Category Archives: Eyes & Vision

Are routine eye exams needed for seniors?


Prevention Experts, Eye Doctors Disagree On Vision Tests For Seniors

Michelle Andrews
Kaiser Health News

eye diagramSome doctors and a key group of preventive care experts are not seeing eye to eye on seniors’ need for vision screening during primary care visits.

There’s not enough evidence to know whether giving seniors a vision test when they visit their primary care doctor will lead to earlier detection and treatment of cataracts, age-related macular degeneration or refractive problems that could require corrective glasses and contacts, according to guidelines published by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force this month in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The task force, an independent group of medical experts, evaluates the scientific evidence related to preventive services for patients that don’t have symptoms or signs of medical problems.

Under the health law, services that the task force assigns an “A” or “B” grade must generally be covered by health plans, including Medicare, without charging consumers anything out of pocket. In this instance — screening for impaired visual acuity in people age 65 and older — the task force assigned an “I” grade, saying the evidence was insufficient to assess the balance of benefits and harms of screening, the same grade it assigned screening in 2009 when it last reviewed the evidence.

An organization of eye doctors and surgeons criticized the task force recommendation. In an editorial published in JAMA Ophthalmology, Dr. David Parke II, chief executive officer of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, argued that the task force didn’t give enough weight to supporting evidence about the health and quality of life benefits of identifying and addressing visual problems early. Continue reading


Macular Degeneration: a leading cause of blindness


Learn Basics about the Leading Cause of Blindness in the U.S.


Dr. Connie Chen

By Guest column Connie Chen, MD
Virginia Mason 

Stephen King, Georgia O’ Keefe, Sam Snead, Bob Hope and Edgar Degas all have something in common — loss of vision due to a condition called macular degeneration.

As many as 11 million Americans have some form of the disease and it is the leading cause of blindness in the United States.

The part of the eye affected is the macula, the area of the retina that is responsible for the sharp, central vision we need for reading and tasks that require seeing things in detail, such as sewing.

Although macular degeneration sometimes occurs in younger people, the condition mainly affects people 65 and older, so it is generally referred to as age-related macular degeneration or AMD.

Symptoms of AMD

The onset of AMD is so gradual that early in the course of the disease most patients don’t notice any loss of vision. As a result, early AMD often goes undiagnosed until the individual has an eye exam.

However, as the disease progresses, vision may become blurred and objects may appear distorted. Individuals with AMD may first notice they are missing letters in words when they read or have difficulty seeing smaller print.

In more severe cases, there may be a significant loss or graying of central vision, while peripheral vision remains unchanged. A person’s ability to adapt to different lighting environments may also be affected.

Causes of AMD

Drusen (yellow spots) in the retina

Drusen (yellow spots) in the retina

The loss of vision is associated with two major changes in the retina. First, there is a build up of cellular debris within the retina, which produces yellow deposits called “drusen.” Second, in some cases the retina releases chemicals that stimulate the growth of new blood vessels, a process called “neovascularizaiton.” The new blood vessels, however, are weak and often leak blood and fluid that damages the surrounding retinal tissue.

Risk factors for AMD

Continue reading


Nearly all contact lens users report risky eye care behaviors that can lead to eye infections

Photo: Etan J. Tal (CC)

Photo: Etan J. Tal (CC)

From the CDC

Almost all of the 41 million estimated contact lens wearers in the United States may be engaging in at least one behavior known to increase their risk of eye infections, according to a report published today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Nearly one-third of contact lens wearers who participated in a national survey reported going to the doctor for red or painful eyes related to wearing contact lenses.

More than 99 percent of survey respondents reported at least one risky behavior. The majority of wearers reported:

  • Keeping their contact lens cases for longer than recommended (82.3 percent);
  • “Topping off” solution in the case—adding new solution to the existing solution instead of emptying the case out fully before adding new solution (55.1 percent); or
  • Wearing their lenses while sleeping (50.2 percent).

