Heart Failure Patients Benefit from Exercise

Heart failure is not the same thing as someone’s heart stopping. This term refers to a condition where the heart has been damaged due to a heart attack or other disorder and is not pumping blood at full capacity. The organs and tissues in the body don’t get the same level of nutrients as they would if the heart was pumping properly.

The lower-than-normal pumping action can also lead to fluid building up in the patient’s lungs, as well as the extremities. Swelling of the feet and hands are symptoms of heart failure. Unexplained shortness of breath or a sudden weight gain (more than 3 lb. in a couple of days or 5 lb. in a week) also warrant getting checked out by a doctor. If the symptoms are severe, go to the closest Emergency Room or call the local emergency number for assistance.

Medical Treatment for Heart Failure

Once heart failure has been diagnosed, the doctor will discuss treatment options. Medications to help improve the heart’s pumping function may be prescribed, along with diuretics to deal with the fluid buildup that accompanies this condition.

In some cases, a special pacemaker may be used to help the right and left chambers of the heart pump more efficiently. For patients with severe heart failure, a heart transplant may be necessary.

Exercise and Lifestyle Changes for Heart Failure Patients

Patients who have been diagnosed with heart failure can benefit from taking good care of their health. Eating a healthy diet that includes whole grains, fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, and lean meats is part of an overall lifestyle improvement.

Once heart failure has been diagnosed, the patient needs to watch his or her fluid intake carefully and consume no more than six-eight glasses or 2 liters of fluids daily. This calculation includes water, juice, milk, coffee and tea. Water should account for at least half of the daily fluid intake.

Exercise helps heart failure patients by strengthening the heart muscle, which helps to improve blood flow. Once the doctor gives the all-clear to exercise, it’s important to start slowly. Going for a walk is a good example of cardiovascular exercise that can be performed by a person at any level of fitness. The level of activity can be increased over time, and the patient will start to see the benefits of an active lifestyle relatively quickly.

Being active is a great way to deal with stress and helps to promote a positive outlook. For a person who has been diagnosed with heart failure, getting physical and making other lifestyle changes can help them feel more in control of the situation.

You Can Overcome Barriers to Being Active

Being active is something that is important for a healthy heart, but there can be barriers to staying fit that trip us up when we try to have a healthy lifestyle. Many people find that a lack of time, energy or motivation is a barrier to getting (and staying) physically fit.

The argument that a person can’t stay active because of a lack of time doesn’t really hold water. Many people spend two hours or more each day in front of their television or computer screens when they are not at work or at school.

To get fit, a person only needs to spend between 30-60 minutes on some type of activity that will get their heart rate elevated several times per week. The physical activity doesn’t have to be performed in one session; it can be divided up into smaller chunks throughout the day.

With today’s busy schedules, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed at times. Trying to cram too much into a day can leave an individual feeling tired a lot of the time. Ironically, the remedy for not having any energy is to be more active.

Getting started is the hardest part. It can be difficult to go for a walk after work instead of collapsing on the couch instead. Finding activities the whole family can enjoy is a great way to encourage everyone to stay fit, and to spend some time together. It’s easier to stay fit when other family members are interested in doing something together.

Finding other people to exercise with is a great way to get and stay motivated to continue the physical fitness program. Being active doesn’t have to involve going to a gym if that isn’t something that will be enjoyable. There are many kinds of physical activities that can help someone get fit, and it may be worthwhile to change them up to avoid becoming bored.

Depending on the time of year, a person could go for a walk or a hike, swim, go cycling or do some gardening. Dancing is an enjoyable activity as well. Baseball, soccer or volleyball are other good choices, and they have a social aspect as well.

As long as the activity chosen helps the participants to increase their heart rate, it can help them to improve their level of physical fitness.

All About Electrocardiograms

An electrocardiogram (EKG) is a medical test that records the electrical activity of an individual’s heart. The test takes about 10 minutes to complete and is not painful. While the reading is being taken, the patient is asked to lie still to ensure an accurate reading.

An EKG is performed by a technologist. These people have undergone specialized training to learn how to administer EKG tests properly.

What an EKG Measures

The results of the EKG provide doctors with valuable information, including:

  • patient’s heart rate
  • whether there are any irregularities in the heart rhythm
  • size of the heart

When an EKG May Be Ordered

A doctor may ask that a patient undergo an EKG for a number of reasons. If a patient has or is experiencing chest pain, difficulty breathing or complains of that his or her heart is pounding, an EKG will be ordered to investigate the cause of those symptoms.

A person who complains of feeling weak or tired may also need to have this test performed. If a doctor detects an unusual sound when listening to a patient’s heartbeat, the test can help to determine the cause. In some cases, the EKG will need to be repeated to diagnose the underlying heart condition.

Some patients undergo an EKG as part of their regular checkup, especially if the individual is at risk for heart disease. Patients who have been outfitted with a pacemaker will also need to have this test performed. It may also be used as part of a pre-surgery screening.

How the EKG is Conducted

The first part of the procedure is for the technologist administering the EKG to put 13 stickers on the patient’s body. They are attached to his or her arms, legs and chest in specific locations. Each one of the stickers is attached to a wire that is used to measure the heart beat and other information the doctor needs.

