vine vera banner ID Health Warning Signs With These Health Checks

ID Health Warning Signs With These Health Checks

You’ve got a significant other with significant needs, kids with busier schedules than most adults, a boss who has you on speed dial, and a mother who’s always, well being a mother. Sometimes you need to look out for number one. After all, when it comes to your health, no one’s going to be able to function if you can’t. If your hectic life has you too busy to see a doctor, you need to take matters into your own hands, Here are a few diagnostic tests that can help you make sure you can your machine running clean so you can make sure everyone else’s is.

Eye Check
When your checking your eyes, you want to see firm clear eyes with even lashes looking back at you. If you see redness or irritation on the surface of your inner eyelid, it could be Ectropion, which is an age related condition causing drooping of the lower lids and exposure of the inner eye. Ectropion can lead to damage of the cornea and should be treated.

Bumps on the eyelid and missing lashes could be cancerous. Look out for bumps that increase in size and grow thicker and darker.

Skin Check
Check your skin by running your fingertips and eyes over your skin, and have a family member check your back. Look for an even texture over individual body parts and consistency in skin’s appearance. If you see a new mole, or one that has changed color of shape, take note. Asymmetrical growths, growths with uneven coloring and borders, or growths larger than a pencil eraser should be examined for melanoma.

Small sandpapery patches of skin could indicate actinic keratosis. Be safe rather than sorry, and see a professional; ten percent of actinic keratosis develops into skin cancer.

If you see a shiny brown or pink bump with a rolled raised border that wasn’t there before, have it checked out. It could be basil cell carcinoma.

vine vera banner ID Health Warning Signs With These Health Checks

Balance Check
While checking your balance requires a bit of exertion, it may be worthwhile. Stand on a flat surface, folding your arms across your chest. Stand on your favored leg and raise the other foot on a few inches from the ground without resting it on the other leg. Time yourself to see how long you can maintain the position without losing your balance. Do the test one time with your eyes open, and one time with your eyes closed. If you can’t hold the position with your eyes closed, you may want to consider consulting a doctor. A study of 53 -year- old women and men found that those who could balance on one leg with their closed for over ten seconds had a lower risk of death in the 13 years after the study than those who could not.

Hair Check
While hair loss or thinning is normal, especially after 50, quick changes can indicate an underlying condition. If your hair loses density at a fast rate, over a rate of about three to six months, it may mean anemia, thyrhoid disease, or iron loss. Says dermatologist Chris Adigun, if you “notice more hair in your brush, in the shower drain, and on your pillow,” it may be a cause for concern.

Heart Check
A DIY heart check can be done by placing two fingers on the side of your windpipe. Count the beats for fifteen seconds and multiply that number by four. This should give you your beats per minute. A resting heartbeat of 60 to 100 is normal. If your heart rises at work, or when you think about work, it may mean that stress levels are high. High stress may lead to diabetes, heart disease and obesity. A rate exceeding more than 100 may mean a doctor’s appointment should be scheduled. Tachycardia, or rapid heart rate can be caused by anxiety, cardiac issues, to alcohol, among other factors.

Are you keeping tabs on your health? Let us know how your doing your DIY checkups and how they’re helping you!

woman about to take omega-3 pill

Reduce Inflammation With This Fatty Acid

You may have been hearing a lot about omega-3 fatty acids lately, and you may be wondering, what exactly are Omega-3 fatty acids? You’ve probably heard they were good for you; are they vitamins? Minerals? Animals? To clear up your confusion, or to add to it, omega -3 fatty acids are, well, fatty acids, which may not sound like something that’s good for you at all, but they are. That’s because they’re essential fatty acids, and we need them for normal metabolism. Now research shows that omega-3s have anti inflammatory properties that can help ward off a number of health concerns. What could this mean to the field of medicine? Take a look at what some experts are finding out about the inflammation- Omega-3 connection.

Omega 3 and Inflammation
Omega-3 fatty acids have long been studied for their extensive health benefits, many of which stem from their powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Since the reduction of inflammation has been associated with the risk for diseases, such as diabetes, cancer, and heart disease, it is suspected that omega-3s may have disease fighting benefits. Here are what investigations of the fatty acid has revealed so far in regard to disease prevention.

