You’ve probably heard it your entire life – “you need eight hours of sleep per night.” While eight hours is a great number to strive for, so many more factors go into your sleep quality. If you’re out late one night and have a few drinks too many, that sleep quality is likely poor.  However, an active, well-hydrated day can result in excellent sleep quality that includes optimal times in all sleep modes. As an infant into a young child, humans require a vast amount of sleep. Somewhere between 11 and 15 hours of sleep, depending on age. As an adult, most of us try to get seven to eight, but sleep requirements vary for different individuals. Some grown adults might require up to ten hours of sleep, while others only need about six or seven.

A few particular studies have shown that middle-aged adults are at risk of heart disease if they get fewer than seven hours of sleep per night. While that could be true, keeping active, drinking plenty of water, and eating the right foods can keep your ticker ticking for years to come.

Foods That Can Help You Get Better Sleep

Almonds

Almonds are a natural source of melatonin, a sleep-regulating hormone. In a one-ounce serving, these tree nuts also contain almost 20% of your daily intake of magnesium. Some patients have shown considerable improvements in sleep quality when their magnesium levels are adequate.

Kiwi

Yes, the furry little fruit has a few qualities, that in tests, have shown significant improvements in sleep. From falling asleep faster to fewer awake minutes through the night, kiwifruits have proven to be an optimal before-bedtime snack.

Turkey

Turkey is delicious, and is high in protein, providing 4 grams per ounce eaten. Protein is important for keeping muscles strong and helping to regulate your appetite.

Additionally, turkey is a good source of a few vitamins and minerals. Many people say that turkey is an ideal food to eat before bedtime due to its ability to promote sleepiness. Though, no published studies have explored its role in sleep, per se.

However, turkey does have a few properties that explain why some people may become tired after eating it. It contains the amino acid tryptophan, which increases the sleep-regulating hormone melatonin.

The proteins in turkey might contribute to your tiredness. Evidence shows that consuming moderate amounts of protein before bed is associated with better sleep quality, including less waking up throughout the night.

Although more research is necessary to ascertain turkey’s potential role in improving sleep. But it won’t hurt anything by eating some turkey before trying to go to sleep.

Walnuts

Walnuts are abundant in quite a few nutrients, which provide almost 20 vitamins and minerals, along with fiber, in a 1-ounce serving. Walnuts are particularly rich in phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, and copper.

Furthermore, walnuts are a great source of good fats, including omega-3 fatty acids. They also supply 4 grams of protein per ounce, which may be beneficial for reducing appetite and increasing muscle mass.

Walnuts are also said to help support heart health. They are said to reduce high cholesterol levels, which can become a major risk factor for heart disease. What’s more, eating walnuts has been claimed to improve sleep quality, as they are one of the best food sources of the sleep-regulating hormone melatonin.

The fatty acid makeup of walnuts may also contribute to better sleep. They provide ALA, an omega-3 fatty acid that’s converted to DHA in the body. DHA may increase the production of serotonin, a sleep-enhancing brain chemical.

Regardless, if you struggle with sleep, eating some walnuts before bed may help. About a handful of walnuts is an adequate portion.

Sleep Debt

The amount of sleep a person needs also increases if he or she has been deprived of sleep in previous days. Getting too little sleep creates a “sleep debt,” which is much like being overdrawn at a bank. Eventually, your body will demand that the debt be repaid.

We usually won’t adapt to getting fewer hours of sleep than our bodies require. Though we might adjust to a sleep-deprived schedule, judgment, reflexes, and other fine motor functions will still be impaired.

Get the Sleep You Deserve

Great exercise, going to bed at a decent hour, and eating a diet high in protein and low in saturated fats can definitely contribute to better and more improved sleep. Talk to your doctor today if you have concerns about the quality and amount of sleep you’re getting.

Whether you’re vacationing on a tropical island or just hanging out in your backyard, chances are you are spending a lot of time outside this summer. Whether you’re enjoying reading a good book in your background with the sun beating down on you, or playing a rough-and-tumble game of summer touch football, it’s easy to work up a sweat and lose water as you soak up those rays.

Proper Hydration for Better Health

To beat the summer heat, you must keep your body hydrated. Proper hydration is not only good for your brain, your mood, and your body weight, but it’s also essential for your heart.

