One common condition to be aware of is atrial fibrillation (AFib), which is a quivering or irregular heartbeat that can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure and other heart-related complications. The first step toward managing AFib and preventing serious health complications is gaining knowledge about the condition. Increase your awareness with these facts.
How to Reduce Health Risks by Understanding AFib
(Family Features) Oftentimes, seeking to improve your health starts at your core – your heart. One common condition to be aware of is atrial fibrillation (AFib), which is a quivering or irregular heartbeat that can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure and other heart-related complications.
Currently impacting up to 6.1 million Americans, AFib is projected to double by 2030, according to the American Heart Association. One in three individuals is at risk for developing AFib over the course of his or her lifetime, and the likelihood of developing the condition increases by almost 40 percent after the age of 55.
The average person living with AFib has a five-fold increase of experiencing a stroke than someone with a regular heartbeat. However, proper diagnosis and treatment can help reduce the chances of associated heart health complications, including stroke.
The first step toward managing AFib and preventing serious health complications is gaining knowledge about the condition. The experts at the American Heart Association are working to elevate awareness with these facts:
Symptoms and signs
“Atrial fibrillation can be challenging to diagnose,” said Dr. Georgeanne Freeman, a board-certified family medicine doctor and American Heart Association volunteer expert. “If you are feeling out of the ordinary, whether it's a racing pulse or irregular heartbeat associated with shortness of breath and fatigue, it’s time to speak with your doctor to learn your risk for AFib and lower your chance for stroke.”
Other common symptoms include dizziness, weakness, faintness or confusion; fatigue when exercising; sweating and chest pain or pressure.
People of African, Asian or Hispanic ancestry are typically less likely to suffer from AFib. However, research suggests that those with African or Hispanic ancestry living with AFib have a higher risk of death when the condition is combined with another factor such as heart failure or high blood pressure.
To learn more and to access AFib tools and resources, visit heart.org/AFib.
Photo courtesy of Getty ImagesSOURCE:
American Heart Association
Could you have a heart attack? Reduce your odds through these tips.
(BPT) - Many Americans consider themselves well-informed and attentive when it comes to their health.
That’s why it's so puzzling that many remain unfazed by the threat of heart disease.
That was among the findings of the MDVIP Heart Attack IQ Survey, a national study showing Americans are more concerned about cancer than a heart attack — even though cardiovascular disease kills more people than all forms of cancer combined. In fact, heart disease is the underlying cause of one in three U.S. deaths. Many Americans don’t take it seriously because they believe most heart problems can be treated with medication or surgery, while others simply procrastinate when it comes to adopting healthier behaviors that help prevent heart disease.
As a result, many are surprised when faced with a life-threatening heart attack, which can happen to anyone at any age. While the average age for a first attack is 66 for men and 70 for women, the risk increases significantly as soon as men reach 45 and women reach 55.
“Despite the statistics, people assume a heart attack is going to happen to somebody else, but not to them,” said MDVIP Chief Medical Officer Dr. Andrea Klemes. “Heart disease can be dangerously silent, which is why it’s important to know your risk factors and the steps you can take to minimize them.”
Gloom and doom aside, awareness of the issue is the first step, and there is much you can do to prevent heart disease. Some 80 percent of heart attacks and strokes are preventable.
Consider these suggestions for reducing your risk of heart attack:
* Partner with your primary. Your primary care doctor is your first line of defense in helping prevent heart disease. Make sure you partner with a physician who has the time to identify and discuss your risk in detail, who will work on a plan to control your risk factors and who can provide ongoing support to keep you motivated and accountable. Physicians like those in the MDVIP network maintain smaller practices so that they can devote more time to each patient and provide the coaching needed to keep them on track.
* Stay up to date on screenings. When’s the last time you had your blood pressure and cholesterol checked? But don’t stop at the basics. Most heart attacks occur in people with normal cholesterol levels. You also want to get a read on whether you have inflammation in your arteries or insulin resistance, both of which raise your heart disease risk. You can only act on what you know, and knowing your numbers is key to early detection.
