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Sitting & Cardiovascular Disease: When is it time to get up on your feet?

Inactivity for long periods of time can prove to be a contributing factor to cardiovascular disease, while an exercise program can start to prevent heart disease, manage diabetes, and address obesity.

Many people’s daily activities – such as working remotely in front of a computer screen, or relaxing in front of the television – require very minimal physical effort. The problem is the amount of time that lapses without much movement.

What can you do to combat a more sedentary and inactive lifestyle? First, you can get moving and consider incorporating a few of these easy steps.

1. Keep Track of Your Daily Step Total

A simple device such as a pedometer can track your total steps every day, helping you to realize your goals. There are also apps for all the different phone platforms that enable you to not only track your steps but also important things like vitals and calories. Start out with an attainable goal and continue working until you can reach at least 10,000 steps per day.

2. There Is More Than One Way to Move

Being active is a thoughtful process. Consider these simple suggestions that you can immediately incorporate into your routine, that will lead to positive results! When parking your car, park further out and enjoy the walk to the entry of the store.  Take your four-legged friend on a walk. If you are a busy worker or mom, schedule time for you in your daily routine, and make 10-15 minutes a priority for your health.  If possible, take the stairs and leave the elevator on the ground floor.

3. Exercise, Exercise, Exercise!

 It is never too late to start an exercise program.  Participating in strength training exercises one or two times a week will help build muscle tone and get you stronger, allowing for better endurance. Try to aim for an overall goal of 100-120 minutes of exercise each week.

4. Be Creative

When you are taking calls at home or talking with co-workers, think vertical.  Get up on your feet and walk and talk at the same time.  All the small movements add up to a big payoff.  While you are at home, stretch at your kitchen counter, lift light weights while enjoying your favorite television show, or go up and down your home steps to get your heart rate going.

5. Stuck at the Office – No Time for Exercise!

Although you are at your office for 6-8 hours a day, there are always ways to find time to exercise for your health.  Encourage your company to offer gym membership incentives, walk during your lunch break, or plan ahead and pack your gym bag to meet friends after you’re done at the office.

 

The choice to exercise or not is completely yours … the benefits are something that can be life-changing and prevent you from major health roadblocks in the future.

Being There: Supporting a Loved One During Cancer Treatment

If a person you love is diagnosed with cancer, make an effort to treat your loved one as normal as possible without disregarding the fact that they were stricken with the disease. In other words, adopt a business-as-usual approach and let your loved one determine whether they feel well enough for activities. In terms of ways to be supportive, don’t wait for your friend or family member to come to you—it’s likely they don’t want to feel like a burden. Instead, perform specific actions that can show your love and support without being invasive or overbearing. The Vascular Institute shares a few ways you can help that will go a long way physically and emotionally. 

 

Pitching In

Declutter

Stress, nausea, headaches, and fatigue are all common side effects of cancer treatment. One way to help relieve these feelings is by decluttering the home. It’s likely that your loved one isn’t up for the task—or shouldn’t be doing anything overly arduous—so step in and do the physical aspect while he or she instructs you on what to keep and what to toss. Next, you can create a serene spot within the home conducive to relaxation. Think candles, cozy blankets and pillows, and plants. Along with serving as natural air purifiers, copious studies indicate that exposure to leafy foliage can boost mood and reduce stress. 

 

Meal Prep 

Whether you schedule a meal delivery service, grocery delivery, or prepare some home-cooked meals, keep chemo in mind. Foods that help negate the side effects include: carrots, gravy, rice, bananas, whole grains, ginger candy, custard, orange juice, onions, garlic, and lean proteins.

 

Kids and Pets

Offer to help babysit or take the kids to and from school and activities. Walk the dog, take pets to the vet, and make sure they have enough food and supplies. 

 

Be the Voice

Offer to handle returning phone calls or responding to emails and/or get-well cards. Coordinate visits on your loved one’s behalf.

 

Follow Their Lead

Any sort of diagnosis leads to a search for treatment methods, and a cancer diagnosis is no different. Help your loved one look into or research certain complementary therapies they are interested in. It could be a traditional method such as yoga or massage, or something a little more unique like Reiki and healing touch. 

 

Being There

Act Mindfully

  • Base your actions and words on the information you’re receiving from your loved one. Some people use humor; others are more introverted. Respect any direction and adapt if need be. 
  • Be there on good days and bad. There will be several mental and physical challenges along the way. 
  • Respect any decisions they make regarding their treatment even though you may not agree. 

