Great Ways to Cut Sodium from Your Meals

How to be Healthy | Wednesday, March 28th, 2012 | No Comments

The old saying that “variety is the spice of life” is a great one to remember when cooking. It doesn’t say that salt is the spice of life. Choosing a variety of herbs and spices instead of salt can add more variety to your meal and lead to a healthier diet. Reducing sodium can help lower your blood pressure, while excess sodium in your diet can have negative health effects.

According to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, you should aim to limit your daily sodium intake to 2,400 milligrams or fewer. That is the equivalent of about 6 grams or 1 teaspoon of table salt each day (be sure to account for all foods that already contain sodium in addition to table salt added to meals). Those with high blood pressure or over age 50 should reduce daily sodium to less than 1,500 milligrams. 

Tips to Reduce Sodium in your Diet

  • Remove the salt shaker from the table or at least cover some of the holes to reduce the amount you add to foods.
  • Cook with canola oil or olive oil instead of butter or margarine.
  • Shop smart by checking labels for sodium content.
  • Choose foods with 140 milligrams of sodium or less to be considered “low sodium.”
  • Choose fresh foods over canned and pre-packaged to avoid the sodium used to preserve foods.
  • Eat fewer smoked, cured, or processed meats.
  • Choose frozen or canned foods that say “no salt added.”
  • Don’t add salt when cooking rice, pasta, or hot cereal.
  • Reduce use of instant or flavored rice, pasta, and cereal that rely on added salt.
  • Rinse any canned foods such as tuna to remove excess sodium.
  • Make your own dressings and sauces, since pre-mixed versions contain more sodium.
  • Use less salt than any recipe calls for; it shouldn’t affect the food in a major way.
  • Use herbs and spices to season foods. Click here to find the best spices for different meats and vegetables. Try curry powder, ginger, rosemary, mint, dill, lemon juice, paprika, pepper, cinnamon, oregano, tarragon, or thyme to get started.

Heart and Family Health Institute wants you to get spice and variety in your life without the salt. Visit us and get a blood pressure reading. Our dedicated staff will help you set a goal for lowering your blood pressure through a low-sodium diet.

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What to Expect from a Colonoscopy

Cancer Care | Wednesday, March 21st, 2012 | No Comments

It’s National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. March has been designated as a time to encourage awareness about colorectal cancer and how a screening colonoscopy is an essential tool for your health. Colorectal cancer is the second most deadly of cancers that affect both men and women.

Only 10% of cases of colorectal cancer occur in people under 50. So getting a regular screening as you age can be a lifesaver. An estimated 60% of deaths due to colorectal cancer could be prevented by regular screenings for men and women over 50.

The majority of colorectal cancers begin as growths called polyps in the colon or rectum. If these polyps are found through a colonoscopy screening, they can be removed before becoming cancerous. Treatment for colorectal cancer is most effective when the cancer is found early, which is another benefit of a regular colonoscopy.

Colonoscopy Screenings
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, you should begin screening according to these guidelines:

  • At age 50
  • Sooner if you have a family history of polyps or colorectal cancer
  • Sooner if you have inflammatory bowel disease

Screenings should continue until at least age 75, based on doctor recommendation.

Types of Screening 
Your doctor will determine which test or combination of tests is best for you.

  • A colonoscopy should be done every 10 years.
  • A high-sensitivity fecal occult blood test should be done annually.
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy can be done every 5 years.
  • The double contrast barium enema is another screening test that can be done every 5 years.
  • A CT colonoscopy or “virtual colonoscopy” is also being developed.

What to Expect at a Colonoscopy

  • Before: IV fluids will be administered while the patient is monitored for heart rhythm, blood pressure, and blood oxygen levels. A sedative medication will be given through the IV to reduce pain and aid in relaxation. This medication may also be given during the procedure.
  • During: Patients may feel pressure, cramps, and abdominal bloating. The pain should be minimal due to the medication. Patients generally lie on their left side or back. The colonoscope is inserted until it reaches the tip of the colon or the end of the small intestine. As the colonoscope is removed, the lining of the colon is examined carefully. The procedure can take from 15 to 60 minutes. There may be additional visuals needed. The doctor might schedule another exam at a later date or an X-ray or CT scan.
  • After: The patient will need to be monitored for an hour or two after the screening while the medication wears off. Patients must have someone drive them home as they may experience impaired judgment or reflexes. Patients may eat regularly once they return home. The doctor will examine the results of the test. If there are any irregularities or abnormalities, a sample of tissue may be required for a biopsy. Even if polyps are spotted and removed, most are benign (harmless).

