Tag Archives: heart health

Could You Have Masked Hypertension?

Approximately a third of American adults suffer from hypertension (a whopping 75 million people). Some may not even be aware they have the condition. Just because your blood pressure readings are okay at the doctor’s office doesn’t mean you’re in the clear. There are two phenomena that result in inaccurate blood pressure readings at the doctor’s office: one is called ‘masked hypertension’, and its opposite is called ‘white coat hypertension’. Today we’re going to investigate masked hypertension.

What is Masked Hypertension?

Masked hypertension is a phenomenon whereby a person’s blood pressure measures in the healthy zone when they are visiting a doctor, but readings are much higher when they self-measure at home or at another location. This may occur because some people find a doctor’s office to be a calming environment, whereas their home life may be quite hectic or busy which may affect their blood pressure. Masked hypertension may also be a result of a person’s blood pressure spiking when they partake in activities such as drinking or smoking on a regular basis.

How Common is Masked Hypertension?

According to Doctor Deepak Bhatt, MPH, editor of the Harvard University Heart Health letter, the only reason we know this condition even exists is because of several studies that required participants to gather ambulatory blood pressure readings as well as some in a doctor’s office. In some of the studies, up to 40% of participants experienced higher blood pressure in everyday life than in the doctor’s office. Unfortunately, we have no way of knowing the true number of people affected by masked hypertension because if a person’s readings are fine in the office, a doctor commonly won’t request they check them at home.

What to do About Masked Hypertension?

Dr. Deepak suggests that because high blood pressure is such a prevalent problem in America, those middle-aged or older should invest in a home monitor to occasionally check their numbers to ensure their readings are healthy across the board or to alert them if the readings differ. Blood pressure is a silent killer if left undetected and unmanaged, so it is important to know your true numbers.

Stay tuned next time for the opposite phenomenon known as white coat hypertension. Thanks for visiting DocChat!


Tips For A Healthier Heart (Part 2)

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, claiming over 610,000 lives annually. It is important that we all do everything we can to help lower our individual risks of developing heart disease. We looked at some heart-healthy tips in our last post, now let’s take a look at the rest:

Put Out That Cigarette For Good!

You’re well aware of how damaging smoking can be to the lungs, but did you know it can be just as bad for your heart? Smoking damages the walls of your arteries which can lead to a buildup of plaque (atherosclerosis). This can lead to heart disease or stroke. You should also note that second-hand smoke also raises your risk of heart disease.

Apple-shaped? Beware!

Those who tend to carry most of their weight around their midsection are at higher risk of developing cardiovascular complications, as the abdomen is the worst place for excess fat to reside. This fat is closer to all the major organs and it also increases a person’s risk of having higher triglyceride and blood sugar levels. If you have a bit of an ‘apple thing’ going on, it may be in your best interest to start shedding some of those extra pounds today!

Try HIIT to Get Fit

So, we’ve established that anyone carrying extra weight should do their best to get down to a healthier BMI. There are endless ways to do this, but if you’re looking for a great way to work out that heart while you work off those calories, high intensity interval training (HIIT) may be just the thing for you. Studies have found that stopping and starting exercise in short intervals may be one of the most efficient ways to burn calories fast.

Watch All Of Your Numbers!

We all know it is important to watch the scale, especially if you are concerned about extra weight putting you at higher risk for disease, but you should also keep an eye on what the blood pressure cuff may be trying to tell you. If you have high (or drastically low) blood pressure, or even borderline high, you should be keeping an eye on that and trying to calibrate it. Also, you should get your cholesterol checked regularly and have your doctor show you your numbers so you know if you should start watching it. Another number to keep an eye on? Your age. Even though you can’t prevent getting older, as you age your risk of developing heart disease increases as well. Because of this, you should start being even more vigilant and living healthier as you climb in years.

Healthy Mouth, Healthier Heart!

Numerous studies have pointed out the link between gum disease and heart disease. If you strive to take good care of your teeth and gums, you may lower your risk of heart disease in the process!

There you have some tips to set you on a better path to heart health! Thanks for visiting DocChat!



Tips For A Healthier Heart (Part 1)

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, claiming over 610,000 lives annually. Because of the alarming statistics, it is important that we all do everything we can to help lower our individual risks of developing heart disease. Some factors cannot be prevented or changed, but some of the things you can do to lower your risk include:

Trim The Fat

We are all a little guilty of having too much fat in our diets from time to time, but if you notice a large portion of foods you eat contain saturated fats, you should re-evaluate your diet. The USDA advises people to consume no more than 7% of their daily caloric intake in saturated fat.

Feed Your Heart Right

The type of foods you choose to fuel your body can have a big impact on your heart. By choosing lots of produce, whole grains and low fat dairy and limiting red meat, junk food and refined carbs, you’re doing your heart a better service. Try to include foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids as well, such as nuts, seeds and fish.

