Welcome to our 28 days of Heart Health & Education to kick off Heart Month!

Each day this month, we’ll be posting a new article covering healthy recipes, common symptoms and warning signs, exercises you can do at home and much more. The next 28 days are all about you and your cardiovascular health.

Why should you care? Heart problems can arise suddenly, and unlike in the movies the warning signs can be pretty subtle. Taking care of your heart is important because it’s the only one you have.

February 24, 2016

Heart Health at Any Age

Things change the older you get. How you took care of yourself in your 20s might be very different from today. That said, it’s important to understand what you should keep in mind the older you get.

Here are some pointers on what to remember as each decade comes and goes, as well as some things you can keep in mind at any age.

All Age Groups: Choose a healthy eating plan as the food you eat can directly contribute to your risk of heart disease. Foods low in saturated and trans-fat, and sodium, are your best bet. Consider eating oily fish, like salmon, twice a week and steer clear of eating beef more than a few times a month. Combine a healthy diet with physical activity. You don’t have to run marathons, either. Choose a time that you and some friends get together each week for a brisk walk. Sometimes the best way to avoid heart problems is to be educated about the warning signs, so do a little research and ask questions of your doctor.

In Your 20s: Find a doctor and get in the habit of regular wellness exams. Even healthy people need doctors and establishing a relationship with a physician can have long lasting benefits for your health. In addition to healthy eating and exercise, don’t smoke and avoid second hand smoke.

In Your 30s: Juggling your job and the needs of a family can start to take its toll on heart health. In addition to losing some of the free time you once had, the time you do have can be filled with stress instead of exercise. Make heart healthy living a family affair with healthy family meals eaten together and family walks every week. Take some time to learn your family history, as a history of heart disease can provide indicators for your own heart. Make sure your doctor knows about family members with heart disease. Take some time for you. Stress can have far reaching impacts on your health, so even if its just a hot bath at the end of the day, don’t lose sight of your own well-being.

In your 40s: In your 40s, you may notice your metabolism slowing down, and the need to watch your weight more closely. You may have to work a little harder in both diet and exercise to maintain a healthy weight. Finding a workout buddy can be helpful to keep exercise entertaining. Have your blood sugar level checked, in addition to your other heart numbers like blood pressure and cholesterol. Snoring can offer some clues to sleep apnea, so if your partner complains about your snoring, speak to your family doctor as sleep apnea can lead to high blood pressue, heart disease and stroke.

In your 50s: Keep up with the healthy diet. It’s easy to fall into unhealthy habits, so take some time to refresh the healthy eating habits you’ve established over the years. Re-familiarize yourself with the warning signs of heart problems. At this point, despite your best efforts, you may have been diagnosed with high blood pressure or cholesterol. Follow your treatment plan to lower your risk for complications.

In Your 60s: Congratulations on reaching this milestone. In your 60s a beyond, you should consider to see your physician regularly. If you haven’t already had one, an ankle-brachial index test can assess the pulse in the feet to help identify peripheral artery disease, which is the buildup of plaque in the leg arteries. Keep paying attention to your weight and be careful not to fall into bad habits as life begins to slow down. Learn about the warning signs of heart attack, not just in yourself but in your significant other as well. Men and women experience heart problems differently and it may be up to you to get your spouse to see a doctor.

Heart health is a lifelong journey. By knowing what to look for, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and engaging with your doctor in your heart health you’ve gone a long way towards ensuring the health of your heart. After all, you’ve only got one.

February 23, 2017 

Got kids? Great! It’s time to get moving. 

Got kids? Then you have a whole list of reasons to get up and get moving!

  1. Physical activity is a great way to boost your heart health.
  2. Engaging in regular physical activity will keep you younger and better able to keep up with your children.
  3. You’ll lead your child to adopt a healthier lifestyle. Children learn by example. If you make exercise part of your routine, chances are they will, too.
  4. Whether it’s taking a walk or tossing a ball, you’ll find new opportunities to bond with your child.
  5. Finally, it’s fun!

The good news is, creating a more active family lifestyle can be done anytime, anywhere. Family walks after dinner, weekend excursions like hiking or skiing, a trip to the local indoor pool (we’ll save the outdoor swims for summer!), a game of pickup basketball – these are all inexpensive and easy ways to get you and your kids up and moving. Or, if you need a goal to stay motivated, find a local 5K and fun run that you and your child can train for and complete together.

The bottom line is, get up and get moving. Your heart, and your kids, will thank you!

Interesting fact: A 150-pound person will burn 68 calories while sitting quietly and watching TV for one hour. Throw in some push-ups, sit-ups and jumping jacks for just 10 minutes, and you’ll easily double that number.

