Understanding High Blood Pressure

blood pressure tracker

For most people one of the most stress inducing things that happens in any doctor’s office is the taking of blood pressure. You can tell yourself to relax, breathe easy and envision yourself on a beach, but the truth of the matter is you are at a doctor’s appointment for one reason or another having your health evaluated. What is the most concerning is that a lot of people aren’t exactly sure what the numbers mean or where they come from. In this article we will be going over how to understand blood pressure readings, why it matters, understanding your risks, and new research on how to lower that high blood pressure and improve quality of life.

Understanding High Blood Pressure

Blood Pressure– is a ratio of systolic over diastolic and is measured in millimeters of mercury, mmHg.

Systolic– is the top number of the ratio and is the higher of the two. It measures the pressure of the body’s arteries when the heart muscle contracts.

Diastolic– is the bottom number of the ratio and is the lower of the two. It measures the pressure of the body’s arteries between heartbeats, aka contractions, so this is when the heart muscle is relaxed.

The systolic, or top number is the more important of the two and usually slowly increases with age after 50, due to stiffness of arteries, plaque buildup etc.

Blood Pressure Chart

blood_pressure_chart_AHA

(taken from American Heart Association website heart.org)

Blood pressure should be taken at least once every two years, even if it is around normal, and more frequently if it is higher. The numbers change in a person minute to minute due to the time of day, exercise, stress, lack of sleep, posture, and the food one has eaten! If your blood pressure is higher than desired, your doctor might monitor it on a consistent basis and/or have you keep track of it frequently at home. Even if your blood pressure is normal, it is always a good idea to develop healthy lifestyle habits to help prevent high blood pressure (HBP).

High blood pressure is known as “the silent killer” because there can be no signs or symptoms of it. If untreated, consequences of HBP (but not symptoms) may include:

  • damage to the heart and coronary arteries
  • stroke
  • kidney damage
  • vision loss and damage
  • memory loss
  • fluid in the lungs
  • angina
  • peripheral artery disease

Risk factors that can contribute to hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, include:

  • family history
  • advanced age
  • lack of physical activity
  • poor diet, especially one that includes too much salt
  • being overweight or obese
  • drinking too much alcohol (binge drinking, ie 3-5 alcoholic drinks in one sitting)

Contributing factors to high blood pressure include:

  • stress
  • smoking and secondhand smoke
  • sleep apnea

Recent research from the National Institutes of Health has shown that being more aggressive in the treatment of high blood pressure, can significantly lower a person’s rate of cardiovascular disease. Until recently, it was recommended by the American Heart Association that the systolic pressure should be less than 140 mmHg for most adults to be out of the high blood pressure or hypertension category. This new research found that decreasing the systolic number to 120 mmHg and below reduces the risk of death of cardiovascular disease by 43%.

In 2013, 360,000 deaths were associated with or directly related to high blood pressure. About 80 million, or one in three American adults have HBP which puts them at a much higher risk of heart attack, stroke, kidney failure and other serious health problems.New research from Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, found that patients age 75 and older benefited even more from this lowering of the systolic blood pressure than the younger age group. However, one unfortunate side effect in some patients in the aggressively treated group with medication, is acute kidney failure. Even with the immediate push for a lowering of the systolic BP, experts all agree that the best way to go about it is a thorough lifestyle change and not rely on drugs alone.

Here are a few lifestyle interventions to aid in the process of lowering HBP and keeping it within the goal range of systolic 120 mmHg or below:

  • HBP Medication
  • Weight Reduction
  • Exercise (2.5 hours per week of moderate exercise: jogging, swimming, walking etc.)
  • Reduce salt intake (only 3 or 4 grams per day)
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables (4-6 servings per day)
  • Snack on dark chocolate (antioxidants in cocoa, called flavanols, can help dilate arteries)
  • Reduce alcohol intake (maximum drinks per day:one for women and two for men)
  • Meditate

The US National Institutes of Health has created what is known as the DASH diet plan (dashdiet.org) in order to lower blood pressure without medication, and also subsequently aid in weight loss. Through copious amounts of research, DASH is a strict eating plan that is rich in vegetables and fruit, low-fat and nonfat dairy products, along with beans, nuts, and seeds. The snacks and meals are balanced with both fiber filled foods (fruits and vegetables) along with food that is protein-rich and/or contain heart healthy fats (nuts, seeds, avocado, fatty fish) that aid in offsetting hunger. A decrease in high blood pressure was achieved by decreasing the amount of “empty carbs” (pasta, bread, rice, sweets, ice cream, candy etc.) consumed and replacing them with heart healthy fats and/or protein. By doing so, the diet provides more key nutrients which includes: potassium, calcium, and magnesium, which all contribute naturally to lowering blood pressure.

