Rethink that drink for better heart health

Eliminating sugary and diet beverages may reduce your chances of heart disease

sugary drinks

What’s your favorite beverage? Coffee with sugar? Tea with honey? Diet soda or low-calorie sports drink? Read on to learn how your go-to beverage could be affecting your heart.

According to the 2015 Dietary Guidelines, beverage consumption in the United States accounts for 47 percent of all added sugars. Those guidelines also report that higher intake of added sugars, especially sugar-sweetened beverages, is consistently associated with increased risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke in adults. Continue reading

U-M bicuspid aortic valve patient faces challenges head-on

Thelma Thompson proves to be "one tough woman"

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Photograph by Leisa Thompson

 

Thelma Thompson was never one to shy away from exercise. At 67, she was accustomed to playing 36 holes of golf in a single day. When she noticed she was tiring more easily, Thelma chalked it up to “age.” But she realized her diagnosis was much more serious than she suspected when she suffered a heart attack in 2013. Thelma was shocked to discover her coronary artery was 95 percent blocked. At the same time, she was diagnosed with a bicuspid aortic valve and an aneurysm of her thoracic ascending aorta.

Thelma underwent surgery for her blocked artery at her local hospital, and was then referred to the University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center in January 2015 for treatment of her bicuspid valve and aortic aneurysm. Continue reading

Exercise to keep your heart ticking

Don't let excuses get in the way

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We all know that exercise is a good thing for our health. But getting into a regular routine is often the first stumbling block. Once you overcome that, you’ll begin to realize the benefits of establishing and keeping to a successful exercise program.

According to University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center Cardiologist Dr. Sara Saberi, “For the general population, great things result from habitual exercise. Studies show that people who exercise actually live longer.” Continue reading

Guard your heart when shoveling snow

Tips to make shoveling a winter event, not a cardiac event

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When the snow starts piling up, many who pick up their shovels and head for their driveways and walkways are putting themselves at risk for an adverse cardiac event. These include heart attacks, where a blockage cuts off the heart’s blood supply leading to tissue damage, and cardiac arrest, when the heart beats irregularly and then stops. But for those at risk, there are ways to guard your heart when shoveling show.

Who’s at risk?

Men are more at risk than women, but certain people with health problems have higher risk than others for a cardiac event. These include anyone who:

  • is in poor physical condition
  • has a history of heart disease, including heart attacks, heart failure and stroke
  • has hypertension or diabetes

The greatest risk is with people who are still recovering from a heart attack, or who are being treated for heart failure. People in these groups should avoid snow shoveling entirely. Continue reading

Heart attack or panic attack? Holidays can trigger both

Will you know the difference?

heart panic blog

Your heart is racing and you feel pain in your chest. Is it a heart attack or panic attack?

Distinguishing between the two can be difficult, especially if you’ve never experienced either, says Dr. William Meurer of the University of Michigan Health System Emergency Department. “There’s an overlap in symptoms associated with heart attack and panic attack.” And, to further complicate things, the stress and anxiety that often cause a panic attack can also lead to a heart attack. “It’s a complicated relationship,” he says.

Holiday influence

According to Dr. Meurer, there’s an increase in both panic attacks and heart attacks around the holidays. “People often blame their symptoms on holiday stress. They minimize versus maximize their symptoms. ‘Maybe I’m OK,’ they tell themselves. People tend to avoid a trip to the hospital ER because they’re with family and friends and don’t want to be a disruption, but their situation may escalate very quickly,” says Dr. Meurer.

“The important thing is to seek medical attention if you’re not sure about your health. Be vigilant and get checked out promptly. If you’re worried that it’s a heart attack, call 911 to get an immediate evaluation.”

If you’re experiencing an episode that is similar to one you’ve had in the past that turned out to be stress-related, Dr. Meurer recommends practicing deep breathing or meditation to see if the symptoms subside. “If they don’t, seek medical help,” he says.

Dr. James Froehlich, U-M Frankel Cardiovascular Center cardiologist, agrees. “Heart attacks are already often missed and we don’t want to discourage anyone who thinks they might be having a heart attack from getting checked out.” He also advises his patients to stay on their regular heart medications through the holidays, “even if you’re feeling good and think you can stop/skip them. Preventive medications are very effective. If you keep up your meds, you may never know about the heart attack you didn’t have.”

What to look for

Heart attack symptoms

  • Escalating chest pain reaching maximum severity after a few minutes
  • Constant pain, pressure, fullness or aching in the chest area
  • Pain or discomfort that travels or radiates from the chest to other areas, such as one or both arms, abdomen, back, shoulders, neck, throat or jaw
  • Pain that is brought on by exertion
  • Shortness of breath

Panic attack symptoms

  • Increased heart rate
  • Sharp or stabbing chest pain that lasts only 5-10 seconds
  • Pain that is localized to one small area
  • Pain that usually occurs at rest
  • Pain that accompanies anxiety
  • Pain that is relieved or worsened when you change positions
  • Pain that can be reproduced or worsened by pressing over the area of pain

The bottom line

“Be vigilant and get checked out promptly,” says Dr. Meurer. “If you think it’s a heart attack, call 911 to get an immediate evaluation. And the added bonus is that ERs aren’t as busy on a holiday, so there’s no reason not to come to the ER if you suspect a heart attack.”

Take the next step:


Frankel-informal-vertical-sigThe University of Michigan Samuel and Jean Frankel Cardiovascular Center is a top-ranked heart and heart surgery program among Michigan hospitals. To learn more, visit our website at umcvc.org.

4 things you should know about the FDA ban on trans fats

What does it really mean for you?

trans fat blogAfter years of debate in the medical community and the media, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) decided to put its proverbial foot down, announcing in June that partially hydrogenated oils (PHO), the major dietary source of trans fats in processed foods, must be eliminated from all food products by the year 2018. This comes on the heels of a 2006 FDA mandate to include trans fats on the Nutrition Facts label, and a 2013 decision that deemed PHOs no longer “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS).

Here are 4 things you should know relating to the FDA ban on trans fats:

What Are PHOs?

So what is this stuff anyway? PHOs are artificial trans fats that are widespread in processed foods like refrigerated dough products, fast food, crackers, microwave popcorn, cakes, cookies, pies, coffee creamers and stick margarines. They are attractive to food manufacturers because they prolong shelf life and give a desirable consistency Continue reading