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In most surveys coronary heart disease or CHD is named as Britain’s biggest killer. It develops when blood flow becomes restricted to the heart through the build up of fatty deposits on the walls of the coronary arteries. These are the main arteries that carry blood to the heart.
The heart is a fist sized muscle that pumps blood around the body; but as it is a muscle it needs its own blood supply too. Heart disease occurs when these specialist arteries that feed the heart become clogged and in the worse case scenario, blocked.
The first stage of CHD happens when the inner linings of these coronary arteries gradually become furred with a thick, sludgy porridge of substances known as plaque, Plaque is made from cholesterol. This process of clogging up is known as arteriosclerosis.
These plaques begin to narrow the space through which blood can pass. They also have the knock-on effect of blocking the supply of nutrients to the arteries which makes them lose their elasticity. They also cause high blood pressure; this extra strain on the heart as it tries to pump the same volume of blood through a restricted passage can also lead to heart disease.
To make matters worse, arteriosclerosis happens in all of our arteries, further increasing blood pressure and increasing the strain on the heart.
The first sign of a struggling heart is angina. These severe chest pains are a sign of a heart trying to keep beating on a restricted supply of oxygen.
Although some factors contributing to CHD are genetic, most are lifestyle related. Poor nutrition, lack of exercise, diabetes, high blood pressure and most of all smoking are the main culprits.
When one of the arteries that supply blood to the heart (coronary arteries) become completely blocked then you are in trouble. This full blockage is often caused by a section of plaque cracking or splitting open. The already narrowed artery now forms a blood clot (just like any wound) which then totally blocks it.
As it is no longer receiving any oxygen, the part of the heart that was supplied by that particular artery begins to die. Emergency medical treatment is now needed to unblock the artery and restore the blood flow top that bit of the heart. This can be done either through blood thinning drugs that will help to dissolve the arterial blockage (known as a clot or thrombus) or via a small operation that will physically remove the clot. This is done by threading small instruments up the arteries (usually through the inner thigh).
The seriousness of a heart attack depends greatly on the amount of muscle that dies before the condition is treated. If only a small area is affected then there is a higher chance of recovery and less risk of death.
Although a heart attack will always cause some permanent damage, most of the heart will be able to recover provided that the blood supply is not interrupted for too long.
The symptoms to look out for are: a shortness of breath, a tightness in the chest. This is said to feel like a heavy weight or a squeezing.
There can also be pain travelling outwards from the chest, to the arms, neck and jaw.
You may feel sick or be physically sick.
A panic attack or sharp feeling of anxiety.
Coughing or wheezing.
If any of these symptoms are present, then call emergency!
By Robert Atkinson
A team of scientists in Norway have devised a new simple formula to calculate your “fitness age”. Although our birthday marks another year that we have been alive, the process of ageing varies greatly from one individual to another and can be hugely influenced not just by genetics but also by the amount of exercise, healthy food and sleep you have (to name just a few). Now scientists have come up with a simple formula to see how your body is defying the ageing process.
The lead author of the study, professor Ulrik Wilsoff, director of the KG Jebsen Centre of Exercise in Medicine, says that the low-tech calculation is the single best predictor of current health. After evaluating the fitness, weight and health measurements of 5000 subjects between the ages of 20-90, the professor and his team came up with a formula to estimate someone’s VO2 max. This is the maximum amount of oxygen that can be taken in, transported and utilised by the body and delivered to the cells. Although it declines with age the drop can be slowed with regular exercise. A good VO2 max is linked to a host of health benefits, from prevention of cardio-vascular disease to diabetes.
How fit you are is increasingly thought to be a better measurement of health than BMI or weight alone. Adults aged 60+ with a good level of aerobic fitness have been found to live longer that those with a low VO2 max regardless of weight and levels of fat. A low level of fitness means longer stays in hospital for older people following illness or surgery as well as a greater propensity for other health related diseases.
Although not completely accurate, the test provides a useful guide to cardio-respiratory fitness. The results will be a wake up call for many. A 45 year old man who exercises moderately, has a 36 inch waist and a resting heart rate of 72 beats per minute will have a fitness age of 55. The good news is that no matter how old you are, starting exercise or increasing the frequency and intensity of activity can still turn back the clock. You can still have a fitness age of someone much younger!
Try the test by filling out your details here!.
There are four basic health checks that everyone can do to make sure that all is well with their general health and to have a healthy heart. The good news is that they don’t involve jumping up and down or any for of exercise!
