Category Archives: Putting It All Together

With All my Heart: Hypertension and Heart Health (Part 2)

Last week we talked about global body shipping and how high blood pressure (also called hypertension) can damage our body. This week we’ll look at the leading causes of hypertension and what we can do about them.

Atherosclerosis – This is a big word that I like to call Gather-old-Playdoh-sis. You know how new Playdoh is soft and pliable and so pretty you just want to eat it? That’s how blood vessels are supposed to be. Over time Playdoh hardens and shrinks as it dries out and that’s what happens in your blood vessels. Blood vessel linings gets pot holes, cholesterol fills in the pot holes and hardens there like Playdoh, and then your blood vessel can’t expand and contract easily like it used to.

Atherosclerosis can be prevented or slowed by exercising and eating a diet high in plant parts. Diet and exercise prevent pot holes from forming and reduce the amount of fat Playdoh in the blood looking for a pot hole. Science isn’t sure if hypertension increases atherosclerosis or if atherosclerosis increases hypertension. They do know that exercise and eating greens helps decrease both. It’s kind of like the “What came first: the chicken or the egg?” debate. Answer? Doesn’t matter; they’re both delicious. Eat your greens and move your body and don’t worry about it.

Sleep Apnea – More than half of people with hypertension also have sleep apnea, so scientists are pretty sure there’s a connection. (Let’s face it: when we talk about the human body, there is always a connection.) High blood pressure can trigger sleep apnea which causes poor sleep or a lack of sleep which raises your blood pressure which can trigger sleep apnea. A doctor can direct you to a helpful mask to improve your sleep. You can also lose weight and exercise.

Smoking and Drinking – Stop smoking and don’t drink more than 1-2 alcoholic drinks per day. Yes, I am a party pooper.

Too much salt – Remember how your blood vessel walls are made of smooth muscle? Blood pressure is all about those wall muscles being able to relax to let blood flow. For the walls to relax and contract regularly, they need regulators: namely the Three Musketeers (or the Three MagCalPots): magnesium, calcium, and potassium. There is a connection between hypertension and insufficient magnesium, calcium, and potassium and it may have something to do with salt.

You see, Salt is supposed to be the fourth musketeer, but he went off and recruited so many many many of his friends that they turned evil and wrought havoc. The Three Musketeers must be present to balance out Salt and his friends; if there aren’t enough of the Three MagCalPots, then Salt wins and blood pressure goes up. You can help the Musketeers by putting less salt and more magnesium, calcium, and potassium in your mouth.

By the way, it’s recommended that you eat no more than 1 teaspoon (2300 mg) of sodium (salt) each day. The ideal goal is 1500 mg, but Americans eat so much sodium that even cutting down to 2300 is a plus. Be aware that 75% of the sodium most of us eat is in processed, pre-packaged, and restaurant foods, not the salt shaker.

Genetics and Family History – hypertension runs in the family. If hypertension runs in your family, it’s even more important that you exercise and eat well. Sorry. Maybe you also inherited a sharp wit or great hair.

 

Note: I should to point out that the medical community isn’t 100% sure what causes hypertension. They observe connections between hypertension and heart attacks, atherosclerosis, sleep apnea, etc., and make highly educated guesses. They also observe the connections between healthy habits and improved hypertension and make highly educated recommendations. What is 100% certain? We can take hypertension as the warning sign it is and make healthy changes.

 

We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.  2 Corinthians 1:8b, 9b

 

References:

Mayo Clinic http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/in-depth/high-blood-pressure/art-20045868

Web MD https://www.webmd.com/hypertension-high-blood-pressure/guide/blood-pressure-causes#1

Calcium and hypertension https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2448982

Calcium and hypertension https://www.livestrong.com/article/149390-calcium-and-hypertension/

Potassium and Calcium https://www.everydayhealth.com/hypertension/get-your-minerals.aspx

Calcium https://www.healthcentral.com/article/lower-high-blood-pressure-with-calcium

Sodium https://sodiumbreakup.heart.org/how_much_sodium_should_i_eat

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With All my Heart: Hypertension and Heart Health

Ever wonder why you have a pulse? Obviously your pulse is there because your heart is pumping, but why can you feel it? Why does the blood vessel push against your fingers for a moment and then disappear under your skin?

