Do You Have High Blood Pressure? Find Out with This New Online Interactive Tool

Do You Have High Blood Pressure? Find Out with This New Online Interactive Tool

Nearly half of the adults in the U.S. have high blood pressure. This means that you or someone close to you has a blood pressure reading at 130/80 or higher.

It wasn’t always this way – just a couple of years ago 1 in 3 Americans had high blood pressure instead of nearly 1 in 2.

So why the change? Does this mean we’re getting less healthy?

It’s quite the opposite. Based on years of scientific study, the change means we’re actually more aware of the effects of elevated blood pressure.

Two years ago, the definition of high blood pressure changed from 140/90 to 130/80 (technically 130+ or 80+, but we’re keeping it simple here). The result is that more people became classified as having high blood pressure. It doesn’t mean that thousands of people became ill overnight, though. It means we want people to know that high blood pressure is serious, and that it can begin damaging your blood vessels and organs at lower levels than previously thought, particularly if you don’t act to keep your numbers from rising.

It’s worth noting that blood pressure tends to rise naturally as we age, so it typically hasn’t been on the health radar for people under age 45. However, with the new definition, an important health alert was sent to people in their 20s and 30s to pay attention to their blood pressure levels. Among men aged 20 -44, the rate of high blood pressure nearly tripled. Among women in that age range, it doubled.

The American Heart Association has created an interactive tool that can help you not only identify your health risk according to your blood pressure level, but also provide notes on what actions you can take to ensure it stays at, or gets to, a healthy level. You can check it out at www.heart.org/BPlevels.

Making changes that matter can have a significant impact on your blood pressure levels. In fact, most of those who suddenly find themselves with high blood pressure under the new definition will be given a “prescription” for lifestyle changes – not medicine – that can lower their pressure.  Even for those who do require medication to control their levels, lifestyle changes help those meds work better and can even help you stay on lower doses. Some examples of a lifestyle change prescription include:

Physical activity:

  • 90 – 150 minutes per week of aerobic activity can drop your top blood pressure number (called systolic pressure) by 5-8 mmHg.
  • 90 – 150 minutes per week of dynamic resistance exercise can drop your systolic blood pressure 4 mmHg

 A healthy diet:

  • Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy, such as the DASH eating plan can drop your systolic pressure up to 11 mmHg.

 Sodium (i.e. salt):

  • Reducing your salt intake by about 1000 mg per day has a similar effect on systolic pressure as increasing aerobic activity – dropping it about 5 mmHg.

 Weight loss:

  • For about every 2 pounds lost, your systolic pressure could drop 1 mmHg.

The benefits of lifestyle change can add up quickly. Many of the same lifestyle prescriptions that lower blood pressure also reduce the risk of other dangerous conditions such as diabetes, high cholesterol, and heart disease. Eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and getting regular physical activity can help you lead a healthier and longer life!

Article contributed by Sondra DePalma, DHSc, PA-C, Cardiology, PinnacleHealth Cardiovascular Institute, Harrisburg, PA

American Heart Association Volunteer

Disclaimer: Some slight edits may have been made to the article’s original copy for grammatical reasons and/or clarity. 


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How Fitness Improved My Mental Health

How Fitness Improved My Mental Health

“If you have a mental health condition, you’re not alone. One in 5 American adults experiences some form of mental illness in any given year. Every year people overcome the challenges of mental illness to do the things they enjoy. Through developing and following a treatment plan, you can dramatically reduce many of your symptoms. People with mental health conditions can and do pursue higher education, succeed in their careers, make friends and have relationships. Mental illness can slow us down, but we don’t need to let it stop us.”

Rachel Robins

Manager of PR and External Relations at NAMI, National Alliance on Mental Illness

For as long as I can remember, I’ve struggled with two things in life: my weight and my mental health.  