 

What Not to Do

  • Don’t be judgmental or give advice when it wasn’t requested.
  • Don’t be afraid to step away if mood swings or a violent temper become too destructive on your own psyche. You need to make sure your own mental health is in check if you’re going to help someone else, so don’t don’t forget about self-care
  • Don’t assume that your loved one can no longer complete a specific task or participate in a usual activity.
  • Don’t let your stress be contagious. Whether it’s stress related to your loved one’s diagnosis, your work, your home life or anything else, take steps to mitigate your stress so that it doesn’t affect them.
  • Don’t be afraid to talk about their illness if they want to discuss it with you.
  • Don’t use a patronizing tone and/or phrases like, “I can imagine how you feel,” when you truly can’t.  

Everyone handles cancer treatment differently, so you may have to reinvent yourself in order to offer effective support for your loved one. It can be difficult to remember exactly what you should and shouldn’t say, so don’t beat yourself up if you fumble. The physical and emotional support you give your loved one just may be the best medicine they receive. 

 

Photo Credit: Unsplash

Understanding Your Blood Pressure Readings

Blood pressure numbers of less than 120/80 are considered to be in the normal range, and usually can be maintained with heart-healthy habits, proper diet, and exercise. Those experiencing elevated blood pressure are at risk for developing chronic high blood pressure and the probability of adding medications to their daily routine to control the condition.

But what do the numbers mean and which is more important? The systolic blood pressure is the first number that indicates the amount of pressure on the artery walls with every heartbeat. The diastolic blood pressure number reflects the pressure on the artery walls when your heart is resting between beats. A systolic number that is elevated creates an increased chance for cardiovascular disease in those over the age of 50. Most people see an increase in their systolic number with age as plaque buildup increases in the arteries.  When either number is elevated or out of range, you can be considered a patient with high blood pressure.

There are multiple risk factors that can be controlled to avoid high blood pressure:  quit smoking, control your diabetes, maintain a healthy weight, lower your cholesterol, eliminate unhealthy foods, and be more active.  There are some factors that can not be controlled such as family history, ethnicity, age, patients with chronic kidney disease, and sleep apnea.  However, with a reduction in the controllable risk factors, great strides can be made to maintain normal blood pressure and improve your life.

Stroke … Did You Know?

May is Stroke Awareness Month.

Every year, 15 million people worldwide suffer a stroke. Nearly 6 million die, and another 5 million are left permanently disabled. While it is widely known that stroke is caused by high blood pressure, high cholesterol , smoking, obesity and diabetes, there is a lesser-known condition screened for in the fight against stroke: carotid artery disease (CAD). Carotid Artery Disease is estimated to be the source of stroke in up to a third of stroke cases. CAD is a form of atherosclerosis, or build-up of plaque in one or both of the neck’s main arteries. The carotid arteries are vital as they feed oxygen rich blood to the brain. When plaque builds up in the carotid arteries, they begin to narrow and slow down the flow of blood, potentially causing a stroke if blood flow stops or plaque fragments travel to the brain.
 
CAD diagnosis can be made by your physician with a screening based on risk factors like high blood pressures, diabetes, obesity and smoking. Blockages can also be found when a physician hears a sound through a stethoscope placed on the neck. If someone is having stroke-like symptoms, they should seek help immediately.
 

What tests may be performed?

Carotid artery ultrasound uses sound waves to produce an image of the carotid arteries on an ultrasound screen. This non-invasive test is painless, does not require the use of needles, dye or X-ray. Angiography uses X-rays to take a picture inside the carotid artery. Dye is injected through a small tube , allowing physicians to see if there is any narrowing of the arteries.
 

How is CAD treated?

A Carotid Endarterectomy (CEA) is an open surgical procedure that removes plaque from inside the carotid artery to restore the blood flow to the brain. This is the most common way patients are treated for this disease process. Vascular surgeons are the doctors that decide which treatment is best for individual patients.
 
The Transfemoral Carotid Artery Stenting is a minimally invasive procedure, with the physician working through a tube inserted into the artery in the upper thigh. A small filter is placed beyond the disease area of the carotid to help limit fragments of plaque from traveling toward the brain. A metal-mesh tube, called a stent is placed, this expands inside the artery to increase the blood flow to the brain and stabilize the plaque.
 
