Posts Tagged ‘hypertension’

Preventive Health For All Men

January 18, 2016

Do you know that most men spend more time taking care of their cars or planning a vacation than they do taking care of their health?  In the U.S., women live 5-7 years longer than men.  I believe one of the reasons is that women seek out regular medical care throughout their entire lives.  They see a obstetrician during child bearing years; they get regular mammograms; they obtain routine PAP smears and other preventive health measures for their entire lives.  Men, on the other hand, stop seeing a doctor around age 18 and never see the inside of a medical office until middle age.  During that time they can have high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol levels, diabetes, and prostate diseases.

But there are some things men, in particular, should keep in mind when it comes to maintaining their health:

Heart disease and cholesterol

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 200,000 people die each year from preventable heart disease and strokes, with men being significantly more at risk than women.

Men should begin screenings for these issues in their mid-30s.

Annual health examinations should begin at around age 50.  This should include a test for anemia, a cholesterol level, a chest x-ray if the man is a smoker, a PSA test for prostate cancer, and a blood pressure determination.

For those men with an elevated cholesterol level, they can lower the level by adhereing to  a healthy diet consisting less heavy in red meats and carbohydrates, and limiting alcohol consumption, i.e., 2 drinks\day. Men of all ages should also continue to stay physically active by incorporating aerobic activities, i.e., any activity that increases the heart rate for 20 minutes 3-4 times a week, into their lifestyle, as well as strength training.

Prostate health

There is some debate among health care professionals about when men should begin screening for prostate cancer. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and the CDC recommend against screening unless men begin experiencing the symptoms associated with prostate cancer. These include frequent urination, especially at night, pain during urination and difficulty fully emptying the bladder.

Prostate screening can begin earlier in life, around age 40, if there is a high risk for prostate cancer, such as family history, or bothersome lower urinary tract symptoms.

Testosterone

As men age, lowering testosterone levels can become another area men should monitor.  Significantly low testosterone levels can predispose a man to low bone mineral density with subsequent bone fractures, erectile dysfunction (impotence) and low energy levels.

Testing for testosterone levels is done through a blood test.

Bottom Line: these are the minimal preventive care that all men should consider around age 30-40.  Remember if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, may apply to your car, but not to your body.  You need to take preventive measures with your body just as you do with your automobile.

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Blood Pressure Up? Lower It Without Medication

September 24, 2015

Millions of Americans have hypertension. Millions are taking medication to lower their blood pressure. Now the new guidelines indicate that blood pressure should be less than 120 systolic or the highest number and less than 80 diastolic or the lowest number. Here are a few ways to lower the blood pressure that do not require medication.

Exercise more

By following current guidelines on exercise—30 minutes a day, most days a week—you can bring down your blood pressure significantly. If you’ve been sedentary, try aerobic exercise to reduce your systolic blood pressure—the top number—by three to five points, and the bottom by two to three,.

People who get moving are often able to reduce the number of hypertension medications they’re on, he adds. Pick something you like—walking, running, swimming, cycling—and stick with it.

Eat bananas

You probably know that eating too much salt can raise blood pressure, but most people aren’t aware of the benefits of potassium, which counters sodium’s ill effects. Most don’t get enough of this mineral.

According to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, people with hypertension may especially benefit from upping the amount of potassium in their diet. Adults should get at least 4,700 milligrams a day. A few good sources: bananas (422 milligrams each), a baked potato with skin (738 milligrams), orange juice (496 milligrams per cup), and nonfat or low-fat yogurt (531–579 milligrams per 8 ounces).

Cut salt

People with normal blood pressure, moderately high blood pressure, and full-fledged hypertension can substantially reduce their blood pressure by cutting salt intake. The Dietary Guidelines recommend that people with hypertension limit their intake of salt to less than 1,500 milligrams (600 milligrams of sodium) a day.

We get most of our sodium from processed foods, so stick with whole foods. When you do eat foods with nutrition labels, be sure to check their sodium content.

Don’t smoke

Smokers are at higher risk of hypertension. But even though tobacco and nicotine in cigarettes can cause temporary spikes in blood pressure, smoking itself is not thought to cause chronic hypertension.(Instead, factors associated with smoking, like heavy alcohol consumption and lack of exercise, might be responsible.)

Nevertheless, quitting smoking may help you lower your blood pressure a bit, the other health benefits are countless.

Lose weight

Research has consistently shown that dropping just a few pounds can have a substantial impact on your blood pressure. Excess weight makes your heart work harder. This extra strain can lead to hypertension, while losing weight lightens your cardiovascular workload.

If you’re overweight or obese, losing weight may be enough to get your blood pressure under control.

Cut back on alcohol

Even though moderate drinking—no more than one drink a day for women, and two a day for men—has heart-health benefits, drinking too much can elevate blood pressure in some people.

