Blood Pressure

The economic boom in Alberta and rest of Canada is probably giving you a headache. But what is it doing to your blood pressure? In the last one year how many times have you checked your bank balance and compare that to when was the last time you had your blood pressure checked?

We know that anxiety does not cause permanent high blood pressure but it can cause dramatic temporary spikes of high blood pressure which can cause damage to our blood vessels and vital organs like heart and kidneys. It can damage the brain and retina. Persistent or recurrent anxiety can make us prone to picking up bad habits like smoking, drinking or eating too much unhealthy food. Combination of these factors can increase our risk of high blood pressure.

The booming economy brings with it a significant amount of stress as well. Most of the time anxiety and stress go hand in hand. To some it may mean one and the same thing. However you look at it anxiety and stress is bad for your blood pressure.

World Health Organization says that hypertension (high blood pressure) causes seven million premature deaths worldwide each year. Hypertension affects 22 percent of Canadians. It is estimated that 25 percent of the 42 million people with high blood pressure in the United States are unaware that they have hypertension. These patients probably have no symptoms. That is dangerous. That is why it is called a silent killer.

The incidence of hypertension increases with age. Most elderly Canadians have high blood pressure – probably due to thickening of blood vessels. No cause is identified in 80 to 95 percent of people with hypertension. This is known as idiopathic or essential hypertension. Others have hypertension due to primary disease of kidneys or due to certain hormonal disorders

We eat too much and we do not exercise enough. Our blood vessels become harder and less compliant with age. When the blood is pumped out of the heart into less compliant blood vessels, the blood pressure goes up. So the heart has to work harder – and eventually it becomes tired, weak and fails. It silently causes damage to our vital organs and eventually results in heart attack, congestive heart failure, stroke, kidney failure and blindness.

Normally, systolic blood pressure should be less than 140 mm Hg (mercury) and diastolic pressure of less than 90 mm Hg. It is written as – systolic over diastolic (for example 120/80 mm Hg). Blood pressure is lowest in the early morning, rises as the day progresses, and then dips down during the night and earliest hours of the morning.

Blood pressure also varies from minute to minute, depending on levels of stress and physical activity. “White-coat hypertension” means a person’s blood pressure is up in the doctor’s office but not elsewhere.

Hypertension can be prevented and treated with lifestyle changes – with or without medication. Eat a healthy diet, lose weight if you are overweight, do not smoke, limit alcohol intake, eat a low salt diet, minimize sugar intake, do regular exercise, relax and learn to manage stress with laughter and meditation.

If your doctor wants you take pills to control your blood pressure then make sure you take it regularly. Research has shown that 50 per cent of the patients with high blood pressure discontinue their antihypertensive medications by the first year. This is no good.

So, when was the last time you had your blood pressure checked?

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Caffeine

Dear Dr. B: I have been using caffeine pills to stay awake and study for my exams. Is it a bad thing to do that?

Answer: Caffeine is a drug. It is naturally produced in the leaves and seeds of many plants such as tea leaves and coffee beans. It stimulates the nervous system to cause alertness. It makes the heart beat faster. Some people experience a temporary increase in energy and elevation in mood. It is bitter in taste but the processing of the drinks can hide the bitter taste. It’s also produced artificially and added to certain foods.

It is almost impossible to spend a day without consuming caffeine in some form or the other. Caffeine is in sodas, coffee-flavoured yogurt, coffee ice-cream, chocolate candy or iced tea. Many pain killers and over-the-counter medications have caffeine. Even decaffeinated coffee has some caffeine. Many energy drinks are loaded with caffeine to give a temporary boost to a person’s energy level.

Most teenagers get their caffeine through soft drinks which can also have added sugar and artificial flavors. Sixty eight per cent of Americans say they are hooked on coffee. Caffeine abuse by young people alarms some experts. In one study, researchers from Northwestern University in Chicago tracked calls to the Illinois Poison Center in Chicago for three years and they found that more than 250 cases of medical complications occurred from ingesting caffeine supplements and that 12 per cent of the callers had to be hospitalized. The average age of the callers was 21.

