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Stroke Risk Factors & Prevention

July 28, 2016

StrokeEvery 40 seconds in the United States, someone suffers from a stroke. Stroke falls at number 5 on the top causes of death in the US. claiming roughly 130,000 people’s lives a year.

Blood vessels are responsible for carrying oxygen and nutrients to the brain. During a stroke, a blood vessel is ruptured or blocked by a clot. What does this mean for the brain? Part of the brain is unable to receive all of the blood and oxygen necessary to function causing brain cells to die.

Since the brain controls many body functions, the effects of a stroke are extremely severe. When the region controlling a type of body function is affected by a stroke,that part of the body does not function in its entirety. Some examples of body malfunction include paralysis, vision problems, memory loss, or speech problems.

The risk for stroke depends on many controllable and uncontrollable risk factors. The risk factors that can’t be changed include age, with risk doubling for each decade after age 55. Women are more likely to have a stroke and die from it than men. A family history also contributes to your risk as well having had a prior stroke or heart attack. While it is unfortunate to have risk factors that cannot be modified, there are also several risk factors that can be changed to lessen the risk of stroke.

Like many other forms of heart disease, poor diet and physical inactivity play a large role in your risk for stroke. Being a smoker also increases your risk as well as having high blood pressure, diabetes, high blood cholesterol or other forms of heart disease.  

So what can you do to prevent the risk of stroke? Make quality sleep a priority with 7-8 hours. Take control of your blood sugar, cholesterol levels, and blood pressure. Fill your body with healthy nutrients though fruits, vegetables, fish and whole grains. Take every opportunity to move around.

Nutrition for the Older Adult

July 14, 2016

brain-healthAs people age, the amount of calories needed declines. The foods we consume must be packed full of nutrition to get what we need. Even then, our bodies may become less efficient at absorbing some nutrients. Cognitive function is often believed to decline as we age. Although the evidence directly linking healthy nutrition and lifestyle choices to cognitive function isn’t strong, new research continues to suggest these two things may prolong brain function.Overall, a diet rich in antioxidants, phytochemicals, omega-3 fatty acids, certain vitamins and minerals have been shown to promote both brain and overall health as we age.

Phytochemicals are plant chemicals that help protect against disease. There are thousands of phytochemicals which help to prevent inflammation, stimulate the immune system, and reduce oxidative damage to cells. A few of the most common are lycopene in tomatoes, isoflavones in soy, flavonoids in fruit, and polyphenols in tea and grapes. Increasing your fruit and vegetable intake is the easiest way to increase intake of phytochemicals.

Antioxidants are substances that may prevent or delay cell damage. The body makes some antioxidants however relies on external sources, primarily in the diet, to obtain the rest in needs. The three major antioxidant vitamins are beta-carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin E. You will also find these in colorful fruits and vegetables.

Omega-3 fatty acids are unsaturated fats that have a wide range of benefits, including possibly reducing symptoms in rheumatoid arthritis and slowing age-related macular degeneration. Some new evidence suggests that omega-3s may also reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.  Consume at least two servings of fish a week (salmon, tuna, sardines, and mackerel are high in omega-3 fats) as well as vegetable sources (soybeans, walnuts, flaxseed, and canola oil).

Research for cognition on older adults has focused on folate and vitamin B12. Folate is used for energy production in the brain. Older adults who do not eat fortified cereals or enough fruits and vegetables may fall short of this key nutrient. Vitamin B12 is important for maintaining healthy nerve function. Vitamin B12 absorption does decrease with age so increase your intake with fish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk, and milk products.

Calcium intake often decreases as we age. If you do not take in enough calcium it will leach out of your bones, causing them to become weak and brittle. It is recommended that we get three servings a day of low-fat milk and other dairy products. Other good dietary sources of calcium include kale and broccoli, as well as juices fortified with calcium.

Vitamin D works hand-in-hand with calcium to help absorb the mineral. Diets lacking in Vitamin D can contribute to osteoporosis and increased risk of falls. Sunlight is our number one source, but many foods are fortified with vitamin D, such cereals, milk, some yogurts, and juices.

With age, our sense of thirst may decrease. Certain medicines also increase the risk for becoming dehydrated. Water is especially important if you are increasing the fiber in your diet, since it absorbs water. It is recommended you drink at least 3 to 5 large glasses of water each day.

Congestive Heart Failure

June 30, 2016

Did you know that 6 million people are living with congestive heart failure? Even more staggering than this is that 1 in 5 Americans will develop congestive heart failure. You may hear congestive heart failure referred to as CHF or cardiac failure. The name of congestive heart failure is a bit of a misnomer. Having congestive heart failure doesn’t mean your heart has stopped working. However, it does mean that your heart is unable to carry out one of its most important functions. In an individual with congestive heart failure, the heart can’t pump enough blood to meet the body’s demand.

The heart’s weak pumping power results in a variety of adverse symptoms. These symptoms include shortness of breath, fatigue and tiredness. In addition, you may experience a condition called edema where fluid builds up in the feet, ankles and legs. This causes intense swelling. Another common effect of congestive heart failure is blood and fluid backed up in the lungs, which can result in a chronic cough.

So who is at risk for congestive heart failure? As is true for most heart conditions, the older you get, the greater the risk. Congestive heart failure is most prevalent in individuals 65 years and older. However, it’s important to note that this condition can affect all ages, including children. Additionally, if you have coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, or diabetes, make sure to stay carefully monitored for congestive heart failure. These diseases are a common cause of congestive heart failure. Men, African Americans, and overweight individuals are also at higher risk for the disease as well.

Be aware of any symptoms you may be feeling and keep an open conversation with your doctor. If you experience any symptoms of chronic heart failure, let your doctor know right away.

Prevent Heart Disease By Knowing Your Body

June 23, 2016

Heart disease and stroke are the world’s leading causes of death, claiming more than 17 million lives each year, and the numbers continue to rise. Often times, patients focus on chest pain as the primary symptom for heart disease, but in reality, patients should be aware of a myriad of possible symptoms and should discuss any concerns with their physician.

Help your doctor, help you.

Be open and honest with your doctor, no concern is too minor to discuss. Through open communication, your doctor can offer the right cardiovascular treatment for your condition.  

Below are 10 possible heart disease symptoms you should never ignore:

  1. Anxiety
  2. Chest discomfort
  3. Cough
  4. Dizziness
  5. Fatigue
  6. Irregular pulse
  7. Shortness of breath
  8. Swelling
  9. Weakness
  10. Loss of appetite

Follow these five proactive steps to keep open communication with your doctor :  

  1. Stress: When you are experiencing irregular stress, your body may hold extra adrenaline that can stimulate the heart and cause it to skip beats creating increased palpitations. It’s important to let your doctor know if you are anxious or stressed about any particular issue.
  2. Exercise: The health benefits of daily exercise are well known. But sometimes even if you exercise daily, you may experience chest pains. It’s important to alert your doctor if this happens. It could be a matter of less strenuous exercise or many other factors.  
  3. It happens to best of us: If you skipped a dose of your medication, don’t worry, just remember to take it the next time. Just let your doctor know that you may have missed a dose or two.  It may make a difference in how your test results look.
  4. Vitamins and supplements: Herbal remedies and supplements are great for some medical issues, but could potentially impact your cardiovascular health. Let your doctor know if you are or plan to take vitamins and other supplements.

Preventing heart disease begins by knowing your body and your risk factors. Are you a smoker? Are you overweight or obese? Do heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol or high blood pressure run in your family? The more risk factors you have, the more important it is to build a relationship with a cardiologist.  Call 904.493.3333 to schedule an appointment with a member of our team.

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