Fitness|Wellness

World Hypertension Day

In December 2016 I rushed to the doctor as I was experiencing severe headaches and my feet were swollen. For weeks I had been blaming it on the December heat. At my visit to the GP we discovered that my blood pressure was 155/115. After numerous tests, it was confirmed that I was hypertensive. I was immediately treated with medication, but losing 15kg has helped me keep my blood pressure under control.

South Africa has one of the highest rates of hypertension in the world and there are more than 1 billion people affected by this silent killer worldwide. High blood pressure, also known as hypertension is a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and even eye diseases.

What is hypertension?

Hypertension occurs when the body’s blood vessels are persistently put under increased pressure.

How can I be affected by hypertension?

People may develop hypertension because it is genetic or due to lifestyle habits, such as the harmful use of alcohol, physical inactivity, being overweight, high salt intake, or even stress. According to the Hypertension Society of South Africa, approximately four in 10 adults older than 25 have hypertension .

Blood Pressure Readings:

Blood pressure readings comprise two readings:-

  • Systolic – The maximum arterial pressure during contraction of the left ventricle of the heart.
  • Diastolic – The bottom number indicates the pressure in the arteries when the heart rests between beats.

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The Effects & Treatment of Hypertension

Left undetected or untreated, hypertension can damage one’s body as highlighted in the below illustration.

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Treatment for hypertension depends of the severity of the blood pressure reading. The goal of hypertension treatment is to lower high blood pressure and protect important organs, like the brain, heart and kidneys from damage. Treatment for hypertension has been associated with reductions in stroke, heart attack and heart failure according to research. A lifestyle change is ultimately the solution to preventing or reducing hypertension. Treatment with medication is recommended to lower blood pressure to less than 130/80 in people older than age 65 and those with risk factors such as diabetes and high cholesterol. The downside of the medication is that the there are several side-effects.

Lifestyle Changes to Treat High Blood Pressure

A critical step in preventing and treating high blood pressure is a healthy lifestyle. You can lower your blood pressure with the following lifestyle changes:

  • Losing weight if you are overweight or obese
  • Quitting smoking
  • Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet
  • Reducing the amount of sodium in your diet to less than 1,500 milligrams a day if you have high blood pressure; healthy adults should try to limit their sodium intake to no more 2,300 milligrams a day (about 1 teaspoon of salt).
  • Getting regular aerobic exercise (such as brisk walking at least 30 minutes a day, several days a week)
  • Limiting your consumption of alcohol

Hypertension Awareness Day is celebrated annually on the 17th of May and happens to be a word-wide celebration with a purpose of educating people to be aware of their blood pressure status. This years theme is “KNOW YOUR NUMBERS” with a goal of increasing high blood pressure awareness in all populations around the world”.

It is important that you know that hypertension is a preventable and treatable condition. Go have your blood pressure checked today and have it checked on a regular basis. Don’t become a statistic.

Wellness

Everything you need to know about having an Angiogram done

I recently experienced severe chest pains and to my dismay, landed up in the hospital.  My cardiologist was determined to rule out any life-threatening possibilities and after several ECG’s, blood tests and scans, it was time for an angiogram.

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What is an Angiogram

A coronary angiogram is a procedure that uses X-ray imaging to see your heart’s blood vessels. The test is generally done to see if there’s a restriction in blood flow going to the heart.

What is the procedure?

An angiogram is performed by a cardiologist.  During an angiogram, a type of dye that’s visible by an X-ray machine is injected into the blood vessels of your heart. The X-ray machine rapidly takes a series of images, offering a look at your blood vessels. If necessary, your doctor can open clogged heart arteries (angioplasty) during your coronary angiogram.

Why is it done?

If you have any of the following:

  • Symptoms of coronary artery disease, such as chest pain (angina)
  • Pain in your chest, jaw, neck or arm that can’t be explained by other tests
  • New or increasing chest pain
  • A heart defect you were born with
  • Abnormal results on a non-invasive heart stress test
  • Other blood vessel problems
  • Chest injury
  • A heart valve problem that requires surgery

What you need to know?

  • Talk to your doctor about your medical history. Mention chronic conditions and pregnancy if it applies.  Also tell your doctor if you have a history of asthma, kidney or bleeding problems.
  • Complete all necessary pre-procedure tests. Your doctor will determine what testing you need to undergo before your angiogram.
  • Blood tests.  You may need to have blood taken before the angiogram.
  • Allergies.  Tell the doctor if you are allergic to iodine or shellfish. Iodine dye is usually used in this process.
  • Fasting.  You need to fast for around two hours before the procedure.
  • Duration of the procedure.  Angiography usually takes around 15 – 20 minutes as it only involves detection of any clots in the heart, which block the blood flow.
  • Anesthesia.  During the process, you will be given local anesthetic, which means that you are awake during the process (I watched what was going on, on the screens).
  • How invasive is the procedure.  A small incision is made in the side groin area.  A tube is then inserted through the groin.  At the end of the procedure a plug is inserted.  The plug will dissolve over a period of 3 months.
  • Angioplasty.  Once angiography is done and if the doctor’s decision is to undergo angioplasty, then it is advised to do it in the same sitting (at that particular moment). This is because the tube is already inserted into the heart and only a wire has to be passed through the tube for angioplasty.
     
