Is drinking alcohol good for your heart?

Moderation is key - but what is one drink?

wine blogDrinking alcohol in moderation, along with an overall healthy lifestyle, is acceptable for most individuals. However, non-drinkers should not start drinking based on this information. Too much alcohol can cause direct damage to heart cells as well as nutritional and vitamin deficiencies. In addition, drinking alcohol can lead to alcoholism, high blood pressure, obesity, stroke, breast cancer, suicide and accidents, so moderation is critical.

Is drinking alcohol good for your heart? Although drinking one glass of red wine a day is marketed as beneficial to the heart, there is no conclusive research or studies that support this claim. Some people believe that red wine is better than other types of alcohol, but the evidence is lacking.

Ongoing studies are examining the potential benefits of components in red wine such as flavonoids and other antioxidants (the same antioxidants found in many fruits and vegetables) in reducing heart disease risk, but no direct comparison trials have been done to determine the specific effect of wine or other alcohol on the risk of developing heart disease or stroke. Continue reading

5 Top Takeaways on Hypertension

Dr. Todd Koelling's Mini Med School presentation focuses on high blood pressure

mini_med_school_cardiovascular_graphic blogLeading U-M Frankel CVC researchers and physicians are advancing knowledge, finding new treatments and applying new technologies. Each week one of them shares his or her expertise in a six-week Mini Med School community education program focused on cardiovascular topics.

Here are the Top 5 Takeaways from Dr. Todd Koelling’s recent presentation on Hypertension:

  1. New Guidelines

New guidelines define new goals for blood pressure measurements in patients. Experts in the field have recently published the JNC-8 (Joint National Committee on high blood pressure in adults) evidence-based guidelines containing the following hypertension targets:

  • Targeted blood pressure for those 60 and older is 150/90 or below.
  • Targeted blood pressure for those under the age of 60 is 140/90 or below.

Continue reading

Yoga and heart health

A healthy heart requires a combination of stress management, regular exercise, proper nutrition and sufficient sleep

yoga blogWe’ve all read studies that point to the benefits of certain actions or habits on heart health. In fact, a recent study, “Effects of Yoga in Patients with Chronic Heart Failure: A Meta-Analysis,” reveals that yoga has profound benefits for those who are suffering from cardiovascular disease. In fact, it seems that yoga and heart health go hand in hand.

But is yoga all we need for heart health? What about our diets? Our exercise habits? We need to look at the big picture to fully understand the best way to a healthy heart — and that big picture includes more than a single component. It includes regular exercise, a healthy diet, stress management and sufficient sleep.

In support of the study, Yoga promotes breathing techniques, which help promote the relaxation response and reduce or eliminate stress, a potential factor in heart disease. Other benefits of yoga include enhanced strength, balance, coordination and flexibility. Continue reading

Add fresh herbs for great flavor and heart-healthy benefits

Get onboard with basil

herbs blogFresh herbs add great flavor to a variety of dishes and are a wonderful complement to a Mediterranean-style eating plan. Adding herbs to recipes also eliminates the need for salt. A low-sodium diet may help improve blood pressure, thus reducing your risk of heart disease and stroke. Herbs also provide healthy antioxidants and, if you grow them yourself, will be at peak quality for your favorite recipes.

We’ll take a look at several different herbs in the coming months, starting today with basil. Be sure to check back often to learn more about herbs and how they can be used in specific recipes.

The benefits of basil

If you’re excited to get your herb garden started, begin by planting basil seeds indoors in early to mid-April. The plants can be transplanted outdoors when the temperatures are above 50 degrees Fahrenheit, even at night. Because it is sensitive to cooler temperatures, basil is an annual herb in Michigan. According to the Farmer’s Almanac, frequent care through pruning will result in greater production of leaves. Continue reading

What women want to know about ICDs

Four frequently asked questions by women about implantable cardioverter defibrillators

women and ICD blogAn implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) is an electronic device that provides immediate therapy to a life-threatening arrhythmia (heart beating too quickly) via a painless pacing sequence or a jolt of electricity. It can also act as a pacemaker if the heart is beating too slowly.

Men and women are equally at risk for arrhythmias and the need for an ICD. However, women have different issues regarding ICD. Here is what women want to know about ICDs.

  1. Can I have routine mammograms?

Depending on your ICD placement, the device may interfere with imaging of breast tissue and may require additional testing for optimal results (possible follow-up ultrasound). Further, the presence of an ICD (typically left or right upper chest area), may make the imaging of the breast more uncomfortable, but it will not cause damage to the device. Continue reading

Living with an ICD

University of Michigan Health System promotes ICD peer-mentoring program and a personal connection

Jeanette McDonald - solo blog

Jeanette McDonald’s trip to Yellowstone National Park last September marked the first time in nearly three years this ICD patient was far from medical resources. Today, she is ready to reach out to other patients.

What if you were told you had a condition that required you to have a device implanted in your body to save your life? It would be a hard reality to accept — one filled with uncertainty and fear. But if you met someone who was living with an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) and had a full, happy life, that person might alleviate some of your fears by sharing their story and proving that life isn’t over — just changing to adapt to a new reality.

This is the concept for a unique peer-mentoring program at the University of Michigan Health System designed to help those facing life-changing procedures, such as an ICD.

The University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center has paired up with the Patient and Family Centered Care (PFCC) Program to pilot peer-mentoring initiatives aimed at helping patients with specific health challenges. The U-M outpatient implantable cardioverter defibrillator clinic has been selected as one of the first five sites to pilot such a program. Continue reading