Posts Tagged 'heart disease'

Think those Low-Fat Chips Are Healthy? Think Again

The CDC reports an updated look at an old study. This study, from 2005- 2006, reported that 29% of adults had hypertension (high blood pressure) and 28% of adults had prehypertension (blood pressure higher than normal but not yet high enough to be called high blood pressure). Hypertension is one of the leading contributors to heart disease and stroke.


Excessive salt intake is one of the major contributing factors in hypertension. People already at risk for hypertension should consume no more than 15oomg of salt per day.


Who are the people at risk? African Americans, all adults over 40 and those who already have hypertension. That’s 69.2% of the population. Adults in general should consume no more than 2300mg of salt per day. LINK


Processed foods of all kinds are high in salt. So, re-think those chips!


For more on diet see

Dietary Guidelines






Is Your Heart Failing You?

Heart failure. It doesn’t mean someone has died. But it does mean that someone’s heart is no longer working correctly. The heart is weak and not able to pump the way it should. There is no cure. Health failure is a chronic, but manageable, condition.


When the left side of the heart is not pumping well the individual suffers from left-sided failure. The symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath.
  • Persistent cough or wheezing.


When the right side of the heart is not pumping well it is called right-sided failure. Right sided failure often follows left sided failure. The symptoms of right sided failure include:

  • Swelling of the feet, legs and the abdomen.


Symptoms common to both left and right failure are:

  • Fatigue.
  • Loss of appetite and/or nausea.
  • Confusion or impaired thinking.
  • Increased heart rate.


Any disease that causes the heart to work harder than normal may, if it’s left untreated, lead to heart failure. Diseases that often lead to heart failure include:

  • High Blood pressure.
  • Coronary artery disease.
  • Diabetes.
  • Severe lung disease.
  • Structural defects in the heart.


The incidence of heart failure increases with age. African Americans have a much higher rate of heart failure than other Americans.

NY Times


If you have one of the conditions listed above, manage your disease according to your healthcare provider’s recommendations. Prevent or postpone heart failure. Your heart is in your hands.


For more about heart failure see:


The American Heart Organization

Medline Plus

Metabolic Syndrome

A syndrome is a group of signs or symptoms that, when taken together, indicate an illness or particular risk of an illness. Signs are objective, that is, they are observable or measurable by others. Symptoms are subjective, that is, they are felt or experienced by someone but not readily seen by another person.


Metabolic syndrome is group of signs that indicate an increased risk of heart disease and diabetes. Other names for metabolic syndrome are: Insulin resistance syndrome and Metabolic syndrome X.


The signs of metabolic syndrome include:

  • High blood pressure (blood pressure of 130/85 or higher)
  • Body fat clustered around the waist (a measurement of 35 inches or more for women and 40 inches or more for men)
  • High blood triglyceride (a type of fat) level (150 mg/dl or higher)
  • Low HDL (“good” cholesterol) level (less than 50 mg/dl for women and less than 40 mg/dl for men)
  • Fast blood glucose (sugar) level of 110 mg/dl or higher.



But you don’t have to have all the signs to have metabolic syndrome. If you have three out of five signs, you have metabolic syndrome. Your risk of developing heart disease or diabetes is much greater than those without it.


Metabolic syndrome raises the risk of heart disease and diabetes in both women and men. However, it seems to affect women more. Women who have metabolic syndrome have three times the average risk of dying from a stroke or heart attach. They have nine to 30 times the average risk of developing Types 2 diabetes, which is an additional risk factor for heart disease.


What can you do to lower the chances of developing metabolic syndrome or reducing the risk of heart disease and diabetes if you already have it?


  • Do not smoke. (Yes, again)
  • Exercise. (Yes, again) The goal is 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity most days of the week.
  • Reduce your LDL (“bad” cholesterol), blood glucose and triglyceride levels to normal.
  • Reduce your blood pressure to (or keep it) below 130/85.
  • Reduce weight to a desirable level. (BMI of less than 25 – LINK to BMI calculator)
  • Eat a healthy, balanced low-fat, high-fiber diet.


Health – it’s about prevention.


For more about the metabolic syndrome access and


For information about metabolic syndrome in children access and

Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week

February 7 – 14, 2009


Congenital Heart Defects Awareness Week is a grassroots effort to make the public aware that congenital heart disease is the most common major birth defect. Congenital heart disease affects the structure of the heart – the heart muscle itself or the blood vessels bringing blood to the heart or taking blood away.


Basic Anatomy of the Heart


The hearts is a muscle that is responsible for

  • Receiving oxygen-poor blood from the body.
  • Sending the oxygen-poor blood to the lungs to receive oxygen.
  • Receiving the oxygen-rich blood from the lungs.
  • Sending the oxygen-rich blood to the body.


The heart has four chambers, two on top and two on the bottom. The right upper chamber (right atrium,) receives oxygen-poor blood from the body. The right lower chamber (right ventricle) sends that blood to the lungs. The left upper chamber (left atrium) receives the oxygen-rich blood from the lungs. The left lower chamber (left atrium) sends that blood to the body.


The blood goes from the atria (plural of atrium) to the ventricles and from the ventricles to either the lungs or the body via one-way valves.


Two common types of congenital heart defects are:


Septal Defects:

  • Atrial septal defect (ASD) – an opening or “hole” in the heart between the upper two chambers, the right and left atria.
  • Ventricular septal defect VSD) – an opening or “hole” between the lower two chambers, the right and left ventricles.


