Category Archives: Healthy Living

immunodeficiency

Genetic Immunodeficiency In Children

immunodeficiency

Prof. Adrian Liston and prof. Isabelle Meyts, along with a team of scientists, were able to characterize a new genetic immunodeficiency resulting from a mutation in a gene named STAT2. Patients with this mutation are extremely vulnerable to normally mild childhood illnesses such as rotavirus and enterovirus. The analysis of the genetic defect allows clinicians to provide children with the proper therapies before their illnesses prove fatal.  These findings have been published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

It has become possible for researchers to identify extremely subtle defects of the human immune system with the recent advancements in technologies and tools. Prior to these many patients with hidden immunodeficiencies, or defects that were not obvious from the beginning, often became extremely ill or even died before their genetic disorders were diagnosed. The team was able to identify a gene mutation causing an immunodeficiency that can be fatal during childhood, enabling children to be diagnosed, monitored and preemptively treated for the disorder.

These immunodeficiency disorders are not rare. They range from as severe as the well-known “bubble boy” to nearly impossible to detect “hidden” defects.  Immunodeficiencies are more common than scientists previously thought and they have only just begun to scratch the surface when it comes to defining these latter types of immune disorders that can be specific enough to make sufferers highly susceptible to just one or two types of diseases.

Prof. Adrian Liston stated he wouldn’t be surprised if they discover that up to 1 in 100 children are affected at the completion and identification of all genetic immunodeficiencies. The “hidden” ones are especially insidious because they do not present as obviously as other genetic immune disorders. One patient in their study did, unfortunately, die before a diagnosis could be made.  Another patient is alive and well since being diagnosed and is being carefully watched. If they can identify them, they can do something about most immunodeficiencies.

They stress the importance of assessing the severity of childhood illnesses on the part of parents and suggest that parents look for helpful information online and raise the possibility of a potential genetic immunodeficiency with a pediatrician.  Severe common illnesses may signal immune disorders. They feel that when an otherwise healthy child experiences extremely severe infection with a common pathogen like the flu or chickenpox virus, or when a child is particularly vulnerable to infection with a single pathogen, there is most likely an underlying defect in the immune system.  If there is a history of a child in the family succumbing to infection, this should alert the family and the clinician. Identifying the causative gene defect allows for genetic counseling and preventive measures to be taken.

Prof. Adrian Liston’s lab has developed a unique immune phenotyping platform and gene discovery program that can help identify previously unknown immune system defects and inflammatory diseases, aiding in new treatments that can be administered in a timely way to unravel “hidden” immunodeficiencies.  They seek to identify every possible cause of genetic immunodeficiency so that every child displaying warning signs can be tested and treated before it is too late.

Dr. Fredda Branyon

lower back pain

What Is Pheochromocytoma?

lower back pain

Pheochromocytoma is a rare tumor that usually grows in the middle of your lower back in your adrenal glands.  This is most commonly found in adults ages 30 to 50, but those of all ages can have it. About 10% of all cases are made up of children.  Few of these tumors spread to other organs but can be dangerous and should be treated right away.

The adrenal glands make hormones that control your metabolism, blood pressure and other important function.  Hormones are released by pheochromocytoma at much higher levels than normal. The hormones that are made by these tumors cause high blood pressure that can damage your heart, brain, lungs, and kidneys.

People with high blood pressure all the time sometimes have these tumors. For other people, it goes up and down. This may also be your only symptom but usually at least one of the following exists as well:

  • Constipation
  • Dizziness when standing
  • Nausea
  • Pale skin
  • Racing heartbeat
  • A severe headache
  • Stomach, side or back pain
  • Unusual sweating

You can experience these symptoms suddenly like an attack, several times a day. They might also happen just a few times a month, but as the tumor grows, these attacks may become stronger and happen more often.

Doctors don’t really know why most of these tumors form, but about 30% seem to run in families and are more likely to be cancerous than ones that appear randomly.  