Research has found that consuming more than two drinks a day increases the risk of hypertension for both men and women. If you do drink, enjoy your alcoholic beverage with a meal, which may blunt its effects on blood pressure.

Reduce stress

Managing the stress in your life effectively may help reduce your blood pressure, but there’s not enough research to offer a step-by-step stress-reduction plan for everyone.

There are a number of things that people have developed as practices to induce a state of relaxation and … which one is better, which is the right one, these are questions that remain to be answered in clinical trials. Nevertheless, Burg recommends that people with high blood pressure look into stress management and find an approach they will be able to practice consistently.

Yoga

Yoga is a great de-stressor. A recent study from India recently found that yogic breathing exercises reduced blood pressure in people with hypertension, possibly through their effects on the autonomic nervous system, which governs heart rate, digestion, and other largely unconscious functions.

But people should not think of yoga as providing the same benefit as aerobic exercise. Each potentially produces benefit in different ways.

Skip caffeine

Coffee has some health benefits, but lowering blood pressure isn’t one of them. Caffeine can cause short-term spikes in blood pressure, even in people without hypertension.

If you have high blood pressure, it’s a good idea to moderate your caffeine intake to about two cups of coffee per day. You can check whether you’re sensitive to caffeine’s blood-pressure-boosting effects by checking your blood pressure before and within a half hour after consuming your caffeinated beverage. If it increases by 5 or 10 points, you could be caffeine sensitive.

Meditate

Meditation—whether it involves chanting, breathing, visualization, or all the above—can be an effective stress-management tool for many people, Burg says. Again, the important thing is that it makes you feel good, and that you can commit to doing it consistently.

Bottom Line: High blood pressure should be controlled in order to avoid heart disease or a stroke. Many people can decrease their dependence on medication if they use a few of these ideas to lower their blood pressure. Of course, if the blood pressure does not decrease, you should speak to your doctor about one of the many blood pressure lowering medications.

Non Medical Solutions for Erectile Dysfunction

February 10, 2015

Men suffering from sexual dysfunction can be successful at reversing their problem, by focusing on lifestyle factors and not just relying on medication.

In a new paper published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, researchers highlight the incidence of erectile dysfunction and lack of sexual desire among men aged 35-80 years.
Over a five-year period, 31% of the 810 men involved in the study developed some form of erectile dysfunction.

Sexual relations are not only an important part of people’s well-being. From a clinical point of view, the inability of some men to perform sexually can also be linked to a range of other health problems, many of which can be debilitating or potentially fatal.

The major risk factors for this are typically physical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes and side effects from commonly used medications. Other risk factors include being overweight or obese, a higher level of alcohol intake, having sleeping difficulties or obstructive sleep apnea, and age.

Many of these risk factors affecting men are modifiable thus offering men an opportunity to do something about their condition. Even when medication to help with erectile function is required, it is likely to be considerably more effective if lifestyle factors are also addressed.

Erectile dysfunction can be a very serious issue because it’s a marker of underlying cardiovascular disease, and it often occurs before heart conditions become apparent. Therefore, men should consider improving their weight and overall nutrition, exercise more, drink less alcohol and have a better night’s sleep, as well as address risk factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol.
This is not only likely to improve their sexual ability, but will be improve their cardiovascular health and reduce the risk of developing diabetes if they don’t already have it.

Bottom Line: Lifestyle changes can significantly improve a man’s overall health as well as his erections. So get moving, watch your diet, and make every effort to control your blood glucose and blood pressure.

Why Sex Is Good For You?

December 27, 2014

Sexual intimacy has been associated with having a heart attack, contacting a sexually transmitted disease (STD) or having an unplanned pregnancy. However there are some significant health benefits for engaging in regular sex.

Immune Boosting

Eating well, getting enough sleep, and getting vaccinated are all important in boosting your immune system. Add regular sex to these and you have a great immune system that defends your body against infective organisms. This is because research has shown that those that are sexually active had a higher blood level of certain antibodies than those that were not so active sexually and these antibodies help you fend off infections.

Bladder control for women

About 30% of women will have urinary incontinence at one time or the other in their lives. This is when a person passes urine without intending to. Studies have shown that women who had sex regularly were less likely to develop urinary incontinence as sex helps strengthen their pelvic muscles which is important for bladder control.

Lowers Blood Pressure

People who had more sex have been found to have a lower blood pressure compared to others, ensuring that they stay healthy. One study found that those who regularly had sex had a lower blood pressure compared to those who did not.

Sex is good exercise

It’s been found that on the average, you burn about five calories per minute while having sex. This can be a good source of exercise for those that hardly have time to exercise. The benefits of exercise are quite numerous and sex delivers some of those benefits. For a reference, jogging one mile burns about 100 calories.

Reduces Risk for Heart Attack

Men who had sex regularly were found to have a 50% lesser risk of developing a heart attack. This is not only because it raises your heart rate which is great; it also keeps your sex hormone, estrogen and testosterone, in balance which are important hormones and their balance can help avoid conditions such as osteoporosis and heart disease.

