Sunday, May 15, 2016

What is Cholesterol?

We all know that it’s important to keep your cholesterol levels under control. But what is cholesterol? Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance present in cells throughout the body. The body uses cholesterol to produce hormones, vitamin D and acids that aid digestion. High Cholesterol is a common medical condition typically associated with heart disease. If you have too much cholesterol in your bloodstream, your arteries can narrow and cause health problems such as heart attacks, strokes and peripheral artery disease.
Cholesterol is derived from two main sources. Diet and the body itself. The liver is the primary organ for producing cholesterol. It is also produced by the intestine, testes, ovaries and adrenal cortex. The body synthesizes cholesterol partly by the intake of dietary cholesterol. Because the body can produce its own cholesterol, there is a chance that people who have a genetic metabolic disorders can have high cholesterol even without the excessive intake of cholesterol.

Hypercholesterolemia and Heart Disease

The body requires a cholesterol to function. But too much cholesterol in the blood, along with other fatty substances can form into plaque. Plaque can build up and stick to the walls of the arteries. Arteries are blood vessels that carry blood and oxygen to the brain and body. This is called atherosclerosis.
As plaque deposits build up in an artery, the passage becomes narrower and narrower, making it hard for blood to pass through. This can cause blockage as well as make the artery more elastic. When this happens, it’s known as hardening of the arteries. Sometimes plaque can break or rupture, causing blood clots to form in the artery. If the clot blocks the artery entirely, no blood can pass through. This is how most heart attacks and strokes occur.  

How Are Cholesterol Levels Tested?

You can have your cholesterol levels checked by getting a blood test called a lipid profile. The test measures 4 different areas:
1.     Total Cholesterol
2.     Low Density Lipoproteins (LDL)
3.     High Density Lipoproteins (HDL)
4.     Triglycerides
Your doctor can explain to you the result of your blood test, and figure out if your cholesterol levels are normal or need treatment. It’s a good idea to have your cholesterol levels measured at least once every 5 years if you are over the age of 18. Health specialists recommend that men over the age of 35 and women over the age of 45 should have their cholesterol levels checked more often.
The blood test results will appear as numbers. Many people are confused on how to interpret their cholesterol numbers, but it’s really quite simple. The first thing you should understand is that the numbers alone are not able to accurately predict your risk of heart problems. Nor can they give you insight into how you can reduce your risk for heart conditions.
Instead, they make up part of an equation that has to do with your age, blood pressure, any medications you are taking and how often you smoke. Your doctor will use all these factors to determine the proper course of treatment, including your ten year risk for sever heart conditions.

LDL Cholesterol

LDL cholesterol is known as the “bad” kind of cholesterol. It can build up on the artery walls, increasing your risk for disease. The lower your LDL levels are, the lower your risk is.
After calculating your risk, your doctor will give you a goal in the form of a percentage by which to lower your LDL number. This is typically done with a combination of diet, exercise and medications. If your LDL number is 190 or higher, you are in the danger zone. Your physician will almost certainly recommend immediate course of action in this case.

HDL Cholesterol

HDL cholesterol is known as the “good” type of cholesterol. The higher your HDL number, the lower your risk. HDL cholesterol can prevent heart disease because it removes the bad cholesterol (LDL) out of your blood, preventing it from building up in the arteries. Exercise, diet and medication can be used to increase HDL levels.


Triglycerides come in the form of fats from foods you eat and fats produced by the body. Higher triglyceride levels indicate a higher risk of coronary artery disease. Below is a breakdown of the numbers.
·       Under 150 = Normal
·       150 – 199 = Slightly High
·       200-499 = High
·       500 or above = Very High
·       Total Cholesterol
Your total blood cholesterol includes measurements of LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol and other lipid components. This number will be used by your doctor when calculating your risk for heart disease.
Your health care provider will work with you to determine which course of treatments suits you best. Total Home Health can connect you with experienced health care experts who are ready to help you live a long, healthy and fulfilling life. Join Total Home Health today to benefit from our exclusive services.

Warning Signs of Unhealthy Stress

Life can throw us many unexpected surprises. We all inevitably face emotional strain from life that can lead to one thing. Stress. Stress can be helpful depending on the situation. It can be a driving force behind your productivity, but it can also be harmful to your health. Stress affects people physically and emotionally in a number of ways.
Your nervous system reacts by adrenaline and cortisol, two hormones that activate the trigger the body to have an emergency response. If you notice that your heart rate jumps up, your breath quickens and your senses sharpen, you may be experiencing symptoms of stress.  

