The Best and Worst Foods for Your Heart

Wednesday, February 04, 2015 3:36 PM comments (0)

healthy foodNorthShore Hearts (#NSHearts) healthy eating and so should you. The importance of diet on the health of your heart can’t be overstated. A balanced diet contributes to one’s overall health and wellness, including maintaining weight, but certain foods can significantly improve your heart’s health while others can damage it. Know the difference and show your heart some love by eating heart healthy foods.

Jason Robin, MD, Cardiology at NorthShore, shares a few of the best and worst foods for your heart health:

You’re the Best!

  • Go nuts. Tree nuts are best for heart health: almonds, cashews, pecans, pine nuts, walnuts. They are packed with protein and consist of unsaturated fats, which can help lower bad LDL cholesterol and boost your good HDL cholesterol. But, remember, unsaturated fat is still fat so consume tree nuts in moderation—no more than a handful, or about ¼ of a cup per day.
  • Cool beans. Lentils and black, pinto and garbanzo beans are full of soluble fiber, which has been shown to lower blood pressure and bad cholesterol levels. They’re also rich in folate, a heart-healthy vitamin. Plus, they are the perfect substitute for animal proteins that are often high in saturated fats. 
  • Opt for oats. Perfect for cold weather and heart-healthy to boot, oatmeal contains lots of omega-3 fatty acids, folate, potassium and fiber, which can all lower those bad LDL cholesterol levels and help prevent artery blockage. Choose your oats wisely—coarse/steel-cut oats are best. 
  • Fish food. Fruit and vegetables should be the foundation of your healthy diet but adding a little heart-healthy fish can do wonders for the old ticker. Salmon is swimming in healthy omega-3s and antioxidants, which can keep blood pressure in check and potentially reduce one’s risk of dying from a heart attack. It also may decrease the risk of cardiac arrhythmias. If keeping wild salmon on hand is hard on your wallet, substitute mackerel, herring and sardines because they provide the same health benefits.
  • Check your oil. It’s the monounsaturated fats that make olive oil a heart-healthy super food. Monounsaturated fats lower cholesterol levels and can reduce overall risk for developing heart disease. If you are watching your weight, it’s still important to use olive oil in moderation (2 tbsp per day) because it’s high in calories. 

You’re the Worst!

  • Processed “meat”. Filled with sodium, preservatives, nitrates and nitrites, which have both been linked to heart problems, processed meat—bacon, sausage, hot dogs, even deli meats—are just about the worst animal-based protein you can include in your diet. In fact, even red meat is lower in saturated fats and higher in protein. 
  • Seeing red. Red meat might be better than processed meat but it shouldn’t be the foundation of your diet. Moderation is key when it comes to red meat. You don’t have to go without but consider going lean (less than 10 grams of fat and 4.5 grams of saturated fat per serving), which reduces saturated fats considerably. 
  • French fried. Artificial trans fats, or partially hydrogenated oils, are inexpensive to produce and have a long shelf life, which is why they are found frequently in processed foods and restaurants that specialize in the use of the deep fat fryer. Remember: Fried foods are often fried in shortening, which is a trans fat. Trans fats have been linked to an increased risk for heart disease and stroke. They lower good (HDL) cholesterol and raise bad (LDL) cholesterol levels. Fried foods are also very high in fat. Skip them altogether; however, if something must be fried, opt for a heart-healthy oil like olive oil. 
  • Stop the pop. Fat, cholesterol, high blood pressure are all key words that come to mind when discussing heart health but what about sugar? That’s right, sugar! When it comes to sugar, your favorite pop/soda certainly contains a lot of it. One 20-ounce bottle of pop contains 65 grams of sugar or the equivalent of 16 sugar cubes. Drinking just one can of pop per day has been linked to a possible 20% increase in the risk of heart attack in men and women. 
  • Feeling salty. Americans consume on average 3400 milligrams of sodium a day but the American Health Association recommends only 1500 mg per day. That’s a big difference. Diets high in sodium can increase blood pressure levels, leading to hypertension, which is a major risk factor for heart disease. So cut it out!  Set aside the salt shaker and start checking sodium levels in the foods you eat.

