Tag Archives: pregnancy

Birth Defects Prevention for Healthy Babies

Birth Defects Prevention Month

January is Birth Defects Prevention Month, and we gave you info and resources each day this week to protect your baby and help the cause.

Every 4 1/2 Minutes

 

What do you actually know about birth defects? This brochure can help.

If you’re pregnant or thinking about pregnancy, March of Dimes can help you protect your baby at each step.

Pregnancy and Preventing Defects

 

Making these healthy choices while pregnant can help prevent birth defects.

Making Healthy Choices to Prevent Defects

 

Birth defects aren’t a rare occurrence. Take steps to protect your family.

1 in Every 33

 

Folic acid has been shown to protect your baby. Learn more about getting enough.

Folic Acid and Birth Defects

 

The cost and toll of birth defects on parents and kids affect us all.

Birth Defects Affect Us All

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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.

Baby Feet

Before the Burp Cloths, Learn These Baby Basics

If you or someone you love has had a baby, you know the joys that come with being pregnant. Soon-to-be moms and dads might also be nervous about what their health plan covers.

Heather Miller knows. Her team in our call center gets lots of questions from soon-to-be parents.

And she just gave birth to her son Kolton.

If she didn’t know the ins and outs from working at a health plan, Heather says she would have questions, too.

“My first questions would be, ‘Are my visits covered? What about my sonograms?’” she said.

Here’s what Heather says members need to know.

Before the baby is born, we cover:

  • Doctor’s office visits
  • Lab work
  • Sonograms

After the baby is born, we cover:

  • Being in the hospital (48 hours, or 96 hours after a C-section)
  • Most lab work
  • Follow-up visits

New parents typically have 31 days to add their newborn to their plan. Once they have, the baby is covered beginning on the date of birth.

Heather says to review your policy or log in at YourHealthAlliance.org for more details. If you still have questions, call the number on the back of your ID card.

“You’ll feel a little less nervous when you know what your plan covers before you start setting up those pre-baby visits,” she said.

Reasons You Have High Blood Pressure

Breaking Down Why You Have High Blood Pressure

Risk Factors for High Blood Pressure

Some people are more likely to have high blood pressure, and this can be because of things you can’t control, or because of lifestyle choices you make.

  • Age – The risk of high blood pressure increases with time. 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 – High blood pressure tends to run in families.
  • Certain Chronic Conditions – Kidney disease, diabetes, and sleep apnea can raise your blood pressure.
  • Stress
  • Pregnancy – Your blood pressure may be raised during pregnancy.
  • Being Overweight – The more you weigh, the more blood your body has to pump to perform normal tasks like carrying oxygen and nutrients to your tissues. That more blood that’s pumping, the higher the pressure.
  • Not Being Physically Active – Not being active usually makes your heart rate higher, which means your heart’s working harder than it should and pumping more.
  • Tobacco Use – Smoking and chewing tobacco raise your blood pressure temporarily, but it can also damage your arteries which raises your blood pressure in the long-term.
  • Too Much Salt –  When you eat too much salt, you also gain water-weight, which increases your blood pressure.
  • Too Much Alcohol – Heavy drinkers can damage their heart over time.
  • Too Little Potassium – Potassium helps balance sodium in your body.
  • Too Little Vitamin D – Not enough vitamin D in your diet might affect an enzyme your body makes that affects your blood pressure.

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

Other Causes of High Blood Pressure

If you have secondary high blood pressure, it’s caused by an underlying condition. It usually appears suddenly and goes away when the condition has been treated. These things might cause it:

  • Sleep apnea
  • Kidney problems
  • Adrenal gland tumors
  • Thyroid problems
  • Birth defects in your blood vessels
  • Certain meds, like birth control pills, anti-depressants, cold remedies, decongestants, over-the-counter pain relievers, and some prescription drugs
  • Illegal drugs like cocaine

Reasons for High Blood Pressure After Meds

Some find that even though they’ve gotten on a medication, their blood pressure is still not low enough. If you find that your blood pressure is higher than normal at certain times, think about these factors.