The simple answer is that your blood vessels are flexible, not stiff. As the blood from the heart pumps through, the blood vessel can expand like a balloon and then shrink back as the blood passes. Unlike a balloon, the blood vessel doesn’t get stretched out with each expansion because the walls of the vessel are mostly made of smooth muscles that contract or squeeze back into shape again. The expand and contract pattern with each pump of the heart keeps the blood under pressure so that it flows in one direction. It’s like a water slide adjusting to each rider as she passes.

heart bp1These smooth muscles move involuntarily (i.e. you can’t control them like an arm or a finger) to regulate the volume of blood in the vessel and how forcefully that blood flows. Blood vessels are not passive garden hoses but more like millions of tiny fans keeping the wave going in a tubular stadium. This is mind blowingly cool, but what does it have to do with hypertension and heart health?

When the smooth muscles in the blood vessel walls contract too much, they become stiff and tense or, if you will, “hyper tense” which causes the blood pressure to rise. Hypertension is another name for high blood pressure and contributes in a big way to heart disease. Statistics say that if 10 people have untreated hypertension, 5 of them will die of a heart attack and 3 of them will die of a stroke. Hypertension is dangerous if left untreated, but why?

heart bp2Hypertension is a warning sign that blood is not flowing well in the body. Blood pressure goes up because the blood has to press harder to get through the vessels, i.e. the heart pumps extra hard. In our shipping analogy, hypertension is all of the sailors working harder and harder to get the ships to the docks, but not getting there any faster than they used to. After years of hard sailing, shipments are delayed or detoured and the sailors simply can’t sail up every tiny tributary like they used to because the way is clogged with pollution or traffic. Any body part of the world that receives fewer shipments than necessary will suffer. Another way to say it is that if a body part lacks blood, it also lacks oxygen which it needs for energy producing reactions within the cells, so it will not have energy and cells will die. If enough cells die, we develop symptoms.

Let’s take a trip around the body globe. Yes, I know the analogy is wearing thin, but I’m up a creek and dropped my paddle, so you’ll just have to drift downstream with me.

North America is the heart because “home is where the heart is” and my home is in North America. (Feel free to print out the map and draw your heart wherever you want.) If blood shipments to North America stop completely, the Earth dies; this is a heart attack. If the shipments slow down enough to almost stop, North America riots which causes pain; this is a heart attack that doesn’t kill you but gives you a chance to change. About half of people with untreated hypertension end up with a heart attack.

Asia is known for electronics manufacturing, so it represents our brain. The brain has been compared to a computer and we think about (or maybe with) our electronics a scary lot of the time. If shipping to Asia brain is cut off, we have a stroke. Maybe we die and maybe we just have some brain damage, but either way we suffer without our electronics. Poor blood flow in the brain can even cause vascular dementia. About one third of people with untreated hypertension end up having a stroke.

heart bp3Africa is home to the Sahara Desert which has the most uninterrupted view in the world (I’m guessing) from the top of a dune on a cloudless day. Africa represents our eyes and hypertension is a sand storm. Eyes need nourishing blood to see properly and when they don’t get enough, vision can become blurry or be lost completely.

South America is home to the Amazon River which processes a LOT of water so South America represents our kidneys which process and clean our blood. If the blood vessels inside of or leading to the kidneys are damaged, the blood can’t get in and flow through to be cleaned. The Amazon River becomes polluted and we need dialysis or die. The number one cause of kidney failure is high blood pressure.

Europe is the bones of the world because they have the most stone castles which are kind of like skeletons because they provided structure and protection in feudal society…stone and bone rhyme, shall we just go with that? Hypertension can lead to bone loss and osteoporosis because calcium is recruited from the bones to patch up tiny tears in the blood vessel lining.

Sorry, Australia, I’m out of body parts! I’m sure hypertension would ruin you too, though.

