Have you heard your doctor mention the words “intermittent fasting” before? Maybe you’ve read about it online. Today, more and more people are turning to intermittent fasting — not eating, or limiting their food intake, for a period of time — as a way to lose weight. However, in addition to its weight loss benefits, there is growing clinical research which suggests that eating less at certain times of the day can also help improve your heart’s health.
Today we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day! Earth Day is an annual event celebrated around the world on April 22nd to demonstrate support for environmental protection. First celebrated in 1970, it now includes events coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network in more than 193 countries.
Updated March 28th – Updated the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Wisconsin and changed risk level.
As of March 28th, COVID is a serious threat in the state if Wisconsin, and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and Governor Tony Evers have declared a public health emergency in the state of Wisconsin. So far, there have been 935 confirmed cases of COVID-19 (coronavirus) in the state, along with 16 deaths.
The DHS has created a webpage dedicated to tracking the number of coronavirus cases in Wisconsin. Below, you can see the latest data as of March 27th, with the latest information updating each weekday at 2 p.m.
What does this mean for you?
With the threat of coronavirus growing in northeast Wisconsin, it’s extremely important that you’re taking the proper precautions to avoid contracting the illness.
Influenza and other respiratory viruses are common in Wisconsin this time of year, so you should be following the proper preventative measures to stay healthy regardless. This means:
- Staying inside and avoiding contact with people
- Avoiding large groups of people
- Washing your hands frequently and using hand sanitizer
- Avoiding hand-to-mouth contact
- Covering your mouth with your elbow when you cough and sneeze
- Not sharing food or drinks
- Staying home when you are sick
If you plan to travel somewhere where the threat of the virus is higher, it’s important that you take further preventative measures – even going as far as cancelling all unnecessary travel plans for the time being. You can see the total number of coronavirus cases in each state by checking this up-to-date coronavirus map by the New York Times.
Heart and Vascular Institute of Wisconsin’s Coronavirus Stance
Heart and Vascular Institute of Wisconsin is closely monitoring the coronavirus outbreak to see what the best plan of action will be moving forward. This is a rapidly evolving situation and we promise to keep all of our patients updated as more information becomes available. At this time, we believe the threat in northeast Wisconsin is looming, but so far, we haven’t made any significant changes to our daily routine.
You can read our latest COVID-19 policy RIGHT HERE.
While there’s no denying that the benefits of aerobic exercise far outweigh the risks for cardiac patients, a new report from the American Heart Association shows that some types of exercise might actually be detrimental to your long-term health.
One example cited by researchers is when people participate in extreme endurance events like marathon and triathlon training, but aren’t accustomed to the high intensity. In instances like these, researchers found a link between increased activity and increased risk for sudden cardiac arrest, atrial fibrillation, and heart attacks.
“Exercise is medicine, and there is no question that moderate to vigorous physical activity is beneficial to overall cardiovascular health,” says Barry A. Franklin, Ph.D., director of preventive cardiology and cardiac rehabilitation at Beaumont Health in Royal Oak, Michigan. “However, like medicine, it is possible to underdose and overdose on exercise – more is not always better.”
To put things perspective, researchers found that the risk of atrial fibrillation is highest in people who are sedentary, but the risk is nearly as high in people who engage in high volumes of high-intensity training, like running 60-80 miles each week.
What does this mean for you?
While extreme levels of exercise can be detrimental to your heart, don’t let that stop you from finding a happy medium. Not exercising at all is still a far greater risk to your health, so it’s important that you find a physical activity that you enjoy. If you don’t exercise at all, even daily tasks like shoveling snow can become a burden and cause a rapid spike in heart rate, blood pressure, and shortness of breath when you participate.
Likewise, don’t let these findings discourage you from setting your fitness sights on a lofty goal like running a marathon. There are healthy ways to start an exercise program, it’s just important that you take your time so that you don’t over strain your heart.
To help you do just that, here are several tips for starting a heart-healthy workout routine:
- Talk to Your Doctor – Before you start a strenuous exercise routine, it’s important that you talk to your doctor to make sure that you’re healthy enough to begin. This is especially important for anyone at a moderate to significant risk of suffering a cardiac event, anyone with previous cardiac problems, or for anyone who’s currently inactive/sedentary.
- Start Slow – Even if you were athlete in high school or college, it’s important that you start slow and gradually work your way up to different levels of physical activity. If you’ve been sedentary for several years, for example, start by walking on a level surface for 6-8 weeks before progressing to walking up hills, jogging, and running. You want to make sure there aren’t any symptoms of chest pain, pressure, lightheadedness, or shortness of breath before you advance to more strenuous activities.
