Stess and Anxiety in Children, new ways to cope with Depression

February 10, 2012 by  
Filed under STRESS, VIDEO

Weight loss: When to see the doctor for help

January 27, 2012 by  
Filed under OBESITY, VIDEO

Boot Camp Tabata Cardio

Complete ABS workout at home

Complete ABS workout at home

Battling and Beating Cancer — Coping With The Psychological & Social Aspects of Cancer Part 1

January 14, 2012 by  
Filed under STRESS, VIDEO

Battling and Beating Cancer — Coping With The Psychological & Social Aspects of Cancer Part 2

January 12, 2012 by  
Filed under STRESS, VIDEO

UMass University Without Walls – UWW Student Profiles

June 6, 2011 by  
Filed under VIDEO

I just found this health related video on YouTube … and thought you might enjoy it!

youtube.com/watch?v=nyL9OwfX2kk%3Ff%3Dvideos%26app%3Dyoutube_gdata

Through the University of Massachusetts Amherst University Without Walls, you can fit completing your college degree into your life and work by taking courses offered weeknights, weekends, online and blended (some live, some online). UWW will help you accelerate earning your degree with stimulating courses, a generous transfer credit policy, and the opportunity to earn credit for learning gained from your life, training, and work experience. Youll emerge with your diploma in hand, more confident, more knowledgeable in your field, a better problem-solver, with renewed professional and personal goals. People are at the heart of UWW. Youll find students supporting each other, sharing ideas and experiences. Youll work closely with a UWW advisor who teaches your UWW courses, holds a doctoral degree, and has years of experience guiding adult learners. A faculty sponsor specializing in your area of interest will review your plans and recommend appropriate courses. Browse our website to learn more about UWW’s nearly 40 years of helping people like you finish their first undergraduate degree at our nationally recognized research university. Then, when youre ready to apply, download your application. Were looking forward to hearing from you, so feel free to email uww@uww.umass.edu or call 413.545.1378. Were here to help!

Tell us what you think about this video in the comments below, or in the Battling For Health Community Forum!

Know your heart conditions: diastolic dysfunction

January 13, 2009 by  
Filed under HEART AND STROKE

Resource post for January

About 80 million adult Americans suffer from at least one type of cardiovascular disorder. This is equivalent to 1 in every 3 adults. Diastolic dysfunction is a commonly used term nowadays in connection with diagnosis of heart disease. This term, however, is fairly new, and the dysfunction has only been identified with improved diagnostic techniques.

What is diastolic dysfunction?

Before we can understand this disorder, we first have to understand how our heart works.

“Lub-dub” This is the sound that our heart makes with each and every heartbeat. And with every beat, the heart contracts and relaxes. The contraction phase when the ventricles contract to pump blood out of the heart is called the systole. The relaxation phase when the ventricles relax and get filled with blood pumped from above by the atria is the called diastole. The “lub-dub” sound is actually made by the heart’s valves as they close and open during the contraction – relaxation cycle.

Our heart has 4 valves, namely:

  • The tricuspid valve divides the right atrium from the right ventricle.
  • The mitral valve divides the left atrium from the left ventricle.
  • The pulmonary valve separates the right ventricle from the pulmonary artery, the big blood vessel that brings blood to the lungs.
  • The aortic valve is separates the left ventricle from the aorta, the big artery that carries blood from the heart to the body.

The soft “lub” is the sound that the mitral and tricuspid valves make when they close at the start of the systole or contraction phase. The louder “dub” is the sound that the aortic and pulmonary valves make when they close at the start of the diastole or relaxation phase.

Diastolic dysfunction occurs when the relaxation or diastolic phase of the heart does not proceed normally. This has something to do with “stiff” heart muscles leading to the failure of the ventricle to relax normally. This inability of the ventricle to completely relax results in:

  • the pressure in the ventricle to increase above normal.
  • difficulty for the blood to enter the ventricle in the next heartbeat.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), when not managed properly, diastolic dysfunction leads to inefficient pumping of the heart and “can cause increased pressure and fluid in the blood vessels of the lungs (pulmonary congestion). It can also cause increased pressure and fluid in the blood vessels coming back to the heart (systemic congestion).” This can eventually lead to diastolic heart failure.

According to this article in the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) site

diastolic heart failure is defined as a condition caused by increased resistance to the filling of one or both ventricles; this leads to symptoms of congestion from the inappropriate upward shift of the diastolic pressure-volume relation.”

A condition called systolic dysfunction also exists.

What causes diastolic dysfunction?