Better Sleep

You may have noticed that you sleep better after sex. This is because the hormone prolactin and melatonin is usually released after an orgasm. This hormone helps with relaxation and the feeling of sleepiness.

Reduces Stress

The arousal associated with sex is great in easing stress. This is because your brain releases some chemicals that help in exciting your entire body. Sex can also help stimulate happiness and boosts self-esteem.

Reduces Pain

Sex can help reduce the feeling of pain. Sex helps release a hormone, endorphins, which are much more potent than morphine, that usually raises your pain threshold. Sexual stimulation can combat chronic pain such as the pain associated with arthritis.

Bottom Line: Sexual intimacy is a healthy activity for consenting adults. This blog provides many of the reasons to engage in sexual activity.

What Every Woman Should Know….About Her Man

November 26, 2014

Men live 5-7 years less than women and often have poorer health than their female counterparts. This may be due to many factors but certainly one is that men seek out preventive healthcare much less often than women. This blog is intended to give you an overview of the unique healthcare problems of men and what women can do to help their men lead happier and healthier lives.

ED\Impotence
ED is a common condition that affects as many as 30 million American men. Most men are uncomfortable discussing their sexual problems with either their partners or their healthcare providers. As a result men feel embarrassed and women often feel that the man in their life doesn’t find them attractive.

About 70% of the time, ED is caused by an underlying health problem, most often diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, or heart disease. The remaining 30% of men suffer from ED caused by stress, anxiety, depression, the side effects of medication, or drug and alcohol abuse.

In most cases, ED is treatable, which means that it doesn’t have to be a natural or inevitable part of growing older. Treatments include drug therapy (Cialis, Levitra, or Viagra) vacuum devices, injections, or penile implants. If your partner is suffering from ED, encourage him to seek medical care as certainly this condition can be effectively treated.

Testosterone
Testosterone is one of the most important hormones for the normal growth and development of male sex and reproductive organs. It is responsible for the development of male characteristics such as body and facial hair, muscle growth and strength, and deep voice.

Men’s testosterone levels naturally decrease as men age. But if the levels drop below the normal range, some uncomfortable and often distressing symptoms may develop, including:
Decreased libido or sex drive
Importance or ED
Depression
Fatigue or loss of energy
Loss of muscle mass

As many as 10 million men suffer from low testosterone (low T) but only 5% are being treated.

The diagnosis is made with a simple blood test that measures the blood level of testosterone. If the T level is decreased and the man has symptoms of low T, then replacement therapy with injections, topical gels, or pellets can be prescribed.

Prostate
The prostate is a walnut-sized gland that manufactures fluid for semen. It is located at the base of the bladder and surrounds the urethra or the tube that transports urine from the bladder through the penis to the outside of the body.

Prostatitis is a condition often caused by a bacterial infection or an inflammatory response similar to that seen with allergies and asthma. Symptoms may include a discharge, discomfort, pain in the area underneath the scrotum or testicles, frequent urination, and burning with urination. Treatment usually consists of medication and medications t decrease the inflammatory response in the prostate gland.

Benign prostate gland enlargement affects most men after age 50. The symptoms consist of frequent urination, getting up at night to urinate, and a decrease in the force and the caliber of the urine stream. Treatment consists of oral medication to reduce the size of the prostate gland, or medication that can relax the prostate and improve the urine flow. Now there are minimally invasive treatments such as microwaves, lasers, and even a new treatment, UroLift, that pins open the prostate gland in a 15 minute procedure in an outpatient setting.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men. Nearly 240,000 new cases are diagnosed every year and causes 30,000 deaths each year making it the second most common cause of death due to cancer in men. The diagnosis is made by a digital rectal exam and a blood test, PSA test. If prostate cancer is caught early, it is often curable and nearly always treatable.

In the early stages, prostate cancer usually causes NO symptoms. However, as the disease progresses, so do the symptoms such as hip or back pain, difficulty with urination, painful or burning on urination or blood in the urine.

Every man should consider a baseline PSA test and a digital rectal examination at age 40. Additionally, African Americans and men with a family history of prostate cancer see a physician annually beginning at age 40.

Treatment options for prostate cancer include surgical removal of the prostate gland, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, immunotherapy or cryosurgery. Some men with localized, low risk prostate cancer might select active surveillance or watchful waiting which closes monitors the cancer to see if it progresses or becomes aggressive. If the cancer progresses, then treatment is usually instituted.

Testicular cancer
Cancer of the testicle is the most common cancer in men between the ages of 15-35. Although, there is nothing to prevent testicular cancer, if the cancer is diagnosed early, there is a high cure rate. Early detection is the key to success.