The for areas to keep a watch on are your blood sugar levels, cholesterol, blood pressure and resting heart rate.
1 – lower your heart rate. The ideal range should be 60-60, but if you can do some regular exercise that takes you above 60% of maximum heart rate then it might get even lower. Like a car sitting at the traffic lights, your resting heart rate is the speed at which your engine has to work to keep you alive at rest, and is a true measure of your cardio-vascular health. If your arteries are clogged or your lungs inefficient at taking in oxygen, then the more beats per minute it will have to beat at rest. Over time this will all add up; if your engine is constantly having to work hard then sooner or later it will wear out.
For every 15 beats per minute that you add onto resting heart rate your chances of getting heart disease increase by 24% (American Heart Journal).
What now? Check your heart rate in the morning before getting out of bed at least 4 times a year. Keep it low by getting three lots of reasonably vigorous cardio-vascular exercise every week.
2 – Watch your blood sugar levels. Blood sugars can show if you are at risk of batting diabetes. Ask your GP for a test and do a follow up every year. Eating foods with a lower GI (glycaemic index) will ensure that you are not constantly suffering high blood sugar levels. This will cause your cells to become immune to the insulin that is being constantly released and eventually will cause insulin deficiency.
3 – Blood pressure. You should have this checked every quarter. If it is high then you need to look at your nutrition and start to get some exercise. Even small changes and short bursts of exercise will help to get you back on track. Ideally it should be 120/80
4 – Balance your cholesterol. The bas sort of cholesterol is LDL (low density lipoproteins). Ideally it should be less than 100mg/dL. Every 43mg/dL that your cholesterol goes up adds 50% to your risk of heart disease. Good cholesterol will act as a brake on the bad. So eat plenty of healthy oils, nuts and seeds.
After the initial inflammatory phase of injury (see previouys post), you move into the second phase of soft tissue repair, called the proliferation phase or sub acute phase.
In this phase, the main activity is the generation of repair material; scar tissue (type 3 collagen) begins in earnest after around three days, reaching its peak at 2-3 weeks post injury. This is called fibroplasia. You also begin to form new blood vessels in the process of angiogenesis.
The sub acute phase of soft tissue repair is where movement becomes critical. Early controlled mobilisation (with minimal pain) is essential to decrease healing time, increase vascular growth, make the tissue stronger and regenerate scar tissue more quickly. In the inflammatory phase, collagen fibres are laid down in a random matrix. Through movement in this later stage, these fibres can be broken up and realigned in line with tensile stress placed upon the tissue in everyday use. IE lined up properly with all the other fibres and working properly. Too much rest and the opposite will happen, leaving you with weakened tissue that will lack mobility and strength.
But be sensible – new tissue is fragile, so exercise intensity should remain within the capabilities of this new tissue.
When you sustain a soft tissue injury (one where there are no broken bones) lots of things happen to keep you safe and to help make you better. These reactions to injury are usually put into three categories that represent a chronological progression of healing. They are the three stages of soft tissue repair.
When you injure yourself, the first and most immediate phase of sort tissue repair is the inflammatory or acute stage. This lasts for approximately 24 hours to 5 days, depending on the severity of the injury and the individual.
The inflammatory phase commences at injury. Blood clots form to dam any breaks in the body, stopping fluids from leaving and infection from entering. A fibrous cobweb that forms during clotting becomes a structure on which collagen and other fibres lay down in a random fashion – this is the start of rebuilding the damage. However, these fibres can become unhelpful adhesions if allowed to grow unchecked – imagine lumpy bits in the muscle that do not work properly. This is why some movement reasonably early on is recommended.
Vasodilation occurs (small arteries and veins become wider to allow quicker transport of fluids to and from the injury), and capillaries become more permeable.
These reactions cause the symptoms of the inflammatory phase of injury: heat, swelling, pain, redness.
The main risk of treatment during this first phase is further damage to weakened structures, so be conservative. The aim is to get this phase over with a soon as possible, reducing swelling from extra blood clotting and to avoid a buildup of unhelpful fibrous adhesions blocking the area. It is also desirable to aid lymphatic drainage.
First aiders are taught the acronym PRICE. This means Protect the area from further injury, Rest to avoid any further damage to weakened tissue, use Ice to reduce heat and vasodilation (the cause of much of the swelling). Compression and Elevation of the injury will also help reduce swelling and heat. Elevation means holding the injured area above the level of the heart. Ice should be used for 5-20 minutes with a 20 minute recovery phase.
