danasparks

Dana Sparks @danasparks

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Dana Sparks

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mayoclinic.com

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Activity by Dana Sparks @danasparks

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10 hours ago by @danasparks · View  

Sharing Mayo Clinic: 14-Year-Old Writes the Book on Beating the Odds

Nathaniel Kirera wasn’t expected to survive birth. When he did, then he wasn’t expected to live to see his first birthday, much less his 14th. He also wasn’t supposed to be able learn, let alone write a book. But he’s done all that, and today his medical odyssey is behind him.

That Nate has achieved so much despite having multicystic hydrocephalus, a condition in which half of his brain and its fluid drainage system formed abnormally, is no surprise to his mother Ann Makena, who, while she was pregnant, dreamed of a son walking and talking.

“The doctor said. ‘I’ve seen very bad conditions, but I’ve never seen anything this bad,’” Ann says. “I said, ‘It’s not that I don’t trust you … but I really felt very confident about this child. I said, ‘No I’m just going to leave it up to God.’”

Nate’s successful birth isn’t the only marvel Ann believes has graced her family’s life. Coming to Mayo Clinic’s Rochester campus and meeting pediatric neurologist Katherine Nickels, M.D., in the  Division of Child and Adolescent Neurology was another wonder from Ann’s point of view.

“The first day I spoke with Dr. Nickels, I’ll never forget that day,” she says. “She is an amazing listener; she is so compassionate. You can feel her heart when you are speaking to her.”

 A roller coaster of surgeries and seizures

 When Ann and Nate arrived at Mayo Clinic, Nate was 9 years old. The preceding years had been filled with seizures, medications and surgeries. He’d had 14 surgeries before he came to Rochester.

Immediately after birth, Nate was outfitted with a shunt system to mitigate the effects of having multiple, fluid-collecting pockets in his brain. The fact that more than one pocket existed meant the shunt required multiple revisions and the insertion of more than one catheter to drain the cerebrospinal fluid.

Read the rest of the story.

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3 days ago by @danasparks · View  

Something to Think About: True seeing

a group of young business people, sitting at a table in an office discussing ideas
Dr. Amit Sood says, "See others as they wish to be seen."

Dear friend,

I hardly see others these days, let alone see their true self. This is partly because of my weak attention. Research shows that presently an average person can maintain sustained attention for only about eight seconds (compared to nine seconds for the goldfish). Our ability to alternate attention (as in multitasking) has replaced our sustained attention.

Weakened attention, by default, becomes superficial and wandering. A brain with weakened attention usually becomes busy in its own monologue. It has limited dispensable attention and patience to truly notice others. As a result it sees others not as they are but as it has already decided it will see them. That decision depends on the brain’s current preferences.

My preferences depend on who I think I am. That’s important because I am likely to become a near-identical twin of whoever I think I am. If I think I am a bundle of desires, I will look at others as objects to fulfill my desires. If I think I am a blob of kindness, I will look at others with intentional kindness.

My untrained automatic version marinates in wants. Every waking moment, my sensory receptors crave stimulation, carrying to my mind a message of pleasure and gratification. That’s the animal within me, my limited self.

But I have within me a different, more intentional version. It still has wants, but mostly healthy and disciplined wants. Its conscious moments are crowded by the desire to be kind. Its wants support kindness. Guided by these wants, I see others within their circles of love. I see them as they wish to be seen. I see the good in them. I then start living in a different, kinder world.

I hope we all will live in a kinder inner world, so we can create a kinder outer world. We can, if we look at ourselves not as a bundle of desires but as a being of kindness.

May you treat yourself with kindness; may you help others treat themselves with kindness.

Take care.
Amit

Read previous blog posts and follow @AmitSoodMD on Twitter.

Dr. Sood is director of research in the Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program on Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus in Minnesota. He also chairs the Mind-Body Medicine Initiative at Mayo Clinic.
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3 days ago by @danasparks · View  

Making Mayo's Recipes: Cranberry pecan rice pilaf

a bowl of cranberry rice pilafIt only takes a few minutes to turn a side dish of plain rice into cranberry pecan rice pilaf. Reinvent brown rice with the simple addition of cranberries, pecans, fresh thyme and sauteed celery. Once you get the hang of this formula to bulk up rice, change the nuts and dried fruit to suit your taste.

