Life Style Diseases
Early detection of lifestyle diseases are important. The top three lifestyle diseases that affect midlife individuals are high blood pressure, high cholesterol and pre-diabetes. These lifestyle diseases are often without symptoms initially, which is why I refer to them as silent sicknesses. They escape detection unless you go looking for them. Most often you will not feel sick until they are advanced.
These three diseases are lifestyle related because they can be attributed to obesity. Obesity most often results from to overeating, a typical American diet, a sedentary lifestyle and stress.
In this blog I discuss when to begin checking for them and how frequently. The goal is to never suffer from lifestyle diseases, but early detection of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and pre-diabetes is the next best option.
High Blood Pressure: Life Style Disease #1
The first silent sickness is high blood pressure. High blood pressure has most recently been implicated as a precursor to diabetes in those with abnormal fasting glucose along with the high blood pressure. High blood pressure is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease and kidney disease. High blood pressure that is undetected and untreated will result in kidney damage, damage to the small blood vessels in the eyes (this is possibly reversible), and can increase the risk for stroke and heart attack.
The symptoms are often so non-specific and it can be overlooked for years. Some of the more common vague symptoms are fatigue and headache. These are so non-specific that most people attribute them to other conditions of their life.
Normal Blood Pressure
Normal healthy blood pressure should be below 120/80 for the average adult.
When Do I Check My Blood Pressure?
Check a baseline blood pressure at age 18 and then every 2-3 years if normal.
However, if you are obese overweight it should be checked before age 18. The risk for elevated blood pressure is high with obesity.
If it is higher than 120/80, and you are normal weight with no other health issues and if you are in your 30’s monitor it every 2 years.
If you are in your 40’s then annually is adequate if it was normal at the initial check, you are not obese and are maintaining a healthy weight.
If your BP is higher than this, and you are normal weight, recheck again in 3 months.
If your BP is higher than normal and you are overweight, obese, have high cholesterol and/or pre-diabetes then you should recheck it every 2 months.
Using Automated /Public Blood Pressure Check Machines
The automated blood pressure check machines located at many pharmacies are a great place to check you pressure if you don’t want to go to the doctor. These machines are required to be calibrated and if used properly can be used for blood pressure screening.
Follow these steps to ensure the most accurate reading.
Ensure that the home machine is not over 2 years old, and in proper working. For the public blood pressure machines you can ask for their calibration records, or trust that it is in working order.
Ensure that the cuff is the correct size. The correct cuff size is important. If you use the incorrect size cuff the reading will be too high (if it’s too small) or too low (if it is too large). If your upper arm is more than 13 inch diameter, use an adult large.
To accurately check your blood pressure follow these steps
Avoid smoking for 30 minutes prior
Sit quietly for 3-5 minutes prior to taking the reading
Refrain from speak during the reading
Do not hold your arm up actively during the reading
High Cholesterol: Life Style Disease #2
High cholesterol is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease including stroke and heart attacks. Elevated cholesterol levels do not result in physical symptoms. Doing research for this blog I discovered many sites stating that pain in the hands, and feet can indicate high cholesterol. I have never heard of this symptom before. This is such a vague symptom, and there may be many causes of those symptoms. If you experience them I recommend a general health evaluation by your provider.
There are some uncommon outward signs include: arcus senilis, which is an opaque ring around the iris of the eye that can appear in the elderly, and in younger people with high cholesterol; xanthelasma papebrarum, these are yellow deposits around the eyelids; and xanthomata, which are fatty deposits in the tendons.
Normal Cholesterol Levels
Normal levels of cholesterol vary by gender, race and age.
When to Check Cholesterol Levels?
All adults should have their fasting cholesterol checked once very 4-6 years. Fasting cholesterol levels means that your last meal was between 8-12 hours before the blood test. Your doctor will monitor it more frequently when you receive the diagnosis of high cholesterol. Once you have the diagnosis testing may occur every 3 months, 6 months and then annually.
Studies show that keeping these levels within normal parameters (for those without genetically related high cholesterol) can reduce the risk of these life changing events such as heart attack and stroke.
Pre diabetes: Life Style Disease #3
Pre-diabetes often goes undetected for years, because, like high blood pressure and high cholesterol, the symptoms are subtle. Pre-diabetes puts you at risk for progressing to diabetes type 2.
The subtle symptoms will include fatigue, skin changes called acanthosis nigricans, sugar cravings and weight gain. Once pre-diabetes becomes diabetes, the symptoms become more difficult to ignore as they may disrupt your life. The symptoms of diabetes include increased thirst, increased urination, increased hunger, weight loss or gain without changing anything, and fatigue.
Normal Blood Sugar Levels
Normal fasting blood sugar levels are 65 mg/dL-99 mg/dL and an Hemoglobin A 1 C of less than 5.7%.
Pre-diabetes occurs when the blood sugar is higher than 99 but less than 126 or the A1c is more than 5.7%
When to Check for Pre-Diabetes
If you are obese or overweight you should check annually for pre-diabetes. The only way to check for pre-diabetes and diabetes is to check you lab work.
Silent Diseases can Kill
These silent sicknesses can dramatically change your life. The medicines will have side effects, monitoring them will cost you money and time.
You can avoid these silent sicknesses by maintaining a proper weight, eating a clean diet consisting of wholesome foods and being active enough.
If you already have these diseases, all is not lost. If you lose as little as 5% of your body weight, you can improve your blood pressure, your blood cholesterol and your blood sugar.
You can check your cholesterol levels and blood sugar/A1c without having to go to the doctor. Ulta Lab tests offers this service. You sign up for the testing you want on the website, you will choose the lab location most convenient for you to get the blood drawn at. Your results will be available online in your account. You will then be able to print and take the results to your physician for evaluation.
Check out this blog about how to manage these silent sicknesses. Diets for Lifestyle Diseases.
Life style changes are the cornerstone for prevention and even possible reversal of lifestyle diseases. My book, Second Chance at Health- Learn to Love Active Living and Clean Eating can show you how to make these changes. When you discover the movements that you love, and a sustainable eating plan, it is easy to stay healthy.