Monthly Archives: May 2011


The National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention has designated today “Don’t Fry Day,” to encourage sun safety awareness.  Because it’s also Memorial Day weekend, meaning a lot of us will be spending time outdoors, it’s a good time for some friendly reminders about protecting your skin from the sun.

Skin cancer is on the rise in the United States, with more than 68,000 new cases of malignant melanoma expected to be diagnosed this year.  It’s among the most easily preventable of cancers, and yet many people simply ignore the steps involved in lowering their risk.  It’s easy to protect yourself from skin cancer: just remember that if you’re going to be spending an extended period of time outside, wear sunscreen.  Regardless of skin tone or ethnicity, everyone is vulnerable to damaging UV rays, and sunscreen helps to minimize that damage.  Sunscreen should have an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 15 or higher for effectiveness, and should be applied to all exposed skin, including the tops of the feet, the nose, the tips of the ears and the scalp.  Those with fair skin or who are especially susceptible to sunburn should wear sunblock, which has an SPF of 50 or higher.  Make sure to reapply if you’re going to be swimming or are sweating, as not all sunscreens and sunblocks are waterproof.

Further precautions can be taken by wearing a wide-brimmed hat or baseball cap and sunglasses, and by staying in the shade whenever possible.  If you do get a sunburn, don’t panic.  It’s not likely that one sunburn will cause skin cancer, but it can be very painful! Sunburn can be treated by taking a cool shower or bath, then applying aloe gel, a topical anesthetic such as Solarcaine, cooling skin creams like Noxzema or even plain old white vinegar to the afflicted area (avoid this if the skin is broken or blistered).  Take some aspirin, wear loose fitting, light fabric clothing and try to avoid rubbing the burned area against anything.  Sun poisoning, a more severe form of sunburn that can cause swelling, fever, nausea and dehydration, may require medical treatment.

The sun does us more good than harm, so there’s no need to hide from it in fear.  Take five minutes to put on some sunscreen before you go out, and it will save you a lifetime of skin damage and discomfort.  Be safe, and have a wonderful holiday weekend!

Gena Radcliffe

Medex Supply Blogger


Summer’s coming, which means cooling off by taking a swim.  Swimming is great exercise for people of all ages and fitness level, but more time spent in the water means an increase in the chance of developing swimmer’s ear, an inflammation of the external ear canal.  Swimmer’s ear, also known as acute otitis externa, is not serious but it can be very painful, particularly for children.  It usually occurs when bacteria accumulates in water trapped in the ear after swimming, and causes pain, tenderness and swelling of the canal.

Anyone can develop swimmer’s ear, but it is most commonly seen in children between the ages of 5 and 14.  Approximately 10 percent of Americans will be treated for swimmer’s ear every year; not surprisingly the peak months are June, July and August.  The standard treatment for swimmer’s ear is antibiotic eardrops, though it’s not uncommon for reinfection to occur.

It should go without saying that the best way to avoid swimmer’s ear is to keep water from getting in the ears.  When possible, wear ear plugs or a swim cap to block out water.  After swimming, dry your ears thoroughly, and try to run excess water out of them by tilting your head from side to side (do not insert objects in the ear, such as Q-Tips, to do this, let the water run out on its own).  Some doctors recommend gently pouring a mixture of equal parts rubbing alcohol and white vinegar into the ears, as the alcohol will dry excess water and the vinegar will neutralize any accumulated bacteria, however, this should not be done if an ear infection is already present or if you have ear ventilating tubes.

Fear of swimmer’s ear shouldn’t prevent you from enjoying a dip in a pool or in the ocean, but keep the water where it belongs—not in your ears!

Gena Radcliffe

Medex Supply Blogger


Do you need a lot of coffee to get through the day, but are worried about the effect it has on your health? Well, relax and pour yourself another cup, because it’s looking as though the health benefits of coffee are now outweighing the hazards.

