4 Weeks to a Healthier Heart

vdayFebruary is love-your-heart month We’re surrounded by hearts this month. Along with the paper and chocolate versions, there are the human ones: the beating hearts of more than 300 million Americans.

Unfortunately, we’re also surrounded by heart disease. In the U.S., it’s the leading cause of death for both men and women. But it can be prevented and controlled. Even in a short month’s time, you can do a lot to take better care of your heart.

Week 1: Scrutinize labels. Unhealthy fats and cholesterol can clog arteries. Salt can raise blood pressure. Sugar can pack on pounds. To avoid these risks for heart disease, read nutrition labels when you’re grocery shopping. Look for foods with unsaturated fats, omega-3 fatty acids, and low percentages of sodium and sugar.

Also, choose plenty of foods that come without nutrition labels: fresh fruits and vegetables. They are low in fat and sodium, and they contain fiber, which can help prevent high blood cholesterol.

Week 2: Get moving. Like all muscles, your heart needs exercise. This week—and every week—aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as brisk walking. Share your heart-healthy habit with a loved one—invite him or her to join you on a walk.

Week 3: Know your numbers. If you don’t know your blood pressure and cholesterol numbers, make an appointment this week with your doctor to have them checked. Having high blood pressure or too much LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) in your blood can put you at risk for heart disease.

Being overweight also makes heart disease more likely. You probably know if you’re carrying too many pounds. But if you aren’t sure, it’s another thing to discuss with your doctor.

He or she can advise you on lifestyle changes or medicines to help you achieve heart-healthy numbers in all three areas.

Week 4: Vow to quit. Smoking harms the heart as well as the lungs. So if you light up, it’s important to ditch the habit for good. Smoking also hurts your family and friends because exposure to secondhand smoke can trigger heart problems in them. So quitting is an act of love not only for your heart—but also for all the hearts that surround you.

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; U.S. Census Bureau

February is a good month to fall in love—with your heart. During American Heart Month, give this hardworking muscle some TLC for lifelong health.

Mammography: The Latest Study

The latest study into the use of mammography again brings the issue of breast cancer screening to the forefront, and Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital and Memorial Family of Services welcome that continued discussion.

Breast cancer is the second most common cancer in the United States, and mammography is a widely used screening tool to detect these cancers. This study does not dispute that point, but instead raises questions about when mammograms are appropriate – a point that has been raised in the past. The decision to have a mammogram is an intensely personal one. Memorial’s dedicated physicians are aware of this ongoing discussion and will continue to gather all relevant information to ensure every woman makes an informed decision.

Memorial offers this service because it is the right thing to do for our community. Whether mammography is the appropriate course for everyone is a decision each woman must make in consultation with her physician.


Heart Health

Topic:                   Heart Health

Guests:                Dr. Ranae Ratkovec, Yakima Heart Center

Shannon Dininny, Memorial Communications

Date:                     Feb. 18, 2014

February is National Heart Month, and today we’re talking about heart health.

How big a problem is heart disease in the Yakima Valley?

Major cardiovascular diseases – heart disease and stroke – are the leading cause of death in Yakima County.

There are many risk factors associated with coronary heart disease and stroke. Some risk factors such as family history, ethnicity and age, cannot be changed.

Other risk factors that can be treated or changed include:

  • Smoking
  • high blood pressure or hypertension
  • high cholesterol
  • obesity
  • physical inactivity or lack of exercise
  • diabetes
  • unhealthy diets
  • harmful use of alcohol

High cholesterol, obesity and high blood pressure are the three leading diseases we see here in Yakima County, and they increase a person’s risk for developing heart disease.

Heart disease is still the No. 1 killer of women in the United States, claiming more lives than all forms of cancer combined. In fact, more women die of heart disease each year than men. In terms of risk factors, Latinos and Native Americans have higher rates of diabetes. Even if they’re slim, they are genetically predisposed to have diabetes, which means that population needs to be vigilant about exercise and eating right.

How to reduce your risk:

  • Quit smoking. Smokefree.gov has tips about quitting smoking or ask your doctor for help.
  • Control your high blood pressure.
  • Know your numbers:  Make sure you doctor checks your cholesterol numbers.

High cholesterol can be genetic. Take meds to treat it.

In women, cholesterol goes up after menopause – it’s tied to hormonal changes.

  • Watch your diet
    • Make your plate colorful. Choose brown carbs – rice and pasta – and yams instead of potatoes. People think going on a diet means someday you will come off of it, but assume your diet is permanent but not absolute. Say 90 percent of the time you’ll have brown rice, and white rice is a treat.
    • Portion control – Your body’s metabolism declines by 4 percent each decade after your 30s. As we get older, we rarely get more active.
    • Get active!

