I had breakfast this morning in Las Vegas with my friend, Dave Garcia. Dave is a pit boss on the graveyard shift at the Belagio Hotel where they made the modern-day “Ocean’s 11” buddy movie from 1960. Dave is also a 52-year-old chronic lymphocytic leukemia survivor. He reached out to me online and we have been friends since soon after his diagnosis in 2002.
Dave is a father of two young kids. He dreams of seeing them grow up. But, understandably, he worries. Some days more than others. Today was his day to see his oncologist and get the latest blood test results. Would his white blood count (WBC) be in the normal range? If so, his third round of treatment was still working. If not, he might be headed to a stem cell transplant, short-term disability, and living in another city for weeks or months.
As you can imagine, Dave was on pins and needles today. He would be against more chemo because he worries about the toxic drugs killing cancer cells but weakening him in the long run. Dave admits his blood pressure goes up on these days.
Dave is not alone in his fear. For millions of cancer survivors, while each day is special, some days are anxiety producing. For me it’s when I have a strange ache or pain. I rarely tell Esther, but I worry. For almost everyone it’s on days when we are having a “checkup.” The worry is, is this the day another shoe will drop? Fortunately, that hasn’t come for me yet and I hope it never will. I am happy to say Dave just texted me. His worry today was unfounded. The WBC was normal. He was given a pass at least for a few more months. We hope forever!
At another meeting today in Las Vegas there was a discussion about information for cancer patients. Nurses ticking off all sorts of facts and admonishments to patients. The nurses feel they are doing their job of education quite well. Some patients would say maybe not so well. How come? Fear. For us it is not clinical routine. It is our lives on the line at diagnosis or at a checkup. We often don’t hear so well in those moments. Dave may not have heard so well today. Only one word counted: “Normal.” Read more »
*This blog post was originally published at Andrew's Blog*
“But doc, my blood pressure is always normal at home.” I wish I had a dollar for every time I have heard that line and I know it is true. When some patients come to see me, their blood pressure is abnormally high (above 130/90). This is known as “white-coat hypertension.” Although it has been thought to be from anxiety about seeing the doctor, even long-established patients who have no conscious anxiety can exhibit elevated blood pressure in the office.
Because blood pressure naturally fluctuates and the office visit is not a “normal” setting, it is important for patients who have high blood pressure (hypertension) to have their own blood pressure cuff at home. Now that devices are automated and easy to use, everyone with hypertension should be monitoring their blood pressure in the comfort of their own home. I advise multiple readings over a week at different times of day. Get a reading when resting and when rushing around. Take your blood pressure after you exercise and after a meal. It is important to keep a log and write it down. Only then can we see patterns and know if the blood pressure is controlled or not.
Blood pressure readings in the doctors office are not necessarily the most accurate. Patients are often rushed trying to get parked and in on time. Medical assistants can use the wrong size cuff or not position the arm correctly. Listening (auscultation) is not very accurate due to human error. It is the multiple readings over time that give a more accurate picture of blood pressure control.
High blood pressure in the office can be true hypertension or it can be white-coat hypertension that is usually controlled at home. If a patient is on blood pressure medication and has controlled blood pressure at home, I will not add more medication just because they are elevated in the office. If a patient has not been diagnosed with hypertension and his or her blood pressure is elevated in the office, he or she is advised to get their own blood pressure cuff for at home and return with readings for us to review. This way we can minimize unnecessary and expensive medication and make sure we are protecting the patient as well.
*This blog post was originally published at EverythingHealth*
Sports fans may literally live and die on their team’s victories, according to researchers who examined cardiac mortality rates after the home team won and lost the Super Bowl.
Total and cardiac mortality rates in Los Angeles County increased after the football team’s 1980 Super Bowl loss but overall mortality fell after the 1984 the team’s Super Bowl win, researchers concluded from a review of death certificates reported in Clinical Cardiology.
First, authors gave a clinical review. Stress causes a cardiac cascade. The sympathetic nervous system increases and releases catecholamines. This triggers a rise in heart rate and blood pressure, and ventricular contractility increases oxygen demand, causing blood the sheer against and fracture atherosclerotic plaque, the authors explained. Stimulation of alpha receptors in the vasculature further constrict coronary vessels, increasing oxygen demand while limiting oxygen supply to the heart.
Next, they gave a sporting review. Los Angeles has played twice in the Super Bowl, the first time losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers (who play in this Sunday’s Super Bowl, incidentally) in 1980. The Los Angeles Rams, as they were known then, were a long-time hometown team and played the game in nearby Pasadena, Calif. “This game was high intensity,” wrote the authors, “with seven lead changes before Los Angeles lost a fourth-quarter lead and the game.”
Later, a new football franchise arrived in town, the Los Angeles Raiders. In 1984 the Los Angeles Raiders traveled to Tampa, Fla. to beat the Washington Redskins in a more mundane affair.
Now, the review of findings. Researchers combed death certificates based on age, race and sex to compare mortality rates for Super Bowl-related days with non-Super Bowl days and created regression models predicting daily death rates per 100,000. Read more »
*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*