Surprising Facts About Women And Heart Disease

February 6, 2013 at 9:29 am , by

Way too many women are still dying of heart disease. We need to talk about women’s heart health all year long, of course, but February is the month when marketing and media really flex their muscles to raise awareness. So we asked Lisa Collier Cool, a member of the Journal’s new Health and Wellness Blogger Team, to surprise us with some facts from her upcoming book. Check it out!

By Lisa Collier Cool

Life insurance companies know a secret that most doctors never tell patients: When it comes to rating your risk for a fatal heart attack, the least important cholesterol number is your level of LDL (bad) cholesterol. Instead, actuaries use a math formula to tell if you might be headed for a heart attack. They divide your total cholesterol by your HDL (good) cholesterol level. If the ratio is below three, you’re likely to qualify for the best insurance rates because your heart-attack risk is relatively low. (However, any abnormal cholesterol result, including high LDL, can pose a threat to your heart, especially when combined with other risk factors.)

That’s just one of the surprising facts I learned while working on my upcoming book, Beat the Heart Attack Gene, with coauthors Bradley Bale, MD, and Amy Doneen, ARNP, co-founders of the Bale/Doneen Method of heart and stroke prevention. Here are seven more things you may not know about women’s heart health.

1. Since 1984, heart disease has killed more women than men each year, claiming more women’s lives than all forms of cancer combined.
2. Getting a flu shot cuts your risk for a heart attack or stroke by up to 50 percent.
3. For a healthy heart, take a few days off from work. Women who only go on vacations once every six years, or less often, are eight times more likely to suffer heart attacks or die from cardiac causes than those who vacation at least twice a year, according to a 20-year study.
4. Delicious news: People who eat the most dark chocolate are 37 percent less likely to get heart disease, and 29 percent less likely to have a stroke, than those who eat the least chocolate, an analysis of studies involving 114,009 people found. However, a square or two a day is all you need.
5. Yo-yo dieting can harm women’s hearts, a new study reports.
6. Seventy percent of heart attacks have the same root cause as type 2 diabetes: insulin resistance. Find out if you’re at risk by asking your healthcare provider to order a two-hour oral glucose tolerance test to check for abnormal blood sugar.
7. Fifty percent of women who have a heart attack don’t call 911, often because they don’t recognize the symptoms. Click here to find out the warning signs and more shocking facts about women and heart disease.

Photo copyright antoniomas, shutterstock.com


Why You Need To Go Red Right Now

January 30, 2013 at 8:51 am , by

Can a color make a difference? When I say the word “pink,” I know what pops into your mind: breast cancer. The pink-washing of October has been phenomenally successful at making everyone aware of breast cancer—and comfortable talking about this once-verboten subject. Millions of donation dollars have led to advances in detection and treatment. The next step, we hope, is prevention and a cure.

Now here’s why you need to go red. Because far more women die every year of cardiovascular disease than they do of breast cancer—in fact, 10 times more. CVD is still the number 1 killer of women. And way too many of us are still in denial. I get furious when I hear stories of women who downplay their symptoms and don’t call 911 when they could be having a heart attack. We need to change this!

Ten years ago, the American Heart Association and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute created National Wear Red Day to raise awareness and help spread the word about how women can reduce their risks of heart disease. It’s working—but not enough. We’re asking you to get on board.

Make sure you know the symptoms of a heart attack and what you should do. Memorize these!

Wear red this Friday, February 1, to show you mean business. Get your friends, family, work colleagues and even your pets to do it, too. Then share your photos here.

Here’s what else you can do. Encourage your friends by using this image as your Facebook profile shot.

Make a donation by shopping for the cause here.

See you in red this Friday—let’s help make a difference!

Photo copyright Zoom Team, shutterstock.com

 


Three Fitness Trends to Shake Up Your Routine

January 23, 2013 at 5:36 pm , by

It’s not yet the end of January, which means you’re probably still on track for reaching your healthy resolutions. But maybe you’re starting to get really, really bored with the elliptical? We normally eschew trendy exercise routines, but trying something new (and maybe a little outside your comfort zone) every once in a while is a great way to keep things interesting. Here are a few fun fitness trends you might want to check out.

