You know your age. You probably know how much you weigh. You might even know where you fall on the body mass index.
But do you know your blood pressure?
If you don’t, the few minutes it takes to have it read could save your life. High blood pressure is called “the silent killer” because, unless you have it checked, you may never become aware of its damaging effects until you have a heart attack or a stroke.
High blood pressure can harden your arteries, making it hard for blood and oxygen to flow to your heart. It can also burst or block arteries that send blood and oxygen to your brain.
Knowing your blood pressure and whether it’s elevated is the first step to reducing your risk for heart disease and stroke.
If you think you’re too young to have high blood pressure, consider this: High blood pressure affects 25 percent of men and 19 percent of women between the ages of 35 and 44. The risk of high blood pressure increases as we age, too.
In fact, nearly half of all U.S. adults have high blood pressure, according to new guidelines issued last year. The guidelines lowered the threshold for diagnosing high blood pressure to 130 over 80. The first number – systolic blood pressure – measures the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart beats. The second number – diastolic blood pressure – measures the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart rests between beats.
Under the old guidelines, high blood pressure was 140 over 90. The new guidelines mean more people are considered to have high blood pressure, especially younger people.
If you haven’t had your blood pressure checked recently, make an appointment to see your health provider. Your doctor can prescribe medication, if you need it, to help get your blood pressure under control.
Many people don’t need medication, but they still need to make lifestyle changes to adapt healthy behaviors. Making time to exercise and eating a healthy diet can result in significant improvements to your health.
When you have your blood pressure checked, make sure to follow these simple rules to avoid getting a false reading:
Refrain from smoking, exercising or drinking caffeine 30 minutes before having your blood pressure measured.
Instead of sitting on an exam table, sit in a chair with your feet on the floor. Make sure your legs are uncrossed.
Sit for five minutes without talking before having your blood pressure taken.
Make sure the blood pressure cuff touches your bare skin. Roll up your sleeve if necessary.
Sit at a desk or a table so your arm is supported during the reading. Do not rest your arm in your lap.
If your blood pressure is high, have it measured again on a separate occasion.
If you are diagnosed with high blood pressure, see your doctor regularly and follow whatever treatment plan they prescribe for you. Living a healthy lifestyle can help control your blood pressure and prevent complications.
Tossing out produce that has spoiled always feels like such a waste of money. But the only thing worse than tossing out spoiled produce, is tossing out fresh produce–and most people do this, all the time! Many stalks, leaves, and stems are completely edible and nutritious, but are frequently discarded as being scraps. Stalks (such as from broccoli or cauliflower) can be shredded and tossed into salads or slaws. They can also be chopped in small pieces and then steamed, roasted, or sautéed until tender.
Other ideas include juicing the stalks with other veggies or adding them to a pot to make broth/stock. Stems from chard or kale (as well as watermelon rinds) can be soaked in pickling brine for a crunchy snack. Use chopped herb stems (cilantro, parsley, basil, etc.) to flavor soups or sauces, infuse oil or vinegar, add to dips like salsa, or sprinkle onto main courses. Citrus peels (lemons, limes, oranges, etc.) can be used to flavor beverages or zested to add flavor to dishes. By incorporating these items that you would normally discard, not only will you add beneficial nutrients to your diet, but you may find your food budget stretches farther. So the next time you think about heading for the trashcan with your scraps of greens, think again; it just might save you some green.
Whitney Martin, Master of Public Health Student at Liberty University Intern for Bon Secours Physical Therapy and Sports Performance
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a small DNA virus that is the most common sexually-transmitted infection in the United States. Not only is it the cause of genital warts, but it is responsible for over 99% of cervical cancer. It has also been linked to vaginal, vulvar, penile, anal, and oropharyngeal (neck, tongue, and throat) cancer. In fact, as tobacco use in the US goes down, HPV has become the greatest cause of oropharyngeal cancer, especially in men. Research on HPV as a causative agent for disease is ongoing, with HPV being postulated to be involved in such things as heart disease, eye cancer, and lung cancer, though no high quality studies have been completed to confirm any of these links. There are over 200 types of HPV, of which approximately 14 are known to cause cancer. Of these, types 16, 18 and 45 account for 80% of invasive cervical cancers. The majority of HPV infections are asymptomatic, and most are cleared by the body without any problems. It has been estimated that 80% of the population will have an HPV infection at some point in their lifetime.
