Cholesterol: The good, the Bad and the Essential

When people think of the word cholesterol, they automatically think of something negative. This is because people who have high cholesterol are told they must alter their diets and/or take medication in order to lower their cholesterol number – - or else face the possibility of serious health ramifications. But the truth is that cholesterol is not necessarily bad. In fact, it is something that the human body needs for survival.

Types of Cholesterol
There are two types of cholesterol, which are generally labeled as the “good” or the “bad” variety. The “good” type of cholesterol is called HDL, or high-density lipoprotein. The “bad” type of cholesterol is called LDL, or low-density lipoprotein. When there is either too much LDL or too little HDL in your blood, it can affect the health of your heart and put you at risk for a stroke, a heart attack, or coronary heart disease.

Some of the cholesterol in your body is a result of the types of food you eat – specifically, animal products. But a majority of the cholesterol in your blood comes from your body itself. Cholesterol is produced naturally in your body by your liver.

How to Determine Your Cholesterol Levels
Most doctors recommend that adults have their blood tested at least once a year for their cholesterol levels. This test is often referred to as a cholesterol screening. The results of this screening will alert the doctor to whether or not you should adjust your diet, be more diligent about an exercise program, or possibly even start taking medication to make sure your LDL cholesterol is not too high and your HDL cholesterol is not too low.

Several tactics can be employed to help get a person’s cholesterol levels to within a healthy range:

  • Sticking to a regular, vigorous exercise routine
  • Reducing the consumption of trans fats
  • Eating a healthy and balanced diet
  • Eliminating cigarette smoking

What are Triglycerides
In addition to LDL and HDL, your physician may measure your triglyceride levels when conducting a cholesterol screening test. The body naturally makes triglycerides, which is a type of fat. When a person’s triglycerides are high, it is a good indication that the HDL level is low and the LDL is high – which essentially equates to a bad combination. When triglycerides are high, there is a good chance that heart disease and/or diabetes may develop.

Understanding Your Cholesterol Numbers
Learning the difference between HDL and LDL can be confusing. After you undergo a cholesterol screening, it’s important to go over your results with your physician to make sure you understand what all the numbers mean. Please make sure you understand that cholesterol exists in everyone’s body – and certain levels are fine. What’s really important to know about your cholesterol  is the ratio of “good” to “bad.” For example, your LDL number may be high, but if your HDL number is also high, you may have an acceptable ratio. Remember, we all need cholesterol to survive, but we must make sure our cholesterol levels are kept in check!

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The Link Between Dental Health and Heart Disease

It may be strange to think that your oral and dental health may be directly related to the health of your heart. In fact, there have been numerous studies that link diseases of the gums (commonly known as “periodontal disease”), cavities, and missing teeth to heart disease. What does this potentially mean? It means that brushing and flossing your teeth every day may actually help prevent you from developing coronary artery disease.

FEB-3-HEart-health-and-dental-healthWhile the evidence is not completely conclusive, there is enough research out there to suggest there is a correlation between dental health and heart disease. There are several possible explanations for this, and one is related to the bacteria that grow in the mouth. It is possible that bacteria in the oral cavity makes its way into the body’s bloodstream, which in turn may cause a reaction in the body’s blood vessels. Such a reaction may increase the potential for heart disease.

Regardless of whether  research on the link between dental health and heart disease is factual, it is recommended that everyone err on the side of caution. In other words, maintaining excellent oral health should be a top priority – even if the overall condition of your teeth and gums is not directly related to your chances of developing heart disease. If nothing else, taking good care of your teeth and gums will help prevent cavities, problems with the gums such as inflammation and periodontal disease, and infections in the mouth.

How to Take Care of your Dental Health

Taking good care of your teeth and gums is not difficult. The steps are simple and easily followed:

  • Make sure to schedule a dental check-up and professional cleaning two times a year
  • Always brush your teeth at least two times a day, using a toothbrush that is in good condition
  • Use dental floss every single day – at least once
  • If you wear dentures, make sure they fit correctly

What if You Already Have Heart Disease?

If you already know you have heart disease, it is overly important that you see your dentist on a regular basis to keep your teeth and gums as healthy as possible. Make sure to tell your dentist about your heart disease and provide him or her with your complete medical record – including all of the medications you are currently taking. Make sure to talk with your doctor and your dentist if you have any concerns about your dental health as it relates to heart disease.

