Matters of the Heart: Setting a Heart-Healthy Example for Your Children

Thursday, February 26, 2015 9:21 AM comments (0)

child on bikeParents, it starts with you. You are the first and most important influence on the current and future health of your children. The example you set could put your children on a course for a lifetime of healthy living, especially when it comes to heart health. The health risks posed by a sedentary lifestyle, poor diet and obesity are immediate because heart health matters at any age, even in young children. 

David Najman, MD, Cardiology at NorthShore, shares some easy ways that parents can set a heart-healthy example for their children while also improving their own health:

Healthy diet. If you want your children to eat fruits and vegetables, you need to set the example by eating fruits and vegetables yourself.  Include your children in the decision making and help guide them by discussing the benefits of the delicious fruits, vegetables and whole grains that you will eat together as a family every night.  If children grow up eating healthy foods together with their parents, eating those same foods as young adults and adults won’t feel strange or difficult at all; those same foods will be what they ate growing up. 

Exercise. Show your children that exercise is important by maintaining a regular workout routine. And, as often as you can, get every member of the family involved in a fun, physical activity. Jog together as a family; ride bikes together as a family; go on a brisk evening walk together as a family. Children experience the same health benefits of exercise as adults—strong bones and muscles, maintenance of a healthy weight, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and a regular exercise routine reduces one’s risk for heart disease, diabetes, some cancers and more. Get your kids moving now and they will likely maintain that active lifestyle later in life. Lead by example!

Smoke-Free. If you quit smoking, your kids are less likely to start. Smoking is more common in teenagers whose parents smoke. If you are still smoking, quit. Secondhand smoke is linked to lung cancer but it also increases the risk of multiple types of cancers, heart disease, diabetes and many other medical issues as well. 

Maintain a healthy weight. Today in the U.S., one child out of three is considered obese or overweight. Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, once common health issues encountered only in adulthood, have developed in children as young as seven.  Obese children are also more likely to become obese adults, increasing their risk of developing heart disease later in life. Don’t focus on weight with children; instead, shift to leading a healthy lifestyle as a family. Lifestyle changes like eating right as a family and exercising can make all the difference. 

What do you do to set a heart-healthy example for your children?

Comment

From the Heart: Dr. Pearson, Cardiovascular Surgeon, Finds Inspiration Inside & Outside Medicine

Tuesday, February 24, 2015 10:12 AM comments (0)

Dr. PearsonPaul Pearson, MD, PhD, Cardiovascular Surgery at NorthShore Cardiovascular Institute, enjoys a good challenge, which is what ultimately drew him to medicine, first as Illinois’s youngest paramedic and later as a surgeon. 

Here, Dr. Pearson tells us what he finds most rewarding about his vocation and how his experiences as a parent of children with heart issues help him better understand and communicate with his patients: 

What inspired you to go into medicine?
I have always enjoyed the excitement and challenges that characterize certain aspects of the medical field.  I grew up watching the 1970s television show Emergency!, and was inspired to become a paramedic, as it turns out the youngest paramedic in Illinois, at a time when the concept of pre-hospital advanced life support was just taking hold.  Not only was I able to work through college but I was immersed in the excitement of critical situations where advanced training, technology and quick, informed decision-making could save lives.

Why did you choose cardiac surgery?
I have always thought that cardiac surgery expressed all of the best elements of medicine—advanced technology, highly trained and skilled practitioners, decades of scientific inquiry and investigation—all applied to some of the most challenging, life-threatening health problems.

What do you find most challenging about your work?
Any heart surgeon will tell you that what keeps them from sleeping at night is the expression, “What we don’t know, we don’t know.” It’s when a critical situation occurs because of the inevitable gaps in our knowledge. This is where the years of study, training and experience all need to come together to produce a good clinical outcome.

What do you find most rewarding?
For me, the most rewarding aspect of surgery is the post-operative visit with the patient.  By that time, the patient is feeling better, recovery from surgery is well underway and the patient has usually been able to reflect on the dangerous journey through which they came out safe.  For some patients, it is summarized as, “Thank you for saving my life.” 