Hypertension normally takes many years to cause damage and not everyone will suffer the same symptoms or any symptoms at all. But I now understand why blood pressure is considered important enough to be checked regularly as a “vital sign”. Next week we’ll look at what we can do to help reduce hypertension.

 

A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. Luke 6:45

Recipe: Beans and Greens

As I research heart health, two foods keep coming up as good for your heart: leafy greens and beans (red and yellow, black and white, they’re delicious in our sight). So in honor of heart health, here’s a quick, easy, tasty recipe for Beans and Greens.

Beans and GreensIngredients:

1/2 TBS olive oil

1 small onion, chopped (approx. 1/2 cup)

1/2 cup water

2 tsp beef bullion paste (or 1 packet powdered)

4 cloves garlic, minced

8 cups kale, chopped into 1-2″ pieces (approx 6-8 oz)

1 cup broccoli slaw

1 can beans, drained and rinsed (approx 2 cups)

Parmesan cheese, grated

salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in 6 quart stock pot over medium heat. Saute onions for 2 minutes.
  2. Dissolve beef bullion in water, add to pot, and stir. Add garlic and kale, stir, cover and cook 5 minutes.
  3. Add broccoli slaw and beans, stir. Cover and cook 5 minutes.
  4. Salt to taste. Top with Parmesan cheese and serve.

Take it to Heart: Eating for Heart Health

Want to eat for heart health but can’t remember those long lists of heart healthy foods? Then you need to try Fat Fish Fiber Fruit™, the easy effective way to eat for your heart! Pick some up today!

Everyone knows that fruit is good for you: fruit has antioxidants like flavenoids and lycopene that lower blood pressure and fight disease. But did you know that the best fruit is Fiber Fruit? Fiber Fruit has lots of spongy fiber that soaks up cholesterol in the digestive track and bulldozes it out the back door. But wait, there’s more! The best Fiber Fruit is Fat Fish™ brand Fiber Fruit!

fat fish fiber fruit 1Fat Fish™ is the leading producer of unsaturated fat (both mono and poly styles) which your heart craves. Fat Fish™ also gives your body plenty of Omega-3 fatty acids to reduce plaque buildup and triglyceride fat in the arteries, slightly lower blood pressure, and reduce the risk of irregular heart beat. But wait, there’s more!

Fat Fish Fiber Fruit™ comes in a variety of flavors like blueberry, strawberry, raspberry, orange, grapefruit, avocado, tomato, and more! Look for our new and improved line of Leafy Green* Fat Fish Fiber Fruit™, full of the fiber and antioxidants you’ve come to love! (*Technically not a fruit.)

 

Disclaimer: Fat Fish Fiber Fruit™ may misleadingly sound like only fruit is good for your heart. This is not the case, however the FDA (Foundation of Dorky Authors) knows that alliteration and silliness cause memory increase. Side effects include retention of information and possible giggling while grocery shopping. The boring breakdown is as follows:

fat fish fiber fruit 2Fat: Eat good fats (i.e. mono-unsaturated or poly-unsaturated) like those found in nuts, avocados, and some fish. If the fat comes from a plant, it’s good. If it comes from a land animal (cheese, bacon, red meat, etc) it’s bad and should be limited and savored.

Fish: Omega-3 fatty acids abound in salmon, sardines, mackerel, walnuts, ground flax seed, and chia seeds. Too many to remember? Pick one and start eating it.

Fiber: Whole grains are good for your heart because they are plants and therefore full of fiber. Whole grain bread and pasta count too, even if you can’t see the grains; tiny fiber fits in your arteries just fine. Legumes (beans, lentils, peas) have fiber and protein which is a nice bonus.

Fruit: Any fruit or vegetable is good for your heart. They all include vitamins, nutrients, and fiber. Berries and leafy greens have more antioxidants, but any edible plant is a plus for your heart.

