Experts say that a good laugh - like a good workout - produces an overall sense of well-being and helps to manage the stress that underlies so many diseases and conditions, including heart disease.
Laughter flexes the muscles of the chest and abdomen, including the diaphram, and causes deep breathing to take place. By exercising the shoulders, neck and face, it releases tension in the muscles. And humor itself can create a more positive perspective on life and its challenges.
Until recently, many health professionals discounted laughter's therapeutic effect. Now things are changing, in large part because of the groundbreaking work done by Norman Counsins, once editor of Saturday Review and subsequently a professor at the UCLA School of Medicine. In his book Anatomy of an Ilness, he recounts how laughter helped to cure an unexplained sudden illness for which he had been hospitalized. After a period of time with no progress, he abondoned conventional thinking, stopped taking medication and ordered in reel upon reel of old Marx Brothers films. According to Mr. Cousins, his heavy, sustained laughter was the key to his recovery.
On average, adults laugh 15 times a day. Some experts believe that If we could up that number, it would have a positive impact on cardiac risk.
You can do that by cultivating friends who smile and joke, putting playfulness into your relationships and leaving work concerns at the office.
Historically, we've been concerned about the classic Type A personality trait where stress is generated by trying to do more and more things in less and less time. The condition, often been referred to as "hurry sickness," can reduce blood flow to the heart and contribute to angina, heart attack and even sudden cardiac death.
Recently, doctors are looking at the personality trait called Type D personality, as in "distressed." Type D personalities demonstrate negative feelings about virtually everything. In other words, the glass is always half empty, never half full.
We've known that negative emotions - particularly depression,anger and hostility - significantly increase the risk of developing heart disease while lowering long-term survival of cardiac patients in Type A personalities. But studies now suggest that Type D personalities, "negative thinkers" who worry over trivial, everyday events and are pessimistic, are three times more likely to have a heart attack than more positive thinkers. In contrast, people who are positive and optimistic have been shown to have less disease progression and faster recovery times after coronary bypass surgery. View Thread
This condition after bypass is more common than many people realize. For those that experience it (as I have), it can range from a brief period of memory loss to an extended time of cognitive disfunction. In some cases it can resemble a personality change.
My advice is to continue to monitor what is happening with your father & let his doctor know. Hopefully, it is no more than a brief period of memory loss.View Thread
When immigrants from developing countries come to the U.S., they tend to be healthier in many ways than people who grow up here. Many come from countries where obesity is less common, so fewer of them are overweight when they arrive.
But that doesn't last long. The availability of cheap, high-calorie food and large portions account for the worsening of immigrant eating habits and often results in substantial weight gain. The more they eat and live like Americans, the greater their risk for obesity.
What is interesting about this situation is the reason why many immigants eat the American diet. Experts believe part of it comes from immigrants trying to "fit in" by eating typically American foods such as hamburgers. They demonstrate that they too are "American." This is particularly true if immigrants are anxious about their national identity. Unfortunately, that usually means an increase in daily calories and fat.
Researchers say this is not so much "fitting in" as "fattening in." View Thread
Stain drugs have been hailed as one of the best protective medications for people with heart disease. In fact, they have been shown to significantly increase the quality and length of heart patients' lives. In my own experience, adding a statin drug to a low-fat diet plan dropped my HDL cholesterol substantially. [br> That's why I'm so baffled by a new study that shows only 48% of patients who have been prescribed statins are actually taking the medication on a regular basis after one year. Why is that?View Thread
Recently I've had a number of questions about chelation therapy, which claims to clean out blocked arteries without surgery. The process involves introducing an amino acid, called EDTA, into the veins. Normally used to treat mercury or lead poisoning, since it causes heavy metals to be excreted in the urine, EDTA is believed to help reduce damage to artery walls and remove calcium, a key component of plaque, from the bloodstread. A single treatment takes about two hours and costs $50 to $100 (usually not covered by insurance.) A normal treatment schedule calls for 30 treatments. About 2,500 doctors in the U.S. offer chelation therapy.
