Saturday, February 11, 2012

Women: Know Your Risk for Heart Disease

According to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of American women. Cardiovascular disease is responsible for nearly 1/3 of all female deaths in the United States. Considering these statistics, all women should take preventative measures against cardiovascular disease.

The following lifestyle tips can help reduce your risk of heart disease:

Watch your diet. Eat fruits and vegetables, whole grain, high fiber foods and fish, and limit saturated fat. Limit alcohol to one drink per day and sodium intake to one teaspoon, 2500 mg, a day.

Maintain a healthy weight. Keep track of calories and don’t over-eat.

Exercise regularly. Try to get at least 20-25 minutes of aerobic activity most days of the week.

Know your blood pressure. An optimal blood pressure is 120/80 or lower. Symptoms of heart disease in women are most often chest pressure and breathlessness, but can also be atypical symptoms such as fatigue.

Keep your cholesterol in check. High levels of LDL cholesterol and low levels of HDL cholesterol can allow the buildup of artery-clogging plaque, which could lead to heart attack. Your physician can check your levels through routine blood work and develop an appropriate treatment plan for high cholesterol.

Although all women should take steps to prevent heart disease, some may be at higher risk than others. Diabetics, smokers and individuals with a close relative who has had coronary disease at 65 years of age or younger  are at increased risk for coronary disease themselves.

“Remember, coronary artery disease is a dynamic process,” explains Margaret Brennan, MD, cardiologist at Johns Hopkins Cardiology at GBMC. “Positive changes you make today in your diet, activity or a smoking habit have immediate and long-lasting benefits on your level of risk.”

If you think you may be at risk for heart disease, call 443-849-GBMC (4262) to find a cardiologist who is right for you.

Decoding Doctor Jargon

With so many acronyms floating around the world of healthcare, it’s no wonder the average patient needs a little help understanding information. Doctors can routinely used medical jargon when speaking to a patient without thinking twice. Unfortunately, some patients don’t pipe up and ask questions which can lead to misunderstandings and sometimes poor healthcare decisions.

To help you understand your doctor at your next visit, we’re helping you decode some of the most common medical terms you wish your doctor would have explained.

CBC: Complete Blood Count. This test measures several things, but most importantly looks at white blood cell count (which can be higher in the presence of a bacterial infection.)

BMP: Basic Metabolic Panel. This test includes levels of sodium, potassium, calcium, glucose and measures kidney function.

LFT: Liver Function Test. Higher than normal levels may indicate damage from infections or medications.

LDL: Low Density Lipoprotien. This is also known as bad cholesterol.

CT Scan: Computerized Tomography. This test combines a series of X-ray views taken from different angles to produce cross-sectional images of the bones and soft tissue.

MRI: Magnetic Resonance Imaging. This test uses a magnetic field and pulses of radio wave energy to make pictures of organs and structures inside the body.

PET Scan: Positron Emission Tomography. This is a unique type of imaging test that allows doctors to see how organs and tissues inside your body are actually functioning.

To find a primary care physician at GBMC for you and your family, visit

The Truth Behind Varicose Veins

For many women, varicose veins are a cosmetic annoyance. These gnarled, enlarged veins affect areas of your legs and feet and can sometimes be accompanied by aching pain and discomfort.

Many times varicose veins appear and cause no pain at all. They’re dark blue or purple in color and look twisted and bulging. However, they are sometimes accompanied by achy or heavy feeling legs, burning, throbbing, swelling and sometimes itching.

They can appear for a variety of reasons, but most commonly come from age or pregnancy. As we get older, veins lose their elasticity causing them to stretch. The valves become weak, allowing blood that should be moving to the heart to flow backwards and pool in the vein causing them to become varicose. Some pregnant women develop them because they have increased blood volume in their body, but decreased flow of blood to the legs.

There are other risk factors that may contribute to the development of varicose veins. Women are more likely to develop them than men because of hormonal changes. Family history may also be a factor. If your family members had varicose veins, you’re more likely to develop them. Additionally, obesity and sitting or standing for long periods of time can also increase your risk.

Fortunately, treatment for varicose veins doesn’t mean a long hospital stay or prolonged recovery time. There are a few options to help decrease varicose veins or help them disappear completely.