Colonoscopies save lives. So “March” on down to Heart and Family Health Institute and schedule a screening for you or someone you love who is at risk. Preventing colorectal cancer is possible with regular screenings.

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How Healthy Is Your Diet?

How to be Healthy | Wednesday, March 14th, 2012 | No Comments

When you think of March, what comes to mind? College basketball, St. Patrick's Day, the beginning of spring? Don't forget that March is also National Nutrition Month.

There are many things you can do to ensure you are eating a healthy diet. This year’s focus for National Nutrition Month is eating right with color. Check out the healthy diet below to see how your diet measures up. If you’re lacking some essentials, start a new nutrition tradition.

A Healthy Diet

  • A variety of colors on your plate will ensure a good variety of vitamins and nutrients. Go for fresh produce to give your plate an appetizing burst of color.
  • Half of your plate should be fruits and vegetables. Focus on dark vegetables plus beans and peas.
  • Aim for 2 and a half cups of vegetables each day and 2 cups of fruit.
  • Get more fruits and vegetables by adding fruit to cereal or oatmeal; snacking on an apple, orange, or carrot sticks; adding more vegetables to your omelet, taco, or stir-fry; or seeking out new recipes that feature fresh produce.
  • Eat whole grains. Choose cereals, bread, pasta, and rice made from whole grains.
  • Get calcium and vitamin D from 3 cups of low-fat dairy each day. You can enjoy milk, yogurt, or cheese, or you can try non-dairy soy products.
  • Get lean protein from meat, poultry, seafood, beans, peas, eggs, soy products, nuts, and seeds.
  • Replace at least a few red meat and poultry dishes each week with fish.
  • Replace solid fats like butter with vegetable oils like canola, corn, olive, peanut, and soybean.
  • Reduce your sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams. If you have high blood pressure or are over 50, reduce your sodium to 1,500 milligrams. You can use herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods. Choose fresh foods over canned and pre-packaged.
  • Reduce sugar to 25 grams or less per day, according to the American Heart Association.
  • Drink alcohol in moderation. One drink per day for women and two for men is considered adequate.
  • Don’t forget to balance out your diet with 30 minutes of moderate daily exercise.  

To build a diet that’s just right for you, visit This website can help you plan, shop for, and implement a well-balanced diet each and every day. Good nutrition is the key to good health. At Heart and Family Health Institute, we want you to take control of your nutrition and make smart choices. Our dedicated team of primary care doctors can help you make smart nutrition choices now!


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Understanding Asthma

Respiratory Therapy | Wednesday, March 7th, 2012 | No Comments

We treasure the moments in life that take our breath away, figuratively. However, if you literally suffer from trouble breathing due to asthma, it is a serious and scary problem. It is important to understand asthma so you can to treat it properly and live a healthy life.

Asthma is a disorder caused by inflammation. It causes the airways in the lungs to swell and narrow, which results in coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and tightness in the chest. An asthma attack occurs when the amount of air that can pass through the airways is reduced by tightening and swelling of the air passages.

Asthma can be triggered by many allergens. Common triggers include pet hair/dander, dust, cold weather, chemicals, exercise, mold, pollen, infection of the respiratory system, stress, and smoke. Asthma can also be triggered by aspirin or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications in some people.


  • Cough with or without phlegm
  • Shortness of breath that worsens with activity
  • Wheezing (especially at night or early morning) that comes on suddenly, comes and goes, can be treated with bronchodilator medication, or worsens in cold air, with exercise, and with heartburn
  • Abnormal breathing patterns, with breathing out taking longer than breathing in
  • Pain or tightness in the chest

Asthma attacks can last for only minutes or as long as a few days. Most people have long symptom-free periods between attacks. Some symptoms are cause for emergency:

  • Blue coloring of lips and face
  • Drowsiness or confusion during asthma attack
  • Extreme trouble breathing
  • Increased pulse rate
  • Elevated anxiety
  • Sweating

Your doctor can diagnose asthma with blood tests, chest X-rays, testing the lung function, or measuring peak flow.