A recent study by Harvard scientists showed that men who drink six or more cups of coffee a day are 20 percent less likely to develop prostate cancer.  Men who drink less than that also benefit, as they are nearly 30 percent less likely to develop more serious, potentially lethal forms of the disease.  Caffeinated or decaffeinated coffee made no difference to the results.

Coffee is also a rich source of antioxidants, more than green tea, grapes and even “superfruits” like blueberries and raspberries.  Further, it has been proven to lower the risk of type 2 diabetes in middle aged and younger women, as well as the risk of Parkinson’s Disease in both men and women.  If that isn’t convincing enough, coffee is also beneficial in protecting against liver damage, kidney stones, gallstones and gout, and has been shown to help in the management of asthma.  It’s even good for brain health–studies have shown that people who drink two or more cups of coffee per day are significantly less likely to develop Alzheimer’s Disease.  There is even some evidence that five or more cups per day may reverse some memory loss caused by Alzheimer’s.

For many years coffee consumption has been discouraged by physicians and health experts, with herbal teas promoted as a healthier alternative.  However, it appears that even the detrimental health effects of coffee are not usually caused by coffee itself, but by a pre-existing condition.  Coffee can aggravate high blood pressure, as well as some anxiety disorders, but the effects are usually minimized by drinking it decaffeinated.  It also slightly increases the chance of developing osteoporosis, but mostly in women who are either predisposed to develop the disease or who do not get enough calcium in their diets.  Coffee has also been found to raise the level of “bad” cholesterol in the body, but only when it’s prepared unfiltered, such as with Turkish coffee.

So is coffee the real, unheralded “superfood”? Not likely, as there’s no such thing as one food that is all things to all people.  If you weren’t drinking coffee already, there’s probably no need to start now, as there are other foods and drinks that offer similar benefits.  However, if you’re thinking you should cut back on coffee or quit entirely, don’t worry about it! Turns out it’s doing you more good than harm.

Gena Radcliffe

Medex Supply Blogger


Look on any list of basic health tips and you’ll see the following suggestions: don’t smoke, get plenty of exercise, try to sleep seven to eight hours a night and drink lots of water.  You’d think that drinking water would be the easiest advice to follow, and yet few of us consume the daily recommended amount for optimal health.

The answer to why we need to drink water is an easy one—our bodies are composed of 60 to 70 percent water.  It’s a primary component in the blood, brain, lungs and muscles, transporting oxygen and nutrients through the body and critical in maintaining body temperature.  We are constantly losing water by way of urination, respiration and sweating, and our internal water supply does not replenish itself.  It’s up to us to make sure we’re consuming enough to water to avoid dehydration.  While most people experience mild dehydration from time to time, if left unchecked it can cause serious complications, including fatigue, headaches, nausea, rapid heartbeat and even seizures.  Extreme dehydration, though very rare when unrelated to illness or malnutrition, can be fatal.

So how much water should you be drinking? Well, there are differing opinions.  Generally, the recommended amount for an average sized adult is 64 ounces a day.  This equates to 3 to 4 bottles of water, which may seem like a ridiculously large amount to take in every day.  What is important to remember, however, is that at least 20% of your daily intake of water comes from the food you eat.  If you don’t think you can get down four bottles of water (and let’s face it, most of us probably can’t), try drinking one to two and increase the amount of fruits and vegetables in your diet, especially citrus fruits, apples, tomatoes, broccoli and leafy greens such as spinach or cabbage.  There’s also plenty of water in fruit and vegetable juice. Just make sure to choose an all-natural blend that doesn’t have extra sugar or sodium.

The best way to tell if you’re getting enough water is by paying attention to your body.  It seems silly to say “drink when you feel thirsty,” but too often many of us ignore our bodies’ needs, such as hydration, food and using the bathroom, until we’re uncomfortable and the need becomes urgent.  If your body is telling you “I’m thirsty,” give it something to drink! Also pay attention to signs of dehydration, including tiredness, nausea and dizziness.  During warmer months, or if you exercise frequently, you should probably drink a little more than the recommended 64 ounces, just to compensate for extra perspiration.  Water may be less fun to drink than soda or beer, but unlike soda or beer you can’t live without it.

