Prevention of Stroke(Part 2)

Prevention 

Have medical check-up regularly

Even if you have not been experiencing a medical problem in the last few months or years, it is necessary that you see your physician for medical check-up. In this process, one of the things that he will evaluate is the condition of your heart. He could listen to your heart sounds, and he could find out if you have the so-called atrial fibrillation (AF). If he suspects that you have AF, he will request for electrocardiogram (ECG) test, and it will confirm if you really have the said problem. If so, your physician will either give you medicine to control your AF, or he will refer you to a cardiologist. There is a need to control your AF because, as mentioned in the preceding, it could cause stroke due to cerebral embolism.

Have your blood pressure checked regularly

As mentioned in the preceding, your blood vessels in the brain are so thin that they cannot withstand high blood pressure. Thus, it is necessary that you must check your blood pressure regularly. If elevated and above the normal values, you need to take some medications. During your medical check-up, bring up the matter to your physician for proper and necessary prescriptions. You need to control your blood pressure at all times to avoid having stroke due to ruptured blood vessel in the brain.

Have annual evaluation of your blood chemistry

In your medical check-up, one of the important things that your physician will request you to do is to have blood chemistry examination. The basic components of this test are: fasting blood sugar, blood urea nitrogen, blood creatinine, aspartate aminotransferase (AST), alanine aminotransferase (ALT), blood uric acid, and the lipid profile test which determines the levels of your cholesterol, triglycerides, high-density lipoprotein, and low-density lipoproteincholesterol. Under the topic of preventing stroke, however, the most important  components of blood chemistry that you need to pay attention to are the fasting blood sugar and the lipid profile. If you have a family history of diabetes mellitus, you should know the level of your fasting blood sugar annually, and keep track of the trend. If it increases every year, then you need to alter and modify your lifestyle, such as your diet and your daily physical exercises.Under the lipid profile test, you should know the level of your blood cholesterol; and if it is elevated, consult your physician for dietary advice and prescription(s) of necessary drugs.

Refrain from smoking

Cigarette smokinghas been scientifically established as the root cause of several medical problems, such as cancer in the lungs. In relation to stroke, however, it has been established, too, that it accelerates the development of the so-called atherosclerosis, which is the deposition of fatty substances along the inner lining of your blood vessels. Consequently, you will develop hypertension which could lead to stroke. If you have not started smoking yet, never start doing it. If you have been smoking, stop the habit as soon as possible.

Refrain from taking high-salt and high-fat diet

If youtake meals and foodsrich in salt, or sodium, your blood pressure will rise up—much more if you are over 40 years old. Thus, before you take any food item, especially the packed ones, look at the sodium content listed on the pack.  If it is greater than 7%, avoid taking that food(s). If you have been eating in a restaurant, then you find that a certain recipe is high in salt, stop taking that food! Your blood pressure may also rise up if you take  foods rich in fats. Hence, avoid them.

(To be continued)

Prevention of Stroke (Part 1)

Definition

Your brain needs a lot of oxygen and nutrients being carried by your blood, and your blood reaches it through a network of blood vessels which  serve as its passageways.  When one of these passageways is blocked, thereby preventing the arrival of blood in a certain area of yourbrain, stroke takes place. Deprivation of blood is not the only cause of stroke. When a particular blood vessel in your brain ruptures, and the blood goes into its substance,  this is also called stroke.

Types of stroke

Due to cerebral thrombosis

Your blood vessels in the brain are not spared from the deposits of cholesterol and other forms of fats. If you are prone to having these deposits, all your blood vessels will have the same tendency to have them. Hence, when the opening of your blood vessel in the brain is narrowed by these deposits which have been accumulating for years, these blood vessels are prone to be blocked by blood clots which have been traveling in your bloodstream. Since the opening of the blood vessel is narrowed, it could easily be plugged by a clot which had been admixed with your blood.  With the blockage, blood could not pass through, and a certain area of your brain is suddenly deprived of blood, resulting in stroke, which is now considered as due to a cerebral thrombosis. Had it not been for the narrowed blood vessel, stroke could not have happened.

Diagrammatic representation of a blood vessel in the brain which has been deposited with cholesterol and fats (A) and then a blood clot that plugs its opening (B). Figure 1. Diagrammatic representation of a blood vessel in the brain which has been deposited with cholesterol and fats (A) and then a blood clot that plugs its opening (B).

Due to cerebral embolism

While your brain is left undisturbed for so many years, in other parts of your body, blood clots may have been formed. Some of these are attached to the inner structures of your heart.When your heart is behaving properly, they remain where they are, without producing any trouble at all. However, when it suddenly misbehaves, its rhythm is greatly disturbed that it is now out of sync. Consequently, its pumping becomes erratic and produces vibration that it is now medically described as fibrillating. When this takes place, blood clots from its inner chambers are thrown out in the blood which goes into circulation. When these blood clots reach the brain, they could block a blood vessel, resulting in stroke which is due to a cerebral embolism.