Nip Cortisol in the Bud

Stress can be a killer, especially when the heart is involved. While the link between type-A personalities and heart disease is still being debated, it is clear that too much stress isn’t great for the heart. According to the World Heart Federation, acute stress can raise blood pressure, alter the way the heart beats and lead to reduced blood flow to the heart which can cause (or worsen) blood clotting. So, if you tend to get very stressed easily, you should try to curb those tendencies to do your heart a favor in the long run.

Nab A New Hobby

A great way to chronically destress is to take up something that keeps the hands and mind busy like wood working, coloring, painting, playing an instrument or knitting. When you find yourself frustrated or stressed, pick up your hobby where you left off last to help chill out.

Pump it Up

Getting your heart rate higher than its norm each day will help get your blood circulating more efficiently, and in turn help condition your whole system. Getting at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise weekly will help put you in a better position to stave off heart disease or other chronic conditions like type 2 diabetes.

Thanks for visiting DocChat, stay tuned for the rest of our heart healthy tips next!


15 Foods That Can Worsen High Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a waxy substance produced by lipids in the bloodstream that helps the body build healthy cells, but when cholesterol levels raise too high, this waxy substance starts building up in your arteries and can lead to cardiovascular disease. It is important for those with high cholesterol to make lifestyle changes that can help lower the numbers. Making dietary changes is an important step in lowering cholesterol.

Foods That Can Raise Cholesterol

Some foods that can contribute to high cholesterol and should be avoided or limited include:

  1. Saturated fats like butter, lard and bacon grease (use extra virgin olive oil instead)
  2. Coconut and coconut-based products are high in fat and can raise cholesterol levels
  3. Hydrogenated vegetable oils like those in shortening, condiments and junk food
  4. High-fat meats such as beef, sausages, processed meat or bacon
  5. Organ meats like liver or kidney meat
  6. Alcohol can drive up triglyceride levels
  7. Dried fruit as it is high in sugar
  8. Oil-Packed Fish (choose water-packed or fresh instead)
  9. Certain snacks like chips or microwave popcorn (aside from being starch-based, it is loaded with chemical butter substitutes)
  10. Starchy veggies like corn or potatoes
  11. Rich desserts such as milk chocolate and puddings
  12. Sugar – try having your coffee black and consider baking with substitutes for sugar such as stevia
  13. Sugary drinks like pop or juice
  14. Full-fat milk products (stick to low fat choices)
  15. Simple carbs such as those found in muffins, crackers or white bread

Limiting these foods is a good start toward lowering your cholesterol. Keep an eye out for the best foods to help control high cholesterol in the future! Thanks for visiting DocChat.


Heart Matters – A Ticker-Friendly Diet

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 735,000 Americans have heart attacks annually. Moreover, there are a whopping 610,000 cardiac-related fatalities in the Unites States every year. Because of these alarming stats, we decided to start a Heart Matters feature. For our second edition of Heart Matters we will be looking at a more heart-friendly diet for those who have heart disease or are concerned about their risk of developing it.

Dispelling Old “Heart Diet” Myths

The heart-friendly diet of yesteryear centered around avoiding anything containing cholesterol (without taking into account LDL versus HDL) as well as indiscriminately steering clear of fats. Fortunately, we’ve since realized that the focus should be more about choosing well rounded, nutritious foods that contain heart healthy nutrients and good fats as opposed to empty calories and saturated fats. We’ve also since reintroduced the poor, long-forsaken egg back into the picture. While eggs do contain cholesterol, a fine body of research now shows that the benefits eggs offer the heart such as folate, protein, B and D vitamins and riboflavin well outweigh the minimal effect a few eggs a week may have on cholesterol levels.

Reframing Fats

Since medical science is finally starting to refurbish the reputation of ‘good fats’ like omega-3 fatty acids, these dietetic heroes have become the star attractions of today’s heart healthy diet. Anyone looking to strengthen the old ticker should be reaching for a handful of nuts or preparing a serving of fatty fish several times weekly. You can read more about the many benefits of omega-3 fatty acids here.

Try These Heart Healthy Diet Tips

Whether you’ve been battling heart disease for most of your life, were recently diagnosed, or are simply concerned about your neutralizing your risk of developing it, there are lifestyle and dietary changes you can make to better your heart. Some key dietary changes include:

  • Up your produce game – routinely ensuring veggies cover half your plate and fruit is on the menu for dessert will help your heart (and your waistline) in the long run.
  • Opt for whole grains – choices like brown rice, quinoa and oats are great because of their low glycemic indexes.
  • Beans, beans, the magical fruit – beans and legumes are packed with protein and can effectively replace some of your meat intake. Red meat in particular can be quite hard on the heart when eaten in excess.
  • Go for calories that pack a punch – cut down on junk foods that provide only empty calories. Instead, focus on nutritious foods that make your body work to metabolize them instead of just storing them as excess fat.
  • Don’t forget those mega omegas – we mentioned it already, but don’t underestimate the value of foods like nuts, seeds (especially flaxseed) and fish for a healthy heart!
  • Go red instead – if you’re in the mood for a drink, reach for a glass of red wine! While the research remains a little divided, much of it suggests the antioxidants and flavonoids red wine contains may aid cardiovascular health.

