Benefits of Cardiovascular Exercise

Benefits of Cardiovascular Exercise


The benefits of

Why we feel so good
after a workout and
why it is good for us

The American College of Cardiology recommends 30 minutes of exercise per day or 150 minutes of activity per week to stay healthy. We all understand that exercise burns calories, helps blood flow, and promotes muscle growth. Regular daily activity, over time, lowers blood pressure and cholesterol levels and along with a heart-healthy diet, is a factor in reaching or maintaining a healthy weight. But how intense does the exercise need to be for it to be beneficial? And then what happens to our body during cardiovascular activity?

Moderately intense exercise

Dr. Kevin Woods is a board-certified cardiologist with Capital Cardiology Associates. Dr. Woods is particularly interested in preventative cardiology and cardiovascular imaging. In his free time, Dr. Woods enjoys mountain biking, exercising, and running. He categorizes walking, ballroom dancing, moderate biking, yoga, and swimming as examples of moderately intense exercise. “Or, you could do more vigorous activity for a total of 75 minutes during the week, which includes jogging, swimming laps in a pool, or singles tennis,” he added. A brisk 30-minute walk every day is a great place to start exercising. It helps increase blood flow, boosts your endurance, and can reduce your risk of developing heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Our hearts beat about 10,000 times a day, making it one of the most active organs in the body. The goal of cardio exercise is to increase our heart rate from 40 to 80 percent of our maximum heart rate. “Essentially, you’re trying to increase your blood flow to your muscles. Increasing oxygen delivery and your body does that in a variety of ways. Certainly, your heart rate increases. The strength of the heart contraction increases. Your blood pressure, respiratory rate, and oxygen exchange all build trying to meet the energy needs of the muscles when you’re exercising,” Dr. Woods added. This is how cardio burns fat by causing us to breath hard and sweat. Regular cardio exercise can help people with normal blood pressure maintain healthy blood pressure levels, allowing our heart to pump more efficiently and protecting our blood vessels.

How to measure intensity

The good news is: you don’t need to spend a lot of money to reap the benefits of a great workout. If you start sweating after 10 minutes or can talk but can’t sing, those are signs of moderate exercise. For example, you should expect to return from your lunch break walk breathing a little faster, maybe wiping an occasional drop of sweat from your brow. Sweating and breathing hard are clues that your run around the neighborhood was vigorous exercise. One thing you should not experience is pain. Pain indicates that you are pushing yourself too hard. As soon as you feel pain, listen to your body, and stop all activity. Talk with a fitness expert or your doctor about your level of exertion.

Exercise makes you feel good

Whether you want to improve your blood flow, lose weight, or take a break outside, there is one additional benefit to exercise: how it makes you feel. Exercise is mother nature’s painkiller because it releases neurochemicals called endorphins. These are natural hormones associated with feelings of euphoria and well-being that are delivered during aerobic exercise like running but also while swimming, cycling, or rowing. When your heart is pumping blood to all organs and parts of your body, endorphins are released to combat stress. This is why you “feel good” after a long run or bike ride. Your body is helping your muscles recover and rebuild.

An exercise plan or regime creates accountability. When you workout, regularly, you are less likely to make poor lifestyle choices. Have you ever met at healthy smoker? Exercise has been proven to people to quit smoking. Researchers found that a 15-minute brisk walk not only reduced cigarette cravings and withdrawal symptoms; it also can increase the time between cigarettes smoked. Most people would rather choose a smaller slice of dessert when they know the amount of effort needed to “work it off.” And, once you start to see changes in your body or feel stronger, you want to continue to reach your fitness goals!

It’s interesting how just 30 minutes of activity a day can improve your mood, lower your risk of heart disease, give you more energy, and help you sleep better. While we have discussed the physical and psychological effects of exercise in your health, Dr. Woods acknowledges the one plus that resonates with most patients: empowering your role in your health. “People don’t want to take pills, and if I tell them, there’s something that they can do to reduce the possibility that they will need to be on medications as well as a motivator. In addition to reducing the risk of the things we talked about before, that’s empowering to patients; they like to know that what they do matters. It can be a social activity for people as well, which is incredibly important for your lifestyle health too.”

