How one article can lead to a healthier lifestyle…
I run the production side of PaidLetter with my partner M.T. Smith.
Recently, I discovered the downside of sitting for extended periods without activity. The nature of my work requires me to spend large amounts of time in front of monitors. This leads to sitting or what I am now calling over-sitting.
During my college years, I was very active. Always a bit of a loner my passion was running. Unfortunately, as the years moved on I got out of my running regiment and more time was spent in the gym.
But life is funny in the way you can drift away from even the best habits.
Here’s the headline:
“Sitting or lying down for too long increases your risk of chronic health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers. Too much sitting can also be bad for your mental health.”
It’s easy to let headlines like these roll by you without any examination. We are all just too busy these days.
So let’s dig in.
Here’s why sitting for long periods of time is bad for your heart:
Blood flow slows down, which allows fatty acids to build up in the blood vessesls. This can lead to heart disease. Your body’s ability to process fats is decreased. Lipoprotein lipase is an important enzyme your body produces to break down fat in your blood. When you sit, your body’s production of lipoprotein lipase drops by about 90 percent, which makes it very difficult for your body to use fat. When your body doesn’t use fat, it gets stored.
- Sitting can lead to insulin resistance, which can cause type 2 diabetes and obesity, two risk factors for heart disease.
- When you sit regularly for extended periods of time, your bones get weaker and your entire skeletal system can experience negative effects, including pain, bone spurs, inflammation, and other symptoms.
- When you don’t use your muscles, they can lose strength and the ability to support other body systems.
- It can affect your brain. Exercise triggers the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which grows neurons in the brain. It also helps fight the effects of cortisol (the stress hormone). So when supplies of BDNF decrease, cortisol increases, which leads to increased stress. Blood flow to the brain also slows when you’re sedentary, which reduces the amount of oxygen your brain receives.
Shocking, yet true:
According to WebMD: “By the age of 40, about half of us have cholesterol deposits in our arteries, After 45, men may have a lot of plaque buildup. Signs of atherosclerosis in women are likely to appear after age 55.”
Now you may get news about a younger friend or family member who died “suddenly” from a heart attack. You gasp finding it hard to believe. The person seemed healthy, maybe even had a fitness routine, and worst yet, maybe they were skinny!
(We all tend to think of heart attacks happening with older, fatter, unhealthy folks).
So how is this “suddenly” thing happening?
According to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine:
“By the time many people reach their 20s, blockages that disrupt the flow of blood already exist within their arteries.”
And according to NYUlangone.org:
“The leading cause of death and disability worldwide, coronary artery disease affects 17.6 million Americans, killing 450,000 annually.”
What is the life expectancy of heart failure?
According to Samaritannj.org:
“About half of people who develop heart failure die within 5 years of diagnosis. Most people with end-stage heart failure have a life expectancy of less than 1 year.”
Let’s look at the symptoms.
According to the Mayoclinic.org:
Symptoms may develop slowly. Sometimes, heart failure symptoms start suddenly. Heart failure symptoms may include:
- Shortness of breath with activity or when lying down.
- Fatigue and weakness.
- Swelling in the legs, ankles, and feet.
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat.
- Reduced ability to exercise.
- A cough that doesn’t go away or a cough that brings up white or pink mucus with spots of blood.
- Swelling of the belly area.
- Very rapid weight gain from fluid buildup.
- Nausea and lack of appetite.
- Difficulty concentrating or decreased alertness.
- Chest pain if heart failure is caused by a heart attack.
According to Geelongmedicalgroup.com:
A blocked artery within the heart prevents oxygenated blood from reaching the brain. If this occurs, dizziness, lightheadedness, fainting, or loss of consciousness can occur in certain people. Extreme weakness or anxiety can also be a sign of a blocked artery in certain instances. If you develop any of these symptoms, seek emergency medical care as soon as possible.
If your heart is not receiving enough blood due to the blockage, it will start pumping faster to try to bring more blood into the heart. A rapid heart rate could also cause you to experience dizziness or chest pain.
Angina is the most common symptom of a blocked artery in people with CAD. People with angina typically report experiencing discomfort or pain within the center of the chest. This pain can sometimes be described as a sensation of heaviness, numbness, tightness, aching, or burning in the chest. Chest pain can also spread to other regions of the body if you develop a blocked artery. Your chest pain can radiate into the arms, back, stomach, neck, or jaw. If you develop symptoms of angina, seek emergency medical care immediately because this condition is also a sign of a heart attack.
The Real Danger!
Perhaps the real danger is that these symptoms can gradually sneak up on us. Some of you reading these words may even have these symptoms now but are choosing to ‘live with them’.
Yes, you can test for clogged arteries:
Your doctor takes a family and medical history to determine your risk for coronary artery disease. Next, he or she performs a physical exam, asks whether you smoke and how much you exercise, asks about your diet, and determines if you have diabetes, high blood pressure, or unhealthy cholesterol levels. Your doctor also orders tests to help diagnose coronary artery disease.
Your doctor may take a sample of blood to check the levels of different substances, including cholesterol; triglycerides, or fat in the blood, which can increase the risk of coronary artery disease; proteins that can indicate inflammation in the arteries; and glucose, or sugar, which can help determine if you have diabetes. Elevated levels of these substances can increase your risk for atherosclerosis.
An electrocardiogram, or EKG, records electrical signals from your heart. It can show whether you have had or are having a heart attack. Small, sticky metal electrodes are placed on your chest, wrists, and ankles, and information about your heart is sent to a machine, which prints out a graph for the doctor to analyze.