Gena Radcliffe

Medex Supply Blogger


May is Mental Health Month, intended to raise awareness of mental health conditions and mental wellness for everyone.  1 in 4 American adults has a diagnosable mental health condition, and with proper treatment and support they can maintain full, productive lives.  The hard part is getting that proper treatment and support.

One of the most common mental health disorders is depression.  Nearly 7% of American adults will endure at least one depressive episode in their lifetime, with a third of those episodes so severe that they impact the ability to work or go to school, and may even require hospitalization.  Yet, barely half of people who suffer from depression ever seek professional treatment for it.

A “depressive episode” is generally defined as a period of at least two weeks in a person’s life in which they experience feelings of sadness and hopelessness, often losing interest in activities that bring them pleasure.  Occasionally it’s severe enough to trigger thoughts of self-injury or suicide.  People who suffer from ongoing significant depressive episodes are believed to have major depressive disorder, while chronic mild depression is called dysthymia.  Depression is caused by an imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain such as serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine.  This imbalance can be caused by a number of factors, including genetics, personality, physical illness, substance abuse, hormonal changes and negative or stressful life events.

Though it’s as much a physical health issue as mental, people with depression often ignore their conditions and refuse to seek treatment for it.  Often it’s due to inability to pay for treatment, as few medical insurance plans offer adequate coverage for mental health services, but it’s also due to the long-held belief that people with depression can just “snap out of it” and feel better without assistance.  They are told to simply cheer up, or made to feel as though their problems are inconsequential, and often go for months, even years without proper treatment.  Major depressive disorder may require at minimum talk therapy, and treatment may also include medication to restore neurotransmitter balance, or cognitive behavioral therapy, which helps people avoid certain thought patterns and situations that trigger depressive episodes.  Cognitive behavioral therapy is also helpful for people with anxiety disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.

If you suffer from depression, it’s important to reach out to others for help, even if it’s just a friend or family member.  Though the temptation to isolate yourself and think of your problems as a burden to others may be great, in the long run it won’t improve your situation.  Depression is treatable and should not be a source of embarrassment.  If you have a friend or a loved one with depression, encourage them to seek help and let them know that you support and care about them.  Depression can feel like it has a tight and permanent hold on your life, but it doesn’t have to be that way.  Getting help is the first step in getting your life back.

Gena Radcliffe

Medex Supply Blogger


It’s so frustrating.  You’re always misplacing your keys, your cell phone or your checkbook, and they always end up in the last place you’d expect to find them.  You’d be lost without the address book on your phone, because you can never remember anyone’s number.  You forget where you parked your car.  You walk into a room and forget why you needed to go in there.  You have embarrassing moments where you run into someone you met just a few weeks ago, or even a couple of times, and their name has slipped your mind.  It happens to everybody now and then, but to you it seems like it happens more often than not.

Short-term memory loss can be more than just frustrating and embarrassing, it can be frightening as well.  You may fear that your memory problems are a sign of early onset Alzheimer’s Disease, a brain tumor or some other neurological disorder.  The good news is that short-term memory problems are rarely due to any organic dysfunction or disease in the brain.  Many people are simply prone to forgetfulness, and are often described as “scatterbrained” or “absent-minded.”  Others may find their short-term memory affected when under a great deal of stress, or if they’ve been experiencing depression.  Whatever the reason, here are a few tried and true tricks to boost your memory and forget less in your daily life.

Make lists.  There’s a reason why Post-It notes are amongst the greatest inventions of all time.  If you tend to forget certain errands you need to run during the day, write them down and check them off as you go along.  Save yourself an extra trip to the store by using a list when grocery shopping.  If you’re having a meeting with your boss, write down all the points you want to make beforehand.  Lists are an invaluable tool in combating short-term memory issues.

