Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Take good care of your eyes and they will take care of you even when you are old

Retinopathy is the name of the disease of your retina if you are diabetic.

I have learned briefly in elementary about retina, but not as clear as I have learned about it in the last few months.

We all know that the retina is one of the most important parts of our eye. It is the film that captures the light that sends signals to other cells in our eyes and these cells likewise send signals to our brain so we can see. Blurry film means blurry pictures, right? This is also why we get so concerned whether our film is Kodak, Fuji or whatever, because we want sharp outcomes. A picture tells a thousand words and if can’t see how good are those thousand words to us?

Going back to the cells I mentioned above, these cells are our messengers to our brain. They carry the light that they took up from the retina to our brain so we can see. In order for the cells to be effective, they need energy like oxygen and other nutrients to function and they get these from the blood vessels connected to them. These blood vessels are very tiny and they pass through these cells.

Now if our blood sugar is high, that means to say that our energy has not all been burned so they get stored somewhere. Chances are, that “somewhere” could be in those tiny blood vessels. If this happens, an accumulation of those unwanted substances within the walls of our blood vessels, including those tiny vessels I am talking about result into blockages and eruptions in our retina.

If there’s a blockage, new blood vessels grow but not as strong as the original vessel. These new vessels bleed easily. Because they bleed, these new cells will eventually close if they leaked. Blood distribution in our retina becomes faulty. That’s when the word “blurred” becomes a reality.

If there’s a leakage happening in our blood vessels, the retina starts absorbing those leakages like a sponge and you know pretty much how it feels if a sponge absorbs too much water. You will have to get rid of the absorbed liquid for it to work better. We have to squeeze the sponge to get rid of the water. We cannot squeeze our retina easily, can we?

Wait a minute. Why do we have to bother about how we can squeeze it in the future if we can prevent it now?

Recommendations: (here I go again)

1. Have your eye doctor check your eyes every year.

2. Bring down your blood sugar by keeping a healthy diet and having regular exercises.
Love your eyes. They show you how wonderful life is. Take good care of them.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Understanding Blood Pressure

Commonly known as a “traitor,” hypertension is one of the leading causes of mortality these days. Before knowing what causes hypertension, it is best that you understand what a blood pressure is first. Blood pressure is something closely monitored in all diabetic patients.

Blood pressure is the pressure of the blood in the arteries as the heart pumps it around the body. It is measured by a machine known as the sphygmomanometer. There two forces that the apparatus measures:

1) Systolic - This is shown as the top number when reading your BP. This is the pressure in the arteries as the heart is squeezing blood out during each beat.

2) Diastolic – This is the force of blood in the arteries as the heart relaxes between beats. This is shown as the bottom number when reading your BP.

Since blood pressure varies, it is recommended that you measure your blood pressure regularly so that you have an idea what your regular readings are when seeing a doctor.

When can you tell you have a high blood pressure? These numbers serve as your guide but these are not absolute. It is still best that you consult your physician.

120/80 or less - normal blood pressure
120/80 and 140/90 - high normal
140/90 or above - high
180 or above - very high

What happens if you have a high blood pressure?

High blood pressure is the most common factor of stroke. If it remains at a very high pressure, it could break blood vessels in your brain, thus bleeding and clotting in your brain. Also, when blood vessels burst in your eyes, this could lead to blindness. Among other things, it could thicken the blood vessels in the kidneys preventing the kidneys to filtering failure.

What are the causes of high blood pressure?
Genes, Continuous stress, beating of heart faster that it should, existing medical condition, but most of the time, the cause cannot be determined.

One important thing you should keep in mind is that there is no cure for hypertension but it can be prevented. How? Oh no, you might say here she goes again, but let me tell you briefly how you can prevent it: Be active; eat a wide variety of foods; achieve and maintain an healthy weight; stop smoking if you are, watch your drink and if on medication, take it exactly as prescribed.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Understanding Fats and Oils

Like Cholesterol, when we hear the word fat, we right away associate it with the word “unhealthy”. I bet you, not a lot really pay attention to the ads they see on TV or read on newspapers about the phrase “low in saturated fat” these days mainly because they do not understand what a “low in saturated fat” means.

First of all, there are 4 classifications of dietary fat and not all these fats are bad. Like cholesterol, there is a good and a bad fat and they all play different roles in our body. Depending on the amount of fat in our body, their presence could result in the widening or narrowing of our arteries and as a result changes the flow of our blood, leading to the risk of a cardiovascular disease.

The four types of fat

Saturated Fat

Comes mostly from beef, lamb, milk, cheese, other dairy products and other processed foods containing hydrogenated vegetable shortening like pastries and fried fast foods. This fat contains the most powerful fatty acids (myristic and palmitic) responsible in raising our blood cholesterol level. Palmitic acid is the major fatty acid in palm and coconut oil. Among other sources, it is also found in cottonseed, lard and cocoa butter. Hence, we are always reminded to trim visible fat from all cuts of meat. If you haven’t done it yet, switch to non-fat or reduced fat milk or other dairy products. When I switched to skim milk, for a few weeks I felt like my tummy was going to go upside down. Now it is the other way around.

Monounsaturated Fat

Comes from among others avocado, olive oil, peanuts and canola oil. Among the four classifications of fats, monounsaturated fat is considered the most beneficial to our health because it lowers our LDL Cholesterol and raises our HDL cholesterol levels.

Polyunsaturated Fat

Comes from fish oils, seafood and vegetable oils like safflower, sunflower, corn and soy oils. Polyunsaturated fats is still divided into two categories:

Omega-3 fats found mostly in fish, seafood, lean meat, plant foods, soybean are known to improve our blood vessels and to thin our blood making it less sticky and less likely to clot.

Omega-6 fats found in nuts, seeds and plant oils like corn, soy and safflower.

It is recommended that you do not batter or fry fish in hydrogenated vegetable fat as deep-frying may decrease the omega-3 content of the fish.

Trans Fats

Formed only when hydrogen is added to harden monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats to form margarines and other shortening used in baking. Trans fatty acid is also produced naturally by ruminant animals thus the production of butter and other dairy products. My dietitian suggests that if margarine is made of trans fatty acid, it is better to have butter instead. It is recommended that you should limit takeout foods, potato chips, biscuits and cakes and other food containing vegetable shortening.