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Anxiety and the progression of cardiovascular disease

The relationship amongst anxiety and heart disease has not been as fully studied as the connection among depression and cardiovascular disease. However, Dr. Una McCann, Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, believes the connection is strong.

“It’s my view and my personal clinical experience that anxiety disorders can play a major role in heart disease,” states Dr. McCann. “I believe that a really careful look at anxiety would reveal the ways it can severely impact heart disease, both as a contributing factor and as an obstacle in recovery.”

A normal response to an unexpected heart attack may be much like post-traumatic stress disorder:

  • You’re probable to be stunned by your near-death encounter and incredibly reluctant to do things you used to do.
  • You may continuously relive the life-threatening event, and avoid the event or location connected with the heart attack.
  • Repeating anxious thoughts could hamper your capability to get normal sleep.
  • Your thoughts about what lies ahead may be tremendously negative and cause a drastically foreshortened expectation of the foreseeable future.

The impact of anxiety on the heart.

When a person is anxious, their body responds in ways that can put an additional strain on their heart. The physical signs of anxiety may be particularly damaging among people with existing cardiac disease.

Anxiety may have an association with the following heart disorders and cardiac risk factors:

Rapid heart rate (tachycardia) – In major cases, can disrupt normal heart function and raise the risk of sudden heart attack.

Increased blood pressure – If chronic, can result in coronary disease, weakening of the heart muscle, and cardiac arrest.

Reduced heart rate variability – May lead to higher incidence of death after an acute heart attack.

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Sleep Apnea and Related Heart Conditions

Has anyone told you that you make strange breathing noises while you sleep? Sleep apnea is a relatively common problem that causes a people to pause their breathing or to take very shallow breaths while they are sleeping. The pauses or shallow breathing lasts for only a few seconds in some cases, but in other cases it can last for up to a couple of minutes.dem-cpap

The pattern of paused or shallow breathing can occur repeatedly each hour. In most cases, a person resumes normal breathing patterns, but not without emitting a noise such as a “snort” or a choking sound. The effects of sleep apnea vary greatly depending on the person and the severity of the condition. In most instances, sleep apnea results in a poor night’s sleep – which causes a person to be very tired the next day. But sometimes sleep apnea can result in an increased risk of serious medical conditions such as heart attacks, heart failure, irregular heartbeats, and high blood pressure.

Most people do not realize they have sleep apnea until someone tells them. In most cases, sleep apnea is discovered by a spouse, a family member, or anyone who happens to be present while the person with this condition is sleeping. The observer usually notices the person is making strange breathing noises while sleeping. If the problem persists, the individual who  has noticed the breathing problems usually encourages or insists the person with the breathing issues see a doctor. When the odd breathing noises are described, most doctors conclude that sleep apnea may be the cause.

Types of Sleep Apnea:

The two most common type of sleep apnea are Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Controlled Sleep Apnea.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea – this type of apnea is usually caused by some sort of obstruction in the airway. It can also be caused by a collapsed airway. In children, this type of sleep apnea is often caused by enlarged tonsils.

Central Sleep Apnea – this type of apnea is not as common as obstructive apnea. Instead of being related to an obstruction in the airway or to a collapsed airway, it is related to an incorrect signal from the brain that controls a person’s breathing muscles.

Both types of sleep apnea can be serious, and anyone displaying symptoms of either type should be immediately evaluated by a doctor. When sleep apnea is left untreated, a whole host of  medical issues may arise. Not only does sleep apnea increase a patients’ chances of developing serious heart conditions, but sleep apnea also contributes to their increased risk of obesity and diabetes. In addition, because sleep apnea causes a person to be tired during the daytime hours due to insufficient rest during the night, the result is often a higher risk for car accidents and/or work-related accidents.

Whats The Treatment?
Most cases of sleep apnea can be treated. But effective treatment of this chronic condition requires that patients  be committed to the management of their symptoms. For example, sleep apnea is often be treated with apparatuses worn in the mouth while the patient is sleeping. Or, a device that assists with nighttime breathing might be required. In some cases, doctors order  patients with sleep apnea to adjust their lifestyles to be more healthy. In severe cases of sleep apnea, heart conditions are the result. In these situations, it is especially important to follow a doctor’s treatment orders so the condition does not become life threatening.

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Football = Tailgate Parties (and Lots of Unhealthy Food?) Not Necessarily!