Find out what heart healthy tips and stories NorthShore hearts this American Heart Month by following #NSHearts on Facebook and Twitter

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Cervical Cancer: Prevention and Early Detection

Wednesday, January 28, 2015 3:24 PM comments (0)

cervical cancerThough highly preventable and treatable if caught in its early stages, cervical cancer remains the second leading cause of cancer death in women worldwide. The most significant risk factor for cervical cancer is the sexually transmitted virus, human papillomavirus, or HPV.

There are over 100 different types of HPV that are broken down into two categories: low-risk HPVs, which rarely cause cancer but can cause genital warts, and high-risk HPVs, which may cause  cancer.  HPV types 16 and 18 are responsible for upwards of 70 percent of all cervical cancers. 

Kerry Swenson, MD, PhD , OBGYN at NorthShore, stresses the importance of measures and tests that can prevent or identify cervical cancer in its early and most treatable stages: 

HPV vaccine. More than 80 percent of women will be exposed to at least one strain of HPV in their lifetime.  Thankfully, there is a vaccine that can protect against the four most common strains of HPV. The vaccine only works to prevent infection and is not effective if an infection is already present, which is why it is recommended that these vaccines are administered to girls and women between the ages of 9 and 26, and boys and men between the ages of 9 and 21.  It is best to complete the HPV series before any sexual activity takes place with a potential  exposure  to the HPV virus.   By protecting against HPV, the risk of developing cervical cancer is significantly reduced.  HPV vaccines do not provide protection against all cancer-causing HPV infections so regular screening is still important.

Pap and HPV testing. Regular screening with a Pap smear may identify cervical cancer or cellular changes of the cervix that can lead to cervical cancer. Women should begin Pap tests at age 21 and every three years until age 30.  At age 30, cotesting with a Pap smear and high-risk HPV test should be performed every five years, unless otherwise directed by your physician.  

Well-rounded health. A healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, exercise and quitting smoking all contribute to lowering one’s risk for cervical cancer as well as many other types of cancer. 

January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month. Remember to raise awareness about cervical cancer prevention among the important women in your life this month and year-round. 

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Highly Contagious: Measles

Friday, January 23, 2015 2:02 PM comments (0)

measlesMeasles is extremely contagious, infecting nearly 90 percent of unvaccinated people who come into contact with it. Why is it so contagious? It’s spread through the air (via coughing/sneezing).  People standing in the airspace around the infected person can become infected by breathing in these respiratory droplets; they do not need to be sneezed or coughed on directly.  Those infected with measles are at their most contagious the four days prior to the appearance of the rash, meaning they are extremely contagious before they themselves are aware of the virus. 

Measles symptoms develop approximately 8-12 days after exposure but the measles rash will not develop until 3 -5 days after symptoms first appear. The first symptoms are similar to a severe cold:

  • High fever
  • Runny nose
  • Cough
  • Red eyes (conjunctivitis)
  • And white-to-bluish spots may appear in the mouth immediately following the above symptoms

The measles rash begins on the face but quickly spreads downward, covering the body. Fever may be at its highest—topping 104 degrees Fahrenheit—at the appearance of the rash.  

Before the measles vaccine, more than three to four million people in the U.S. would contract the virus each year. Infected individuals can develop mild-to-severe complications including pneumonia, blindness, deafness, brain swelling, permanent neurological damage and even death. 

Julie Holland, MD, Head of General Pediatrics at NorthShore, discusses who should receive the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine and when: 

Everyone should be vaccinated. Vaccines like MMR are a safe and effective way to prevent the spread of the virus. While there have been small outbreaks in the U.S., measles is very common in other parts of the world and can spread easily to the unvaccinated and under-vaccinated in the U.S. 

  • Children. The CDC recommends two doses of the MMR vaccine in childhood: the first dose between 12 and 15 months and the second at four to six years.
  • Teens and young adults. For unvaccinated individuals, two doses of the MMR vaccine are recommended for individuals in this age group: The first dose is given and then followed with a second dose a minimum of 28 days after the first.
  • Adults. For those born after 1957, the CDC recommends two doses of the MMR vaccine. 

Make an appointment or call your doctor or your child’s pediatrician to ensure you and your children are adequately vaccinated.

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Caregiver and Competitor: Dr. Joseph Alleva Sets a Fitness Example for His Patients

Tuesday, January 20, 2015 2:59 PM comments (0)

Dr. AllevaJoseph Alleva, MD, Division Head of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, walks the walk: he encourages his patients to keep active and sets an example by staying active himself. Dr. Alleva trains in judo and Brazilian jiu-jitsu, competing annually in senior division (over 45) championship. By varying his work out and pushing himself physically, Dr. Alleva prevents overuse injury, manages stress levels and maintains his fitness level.

