Men: Lose the Stigma, Regain Your Health

The stigma that surrounds mental health, especially when it comes to men has created a vacuum of silence. With all the awareness of mental health and services nowadays, men still don’t seek help in this arena.

Societal norms of masculinity, embarrassment and shame are some of the reasons men are less likely to seek help. Many view seeking help as a sign of weakness, and continue to try to cope with depression, anxiety and feelings of hopelessness on their own. Terms such as “unmanly” or “weak” are hold an undercurrent of negative connotation of what it means to be a man. In general, many men tend to hide their feelings from their family, putting on a false front that nothing is wrong but inside angst and inability to cope with these feelings can lead to destructive and unhealthy behavior.

Unhealthy ways of dealing with stress lead to physical and emotional destruction

Job pressure (or unemployed), stressful family relations, and social isolation, if not dealt with in a healthy manner can lead to serious health problems.  The buildup of stress hormones – the fight or flight mechanism that is designed to charge your muscles and entire nervous system with the energy to flee or fight a perceived danger can turn on itself if you aren’t able to effectively deal with the situation or have a physical outlet for all the stored-up energy. This mechanism was lifesaving back when life’s stressors were tied to survival- a bear attack, natural disasters that required rescue of a loved one or even hunting. In today’s modern world, these real life dangers and scenarios are not part of our daily lives. Stress nowadays is usually tied to our sedentary lifestyle. We ae unable to flee or physically fight the opponent. Because of this new ways of coping have to take place. If not, built up stress can lead to heart disease, cancer and even suicide. It is a widely known fact that stress,-or how you deal with it- is the leading cause of heart disease and cancer, which are the top two causes of death in men.

The fight or flight response to stress that isn’t dealt with can lead to anger outbursts, self-destructive behavior, feelings of helplessness, anxiety, depression and isolation from friends and family. Lack of exercise, unhealthy diet, alcohol, and substance abuse can snowball into more depression (alcohol is a depressant).

This same fight or flight response is responsible for the majority of deaths in men- increased cortisol levels from untreated stress, along with decreased immune function set the stage for the two most common causes of death in men- heart disease and cancer. If there is no outlet for stress, the body’s stored up adrenaline will literally take your body hostage.

Make your health a priority.

3 steps towards effectively dealing with stress

  1. Acknowledge your stress. If you haven’t already, take time out to figure out what is bothering you. Seek counselling or a trusted friend/ relative to confide in. There may be multiple stressors in your life. Stress can be anything- from long commutes in traffic, demanding work situations, demands- both reasonable and unreasonable from family and friends to an unexpected health crisis. Along with counselors, friends, and trusted family members to confide in, many find keeping a journal a good way to identify and keep track of events that trigger stress response.
  2. Plan. Make that counselling appointment or schedule time to talk with a trusted friend or family member and follow through. Many times, excuses and commitments get in the way of doing this. Schedule time as if it was an appointment- which it is-n appointment towards health and wellbeing. Make or keep doctors’ appointments. This is especially important if you haven’t seen your care provider for a while. High blood pressure is known as the silent killer. Many times, there are no symptoms until a fatal heart attack hits. Lifesaving medications may be prescribed to treat high blood pressure or other stress related diseases.

3. Once you have identified the stressor(s), remove the stress from your life. If you are unable to change the situation, find healthy ways to cope with it. Channel the excess energy through physical activity by joining a gym, running, hiking or a hobby that brings you enjoy. Maintain a healthy diet. Cut out alcohol if you are currently using it to cope with life’s stressors. Join an AA meeting if alcohol abuse is a problem. Meditation, deep breathing and refocusing can go a long way toward stress reduction. In addition, make sure you keep up with your annual doctor’s appointments. Your doctor may prescribe medication-either short term or long term to help cope with stress. In addition, some diseases go undiagnosed that can cause depression such as diabetes.

Life has become challenging in ways our ancestors never dreamed. Our world is constantly changing-more so in recent years than at any other time in history. It is easy to put off self-care while putting out life’s fires. However, by neglecting your own needs you set could be setting yourself up for long term health crises.