Treating asthma is a matter of avoiding triggers and controlling inflammation of the airways. There are two categories of medications that can treat asthma. Long-term medications control the disorder to prevent attacks. Quick-acting drugs are used for relief during attacks. Your doctor will prescribe medication that will work best for your particular situation. Many are used in combination.

Asthma sufferers can take care of their asthma at home as well. Be sure to monitor all symptoms. Take your peak flow reading and learn about its implications. If your value is between 50% and 80%, it is generally a sign of a moderate attack. Severe attacks are signaled by a peak flow value less than 50%. Know your triggers and try to avoid them. Monitor children with asthma carefully, and inform school staff so they can provide support. Stick to your written asthma action plan.

If you suffer from asthma, you need to be very aware of your body’s reaction to weather, exercise, and environmental triggers. The team at Heart and Family Health Institute can diagnose and help treat your asthma. Be sure to work closely with your doctor and family to manage your condition, so you can appreciate all those breath-taking moments that life has to offer.  

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How Skinny People Stay That Way

How to be Healthy | Wednesday, February 29th, 2012 | No Comments

There’s a skinny person hiding inside all of us. Some people let their skinny person out and others keep it hidden away. Skinny people make certain choices about their diet, exercise, and lifestyle that can help them maintain a trim physique.

Use these tips to embrace your inner-skinny and let it out to play.

  • Get hydrated with soup or salad before a meal. A water-filled appetizer can make you feel full without excess calories and lead to eating a smaller portion of the main meal.
  • Balance your plate with at least half fruits and vegetables. Fill the rest with lean protein, low-fat dairy, and whole grains.
  • Trick your eyes and stomach by using a smaller plate and filling it up. When you see a full plate, you anticipate a filling meal and won’t even miss the extra food.
  • Enjoy a mental meal before the real one to again trick your mind and stomach. If you imagine eating the food before you actually consume it, you’ll fulfill the mental craving and be able to stop before overeating. Feel free to indulge in imaginary calories.
  • Enjoy a meal with your family, but skip the family-style dining. Choose meals that are pre-portioned to avoid eating too much.
  • Eat smaller meals more frequently. This can actually help you boost your metabolism, feel full, and keep off the calories.
  • Give your full attention to your meal. If you dine or snack in front of the TV or computer,  you aren’t getting the full enjoyment from your meal and may end up eating more because you don’t notice when you have had enough.
  • Rate your fullness on a scale of 1 to 10. Skinny people stop around a level 7: satisfied but not stuffed.
  • Get a multivitamin and be sure to take it daily. When your body is lacking nutrients, it may lead to food cravings to fill the gaps. A vitamin will make sure you get all the nutrients you need without the unnecessary calories.
  • Don’t use food as a comfort when you’re feeling down. Choose a more active way to boost your mood.
  • Be as active as possible. Every extra hour you spend on your feet each day can help keep off the excess pounds. Take the stairs, walk to your co-worker’s desk rather than e-mailing, and take a quick break to stretch your legs and get in a few chores during TV commercials.
  • Make time for exercise. Getting at least 30 minutes of exercise 5 days a week is recommended for ideal health and maintaining a healthy weight.
  • Don’t neglect your sleep. Sleep acts as a natural weight control tool by suppressing hunger and also limiting the time you can spend eating!

Heart and Family Health Institute’s dedicated staff can help you embrace your inner-skinny self. Make an appointment with a doctor to set a weight goal and get on track to meeting your target weight.

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Sugar: How Bad Is It?

How to be Healthy | Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012 | No Comments

Sugar may be sweet, but it has a dangerous side. Too much sugar in your diet can be very harmful to your health. If you have a sweet tooth and really love your desserts, read on to find out why you need to cut down on sugar in your diet.

Dangers of Excessive Sugar

Weight Gain: Sugary foods tend to be high in calories but less filling so you wind up eating more. Current obesity trends have been linked to excess sugar intake.

Displacement of Good Food: When you fill up on sugary foods, you don’t eat as many fruits and vegetables that you need for better health.

Immune System Weakness: Sugar causes your immune system to be weakened for a few hours after eating. If you regularly eat sweets, you could have a damaged immune system all day long.

Inflammation: Sugar leads to unnecessary inflammation, which is unhealthy and can speed up the aging process.

Suppression of Human Growth Hormone: Your body naturally releases Human Growth Hormone that can help you look fit. Sugar suppresses this hormone and speeds up the aging process.