1. Spin for the Soul
Spinning classes have always been popular at gyms, but cycling seems to be taking over. You may have heard about the almost cult-like classes at SoulCycle, described recently as “part dance party, part therapy, part communal high,” or the rival Flywheel Sports, which bills classes as an “amazing escape.” If you need a new obsession, you might start there. Or you could try spinning for good at Cycle for Survival, a series of fundraising events at Equinox Fitness Clubs across the country. Participants spend the day cycling to raise money for Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center’s rare cancer research, a sadly underfunded cause. Anyone can sign up! Learn more here.

2. Unwind with Self-Massage
The MELT method is a series of gentle exercises and self-massage techniques using balls and foam rollers. Sue Hitzmann, a manual therapist and exercise instructor who developed the technique, opens her new book by explaining how she learned to manipulate natural “vibrations” to “restore balance in the body.” Sounds wacky, I know. But I decided to try one of her classes here in New York City recently because I’ve heard foam rollers can work wonders on achy muscles, and I wanted to learn more. Hitzmann showed us simple exercises for massaging our feet and hands using rubber balls, along with some breathing techniques. It felt pretty good, but it wasn’t until we moved on to massaging our spines using a soft foam roller that I converted. I sit at my computer constantly, which is murder for the neck and shoulders. I’ve tried everything from yoga to chair massages, but nothing has released the tension in my upper back as quickly as Hitzmann’s techniques. You can buy supplies and how-to DVDs at Hitzmann’s web site or look up a MELT class near you.

3. Play Like A Kid
Gyms can be expensive or intimidating, which is why we love the idea of “natural movement” fitness. If harsh lighting and communal locker rooms just don’t sound appealing, something like MovNat might be right for you. Instead of training by lifting weights or running on a treadmill, natural movement systems like MovNat focus on the ways you played as a kid: running, jumping, climbing and so on. Erwan Le Corre, who created MovNat in 2008, recently described it this way to Time HealthLand: “This isn’t about the elite fitness of winning gold medals. It is about doing the movements that make us humans, and acquiring a physical competence that we can maintain for a lifetime.”

Photo: shutterstock.com

 


Meet Our New Health and Wellness Blogger Team

January 16, 2013 at 4:01 pm , by

Did you get your hands on a February issue yet? We announced our first round of Journalistas, a team of bloggers we’ll be working with to bring even more cool stuff to the Journal. In the spirit of the new year, we started with our favorite health-savvy ladies. We will be tapping them for fresh takes and great advice on health, nutrition and exercise. The team’s first assignment? Share your healthy-living philosophy in 140 characters or less.

Carla Birnberg
Mizfit Online,
@Mizfitonline
“My equation: move every day + meditation + mindful eating – negativity = feeling great!”
Carla Birnberg is a personal trainer, mom, blogger and fitness fiend. She’s been blogging since 2001, and she launched MizFitOnline in 2007 to share health and fitness knowledge with people who don’t have time or money for their own personal trainer. Besides her thoughtful advice and witty tweets, we love Mizfit’s tagline: “Because fitness isn’t about fitting in.”

 

Lisa Cain, Ph.D.
Snack Girl, @Snack_Girl
“Small steps make big changes. Fall in love with healthy food. Guilt is a waste of time.”
Lisa Cain may have a doctorate in evolutionary biology, but her real obsession is healthy food, specifically healthy snacks. She and her husband Matt try their best to stay away from too much packaged stuff and instead focus on creating recipes with fresh veggies from their backyard garden. She shares lots of tips for incorporating fresh ingredients and her recipes are so creative, like this zero-guilt chunky onion dip or these DIY peanut butter cups.