 

Not satisfied with FFFF (Fat Fish Fiber Fruit™)? Feel free to invent your own product to fit your tastes! Simply select one heart healthy food from each category of good fats, omega-3s, fiber, and antioxidants. Here are a few to get you started:

W-WoBBle: Walnuts, Walnuts, Beans and Berries

OFLS: (whether pronounced “Awfuls” or “Offals”, it’s memorable) Olive oil, Flax, Lentils, Strawberries

ASPT: (as in “she aspt her doctor about heart health) Almond, Sardine, Peas, Tomato

ACHOO: Avocado, CHia, Oatmeal, Orange

 

But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop. Luke 8:15

 

References:

Eating for Heart Health https://www.goredforwomen.org/live-healthy/first-steps-to-prevent-heart-disease-and-be-heart-healthy/lifes-simple-7/

Heart Healthy Foods http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20720182,00.html#heart-healthy-foods

 

 

Her Heart Sank Onto the Bed: Sleep and Heart Health

“You snooze, you lose!” When it comes to your heart—and your health in general—the phrase should be “You snooze small, you lose it all”. I know, I know, it’s not as catchy and much more cumbersome to yell in someone’s face when you grab the last cookie, but it is true: if you snooze small, you can lose it all.

There is a strong correlation between getting enough sleep and heart health. Studies show that sleeping less than six hours per night can cause high blood pressure, increased calcium deposits in the arteries, high blood glucose levels, increased C-reactive protein (an indicator of stress and/or inflammation), crankiness, and caffeine IVs, some of which can lead to heart disease. This correlation exists no matter what age you are; a teenager who doesn’t sleep enough will develop the same problems like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and type two diabetes that we “experienced” people do. On the other hand, sleeping 7-8 hours per night prevents the risk for heart disease just as much as not smoking, eating right, and exercising. (Keep in mind that we’re talking about sleep habits here, not a short night every once in a while.)

heart sleep 1Most things in life require maintenance and HeartDOT’s system of oxygenated transportation is no different. When does HeartDOT plow and salt the roads after it snows? At night. When does HeartDOT do construction on busy highways? At night. When are HeartDOT’s rest stops cleaned and restocked? At night.

Your body has stuff it needs to do while you sleep; important stuff like cleaning and repairing itself. The lining of the blood vessels and heart is especially important, but regenerating that lining takes time and it happens best when the heart is relaxed during sleep.

Lack of sleep also interrupts biological processes like glucose metabolism and blood pressure. For example, blood pressure works on a feedback loop: sensors in your biggest arteries measure how much blood is flowing and how hard it’s pressing on the walls of the artery and tell the heart to pump harder or slow down. When your heartrate slows at night, this feedback loop resets itself with a baseline of what “normal” should be. If you don’t sleep long enough, the feedback loop measurements don’t drop as low and it resets itself at a “normal” that is higher than it should be. Over time that keeps your blood pressure higher all day. High blood pressure puts a strain on your heart like running an engine at full throttle all the time.

heart sleep 2It’s not just your heart that suffers from little or poor sleep. Short sleepers are more likely to be obese and suffer from type two diabetes as well. Those who are tired are less likely to exercise and less likely to make good food choices. (Duh! We’ve all been there; we don’t need science to tell us that.) When you are sleep deprived, you even produce more ghrelin, a hormone that makes you feel hungry.

What can you do to get more sleep? Give yourself a bedtime and stick to it. Sometimes you have to BYOM –Be Your Own Mom. 30-60 minutes before bedtime, start winding down by reading the dictionary, taking a bath, journaling, watching paint dry, and so forth. 10-20 minutes before bed, turn off your electronics. I repeat: TURN OFF the TV, the tablet, the phone, the computer. I know, I know, there are people out there who can’t fall asleep without the TV on, but they are the exception and I believe they can be retrained. I find that when I turn off my electronics, I go from feeling “awake” to exhausted in 0.05 seconds. It doesn’t matter how early or late it is. The same thing happens with my kids: they’re wide awake to watch a TV show before bed, but as soon as I turn off the brain-sucker, they’re so tired they can’t make it up the stairs without whining. (They take after their mother.)

