Category Archives: Good to know

Tips on how to Lower High Blood Pressure

By Mindy Longhurst

High blood pressure is a major concern for many Americans. It can lead to cardiovascular disease, strokes and even heart attacks. There are many proactive steps that can be taken to lower high blood pressure. Some of these proactive steps are listed below.

Reach and maintain a healthy weight

One of the best ways to reduce high blood pressure is to stay at a healthy weight. Living at a healthy weight helps to increase energy levels and helps to reduce the strain on the heart.

Decrease sodium intake

Sodium causes extra water to enter the blood vessels, making it harder on the heart for the blood to be pumped. This can cause the blood pressure to increase. A simple way to decrease sodium is to cook with less sodium. Aim to consume less than 1,500 mg/day of sodium.

Increase potassium intake

Potassium helps the body to decrease the effects of sodium. Increasing potassium also allows the body to get the nutrients it needs to be healthy. Foods like oranges, lima beans and mushrooms have high levels of potassium. Aim for 3,500-5,000 mg of potassium each day.

Be more physically active

Doctors recommend having 90-150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week. Examples of aerobic exercise include running, biking, swimming, hiking and dancing. Doctors also recommend isometric exercise three times a week. Exercise can be more enjoyable when done with a neighbor, friend or spouse. Start exercising today!

Reduce or limit stress level

Meditation is a great way to reduce stress levels because it is simple and quick. Meditation allows the brain and body to relax and to refocus. Sleeping and taking care of the body is another way to limit or reduce the current stress level.

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Knowing the Numbers behind HBP

By Mindy Longhurst

Last fall, the American Heart Association guidelines for high blood pressure were altered. The guidelines changed from 140/90 mmHg to 130/80 mmHg. With these new standards, it is estimated that almost half of all adult Americans have high blood pressure.

A blood pressure reading has two different blood pressure numbers called systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

Systolic blood pressure

The systolic blood pressure is the top number of a blood pressure reading. The systolic blood pressure measures how hard your blood is exerting force against your artery walls while the heart is beating. The normal systolic blood pressure reading is 120 mmHg or below.

Diastolic blood pressure

The diastolic blood pressure is the bottom number of a blood pressure reading. The diastolic blood pressure measures how hard your blood is exerting force against your artery walls in between heartbeats. The normal level is 80 mmHg or below.

There are four different categories of blood pressure. These categories are normal, elevated, hypertension stage 1 and hypertension stage 2.

Normal

The normal blood pressure reading is 120/80 mmHg or below. At this phase, the patient is recommended to stay healthy to keep the blood pressure reading normal.

Elevated

The next level of blood pressure is called Elevated. This level is when the blood pressure is consistently 120-129/less than 80 mmHg. At this phase, the patient is at risk for getting high blood pressure. The patient is recommended to do things like exercise and eat right to help maintain and lower the increasing blood pressure.

Hypertension Stage 1

Hypertension Stage 1 is the first level of high blood pressure. Hypertension Stage 1 is when the blood pressure is consistently 130-139/80-89 mmHg. At this phase, the patient is recommended to make lifestyle changes and sometimes is prescribed high blood pressure medication to help regulate the blood pressure.

Hypertension Stage 2

Hypertension Stage 2 is the second level of high blood pressure. Hypertension Stage 2 is when the blood pressure is consistently 140/90 mmHg. At this phase, the patient is recommended to make lifestyle changes and prescribed high blood pressure medication to help regulate the high blood pressure.

For more information, visit http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/KnowYourNumbers/Understanding-Blood-Pressure-Readings_UCM_301764_Article.jsp#.Wv7ihu4vyUk

Health throughout the Decades

By Mindy Longhurst

Adult women over the age of 20 should get a well-woman visit annually. This check-up visit is crucial for her health and is a preventive tool. The Office of Women’s Health, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has created a list of health concerns and questions a female should ask her doctor throughout the decades. The list below only highlights a few items from each decade to focus on. For more detailed information about the list, please visit https://www.womenshealth.gov/nwhw.