Each of these behaviors has been reported in previous studies to raise the risk of eye infections by five times or more. Continue reading


Cataract surgery is fast and safe, but many patients still get costly test before their operation


EyeBy Michelle Andrews

Requiring patients to get blood work and other tests before undergoing cataract surgery hasn’t been recommended for more than a dozen years.

There’s good reason for that: The eye surgery generally takes less time than watching a rerun of “Marcus Welby, MD” — just 18 minutes, on average.

“It’s so low risk it’s almost like saying you’re going to get your nails done.”

It’s also incredibly safe, with a less than 1 percent risk of major cardiac problems or death.

Yet more than half of Medicare patients received at least one pre-operative test in the month before undergoing surgery to remove cataracts in 2011, a recent study found. Continue reading


UW scientists, biotech firm may have cure for colorblindness | The Seattle Times


EyeJay and Maureen Neitz, husband-and-wife scientists who have studied the vision disorder for years, have arranged an exclusive license agreement between UW and Avalanche Biotechnologies of Menlo Park.

Together, they’ve found a new way to deliver genes that can replace missing color-producing proteins in certain cells, called cones, in the eyes.

via UW scientists, biotech firm may have cure for colorblindness | The Seattle Times.

tacuin women

Women’s Health – Week 17: Complications of Diabetes


From the Office of Research on Women’s Health

Complications of diabetes

If you have diabetes, you may be at greater risk for many serious health problems. But if you follow your treatment plan and make lifestyle changes, you may be able to prevent or delay serious health problems. Some common complications of diabetes are below.

Eye disease

Damage to the eyes can lead to severe vision loss or even blindness. Eye problems may include:

  • Retinopathy: damage to the blood vessels in the retina. Diabetic retinopathy gets worse with time. You may not notice vision changes at first. Timely treatment and follow-up care help prevent serious vision loss. Diabetic retinopathy usually affects both eyes and is a leading cause of blindness in adults.
  • Cataract: clouding of the eye’s lens. Cataracts develop at an earlier age in people with diabetes.
  • Glaucoma: increase in fluid pressure inside the eye, which leads to optic nerve damage and loss of vision. A person with diabetes is nearly twice as likely to get glaucoma as other adults.

Kidney failure

Diabetes is the most common cause of chronic kidney disease (CKD) and kidney failure, though most people with diabetes do not develop CKD that is severe enough to progress to kidney failure.

People with kidney failure undergo dialysis, an artificial blood-cleaning process, ortransplantation to receive a healthy kidney from a donor.

Researchers have found that high blood pressure and high levels of blood sugar increase the risk that a person with diabetes will develop kidney failure. Controlling your blood pressure and blood sugar may reduce your risk.

Nerve disease

Diabetes can cause serious nerve problems, or neuropathies. People with diabetes can develop nerve damage throughout their body. Some people with nerve damage have no symptoms. Others may experience pain, tingling, or numbness – loss of feeling – in the hands, arms, feet, and legs. Nerve problems can occur in every organ system, including the digestive tract, heart, and sex organs. People with diabetes can develop nerve problems at any time, but risk rises with age and the longer a person has diabetes. Neuropathies also appear to be more common in people who have problems controlling their blood sugar as well as those who are overweight or who have high blood pressure or high levels of blood fat.

Foot ulcers and amputations

People with diabetes need to take special care of their feet. The nerves to the feet, the longest in the body, are most often affected in diabetes. Loss of sensation in the feet means that sores or injuries may go unnoticed and may become ulcerated or infected.

Circulation problems also increase the risk of foot ulcers. More than half of all lower-limb amputations in the United States occur in people with diabetes – 86,000 amputations per year.

Health care providers estimate that nearly half of the amputations caused by neuropathy and poor circulation could have been prevented by careful foot care.