- Don’t Forget to Warm Up – In the same mindset of “start slow”, make sure you take the time to properly stretch and get your heart rate up a little bit before starting your exercise routine. Jumping directly into intense exercise can put you at a greater risk for suffering a cardiac event.
- Acclimate to Your Environment – If you’re going to be exercising at altitude or running in extremely hot and humid conditions, make sure your prepared beforehand and know your limits. In altitude conditions, try acclimating to the altitude for 24-48 hours before exercising if possible, and don’t be afraid to cut your exercise short as opposed to overstraining your heart and body.
- Cool Off – Once you’re done exercising, it’s important that you take the time to properly cool off and allow your heart rate to return to its resting rhythm. If you experience any persistent chest pain, pressure, lightheadedness, or shortness of breath after you’ve ended your exercise and have had time to rest, make sure you talk to a doctor right away.
If you have any questions for your cardiologist about starting an exercise program, make sure you schedule an appointment before getting started. Current Heart and Vascular Institute patients can also use the Patient Portal to contact their cardiologist electronically.
If you have a moderate risk for heart disease, you might have heard your doctor mention a test called a coronary calcium scan. Coronary calcium scans are a helpful, non-invasive diagnostic test that help today’s cardiologists determine the amount of calcium build-up a patient has in their arteries.
Over time, plaque can slowly develop in your arteries, and with plaque build-up comes calcium deposits that also like to grow over time. Build-up of this plaque and calcium on your artery walls can block blood from flowing properly, greatly increasing your risk of coronary artery disease and a heart attack.
By running a CT scan on your heart, doctors can easily see how much calcium build-up is in your arteries. Where there’s calcium build-up, there’s also plaque too, and doctors can use this information to calculate your risk of future adverse cardiac events, along with a calcium score.
If you score a zero on your calcium score, that means there’s no calcified plaque in your arteries and it’s unlikely for you to have coronary artery disease. Any score less than 100 indicates there is some calcified plaque, but you’re at a low risk, while any score between 100 and 399 puts you at a moderate risk. If your score reaches above 400, it means you’re at significant risk for heart attack, and the calcified plaque levels in your arteries are dangerously high.
How Do You Know if a Calcium Scan is Right for You?
First and foremost, calcium scans provide the most benefits for patients that do not exhibit any symptoms of heart disease, but have a moderate or significant risk of heart disease based on things like their family history of heart disease. Healthy patients at a low risk of heart disease likely won’t have much (if any) plaque build-up in their arteries. That said, heart disease is known as a silent killer, which makes it all the more important to diagnose it early.
Not sure what your risk level is? Talk with your cardiologist to learn more about what your exact risk factor might be based on your medical history and health habits. Apart from some exceptions, it’s recommended that men wait until they are 35 years-old and women wait until they are 40 years-old before having a calcium scan, as younger patients are much less likely to have calcium build-up in their arteries.
Likewise, make sure you consult with your insurance company before asking for a coronary calcium scan, as most health plans will not pay for this test. That said, calcium score tests are only $25 here at HVI – the lowest price in the country – making them very accessible for anyone who isn’t covered.
Depending on the results and calcium score, your doctor may also recommend several important lifestyle changes to lower risk your risk of heart disease, such as more exercise, losing weight, eating healthier, and quitting smoking and drinking. They may also instruct you to start taking cholesterol and/or blood pressure medications, so it’s important to be prepared for these changes.
Think a coronary calcium scan is the test you need? Use the link above to set up an appointment for a $25 calcium score test here today. Remember, it’s never easy to predict when a heart attack is going to happen, but tests like these are one of the few instances where cardiologists have a chance. If you’re a man over 35 or woman or 40, make sure you ask your doctor about it during your next appointment.
If you aren’t getting quality sleep each night, you’re doing more than just missing out on a few hours of rest. According to a recent study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, poor sleep quality in women was linked with greater food intake and lower-quality diet. These findings overlap with previous studies in which researchers have shown a connection between not getting enough sleep and obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.
Eating a healthy diet has always been a key factor in maintaining a healthy heart, and researchers hope this new research can help provide a better explanation for how sleep quality impacts eating habits as opposed to just sleep duration.
What they found was that women with worse sleep quality had a tendency to eat more sugars and fewer whole grains, while those who had trouble falling asleep ate more calories and food by weight.
What does this mean for you?
Researchers say that more studies need to be done to see how improving sleep quality could impact efforts to improve heart health in women, but for now it’s important that you get a quality, full night sleep. Try getting the recommended 8 hours every night, but it’s important that you focus on quality as much as quantity. By waking up with energy, it encourages you to be more active throughout the day and can also have a positive impact on your diet and appetite.
If you’re having trouble falling asleep at night, try following some of the tips below before speaking with your doctor:
- Stay on schedule – Try going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, even on the weekends. This will help your body maintain a natural, healthy sleep schedule.
