Wellness Wednesday: Life’s Simple 7

Do you know there are seven easy ways to help control your risk for heart disease? Manage your heart risk by understanding “Life’s Simple 7.”

Get active

Red puzzle heart with stethoscope on grey wooden backgroundDaily physical activity increases the length and quality of your life. If you get at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity each day (like brisk walking), five times per week, you can almost guarantee yourself a healthier and more satisfying life while lowering your risks for heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

What To Do:
Start by learning the basics about fitness. Also, children need 60 minutes a day—every day—of physical activity, so find ways to workout with your kids to help ensure their heart health in addition to your own.

Control cholesterol

When you control your cholesterol, you are giving your arteries their best chance to remain clear of blockages. Cholesterol is a waxy substance and our bodies use it to make cell membranes and some hormones, but when you have too much bad cholesterol (LDL), it combines with white blood cells and forms plaque in your veins and arteries. These blockages lead to heart disease and stroke.

What To Do:
Try these tips to lower cholesterol with diet and foods.

GRFW-Food-DiaryEat better

Healthy foods are the fuel our bodies use to make new cells and create the energy we need to thrive and fight diseases. If you are frequently skipping out on veggies, fruit, low-fat dairy, fiber-rich whole grains, and lean meats including fish, your body is missing the basic building blocks for a healthy life.

What To Do:
Want more ways to eat better? Try these tips:

  • Track what you eat with a food diary.
  • Eat vegetables and fruits.
  • Eat unrefined fiber-rich whole-grain foods.
  • Eat fish twice a week.
  • Cut back on added sugars and saturated fats.

Manage blood pressure

High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. When your blood pressure stays within healthy ranges, you reduce the strain on your heart, arteries, and kidneys which keeps you healthier longer.

BPHigh blood pressure, also known as hypertension, means the blood running through your arteries flows with too much force and puts pressure on your arteries, stretching them past their healthy limit and causing microscopic tears. Our body then kicks into injury-healing mode to repair these tears with scar tissue. But unfortunately, the scar tissue traps plaque and white blood cells which can form into blockages, blood clots, and hardened, weakened arteries.

What To Do:
To manage blood pressure, you should:

Lose weight

If you have too much fat—especially if a lot of it is at your waist—you’re at higher risk for such health problems as high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and diabetes. If you’re overweight or obese, you can reduce your risk for heart disease by successfully losing weight and keeping it off. Even losing as few as five or ten pounds can produce a dramatic blood pressure reduction.

What To Do:
Calculate your body mass index (BMI) to help you determine if you need to lose weight.

Reduce blood sugar

Most of the food we eat is turned into glucose (or blood sugar) that our bodies use for energy. Your body makes a hormone called insulin that acts like a carrier to take your food energy into your cells. If your fasting blood sugar level is below 100, you are in the healthy range. If not, your results could indicate diabetes or pre-diabetes.

Although diabetes is treatable and you can live a healthy life with this condition, even when glucose levels are under control it greatly increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. In fact, most people with diabetes die from some form of heart or blood vessel disease.

What To Do:
The following tips can all help reduce your blood sugar:

  • Reduce consumption of simple sugars that are found in soda, candy and sugary desserts.
  • Get regular physical activity! Moderate intensity aerobic physical activity directly helps your body respond to insulin.
  • Take medications or insulin if it is prescribed for you.

Stop smoking

iStock_000018054489_LargeCigarette smokers have a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease. If you smoke, quitting is the best thing you can do for your health. Smoking damages your entire circulatory system, and increases your risk for coronary heart disease, hardened arteries, aneurysm and blood clots. Like a line of tumbling dominoes, one risk creates another. Blood clots and hardened arteries increase your risks for heart attack, stroke and peripheral artery disease. Smoking can also reduce your good cholesterol (HDL) and your lung capacity, making it harder to get the physical activity you need for better health.

What To Do:
Whatever it takes for you to stop smoking, it is worth it! Visit the American Heart Association’s Quit Smoking website for tools and resources.

Learn more about “Life’s Simple 7” and take action with MyLifeCheck from the American Heart Association.