20s

  • Take 400-800 mg of folic acid daily (a B vitamin)
  • Talk to your doctor about protecting yourself from the sun and the hazards of tanning

30s

  • Talk to your doctor about birth control/having children
  • Talk to your doctor about your family’s health history (especially with cancers)

40s

  • Talk to your doctor about perimenopause symptoms
  • Ask if you need to be tested for diabetes
  • Ask to have a mammogram

50s

  • Talk to your doctor about menopause symptoms
  • If 55 or older ask about lung cancer

60s

  • If 65 or older ask if you need to be tested for osteoporosis
  • Ask if you need to be tested for colorectal cancer, pneumonia and shingles

70+

  • If 74 or younger ask to have a mammogram
  • Talk to your doctor about who to make health care decisions for me if I am unable to

Four Simple Steps to Improve Your Health

By: Mindy Longhurst

May 13-19 is National Women’s Health Week. Along with Mother’s Day, this week celebrates all the women in your life. National Women’s Health Week also recognizes how females of all ages are healthy and what they can do to become healthier.

As a woman, I know how difficult it can be to be healthy. I always thought that being fit meant doing major life-changing things like running a marathon. This all changed when I talked with Cara Wiley.

Cara is the advisement center supervisor for the College of Nursing at Brigham Young University. She has always been active in her life. But, about seven months ago, Cara did not like the way she was feeling. After some contemplation, Cara realized that she wanted to improve her health one simple step at a time. Her focus included four simple steps to improve the way she felt about herself.

1. Drink more water

The first thing she wanted to do was very simple to keep her motivated; she decided to drink more water each day. This simple change does not take much time. She says, “I started by drinking more water. I know that it is recommended to drink half of your weight in ounces in water daily, so I started doing that.” This little change helped her to have more energy. Water is also very good for your skin. As time went on, she realized that her skin was feeling more nourished and overall healthier too.

waterStaying hydrated helps Cara to have more energy.

2. Cut the unnecessary sugars out

After a few weeks when she felt that she had mastered drinking more water, she decided to cut back on major sugar consumption. She decided to eat less dessert and eat more vegetables. Cara still treats herself with desserts on the weekends, but tries to eliminate the extra sugars during the week. This goal can sometimes be very difficult, especially when someone is giving out desserts, but it is worth it. Less processed sugars and more vegetables offered Cara more energy and helped her to lose inches off her waist.

3. Lifting weights

Cara has always loved cardio and has been active throughout her life. She enjoys hiking, biking, basketball and dance. Throughout this process of making simple changes, she decided to start lifting weights. She understood that lifting weights is better for boosting metabolism. Cara says, “I started seeing more results as I lifted weights two to three days a week while still keeping my cardio going.”

4. Taking the stairs

When available, Cara also now takes the stairs instead of the elevator. Taking the stairs has helped her to continue moving and has become a habit over time.

stairsTaking the stairs is now a habit for Cara.

Results

Overall, Cara loves that she now feels good about herself. She loves feeling like she has more energy and is less stressed because she has a better outlook on things. Cara is now a size smaller and is a great example of how the little decisions each day can make a huge impact in overall health.

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All Hands on Deck: BYU Nursing Students Onboard the USNS Mercy

By Calvin Petersen

As BYU nursing students and faculty boarded the thousand-bed floating hospital moored in San Diego Bay, they realized their experience on the USNS Mercy was going to be more than just salutes and strict rules. Over the next two days, they had the unique opportunity to see firsthand how the military cares for its veterans.

A Rare Invitation

The San Diego trip resulted from a phone call Dr. Kent Blad received one sweltering morning last summer. Blad is a teaching professor and director of the veteran global health program at the BYU College of Nursing. When he answered the phone, Blad was surprised to hear the man on the other end introduce himself as lieutenant commander of the USNS Mercy, the hospital ship commissioned to serve the Pacific fleet. In addition to supporting military personnel with medical and surgical services, the Mercy undertakes humanitarian relief missions.

