Wednesday, February 29, 2012

What have we learned about heart health? Part 2

  • Symptoms of peripheral vascular disease include painful cramping in legs and/or hips after activity (walking, climbing stairs), leg numbness or weakness, coldness or change in color of one  foot or leg (especially when other leg and foot is warmer),  sores on feet or legs that do not heal, hair loss or decreased amount of hair or growth rate of hair on legs and feet, no pulse or a weak pulse in legs or feet, toenails grow slower, erectile dysfunction in men.  Source:  Mayo Clinic, Peripheral Vascular Disease,
  •  Risk factors which we cannot change include our inherited genes, our age and what sex we are.
  • Risk factors which we can work with our doctor to improve include high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, and high blood sugar if we are diabetic. 
  • Healthy lifestyle habits include exercising, eating a healthy diet and adding fruits and vegetables into our diet, maintaining a normal weight, controlling how much alcohol we drink, and stopping smoking.  If you feel you need to improve some of your lifestyle behaviors, talk with your doctor and make a plan that you can work to improve your lifestyle. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

What have we learned about heart health?

February is coming to a close.   What have we learned about heart health? 

  •   Heart and cardiovascular disease rank as #1 cause of death for Americans, both men and women. 
  •    Classic symptoms of heart attack include chest pain (pressure or squeezing) discomfort that affects one or both arms, upper back, neck, jaw or stomach.  The person may sweat, feel unable to catch his breath, feel fatigued, nauseated and/or dizzy.  Both men and women can experience the classic symptoms.
  • Both men and women (but especially women) may suffer the subtle symptoms:  fatigue, feeling short of breath and feeling nauseated.   Please do not ignore if you or your loved one suffers these subtle symptoms.  Get medical help immediately for heart attack symptoms.
  • Symptoms of stroke include sudden weakness of an arm or leg, sudden confusion or difficulty speaking and comprehending what a person hears, sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes, sudden dizziness, difficulty walking or loss of balance, sudden severe headache (no known cause) Reference:  Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), Stroke Signs and Symptoms, 
  •    If you wonder if your loved one is experiencing a stroke, use the FAST test (see February 7, 2012 post) and get medical help immediately.

    More tomorrow.

Monday, February 27, 2012

What can we do to improve our heart health? Part 3

Add flossing to our toothbrush routine.  As we discussed last Friday, February 24, the experts believe gingivitis and its inflammation and infection contribute to heart disease.  See your dentist on a regular basis to help protect your teeth and gums. 

Should you be taking an aspirin daily?  Again, talk to your doctor before you begin taking any medications, prescription or over-the-counter.  Aspirins can cause problems such as stomach irritation and ulcers and bleeding in some people. 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

What can we do to improve our heart health? Add exercise to our days

Let’s add some physical activity to our days.  I have been taking my exercise clothes in my car every day.  Using the pretty striped bag my niece gave me, I carry exercise clothes and am prepared to stop at the gym.  David has been meeting me there after work; this has been a positive situation and we encourage each other to exercise.  This plan helps me get myself there for some type of exercise several times a week. 
What kind of exercise should we be doing?  Three types of exercise are recommended by the Arthritis Foundation:  range of motion, strengthening and aerobic exercises. 
Range of motions exercises involve gentle stretching and moving joints through their normal range of motion.  Range of motion exercises include yoga and tai chi for arthritis.  Strengthening exercises helps our muscles be strong and support our joints.  Strengthening includes light weights and weight machines.  Aerobic exercise strengthens a person’s heart and lungs.  Some gentle-to-joint aerobic exercises include walking, swimming and bicycling.  Arthritis Foundation, Types of Exercise,
If you have not been active, please talk to your doctor before you begin an exercise program.  After you get your doctor’s approval, start slow and increase gradually so you build your body, not cause pain and injury.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

What can we do to improve our heart health? Eat more fruits and vegetables

What preventive/healthy choices can we add to our lives to prevent/delay the onset of heart disease?
Let’s begin by adding 5 servings of fruits and vegetables to our daily food intake.  Colorful vegetables and fruits bring important antioxidants called flavonoids and carotenoids.  Anti-oxidants (another fairly recent topic of discussion) are substances which our bodies use to protect itself from free radicals.  What are free radicals?  My medical dictionary calls them “unstable compounds whose behavior is characterized by rapid reactions.  Free radicals are often blamed for such physical phenomena as cell degeneration and malfunction.  Their full role in physical health is not understood.”  

What does all that mean?  If we add colorful fruits and vegetables to our daily diet, we give our bodies more substances our bodies can use to repair damage and heal injuries.  Now I struggle with this one also.  Even though I like fruits and vegetables, I do not always eat enough.  We have been making an effort to add fruits and vegetables to our diet.  I invite you to join me in this simple life-style change of eating more fruits and vegetables. 

Friday, February 24, 2012

Heart Lifestyle risk factors--inflammation, gingivitis and heart disease

Another source of inflammation which can contribute to inflammation and heart disease is gingivitis (gum disease)  Large numbers of people do not floss daily.  When we brush our teeth, usually we cannot get between our teeth adequately and clear out the food particles and germs that take up residence there.  Dentists recommend flossing daily; it takes a tiny amount of time.  

 If your teeth are close together like mine, you may find Glide floss easier to use.  The American Dental Hygienist’ Association tells us how to floss properly:  Using 18 inches of floss, wrap it around fingers and use index fingers to guide the floss between teeth.  Guide the floss gently between teeth using a zig-zag motion; don’t snap floss between teeth. “Slide floss up and down against the tooth surface and under the gumline.  Floss each tooth thoroughly with a clean section of floss.”  

 If you notice bleeding of your gums, you may be dealing with gingivitis and gum disease.  Make an appointment with your dentist and follow up on the health of your teeth and gums. 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Interview with Southeast Missourian newspaper

I just interviewed with a writer from the Southeast Missourian newspaper this evening.  We discussed my new book, Caregiver’s Guide:  Care for Yourself While You Care for Your Loved Ones and my upcoming book signing on March 2, 2012 from 4-6pm at the Tuscan Sun Restaurant at Saint Francis Medical Center in Cape Girardeau, MO.  Thank you to Administration and the marketing department (everyone involved) for this fine gift.    

I invite everyone to join us for this event.