Friday, September 27, 2013

Fighting Hypertension and Supporting Cardiovascular Health Through Haiku

I have been working with various types of stress relief therapies to lower my blood pressure and reduce hypertension, including diet, cardio, medications and also short poetry.  If you notice, this site has a new tab entitled "One Breath Poetry".  Enjoy the nature centered haiku and other short poems, all of which are a reflection of my search for peace and health.


quiet confidence
realizing self worth comes
from within one's heart 
Bald Eagle
Haliaeetus leucocephalus
Flagler County, FL, September 2013

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Renal and Aorta Dissection in Marfan Syndrome. Color Doppler Views.

For those of you interested in color doppler photos of a dissected renal artery and aorta, these are my latest, taken a couple weeks ago.
Color doppler showing blood flow through my aorta #Marfan Syndrome #Dissected Aorta

Color on a doppler echogram represents the direction of blood flow.  As indicated by the legend bar on the upper right, red and the shades of red represent the velocity of blood moving towards the ultrasound transducer.  Oppositely, shades of blue ranging from light to dark reflect the speed of blood flowing away from the doppler unit.

In the photo above the blue represents blood flowing through the true aortic lumen ( the open, original aortic channel) while the redish orange colored section represents blood flowing back towards the ultrasound, or blood caught in the false lumen or channel and flowing back towards the doppler after being caught in the dead-end channel.

The false lumen is like a dead end street.  There is no outlet to the false lumen channel.  Blood flows into the false lumen through the tear in the inner most aortic wall layer called the intimal layer.
My aortic dissection, the torn intimal flap is easily seen crossing the inside diameter of the thoracic aorta
  The photo immediately above shows the ultrasound without doppler effects.  My aorta's false lumen is visible running directly through the middle of the channel.   This 'flap' you see is the section of my aorta torn away from the rest of the vessel.  

Blood flows through an open channel on one side.  The other side of the intimal flap though goes no where.  It is a dead end opening where blood flows in, then back out.

As long as the true lumen is open enough to provide adequate blood flow and the aorta wall does not aneuryze from loss of strength then the flow of blood to the body may still occur.

Another side view of the intimal flap inside my aorta.
Medications and diet can help control blood pressure and pulse rate.  The lower these variables are the more likely the blood flow can be managed.  My blood pressure averages 109/59 and I have a pulse rate of around 45 beats per minute.

The issue with my massive dissection is the fear of aneurysm or total blockage of blood flow.

Because renal artery dissection is one of the health problems I am dealing with, my hypochondria goes into high gear whenever I see blood in my urine.  Is my dissected renal artery aneurysing or bursting?

Doppler view of the flow through my left renal artery

 In fact, last month while visiting my parents in Tallahassee I started having lots of blood in my urine.  My wife, Judy took me to Tallahassee Memorial Emergency Room.  I honestly thought I was having an aneurysing renal artery because of the pain's location and the amount of blood.  Fortunately the blood was caused by a kidney stone. 

But living with constant fear, knowing one's aorta wall is compromised is a constant physical and mental challenge, one experienced by most of those struggling with Marfan Syndrome and other connective tissue disorder issues.

Doppler view of my right renal artery

Friday, September 13, 2013

Cardiac Arrhythmia and Marfan Syndrome, Socks and Gloves

Cold temperatures and I have never been fond of each other.  My heart too detests what the cold does to my circulatory system.
Touching cold objects causes my heart to beat wildly

With the Marfan Syndrome issues affecting my body, including extra height and long limbs, the heart inside has to work extra hard every moment just pump blood those extra long distances.  But when cold affects my fingers and toes my heart sometimes goes crazy trying to figure out how to handle pumping blood through now constricted blood vessels way out there in the fingers and toes.

To put it simply, when my fingers and toes become cold my heart sometimes starts racing or jumping around with crazy atrial fibrillation, also know as cardiac arrhythmia.

My simple solution for avoiding this type of heart fluttering lies in warm socks, a pair of soft comfy gloves and warm weather.

Its that easy for me to avoid certain types of cardiac arrhythmias.  Keep those toes and fingers warm.  Don't let them get cold.

Our body has certain reactions to cold.  One of the first things our body does when our peripheral temperature (temperature of toes, limbs, fingers, arms and ears) drops is to vaso-constrict blood vessels.  There is a good, brief explanation about cold and our body's cardiovascular system on the website.

An even more comprehensive and excellent brief, visually oriented website explaining the fundamentals of cardiovascular output and variables that can affect both blood pressure and heart rate is published by James Doohan and is a site I highly recommend.