Symptoms of testicle cancer include:
Lumps or enlargement of either testicle
A feeling of pulling or unusual weight in the scrotum
Pain or discomfort in the testicle or scrotum
Dull ache in the lower abdomen
Enlargement or tenderness of the breasts

The best way to diagnose testicle cancer is be doing a testicle self-examination. Men\boys should examine themselves once a month just as women are recommended to do a monthly breast self examination. If a man experiences a lump or bump on the testicle or in the scrotum, contact your physician as soon as possible.

So what do I recommend?
In your 20s
A physical examination every three years
Check blood pressure every year
Screening for cancers of the thyroid, testicles, lymph nodes, mouth, and skin every three years
Cholesterol test every three years
Testicular self-exam every month

In your 30s
All of the above and a physical exam every two years

In your 40s
A physical exam every two years
A PSA test and a digital rectal exam if you are in a high-risk group
A stool test for colon and rectal cancer every year

At age 50 and above
A colonoscopy every 5 years or as recommended by your physician
A PSA and digital rectal exam every year

Bottom Line: Women can be so helpful in guiding men to good health. If you love your man, encourage him to follow these guidelines.

In the next blog we will discuss what men need to know about women’s health.

Medicines and Your Performance In the Bedroom

October 22, 2014

There are hundreds of medicines, some commonly used drugs, that can affect a man’s sex life and sexual performance.  Many of these drugs are necessary for treatment of depression and hypertension and shouldn’t be stopped.  This blog will discuss the causes of medications and deterioration of sex drive and sexual performance.

How can medicines affect sexual function?

The mechanism of sexual function involves a complex coordination of hormones, chemical messengers in the brain (neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin) and the sexual organs. In general:

  • dopamine increases sexual function
  • serotonin inhibits sexual function
  • the hormone testosterone is important, as are the blood vessels supplying the penis are also involved in producing an erection.

A medicine can therefore affect sexual function in several ways.

Libido or sex drive

Sex drive is influenced by reproductive hormones, particularly testosterone, which is required for sexual arousal.

Medicines that reduce the testosterone level or block its effects are likely to reduce sex drive.

Libido is also affected by your general emotional and physical health. Medicines that affect any of these aspects, even indirectly by causing drowsiness, lethargy, weight gain or confusion, have the potential to reduce your sex drive.

An erection is the result of coordination between nerves, hormones, blood vessels and psychological factors. This means there are many areas where things can go wrong.

Medicines that have a physical effect on the blood vessels in the penis, those drugs that act on the brain or interfere with hormone levels (particularly testosterone) or affect the transmission of nerve messages, can all cause impotence.

Ejaculation is a complex reflex process that involves the activation of alpha receptors in the prostate gland and seminal vesicles.

Medicines that block alpha-receptors can interfere with ejaculation.

During ejaculation, increased alpha-receptor activation closes the bladder neck, facilitating the normal flow of semen out of the penis.

If this mechanism is disrupted, it results in retrograde ejaculation, with semen flowing along the path of least resistance from the urethra up into the bladder.

Various chemicals in the brain are also involved in orgasm and ejaculation, and medicines that affect these chemicals can also cause ejaculatory disturbances.

The most widely prescribed centrally acting agents that affect ejaculation are selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants.

Antidepressants are the medicines most frequently implicated in causing sexual dysfunction. This is because they work by altering levels of chemicals in the brain. In particular, SSRIs increase serotonin levels, which inhibits sexual function.

Blood pressure lowering (antihypertensive) medicines are also implicated, although the mechanism by which they cause sexual problems will vary from medicine to medicine.

The table of medicines below lists the sexual side effects that some people have reported during their use.

.

