July 26, 2016

5 Ways To Lower Your Blood Pressure

Learning you have high blood pressure can be overwhelming. There are so many ways to lower it, and you might be unsure what advice to follow. Make an appointment with a CHI St. Joseph Health physician to form a plan for your health. Ask your doctor if these five unique ways to lower your blood pressure could be right for you!

  1. Try the DASH Diet

One way of lowering your blood pressure is to change your eating habits. The DASH diet offers a helpful model for eating to manage your blood pressure. DASH stands for “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.” The DASH diet contains less red meat, salt and sweets compared to the average American diet. Rather than fatty, sugary foods, opt for fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products. Kuy Houser, MD, primary care physician at CHI St. Joseph Health Primary Care Barron Road, advises, “Be mindful of what you eat, and try substituting healthier foods in place of desserts or fatty snacks.” Try low-fat yogurt and berries in place of ice cream, and enjoy some whole-wheat crackers instead of potato chips. Keeping a food diary, in which you write down when and what you eat, is a great way to stay dedicated to the DASH diet.shutterstock_380098870

  1. Have a Good Laugh

Laughter could really be the best medicine! Studies show that laughing regularly increases “good cholesterol,” namely HDL, while also decreasing stress hormones and artery inflammation. Negative stress increases blood pressure, and laughing is a great way to combat stress and get that blood pressure back down. Laughter improves blood circulation and increases your intake of oxygen. Watch a funny movie or find some good jokes to have a hearty laugh every day!

  1. Quit

Each time you smoke a cigarette, your blood pressure increases. Luckily, within weeks of quitting, your blood pressure can return to normal. Although quitting can be difficult, it’s definitely worth it! Smoking hurts your body in many ways, including increasing your chances for lung cancer and heart disease, so quitting is vital. You might experience both physical and mental urges after you quit, making you want a cigarette. Fight these urges by keeping yourself occupied; spend time in conversation with nonsmokers or try snacking on low-fat foods. If you’re having trouble, ask your doctor for help.

  1. Mellow Out

Lowering your stress levels can also lower your blood pressure. Decide on simple goals to begin relaxing more. For instance, every time you find yourself thinking negatively, turn it around for the positive. Instead of thinking “I can’t do this” or “I’ll never get this right,” remind yourself that you’ll try your best and take it one step at a time. Repeat a positive phrase, like “I can do this” or “I won’t let this get me down,” every morning and evening. Another way to destress involves diffusing stressful situations. When you’re stressed, annoyed or anxious, count to 10 and take deep breaths before speaking. If need be, walk away from a stressful situation until you’re better able to handle it. For long-term relaxation, try something new– painting, meditation, yoga or reading are all good options. Consider taking a course in whatever helps you relax, whether it’s tai chi or tennis.

  1. Start a Relationship

Forming a relationship with your doctor is essential to lowering your blood pressure. At every appointment, ask about your blood pressure and discuss any struggles or questions you have with your doctor. Think about what stands in your way of having lower blood pressure. Is it finding the time to exercise, quitting smoking, remembering to take your medicine? Whatever it is, be honest with your doctor and, together, you can build a plan to successfully lower your blood pressure.


There are countless ways to lower your blood pressure. Be certain you consult a physician to find the right methods for your body. Make an appointment with a CHI St. Joseph Health physician today to discover what works for you.



AHA – Prevention & Treatment of High Blood Pressure

AHA – Managing Blood Pressure with a Heart-Healthy Diet

AHA – Humor helps your heart? How?

Go Red for Women – Stress Relievers

AHA – Dealing with Urges to Smoke

AHA – The Rewards of Quitting

AHA – Four Ways to Deal with Stress

AHA – Keeping High Blood Pressure Under Control

AHA – Medications and Blood Pressure


June 27, 2016

What You Need to Know To Stay Healthy in College

Preparing for college may seem overwhelming. Sometimes your health is pushed to the back burner when you’re busy shopping for your dorm room and registering for your first semester. However, staying healthy doesn’t have to be stressful. These tips will help you integrate healthy habits into your busy schedule!

Keep Active

Your body requires about two and a half hours of exercise every week to stay fit. Exercise is important because it decreases your chances of some health conditions, including high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and depression. Making smart choices, like taking the stairs and riding your bike, is a simple way to stay active year round. Many colleges have intramural sports teams and free exercise classes for students. This summer, research what your college has to offer and pick an activity to participate in.

Practice Healthy Eating

The infamous “Freshman Fifteen” isn’t always a myth. Access to all-you-can-eat cafeterias, vending machines, and late night fast food joints make it easy to overindulge. Be conscious of your food consumption. Jennifer Bhavsar, MD, physician at CHI St. Joseph Health Primary Care South College Station, shares her advice for healthy eating in college. “Eat slowly so you recognize when your body is full and avoid snacking on fatty, sugary foods. Instead, opt for fresh fruits and vegetables for the majority of your meals.” Don’t forget that sodas and alcohol contain calories. Rather than load up on liquid calories, choose water to stay hydrated. Over the summer, try fruits and veggies you’ve never tasted and find your favorites. Brainstorm some healthy snacks to keep on hand in your dorm room.

