Heart disease may be a leading cause of death, but that doesn’t mean you have to accept it as your fate. Although you lack the power to change some risk factors — such as family history, sex or age — there are some key heart disease prevention steps you can take.
You can avoid heart problems in the future by adopting a healthy lifestyle today. Here are five heart disease prevention tips to get you started.
Smoking or using tobacco is one of the most significant risk factors for developing heart disease. Chemicals in tobacco can damage your heart and blood vessels, leading to narrowing of the arteries (atherosclerosis). Atherosclerosis can ultimately lead to a heart attack. When it comes to heart disease prevention, no amount of smoking is safe. Smokeless tobacco and low-tar and low-nicotine cigarettes also are risky, as is exposure to secondhand smoke.
In addition, the nicotine in cigarette smoke makes your heart work harder by narrowing your blood vessels and increasing your heart rate and blood pressure. Carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke replaces some of the oxygen in your blood. This increases your blood pressure by forcing your heart to work harder to supply enough oxygen. Even so-called “social smoking” — smoking only while at a bar or restaurant with friends — is dangerous and increases the risk of heart disease.
Women who smoke and take birth control pills are at greater risk of having a heart attack or stroke than are those who don’t do either. This risk increases with age, especially in women older than 35.
The good news, though, is that when you quit smoking, your risk of heart disease drops dramatically within just one year. And no matter how long or how much you smoked, you’ll start reaping rewards as soon as you quit.
Getting some regular, daily exercise can reduce your risk of fatal heart disease. And when you combine physical activity with other lifestyle measures, such as maintaining a healthy weight, the payoff is even greater.
Physical activity helps you control your weight and can reduce your chances of developing other conditions that may put a strain on your heart, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. It also reduces stress, which may be a factor in heart disease.
Try getting at least 30 to 60 minutes of moderately intense physical activity most days of the week. However, even shorter amounts of exercise offer heart benefits, so if you can’t meet those guidelines, don’t give up. You can even break up your workout time into 10-minute sessions.
And remember that activities such as gardening, housekeeping, taking the stairs and walking the dog all count toward your total. You don’t have to exercise strenuously to achieve benefits, but you can see bigger benefits by increasing the intensity, duration and frequency of your workouts.
Eating a special diet called the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan can help protect your heart. Following the DASH diet means eating foods that are low in fat, cholesterol and salt. The diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products, which can help protect your heart. Beans, other low-fat sources of protein and certain types of fish also can reduce your risk of heart disease.
Limiting certain fats you eat also is important. Of the types of fat — saturated, polyunsaturated, monounsaturated and trans fat — saturated fat and trans fat increase the risk of coronary artery disease by raising blood cholesterol levels.
Major sources of saturated fat include:
Sources of trans fat include:
Look at the label for the term “partially hydrogenated” to avoid trans fat.
Heart-healthy eating isn’t all about cutting back, though. Most people need to add more fruits and vegetables to their diet — with a goal of five to 10 servings a day. Eating that many fruits and vegetables can not only help prevent heart disease, but also may help prevent cancer.
Omega-3 fatty acids, a type of polyunsaturated fat, may decrease your risk of heart attack, protect against irregular heartbeats and lower blood pressure. Some fish, such as salmon and mackerel, are a good natural source of omega-3s. Omega-3s are present in smaller amounts in flaxseed oil, walnut oil, soybean oil and canola oil, and they can also be found in supplements.
Following a heart-healthy diet also means drinking alcohol only in moderation — no more than two drinks a day for men, and one a day for women. At that moderate level, alcohol can have a protective effect on your heart. More than that becomes a health hazard.
As you put on weight in adulthood, your weight gain is mostly fat rather than muscle. This excess weight can lead to conditions that increase your chances of heart disease — high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.
One way to see if your weight is healthy is to calculate your body mass index (BMI), which considers your height and weight in determining whether you have a healthy or unhealthy percentage of body fat. BMI numbers 25 and higher are associated with higher blood fats, higher blood pressure, and an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
The BMI is a good, but imperfect guide. Muscle weighs more than fat, for instance, and women and men who are very muscular and physically fit can have high BMIs without added health risks. Because of that, waist circumference also is a useful tool to measure how much abdominal fat you have:
Even a small weight loss can be beneficial. Reducing your weight by just 10 percent can decrease your blood pressure, lower your blood cholesterol level and reduce your risk of diabetes.