Heart Disease
Because omega-3 fatty acids can increase levels of good cholesterol and lower levels of bad cholesterol, it is being investigated as having the potential to reduce the risk of heart disease. Although omega -3s have not been shown to lower rates of heart attacks, directly, they have been associated with maintaining good heart health.

Arthritis
Individuals with rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, and lupus, may all be able to find a little comfort in increased omega-3 intake. Research suggests that the anti-inflammatory power of the fatty acid could reduce swelling, pain, and joint stiffness. A 2012 study showed that patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis were able to decrease the dosage of anti-inflammatory medications they were taking by supplementing with omega-3s.

Cancer
The effects of omega-3 fatty acids on cancer are still under investigation, but preliminary findings indicate that they may help reduce colorectal cancer, in particular, and also may help to increase tolerance to chemotherapy.

Diabetes
Insulin resistance is a condition at the root of diabetes, in which the cells in the body to not respond properly to the effects of insulin. Although further investigation on whether or not Omega-3s can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes is needed, omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to improve sensitivity to insulin in some studies.

Getting Your Omega-3s
After reading all this powerful evidence, you may be wondering how you can get your daily dose of omega-3s. Unfortunately, the body cannot produce its own omega-3s, but they can be gotten in certain foods. Fish is the best source of omega-3. The World Health Organization recommends consuming two servings of fish, such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines per week.

For those concerned about intake of heavy metals, or to whom fish does not appeal, omega-3s can also be found in plant sources, including flax seeds, chia seeds, and walnuts. Add these to your cereal or smoothie to up omega-3 intake.

Are you getting your omega-3’s? Let us know what your sources are and how they’re helping you.

The Link Between Alcohol and Cardio Damage

Not for nothing is it known as the Demon Alcohol. Its effects seem so lovely at first, your wit increases ten fold, your cares melt away, you’re instantly sharper of thought, your inhibitions vanish, you become spontaneous, the life of the party. Then, within hours, the low comes. Your stomach is sick, your head is ringing, the alcoholic bile sours your mouth. The highs of alcohol can be glorious, but the after effects can be rather unpleasant, and not only in the short term. Repeated use of alcohol can have long lasting effects on several organs of the body, including the heart. Alcoholic cardiomyopathy is one of the many diseases caused by alcohol abuse. Here is some information on the condition and its health implications.

Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy
Alcoholic cardiomyopathy is a heart disease which thins and weakens the heart muscle, interfering with its ability to pump blood. This disrupts the major functions of the body, which can lead to heart failure and other health problems.

The condition is most common in men between the ages of 35 and 50. People with the disease usually have a five to 15-year history of heavy drinking, which is defined as alcohol consumption exceeding daily limits. In men, that means more than four drinks a day, or more than 14 drinks per week, while in women heavy drinking means more than three alcoholic beverages per day or more than seven drinks per week. While cardiomyopathy is not always symptomatic, when symptoms do occur, breakdown they commonly include shortness of breath, swelling of legs and feet, and shortness go breath.

Causes
The toxicity of alcohol damages the heart muscle, which makes it hard for the heart to pump blood. The heart begins to expand to hold the extra blood, in time becoming thinned and enlarged. Eventually, the strain causes the blood vessels and heart break down and cease to function properly.

Treatment
The first step to treating cardiomyopathy is to stop drinking completely. A doctor may be able to assist with withdrawal symptoms. He or she may suggest that you begin a low salt diet, take diuretics to help increase the removal of water and salt from your body, and limit for intake of fluid to ease pressure on the heart caused by fluid retention. Your doctor may prescribe ACE inhibitors or beta blockers to reduce blood pressure. If the heart is damaged severely, the doctor may suggest a pacemaker or implantable defibrillator to help it pump.

Long Term Outlook
The long term outlook for people suffering from alcoholic cardiomyopathy is dependent on how long alcohol was abused, and the severity of the abuse. These are the factors that will determine the extent of damage. The lesser the damage, the greater the chance of complete recovery. If the damage is irreversible, it can be hard for the heart and body to recover.

