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You Docs: When to start checking your blood pressure

December 15, 2011

What’s the right age to start monitoring your blood pressure? I’m a multi-tasking mom, 43, with one kid in college and a 3-year-old (second marriage.).

— Maura, via email

Has your 3-year-old’s blood pressure been checked yet? How about your college kid’s? If not, get it done.

No, we YOU Docs haven’t lost it. Neither of your kids is too young to have his or her blood pressure monitored, and you definitely aren’t. If your BP isn’t regularly checked, start now. You want it at 115/76, so you and your kids will have a lifetime together.

Hypertension is considered an adult problem, but it can happen at any age. The earlier you catch and treat it, the better. That’s not just an internist (Dr. Mike) and a cardiac surgeon (Dr. Oz) talking.

The American Academy of Pediatrics totally agrees. High blood pressure that starts in childhood and continues for years causes changes in blood vessel walls that can damage the kidneys, eyes and other organs, and lead to heart failure or stroke in adulthood.

An impressive new study just underlined this in neon pink. It followed 19,000 Harvard students for decades. Those who entered college with elevated blood pressure were much more likely to have fatal cardiovascular problems later in life — they had a 14 percent increased risk of death from coronary heart disease and an 8 percent higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. Imagine if that were your college kid.

What triggers high blood pressure in youngsters? The No. 1 cause is childhood obesity, but about 5 percent of kids have elevated blood pressure for no clear reason.

Regardless, it needs to be spotted and controlled with diet, exercise and medication, if needed, just the way it is in adults. Lowering blood pressure in little kids and young adults could have a huge pay-off later on: saving their life.

I’m a 54-year-old guy in good shape (run 10Ks and lift weights). A while back, I read that men should eat lots of tomato sauce because cooked tomatoes are rich in lycopene, and lycopene fights prostate cancer.

I remember thinking, “Great. More pasta.” But last week my running buddy said that’s wrong. Who’s right?

— Jason, Chicago

He’s in front of you on this one. Bummer, huh? While lycopene is still believed to help fend off heart disease and some cancers, prostate cancer isn’t one of them. What went wrong? Actually, nothing. Good science did its job, only this time with disappointing results.

While the initial lycopene research looked really promising, the vital follow-up studies on prostate cancer haven’t panned out. At best, the results are mixed. Same goes for lycopene fighting prostate cancer if you already have it. The data just isn’t there.

Does that mean you should stop eating marinara sauce? Nope. It may be a combo of nutrients in cooked tomatoes, including lycopene, that’s protective. But lycopene alone isn’t a silver bullet.

That said, here’s something else that may cut your risk of prostate cancer, especially the most lethal kind: coffee. Why isn’t clear yet, but it’s not caffeine, since both regular and decaf do the job.

What may be at work: beneficial coffee compounds that reduce inflammation and regulate insulin, which could deter prostate cancer. As little as a cup a day helps, but men who drink six cups daily have a 20 percent lower risk of all prostate cancers and a 60 percent lower risk of the lethal form. Pretty impressive.

• • •


Just imagine knowing that if you spend $10 to get healthier, you’ll save $160. Guaranteed. And that the more you spend, the bigger your savings. Eventually, you could invest $50, save $737 and be way healthier. You’d be forking over every spare dollar, right?

That’s exactly what your state politicians could be doing — and in most states, exactly what they’re not doing.

How crazy is that? By the way, put “million” after the dollar amounts above. Each year, each state could save $737 million, on average.

That’s future jobs money. Infrastructure, cut-the-debt, heal-the-economy money. Big bucks.

Where’s it coming from? States got a huge windfall in 1998, when big tobacco agreed to pay $206 billion to them over 25 years. But the average state is wasting it.

We YOU Docs have kvetched about this before — Dr. Mike co-wrote a major report on it — but we’re even madder.

More and more of the money is being diverted from stop-smoking programs, proven to slash health care expenses, lost productivity and Medicaid payments. Not to mention the toll smoking takes on smokers’ hearts, lungs, brains and the people who love them.

“Short-sighted” is polite talk for this. A new analysis has calculated what’s being lost: tons. If your politicians will just spend the average recommended amount of $74 million on anti-tobacco efforts, your state will pocket at least 11 times that: from $853 million to more than $1 billion.

We want you to blow your stack, too. Find email or Tweet links for your legislators at www.usa.gov/Contact/Elected.shtml and light a fire. We are.

• • •


Acetaminophen reigns as one of the most popular painkillers ever, despite sometimes getting more bad press than Lindsey Lohan and Conrad Murray combined.

In very recent memory, it has faced ongoing concerns about liver damage, major recalls for contamination problems and disturbing links to childhood asthma.

Yet sales consistently rebound. Why? It does the job for millions, who find it easier on their stomachs than other painkillers.

Still, we’ve just gotten another reminder of how vital it is to take acetaminophen precisely.

The new alarm: “staggered overdoses.” Unlike classic overdoses, staggered ones occur if you take even slightly too much acetaminophen over several days. The effect can be lethal.

In hospital studies, 37 percent of staggered overdose cases died, versus 28 percent of classic overdoses. And survivors were more likely to have liver, brain and kidney problems.

While acetaminophen is quite safe when used correctly, it’s also particularly easy to misuse during holidays because it combines very badly with alcohol. Your liver can’t take it.

So consider this a public service message from us YOU Docs: As we enter peak party season and peak cold-and-flu time, do not drink and take acetaminophen, whether for a hangover or a head cold.

That’s smart advice for all drugs, but it’s vital with acetaminophen (and remember, it’s in many other medications, from Thera-Flu to Percocet).

• • •


Cold or not, if it’s sunny today, send the kids outside to play. It’ll get their bodies moving.

It’ll also give them a shot at getting enough sunshine for their skin to make vitamin D-3. That’s tough in winter if you live above the line from Atlanta to Los Angeles, but it won’t hurt to try. Help it along: When they come in, serve some cocoa with D-fortified nonfat milk.

Repeat daily. And make canned salmon and tuna menu regulars; they’re both good D-3 sources.

We’ve just seen a report on low vitamin D-3 in 20 percent of kids at risk for heart trouble — their young arteries already showed signs of stiffening. While this is new, it’s not surprising: Many studies link low D-3 in adults to buckets of cardiovascular trouble, from high blood pressure to stroke. The reverse is also true: Healthy levels of D-3 reduce heart threats.

Get your kids tested for vitamin D-3, if you haven’t already.

• The YOU Docs are Mehmet Oz and Mike Roizen. To submit questions, go to RealAge.com.

Article source: http://onlineathens.com/features/2011-12-13/when-start-checking-your-blood-pressure


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  3. Biker’s warning! EPO hits blood vessels to raise blood pressure in the brain
  4. Biker’s warning! Erythropoietin hits blood vessels to raise blood pressure in the brain
  5. Head games: Tricking high blood pressure
  6. Kiwi fruit can lower high blood pressure
  7. Intense care key to lower blood pressure
  8. First three-in-one pill for high blood pressure launched
  9. Dash diet may reduce need for blood pressure medication
  10. Blood pressure in early adulthood matters later


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