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Did you know that high blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease? To ensure good heart health, The American Heart Association recommends your blood pressure be less than 130/80. High blood pressure, also called hypertension, increases the pressure of blood flowing through your arteries, narrowing and damaging your arteries over time. This damage can ultimately limit the amount of blood that can free flow throughout your body. High blood pressure can contribute to problems throughout your body – like stroke, heart attack, kidney damage and more. 

Salt is the biggest contributing factor to high blood pressure – in fact, Americans consume more than 10 times the daily recommended amount! Some people have genetic factors that lead to the condition, even when they’re eating a heart healthy diet. But most people will greatly benefit from a diet that’s low in sodium.  

The National Institute of Health recommends a diet called DASH – dietary approaches to stop hypertension. The plan emphasizes eating more fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products. It also recommends limiting foods high in cholesterol, trans fats and saturated fats. Following DASH will likely mean you will increase your servings of fruits, vegetables and grains. Here are a few DASH diet suggestions: 

Stock up on the good stuff.
Eating fish like herring, mackerel and salmon a few meals a week is a great way to support a healthy heart. Chickpeas, lentils and pinto beans are also important in controlling blood sugar and providing the fiber your body needs. Instead of fatty red meat or process foods, choose whole grain breads, poultry, fish and nuts to keep you satisfied.   

Cut out or limit processed food.
Packaged or processed foods are laden with salt – from tuna to cereal to canned soup. When you shop, focus on fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables rather than canned veggies, lunchmeats, and instant or ready-to-eat options. It’s also a good idea to skip the chips and fries, or at least limit how much and how often you eat them.

Use more spices and less salt.
Most Americans should consume more than 2.4 grams of sodium a day, and those with high blood pressure should eat less. People use salt in food prep because it tastes good, and food prepared without seasoning is bland. So spice up your life by experimenting with herbs and spices like basil, cinnamon, chili powder, parsley, rosemary and more. Start with a small amount and build flavor as you go. 

Make small, manageable changes.
We know that making changes to what and how much you eat isn’t easy. First, write down your specific goals for habit change and set aside time each week to check your progress. It’s also smart to plan out your meals so you aren’t tempted when hunger strikes. 

Keeping your blood pressure under control contributes to a healthy life – and reduces your risk of heart attacks, strokes and other common health conditions. If controlling your blood pressure is important to you, following a diet that’s low in sodium is a good place to start. If you find these changes aren’t lowering blood pressure numbers adequately, you doctor may recommend medications to move your blood pressure into a safer range. 

Keeping cholesterol under control is one of the keys to a strong and healthy heart. Most people want to live longer and healthier – and to have more time to spend with those we love and to pursue our passions. Why do your cholesterol levels matter? Simply put, elevated cholesterol puts you at risk for a host of medical conditions – including coronary heart disease, stroke, peripheral arterial disease, type 2 diabetes and hypertension (high blood pressure). 

There are three main components of cholesterol – HDL, LDL and triglycerides. High density lipoproteins or HDL are often called ‘healthy’ or ‘good’ cholesterol. It helps remove other forms of cholesterol from the blood by taking it back to the liver where it’s broken down and removed from the body. Low density lipoproteins (LDL) are often referred to as ‘bad’ cholesterol. High levels of LDL can increase your risk of heart attack and stroke. Triglycerides are a fatty substance found in the blood that’s used to give your body energy. Triglycerides are found in foods like oil and butter. Extra calories from what you eat can be turned into triglycerides and stored in fat cells to be used later.  

High cholesterol can be tricky to identify since there are few if any side effects – but the risks are still real. The first step is to know your numbers. The Centers for Disease Control recommend having your cholesterol checked once between ages 9 and 11, once between ages 12 and 21 and every four to six years in adulthood. This is different if you have a family or personal medical history of high cholesterol.  

There are different ways to look at the numbers, but with total cholesterol, having a number below 200 mg/dL is desirable. Levels from 200-239 mg/dL are considered borderline high, and 240 mg/dl and above is considered high. At this level, you are at increased risk of heart disease and stroke. 