If you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, exercise has been shown to be nearly as effective as sleeping pills (and much, much safer). Over time, exercise helps lessen insomnia, restless leg syndrome, and sleep apnea symptoms. We’re talking about exercise any time of day, by the way, so the same exercise that strengthens your heart helps you sleep which strengthens your heart. It’s like the chicken and the egg thing if the chicken crosses the road and the egg sleeps and they share a heart.

Tired of hearing about how important sleep is? Good: go to bed.

 

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:29

 

References:

Web MD http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/features/how-sleep-affects-your-heart#1

Sleep Foundation https://sleepfoundation.org/excessivesleepiness/content/how-sleep-deprivation-affects-your-heart

Consequences of Sleep Deprivation https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3403737/

Exercise and Sleep http://www.cnn.com/2017/05/29/health/exercise-sleep-tips/index.html

Put Your Heart into It: Exercise and Heart Health

Imagine that you’re a sailor on a sailboat. You and your four friends have been trained to sail, but you’re still new at it. The wind pushes you along peacefully for a while, but then a storm rises. It’s all hands on deck, working frantically against the wind and waves. You make it through that storm and a few more that follow and then one day you realize that you and your friends are stronger, faster, and better sailors than you were before that first storm. When the weather is good, it only takes three of you to man the boat where it once took all five.

heart sailors_0001Exercise is a storm for your heart. Exercise makes your heart work harder for a while which at first can feel like you’re being keelhauled*, but your heart is a fast learner. Before long it’s so used to the battening down the hatches that when your heart is at rest, it can take it easy. Studies show that the resting heart rate of people who exercise is lower than the resting heart rate of landlubbers*. A lubber’s heart (land or otherwise) is not being challenged, so it’s weaker and has to work harder to do less than an exercised heart. More storms makes for better sailors.

Storms have a way of cleaning the air because the extra wind and water (i.e. rain) remove the dust and particles. When you exercise, your blood moves faster which allows it to pulse into every tiny capillary at the tips of your fingers and toes. This allows the blood to bring more oxygen and nutrients to the cells and allows it to remove more junk from those cells. The strong blood flow also helps keep the arteries themselves clean, flexible, and inflammation free. It’s like a storm watering your garden and cleaning the air at the same time. Or sailors scrubbing the deck from jib to mizzenmast. Those are officially now my favorite sailing terms.

heart stormInactivity (keeping your ship docked, so to speak) is one of the major risk factors for heart disease. Exercise lowers your risk for heart disease by 45%. And that’s exercise at the recommended 2.5 hours of exercise every week level. Even if you’re a landlubber who spends most of her time in the brig and only halfheartedly hoists the mainsail, you’re still reducing your risk of heart disease by a LOT. Anchors aweigh! By the way, those recommended 2.5 hours can be 30 minutes per day five days per week, or 2.5 hours on a weekend, or 25 ten minute bouts of movement sprinkled throughout the week. A bit of climbing the rigging here, a bit of casting off there, maybe a bit of barnacle removal just for fun. Your heart gets stronger with every minute of exercise you do.

We can’t talk about sailing without adding pirates to the mix. Arr, Matey, did you know that your muscles are pirates? Well, they are when you exercise! Our bodies have strict rules about how oxygen is transported, how glucose is absorbed, and so on. When an exercise storm hits, pirates can break those rules. Under the strain of exercise, your pirate muscles are able to steal oxygen and glucose (i.e. energy) straight from the blood instead of waiting for a delivery. This is a very good thing. The heart has to deliver oxygen and glucose to the muscles anyway, so pirate muscles save it some work. I never said they were smart pirates; just that they steal.

heart-pirates.jpgHere are some heart-pumping exercise ideas to get you started:

Walking (to the mailbox, across the parking lot, around the block, etc), biking, running (after toddlers, not your mouth), jogging, vacuuming (under the beds counts double in my book), gardening, roller skating, swimming, jumping (like on a trampoline, not when you see a spider), playing tag (as in chase, not on social media), taking the stairs, jumping jacks (or jills or up the hills).