Periodontal disease

People with diabetes are at higher risk for developing infections, including periodontal, or gum disease. For more information on dental health, please see Week 13.

For more information:

tacuin women

Women’s Health – Week 16: Diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2


From the Office of Research on Women’s Health

Glucometer showing a blood sugar of 105Diabetes is a disease in which your blood glucose, or sugar, levels are too high. Glucose comes from the foods you eat. Your blood always has some glucose in it because your body needs glucose for energy. Too much glucose, however, is not good for your health.

Insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, helps the glucose from food get into your cells. If your body does not make enough insulin, or if the insulin does not work the way it should, glucose cannot get into your cells for energy. It stays in your blood instead. Your blood glucose levels then get too high, causing diabetes.

With type 1 diabetes, the pancreas no longer makes insulin. People with type 1 diabetes need to take insulin every day. Type 1 diabetes accounts for about 5 to 10 percent of diagnosed diabetes in the United States. Children and young adults most often develop type 1 diabetes, but it can appear at any age.

With type 2 diabetes, your body does not make or use insulin well. Without enough insulin, the glucose stays in your blood. People with type 2 diabetes often need to take pills or insulin. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes and can occur at any age, even childhood.

Having a parent, brother, or sister with diabetes, or being overweight and inactive increases the chances of developing type 2 diabetes.

Pregnant women can also develop diabetes, called gestational diabetes (see Week 18 for more information). Gestational diabetes often goes away after the baby is born. But having gestational diabetes can place you and your child at increased risk for developing diabetes later in life.

Symptoms of diabetes may include fatigue, thirst, weight loss, blurred vision, and frequent urination. With type 2 diabetes, some people have no symptoms at all. A blood test can show if you have diabetes.

Over time, having too much glucose in your blood can cause serious problems. It can damage your eyes, kidneys, heart, gums, teeth, and nerves. It can lead to blindness, kidney failure, and the loss of a foot or a leg. The most serious problem caused by diabetes is heart disease. If you have diabetes you are more than twice as likely as people without diabetes to have a heart attack or a stroke.

The good news is that if you have diabetes, you can take steps to manage the disease. Learn how to manage the ABCs of diabetes. A is for the HbA1C test, which shows you what your blood glucose has been over the past 3 months. B is for blood pressure and C is for cholesterol.

You can lower your chances of developing serious health problems by keeping your blood glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels in the target range your health care provider gives you. You can manage your diabetes by being active every day and keeping your weight in a healthy range. Follow your meal plan, take your medications, and check your blood glucose as directed by your health care provider.

For more information:

autism thumbnail

Lack of eye contact in early infancy may be sign of autism, study


From the National Institutes of Health

Eye contact during early infancy may be a key to early identification of autism, according to a study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), part of the National Institutes of Health.

Published this week in the journal Nature, the study reveals the earliest sign of developing autism ever observed — a steady decline in attention to others’ eyes within the first two to six months of life.

“Autism isn’t usually diagnosed until after age 2, when delays in a child’s social behavior and language skills become apparent. This study shows that children exhibit clear signs of autism at a much younger age,” said Thomas R. Insel, M.D., director of NIMH. “The sooner we are able to identify early markers for autism, the more effective our treatment interventions can be.”

autism eye

Decline in eye fixation reveals signs of autism present already within the first 6 months of life. Data from a 6-month-old infant later diagnosed with autism are plotted in red.

Data from a typically developing 6-month-old are plotted in blue. The data show where the infants were looking while watching a video of a caregiver. Source: Warren Jones, Ph.D., Marcus Autism Center, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, and Emory University School of Medicine.

Typically developing children begin to focus on human faces within the first few hours of life, and they learn to pick up social cues by paying special attention to other people’s eyes.

Children with autism, however, do not exhibit this sort of interest in eye-looking. In fact, a lack of eye contact is one of the diagnostic features of the disorder.

