300813 Diet, obesity and your heart health

Diet, obesity and your heart health

What you eat has a definite role in how healthy your heart is. Too much salt is a major dietary failure in our society.

One habit that can help to reduce your risk of hypertension and stroke is to cut back on your sodium intake (this means you, Dad and Joyce). The recommended daily limit is 1500 milligrams for anyone over 50, all Blacks and anyone with hypertension, diabetes, or kidney disease, which in our country is almost everyone with one of these diseases. Fifteen hundred mg is about two thirds of a teaspoon of salt. If you don’t have one of the aforementioned diseases then aim for less than 2300 mg per day.

This should not be a hard task to accomplish but in order to do so you do have to cut back on processed foods, restaurant meals, and especially fast food meals. The more salt you use on your food, the faster your body becomes accustomed to it and the more you need to satisfy that salt craving. Simply keeping track of your cholesterol blood sugar and diet is not the total picture of maintaining your heart health. Exercise and weight control also have a role.

Aerobic exercise, 30 to 40 minutes a day, helps reduce the risk of developing a cardiovascular disease. It is a proven fact that physical fitness will reduce your risks. Even though most everybody knows this, almost half of American women are not doing any exercise at all. This sad state of affairs could change by simply starting to walk a few minutes each day.

Taking your child or your dog out for a walk will help not only you but also your child and dog. Probably the most important thing about exercising is it shows your child that you care about yourself and you are demonstrating healthy choices by modeling healthy behavior for them. In addition, it helps to control your weight.

Being obese with a BMI greater than or equal to 30 places you at a greater risk for cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and diabetes. If over the years you found that you have been gaining weight, now is the time to start cutting back on your calories and adding some exercise to your daily health plan.

Current research has found that being overweight but not obese, does not seem to raise your risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. This is particularly true if you are over 70 years of age. However, the same research is finding that if you are overweight it increases your chances of becoming obese. While it is true that exercise can help with your weight loss plan, it still may take more than 30 minutes a day of moderate exercise to achieve your goals.

260813 Starting out with an aerobic exercise plan

Starting out with an aerobic exercise plan

The research over the past several years continues to support the benefits of aerobic exercise. Not only is it good for your cardiovascular system but it helps ease fatigue symptoms in those with chronic fatigue syndrome, in the elderly, and the long-term sedentary person. However, this does not mean that people in these categories should just immediately go out and try to run a marathon. Before you even start, check with your doctor and review your history of activity, any type of joint problems, cardiovascular conditions, or other conditions that may cause you problems if you exercise

If you have not exercised consistently in the past or in the recent past, start out slowly and build up gradually your ability to tolerate the physical activity. Even though exercise will help most people, those with chronic fatigue syndrome should start out very slowly because it can aggravate the symptoms in some.

Older, sedentary, people must also start building a foundation of activity by increasing their levels of exertion on a smaller progressive scale. This will go a long way to avoiding injuries.

One of the easiest ways to get started on a physical activity program is to start walking. Begin with a slow pace of eighty steps per minute for about half as far as you think you can go every day. Increase this distance until you are walking a mile or so each day all the while being cognizant of the traffic and the phenomenal ability of some idiot drivers who are not paying attention to come dangerously close to you. (Oops, that just slipped in)

Some of the more recent studies have shown that brisk walking, one hundred steps per minute, five times a week for at least half an hour results in almost the same health benefits as exercise that is much more vigorous.

Another advantage of taking a brisk walk is that those who take these walks lower their risk for heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cancer, Osteoporosis and potentially other diseases. It has also been found that mental health issues seem to occur less frequently.

Gradually you will notice your ability to go longer increases until you are walking thirty to sixty minutes a day. Once you are able to do this, you might want to start including biking or some sort of an exercise class.

One of these new activities could include resistance training. You do not need to go to a gym to resistance train but the advantage of doing so and hooking up with a certified strength specialist is that you will learn how to do the exercises correctly and in most cases avoid injury. Old style bodyweight calisthenics can be effective in increasing your muscle mass, strength, and power output.