Disorders Related to Stress

Stress can have a large impact on your overall mental and physical health. According to The American Institute of Stress, there are many emotional health conditions caused by to too much stress, including:
·       High Blood Pressure
·       Anxiety
·       Heart Attack
·       Weak Immune System
·       Depression
·       Stroke
Our health is at a greater risk when we experience extreme feelings of stress. Your risks for heart problems go way up and there are a number of other problems. Your sleeping patterns, gastrointestinal system, and brain function are also affected.

Knowing When to Treat Stress

It’s not hard to spot the warning signs of being overstressed. Before you become too stressed out about being stressed out, don’t worry. The good news is that you there are plenty of ways to reduce your stress level and lower your risks of developing health-related stress disorders.
If you listen to your body, you can spot a few telltale signs that will let you know it’s time to take action. If you don’t address the situation when you spot the warning signs early on, you may worsen your condition and end up having a nervous breakdown.
When you notice that stress is building up, or you feel like you are becoming overburdened, look out for the warning signs below. This is how your body is signaling that something is wrong and needs attention.

Common Warning Signs of Stress

If you are experiencing pervasive symptoms of anxiety take notice of how your body is reacting. Some people do not realize that they are experiencing symptoms of extreme stress right away. If you can identify some of the warning signs early on, you will have a better shot at managing your stress it affects your health.
If you do notice that you are having mood swings, a stiff muscles or trouble focusing, your body may be telling you that you are too stressed. Often times we are stressed before a performance like a presentation at work or public speaking in front of a large audience. Sometimes it can be an everyday activity that stresses us out, like going to the store. Everyone has a different threshold level for the amount of stress they can manage. By learning how you deal with stressful situations, you can better manage it. This can help you stay healthy and reduce the risk of stress-related health problems. 
Following are a few red flags to watch out for:
Fatigue – Sleep hygiene is affected negatively by stress. Because you are having trouble getting adequate sleep or sleeping in general, you may feel more tired throughout the day.
Frequent Headaches – This can be due to tightness of the muscles in the neck and back.
Nervous Habits – Habits like nail biting, grinding teeth, scratching and nervous ticks can be a sign of stress.
Dry Mouth – Mild dehydration can make it difficult to swallow.
Chest Pains – Your heartbeat may elevate and cause sharp pains.
Upset Stomach – You may feel queasy and have a stomach pains, regardless of you what you did or didn’t eat.
Trouble Sleeping – Insomnia, restlessness and even sleeping too much can result from too much stress.
Fatigue – Because you are having trouble sleeping, you may be more tired during the day.
Extreme Dietary Changes – Loss of appetite is common. Overeating to cope with your feelings can also be caused by stress.
Shaking – Watch out for tremors or shaking. Your hands, jaw and face might tremble causing your voice to shake at times.
Dizziness – Pervasive stress can cause you to feel faint or light-headed.
Sweating – Sweaty palms, or excessive sweating is common.
Weakened Immune System – You may get sick more often or have a harder time recovering from colds.
Irritability – If you notice you are snapping at people, lose your temper more often or break down emotionally over the slightest of setbacks, you may be on the brink of being overwhelmed.
Watch out for these warning signs so you can mitigate stress and be healthy. Don’t wait if you suspect you may need treatment. Your health care provider will work with you to determine which course of treatments suits you best. Total Home Health can connect you with experienced health care experts who are ready to help you live a long, healthy and fulfilling life. Join us today to benefit from our extensive health care resources. 

Strength Training For Seniors

If you are a senior, one of the best thing you can do for your health is strength training. Performing resistance exercises has a myriad of benefits. You can maintain a healthy done mass level, improve balance, strengthen connective tissue and improve posture just to name a few.

Basically strength training makes it easier for you to go about your everyday life. Walking, climbing stairs, getting up from a chair and moving around in general becomes much easier. This article outlines safe strength training exercises for seniors. Always consult your physician before trying any new diet or exercise.

The first step is to find exercises that you can easily do. If you aren’t strong enough or too frail to perform the strength exercises I mention, there are still many alternatives left for you to explore. In time you may be able to work your way up to the beginner level exercises outlined below. If these exercises aren’t challenging enough for you, there are many more strenuous exercise you can try out.

Knee Extensions

You can do these with or without weights. Knee extensions will help you fortify your knees. This is a great way to improve balance and avoid falls. By building knee strength you can walk and climb stairs much with greater ease.

1.     Sit on a chair with your knees bent and your back straight.
2.     Gradually straighten your left leg forward and hold that position for 5 seconds before lowering it back to the original position.
3.     Repeat the same movement with your right leg.
4.     Do this for 10 repetitions on each leg.
5.     If you want a more challenging version of this exercise, add some ankle weights.

