Day 29: Step Up to Heart Health All Year Long

Throughout our “29 Days of Heart Health,” we’ve covered a lot of material—information about heart and vascular diseases and conditions; tips and videos on diet, exercise, stress, and more; delicious, quick-and-easy recipes from Chef Hib; and the occasional pop quiz.

There’s an old saying: Even the longest journey begins with a single step. We challenge you to take a step today. The American Heart Association has come up with “The Simple 7” steps to a healthier heart. Choose one, and get started:

Get physically active. Aim for 30 minutes of exercise, five days a week.

Control your cholesterol. This will help prevent blockages in your blood vessels.

Manage your blood pressure. It will help reduce the strain on your heart and blood vessels. Look for ways to manage stress, too.

Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese increases your risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.

Choose a healthy diet. Avoid foods high saturated and trans fats, sodium, and added sugars. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.

Reduce your blood sugar. This will lower your risk of diabetes, which is a risk factor for heart disease.

Stop (or don’t start) smoking. Everyone knows the serious health risks associated with smoking.

We hope you found “29 Days” to be helpful as you begin (or continue) your way toward a heart-healthy future.

Take care of your heart and blood vessels all year long—you can do it!

Join us at the Johnson County Heart Walk and 5K Run on Saturday,
May 5.

And please stay in touch with us via our Facebook page.

Heart-Healthy Recipe: Fennel Salad
Here’s one more tasty recipe from Chef Hib:

Shaved Fennel Salad with Oranges and Moroccan Oil Cured Olives
(6 servings)

3 oranges
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 cup Moroccan oil cured olives
1 tsp. honey
1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. white balsamic vinegar
2 fennel bulbs

Directions:
- Segment the 3 oranges into wedges.
- Pit the olives.
- Mix the olive oil with the orange juice and honey.
- Shave fennel with mandolin or slice thin with knife.
- Toss shaved fennel with dressing.
- Place fennel on center of plate; top with orange wedges and olives; drizzle with dressing.

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Day 28: What Have We Learned? A Heart Health Review

As we near the end of American Heart Month, let’s see how well you do on this pop quiz. The answers are at the bottom of this post.

1. LDL is “good” cholesterol and HDL is “bad” cholesterol. True or false?

2. Your blood pressure is considered normal if your reading is at or below:
a) 120/80
b) 140/90
c) 85/55

3. Unlike physical characteristics, certain diseases and health conditions cannot be passed down from a blood relative. True or false?

4. In the United States, more women die from cancer than heart disease. True or false?

5. What fats should you avoid in your diet because they are bad for your heart health?
a) Omega-3 fatty acids
b) Monounsaturated fats
c) Saturated and trans fats

6. Long term, or chronic, stress does not affect your heart health. True or false?

7. You have symptoms like light-headedness, pain your arms or shoulders, sweating, sudden or unusual fatigue, and nausea and indigestion, but you DO NOT have chest pain. There’s no need to seek medical attention. True or false?

8. Aerobic exercise like swimming, walking, and jogging is the best type of exercise to improve your heart health. True or false?

9. Anyone can do hands-only CPR. True or false?

Today’s Heart Health Topic: Pulmonary Hypertension
Pulmonary hypertension is abnormally high blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs. It makes the right side of the heart work harder than normal.

As we learned earlier this month, the right side of the heart pumps blood through the lungs to pick up oxygen. The blood then returns to the left side of the heart, where it’s pumped to the whole body.

Pulmonary hypertension occurs when the small arteries of the lung become narrow and cannot carry as much blood. As with a kinked garden hose, pressure builds, and the heart must work harder to force the blood through the vessels against this pressure, notes Sif Hansdottir, MD, a pulmonary disease specialist with UI Heart and Vascular Center.

Sif Hansdottir, MD

“Over time, the heart may become so weak that it can’t pump enough blood to this lungs, and this can mean heart failure,” she says.

Pulmonary hypertension may be caused by several different conditions, including diseases that affect the lungs, blood clots in the lung, heart valve disease, congestive heart failure, chronic low oxygen levels in the blood, certain medications, or obstructive sleep apnea. In many cases, however, the cause is unknown.

