How do they decide whether a steak is Prime or Choice?

diceIt won’t satisfy your curiosity about just what kind of meat you’re eating to learn that the decisions about gradations are, when it comes right down to it, quite subjective. Government inspectors (the only ones permitted to make such decisions) rate the meat right at the slaughterhouse, an entire cow at a time. The overriding factors are color and amount of marble. The brighter the meat and the more tiny flecks of fat, the higher the grade. The quality, after which come the categories of Choice, Good, and Ungraded. No fixed standards exist, however, and decisions vary depending on how a particular inspector feels. If he has indigestion from too much steak the night before, it might have some bearing on what lands on your own table.

Ever wonder why bruises turn black and blue?

Brain openingA bruise is caused by a blow that is hard enough to break the tiny blood vessels under the skin. This causes blood to seep into surrounding areas where it can no longer get the oxygen that was supplied through the blood vessels. Since it is oxygen that gives blood its red color, this oxygen-deprived blood now turns blue. Any part of this blue blood that is seen through pink or reddened skin will appear black, thus giving bruises their black and blue appearance.

Human Hair Fun Facts

20 ThingsYour scalp has 100,000 hairs.

Redheads have 90,000; black-haired people, 110,000.

Head hair grows about 5 inches a year.

Humans are as hairy per square inch as chimps but don’t show it, since most hairs are too fine to be seen.

Individual hairs live anywhere from 2 to 7 years (eyebrow hair 3 to 5 months).

An adult human head weighs more or less 8 pounds, even without hair.

Hair analysis is like a fossil record. It can reveal drug use, nutritional habits, and many aspects of your health. It cannot reveal gender.

Is Big Mac’s Secret Sauce a Big Secret?

Film ReelsA few definitions are in order. To the processed- food biz, French dressing is a thin, pourable mayonnaise with a little tomato paste thrown in for color. Add chopped pickle to French dressing, and you have Thousand Island dressing. Add chopped bell pepper instead, and you have a blend of Russian dressing.

The Big Mac Secret Sauce plainly has a mayonnaise-type base. That is to say, it probably contains vegetable oil, water, vinegar, and egg yolk. Most mayonnaise also contains sugar. The Secret Sauce is the color of French dressing, but it contains chopped solids. If you scoop up a glob of the Secret Sauce and wash off the recognizable by the thin green skins adhering to white interiors. McDonald’s may claim the exact composition of the sauce to be a secret, but it appears to be well within the conventional definition of Thousand Island dressing. In fact, the color of the Secret Sauce is a dead ringer for Kraft Thousand Island Dressing. For what it’s worth, Kraft’s list of ingredients reads: “Soybean oil, water, sugar, tomato paste, chopped pickle, vinegar, egg yolk, salt, mustard, flour, propylene glycol alginate, dehydrated onion, spice, calcium disodium EDTA to protect flavor, natural flavor.”

According to McDonald’s employees, corporate policy dictates exactly where the sauce is flopped onto the sandwich. There are thirteen layers in a Big Mac, two of them being dollops of Secret Sauce. The stacking order runs as follows: top bun, onions, meat, pickles, lettuce, Secret Sauce, middle bun, onions, meat, cheese, lettuce, Secret Sauce, bottom bun.

Why should I care about high blood pressure?

High blood pressure may cause damage to vital organs over time. Brain damage causes a stroke. Heart damage causes a heart attack. And kidney damage causes kidney failure. High blood pressure may also damage the eyes and blood vessels, causing weakening of the blood vessel walls. If a blood vessel wall balloons out, this is called an aneurysm.  Aneurysms may break and bleeding can happen.

nurse taking blood pressure

What causes high blood pressure?

The blood pressure is determined by the amount of squeeze created by the circular smooth muscle of the blood vessels, by the speed at which the heart beats, and by the volume inside the blood vessels made up by the blood. The blood pressure will go up if there is too much squeeze from the blood vessels. It will also go up if there is excess volume in the circulation. And it will go up if the heart is stimulated to beat faster or stronger.

