Posts Tagged ‘health’

The Best Valentine’s Gift is a Healthy Heart

February 5th, 2020

Here we are in February already. We’ve gotten through the stress of the holidays and if you’re like me, you made promises to yourself to take better care of your health this year. So how’s that going for you? Hopefully, you’re making good on your promise to yourself.

Along those lines, February brings with it Valentine’s Day, and there is no better gift that you can give yourself, or your significant other, than a healthy heart. That’s why February is American Heart Month.

According to the CDC, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Some of the biggest risk factors associated with heart disease are uncontrolled high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking. Other conditions can also put you at risk for heart disease. For example, carrying around extra weight puts undue stress on the heart. High blood sugar or diabetes can damage the blood vessels that help control the heart muscle. Unhealthy eating and inactivity are also risk factors.

To lower your risk, there are several things you can do. For starters, you can eat better and reduce your sodium intake. One way to do that is to fill at least half your plate with fruits and vegetables and eat foods low in trans-fat and saturated fat. And be sure to include whole grains, poultry, fish, and legumes in your diet.

Limiting sweets and sugar sweetened beverages will go a long way toward improving your heart health as well. And be sure to always choose foods rich in potassium and to limit your intake of red meats. Also, limit alcohol to no more than one drink per day, if you’re a woman, and two drinks a day if you’re a man. If you enjoy cooking, research some healthier recipes you think you’ll enjoy and maybe try something new.

Another critical step you can take to lower your risk for heart related problems is to avoid second hand smoke. And if you smoke, STOP! Sure, that’s easier said than done, but there are many cessation programs that can help.

If you can’t partake in one of those, there are other ways you can break your smoking habit or at least cut back on your smoking. Changing your routine is one such way. Instead of having a cigarette after a meal, go for a walk or brush your teeth. You can also make a list of the reasons why you want to quit and read the list every time you feel the urge to smoke. If you smoke when you drink, cut down on alcohol which will help you avoid those moments.

Another way you can improve your heart health is by finding a hobby you enjoy that will get you moving for a few hours each week. Bicycling, walking or jogging, rollerblading, yoga, tennis, or any activity that gets your heart pumping will do the trick. Just be sure to choose something you actually enjoy. That way, you’ll actually look forward to the activity. Staying active and engaging in regular physical activity helps reduce blood pressure, helps control blood sugar, as well as helps control your weight. All of these will help you reduce your risk for heart disease.

It’s also important to have your healthcare provider do a blood test to measure your cholesterol levels. You will want to know your total cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol and HDL (good) cholesterol as well as your triglycerides (blood fats). Having a higher level of HDL can lower your risk of heart attack and stroke. High levels of LDL on the other hand, can raise your risk because it can build up inside the arteries and form plaque which reduces blood flow. Triglycerides are the most common type of fat in your body and a major energy source. High triglycerides can cause hardening of the arteries or thickening of the artery walls, increasing the risk of stroke, heart attack and heart disease. Ask your healthcare provider for ways to best manage your levels.

Finally, you want to try to reduce the stress in your life wherever possible. Meditation, yoga, performing deep breathing exercises, or taking a nice hot bath can all help with this. We live in a world that is constantly on the go. Stress is inevitable but if we can limit it, or try to control it, we can help protect our heart.

Written by Laura Engel

Moving Matters

July 24th, 2018

For years, groups like the American Heart Association released guidelines for physical activity for adults. The AHA, for instance, recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity at least five days per week. Another option is at least 25 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity at least three days per week.Moving Matters

The old benchmark of a total of 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week rightly suggests that people get health benefits from exercise. But it added that the benefits were obtained only if the activity lasts for ten minutes or longer. Results from a study released earlier this year challenges that theory.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, found that the length of time a person performs an activity is unrelated to the benefit of living longer. It reported that even short bursts of vigorous activity, like five minutes of brisk walking or jogging, add up to produce health benefits.

