6 habits for a healthier heart

Most of us know that exercise improves your cardiac health — you get moving and your heart pumps more, which helps your heart remain strong. But what else can you do to improve your heart health?

A few years ago, the American Heart Association, or the AHA, created Life’s Simple 7: seven ways to improve your cardiac health. One of those seven is exercising more. Your PT can help you create an exercise regimen to help you get moving, in the best way for your particular body. Use our locator to find a Physiquality therapist in your neighborhood.

Here are the AHA’s six other ways to make your heart stronger and healthier.

 

  • Manage your blood pressure to keep your heart healthy.Manage your blood pressure.

 

High blood pressure, or hypertension, can put you at risk for a variety of health problems, especially heart and kidney failure, stroke and vascular disease.

It’s important to know in what range your blood pressure falls, as well as whether it’s consistent over time. Talk to your doctor about your blood pressure and whether it falls into a healthy range under the new hypertension guidelines that the AHA published with the American College of Cardiology last fall. If it doesn’t, while there are medicines to take for hypertension, your doctor will most likely advise some lifestyle changes to improve your blood pressure first: lower your sodium intake, eat more fruits and vegetables, reduce stress, and exercise more.

 

  • Control your cholesterol.

 

In the past, patients were simply told to watch their cholesterol levels, as it can lead to blocked arteries and stroke. Now we know that LDL cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol) is the type that leads to these build-ups, while “good” or HDL cholesterol actually cleans your arteries of plaque and build-ups. When your doctor runs blood tests, you usually get a report on both types of cholesterol, with the hopes that your HDL levels are higher than your LDL levels.

If you have high levels of LDL cholesterol, you may be able to lower it simply by eating a low-fat diet and monounsaturated fats, like olive or canola oil; others may need help with medication. Speak to your doctor about what cholesterol range is right for you, and how best to achieve it.

 

  • Lower your blood sugar levels.

 

Lower your blood sugar levels to help your heart.Your blood sugar level is literally the amount of sugar, or glucose in your blood. High glucose or blood sugar levels can be a sign of type 2 diabetes and can lead to nerve damage, kidney or eye problems, heart disease and stroke.

As with cholesterol, there are medications that can regulate your blood sugar, but for most people it is better to start by changing your eating habits. Eating more fruits and vegetables, drinking fewer sugary drinks, and filling up on high fiber foods are easy ways to reduce the amount of sugar you’re consuming.

 

  • Eat better.

 

The AHA notes, “A healthy diet is one of your best weapons for fighting cardiovascular disease. When you eat a heart-healthy diet, you improve your chances for feeling good and staying healthy — for life!”

The AHA nutrition recommendations aren’t anything new: Focus on fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, whole grains, and chicken and fish, and avoid foods and drinks that are high on salt, fat or sugar – and low on nutrients. If you’re trying to change your habits, Harvard Medical School recommends adding one extra fruit or vegetable a day, or eating a handful of nuts as a snack in the afternoon.

 

  • Stop smoking.

 

Smoking is one of the worst things you can do for your health. It can lead to cardiovascular problems like stroke and coronary heart disease; respiratory illnesses like emphysema and chronic bronchitis; and cancer, not only in the lungs, but also throughout the rest of the body.

If you want to quit smoking, it can be hard to do it on your own. The AHA has plenty of resources to help you quite successfully.

 

  • physical therapy walking on treadmillLose weight.

 

While we know losing weight sounds easier than it usually is, it has been shown that having extra pounds on your frame causes stress on your heart, lungs, bones and even blood vessels. The good news is that by following the guidelines mentioned above — eating healthier foods, lowering your blood sugar levels, and, yes, exercising — people often lose weight.

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Sarcopenia and loss of strength

with advice from Daniel Butler, CEP

Sarcopenia and loss of strength

Sarcopenia, the loss of skeletal muscle mass, is a part of what has been called “the slippery slope of aging.”

As people age, they often start to experience sarcopenia, as well as osteopenia and osteoporosis. Having weaker muscles and bones, plus the arthritis caused by years of wear and tear, can make movement more difficult and painful. The pain leads to less activity, which contributes to weaker bones and muscles, making it even more difficult to move. And so on.

Doctors and scientists are still not quite sure what causes sarcopenia, but they have linked a number of factors to its development, according to the Mayo Clinic: age-associated hormone changes, physical inactivity, inflammation, and diseases like cancer and diabetes. Because inactivity can lead to sarcopenia, doctors encourage older adults to exercise more to build muscle mass.