Fatigue is often an early symptom of pulmonary hypertension. As the condition worsens, other symptoms may include ankle and leg swelling, bluish color of the lips or skin, and chest pain or pressure.

There is no known cure for pulmonary hypertension, but treatments are available to control symptoms and slow the progression of the disease, Hansdottir notes.

“Treatment of pulmonary hypertension depends on the cause. Sometimes the best treatment is treating the underlying cause. In other instances, special medications that work on the vessels in the lungs are needed,” she says. “Clinical trials also are ongoing to develop new or better treatments or combinations that may lead to improved long-term results.”

Learn more about the Pulmonary Hypertension Clinic at UI Heart and Vascular Center.

Quiz Answers:
1. False. HDL is the “good” cholesterol and LDL is the “bad” cholesterol. Remember it this way: You want HDL to be HIGH. You want LDL to be LOW.
2. a
3. False. Certain diseases and health conditions can indeed be passed down from a blood relative. Some examples include heart disease, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
4. False. Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women in the United States.
5. c
6. False. Chronic stress can cause a rise in heart rate or blood pressure, which can damage artery walls.
7. False. You might be having a heart attack, but because these “other” symptoms feel like common ailments, people often don’t realize it. The moment you feel a heart attack warning sign, call 911.
8. True. Aerobic exercise makes your heart pump faster. Make it a goal to gradually work up to 30 minutes of aerobic activity three to five times a week. Check with your health care provider if you are beginning an exercise program for the first time.
9. True. Hands-only CPR, which involves chest compressions, has been proven to be as effective as CPR with breaths in sustaining adult cardiac arrest victims until emergency medical personnel arrive.

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Day 27: Advanced Heart Care

Sometimes surgery or advanced medical care is necessary for life-threatening or serious heart and vascular conditions. Today, let’s learn about some of the advanced clinical care options available at UI Heart and Vascular Center:

ECMO
ECMO stands for extracorporeal membrane oxygenation–a mechanical process that works in place of the heart and lungs. An ECMO machine takes blood from a vein, oxygenates the blood using an artificial lung, and pumps the blood back into the body using an artificial heart. It is similar to heart/lung bypass machines used in some surgeries, but ECMO can be used for an extended period of time.

ECMO is typically associated with newborn infants with serious lung or heart problems, but the treatment also is used with adult patients who have severe but treatable respiratory failure and/or heart disease. For some adult heart patients, ECMO provides a temporary “boost” so that the patient can undergo a surgical cardiac procedure such as the implantation of a stent.

The ECMO program at UI Heart and Vascular Center is the only such program in Iowa—and one of only a few in the nation—that is available for adult, pediatric, and newborn patients.

Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement
On Day 18, we covered minimally invasive surgery for heart valve repair and replacement. We also noted that earlier this year, UI Heart and Vascular Center became the first medical center in Iowa and the region to perform a different type of minimally invasive Svalve procedure: transcatheter aortic valve replacement, or TAVR.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the treatment, called the SAPIEN percutaneous heart valve replacement (manufactured by Edwards LifeSciences) in late fall 2011.

The procedure uses a catheter inserted through a small incision in a patient’s thigh to replace a person’s failing heart valve in the aortic artery. The technology is reserved for patients with severe aortic stenosis who are considered too high risk for traditional heart valve replacement surgery or were previously considered inoperable.

Total Artificial Heart
In July 2011, UI Heart and Vascular Center specialists achieved a medical first in Iowa: the implantation of a SynCardia temporary Total Artificial Heart (TAH)—the newest treatment option for the sickest heart failure patients.

Similar to a heart transplant, the Total Artificial Heart—the world’s first and only FDA-, Canada-, and CE (Europe)-approved device of its kind—replaces both failing heart ventricles and the four heart valves and pumps a high volume of blood to help vital organs recover faster. This allows stable patients to wait for a matching donor heart at home. It is currently approved as a bridge to transplant for people with end-stage heart failure affecting both ventricles.