As my curiosity concerning peripheral body temperature and arrhythmia grew, I wondered about my own body.

Judy says my fingers and toes are unusually cold and I agree.  I hate the cold weather or touching anything cold or jumping water.

So I measured my body temperature orally with our medicine thermometer.  The temperature in my mouth was 97.7 F, or 36.5 C.  My fingers and toes were so cool that the digital medicine thermometer could not determine the temperature.

Not to be thwarted I found the industrial infra-red digital thermometer I had in the garage, installed a new 9 volt battery and pointed the laser at my toes.  The readout told me why my feet felt like ice.  Toe temperature was a cool 74.4 F or 23.6 C.  My fingers were not much warmer at 76 F.  The house temperature was a pleasant 79 F while the outside temperature hovered in the mid 80's F.

For comparison I measured my wife's and children's peripheral body temperatures, though the teens thought I was crazy.

Judy's finger and toe temperatures were in the low 90's F.  The two marf teens, with their long limbs were more like me, with lower peripheral body temperatures.

These temperatures are no surprise to me because I know my heart has to pump blood extra long distances, all the while dealing with installed metal parts and foreign aortic components.  The old clicker is also stressed from multiple open heart surgeries, functioning well below normal output.

So when the fingers and toes get cold and the skin vessels constrict as they do naturally to conserve body heat, the heart has a harder job pumping blood.  At this point all the node chemicals and signals start to fire, diastolic pressure jumps and my heart attempts to increase output.

It is kind of like flooring the accelerator pedal in a car with an engine about to throw a rod.  Motor starts shaking, clanging, huffing and puffing and, well you get the picture.

Of course there are many causes of arrhythmia.

But because they are so frightening to me with my beat up heart and aorta, controlling one cause is important.  When  my heart  goes into erratic beat patterns I become concerned the dissected descending aorta will further aneuryze, dilate or even burst.

Fortunately warm comfortable socks, like those made for diabetic patients can moderate lower body peripheral temperatures and reduce the likelihood of signalling for increased cardiovascular output.  Gloves too address the same issue on the hands.

Avoiding cold weather is my big strategy.

But wherever you live, keeping peripheral body temperature fluctuations to a minimum might help you solve some of your afib or arrhythmia problems.  It is worth a try!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Morninga can be Deadly too. Plant Interactions with Medicines.

Seems lessons are always learned the hard way for me.  It is my own fault though.
Moringa oleifera, a very powerful herb that can cause bleeding
I had always read about the many benefits of the plant moringa, especially as a food and source of vitamins, minerals and nutrients.

In fact, moringa provides solutions to far more issue than just health.  The tree can remove pollution from water, grows easily where water is scarce and provides livestock with protein.

As a plant biologist, I've always munched on berries, leaves, nuts and fruit from plants in the garden and plants in the wild.  And I've never had a problem, until the other day after a week of eating a handful of moringa leaves each day.

Immediately after eating the moringa leaves I began feeling full of energy.  There is quite a bit of literature available pointing to how the phytochemicals in moringa can actually improve peripheral circulation.

But within a couple of days I began to urinate blood, lots of blood.

At first I thought I was passing another kidney stone.  It'd only been a couple weeks since I passed three very large stones and they did some serious damage on the way down, creating lots of blood flow with their razor sharp edges.

But the kidney stone damage cleared up within a couple of days.

After a week of urinating blood I began to think the problem at hand was not a kidney stone issue.

Then someone sent me a link to a website where the information suggested moringa could cause internal bleeding.  So I began to research moringa's effects on bleeding and clotting.  There are several quite complicated scientific papers on how moringa's chemical components can interfere with blood clotting.  After reading and rereading the medical terms I realized that the plant is actually a very powerful anti-coagulant and even an abortifacient.

So the morning habit of eating moringa leaves stopped.  And within a day there was no more blood in my urine.

The more I read and researched, the more I realized this plant is not a plant to be taken lightly when ingested for any reason.

Moringa was causing me to hemorrhage.  I was actually bleeding out internally.

Now before I would had scoffed if I had read this.  I would have said something to the effect of 'it was a fluke interaction with other medications', or 'actually something else and not moringa'.

But once you experience first hand the power, good or bad, of this plant, you stand in awe of it.

We have several moringa trees planted around the yard.  Now everytime I walk by one I shiver just a little.  The plant can be a blessing.  The plant can also be a monster.

Lesson learned the hard way.  Herbs, leaves and berries can be good.  They can also be deadly.