Here, Dr. Alleva tells us what inspired him to get involved in the world of MMA and how he has overcome his own injuries to continue to compete in the sport he loves:

As a doctor, you encourage your patients to stay fit. How do you keep yourself fit and healthy?
I train in judo and Brazilian jiu-jitsu , both of these disciplines are critical in MMA (mixed martial arts). In the gyms I train in, there are MMA fighters both professional and amateur; therefore, when they want to hone their skills with regard to these disciplines they will train with us. 

How long have you been involved in these sports? What first piqued your interest in/passion for martial arts?
I have been involved in this sport since my early teens. My older brother was a golden glove boxing champion. I was inspired by him and also was his training partner. 

You’ve competed at the senior level world championship in Judo. What steps have you taken to continue competing at such a high level?
I try to qualify for the senior championships in judo and or Brazilian jiu-jitsu annually, so I train in these disciplines through the year and cross train—swim, weight train, bike, run—to avoid overuse injury, control my weight and remain conditioned. I train daily and there are days when I get in a second session of training.

Have you had to overcome any injuries?  How have you prevented further injury?
Ironically, I contend with neck and lower back problems on and off. I can sympathize with my patients who have experienced pain that has prevented them from doing the things in their lives that they enjoy. 

Dr Hudgins (also part of our spine center) has managed my diagnostic tests, treatment and rehabilitation. With his supervision I have been able to maintain my competitive spirit.

What does competing mean to you?
Staying active has long been established as having many health benefits—cholesterol control, diabetes control, pain control, heart health, weight maintenance and more. But, beyond this it helps me manage my stress and by setting goals and varying my activities it makes it a fun activity. That's the key to maintaining an active lifestyle. Exercise never feels like a burden. 

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Shingles: Reducing Your Risk and Pain

Tuesday, January 13, 2015 11:53 AM comments (0)

shinglesShingles is caused by the varicella zoster virus (VZV), the same virus that causes chickenpox. After a person recovers from chickenpox, the virus stays dormant (inactive) in the body. For reasons that are not fully known, the virus can reactivate years later, causing shingles.

Shingles is a painful blistering skin rash that often appears in a strip or band on a single side of the face or body. The rash may not be the first sign of shingles. Before the rash develops, people often have pain, itching  or tingling in the area where the rash will develop. This may happen anywhere from 1 to 5 days before the rash appears. Other symptoms can include fever, headache and chills. 

The rash produces chickenpox-like blisters and irritation, and pain can be very severe. In most cases, blisters will heal within 2-4 weeks and pain will subside with the rash. However, severe cases of shingles can leave the skin permanently scarred or discolored and pain caused by damaged nerve fibers can last long after shingles blisters have healed. 

Matthew Plofsky, MD, Family Medicine at NorthShore, shares information on how to shorten the duration of the infection, lessen the severity of symptoms and possibly prevent shingles altogether: 

Relieving symptoms and reducing severity: 

  • Antiviral drugs. The prompt use of antiviral drugs can reduce the severity of a shingles infection and help you heal quickly. Antiviral drugs also help prevent complications associated with a shingles infection.
  • Over-the-counter painkillers. Aspirin and acetaminophen may help with pain as will anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen and naproxen. 
  • Keep skin clean. The infected area should be kept clean, dry and exposed to air as much as possible. You shouldn’t scratch shingles blisters at any time but make sure your hands are clean and that you are only touching infected skin with clean, dry hands. 
  • Keep skin cool. Ice and cold compresses applied to a shingles rash can help relieve pain and inflammation. 
  • Over-the-counter lotions. Calamine is an effective treatment for mild itchiness. 

Preventing shingles:

  • Vaccinate! The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends shingles vaccine for people aged 60 years and older. Even people who have had shingles can receive the vaccine to help prevent future occurrences of the disease. Almost 1 in 3 people will get shingles in their lifetime, and the risk increases as you get older.
  • Prevent chickenpox. Adults can possibly prevent two infections with one vaccine—chickenpox and shingles. If you’ve never had chickenpox, schedule an appointment with your doctor to get the chickenpox vaccine and you’ll help prevent a future case of varicella zoster infection. The chickenpox vaccine is given to most infants before they reach one year.