They can also spread to other parts of your body, including your liver, lungs or bones.  They are also more common in people with inherited disorders or conditions that include Multiple endocrine neoplasias, type II, Von Hippel-Lindau disease, Neurofibromatosis 1 (NF1) and Hereditary paraganglioma syndrome.

Many who have pheochromocytoma are never diagnosed as the symptoms are so much like those of other conditions, but there are ways to find out if you have one of the tumors, such as:

  • Blood or urine tests to tell if you have high levels of hormones in your body
  • An MRI which uses powerful magnets and radio waves to make images of organs and tissues to check for a tumor
  • A CT scan which puts together several X-rays taken from different angles to see if there’s a tumor.

If you test positive, your doctor may recommend tests to see if it was caused by a genetic disorder and if you are at risk for more in the future.  They will also tell you if your children and other family members are at higher risk.

There is a 50% chance of passing it to a child if the parent has a damaged gene. Surgery is most likely needed to remove the tumor but the surgeon using tiny cuts instead of one large opening.  This is called laparoscopic or minimally invasive surgery that will shorten your recovery time.

If there are tumors in both glands, your surgeon may remove just the tumors and leave part of the glands. If both are removed you can take steroids to help replace the hormones your body usually makes. Chances are good that your symptoms will go away and your blood pressure will return to normal. Radiation and chemotherapy may be used if your tumor is cancerous.

Dr. Fredda Branyon

Source of carbohydrates

Surprising Sources Of Carbs

carbs

The normal foods that we associate carbs with are bread, pasta and cake.  We avoid these to keep the blood sugar level down. Carbs, however, can lurk in many less obvious places that we need to be aware of when counting carbs.

Most people with diabetes aim for 45-60 grams of carbs per meal; however, each person needs to discuss this with your doctor to learn the correct amount of carbs for you.

Surprising sources of carbs are:

1. Milk substitutes

Great options are organic soymilk and almond milk for those who are lactose-intolerant.  Watch for the flavored varieties that have more sugar. Vanilla almond milk has 16 grams of carbs and a cup of chocolate soymilk has 23 grams, compared to plain soymilk that has about 12 grams of carbs.

2. Yogurt

This is a good source of calcium and probiotics but some low-fat, fruit-flavored varieties have upward of 40 grams of carbs for 8 ounces.  Try to use organic yogurt.

3. One cup of Canned Baked Beans

Has 54 grams of carbs that could be the entire amount budgeted for one meal.  They provide protein and fiber but limit yourself to a ½ cup serving. If possible, it’s actually better to cook your own baked beans rather than eating from a can.

4. Tomato sauce

In a jar, you can count on there being added sugar and carbs. (about 12 grams per ½ cup). Check those nutrition facts and notice that many brands are high in sodium.

5. Salad Dressing

Nearly any bottle you reach for will have added sugar, so check those labels.  Try making your own with olive oil and vinegar. Otherwise, a tablespoon or two is unlikely to send your blood sugar soaring, but watch the amount you use.

6. Barbecue Sauce

One tablespoon will cost you about 7 grams of carbs.  Limit that dipping and dipping where you might end up with ½ cup and have eaten 59 grams of carbs.

7. Orange Chicken

Each eaten individually is healthy.  But orange chicken has 146 grams of carbs.  Better skip this dish when ordering at the Chinese restaurant.

8. Split Pea Soup

The starch in peas will yield a hefty 26 grams of carbs per cup along with those other nutrients like fiber.  There is usually a lot of added salt in soups, so choose those reduced-sodium varieties.

9. Sugar-free Cookies

Take another look. Just because these are sugar-free it doesn’t mean carb-free.  There are nearly as many carbs in sugar-free cookies per serving as their regular counterparts. And let’s not forget to look for what other chemicals are added in order to make it sugar-free but still sweet tasting.  Again, check those nutrition labels before making your choice.

10. Protein bars

Many of these bars, especially if aimed at athletes who need that extra energy, have plenty of carbs.  Try a banana with 1 tablespoon of almond butter for that healthy snack before your workout. This might be a better option.