Power output is important because it develops the strength necessary to rapidly catch your balance if you begin to fall. If you do not have the strength, you will not have the power to protect yourself.

Do not be fooled by the advertisements saying that you can use light hand weights to get strong because it will not happen. You have to challenge your muscles and unless your condition is such that you cannot move heavier weights these small hand weights are not going to suffice.

230813 Keeping your heart healthy

Keeping your heart healthy

Hypertension, or as it is commonly referred to as high blood pressure, is a major health risk. But it is also one risk that may be decreased by taking preventive steps before it becomes a problem.

As can be expected, exercise plays a role in managing your blood pressure readings. Thirty to forty minutes of exercise per day and keeping your heartbeat within your target heart range (THR) helps to maintain your blood pressure within the desirable range.

Be knowledgeable about your blood cholesterol levels by getting regular blood tests. The hard part, after you know your blood cholesterol readings is to keep them within the normal range. Two of your primary cholesterol numbers are important to know; LDL, bad cholesterol and HDL, the good cholesterol.

Normal range for the LDL is 130 mg/dL or less. The optimal is less than 100 however if you are one of those with a high risk for heart attack or stroke, this number should be 70 or less. The HDL, for women, should be less than 50 compared to a man’s at 40. Once again, diet and exercise may improve these levels.

The total blood cholesterol you have within your system should be less than 200, however it may be safe to exceed this if your LDL is under 130 and your HDL is high. The fat circulating in your blood, the triglycerides should optimally be less than 100 mg/dL and at a maximum of 150.

If you have a family history of diabetes, it is even more important to check your blood sugar levels regularly. If they are high, you must learn to control it because women with diabetes have an increased risk of suffering a heart attack and stroke than do men with diabetes. Women with slightly elevated levels of normal blood sugar, known as prediabetes, are in a higher risk category for coronary problems than men are with the same levels.

Men and women with diabetes have to be careful and control their blood sugar levels with diet, exercise, weight loss, and possibly even medication.

One of the healthiest ways to help control the cholesterol and blood sugar levels is by eating a healthy diet consisting of beans, dairy products, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Adding in fish two or three times a week fills in the requirement for omega-3 fats and supplementing with lean meats such as poultry and carefully trimmed cuts of red meat should provide the majority of the protein without the excess fat that goes along with these meats. It is a mistake to cut all fat from your diet since fat is one of the essentials that your body needs to stay functioning.

Avoiding Trans fats, which are in foods that contain partially hydrogenated oils, is also wise decision-making. However, unsaturated fats are good for you when eaten in moderate amounts. Foods containing these unsaturated fats include avocados, nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils. Substitute these in place of the saturated fats found in animals.

Carbohydrates continue to get a bad rap in the press, fat loss forums and in gym conversations. These too are essential for your health, however limiting your intake of sugar-laden foods and refined carbohydrates such as those found in white bread and pasta will help you maintain better blood sugar levels while at the same time helping you lose weight. In addition, increasing soluble fiber in your diet, which has been associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular problems, is also a healthy decision.

210813 Healthy steps to protect a woman’s heart

Healthy steps to protect a woman’s heart

Cardiovascular disease is not specific to just older men and women; it strikes women as young as or younger than fifty-four. Even though the gap between men and women still favors the men having a heart attack, women are starting to catch up.

Whereas heart attacks in men under fifty-four have continued to decrease, women’s have been gradually rising. This is more than likely due to the rising diabetes and obesity rate in women.

There is a light at the end of this morbid tunnel since there are steps that you can take to lessen your risk of having a heart attack.

Smoking kills. So, if you smoke, stop it.

Every smoker knows stopping is easier said than done. Therefore, if you have smoked a long time, it is in your best interest to seek medical assistance to stop. Smoking destroys your heart, lungs, and virtually all of your internal organs, not to mention those who are near you.

There is not one piece of smoking that is good for you. Every cigarette you smoke is harmful. There are no safe smokes.

About two thirds of all heart attacks are due to smoking! And, the risk you take rises every single time you have a smoke.

