Prevent Heart Disease With These Surprising Heart Healthy Tips [Infographic]

Friday, February 28, 2014 10:38 AM comments (0)

With 25% of the American population suffering from heart related problems, it's extremely important for everyone to carefully monitor their health, and take the necessary precautions to avoid heart disease.  The most common ways to prevent heart disease include exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, going to the doctor frequently and avoiding smoking. However, there are ways to prevent heart disease that may surprise you! From snuggling to laughing, and even steering clear of traffic, there are plenty of unusual ways to practice a healthy lifestyle. 

Click on our health infographic below to view our 10 surprising ways to improve your heart health.

Heart-Health-Infographic

The Mediterranean Diet: A Heart-Healthy Lifestyle for the Entire Family

Wednesday, February 26, 2014 11:55 AM comments (0)

Med DietHeart disease remains the leading cause of death in the U.S. for both men and women. Genetics, tobacco use, family history, obesity, an increasingly sedentary lifestyle, stress and diet all contribute to this alarming statistic. And while some heart-healthy changes are easier to make than others, finding a balanced diet that appeals to the entire family, while also possibly lowering your risk for heart disease, might be easier and more enjoyable than you think.

Studies have shown that the rates of heart disease as well as certain types of cancer, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s were lower for those living in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Researchers were able to determine that diet played a significant role in keeping the community healthy and living longer. The fundamental components of that diet are known as the Mediterranean diet.

Philip Krause, MD, Interventional Cardiologist at NorthShore, discusses what makes the Mediterranean diet so great for your heart:

Focuses on fruits, vegetables and whole grains. On a typical American plate, meat is the star. On a Mediterranean diet plate, meat plays second fiddle to fresh fruit, vegetables, beans and whole grains. When the focus on the meal shifts toward fresh fruits and vegetables, the result is a diet rich in vitamins, antioxidants and fiber.

Puts the salt shaker away. Excessive salt consumption can raise your blood pressure, which may damage the arteries leading to your heart. And there’s no doubt about it: Americans consume too much salt. The Mediterranean diet diversifies the spice rack, favoring spices and herbs over salt.

Cuts down on red meat. Red meat is sidelined in favor of proteins that contain healthy fats like fish, poultry and nuts. Fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which can be very beneficial. 

Makes olive oil the main source of fat. Just say no to butter. Olive oil is a monounsaturated fat and this type of fat may help bring high cholesterol levels in the right direction. It also may help regulate insulin levels in those suffering from type 2 diabetes.  

Allows for a glass of red wine. This is a great perk for the older adherents of the Mediterranean diet. When consumed in moderation (one four-ounce serving per day), red wine can be beneficial to your heart health by reducing LDL cholesterol levels and increasing HDL cholesterol levels. 

Limits portion sizes and cuts the carbs. Just because the Mediterranean diet is healthy doesn’t mean recommended foods can be consumed in unlimited quantities. Watch your portion sizes as you would with any diet or dish. If both weight loss and heart health are goals, limiting portion sizes along with carbohydrate intake—reducing the consumption of bread, potatoes, rice by 50%—can markedly assist in weight loss.

Share your heart-healthy Mediterranean diet recipes with us on Facebook. 

Heart Disease: Women vs. Men

Tuesday, February 25, 2014 1:10 PM comments (0)

man vs woman heart healthHeart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women. Each year, approximately 600,000 people will die of heart disease, nearly half of them women. And yet many still believe that heart disease is a man’s disease. It’s not.

There are some possible differences, however, between men and women when it comes to heart disease. Brian Shortal, MD, Cardiologist at NorthShore, discusses these differences and the heart disease risk factors that are the same for everyone:

Age. Men are considered at cardiovascular risk starting at 40. Women, on the other hand, are considered at cardiac risk starting at 50. That does not mean that women under the age of 50 have no risk for heart disease, so any symptoms should not be disregarded.  The incidence of heart disease between men and women equalizes around 65, and studies then show that women actually begin to surpass heart disease events in comparison to men. 