Each Thursday one of the 100+ tasty video recipes from the Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program is featured on the Mayo Clinic News Network, just in time for you to try at the weekend. You can also have the recipes delivered via the Mayo Clinic App.

Journalists: The broadcast-quality video (1:04) is in the downloads.

Created by the executive wellness chef and registered dietitians at the Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program. Find more recipes and other healthy-living insights on the Mayo Clinic App

Ingredients

  1. 2 cups cooked brown basmati rice, room temperature
  2. 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
  3. 1 cup chopped onion
  4. 3/4 cup chopped celery
  5. 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  6. 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  7. 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  8. 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions

Warm a large nonstick saute pan to medium heat. Add the olive oil, and saute the onion and celery. Once the vegetables become soft and tender, add the cooked rice, pecans, cranberries, thyme and salt. Mix until combined and warmed through.

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4 days ago by @danasparks · View  

Women's Wellness: Diversity and heart health disparities

African-American woman sitting on edge of bed, eyes closed, resting and thinking

"African-American women have the highest burden of cardiovascular disease than any other racial group," says cardiologist Dr. LaPrincess Brewer. "This makes our efforts even more important in this population." Dr. Brewer says most African-American women are not aware heart disease is their No. 1 killer, and Mayo Clinic wants to increase awareness.

"The disparities that exist among African-American women is the No. 1 reason they die. And they are more likely to die than any other racial group." She says African-American women often have a unique set of risk factors, compared to other groups. These are called social determinants of health.

 "The reason why these exist are multi-factorial from the patient systems and environmental standpoint. A lot of them have to do with what we call social determinants of health and these can range from neighborhood, to income, environment, discrimination. There are health disparities from access to care and quality of care."
- Dr. LaPrincess Brewer

Dr. Brewer says improvements can happen by getting out into the community. "I think we need to shift from being negative about the impact of cardiovascular disease on this population and look more at promoting heart health."  The American Heart Association has a campaign called Life's Simple 7 and Dr. Brewer says, while the seven steps apply to everyone, they could be used in under served communities as a bridge to clinic care.

She's also leading the FAITH! (Fostering African-American Improvement in Total Health) initiative in the Rochester and Minneapolis-St.Paul, Minnesota areas, promoting positive health in faith-based communities. It's an effort to inspire communities and a template she hopes other cities might implement.

Watch: Dr. Brewer discusses heart health disparities.

Journalists: Broadcast-quality sound bites with Dr. Brewer are in the downloads.

Read more about the FAITH program in Rochester and Minneapolis-St.Paul, Minnesota:

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danasparks

5 days ago by @danasparks · View  

In the Loop: Genetic Testing Gets to the Heart of the Matter

woman making heart health shape with her hands
Valentine's Day 2009 was a memorable one for Karen Daggett. But not because of a romantic dinner or thoughtful gift. Instead, that particular day stands out because it was nearly her last.

Karen and her husband were enjoying a Valentine's Day dinner with friends at a restaurant in Florida, when she "suddenly felt very ill," as KTTC-TV reports. "I was in full body tremors," Karen tells the station. Her husband rushed her to a nearby hospital, and by the time they arrived, Karen couldn't remember her birthdate. Had they waited much longer to get help, she might not have had another birthday to celebrate. "They told my husband, 'within 12 hours, you'd be taking her home in a box,'" Karen tells the station.Karen was admitted to the hospital, where doctors stabilized her condition and tried to determine what was causing her symptoms. After five days and countless tests, doctors at the Naples, Florida, facility were stumped and told Karen she needed to be seen at Mayo Clinic. There, after two weeks of testing, "they finally solved the puzzle," Karen says. DNA testing through the Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine showed that Karen had a genetic defect, and her body wasn't properly processing some drugs. That was causing potentially fatal side effects when she took certain medications. It also meant that other medications, including one she needed to control her heart disease, weren't working at all. Read the rest of Karen's story.
______________________________________________
This story originally appeared on the In the Loop blog.

