You may never experience any symptoms of hypertension, or high blood pressure, because hypertension is a mostly symptomless condition. The best way to find out if you have hypertension is to do blood pressure readings. These readings are easy to do, affordable, and accessible. Most pharmacies and large retailers have a blood pressure reading machine. You can also buy a blood pressure reader for little amount of money.
Taking your blood pressure is easy and comfortable, and there are some recommendations for taking your blood pressure, such as:
- Use an automatic, cuff-style biceps monitor.
- Measure at the same time each day.
- Avoid smoking, alcohol, caffeine and exercise 30 minutes before measuring.
- Sit with your back straight, your feet flat on the floor and your arm supported so your elbow is at heart level.
- Record results of two or three readings, one minute apart. Don’t worry about a single high reading, but call your doctor if you have several. Seek emergency medical attention if you have a systolic (top number) reading of 180 or above or a diastolic (bottom number) reading of 110 or above.
For more heart health information, visit www.westernhealth.com or the American Heart Association, heart.org.
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Named the third highest preventative cause of death in the United States, alcohol abuse and alcoholism can cause health, career, and family problems and lead to an early death. Some studies show a benefit from alcohol consumption, but these benefits only show themselves when alcohol is used responsibly.
The body’s relationship with alcohol is complex. While moderate drinking may help stave off several cardiovascular problems, moderate to heavy drinking use can raise your risk of several conditions including breast cancer, stroke, and cirrhosis of the liver.
So what’s considered moderate social drinking?— Enjoying three to nine drinks spread over the course of a week—may be beneficial to your health. Men should generally limit themselves to two drinks per day, and women to one per day. One drink is equal to a 12-ounce beer, a 5-ounce glass of wine, or a 1.5-ounce shot.
Keep this in mind: If you don’t drink, there’s no research to suggest that starting will benefit your health. You’re better off working on the major heart disease risk factors—with proper diet, exercise and managing weight—than taking up drinking to solve the problem.
Get the Help You Need
The first step to getting appropriate treatment for problems with alcohol is to talk to your doctor. You can also self-refer to a behavioral health specialist by calling the phone number on the back of your WHA identification card. For more information about your behavioral or mental health services, visit mywha.org/BH.
UC employees, please check with your human resources personnel about behavioral health services through United Behavioral Health: www.ucdmc.ucdavis.edu/hr/hrdepts/asap/
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As a nation, we’re becoming more inactive. This is a problem when you consider the fact that physical inactivity doubles the risk of heart disease! But you can help by encouraging your co-workers, friends and family to take part in American Heart Association’s National Walking Day.
What can you do to help?
- Encourage co-workers, friends and family to walk/move 30 minutes a day.
- Learn more about why physical activity is so important.
Choose to get healthy!
Statistics show that 1 in 2 men, and 1 in 3 women are at risk for heart disease, and research shows that poor lifestyle is a major contributor. From walking clubs and paths to cooking tips and easy-made recipes, the American Heart Association’s My Heart.My Life. healthy living initiative is working to help individuals and families understand how to get active and eat healthy – all part of the American Heart Association’s 2020 goal. Visit MyHeartMyLife.org to learn more.
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Although the possibility of being diagnosed with breast cancer can be terrifying, doing all you can to get cancer detected early is a powerful step you can take. While it’s true that some women are at higher risk than others, all women are at risk for breast cancer. That is why it is so important to follow this three-step plan for preventive care.
1. Breast Self-Examination (BSE)
A woman should begin practicing breast self-examination by the age of 20 and continue the practice throughout her life – even during pregnancy and after menopause. BSE should be done regularly at the same time every month. Regular BSE teaches you to know how your breasts normally feel so that you can more readily detect any change. Changes may include:
- development of a lump
- a discharge other than breast milk
- swelling of the breast
- skin irritation or dimpling
- nipple abnormalities (i.e. pain, redness, scaliness, turning inward)
If you notice any of these changes, see your doctor as soon as possible for evaluation.
2. Clinical Examination
A breast examination by a physician or nurse trained to evaluate breast problems should be part of a woman’s physical examination. The American Cancer Society recommends:
- Women in their 20’s and 30’s should have a clinical breast examination by a health professional every three years.
- After age 40, women should have a breast examination by a health professional every year.
A physical breast examination by a physician or nurse is very similar to the procedures used for breast self-examination. Women who routinely practice BSE will be prepared to ask questions and have their concerns addressed during this time.
A screening mammogram is an X-ray of the breast used to detect breast changes in women who have no signs or symptoms of breast cancer.
- Women age 40 or older should have screening mammograms every year.
- Women who are at higher-than-average risk of breast cancer should talk with their doctor about where or not they should schedule a mammogram before age 40 and how often to have them.
- Good breast cancer prevention also includes an annual clinical breast exam by your doctor beginning at age 40.
Visit mywha.org/women to learn how to take charge of your health!
Win a $100 Gift Card
To show our appreciation for completing your mammogram, your name will be entered for a drawing to win a $100 gift card when proof of your exam is provided.* Simply complete the online form at mywha.org/women.
*To qualify, the exam must have been performed by a WHA provider within the past year and you must have been an active member at the time of the service. Limited to one submission per year.
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The most well-known way of celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in the U.S. is binging on green beer and corned beef and cabbage, but it is not exactly the healthiest celebration for your body. You can still join in the celebration, just do so with moderation. Western Health Advantage has some tips to help you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day!
Alcohol: Moderate alcohol consumption may help stave off several cardiovascular problems, but too much alcohol leads to many other health problems. If you just have to have that green beer, try the lite version. That way you can remember where you left your lucky shamrock.
Cuisine: It’s only once a year, so having that corned beef and cabbage should be fine, right? Well, maybe for some but definitely not for others. Considering that corned beef is salt cured tells us a lot. So if have a history of high blood pressure or high cholesterol, you may wish to stay away. If you can’t, then look for leaner versions and lower sodium content.
So celebrate St. Patrick’s Day this year by drinking a lean, green smoothie and wearing shamrock green clothing.
• 1 banana
• 1/2 cup strawberries
• Juice of 1 lemon (about 4 tablespoons)
• 1/2 cup other berries such as blackberries or blueberries
• 2 ounces fresh raw baby spinach (about 2 cups)
• 1 tablespoon fresh mint or to taste
• 1 cup cold water or ice
• Place all ingredients in a blender or juicer and puree.
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Seconds count when it comes to surviving a stroke. Think F.A.S.T. to help recognize the warning signs:
Face drooping: Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile. Is the person’s smile uneven?
Arm weakness: Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
Speech difficulty: Is speech slurred? Is the person unable to speak or hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence like “The sky is blue.” Is the sentence repeated correctly?
Time to call 9-1-1: If someone shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and get the person to the hospital immediately.
Your risk of stroke increases with age, approximately doubling for each decade of life after age 55, and those who have already had a stroke are at a higher risk to have another. Stroke is also more common in men than in women and in those who are obese or who have high blood pressure or diabetes. Race is a risk factor too: African-Americans have a much higher risk for stroke than Caucasians
A stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures and bleeds, or is obstructed by a blood clot. The resulting lack of blood flow prevents the brain from getting the oxygen it needs, and brain cells begin to die. Stroke can cause paralysis, vision, language and speech impairments, memory loss and changes in behavior.
Of course, prevention is the best treatment for stroke. Here are a few way to help reduce your risk:
- Control high blood pressure or diabetes
- Treat sleep apnea
- Quit tobacco use
- Eat a diet that’s rich in fruits and vegetables but has less cholesterol and saturated fat
- Maintain a healthy weight and exercise regularly
- Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all.
Learn more at the American Stroke Association website, strokeassociation.org
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March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and is the perfect time to discuss how you can prevent colon cancer with your physician. Approximately 40 percent of people over age 50 have precancerous colorectal polyps.
When colorectal cancer is detected early it is more likely to be cured. If you are age 50 or older, colorectal cancer screening should be on your “To-Do-List”. Those at higher risk should get screened earlier. Some common screenings for colorectal cancer are:
- Stool test for blood
- Barium enema, in which the doctor injects a contrast solution into the colon and then takes X-ray images to detect any polyps or masses
- Colonoscopy in which a lighted instrument is used to examine the colon
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy, which is similar to colonoscopy but examines just the lower half of the colon
Some screenings may require a copayment. Talk to your doctor about how often you should be tested and which screening method is right for you. For questions about copayments, call member services at 888.563.2250.
In addition to getting regular screenings, colorectal cancer can alert you to its presence. Some symptoms of colorectal cancer are:
- Blood in or on stools
- Stomach pains and aches that don’t go away
- Unexplained loss of weight
Fortunately, there are some things you can do to reduce your chance of getting colorectal cancer.
7 Best Ways to Prevent Colon Cancer
- Get screened
- Don’t smoke
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables
- Don’t binge drink
- Lose your belly fat
- Know your family history
Regular checkups and screening tests are powerful weapons in preventing and detecting early signs of colorectal cancer. See the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more information about Colorectal Cancer.
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