February 22, 2017

Dessert…with a heart.

Sometimes, being bad feels so good. When dinner ends, you can’t help but want a few scoops of ice cream from the freezer. While it’s important to treat yourself from time to time, you want to keep the decadent desserts as a special treat, rather than an every night thing.

Luckily for your sweet tooth, some desserts are healthier than others. As summer approaches, try the grilled peaches with honey and yogurt below. But even when peaches aren’t in season, you can swap up heart healthy berries like blueberries or rasberries.

Grilled Peaches with Yogurt and Honey

INGREDIENTS:

1/4 cup fat free vanilla Greek yogurt (Stonyfields)

1/8 tsp cinnamon

2 large ripe peaches, cut in half (pit removed)

2 tbsp honey (I prefer local and raw)

Directions

Combine yogurt and cinnamon.

Grill the peaches, covered on low or indirect heat until soft, about 2-4 minutes on each side.

Drizzle with honey and serve each with 1 tbsp of yogurt.

February 21, 2017

Sleeping Beauty

There is perhaps nothing more important for the health of your mind and body than consistently getting a good night’s sleep. This is the only time the body gets to truly slow down and relax, and you owe it to yourself and get a good night’s sleep every night.

It’s particularly important for your heart. Even though it keeps beating after you close your eyes, it benefits from the fall in your blood pressure which happens when you drift off to dreamland.

To ensure that you get the maximum benefit out of your sleep, consider the below pointers for ensuring a deep and relaxing sleep every night. There is nothing worse than tossing and turning, and these simple routines can help you wake up feeling rejuvenated.

Bedroom = Sleep Only

Our lives are filled with more distractions than ever. It can be tempting to hang that old TV in the bedroom, so you can curl up and fall sleep to the game. But with distractions in the bedroom, just say no. This means avoiding work, phone calls, televisions, social media and computers in your bedroom. The light from these screens make it harder to fall asleep, confusing your body’s internal clock. The visual cues will furthermore keep you intrigued, and awake, when you should be winding down.

Setting Yourself Up for Success

The environment in your bedroom has a big impact on your sleep. For one, darkness enhances sleep, so the more you can create a dark room, the better. Turn off everything that makes noise. Keep the thermostat cool, as a cool room induces sleep. If you toss and turn, consider going to look at different pillows and mattress pads. Pets can sometimes bring the same problem that children do, making noise, shifting and squirming. Consider trying your pets sleeping elsewhere.

Relaxation Techniques

Bedtime can be a rushed affair. You watch your favorite shows, and when the clock hits bedtime, you quickly brush your teeth and hop into bed. You then wait impatiently for sleep to happen. Instead, try a short relaxation routine leading up to falling asleep. Breathe slowly and deeply after you get into bed, concentrating on relaxing one muscle at a time. It may seem silly, but say a short relaxing mantra in your head a few times. Try not to obsess about falling asleep, which may cause your brain to become overly engaged. If you don’t fall asleep after 20 minutes, try reading a book for a few minutes with a dim light.

Make a Routine, and Stick to It

Have a time that you go to bed and a time you wake up every day. It can be tempting to sleep in on weekends, but the more you can stick to your routine every day, the better and ensures natural sleep rhythms.

Avoid Food, Drinks or Activities that may interfere with sleep

Certain things just aren’t good for sleep. For instance, alcohol may help you fall asleep faster, but causes problems in your sleep later in the night. Caffeine, and spicy or acidic foods, and interfere with a good night’s sleep. Physical activity can do great things for a deep sleep, BUT exercising right before bed can have the opposite effect stimulating your body and mind and leaving you tossing and turning.

If these techniques don’t help, and you still find yourself waking up exhausted, you might benefit from seeing a sleep specialist. Sleep studies can help identify any underlying causes that may be leading to bad sleep. While it can be inconvenient to engage in a sleep study, it can have a lasting positive impact on your heart health.

February 20, 2017

Don’t Miss Your Annual Screening 


Taking an active role in your preventative health can be the key to preventing heart disease and managing your risk factors.  One of the best preventative measures is an annual heart health check-up. Even if you don’t have a heart condition, it’s crucial to schedule and keep annual exam appointments with your primary care doctor. These annual check-ups provide a baseline of your health and help compare against future visits. 
To make the most of your time with your doctor, ask your doctor about taking these screening tests: 
•    Weight, waist size and body mass index
•    Blood pressure 
•    Cholesterol 
•    Fasting blood glucose 
Your doctor will discuss any concerns resulting from these screenings, and may suggest specific lifestyle changes or prescribe medication to help you manage a particular risk factor. In some cases your primary care doctor may refer you to a cardiologist for further testing and evaluation.  