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Sun, Feb 12 at 9:56am EST by @danasparks · View  

Sharing Mayo Clinic: Cancer Survivor Finds Strength in Community

breast cancer patient carol at the Donna5K

My breast cancer journey started on April Fool’s Day — April  1, 2011. Only it wasn’t a joke.

Editor’s Note: Carol Phillips is an IT analyst/programmer at Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus. . She shares her experience and why she travels to Florida to support the annual 26.2 with DONNA Marathon .

My routine yearly mammogram came back abnormal. And at age 50, I was diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer. I don’t remember much about my first appointment with the doctor. It was all a blur. The only thing I do remember was the doctor saying, “Mayo Clinic will get you through this process. We’ll work together as a team. You are truly in good hands.” As I walked out to the parking lot, though, I thought I had just been given a death sentence — and I wasn’t ready.

I dreaded telling my parents that I had cancer. My mom had been diagnosed with multiple myeloma 6 years before and was losing her battle at that time. But I drove home to North Dakota that weekend to tell them. I wanted to reassure them that I was going to be OK. I held my mother’s hand and told her the doctors found the cancer early, that I was given a 98 percent chance of survival. “I am going to be ok,” I said. Read the rest of Carol's story.
___________________________________________________________

This article originally appeared on the Sharing Mayo Clinic blog.

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Fri, Feb 10 at 3:00pm EST by @danasparks · View  

Home Remedies: Tips for treating teething babies

a baby chewing on a colorful teething ring

Drooling, crankiness and tears can make teething an ordeal for parents, caregivers and babies alike. Here's help easing the pain — for all of you.

What's typical?

Although timing varies widely, babies often begin teething by about age 6 months. The two bottom front teeth (lower central incisors) are usually the first to appear, followed by the two top front teeth (upper central incisors).

Classic signs and symptoms of teething include:

  • Drooling
  • Chewing on solid objects
  • Irritability or crankiness
  • Sore or tender gums

Many parents suspect that teething causes fever and diarrhea, but researchers say this isn't true. Teething can cause signs and symptoms in the mouth and gums — but not elsewhere in the body.

What's the best way to soothe sore gums?

If your teething baby seems uncomfortable, consider these simple tips:

  • Rub your baby's gums. Use a clean finger or moistened gauze pad to rub your baby's gums. The pressure can ease your baby's discomfort.
  • Keep it cool. A cold washcloth, spoon or chilled teething ring can be soothing on a baby's gums. Don't give your baby a frozen teething ring, however. Contact with extreme cold can be harmful.
  • Offer a teething ring. Try one made of firm rubber. The liquid filled variety may break under the pressure of your baby's chewing. If a bottle seems to work, fill it with water. Prolonged contact with sugar from formula, milk or juice may cause tooth decay.
  • Try hard foods. If your baby is eating solid foods, you might offer something edible for gnawing — such as a peeled and chilled cucumber or carrot. Keep a close eye on your baby, however. Any pieces that break off might pose a choking hazard.
  • Dry the drool. Excessive drooling is part of the teething process. To prevent skin irritation, keep a clean cloth handy to dry your baby's chin. Consider applying a moisturizer such as a water-based cream or lotion.
  • Try an over-the-counter remedy. If your baby is especially cranky, acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) or ibuprofen (Advil, Children's Motrin, others) might help. Avoid teething medications that contain the pain reliever benzocaine. Benzocaine products have been associated with methemoglobinemia — a rare but serious condition that reduces the amount of oxygen in the blood.

Avoid teething medications that contain the pain reliever benzocaine. Benzocaine products have been associated with methemoglobinemia — a rare but serious condition that reduces the amount of oxygen in the blood.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also has recommended that parents not use homeopathic teething gels or tablets, which might pose a health risk to babies.

Teething can usually be handled at home. Contact your doctor or healthcare provider if your baby develops a fever, seems particularly uncomfortable, or has other signs or symptoms of illness. The problem may be something other than teething.

The Mayo Clinic Book of Home Remedies provides answers you need to take care of common health problems on your own. This reference covers 120 of today’s common health problems in an easy-to-follow, A-to-Z format. Learn what you can do for yourself and when to seek medical attention.

book cover of Home Remedies

 

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Thu, Feb 9 at 5:11pm EST by @danasparks · View  

Making Mayo's Recipes: Chicken sausage meatballs

a kitchen bowl with chicken meatball ingredients

This is the perfect make-ahead meal for the weekend. Learn how to roll meatballs with ground chicken breast, Parmesan cheese and Italian seasonings. Store uncooked meatballs in the fridge overnight or freeze for up to 3 months.