Your heart is constantly working, pumping about 2,000 gallons of blood a day. By staying hydrated – i.e. drinking more water than you are losing – you are helping your heart do its job. A hydrated heart is able to pump blood more easily, allowing the muscles in your body to work even better.

Dehydration causes strain on your heart. The amount of blood circulating through your body, or blood volume, decreases when you are dehydrated. To compensate, your heart beats faster, increasing your heart rate and causing you to feel palpitations. Also, your blood retains more sodium, making it tougher for it to circulate through your body.

How Much Water Should You Drink?

So how much water should you drink to stay hydrated? It really depends on how much your body needs. Some situations where you should drink more water include:

  • If you are exercising or doing other physical activities.
  • If you have certain medical conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease.
  • If you are showing signs of dehydration, such as dizziness or weakness.

Please also keep in mind that certain medical conditions (such as heart failure) may require varying hydration strategies and consult with your physician as required.

Some experts claim that you should drink one ounce of water for every pound you weigh. At a minimum, 2 liters or about 64 ounces of water should be consumed each day. Stay hydrated and keep that ticker ticking!

Diabetes and Hot Weather Poses a Frightening Combination

Diabetes can make it much harder for the human body to handle extreme heat and high humidity. Temperatures that register 80°F or higher mixed with humidity, may seriously affect testing supplies, diabetes medications, and most importantly, your health.

How to Minimize Your Risks

For those who manage diabetes, particularly people taking medications and insulin, here is a list of tips to minimize risk during hot weather:

  • The warmer weather can adversely affect your glucose levels, and may also increase absorption of any fast-acting insulin. This means you’ll likely need to test your sugar levels more than usual. It might also result in adjusting your daily intake of food, liquids, and insulin.
  • Stay hydrated! Always drink more than enough fluids, primarily water so you can avoid dehydration. Sugary drinks should be avoided (this is a good tip for any time of year, but especially summer).
  • Clear with your primary care physician how much liquid you should be drinking to combat the higher temps.
  • Verify all inserts in your medications to see how warmer temperatures can affect them. Keep your medications on or near you when you’re away from home, and keep them protected them from extreme heat.
  • Don’t store insulin in an area of direct sunlight or inside a hot car. It’ll stay cooler if it’s in a cooler, but be careful not to keep it too close the cooling source. This way it’ll maintain its consistency and effectiveness.
  • Check your glucose meter and test strip packages for directions that mention summer heat and high humidity. Don’t ever leave them in a hot car, a pool deck, or on a beach.
  • Heat can severely damage pumps and other equipment. Don’t ever leave a disconnected pump or your supplies in direct sunlight.
  • Try to ensure all of your physical activity is in an air-conditioned area. Or you could exercise outside earlier or later in the day when it’s not so hot.
  • Use your air conditioner or go to air-conditioned buildings in your community.

By following these tips and your doctor’s orders, you’ll be able to minimize any risk of overheating or affecting your doses of insulin.

One vital component to help keep your heart healthy is exercise. Just like other muscles, your heart is strengthened with everyday physical activity. Before summer hits, use this time to become and stay active to help promote your heart’s health through exercise.

Benefits of Exercise

As you’re likely aware, there are many benefits that come from regular exercise. It will help your immune system, is great for your bones and muscles, can keep body fat at bay, improve your sleep quality, decrease your odds of chronic illnesses, and also can help to boost your brain and memory. Best of all, it helps to keep your heart healthy which has even more benefits!

  • Good cholesterol (HDL) can increase. HDL helps to lower risk for heart disease by flushing out bad cholesterol (LDL) that might be hardening and calcifying in your arteries.
  • Increased stamina. This not only occurs during sports but also in all arenas that require prolonged or extra effort. It can help your body draw more oxygen from your blood while you keep your breath.
  • High-efficiency heart. When your heart gets into better and better shape, it will push more precious blood when it beats. This ends up slowing your heartbeat and can be a key factor in reducing your blood pressure (though heredity also plays a role in high/low blood pressure).
  • The blood will flow more easily in the smaller blood vessels that surround your heart. These are the arteries that often clog and can lead to a heart attack. Exercise, especially something regular, helps the blood flow through these more freely.

So how does one accomplish all of these heart-healthy tasks? It doesn’t require a gym membership, running a Spartan race, or signing up for every 5k you see. However, the occasional 5k is a fantastic way to get a lot of exercise in a short amount of time, with proper training, of course.