  • Self Care: Losing weight, exercising and elevating your legs can ease pain and prevent them from getting worse.
  • Compression Stockings: These stockings are worn daily and steadily squeeze legs helping veins and leg muscles to move blood more efficiently.
  • Laser Surgery: Physicians are using new laser treatments to close off smaller varicose veins. The laser sends a strong burst of light onto the vein, which makes it slowly fade and disappear.
  • Catheter-Assisted Surgery: In this treatment, your doctor will insert a thin tube (catheter) into the enlarged vein and heats the tip of the catheter. As the catheter is pulled out, the heat destroys the vein causing it to collapse and seal shut.
  • Vein Stripping: This procedure involves removing a long vein through a small incision.

When it comes to treatments for varicose veins, there are many options. Be sure to consult your doctor before thinking about any of these treatments so you can learn more about the side effects and potential health risks.

Men vs. Women

Appraise Your True Health Risks to Help Defeat Them

What differentiates you from the opposite sex? Aside from the obvious physical differences, men and women have battled over the finer points throughout history. From brute strength to feminine wiles, the supposed differences between men and women are infinitely debatable. But when it comes to top health risks, the differences are clear.

Heart disease and cancer are the leading causes of death in both sexes, but the similarities end there.* Men succumb to unintentional injuries and suicide at a higher rate than women, while women have higher rates of stroke and Alzheimer's disease. Understanding the differences between mothers and sons, brothers and sisters and husbands and wives can help us protect ourselves and our loved ones from the biggest threats to our health.

We're Not Created Equal?

The average American man lives 5.3 fewer years than his female counterpart, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. No one can fully explain the discrepancy, but some experts point to inherited traits, male sex hormones and a propensity for risky behavior – such as smoking, drinking and using illicit drugs – as reasons why men are more at risk for premature death. Unintentional injuries are the No. 3 killer of men, with more than twice as many men as women dying in traffic accidents and poisonings.* Accidents in the workplace also claim far more men than women.

The eighth leading cause of death in men – suicide – doesn't even make it into the women's top 10. This is due in part to men's tendency to use deadlier means and because depression manifests differently in men and often goes undiagnosed. Rather than feeling sad, worthless or guilty as with women, men with depression may complain of fatigue, irritability, trouble sleeping and loss of interest in work or hobbies.

But women do lead men in several risk factors. Stroke occurs equally in both men and women, but men stand a greater chance of surviving it – nearly two-thirds of those who die from stroke are women. And more women develop and die from Alzheimer's disease every year, due in large part to their longer lives.
Even the top health risks for both men and women affect the sexes differently. Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of both, yet more women than men die from it in a typical year. However, men tend to develop the condition 10 to 15 years earlier than women. Nearly 25% of all heart disease deaths occur in men ages 35 to 65. Cancer is the second leading killer of men and women, and lung cancer is responsible for most of those deaths. For men, the next most common killer is prostate cancer; for women, it's breast cancer.

Knowledge Is Power

Don't let the statistics and averages scare you – you have the power to improve and maintain your health and vitality. Living healthfully by eating a balanced diet, reducing stress, exercising, not smoking and seeing your doctor regularly for checkups and recommended screenings can help you live life to the fullest.

* Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,

Recipe of the Month: Spinach Salad with Maple Bacon Dressing

This salad is so delicious even your kids will love it! Traditional bacon dressings typically boast mega amounts of fat grams because they include mayonnaise or cream. This recipe still offers great flavor, but with a lot less fat. And if you are looking to add a little iron and protein to your diet, the spinach and eggs in this dish do the trick!

Tip: Soak the red onions in ice water for 15 minutes, drain and pat dry. This reduces the aftertaste associated with stronger onions.

Serves 4

12 cups fresh baby spinach
4 eggs, hard-boiled, peeled and sliced
1/4 cup red onion, thinly-sliced
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into chunks
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 tablespoon sweet onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
2 slices bacon, crisply fried and crumbled
salt and pepper to taste


Toss spinach, eggs, red onion and cucumber together in a large serving bowl and set aside. In a small skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté until soft and translucent. Pour vinegar and maple syrup into the pan, then bring to a boil while stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper. Pour dressing over spinach mixture, sprinkle with bacon and serve immediately.