Category Archives: Life

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 Wearing a Hat

Hats for Cancer Patients

I recently saw a report on the media about the availability of hats that can be used for cancer patients. I searched for information on this subject as I think this is an innovative idea that will make life easier for that woman having to deal with her cancer and hair loss. Why should losing the hair be another issue at a time like this?

There are stores, catalogs and websites that now specialize in hats, caps and turbans for people that are experiencing hair loss caused from their cancer treatment. You don’t have to spend a lot of money for specialized head coverings, as any type of hat can work for you. Spice it up and choose something fashionable that makes you feel better.

When you are selecting the hat, be aware that it should be deep and will fit down over your head. Many men’s-style of hats and 1920’s make a statement and will work well. Avoid those that you can see through and will give little protection from the sun and won’t mask your hair loss as well.

Where will you be wearing the hat? A wide-brimmed hat is fun for outdoor use and does a really great job of shading those UV rays, also blocks overhead lighting at the office but might be rather awkward in crowded spaces like elevators, trains and restaurants. This type might also be difficult to wear while driving when it hits the back of your seat.

Those adjustable baseball caps are popular and you can find a really wide variety and choose a nice, casual look. Some of them expose part of your scalp so use that sunscreen if this is the type you choose. There is a wide variety of hats available through the American Cancer Society’s TLC catalog. The turban is made of soft stretch fabrics that come in a comfortable and wide range of colors. There are public service programs for women with cancer that will teach various beauty techniques and will show you how to make quick and easy turbans out of t-shirts. Spice that turban up with a broach, but don’t venture into “Madam Zorba the Fortune-Teller” area! You can even give a little extra height to the hair underneath by adding a shoulder pad or two.

Just be sure your choice of hat fits snuggly but not restrictive where you might get a headache. You can add a layer of foam to the inside of a loose-fitting hat to tighten it. If the hat has an inner hatband, slip the padding between the hat and band or buy the foam that has an adhesive backing and attach it directly to the hat. The elasticized inner bands that adjust to the size of your head can usually be found at camping and travel stores.

You will need to wear a wig cap, sleeping cap or scarf underneath to protect your scalp from irritation unless the hat is made of extremely soft material. Retailers and many stores online often offer sleep caps and wig caps. If you choose to use a scarf, be sure to use a cotton scarf and not silk, as it will be too slippery. Just remember that bald can be beautiful, too!

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

Dentist Holding Dental Implants

Dental Implant Reduces Infection Risk

I recently read an interesting article written by Catharine Paddock, PhD on aDentist Holding Dental Implants
dental implant that has a slow-release drug reservoir that reduces infection risk. In a laboratory test, the reservoir slowly released a strong antimicrobial agent and showed that the new implant could prevent and eliminate bacterial biofilms, which is a major cause of infection associated with dental implants.

The KU Leuven in Belgium researchers have designed and tested the implant according to a paper published in the journal European Cells and Materials. Dr. Kaat De Cremer, lead author from the Centre of Microbial and Plant Genetics at KU Leuven says that the reservoir in the implant can be filled by removing the cover crew. The implant is made of a porous composite material and the drugs gradually diffuse from the reservoir to the outside of the implant, which is in direct contact with the bone cells. Therefore, the bacteria can no longer form a biofilm.

Bacteria have two life-forms. One form called the planktonic state and exists as single, independent cells, and in the other, they aggregate in a slime-enclosed mass called a biofilm. These biofilms are stubborn and hard to treat. When they become chronic, they are very resistant to antibiotics. Infections of the mouth are often the main reason why dental implants fail, leading to research looking for ways to protect against infection by developing an antimicrobial coating for the implant.

They noted that implant developers are increasingly using materials with rough surfaces because they enlarge the contact and, improving anchorage with bone cells and integration into the bone. The greater surface area also raises the risk of biofilm development. The new implant is a composite of a silicon-based diffusion barrier integrated into a porous, load-bearing titanium structure.

In various lab tests, they filled the reservoir with chlorhexidine, a powerful antimicrobial commonly used as an oral rinse or mouthwash. The chlorhexidine-filled implant stopped Streptococcus mutans, which is a common mouth bacterium that attacks teeth from forming biofilms. Biofilms were also eliminated that were grown on the implant before loading the reservoir. The results prove the implant is effective at both preventing and eliminating biofilms and may potentially be able to prevent and cure infections in patients.

The authors point out that their work is a proof of principle based on tests done in the laboratory and further research should now be done to show that the implants are effective in patients. Several issues need to be addressed including whether the new material fulfills the mechanical requirements of dental implants and whether there is a risk of protein and calcification clogging up the pores. They also note the design of the silicon composite implant suits personalized treatment where different drugs can be loaded into the internal reservoir, depending upon the patient’s individual need. The concept could be translated to any percutaneous implant that can incorporate an internal reservoir as percutaneous fixation devices, as long as this does not compromise the mechanical strength of such load-bearing devices.