Besides boosting memory and improving concentration, caffeine can lower the risks of diseases such as Alzheimer’s, liver cancer, type 2 diabetes and Parkinson’s disease. It does not significantly increase the risk of heart disease or cancer.

On the other hand, caffeine does cause dependence and trying to go without caffeine may cause withdrawal symptoms. Once you get hooked on caffeine then you need more and more caffeine to feel the same effect. Too much caffeine can raise blood pressure and blood sugar level, decrease the bone density and cause muscle soreness because the body loses calcium and potassium and recovery time after exercise is delayed. Caffeine has a mild diuretic effect (increase need to urinate) which can cause dehydration. Caffeine increases irritability and anger.

Too much caffeine will cause insomnia, tremors, nausea, vomiting, chest pains and palpitations. Caffeine is not stored in the body and it is excreted through the kidneys. In some individual the after effects of caffeine may last up to six hours.

How much is too much caffeine?

This is difficult to define as individual sensitivity to caffeine can vary a lot. A cup of coffee or tea can keep one person awake whole night while it may not have any effect on a second individual. Some experts say that people should consume no more than about 100 milligrams of caffeine daily. That equals to one espresso which contains about 100 milligrams of caffeine.

Other examples of caffeine contents of common drinks are:

-Coca-Cola 355 ml. has 34 mg. of caffeine
-Diet Coke 355 ml. has 45 mg. of caffeine
-Pepsi 355ml. has 38 mg. of caffeine
-7-Up 355 ml. has no caffeine
-Iced tea 355 ml. has 70 mg. of caffeine
-Brewed coffee 150 ml. has approximately 115 mg of caffeine

Depending on your sensitive and tolerance level, caffeine in small amounts and in moderation may not hurt you. You have to know your limit. Personally, I don’t see the need for taking caffeine to stay awake and study. In my life time I have been through many exams and I didn’t have to rely on caffeine to get results. I believe in power naps. If you are sleepy then your body is asking you to rest. Take a nap instead of drugging yourself with caffeine.

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Mould

House Calls
By
Dr. Noorali Bharwani

You have just invested your life’s savings in a dream home. You have inspected the house thoroughly looking for possible problems. But you forget to check for mould.

It is said that virtually all buildings contain moulds, but some are mouldier than others. Moulds love the interior of the buildings where they can adapt to dry conditions but moulds cannot survive without some moisture. You wonder where the moisture comes from. The source could be a leaky basement, a dripping pipe or a roof in need of repair.

Painted walls and certain types of wallpapers can become overgrown by certain fungi, particularly in humid places such as showers. Moulds can be found in other places in the house. Sometimes you open the fridge and find mould spread over bread and cheese. Mould can be found on books and files as well.

Usually it is hard to know if your house is mouldy until somebody in the house complains of persistant allergies, headache, nausea or respiratory symptoms. A mouldy building can be a serious health hazard.

This brings us to the subject of fungus. Mould is a kind of fungus. Fungi are all around us. Not all fungi are harmful. The American Heritage Science Dictionary defines fungi as any of a wide variety of organisms that reproduce by spores, including the mushrooms, moulds, yeasts, and mildews. Spores can remain dormant for years. Some of the characteristics of fungi are:
-fungi absorb food by excreting enzymes that break down complex substances into molecules that can be absorbed into the hyphae
-the spores of most fungi grow a network of slender tubes called hyphae that spread into and feed off of dead organic matter or living organisms
-fungi can live in a wide variety of environments, fungal spores can survive extreme temperatures and fungi exist in over 100,000 species, nearly all of which live on land
-they can be extremely destructive, feeding on almost any kind of material and causing food spoilage and many plant diseases
-although fungi were once grouped with plants, they are now considered a separate kingdom.

The fungus grows best in moist, damp, dark places with poor ventilation and on skin that is irritated, weakened, or continuously moist. Most of the fungi are very helpful in the natural environment and only a few cause diseases in humans, plants and animals.

