Eye on blood pressure
Your blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against your blood vessel walls. When you have high blood pressure, the pressure in your arteries is elevated. One in four adults, about 50 million Americans, have high blood pressure. When untreated, it can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.
The risk factors
Those at a greater risk for high blood pressure include people with relatives that have high blood pressure; African Americans; people over the age of 35;
overweight people; people who aren’t physically active; people who use too much salt; people who drink too much alcohol; people with diabetes, gout and kidney disease; pregnant women; women who take birth control pills who are overweight, had high blood pressure during pregnancy, have a family history of high blood pressure or have mild kidney disease.
Avoiding the problem
So how can you avoid high blood pressure? Take steps to live a healthier life and you’ll greatly improve your odds of having high
blood pressure later in life. The Red Cross recommends anyone at risk lose weight if they are overweight; eat healthy meals low in saturated fat, cholesterol and salt; limit alcohol to no more than one drink per day for women or two drinks a day for men; be more physically active; take medicine the way your doctor tells you; know what your blood pressure should be and work to keep it at that level, and talk to your doctor about taking medication.
Whether you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure
— also called hypertension — or are concerned because you have some of the risk factors for the disease, understand this: While there is no cure, high blood pressure is manageable. The American Heart Association notes that lifestyle modifications are essential. These changes may reduce your blood pressure without the use of prescription medications. Adopting a healthy lifestyle is critical for the prevention of HBP and an indispensable part of managing it. Think of these changes as a “lifestyle prescription” and make every effort to comply.
The effects of obesity Obesity is a growing health threat in our country, though there are some steps you can take to avoid it. The National Health, Lung and Blood Institute recommends following a healthy eating plan and making healthy food choices while also keeping tabs on how many calories you consume. Another major factor: portion size. Watch the portion sizes in fast food and other restaurant meals. The portions served often are enough for two or three people. Children’s portion sizes should be smaller than those for adults. Another recurring theme: Be active. Make personal and family time active. Find activities that everyone will enjoy. For example, go for a brisk walk, bike or rollerblade, or train together for a walk
or run. Reduce screen time. Limit the use of TVs, computers, DVDs and video games because they limit time for physical activity. Health experts recommend two hours or less a day of screen time that’s not work- or homework-related.
By the numbers
Data from 2009-2010 provided by The President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition indicates that over 78 million U.S. adults and about 12.5 million (16.9 percent) children and adolescents are obese. Recent reports project that by 2030, half of all adults (115 million adults) in the United States will be obese. Overweight adolescents have a 70 percent chance of becoming overweight or obese
adults. For children with disabilities, obesity rates are approximately 38 percent higher than for children without disabilities. It gets worse for the adult population. Obesity rates for adults with disabilities are approximately 57 percent higher than for adults without disabilities. Statistics show obesity has skyrocketed since the 1970s, with the number of states with obese adults and children typically doubling or tripling over the past 40 years.
The next generation
Nearly 45 percent of children living in poverty are overweight or obese compared with 22 percent of children living in households with incomes four times the
poverty level. Almost 40 percent of black and Latino youth ages 2 to 19 are overweight or obese compared with only 29 percent of white youth. Obesity among children in the United States has remained flat — at around 17 percent — in 2003-2004 and 20112012. Between 2003 and 2012, obesity among children between 2 and 5 years of age has declined from 14 percent to 8 percent — a 43 percent decrease in just under a decade. Obesity rates in children 6 to 11 years old have decreased from 18.8 percent in 2003-2004 to 17.7 percent in 2011-2012; obesity rates for children 12 to 19 years old have increased from 17.4 percent to 20.5 percent in the same time period.
Don’t stress out Stress may contribute to high blood pressure, heart disease and emotional distress, according to the Red Cross.
Are you stressed out?