Well that’s all for our heart healthy diet tips, to read more about tailoring your diet to suit your heart, you can visit the American Heart Association. Thanks for visiting DocChat, check back for more Heart Matters posts in the future!


Dark Chocolate – Chockfull of Health Benefits

Most of us have heard that eating a couple squares of dark chocolate a day is actually good for you – but how so? Dark chocolate may have even more health benefits than originally thought. However, the type of chocolate matters. We’re not talking yummy, sugary milk chocolate – we are talking about at least 70% good quality dark chocolate without milk or much sugar added. If you chow down on the recommended 2-4 squares a day of this type of chocolate daily, you may begin to notice health benefits. Some benefits of dark chocolate include:

  1. Dark Chocolate is a Nutrient Powerhouse

    Dark chocolate is jam-packed with healthful goodies such as fiber, iron, magnesium, iron, zinc, potassium, manganese and selenium (a compound with cancer-repelling properties). Cocoa also has one of the highest concentrations of anti-oxidants of any food source – even more than blueberries!

  2. It May Provide PMS Relief 

    Dark chocolate can actually help ease menstruation related symptoms by triggering the release of mood-boosting, natural painkilling endorphins like anandamide. It also contains a great deal of magnesium which can help reduce cramping.

  3. It May Help Lower Blood Pressure

    Research has indicated flavanols found in dark chocolate produce Nitric Oxide, by stimulating the walls of the arteries, signaling the arteries to expand. This expansion reduces the flow of blood through the arteries, thus potentially reducing blood pressure.

  4. It May Provide Diarrhea Relief

    One particular study illustrated that plentiful flavonoids in cocoa help prevent fluid retention in the small intestine which contributes to diarrhea. Cocoa flavonoids can potentially help ease the symptoms of diarrhea when consumed in dark chocolate form (free of the sugar and additional ingredients of milk chocolate). Dark chocolate may provide an alternative to OTC medications which can have adverse side effects.

  5. It Can Contribute To Skin health

    German studies show that dark chocolate may help protect the skin against the sun. The flavanols in dark chocolate can help reduce some signs of UV damage. The iron and vitamins may also help dry skin.

The Benefits Don’t Even End There!

The flavonoids and nutrients in dark chocolate have also shown promise in helping other health conditions including cardiovascular disease, balancing “good” HDL and “bad” LDL cholesterol and improving brain function. So grab a couple squares of dark chocolate a day for some potential health perks! Thanks for visiting DocChat, we hope you’ll stop by again soon!


Tips For Happy, Healthy Aging

Americans have a longer lifespan than ever before however, chronic disease rates are through the roof. The centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated over 133 million American adults live with such chronic conditions as diabetes, arthritis or cardiovascular disease. It is important to shift the focus from “how can I live to an old age?” to “How can I live more comfortably and healthily in old age?”. So what are some things elderly people can do to better their quality of life?

  1. Exercise: many people believe as they age that they should give up exercise regimens and just take it easy. Research contradicts this, getting routine exercise is likely to ease the aging process. It can help with ailments such as arthritis, prevent bone loss, keep the heart healthy, keep the brain healthy, among many other benefits. This doesn’t have to mean crunching barbells at the gym, it could mean bike riding, swimming, power walking or yoga. It is never too late to start!
  2. Practice hobbies: It is important to continue doing the things you love as you age, if certain hobbies become difficult because of arthritis or another obstacle, find a new passion. Hobbies can add a spice to life that can help people of all ages, especially the elderly. If you love painting, set up a small studio space in your home and make sure you carve at least an hour a day out for your passion.
  3. Stretching: The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that older people should make stretching part of their daily routine. It can help increase flexibility and help with pain-related conditions such as arthritis or fibromyalgia. Keeping the joints limber can help them from starting to seize and tense up over time.
  4. Being social: As we age it is important to maintain social connections and do social activities to stay happy and healthy. Keeping in touch with family members and old friends is a good idea as well as it can prevent isolation or depression which can only worsen quality of life and existing medical conditions in the elderly. If you are married, step out together a couple times a week with friends. If you are single, continue dating. Enjoying a bustling social life can add years to your life.
  5. Following a ‘Mediterranean’ style diet: Consisting of lots of fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains and healthy fats like those found in many fatty fishes, the Mediterranean diet has been linked to longevity and heart health.
  6. Staying positive: There have been various studies done on positive patients having much better health outcomes than negative patients. The bottom line of all the research so far suggests an optimistic outlook may get you much farther in life, and improve quality of life more than someone who grumbles on the regular.
  1. Regular screenings: Be sure to visit your doctor regularly and participate all the necessary screenings to ensure you are in good health and there is no new medical trouble brewing. This will help you detect conditions like cancer or heart issues before they become too serious. Too many people toss preventative healthcare aside and neglect regular checkups, this can have devastating results.

There you have it, a few of our favorite general healthy aging tips! Stay tuned for more on senior health in the future. For older adult exercise resources click here. Thanks for visiting DocChat! If you have any questions about your health, feel free to sign up and start a video consultation today with one of our highly qualified DocChat physicians!