The first step is to make sure your heart and body are up to the task. That begins with your doctor. She can evaluate your cholesterol, blood pressure, and even perform an EKG test to see how your ticker is. As the weather gets warmer, it’s the perfect time to get into better shape. Not a time to hold yourself to some insanely high standard. But a time to improve your well-being and make a lifestyle change.

Examples of Heart-Happy Physical Activities

  • Walking – This one’s easy. It’s recommended to get about 10,000 steps per day, though that may seem hard, even at a moderate pace, you can get 5,000 steps in an hour. Between a dedicated hour and your typical walking throughout the day, you should be able to get your goal easily. Start with a reasonable goal of 7-8,000 steps, and work your way up from there.
  • Biking – You’ll need the required equipment of a bicycle and helmet, of course. You can maintain a leisurely pace of fewer than 10 miles an hour, and still burn a ton of calories in a half hour. This not only works your largest muscle group (your quads!), but it also allows your heart to increase its rate and pump oxygenated blood to vital parts.
  • Aqua-aerobics. It’s easy on the joints, can help increase lean muscle and reduce fat, all while upping your heart rate.
  • Tending the garden. While gardening isn’t a super high cardio activity, there are quite a few excellent exercises involved (if done properly) in doing it. Kneeling down to plant, sow, and water your plants is basically just squatting. Spreading mulch is actually one of the hardest parts of gardening. Of course, you can spread pine straw, too, but you won’t burn as much fat.

Start Small & Work Your Way Up

It’s ok to start slowly. But you must start. For you, for your family – for your heart. There are many more activities aside from these to enjoy as well. Most doctors will tell you if there is something physical you enjoy doing, then do it! It’s great to start small and work your way to more strenuous exercises. Don’t get discouraged by naysayers and especially not by numbers on a scale. All that matters is that you are getting out there and trying.

 

When you think about healthy people, the first thought likely isn’t about how often they visit their PCP (primary care physician). That said, if you do not currently have a primary care doctor, you might not think much about choosing one. But the honest truth is not just any PCP is the best for you. When it comes to your health, well-being, and longevity, you may want to put more thought into it. You have to keep in mind that this person will be your guide in health. You want to choose someone you prefer because they understand where you’re coming from.

Why is My Primary Care Physician Important?

To answer this question, you need to think about your health from an outside perspective. Sure, you feel healthy now, but when was the last time you had your A1C checked? Your BMI? Your cholesterol or blood pressure? If you don’t know and don’t often visit a PCP (or even have one), that matters.

A physician that genuinely cares about what makes you who you are is imperative. People count on you, they want you around for a long time, and they probably don’t want to take care of you at an early age. The better care you take of yourself now, the longer you’ll be independent and able to spend time with loved ones.

In order for that to happen, most humans need an expert, or in this case a PCP. The countless individuals that rely on, trust, and value their doctors realize this. Oftentimes we don’t see the big health picture until our primary care physician explains it to us. However, once we do, and we can see our health potential, it makes for much happier, healthier, and meaningful lives.

a doctor explaining how a patient's medication works

If I’m Not Sick, Why Should I Visit a Doctor?

Even at our peak feelings of healthiness, there can still be underlying issues that we don’t show any symptoms of.

Story: Recently, a patient was in a car accident and needed X-rays on their neck and back. After the initial X-ray, the tech asked the patient if they’d had thyroid issues since it looked enlarged on the scan. The patient never had any issues. Fast forward a few visits, ultrasounds, and biopsies and turned out the patient had stage II thyroid cancer. No symptoms, no visible swelling, nothing. That patient’s life was forever changed and they never even had any symptoms. Successful removal of the thyroid and surrounding lymph nodes means this patient is still alive and kicking today. 

Granted, this is an unusual case, but these types of things happen more often than you may think. And that’s just the ones we know of. A PCP will provide you with preventative care and diagnose and treat medical conditions. If a situation requires it, a referral to a specialist might be in order, she can do that as well. Dr. Colbert can also recommend healthier lifestyle choices to help you succeed. She will also be able to prescribe your monthly medications and keep track of all of your labs.