The disorder seems to be especially common in elderly women, even among those not previously diagnosed with heart disease. The following cardiovascular conditions can lead to the stiffening of the ventricles and thus diastolic dysfunction:

  • aortic stenosis
  • chronic hypertension
  • coronary artery disease
  • some forms of cardiomyopathy, e.g. hypertrophic and restrictive cardiomyopathy

How is diastolic dysfunction detected and diagnosed?

In its early stages, diastolic dysfunction does not manifest in obvious symptoms. Perhaps the earliest noticeable symptom would be dyspnea or shortness of breath. However, since this is a very common symptom for many kinds of diseases and disorders, diastolic dysfunction is often “missed” during routine medical check ups. Thus, “diastolic dysfunction may be present for several years before it is clinically evident.”

It its advanced stage, when diastolic dysfunction has progressed to the point of causing diastolic heart failure, the following symptoms and related conditions may be evident:

  • Abnormal heart rhythms such as atrial fibrillation
  • Periodic increase in blood pressure
  • Decreased tolerance to physical exercise
  • Severe breathlessness even without exertion
  • Edema or accumulation of fluids in the feet and ankles
  • Acute pulmonary congestion

A standard electrocardiogram or ECG unfortunately cannot easily distinguish between systolic and diastolic dysfunction. The most reliable but rather invasive diagnostic method is cardiac catheterization. As a less invasive alternative, a two-dimensional echocardiography with Doppler function can be used, although the physician must be well-trained in evaluating “the characteristics of diastolic transmitral and pulmonary venous flow pattern” in order to diagnose diastolic dysfunction.

How is diastolic dysfunction managed?

As in almost every disease, early diagnosis and treatment of diastolic dysfunction is important to prevent irreversible damage to the heart.

There is no easy way to treat diastolic dysfunction. However it can be effectively managed through treatment and management of the underlying conditions, namely:

High blood pressure. Management of hypertension is essential in the management of diastolic dysfunction. The AHA gives a comprehensive review of hypertension, including online tools to check for risk factors and blood pressure monitoring.

Coronary artery disease. CAD on its own requires aggressive management strategies to prevent heart attacks. This animation on the AHA site explains clearly how CAD develops.

Aortic valve stenosis. The aortic valve can also become stiff or is misformed at birth, resulting in aortic stenosis, a condition which puts a strain on the left ventricle. Usually, this condition is relieved by surgical interventions.

Arrhythmia. Abnormal heart rhythms such as atrial fibrillation need to be managed effectively to avoid further complications. The AHA site also gives a useful animation on atrial fibrillation. More information about arrhythmias can be found here.

Currently, there is a scarcity of conclusive data on therapies specifically for diastolic heart dysfunction and failure. However, the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association have jointly come up with guidelines which “recommend that physicians address blood pressure control, heart rate control, central blood volume reduction, and alleviation of myocardial ischemia when treating patients with diastolic heart failure. These guidelines target underlying causes and are likely to improve left ventricular function and optimize hemodynamics.” Medications used for the management of diastolic heart failure are summarized in this AAFP article (Table 4).

Can diastolic dysfunction be prevented?

Like many heart disorders, diastolic dysfunction and heart failure are preventable.

Primary prevention of diastolic heart failure includes smoking cessation and aggressive control of hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, and coronary artery disease. Lifestyle modifications such as weight loss, smoking cessation, dietary changes, limiting alcohol intake, and exercise are equally effective in preventing diastolic and systolic heart failure.”

Photo credits: stock.xchng

Resource for May: National Blood Pressure Awareness Month

May 19, 2008 by  
Filed under HEART AND STROKE

When was the last time you had your blood pressure (BP) checked? Do you know the difference between systole BP and diastole BP and what BP measurements mean for your health? Do you know your risk factors for hypertension and other cardiovascular disorders?

May is the month to start answering these questions. Since 1984, May has been proclaimed as the National Blood Pressure Awareness Month in the United States. The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) also calls it the National High Blood Pressure Education Month.

Why is hypertension dangerous? High blood pressure is a major risk for serious cardiovascular disorders such as myocardial infarction (heart attack), stroke, heart failure, and kidney failure. Heart diseases and stroke are the leading causes of death in the US.

According to the CDC, approximately 73 million Americans have high blood pressure. The direct and indirect health care costs of high blood pressure were estimated to cost more than 69 billion dollars in 2008.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), you have high blood pressure or hypertension when:

The CDC also gives this definition:

“High blood pressure or hypertension is defined as having a systolic blood pressure of 140 mm Hg or higher or a diastolic blood pressure of 90 mm Hg or higher measured on two or more occasions, or taking anti-hypertensive medication. Normal blood pressure levels are considered to be a systolic blood pressure less than 120 mm Hg and a diastolic blood pressure less than 80 mm Hg. Persons with above normal levels (systolic blood pressure of 120-139 mm Hg or diastolic blood pressure of 80-89 mm Hg) but are not hypertensive are considered to have “prehypertension.” These people are at a greater risk of developing hypertension than are persons with normal blood pressure levels.”