Exercise increases hormone levels, builds muscle mass, and contributes to weight loss.Daniel Butler, a personal trainer and clinical exercise specialist who works at the Take Charge Fitness Program, a wellness facility run by Clinton Physical Therapy Center (a Physiquality network member in Tennessee), is an expert in helping people avoid age-related physical problems. He points out that exercise not only builds body mass, but it also releases some of the hormones that start to dwindle as we age, like testosterone and growth hormones.

In addition, it can help older adults lose weight, reducing the pain associated with arthritis; having more weight on your frame can exponentially increase the pressure on your joints. So activity increases hormone levels, builds muscle mass, and contributes to weight loss. Win, win, win!

If you haven’t been very active and don’t know where to begin, says Daniel, go for a walk. Walking doesn’t take any special skills, and in many areas of the country can be done outside year-round. If it’s too cold outside right now, he adds, there are several places to walk indoors, like shopping malls, commercial gyms and community centers.

Daniel notes that water exercise is a great alternative. Just like walking, it can be done indoors or outside, and the resistance provided by the water is enough to strengthen bones and muscles.

If you’re hesitant about trying a new activity on your own, talk to your physical therapist — PTs can create a walking or exercise program to build muscle mass at a rate that you are comfortable with. Use our locator to find a Physiquality therapist in your neighborhood.

It's important for seniors to avoid frailty.The key to aging well is avoiding frailty, the last step in the “slippery slope.” Daniel recommends keeping an eye on your bone density through DEXA scans, and then taking steps, such as proper diet and exercise, to maintain strong and healthy bones. He also notes that regular balance screenings can detect loss of equilibrium. If loss of balance is present, there are exercise and physical therapy protocols that can help restore balance.

The last point Daniel makes is that it’s important for seniors to be social. Meeting up with friends outside the house, whether you’re going for a walk or seeing a movie together, gets you off the couch and moving — and the more you move, the better you’ll feel.

 

Daniel Butler, CEP Daniel Butler, CEP, has been a personal trainer for more than 10 years at the Take Charge Fitness Program, a wellness facility run by Clinton Physical Therapy Center, a Physiquality network member in Clinton, Tennessee. A former Marine, Daniel holds certifications from the American College of Sports Medicine as a clinical exercise specialist and the Arthritis Foundation as an aquatic instructor, and he completed his B.S. in health administration in 2012.

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The new nutrition guidelines: What you need to know

with advice from Anna Dark

The new nutrition guidelines: What you need to know

Every few years, the Departments of Agriculture and of Health and Human Services analyze their nutritional recommendations and release a new set of guidelines. If you don’t feel like reading through the three chapters and 14 appendices of the latest release, the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, nutritionist and personal trainer Anna Dark will take you through the latest changes and updates.

Anna, who works at the Take Charge Fitness Program (a wellness program at Clinton Physical Therapy Center, a Physiquality member in Tennessee), says there are three big recommendations that have been added to this edition:

Limit your added sugar intake to 10% of your daily calories.Limit your added sugar intake to 10% of your daily calories. This refers to any product or food item that adds sugars, like soda or cookies, as compared to fruit or even vegetables that may naturally contain some sugar. As the New York Times points out, “It is not the natural sugar in dairy foods and fruits that undermine health so much as the sugars added to foods like ice cream and fruit drinks and the enormous array of dessert and snack foods that Americans consume.”

This trend of increasing sugar in our diet is one of the reasons that the prevalence of type 2 diabetes is increasing. Anna points out that by limiting added sugar, we can reduce our chance of developing the disease.

Reduce your daily sodium intake to less than 2300 mg/day. This is another recommendation that isn’t too surprising; many processed foods rely on sodium, or salt, to improve flavor. The convenience can come at a cost: High sodium intake has a direct correlation to high blood pressure. Anna reminds readers that achieving healthy blood pressure numbers is an important goal for optimal overall health!

Less than 10% of daily calories should come from saturated fats. Evidence shows a diet high in saturated fats leads to cardiovascular disease, says Anna. The American Heart Association goes even further, recommending a daily limit of 5-6% of your daily calories. That means that if you’re eating 2,000 calories a day, about 120 of them would come from saturated fats, or 13 grams.

So the guidelines recommend limiting salt, added sugar and saturated fats. While this is the first time that the USDA and the HHS have specifically outlined these limits, it shouldn’t come as a surprise. Past guidelines have always emphasized fresh fruits and vegetables over fatty and processed foods.