After moving from New Jersey to Florida at seven years old, I started seeing a mental health professional. I was labeled as the new girl, a title I’m not sure I’ve shed; always struggling to fit in and be accepted. That summer, my dad drove my brother and I to camp, and he had to drag me out of the car. Once I was out, I would throw myself on the ground stomping my feet on the pavement not caring who saw my temper tantrum. You could say I didn’t adjust well to the “Sunshine State.”   

In third grade, I remember getting on the scale at school and seeing a three-digit number and then hearing that number repeated down the hall.  

My pediatrician suggested attending his weekend fitness class. It was the exact opposite of what I wanted to do on a Saturday. I hated sweating. It was sticky, hot, smelly and uncomfortable. If working out equaled sweat, I wanted nothing to do with it. This is why physical education class and recess was a miserable experience for me. The Florida sun ensured I was always sweaty. And on top of it, I was the slowest runner and always got picked last. I become constantly worried that I would disappoint my team or the other kids would laugh at me.  

At the time, I didn’t understand the pit in my stomach wasn’t just hunger—it was anxiety. I was afraid of being different. Anxious thoughts would flood my mind. “What would people say about my weight?” “How am I ever going to fit in?” “Why don’t I look more like everyone else?”  

For the rest of my childhood and college years, I associated fitness with anxiety. I was also simultaneously struggling with obsessive compulsive disorder and depression. These factors led me to avoid exercise entirely. Little did I know how big of a role fitness was going to play in my battle against mental illness.  

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Fitness Helped Me Cope  

When I was 29, I made a New Year’s resolution to lose weight and work out at least four to five times a week. For me to finally reach my weight goal, I had to squash my body insecurities and reverse how I felt towards fitness. I was doing quite well with both goals up until June. That’s when the depression crept in. I was still reeling from a breakup months past. I turned 30, an age I had been dreading for the past decade. I was unemployed. Curled up in a ball, I would cry and think it would be easier for everyone if I wasn’t there. I wanted the pain to stop.  

I wanted more control over my own life. No matter how many positions I applied for, I couldn’t control which companies would interview me or offer me a job. Nor could I make my former boyfriend love and care about me. But I had the power to decide if I worked out that day. So, I made a promise with myself. “Rachel, if you leave your apartment and go to a fitness class, then you can mope and feel sorry about yourself the rest of the day.”  

As much as I dislike the actual act of working out, I always left the gym in a better mood. I felt accomplished in that moment and not like the “loser” I had become in my mind. In the face of adversity, I was doing something, even if it took every ounce of energy to get myself there. The endorphins kept me going during those dark days.  

Now, I have a job and am grateful to have somewhere to go every day. I’m still not over my breakup and there are days where I have no idea what my purpose in life is. I’m nowhere near where I expected to be at this stage of my life, but I’m finally willing to step out of my comfort zone and try new things. 

My fitness renaissance has led to me rock climbing, surfing on the Atlantic Ocean, stand-up paddle boarding on the Hudson River and doing yoga in the middle of Times Square. I’m still insecure. I still battle my mental illnesses daily. But now the gym is my haven—a place where I am a superhero—a place that saved my life.  

Visit nami.org for additional treatment options and to learn how to find support in your community. If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call the toll-free Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) to speak with a trained crisis counselor 24/7 or text NAMI to 741-741. 

Rachel Robins is the Manager of PR and External Relations at NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. A new resident of Washington D.C., but a Southerner at heart, you can probably find her at the local barre (class).  

Disclaimer: Slight edits may have been made to original copy for grammatical corrections and/or clarity. 

 

Surf Photo – October 2016

Hike Photo – November 2017

Infographic provided by NAMI. 


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What is Considered Being “Mentally Healthy”?

What is Considered Being “Mentally Healthy”?

What is mental health?

Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social health and well-being. It is important at every age. According to the WHO (World Health Organization), mental health is “… a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities can cope with the normal stresses of life can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.” It is important to note that the WHO stresses that mental health “is not just the absence of a mental disorder.”

