How Does Atherosclerosis Put You At Risk For a Heart Attack?

diagram of blockage in an arteryAtherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries silently and slowly blocks arteries, decreases blood flow and can lead to a heart attack or stroke. Knowing what it is and how to prevent it decreases your chances of developing heart disease.

What is Atherosclerosis?

Bad cholesterol and cells form a plaque in the walls of your arteries. Overtime, the plaque damages the artery walls, creating a bump that continues to grow. A big enough bump can block the artery wall and restrict blood flow. You usually don’t feel symptoms until middle or older age. Sometimes you not experience any symptoms. But if plaque suddenly ruptures, blood can clot in the affected artery. In the brain this causes a stroke; in the heart the result is a heart attack.

Can Atherosclerosis be prevented?

There are risk factors that can significantly increase your chance of having a heart attack. They include:

  • Smoking
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Stress
  • Obesity
  • Excessive daily alcohol intake (more than one drink for women, two drinks for men)
  • Not exercising regularly (30 minutes per day, five times per week)

Plaque that forms in the artery wall is there to stay. But making healthy lifestyle changes can slow or even stop the plaque’s growth. Your doctor may prescribe medication that can lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, thus reducing your atherosclerosis risk. In cases of people with significant symptoms, surgery may be required to open up clogged arteries.

The best time to reevaluate lifestyle choices is right now. Scheduling a wellness checkup with your physician is a great way to establish your heart health baseline and begin implementing any positive changes.

Are You A Candidate For Allergy Shots?

woman receiving a shot Spring’s arrival next week brings misery for the millions of allergy sufferers. With the blooming trees and flowers comes pollen, which means congestion, sneezing and watering, itchy eyes for many. If over-the-counter medicines aren’t helping your symptoms, it might be time to pursue allergy shots for longer-lasting relief.

Also called allergen immunotherapy, allergy shots help provide allergy sufferers long lasting relief from their symptoms and prevent new allergies from developing. They work like a virus: A particular allergen is injected into the body, given in gradually increasing doses. Overtime the body develops immunity or intolerance to the allergen.

When considering allergy shots, it’s important to keep the following in mind:

  • How long your symptoms last. If your allergies flare up for just a few weeks each year, allergy shots may not be in your best interest.
  • The severity of your symptoms. Are your symptoms a temporary nuisance or do they cause pain and interrupt your daily routine for months at a time?
  • Time commitment. For allergy shots to be effective requires that they be administered weekly for an extended period of time. During the build-up phase that lasts three to six months, patients must sometimes receive three shots per week. The maintenance phase that follows can last for years.
  • Insurance coverage may vary.

Talk to your physician about allergy shots to help weigh the pros and cons. For people with allergies who suffer long-term symptoms, they can be very beneficial. When oral medications and nasal sprays don’t help, allergy shots may be the next option.

healthy foods on a table

Healthy Snacking Makes for a Healthy Heart

healthy foods on a tableFebruary is recognized as both National Heart Health Month and National Snack Food Month. It’s a great time to talk about healthy snacking that is an important part of a heart-healthy lifestyle.

Snacking isn’t bad for you. Everyone gets the munchies. What matters is the amount of food you consume when snacking and the types of snacks you choose. Moderation and healthy choices is the key combination. Additionally, consuming certain foods can help lower your risk of cardiovascular disease. Look for lots of fruits and vegetables as well as whole grains.

Check out these options for heart-healthy snacks.

Healthy nuts (almonds, walnuts). They lower the low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels that can contribute to plaque build-up in blood vessels.

Berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries). Berries contain antioxidants that help maintain healthy blood vessels, blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Seeds (flaxseeds, chia, sunflower, sesame). Sprinkle in yogurts, smoothies or salads, adding heart-healthy fat, fiber and vitamins to your diet.

Colorful vegetables. Red, orange and yellow veggies like red peppers, carrots and sweet potatoes contain carotenoids, fiber and vitamins.

Fruits. Oranges, cantaloupe and papaya are bursting with beta-carotene, potassium and magnesium. Potassium is a great defense against high blood pressure.

Hummus. Dipping vegetables into hummus provides extra benefits, as hummus helps lower cholesterol levels.

Dark chocolate. Chocolate that is at least 70 percent cocoa provides a sweet treat that also treats your heart well.

The next time you feel the urge to snack, check out healthy options that are beneficial to many aspects of your health, including your heart.

senior citizens deciding on a healthy meal

Seniors Should Pay Close Attention to Maintaining Healthy Eating Habits

senior citizens deciding on a healthy mealAccording to the National Resource Center on Nutrition, Physical Activity and Aging, one in four older Americans has poor nutrition. Malnutrition weakens muscles and bones, leaves you susceptible to disease and can put you at risk for becoming overweight or underweight.

As you age, your appetite, food habits and nutritional needs can change in many ways:

Calories

You may have less energy and more muscle or joint problems as you age, causing you to engage in less physical activity and burn fewer calories. People also lose muscle mass as they age, which slows down their metabolism and lowers caloric needs.

