Blood Pressure – Part 1

black and white blood pressure kit

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By Renea Dennison, Contributor

Your blood cells provide oxygen and nutrition while removing waste. Those same blood cells rush through a complex structure made up of veins and arteries known as the circulatory system. Your circulatory system provides every organ in your body, including the heart which keeps it moving, life.

You might think as long as the blood is flowing without obstruction everything should be fine and you are healthy. However, there is another important factor to consider. How much force, or pressure, is the moving blood placing on the walls of the arteries as it goes through? This is an important question. High blood pressure (HBP) damages organs and can cause stroke, kidney failure, and heart attacks. Unfortunately, you cannot feel this pressure. Usually, all seems ordinary whether your blood pressure (BP) is high or normal. That is why HBP, or hypertension, is known as the ‘silent killer’.

When you go to the doctor someone takes your BP. It doesn’t matter what your symptoms, if you are age 3 and older and go to the doctor’s they will take it. They do so at every opportunity because using the cuff and measuring is the only way to know if you have developed HBP.

While at the doctor’s, you may wonder what your medical professional is doing when they pump air into the cuff and then listen through a stethoscope tucked under the cuff. They pump enough air to provide more pressure than your systolic (top) number and then wait for the whooshing sound to get your top number. When they cannot hear the pressure any more, they have the diastolic (bottom) number. So for example, they will say you have 120 (top) over 80 (bottom) also written as 120/80.

Did that sound like gibberish to you? (It used to sound like it to me.) Let me explain. The systolic, or top number represents the pressure on your artery walls when your heart is beating. That is, when your heart is squeezing blood forcefully through your body. It is measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg). I don’t know why, except that is how they first figured it out and they are still doing it the same way today. Anyway, this is the number that is given most attention. I remember it by thinking of the S in systolic. To me it means stress or strain as in the pressure the squeezing heart puts on the walls of your arteries. People with good BP always have a systolic number under 120.

We call lower number the diastolic number. It is based on the pressure in your arty walls when your heart is not beating. That is, when it is resting, filling with blood and taking in oxygen. I remember this number by thinking of the D in diastolic and relating it to the word downtime. Don’t get me wrong, you can still be diagnosed with HBP even if your systolic number is under 120 if your diastolic number is high enough. It is just not very common. A normal healthy person will have a diastolic number under 80.

Next week we will talk a little more about the numbers and what it means to have HPB. In the meantime, eat right, exercise, and keep a happy attitude.

Century Health Solutions is a subsidiary of Stormont Vail Health, Topeka and provides free Medicare Educational Seminars. We are your local expert in Medicare insurance planning and will help you find the best option for your personal situation. Call us at 785-270-4593 with questions or to sign up for a free seminar. Our business hours are Monday-Friday, 8:00am-4:30pm.

Go to: http://www.centuryinsuranceagencyks.com or email info@century-health.com for more information.

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Breathe Easy

pexels-photo-321576.jpegBy Renea Dennison, Contributor

This is National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month. We put them in the same month because they both impact breathing, and both are inflammatory illnesses. Inflammation is the enemy of wellness, especially if it becomes chronic.

Asthma can be described as airway inflammation marked by spasms in the bronchi of the lungs. It causes difficulty in breathing, and is sometimes misdiagnosed as COPD in the elderly. Asthma has a better prognosis if treated properly, so a correct diagnosis is very important.

Asthma is reported in 8-10% of the population, and though most people associate it with youngsters, anyone can develop asthma and older adults are particularly at risk. People with asthma may experience chest tightness, shortness of breath, or cough, and episodic wheezing. Short term prescriptions, such as steroids, are effective but prescribing them can be problematic with senior patients who often have multiple medications already.

In addition, older adults having mild asthma symptoms may have the same level of breathing difficulty as children experiencing a severe attack which complicates both diagnosis and treatment. Asthma in seniors rarely goes into remission, and is much more likely to become a potentially dangerous, if not disabling disease. Asthma episodes may be induced by physical activity or exposure to irritants that trigger allergies.