Figure2.Diagrammatic representation of a blood vessel in the brain which was never deposited with cholesterol and fats (A) but then a blood clot arrives plugging its opening (B). The diameter of the opening decreases as its location moves away from the heart—hence, very much prone to plugging.

Figure2.Diagrammatic representation of a blood vessel in the brain which was never deposited with cholesterol and fats (A) but then a blood clot arrives plugging its opening (B). The diameter of the opening decreases as its location moves away from the heart—hence, very much prone to plugging. 

Due to ruptured blood vessel

The wall of the blood vessels in your brain is very thin. This structural design is meant to allow easier transfer of oxygen from the blood to yourbrain and the transfer of carbon dioxide from yourbrain to the blood. In short, it is meant to allow easier exchange of gases. With this design, however, it cannot withstand high blood pressure. Thus, it is necessary that you always maintain your blood pressure at normal level because if you do not, a blood vessel in your brain could rupture, and you will suffer from stroke.

Figure 3. Diagrammatic representation of a normal blood vessel in the brain (A) and the ruptured blood vessel in (B) where the blood goes out  through the leakage.

Figure 3. Diagrammatic representation of a normal blood vessel in the brain (A) and the ruptured blood vessel in (B) where the blood goes out  through the leakage.

(To be continued)

Importance of hydration in physical exercises (Part 3)

Precautions in hydration

Existing hypertension

While it is true that you need to replace the salt that you lose while you do your physical exercises, you need to be cautious in doing it if you have hypertension. As mentioned in the preceding article, preponderance of salt in the bloodflowing in your blood vessels will increase your intravascular volume, then ultimately increasing your blood pressure. Therefore, if you have existing hypertension, you need to be very careful in your intake of salt-rich foods or drinks while you do your physical exercises.

Before you engage in any form of physical exercises, especially if you have hypertension, you need to take your medications as scheduled. If you have one or two tablet(s) scheduled to be taken before doing your physical exercises, then take them before you plunge into intense physical activities. Being hypertensive is not a hindrance to having physical exercises; however, take your medications as prescribed by your medical doctor(s).

Existing kidney problem

In some existing kidney problems, you cannot eliminate as much water as you used to be because your kidney(s) could no longer do so. In another saying, your kidney(s) could no longer produce the amount of urine that you used to have because they are now afflicted with a particular disease. Hence, if you drink a lot of water, you may overload your body with it that you will have difficulty in breathing! Thus, if you have a history of some kidney diseases, you need to be very careful with your intake of so much water. Find out from your medical doctor if you need to limit your water intake.

Balance between health and physical exercises

You need to strike at a rational balance between the state of your health and the degree of your physical exercises. If you do not have medical problems—that is, you are healthy—you have the freedom to do whatever form of physical exercises you would like to engage in, for as long as you do them in the proper form, proper duration and intensity, with proper preparation and hydration. However, if you have been afflicted with some diseases, you need to seek medical clearance from your medical doctor, and find out from him what physical exercises you can afford to do. Surely, you will be allowed to engage in some form of physical exercises, but with some limitations. Observe these limitations, and proceed with your physical exercises.

Limited physical exercises and their health effects

It is not enough that you proceed with your physical exercises and that is all in it! You need to observe the effects of your physical exercises on your health. If you feel and believe that what you have been performing is too much for your health, you can consult your medical doctor and explain to him what you have been feeling. There might be a need to adjust your physical exercises, and he will advise you accordingly. The intensity, duration, and frequency of your physical exercises may be reduced. However, if, on the other hand, you feel that your health could afford more intense physical activities, in spite of your illness, you can again consult your medical doctor, and find out from him if you can proceed with what you plan to do. If he approves it, you can gradually make your workouts harder and more intense. Your medical doctor may not have the time to fully explain to you how you can increase or decrease the intensity of your physical exercises. Hence, in the gym, you can refer your case to an adviser who could guide you accordingly. With existing limitations in your health, always proceed with caution when it comes to engaging in physical exercises.

(Last of a series of 3)

Symptoms that could prevent you from doing physical exercises (2)

The Symptoms

Fast heart rate

You will surely know when your heart rate is faster than normal. Others call this sudden increase in heart rate as palpitation, and lately this has been used to refer to this medical situation. If you have palpitation—whether taking place so suddenly or has been there for some time—you need to have medical consultation because, if you do not, your heart will suffer. In some people, palpitation takes place when they have taken a cup—or more—of coffee. When this takes place, all you have to do is wait until the effect of caffeine which is so preponderant in your coffee wanes, and your heart rate returns to normal. However, if your heart rate has been so fast for some time compared to your previous ones, then you need to see a medical doctor because you might have a problem in your thyroid gland, and you will need medication(s) to control it. If your heart rate is fast, refrain from having physical exercises because it will increase all the more if you do. Return to having physical exercises only once your heart rate is restored to normal.

