Posts Tagged ‘heart disease’

National Wear Red Day 2012

National Wear Red Day 2012 (Photo credit: U.S. Embassy Montevideo)

By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Are you surprised that heart attack is the number one cause of death for women? I was.  I wrote a paper for my Behavioral Medicine class in my graduate program in Psychology about women and heart disease. I learned so much about women’s heart attack symptoms and important screening exams that I thought I’d share some of what I learned with my loyal workingwellresources readers!

A heart attack, also known as a myocardial infarction, is considered to be an acute manifestation of cardiovascular disease. Heart attacks are usually caused when a blockage of the blood vessels supplying the heart with oxygenated blood causes blood to cease flowing to an area of the heart, causing that portion of the heart to be damaged or die. These blockages are most frequently caused by fatty deposits or plaque that builds up in the inner walls of arterial blood vessels. Symptoms for a heart attack are different in women than for men. In women, a heart attack may be occurring when a woman feels pressure or fullness in the center of the chest for more than a few minutes.  However, in men, heart attacks are often reported as feelings of intense discomfort or pressure in the chest. Women may experience shortness of breath even without chest discomfort. Women may also break out into a cold sweat feel nauseated or light-headed during a heart attack. In women, a heart attack can also manifest as shortness of breath, pain or discomfort in the back and/or jaw and nausea or vomiting. Men and woman can feel pain or pressure in the chest, but because symptoms tend to be less severe in women with heart attacks, many woman ignore the symptoms or take an aspirin and go to bed, thinking they have the flu, acid reflex or are just getting older. And since women tend to have heart attacks, on average, 10 years later than men, female heart attack victims tend to have a higher tendency to occur along with other chronic disease like diabetes or hypertension which puts them at greater risk than men for heart attacks to be fatal.

 According to the American Heart Association, each year approximately 785,000 U.S. citizens have an initial heart attack and another 470,000 have a recurrent heart attack. In 2007, according to the American Heart Association, 391, 886 U.S. men and 421, 918 U.S. women died of heart attacks.

Medical Treatments

Current medical treatment for hear disease includes prevention in the form of eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, and avoiding tobacco smoke, first and second-hand. Those that have heart attacks and survive them, as well as those with high cholesterol and/or high blood pressure, can lower the risk of another heart attack by taking statins to lower cholesterol, drugs to lower blood pressure and aspirin.

When a woman is having a heart attack, she needs emergency medical care in the form of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or electric shock (defibrillation) until she can get to the hospital. At the hospital, medical personnel will conduct tests to decide if she is experiencing a heart attack and determine the best course of treatment depending on the severity of the attack and her general health.

For those with heart disease, or for those surviving heart attacks, surgeries such as coronary artery bypass, balloon angioplasties, heart valve repair and replacement and heart transplants are available. For some patients, there are also medical implants that can help keep their heart operating, including pacemakers to keep the heart beating regularly, prosthetic valves to replace faulty heart valves and patches which can be used to close holes in the heart muscle.

Psychological Factors Affecting Risk, Onset, Severity and Recovery

Since women tend to have less severe symptoms of heart attack and tend to be caretakers of others, females may not take signs of a heart attack as seriously and may not seek appropriate medical attention. In addition, since women tend to have greater Cardiovascular diseases like heart attacks, on average 10 years later than men, females may discount the severity of the attack, thinking their symptoms are a sign of aging or are not serious enough to go to the hospital. If a weakened heart is left untreated, by the time a woman has a serious heart attack, it is likely to be more severe than a man’s heart attack for these reasons. And lastly, since women tend to be caretakers, after a heart attack, females may not feel comfortable taking the required time to recover and may push themselves to go back to work or childcare before they are fully recovered, thus increasing the risk of re-occurrence of a heart attack.

Sociocultural and Economic Influences

Aside from females being underrepresented in clinical trails for heart disease, over 80% of fatalities from heart diseases occur in people living in low-income and middle-income countries. Some of the risk factors for heart disease in low and middle-income countries include poverty and stress, as well as unhealthy diets and sedentary lifestyles. People in these countries also tend to have reduced access to effective health care including early detection. So being poor and having a stressful life with little exercise and a poor diet makes you a winner–in the heart attack game, that is. And who wants to “win” by having a heart attack?!

