Blood Pressure and Heart Health

Blood Pressure and Heart Health

February is the month America is supposed to focus on their heart health. In honor of this month (and the importance) I am going to be updating this blog posts with more information about how your blood pressure relates to the healthiness of your heart.    Heart disease is the leading cause of death for American women and men, accounting for 1 in 4 deaths in the United States. Nearly half of Americans have at least one risk factor for heart disease , such as high blood pressure, obesity, physical inactivity, or an unhealthy diet. Risk also increases with age.

Learn what’s considered normal, as recommended by the American Heart Association.

This TED Talk really helps break it down, in English!

  • Systolic blood pressure (the upper number) — indicates how much pressure your blood is exerting against your artery walls when the heart beats.
    • “How much it takes to pump blood around your body through your arteries”
  • Diastolic blood pressure (the lower number) — indicates how much pressure your blood is exerting against your artery walls while the heart is resting between beats.
    • “Heart at rest between beats”
Blood Pressure
mm Hg (upper #)
mm Hg (lower #)
Normal less than 120 and less than 80
Prehypertension 120139 or 8089
High Blood Pressure
(Hypertension) Stage 1
140159 or 9099
High Blood Pressure
(Hypertension) Stage 2
160 or higher or 100 or higher
Hypertensive Crisis
(Emergency care needed)
Higher than 180
or Higher than 110

Health Risk Calculator here.

There are a lot of interactive animations you can play with to learn more from here, even specific to blood pressures.

Taking Your Blood Pressure

Blood pressure is a measure of the pressure on the inside of the artery walls, generated during the contraction and relaxation of the ventricles. When the ventricles contract to force blood out into the arteries, systolic pressure (the top number) is recorded. Diastolic pressure is the bottom number, recorded when the ventricles are relaxed and filling with blood from the atria.

The sphygmomanometer is the gauge which records the numbers that become your blood pressure. This module explains in step-by-step fashion how the traditional blood pressure test works (MOST ACCURATE). Follow the steps to see and hear how your blood pressure score is generated.


Blood Pressure Best Practices

  • Put your feet on the floor and straighten your back with arms supported at heart level
  • Take twice a day (don’t let it consume your life, but two readings a day can give your doctor a lot of clues)
  • Validate accuracy – compare the results of your electronic monitor with that of a manual (more accurate reading). Simply bring in the monitor you brought to your doctor’s office and see how their results compare.
  • DABL Educational  Trust and the British Hypertension Society also frequently test home blood pressure monitors for accuracy <= buy from the list here
  • Make sure you’re doing it correctly!
  • A full bladder can increase blood pressure slightly
  • Avoid food, caffeine, tobacco and alcohol for 30 minutes
  • Sit quietly with your feet on the floor, legs not crossed
  • Use the same arm each time
  • Arm cuffs are more accurate than wrist or finger cuffs. DID NOT CONSIDER but studies about hypertension are focused on the main arteries in your arms…measuring arm cuffs keep it relevant.

Monitoring Your Blood Pressure

The first thing your doctor is going to do is ask you what your blood pressure has been, over time.  There are lots of different more automated and manual ways to record your blood pressure over time.  You won’t regret it either.  No matter how inconvenient you might view it, nothing but numbers can really help create a good game plan.

Blood Pressure Options

  • Google Sheets template – a quick Google search returned this only spreadsheet template that you can easily add in your own dates and blood pressure readings over time. It will automatically color numbers that are warning and graph out over time. It will automatically average all of your Systolic, Diastolic, and Pulse readings as well.  Mobile phone users can access from their device or desktop computer, making it easier to access from home.

  • Withings – is an incredible suite of health monitoring apps and products that are beautifully surfaced and integrated.  There are a lot of recommendations around taking your blood pressure with an arm cuff (versus a wrist band that might not be as accurate, especially if people don’t take readings as precisely) you can still use this app to import or monitor your blood pressure.
Import readings into app.

Learn More Socially

I think it is also important to remember that there are a lot of people ready to support you. Medical professionals who want to answer your questions, people who have already gone through heart health, and those supporting their families and friends.

Heart Attacks

  • A heart attack happens when the blood supply to the heart is cut off. Cells in the heart muscle that do not receive enough oxygen-carrying blood begin to die. The more time that passes without treatment to restore blood flow, the greater the damage to the heart.
  • Every year about 750,000 Americans have a heart attack. Of these, 550,000 are a first heart attack and 200,000 happen in people who have already had a heart attack.1
  • About 15% of people who have a heart attack will die from it.1
  • Almost half of sudden cardiac deaths happen outside a hospital.2
  • Having high blood pressure or high blood cholesterol, smoking, having had a previous heart attack or stroke, or having diabetes can increase your chance of developing heart disease and having a heart attack.

The National Heart Attack Alert Program notes these major signs of a heart attack:

  • Chest pain or discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center or left side of the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. The discomfort can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain.
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath. Often comes along with chest discomfort. But it also can occur before chest discomfort.
  • Other symptoms. May include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea, or light-headedness.

