Here’s a possible scenario. You go to visit your doctor for a routine check-up, but you haven’t seen your doctor for a couple of years. The last time you had a doctor’s visit, you were doing fairly well. You have diabetes and high blood pressure, but you were controlling your blood glucose well with your medication, and your blood pressure numbers while on medication were also looking good. You missed your next couple of appointments due to unforeseen circumstances and have finally made it to see your doctor again. When you check-in, they measure your blood pressure, and it is very high 179/95. You had no idea that your blood pressure was this high.
Well, your doctor now needs to do some checking and evaluate you more closely. One of the concerns of your doctor will be the condition of your heart. So, what does your doctor do, and how does the doctor know if your heart health is declining? Here are some ways they can make this determination.
If you have high blood pressure, your doctor will look for certain signs of hypertensive heart disease. When they examine you, they will look for signs of extra fluid and swelling in your legs and other areas of your body. They will check your weight to see if you have gained any additional pounds. The doctor will listen to your heart and lungs to determine if any abnormal sounds are present. You could have an irregular heartbeat or an extra sound like a murmur.
Your lungs may sound like you have congestion or extra fluid. If you complain of chest pain, your doctor will likely want to perform an EKG to evaluate the electrical activity of the heart for abnormalities. You will also probably get a chest x-ray to see the status of the lungs as well as measure the heart size. If your doctor identifies any abnormalities, he/she may get an ultrasound of the heart (echocardiogram) to identify how well the heart is functioning. He/she may even want to perform a stress test of the heart to determine how the heart’s blood flow is affected by increased activity.
With this arsenal of examination and testing, the doctor has many tools to evaluate your heart and determine how to manage your problems. It turns out that it was very good that you didn’t miss another appointment.
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I’m excited to talk about this topic today because not only do I truly believe that you have the power to reverse heart disease and lower high blood pressure to improve your health, but the science also agrees! You can adopt healthy lifestyle practices that improve your health and enrich your life, which can in turn improve the lives of those close to you. You have the power to break the cycle of these chronic diseases so that you can leave a legacy of health to your loved ones.
As you may already know, I use lifestyle medicine as the first line of treatment, before medications, to treat lifestyle-related chronic diseases. Lifestyle-related chronic diseases include diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and some cancers, just to name a few. Lifestyle practices, such as eating a whole-food plant-based diet and regular physical activity, can help you improve blood pressure and reverse heart disease. In certain cases, these approaches may even outperform pharmaceutical therapy.
Tools to Improve Heart Health
Blood Pressure Monitoring
Since weight management is very important in blood pressure control, I recommend that you be mindful of your weight and its fluctuations, and that you monitor your weight AT LEAST on a weekly basis. I recommend a scale that includes a body composition monitor.
Remember, healthy lifestyle behaviors–like eating a whole-foods plant-based diet that is low in sodium, being physically active, and stress management are the best ways to prevent and control high blood pressure. Please talk with your doctor about any complementary health approaches, including supplements, you use.
Let me know what you think in the comment section below.
PS. I am always asked what tools and resources I recommend to help you reach YOUR health goals. Here is the ever-growing, always updated list for you.
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