- Brooke Lounsbury, RN

Medical Content Writer

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Doing This One Thing Will Slash Death Rates in Men

(Manage your stress before it manages you)

It is no secret that men are dying younger than in the past. Life expectancy for men dropped one full year, from 74.2 years in 2020 to 73.2 in 2021. Heart disease and cancer lead the pack as the two most common fatal diseases in men. Some of these reasons can be traced back to genetics- a parent or close relative with heart disease or cancer; however even taking this into consideration, many deaths are preventable. One of the major causes of heart disease and cancer is due to chronic stress.

Stress can be good- when not long term

Stress is a reaction to a real or perceived threat to life. In acute, or short-lived stress, the body activates the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the hypothalamic-pituitary- adrenal axis in a process known as “allostasis”. Powerful chemical messages are sent throughout the body to ready for either fight or flight from the situation. The adrenal glands produce the 3 stress response chemical messengers- adrenaline, norepinephrine and cortisol.

All three of these are necessary to sustain life when in balance.

Adrenaline (also known as adrenaline) redirects blood flow to the heart and lungs, increases heart rate, opens bronchus and lungs for better breathing, and raises blood sugar levels. This increases energy and focus, enabling the body to leave or fight the threat. In the medical setting, epinephrine is a life saving drug. For asthmatics it opens up airways, allowing easier breathing. In septic shock, the victims blood pressure plummets to dangerously low levels, epinephrine brings blood pressure up. Likewise, during a cardiac arrest event, blood pressure can drop, in turn inhibiting blood flow to vital organs and brain. Administering epinephrine brings blood pressure up which increases blood flow throughout the body.

Norepinephrine is considered a “back up” to epinephrine. It is produced in the adrenal medulla and functions in much the same way as epinephrine. Just like epinephrine, it maintains blood pressure during cardiac arrest and septic shock. It is also used in pericardial tamponade, a condition in which fluid builds up around the heart membrane, making it difficult for the heart to maintain blood pressure and neurogenic shock, a condition in which there is damage to nerve cells that are responsible for maintaining heart rate and blood pressure.

Cortisol is produced by the adrenal gland in response to a series of chemical messengers starting with the brain. (This is called the HPA axis) The brain receives a message of danger- physical, emotional or mental, it alerts the amygdala- a small region in the brain, which in turn releases corticotropin releasing hormone. This hormone activates the pituitary gland to produce adrenocorticotropic hormone, which in turn activates the adrenal gland to produce cortisol. Almost all body systems have receptors to cortisol. These are called glucocorticoid receptors. Cortisol regulates blood pressure, increases blood sugar, reduces inflammation and is involved in the regulation of the sleep-wake cycle. When not activated by stress, cortisol is released into the blood stream according to the circadian cycle (sleep/wake cycle) It is usually highest in the morning and fluctuates during the day, with the lowest amount in the middle of the night. During times of stress, cortisol is released from the adrenal glands into the bloodstream to ready the body for action. Increased blood sugar gives the muscles ready fuel to act.

Acute stress can be lifesaving, chronic stress can be life threatening

Causes of acute stress

Acute stress is the stress experienced on a daily basis from minor situations. Acute stress typically happens quickly and fades once the situation or circumstance has passed. Hormones return to prestress levels.  Examples that may cause acute stress include:

  • Argument or altercation
  • School exams
  • Physical competitions
  • Traffic jams
  • Acute stress symptoms include short lived anxiety, mood swings, irritability, anger, increased blood pressure(temporary) insomnia,

Acute stress doesn’t cause health issues, the body recovers quickly, and hormones return to normal within 24 hours.

Causes of chronic stress

Chronic stress, which is considered to be at the core of almost all health related conditions, happens when exposed to prolonged stress that doesn’t resolve.

Examples of chronic stress include:

  • Illness of a loved one where you are the caregiver,
  • PTSD- post traumatic stress disorder- either during military service or traumatic events in life
  • Loss of a job and inability to find another,
  • Emotional stress with a partner
  • Social isolation

Chronic stress and health

There are many health-related diseases associated with chronic stress. Stress affects all systems of the body including the musculoskeletal, respiratory, cardiovascular, endocrine, gastrointestinal, nervous, and reproductive systems. 50 percent of premature deaths in men are from heart disease and cancer. Chronic stress has been implicated in the progression of both.