Pap testing is a screening test for cervical cancer. The pap smear was developed by Dr. George Papanicolaou in the 1940s, and was in routine use by the 1950s. This testing has been a public health success story, reducing the new cases of cervical cancer, once the number one cause of cancer death in women, by over 60% in the United States. Starting in 2003, HPV DNA testing has been available. Initially used for triage of indeterminate pap tests, the current guidelines allow for co-testing with traditional pap screening. Over the past 10 to 15 years, pap testing guidelines have evolved greatly. Initial yearly testing, which was an arbitrarily chosen interval, was replaced when 3-year testing was shown to be equivalently effective. This is due to the fact that most HPV changes end up being transient and resolve spontaneously when the immune system discovers them. Thus many abnormalities in pap smears would resolve spontaneously without treatment. With the increased power of HPV testing, the guidelines were then changed again, as co-testing has been shown to be an even more powerful screening test.
Current guidelines state that pap testing should begin at the age of 21. If this pap shows no pathologic change, then testing is repeated every 3 years. After age 30, co-testing (with pap and HPV testing) can be done every 5 years. At age 65, consideration can be given to stopping pap testing, based on history. Strong consideration can also be given to stopping pap testing after hysterectomy. Many women are very concerned about increasing the interval from yearly screening; it seems to be ingrained into people’s minds that they MUST have a pap smear every year. The new screening guidelines have outcomes that are as good as or better than older guidelines in rates of preventing invasive cancer and cancer death. They have many other advantages including a) greater convenience in terms of less frequent screening, b) the avoidance of unnecessary colposcopies (the next step in screening which can be painful, cause a great deal of anxiety and worry, and carries a slight increase in risk of preterm delivery for subsequent pregnancy), and c) greater cost effectiveness (since we are, as a country, looking to spend health care dollars as wisely as possible). An added bonus is that it allows providers to focus on other aspects of women’s healthcare during the annual visit, which is still strongly recommended. The specialty of Obstetrics and Gynecology has many facets other than cancer screening. Rather than focusing on yearly pap testing, this allows the annual visit to encompass other aspects of Women’s Health such as family planning and reproductive issues, menopausal management, gynecologic care, and general wellness.
Finally, here is a quick comment on HPV vaccination. Cancer is a diagnosis that we as doctors hate to have to give and that most patients fear greatly. HPV vaccination goes a step beyond treatment and cure… it is a means of PREVENTING cancer. The current vaccine works against 9 types of HPV, 2 of which cause genital warts and 7 of which are the leading causes of cervical cancer. Studies in Australia, where the vaccine is mandated for children, have shown a rapid decrease in the rates of genital warts. Extrapolating from this data, we should expect to see a dramatic decrease in cervical cancer as well, once this vaccinated generation reaches the age when cervical cancer is more common. Every year in the United States, approximately 30,700 cases of cancer are caused by HPV; vaccination could prevent over 28,000 of them. The vaccine is given in 2-3 doses, depending on the age of initial vaccination, and has been shown to be safe through repeated studies. It is recommended for both boys and girls, starting around age 11 and to be completed before age 22 in young men and 27 in young women. Patients outside of the age range of the guidelines may still benefit and should consult with their physician regarding vaccination.
Stepping on the scale feels pretty good when the pounds keep dropping.
For most Americans, however, the numbers start to increase within a matter of weeks or months. Disappointed and frustrated, many of us eventually move the scale to the back of a cabinet or a closet where it’s out of sight.
Losing weight – and keeping if off – is much more complicated than following any 30-day weight-loss diet you read about online or hear about from your friends.
If you’re wondering whether you need help losing weight, don’t use your scale as a guide. Weight-loss programs can help people who need to shed as little as 10 pounds and those who need to lose more than 100.