Have a routine.  If you keep misplacing your keys or phone, it’s probably because you leave them in different places around your house.  Pick one set place to keep them, such as in a basket or on a table, then always leave them there when not in use.  Ideally the spot should be near your front door, so you don’t forget anything on your way out in the morning!

Hear the name, say the name.  If you have trouble remembering people’s names, a good trick is to repeat their name after they’re introduced to you, then try to use it again later in a conversation with them.  You could also try associating their name with a physical characteristic, such as “Brian with brown hair,” so that when you see them again it will trigger your memory.

Visualize.  If you find yourself walking into a room and forgetting why you needed to go in there, picture the room, what you need and where it is beforehand.  Say to yourself “I’m going into my bedroom to get that library book on my nightstand.”  Try to avoid stopping on the way or getting distracted.  Taking a mental snapshot can also help in remembering such things as where you parked your car (note landmarks it might be near, such as a tree or sign) or where your hotel room is located (pay attention to how many turns you make to get there, or if it’s close to the elevators or stairwell).

If all else fails, just write it down.  Make great use out of the calendar function on your cell phone, and consider keeping a datebook as a backup (in case you forget where your cell phone is!).  Rather than struggling to remember birthdays and appointments, just enter them on your calendar and you’ll always have a reminder on hand.  Not recommended to keep written down with you at all times: your bank card PIN or Social Security number.  Your Social Security card should be kept in a safe place at home, while your PIN should be associated with a number that has some relevance to you–for example, the last two digits of your parents’ birth years.  If a PIN is assigned to you, find out if you can change it to one that is easier for you to remember.

You can further strengthen your memory by such activities as playing board games and doing crossword or brainteaser puzzles.  You could also try herbal supplements such as ginkgo biloba, or eating foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon or walnuts.  Also make sure you’re getting enough sleep, do your best to avoid too much stress, and if you feel as though you may be depressed, consider seeking help from a therapist.  That being said, if you find that your memory problems are getting worse, or if they’re accompanied by headaches or dizziness, by all means see a doctor right away to rule out any physiological problems.  In all likelihood, though, these tricks should prove useful and you’ll find yourself more organized and less frustrated.  Now, where did I leave my pen…?  

Gena Radcliffe

Medex Supply Blogger


May 8th through the 14th is National Women’s Health Week, coordinated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health.  The week was created to encourage women of all ages to improve their physical and mental health, as well as lower their risks of such diseases as diabetes and cancer.  It also raises awareness of the benefits of physical exercise and eating a nutritious diet, as well as avoiding risky behaviors, such as excessive alcohol use or not wearing a seatbelt.  Most importantly, it emphasizes the importance of regular health checkups and preventive screenings.  Amongst the recommended checkups and screenings:

A hearing test.  You should consider a hearing test if you have difficulty making out other people’s voices, experience tinnitus (ringing in the ears) or if it always feels as though your ears are clogged.  A typical hearing test, called an audiogram, uses different frequencies of sound to gauge the ear’s reaction to them.  If your audiogram results are normal, you should only need to be retested every two to five years.  However, if some damage is present, further testing may be done to see if a hearing aid is needed.  In the meantime, protect your hearing by listening to music at a reasonable volume, wearing earplugs if you’re going to be exposed to excessively loud noises and seeing a doctor if you suffer from frequent ear infections.

Bone mineral density test.  Especially important for women over the age of 60, a bone mineral density test is a noninvasive examination that looks for signs of osteoporosis, a deteriorative disease that can turn bones brittle and fragile.  If test results show early signs of osteoporosis, you will likely be instructed to take calcium supplements and vitamin D, as well as get regular exercise.  Even if you’re nowhere near 60 yet, why not start now? Extra calcium and vitamin D is beneficial to all women, and regular exercise is vital for good health for pretty much everyone!