To find out how this deficit in eye-looking emerges in children with autism, Warren Jones, Ph.D., and Ami Klin, Ph.D., of the Marcus Autism Center, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, and Emory University School of Medicine followed infants from birth to age 3.

The infants were divided into two groups, based on their risk for developing an autism spectrum disorder. Those in the high risk group had an older sibling already diagnosed with autism; those in the low risk group did not.

Jones and Klin used eye-tracking equipment to measure each child’s eye movements as they watched video scenes of a caregiver. The researchers calculated the percentage of time each child fixated on the caregiver’s eyes, mouth, and body, as well as the non-human spaces in the images. Children were tested at 10 different times between 2 and 24 months of age.

By age 3, some of the children — nearly all from the high risk group — had received a clinical diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder. The researchers then reviewed the eye-tracking data to determine what factors differed between those children who received an autism diagnosis and those who did not.

“In infants later diagnosed with autism, we see a steady decline in how much they look at mom’s eyes,” said Jones. This drop in eye-looking began between two and six months and continued throughout the course of the study.

By 24 months, the children later diagnosed with autism focused on the caregiver’s eyes only about half as long as did their typically developing counterparts.

This decline in attention to others’ eyes was somewhat surprising to the researchers. In opposition to a long-standing theory in the field — that social behaviors are entirely absent in children with autism — these results suggest that social engagement skills are intact shortly after birth in children with autism. If clinicians can identify this sort of marker for autism in a young infant, interventions may be better able to keep the child’s social development on track.

“This insight, the preservation of some early eye-looking, is important,” explained Jones. “In the future, if we were able to use similar technologies to identify early signs of social disability, we could then consider interventions to build on that early eye-looking and help reduce some of the associated disabilities that often accompany autism.”

The next step for Jones and Klin is to translate this finding into a viable tool for use in the clinic. With support from the NIH Autism Centers of Excellence program, the research team has already started to extend this research by enrolling many more babies and their families into related long-term studies.

They also plan to examine additional markers for autism in infancy in order to give clinicians more tools for the early identification and treatment of autism.

Grant: R01MH083727

About the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH): The mission of the NIMH is to transform the understanding and treatment of mental illnesses through basic and clinical research, paving the way for prevention, recovery, and care. For more information, visit

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation’s medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit

NIH…Turning Discovery Into Health®


Jones W, Klin A. Attention to eyes is present but in decline in 2-6-month-old infants later diagnosed with autism. Nature, Nov. 6, 2013.



Eye exam

This National Diabetes Month: remember to keep an eye on your eyes


From the National Institutes of Health

If you are one of more than 25 million Americans with diabetes, you may already know the importance of watching your diet and keeping track of your blood sugar. But did you know it’s also important to have regular eye exams?

In the United States, diabetic eye disease is the leading cause of vision loss among working-age adults. Diabetic retinopathy is the most common form of this disease, and affects about 28.5 percent of Americans with diabetes age 40 and older. That’s more than 7 million people, and the number is expected to reach more than 11 million by the year 2030.

The condition can creep up quietly. It gradually weakens small blood vessels in and around the retina, the light-sensing layer of tissue at the back of the eye. If the disease progresses, these vessels may rupture and leak blood into the eye; they can also spread and grow on the surface of the retina and cause scarring.

Typically, diabetic retinopathy has no symptoms until it reaches an advanced stage. But the disease can be detected early through a comprehensive dilated eye exam. In this procedure, an eye professional will put drops in your eye to dilate (widen) the pupil, which allows a closer look at the retina.

The good news is that with early detection, timely treatment, and appropriate follow-up, the risk of severe vision loss from diabetic retinopathy can be reduced by 95 percent.

There are several effective treatment options including laser surgery and injections of anti-VEGF drugs. These drugs block the actions of a protein that can cause abnormal blood vessels to grow and leak fluid.


A comprehensive dilated eye exam can catch diabetic eye disease early, before symptoms appear.

