Vision innovation may mean no more “Honey, have you seen my reading glasses?”

By David Martin, RN, CEO, VeinInnovations

 Today, and for the next few months, Live Healthy Atlanta focuses on actions and technology to help us preserve and improve health as we age.

A Gallup poll shows that of all the diseases and conditions we fear most, cancer and AIDs are at the top of the list. Blindness comes in third. Yet many of us, when pressed, may well say we’d take fighting the odds of surviving cancer or AIDs before we’d lose our sight. Continue reading

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Hormone Myth Busting

By David Martin, RN, CEO and President, VeinInnovations

Today, and for the next few months, Live Healthy Atlanta focuses on actions and technology to help us preserve and improve our health now, and as we age.

Attention men and women: There are many fallacies about the “change of life.” Today we’re going to dispel a couple of big myths in hopes of helping us survive, and thrive, during this inevitable right of passage. Continue reading

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Cavities: Beware the Second Wave!

By David Martin, RN, CEO, VeinInnovations

Today, and for the next few months, Live Healthy Atlanta focuses on actions and technology to help us preserve and improve our health now, and as we age.

It’s a tough lesson to swallow, but we humans have two times in our lives when we are prone to have those annoying – and sometimes excruciatingly painful – cavities crop up in numbers. Continue reading

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Hearing Loss May Cost Brain Size

By David Martin, RN, CEO, VeinInnovations

Today, and for the next few months, Live Healthy Atlanta will focus on actions and technology to help us preserve and improve our health.

Hearing loss has been called a growing national epidemic, and with good reason. We Baby Boomers are loath to admit getting older comes with an invisible, but normal, consequence: age-related hearing loss.

“Most people like finding a cool pair of reading glasses when age-related vision loss kicks in at around age 40. But there is such a stigma with regard to hearing loss that most people don’t do anything about it for about 10 years after they first notice a problem,” says Dr. Kadyn Williams, one of the founding audiologists of Audiological Consultants of Atlanta.

Dr. Williams warns that the delay in seeking help may be costing us much more than our pride when we ask for someone to repeat something, or when we feel a bit left out upon missing bit of dinner conversation at a noisy restaurant.

“We unequivocally know that there is a correlation between untreated hearing loss and cognitive decline. The Baltimore Longitudinal Study on Aging shows a correlation between hearing loss and dementia, depression, declining health, and loss of brain tissue,” she adds.

While this and other studies should be a major wake-up call, are we listening? Apparently not, according to Anne L. Oyler, Doctor of Audiology and Associate Director, Audiology Professional Practices, of the American Speech Hearing-Language Association (ASHA).

“The statistics are alarming. Thirty-six million Americans have a hearing loss – this includes 17% of our adult population, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD).

“The incidence of hearing loss increases with age.  Estimates are that 33% of Americans between ages 65 and 74 have hearing loss, and almost 50% of Americans over age 75 have lost hearing. And while hearing loss is the third most prevalent chronic health condition facing older adults, fewer than one-in-five people who could benefit from treatment actually seek treatment,” Dr. Oyler continues.

Dr. Williams says there is an economic consequence at stake, too.

The National Council on Aging did a study on hearing loss. They found a direct correlation in the overall effect of untreated hearing loss on health, and on our well being and earning power,” she said.

“It is job security – to be vital and vibrant and active and know when you are responding to what you think you are hearing is essential. It can be very costly not to seek treatment, especially for the business person. Nothing makes you seem more out of it than jumping into a conversation with a comment that is not on cue or on topic. You have to be able to hear and function, so in my opinion, treatment should be considered a business expense,” said Dr. Williams, who contributed to these answers some basic questions regarding hearing:

How does one start treatment?
Dr. Williams stresses the importance of having a baseline hearing test, so if or when a problem is suspected, you and your audiologist will be able to make a valid comparison of your hearing loss.

How does one protect hearing?
One must protect hearing against loud and long, and long, loud noises. Here is a list of situations that can impact your hearing, and devices to help protect your hearing. 