February 19, 2017

Fun Facts about your Hard Working Heart

Your heart is one hard-working muscle. It’s a fascinating, giant pump that is working second minute of every day.  With it working so hard for you, maybe knowing a little more about your heart will inspire you to work a little harder to keep it healthier.

Fun Fact #1 – Your adult heart beats about 100,000 times a day

That’s at least one beat every second, or 60 to 100 times a minute, according to the American Heart Association. For people whose heart rate is closer to 60 beats per minute, that’s about 86,000 times a day. And it’s 144,000 times a day if your heart rate is closer to 100 beats per minute.

Fun Fact #2 – As you get older your heart rate gets slower

As children grow, their little bodies are constantly undergoing changes – limbs get longer, bones get stronger and the mind grows more complex.  According to the National Institutes of Health, your heart rate also changes throughout the decades of your early life:

  • Newborns ( 0 to 11 months) have a heart rate of 70 to 160 beats per minute
  • Baby to Toddler (1 – 4 years) have a heart rate of 80 to 120 beats per minute
  • Children (5-9 years) heave a heart rate of 75 to 110 beats per minute

Fun Fact #3 – Your heart rate drops while you sleep

At night, it’s common for heart rates to drop below 60 beats per minute. Why?  Your metabolism slows which in turn slows your heart and helps your body relax.

Are you working hard enough to keep your heart healthy?  An annual appointment with your primary care doctor or a cardiologist can help you take a more active role in keeping your heart healthy.  If you need to find a primary care doctor or heart specialist, visit our Physician Finder to set up an appointment today. 

February 18, 2017

Heart Disease: How and when to talk to your significant other

Our priority is making communities healthier. One way we do this is by providing educational opportunities and information that empowers people. Understanding the risk factors, signs and symptoms of certain illnesses and conditions, like heart disease, can have a serious impact on the likelihood of a positive outcome and a strong recovery.

And we don’t just want you to recognize these signs and symptoms in yourself. We want you to be able to recognize, and comfortably discuss, these warning signs with your loved ones. If we can detect potential heart problems, we are more likely to keep them from progressing into serious medical conditions. But these conversations can be challenging.

Here are a few tips to consider, if someone close to you is at risk:

Know the symptoms. According to the American Heart Association, 88% of sudden cardiac arrests occur at home, which means a spouse or child is likely to be the first to respond. Knowing the signs and symptoms will help you recognize a heart problem and act quickly and appropriately.

Share your concerns. Key to voicing your concerns is to do so in a caring and compassionate manner. You don’t want to come across as nagging the individual, rather you want the person to know that you care deeply about him or her and are genuinely concerned. Share any signs or symptoms you may have witnessed and offer to accompany the person to the doctor as a support system.

Encourage routine checkups. Routine visits to a primary care physician are important in establishing a baseline for health and also identifying potential health problems before they hit. These should be done regardless of whether or not specific concerns or symptoms are present.

February 17, 2017

Weight and Heart: A Love Story

Every New Year, and it’s the same promise to ourselves. Lose weight. Eat Healthier. Exercise. And even though most of us will fail to follow through on this resolution (just 8%, according to one finding, achieve their New Year’s Resolution), that failure is not because we don’t want to be healthier. More often, life just gets in the way.

Even with life’s challenges it’s important for us to find ways to help out our heart. Our weight can be an important indicator of our risk level for heart problems. More specifically, where that weight is can elevate risks for heart problems.

Location counts

For one, a thicker waistline increases the risk for heart attack according to doctors from New York University. Stomach fat is linked to high blood sugar, increased blood pressure and higher levels of triglycerides (a type of fat in your blood).

The reason why belly fat is more dangerous for your heart is because it is closer to your internal organs. This can also be the hardest kind of fat to lose, so working with your care provider to create an eating and exercise plan can be particularly important.

Stress can lead to weight gain

Tension, or stress, might play a role in your waistline. The stress hormone, Cortisol, can increase belly fat. It can narrow your blood vessels which can raise your blood pressure trying to boost the flow of blood. If you are frequently stressed, this process can lead to blood vessel damage and a buildup of plaque.

It can also cause weight gain. The process draws fat from storage and sends it to your belly, which can cause inflammation leading to heart problems.

But what can you really do about stress? Every Sunday article this month is dedicated to reducing stress, so check back on Sunday for a helpful tip.

I want to lose weight. Now what?

There is no one size fits all approach to losing weight and reducing your waistline. It starts with truly deciding that you want to make a change. You may want to consult your doctor for recommendations or assistance in putting together a plan. Here are a few helpful tips:

Cut the sugar. Sugar isn’t just what you add to your coffee, but it’s in a lot of the things we eat and drink from alcohol to microwave dinners.

