Tag Archives: smoking


7 Keys to a Healthy Heart

February is Heart Health Month and Valentine’s Day, so let’s explore the heart and how we can keep ours healthy.

First, I suggest reviewing a previous post  about the HEART’S  anatomy and how it works.

diagram of the human heart

Heart diseases affect any and sometimes multiple parts of the heart- the atria, ventricles, the valves, the aorta, the pulmonary artery and veins, the walls and the coronary arteries (not shown in this diagram. )

At  this post we looked at ways the HEART can “break”.

7 important forms of HEART DISEASE.

  1. Congenital heart disease (problems present at birth)
  2. Cardiomyopathy- disease of the heart muscle
  3. Coronary artery disease/myocardial infarction ( heart attack)- the most common cause of death in the United States
  4. Congestive heart failure
  5. Sudden cardiac death
  6. Arrhythmia-irregular heart beats
  7. Hypertension- high blood pressure
EKG tracing

In sudden cardiac death, the heart stops beating abruptly

Now we’ll look at protecting our HEARTS from disease, disability and death. 

The first step is knowing what increases  your risk of developing HEART disease. There are

7 important risk factors for heart disease 

  1. smoking
  2. hypertension
  3. excess body weight
  4. sedentary lifestyle, too little physical activity
  5. high blood fats (cholesterol)
  6. high blood sugar (glucose)
  7. poor nutrition

complications of high blood pressure

There are other risk factors that cannot be changed. These include

  • Gender– unfortunately males are somewhat more at risk, especially at younger ages.
  • Age– our risk increases as our age does.
  • Ethnicity– some ethnic groups have a higher risk. In the United States these are African Americans, Native Americans, Hispanics.
  • Family history– This means a close relative, like a parent or sibling, who developed heart disease young, or less than 50 years old.

Recognizing that you may have a heart problem can be the first step to getting effective treatment. Here are

7 symptoms that may indicate a heart problem

  1. Chest pain– this is probably the most recognized heart disease symptoms, but is not unique to heart disease, nor is it always found in heart disease.
  2. Shortness of breath– especially if it occurs with minimal exertion, or if you find you have less tolerance for exertion.
  3. Palpitations– this means feeling like your heart is beating too fast, too hard, or at irregular intervals.
  4. Fatigue- especially if out of proportion to physical activity, if you tire more easily or quickly, or seem to have less energy than in the past
  5. Unexplained weight gain or swelling in the feet and legs
  6. Dizziness or lightheadedness when standing or walking, especially after exertion.
  7. Syncope, the medical term for fainting or passing out, especially if no other obvious cause (some people know they faint at the sight of blood, or with certain smells; that form of fainting is usually harmless, unless injured from falling)



Keeping our HEARTS healthy involves doing what we can to change the first 7 risk factors I mentioned, what doctors often call the modifiable risk factors.

  1. Stop smoking– consider these  7 surprising reasons to be smoke free
  2. Control your weight– achieve  and stay at a healthy weight.6 steps to losing weight and gaining hope
  3. Be screened for diabetes and high cholesterol; if found, manage with your doctor’s supervision .10 Silent Signs of Diabetes
  4. Get more active, do some physical activity on a regular basis.Health lessons from the Women’s World Cup
  5. Eat less junk food,make healthier food choices. Learn easy ways to shop healthier from the American Heart Association
  6. Have your blood pressure checked regularly (ask your doctor how often). If you have hypertension,  follow your doctor’s management plan, which may include medication. Learn more from FamilyDoctor.org 
  7. Control and manage stress. Medical studies suggest that emotional stress can bring on cardiovascular disease. You can learn more from Dr. James Marroquin’s fascinating post.




Please share this post with your friends on social media. Have a HEART and help them keep theirs healthy too. Thank you.

Always exploring and sharing the HEART of health.7 Keys to a Healthy Heart-Watercress Words.com               Dr. Aletha









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200x200 Valentine's Day Collection

sketch of a stack of books with an apple on top

non-drug ways to get well and stay well

In a previous post I introduced you to Mind Over Meds by Dr. Andrew Weil . I reviewed 7 classes of medications he teaches we should use less often. MIND OVER MEDS- book cover

In another previous post I shared 7 drug classes I consider overused, 4 of which he discusses in his book.

In this follow up post I list alternatives to drug therapy. These are also adjuncts to medication- meaning we recommend using them even if you do need medication.

Dr. Weil mentions these in his book, and I’ve pulled from other sources too.

This is a brief overview of several approaches, not a complete list. If you are interested in knowing more, I suggest exploring the reference links. I invite you to send me a message about a topic you would like me to explore in more depth here.