Because of the differences in pressure between the right and left sides of the heart, septal defects result in oxygen-rich blood being needlessly sent back to the lungs. As a result, not enough oxygen-poor blood gets to the lungs to receive oxygen. In the case of VSD, the left ventricle tries to compensate and has to work extra hard to pump the blood. This may cause heart failure or poor growth of the baby.


Some septal defects are very small and don’t require repair. Larger ones need repair. ASDs are often repaired by way of a tube sent into the heart. VSDs generally require open heart surgery.


Heart Valve Defects:

  • Atresia – the valve is malformed.
  • Regurgitation – the valve allows some back flow instead of being strictly one-way.
  • Stenosis – the valve opening is too narrow.


There are more congenital heart defects, some of which are very complex and involve several types of defects at once. Repair of these defects is complex and most often requires surgery.


What Causes Congenital Heart Defects? No one really knows. There may be a hereditary component or a mutation on one of the baby’s genes. Congenital heart defects are very, very rarely caused by something the mother did while she was pregnant.


About eight out of every 1,000 newborns has a congenital heart defect. Congenital Heart Defects Awareness Week hopes to make you aware of that statistic and make you aware of the problem.

February Is American Heart Month

Heart disease is the number one killer of Americans. Between 70% and 89% of sudden cardiac events occur in men. Almost half of all men who have heart attacks before the age of 65 die within eight years. However, women account for about 51% of the total number of deaths from heart disease.


Heart disease includes more than just coronary heart disease (“hardening” of the arteries in the heart).


Heart disease includes:


  • Angina
  • Acute coronary syndrome
  • Aortic aneurysm and dissection
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Congenital heart disease (more on this topic tomorrow)
  • Heart failure
  • Peripheral artery disease
  • Rheumatic heart disease


LINK About Heart Disease


The major risk factors for heart disease are:


Conditions –

  • High cholesterol, especially if the HDL (“good” cholesterol) is low. If your blood contains more cholesterol than your body can use, your body will deposit the cholesterol in arteries (“hardening” of the arteries).
  • High blood pressure, the pressure of the blood within the arteries is too high
  • Diabetes mellitus, too much sugar in the blood (see my blog of January 23, 2009).


Behaviors –

  • Tobacco use
  • Diet
  • Physical Inactivity
  • Obesity
  • Alcohol


Other –

  • Heredity


For a more detailed explanation of these factors see


Heart Disease – the number 1 cause of death in Americans. February is National Heart Month.

Cancer – the number 2 cause of death in Americans. February is National Cancer Prevention Month.

Stroke – the number 3 cause of death in Americans. May is National Stroke Month.


What risk factor is common to ALL the above? Smoking.

Today Is National Wear Red Day And

National Women’s Healthy Heart Campaign Day


Why is this important? It’s important because, since 2002, the Red Dress has been the symbol for women and heart disease awareness.


Why is this important? It’s important because heart disease, not cancer, is the NUMBER ONE killer of American women.


The Red Dress was launched nationally at New York’s Fashion Week in February 2003. Every year since then the Red Dress has been on the runway in February. Each year Red Dresses are designed by top designers and modeled by famous women. For the first time this year, the dresses will be auctioned by


What are the risk factors for heart disease?

  • High blood pressure
  • High blood cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Being overweight
  • Being physically inactive
  • Having a family history of early heart disease
  • Age (55 or older for women)


Lower YOUR risk!


Wear red today – a dress, a blouse, a pin, a scarf, a tie, socks, boots … you can probably come up with more.


Make it visible. Heart Disease is the number one killer of American women.

Floss to Prevent Heart Disease

That’s right. It’s not just what you put into your mouth that counts. How you take care of it is also important. There is increasing evidence linking dental and gum disease with heart disease, stroke and overall health.

This isn’t strictly news. The evidence for this link has been around for at least three years. In 2006 I wrote a newsletter issue on heart disease. In that issue I referred to this link. What is news is that the link has been studied further and the evidence continues to mount.

In a March, 2008 article by Victoria Elliot in the American Medical Association online news, a plea was made for increased attention to oral health by physicians. Today the American Health Association published an online article on inflammation, heart disease and stroke.

How does inflammation, particularly gum inflammation, affect the heart?

Studies are finding that inflammation plays an important part in the development of atherosclerosis, that fatty buildup which narrows arteries. Some studies indicate that an infection may even cause atherosclerosis. It’s hypothesized that bacteria from diseased gums (or other chronically infected areas) enters the blood stream and begins a generalized inflammatory/anti-inflammatory response in the body. This response may be linked to the laying down of fatty deposits in the arteries.

A measure of the degree of the body’s overall inflammation level is C-reactive protein (CRP). A measure of the degree of inflammation within blood vessels is the high-sensitivity CRP (hs-CRP). Three years ago the American Heart Association recommended that only individuals at high risk for initial or recurrent coronary events or cardiovascular disease be tested for hs-CRP. However, now the recommendation is that individuals at intermediate risk for heart disease have their CRP level checked. Individuals who have known heart disease and those at high risk for heart disease should be treated aggressively regardless of their CRP level.

So, preventing gum disease through good oral hygiene is another measure you can take to prevent heart disease. If you have gum disease, work with your dentist/hygienist to reduce or eliminate it.

Have any infection or inflammation evaluated by your healthcare provider. It will do your heart good.

Mary Lou Bernardo, PhD, MSN


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