Cancer Awareness and Prevention Month

By Jessica McAllister, YouthWorks Council Vice President and East Valley High School Student

In America alone, over 1,600,000 people are fighting the battle against cancer. Around 500,000 cancer related deaths occur each year in the United States. Billions of people worldwide suffer from various types of cancer. The fight against cancer is a fierce, ongoing battle. The entire month of February has been dedicated to Cancer Awareness and Prevention.

Studies have shown that diet and other lifestyle choices (such as smoking) are directly related to one’s chances of getting cancer. Smoking accounts for at least 30% of all cancer deaths. Each year, about 3,400 nonsmoking adults die of lung cancer as a result of second hand smoke. In the United States, it is estimated that overweight and obesity is responsible for 14%-20% of all cancer related deaths. February is all about exposing these ugly facts and showing people ways to better their health.

For our monthly YouthWorks meeting, we had North Star Lodge Dietitian/Nutrition Counselor, Lena Gill, give our Council a brief presentation about how food can impact your health and cancer risk. It was very interesting how foods that we eat everyday and don’t think twice about actually have a huge impact on health and cancer. For instance, non-organic fruits could be a major cancer risk.

YouthWorks role in Cancer Awareness and Prevention Month was to go out to high schools around Yakima Valley and get the word out about your diet and its relationship with cancer. Council members made flyers, power points, and posters,  filled with facts about cancer and how to prevent it. Our goal was to grab the attention of local high school kids and make them think about their health and risk of cancer.

Although cancer is not 100% preventable, there are many things people can do to lower their risks. With the facts provided by YouthWorks members, we hope that young people will think more about their diet and take the steps to make healthier lifestyle choices.

Cancer: Is it linked to age?

cancer linksWhy does the risk for cancer rise as we get older?

One reason may be a process that changes genes in ways that make it easier for cells to go from healthy to cancerous, according to research from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The process is called DNA methylation.

“Think of methylation as dust settling on an unused switch, which then prevents the cell from turning on certain genes,” said researcher Jack Taylor, MD, PhD. “If a cell can no longer turn on critical developmental programs, it might be easier for it to become a cancer cell.”

Methylation creates methyl groups (the dust of the metaphor above) that can attach themselves to DNA. If this occurs near the start of a gene, Dr. Taylor said, the gene can be switched off or silenced.

“This gene silencing is not necessarily bad or good,” he said. It depends on the context in which it occurs.

For example, some genes perform specific actions in cells. If methyl groups switch off these genes, those actions never occur. That’s bad if an action may have helped prevent cancer.

The researchers compared cancerous tissue with normal tissue, and they found increased methylation in cancer cells. They also found that DNA methylation is part of the normal aging process.

The human body adds about one methylation site (cells that contain methyl groups) per year, according to Zongli Xu, PhD, a colleague to Dr.  Taylor and coauthor of the study.

“On your 50th birthday, you would have 50 of these sites that have acquired methyl groups in each cell,” Dr. Xu said. “The longer you live, the more methylation you will have.”

More methylation sites may mean a higher risk of cancer, the researchers suggested.

“If true, this process may explain some of the dramatic increases in cancer incidence as people age,” said Dr. Taylor.

Their findings appeared online in the journal Carcinogenesis.

Kids learn about stroke through a clot-busting spaceship

kids strokeSpending just 15 minutes at the controls of a clot-busting spaceship can teach kids lasting lessons about stroke symptoms, according to a study in the American Heart Association’s journal Stroke.

The spaceship exists in a video game called Stroke Hero. Playing the game could result in a child saving someone who’s having a stroke in the real world, according to the researchers who designed and tested the game.

“Video games are fun, widely available and accessible for most children,” said Olajide Williams, MD, lead author of the study. “Empowering every potential witness with the knowledge and skills required to make that lifesaving decision if they witness a stroke is critical.”

About the study

The study involved 210 students ages 9 and 10 who live in a low-income community in New York where there’s a high risk for stroke. About 1 in 4 of the students reported a personal experience with someone having a stroke.

Researchers first tested the children on how much they knew about stroke; for example, whether they could identify stroke symptoms and if they knew they should call 911 if they saw someone having a stroke. Then the children were introduced to Stroke Hero.

In the game, the player pilots a spaceship through arteries and blasts through clots that are blocking blood flow to the brain. When a player runs out of clot-busting ammunition, he or she can get more by correctly answering questions about stroke.