Healthy fruits. Some fruits are better than others. Go for strawberries or blueberries over bananas and grapes (which have more sugar).

Choose whole wheat. Avoid white bread and white rice, and opt instead for whole wheat.

Think of it as a marathon. Avoid the two week fat shedding diets, and opt instead for a long term, and more sustainable plan. A Mediterranean style of eating has been shown to be both heart healthy and low in sugar.

February 16, 2017

The road to heart health starts at home

After a long day at work, it’s easy to go home, kick off your shoes, and grab the remote. While this may help you unwind, it’s not doing any favors for your heart. In fact, if you’re like most Americans, it’s complicating an already sedentary lifestyle and increasing your risk of a number of health problems, including heart disease.

So tonight, instead of snuggling into the couch to catch your favorite shows, try incorporating some physical activity into your evening routine.

  • Take an after-dinner walk, just remember to bundle up! (if it’s cold)
  • Sit on the floor and stretch during your favorite primetime shows.
  • Set a goal to do 100 jumping jacks, 25 pushups, 25 lunges, and 50 sit-ups.
  • Dust off the X-box or Wii for 30 minutes of dancing, bowling, tennis, guitar hero, or another other interactive game.
  • Play Twister or charades with your family.
  • Do squats while you brush your teeth.

The neat thing is that exercise doesn’t have to be “work”. It comes in all shapes and sizes, and it can be done from the comfort of your living room. 

February15, 2017

Making broccoli cool again

You’re sitting at your desk, and it’s getting close to lunchtime. You’ve got your brown bag lunch in the office fridge but aren’t particularly excited about it. Maybe it’s two day old meatloaf or turkey on a couple pieces of bread. When your co-workers stop by to say they’re headed out to the new burger place, you can’t resist. Eating out is not only tough on your wallet, it can be tougher on your heart.

Luckily, there are all kinds of ways to add excitement to your brown bag lunch!

The best part about this recipe are the chopped walnuts and the broccoli. Researchers recently identified walnuts as potentially the top nut for heart health, because of the antioxidants they pack in. Similarly, while we all knew broccoli was healthy (at least our parents told us that when we were kids), a study performed by the Imperial College London found that sulforaphane, which is especially concentrated in broccoli, may help prevent inflammation in certain arterial areas.

So pack up this lunch for work – your heart will thank you!

Broccoli Salad with Chopped Walnuts

INGREDIENTS

1/4 cup plain low-fat yogurt

1/4 cup bottled light ranch salad dressing (substitute lemon juice and olive oil for even more heart health)

1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped cooked chicken or turkey

1/2 cup coarsely chopped broccoli

1/4 cup shredded carrot

1/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)

Directions

In a small bowl combine yogurt and salad dressing. In a medium bowl combine chicken, broccoli, carrot, and, if desired, nuts. Pour yogurt mixture over chicken mixture; toss to coat.

For individual lunches, divide chicken mixture among four plastic cups. Cover and chill for up to 24 hours.

February 14, 2017

Does your heart need a personal time out?

You wake up early, start making breakfast and lunches so you can get the kids fed, dressed and to school on time. Follow that with eight, or more, hours at the office, sandwiched between hour-long commutes through jammed highways and interstates. Then you make a beeline home to get the kids to baseball practice and gymnastics, working on homework in the car. Once you finally make it home, there’s still dinner to be made, dishes to be cleaned and baths to be taken.

Sound like your typical day? If so, it may be time to pause, reassess your daily routine, and explore ways to work in a little more “me-time”.

There are many benefits of taking time for yourself. A little alone time can help you recharge, improve your focus, and manage stress, which is key to maintaining a healthy heart.

If your day sounds like the one we described at the beginning of this post, squeezing in “me-time” may seem daunting, or even impossible. But we have a few strategies that may help you work in a few extra minutes:

Set your alarm 30 minutes earlier. Whether you choose to sit quietly, have a cup of coffee, or sneak in a quick workout, as little as 30 minutes of quiet time before the rest of the house wakes up should be just enough to reboot and get ready for the day.

Schedule it. Mark 15-20 minutes on your calendar every day for you. During your 15 minutes, you can take a walk, stretch, or just be still.

Ditch the devices. During your 15 minutes each day, forget looking at Facebook or surfing the Internet. Drop the devices and enjoy some quiet time.

Shut your door. Whether you take your “me-time” at home or at the office, don’t be afraid to shut your door. This will keep your “me-time” from becoming “we-time”. 