Leading the Nation in Heart Transplant Results
The UI Heart and Vascular Center heart transplant and heart assist implant program last year achieved the lowest observed inpatient mortality ratio in the nation among its peers ranked by the University HealthSystems Consortium (UHC)—an alliance of 116 medical centers and 259 of their affiliated hospitals, representing more than 90 percent of the nation’s nonprofit academic medical centers.

UI Heart and Vascular Center ranks first among UHC members participating in the Clinical Data Base for Heart Transplant and Heart Assist System (VAD) outcomes.

The UI Heart Transplant Program had the most favorable scores for risk-adjusted mortality performance for heart transplants and implants of heart assist devices for patients discharged between October 2010 and September 2011. Of the 37 cases performed at the UI, there were no mortalities.

Ventricular Assist Device Program
UI Heart and Vascular Center also is home to the state’s only ventricular assist device (VAD) program for patients with advanced heart failure. The program earned Joint Commission certification in June 2010.

A ventricular assist device is a mechanical blood pump that takes over the function of a heart ventricle. The device typically is used to treat patients with advanced heart failure who are critically ill and waiting for a heart transplant. More recently, this therapy has been shown to effectively prolong life and improve the quality of life for patients who are ineligible for transplant.

The Ventricular Assist Device Program at UI Heart and Vascular Center is the only one in Iowa that offers this type of therapy.

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Day 26: Sunday Fun Day (Send Us Your Recipe)

What heart-healthy dishes do you enjoy preparing? We want your recipe!

Send it via our “Leave a comment” section at the bottom of this post or add it to our Facebook wall, and we’ll send you an American Heart Association “Go Red for Women” cookbook.

Heart-Healthy Recipe: Tzatziki
Here’s a quick-and-easy Greek dip from Chef Hib:

Greek Tzatziki
(32 servings)

1 pint low-fat yogurt
1 English cucumber
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tsp. fresh garlic, chopped
1 tsp. fresh dill, chopped

Directions:
- Grate cucumber
- Mix ingredients in a bowl
- Serve with crusty bread

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Day 25: Deep Vein Thrombosis, Varicose Veins

Today, let’s focus on two common conditions that can affect your veins.

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) refers to the formation of blood clots deep inside the body, usually the legs. DVT mainly affects the large veins in the lower leg or thigh.

These blood clots can block blood flow. DVT symptoms in a leg include pain, swelling, skin redness, increased warmth, and tenderness.

Bed rest, smoking, recent surgery, and a family history of blood clots, obesity, and heart failure can increase your risk for DVT. You also are at increased risk if you have cancer or blood that is more likely to clot, or if you take estrogen or birth control pills and smoke.

DVT is more common in older adults, but it can occur at any age. The condition generally disappears over time. However, DVT sometimes can lead to a life-threatening condition called an embolism, which occurs when the blood clot breaks away and moves through the blood stream. Embolisms can get stuck in the brain, lungs, heart, or other areas and cause severe damage.

If you have DVT, your doctor typically will prescribe you blood-thinning drugs. In some cases, surgery may be required.

Varicose veins are enlarged, twisted blood vessels that you can see just under the surface of the skin. Varicose veins usually occur in the legs, but they also can form in other parts of the body. Varicose veins are common and mostly affect women.

In normal veins, valves keep blood moving forward toward the heart. With varicose veins, the valves do not function properly, allowing blood to remain in the vein. Pooling of blood in a vein causes it to enlarge.

Despite popular belief, it’s not merely a cosmetic problem. In some cases, varicose veins can cause mild to moderate pain and potentially more serious problems like blood clots or skin ulcers.

If varicose veins do cause pain or other problems, your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes. Painful or more serious cases may require medical procedures.

Rachael Nicholson, MD

In this video, Rachael Nicholson, MD, a vascular specialist with UI Heart and Vascular Center, discusses venous disease:

Read about the Vein Clinic at UI Heart and Vascular Center or call 319-356-2902 for more information.

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Day 24: Passing It On (Family Health Tree)

Has anyone ever told you that you look just like your mother or father?

Many of your physical characteristics are passed down genetically from your parents. The same holds true for certain diseases and health conditions. Having a blood relative with heart disease, for example, may increase your risk for getting heart disease. Your risks of developing diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol are influenced by both environmental and genetic factors.

