Monday, September 30, 2013

Angina: What it is and How it differs from a Heart Attack

Angina, according to Merriam-Webster, is a heart disease that causes brief periods of intense chest pain.

The symptoms of angina as enumerated in A Year of Health Hints are:
  • Squeezing pressure or heaviness or mild ache in the chest.
  • A feeling that you’re choking or shortness of breath.
  • A feeling of aching in the chest muscles, jaw, one or both arms, neck and/or back.
  • A sensation of heaviness, tingling, or numbness (most commonly in the left arm).
  • A feeling of gas in the upper abdomen and lower chest.
The following are the similarities between angina and a heart attack:
  • Both can be caused by a build-up of fatty plaque (atherosclerosis) in the heart arteries, blocking or slowing delivery of blood to the heart.
  • In both, the pain can be felt in the chest, arms, shoulders, and/or neck.
  • Both may be brought on by extreme physical exertion.
  • Both are most prevalent in men who are 50 and older and women who are past menopause.
But there is a key difference: A heart attack leaves damaged or injured heart muscle in its wake; angina does not. Rather, anginal pain is a warning sign of a potential heart attack. The discomfort indicates that the heart isn’t getting enough blood.

A doctor, the article continues, can diagnose angina as stable or unstable. Unstable angina, a symptom of coronary artery disease, requires immediate attention. High blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, smoking, or a family history of atherosclerotic heart disease increase the odds of angina.

If you’ve experienced angina, the following steps can head off further attacks:
  • Consult your doctor or cardiologist. He or she will probably prescribe a medication to temporarily dilate, or widen, the coronary arteries.
  • Don’t smoke. Nicotine in cigarettes constricts the arteries and prevents proper blood flow.
  • Avoid large, heavy meals; eat lighter meals throughout the day.
  • After eating, rest or engage in some quiet activity.
  • Minimize exposure to cold, windy weather.
  • Lower your cholesterol level, if high.
  • Follow a low-fat, low-saturated fat diet.
  • Take lipid-lowering medicines if prescribed.
  • Avoid sudden physical exertion, such as running to catch a bus.”
Used with permission from A Year of Health Hints by Don R Powell, PHD and the American Institute for Preventive Medicine, copyright 2010.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Cancer: Look for Clues That Can Save Your Life

"What do cancer and lightning have in common? The answer: Most people think they come out of the blue—either they strike you down, or they don’t. But that’s where the similarity ends. 
Far more people die from cancer than get hit by lightning—it’s the second leading cause of death in the United States (heart disease is first). Current estimates say that 1 in 3 of all Americans will develop some kind of cancer in their lifetimes, the most common forms being cancer of the skin, prostate, breast, lungs, colon and rectum, urinary tract, and uterus.
Of course, that means 2 in 3 of us won’t get cancer. Cancer-free people may be doing something right—like not smoking, eating the right foods, drinking little or no alcohol, or protecting themselves from workplace chemicals
Cigarette smoking is estimated to be responsible for more than 85 percent of all lung cancer deaths. Diet is thought to be a factor in 35 percent of all cancers. And other lifestyle factors that increase the risk of cancer include alcohol use, work-related exposure to dangerous chemicals, and exposure to radiation. 
But whether or not you practice preventive measures against cancer, it’s a good idea to be alert to early possible signs of the disease. If you can detect cancer early and get proper treatment, your chances for survival increase considerably.
Check with your doctor if you notice any of the following symptoms:
  • Any change in bladder or bowel habits
  • A lump or thickening in the breast, testicles, or anywhere else
  • Unusual vaginal bleeding or rectal discharge or unusual bleeding from any part of the body
  • Persistent hoarseness or nagging cough
  • A sore that doesn’t heal
  • Noticeable change in a wart or mole
  • Indigestion or difficulty swallowing

Used with permission from A Year of Health Hints by Don R Powell, PHD and the American Institute for Preventive Medicine, copyright 2010.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Coronary Heart Disease: Eight Ways to Avoid the Deadliest Health Problem

According to the World Health Organization, heart failure is the number one cause of death globally.
To avoid heart diseases, Dr. Don R. Powell recommends to follow these steps:

  • Have your blood pressure checked at least every two years, or as advised by your doctor. To control high blood pressure, follow your doctor’s advice. 
  • If you smoke, quit. Nicotine constricts blood flow to the heart, decreases oxygen supply to the heart, and seems to play a significant role in the development of coronary artery disease. 
  • Ask your doctor to check you for diabetes, which is associated with atherosclerosis. Follow his or her advice if you have diabetes. 
  • Maintain a normal body weight. (People who are obese are more prone to atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, and diabetes, and therefore coronary heart disease.) 
  • Eat a diet low in saturated fats and cholesterol. (Saturated fats occur in meats, dairy products, hydrogenated vegetable oils and some tropical oils, like coconut and palm kernel oils.) High-saturated fat, high-cholesterol diets contribute to the fatty sludge that accumulates inside artery walls. 
  • Follow the “DASH” (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet. Access for information on the DASH diet. 
  • Get some form of aerobic exercise at least three times a week for 20 minutes at a time. Sitting around hour after hour, day after day, week in and week out with no regular physical activity may cause circulation problems later in life and contributes to atherosclerosis.
  • Reduce the harmful effects of stress by practicing relaxation techniques and improving your outlook on daily events. Stress has been linked to elevated blood pressure, among other health problems. 
  • Get regular medical checkups. 
  • You should also know the signs of a heart attack so you can get immediate medical attention if necessary, before it’s too late. They are: 
    • Chest pressure or pain (may spread to the arm, neck, tooth, or jaw) 
    • Feelings of chest tightness, squeezing, or heaviness that last more than a few minutes, or go away and come back. 
    • Chest discomfort with: Shortness of breath; nausea; sweating for no reason; fast or uneven pulse; lightheadedness; or fainting. 
    • Unusual or atypical chest pain. 
    • An uneasy feeling in the chest with; Unexplained anxiety, fatigue, or weakness; persistent cough with pink, blood-tinged mucus; or swelling in the lower legs or ankles.

