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Awareness Key to Treating Arterial Disease

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Unknown symptoms keep patients from seeking preventive care

(Family Features) A lack of symptoms may be giving you a false sense of security about your health. In reality, there are several serious health conditions that can be asymptomatic, meaning your body doesn’t give you signals that something is wrong.

When it comes to peripheral arterial disease, for example, some patients feel pain or numbness in their legs. Other possible symptoms include dark or blue-tinged skin on the legs, and, for men, erectile dysfunction. Other patients notice none of these symptoms at all.   12801

A real health risk
According to researcher Jeffrey S. Berger, M.D., of New York University School of Medicine, patients who have peripheral arterial disease are more than three times as likely to have issues in their carotid artery, which can lead to stroke and ultimately brain damage.

Berger’s study, published in Atherosclerosis, a leading journal on arterial and vascular disease, was based on an anonymous review of 3.6 million Life Line Screening cases. While some patients were aware of a peripheral arterial disease diagnosis, others were not. Regardless, the majority was shown to have carotid artery stenosis, or more simply, constricted blood vessels leading to the brain.

“We’re pleased that we were able to contribute to such important work while maintaining patient confidentiality,” said Andrew Manganaro, chief medical officer of Life Line Screening. “It is the kind of research that heightens awareness of a critical medical issue.”

Screening for awareness
In fact, awareness was a major theme of the study. Berger concluded that patients who have received treatment and believe they are cured, or patients with no symptoms, may be at higher risk because they are not be adhering to appropriate lifestyle and medication therapies.

If you are exhibiting common symptoms of peripheral arterial disease, a simple, non-invasive screening can help gauge your arterial health. Symptoms include pain during exercise that is relieved during rest, cold legs, poor wound healing and constant leg pain, tingling, burning or loss of sensation.

Patients who have no symptoms but are at high risk for the disease should also consider an evaluation. Risk factors include family history, increasing age, smoking, high cholesterol, heavy alcohol consumption, poor diet, heart disease, diabetes, obesity and physical inactivity.

The peripheral arterial disease screening procedure, available through Life Line Screening, is done using the ankle-brachial index. After removing your socks and shoes, you will have pressure cuffs placed around your upper arms and ankles. A small ultrasound device will then measure the systolic blood pressure in your limbs.

In addition, a simple finger-stick measures three different kinds of lipids in the blood (HDL, LDL and triglycerides) as well as total cholesterol, which help determine arterial disease risk, and ultimately the risk of trouble with the carotid artery.

To learn more about screenings that can help identify your health risk for potentially asymptomatic diseases, visit www.lifelinescreening.com.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images
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Source: Life Line Screening

October 7, 2015 |

Helpful Tips to Protect Your Hearing

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(Family Features) Not only can noise distract, disturb and interfere with communication and sleep, it can affect your performance, behavior and hearing.

In many cases, hearing loss can be prevented by recognizing sources of damaging noise levels and using appropriate protective equipment. However, excessive noise exposure can cause permanent hearing loss that cannot be treated with medication, or result in constant ringing in your ears called tinnitus. Impaired hearing can reduce your ability to recognize your surroundings and listen for cues of potential danger.12793_A

Learn how to protect yourself from future hearing damage with this advice from Guard Your Health, a health education campaign by the Army National Guard:

* Know the safe volume limit to protect yourself from future hearing damage. Noise that is 0 to 80 decibels is generally safe, while noise that is 140 to 200 decibels can be dangerous.

* Noise that exceeds safe parameters, even if it’s under 140 decibels, can still cause damage to your hearing over time. A general rule of thumb is the “three feet rule.” If you have to shout to someone who is three feet away (about an arm’s length), the noise level in that location could be damaging.

* Be aware that a single exposure to a very loud sound (such as weapon fire) can cause permanent hearing loss.

* Using proper hearing protection for the environment can help prevent damage to your eardrum and hearing. There are several types of hearing protection devices available including foam earplugs, silicone earplugs and earmuffs. For example, when shooting at the gun range, noise-activated earplugs can help you avoid sudden eardrum rupture.

* Foam earplugs should be pinched when inserted, allowing the foam to expand in your ear until you achieve a tight, non-painful seal. Silicone earplugs should be inserted only until you feel a slight resistance to avoid damaging your inner ear. To wear ear plugs properly, straighten your ear by gripping the cartilage and stretching it away from your body. Insert the earplug then release your ear. Do a few jumping jacks to test the security of the earplugs; if they fall out, try again or get a smaller size.

