Heart Health for the Entire Family

As the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States, heart disease is commonly discussed with the older, adult population. However, the conditions that lead to heart disease are happening at younger ages causing heart disease to develop in younger adults increasingly more often. Heart care and prevention is important for everyone. Being aware of what causes heart disease, while also developing heart healthy habits with your family, are both great forms of defense.

What can you do to take control?

Make heart-healthy choices in your diet. Diets high in trans-fat, saturated fat, and added sugar increase the risk for heart disease. Sodium (or salt) increases blood pressure, and most Americans eat too much of it, including children. Pay attention to the nutrition labels on food packaging. A food’s sodium content is something that is clearly listed. By replacing foods high in sodium with fresh fruits and vegetables, you can help lower your blood pressure. In fact, only 1 in 10 adults is getting enough fruits and vegetables each day.

Other helpful ideas to use with children include focusing on the quality of what your child is eating and that they eat until they are full. In other words, no clean-plate club. Quality over quantity. Remember to use kid-sized portions. A good rule to keep in mind is one tablespoon of food per age of the child for each meal option (about two or three foods). It’s also good to serve one meal for your entire family. Plan meals to include at least one thing that everyone likes. Try healthier options for celebrations, and instead of rewarding children with food, give verbal praise or hugs for good behavior. Finally, if you have some particularly picky eaters, get creative to make fruits and vegetables fun. Try using unsweetened raisins or small pieces of fruit to make faces on healthy foods.

Stay active. Physical activity helps keep the heart and blood vessels healthy. Yet, only 1 in 5 adults meets the physical activity guidelines of getting 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity activity. In fact, more than 1 in 3 American adults – and nearly 1 in 6 under the age of 18 is obese. Carrying around this extra weight puts stress on the heart. It can also contribute to more serious conditions like diabetes. This disease causes sugar to build up in the blood, causing damage to blood vessels and nerves that help control the heart muscle. Simply taking an evening walk as a family or playing an active game together in the back yard each night can help everyone meet their daily cardio goal.

Don’t smoke. Smoking damages blood vessels in our body and can cause heart disease. Despite the decades of health warnings, smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. More than 37 million U.S. adults currently smoke on a regular basis, and thousands of young people start smoking every day. If you don’t smoke – fabulous! Don’t start and be sure to talk with your older children about the dangers of smoking as well. If you do smoke, learn more about our smoking cessation services. Quitting smoking takes a lot of emotional energy and can be very stressful. Let our qualified staff help develop an individualized quitting plan.

Be consistent in managing any current health conditions. Millions of Americans (of all ages) have high blood pressure, and about half don’t have it under control. Having uncontrolled high blood pressure is one of the biggest risks for heart disease, as well as other harmful conditions including stroke. Work with your healthcare team to manage conditions such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Be honest and work together with your provider. Take medications as prescribed.

Heart disease can often be prevented when people make healthy choices and manage their health conditions. By making some simple changes to your family diet and exercise habits, you can help keep your family on the heart-healthy track. Set attainable goals and try to be consistent. Modeling these behaviors will also help your kids form these great habits. When communities, health professionals, and families work together, living heart healthy is possible.

 

Medical Associates is proud to provide advanced heart care that’s close to home. All of our cardiologists are board certified and bring many years of exceptional cardiac care to the community, making it the most complete and up-to-date cardiology program in the Tri-State area. Medical Associates also offers the only cardiothoracic surgeons in the area, and we have the experience and expertise to perform a full array of complex surgeries and techniques. These departments work closely with Internal Medicine, Gastroenterology, and others to provide comprehensive medical management, diagnosis, and treatment of patients.

 

Sources:
cdc.gov/features/heartmonth
Heart.org
healthfinder.org
uwhealth.org

Seasonal affective disorder: feeling down when the temperatures drop

Do you start feeling down in the winter months? You aren’t alone. Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, presents as a variety of depression-like symptoms caused by your body getting out of its biological rhythm. Winter-onset SAD (the most common type) results from your body “losing its bearings” during the period of reduced daylight. Without sunlight to give your hormones a clue about the natural dawn-dusk cycle, your body’s chemical levels become unbalanced.