Bottom line?  Check those nutrition labels as some foods just might surprise you with the amount of carbs they contain.

Dr Fredda Branyon

Your Health During and After Daylight Savings Time

Daylight Saving Time (DST) is the practice of setting the clocks an hour ahead of the standard time. The change, which moves an hour of natural daylight from the morning to the evening, costs millions of Americans an extra 60 minutes of sleep throughout spring and summer. Unfortunately, the time change may do more harm than just make you feel groggy.

Here are some aspects of your life and health DST can affect:

  1. Heart Health

Setting the clocks ahead for even an hour can take a toll on your heart. According to a study, daylight saving time transitions may increase your risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke.

  1. Diet and Appetite

Transitioning to daylight saving time can wreak havoc on your diet. Sleep deprivation influences the hormone levels in your body, causing changes in appetite and weight gain. As such, you may experience a sudden increase in cravings and binge eating.

  1. Mood and Productivity

As your body clock transitions into daylight saving time, disrupted sleep cycles become inevitable. When springing forward, especially as a regular office employee, your body needs to adjust to sleeping earlier. As a result, you may feel restless during the night, and then lethargic, moody, and unproductive in the day due to the lack of sleep.

How to Overcome Daylight Savings Time Transitions

You can avoid the health risks associated with daylight saving time by taking gradual steps, including:

  • Going to bed and waking up earlier than usual
  • Exposing yourself to sunlight after waking up, which can help reset your body clock
  • Stop drinking caffeinated beverages and other stimulants after lunch
  • Avoid taking naps since it can prevent you from falling asleep faster at night

What Happens When Daylight Savings Time Ends?

After DST, almost everyone in the United States will need to reset their clocks. Although an extra hour of sleep is a wish granted for many, it can also take a toll on your health. You may experience:

  1. Disturbed Sleep and Insomnia

Did you finally adjust to DST? Well, you need to re-acclimate your body clock all over again. While an extra hour of sleep seems heavenly, it can disrupt normal sleep patterns and cause certain health conditions, such as insomnia and fatigue.

  1. Depression

Once DST ends, the sun will go down earlier, meaning sunlit days will be much shorter. People will spend more waking hours in the dark, which may lead to an increased risk of seasonal affective disorder (SAD). SAD is a form of depression that can be difficult to deal with in the winter months.

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), SAD manifests in sleep difficulty or excessive sleeping, feelings of hopelessness, thoughts of suicide, fatigue, and weight gain.

How to Overcome the End of Daylight Savings Time

The simplest way to adjust your body clock is to start changing your sleep schedule before the time change. Beginning the end of DST by having good sleeping habits and getting enough rest will help your body acclimate better.

When it comes to overcoming SAD, it may help to eat healthier, maintain an active lifestyle, and to expose yourself to sunlight every morning. In some cases, beating the winter blues may require medical treatments, including medications, light therapy, and psychotherapy. If you or someone you love needs help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Astralagus Plant

All About Astragalus

Astragalus oil is from the root of a plant known as Astragalus membranaceus, that has various names like Huang Qi, Bei Qi and Hwanqqi and is native to northern China and the elevated regions of the Chinese provinces like Yunnan and Sichuan.

The astragalus is a member of the pea family and coined Huang Qi that means yellow leader because of the yellow root. It has a sweet-smelling yellow blossom and a hairy stem that grows best in sandy, well-drained soil under the sun. This particular plant and its uses were discovered by a Chinese herbalist named Shen Nong, almost 5,000 years ago. He created a detailed record called Shen Nong Pen Tsao Ching that listed about 300 plants that he had discovered and this record served as a log of his research.

Some uses of the astragalus oil is to strengthen and replenish qi, the body’s life force and protective energy, or as we know it, the immune system. No studies have been reported about the cosmetic use of this oil, so, for now, it’s best to use for massages. The root can be made into other products like liquid extracts, tinctures, teas and creams for topical use. Some products containing traces of this plant were useful in helping to treat chronic weakness, fatigue, weak digestion, shortness of breath, bloating, ulcers, low immunity, heart failure, HIV/AIDS, night sweats, nephritis, low adrenal energy, urinary tract infections and chronic colds, allergies or flu prevention.