The interpretation of REST is important. Initially, (or through the whole of the inflammatory phase if injury is severe) rest means just that. However, to avoid the buildup of fibrous scar tissue that may prevent proper function of the area later on, some movement within a pain free range is recommended.
For holiday makers and in particular businessmen subjected to lots of flights, jet lag can be debilitating and downright horrid. Here are some tips on overcoming jet lag..
The general rule is that it takes one day per hour of time change to recover when going east, a little less when going west. Some drugs help to combat the effects of jet lag in relation to sleep problems. Melatonin and modafinil both help to support hormones that regulate our sleep/wake cycle. They are both legal in the U.K. but you should consult your doctor before taking them.
If you can, start to adjust to the new time zone before you leave. Three days is usually a good start. So for a flight east, three days before you go you should force yourself to go to bed an hour earlier and wake up an hour earlier, increasing this each night. Reverse the process for trips to the west.
When you arrive at your destination use light exposure to regulate sleep patterns. Get as much sunlight as you can (you can use lamps if you are in a dark country or travelling in winter) in the morning or at least before noon. In the late afternoon try to close curtains and stay out of bright sunlight. It sounds silly, but dark sunglasses can help too.
Don’t drink too much alcohol or caffeine. These dehydrate you and exaggerate the effects of jet lag. Instead drink as much water as you can
Move about on the flight as much as possible and do exercises – most airlines have a little book of exercises that you can do in your seat. These will help keep the metabolic rate going to reduce tiredness and stiffness upon arrival.
Get some exercise. High intensity aerobic intervals help to stimulate the endocrine system and regulate sleep/wake patterns. Exercise is also a great way to keep alert for any important meetings.
This winter the number of colds, flu and viruses have been at record levels. Most people in an average year catch two to three colds. For children this number is even higher. But wouldn’t you love to get just one cold every two years? Exercise is a big way to prevent colds and flu. Healthy eating, including good amounts of fruit and vegetables will help keep the immune system healthy, but exercise can also play a key role. Findings show that exercise not only prevents serious life threatening diseases (like heart disease and cancer) but also helps your immune system fight colds and flu. It could give you the immune system of someone half your age!
With regular exercise, both the amount of infection fighting cells and their aggressiveness can be greatly increased, from 50% to a whopping 300%. These “natural killer” cells are the first defence agains colds, and so the more you have, and the more effective they are, the less likely you will be to get a cold. Even moderate exercise (like biking, walking or moderate gym exercise every other day) will reduce the amount of colds that you catch.
In an American Journal of Medicine study, women who walked for half an hour a day for one year caught half the number of colds as those who did no exercise at all. The researchers linked exercise with the production of infection fighting white blood cells. In other studies on subjects aged 65, researchers found that the number of T cells (cells that are helpers to white blood cells in fighting infection) was as high as someone in their 30s. The benefits of fitness in general are deemed to increase with age; see our section on 50+ fitness.
A personal trainer in Windsor and Maidenhead from Diets Don’t Work can get you started on a fitness program that will not only progress you gradually from your starting point, but that will also help you stay fit and cold free for as long as possible.
The common thinking is that smoking makes people calm and eases anxiety. Put a smoker in a stressful situation and they will want to smoke. But according to new research (and some established methods of stopping) the best thing for stress is to actually stop smoking. For the research, 491 smokers were recruited from NHS smoking clinics. Their anxiety levels were were tested while still smokers, then after six months, the 14% of smokers who had succeeded in stopping were then tested again. Those who had stopped were found to have anxiety levels 10% lower than when they were smokers. Those who failed to stop smoking had actually become more anxious, by 3%.
Interestingly, those who gave their reason for smoking as “coping with life” were the ones who showed the biggest reduction in anxiety. Those either interested in the psychology of smoking or in stopping may find “The Easy Way to Stop Smoking” by Allen Carr an interesting read. If you are really serious about stopping then the Allen Carr Clinics have the highest success rate.
Many articles and websites write about the importance of lean muscle mass. It is important, but why? Your muscles provide may functions: just about all body movement, from walking to nodding your head, is caused by skeletal muscle contraction. Your skeletal muscles function almost continuously to maintain your posture, making one tiny adjustment after another to keep your body upright. Skeletal muscle is also important for holding your bones in the correct position and is essential for strong, stable joints. Muscles store fuel too, and along with the liver make up most of our energy stores.
