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Thread: Heart Health
02-06-2006, 01:18 PM #1
Get to the Heart of It
Here's some good news about heart disease: To a large extent, you can control your risk.
It's true. While heart disease is the No. 1 killer of both men and women, eating right, exercising, not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, and having regular checkups with your doctor can all go a long way toward protecting you against heart attack, stroke, and other types of cardiovascular disease.
If you want to reduce the risk of heart disease, February - National Heart Month - is the ideal time to get started with the following tips. You'll feel better. You'll have more energy. And your heart will be healthier.
MOVE IT. One of the best things you can do for your heart is to get off the couch. A sedentary lifestyle is a major risk factor for heart disease - on par with smoking, high blood cholesterol, and high blood pressure.
You don't have to live at the gym to reap the benefits of regular physical activity. "People often say they don't have time to exercise," says Anne Curtis, M.D., director of the Division of Cardiology, CEO of Heart Services, and professor of medicine at the University of South Florida College of Medicine in Tampa. "But brisk walking is a great exercise you can do anytime."
Curtis recommends getting a pedometer - a device that counts your steps - and aiming for 10,000 steps a day.
According to the American Heart Association, walking, climbing stairs, gardening, yard work, housework, or dancing for as little as 30 minutes a day benefits the heart. More vigorous activities such as brisk walking, running, biking, or swimming for 30â€“60 minutes on most days of the week are best.
Before starting an exercise routine, get your doctor's okay if you are middle-aged or older, inactive, at high risk for heart disease, or if you already have a health condition.
KNOW YOUR NUMBERS. Have your blood cholesterol checked regularly, Curtis advises. If you are age 20 or older, ask your doctor for a lipoprotein profile at least once every five years. This test involves having blood drawn on an empty stomach. It measures blood levels of total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, and triglycerides. According to the American Heart Association, the numbers mean:
Total blood cholesterol. Less than 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) is "desirable," meaning your risk of heart attack is relatively low. Between 200 and 239 is considered borderline high and, depending on your other test results and aspects of your overall health, you may be at risk for heart disease. Total cholesterol of 240 or more is high and means your risk of heart disease is about twice that of people with less than 200.
Bad cholesterol. LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol is "bad" because excess amounts can build up in the arteries that feed the heart and brain. Over time, it can contribute to formation of hard, artery-clogging deposits. The lower your LDL, the lower your risk of heart disease. Less than 100 mg/dL is optimal, whereas between 100 and 130 is near optimal for most people. Levels of 130 to 159 are borderline high; 160 to 189, high; and 190 and over, very high.
Good cholesterol. More is better when it comes to HDL (high-density lipoprotein), which appears to carry cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the liver, where it leaves the body. Levels of less than 40 mg/dL are considered low, putting a person at risk of heart disease. Smoking, obesity, and lack of physical activity can all lead to low HDL levels.
Cholesterol ratio. Some physicians use the ratio of total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol to gauge risk of heart disease. The ratio is obtained by dividing total cholesterol (which should ideally be below 200 and never over 240) by HDL cholesterol - say, 200 (total) by 50 (HDL), yielding a ratio of 4:1. The ideal ratio is below 5:1, with 3.5:1 being optimal.
Triglycerides. A form of fat that comes from food and is also produced in the body. Triglyceride levels that are high often go hand-in-hand with high LDL, high total cholesterol, and low HDL cholesterol levels. People with diabetes or obesity are particularly prone to high blood triglycerides. Triglyceride levels of less than 150 mg/dL are considered normal; between 150 and 199, borderline high; 200 to 499, high; and over 500, very high. People with both high triglyceride levels and high LDL cholesterol levels require medical treatment.
If the numbers are high. Your doctor may prescribe medications aimed at lowering them. Or, for many people, starting an exercise routine or changing eating habits may be enough to keep cholesterol in check. In some cases, aspirin therapy may be recommended to help prevent a heart attack or stroke.
EAT SMART. Foods high in saturated fat, such as meat, poultry with the skin on, and whole-milk-based dairy foods, can boost high blood cholesterol levels, which contribute to clogged arteries in the heart. Fatty foods and overeating in general lead to weight gain, which also increases risk of heart disease and stroke.
To minimize your risk, maintain a healthy weight and eat foods low in saturated fat, such as roasted or baked chicken and turkey (minus the skin!), seafood, fruits and vegetables, low-fat or nonfat dairy products, and whole grains. In combination with a heart-healthy lifestyle, choosing a nutritious diet low in fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol can promote heart health. And while no single food can prevent heart disease, some foods provide an extra heart-protecting bang for the buck:
Fish. The American Heart Association suggests eating fish at least twice a week. Fish is low in saturated fat and rich in omega-3 fatty acids - a type of fat that helps protect against heart disease by making blood less likely to form clots that cause heart attacks and by protecting against irregular heartbeats that can cause sudden death. Poaching, steaming, or baking are the healthiest ways to prepare fresh or frozen fish.
Oatmeal. The soluble fiber in oatmeal binds to cholesterol and helps remove it from the body. When eaten along with foods low in saturated fat and cholesterol, soluble fiber has been shown to help lower blood cholesterol.
Legumes. Like oatmeal, beans and peas are low in fat and rich in soluble fiber.
Tofu. With no cholesterol and little saturated fat, tofu is a terrific main-dish alternative to beef and other foods high in saturated fat. Tofu contains substances called alpha-linoleic acids, which can be converted to omega-3 fatty acids in the body.
Fruits and vegetables. From a health standpoint, you can't go wrong in the produce aisle. These natural treats boast little or no fat, lots of nutrients, and fiber.
Low-fat milk and dairy foods. Reach for low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese whenever possible to avoid the saturated fat found in whole-milk-based dairy products.
Herbs and supplements. A variety of herbs and supplements is recommended for various heart conditions. For example, fish oil is ideal for hypertension, high triglycerides, or atherosclerosis. (Learn more at www.publix.com/greenwise. To find the cardiac condition that interests you, under Health Center, click on Health Concerns, then on the A-Z Index.)
Heart-check foods. Choose whole-grain oats, soy protein, and other foods that carry the American Heart Association's "heart-check" symbol - a red heart with a white check mark. These meet the AHA's criteria for heart-healthy levels of fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol for healthy people over age 2.
Although some heart attacks strike suddenly, most begin slowly. If you experience mild discomfort and one or more of the following symptoms, call 911 or get to a hospital immediately:
Chest discomfort, which can feel like pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain. It often occurs in the center of the chest and lasts several minutes. Sometimes, the discomfort comes and goes.
Discomfort in other areas of the upper body, including one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach
Shortness of breath, with or without chest discomfort
02-07-2006, 11:41 PM #2
terrific article, and especially the warning signs at the bottom. More women need to be aware as we are more likely to die from an undiagnosed heart attack than men.
ER's are used to men's symptoms, women present a little differently and often our symptoms aren't as clear cut.
Taking an aspirin on the way to the hospital is a great clot buster and saves lives.
02-08-2006, 09:07 AM #3
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Kim, keep these articles coming. They have a wealth of information and I for one really appreciate them. Thanks a whole bunch.
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02-08-2006, 11:15 AM #4
I just remember one old gal that suddenly had a heart attack on my shift, and all that she had was an extremely sudden nausea and cold sweats.
We got to her right away-- I was puzzled and worried and talked to an older RN who immediately got help-- but it was massive and she passed away. She was in her late eighties, and was in for something else altogether but it was something I never forgot.
Probably nothing we could have done, any of us on the floor, but there was NO CHEST PAIN involved.
Years later when the research on male female differences in heart attack symptoms came out I kept thinking back to her.
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