The astragalus plant contains polysaccharides, saponins, flavonoids, amino acids, trace elements, essential oils, organic compounds, minerals, dietary and crude fiber, bitter compounds that increase the flow of urine and mucilaginous compounds that enhance immune response.

Benefits of astragalus oil are to bolster immune function, increase white blood cell count, helps to stimulate production of antibodies, improves digestive health, improves overall function of the heart and cardiovascular system, promotes metabolic function, helps to manage diabetes, promotes normal cholesterol levels, enhances liver and kidney function, assists in increasing bodily resistance to virus and bacteria and helps cure stomach ulcers through the inhibition of gastric secretions and reduction of gastric acid.

The plant can help your body by relaxing the blood vessels, lowering blood pressure, stops fatty plaque deposits from clogging arteries, enhances body energy, aids in decreasing acidity level in the stomach and reducing blood sugar levels.

It is best to avoid consuming the plant or the oil if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, have undergone surgery or suffering from illnesses as autoimmune diseases, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes or systemic lupus erythematosus.

No recorded incidents of ill effects of astragalus have been recorded, but be sure to take note of the potential side effects of increased visibility of pimples and blemishes, increased effects of some antiviral meds, interference with actions of diuretics, phenobarbital, beta-blockers and anticoagulants, rise in growth hormone levels, allergic reactions or counteracting of the immune-suppressing effects of cyclophosphamide.

Dr Fredda Branyon

people aging 75 years or older

Colonoscopy After 75

colonoscopy

Have you heard that the ’70s are the new 50’s? That’s what I have been reading lately. That’s great news if we do the things to take care of ourselves. Time Magazine recently came out with an article explaining the Blue Zones where people live to be in their 100’s. When you have time, look up the Blue Zones and read about what these “super agers” do to keep healthy. What if numbers confuse our mind and we were to think we are supposed to be old just because we are labeled by a number? It’s very interesting.

Here in the US,  has been much speculation as to whether a colonoscopy is necessary after a woman reaches the age of 75.  As we all know a colonoscopy can find and remove cancerous growths in the colon. However, they feel it may not provide much cancer prevention after 75 years of age, according to a new study.  

More than 1.3 million Medicare patients aged 70 to 79 found that having a colonoscopy reduced colon cancer risk slightly over 8 years, from just under 3% to a little more than 2% in those younger than 75.  For those over 75, it had little or no effect on cancer risk.

Vice president for cancer screening at the American Cancer Society, Robert Smith, said it would be misguided to stop all colonoscopies for those women who have turned 75.  Overall health and life expectancy of the patient is the better criterion. Individualized decisions about if screening is appropriate for those over 75, should be determined by the patients themselves.

From the age of 50 to 75 the screening guidelines from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommend screening for colon cancer by any method.  This is a procedure that is reimbursed by Medicare, regardless of the patient’s age. It is not recommended that people with limited life expectancy be screened.  

Dr. Xabier Garcia-Albeniz is a research associate at the Harvard School of Public Health and study leader who, with his colleagues, note that colonoscopy is an invasive procedure that requires a thorough bowel cleansing and often sedation beforehand.  There are risks of complications that include bowel perforation during the procedure. They do indicate, however, that the study found that the risk for serious harm from colonoscopy was small in both age groups.

The patients and their physicians should consider these findings when making decisions about colorectal cancer screening, especially in the upper age groups.  This report was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

They also reported that healthy individuals will benefit from screening, but not if you are likely to die from something else.  If you do have colon cancer but are likely to die before there are symptoms, then screening doesn’t help very much and the prep for this is not a pleasant one.  If you are younger than 75, be certain to consider the benefits of having this screening done.

Ok, now for my opinion. If you feel like you are a young 75-year-old or older, please keep your checkups going and your colonoscopy done. I feel too many people are dying prematurely because there are so many rules on what age we are supposed to do certain things. Age can sometimes only be a number. Live what is in your mind!