Since 80% of coronary heart disease is caused by behavioral risk factors such as poor diet, lack of exercise and cigarette smoking, you can reduce your risk of having a heart attack by engaging in healthier lifestyle behaviors such as quitting smoking, eating more vegetables and fruits and exercising more. Isn’t this list of healthy lifestyle behaviors becoming repetitive? It seems that most of our health problems, obesity, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure–all share the same common lifestyle risk factors of poor diet, not getting enough movement in our bodies easy day and cutting down on tobacco smoking and alcohol drinking. But even if you don’t engage in these unhealthy behaviors, getting regular medical exams for blood pressure and cholesterol tend to be lower your risk of having a heart attack. Lastly, learning stress management techniques as well as coping skills to better manage stress in your live can help your heart beat more easily, help your body overall work better and help you feel better and live longer!

So what is your game plan to reduce your risk of having a heart attack? I’d like to hear from you!


American Heart Association (2012) Heart Attack Symptoms in Women. (http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HeartAttack/WarningSignsofaHeartAttack/Warning-Signs-of-a-Heart-Attack_UCM_002039_Article.jsp.)

Center for Disease Control and Prevention (2012) Heart Disease. (http://www.cdc.gov/HeartDisease/coronary_ad.htm/)

Mayo Clinic (2011). Heart disease. (http://mayoclinic.com/health/heart-disease/DS01120).

McSweeny, J.C., Cody, M., Elbertson, K., Moser, D.K., Garvin, B.J. (2003) Women’s early warning symptoms of acute myocardial infarction. Circulation 108(21), 2619-23.

Roger, V.L., Go. A.S., Lloyd-Jones, D.M., Adams, R.J., Berry, J.D., Brown, T.M.,…Wylie-Rosett, J. (2011). Heart disease and stroke statistics–2011 update: a report from the American Heart Association. Circulation, 123(4), e18-e209.

World Health Organization (n.d.), Cardiovascular disease. (http://www.who.int/cardiovascular_diseases/en/)

Worrall-Carter, L., Ski, C., Scruth, E., Campbell, M & Page, K. (2011) Systemic review of

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By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

February is American Heart Month according to the CDC. And now, Elizabeth Banks, (the actress from Definitely, Maybe, Scrubs, 30 Rock, and Role Models, did a pretty attention-grabbing public service announcement. In “Just a Little Heart Attack,” Elizabeth is a multitasking, overworked mother of two getting ready for work, getting the kids ready, and ….having a “little” heart attack. But in a really cute and funny way that only Elizabeth Banks can pull off. I think it’s an effective and clear video that makes a heart attack in a seemingly healthy, thin, middle-aged woman seem very real. Elizabeth personalizes heart disease and packages her heart attack in a scenario many of us can either directly relate to or understand. For a PSA to be effective, it has to keep your interest and make its message simple. Elizabeth’s message seems to be, “take time for yourself, and know the warning signs of a heart attack.” Good advice!

Check out the video and tell me what you think. Is the video helpful, silly, interesting, funny. You be the judge.

Starring and directed by Emmy-nominated actress Elizabeth Banks.

“A little film about a super mom who takes care of everyone except herself” — Elizabeth Banks

Go Red for Women presents: Just  a Little Heart Attack.

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A cigarette butt, lying in dirty snow.
Image via Wikipedia

By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Recently a client of mine quit smoking. He’s using a combination of tools to help him stay quit and I have to say I am so proud of his progress so far!   When I quit smoking about 17 years ago, I found that the negative press on smoking wasn’t motivation enough. Quitting smoking is one of the toughest things I’ve ever done. Knowing that I could get lung cancer some far off date in the future should have scared me enough to quit, but frankly it didn’t. I could rationalize my smoking, tell myself I had plenty of time to quit before my health was impacted. I could tell myself that I’d deal with the consequences later. To give me the mental courage to quit I needed something to hang onto. I needed reasons why quitting would make my life better. Strategies for coping with life to replace the coping crutch of smoking.

The reasons I quite smoking were many. Remembering them helped me cope with withdrawal symptoms and keep me away from smoking.
1. I didn’t want to hurt my pets. They could get burned from accidents with cigarettes. It also hurt their little lungs.
2. I got mad when I was winded after walking up a flight of stairs. I wanted to be in better shape. Smoking was hurting my cardiovascular fitness.
3. Smoking wasn’t making me any thinner. I had quit before, gained weight and started smoking again to take the weight off. Only it didn’t work.
4. Smoking made me less desirable as an employee and as a partner. I was single and wanted to look for a new job when I quit. Smoking was holding me back on both counts.
5. I wanted my hair and skin to smell cleaner.
6. I wanted to stop the rapid aging process of my skin. Smoking made me look 10 years older!
7. Cigarettes were getting expensive. Back when I quit they were up to about $2.00 a pack. Now they cost even more. At about $8/pack x 30 days=$240…that’s the price of a car payment!
8. Smoking was no longer “cool.” Being a smoker made me feel socially alienated.