What are the signs of hearing loss?
There are many signs that will let you know whether or not you may have hearing loss, including whether or not you need to have information repeated, and if you have the television volume turned up louder than other watchers need it. This five-minute test will give you a preliminary score with regard to the likelihood of your having suffered hearing loss. This test is not meant to replace, however, your seeing a professional audiologist for a hearing test, if you suspect a problem.

What treatments and technologies can help?

There are many options available for people with hearing loss. A professional audiologist can help you assess what you need depending on your specific degree of hearing loss, activities, and budget.

“When we think about our five senses, you can block four of the five. You can close your eyes, or choose not to touch something, or not to taste something. You can wear a mask to avoid smell. But hearing is there to keep you in communication with your world 24/7. Without it you lose a huge portion of your humanity. And you’re not the only person who loses. Your friends and family lose the ability to communicate with you,” Dr. Williams added.

Resources to help you learn more about the importance of protecting your hearing, and seeking treatment if you believe you have hearing loss, include:

Age-Related Hearing Loss
http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/hearing/Pages/Age-Related-Hearing-Loss.aspx

Studies show link between hearing loss, mental decline

http://www.chicagotribune.com/lifestyles/health/sc-health-0121-hearing-loss-dementia-20150115-story.html

Untreated Hearing Loss in Adults—A Growing National Epidemic
http://www.asha.org/Aud/Articles/Untreated-Hearing-Loss-in-Adults/

Protect your Hearing

Don’t Let Your Hearing Retire Before You Do!

http://audioconsult.com/services/protect-your-hearing/

About Hearing Loss

If you take your ears for granted, listen up:

http://audioconsult.com/about/about-hearing-loss/

 

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See Into Your Future?

By David Martin, RN, CEO, VeinInnovations

Today, and for the next few months, Live Healthy Atlanta will focus on actions and technology to help us preserve and improve our health.

Vision is the focus today: what can you do now to see better longer? First and foremost, it is vitally important to safeguard your eyes, as the quality of your vision has a tremendous impact on your quality of life.

To enjoy the independence associated with driving safely and living independently well into our 70s, 80s, and beyond, we need to look at what other health problems we have that could affect our vision.

If you have diabetes or hypertension, take medications with side effects that impact vision, or if you smoke (smokers are four times more likely to go blind), you are among persons most likely to have vision problems. Be sure your eye doctor knows about your overall health.

From several sources detailing decade-by-decade action steps for preserving vision, here is an aggregated and abbreviated plan of basics to continue, and add to, each decade:

In your 30s:

Keep the sun out of your eyes.

Sun overexposure can cause early onset cataracts and other problems. Outside or driving, always wear a pair of sunglasses or sun readers that protect you from all ultraviolet light. According to WebMD, for full protection, look for glasses with lenses that:

  • Block at least 99% of both UVA and UVB rays
  • Meet ANSI (American National Standards Institute) Z80.3 requirements
  • Have UV 400 Protection

In your 40s:

Rest!

Presbyopia – when your eyes have trouble focusing on up-close words or objects – often sets in during the 40s. Reading glasses are the most common solution, however, the latest vision advances include an implantable lens that can eliminate the need for reading glasses.

The 40s are likely to be filled with work, family, and many commitments, making it especially difficult, but all-the-more-important, to sleep the recommended eight hours a night. You also need to take eyestrain breaks throughout the day, especially if you work in front of a computer for hours at a time.

In your 50s:

Prevention is protection.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of vision loss among adults age 50 and older. AMD damages the center of the retina, leading to loss of central vision. Early detection is critical in prevention and treatment, so prioritize regular check-ups with your eye doctor. Other age-related eye diseases—such as glaucoma and cataracts, are also more likely to occur in your 50s. Even if you don’t wear glasses or contacts, or have any other health or vision problems, it is still important to see your eye doctor annually. If you do have glasses, wear contacts, or have eye or other health issues, check with your eye doctor for his or her recommendation on the frequency of visits.