* Make heart-healthy changes. Creating and sustaining healthy lifestyle habits can help keep your blood pressure, cholesterol and sugar in check and lower your risk for heart disease. So don’t skip your exercise, weight management or smoking cessation programs. Just make sure you consult with your doctor before changing your diet or beginning a new exercise program.
* Sleep more, stress less. While often overlooked, insufficient sleep and excessive stress can put strain on your heart over time. Both can also influence your eating habits, mood and overall health. Most adults need seven to nine hours per night; if you’re getting that and still feel tired, consider asking your doctor for a sleep apnea test. Also, try starting a regular practice — whether it’s a yoga class, deep breathing or a daily walk outside — to better manage stress.
Take the Heart Attack IQ quiz and learn more about finding a preventive physician by visiting www.mdvip.com/HeartAttackIQ.
To help shed light on the growing national problem with opioid drugs, Dr. W. Michael Hooten, a Mayo Clinic anesthesiologist and Pain Clinic specialist, lends his expert insight on what people need to know about opioids.
(BPT) - While a decade ago you may not have heard much about opioids, today they make headlines daily. The nationwide epidemic crosses generations and socioeconomic lines, and it's affecting your family, friends and neighbors.
"Opioids have long been used clinically to treat pain, but prior to the 1990s they were primarily reserved for patients with a limited life expectancy, such as for someone with cancer or in a hospice setting," says Dr. W. Michael Hooten, a Mayo Clinic anesthesiologist and Pain Clinic specialist. "The potential problems associated with long-term use were secondary considerations."
To help shed light on this growing national problem, Dr. Hooten lends his expert insight on what people need to know about opioids.
Opioids are prescribed for various reasons
Opioids are used to treat a variety of pain disorders. While they are commonly prescribed after an operation, opioids are also used to treat a host of chronic pain conditions including musculoskeletal, abdominal, pelvic, and neuropathic pain.
Length of use varies
"Following surgery, up to one in four patients may use opioids longer than anticipated," says Dr. Hooten. "How long, exactly, depends on several clinical factors."
He notes that after an operation, a patient might use opioids to manage acute pain for three to five days.
"When opioids are used for acute postoperative pain, patients should try to use the lowest possible dose." After this short time period, opioids should be replaced with non-opioid pain medicines including Tylenol scheduled to be taken every six hours."
There are alternatives for pain management
There are many alternative options for chronic pain. Dr. Hooten suggests talking with your doctor about:
* Non-opioid analgesics (non-opioid pain medications).
* Interventional treatments such as image-guided spine injections or nerve blocks. * Acupuncture.
* Low-impact exercise such as walking, yoga, Pilates. Consider working with a physical therapist to develop a structured exercise program.
* For advanced pain treatment, spinal-cord stimulation can disrupt the pain stimuli and provide sustained pain relief.
* Work with a pain psychologist who can help teach individuals how to use specialized behavioral and cognitive techniques that could lead to improvements in daily functioning and quality of life.
Opioids can be deadly if misused
"Approximately 90 people per day die in the U.S. from a prescription opioid and/or an illicit opiate overdose," says Dr. Hooten. Many of those are accidental overdoses. “People who take prescription opioids will inadvertently mix them with benzodiazepines (e.g., Valium and Xanax). Dr. Hooten warns that these two drug classes should never be taken together, as the combination can suppress the central nervous system and put the individual at risk of an accidental overdose.
Addiction can happen to anyone
As Dr. Hooten notes, “No one plans to get addicted, but it happens. Using opioids requires a high level of vigilance for the signs and symptoms of addiction."
There are many signs of over-reliance or misuse that families should be aware of. These include an increased preoccupation with the drug, concern about the timing of the next dose or refill, hiding use of the drug, and signs of intoxication like slurred speech and excessive sleep.
If you notice these warning signs, alert your loved one about your concerns. "This might be enough to prompt a change," says Dr. Hooten. "Otherwise relay this information to the prescriber and tell them what’s going on. They can take the correct next steps."