 

Toni Carey and Ashley Hicks, co-founders
Black Girls Run, @BlackGirlsRun
“It’s simple: water, yoga, running and balance,” says Carey
“My recipe for healthy living: run, eat clean and meditate,” says Hicks
According to the CDC, four out of five African-American women are overweight or obese, an unacceptable statistic if you ask the ladies behind Black Girls Run. Toni Carey and Ashley Hicks launched the site in 2009 to encourage African-American women to make exercise and healthy eating a priority. Besides the inspiring blog, you can organize a running group and stay motivated by joining the BGR network.

Lisa Collier Cool
Yahoo! Day in Health, @LisaCollierCool
“To boost heart and brain health, I clip on a pedometer every a.m. and go.”
Lisa Collier Cool is an award-winning health journalist and author whose work has appeared in the Journal. She blogs about the day’s health news for Yahoo!, which means writing about everything from new research on redheads to how to get six-pack abs.

 

Jenn Walters
Fitbottomed Girls, @FitBottomedGirl
“Walk my pup, eat veggies and lean protein, and do what brings me joy!”
FitBottomedGirls started as a way for two fitness-obsessed friends to stay in touch. Now it’s an online fitness mecca. Jenn Walters updates multiple times each day with everything from DVD reviews to tidbits on healthy eating to personal exercise triumphs (and trials).

Erin Whitehead
Fitbottomed Mamas, @FitBottomedMama
“Eat breakfast every day, get plenty of sleep, run around with my kids, love and laugh.”
Even before the Fitbottomed Girls got pregnant, they thought a site for busy moms to get fitness advice was a great idea. So after Erin Whitehead gave birth to her daughter, she and Walters launched their sister site for FitBottomed Mamas. She posts tons of advice for fitting exercise into your schedule, working out when you’re pregnant or recently post-partum and staying healthy while managing the demands of a growing family.

Watch for our health Journalistas online and in the magazine, and stay tuned to meet our beauty and style teams!

 


Trick Yourself Into Getting Fit in 2013

January 9, 2013 at 11:38 am , by

‘Tis the season for New Year’s Resolutions, which means all over the country people are renewing their vows to get fit and lose that weight. Are you working on your own health goal? We figured you might be.

It’s a sad truth that most women who resolve to get their butts in gear in January are back to their old habits by springtime. That’s why we asked Carla Birnberg, the personal trainer behind MizFitOnline.com and a member of our brand new blogger network, to give us some novel tips for sticking with it.

Do less than you think you can do.
Yes, you read that right. Do less. It’s not helpful to push yourself as hard as you can when you’re first getting started, Birnberg says. That’s just going to lead to burnout. Instead, jog fewer miles at a slower pace than you think you can do, or better yet, start by simply going for an evening walk and build from there.

Play instead of work.
Instead of thinking about exercise as another chore, turn your workouts into a game. One of Birnberg’s favorite things is playing hopscotch with her daughter. The hopping around works your balance, core strength and it gets your heart pumping. It’s fun, calorie-torching perfection, she says. (That’s Birnberg above during one of her recent “playouts” with her daughter.)

Break your big goal into smaller goals.
So you want to lose 20 pounds? That takes a long-term commitment, which can easily wane when you don’t see any payoff right away. Instead, try breaking it down into a bunch of smaller goals. For example: “This week I’ll go for a jog three times,” or even, “Today, I will eat five servings of vegetables.” Not only does this way give you more chances to succeed and gain confidence, it also forces you to recommit to your big goal every day.

Want more? Follow @MizFitOnline on twitter and check out Birnberg’s brand new e-Book here.


The FDA’s Top Consumer Health Concerns of the Year

January 2, 2013 at 3:34 pm , by

We just love top 10 end-of-year lists, especially when they dispense helpful health information. The FDA just released its list of the most popular health updates on its site for 2012. Here are four you should know about it, in case you missed them the first time around:

Number 9: Statins to prevent heart disease
Have you resisted your doctor’s efforts to prescribe Lipitor or another statin drug because of concerns about side effects? The FDA recently expanded and clarified its advice on the risks of these drugs. You may have heard that you need frequent testing of your liver enzymes while on these meds, but here’s some good news: it’s no longer considered helpful or necessary. But there are other potential risks of these drugs, including memory loss, type 2 diabetes and muscle damage. Read more details.

