Your Health: Ten Things That Really Matter (Part 2)

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital February 26, 2013

Inadequate sleep can lead to anxiety, overeating, high blood pressure, difficulty concentrating, and other problems.

To conclude American Heart Month, we’re featuring ten health tips that were presented by Brigham and Women’s Hospital women’s health experts, Dr. JoAnne Foody and Dr. Paula Johnson, at the Boston Go Red for Women Educational Forum. (Go Red for Women, sponsored by the American Heart Association, occurs each February to educate all women about the need to take care of their hearts.)

Men take note, these tips can benefit you, too – heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. Check back with us as we publish new tips through the end of February.

4. PREVENT DIABETES.

Patients with diabetes take longer to heal from injuries than those without. Diabetes can cause heart attack, stroke, kidney problems, impaired vision, and neuropathy. Although diabetes can come from a genetic predisposition, a high-sugar diet and lack of exercise are modifiable risk factors. Exercise, even without associated weight loss, can improve the body’s glucose control. Studies show that physical activity decreases your risk of diabetes. One hundred and fifty minutes per week (or just 30 minutes per day on weekdays) can reduce your risk of getting diabetes or reduce dependence on medications if you already have diabetes.

It’s never too late. If you have diabetes, you can still exercise. Just make sure you check your blood sugars regularly and be honest with your doctor about your exercise level. Together, you can come up with a plan to balance your exercise level and medications to help with blood sugar control.

TIP:  Use a pedometer!  It is much more fun to count steps than carbohydrates.  If you like the sweet stuff, try to avoid snacks with high sugar content, as they don’t make you feel full.

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Your Health: Ten Things that Really Matter (Part 1)

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital February 25, 2013

Health tip #1: Quit smoking.

To conclude American Heart Month, we’re featuring ten health tips that were presented by Brigham and Women’s Hospital women’s health experts, Dr. JoAnne Foody and Dr. Paula Johnson, at the Boston Go Red for Women Educational Forum. (Go Red for Women, sponsored by the American Heart Association, occurs each February to educate all women about the need to take care of their hearts.)

Men take note, these tips can benefit you, too – heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. Check back with us as we publish new tips through the end of February.

1. DON’T SMOKE: IF YOU DO SMOKE, STOP.

Smoking promotes multiple medical problems, including chronic health issues like heart attack, stroke, osteoporosis, and cancer. The same is true for all tobacco-containing products, from cigars to chewing tobacco. Secondhand smoke should also be avoided.  Improvements in health, including lifespan and activity level, begin the day you quit. While quitting should be the goal, even simply decreasing the number of cigarettes you smoke can improve your life. Preventive efforts, like lowering cholesterol, may be especially effective in decreasing risk for smokers and former smokers.

TIP: If you’ve tried quitting, keep trying!  Research shows it takes an average of three to five tries to quit. If you’re struggling, ask your doctor for help.

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Watching the Clock: An Effective Dieting Tool?

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital February 19, 2013

Should you be concerned about when you eat?

A well-known saying suggests that timing is everything when it comes to success in life’s pursuits.  The results of a study by researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), in collaboration with the University of Murcia (Spain) and Tufts University, suggests that’s also the case when it comes to losing weight. They found that it’s not simply what you eat, but also when you eat, that may help you successfully lose or manage your weight.

To study the role of food timing on weight loss, the researchers studied 420 overweight subjects in Spain during a 20-week weight-loss treatment program. The study subjects were divided into two groups: early eaters and late eaters, according to the timing of their main meal. (In Spain, the main meal is usually lunch, when people may consume as much as 40 percent of total daily calories.) Early eaters ate lunch anytime before 3 p.m. and late eaters, after 3 p.m. The researchers found that late eaters lost significantly less weight than early eaters and experienced a much slower rate of weight loss.

