Month: February 2017

Tips for Keeping Your Heart Healthy This Valentine’s Day

February means Valentine’s Day is almost upon us, and hearts, chocolate and sentiments of love are nearly inescapable at your local grocery store. Since hearts are already on everyone’s mind, what better time to talk about heart health? Dr. Bobbie Paramsothy of Pacific Medical Centers shares some myths, tips and preventive measures that can help you show your heart a little love this February.


Dr. Bobbie Paramsothy, MD dispels myths and offers tips related to heart health.

People may be lulled into a false sense of security if no one in their family has a history of heart disease, says Paramsothy. If you have other risk factors (see below), you are still a candidate for heart disease, even without a family history. On the flip side, people who eat well and exercise may consider themselves safe, but there can be a strong genetic component. “Although exercise and a good diet decrease your risk significantly, if you have a strong family history of high cholesterol or early heart disease, you may still have an increased risk,” she says.

Another common belief is that heart disease is an issue for older people. Not so, says Paramsothy. “We are seeing an increase in heart disease and even heart attacks in young people due to premature heart disease.”

Those at the highest risk are people with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, chronic kidney disease or diabetes, plus smokers and individuals with a family history of premature heart disease. However, she warns, “poor diet, physical inactivity and obesity increase the risk.”

Tips for a Healthier Heart

If you fall into the at-risk category, Paramsothy recommends several steps you can take such as losing weight, eliminating fast food and cigarettes, adding vegetables and fresh fruit to your diet and getting regular exercise. “See a health provider to get your blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol checked,” she adds. “Although a healthy diet and exercise decrease your risk of heart disease significantly, sometimes they are not enough and you may need medication.” If you are at significant risk for heart disease or don’t normally exercise, she also advises that you consult a health provider before starting a rigorous routine.

The new Pacific Medical Centers Lacey location includes seven primary care providers and 50 total employees. Photo courtesy: Pacific Medical Centers.

Stress and trauma can also play a role. A recent study (Sumner et al. Circulation, June 2015), involving the Nurses’ Health Study II, demonstrated that women who had experienced a traumatic event during their life had a 45% higher risk of heart attack or stroke compared to those who had never experienced a traumatic event. “If you are experiencing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety or depression, seeking mental health expertise is important for your overall health and heart health,” says Paramsothy.

Finally, friendships and social connections are important. Paramsothy cites another study (Valorta et al. Heart. April, 2016) that found that people who were lonely or socially isolated had a 29% higher risk of heart disease and a 32% risk of stroke. “All human beings need social interaction to thrive,” she says. “Seniors are especially vulnerable to loneliness and social isolation, so addressing those issues is an important public health concern.”

As you pass by all the hearts in the grocery aisle, let them be a reminder to take care of your heart health, consult a physician as needed and stay connected with the important people in your life this Valentine’s Day.

What Our Biometric Health Screening Can Do for You!

Brought to you by the Living Well Alliance

In general, health screenings give you insight into your current health status so you can take charge of your health and get the care you need.

A biometric health screening measures physical characteristics such as height, weight, body mass index, blood pressure, blood cholesterol and fitness. This screening evaluates an individual’s health status and provides a benchmark that can be used to track changes over time.

Biometric health screenings offered by the Living Well Alliance are conducted by trained health professionals at your worksite. The screening examines your risk for diabetes and heart disease, two leading health issues facing Americans today. Due to their insidious nature, these chronic diseases often go undiagnosed. But with early screenings and regular primary care visits, they can be treated and managed—and sometimes avoided all together.

This Living Well Alliance biometric health screening is confidential, complimentary to employer groups and takes only 15 minutes per person. Participants also have the opportunity to ask questions of our registered dietitian or nurse.

Learn more about scheduling a worksite biometric screening for employees with the Living Well Alliance. You may also contact Christy Goff, RD, by email or at 206.621.4419

Try the Heart-Healthy DASH Diet

In the spirit of this heart-healthy month, let’s explore the DASH diet. DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, which is another term for high blood pressure.

This eating plan is well researched for its powerful effect on lowering blood pressure by using food’s own nutrients (specifically potassium, calcium and magnesium). This is why the DASH diet recommends eating more—that is, more of foods that are high in these nutrients!

Specifically, the DASH diet encourages you to increase your intake of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and legumes.The plan also encourages you to eat less—less salt, saturated fat, red meat, sweets and sugary beverages, all of which negatively affect blood pressure.

What’s the Big Deal with High Blood Pressure?

Blood pressure is a measure of the force of blood hitting against the walls of your arteries (the vessels around your heart). When blood pressure is too high (> 140/90) for an extended period of time, it puts too much strain on the heart, and the heart cannot effectively pump blood around the body. High blood pressure also contributes to atherosclerosis (the hardening of the arteries), which increases your risk for strokes and congestive heart failure, kidney failure and blindness.

