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How Is Blood Cancer Diagnosed?

Graphic with hands holding blood cancer logo.

Picture this: you’ve got your normal, well-behaved blood cells just doing their thing, and then in walks these troublemakers—abnormal blood cells—ready to stir the pot. It’s like they missed the memo on personal space and boundaries. The unwelcome guest we’re highlighting is blood cancer, a term that covers a range of malignancies affecting our blood, bone marrow, and lymphatic systems.

Approximately 10% of cancer diagnoses in the US are blood cancers, meaning that roughly 185,000 people will be diagnosed with it in 2023. But fear not, because we’re here to provide you with the know-how on all forms of blood cancer. Whether you’re confronting these rogue cells firsthand or standing alongside a loved one who is dealing with them, brace yourself to navigate the realm of blood cancers with unwavering determination.

Navigating the Many Faces of Blood Cancer

The breadth of blood cancer types is vast and varied, each type with its own nuances and symptoms. Here’s how to determine what type of blood cancer you may be coming face to face with.

Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) 

Meet Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, commonly referred to as ALL. This major agitator sets up shop in the bone marrow, the body’s hub for blood cells. It progresses quickly, producing an abundance of immature blood cells rather than the mature ones our bodies need. ALL primarily attacks lymphocytes, our vital white blood cells. As for the symptoms of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia? We’re talking fatigue, weakness, recurring fever and infections, easy bleeding and bruising, bone and joint pains, swollen lymph nodes, and a surprise cameo of unexpected weight loss. 

Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL) bears a strong resemblance to ALL. The primary difference lies in their progression speed. CLL develops more gradually, earning its “chronic” designation. For a significant period, many individuals might remain symptom-free. However, when symptoms do emerge, they mirror those associated with ALL.

Acute and Chronic Myeloid Leukemia

Acute Myeloid Leukemia targets the chameleons of our cell world: our myeloid cells, known for their shape-shifting abilities into red blood cells, specialized white blood cells, or platelets. If you’re faced with AML, brace yourself for an assortment of symptoms such as persistent tiredness, breathlessness, unintended weight loss, repeated infections, fever, night sweats, unusual and frequent bleeding, and a noticeable paleness to the skin.

Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML), like AML, affects the myeloid cells. Its progression mirrors that of CLL, particularly in the chronic phase. This slow development is somewhat of a silver lining—it’s like having a reliable GPS that helps detect and address this blood cancer in a timely manner.


In the world of Lymphoma, navigating its complexities is akin to understanding a family tree. At its roots, you find two main branches: Non-Hodgkin and Hodgkin Lymphoma. Venture into the Non-Hodgkin branch, and you’ll encounter siblings, B-Cell and T-Cell. B-cell Lymphoma, often seen as the more prevalent sibling, originates from the diligent B lymphocytes that produce antibodies. In contrast, T-cell Lymphoma comes from the T lymphocytes, cells that are always on guard to combat those unwelcome infected cells and bolster our immune defenses. For both, the cancerous lymphocytes grow uncontrollably, disrupting the immune system’s functionality and potentially metastasizing throughout the body.

Those navigating the lymphoma journey frequently grapple with telling symptoms like swollen lymph nodes, persistent fatigue, and nocturnal sweats. Yet, what sets Hodgkin Lymphoma apart is its signature characteristic: the distinctive Reed-Sternberg cells, unusually large cells found within the lymph nodes.


Myeloma, occasionally termed the “subtle disruptor” and more widely recognized as multiple myeloma, is a notable entity in the cancer domain. It originates in plasma cells, the diligent white blood cell specialists that produce our body’s defensive antibodies. These cells begin an unexpected overgrowth, expanding aggressively within the confines of the bone marrow. This unchecked multiplication leads to an influx of irregular antibodies. The implications? These antibodies can compromise our kidney function and exert undue stress on our bones, presenting a series of hurdles for the body to navigate.

What are the Risk Factors for Blood Cancer?

Blood cancer may seem like a formidable opponent. But it becomes much more manageable when we shine a light on its potential triggers. So, let’s take a plunge into the factors that might increase a person’s chances of developing blood cancer.

The Role of Genetics and Age

If blood cancer has left its mark on a close family member—a parent, a sibling, or a child—you might want to lean in a bit closer. Specific syndromes and disorders may elevate your risk: 

  • Down Syndrome
  • Li-Fraumeni Syndrome
  • Fanconi Anemia
  • Ataxia-Telangiectasia
  • Hereditary hematologic disorders
  • Inherited immune system abnormalities
  • Mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes

Age also plays a major role in the development of blood cancers. While many of these malignancies prefer the seasoned chapters of one’s life, acute lymphoblastic leukemia often casts its shadow in the early stages of childhood.

Where Daily Habits Meet Hidden Hazards

Every day, we might encounter invisible hazards such as high doses of radiation or pesticides. Prolonged exposure to these can increase our risk of developing blood cancer. Lurking chemicals like benzene, which can be found in gas, cigarette smoke, or in some glues, paints, furniture wax, and detergents, can also up your risk.

The daily choices we make and the habits we adopt can serve as either our shield or our undoing. The weight of our decisions, quite literally, matters, as being obese or overweight can elevate our risks. Thus, making healthy decisions—like maintaining an optimal weight, forgoing that extra drink, opting for a balanced diet, and soaking up some sunshine—can steer us toward a brighter, cancer-resistant path.

Past Treatments, Present Implications

Past medical conditions can provide valuable insights into our health patterns that might be relevant in the realm of blood cancers. Those with an autoimmune disease or a compromised immune system, whether due to conditions like HIV/AIDS or protective medications, tread a distinct path. In the same vein, certain viral markers, such as Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), Human T-lymphotropic virus (HTLV-1), and Hepatitis C virus (HCV), leave imprints tied to specific blood cancers. Previous treatments like chemotherapy or radiation therapy, as well as conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, can also compound your risk.

What Can You Do? Tests and Treatments for Blood Cancer

Decoding the enigma of blood cancer is like piecing together a complex puzzle, with each test revealing a bit more of the bigger picture. The process often starts with blood tests, which measure the counts of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets in one’s system. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Here are other advanced tests that can help you delve deeper into the elusive signs of blood cancer:

  • Bone Marrow Tests
  • Imaging Studies
  • Lumbar Puncture
  • Genetic and Molecular Testing

These diagnostic tools and tests can provide a comprehensive picture of your health status, ensuring that patients receive the most appropriate and effective care tailored to their specific condition. And thankfully, there are a variety of treatment options tailored to individual patients’ needs. Some of the primary treatments for blood cancer are chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted therapy, immunotherapy, and stem cell transplantation.

Blood Battles: Empowering Yourself as a Blood Cancer Advocate

Getting into the complexities of blood cancers has highlighted the progress of medical science and the enduring strength of individuals. For every type of abnormal cell, there’s a dedicated specialist. Every diagnostic test brings clarity, and each treatment offers a pathway to recovery. Whether you’re the patient or a supportive ally, you now possess a greater understanding to confront blood cancer effectively—and let’s face it, you’re practically a blood cell detective now!

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What Causes Psoriasis Flare-Ups and How to Treat Them

Person with psoriasis scratching their hand.

We’re about to embark on an expedition into the vast landscape of psoriasis. Along this journey, we’ll explore the various forms of this condition, delve into the role of the immune system, identify triggers that cause flare-ups, and discuss effective strategies for prevention and management. By the end, you’ll realize that managing psoriasis isn’t a battle—it’s a dance. One that with the right steps, you can lead with confidence and grace.

Unraveling the Enigma of Psoriasis

The most prevalent type of psoriasis is Plaque Psoriasis. You can think of this variation as the common cold of psoriasis–around 80-90% of people diagnosed with the condition have it. It’s like your skin decided to don a red, raised, and slightly inflamed armor, which is often dusted with silvery-white scales. Where does it prefer to appear? Usually places that bear the brunt of your daily grind: your elbows, knees, scalp, and lower back.

Guttate Psoriasis is a type of psoriasis that tends to debut during the carefree years of childhood or the exciting threshold of early adulthood. This one expresses itself through a sprinkle of small, dot-like lesions across the canvas of the body. Don’t underestimate the impact of these tiny dots—they make their presence felt in large numbers and widespread discomfort. 

Another less common but similarly unpleasant type is inverse psoriasis, also known as intertriginous psoriasis. Ditching the raised and scaly look, it shows up as smooth, shiny, and fiery red lesions. Inverse psoriasis prefers to hang out in the armpits, groin, under the breasts, and around the genitals and buttocks. 

Lastly, let’s talk about the kind of psoriasis that doesn’t show on your skin but instead messes with your joints: psoriatic arthritis. This form causes pain, stiffness, and swelling and represents 10-30% of all psoriasis cases. While it may not visibly mark the skin, psoriatic arthritis does cause pain, swelling, and stiffness, turning simple everyday activities, such as opening a jar or walking up a flight of stairs, into potentially challenging tasks.

The Role of the Immune System in Psoriasis 

Individuals with psoriasis experience an immune system in a state of excited fervor, a hyperactivity that sparks inflammation and spurs on a hasty regeneration of skin cells. Consider your T-cells. These diligent cellular entities are meant to identify and expel intruding pathogens. But in psoriasis-endowed individuals, an over-zealous activation of T-cells catalyzes a cascade of immune responses, prompting a misguided attack on the body’s own cells.

A misdirected immune reaction nudges the cycle of skin cell growth into overdrive. This rapid reproduction rate of cells does not allow your skin the necessary respite to properly shed the old cells. The result? An accumulation of skin cells on the surface, amassing into the distinct thick, scaly patches that mark the landscape of psoriasis-affected skin. This wayward behavior of the immune system, particularly the overly enthusiastic T-cells, is the lynchpin in the curious narrative of psoriasis.

Unraveling the Triggers Behind Psoriasis Flare-ups

In the complex saga of psoriasis, each trigger competes for our awareness and contributes to the onset of a flare-up. Stress and anxiety have a knack for stirring up trouble and prompting the release of hormones like cortisol. The more we extend the welcome mat to stress and anxiety, the more our brain starts to curtail its responsiveness to cortisol. This opens the floodgates to unchecked inflammation that can jolt psoriasis into action.

Our lifestyle choices and indulgences, like alcohol and smoking, can influence the likelihood of a  flare-up. Alcohol incites inflammation and ushers in dehydration, exacerbating autoimmune disorders like psoriasis. Smoking introduces harmful chemicals that disrupt the normal growth of skin cells, potentially contributing to the formation of psoriasis plaques.

Environmental conditions such as a cold, dry spell can bolster the strength of psoriasis symptoms. Infections and illnesses can also disrupt the immune system’s harmony and lead to flare-ups. A commonplace strep throat infection might instigate an immune overreaction, compelling T-cells to wage war not just against the foreign invaders, but also against the body’s own skin cells.

We mustn’t overlook our internal bodily landscape’s complexity either. Diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, Crohn’s disease, and rheumatoid arthritis may pull at the strings of a psoriasis flare-up. One’s diet and body weight can also be a contributor. Excessive body weight stirs up systemic inflammation, while a diet overladen with refined sugars, processed foods, and unhealthy fats might fan the flames of inflammation, subsequently leading to a variety of psoriasis symptoms.

The skin, our body’s first line of defense, can also fall prey to an array of seemingly innocuous injuries: cuts, scrapes, sunburns, insect bites, even the artistic inking of tattoos or the cutting-edge precision of laser skin treatments. These disturbances can trigger a psoriasis flare-up. Even the most mundane aspects of our daily lives, like the chemicals nestled within personal care products, household cleaners, and gardening supplies, can potentially aggravate psoriasis. In essence, managing this skin condition involves carefully balancing vigilance and prevention to minimize flare-up risks in daily interactions.

Flare-Up Fighters Unite: Strategies for Taming the Psoriasis Beast

Stress management techniques play a crucial role in taming psoriasis flare-ups. The calming power of mindfulness, the rhythmic tranquility of meditation, and the balancing serenity of yoga form a harmonious trio that alleviates stress. But for those who don’t associate yoga and meditation with relaxation, simple activities such as laughing with friends and family, playing with a pet, or creating artwork can provide the necessary tranquility needed to effectively combat psoriasis.

Imagine a vibrant dietary lineup showcasing a palette of colorful fruits, fresh vegetables, wholesome grains, and lean proteins. United, they form a powerful force ready to counteract the inflammation wreaking havoc in the realm of psoriasis. Now, add a dash of weight loss to this mix, and what do you have? The potential for a decrease in symptom severity and a resounding endorsement from your treatment plan.

In the strategic endeavor of psoriasis management, upholding an astute skincare regimen claims the spotlight. The protagonists? Mild skincare products and regular moisturizing routines, collaboratively working to keep this relentless condition in check. The recommendation is clear: baths and showers should stay in the comfort zone of warmth, avoiding the red zone of scalding temperatures that could dry out the skin further. And those tempting psoriasis scales? Treat them with the same respect as a do not touch sign at a museum—absolutely no picking allowed. Refraining from this keeps the unnecessary inflammation at bay and decreases the chances of infections.

Moderate doses of the sun’s star-studded rays can work wonders in improving psoriasis symptoms. Another notch in the sun’s belt is UVB therapy, which penetrates the skin and slows the growth of affected skin cells. And let’s not overlook the sun’s role in producing vitamin D, which can mitigate inflammation and excessive skin cell production in psoriasis. You can tap into solar therapy by favoring outfits with shorts or short sleeves, enabling the sun to reach your psoriasis plaques. However, it’s crucial to be careful when it comes to sun exposure. Shielding your skin with a broad-spectrum sunscreen is essential. 

Defying Psoriasis: A Proactive Journey to Control and Wellness

Psoriasis doesn’t simply vanish into thin air. In fact, it requires a proactive approach for prevention and management. Arm yourself with a variety of preventive tactics: stress management, a healthy diet, a diligent skincare routine, and a careful balance of sun exposure and protection. Remember, each person’s journey with psoriasis is unique, so don’t hesitate to consult a physician here at Preventative Primary Care to craft a personalized strategy that suits your specific needs.

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Cholesterol Test: A Lifesaving Screening You Should Not Ignore

Graphic of person getting a cholesterol test.

Cholesterol: a health buzzword that you probably know is all about the food you eat and the genes you’ve got in your DNA. You’re likely aware that soaring cholesterol levels are far from ideal. Yet, amidst the vast array of nutrient deficiencies and bewildering health disorders, why should cholesterol reign supreme as one of our paramount health preoccupations? 

The answer lies in the myriad of crucial tasks cholesterol takes on. It’s not just a hormone synthesizer or a cell constructor, oh no! Cholesterol is a bona fide essential component that we absolutely cannot survive without. Its presence, in just the right amount, is fundamental to our survival. Ensuring that our cholesterol levels are within the desired range is a cornerstone of optimal health. So, without further ado, let’s dive into the captivating world of cholesterol that you absolutely can’t afford to ignore!

From Food to Genes: Understanding the Intricacies of Cholesterol

Getting your cholesterol levels checked not only grants you access to the intricacies of your cardiovascular health. It also provides insight into those sneaky risk factors for heart disease. Getting a cholesterol test is like having a personal detective inspect your bloodstream, uncovering clues and whispers of potential health hazards. And fortunately, getting tested for cholesterol is a breeze! 

To get your cholesterol tested, you can swing by your doctor’s office, where a quick blood draw unveils the secrets of your lipid profile. Or, if you fancy the cozy comfort of your own living quarters, there are home testing kits. By following the simple instructions on the kit, your samples can be whisked away to a laboratory for analysis.

How to Decode the Cholesterol Puzzle

Cholesterol test results are reported in two different units of measurement: milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or millimoles per liter (mmol/L). These numerical values work their mathematical magic, providing a quantitative assessment of the levels of cholesterol and triglycerides, which are types of fats found in the bloodstream that serve as forms of energy storage, swirling around in your blood.

Cholesterol test results will reveal the levels of your total cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL cholesterol, and HDL cholesterol. Aiming for the gold standard of cholesterol and triglyceride levels? Fear not, for specific ranges are here to guide you to a heart-healthy triumph:

  • Total cholesterol: Below 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) is generally considered favorable.
  • LDL cholesterol (often referred to as “bad” cholesterol): Ideally below 100 mg/dL.
  • HDL cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol):
    • Men: Aim for levels of 40 mg/dL or higher.
    • Women: Aim for levels of 50 mg/dL or higher.
  • Triglycerides: Recommended to keep levels below 150 mg/dL.

Consequences of Imbalanced Cholesterol and Triglyceride Levels

High cholesterol can significantly raise your risk of heart disease, including conditions such as coronary artery disease and peripheral artery disease. These agonizing conditions can impede blood flow, leading to reduced oxygen and nutrient supply to the heart and other organs. And if this wasn’t frightening enough, individuals with high cholesterol levels are also more susceptible to strokes and pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas that can cause severe abdominal pain and digestive issues.

When your cholesterol is too low, you’re a sitting duck for cardiovascular diseases and strokes. Plus, low cholesterol can spark hormonal drama and even impact liver and gallbladder function. Your body also needs cholesterol to absorb certain vitamins. When levels are too low, your minerals may become less effective, impacting your overall health.

High levels of triglycerides contribute to the same smorgasbord of health issues as high cholesterol. These include heart disease, stroke, and a variety of other unwelcome party crashers. Low-level triglycerides aren’t all that innocent either. These can contribute to various underlying conditions such as nutritional deficiencies, hyperthyroidism, celiac disease, pancreatic insufficiency, liver disease, or inflammatory issues. Just like cholesterol, it’s a juggling act with triglycerides. Maintaining a balanced level is the secret to good health.

Understanding the Factors Behind Your Cholesterol Levels

Diet and nutrition are like the steering wheel to your cholesterol levels, driving them up and down depending on what nutrients you fuel your body with. Bite into foods high in saturated and trans fats, and whoosh—your LDL cholesterol levels zoom up faster than a loop-de-loop. But, couch potato-ing your way through life? That’s a one-way ticket to Cholesterol Imbalance Land, causing your LDL to shoot up and your HDL to plummet. 

Genetic factors also play a crucial role in cholesterol regulation. They’re the unsung heroes of cholesterol regulation. In the spotlight is Familial hypercholesterolemia, an inherited condition that hampers your body’s cholesterol processing efficiency. If you’re a member of this exclusive club, your LDL cholesterol levels may be scaling the heights, setting you up for a less-than-thrilling encounter with heart disease. But with genetic testing and intervention, you could start managing your cholesterol levels as early as 20.

Crafting a Cholesterol-Balancing Diet

Step into the thrilling realm of heart-healthy cuisine, where each bite you savor is a stride towards achieving balanced cholesterol levels. Initiate your culinary journey by hosting a vibrant gathering of fruits and vegetables, complemented by nutritious whole grains and lean protein sources.

Awaken your plates with an enticing sizzle of exotic herbs and spices such as golden turmeric, bold garlic, and sweet cinnamon. These culinary champions not only bolster your health but also delight your taste buds. Round off your cholesterol-fighting feast with a splash of low-fat dairy, a sprinkle of nuts and seeds, and a cheeky nibble of dark chocolate. This flavorful assembly serves as your passport to a balanced, cholesterol-conscious lifestyle.

Incorporating monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats into your diet is also great for your cholesterol levels. These elevate your HDL cholesterol levels, turning your body into a cholesterol-busting powerhouse. Here are some nutritious fats you should be welcoming onto your plate:

Monounsaturated Fats:

  • Olive oil
  • Avocados
  • Nuts like almonds, peanuts, and cashews
  • Seeds like sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds
  • Peanut butter
  • Canola oil

Polyunsaturated fats:

  • Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines
  • Walnuts
  • Flaxseeds
  • Chia seeds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Soybean oil

Elevate Your Workout Routine

Achieve optimal cholesterol health by embracing a variety of exercises. Emphasize the classics like running, cycling, swimming, and aerobics. Or take your fitness journey to new heights by infusing an electrifying blend of interval, strength, and circuit training. Feel the rush as you conquer sprint intervals, Tabata workouts, weightlifting, and bodyweight exercises, all while fueling your endurance through cardio strength training. By revitalizing your cardiovascular system, these dynamic workouts play a pivotal role in maintaining healthy cholesterol levels. 

Lifestyle Modifications for Optimal Health

Embracing a few key lifestyle changes can wield a powerful influence on cholesterol levels. If you’re a smoker, liberating yourself from the clutches of this harmful habit is highly recommended, as smoking can impede HDL cholesterol and inflict damage on your blood vessels. When it comes to alcohol, navigating intake can be a delicate balancing act: women are often encouraged to savor just a single drink a day, while men can indulge in up to two. But for those battling high cholesterol, a resolute farewell to alcohol may be your ticket to optimal health.

Safeguarding Your Cardiovascular Health with Cholesterol Tests

Regular cholesterol testing and comprehending the results are crucial for maintaining optimal cardiovascular health. It is recommended to undergo testing every 4 to 6 years, or annually for higher-risk individuals, to stay well-informed about your cholesterol levels and make informed decisions regarding your overall health.

By embracing essential lifestyle modifications and seeking guidance from medical experts, you can fortify your well-being and significantly reduce the risk of heart-related complications. Prioritizing cholesterol health and taking proactive steps empowers individuals to pave their own path towards a future brimming with heart-healthy vitality.

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Mind Over Matter: Living with Alzheimer’s and Finding Hope

Graphic of holding hands with an elderly person in wheel chair

Living with Alzheimer’s is a profoundly tragic experience that no one should have to endure. But unfortunately, it’s the 7th leading cause of mortality for adults in the US. 

What could make such a calamitous disease easier to grapple with? Getting a better understanding of what we actually know for fact about Alzheimer’s. By acquiring the ability to identify early signs of Alzheimer’s and fortifying our cognitive capacities in the present, we can diminish the risk associated with the disease. 

Facts About Living with Alzheimer’s Disease: What We Know

Amidst the vast realm of uncertainty surrounding Alzheimer’s, proven knowledge can offer peace of mind. So what do we really know about this disease? 

It’s a Progressive Disease

Alzheimer’s gets gradually more severe and noticeable. The person afflicted loses more and more of their cognitive abilities, functionality, and identity as time goes on. What starts off as forgetfulness becomes an inability to complete tasks on one’s own. 

Caused by Dying Cells

The killing off of brain cells is an inevitable part of Alzheimer’s progression. The cells, most of which are neurons, start to degenerate until you lose them completely. So in the most constructive way possible, let’s explain how this happens:

  • Brain tissues shrink: This is particularly prevalent in the areas of the brain that have to do with emotion, cognition, and memory. Because you lose so many neurons (aka cells that use electrical and chemical signals to communicate with the rest of your body), the rest of the cells in your brain start to atrophy. 
  • Plaque and tangles form: One of the defining characteristics of Alzheimer’s disease is the formation of beta-amyloid proteins in your brain. These small pieces of protein can form clumps that disrupt your brain’s functioning and cause cell death. Neurofibrillary tangles also form inside the brain when you have Alzheimer’s. This creates twisted strands of tau protein that also interrupt neuron functioning. 
  • Inflammation occurs: When these disruptive proteins form in your brain, inflammatory molecules are released. This can magnify the progression of Alzheimer’s.

Proven Risks for Alzheimer’s

Like with most diseases, the elderly are at highest risk for Alzheimer’s. As are people with high cholesterol, diabetes, or other heart and blood vessel-related conditions. Having the apolipoprotein E 4 (APOE4) gene, which is a variation of a protein-making gene, is one of the greatest contributors to late-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Inactivity, poor diet, smoking, and lack of mental and social stimulation are also major contributors. 

Early Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease: What to Look Out For

As we’ve established, Alzheimer’s disease is progressive and starts with simple memory loss. The disease may involve forgetting conversations, neglecting to show up for appointments, habitually misplacing important items, losing one’s concept of time and space, and being oblivious to things all around oneself. All of this sounds pretty typical for the average person, right? Unfortunately, these forgetful incidents become more serious over time.

Common activity of a person with Alzheimer’s may include: 

  • Trouble planning and staying organized
  • Confusion or feeling lost in places that were once familiar
  • Mood swings 
  • Agitation
  • Restlessness
  • Delusions
  • Wandering
  • Hallucinations
  • Needing assistance to complete daily tasks
  • Inability to recognize familiar faces

In the late stages of Alzheimer’s, major cognitive and physical abilities are lost. It can become a challenge to talk, dress, eat, or bathe on one’s own. This can make a person vulnerable to other health complications and infections such as malnutrition, dehydration, UTIs, or pneumonia. 

3 Helpful Ways to Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease

Here are some tips for decreasing your chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease:

Exercising Your Body, Mind, and Spirit

With Alzheimer’s, staying mentally fit is just as important as staying physically fit. Do activities that challenge your intellect and exercise different parts of your brain. Reading about new topics, doing puzzles like Sudoku, or challenging yourself to learn a new language all help ward off memory loss. 

Isolation is a major contributor to Alzheimer’s. So frequent social interaction with family and friends is majorly beneficial. As is making new friends through social clubs and volunteering. Widening your circle and getting to know a diverse community of people can do wonders in keeping your mind stimulated.

Manage Your Health and Wellness

As we’ve established, Alzheimer’s risk goes up with diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity. So it’s important to keep these conditions under control if you want to decrease your risk for Alzheimer’s. Take your medicine, get plenty of sleep, attend all appointments, and keep up with all the healthy lifestyle habits that your doctor has recommended for treating your condition. 

Optimize Your Diet

Certain foods have the potential to either greatly benefit or detrimentally affect Alzheimer’s disease. Saturated and trans fats, sugar, alcohol, and processed foods have been associated with cognitive decline. So to maximize your memory-retaining brain, try these instead:

  • Fatty fish: Mackerel, trout, salmon, sardines, and tuna have lots of omega-3 fatty acids. This means they have anti-inflammatory properties that can reduce plaque buildup in your brain. 
  • Leafy greens: Collard greens, kale, and spinach contain nutrients like folate, vitamin K, and vitamin E that may reduce the risk of cognitive decline. 
  • Nuts and seeds: Flaxseeds, chia seeds, almonds, and walnuts are full of healthy fats and vitamin E, both of which can improve brain health. 
  • Whole grains: Quinoa, oatmeal, brown rice, and whole wheat help sustain energy levels and maximize cognitive function. 
  • Berries: Strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries are rich in antioxidants and can protect your brain from oxidative stress and inflammation—two major contributors to Alzheimer’s disease. 

Finding Hope in the Face of Alzheimer’s

Dealing with Alzheimer’s, whether personally or with a loved one, is undeniably challenging. But by embracing the realities of living with the condition and adopting preventive measures, you can navigate this journey more harmoniously. 

It’s vital to keep your mind engaged, cultivate fulfilling social connections, and maintain regular check-ups with your primary care provider. These check-ups can help identify potential health issues that may increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, allowing you to develop a proactive plan to prevent it.

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Low vs High Blood Pressure: What’s Your Blood Pressure Category?

Man monitoring his blood pressure.

May is National Blood Pressure Month. Are you finding yourself totally unaware of your own blood pressure status? If so, you’re in the right place. We’re here to tell you why you should be paying attention to what your blood pressure is and how to check on it. 

If you happen to have a blood pressure status that puts you at risk for some gruesome health conditions, we’ll show you how to forge your way back to normal blood pressure levels. Let’s start this journey of self-health discovery by discussing the differences between low vs high blood pressure.

How To Tell the Difference Between High and Low Blood Pressure

There’s no shame in admitting you don’t know what blood pressure is. So for those of us who didn’t study cardiology, blood pressure is the force that blood applies to the walls of your arteries as it rushes through your body. And what are arteries again? They are the blood vessels that transport oxygenated blood from your heart to the rest of your cells. 

When you have high blood pressure, otherwise known as hypertension, this force is excessively high. Hypertension can lead to some brutal health issues. Alternatively, low blood pressure occurs when the force of your blood is too low. Low blood pressure doesn’t cause many health issues but can have some pesky side effects that we’ll discuss later on.

So how can you determine whether you have low, high, or normal blood pressure? By examining your systolic and diastolic numbers. 

Deciphering Systolic and Diastolic Numbers

When you get a blood pressure test, two numbers will show up. The systolic number is the higher one. It correlates with the pressure that’s applied to your arteries when your heart beats. The diastolic number is the lower value. It measures the pressure that’s applied to your arteries when your heart is resting between beats. Low blood pressures have a systolic number that’s 90 or below whereas a higher blood pressure would be 120 or higher. Lower blood pressure on the diastolic scale would be 60 or less and a higher one would be 80 or higher. 

Is this number system a little tedious? Perhaps. But since your heart is literally the most important organ in your body, making sure that it’s beating at a normal pace can be truly life-saving. Especially if you have abnormally high blood pressure. As you can see in the chart below, there are different ranges of numbers within the high blood pressure category. As the numbers get higher, so does your risk of having major health issues. So if you have a systolic number over 180 and a diastolic number over 120, get your doctor on the phone stat!

Where To Get a Blood Pressure Test

Clearly, knowing your blood pressure status is of utmost importance. After all, it can help determine if you are at risk for some supremely unfun diseases. But first, you need to know how to get one:

  1. Doctor’s Office: One of the most reliable places to get your blood pressure tested is at your primary care clinic. It’s such a basic procedure your doctor could probably do it in their sleep—but don’t worry, they won’t. They’ll simply wrap a cuff around your arm, listen to your heartbeat with a stethoscope, and inflate and deflate the cuff to measure your blood pressure. 
  2. Pharmacy: You’ve probably seen a blood pressure device at a drugstore before. It’s a chair with a cuff attached to it that shoppers can use to measure their blood pressure while they look for shampoo and bandaids. Though quick and convenient, don’t take its outcome as law. If your blood pressure results come as a major surprise to you, it’s best to get a second reading from your doctor.
  3. Home Blood Pressure Monitor: The most convenient option of all is home blood pressure tests. These allow you to monitor your blood pressure from the comfort of your humble abode. When using these, be sure to follow the instructions closely and get a second opinion if needed.

Low vs High Blood Pressure: Understanding the Causes

It’s time to focus on taking preventative steps in caring for your blood pressure health. This starts by knowing what your pressure type really means and what it can indicate about your health. Let’s begin by learning about the less menacing of the two: low blood pressure. 

Living with Low Blood Pressure

Low blood pressure, or hypotension, can be caused by dehydration, blood loss, heart problems, endocrine disorders, alcohol use, or certain medications such as:

  • Anti-anxiety medicines
  • Antidepressants
  • Diuretics
  • Painkillers

Do you have low blood pressure and are currently taking any of these medications? Then consult with your doctor to see if you need to part ways with your prescription.

Though having lower blood pressure than the norm may seem like a downer, it’s not really a health risk in and of itself. The problem lies more in the symptoms it causes. This can include lightheadedness, blurry vision, fainting, shallow breathing, dizziness, lack of concentration, and confusion—probably not anything you want to deal with on a regular basis! If you are experiencing these symptoms fairly often, here are some things you can do to help increase your blood pressure:

  • Increase Sodium Intake: Unlike many heart-related health issues, consuming more salt can actually be good for those with low blood pressure. 
  • Wear Compression Stockings: Low blood pressure can stem from circulation and blood flow issues. This can be solved by wearing compression stockings, which prevent blood from pooling in your legs and help raise blood pressure. 
  • Get Regular Exercise: Working out also helps with circulation and blood volume.
  • Avoid Hot Water: Hot showers and baths lead to blood vessel dilation, which can cause blood pressure to drop. So opt for a cooler temperature while bathing.

Monitoring Your High Blood Pressure

Hypertension is frankly a bigger issue than low blood pressure. So if this is what your blood pressure test reads, it’s time to examine the cause. It could be any of the following:

  • Age: The older you get, the more likely your blood pressure is to increase.
  • Family history: If members of your family have had hypertension, you’re consequently more likely to develop it. 
  • Obesity: People who are overweight are much more likely to have high blood pressure. And as obesity tends to be linked to inactivity, those who don’t get enough exercise increase their chances of hypertension.
  • Tobacco and Alcohol Consumption: Smoking and drinking are both contributors to increased blood pressure. 
  • Too much Salt: Unlike with low blood pressure, salt can be a bad thing for those with hypertension as excess amounts can increase your chances of developing it. Try flavoring your food with alternative seasonings or make up for the salt with extra pepper!
  • Stress and Sleep Apnea: Are you a high-stress, low-sleep individual? Managing stress and getting quality sleep is important to avoid a blood pressure spike.
  • Chronic Health Conditions: Kidney disease, high cholesterol, and diabetes are all conditions that can cause hypertension.

Based on what we mentioned above, it should be no surprise that quitting alcohol and tobacco, losing weight, getting more exercise, and cutting down on salt can help lower blood pressure. But diet plays a large part too. Here are some nutrients you should get better acquainted with:

  • High-potassium foods like avocados, spinach, sweet potatoes, and bananas.
  • Whole-wheat bread, brown rice, quinoa, and other whole grains.
  • Lean proteins such as fish, legumes, and skinless chicken.
  • Blood pressure-lowering drinks like green tea and hibiscus tea.
  • Dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa to substitute for milk chocolate.

There is plenty of other blood pressure-lowering diet changes you can make to improve your overall health. Unfortunately, this includes limiting the intake of sugary, caffeinated, fried, processed, and generally fatty foods and beverages. This doesn’t mean you’ll never have a donut or milkshake again. It’ll just be a more occasional, and thus a more appreciated treat. 

Low or High, Kiss Your Irregular Blood Pressure Goodbye

Don’t spend too much time worrying about your low or high blood pressure. After all, stress is one of the main causes. You should instead focus on doing all you can to bring your blood pressure to a normal level. This means monitoring your daily habits, adjusting your diet, and putting in more time at the gym—all things that will make you feel good anyway!Still don’t know what your blood pressure level is? Make time with your primary care doctor and find out ASAP to ensure a healthy life!

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How To Cope With the Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease

Man with Parkinson's disease grabbing a glass of water.

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurological disorder that impacts your movement. It happens when the dopamine-producing neurons in your brain stop activating. When this occurs, the brain is unable to communicate with your muscles. 

If you’ve been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, your reality will inevitably change. But you can still stay in good health and enjoy your life. Adjusting your daily habits can help you treat and lessen the symptoms of Parkinson’s. This can make a big difference in your comfort, health, and overall happiness. Let’s see how this can be made possible. 

The Signs of Parkinson’s Disease You Need to Know

Tremors are one of the most distinct symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. They usually start off in the hands, spread to other limbs, and affect your writing abilities. But this isn’t the only symptom that comes with this disease. Let’s explain the most common side effects of Parkinson’s. 

Bradykinesia and Hypokinesia

Bradykinesia and Hypokinesia are the impaired motor symptoms that derive from Parkinson’s disease. Bradykinesia limits your movement in everyday tasks, like dressing yourself or brushing your teeth. It can also impact the way you talk, making your voice sounds softer and more monotone, slurred, or mumbled. Hypokinesia affects the speed and extent to which you can move. It can cause things like decreased wing span and stiffness of muscles. 

Gait and Balance Problems

Parkinson’s is often associated with the shuffling and freezing of your gate. These symptoms are a result of the stiffness, tremors, and alterations in posture that have already occurred with the disease. As a result, people with Parkinson’s are more prone to falling. Many people who experience these symptoms have to start walking with a cane. They may also undergo physical therapy and have to modify the layout of their homes to reduce risk of falling. 

Non-Motor Issues

Decreased motor abilities are not the only unfortunate symptom of Parkinson’s. This disease can also come with loss of smell, sleep apnea, constipation, memory loss, and difficulty multitasking. And because of the emotional toll it takes on your life, depression and anxiety are not uncommon side effects. As these ailments are markers of many diseases, it’s important to recognize them along with the other symptoms we’ve discussed. 

What Are the Causes and Risk Factors of Parkinson’s?

What causes Parkinson’s disease? Like many illnesses, there is no definite Parkinson’s disease cause. Both environmental and genetic factors can have an influence on its development. But the following can put you at a greater risk: 

Age and Sex

Parkinson’s disease occurs most often in patients over the age of 50. Each year the risk increases more, especially when you hit your 80s. This is mostly because bodies become more susceptible to disease when they are older. Bodies also accumulate more cellular damage and yield less dopamine, which we know is the major determinant of Parkinson’s.

Men are more likely to develop this disease. Possible explanations could be that womens’ estrogen is a stronger assailant against Parkinson’s. This may also explain why women in menopause, whose estrogen production has halted, are at a greater risk for Parkinson’s. Another reason why men are more vulnerable is because they are more likely to develop vices like smoking that increase Parkinson’s risk. 

Environmental Exposure

Toxins, pesticides, chemicals, and air pollution are elements that you should already be limiting contact with. But this is especially true if you want to avoid this disease. Specific pesticides like paraquat and rotenone, which are used for treating lakes and lawns, are linked to greater chances of Parkinson’s. Like many other risks, they damage neurons and tamper with the creation of dopamine. Because of their potential to accumulate in the brain, metals like lead and manganese can also be a risk. 

Family History and Mutations

Having a family history of a disorder or illness often increases your chances of getting it. Though Parkinson’s is no exception, specific mutations can also up your risk. Here are some of the most prevalent mutations:

  • SNCA: This is a protein that assembles within the brain and, when mutated, can lead to early onset Parkinson’s disease. 
  • LRRK2: This gene also creates proteins in the brain. And when mutated, LRRK2 can contribute to late onset Parkinson’s and brain cell damage.
  • PINK1: This gene is responsible for regulating mitochondria, which produces energy in cells. When mitochondria doesn’t function properly, it can kill cells and lead to Parkinson’s disease. 
  • DJ-1: When this gene is mutated it can lead to cell damage, which subsequently puts you at a greater risk for Parkinson’s. 

Luckily, doctor’s can do genetic testing to see if you have mutated versions of any of these cells. So if you have a family history of Parkinson’s, you may want to look into this. 

Head Trauma

As neurology plays a big role in Parkinson’s, brain trauma is understandably a major risk factor for this disease. Like many of the mutations we’ve discussed, head injuries damage brain cells. This makes it hard to produce dopamine and control bodily movement. The more brain injuries you acquire throughout your life the more likely you are to develop Parkinson’s—that’s why it’s so important to wear a helmet! If you’ve had a number of concussions, you may want to consult a doctor. 

Maintaining Health and Positivity With Parkinson’s

Living with Parkinson’s is just as much about remaining positive as it is about maintaining good health. This is made easier with a good support system, healthy diet, and regular exercise. Here’s how to implement vitality-improving habits into your life as a Parkinson’s patient. 

Find the Right Type of Support

While having the support of loved ones is priceless, many people find solace in joining a support group with other people who have Parkinson’s. Surrounding yourself with people who deal with the same day-to-day realities that you do can be extremely therapeutic. Sharing stories and resources that have helped you on your journey can alleviate the stress and loneliness that often comes with having a disease. Ask your doctor if they can recommend a local support group or find friends through the online Parkinson’s community.

Choose the Right Diet

While maintaining good nutrition is beneficial to those with Parkinson’s, there’s not a specific diet for people with the disease. That being said, eating plenty of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and healthy fats is recommended. Antioxidant-rich foods like nuts, seeds, berries, and leafy greens can also help with oxidative stress, a contributor to the loss of dopamine-producing neurons that lead to Parkinson’s. Getting plenty of fiber and hydration is also recommended. And while lean-protein is of great nutritional value, Parkinson’s medication can actually be less effective when consumed with meals that have too much protein. Knowing this, be sure to spread out your protein to many different meals a day.  

Choose the Right Workout Routine

Exercise can be particularly beneficial to people with Parkinson’s because of its ability to improve flexibility, balance, strength, and mobility. Aerobic exercise is of course good for overall fitness. But resistance training like squats and lunges can target specific muscles that have been weakened by Parkinson’s. Obstacle courses, agility drills, and balance-related exercises such as yoga can also help with coordination that’s been lost.

Getting the Most Out of Life With Parkinson’s

Developing a positive outlook and habits are essential for living a fulfilling life with Parkinson’s. As is doing everything you can to limit your risks if you’ve never been diagnosed. Either way, you can live a healthy life and provide support to those who have contracted the disease with the tips you’ve learned today.

Individuals diagnosed with Parkinson’s can find additional aid in the form of medication. There are also many surgical options that may make living with Parkinson’s more manageable. Your doctor can evaluate your medical situation and find the best treatment for Parkinson’s disease. 

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5 Factors to Consider When Choosing a Primary Care Physician

woman sitting across table from her female primary care doctor

When it comes to choosing a primary care physician, there are a number of factors to consider. Your “PCP” oversees all your medical treatments, makes necessary referrals to specialists when needed, and helps build treatment plans for your specific conditions. Choosing a doctor that fits your individual needs is always the best choice. Here are five things to consider when choosing a primary care physician.

1. Training and qualifications

Some questions to ask:

  • Do they have familiarity with your specific medical conditions, especially if they are rare or life-threatening?
  • Do they have hospital privileges and board certifications?
  • Are they cleared to practice at your preferred facilities?

While you might be able to find some of this information online, don’t hesitate to ask your doctor these questions. This will help you assess their communication style and “bedside manner.”

2. Office locations and hours

Some questions to ask:

  • Is their office close to your home or office?
  • Do they offer early morning, evening, or weekend appointments and services?
  • How quickly can you typically get in to see them?
  • Can you email or text them with questions or concerns?
  • Do they take your insurance?

It is important that you can easily get in touch with your doctor and that they are in a convenient location to you.

3. Ask for referrals

Many people feel most comfortable visiting a physician who is recommended by someone they know. Ask around and see who your friends and family visit.

You can also ask a trusted healthcare professional for a recommendation such as your pharmacist, or even your dentist. If you’re moving, ask your current doctor if they have a recommendation for your new location.

4. Is the doctor in your network?

If you have health insurance, choosing an in-network doctor can keep your costs down. Start by finding out which primary care physicians are covered by your plan in your area.

Your insurance plan may allow you to work with a primary care doctor who is out of network, but at a higher cost. Knowing about costs before you need care could help you plan for future visits.

5. Are you more comfortable with a male or female provider?

Your health care is a deeply personal matter. If you’d prefer to seek treatment with a male or female physician, don’t hesitate to express your preference. Being comfortable with your provider is key in getting the best possible individualized health care.

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