Candida is yeast like fungus which may cause athlete’s foot, vaginitis, thrush, or other infections. It can thrive in moist skin fold areas under the breasts, overhanging abdominal adipose tissues, groins, between fingers and toes, in the armpits and in the anus. Some of the fungi are dermatophytes which cause parasitic infections of the skin, hair, nails and adjacent mucous membranes.

Systemic fungal infections occur when spores are touched or inhaled. Such infections are most often in people taking antibiotics which kill off the bacteria that normally keep fungi at bay. This is also the case in people with endocrine disorders, immune diseases, and other conditions such as obesity, AIDS, tuberculosis, major burns, leukemia, and diabetes mellitus. Patients with systemic infection may have no symptoms or may have flu-like symptoms – coughing, fever, chest pain, chills, weight loss, and difficulty with breathing.

Certain fungi, such as mushrooms, can produce poisonous toxins that may prove fatal if ingested. Certain moulds can be highly toxic to humans. A condition called egotism is caused by eating bread prepared from rye infected with the fungus

Skin infection with fungus can be treated with antifungal skin ointment. Systemic fungal infection requires oral antifungal pills. Fungal infection can be prevented by keeping our body and the environment clean and healthy. And make sure your leaky roof is fixed.

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Germ Warfare: Fungus

Dear Dr. B: What is a fungus? What are the common fungi which cause illnesses in humans?

Answer: The American Heritage Science Dictionary defines fungi as any of a wide variety of organisms that reproduce by spores, including the mushrooms, moulds, yeasts, and mildews. Spores can remain dormant for years. Some of the characteristics of fungi are:
-fungi absorb food by excreting enzymes that break down complex substances into molecules that can be absorbed into the hyphae
-the spores of most fungi grow a network of slender tubes called hyphae that spread into and feed off of dead organic matter or living organisms
-fungi can live in a wide variety of environments, fungal spores can survive extreme temperatures and fungi exist in over 100,000 species, nearly all of which live on land
-they can be extremely destructive, feeding on almost any kind of material and causing food spoilage and many plant diseases
-although fungi were once grouped with plants, they are now considered a separate kingdom.

Fungi are all around us. The fungus grows best in moist, damp, dark places with poor ventilation and on skin that is irritated, weakened, or continuously moist. Most of the fungi are very helpful in the natural environment and only a few cause diseases in humans, plants and animals.

Candida is yeast like fungus which may cause athlete’s foot, vaginitis, thrush, or other infections. It can thrive in moist skin fold areas under the breasts, overhanging abdominal adipose tissues, groins, between fingers and toes, in the armpits and in the anus. Some of the fungi are dermatophytes which cause parasitic infections of the skin, hair, nails and adjacent mucous membranes.

Systemic fungal infections occur when spores are touched or inhaled, or there is an overgrowth of fungi in or on the body. Such infections are most often in people taking antibiotics which kill off the bacteria that normally keep fungi at bay. This is also the case in people with endocrine disorders, immune diseases, and other conditions such as obesity, AIDS, tuberculosis, major burns, leukemia, and diabetes mellitus. Patients with systemic infection may have no symptoms or may have flu-like symptoms – coughing, fever, chest pain, chills, weight loss, and difficulty with breathing.

Certain fungi, such as mushrooms, can produce poisonous toxins that may prove fatal if ingested. Certain moulds can be highly toxic to humans. A condition called egotism is caused by eating bread prepared from rye infected with the fungus.

Moulds are often found spreading over bread, cheese, books, and other things in the home and may be a menace to our health. Painted walls, particularly in humid places such as showers, can become overgrown by certain fungi. Certain types of wallpapers also serve as a source of nutrition for some moulds and may prove to be harmful. Virtually all buildings contain moulds depending on the amount of moisture present in the building. Moulds can cause headache, nausea or respiratory symptoms amongst the occupants of the building.

Skin infection with fungus can be treated with antifungal skin ointment. Systemic fungal infection requires oral antifungal pills. Fungal infection can be prevented by keeping our body and the environment clean and healthy.

Start reading the preview of my book A Doctor's Journey for free on Amazon. Available on Kindle for $2.99!