February is American Heart Month. Heart disease is the number 1 killer in women and is more deadly than all forms of cancer, causing 1 in 3 deaths each year. February 7th is National Wear Red Day to raise awareness in the fight against heart disease in women.
There are a several misconceptions about heart disease in women, and they could be putting you at risk. The American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women movement advocates for more research and swifter action for women’s heart health for this very reason.
We’ve all seen the movie scenes where a man gasps, clutches his chest and falls to the ground. In reality, a heart attack victim could easily be a woman, and the scene may not be that dramatic.
“Although men and women can experience chest pressure that feels like an elephant sitting across the chest, women can experience a heart attack without chest pressure, ” said Nieca Goldberg, M.D., medical director for the Joan H. Tisch Center for Women’s Health at NYU’s Langone Medical Center and an American Heart Association volunteer. “Instead they may experience shortness of breath, pressure or pain in the lower chest or upper abdomen, dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting, upper back pressure or extreme fatigue.”
Even when the signs are subtle, the consequences can be deadly, especially if the victim doesn’t get help right away. These are the most common heart attack symptoms in women:
If you have any of the above-noted signs, don’t wait more than five minutes before calling for help. Call 9-1-1 and get to a hospital right away.
No matter what you call it – heart disease, cardiovascular disease, or coronary heart disease – it means there is a plaque buildup in the walls of your arteries. As the plaque builds, your arteries narrow, making it more difficult for blood to flow and creating a risk for heart attack or stroke. Women are also diagnosed with heart disease when an irregular heartbeat or heart valve problems are present.
1. Drop the guilt. Women pride themselves on being able to do it all. But sometimes, you need to lean on others; and when you’ve been diagnosed with heart disease, that’s the time to do it.
2. Realize that it’s okay to feel vulnerable. Reach out to other women who share your diagnosis and start to build a personal support team. Know when you need to let go of some control and let others take care of you. It may be a struggle at first, as it was for survivor and nurse, Eva Gomez. Eva hated feeling that she wasn’t in control as she placed her life in the hands of her fellow medical staff. But once she understood that fear and feeling helpless is normal, she welcomed the support of family and friends. And it was that support that helped her realize that she had a second chance at life.
3. Join support groups. There’s no reason to cope with heart disease on your own. In addition to local support groups, you can also connect with other women through the Go Red For Women heart match program. Share your story, then find someone like you. Click here to connect online.
4. Believe in yourself. Yes, the diagnosis is going to create feelings of depression, anger and fear. But it’s important to process those feelings and then get past them.
You have the power to reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. Use these tips to help set you on a heart-healthy path for life.
Chose a healthy lifestyle
A healthy lifestyle is yours to follow if you want it. Your diet, weight, physical activity and exposure to tobacco smoke all affect your cholesterol level and heart disease risk — and these factors may be controlled by:
Know your fats – Knowing which fats raise LDL cholesterol and which ones don’t is the first step in lowering your risk of heart disease. Make sure you understand the difference between good fat and bad fat.
Cook heart-healthy – It’s not hard to whip up recipes that fit with the low-saturated-fat, low-cholesterol eating plan recommended by scientists to help you manage your blood cholesterol level and reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. There are many heart-healthy cookbooks and websites to help.
Understand drug therapy options – For some people, lifestyle changes alone aren’t enough to reach healthy cholesterol levels or control your heart risk. Your doctor may prescribe medication. You may need to take cholesterol-lowering drugs or blood pressure medications.