Antidepressants Main use Possible effect on sexual function
MAOI antidepressants (eg moclobemide, phenelzine) Depression Decreased sex drive, impotence, delayed orgasm, ejaculatory disturbances
SSRI antidepressants (eg fluoxetine) Depression Decreased sex drive, impotence, delayed or absent orgasm, ejaculatory disturbances
Tricyclic antidepressants (eg amitryptiline) Depression Decreased sex drive, impotence, delayed or absent orgasm, ejaculatory disturbances
Antiepileptics Main use Possible effect on sexual function
Carbamazepine Epilepsy Impotence
Antihypertensives Main use Possible effect on sexual function
ACE inhibitors (eg enalapril, lisinopril) High blood pressure, heart failure Impotence
Alpha-blockers (eg prazosin, doxazosin) High blood pressure, enlarged prostate Impotence, ejaculatory disturbances
Beta-blockers (eg atenolol, propranolol and including timolol eye drops) High blood pressure, angina, glaucoma Impotence
Calcium channel blockers (eg verapamil, nifedipine) High blood pressure, angina Impotence
Clonidine High blood pressure Impotence, decreased sex drive, delayed or failure of ejaculation
Methyldopa High blood pressure Impotence, decreased sex drive, ejaculatory failure
Thiazide diuretics (eg bendroflumethiazide) High blood pressure Impotence
Antipsychotics Main use Possible effect on sexual function
Phenothiazines (eg chlorpromazine, thioridazine) Psychotic illness Ejaculatory disturbances, decreased sex drive, impotence
Risperidone Psychotic illness Impotence, ejaculatory disturbances
Cholesterol lowering medicines Main use Possible effect on sexual function
Fibrates (eg clofibrate, gemfibrozil) High cholesterol Impotence
Statins (eg simvastatin) High cholesterol Impotence
Other Main use Possible effect on sexual function
Benzodiazepines Anxiety and insomnia Decreased sex drive
Cimetidine Peptic ulcers, acid reflux disease Decreased sex drive, impotence
Cyproterone acetate Prostate cancer Decreased libido, impotence, reduced volume of ejaculation
Disulfiram Alcohol withdrawal Decreased sex drive
Finasteride Enlarged prostate Impotence, decreased sex drive, ejaculation disorders, reduced volume of ejaculation
Metoclopramide Nausea and vomiting Decreased sex drive, impotence
Omeprazole Peptic ulcers, acid reflux disease Impotence
Opioid painkillers (eg morphine) Severe pain Decreased sex drive, impotence
Prochlorperazine Nausea and vomiting Impotence
Propantheline Gut spasm Impotence
Spironolactone Heart failure, fluid retention Impotence, decreased sex drive

Bottom Line: This blog makes the connection between medications and sexual performance.  The next blog will discuss how to

approach your physician and what options are available for men who have sexual side effects from medications.

ED or Impotence May Be Sending A Message To Your Heart and Brain

October 22, 2014

Having trouble with your erections? You are not alone as nearly 30 million American men suffer from this problem. That’s the bad news. The good news is that erectile dysfunction or ED may be harbinger of something more ominous that may affect your health and well-being. This blog will discuss the connection between ED and heart disease.

No man wants to be diagnosed with erectile dysfunction (ED), but believe it or not, it could save your life. In many cases, ED is a precursor to cardiovascular disease and when diagnosed properly could reduce the chance of having a heart attack or stroke.

ED is the inability to obtain or sustain an erection. It is extremely common, affecting more than half of men over 60. Given our rising rates of obesity and sedentary lifestyles, there is a good chance that performance in the bedroom is not about emotional issues or the male anatomy itself. It may sound strange but the penis is the barometer of a man’s overall health.

You can imagine how a heart artery gets clogged in a person with high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes. When that coronary artery, which measures around 1\8 inch, gets obstructed that little to no blood flows through it, that man is going to experience chest pain (angina) or a heart attack. The same holds true for the carotid arteries, which measure 1\2 inch and take blood up to the brain. When the carotid artery gets blocked, that man will experience symptoms of a stroke. Now imagine the tiny penile artery, measuring only 1\16 inch. Its smaller diameter makes it ultra-sensitive to blockages, resulting in erectile dysfunction the penile artery becomes blocked.

Our entire vascular system is connected and the same things that harm our big blood vessels to our heart and brain will affect our smallest ones as well. The common cause of all this is what’s called atherosclerosis. As the same systemic process takes place throughout our vascular system, it’s these small arteries in the penis that will feel the effects earlier and manifest the symptoms of ED before other organs such as a man’s heart or brain start to suffer.

A lack of erections or difficulty holding an erection may be one of the earliest signs of impending heart disease or a stroke. When a man experiences ED this should an alarm should for men, their partners and their doctors. It’s important to realize that ED and cardiovascular disease have the same risk factors. These include high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, smoking and excess weight. Realize, too, that all these risk factors are modifiable, meaning you can actually improve them to reverse or halt the damage that is being done.

The message is: the recognition of ED as a warning sign of silent vascular disease has led to the concept that a man with ED and no cardiac symptoms is a cardiac (or vascular) patient until proven otherwise. Studies show that men presenting with only mild ED have a significant amount of undiagnosed high blood pressure, high blood sugar and high cholesterol, among other things. This is why men with mild ED, particularly if they are younger than 50, need to be screened for cardiovascular risk factors and have those risks treated aggressively. This means a visit to a doctor, having an EKG, and a stress test to see if there any decrease in blood supply to the heart.

We’ve come a long way since the days when ED was something men kept to themselves, too embarrassed to discuss with their friends or doctor. The introduction of pills (Viagra, Cialis, Levitra) to treat ED over 15 years ago opened the door for conversations about the condition.

The good news that lifestyle changes to modify risk factors, such as high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol level, obesity, and diabetes, that will provide the greatest benefit to a man’s overall health, not just his penis.

Bottom Line: ED can be a harbinger of impending heart disease or stroke. Don’t dismiss difficulty getting or holding an erection as this may indicate a future heart attack or stroke. See you doctor or urologist.

