Wellness Wednesday: Thinking F.A.S.T. can help save lives

Do you know how to recognize a stroke? Do you know what steps to take if someone is having a stroke? Thinking F.A.S.T. can help save lives and improve stroke recovery.

May-stroke1May is American Stroke Awareness Month. It is very important for you to know that anyone can have a stroke. Strokes can affect people of all ages and backgrounds.

Every 40 seconds, someone in the U.S. has a stroke. In 2008 alone, more than 133,000 Americans—or one person every four minutes—died from stroke, making it the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S.

Warning Signs

Most people don’t know the warning signs of stroke or what to do when one happens. Stroke is an emergency. But acting quickly can tremendously reduce the impact of stroke.

A stroke is a brain attack that occurs when a blood clot blocks an artery or a blood vessel breaks, interrupting blood flow to an area of the brain. Brain cells begin to die.

Recognizing stroke symptoms can be easy if you remember to think FAST:

F= Face  Drooping

Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile. Is the person’s smile uneven?

A= Arm Weakness

Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

S= Speech Difficulty

Is speech slurred? Is the person unable to speak or hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like “The sky is blue.” Is the sentence repeated correctly?

T= Time to call 9-1-1

If someone shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and get the person to the hospital immediately. Check the time so you’ll know when the first symptoms appeared.

Risk Factors

There are many risk factors for stroke. Some risk factors, such as gender, ethnicity and age, are uncontrollable. But there are some risk factors that you can control.

Some controllable risk factors include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Tobacco use
  • Diabetes
  • High cholesterol
  • Physical inactivity and obesity
  • Excessive alcohol intake
  • Illegal drug use

Taking control is the first step to managing your risk.iStock_000042882876_Medium

  • Get moving. If you are healthy, participate in moderate to vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise at least 40 minutes per day, three to four times per week.
  • Watch your diet. Consider reducing sodium intake to Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) or Mediterranean diets.
  • Know your numbers. Keep your blood pressure, cholesterol and sugar levels in check.
  • Know your family medical history. If high blood pressure and diabetes are common conditions, it’s important you ask your doctor what you can do to prevent them.
  • Drink moderately. Studies show a strong connection between alcohol and stroke so make sure to moderate your alcohol intake. No more than two drinks per day for men and one for women.
  • Stop Smoking. Smoking decreases your health in general, but smokers also have 2-4 times the risk for stroke compared to nonsmokers and those who have quit for more than 10 years.

Source: American Stroke Association


More Information:

Let’s Talk About: Stroke, TIA and Warning Signs

Let’s Talk About: Hemorrhagic Stroke

Let’s Talk About: Risk Factors for Stroke

Let’s Talk About: High Blood Pressure and Stroke

Let’s Talk About: Lifestyle Changes to Prevent Stroke

Wellness Wednesday: Making Healthy Resolutions that Work

So you made a resolution, right? To lose weight, exercise more or eat healthier? Maybe you pinned an old photo to the fridge to motivate you.

All time ready to runYou were totally onboard on January 2, keeping that food diary, going to the gym, packing a lunch, eating only high protein, low fat, low carb foods.

Now it’s almost two weeks in and maybe you’re wondering what you were thinking. You’re tired, a little cranky, the gym is too far and let’s face it … you’re hungry!

You may have tried to bite off more than you can chew (oops … sorry!).

Instead of completely giving up, go a bit easier on yourself. You can change your eating habits and increase your activity and become healthier without starving yourself.

January 16-22 is Healthy Weight Week. About this time, people are realizing they may have been kidding themselves with unrealistic New Year’s resolutions. You don’t have to make big unreachable New Year’s 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!

A 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?

Funny dieting woman housewife choosing between healthy food  fast food.No! 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: Resolutions You Can Keep

Do you make New Year’s resolutions? Or more importantly, do you keep the New Year’s resolutions you make?

Adult friends exercising in parkHow many of us vow that after the holidays, we will start a diet, lose weight, go to the gym, exercise more? Maybe the momentum continues a few weeks until you get tired or bored or discouraged by the appearance of a lack of results.

Eighty percent of fitness resolutions are abandoned by mid-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.

Be more active to improve overall health. You don’t need to join a gym to get healthier. Park farther away from your office so you have to walk a little more. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. If there are too many floors or you find it difficult at first, take the elevator halfway, then walk a couple of flights. Or use the elevator to go up but walk down the stairs. Soon, you will probably find it easier. Be active for at least 2½ hours a week. That’s roughly 20 minutes a day. You can take a 10 minute walk at lunch time and another 10 minutes of activity in the evening.

istock_000014542236_mediumMake healthier food choices. Grab a healthy snack such as fruit, nuts, or low-fat cheese. 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 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. Mercy Health also provides free smoking cessation programs. Visit the classes and events page on our website for dates and locations.