 

*Keelhauled: a truly awful punishment from sailing days that usually ended in death. Exercise can feel uncomfortable, but if it feels like you’re tied to a rope and being passed under the keel of a ship, maybe pick a different exercise.

*Landlubber: a lubber is old slang for a person who is lazy. Sailors added the land part to make fun of non-sailors. In modern terms we say “couch potato”.

 

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ Matthew 22:37

 

Sail back next week for Her Heart Sank onto the Bed: Sleep and Heart Health

 

References:

Sailing terms – http://brethrencoast.com/Pirate_Glossary.html

Exercise and heart health – http://www.nytimes.com/health/guides/specialtopic/physical-activity/exercise’s-effects-on-the-heart.html?print=1&mcubz=3

Exercise and heart health – http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/heart_vascular_institute/clinical_services/centers_excellence/womens_cardiovascular_health_center/patient_information/health_topics/exercise_heart.html

Do You Have a Good Heart?

Kind hearted, his heart went out to her, from the bottom of my heart, have her heart set on it, let’s have a heart to heart. So many of our expressions demonstrate what humans have known for thousands of years: the heart (and the blood it pumps) is the literal and figurative center of our physical being. If a heart stops, a life stops. We’re going to take the next few weeks to learn about the heart and how best to care for it. Turns out it’s not that hard; easier than taking care of a guppy. I mean puppy. Guppies are way easier.

Label Circulatory System Picture Of A Circulatory System With Labels Human Body DiagramYour heart contracts (or pumps) rhythmically every second of every day of every year of your life. The force of the contraction (labor flashback! Anybody else grimace when they read that phrase?) pushes the blood through the arteries beginning with the big ones near the heart and ending with the teeny tiny itsy bitsy yellow polka dot bikini capillaries in your toes, organs, eyeballs, and everywhere in between.

Blood is the transportation system of the body; it is every highway, byway, back road and railroad put together. Wait, blood is liquid. Let’s make it all rivers creeks and wetlands and tributaries. Imagine if the whole world was like Venice, Italy. Don’t worry, my imaginary Venice is full of pasta and gelato too. It may be best to think of the heart as HeartDOT (Department of Transportation).

Map2_VeniceOnLineHeartDOT makes sure that traffic keeps moving. Blood delivers oxygen, nutrients, medical personnel (white blood cells), hormones, repair crews, and a host of other goods and services to the body. It also transports the body’s junk (dead viruses, bacteria, toxins, etc) to the Kidney Export Service for permanent removal from the body. HeartDOT doesn’t make the goods or the trash, it just keeps the flow moving.

Imagine for a moment that the entire world’s shipping and transportation shuts down. No boats, planes, rafts, not even people swimming from place to place. Each person is stuck at home. Within a few weeks, food runs out and people starve. Medical emergencies end in tragedy. Nothing new can be built. Trash piles up. Human life ends. In the grand scheme of our Earth-wide analogy, death takes weeks or months. Since the average heart beats 60-100 times per minute, blood transportation works much faster than our Venice Earth analogy and death takes mere minutes, not months.

river trafficNow imagine that transportation around Venice is not shut down, but travel has slowed. Storms have washed silt into the waterways, making them narrower. A tanker sank in the lagoon and traffic bottlenecks as vessels go around it. Priority is given to those carrying food and oxygen, but repair crews are delayed and trash removal is minimal.

A heart can fake it until it makes it for years, but the longer it has to struggle to pump, the more likely it is that it will stop working altogether (heart attack) or that blood flow to major organs will be interrupted (stroke). The good news is that if you read my blog regularly, you already know how to take care of your heart! The same healthy habits that help you lose weight also help your heart stay healthy…and help prevent type 2 diabetes and stroke, keep you looking younger…It’s a win-win-win-win-win.

Tune in next week for Put Your Heart Into It: Exercise and Heart Health!

 

Some men brought to him a paralyzed man, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” Matthew 9:2

 

Venice map (Venice Online), circulatory system (humananatomylibrary.com), river traffic (http://www.neatorama.com/2006/09/16/traffic-on-river-thames/)