Health Watch: Take action against heart failure

Staff Writer
Mount Shasta Herald

It's a syndrome that affects more than 5 million Americans: heart failure. Heart failure is a serious illness that can affect your quality of life and how long you live.

What's important to know is that heart failure doesn't develop overnight. It's a progressive condition.

The Heart Failure Society of America offers these tips to patients, their families and individuals at risk.

1. Talk to your doctor: One of the keys to making heart disease a diagnosis you can live with is to get diagnosed as early as possible. Heart failure is diagnosed through a number of tests ordered by your doctor, the most important of which is an echocardiogram or "echo."

2. Know your risk factors: A number of factors can lead to or indicate an increased risk of heart failure. While the disease can strike people of all ages, it is more common in those aged 65 and older. Heart failure risks include: high blood pressure, prior heart attack, a history of heart murmurs, an enlarged heart, diabetes and a family history of enlarged heart.

3. Know the symptoms: Heart failure symptoms include: shortness of breath, even in mild activity; difficulty breathing when lying down; weight gain with swelling in the legs and ankles from fluid retention; and general fatigue and weakness. If you notice these, don't just assume that they're part of the aging process -- be proactive and check with your doctor.

4. Adopt a heart-healthy lifestyle: Start by giving up any tobacco use and focusing on a healthy diet. Center your meals on whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes -- consult cookbooks or cooking magazines for delicious, low-sodium recipes. Other great ingredients are lean meats, poultry, fish and low-fat dairy. Keep trans-fats, saturated fats and cholesterol intake low.

The other enjoyable element of a healthy lifestyle is exercise. It can be as simple as going for daily walks that let you take in the beauty of nature or, if you're able to take on a more strenuous regimen, you could think about trying a sport like tennis, taking yoga classes or going swimming.

-- ARA

New research: The progression of self-esteem

Self-esteem rises steadily as people age but starts declining around the time of retirement, according to a longitudinal study of men and women ranging in age from 25 to 104.

On average, women had lower self-esteem than did men throughout most of adulthood, but self-esteem levels converged as men and women reached their 80s and 90s.

Blacks and whites had similar self-esteem levels throughout young adulthood and middle age. In old age, average self-esteem among blacks dropped much more sharply than self-esteem among whites.

Education, income, health and employment status all had some effect on the self-esteem trajectories, especially as people aged.

-- American Psychological Association

Did You Know?

Nearly one in four U.S. residents got the H1N1 flu vaccination between last fall and January, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Health Tip: Know the facts about meningitis

Meningitis is the inflammation of the lining around the brain and spinal cord. World Meningitis Day is April 4; here are some things you should know about the illness:

- The most effective way to protect you and your child against certain types of meningitis is to complete the childhood vaccine schedule.

- Viral meningitis is generally less severe and clears up without specific treatment. Bacterial meningitis can be severe and may result in brain damage, hearing loss, or learning disabilities.

- High fever, headache, and stiff neck are common symptoms of meningitis in anyone older than 2. Other symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, discomfort looking into bright lights, confusion and sleepiness.

- Newborns or infants with meningitis may appear slow or inactive, have vomiting, be irritable, or be feeding poorly.

- Diagnosis and treatment are very important. If symptoms occur, the patient should see a doctor immediately.

-- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,

Number to Know: 970,000

A new study found that more than 970,000 weight training-related injuries were treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments between 1990 and 2007, increasing nearly 50 percent during the study period.

-- Nationwide Children's Hospital

Children’s Health: Prevent scooter injuries

Foot-propelled scooters are popular because they’re lightweight and can be folded for easy portability. Follow these safety tips to avoid injury:

- Children younger than 8 should not be using scooters.

- Learn the basic skills of the sport and understand how the steering and brakes operate.

- Wear proper shoes, a helmet, wrist protectors and knee and elbow pads.

- Avoid riding downhill on steep hills, slippery/uneven surfaces and crowded walkways/streets.

-- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

Senior Health: Daily routines help sleep quality

A study in the April 1 issue of the journal Sleep found that the maintenance of daily routines was associated with a reduced rate of insomnia and improved quality of sleep in older adults living in a retirement community.

Stability in basic activities such as bathing, dressing and eating was more strongly associated with sleep quality than stability of instrumental activities such as shopping, public transportation use and medical appointments.

According to the authors, routine lifestyle rhythms may be characterized by stability in the timing, frequency and duration of daily activities such as watching TV or reading a book.

-- Sleep

GateHouse News Service