TransCarotid Artery Revascularization (TCAR) is a NEW innovative technology to treat patients who are at risk for open surgery. The entire procedure is performed through a small incision in the neck. A tube is inserted into the carotid artery, directing blood flow away from the brain to protect from debris reaching the brain and possibly causing a stroke. A stent is then implanted to the carotid artery to stabilize the plaque and prevent stroke. Recovery from this procedure is quicker, less painful and leaves the patient with smaller scars.

The Importance of Addressing Diabetes

People rarely think of their health until it is lost or threatened.

If you have diabetes or are a pre-diabetic you have a health management issue. Many people fail to deal with their condition early enough because this is a quiet disease rarely causing problems in the beginning stage. However, with long-standing uncontrolled high blood glucose levels, the damage is done leading to vision complications, heart attacks, strokes, and foot ulcers that often lead to leg amputation.
 
Some patients may not understand that many complications of diabetes stem from one primary issue: the havoc that high blood sugar, also called hyperglycemia, causes for the body’s blood vessels. Blood brings oxygen to every living cell in the body through the vascular system, and when blood vessels aren’t working properly the body will suffer.
 
Diabetes is a risk factor for vascular disease, which causes damage to the arteries of the retina, kidneys, heart, brain, and to the arteries of the legs and feet. Those with diabetes should have routine preventative care: primary care visits, aggressive glucose control, evaluation for complications of vascular disease, and the appointments with various specialists such as ophthalmologists, nephrologists, vascular surgeons and podiatric specialists.

Diabetes and Foot Wounds

Diabetes + Poor Circulation Can Result In…

Diabetes can sometimes lead to blood circulation issues and nerve damage in the foot. Patients can unknowingly develop wounds on their feet due to lack of sensation or feeling due to the nerve damage inflicted by the diabetes.
 
Again, diabetes can cause issues with blood circulation as well. The lack of circulation can result in the wounds or ulcers not healing, and thus results in a high risk for amputation. The good news is that proper foot care and diabetes management can lead to fewer cases of this happening. In fact in the last 20 years, better diabetes care has led to a 50 percent drop in amputations in the lower limbs!
 
A 2012 study found that foot ulcers occur in 4-10 percent of people with diabetes. Most of those cases have good outcomes:
  • 60-80 percent of foot ulcers will heal
  • 10-15 percent will remain active
  • 5-24 percent will eventually lead to limb amputation within 6-18 months of the initial evaluation
 
In order to prevent amputations, proper foot care is needed, especially in diabetic patients. Here are a few tips to help take good care of your feet:
  • Examine feet regularly for cuts, bruises, blisters, and scrapes
  • Wash feet daily
  • Wear clean, dry socks
  • Wiggle toes frequently to stimulate blood flow
  • Trim toenails carefully.
  • Buy shoes that fit properly.
  • Schedule regular foot examinations
  • Don’t walk barefoot
 
If you are concerned of any open wounds or sores on your feet, scheduling an appointment with your primary care provider or podiatrist is recommended.

The Heat Is On Your Veins This Summer!

Heat and Varicose Veins

A couple minutes outside in July and August can leave you wanting to find the nearest air conditioning, but varicose veins hate the sweltering temperatures as much as you. Varicose veins occur when a vein valve ceases to function as it should. Blood isn’t properly pumped through your circulatory systems and pools in the vein, normally in the lower leg. This can cause dark, visible veins and heavy, aching legs. Warm temperatures can cause swelling of the legs which lessens the veins’ abilities to pump blood. Don’t let varicose veins ruin your summer, though.
 

Here are a few adjustments that can be made to enjoy the summer months.

  • Stay as cool as possible: Wear loose, light colored clothes instead of dark colors which absorb heat.
  • Spend more time at the pool: An added benefit in the relaxing, low-impact exercise helps improve your venous health without putting too much pressure on your joints.
  • Pack a water bottle: While water is imperative for staying cool and avoiding heat sickness, it’s also beneficial for venous health. Proper hydration helps your blood circulation.
  • Put on compression stockings: After spending time in the hot weather, compression stockings can help your veins handle any stress the heat may have placed on them. So be sure to put them on when returning indoors.

DVT and Me…

What is DVT and how does it develop?