Allergies can be a serious issue for seniors. Like asthma, treatment can be troublesome due to other medications you may be taking. Also, physicians may overlook your allergic reactions since they are looking at bigger issues you may be experiencing. Therefore it is important to tell your doctor when you are having allergic reactions to things indoors or outdoors. Further, you should avoid traditional antihistamines unless specifically prescribed by your doctor. They can be dangerous to seniors as their side effects include confusion, drowsiness, and dizziness.

You can minimize your allergic reactions by controlling your environment. If you have seasonal allergies, check the pollen count on your weather forecast and avoid the outdoors on the worst days. You should also keep you windows closed if possible when pollen counts are high. If you do go out, wear sunglasses to protect your eyes. When you get home, wash your hands, shower, and change your clothes. If you go to bed after being outdoors without showering, change the pillowcase before retiring the next night. Make sure your air conditioner unit is serviced regularly, and your vents cleaned annually to avoid mold and dust allergies.

Asthma and allergies are nothing to sneeze at, but there are steps you can take to reduce the rate and strength of incidence. If you think you may have asthma or allergies talk to your doctor. Understanding your health situation, avoiding triggers and being prepared are the best ways you can combat these illnesses and breathe easy.

Century Health Solutions is a subsidiary of Stormont Vail Health, Topeka and provides free Medicare Educational Seminars. We are your local expert in Medicare insurance planning and will help you find the best option for your personal situation. Call us at 785-270-4593 with questions or to sign up for a free seminar. Our business hours are Monday-Friday, 8:00am-4:30pm.

Go to: http://www.centuryinsuranceagencyks.com or email info@century-health.com for more information.

Engage at Every Age

By Renea Dennison, Contributor

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May is when we observe Older American’s Month. The Administration on Aging has announced the 2018 theme to be Engage at Every Age. (The Administration on Aging is part of the Administration for Community Living and can be reached at www.acl.gov. )

This month we celebrate the many ways seniors add value to the lives of others. Of course, people of any age can take part in the activities planned. The website claims the theme, “emphasizes that you are never too old (or too young) to take part in activities that can enrich your physical, mental and emotional well-being and celebrates the many ways older adults make a difference in our communities.”

This blog frequently encourages a healthy lifestyle including physical, mental and emotional wellness. During May we are reminded of all the wonderful ways seniors influence and mentor younger adults and children. Older people set an example every day by keeping active, being in emotional control, eating right, and seeking help when something is wrong.

It’s true that when we get older we tend to begin to feel forgotten. We often move slower, which causes us to fall behind. Frequently we are last to be waited on, and are sometimes ignored at service counters. We can begin to feel invisible. In addition, we can’t always participate in fun activities or helping others the way we did when we were younger. We need to remember though, that we still have loads to offer. We have so much experience in the world! We have learned heaps and earned every wisdom (gray) hair on our heads. This knowledge needs to be shared and handed down to younger generations.

Don’t worry if their interest doesn’t coincide in a timely manner with your desire to share. You can still write it down, record it, or better yet, make a video and post it for your family in social media. Tell them about your family history, or some experience you had that really taught you something. Did you lock yourself out three times in one week (like me) and learn to always have a spare? Did your grandmother tell you a story about walking across the prairie with no one in sight? Do you know a trick to folding sheets or the best way to make gravy?

You probably have many interesting tales to tell, and lots of wisdom to impart. Celebrate this month by remembering all you have given and all you still have to give. Check your local Aging agency for any events you can participate in. For Topeka, you can contact the Jayhawk Area Agency on Aging or the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability. You still have so much to offer, and nothing is more rewarding than helping and giving to others.

Century Health Solutions is a subsidiary of Stormont Vail Health, Topeka and provides free Medicare Educational Seminars. We are your local expert in Medicare insurance planning and will help you find the best option for your personal situation. Call us at 785-270-4593 with questions or to sign up for a free seminar. Our business hours are Monday-Friday, 8:00am-4:30pm.