In your 60s and beyond:

Eat well to stay well.

The older we are, the more important a balanced, nutritious diet becomes. Many foods help maintain healthy eyes, including leafy greens, citrus fruits, and fatty fish. The antioxidants and vitamins in these foods are an instant boost to eye health. Among the best foods to support healthy vision:

  • Salmon
  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Grapefruit
  • Strawberries
  • Eggs
  • Beans
  • Nuts and seeds

While there is much technology available, and coming, to help us improve and retain vision, there is certainly one advance that isn’t helping us preserve our vision: Blue light – the light emitted by digital devices.

A recent American Optometric Association study found that 82% of eye care professionals are reporting an increase in cases of eyestrain and other issues related to blue light exposure. This exposure leads to more free radicals – the unstable atoms that destroy healthy cells – in the eye.

Further, blue light is affecting a major factor in maintaining quality of health as we age: our sleep. According to a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,

“reading on the digital devices delays the circadian clock, suppresses levels of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin, reduces the amount and delays the timing of REM sleep, and reduces alertness the following morning.”

There are products available, and more coming each day, to help fight damage from blue light. Among them: screen covers for filtering blue light, and contact lenses and eye glass lenses embedded with blue-wave-filtering pigment. There are also recommendations to take breaks from blue light that will help reduce eyestrain.

Looking into an independent, healthy future definitely requires our vision to be the best it can possibly be. Next week we’ll explore hearing loss, and the role it plays in overall health, but especially in brain health and emotional well-being.

 

Slideshow: 7 Bad Habits That Are Aging Your Eyes

http://www.allaboutvision.com/resources/bad-habits.htm

Adult Vision: 19 to 40 Years of Age

http://www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/good-vision-throughout-life/adult-vision-19-to-40-years-of-age?sso=y

Adult Vision: 60 and Over

http://www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/good-vision-throughout-life/adult-vision-19-to-40-years-of-age/adult-vision-over-60-years-of-age?sso=y

FDA approves AcuFocus corneal inlay

http://ophthalmologytimes.modernmedicine.com/ophthalmologytimes/news/fda-approves-acufocus-corneal-inlay?page=0,0

Battling blue light

http://www.aoa.org/news/clinical-eye-care/battling-blue-light?sso=y

The use of protective eyewear can play an important role in shielding your eyes against the effects of blue light.

http://www.bluelightexposed.com/protect-our-vision/#how-can-you-protect-your-vision-against-the-harmful-effects-of-blue-light-exposure

How to Protect Your Eyes From the Negative Effects of Digital Devices and Blue Light

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-matthew-alpert-od/blue-light_b_5570433.html

The Cost of Vision Problems

http://costofvision.preventblindness.org/

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Less sleep = aging faster

By David Martin, President and CEO of VeinInnovations

We crave rest the way we crave food and water, and we need it just as much. Scientists have studied why we need sleep for decades. On the face of it, our need for sleep doesn’t make any sense, as while we sleep, we’re rendered defenseless. But research shows even the toughest of the tough are less effective, and even age faster, without a good night’s rest.

As reported by the Centers for Disease Control, sleep insufficiency is linked to motor vehicle crashes, industrial disasters, and medical and other occupational error. It is increasingly recognized as important to public health. Drivers nodding off while driving, and others having difficulty performing daily tasks because of sleepiness, contribute to these hazardous outcomes.

Persons experiencing sleep insufficiency, the report continues, are also more likely to suffer from chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, depression, and obesity, as well as from cancer, increased mortality, and reduced quality of life and productivity.

“Sleep insufficiency may be caused by broad scale societal factors such as round-the-clock access to technology and work schedules, but sleep disorders such as insomnia or obstructive sleep apnea also play an important role. An estimated 50-70 million US adults have sleep or wakefulness disorder,” the report states.

Perhaps vanity and innovation will ultimately inspire improved sleep habits, as science now shows just one bad night’s sleep can make older adults age faster, and that new technology can help people measure and improve their quality of sleep.