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.

Get 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-upvaccination 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: It’s Healthy Aging Month

Chinese Grandparents Sitting With Grandchildren In ParkPeople in the U.S. are living longer than ever before. Many seniors live active and healthy lives. But there’s no getting around one thing: as we age, our bodies and minds change. There are things you can do to stay healthy and active as you age:

Eat a balanced diet

Studies show that a good diet in your later years reduces your risk of osteoporosis, high blood pressure, heart diseases and certain cancers. As you age, you might need less energy. But you still need just as many of the nutrients in food.

Keep your mind and body active

Exercise is perhaps the best demonstrated way to maintain good health, fitness, and independence. Research has shown that regular physical activity improves quality of life for older adults and decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease and many other illnesses and disabilities. In many ways, it is the best prescription we have for healthy, successful aging.

Don’t smoke

iStock_000018054489_LargeDo we really need to explain this one? Smoking is bad for you. So if you smoke, you should quit. There are many programs out there that can help you kick the habit. Visit the classes and events page on our website to join a free smoking cessation group, or ask your doctor for more information on ways to quit. Even if you’ve spent a lifetime smoking, you will benefit from stopping now.

Get regular checkups

Regular health exams and tests can help find problems before they start. They also can help find problems early, when your chances for treatment and cure are better. Which exams and screenings you need depends on your age, health and family history, and lifestyle choices such as what you eat, how active you are, and whether you smoke.

To make the most of your next check-up, here are some things to do before you go:

Practice safety habits to avoid accidents and prevent falls

A fall can change your life. If you’re elderly, it can lead to disability and a loss of independence. If your bones are fragile from osteoporosis, you could break a bone, often a hip. But aging alone doesn’t make people fall. Diabetes and heart disease affect balance. So do problems with circulation, thyroid or nervous systems. Some medicines make people dizzy. Eye problems or alcohol can be factors. Any of these things can make a fall more likely.

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, NIH: National Institute on Aging

Wellness Wednesday: Keeping Your Cholesterol in Check

SeniorsSeptember is National Cholesterol Education Month, a good time to get your blood cholesterol checked and take steps to lower it if it is high. More than 102 million American Adults have total cholesterol levels above healthy levels (at or above 200 mg/dL). More than 35 million of these people have levels of 240 mg/dL or higher, which puts them at high risk for heart disease.

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found in your body and in many foods. Your body needs cholesterol to function normally and makes all that you need. Too much cholesterol can build up in your arteries. After a while, these deposits narrow your arteries, putting you at risk for heart disease and stroke. Not all cholesterol is bad. Cholesterol is just one of the many substances created and used by our bodies to keep us healthy.

Total cholesterol is a measure of the total amount of cholesterol in your blood and is based on the HDL, LDL and triglycerides numbers.

HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol

HDL cholesterol absorbs cholesterol and carries it back to the liver, which flushes it from the body. HDL is known as “good” cholesterol because having high levels can reduce the risk for heart disease and stroke. Low HDL cholesterol puts you at higher risk for heart disease. People with high blood triglycerides usually also have lower HDL cholesterol. Genetic factors, type 2 diabetes, smoking, being overweight and being sedentary can all result in lower HDL cholesterol.

LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol

LDL cholesterol makes up the majority of the body’s cholesterol. LDL is known as “bad” cholesterol because having high levels can lead to plaque buildup in your arteries and result in heart disease and stroke. However, your LDL number should no longer be the main factor in guiding treatment to prevent heart attack and stroke, according to new guidelines from the American Heart Association. For patients taking statins, the guidelines say they no longer need to get LDL cholesterol levels down to a specific target number. A diet high in saturated and trans fats raises LDL cholesterol.

Triglycerides

Triglycerides are a type of fat found in your blood that your body uses for energy. Normal triglyceride levels vary by age and sex. A high triglyceride level combined with low HDL cholesterol or high LDL cholesterol is associated with atherosclerosis, the buildup of fatty deposits in artery walls that increases the risk for heart attack and stroke

How do you know if your cholesterol is high?

cholesterolHigh cholesterol usually doesn’t have any symptoms. As a result, many people do not know that their cholesterol levels are too high. However, doctors can do a simple blood test to check your cholesterol. High cholesterol can be controlled through lifestyle changes or if it is not enough, through medications.

It’s important to check your cholesterol levels. High cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart disease, the leading cause of death in the U.S. The National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) recommends that adults aged 20 years or older have their cholesterol checked every 5 years.