Written by Michael Arce, Marketing Coordinator
Any medical information published on this website is not intended as a substitute for informed medical advice and you should not take any action before consulting with a healthcare professional.

How aniexty, drepression, PTSD, and stress trigger heart attack or stroke

How aniexty, drepression, PTSD, and stress trigger heart attack or stroke


Feeling good leads
to better health

How anxiety, depression,
PTSD and stress trigger heart
attack or stroke

The evidence has been mounting for years; there are ties between your mental health and your heart health. While treating the heart usually requires lab results and various levels of testing and mental health involve therapy and analysis, depression has been recognized as a major factor for heart disease. Studies have found that untreated or unrecognized depression contributes to an unhealthy lifestyle and that people who had reported high or very high levels of depression and anxiety were more likely to have had a heart attack or stroke than people without those symptoms.

“As much as cardiologists like to put the heart at the top of the pedestal, really, it’s the brain,” says Dr. Connor Healey, a board-certified cardiologist with Capital Cardiology Associates. “The brain controls everything, and it’s the most important organ. It is no big secret that when people are feeling down, it has an impact on your health. Many of the biochemical changes that happen in the brain are associated with grieving, depression, sadness, loss.” What researchers are discovering is that major depression and anxiety is about twice as common in women than men. When we are depressed, we lose motivation to do everyday things like exercise, interact with friends or family, and make unhealthy lifestyle choices, like overeating, drinking, or smoking.

Doctors at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in Chapel Hill recently examined the role of PTSD in our veterans. They followed almost one million, middle-aged veterans who served in conflicts in the Middle East for the past decade, who, on average, had no history of stroke. What they found was veterans with PTSD were 61% more likely than others to have a mini-stroke and 36% more likely to have a stroke. “PTSD and anxiety have a negative remodeling effect on the brain that affects the body. As cardiologists, we have seen that the unexpected loss of a loved one released hormones that literally weaken the heart muscle and mimic a heart attack,” stated Dr. Healey. The medical term is takotsubo cardiomyopathy, it’s more commonly known as broken heart syndrome. Sufferers will report feeling chest pain, shortness of breath, or changes in their heart rhythm which are all symptoms of a heart attack.

In the case of the veterans with PTSD, this was the first study to show a link between trauma-induced stress disorders and the risk of stroke and mini-strokes in young and middle-aged adults. More investigation is underway to examine how intense psychological stress, medically produces chronic inflammation which triggers stroke. What we do know is stress is a problem that almost one-third of Americans surveyed say has led to a visit with their doctor. “Our parents didn’t talk about if they were feeling sad or upset. If they were feeling sad, they would be told to deal with it. Now, we have developed the disease model of mental health, where it’s not a choice, it’s based in neuroscience and biochemistry, and some changes are completely out of your control,” added Dr. Healey.

As a country, we are working to better identify mental health hazards and find more effective or healthy ways to manage stress. According to The American Institute of Stress, almost half of Americans report that 80% of workers feel stress on the job. This has led to the workplace debate on taking a “mental health day”— using a sick day to cope with stress or burnout. However, many employers do not embrace missing work due to stress. This year lawmakers in Oregon followed Utah’s lead by allowing students to use mental health days as a valid excuse to miss a day of school. Dr. Healey was raised in Eastern Ontario, Canada, and offered another solution for time off, holiday weekends. “In my homeland, we’ve made sure that every single month has a long weekend. We’ve invented holidays to allow for three day weekends. That’s something that I advocate for.”

Written by Michael Arce, Marketing Coordinator, Capital Cardiology Associates © 2019.

Any medical information shared in this article is not intended as a substitute for informed medical advice and you should not take any medical action before consulting with a healthcare professional.

High blood pressure causes brain lesions later in life

High blood pressure causes brain lesions later in life


Your heart and brain health are connected

How high blood pressure causes brain lesions later in life

Your heart and brain health are connected. Two studies regarding memory loss in seniors indicate that instead of being a sign of simply aging, short-term memory loss could be a symptom of the effects of hypertension or high blood pressure.

