Before the end of February, the National Heart Health Month, I thought it might help to write about one of major risk factors for heart disease, with a goal to spread awareness about this so called “Silent Killer” – Hypertension.
Hypertension affects 1 in 3 Americans and as per the World Health Organization, is one of the leading causes of death due to cardiac events and it is essential that it be monitored regularly. Below I have incorporated basic information that can help you understand, why regular screening at home and at your doctor’s office is mandatory, if you want to live a long and healthy life.
What is the definition of Hypertension?
An official diagnosis of Elevated or High Blood Pressure (BP) is termed as Hypertension. Hypertension that exists in the absence of an underlying condition example, pregnancy, kidney disorders or structural heart defects, is known as Primary Hypertension. And what exactly is it? It is a measure of the pressure of your blood against the walls of your arteries when your heart pumps blood into them. It is measured as you probably know, as 2 numbers: systolic and diastolic – i.e. When the heart is pumping versus resting in between beats. Measuring BP gives an insight into the overall functioning of your heart and circulatory system.
As with most organ systems of the human body, there is an optimal range or as I like to call it a “Goldilocks Range” for the blood pressure level. The American Heart Association reviews & updates this range periodically, as we adapt to different environmental conditions and the general shifts in population demographics. Minor fluctuations in blood pressure are common and can happen in response to day to day stressors, however, it is critical that BP returns to within its normal range and remains so for a person to be at a low risk for cardiovascular events such as heart attacks and strokes. See the chart below from the American Heart Association for a quick look at the current optimal ranges.
Why is it known as the "Silent Killer"?
Hypertension is often referred to as the ‘silent killer’ in the medical world, as many individuals, completely unaware of it prior to their diagnosis. It is ‘silent’ because symptoms may not always be present and when they do manifest, they may be occasional and mild, typically ignored and attributed to external factors for example, a stressful day, sinus congestion, dehydration, strenuous activity and such.
Elevated BP is often detected either when an individual without symptoms goes in for a routine visit at their doctor’s office or at the other extreme, when their symptoms are at the worst and they end up in the ER!
If it is silent, what can I do? How do I know when I need to be worried?
Though symptoms may not always correlate to elevated BP, presence of minor symptoms causing annoyance or discomfort warrants immediate monitoring, especially if one or more of the risk factors mentioned further below are present.
Being aware of your numbers and regular communication and check-ins with your doctors, can ensure early detection and appropriate management. And here’s the good news: Hypertension is preventable and in many cases, when detected early, can be stopped from getting worse! Hypertension has been classified as a lifestyle disease and can be successfully prevented and/or managed with the consistent implementation of dietary and lifestyle changes, with or without medication, depending on the complexity of the case.
The symptoms that you should watch out for:
What are the risk factors that I need to be aware of?
The following risk factors can affect your blood pressure levels and are categorized as modifiable versus non-modifiable.
You CANNOT alter the following risk factors, however, being aware them is critical in assessing your susceptibility to hypertension:
The following are factors that you CAN change to put odds in your favor to prevent/manage elevated blood pressure:
In future blogs,I will discuss supplements to discuss with your healthcare practitioner, for both prevention and management of hypertension. Naturopathic medicine through the use of clinical nutrition and lifestyle medicine, can be a safe and effective way to address hypertension, and related lifestyle diseases. If you would like to find out more, you are always welcome to request a free health consult on our website or by contacting our office via email or phone.
Until next time...this year, take that leap towards a healthier YOU!
It's the season for new beginnings! And many of us are trying to start (and keep!) new habits. At this time of the year, many people decide to eliminate one or more foods or food groups from their daily diet; some do it in pursuit of good health trying to "undo" the holiday overeating, some to get rid of annoying gastrointestinal symptoms like bloating, gas, unpredictable bowels, some others because it's a fresh start to the year and they have been waiting to implement their doctors' recommendations and many others in the hope of losing some weight. No matter what the reason, after 3 weeks of an 'elimination diet', it can be frustrating if you do not notice any positive changes whatsoever!
There can be multiple reasons why you aren't seeing changes in your health. These are important to consider and address. Here I have listed these reasons in the order of most likely to least likely as I have observed in our clinical practice:
Reason#1: The eliminated foods/food groups aren’t problematic for you
Though this may sound like a very obvious reason it can often get ignored. Most elimination diets require you to leave out the “usual suspects” including:
However, in addition to these foods there are other foods that can be potential troublemakers. Since each of us is a genetically unique individual, besides functional deficits, some people may not have the ability to process all components of even seemingly healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds.
