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Patient Education

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a disease. Even though it typically has no symptoms, high blood pressure (HBP) can have deadly health consequences if not treated. About 80 million U.S. adults have been diagnosed with high blood pressure. Your blood pressure is recorded as two numbers. The systolic number (the upper number), tells how much pressure blood is exerting against your artery walls while the heart is pumping blood. The diastolic pressure (the lower number), tells how much pressure blood is exerting against the artery walls while the heart is resting between beats. A healthy blood pressure is below 120/80 mm Hg.

Causes

In most cases the cause of high blood pressure is unknown. In fact, high blood pressure usually doesn’t have symptoms. This is why it is sometimes called the “silent killer”.

Risks

Risk factors fall into two categories: those you can control, and those that are out of your control. Factors that are outside of your control include family history, age, gender and race. Controllable factors include lack of physical activity, an unhealthy diet especially high in sodium, overweight and obesity, and drinking too much alcohol. Although still uncertain, smoking, stress and sleep apnea may contribute to HBP.

Monitoring, Treating and Managing HBP

Eating healthy (DASH diet), physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight, reducing stress, limiting alcohol, and avoiding smoking can reduce the risk of HBP. Use a certified home blood measure monitor to track blood pressure readings. Home monitoring can reduce false readings, which happen when temporary factors affect blood pressure and can give a reliable picture to your health care provider. If prescribed medication to control blood pressure, follow the dosage instructions and do not stop taking your medication or alter dosage without talking with your healthcare provider.

Visit The American Heart Association's risk calculator

Cholesterol is a waxy substance that comes from two sources: your body and your food. Excess cholesterol can come from 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.

Types of Cholesterol

There are two types of cholesterol: “good” and “bad.” Too much of one type, or not enough of the other, can put you at risk for coronary heart disease, heart attack and stroke. It is 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.

Risk

LDL (bad) cholesterol is produced naturally by the body, but many people inherit genes from their mother, father or even grandparents that cause them to make too much. Eating foods high in saturated fat or trans-fats also increases the amount of LDL cholesterol in your body.

Symptoms, Diagnosis & Monitoring

Many people do not know their cholesterol is too high because there are usually no symptoms. That’s why it is important to have your cholesterol levels checked by your doctor. A cholesterol screening measures your level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and triglycerides.

Prevention & Treatment

Working with your doctor is the key. Work with your doctor to determine your risk and the best approach to manage it. In all cases, lifestyle changes are important to reduce your risk for heart attack and stroke. In some cases, cholesterol-lowering statin medicines may also provide benefit.

Visit The American Heart Association's Information on Cholesterol

Regular physical activity is one of the most important things you can do for your health. It can help:

  • Control your weight
  • Lower your risk of heart disease
  • Lower your risk of type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome
  • Lower your risk for some cancers
  • Strengthen your bones and muscles
  • Improve your mental health and mood
  • Improve your ability to do daily activities and prevent falls, if you’re an older adult
  • Increase your chances of living longer

Fitting regular exercise into your daily schedule may seem difficult at first. But even after 10 minutes at a time is fine. The key is to find the right exercise for you. It should be fun and match your abilities.

Check out the Department of Health and Human Services' Guide for Adult Physical Activity

Emotional and mental health is more than just being free from issues such as anxiety and depression. It’s about being happy, self-confident, self-aware and resilient. Looking after your emotional health is as important as caring for your physical health. People who are emotionally healthy are in control of their emotions and behavior. They’re able to handle life’s inevitable challenges, build strong relationships, and lead productive, fulfilling lives. They bounce back when bad things happen and can manage stress without falling apart.

Improving Emotional Health

Good mental health isn’t just the absence of mental problems. Being mentally or emotionally healthy is much more than being free of depression, anxiety or other psychological issues. While some people may not have negative feelings, they still need to do things that make them feel positive in order to achieve mental and emotional health. People who are mentally and emotionally healthy have:

  • A sense of contentment
  • A zest for living and the ability to laugh and have fun
  • The ability to deal with stress and bounce back from adversity
  • A sense of meaning and purpose, in both their activities and relationships
  • The flexibility to learn new things and adapt to change
  • A balance between work and play, rest and activity, etc.
  • The ability to build and maintain fulfilling relationships
  • Self-confidence and high self-esteem

