Tips to keep you in shape this holiday season

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Do you approach the holiday season feeling overwhelmed by what needs to get done? There’s shopping, decorating, baking, wrapping, parties … and more parties. Despite all these “to-dos,” there’s another essential thing that should top your list: exercise.

As the holiday season begins, it’s important to get the exercise you need for your physical and mental health. Although the American Heart Association recommends physical activity on most, if not all, days of the week, you can start out with something more “doable.” Try to fit in as much exercise as possible, with the realization that some exercise is better than none. A minimum of 30 minutes of physical activity five days a week is optimal. And, remember, now isn’t the time to set lofty goals for weight loss or working out, but to maintain your weight and do some form of exercise through the holidays.
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Get a handle on holiday drinking

Moderation is key to safe celebrations

holiday drinking blog

You’re out with friends enjoying a few holiday cocktails when you suddenly feel lightheaded and need to sit down. You might not realize it, but you’re experiencing the effects of alcohol on your vascular system.

In addition to being a depressant, alcohol dilates the blood vessels. So, when you’re standing at a party or social setting, blood often pools in the vessels in your feet instead of being pumped back to the heart.

The result can be feelings of lightheadedness, nausea and over-heating (known as pre-syncope), which are exacerbated by alcohol. To prevent these symptoms, minimize alcohol intake and move around to encourage blood flow to the heart, thus reducing your chances of passing out entirely.

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Tips to manage holiday stress


holiday stress blog

Stressed? Overwhelmed? Welcome to the holiday season! If you’re besieged with unending to-do lists, remember, you’re not alone. It’s normal to experience holiday stress. It’s how you deal with the stress that counts. Long-term stress, often exacerbated by the holidays, can result in conditions such as increased blood pressure and blood glucose levels as well as damaged blood vessels — all of which can lead to heart issues. Try these tips to help you manage holiday stress.

To deal with stress during the holidays — and throughout the year — it’s important to establish a stress-reducing routine now, and carry that throughout the winter, spring, summer, fall …  Continue reading

Coordinating care when you’re a snowbird

Seniors get advice on managing health while away for the winter

couple on the beach blogIf you follow the example of the birds, and move to warmer climates for the winter, it’s important to coordinate your medical care, especially for heart patients.

Documents to add to your packing list

Adding a few documents when packing your bags can help keep track of your health care. Mary Passow, R.N., B.S.N., clinical care coordinator at the University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center, has a few suggestions:

  • List of current medications and dosages
  • List of allergies
  • List of current physicians
  • Emergency bracelet/necklace with any life-threatening medical condition and/or medication they are taking
  • Advance directive/durable power of attorney paperwork for healthcare
  • Emergency contact numbers
  • Medicare/insurance cards
  • Document from recent clinic visit – and any cardiac testing that was performed

Other hospitals that use the Epic system for their electronic medical records can electronically share information with the University of Michigan Health – a feature that’s built into all Epic Systems.

Set up a doctor’s appointment before you go

Many patients have homes they go to every year so it’s a good idea to have a physician you can see while away. If they don’t have a doctor in both places, see a physician for a regular check-up just prior to leaving for the winter, says Passow.

Get a flu shot while you’re there

It makes sense to take care of your flu shot, which is recommended every year for all those over age 65, before leaving for the winter, says U-M geriatrician Theodore Suh, M.D. In some years the flu season gets off to an early start or there are vaccine shortages. With 132 million doses distributed this year, there’s enough vaccine for anyone who want it, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The pneumonia shot is also recommended for older adults.

Sign up for hospital patient portal

You can gain access to your health information by signing up for your hospital patient portal, says Jocelyn Wiggins, M.D., director of the U-M Geriatrics Center. All you need is email and access to a computer, iPad or other mobile device. is available to University of Michigan patients and allows access to lab results or requesting prescriptions from anywhere in the country. With proxy access, you can let another adult or friend to see your health information.

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U of M Health logoFor more than 160 years, the University of Michigan Health System has been a national leader in advanced patient care, innovative research to improve human health and comprehensive education of physicians and medical scientists. The three U-M hospitals have been recognized numerous times for excellence in patient care, including a #1 ranking in Michigan and national rankings in many specialty areas by U.S. News & World Report.

7 steps to healthy holiday eating

Indulge without guilt at Thanksgiving dinner

healthy thanksgiving

Thanksgiving kicks off a season of celebration, and nothing brings a celebration to life more than good food — and lots of it. Just remember: There are ways to indulge in the flavors of the season with an eye toward healthy holiday eating — without the guilt! Here are some tips to keep you on track:

1. Don’t skip meals before your holiday feast. It’s tempting to “save calories” for the big dinner. However, showing up hungry may cause you to overeat, make less mindful choices and consume even more calories for the day than if you had eaten a light breakfast or lunch. Try healthy oatmeal and fruit for breakfast and a light salad with lean protein for lunch.

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LVAD patient gives extra thanks this year

Cara Reischel feels blessed to be able to watch her daughter grow up

Cara Family Photo blog

Cara Reischel is giving extra thanks this holiday season … for her husband, Joel, daughter, Cora, and her improved health due to a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) that was implanted in February at the University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center.

Although she admits that being an LVAD patient and getting accustomed to her new device hasn’t always been easy, Cara is a firm believer in taking one day at a time and being thankful for all that life has to offer, especially time with Joel and 11-year-old Cora.

As a baby, Cara was diagnosed with a hole in her heart, which doctors monitored closely. It wasn’t until Cara suffered sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) at age 15 that doctors changed her diagnosis to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). HCM is a congenital heart muscle disease that can affect people of any age and is a common cause of SCA in young people. Approximately one in 500 to 1,000 young people are diagnosed with the condition. Continue reading