Monday, July 30, 2012

Emotion: Factor In Heart Disease

“When a man dies, he does not just die of the disease he has – he dies of his whole life,” said the philosopher.  And now, from Britain, Dr. Alastair U. Mackinnon offers evidence to show that, with heart disease at least, that old proverb is true.

Writing in the Journal of the Royal College of General Practitioners, Mackinnon showed that the “anguished inner life of a patient” can be a prime factor in coronary thrombosis.  For more than three and a half years, he took photographs of all the coronary disease patients who visited the outpatient clinic at the General Infirmary at Leeds.  He also interviewed some 70 patients.

Dr. Mackinnon came up with shocking evidence that heart disease is often the final stage of emotional problems.  In more than half of the photographs he took, severe tension was obvious.  Interviews showed that the lives of the coronary victims were hectic – they lived at fast pace and were under emotional turmoil.

Some of the younger men worked 60 hours or more a week.  About 25 percent held down two jobs.  The emotional pressure such a schedule causes apparently produces biological and pathologic changes in the blood and the blood vessels.  Any incident which produces severe emotional stress at this time can trigger a heart attack and perhaps death.

What’s The Best Age To Have A Heart Attack?  Certainly, not when you’re young, reports Fitness for Living.

A 15-year study by the National Academy of Sciences reveals that the younger man who suffers a heart attack undergoes more severe cardiac damage, and is more likely to die suddenly or within the first 24 hours than is the man in his 40’s or 50’s.

The one advantage the younger men have:  if they survive the first year, a slightly larger proportion of them continue to live for 15 years than do the older men.

Discovering Potential Heart Victims.  Col. Loren F. Parmley of Walter Reed Army Medical Center claims that an electrocardiogram taken after moderate exercise may be able to pinpoint potential heart victims.  Electronic squibbles on the “EKG” chart indicate that the heart wasn’t receiving enough oxygen, a malfunction called ischemia.

Tests have shown that people with ischemia have high percentage of developing coronary artery disease.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Stomach Pains Can Be Stress-Related

It is not just what you eat – but what’s eating you – that may cause stomach distress.  This is what internist James Fitzgerald of Georgetown University, Washington, D.C. wants to emphasize when he says that stress and tension can lead to acid indigestion.

“A happy mind should produce a happy stomach,” he adds, and in order to keep the stomach happy, Dr. Fitzgerald offers seven rules:

  • Don’t oversleep, creating a morning “time crisis.”
  • Eat foods that act as “blotter paper” when drinking coffee or colas.  Just coffee and cigarette are a deadly combination for unleashing acids to gnaw on stomach.
  • Don’t squeeze too much business into business lunches.  Intellectual activity at meals may divert blood flow to the brain and away from the stomach.
  • Avoid controversy at meals.
  • Frequent smaller meals help the “nervous” stomach.
  • Skim milk is the best snack and neutralizer of stomach acids.
  • Don’t drink alcoholic beverages on an empty stomach.
Diarrhea And Dysentery.  When a person has loose or watery stools, he has diarrhea.  If mucus and blood can be seen in the stools, he has dysentery.

Diarrhea can be mild or serious.  It can be acute (sudden and severe) or chronic (lasting many days).  Although diarrhea has many different causes, the most common are infection and poor nutrition.

With good hygiene and good food, diarrhea could be prevented.  The prevention of diarrhea depends both on good nutrition and cleanliness.

Healing With Water.  Another eye-opener for us is that if people simply learned how to use water correctly, this alone might do more to prevent and cure illness than all the medicines they now use – or misuse.

The daily practice of drinking pure water upon arising in the morning (say two, four, or even six glasses) can actually flush your system from accumulated poisons of the previous day; your kidney and bladder will be greatly benefitted – not to mention you stomach, too.

Tidbits.  What’s the best thing to drink before, during and after strenuous exercise?  Water, says the American College of Sports Medicine.  Dr. Edward L. Fox recommends “frequent water breaks (every 10 to 15 minutes)” to keep the body’s water table from approaching 3% deficit.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Making Progress Through Regular Exercise

After two or three weeks of regular exercise, you will begin to improve your physical fitness level, and after four to six weeks, there should be some measurable improvement.  You will be able to carry out the exercise easily; you will begin to sleep better, be less tired at the end of the day, and you will often find that you miss the invigorating feeling you get from a workout if you skip your exercise for even one scheduled day.

Once you attain physical fitness, you must maintain it by regular workouts.  Exercise training should become a part of your lifestyle.  Like money in the bank which will stand you in good stead only for a short time in an inflated economy, accumulated exercise benefits become insignificant if exercise is stopped.  If you cut back to exercising once a week, half of your fitness increase will be lost in a mere 10 weeks.  If you discontinue your program completely, all your gains will be lost in five weeks!

If temporary illness or unavoidable circumstances keep you from exercising for a few days to a few weeks, then resume your program at a lower level, taking approximately as much time as you missed to work up to the level you were at prior to your absence.  This plan will help you to avoid “too much, too fast” when you resume exercising, taking the deconditioning effect of time into account.

