Posts Tagged ‘heart’

Cardiac Patients Help Out Lucky Shelter Dogs

Thursday, July 1st, 2010 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

Cardiac Friends is an outstanding program under way in Waukesha, Wisconsin, that enlists heart patients as volunteers to take dogs, who are housed at a local shelter, on regular walks healthful for both the human and canine participants. As reported by HealthDay News, the program is a partnership between the county’s Humane Animal Welfare Society and ProHealth Care (PHC), involving medically approved cardiac patients of PHC’s Waukesha Memorial Hospital.

These dog walkers have undergone procedures such as angioplasty, stent implantation and open heart surgery. Regular exercise with their canine companions lowers their risk for another cardiac event, helps control cholesterol levels, reduces blood pressure, helps counter depression and provides an opportunity to be needed and to make a difference.

From a shelter dog’s point of view, getting out of the kennel often to enjoy some physical recreation with a friendly, attentive visitor helps the animal stay mentally and physically fit while waiting for his or her new "forever home."

At this time, all of the patient-volunteers in the Cardiac Friends program (now approximately one year old) are men in their seventies. They visit the shelter three times per week, for an hour or longer, to get outdoors with their canine buddies, play fetch and walk along an enticing foot-path through an adjacent meadow.

Shelter coordinator Sara Falk told HealthDay News that the Cardiac Friends volunteers are among her favorites thanks to their reliability and since "… they are taking longer walks than a lot of the other walkers because they have fitness in mind."


Facts of Life

Saturday, February 20th, 2010 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

The American Heart Association (AHA) wants everyone to take some potentially life-saving measures in connection with acute myocardial infarction (AMI), more commonly referred to as heart attack. One important preventive step is to have a checkup to determine one’s blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides levels, and undertake appropriate treatment as needed.

Another critical safeguard is recognizing the warning signs of an impending cardiac event. Typically, one or more of the following symptoms may be experienced in advance of a heart attack:

  • Constant or "comes-and-goes" chest pain or discomfort;
  • Upper body pain or discomfort involving one or both arms, the shoulders, back, neck, jaw or teeth;
  • Upset stomach, nausea, vomiting or discomfort that could be mistaken for heartburn;
  • Shallow breathing or shortness of breath;
  • Lightheadedness;
  • Unusual fatigue;
  • High anxiety (sometimes comparable to a panic attack);
  • Breaking out in a cold sweat.
  • Women, especially, should be alert to possible warning signs, as their symptoms tend to be less predictable than men’s. The National Institutes of Health conducted a study called "Women’s Early Warning Symptoms of AMI" revealing that many did not experience chest pain or discomfort before or at any stage of their heart attack. Pre-attack symptoms included shortness of breath, fatigue, indigestion, anxiety and sleep disturbance. During-attack symptoms included shortness of breath, fatigue, weakness (particularly in the arms), cold sweat and dizziness. Women should seek prompt medical attention for signs of possible heart disease, even when chest pain is not present. For additional practical advice, visit the AHA’s web site


    Lighthearted Findings

    Saturday, February 20th, 2010 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

    New research indicates that happiness may have a beneficial effect on heart health. The European Heart Journal, which is the flagship journal of the European Society of Cardiology, has issued the following news release describing the study:

    Feb. 18, 2010 —

    People who are usually happy, enthusiastic and content are less likely to develop heart disease than those who tend not to be happy, according to a study published in Europe’s leading cardiology journal, the European Heart Journal. The authors believe that the study is the first to show such an independent relationship between positive emotions and coronary heart disease.

    Dr Karina Davidson, who led the research, said that although this was an observational study, her study did suggest that it might be possible to help prevent heart disease by enhancing people’s positive emotions. However, she cautioned that it would be premature to make clinical recommendations without clinical trials to investigate the findings further.

    “We desperately need rigorous clinical trials in this area. If the trials support our findings, then these results will be incredibly important in describing specifically what clinicians and/or patients could do to improve health,” said Dr Davidson, who is the Herbert Irving Associate Professor of Medicine & Psychiatry and Director of the Center for Behavioral Cardiovascular Health at Columbia University Medical Center (New York, USA).

    Over a period of ten years, Dr Davidson and her colleagues followed 1,739 healthy adults (862 men and 877 women) who were participating in the 1995 Nova Scotia Health Survey. At the start of the study, trained nurses assessed the participants’ risk of heart disease and, with both self-reporting and clinical assessment, they measured symptoms of depression, hostility, anxiety and the degree of expression of positive emotions, which is known as “positive affect”.

    Positive affect is defined as the experience of pleasurable emotions such as joy, happiness, excitement, enthusiasm and contentment.These feelings can be transient, but they are usually stable and trait-like, particularly in adulthood. Positive affect is largely independent of negative affect, so that someone who is generally a happy, contented person can also be occasionally anxious, angry or depressed.

