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.

Inflammatory Foods

Derivation: inflame. My definition: To produce a flame inside you.

Inflammation is the new buzz word now being related to many chronic medical conditions such as: allergies, Alzheimer’s, asthma, high cholesterol and narrowing of the arteries, cancer, heart disease, celiac disease, chronic pain of muscles and joints, recurring “tendonitis”, Crohn’s disease, colitis, I.B.S. (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), dementia, diabetes, eczema and psoriasis, high blood pressure, interstitial cystitis, rheumatoid arthritis, other inflammatory arthritis; fibromyalgia, myofascial pain syndrome, Parkinson’s, slow healing response, osteoarthritis, etc and the list goes on.

So, how can we influence the amount of inflammation going on inside us? One accessible way is through manipulation of our diet. Certain foods have been shown to create inflammation in the body, whereas others can decrease the amount. The following is a list of pro-inflammatory foods: Bacon, bologna, bratwurst, brownies, (white) breads- including buns, rolls and bagels, butter, cake, candy, cereals*, cheese (American, cheddar, creamed, gouda, jack, mozzarella, provolone, swiss), cookies, corn chips, corn syrup, crackers*, cream, croissants, corn chips, danish, doughnuts, egg rolls, french fries, french toast, (deep) fried foods, fruit juices, granola*, hamburgers, hash browns, honey, hot dogs, ice cream, jam/jelly, margarine, molasses, muffins, noodles*, onion rings, pancakes, pastrami, pepperoni, pie, pickles, pita bread*, pizza, pasta*, popcorn, potato chips, pretzels, puddings, relish, ribs (beef or pork), rice (white), salami, sausage, sherbet, shortening, sodas, soft drinks, syrup, tortillas (flour), tortilla chips, waffles, whipped cream, whole dairy.

*Unless 100% whole grain and high fiber.

The following are considered anti-inflammatory foods: Acai, amaranth, anchovies, apples, arugula, artichokes, asparagus, avocado, bananas, beans (green, black, kidney, garbonzo, pinto, lima, and soy), bean sprouts, beets, berries (blackberries, blueberries, boysenberries, goji berries, gooseberries, raspberries, strawberries), bok choy, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, canola oils, cantaloupe, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cherries, cranberries, cucumbers, dairy (non-fat), eggplant, endive, gooseberries, grapes, grapefruit, herring, honeydew, kale, lemons, lentils, mackerel, mango, mangosteen, millet, mushroom, mustard greens, nectarines, noni, nuts – raw (almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, chestnuts, filberts, hazelnuts, macadamia, peanuts, walnuts), okra, olive oil, onions, oranges, papaya, parsnips, pears, peas, peaches, peppers (bell and hot), persimmons, pineapple, pomegranate, plums, poultry (no skin), prunes, pumpkin, quinoa, rhubarb, rutabaga, salmon, sardines, scallions, seeds (flax, poppy, pumpkin, sesame, sunflower), spices (cinnamon, cayenne, garlic, ginger, green tea, parsley, pepper, nutmeg, oregano, rosemary, turmeric), spinach, squash (butternut, crook neck, summer, winter, zucchini), sweet potatoes, tomatoes, trout, tuna (water-packed), turnips, water chestnuts, watermelon, wild game, yams.

If you analyze these lists you will notice that pretty much all the fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, spices as well as poultry (chicken, turkey, duck) and wild game are on the good list. And guess what? Processed foods, fried foods, breads (not whole grain), sweets (simple sweeteners), fruit juices, snack foods, sodas, margarine, whole dairy, many cheeses are on the “No-No” or “Here Comes the Heat” list. Does this sound all too familiar? Now we have yet another reason to try and reduce or delete from the “No-No” list. To quote Michael Pollan, “Eat food (real) and mostly vegetables”. Simple as that.

Forearm Tendonitis

ImageTendonitis is the inflammation of a tendon, the bands of strong connective tissue that attach muscle to bone, which are often due to a repetitive strain injury.  Repeated straining of a tendon can cause small tears that lead to the inflammation of the tendon.  The fibrous tissues of the tendons have a relatively poor blood supply and are therefore slow to heal compared with muscle or bone.  The pain, swelling, stiffness, and weakness caused by tendonitis can last for months or even years.  This condition is common among athletes, computer users and those engaged in strenuous manual labor involving regular lifting which tends to overuse the tendons through repetitive motions. 