How does your personal experience as a father of children with heart defects affect the way you practice medicine and connect with your patients?
Two of my boys were born with ventricular septal defects (VSDs).  I vividly remember the first time their mom called me in tears and told me that the pediatrician had detected a heart problem in our newborn son.  There was a rush of emotions, followed by questions and “what ifs.”  I frequently recall those emotions and still remember what I needed to hear from my son’s doctors. This helps guide me as I talk with patients in consultation today.  

Why do you think heart disease is still the leading cause of death in the U.S.?
The human body was designed to work, be active and challenged both physically and mentally.  Unfortunately, we have transformed into a society of inactivity, at both the physical and mental level.  This has resulted in dramatic consequences on our cardiovascular system, body and, I also think, soul.

What do you think is the most important thing we can do to care for our hearts?
It is really very simple. Be active. Push yourself. Sweat! Have your diet be one of moderation. And for those who are physically able, jogging in the springtime rain is great for the heart and soul.

What inspires you outside of medicine?
I love to read good books, listen to classical music played by a skilled orchestra lead by a gifted conductor. Of course, I thoroughly enjoy spending time with my children. However, to reflect about life, nothing beats a summertime walk on the North Shore at twilight.

Comment

Don't Ignore the Signs: Susan Ripka's Lifesaving Colonoscopy

Friday, February 20, 2015 2:51 PM comments (0)

susan and familySusan Ripka, a busy mother of 5-year-old twin girls, just didn’t feel right. She’d been dealing with recurring digestive issues but when she noticed blood in her stool, she made an appointment to see NorthShore gastroenterologist Laura Bianchi, MD. At the appointment, Dr. Bianchi recommended a screening colonoscopy, an outpatient procedure that would ultimately save Susan’s life. 

At only 43, Susan was diagnosed with colorectal cancer. Thankfully, Susan’s cancer was discovered at its earliest stage and after surgery performed by Joseph Muldoon, MD, Susan is now cancer free.

Here, she tells us about her experience at NorthShore, why she strongly recommends seeking medical advice if something doesn’t feel right and how a difficult diagnosis renewed her outlook on life: 

What stood out most about your treatment at NorthShore and your experience with Dr. Bianchi and Dr. Muldoon?
The entire process, from the colonoscopy to surgery, was very smooth and well organized at NorthShore. Dr. Bianchi was very patient, thorough and informative during the process. She also had a personal, caring approach that helped keep me at ease.

I felt blessed to have Dr. Muldoon as my surgeon. He came highly recommended and I felt very confident in his skill and approach to my surgery.

What does your care plan look like going forward? How often will you continue to be screened?
Right now, I am continuing follow-up appointments with Dr. Muldoon, and since the pathology report came back negative, I will only require annual screenings. 

What would you tell other women your age who are experiencing unusual digestive issues?
After hearing my story, women have told me about their own symptoms and I always strongly recommended they seek an evaluation.

What would you tell someone who is afraid to have a colonoscopy performed either out of fear of pain or embarrassment?
I tell people the process and procedure is much simpler than they would expect. I also share how important it is to work through that fear because in my case it saved my life.

What’s next for you and your family? What do you look forward to the most? 
I have a renewed outlook on life. I look forward to watching my kids grow up and spending as much time with my family as possible! 

What did you learn through this experience?
I learned that God is in control of my life. He demonstrated love and care through orchestrating events that revealed the cancer early and set me on a path with the most highly skilled medical team. I believe each staff member, nurse, doctor (namely Dr. Bianchi and Dr. Muldoon) were a gift from God. I only need to remember this experience and I am thankful and praising God for what He did for me and hope He blesses all the hands that helped me!

Comment

High Blood Pressure? Lifestyle Changes to Lower the Rise

Thursday, February 19, 2015 12:21 PM comments (0)

mensbloodpressure

Hypertension, affects one in every three people in the United States; it causes or worsens severe health concerns like heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and diabetes; and it’s nearly symptomless until the damage to arteries and the body is done. That’s a big problem! But it is a problem with a solution and part of that is finding out what's normal and what's not. 