    After taking account of age, sex, cardiovascular risk factors and negative emotions, the researchers found that, over the ten-year period, increased positive affect predicted less risk of heart disease by 22% per point on a five-point scale measuring levels of positive affect expression (ranging from “none” to “extreme”).

    Dr Davidson said: “Participants with no positive affect were at a 22% higher risk of ischaemic heart disease (heart attack or angina) than those with a little positive affect, who were themselves at 22% higher risk than those with moderate positive affect.

    “We also found that if someone, who was usually positive, had some depressive symptoms at the time of the survey, this did not affect their overall lower risk of heart disease.

    “As far as we know, this is the first prospective study to examine the relationship between clinically-assessed positive affect and heart disease.”

    The researchers speculate about what could be the possible mechanisms by which positive emotions might be responsible for conferring long-term protection from heart disease. These include influence on heart rates, sleeping patterns and smoking cessation.

    “We have several possible explanations,” said Dr Davidson. “First, those with positive affect may have longer periods of rest or relaxation physiologically. Baroreflex and parasympathetic regulation may, therefore, be superior in these persons, compared to those with little positive affect. Second, those with positive affect may recover more quickly from stressors, and may not spend as much time ‘re-living’ them, which in turn seems to cause physiological damage. This is speculative, as we are just beginning to explore why positive emotions and happiness have positive health benefits.”

    She said that most successful interventions for depression include increasing positive affect as well as decreasing negative affect. If clinical trials supported the findings of this study, then it would be relatively easy to assess positive affect in patients and suggest interventions to improve it to help prevent heart disease. In the meantime, people reading about this research could take some simple steps to increase their positive affect.

    “Like the observational finding that moderate wine consumption is healthy (and enjoyable), at this point ordinary people can ensure they have some pleasurable activities in their daily lives,” she said. “Some people wait for their two weeks of vacation to have fun, and that would be analogous to binge drinking (moderation and consistency, not deprivation and binging, is what is needed). If you enjoy reading novels, but never get around to it, commit to getting 15 minutes or so of reading in. If walking or listening to music improves your mood, get those activities in your schedule. Essentially, spending some few minutes each day truly relaxed and enjoying yourself is certainly good for your mental health, and may improve your physical health as well (although this is, as yet, not confirmed).”

    In an accompanying editorial by Bertram Pitt, Professor of Internal Medicine, and Patricia Deldin, Associate Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry, both at the University of Michigan School of Medicine (Michigan, USA), the authors pointed out that, currently, no-one knew whether positive affect had a direct or indirect causal role in heart disease, or whether there was a third, underlying factor at work, common to both conditions. Nor was it known for certain whether it was possible to modify and improve positive affect, and to what extent.

    “Randomised controlled trials of interventions to increase positive affect in patients with cardiovascular disease are now underway and will help determine the effectiveness of increasing positive affect on cardiovascular outcome and will provide insight into the nature of the relationship between positive affect and cardiovascular disease,” they wrote.

    “The ‘vicious cycle’ linking cardiovascular disease to major depression and depression to cardiovascular disease deserves greater attention from both the cardiovascular and psychiatric investigators. … These new treatments [to increase positive affect] could open an exciting potential new approach for treating patients with known cardiovascular disease who develop depression. If Davidson et al.’s observations and hypotheses stimulate further investigation regarding the effect of increased positive affect on physiological abnormalities associated with cardiovascular risk, perhaps it will be time for all of us to smile.”


    Atrial Fibrillation

    Monday, February 1st, 2010 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

    American Senior Fitness Association president Janie Clark, MA, is pleased to be a member of the new AFib Support Team, assisting persons who have been diagnosed with the heart rhythm disturbance atrial fibrillation. Janie serves as the team’s senior fitness specialist and recently joined her fellow team members — a cardiologist, a cardiological nurse, and a lifestyle gerontologist — on a special episode of Retirement Living Television’s "Healthline" series, which was dedicated to the subject of atrial fibrillation.

    Led by host Kevin Soden, MD, the "Healthline" special explains the meaning of AFib, includes the touching stories of real-life patients, explores treatment options, and provides practical approaches for living successfully with the condition. For more information about the program, including short video excerpts, visit the Retirement Living Television website at

    Below is an exciting news release describing the launch of the AFib Support Team initiative. It features links where you can see and hear support team members briefly discussing atrial fibrillation. It also includes a link to the AFib Support Team website, which supplies detailed information about this prevalent health concern: atrial fibrillation.


