Sunday, July 29, 2012

Sex and the...Heart!

I think we have all formally introduced ourselves enough to where this should not be something to be shy about. We are all friends, right? Well, it's time to talk about the effect that sex has on the heart....what a great topic!

To start, sex burns calories. Not a ton of calories, but hey, something is better than nothing, right? On average sex burns between 75 and 100 calories in 30 minutes. But let's put this into perspective. 52 half hour sessions (once a week) will burn on average between 3,900 and 5,200 calories, burning a pound of fat. Double the time to an hour and double the weight loss! (Oh..and yes..I found an "app for that"!)

There was a study in the American College of Cardiology published a few years back that showed that men who had less sex had a higher chance of cardiovascular disease. When compared to men who reported sex 2-3 times a week, men with sexual activity once a month or less had a 45% higher chance of cardiovascular disease. I know..these statistics were about men, but I do not think it would be too tough to to say that they are likely very similar for women.

In the movies and on TV we always see some older guy dying having sex, thinking.."oh my God..that's horrible!" In reality, the odds of having a heart attack or dying during sex is less than 1%. If you do have heart disease, heart failure, or are on medication for your heart, always talk to your doctor prior to increasing your sex life...just to make sure that the increase in physical activity is good for you. More likely than not, if you are exercising at least a few times a week, sex will not be dangerous for you.

So what are the other benefits of know besides the...exercise..? Well, overall stress reduction which may in turn lead to lower blood pressure is one. One study even showed that HUGS decreased blood go hug it out! Interestingly, sex has also been linked to better immunity. Having sex once or twice a week has been linked to higher levels of IgA, an immunoglobulin which helps to protect against infections. Also, sex reduces pain..yes pain! The hormone oxytocin that is released during sexual activity is known to decrease pain. So, if your headache is killing you...try sex versus taking an advil!

Last but not least, sex improves self-esteem. This is my favorite...Great sex is linked to great self-esteem. It was even noted in some studies that even those women with high self-esteem to begin with still had sex to feel better about themselves. Go on ladies, don't be shy!

Overall, sex is a good thing..not just for how it makes you feel with your partner, but also because of its self-esteem boosting properties, the calorie-burning potential and the improvement in your all-around health. Take time at least 1-2x a week to "indulge" a little!

P.S. If you've read Fifty Shades of Grey...well...maybe you already discovered the benefits of increased sex. I'm just sayin'!

Wishing you a wonderful week,

Friday, July 20, 2012

I stent, you stent..we all..stent?!

Way way..back in the day, I mentioned that I would go over some of the treatments for heart attacks. I will go over one of them.."stents". More likely than not, you know someone that has a "stent" in their heart. What are they...where are they..and what do they do?

Cartoon of Coronary Stenting
What the cardiologist sees during
a cardiac catheterization..The
black vessels are the coronary arteries.
Well, a "stent" is an very very small metal mesh "tube" that is inserted into an artery in the heart (coronary artery) to keep an occluded vessel open. When a patient has a heart attack, they usually have a cardiac catheterization (sometimes this is done emergently, sometimes not). A cardiac catheterization involves a specialized cardiologist trained for these procedures to insert a catheter into an artery either in your wrist or groin. This catheter serves as the "tunnel" per se, to perform the procedure.  Contrast is injected into the catheter, and the arteries of the heart can be visualized. If the cardiologist deems it necessary, a blocked artery may have a stent placed. The stent is "deployed" and opens the artery that was occluded. Then, the contrast is injected again to be sure that proper blood "flow"to the heart muscle has been obtained after the procedure.