When choosing weight, go for enough weight where you can’t do more than 15 reps per leg. As you gain strength, add more weight.

Half Squat Against a Wall

Squatting is beneficial for hip flexibility as well as strength in your hip flexors and quads. This helps your ability to walk and the ability to stand up from sitting. After a few weeks you may also notice improvement in balance as well.

It’s extremely important to maintain good posture and never bend your knees past your toes when doing this exercise. Before trying a half squat, make sure you can comfortably do a partial squat. Once you are ready, complete the steps below.

1.     Bend your knees and slide your buttocks down the wall. Align your knees with the center of your foot, and don’t bend your knee past the toes.
2.     If you can, move your feet further away from the wall and lower yourself into a seated position, as if there was an invisible chair supporting you.
3.     Hold your position for 5 seconds before standing back up.
4.     Repeat this 10 or 20 times

When you can comfortably do 20 reps with good form, you can add weight by holding dumbells in your hands.

Bicep Curl

Bicep curls should be done with weight that matches your current strength level. For those of you just starting out, five pound dumbbells will do the trick. You want the weight to be heavy enough that you are exhausted after 10 to 12 repetitions. 

1.     Sit in a chair with your back straight. You can help maintain good posture by envisioning your sternum moving back toward your spine.
2.     With a dumbbell in each hand keep your palms facing away from you, elbows in and shoulders relaxed.
3.     Isolate your bicep muscle by bending your arm at the elbow and lift the dumbbell about 3 quarters of the way toward your shoulder.
4.     Try to keep your shoulders stationary and your elbows at your sides.
5.     Breathe out as you lift, and breathe in when you lower the weights.
6.     Do 10 to 12 reps


Sit Backs

This exercise strengthens the core, allowing you to have greater mobility for everyday movements like rising from a sitting position. This exercise is done on the floor, so you may want to find a soft surface like a yoga mat to lay on.

1.     Begin in a seated position on the floor, with your knees bent and your arms wrapped around your knees, as if you are giving yourself a hug.  
2.     Slowly sit back as far as you can without straining. Don’t push yourself, you may only need to move a few inches.
3.     Try to focus on your core and don’t round your back. It’s helpful to have someone to hold your feet to the floor, to prevent them from lifting off the ground.
4.     Repeat 10 times

Always speak with your doctor before trying a new exercise routine. Your health care provider will work with you to determine which exercises are safe and can help you accomplish your goals. Total Home Health can connect you with experienced health care experts who are ready to help you live a long, healthy and fulfilling life. Join Total Home Health today to jumpstart your health care plan.

How to Maintain Your Independence

There is a direct correlation between exercise, nutrition and independence. A good reason to take up a regular exercise habit is to improve mobility. Are you concerned about hurting yourself during a fitness class? Even those who suffer from chronic illness or people who are recovering from a recent injury can find ways to stay active. Dr Chhanda Dutta, PhD at The National Institute of Aging says, “Exercise is good for people of all ages in most cases.”
Exercise not only helps keep you strong, it enhances memory and fights depression. Setting a schedule to exercise and making a promise to yourself to keep it is important. Try and find classes or groups with instructors who are attentive. Most of all, listen to your body and don’t overdo it. You know yourself best and if you aren’t comfortable doing a certain movement, don’t strain your body.

How to Choose a Fitness Program

If you are looking for a fitness program, use these guidelines. The program should:
·       Address balance, strength, coordination and flexibility
·       Include light impact aerobics, not intense exercise
·       Include plenty of stretching
·       There should be exercises done on the floor
If you are worried about performing floor exercises because you have difficulty getting up, you should still choose a program that includes it. If you exercise regularly, you will be less likely to fall down. Yet if you do fall down, you will need to be able to get back to your feet.
Wondering where to start? Check local senior centers or aging services programs. They will have listings for walking clubs and exercise programs. Find out if your health plan covers things like gym memberships or personalized classes. You may be able to supplement the costs of a personal nutritionist or a fitness advisor through insurance.

Healthy Diets Can Cure

What you eat is just as important as how much you exercise. There are many good books that can help you get on the right track. A popular choice among many fitness oriented seniors is the Mediterranean diet. It includes lots of fish, whole grains, fruits and vegetables. There are countless research studies that indicate this type of diet lowers blood sugar and improves cholesterol levels.
If you aren’t ready to completely change your diet, try starting with small steps. Give up eating junk food late at night, or replace your morning coffee and bagel with oatmeal, fruit and tea. These changes can make a noticeable difference. Generally, try to reduce your intake of simple carbs like bread, pasta and processed foods. Meeting with a nutritionist can give you guidelines ideas for healthy meals and what to shop for.