It may take several years for the effects of smoking to dissipate but as soon as you stop, your body begins the healing process of reducing the harmful effects to your cardiovascular system. Because smoking is so hard on your body, it is essential that you keep track of your blood pressure and keep it under control.

Before going further let’s start with a review of what these two numbers mean.

The top number, systolic, is the high point where your heart contracts and diastolic, the bottom number is the pressure in your arteries between heartbeats while it is at rest.

The numbers that follow represent different categories of risk. The higher your numbers are the more risk you have for a life altering cardiovascular event such as a stroke, aneurysm, heart attack….

  • Normal blood pressure is a systolic reading of less than 120 with a diastolic reading less than 80. This reading is normally indicated 120/80.
  • Pre-hypertension systolic numbers are 122-139 and diastolic of 80 to 89.
  • Stage I hypertension is 140 to 159 for the systolic and 90-99 for the diastolic reading.
  • Stage II, the most serious hypertension, has systolic readings of 160 or higher with diastolic readings of a 100 and above.

More black women have hypertension than white women and they begin developing it almost ten years earlier.

Blood pressure changes, even small ones up or down, will have a direct effect on your risk for a cardiovascular problem. Minor or major changes in your diet, depending on what your diet currently is can help you prevent pre-hypertension from morphing into stage I or stage II hypertension. Losing as little as 10% of your current body weight, if you are overweight, will often times improve these readings dramatically.

190813 Re-energizing your energy


During the hot summer months it may seem as though your energy levels have struck a new low. If that is case, here are several ideas to help you re-energize yourself.

Start out by reducing your stress. It can be stress caused by overwork or taking on too many projects at one time. Or it could be the stress of working a hard physical job. But it can be a combination of both mental and physical activity causing a loss of energy.

One of the most highly recommended methods of increasing energy levels is through exercise. Even though this may be counterintuitive, it still works. This is especially true if your energy is draining away with a multitude of mental activities.

There is an old axiom in the physical fitness world that goes along the lines of this; if you work at a physically demanding job, reduce the stress by exercising your mental capacities. The opposite of working a hard physical job is a difficult mental job. And the way to reduce the stress from this job is with intense physical activity.

Not only does exercise relieve the stress of daily life, it increases your body’s fuel making efficiency, which means that your muscles are producing more mitochondria in the muscle cells. This means you have more energy to burn.

The act of exercising helps to create more tiny blood vessels, capillaries that carry oxygen to your cells. Intense exercise also causes you to breathe heavier which increases your heart rate and circulates more oxygen now available to the creation of more mitochondria in the muscle tissues.

Exercise also helps release moderate amounts of epinephrine and norepinephrine. These two hormones, in large amounts, are the stress hormones that cause the energy depleting fight or flight response.

Exercise can also reduce fatigue in those who have a chronic autoimmune condition or fatigue brought on by cancer or the treatment of cancer. A small analysis of 36 studies relating to fatigue and chronic autoimmune conditions discovered that exercising aerobically 30 to 60 minutes, three times a week for three months produce these results.

Those people who had multiple sclerosis, lupus, or rheumatoid arthritis had significant reductions in fatigue. A similar review of the research into fatigue found that people over 65 years with cancer who exercised were able to ease their cancer related fatigue symptoms.

It looks as though getting moving may provide more benefits both short and long term.

160813 Fourteen healthy steps to protect a woman’s heart-background

Fourteen healthy steps to protect a woman’s heart-background

Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of women. It takes ten times as many lives in the U.S. than breast cancer. It kills one in three women in the United States. This largely preventable disease accounts for more deaths than all accidents, Alzheimer’s, cancers, and chronic respiratory diseases combined!

The term, cardiovascular disease, is in actuality many diseases and it affects men and women in different ways and to different extents. The most recognizable type is coronary artery disease, including heart attacks, which account for approximately half of all cardiovascular deaths, heart failure and strokes. Even though there are fewer American women who have a heart attack compared to men, nearly as many of them die from one.

Cardiovascular disease is claiming approximately 7% more women than men due to cases of hypertension developing after age 55, along with the increased the incidence of strokes, particularly fatal ones and heart failure.