ED Prevention-It May Take More Than Take Two Aspirin In the Morning

March 19, 2014

Erectile dysfunction (ED) affects millions of American men. Most of the causes are do to physical reasons and many can be reversed. This article will discuss action steps every man can take prevent and perhaps reverse ED.

Most men will experience an occasional erection problem. However when ED occurs most of the time, it is an indication that action steps need to be taken and an evaluation of a doctor is in order.

Here are some steps to consider to prevent ED from rearing its ugly head.

Kick the butts in the butt. Numero uno on your ED prevention list is to stop smoking. For men under the age of 40, smoking is the biggest cause of erectile dysfunction.

That’s because maintaining an erection requires a healthy blood supply, and nicotine causes your blood vessels to constrict, and can even result in your penis shrinking in size. The longer you’re a smoker, the more difficult it is to treat or reverse erectile dysfunction.

Get off your butt and get moving. Regular exercise is a must for both your heart and circulation — and because of that, it’s also an important way to prevent ED.

Regular exercise can improve blood flow to the penis, as well as to the rest of your body. Not to mention, working out increases your energy, lowers blood pressure, reduces stress, helps you sleep better, and makes you feel (and look!) more attractive — which are all helpers in avoiding erection problems.

Deep six the alcohol bottle. Sure, kicking back with a little booze is a great way to de-stress — but in large amounts, alcohol is a depressant. That means the more you drink, the more likely the alcohol will lead to erectile dysfunction (depression is one of the biggest causes of ED). This effect increases as you get older, so older men who are at greater risk for erection problems should take steps to limit the number of alcoholic beverages they consume. Talk to your doctor to find out if you should aim for less than the two-drinks-per-day maximum that’s often advised for men.

Fruits and veggies are an ED buster. A number of studies show that obesity, high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure are linked to erectile dysfunction. Since a healthy diet is one of the best ways to protect against these diseases, it makes sense for your sexual health to eat healthily. What foods should be a part of your ED-prevention diet? Lots of fruits and vegetables, plenty of fiber, and very little saturated fat. If you’re struggling with your weight or cholesterol, ask your doctor for help.

Floss and brush your teeth. 
Turns out, erectile dysfunction and chronic gum disease share many of the same risk factors. In one recent study, 80 percent of men who had severe erectile dysfunction (caused by poor penile blood supply) also had chronic gum disease. Keeping your mouth healthy with flossing, brushing, and regular dental visits is one more way to keep your sex life in tip-top shape.

Relax. 
Stress and anxiety are frequent contributors to erection problems. That’s because stress causes your body to release stress hormones that are good for your “fight or flight” response, but bad for your blood flow because it causes blood vessels to contract. To prevent ED, find ways to reduce stress (without resorting to drugs, cigarettes, or alcohol, of course).

Good Zzzzzzzs can be a game changer. 
Fatigue can be a detriment to your sex life — so getting plenty of rest before a romp in the hay is always a good idea. But if you’re struggling to get a good night’s sleep and feeling drained throughout the day, you could have a condition called sleep apnea (which is signaled by very noisy snoring and periods of interrupted breathing). Studies show that men with erectile dysfunction are more than twice as likely to have sleep apnea, so if your partner is sleeping in the other room because of your snoring, talk to your doctor.

Bottom Line: ED is a devastating condition that can be a harbinger of other conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, depression, kidney disease and stroke. Take the steps provided in this article and you will have better erections and a much healthier life.

Dr. Neil Baum is a urologist in New Orleans and can be reached at (504) 891-8454 or through his website: http://www.neilbaum.com

A Pill Or Pounding the Pavement To Produce Good Health And Lower Healthcare Costs

January 5, 2014

Many times I am consulted by patients for a solution for their medical problem. Most often it comes with a pill, an injection, or a surgical treatment. But I enjoy having conversations with middle-age men who visit my office to find a solution to their problem with erectile dysfunction (ED) or impotence. Many of these men are 50-70 years of age and are over-weight; take multiple medications for arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. I then have the following conversation with them:

Mr. Smith if I could offer you a pill that would lower your blood pressure, lower your cholesterol, decrease your pain in your back, knees and hips, decrease your obesity, decrease your glucose level and improve your diabetes, improve your mood, decreases your risk of prostate and colon cancer, has absolutely no side effects and is very affordable and would be covered by your insurance company, and best of all it will make your penis appear 1-2 inches longer, would you take the pill?

One hundred percent of the men say, “Why yes. Will you write me a prescription?”

I respond by gently tapping the man on his shoulder and say, “Mr. Smith, I’m so very sorry, it’s not a pill; it’s exercise!”

That’s exactly what exercise will do for you. It will improve your overall health and will make it possible to throw away so many of the multiple medications that middle age men AND women take. We are a polymedicated society and look for a pill to solve our healthcare needs. Except for genetics, which we can’t change, there are lifestyle changes that ALL of us can make that will improve our health and allow us to live longer and healthy lives.

