Archives for November 2014

Thanksgiving Day Food Orgy Leads To Heart Attack!

Thanksgiving Day Gluttony

Here is a startling fact: The average American scarfs down 4,500 calories and 229 grams of fat during Thanksgiving. Gluttonous indeed, but are you putting your life at risk? Of course you are! – A study has found that heavy meals can trigger a heart attack.

How Can Dinner Trigger a Heart Attack?

The study, conducted by Dr. Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, a cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic, found overeating QUADRUPLES a person’s risk of a heart attack for up to two hours after a meal. Think of that as you pile on the stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy and pumpkin pie.

So what causes the increased chance of having a heart attack after a large meal? There are a number of factors in play here:

  • Blood – Your digestive system goes into overdrive when you eat a large meal. This mean your gut needs more blood than normal and the heart has to work hard to get all that blood moving around.
  • Sugar – Blood sugar and inulin levels go up. These spikes can increase blood pressure and decrease the normal relaxation of the coronary arteries.
  • Fat –Fatty meals lead to an elevation of triglycerides (fat) in the blood. Increased triglycerides cause coronary artery inflammation. Inflamed arteries are a common precursor to a heart attack.
  • Magik – the magik of alcohol. Alcohol adds more calories to your day and makes us love/hate our relatives. Can also lead to an abnormal and dangerous heart rhythm (arrhythmia/A-Fib)

Bonus if you got the Red Hot Chili Peppers reference in the bullets!

Will Thanksgiving Dinner Kill Me?

Likely not. The risk of heart attack from eating a heavy meal is about the same as the risk from sex or a heavy workout. Only benefit of that large meal – I doubt you are moving on to sex and a workout after gorging on 4,500 fatty calories and a few bottles wine!

The usual suspects should be most concerned. Moderation is important for everyone, but more so if you already meet one or more of the following conditions:

  • Heart attack history
  • Heart disease history
  • Heart bypass surgery
  • Peripheral arterial disease
  • Any combination of smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, or high cholesterol

Personal note – I scored a 4 out of 5.

Strategies for Not Overeating

Thanksgiving is a holiday that is all about food! I think we are supposed be thankful for something also, not sure. Enjoy a few tasty treats but also try and control your portions. A few tips for not overeating:

  • Start healthy – Start the day on a positive not and get some exercise in early. Turkey Trot?
  • Eat early – Eat a healthy breakfast and lunch (depending on timing) before the feast. Proteins (eggs, poultry, etc.) help keep you full throughout the day.
  • Control portions – You should be able to carry your plate with one hand. Enough said.
  • Engage – The whole family is there, you might as well talk to them. And since you don’t talk with food in your mouth, automatic portion control.
  • Walk it off – Avoid the table to couch transition. A walk is a great family activity or a way to get some solitude!

Happy Thanksgiving

Back to the real purpose of the holiday – giving thanks. I am thankful for the opportunity to be here! I’m thankful for my health, family, and friends. And thanks to you for reading this.


Richwine, Lisa. “Heavy Meals May Trigger Heart Attacks.” ABC News. ABC News Network, n.d. Web. 25 Nov. 2014.

“9 Classic Thanksgiving Recipes Made-over Healthy.” N.p., n.d. Web.

Photo credit: OctopusHat / Foter / CC BY-SA

Sugar Increases Your Risk of Dying From Heart Disease

sugarIt’s common sense that consuming mass quantities of sugar is not part of a healthy diet. But come on, how bad can that pound of M&Ms really be for your heart health? According to a new study published in the JAMA Internal Medicine, pretty bad.

All those sodas, cookies, and candy bars add up. According to the report, MOST adults get at least 10% of their calories from added sugar and 10% of adults get 25% of their daily calories from added sugar!sugar trends

The graph at the right puts this into perspective. If you look at just the past 100 years, we have doubled our yearly sugar consumption.   That means the average American consumes the equivalent of five sugary sodas per day!

If It Tastes So Good, Why Is It So Bad?

We are eating a lot of sugar, but why is that so bad? Let’s get the obvious out of the way- you may become an obese diabetic with cancer and rotting teeth. As if that is not bad enough, did you know that you are also doing damage to your heart?

So How Bad Is Sugar For Your Heart?

The JAMA research found that a person drinking just one soda every day is almost twice as likely to die from Cardiovascular Disease. Outside of the unhealthy dietary consequences of sugar, what is the direct effect on the heart? A study by the American Heart Association found that sugar negatively affects the pumping mechanism of your heart. In other words, heart failure.

