Simple Stretches for those Stretched Too Thin

GettyImages-599993826.jpg

Stretching is an important part of every workout, but it also has benefits beyond the gym. Stretching improves flexibility, helps maintain a good range of motion in your joints and also relieves stress. Stretching can be done at home, work or on the go. Here are some simple stretching exercises for busy people.

Remember to listen to your body as you stretch and stop if you feel pain of any kind.

GettyImages-540094764.jpg

Wrists

Reach your arms out in front of you. Rotate your wrists 10 times in a clockwise direction, then 10 times counterclockwise.

GettyImages-532241859.jpg

Arms and Hands

Clasp your hands together in front of your chest at shoulder height. Extend your arms forward until you feel a stretch in your upper back, shoulders, arms, and hands. Hold for 15 seconds and relax. Repeat for 30 seconds.

GettyImages-483124450.jpg

Arms

Lift one arm in front of you as if to grab something. Then use the other arm to pull the outstretched arm gently across the chest so that the muscles are stretched. Hold for 15 seconds and relax. Repeat for another 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat, using your left arm.

GettyImages-641092276.jpg

Neck

Close your eyes. Drop your ear to your shoulder and hold for 15 seconds. Roll your chin across your chest to the other shoulder and hold for 15 seconds. Repeat.

GettyImages-911679878.jpg

Overhead Reach

Inhale slowly and deeply. Raise arms overhead. Exhale completely and release. Repeat.

GettyImages-517891748.jpg

Chest

Bring your arms behind your back and link your fingers with your palms facing inward. Straighten your arms and lift them up until you feel a stretch in your arms, shoulders, and chest. Hold for 15 seconds and relax. Repeat the stretch for another 15 to 30 seconds.

GettyImages-618728812.jpg

Back

Sit tall in your chair and try to turn to grab the back of the chair while keeping your feet flat on the floor. Hold for 15 seconds and relax. Repeat the stretch turning to the other side.

GettyImages-924100782.jpg

Hips

Cross one ankle onto the opposite knee and sit tall. Then, lean forward from your hips, keeping your chest upright. This stretches the outer hip, which is the reason for many back problems. Hold for 15 seconds and relax. Repeat using the other leg.

Out With the Old: Why It’s Important for Seniors to Get Moving

Author: Maryann Vicari, UMC Physical Therapist

iStock-804385102 (3).jpg

How do we age well and gracefully? This question has been on the mind of human beings for ages. We have all been searching, to some extent, for the fountain of youth or a way to slow down the aging process. Unfortunately, that fountain has yet to be discovered, and no scientist has come up with a formula that will keep time from aging the body.

iStock-639800288.jpg

Nevertheless, there is some good news. We, as humans, can improve our aging process and increase the number of “healthy” years by doing something that humans have been doing for centuries – MOVE! That’s right, moving the body is one of the best ways to age well and to help reduce the risk of developing heart disease, diabetes and obesity, which are a few of the main causes of death and poor aging among older adults.

Evidence has shown that regular physical activity is safe for healthy and even frail older adults (ages 65 and older). 

This physical activity can range from low intensity walking to more vigorous sports and resistance exercises, depending on the individual’s preference and physical ability.  Basically, for older adults, some form of physical activity is better than nothing at all or a predominantly sedentary lifestyle.

iStock-859670168.jpg

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), older adults need at least 2.5 hours of moderate intensity aerobic activity (think brisk walking) every week, which is about 30 minutes a day, and muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hip, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms).

This may sound like a lot, but please do not be discouraged; you don’t have to start here.  If you have never worked out before or have been inactive for some time, you can safely work your way up to this point by joining a local wellness center or YMCA.  There, you can find trained professionals that can help you work towards your goal of achieving a healthy and physically active lifestyle.  As always, you should consult your physician before beginning any sort of exercise routine, especially if this is new to you or if you have a pre-existing heart or metabolic disease, such as diabetes and hypertension.

To make an appointment for a consultation with one of our primary care physicians, click here.

iStock-898430846.jpg

Keep this in mind: If you want to improve your health or if you want to maintain the level of health you have for years to come, your best bet is get or stay as active as you can.  The more active you are as you age the less likely you will be to develop debilitating diseases, which can only work as catalysts to age you beyond your years.

So, get out there and move your bones!

 

References:

https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/older_adults/index.htm

McPhee, J., et al.  Physical activity in older age: perspectives for healthy aging and frailty.  Biogerontology. (2016). 17: 567 – 580.