According to a recent article in the Huffington Post, The American Academy Of Sleep Medicine study found that lack of sleep directly impacts the causes of biological aging. The findings “further support the hypothesis that sleep deprivation — because it boosts the molecular processes involved in growing older — may be connected to a greater risk of disease.”

“Our data support the hypothesis that one night of not getting enough sleep in older adults activates important biological pathways that promote biological aging,” said lead author Dr. Judith Carroll at the UCLA Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology in Los Angeles.

In a written release about the study, results were reported on 29 adults between the ages of 61 and 86 who were observed over a four-night period. Sleep quality was analyzed, and blood samples were taken each morning to assess gene expression.

The stunning results? “A single night of troubled sleep activated gene patterns consistent with faster aging,” said the report, which was published online in the journal Sleep.

This study further complements research linking lack of sleep with faster aging. A 2013 study, for example, found that those who didn’t sleep well exhibited more signs of fine lines, uneven pigmentation and reduced skin elasticity.

The amount of sleep one needs depends on a person’s age. Most experts recommend that adults get between seven and eight hours of sleep per night.

At the University of Tennessee, football coach Butch Jones made an investment in sleep for his team this past season, using the latest sleep innovations to see if players would perform better and recover faster if they also hit their marks on getting enough rest.

As detailed on the team website, and UT Football, in conjunction with Rise Science, a Chicago-based company that focuses on sleep and its effect on athletes, monitored each of its player’s sleep via an advanced mattress sensor that measured heart rate, respiration, and movement throughout the night.

Using a phone app component, the technology also tracked how long it took players to fall asleep and their heart rates during rest, as a higher resting heart rate suggested that their bodies hadn’t fully recovered from a day of practice while they sleep.

Sleep coaches then analyzed the data for each player, and helped them set bedtimes to help them get the best quality of sleep possible. How did the athletes themselves adapt to the experiment and the changes it required?

“I have more energy during the day. I don’t know if my reaction time is any better, but hopefully it is,” said tight end Ethan Wolf.

You don’t have to be a big-time athlete to benefit from sleep sensors. Many of today’s smart phones come with apps that help us track sleep patterns. Though most of us probably know the impact of a poor night’s rest, even without benefit of the latest and greatest fitness tracker.

How did it all work out for the football players at the University of Tennessee?

According to the trainer who proposed the study, Allison Maurer, athletics nutritionist and one of Tennessee’s four primary members of the program’s sports science team, “players who participated in the program averaged 37 more minutes of sleep per night than they did in the summer, when the program began,” despite having classes added to their schedule.

“Perhaps most importantly, the players got the point, noticing the difference between the nights they slept well and the nights they didn’t. It reinforced what Tennessee football coach Butch Jones constantly told them about rest and recovery, and produced an environment in which sleep became a competitive enterprise,” the team’s website reported.

The real proof may well have been in the team standings, as the Vols posted their best record (9 wins; 4 losses) since 2007!

Next week we’ll look at the role new anti-aging technology plays in helping us protect one of the most important assets in keeping a youthful outlook on life: our vision.

Useful links:

Insufficient Sleep Is a Public Health Problem

http://www.cdc.gov/features/dssleep/index.html

Partial sleep deprivation linked to biological aging in older adults

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/06/150610131728.htm

Here’s What Lack Of Sleep Can Do To You In Just One Day

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/06/11/sleep-deprivation-aging_n_7561304.html
Esteé Lauder Clinical Trial Finds Link between Sleep Deprivation and Skin Aging

http://www.uhhospitals.org/about/media-news-room/current-news/2013/07/estee-lauder-clinical-trial-finds-link-between-sleep-deprivation-and-skin-aging

Tennessee football takes scientific approach

http://www.knoxnews.com/sports/vols/football/tennessee-football-takes-scientific-approach-270c210c-3954-1743-e053-0100007f4ebb–363201301.html

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Starting 2016 with the end in mind.

By David Martin, RN, CEO, VeinInnovations

Happy New Year!