The guidelines no longer give a specific limit for cholesterol intake.One recommendation that has changed? The guidelines no longer advise a specific cholesterol limit, Anna notes, because after several studies, the scientists and nutritionists did not find enough evidence to give a specific limit. The guidelines do recommend limiting cholesterol, but note that foods often high in cholesterol are also high in saturated fats, so by limiting one, you’ll often limit the other. The exceptions to this rule are eggs and shellfish, which means that those foods would not be as limited as they were before.

As always, these guidelines are just a guide, not hard and fast rules. They are meant to give Americans tips on how to improve their diet and eat healthier food. This version even includes sample days for three different types of diets: An American diet, a Mediterranean diet and a vegetarian diet. It’s one way to evaluate your own choices to consider whether you’re making healthy choices whenever you eat.

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What is dementia, and how does rehabilitation therapy help?

What is dementia, and how does rehabilitation therapy help?

Getting older can be scary. We worry about weaker bones and osteoporosis. We worry about losing our balance and falling, which can lead to serious injury. And many of us worry about losing our memory. Older adults and their family members should know that there is a difference between becoming a little more forgetful (what some elders call their “senior moments”) and the early signs of dementia.

Dementia is more than being forgetful; it’s categorized by the loss of cognitive skills, or the way that a person can consider and make decisions. The National Institutes of Health explain that compared to mild forgetfulness, dementia impacts daily life, interferes with decision-making, and affects every-day tasks. Dementia can affect “memory, language skills, visual perception, and the ability to focus and pay attention.” It is caused by damage to brain cells; when the brain’s cells can’t communicate properly, the way we navigate the world around us is affected.

Dementia is often but not always permanent.Dementia is not always permanent. It can be caused by excess fluid in the brain (normal pressure hydrocephalus), infections, head injuries and brain tumors, or reactions to alcohol or medication. If these conditions are treated, it is possible that the dementia will recede.

Unfortunately, most causes of dementia are irreversible.Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, accounting for as much as 80% of dementia cases. Alzheimer’s causes permanent changes in the brain, affecting short-term memory and learning at first, and eventually causing almost complete memory loss.Other irreversible causes of dementia include vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies and Parkinson’s disease. Some people have a combination of conditions that cause the dementia, referred to as mixed dementia.

If you or a loved one is concerned about recent memory loss, the Alzheimer’s Association has posted 10 early signs that you might be at risk of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. If you are starting to feel confused when you solve problems, have issues completing familiar tasks at home or at work, or feel yourself withdrawing from work or social activities, it may be time to talk to your physician about whether you’re at risk for dementia.

The process of dementia can be slowed down with both medication and therapy.While irreversible dementia isn’t curable, the process can be slowed with both medications (prescribed by your doctor) and some types of rehabilitation therapy. Specially trained speech-language pathologists help patients with dementia and memory loss retain cognitive skills as long as possible. According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, the professional organization of speech-language pathologists, SLPs focus on the “cognitive aspects of communication, including attention, memory, sequencing, problem solving, and executive functioning.”

Others on the rehabilitation team can also help people with dementia. Occupational therapists can help to set up safe environments without obstacles; if the person is still living at home in the early stages of dementia, an OT can do an assessment to reduce the risk of falling and remove the risk of dangerous items (like flammable liquids or the use of the stove). OTs and SLPs can create a home environment where reminders are posted about daily tasks, helping the patient to remain independent for as long as possible. Andphysical therapists can work with the person to keep her physically active for as long as she is able, which can also contribute to slowing down memory loss, while reducing the chances of falling.

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How physical therapists can help seniors increase activity for healthy aging

Aging isn’t fun for anyone. Your memory starts to fade, your body slows down and gains weight, and your joints start to stiffen. And while no one can reverse or stop the aging process, one of the best ways to reduce the speed at which your body is changing is to be more active.

“As the years go by, staying active becomes one of the key factors in staying independent, pain-free and feeling good,” says Randy Gustafson, a physical therapist and the owner of Physiquality member Mesa Physical Therapy in San Diego, California. Exercise is known to help prevent and reduce such problems as heart disease, diabetes, and stroke, along with its more obvious benefits of increasing strength and reducing — or at least maintaining — weight. And, Randy points out, better health from increased activity often allows patients to reduce their reliance on some medications, allowing patients to take them less frequently or sometimes quit them altogether.

If you want to exercise more but haven't done so in a while, walking is an easy activity to begin with.If you want to exercise more but haven’t done so in a while, walking is an easy activity to begin with. It’s low-impact and has been shown to reduce the risk of heart attacks. It doesn’t require training or special equipment, just a good pair of shoes. And it’s easy to measure your progress with a pedometer, or even simply timing your walks.