How Much Time For Exercise?  How long one should allocate each day for an exercise routine is an important decision to make.  The minimum amount of time, according to most doctors and physical fitness experts, is 20 minutes a day.  It could be more than this, but any amount of exercise is good.

If you want an effective exercise program that will really help you keep fit, feel better and upgrade your physical and mental performance, then you need at least 20 minutes a day – everyday.

How Much Exercise?  Psychologists agree that to maintain fitness, you need to exercise at 65 percent of your maximum capacity for 15 minutes a day, three times a week.  A heart rate of 220 minus your age – so if you’re 40, a pulse rate of about 120 (220-40 x .65) is what should be tailoring your workouts to sustain.  There’s no need to kill yourself so long as you’re consistent.

What should you do?  Something you enjoy.  A lot of the agony of exercise for many people is mental.  It’s really a matter of attitude and self-motivation.  Take brisk walks.  Play with your children or grandchildren.  Anything to get your mind off your muscles.

Studies have shown that layoffs as brief as 2 ½ days can begin to reverse the effects of exercise – so if you do take a weekend off, be prepared to get back into the swing of things first thing Monday morning.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Type and Frequency of Exercise

Not all types of exercise are equally useful for becoming physically fit.  The way in which the cardiovascular system is challenged by the exercise is all important.  Only those exercises which significantly augment the continuous flow of blood through the heart and large skeletal muscles will help cardiovascular fitness.  For example, both weight-lifting and isometrics cause the muscle being strengthened to shorten (contract or tense up).  This pressure squeezes the blood vessels, letting less blood pass instead of more.

By contrast, jogging, requiring continuous movement of the legs (and arms to some extent) results in rhythmic tensing and relaxing of muscles.  This aids the flow of blood and promotes cardiovascular fitness.

Of course, exercises which do not improve cardiovascular fitness have other benefits.  They may increase muscle strength or athletic skill – but they do not improve stamina or endurance or “wind.”  Those which improve cardiovascular fitness are rhythmic, repetitive and involve motion, and are so-called “isotonic” or dynamic.

Some exercises may enhance blood flow but still do not improve cardiovascular fitness because they cannot be kept up for a sufficiently long period of time.  Thus, the second requisite for the right kind of exercise is that it must be capable of being sustained.  It must be “aerobic.”

Aerobic exercise is the type which steadily supplies enough oxygen to the muscles for as long as the exercise is continued.  Any rhythmic, repetitive activity which can be continued for two or more minutes, without huffing and puffing afterwards, is probably aerobic.

By contrast, if enough oxygen was not being provided to the muscles, the exercise could not be continued, or if it was continued through sheer willpower, the body would immediately have to pay back the extra oxygen it borrowed from its own tissues by continuation of hard breathing after the exercise was stopped.

For example, sprinting is not aerobic.  The sprinter cannot keep going at that pace.  In comparison, the jogger, bicycle rider or swimmer seems to cover long distances effortlessly because he has attained a balance between the oxygen he needs and the oxygen he is getting though his lungs and cardiovascular system.

Dynamic, aerobic exercise must be carried out three times weekly (or more) with no more than two days elapsing between workouts or gains will be lost.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Starting An Exercise Program, Part 2

Medical Questionnaire.  The following will help you to decide whether it is important or optional to see the doctor before starting an exercise training program.  If you answer “yes” to any of these questions, consult your physician before beginning an exercise program.

  1. Hidden or overt heart disease 
    • Has a doctor ever said you had heart trouble?
    • Have you ever had rheumatic fever or rheumatic heart disease?
    • Did you ever have or do you now have a heart murmur?
    • Have you ever had a real or suspected coronary occlusion, myocardial infarction, coronary attack, coronary insufficiency, heart attack or coronary thrombosis?
    • Do you have angina pectoris?
    • Have you ever had an abnormal electrocardiogram or ECG?
    • Have you ever had an electrocardiogram taken while you were exercising (such as climbing up and down steps) which was not normal?
    • Have you ever had pain or pressure or a squeezing feeling in the chest which came on during exercise or walking or any other physical or sexual activity?
    • If you climb a few flights of stairs fairly rapidly, do you have tightness or pressure in your chest?
    • Do you get pressure, pain or tightness in the chest if you walk in the cold wind or get a cold blast of air?
    • Have you had bouts of rapid heart action, irregular heart action or palpitations?
    • Have you ever taken digitalis, quinidine or any drug for your heart?
    • Have you ever been given nitroglycerin, sometimes labeled TNG or NTG or any tablets for chest pain which you use by placing them under the tongue? 
  1. Other heart attack risk factors
    • Do you have diabetes, high blood sugar or sugar in the urine now?  Or at any time in the past?
    • Have you ever or do you now have high blood pressure or hypertension?
    • Have you been on a diet or taken medications to lower your blood cholesterol?
    • Are you more than 20 pounds heavier than you should be?
    • Do you now smoke more than a pack and a half of cigarettes per day?
    • Has there been more than one heart attack or person with heart trouble in your family before age 60?

(In succeeding postings, we will discuss certain situations which indicate that you are doing too much; what are the warnings and what to do about them. - J.P.)