Used with permission from A Year of Health Hints by Don R Powell, PHD and the American Institute for Preventive Medicine, copyright 2010.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Alzheimer’s Disease

Many of us must have watched “Finding Nemo,” or maybe our children or grandchildren have. It was actually a heart-warming and funny movie but we certainly wouldn’t want to be like Dory who suffers from short-term memory loss.  

Merriam-Webster describes Alzheimer’s Disease as a degenerative brain disease of unknown cause that is the most common form of dementia. It usually starts in late middle age or in old age and results in progressive memory loss, impaired thinking, disorientation, and changes in personality and mood. It is marked by the degeneration of brain neurons especially in the cerebral cortex and by the presence of neurofibrillary tangles and plaques containing beta-amyloid.

Alzheimer’s Disease was first described by German neurologist Alois Alzhemier in 1906 and was later named after him.

Dr. Don R. Powell, President and CEO of the American Institute for Preventive Medicine, in his book A Year of Health Hints, describes the symptoms and how to help someone who has early signs of this disease:

Symptoms of Alzheimer's:
  • Brief attention span
  • Decreased bowel or bladder control (rarely)
  • Depression
  • Disorientation
  • Forgetfulness (especially about recent events)
  • Inability to handle minor tasks, or to speak clearly
  • Irritability, hostile behavior, or paranoia
  • Lack of spontaneity
  • Mental deterioration
  • Neglecting to perform routine tasks

It's especially helpful to put structure in the life of someone who’s in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. Some suggestions include:
  • Maintain daily routines.
  • Post reminders on an oversized and prominently displayed calendar.
  • Make “to do” lists of daily tasks for the person with Alzheimer’s to complete, and ask him or her to check them off as they’re completed.
  • Put things in their proper places after use, to help the person with Alzheimer’s find things when he or she needs them.
  • Post safety reminders (like “turn off the stove”) at appropriate places throughout the house.
  • See that the person with Alzheimer’s eats well-balanced meals, goes for walks with family members, and otherwise continues to be as active as possible.

Used with permission from A Year of Health Hints by Don R Powell, PHD and the American Institute for Preventive Medicine, copyright 2010.

Monday, September 2, 2013


Used with permission from A Year of Health Hints by Don R Powell, PHD and the American Institute for Preventive Medicine, copyright 2010.

"Arthritis robs some 40 million Americans of their freedom of movement by breaking down the protective cartilage in the joints. By destroying cartilage, arthritis results in pain and decreased movement.  The following can be warning signs of arthritis. If any of these symptoms are present, consult your doctor.

  • Stiffness
  • Swelling in one or more joint
  • Deep, aching pain in a joint
  • Pain that comes with joint movement
  • Tenderness, warmth, or redness in affected joints
  • Fever, weight loss, or fatigue that accompanies joint pain

Many forms of arthritis exist. Three of the most common are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and ankylosing spondylitis.

Osteoarthritis is a painful degeneration of the cartilage in the weight-bearing and frequently used joints. As far as researchers can tell, this kind of arthritis is typically brought on by genetics and wear and tear on the joints. It can also follow an injury to the joint. Osteoarthritis often affects older people and is the most common type of arthritis. Brief pain and stiffness at the beginning of the day are typical.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) results in chronic inflammation of the fingers, wrists, ankles, elbows, and knees, causing pain, swelling, and tenderness. Morning stiffness lasting longer than an hour is very common. RA affects women more often than men, striking in their thirties and forties.

Ankylosing spondylitis generally affects young men between the ages of 15 and 45 and is characterized by a stiff backbone, accompanied by low back pain.

If your doctor does diagnose arthritis, he or she may prescribe medication (usually aspirin or a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug), rest, heat or cold treatment, and some physical therapy or exercise, depending on what kind of arthritis you have. The goal is to reduce pain and improve joint mobility. Among those treatments, exercise is perhaps the most important, whether it is some form of stretching, isometrics, or simple endurance exercise. Exercise seems to provide both physical relief and psychological benefits. For example, it prevents the muscles from shrinking, while inactivity encourages both loss of muscle tone and bone deterioration. Too much exercise, however, will cause more pain in those with rheumatoid arthritis. So if you have arthritis, consult your physician, a physical therapist, or a physiatrist (a doctor who specializes in rehabilitative treatment) to assist you in developing an exercise program.

One form of exercise that’s effective and soothing is hydrotherapy, or movement done in water. It allows freedom of movement and puts less stress on the joints because nearly all of the body weight is supported by the water. Doctors highly recommend swimming, too. But remember, hydrotherapy—or any form of exercise—should never produce pain. One message that can’t be emphasized enough is, “Go easy.” If you begin to hurt, stop and rest or apply ice packs. The following exercise suggestions may provide relief.

  • Choose exercise routines that use all affected joints.
  • Keep movements gradual, slow, and gentle.
  • If a joint is inflamed, don’t exercise it.
  • Don’t overdo it. Allow yourself sufficient rest.
  • Concentrate on freedom of movement, especially in the water, and be patient