Glycation: The sugar molecules attach to proteins and certain fats and do toxic damage to your body, which leads to irreversible aging effects.

Insulin Levels: when you take sugar into your body, your pancreas releases insulin to combat it. Over time it may take more and more, and your pancreas may weaken, leaving you at risk for diabetes.

How Much Is Too Much?

According to the World Health Organization, sugar should not exceed 10% of your total calories. Approximately 50 grams of sugar, or the amount in one 20-ounce bottle of soda is safe. The American Heart Association suggests that half that amount is safe. You can also enjoy sugar with less worry if you do so right after a workout. After exercising, your body is in prime shape to process the sugar without as many negative effects. Check out these tips from the American Heart Association for reducing sugar intake.

If you want to live a long, sweet, and healthy life, start limiting your sugar intake today. Heart and Family Health Institute can help you make changes to your diet and lifestyle. Visit us online or call 772-335-9600 to make an appointment. 

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Your Medical History: Sharing It with Your Family

How to be Healthy | Wednesday, February 15th, 2012 | 1 Comment

Your family tree is more than just a map of where you come from. It can contain important medical information that matters to many family members. Sharing your medical history with your family may help them seek medical treatment more effectively. It might also alert a family member to a potential health risk.

Benefits of a Full Medical Family Tree

  • Risk for certain diseases can be assessed by your doctor.
  • Lifestyle changes in diet, exercise, and other habits can be recommended.
  • Your doctor can determine which types of diagnostic tests and regular screenings you should undergo.
  • Your doctor might be able to diagnose a condition that would have gone undetected.
  • Your doctor can determine your risk for passing conditions on to your children.

How to Gather the Medical InformationFamily members may not all feel comfortable sharing their private medical history. You can approach the topic with family members by explaining how helpful it can be for everyone’s health. Offer different ways to share. Some might feel comfortable talking face-to-face while others might prefer a questionnaire, phone call, or e-mail. Make the questions simple and easy to answer. Be a respectful listener without judgment or comment. Be supportive and remind family members that all information will all be kept confidential between the family and physicians.

Information to Gather

  • Medical conditions and age for each
  • Mental health conditions, including alcoholism or other substance abuse and age for each
  • Pregnancy complications, including miscarriage, stillbirth, birth defects or infertility and age each occurred
  • Lifestyle habits, including diet, exercise and tobacco use
  • Age and cause of death for deceased relatives

You can compile this information into a visual diagram that can be referenced easily and shared with all family members and their medical providers. Check out this online tool provided by the Surgeon General’s office. The family medical history tree is an essential tool for keeping your family healthy and safe. While a full medical family tree cannot predict your medical future like a crystal ball, it is a great place to start monitoring your health and making smart choices.

Heart and Family Health Institute can help you begin sharing your medical history with your family. Check out our Personal and Family Medical History collection tool to help you get started on your own family medical history.  At Heart and Family Health Institute, your health is our priority!

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An EKG: What It Is and How It Works

Cardiac Health | Wednesday, February 8th, 2012 | No Comments

Your heart beats faster when you see the one you love or when you work out. It beats slower when you relax and kick back. Your heart is an amazing tool that keeps your body working. An electrocardiogram, also known as an EKG or ECG, is a test that measures your heartbeat. It records the timing and duration of each electrical phase of your heartbeat.

 What is the test for?
It can detect if a heart attack has occurred; it can also detect heart arrhythmias or heart failure. An EKG can predict a developing heart attack so you can make changes to prevent it. An EKG also monitors any changes in the rhythm of your heart. It measures the strength of each electrical impulse that passes through different parts of your heart. An EKG can determine if your heartbeat is steady or irregular. The test can determine the placement of your heart in your chest as well as the thickness of the heart muscle. If there is damage to the heart muscle or any impaired blood flow, the EKG will show it.

What is the test like?
It is a painless and noninvasive test. The patient will lie flat on a table while EKG leads are attached to the body. One is attached to each extremity and a total of six are placed over the chest in specific locations. The leads may attach by suction cups, Velcro, or small adhesive patches. Men may need small patches of hair shaved to help attach the leads. The test takes approximately 5 minutes.

When is the test done?
You might get an EKG during a regular physical exam or health screening. An EKG is also given during a cardiac exercise stress test. If you report symptoms including chest pain, difficulty breathing, dizziness, fainting, or heart palpitations to your doctor, you will likely get an EKG. For patients who are at risk for heart disease due to advanced age, an EKG will be performed before a surgery.