 

Resources:

 

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/AboutHighBloodPressure/Understanding-Blood-Pressure-Readings_UCM_301764_Article.jsp#.Vs3IevkrLIU “No-Smoking Confidence Assessment and Tips.” Understanding Blood Pressure Readings. American HEart Association. N.p., 18 Dec. 2015. Web. 24 Feb. 2016.

 

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/WhyBloodPressureMatters/Why-Blood-Pressure-Matters_UCM_002051_Article.jsp#.Vs3JOvkrLIU

“Why Blood Pressure Matters.” Why Blood Pressure Matters. American Heart Association. N.p., 13 Aug. 2014. Web. 24 Feb. 2016.

 

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/UnderstandYourRiskforHighBloodPressure/Understand-Your-Risk-for-High-Blood-Pressure_UCM_002052_Article.jsp#.Vs3KGvkrLIU

“Understand Your Risk for High Blood Pressure.” Understand Your Risk for High Blood Pressure. American Heart Association, 18 Dec. 2015. Web. 02 Mar. 2016.

 

http://blog.heart.org/more-aggressive-treatment-of-high-blood-pressure-saves-lives-in-study/

“More Aggressive Treatment of High Blood Pressure Saves Lives in Study – News on Heart.org.” News on Heartorg. American Heart Association, 09 Nov. 2015. Web. 02 Mar. 2016.

 

http://www.cnn.com/2015/11/12/health/blood-pressure-control-and-hypertension/

Goldschmidt, Debra, and Carina Storrs. “High Blood Pressure Control Improving; What Else to Do.” CNN. Cable News Network, 12 Nov. 2015. Web. 24 Feb. 2016.

 

http://dashdiet.org/what_is_the_dash_diet.asp

Heller, Marla. “What Is the DASH Diet?” What Is the DASH Diet? N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Mar. 2016.

Advertisements

Foam Roller: Tips and Techniques

Foam Roller Tips and Techniques: Upper Back, Shoulder, and Chest

Benefits of using a foam roller is comparable to a deep tissue massage, myofascial release and myofascial trigger point therapy.Myofascial trigger points are taut bands or knots in the muscle tissue that can refer pain to other areas. Trigger points can also limit range-of-motion, inhibit muscle strength and cause muscle fatigue. Regular work can increase flexibility and performance while decreasing muscle tension and pain.

Maximize the effectiveness of the foam roller by incorporating it into your daily stretching routine. Use the roller before and after activity, and always roll before you stretch. This will help to warm up cold muscles and prepare them for deeper stretching.

Make sure you roll on soft tissue and not over joints, ligaments, or bony protrusions. Start by placing your body on a roller and slowly roll up and down the muscle. If you find a knot or tight band, hold that spot and try to feel the tissue release and soften underneath the pressure. Take deep breaths and try to keep your body relaxed as possible.

Use of the foam roller can be painful. If an area is too painful to roll, place your body on the roller for 15 seconds before moving on to the next spot. As the tissue starts to loosen up you should be able to roll with less pain.


Thoracic Spine

019Position the roller so that it’s inline with your spine, knees bent with feet flat on the floor. Make sure that it is supporting you from your tailbone all the way up to the back of your head so that you can relax everything during the exercise.

Hold this position for 15-90 seconds as long as it is comfortable and does not cause pain.

To target the the postural muscles on the right side, roll your body to the left, keeping your spine parallel to the roller, and stop on the muscles that run along the length of your spine. Hold for 15-90 seconds and allow yourself to relax. Repeat on the left side.

 Pectoralis

028Lie with your spine inline with the foam roller. Again, be sure to keep your head and hips supported on the roller. While keeping your knees bent and feet flat on the floor for balance, place your arms directly out to the side so you make a “T” with your body.