Appetite

It’s not uncommon to experience a loss of appetite as you age. Your sense of taste and smell can also diminish, which can cause you to eat less.

Medical conditions

With age you become more susceptible to chronic health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Your doctor may recommend a change in diet to help prevent or treat these conditions.

Medications

You may need to take medications to manage chronic health conditions. They may affect your appetite or interact with certain foods.

Oral health

Seniors can have age-related oral health concerns that may interfere with eating. For example, dentures that fit improperly can lead to poor eating habits and malnutrition.

Home life

Lousing a spouse, family member or friend can impact daily habits including eating. You may feel depressed and not want to eat. Your spouse may have been the primary cook and you might not know how to prepare meals for yourself.

It’s important that seniors eat a well-balanced diet rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals. When meeting with your physician, talk about your dietary, exercise and daily living habits. Your doctor can recommend any changes or resources if necessary.

list for new years resolutions

Busting the Excuses That Are Stalling Your New Year’s Resolution to Get Fit

list for new years resolutionsIt’s time to bust the myths that keep people from exercising.  “Exercising more” often tops the list of New Year’s resolutions, only to find itself atop the list of broken resolutions soon after.

What’s your excuse? Here are six common myths that keep people from starting or sticking to an exercise routine, as well as reasoning to help overcome them.

“I’m too busy.” The current recommendation for adults is at least 150 minutes per week of moderate activity, which can be achieved by exercising for 30 minutes five times per week. If you can’t find 30 minutes in your schedule, break the routine up. Try three 10-minute workouts. Any movement is better than no movement at all.

“I don’t like exercising.” You don’t have to join a gym or attend a class unless you want to. Physical activity can mean walking, swimming, biking or even gardening. Find an activity that you enjoy.  

“I’m too tired.” Physical activity actually reduces fatigue and boosts energy levels. You’ll feel less tired in the long run.

“My health isn’t good enough to allow me to exercise.” Very few health problems make any physical activity out of the question. On the contrary, exercise can provide relief from many health issues. Talk to your doctor about developing a safe exercise routine.

“Exercise is painful.” Remember the goal isn’t to run a marathon by month’s end. Work with your physician or a personal trainer (ask for referrals) to develop a routine that fits your current health and future goals.

“I’m not athletic.” Not everyone who is physically fit is an athlete. Physical fitness comes in all shapes and sizes.

Schedule an appointment with your Carolina Specialty Care physician today to discuss implementing an exercise routine that you can stick with in 2017.

sad woman with holiday decorations

Do You Suffer From SAD or the Holiday Blues?

Anxiety, sadness, loneliness, lack of motivation. Are youholiday-blues-carolina-specialty-care  suffering from the holiday blues or seasonal affective disorder? Knowing the difference between the two can get you on the road to recovery sooner.  

‘Tis the (winter) season  

If you have feelings of anxiety and sadness over specific holiday topics like gift budgets, too many commitments and lack of time to get everything done, your reaction may likely be to the specific holiday season.   

On the other hand, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression related to the change in seasons. Most symptoms begin and end the same timeframe each year. When the days are shorter, the weather turns colder and there is a better chance of rain or snow, SAD can set in.  

Common factors that can cause SAD include:  

  •      Your biological clock (circadian rhythm): Decreased sunlight can disrupt the body’s internal clock.  
  •      Serotonin levels: Serotonin is a hormone that affects your mood. Reduced sunlight can cause serotonin levels to drop, possibly leading to depression.  
  •      Melatonin: Changing seasons can disrupt the body’s balance of melatonin, which can affect sleep cycles and mood.  

There are ways to overcome SAD even on the dreariest winter days:  

  •      Light therapy: A special device called a light therapy box mimics natural outdoor light. Research suggests daily exposure to the light can reduce SAD symptoms.  
  •      Psychotherapy: This counseling experience helps patients identify and change negative thoughts and behaviors and provides ways to work through stress
  •      Changes to your physical environment: Opening blinds, trimming tree branches that block light and installing sky windows are all examples of changes that can brighten the inside of your home and your emotions.  
  •      Exercise: Whether it’s going to an exercise class or walking around the neighborhood, exercising the body helps the mind as well.  

7 Tips for a Stress-Free Holiday Season

The holiday season is in full swing, the time of year you’re stress-free-holiday-season-carolina-specialty-caremost likely to engage in stressful activities.
But there are steps can you take to keep stress at bay now through the New Year.

Here’s a sample of the biggest holiday stress sources, according to the Consumer Reports National Research Center. Which ones do you identify with?  