If you think that you or someone you know is having a heart attack, you should call 911 immediately.

Attitude of Gratitude

Attitude of Gratitude

On Thanksgiving its easy to say we thankful. I have no doubt we mean it. But during lunch today, when I suggested we go around the table and say, “what we’re thankful for…” my sister appended, “but no friends, family, work” comments. It took me a second to think about what I would say which made me take a step back and Pinterest, “gratitude activities for adults” and came up short. Tons of stuff for helping kids to think about what they’re thankful for.  I found this article, “Gratitude Prompts” and thought it was great. The prompts were images, not so easy to print and do later so I thought I would take some time to write them down for others.

Try to think of the top three things you’re thankful for…think about them, talk with your friends, loved ones…

  • Sense – what I hear, smell, see, taste, touch
  • Animals
  • Friends
  • Teachers
  • Home
  • Hired Me
  • Trips
  • Holidays
  • Books
  • Characters
  • Strangers who helped me
  • Love to wear
  • Gadgets
  • Things I take for granted
  • TV shows I enjoy
  • I’m good at
  • Luxuries I engage in
  • Life lessons
  • Service people
  • Simple pleasures
  • Gifts received
  • Goals acheived
  • Fond memories
  • Last week





Movember and Prostate Cancer Awareness

Movember is a movement to raise awarness about men’s cancers like prostate and testicular by starting a conversation. This year was especially meaningful to my friend Andrew and I so earlier this year we agreed to participate in Movember for sure! He’s done a great job of raising awareness on our team at work and although we’re almost halfway into the month I’m ready to come out of the gates guns blazing!

Join and donate
My motivation is to use the power of the moustache to have an everlasting impact on the face of men’s health, especially for the US military veterans exposed to Agent Orange during Vietnam War and are being diagnosed with an aggressive version of prostate cancer that is harder to detect.
Please consider donating — click the image to be taken directly to my fundraising website!

Learn more about the VA and the free checks that they offer for veterans of foreign wars specifically those that may have been exposed to agent orange: 

Veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange or other herbicides during military service may be eligible for a variety of VA benefits, including disability compensation for diseases associated with exposure. Your dependents and survivors also may be eligible for benefits.

movember donation for prostate cancer
Check Out My Team 

Suicide Prevention and Resources

I wanted to write this blog post to not only aggregate a lot of great resources for someone who is dealing with depression (or someone who knows someone who is dealing with depression but doesn’t know how to help their friend.)

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a 24-hour, toll-free, confidential suicide prevention hotline available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. By dialing 1-800-273-TALK (8255), the call is routed to the nearest crisis center in our national network of more than 163 crisis centers in 49 states.

Ninety percent of people who die by suicide have a mental disorder at the time of their deaths. Its important to understand the disease both biologically and psychologically, detail resources here.  Information about different programs for teens, the community, and professionals to help recognize warning signs in themselves and loved ones can be found here.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that in 2011:

  • 39,518 suicides were reported, making suicide the 10th leading cause of death for Americans
  • Someone died by suicide every 13.3 minutes
  • Highest suicide rate (18.6) was among people 45 to 64 years old
    • 2nd highest rate (16.9) occurred in those 85 years and older.
    • Adolescents and young adults aged 15 to 24 had a suicide rate of 11.0
  • 4 times higher among men than among women
    • 78.5% were male and 21.5% were female
  • Highest U.S. suicide rate (14.5) was among Whites and the second highest rate (10.6) was among American Indians and Alaska Natives
  • 483,596 people visited a hospital for injuries due to self-harm behavior
    • Suggests 12 people harm themselves (not necessarily intending to take their lives) for every reported death by suicide.


Here are some of the websites recommended by the Center of Disease Control:

Risk and Environmental Factors

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention:

The most frequently cited risk factors for suicide are:

  • Mental disorders, in particular:
    • Depression or bipolar (manic-depressive) disorder
    • Alcohol or substance abuse or dependence
    • Schizophrenia
    • Borderline or antisocial personality disorder
    • Conduct disorder (in youth)
    • Psychotic disorders; psychotic symptoms in the context of any disorder
    • Anxiety disorders
    • Impulsivity and aggression, especially in the context of the above mental disorders
  • Previous suicide attempt
  • Family history of attempted or completed suicide
  • Serious medical condition and/or pain

It is important to bear in mind that the large majority of people with mental disorders or other suicide risk factors do not engage in suicidal behavior.

Environmental Factors That Increase Suicide Risk

  • A highly stressful life event such as losing someone close, financial loss, or trouble with the law
  • Prolonged stress due to adversities such as unemployment, serious relationship conflict, harassment or bullying
  • Exposure to another person’s suicide, or to graphic or sensationalized accounts of suicide (contagion)
  • Access to lethal methods of suicide during a time of increased risk

Suicide Prevention and Resources

About 350 million people worldwide suffer from depression, according to the World Health Organization.  By calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255) you’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area, anytime 24/7.