November is National Diabetes Month. If you have diabetes, it’s a good time to remember these health tips:

  • Get a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year.
  • Control your blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. By controlling your diabetes, you’ll reduce your risk of diabetic eye disease.
  • Talk to your eye care professional about diabetic retinopathy.
  • Learn more about diabetic eye disease from the National Eye Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health.

NEI’s Diabetic Retinopathy Clinical Research Network ( conducts large multi-center trials of new therapies for diabetic eye disease; it comprises nearly 1000 investigators at sites in 48 states.

Many of the sites are private practice eye clinics, enabling the network to quickly bring innovative treatments from research into community practice. An ongoing trial is comparing three anti-VEGF drugs for macular edema, a complication of diabetic retinopathy that causes central vision loss. For more information, please see trial NCT01627249 at

The National Eye Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, leads the federal government’s research on the visual system and eye diseases. NEI supports basic and clinical science programs that result in the development of sight-saving treatments. For more information, visit

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation’s medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit


Dental and vision care part of ‘essential benefits’ for kids – FAQ


Eye-chartBy Marissa Evans
KHN Staff Writer

One part of the Affordable Care Act is intended to improve dental coverage for children, an extension of effort by public health advocates that followed the 2007 death of a Maryland boy named Deamonte Driver, who was killed by a bacterial infection that spread from an abscessed tooth to his brain.

The 12-year-old’s family was uninsured, and the family had lost its Medicaid coverage. His mother focused on getting his brother’s six rotting teeth taken care of before turning to Deamonte’s dental care, but by then the infection had spread. After two surgeries and weeks of hospital care, he died.

Supporters of better dental care for children fought to have dental and vision services for children included as part of pediatric services, one of 10 categories of essential benefits.

With the Affordable Care Act, more Americans will have the opportunity to purchase dental insurance on the new health care exchanges starting Oct. 1.

Here are some basic questions and answers about dental and vision coverage.

Q. Will I be required to buy pediatric dental care if I purchase insurance on the exchange?

A. Most likely, no. Children’s dental care may be included in some plans offered on the marketplaces as part of the medical coverage you are required to buy.

But many insurers may offer it as a stand-alone policy, which you are not required to buy under byfederal law but may be required by states.

At least two — Nevada and Washington — are requiring this coverage. For children the insurance will help pay for the cost of visits to a dentist for basic or preventive services, like teeth cleaning, X-rays and fillings and medically necessary orthodontics.

Q. Will I be required to buy pediatric vision coverage by the Affordable Care Act?

A. Yes, it will be included in the Medical plan, and at least partially covers vision care, like eye exams and glasses.

Q. Are adults required to get dental coverage?

A. No, but insurers may offer stand-alone dental policies for adults and families. These will not be subsidized, however.

Q. Is it common for health insurers to not offer dental care as part of comprehensive health insurance?

A. Overwhelmingly, dental benefits are contracted and sold separately from medical plans in the current market. The National Association of Dental Plans says 99 percent of dental benefits are sold under a policy that is separate from medical coverage, according to its July 2013 ACA and Dental Coverage report.

Q. How likely are buyers to add stand-alone dental coverage for children to their purchase of a medical policy?

A. It’s hard to say how it will play out. Consumers will be looking for dental plans that best meet their own needs and those of their children at the right price.

If purchased from a federally run exchange as a stand-alone policy, pediatric dental care can include out-of-pocket expenses as high as $700 per child or $1,400 per family, according to Colin Reusch, a senior policy analyst with the Children’s Dental Health Project.

And the cost of stand-alone coverage won’t count toward the medical out-of-pocket limit built into the health care insurance policy, nor will the premium tax credits families receive to help them purchase coverage be calculated to include premiums for stand-alone plans.

Those costs may cause families to go without coverage, advocates fear.

However, the Delta Dental Plans Association notes that stand-alone dental plans are likely to have much lower deductibles than medical plans that also include child dental care, or possibly no deductibles.