Each Thursday one of the 100+ tasty video recipes from the Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program is featured on the Mayo Clinic News Network, just in time for you to try at the weekend. You can also have the recipes delivered via the Mayo Clinic App.

Journalists: The broadcast-quality video (1:07) is in the downloads.

Created by the executive wellness chef and registered dietitians at the Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program. Find more recipes and other healthy-living insights on the Mayo Clinic App

Ingredients

  1. 1/4 large onion, chopped
  2. 1 3/4 teaspoon minced garlic
  3. 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  4. 3/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  5. 3/4 teaspoon ground fennel
  6. 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  7. 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  8. 1 pound ground chicken breast

Directions

Heat the oven to 350 F. In a small saucepan, saute the onions and garlic until tender, about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from heat and place in a medium bowl. Add the cheese, Italian seasoning, fennel, salt and pepper; mix well. Add the chicken and gently mix with hands until just combined. Form mixture into 1-inch meatballs —about 3/4 ounces each. Place on a greased baking sheet and bake until the internal temperature of the meatballs reach 165 F, about 15 minutes.

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Thu, Feb 9 at 3:00pm EST by @danasparks · View  

Something to Think About: The power of surrender

young people of different skin colors linking arms

Dr. Amit Sood says, "Replacing intellect with surrender is a good bargain."

Dear friend,

I can read, write, predict, remember, analyze, decide, create, imagine, and entertain. I am not a genius but am not entirely dumb. From the time I became conscious of my presence, I have been busy trying to prove to the world that I am intelligent and worthy of attention. I may have somewhat succeeded in that endeavor. But lately I am realizing how limited, almost phony, I am.

I read but do not understand, write words that often don’t make sense, predict but to a very rough approximation, remember but soon forget, analyze but with great incompleteness, decide but without conviction, create but only the ordinary and the barely useful, and imagine but within three dimensions. I am terrible at entertaining. Most of all, I can do nothing to take the pain away from someone half a world away. I have no idea how the world will be in a day, an hour, or the next moment. I am severely limited.

I give up. I give up my obsession with control. I give up my love of intellect. I give up the desire to be right. This giving up relieves me.

In that giving up, I find the freedom that I have been looking for—the freedom of surrender.

I surrender. I surrender to a higher intellect that created and can protect all the world’s children. I can’t. Who breathes air into our children’s lungs when they (and we) sleep? I know not. I truly respect and love that power. I surrender to the intellect that created the dimensions. I don’t know if that intellect is formed or formless, or where it resides. I won’t name it, since I can’t fathom it.

Perhaps that intellect is probability or providence or destiny or nature or consciousness or intentionality or emptiness or something else. Poets, philosophers, scientists, believers, citizens—we all have different names for what we consider larger than ourselves. Let’s not quibble about the names. For this intellect unites us all. Its nature is wisdom and love—wisdom that teaches universal interconnectedness and love that teaches universal compassion. We sorely need wisdom and love to help our children thrive in a caring world that we collectively create. I am grateful to you for your contribution to the creation of such a world.

I am also grateful that I have the intellect to recognize my intellect’s limitations. I am grateful I can think of surrender before I lose the ability to surrender.

May the power of surrender empower you for passionate action.

Take care.
Amit

Read previous blog posts and follow @AmitSoodMD on Twitter.

Dr. Sood is director of research in the Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program on Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus in Minnesota. He also chairs the Mind-Body Medicine Initiative at Mayo Clinic.
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danasparks

Wed, Feb 8 at 3:35pm EST by @danasparks · View  

Women's Wellness: Why can’t I poop?

a woman sitting on a bed with cramps, constipation or stomach ache

This Mayo Clinic Women's Health Clinic article is written by physical therapist Laura Meihofer. 