Warning Signs

  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill themselves.
  • Looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching online or buying a gun
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live.
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain.
  • Talking about being a burden to others.
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs.
  • Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly.
  • Sleeping too little or too much.
  • Withdrawing or isolating themselves.
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.
  • Displaying extreme mood swings.

What To Do When You Suspect Someone May Be at Risk for Suicide

Take it Seriously

  • 50% to 75% of all people who attempt suicide tell someone about their intention.
  • If someone you know shows the warning signs above, the time to act is now.

Ask Questions

  • Begin by telling the suicidal person you are concerned about them.
  • Tell them specifically what they have said or done that makes you feel concerned about suicide.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask whether the person is considering suicide, and whether they have a particular plan or method in mind. These questions will not push them toward suicide if they were not considering it.
  • Ask if they are seeing a clinician or are taking medication so the treating person can be contacted.
  • Do not try to argue someone out of suicide. Instead, let them know that you care, that they are not alone and that they can get help. Avoid pleading and preaching to them with statements such as, “You have so much to live for,” or “Your suicide will hurt your family.”

Encourage Professional Help

  • Actively encourage the person to see a physician or mental health professional immediately.
  • People considering suicide often believe they cannot be helped. If you can, assist them to identify a professional and schedule an appointment. If they will let you, go to the appointment with them.

Take Action

  • If the person is threatening, talking about, or making specific plans for suicide, this is a crisis requiring immediate attention. Do not leave the person alone.
  • Remove any firearms, drugs, or sharp objects that could be used for suicide from the area.
  • Take the person to a walk-in clinic at a psychiatric hospital or a hospital emergency room.
  • If these options are not available, call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for assistance.

Follow-Up on Treatment

  • Still skeptical that they can be helped, the suicidal person may need your support to continue with treatment after the first session.

  • If medication is prescribed, support the person to take it exactly as prescribed. Be aware of possible side effects, and notify the person who prescribed the medicine if the suicidal person seems to be getting worse, or resists taking the medicine. The doctor can often adjust the medications or dosage to work better for them.

  • Help the person understand that it may take time and persistence to find the right medication and the right therapist. Offer your encouragement and support throughout the process, until the suicidal crisis has passed.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline ‘1-800-273-TALK (8255)’

Lifeline Calling Steps

Additionally you can go to a:

  • ?Psychiatric hospital walk-in clinic
  • ?Hospital emergency room
  • ?Urgent care center/clinic
  • ?Call 911


Social Media Safety Teams

If there’s someone posting information from their social media account that you think might be related to suicidal thoughts, you can reach out to the social media team for help.  Details updated here.

  • Facebook: Click here to anonymously report someone as suicidal on Facebook. A member of Facebook’s Safety Team will send the user an e-mail with the Lifeline number and possibly a link to chat with Lifeline counselor.
  • Twitter: Click here and select “Self-Harm” to send an e-mail to Twitter reporting a suicidal user. Twitter will send the user a direct message with the Lifeline number.
  • MySpace: Click on the “Report Abuse” link that appears at the bottom of every MySpace page and complete the form. MySpace will then send an e-mail to the MySpace user with the Lifeline number.
  • YouTube: To report suicidal content, click on the flag icon under a video and select “Harmful Dangerous Acts” and then “Suicide or Self-Injury.” You Tube will then review the video and may send a message to the user that uploaded the video with the Lifeline number.
  • Tumblr: Click here to write an e-mail to Tumblr about a suicidal user. Include as much information as possible including the URL of the Tumblr blog. A member of Tumblr’s Safety Team will send the user an e-mail with the Lifeline number. – See more at:

There continues to be a lot of research done in this area, the latest can be found here and touches on topics and findings that include:

  • Educating the Medical Community to Recognize and Treat Depression
  • System-wide Suicide Prevention Approaches: the U.S. Air Force as a Model Program
  • Limiting Access to Means of Suicide
  • Media Guidelines for Reporting on Suicide
  • Follow-up Interventions for Suicide Attempters that Reduce Suicide
  • Postcard Intervention to Decrease Suicide Attempts
  • Targeted Psychotherapy for Suicide Attempters
  • Medication Treatment for Depression
  • Screening and Engaging Individuals in Clinical Treatment

You can also check out facts and figures here.

Favorite Robin Williams Quotes

Favorite Robin Williams Quotes

I remember walking along the ocean in San Francisco and seeing Robin Williams jogging with one of his kids in a jogging stroller. I remember laughing through the movie Aladdin and crying through Patch Adams. In memory of Robin Williams and anyone who is silently struggling. You’re not as alone as you think.  Learn more about suicide prevention and resources here.

Favorite Robin Williams Quotes Favorite Robin Williams Quotes Favorite Robin Williams Quotes Favorite Robin Williams Quotes Favorite Robin Williams Quotes