Become Your Own Health Expert

When you were growing up, good patients trusted their doctors without asking any questions. Even today, some doctors get frustrated when patients ask questions. Geriatricians recommend that you become an active participant in your health care plan. You need to become an expert on the conditions that affect you, as well as any treatments or medications. Find out how essential the medications you are prescribed are. Always find out other forms of treatment available.

Avoid Overmedication

It’s a common for doctors to prescribe seniors with medications more frequently than other groups of people in the United States. The problem lies in the fact that standard doses are based on younger bodies. The way the body metabolizes drugs changes as we get older. Certain drugs can have dangerous interactions with others. Dr. Alex Stern told Total Home Health “Your kidneys, liver and organs that process drugs is less efficient as you age, so medication can build up in the body.”

Avoid Overscreening

There are risks to being a patient. Just like medication can be overprescribed, overscreening for early detection of illness can take a toll on the body. For the elderly, the evidence for overscreening has been mounting for years.
Geriatricians try and keep medications to a minimum. They only prescribe you with the essentials. Even if you have a regular primary care physician, you can take control. Auditing your medicine cabinet is a fundamental part of monitoring your treatment. Total Home Health is a great resource to find answers for questions about drugs and their potential harm for older adults. Contact one of our experts for more information or any questions you have.

Stay Engaged

Isolation is one of the biggest risk factors for depression and health decline. Studies show that things like spending time online can help reduce depression and increase mental alertness. If you can engage yourself in any kind of project, do it. This includes volunteer work, hobbies and even employment. Visiting with friends and family is also important.

Your health care provider will work with you to determine a strategy to enable you maintain your independence. Total Home Health can connect you with experienced health care experts who are ready to help you live a long, healthy and fulfilling life. Take control of your future and start living healthier today by joining Total Home Health today.

Holistic Nutrition For Better Health

Holistic nutrition is focused on eating healthy foods to promote vitality and health. The ethos behind a holistic diet is to support health and prevent disease. A holistic approach to eating is a personal journey that goes far beyond the food we eat, calorie counting and regular exercise.

It’s about nourishing the body, eliminated chronic health problems, raising your energy level and lifting your spirits. Holistic health proposes that individuals achieve a state of well-being through a continuous process of balancing one’s physical, emotional and mental health. The central part of this process has to do with a holistic diet.


Goal of a Holistic Diet

The goal of a holistic diet is to achieve balance, proper digestion and sustain a healthy lifestyle. It may sound simple, but it takes discipline and commitment. It’s a natural way of developing a well-balanced diet to create a solid foundation for good physical and emotional health. Everyone is different, which means we all require different dietary needs. Traditional USDA food guides are bogged down by bureaucracy and their recommendations are too general.

A Guide to Healthy Nutrition – What to Eat

·       Drink plenty of water from a trusted source, a minimum of eight glasses (8oz) a day. Even being slightly dehydrated will interfere with digestion.

·       Eat organic food as much as you can and stay away foods that have been exposed to herbicides, pesticide and other harmful chemicals. Genetically modified foods are also less nutritious than organically grown fruits and vegetables.

·       Stick to locally produced food that is organic. These foods are tastier and organic animal products such as meat or eggs aren’t treated with hormones or antibiotics.

·       Grains that are processed to create refined flour products lose much of their nutritional value. Approximately 22 nutrients are lost from over processed foods.

·       Growing your own food is the best way to be sure you are getting what you want. Many times fruits will be picked before they are ripe so they can be transported.

·       If you can’t grow your own food, visit the Farmers Market. Buy organic and locally grown fruits and veggies. At times it may be more beneficial to eat freshly harvested local produce that isn’t certified organic in favor of organic produce that was collected too soon.

·       Don’t avoid fats. Essential fatty acids are a key part of optimum health. Just use moderation when eating fats. For salads try using organic cold-pressed oils. Organic canola or coconut or canola oil is a good choice for cooking. For smoothies and salads, try flax seed oil and sesame oil.

·       Try to eat raw, unprocessed food as much as you can. Foods in their natural state contain nutrients that are broken down when heated. For example, many long distance runners need complex carbohydrates that give them energy over a long period of time, so they eat raw potatoes before a race. If you have the choice between raw cashews and roasted cashews, go with raw.

·       Eat lots of nutrient rich foods. There isn’t one food that gives you all the nutrients you need to have good health. Try different foods and recipes.

What to Avoid

Try to cut out refined sugars, high fructose corn syrup and any type of artificial sweetener like NutraSweet. All of these things contribute to serious health conditions. Below are some other foods you should stay away from.