If the disease is caught in early stages, however, the condition is treatable and, in some cases the damage can be reversed. The possibility of recovery is largely dependent on the individual’s willingness to avoid alcohol and to adhere closely to the plan of treatment.

If you or someone you know is abusing alcohol, we urge you to seek help. The effects of alcohol can be detrimental and dangerous.

senior woman smiling at her caregiver

A Generous Heart May Help You Live Longer

Usually, when it is said of someone that he or she has a good heart, it means that someone is generous, or caring. That they take time out to do unto others. However, in more literal terms, a good heart is associated with good cardiovascular health. Having a good heart means quite simply that your heart is in good condition. But, could they be one and the same? New studies show that volunteering, besides being mentally beneficial, can also have a positive impact on physical health. Need evidence? Here are what some experts are saying about how having a good heart can lead to having a good heart.

Mental and Physical Benefits
Anyone who has ever volunteered knows how mentally and emotionally rewarding it can be. Not only do volunteers feel as if they have made a positive change, studies show that donating time can lead to a feeling of greater social connectedness, and less depression and loneliness. However, new evidence reveals that people who volunteer may also be gifted with long lifespans and low blood pressure readings.

A study from Carnegie Mellon University, published in this month’s edition of Psychology and Aging, shows that those who give time to others may have better health than those who do not. Findings revealed that adults over 40 who volunteered regularly were at a lower risk for high blood pressure than those who did not volunteer. High blood pressure is an accurate health indicator because it is linked to stroke, heart disease, and premature death.

Because it is possible that volunteers may also take part in other health conscious activities, such as exercise and healthy eating, it is not possible to prove that volunteering was the sole reason for the lower blood pressure readings, but the results do seem to point in that direction.

woman working at animal shelter

How It Works
If you are wondering how exactly volunteering contributes to better health and longer life, Rodlescia Sneed, lead author of the Carnegie Mellon study, may have some insight on the phenomena. One explanation may be the increased physical activity volunteering can provide for those who are not otherwise very active. Another may be stress reduction. According to Sneed, “Many people find volunteer work to be helpful with respect to stress reduction, and we know that stress is very strongly linked with health outcomes.”

If you are thinking of volunteering, and want to know how to get the maximum benefits from your do-gooding, Carnegie Mellon is on top of it. According to the study, it takes 200 hours of volunteering annually to reap the rewards of low blood pressure, although other studies have found as little as 100 hours will do the trick. As for types of volunteering, that remains unknown. However, Sneed speculates that it is the more mentally stimulating activities, like reading and tutoring, that lead to sharper thinking and memory skills, whereas “activities that promote physical activity would be helpful with respect to cardiovascular health, but no studies have really explored this.”

In conclusion, one thing does seem clear; the best results of volunteering come when it is done for the right reasons. A 2012 study published in the Health Psychology journal found that those who benefitted most from volunteer work were those whose intentions were altruistic. In other words, it has to come from the heart if the rewards are going to end up there.

Do you do volunteer work? How do you find it affects you? Let us know what you’re doing for others and what you think it might be doing for you!

Healthy food

Popular Health Food Myths

Eating pop rocks with soda can make you explode. This is perhaps the most popular and most bizarre food myths of all time. Although some may argue that the two together may be a lethal combination, it is not because of its likelihood to cause human combustion. While the fate of Mikey of Life Cereal fame may be unknown, it is safe to say he did not suffer death by Poprock. With the rate at which information about food changes , it is often hard to determine which facts from fiction. Here are some of the most commonly believed food myths that may seem all too easy to believe.

Low Fat Food is Better for You
Look at food labels to determine what kinds of fats are in foods before reaching for the low fat version. Seattle based dietitian Andy Bellatti says, “A good intake of healthful fats is beneficial for cardiovascular health. Prioritize mono saturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids. Many low fat diets are high in sugar and refined carbohydrates which are increasingly becoming linked to increased heart disease.” Low fat food are often low in good fats, which are necessary to cholesterol management and absorption of nutrients and also contain high levels of sugar and sodium to compensate for the blandness of the taste quality.