Physical Health

Taking care of your body is a powerful first step towards mental and emotional health. The mind and body are linked. For example, exercise not only strengthens our heart and lungs, but also releases endorphins, powerful chemicals that energize us and lift our moods. Activities to engage in and daily choices to make that may affect the way you feel physically and emotionally:

  • Get enough rest
  • Learn about good nutrition and PRACTICE it
  • The ability to deal with stress and bounce back from adversity
  • Exercise to relieve stress and lift your mood
  • Get a dose of sunlight every day
  • Limit alcohol and avoid cigarettes and other drugs

Risk Factors

Your mental and emotional health has been and will continue to be shaped by your experiences. Early childhood experiences are especially significant. Genetic and biological factors can also play a role, but these too can be changed by experience. Risk factors that can compromise mental and emotional health:

  • Poor connection or attachment to your primary caretaker early in life
  • Traumas or serious losses, especially in early life
  • Learned helplessness
  • Illness
  • Side effects of medications
  • Substance abuse

When to seek professional help

If you’ve made consistent efforts to improve your mental and emotional health and you still don’t feel good – then it’s time to seek professional help. Because we are so socially attuned, input from a knowledgeable, caring professional can motivate us to do things for ourselves that we were not able to do on our own. Red flag feelings and behaviors that may require immediate attention:

  • Inability to sleep
  • Feeling down, hopeless, or helpless most of the time
  • Concentration problems that are interfering with your work or home life
  • Using nicotine, food, drugs, or alcohol to cope with difficult emotions
  • Negative or self-destructive thoughts or fears that you can’t control
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Visit helpguide.org for more articles and resources.

Eating and physical activity patterns that are focused on consuming fewer calories, making informed food choices, and being physically active can help people attain and maintain a healthy weight, reduce risk of chronic disease, and promote overall health. Healthy eating and physical activity work hand-in-hand to help people live healthier lives. Guidelines to healthy nutrition:

Balancing Calories
  • Enjoy your food, but eat less
  • Avoid oversized portions
Foods to Increase
  • Make half your plate fruits and vegetables
  • Make at least half your grains whole grains
  • Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk
Foods to Decrease
  • Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals – and choose foods with lower numbers
  • Drink water instead of sugary drinks

Visit HelpGuide.org for more resources on healthy eating.

Tobacco use can lead to tobacco/nicotine dependence and serious health problems. Quitting smoking greatly reduces the risk of developing smoking-related diseases. Tobacco/nicotine dependence is a condition that often requires repeated treatments, but there are helpful treatments and resources for quitting. Smokers can and do quit smoking. In fact, today there are more former smokers than current smokers.

Health Benefits of Quitting
  • Lowered risk for lung cancer and many types of cancer
  • Reduced risk for heart disease, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease
  • Reduced heart disease within 1-2 years of quitting
  • Reduced respiratory symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath
  • Reduced risk of developing some lung diseases
  • Reduced risk of infertility in women of childbearing age
Ways to Quit Smoking
  • Brief help by a doctor (smoking cessation counseling)
  • Individual, group, or telephone counseling
  • Behavioral therapies
  • Medications (nicotine replacement products)

Read more about smoking and tobacco use on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's website.

Stress affects each of us in different ways. You may have physical signs, emotional signs or both. Physical signs include:

  • Headache
  • Backache
  • Neck ache
  • Stomach ache
  • Tight muscles
  • Clenched jaw
  • Feeling tired without good reason
  • Trouble sleeping
Feelings and Emotional Signs
  • Anxiety
  • Anger
  • Depression
  • Helplessness
  • Out of Control
  • Tense
  • Easily Irritated
  • Impatient
  • Forgetful
Fight Stress with Healthy Habits

Healthy habits can protect you from the harmful effects of stress. Here are 10 positive healthy habits you may want to develop:

  • Talk with family and friends
  • Engage in daily physical activity
  • Embrace the things you are able to change
  • Remember to laugh
  • Give up the bad habits
  • Slow Down
  • Get enough sleep
  • Get organized
  • Practice giving back
  • Try not to worry

Visit The American Heart Association's website for more information about stress management.