Avoid common misconceptions – Knowledge is a key to improving your health by knowing how to truly live a heart-healthy life. Here are a few ways to ensure your heart disease knowledge is up to speed:
Work with your doctor – You and your healthcare professionals each play an important role in maintaining and improving your heart health. Know how to talk with your doctor about your cholesterol levels and be sure you understand all instructions. Follow your plan carefully, especially when it comes to medication — it won’t work if you don’t take it as directed. Whether you’ve been prescribed medication or advised to make diet and lifestyle changes to help manage your cholesterol, carefully follow your doctor’s recommendations. Heart risk assessments are recommended by the American Heart Association for the following individuals:
Take the Go Red Heart CheckUp – The Go Red For Women Heart CheckUp helps you on your path to improving your heart health by assessing your risk and offering healthy lifestyle information. In addition to your doctor’s examination, let us help you assess your risk for heart disease and stroke.
With the Super Bowl upon us this weekend, many of you will be hosting parties. If you have any friends or family with food allergies, you know that there are sometimes challenges with menu planning to make sure the snacks are safe for everyone. Margaret and Meredith of Plate It Safe have come up with some great ideas. With their permission, this is re-posted from their blog. For the original post, click here.
Holiday events revolving around food can be stressful for people dealing with food allergies and intolerances. The Super Bowl (it’s pretty much a holiday event, right?) is no exception. But, what if you could host your own allergy-friendly Super Bowl party?
Many of the traditional Super Bowl foods can be allergy-friendly. And those that aren’t can be made so quite easily. Here’s our list:
Or, if you like to make your own popcorn, try drizzling homemade popcorn with oil and nutritional yeast.
Check out our Safe Super Bowl Party Pinterest Board for images and links to these and more recipes, restaurants, and products. As always make sure to follow safe eating practices even (especially) when ordering take out food. And, for products, always read ingredients labels carefully.
Valentine’s Day is still over two weeks away, but it’s not too early to start planning, especially if your significant other has food or other allergies. Here’s a great article with some helpful advice re-posted from CNN.com and written by Elizabeth Landau. To read the original article, click here.
But what if your honey has allergies? There are many different kinds of allergies, and some — particularly food allergies — can even be life-threatening.
We hear a lot about a mysterious rise in allergies among children, but adults can have reactions to plants and foods too. A 2009 study found that 83% of people with allergic rhinitis — those annoying symptoms often associated with pollen in spring — said their sex lives were curtailed by their condition in some way.
That may be just one study, but the phenomenon makes sense to allergists.
“Think about it: If you can’t breathe, your nose is running, and your eyes are itchy, you most likely don’t feel very attractive or sexy,” said Dr. Clifford Bassett, director of Allergy & Asthma Care of New York and member of the public education committee for the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, in an e-mail.
Food allergies are especially problematic on occasions such as this one, where candies produced in facilities that make nut and peanut products get passed around, and restaurant staffers may be too busy to remember to honor special dietary needs. It’s natural to feel anxious about trying chocolates of unknown origin or a new eatery if even a tiny piece of nut could send you to the emergency room.
As the significant other, you have the opportunity to be an “allergy hero.” Your job is to minimize risk and create a safe and supportive environment for your sweetie, on Valentine’s Day and in general.
Here are some tips for keeping romance alive and keep your partner healthy:
Certain plants are more likely to induce sneezing than others, Bassett said. The scents of roses, star jasmine, narcissus, gardenia, lily of the valley, citrus and eucalyptus trees are some of the most common plant sources of nasal reactions.
You could also ask about other possible nasal irritants such as pets and dust in your home. It might be a good idea to clean up anyway.
Life may be like a box of chocolates, but with food allergies, you need to know exactly what you’re getting.
The most common food allergens are milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy and wheat, according to the Mayo Clinic. Many food products are required to have labels that list any of these ingredients that may be inside.
Depending on the severity of the food allergy, a box of chocolates that is made on shared equipment or even in the same facility as nuts may be hazardous. If you buy a heart-shaped box where some chocolate cubes are filled with almonds and others are not, this may be unacceptable to a nut-allergic person.
There are several companies that make entirely nut-free, allergy-safe products for such situations, such as Amanda’s Own Confections, Divvies, Enjoy Life, Indie Candy and Vermont Nut Free Chocolates. In addition, the Bay Area Allergy Advisory Board has created a list of sweets that tend to be safe for nut-allergic people.
When in doubt, though, make something yourself or include your partner in a fun baking activity.