Why are we so addicted to sugar?

Remember the crack epidemic during the 1980’s? Studies have shown that sugar can induce cravings similar to those of addictive drugs such as cocaine. In fact, the addictive characteristics of sugar appear to be stronger than those of cocaine. This explains why I steal my kids Halloween candy every night after they go to bed. It’s not my fault, I’m an addict!

How can you kick your sugar habit?

The same way you got off the crack! Just kidding (kind of). Breaking your sugar addiction is similar to breaking other substance addictions – you need to acknowledge the problem and get help!

Dr. Mark Hyman, a well known physician, author, and Functional Medicine proponent, recently laid out a 10-step sugar detox program. Check out the full details on his site, but the basics are:

  • Make a decision to quit
  • Quit
  • Don’t drink sugary calories
  • Eat more protein
  • Eat the right carbs
  • Eat the right fats
  • Carry healthy snacks
  • Reduce stress
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Get enough sleep

In other words, be a HeatGeek!


Corliss, Judy. “Eating Too Much Added Sugar Increases the Risk of Dying with Heart Disease.” Harvard Health Blog RSS. N.p., 6 Feb. 2014. Web. 20 Nov. 2014.

L.D., Kristin Kirkpatrick M.S. R.D. “10 Things You Don’t Know About Sugar (And What You Don’t Know Could Hurt You).” The Huffington Post., 30 July 2013. Web. 21 Nov. 2014.

Fries, Wendy C. “Curb Sugar & Carb Cravings: 13 Tips to Control Your Sweet Tooth.” WebMD. WebMD, n.d. Web. 19 Nov. 2014.

Hyman, Mark. “Top 10 Big Ideas: How to Detox from Sugar – Dr. Mark Hyman.” Dr Mark Hyman. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Nov. 2014.

Photo credit: Lauri Andler(Phantom) / Foter / CC BY-SA

AFib Symptoms, Treatment, and Management


Have you ever felt your heart skip a beat, flutter, speed up or slow down? Of course you have.   It may have happened before an interview or important meeting, while climbing a flight of stairs, or after a weekend in Vegas.

Think of the situation you are in when you experienced the symptoms. Common causes for these palpitations include:

  • Stress or strong emotions
  • Intense or endurance exercise
  • Certain prescription or over-the-counter drugs
  • Alcohol, caffeine, nicotine
  • The “other” kind of drugs.

Palpitations are harmless for most people. For others, they may be the sign of an electrical problem with the heart called arrhythmia.  According to the Heart Rhythm Society, atrial fibrillation (AFib) is the most common arrhythmia. In fact, it affects more than 2.5 million American adults.

Although common, AFib can also be very serious.   People who have AFib are 5 times more likely to have a stroke than those who don’t have the condition. So how do you know the difference between palpitations and AFib?

Know Your AFib Risk Factors

According WebMD, you could be at risk of AFib if you are over 60 or you have one of the following conditions:

  • Heart disease due to high blood pressure
  • Heart valve disease
  • Heart muscle disease (cardiomyopathy)
  • Heart defect from birth (congenital heart defect)
  • Long-term lung disease (such as COPD)
  • Heart failure
  • Past heart surgery
  • Overactive thyroid gland
  • Sleep apnea.

AFib Symptoms

The primary symptoms of AFib are the palpitations mentioned above.  In addition to racing or irregular heartbeat you may feel:

  • Chest discomfort
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath

AFib Treatments

Your doctor will typically recommend medications such as beta-blockers (to slow down your heart).  You might also be put on blood thinners to reduce the chance of clotting and stroke. If you are in AFib and medication is not working, you may need a procedure such as an electrical cardioversion.

My Shocking Experience

I had the pleasure of this procedure late last year. I went into AFib one night while brushing my teeth. My doctor doubled my beta-blocker and put me on a blood thinner for a couple of days to try and get me back in rhythm.

When this didn’t work, it was on to a cardioversion. My procedure was done at the hospital. After a quick dose of propofol to knock me out, the doctor placed an adhesive pad connected to some wires on my chest. Next, an electrical current was sent through the wires to shock my heart back into rhythm. Bingo – I was all fixed.

Managing AFB

Managing AFib is similar to the steps necessary to manage any underlying heart conditions:

  • Quit smoking
  • Limit caffeine and alcohol
  • Avoid cold medications that contain pseudoephedrine
  • Stop all those illegal drugs (seriously, you should have outgrown this by now)
  • Manage your stress
  • Exercise.

In other words, be a HeartGeek!

Photo credit: Dinh Linh / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA