Preventive Care Tips

Preventive care can help you live a long and healthy life. By monitoring your blood pressure, you can help your doctor to detect early warning signs for high blood pressure, hypertension and other cardiovascular diseases.

If you already have one of these chronic illnesses, a blood pressure monitor can help to determine whether or not your treatment is working. Breast and testicular self-examinations, in addition to preventive screenings, can help you and your physician catch cancer in these areas early. Cancers that are caught earlier have a greater likelihood to respond to treatment, making it imperative that you engage in monthly self-screenings. Prolonged stress can raise your risk factors for a number of ailments including depression, high blood pressure and heart disease. Therefore, it is imperative that you learn how to reduce stress with coping techniques. To learn more about these life-changing preventive care measures, review the information that has been provided below.

Monitor Your Blood Pressure

By monitoring your blood pressure at home, especially if you are a senior getting preventive health tests, you can keep track of your blood pressure and help your physician to catch the early warning signs of high blood pressure and heart disease. If you already have high blood pressure or another cardiovascular condition, monitoring your blood pressure is a crucial part in helping your physician to determine whether or not a treatment is working. However, it is important to know that monitoring your blood pressure is in no way a substitute for your regular visits with your doctor. While everyone can benefit from monitoring their blood pressure, a blood pressure monitor can be especially useful to:

  • Anyone that has been diagnosed with high blood pressure or hypertension.
  • Individuals who have risk factors for high blood pressure.
  • Pregnant women who are experiencing pregnancy-induced hypertension or preeclampsia.
  • Individuals who have had potentially false blood pressure readings.

However, individuals who have been diagnosed with arrhythmias such as atrial fibrillation may not be able to get accurate measurements from blood pressure devices.

Both pharmacies and online merchants sell a variety of blood pressure monitors with prices ranging between $50 and $100. In some cases, your insurance provider may even cover part or all of the cost of a blood pressure monitor, depending on your policy and health conditions. When purchasing a blood pressure monitor, it is important to ensure that the device meets the standards for your age and condition according to the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI). It is also recommended that you purchase a monitor that will go around your upper arm as finger monitors do not always provide accurate readings. Lastly, you will find automatic monitors far easier to use as they do not require a stethoscope and you can expect the cuff to inflate by itself. After a purchase, it is recommended that you bring your new blood pressure monitor to your next doctor’s visit in order to ensure that it is properly calibrated. If necessary, your doctor can show you how to use your new monitor.

When monitoring your blood pressure, it is important to keep a journal about your blood pressure measurements — including the date and time of each measurement as well as any recent factors that may change your reading. When taking measurements it is important to:

  • Be still and sit with your back straight and supported.
  • Refrain from smoking, exercising or drinking caffeinated beverages within 30 minutes of measuring your blood pressure.
  • Take your blood pressure measurement at the same time each day.
  • Take multiple readings with one minute between each reading in order to ensure accuracy.

It is also important to understand what your blood pressure measurements actually mean. Your blood pressure is considered normal if the systolic number (the upper number) is less than 120 and the diastolic number (the lower number) is less than 80. You may see measurements written as 120 over 80 or 120/80 mmHg. An elevated blood pressure is considered a systolic number between 120 and 129 and a diastolic number that is still less than 80. High blood pressure or hypertension stage 1 begins with a systolic number reading between 130 and 139 with a diastolic reading between 80 and 89.

If you receive a reading that contains a systolic number that is higher than 180 or a diastolic reading that is greater than 120 — consult with your doctor immediately as you may be experiencing a hypertensive crisis. If you do experience a single high reading, know that it is not an immediate cause for alarm. Take your blood pressure a few more times, waiting at least five minutes between each reading. If you experience any chest pain, shortness of breath, back pain, numbness, weakness, change in vision or difficulty speaking, call 911 immediately.

Breast and Testicular Cancer Self-Examinations

The importance of self-examinations for breast and testicular cancer cannot be stressed enough. In fact, 40 percent of diagnosed breast cancers were detected by women in a self-examination. While self-examination does not substitute regular preventive care through your health care professional, the combination of both routine care and self-examination can increase your odds of catching cancer when it is in its earlier stage, when treatment is most effective.

