normal schedule. It’s easy to get distracted on vacation, so alarms are also an easy way to remind yourself at the right time.

Once you’re on your flight, if you feel sick and need help, a drink, or to get your carry-on quickly, it can help if you let your flight attendant know what’s happening. They can help you better and faster if they know it’s important for your asthma.

When you’re driving, fresh air sounds like a great idea, but you never know what allergens are in it. Drive with the windows up and the air on to keep triggers out. And, keep your meds close, not in the trunk!

After Arriving

Once you’ve made it to your hotel, it’s a good idea to make sure your supplies are still organized after traveling. You should also make sure your room is clean, and change your bedding if you brought it with you.

Try to plan activities that won’t stress your asthma or put you in contact with too many allergens, and make sure you’re ready to carry your inhaler, just in case.

And don’t forget to take time to relax and refuel for a vacation to remember!