Have you been vaccinated for chickenpox or shingles?

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Bundle Up! Recognizing the Signs of Frostbite

Tuesday, January 06, 2015 12:09 PM comments (0)

Avoiding-FrostbiteBlustery winds, snow banks and icy paths don’t always make for pleasant trips outdoors to run errands, participate in winter sports or shovel. And, although there isn’t anything we can do to change the outdoor temperatures, we can be sure to dress appropriately when outside to avoid getting too cold or suffering from frostbite.

Ernest Wang, MD, Emergency Department physician at NorthShore, tells us how to stay warm in the frigid outdoors and how to recognize the signs of frostbite if you've been outside too long:

  • Cover your head and ears by wearing a hat. You lose a lot of your body’s heat from your head, so wearing a hat will help keep you warm and comfortable.
  • Dress in layers. Wearing layers will allow you to change and remove clothes if necessary. On particularly cold days you may want to consider wearing long underwear. Don’t forget to put on gloves or mittens.
  • Know the signs of frostbite and when to seek medical attention. These signs include:
    o    Pain – stinging, burning, throbbing or aching
    o    Numbness
    o    Discoloration of the skin—often appears gray, white or yellow
    o    Blistering of the skin
  • Limit the amount of time you’ll be outside on very cold days. If you are starting to get very cold, go indoors and warm up. If your face, hands or feet start feeling numb it may be a sign that you’ve been outside too long.

How do you stay warm when temperatures take a dive?

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Join the Conversation! NorthShore’s New Online Community—The Parent ‘Hood

Monday, January 05, 2015 12:24 PM comments (0)

pedsLife can be hectic, especially the life of a parent, which is why we hope to provide our community members with a place to find the answers they need. NorthShore’s new community is an online destination for parents to share their experiences and support each other, as well as connect with our team of medical experts, from obstetricians to pediatricians. Carl Buccellato, MD, OB/GYN at NorthShore, and an active expert member of the community, says, “I hope my experience both as a physician and a parent will be a resource for expecting parents” of the Parent ‘Hood.

The community will cover a variety of topics, from pregnancy issues like gestational diabetes and nutrition to parenting topics like how best to address your toddler’s tantrums and childhood vaccinations. You can join the conversation now!

On-going conversations:
Toddler Tantrums 
Itchy and Pregnant
Post-Partum Hair Loss

Sign up and start your own conversation:
Click "New Post"

Read articles on health topics relevant to parents in our community:
Blogs and Online Medical Chats

Watch videos from NorthShore physicians and NorthShore patients stories:
Featured Videos

What topics would you like to see in The Parent 'Hood?

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Celebrate a Happy and Healthier New Year: Make a Big Impact with Achievable New Year's Resolutions

Tuesday, December 30, 2014 2:26 PM comments (0)

Make the commitment to improve your health one small step at a time. Big changes can be hard to maintain but small incremental improvements can make a big impact on your overall health.  

Celebrate a healthy New Year throughout the year with the help of these four simple New Year’s resolutions from NorthShore University HealthSystem.

resolution infographi

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Managing the Meltdown: How to Handle Tantrums in Children

Monday, December 29, 2014 12:02 PM comments (0)

tantrumsEvery parent has been there at one point or another—at the mercy of his or her child’s tantrum in the checkout line at the grocery store, in a crowded restaurant or at home.  In a matter of minutes, your child goes from quiet and well-behaved to completely inconsolable. 

The good news is that temper tantrums are entirely normal, especially in toddlers. For toddlers, tantrums are often brought on by a young child’s inability to understand and cope with his/her emotions, emotions related to hunger, tiredness or feeling overwhelmed and over-stimulated. 

While it’s not possible to prevent every single emotional meltdown, there are ways to manage them. Leslie Deitch Noble, MD, Pediatrician at NorthShore, discusses some of the best techniques for approaching tantrums:

Don’t overschedule. Try not to overexert your child by packing too much into the daily schedule. This is not to say that every day needs to be the same, but when possible try not to push your child to the limits with errand running. A hungry or tired child is much more likely to act out. If you know you have a long day ahead, let your child know in advance so he or she will be better prepared for the change of pace.