Lifestyle Choices

Some of your lifestyle choices could be raising your blood pressure.

  • Quit smoking, and cut back on alcohol and caffeine.
  • De-stress.
  • Watch your diet.
  • Get active.
  • Make sure you’re taking your meds exactly as your doctor prescribed.
  • Visit your doctor for regular checkups.

The Season

Believe it or not, studies show that the season can have an effect on your blood pressure. It’s more likely to go back to normal levels in the spring and summer than it is in the winter, no matter if you live in a very cold climate or a very warm one.

Perhaps it’s because it’s harder to get out and exercise and because of the extra pounds you can pack on during the holiday season. Either way, this means in the winter, it might be necessary to take higher doses of meds or even different drugs. Talk to your doctor if you notice this seasonal difference in your readings.

Medications

Did this raise go hand-in-hand with a new pill you started? Did you get a cold and start taking some over-the-counter meds you don’t normally?

Check to make sure that what you’re taking isn’t to blame. And talk to your doctor about the risk or if you should make changes to your prescriptions.

Bigger Problems

If your blood pressure is still strangely high, your doctor might need to adjust your meds. And if this still doesn’t help, it might be a sign of something more serious, like kidney problems or a chronic condition. Then, it’s time for a doctor’s appointment and maybe some tests to find the cause.

Deciphering Diabetes

Diabetes 101

Diabetes’ Reach

Diabetes affects 29.1 million people in the U.S., a whopping 9.4% of our population. That number has doubled in the last 10 years. And each year, it costs Americans more than $245 billion.

Worldwide, it affects more than 380 million people.  And the World Health Organization estimates that by 2030, that number of people living with it will more than double.

Diabetes is also the leading cause of blindness, kidney failure, amputations, heart failure, and stroke.

What Is Diabetes?

When you eat food, your body turns it into sugar. Then, your body releases a chemical called insulin, which opens up your cells so they can take in that sugar and turn it into energy.

Diabetes is a group of diseases that breaks that system, causing there to be too much sugar in your blood, or high blood glucose.

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is normally diagnosed in kids, and it’s the more serious kind. Its is an autoimmune disease where the body attacks the cells that create insulin.

Without insulin, sugar builds up in the blood, starving your cells. This can cause eye, heart, nerve, and kidney damage, and in serious cases, can result in comas and death.

 Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is the most common kind of diabetes, and it’s frequently called adult-onset diabetes because it’s usually diagnosed when you’re over 35.

People with this form of it produce some insulin, just not enough. And sometime, the insulin isn’t able to open the cells, which is called insulin resistance.

While many people with type 2 diabetes are overweight or inactive, there is a new group of patients emerging—young, slim females. Molecular imaging expert Jimmy Bell, MD, calls this condition TOFI, thin outside, fat inside.

Instead of building up below the skin’s surface, fat gathers on their abdominal organs, which is more dangerous. Risk factors for these women include a lack of exercise, daily stress, and yo-yo dieting.

Gestational Diabetes

Some pregnant women who didn’t have diabetes before and won’t have it after develop a form called gestational diabetes.

Your high blood sugar can cause your baby to make too much insulin. When this happens, their cells can absorb too much sugar, which their bodies then store as fat. This can raise their risk of a difficult birth and breathing problems.

Symptoms

Early detection is key to preventing serious complications from diabetes.

These are some common symptoms:

  • Peeing often
  • Feeling very thirsty or hungry, even though you’re eating
  • Extremely tired
  • Blurry vision
  • Cuts or bruises that are slow to heal
  • Weight loss, even though you are eating more (for type 1)
  • Tingling, pain, or numbness in the hands or feet (for type 2)

There are often no symptoms for gestational diabetes, so it’s important to get tested at the right time.

Does any of this sound like you? Learn more about how your doctor can test and diagnose you. And learn more about the different treatments.