For more information on pain medication and alternatives, or to make an appointment, visit www.mayoclinic.org.
(BPT) - For people living with asthma, managing the condition becomes part of their daily life. But some may not know that, in spite of their best efforts, their asthma may still be uncontrolled.
Benjamin Buckley was one of those people. Ben, as he was known, was just 7 years old when he died from asthma-related complications in 2014. Now, Ben’s mother, Cristin Buckley, is sharing his story in an effort to help raise awareness of just how serious asthma can be.
According to Cristin, it was a normal Saturday morning in the Buckley household. Ben went to his sister’s basketball game with the rest of the family, but when the game ended, Ben asked if he could go home and use his nebulizer, as he was experiencing an asthma attack.
Later that day, Cristin received a frantic call from her husband and daughter and came home to find Ben had collapsed in the driveway. Police and paramedics were already on the scene performing CPR. They were able to start Ben’s heart, but he was unconscious and not able to breathe on his own. He remained in a coma for five days until he passed away.
“What we didn’t realize was that Ben was using his rescue inhaler way more than he should have been. We were refilling it once a month,” said Cristin. “The pharmacy just kept refilling the prescription, so we didn’t think it was an issue. Looking back now, we know his asthma was uncontrolled.”
And it appears the Buckley family is not alone, as studies indicate that asthma is responsible for deaths every day in the United States, most of which are believed to occur in patients with uncontrolled asthma.
“Uncontrolled asthma can have a huge impact on a patient’s health,” said Dr. Purvi Parikh, a New York City-based allergist and immunologist and national spokesperson for the Allergy and Asthma Network. “Patients may not know the signs — but if someone is using their rescue inhaler more than twice a week, and their asthma is interrupting daily activities and sleep, they should really talk to their doctor immediately to assess if it is uncontrolled.”
Cristin’s number one priority today is that Ben’s asthmatic twin brother Adam, now 11 years old, is equipped to handle an attack on his own. To ensure he is prepared, Cristin takes Adam for his annual check-up with his allergist before the school year starts.
“Make sure their doctor takes the time to sit down and teach them how to properly use their inhaler,” Cristin said. “People think they can just put it in their mouth and take a few puffs and it works just fine, but so much medicine is wasted or doesn’t get into the lungs because they’re not taking a deep enough breath.”
Another one of her main priorities, particularly before school starts, is to make sure all of Adam’s inhalers have enough medicine in them. As such, Cristin relies on inhalers fitted with dose counters to help both her and Adam better manage his asthma. A dose counter works by showing the user exactly how many doses are left in the inhaler — similar to looking at a bottle of pills to see how much medicine is left.
“I think dose counters are one of the best things ever invented,” Cristin said. “Before they were integrated into inhalers, you were blindly leading your child. You had no idea how much medicine was left.”
Dr. Parikh also noted that the addition of a dose counter to asthma management can create a helpful dialogue between patients and their doctors. She explained how the dose counter allows the doctor to see how much medicine has been used since the previous visit and determine if a patient is using their rescue inhaler too frequently.
“When using an inhaler that does not include a dose counter, you really are taking a gamble on your life,” said Cristin.
For additional information on the importance of dose counters, visit KnowYourCount.com, and for more on Ben and Cristin’s story, visit www.BenWasHere.org.
Mrs. Buckley has been compensated for her time in contributing this program.
(BPT) - Edward Beans could be described as a man with great purpose who makes the most out of all life has to offer. He is a husband, father, business owner and a basketball coach. And, as of five years ago, he is a dialysis patient.
Beans found out he had kidney disease while at a routine doctor visit. His primary care doctor ran a full range of blood tests, including one to measure his kidney function, or glomerular filtration rate (GFR). The results showed Bean's kidneys were failing.
"I was fortunate my doctor checked my GFR, or else I might not have had the chance to make a healthy transition to dialysis," Beans says. "I encourage everyone to ask to have their GFR checked as part of their yearly physical."