By age seventy-five, the risk of women having cardiovascular disease is equal to that of a man’s. Heart disease is not just a man’s disease. Knowing the symptoms of a heart attack can be potentially lifesaving if immediate action follows. However, the symptoms of a woman are often different from that of a man.

The most common symptom of a heart attack in both men and women is chest pain or pressure. However, most middle-aged women, approximately ¼ to ½ of this population, do not display this classic symptom. Those who have survived a heart attack report that their first symptom was unusual fatigue, a drastic shortness of breath, their heartbeat was pounding, nausea and or pain felt in their back, ear, jaw and neck and or shoulder.

Women who reported having a heart attack felt the feeling of intense anxiety. Even though it may be a panic attack, a woman feeling this should seek immediate medical attention just in case she is suffering from a heart attack.

Since a woman’s symptoms differ from a man’s, are less well known and more diverse they may delay seeking medical attention because they fail to recognize them. The statistics are frightening. In fact, one study found that out of four women having symptoms of a heart attack, only one of them called 911 or went to the hospital. Even after going to the hospital the emergency room doctor may not recognize the symptoms of a heart attack in a woman. All of us are aware that prompt is critical in a heart attack.

There are additional problems when diagnosing a woman’s heart attack because women are less likely to display the typical readings of a heart attack on an electrocardiogram (ECG). Because women tend to be older when they have their first heart attack and/or because of a misdiagnosis by the doctor or the hospital doctors, and/or they delay treatment the chances of survival are less than that for a man.

Even those who have a coronary artery bypass tend to be twice more likely to die during or shortly after the surgery than a man. This is partly so because they delay getting medical help but also due to the fact they have smaller arteries and men. This makes the surgery much more difficult. Another potentially fatal flaw in the post-surgery treatment for women is they are less likely than men to be sent to a cardiac rehab program, receive nutritional counseling and directed into an exercise and/or weight loss program. And as if that were not enough, they are also less likely to be given appropriate medication after their heart attack.

140813 Is your microwave destroying the benefits of the food you are cooking?

Is your microwave destroying the benefits of the food you are cooking?

This question was recently posed to Irwin H Rosenberg M.D. who responded by saying, “foods cooked in a microwave oven may keep more of their vitamins and minerals, because microwaves can cook food more quickly and without adding water – nor do you have to add fat. At worst, microwave cooking reduces nutrient levels in food no more than conventional cooking.”

Another question that periodically surfaces is the validity of the supposedly dangerous byproducts that result from microwave cooking. According to the US FDA “microwaves cause water molecules in food to vibrate, producing heat that cooks the food. That’s why foods high in water content, like fresh vegetables, can become cooked more quickly than other foods. The microwave energy is changed to heat as it is absorbed by food, and does not make food ‘radioactive’ or ‘contaminated.’”

Another concern with using a microwave oven centers on the containers used to cook the food. Again, the FDA warns, “some plastic containers should not be used in a microwave oven because they can be melted by the heat of the food inside.” Speaking of containers, it is not advisable to use metal or aluminum foil in a microwave because the reflections coming back from these materials can cause uneven distribution of the energy within the food thereby leaving uncooked spots. An additional reason not to use this material is the potential for damage to the oven due to these misdirected and high-powered reflected rays.

Your microwave oven should not be used for home canning purposes. The normal household microwave oven will not produce or keep the temperature high enough to kill off harmful bacteria that sometimes occurs in certain foods during the canning process.

And, one final safety note about cooking frozen foods in the microwave. Carefully follow the cooking and preparation directions of the manufacturer for the food otherwise, you may be opening yourself up to a food borne sickness.

120813 A single shingles shot

A single shingles shot

Over the past several years, shingles has had more exposure in the media and rightly so since Shingles can be a debilitating occurrence with one sided pain, tingling or burning sensations. This pain and burning can be severe and normally occurs prior to any rash. Muscle weakness, abdominal and joint pain, and headache, amongst a host of other symptoms often accompany this disease.