Do you find yourself sitting on the toilet for long periods of time? Do you rely upon over the counter stool softeners, laxatives or fiber to have a bowel movement? Is passing a bowel movement painful, or do you find yourself straining excessively to fully empty your bowels? You may be suffering from constipation, the most common gastrointestinal complaint affecting 42 million Americans (1).  Constipation is often the result of multiple contributing factors. After seeing your local healthcare provider to assess the problem, a visit to a physical therapist specializing in pelvic floor health may be useful.

You may be thinking, “Why a physical therapist? I thought they only looked at my neck, shoulders or back.” A physical therapist specializing in pelvic floor health has been specifically trained to assess not only your back, but also your boney pelvis and hips which may be contributing to your constipation. He or she is also trained to assess the impact of various behaviors, medications and diseases on the pelvic floor as well as to examine the pelvic floor muscles specifically. The pelvic floor is a group of muscles that forms a bowl in your pelvis. This muscle group must contract, relax, and most importantly, coordinate between these two motions to maintain continence of stool and urine and allow you to pass a bowel movement or urinate at will (2).

When you visit a pelvic floor physical therapist for constipation, he or she will first ask you about various aspects of your bowel health. These questions may include how long you have experienced constipation, which medications (prescribed or over-the-counter) are you taking, how much fluid you are consuming, and what your activity level is. The therapist may also want to know the consistency (soft, smooth, hard, or lumpy) and frequency of your bowel movements and whether you experience pain in your abdomen or rectum with passage of a bowel movement, excessive straining or a sense of not fully emptying your bowels.

After reviewing your history, the therapist will evaluate the pelvic floor muscles by looking at the pelvic floor and observing how it moves when you breathe, relax or contract, for example. He or she might ask you to tighten your muscles as if you were stopping the flow of urine or to relax the muscles by bearing down as if you were pushing something out.  The therapist may also gently palpate the pelvic floor muscles to see if they are tight and tender or soft and supple. Depending on the situation and your comfort level, the therapist might also complete an internal assessment of the pelvic floor muscles checking for tightness or tenderness and evaluating your control over these muscles.

After understanding your concerns, taking a history and performing a physical examination, your therapist will develop a treatment plan specific to your needs. This treatment plan might be carried out over several sessions and may include hands-on techniques to aid in muscle relaxation and to improve muscle awareness as well as behavioral modification (drinking more fluid, for example) and exercises to help improve your pelvic floor health (3, 4).

If you are suffering from constipation or pain with bowel movements, excessive straining, or relying upon medication to have a bowel movement, pelvic floor physical therapy may be the answer for you. To find a pelvic floor physical therapist in your area visit the American Physical Therapy Association Section on Women’s Health.

###

Higgins PD, Johanson JF. Epidemiology of constipation in North America: a systematic review. American Journal of Gastroenterology. 2004;99:750–759.​

Recognition and Management of Nonrelaxing Pelvic Floor Dysfunction Stephanie S. Faubion, MD Lynne T. Shuster, MD Adil E. Bharucha, MBBS, MD

Collins, E., Hibberts, F., Lyons M., Williams, A. B., & Schizas, A. P. (2014). Outcomes in non-surgical management for bowel dysfunction. British Journal of Nursing, 23(14), 776-780. Doi:10. 12968/bjon.2014.23.14.776

Successful physical therapy for constipation related to puborectalis dyssynergia improves symptom severity and quality of life. Lewicky-Gaupp C; Morgan DM; Chey WD; Muellerleile P; Fenner DE. Diseases of the Colon & Rectum. 51(11):1686-91, 2008 Nov.

Women's Wellness logo

 

 

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Tue, Feb 7 at 6:30pm EST by @danasparks · View  

In the Loop: Race to finish breast cancer is personal

breast cancer patient, Hollis Livezey Youngner, with her family
Last February, Hollis Livezey Youngner stood at the end of the National Marathon to Finish Breast Cancer, cheering (and crying) as she watched many of her friends and family members cross the finish line of a race they’d run in her honor. “I was a bundle of emotions,” Hollis tells us. “It was the most amazing, inspirational experience.”

When she saw one of her chemo nurses cross that line, Hollis, who was diagnosed with HER-2 positive breast cancer in 2012, made a decision: “Next year, I’m going to do that, too.” She started training for the half marathon in March, and soon after, learned her cancer had spread to her brain. It’s shown up in two additional spots since then. “I’ve joked to my doctor that someone’s trying to tell me not to run,” Hollis, who continues to be seen at Mayo Clinic's Florida campus, tells us.