Heart and Family Health Institute has a Full Service Outpatient Diagnostic Center that can help you get a handle on your heart and its rhythms. If you are concerned about your heart health, contact us today.

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Top Tips for Lowering Your High Blood Pressure

Cardiac Health | Wednesday, February 1st, 2012 | No Comments

Life can put you under a lot of strain. Work, home, and social obligations can put stress on you and make your blood pressure rise. Blood pressure is the force of your rushing blood pressing against your artery walls. It’s normal for blood pressure to rise and fall throughout the day, but consistently high blood pressure is a cause for concern. Hypertension is the term for high blood pressure. The danger of high blood pressure lies in the fact that it causes the heart to work too hard, increasing the risk for stroke, heart disease, congestive heart failure, kidney disease, and blindness. February is American Heart Month, but it’s important to love your heart every month.

What’s Your Number?
Your blood pressure has two numbers you need to know. Your systolic level should be less than 120 mmHg. Your diastolic level should be less than 80 mmHg. A systolic level of 120 to 139 or a diastolic level of 80 to 89 put you in the warning zone for prehypertension. Making changes to your diet and exercise routine can get you back into the safe level.  If your systolic level is 140 or higher or your diastolic level is 90 or higher, you have high blood pressure and need to take action to get it under control with the help of a doctor.

Tips to Prevent, Control, and Lower High Blood Pressure

According to the National Institutes of Health, there are ways you can manage your blood pressure. Consider these strategies:

  • Always know your numbers as described above. You can monitor at home between doctor visits.
  • Enlist a family member to get involved in your medical care and lifestyle changes.
  • Get down to your target weight. Your doctor can help you set your target weight by measuring your BMI (body mass index) and waist circumference. You can lower your weight through diet and exercise.
  • Get in at least 30 minutes of vigorous activity daily (working out, intense house or yard work, or playing sports can all help you accomplish your goal).
  • Eat smart, including whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, and lean protein.
  • You can use the DASH plan to help you make healthy eating choices.
  • Reduce your sodium intake (2,300 mg or less for adults under 50 or 1,500 mg or less for adults over 50). Try spices instead to flavor your food in a healthy way.
  • Reduce your alcohol consumption. One drink a day for women or two drinks a day for men is considered the maximum safe amount.
  • Find ways to relax. Yoga, tai chi, meditation, and deep breathing can all help.
  • There are blood pressure medications you can take to help you control your blood pressure.

Heart and Family Health Institute can help you take control of your health and your blood pressure. Come in for a checkup during American Heart Month to make sure your blood pressure is in a safe and healthy range. Visit us online to schedule an appointment today.

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How Technology May Be Affecting Your Health

How to be Healthy | Wednesday, January 25th, 2012 | No Comments

Life before cell phones and e-mail can seem unfathomable. Information and communication at your fingertips has become an integral part of life. However, technology may have surprising impacts on your health.

Brain Health
Computer gaming and constant social networking from a young age can have an effect on growing brains. The quickly changing and flashing screen images are especially damaging to younger children.

General Health
Cell phones emit radio frequency energy. Studies are being done to determine if these rays are dangerous to human health. Studies on long-term effects and effects on young children are being done to determine safety concerns with wireless technology.

Texting is a common way to communicate for many people. However, texting while driving has been proven to be a dangerous distraction that leads to auto accidents.

Social Health
Communication via the computer screen may affect people’s ability to communicate face-to-face in the future. Online communication allows a layer of separation, time to react and craft responses, and removes the element of surprise and the unexpected from conversations. Studies have shown that people who socialize tend to be happier and healthier. When virtual reality takes the place of real socialization, there is a possibility for negative health effects down the line.

Technology is essential to good healthcare. Doctors can share diagnostic information instantly to get patients the best care possible. New scanners have been invented that are safer, less expensive, and more accurate. Doctors are more connected, more up-to-date, and more informed, thanks to improved technologies.

Overall, technology has many benefits, but its long-term dangers are unclear. Technology is unavoidable and bound to become more and more sophisticated and essential to daily life. So plug in when you need to, and always take time to unplug and go outside to experience what the world has to offer without a screen.

Heart and Family Health Institute utilizes the latest technology to help you live healthier. You can come in or call us at (772) 335-9600 if you have concerns about your own technology use.

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