Tag Archives: cardiovascular disease

Matcha: The Ultimate Health Drink ☘

Organic green matcha tea

If you’re looking for a healthy alternative to the usual shamrock-shaded green beer to show your St. Patrick’s Day spirit, try matcha. Matcha (pronounced “MA-cha”) is a finely ground green tea powder that dates back to a 1,000-year-old Japanese tea ceremony. Preparing and serving matcha is a formal art in Japan and the health benefits of this green elixir have been striking.

The Magic of Matcha

Researchers consider green tea the healthiest beverage you can drink. Its health benefits have been studied since the 1990s due to their strong correlation between long life and health in many Asian cultures. Extensive studies on green tea revealed that it provides significant protection against:

  • Cardiovascular disease heart disease (atherosclerosis)
  • Low density lipoproteins (LDLs – the “bad” cholesterol)
  • High blood pressure
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Stroke

Healthy, plaque-free blood vessels are good for your heart and what’s good for your heart is also good for your brain. An active, working brain requires sufficient blood flow.

Catechin Polyphenols

What makes matcha so beneficial? Something called polyphenols. Polyphenols are potent antioxidants and green tea contains polyphenols classified as “catechins” (pronounced KAT’-eh-kins).

Catechin polyphenols are found in the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant that fight and may even prevent cell damage. Catechins are also found in red wine, chocolate, berries, and apples, but in smaller amounts compared to tea leaves.

Four types of tea come from the Camellia sinensis plant:

  • Black
  • Green
  • Oolong
  • White

Green tea undergoes much less processing than the other teas, so it contains more antioxidants as well as less caffeine. Specifically, these hand-picked green tea leaves are high in catechin polyphenols called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) which is the most active and most studied of the polyphenols.

How to Drink It

Matcha is made from high quality leaves and is jewel green in color. When drinking matcha, in contrast to drinking steeped green tea, you are drinking the whole leaf and not just the brewed water from the leaves. Therefore, when drinking matcha, you’re consuming 10 times the antioxidants, i.e., the health benefits in one cup of matcha is equivalent to 10 cups of green tea.    Continue reading

Be Aware If You Passed Your Treadmill Stress Test

Having his heart's functions checked

When I first started working in cardiac rehabilitation as a new college grad, one of my Phase 3 cardiac rehab patients had a heart attack when he was only 35 years old. If that wasn’t unsettling enough, he had his heart attack the DAY AFTER he “passed” his treadmill test. Back then, I couldn’t understand how that could possibly happen, but I now know better.

How Sensitive Is Your Treadmill Test?

Here’s what you need to know. Currently, the exercise ECG is the most cost-effective first-line screening tool, but its accuracy relies on the ‘sensitivity’ of the test. Sensitivity refers to the percentage of cases in which exercise testing accurately identifies the presence of coronary artery disease (CAD). Unfortunately, the exercise ECG it is not 100% sensitive to detecting coronary artery disease. 

Per the American College of Sports Medicine, the current sensitivity for detecting CAD using the exercise stress test is only about 70%.  In other words, if you test 100 cardiac rehab patients with documented coronary artery disease, only 70 patients would show evidence of CAD per the stress ECG test. If you’re one of the 30 remaining patients, where does that leave you?

False Negatives

Well, don’t start your celebratory dance (or meal) just yet. It just means that you may fall in either of the following groups:

  1. You have a negative stress test. That is, you actually “passed” and show no signs of coronary artery disease.
  2. You have a false-negative finding. This means you’ve been given a negative stress test result (normal) where no CAD ‘appears’ to be present, but you actually have CAD.

The bottom line… a negative exercise ECG test is no guarantee that you do NOT have coronary artery disease (CAD) even if your cardiologist tells you, “Everything looks great! See you in a year.” So sorry to burst your bubble, but that’s the reality. Cardiac events that occur after a negative stress test happen all too often, but it’s not so perplexing to me anymore.

Causes of False-Negatives (Lower Sensitivity)

Stress test results are only as valuable as your performance, the technician’s monitoring, and the test interpretation. Here are some factors that may increase your chances of a false-negative finding:    Continue reading

Weight Train After Your Heart Attack and Live Longer

Man has heart attack

After your heart attack or some other “cardiac event”, such as a coronary artery bypass graft and/or stent placement, you may have received conflicting advice as to what level of activity is acceptable. Some of the things you may have heard are:

  • Don’t lift anything over 5 lbs.
  • Don’t lift anything over 10 lbs. “for a while”.
  • Don’t lift anything for a week.
  • Don’t drive more than 30 minutes.
  • Don’t “get exhausted” for a month.
  • Don’t exercise for a few weeks.
  • Don’t lift over 5 lbs. for a period of time — or ever.
  • Go back to whatever you were doing before.