We all know aging is inevitable. How we age, and how long we maintain our independence, is negotiable, if we are both fortunate and intentional.  To borrow a line from the late Stephen Covey – we can “begin with the end in mind.”

If you are in your 40s, 50s, or 60s, January is the perfect time to pause and think about how you want to age, where, and, to a degree, with whom, and to think backwards about how you want to “be” as you go into your 70s, 80s, and 90s.

To be a vigorous and energetic octogenarian with a sharp mind, strong bones, healthy muscles, and good balance, now is the time to take actions that will increase the likelihood of your still being able to live on your own, see, drive, play golf, manage your finances, and enjoy a healthy sex life. Even if you are in your 50s or 60s and have a sense that your abilities in these areas may not be as sharp as they once were, there is good news: the human body can continue to grow vital brain, muscle, and blood, and bone cells if it is properly cared for.

What we eat, how we sleep, the quantity and quality of our exercise, the degree to which we challenge our brains – even the people with whom we spend time – have a tremendous impact on our lives.  This is true at any age. But for those of us in our 40s, 50s, and 60s, these habits become even more important.

For most of us, growing older means injuries will be more difficult to heal. Illnesses will hit us more frequently, and, possibly, harder. How we care for ourselves may well impact how long we are able to “age at home,” enjoying a good quality of life.

New research shows stepping up to improve nutrition, diet, exercise, and brain training can make a tremendous difference in the quality of our lives as we age, and how we recover from injury or illness. The earlier we start, the better. There is no better time than now to make your commitment to anti-aging and health improving habits including:

1.    Increase activity – Walking 15 minutes a day helps. Adding some weight training to your routine will help increase, maintain, or prevent loss of bone density and muscle mass.  Check with your physician first, of course, but even light weights can a big difference if used frequently and consistently.
2.    Increase protein consumption – as we age, our bodies need more protein to stay healthy. According to the Society on Sarcopenia, Cachexia and Wasting Disorders, a nonprofit group, as many as 41% of women and 35% of men age 50-plus eat less than the daily recommended allowance of 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (0.36 grams per pound; a 160 lb. person would need about 59 grams of protein a day). The group actually recommends that total protein should be higher in that age range, or 1 to 1.5 grams per kilogram per day (0.45 to 0.68 grams per pound – 72 grams for a 160 lb. person at the low range; about 109 grams of protein a day at the high range), spread equally through three meals.
3.    Ask your physician to check your levels of Vitamin D and to recommend a supplement to your diet if your levels are low. Lack of Vitamin D impacts many areas of health, but especially your mood, ability to retain muscle mass, and your immune system.
4.    Drink more water. As we age, it is more difficult – and important – to stay hydrated.

There are no silver bullets with regard to aging more slowly. Genetics play a big role. In your youth, how much you smoked, whether or not you’ve abused alcohol and other drugs, how you’ve watched your diet – all of these factors stack up to make one age faster. The good news? Starting now you may well be able to slow the rate at which you age. Next week we’ll look at the important role sleep plays in helping us heal, stay clear of mind, and keep a youthful outlook. Future articles will focus on vision and balance. If there’s a topic you’d like to see addressed, let me know!

Best wishes for a happy, healthy 2016!

Other Resources:

Sarcopenia, Cachexia and Aging: Diagnosis, Mechanisms and Therapeutic Options

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4112511/

Nutrition’s Role in Sarcopenia Prevention

http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/090112p62.shtml

Age and Its Effect on Wound Healing

http://www.advancedtissue.com/age-effect-wound-healing/

The importance of drinking more water as you age

http://yearofthedetox.com/2012/01/30/the-importance-of-drinking-more-water-as-you-age/

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Heartfelt Gift of Information Could Help Prevent Holiday Heart Attacks

By David Martin, RN, President and CEO, VeinInnovations

In last week’s Live Healthy Atlanta!, we shared research about the increased prevalence of heart attacks during the holiday season, and keyed in on factors causing the uptick in Christmas coronaries: seasonal or regular lack of exercise, weight gain, the increased likelihood of drinking and eating to excess – especially salty foods that raise blood pressure. We detailed how those actions, combined with cold weather and seasonal illnesses such as colds and flu, can stack up to hurt you.