Important bit: they also play a large part in defining how much energy we need to function, hence they play a vital role in weight loss and maintenance. They are, as mentioned above, functioning continuously, therefore the more we have and the more toned they are, the more fuel we will need all day, every day. As weight loss depends on someone expending more energy than they are taking in, energy used becomes an important part of the weight loss equation; the more the merrier. Although cardio-vascular exercise will burn lots of calories when you are doing it and for a short time afterwards (depending on the intensity of exercise), it won’t increase calorie output all the time. Strength training, however, will! Increasing the tone and amount of muscle we have is like replacing A 1.2 engine in a car with a 2 litre. And that 2 litre is going all the time. It needs more fuel. Combined with sensible eating lean muscle will lead to sustained weight loss that stays off.
Correspondingly, loss of lean muscle will depress the metabolic rate – the amount of fuel we need to function. This explains why crash diets look great on the scales but don’t last. Although you will lose fat, you will also lose muscle. There is weight loss, but after the diet you now need less calories than before, so a return to normal eating will lead to unavoidable weight gain.
We also lose lean muscle as we age; from the age of 30 this can be up to 1lb a year. This explains why it gets harder to maintain weight as we get older. Our engine (lean muscle) is getting smaller, so we actually need less fuel!
The good news is that unlike most symptom of ageing, you can keep or even increase lean muscle as you get older through strength training. And as a lady you don’t have to be muscly, just toned and strong. A recent study into strength training by the University of Pittsburgh showed that adults in their 70s and 80s who did strength training had nearly the same muscle mass as someone in their 40s.
All our courses at Diets Don’t Work include strength training, and you are never too old to start. Our 50plus training gets great success too – http://www.dietsdontwork.co.uk/services/50plus-fitness
Yesterday, the 9th of January, was the day on which, statistically, 3 out of 4 people gave up on their New Year’s resolution. Here are some tips on how to stick with it this year.
1 – Be realistic. With all the good intentions in the world, if you have done no exercise for an extended period, deciding to start marathon training this week might not be realistic. Setting yourself unachievable targets is likely to lead to failure and may not be safe. Get going slowly and build it up gradually. Keep it short and often, focusing on quality (actually working really hard in exercise) rather than quantity. Build form there!
2 – Set goals. Starting with the notion of “I’m going to get fit!” is a bit vague. Have 3 goals, a short, medium and a long term one. Write them down. Now focus on the first short term goal, keeping in mind that if you achieve this first one you are already on the way to achieving the other 2! Remember, goal one needs to be challenging but achievable. Target being able to jog for a full 20 minutes non-stop for example. 4-6 weeks is a good time frame for a first short term goal.
3 – Be accountable. When you set your goals, tell your family, friends and colleagues exactly what they are. Publish them on all the social networks that you use. Not only does this round up early support, but once your secret quest is out there the pressure of everyone knowing will help to keep you on track.
4 – Enlist support. This doesn’t just mean tell everyone you know and wait for the encouragement. The support needs to be tangible and target obstacles to success. Your family are usually closest to you, so can help the most. If you have no time for exercise because you have to look after the kids, for example, get a friend to agree that as part of the quest they will babysit twice a week for 20 minutes each. If your fellow fridge users keep it packed with temptation, ask them to keep their chocolate hidden from now on.
5 – Get a partner. Batman and Robin. Morecombe and Wise. Everything is much easier with a friend. Embark on your quest with someone you know that has similar goals. You will provide each other with invaluable camaraderie, support, accountability and encouragement.
6 – Timing. The 2nd of January might not be the best time to start. Don’t put it off indefinitely, but don’t start just as a huge work project kicks off. Try to find a week when there are fewer possible obstacles and distractions.
7 – Self-congratulate. Rather than focus on the things that you may have failed to do, think about the ones you have succeeded in. Add up all your exercises sessions in a week. 10 lunges may not sound too good, but if you did them twice in each session, and did 3 short sessions, that’s 30 lunges! Much more impressive.
8 – Be persistent. It is highly unlikely that everything will go to plan. Expect setbacks, take them in your stride, and move on with what you have learned.
9 – Get professional help. It might only be for a session a week, or a few initial sessions, but by hiring a personal trainer you will actually get all of the above! Encouragement, support, someone there with you as you exercise, a professional to plan your nutrition and workouts, plus certain accountability.