1248808306_tailgate-party_1004456Fall is officially here… and you know what that means. It’s time for some football! If you’re into football, you’re also likely into tailgating. And what’s more fun that watching your favorite football team while eating traditional tailgate food? What’s your favorite football season food?  Hotdogs, burgers, ribs, chips, cheese sauce? How about sour cream dips, sausage… and we can’t forget beer!

But all of these items are so un-heart-healthy that it seems almost criminal to not mention healthier food and drink menu alternatives. Tailgating is meant to be fun. The food at tailgating parties is supposed to be delicious. But can tailgating be fun, delicious. AND healthy – - all at the same time? You bet it can!

Here are 3 Healthy Menu Items for Your Next Tailgate Party:

Veggie and Fruit Trays. Almost anyone is willing to substitute veggies for unhealthy chips. Veggies can be munched and crunched and fruit is nice and sweet. Some great alternatives to unhealthy dips include humus and salsa. Veggies such as carrots, celery, radishes, broccoli, cauliflower, and peppers are great for tailgating parties. Fruits that are easy to slice into small one-bite pieces are also always a big hit. How about a fruit salad?

Where’s the Beef? Try eliminating beef from your tailgating party. Chicken, turkey, or veggie burgers are excellent alternatives to red meat… and most people won’t even notice that hamburgers and/or ribs are not offered at the festivities. Yes, it’s true that red meat is delicious and a favorite among tailgaters. But is not eating red meat at a football tailgate party against the law? Absolutely not. Try something different next time, and see just how well it’s received by your friends. And while you’re at it, eliminate the fattening toppers like cheese and mayonnaise!

Dessert. Who needs it? Ok, if you must have dessert at your tailgate party, try to make it something reasonably healthy… or at least healthier than the alternatives. For example, how about frozen yogurt instead of ice cream? There are many recipes on the internet that offer low fat and low calorie versions of cheesecake, cookies, and brownies. You can also incorporate fresh fruit into your dessert options.  This will automatically score points on the health meter.

The most important thing to remember when it comes to tailgate parties is that they can be lots of fun and involve lots of food… but you don’t have to make them unhealthy. There are many heart-healthy food choices that not only taste good, but also contribute to the overall football experience.

A football tailgating party would not be official without an abundance of food and drinks. But the choices can be smart and the portions can be limited. There is no need to overstuff yourself just because there’s a football game! Even if there is an overabundance of food available, try to limit your food intake and don’t graze all day long. You’ll be happier in the end!

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Women: You are Just as Likely to Suffer from a Stroke as Men!

Woman for BHI blog

Here are some facts about strokes you might not know:

1)    Strokes are the third leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women, right behind heart disease and cancer.

2)    More women than men suffer from strokes.

3)    Many women do not know the risk factors for strokes.

4)    Women are often not aware of the warning signs of strokes.

5)    Most women don’t know how to decrease their chances of having a stroke.

6)    Many doctors do not evaluate women for early critical signs and symptoms of heart problems that can lead to strokes, especially if they see that women are well-groomed and appear to be active and energetic.

You probably read number 6 and thought, “What? How can this be true?” It’s difficult to believe that some doctors may miss crucial signs that “well dressed” women may be at risk for strokes.  However, an article published by The Telegraph, has brought this worldwide problem to light.

The article outlines a research study conducted by the Heart Institute – Pitie Salpetriere Hospital in Paris, France.

The most startling fact revealed by the lead researcher of the study was summarized in the following statement: “I think doctors – GPs and cardiologists – often do not realize the risk for women. Too often they will think if a female patient looks healthy, and dresses smartly, and looks after herself, she is probably okay.”

Is this a common theme among general practitioners and cardiologists around the globe? The answer is probably “yes.” However here at Boone Heart Institute, our preventative assessments analyze your risk of stroke, and if you are at a high risk, we can develop a treatment protocol that can reduce this risk significantly.

Our simple “Check Your Neck” approach is safe, effective and easy. We use a Carotid-IMT test with a SonoSite portable ultrasound machine. The machine’s reading device is placed up to your neck to check your artery lining thickness to the thousandth of a millimeter, which ensures the best accuracy in year-to-year repeat testing. The results of this simple test provide us with valuable insight into your current cardiovascular health, and your potential heart-attack risk rate.

Our “Check Your Neck” test is important for both men and women. However women, please be aware that you have the same risk as men do for strokes. In fact, after the age of 75, your risk for strokes is actually greater than that of men of the same age.