Let’s look at the facts about obesity in America.
Obesity rates are soaring in the U.S.
Between 1980 and 2000, obesity rates doubled among adults. About 60 million adults, or 30% of the adult population, are now obese.

Similarly since 1980, overweight rates have doubled among children and tripled among adolescents – increasing the number of years they are exposed to the health risks of obesity.

Fact: Most people still do not practice healthy behaviors that can prevent obesity
The primary behaviors causing the obesity epidemic are well known and preventable: physical inactivity and unhealthy diet.

Despite this knowledge: Only about 25% of U.S. adults eat the recommended five or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day.

More than 50% of American adults do not get the recommended amount of physical activity to provide health benefits.

No one knows with any degree of certainty what the Affordable Healthcare Act (ObamaCare) will bring to modern medicine. One thing we do know for sure that one of the best ways to control healthcare costs is to control obesity. Obesity-related costs place a huge burden on the U.S. economy Direct health costs attributable to obesity have been estimated at $52 billion in 1995 and $75 billion in 2003 and by now is over $100 billion of the more than a trillion dollar healthcare budget.

Bottom Line: As Everett Dirkson, the late Senator from Illinois, once said, “A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon, you’re talking real money.” This holds true today as it was uttered by the senator nearly 50 years ago. Americans must take responsibility for their health. We need to quit looking for the quick fix or a pill to solve our healthcare problems. We need to start exercising. You will be happier, your doctor will be pleased with your weight reduction, and the percent that Americans spend on healthcare related to obesity will come down. Advice from Doctor Baum…..get moving!

P.S. How does the penis get longer from weight loss? When you lose that belly fat and reduce your abdominal girth, you will see your toes and the end of your penis for the first time in many years!

Dr. Neil Baum is a physician at Touro Infirmary and can be reached at 504 891-8454 or through his website, http://www.neilbaum.com

Preventive Healthcare For Women – What You Need To Know

January 21, 2013

Women have had an interaction with the healthcare profession from birth to old age. They have achieved good health as a result of frequent visits to their doctors and practiced good health habits. This blog is written for the purpose of providing women with suggestions for continuing the process of maintaining good health.

Why Screening Tests Are Important
Remember that old saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”? Getting checked early can help you stop diseases like cancer, diabetes, and osteoporosis in the very beginning, when they’re easier to treat. Screening tests can spot illnesses even before you have symptoms. Which screening tests you need depends on your age, family history, your own health history, and other risk factors.

Breast Cancer
The earlier you find breast cancer, the better your chance of a cure. Small breast-cancers are less likely to spread to lymph nodes and vital organs like the lungs and brain. If you’re in your 20s or 30s, your health care provider should perform a breast exam as part of your regular check-up every one to three years. You may need more frequent screenings if you have any extra risk factors.