“The advantage to getting medical help is finding the right weight-loss strategy for your individual needs,” said I. Phillip Snider, DO, MS, RD, who serves as medical director at Bon Secours Weight Loss Institute. “At Bon Secours, we offer a range of weight-loss options – from learning how to change the way you eat and exercise to losing weight through a Very-Low Calorie Diet or by having bariatric surgery. Most importantly, we teach you how to keep the weight from coming back.”
It’s not easy to ask for help. Sometimes taking that first step is the hardest part. If you’re wondering whether a weight-loss program is right for you, consider the following questions:
Do you always gain back the weight you’ve lost?
Many people can lose weight. The challenge is keeping it off.
“If you’ve been able to lose weight, but it always eventually comes back, it’s time to do something different,” Snider said.
How many times have you tried to lose weight?
A good indication that you need help is to look at how many weight-loss attempts you’ve made in your life. You may have a list of all the different diets you tried from Atkins and South Beach to Paleo and Whole 30. At Bon Secours, patients work with Registered Dietitians to learn how to choose nutritious, healthy foods.
“Many people don’t know what a healthy diet should look like,” Snider said. “We can help people through education.”
Is your weight affecting your health?
Carrying excess weight can cause a multitude of health problems including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and an increased risk for certain cancers. A good reason to participate in a weight-loss program is if your doctor has told you that you need to lose weight because it’s hurting your health.
Losing a small amount of weight – sometimes only 10 percent of your body weight — can significantly improve your health.
Is your quality of life suffering?
Are you out of breath walking to and from a parking lot?
Do you have to worry about the size of a seat belt on an airplane?
Can you sit comfortably at the movies or on a roller coaster?
Losing weight successfully can make it easier to accomplish simple tasks like running to the store. It can make traveling and recreational activities more enjoyable.
Focus on more than calories and exercise.
Perhaps the most important part of a comprehensive weight-loss program is unraveling all the factors in your life that affect your weight.
“Weight loss is a multi-dimensional issue,” Snider said. “It’s not just how much you’re eating and exercising. Being overweight is a symptom that something is going wrong in your life.”
Some people gain weight to protect themselves from stress. Other people may view weight as power; losing weight makes them feel less powerful.
Sometimes being overweight has to do with family relationships or insulating ourselves from things we can’t control.
“You have to work on those issues or you will gain your weight back,” Snider said. “Any dietary changes you make or weight loss from bariatric surgery will be temporary fixes.”
Osteoarthritis – and its aching joint pain – often keeps people from doing one of the best things proven to make them feel better: exercise.
Staying physically active helps reduce osteoarthritis pain, improves function, and can positively affect a person’s quality of life, studies show. Regular exercise also helps people sleep better, maintain a healthy body weight, and keep a positive attitude.
Roughly 27 million people over the age of 25 have osteoarthritis – a degenerative joint disease. Osteoarthritis mostly affects cartilage. In osteoarthritis, the surface layer of cartilage breaks and wears away. This allows bones to rub together. It causes pain, swelling, and loss of motion of the joint. Over time, the joint may lose its normal shape and small deposits of bone – bone spurs – may grow. Sometimes bits of bone or cartilage can break off and float inside the joint space.
Although osteoarthritis becomes more common with age, younger people can develop it, too. Osteoarthritis is also more likely to occur in people who are overweight and in those with jobs that stress particular joints.
Another reason to exercise is that it also helps people with osteoarthritis manage other chronic conditions that are common among adults: diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.
Osteoarthritis Pain Relief
Four forms of exercise for people with osteoarthritis include:
Flexibility – Yoga and Tai Chi are two types of exercise that can help flexibility. Flexibility exercises help alleviate stiffness and keep the body’s joints moving.
Strengthening – Weight-bearing exercises, such as weight lifting, can help you keep and build your muscle strength. Small hand weights can help build upper and lower arm strength. Squats and lunges strengthen the lower body while planks work the entire core.
Aerobic and Endurance – Swimming and biking are both excellent forms of aerobic and endurance exercises, which can help reduce swelling in some of your joints. Endurance exercise is also good for the heart and arteries.
Balance and Agility – Ask your physical therapist which specific balance and agility exercises are right for you.
Always check with your physical therapist or physician before starting any exercise program. Some types of activity may need to be avoided, especially when joints are swollen or inflamed.