Adrenaline, the “fight or flight” hormone, causes the heart to beat faster and the blood vessels to squeeze tighter. Therefore, too much adrenaline, as is the case with stress, can cause the blood pressure to go up.

table salt

Table salt has sodium. Sodium holds on to water. So, the sodium inside blood vessels will hold on to water. This increased volume will make the blood pressure go up.

Hardening of the arteries happens with aging. It comes sooner in life if you smoke. Hardening of the arteries contributes to a high blood pressure.

How common is high blood pressure?

There are over 60 million Americans with hypertension. Hypertension affects Blacks and Hispanics disproportionately more than Whites.

How is high blood pressure diagnosed?

First, the blood pressure has to be measured. This is best done with the patient sitting and an adequately measured blood pressure cuff placed around an arm. This is usually done in the doctor’s office. But it may also be done at a pharmacy, fire station, or by purchasing a blood pressure cuff at any pharmacy.

heart pressure monitor

There are two numbers in any blood pressure measurement. The top number is called the systolic blood pressure. The bottom number is called the diastolic blood pressure.

If the systolic blood pressure is 140 mmHg or more, the blood pressure is considered to be high. If the diastolic blood pressure is 90 mmHg or more, the blood pressure is considered to be high. If either the systolic blood pressure or the diastolic blood pressure remains elevated over time, then the diagnosis of hypertension is made.

heart pressure

Can high blood pressure be prevented?

Persistently elevated high blood pressure, which is called hypertension, is genetically programmed. It is not possible to prevent it. But the clinical onset of hypertension may be significantly delayed by keeping slim and avoiding the use of excess salt in the meal plan.

heart health foods

How is high blood pressure treated?

High blood pressure is always treated by the right meal and physical activity choices. Eating more fresh fruits and vegetables, avoiding added salt, and eating less canned or processed foods is very important. These food choices limit salt intake.

Regular physical activity limits the amount of body fat and makes it easier to move. Regular physical activity also helps keep the blood vessels healthy, which in turn keeps the blood pressure down.

Persistently elevated blood pressure readings, despite a healthy lifestyle, warrants treatment with medications. Medications to lower the blood pressure may be used individually or in combinations of individual drugs.

It is very important to note that there is tremendous benefit in lowering the blood pressure with medications. This benefit is far greater than any potential risks of medications.

blood pressure reading

Recommended action steps 

The most important single step to take is to measure the blood pressure. This should be done not once, but regularly over the course of your life. Awareness of a high blood pressure is the very first step to take. This is especially important if other people in the family have a high blood pressure.

Additionally, if you are an adult with high blood pressure, you should teach your children the importance of checking their blood pressure regularly. You should check it at your local pharmacy, fire station, or consider investing in a home unit. The pharmacist can recommend an appropriate home blood pressure unit for you. The key is to check it regularly and write the number down for your doctor to review at all of your visits.

Make sure you have a general medical examination once per year and more frequently if directed by your doctor.

Following a healthy meal plan and taking medications as prescribed are crucial to prevent complications of high blood pressure over time.

High blood pressure has been called a silent killer. Often it is the heart attack or stroke that is the first sign of trouble. Prevention is key when it comes to high blood pressure!


Charles E. Crutchfield III, MD is a board certified dermatologist and Clinical Professor of Dermatology at the University of Minnesota Medical School. He also has a private practice in Eagan, MN. He has been selected as one of the top 10 dermatologists in the U.S. by Black Enterprise magazine and one of the top 21 African American physicians in the U.S. by the Atlanta Post. Dr. Crutchfield is an active member of the Minnesota Association of Black Physicians,

J. Michael Gonzalez-Campoy, MD, Ph.D, FACE, Mayo Clinic Graduate, is Medical Director and CEO of the Minnesota Center for Obesity, Metabolism and Endocrinology in Eagan, Minnesota and past president of the Minnesota Medical Association.