* Earmuffs should rest about two finger widths from your jawbone and completely cover your ears for a tight seal on the side of your face.

If you notice signs of hearing problems, ask your doctor to test your hearing. Common symptoms include a muffled sound in your ears after leaving a noisy area or event such as a car race, concert, wood working or hunting; prolonged ringing or buzzing in your ears after exposure to noise; and difficulty understanding what people are saying although you can hear them talking.

For more health-related tools and information, visit guardyourhealth.com.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images (man plugging ears)
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Source: Army National Guard

 

September 30, 2015 |

Sharpen Students’ Minds with Proper Nutrition

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(Family Features) Bells will soon be ringing, and parents may experience a sense of dÈj‡ vu for the first several weeks of school. That’s because the early part of each new school year is commonly spent reversing the effect of “summer brain drain” – when kids lose skills they mastered the previous year.12788

According to a recent survey by DSM Nutritional Products and Pop Warner, 78 percent of parents are concerned about students’ difficulties retaining what they learned in school throughout the summer.

A majority of surveyed parents understand the role of nutrition in physical and academic performance, but don’t make the connection to nutrition’s role in preventing brain drain. While many parents encourage their children to take vitamins and minerals to supplement nutrition, nearly half admit they aren’t clear about which nutrients support children’s brain health.

What’s more, maintaining a well-rounded and healthy diet and taking vitamins and other essential nutrients that support brain health ranked significantly lower than other strategies parents use to prevent brain drain, such as sports and academic activities.

Nutrition plays an important role in brain health year-round, says Elizabeth Somer, a nationally acclaimed registered dietitian, nutritionist and author. To help keep your students’ minds sharp as they head back to school, consider these tips from Somer:

Eat fatty fish twice a week for dinner or supplement omega-3s. Omega-3s are highly concentrated in the brain and important to brain health, yet according to research published in the British Medical Journal, the average American diet contains less omega-3s from seafood than most other developed countries. Children and adults should get the recommended two servings of fatty fish, such as salmon, per week.

Offer a variety of healthy food options in the house. Giving children choices teaches them to take care of their bodies and empowers them to make better food decisions in the future. Stock the kitchen with lots of colorful fruits and vegetables, such as baby carrots, berries and bananas for snacks, and broccoli, green peas and mashed sweet potatoes for dinner. The nutrients in these foods are important for the brain. Along with calcium, low-fat milk supplies vitamin D, which is a nutrient essential for brain development.

Consider taking a multivitamin. No one eats perfectly. It is important to talk with your physician or registered dietitian about whether you or your children could benefit from a multivitamin. According to research published in The Journal of Nutrition, only 10 percent of Americans get the nutrients they need from their food, and supplementation can help fill that gap.

Visit www.VitaminsinMotion.com to learn more about the important role of essential nutrients for health and wellness.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images
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Source: DSM

September 23, 2015 |

It’s Not Just Fun and Games

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(Family Features) As children head back to school, the time set aside for play seems to disappear. According to a survey conducted by Dr Pepper Snapple Group’s Let’s Play initiative, 56 percent of parents say busy schedules are a major barrier to play.

Play is an important part of a child’s physical, emotional and social development. In fact, kids who play are found to be healthier, happier and better performers in school. As children’s schedules become packed with activities during the school year, it is important to make sure they are getting enough active playtime each day to help them grow into happy, healthy adults. 12836

Here are some reasons to keep kids active during the school year:

Play promotes social skills. According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, just more than a quarter of students surveyed participated in daily physical education classes. Kids have fewer opportunities to be active during the school day, so it is important to supplement their schedules with after-school activities or sports throughout the year. Team sports are a great opportunity for children to foster friendships and connect with kids from different backgrounds. Keeping your children active through sports gives them the opportunity to maintain a physically active lifestyle while also making new friends.

Play heightens intellectual development. Education in the classroom allows children to learn and grow; however, physical activity outside of the classroom is also important for a child’s development. Studies show that physical play has been linked to helping kids think creatively and create connections with others through the process of sharing, negotiating and resolving conflicts. Such skills are vital for a child to learn and can be easily taught through active play.

Play enhances motor skills. Playgrounds serve as a great space for kids to explore and have fun in a safe environment while challenging and refining their motor skills. Interacting with play equipment helps build motor skills and improves self-control and coordination.