Once the testing procedure has been completed, the technologist will remove the stickers. A doctor will review the test strip to determine the results of the test.

Not All Obese People are at Risk for Heart Disease

Carrying extra pounds is one of the risk factors for heart disease. People who are overweight or obese are encouraged by their loved ones and their doctor to get and maintain a healthy weight to improve heart health, but does everyone who is carrying excess pounds need to do so?

Not necessarily, according to the results of a study conducted by Dutch researchers. The University Medical Center in Groningen’s Dr. Andre van Beek stated that overweight people who are “metabolically healthy” are not at a higher risk for heart disease.

Metabolically Healthy

A metabolically healthy obese person is an individual whose medical history doesn’t include any of the following:

  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol or triglycerides
  • Stroke

They are in the minority, though, making up less than seven percent of the 1,325 obese people whose medical records were examined as part of the study.
Lowering Risk for Heart Disease

Since the majority of people who are overweight are at a higher risk of heart disease, losing weight can be part of a plan to reduce the likelihood of cardiovascular issues. Rather than trying to do so by going on a crash diet, a much better (and healthier) approach is to make a plan for slow, steady weight loss.

The weight didn’t go on overnight, and it’s not realistic to expect that it will come off that quickly. Following a balanced diet that is high in fiber and low in fat can help to get to and maintain a healthy weight. Along with a heart-healthy diet, getting regular exercise should be part of the plan, too.

Before starting an exercise program, a person should see a doctor. Starting off slowly will help to make being more physically active part of a lifestyle change, as opposed to a temporary measure designed to get the weight off only. If an individual goes back to his or her original eating habits after losing weight, the weight is likely to creep back up again.

Working Overtime? You Could be Damaging Your Heart

If you have been thinking that spending too much time at work could be bad for your heart health, you may be right. The results of a study conducted on British civil servants indicate that working overtime can increase the risk of cardiac issues.

The results, which were published in the European Heart Journal, followed 10,000 people, found that the government workers who worked more than three hours longer than the standard seven-hour workday had a 60 percent higher risk of having a non-fatal heart attack or angina, or developing heart disease.

The reason working long hours and increased risk of heart disease are related may be due to increased stress involved in spending more time on the job. A person who puts in long hours at work may be a Type A personality. This type of person is already aggressive, highly competitive and impatient, and is probably a good candidate for heart problems. It makes sense that the risk of heart disease, heart attack and angina are linked to someone who puts in a lot of time on the job.

Chronic stress is not healthy for anyone, and working long hours, either to complete special projects or because workers have a higher workload due to cutbacks, leads to other habits that don’t promote good health.

Eating on the run may mean going for fast food over a healthier choice, and working long hours may mean that the employee is not getting enough sleep. Neither of these scenarios contribute to good heart health.

While some overtime may be required for certain positions, if a person finds they are expected to burn the midnight oil regularly, it may be a good idea to update the resume and start putting out feelers for another job. The idea of work/life balance is an important one, and it appears that it is essential for good health.

Sugar and Processed Foods Increase Heart Disease Risk

You can now add sugar to the list of ingredients that are bad for your heart. The results of a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association indicate that people who eat a diet high in sugar and processed foods have lower levels of “good” (HDL) cholesterol and higher levels of triglycerides.

The study followed a group of 6,000 people. The volunteers were divided into groups according to the amount of added sugars and sweeteners they ingested on a daily basis. The study didn’t consider natural sweeteners, such as those found in fruits and fruit juices.)

Average Level of Sugar Consumption

On average, the study participants ate the equivalent of 21 teaspoons of sugar each day. The group with the highest level of sugar consumption averaged 46 teaspoons of the sweet stuff daily, while the group with the lowest level of sugar consumption came in at an average of 3 teaspoons per day.

In cases where 10 percent of a participant’s diet came from sugar, the likelihood of having a low HDL rate was 50-300 percent higher than for people who were in the group consuming the least amount of sugar.

Increased Sugar Consumption

North American diets are becoming sweeter over time, which is not a good thing. Manufacturers are adding more sugar to their products, partly in response to demand for sweeter products. Processed foods have become more popular with consumers feeling strapped for time in response to increasing demands on their time from work and family obligations.

Foods that you may not consider “sweet” contain sugar, such as ketchup and mayonnaise. This ingredient is also added to prepared soups and spaghetti sauces, as well as baked goods.

If you want to become more aware of sugars in foods, be on the lookout for these ingredients. They are all sugars:

  • Corn syrup
  • Dextrose
  • Evaporated cane juice
  • Fructose
  • Fruit juice concentrate
  • Honey
  • Invert sugar
  • Maltodextrin
  • Molasses
  • Polydextrose
  • Sucrose

High Carb Intake Linked to Heart Disease in Women

If you are a lady who likes her carbs, you may want to think about how much white bread, pizza and rice you are eating. Foods with a high sugar content can also increase your risk of heart disease, according to the results of a new study. The good news is that eating pasta doesn’t appear to increase the risk of developing heart disease.