Especially if your work routine means arriving at and leaving the office when it’s dark outside, your body may be producing too much melatonin or too little serotonin, hormones involved in your body’s sleep-wake cycle. This kind of imbalance produces the slew of possible symptoms:

  • Fatigue and drop in energy levels
  • A tendency to oversleep
  • Change in appetite, like cravings
  • Weight gain
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability and anxiety
  • Antisocial behavior
  • Heightened sensitivity to social rejection
  • Lack of interest in normal activities
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Physical problems, like headaches

While 10 to 20 percent of people in the United States suffer some SAD symptoms (called the “winter blues”), only four to six percent of people meet all the criteria of SAD diagnoses. SAD is more common in women than in men and generally shows in people at least 20 years of age. The risk increases for adults with age or for those that live in regions where winters are long and harsh.

Luckily, there are ways to combat SAD. Melatonin supplements and light therapy (intentionally exposing yourself to more sunlight) are ways of treating SAD. Melatonin is the hormone that your body starts producing when it gets dark in order to prepare you for sleep. Ensuring that your melatonin levels rise and fall on the proper timeline can offset SAD. Light therapy involves using daylight-simulating devices for certain periods of time each day to reach the same goal, and exposure to actual sunlight will do this naturally.

Antidepressants may also be used in some cases, as many antidepressant medications, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), work by helping to restore serotonin hormone balance.

If you have concerns about seasonal affective disorder or believe you are experiencing symptoms, be sure to discuss it with your health care provider. Visit our website or call (563) 584-3000 to schedule an appointment with Medical Associates today.

Note: SAD may share many symptoms with major depression or dysthymia. Call a doctor IMMEDIATELY if you are experiencing suicidal thoughts.

24-hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1 (800) 273-8255
Medical Associates 24-hour HELP Nurse: 1 (800) 325-7442

 

 

Source links:
Mayo Clinic
American Academy of Family Physicians
National Institute of Mental Health

Heart Failure and the Importance of Staying Active, even in the Winter Months

Young trainer helping senior woman in aqua aerobics. Senior retired woman staying fit by aqua aerobics in swimming pool. Happy old woman stretching in swimming pool with young trainer.

When thinking of things that are bad for your health, sitting isn’t often the first thing that comes to mind. However, inactivity or sitting for extended periods of time can be harmful to your health. It is especially harmful to those with heart failure. But when many feel cooped up during these winter months, how can you stay as active? Karena A. Sauser, DNP ARNP, from the Cardiology Department at Medical Associates shares more on the importance of staying active and tips to do it safely in the winter months.

For a patient with heart failure, difficulty breathing and fatigue resulting in diminished exercise tolerance are among the main factors that contribute to decreased social and physical functionality and quality of life. Exercise is a safe, non-pharmacological intervention in stable patients with heart failure. Along with medical therapy, exercise has positive effects on both morbidity and quality of life. Remember to speak with your healthcare provider before starting any form of exercise.

Some patients with heart failure may qualify for cardiac rehab. During cardiac rehab, exercise occurs under supervision with monitoring of blood pressure, heart rate, and heart rhythm. The added responsibility of showing up for appointments gives cardiac rehab patients more motivation to exercise. Cardiac Rehab Programs are offered in the following regional locations: Mercy-Dubuque, Maquoketa, Independence, Anamosa, and Manchester in Iowa; Galena in Illinois; and Darlington, Dodgeville, Boscobel, Lancaster, and Prairie Du Chien in Wisconsin.

However, if your provider tells you it is okay, it is also acceptable to exercise on your own. Just remember to start slow and gradually increase the length and intensity of your workout. You can start with 5-10 minutes/day at a slow pace and increase time and speed as you get stronger. An ideal goal for patients with mild to moderate heart failure is to exercise at least 150 minutes per week (30 minutes 5 days/week or 20-25 minutes daily). It is best to pick activities that you enjoy and are low-impact, such as walking, biking, or swimming. It is important to have a five minute warm-up/stretching period and five minute cool-down/stretching period. Avoid abruptly stopping exercise or immediately sitting or laying down after exercise to prevent dizziness or lightheadedness. It is also important to exercise year-round, even during the bitter cold of winter. If fitness centers are not an option or do not fit into your budget, there are many other heated places to exercise as the weather turns cold. You can always walk in churches, shopping malls, bigger “boxy” stores (like Wal-mart), or at the Mystique ice arena on the upper deck.