Read the rest of Hollis' story.
______________________________________________
This story originally appeared on the In the Loop blog.

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Sun, Feb 5 at 7:06am EST by @danasparks · View  

Sharing Mayo Clinic: Rare Heart Condition Turns Young Athlete into Advocate

Growing up, Joe Meyer loved sports. In elementary school, he played basketball and baseball. The summer before he entered eighth grade, the Jacksonville, Florida, youth decided to give football a try.

Before he took to the gridiron, Joe visited his pediatrician for sports physical. At that appointment, his doctor noticed a heart murmur. Joe, then 14, couldn’t be cleared to play until he went to a cardiologist.

In August 2011, after seeing a pediatric cardiologist and having an echocardiogram and stress test, Joe was diagnosed with obstructive hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, or HCM — an incurable disease, usually caused by gene mutations, in which the heart muscle becomes abnormally thick.

The diagnosis took Joe away from sports and other physical activity for several years. But under the care of his medical team at Mayo Clinic, Joe is now active again, and he’s working to raise awareness of heart disease, particularly in children and teens.

“If I look back on the entire situation, I wouldn’t change anything,” Joe says. “It’s helped me find my passion and given me a voice to help others.”

Sidelined by heart problems

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy affects about 1 in 500 people — about 0.2 percent of the population. It tends to affect men and women equally. The symptoms may include shortness of breath, chest pain, palpitations, fatigue and passing out. A serious condition, the condition is a common cause of sudden cardiac arrest, especially young athletes. Read the rest of Joe's story.
________________________________________________________

This article originally appeared on the Sharing Mayo Clinic blog.

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Fri, Feb 3 at 3:00pm EST by @danasparks · View  

Home Remedies: Emergency care for a heart attack

a person in a red coat holding chest with pain, perhaps a heart attack

Someone having a heart attack may experience any or all of the following:

  • Uncomfortable pressure, fullness or squeezing pain in the center of the chest
  • Discomfort or pain spreading beyond the chest to the shoulders, neck, jaw, teeth, or one or both arms, or occasionally upper abdomen
  • Shortness of breath
  • Lightheadedness, dizziness, fainting
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
A heart attack generally causes chest pain for more than 15 minutes, but it can also have no symptoms at all. Many people who experience a heart attack have warning signs hours, days or weeks in advance.

What to do if you or someone else may be having a heart attack

  • Call 911 or your local medical emergency number. Don't ignore or attempt to tough out the symptoms of a heart attack for more than five minutes. If you don't have access to emergency medical services, have a neighbor or a friend drive you to the nearest hospital. Drive yourself only as a last resort, and realize that it places you and others at risk when you drive under these circumstances.
  • Chew and swallow an aspirin, unless you are allergic to aspirin or have been told by your doctor never to take aspirin. But seek emergency help first, such as calling 911.
  • Take nitroglycerin, if prescribed. If you think you're having a heart attack and your doctor has previously prescribed nitroglycerin for you, take it as directed. Do not take anyone else's nitroglycerin, because that could put you in more danger.
  • Begin CPR if the person is unconscious. If you're with a person who might be having a heart attack and he or she is unconscious, tell the 911 dispatcher or another emergency medical specialist. You may be advised to begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). If you haven't received CPR training, doctors recommend skipping mouth-to-mouth rescue breathing and performing only chest compressions (about 100 per minute). The dispatcher can instruct you in the proper procedures until help arrives.
  • If an automated external defibrillator (AED) is available and the person is unconscious, begin CPR while the device is retrieved and set up. Attach the device and follow instructions that will be provided by the AED after it has evaluated the person's condition.