When you’re really stressed out, you’re probably already aware of it — but stress also can impact you in other ways, sometimes when you don’t even realize it. According to the American Heart Association, stress can manifest in physical ways including headache; backache; neck ache; stomach ache; tight muscles; clenched jaw; low energy level and fitful sleep. Stress also can manifest emotionally, with issues including anxiety; anger; depression; helplessness; feeling out of control; tension; being easily irritated and
Keep Stress Levels Down
Here are some tips to keep your stress levels down: If possible, stop what you are doing and take a short walk; get a drink of water or juice; take a few slow deep breaths; listen to some soothing music; do something you enjoy; watch a funny movie; exercise; learn to accept what you can’t change; talk to a friend or confidant; get plenty of sleep; set realistic expectations; learn to say no; organize and prioritize.
Try not to sweat the small stuff
The American Heart Association notes one of the best ways to avoid stress is to remember to laugh. Laughter makes us feel good. Don’t be afraid to laugh out
loud at a joke, a funny movie or a comic strip, even when you’re alone. Pacing yourself also is important, as we need to remember to slow down. Try to “pace” instead of “race.” Plan ahead and allow enough time to get the most important things done without having to rush. Being organized is another way to avoid stress and can help avoid situations that might stress you out. Use “to do” lists to help you focus on your most important tasks. Approach big tasks one step at a time. For example, start by organizing just one part of your life — your car, desk, kitchen, closet, cupboard or drawer.
Keep your perspective
A hobby can be a great stress
reliever, and there are few hobbies better than volunteering in your community and giving back. Find out about the nonprofits in your community and how you might be able to help by donating your time. Helping those in need is a great stress reliever and can help give you more perspective on your own problems.
Susan G. Komen sets bold goal
Last month, the Susan G. Komen breast cancer organization announced a bold plan to reduce the nation’s 40,000 breast cancer deaths by 50 percent in 10 years, by improving access to quality and timely cancer care for the underserved and enhancing Komen’s research focus on lethal breast cancers. “We know that people die of breast cancer for two reasons: a lack of high-quality breast cancer care accessible to everyone, and a lack of treatments for the most aggressive and deadly forms of this disease,” said Dr. Judith A. Salerno, president and CEO of Susan G. Komen. “We are taking direct action designed to solve these problems to reduce breast cancer deaths by half in the U.S. within the next decade.” $27 Million Advanced for Health Equity Salerno said that Fund II Foundation made a grant worth approximately $27 million for a program initially targeting 10 metropolitan areas to significant-
ly reduce what she called the “appalling” difference in death rates between African-American and white women. African-American women are nearly 40 percent more likely to die of breast cancer than white women; in some cities, that gap is as high as 74 percent. “This constitutes a public health crisis that must be addressed, first in the cities where these death rates are highest, and then in all areas of the country,” Salerno said. Salerno thanked Fund II Foundation for the grant that makes the initiative possible. “The generosity of Fund II Foundation will save lives,” Salerno said. “We are humbled by the faith that Fund II Foundation has placed in this initiative and its interest in ensuring health equity for African-American citizens.” Fund II Foundation President, Robert F. Smith said, "No longer should African-American women be more likely to die from a breast cancer diagnosis than
others. Through this grant supporting Susan G. Komen, Fund II Foundation will help address these unfair disparities across our country." Komen’s African-American Health Equity Initiative targets cities where mortality rates and late-stage diagnosis of AfricanAmerican women are highest. The goal: to reduce the mortality gap by 25 percent within five years of beginning work in each city. The initial targeted cities are Memphis, Tenn., St. Louis, Mo., Dallas, Los Angeles, Virginia Beach, Va., Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia. Baltimore and Detroit have been identified as highpriority areas as the program expands over the next year. The African-American Health Equity Initiative complements the work that Komen and its network of 100 U.S. Affiliates already are doing to remove barriers to cancer care. Komen and Komen Affiliates
support thousands of local programs that provide screenings, treatment assistance, emergency financial aid, medical supplies and living expense for underserved individuals. The organization has invested more than $2 billion over 34 years for these programs aimed at uninsured, under-insured, and medically vulnerable populations. “We will never waver from our commitment to remove barriers of language, geography, economics or culture for all people facing this disease. Every woman or man must be able to access and receive high-quality breast health and breast cancer care, be supported through their treatment and into survivorship,” Salerno said. Research The second prong of Komen’s plan enhances Komen’s focus on aggressive forms of breast cancer and metastatic disease (stage IV or cancer that has spread to other parts of the body).