Dr Fredda Branyon

Hospital Equipment

Immunotherapy

Hospital Equipment

Immunotherapy, sometimes called biologic therapy, has been a game changer for many types of cancer. This might actually improve your life and extend your years longer than with other treatments.

With allergies, you might have gotten allergy shots. With each shot they provided a very small amount of the allergen, which was the thing that caused your problems. These shots put your immune system on alert but don’t make you sick. Over some time your doses get bigger and that helps you build a tolerance to the allergen, or causes you to become immune. These shots are a type of immunotherapy. Vaccines for diseases like the measles, mumps and flu are all a type of immunotherapy as well.

In relating to cancer, the disease starts when one cell in your body goes rogue and the researchers are hoping that immunotherapy treatment will harness the power of your body’s natural defenses to fight cancer cells, just as it would with a germ, virus or allergy. Two approaches can be used: one is to tell your system to stage a full-out assault on cancer cells and another is to try to make your defenses stronger. Currently, the researchers are exploring new ways to help your immune system recognize and destroy cancer cells. New Hope Unlimited has been doing Immunotherapy with great success for years without using synthetic drugs.

The Adoptive T-cell immunotherapy is designed to boost your key immune cells. This is where the researchers remove T cells (the white blood cells in your immune system) from your tumor and then figure out which ones are fighting the growth the most. Then they can genetically engineer the genes in those cells to be stronger and return them to your system through an IV. Using this approach shows a lot of promise in the treatment of many types of cancer.

Cancer vaccines work like many others and fall into two groups. Preventive vaccines have a lot in common with tradition types and work with a substance called an antigen that gives your immune system a nudge. The preventive cancer vaccine is used against the human papillomavirus (HPV) that causes cervical, anal and other types of cancer. Treatment vaccines help your T cells pick out and destroy specific cancers.

Checkpoint inhibitors work with the cancer cells that hide from your defense, almost disguising themselves as normal cells. These drugs will help your immune system see the cancer as a problem and then fight it. The inhibitors are in clinical trials for many cancers and some people with metastatic melanoma and Hodgkin’s lymphoma are being treated with them.

Monoclonal antibodies are molecules that are made in a lab. They are designed to act the same way as your own antibodies, which are part of your defense against viruses and germs. The immune system can spot things that cause harm, but don’t always see cancer cells as bad. The monoclonal antibodies help to mount an offense as they attach to cancer cells. Like a beacon, they then make those cells more visible to your immune system in order to fight them better. It might also be possible for this to help stop the growth of cancer and help traditional treatments better target the cancer cells.

The researchers are working to find other ways to help your immune system fight cancer and to better understand your defense and how they protect you. How to combine immunotherapy with other treatments to make them work even better is also being investigated along with looking into what happens when you pair two types of immunotherapies. The big question is still, why does this work for one patient but not another? Much more study, and discovery will continue for the sake of those suffering from cancer.

Dr Fredda Branyon

Friends Enjoying their Time

Friendship Not Money

It seems that people nowadays, in their quest for happiness, are putting all their efforts into material possessions, rather than what really matters most. Money can buy a lot of “things” but what about love, good health and good relationships? Aren’t those more important for our mental health?

A study was conducted entitled the new Origins of Happiness, and the findings were presented at the London School of Economics (LSE) well-being conference in December of 2016. Data was collected to use in the survey from four countries that revealed the key determinant of people’s life satisfaction.

Lord Richard Layard, LSE economist, led the study and said that the findings suggest that governments should be focused on well-being creation and not on wealth creation. According to Layard, by focusing on people’s physical and mental health, along with relationships, the corresponding reduction in depression and anxiety could reduce misery by 20% and at the same time, reduce health care costs.

Dealing with depression and anxiety would be self-financing because the costs would be recovered by increased employment rates and a reduction in health care costs. For a happy adult life, it is important that a child is judged on their emotional health and they should not be judged solely on their academic achievements. There is also evidence that schools have a big impact on a child’s emotional health. Some notable findings are: income inequality explains only 1% of the variation in happiness levels within a community while mental health differences explain over 4%; having a partner in life plays a greater role in life satisfaction than education level and being married is worth more than $100,000 of income; in the U.S., Germany, Britain and Australia the average happiness levels have failed to rise despite massive increases in living standards. Overall, the evidence shows that the things that matter most for our happiness and for our misery are our social relationships and our mental and physical health.

High income cannot buy happiness, but low income may become a hindrance to both happiness and well-being. Those living in poverty, which is $11,770 for a single person and 24,250 for a family of four, bear the brunt of the burden and usually struggle with both psychological and physical health. Nearly 9% of those living below the federal poverty line experience serious psychological distress compared to only 1.2% of those living at or above 400% of the poverty line.