What are/were your reasons for quitting?

The American Cancer Society lists more great reasons to help motivate you to quit smoking. Read on to find out what they are!

When smokers quit — What are the benefits over time?

20 minutes after quitting: Your heart rate and blood pressure drops.

(Mahmud A, Feely J. Effect of Smoking on Arterial Stiffness and Pulse Pressure Amplification. Hypertension. 2003;41:183.)

12 hours after quitting: The carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal.

(U.S. Surgeon General’s Report, 1988, p. 202)

2 weeks to 3 months after quitting: Your circulation improves and your lung function increases.

(U.S. Surgeon General’s Report, 1990, pp. 193, 194, 196, 285, 323)

1 to 9 months after quitting: Coughing and shortness of breath decrease; cilia (tiny hair-like structures that move mucus out of the lungs) regain normal function in the lungs, increasing the ability to handle mucus, clean the lungs, and reduce the risk of infection.

(U.S. Surgeon General’s Report, 1990, pp. 285-287, 304)

1 year after quitting: The excess risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a smoker’s.

(U.S. Surgeon General’s Report, 1990, p. vi)

5 years after quitting: Your stroke risk is reduced to that of a non-smoker 5 to 15 years after quitting.

(U.S. Surgeon General’s Report, 1990, p. vi)

10 years after quitting: The lung cancer death rate is about half that of a person who continues smoking. The risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, bladder, cervix, and pancreas decrease, too.

(U.S. Surgeon General’s Report, 1990, pp. vi, 131, 148, 152, 155, 164, 166)

15 years after quitting: The risk of coronary heart disease is the same as a non-smoker’s.

(U.S. Surgeon General’s Report, 1990, p. vi)

Immediate rewards of quitting

Kicking the tobacco habit offers some benefits that you’ll notice right away and some that will develop over time. These rewards can improve your day-to-day life a great deal:

  • your breath smells better
  • stained teeth get whiter
  • bad smelling clothes and hair go away
  • your yellow fingers and fingernails disappear
  • food tastes better
  • your sense of smell returns to normal
  • everyday activities no longer leave you out of breath (such as climbing stairs or light housework)


The prospect of better health is a major reason for quitting, but there are other reasons, too. Smoking is expensive. It isn’t hard to figure out how much you spend on smoking: multiply how much money you spend on tobacco every day by 365 (days per year). The amount may surprise you. Now multiply that by the number of years you have been using tobacco and that amount will probably shock you.

Multiply the cost per year by 10 (for the next 10 years) and ask yourself what you would rather do with that much money.

And this doesn’t include other possible costs, such as higher costs for health and life insurance, and likely health care costs due to tobacco-related problems.
Social acceptance
Smoking is less socially acceptable now than ever.

Today, almost all workplaces have some type of smoking rules. Some employers even prefer to hire non-smokers. Studies show smoking employees cost businesses more because they are out sick more. Employees who are ill more often than others can raise an employer’s need for costly short-term replacement workers. They can increase insurance costs both for other employees and for the employer, who often pays part of the workers’ insurance premiums. Smokers in a building also can increase the maintenance costs of keeping odors down, since residue from cigarette smoke clings to carpets, drapes, and other fabrics.

Landlords may choose not to rent to smokers since maintenance costs and insurance rates may rise when smokers live in buildings.

Friends may ask you not to smoke in their homes or cars. Public buildings, concerts, and even sporting events are largely smoke-free. And more and more communities are restricting smoking in all public places, including restaurants and bars. Like it or not, finding a place to smoke can be a hassle.

Smokers may also find their prospects for dating or romantic involvement, including marriage, are largely limited to other smokers, who make up less than 21% of the adult population.

Health of others
Smoking not only harms your health but it hurts the health of those around you. Exposure to secondhand smoke (also called environmental tobacco smoke or passive smoking) includes exhaled smoke as well as smoke from burning cigarettes.

Studies have shown that secondhand smoke causes thousands of deaths each year from lung cancer and heart disease in healthy non-smokers.

If a mother smokes, there is a higher risk of her baby developing asthma in childhood, especially if she smoked while she was pregnant. Smoking is also linked to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and low-birth weight infants. Babies and children raised in a household where there is smoking have more ear infections, colds, bronchitis, and other lung and breathing problems than children in non-smoking families. Secondhand smoke can also cause eye irritation, headaches, nausea, and dizziness.
Setting an example
If you have children, you probably want to set a good example for them. When asked, nearly all smokers say they don’t want their children to smoke. But children whose parents smoke are more likely to start smoking themselves. You can become a good role model for them by quitting now.