These guidelines can be confusing and promote anxiety and inactivity. Physicians generally prescribe aerobic/endurance exercise, such as walking, to strengthen your cardiorespiratory system, but in order to return to activities of daily living (ADLs), resistance training is necessary to accomplish everyday tasks, such as:

  • Mowing the lawn
  • Vacuuming
  • Carrying your children, groceries, or suitcase
  • Loading and unloading the trunk of a car/truck
  • Bending over to pick up the newspaper or toys off the floor
  • Lifting your grandchildren
  • Placing or removing items from a high shelf
  • Closing the trunk of a car or van
  • Opening a heavy door (e.g., door of a car, building, refrigerator, freezer, or dishwasher)

Resistance training enables you to perform these daily tasks safely, independently and more efficiently. By having a stronger musculoskeletal system, you decrease the cardiac demands of daily activities and increase your endurance capacity for other activities. Strength training has also been shown to maintain and build stronger bones as well as slow or prevent bone loss. A strong structure will reduce your risk for developing other debilitating diseases (e.g., osteoporosis) and ultimately help you live a longer, stronger and happier life.

Grandparents And Grandson Playing Game Indoors TogetherMuscular strength and endurance are important to prevent falls and safely return to vocational and recreational activities as well as activities of daily living. Most people need to do some type of lifting, carrying, or pushing in their daily routine. Your body has nine (9) fundamental human movement patterns. The foundation of your workouts should develop these movements:    Continue reading

Do Your Statin Drugs Cause Muscle Pain?

Myalgia or muscle pain is a common complaint made by patients on cholesterol-lowering “statin” drugs. Oftentimes the muscle pain, cramps, weakness, and tenderness become intolerable and patients must discontinue statin drug therapy.

Consequences of Low Vitamin D

A study of over 5,500 patients averaging 56 years old found a correlation between vitamin D deficiency, statin* use, and the development of statin-induced myalgia (SIM). Vitamin D blood levels of 30-40 ng/mL are considered ideal. When patients had low vitamin D levels  (≤15 ng/mL) at the time they started on the statin drug, SIM was accurately predicted.

*60% of the patients used Atorvastatin, a.k.a. Lipitor®
 29% of the patients used Simvastatin, a.k.a. Zocor®

In another study presented at the American Heart Association (AHA) Scientific Sessions, the following results were presented:

  • 81.3% had SIM when vitamin D levels <30 ng/mL
  • 17.6% had SIM when vitamin D levels >30 ng/mL
  • 62.1% had SIM when vitamin D levels <20 ng/mL
  • Four-fold higher rate of statin-induced myalgias occurred when vitamin D levels <20 ng/mL

They found low vitamin D is common in patients with hyperlipidemia
(abnormal lipid levels) — i.e., high cholesterol, high LDLs, low HDLs, high triglycerides.

Treatment for Statin Intolerance

Consult with your physician about your intolerance to your prescribed statin medication. Statin-induced myalgias are often treated by:     Continue reading

10 Factors That Affect Blood Pressure Readings

In “The #1 Biggest Mistake That Affects Blood Pressure Readings“, wrong blood pressure cuff size topped the list as one of the most frequent errors made when measuring blood pressure. Be conscious of the following factors the next time you get a blood pressure reading. They can affect it by 5 to 50 points, and artificially high or low readings could affect your medical treatment.

1. Arm Position

Correct blood pressure arm position

Your palm should be facing up and your arm should be supported and horizontal at the level of the midpoint of your sternum (chest bone) which is at the approximate level of the right atrium of your heart. It may be necessary to place a pillow under your arm or adjust the chair or table to achieve the correct position.

  • If your upper arm is BELOW the level of the right atrium, your blood pressure readings will be too high (blood is flowing down into the arm).
  • If the upper arm is ABOVE heart level, the readings will be too low (blood is flowing down from the arm).

Researchers studied a group of outpatients to determine the effects of arm position on blood pressure measurements. Blood pressures were taken and compared in the following arm positions:

  1. Sitting with arms hanging down and elbows resting on the armrests of a chair (i.e., the elbow is at a right angle)
  2. Sitting with arms supported at the level of the mid-sternum

Blood pressure should be read with arm supported at the level of the mid-sternum

The results showed that blood pressure readings were significantly higher when sitting with arms on the armrest of the chair. Readings can be over 10 mm Hg higher in both systolic (upper number) and diastolic (lower number) pressures.

Blood pressure readings are elevated significantly when the arm is hanging down.

In another study of 100 random emergency room patients, blood pressures were compared in two positions: 1) Arm lax and hanging down parallel to the body and 2) Arm in the “correct” position. Among the seated patients, 22% of them were diagnosed with hypertension, but twice as many patients were diagnosed with high blood pressure with the arm hanging down. Be sure to note the position of your arm whenever a clinician takes your blood pressure.   Continue reading

The #1 Biggest Mistake That Affects Blood Pressure Readings

Blood pressure_dollarphotoclub_15479127_600x400Have you ever had your blood pressure taken and were surprised to discover that it was higher or lower than you expected? Did you know that simple variations can cause your blood pressure reading to deviate between 5 and 50 points? Beware… the most common error when measuring blood pressure is improper blood pressure cuff size.