There are three ways to complete breast self-examinations and you should complete these exams on a monthly basis. The first examination takes place in the shower. Using the pads of your fingers, move your fingers around your entire breast in a circular pattern. Start from the outside and move towards the center, and make sure to check both the entire breast and armpit area. If you notice any changes, including lumps or areas that feel like thickening or hardened knots, make sure to speak with your health care provider.

The next portion of self-examination is a visual inspection and must be completed in front of a mirror. Start by visually inspecting your breasts with your arms down at your side followed by your arms held high over your head. Look for changes in contour of your breasts, dimples in your skin, changes in your nipples or any swelling. Left and right breasts typically have natural differences and variations, so look for any changes that are particular on one side. Lastly, place your hands on your hips, palms touching your body, and press firmly to flex your chest muscles. If you note any changes, contact your physician.

To perform the last part of a self-examination, lie down on your back and place a pillow beneath your right shoulder. Keep your right arm behind your head. Using your left hand, feel around your right breast in gentle and small circular motions. Like the self-exam in the shower, make sure to cover the entire breast and armpit area. Using light, medium and firm pressure — squeeze the nipple and check for any discharge or lumps. Repeat the same steps for the left breast, switching the arm that is behind your head.

If you need to perform a monthly self-examination of your testicles, make sure to do so after a warm shower or bath as the scrotum will be most relaxed. Stand in front of a mirror and inspect the area for any swelling on the scrotal skin. Next, inspect each testicle with both of your hands. To do so, place both your index and middle fingers beneath the testicle with the thumbs placed atop. Gently roll the testicle between your fingers to feel for any abnormalities of any kind on the surface of the testicle as well as monitor any changes in texture. Lastly, find the epididymis. The epididymis is a soft, rope-like structure that can be found on the back of a testicle. Once you become familiar with this structure, you will not mistake it for an abnormal lump. If you notice any changes or irregularities at all, inform your doctor immediately.

If you do find a lump, it is important not to panic. A lump is not always cancerous. Still, it is important to talk to your doctor immediately to get a professional diagnosis. Do not wait to see if the abnormality goes away on its own.

Work on Stress Management

For most people, learning to manage stress can improve a number of aspects of life. Some of the most notable benefits of reducing stress include:

  • The elimination of unnecessary energy drain.
  • The decrease in impatience, irritability and anger.
  • The improvement of overall physical and mental health.
  • A decrease in risk factors for certain medical conditions such as high blood pressure.
  • Improvement in focus and general brain function.
  • The ability to achieve a more restful sleep each night.
  • Improved digestion.
  • A lower heart and breathing rate.
  • The reduction of muscle tension and chronic pain.

Long-term stress can take a great toll on your body, making the development of coping skills a crucial part of maintaining your health and preventing medical ailments.

Relaxation techniques are a great way to better manage your stress. A process that decreases the effects that stress has on your mind and body, relaxation techniques can help you to better cope with every day stress. Generally, a relaxation technique will involve redirecting your attention on something that is calming as well as increasing the awareness that you possess over your body.

Autogenic relaxation refers to a relaxation technique that comes from within you. It uses both visual imagery and body awareness in order to reduce your overall stress words. By repeating suggestions in words internally, you can help your body relax and reduce overall tension.

Progressive muscle relaxation refers to the focus on slowly tensing and then relaxing each muscle group. By doing so, you become more aware of physical sensations. Start by tensing and relaxing the muscles in your toes before progressively working your way up to your neck. Tense your muscles for approximately five seconds each, relax for 30 seconds, and then begin on the next muscle group.

With visualization, you can form mental images of a calming place or situation. When practicing visualization, it is important to include as many senses as you can including sight, sound, touch and smell. If you are imagining a wooded area, as an example, you may imagine how the dirt feels beneath your feet, the earthy smell of the trees or the warmth of the sun on your skin.

Other popular relaxation techniques include:

  • Deep breathing.
  • Meditation.
  • Tai chi.
  • Music and art therapy.
  • Hydrotherapy.
  • Aromatherapy.

Try more than one relaxation technique in order to discover the method that works best for you. Keep in mind that each of these methods take practice and will take conscious effort to become more aware of muscle tensions and other sensations that are caused by stress.

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