The mid-life crisis period of unhappiness hits many people in their 40’s and may, in fact, be real. This is described as the U-shaped curve that was revealed from the research of half a million people. It is said that happiness levels tend to be high in childhood then move downward after the age of 18. Then it tends to bottom out during the 40’s. By age 50 and over, happiness begins to creep back up again for most, until they are in the last few years of life or a serious health problem occurs.

Ten keys to living happier, and spell out “Great Dream” are:
1. Giving: Do things for others
2. Relating: Connect with people
3. Exercising: Take care of your body
4. Awareness: Live life mindfully
5. Trying Out: Keep learning new things
6. Direction: Have goals to look forward to
7. Resilience: Find ways to bounce back
8. Emotions: Look for what’s good
9. Acceptance: Be comfortable with who you are
10. Meaning: Be part of something bigger

A big bonus of happiness is that it creates a positive feedback, leading to physical and mental benefits. Keep positive and hold those friends and family close. That is what should be important in life, not all the material things. Can’t we all do with more “family” time with our children and a little less material things? Love, laugh and enjoy the life you have been given. Stay a little healthier in mind and body at the same time!

Dr Fredda Branyon

Woman Celebrating

What’s More Important in Your Life?

For some people the most important thing in their life is cultivating the ability to help people be happy, and to relieve some of them of the suffering they might be experiencing. Leaving each person that you interact with a little bit better off than the way you initially found them, is an aspiration in life for many. Sometimes this will take a lot of your time to accomplish, but sometimes it only requires making eye contact and giving a small smile as you walk by.

The three essential components of kindness, compassion and equanimity are what others seek. Sometimes those saying they “love” something, is really meaning that something and/or the feeling of something, is really passion or desire. Love is not a feeling but an ability to respond to people and life with kindness, compassion and equanimity as follows:

  1. Kindness is the ability and effort to respond to someone in a way that makes them happy.
  2. Compassion is the aspiration to understand and help relieve someone of the suffering they experience.
  3. Equanimity is the ability to be kind and compassionate to all beings, without bias, whether we like them or not.

There is an endless list to the benefits of practicing mindfulness and cultivating true love, and it is the principal motivation for the practice of some people. Insight that comes from the continued practice of mindfulness—that we are not the ego but that which is aware of the ego—gradually being less attached to the ego.

The most powerful thing we can do to increase our own happiness is cultivating true love. This is what will improve our own life. Training for true love is the most important thing we can do to “save the world” and to end suffering permanently, according to Matt Tenney, author of The Mindfulness Edge and Serve To Be Great.

He also believes that by eliminating his selfishness, he is free from suffering and can realize true love and help others to do the same. Just think of a world free from selfishness and suffering that is capable of true love in every moment. No more wars, no one without food and shelter and no one would be lonely in moments of pain.

The practice of mindfulness is taking us one step closer to a world free of suffering that makes each moment of our lives feel incredibly meaningful. What can you and I do to make this a better world for everyone around us?

Dr Fredda Branyon

A person reading the words "Believe in Yourself"

The Science of Positive Thinking

Are you a pessimist or an optimist? Positive thinking is also a soft and fluffy term that is easy to dismiss and rarely carries the weight, as words like “work ethic” or “persistence.” It is now being revealed through research that positive thinking is about much more than just being happy or displaying upbeat attitudes. These thoughts can actually create real value in your life and help to build some skills that last much longer than that smile of yours. It will have an impact on your work, your health and your life.

Barbara Fredrickson is a positive psychology researcher at the University of North Carolina who published a landmark paper that provides some surprising insights about positive thinking and its impact on your skills. She is the most referenced and cited in her field.

Negative thoughts have an impact upon your brain. It has been long known that negative emotions program your brain to do a specific action, be it fear or other instinct. Fear can be a useful instinct if you are trying to protect yourself. Other instances would be anger and stress. In these cases the brain closes off from the outside and focuses on the negative emotions, just as it does with the fear emotion.

Positive thoughts and emotions on the brain like joy, contentment and love give you more possibilities in your life. It suggests that positive emotions broaden your sense of possibility and open your mind up to more options. Positive thinking will build your skill sets that last much longer than the emotions that initiated them. The emotion that broadens your sense of possibilities and opens your mind is referred by Fredrickson as the “broaden and build” theory. These possibilities will open your mind, and in turn, allow you to build new skills and resources that can provide value in other areas of your life.

To help increase this broaden and build theory are meditation, writing, and by adding playtime into your life. Happiness is the result of achievement and these things will bring joy and contentment to your life, but we sometimes assume this means happiness always follows success. Happiness is essential to building the skills that allow us success, so this is the precursor to success and the result thereof.