Source: American Heart Association, Go Red for Women


More Information:

Go Red For Women’s food diary

Wellness Wednesday: The Facts About Women and Heart Disease

Do you know what causes heart disease in women? What the survival rate is? Or whether women of all ethnicities share the same risk?

The fact is: Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women, causing 1 in 3 deaths each year. That’s approximately one woman every minute!

go-red-for-women

But it doesn’t affect all women alike, and the warning signs for women aren’t the same in men. There are a several myths and misconceptions about heart disease in women, and they could be putting you at risk.

Myth: Heart disease is for men, and cancer is the real threat for women

Fact: Heart disease is a killer that strikes more women than men, and is more deadly than all forms of cancer combined. While 1 in 31 American women dies from breast cancer each year, heart disease claims the lives of 1 in 3. That’s roughly one death each minute.

Myth: Heart disease is for old people

Fact: Heart disease affects women of all ages.  For younger women, the combination of birth control pills and smoking boosts heart disease risks by 20 percent. And while the risks do increase with age, things like overeating and a sedentary lifestyle can cause plaque to accumulate and lead to clogged arteries later in life. But even if you lead a completely healthy lifestyle, being born with an underlying heart condition can be a risk factor.

Myth: Heart disease doesn’t affect women who are fit

Fact: Even if you’re a yoga-loving, marathon-running workout fiend, your risk for heart disease isn’t completely eliminated. Factors like cholesterol, eating habits and smoking can counterbalance your other healthy habits. You can be thin and have high cholesterol. The American Heart Association recommends you start getting your cholesterol checked at age 20, or earlier, if your family has a history of heart disease. And while you’re at it, be sure to keep an eye on your blood pressure at your next check-up.

Myth: I don’t have any symptoms

Fact: Sixty-four percent of women who die suddenly of coronary heart disease had no previous symptoms. Because these symptoms vary greatly between men and women, they’re often misunderstood. Media has conditioned us to believe that the telltale sign of a heart attack is extreme chest pain. But in reality, women are somewhat more likely to experience shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain. Other symptoms women should look out for are dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting, pain in the lower chest or upper abdomen and extreme fatigue.

Myth: Heart disease runs in my family, so there’s nothing I can do about it

Fact: Although women with a family history of heart disease are at higher risk, there’s plenty you can do to dramatically reduce it. Simply create an action plan to keep your heart healthy.

Because of healthy choices and knowing the signs, more than 670,000 of women have been saved from heart disease, and 300 fewer are dying per day. What’s stopping you from taking action?

Source: American Heart Association


Women and Heart Disease Statistics

General Statistics

  • GRFW_CMYK_2CSHeart disease is the No. 1 killer of women, and is more deadly than all forms of cancer combined.
  • Heart disease causes 1 in 3 women’s deaths each year, killing approximately one woman every minute.
  • An estimated 43 million women in the U.S. are affected by heart disease.
  • Ninety percent of women have one or more risk factors for developing heart disease.
  • Since 1984, more women than men have died each year from heart disease.
  • The symptoms of heart disease can be different in women and men, and are often misunderstood.
  • While 1 in 31 American women dies from breast cancer each year, 1 in 3 dies of heart disease.
  • Only 1 in 5 American women believe that heart disease is her greatest health threat.
  • Women comprise only 24 percent of participants in all heart-related studies.

Hispanic women

  • Hispanic women are likely to develop heart disease 10 years earlier than Caucasian women.
  • Only 1 in 3 Hispanic women are aware that heart disease is their No. 1 killer.
  • Only 3 in 10 Hispanic women say they have been informed that they are at a higher risk.
  • Only 1 in 4 Hispanic women is aware of treatment options.
  • Hispanic women are more likely to take preventive actions for their family when it comes to heart health.

African American women

  • Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for African American women.
  • Of African American women ages 20 and older, 46.9 percent have cardiovascular disease.
  • Only 1 in 5 African American women thinks she is personally at risk.
  • Nearly 50 percent of African American women are aware of the signs and symptoms of a heart attack.
  • Only 43 percent of African American women know that heart disease is their greatest health risk.