They will also have a lower limit on out-of-pocket expenses than plans that combine medical and pediatric dental care.

That might benefit many families, particularly those that include children with acute dental care needs or those who want paid preventive care without waiting to spend enough to meet a higher deductible.

Q. How many children may benefit from expanded coverage?

A. Approximately 8.7 million children are expected to gain some form of dental benefits by 2018 as a result of the ACA. This will reduce the number of children without dental benefits by about 55 percent compared with 2010, according to a report from the American Dental Association.

About a third of these children will be covered through their parents’ employer-sponsored insurance, while about another third will be covered through Medicaid. The remainder will be covered by new policies from  the health insurance exchanges.

This article was reprinted from with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.


Xmas toy safety tips from Seattle Children’s


Toys that pose choking and other hazards to childrenDoctors’ toy safety tips for the holidays from Seattle Children’s On the Pulse blog

With an abundance of toys to choose from this holiday season, many parents may find themselves asking which toys are best for their young kids.

Pediatricians encourage parents – and anyone buying a gift for a baby or child – to think safety first.

Tony Woodward, MD, MBA, medical director of the division of emergency medicine at Seattle Children’s Hospital, says parents should read toy labels, remove possible hazards, and expect the unexpected when it comes to kids and toys.

“Parents should remember that children don’t perceive toys the same way we do and often don’t use them as we might expect,” says Woodward. “If a toy can be misused, chewed on, eaten, swallowed or thrown at someone, it will be. Parents should ensure that if those things do happen, the child won’t be injured.”

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), there were more than 262,000 toy-related emergency room visits in the United States in 2011.

Woodward suggests parents keep these tips in mind when choosing toys for small kids:

Choking Hazards

Choking is the leading cause of toy-related deaths, according to the CPSC. In 2011, there were 13 reported toy-related deaths among children younger than 15 years in the United States, most from asphyxiation.

When choosing toys for small children, bigger is usually better:

  • Stay away from toys that contain many or small parts if there are small children in the household.
  • Be sure to read warning labels for age recommendations. Toys are age-graded to reflect safety risks, including choking hazards. A toy that may be appropriate for an older child can be potentially life-threatening for a baby or toddler.
  • Small balls are also particularly dangerous because they can block a child’s airway completely. “Water Balz,” for example, recalled earlier this week, absorb water and expand to 400 times their original size.

Woodward suggests this rule of thumb to help prevent choking: If a toy can fit inside a paper towel roll, the toy can obstruct the airway of a small child and prevent breathing.


Toys that contain small magnets are especially dangerous for young kids. If swallowed, magnets can attract to one another in a child’s intestine and cause serious complications. Woodward says parents should look out for products like “Snake Eggs,” small magnets shaped like eggs that are marketed to children.

Button Batteries

Many toys and gadgets require button batteries, which can pose fatal risks for young kids. If a battery is swallowed, it can cause life-threatening injuries. Be sure batteries cannot be removed easily from toys.


Some toys have strings or cords that can become wrapped around a child’s neck and cause strangulation. Use caution with mobiles or pull toys with long string, and remove long ribbons from kids’ play areas.

Toys containing lead and other chemicals

Just like checking a food’s ingredient list, parents should read toy labels. Avoid products that contain PVC plastic, xylene, toluene, or dibutyl phthalate. Play cosmetics can be particularly hazardous.

Avoid toys and clothes that could contain lead paint or high levels of lead, such as vinyl lunch boxes or rain gear. To test products for lead, parents can purchase home testing kits, available at most local hardware shops. Buy paints, crayons and markers that say “non-toxic” on the label.

More toy safety tips

  • Include safety equipment with toys such as bikes, snowboards or skateboards. Helmets, elbow pads and knee pads make great stocking stuffers.
  • Avoid stuffed animals with buttons or removable parts.
  • Be cautious of toys that make loud noises. Toys that omit noise above 85 decibels can cause gradual hearing loss.
  • Consider the physical skills a child needs to play with a particular toy, and how well the child can understand how to use the toy.