So what’s normal? What is considered high? And what do the numbers mean? Normal blood pressure is less than 120/80, with 120 representing the systolic pressure, or the pressure of your blood against the walls of your arteries when your heart beats, and 80 representing diastolic pressure, or pressure between heart beats. Anything over 120/80 is considered prehypertensive and hypertension begins at 140/90. Medications are prescribed and recommended for blood pressures starting at 139/89.

If you’ve heard the words “high blood pressure” in your doctor’s office, the time to make important lifestyle changes has come. If you’re prehypertensive, these lifestyle changes can help reverse the rise.

Philip Krause, MD, Cardiologist and Director of the Section of Cardiology at NorthShore’s Skokie Hospital, shares his recommendations for simple changes to make now:

  • Drop a few. If you have high blood pressure already, losing weight can lower it. Maintaining a healthy weight—a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9—can significantly reduce your risk of developing high blood pressure altogether. Keep an eye on your waistline particularly. Carrying the majority of your extra pounds around your waist puts you at an increased risk for hypertension. 
  • Put down the salt shaker. Reducing your sodium intake even a little can make a big difference. On average, most people eat far more than recommended. Daily intake of sodium should not exceed 2,300 milligrams per day or 1,500 milligrams if you are 50 or older. Start reading food labels closely as there’s often sodium hiding where you’d least expect it.
  • Get moving. Regular exercise—from 30 to 60 minutes five days a week—will help lower blood pressure levels. It doesn’t take long for exercise to take effect either. If you haven’t been active for  a while, increasing your physical activity level can begin to lower your blood pressure after only a couple of weeks. If exercise is new to you, talk to your physician before starting and he or she will help you get back into the game safely. 
  • Calm down. We’ve all been stressed out by work or life on occasion but if stress is a regular thing, it could start to impact your blood pressure levels. Think about what might be adding stress to your life and see what you can do to eliminate those stressors. If eliminating them completely isn’t an option, find ways to cope, like meditation, massage or talking to a counselor or therapist.  Also consider spending more time enjoying your hobbies; it can be stress relieving as well.
  • Change your diet. The Mediterranean diet has been shown to diminish overall cardiac risk and improve cholesterol profiles. The diet consists of nutritional foods like fresh vegetables and fruits, nuts and legumes. A diet rich in poultry, fish and lean meats and low in carbohydrates can aid weight loss as well. This weight loss can help lower blood pressure, too.  

Do you worry about your blood pressure levels? How do you keep it in check? 

Comment

Q&A: Dry Eye Syndrome

Wednesday, February 18, 2015 3:01 PM comments (0)

Dr. MacsaiMarian Macsai, MD, NorthShore Division Chief of Ophthalmology, answered questions on dry eye syndrome in the winter edition of Connections and she continues her Q&A here:

Connections Q & A:

What is dry eye syndrome?
It is a condition that develops when the eye does not produce enough of the watery layer that makes up tears, or tears evaporate because they lack normal levels of an oily substance. This inflammatory disease is associated with several factors, including aging, hormonal changes, autoimmune disease, certain medications, disorders of the eye surface and cosmetic surgery. 

What are the symptoms?
Patients typically complain of stinging, burning, pain, redness, tearing, fatigue, blurred vision and intolerance to wearing contact lenses. Some patients also feel as if something is in their eye.

Can I prevent it?
It is important to avoid wind and dry air and to protect your eyes by wearing wraparound sunglasses. Use a humidifier and rest your eyes by taking frequent, short breaks when reading or using a computer or cellphone. Staring at a computer screen reduces the normal rate of blinking and can result in drying of the eye’s surface.