These statistics represent only a fraction of the 2012 report featured in Circulation. To view the full findings, download a copy of the Heart Disease and Stroke 2012 Statistical Update.

Source: American Heart Association

 

Wellness Wednesday: A Healthy Weight Isn’t Impossible to Achieve

By mid-January, New Years is behind us and many of us are starting to rethink those resolutions we made and were sure we’d stick to.

Senior African American couple riding bicycles

Maybe that crash diet you thought was doable is really not realistic at all. And what were you thinking when you swore you’d go to the gym after work every … single … night?

Well, you’re not alone. And all hope is not lost.

In 2018, January 15-19 is designated as Healthy Weight Week. You don’t have to make big unreachable New Years resolutions to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. In fact, some small changes in your eating habits can help make a big difference in your health.

A healthy lifestyle involves many choices. Among them, choosing a balanced diet or healthy eating plan. So how do you choose a healthy eating plan? Let’s begin by defining what a healthy eating plan is.

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, a healthy eating plan:

  • Emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products
  • Includes lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts
  • Is low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt (sodium), and added sugars
  • Stays within your daily calorie needs

Eat Healthfully and Enjoy It!

iStock_000016595896_LargeA healthy eating plan that helps you manage your weight includes a variety of foods you may not have considered. If “healthy eating” makes you think about the foods you can’t have, try refocusing on all the new foods you can eat—

  • Fresh, Frozen, or Canned Fruits—don’t think just apples or bananas. All fresh, frozen, or canned fruits are great choices. Be sure to try some “exotic” fruits, too. How about a mango? Or a juicy pineapple or kiwi fruit! When your favorite fresh fruits aren’t in season, try a frozen, canned, or dried variety of a fresh fruit you enjoy. One caution about canned fruits is that they may contain added sugars or syrups. Be sure and choose canned varieties of fruit packed in water or in their own juice.
  • Fresh, Frozen, or Canned Vegetables—try something new. You may find that you love grilled vegetables or steamed vegetables with an herb you haven’t tried like rosemary. You can sauté (panfry) vegetables in a non-stick pan with a small amount of cooking spray. Or try frozen or canned vegetables for a quick side dish—just microwave and serve. When trying canned vegetables, look for vegetables without added salt, butter, or cream sauces. Commit to going to the produce department and trying a new vegetable each week.
  • Calcium-rich foods—you may automatically think of a glass of low-fat or fat-free milk when someone says “eat more dairy products.” But what about low-fat and fat-free yogurts without added sugars? These come in a wide variety of flavors and can be a great dessert substitute for those with a sweet tooth.
  • A new twist on an old favorite—if your favorite recipe calls for frying fish or breaded chicken, try healthier variations using baking or grilling. Maybe even try a recipe that uses dry beans in place of higher-fat meats. Ask around or search the internet and magazines for recipes with fewer calories—you might be surprised to find you have a new favorite dish! 

Do I have to give up my favorite comfort food?

Hot Fudge Brownie SundaeNo! Healthy eating is all about balance. You can enjoy your favorite foods even if they are high in calories, fat or added sugars. The key is eating them only once in a while, and balancing them out with healthier foods and more physical activity.

Some general tips for comfort foods:

  • Eat them less often. If you normally eat these foods every day, cut back to once a week or once a month. You’ll be cutting your calories because you’re not having the food as often.
  • Eat smaller amounts. If your favorite higher-calorie food is a chocolate bar, have a smaller size or only half a bar.
  • Try a lower-calorie version. Use lower-calorie ingredients or prepare food differently. For example, if your macaroni and cheese recipe uses whole milk, butter, and full-fat cheese, try remaking it with non-fat milk, less butter, light cream cheese, fresh spinach and tomatoes. Just remember to not increase your portion size. For more ideas on how to cut back on calories, see Eat More Weigh Less.