Dr Fredda Branyon

Old People Walking

Hints How to Live Longer

I recently ran across an article that outlined 50 great ways to help us live longer. This includes a wide range of health advice that is backed by a scientific or government study that reveals new insight into what helps or hinders human longevity. Genetics do account for about 25% of the longevity and the rest is up to us.

  • Consider extra vitamin D intake, but not too much. Ask your doctor for intake. Get regular blood work levels.
  • Cut back on regular use of painkillers as ibuprofen and naproxen that are
    included in Advil, Motrin and Aleve that may raise your heart risks.
  • Hit that bed and get 6+ hours of sleep. Less doubles your risks of illness. A Duke University study shows that frequent sex is a significant predictor of longevity; so don’t go right to sleep!
  • You won’t die from eating under-ripe produce, but try that ripened fruit also.
  • Yes to that extra cup of coffee as it does more than help you wake up.
  • Frozen is fine, so eat that balanced diet when fresh isn’t available.
  • Green tea has proven longevity because of the powerful antioxidants.
  • Don’t use that sugar as it boosts blood sugar and can play havoc with your heart.
  • Get out those whole grains with 3+ servings a day and cut death rate by 20%.
  • Spice it up with that hot chili pepper that can add years to your life.
  • Drink whole milk as this might give you a 50% lower risk of diabetes.
  • Add water to keep adequately hydrated and keep urine a light color
  • Be food safe from poisoning. Keep the kitchen clean and wash your hands.
  • If you want to reach 100, put the fork down and eat less!
  • Don’t forget those veggies!
  • Eat like the Greeks with fruits, veggies, olive oil, fish and nuts.
  • Live like the Amish and adapt their healthy lifestyles and eating habits.
  • Drink less of alcohol as it leads to a shorter life span.
  • Saving your pennies might also help you live longer; up to 15 years.
  • Consider moving to California, NY or Vermont. The low-income people tend to
    live the longest in these states.
  • Viewing an awesome experience as Grand Canyon or Beethoven’s 9 th helps.
  • Go nuts with that daily handful of nuts, or at least 5 times a week.
  • Find your purpose in life; it will help you live longer by doing something useful.
  • Embrace your faith and attend those religious services every week.
  • Take time off work for that vacation. Not taking it could be a deadly risk.
  • Consider mountain life with higher altitudes.
  • A friend with 4 legs does wonder for your mental and physical health.
  • Those laughter cat videos help to reduce stress and boost the immune system.
  • Keep yourself social as loneliness increases the risk of early death by 45%.
  • Watching those grandkids can lower your risk by 1/3.
  • Do everything you can to stay out of that hospital and avoid their mistakes.
  • Monitor yourself and don’t wait for that annual checkup.
  • Visit the hardware store for detectors for Carbon monoxide, radon and lead.
  • Toss that rug and avoid the top risk for falls.
  • Practice the home fire drills.
  • Patients receiving care from a female doctor were more likely to survive.
  • Make peace with family and get rid of that stress and small stuff.
  • Take those stairs at every opportunity, in and out of the home.
  • Avoid traffic accidents by avoiding those techy car distractions.
  • Drive less after 70 as more accidents occur for those after that age.
  • Walk, not drive when possible.
  • Stay safe while walking or jogging.
  • Walk a little faster for more benefits.
  • Fidgeting is good. Sitting increases your risk of dying by 30%.
  • Read the AARP Bulletin and keep up to day on health info!

Dr Fredda Branyon

morning health habit

Morning Health Habits of the Experts

morning health habit

I can remember my parents sometimes saying, “Did you get up on the wrong side of the bed?” Sometimes maybe I should have gone back to bed and got up on the right side. Ever feel that way?