As the largest nonprofit funder of breast cancer research (investing more than $920 million since inception), Komen has funded nearly $160 million in metastatic disease research since its founding. Komen has funded another $110 million in research on aggressive forms of breast cancer – such as triple negative, inflammatory breast cancer and hormone-positive forms of breast cancer – that are resistant to standard treatments. “The majority of breast cancer deaths are from metastatic breast cancer. We also know that aggressive forms of breast cancer are more likely to recur and spread, so we are focusing our efforts in both of these areas,” Salerno said. The new initiative aims to advance research into new treatments for aggressive and metastatic disease. Komen also will seek to leverage next-generation technology that can detect and allow treatment of primary or recurrent breast cancers at their very earliest stages. Komen’s Work in the North Texas Community As a part of Komen’s national strategy to reduce U.S. breast cancer deaths by 50% in the next 10 years, Susan G. Komen North Texas has renewed its commitment to investing in community programs providing breast cancer and breast health education, screening, diagnostics, and treatment to the under and uninsured residents in its 13-county service area (Archer, Baylor, Clay, Collin, Cooke, Denton, Fannin, Grayson, Hunt, Montague, Wichita, Wilbarger, and Wise counties). In those 13 counties, there are no county hospitals, most counties do not have a county hospital, and they have one of the highest uninsured rates in the country. For many residents, especially in rural areas, there are simply no options for affordable, quality care. That’s where Komen North Texas and its community partners come in. This year, Komen North Texas has invested more than $756,000 in breast health programs, education and outreach programs, and national scientific
research. “I felt a lump in my left breast. I was scared because I do not have insurance or money to see a doctor. I cried in bed every night. I had no solution and no hope,”
said Mary*, a recipient of Komen North Texas funded services through a current grant recipient, the Asian Breast Health Outreach Project (ABHOP). With the help of a friend, Mary learned
about ABHOP, who in turn informed her that her treatment would be paid for by Komen North Texas. “I survived because of the love from ABHOP and the free medical services offered by Komen North Texas,” said Mary. “I understand I still have a long way to go in my cancer fighting journey. However, I know there are organizations like Komen North Texas who will help me when I need them. I now have hope in my life.” Komen North Texas invests in community programs through its fundraising activities and events, including the Plano Race for the Cure. For more information about Komen North Texas events, please visit komennorthtexas.org. Progress to Date Salerno said Komen’s bold goal builds on the progress of the breast cancer movement since Komen was founded in 1982. “Death rates from breast cancer have declined by 37 percent since 1990. We have more treatments than at any time in our history. We’ve come a very long way from a time when breast cancer couldn’t be discussed publicly. Our new bold goal requires us to take a deeper dive and stretch further to ensure that every woman or man can be told, ‘There is help and hope for you.’” *Patient’s name has been changed for privacy purposes.
