Stress plays a big part in many of our lives. I’ve always heard that a certain amount of stress can be healthy, leading us to get things done or change a bad behavior. It’s when stress is a constant part of your life that it can affect your health. Stress has been linked to causing or worsening heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, a weakened immune system, and psychosomatic illnesses.
A psychosomatic illness is an illness that begins with emotional stress or damaging thought patterns, and progresses with physical symptoms. For instance, have you heard of “nervous stomach” or someone breaking out in hives because of stress?
It can be difficult to avoid stress; there are pressures to pay bills, do well at your job, keep your job, volunteer at your kid’s school, take on responsibility at church, etc. You may be raising teenagers or trying to work things out with your spouse or dealing with the serious illness of a family member. Life just tends to throw things our way, and we have to deal, right?
Knowing that I need to develop better techniques myself, I went in search of tips for dealing with stress. I found a great article listing 25 stress relievers by Elizabeth Scott, M.S. and I wanted to share it with you. Go and take a look at the article, then try to use a couple every week until you find one that really does it for you.
Be good to yourself! ¡Salud!
So, your significant other begs to be allowed to fall asleep first. You avoid camping or sharing a room with anyone because when you fall asleep, you’ve been told that you saw logs. You could have sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is when you stop breathing repeatedly during sleep, and is considered a serious disorder.
If left untreated, sleep apnea can result in a number of health problems, including:
- High blood pressure
- Heart failure, irregular heart beats, and heart attacks
- Worsening of ADHD
Untreated sleep apnea may also be responsible for poor performance in everyday activities, such as at work and school, car accidents, underachievement at school in children and adolescents, and having to sleep on the couch…or elsewhere.
A sleep study, or polysomnogram, is needed to diagnose sleep apnea. This is a multiple-component test that electronically transmits and records specific physical activities while you sleep. The recordings are analyzed by a qualified sleep specialist to determine whether or not you have sleep apnea or another type of sleep disorder. Most of the time, this study is done at a sleep disorder clinic or sleep lab.
If your sleep apnea is mild, you may be asked to:
- Lose weight
- Avoid alcohol and sleeping pills
- Change sleep positions to improve breathing
- Stop smoking. Smoking can increase the swelling in the upper airway, which may worsen both snoring and apnea.
- Avoid sleeping on your back
Sometimes sleep apnea is severe enough that other measures are needed. Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, or CPAP, may be prescribed. This involves a mask that you wear over your mouth or nose. It’s hooked to a machine that blows air into your airway. This way your airway stays open, preventing you from snoring or holding your breath. Depending on the person, a dental device may be a better option, or even surgery, if an anatomical problem is causing the airway to be blocked.
Consider these questions:
- Are you a loud, habitual snorer?
- Do you feel tired and groggy on awakening?
- Are you often sleepy during waking hours and/or can you fall asleep quickly?
- Are you overweight (BMI > or = 35) and/or do you have a large neck (> or = to 16in)?
- Have you been observed to choke, gasp, or hold your breath during sleep?
If you or someone close to you answers “yes” (or plays you a recording of your snoring!) to any of the above questions, you should talk to your healthcare provider about getting tested for sleep apnea. ¡Salud!
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!