Those moments of happiness are also critical for opening up your mind to explore and build the skills that become so valuable in other areas of your life. By finding ways to build happiness and positive emotions it provides more than just a momentary decrease in stress and a few smiles. Positive emotion and unhindered exploration are seeing the possibilities for how your past experiences fit into your future life, when you begin to develop skills that blossom into useful talents later on, and when you spark the urge for further exploration and adventure.

Simply put, seek joy, play often and pursue adventure, and let your brain do the rest for you. And remember that additional benefits are of better health, such as avoiding or fighting cancer!

Dr Fredda Branyon

Sick Girl

Mistakes We Make When Getting Sick

We all want to get better really fast when we get sick. Some of our habits may actually make our symptoms worse though.

Some things we should avoid when evading that common cold and flu as we fight our way to recovery are:

  1. Strive to power through and don’t keep the usual routine. Our body needs energy to fight off that cold or virus so make rest a priority. Stay home from work or school to recover. Not only for your own benefit, but think of those around you that you are spreading those germs to.
  2. Flu symptoms should prompt you to call the doctor, but not if you are just feeling those run-of-the-mill cold symptoms. An antiviral drugs can help with the signs of flu such as a high fever, body aches and fatigue. Your symptoms can be eased and your illness shortened by 1 or 2 days by beginning an antiviral drug in the first 48 hours.
  3. Do not skimp on sleep as it weakens your immune system and makes it harder to battle that infection. Those who get less than 6 hours of shut-eye each night are 4 times more likely to get sick than those sleeping at least 7 hours. Hit that bed early and take naps during the day. Use a nighttime cough syrup with a little honey and use that humidifier to help breathe easier.
  4. Bugging your doctor for an antibiotic will not result in feeling better. Antibiotics will only kill bacteria and these colds and flu are caused by viruses. Plus, nearly 1/3 of antibiotics are unnecessary and can raise your risk of side effect, such as diarrhea and allergic reactions as well as contributing to a global health problem of antibiotic resistance.
  5. It may be hard to swallow liquids but you need to stay hydrated so that you can thin your mucus and break up congestion. It will fend off your headaches, too, so drink plenty of water or sip a warm beverage like herbal tea or broth. This can help ease cold symptoms such as fatigue or a sore throat.
  6. You may not have much of an appetite but you need those calories and nutrients that will fuel the immune cells that attack cold and flu viruses to make you get better faster. Even if it’s a bowl of chicken soup as this will actually relieve some of the symptoms.
  7. Smoking should be avoided as it damages your lungs and irritates your throat that can make your cold symptoms worse. Ditch those cigarettes and keep away from that secondhand smoke.
  8. Do NOT stress out as this creates a hormone that is hard on the immune system and increases inflammation. This can make your stuffy nose even worse so make an effort to focus on relaxing and recovering and you will be back on our feet before you know it!
    • Dr Fredda Branyon

potatoes

Relationship of Brown Toast & Potatoes to Cancer

potatoes

According to the U.K. government scientists, you should cook your toast and potatoes to a golden color, not browned, in order to reduce the intake of a chemical that may increase the chance of having cancer.  Acrylamide is a natural byproduct of the cooking process and not deliberately added to food. Acrylamide is formed when you heat certain foods, such as starch foods like potatoes and root vegetables, as reported by professor Guy Poppy, chief scientific adviser to the U.K.’s Food Standards Agency.

These foods form acrylamide when cooked to above 120 degrees.  Other foods that have high levels of acrylamide are potato chips, cakes, cookies, cereals and some coffee.  Acrylamide exposure to cancer has been linked through studies in rats, according to the National Cancer Institute. The National Toxicology Program and the International Agency for Research on Cancer have evidence from human studies that acrylamide is a “probably human carcinogen.”

According to Diane Benford, head of risk assessment at the Food Standards Agency, the current levels of acrylamide that are found in our present diet are higher than they are comfortable with.  They are encouraging the industry to try to reduce acrylamide levels in processed foods and wish to raise the awareness among consumers of the things they could do to help reduce their exposure to acrylamide in food.

Some easy steps we can all take to reduce acrylamide at home are:

  • Go for the golden yellow color or lighter when frying, baking, toasting or roasting starchy foods.
  • Check the package for cooking instructions and follow them carefully.
  • Don’t keep raw potatoes in the fridge if you are going to roast or fry them as this can increase the overall acrylamide levels.  Cool instead in a dark, cool place at temperatures above 42 degrees.
  • Keep a varied and balanced diet that includes at least five servings of fruit and vegetables every day.

By re-evaluating the way we cook our starchy foods it just might prevent our body from being exposed to the increased risk of cancer.  We also want to be reminded that starchy foods are carbohydrates that convert to sugar….the food cancer loves most.

Dr Fredda Branyon