Consistent, Manageable Changes 
If your cholesterol levels are higher than optimal, your pantry is the first line of defense. Foods that may increase cholesterol include those that are high in saturated and/or trans fats, fatty meats and animal products. Instead choose lean means, low fat or fat free dairy products, fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and high fiber foods like beans and oatmeal. 

Here are a few simple ideas to make an impact on your cholesterol numbers: 

Shop on the outside perimeter of the grocery store.
Avoid packaged foods (high preservatives).
Eat more fruits, veggies, nuts, eggs, and lean meats.
Add one vegetable and one piece of fruit to your plate every day.
Instead of pan-frying, broil or grill cuts of meat like hamburger, pork chops and steak.
Remove the skin from turkey or chicken before cooking.
Substitute low-fat or fat free milk for while milk or half-and-half. 
Limit processed meats – like sausage, hot dogs and salami – as these are high in calories and saturated fat.
Top your bowl of cereal with a banana or slice up and apple and peanut butter instead of chips or pretzels. 
Eat a simple side salad with dinner a few nights a week.
Add a handful of spinach to your morning smoothie. 
Use brown rice or pasta instead of white. 

It’s worth mentioning again that properly controlled cholesterol contributes to a healthy life by reducing your risk of strokes, heart attacks and other conditions. Following a healthful diet that’s lower in saturated or trans fats is a great place to start. But if these changes aren’t making a difference in lowering your cholesterol levels, your next move is to talk with your doctor about cholesterol medication. 

Chattanooga dialysis patients have a new, innovative alternative to surgical AV fistula creation. And, it's only available at University Surgical Associates (USA).

Dr. Charles Joels at USA is the first vascular surgeon in Chattanooga to use the WavelinQ™ 4F EndoAVF System by BD. This innovative system uses minimally-invasive technology to create a usable AV fistula. 

“This new system is easier on the patient and causes less trauma to the vein,” says Dr. Joels. “USA is excited to offer technology that no one else can right now in Chattanooga.”

What is an AV Fistula? 
To understand what an AV fistula is, it may be helpful to learn about dialysis first. Healthy kidneys remove waste and excess water from the blood. 

They also help make red blood cells and work to control blood pressure. When kidneys fail, they are unable to complete these functions. Patients with failing kidneys may need hemodialysis, or dialysis, to perform these functions for them. 

During dialysis, the dialysis machine takes blood from the patient and runs it through a filter. The filter helps remove toxins and waste from the blood. After it gets filtered, the blood is returned to the body. 

Patients need two important things for dialysis. The first is adequate blood flow. The second is access from the bloodstream to the dialysis machine. 
An arteriovenous (AV) fistula creates a direct connection between a vein and artery in the arm. This connection helps to provide the adequate blood flow needed for dialysis. It causes extra pressure so more blood can flow into the vein, making it larger and stronger. The larger vein allows for better access into the bloodstream. 

How is the WavelinQ™ 4F EndoAVF System Different?
In the past, AV fistula creation required a surgical procedure. During the surgical procedure, a vascular surgeon makes an incision in the patient’s arm using a scalpel. Then, he finds an appropriate vein, moves it and sews it to an artery. Next, he stitches the incision closed and the patient must allow several weeks for the wound to heal. 

The WavelinQ 4F™ EndoAVF System is minimally-invasive, which means there are no surgical incisions. The vascular surgeon inserts two thin devices into the artery and vein through small needle punctures. Magnets align the devices and make a connection between the vein and the artery in the forearm. The surgeon removes the devices and the arm heals without stitches and little to no scarring. 

Talk to a USA Vascular Surgeon about Your Access Options
Like any technology, this new system may not be a good fit for every dialysis patient. It is important for a vascular surgeon to examine your veins and arms. This helps determine if your anatomy will support this type of AV fistula. 

To make an appointment with Dr. Joels at USA Vascular, call 423-267-0466. 

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