As part of its High Blood Pressure Awareness Month program, the AHA is inviting you to check, manage, and monitor your blood pressure with their free and easy-to use suite of online tools.

Blood Pressure Management Center.

This is a web-based tool which allows you to manage your high blood pressure while also keeping track of your body weight, physical activity and more. The tool is a product of a successful AHA alliance with Microsoft and their new consumer health platform, Microsoft HealthVault which “helps us implement our vision around health information technology.”

Blood Pressure Tracking Chart

With this downloadable and printable blood pressure tracking chart, you can track your blood pressure measurements and how they correspond to your weight and overall feeling of well-being. This is an important part of your Home Monitoring Plan after consultation with your doctor.

High Blood Pressure Risk Calculator.

With the latest readings of your blood pressure, you can actually calculate your risks of dying from cardiovascular events such as a heart attack or a stroke, as well as your risks of developing heart failure and kidney disease.

Heart Profilers

With this tool, you can find out more about your condition and about treatments and strategies to help you manage your blood pressure. The tool gives you a confidential personalized report about your treatment options for your condition.

High Blood Pressure e-newsletter

Through this free, monthly e-newsletter, AHA brings you news, tips and even heart-friendly recipes not only on hypertension but also on related diseases such as heart disorders, diabetes, and obesity.

The AHA tools aim to help us understand our health risks, get some quick answers to basic questions about our blood pressure.

In addition, you can also take the high blood pressure quizzes of MayoClinic to find out whether you have your high blood pressure under control and whether you are doing everything you can to manage your hypertension.

The CDC has also been stepping up its efforts for high blood pressure through the

The CDC has also been stepping up its efforts for high blood pressure through the CDC’s State Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Program.

“CDC currently funds health departments in 33 states and the District of Columbia to develop effective strategies to reduce the burden of heart disease, stroke, and related risk factors. This program emphasizes the need for policy, environmental, and systems changes that promote heart-healthy and stroke-free living and working conditions.”

I’ve personally tried the High Blood Pressure Risk Calculator and I’m happy with my results. However, getting good results doesn’t mean we should become complacent and forget about our blood pressure. Constant awareness and vigilance is necessary.

If your risk results are not optimal, then it’s probably time to talk to your doctor and discuss your options, including lifestyle changes that can help lower blood pressure and your health risks.

I must admit I am a bit disappointed with my performance on the blood pressure quizzes. It only goes to show again that complacency is something we cannot afford when it comes to our health. And that learning is a continuous process.

Yes, May is high blood pressure awareness month but we should not stop being on guard even when this month is over. Remember, blood pressure can change rather abruptly and with it your health status and your risks.

Photo credit

Walking helps prostate cancer patients stave off bone loss

November 6, 2007 by  
Filed under CANCER

According to reports at last week’s Annual Meeting of the American Society for Therapeutic Radiation and Oncology, it seems like there might be good news for prostate cancer patients who want to help boost the effects of their cancer treatments.

Researchers at Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins University have found that light exercise in the form of walking can help stave off bone loss in men with prostate cancer.

“Prostate cancer patients are not routinely advised to exercise. Walking is one tool that prostate cancer patients can use to improve their health and minimize the side effects of cancer and cancer treatments,” said Paula Chiplis, PhD., RN, the lead author of the study and a clinical instructor and senior research assistant at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.

“Walking has no harmful side effects, if done moderately, but it can dramatically improve life for men suffering from side effects from some prostate cancer treatments.”

Generally, men who are diagnosed with localized prostate cancer treatment follow a rigorous treatment plan that begins with radiation therapy and is followed by long-term hormone therapy. Often times, men undergoing that type of of hormone therapy are at risk for bone density loss, as the treatment decreases both testosterone and estrogen levels in the body.

These results were based on a study that examined 70 sedentary men with Stage I, II, or III prostate cancer. The study’s participants were randomly assigned to a group that either walked a half-hour about 5 times a week or a control group that followed no directed exercise program. The authors of the study plan to follow up their findings by determining whether a nurse-directed, home-based walking program can help boost mobility and function in prostate cancer patients during their cancer treatment and management stages.

This bodes well for prostate cancer patients who actively want to want to help boost their treatments. You can read more about the study here.

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.