    The AFib Support Team

    Monday, February 1st, 2010 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

    National Experts Team Up to
    Help Americans with Atrial Fibrillation

    “AFib Support Team” Offers Insights on Comprehensive
    Approach to Management of Serious Heart Condition

    Bridgewater, NJ — January 20, 2010 /PRNewswire/ — National medical and lifestyle experts have been brought together by sanofi-aventis U.S. to help aging Americans learn to live life more fully despite a serious and increasingly prevalent heart condition – atrial fibrillation (AFib), a type of irregular heartbeat. The “AFib Support Team,” which comprises a cardiologist, cardiovascular nurse, senior fitness expert and lifestyle gerontologist, will drive a national public awareness campaign that provides concrete guidance to help those with AFib manage their condition.

    AFib worsens underlying cardiovascular disease and is associated with a five-fold increased risk for stroke, and doubles the risk of death. Hospitalization associated with AFib has increased dramatically (two-to-three fold) in recent years in the U.S. The condition takes an emotional, physical and financial toll; more than half of Americans with AFib find it disruptive to their lives. The AFib Support Team was created to help patients in the comprehensive management of AFib by offering practical advice and educational resources addressing the medical lifestyle and fitness challenges associated with their condition.

    “The impact of atrial fibrillation goes well beyond physical health; it is a condition that affects patients’ everyday life,” said Support Team member and cardiologist Bradley P. Knight, M.D., Director of Cardiac Electrophysiology, Northwestern University. “As healthcare professionals, we understand the need to help patients address all aspects of the condition to effectively manage AFib and improve their overall well-being.”

    The Support Team addresses issues including:

  • Understanding the various aspects of the disease
  • Questions to ask healthcare professionals during appointments
  • Preparing for travel
  • Developing a fitness plan with healthcare professionals
  • Managing stress, and balancing a career
  • Avoiding substances that can trigger AFib episodes
  • Working with a cardiovascular nurse to obtain information and support
  • Resources for patients with AFib developed by the AFib Support Team are available online at They include a guide to healthcare professional-patient dialogue and fact sheets to help patients understand how to live life more fully with AFib. Approximately 3.1 million Americans are diagnosed with AFib, and an estimated 13 percent of Americans over the age of 70 are living with the condition.

    “Older Americans with AFib can continue to live a full and active life, but they may need to make some modifications,” said Alexis Abramson, Ph.D., Lifestyle Gerontologist. “Our Support Team offers practical tips and advice for people with AFib to help them manage their disease and continue with their daily activities.”

    About the AFib Support Team

    The Support Team will also participate in events around the country, where people with AFib can interact with Team members and local experts to learn more about managing their condition and build their own local Support Team. The AFib Support team is sponsored by sanofi-aventis U.S LLC. Healthcare professionals and experts providing information on behalf of the AFib Support Team are retained and compensated for their services by sanofi-aventis U.S.

    The national AFib Support Team members are:

  • Bradley Knight, M.D. is a cardiologist specializing in heart rhythm disorders. Dr. Knight is an editorial consultant for a number of scientific cardiology and electrophysiology journals, a Fellow of the American College of Cardiology and a Fellow of the Heart Rhythm Society.
  • Kathy Berra, MSN, ANP, FAANP, a cardiovascular nurse, currently serves as clinical director for the Stanford Heart Network at the Stanford Prevention Research Center. She is also a cardiovascular nurse practitioner at Cardiovascular Medicine and Coronary Interventions, Redwood City, California. Kathy is also past president of the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation and the Preventive Cardiovascular Nurses Association where she currently sits on the Board of Directors. She co-authored Heart Attack: Advice for Patients by Patients, which was honored by Yale University Press as one of the top ten books about heart disease in 2002.
  • Alexis Abramson, Ph.D. is often cited as America’s leading, impassioned champion for the dignity and independence of those over 50. Dr. Abramson is an inspiring speaker, corporate consultant, successful author and award-winning entrepreneur and journalist. Abramson has frequently appeared as the on-air expert Gerontologist for NBC’s Today show and Weekend Today. Abramson holds both a master’s and a doctorate in Gerontology, which she received from the University of Southern California, the premier school of Gerontology in the world.
  • Janie Clark, M.A., a leading senior fitness authority, is president of the American Senior Fitness Association (ASFA), winner of the National Council on Aging 2009 Best Practice award for Professional Education Programming. She has more than 25 years’ experience in the senior health-fitness field.
  • About Atrial Fibrillation

    Atrial fibrillation is the most common arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat, seen by physicians and accounts for about one-third of hospital admissions for cardiac rhythm disturbances. Because the risk of AFib increases with age, the number of people affected is expected to rise dramatically as the U.S. population gets older. It also costs the nation approximately $6.65 billion annually, much of which could be attributed to the increased hospital in-patient, emergency and medical services utilization rates for people with AFib.

    About sanofi-aventis

    Sanofi-aventis U.S. is an affiliate of sanofi-aventis, a leading global pharmaceutical company that discovers, develops and distributes therapeutic solutions to help improve the lives of patients. Sanofiaventis is listed in Paris (Euronext: SAN) and in New York (NYSE: SNY).

    For more information, or