Coronary Calcium Scan
Also called cardiac calcium scoring, this type of CT scan enables a doctor to check the walls of the arteries for calcium buildup, a sign of coronary artery disease. A CT scan uses X-rays and a computer to create cross-sectional images of the body. If calcium is found in the coronary arteries, it may indicate coronary artery disease.
CT Coronary Angiogram
A CT coronary angiogram can reveal plaque buildup and identify blockages in the arteries, which can lead to a heart attack. Before the test, a contrast dye is injected into the arm to make the arteries more visible. The test typically takes 30 minutes to complete.
Cardiac catheterization, also known as a cardiac cath or an angiogram, uses X-rays taken in real time to create images of the coronary arteries. This procedure, which is performed at one of our cardiac catheterization laboratory locations, can help identify any blockages.
After you are given local anesthesia and a sedative, your doctor guides a thin, hollow tube called a catheter through a tiny incision in the arm or groin to an artery that leads to the heart.
A cardiologist injects a contrast agent, or dye, into the catheter to highlight any blockages in the blood vessels supplying the heart muscle. This is called an angiogram. The physician performing the procedure later discusses with you whether you have significant blockages and what therapies, if any, are needed.
The procedure takes 30 to 40 minutes. Afterward, the catheter is removed and the incision is closed.
Doctors may also use cardiac catheterization to assess your heart and arteries before surgery.
Your doctor may order a stress test to check the function of your heart and arteries.
An abnormal result can indicate a reduction in blood flow to the heart during exertion—called ischemia—that’s typically caused by a blockage in the heart arteries.
There are several different types.
Exercise Stress Test
For people who can exercise, an exercise stress test helps your doctor determine whether your heart receives enough blood and oxygen during activity. It also reveals how the heart responds to exercise.
During this test, a doctor performs an electrocardiogram, or EKG, in which small electrodes are placed on your chest, wrists, and ankles. The electrodes send information about your heart’s rate and rhythm to a machine while you walk on a treadmill at increasing levels of difficulty. Your blood pressure is measured with a blood pressure cuff wrapped around your upper arm.
Pharmacologic Stress Test
If you are unable to complete the exercise stress test, your doctor may prescribe a pharmacologic stress test. In this test, medication is injected into an arm. It causes the heart’s blood vessels to dilate, or widen, depending on the medication your doctor chooses. If a person has blocked arteries, they won’t dilate, and blood is diverted to widened areas of the arteries. Other medications may be used to cause the heart to pump faster, simulating exercise.
A cardiac imaging test is used before and after the medication is given to show how the heart reacts under stress. This enables the doctor to identify coronary artery disease.
Nuclear Stress Test
In this test, which can be part of an exercise or pharmacologic stress test, a small amount of radioactive tracer is injected into a vein in the arm. Small electrodes are placed on your chest, wrists, and ankles to measure your heart rate. A device called a gamma camera detects the radiation released by the tracer and takes images of your heart from a machine above your body while you lie down. It produces images of the heart at rest.
Next, you have an exercise or pharmacologic stress test. After at least 20 minutes, you lie under the gamma camera for post-exercise imaging. The images are compared to allow your doctor to diagnose coronary artery disease.
Echo Stress Test
In this ultrasound test, also known as an echocardiogram, sound waves are used to create images of the heart. It can reveal how well the heart is pumping blood. Your doctor can identify any areas where blood isn’t flowing properly.
During the test, a technician rubs a warm gel on your chest and places a handheld device called a transducer on your skin. The transducer sends images of your heart to a computer monitor. No radiation is used.
This test can be done before and after an exercise or pharmacologic stress test.
Coronary Calcium Scan
A coronary calcium scan uses computerized tomography (CT) imaging to take pictures of your heart’s arteries. It can detect calcium deposits in the coronary arteries. Calcium deposits can narrow the arteries and increase the risk of a heart attack.
Again, here are the most common symptoms:
1) Chest pain or discomfort (angina)
2) Weakness, light-headedness, nausea (feeling sick to your stomach), or a cold sweat.
3) Pain or discomfort in the arms or shoulder.
4) Shortness of breath.
The Funny Thing About Research
During my research, I found conflicting data about whether or not heart disease could be reversed. Some doctors felt that once the damage had been done you need to behave with your diet, exercise, and hope for the best.
The “Undo It” Method
Dr. Dean Ornish, the creator of Ornish Lifestyle Medicine, developed the “undo it” cardiac rehabilitation program, which incorporates diet, exercise, stress reduction, and community support into a comprehensive program to undo heart disease.
According to cardiologist Bryan Martin:
“Cardiac rehabilitation programs are designed to help people with heart disease build back their heart health. Programs focus on diet, exercise, counseling, and education as a way to recover and avoid future cardiac complications. On the Ornish diet, people eat beans, legumes, fruits, grains, and vegetables. You can also eat some low-fat and nonfat dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt. While on the diet, avoid all meats, oils, and sugars. You’re also encouraged to quit smoking and reduce your alcohol consumption.”
In the course of this research, I’ve read comments from readers saying in essence: “I would rather die than give up eating meat, smoking, or drinking!”
Of course, we each make our own choices.
As for me I don’t smoke or drink.
And the tips I got from DoctorLessCare.Com that help me sleep through the night without waking up my wife have made life more peaceful.
Here are MY 3 big takeaways from the research:
1) Don’t stay seated for longer than 30 minutes without taking a 10-minute break (walk, stand, MOVE).
2) Get off of the SUGAR!
3) Eat oatmeal daily.
Hope that this article helped.
The information and other content provided in this blog, website, or any linked materials are not intended and should not be considered, or used as a substitute for, medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.