Smart solutions to reduce germs
Most parents today are armed with a germ-fighting arsenal of anti-bacterial wipes and gels, and are constantly cleaning fingerprinted walls and sticky counters. So you think you’re covered? Think again! The statistics on where germs and illness-causing mold and mildew are lurking are staggering. Mold and Mildew – Oh My! When we think of mold and mildew, images of damp basements or poorly ventilated bathrooms come to mind. However, this growth can occur on any interior surface, according to the National Institutes of Health – and it can cause ill health. So where might mold be lurking? Some of the top places yeast and mold are found include: the kitchen dish sponge or rag (86 percent); computer keyboards (68 percent); toothbrush holders
(64 percent); video game controllers (59 percent); pet toys (55 percent); remote controls (55 percent); coffee reservoir (50 percent) and pet bowls (45 percent), according to National Sanitation Foundation International research. Shelf Liner Smart Solutions With these cringe-worthy stats, there are some simple steps to help reduce mold and mildew. First, open windows and use dehumidifiers and fans to help reduce the moisture in your home. Next, clean surfaces with a natural fungicide – tea tree oil – which can help kill mold and mildew, as well as prevent future growth. Finally, using Easy Liner brand shelf liner is another simple way to keep your home clean and organized. Here are just a few shelf liner solutions:
Kitchen Keep counters clean while doing dishes by placing shelf liner under the dish rack. Line wire pantry shelves with shelf liner to catch any spills and ensure they don’t spread to lower areas. Mud Room/Entry Place a piece of shelf liner under pet food and water bowls to keep them in place and catch
spills. A piece of shelf liner on the floor near the door makes an excellent landing place to protect floors from dirty shoes, purses, backpacks and more. Bathrooms At home, line medicine cabinets, shelves and drawers with shelf liner as a great defense against spills. -StatePoint
How to eat healthy Make half your plate fruits and vegetables
The council recommends choosing red, orange and darkgreen vegetables such as tomatoes, sweet potatoes and broccoli, along with other vegetables for your meals. Add fruit to meals as part of main or side dishes or as dessert. The more colorful you make your plate, the more likely you are to get the vitamins, minerals and fiber your body needs to be healthy.
Make half the grains you eat Exercise and remaining active whole grains
play a key role in your health — but so does what you actually put into your body. Here are some tips from the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition that serve as a great place to start.
An easy way to eat more whole grains is to switch from a refinedgrain food to a whole-grain food. For example, eat whole-wheat bread instead of white bread. Read the ingredients list and choose products that list whole-
grain ingredients first. Look for things like “whole wheat,” “brown rice,” “bulgur,” “buckwheat,” “oatmeal,” “rolled oats,” quinoa” or “wild rice.”
Choose a variety of lean protein foods
The council notes meat, poultry, seafood, dry beans or peas, eggs, nuts and seeds are considered part of the protein foods group. Select leaner cuts of ground beef (where the label says 90 percent lean or higher), turkey breast or chicken breast.
Keep up with your sodium
Use the Nutrition Facts label to choose lower sodium versions of foods such as soup, bread and frozen meals. Select canned foods labeled “low sodium,” “reduced sodium” or “no salt added.”
Trade that soda for a bottle of water
The council notes you can easily cut calories by drinking water or unsweetened beverages. Soda, energy drinks and sports drinks are a major source of added sugar and calories in American diets. Try adding a slice of lemon, lime or watermelon or a splash of 100 percent juice to your glass of water if you want some flavor.
Cut back the sweets
The council recommends eating fewer foods that contain solid fats. The major sources for Americans are cakes, cookies and other desserts (often made with butter, margarine, or shortening); pizza; processed and fatty meats (e.g., sausages, hot dogs, bacon, ribs); and ice cream.
From wheelchair basketball to jogging, there are still tons of options for those with a disability to still lead an active lifestyle. The President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition notes the benefits are myriad for those with disabilities to remain active, as it can help everything from overall physical health to emotional well-being.
Children and adults with disabilities can gain numerous mental and physical benefits from being physically active on a regular basis, including reduced risk of chronic and secondary conditions, improved self-esteem and greater social interaction. The council encourages everyone keep in mind that individuals with disabilities are just as capable and worthy of being active as someone without a disability, and the activity does not have to be strenuous to provide positive benefits.
Look for opportunities to be active in inclusive programs already in place at your local community and recreation centers, health and fitness facilities, public
agencies and park departments, or sports clubs. Having fun while being active is the key! Find activities that you enjoy and include your friends and family in the action.
Find what fits
The council recommends anyone looking into a new activity to always consult your personal doctor before beginning any physical activity or exercise program.
Everyone needs to be active
Here’s a note from the CDC about the importance of everyone finding a way to be active: “Having a disability does not mean a person is not healthy or that he or she cannot be healthy. Being healthy means the same thing for all of us — getting and staying well so we can lead full, active lives. That means having the tools and information to make healthy choices and knowing how to prevent illness. To be healthy, people with disabilities require health care that meets their needs as a whole person, not just as a person with a disability. Most people with or without disabilities can stay healthy by learning about and living healthy lifestyles.”
Eye on your cholesterol As the American Heart Association notes, high cholesterol is one of the major controllable risk factors for coronary heart disease, heart attack and stroke.
Cholesterol is a waxy substance that comes from two sources: your body and food, per the AHA. Your body, and especially your liver, makes all the cholesterol you need and circulates it through the blood. Cholesterol is also found in foods from animal sources, such as meat, poultry and full-fat dairy products. Your liver produces more cholesterol when you eat a diet high in saturated and trans fats. Excess cholesterol can form plaque between layers of artery walls, making it harder for your heart to circulate blood. Plaque can break open and cause blood
clots. If a clot blocks an artery that feeds the brain, it causes a stroke. If it blocks an artery that feeds the heart, it causes a heart attack.
The two types
There are two types of cholesterol: “good” and “bad.” Too much of one type — or not enough of another — can put you at risk for coronary heart disease, heart attack or stroke. It’s important to know the levels of cholesterol in your blood so that you and your doctor can determine the best strategy to lower your risk.
Making healthy eating choices and increasing exercise are important first steps in improving your cholesterol. For some people, cholesterol-lowering medication also may be needed to reduce the risk for heart attack and stroke. Use the information provided here to start a conversation with your doctor about how cholesterol affects your heart attack and stroke risk and what you can do to lower your risk.
Connection to heart disease
As your blood cholesterol ris-
es, so does your risk of coronary heart disease. If you have other risk factors, such as smoking, high blood pressure or diabetes, this risk increases even further. The greater the level of each risk factor, the more that factor affects your overall risk. Your cholesterol level can be affected by your age, gender, family health history and diet. When too much LDL (bad) cholesterol circulates in the blood, it can slowly build up in the inner walls of the arteries that feed the heart and brain, according to the AHA. Together with other substances, cholesterol can form a thick, hard deposit called plaque that can narrow the arteries and make them less flexible. This condition is known as atherosclerosis. If a clot forms and blocks a narrowed artery, a heart attack or stroke can result.
Our bad eating habits
It’s not much of a surprise, but it can be surprising to actually look at the numbers: Americans are eating a lot more, and a lot less healthfully, than they should be. The President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition has assembled some statistics that show where the U.S. ranks in regards to nutrition, and shines a light on where it needs to be.
According to the council, the typical American diets exceed the recommended intake levels or limits in four categories: calories from solid fats and added sugars; refined grains; sodium; and saturated fat. To that end, most Americans also eat less than the recommended amounts of vegetables, fruits, whole-grains, dairy products and oils.
Calories going up
The amount of food available for consumption increased in all major food categories from 1970 to 2008, while the average daily calories per person in the marketplace increased by approximately 600. Since the 1970s, the number of fast food restaurants has more than doubled. More than 23 million Americans, including 6.5 million children, also live in what the council calls “food deserts” — areas that
are more than a mile away from a supermarket.
The worst offenders
Per the report, half of these empty calories come from six sources: soda, fruit drinks, dairy desserts, grain desserts, pizza and whole milk. U.S. adults consume an average of 3,400 mg/day [of sodium], well above the federal guideline of less than 2,300 mg daily. U.S. per capita consumption of total fat increased from approximately 57 pounds in 1980 to 78 pounds in 2009 with the highest consumption being 85 pounds in 2005. The U.S. percentage of food-insecure households, those with limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways, rose from 11 percent to 15 percent between 2005 and 2009.
States doing well, doing the worst
In 2013, residents of the following states were most likely to report eating at least five servings of vegetables four or more days per week: Vermont (68.7%), Montana (63.0%) and Washington (61.8%). The least likely were Oklahoma (52.3%), Louisiana (53.3%) and Missouri (53.8%). The national average for regular produce consumption is 57.7%.