The benefits of maintaining a healthy weight go far beyond improved energy and smaller clothing sizes. By losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight, you are also likely to enjoy these quality-of-life factors too:

  • Fewer joint and muscle pains
  • More energy and greater ability to join in desired activities
  • Better regulation of blood pressure
  • Reduced burden on your heart and circulatory system
  • Better sleep patterns
  • Reductions in triglycerides, blood glucose and risk of developing type 2 diabetes
  • Reduced risk for heart disease and certain cancers
Goals to losing weight

To lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you eat. Every good weight loss plan has the same two parts: food and physical activity. Wise food choices can help you eat fewer calories and daily (or almost daily) physical activity helps you burn off some of the calories you consume. You lose weight more easily and you’re more likely to keep it off, too. Five goals to losing weight:

  • Keep portions smaller than your fist
  • Control your hunger with filling foods that are low in calories
  • Keep track of what you eat
  • Make trade-offs to reduce how much sodium, saturate and trans fat and sugar you eat
  • Enjoy more physical activity
Weight loss programs

When looking for a safe and effective weight loss program, look for a program that:

  • Stresses a healthy eating plan (low in saturated fat, trans fat, added sugar and sodium, with plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean poultry, meat and fish, and fat-free or low-fat dairy)
  • Includes daily physical activity
  • Gives you personal support from a group, buddy or dietician
  • Does not deprive you of the foods you enjoy
  • Has a system to help you keep track of what you eat and drink
  • Recommends a gradual weight loss of 1 to 2 pounds per week until a healthy weight is achieved
  • If you’re insulin-dependent, does not conflict with your diabetic diet. Talk to your doctor or diabetes educator if you have questions
  • Includes a maintenance program for keeping the weight off

Visit The American Heart Association's website for more resources on healthy weight loss.

Your child’s health includes physical, mental and social well-being. Most parents know the basics of keeping children healthy, like offering them healthy foods, making sure they get enough sleep and exercise and insuring their safety. It is also important for children to get regular checkups with their healthcare provider. These visits are a chance to check your child’s development. They are also a good time to catch or prevent problems. Other than checkups, school-age children should be seen for:

  • Significant weight gain or loss
  • Sleep problems or change in behavior
  • Fever higher than 102
  • Rashes or skin infections
  • Frequent sore throats
  • Breathing problems

At a very young age, children develop habits and behaviors that will influence their life-long health. Help your children in making choices that will lead to healthier lives by:

  • Knowing the signs of child development and acting early when deficiencies are noted
  • Get check-ups and vaccinations
  • Protect your kids (use car seats, helmets when bicycling, keep harmful chemicals out of children’s reach
  • Provide healthy meals and snacks
  • Keep your kids active
  • Provide love and support

Resources for raising safe and healthy kids: www.cdc.gov/family/parentabc/ and http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/childrenshealth.html

Women have unique health issues. And some of the health issues that affect both men and women can affect women differently. Unique issues include pregnancy, menopause and conditions of the female organs. Women should also get recommended screenings to test for breast cancer, cervical cancer and bone density. General women’s health facts to know:

  • Be aware of all the risks/benefits of healthcare treatments
  • Make medical decisions after reviewing the most current, reliable information
  • Tell your healthcare professional about all medications you are taking
  • Osteoporosis is a mostly preventable disease. To prevent the disease, increase your intake of calcium
  • Eat a balanced diet, exercise and schedule time for yourself
  • Limit your exposure to the sun
  • After age 50, incorporate some degree of strength training
  • Have a Pap test annually
  • Participate in health screenings

Resources: www.cdc.gov/women/index.htm

Most men need to pay more attention to their health and wellness. Compared to women, men are likely to smoke and drink, make unhealthy or risky choices, and put off regular checkups and medical care. There are also health conditions that affect only men, such as prostate cancer and low testosterone. Many of the major health risks that men face – like colon cancer or heart disease – can be prevented and treated with early diagnosis. Screening tests can find diseases early, when they are easier to treat. It is important to get the screening tests you need:

  • Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (between ages 65-75 and have ever smoked)
  • Colon Cancer
  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Hepatitis C Virus (HCV)
  • High Blood Cholesterol
  • High Blood Pressure
  • HIV
  • Lung Cancer
  • Overweight and Obesity
  • Get preventive medicines if you need them
  • Aspirin
  • Vitamin D
  • Immunzations
Resources: Healthy Men

People in the U.S. are living longer than ever before. Many seniors live active and healthy lives. But there’s no getting around one thing: as we age, our bodies and minds change. There are things you can do to stay healthy and active as you age. It is important to understand what to expect. Some changes may just be part of normal aging, while others may be a warning sign of a medical problem. It is important to know the difference, and to let your healthcare provider know if you have any concerns. Here are a few things you can do to:

Promote Heart Health

  • Include physical activity in your daily routine
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Don’t smoke
  • Manage Stress

Promote bone, joint and muscle health

  • Get adequate amounts of calcium
  • Get adequate amounts of Vitamin D
  • Include physical activity in your daily routine
  • Avoid substance abuse

Promote bladder and urinary tract health

  • Go to the bathroom regularly
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Don’t smoke
  • Do Kegel exercises

Keep your memory sharp

  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Include physical activity in your daily routine
  • Stay mentally active
  • Be social

Promote eye and ear health

  • Schedule regular checkups
  • Take sun precautions (wear sunglasses/wide brimmed hats)

Promote Oral Health

  • Brush and floss
  • Schedule regular checkups

Promote healthy skin

  • Be gentle
  • Take precautions when outdoors (use sunscreen)
  • Don’t smoke

To prevent unhealthy weight gain

  • Include physical activity in your daily schedule
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Watch your portion sizes

To promote sexual health

  • Share your needs and concerns with your partner
  • Talk to your doctor about treatment suggestions

Resources: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/seniorshealth.html

Our nation faces a health crisis due to the increasing burden of chronic diseases. Today, 7 of 10 leading causes of death in the United States are chronic diseases, and almost 50% of Americans live with at least one chronic illness. People who suffer from chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, obesity and arthritis experience limitations in function, health, activity, and work, affecting the quality of their lives as well as the lives of their families. Specific changes in diet and lifestyle can reduce risks of developing chronic disease:

  • Avoid tobacco use
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Limit alcohol consumption
  • Maintain daily physical activity
  • Participate in health screenings
  • Have annual physical exams with your healthcare provider

Illnesses and injuries related to homes are not inevitable. Many housing hazards and the injuries and illnesses resulting from them can be reduced or prevented. Ways to prevent illness and injury includes:

  • Use Carbon Monoxide detectors
  • Improve water quality by utilizing proper maintenance of pipes and wells
  • Safely store household chemicals
  • Use safety rails to prevent falls
  • Use safety gates to secure stairs, pools and areas where chemicals are stored

Our environment affects our health. If parts of the environment, like the air, water or soil become polluted, it can lead to health problems. For example, asthma pollutants and chemicals in the air or in the home can trigger asthma attacks. Some environmental risks are a part of the natural world, like radon in the soil. Others are the result of human activities like lead poisoning from paint, or exposure to asbestos or mercury from mining or industrial use. Some steps that you and your family can take to improve your environment:

  • Read the label on house and garden chemicals
  • Turn down the volume on televisions, stereos, and car radios
  • Put drugs, drain openers and vitamins out of kids’ reach
  • Put a carbon monoxide alarm in your home
  • Test for radon
  • Watch for lead as a continuing threat
  • Wash your hands to prevent spread of germs
  • Do not get overheated
  • Take precautions in the sun

Every year more and more Americans are traveling both within the United States and internationally for vacation, business, and for volunteerism. Whatever your reason for travelling; being proactive, prepared and protected will help make your travels a success.

Be Proactive

  • Learn about your destination
  • See a doctor before you travel
  • Think about your health status

Be Prepared

  • Pack Smart
  • Plan ahead for illnesses or injuries during your trip
  • Know what to do if you become sick or injured on your trip
  • Know and share important information about your trip

Be Protected

  • Pay attention to your health during your trip
  • Use sunscreen and insect repellent as directed
  • Be careful about food and water
  • Try not to take risks with your health and safety
  • Limit alcohol intake, and do not drink alcohol and drive
  • Wear a seatbelt
  • Wear protective gear when doing adventure activities
  • Respect your host country and its people by following local laws and customs
  • Pay attention to your health when you come home

Talk to your family about potential disasters and why it is necessary to prepare for them. Involve each member of your family in the planning process. By showing them simple steps than can increase their safety, you can help reduce their anxiety about emergencies. Tips on proper emergency preparedness:

Create an Emergency Supply Kit to include:

  • First Aid supplies/prescription medications
  • Non-perishable food items
  • Alcohol based hand wash
  • Bottled water
  • Portable radio
  • Manual can opener
  • Garbage bags/paper towels
  • Tissues, toilet paper, diapers
  • Fluids with electrolytes
  • Flashlight Batteries

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