Symptoms. Typically, men exhibit more classic cardiac symptoms, including pain across the chest that radiates down the arms, back and jaw, and shortness of breath. Women might display more atypical symptoms like nausea, vomiting, dizziness and syncope (fainting/temporary loss of consciousness). In fact, the most common symptom in women over 80 is not chest pain but shortness of breath. 

Risk Factors. The risk factors are the same for both men and women. The major risk factors for coronary artery disease are hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, family history of heart disease, obesity and a sedentary lifestyle. If you think you might be at risk, see your physician for more information. 

Do you know your risk for heart disease?

Taking on Trans Fats

Friday, January 31, 2014 11:59 AM comments (0)

trans fatThe Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced in 2013 that it plans to label partially hydrogenated oils (PHO’s), which are the primary dietary source of trans fats, as not generally recognized as safe for use in food. This relabeling of trans fats is just the first move in a process that will likely lead to a ban on trans fats in the U.S. food supply. 

Trans fat first entered the American food supply in 1911 in the form of Crisco shortening. Fairly early in its history, preliminary studies show that trans fats could be more harmful than other fats. Later studies confirmed this finding, indicating that trans fat contributed to heart disease.  While their presence has already been greatly reduced in the food supply, trans fats can still be found in many processed foods, like frozen pizzas, microwave popcorn, baked goods, margarine and store-bought icings. 

Philip Krause, MD, Director for the Section of Cardiology at NorthShore Skokie Hospital, explains why doctors have long urged their patients to stay away from trans fats:

  • Increases LDL cholesterol. High levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad” cholesterol, build up the walls of your arteries and can make them hard and narrow. Elevated LDL cholesterol levels are a significant risk factor for heart disease, heart attack and stroke. Consumption of trans fats can raise the bad LDL cholesterol in the body.
  • Lowers HDL cholesterol. High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is your cholesterol friend. It’s responsible for cleaning up your bloodstream, picking up excess cholesterol from where it doesn’t belong and bringing it back to your liver.
  • Increases triglycerides. A type of fat found in blood, triglycerides are also partly responsible for the hardening of arteries. When combined with high LDL cholesterol, elevated triglycerides put you at high risk for stroke, heart attack, heart disease and even diabetes. 
  • Causes inflammation. Inflammation is the body’s response to injury. Trans fats can increase inflammation by damaging the lining of the blood vessels. Inflammation may also be a cause of fatty blockages in the heart’s blood vessels. 

Notably, manufacturers have made steps to reduce fat levels in many foods and products. Since 2006, after which food labels reported trans fat content, intake of this substance has dropped significantly.

It is hoped, after the FDA finalizes its preliminary determination, PHO’s would be considered as “food additives” and could only be used with prior authorization. The primary goal and hope is that with better consumer education and these changes in product and food manufacturing, Americans can look forward to much healthier life ahead.

 

The Harmful Effects of Smoking and the Health Benefits of Quitting [Infographic]

Thursday, November 21, 2013 9:51 AM comments (0)

Smoking is more than just a bad habit; it’s the leading cause of preventative death worldwide. Each year, close to 400,000 people in the U.S. will die from smoking-related diseases like lung cancer, heart disease and stroke. 

As part of National Lung Cancer Awareness Month and the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout, NorthShore University HealthSystem has created an infographic that explores the harmful effects of smoking and the big health benefits of quitting. Make today the day you break a deadly habit and begin to look forward to many healthier years ahead. 

Click on the image below to be directed to the full infographic

smoking infographic

Health Benefits of Biking and Bike Safety Tips [Infographic]

Wednesday, July 31, 2013 9:26 AM comments (0)

Whether it's part of your daily commute to work or simply your prefered mode of transportion for weekend errands, cycling is a great alternative to driving. When done safely, it's an easy way to include a little extra exercise each day and also do your part to help protect the environment.