Mika Yoshida, a certified strength and conditioning specialist, recommends the Arthritis Foundation’s Walk With Ease program as a way to measure progress. As a fitness instructor at the Take Charge Fitness Program at Clinton Physical Therapy Center, a Physiquality member in Clinton, Tennessee, she often works with patients who are uneasy about returning to exercise after an injury or chronic illness. The Walk With Ease program offers local groups, where patients can walk with others hoping to improve their health, and guidelines if people prefer to create their own program. Read More

 

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How do physical therapists improve women’s health?

It can be easy to shrug off feminine pain or problems because it would be embarrassing to discuss them with, well, anyone. In honor of women’s health week, consider consulting one of the many physical therapists that has specialized in treating issues that are specific to women’s health, making them an excellent resource when your health problems can no longer be ignored.

Karen Munger, a physical therapist, chose to work at The Center for Physical Rehabilitation, a Physiquality clinic in western Michigan, because the owners supported her efforts to develop a women’s health program there. They provided her with the education and equipment necessary to evaluate and treat such issues as pelvic floor dysfunction, including pelvic pain and urinary incontinence; constipation-related issues and bowel incontinence; postpartum problems; and core retraining.

Some PT clinics offer programs for urinary incontinence and pelvic pain, catering to a wide range of women.Karen is quick to remind readers that these programs are not just for women that have gone through pregnancy. “Our urinary incontinence program caters to young athletes, post-partum mothers and older women alike,” she says. And the clinic’s pelvic pain program covers a variety of issues, including vulvodynia, dyspareunia (or painful intercourse), vaginismus, painful bladder syndrome, coccyx (or tailbone) pain, groin pain, sacroiliac pain and abdominal pain.

– See more at: http://www.physiquality.com/blog/?p=7794#sthash.f4nP3s13.dpuf

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What is osteoporosis? Can it be prevented?

As we age, our bodies are not as healthy as they were when we were younger. Muscles are slower to react. Joints are not as fluid as before. And bones are weaker than they were in our youth.

Osteoporosis is a bone disease most commonly found in older women, particularly those of Caucasian or Asian descent. Literally translated as “porous bone,” osteoporosis happens when bone density has decreased and the bones have become brittle. Unfortunately, the early symptoms of osteoporosis are easy to miss, like back pain or stooped posture. This is why most people don’t find out that they have the disease until they break a bone.

Your bones are constantly changing and creating new bone cells. When you’re younger and growing, your body creates more bone than it loses. This shifts as we reach our mid-20s, when our bodies slow down the process and we’ve reached our peak bone mass, or bone thickness.

Literally translated as "porous bone," osteoporosis happens when bone density has decreased and the bones have become brittle.
 

By the time we’re in our 50s and 60s, the process has reversed, and we’re losing more bone cells than we’re producing.  Read More

What is fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a condition that, for many people, is associated with more questions than answers. However, physical therapists, as experts in musculoskeletal problems, are an important resource for people who have fibromyalgia.

Let’s start with what fibromyalgia is: Due to its varied symptoms, fibromyalgia can be difficult to diagnose. People with fibromyalgia usually have widespread pain throughout the body, often accompanied by tender points, muscles and joints that are particularly susceptible to pain and movement. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Researchers believe that fibromyalgia amplifies painful sensations by affecting the way your brain processes pain signals.”

Other symptoms can include insomnia, fatigue, muscular stiffness (especially in the morning), headaches, forgetfulness and cognitive difficulty (sometimes referred to as “fibro fog”), and tingling in the extremities (the hands and feet). The symptoms sometimes begin after a traumatic event, like a car accident or an invasive surgery, or they can develop over time. It’s most often diagnosed in women, but 10-20% of those suffering from fibromyalgia are men. You may also be at risk if family members have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, or if you have a rheumatic condition like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus.

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How exercise can help prevent disease

It’s probably no surprise that exercise is good for you. The physical therapists in the Physiquality network recommend physical activity as part of living a healthy lifestyle, and we all know it can help you lose weight and feel better. But how exactly can it improve your health? Here are a few ways exercise can actually prevent health problems.

Heart disease

The oft-cited parameters to work out 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week (or 150 minutes a week) were published by the American Heart Association in 2011. They are part of the AHA’s simple seven rules for maximal heart health:

  • Get active
  • Control cholesterol
  • Eat better
  • Manage blood pressure
  • Lose weight
  • Reduce blood sugar
  • Stop smoking

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