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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Five ways to beat fatigue and have more energy

Winter is coming. As December begins, so does the holiday whirl. Office parties. Family get-togethers. Late nights spent trying to put together toys that have instructions written in a foreign language.

It can be easy to get overwhelmed, and feeling tired will make it more difficult to get through the month. So here are five ways to beat some of that fatigue, giving you more energy to face whatever is on your calendar.

 

  • Eat healthier food more often.

 

Most people understand the essentials of healthy eating: Eat several servings of fruit and vegetables every day, plus servings of grains, dairy, and a variety of proteins. Reduce fats, sugars and sodium.

But another way to evaluate how you eat is to look at how often you eat. The National Health Service in the United Kingdom notes that “a good way to keep up your energy through the day is to eat regular meals and healthy snacks every three to four hours.” This helps to keep your blood sugar levels more consistent, rather than spiking after large meals.

Just remember that if you’re eating more frequently, your meals should be smaller. Your daily intake should still remain around 2,000 calories, regardless of how it is eaten throughout the day.

 

  • Drink up.

 

Hydration is a key component of your diet. While you may not reach 64 ounces of water a day (and most doctors agree that eight 8-ounce glasses of water is a bit much for most people), drinking fluids throughout the day is essential. Not only can dehydration cause fatigue, it has also been shown to impair activity, alertness and concentration.

Don't drink your calories!If you’re drinking more than water (and most of us are), try to remember this mantra: Don’t drink your calories! Drinks can add up to a lot of additional calories throughout the day, particularly if you are drinking sodas or specialty drinks from the corner coffee shop. Aside from the additional calories, drinking sugary drinks may initially give you a spike in energy, but it is often followed by a crash, where you may have less energy than before.

When fatigue is a concern, the NHS recommends cutting two kinds of drinks: those that contain alcohol and caffeine. Even though a glass of wine or a pint of beer may help you relax in the evening, you won’t sleep as well after drinking alcohol, which means you’ll be more tired during the next day. And, like sugar, caffeine can cause spikes in your energy, leading to crashes afterward, making you feel even more tired.

 

  • Get moving.

 

It may seem counterintuitive, but if you’re feeling lethargic, taking a walk or doing some exercise is a great way to have more energy. WebMD points out that “Even a single 15-minute walk can give you an energy boost, and the benefits increase with more frequent physical activity.”

Yoga in particular may be especially helpful in increasing energy. A study done in 2009 found that after doing yoga once a week for only six weeks, the subjects had more energy and confidence that those that did not do yoga.

Exercising more may also help you lose weight, another factor in fatigue. “If your body is carrying excess weight, it can be exhausting,” notes the NHS. “It also puts extra strain on your heart, which can make you tired. Lose weight and you’ll feel much more energetic.”

If you’re struggling to fit exercise in during a busy season, here are some tips to fit exercise into your daily routine. You can also talk to a physical therapist about creating a safe and effective exercise plan. As musculoskeletal experts, physical therapists can evaluate your fitness and discuss what you should target to grow stronger and healthier. Search our clinic locator to see if there is a Physiquality PT near you that can help you develop a personalized fitness plan.

 

  • Make sure you're getting enough sleep.Catch some ZZZs.

 

Most of us don’t get enough rest to keep going — adults need 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night to be well-rested. In addition, pay attention to your habits. If you get up and go to bed at the same time every day, and allow yourself some time to relax before bedtime, you will feel better and have more energy.

If you do fall short on shut-eye, the doctors at WebMD recommend a brief afternoon nap. They explain that “a 10-minute nap is usually enough to boost energy. Don’t nap longer than 30 minutes, though, or you may have trouble sleeping that night.”

 

  • Talk to your doctor.

 

Finally, WebMD reminds readers that fatigue may be a sign that something is wrong, particularly if it comes on suddenly or lasts for a long time. They note, “It is a common symptom of many illnesses, including diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, anemia, thyroid disease, and sleep apnea.” Fatigue could also be a side effect of medications. Be sure to talk to your doctor if you feel unusually tired, and make sure to tell her about any new medications if a different doctor prescribed them.

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What is the difference between reactive and preventive healthcare?

Many Americans take a reactive approach to their healthcare needs: They only seek care once they have an injury or fall ill. This approach, says physical therapist Kathy Blair, often involves a costly progression of doctor visits, tests, medications, and procedures, in order to diagnose and treat conditions that might have been prevented. In addition, she points out, this type of care accounts for more than 75% of healthcare spending in the U.S.

Preventive or proactive care, on the other hand, means taking responsibility for your healthcare and well being before something happens. This includes taking simple actions, like exercising more and eating better, which can help you avoid unnecessary procedures and costly ER visits. Preventive healthcare, says Kathy, “stresses personal responsibility for staying well, and keeps healthcare spending in check as a result.”