Dairy Is Best For Healthy Bones
According to Bellatti, too many people confuse dairy with calcium. “Dairy contains calcium, but so do dark-leafy greens. Milk is fortified with vitamin D, just like all milk alternatives. Additionally, bone health goes beyond calcium and vitamin D.” Vitamin K is important for bone health and leafy green have it while dairy products do not. Magnesium, also absent from dairy, is important for bone health as well.

Assorted dairy

If you’re concerned about the health of your bones, you’re best bet is to make sure you get enough calcium in your diet and, as the Harvard School of Public Health points out, “milk isn’t the only, or even best source of calcium.” Collard greens, kale and bok choy may be considerably better sources of both calcium and vitamin D.

Drink 8 Glasses of Water per Day
Boston based nutritionist Alannah DiBona says there is no given rule for how much water a person needs in a day. “Water’s been touted as the cure for all sins, and in some ways, it’s true – proper hydration is necessary for just about anything body and mind-related. However sixty- four ounces per day isn’t always going to be the right number for you.” Instead, try to determine your water intake by dividing your body weight in half and trying to drink that number in ounces of water daily.

Dibona also urges us to “Remember that water is available to you through all liquids, fruits, vegetables, and that the mark of proper hydration is a very light yellow-colored urine.”

Eating Eggs Raises Cholesterol
According to DiBona, “More often than not, a person diagnosed with high cholesterol will go out of his or her way to avoid eggs, which is really unnecessary. The body’s cholesterol levels are influenced by certain saturated and trans fats; eggs contain very little saturated fat and absolutely no trans fat. Depriving yourself of an egg means foregoing 13 naturally occurring vitamins and minerals and a really delicious breakfast item.”

Poached egg

High Sodium Foods Taste Salty
While there is no doubt that management of salt and sodium intake are important, especially for those with diabetes and hypertension, you should know that salty taste is not necessarily characteristic of high sodium foods. Belatti explains, “While surface salt is noticeable, stealth sodium, added during processing, is harder to taste. This is why many people don’t realize that a Dunkin’ Donuts corn muffin contains as much sodium, as 9 McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets.” He stresses the importance of looking up nutrition information to check the sodium content of foods at your favorite restaurants and eateries.

What other food myths do you want to debunk? Let us know!

Heart-healthy foods

Foods That Boost Your Cardiovascular Health

When we use the term “hungry heart,” we are usually not speaking in the literal, scientific sense. The Hebrew bible associated all feelings with the heart, hunger and thirst included and quoted Abraham as saying we shall eat to “sustain our hearts.” However, today we tend to more often associate these signals with the mind and brain. However, is the whole body concept so far-fetched? After all, if our heart does fuel our body, and our stomach does fuel our heart, then maybe the heart can be hungry. And if the heart is hungry, what should we feed it?

The Food-Heart Connection
According to Julie Zumpano, RD, LD, and dietitian for the Preventive Cardiology and Nutrition Program at Cleveland Clinic says, “You can definitely reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease by eating certain foods every day. Try to eat foods that are in their natural form, as they come from the ground.” Here are some suggestions for a heart-healthy diet.

Fish
Fish are packed with omega-3’s to support your heart. Eating fish with a high omega-3 content, such as salmon and mackerel can help prevent the formation of blood clots, and help maintain healthy cholesterol and blood pressure levels.

Salmon

Almonds
A handful of almonds contains a huge load of nutrients! Not only do these nuts have protein, magnesium, and fiber, but they are also high in vitamin E, biotin, monosaturated fats and antioxidants to protect against oxidative stress. They have also been shown to help reduce risk of heart disease and lower bad cholesterol levels.

Beans
Beans, beans, good for your heart! Beans are rich in soluble fiber and help decrease blood pressure and reduce inflammation. They are also full of phytochemicals that reduce oxidative stress, a known contributor to heart disease.

Pomegranates
These lovely seeded fruits have incredible anti-inflammatory properties to decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes, obesity, and blood disease. They also contain punicic acid, a fatty acid proven to combat risk factors associated with heart disease.

Pomegranates

Whole Grains
If you want to improve heart health, swap out that white bread for whole wheat. Web MD cites research showing that the consumption of just 25 grams of whole grains per day can reduce heart disease by 15%.” A diet rich in whole grains has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and some forms of cancer,” says the website.