Read more at the American Cancer Society website here.

How to Quit

Government Resources from the CDC website here.

Pathways to Freedom
Pathways to Freedom

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The Walkstation
Image by Scoobyfoo via Flickr

By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

It’s all over the web today…too much seat time can hurt your heart, increase your risk for cancer, obesity and diabetes, according to a study published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Assn. Doctors from the Karolinska Institute and the Swedish School of Sport and Health conducted a study that shows that sitting too long, not just lack of exercise, can contribute to heart disease and other life threatening diseases.

Journalist, Michelle Fay Cortez, writes in “Sitting Is a Silent Killer, Swedish Medics Warn Couch Potatoes” from Bloomberg.com, “The more time people spend in a completely sedentary state, independent of the exercise they get at other times, the higher their risk of becoming obese, and developing diabetes, heart disease and cancer, the doctors wrote in an editorial in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. The dangers are greater still for people who do little exercise as it is, the authors wrote.

While many people think of being sedentary as lacking in exercise, this is more accurately described as the time when the body’s muscles get no activity, the doctors said. They cited an Australian study showing that each extra hour women spent watching television boosted their risk of developing a group of heart complications known as metabolic syndrome by 26 percent, regardless of what exercise they took.”

Read entire article at Bloomberg here.

Unfortunately, most people I know, especially “knowledge workers” have jobs that require us to sit for hours behind a computer.  So, what do you do? Tell your boss, hey, my job is killing me? Not likely. However, many workplaces are responding to such studies with Walk at Work programs. Or allowing staff to go to yoga or other workout classes at lunch. Or providing yoga classes or personal training sessions at work. Some companies provide employees with desks that move up and down to allow for standing. Some very progressive companies use Walk Stations for employees to walk while they work on their computers. Other companies provide regular massage to help increase circulation to your muscles. Massage therapists also provide stretches for sedentary employees.

How to Add More Movement to Your Work Day

You can incorporate more movement and less sitting into your workday yourself with these simple ideas:

1. Take the stairs when you can versus an elevator.

2. Walk up or down a few flights of stairs for a 5-minute break every few hours.

3. Do jumping jacks at your desk or, if that embarrasses you, in the restroom.

4. Do squats at your desk. Simply stand up, then barely sit, then stand, then barely sit. Repeat 5 or 10 times.

5. Do side bends at your desk. Do 3 sets on each side and hold each “bend” for 15 seconds.

6. Stand up, take a few deep breathes, then reach for the ceiling, inhale, exhale and sit down again.

7. Stand up and do arm circles.

8. Walk around the office-take a few laps!

9. Stand at your desk when you are on the phone. March in place for extra points!

10. Drink water at your desk in a sport bottle to keep the water cool and prevent spills. If you drink about 20 ounces every few hours your bladder will create a natural timer for you to get up and take a break!

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By Sue Shekut, Licensed Massage Therapist, ACSM Personal Trainer, Certified Wellness Coach, Owner, Working Well Massage

Take this easy test to calculate your risk for diabetes and heart disease.

Just enter some basic health information and My Health Advisor very accurately calculates your risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Note: Your results will be more accurate if you know your blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels from recent blood tests.

My Health Advisor

Then, once My Health Advisor calculates your personal risk, you can quickly and easily see the difference simple lifestyle changes—like losing 5 or 10 pounds or quitting smoking—make in your overall risk. Then get your personal action plan outlining suggestions for lowering your risk for these deadly diseases. When you’re done, email your results to your doctor and make plans to discuss them at your next check-up.

You can stop type 2 diabetes, starting right now. Use My Health Advisor. Then talk to your doctor about your risk for diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Listen to your doctor. Eat better. Get moving.

Get started now!

Learn more about CheckUp America and your risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

What is My Health Advisor?

My Health Advisor is powered by Archimedes, a very powerful health modeling program that brings together a large amount of clinical research data to make highly accurate predictions about health risk. Archimedes creates a virtual reality in which all the important objects and events in the real world match objects and events in the model’s world.

When a simulation model is run, the objects interact and events occur as they would in the real world. So, My Health Advisor is very accurately projecting your personal risk based on real world events.

My Health Advisor was developed through the American Diabetes Association’s CheckUp America program, which is supported by unrestricted educational grants from Eli Lilly & Company, Merck & Merck/Schering-Plough Pharmaceuticals, Novartis, Pfizer Inc., sanofi-aventis, and Takeda Pharmaceuticals North America.

Go to the American Diabetes Association website for more details.

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