February 13, 2017

Take as Directed -Talking to Your Doctor about Medications

Taking an active role in your health can help you get the best care possible.  One step in taking charge of your health is talking to your doctor about medications you are taking, the favorable results of that medication and any potential side effects. 

As you age, and have life changes, such as having a baby, undergoing surgery or experiencing other health events, finding the right medications for you is an important conversation to have with your doctor.  We want to provide you the list of questions that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommend you ask your doctor when a medication is prescribed.

Key Questions to Ask Your Doctor

  • What is the name of the medication, and what is it supposed to do?
  • How long will it be before I should expect to see results?
  • What kind of track record in terms of effectiveness does this medication have?
  • What are the primary short-term side effects of this medication?
  • Does this medication have any long-term side effects that I should be aware of, such as diabetes, sexual side effects, or weight gain?
  • Are there ways to minimize these side effects?
  • How and when do I take it, and when do I stop taking it?
  • What foods, drinks, or other medications should I avoid while taking the prescribed medication?
  • Should it be taken with food or on an empty stomach?
  • Is it safe to drink alcohol while on this medication?
  • Is it safe for me to continue taking aspirin, Advil, vitamins and/or herbal supplements when taking this medication? Is there something specific I should avoid?
  • Is a generic version of this medication available?
  • What should I do if I miss a dose of this medication? Take it immediately when I remember, or wait until my next regularly scheduled dose?

If you need to find a primary care doctor, visit our Physician Finder to set up an appointment today.

February 12, 2017

A Happy Heart is a Healthy Heart

When it comes to keeping your heart healthy, sometimes laughter is the best medicine. Not only is it free of charge, research shows that laughing can actually strengthen your immune system, boost your energy, alleviate pain and protect you from the damaging effects of stress. 

But the question we often hear is, “How?” How can something as simple as humor help your heart and health?

  • Laughter relaxes the whole body. A good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after.
  • Laughter boosts the immune system. Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease.
  • Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.
  • Laughter protects the heart. Laughter improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect you against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems

With so much power to heal, the benefits of laughter don’t stop there.  When laughter is shared, it binds people together and increases happiness and intimacy.

Find a way to create a little more laughter each day. A few ideas include organized fun with friends or children, playing with a pet, making time for fun activities or checking out your bookstore’s humor section. 

February 11, 2017

Heart Disease 101: Warning Signs for Men

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the leading cause of death for men in the U.S. One in four men will die from heart disease. We want to change that statistic, and one way we can start to do so is by educating the community on the warning signs of heart disease so we can catch it early.

So what are the primary signs and symptoms of heart disease in men? When should you call the doctor? When should you call 9-1-1?

While women sometimes experience non-traditional and more subtle symptoms like sweating, pressure, nausea or vomiting, and back, neck or jaw pain, men may experience more traditional symptoms like chest pain and breaking out in a cold sweat. The primary signs and symptoms of heart disease are:

  • Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
  • Other signs may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.

If you, or someone you know exhibits signs of heart disease, it is important to act quickly. Call 9-1-1 or your emergency response number as soon as you suspect trouble. Remember, every minute matters when it comes to heart disease.  

If you want to learn more, talk to your primary care physician about your risk factors and any preventive care options that are right for you. And remember, you don’t have to be experiencing any warning signs to do so. The CDC reports that about half of the men who die suddenly of coronary heart disease have no previous symptoms.

February 10, 2017

Know Your Numbers

When it comes to heart health, you might hear your doctor talk about your “numbers”. What are they talking about? While the heart is a complex organ with a lot of moving parts, there are a few numbers that are particularly important when gauging your heart health.

Blood Sugar

Blood sugar, like it sounds, is the amount of sugar (glucose) in the blood. To measure blood sugar, you may have to fast before your appointment for 6 – 8 hours. Scheduling your appointment first thing in the morning makes the fasting more manageable.

Blood Pressure

Your blood pressure measures the force of the blood against the arteries when the heart beats and rests. You’ll get two numbers, the systolic (highest) and diastolic (lowest) blood pressure. An ideal blood pressure is 120/80 or below.

  • Systolic blood pressure (the upper number) — indicates how much pressure your blood is exerting against your artery walls when the heart beats.
  • Diastolic blood pressure (the lower number) — indicates how much pressure your blood is exerting against your artery walls while the heart is resting between beats.

Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a waxy substance produced by the liver. A healthy cholesterol level is a score less than 180 mg/dL. Cholesterol is unable to dissolve in the blood, so it has to be transported to and from the cells by carriers. There is such a thing as good cholesterol (HDL) and bad cholesterol (LDL), so make sure to get both from your doctor.