Kidney disease is the ninth leading cause of death in the U.S. More than 31 million adults have been diagnosed with the disease, which is often called a "silent killer" because it can be symptomless until immediate medical attention is needed. Once kidney disease progresses to kidney failure, dialysis or a kidney transplant is necessary for survival.
When caught early enough, the progression of kidney disease may be slowed, and in some cases, prevented altogether. A simple GFR blood test can assess if someone has or is at risk of having kidney disease.
Beans recognizes that high blood pressure and poor dietary choices contributed to his kidney disease. In fact, diabetes and high blood pressure are the leading causes of kidney disease in the U.S. One in three people with diabetes and one in five people with high blood pressure also have kidney disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Moreover, minority populations - particularly Hispanics, African-Americans and Native Americans - are at a disproportionately higher risk of developing kidney disease. Additional risk factors include people with cardiovascular disease, obesity, high cholesterol, lupus and a family history of the disease.
Beans, like many people with kidney failure, chooses to live life to its fullest while managing the disease. He remains a committed family man, continues working as a property manager, and volunteers as a children's basketball coach in his community - all while completing dialysis treatments three times a week.
"I'm still coaching, still running a business and still doing everything I want to do. But now I have to factor in time in a dialysis chair," Beans says.
Beans is a good example of how it is possible to live a high quality of life after a kidney disease diagnosis. Staying employed after being diagnosed or while on dialysis has many potential benefits, including lower rates of depression, sustained income and, in many cases, more choices in medical insurance.
"If you choose to be active, you can still take care of yourself and slow it down. I choose to continue to work and coach and spend time with my family because it gives my life purpose."
Take a one-minute quiz to find out if you may be at risk for kidney disease at DaVita.com/LearnYourRisk.
(BPT) - The Federal Government's push for reduced sodium in American foods will likely affect your favorite foods within the next few months. Food manufacturers will be pushed to change their recipes, which will change the taste and texture of many foods made in the U.S.
Government officials have indicated that they will be announcing a "voluntary" sodium reduction scheme as early as this summer, although the voluntary aspect of it may be lost on the millions of Americans whose favorite foods will be changing without their consent.
When the Federal Government posted their plans to reduce sodium years ago in the Federal Register, Americans rose up with a resounding, "Hands off our salt!" The public comments on the federal site were overwhelmingly against sodium reduction.
The government's plan has also become contentious with medical researchers who increasingly are presenting scientific evidence that population-wide sodium reduction is unnecessary and/or potentially harmful.
The latest evidence, including a 2014 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, demonstrates that there is a safe "range" of salt consumption that results in a lower risk to the overall population. According to this research, the lower end of this safe range begins around 3,000 mg and extends up to 6,000 mg sodium. Americans consume about 3,400 mg sodium on average - at the lower end of this safe range. But the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Dietary Guidelines recommend a level of 2300 mg a day, a number below the safe range.
Dr. Michael Alderman, editor of the American Journal of Hypertension and former president of the American Society of Hypertension, has repeatedly cited his concern that a population-wide sodium reduction campaign could have unintended consequences. "They want to do an experiment on a whole population without a good control," Alderman says.
The government points to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Dietary Guidelines as the basis for pushing sodium reduction; however the Dietary Guidelines on sodium have been in dispute for years. Critics of the government guidelines remind us that the USDA has been admittedly wrong in the past. Most recently the USDA changed its view on eggs finding that they are part of a healthy diet after 40 years of saying they were bad.
For decades, Americans have also been told that they need to drastically reduce their salt intake. However, latest research indicates, including a report from the Journal of the American Medical Association, low-salt diets can lead to insulin resistance, congestive heart failure, cardiovascular events, iodine deficiency, loss of cognition, low birth weights, and higher rates of death. Studies show dangerous side effects from lowering sodium below 3,000 mg/day.
Critics of the government's sodium reduction plans have encouraged people to sign a petition called Hands Off Our Salt on the White House website and have encouraged people to email Secretary Sylvia Burwell of U.S. Health and Human Services. On the other side, some activist groups have been pushing for the government to force changes to almost every recipe in the U.S. It remains to be seen which voices the government will heed.
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