What are my treatment options?
Schedule a complete eye exam to determine the underlying cause of dry eye syndrome. Your doctor may recommend one of the following:• Dietary supplements

  • Dietary supplements
  • A mild eyelash shampoo
  • Cyclosporine eye drops to help you produce more of your own tears
  • Anti-inflammatory eye drops

Over-the-counter artificial tears may provide relief, but seek medical attention if you use them more than four times a day. Some patients may need to reduce or eliminate wearing contact lenses. Patients with advanced cases may require surgery to close the tear drainage system. 

Continued Q & A:

Can delayed treatment of dry eye syndrome damage a patient's vision?
If left untreated, a patient with dry eye syndrome is at a greater risk for infection and erosions of the cornea. In either case, vision may be affected, possibly with a permanent impairment. 

Once dry eye syndrome develops, can it be cured?  
The condition is chronic. It can be controlled but it cannot be cured.

Would improved hydration--drinking more water--reduce symptoms of dry eye syndrome?
Dehydration affections your entire body but dyhydration is not the source of dry eye syndrome. While hydration is important for your general health, staying hydrated has not been shown to improve the symptoms of dry eyes. 

You mention dietary supplements as a treatment option for dry eye syndrome; what supplements would help?
Omega 3 dietary supplements have been shown to decrease inflammation on the ocular surface and improve dry eyes. Not all omega supplements are the same, however. When taking omega 3s, make sure you are taking a triglyceride formulation rather than an ethyl esther formulation. 

Comment

Heart Disease: Women vs. Men

Tuesday, February 17, 2015 1:58 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?

Comment

Chocolate – A Healthy Treat?

Friday, February 13, 2015 3:31 PM comments (0)

ChocolateChocolate is good for you! Sound too good to be true? Well, Happy Valentine's Day, because it's true.

Don't take that as permission to rush out and buy all the heart-shaped boxes of chocolate you can find this Valentine's Day. When it comes to chocolate's health benefits, type matters. Not all chocolate is created equal and moderating your consumption (regardless of the type) is key.

Curtis Mann, MD, NorthShore Primary Care physician, breaks down the health benefits of chocolate and shares some tips for picking the "healthiest" chocolate just in time for the heart's favorite holiday:

  • It must be dark chocolate! Dark chocolate contains antioxidants, and specifically flavonoids, that some studies have linked to cancer prevention, reductions in circulatory system inflammation and the ability to lower high blood pressure. It’s important to note that dark chocolate also contains less added sugar than milk and white chocolates. A chocolate with at least 60% cacao is best for health benefits.
  • Read the label carefully. It’s best to choose a chocolate that uses cocoa butter (a natural saturated fat also found in olive oil) rather than butterfat. Limiting your daily amount of fat (saturated and unsaturated) consumption is imperative for maintaining a healthy weight.
  • Chocolate can enhance your mood. Its ingredients include phenethylamine, which releases endorphins linked to pleasure; and anadamide, that triggers feelings of happiness and elation. Chocolate also increases serotonin levels in your brain, which can aid a variety of psychological functions, including sleep and appetite.
Comment

The Amazing Human Heart: Heart Health Facts [Infographic]

Friday, February 13, 2015 12:00 PM comments (0)

A small but mighty organ, your heart accomplishes amazing feats with every single beat. This American Heart Month, get to know your heart better.

NorthShore University HealthSystem explains the inner workings of your heart and cardiovascular system and shares simple tips to improve your heart health in our heart health infographic.

Click on the image below for our full infographic of heart health facts

 

Comment

The Mediterranean Diet and Heart Health

Wednesday, February 11, 2015 10:54 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. Some heart-healthy changes are easier to make than others, but 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.

Many 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 disease were lower for those living in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. In fact, researchers have been 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 plan.

Philip Krause, MD, Interventional Cardiologist at NorthShore, discusses the benefits of a Mediterranean diet plan and what makes it 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 a very beneficial part of your heart healthy diet plan. 

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 plan 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.

#NSHearts the Mediterranean diet! Do you? What are your favorite heart-healthy recipes? 

Comment

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

Monday, February 09, 2015 12:54 PM 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

Comment
× Alternate Text