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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

What Is an Electrocardiogram?

In traditional pictures, doctors always examine their patients using a stethoscope. This is a useful tool that allows them to listen to some of the body’s internal functions, including the intestines, lungs, and heart. However, what it doesn’t do is really tell you how something is operating.

If a doctor wants to know if the heart is beating, a stethoscope is more than enough. If, however, they want to know how it is beating, they will need a bit more information. This information can be measured through ECG electrodes. So what do they measure and how?

Resting ECG

ECG stands for electrocardiogram. A resting ECG shows physicians how the heart works when the person is resting. This allows them to check on the overall condition of the heart. Resting ECGs are often used after someone has had cardiac surgery, angioplasty, an angiogram, or if their heart medication has changed. It takes between 15 and 20 minutes to complete a resting ECG.

Exercise ECG

The exercise ECG is better known as the stress test. Patients are placed under stress by exercising or through medication, determining how the heart works when it has to beat harder. This shows whether blood is flowing to the heart tissue properly. Stress tests have to be completed in controlled environments at all times. It is often used if coronary artery disease is suspected and can help people prevent heart attacks.

Holter ECG

The Holter is a portable monitor that measures the heart’s electrical activity for a 24 hour period or more. This allows doctors to diagnose a heart arrhythmia, whereby they can find out whether there are specific irregularities within the heart. To complete this test, ECG electrodes are placed over specific bones, which means they won’t accidentally pick up on muscular activity. The electrodes are attached to the Holter device, which the patient wears around their belt or neck. This is usually done after someone has had a heart attack, requires new heart medication, or is believed to have an arrhythmia.

ICU Monitoring

When someone is in the ICU (Intensive Care Unit), it is quite common for them to be attached to an ECG. In fact, it is one of the ICU’s most commonly used pieces of equipment. If someone is in the ICU, they must be monitored properly 24/7, and a problem with the heart is often indicative of something else going wrong. As a result, it is almost standard procedure to ensure someone is constantly monitored with an ECG.

OR Monitoring

While it is very common for someone in the ICU to be attached to an ECG, it is even more common for this device to be used in the OR (Operating Room). When someone is going through surgery and are under the effects of the anesthetic, they are no longer able to vocalize any problems. As a result, should they be in distress, they would be incapable of telling the physicians about this. By attaching them to an ECG, any changes can be detected immediately.

This is a guest blog post.

Spider Veins vs. Varicose Veins - What's the Difference?

Spider veins and varicose veins have similarities, but they look different and have a different diagnosis. Learn more about their differences and similarities below, including how to treat them.

Spider Veins vs. Varicose Veins - What are they?


The main difference between spider veins and varicose veins is their appearance.

Spider veins are small, thin blood vessels visible underneath the skin on the legs or face. Though typically harmless, spider veins can be caused by poor circulation and lead to varicose vein formation.
Varicose veins are enlarged, “ropey” veins which protrude beneath the skin. They often develop on the legs and feet when valves in the veins aren’t working properly.

What Causes Spider Veins and Varicose Veins?

Spider veins and varicose veins are often caused by increased pressure on the lower body due to standing or walking.

Other risk factors can include:

Age – As you get older, veins often lose elasticity. Valves in your veins may weaken allowing blood to flow backward instead of moving to your heart. As the blood pools, your veins can enlarge and often appear large and blue because they contain deoxygenated blood being re-circulated through the lungs.
Pregnancy – Pregnant women often develop spider veins or varicose veins due to increases in blood volume and decreases in blood flow from the legs to the pelvis. This supports a growing baby, but can cause enlarged veins in the legs. Symptoms often worsen late in a pregnancy, but most women are symptom-free three to 12 months following delivery.
Genetics – If you have a family history of spider veins or varicose veins, there’s a high chance you may get them too.
Obesity – Extra weight puts pressure on the veins causing blood to pool.
Sitting or Standing – When sitting or standing for long periods of time, blood flow in the legs decreases. 

What Are the Symptoms?


Often, spider veins or varicose veins have no symptoms other than an undesirable cosmetic appearance. Symptoms may include:

• Blue or dark purple veins
• Twisted, bulging veins
• Achy or heavy feeling in your legs
• Pain after sitting or standing for long periods of time
• Muscle cramping, throbbing, or burning in your lower legs
• Itching around your veins
• Inflammation of the skin near your ankle, color changes, and hardened veins that could be symptomatic of vascular disease, which requires medical attention

How Are Spider Veins and Varicose Veins Treated?