Screening With Mammography
Mammograms are low-dose X-rays that can often find a lump before you ever feel it, though normal results don’t completely rule out cancer. While you’re in your 40s, you should have a mammogram every year. Then between ages 50 and 74, switch to every other year. Of course, your doctor may recommend more frequent screenings if you’re at higher risk.
Cervical Cancer
With regular Pap smears, cervical cancer (pictured) is easy to prevent. The cervix is a narrow passageway between the uterus (where a baby grows) and the vagina (the birth canal). Pap smears find abnormal cells on the cervix, which can be removed before they ever turn into cancer. The main cause of cervical cancer is the human papillomavirus (HPV), a type of STD.
Screening for Cervical Cancer
During a Pap smear, your doctor scrapes some cells off your cervix and sends them to a lab for analysis. A common recommendation is that you should get your first Pap smear by age 21, and every two years after that. If you’re 30 or older, you can get HPV tests, too, and wait a little longer between Pap smears. Both screenings are very effective in finding cervical cancer early enough to cure it.
Vaccines for Cervical Cancer
Two vaccines, Gardasil and Cervarix, can protect women under 26 from several strains of HPV. The vaccines don’t protect against all the cancer-causing strains of HPV, however. So routine Pap smears are still important. What’s more, not all cervical cancers start with HPV.
Osteoporosis and Fractured Bones
Osteoporosis is a state when a person’s bones are weak and fragile. After menopause, women start to lose more bone mass, but men get osteoporosis, too. The first symptom is often a painful break after even a minor fall, blow, or sudden twist. In Americans age 50 and over, the disease contributes to about half the breaks in women and 1 in 4 among men. Fortunately, you can prevent and treat osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis Screening Tests
A special type of X-ray called dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) can measure bone strength and find osteoporosis before breaks happen. It can also help predict the risk of future breaks. This screening is recommended for all women age 65 and above. If you have risk factors for osteoporosis, you may need to start sooner.
Skin Cancer
There are several kinds of skin cancer, and early treatment can be effective for them all. The most dangerous is melanoma (shown here), which affects the cells that produce a person’s skin coloring. Sometimes people have an inherited risk for this type of cancer, which may increase with overexposure to the sun. Basal cell and squamous cell are common non-melanoma skin cancers.
Screening for Skin Cancer
Watch for any changes in your skin markings, including moles and freckles. Pay attention to changes in their shape, color, and size. You should also get your skin checked by a dermatologist or other health professional during your regular physicals.
High Blood Pressure
As you get older, your risk of high blood pressure increases, especially if you are overweight or have certain bad health habits. High blood pressure can cause life-threatening heart attacks or strokes without any warning. So working with your doctor to control it can save your life. Lowering your blood pressure can also prevent long-term dangers like heart disease and kidney failure.
Screening for High Blood Pressure
Blood pressure readings include two numbers. The first (systolic) is the pressure of your blood when your heart beats. The second (diastolic) is the pressure between beats. Normal adult blood pressure is below 120/80. High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is 140/90 or above. In between is prehypertension, a sort of early warning stage. Ask your doctor how often to have your blood pressure checked.
Cholesterol Levels
High cholesterol can cause plaque to clog your arteries (seen here in orange). Plaque can build up for many years without symptoms, eventually causing a heart attack or stroke. High blood pressure, diabetes, and smoking can all cause plaque to build up, too. It’s a condition called hardening of the arteries or atherosclerosis. Lifestyle changes and medications can lower your risk.
Checking Your Cholesterol
To get your cholesterol checked, you’ll need to fast for 12 hours. Then you’ll take a blood test that measures total cholesterol, LDL “bad” cholesterol, HDL “good” cholesterol, and triglycerides (blood fat). If you’re 20 or older, you should get this test at least every five years.
Type 2 Diabetes
One-third of Americans with diabetes don’t know they have it. Diabetes can cause heart or kidney disease, stroke, blindness from damage to the blood vessels of the retina (shown here), and other serious problems. You can control diabetes with diet, exercise, weight loss, and medication, especially when you find it early. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of the disease. Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and young adults.
Screening for Diabetes
You’ll probably have to fast for eight hours or so before having your blood tested for diabetes. A blood sugar level of 100-125 may show prediabetes; 126 or higher may mean diabetes. Other tests include the A1C test and the oral glucose tolerance test. If you’re healthy and have a normal diabetes risk, you should be screened every three years starting at age 45. Talk to your doctor about getting tested earlier if you have a higher risk, like a family history of diabetes.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
HIV is the virus that causes AIDS. It’s spread through sharing blood or body fluids with an infected person, such as through unprotected sex or dirty needles. Pregnant women with HIV can pass the infection to their babies. There is still no cure or vaccine, but early treatment with anti-HIV medications can help the immune system fight the virus.
HIV Screening Tests
HIV can be symptom-free for many years. The only way to find out if you have the virus is with blood tests. The ELISA or EIA test looks for antibodies to HIV. If you get a positive result, you’ll need a second test to confirm the results. Still, you can test negative even if you’re infected, so you may need to repeat the test. Everyone should get tested at least once between ages 13-64.
Preventing the Spread of HIV
Most newly infected people test positive around two months after being exposed to the virus. But in rare cases it may take up to six months to develop HIV antibodies. Use a condom during sex to avoid getting or passing on HIV or other STDs. If you have HIV and are pregnant, talk with your doctor about reducing the risk to your unborn child.
Colorectal Cancer
Colorectal cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death after lung cancer. Most colon cancers come from polyps (abnormal masses) that grow on the inner lining of the large intestine. The polyps may or may not be cancerous. If they are, the cancer can spread to other parts of the body. Removing polyps early, before they become cancerous, can prevent it completely.
Screening for Colorectal Cancer
A colonoscopy is a common screening test for colorectal cancer. While you’re mildly sedated, a doctor inserts a small flexible tube equipped with a camera into your colon. If she finds a polyp, she can often remove it right then. Another type of test is a flexible sigmoidoscopy, which looks into the lower part of the colon. If you’re at average risk, screening usually starts at age 50.
Glaucoma
Glaucoma happens when pressure builds up inside your eye. Without treatment, it can damage the optic nerve and cause blindness. Often, it produces no symptoms until your vision has already been damaged.
Glaucoma Screening
How often you should get your eyes checked depends on your age and risk factors. They include being African-American or Hispanic, being over 60, eye injury, steroid use, and a family history of glaucoma. People without risk factors or symptoms of eye disease should get a baseline eye exam, including a test for glaucoma, at age 40.
Bottom Line: It’s good health sense to talk with your doctor about screening tests. Some tests, such as a Pap test or breast exam, should be a routine part of every woman’s health care. Other tests might be necessary based on your risk factors. Proper screening won’t always prevent a disease, but it can often find a disease early enough to give you the best chance of overcoming it.