The Mercy’s lieutenant commander had read about BYU’s veteran global health course, co-taught by Blad and assistant teaching professor Stacie Hunsaker. He asked, “What can you tell me about what I just read?” “Funny you ask,” Blad replied, “I’ve been waiting for this phone call.”

By the end of the conversation, the lieutenant commander invited Blad, Hunsaker and their nursing students to San Diego to tour the Mercy and Naval Medical Center San Diego. Naval Medical Center San Diego is one of three major U.S. polytrauma centers that serve wounded warriors in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“That was the first time we’ve received an invitation,” explains Blad, “Usually we go out there and beg, ‘Can we please come do this?’ And he asked, ‘Can you please come here?’”

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When the USNS Mercy is en route, nurses do simulations, much like at BYU’s NLC, to keep their skills sharp.

First-class Veteran Care

Although veteran global health students travel to Washington D.C. each spring to tour military medical facilities, Blad and Hunsaker felt the additional trip to San Diego would further enrich the students’ military cultural understanding. What the two professors didn’t know was how beneficial the experience would be for them as well.

“I’ve cared for veterans, but until being with them an entire day and spending that time, it was hard to understand the magnitude of the military in their lives,” says Hunsaker, “It’s a part of them, it’s not just a little job. They’re part of a military family, they have a set of beliefs and they love their country. And they really are willing to do whatever needs to be done to serve it. I don’t think I ever knew, to that extent, and hadn’t felt as grateful as I should to them.”

Jeana Escobar, one of the global health nursing students on the trip, learned that veteran care starts with the basics. “Every Navy sailor we met said the same two things: first, that every veteran has a story and you should take time to listen to it and, second, veterans don’t want your sympathy. Veterans want you to listen to them and tell them what they need to do to progress in the healing process.”

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BYU nursing student Jeana Escobar practices CPR on one of the USNS Mercy’s simulation lab manikins.

Students repeatedly saw nurses’ compassionate care for veterans as they toured Naval Medical Center San Diego’s facilities. A therapist working in the wounded warrior unit even confessed that, after starting work with “these brave men and women,” he would find himself crying randomly because of so much pent-up emotion.

The hospital’s courtyard, which was retrofitted with different terrains and a rock climbing wall for amputees to practice using new prosthetic limbs, impressed several students. “I was especially touched by what the physical therapist shared with us about the rock wall,” says nursing student JeriAnn Pack. “He described how, when someone is discouraged and thinks they will never progress, they can look up and see someone with an injury as bad or worse than their own climbing the wall. I can only imagine how inspiring that would be.”

“The students learned very quickly to appreciate these men and women and the part that nursing plays in helping these veterans recover,” Blad says of the nurses on the Mercy and in the naval hospital. “It truly is the Healer’s art in action. The love they have for their country and their patients is inspiring. We could all be more like that with any of our patients.”

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An Unforgettable Experience

The Navy specifically planned the two-day trip in February to meet College of Nursing veteran global health objectives. In addition to touring the Mercy’s simulation center and hospital facilities for a day, students spent a day at the USS Midway Museum, as well as at Navy facilities on the base. “They really took their time and effort and energy, not only to make us feel welcome, but to help us in educating our students,” says Hunsaker.

To several students, the highlight of the trip was a panel where Navy officers and nurses shared their perspectives and personal stories of how they came to join the military. “It was really cool to see how different everyone was, and that they had all been brought to this common cause,” says nursing student Lauren Bretzing.

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“They don’t have amazing living quarters,” says Heather Wilkinson. Seven nursing students show how cramped living quarters on the USNS Mercy are.

For students like Heather Wilkinson, who had previously interacted with elderly veterans, seeing young men and women recovering from current conflicts changed her perception of what a typical veteran looks like. Other students were impressed with the camaraderie and respect of military culture. Undoubtedly each student thought, as Breeze Hollingsworth did, “Maybe military service will be in my future and maybe not. But one thing is for sure: I want to better serve all veterans and active service men and women I come across.”