Controlling your blood pressure younger in life will have an impact on your memory later in life. Researchers from University College London in the U.K. studied high blood pressure in men from 36 to 43 years old led to smaller brain volume at 69 to 71. What they recently reported was that high and rising blood pressure in middle age was associated with brain function later in life. The American Heart Association defines high blood pressure (HBP or hypertension) when your blood pressure, the force of blood flowing through your blood vessels, is consistently too high. It’s been a known risk factor for heart disease, heart failure, heart attack, stroke, and cardiovascular disease. The new study exploring uncontrolled HBP as a risk factor for dementia connected brain and heart health.

“This has been a real game-changer for us in the past few months,” says Dr. Robert Benton, Director of Clinical Research at Capital Cardiology Associates. With around 15–20% of our blood going to the brain, physicians have long understood the importance of blood flow and reducing blockages or flow to the body’s most essential organ. In the UK study, doctors found white matter brain lesions, a sign of blood vessel damage in the brain, an indicator of aging, and a risk factor for cognitive decline. Dr. Benton acknowledged that showing adults the damage uncontrolled blood pressure is doing to their brain would be an effective awareness tool. “I wish we had a brain CT score as we do for heart patients,” he said. Cardiac CT for Calcium Scoring is a scan that uses an x-ray focused on the functions of your heart. The images show cardiologists the amount of plaque in the arteries of the heart that has calcified or hardened. This can blockage or narrowing of the arteries is an indicator of atherosclerosis or coronary artery disease (CAD). People with a higher content of calcium (score) of calcium have an increased risk of heart attack or cardiac events. “In just a few seconds, we could get a better picture of spots on the brain associated with HBP. That’s one of the things on my wish lists for tests! I think this would really get the message across. ‘This tiny bit of scar on your brain could let to forgetting where your keys are, or worse,” added Dr. Benton.

In the SPRINT MIND trial published in January, investigators from the Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, looked into whether aggressively lowering blood pressure could protect the heart, kidney, and brain over five years. Aggressively lowering blood pressure in hypertensive older adults did not significantly reduce dementia risk, SPRINT MIND investigators reported. “The real question becomes when you frequently decrease blood pressure through medication, sometimes in older people, dizziness or disorientation can be a negative side effect,” Dr. Benton commented. This is a challenge that physicians face when prescribing treatment. “You have a symptom and sign that is very clear and distressing. What do people complain about when they get older? Forgetfulness. Now there is evidence linking that lack of controlled blood pressure with objective evidence of damage to the brain. This has led me to be more aggressive in the last several months in presenting this issue with patients: you could lose memory due to uncontrolled high blood pressure. Your health today affects how you will live in the future. No one wants to lose their independence over hypertension and high blood pressure,” said Dr. Benton.

Written by Michael Arce, Marketing Coordinator, Capital Cardiology Associates
Any medical information published on this website is not intended as a substitute for informed medical advice, and you should not take any action before consulting with a healthcare professional.

Connecting with youth on their vascular health

Connecting with youth on their vascular health


Connecting with young people
on their vascular health to
build healthy communities

How the one-day. “V-Healthy Program”
is changing the Capital Region and the world

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. This is something that more than half of Americans are worried about, yet in a recent study, we know our bank balance better than our blood pressure. The good news is most adults, can identify the modifiable risk factors for heart disease (cigarette smoking, indulging in alcohol, poor diet, lack of activity/exercise). We understand that everyday lifestyle choices affect our health. The challenge for physicians has been arming patients with basic health knowledge, like the link between diabetes and heart disease, so that they can take better control of their heart health. This paradox can be especially frustrating for a new surgeon, fresh out of medical school training, who cannot understand how people are more interested in their finances than their cardiovascular health.

Fifteen years ago, Dr. Manish Mehta was that young vascular surgeon, who wanted to do more than inform his patients on vascular health — he wanted to create community awareness. “When I talk to patients every day, I’m trying to teach them about their vascular health and vascular disease and how this impacts all of us as we get older,” he said. He quickly realized how difficult it is to explain the complexities of vascular health. The biology of blood flow through veins. The function of arteries and science of genetics and other risk factors that can cause blockages in our blood vessels. On top of being something that occurs inside our body, vascular disease is a process that develops over time with long-term implications. Dr. Mehta compares vascular disease to morning traffic. “Picture a highway or freeway system with three open lanes and traffic is flowing. Everyone is doing 65/70 miles an hour while they could be safe and doing 55 mph. Now, imagine there’s a car accident in the right lane. All the right lane traffic slows down, which causes the middle lane to slow down, as well. Everyone tries to move over to the left lane, and that causes a backup. When this event happens in an artery, and stagnant flow happens, blood starts to clot. The danger is when a clot travels to a vital organ. In the case of the brain, that can then cause a stroke. In the case of a lower extremity, you can cause ulcers and lack of blood supply.”

