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American Heart Month: Do you know the risks and signs of heart attack and stroke?

Go Red 2017 cropped
In 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson proclaimed February as American Heart Month — a federally designated month to help remind us to take care of our heart so we can continue to enjoy all of life’s precious moments. It’s a month to encourage us to get educated and get involved. By knowing your risk factors and learning the signs of heart attack and stroke, you may save a life — possibly yours!

Go Red For Women is the American Heart Association’s movement dedicated to the growing number of women affected by heart disease and stroke aimed at advocating for more research and swifter action for women’s heart health.

Male or female, consider the following:

  • 44 million women in the U.S. alone are estimated to be affected by cardiovascular diseases
  • Cardiovascular disease and stroke lead to 1 in 3 deaths annually — the number one killer of both men and women
  • 90% of women have 1 or more risk factors for heart disease or stroke
  • Fewer women than men will survive their first heart attack
  • Symptoms can be different in women vs. men
  • Heart disease and stroke know no age, ethnicity or socioeconomic levels, though some are more at risk than others.
  • 80% of heart disease and stroke events may be prevented by lifestyle changes and education
  • More and more young people are affected by heart disease, in part because diabetes and childhood obesity are on the rise. Obese youth are more likely to have risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure. In a population-based sample of 5- to 17-year-olds, 70% of obese youth had at least 2 risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

KNOW THE RISK FACTORS

Risk factors that can be managed
You can control or treat these risk factors with lifestyle changes and your healthcare provider's help:

  • High blood pressure
  • Smoking
  • High blood cholesterol
  • Lack of regular activity
  • Obesity or overweight
  • Diabetes

Risk factors you can't control
You can't change these risk factors:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Heredity (family health history)
  • Race
  • Previous stroke or heart attack


KNOW THE SIGNS

Heart Attack
For men and women, the most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest. It may last more than a few minutes, or may come and go. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the following symptoms:

  1. Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  2. Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
  3. Other signs such as breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.

Bottom line: trust your gut! If you aren’t feeling normal or experiencing any of the symptoms above, head to the ER!

Stroke
A stroke occurs when blood flow through an artery to the brain is cut off either by a blockage or because the artery ruptures and bleeds into the brain tissue

The American Stroke Association developed this easy-to-remember guide to help identify the signs of a stroke.

F – Face drooping. Is one side of the person’s face drooping or numb? When he or she smiles, is the smile uneven?
A – Arm weakness. Is the person experiencing weakness or numbness in one arm? Have the person raise both arms, Does one of the arms drift downward?
S – Speech difficulty. Is the person’s speech suddenly slurred or hard to understand? Is he or she unable to speak? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Can he or she repeat it back?
T – Time to call 9-1-1. If any of these symptoms are present, dial 9-1-1 immediately. Check the time so you can report when the symptoms began.

Getting treatment within the first three hours after stroke onset is critical for minimizing permanent damage.

BEYOND F.A.S.T. – Other Symptoms You Should Know

  • Sudden NUMBNESS or weakness of face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden CONFUSION, trouble speaking or understanding speech
  • Sudden TROUBLE SEEING in one or both eyes
  • Sudden TROUBLE WALKING, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden SEVERE HEADACHE with no known cause

There are risk factors for heart disease and stroke that you can control through healthy lifestyle, and others such as family history that you cannot. It is important to know that not all heart attacks and strokes come with obvious warning signs so there is no substitution for routine, preventative health care.

 

On a personal note . . .
My husband, at the age of 52 suffered a massive stroke. By all accounts he ate healthy and exercised vigorously 4-5 times per week. He had no unhealthy habits to speak of. However, hypertension, family history, and ignoring regular physical check-ups outweighed his odds of a major-medical emergency. Two days prior to the stroke he experienced intense headache – a warning sign we were both unaware of. Thankfully, recognizing changes in speech and seeking immediate help saved his life, thus allowing our family to preserve and create many more precious memories.

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8 Ideas for easing your stress, naturally

chocolate

STRESS! We know it all too well. We all experience it on a daily basis at work, at home, and everywhere we go. In the AMC business, many are preparing for the busy meeting season along with site visits for future events which can mean lots of travel and deadlines. Stress, in manageable doses, can actually provide the needed motivation and energy needed to survive these seasons. So…stress in and of itself is not the enemy. Our reaction to it, however, is key!

