Tag Archives: hypertension

Blaze a Trail as You Age

Vantage Point: Blaze a Trail

An excerpt from North Central Washington Museum’s “The History of a Thriving Anomaly” describes how the local community thought the Wenatchee Valley Clinic, which opened on April Fools’ Day 1940, wouldn’t last 6 months. They couldn’t have been more wrong.

The tiny clinic was founded by a surgeon, Albert Donald Haug, a radiologist, Lloyd Smith, and an internist with a knack for keeping patients happy, Lumir Martin Mares, and it brought together specialists at a time when most doctors worked alone.

Haug and Mares believed that their little clinic could meet the same standards as those in the East, and they brought together a range of specialists and cutting-edge equipment and training to become the second-largest clinic in the region.

“We knew it would grow,” Dr. Smith said, “but none of us had any idea it would grow to what it is now.”

The clinic brought together its doctors then, and it brings together patients and doctors now. Because of their dream, its nearly 170 doctors treat people from around the world today.

In 1963, President John F. Kennedy decided that every May, we would honor older Americans and their contributions to our communities and country. This year’s theme, “Blaze a Trail,” celebrates older adults who are taking charge of their health, engaging in their communities, and positively impacting the lives of others, just like Wenatchee Valley Clinic’s remarkable founders.

Health Alliance will honor older Americans this month by partnering with Confluence Health to hold an educational event about the treatment and prevention of hypertension and strokes on May 25 and by teaming up with community agencies and businesses in planning the 3rd annual senior-focused health fair at Pybus Public Market on June 4.

Health insurance can be challenging, but as I think about those trailblazing doctors, I remember that hard work, progressive thinking, and the camaraderie of partners like you can help turn the dream of making a positive impact through quality care within this wonderful place we all live a reality.

Shannon Sims is a Medicare community liaison for Health Alliance, serving Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan counties in Washington. She has four sons and two grandsons. During her time off, she performs as part of a rodeo drill team on her horse, Skeeter.

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.

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.

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.