What can you do? Educate yourself and come see a medical staff member at Boone Heart for your Carotid-IMT test! Here are some heart healthy living tips as well that we suggest you follow. Following these heart healthy tips along with knowing your risk is the first step in helping to prevent heart attack and stroke!

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Heart Healthy Cookout Ideas

Hotter temperatures mean your probably grilling a few nights a week. If that’s the case below are some helpful tips and ideas for a healthier cookout.


Go fish! Fish, specifically oily fish like tuna and salmon have fantastic nutritional benefits including omega-3 fatty acids. BBQ-flamesSimply rub a fillet with lemon juice and parsley or rosemary for improved flavor.

Make a better burger: if you’re grilling burgers, make sure to buy lean or extra lean beef, drain off excess fat after cooking and avoid making huge patties– remember that a serving size of meat is roughly the size of a deck of cards (3 oz). Add finely chopped green pepper to your beef to get in your veggies.

Baked fries: Slice white or sweet potatoes into sticks, lightly spray with olive oil cooking spray, pepper and paprika and bake on a cookie sheet for 40 minutes at 375 degrees.

Veggie kabobs: pile skewers with mushrooms, peppers, cherry tomatoes, zucchini, yellow squash or other veggies. Spray lightly with olive oil cooking spray and barbecue until slightly blackened.

Try grilled corn on the cob: leave the husks on, and grill for about 30 minutes over medium flame, rotating periodically. Remove from grill, let cool for about 5 minutes, remove husks and enjoy!

I don’t know about you but all this talk about food is making me hungry…

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Missing breakfast could heighten the risk of heart attack in men

One more reason to eat your breakfast: missing it can increase your chances of a heart attack! A survey of older men discovered those who routinely missed breakfast had a 27 percent greater risk of a heart attack than those who ate a morning meal. And there’s absolutely no reason the results wouldn’t apply to other people, too, the Harvard researchers say. Other surveys have suggested a link between breakfast and obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and other health related issues viewed as precursors to heart problems. Why would not having breakfast be a risk factor for a heart attack? Specialists are not 100% certain, but here’s what many think: People who do not eat a morning meal are more likely to be hungrier later in the day and eat larger meals. Those meals mean the body must process a larger amount of calories in a shorter amount of time. Doing this can spike sugar levels in the blood and possibly lead to clogged arteries. But is a stack of syrupy pancakes, greasy eggs and bunches of bacon really better than eating nothing? Researcher did not ask what the study participants consumed for breakfast, and were not prepared to pass judgment on whether a fatty, sugary breakfast is better than no breakfast at all. The study was conducted on nearly 27,000 men about their eating habits in 1992. About 13 percent of them said they routinely bypassed breakfast. They all were educated health professionals – like dentists and veterinarians – and were at least 45. Over the next 16 years, 1,527 suffered fatal or non-fatal heart attacks, including 171 who had said they frequently missed breakfast. During this time over 7 percent of the men who skipped breakfast had heart attacks, compared to nearly 6 percent of those who ate breakfast. The researchers calculated the increased risk at 27 percent, considering other factors like smoking, drinking, diet and health complications like high blood pressure and obesity. So bottom line… eat your breakfast… it may just be the most important meal of the day!   The post Missing breakfast could heighten the risk of heart attack in men appeared first on Boone Heart Institute | Preventive Cardiology | Denver, Colorado.

Trying to escape the heat this summer by heading to the mountains?

5332_20527_Rocky_Mountain_Summer_Vacation_mdIf you are planning a trip to the beautiful mountains this summer to try and escape the city heat, keep your heart’s health in mind…

Rapidly rising to a high altitude can be difficult on even the healthiest people, but it can mean more troublesome for individuals with heart issues. How your heart will react to the challenges of high altitude is dependent on how high you are going, what you plan to do there, the state of your heart, and your overall physical fitness.

How high altitude affects these common conditions:

Coronary artery disease: If you’ve had a heart attack, bypass surgery, or angioplasty, and your heart function is good, or you have well-controlled angina, you should have the capacity to handle a high-altitude trip. If you plan to hike, ski, or do another strenuous activity, be sure you have the ability to do similarly stressful activities at lower elevation. Have a stress test to see what type of activities you may be able to do and talk with your doctor about whether you might need to change your medications.

High blood pressure: Blood pressure has the tendency to increase at higher elevations, so it’s best to obtain blood pressure controlled before taking a trip in high elevation. Bring a blood pressure meter and make a plan with your doctor for changing your medications if your pressure increases.

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