Check Your Vaccinations

Most colleges stipulate that students living on campus must have certain vaccinations, particularly the meningitis shot. Contact your school’s housing department and find out their requirements. In Texas, all college students are required to receive a bacterial meningitis vaccination unless they meet specific criteria for exemption. Visit your doctor during the summer months to be sure you have all the vaccinations you need. Schedule an appointment today before the end-of-summer rush.

Snag Some Zzz’s

College students need approximately seven to nine hours of sleep every night, although it can vary depending on the person. Balancing studying with sleep and a social life can be a struggle. Try to schedule studying for earlier in the evening, and avoid starting an assignment at the last minute. With about eight hours of sleep under your belt, you will feel more energetic and focused. If you’re sleep deprived, you may struggle to concentrate or make decisions. Lack of sleep may even make driving difficult. Be aware of your body and don’t drive when you aren’t feeling rested. Before school starts in the fall, develop good sleep habits and make sure you start your semester off right!

Mental Health Matters

Approximately 7% of young adults suffer from depression. For some college students, academic and social stresses can prompt mental health issues, including anxiety and depression. While both depression and anxiety can be normal emotions when experienced for short periods, clinical depression and anxiety disorders can be serious. Pay attention to how you’re feeling. If you are uncontrollably worried or sad, consider visiting your school’s mental health center. The summer before college begins, familiarize yourself with the mental health resources on your campus, including counseling and stress relief events.

Make an appointment with a CHI St. Joseph Health physician to make sure you’re ready to start a healthy semester this fall. Find the perfect doctor for your needs with our Physician Finder.




CDC – Six Tips for College Health and Safety

CDC – College Health & Safety

June 17, 2016

Tips for Getting Your Child Ready to Go Back to School

Summer vacation will be over before you know it, and the time it takes to get ready to go back to school will take over steadfast. Statistically, parents who play an active role in their children’s education make a huge difference in their success. It’s a good idea to take your child in for a sports physical and routine checkup well before school starts to ensure everything goes smoothly.Screen Shot 2016-06-15 at 1.44.21 PM


The Importance of Sports Physicals

The sports physical exam, also known as the preparticipation physical examination (PPE) is performed to:

  • Find out if your child is in good health
  • Measure the maturity of his or her body
  • Measure physical fitness
  • Learn about current injuries
  • Find conditions that may have been present at birth which could lead to injury

Most states require a sports physical before children and teens can play. Usually your child’s physical will take place either at school or at a doctor’s office. It involves several steps, including a thorough family medical history, blood pressure test, pulse reading, vision test, and a check of your child’s whole body. While the doctor’s examination is important, the family medical history is even more essential. Neal Spears, MD, pediatrician at CHI St. Joseph Health Pediatrics South College Station, says, “The family medical history plays a vital role showing your doctor what issues your child might be predisposed to, including sudden cardiac death. In fact, it has been shown in good studies that family history is more important than the physical exam! Both of the child’s parents should fill out the form in as much detail as possible.”

After you’ve completed the medical history and the examination, the doctor might ask your child some questions. For girls, doctors may want to know about her period and diet. Teenaged girls who play sports sometimes develop Female Athlete Triad, an umbrella term for three conditions. Female Athlete Triad involves an irregular or absent period, disordered eating, and osteoporosis or a weakening of the bones. Dedicated female athletes may be diagnosed with Female Athlete Triad after they have altered their training and diet to be stricter or more intense. It’s important for your daughter to be open with her doctor to prevent Female Athlete Triad from becoming a problem due to the risk of developing early osteoporosis if it is not corrected.

Once a sports physical is performed, the doctor can give advice on how to protect your child from injury while playing a sport and how to safely play with a medical condition or chronic illness. For example, if your child has asthma, he or she may need a change in medicine to better control it while playing sports. Occasionally, the doctor might send your child to a specialist for a follow up appointment. A specialist can address issues discovered at the initial PPE in further detail. However, be advised that sports physicals don’t take the place of medical care or routine checkups.


Why Do We Need Vaccines?

School-age children, from preschool to college students, all need vaccines. To keep children in schools healthy, most schools require up-to-date immunization records, and you may be asked to provide paperwork showing that your child has all the necessary shots and vaccines.

Making sure your children stay up to date with vaccinations is the best way to protect your communities and schools from outbreaks that can cause unnecessary illnesses and deaths. If you’re unsure of your child’s school requirements, now is the time to check with your child’s doctor, your child’s school, or your health department.

Request an appointment with CHI St. Joseph Health for a physical and vaccinations before the end-of-summer rush. Wellness checks, vaccines, and all preventative care are required to be covered with no copay or deductible for all insurances in the United States that do not have a specific religious exemption.






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