Breast exam and mammogram.  Breast cancer has a highly successful survival rate of 97% after five years, but this is only possible through early detection.  Though breast cancer is very rare in women under the age of 40, they should still get breast examinations once a year, to check for any unusual growths or tissue changes.  After age 40, women should get a mammogram once a year as well, after age 35 if there’s a family history of the disease.  Home examinations should be performed as well, with any lumps or peculiarities reported to your doctor right away.

Colonoscopy.  While it certainly can’t be described as a non-invasive procedure, a colonoscopy is an invaluable weapon in the fight against colorectal cancer.  Like breast cancer, with early detection colorectal cancer has an over 90% survival rate past five years.  A colonoscopy, which involves the insertion of a tiny video camera into the large intestine, can spot the beginning signs of cancer long before a person may notice that there’s something wrong.  It’s also used to diagnose such inflammatory bowel diseases as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s Disease.  Doctors recommend that all women get a colonoscopy at age 50, sooner if there’s a family history of colorectal cancer or if you have inflammatory bowel disease.  If no abnormalities are present, a second colonoscopy will not likely be necessary for at least another ten years.  Your risk of colorectal cancer is lowered by eating a high fiber diet rich in fruits and vegetables, and avoiding processed meats.

Eye exam.  Catch vision problems early! Even if your vision is good, an eye exam is recommended by age 40, to look for signs of glaucoma or macular degeneration, a disease of the eye that can gradually lead to blindness.  Go sooner if glaucoma runs in your family or if you have diabetes, which can cause vision complications.

Dental exam.  Either because we fear the possibility of pain or because most dental insurance plans offer inadequate coverage, far too many of us ignore our teeth until a real problem, such as an open cavity or broken tooth, occurs.  Dental health is not something to take lightly, as gum disease can become a very serious problem, leading to tooth loss and infections and abscesses in the jaw.  See your dentist every six months for a cleaning and basic examination, and lower your risk of gum diseases and oral cancers by maintaining good dental hygiene and avoiding cigarettes and chewing tobacco.

Heart health and blood pressure.  Heart disease is the number one killer of women, and it’s never too soon to make sure you’re not exhibiting any signs of problems in the future.  During your annual checkup, get your blood pressure checked to make sure it’s within a healthy range (usually around 120/80) and have your doctor listen to your heart with a stethoscope to check for any murmurs or irregularities in the heartbeat.  If you’ve been experiencing chest pains or getting easily short of breath, see your doctor right away, so that he may perform a stress test to determine if you’re at risk of heart disease.

Cholesterol screening.  High cholesterol can increase your chances of a heart attack and stroke, so it’s a wise idea to get screened for it every five years in your twenties, and then annually after age 45.  A cholesterol screening measures the total lipids in your blood, distinguishing between “good” cholesterol and “bad.”  A healthy total cholesterol number is under 200, and can be maintained by a diet low in saturated fats, as well as regular exercise.  High cholesterol can be treated with dietary changes, weight loss and possibly prescription cholesterol medication.

Pap smear.  Like a colonoscopy, pelvic exams are no fun but they are necessary for women.  Even if you’re not sexually active, a pelvic exam with a pap smear is recommended every two years to check for abnormalities.  Pap smears can be used to diagnose such illnesses as cervical cancer and human papilloma virus (HPV), and are recommended annually if you have multiple sexual partners, are HIV-positive, or already have a sexually transmitted disease.

Diabetes screening.  Diabetes is one of the fastest growing diseases in the American population, with more than one million new cases diagnosed each year.  If you are overweight, exhibiting the symptoms of diabetes or if there’s a family history of it, see your doctor so that he or she can perform a blood glucose test.  You may be required to fast for eight hours beforehand, and a blood glucose level of equal to or greater than 126 mg/dL usually indicates diabetes.  Diabetes can be controlled with a diet low in sugar and carbohydrates, and by maintaining a healthy weight.

