Heart Health: Should You Get a Stress Test?

Heart Health Stress Test

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for American men and women. If you have a history of heart disease in your family, are worried that you have not made healthy lifestyle decisions, or want to know if you are at low-risk of a cardiac incident, you may be wondering if you should obtain a stress test. Before you ask your primary care physician about testing, read on to understand what a stress test is, what it identifies, and who should receive one.

What is a Stress Test?

Despite what you may infer from its name, a stress test is not an indication of how much emotional stress and anxiety you experience throughout your daily life (though there are ways to determine mental health risk factors, and if you have concerns, you should speak with your doctor). A stress test, or an exercise stress test, reports data to indicate how your heart performs during physical activity. Since the heart needs to pump blood faster and harder during activity, a stress test can show if there are blood flow issues in the heart that may impact your overall health or put you at risk of a cardiac incident, particularly when under physical stress.

How is a Stress Test Performed?

To obtain data about how your heart performs during physical activity, the test facilitator will ask you to perform moderate physical activity in a secure setting while closely monitored. Patients are typically asked to ride a stationary bicycle or walk on a treadmill while monitors collect data regarding any atypical heart rhythms, blood pressure, and oxygen flow.

Who Should Obtain a Stress Test?

The American College of Physicians (ACP) advises that many patients at low risk of heart problems, do not need to obtain a stress test. Patients considered low-risk commonly are young, active, follow a healthy diet, and do not have a family history of early heart disease

Your doctor may recommend a stress test if you have experienced symptoms of coronary artery disease (CAD) or noticed an irregular heart rhythm (arrhythmia) on multiple occasions. Symptoms of CAD may include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Excessive sweating
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Rapid heartbeat or heart palpitations—the sensation that your heart is rapidly pounding, fluttering, or skipping beats

The Risks of Unnecessary Screening

Follow the advice of your doctor and obtain a stress test only when prescribed. The ACP advises that unnecessary stress tests may create unnecessary physical or emotional strain. The tests, the ACP says, may result in false-positive results, which can lead to additional, more complicated testing. Stress tests may also place patients at unnecessary risk of an exercise-related injury, exposure to radiation, or an adverse reaction to an injection.

If you are experiencing symptoms of CAD, and believe that you may be developing a condition that could put you at risk of a heart-related illness or event, talk to your doctor. He or she will assess your health history, family history, and symptoms, and help you devise the most appropriate testing, diagnosis, and treatment plan.

Five Healthy Hacks for National Nutrition Month

Five Healthy Hacks for National Nutrition Month

March is National Nutrition Month. If you wish you made adopting healthier habits your New Year’s resolution (or you did, but you’ve already let your commitment slide), use the month of March to identify a few small but impactful changes to your diet to improve your overall wellness. People who consume diets packed with healthy nutrients and that are low in calories and processed foods benefit from lower cholesterol, more durable immune systems, lower risk of cancer and heart disease, and healthier body weights. Celebrate National Nutrition Month with these five, easy-to-adopt health hacks.

1. Drink More Water.

Water is not only critical for maintaining optimal health, but it also has zero calories. Imagine how many empty calories you can cut from your day by merely swapping sweet sodas, sugary coffee drinks, energy beverages, and alcohol for water. The average adult needs to drink half their body weight in water in ounces daily as a baseline, and then more if they are active and losing water through sweat. For example, a 190-pound male should consume 80 ounces or about ten eight-ounce glasses of water daily.

To help you get your daily allotment of H2O, drink a glass of water before every meal. Keep a reusable water bottle with you throughout the day, ensuring you are drinking water while working, working out, and relaxing at home, and of course, swap unhealthy soda for cold, refreshing water.

2. Never be Without Heart-Healthy Staples in Your Refrigerator and Pantry.

If you always have healthy snacks and meal components on hand, you will be less likely to snack on unhealthy chips, cookies, and candy, or resort to fast food drive-thrus on your way home from work. A healthy kitchen should always have the following items on hand:

  • Salad greens
  • Apples
  • Frozen vegetables
  • Brown rice
  • Lentils
  • Quinoa
  • Canned tuna, salmon, or sardines

3. Go Vegetarian at Least One Day a Week

Increasing your vegetable intake and reducing your meat intake will help you reduce fat and calories and boost nutrients and fiber. Shifting to a vegetarian diet one day a week also decreases the risk of:

  • Heart failure
  • Heart disease and stroke
  • Obesity
  • Cancer

4. Eat Five or Six Small Meals Each Day

It may be common to eat three big meals each day, but the latest research shows that eating five or six smaller meals throughout the day improves weight loss and wellness. More frequent, smaller meals can help keep your metabolism in motion throughout the day, which can help you burn calories and stay fit.