Cancer– Animal studies consistently prove the link between chronic stress and cancer progression, however, researchers have stopped short of claiming chronic stress can bring on cancer. Given that stress affects the immune system and all the other effects chronic stress have on the body, it would seem that there is a link to cancer and chronic stress.

Heart disease- The consistent and ongoing increase in heart rate, and the elevated levels of stress hormones and of blood pressure, can take a toll on the body. This long-term ongoing stress can increase the risk for hypertension, heart attack, or stroke.

How to deal with chronic stress

Set limits and refrain from taking on more commitments.

Cut back on any non-essential activities in your work life.  Identify tasks and projects that you must do and prioritize. Set aside time each day to review progress and prioritize these tasks. Do not take on any more tasks until you feel these are under control. Seek input and help from your coworkers and employer if you are feeling overwhelmed.  In social and family settings, re evaluate the time you spend and assess the quality of relationships. If there is animosity or other forms of stress between you and those you are close to, seek solutions, either through active listening and participation, counselling, or both.

Prioritize your mental and physical health and well-being

Everyone has chronic stress. It is how we view and deal with it that makes the difference. Self-care is imperative, both for you and those you are close to. Take time out each day to indulge in something you enjoy doing- even if it is just being alone on a walk. Exercise, social interaction and working on a hobby are all great stress reducers. If you have been feeling helpless, depressed or that your stressor has trapped you and you feel there is no way out, it is time to seek the help of a counsellor and your primary care provider. Counselling along with a complete physical can provide answers. Chronic stress raises blood sugar, which can be the start of diabetes. High blood sugar causes emotional instability and depression. Be sure to keep yu annual physical appointments. If your physical health is in good shape, your care provider may suggest medication along with counselling until you are able to resolve the chronic stress, either by learning healthy ways to cope or removing yourself from it.

- Brooke Lounsbury, RN

Medical Content Writer

Lifesaving Medications

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The Silent Killer (Part 3)

5 Ways to Reduce Blood Pressure Naturally

The silent killer, aka hypertension can be controlled, even prevented by making some simple lifestyle changes. Below are some of the most effective ways to increase your health while decreasing your blood pressure.  This may reduce or eliminate your need for medication, along with reducing your r

  1. Nutrition

 

There are many nutritional approaches to reduce blood pressure, probably the most famous, is the DASH diet (Dietary approaches to stop hypertension) promoted by the National Heart, Lung and Blood institute, a branch of the National Institute of health, this diet plan has a proven track record of lowering blood pressure. According to the NHLBI website:

“The DASH eating plan requires no special foods and instead provides daily and weekly nutritional goals. This plan recommends:

  • Eating vegetables, fruits, and whole grains
  • Including fat-free or low-fat dairy products, fish, poultry, beans, nuts, and vegetable oils
  • Limiting foods that are high in saturated fat, such as fatty meats, full-fat dairy products, and tropical oils such as coconut, palm kernel, and palm oils
  • Limiting sugar-sweetened beverages and sweets
  • When combined with a low sodium diet, the DASH diet was even more effective at lowering blood pressure. For more information on the Dash diet, check our this website.
  • Add citrus, especially grapefruits, lemons, limes, and oranges. They also fight cancer. A recent study revealed that when grapefruit and beetroot juice are combined, they provide a synergistic effect on systolic (top number, when blood is pumped through the system) which lowered blood pressure. Beetroot juice contains nitrites, Nitrites are widely known to relax blood vessels, which lowers blood pressure. Grapefruit juice contains an ingredient that allows nitrite to be more available for the body in a complex process that inhibits reoxidation of nitrite to nitrate.

2. Lose weight, if needed

Being overweight puts you at a substantially higher risk of cardiovascular disease, and especially hypertension.