Why is it important?

Mental Health is important because it affects us every day, in almost everything we do. It impacts how we function, interact with others, and how we feel about ourselves and our lives.  Furthermore, it can have a profound impact on our bodies and physical health as well.

What can be done to improve mental health?

For children and adults, learning how to identify and understand our emotions is a vital component in improving mental health. Emotions are not bad – however, we need to better teach people to identify and understand their emotions and most importantly, what to do with them.  We also must teach and develop personal coping skills so that one can process and use their emotions in a healthy and productive manner.

There are several key things we can all do to improve and maintain our mental health which includes keeping a regular schedule, especially ensuring adequate sleep. Getting regular exercise (even low intensity like walking counts) every day. Try to reduce the amount of time you sit for, as they say, “sitting is the new smoking”! Try and eat a healthy well-balanced diet with lots of fruits and vegetables. Connecting with others and helping others can also improve our mental health. Lastly, don’t be afraid to get professional help if you need it!

How someone can get help if they need it?

It doesn’t always feel like it, but there is help everywhere.  A few national resources that are available to anyone are the National Suicide Hotline (1-800-273-8255), Textline (741741), and online chat. The National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI.org) is a great resource not just for those who are struggling with their mental health, but also for their families.  For the LGBTQ+ population, Trevor Project has a hotline (1-866-488-7386), Textline (678678), online chat and multiple other online resources too.

Individuals should also contact their healthcare provider to learn more about the resources that they offer.  At Kaiser Permanente, our mental health resources include a wide range of services for all ages from medication management, individual therapy, group therapy, wellness phone coaching and in-person classes through our Center for Healthy Living as well as numerous online services. 

There are also people around you that are there to help, whether it’s a teacher, a coach, a religious leader or spiritual counselor, a supervisor at work or an Employee Assistance Program.

Kaiser Permanente also has a great website called FindYourWords.org which provides resources and help for those wanting to help someone else or those looking for help themselves. 

Mental Health Tip!

One of my favorite exercises to recommend to patients is gratitude. Thinking of three things you are grateful for every night before you go to bed has been shown to significantly improve your mood. It doesn’t have to be anything outrageous, you can be grateful for having a bed to sleep in, or for your bad day being over, or for the amazing thing that happened to you that day. But, remember just three! No more, no less, even if every night it’s the same three and kids can do it too. Try it for a week, see how you feel!

Ashley Zucker

MD, Chief of Psychiatry , Kaiser Permanente, San Bernardino

Responses contributed by Ashley Zucker, MD, Chief of Psychiatry at Kaiser Permanente in San Bernardino.


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Instructor Spotlight | Working Out is Truly the Best Medicine

Instructor Spotlight | Working Out is Truly the Best Medicine

“Working out is truly the best medicine! There is not a pill out there that can make you feel as good as you do with regular workout sessions. So just do it!  You will never regret working out. Classes make it fun and allow you to meet new people. We all feed off of one another in the class so bring your energy and join me!”

Karla K.

Group Fitness Instructor, LA Fitness

I currently teach 10 classes a week for LA Fitness, in following formats: Sculpt, Bodyworks Plus Abs, Cycle, Aqua Fit, and Senior Fitness. I love to teach a variety of formats because you get to meet a variety of people this way and interact with members of every age and fitness level. My current fitness goal is to feel good, and I do!

I started teaching for LA Fitness about 10 years ago, around the time that LA Fitness had opened in Michigan. LA Fitness was looking for instructors, so I began my AFAA group certification and was hired right after. Teaching has helped hold me accountable for my workouts. I look forward to going to work. It really is the best job in the world. To have 30+ members waiting for you and looking forward to “your” class is a great feeling. I often tell the members who are thanking me for motivating them that they also motivate me to be a better instructor for them!! So, I always thank them right back!