5. Identify Your Struggle Areas and Focus on Them First

Many of us have just one of two unhealthy habits that, over time, lead to unhealthy weight gain or poor nutrition. Assess your daily habits and ask what you can do to improve your wellness. For example, if you tend to snack on salty, processed foods before bedtime, or rely on fast food for lunch, or drink several sugary coffee drinks every day, try to replace those habits with better choices for immediate, impactful results.

Remember that achieving weight loss and improved health is not about dieting. It’s about lifestyle changes and habits that you can maintain long term. Start with these health hacks and use them as a foundation to build wellness improvements that will enable you to achieve your goals.

Bladder Cancer Symptoms and Risk Factors

Bladder-Cancer-symptoms-post

Each year about 56,000 men and 18,000 women in America are diagnosed with bladder cancer, resulting in about  17,000 fatalities. While bladder cancer does not claim as many lives as breast and lung cancer, it is still a deadly disease that claims too many lives yet somehow fails to garner the same level of education and awareness as its more prevalent counterparts. We want to do something about that. Read on to learn about the factors that may put you at a higher risk of developing bladder cancer in your lifetime. If you believe that you may be at high risk, talk to your doctor.

What is Bladder Cancer?

Bladder cancer typically appears in the urothelial cells that line the inside of the bladder. While the majority of bladder cancer cases are diagnosed while still in the early stages when the disease is highly treatable, it can return. This pattern of recurrence means that bladder cancer survivors are encouraged to receive follow-up tests for years post-treatment to ensure the disease is not recurring or advancing to a higher stage.

Bladder Cancer Symptoms

Symptoms of bladder cancer may include:

  • The presence of blood in the urine
  • Painful urination
  • Frequent and/or urgent urination
  • Incontinence
  • Abdominal pain
  • Lower back pain

Risk Factors of Bladder Cancer

Bladder cancer can strike victims of any age, though it typically affects older adults and is more common in men than in women. Several factors may increase an individual’s risk for developing bladder cancer, including:

  • Tobacco use. Mainly, cigarette smoking, though cigar and pipe smoking, can also increase one’s risk. Individuals who smoke are four to seven times more likely to develop bladder cancer in their lifetime compared to nonsmokers.
  • Caucasians are more than two times as likely to develop bladder cancer in their lifetime than African Americans. 
  • Personal History. Due to bladder cancer’s inherent recurring nature, an individual who has been previously diagnosed stands at a higher risk for subsequent diagnosis.
  • Individuals who are obtaining chemotherapy treatments with cyclophosphamide have a higher risk of developing bladder cancer.
  • Chronic Bladder Problems. Individuals who suffer from regular, recurring bladder issues are at a higher risk of bladder cancer. Such conditions include the recurrence of bladder stones and bladder infections.
  • Regular Use of a Urinary Catheter. Long-term catheter use is common in individuals who are paralyzed from the waist down. The long-term use of such products increases one’s risk of bladder infection, which can increase the risk of bladder cancer.
  • Lynch Syndrome. Formerly known as hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC), the presence of this inherited condition may increase one’s risk of developing bladder cancer.
  • Chemical Exposure. Regular exposure to some natural and artificial chemicals can increase one’s risk of bladder cancer. Chemicals that create the highest risk include those used in the following industries: rubber, textile, dye, paint, leather, and print. Naturally occurring chemicals with known risk factors include aromatic amines.
  • Arsenic Exposure. While arsenic is a naturally occurring substance, exposure in large quantities can cause health risks. When arsenic is present in drinking water, it can increase the risk of bladder cancer.

When to Get Help

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, or if you believe that you are at a high risk of developing bladder cancer, talk to your doctor. He or she can assess your risk or diagnose your symptoms and collaborate with you on a treatment plan to help improve your long-term health and wellbeing.

Nova Health Continues to Monitor Coronavirus (COVID-19) Threat and Prepare for Response

Coronavirus - Nova Health

Nova Health Continues to Monitor Coronavirus (COVID-19) Threat and Prepare for Response

As of March 2, 2020, the Oregon Health Authority has confirmed three cases of COVID-19 (coronavirus). Eight cases are pending final diagnosis and assessment. As part of our commitment to the health and wellbeing of all residents of the Pacific Northwest, Nova Health is committed to continually monitoring the impact of coronavirus and ensuring all of our clinics and staff are prepared to treat patients who present with symptoms.

With recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Nova Health has developed emergency preparedness plans and procedures in all its clinics to ensure the health and safety of its patients and caregivers. These procedures include:

  • Elevated training for all clinic staff
  • Dedicated patient screening protocols to identify at-risk patients based on present symptoms and travel history
  • Following CDC-recommended isolation procedures for at-risk patients
  • Stocked preventive supplies and equipment in all clinics, including waiting room signage and the availability of respiratory masks

To ensure that you are familiar with the risks and symptoms of this novel contagion, familiarize yourself with the information below.

