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Archive for the ‘Heart Health’ Category

Exercise

The benefits of exercise are no longer theoretical. All recent studies concerning exercise and its effect on people conclusively state that exercise will help most people live longer and healthier lives. Whether you are young or old, overweight or underweight, or even if you have a disability, exercise will benefit you.

Most of us at any age wish we were more fit. Becoming older doesn’t mean we have to become weaker and more fragile. Most physical changes of aging are due to inactivity and lifestyles that do not include regular exercise. Becoming and staying physically fit is the most important thing we can do to maintain our ability to continue doing the activities we now enjoy. The more fit one is, the more independent one may remain, as well as being happier and more satisfied with life.

It’s truly never too late to begin a fitness program of regular exercise. In this article I would like to list the beneficial reasons of exercising and also give valid reasons for not putting it off any longer.

Reasons to exercise:

  • Live longer. Those who exercise regularly have been proven to add years to their lives.
  • Help to lose weight. Combined with proper diet one will lose weight.
  • Strengthen your heart. A stronger heart pumps blood more efficiently and doesn’t have to beat as fast.
  • Lift your mood. People who exercise tend to be happier and less depressed.
  • Improve chronic conditions. Exercise has been found to lower blood pressure and to improve diabetes and arthritis.
  • Defend against illness. Exercise can boost the immune system and help fight off illness, especially flu and colds.
  • Improve stamina. Exercise can provide more pep and energy and less fatigue.
  • Improve circulation. Exercise can improve our blood cholesterol and help keep our arteries clear.
  • I say so. Just wanted to see if you’re paying attention. I really do exercise, bicycling and swimming, and I feel so much better for doing so.

Overcoming excuses for not exercising:

  • Not enough time. Wake up earlier. Do several shorter periods of exercise throughout the day. Drive less, walk more.
  • Tried it before didn’t work. Set realistic goals. Pace yourself. Reinforce in your mind the benefits of exercise.
  • I might injure myself by exercising. Start with a beginning exercise group. Pace yourself. Consider working with a trainer.
  • It’s too expensive. Joining a gym or having expensive equipment at home would be nice, but are not necessary. Watch an exercise video at home. Try just plain walking or climbing stairs.
  • I’m not athletic. Most people are not particularly athletic. It is not a prerequisite for routine exercise. Anyone can and should exercise.
  • It’s just too much work. If exercise is just too much to do for your own good, then do it for those who love you. They will have you around longer, and will enjoy your health and happiness.
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heart-stethoscope

Atrial fibrillation is an irregular often rapid heart rate, causing the heart’s two upper chambers to quiver instead of beating regularly. Fortunately, the lower two chambers still work normally and are able to pump the blood out of the heart, although not as efficiently.

It is this inefficient pumping that can cause the frequent symptoms of palpitations, shortness of breath, weakness, and lightheadedness, to name a few.

Atrial fibrillation is the most common heart arrhythmia. It is found in over 6 million Americans and accounts for some 90,000 deaths annually. It occurs in about 1-percent of individuals in their 60s, and increases to 12-percent for adults who are in their 80s. Some 30-percent of people with atrial fibrillation are unaware of their condition.

Atrial fibrillation can be brought on by increasing age, prior coexisting heart disease, high blood pressure, thyroid disease, and drinking alcohol. It can come and go, or it can be chronic and permanent. It is usually not life threatening, but it is a serious condition and needs to be treated.

There are two main goals in the treatment of atrial fibrillation. First is to attempt to control the rhythm, that is, get the rhythm back to the normal beating pattern. If a normal rhythm cannot be obtained, then the second goal is to control the heart rate. Ideally one would want to have the rate 80 beats per minute or below. Both of these goals can be accomplished with medication.

If one is very symptomatic or has relatively new onset atrial fibrillation, the heart can be electrically treated with a small electrical shock while under brief anesthesia. This treatment however, is rarely a permanent solution.

One of the main problems with atrial fibrillation is the chance of having a stroke. Blood clots can form in the quivering upper chambers. If a clot breaks loose it can go to the brain, causing a stoke.

This can be prevented by taking a blood thinning medication. Another complication is heart failure due to a weakening of the heart muscle.

There is a new advanced procedure called ablation. In this case a catheter is inserted in a large blood vessel in the groin and threaded up into the heart. Through highly technical computerized imaging, the trigger area for the fibrillation in the upper chamber is identified and lightly burned with high frequency radio waves. This destroys the area where the abnormal impulses of atrial fibrillation are generated. The success rate for this procedure is around 70-percent initially, and up to 90-percent if a second procedure is necessary.

Many people with atrial fibrillation are living relatively normal lives today when properly managed. It is a condition not to be feared, but to be monitored closely and treated appropriately by your doctor.

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Cholesterol is a natural wax-like substance circulating through our blood vessels that helps create healthy cells and hormones. A certain amount of cholesterol is definitely good for us, but an excess amount can cause fatty deposits in the lining of blood vessels. This makes it harder for blood to flow through the vessels carrying life-sustaining oxygen and may lead to either a heart attack or a stroke.

High cholesterol per se has no symptoms and can be detected only by a blood test. Men should have a baseline cholesterol blood test at age 35, women at age 45, and both sexes every five years thereafter — or sooner, if a doctor so determines because of risk factors. Even children should be tested if they are obese, have high blood pressure or diabetes, or have a strong family history of high cholesterol.