Today we’re zeroing in identifying some emotional seasonal stressors, and ways to protect your heart during the holidays, and throughout the year.

Holidays = emotional stress overload?

Unmet desires of holidays past, and that human habit of comparing “our holiday extravaganza” to that of friends and family members, increases strain on an already over-taxed mind and body. Add in trying to remember gifts for everyone, the names of co-workers’ spouses and other people at holiday parties, and whether or not Santa has spent you into overdraft status, and you can bet your breathing has become more shallow, and that your adrenaline is pumping.

Holiday travel definitely compounds stress. Rushing, driving in unfamiliar places, sleeping in a guest or hotel room, and eating on-the-go all tax your mind and body. Add in obsessing over whether or not you remembered everyone’s gift and the right shoes or tie for the next party, and you could probably watch your blood pressure go up right before your eyes. All of these extra “to-do’s” are likely to release stress hormones in your body that take a toll on your heart.

Fortunately, there are some actions you can take to help lower the stress level and help protect your heart. These are no substitute, however, for taking the time to have a physical, talk with your physician about results, and knowing you or someone must call 911 if you have symptoms such as chest pain, dizziness, nausea, squeezing in the chest, or pain in your arm, breast, or jaw. One in three women in America will die of heart disease. Many of us are oblivious to heart trouble until we have a heart attack. With all this in mind, take note of some ways to help protect your heart and minimize stress:

Get some exercise. Plug in the ear buds, get the game on your phone, and walk during halftime. Take an extra lap around the mall.

Put on the coat. Despite our delayed winter, when it does get cold, remember that being warm is better for you, and your heart. A sudden shock of cold weather – after being inside – is a stressor.

Avoid sudden exertion. If you’ve not stayed “every-day-fit” up to now, leaping into action to have the house ready for the holidays could stress you, and especially your heart. Get some help instead of suddenly deciding you need to rake a mountain of leaves, repaint the guest bathroom, or charge through the mall or airport with a ton of stuff in tow.

Lay off the salt and alcohol. Overindulging in alcohol can lead to atrial fibrillation, an abnormal heart rhythm in which disorganized electrical signals cause the heart’s upper chambers to contract irregularly, increasing the risk of stroke, heart attack, and heart failure. Giving in to a salt craving can increase your blood pressure.

Take a flu shot and wash your hands. Fever and infection stress the heart; avoid getting sick by getting a flu vaccination. Wash your hands frequently. Also watch drinking or eating from someone else’s cup or plate, or that bowl of dip.

Take a breath of fresh air. Unless there are air pollution alerts, get outside to clear your lungs, or open the windows to let fresh air in. The exception: indoors and out, stay away from wood burning fires, as ultrafine airborne particles can be bad for the heart.

Stay hydrated – As we age, staying hydrated becomes more and more difficult. Being dehydrated puts stress on your entire body, but especially your heart. If you don’t like water, drink hot or cold herbal tea.

Most importantly, if you need help, ASK. Don’t ignore pain, dizziness, or pain in your arm or jaw. Heart attacks in women have a unique set of symptoms and are more likely to be fatal (again, one out of three women in America will die of heart attack or heart disease). Learn the warning signs: squeezing in the chest, nausea, shortness of breath, pain in the breast and arm, and please, for your sake and that of your loved ones, don’t hesitate to call 911 for emergency help, or ask someone to do it for you.

