Eclectic Info

Eclectic Health Info

Atherosclerosis Explained

Atherosclerosis is also called arteriosclerosis.  But either word may not mean much of anything to the average person.  In laymen’s terms, it means hardening of the arteries.  If you’ve been diagnosed with atherosclerosis, it’s not something that just happened all at once.  In fact, you’ve spent years leading up to the diagnosis.

Throughout your lifetime fat and cholesterol mix together with other material and begin to line the walls of your blood vessels.  This mixture is called plaque.  As time passes, the plaque becomes hard and gets thicker.  This causes your blood vessels to become more narrow and can even completely block them if it goes untreated.

As you can imagine, it’s difficult for blood to pass through these narrow vessels.  As a result, stress is put on the heart.  This leads to heart disease and can eventually cause a heart attack if there’s blockage in the actual coronary blood vessels themselves.

In addition, pieces of the hardened plaque can actually separate from the walls and break away.  When this happens the small piece flows through the blood vessels and can actually cause a heart attack or even a stroke.

In addition, blood clots can form around the rogue piece of plaque and block blood flow even further.  The clots can also travel to the brain, heart, or lungs.  The tragic result of this may be as serious as a stroke, heart attack, or pulmonary embolism.

Unfortunately, there are rarely symptoms of atherosclerosis until you have a serious issue such as chest pain or even a heart attack.  Early stages of it can sometimes be heard through a stethoscope, but usually more extensive testing is required to diagnose hardening of the arteries.

The good news is that if you catch it early, there’s plenty you can do to keep it from getting worse.  Your doctor may prescribe a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet in order to reduce the amount of cholesterol and fat in your blood.  You may also need to increase your physical activity and work to lose some weight.

In more serious cases, medication may be required to help lower cholesterol and even thin the blood to prevent clots.  Surgical intervention through angioplasty is also a treatment option.  A procedure called endarterectomy can be performed to actually remove some of the plaque from the vessel walls, though this isn’t as common.

In very serious cases of blockage, heart bypass surgery may need to be performed.  This creates a bypass around the blockage in the heart and can prevent heart attacks from occurring.

Automatic Defibrillators at Home and at Work

One of the most important advances in emergency response is the development of the automatic defibrillator.  This is a device that helps to electronically stimulate the heart to beat if someone is having a heart attack.

In the past, first responders had to rely on CPR to keep the blood pumping through the body until help arrived, but now a trained person can actually begin a procedure to start the heart.

Automatic external defibrillators (AED) are very user friendly.  They come with two self-stick pads that are attacked the chest in specific areas.  Then you press a button on the machine to begin the process.

The machine analyzes the heartbeat and tells the responder what to do.  For example, if there’s no shockable heart rhythm, the machine will tell you to continue to administer CPR.

The machine will also intermittently check the heart rate by telling you to stop CPR and wait.  If it finds a shockable rhythm, it will tell you to clear everyone away from the person and press the button to administer the electricity.  It will then measure the heartbeat and give you instructions for what to do next.

Defibrillators can be found in many workplaces and on airplanes.  They allow someone to get quick medical treatment while waiting for an ambulance to arrive.  AEDs have been shown to increase chances of survival from a heart attack by 50-74%.  It’s also possible to purchase one for your home, though they cost over a thousand dollars at this time.

One thing that’s critical is that you receive the proper training to use the AED.  Along with using the AED, you may need to perform CPR.  If CPR is performed incorrectly, it can lead to injury.

You can receive training in both AED and CPR at your local American Heart Association or American Red Cross.  This training is relatively inexpensive and is lifesaving.        You may also want to talk to someone in your workplace about investing in an AED for the office as well as training the entire staff to use it.

Before the AED came into existence, people could only perform CPR.  CPR isn’t designed to restart the heart; it only helps to keep oxygen moving throughout the tissues of the body until medical help arrives.

The AED allows people to begin the process of trying to restart the heart.  This increases not only chances of survival, but it also minimizes the risk of damage to the body from oxygen deprivation.

Cholesterol 101

Cholesterol is something that people have learned to fear.  We spend a lot of time eating foods that don’t have much of it and we get our blood tested for it, but what is this strange substance that’s responsible for damaging our hearts?

Cholesterol is material that’s waxy and fatty.  It’s found in the blood and in all of the cells of the body.  In fact, cholesterol can be a good thing – you’re supposed to have some.

Your body actually puts it to good use when it’s making cell membranes and putting together the building blocks of hormones.  So why do we worry so much about having it if we need it?