Number 7: Triclosan in antibacterial products
Should you be washing your hands with antibacterial soaps? As we reported in our Guide to Germs in the November issue, triclosan is an ingredient that can kill the really nasty bugs, but studies show that plain old soap and water do just as good a job of it. And while the FDA doesn’t come right out and say you should avoid it, they do say that several scientific studies that have been done recently merit further review. And many experts believe triclosan can lead to antibiotic-resistant bacteria. That’s reason enough for us to avoid the ingredient (easy, since it’s required to be on the label). Click here for more info.

Number 5: Arsenic in rice
This topic made headlines a few months ago. Does it mean your sushi is poisoning you? Probably not—unless you’re eating mountains of the stuff. The FDA has been testing samples of all kinds of rice products, and it’s shocking that they’re finding inorganic arsenic in everything from cereals to rice cakes. So far the folks at the FDA are not saying you should stop eating rice. They’re still studying this. But we say if rice is one of the main staples in your diet, you may want to go for a little more variety in the grains you eat till experts know more. Get the full scoop here.

Number 1: Getting rid of unused medicines
The new year is a good time to check your prescription and OTC drugs for expiration dates and clean out your overstuffed medicine cabinet. But how do you dispose of medicines safely while protecting kids, the environment and your own medical information? Follow these FDA guidelines.

Check out all the latest consumer updates from the FDAAnd have a safe and healthy 2013!

Photo: shutterstock.com

 


The Quick, Easy Blood Test That Could Save Your Life

December 18, 2012 at 11:37 am , by

In addition to your mammogram and colonoscopy, the CDC wants you to add another screening to your list: a one-time blood test for hepatitis C.

Ever heard of it? Don’t worry if you haven’t; you’re not alone. When people find out my father died of hepatitis C, I can count on two reactions. The first is, of course, “I’m so sorry to hear that.” The second is confusion.

Hepatitis C starts out as a virus in your blood after a needle stick, blood transfusion or other blood exposure. Some people exposed to the virus can clear it, but for 75 to 85 percent of people the infection becomes chronic and can lead to liver scarring (known as cirrhosis), liver failure and liver cancer. Chronic infections may not cause symptoms for 20 to 30 years, when damage to the liver is already done.

“There are between 3 and 4 million people infected, and the vast majority of them are baby boomers who don’t know it,” says Martha Saly, executive director of the National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable. That’s why the CDC recently announced recommendations urging anyone born between 1945 and 1965 to get tested.

Before 1992, there wasn’t a test for it, so it was impossible to screen for hepatitis C in the blood supply. As a result, many people were infected from a transfusion they got years ago. Other common ways of transmission include a history of needle drug use or contact with unsterile instruments, say, at a tattoo and piercing parlor or through a needle stick, says Shmuel Shoham, M.D., an infectious disease expert at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and a member of the LHJ Medical Advisory Board. But there are plenty of people who don’t know how they got it.

While new cases of hepatitis C have remained low since the early ’90s, experts are bracing for the crop of people who were infected years ago and need to be treated. Deaths from hepatitis C have risen steadily for more than a decade to more than 15,000 in 2007, says Bryce Smith, lead health scientist from the CDC’s Division of Viral Hepatitis.

When my dad was diagnosed in 2004, no one ever talked about hep C, and by the time he got tested he was already really sick. It’s bittersweet to see it in the news so much lately now that new treatments bring the cure rate up to 80 percent. I know the thought of another screening test may sound daunting, but trust me, it’s worth the peace of mind.  If every boomer did it, the CDC estimates that it will save more than 120,000 lives.

Infographic via the CDC. Click here for an enlarged, shareable version you can post on your Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest to spread the word about screening for hepatitis C.


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