Getting Started with DASH
A good way to start is to simply observe and keep track of your current eating habits. Write down what you eat, how much, when and why. You’ll quickly be able to see where you can start making changes. For example, just decreasing your salt intake while increasing your vegetable intake can have a big impact on lowering blood pressure!

Use these DASH guidelines to find a balance of more nutritious foods and less salty, processed foods.


  • More fruits and vegetables (4-5 servings of each per day). Choose fresh, frozen or canned with no salt added. * To increase flavor, sprinkle vinegar or citrus, add fresh or dried herbs or spices, and try salt-free seasoning blends.
  • More whole grains (7-8 servings)—such as whole wheat bread/wraps/pasta, oatmeal and brown rice. Cook without salt, and cut back on instant or flavored mixes.
  • More unsalted nuts and seeds (4-5 one-ounce servings per week). Add your own flavorings such as cinnamon for sweet or cayenne pepper for spice.
  • More beans/legumes (1-2 servings per week). If canned, rinse to remove extra salt, and add lemon or lime juice to keep them tasty.
  • More fresh poultry, fish and lean meat (rather than canned or processed types).


  • Cut back on frozen dinners, pizza, canned soups or broths.
  • Eat less of premixed salad dressings. Make your own with a mixture of olive oil and vinegar, plus a spice or two.
  • Buy low- or reduced-sodium or no-salt-added versions of foods and condiments.


(The above recommended intake amounts for the DASH diet are based on 2000 calorie diet.)

Along with choosing a DASH approach to eating, you can make other lifestyle factors to decrease blood pressure. These include maintaining a healthy weight, being physically active, drinking less alcohol and taking prescribed drugs as needed. Talk with your provider! And learn more about the DASH diet at the American Heart Association site.

Heart Attack and Stroke: Do You Know the Symptoms?

While crushing chest pain is the most recognized heart attack symptom in both men and women, as many as one-third of female heart attack patients never experience any chest pain.

Women’s heart attack symptoms may look different. Every woman should learn the signs of heart attack in females and take them seriously.

Most common heart attack signs in women:

  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Sudden shortness of breath
  • Indigestion
  • Sudden pain or discomfort in the back, arm, neck, jaw or stomach
  • Sudden lightheadedness or cold sweats
  • Sleep disturbances

If you have been experiencing unusual discomfort in your limbs or torso on a continual basis, call your doctor today. If any of these symptoms comes on suddenly, with no identifiable cause, call 911 immediately. Do not wait more than five minutes. Do not attempt to drive yourself for help.

Most common stroke signs in men and women:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg (especially on one side of the body)
  • Sudden trouble speaking or understanding
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking; dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause

With these stroke symptoms, call even if the signs have stopped. If treated within three hours, the long-term disability from some common types of stroke can be reduced or avoided.

Take Steps to Prevent Heart Disease

Heart disease is the top killer in the United States for many reasons, but you can fight back and take charge of your cardiovascular health.

First, what does heart disease refer to? Most people immediately think of issues caused by the hardening or narrowing of arteries. These include angina, myocardial infarction (“heart attack”) and sudden cardiac death. You might think of these as “plumbing” problems. Heart disease also refers to electrical problems such as irregular heart rhythms and mechanical issues such as heart valve problems. The heart has many integrated systems that all need to work well together for proper function.

The following recommendations apply to all types of heart disease.

1. Know Your Numbers

In study after study, the best treatments revolve around focusing on addressing the risk factors for heart disease. “Your numbers” are measurements of some key risk factors. Knowing your numbers and setting target goals is the first step in taking charge of your heart health. Talk with your primary care provider or cardiologist about these lab values and lifestyle factors:

  • LDL and HDL
  • Blood pressure
  • Diabetes/HbA1c
  • Body mass index
  • Smoker?

You can even print a wallet size card to record your numbers and your goals!

2. Find a Communicative Doctor

Successful cardiovascular care depends on good communication. So if you are concerned about your heart health, take the time to find a cardiologist you can talk with. Your cardiologist should answer your questions and clearly explain your diagnosis, test results and treatment options.

Also, don’t be afraid to ask for a second opinion! Information is power, and getting a second viewpoint can help you make the right decisions.

3. Build a Team

Knowing that you are not alone in your fight for improved health can decrease stress and worry. Involve your family as much as possible; they can be an invaluable resource. Bring your friends on board too. They can support you in any diet or exercise goals you have.

Also, don’t be afraid to ask for a second opinion! Information is power, and getting a second viewpoint can help you make the right decisions.

Take Care of the Machine

Finally, recognize that your heart is an engine, working inside of a bigger machine. Treat the machine well by eating well, exercising and making sleep a priority. This will help bring your numbers to goal and keep you tuned into your health. (Be sure to consult with your primary care physician before starting a new exercise program.)

Learn more about the PacMed Cardiology team, or call 206.505.1300 for an appointment.