If your significant other or Valentine’s date has food allergies, you can’t just show up at a restaurant and expect special dietary needs to be accommodated, especially on a busy day.
Eating out can cause a lot of anxiety for people with food allergies. Sloane Miller, author of the popular blog “Please Don’t Pass the Nuts” and the book “Allergic Girl: Adventures in Living Well with Food Allergies” has a very specific strategy for ensuring a safe dining experience at a restaurant.
She recommends calling ahead and talking with the restaurant management to make sure her dietary restrictions can be accommodated. Once at the restaurant, she meets the manager and shows a card listing everything she can’t eat; often, she said, a chef will join this conversation. At this point, like in “Cheers,” everyone knows everyone’s name.
After eating, Miller leaves a generous tip and thanks the server, chef and manager. The next day she often gives a follow-up thank you to the manager by phone.
Of course, if you really want to ensure that your honey’s food isn’t contaminated by allergens, there’s always the option of cooking at home. That way, you can be sure that none of the pots, pans or utensils touched a problematic food in the preparation of the meal. You should keep a lot of these things in mind for children with allergies, too.
If food allergies are a factor in your honey’s life, the nonallergic person should also watch intake.
Research presented at an allergy conference in 2010 suggests that another person’s saliva can present problems for an allergic person even hours after eating. Brushing your teeth may help, but it may not be enough, Bassett said. Talk to your partner about his or her level of comfort regarding what you eat before smooching.
Massage oils, lotions and fragrances can all have ingredients that make people break out into rashes; ask ahead of time if there are particular chemicals or essential oils that cause problems.
Almond and macadamia nut oils, for instance, may be present in common beauty products. Keep this in mind also for purchasing gifts.
Some people are allergic to latex. If you are planning on using condoms, be aware if your lover has a latex allergy and use a nonlatex condom if so. Tests are available to confirm if someone is hypersensitive to latex.
Be understanding and supportive
A willingness to take extra precautions surrounding allergies, especially life-threatening food allergies, will go a long way.
Everyone with food allergies should have an anaphyalxis action plan that they discuss and formulate with their doctor, and you should be familiar with it, too.
An epinephrine auto-injector, which people with severe food allergies are recommended to carry, can save a life if symptoms such as shortness of breath, throat closure and dizziness appear. After using one, a patient will may still need emergency medical attention, so call 911 or go to the nearest hospital emergency room.
You should know where the appropriate medications are kept and what your significant other’s emergency contact information is in case you need to go to the hospital.
Lastly, Miller said, remember to remain focused on the point of Valentine’s Day — “being together, expressing affection, support and love to each other.”
Diabetes bracelet or diabetic jewelry is probably the last thing on your mind after being recently diagnosed with diabetes. After all, bracelets, necklaces and anklets may not seem to serve any purpose beyond being decorative. However, when it comes to chronic diseases like diabetes, being easily identified as having a medical condition is often necessary in emergency situations.
This is why diabetes bracelets are often worn to alert people, such as rescuers, first-aid staff and medical professionals of the appropriate action to perform when the wearer is involved in an emergency. Immediately knowing that a person in distress has diabetes allows emergency personnel to take appropriate actions.
When diabetics were first encouraged to wear diabetes bracelets, some people were not very supportive of getting “tagged” as a diabetic. However, the fact that the bracelets were medical alert tags and could make a difference between life and death in an emergency quickly showed why it was a necessity. Today, even with modern technology, doctors still recommend a medical ID for everyone with diabetes.
Diabetes requires special medical care and immediate attention. In some emergencies, the diabetic person may not always be able to speak or communicate. He or she may even be unresponsive. Furthermore, an emergency may occur when a relative or a friend who has knowledge about the diabetic person’s diabetes may not be around. In these cases, a diabetes bracelet can silently inform the attending medical personnel of the disease and even where the person keeps their insulin if necessary.