In 2004, Dr. Mehta founded the Center for Vascular Awareness (CVA), a non-profit organization. Their goal is “to educate the general public regarding the field of vascular medicine and to educate the underserved to help them help their doctor.” In the summer of 2016, the CVA launched the V-Healthy program to reach high school students. Their goal was to bridge the gap in vascular health and science that often fails to connect with young people. “It’s impossible for a 15-year-old to look forward in time and say what’s going to happen when he’s 55, or she’s 62. At the end of the day, we wanted to create a program that empowers children to take their vascular disease in their hands,” said Mehta.

That program is “V-Healthy Day.” Dr. Mehta’s team found an exciting way to connect young minds with complex vascular disease topics like hypertension, Peripheral Arterial Disease, stroke, and Deep Vein Thrombosis. The first V-Healthy Day happened in 2017 with 20 physicians and health care providers at Shenendehowa High School. The next year, the program jumped to include 10 area high schools, reaching over 3,000 students. The V-Healthy™ program consists of a 45-minute curriculum that is hands-on, literally. Mehta shared his secret, “We bought hundreds of blood pressure cuffs and taught students how to measure blood pressure.” Brilliant! What engaged the kids was the take-home assignment. “The big message is, we talk about how they like their parents on the outside and the inside. We empower them to go home and measure blood pressure on their parents for one week.” The students also participate in a survey on the program which Dr. Mehta uses to measure success rates. “Seventy percent of kids had a much better understanding of hypertension, diabetes, smoking, and lifestyle decisions. Eighty percent of kids want to share this with their parents. Ninety percent of kids said that they personally want to learn more about vascular health.”

Connecting with young people, bringing a health message home, that may seem like a win, but for Dr. Mehta, he is still looking at impacting our community. “This is a movement that has to be grassroots at a level where kids are empowered to influence change. There’s really no other way around this the way I see it. I have been reached out to by the American Heart Association, we’ve had numerous conversations on this program. The Center for Disease Control has contacted me, as well as large organizations within the society of vascular surgery, on how we can bring this program to teach doctors and healthcare providers in different parts of the world on how to create the change that we’re making here in the Capital Region. This is all happening right now as we speak.”

Almost 20 area high school are on board for the next V-Healthy Day. The CVA will announce the next date and list of participating schools in November. You can learn more about the program by clicking here.

Eating Fresh and Healthy for your Heart

Eating Fresh and Healthy for your Heart


Eating Fresh
and Healthy
for your Heart

How to sneak “good foods” into your daily meals

Eat right. Get exercise. Live healthy. Whether you are watching the morning talk shows, talking with friends, visiting family, or scrolling through your newsfeed; at some point in the day, you come across a new diet, “superfood,” or way of eating that enhances your health and happiness. Why? Nearly 90% of Americans fall below the fruit and vegetable consumption recommendations — we all struggle to find creative ways to make healthy choices every day.

Super foods

Every season, there is a new “superfood” that catches media attention and appears in everything from salads, smoothies, to side dishes. Blueberries, salmon, kale, and acai are just a few examples of foods that have garnered the superfood label. Most nutrition experts disagree with the definition of a superfood, calling it a marketing term. Catrina is the owner of Catrina K Fitness. As a NASM Certified Personal Trainer and Corrective Exercise Specialist with a specialization in Nutrition, she explained how companies created the term to market their products through media hype. “I think if you look at it this way if you ever go to a dietician and ask them, ‘what superfoods do you recommend?’ They will tell you there is no such thing as a superfood. If you go to your doctor and ask, ‘what superfood should I take for heart disease?’ They are never going to tell you that goji berries are the way to go.”

What is essential is to do your research when you come across a new food that has nutritional or health benefits. Blueberries, kale, and sweet potatoes, for example, often get more attention because of the research given to them versus other berries, leafy greens, or squash. Most of the exciting superfoods fit into the exotic category, like acai berry, that might be healthy but are not more nutritional on their own over less exciting or expensive fruits. Another tip is to check the nutrition labels of drinks or products made from superfruits – the added sugar may be the reason you prefer the taste.