Whether you take your own blood pressure at home or rely on a clinician to do so, using the wrong size cuff happens frequently. Since your blood pressure reading predicts your risk of stroke, heart disease and renal failure and assesses your need for hypertensive medications, you want to be sure the reading isn’t artificially low or elevated.

Why Cuff Size Matters

An essential part of measuring a blood pressure involves compressing the artery, so that no blood flows through it. The “cuff” is the part that wraps around your arm and the bladder inside inflates to apply the compression. It is CRITICAL that the cuff is the right size.

When the Cuff is Too Small

BP Cuff_AdultWhen the cuff size is too small, your blood pressure will be artificially HIGH — and can deviate by as much as 50 mmHg. This happens because the undersized cuff may not be able to completely close off the artery. It has to inflate a lot and you’ll get a higher reading. The result: a false diagnosis and over-treatment. It’s not uncommon that some obese people are incorrectly diagnosed with high blood pressure when it is actually normal.

When the Cuff is Too Large

Large BP CuffWhen the cuff size is too big, your blood pressure will be artificially LOW — but may not deviate as much as from the error of using a cuff that’s too small. It will read low because the bladder in the cuff will overlap (covering more than 100% of your arm), so the cuff ends up inflating on itself. In other words, it will cut off the supply of blood too easily and you’ll get a lower reading. Taking your blood pressure with a cuff that’s too large is dangerous because you and your doctor may think your blood pressure is normal and not as high as it actually is.

NOTE: When you’re exercising, your blood pressure is expected to rise, but the wrong size cuff could produce a reading that’s low or too high which could be problematic and symptomatic of cardiovascular disease.

Why This Mistake Occurs So Frequently

Using the wrong size cuff is mainly due to a laxity in protocol and/or by the clinician or a lack of emphasis on proper blood pressure cuff sizing in medical training. As a result, neglecting cuff size becomes the standard practice in the everyday work environment, i.e., in doctors’ offices and in both outpatient and inpatient hospital facilities.

Measuring for Cuff Size

Measuring tape

Use a flexible measuring tape (not metal) and measure the circumference of your arm at about the midpoint between your shoulder and elbow. (Allow your arm to relax and hang down at the side of your body.) If you don’t have a measuring tape, you can also use a piece of string or ribbon. Your cuff size will be determined by your arm size.

Apple c heart symbol_40x54Fit Tip: After measuring your arm, MEMORIZE ITS SIZE! Whenever you get your blood pressure taken, ask the clinician the cuff’s range (it’s printed on the cuff).  Blood pressure cuffs do not come in uniform sizes, so you have to know your arm size. You may be an Adult Small in one cuff, but that could vary depending on the manufacturer.

Up Next! … “10 Factors That Can Affect Blood Pressure Readings(i.e., arm position, posture, and your bladder)

How Stress Causes Heart Attacks and Disease

You eat healthy and exercise, but you have clogged arteries or worse yet, had a heart attack. You wonder how that could possibly be. Well, here’s one of the key (and most overlooked) reasons why… STRESS. 

Are You Stressed Out?

Psychological stress can emerge when you’re unable to cope or respond to real-life demands (stressors), e.g.,  unemployment, caregiving for the the chronically ill, family dysfunction, poverty, and/or work, marital, or financial issues. According to the American Psychological Association (APA, 2011), there are two types of stress:

  1. Acute stress – short-term form of stress that stems from the demands and pressures of the recent past and anticipated demands and pressures of the near future.
  2. Chronic stress – long-term form of stress that derives from unending feelings of despair/hopelessness.

Coping with Stress

Coping skills are essential in stress management. How well do you manage your stress? Take this 20-minute Coping and Management Skills Test in Psychology Today and find out. Click here for the 38-question self test.

Various studies have shown that exposure to persistent stress can result in long-term or permanent changes in the way you respond:

  • Emotionally – e.g., increased likelihood of depression
  • Physiologically – e.g., decreased ability to regulate inflammatory responses due to decreased tissue sensitivity to cortisol (your primary stress hormone and regulator of inflammation)
  • Behaviorally – e.g., increased smoking, decreased exercise and sleep, poor medical compliance

These changes can affect your susceptibility to and the development and progression of disease.   Continue reading

Fit TV | Female Heart Attacks

VIDEO: A recent study revealed a new risk factor for heart attacks in women. Karen Owoc, The Health Reporter, hosts a compact segment of health news in The Health Reporter Minute™. Writer/Producer/Editor: Karen Owoc.

Height and Heart Disease

A study by the European Society of Cardiology reported short people had a fifty percent higher risk of having heart disease.  Heart problems included angina (chest pain), heart attack, and angioplasty (the technique of mechanically widening a narrowed or obstructed blood vessel).   Continue reading