When the students answered questions incorrectly, they were told what the right answer was. The game’s hip-hop soundtrack also included lyrics containing the right answers. The children played the game for 15 minutes before having their stroke knowledge tested again. They were then encouraged to play the game online at home. A final test of stroke knowledge was done seven weeks after the initial one.

The results: Given a hypothetical scenario, students were much more likely to recognize stroke symptoms and call 911 after playing Stroke Hero than they were before they played the game.

Limitations of the study include its small size and the lack of a control group for comparison. Still, the findings demonstrate that a video game can improve stroke knowledge among young children, the researchers wrote.

The take-home message
“We need to educate the public, including children, about stroke, because often it’s the witness that makes the 911 call, not the stroke victim,” said Dr. Williams. “Sometimes, these witnesses are young children.”Children can register to play Stroke Hero for free at www.hiphoppublichealth.org.

Colds, allergies during pregnancy may affect child’s later health

The more colds a woman has while pregnant, the greater the likelihood that her child will develop asthma, according to a study in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

The study also found a link between allergy flare-ups during pregnancy and a child’s risk for allergic conditions later in life.

“We know that allergy and asthma can develop in the womb since genetics play a factor in both diseases,” said Michael Foggs, MD, president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. “But this study sheds light about how a mother’s environment during pregnancy can begin affecting the child before birth.”

About the study

The study, conducted in Germany, involved 513 pregnant women and the 526 children born from those pregnancies.

Researchers questioned the parents throughout the pregnancy and up until the children were 5 years old on multiple topics, including the hygiene practices in the home, smoking, pet ownership, family history of allergies or asthma, and the child’s health. Mothers also answered questions about any illnesses they had during pregnancy.

The researchers found that children born to mothers with both a history of allergies and who had allergy symptoms during pregnancy had an increased risk of developing atopic dermatitis (an allergic skin condition) and allergic rhinitis (recurring, often seasonal allergies such as hay fever) by age 5.

In addition, children born to women who had repeated bouts of the common cold during pregnancy were at increased risk of developing asthma by age 5.

The take-home message
Women who are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant should talk to their doctor about allergies and asthma, and discuss strategies for staying healthy during pregnancy.

Memorial offers class to learn infant CPR

Parents of infants can gain the confidence to handle stressful and potentially dangerous situations by learning how to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR.

Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital is offering an opportunity for parents and caregivers of infants to learn infant CPR. The class is Feb. 27 from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Memorial Education Center, 2506 W. Nob Hill Ave., Yakima. No registration is needed. The cost is $5.00 per person.

This is not a certification class. But knowing how to respond in the first few minutes of an emergency – before professional help arrives – can mean the difference between life and death. If you are the parent or caregiver of an infant, learn infant CPR!

For more information, call 248-7322.

Tips for a heart-healthy Valentine’s Day!

vdayIn honor of National Heart Month, here’s some heart-healthy Valentine’s Day tips:

1. There’s nothing better than spending quality time with your loved one doing something active such as sledding (if we still have snow) or ice skating.

2. Controlling the amount of food you eat is easier to do at home – take your love to a cooking class or try out a new recipe. Check out our healthy recipes here.

3. If you’re going to go out tonight, share an entree – there’s usually more than enough for 2!

4. Give a hug! Hugging has been shown to lower levels of cortisol and lower blood pressure in both men and women.

For more heart health information, please visit our health information library here for heart health assessments and information.

Worried about your teen and drugs?

Check out 2 new resources

teen drugs

Parents who worry about their teens and drug use have more help at their fingertips now that the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has added several new resources to its online library.

Adolescent addiction is different from adult addiction, according to NIDA. Teens abuse different substances, for example, and experience different consequences than do adults.

“Because critical brain circuits are still developing during the teen years, this age group is particularly susceptible to drug abuse and addiction,” said NIDA Director Nora D. Volkow, MD. “These new resources are based on recent research that has greatly advanced our understanding of the unique treatment needs of the adolescent.”

Principles of Adolescent Substance Use Disorder Treatment is a primer on teen drug abuse and various treatment options. It explains how drug use can progress to addiction, as well as the role family members can play in identifying teen substance use and in supporting treatment and recovery.

The full guide is available here.

Substance Use Disorders in Adolescents is mainly a resource for medical professionals, but it also may be helpful for parents and others who want more information on how to communicate with teens who are at risk for addiction or who want to find out what kinds of things influence teens to use—or avoid—drugs.

The tool was developed by the NIDA Centers of Excellence for Physician Information, in collaboration with Drexel University College of Medicine and the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, both in Philadelphia.

The multimedia module combines videos with written materials and can be found here.