Catrina also pointed out that “too much of a good thing is a good thing” when trying to maximize the benefits of superfoods. She advises adding them to snacks and meals instead of making them the primary serving. “Make sure you’re not telling yourself, ‘this is going to cure my illnesses.’ It’s a treat just like anything else, and moderation is key. No one food will cure you, and none of them are superior to other foods. Fruits and vegetables are great and healthy for you, but there is no superfood.”

Healthy foods and picky eaters

“Children aren’t the only picky eaters at the dinner table. There is a fair share of adults who push fruits and veggies to the side in favor of mac and cheese. Some of these adults are even us. If you are trying to change your diet plan, Catrina advises getting ideas on how to sneak healthy foods into some of your favorite dishes. “Let’s say your husband is a huge mac and cheese fan, throw in some broccoli or chop up some peppers and onions and see if they even notice.” The key to successfully eating healthy is to start slow with incremental changes, especially when dealing with picky eaters. “I’m also not a big believer in forcing children to finish the plate. Don’t tell them they have to eat their vegetables to earn dessert. These actions put negative connotations with healthy foods. I’m a big believer in the “test and try method”; put the food on their plate and wait to see what they eat. Alternatively, encourage them to try or taste it. With a little help, your picky eater will soon make good choices on their own,” Catrina said.

The tough part for home cooks is getting new ideas for old dishes. Catrina’s suggestion may come from a surprising source. “I always get ideas from restaurants,” she revealed. “If you get grilled asparagus from somewhere and you really like it then start grilling it at home!” There are a couple of ways to bring that restaurant dish taste to your home kitchen. One, is browsing for healthy copycat takeout recipes online. Love that grab-and-go breakfast burrito? There’s a quick and healthy way to make it that doesn’t require pulling up to the drive-thru window! A change you will notice in “healthy home dishes” is a noticeable reduction for salt, fat, and sugar in the recipes. These ingredients are added to dishes by chefs for flavor, seasoning, or as a preservative. Many store-bought frozen foods, canned, or pre-packaged foods are high in sodium so try to use fresh ingredients when possible.

“Another big tip is seasoning,” adds Catrina. “The reason you like dishes in a restaurant and not at home is because you’re just heating a vegetable and throwing it on a plate. There are other ways to cook vegetables besides microwaving them, like grilling or oven-roasting them. Once you learn how to season, roast, and add olive oil or dressing to your veggies, you will taste the difference. Try different flavors to see if they encourage everyone in the house to eat it or if it makes you want to make it more.”

Healthy eating for the whole family

The goal for every busy home cook is to make one meal that everyone can enjoy. A simple tip to encourage interest in meals is inviting your children to help make them. Studies show that children are more excited about eating healthy foods when they are involved. Give them age-appropriate tasks and keep a step-stool handy. Not only does prepping one meal saves time in the kitchen, but it also saves money for the household. The average American household spends over $4,350 on food every year. When you add dining out, we pay another $3,000 at restaurants, take-out/delivery, and quick-service vendors.

The other challenge with healthy eating is that eating healthy is often more expensive. Catrina acknowledged the difficult choice parents make when trying to balance their time, budget, and nutrition needs. “This is a difficult socio-economic topic. It is hard to tell a family that is not making much money, ‘you need to cook everything at home.’ Unfortunately, in our society, fast food or convenience foods are the less expensive alternative. This is a fact that no one fully addresses. However, it is just about managing your time, managing your money, finding what your family likes, maybe learning how to bulk shop for those items, and also not demonizing food. If you can only afford a few cans of tuna for your protein that week, or less expensive cuts of meat, that’s fine. Make the smart choices that are best for your family’s health and get creative in making healthy dishes. Eggs are a great source of protein. Serving them with breakfast, let’s children know that there are other foods on the plate, not just the sugary, sweet, or carb options.”

Written by Michael Arce, Marketing Coordinator, Capital Cardiology Associates
Any medical information published on this website is not intended as a substitute for informed medical advice, and you should not take any action before consulting with a healthcare professional.