Too much cholesterol in the body results in hypercholesterolemia.  This is the technical term for high cholesterol.  When your body has more cholesterol than it can use for its everyday processes, the rest of it ends up floating freely in the blood.  When this happens, it begins to become deposited on the blood vessel walls.

Where does all this cholesterol come from?  Interestingly enough, your body actually produces about ¾ of the cholesterol in your blood.  The remaining ¼ of your blood cholesterol comes from the foods you eat.

People often have high cholesterol because genetically they’re designed to produce more, regardless of what they eat.  Sometimes people have high cholesterol mainly due to eating too much of it.

All cholesterol is not created equal.  The bad kind of cholesterol is LDL (low density lipoprotein) and triglyceride (which comes from fatty foods).  The good kind of cholesterol is HDL (high density lipoprotein).

LDL is the kind of cholesterol that gets deposited on your blood vessel walls and HDL actually goes and picks up the bad cholesterol to help keep it away from your blood vessel walls.  Naturally, you want your LDL levels to be low and your HDL levels to be high.

Many people can manage high cholesterol levels by improving their diet.  That consists of eating a low amount of saturated fat and a high amount of fiber.  Physical activity is also one way to raise your HDL levels.  However, sometimes genetics overrides your lifestyle and medication is required to lower your blood cholesterol levels.

It’s important that you get a yearly checkup and have your blood cholesterol levels measured. This will help you to determine if you need to make improvement in your lifestyle or medication routine.  High cholesterol leads to hardening of the arteries called atherosclerosis.  It’s a major cause of heart disease.

CPR Can Be Lifesaving

CPR, or cardiopulmonary resuscitation, is one of the most common lifesaving techniques used during a heart attack.  This is a basic method of keeping oxygen delivered to the body when the heart isn’t able to pump blood because it has stopped working.

Over the years the recommendations for CPR have changed as scientists have gained a greater understanding of what helps to keep the body alive longer.  In 2005, a major change was introduced that changed the recommended compressions to breaths ratio.  A recent study shows that this change has saved thousands of lives.

CPR is a combination of chest compressions that help to pump blood throughout the body and rescue breathing that puts oxygen into the lungs.  Combined, they mimic the normal function of the heart and lungs.  However, CPR doesn’t work as efficiently as the actual cardiovascular system.

The purpose of CPR is not to restart the heart.  The only way the heart can really be restarted is through the use of electrical activity.  However, CPR can help to the tissues of the body alive while you are waiting for emergency response to arrive on the scene.

Once they get to the scene they may instruct you to continue providing CPR until they have the equipment in place to take over for you.  Then they can use a defibrillator to help restart the heart.

In order to perform CPR, you must be trained by a certified professional.  This is because if CPR is performed incorrectly, it can do more harm than good.  It’s also important to know when to perform CPR and when to choose another method of first aid.

CPR is something that should only be done under the right circumstances because it can harm if it isn’t.  Even when CPR is done correctly it can cause broken ribs and injury.  So, while CPR is an important lifesaving technique, it’s one to be used wisely.

There are many places where you can be trained in CPR.  The two most common are with the American Heart Association or the American Red Cross.  Both of these organizations offer training to perform CPR.  You can also call your local hospitals and health clinics to see if they offer CPR classes.

Once you become certified in CPR, you’ll need to take refresher courses to keep your certification.  These courses allow you to practice your skills and find out about new information regarding compressions and techniques.  Knowing CPR can give you peace of mind knowing that you can handle a heart emergency.

Eating Healthy When Eating Out

When you’re trying to eat healthy, eating at a restaurant can pose a problem.  While the food is usually delicious and you didn’t have to prepare it, it can also be loaded with enemies to your heart like saturated fat and sugar.  But most menus offer some healthy selections that can make eating out both delicious and healthful.

Usually the first people look in the menu for healthy food is in the salad section.  Many salads can be healthy, but you need to make sure that the ingredients – especially dressings – are low in saturated fat.  In some cases there’s so much fat and so many calories in restaurant salads, you’d be better off eating a hamburger!

You can always choose grilled items that are lower in grease.  Chicken makes a lower fat alternative to beef.  And fish offers a heart healthy fat that actually helps to protect your arteries and veins from cholesterol.  Baked or grilled fish is the perfect option when eating out.

For side items, look for steamed vegetables and green salads.  Steaming cooks vegetables to perfection while allowing their natural nutrients to stay intact.  Raw veggies are also a good side item if they’re available.