Trans Fats – This includes saturated fat, hydrogenated oils that are derived from animal byproducts like red meat and dairy products.

Salt – Limit your salt intake to less than 2,300 mg a day. This equals around 1 tsp of salt. Check the labels on your food. You will be shocked at how much salt is in most processed foods. Instead of regular iodized table salt, use sea salt.

Coffee and Soft Drinks – These should be avoided and can be harmful to your body and contribute to serious health problems.

Microwave Cooking – To heat your food you can use a toaster oven, tea kettle, Dutch oven or other source to warm up or cook with.

Additives – Many foods are filled with artificial colors and flavors that are not good for your body.

Genetically Modified Foods (GMO) – It’s unfortunate that food manufacturers are not required by law to mention that foods they produce are genetically modified. Typical GMOs include canola and soy. Only buy organic soy products like tofu, soy milk or protein. 

Other Things to Consider

Taking nutrients to supplement a healthy diet can increase well-being. Even if you eat raw, organic health foods you may not be getting all the nutrients your body needs.

Your health care provider will work with you to determine which types of foods can help you achieve your needs and goals. Total Home Health can connect you with experienced health care experts who are ready to help you live a long, healthy and fulfilling life. Join to day to receive all the benefits of our extensive resources.

Good Balance for Seniors

Have you ever lost your footing on a slippery surface? If you have, you know just how scary can be. You go into panic mode, flailing your arms around to maintain balance while your heart rate jumps kicks into high gear.

Most of the time we take our balance for granted, but it’s important for older people to focus on building balance. As much as 45% of seniors experience a major fall every year. Though our balance will decline as we get older, there are many ways to improve your balance and reduce the risk of falls. There are three key elements at the core of good balance:

1.     Visual Cues – Our eyes help us see what’s around and avoid potential dangers.  Eyesight has a lot to do with balance. Don’t believe me? Try balancing on one leg. Then try it with your eyes closed. *Please don’t try this if you have trouble balancing.

2.     Inner Ear – There is a canal in our inner ear filled with fluid that gives us important spatial information on the position of our head and how we are moving in relation to gravity.

3.     Internal Spatial Orientation – Internal spatial orientation describes our innate sense of where we are. For instance if you close your eyes and lift your leg, inner spatial orientation is the reason we know that our leg is off the ground.

When all three of these systems are working properly you will have good balance. This helps us stay active and also prevents falls. Below are some ways to help promote good balance.

Tennis Anyone?

Tennis players are good examples to demonstrate balance. In tennis, there is a server and a receiver. Pay attention to how the receiver stands – with a wide stance, knees and hips flexed and the upper body leans forward.

This position has some advantages. It gives players the best chance to be ready for action. It’s very safe and stable. Typically as we age, we often need to be in the safest, most balanced position. Many times, our balance system isn’t up to par as we get older. Fortunately there are plenty of ways to prevent falling and improve our balance systems.

Common Sense Balance

Learning the safest way to balance yourself is probably the best place to get started. Always check with your doctor if you think you may have a serious balance problem. You may be suffering from a serious medical condition that requires special treatment such as Meniere’s disease. To stay safe keep the following things in mind:

·       Pay attention to your posture. Try and keep your support over your ankles.
·       Avoid fast movements that include quick turns or changes in position.
·       Take your time when rising from a seated position.
·       Use a chair to perform seated exercises. You can also use chairs to hold on to while you are standing.
·       Never close your eyes when you are standing or balancing on a chair.
·       If you are on any medications, ask your doctor if there are side effects that cause dizziness or otherwise impair your balance.

Balance Training

There are many exercises that are designed to improve your balance. Balance exercises aim to improve flexibility, range of motion, build strength and challenge your balance system. Browse the Total Home Health article section to find exercises specifically designed to improve balance.

These exercises are intended for normal imbalance that many seniors face due to age-related decline and inactivity. Always check with your primary care physician first before you start any new exercise routing. Especially if you are experiencing symptoms such as vertigo or ear infections.

Take it Slow

Start slowly with balance training until you are used to the stress of the new exercises. This isn’t a race. You might be comfortable doing the some of the exercises, while others may be harder for you to perform. That is perfectly okay!

Never try something that you are apprehensive about by yourself. It’s much better to get some help. Have a support from a stable person to help give you some confidence. This way you will be more secure when you are performing the exercises. Additionally you can focus more on your balance when you have a helping hand there in case you lose your footing.

Your health care provider will work with you to determine which exercises can help you accomplish your goals. Total Home Health can connect you with experienced health care experts who are ready to help you live a long, healthy and fulfilling life. Join today for unlimited access to our extensive resources.