- Exercise daily – Moderate exercise during the day has been shown to help people get deeper sleep. Make sure you avoid exercise near bedtime, however, as that can make it harder to fall asleep.
- Avoid artificial light at night – Did you know the light created by your electronic devices and certain household lights can trick your brain into thinking its sunlight? Limit your screen time at night or look into blue light blocking lenses to help keep your body’s natural clock in rhythm.
- No late-night snacks – Eating late in the evening before your bed time can make it harder to sleep, and has also been linked to increased weight.
- Keep a cool bedroom – When your body gets ready to fall asleep, it prepares itself by lowering its core temperature. Keeping a cooler bedroom (approx. 65°F) will help assist that natural transition to sleep.
If these tips don’t work and you’re still having trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor about further treatment.
If someone were having a heart attack near you, what are some of the red flags you would look for? Truth is, when most people hear the words “heart attack”, they picture someone grasping their chest, having trouble breathing, and needing to sit or lie down.
There’s an old saying that some people think with their hearts, while other people think with their minds. Those who think with their hearts think emotionally, of course, while those who think with their minds think analytically. It makes the two seem like polar opposites, when in reality they’re very much related.
When you think about mental health and cardiovascular health, one of the strongest links between the two is stress. Mentally, you’re stressed about work, finances, family, school, etc., and at the same time, this is all taking a toll on your body physically – particularly on your heart.
New research has shown a connection between people who perceive themselves to be under a lot of stress with a higher risk of heart attacks. Likewise, further studies have begun to test for a link between work burnout and a-fib, with findings showing 20% higher odds of developing a-fib after high levels of burnout.
What does this mean for you?
First and foremost, it’s crucial that you prioritize your mental health and well-being. We talk a lot about the importance of keeping your heart healthy, but it starts with having a happy, healthy mentality. To help you improve both your heart and mental health, here are some tips for a happier, healthier heart:
- Exercise – It’s long been known that exercising helps release endorphins into the body, as well as having numerous heart-healthy benefits. A recent survey from the CDC also showed that people who exercise experience fewer days of bad mental health compared to those who don’t exercise.
- Get a Pet – Seriously! Pet ownership, particularly having a dog, has been linked to showing a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease. Petting dogs has been shown to decrease blood pressure, not to mention the physical benefits of taking your dog for a walk every day.
- Eat Well – Not only can eating well improve your heart and physical health, but studies have also shown a link between what we eat and how we think and feel. Omega-3s, for example, have been shown to protect neurons against chronic stress, control depressive symptoms, and even been linked to more social behavior.
- Take a Personal Day – Feeling incredibly stressed and burnt out at work or at home? Take a day for yourself and focus on your mental health. Do whatever you need to come back refreshed and healthy.
- Talk to Someone – Whether this means reaching out and cultivating your friendships or seeking help from a trusted professional in your area, do not hesitate to reach out and talk to someone. Mental health professionals have a lot of resources and tools these days that can help alleviate the stress you’re carrying.
Worried about how stress is affecting your cardiovascular health? Make sure you tell your cardiologist at your next scheduled appointment.
While heart disease is the #1 killer of women in the U.S. each year, a new study by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services has revealed it’s also the leading cause of maternal deaths. The study shows that approximately 1 in 4 pregnancy or postpartum deaths are caused by cardiovascular complications – with the risk being significantly higher for black mothers and pregnant women over 40.
What does this mean for you?
For pregnant mothers, now is more important than ever to be conscious of your cardiovascular health and the preventative steps you can take to maximize your heart health. Visiting a cardiologist during your pregnancy is a great start, but how you manage your health day-to-day will be the ultimate preventative measure you can take.
For women looking to maximize their heart health and minimize their chances for any cardiovascular problems during pregnancy, here are several recommendations from Heart and Vascular Institute cardiologists:
- Maintain a healthy blood pressure
- Eat a healthy diet!
- Exercise for 30 minutes a day
- Reduce sodium and cholesterol intake
- Controlling glucose levels
- Not smoking
Right now, no one can pinpoint the exact cause of the rising amount of cardiovascular complications during pregnancy, but by following the recommendations above and maintaining a healthy diet & lifestyle, you can do your best to minimize your risk.
This past Friday, I was able to give a presentation at the Heart of the Valley YMCA on how to prevent a heart attack. If you weren’t able to attend the event, but would still like to watch my presentation, we’ve recorded a similar talk that I gave earlier this summer at our practice. Watch the video below, and make sure you follow our Heart News page to learn more about our upcoming speaker events!
Note: Please turn the volume of the video all the way up before adjusting the volume of your computer, phone, or other device.