Because the San Diego trip was such an all-around success, the Navy has already invited Blad and Hunsaker’s class to come again next year. “We feel very strongly that our nurses need to learn how to care for veterans,” says Blad. “It doesn’t matter where they go or what hospital they serve in, as long as they’re within the United States, they’re going to be caring for veteran patients.”

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Graduating from the Classroom to the Delivery Room

By Calvin Petersen

Perhaps more than anything, graduation is a time for questions. Those graduating ask questions like: Will I get more sleep now? What am I going to do with my life? Will I live where I want to? Will I find a job? Will I be any good at it?

Those who aren’t graduating yet ask: Will I get more sleep now? What am I going to do with my life? How can I be ready for graduation when it’s my turn? Will I be prepared for the real world?

Larissa Black, who graduated from the BYU College of Nursing last December, is evidence that some of these questions really do have answers.

The New Nurse on the Unit

Larissa is from Tomball, Texas, and has a pair of fake cowboy boots and a love of barbecue to prove it. After graduating and conquering the NCLEX, Larissa began her job as a labor and delivery nurse at the University of Utah Hospital.

“My patients come in pregnant and they leave with a baby. That’s the best way to describe it,” says Larissa.

However, the transition from college student to full-time nurse hasn’t been as seamless as Larissa had hoped.

“Starting my career has been difficult because I feel like I’m trying to figure out a million things at once,” she says. Those million things include learning a charting system she’s never used before, remembering policies specific to her hospital and a long list of things to check for every patient. Larissa found that one of the best ways to take on her tasks is simply observing how others do it.

Larissa works closely with three nurses who take turns training her. “Everything always gets done,” she says, “but they go about it a little bit differently.” Seeing the nurses’ different methods for doing things gives Larissa the opportunity to decide for herself which practices are most effective and which ones aren’t. By taking the best practices together, Larissa will already have an efficient routine when she finishes her training.

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A Labor of Love (or a Love of Labor)

Since she sees people “at their worst” every day, Larissa has frequent opportunities to practice the Healer’s art and demonstrate compassion.

“The most important thing is to be kind and non-judgmental,” she says. “Besides the physical tasks of nursing, like hanging medications and taking vital signs, there is a side of nursing that’s about helping someone to heal emotionally and spiritually. It’s easy to forget that aspect, but remembering it is so important in helping people.”

It was out of a desire to help people that Larissa initially decided to become a nurse. She’s also fascinated with the human body and even watched ‘Untold Stories of the ER’ when she was younger.

“I was really lucky to be one of the few who knew what they wanted to do from the beginning,” she says. “I never had to change my major.”

Her passion for women’s health made labor and delivery a natural fit for Larissa. Of her experience in the L&D unit so far, she says, “I just love it, it’s amazing! And it never gets old. Every time I’m with a patient and am able to be there when she has her baby, it is 100 percent the coolest thing ever, every single time.”

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Reflections on Nursing School

Something Larissa wishes she would have done while still in school is work in a hospital part-time.

“I’ve noticed that my cohorts who worked as CNAs or phlebotomists or medical assistants in some aspect are much more comfortable with the way that hospitals and clinics run because they’ve been there. They’re already used to it, so when they graduate they’re just stepping up into a different role.”

Nevertheless, one of the most valuable experiences Larissa had at BYU was working as a TA in the simulation lab. Each semester she set up and administered simulation labs, as well as voiced the manikins during simulations.

“That helped me in so many ways,” Larissa explains, “I saw simulations several times, so now if I ever have a patient who shows certain signs and symptoms, I’ll remember what to do.” Her job also led to lasting friendships with faculty and peers.

When asked what she does for fun outside of work, Larissa laughed and said, “Sleeping.” Apparently, even after the stress of homework and finals are long gone, sleep is still a rare commodity.