 

illustration of normal heart

Your lifestyle affects your heart health. The following steps can help you not only prevent but also recover from a heart attack:

  • Avoid smoke. The most important thing you can do to improve your heart's health is to not smoke. Also, avoid being around secondhand smoke. If you need to quit, ask your doctor for help.
  • Control your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. If one or both of these is high, your doctor can prescribe changes to your diet and medications. Ask your doctor how often you need to have your blood pressure and cholesterol levels monitored.
  • Get regular medical checkups. Some of the major risk factors for heart attack — high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes — cause no symptoms early on. Your doctor can perform tests to check for these conditions and help you manage them, if necessary.
  • Exercise regularly. Regular exercise helps improve heart muscle function after a heart attack and helps prevent a heart attack by helping you to control your weight, diabetes, cholesterol and blood pressure. Exercise needn't be vigorous. Walking 30 minutes a day, five days a week can improve your health.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight strains your heart and can contribute to high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes.
  • Eat a heart-healthy diet. Saturated fat, trans fats and cholesterol in your diet can narrow arteries to your heart, and too much salt can raise blood pressure. Eat a heart-healthy diet that includes lean proteins, such as fish and beans, plenty of fruits and vegetables and whole grains.
  • Manage diabetes. High blood sugar is damaging to your heart. Regular exercise, eating well and losing weight all help to keep blood sugar levels at more-desirable levels. Many people also need medication to manage their diabetes.
  • Control stress. Reduce stress in your day-to-day activities. Rethink workaholic habits and find healthy ways to minimize or deal with stressful events in your life.
  • If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. For healthy adults, that means up to one drink a day for women and men older than age 65, and up to two drinks a day for men age 65 and younger.

The Mayo Clinic Book of Home Remedies provides answers you need to take care of common health problems on your own. This reference covers 120 of today’s common health problems in an easy-to-follow, A-to-Z format. Learn what you can do for yourself and when to seek medical attention.

book cover of Home Remedies

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Thu, Feb 2 at 7:08pm EST by @danasparks · View  

Making Mayo's Recipes: Avocado Salsa

a knife and sliced avocado on a wooden carving board

Try this super 'Super Bowl' avocado salsa this weekend! It's delicious with tortilla chips or tacos and, while it's best served immediately, you can keep it in the refrigerator overnight.

Each Thursday one of the 100+ tasty video recipes from the Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program is featured on the Mayo Clinic News Network, just in time for you to try at the weekend. You can also have the recipes delivered via the Mayo Clinic App.

Journalists: The broadcast-quality video (:49) is in the downloads.

Created by the executive wellness chef and registered dietitians at the Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program. Find more recipes and other healthy-living insights on the Mayo Clinic App

Ingredients

  1. 5 Roma tomatoes, chopped
  2. 3 avocados, cubed
  3. 1/2 chopped red onion
  4. 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  5. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  6. 1/2 lime, juiced
  7. 1/4 teaspoon salt
  8. Ground black pepper, to taste

Directions

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the tomatoes, avocados, red onion, cilantro and garlic. Add lime juice. Season mixture with salt and pepper. Mix well and serve.

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Thu, Feb 2 at 3:30pm EST by @danasparks · View  

Something to Think About: Having a bad day

a frustrated, sad, angry man in a business tie holding his head in his hand
Dr. Amit Sood says, "Shed your idea of perfection, because it depends on your imperfections."

Dear friend,

One of my core fears is that someday I will think that I have become nearly perfect. That will be a very bad day because such a belief will signal that I have become steeped in ignorance and ego, which is decidedly going backward. I try my best to stay away from that possibility.

Another core fear is that someday I will start to expect perfection from others. Expecting perfection from others is synonymous with expecting them to do exactly as I want them to do. That is oxymoron because my idea of others’ perfection depends on my own imperfections.

Seeking perfection, for self or others, by itself isn’t wrong, as long as you carefully pick what you want to be perfect about. You don’t want your aircraft pilot to be casual about the particulars related to landing the plane, and you don’t want the neurosurgeon to leave some of the procedural details to chance. Perfection in practicing kindness toward your partner is desirable. We all depend on someone’s perfection every day to remain safe and alive. Hence, we shouldn’t nurture a blanket criticism of perfection.

But if we invest all our meaning in a trivial detail, such as the crease of the pants, the precise configuration in which to load the dishwasher, or the knot in the tie, then we set ourselves up for anxiety and depression. With such a disposition, faced with even a small failure, we feel unworthy and unlovable. We begin to hold ourselves to unrealistic standards and globalize our mistakes.