The more you know about your family’s health history, the more you can do to reduce the risks of getting heart disease and other serious conditions. Fill out “My Family Health Tree” from the American Heart Association.  It’s a a great tool for the entire family.

Remember, even though certain diseases have genetic factors, making healthy lifestyle and food choices can decrease your risk. For help getting started, complete the “My Healthy Habits Checklist” from the AHA. Post it in an easily viewed place, like the refrigerator, as a reminder to keep your heart healthy.

After finishing your family health tree, talk to your parents and family members about how they can reduce their risks for heart disease. Share your family health tree information with your doctor during your next visit.

Today’s Heart Health Topic: Seeing a Cardiologist
A cardiologist is a doctor with advanced training in diagnosing and treating diseases that affect your heart and blood vessels. You might also see a cardiologist to determine your risk factors and learn about ways to prevent heart and vascular diseases.

Your primary care provider may refer you to a cardiologist, but it’s not necessary. Many patients “self-refer” for an appointment.

While all cardiologists are experienced in taking care of your heart and blood vessels, it’s worth noting that some cardiologists may specialize in specific conditions or procedures—heart failure or arrhythmias, for example, or cardiac catheterization, a procedure used to determine heart function. If heart surgery is needed, your cardiologist will refer you to a cardiothoracic surgeon, a specialist in operations of the heart, lung, and blood vessels.

So what happens when you go to a cardiologist?

“The visit typically will include a detailed discussion about any symptoms you may have, plus a review of your medical, family, and social history in order to determine your cardiovascular risk factors,” says Theresa Brennan, MD, a cardiologist with UI Heart and Vascular Center.

Theresa Brennan, MD

“Your cardiologist also will perform a physical exam—checking your pulse and blood pressure; listening to your heart beat, lungs and blood vessels; and feeling your abdomen for swelling or tenderness,” she adds. “This will determine next steps such as tests, treatment options, or consultation.”

Preparing for your visit can help you make the most of your time with your cardiologist, Brennan notes.

“Bring a list of your current medications, as well as your current health care providers and, if possible, a family health history of blood relatives,” Brennan says. “Write down any questions you may have and bring them with you, too—it’ll help ensure that all your concerns are covered.”

Consider the acronym PACE as part of your visit with a cardiologist or any health care provider:

- Provide information about how you feel.
- Ask questions if you don’t have enough information.
- Clarify what you hear.
- Express concerns you may have.

Evening clinic appointments are available at UI Heart and Vascular. Learn more or call 319-356-7102.

Heart-Healthy Recipe: Wasabi Tuna
Here’s an appetizer that will delight your taste buds:

Wasabi Furikake-Crusted Tuna with Mango Carpaccio and Rice Wine Lemon Vinaigrette
(6 appetizer servings)

6 oz. sushi-grade tuna
1 mango, peeled and sliced thin
Fresh watercress for garnish
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp. rice wine vinegar
1 tsp. low sodium soy sauce
1 oz. wasabi furikake

Directions:
- In a bowl, whisk olive oil, lemon juice, rice wine vinegar, and soy sauce
- Coat tuna with the furikake on all sides, then sear in a hot, oil-coated pan for five seconds on each side.
- Place sliced mango on a plate, slightly overlapping
- Slice the seared tuna
- Place tuna on the mango plate
- Drizzle the vinaigrette liberally
- Garnish with fresh watercress

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Day 23: Heart Health by the Numbers

Pop quiz! Let’s see how well you know your numbers:

1. You should try to keep your total cholesterol below…
a) 250
b) 200
c) 2,500
d) 20,000

2. Your blood pressure is considered normal if it’s lower than…
a) 180/20
b) 160/30
c) 120/80
d) 50/50

3. The American Heart Association recommends how much sodium per day?
a) Less than 1,500 mg
b) Less than 15,000 mg
c) Exactly 4,800 mg
d) 867-5309

To check your answers, visit “Numbers That Count.”

Today’s Heart Health Topic: Heart Failure
Heart failure doesn’t mean that your heart has stopped beating.