Body Weight (BMI)

Your BMI gives you a sense of whether you are at a healthy weight, given your age, gender, height and frame. A BMI of between 18.6 – 24.9 is generally considered healthy.

Don’t know your numbers? Knowing your numbers can be a great first step on the journey to heart health. If your numbers are not at the target level, you can work with your health care provider to develop a plan to reach your goals.

There’s an app for that! Apps offer a great way to keep track of your numbers, and to create a fitness plan to achieve your heart goals. Apps like Healthy Heart Numbers help you track your numbers, while the app “Lose It!” Can help you keep track of your daily diet and exercise.

February 9, 2017

Workplace Workouts: Easy ways to make your workday more active 

If there’s one thing that most Americans have in common, it’s that we live sedentary lifestyles. From commuting to work and spending hours behind a computer, to watching TV or surfing the internet after work, health experts have long warned that we simply sit too much.

In fact, medical experts estimate that the average worker sits for about 10 hours a day, between work and home. Complicating matters, according to the CDC, only about one in five Americans meet the recommended 30 minutes of physical activity every day. These numbers are alarming as sedentary lifestyles have been proven to lead to a greater risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, depression and some cancers.

But the good news is there are some easy ways to make your day more active. And since so much of our day is spent at work, sitting down, Hospital has compiled with some simple tips that will help you work more physical activity into your workday:

  1. Stand up to take phone calls.
  2. Hold standing meetings.
  3. Hold walking meetings.
  4. Set a timer to remind you to stand up and stretch or take a walk every hour.
  5. Take a 30 minute walk during your lunch hour.
  6. Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  7. Park a little farther away from the front door.
  8. Consider walking or biking to work, if feasible.

The easiest way to start is to pick one or two of the ideas above, and add them to your daily routine. Once these new behaviors have turned into habits, add another. Overtime, these small changes will add up to big results in terms of your heart health.

Challenge: If you really want to shake things up, look for a nearby park or gym and consider adding a daily walk or lunchtime exercise class to your day. 

February 8, 2017

An egg white a day…

If you’re an egg lover, you may scoff at eating just the whites. After all, the yolk is the most delicious part. If you’re open to a change, utilizing just the whites of the egg every now and then can have benefits for your heart, particularly if cholesterol is a concern.

Egg whites are low in calories and high in protein. They are a cost efficient choice for complete protein, providing the amino acids that the body can’t produce on its own.

Egg White Omelet

INGREDIENTS

4 tsp. extra virgin olive oil

1 small onion, finely chopped

Salt

1 10-oz. package frozen chopped spinach, thawed (with all excess water squeezed out)

4 plum tomatoes, finely chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)

Freshly ground black pepper

12 egg whites

2 tbsp. water

Nonstick cooking spray

Instructions:

1. In a skillet or pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add the onion and a pinch salt; cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until onion is softened.

2. Add the spinach; cook and stir until hot.

3. Add the tomatoes and pepper to taste, and cook and stir for 1 minute. Remove from heat; cover and keep warm.

4. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg whites, water, and a pinch salt until frothy.

5. Lightly coat a medium nonstick skillet or omelet pan with cooking spray; heat skillet over medium heat. Add one-fourth of the egg whites, swirling to evenly cover the bottom of the pan. Cook for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes or until set, using a rubber scraper to lift eggs up occasionally, letting runny egg flow underneath.

6. Spoon one-fourth of the spinach mixture onto half of omelet, fold over, and slide onto a plate. Repeat with remaining egg whites and spinach mixture.

February 7, 2017

The Benefits of Yoga: Keep Your Heart Healthy, and Happy, with Yoga

Manage blood pressure. Control cholesterol. Reduce blood sugar. Get active. Eat better. Lose weight. Stop Smoking. There’s a reason the most talked about ways to improve your heart health also comprise the American Heart Associations’ (AHA) “Simple 7”, a list of seven lifestyle strategies that can help people lower their risk of heart disease. They work!

But there’s another proven way to protect your heart, and that’s by managing stress. While there are many ways to do so, one ancient practice that has been helping people manage stress for thousands of years. Yoga.

For those who may have heard of it, but aren’t quite sure what yoga is, it is a practice that involves a series of stretches and poses, coordinated with deep breathing and meditation. And according to many national experts, including the AHA, its benefits are widespread.

Yoga can lower blood pressure. The calming effect of yoga is said to produce benefits as soon as people begin practicing, including lowering blood pressure and leaving people feeling more relaxed after a session.

Yoga can improve flexibility and exercise performance. According to the AHA, after just 12 weeks of regular yoga, people may see dramatic improvements in the exercise functionality and blood pressure. They may also experience a decrease in cholesterol levels.