Even just one of these tests is a good start to ensure good health.  Celebrate National Women’s Health Week by taking care of yourself!

Gena Radcliffe

Medex Supply Blogger


From out of nowhere, your heart starts pounding furiously, racing as though you’ve just run a mile. Your palms are damp with sweat, you have trouble catching your breath and you feel dizzy, as though you may faint. These are the signs of a panic attack, and while it’s a terrifying experience, it’s not dangerous. However, panic attacks are a symptom of a larger problem that can greatly impact the quality of life, and need to be addressed before they become incapacitating.

A panic attack simulates the feeling of intense fear, even if there is no immediate danger present. It triggers the release of “fight or flight” hormones, which force animals, including humans, to react to life-threatening situations. In most cases, panic attacks happen seemingly for no reason and without warning, often while the sufferer is just going about his or her ordinary day. They can last anywhere from a few minutes to an hour, and it may take several days for the aftereffects to wear off. The physical sensations tend to resemble those of a heart attack or nervous breakdown, and may be severe enough to force sufferers to seek emergency treatment.

At least 60 million Americans will suffer a panic attack at some point in their lives, contributing to increased health care costs and lost time from work, with women twice as likely to experience one as men.  Though they appear to be triggered without cause, in actuality panic attacks are a psychosomatic response to either tremendous emotional stress or a traumatic event, sometimes occurring months or even years after the event took place.  People who experience a panic attack, particularly more than once, may also suffer from generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder, all of which may require treatment by a mental health professional.   More than 3 million Americans have panic disorder, which can cause panic attacks on a near-daily basis.  Sufferers of panic disorder may feel as though they’re constantly on the verge of a panic attack, and it can become disruptive enough to prevent them from holding down a job or going to school.

A one-time panic attack with no further issues probably isn’t anything to worry about, though you should take a few moments to reassess your stress level to make sure you’re not overwhelmed.  Often we don’t realize how much stress we’re under until it manifests itself in physical issues such as headaches, fatigue and, yes, the occasional panic attack.  It’s especially important to keep tabs on how you’re feeling emotionally if you’re dealing with a particularly stressful event in your life, such as work difficulties, a loved one’s illness or death, or marital problems. 

If you experience a panic attack more than once within a brief period of time, or find the symptoms so debilitating that they require a trip to the emergency room, a visit to a therapist who specializes in anxiety disorders should be considered.  A therapist may be able to help determine the root cause of the panic attacks, as well as what kind of treatment will suit your needs and if medication is required to control them.  He or she may also be able to teach you coping techniques to stave off further panic attacks, such as light meditation, positive self-reassurance (such as telling yourself “this is a panic attack, it will go away”), taking deep breaths and tensing and relaxing the muscles of the body.  If you suffer from frequent panic attacks, you should also consider engaging in such stress-relieving activities as yoga or aerobic exercise, and reduce, if not eliminate entirely, caffeine and alcohol consumption.  The important thing is to seek help.  While a panic attack is not a threat to your physical health, it’s also not just “all in your head” either, and there is no need to continue suffering in silence.

Gena Radcliffe

Medex Supply Blogger


Sunday is Mother’s Day, and instead of the usual flowers or candy, why not give your mom a gift that will really make her feel good? Here are some ideas that are healthy, thoughtful and affordable, and will let her know just how much you appreciate her, not just on Sunday but every day of the year!

Donate to charity.  It’s very likely that you first learned about doing for others from your mother, so Mother’s Day is the perfect opportunity to show it.  Find out what her favorite cause or charity is, then make a donation in her name.  Often, depending on the amount of the donation, the charity will send a certificate or thank you card to donors, which makes a wonderful keepsake for a gift that not just shows Mom you care but can help other people in need.  You could also sign the two of you up for a volunteering project together—check Craigslist or websites such as Volunteer Match to find one-time projects in your area, such as working in a community garden or delivering food to the elderly.