Play relieves stress. As kids get older, schoolwork becomes increasingly difficult and stress levels about the workload begin to rise. In fact, 46 percent of parents polled in the Let’s Play survey said that a focus on academics was one of their kids’ biggest barriers to play. While academics should always be a priority, giving kids the opportunity and time to play can relieve the stress associated with school and allow them to simply have fun.

You can learn more about the importance of play and get tips and advice on how to incorporate active play in your child’s everyday life at LetsPlay.com, where you can also nominate a community group, nonprofit or school to receive a new playground or sports equipment grant courtesy of Let’s Play.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images
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Source: Dr Pepper Snapple Group

September 16, 2015 |

A Flexible Way to Lose Weight and Keep it Off for a Lifetime

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(Family Features) When it comes to losing weight, finding an eating plan that offers flexibility and food variety makes it easier to create a sustainable foundation for healthier lifestyle choices. 12507

Two important aspects of weight loss are understanding how your body uses the food you consume and selecting a program you can live with long-term.

On average, a person following a balanced diet consistent with dietary guidelines eats 2,000 calories a day, which translates into approximately 225 to 325 grams of carbohydrates a day. When you consume more carbohydrates than your body can handle, your body will store the carbs you are eating as fat which has a direct impact on weight gain.

This is why keeping track of the types and amount of carbohydrates in your diet will help you shed pounds. A scientifically-proven approach to maintaining weight loss is eating an optimal protein, high fiber, healthy fats, low-carb diet as it can keep you feeling full and satisfied and eliminates unnecessary snacking or overeating.
Atkins 40 is designed for people who have 40 pounds or less to lose. With a daily allowance of 40 grams net carbs, people can customize their diet with a wide variety of nutritious foods to lose weight and maintain it.
This approach focuses on the quality and quantity of carbs consumed, while avoiding or limiting added sugar and overly refined carbs such as white flour, which are low in nutritional value. Instead, you get your carbs from high-fiber vegetables and other good-for-you foods such as nuts and seeds, a variety of fruits, whole grains, legumes and dairy.

“Atkins 40 fits a variety of lifestyles and teaches people how to eat wholesome food for life,” said Colette Heimowitz, vice president of nutrition and education for Atkins Nutritionals, Inc. “It’s a simple approach that sets you up for long-term success by letting you eat more of the right foods without letting hunger take over your life.”

To understand how carbs can fit into a healthy meal plan, consider this typical day of meals for a person on Atkins 40:

* Approximately 15 grams net carbs from high fiber vegetables
* Remaining 25 grams net carbs from a list that includes foods such as Greek yogurt, fruit, nuts, whole grains and legumes
* Three 4-6 ounce servings of protein such as fish, poultry, meats, eggs or vegetarian sources of protein
* 2-4 servings of healthy fats throughout the day
* 6-8 glasses of water
* A daily multi-vitamin

For example, on an average day you might start with 1/2 cup oat bran with 1/4 cup strawberries and 1/4 cup pecans, followed by a mid-morning snack of 1/2 cup red peppers and half a dozen cherry tomatoes with a side of 2 tablespoons creamy dressing or hummus. Lunch could consist of a salad with romaine lettuce topped with 4-6 ounces salmon and 2 tablespoons Caesar dressing. For a late afternoon snack, you could have 1/2 cup cottage cheese with half a peach. To conclude your day, you could eat 4-6 ounces grilled chicken with a side of asparagus for dinner, with a fresh mozzarella and tomato salad.

In addition to a well-rounded eating plan, your path to success can be smoother if you rely on resources such as a meal tracker to record what you eat, ready-made meal plans and shopping lists. You can find these and other free tools at www.atkins.com.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images
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Source: Atkins

September 9, 2015 |

Why Water is Your Workout Buddy

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(Family Features) If you think drinking water during a workout is just about keeping your mouth from drying out as you pant your way through 12792_aeach set, think again. In addition to keeping you comfortable, staying hydrated is a necessary aspect of any healthy workout.

Your body is composed of 60 percent water, but on average, you lose 2-5 percent of your body weight from water loss every time you work out.

Once you get into your workout groove, you may find it hard to stop, even for a water break. What you may not realize is that water is an essential nutrient that keeps your muscles primed, blood flowing and the nerves in your brain firing. Taking a break to replace what you lose while exercising is actually a good way to keep your workout going.