Heart failure, also known as cardiomyopathy, develops over time as the heart muscle weakens and gradually cannot pump enough blood to your body.

It’s a common condition—as many as 5.7 million Americans have heart failure.

Heart failure symptoms can easily be remembered with the acronym FACES:
Fatigue
Activities limited
Chest congestion
Edema, or ankle swelling
Shortness of breath

The main causes of heart failure are conditions that damage the heart. These include high blood pressure, past heart attack, heart valve problems, heart rhythm abnormalities, blocked coronary arteries, diabetes, and obesity.

Frances Johnson, MD

While there is currently no known cure for heart failure, medications and lifestyle changes can help people with heart failure live longer, more active lives, notes Frances Johnson, MD, cardiologist and director of the Cardiomyopathy Treatment Program at UI Heart and Vascular Center.

“For years, heart failure patients were counseled to rest and give up most activities, but today it’s clear that normal activities are safe for most patients and may even help relieve symptoms. With reasonable activity, proper nutrition, and weight management, patients can do quite well living with this condition,” she says.

Besides medications, other treatments may be needed for some heart failure patients. An implantable cardioverter defibrillator, for example, monitors heart rhythm and gives an electrical shock when needed. A biventricular pacemaker helps the chambers of the heart beat together. Surgical procedures to open a blocked coronary artery or repair a heart valve also are options. Advanced treatments such as ventricular assist devices, heart pumps, or even a heart transplant may be necessary in serious cases.

“Most heart failure patients don’t need advanced therapies, but it’s reassuring to know that proven treatments are available,” Johnson says. “Researchers continue to study new ways to treat heart failure and manage its symptoms.”

Learn more about the Cardiomyopathy Treatment Program at UI Heart and Vascular Center, or call 319-356-1028 for a “Your Guide to Heart Failure” booklet.

‘Get to Know Your Heart’ tonight in Cedar Rapids
Join us for this special event at the Rockwell Collins Recreation Center. It’ll be informative and fun…and it’s free!

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Day 22: The Stress Continuum

We live in a hectic world. And sometimes we allow stress to dictate how we approach and manage each day.

Chronic stress robs us of pleasure, productivity, and creativity. It can cause a rise in heart rate and blood pressure that may damage artery walls. Overeating, consuming too much alcohol, and smoking may feel like stress relief, but these “remedies” can take an additional toll on your heart.

Take a look at this stress continuum:1 — I’m creatively and cheerfully engaged in life.
2 — I’m relaxed and expect to stay this way.
3–5 — I can handle stresses and think of positive solutions to my challenges.
6–7 — I’m moderately irritable, anxious, or overwhelmed, and stresses feel burdensome.
8 — My problems seem unsolvable. Many things are irritating or upsetting me.
9 — Help! I’m about to lose it!
10 — I have chart-topping negative emotions!

Where would you put yourself at this very moment?

The next time you feel stress, identify the small changes in your mood as you move up the continuum. If you are like most people, your stress level will climb in a predictable pattern. If you take time to learn your emotional cues, you can regulate your stress so that you spend more of your time in the “low zone” (between numbers 1-5).

Once you have passed the “mid-zone” mark, consider stress-management techniques. Take a five-minute walk outdoors, call a friend, or keep a funny book on hand when you need a laugh. Notice what happens to your mind and body when you take these breaks.

Also, remind yourself of what you can and cannot change in your life. This may help you put things in perspective and avoid chart-topping emotional responses.

Check out these FAQs about stress.

Today’s Heart-Health Topic: Diabetes and Heart Health
Diabetes is a condition that causes blood sugar to rise to dangerous levels.

Most of the food you eat is turned into glucose (a sugar). Glucose is a major source of energy for most cells in your body.

Your pancreas produces a hormone called insulin that’s necessary for your body to use glucose. Insulin helps transport sugar from the blood into the cells, where it can be used as your body’s fuel.

When your body does not produce enough insulin and/or does not efficiently use the insulin it produces, sugar levels rise and build up in the bloodstream. And that can lead to medical problems.

There are two main types of diabetes:

- Type 1 diabetes was previously known as juvenile diabetes because it’s usually diagnosed in children and young adults. However, this chronic, lifelong disease can strike at any age, and those with a family history of it are particularly at risk.

- Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of the disease. Historically, type 2 diabetes has been diagnosed primarily in middle-aged adults. Today, however, adolescents and young adults are developing type 2 diabetes at an alarming rate. This correlates with the increasing incidence of obesity and physical inactivity in this population, both of which are risk factors for type 2 diabetes.

Left untreated, diabetes can lead to a variety of medical problems such as heart disease, kidney disease, nerve disorders, and blindness.

Diabetes can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke, notes Jennifer Goerbig-Campbell, MD, a cardiologist with UI Heart and Vascular Center.

Jennifer Goerbig-Campbell, MD

“People with diabetes, and Type 2 diabetes especially, typically also have risk factors for cardiovascular disease—hypertension, high cholesterol, obesity, and lack of physical activity, for example. In fact, diabetes itself is considered a major risk factor for heart disease,” Goerbig-Campbell says. “That’s why it’s so important for patients with diabetes to work with their health care team to monitor and manage the disease. Patients often will need to make lifestyle changes—proper nutrition and exercise are prime examples—to keep their diabetes under control.”

Learn more about diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Test your knowledge by taking this Diabetes Quiz.

Heart-Healthy Recipe: Watermelon Soup
Another easy-to-make summertime favorite from Chef Hib:

Chilled Watermelon Soup with Midori and Green Apple
(8 servings)

1 small watermelon (5-6 lbs.)
1 Tbsp. fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup Midori (Japanese melon liqueur)
2 Granny Smith apples, sliced
1/4 cup honey

Directions:
- Peel watermelon and dice
- In blender add watermelon, honey, midori, and lemon juice; blend thoroughly
- Place the blended soup in a soup bowl and garnish with green apple

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Day 21: Heart Health is a Family Affair

For many people, heart disease develops over years, and it can begin at a young age. So heart-healthy habits should start early, too.

A study published in the Jan. 26 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine reported that people who reached middle age without smoking or having high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes had substantially lower risks of death due to heart disease at age 80 than people with two or more of these risk factors.

In other words, a healthy lifestyle brings major benefits later in life. The key, therefore, is getting children and young adults off to a heart-healthy start.

As a parent and a caregiver, UI Heart and Vascular Center cardiologist Theresa Brennan, MD, understands the stress placed on today’s families. In this video, she discusses communicating with children about healthy habits and how a little preparation can help ease an every-day-hectic lifestyle:

Learn more from the American Heart Association on “How to Make a Healthy Home.”

Today’s Heart-Health Topic: Children’s Weight Issues
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), one-third of American children and teenagers today are overweight or obese—nearly triple the rate from 1963. Childhood obesity now tops drug abuse and smoking as the leading concern among parents.

Today, obesity is causing a range of childhood health problems that typically were not seen until adulthood—high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and elevated cholesterol levels, for example. There are emotional and psychological effects, too—obese children are more likely to have low self-esteem, negative body image, and depression.

It’s a serious issue for many families. Being overweight in childhood has been linked to higher and earlier death rates in adulthood, and obese children have an 80 percent chance of remaining obese their entire lives, the AHA notes.

Dwayne Campbell, MD

Helping your kids achieve and maintain a healthy body weight is important. It may not always be easy, but it can be done, says Dwayne Campbell, MD, a cardiologist with UI Heart and Vascular Center.

“Parents lead by example in so many ways,” Campbell says. “If your kids see you making healthy food choices and getting physically active, they will notice. Small, incremental steps over time—gradually replacing cookies and candy with fruits and vegetables or getting kids involved in choosing and planning meals, for example—will be more effective in the long run than immediately throwing out all the junk food.”

Children (and adults) like to be praised for doing something right, so keep things positive. By setting realistic goals and participating together, you can make heart-healthy eating and exercise a family affair.

Learn more about whether obesity is an issue in your house.

Go Red Girl Scouts
UI Heart and Vascular Center is proud to be a partner with the AHA and the Girl Scouts of Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois to offer the Go Red Girl Scouts Patch Program. The goal is to help raise awareness that heart disease is a serious women’s health issue—one that starts with lifestyle habits developed early in life.