Swelling of the legs

If you have swollen legs, it could mean a lot of things. Foremost, it is possible that you have kidney or heartdisease. Thus, you need to consult a medical doctor who will work you up and find your problem. By doing physical examinations, your medical doctor could immediately determine if you have a heart disease. More often than not, if you have swollen legs and you have a history of high blood pressure, your heart has been enlarged, and it is beginning to fail. In another saying, you are starting to have heart failure. Therefore, you are not allowed to have physical exercises for the moment, and you will need clearance from your medical doctor before you can return to the gym.

The other possibility is you have been suffering from kidney disease. Hence, your medical doctor will request you to undergo a urine test which is popularly known as urinalysis. Urinalysis is a very simple test, and it is very cheap. However, your medical doctor could derive a lot of information from it. If your problem is a simple infection, you will be prescribed with the most appropriate antibiotic(s), and you can return to the gym after controlling the infection. In some instances, however, the problem is irreversible or untreatable. In such case, you will be barred from returning to the gym, especially if there is difficulty in controlling your blood pressure.

Difficulty in sleeping

In some people, difficulty in sleeping is being experienced. Medically, this is known as insomnia. If you are one of them, then you need to consult a medical doctor because lack of sleep could cause accident while you are doing work out in the gym. There are a number of possibilities to consider if you have insomnia. Firstly, you might have anemia—a blood disorder wherein the number of your red blood cells is low. If you have anemia, your heart rate is usually faster than normal; this prevents you from falling asleep. Secondly, you might have a problem in your thyroid gland which could be hyperthyroidism. If you have been suffering from hyperthyroidism, your heart has been being overworked, aside from the fact that you have been experiencing insomnia. Hence, if you have been suffering from insomnia, consult a medical doctor at once so that you could be prescribed with the necessary medication(s). Do not insist on having your physical exercises, lest you will meet accident or aggravate your medical condition.

Muscle cramps (Part 1)

What are muscle cramps?

Normally, when we move, there are skeletal muscles involved in it. To execute a particular move, a muscle or a group of muscles will have to alternately contract and relax. In some instances, however, suddenly and without warning, one or more muscle(s) contract(s) in a sustained manner, and the person involved in it has no control over the muscular contraction. This is called muscle crampor true cramps. It is painful, and the concerned individual, in most of the times, will be forced to stop from whatever s/he is doing. The sustained muscular contraction could take place for a few secondsor up to a quarter of an hour.

What are the causes of muscle crmuscle cramp amps?

Injury

When there is an existing injury in the musculo-skeletal system, a muscle cramp takes place because the body tends to protect the injured part. In this situation, there is a need to treat the existing injury, lest the muscle cramp keeps on recurring!

Fatigue of muscles

When a muscle or group of muscles isoverused in a physical activity, such as in a gym or outdoor physical exercises, a muscle cramp may take place. Overusing of muscles takes place when a person suddenly executes a physical exercise whose intensity and/or durationis(are) beyond what s/he used to do. If, for instance, you have been doing a treadmill exercise for only 30 minutes in a day, but suddenly you increased it to one hour, you might experience muscle cramp, either during, immediately after, or several hours after the physical exercise.

If you have been doing weightlifting, usually lifting 10 kilograms of weight, but, without proper preparation and training, you suddenly used 15-kilogram weight, you may also experience muscle cramp.

Improper positioning

Proper positioningwhile working or playinggreatly contributes in the prevention of muscle cramps. For instance, if you are using the keyboard of a computer or a laptop, ensure that your wrists are well rested on the working table, and not left hanging beyond its edge! Ensure that your head is well rested at its back against a head support structure of your chair! Ensure that your eyesight level is in line with the computer screen, not very much lower or higher! When you play a particular sport, play it with the right form!

Improper and awkward positioning while asleep could be another cause of muscular cramp! Since you cannot really control your sleeping position, the least that you can do is to have firm and flat bed that will prevent your body from sagging!

Dehydration

When you work out in a gym, or engage in an outdoor sport, you will have perspiration that will release the extra heat generated in your body. However, it is not only water and heat that are released; included is the electrolyte, sodium, that plays a very vital role in maintaining the blood pressure. When significant amount of sodium is taken out from your body, arising mainly from intense physical activity and/or use of medicine, such as diuretics (medicines that promote urination), occurrence of muscle cramp is very likely.

Low blood calcium and/or magnesium

Scientific literatures have established that low calcium and/or magnesium level in the blood could cause muscle cramp. The main reason is that when the blood levels of said electrolytes are low, the excitability of the nerve endings and the muscles being supplied by that nerve is high! Hence, with the slightest provocation, the muscle contracts, producing muscle cramp.

Low calcium and magnesium levels in the blood are caused by pregnancy, vomiting, use of diuretics, vitamin D deficiency and hyperventilation (fast breathing).

References:

Internet Website:

www.medicinenet.com/muscle_cramps/page2.htm

Suggested further readings:

  • Powertec article titled: Eleven basic rules in doing gym exercises: Importance of proper form in strength training and how Powertec machines help in reducing the risk of injury
  • Powertec article titled: Causes of injury while doing physical exercises