The evaporation of sweat helps cool the body during exercise, but this diminishing hydration can lead to poor performance and even possible injury. Make the most of your workout and stay fit with these helpful hydration tips from the Army National Guard’s Guard Your Health campaign:

* Cool, plain water is the best drink to replace the fluid lost as sweat and help regulate your core body temperature.

* Plan to drink water before, during and after exercise to prevent dehydration and help enhance performance. Sip a 16-ounce bottle of water every hour while working out.

* Outdoor workouts require extra hydration, even during cooler weather. The water content in your skin helps it perform its protective functions, including limiting damage from the sun. Make sure to drink plenty of water before, during and after any time spent in the sun.

* Learn to recognize signs of dehydration, so you can take steps to reverse it. Early signs include muscle cramps and fatigue, while a dry mouth, headaches, dizziness, slurred speech and confusion all signal advancing dehydration. If your extremities become swollen or you become feverish, medical attention is necessary.

* Another way to check your hydration level is by monitoring your urination. Urine should be clear or light yellow, and you should urinate every two to four hours.Hydration Infographic_072015

* If you find yourself dehydrated and water isn’t available, a melon, orange, celery, cucumber or bell pepper can help replenish your body’s water content.

* Make it a post-workout practice to replenish electrolytes with a banana, dates or coconut water.

It’s important for everyday health to keep well-hydrated away from the gym, too. Staying properly hydrated helps regulate your body temperature, weight and mood. Keep a refillable bottle of water with you wherever you go, and if you need a touch of flavor, add lemon, lime, pineapple or cucumber for a refreshing twist. Aim to drink 50-75 percent of your body weight in ounces of water each day to stay hydrated.

For more health-related tools and information, visit www.guardyourhealth.com.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images (man working out)
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Source: Army National Guard

September 2, 2015 |

Study Finds Cataract Surgery Leaves Patients Satisfied

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(Family Features) By 2030, 38 million Americans will suffer from cataracts, a number that will increase to 50 million by 2050, according to the National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health. The most common treatment for cataracts is surgery, and new research suggests its benefits are strong.12824

A study of patient satisfaction surveys revealed that almost all patients who undergo cataract surgery are satisfied with their vision and quality of life post-surgery. The study, from the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care (AAAHC) Institute for Quality Improvement, showed that 99.7 percent of patients would recommend the procedure to friends or relatives suffering from cataracts. Ninety-six percent of patients reported that their vision was better post-surgery, and 98 percent said they were comfortable during the procedure and post-discharge. What’s more, 96 percent returned to normal activities of daily living within one week of the procedure.

“The data clearly shows that patients find value in cataract surgery and are generally very pleased with the outcomes of the procedure,” said Naomi Kuznets, Ph.D., vice president and senior director for the AAAHC Institute for Quality Improvement.

Cataracts occur when protein builds up on the lens of an eye, making the person’s vision cloudy. According to experts at the Mayo Clinic, common symptoms of cataracts include clouded, blurred or dimmed vision, increasing difficulty with vision at night and sensitivity to light or glare. Individuals experiencing these symptoms should consult an ophthalmologist to see if they are candidates for cataract surgery.

“The satisfaction numbers in this study show how worthwhile cataract surgery is for so many individuals,” said Kris Kilgore, R.N., AAAHC Institute board member and administrative director of Grand Rapids Ophthalmology Surgical Care Center in Grand Rapids, Michigan. “Every day we hear from patients who have improved quality of life thanks to this procedure. This study bears out empirically the wonderful anecdotes we hear from patients every day.”

Cataract surgery is an outpatient procedure, meaning it requires no overnight hospital stay. During cataract surgery, a surgeon makes a small incision to remove the cloudy lens, and then replaces it with a clear, manmade lens. To reduce the costs of the procedure and for patients’ convenience, surgeons commonly schedule cataract procedures at surgery centers, which are small surgical facilities that may be on a hospital campus or offsite.

The safety of these facilities is overseen by government regulators and by accrediting bodies such as AAAHC. During an accreditation evaluation by AAAHC, a trained medical professional visits a surgical facility to personally verify its adherence to patient safety, quality care and value standards.

If you are a candidate for cataract surgery, visit www.aaahc.org to find a local AAAHC-accredited facility.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

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Source: Institute for Quality Improvement

August 26, 2015 |
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