Fitness|Wellness

My Surprise Trip to the ER

An average Friday in my life recently went like this …

But first … turn back the clock two days prior. My weekly dance fitness workout had me gasping for breath while I clenched my chest. No idea why I was experiencing such pain but it was very out of the ordinary and needless to say that workout pretty much sucked ass. I went home, had dinner and attempted a bit of blogging but the pain was rather intense so I called it a night.

I woke up the next morning in pain, but it was more intense. Off to work I went but scheduled an appointment with my GP. Big mistake on my part because I should have just went straight to the ER. He drew bloods and I returned to work eagerly awaiting my results. Doc was checking for a possible heart attack or blood clots.

I only got the results on Friday morning and everything was clear. So why the hell was I in such excruciating pain. I wasn’t convinced or happy with the diagnosis so I went for a second opinion. Listening to my body and all that. The girl is learning, so lets take a moment to celebrate the small victories.

More blood tests ensued. I was put on a treadmill to try to induce the chest pains. Yeah, you heard right. Like I wasn’t in enough pain, they wanted to trigger the chest pains further.  Wait for it … this is actually called a STRESS ECG. I had arrived in a mini dress and cowboy boots, definitely not dressed for the occasion if you ask me. So dressed in opaque stockings, cowboy boots, bra-less and in a hospital gown I hopped onto the treadmill. Lemme tell you what, the quickest way to lose your dignity is to get sick and have to undergo medical procedures. There I was walking on a treadmill with my saggy boobs exposed and wires attached to me. Thank the good Lord I only survived two minutes on the treadmill before the pain pushed up from my chest into my throat. The thought of my boobs flopping around uncontrollably was just too much to bare.

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Cheers goodbye – it was a hospital admission for me, so a cardiologist could have a bash. He wasted no time and ran more blood tests and an ECG. Doctor arrived with this Rolls Royce of a computer system that checks out your heart. OMG, the sonar of my heart was epic. I never seen my heart beat like that. It was strong, powerful and honestly …… beautiful to watch. I got a bit emo about it. Probably because we take the non-stop functioning of our hearts for granted. Then Doc did a sonar on my neck to check for fatty deposits which is an indication of high cholesterol. Great news, that was all clear.

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Doc mentioned that my symptoms were significant and he was concerned. So he wanted to check for possible clots on my lungs. Quick wheelchair ride to have my lunch lungs looked at (I’m starving as I write this while I wait for the food trolley to arrive).  Upon arrival I had to strip again and hop onto the bed so that they could prep me.  I had to listen to the nurses standing on either side discussing how to get the needle into my arm. At that point I had lost all confidence in them and wished they would just shut the hell up and pretend they knew what they were doing. Surprise, surprise … the needle was in but it was a FUCK UP.  Let’s try your other arm they said. More discussions took place and at that point I asked for the doc. Well, Dr Cool walks in, takes my arm, jabs the needle in and Bob’s your Uncle. It was like a military sneak attack with no warning  but the needle was in. My body didn’t agree with the contrast and I ended up vomiting just as we finished. Not glamorous at all but hey that’s life.

Now before I continue, here’s a serious question for you? What is it about hospitals and medication, that turns a normally calm and poised woman into a bloody fart factory. Lemme just say I was ever so grateful to have a room all to myself.

Anyways, all my results were back and my results were amazing. I’m a healthy, fit woman in a body that refuses to fail me. My lifestyle change has paid off and all these tests confirmed that, but I still had pain and no answers.

So it was time for an angiogram. They basically make an incision in your groin area then work through there to check on your heart. Firstly, the nurse asked if I had shaved my GROIN SIDES. WTF!!! What is a groin side?? I still don’t know. Thank goodness for neatly maintained pubes because that archaic shaver would have been a disaster. I was awake for the procedure and watched the screens as the Cardiologists worked from the tiny opening on my “groin side” all the way up to my heart. It looked like a bloody alien moving in my body. Very freaking weird if you ask me. I could see them inject the dye into my body and how it lit up my arteries. I even felt it touch my heart (like literally). It was truly amazing to watch and experience. The Cardiologists said my heart was beautiful and perfect. I’m gonna take that literally and figuratively. My arteries are fantastic with perfect flow and no signs of blockages.

After a battery of tests, all the dangerous possibilities have been ruled out.   Another stress test will take place in a week.  Let’s just mess with me before another weekend and induce some pain in my life, why don’t we.  The likelihood that its hernia or stress is becoming more and more evident.   In the mean time NO EXERCISE and NO ALCOHOL.

How ironic that I was discharged on World Health Day with a clean bill of health (but no explanantion to my pain).  Fun times ahead I tell you!