Go to: http://www.centuryinsuranceagencyks.com or email info@century-health.com for more information.

Stress Chess – Part 2

By Renea Dennison, Contributor

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Last week we discussed stress as it relates to seniors. (You can read about it here.) We talked about some causes of stress, and how it can harm your health and shorten your life expectancy. We also discussed some moves you can make to reduce your stress and likened it to a game of chess. You just have to choose the right pieces from your arsenal. The first piece we discussed was the Pawn-Breathe/Meditate/Pray. Now we will discuss the remaining pieces.

Rook – Stretch/Practice Yoga

Lift your arms up above your head or extend your legs gently to stretch. Breathe deeply while you do so. Yoga moves a little beyond simply stretching to act as a full mind and body stress reliever. Yoga can be done just about anywhere and by anyone. There is even chair yoga for the disabled or those unable to get on the floor.

Knight – Calming music/Read

Play calming music. Music is very effective as therapy for just about anything. You can use it to wind yourself up and get motivated or to relax to the point of sleep. Reading is another way to relax. Let yourself be carried away by the story while you sit calmly. Breathe deeply and listen to calming music while you read and you will have a triple move!

Bishop – Change the pace (Mall Browsing)/Laugh

Do something you don’t every day to change up the familiar – go to the mall. An indoor mall will have comfortable temperatures and ambiance. You can people watch, enjoy a latte at the local coffee shop, browse at the bookstore, or meet up with friends. On a nice day go to an outdoor mall to enjoy the weather. Buy something while you are out, or don’t. The idea is just to have fun and break your routine. Spend time laughing. You can laugh with your friends at the mall, or watch a comedy. Whatever it takes. The old adage ‘Laughter is the Best Medicine’ still holds true today. Your attitude can make all the difference in life.

Queen – Water/Walk/Nature

Spend some time in a pool, the ocean, or a nice bubble filled tub. Take a long walk or get some other kind of gentle exercise. Go to the park or woods and spend some time in nature. A walk in nature can be very soothing.

King – Hobbies/Pets

Enjoying your hobbies can really help you relax. Needlework, gardening, and other similar hobbies can significantly lower your stress levels. Petting a dog or cat, or playing with one helps too.

Of course, the key to managing stress comes back to my favorite theme – eat right, get enough rest and exercise properly. When you are fit and healthy the worrisome events in life are easier to handle, and have less physical impact. Remember, you have the ability to win at stress chess if you play your pieces right.

Century Health Solutions is a subsidiary of Stormont Vail Health, Topeka and provides free Medicare Educational Seminars. We are your local expert in Medicare insurance planning and will help you find the best option for your personal situation. Call us at 785-270-4593 with questions or to sign up for a free seminar. Our business hours are Monday-Friday, 8:00am-4:30pm.

Go to: http://www.centuryinsuranceagencyks.com or email info@century-health.com for more information.

Stress Chess – Part 1

By Renea Dennison, Contributor

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Google defines stress as “a state of mental or emotional tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.” We hear about stress and see it described everywhere when we have children, work, or have special projects going on like remodeling a room or planning a big event. We tend to associate it with young and middle-aged adults.

Most people do not relate the word to older people. Seniors who are still working have made their peace with their jobs. They are usually empty-nesters who we observe out in the world enjoying life. Older seniors have retired, so surely they have nothing to worry about, right? Wrong!

Seniors never stop worrying about their children, no matter how old or successful they become. They also have to deal with increasing health issues, reduced function, apprehension about having enough money to last their retirement, worrying about the health of their aging family and friends, and the pain of a growing list of lost loved ones. In addition, seniors may have to become a caregiver to a spouse or sibling. Caregivers can lose as much as four years of their life due to the stress and physical exhaustion of caregiving.

Chronic stress has long been known to increase serious health issues, and sometimes cause them. Here are the top 10: heart disease, asthma, obesity, diabetes, headaches, depression and anxiety, gastrointestinal problems, Alzheimer’s disease, accelerated aging and premature death (webmd.com).

