Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Protect Your Ticker by Observing Blood Pressure Awareness Month: Take the Steps to Test for and Treat High Blood Pressure

May is blood pressure awareness month. Like all good causes, the National High Blood Pressure Education Program (NHBPEP), as part of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), has decided to designate a month devoted to educating people about the importance of getting their blood pressure tested and lowering their blood pressure if necessary. The annual event may just save people from the dangerous diseases that are caused by untreated high blood pressure.

A good, accurate blood pressure test is a necessary first step to giving you the right information about where you are and what you need to do to keep your blood pressure at a healthy level. Many quick stop blood pressure centers at the pharmacy or even your doctor’s office, don’t always give you the right information. That is because you are usually in a hurry, or perhaps so stressed out by shopping that these tests give you inaccurate readings. Often a false high blood pressure reading is the case, but this may only be a temporary raise. On the other hand, a false low reading can result from faulty equipment or the way the cuff is applied (see the article I published last week on how to get a good blood pressure reading from May 10, 2006.)

There are other ways to make sure you know and understand your blood pressure situation. Follow these steps to stay on top of your heart health by monitoring your blood pressure.

1. Get regular readings at the same time each month. If you are concerned about possible hypertension, then daily monitoring may be necessary. For the average healthy person, monthly, semi-annually or even annual readings are sufficient.

2. If you are borderline hypertensive, take preventative measures immediately. Don’t wait until your blood pressure gets dangerously high to do something about it. Changes in lifestyle and nutrition can greatly impact blood pressure and help you avoid life-long medication. It is easier to get the situation under control if dealt with early on.

3. Prepare for testing by giving yourself time to relax and come to a natural resting heart rate before taking the reading.

4. Don’t take blood pressure measurements immediately after drinking coffee, cola, or other drinks containing caffeine. Also, wait an hour after taking cold or allergy medicines. These raise blood pressure temporarily and will give you a false reading.

5. Blood pressure is different when standing or sitting or suddenly changing position. Don’t take a reading until you have been in the same position for at least a couple of minutes. You can also take readings in both arms and get the average for a more accurate assessment.

The most important part of keeping your blood pressure and heart healthy is knowledge. Learn about how you can eat right, how much to exercise, and what preventative measures you can take each day. If you do all of these things you will be able to keep blood pressure stable even if you have a family history of hypertension. Above all, keep your weight in the healthy range for your height and age. Just losing a few pounds can significantly lower blood pressure and improve your overall health.

To Your Natural Health,

Frank Mangano
Author of "The Silent Killer Exposed"

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Dangerous Shortcuts Your Doctor May Be Taking When Measuring Your Blood Pressure

Did you know that your trusted family doctor may be taking a shortcut during your office visits that might be putting your health at risk? I know it sounds hard to believe, but it's true. As a result of trying to squeeze as many appointments as possible into their daily schedules, doctors sometimes skip vital steps during your physical exams.

It starts when you are rushed into the doctor's office and the very first thing they do is take your blood pressure. This actually may be the worst time during your visit to do such a test, because the rushing and hurrying combined with the anxiety of being in a doctor's office to begin with can automatically cause your blood pressure to spike.

In situations like this your blood pressure readings can be inaccurate or misleading. There are serious health consequences that can happen to you from a misdiagnosis - in either direction.

For someone with borderline high blood pressure, a false low reading may delay the necessary precautions to lower it. Untreated high blood pressure can lead to serious heart disease even decades down the road. On the other side of the coin is the scenario that a false high reading is recorded and a patient gets put
unnecessarily on medication -- medication they will likely have to take for the rest of their lives. For these reasons, it is critical that health care providers give accurate blood pressure

There are three areas where improper blood pressure readings can far too easily occur. One is with the procedures used in taking the blood pressure readings. The American Heart Association (AHA) has
established guidelines for taking blood pressure readings which involves taking at least 4 different readings and recording which were taken while standing and which while sitting.

Using the cuff, the AHA recommends taking the patient's blood pressure reading TWICE, once on each arm, while the patient is in a standing position. Then record the average of these two readings.

Next, doctors should take the patient's blood pressure TWICE, once on each arm, while they are sitting and record the average of the two readings. It is advised that the standing blood pressure numbers be used as a reference only, but the average of sitting measurement should be used as the most correct reading.