Resources:

The American Heart Association – Go Red For Women to prevent heart disease and heart attacks in women:

https://www.goredforwomen.org/

Warning signs of heart attack in men

http://www.medicinenet.com/heart_attack__symptoms_and_early_warning_signs/views.htm

Holiday Tips to Reduce Stress

https://www.goredforwomen.org/live-healthy/stress_management/heart-healthy-holiday-tips/

Prevent Heart Attacks

https://www.goredforwomen.org/live-healthy/first-steps-to-prevent-heart-disease-and-be-heart-healthy/heart-disease-prevention-checklist/

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/Preventing-Heart-Disease—At-Any-Age_UCM_442925_Article.jsp#.VnK2gWSrQfM

Alcohol and Heart Attacks

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyEating/Alcohol-and-Heart-Health_UCM_305173_Article.jsp#.VnLBGGSrQfM

Hydration and Heart Attacks

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/PhysicalActivity/FitnessBasics/Staying-Hydrated—Staying-Healthy_UCM_441180_Article.jsp#.VnKzxWSrQfM

Stress and Heart Attacks

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/07/10/stress-heart-attack.aspx

http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/stress-cardiomyopathy-a-different-kind-of-heart-attack-201509038239

Managing Holiday Stress

http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress/art-20047544

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Holiday stress triggers thousands of Hanukkah Heart Attacks and Christmas Coronaries. How to avoid being a fatality.

By David Martin, RN, CEO, VeinInnovations

As I shared several months ago in hopes of helping us all become more heart healthy before this most wonderful time of the year, research confirms Christmas Day, December 26th, and New Year’s Day as the first, second, and third most likely days, respectively, to have a heart attack.

A review of 53 million U.S. death certificates from 1973 to 2001, performed in 2004 by researchers at the University of California, San Diego, and Tufts University School of Medicine, revealed a 5% increase in deaths during the holiday season – nationwide.

Yes, there is a link to colder weather, which, when you look at the origins of coronary artery disease, makes sense. The disease stems from atherosclerosis, a condition in which fatty plaques narrow the arteries to the heart. If a plaque breaks free, and a blood clot forms, a heart attack is likely to follow.

Why cold weather is harder on the heart

As temperatures drop, blood vessels constrict, raising blood pressure, and making blood clot more easily. When frigid temperatures increase strain on the heart, it is definitely not the time to start a running program, rake leaves if you are out of shape, or take on any other physical exertion that adds to the strain.

Cold weather and a decision to play touch football or try out a new tennis racket? If you are out of shape, work – indoors and with your doctor’s okay – toward getting into better shape before running those routs or hitting the courts. While it’s unlikely we’ll be shoveling snow here in Atlanta, many cold-weather area emergency rooms see an increase in patients following big snowstorms, when a couple of hours of shoveling snow sends many who’ve been sedentary to the emergency room, or the morgue.

Other contributing factors to the increase in holiday heart attack deaths? 

Human behavior contributes to the high number of deaths in myriad ways. For starters, many people don’t want to ruin the party. They delay seeking treatment because they don’t want to disrupt Christmas and New Year’s festivities. I will assure you, the party will be a much worse memory if you don’t ask for help. Further:

  • Many people have a fear of attracting attention to themselves. (If fear outweighs the reality of needing help, you may become a statistic.)
  • People want to wait until they get home to seek treatment. (Remember, you may not get home at all if you wait to ask for help.)
  • Out-of-town guest wait to seek “competent care,” not trusting the hospital’s graveyard shift. (You are much more likely to survive a heart attack in an emergency room, even one in a small, rural hospital.)
  • Hospitals may be short-staffed on major holidays, meaning treatment is delayed, or the specialists you need are not immediately available. (Again, you are more likely to survive a heart attack in a hospital than you are alone in a guest room, bathroom, or parking lot.)

Shopping ‘til we drop; skipping out on working out; stressing out

Three other factors contributing to the increase in fatalities? Our temptation to shop, socialize, or catch another football game instead of sticking with an exercise routine; the ease of piling up a plate with the unending supply of holiday goodies and cocktails, which translates into increased salt and alcohol consumption, which leads to weight gain. When you add holiday stress to the mix, your body is in a swirl of toxic chemicals and hormones, at a most inopportune time.

We’ll revisit more about the whys of holiday stress – how to avoid it and how to survive it – in next week’s Live Healthy, Atlanta. Until then, live healthy, Atlanta.