Red Wine
Don’t get too excited. Moderation is the key. Scientist suggest that one glass of red per day can raise HDL, or good cholesterol, which prevents blood clots and inflammation that can contribute to a stroke or heart attack. However, they also warn against too much of the good stuff, which may have a detrimental effect on mental and physical health.

Dark Chocolate
Bring on the dark chocolate to help protect your cardiovascular system. This wonderful treat contains flavanols. an antioxidant which has been shown to lower blood pressure, increase blood flow to the heart, and decrease the likelihood of blood clot formation.

Dark chocolate

Tomatoes
Tomatoes are rich in antioxidants, folic acid. and beta carotene, but it’s lycopene that really gives these veggies their heart healthy kick. Lycopene reduces risk for heart disease and reduces blood pressure, inflammation, and stroke which make these veggies a great pick for a snack or salad topper.

What do you feed your heart to keep it healthy? Let us know! We love to hear it!

Aerobics class

Get Your Heart Rate Up

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that you get at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day. Exercising daily does far more than burn calories and help you lose weight, it provides so many other health benefits one of which is improving the health of your heart. When you want to get your heart rate up, consider the following methods to keep your heart healthy.

Women warming up before exercise

Warm Up
Stretching before exercising is always a good idea, but in this case, we actually mean warming up your temperature. Environmental temperature can have a significant impact on your heart rate; the American Heart Association says that spending some time in warm air can increase your heart rate by anywhere from five to 10 beats per minute. While this may sound like a minuscule increase, it can actually have some pretty significant impacts on your heart when exercising. If you are exercising aggressively in high heat, you may run the risk of getting your heart rate up too high. If you ever experience light-headedness, dizziness or odd sensations in your chest, safely take yourself to a cooler location.

Aerobic Exercise
You probably know that if you want to get your heart rate up, cardiovascular exercise is one of the absolute best ways that you can do this. Taking a brisk walk around the block, spending some time on your bike or sweating it out in an aerobics class are all great ways to get your heart pumping faster. Your goal is to meet your target heart rate. If you aren’t sure what that number is, subtract your current age from 220 and then increase this number anywhere from 50 to 85 percent, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Meeting your target heart rate is an important way to improve your overall heart health.

Strength and resistance training

Strength and Resistance Training
If you don’t immediately equate strength and resistance training with a raised heart rate you aren’t alone, but you do want to reconsider. Aerobic exercise is imperative for a healthy heart, but a truly effective workout includes strength and resistance training in addition to your cardio. Performing bodyweight exercises, lifting weights and other resistance exercises provide a workout for your muscles. When you work out your muscles, they require more oxygenated blood, which will, in turn, lead to a higher heart rate.

Cardiovascular, or aerobic exercise, is perhaps the most well-known method for getting your heart rate up, but it is far from the only method. Any burst of activity like a vigorous home cleaning session, working in your garden or carrying boxes up and down stairs all will raise your heart rate. Strength training is also an important component in increasing your heart rate, and maintaining a strong and healthy body. Aim for 30 minutes per day of exercise, and if you are just starting out, be sure to clear your routine with your doctor and start low then increase the difficulty level of your workouts.

woman having coffee

Daily Caffeine Doesn't Cause a Racing Heart

If you absolutely can’t start your morning without coffee or get through the afternoon without a cup of tea, you’re in for good news. For years, the healthcare community has advised against regular caffeine consumption because caffeine is thought to disturb the natural cardiac rhythm of your heart, but a recent study challenges this advice. Coffee, tea and dark chocolate are full of antioxidants that may actually benefit your heart’s health, and according to this study, they are safe to be consumed daily.

The Study
Close to 1,400 individuals were chosen to participate in a year-long study that looked at the effects of daily caffeine consumption on the heart. “Clinical recommendations advising against the regular consumption of caffeinated products to prevent disturbances of the heart’s cardiac rhythm should be reconsidered, as we may unnecessarily be discouraging consumption of items like chocolate, coffee and tea that might actually have cardiovascular benefits,” says the study’s senior author, Dr. Gregory Marcus, director of clinical research in the division of cardiology at the University of California, San Francisco. “Given our recent work demonstrating that extra heartbeats can be dangerous, this finding is especially relevant,” Marcus adds. Marcus is referring to research that points to extra heartbeats being a cause of heart problems and stroke, but this is in rare cases.