“This is the first large-scale prospective study to demonstrate that the timing of meals predicts weight-loss effectiveness,” said Dr. Frank Scheer, director of the Medical Chronobiology Program and associate neuroscientist at BWH and senior author of this study. “Our results indicate that late eaters displayed a slower weight-loss rate and lost significantly less weight than early eaters, suggesting that the timing of large meals could be an important factor in a weight loss program.”

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A Hearty Dose of Cardiovascular Advice and Research

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital February 12, 2013

Heart disease continues to be the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States, and it is also one of the leading causes of disability. As part of American Heart Month, we offer insight from our clinicians and researchers about how to reduce your heart disease risks and what new things we’re learning about cardiovascular disease and treatment.

 

Heart Disease: Eliminate Excuses to Reduce Your Risks

Dr. Eldrin F. Lewis, MD, MPH, tells his patients that they’ll dramatically reduce their risk of developing heart disease if they follow a few simple guidelines for reducing their blood pressure (hypertension). Genetics can indeed play a role in developing high blood pressure, but obesity, inactivity, tobacco and alcohol use, stress, and salt intake are all hypertension risk factors that you can  control.

 

Weighing the Benefits and Risks of Cholesterol Drugs

If you’ve been taking a statin medication to lower your cholesterol, you might be wondering what you should do in light of new warnings about the link between statin use and diabetes. Research conducted at Brigham and Women’s Hospital may help you and your doctor weigh the benefits and risks.

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BWH Launches ClimbAmerica! for Heart Health

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital January 9, 2013

Taking the stairs is an easy way to incorporate exercise into your daily life - and improve your heart health.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for one in three deaths nationwide and claiming nearly 600,000 lives each year. The good news is that by making simple lifestyle changes like eating healthy and staying active, you have the power to prevent heart disease.

That’s why Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) created ClimbAmerica! – a special event produced by ClimbCorps to rouse people’s spirit in the fight against heart disease and raise funds to improve America’s health.

Launched by BWH, ClimbCorps is the nation’s first service corps dedicated to revolutionizing the cardiovascular health and wellness of the American public. Based on the simple principle that physical activity is needed to maintain better health, ClimbCorps leverages an easy way to incorporate exercise into daily life – by taking the stairs.

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Small Changes Reap Big Health Benefits

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital January 3, 2013

Adding a short walk to your day can go a long way.

When it comes to health and wellness, Barbara Ferreira and Yvonne Allen, employees at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), understand the power of small lifestyle changes, dedication, and consistency.

Allen, an admitting officer for Patient Access Services, decided that it was time to make a change around her 46th birthday in July 2011.

“I wanted to make myself a healthy person,” said Allen, noting that her primary care physician had been concerned about her weight. “I wasn’t going to join a gym, but I wanted to find out what I could do in one year’s time. So I started walking.”

During her morning commute, Allen began walking the second leg of her trip to BWH, which was a half-mile, instead taking the bus. She repeated this every day for several weeks.  Though she didn’t see or feel any changes, she forced herself to keep moving and set a weight loss goal of 10 to 30 pounds in a year.

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Heart Disease: Eliminate Excuses to Reduce Your Risks

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital December 18, 2012

Dr. Lewis tells his patients that one or more lifestyle changes can dramatically reduce their risk of developing heart disease.

Brigham and Women’s Hospital cardiologist Eldrin F. Lewis, MD, MPH, specializes in evaluating patients with heart failure. His goal, however, is to prevent patients from ever needing his expertise.

Knowing that high blood pressure (hypertension) is the biggest risk factor for heart failure, Dr. Lewis tells his patients that they’ll dramatically reduce their risk of developing heart disease if they follow a few simple hypertension-reducing guidelines and keep an eye on their blood pressure. Genetics can indeed play a role in developing high blood pressure, but obesity, inactivity, tobacco and alcohol use, stress, and salt intake are all hypertension risk factors that you can control.

“Eliminate excuses from your vocabulary,” says Dr. Lewis. As a physician with a family history of high blood pressure, that’s what he has tried to do.