Author Andrew Bernstein said “The truth is that stress doesn’t come from your boss, your kids, your spouse, traffic jams, health challenges, or other circumstances. It comes from your thoughts about your circumstances.”

Before, I offer a few ideas on stress reduction, I must provide the disclaimer that I have in no way mastered a state of total inner peace! As one of the newest members of the AMPED team, this is my first ever blog post, which in and of itself has generated a considerable spike in cortisol levels and therefore qualifies me to speak on the topic — right?! Actually I have had a long-time passion for natural health solutions and organic, clean eating.

First a little chemistry. Stress is, in part, the result of heightened levels of cortisol. What is cortisol? DrAxe.com offers the following explanation:

“The adrenal gland, following signals from the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, is responsible for the secretion of cortisol, a type of essential glucocorticoid steroid hormone. Cortisol levels are highest in the morning around 7 a.m. and lowest at night (called a diurnal rhythm). Cortisol is also present in both chronically stressed individuals and those who are perfectly healthy. This vital hormone possesses dozens of different purposes within the body and makes numerous chemical interactions every single day.”

In fact, we depend on cortisol production in order to respond to our surroundings, stay motivated, and to stay awake. However, overproduction can lead to “brain fog”, mood swings, and fatigue and insomnia-just to name a few. Chronic, long-term elevated levels of cortisol can lead to high blood pressure, compromised immune system and a whole host of diseases. Okay, enough about cortisol for now.

Natural solutions to help curb everyday stress are numerous so I will simply mention a few I have incorporated or whose effectiveness I have closely witnessed on someone else.

1. Exercise - Most of us have experienced the positive mental effects and energy boost from regular, moderate exercise. Just a caution that the risks of overtraining are as great as doing no exercise at all.

2. Acupuncture - Can help reduce symptoms like pain, insomnia, headaches.

3. Essential Oils - Breathing in lavender, ylang ylang, bergamot, and frankincense, for instance, can effectively help with sleep, cortisol reduction, balance hormone levels and improve immunity.

4. Deep breathing exercises.

5. Humor - Laughter is, of course, the best medicine. According to the Mayo Clinic, it enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain.

6. The great outdoors - Simply getting out in the natural world around us and unplugging can promote relaxation. Also, a daily dose of unfiltered sunshine hitting our skin creates a reaction that allows our skin cells to manufacture vitamin D. The growing list of diseases and conditions linked to vitamin D deficiencies warrants further investigation of specific sun exposure guidelines recommended for your skin type and where you live. Regardless, it is well documented that light therapy boosts immunity and mood, thus reducing stress.

7. Sleep - Adequate and quality sleep allow the body’s cortisol levels to naturally drop in the evening and rise again in the morning giving us energy. Those with chronically high stress will likely experience the opposite by being “wired” at night and fatigued all day.

8. Adaptogenic herbs and superfoods - They have the ability to help balance blood pressure and blood sugar levels which in turn help lower fatigue and provide a natural antidepressant.

One superfood we almost all love is Cocoa. Yes, CHOCOLATE, for example, has been used for thousands of years to promote better overall health. Keep in mind, choosing dark, minimally processed chocolate will yield the maximum benefit. (This of course goes for all food — choosing unprocessed or minimally processed fresh, organic, seasonal, grass-fed meats, and wild caught fish whenever possible will give your body the proper nourishment to combat stress.)

Avocado is another superfood that has gained popularity for good reason. It is a healthy fat, containing 20 essential nutrients including fiber, potassium, vitamin E, B vitamins, and folic acid. It acts as a natural hormone balancer which helps protect the heart and improve mood. Whether you love avocado or you avoid it, give the following recipe for Chocolate Avocado Spread a try and you just might change your mind! (recipe-courtesy of erikaelizabethnutrition.com).

There you have it! A few of my favorite ideas to consider as you approach the busy meeting/travel season! Lastly, credits to some of my favorite sources in natural health: JJ Virgin, Dr. Axe, holistic nutritionist Erika Peterson, Dr. Mercola and many more that influence the choices I make.

What’s one of your go-to stress reduction tips?

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