Larissa doesn’t have all the answers and still isn’t sure what her future holds. However, she’s never forgotten what her capstone preceptor often said, “Larissa! Slow down. You don’t have to walk that fast.” This response to Larissa’s constant power-walking to and from patient rooms has become a mantra for her life. “Just slow down,” Larissa says, “It’s okay. Take a deep breath, everything is fine. Eat a snack if you need a snack. Take care of yourself and then go take care of others.”

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The Glory of Nursing

By Jonathan Schroeder

When people ask me what I do for work, I tell them that my job is to make nursing students look good. What I don’t tell them is that sometimes I wonder why they pay me to do it (or anyone else for that matter).

During my six months working for the college of nursing media team, I’ve met some extraordinary people. I’ve met a senior who somehow found time to study for anatomy midterms while prepping for a rugby national championship. I’ve chatted with an alumni mom who’s also a body-builder who can dead-lift twice my body weight and I’ve marveled at students who have graced the dancefloors with the likes of BYU Vocal Point and Studio C.

But probably the most baffling thing about all of this is that as awesome as these students are, not very many of them are willing to talk about it. Because in addition to being super smart, super involved, and super kind, most nursing students are also super humble and super modest. In other words, they don’t like to talk about themselves. This was easily the hardest and sometimes the most frustrating part of my job. Some days I’d feel like a detective, sleuthing for clues to new blog stories I could put up. Others days I felt like a police interrogator, trying to get nursing students to fess up to cool experiences they had. “But it’s nothing that special,” I’d hear time and time again.

(If you’re ever curious as to how I found out about the above-mentioned stories, let’s just say it’s amazing what you can find out from a five-minute conversation with the folks in the advisement center.)

Now I realize that not everyone likes broadcasting their story to the world and nobody likes being that one person who only talks about themselves. But I feel like there’s a way to be modest and still celebrate yourself.

Now before I get into this, I need to disclose something. I hate talking and writing about myself. I hate being interviewed and I’m my own worst critic. Fortunately, as a Communications major, I spend a lot more time writing other people’s stories instead my own, otherwise I’d be unemployed. So for those of you who don’t like “tooting your own horn,” please know that I’m more sympathetic to your cause than this article might make it sound. That being said, I wanted to share something with you that has changed my perspective about my own self-worth and accomplishments.

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In 1942, CS Lewis gave a famous sermon entitled “The Weight of Glory.” You might have heard it quoted in conference talks or BYU devotionals a few times. In the sermon, Lewis talks about how “glory,” specifically “desiring our own good and earnestly hoping for the enjoyment of it,” isn’t a bad thing.

A lot of times when we think about the word “glory”, we see it in a negative context of self-aggrandizement, of focusing only on ourselves and our own achievements. But in the closing remarks of his sermon, Lewis says that glory is not only a positive trait, but a divine one.

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“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship…All day long we are helping each other to this destination. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and circumspection proper to them that we should conduct all our dealings with one another…There are no ordinary people.”

Now it’s easy to take this quote and think about others; but how often do we apply this quote to ourselves? How often do we consider ourselves as a possible god or goddess? How often do we remember that, no matter how unimportant we feel our own contributions or actions may be, that “there are no ordinary people”? Furthermore, how often do we stop to consider how our own stories and experiences might inspire the potential gods and goddesses around us?

“Perfect humility, dispenses with modesty,” Lewis says. “If God is satisfied with the work, the work may be satisfied with itself.” Obviously there’s a point where recognizing our own accomplishments can turn humility into pride; but I would suggest (at least in the case of most Nursing/BYU students that I’ve met) that most of us tend to sell ourselves short more often than not.

Matthew 5: 14-16 says that, “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

Senior woman is visited by her doctor or caregiver

Through my time working at the College of Nursing, I have become convinced that BYU Nursing students are among the brightest lights on this campus –not only to their fellow students at this University, but also to the world. Their stories have the potential to change lives and inspire others to come unto Christ, as they embody “The Healer’s Art.” My hope and prayer is that they will not only embrace this destiny, but that they will not be afraid to take a few moments to “glory” in the wonderful people that they are and the glorious beings they will become.