Global and U.S. Impact of Coronavirus

While the number of cases of coronavirus in Oregon has so far been few globally, the threat and impact of the disease cannot be understated. The World Health Organization (WHO) has so far confirmed over 90,000 cases of the disease across 73 countries and territories. Domestically, 69 instances of coronavirus have been reported in the United States, across 12 states, resulting in six deaths.

What is Coronavirus?

2019-nCoV (novel coronavirus) is a new virus strain identified in December 2019. Little is known today about the virus, and there is no treatment. While some patients have experienced mild symptoms similar to those of the common cold and recover on their own with proper care and rest, others have experienced more severe, pneumonia-like symptoms that have required hospitalization. The most severe complications, including death, are most likely in those patients who are already immunocompromised.

What are the Symptoms of Coronavirus?

Symptoms may appear in infected patients in two to 14 days. While symptoms range in severity, the most common symptoms of novel coronavirus include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing.

How Does Coronavirus Spread?

Experts are still researching how this new coronavirus is spreading. Other coronaviruses spread through the following means:

  • Through the air by sneezing and coughing
  • Physical contact
  • Touching a contaminated surface and then touching one’s face

Travel Considerations

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued travel health notices for countries experiencing the highest number of disease transmissions. International travelers should refer to the CDC’s Risk Assessment by Country before making travel arrangements to help minimize their exposure to the virus.

How to Mitigate Your Risk of Contracting Coronavirus

As with other seasonal illnesses such as the common cold and the flu, the best way to minimize your chance of contracting the virus is to maintain a safe distance from infected patients.

  • Avoid travel to countries on the CDC’s high-risk list
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use hand sanitizer when soap and water is not available
  • Try not to touch your face, especially when in public after touching public surfaces
  • Avoid direct contact with sick individuals
  • Regularly clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces
  • Follow the CDC’s recommendations for using a face mask

What to Do if You are Experiencing Coronavirus Symptoms

If you are experiencing symptoms of the Coronavirus, call any of our clinics. Please inform our care team before you arrive if you have traveled to an impacted country or if you are experiencing coronavirus symptoms. Our compassionate care team has been trained to identify, diagnose, and address novel coronavirus symptoms and can help to triage your care appropriately.

To help further mitigate the spread of novel coronavirus, stay home if you are experiencing symptoms, and cover your nose and mouth when sneezing and coughing.

For ongoing information about novel coronavirus as news develops, visit the CDC.

Nova Health is committed to continually monitoring the impact of coronavirus and ensuring all of our clinics and staff are prepared to treat patients who present with symptoms, for local updates please follow our Facebook page.

Five Common Causes of Lower Back Pain

5 Common Causes of Back Pain Nova Health

No matter what you do, you can’t get comfortable. Sitting hurts, standing hurts, laying down hurts. You wake up with pain, and you go to bed with pain. You find yourself taking days off from work when the pain is at its peak, regularly taking over-the-counter pain medication, and you have shelved your once regular work-out routine. If you’re living with persistent lower back pain, then you can likely relate to these shared experiences. One of the most frustrating aspects of living with chronic back pain is not knowing where the pain comes from, or how to make it go away. Below, we list five of the most common causes of this discomforting condition that affects ten percent of the world’s population.

Causes of Lower Back Pain

While every patient’s case is unique, the most common causes of lower back pain include:

  1. Muscle or Spinal Ligament Strain. A fast movement, repetitive lifting, an awkward bend, or an attempt to lift something beyond your capabilities can all result in a strain that causes severe discomfort. If your job or hobbies often require you to lift and bend, such repetitive stress on your lower back can trigger painful muscle spasms.
  2. A Ruptured or Bulging Disc. Between the individual bones that make up your spine (the vertebrae) are cushions of strong connective tissues known as discs. If the disc material begins to bulge, or if it ruptures, it can place pressure on a nearby nerve, causing acute pain.
  3. Scoliosis. This spinal irregularity impacts two to three percent of the population or about six to nine million Americans. For those affected, a common symptom often includes lower back pain or discomfort.
  4. Osteoarthritis. This condition, in which the protective cartilage that cushions the ends of your bones wears down over time, can affect the lower back. Sometimes, spinal arthritis can result in a condition called spinal stenosis, an abnormal narrowing of the spinal canal that causes painful pressure on the spinal cord or nerve roots.
  5. Osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a disease in which bone density and quality are reduced. As bones become porous, they become more fragile. As a result, the spine can develop painful compression fractures.

When to Get Help

If your back pain is disrupting your daily life, impacting your ability to care for your children, go to work, or you find yourself taking pain medicine regularly, then it’s time to take to your doctor. He or she can identify the underlying cause of your back pain and will help you to put a plan in place to help you mitigate your discomfort and resume your normal activities.