The point is, you can figure out how to include almost any food in your healthy eating plan in a way that still helps you lose weight or maintain a healthy weight.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Wellness Wednesday: Making New Year’s Resolutions You Can Keep

HappyNewYearIt’s that time again. A new year is just ahead and millions of people vow to lose weight, get fit, stop smoking, etc. It’s the New Year’s Resolution, which often includes new gym memberships and weight loss program sign-ups that are forgotten by February.

But you don’t have to fall into this trap. You can make small resolutions that are easier to keep and can help you down the path towards a better you.

Make healthier food choices. Grab a healthy snack such as fruit, nuts, or low-fat cheese. Maybe switch out one ‘bad’ treat a day for a good treat. You might start to feel better and have more energy. And if you splurge once in a while, don’t give up. All is not lost.

Be more active to improve overall health. You don’t need to join a gym to get healthier. Try simple things such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Park farther away from your office so you have to walk a little more. Be active for at least 2½ hours a week. That’s roughly 20 minutes a day. Maybe take a 10 minute walk at lunch time and another 10 minutes of activity in the evening.

iStock_000018054489_LargeBe smoke-free. If you are ready to quit, call 1.800.QUIT.NOW (1.800.784.8669) for free resources, including free quit coaching, a free quit plan, free educational materials, and referrals to other resources where you live.

Get enough sleep. Remember that sleep is a necessity, not a luxury. Your body heals itself and recuperates during sleep.

Always use seat belts and use child safety seats and booster seats that are appropriate for your child’s age and weight.

Lower the risk of foodborne illness as you prepare meals for your family.

Gather and share family health history. It’s important for you and your family to keep track of illnesses or disease and to know about any family health risks.

iStock_000040286742_LargeGet pets vaccinated and keep pets healthy. Our pets are part of our family. Keeping them healthy helps ensure they will be by your side for a while.

Make an appointment for an annual check-up, vaccination or screening.

Wash your hands often with soap and water to prevent the spread of infection and illness. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Wellness Wednesday: Live Healthier and Lower Your Risk for Type 2 Diabetes

Did you know that simply by living a healthier lifestyle, you could dramatically reduce the possibility of developing Type 2 diabetes?

iStock_000014865391_LargeIn fact, recent studies by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) report that by engaging in physical activity, eating a healthier diet, maintaining an appropriate body weight, limiting alcohol consumption and not smoking you can cut your risk of diabetes by as much as 80 percent.

November is American Diabetes Month and Mercy Health System would like to take this opportunity to encourage you to care for yourself, and your loved ones, by reminding you of the importance of preventive care.

NIH studies show that having a body weight appropriate for your height and age by itself reduced the risk of developing diabetes by 60 to 70 percent. Eating a healthier diet reduced the risk by about 15 percent and not smoking lowered the risk by about 20 percent.

Here are some tips from the NIH and the National Diabetes Education Program to help you make gradual lifestyle changes that can help you prevent Type 2 diabetes:

If you are overweight, set a weight loss goal you can meet (check in with your doctor before starting any weight loss plan).

  • Aim to lose about five to seven percent of your current weight and keep it off
  • Keep track of your daily food intake and physical activity in a logbook and review it daily
  • For support, invite family and friends to get involved

Make healthier food choices every day.

  • Keep healthier snacks, such as fruit and vegetables, at home and at work
  • Pack healthier lunches for you and your family
  • Choose low-fat diary products
  • Eat whole-grain cereals, breads, crackers, brown rice, pasta or oatmeal
  • Select lean meats and poultry
  • Choose more fish, beans, peas, nuts and seeds as protein sources

Strive to become more physically active. It’s easy to build physical activity into your day:

  • Take a brisk walk during lunchtime
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator or park farther away from your office
  • Join a community program like The YMCA as a family and choose activities that everyone can enjoy

Restrict alcohol consumption. Your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes rises with an increase in alcohol consumption – limit yourself to no more than one drink a day.

If you smoke, quit (and don’t quit quitting). Smokefree.gov offers some great tips and a step-by-step guide on how to begin.