I have always worked out from a young age in my living room where I would do step aerobics from the TV. I danced at a studio for 6 years and did Poms [high school dance team] in high school. When I graduated high school I joined Vic Tanny, which then became Bally Total Fitness. I always took the classes when I could, with step being my favorite class.

Eventually, I got into running. I would run 20 to 30 miles a week before work or school or in the afternoon whenever I could fit it in. I earned my BA in psychology from Oakland University. I got married had two children and used my treadmill a lot. I came back to the gym when my treadmill broke. I joined a different gym and just ran a lot! Then, I started taking classes at Bally’s again, and shortly after my local Bally’s location was acquired by LA Fitness is when I went and became group certified with AFAA and began teaching at LA Fitness.

Teaching has brought my fitness to a new level of amazing! I have never had so much fun or felt so good! LA Fitness brings training workshops to our state at least once a year to train us in different formats, and they are always great and professional.

As for my diet, I am mostly vegetarian. I chose to stop eating meat when I was 19 years old. Although my decision to become vegetarian wasn’t primarily for health reasons, I do believe it helps me to stay at a good weight and feel great and healthy.

Some slight adjustments may have been made for clarity and/or grammatical purposes. 


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The Benefits of Exercise for Cancer Patients

The Benefits of Exercise for Cancer Patients

After finding out they have cancer, people want to know what’s happening to their body. They have questions about what their treatment options are, how likely those are to succeed, and what sort of side-effects they may encounter, to name a few. Many people are curious about exercise, and whether it can play a role in their cancer journey.  

Physical activity and exercise can be a key part of someone’s cancer-control regimen. That’s one of the many answers that can be found in the NCCN Guidelines for Patients®—available for free at NCCN.org/patients—a series of understandable and informative books from the National Comprehensive Cancer Network® (NCCN®). That’s the same nonprofit organization responsible for the NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology (NCCN Guidelines®) which many doctors rely on for up-to-date, evidence- and expert consensus-based recommendations for high-quality cancer care. 

According to Robert W. Carlson, MD, breast cancer oncologist and CEO of NCCN, “Studies have shown that staying physically active is one of the best ways for people who’ve been diagnosed with cancer to take special care of themselves before, during, and after treatment. However, it’s important that patients talk with their doctor or physical therapist about the type of exercise they’re considering, so they can make sure it will be safe for them. Physical activity and exercise recommendations should be tailored to individual abilities and preferences.” 

Uterine cancer survivor and advocate Colleen Johnson, PhD, knows a thing or two about individual abilities, and how to push herself beyond all limitations. When Colleen was first diagnosed with cancer at age 57, she was a self-described couch potato with an unhealthy BMI. Her first course of treatment involved major surgery, so she needed a few months of recovery before ultimately taking up running—a hobby that helped her to lose weight, get rid of diabetes, and take back control over her body. Colleen completed her first full marathon just 17 months after surgery. After that, she set her sights on ultra-marathons, and now runs at least one 100-miler every year to remain healthy while also raising awareness for uterine cancer.  

“You have to find hope, somewhere,” Colleen said. “I found it in exercise and diet. In the beginning, I thought it was probably false hope, but I didn’t have anything to lose by trying it. I was amazed when it turned out to be true—exercise and weight loss really did help fight my cancer.” 

Colleen is now featured on the cover of the NCCN Guidelines for Patients: Uterine Cancer, which can be read and downloaded for free at NCCN.org/patients. Her advocacy around this rarely discussed but increasingly common type of cancer—which is also known as endometrial cancer—inspired NCCN to include it in the growing library of patient guidelines, which also include Breast, Colon, Lung, Prostate, Stomach, and other cancer types accounting for approximately 88% of all cancer incidences in the United States. 

Of course, running ultra-marathons isn’t for everyone. Swimming, jogging, biking, and even walking can get your heart rate pumping. Work with your doctor to customize your exercise routine to whatever fits best for your life. Some answers can only come from within, but free, reliable, and empowering information about cancer care is available—if you know where to look 


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