Tell It to My Heart: The Effects of Emotions on the Heart

iStock-901678548.jpg

Since ancient times, the heart has been a symbol of our emotions. But, scientists have uncovered a physical link between emotions and heart health.

iStock-658443072 (1).jpg

What the Research Shows

Science suggests an association among stress, depression, and heart disease. Several studies strongly suggest that certain psychosocial factors such as grief, depression, and job loss contribute to heart attack and cardiac arrest. Stress may affect risk factors for heart disease such as high blood pressure. Stress may also affect behaviors that increase risk such as smoking, overeating, drinking too much alcohol, and physical inactivity. Managing and treating these conditions is important to reduce your overall health risk.

Our primary care physicians are trained in doing just that.

iStock-629840910.jpg

Stress and Your Heart

Emotional stress causes a negative chain reaction within your body. If you’re angry, anxious, tense, frustrated, frightened, or depressed, your body’s natural response is to release stress hormones. These hormones include cortisol and adrenaline. They prepare your body to deal with stress. They cause your heart to beat more rapidly and your blood vessels to narrow to help push blood to the center of the body. The hormones also increase your blood pressure. This “fight or flight” response is thought to date back to prehistoric times, when we needed an extra burst of adrenaline to escape predators.

After your stress subsides, your blood pressure and heart rate should return to normal. If you’re continually stressed out though, your body doesn’t have a chance to recover. This may lead to damage of your artery walls.

Although it is not clear that stress alone causes high blood pressure or heart disease, it does pose an indirect risk and also has a negative effect on your general wellness.

iStock-170122405.jpg

Stress and Your Reactions

You can manage stress in both healthy and unhealthy ways. Unfortunately, many people deal with stress by smoking, drinking too much, and overeating. All of these unhealthy habits can contribute to heart disease. But using healthy ways to keep your stress under control allows you to better protect yourself against heart disease. Try these ideas:

  • Exercise. When you are anxious and tense, exercise is a great way to burn off all that excess energy and stress. Go for a walk, a bike ride, or a swim, or go to the gym for your favorite class. Plan to exercise for 30 to 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity, 4 to 5 days a week to relieve stress and improve your heart health.
  • Breathe deeply. Yoga is not only good for your body, but for your mind, too. The meditative, deep breathing done in yoga is calming and relieves stress, especially if you do it regularly.
  • Take a break. When your stress level rises, take a few minutes to escape your surroundings. Spend a few quiet moments alone, read a short story, or listen to your favorite music. Cultivate gratitude. Make a list of what you’re grateful for in your life to focus on the positives.
  • Get together with friends. Social media is no substitute for being with people you love. Create some weekly rituals with your friends. If they live far away, try volunteering or joining a local group of people with similar interests to yours. Research suggests that people with frequent social connections enjoy better protection against high blood pressure.

iStock-643324996.jpg

Research is ongoing to look more closely at the link between emotional health and heart health. But the existing evidence is consistent enough to prove that you should take its potential effects on your heart seriously. Exercise regularly and keep your emotional health in check, and you’ll build a stronger buffer against heart disease.

To learn more about Heart and Vascular Services at UMC, click here.

 

A Resolution for a Revolution: How to Stay True to Your New Year’s Goals

 

Author: Alan Gatz, MD, UMC Primary Care Physician

Most people have good intentions when making a resolution, but oftentimes, they set themselves up for failure by setting unrealistic goals or not being fully invested in the proposition.

iStock-502917948.jpg

For example:  “I resolve to transform this overweight, middle-aged couch potato into the new and improved Adonis 2.0.” Okay, you caught me. This has been my standard resolution for the past two decades. After 20+  years, I have yet to achieve this unrealistic, yet admirable result. If I had to guess, I would say that most who read this post have made similar nebulous resolutions.

Well, what’s past is past: I’m vowing to make 2018 different.

101.jpg

Rather than talking the talk, I’m endeavoring to walk the walk — and you should, too! The days of written vows that never live to see the light of day should be rendered passé. Instead, we should take oaths that describe defined, attainable goals supported by specific actions to reach those goals.

Only in doing that can we measure our success — because we’ll actually have metrics. This tangible action will improve our success significantly by serving as a physical reminder and reinforcement of our commitment.

With that in mind, I present to you my personal oath for 2018.