This procedure applies to taking measurements at home or at the doctor's office. If the technician at your doctor's office does not follow this procedure, request that they take more readings so that they can get a more accurate assessment. They may be surprised if they have not done this routinely how different the readings can be from one arm to the other or between standing and sitting. Also, ask them to give you a few minutes to relax after arriving at the office. If you can, try to be a little early for the appointment so you can have plenty of time to rest.

The second area where blood pressure readings can be inaccurate is with faulty equipment. Cuffs need to be calibrated periodically to be accurate. Doctor's offices and labs should do this routinely, and you will need to maintain your home system according to the manufacturer's instructions.

If you are buying a cuff for home use, it is a good idea to use a manual cuff. Few of the automatic blood pressure cuffs on the market for the general public are very accurate and easily lose calibration. They tend to give false low readings and a false sense of healthy blood pressure. The hospital grade automatic
cuffs are much more accurate, but not affordable to the average person. A manual cuff still gives the most accurate reading. A moderately priced cuff and stethoscope set can help you stay on top of your blood pressure from home. That is, so long as you know what you are doing.

That brings us to the third area where errors can occur: operator error. You must learn how to properly use the cuff and listen for a heartbeat. Be sure to get proper training from a qualified health care professional.

When doing the test at home, operator error often occurs when the cuff is not made tight enough to get a loud enough heart beat. The cuff has to be pumped up to the point that it is just starting to be uncomfortable. Next, make sure you are in a quiet enough space that you can tell when the heart beat is starting and stopping and then take careful note of the gauge's reading.

To Your Natural Health,

Frank Mangano
Author of "The Silent Killer Exposed"

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The High Blood Pressure And Sodium Connection: Is Salt Raising Your Blood Pressure

You can have your cake and eat it too -- well at least you can lower your blood pressure and have your salt too. That is what recent research is telling us about sodium’s role in managing blood pressure. Hypertension, it turns out, is not caused by too much salt. Neither is it lowered by simply cutting salt out of your diet. So how is it that table salt (sodium) is still getting such a bad rap and being linked to high blood pressure? The real culprit it turns out is not salt, but how your body manages sodium and its proportion to the amount of potassium, calcium and magnesium in your body.

Scientists have discovered that deficiencies in potassium, calcium and magnesium have a much greater impact on blood pressure than the mineral salt. These other minerals are so important in controlling blood pressure that when they are out of balance with each other, they can make salt more of a threat to healthy blood pressure.

The fact is that only about 10 percent of the population is considered “salt sensitive.” It is this relatively small group that has to watch their salt intake for a variety of reasons, including its impact on blood pressure.

There are some easy ways to make sure all of the important minerals in your body are in balance. These include:

ü Eat a well-balanced diet with a variety of foods. This will ensure that you are getting a wide range of nutrients and not just one or two key elements.

ü Make sure you get enough calcium -- 2000 mg per day. Calcium is essential to bone density, but in relationship to blood pressure, it is believed that low calcium levels can actually cause high blood pressure. Calcium is a natural diuretic, so when salt is consumed, even larger quantities, having enough calcium signals the kidneys to get rid of the excess sodium. Also, calcium prevents a certain hormone that raises blood pressure from being released and doing its damage.

ü Get plenty of potassium. Studies have shown that diets high in potassium and lower in sodium can prevent many diseases and keep blood pressure lower. On the other hand, when there is much more sodium than potassium, blood pressure goes up. Balance the two, and you can make great strides in controlling hypertension.

Here are some food suggestions for getting enough of these essential minerals:

Calcium -- Aside from dairy products, which can be high in fat and hard on the digestive system, broccoli, spinach, and salmon are good sources.

Magnesium -- Foods such as whole grains, nuts and black beans will help you get the beneficial 400-800 mg daily of magnesium.

Potassium -- bananas, potatoes, orange juice, and cantaloupe all provide potassium. Potassium is the most substantiated mineral in controlling blood pressure.

When even good food choices leave you feeling you are lacking in important minerals, supplements can pick up the slack. Whether through food choices or supplements, getting enough minerals into your diet is necessary to counteract the impact of sodium in the battle with high blood pressure.

To Your Natural Health,

Frank Mangano
Author of "The Silent Killer Exposed"