The research was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, and scientists have concluded that eating foods with a high glycemic index, such as white bread, cause a woman’s blood sugar to rise rapidly. The spike in blood sugar levels can damage the heart.

Men process carbohydrates in a different way, and don’t have the same health risks when they consume foods with a high glycemic index. What should you be eating for good heart health?

Start by choosing whole grains more often. Switch to 60 percent whole wheat bread and once you get used to its taste, try 100 percent whole wheat. If you like to eat cereal, read the labels to find brands made from whole grains, as opposed to the ones with a high sugar content. Buy brown rice instead of the white variety.

Adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet is another strategy that is good for your heart. Fruits do contain carbs, but since they are absorbed by the body less quickly than foods made with white flour, they don’t increase the risk of heart disease. Again, you can start by making some simple changes to your diet, such as eating fruit at breakfast or eating a salad at lunch or dinner more often.

You are more likely to stick with the positive changes you are making to your eating habits if you start slowly. Even making one small change at a time will pay off over the long term.

Healthy Super Bowl Snacks are Good for Your Heart

Part of the fun of attending a Super Bowl party, other than watching the game and hanging out with friends, is enjoying the food.

This event can turn into a non-stop snackfest, and unfortunately it’s very easy to go into automatic mode at one of these events and lose track of how much you’re eating.

Fun foods can be part of a heart-healthy diet, and you don’t have to feel deprived on Super Bowl Sunday. If you are hosting the party, plan to offer a variety of foods to your guests during the event, including ones that are high in fiber and low in fat.

Fresh vegetables combined with a dip made from low-fat ingredients are popular. Choose low-fat Ranch dip, salsa or hummus. Black bean dip is a good choice if you want to have a few chips or nachos.

heart healthy foods photoGuacamole is a popular Super Bowl snack item, but the avocados used to make it are high in fat. If you decide to indulge, do so in moderation.

Air-popped popcorn is another healthy choice, and you can add a small amount of salt or some grated Parmesan cheese to kick up the flavor.

If you have a choice between eating a hamburger or a turkey burger, go for the turkey. It’s lower in fat and calories. Top with some low-fat ranch dressing or salsa, lettuce tomatoes and cucumbers for a tasty sandwich. A burger made with lean ground beef can be kept on the healthy side if served on a whole-wheat bun and topped with ketchup, mustard, tomato and lettuce (hold the cheese).

Chili is a popular food at Super Bowl events, since it’s warm and filling. It can be a heart-healthy choice, if you make it with ground turkey instead of ground beef. A vegetarian chili has the advantage of being a high-fiber choice that is packed full of flavor while being low in fat.

No matter where you decide to watch the action of the Game of the Year, you can choose heart-healthy foods to enjoy. Consider the options available and remember that moderation is key to enjoying good health.

Are You at Risk for Congestive Heart Failure?

Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) is a condition where the heart isn’t pumping strongly enough to keep the body’s cells well supplied with oxygen-rich blood. As a result, the lungs and tissues in the body become congested (they fill up with fluid).

People over the age of 40 are at risk for developing CHF. More than five million Americans have this condition and the general population has a 1 in 5 chance of developing it during their lifetime. Approximately 400,000 new cases are diagnosed each year.

Risk Factors for Congestive Heart Failure

You may be at risk for developing congestive heart failure if any of the following criteria fit your personal situation:

  • Coronary artery diseas
  • Heart valve disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Previous heart attack

People with congenital heart defects are also at increased risk for congestive heart failure. A history of alcohol and/or drug abuse can also lead to CHF.

Symptoms of Congestive Heart Failure

The symptoms that a patient experiences indicates which side of the heart is not working properly. People who complain of feeling short of breath, fatigue and coughing at night are probably experiencing a problem with the left side of the heart. These symptoms are caused by fluid and blood backing up into the lungs.

When the difficulty is a malfunction of the right side of the heart, the CHF patient may experience swollen feet, legs and ankles. The swelling, known as edema, may spread up to the liver, stomach and lungs. Frequent urination, especially at night, may be a symptom of CHF. Fluid buildup makes it more difficult for the kidneys to function, which eventually leads to kidney failure.

Diagnosing Congestive Heart Failure

When a patient sees his or her doctor complaining of shortness of breath and swelling in the lower extremities, the doctor may order a chest x-ray to look for evidence of fluid in the lungs and an enlarged heart. An electrocardiogram (EKG) may be ordered to check for an irregular heartbeat.

Once congestive heart failure has been diagnosed, there are treatment options available.

Cut Back on Fats for Heart Health

When it comes to heart-healthy diets, there are lots of ways that you can make better choices that will improve your health. One thing you can do is consume less saturated and trans fats in your diet. Taking this step will lower your cholesterol levels, as well as your risk of developing heart disease.

If you want to lower your fat intake, focus on solid fats first. You can reduce the amount of butter, margarine or shortening that you are using to cook with. Cut back instead of trying to give up with way of preparing food entirely. The idea is to make changes that you can adopt as permanent lifestyle changes, not do something for a short time only.

Be creative and substitute other foods for butter and margarine; for example use a cooking spray to avoid adding extra fat and calories to your meals.