Carbohydrates when eating out can be a challenge.  The goal of a heart healthy diet is to increase your fiber intake.  Look for whole grain breads and whole grain rice for your starchy items.  These are high in fiber and help keep your cholesterol levels low.

Portion control is another issue with eating out.  Try splitting a meal with a friend when you eat out instead of eating the entire portion on your own.  You can also split the meal in half and box up one portion to take home.  This can keep you from mindlessly eating everything on your plate.

When it’s time for dessert, there aren’t usually a lot of heart healthy choices.  You may want to ask for fresh fruit as a substitute.  Of course, every once in awhile it’s perfectly okay to have dessert with your meal.  The problem comes when you eat dessert with every meal.

Most restaurants are aware that people are watching their health. Some restaurants offer special menus for health conscious guests.  You can ask if they have a separate menu.  These are usually lower in fat and higher in fiber.  The portions are also often much smaller.   With a little effort, you can eat heart healthy no matter where you go.

Help to Quit Smoking

If you’re a smoker, you’re participating in an activity that can actually shorten your life dramatically.  The number one killer in the United States is heart disease.  And the behavior that causes the greatest risk of heart disease is smoking.  The worst part is that heart disease causes from smoking is almost completely preventable.

The best thing you can do for your heart is to quit smoking immediately.  But quitting is easier said than done.  Here are a few tips to help you stop smoking now.  The first step to quitting is making the decision to do it.  Then you’ll need to set a date so that you can get prepared for the big lifestyle change you’re about to make.

As you’re preparing to quit smoking, you need to remove anything related to smoking from your home.  That includes lighters, ashtrays, and, of course, cigarettes.  You should also ask the people whom you’re around each day not to smoke in front of you.

That may mean that you need to take your work breaks in a different area.  Let your family and friends know that you’re going to quit and ask them to help support you in your efforts.

The best way to get rid of a habit is to replace it with a new one.  Come up with a few substitutes for your smoking habit such as taking a walk, crocheting/knitting, chewing gum, chewing toothpicks or straws, and talking to a friend.  One of the hardest thing for smokers is not having a cigarette with their normal routine.

For example, if you smoke on your way to work each day, you may have a hard time with the car ride.  You might want to try changing the route you drive so that your focus is on the road.  You could also change what you eat and drink so that you don’t associate your usual meals with cigarettes.

Many people are concerned about weight gain when they stop smoking.  It’s true that some people tend to eat more in the early phases of withdrawal.  However, the average weight gain is about 10 pounds – and those pounds can be worked off later.  The risk for your heart from smoking far outweighs the risk of 10 pounds of extra weight.

Most of all, give yourself a break.  Smoking is highly addictive and a very difficult habit to cut out.  You may relapse during the first few months of quitting, but that’s also normal.  Just don’t give up.  Start over right away and keep going.

Helping Your Kids Get More Physical Activity

Exercise is something that adults and children alike need to stay healthy.  When you were a child, you probably played outside on your bike or walking around the neighborhood.  Very little of your time was spent inside watching television.

But today, children are staying inside more and more.  Sometimes this is due to fears for children’s safety.  But at other times, it has to do with children enjoying video games and television more than fun from physical activity.

As a parent, it’s essential that you help your child to develop healthy habits that lead to lifelong fitness.  It’s important that you work to help your child build physical activity in to her day.  However, it’s not a good idea to try to force your family to start a boot camp style physical fitness routine.

With a few simple activities, you can boost your child’s physical activity and have him looking forward to the time when he gets his body moving.  Start by finding an activity that your child likes.

It’s especially good if it’s something you can do as a family.  For example, many children enjoy bike riding, roller blading, and skateboarding.  These are fun and are a form of exercise.  Exposing your child to this type of physical activity will help her enjoy time spent doing something that’s healthy for her.

Your child may also enjoy taking classes such as dance, karate, or even joining a sports team.  These activities all provide discipline and physical activity, but they’re fun and kids tend to really enjoy them.

When you get children involved in sports early on, they also benefit from learning self-mastery, teamwork, and skills that can be use in school sports.  If you’re not ready for formal training in physical activity, you can try simply taking a family walk.

If you have a dog, this is the perfect time that he’s getting the exercise he needs as well.  Strolling around the block can give you a chance to catch up on the day’s events. It’s a time to talk and enjoy each other while getting physical activity as an added bonus.

Finally, you may want to limit TV and video game time.  Kids tend to vegetate in front of electronics.  Limiting time to one hour a day can help your children learn more productive ways to spend their time.  It will force them to use their brains and imaginations to come up with activities.  Exercising the brain is just as important as exercising the heart.

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