Raj Thangamuthu  opened Empower Physical Therapy and Fitness with the express purpose of integrating physical therapy and fitness in one facility.Raj Thangamuthu, a physical therapist, opened Empower Physical Therapy and Fitness (a Physiquality member in Michigan) with the express purpose of integrating physical therapy and fitness in one facility. His goal was to encourage clients to improve their overall health and actually spend less time in his clinic as healthcare patients. Raj gives several reasons why it is better to have a preventive approach to healthcare:

  • In preventive care, pain is often not a limiting factor in making progress.
  • Muscle imbalances identified in preventive care often respond to treatment more quickly than when an injury is present.
  • Preventive care can help identify imbalances within your body and ultimately make you function much more efficiently when addressed. Read More

 

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Encouraging kids to make healthy decisions

If you’re a parent, this probably sounds familiar: You’ve worked to make a healthy meal for your son (or daughter), but he’d rather have a cereal bar. Or snack foods. Or nothing. So how do you encourage him to eat healthy food and make responsible choices when eating?

Nutrition and fitness expert Anna Dark encourages parents and caregivers to be patient and positive. She says, “The goal is to get them to adopt the healthier choices because it is GOOD for THEM and ultimately will form a good habit that will take them into their adulthood!” After earning her degree in nutrition, Anna became the Fitness Director at the Take Charge Fitness Program at Clinton Physical Therapy Center, a Physiquality member in Clinton, Tennessee.

Avoid comparisons to other children.Anna recommends avoiding comparisons to other kids, orshaming them by saying they are “fat;” this is especially true for girls, who have plenty of societal pressure to look a certain way. Such negative reinforcement will only lead children to associate eating better with punishment, rather than health.

Use your child’s hero as a positive way to get a child to eat better or to become more active, suggests Anna. For example, she says, “If your child’s hero is an athlete like Kobe Bryant, you could say, ‘Did you know that Kobe Bryant eats raw vegetables so he can be fast?’” Read More

Are all calories equal?

Whether we’re trying to lose weight or just want to eat healthy, most of us use counting calories as a way to judge whether we’re eating the right amount of food. (The prevailing goal of 2,000 calories a day came from the FDA starting in the 1990s; it’s the basis of all nutritional information printed on food packaging.)

But is that the only way we should measure our food intake? Are all calories equal?

Alyssa Cellini, a nutritionist with ProCare Physical Therapy (a Physiquality clinic in New Jersey), says absolutely not! She compares your digestive system to the gas tank in your car, something that can only hold so much at one time.

But the difference between the gas in your tank and the food in your belly is that you can’t see a measurement of how full your tank is, and it’s difficult to measure how much you’re consuming. (Yes, we know that we’re eating an apple, but how many calories is that?) In addition, she says, different foods fill up the tank differently, so equal amounts of different foods don’t necessarily fill us up the same way.  Read More

 

How can physical therapy help with migraines?

While headaches can be uncomfortable, migraines are debilitating. The sensitivity to light and sound. Nausea and vomiting. An intense throbbing in your head that can last for hours or days. The symptoms can be so severe that, as the Mayo Clinic puts it, “all you can think about is finding a dark, quiet place to lie down.”

Like back pain, treating migraines can be difficult because they can be triggered by many different things. Here are a few reasons you may be suffering from migraines:

 

  • Weather. Quick changes in the barometric pressure can cause a migraine.
  • Both too much and not enough sleep have been known to cause migraines.Stress.
  • Diet. Some people have reported migraines triggered by foods high in sodium or after drinking alcohol, especially wine. Caffeine, in particular, has been associated with migraines.
  • Genetics. Up to 90% of those that suffer from migraines have a family member who also has them.
  • Sleep. Both too much and not enough sleep have been known to cause migraines. (Don’t worry about one night here or there; doctors say migraine sufferers should focus on keeping a consistent sleep schedule by going to bed at the same time and waking up at the same time each day.)
  • Gender. Sorry, ladies: Women are three times more likely to have migraines than men. It’s thought to be a result of hormonal fluctuation, especially with estrogen.
  • Muscular tension. Tightness in the head and neck has been linked to migraines. (Be aware, though, that this could also be a sign of cervicogenic headaches, especially since the symptoms are often similar to migraines.)

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Eating Healthy Over the Holidays

With Halloween behind us and Thanksgiving approaching next week, the eating season has begun. While people often approach holidays like Thanksgiving with the attitude that it’s only one day of splurging, it can have long-term effects. A study by the National Institute of Health showed that despite only gaining 1-2 pounds a year over the holidays, people held on to the weight, leading to health problems later on.

When deciding what to serve or eat, there are a few things you should think about leaving out. Alyssa Cellini, a nutritionist with ProCare Physical Therapy (a Physiquality network physical therapy clinic in New Jersey), suggests replacing the following holiday menu items with healthier fare:

* Eggnog. One cup of eggnog contains 60 grams of sugar — the same as eating two glazed donuts. It also contains 20 grams of fat, half of most people’s daily allowance. Think about replacing it with a glass of wine.

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