  •      Crowds and long lines
  •      Overeating/gaining weight
  •      Going into debt
  •      Gift shopping
  •      Traveling  
  •      Interacting with certain family members
  •      Having to attend parties

Once you identify what activities cause anxiety it’s time to look for ways to reduce the stress. Suggestions include:  

  1. Set a budget and stick to it. Set a spending limit that includes how much you’ll spend on gifts, outings, decorating and cooking.  
  2. Stay organized. Whether through an organizing app on your smartphone or an old-fashioned wall calendar or appointment book. Write down holiday events. Write out a list of tasks you want to get done (and when you’ll do them).  
  3. Be realistic and rational. What’s the worst that can happen if the holiday cookies aren’t homemade? Does the tree have to be decorated exactly when and as it has been in previous years? Creating the “perfect” Christmas is impossible, so stop making it a goal.  
  4. Learn to say no. You do not have to attend every holiday party or participate in every work, school or community event.  
  5. Take breaks from group activities. Even the most extraverted person needs alone time.  
  6. Take care of yourself. Eat healthy, exercise and get plenty of rest to keep your immune system working.  
  7. Recognize signs of depression. The holidays can trigger depression. If you’re experiencing fatigue and insomnia, uncontrollable emotions or a lack of interest in activities you normally enjoy, consult a physician.
Ill woman in bed

Is it a cold or is it the flu?

Ill woman in bedBoth a cold and the flu can leave you feeling miserable. Since both are respiratory illnesses they share some overlapping symptoms. But because different viruses cause them, there are signs that are specific to one ailment and not the other. As the flu and typical cold seasons approach, it’s important to know the differences.  

Common cold symptoms include:  

  • A sore throat within the first few days  
  • Runny nose and congestion  
  • A cough, usually by the fourth or fifth day  
  • Possibly a slight fever (more common in children)  

Cold symptoms usually last for a week and are contagious for the first three days.  

Flu symptoms include:  

  • Sore throat 
  • Congestion  
  • Cough  
  • Fever  
  • Headaches and muscle aches 
  • Fatigue  

Flu symptoms come on quickly and can last up to 10 days. Pneumonia is a common complication of the flu, especially in children, the elderly or people with lung or heart problems. If you experience shortness of breath or have a fever return after having been gone for a day or two, see a doctor.   

The cold and flu viruses are both spread through contact with respiratory droplets. Effective hand washing is a great preventative measure against both the flu and colds. Additionally, receiving the flu vaccine is the best way to keep you from getting the flu.  

Contact Carolina Specialty Care today to schedule your flu vaccine appointment.  

stop diabetes

Type 2 diabetes: Recognize the symptoms and know who’s at risk

stop diabetesNovember is National Diabetes Awareness Month. It’s estimated that 86 million Americans are at risk for developing diabetes. It is a disease that can be treated, managed, and prevented with proper care and awareness. 

Type 2 diabetes is more often diagnosed, compared to type 1 diabetes. Common symptoms include:  

  • Frequent urination  
  • Increased thirst and hunger 
  • Weight loss 
  • Fatigue 
  • Blurred vision  
  • Slow-healing sores or frequent infections  
  • Areas of darkened skin (in the folds and body creases) 

While anyone can develop type 2 diabetes, some have higher risk factors than others.  

  • Being overweight. One of the primary risk factors is weight. Too much fatty tissue causes cells to become more resistant to insulin.  
  • Fat distribution. People who store fat in the abdomen are at higher risk than those who store fat elsewhere, such as hips or thighs.  
  • Family history. You are at higher risk if a parent or sibling also has diabetes.  
  • Race. People of certain races, including African-American, Hispanic, American Indian and Asian American, have an increased chance of developing diabetes.  
  • Age. After age 45 the risk increases, perhaps because people may tend to exercise less and gain weight as they age.  
  • Prediabetes. Prediabetes is a condition where you have higher than normal blood sugar levels, but not so high as to be classified as type 2 diabetes. If left untreated, the condition can progress to type 2 diabetes.  
  • Gestational diabetes. A mom who developed gestational diabetes while pregnant, or who gave birth to a baby weighing nine pounds or more carries a higher risk.  

 If you have noticed any of the above symptoms or identify with one of the high risk factors, talk to your doctor about scheduling a glucose-screening test today.  

Carolina Specialty Care, PA, is pleased to welcome Kristen L. Pawlowski, MSN, FNP-BC – Pain Management

Image_005_smallKristen L. Pawlowski, MSN, FNP-BC

Kristen is a Board Certified Family Nurse Practitioner with more than 18 years of nursing experience. Her background includes Pediatrics, Emergency Medicine, Critical Care and Internal Medicine. In addition to her clinical experience Kristen has an academic background that includes two Bachelor’s degrees {BA in Psychology from Boston University & BS in Nursing from Sacred Heart University) and a Master of Science degree from the Family Nurse Practitioner Program of Sacred Heart University Fairfield, CT.

Kristen is certified by the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners and is licensed by the states of New York, Connecticut and North Carolina to provide family centered healthcare to patients of all ages. She also holds certifications in Basic Life Support, Pediatric Advanced Life Support and Advanced Cardiac Life support. Kristen has re-located from New York to be near family. She believes in developing a long lasting and trusting relationship with her patients by taking the time to understand their particular needs. Kristen is working in the specialty of Pain Management.