Most of the cholesterol in our bodies is manufactured right in the liver. A lesser amount comes from certain foods, such as fatty meats, dairy products and eggs. Therefore, a high cholesterol count can be due to either heredity or diet.

Cholesterol is carried through the blood attached to certain proteins. This combination of cholesterol and protein is called a lipoprotein, of which there are three types:

– Low-density lipoproteins (LDL). Referred to as “bad cholesterol,” these are what cause damage to blood vessels.

– Very low-density lipoproteins (VLDL). These carry another type of fat, called triglycerides, which can also damage blood vessels.

– High-density lipoproteins (HDL). Referred to as “good cholesterol,” these actually pick up excess cholesterol and take it back to the liver.

Risk factors for developing high levels of cholesterol are smoking, diabetes, obesity, poor diet, lack of exercise and family history of heart disease.

The first thing to do to control high cholesterol is to change one’s lifestyle with an emphasis on exercising and eating a healthy diet.

If your total cholesterol, particularly LDL cholesterol, remains high, your doctor will probably recommend medication. The choice of medication depends on several factors, such as your age, your state of health and possible side effects.

There are a variety of medications which help to lower cholesterol and triglycerides. They all do their work differently and have specific side effects. This is where your doctor will have to fine-tune the medications to your specific needs and set up regular visits to monitor your progress.

The bottom line is to have your cholesterol checked and, if it’s high, get it lowered to a more normal level. The results are in on this one: Lowering an elevated cholesterol level will help promote a longer and healthier life.

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I recently had the pleasure of visiting my healthy 95-year-old aunt Grace, and then I thought about my 97-year-old neighbor Vic, and it made me realize just how amazing the human body is to keep functioning for so many years. I am awestruck by this body of ours that began with just two microscopic cells coming together and developing into a complex living organism made up of some 75 trillion cells, many of which have specialized to perform amazing functions, making us the incredible beings that we are.

I’d like to share with you some interesting statistics about the human body.

Let’s take an 84-year-old person, for example. This person:

– Has a heart that beats 100,000 times daily — 35 million beats a year and more than 3 billion beats in a lifetime.

– Has a heart that has pumped over 48 million gallons of blood in a lifetime, which is enough to fill more than 2,000 average-sized in-ground swimming pools.

– Has lungs that breathe 23,000 times daily, producing 2,600 gallons of air or almost 80 million gallons per year. That’s enough in a lifetime to fill about 160 full-sized hot-air balloons.

– Has two kidneys that produce 1½ quarts of urine a day, or more than 10,000 gallons per lifetime. Those same kidneys have processed a quart of blood per minute: 423 gallons per day, and 13 million gallons per lifetime.

– Has consumed and processed 3½ pounds of food a day, equating to more than 53 tons of food since birth.

– Has produced almost 10,000 gallons of saliva in a lifetime.

Other interesting facts about our bodies

Our bodies are composed of 50 to 100 trillion cells, and 300 million cells die and are replaced every minute. Fifteen million blood cells die every second.

We have more than 650 muscles; the largest is the gluteus maximus (buttock), and the smallest, the stapedius in the middle ear.

We have 206 bones. The largest, at an average of 18 inches, is the femur (thigh bone), and the smallest, just one-tenth of an inch, is the stapes, again in the middle ear.

We have about 20 square feet of skin, with 35,000 dead skin cells coming off the body daily, which means our entire skin is replaced once a month. We shed 40 pounds of skin during an average lifetime.

We have 60,000 miles of blood vessels, which would wrap around the world more than twice.

Our noses can detect 50,000 scents.

We blink 6 million times a year.

There are roughly 20,000 diseases that affect the human body, and there are more than 600,000 physicians representing 150 medical specialties to deal with human health and disease.

Take good care of that amazing body of yours.

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Patients who go to a doctor complaining of heart palpitations usually worry that they have some serious problem with their heart. They often describe a feeling that their hearts are “flip-flopping,” missing a beat, beating faster or beating irregularly.

Palpitations, whether harmless (as most of them are) or serious, should not be ignored. A medical evaluation is recommended, especially if they are associated with dizziness, shortness of breath, chest pain or fainting.

Palpitations are usually caused by the heart beating too soon before the next normal beat. When this happens, one feels a “flip-flop” sensation in one’s chest. Because the palpitation is only a skipped beat, the heart can still function normally, so there’s usually no health risk.

Quite often, a cause for palpitations is not found, but there are some known factors:

*Strong emotional responses, such as anxiety, stress or fear

*Use of caffeine, nicotine or alcohol

*Cold and cough medications that contain the decongestant pseudoephedrine (Sudafed), which can act as a stimulant

*Strenuous exercise

In rare cases, palpitations might be a sign of a potentially serious heart problem that requires treatment. Serious complications of palpitations can include the following:

*Fainting from a significant drop in blood pressure.

*Stroke from causing lack of oxygen rich blood to the brain.

*Heart failure from the heart pumping ineffectively.

*Cardiac arrest from a heart beating so irregularly that blood circulation stops.

A medical evaluation for palpitations will usually involve a physical exam, blood tests, and an electrocardiogram. The doctor might also order a portable heart monitor to be worn for 24 to 72 hours, which can detect palpitations not found on an EKG. The bottom line is that heart palpitations are usually more bothersome than they are serious, but it’s wise to check with a doctor, just to be safe.

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