Helpful links:

Cardiac Mortality Is Higher Around Christmas and New Year’s Than at Any Other Time The Holidays as a Risk Factor for Death

http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/110/25/3781.full.pdf+html

Heart Disease Health Center

http://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/what-is-atherosclerosis

Cold Weather and Cardiovascular Disease

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/General/Cold-Weather-and-Cardiovascular-Disease_UCM_315615_Article.jsp#

Are You Drinking Your Way to ‘Holiday Heart Syndrome’?

http://www.everydayhealth.com/columns/health-answers/are-you-drinking-your-way-to-holiday-heart-syndrome/

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Heading out for the holidays? Keep moving, and don’t ignore leg pain.

By David Martin, RN, President and CEO of VeinInnovations

As you go over the river and through the woods, or out to the airport for a long flight to your holiday destination – or even if you’re just sitting around watching football for hours – it’s important to remember that long trips, and sitting for long stretches, increase your likelihood of developing Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). For today though, we’re focusing on DVT and travel.

DVT is a blood clot, usually formed in the deep vein system of the legs. If the clot, or a part of it, breaks away, it is called an embolism. If the embolism travels to the lungs, it is called a pulmonary embolism, or PE. If it travels to the brain, it can cause a stroke.

Having these clots form and break away proves more deadly each year than breast cancer, AIDS, and automobile accidents – combined.

Leading medical experts say most patients, and even most physicians, don’t realize how prevalent DVT is.

DVT-related PE is the leading cause of preventable death in U.S.

Holidays, when we are more likely to take long trips on an airplane or in a car, are a critical time to look for DVT warning signs. These long trips, certain medical conditions, and some medications, increase the likelihood of DVT.

You’re at higher risk if you:

  • Have an inherited blood clotting disorder.
  • Have been on chemotherapy and certain other medications such as birth control.
  • Have sustained a leg or pelvic injury.
  • Have been hospitalized or otherwise been immobilized due to illness.
  • Are a person with paralysis.

Women who are pregnant, people with Inflammatory Bowel Disease or heart failure, and smokers, women on birth control, people over 60, and people who are taller and/or are overweight, are also at higher risk.

In recent years, some studies have tied chronic venous insufficiency (CVI), the failure of one-way valves in leg veins, causing blood to flow backward and pool, to an increased risk of DVT. Having had DVT has definitely been tied to an increased likelihood of CVI.

If you, or someone with whom you are traveling, has the following symptoms this holiday season, do not waste time thinking it’s better to wait and go to the doctor when you get home, or that “this will get better.” Instead, head to the emergency room immediately if

  • The affected area – usually in the leg – hurts, is swollen, tender, and/or warm to the touch.
  • Skin becomes discolored.
  • Muscle cramps become especially sharp.

Unfortunately, in about half the cases, DVT comes with no symptoms. The fact that DVTs can be discovered with a simple ultrasound screening is part of the reason VeinInnovations encourages all persons over the age of 45 to have a routine duplex Doppler ultrasound screening.

To avoid DVT when you’re more likely to be sitting for long periods of time on airplane or car trips, get moving.  Exercise your lower calf muscles to keep blood flowing. Point and flex your toes, or raise and lower your heels with your toes on the floor. Then raise your toes with your heels on the floor.

Walk around. The more you move – even if it is up and down the aisle of an airplane every 30 minutes or so – the better.

If you smoke, stop. If you’re overweight, take steps – literally, by walking more – to lower your weight and your blood pressure.

If your physician recommends your wearing compression stockings, by all means wear them.

And stay hydrated. It is especially important, if you are over the age of 60, to drink plenty of water.

For more information on Deep Vein Thrombosis, visit:

http://www.medicinenet.com/deep_vein_thrombosis/article.htm

http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/dvt/data.html

http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=40582

For more information on Chronic Venous Insufficiency visit:

http://vasculardisease.org/flyers/chronic-venous-insufficiency-flyer.pdf

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