Yoga helps heal after heart disease. The aftermath of dealing with a serious heart condition can leave people with high levels of emotional stress. The practice of yoga has been shown to help patients recover as it can help them overcome depression and even grief.

If those aren’t reason enough to give yoga a try, it has also been shown to improve your energy and your mood. But, before you grab your mat, be sure to talk to your physician, especially if you are living with a heart condition or have previously suffered from heart disease. If you are in need of a primary care physician, you can search for one that best fits your needs using our online Physician Finder

February 6, 2017

Know Your Numbers

Taking an active role in your health can help you ensure a long and healthy life. One step in taking charge of your health is knowing your heart health, particularly three key numbers: 

  1. Blood pressure
  2. Cholesterol levels
  3. Waist size

Blood Pressure

  • One in three adults in the U.S. – about 74 million people – has high blood pressure, many of whom may not realize it. It is important to know what your blood pressure and if it falls in a normal range. Normal blood pressure is below 120/80
  • Pre-hypertension is 120 to 139/80 to 89
  • Hypertension (known as high blood pressure) is 140/90 or higher

Cholesterol

You might be confused by all of the numbers associated with cholesterol.  Some are “good” and some are “bad.” When your doctor measures cholesterol they are really talking about three different, but equally important, numbers: HDL, LDL and triglycerides.  HDL is the high density lipoprotein, or “good”, cholesterol. LDL, or low density lipoprotein, is the “bad” cholesterol. HDL carries LDL out of the arteries, protecting against the build-up of plaque and hardening of arteries.  So while you want your LDL to be low, it is actually good to have a higher range of HDL. Triglycerides are type of fat that is used to store excess energy derived from the foods you eat.

Now that you know what you’re monitoring, here are the numbers to strive for:

  • Total cholesterol of 200 or below
  • HDL (good cholesterol) 50 or higher for women or 40 or higher for men
  • LDL (bad cholesterol) 100 or below
  • Triglycerides of 150 or below

Waist Size

According to the American Heart Association, your waist size is one of the best predictors of heart disease risk.  A waist size equal to or greater than 35 inches in women and equal to or greater than 40 inches in men increases risk of heart disease. 

At every appointment with your primary care doctor, make sure you understand what these three numbers mean for your health and what, if any, changes you might need to do to help keep them in a healthy range.

If you need to find a primary care doctor, call our physician refereall line at 800.424.DOCS (3627)

February 5, 2017

Stock the Pantry for Your Heart

When it comes to eating heart healthy, it starts at home.  But how do you know what to stock in your pantry and fridge to help make everyday meals at home more heart healthy?  We want to help.

We’ve compiled a guide to help you plan your next grocery trip to stock up on nutritious foods that may help you and your family reduce your risk for heart disease. And keep dinner delicious.

10 Pantry Essentials

  • Dried or canned beans (lentils, garbanzo beans, black beans)
  • Rolled, steel cut or Irish oats
  • Brown rice, wild rice and/or brown basmati rice
  • Whole wheat pastas
  • Reduced-sodium chicken, beef and vegetable broths
  • Plain popcorn or light (98% fat-free) microwave popcorn
  • Reduced-sodium canned diced tomatoes, whole tomatoes and tomato sauce
  • Assorted raw nuts and seeds (almonds, walnuts, peanuts, sunflower seeds)
  • Olive oil
  • Reduced sodium ketchup & assorted mustards (whole grain, honey, Dijon, yellow)

10 Fresh Fridge Essentials

  • Fresh seasonal fruits (berries, oranges, apples, pears, bananas, figs, grapefruit and grapes)
  • Colorful vegetables (yellow, green, and red bell peppers; tomatoes, yellow squash and zucchini)
  • Green vegetables (broccoli, kale, spinach, dark leafy greens and celery)
  • Milk alternatives such as Soymilk, Almond milk, or coconut milk
  • Egg substitutes or egg whites
  • Low fat yogurt, sour cream and cottage cheese
  • Lean ground beef (Note: when buying beef, look for words like “round” or “loin” and choose lean cuts – the less marbling, the lower the fat content)
  • Substitute ground turkey for ground beef
  • Assorted fish such as salmon, mackerel, tilapia, trout, and tuna
  • Skinless chicken or turkey

February 4, 2017

Heart Disease 101: Warning Signs for Women

The number one killer of men and women in the U.S., you may think that gender doesn’t matter when it comes to heart disease. But it does. According to the American Heart Association, in the past 30 years, more women than men have died each year from heart disease. This could in part be due to the less obvious signs and symptoms women sometimes experience and the fact that only one in five women believe that heart disease is their greatest health threat.