Treat her to a massage.  Often mothers tend to neglect their own needs and ignore the signs of stress and tiredness until they start to cause physical discomfort.  Giving your mom a gift certificate for a massage, or taking her for a spa day is a great way to allow her the indulgence and relaxation she deserves for a couple hours.  Therapeutic massage has been medically proven to relieve both physical and emotional tension, and the effects often last for long periods of time.  If spa pricing prove too expensive for your budget, many massage schools offer reduced rates.  You could also try such websites as Groupon and Living Social for great one-day specials and spa packages.

Treat her to a pedicure.  If you’d rather give a gift on a somewhat smaller scale, you could take her for a pedicure.  Our feet are the parts of our bodies that take the most abuse, yet we rarely give them the care they deserve.  A pedicure can cost as little as $10 to $20, and often involve a light foot rub and a soothing warm water soak.  If nothing else, pretty toenails painted in cute, trendy colors are enough to brighten anyone’s day!

Make her breakfast in bed.  Another gift that costs nothing but your time is to surprise Mom with a healthy, delicious breakfast served in bed.  Try whole grain pancakes with fruit and some turkey bacon—just make sure you know what she likes first! Remember to include a copy of the Sunday newspaper and maybe a single flower in a vase and she’ll be smiling all day.  It’s a classic that still works.

Take her on a picnic.  Some of a mother’s favorite memories of her children are of simple times spent outdoors, enjoying the sunshine and just being together.  You’re never too old to play outside! Pack a picnic lunch, or even just some fruit and cheese and take Mom to a local park.  Take a walk, or engage in other fun activities such as kite flying or going on a rowboat ride.  You could even just sit and talk for a while, taking some time away from your busy lives to just enjoy each other’s company.  The best gift any mother can receive from her child is love and appreciation, and that often requires little more than your time and presence.  Happy Mother’s Day!

Gena Radcliffe

Medex Supply Blogger


In addition to Oncology Nursing Month, May is also High Blood Pressure Education Month.  One out of three Americans has high blood pressure, and that number only increases in individuals between the ages of 45 and 64.  Many people with high blood pressure aren’t even aware that there’s a problem.

Blood pressure is measured with two numbers.  The first is the systolic number, which represents the pressure when the heart beats, while the second is the diastolic number, which represents the pressure between beats.  Normal blood pressure is a systolic number of 120 or less and a diastolic number of 80 or less, while high blood pressure, or hypertension, is a systolic number of 140 or higher and a diastolic number of 90 or higher.  A blood pressure reading in between those numbers indicates prehypertension, which may develop into hypertension if left untreated.

While family history can play a role in developing high blood pressure, so can stress, smoking, obesity, a diet high in salt, not getting enough exercise, too much alcohol consumption and certain illnesses such as diabetes, chronic kidney disease and disorders of the adrenal and thyroid glands.  Very often there is no specific underlying cause, in what is referred to as essential hypertension.  High blood pressure affects more men than women, and African-Americans are twice as likely to develop it as Caucasians.  The health risks related to high blood pressure are numerous and can be quite serious.  Untreated it may damage arterial walls, which can lead to arteriosclerosis, heart disease, kidney failure or aneurysm.  High blood pressure can also damage the eyes and cause male sexual impotency.    Most importantly, it’s a primary cause of heart attacks and stroke, with the risks increasing if you’re overweight, a smoker or have diabetes.

The good news is that, for all the havoc it can cause, high blood pressure is also very treatable.  While chronic hypertension may require medication, it can also be treated by getting regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, lowering sodium intake by leaving table salt out of meals and avoiding such foods as bacon and processed lunch meats, limiting alcohol use, not smoking, reducing caffeine and being mindful of stress and anxiety levels.  It’s also important to see your doctor regularly and keep track of your blood pressure at home to make sure that it’s healthy and consistent.  Even just one of the tips listed can do some good, so take control of your life back from high blood pressure! It’s not as hard as you think.

Gena Radcliffe

Medex Supply Blogger