  • Know your blood pressure

Left untreated, high blood pressure can cause heart attacks, stroke, kidney failure, or heart failure.  Unfortunately, many people are unaware of their blood pressure levels. Since mild to moderate hypertension usually doesn’t come with any symptoms, you won’t know whether you have it unless you get your blood pressure checked.

There’s no excuse for not knowing your blood pressure, says Dr. Lewis. Everyone should have their blood pressure checked at least once a year, and thanks to the Affordable Care Act, you now can get your yearly physical for free. People at risk or who have already been diagnosed with hypertension, however, should check their blood pressure more frequently. This can be done at your doctor’s office or on your own.

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How to Enjoy Holiday Foods without Derailing Your Diet

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital November 20, 2012

Don't eat like every day is a holiday.

Thanksgiving signals the start of the holiday season. While the holidays are supposed to be a time for celebration, they are also dreaded by those of us trying to maintain or achieve a healthy weight.  However, eating more on Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, or other holidays doesn’t mean you’ll fall short of your health and fitness goals.

Eating a piece or two of pie during Thanksgiving week isn’t going to add extra weight all by itself. It takes 3500 extra calories to add a pound of fat to your body. That’s equal to about an entire nine-inch, high-fat pumpkin pie and three cups of full-fat eggnog. And that’s just for one pound! So eating more on a few days during the holiday season won’t negate your usual healthy dietary habits; however, eating like it’s a holiday for days at a time due to parties and leftovers – creating a “holi-week” – can.

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Ten Thousand Steps to a Longer, Healthier Life

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital November 13, 2012

A longer walk = a longer life.

We all know that exercise is good for you, but how good? While previous studies have shown the link between physical activity and a lower risk of premature death, the actual number of years of life expectancy gained from different physical activity levels has been unclear — until now.

In a new study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), in collaboration with the National Cancer Institute, researchers examined the relationship between physical activity and mortality or life expectancy among more than 650,000 participants over a ten-year period.  The findings showed that physical activity was associated with longer life expectancies across a range of activity levels and body mass index (BMI) levels.

“We found that adding low amounts of physical activity to one’s daily routine, such as 75 minutes of brisk walking per week, was associated with increased longevity: a gain of 1.8 years of life expectancy after age 40, compared with doing no such activity,” explained Dr. I-Min Lee, an associate epidemiologist in the Department of Preventive Medicine at BWH and senior author on this study. “Physical activity above this minimal level was associated with additional gains in longevity. For example, walking briskly for at least 450 minutes a week was associated with a gain of 4.5 years. Further, physical activity was associated with greater longevity among persons in all BMI groups: those normal weight, overweight, and obese.”

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Don’t Exercise to Eat More

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital August 14, 2012

Don’t Exercise to Eat More

The intensity of your workouts can affect the intensity of your appetite.

What’s the best part about a hard workout? Earning the right to eat a giant snack afterward – right? Well, no, it turns out that’s not exactly true – especially if you’re a woman. According to research, women in particular have to be vigilant about their eating habits while exercising. Why?

Researchers found that premenopausal women who exercised intensely made up for the extra calories burned by eating more. Exercising vigorously seems to stimulate the body to want to eat. This may be in part due to the fact that women’s bodies are designed to hold onto fat – possibly as protection for childbearing. Examples of intense activity include: walking very fast (4.5 mph) or jogging (5 mph) or biking (more than 10 mph).

If your motivation to go to the gym just took a giant nosedive after reading that news, take heart: exercise still does wonders for your body, and it does burn calories. Just stay mindful of how you feed your appetite. Don’t justify the strenuous workouts with excess food. Instead focus on additional hydration, as your body might actually be clamoring for extra fluids (namely water) rather than calories.

In addition, this same aforementioned research also found that women engaging in lower intensity exercise did not eat more to offset what they burned off. Examples of lower intensity exercise include: brisk walking (3.5 mph), gardening and yard work (30 to 45 minutes), biking (less than 10 mph), and golfing (providing you walk the course and carry your clubs instead of riding a cart).

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