I have a better alternative. I should free others from my preferences. I should recognize our collective imperfections; in fact, I should stop calling the oddities imperfections. Who gets to decide what they are? Perhaps they are our uniqueness or predispositions or adornments. The recognition of human ignorance created a seismic shift in scientific progress several hundred years ago, helping us break free from some of the dogmas that handcuffed us. Ignorance, an imperfection, when approached with humility and acceptance, transformed into science. Our imperfections thus can seed our transformation.

I believe that when I’m fully seeped in this wisdom, I’ll find an easier path to acceptance. With acceptance, I will experience fewer hurts, decreasing instances in which I need to forgive. Once I arrive at such awareness, I will have become a little less imperfect.

May you never feel that you are perfect; may you never desire someone else to be perfect.

Take care.
Amit

Read previous blog posts and follow @AmitSoodMD on Twitter.

Dr. Sood is director of research in the Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program on Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus in Minnesota. He also chairs the Mind-Body Medicine Initiative at Mayo Clinic.
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danasparks

Wed, Feb 1 at 5:59pm EST by @danasparks · View  

Infographic: Congenital heart disease (CHD)

 

Learn more about congenital heart disease.

Other health tip infographics:
mayohealthhighlights.startribune.com 

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danasparks

Wed, Feb 1 at 2:50pm EST by @danasparks · View  

Women's Wellness: Hypothyroidism and pregnancy

a young pregnant woman sitting at work on a laptop computer

When a woman becomes pregnant, many changes occur in her body. One of those changes is in the levels of various hormones produced by the body.

In the case of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), pregnant women typically produce a lower level than normal (0.4–4.0 milli-international units per liter). Some international guidelines recommend levels be no higher than 2.5–3. milli-international units per liter during pregnancy. When their TSH levels rise above this, they may experience subclinical hypothyroidism, or mildly underactive thyroid, which can cause a number of health problems if left untreated.

Today, Mayo Clinic researchers report that one of those results could be pregnancy loss. Researchers further suggest a course of action that could positively impact as many as 15 of every 100 pregnancies. In a study published in The BMJ, they show that treating subclinical hypothyroidism (not quite the level that would be treated in a nonpregnant woman) can reduce pregnancy loss, especially for those with TSH levels on the upper end of normal or higher.

“A recent analysis of 18 studies showed that pregnant women with untreated subclinical hypothyroidism are at higher risk for pregnancy loss, placental abruption, premature rupture of membranes, and neonatal death,” says Spyridoula Maraka, M.D., an endocrinologist and lead author of the study. “It seemed likely that treating subclinical hypothyroidism would reduce the chance of these deadly occurrences. But we know that treatment brings other risks, so we wanted to find the point at which benefits outweighed risks.”

Using the OptumLabs Data Warehouse, Dr. Maraka and her team examined the health information of 5,405 pregnant women diagnosed with subclinical hypothyroidism. Of these, 843 women, with an average pretreatment TSH concentration of 4.8 milli-international units per liter, were treated with thyroid hormone. The remaining 4,562, with an average pretreatment TSH concentration of 3.3 milli-international units per liter, were not treated.

Read more in this news release: Should hypothyroidism in pregnancy be treated?

MEDIA CONTACT: Sharon Theimer, Mayo Clinic Public Affairs, 507-284-5005, newsbureau@mayo.edu

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danasparks

Tue, Jan 31 at 3:30pm EST by @danasparks · View  

In the Loop: From heart failure to the finish line

patient Monica Harlow after running a race
Monica Harlow looked around at the people lined up to run the 26.2 miles of the Rock and Roll Marathon in Phoenix. “Every one of these runners has a story,” she thought. “Everyone is here for a reason.” Perhaps none more so than Monica herself.

Nine years ago, Monica could run only a short distance before running out of breath. She wasn't too worried. She’d played field hockey in high school, was thin and had always assumed she was healthy. Still, when she and her husband started thinking about starting a family, Monica decided to have a physical. Her family practice physician noted that Monica had a heart murmur, which she’d known about since childhood. Most heart murmurs are harmless, and none of Monica’s physicians had ever been concerned about hers. But, her physician referred her to a cardiologist, just to be safe. Read the rest of Monica's story.
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This story originally appeared on the In the Loop blog.

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