It’s All About Improving Your Quality of Life

Once they find a primary care physician they like, most patients remain with them for years, if not life. Getting to know your personality, your family, and all of your physical ins and outs, a PCP can really offer optimal insight into your life. If you think about it, the relationship that’s built with a life-long primary care physician is one of the most important you’ll have.

Whether its’ short-term illness, chronic conditions, or someone to refer you to medical experts in their field, your PCP is ultimately important and necessary in your life.

Don’t have a PCP? Schedule a first-time appointment with Dr. Colbert today. Dr. Colbert is a medical internist and specializes in diabetes, heart health, and women’s health care.

When shopping for health insurance for you and your family, you’ll generally have choices. Whether you buy from your state’s health care market, an independent insurance broker, or through your employer, there are lots of options. Choosing the plan that’s right for you and your family is important, and not as simple as one may believe.

Levels of Coverage

Typically, you will choose a level of coverage that your plan offers. Bronze, silver, gold, and now even platinum are examples of options available. While a bronze plan offers the smallest amount of coverage, platinum will have the biggest. For people under 30, there is a high-deductible, catastrophic plan they may qualify for. Finding a doctor that accepts your insurance is a must, as well.

Each plan covers a pre-determined share of the cost for the median enrollee. Details can get very granular on what is and is not covered, and can and will vary with differing plans. The deductible is the amount you must pay before the health insurance plan starts picking up 100% of your care costs.  These can also vary based on which plan you choose. The general rule of thumb is the lower the price, the higher the deductible, though there are exceptions. All things considered, preventative care is usually 100% paid for regardless of a met deductible.

health insurance plans

attribution: webmd.com

Components of Health Insurance Costs

Premium – This is the amount you pay monthly, quarterly, etc. for your health plan.

Deductible – This is the amount you must spend before your plan makes payments on your behalf, though you’ll still be charged 20% or similar, based on your chosen plan.

Copay  – This is your portion of an office visit or prescription fee. Generally, $25 to $50, but can vary greatly depending on the type of plan. This could also be an ER visit

Out of Pocket – Some plans have an out of pocket maximum that is a maximum you’ll be required to pay during a calendar year. After it’s satisfied, all fees of any sort are covered. Again, this can vary by plan and is usually a larger number the smaller your premium is.

Different Types of Plans

Common types of insurance plans are HMO, PPO, POS, EPO, and HDHPs. Along with these, there is also the added benefit or option of HSA or HRA. The two most common types of insurance in America are HMO and PPO.

HMO

Health Maintenance Organizations, or HMOs offer kind of an all-in-one service. They often require you to use providers that are in their network to receive care, instead of choosing your doctor. Historically, referrals (from primary care physician to specialist, and so on) are a large part of HMO plans. Going outside of your network usually ends up costing you big time because it likely isn’t covered at the same rate. With an HMO there will be fewer forms to fill out, but also fewer personal choices in physicians.

PPO

Preferred Provider Organizations (PPO) offer a great deal more freedom in choosing your family doctor. This can be a huge win for PPO policyholders because your doctor is very important and personal to you. Though you’ll still have a network to choose from, there is a lot more leniency. While there is more freedom, there is often a lot more paperwork and higher costs for choosing out-of-network providers. Another advantage is that very few referrals are required for specialist visits.

EPO

An Exclusive Provider Organization, or EPO, is exactly that – exclusive. Well, the care covered is exclusive. While the premium for an EPO is more affordable than that of an HMO or PPO, the options for care are more limited, and for that reason. Expect very little paperwork with an EPO, but also keep in mind there is zero coverage outside of your network. Emergency services may be covered in part or whole based on the provider of the EPO.

POS

A POS plan combines some of the elements of both PPO and HMO plans. Some POS plans require you to meet your deductible before they start covering your care costs. Out-of-network providers are often covered, but you must pay them upfront and then be reimbursed. With a POS you have the choices comparable to that of a PPO, but the higher cost associated with HMO plans.

HDHP

A low-premium alternative is a High Deductible Health Plan. Like all plans, there are good and bad features to this one as well. Once you reach your deductible, all costs are covered, but deductibles are quite high (individual – $1,350 to $6,650; family – $2,700 to $13,300). These plans are sometimes paired with HSA (health spending account), and you can use the money from your HSA to help pay for fees until you’ve met your deductible.

Catastrophic

Unlike all of the other plans mentioned, a catastrophic plan is only for individuals under the age of 30. It covers (usually) emergency care, (always) preventative care, and (up to 3) primary care visits before the deductible applies. The deductible for an individual is $7,350 and $14,700 for a family. The high deductible is the tradeoff with the low premium. After the deductible is met, all medical costs are covered.

Bonus: Health Reimbursement Account

A health reimbursement account is an addition to certain plans like HMOs or PPOs that allows you to earn incentive credits. Depending on what your specific health insurance plan offers, you can get incentive credits for biometric screenings, health coach calls, filling out real age tests, and other tasks. Once earned, the points go into an account and are actual dollars. The insurance company will then cut you checks for money you’ve spent (copays for office visits, prescriptions, etc) until that HRA is exhausted.

Curious about what plan is best for you? Talk to your employer’s HR department if they offer health benefits, contact an independent insurance broker, or go to healthcare.gov to choose a plan that’s right for your family’s needs.

Heart disease or coronary artery disease is a very real and very extreme heart condition. Though often preventable, heart disease risk factors stem from age, heredity, smoking, obesity, and blood pressure. Getting regular screenings to help prevent heart disease is vitally important. The name of the game is to keep risk as low as possible. It’s hard to guess what risk factors you may have, but your healthcare provider can perform (or request) screenings to help keep things on the up and up.

Interpreting Your Test Results

Most people will not have perfect risk levels when it comes to all screenings and labs. But take heart, people are living longer, stronger, and staying younger these days than ever before! Let’s say your test results come back less than perfect, this doesn’t mean you have or are going to develop certain heart disease. What it does mean, though, is that you’re in the perfect position to make changes. Positive changes, of course.  Routine medical exams measure your weight and BMI (body mass index), blood pressure, and a few other factors. Follow up appointments may or may not be necessary, depending on the severity (or lack thereof) of your results.

The good thing is, you’re still alive and kicking and you’re ready to right the ship. If you’ve been previously diagnosed with cardiovascular disease, a-fib, or are a heart attack or stroke victim, your visits will occur more frequently. Family history also plays a role in how your physician will approach your treatment. If your parents or grandparents were/are afflicted by heart disease, she’ll likely want to see you more often.

What to Expect When Getting Routine Cardio Screenings:

 

Cholesterol checks

Generally fasting (no food or drink 12 hours before), this blood test measures total cholesterol. Your cholesterol levels are comprised of HDL (good) and LDL (bad)LDL cholesterol. Cholesterol levels can be moderated with medication (if necessary) and lifestyle changes.

Blood Pressure

Unlike other symptoms, blood pressure must be measured to be detected. It’s not obvious like cholesterol, obesity, or family history. Though, family history can be a big factor in blood pressure levels. Ideal blood pressure levels are usually lower than 120/80, but that can change based on other factors. The higher your blood pressure is, the higher the likelihood of heart disease or stroke. Like cholesterol, blood pressure can be treated with lifestyle changes and/or medication.

Exercise, Diet, or Smoking

Keeping your body in motion is an essential element to keeping your ticker in shape. Different doctors and medical journals vary with the amount of time per day to exercise. But moving anytime you can is a huge help. Some people go by the 10,000 steps per day rule, this is also very effective. Getting a watch or fitness tracker that can track your steps can be a huge motivator. Eating 3-4 servings of fruits and vegetables a day is key, along with keeping your saturated fat, and calorie intake limited. Savory and sweet foods are very tempting, so use those in moderation. If you’re a smoker, tell your physician during your next appointment how often and for how long, so they can help create a program for you to quit.

BMI

Measurements like body weight, waist size, and age can help your healthcare provider calculate your BMI. Your BMI tells a lot about you, although it’s not an exact science. For instance, a bodybuilder might have a BMI of 31, which is considered obese. But with his body fat percentage being less than three, he’s obviously not obese. Your doctor will be able to tell how healthy you are based on all tests and screenings. Being obese does put the body at higher risk of heart disease, stroke, congestive heart failure, and other conditions.

Blood Sugar/Diabetes

Higher blood glucose (sugar) levels have the potential to increase your risk of diabetes. Left untreated, diabetes may lead to serious medical issues such as stroke or heart disease. Being overweight will usually prompt your doctor to check your glucose. A1C levels might also be measured to help determine the risk of prediabetes or diabetes.

 

 

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