The researchers studied the activity habits and health of nearly 5,000 adults age 40 and older for four years. They gathered the participants’ activity levels through wearable tracking devices. After looking at the impact of activities as brief as one minute, the researchers discovered that all of the activity, whatever its duration, helped reap health benefits, as long as the activity reached a moderate or vigorous intensity.

To help update its own physical activity guidelines, the US Department of Health and Human Services commissioned an advisory committee to systematically review the scientific evidence on physical activity, fitness and health. The committee issued their report in March.

The committee’s findings will help HHS as they prepare their new edition of Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. It remains to be seen if the new HHS guidelines will include the benefits of shorter bursts of activity or if it will stick to the “ten-minute rule.” The guidelines are due out later this year.

OK, let’s talk about the health benefits of adding physical activity to your weekly routine. There are lots of them, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The benefit most people know about is that it reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases, mainly heart disease and stroke. What’s more, it can lower blood pressure and improve cholesterol levels.

Physical activity can help you control your weight, whether you need to lose or just maintain your weight. It can reduce your risk for developing Type 2 diabetes; and if you’ve already got it, it can help you control your blood glucose levels.

Being physically active lowers your risk of colon and breast cancer. Some studies suggest it reduces the risk of endometrial and lung cancer as well. It can keep your bones and muscles strong and even help with the pain of arthritis in your hips or knees. Stronger bones and muscles improve balance and prevent falls.

That’s not all. Physical activity can improve your mental health and your mood. It can keep your thinking sharp longer and reduce the risk for depression. When you feel better physically and mentally, you’re better able to perform your daily activities, which improves your quality of life.

Then there’s that little thing about increasing your chances of living longer. Yeah, there’s that.

The government, the American Heart Association and the study’s researchers may state it a little differently, but the message is basically the same. Getting some moderate-intensity or vigorous physical activity into your day is good for your health. Moving really does matter.

A Message About Men’s Health

June 3rd, 2018

This blog may be about men’s health, but women need to read it, too. Women have to encourage the men in their lives to pay more attention to their health. June is Men’s Health Month, and it’s the perfect time to review a few of the biggest health issues men face.Message About Men’s Health

Since forever, women have lived longer than men. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that on average, women today live more than five years longer than men, and that gap is getting wider. Men have higher rates of death in most of the top ten causes of death. They also tend to have higher rates of complications from many disorders.

According to a report from the World Health Organization, men have higher death and complication rates for conditions like coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and cancer. Yet, many of the risk factors for those diseases that have increased in the past few years aren’t male-specific and are preventable. These include increases in smoking, alcohol consumption, sedentary lifestyles and obesity.

According to WHO, there’re other factors that can contribute to a poorer life expectancy for men. For instance, men generally have greater exposure to occupational hazards such as physical or chemical hazards. They tend to engage more often in behaviors involving risk-taking, they’re less likely to see a doctor when they’re sick, and when they do, they’re less likely to fully report their symptoms.

A board member of the Men’s Health Network notes that certain conditions common in men, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, have no detectable symptoms. Many cancers also have few detectable symptoms in their early, most treatable, stages, so health care monitoring is crucial.

That’s where women can come in. We can help our men be aware of screenings, adopt healthy eating habits and promote exercise by setting an example and doing it with them. We can also encourage them to see the doctor when they complain of not feeling well or show signs of illness. They’re protecting the family by staying healthy.

So, what are the big health issues facing men? I read a couple of articles that listed the Top 10 or Top 5 Men’s Health Issues, but I’m going to condense the list to three big ones. You can read more at these three sites:

Still high on the list is cardiovascular disease. The American Heart Association tells us that one in three men have some form of cardiovascular disease. It’s the leading cause of death for men in the US, responsible for one of every four male deaths. Another condition that’s common in men and can contribute to cardiovascular disease is high blood pressure, which slowly damages the heart and blood vessels over time. These disorders can be controlled if detected early.