The Results
Researchers monitored the chocolate, coffee and tea consumption of each of the 1,400 participants, and participants wore portable devices that monitored their heart rhythm continuously for 24 hours. During the course of the survey, 61 percent of participants consumed more than one of the caffeinated products daily and the results were that those who consumed more than one caffeinated item each day had no extra heartbeats. These findings are important because “this was the first community-based sample to look at the impact of caffeine on extra heartbeats, as previous studies looked at people with known (heart rhythm disorders),” says study lead author, Shalini Dixit, fourth-year medical student at the University of California, San Francisco.

The results of this study are exciting and encouraging because it was previously thought that regular caffeine consumption was related to extra heartbeats or a racing heart. This University of California, San Francisco study challenges those beliefs and asserts that caffeine can be consumed daily. It is important to note that the study looked at caffeinated products that are known to have additional health benefits (coffee, green tea and chocolate) and not drinks health experts warn people to stay away from like soft drinks. Additionally, the study authors say that before determining whether or not there are additional health risks to heavy caffeine consumption, more studies are necessary.

This study seems to confirm that like most things, caffeine in moderation is safe for your heart, and that some of the products containing caffeine may have additional health benefits. The antioxidants in coffee, green tea and chocolate provide health benefits for your body by fighting inflammation, protecting against free radicals and can even help lower cholesterol and blood pressure. Enjoy these products in moderation, knowing that they won’t cause your heart to work overtime.

Woman making a heart shape with her fingers

Your Skin and Heart Health

What if you could predict your risk for cardiovascular diseases and conditions by the simple act of looking at your skin? While it might not be that easy, recent research suggests that there are links between the health of your skin and the health of your heart. Two major studies supporting this claim include one published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology and one published in the Journals of Gerontology. Keep reading to learn about the studies and what they mean for your health.

The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology Study
The skin/heart health study published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology involved more than 61,000 adults. Adults that had the inflammatory skin condition eczema were 48 percent more likely to have high blood pressure, 35 percent more likely to deal with adult-onset diabetes and 29 percent more likely to have high cholesterol than other adults. All of these ailments are risk factors that contribute to heart disease and the numbers remained the same, even after other factors that play into cardiovascular diseases such as alcohol consumption and activity levels, were controlled.

Why do those who have eczema find themselves at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease? While the exact answer is unknown, the most probable answer is that those with eczema have such intense chronic inflammation that it shows up throughout the body as opposed to just superficially on the skin. “It may be that chronic inflammation from eczema directly increases cardiovascular risk,” says Jonathan Silverberg, M.D., Ph. D, and assistant professor of dermatology and preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Silverberg notes that not all inflammation is a bad thing for your body, in face acute inflammation is the natural response your body has to harmful invaders, it is the constant deployment of natural killer cells and T cells that can interfere with vital functioning, including circulation. Additionally, Silverberg makes it clear that not everyone who suffers from eczema will have cardiovascular problems. You can help prevent both the health of your heart and skin by consuming antioxidant-rich produce, controlling stress levels and being sure to get seven to nine hours of sleep each night.

The Journals of Gerontology Study
Researchers from Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands in conjunction with scientists from Unilever observed 250 women who were separated into two groups by the researchers based on high and low cardiovascular disease risk. The scientist analyzed the skin of the faces and upper inner arms of the women and found that the women who appeared younger had lower blood pressure and heart disease risks. “We have found that the feature in the face that blood pressure was linked to was not skin wrinkles but likely what we term as ‘sag’ in the face. The exciting thing is further investigations will enable exact pinpointing of the feature in the face that signposts an individual’s blood pressure,” says Dr. David Gunn, senior scientist at Unilever.

You may not be able to determine your heart health and future cardiovascular disease risk by merely taking a peek in the mirror, but it seems that your skin may reflect more of your internal health than previously thought. You can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease by engaging in a healthy, active lifestyle that includes low stress, adequate sleep and a nutritious diet. Not only will your heart thank you, but so will your skin.