Size of Stents...Tiny!
There are mainly two types of stents, bare-metal and drug-eluting. I will not get into the nitty gritty of this, but for general knowledge, the drug eluting stents are typically used, if the doctor can be sure that the patient will be compliant with his/her medication. The biggest thing I could stress about stents, and well, heart disease in general is TAKING YOUR MEDICATIONS! Some people think that since they have a stent, the problem is solved and this is NOT the case. I have seen patients come back multiple times to the hospital with their stents CLOSED because they did not take the medication to keep them from closing...sometimes this is something as little as aspirin! Also, just because someone has a stent does not mean that they can do/eat whatever they want. After a stent or heart attack, proper diet, exercise and "knowing your numbers" (number 4 on the link) is as important as ever!

Hoping that you never need a stent,

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Uvula isn't a dirty word!

...your what? You know...your uvula...the little thing that hangs in the back of your throat. This little sucker actually has some importance and it may tell you your risk of obstructive sleep apnea. Remember? I wrote about this before. People with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) have a 30% higher chance of having a heart attack, 40% of people with OSA have high blood pressure, 4x higher risk of arrhythmias, and a significantly higher risk of diabetes. If that doesn't scare you enough, there was one study that showed sudden death from cardiovascular causes between midnight and 6am occurred in 46% of people with OSA and only 16% of people without OSA!

Symptoms of OSA? There are a lot...excessive daytime sleepiness after having a full nights sleep, dry mouth in the morning, headache in the morning, falling asleep doing moderate activities (stopped at a light in traffic or watching TV)..even short term memory problems!

So, what are the risk factors for OSA?
Here's the check-list:
1. Overweight, typically BMI over 25 (Fat deposits around upper airway)
2. Neck circumference greater than 17" in males and 15-16" in women (Larger neck=narrowed airway)
3. Male (Men are 2x more likely to have sleep apnea, although women who are post-menopausal have  an increased risk, too)
4. Over the age of 65
5. Smokers (Increases the amount of inflammation in upper airway= 3x more likely to have OSA)
6. Family History (If an immediate family member has/had OSA, then your risks are increased)
7. Alcohol use (Alcohol relaxes the muscles in your throat, causing airway to obstruct. Usually, people who do not usually snore will snore if they drink alcohol...ever notice that?)
8. Narrowed airway (What doctors call the "Mallampati Score...look below!)

What's MY Mallampoti score?
Yes, I took a photo..:)
You doctor will look at your airway to see how "narrow" it is. This is called a Mallampati score. There are 4 "grades". Grade I means you can see your entire uvula, grade 2 is partial visualization of the uvula, grade 3 is barely being able to see the back of your mouth beyond your tongue, and grade 4 means that your tongue obstructs the back of your mouth/throat completely.
Go to your mirror, get a light and look in the back of your throat while saying "aaaaa" ...what score are you?

If you are concerned that you may have sleep apnea, you should speak with your doctor to see if you need to have additional testing...

Sweet Dreams!


Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Case of a Broken Heart

You know, the words "broken heart" have some truth to them. There is a medical condition that has been known to be caused by emotional stress, such as a break-up, a loved one dying or anxiety. This medical condition affects the heart and is called Takotsubo syndrome or cardiomyopathy. This  condition causes a temporary weakening of the heart that leads to heart failure and EKG changes, and the patient may have chest pain or shortness of breath. 

So, whats with the funny name? The syndrome is named after a pot in Japan that the people used to catch octopus in. A lot of times, the shape that the heart has after having this disease resembles the shape of the Japanese pot. The shape can be recognized on a widely used study of the heart called an echocardiogram. 

"A" is pointing to the problem on an echocardiogram.
The heart "balloons" out at the bottom, which increases
the risk for rupture and arrhythmias.
Why is this condition bad? Well, typically most people survive this condition, and their heart function returns back to normal or near-normal in a matter of months. However, the acute phase of the disease may be fatal from arrhythmias, acute heart failure or rupture of part of the heart.

"A" is a picture of a patient with Takotsubo. "B" is a photo of
the Japanese pot. See a resemblence?
What's the lesson for today?...keep your heart not only physically healthy...but emotionally healthy too!

Until next time....