Before wrapping presents this year, Woodward suggests parents review this checklist to help keep their kids safe: “Potential choking hazards should be removed, batteries and magnets should be inaccessible, toys that are sharp or can be used as weapons or projectiles should be removed and easily broken toys should be discarded.”

Toy safety resources:


The ups & downs of blood pressure


Anusha Iyer, MD

By Anusha Iyer, MD
Valley Medical Center Fairwood Clinic

Is my blood pressure high?

I get asked this question time and again: what is considered normal blood pressure and what is high?

Generally speaking, in healthy adults a normal blood pressure (BP) is less than 120 systolic (the pressure on the arteries as the heart contracts (squeezes)), and less than 90 diastolic (the pressure on the vessels as the heart relaxes).

In common terms this BP would be expressed as 120 over 90. We call it high blood pressure or hypertension if the BP is greater than 140 systolic and greater than 90 diastolic.

What causes high blood pressure?

Genetics plays an important role. Obesity, weight gain, excessive alcohol use, high cholesterol, excessive use of salt (sodium), not enough activity and a sedentary lifestyle, and type A or having an aggressive personality have all been linked to high blood pressure.

Medications such as oral contraceptive pills, certain cold remedies, anti-inflammatory drugs and many other common medications can increase blood pressure.

Also certain medical conditions such as kidney disease, thyroid and adrenal gland disorders, and sleep apnea can lead to secondary hypertension.

Why is knowing my blood pressure important?

High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Also, untreated hypertension can lead to damage to the eyes and kidneys.

What should I do if my blood pressure is high?

Eat less salt. Most patients don’t realize the high salt content of common foods like certain types of breads and canned soups. Be sure to read labels and choose items with lower sodium content.

Eat more servings of vegetables and fruits. Limit the amount of alcohol you consume. Try to get some cardio-exercise into your weekly schedule. And try to decrease your stress level. (Yeah right! That’s easier said than done!)

If you can you set aside 15 minutes in your day here is a simple meditation exercise to relax your mind and reduce your stress: sit in a quiet place, close your eyes and take slow deep breaths in and out; meditate on peace (choose a person, place or object that makes you feel calm and happy).

I believe that a peaceful and strong internal environment is as essential to a woman’s survival and success as is her external environment.

Keep track of your BP numbers and follow your doctor’s recommendations. You can check your BP with your own blood pressure cuff if you have one, or you can check it by using the free automatic blood pressure monitor available at many large pharmacies. Write down your numbers in a log book and show it to your doctor when you go for your appointment.

Discuss your blood pressure goals with your doctor and write it down. If you are taking medication to lower your BP, don’t forget to take your medication and report any side effects or concerns to your doctor.

Almost 30% of the US population is reported to have high blood pressure. Take control of your blood pressure and work towards a healthier you by adopting healthy habits and setting the right goals.

Dr. Iyer is a Internal Medicine physician in VMC’s Kent Clinic, located at 24920 104th Ave SE in Kent. Phone: 253.395.2000.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Finding cures for rare diseases: Film and discussion, Dec. 13th


NWABR’s Community Conversation Series this month will include a showing of excerpts from the soon to be released film RARE, a documentary about the struggle to find new treatments for Hermansky-Pudlak Syndrome (HPS), a rare genetic disorder.

Heather Kirkwood, a HPS patient who stars in the film and serves as Director of Outreach/VP for the HPS Network, will facilitate our discussion and take questions following the film.


  • Tuesday, December 13, 5:30 to 7:30 P.M.


  • 415 Westlake at Kakáo Chocolate & Coffee, Seattle.


  •  $10 at the door

Note: Attendance by RSVP

Click here to RSVP or call 206-957-3337×306,