A recent review, E published by the Cochrane Collaboration, confirms the wisdom of getting a shingles shot. Their research is helping to settle the question of whether or not the shingles vaccine reduces the risk and severity of an outbreak.

Further examination of the literature found this vaccination is even more effective in people who are 60 years old and above for the reason that in many cases the older generation has a weaker immune response to the shingles vaccination. This makes it more effective.

Previously the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommended this vaccination for those who were older than 60, simply because that was the age group involved in the initial research study. In 2011, the recommended age to receive the shingles shot was expanded to those 50 years old and above. This recommendation was based on research that showed the vaccination decreased the risk of developing shingles by almost 70% in this age group.

At $200 per shot, this vaccination is relatively expensive but then you only need one. However, most insurance plans cover the cost. For those citizens over 65, this shot is included in their Medicare part D, which is a federal drug program. Of course, depending on your insurance plan, your co-pay or out-of-pocket cost will vary.

090813 Getting higher quality sleep

Getting higher quality sleep

Being sleep deprived is not only an annoyance but can be dangerous if you have to make critical decisions, are driving or working around machinery. The sleep you get has to be productive or the time is partially wasted. Here are a few ideas to get that all-important sleep.

An accepted method of getting more sleep if you believe you are sleep deprived is to restrict the hours that you try to sleep for three or four days in a row. The objective is to find out exactly how much time you actually need and to reduce the time you are spending in bed, thrashing about, when not sleeping.

Try cutting back on your sleep for several nights. This makes it easier to fall asleep, which in turn promotes better restful sleep in the long-term. Here are several guidelines for cutting back on your hours of sleep:

• Avoid taking any naps during the day.
• Start keeping a sleep journal as to when you go to bed, when you get up the next morning and how much you slept during the night.
• On the first night of your experiment go to bed later and get up earlier and restricting your sleep time to a maximum of four or five hours.
• If, on the next day, you felt that you slept well during that four to five hours then add another 15 to 30 minutes of sleep that night.
• When you find that you have been sleeping soundly the entire time, begin adding a few more minutes of sleep on successive nights.

After several nights of adding minutes, you will find a time when you are getting a full night’s sleep. Once you have settled on a specific time to go to bed and a specific time to get up that allows you a full night’s sleep, ideally around seven hours each night seven days a week make an effort not to disturb this pattern.

Stick with these bedtime hours, even on the weekends, until this sleeping habit is firmly ingrained. Having done this you are going to find that you do not really need as much sleep on the weekends as you once did.

070813 Improve your sleep with exercise

Improve your sleep with exercise

One of the proven methods of increasing the amount of time your body spends in deep sleep, the energy restoring sleep, is to exercise. This may sound odd to the uninitiated. Nevertheless, it has been found that the more deep sleep that you get, the less likely it will be that you will awaken in the middle of the night. A nightly pattern of 2 to 3 hours of sleep disrupted with being awakened gradually diminishes your capacity to function at 100% the next day.

Aerobic exercise, the type that increases your heart rate, creates the ideal physiological environment within your body to fall asleep and remain sleeping throughout the night. Right now, scientists are not exactly certain how regular exercise contributes to getting more hours of deep sleep, but the research is indicating that it certainly does.

This does not mean that you can do a strenuous exercise session just before going to sleep and expect to fall asleep quickly and then stay there because exercise in and of itself acts as a stimulant on your body. Therefore, unless you are one of the few, you may be wise exercise 2 to 3 hours before going to bed to allow your body to settle down.

If you are having problems sleeping you may have to take a look at the sleeping environment you have in your home. Oftentimes, people who have difficulty sleeping start associating the bedroom with all the frustrations and anxieties that go along with not being able to sleep. This only compounds the problem of insomnia and makes it worse.

If you are one of these unfortunate people who have a difficult time sleeping try some of these ideas.

  • Don’t use your bed to watch TV or read, instead do this in a different room and save your bed for sleeping or sex.
  • When you are sleepy, go to bed, and not before.
  • Avoid just lying there tossing and turning. Use meditation or breathing exercises to calm your mind so you are able to go to sleep.