April 2 is World Autism Awareness Day. What Does it Mean to be “On the Spectrum?”

April Is Autism Month

Approximately 1 in 59 children is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). To help spread awareness and support advocacy for this often misunderstood condition, on April 2, we recognize World Autism Awareness Day. To help do our part to strengthen understanding and acceptance for all those children, teenagers, and adults living with ASD, we share the information below to help explain what it means when someone says their son or daughter is “on the spectrum.”

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

ASD refers to a wide range of conditions characterized by difficulties with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech, and nonverbal communication.

Why is Autism Known as a “Spectrum Disorder?”

Individuals diagnosed with ASD experience a wide variation in the severity and manifestation of their symptoms. Some individuals are highly functioning but may exhibit some social behavior challenges, positioning them at the lower end of the behavioral spectrum. At the opposite end are those who suffer from more complex behavioral difficulties. Such individuals may have limited speech or cognitive processing capabilities. In the middle of the spectrum, from the highest functioning, lowest symptomatic cases to those with the most complex challenges is a broad scope of millions of people with varying levels of behavioral, speech, and social condition complications.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of ASD?

A physician or trained mental health care provider will look to assess a variety of a child’s behaviors, cognitive processing abilities, and social understanding to determine if he or she has ASD. What follows are just some of the actions observed in those with ASD. Again, with it being a spectrum disorder, some individuals may not show all the behaviors listed below, while others may exhibit many of them.

Social Challenges:

  • Making infrequent or inconsistent eye contact
  • Struggling to listen to or look at others
  • Difficulty following conversations
  • Being slow to respond to verbal cues, including hearing their name
  • Rarely sharing enjoyment through demonstration
  • A desire to speak at length about a topic without noticing others are not participating or engaged in the conversation
  • Showcasing facial expressions or gestures that do not align with dialog
  • Either a flat or sing-song voice tone
  • Difficulty understanding the opinions or perceptions of others, or an inability to predict others’ actions

Possible Repetitive Behaviors or Other Challenges:

  • Echolalia, a behavior marked by repeating words or phrases
  • A lasting interest in specific topics such as individual facts, details, or numbers
  • Focused attention on moving objects or specific object components
  • Irritation at a change in routine
  • Extreme sensitivity to sensory input, including noises, light, temperature, or clothing
  • Sleep difficulty
  • Irritability

While those living with ASD may face some of the challenges listed above, many are exceptionally gifted in art, music, science, and math, are keen auditory and visual learners, and can remember detailed information for long periods.

Who is Most Likely to be Born with ASD?

While doctors and researchers are still studying the causes and risk factors for ASD, current research suggests that a combination of genetic and environmental factors may affect ASD development. Other believed risk factors include:

  • A sibling with ASD
  • Being born the child of older parents
  • Genetic conditions such as fragile X syndrome, Rett syndrome, and Down syndrome
  • Low birth weight

ASD Treatment and Therapy

While ASD is not curable, those born with ASD can receive therapy and treatment to help them manage their symptoms and excel academically, socially, and personally. Treatment options for ASD include medication or behavioral, psychological, and educational therapy.

When to Get Help for Your Child

If you believe that your son or daughter may have ASD, talk to your doctor. He or she can help assess if your child has an autism spectrum disorder and can help devise a treatment plan to help your child cope with difficulties and excel at his/her strengths.

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


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.

Heart Attack or a Panic Attack? Knowing the Difference Could Save Your Life

Is it a Heart Attack or Panic Attack.

On November 5, 2017, The Cleveland Cavelier’s All-Star forward Kevin Love left the game, fearing that he was having a heart attack. The 31-year-old, 6’8” professional athlete is larger than life, and seemingly in optimal physical condition. Yet on November 5, Love described symptoms that would make many of us call 9-1-1. He has since been quoted as saying the following:

I was winded within the first few possessions. That was strange…After halftime, it all hit the fan. Coach Lue called a timeout in the third quarter. When I got to the bench, I felt my heart racing faster than usual. Then I was having trouble catching my breath. It’s hard to describe, but everything was spinning like my brain was trying to climb out of my head. The air felt thick and heavy. My mouth was like chalk…

“By that point, I was freaking out. When I got up to walk out of the huddle, I knew I couldn’t reenter the game — like, literally, couldn’t do it physically…I blurted something like, ‘I’ll be right back,’ and I ran back to the locker room. I was running from room to room like I was looking for something I couldn’t find. Really I was just hoping my heart would stop racing. It was like my body was trying to say to me, You’re about to die. I ended up on the floor in the training room, lying on my back, trying to get enough air to breathe.

“The next part was a blur. Someone from the Cavs accompanied me to the Cleveland Clinic. They ran a bunch of tests. Everything seemed to check out, which was a relief. But I remember leaving the hospital thinking, Wait…then what the hell just happened?”

What is a Panic Attack?

What Love experienced was a panic attack, sudden, intense fear or discomfort that escalates within minutes and includes at least four of the following symptoms:

  • Heart palpitations, accelerated heart rate, or heart-pounding
  • Sweating
  • Chills or heat sensations
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Shortness of breath or the feeling of being smothered
  • Feelings of choking
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Nausea or abdominal distress
  • Feeling dizzy, unsteady, light-headed, or faint
  • Paresthesia (numbness or tingling sensations)
  • Derealization (feelings of unreality) or depersonalization (being detached from oneself)
  • Fear of losing control or losing one’s mind
  • Fear of being about to die

While the exact causes of panic attacks are not known, they are often genetically linked or tied to the stress of a significantly transitional life experience, such as moving, the death of a loved one, or graduating. Panic attacks may come on unexpectedly, seemingly out of nowhere, or they could be triggered by intense fear, such as crossing a bridge or public speaking. When a trigger is recurring and unavoidable (such as being in public), the fear of experiencing a panic attack alone can trigger one.

The Fight or Flight Reflex

Humans, as a species, have evolved over millennia to survive. When threatened, our bodies experience a fight or flight reflex. In these moments, stress hormones cortisol and epinephrine spike in the system. People who regularly have panic attacks experience these hormonal spikes when, in reality, they are not in physical danger. What they feel in response, however, is all the same physical panic symptoms as if they were being chased or about to fight off an attacker: escalated heart rate, shortness of breath, and a feeling that they are about to die.

Heart Attack, Or Panic Attack?

Many symptoms of a panic attack can understandably be misconstrued for a panic attack, such as chest pain and shortness of breath, leading many sufferers to seek medical treatment and even hospitalization during an attack. The following symptomatic differentiators are meant only as referenceable guidelines. If you have any concerns that you may be suffering from a life-threatening cardiac episode, seek emergency medical care.


  • While both panic attacks and heart attacks can come on suddenly without warning, a heart attack is sometimes triggered by physical exertion


  • During a panic attack, chest pain is typically sharp and localized to the middle of the chest
  • During a heart attack, chest pain feels more like severe pressure that starts in the center of the chest but radiates to the arm, shoulders, or jaw


  • Most panic attacks end in 20 to 30 minutes
  • During a heart attack, symptoms last longer and exacerbate, sometimes escalating from mild to severe discomfort

When to Get Help

Today, Kevin Love is a powerful advocate in the NBA for mental health awareness. He continues to speak publically about his battles with anxiety to bring awareness and hope to those suffering in silence. If you are continually experiencing panic attacks, talk to your doctor. He or she can help you devise a treatment plan so that you can regain control over your emotions and your life.

How to Save a Life. Learn How to Administer the Heimlich Maneuver

Image to Learn the Heimlich Maneuver

You love it when your daughter laughs. Her wide grin and tightly closed eyes paired with her high pitched giggle are infectious. Making her laugh over family dinner is the best part of your day. Until something goes wrong—desperately, tragically wrong. Her laugh turns into a frightened, shocked expression. She’s gesturing toward her throat and banging her hands on the table, eyes wide and frantic.

She’s choking.

Would you know what to do? You’ve heard of the Heimlich Maneuver and seen the posters on restaurant walls for years, but in a moment when seconds count, would you know how to save the life of a loved one?

About 4,000 adults die annually from choking, and even more devastatingly, one child dies every five days in the U.S. as a result of choking. Every parent, child, friend, sibling, and adult should know how to administer the Heimlich Maneuver so that if the unthinkable happens, you can confidently respond with this life-saving tactic. Read on to learn the basics of how to perform the Heimlich Maneuver when someone—anyone—is choking.

What is the Heimlich Maneuver?

Also known as abdominal thrusts, the Heimlich Maneuver was invented by the American thoracic surgeon Henry Heimlich. It is a technique to aid a person who is choking by applying rapid, quick thrusts to the person’s abdomen to lift the diaphragm and expel air from the lungs, causing the expulsion of the object lodged in the airway.

How to Perform the Heimlich Maneuver

Note that the instructions below only apply when the victim is not:

  • You
  • A pregnant woman
  • An obese adult
  • An infant

Techniques vary when the victim is any of the individuals listed above. For more information, visit The Mayo Clinic.

  1. Determine if you need to intervene. If the victim is conscious and coughing (i.e., some air is coming out of their mouth), breathing, or speaking, then he or she may be able to dispel the object on their own. Give them a few seconds to attempt to work through the situation unaided. If the individual’s condition worsens, or they stop breathing, proceed to step two.
  2. Instruct someone nearby to call 9-1-1. If you are in public and are not alone with the victim, instruct someone nearby to call for emergency responders. Even if the victim recovers and regains their breath, they may suffer from damage to their throat as a result of temporarily having food or a foreign object lodged in their airway. Having the victim assessed by medical professionals is always a conservative and wise decision.
  3. Have the person stand up. You will need them to be erect to perform the Heimlich Maneuver.
  4. Stand behind the victim.
  5. Lean the victim forward and give five blows to his or her back with the heel of your hand. If the back blows do not dislodge the object, proceed to step number six.
  6. Place your arms around the victim’s waist.
  7. With one hand, make a first just above his or her belly button with your thumb facing in toward the victim’s body.
  8. Wrap your other hand around your fist.
  9. With your arms, firmly push simultaneously inward and upward on the victim’s abdomen five times. This movement is called abdomen thrusts.
  10. Continue until the object is expelled or the victim can breathe, cough, or talk, or emergency personnel arrives.

Any of us could find ourselves in a situation where we are someone’s first line of defense in a dangerous and potentially deadly situation. By understanding the basics of life-saving first aid, we could save the life of a stranger or a loved one. Regardless of who they are, theirs is a life worth saving, and knowing the Heimlich Maneuver could give you the confidence you need to become an everyday hero.

Can You Really Suffer from a Broken Heart? The Answer will Shock You.

Suffer from a broken heart

Valentine’s Day is upon us, which means for little kids, it’s a time for red and pink tees, heart-shaped candies, and handwritten greetings equitably distributed to every peer. However, for many of the 115.78 million single Americans—including those who are divorced, separated, and widowed, Valentine’s Day is anything but a happy occasion. Understanding that Valentine’s Day too often reminds us of those we lost, we are setting out to address a love-related myth: can one really suffer from a broken heart? The answer is yes. Takotsubo cardiomyopathy—broken heart syndrome—is real, and it’s named after an octopus trap (let us explain).

What is Broken Heart Syndrome?

Broken heart syndrome is not something made up by Country music singers (although we do love a good Achy Breaky Heart line dance). It is a temporary heart condition often triggered by extreme emotions or a stressful situation, such as the loss of a loved one. Surgery or physical illness may also trigger the condition.

The syndrome is characterized by a temporary disruption of the heart’s normal pumping function in a portion of the heart, while the rest of the organ continues to function normally. Echocardiogram imaging of the heart muscle in individuals experiencing broken heart syndrome typically shows abnormal movements in the left ventricle walls. Most often, the abnormality appears as a ballooning of the lower part of the left ventricle. During constriction, the bulging ventricle looks like a “tako-tsubo,” a Japanese pot used by fishermen to trap octopuses. It is this image that has lent the name takotsubo cardiomyopathy to the condition.

What are the Symptoms of Broken Heart Syndrome?

Symptoms of Broken heart syndrome are often mistaken for a heart attack. They include chest pain and shortness of breath. If symptoms persist, or you experience a rapid, irregular heartbeat, you may be experiencing a heart attack and should call 911.

What Causes Broken Heart Syndrome?

While the exact cause of broken heart syndrome is unknown, researchers believe it is caused by a surge of adrenaline or other stress hormones that temporarily damage the heart. Others believe symptoms are caused by a temporary constriction of the small or large heart arteries. What is known, however, is that broken heart syndrome is often triggered by an intensely emotional or physically traumatizing event, such as:

  • The death of a loved one
  • A frightening medical diagnosis
  • Job loss
  • Divorce
  • Abuse
  • A financial shock
  • An intense argument
  • A sudden, surprise
  • The anxiety associated with public speaking
  • Physical stress such as a broken bone, major surgery, or asthma attack

Some prescription medications or street drugs may also trigger broken heart syndrome, such as:

  • Epinephrine (EpiPen) that is used to treat an allergic reaction or a severe asthma attack
  • Duloxetine (Cymbalta) that is used to treat nerve problems in people with diabetes and depression
  • Venlafaxine (Effexor XR) that is used to treat depression
  • Levothyroxine (Synthroid, Levoxyl) that is used to hypothyroidism
  • Illegal stimulants such as methamphetamine and cocaine

Who is at Risk?

More than 90 percent of reported cases of broken heart syndrome occurs in women ages 58 to 75.

Treatment for Broken Heart Syndrome

Broken heart syndrome often reverses itself in a few days or weeks, further proving that time heals all wound (but don’t take that expression literally; if you have an open wound or laceration, visit one of our urgent care clinics).

When to Get Help

If you are unsure if the chest pain you are experiencing is a temporary case of broken heart syndrome, or something more serious, always seek medical care. If a heart attack is not the cause of your symptoms, your doctor can help you assess the cause of your symptoms, and if emotional in nature, he or she can provide you with resources to help you cope and recover.

Ten Types of Eating Disorders and How to Get Help

Eating Disorders and How to Get Help

At least 30 million Americans suffer from an eating disorder. That’s more than the population of the entire state of Texas. Even more startling, every 62 minutes, at least one person dies as a direct result of an eating disorder. With ever-present imagery from social media and the constant expectation to be fit, thin, young, and beautiful to be liked (or possibly more important for some, to earn intangible social likes), the prevalence of eating disorders is growing among all ages and genders. If you believe that someone you love may be suffering from an eating disorder, or if you are the one suffering, read on to learn about the current known types of eating disorders, and understand when it’s time to get help.

Types of Eating Disorders

A variety of illnesses characterized by varying behavior patterns and physical side effects make up the eating disorder diagnosis category. Such illnesses include:

  • Anorexia Nervosa – A preoccupation with weight, dieting, food restriction, and excessive exercise that results in dramatic weight loss.
  • Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) – Eating habits that restrict the consumption of certain foods based on smell, taste, texture, past negative experiences, or a fear of choking or vomiting.
  • Binge Eating Disorder – A frequent, recurring, overconsumption of food in a short period, often accompanied by feelings of guilt, shame, and a loss of control.
  • Bulimia Nervosa ­– A behavior pattern that involves overconsumption of food, a practice that is known as bingeing, followed by purging, or self-induced vomiting or the use of laxatives to rid the body of food before calories can be fully consumed.
  • Compulsive Exercise – Excessive exercise that significantly interferes with and impairs daily life occurs at inappropriate times or in improper settings, or continues despite an injury or other medical complications.
  • Diabulimia ­– A behavior practiced by individuals with insulin-dependent Diabetes who intentionally restrict insulin to lose weight.
  • Orthorexia – A preoccupation with “healthy” or “clean” foods and a refusal to eat certain food groups, such as carbohydrates or sugars.
  • Otherwise Specified Feeding Disorder (OSFED) – This diagnosis is used for individuals who present a specified eating disorder with atypical symptoms, such as an anorexic individual who, despite rapid weight loss, remains within or above a healthy weight range.
  • Pica – A persistent eating of non-food items that do not provide nutritional value, such as ice, clay soil, hair, dirt, paper, string, soap, chalk, metal, pebbles, charcoal, or starch.
  • Rumination Disorder – The repeated, involuntary regurgitation of food that is then re-swallowed or spit out.

How to Get Help with an Eating Disorder

If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, or believe that you are developing an unhealthy relationship with food, reach out to get help. Start with your doctor. He or she can provide a diagnosis and work with you to treat not just the eating disorder but any associated symptoms, developing physical health issues and accompanying emotional or mental health complications, such as depression or anxiety. For many patients, larger factors are causing obsessive thoughts and behaviors with food. By understanding your life, symptoms, and beliefs comprehensively, your doctor can help you put a plan in place to start redeveloping a healthy relationship with food—and your body.