Portion size and calorie reduction are effective weight loss strategies. In addition, there are many online and in person programs that can help with your weight loss journey. Some popular ones are:

  • Noom- This is an online interactive weight loss program that deals with psychology of eating along with health food choices. It is highly rated (9.8/10)and has earned the top weight loss plan off 2023 by
  • Weight watchers has in person and online programs. This time-tested program is still effective and popular.
  • Premade delivered to your door meals. Premade delivered meals have blossomed into a very popular way to combine the convenience of healthy foods with portion control. Meal delivery services offer diet and heart healthy menus. Some of the more popular meal delivery services are Factor, Hello Fresh, and Nutri System.

3. Get a dog – or any pet

Spending time with a pet, whether is a dog, cat or any other animal can help alleviate stress (one leading cause of hypertension) and promote improved mental wellbeing.

4. Community involvement

Being part of an active community has proven health benefits, including lower blood pressure, increased heart, and emotional health.

Friends, family, neighbors, social clubs, volunteer, and religious communities can offer the connectiveness and belonging, bringing meaning to our lives. Having a strong support system- having someone to call when in need- alleviates stress, which in turn lowers blood pressure.

5. Breathe – and meditate

 One of the most underrated ways to reduce blood pressure that is free and anyone can do are breathing and meditation exercises.

  • A study done out of University of Colorado, Boulder revealed that a 5 minute, 6 days a week breathing program lowered systolic blood pressure by 9mm hg, This technique, called High-Resistance Inspiratory Muscle Strength Training (IMST) was originated in the 1980s way to help critically ill respiratory disease patients strengthen their diaphragm and other inspiratory (breathing) muscles, IMST involves inhaling vigorously through a hand-held device which provides resistance. Imagine sucking hard through a tube that sucks back. In addition to lowered blood pressure, this 30-breath technique could also improve cognitive function as well.
  • Meditate- 20 minutes once a day has also been a time honored and proven method to improve both systolic and diastolic blood pressure markers. Mindfulness based meditation , has been shown to have a temporary effect on both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

In addition, people that practice meditation-prayer on a daily basis are less likely to need blood pressure medication.

Along with the above recommendations, getting a good night’s sleep, limiting (less than 1 drink for women, 2 drinks for men per day) alcohol and stopping smoking (known to raise blood pressure) are all natural  ways to help control blood pressure.

- Brooke Lounsbury, RN

Medical Content Writer

Lifesaving Medications

Everyone should be empowered to care for themselves and their loved ones during the unexpected.

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The Silent Killer (Part 2)

(Part 2)

Part 2 will discuss:

  • Physiology of blood pressure regulation,
  • Medications to help control hypertension

Blood pressure regulation is a complex process involving a series of body systems, hormones and input from the nervous system all working together to achieve and maintain homeostasis.

As this is a complex topic, we will keep our focus on systems that control blood pressure: one is the RAAS system, the other is the baroreceptor reflex. Both systems rely on input from hormones, receptors, and organs to help maintain a healthy blood pressure. In addition, nervous system responses (sympathetic, parasympathetic and/or autonomic) along with vagal nerve activity help regulate blood pressure. Our focus will be primarily on the hormones, systems and organs involved in blood pressure regulation.

RAAS, the system that controls long term blood pressure

The renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system (RAAS) is a complex multi-organ endocrine (hormone) system involved in the regulation of blood pressure. It regulates sodium and water by balancing fluid and electrolyte levels and regulates sodium and water absorption in the kidney. When this system is working properly, RAAS is activated when there is a drop in blood pressure (such as reduced blood volume). Once RAAS is activated it signals systems and hormones to increase water and electrolyte absorption in the kidney. This compensates for the drop in blood volume, which increases blood pressure.

Several organs, tissues and glands are involved in the RAAS, including:

  • Kidneys
  • Adrenal glands
  • Lungs
  • Heart
  • Blood vessels
  • Pituitary gland

Note, there are several other hormones such as thyroid and corticosteroids that play a part in blood pressure control. These hormones can indirectly play a part in blood pressure regulation.

What are the steps in renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system (RAAS)?