Before we talk differences, it is important to know the primary signs and symptoms of heart disease, for men and women. They are:

  • Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
  • Other signs may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.

As with men, the most common heart attack symptom in women is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common, and more subtle symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain, sometimes without any obvious chest discomfort.

Particularly alarming is that it isn’t just heavy smokers, stressed out or overweight women who fall victim to heart attack. Otherwise healthy women can also suffer a heart attack. And it’s these women who often write the condition off as something else – the flu or an unusually stressful period in their life – delaying potentially life-saving care.

We to make sure all of the women in our community not only know what to watch for, but also what their level of risk is. Talk to your primary care physician about your risk factors and preventive care options that are right for you. 

February 3, 2017

Overlooked Symptoms

We’ve all seen the movie where a heart attack occurs. A character is walking along when suddenly they grab their chest, wincing with pain. Immediately they tell the other characters, “Call 911! I’m having a heart attack!”

In reality, a heart attack can strike much more subtly. Worst of all, it can happen to someone who otherwise might feel or seem completely healthy.

Below are a few common, and often overlooked, signs that a heart attack may be approaching. To get a pulse on your heart health, make sure to see your family doctor and ask questions about your risk factors.

Indigestion

For some, indigestion is an unfortunate everyday occurrence. But for others who may not have a history of indigestion, this can be a sign that a heart attack is approaching. According to research by the National Institutes of Health, this can be especially true for women. Look for indigestion to be combined with jaw, chest or back pain, anxiety or excessive sweating.

Discomfort in the Stomach, Neck or Jaw

Waking up after sleeping awkwardly, and the neck pain that follows, is the worst. But, if you experience neck or jaw pain not related to an injury, or stomach pain that you can’t pinpoint, it could be your body’s way of telling you that your heart needs attention. These symptoms may be combined with generalized weakness or lack of energy.

Headaches

Migraine headaches can be a warning sign of a heart attack. Women, in particular, who experience a migraine accompanied by flashes of light, blind spots or tingling in the hand or face should consult their doctor immediately as this can be a warning sign that a heart attack is approaching.

Fatigue

Everyone feels fatigue from time to time, and more often than not this is just a symptom of life. But if the fatigue just doesn’t feel right, that can be a warning sign for heart trouble. Often times, the fatigue doesn’t feel like anything you may have experienced before. There can be a generalized weakness associated with the fatigue, combined with other symptoms like shortness of breath. If you’re concerned, don’t ignore the symptoms.

General Weakness

As humans, we always try to tough it out. But if you’re feeling weaker than normal, it may be worth giving the doctor a call.

February 2, 2017
 

30 minutes a day helps keep heart disease away

Did you know that by exercising as few as 30 minutes per day, you can improve your heart health and quality of life? And it doesn’t have to be hardcore, rigorous physical activity – the kind that leaves you drenched in sweat and sore for days. It can be simple, easy-to-incorporate activities like walking your dog, tossing a ball with your child, or dancing with friends.

Throughout February, we want to help you boost your heart health by sharing some simple ways to incorporate more physical activity into your daily routine. And we’re kicking the month off with an activity that, according to the American Heart Association, is the simplest positive change you can make to improve your heart health. Walking.

Here are a few reasons to lace up your sneakers:

  • Studies show that for every hour of walking, you may increase your life expectancy by two hours.
  • Regular walking can improve your cholesterol, lower blood pressure, increase your energy and stamina, and prevent weight gain.
  • Walking is low-risk, easy to start, and can be done anywhere, anytime.
  • You can adapt it to your mood - you can go it alone, take your pup or meet up with a friend.

If your schedule is jam-packed, you can break the 30-minute walk into three, 10-minute walk breaks throughout the day. These can be done before work, during lunch, or after dinner - whatever works for you and is easy to maintain.

So let’s get up and get moving. Your heart will thank you.


Create your own Circuit Workout @ Home


February 1, 2017

To kick off heart month, here’s a delicious salmon recipe you can make at home. Salmon is packed with heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. The American Heart Association advises that eating salmon and other omega-3 rich foods twice a week can have benefits extending far beyond your heart. Enjoy!

Roasted Salmon with Pesto Vegetables Recipe 

​INGREDIENTS

2 bell peppers, thinly sliced

1 small red onion, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 6-ounce skinless salmon fillets

kosher salt and black pepper

¼ cup pesto

DIRECTIONS

Heat oven to 450° F. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the peppers and onion with the oil. Nestle salmon fillets in the mixture; season with ¾ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Roast until the salmon is opaque throughout and the vegetables are tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Serve topped with the pesto.