The choices we make after waking each morning can set the tone for our entire day and affect our health.  It is so easy, however, to get off track when we feel pulled in a million different directions as soon as that alarm goes off.  Creating healthy a.m. habits can pay off. We should always take time for a balanced breakfast that helps you stay at a healthy weight and can stabilize blood sugar levels.  Those a.m. workouts are great for our body and may burn more body fat and have less stress. Some top health experts take advantage of the quiet morning hours to set goals and practice mindfulness.  This can help in boosting your brainpower, increasing focus, handling stress better and improving relationships.

Here are 5 top ways the experts take care of their own physical and mental health every single morning:

1. They never skip breakfast

If they are running late a slice of whole wheat bread or one waffle with peanut butter will suffice.

2. They sweat first thing

Working out in the a.m. can give you time to think out your daily routine and problems. Challenge yourself to step up your workout.

3. They wake up early to have time for themselves

By waking early you can take care of your family and yourself and will be physically and mentally ready to care for your family, your clients and yourself.  “Me” time is important and can positively set the stage for the rest of your day.

4. They set goals

The night before try writing out an “action list” with 3 to 5 things as a goal.
This simplifies the morning and gives a clear headspace. Think of 3 things you are grateful for as soon as your eyes open in the morning.

5. They start each day mindfully—and gratefully

Just the process of the sound of beans in the coffee grinder and aromas of coffee brewing starts things off right.  The first hour of the day can set the precedent for rest of the day. Meditation might help to clear your mind and prepare you mentally for the day ahead.  It can also help to keep things in perspective with a few minutes of gratitude at the end of the meditation.

The five top health experts interviewed have given an insight into ways we can set our goals and receive peacefulness, mental clarity, and organization into our lives.  We may all have different ways of achieving what these doctors do, but it should always start with that first opening of the eyes in the morning! This advice comes from a cardiologist to an author and medical editor.  They can’t all be wrong, so try it! Seek a healthier and more grounded you! You deserve it.

Dr Fredda Branyon

blood pressure check-up

Misconceptions About High Blood Pressure

check_upDoes high blood pressure worry you? If so, your concern is well-founded. If we leave this condition untreated, hypertension can lead to a range of other health problems, including heart disease and stroke. By knowing more about high blood pressure it can help you to prevent this from damaging your health or that of someone you love.

The following are some misconceptions about high blood pressure to help you.

1. High blood pressure isn’t a big deal

Well, this can definitely kill you if you ignore the warnings. Your heart normally beats regularly, pumping blood through the vessels over your entire body. The blood pushes against the sides of your blood vessels as the blood is pushed by the heartbeat. These vessels are flexible and can widen or constrict as needed to keep the blood flowing. If your blood begins to push too hard against the vessels, this is high blood pressure that can cause the arteries to become stiff over time, leading to damage of your blood vessels, heart, kidneys and other organs. Heart disease and stroke are both caused by high blood pressure. You may not even know you have it.

2. High blood pressure can’t be prevented

Even if you are at a greater risk of high blood pressure, there are things you can do to prevent it. Keep our weight at a healthy level, eat a healthy diet, limit how much salt you eat, limit how much alcohol you drink, don’t smoke tobacco, get regular exercise and don’t let stress build up.

3. It’s OK as long as one number is normal

There is sometimes confusion with the two numbers. The top one is your systolic blood pressure and represents the force of blood through your blood vessels during your heartbeat. 119 or below is normal systolic blood pressure. If it is 120-139 it is prehypertension, 140 and greater is high blood pressure and 150 and greater is high blood pressure in those over age 60. The bottom number is your diastolic blood pressure and represents the force of blood through your blood vessels in between heartbeats, while your heart is resting. A number of 79 or below is normal, 80-89 is prehypertension and 90 and greater is hypertension. Experts say the heart can tolerate a high top number better than a high bottom number. Blood pressure does change throughout the day.

4. Treatment

Some things you might have heard as treatment and put fear in you are giving up your favorite foods or taking drugs with annoying side effects. Your doctor will work with you to come up with a suitable plan of foods and drugs for you. Some approaches might be using the DASH eating plan of less fat and saturated fat as well as eating more fresh fruits and veggies. Weight control will lower your risk of high blood pressure and decreasing the amount of alcohol you consume. Tobacco smoke can make blood pressure rise, so quit! Medications will likely be prescribed to control our high blood pressure as diuretics, ACE inhibitors, alpha-blockers and calcium channel blockers or beta-blockers.