Diabetes can be a tricky and rather deceptive condition to have, primarily because blood sugar levels can fluctuate unpredictably. What if your blood sugar drops and you become confused or pass out, or you’re sick, and your blood sugar skyrockets and you become confused, or you’re in an accident and unconscious. In all these cases, you aren’t able to communicate. Diabetes medical identification provides important information to the emergency team. It may prevent confusion on the part of the police officer or response team as to whether the confused state is related to alcohol or drug intoxication and whether you get the appropriate treatment.
The American Diabetes Association recommends that all people with diabetes wear a diabetes medical alert identification bracelet, especially if you’re on a diabetes medication that can lower the blood sugar and cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar reactions).
Always ensure that you or your loved one is wearing a diabetes bracelet at all times and, especially, before leaving the house. If necessary, pack an extra bracelet during special trips, particularly if you will be travelling alone or leaving town. Always wear the bracelet where it can be spotted easily and avoid taking it off. New styles and designs won’t cramp your style and it can mean the difference between living a healthy life and suffering major medical consequences.
So the doctor recently told you that it would be a good idea to get your child a personalized medical ID bracelet or pendant to wear just in case of an emergency?
More and more doctors are recommending a medical ID for children with any of a number of chronic conditions like asthma, severe food or drug allergies, diabetes, and epilepsy.
Medical IDs are being recommended because they can drastically increase the speed and quality of care in an emergency situation. If a child is experiencing allergy related symptoms, wouldn’t they get faster and better care if the EMT knew that the child has a tree nut allergy and has an EpiPen in their backpack?
However, your child probably doesn’t want to wear one of those old, stodgy rectangular medical IDs on a metal chain. Don’t despair, kid’s medical ID bracelets and pendants have come a long way and there are many different fun and functional styles to choose from. Just take a look at these!
Tattoos have been around for a very, very long time. This much we know, but as more and more young people are diagnosed with diabetes, tattoo art that often spoke in rebellious terms has found a new meaning.
By inking the universal medical symbol on their bodies, diabetics like Samantha Graham Vancouver, British Columbia, have turned to body art as an alternative to wearing medical ID jewelry that is often used to inform medical personnel and others of their condition during an emergency.
“I thought it was the perfect idea because a tattoo would be much harder to miss than a simple alert bracelet if I was ever in the situation of not being able to communicate,” Graham says.
But not everyone believes tattoos are the healthiest way for people with diabetes to communicate their condition. Todd Soard, president of the Florida Association of Professional EMTs and Paramedics, says a tattoo will not be the first thing a paramedic looks for when transporting a patient.
“It is no doubt going to be missed,” he says. “Most EMS personnel are not trained to look for a tattoo because a tattoo is a tattoo!”
Dr. Michael Zbiegien, medical director of emergency services for the Children’s Hospital at Sunrise Medical Center in Las Vegas, agrees. “There’s not a lot of body searching on the street; [EMTs] don’t have time.”
But he says that because patients’ immediate needs are met by EMTs, doctors may have more time to seek out tattoos once they reach the emergency room.
“Most physicians would honor a medical tattoo provided that [it] wouldn’t cause additional risk,” Zbiegien says. But, he advises, “You want to put it in a place where we’re going to see it quickly.”
Of course, tattoos are not the only option. Instead of a tattoo, Soard recommends that people opt for a tried-and-true solution: wearing a medical ID bracelet. Medical ID bracelets that prominently feature the medical caduceus emblem can quickly notify emergency responders of a patient’s condition. Information engraved on the bracelet communicates vital information to EMTs without needing the patient’s response.
Soard says first-response teams, as well as doctors, are trained to search for these items and are “not going to be looking all over [patient's] bodies for a tattoo. We don’t have time for that.”
Despite the numerous safety benefits of wearing a personalized medical ID bracelet, they are commonly discarded by the young adult demographic set because of how they look. While designs and styles for these medical IDs have been updated over the years, there has always been a negative stigma associated with them being ugly.
“I bought a Medic Alert necklace and didn’t wear it when I went out with friends, as I didn’t believe it looked very classy,” admits newly diagnosed diabetic Hayley Jones of the West Midlands, U.K. Instead, Jones designed her own medical tattoo with “a feminine twist” and had it inked onto her wrist this year.
