I remember sitting in a lecture during nursing school about heart problems, and being floored that sudden death is a “symptom” of a heart attack. Really? A person has to die to find this out?!
If you’re questioning whether or not it’s safe for you to shovel snow, take this test to see if you’re at risk for heart disease. You’ll need to know your cholesterol numbers, your blood sugar after fasting for 8 hours, your blood pressure, and your weight and height. This might mean a visit to your healthcare provider for a check up to get your numbers.
It’s never too late to reverse, or at least control, some of your risk factors. Educate yourself, then take action to make yourself the healthiest you can be! Don’t let the snowstorms in life prevent you from living.
Have you been told that your blood pressure is a little high? Maybe you’ve been given a blood pressure medicine by your healthcare provider, but you’ve resisted taking it. The most common thing I hear is, “I don’t want to have to take a medicine every day.” So what lifestyle changes could you try to keep from taking a medicine for your blood pressure?
Besides getting at least an hour and a half of exercise in per week and losing weight, cutting back on your salt intake could make a difference. Salt may make our food taste better, but too much can have bad effects on our health. It can raise blood pressure, make the kidneys work harder, cause swelling in the tissues, and make us at higher risk for heart disease. Educating yourself on the foods that have more salt than others may help you lower your intake of salt by making better choices.
Foods that are typically higher is sodium are
- Fast foods,
- Canned foods,
- Frozen meals,
- Snack foods like chips, pretzels, crackers and nuts,
- Marinades and flavorings, especially Teriyaki sauce and Soy Sauce, and
- Packaged deli meat.
Read the nutrition label for how much sodium per serving a product contains and how many servings are in the container or package to see how much sodium you’re taking in when eating the above types of food. It might be an eye-opener!
The American Heart Association recommends no more than 2300 mg a day of sodium for most people. For those age 51 years and older, and those of any age, including children, who are
- African American (more salt sensitive than other races) or
- have high blood pressure,
- diabetes, or
- chronic kidney disease,
should limit their intake to 1,500 mg of sodium per day.
Sometimes, even with lifestyle changes, you may still need a blood pressure medicine; family history can play a strong role in whether you’ll develop it. I’m usually willing to allow my patients at least 3 months of lifestyle changes before putting them on a medicine. So–get out there and exercise, drop a few pounds, and cut back on your salt! ¡Salud!
“I just feel so tired all the time.” I hear this usually once, if not two or three times a day from different patients. Depending on who I’m looking at, here are a few of the conditions I consider:
- Hypothyroidism–A blood test is used to determine if the thyroid is functioning the way it should. Besides fatigue, it can also cause constipation, cold intolerance, and dry skin.
- Iron Deficiency Anemia will cause fatigue in men and women. Women who have heavy periods are at risk for this. For men, a blood count, or hematocrit, of less than 40 is generally considered low, and should be seen by a Gastroenterologist (GI) for evaluation of possible bleeding in the gut. Women who have stopped menstruating , but are anemic, should also be considered for referral to a GI doctor.
- B12 Deficiency Anemia— Most B12 deficiencies are caused by not eating enough foods with B12 in them, such as meat, fish, poultry, shellfish, eggs and dairy products. A blood test is used to find out the B12 level in the blood; lower than 300 ng/ml means a deficiency. The quickest way to replace B12 is through an injection once a week for four weeks, then once monthly after that. Any person who has any kind of gastrointestinal disease, such as Crohn’s or Celiac Disease, or who has had any part of their gut removed such as with gastric bypass or colon resection, will need to replace their B12. Alcoholics also need B12 replacement.
- Diabetes— High blood sugars cause fatigue. Any person who is obese, has high blood pressure, high cholesterol or a family history of diabetes should be screened for this.
- Depression— There are two questions used to screen for depression:
- “In the past two weeks, have you felt down or sad on more days than not?”
- “In the past two weeks, have you lost interest or pleasure in doing things you used to enjoy?”
If the answer is “yes” to either of these two questions, than a more thorough evaluation for depression is done. If depression is diagnosed, treatment options would be counseling, medication, or a combination of these. A healthy lifestyle is also encouraged as mood can be affected by diet and exercise.
If you think that you are more tired than you should be, or than you used to be, please see your healthcare provider to see if you need to be screened for these common conditions. ¡Salud!
Keep in mind, this is not meant to be a comprehensive list, and each patient’s assessment is based on his/her health history and physical exam.