Five minute scholar has a simple video that briefly explains the process

  1. When blood pressure falls, kidneys release renin, an enzyme into the bloodstream
  2. Once released, renin splits a protein produced by your liver called angiotensinogen. The resulting split of this protein produces the hormone called angiotensin l. This hormone is inactive.
  3. In the lungs and kidneys, angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) converts angiotensin l to angiotensin ll, an active hormone. This hormone causes small arteries to constrict, which in turn increases blood pressure. It also causes the pituitary gland to release antidiuretic hormone (ADH), also called vasopressin, and the adrenal glands to release aldosterone (a steroid hormone).
  4. Aldosterone and ADH work together and cause the kidneys to retain sodium. In addition, aldosterone causes kidneys to excrete potassium through urine.
  5. Water retention is the result of the increase in sodium, which in turn increases blood volume and blood pressure.

Short term blood pressure control

A short video explaining baroreflex regulation

(regulated by the nervous system and neurotransmitters)

There are baroreceptors located in the walls of blood vessels and the heart. They respond to sudden changes in blood volume-which signal the cardiovascular center of the brain to adjust the change in blood pressure. If baroreceptors detect a low blood pressure, it triggers vasoconstriction (narrowing of blood vessels) to increase the blood pressure. If high blood pressure is detected, vasodilation (widening of blood vessels) lowers the blood pressure.

In addition, there are renal baroreceptors, which are located within the kidneys. When these baroreceptors sense a sudden change in blood pressure (low blood pressure), it triggers the RAAS system to activate. The immediate response from baroreceptors results in short term blood pressure control until the RAAS system can take over.

Drug classes to control blood pressure

The following are just a few of the many medications used to control high blood pressure. Many of these drugs have other uses, from treating congestive heart failure to reducing likelihood of stroke or heart attack.

Ace inhibitors Lisinopril (Prinivil, Zestril) benazepril (Lotensin), enalapril (Vasotec) and others

ACE inhibitors prevent an enzyme in the body from producing angiotensin II which narrows blood vessels.

Calcium channel blocker – Amlodipine (Norvasc), diltiazem (Cardizem, Tiazac) and others

Calcium causes the heart and arteries to squeeze (contract) more strongly. By blocking calcium, calcium channel blockers allow blood vessels to relax and open.

Beta blockers (Not usually a first line drug to be used) Metoprolol (Lopressor, Toprol XL), atenolol (Tenormin) and others

Beta blockers work by blocking the effects of the hormone epinephrine, also known as adrenaline.

They cause the heart to beat more slowly and with less force, which in turn lowers blood pressure. They also help widen veins and arteries to improve blood flow.

Central agonist class-Clonidine (Catapres)

Central-acting agents lower heart rate and reduce blood pressure. This drug blocks signals from the brain to the nervous system that increase the heart rate and narrow blood vessels. As a result, the heart doesn’t pump as hard and blood flows more easily through the body’s veins and arteries.

Diuretics- Hydrochlorothiazide (Hydrodiuril, Microzide), furosemide (Lasix) spironolactone (Aldactone)

Diuretics work by reducing the volume in liquid in the body by releasing sodium and water. This in turn lowers blood pressure.

- Brooke Lounsbury, RN

Medical Content Writer

Lifesaving Medications

Everyone should be empowered to care for themselves and their loved ones during the unexpected.

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The Silent Killer

Part 1

High blood pressure (HBP) has been called the silent killer and with good reason. It is estimated that at least 20 percent of the population with high blood pressure have no symptoms.

In part 1 we will discuss:

  • Symptoms of hypertension
  • Health risks of uncontrolled hypertension
  • Stages of hypertension
  • Types of hypertension
  • How to take blood pressure at home

Part 2 will discuss:

 Physiology of blood pressure regulation, lifestyle, nutrition, and medications to help control hypertension.

Symptoms associated with hypertension:

  • Ringing in ears
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Visual disturbances
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain
  • irregular heartbeat
  • In severe cases blood in urine

In the US alone nearly half of adults in the United States (47%, or 116 million) have hypertension, defined as a systolic blood pressure greater than 130 mmHg or a diastolic blood pressure greater than 80.