This post uses affiliate links  that support this blog and non-affiliate links that don’t.


I, Dr. Weil and most physicians recommend diet changes to treat and prevent many common medical conditions. Almost any health issue can be improved with better food choices.

bottle of olive oil

Olive oil is an important ingredient in the Mediterranean diet .

The Mediterranean diet, emphasizing fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish,  and healthy fats like olive oil, seems to protect against heart disease and increase longevity.

The DASH diet is the first choice to lower blood pressure. DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension and also emphasizes fresh foods and healthy choices.

The American Diabetes Association offers extensive information on eating to control diabetes.

Food choices are also important in treating high cholesterol, GERD, allergy, heart disease, overweight, gout, kidney stones and other kidney disease, and possibly other conditions.


Herbal medicines are endorsed by Dr. Weil; he points out that early synthetic drugs were derived from plants. Unfortunately most physicians have not had extensive training in their use. They are also not regulated as stringently as prescription drugs so quality may not be uniform.

Herbal medicines are used to treat a wide variety of conditions and symptoms including headaches, gastric distress, hot flushes, depression, insomnia, pain, allergy among others. Scientific confirmation of their effectiveness is lacking for most, but some patients find them helpful and some physicians endorse, or at best tolerate their use.

The unsupervised use of herbs and other dietary supplements can be dangerous, especially if combined with other drugs.


Mind-body therapies can be helpful in managing painful conditions such as IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), migraine, joint pain, and anxiety/depressive disorders. These include

  • Hyposis
  • Biofeedback
  • Meditation
  • Relaxation techniques



Breath work- changing habits of breathing and specific breathing techniques can relieve anxiety, and manage stress. Dr. Weil calls

Breathing: The Master Key to Self Healing and teaches how to do it in this recording. 


Exercise and other forms of physical activity help manage all kinds of musculoskeletal pain, fibromyalgia, lowers blood pressure, aids weight loss,relieves anxiety and depression.  They may even have a role in preventing or delaying the onset of dementia. This includes

woman standing on a rock in a forest

Walking, especially outdoors, can relieve feelings of stress and tension as well as improve physical fitness.  Photo from Lightstock.com



Tai chai


Strength training







Manual medicine is used to manage back, neck, and other musculoskeletal pain and headaches.

  • Chiropractic manipulation
  • Osteopathic manipulation
  • Acupuncture
  • TNS-transcutaneous nerve stimulation
  • Massage
  • Support with splints, wraps, slings, braces


CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) and other forms of psychotherapy should be a part of the treatment of most mental disorders and may be the only treatment needed for mild conditions. The use of therapy animals also fits here.


Lifestyle evaluation and adjustments can improve any medical condition and is also one of the most important factors in prevention of disease.



a sink with colorful wall decorations

Who knew handwashing could be entertaining?

Hand washing is the most effective way to prevent many infections, especially those that can be transmitted by food and water. Proper food preparation and storage and kitchen clean up also contribute to safety.






Habits that create sleep deprivation or poor sleep contribute to depression,musculoskeletal pain, headaches, fatigue, and even make us more prone to infection. Check out this previous post on how to get a good night’s sleep

a bed in a room

One’s sleep environment affects quality of sleep.








Chemicals and pollutants

Avoidance of allergens and toxins should be automatic. For allergy, any known allergens -substances that cause allergy symptoms-can often be eliminated from one’s immediate environment, although I have had patients who insisted on keeping pets that they were allergic to. If the allergens cannot be completely eliminated, you can at least minimize exposure.

At this affiliate link you can find products to help eliminate allergens in your home


It seems we call everything a “toxin” these days, and detox regimens are popular. (although our bodies naturally detox us every day).

Anything in excess can be harmful. But our overall health as a society would improve immensely if more people would avoid the obvious toxins of tobacco, excess alcohol, and illicit drugs.

sign says NO smoking, wilderness area

When walking, wear proper shoes; and don’t smoke.

Review 7 surprising reasons to be smoke free







Stress management 

Many of the techniques I’ve mentioned help with stress management. In turn, managing the stressful events and situations in our lives can help us feel more rested, less tense, more relaxed, calmer, and able to manage our other medical problems better.

FamilyDoctor.org offers these steps to Managing Daily Stress 



Dr. Weil recommends these resources about  integrative and complementary medical treatments

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health

The Office of Dietary Supplements 


Dr. Weil’s books are also available at

Barnes & Noble – Free Shipping of $25+


If you found this post helpful, please share with friends and colleagues. And let me know too. I welcome feedback and use it to plan future posts.