The more advanced version of this 029stretch is to have your upper arms on the floor perpendicular to your body and elbows bent at a 90 degree angle up and pointing above the head. Hold for 15-90 seconds.

 

 

 

 

Upper Back (rhomboids, middle trapezius, thoracic spine)

022Lie with the foam roller perpendicular to your body under the upper back. place your hands across your chest or behind your head with your elbows drawn in slightly toward midline- this allows for cervical spine support as well as letting your shoulder blades separate. If able, move body up and down a few inches at a time to target trigger points. Hold for 15-90 seconds as long as it is comfortable and does not cause pain.

Lateral Upper Back (latissimus dorsi, teres major)

026Lie on the left side with the foam roller perpendicular to the body and slightly below the armpit. Lean back slightly and extend the left arm out with your palm facing forward. Hold for 15-90 seconds. Repeat on right side.

To get an additional spot, try angling your body (as seen in picture 2) to assist in getting more of the teres/latissimus region

027

Mid Back (rhomboids)

024Lie with foam roller perpendicular to your body and across the shoulder blades, arms crossed on chest. Turn slight to the right about 40-45 degrees or until the roller rest between the shoulder blade and spine. Once positioned, slowly roll your body up and down an inch or two in either direction along the rhomboid. Hold for 15-90 seconds. Repeat on opposite side of body.

Stop in the office to pick up your foam roller today! (802)655-0354

Reference: Foam Roller Techniques, OPTP, 2008, Michael Fredericson, MD, Terri Lyn S. Yamamoto, PhD, Mark Fadil, CMT, p. 15, 17, 23.

 

The Magic of Kinesio Tape ®

stock-photo-54581982-kinesio-tape-lotus-position

In the past ten years more and more people have been noticing Olympic, professional, and amateur athletes as well as coworkers in the office with colorful strips of tape all over their bodies. This wonderful and recently recognized material is called Kinesio Tape®. Health care professionals around the world use this modality for its “grasping and elevating” effect on the skin to support and/or rehabilitate muscles and joints. It does this by increasing lymphatic drainage, which in turn elevates circulation and reduces pain by taking the pressure and irritation off of the neuro and sensory receptors of the body (3).

Kinesio Tape® was developed by Dr. Kenzo Kase, a chiropractor and acupuncturist, to mimic the natural qualities of the human skin. It is non restrictive, does not create drag on the skin and allows for full range of motion of the involved joint. Kinesio Tape® is made of 100% cotton fibers with acrylic adhesive; it is heat activated, and contains no latex.

Kinesio Tape’s® Benefits Include:

  • increasing circulation and lymphatic flow
  • supporting and assisting muscular function
  • supporting fascial tissue
  • decreasing pain
  • improving joint function

When using the tape over wrist extensors, Kinesio® has been scientifically proven to significantly increase grip strength by facilitating the actual muscle contraction (1). It has also been demonstrated to increase the flexibility of the lumbar spine even 48 hours after removal of the tape! In this particular research study the tape did not need tension on the muscle to get positive results (2).

If you are still skeptical about Kinesio Tape®, here are a few more benefits:

It’s Used To:

  • correct muscle function
  • improve circulation
  • relieve pain
  • reposition subluxed joints (3).

Why Use Kinesio Tape®?:

  • Durable and Economical: it can be worn 24 hours, even in the shower, for up to 4 days straight with continual benefits.
  • Versatile: with over 1,200 different applications, a single injury has multiple taping techniques to choose from.
  • Revolutionary: one of a kind, designed to lift the skin away from the muscle to decrease pain and increase circulation.
  • Rehabilitates: assisting in support, flexibility and rehabilitation.
  • Unique: being 100% cotton, hypoallergenic and latex free, this elastic tape makes for a breathable and comfortable fit that comes in an array of colors and sizes (3).

It is used to treat a variety of musculoskeletal conditions:

  • Forearm tendonitis (tennis and golfer’s elbow)
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Shoulder tendonitis/rotator cuff syndrome
  • Shoulder instability/sprain/strain
  • Shoulder bursitis
  • AC joint sprain
  • Hip bursitis
  • Iliotibial band syndrome
  • Shin splints
  • Hamstring/quadricep strain/contusion
  • Patellar tendonitis
  • Knee sprain/knee bursitis
  • Condromalacia patella
  • Plantar fascitis/achilles tendonitis
  • Ankle sprain
  • Whiplash
  • Neck/mid back/low back sprain/strain injuries
  • And More!