Preventive guidelines for cholesterol screening among young adults differ, but experts agree on the need to screen young adults who have other risk factors for coronary heart disease: obesity, smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes and family history

Conditions That Increase Risk for High Cholesterol

Diabetes mellitus increases the risk for high cholesterol. Your body needs glucose (sugar) for energy. Insulin is a hormone made in the pancreas that helps move glucose from the food you eat to your body’s cells. If you have diabetes, your body doesn’t make enough insulin, can’t use its own insulin as well as it should, or both. So this causes sugars to build up in the blood.

Behaviors That Increase Your Risk for High Cholesterol

Unhealthy Diet: Diets high in saturated fats, trans fat, and cholesterol have been linked to high cholesterol and related conditions, such as heart disease.

Physical Inactivity: Not getting enough physical activity can make you gain weight, which can lead to high cholesterol.

Obesity: Obesity is excess body fat. Obesity is linked to higher triglycerides and higher LDL cholesterol, and lower HDL cholesterol. In addition to high cholesterol, obesity can also lead to heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. Talk to your health care team about a plan to reduce your weight to a healthy level.

Family History Can Increase Risk for High Cholesterol

Portrait Of Extended Family Group In ParkWhen members of a family pass traits from one generation to another through genes, that process is called heredity.

Genetic factors likely play some role in high cholesterol, heart disease and other related conditions. However, it is also likely that people with a family history of high cholesterol share common environments and other potential factors that increase their risk.

If you have a family history of high cholesterol, you are more likely to have high cholesterol. You may need to get your cholesterol levels checked more often than people who do not have a family history of high cholesterol.

The risk for high cholesterol can increase even more when heredity combines with unhealthy lifestyle choices, such as eating an unhealthy diet.

Some people have an inherited genetic condition called familial hypercholesterolemia. This condition causes very high LDL cholesterol levels beginning at a young age.

If you have high cholesterol, what can you do to lower it?

Your doctor may prescribe medications to treat your high cholesterol. In addition, you can lower your cholesterol levels through lifestyle changes:

  • Low-fat and high-fiber food (Eat more fresh fruits, fresh vegetables and whole grains).
  • For adults, getting at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate or 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous physical activity a week. For those aged 6-17, getting 1 hour or more of physical activity each day.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Don’t smoke or quit if you smoke.

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Heart Association


More Information:

Know the Facts About High Cholesterol [CDC Fact Sheet]

American Heart Association’s Cholesterol SmartHub

Watermelon: A healthy, refreshing treat

WatermelonToday is National Watermelon Day! So here are some interesting facts about this healthy, delicious treat!

Watermelon is both a fruit AND a vegetable.

It is a fruit because it’s sweet and grows from a seed. But it’s also a vegetable because it is harvested and cleared from the field like other vegetables and is a member of the gourd family.

Watermelon helps relieve inflammation.

Watermelon contains more lycopene than tomatoes. One cup of watermelon has 1 ½ times the lycopene as a tomato. Lycopene is an inhibitor for inflammatory processes and works as an antioxidant to neutralize free radicals.

Watermelon juice helps with muscle soreness.

Watermelon contains L-citrulline, an amino acid, which helps protect against muscle pain. Research shows that citrulline and arginine supplements derived from watermelon extract lead to significant improvements in blood pressure and cardiac stress.

Watermelon rind is edible.

Watermelon rind contains more of the amino acid citrulline than the pink flesh. Most people throw away the watermelon rind, but try putting it in a blender with some lime for a healthy, refreshing treat.

Watermelon is about 92 percent water.

Watermelon is an ideal health food because it doesn’t contain any fat or cholesterol, is high in fiber and vitamins A & C and is a good source of potassium.

Watermelon is good for the brain.

Watermelon is a mind booster because of its richness in Vitamin B6 which has high influence for proper functioning of brain.

Wellness Wednesday: Keeping Yourself Healthy

Two separate recent studies suggest that being married may improve the likelihood of surviving a heart attack and may also help you beat cancer.

iStock_000022455486_Medium

It is possible that the reason for this is that married folks have a significant other nagging … er, I mean strongly encouraging … them to go to the doctor on a regular basis and get a checkup.

Preventive care and early detection are key to maintaining and continuing a healthy lifestyle as you age. Finding cancers early, learning about diseases or conditions at an early stage, gives you a better chance of doing something about it.

The best way to proactively keep yourself healthy is to take care of your body. So whether you have a spouse to ‘encourage’ you or not, there are some steps you can take to get in shape and keep healthy.

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.

Concept, food, meal.

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.

MenhealthCurrent 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 more information on quitting, visit Quit Smoking section.

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.

Sources: AHRQ, UC San Diego Health, British Cardiovascular Society


More information:

Man and Life: How Marriage, Race and Ethnicity and Birthplace Affect Cancer Survival

Marriage could improve heart attack survival and reduce hospital stay


Watch Mercy Dance to Support Men′s Health Month