Be sure to embrace a healthy spirit. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), high levels of stress can have negative effects on your blood sugar levels. That’s why it’s important to practice good relaxation techniques. The ADA recommends the following:

  • Breathing exercises: Sit or lie down and uncross your legs and arms. Take in a deep breath. Then push out as much air as you can then relax your muscles. Do these exercises for a minimum of five minutes at least once a day.
  • Replace negative thoughts with positive ones: If a negative thought is going through your mind, replace it with something that makes you happy or peaceful. You may also visualize a favorite nature scene to lessen anxiety and promote more serenity.

Last, but not least, getting annual physicals and tests from your doctor is key in sustaining your health and helping prevent diseases like diabetes. Having a Primary Care Physician (PCP) who can coordinate your care is vital to your good health. A PCP typically specializes in family medicine, internal medicine or general practice.

If you don’t have a PCP, finding one is easy! Just visit your insurance carrier’s website, look for the “find a doctor” area and follow the instructions.

To find a Mercy Health physician, visit www.mercyhealth.org and use our Find-A-Doctor tool.


More Information:

Taking Care of Type 2 Diabetes [PDF]

Wellness Wednesday: Cholesterol Screenings and Knowing Your Numbers Can Help Lower Risk of Heart Disease 

Red puzzle heart

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) high blood cholesterol affects more than 71 million Americans. It is a serious condition that increases your risk for heart disease. In fact, the higher your cholesterol level, the greater the risk.

Lowering cholesterol levels that are too high reduces your risk for developing heart disease and lowers your chance of having a heart attack.

That’s why, during National Cholesterol Education Month, Mercy Health System would like to encourage you to care for yourself and your loved ones by reminding you of the importance of regular health screenings.

cholesterolAccording to the National Institutes of Health, everyone age 20 and older should have their cholesterol measured at least once every five years.

High cholesterol and its complications can be prevented or delayed by knowing and properly managing your cholesterol levels. You can have high cholesterol without even knowing it. The best way to find out if your numbers are within a healthy range for your gender, height and age is to have an annual physical.

Having a Primary Care Physician (PCP) who can coordinate your care is vital to your good health. A PCP typically specializes in family medicine, internal medicine or general practice. If you don’t have a PCP, finding one is easy! Just visit your insurance carrier’s website, look for the “find a doctor” area and follow the instructions.

To find a Mercy Health physician, go to www.mercyhealth.org/find-a-doctor.

More information …

CDC Fact Sheet on High Cholesterol
www.cdc.gov/cholesterol
www.cdc.gov/cholesterol/ldl_hdl

Wellness Wednesday: Making Healthy Choices Every Day

Changing habits can have a big positive impact on your health.

Be physically active.

Walking briskly, mowing the lawn, playing team sports, and biking are just a few examples of how you can get moving. If you are not already physically active, start small and work up to 30 minutes a day of moderate physical activity for most days of the week.

Eat a healthy diet.

Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat dairy products are healthy choices. Lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts are good, too. Try to eat foods that are low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt, and added sugars.

Stay at a healthy weight.

Try to balance the calories you take in with the calories you burn with your physical activities. As you age, eat fewer calories and increase your physical activity. This will prevent gradual weight gain over time.

Drink alcohol in moderation or not at all.

Current dietary guidelines for Americans recommend that if you choose to drink alcoholic beverages, you do not exceed 2 drinks per day for men (1 drink per day for women). Some people should not drink alcoholic beverages at all, including

  • Individuals who cannot restrict their drinking to moderate levels.
  • Individuals who plan to drive, operate machinery, or take part in other activities that requires attention, skill, or coordination.
  • Individuals taking prescription or over-the-counter medications that can interact with alcohol.
  • Individuals with specific medical conditions.
  • Persons recovering from alcoholism.

Don’t smoke.

For tips on how to quit, go to www.smokefree.gov. To talk to someone about how to quit, call the National Quitline: 1-800-QUITNOW (784-8669).

Take aspirin to avoid a heart attack.

If you are at risk for a heart attack (you’re over 45, smoke, or have diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or a family history of heart disease), check with your doctor and find out if taking aspirin is the right choice for you.

Source: Stay Healthy. December 2012. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/patients-consumers/patient-involvement/healthy-men/healthy/index.html