Health risks of uncontrolled hypertension

Uncontrolled hypertension increases your risk of kidney disease, cognitive decline, heart disease and stroke and more.

Stages of hypertension

(The top number is systolic and measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats

The bottom number is diastolic -when the heart muscle relaxes.) 

All blood pressure measurements over 120/80 mm Hg are considered elevated in adult population

As of 2021 AHA blood pressure guidelines:

  • Normal = less than 120 and less than 80
  • Elevated = 120-129 and less than 80
  •  Stage 1 = 130-139 or 80-89
  • Stage 2 = 140 or higher or 90 or higher
  • Hypertensive Crisis (call your care provider immediately) = Higher than 180 and/or higher than 120

Types of hypertension

Primary Hypertension

Caused by one or more of the following: poor diet, smoking hereditary alcohol, lack of exercise, obesity.

  • Blood pressure is high on three or more visits to care provider.
  • May have no symptoms, but you may experience frequent headaches, tiredness, dizziness, or nose bleeds.

Secondary Hypertension. 

Caused by a medical condition or medication.

 Examples include:

  •  Airway obstruction during sleep and sleep apnea.
  • An abnormality in the arteries supplying blood to the kidneys
  • Adrenal gland tumors
  • Thyroid disease
  • Medications that can cause HPB:
  • Pseudoephedrine, (Sudafed) 
  • NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs 
  • Select antidepressants
  • ADHD medications
  • Birth control pills
  • Decongestants
  • Steroids and immunosuppressants

Resistant Hypertension

  • Defined as 3 or more hypertension medications prescribed and blood pressure still not controlled.
  •  20-30 percent of HBP patients have resistant hypertension. 
  • May be genetic.
  • More common in obese, older female patients. 
  • Underlying cause may be diabetes or kidney disease. 

Isolated Systolic Hypertension. 

  • Blood pressure defined as systolic over 140, diastolic is normal- below 90. 
  • Most common in people over the age of 65 and is due to the loss of elasticity in the arteries.

Malignant Hypertension. 

  • Rare, occurs in less than 1 percent of patients diagnosed with high blood pressure. 
  • More common in younger adults, especially African American men.
  • This hypertension type occurs in only about 1 percent of people with hypertension.
  •  It is more common in younger adults, African American men, and women who have pregnancy toxemia.
  • Blood pressure rises rapidly and can be a medical emergency.  
  • Symptoms include numbness in the arms and legs, blurred vision, confusion, chest pain, and headache.

White coat syndrome

  • White coat syndrome is a condition in which your blood pressure is high at your healthcare provider’s office, but you get a normal reading at home.
  • Can be an underlying risk for future health problems.
  • Left untreated, patients have a 36 percent increased risk of heart disease, 33 percent increased risk of death and 109 percent increased risk of death from heart disease.
  • Previously believed this syndrome was exclusively due to anxiety from clinic visits, however closer monitoring of blood pressures taken outside clinic setting point to unstable blood pressure readings. 

How to take blood pressure at home

Here is a short video on how to properly take blood pressure

Blood pressure should be taken at the same time in the same setting as often as your care provider recommends.

Excerpt from AHA

  • Don’t eat or drink anything 30 minutes before you take your blood pressure.
  • Empty your bladder before your reading.
  • Sit in a comfortable chair with your back supported for at least 5 minutes before your reading.
  • Put both feet flat on the ground and keep your legs uncrossed.
  • Rest your arm with the cuff on a table at chest height.
  • Make sure the blood pressure cuff is snug but not too tight. The cuff should be against your bare skin, not over clothing.
  • Do not talk while your blood pressure is being measured.
  • Take 2 readings, at least 1-2 minutes apart
  • Log your results. Attached is a pdf supplied by the AHA to log your readings

- Brooke Lounsbury, RN

Medical Content Writer

Lifesaving Medications

Everyone should be empowered to care for themselves and their loved ones during the unexpected.

Recent Posts

Keeping you informed and safe.

Join Our Newsletter

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