High Blood Pressure

In a 2016 Harvard Health Minute, host Dr. Terry Schrader was talking with Dr. Naomi Fisher, Harvard associate professor and hypertension specialist about high blood pressure.

She asked the question, “Why is it so difficult for some people to hear a diagnosis of high blood pressure?”

There may be several reasons. First and most obvious is that it's easy to accept a diagnosis if there are symptoms, and hypertension generally has none. So, if you walk into a doctor's office and you have a cough, and you have a fever, and the doctor tells you that you have pneumonia, you get it. With high blood pressure there are generally no symptoms and it's a serious diagnosis. Another reason is because of the potential serious nature of the side effects and the damage that can occur.

But the important message is that you can prevent a lot of the side effects and even reverse damage if you take action.

Unless the blood pressure is so high you need to start with medications right away, here’s what you can do:

·        losing weight

·        more exercise

·        stop smoking

·        reduce your alcohol  

·        reduce stress

So, initial treatment recommendations could include initiating in a healthy diet, a healthy lifestyle, reducing salt, trying to reduce stress. Hypertension can occur at any age, although age is one of the biggest risk factors. As we age, our risk of high blood pressure increases, but people in their 20s, 30s, and 40s can be susceptible. We have seen huge differences in the life, in health and in the life expectancy of patients when they are motivated to make these changes.

One in three Americans has high blood pressure. Rather than be fear or disbelief, facing a diagnosis means you can take it on, you can control it, and with that you can control your risk and live a happy and healthy life. Listen to your doctor. Ask questions! Take care of yourself.

Thanks for reading.

-Dr. Joe

Stay healthy for the Holidays

Many people struggle with maintaining their weight, and the holidays can be a particularly difficult challenge. But a few simple reminders may help you look and feel your best, even through the tastiest seasonal gatherings!

First, everything in moderation. Eating your favorite cookie isn't in and of itself a bad thing, but eating a dozen...

Next, go ahead and enjoy a drink to toast the season or ring in the new year, but just one! And only if you are of legal drinking age, and haven't been advised against it by your physician.

EXERCISE! Don't stop taking care of yourself during this hectic time of year. Maintaining your regular physical activities and incorporating physical activities into your celebrations are a great way to keep away the food stares!

And last, Make wise choices. Eating and drinking are the most common celebratory activities, so schedule with a thought to your regular habits. Eat foods high in proteins, vitamins and minerals, and low in sugars. Fats are fine too, just don't over do it! (And take a look at the fun video that talks about fats!) Enjoy yourself, enjoy the season, and have a happy holiday!

Thanks for reading.

-Dr. Joe



While most of us are well aware of the dangers of excessive drinking and irresponsible alcohol consumption, according to an article published through University of California, Berkeley, there a few points you may not be as familiar with. According to a 2017 study which looked at 1.9 million English, “light and moderate drinkers had a lower risk of ischemic stroke, peripheral artery disease, heart failure, and several other heart conditions, compared to lifelong nondrinkers, former drinkers, and heavy drinkers. They also had a lower risk of heart attacks than both groups of nondrinkers.” “The proposed heart benefits are supported by lab research showing that even small amounts of alcohol reduce blood clotting and viscosity—an effect that persists for about a day—and raise levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol. Alcohol may also help improve blood vessel function and reduce inflammation.”

For the purposes of these studies they define moderate as, ”no more than one drink a day for women or two drinks for men. Older people should probably drink even less, since their bodies don’t process alcohol as well, and alcohol can interact with many drugs they take. A standard drink is 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer, or 1½ ounces of 80-proof liquor, which all contain about 14 grams of alcohol (ethyl alcohol or ethanol).” For the record, it’s exceedingly difficult to know how accurate these studies are for many reasons, and while light or moderate drinkers may tend to have less heart disease and be healthier than nondrinkers or heavy drinkers, they can’t prove that the alcohol is the reason.

There is also good news on the longevity front. According to a 2017 study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, “light or moderate alcohol intake was associated with reduced cardiovascular and all-cause mortality rates compared to lifelong abstention (defined as fewer than 12 drinks in a lifetime) and heavy drinking.” In addition, “research has consistently linked moderate alcohol consumption to reduced risk of diabetes, compared to abstention or heavy drinking.”

So, go ahead, toast to friends and good days, just don’t over do it, and if your doctor has recommended that you not have alcohol, better to follow their advice! Read the article for your self here.

Thanks for reading.
- Dr. Joe

Taking control of your health

Listened to a fascinating TedTalk that looks at how physicians can work together to better diagnose and treat patients, but also, how patients can take a more active role in their care.

Eric Dishman has endured more than a fair share of health issues, but when faced with a dire diagnosis, he decided to take some control. He sees the foundations of our current healthcare system as faulty, dependent on too much guesswork and patient passivity, but he also poses a potential solution. Eric believes that if the fundamentals of care are developed in three main ways: caregiver networking, the personal customization of care, and what he calls “care anywhere,” which translates to the constant availability and accessibility of health advice regarding basic care, that people can more fully understand and direct their healthcare.

Dishman’s idea isn’t that far from what my colleagues and I have been aiming for with the Hospice and Palliative Care Advisory Group. The more informed we are, the better our decisions, and if we need more information, if we want an educated but unbiased opinion, it ought to be available. In this digital age, it should never be that difficult to get.

Eric closed by introducing the crowd to the woman who donated a kidney and saved his life. For many, it won’t be one person or one surgery, but it will be about making decisions and understanding that we can have a hand in the outcome. To watch the TedTalk, click here. To read about the Hospice and Palliative Care Advisory Group, click here.

Thanks for reading.

-Dr. Joe