Pain in the forearm area and wrist is described as “tight, achy, and burning sensation”, similar to a pulled muscle.  The swelling of the tendons from the wrist to the elbow can be extremely painful.  Swelling, at times, will make it quite stiff with limited range of motion in the wrist.  Routine activities such as turning a door knob or opening a jar can become impossible as it may be difficult to make a fist or flex the fingers. 

The pain is fairly constant but will increase with physical activity.  It is also common to experience pain in the morning and during the night, when the arm is at rest.   Some people describe hearing grinding sounds when rotating their hand or wrist. 

Treatment

RICE it!  R.I.C.E is an acronym for treatment used by people who suffer from forearm tendonitis.  ‘R’ for period of rest, during which time one should avoid lifting heavy items or straining the muscles in any way.    ‘I’ for ice.  Applying ice can be useful in reducing inflammation and pain.  Wrap an icepack in a towel and do not apply ice for more than 20 minutes at a time in order to minimize the risk of frostbite.  ‘C’ for compression.  Light pressure on the forearm has proven helpful along with keeping the arm slightly elevated (‘E’) when resting and applying ice, further helping to alleviate swelling. 

Stretching 

Gentle stretching of the forearms in wImagerist extension and flexion will help elongate the tendons of the forearm.  Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds and repeat for 4-6 repetitions a day.

Cold Laser Therapy

We are proud to offer laser therapy for tendonitis and various other musculoskeletal conditions we treat.   Low-level laser therapy (LLLT) reduces the pain and inflammation and promotes healing by focusing infrared and visible red light on the injured tendon.  The treatment is painless and the patient may feel a warm tingling sensation as the nerves are stimulated.  Laser therapy for tendonitis may reduce the need for surgery and cut the healing time for tendonitis by as much as 50%.  It may also help replace anti-inflammatory and pain medications.   Photons (light energy) from the laser beam stimulate the cells of the damaged tissues, increasing cell division, circulation, and oxygen supply to the tissues, thereby promoting tissue regeneration.  Laser therapy for tendonitis also promotes nerve cell regeneration.

Call our office and let’s get started on your tendonitis treatment plan today!  802-655-0354.

 

References:

http://altmd.com/Articles/Laser-Therapy-for-Tendinitis

http://www.tendonitistypes.com/forearm-tendonitis.html

http://www.itendonitis.com/forearm-tendonitis.html

Kneebone WJ. (2006) Practical Applications of Low Level Laser Therapy. Practical Pain Management November/December

How to make a Castor Oil Pack

HOW TO MAKE A CASTOR OIL PACK

by Dr. Kelly Rybicki

Many of us are familiar with the grandmother references to taking castor oil for prevention and as a cure all for many health ailments. There is not much documented research on the efficacy of castor oil for health conditions.  However, there is much anecdotal evidence to support using castor oil as a innocuous and possibly helpful external application for reducing inflammation and reducing pain. Castor oil is a unique fatty acid, a monounsaturated, 18 carbon fatty acid with a high amount of ricinoleic acid.

Castor oil has been suggested to help: arthritis, chronic joint and muscle pain, improve lymphatic flow, stimulate the immune system and to relieve constipation.

Over my 20 years as a practicing chiropractor, I have recommended this innocuous treatment to try and help my patients reduce their musculoskeletal inflammation, with favorable results. It is a home remedy which is inexpensive, recyclable and generally without side effects (although one should always do a sensitivity test by applying a small amount of castor oil to the skin and monitor for allergic reactions to the oil).

MAKING A CASTOR OIL PACK:
Supplies:
1) Cold pressed, preferably organic, castor oil
2) Hot water bottle or moist heating pad
3) Plastic wrap
4) Three squares (depending on size of area you want to cover) of cotton flannel or towel
5) Old towel
6) Tupperware to keep castor oil soaked squares in

* Soak squares in castor oil until they are saturated
* Place three soaked squares on body part, cover with plastic wrap
* Put hot water bottle/heating pad on top of plastic wrap, cover with old towel
* Leave on 30-60 minutes. Depending on problem, treat daily for 3 days to 2 weeks
* Store squares in Tupperware after every use
* When oil’s color changes and/or the oil smells rancid, replace oil

For conditions such as forearm tendonitis, place squares over forearm muscles and insertions. For low back conditions, place squares over back area affected. For arthritis of the knee, wrap squares around the front, sides and back of the knee. ETC….