A health care professional can examine the affected area to diagnose spider veins or varicose veins. Most cases don’t require treatment except for complications or cosmetic reasons.

Symptoms can be alleviated by lifestyle changes including regular exercise, weight loss, and avoiding sitting or standing for extended periods. Elevating the legs while sitting or sleeping can also improve circulation and decrease leg swelling.

If spider veins or varicose veins are painful or irritating, innovative vein treatment can eliminate them for good. At Coastal Vein Aesthetic Institute, we help patients get relief from spider veins and varicose veins through non-invasive vein treatments. Contact us to learn more about our vein services.

This is a guest blog post.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Choose Low Cholesterol Alternatives

If you have been surprised by high cholesterol readings from your latest visit to the doctor, you are not alone. Whether through heredity, lifestyle, or a combination of both, having high cholesterol is a common health problem that raises the chance of having a heart attack or stroke.

The good news is that cholesterol numbers can improve through lifestyle changes. Healthy eating is one of the most significant lifestyle changes recommended by the Mayo Clinic to help lower cholesterol. Here are some ways you can choose low cholesterol alternatives to help improve your health.

Better Snacking

Potato chips are on their way out as a snack food, but that does not mean that you have to feel deprived. In addition to snacking on fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts are a great option. They quiet a rumbling stomach before dinner time, and are full of protein, omega-3 and essential minerals. They may even lower LDL cholesterol levels. Walnuts are a great source of polyunsaturated fatty acids. To make vegetables more palatable to snack on, try a mashed chickpea dip called hummus. It has tons of fiber and no saturated fat.

Healthy Salad Toppings

Salads full of nutritious and high fiber fruits and vegetables are great, but their benefits can almost be cancelled out by creamy high fat dressings and high sodium croutons with little nutrition. Choose a simple dressing made from olive oil, your choice of vinegar, and a salt free spice blend. Add some canned beans such as kidney or cannellini for extra color and texture in your salad that will add extra nutrition without cholesterol. Here are some great ideas for assembling a great heart healthy salad. They include adding extra vegetables, whole grains, fruit, herbs and proteins to the standard salad that make it a meal.

Good Meat Choices

In order to increase the effectiveness of your efforts to lower your cholesterol, consumption of red meat must be reduced. Increasing fish consumption is one way to promote lower cholesterol. Replacing red meat with fish such as salmon gives you a rich taste that is full of fats that are good for you. Lean ground turkey can replace ground beef in your favorite casseroles and burgers, especially if you season it with a high quality herb and spice blend. There are some good turkey bacon options that can satisfy your craving as well. Even if you are a pork bacon purist, there is an option for you. Canadian bacon is actually lean ham slices and contains one quarter of the fat of standard bacon.

Go Plant Based

By choosing more foods made from plants, you are reducing your exposure to foods that are heavy in saturated fat and carbohydrates. Vegetables, fruits, and legumes should be the centerpiece of your low cholesterol diet. Thanks to forward thinking food producers, the choices will not need to be so hard into the future, because even foods that are in packages at the market can be healthy and plant based. Hampton Creek is a company that started out by making Just Mayo, a mayonnaise alternative that substitutes yellow field peas for eggs in order to emulsify its spread.

Smarter Bread Choices

Skip the saturated fat-laden pastries made with butter and sugar for breakfast. Instead, choose whole grain toast dressed up with a little peanut butter or no sugar added jam. You will avoid the fat while adding fiber to the first meal of the day.

Choose Dark Chocolate

Even though you want to adapt to a healthier diet, you can still have a treat once in a while. Skip the carbohydrate heavy candy and opt for dark chocolate. The oleic acid in cocoa butter is a monounsaturated fat that can lower LDL cholesterol. You will want to skip milk chocolate because it contains saturated fat, but dark chocolate with 70 to 80 percent cocoa is a great treat choice that may raise the level of your good HDL cholesterol.

There have been many advances in the treatment of high cholesterol, from the awareness of the importance of diet to cholesterol lowering medications. Treating high cholesterol as soon as possible after its onset will decrease your chances of a heart attack or stroke. Proper low fat eating, combined with exercise and quitting smoking, may be enough to avoid having to take statin medication. Even if you inherited your high cholesterol, making modifications to your eating habits and lifestyle can positively impact your cholesterol numbers.

This is a guest blog post.