If you are getting a tattoo specifically as a medical alert, Justin Noland of American Medical ID recommends, “keep it simple, direct and on a place that an EMT is most likely to see, like the wrist. The more fluff and design that is added will make it look more like a memorial tattoo or one to raise awareness, not one to provide information in an emergency.”
It’s that time of year again when you notice that maybe the holiday pounds have added up more than they used to or that you just need a fresh start and want to drop some weight. Well, our partners at the American Diabetes Association have put together a few tips on Healthy Weight Loss for us to share with you.
Does this sound familiar? You got tired of hearing your doctor and family bug you about losing weight to prevent or manage type 2 diabetes. So, you got a two-week diet plan from a friend. You started gung-ho. The first few days were great. Then you found there were nights you didn’t have time to fix your food and the family dinner. By the weekend your family wanted to have pizza. And the diet went out the door when you left for your favorite pizza place.
Many people try to lose weight, but fewer people lose weight and keep it off. This happens for several reasons. Sometimes people try to lose too much weight too fast. Or they try to follow a food plan that isn’t how they can eat long term. Reality is that losing weight in a healthy way and learning how to keep it off is not easy. It takes a new way of thinking. Are you ready?
Set a realistic weight loss goal. Think about losing 5, 10 or 15 pounds. One of your goals should be to lose a few pounds and be able to keep it off for a long time. Here are some tips to help you make goals:
Here are some tips to help you prepare to start your healthy lifestyle changes:
There are many benefits of weight loss. Here are just a few. Some improve your health and others help you feel better. As you get ready to lose weight, make a list of how losing a few pounds will benefit you. Put this list on your refrigerator or bathroom mirror.
A large study, called the Diabetes Prevention Program, showed that if people at risk for type 2 diabetes lost a small amount of weight and became more active for three years they could prevent or delay type 2 diabetes. People also had other benefits of weight loss like lowered blood pressure.
If you already have diabetes, losing 10 to 15 pounds may help you lower your blood glucose, blood pressure, and improve your blood fats. Losing this weight may also help you cut down on some of the medicines you take. If you lose weight, talk to your doctor about whether you need to make changes in your medicines.
For more information, visit http://www.diabetes.org
Since 1970 January has been declared National Volunteer Blood Donor Month, and with good reason. Above all other times of the year, it’s the month that presents the most challenges in recruiting people to give blood. This January is no exception with the local Red Cross in an urgent need for more donors.
Changing weather like the current winter storms, increased cold and flu symptoms and even the winter blues can keep the most dedicated blood donors from making or keeping an appointment to give blood. Yet winter weather can lead to more traumatic injuries on icy roads and may increase the need for blood.
The local Red Cross needs about 650 blood donors every day to meet the needs of patients at 41 area hospitals. However, there has been a 10 percent dip in blood donations so far this winter. Recent blood drive cancellations due to weather also meant the Red Cross was not able to collect nearly 500 donations it had planned on for patients. And as the Red Cross is trying to recruit donors, a high number of people asked to give are reporting cold or flu symptoms, which make them not able to donate.
“There are so many unpredictable factors at play that can affect the blood supply during January; it’s a critical time to remind the public of the need for more donors,” said Rodney Wilson, communications manager for the American Red Cross Central Ohio Blood Services Region. “If you are in good health, now is the time to share that good health with patients in need.”
The dip in donations has also caused a decrease in the local blood inventory of key blood types including O-negative, A-negative and B-negative.
The Red Cross and American Medical ID urge everyone to make donating blood a priority this winter. Your help could mean hope for those in need. To find out where you can give blood and to schedule your appointment, go to redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS, for additional information.
Re-posted from the Joslin Diabetes Center website. For the full article, click here.
New Years is a time to come up with resolutions to better your life for the future. Why not use your resolution this year to set goals to better your diabetes management and overall health?
Your diabetes management goals for the New Year should be specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic and time-limited. Click here to view a printable handout you can fill out to help you reach your diabetes management goals.
Gillian Arathuzik, R.D., C.D.E., Nutrition Diabetes Educator, at Joslin Diabetes Center, reviews some examples of annual and daily goals for diabetes management to set for yourself this New Years: