In Health Blog 2018-01-07T10:18:36+00:00

The American Heart Association advises that a healthy blood pressure is around 120/80. High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, often has no symptoms, yet it could weaken the arteries of the circulatory system and cause damage to the heart, brain, and kidneys over a span of many years. Nearly 1 in every 3 adults in America are taking medications and modifying their diet and exercise habits to maintain a healthy blood pressure. 

A blood pressure/pulse reading is a measure of whether our hearts are pumping too hard or too rapidly. Different types of medication have different effects on blood pressure, but they generally slow the heart to prevent it from being overworked, while keeping the arteries and veins open so blood can flow more easily.

It’s important to check your blood pressure on a regular basis, either by investing in a blood pressure monitor or with a visit to a drug store or a healthcare professional.

A blood pressure reading is taken with a blood pressure cuff (either manually or with a computerized monitor) by constricting the brachial artery in the upper arm to the point when all pulse sounds disappear, and then slowly releasing pressure.

When the force of the bloodstream first causes blood to flow through the constricted artery, a “thumping” sound is heard. This is the systolic pressure reading. As the blood pressure cuff slowly releases pressure at a rate of approximately 2-3 mmHG per second, the sounds within the artery become muffled and then disappear completely, which is the diastolic pressure.

Read Instride: The Cardiovascular System

The spiral, ladder-shaped molecule of DNA is a familiar sight. In recent years, scientists have been researching the correlation between DNA and the aging process, specifically whether the shortening of telomeres at the base of a DNA molecule could result in accelerated cell death and various types of cancer.

During our lifetimes, our DNA endures adverse effects from stress, from unhealthy diet and exercise habits (including drinking and smoking), and from toxins in the environment. But our cells have built-in mechanisms to repair DNA before the cell malfunctions and becomes cancerous, or before the faulty DNA is replicated into a new cell.

In recent years, scientists have identified another cause of DNA damage:

Telomeres are a sequence of nitrogenous base pairs that “snaps shut” the strand of DNA at the end, protecting the genetic sequence that influences healthy growth and development

The sequence of base pairs that makes up a telomere continually shortens each time a cell divides, a process that occurs billions of times each day. Inevitably, the strand of DNA begins to unravel and gene sequences become “scrambled,” interrupting the cell’s normal functioning and causing it to grow cancerous or die.  

Researchers are studying the effects of the enzyme telomerase in the human body to determine if it could prevent damage and even lengthen telomeres. Telomerase is produced within the nucleus of stem cells in a person’s bone marrow and found in much smaller amounts in somatic, or body cells, where the shortening of telomeres occurs. Simply increasing levels of telomerase isn’t necessarily a way to prevent this type of damage because cells that become cancerous also would have DNA with lengthened telomeres, making them invulnerable to treatment. 

The good news is, if we eat a balanced diet and exercise moderately, we’re already ensuring that our DNA will stay healthy well into old age. Reducing stress and incorporating foods with a variety of antioxidants are other habits that are easily integrated into a healthy lifestyle. And telomere testing kits, along with individualized recommendations from health care professionals, are becoming convenient and affordable. 

Read Instride: DNA

Amazon click image sales logo min

Health experts have found that both positive and negative emotions have an influence on our health … and that laughter really is the best medicine.

Harmful or destructive emotions include fear, anger, and worry. They provoke the adrenal glands into producing adrenaline and cortisol, chemicals that are usually beneficial as they provide a boost of energy and alertness so we can confront danger or get safely away. However, unhealthy levels of these stress hormones could have a harmful effect, elevating heart rate, suppressing the immune system, and making it difficult to rest and get enough sleep.

In contrast, positive thoughts stimulate the production of endorphins, a neurotransmitter that counteracts the damaging effects of stress by lowering blood pressure, easing pain, and causing our brain to register feelings of happiness and well-being.

Visit FamilyDoctor.org to read about the way maintaining your sense of humor could protect your health. 

Read Instride: Heart Health

DNA technology has enabled scientists to genetically modify crops grown in the U.S. and around the globe in order to enhance beneficial qualities and boost their ability to withstand pests and inclement weather. The skeptics are concerned about corporations focused more on their bottom line than on the health of consumers, but others are cautiously optimistic about the potential life-saving changes that are possible.

The treatment of diabetes was revolutionalized in the 1980’s when researchers were able to alter the DNA of a bacterium and simply manufacture insulin in a laboratory rather than using hormones extracted from the pancreas of pigs or cows ( … gross! )

Though most GMO fruits and veggies haven’t been approved for human consumption, a large percentage of the corn grown in the US to make ethanol is genetically modified to tolerate pesticides and to be resistant to bugs. And soybean and canola crops now produce plants with higher levels of healthy oils.

The process begins by locating the genetic sequence of a favorable trait on a strand of DNA. Scientists apply enzymes to the strand to chop it into fragments and generate copies of the targeted gene; a method that has been used in forensic DNA analysis for years.

DNA scientists fighing 363x270-min
khan academy2-min

A plasmid is a fragment of DNA found in the nucleus of a bacteria separate from its chromosomal DNA. A plasmid can be modified with the genetic sequence for the new trait and then replaced in the bacteria or into a different host. (image credit: www.kahnacademy.com)

Incorporating the synthetic gene depends on the type of host:

  • Bacteria being modified in order to cultivate useful enzymes are known to readily accept the plasmid and immediately produce offspring with the altered genome
  • A virus could have its genetic sequence changed and then be allowed to “infect” the host organism
  • The modified plasmid can be directly injected into the nucleus of a plant cell. The plasmid can be “flagged” with a gene sequence that produces an antibiotic, so researchers can expose the plants to a particular disease and then easily determine which ones have reproduced with the new genome.  
  • Small metal pellets could be coated with fragments of DNA and then “shot” into plant cells at high speed to infiltrate the cell membranes

These technologies are way beyond the practices of cross-pollinating plants and selectively breeding livestock; strategies that have evolved over thousands of years. The research involving recombinant DNA technology is carefully regulated by the FDA, the EPA, and the USDA.

Read Instride: DNA

Amazon click image sales logo min

Our immune system consists of the innate immunity we’re born with and the adaptive immunity that we acquire during our lifetime. One strategy of our innate immune system is to create antibodies that patrol the bloodstream in search of pathogens such as bacteria, viruses, and cancer cells. An antibody is a type of protein manufactured by white blood cells that neutralizes a specific type of microbe or “tags” it for destruction by other parts of the immune system.

When a gene mutation disrupts the function of a normal body cell, that cell could grow out of control and affect other, healthy cells. Traditionally fought with chemotherapy or radiation, scientists are now developing cancer treatments that modify a patient’s adaptive immune system to battle cancer cells:

  • Antibodies can be created in a lab and used to target certain types of cancer 
  • Researchers have found ways to fight cancer cells that previously were able to avoid detection
  • A vaccine can be created to prevent cancer from invading other parts of the body 

Read Instride: Immunity