The health benefits of biking are many, from boosting your immune system to lowering your risk of heart disease, but it's important to wear proper safety gear and always follow the rules of the road. Our latest NorthShore infographic covers the basics of two-wheel travel: health benefits, bike safety statistics and more. Click on the image below to view the full infographic.

bike safety

A Sugar High – Knowing When Too Much is Too Much

Thursday, January 03, 2013 11:01 AM comments (0)

It’s hard to avoid the temptation of having something sweet—whether it’s an after- dinner treat, a mid-afternoon snack or something you indulge in to reward yourself for a hard day’s work. Like most things, in moderation, sugar shouldn’t lead to any long-term health concerns. However, when consumed in excess—both in its natural form and processed form—sugar can lead to some very serious health conditions.

Mary Bennett, RD, LDN, CDE, a diabetes educator at NorthShore, identifies some of the health concerns that excess sugar can lead to:

  • Obesity – Sugary foods are usually higher in calories and can leave you not feeling full. A diet high in sugar can lead to excess daily calories, and if not burned off through exercise can lead to increased weight.
  • Increased risk of diabetes and heart disease – A diet high in sugar doesn’t necessarily lead to the onset of diabetes, but it can increase your odds. The same holds true for developing heart conditions, as a diet high in sugar can often increase cholesterol and fat levels (triglycerides) in the blood.
  • Added calories – Sugar adds calories and displaces nutritious foods. It is important to note that there is no difference between honey, maple syrup and molasses. Sugar is sugar.

The American Heart Association has set a limit for consumer consumption of sugar, which includes:

  • 9 teaspoons daily (150 calories) for men  
  • 6 teaspoons daily (100 calories) for women

How do you control your cravings for something sweet? What is your favorite alternative snack?

Guest Post: Wes Fisher, MD - Listen to your Heart

Tuesday, February 21, 2012 12:34 PM comments (0)

The middle aged man sat cheering his favorite football team.  Just after the game while sitting in front of his TV, he felt strange: lightheaded, sweaty, somewhat short of breath.  He tried to stand, but felt worse. So he sat and re-gained his composure.  He noted a slight bead of sweat on his brow and felt like he just couldn’t take a full breath in.   Other than that, he didn’t feel too bad at first.
Heart Health
So he waited a bit.  “Maybe going outside will help,” he thought.  He managed to walk outside and did feel a bit better for a while, but when he returned inside, he felt the same.  Slowly, nausea overcame him and he had to go to the bathroom and get sick.  Again after that, he felt improved but never felt back to normal.

He waited a bit more and called his wife.  He described to her what he was noticing as she googled his symptoms: some 399,478 search results appeared.  She read the list to him: heart trouble, stomach trouble, neurological trouble – the possibilities seemed endless.  Uncertain what to do, they finally decided to call their family doctor.

“Do you have any aspirin in the house?” he asked.

They scoured their cabinets.  “I can’t believe it!” she said. “No, we can’t find any.”

“Then why don’t you take him over to the Emergency Room right now to get checked out,” the doctor suggested. They thought about it a bit and because his symptoms had not resolved for over an hour and a half, they agreed.

Upon arrival to the emergency room, he was found to have a sustained heart rate of 206 beats per minute at rest – far outside the normal 50-100 beats per minute he should have had.    The process to determine the cause and treatment were started immediately and, gratefully, he left the hospital several days later with his treatment regimen in place.

So why should you care?

Because sometimes, despite all of the information available to all of us these days thanks to news agencies, public service announcements, smartphones, and instant search engines, heart disease can present in unpredictable, unimaginable ways.  When it does: denial is our worst enemy in providing effective treatment.

So if you’re not sure if your symptoms could be caused by your heart, don’t wait.  Get it checked out.  

More often than not, you’ll be glad you did.

-Wes Fisher, MD

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Have questions about heart disease? Join Dr. Brian Shortal, cardiologist for a live online chat on Thursday, February 23 from 12-1p.m. Submit your questions in advance.

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