This new, non restrictive, supportive tape is a wonderful new adjunct to aid in the healing process of the above listed musculoskeletal conditions.

However, Kinesio Tape® needs to be applied by a skilled health care provider or, at least the individual must be trained how the apply it for the specific injury or condition.

Don’t let that injury drag on and prevent you from getting back to living your life. Consider an application of Kinesio Tape® and let a little magic begin!

 

References

(1)Immediate and Delayed Effects of Forearm Kinesio Taping on Grip Strength

August 5, 2014. Hosein Kouhzad Mohannadi, Khosro Khademi Kalantari, Sedighe Sadat Naeimi.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov.ezproxy.uvm.edu/pmc/articles/PMC4222018/

(2)The effect of kinesio taping in forward bending of the lumbar spine.

September 26, 2014. Lemos TV, Albino AC, Matheus JP, Barbosa Ade M.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov.ezproxy.uvm.edu/pubmed/25276018

(3)http://www.kinesiotaping.com/about/about-video

Metatarsalgia – Pain under the ball of your foot!

14005505-close-up-of-the-bottom-of-a-man-s-foot

Pain under the ball of your foot? You may have metatarsalgia.

Metatarsalgia is pain of the metatarsal heads, where the toes meet the long foot bones, under the ball of the foot.
It is commonly described as: burning, sharp pain or aching pain beneath the toes. Some people will describe it as feeling like their sock is waded up in their shoe or like something is in their shoe.
Metatarsalgia is caused by a misalignment of the metatarsal bones relative to the phalangeal or toe bones, thereby causing stress and resulting inflammation and irritation to the soft tissues, the joint capsule and cartilage of the joint.
Contributing factors to this are the following:
High impact sport such as: running, basketball, aerobics/step class, etc because of the increased absorption of the forefoot upon impact. Worn, ill fitting and unsupportive shoes contribute significantly to increased pressure on the metatarsal heads.
Foot deformities and disease processes such as: high instep foot formations, pronation or dropped arches of the foot, hallux valgus or big toe bunions, Morton’s neuroma (a thickening of tissue around the nerves between the toes, typically between the 3rd and 4th toes) and rheumatoid arthritis can all cause increased pressure, inflammation or irritation of the metatarsal heads.
Poor fitting shoes including: high heeled shoes, wedge shoes (sole heel height is higher than toe height) and cowboy boots. These types of shoes transfer weight to the metatarsal heads thereby irritating this area. Shoes with a narrow toe box, tight fitting shoes and shoes that are too small can squeeze the toes together and result in stress upon the metatarsal heads.
Fractures of the foot, esp stress fractures of the metatarsals, can cause weight to shift onto the metatarsal heads because of compensation.
Aging and increased weight gain. As people age their fat pad on the bottom of their foot can get displaced and thinned causing increased pressure on the metatarsal joints. Weight gain, esp in the abdominal area, can cause the increased weight to shift forward onto the forefoot with exercise and even with simple walking.
Effective treatments:
Proper fitting shoes with adequate sole cushioning and flexible support.
Custom made, flexible orthotics (arch supports) are usually extremely effective for treating this condition. They should provide medial and transverse arch supports for the individual’s foot. The transverse arch will lift and spread the metatarsals in a slight curved nature in order to prevent “dropping” of the metatarsal heads.
Non custom, flexible orthotics may also be adequate to support the foot, thereby decreasing stress to the metatarsal heads
.Foot adjusting can realign the displaced metatarsal heads in relation to the toes and the other bones of the foot.
Low level, cold laser or ultrasound therapy to the metatarsal head area can decrease inflammation or irritation and significantly calm down the area.
Soaking your feet in hot, Epsom salt bath. This simple home remedy can take some of the soreness out of the foot.
Steroid injections, in severe, non responsive cases may be required. However, this should be avoided if possible as the corticosteroid injections can cause soft tissue, muscular, tendinous and cartilage tissue to degenerate or rupture. Never a good thing. (Don’t let it get to this point.)
There you have it. May you be walking along with ease soon!