When I asked the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology about this therapy, they responded that they do not recognize chelation as an effective method for treating heart disease; in fact. they advise against it, citing possible adverse effects such as kidney damage, decreased bone density and heart rhythm irregularities. A recent study conducted by doctors at the University of Calgary found no benefit from chelation therapy. Says Dr. George Wise, one of the authors of the study, "My advice to patients is there is no evidence that chelation therapy works." View Thread
I have been getting a lot of questions regarding the use of Niacin since the media recently reported that the NIH had stopped their AIM-HIGH study. This study was designed to see if adding Niacin to patients with low HDL and high triglycerides would reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Elevated triglycerides and low HDL are both strongly associated with heart disease. [br> Previous studies have shown that Niacin will raise HDL and lower triglycerides, and that cardiac risk can be lowered. In this study, however, there was no evidence of risk reduction. In fact, the NIH stopped the study a year early because there was no benefit seen and possibly some harm in the form of excess stroke. [br> So, what do we do about niacin? I asked heart expert (and co-author of my book PREVENT, HALT & REVERSE HEART DISEASE) Dr Barry Franklin for his comment, and here is what he said:
"To me," says Dr Franklin. "one study does not discount many many previous reports regarding the potential cardioprotective benefits of niacin treatment, or other forms of it (i.e, niaspan). Niacin unquestionably increases HDL cholesterol which, in some people may, over time, lead to cardiovascular benefits. If you read this recent report, the study was prematurely stopped because after 18months there were really no discernible benefits in the group that also got niacin. I would contend that the AIM HIGH trial had several methodologic limitations and that these results aren't necessarily generalizable to all persons at risk for CAD or those with documented CAD. The bottom line: more data are needed. However, I'm not ready to throw MY niacin out after this one report and, in fact, have continued to take 2 capsules daily--even after the report came out."View Thread
Erma Bombeck once wrote, "One-third of the country is on a diet. Another third just fell off a diet. And the remaining third is going on one next Monday." Statistics say she was right, but the data also suggest that about 97% of crash dieters not only regain the lost weight within one year but actually put on extra weight.
This is particularly true when caloric intake falls to under 1,200 calories a day for men and 900 for women. The bottom line for weight control: don't diet, choose healthy foods, eat moderate portions and move your body. View Thread
A predisease is a serious warning that you may be well on your way to having the disease or condition. Take blood pressure, for instance. Blood pressure readings are measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg) and usually given as two numbers -- say, 120 (diastolic pressure) over 80 (systolic pressure). If your diastolic blood pressure is consistantly 140 and above, or your systolic pressure is consistantly 90 and above, you have high blood pressure. [br> But if your diastolic pressure is between 120 and 139, or your systolic pressure is 80 to 89, you fall into the category of prehypertension. It used to be called "borderline" or "high-normal" blood pressure and most people payed little attention to it. But today research shows that prehypertension greatly increases your chance of developing high blood pressure and your risk of having a heart attack. About 25% of American adults are prehypertensive. [br> This category is important because it is an early warning sign, a time when action could be taken to prevent or delay the development of hypertension. So, if you are prehypertensive, don't feel that high blood pressure is ordained. Instead, use that knowledge to take action - cut sodium, increase exercise, lose weight) to prevent high blood pressure from occuring.View Thread
Physical inactivity is a problem throughout the U.S. Nationally, about a quarter of all adults say they spend no free time at all in physical activity. They don't walk, garden or golf, and certainly do not work out at the YMCA.
Recent data shows that this situation is worse in some geographic regions more than others. The Centers for Disease Control reports that adults in the South are most likely to engage in no leisure-time physical activity than other parts of the country. Not surprisingly, the communities with the lowest rates of non-work-related physical activity also had the highest prevalence of obesity and diabetes.
More than 70% of the counties in Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Tennessee have almost 30% of the adult population inactive. Pockets of Pennsylvania, North Dakota and South Dakota are not far behind.
So, where in the U.S. are people the most active in their free time? All along the West Coast, the Northeast, Colorado and Minnesota - places also with the lowest prevalence of obesity and diabetes.