Younger people seem to cope with stress easily. When stress is chronic or serious, they can learn a number of techniques to wrestle it under control. Older people, on the other hand, find coping is difficult, if not impossible. Like playing chess, you can make some moves to help you dispatch the tension so you can enjoy life again. Just choose the right chess pieces. The first piece is the Pawn. It should be your go-to piece when stress threatens to overwhelm you.

Pawn – Breathe/Meditate/Pray

Breathe deeply and slowly. Seriously, it is that simple. Just keep breathing. Concentrating on your breath is also a good way to meditate. Just continue breathing for 10-20 minutes and you are meditating. If you prefer, you can spend this time in prayer. Both praying and meditating have been proven to have a positive impact on the body and health.

Next week we will discuss some more pieces to have in your arsenal of stress chess. Winning against the negative effects of stress should be a key goal for everyone. If you have multiple stress factors in your life, putting these pieces to work for you cannot only improve it, they may well increase how long you live.

Century Health Solutions is a subsidiary of Stormont Vail Health, Topeka and provides free Medicare Educational Seminars. We are your local expert in Medicare insurance planning and will help you find the best option for your personal situation. Call us at 785-270-4593 with questions or to sign up for a free seminar. Our business hours are Monday-Friday, 8:00am-4:30pm.

Go to: http://www.centuryinsuranceagencyks.com or email info@century-health.com for more information.

Parkinson’s Disease

By Renea Dennison, Contributor

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April is National Parkinson’s Awareness Month. Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a neurodengerative disorder where the area of the brain that produces dopamine stops working properly. Dopamine is used in cell communication for motor function. PD is a progressive disease that affects 1.5 million Americans. The CDC lists it as the 14th leading cause of death.

SYMPTOMS

The symptoms are multiple and diverse. You may be familiar with the constant tremors and slow shuffling walk if you are a fan of Michael J Fox or Mohammed Ali. The walk comes from stiffening of the muscles. PD also causes balance trouble, depression and emotional issues, swallowing difficulties, sleep disorders, dementia and other mental concerns, bladder problems, smell dysfunction, fatigue, pain, and many other symptoms. The dementia is closely related to Alzheimer’s. The disease usually, though not always, progresses slowly over five stages, which ultimately leads to the need for a caregiver. How these symptoms and stages all work together varies widely from person to person, making it difficult to diagnose early.

CAUSES

There is no cure for Parkinson’s disease. We still do not even have a test or know exactly what causes it. Science suspects two main sources. One is environment. Exposure to herbicides and pesticides may increase your risk of PD. The other is genetic. Researchers have found five genes so far that are associated with PD. (If you have a family member with PD your risks still remain small, unless you have many relatives in your family with PD.) There is also evidence that certain illnesses or head traumas can lead to PD.

RISKS of getting PD include:

Age – most people who develop PD are older than 60.

Being male – men are affected 1.5 to 2 times more often than women.

Heredity – the more people in your family history with it, the higher your risk.

Head trauma, illness or exposure to toxins.

TREATMENT

While there is no cure, there are therapies that help with symptoms. In earlier stages drugs that imitate the missing dopamine can delay the progression of the disease, or reduce the motor symptoms. Unfortunately, some of these medications have unpleasant long term side effects. For some individuals with advanced PD, deep brain stimulation has been beneficial. Another possible approach with great potential is the use of stem cells. Finally, in addition to these therapies a healthy lifestyle such as eating right, getting plenty of rest, and exercise (such as riding a bike daily), and physical, occupational, and/or speech therapy may help.

PREVENTION

Without knowing what exactly causes PD it is hard to know how to prevent it. However, some studies have shown caffeine (found in coffee, tea and cola) may reduce your risk of developing PD. Green tea and aerobic exercise may also help you avoid it.

Parkinson’s disease is a horrible illness. Imagine you or your loved one dealing with broken sleep, dementia, physical limitations, and some of the other dysfunctions that may come with it. Though most live long, full lives, many, like Michael J Fox, get early onset PD causing them to lose function during some of the best years of their lives.

As with other diseases and illnesses discussed in this blog, I believe your best chance of avoiding PD is a healthy lifestyle. Eat right. Get plenty of rest. Make sure you exercise including strength and aerobic training. Try to reduce your stress levels. Find time to have fun with friends and family. Finally, please be aware of the devastation this disease causes. Be supportive to anyone you know who has this disease or is living with someone with it. In the end, all we have is each other.

Century Health Solutions is a subsidiary of Stormont Vail Health, Topeka and provides free Medicare Educational Seminars. We are your local expert in Medicare insurance planning and will help you find the best option for your personal situation. Call us at 785-270-4593 with questions or to sign up for a free seminar. Our business hours are Monday-Friday, 8:00am-4:30pm.

Go to: http://www.centuryinsuranceagencyks.com or email info@century-health.com for more information.

Living With Loss

By Renea Dennison, Contributor

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Death comes to all of us, and most experience it first through the loss of someone we know and love. We bear the pain of grief and move forward in a world that is no longer the same. The intensity of the change depends on the depth of our attachment to the departed.

The parent of a co-worker or a neighbor you scarcely know will probably be barely a ripple in the stream of your life. However, lose a parent yourself, a spouse, or worse, a child, and you may feel lost in a haze for months, if not years. Our relationships to those around us is what makes life joyful and fulfilling, so when a connection is broken the result is sadness and heartbreak.

We all experience bereavement as we go through life, and hopefully, we all recover and move forward. However, having additional losses before we have completely healed can make rebounding more difficult. Multiple deaths in a relatively short time span can slide you into a deep depression.

Soldiers, for instance, have faced significant losses during the course of their service. Situations in civilian life can also occur that exposes us to loss after loss. I remember reading about a man who at age 40 attended 37 funerals in one year during the AIDS crisis. (Fortunately, those types of civilian cases are relatively rare.)

Seniors, on the other hand, must deal with death on a regular basis. They lose family and friends while handling an ever narrowing field of people who knew them when they were hearty and vital. It is a sad situation that no one ever grows accustomed to, and one of the more difficult aspects of a long life.

So what can be done? Soldiers cope in many ways. For instance, they honor their dead, celebrate their victories, and know those who sacrificed their all will always be remembered. Seniors can cope by keeping an optimistic outlook. For instance, try not to complain, keep busy, volunteer, exercise, keep healthy, and perhaps most importantly, continue to make new friends. Yes you will also lose some of your new friends, and yes it will be painful, but focus on the happiness you had together instead of your loss and it will help.

Finally, friends and family need to understand that those who pass are important to you. When you are 30 or 50 people support you by listening to you talk about the person you lost. Sometimes when we get older our younger connections look at it as part of life. Just like people sometimes experience charity fatigue during the holidays, our younger loved ones can feel ‘death’ fatigue. They tire of hearing yet another person they may or may not know has passed. They may feel you must be used to it by now. Help them understand though death is part of life, it is never ‘normal’ for us. We need to talk (or be quiet if that fits your personality), and we need understanding that we are sad while we grieve. We need patience from them, and from ourselves, as we work our way through our pain.

I encourage you to continue to make friends and attend the services of anyone you know who passes away. Do not let your concerns about sorrow stop you. Embrace your grief, and then let it go. Be someone who is determined to keep busy, volunteer, exercise, keep healthy, continue to make new friends and try not to complain. Focus on the best memories you have of your departed loved one. Be grateful for the time you had together, rather than concentrating on what you are missing. It is the best and easiest way to live with loss.

Century Health Solutions is a subsidiary of Stormont Vail Health, Topeka and provides free Medicare Educational Seminars. We are your local expert in Medicare insurance planning and will help you find the best option for your personal situation. Call us at 785-270-4593 with questions or to sign up for a free seminar. Our business hours are Monday-Friday, 8:00am-4:30pm.

Go to: http://www.centuryinsuranceagencyks.com or email info@century-health.com for more information.