When in doubt, remember to follow these tips to exercise safely with heart failure:

  • Avoid exercises that require or encourage holding your breath.
  • Wait at least one hour after eating to exercise.
  • Avoid exercises or actions that require short bursts of energy (interval training).
  • Exercise when you have the most energy. For most heart failure patients, this is in the morning.
  • Think about exercising with a friend or family member. This can make it more enjoyable and social. It also keeps you more accountable/committed.
  • You should be able to talk while you exercise. If not, then you are probably exercising too hard and need to slow down.
  • The day after exercise, you may feel more tired. It is important to balance activity and rest.
  • Avoid exercising in extreme weather conditions. Find safe spaces to exercise that are between 40 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit and under 80% humidity.
  • Avoid exercise when you are not feeling well, have a fever, or your heart failure symptoms are not controlled.

One of the most important ways people with heart failure can maintain their sense of well-being is to stay active. The impact of movement, even leisurely movement, can be profound. Remember to speak with your healthcare provider before starting any form of exercise. Window shopping the mall aisles with a friend, roaming your local museum or art gallery, or stretching and doing some light exercises throughout your daily tasks at home are a few great ways to stay active during the cold months. It all helps burn calories, increase your energy, maintain muscle tone, as well as improve your mental well-being, especially as you age.

 

Sauser_Karena_2017_ultipro

Karena A. Sauser, DNP ARNP
Department of Cardiology
Medical Associates Clinic

 

 

 

New Year’s Resolutions: Start Small and Have a SMART Plan

Are New Year’s resolutions on the brain? Do you swear you are going to complete your goal this year?  Self-awareness and improvement are great for overall mental and physical health. But according to the New York Times, one-third of those working toward resolutions don’t make it past the end of January. So what is the problem? Studies show that many of these commitments fail because they are too vague, unrealistic, or it wasn’t your idea in the first place. The trick is to make the right goals.

It’s a wonderful idea to have goals for the New Year. They just need to be smart, or S.M.A.R.T. – the acronym devised from the journal of Management Review for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound goals. Does this sound familiar? Businesses use it all over the country as an employee performance tool. But it is also a great way to set your New Year’s resolutions.

Specific. Saying something vague like, “I want to lose weight” or “get fit” isn’t going to cut it.  Your resolution should be precise. How much weight do you want to lose? How are you planning to lose the weight? Do you have a deadline for yourself? Think about all the particulars and write them down to be more effective.

Measurable. While it’s easier to track things with numbers like weight or fitness, other goals can be measured by logging your progress or taking photos. Sometimes there are even apps to track different behaviors and encourage progress. Resolutions such as getting more sleep, consuming less sugar, walking so many steps in a day – these can all be measured if you set up a system to do it ahead of time.

Achievable. You can have big goals, but ease into things and start small so that you don’t become frustrated. For example if your goal is to get eight hours of sleep each night, start going to bed maybe 15 minutes earlier each week or each month. Or if you’re working on your diet, swap out one unhealthy food with a healthy one each week. This will help you keep steady, attainable progress toward your ultimate goal.

Relevant. Does this goal really matter to you? Are you doing it because your friends do this or your kids suggested it? If you are making a resolution because of peer pressure or spontaneity, you may have a harder time completing it. Think hard about your long term goals and about the support system you have to reinforce those goals when designing your resolution. This will make your chances of success that much greater.

Time-bound. Now that you have made a “specific” and “achievable” plan as suggested above, creating a timeline toward reaching your goal is the next step. Breaking your goal up to create small wins gives you more personal encouragement and also helps to create positive habits over time. For example, if your goal is to lose weight, can you break your ultimate goal out into monthly increments? This will not only help keep you on track throughout the process, but it makes the end goal seem less daunting.

Now that you have a strategy for success, do you need some ideas? Check out this article from Women’s Health for some inspiration. They’ve got great ideas that start small and build toward bigger goals and healthier habits. You can try things like eating one meal of only fruits and veggies each day, or trying to add 1,000 more steps to your daily routine each week. Maybe your goal is more about your mental health and trying to reduce stress. Try taking 30 minutes of “me time” each week. We all need it!

And if you feel like your goal is just too much for you to handle on your own, seek out help where you need it. Your primary care provider can provide plenty of tips and support for diet and exercise goals. They will also know of other resources in the community, such as the Smoking Cessation program from our Internal Medicine Department.  Whether you are trying to break a vice like cigarettes, or create good habits like reading each night with your kids – you can do it by creating a SMART plan.

 

 

Sources:
https://www.womenshealthmag.com
https://www.lifehack.org
https://www.nytimes.com