Consider getting a food sensitivity panel through your doctor. Food sensitivities are very different than food allergies and the one we offer at our practice tests for over 85 different foods! The information from that the test results reveal can be used to design a more specific elimination diet beneficial for you.
Reason#2: Increased intake of processed foods
In an effort to eliminate specific foods, people often start buying packaged foods that are labelled as being compliant to their diet. Labels such as gluten-free, dairy-free, low-fat, paleo etc. are very attractive but it is important not to overlook the actual ingredients list in any packaged food. Multiple chemical additives and preservatives often make their way into “special” packaged foods to help these foods taste and stay good. This is not always the case, but be sure to read the actual ingredients and rely more on fresh foods than packaged foods.
Reason#3: Food elimination is not enough!
Let’s say that you have persisted at least 4 weeks with an elimination diet designed based on a food sensitivity panel and have minimized use of packaged foods, and even then, you see no benefit or positive change in your symptoms or overall health- this most likely indicates that food may not be the root cause of your troubles. It is time to look at other factors influencing your health.
A weakened, diseased or sub-optimally functioning digestive system, adrenal or other endocrine imbalances or nutrient deficiencies are important factors to investigate when an elimination diet fails. Once these other factors are addressed, your practitioner may recommend repeating an elimination diet to assess if specific foods can aggravate or cause your symptoms to revert.
STOP AGONIZING OVER WHAT TO EAT AND GET ANSWERS!
If you or someone you know, has tried elimination diets and have had limited or zero success in improving your symptoms or actually identifying trigger foods, it is time to take alternate factors into consideration.
It is essential to know that food sensitivity tests are different than food allergy tests.A thorough food sensitivity panel must include not just the usual suspects, but even "innocent" fruits and veggies like avocados, mangoes, tomatoes, celery, spinach, kale to name a few, foods that you wouldn’t typically doubt of being problematic foods.
Food sensitivities are different from food allergies and can manifest in both obvious or subtle ways such as weight gain, lethargy, hormonal irregularities, migraines, skin disorders, mood swings and even anxiety. Repeated ingestion of such foods can lead to complications such as increased inflammation, especially in the digestive system, making you susceptible to nutrient deficiencies, which in turn can cause other symptoms. To summarize, it is as important to investigate food sensitivities as it is to investigate severe and life-threatening food allergies.
Here’s the best part---most food sensitivities can change over time and can also potentially be completely resolved (with a few exceptions)! In our practice, we make it our goal to help patients be able to narrow down their list of reactive or trigger foods to the smallest possible number so that they can stop agonizing over what or what not to eat and simply enjoy a meal!
If you would like to investigate food sensitivities and/or other aspects of your health with us, call our office for a free consult today or send in a request through our website. We will be happy to partner with you to investigate your food sensitivities and the root cause for your health concerns.
STRESSED OUT ABOUT HOME COOKING?CHECK OUT THIS 2-PART BLOG SERIES WITH STRATEGIES TO MAKE HEALTHY COOKING EFFICIENT & EFFORTLESS!
Part II: Tips for Efficient Meal Planning & Preparation
As a continuation of my previous blog, here is part 2 of the home cooking series. As a refresher, my goal with this blog series was to provide ideas and suggestions that can help save both time and energy while still keeping your home cooked meals healthy and tasty! Planning your meals 1 or 2 weeks at a time and preparing ingredients for those meals ahead of time takes the stress out of cooking at home. You can schedule your "meal prep time" on the weekends or on a day of your choosing based on these 2 factors:
The meal planning chart has all of the following information:
1) Chop/cut/marinate/prepare ingredients & store them for cooking
I hope by now you are excited about starting to cook at home! By using both meal planning, meal prepping and time-saving cooking gadgets, you will be dishing out delicious meals that you can enjoy in the comfort of your home. Do not be afraid to experiment with new recipes! I often look at recipes in books and online but end up using them as inspiration, ultimately modifying the recipes to meet the criteria that I consider most important in a meal: packed with nutrients, free of additives & unnecessary chemicals, tasty, can be made in 30 minutes or less!!
If you have enjoyed reading this series, please send me a note or add a comment to let me know! Until next time....hope you enjoy your home-cooked meals!
Dr.Kulkarni will be writing on various health topics. Please sign up for our newsletter to receive regular updates on new blog posts.
DISCLAIMER: This blogpost is not intended to provide a diagnosis, treat a medical condition, or provide medical advice. All posts and content provided on this blogpost and all materials and related articles are for informational and educational purposes only, and are not to be construed as medical advice or instruction. No action should be taken solely on the contents of this blog or website. Please consult your doctor or call us, if we are your health care provider on any matters regarding your health and well-being or on any opinions expressed on this blog.