5. Treatment doesn’t work

Your doctor can develop a comprehensive program for management of your high blood pressure. Check your blood pressure often, follow your treatment plan, see your doctor often, ask your doctor for information about meds and their side effects and reduce the in take of salt. You can remain healthy for years to come by following your treatment plans.

Dr Fredda Branyon

girl_stressed

Relation of Stress and Heart Attack

Have you ever really sat down and thought about what is real stress and how much do you have? What are the degrees of stress that you experience? Has it become a habit that we create stress in our lives?

One of the most dangerous health hazards we can endure in our lives is stress. Stress was, from evolutionary perspective, a lifesaving biological function that enabled us to instinctively protect ourselves against an assailant, run away from a predator or take down a prey. In the modern world we are activating this same biological reaction to activities and events that have no life-threatening implications.

girl_stressedJust speaking in public, filling out tax forms and sitting in traffic jams can activate stress. Marinating corrosive stress hormones around the clock can have very serious consequences for our health. Fat accumulation, high blood pressure and heart attack are a few of the health consequences that are associated with chronic stress. If you have a high-stress lifestyle, it can raise your risk of heart attack. Your heart and mind are so closely interlinked that your mental state can have a significant influence on your heart health.

According to recent research, stress increases your risk of heart attack and stroke by causing overactivity in your amygdala. This is your brain’s fear center, located in your temporal lobe that is activated in response to real and perceived threats.

One of its most basic jobs is to keep you safe by bio-chemically preparing you to fight or flee as needed, but can have devastating effects by experiencing this on a daily basis. By having overactive fear response, it is a recipe for heart attack and stroke. Those who are highly stressed have a higher activity in the amygdala that triggers inflammation and a risk factor for heart disease. If the amygdala is healthy, it can help to protect the brain against stress, but if it’s hyper-excitable, the result of chronic stress or other factors can amplify the stress response.

As your stress level rises, so does your level of disease-promoting white blood cells, so this is just another way by which stress can lead to atherosclerosis, plaque rupture and myocardial infarction. High stress also releases norepinephrine that can cause the dispersal of bacterial biofilms from the walls of your arteries and allow plaque deposits to break loose, triggering a heart attack.

Some common signs and symptoms of stress include:
▪ Sleeping poorly, trouble falling asleep and excessive tiredness
▪ Binge drinking
▪ Lack of appetite or overeating
▪ Having a “short fuse” or being quick to anger or losing your temper
▪ Feeling overwhelmed, sad or irritable; frequent crying or quick to tears
▪ Headaches and/or general aches and pains

The conclusion to controlling the amygdala’s role in inflammation seems to be learning to reduce the activity in your amygdala. When the amygdala is triggered, oxygen is shunted from your internal organs, brain and to the extremities. Muscular function takes precedence in the fight mode. Step one would be to bring oxygen back to your brain by simply breathing in to a count of four, holding your breath for another count of four, breathe out to the count of four and then hold again for a count of four.

girl_relaxedThere are more breathing techniques like the 4-7-8 breathing and a third method taught by Patrick McKeown, the teacher of the Buteyko Breathing Method. These will help if you are experiencing anxiety or panic attacks, or if you feel stressed and your mind can’t stop racing. Using these relaxation responses will help counter stress and allow the muscles in your body to loosen. There are visualization techniques and mindfulness training that can help with this.

Emotional freedom technique is a targeted technique you can use for stress relief. A stressor becomes a problem when your response is negative, your feelings and emotions are inappropriate for the circumstances, your response lasts an excessively long time or you’re feeling continuously overwhelmed, overpowered or overworked. Bottom line is to keep your stress at a minimal and learn to control your emotions as best you can or try using one of the aforementioned techniques.

Dr Fredda Branyon