The patch activities and online tools help girls make healthy choices and encourage the women and girls in their lives to do the same. The program includes a section on family activities that range from planning a family outing that involves physical activity to planting fresh vegetables in your garden.

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Day 20: Aging, Exercise, and Heart Health

Exercise is good for people of all ages, including seniors.

If you’re an older adult, regular physical activity helps you continue to do things that you enjoy. It boosts mental wellness; improves mobility and lowers your risk of injuries; and helps prevent age-associated conditions like heart disease and diabetes.

Let’s consider four different types of exercise and how these can be incorporated into your everyday routine:

Aerobic exercise increases your breathing and heart rate, which helps your lungs and blood vessels stay healthy. Some easy, everyday ways to get aerobic exercise include yard work, pushing your grandchildren on a swing, vacuuming, and walking.

Improving muscle strength can help you climb stairs, carry groceries, and stay independent. Examples of how to improve your muscle strength include using resistance bands, carrying a full laundry basket from the basement, carrying your smaller grandchildren, or lifting things in the garden.

Balance exercises help prevent falls, which can be a concern for many older adults. Some simple ways to improve your balance include walking heel-to-toe, walking up and down the stairs, and standing on one foot. It is often best to learn balance exercises from a doctor or physical therapist before starting on your own. Many exercises that increase muscle strength in the legs, hips, and lower back also can help improve balance.

Stretching can help your body stay flexible. Some everyday ways to stretch include making your bed and bending over to tie your shoes. You can also improve your flexibility by learning shoulder, upper arm, and calf stretches.

There are lots of places to be active in your community. For instance, many churches and senior centers offer exercise programs. Many older adults also choose to walk in shopping malls because they are well lit, safe, free, and open year-round.

Remember, however: If you’ve never exercised regularly or have been inactive for a long time; are age 50 or older; are overweight; have a medical condition or are taking medications; or have a family history of heart disease, check with your doctor first. Your health care provider can help you choose the best exercise routine based on your current health and what you hope to achieve.

Today’s Heart-Health Topic: An Aging Heart
Some changes in your heart and blood vessels occur normally with age. For many older adults, these include:

- A slightly slower heart rate due to changes heart’s natural pacemaker that controls heartbeat.

- An increase in heart size and a thickening of heart walls. This change actually decreases the amount of blood your heart can hold despite its increase in size.

- Abnormal heart rhythms, or arrhythmias, which are more common in older people and may be caused by heart disease.

- Unstable blood pressure as receptors that help maintain consistent blood pressure become less sensitive with age. This is why it’s common for some older adults to become dizzy when changing from a lying or sitting position to standing.

- Thickening and stiffening of blood vessel walls that lead to increases in blood pressure for many elderly people.

- Reduction in the number of red and white blood cells, which may contribute to fatigue or reduce your body’s ability to fight infections.

Phillip Horwitz, MD

“Changes to your heart and blood vessels as you get older decreases the ‘workload’ your heart is able to tolerate,” says Phillip Horwitz, MD, a cardiologist and director of clinical services at UI Heart and Vascular Center. “Some of these changes simply occur with age but other factors also contribute—medications, stress, illnesses and infections, and physical exertion, for example.”

However, don’t think that heart disease during your “golden years” is inevitable, Horwitz notes. You can manage conditions like diabetes, hypertension, or high cholesterol that put you at increased risk for heart disease.

‘Eating a heart healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, exercising regularly, and having regular checkups for your heart is the way to go whether you’re in your 20s, 40s, 60s, or older,” Horwitz says. “It’s never too late to start making changes that will help your heart.”

Heart-Healthy Recipe: Grilled Asparagus
More on-the-grill perfection from Chef Hib:

Grilled Asparagus with Parmesan and Pine Nuts
(6 servings)

1 lb. asparagus (ends trimmed)
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
2 oz. shaved Parmesan cheese

Directions:
- Toss asparagus in olive oil
- Grill asparagus to desired tenderness al dente
- Place asparagus on plates; add Parmesan cheese and pine nuts

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