To be healthy and live and active life, we have to have balanced circulation.  DVT is the formation of a thrombus or clot formed of red blood cells and this is when circulation fails in the body.  The development of a thrombus can block a vessel or travel within that vessel, this occurs for three main reasons.  The first two, stasis of blood, and injury to a blood vessel, can lead to formation of a clot.  This is why doctors and nurses insist on people moving after surgery or after a trauma or injury. Thirdly, “thick blood” can occur in people who have cancer or clotting abnormalities and lead to a clot forming.  DVT is a clot on the vein side of the circulation.  This is where blood comes back to the heart and lungs from the body.    
 

What are the common symptoms of DVT?  Are they always obvious?

The most common symptoms are pain and swelling.  Both of these can be sudden and severe.  It is almost always noticed by the patient.  Sometimes during certain illnesses or surgeries the risk of DVT can be higher.
 

How is DVT diagnosed and treated?

DVT is diagnosed with the use of an ultrasound machine to “see” the blood clot or look for abnormal flow.  DVT is treated almost universally with a blood thinner.  Massive DVT or PE can be treated by vascular surgeons who can remove or dissolve the clot to improve blood flow.
 

Summer Is Not Always an Easy Walk in the Park

Summer months are a great time to get out for a walk in the park.

For some people, it can come easier than others. For some, even just a few minutes of walking can cause pain or fatigue. This could be a sign of Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD).
 
PAD, a circulatory problem in which narrowed arteries reduce blood flow to the limbs, is one of the leading causes of amputation. Patients with a history of smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol are most at risk for PAD. 
 
The southeastern area of the United States has the highest amputation rates in the country, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). Many of these surgeries can be prevented with proper education and alternative treatment plans, which result in patients having better health, more active lifestyles, and longer life spans. 
 
About 8.5 million people in the United States have PAD, however general population awareness is estimated at only 25 percent, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
 
Risk factors include older age, smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and plaque buildup in arteries, stemming from fat, cholesterol or calcium that obstruct blood flow. People with PAD are also at greater risk for heart attack and stroke, since the same factors that cause blockages in the limbs can cause blockages in other parts of the body.
 
So what do folks need to look for in regards to PAD warning signs? Remember F.L.O.W.
  • Feeling of pain in the legs
  • Loss of sensation
  • Open sores that won’t heal
  • Weakness when walking
 
If any of those symptoms appear, it is time to talk to a doctor and get evaluated. The best way to evaluate and diagnose PAD is with ultrasound examination. During an ultrasound, high frequency sound waves are bounced off tissues in the body and then converted into an image on a computer screen. Vascular technicians evaluate the blood flow through the vessels, looking for narrowed areas (blockages) in the arteries and blood clots in the veins.
 
While PAD can’t be cured, it can be managed with a variety of options, including minimally invasive procedures in an outpatient office setting. Often times, hospitals are not even needed.
 
Every person’s treatment can be different but the end result is often the same. You are able to get back to what you enjoy in life. Returning to an active life without pain within a matter of days. And there is no better news than that!

Do All Wounds Heal the Same?

For most people, with a little patience and maybe a topical ointment, healing from a wound is a natural process. For others, wound healing is a challenge. In these cases, the help of a specialist experienced in treating wounds may be necessary. Seeing a medical professional who is a certified wound specialist ensures that you receive the best care for slow-healing and non-healing wounds.
 
At Vascular Institute, most of the wound treated are from diabetic patients that have open sores that won’t heal. Many signs this is a sign of vascular issues and the affected area not receiving the blood flow needed for the wound to properly heal.
 
Some of the types of wounds that may benefit from our extremity wound care are:
  • Diabetic foot, leg and other wounds
  • Bedsores, or pressure wounds
  • Infected wounds
  • Wounds and weeping dermatitis due to lymphedema
  • Venous ulcers
  • Wounds complicated by peripheral arterial disease
  • Wounds that are slow to heal after surgery or trauma
 
Our wound specialists and medical partners offer comprehensive evaluations of wounds, treatments, wound dressings, and assessments of treatment effectiveness. Treatments may include:
  • Surgical wound closure
  • Wound VAC/Vacuum-Assisted Closure
  • HBOT/Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatment
  • Living skin substitutes
  • Growth factors
 
Talk to your primary care provider about finding a specialist experienced in treating wounds.