Here’s one you might not have thought of but is a growing problem. It’s skin cancer. Men 50 and older are at high risk for developing skin cancer, more than twice as likely as women. The reason is because men have generally had more sun exposure and tend to have fewer visits to the doctor for skin checks. More men than women die of melanoma, a lethal form of skin cancer. Regular skin checks can catch skin cancer in its early stages.

Diabetes is a problem in itself, and it can result in a whole bunch of other problems. It can lead to erectile dysfunction and lower testosterone levels. Low testosterone also decreases a man’s muscle mass and energy level. Low blood glucose can cause depression and anxiety, as well as damage to the nerves and kidneys and lead to heart disease, liver disease, stroke and vision issues. Routine blood work can monitor blood glucose levels and detect pre-diabetes.

Men face many more health issues that affect them not just physically, but mentally as well. This month, encourage the men in your life to take advantage of screenings, get regular physicals, lead a healthy lifestyle and see the doctor when necessary. Help them take control of their health and live longer.

Rating the Country’s ‘Fittest Cities’

June 15th, 2016
fit cities in the country and where tampa fits in

Public Domain Image

You’ve probably heard this advice about fitness: To get more exercise, get a dog. You’ll be forced to go on walks.

For cities, that adage might include get more dog parks.

The number of dog parks per capita is one of the indicators used in the American Fitness Index to determine fitness scores for the country’s 50 largest metro areas.

The annual index is from the American College of Sports Medicine and the Anthem Foundation. And for 2016, it names Washington, D.C., as the nation’s fittest city. It’s the third year in a row that Washington has earned No. 1 status. The assessment includes Washington’s vast suburbs in neighboring Virginia and Maryland.

Second fittest city, according to the index, is Minneapolis-St. Paul. Third is Denver. At the bottom is Indianapolis, Oklahoma City and Louisville.

Florida cities and their surrounding regions place in the middle and downward. Of the country’s largest metro areas, Tampa is No. 26. Jacksonville is 31; Miami follows at 32; and Orlando is 43.

So what does it mean to be a fit – or less fit – city?

First of all, the American Fitness Index isn’t looking for how many residents are marathoners or have athlete-level lung capacity. Health of residents is important, but so are their health behaviors, such as how many smoke.

Further, urban planning plays a role because the built environment can affect whether a community is fitness-friendly. For example, how easy is it to get around on foot?

The index also identifies target goals for each area and how they are being met.

Part of what puts Washington, D.C., on top are amenities that support active lives. In Washington, a higher percentage of people are cycling or walking to work, and more live within a 10-minute walk to a public park.

The nation’s capital and its suburbs also earned points because fewer people are dying of heart disease and diabetes, and there are fewer smokers.

Ranking Florida

In looking over scores for Florida cities, I can see that the index gives Tampa points for meeting or exceeding target goals for the number of ballparks, dog parks, playgrounds, golf courses, recreation centers and swimming pools.

However, maybe more people should be taking advantage of those recreational facilities. The index notes that Tampa residents could improve in how many get recommended amounts of exercise. They also aren’t meeting target goals for lowering rates of obesity or how many are dying from diabetes.

Miami earned points for lower rates of asthma and cardiovascular disease. It could improve through developing more parkland, ballparks and golf courses. It also could use more farmers markets.

Jacksonville is praised for its higher number of recreational facilities, like swimming pools, and for a higher level of physical education classes. Improvements are needed in the percentage of people using public transportation to get to their jobs and how much is spent on parks.

Orlando also won points for more phys-ed classes, along with more recreation centers. The index recommends nearly 20 areas to prioritize for improvement in the Orlando metro region, including how many people are obese or have asthma, heart disease or diabetes. Also, more dog parks, golf courses and ball diamonds would be a plus for this central Florida metropolis.

By the way, the index relies on the following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to determine whether adults are getting enough exercise. How do you measure up?

  • Adults: 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, like brisk walking, every week, or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise like jogging or running. Strength-training exercise that works all muscle groups at least twice a week.


  • Older adults: 300 minutes of moderate-intensity or 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobics. Strength-training sessions at least twice a week.



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