Be consistent with your approach. Try your best to manage your child’s behavior during every tantrum. Encourage communication during a tantrum. Say, “Use your words” or ask clear questions to better understand what might be causing your child’s frustration. Lastly, do not give in. Letting your child have his or her way during a tantrum won’t help break the cycle, even if it ends the immediate tantrum. Ideally, you don’t want to give your child any attention—positive or negative—while he or she is having a tantrum. So, as long as you are not in public and your child is not going to hurt him or herself, the best approach is to completely ignore your child until the tantrum stops.

Distract. Distract. Distract. If you can, try to divert your child’s attention away from what may have prompted the tantrum in the first place. Be sure that you recognize that he or she maybe be upset by a situation, but then offer different options or new activities. For example, if your child has a tantrum over wanting a new toy or treat at the store, you can suggest that you find the “new” toy she got most recently when you go home. A similar approach can be tried with treats. If necessary, try to avoid going down aisles at stores that might prompt meltdowns.

Celebrate (and embrace) the good times. Let your children know when they are behaving well and encourage this type of behavior. Tell them how happy it makes you when they listen and follow the rules. Along with acknowledging good behavior (and even rewarding it), be sure your children know how much you love and care for them. Much of what triggers tantrums is children wanting to express their emotions and wanting attention.

Have questions about tantrums? Get answers from other parents and our team of experts in our new online community The Parent 'Hood. Find out more here: The Parent 'Hood

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Taking GERD out of the Holidays

Monday, December 22, 2014 9:49 AM comments (0)

GerdIt’s that time of year again, the time of year when moderation at mealtimes goes right out the window. Holiday parties, after-work drinks, celebrations with the entire family, any occasion where food brings friends and family together all make it difficult to spare a thought or two for what and how much food we’re putting into our mouths. And, unfortunately, all that immoderation can cause more than just a little weight gain by the end of the year.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a digestive disorder that occurs when stomach acid flows back into the esophagus, irritating the lining of the esophagus and causing the symptoms of GERD, which include acid reflux and heartburn. Acid reflux and heartburn are common but a person is diagnosed with GERD only when these symptoms begin to occur frequently, or when they start to interfere with one’s daily activities. 

Help take the possibility of GERD and its symptoms out of your holiday celebrations with these tips on GERD management and prevention from Mick Scott Meiselman, MD, Gastroenterology at NorthShore: 

Don’t eat too much. It won’t be easy with the many food-centered events around the holidays, but try to watch the amount of food you consume at each meal. Sometimes heartburn isn’t caused by what you eat but how much you eat. And it doesn’t necessarily matter if you’re eating something that is actually good for you; eating too much in one sitting increases your likelihood of suffering heartburn later.

Don’t eat too quickly. Savor your special holiday favorites not only because they taste good but because eating slowly is good for you too. Eating too quickly might be the cause of frequent heartburn. If the holidays have you running around and eating on the go, start to make a point of sitting and slowing down at each meal. This also comes with the added benefit of possibly preventing you from eating too much without realizing it. 

Don’t eat or drink too late. Reflux is overtly impacted by gravity. The majority of people with reflux have an ineffective Lower Esophageal Sphincter (or LES) which helps keep your stomach contents from moving up into your esophagus. Thus any food or liquid contents in your stomach when you lie flat will find their way into your esophagus. It is extremely important that you have an empty stomach at bedtime, so don’t eat any solid food for three hours before you go to bed, and no liquids beyond the hour before bed, and none in the middle of the night. 

Avoid high-fat foods. Another difficult directive during the holidays but many of those traditional holiday foods are high in fat and calories. High-fat foods tend to take longer to digest and sit longer in the stomach; thus, they cause more discomfort and increase the likelihood of triggering GERD symptoms. Fats also relax the LES. Moderation is key but there are also many delicious alternatives to some of your high-fat holiday favorites.

Avoid acidic foods. Acid causes heartburn. Foods high in acid, like tomatoes and citrus fruits and juices, can trigger heartburn on an empty stomach. Try to avoid them if possible or limit them if not. 

Limit coffee, caffeinated sodas, alcohol. All these drinks stimulate acid production and are likely to cause heartburn. Cut them out or keep their consumption to a minimum. Mixed drinks, like Bloody Marys and Screwdrivers, which contain juice and alcohol, would certainly be a trigger for heartburn. Consider decaf and herbal teas instead.

Limit or avoid chocolate and mint. Chocolate and mint also relax the LES, and allow reflux of stomach contents into the esophagus. You should especially avoid these late at night.

Do you know what triggers your GERD symptoms?

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