I vow to take charge of my health and well-being by:

  • Establishing a relationship with a primary care physician
  • Exercising at least 3 times per week for 45 to 60 minutes
  • Developing healthy eating habits and limiting consumption of fast food
  • Working with my physician, dietitian, and exercise physiologist to attain and maintain a weight that reduces my risk for developing diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease and degenerative arthritis

104.jpg     105.jpg

Each of these actions can be observed/measured and the results, documented. There exists no excuses.

Now that I have not only spoken — but transcribed — the vow for all to see, I guess I better follow through! Just don’t expect Adonis as the end result. Record of my progress will be kept and updated via this HealthyU Blog, so check back often!  I will report the results of my efforts and, hopefully, demonstrate the positive benefits of committing to a healthy lifestyle.

108.jpg

109.jpg

UMC remains committed to the well-being of its staff and all who present themselves for care. To this end, the Primary Care Clinic, located at 2003 Tulane Avenue, opened on December 20th for all who wish to establish ongoing care with a primary care specialist.

If you desire to make the commitment to improve your health by losing weight and reducing your risk for developing serious medical conditions, please contact the office for an appointment. Dr. Rogers and I look forward to partnering with you in your quest for better health. Call the clinic directly at 504-962-6120.

A belated Happy New Year to all!

Give It Your Heart and Sole

Experts have known for a while that certain healthy habits are essential to good heart health. Even simple changes can reduce your risk for heart disease – and lifestyle changes have even been shown to help reverse damage in people already diagnosed with a heart condition.

Heart disease is this country’s No.1 killer, but according to the American Heart Association New Orleans, many deaths from heart disease can be prevented each year by adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle.

iStock-139984205.jpg

Find time to exercise

Doing some form of exercise – whether it’s working out at the gym, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or starting a walking program – can improve heart health, according to the AHA. Walking at least 30 minutes of day can help lower your blood pressure, improve your cholesterol profile and help you reduce your risk of coronary heart disease. A recent eight-year study of 13,000 people found that those who walked 30 minutes a day had a significantly lower risk of premature death than those who rarely exercised

Thousands of people will be taking this critical message to heart, and making a commitment to leading a heart healthy life at Saturday’s AHA New Orleans Walk in Champion’s Square.

At this annual event, participants join with others and generate a renewed commitment to heart-healthy living through walking.

In addition to a commitment to daily exercise, other lifestyle changes can reduce the risk factors for heart disease, heart attack and stroke.

iStock-509858326.jpg

Eat a healthy diet

A healthy diet is one of the best weapons to fight heart disease, according the AHA. Foods consumed can affect risk factors such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Eating fatty foods plays a part in the buildup of fat in your arteries, which can lead to blocked arteries of your heart and to the risk of a heart attack. A healthy diet consisting of lean proteins, vegetables, fruit and whole grains can help improve heart health. If you’re overweight, set weight-loss goals. Even losing a small percentage of your body weight reduces your risk for heart disease.

iStock-849394898.jpg

If you smoke, stop.

The American Heart Association (AHA) says diseases caused by smoking kill more than 440,000 people in the U.S. each year. One out of every five smoking-related deaths is caused by heart disease.

Smoking causes an instant and long-term rise in blood pressure, increases heart rate, reduces blood flow from the heart, damages blood vessels and doubles the risk of stroke.

iStock-473546548.jpg

Top 3 Recommendations for a Healthier Heart

  • Find time to exercise: Brisk walking for as little as 30 minutes a day has proven health benefits, such as providing increased energy and circulation, as well as reduced risk of heart disease.
  • Eat a healthy diet: Eat more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, fish, poultry, and nuts. Cut back on sugary foods like soda and on red meat. In general, stay away from foods high in salt, cholesterol, saturated fat, and trans-fat.
  • If you smoke, stop: Smoking can seriously damage blood vessels and increase your risk for heart disease.

iStock-626188866.jpg

Tips for sticking with your heart healthy lifestyle changes:

  • Start small. Make promises that you can keep. Rather than trying to go the gym every day, aim go three times a week and add more walking each day. Instead of overhauling your entire diet, try replacing sugary treats with healthier options, like fruit.
  • Take a gradual approach. Making lifestyle changes may take time. Don’t expect miracles overnight. Try replacing one unhealthy behavior at a time.
  • Don’t go it alone. Talking about your resolutions and finding support can help you reach your goals. Try forming a group or take a class with others who have common goals. Having support and being able to talk about your struggles can make sticking to your plan less overwhelming.